Public Sector Opportunity Is Recognized By VCs. Watch For Civic Innovation.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Today I attended a conference for Russian entrepreneurs organized by Digital October.  I’m going to digress a moment and describe the location which for a Moscow veteran is one of the coolest places I’ve seen in new Russia.  Digital October has taken over part of the old Red October Confectionary Factory, a red brick factory on the banks of the river on the outside with a state-of-the-art, loft-like business space on the inside.  The building has a view of the Kremlin and of the new church built on the other side of the river (where the world largest outdoor swimming pool used to be for those of us who knew Moscow before the church reconstruction).

Today's Digital October event, “The Art of Going Global,” brought together startup founders, VCs and entrepreneurs to discuss how to expand globally, including global marketing and PR, and getting funding from global VCs. 

During the VC panel, Alisa Chumachenko, Founder and CEO of Game Insight, and one of the entrepreneurs in the audience, really grilled the panelists asking them to name their top geographical markets, top horizontal markets and top vertical markets.  Some responses were not surprising. Others were. 

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Start With Business Smarts, Not Necessarily Specific Smart Technology

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

If there is one theme that jumps out of my most recent client discussions, it is the need for business smarts in our approach to smart cities.  Cities are faced with a barrage of vendor solutions pitched as the holy grail of X, where X is public safety or transportation or some other city department.  I feel like the smart city discussion has reached of fevered pitch with conferences, congresses, expos and summits cropping up around the world.   But what is real and now as opposed to truly aspirational and future?   

Three observations:

  1. Smart computing is really about putting together the right pieces of technology, not about any particular smart technology.  Yes, the ability to capture and aggregate data is important.   But so is the ability to share information and collaborate.  A new Forrester report on smart computing addresses the realization that “smart” is really about finding the right solution and leveraging the new technologies available to better connect both machines (and information) and the people who can use them. It’s less about smart technology and more about using technology to get smart, or really using technology intelligently. (I really wanted to say “smartly” but couldn’t do it).
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The European Tech Market Will Grow By 1.2% In 2012 And 3.1% In 2013 – If The Euro Does Not Fall Apart

Andrew Bartels

Making a tech market forecast always runs the risk of being overtaken by subsequent events.  This risk is particularly acute in Europe in June 2012, when the whole euro project hangs on the brink of potential failure.  Yet with Forrester's European CIO Forum conference occurring this week in Paris, we had to make a call on the outlook for the European tech market, rather than wait until the outcome becomes a clear. 

So, here is my assumption: the European Union and the European Central Bank will patch together a set of policies that will keep Greece in the euro, provide financing to keep Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain functioning as economic reforms take hold, and offer enough stimulus to prevent something worse than the current, mild recession.  As such, in our European tech market report published today (European Information And Communications Technology Market 2012 To 2013 -- Spending Growth Comes To A Halt As Europe Slides Into Recession), Forrester is predicting that purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) by European business and governments will grow by a feeble but still positive 1.2% in 2012 in euros, and a weak but slightly better growth of 3.1%.  Let us hope that the alternative of a euro break up, a subsequent deep recession, and a collapse of tech buying similar to that in 2009 does not make this one of the shortest lived predictions we have made.

The details of our European tech market outlook are as follows:

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Microsoft Pokes Its Partners With A Stick Named Surface -- And That's A Good Thing

Ted Schadler

See these excellent analyses by colleagues Sarah Rotman Epps and Dave Johnson on the Surface.

I can totally understand why the Windows team wants its own tablet. After all, Apple has been running away with the most important device category since, well, the touchscreen smartphone, for years while Microsoft and its OEM partners have been watching glumly from the sidelines. Actually, Microsoft has been developing Windows 8 and Windows RT to compete, so not just watching glumly, building product, actually. But OEM partners like Samsung and ASUS have been developing tablets on Android, not Windows.

Along comes Microsoft Surface, a tablet aimed at "work and play." So why does Microsoft feel the need to compete with its most important partners? Three reasons that CIOs should tune into:

  1. Surface (presumably) sets the bar for other tablet OEMs. PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your stringent price requirements while still trying to compete. That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air that your employees love. Microsoft can't let that happen with tablets. So job one for Surface -- and it better be frickin' great -- is to prod partners to make great tablets. So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets. And that could pay off for CIOs as you look for a tablet you can manage and more importantly, run Office on.
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The Ultimate Question

Nigel Fenwick

As fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will recall, the answer to the ultimate question of life universe and everything is something a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn by building the ultimate computer — Deep Thought. It takes the computer 7.5 million years to compute and check the answer.

Of late I’ve been considering a more mundane version of the ultimate question — what is the ideal metric to use when evaluating business technology strategies? The challenge is that we already have a diverse set of investment metrics from which to choose. There’s Return On Investment (ROI), Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate Of return (IRR) and Payback period to name a few of the most common. Yet I can’t help feeling they all lack a little something — the ability to connect the project with the desired business outcome, which for a strategy is the attainment of the goal.

