I first noticed the creeping changes a few years ago. In college I majored in comparative literature and averaged about five novels read per week. Even when I entered the hustle and bustle overdrive of the working world, I still rapidly pounded through stacks of books every month. Over the past few years, while I still read more than the average American, the act of actually finishing a book became something of a notable achievement. My brain was more easily distracted, my ability to focus on and engage with complex information diminished, and my capacity to multitask as required by a modern work environment was seemingly illusory.
Of course, I wasn’t alone in experiencing these changes. This distracted mental state has become a common problem among knowledge workers and heavy users of Internet and mobile technologies. Excellent books such as Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age and The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains detailed the changes we are all undergoing and described much of the neuropsychological research that seeks to explain the mental modifications that have left us in such a state. At heart, the research shows that our tools have begun to shape our brains just as much as we fashion our tools--and not always for the better.
Such mental modifications would seem to pose some significant and idiosyncratic problems for customer service organizations. Indeed, a new generation of contact center agents has begun to vex application development and delivery professionals. The new agents seem reluctant to learn detailed product and service information that previous cohorts of agents had little problem with. These new agents prefer to learn where to find such information, but have little intention of actually memorizing product support details.
In 2013 I wanted to help executives understand some of the fundamental changes that are happening in business because of the digital revolution. Big names capture the attention of the media – who in the USA could have failed to hear about the collapse of Blockbuster or Borders? Who in the UK could have failed to hear of the demise of HMV? When writing about these failures, most analysts highlight the disruptive companies that put them out of business; companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple. But I wanted to know if there was something more fundamental going on that impacts the ability of an incumbent to defend against digital disruptors. So in 2013 I set out to research digital business successes and failures in an effort to uncover the secrets of digital mastery.
I captured insights from my research in reports published in 2014. Here’s my pick of the top four you should read to gain a deeper understanding of digital business (these reports are available to existing Forrester clients, non-clients can purchase them individually or download a summary from this page):
#1 The Future Of Business Is Digital - The results of 18 months of research into what lies behind successful digital businesses were first published in March in this report. Originally published for CMOs and CEOs, the report was subsequently republished for CIOs as “Unleash your Digital Business”. This report highlights how digital business differs from traditional business; provides an overview of the customer’s dynamic ecosystems of value; and offers six strategies to help transform any business into a digital business.
This weekend, I’ll be heading off to Las Vegas for the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Infrastructure & Operations leaders should – and do – keep tabs on the news coming out of CES. In this era of consumerization, bring-your-own (BYO) technology, and Shadow IT, CES announcements affect the I&O role more than ever before. I have three tips for how to think about CES 2015:
Look at consumer technologies through a workforce lens. So many smart, connected products quickly migrate to the workforce. Sometimes these technologies enter via BYO and segue into company-owned, as tablets have done over the past few years. In other cases, vendors that target consumers immediately see the value their products can bring to workforce scenarios. For example, I recently spoke with Jonathan Palley, CEO of Spire, a wearable device that tracks not just activity but also state of mind (tension versus calm, focus versus distraction, and related states). While the product was launched to the consumer market just about a week ago, Jonathan made clear that “workforce is a huge part of our strategy as well.” Imagine helping workers remain in a more productive, less stressed state of mind via wearables.
As the interest of Chinese organizations to adopt cloud solutions for business transformation is increasing, OpenStack-based cloud solutions have become the hot topic in the China market in 2014. I believe that 2015 will be the key year for OpenStack and it will rapidly develop in China. Here’s why:
Government policy support. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of China held the first China Open Source & Cloud Computing Summit (COSCCS) on December 11. At this event, the Chinese government for the first time officially declared its intention to support OpenStack ecosystems and encourage state-owned enterprises (SOE) to use OpenStack-based cloud products: “…through OpenStack, we can contribute to a good business model…” said the deputy minister of MIIT. Forrester believes that there will be more and more Chinese SOEs and local governments that will invest in OpenStack-based cloud project in 2015.
OpenStack is mature as a private cloud solution. With the launch of the Juno version in October 2014, OpenStack addressed many upgrade concerns, making it easier to roll back a failed deployment and ensure thorough cleanup. It also added a record 3,219 bug fixes and enterprise features, such as storage policies, provisioning of Hadoop and Spark, as well as network functions virtualization (NFV). Another specific advantage is that Chinese organizations are not facing the challenge to upgrade from early releases of OpenStack because the China market started deployment of OpenStack mostly from 2014 onwards.
Following the launch of my recent report, The Dynamics Of China’s Private Cloud Market, I’ve been getting briefing requests from vendors and inquiries from end users. My report addresses most of their concerns, such as the vendor landscape, business scenarios, and industry practices. However, following my discussions with many Chinese private cloud end users, I also thought it would be helpful to share with you the top developing trends among Chinese organizations using private cloud. They:
Are starting to expand private cloud scenarios for production applications.Initially, many Chinese organizations deployed private cloud solutions for development and testing scenarios. These organizations are now starting to transfer their business-critical workloads, such as CRM, databases, and other unique applications, to private cloud environments. Why? Because Chinese organizations have started to virtualize their critical workloads.For example, China Telecom set up a self-service private cloud platform for its eight province-level branch operators in 2011; in 2014, China Telecom started to gradually transfer its business and operations support systems (BSS/OSS) to the private cloud.
