Digital's Golden Rule: Always Save Your Customer’s Time

Nigel Fenwick
Digital lessons from a recent hotel experience.
 
I’m sitting here in my hotel room writing this and watching the in-room dining web page on my phone fail. It’s apparently given up the ghost and is caught in a perpetual loop. It’s the first time I tried using this particular hotel chain’s mobile website. The “Room Service Order Online” features prominently on the first page of the in-room guide. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to test a digital experience I figured I’d give it a go.
 
First, the photo in the room guide shows what looks to be a native app. So naturally, the first thing I did was go to the App store and search for the app using the hotel name. Nothing. HMMM … time to take a closer look at the page in the in-room guide.
 
Aha … I now see I need to browse to the hotel’s web domain and append /atyourservice. Of course they could have offered a QR code to make it easy but they don’t so I type it all in on the tiny keys on my phone. And then I’m brought to a page that looks remarkably like the hotel chain’s main landing page. Bear in mind I’m browsing while I’m in my room on the hotel’s wifi network. They ought to know where I am.
 
Nothing on this page says anything about ordering food. But I can browse to reserve a hotel room at one of a number of hotels! I can even checkin! Oh wait - I did that already.
 
I‘m thinking there must be a link to room-service somewhere …. Wait … there’s a pull down menu at the top … let’s see what this has - surely there’s a room service menu in here?
 
Oh! this is what I find (see figure).
 
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New Forrester Wave: Services Vendors Are Vital Partners As Companies Build Digital Platforms

Nate Fleming

Customers expect digital experiences to accompany the physical products and services they purchase in today’s highly competitive business market. They want these digital platforms to be personal, easy to navigate, and valuable — regardless of how difficult it is to create and maintain such an experience! That’s why companies looking to create a customer- or partner-facing digital platform need a digital platform engineering services (DPES) partner to guide them through these multifaceted projects that often transform a business.

Digital platforms take a range of forms: internet of things (IoT) platforms, digital experience platforms, eCommerce platforms — basically any digital touchpoint that directly interfaces with customers and partners qualifies. What’s similar across this array of digital platforms is the deep technical talent and experience necessary to design, build, and implement them.

We surveyed seven leading DPES vendors and 48 of their customers for The Forrester Wave™: Digital Platform Engineering Services, Q2 2016, available to Forrester clients. The Forrester Wave is an objective methodology to evaluate competing services. The analysis that determines vendors’ placement is based on data gathered from customer interviews and surveys, briefings from vendors, and analyst expertise. For more information on the DPES market, look for my upcoming brief “Software Skills Are Top Of Mind For Digital Platform Engineering Customers” in May 2016 and a webinar on the Forrester Wave report early this summer.

The Forrester Wave™: Digital Platform Engineering Services, Q2 2016

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Hyperscale public clouds are a fixture on the European scene - learn to live with them

Paul Miller

Not too long ago, Europe’s cloud providers saw the big American imports as nothing but competition. They were to be challenged at every turn, they were to be dissed at every opportunity, they were to be beaten, stomped upon, and sent packing back across the water.

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Even the most paranoid, isolationist, protectionist, and Europe-ist of customers found reasons to use a bit of AWS, or a bit of Azure, or a bit of Google, or a bit of SoftLayer. They used European providers too, but the polarising rhetoric from so many of those home-grown vendors did them no favours with their customers. Very real issues around data territoriality, or proximity to data centres, or low-latency continent-spanning networks got lost in a sea of FUD and negativity. Customers, largely, stopped hearing the valid arguments, and too often just dismissed the lot as sour grapes, or negative marketing.

Thankfully, things appear to be changing. Europe’s providers of public cloud infrastructure have realised that AWS et al aren’t going away. They’ve realised that their prospective customers want to use these hyperscale clouds too. But, instead of disappearing, European providers are finding ways to integrate their offerings with those of the hyperscale cloud providers. Instead of pushing their products as alternatives to a hyperscale offering, they’re now finding ways to augment and add value.

Done right, (almost) everyone might stand to benefit.

