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.
DocuSign, the best-known software-as-a-service (SaaS) brand for electronic signature, just received 47.5M in additional investor funding. According to execs, this will help accelerate growth internationally and include a UK-based data center as well as further internationalization on the signing capability. When signing documents in China, it is more than just a nice feature to have native signing and sending instructions.
The injection will also help build out more industry solutions and take on more of the complete transaction — something that will be required for long-term success for the e-signature market. As part of the investment, Kleiner Perkins' Mary Meeker will join the DocuSign board. Formerly of Morgan Stanley, Mary is well versed in mobile, Internet, and cloud-based markets, and may help cultivate partnerships with emerging lighter file-sharing and cloud-based content solutions — a natural trajectory for e-signature platforms to jump on their steep adoption curves. On the heels of Adobe's acquisition of EchoSign, this shows acceleration of the e-signature market and is consistent with adoption Forrester is seeing driven by mobile and customer engagement trends.
KANA Software is acquiring Sword Ciboodle — a Scottish case management and BPM company and a strong performer in Forrester's 2011 Wave™ on dynamic case management. The Ciboodle platform has a strong presence in the service request area of case management and scored particularly well in the application development, automation, and event management criteria. It also proved you can build best-in-class software while headquartered in a Scottish castle.
The acquisition makes a lot of sense. Both companies circle around the customer service area — with KANA focusing on the self-service channel with advanced email and knowledge strategies that leverage the social channel, and Voice of the Customer text analytics. All with the goal to reduce service costs by having customers help themselves — without going crazy in the process. But KANA had very little in contact centers themselves. Sword plugs this gap with over 50 customers in contact centers that use BPM and case management to provide a process layer on top of systems — where green screens are not uncommon. But Sword had virtually nothing for the email and self-service channels.
Together the acquisition will free up KANA's R&D. Instead of beefing up core BPM and case engines, and internal enterprise social capabilities, it can now focus on mobile apps and enhancing overall outside in "listening" capabilities. Geographically the acquisition helps as well. KANA was 70 percent North American, but with the addition of Euro-centric Sword is now closer to a 50/50 split between North America and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).
I must be direct. I never got the hype about social business process management (BPM). Sure, it's great to collaborate better when creating process models. No group could use more help communicating then the process geeks that do this work. And I used to be one. And leveraging social data — voice of the customer — as input into transforming processes. Well, isn't this the whole point of "outside-in" process transformation? So who can argue with that. But here is my twist on this which I am researching now —which means I really don't know anything yet. I think the killer combination is enterprise social platforms and dynamic case management. The former is a much discussed area today, and why not? (Our guy Rob Koplowitz BTW has written some geat stuff in this area.) Enterprise social serves goals like innovation, collaboration, and workforce productivity that few can argue with. Yet real productivity has to connect to core business processes and enterprise social has yet to do that. At the same time, growing interest in dynamic case management, to reform and transform processes, continues, with a growing interest in providing stronger human connection at scale — and this is where the two can help each other. We are seeing a pendulum shift toward people needing a more "localized" and human experience to increase overall happiness (one happiness index for US residents peaked in 1956). Bottom line: we believe companies will be evaluated — brand-wise — on a fourth dimension — a human and "feel-good" dimension — not just on price, intimacy, and service. I want to examine the link between these two growing areas and take a deep look at the trajectory of these emerging areas and review the enterprise social plans of primary case management providers, but more importantly find some companies actually exploiting both.
The answer is a simply no. I’m finding that enterprise architectures are not well-grounded in this emerging area. Many enterprise architects, and particularly those who focus on business architecture, think that dynamic case management (DCM) is a newfangled marketing term to describe an old, worn-out idea — a glorified electronic file folder with workflow. Yes, enterprise architects can be a cynical bunch. But DCM goes far beyond a simplistic technology marketing term — it’s a new way of thinking about how complex work gets done, and often enterprise architects are so consumed with technology planning that they may not see new patterns of work emerging in the business that require new ways of thinking.
“Dynamic” describes the reality of how organizations serve customers and build products in a world that is changing constantly. If you doubt that assertion, think about volcanoes disrupting airlines, oil rigs exploding, product recalls, executives being investigated for fraud, new healthcare legislation, or more common events such as mergers and acquisitions. Most knowledge work requires unique processing, and processes need to adapt to situations — not the other way around. For enterprises, DCM provides a transformational opportunity to take the drudgery out of work and enable high-value, ad hoc knowledge work — much as enterprise resource planning (ERP) did for transactional processes. And, in fact, our research points to a growing use of DCM to add agility to systems of record including packaged apps and legacy transaction systems.
The US government will start tracking hospital readmission rates. Why? Because we spend some $15B each year treating returning patients. Many of these would not need to return if they followed instructions — which involve meds, follow up out patient visits, diet, and you get the picture. To be fair, it's sometimes not the patient's fault. They often do not get a proper discharge summary and in some cases they are just not together enough to comply. They may lack transportation, communication skills, or the ability to follow instructions. Doesn't it make sense to figure out those at-risk patients and do something a little extra? It does. No question. And translates to real money and better care, and this is where big data comes in — and it's nice to see some real use cases that do not involve monitoring our behavior to sell something. Turns out — no surprise here — the structured EMR patient record, if one exists, is full of holes and gaps — including missing treatments from other providers, billing history, or indicators of personal behavior — that may provide a clue to readmission potential. The larger picture of information —mostly unstructured —can now be accessed and analyzed, and high-risk patients can have mini workflows or case management apps to be sure they are following instructions. IBM is doing some great work in this area with the analytics engine Watson and partners such as Seton. Take a few minutes to read this article.
We all feel the loss of human connection due to relentless automation, the emerging behavior of Digital Natives (who prefer online interaction to direct human interaction), and the inability of current systems to support “personalization at scale.” So I’ve been wondering whether we will start to see real pushback against the straight-through and self-service procesees we endure daily — what I am calling “faceless” processes. In short, we are starting to see inklings that the pendulum is swinging away from faceless processes and a back toward more personalized human-driven interactions.
There are a few things that seem to point in this direction, such as community banks taking customers from the big guys, or the well-documented hatred of foreign call centers and voicemail hell. An “I’ve had enough” shift is also advanced by more vocal consumer attitudes — witness, for example, the recent consumer pushback on debit card fees. The question is, will we start to see companies start to differentiate based on injecting humans back into the process? Does social have a role to play here? And is there a way to measure whether this is actually happening?