Recently I’ve been working with clients to apply a different measure — the T2BI ratio:

BI/T2BI*CRC

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Do Business Cases for "Must Do's"? Absolutely!

Chip Gliedman

I am periodically asked whether a business case should be required for those projects that fall into the "must do" category - projects such as those required to meet regulatory or auditing needs, bring a system up to security or other standards, or migrate off of end-of-life platforms. Why do a business case for these? you might ask.  We know we're going to do them, and since there's no incremental business benefit, an ROI calculation is not practically calculated.  So why go through the effort?

My view is simple - even without a quantifiable business benefit, the business case analysis helps in three ways:

  1. The business case clarifies the alternatives.  There are often multiple ways to accomplish the desired outcome. Evaluating each possible scenario using a standardized methodology clarifies the advantages and disadvantages, cost and time differences, and resource requirement differences in each choice. While a go/no go decision may be preordained, planners will be better prepared to pick the alternative that is least onerous to the organization.
  2. The business case exposes differences in risks.  Each alternative will likely have a different risk profile. A seemingly less expensive alternative requiring custom internal development may be more risky - both from cost and benefit perspectives - than a cloud-based COTS alternative with a higher list price.  Documenting the risks associated with each alternative, something we recommend in any business case analysis, will point to the optimum solution.
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Microsoft And Yammer Face A Sliding Doors Moment

Rob Koplowitz

In the wonderful movie Sliding Doors, Helen runs for a train and just makes it on as the doors are closing. Moments later we see her running again for the same train only to have the doors close a moment before she arrives, forcing her to wait several minutes for the next train to arrive. We then see two versions of Helen's life unfold, one where she had made the train and one where she did not. The seemingly trivial moment in her day proves to lead to two wildly different outcomes. 

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Apple's Developer Tour De Force And What It Means For CIOs

Ted Schadler

CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)

Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.

  • New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
  • A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
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Google Buys QuickOffice And Embraces The App Internet

Ted Schadler

Google just bought QuickOffice. I think that means they now get the App Internet and are moving beyond pure Web.

The App Internet is the future of software architecture and the foundation of how people get stuff on their mobile devices (we call that mobile engagement). The App Internet means native (or hybrid HTML5) apps on mobile and desktop devices that use the Internet to get services. It's the native app that makes the user experience good. It's the Internet that makes the user experience relevant to life.

Google has been "pure Web," meaning that they don't want native apps on any device. Of course, they've been moving slowly away from that pure architecture for years now even as its marketing rhetoric has denied it. Remember that when iPhone shipped in 2007 it had a native Google app called Maps on it. And they have readers on their Android devices.

In the meantime, QuickOffice has been growing handily because it gets the App Internet -- any device, anywhere, anytime using a native app. If you want to read or edit Microsoft Office formats on your iPad or Android phone or whatever, you can do it with QuickOffice. That has led consumers and information workers and sometimes entire enterprises (in the case of one life sciences company with 15,000 iPads deployed, for example) to use QuickOffice to access and edit the critical documents they need on their tablets.

What does this mean?

  • For Google, it means they've woken up to embrace the App Internet as the way to deliver great user experiences on mobile devices.
  • For Microsoft, it means Google has done another "embrace and extend" play to take keystrokes away from Microsoft Office. And that ahead of Microsoft's purported but unannounced plans to port Office to iPad.
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Dark Clouds On The Tech Horizon Redux: Europe Drops, China And India Slow, US And Canada Limp Along

Andrew Bartels

Haven't we seen this show before?  Like last year?  Once again, Europe wrestles with and is again losing against its debt crisis.  Once again, after some promising growth in late 2011, the US economy is showing signs of losing steam.  Once again, China and India are flashing distress signals.  And once again, John Boehner and the Congressional Republicans are threatening to refuse to raise the US debt ceiling unless US Federal spending is cut sharply. 

Last year, the mid-year economic troubles did take their toll on tech purchases in the third and four quarters of 2011, but a last-minute resolution to the US debt ceiling issue, the European Central Bank's aggressive lending to banks so they could buy Italian and Spanish government debt, and some strength in US consumer spending, Germany's surprisingly strong growth, and continued growth in China revived global economic growth in Q4 2011 and into Q1 2012.  Much depends on whether this pattern of slump and revival will recur again in 2012.   My bet  is that we will in fact see the same pattern. 

So, let's look at the economic evidence, and then the tech market evidence. 

  • US economy slows but continues to grow.  In the US, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis on May 31 revised down Q1 2o12 real GDP growth to 1.9% from 2.1% in the preliminary report, and on June 1 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a disappointing 69,000 increase in payroll employment in May, the second month of sub-100,000 job growth.  On a more positive note, US retailers and auto makers reported good sales growth in May, while gas prices at the pump continued to fall from peaks earlier.   My take is that we will see real GDP growth in the 1.5% to 2% range in the remainder of 2012, down from my earlier assumption of 2% to 2.5% growth. 
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