How British Gas Transformed Customer Engagement And Won Our 2015 EA Award

Customers’ perception of a company depends on their experiences with the organization at every point of contact. Companies can try to change how customers view a brand in a number of ways, such as a new mobile app or an improved complaint-handling process. However, to really improve customer perception, every interaction at every touchpoint must answer questions, suggest new services, and deepen the relationship. Many firms fail to tap into business opportunities that their front-line employees encounter because their processes and technology are antiquated. 

Enterprise architecture (EA) programs can lead the effort to address these limitations and deliver benefits to customers. British Gas, one of the winners of the 2015 Forrester/InfoWorld EA Awards, is a firm that seized its opportunity. My recent report, Enterprise Architects Transform Customer Engagement, analyzes the key practices enterprise architects at British Gas made to serve as brand ambassadors and to improve customer satisfaction levels and highlights key lessons for EA leaders. These practices include:

  • APIs, cloud, and big data technologies power the new engagement platform. To build an engagement platform that delivers customer insights to front-line engineers, the British Gas EA team developed a platform architecture that uses APIs and cloud and big data technologies to support a new engagement platform and the applications on top of it. The API mechanism simplifies digital connections to business applications; cloud infrastructure provides robustness and agility for business operations; big data technology arms field engineers with customer insights; and policies and multitenancy ensure flexibility and security.
Read more

Architect Process Agility With BPM Platforms For Digital Business

Some CIOs and enterprise architecture (EA) pros believe that business process management (BPM) is on the opposite side of agility — but they don’t realize that BPM technology itself is also evolving. Agility-oriented BPM platforms are the foundation of a digital business. I’ve recently published a report that discusses the four key areas that EA pros must focus on to accelerate digital transformation with BPM. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Modern BPM is critical for digital business. Process agility is critical to giving businesses the agility that powers digital business. BPM adoption is gaining momentum in China; EA pros must drive the use of modernized BPM platforms and methods to accelerate digital transformation. 49% of budget decision-makers in China from both the technology and business sides will increase their spending on enterprise process applications, which is higher than their global peers.
  • An outside-in approach is key to digital transformation. EA pros must understand key BPM platform capabilities and unique local demands. For the Chinese market, this means data-intensive user interfaces with integration and security needs, complex organizational hierarchies and ad hoc decision-making approval processes, and a unique social environment for cross-region collaboration. EA pros should then use these requirements to align the architecture for agility-oriented process platforms. Forrester has introduced a reference architecture for agility-oriented process platforms that consists of four layers: enablement, foundation, engagement, and management.
Read more

US Government: Huawei Should Be Your Digital Business Partner, Not Your Enemy

Huawei Technologies started out nearly 30 years ago as a small private company with 14 employees and 140,000 yuan in capital. By 2015, its total revenue exceeded $60 billion. Huawei is already a global company, but its globalization journey has been a difficult one since the very beginning. Despite its continuous business growth in other regions, Huawei has faced critical censorship in the US since Day One — and last week the US government put Huawei under the microscope yet again.

National security is important, but using “national security” as an excuse for allowing unfair competition will only harm customers. It’s time for the governments of both countries to trust each other more. I’ve recently published a report focusing on Huawei’s continuous progress toward becoming a key enabler of digital transformation in the telco and enterprise spaces. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Huawei has holistic strategies for digital transformation. Huawei’s broad vision of digital strategy — which focuses on cloud enablement and readiness, partner enablement, and open source co-creation — has helped the firm sustain strong business growth in the telco and enterprise markets. For example, its partnerships with T-Systems on the Open Telekom Cloud in Germany and with Telefónica on public cloud in the Americas have helped carriers in local markets give cloud users on-demand, all-online, self-service experiences.
Read more

Architect Your Predictive Analytics Capability To Unleash The Power Of Digital Business

Predictive analytics has become the key to helping businesses — especially those in the highly dynamic Chinese market — create differentiated, individualized customer experiences and make better decisions. Enterprise architecture professionals must take a customer-oriented approach to developing their predictive analytics strategy and architecture.

I’ve recently published two reports focusing on how to architect predictive analytics capability. These reports analyze the trends around predictive analytics adoption in China and discuss four key areas that EA pros must focus on to accelerate digital transformation. They also show EA pros how to unleash the power of digital business by analyzing the predictive analytics practices of visionary Chinese firms. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Predictive analytics must cover the full customer life cycle and leverage business insights. Organizations require predictable insights into customer behaviors and business operations. Youmust implement predictive analytics solutions and deliver value to customers throughout their life cycle to differentiate your customer experience and sustain business growth.You should also realize the importance of business stakeholders and define effective mechanisms for translating their business knowledge into predictive algorithm inputs to optimize predictive models faster and generate deeper customer insights.
Read more

Managing The Complexity Of Hybrid Cloud: Learn From Leading Chinese Firms

Cloud is becoming the new norm for enterprises. More and more companies across the globe are using a combination of two or more private, hosted, or public cloud services – applying different technology stacks to different business scenarios. Hybrid cloud management is now an important priority that enterprise architecture (EA) professionals should consider to support their organizations on the journey toward becoming a digital business.