In my latest report, Market Overview: Public Cloud Infrastructure-As-A-Service (IaaS) In The European Market, I take a look at how Europe’s providers of public cloud infrastructure are finding new ways to deliver value to their customers, alongside the hyperscale clouds.

Blockchain Or Distributed Ledger? What’s In A Name – And Does It Matter?

Martha Bennett

“Blockchain” and “distributed ledger” continue to generate plenty of headlines in both the specialist and mainstream press. If these — and vendor publicity materials — were anything to go by, we’re on the cusp of mainstream adoption. But that’s far from the case. And judging by the questions Forrester receives about the topic, there’s still quite a bit of confusion around what the technology can actually do, how mature it really is, and how to assess the many initiatives and software offerings that are out there. Here's what to bear in mind:

  • There’s no such thing as “the blockchain”. Blockchain technology is best described as a concept that involves a number of key components, including (but not limited to) validation, consensus, replication, and storage. Which components are implemented, and which ‘flavor’ of each, differs between deployments and is determined by the exact use case and requirements; there'll also be differences between public (trustless) and private (trusted) blockchain deployments. Like “cloud” and “big data”, the term “blockchain” should be regarded as useful shorthand, but no more – any discussion should start with the participants clarifying what they mean by the term. 
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Open Source Escapes The Bedroom, Enters Your Boardroom

Paul Miller

The myth that open source software is exclusively written by and for lonely — rather odd — individual geeks remains remarkably prevalent. And yet it’s a myth that is almost entirely wrong.

A bottle of Free Beer, photographed by Edward BettsMany of the world’s best-known technology firms make sizeable investments of time and money in open source projects: guiding their strategy, contributing code and expertise, and baking the results deeply into their commercial offerings. Some, like Facebook or Google or IBM, might be names you’d not be too surprised by. Others, like Microsoft or Oracle, are still unfairly associated with an earlier age, in which Linux was branded “a cancer,” and proprietary power ruled.

Many of the world’s biggest brands depend upon open source projects: using them directly, and buying commercial solutions that are themselves dependent upon open source underpinnings.

Red Hat built a $2 billion company on the back of open source software, and the likes of Hortonworks are keen to repeat that feat.

Again and again, we encounter executives who do not grasp how much their organisation already depends on open source. More importantly, they do not see the key role that open source technologies and thinking will play in enabling their efforts to transform into a customer-obsessed business that really can win, serve, and retain customers.

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Reflections On Huawei’s Analyst Summit 2016 – And Beyond

Dan Bieler

As always each year, Huawei hosted its analyst event in April, with hordes of analysts descending on Shenzhen. Here are a few observations from the event:

In 2015, Huawei’s revenues grew by 37% to €61 billion and its EBIT grew by 34% to €7 billion, keeping the operating margin stable at just under 12%. Huawei’s strategy paid off across all of its divisions in 2015. Huawei’s Carrier Business pushed deeper into carrier transformation support and grew by 21% in 2015. Its Consumer Business operations entered the mainstream: The division grew by 73% in 2015, with Huawei gaining the No. 3 spot in the global smartphone league table. Huawei’s Enterprise Business is gaining traction and grew by 44% in 2015.

There are four distinctive aspects that go some way to explaining why Huawei keeps on outgrowing its peer group. First, Huawei’s heart beats in its R&D division, and most of Huawei’s top managers have come through the ranks of the R&D team. Second, Huawei benefits from strong internal collaboration and flexibility. Compared with other vendors, Huawei seems a lot less process-driven. Instead, Huawei seems to tolerate, even encourage, self-organization among employees — despite strict management hierarchies. Third, Huawei has a flexible and unconventional approach to customer experience. Huawei completes projects that overrun without overanalyzing whose fault it is. Fourth, Huawei is not listed and therefore not answerable to external shareholders. This gives it the freedom to experiment and take a long-term view.

