Investment in clean energy in South Africa increased more in 2012 than in any other country, rising 206-fold to $5.5 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. South Africa generates 85% of its electricity from coal, but chronic power shortages may have been the catalyst to look to solar (a low point in 2008 closed mines for five days). It’s making up for that gap with solar energy — and now it’s the only African nation among the top 20 solar markets, with installations comparable to South Korea, Thailand, and Israel.
The 360 days a year of sunshine certainly help, and it’s great to see the clean energy push work so well. But what is interesting to me is the amount of change in the overall economy the solar boom has caused. Wages are up, new jobs are available; hotels are adding more rooms, restaurants are changing menus to be more suitable for Europeans, and sales volumes are increasing. So I’m adding “changes to the energy infrastructure” to my list of events that require business agility. Changes in customer expectation, digital disruption, and shortening product life cycles get the most attention as change events that drive the need for companies to be agile, but as shown here change can rapidly come from infrastructure shifts. And South Africa is just starting its transformation. There are plans to invest in other forms of renewable energy: wind, concentrated and photovoltaic solar, landfill gas, and biomass power. And it looks like South African businesses are up to the challenge and are responding to the market. For more info, click here.
CPG companies are a great example of what Business Agility really means in “The Age of the Customer”. They produce tissues, disinfecting wipes and cold remedies are finding new ways to predict and chase outbreaks around the country.
Forrester is putting significant effort into Business Agility – what it is, how it relates to the success of companies within industries, and what foundations business agility is built on. Our recent study of agility and performance found that high-performing companies were building agility into their core business. (see recent Agility PerformanceReport)
No where does this seem more true than CPG industry. CPG has been innovating in - Market Responsiveness - one of forrester's 10 dimensions of business agility. This means simply understanding what’s going on in your market and shifting strategies and resources to respond. In the CPG context, it means to figure out when people are getting sick and ramp up marketing, and then reduce expenditure when people are well.
The way we deploy software is changing. Our research and others shows that enterprises are moving away from on-premise apps. and moving to private and public cloud offerings. But here is the basic question that is seldom asked. When a company deploys to the cloud does that boost revenue and returns to stockholders? Are high performing companies separating from low performers by their knowledge of and use of cloud technologies? Our recent Business Agility study says clearly that they are not.
Let me give some context for this statement. Forrester is putting significant effort into Business Agility – what it is, how it relates to the success of companies within industries, and what foundations business agility is built on. We’ve identified the three types of agility that companies must develop -- Market, Organizational, and Process agility – and evaluate ten separate dimensions that make them up. We found out which of the ten dimensions were the most important, defined as driving growth in revenue and profit (see the Agility Performancereport).
And here’s the point. Infrastructure Elasticity – which is our agility dimension for all things cloud, accounted for almost no difference in enterprise performance. Enterprises aggressively embracing cloud solutions did not perform better than their peers. In fact in some industries, they performed worse.
$3 billion may not be enough for Snapchat, the latest social-media craze. Those of you as socially challenged as I am may not know that Snapchat allows teens (mostly) to send photos that get erased after a few seconds. Certain politicians would have paid dearly for this feature. And now there are so many bad photos zipping around the Internet (my wife alone is responsible for thousands) that the Snapchat message service may have great social value.
No question, it is a popular site for young users and is grabbing Facebook’s teenagers. But valuations like this strike me as well – ridiculous. Sure Facebook will try to keep this from Google and the latter will be reluctant to see Facebook grab the possible next big social media thing. I get that.
But value continues to be a funny thing in technology. 7,671 miles from Silicon Valley is India. Looking over its shoulder at China, they finalized the deal to pick up a $2.3 billion aircraft carrier from Russia. A bit of a "fixer-upper" but it will now have two aircraft carriers. The Russian flag on the vessel was lowered, and the flag of the Indian Navy was raised. A coconut was then smashed against the ship’s side.
I have a hard time reconciling these two values. You can have a photo-sharing site with a clever algorithm and a fair number of eyeballs, for maybe 3 billion. Or you get a 45,000-ton vessel that can carry up to 30 aircraft and will have a crew of around 2,000 for a mere $2.3 billion, certainly an eye-popping conversation piece when tied up off the back dock.
It’s hard for me to imagine that the vast R&D teams at Facebook or Google couldn’t whip something like Snapchat up in a few months. But even if taking a bit longer, if rumors are true, how do you turn down a $3 billion offer? And the bigger question: Is it really worth anywhere near that?
Everyone is focused on getting the health exchanges working well (or criticizing those who failed to get them working). But the greater risk and opportunity long term is the ability to manage change. With software you often get one chance to get it right – that initial design and architecture needs to be well conceived. Adding features, patches, and fixes, particularly under pressure, often creates hard problems down the road.
So think of the vast number of changes that await. Modifications to various rating systems within hundreds of benefit and risk levels; revised procedures and laws that allow brokers to enroll – not to mention the small business health options (SHOP) programs; and improvements to back-end functions to support online and offline processing. And these are changes to the Act itself. Changing demographics, ramping customer experience demands, and advancing mobile opportunities also will drive change. My biggest fear, as we pull the bus out of the ditch, is whether hastily applied extensions to deal with the initial crisis will make it difficult to adapt going forward. Hence, the real challenge is whether healthcare.gov has been built to handle the incredible number of inevitable changes with this transformational law.
We just completed our second report on Business Agility Performance and looked at what factors can make the government more agile. Of our 10 dimensions, the most important dimensions for the exchange going forward are Process Architecture and Software Innovation.
