During the past five years, the customer service capabilities leading vendors has matured as vendors have focused on solidifying the foundational building blocks of customer support capabilities. Vendors have folded new technologies such as social capabilities, business process management, decisioning, business intelligence, and mobility into their solutions to allow organizations to offer more-personalized customer service experiences. Vendors have also focused on different buyers – those that have to support enterprise-size teams who respond to inquiries primarily over the phone channel, and those that have to support small to mid size teams who support multichannel operations.
“Context” is the new buzz-word for data. Jeffery Hammond talks about it in Systems Of Automation Will Enrich Customer Engagement, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel talk about it in their book “Age of Context”, and you can’t ignore it when it comes to a discussion for Cognitive Computing and the Internet of Things. We’ve live in a world where data was rationalized, structured, and put into standardized single definition models. The world was logical. Today, we live in a world where the digital revolution has introduced context, the semantic language of data, and it has disrupted how we manage data.
Big data technologies were created not because of volume and cost. They were created to manage the multi-faceted model that data takes on when you have to link it to how regular consumers and business people see the world. Performance and cost are only factors that had to be considered to scale in order to support the objective. Search, recommendations, personalized web experiences, and next best action could not be possible in a structured single definition environment. Why we know this is that the sculpted purpose built environments that supporting business applications collapsed when analytics to discover causation in relationships and correlations at scale was applied.
Valar Morghulis, service management professionals.*
If you're reading this blog, chances are pretty high you're a nerd. Therefore chances are also high you're at least aware (or a fan) of author George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire now adapted into the dark and stormy HBO series: Game of Thrones. Now, chances are slightly less high you're the kind of fan who has crafted a dragon headdress made out of construction paper in anticipation of this weekend's premiere of season four, but I digress...
Whether you're a (big) fan or not, much can be learned from the trials, tribulations, betrayals, deceptions, swords, and sorcery surrounding the characters of the "known world" as they jockey for the right to rule the seven kingdoms and sit upon the iron throne. And you needn't speak Dothraki to be able to understand the (fairly non-spoilery) lessons below culled from Game of Thrones, and practice them in the game of service management:
When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:
Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China face a quickly changing competitive landscape — one that their existing technology strategies can’t keep up with. To address this challenge, organizations are migrating from earlier-generation BI architectures, technologies, and organizational structures to new models and approaches. My “Chinese State-Owned Enterprise Targets Improved Agility” report, scheduled to appear later this month, describes the experience of a typical large Chinese SOE, the China National Cereals, Oils, and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), which leveraged a BI-led program to jump-start the transformation of its technology management capabilities.
COFCO is China’s largest supplier of agricultural and food products and services, including oils, rice, wine, tea, and various other products, and is expanding into real estate, shopping centers, and other industries. COFCO is a large B2B trader with many technology stakeholders, and its headquarters couldn’t quickly collect or analyze data from branches or business units, delaying the company’s response to and decisions about market changes. Major obstacles included siloed operations centers and business units; inconsistent data management rules that complicated centralized data governance; and other process and people challenges.
To address these issues, COFCO decided to redefine the position of technology management in the organization and review its technology agenda and planning. It evaluated and selected BI as the most compelling project to deliver quick business outcomes that would convince business executives to further invest in the transformation. Best practices that COFCO implemented include:
Now that the media hype of 2013 has settled . . . somewhat, 2014 will be a pivotal year in which we see small, tangible steps towards reality. Below are a few trends and commentary on what we’re seeing in the market:
1. Ecosystem components begin to marry. Investments, acquisitions, partnerships, and new developments will focus around unifying printers, software, and services for seamless 3D printing experiences. For example, Adobe recently announced direct integration with MakerBot and Shapeways to close the gap between 3D modeling tools and what printers need to physically produce objects. Other major software vendors like Autodesk will play an evangelist role in bringing ecosystem players together to enable interoperability across proprietary platforms.
2. New startups stretch our imaginations of business model disruption. 3D printing is a catalyst for rethinking inefficient analog processes. Startup SOLS aims to disrupt the entire orthotics value chain with an end-to-end digital service for custom shoe insoles. Customers scan a 3D model of their feet, input data on weight, lifestyle, and activity patterns, and send to print.
According to recent Business Technographics data, half of US enterprise technology management professionals report that there is 1.) no way to gain a single view of status and availability across their portfolio of cloud services, 2.) that they don’t have a clear way to assess the risk of using a third-party public as-a-service offering, and/or 3.) that they have no way to manage how providers handle their data.
An interesting debate is ensuing regarding how to best protect cloud data, given the market landscape. So far two modalities are emerging:
·A. Inserting in-line encryption between the enterprise and the SaaS provider that encrypts and/or tokenizes all data before it goes to the cloud to ensure safety interoperating within public cloud systems.
·B. The human-firewall model, in which IT closely monitors activity with context/content analytics and anomaly detection tools.
The truth lies somewhere between the two. By carefully applying Forrester’s data security and control framework, clients should incrementally encrypt data deemed sensitive to compliance or regulation, such as credit card and Social Security numbers, and closely monitor all activity across users and cloud applications.
The next generation of product development will require wholesale change to the types of skills companies need. As my colleague James Staten recently wrote, an earthquake in Silicon Valley is turning every company into a software vendor. It is this notion, that every company becomes an ISV, that will profoundly change the nature of business, and in particular product development:
Software, and customers interaction with that software, now defines companies and their brands.
Developing software-enabled products requires sophisticated technology and architectural design skills. This presents tremendous challenges — even more so for companies for whom technology is not in their DNA.
Companies must look in the mirror and evaluate if they currently have the skills and expertise to navigate this new environment. In this new world where customers interact with you through software, do you have the skills to develop products and services which will create intense and enjoyable customer experiences?
In my February 2014 report: Left–Shift Technology Monitoring For Success In The Age Of The Customer I explore what the near future will bring for technology monitoring approaches and solutions. Today, for the typical I&O organization, successful technology or service delivery monitoring focuses on two main areas. Firstly, availability, so ensuring the technology underpinning business services is up and available when needed and secondly, performance, so making sure that technology utilized (applications and associated workloads) is fast enough for the business service it supports.
There is a major problem with this approach though. As the famous author Harper Lee stated “We know all men are not created equal” and the same can be said about your customers and employees – they are not all equal and the rapid pace of consumer technology innovation in areas such as mobile means that they will utilize technology in different ways to support productivity or to engage with your enterprise as a customer. Our relationship with technology is changing rapidly. It is becoming more intimate and personal, meaning that datacenter centric monitoring approaches that focus on availability and performance alone, while still essential, are only the beginning of what is required for a holistic technology monitoring strategy.