Security pros got the Target breach for Christmas last year. The breach hit the retailer during its busiest time of the year and cost them millions in lost business. For security pros desperate for more budget and business prioritization, you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect present - it’s as is if Santa himself came down the chimney and placed a beautifully wrapped gift box topped with a bow right under your own tree. This year it looked as if all we were getting was a lump of coal - but then Sony swooped in to save us like a Grinch realizing the true meaning of Christmas.
The Sony Picture Entertainment (SPE) breach is still unfolding, but what we know so far is that a hacktivist group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace (GoP) attacked Sony in retribution for the production of a movie, “The Interview,” which uses the planned assassination of North Korea’s leader as comedic fodder. The hacktivists supposedly stole 100 TBs of data that they are gleefully leaking bit by bit (imagine Jingle Bells as the soundtrack). The attack itself affected the availability of SPE’s IT infrastructure, forcing the company to halt production on several movies.
As 2014 winds down, I have taken the time to pause, and look ahead to what top customer service trends are surfacing for 2015 and beyond. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be pain-free, proactive at a minimum and preemptive at best, deeply personalized, and delivered with maximum productivity. Here are 6 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:
Trend 1: Customers Embrace Emerging Channels To Reduce Friction. In our recent survey, we found that web self-service was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time. In 2015, we predict that customers will continue to demand effortless interactions over web and mobile self-service channels. They will also explore new communication channels such as video chat with screen sharing and annotation.
Trend 2: Companies Will Explore Proactive Engagement. Proactive engagements anticipate the what, when, where, and how for customers, and prioritize information and functionality to speed customer time-to-completion. In 2015, we expect organizations to explore proactive engagement - whether it's proactive chat, proactive offers, or proactive content - delivered at the right time in a customer's pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions. They will use learnings from these proactive engagements to improve operational performance and to predict future customer behavior.
I’ve been getting a steady trickle of inquires this year about the future of the mainframe from our enterprise clients. Most of them are more or less in the form of “I have a lot of stuff running on mainframes. Is this a viable platform for the next decade or is IBM going to abandon them.” I think the answer is that the platform is secure, and in the majority of cases the large business-critical workloads that are currently on the mainframe probably should remain on the mainframes. In the interests of transparency I’ve tried to lay out my reasoning below so that you can see if it applies to your own situation.
How Big is the Mainframe LOB?
It's hard to get exact figures for the mainframe contributions to IBM's STG (System & Technology Group) total revenues, but the data they have shared shows that their mainframe revenues seem to have recovered from the declines of previous quarters and at worst flattened. Because the business is inherently somewhat cyclical, I would expect that the next cycle of mainframes, rumored to be arriving next year, should give them a boost similar to the last major cycle, allowing them to show positive revenues next year.
In a move that would boost BT’s standing as the leading integrated telco and increase pressure for competitors, Orange and Deutsche Telekom have entered into exclusive negotiations with BT Group regarding a potential divestment of 100% of their shares in EE, their joint venture in the UK. The purchase price of £12.5 billion on a debt-/cash-free basis would be split equally between Orange and Deutsche Telekom. At a price of roughly 7.8 times EV/EBITDA the deal isn’t outrageously overpriced. So what could this mean for the various market participants? Should the deal go ahead, we believe that the implications for the UK telco market would be significant as:
BT becomes once again the leading integrated telco in the land. A deal would have a larger impact on BT’s consumer than its business activities given EE’s customer base of 24.5 million mostly consumer mobile customers. As the strongest 4G LTE provider in the UK, EE would give BT a platform to deliver interesting new bundles such as dedicated sport channels for smartphones and tablets. EE would be an important asset to enhance BT’s already successful retail arm, in particular its IPTV activities, where BT is one of the few telcos that manages to offset the decline in traditional telco services with a new offering. The deal would fail to bring any significant new customer relationships in the business arena. Going forward, however, this would finally provide BT with the opportunity to develop mobile moments for its business customers.
I’ve been talking to a number of users and providers of bare-metal cloud services, and am finding the common threads among the high-profile use cases both interesting individually and starting to connect some dots in terms of common use cases for these service providers who provide the ability to provision and use dedicated physical servers with very similar semantics to the common VM IaaS cloud – servers that can be instantiated at will in the cloud, provisioned with a variety of OS images, be connected to storage and run applications. The differentiation for the customers is in behavior of the resulting images:
Deterministic performance – Your workload is running on a dedicated resource, so there is no question of any “noisy neighbor” problem, or even of sharing resources with otherwise well-behaved neighbors.
Extreme low latency – Like it or not, VMs, even lightweight ones, impose some level of additional latency compared to bare-metal OS images. Where this latency is a factor, bare-metal clouds offer a differentiated alternative.
Raw performance – Under the right conditions, a single bare-metal server can process more work than a collection of VMs, even when their nominal aggregate performance is similar. Benchmarking is always tricky, but several of the bare metal cloud vendors can show some impressive comparative benchmarks to prospective customers.