Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience.
Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum.
The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:
More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.
Mobile access to information has increased its importance in your work environment. Consider that two-thirds of your US and European workforce works remotely at least part time. Accessing email, surfing the Net, collaborating with a colleague, or posting tweets from your mobile device is the norm and no longer a luxury. But can this mobile elite access your most valuable information assets?
If you’re like me, you want to be able to access your work information from any of your many devices -- i.e., your laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Wouldn’t it be ideal if that access were transparent across all the devices, picking up where we left off as we moved from device to device? While mobile computing has matured in many areas, the ability to access and manage documents on a mobile device lags far behind many other capabilities, such as email and collaboration. What I want to see in a mobile ECM application is the same type of capability that we see in Twitter applications. I can send and receive tweets from any device with the same functionality and experience.
The vendors that have a mobile application are either delivering an early release or have limited the number of devices they are supporting. Most ECM vendors deliver some form of mobile access to their ECM solution. Those that don’t have a mobile application provide reduced functionality through a mobile web browser. So does that mean that all you need to do to create a mobile ECM strategy is to wait for your ECM vendor to provide an application? The answer is no, as I contend that technology is always the simplest piece of an ECM implementation.
A successful rollout of a mobile ECM strategy involves many more dimensions besides technology. You must also consider the people and process aspects. Here are some of the questions I plan to answer at our upcoming Forum:
Many organizations expect EAs to be the source of technology innovations. They are broadly knowledgeable, experienced, connect-the-dots kind of people you might naturally expect to come up with reasonable ideas for new approaches and technology. When you think about it a bit, this expectation is misplaced. Here’s why I think this:
The best technology innovators are users who have a problem to solve; motivation to solve a specific problem affecting their lives is the key ingredient. EAs just don’t have these kinds of problems; because they operate as a bridge between business and technology, most often they are attempting to solve things that affect other people’s lives. Please don’t get me wrong: EAs are always looking for new, innovative ways to improve things. But this doesn’t replace the “I gotta fix this now” kind of motivation inspiring most innovations.
So am I saying organizations should take EAs out of the innovator role? Yes and no.
Here at Forrester, we have been writing and talking about topics such as Innovation Networks and new roles for business technology for a while. I think that EAs are better placed at the center of an Innovation Network where they connect innovation suppliers (lead users who are dreaming up new ways to solve their problems) with innovation users (other folks who can benefit from a generalization of the solutions the suppliers come up with). In addition, EAs can bring innovation implementers — the team members who know how to actually make innovations into solutions that work for more than just one individual or group — into the conversation.
So what should you do?
Send EAs on a mission to find people doing innovative things in IT and the business. This has a side effect of connecting EAs to the frontlines, where they might discover all kinds of things.
It's that time again, and we are busy updating our annual report, "The Top 15 Trends EA Should Watch." For this year, we have expanded the number of analysts contributing to the research, and we want to capture your thoughts condensed into 140 character sound bytes.
In addition to using the jam as research, we are going to prepare a second, special report citing key tweets and providing our analysis. We will make this report available on request to non-clients who participate, so come join us!
Info on the Jam
Hash tag: #forrtttj
When: Friday, 7/29, 10-11 a.m. Eastern time
Host: Brian Hopkins (@practicingEA)
Scope of the jam:
We predicted that 2011 would be about mobile, social, cloud and data. So far we have been right, but things are always changing. Some things we want to jam on:
What are the major technology landscape shifts you are seeing?
Are social, mobile, cloud and data still the big four or are there new things going on? What about each of these is interesting or vexing? What are the key shifts in client and vendor approaches?
What technologies are looming big on your radar this year and next?
Around the halfway point I'll steer the jam towards speculation -- what's going to happen that we don't expect?
Electronic signatures are gaining momentum and becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion among Forrester clients. In retrospect, today’s e-signature users will be seen as early adopters. And in 10 years, the dominant form of signature will be digital, with adoption driven by rampant uptake in consumer technology — particularly mobile applications with embedded signing authority. It’s a vision that helped push this SaaS-based acquisition — but it’s only part of the story. Today, many vendors integrate with Adobe LiveCycle, which has a digital signature available in its Forms product. Adobe Forms has a strong signing capability, but did not provide a well-integrated platform for handling documents or executing agreements, including such functionality as hierarchical signing, embedded PKI support, separate forms management, adding fields at the time of signing, or electronic evidence. These had to be developed with other LiveCycle components, such as BPM, or with other e-signature solutions such as those from Silanis, DocuSign, and ARX. As it’s Monday morning, I’ll make it simple. Until the EchoSign acquisition, Adobe allowed you to send a form for signing — but had limited signing applications out of the box. Further, EchoSign is a hard-charging company with a SaaS solution that emphasizes simplicity, but it did not focus on IT buyers and had fewer authentication options. This acquisition is a great fit for both: Adobe will provide more solutions capability and IT focus and gets a full e-signature application. Initially, EchoSign will be part of Adobe’s online document exchange services platform and be integrated with Adobe’s SendNow for FormsCentral for form creation.