I’ve recently published two reports focusing on how to manage the complexity of hybrid cloud. These reports analyze the key dimensions to consider for hybrid cloud management and present four steps to help move your firm further along the path to hybrid maturity. To unleash the power of digital business, analyze the strategic hybrid cloud management practices of visionary Chinese firms on their digital transformation journey. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Align hybrid cloud management capabilities with your level of maturity . Hybrid cloud maturity is a journey of digital transformationcovering four steps: initial acceptance, strategic adoption, hybrid operationalization, and hybrid autonomy; maturity is measured by familiarity with, experience with, and knowledge of how to operate cloud. EA pros should build their management capabilities step by step, aiming to unify and automate cloud managed services by understanding technical dependencies and business priorities.
Read more

Engaging Customers In The World's Largest Mobile Market

Consumers and businesses around the globe have entered the mobile era, and technology management leaders are shifting their organizations’ business applications toward mobile. In order to effectively make this shift, mobile teams must change their practices to simultaneously improve agility and ensure a good customer experience. This is even more critical in China — a market with unique business scenarios, technology landscapes, and competitive environments.

I’ve recently published two reports focusing on using the mobile IDEA cycle for customer engagement, including part one and part two. In these reports, I assess the current state of mobile application development planning in China and highlight four key areas that enterprise architecture (EA) professionals should focus on in each stage, namely “Identify”, “Design”, “Engineer” and “Analyze”, to enable the success of the mobile IDEA cycle. I also provide examples of how to unleash the power of digital business by analyzing the strategic mobile practices of visionary Chinese firms and highlighting how they use systems of engagement. Some of the key takeaways:

Read more

Red Hat Takes The Lead In Enterprise-Class Container Solutions — For Now

Red Hat held its 2015 summit last week in Boston. One of the most important announcements was the general availability of version 3 of OpenShift. After my discussion with Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, as well as other executives, partners and, clients, I believe that Red Hat has made a strategic move and is taking the lead in enterprise-class container solutions for hybrid cloud enablement. This is because:

  • Red Hat has an early-mover advantage in platform refactoring.OpenShift and Cloud Foundry, two major open source PaaS platforms, both started refactoring with container technology last year. The developers of Cloud Foundry are still working hard to complete the platform’s framework after implementing Diego, the rewrite of its runtime. But OpenShift has already completed its commercial release, with two major replacements around containers: It replaced Gears, its original homegrown container model, with Docker and replaced Broker, its old orchestration engine, with Kubernetes.
Read more

OpenStack Is Moving To A New Stage

Unfortunately, visa issues prevented me from attending the OpenStack summit in Vancouver last week — despite submitting my application to the Canadian embassy in Beijing 40 days in advance! However after following extensive online discussions of the event and discussing it with vendors and peers, I would say that OpenStack is moving to a new phase, for two reasons:

  • The rise of containers is laying the foundation for the next level of enterprise readiness. Docker’s container technology has become a major factor in the evolution of OpenStack components. Docker drivers have been implemented for the key components of Nova and Heat for extended computing and orchestration capabilities, respectively. The Magnum project aiming at container services allows OpenStack to create clusters with Kubernetes (k8s) by Google and Swarm by Docker.com. The Murano project contributed by Mirantis aiming at application catalog services is also integrated with k8s.
Read more

Cloud Foundry Is Evolving Toward Agility Via Container-Empowered Micro-services

The Cloud Foundry Foundation held its 2015 Summit recently in Santa Clara, attracting 1,500 application developers, operation experts, technical and business managers, service providers, and community contributors. After listening to the presentations and discussions, I believe that Cloud Foundry —one of the major platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings —is making a strategic shift from its traditional focus on application staging and execution to a new emphasis on micro-service composition. This is a key factor that will help companies gain the agility they need for both technology management and business transformation. Here’s what I learned:

  • Containers are critical for micro-service-based agility. Container based micro-services are getting momentum: IBM presented their latest Bluemix UI micro-services architecture; while SAP introduced their latest practice on Docker. Containers can encapsulate fine-grained business logic as micro-services for dynamic composition, which will greatly simplify development and deployment of applications, helping firms achieve continuous delivery to meet dynamic business requirements. This is why Forrester believes that the combination of containers and micro-services will prove irresistible for developers.
Read more

What We Talk About When We Talk About Microsoft Azure In China

Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:

  • Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
Read more