Here’s a different take on the recent revelations of the NSA.
How does Edward Snowden, a low-level contractor to the government, recently fired from Booz Allen with a fabricated salary history, get access to a trove of documents about top-secret telephone and Internet surveillance programs? This to me is troubling. Too many years ago, I had top-secret clearances in places like BBN and MITRE Corporation that do lots of contract work for DoD and the three-letter agencies. But I never had anywhere near the broad or deep access to information that this contractor had.
Yet, we need to keep this lapse in governance in perspective. The only way we can beat terrorists is with superior information management. Big data with predictive analytics can make connections that no human can. These tools will form the ultimate weapon of this century and should remain a key investment area where we maintain leadership. How important is analytics? Forrester just completed its second report on business agility, and we looked at what factors can make the government more agile – better able to deal with unexpected outside events. We also studied which of our 10 dimensions drives the most economic performance. Of our 10 dimensions, the two that apply most in this case are analytics and knowledge dissemination.
Competence in analytics was shown conclusively to drive effectiveness in government and profit in the private sector based on our survey. See Agility Performance. A sophisticated government organization, particular where intelligence is the goal, needs great tools to control, manage quality, and govern the use of data throughout the organization.
Another blockbuster airline merger is upon us. It is hard to imagine this will benefit the flying public - fewer direct flights, higher prices, more crowded planes –if that is possible- are a likely outcome. But the stock market likes the move: more pricing power + economies of scale – how can you not like this? The Airline industry in aggregate has lost over 50 billion dollars in the last decade. Life time it is in the red. Southwest is the only airline to consistently make money. Warren Buffet, before eliminating airlines from his portfolio, has been quoted as saying “If a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”
Cynicism and ugly facts aside, the success of this merger will depend on how prepared the combined airlines are in dealing with change in their markets and ecosystem. Dominant companies with few competitors tend to think they are immune to change. So they don’t try to increase their awareness of changes, and other than cost, don’t try to improve their execution of change strategies. They become less agile as companies – when new competition starts to pick them off, they will be left with the least differentiating and least profitable parts of their business.
Forrester is putting significant effort into Business Agility – what it is, how it relates to the success of companies within industries, and what foundations business agility is built on. We’ve identified 10 dimensions that underlay business agility – and even developed a quick assessment methodology.
Looking at what agility foundations the combined AMR+USAir should have, several of these dimensions jump out:
There was a time when economies of scale swamped all other corporate attributes – and a time of stable competitive advantage – where sticking to a single core competency was sufficient. Big companies dominated. Sure, they were slow to react to market change, but they had huge cost advantages and could lock down distribution channels, suppliers, and other sources of strength.
But that is last decade’s thinking. Seventy percent of the companies that were on the Fortune 1000 list a mere 10 years ago have now vanished – unable to adapt to change. In those 10 years we’ve seen digital disruption change the business landscape. We’ve watched the Internet become pervasive, embraced cloud-based applications that update multiple times a year, acquired mobile devices that connect everywhere in the neighborhood and around the globe, and embraced information workers who use their own tools to do corporate work on their own time.
Today, companies must break away from the assumption of sustainable competitive advantage and embrace adaptable differentiation, i.e., develop an agility advantage. But what does this mean? Forrester defines business agility as the quality that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine.
Kofax continues its acquisition rampage with a cash purchase of Kapow. I came across Kofax a few years ago while doing the research for "Take A Process View Of Content Integration." Apparently Kofax has taken the "process view." The idea behind that piece was that enterprises had so many diverse content stores that they needed to view conversion and migration of unstructured content as an internal competency.
But while content integration can reduce infrastructure costs and license fees, the real value is from improving business processes by linking content to business process management (BPM) and dynamic case management systems to reduce cycle time and improve compliance, customer support, and decision-making. These projects can be complex, difficult, and challenging, but Kofax correctly sees this as a large opportunity. I do as well.
Another Kapow capability is to scrape websites and create consolidated views. For example,customer service reps often switch between apps in a clumsy and inefficient manner while the customer is on hold. In some cases, ECI software should grab the needed content behind the scenes and present it in a unified way. Kapow Technologies' content integration solution works like a robot to extract, transform, and load content from Web-based apps to consolidated views. I interviewed one large telecommunications company that used Kapow's robot for customer service business processes to eliminate task switching and repetitive tasks. According to the company:
I recently finished reading Moneyball, the Michael Lewis bestseller and slightly above-average Hollywood movie. It struck me how great baseball minds could be so off in their focus on the right metrics to win baseball games. And by now you know the story — paying too much for high batting averages with insufficient focus where it counts —metrics that correlate with scoring runs, like on-base percentage. Not nearly as dramatic — but business is having its own “Moneyball” experience with way too much focus on traditional metrics like productivity and quality and not enough on customer experience and, most importantly, agility.
Agility is the ability to execute change without sacrificing customer experience, quality, and productivity and is “the” struggle for mature enterprises and what makes them most vulnerable to digital disruption. Enterprises routinely cite the incredible length of time to get almost any change made. I’ve worked at large companies and it’s just assumed that things move slowly, bureaucratically, and inefficiently. But why do so many just accept this? For one thing, poor agility undermines the value of other collected BPM metrics. Strong customer experience metrics are useless if you can’t respond to them in a timely manner, and so is enhanced productivity if it only results in producing out-of-date products or services faster.