OpenText is at it again — and another independent BPM provider is gone. This time it’s Global 360. But Global 360 was more than BPM; it had done a good — no, great — job revitalizing what was at its core an ECM rollup of midrange and questionable solutions (remember Kodak, Keyfile — I actually met an original Keyfile developer there — and ViewStar?). But it nurtured this account base well and built a fast-growing BPM and case management business. It’s now been purchased by the ultimate ECM rollup, OpenText. (It would be interesting, although not partcularly productive, to count the number of original products that OpenText now has — perhaps 500?) Global 360 also created a strong case management platform (you may want to consult our Forrester Wave™ on the subject, where Global 360 was a Leader), with an integrated suite to address the mix of complex unstructured and structured processes that organizations face. Global 360 continued to focus on content-centric casemanagement applications — a strong fit with OpenText’s transaction management assets — and provided an innovative process vision based on a “persona” approach that focuses on the needs of case workers and stakeholders and leveraging emergent design principles. In short, this should really help OpenText in the emerging case management market, and OpenText will be able to put more meat behind Global 360’s focus on the SharePoint ecosystem.
I’ve been following a couple of 2011 developments that together may determine the next big technology winners and losers. To get your click, I’ve been obscure in my title.
Spiders refers to the battle for control of the webs that connect us all together. Google won the first race by connecting webs of content, and now the second race is on for control of the social web. Facebook dominates the personal market, while LinkedIn has carved out a niche with professionals and now challenges its big cousin. Finally, latecomer Google (anybody see the irony?) may just sneak up on both by capitalizing on their respective weaknesses.
Consider this: The winner will control the web of social data. What people like, who they know who likes similar stuff, and where these potential customers are. This is powerful stuff that companies are just beginning to figure out. For example, a mobile app identifies five people in your condo complex who are big scuba divers, and one is on the boat trip with you right now. By helping you make connnections, the app’s developer can now sell marketing data to dive boat charters that then can offer you a group discount to come back together with your other new connections. Clearly, the company in control of this data will be in the center of a market worth a mind-blowing amount of money.
Elephants is an allusion to Hadoop and Horton, two pachyderms that represent that growing interest in big data technology. Eric Baldeschwieler, former Hadoop project leader at Yahoo and now CEO of Hortonworks, went so far as to state, “. . . We anticipate that within five years, more than half the world's data will be stored in Apache Hadoop.”
From my first days as a baby architect, I was spoon-fed the idea that enterprise data management (EDM) was the solution to our data woes. Some call it enterprise information management or other names that mean a holistic approach to managing data that is business led and centered on stewardship and governance. The DMBOK provides a picture that describes this concept very well — check it out.
Here’s the problem: Most firms are not able to internalize this notion and act accordingly. There are myriad reasons why this is so, and we can all list off a bunch of them if we put our minds to it. Top of my list is that the lure of optimizing for next quarter often outweighs next year’s potential benefits.
Here’s another problem: Most EAs cannot do much about this. We are long-term, strategic people who can clearly see the benefits of EDM, which may lead us to spend a lot of time promoting the virtues of this approach. As a result, we get bloody bruises on our heads and waste time that could be spent doing more-productive things.
I do think that taking a long-term, holistic approach is the best thing to do; in my recently published report "Big Opportunities In Big Data," I encourage readers to maintain this attitude when considering data at extreme scale. We need to pursue short-term fixes as well. Let me go a step further and say that making short-term progress on nagging data management issues with solutions that take months not years is more important to our firms than being the EDM town crier. Hopefully my rationale is clear: We can be more effective this way as long as our recommendations keep the strategic in mind.
When we get used to something, we often think it will never change, but it does eventually; who bought a house in 2006 and assumed the value would surely keep going up?
We are working at an architectural inflection point. The signals are all around us – cloud, big data, mobility, smart computing, etc. While each of these appears to be only modestly connected, I think together they signify a major shift in how business gets done and in the architecture that supports it. If true, this means the tried-and-true Business-Data-Applications-Technology model architected and delivered by central IT will not serve us much longer.
Consider the following:
Big and complex are here to stay. In the past we strove for simplicity because we did not have the techniques and technology to deal with the world as it is – infinitely complex. Read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. The cloud has brought the power of distributed, elastic computing to bear on enormous problems, and this trend will continue. Will central IT continue to grow in response to the increasing size and complexity of technology problems, or will a different model arise?
The cloud and the App Internet are two sides of the same coin. The cloud is about optimizing the power of centralized data processing, while the App Internet is about exploiting the enormous power of mobile devices on the periphery. What happens when we figure out how these work together? Can we create a smart grid across mobile devices that also leverages cloud resources? What can we accomplish when apps no longer live in central data centers that we own and control?
Today we’re kicking off Forrester's IT Forum 2011 at The Palazzo in Las Vegas. Prepare for three exciting days of keynote presentations and track sessions focused on business and technology alignment. Use the Twitter widget below to follow the Forum conversation by tracking our event hashtag #ITF11 on Twitter. Attendees are encouraged to tweet throughout the Forum and to tweet any questions for our keynote presenters to #ITF11.