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Data Management Platforms Go Mainstream

Jennifer Adams

The holy grail of digital advertising is accurately determining who to target, when to target them, and what products to highlight. Data management platforms (DMPs) facilitate smarter media buying by unifying data from multiple sources to allow more accurate and detailed audience segmentation. In our recently published Ad Technology (Data Management Platforms) Forecast, 2016 To 2021 (US), we take a more in-depth look at the market. We examine demand for DMPs that support the programmatic advertising ecosystem, including platforms from vendors such as Adobe, Google, IgnitionOne, Krux, Lotame, Neustar, Oracle, and Wunderman (KBM Group). We conclude that:

DMPs have hit a tipping point, driving continued robust growth. While the US DMP market is relatively small at $500 million, we expect to see robust 43% annual growth over  the 2015 to 2021 period. We believe DMPs reached a tipping point in the past year or two as both marketers and publishers became increasingly aware of their benefits. CMOs are focusing on improving their marketing and advertising ROI, and DMPs demonstrate tangible value by clearly organizing data into taxonomies, identifying intent to purchase, and yielding higher conversion rates.

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Innovation Management Solutions Push Innovation That Creates Both Change And Value

Dan Bieler

Source: The Forrester Wave™: Innovation Management Solutions, Q2 2016

Innovation that only creates change is just that — change. When we asked firms about their major business objectives, 37% claim that product and service innovation is central to their business transformation.

But old-style innovation will be very tough to maintain. To exploit business value from digital technologies, innovation managers need to increasingly think in open ecosystems, open standards, open platforms, and open source software. Digital innovation equals service innovation, which in turn requires a willingness to experiment and engage in minimal-viable-product thinking, because:

  • As customers’ demand changes more quickly, innovation cycles must get shorter. Fast software innovation will “eat” slow hardware innovation given the ever greater role that software plays for today’s business value creation. An innovation management solution supports decision sessions and real-time voting and collaboration to quickly validate or gauge the interest of organizational priorities in short sessions. Organizations need to be willing to fail fast, be able to work iteratively on product and service improvements, run idea experiments based on soft-launches, and get feedback on innovation efforts via external feedback loops quickly.
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CIOs must operate at the speed of the customer

Fred Giron

Digital transformation is about reinventing the business model of your company. It’s an end-to-end transformation that moves at only one speed: the speed of the customer. Back-end systems are not immune from these pressures, somehow shielded from change as customer-facing systems and processes innovate quickly to keep up with fast-changing customer behaviors.

Forrester believes that the pursuit of two-speed IT (aka bimodal IT) is a trap for CIOs. My colleague John McCarthy recently published a report that explains why CIOs need a single, bolder business technology (BT) strategy to accelerate innovation and simplification, not a two-class system that adds more silos of complexity (Forrester clients can have access to the report here).

At a recent CIO event organized in Singapore with our partner Odgers Berndtson, we shared the results of this research and related case studies. The audience was in agreement with this call, best illustrated by two examples that were shared during the discussion:

  • Two-speed operations break the best unified customer experience intent. The head of digital for a life insurance provider mentioned how his team did a great job creating a digital only policy purchasing capability enabling customers to purchase a life policy within 15 minutes online. Unfortunately, it then takes about 2 months for the operational teams to come back to the customer with the actual policy due to slow back-end systems moving at yesteryear speeds. Once the complete engagement has been executed, most clients are lost.
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Envision 2016: Microsoft Pushes Beyond IT

Nigel Fenwick
Where was HololensThis week in New Orleans, Microsoft launched it's first conference aimed squarely at business leaders as the company looks to move beyond the department of the CIO. Envision 2016 replaces Microsoft's previous Convergence conference and comes on the heels of "Build2016" the previous week.
 
As a guest of Microsoft, I had two reasons to attend Envision: First, to hear from CEO Satya Nadella and other Microsoft executives; I wanted to better understand their business strategy going forward, specifically as it relates to enterprise customers. Secondly, I had the opportunity to provide feedback to Microsoft leaders on its enterprise marketing strategy.
 
It was no doubt clear to attendees that Microsoft wants a relationship with enterprise customers beyond the office of the CIO. Based on Satya's opening keynote, there is a recognition that Microsoft must become a more strategic business partner, helping today's CIO clients work alongside their line-of-business peers to deliver on the promise of digital business. 
 
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