$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.
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.