Businesses that thrive and grow in the age of the customer are obsessed with customer delight: the most successful companies are reinventing themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. This business reality creates new imperatives for everyone inside an organization, and infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are not immune. So the question becomes, how does I&O participate in the transformation of the enterprise toward customer obsession?
The answer to this question is important, because technology's role in business is rapidly changing -- from a world in which Information Technology (IT) enabled a company to function more efficiently, to a world of Business Technology (BT), which we define as technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Yet customer-facing technologies aren't always (or even often) the traditional role of I&O. So how can I&O participate?
How about starting with a simple dictum? Spend more time on technologies that will inspire and delight customers, either directly or indirectly. To start this journey, I'd like you to watch this short video of how a digital billboard has gone viral:
With Dan Bieler, Henry Dewing, Henning Dransfeld, Brownlee Thomas, and Michele Pelino
Vodafone hosted its annual global analyst event in London recently, and it was a good event. Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao kicked it off with a passionate endorsement of Vodafone’s enterprise ambitions. But will Vodafone’s market position as a leading mobile telco give it a tangible advantage in the broader enterprise global telecoms marketplace? We believe there is a good chance it will because:
Vodafone’s integrated pitch is credible. Vodafone comes up in nearly every conversation with Forrester enterprise clients that want to consolidate vendors for multicountry or “global” mobility services. Increasingly, our clients also are asking about Vodafone’s wired services. And those based in the UK and Germany are the most interested in learning about what’s available and what’s coming with respect to fixed-mobile bundling. Vodafone made a big play on fixed-mobile integration, most notably with the acquisitions of Cable & Wireless and Kabel Deutschland. Its network now covers 140 countries, 28 of which support MPLS networks for mobile backhaul. Vodafone also has big plans for refreshing and expanding its international IP backbone network to more than 60 countries.
“We’re in charge of developing your new website. You can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”
How many times have you heard (or said) something like that on a digital experience project? With any digital initiative, one of those desires is usually odd man out. Application development and delivery pros at corporations, digital agencies, and systems integrators know this; they’re often the people talking reality in the face of the wishes of the business asking for all three (and, frequently, a fourth: “Can you make it as good as Apple.com?”).
Web projects always require compromise. The challenge is figuring out what you can live without.
It’s enlightening to apply the good/fast/cheap triangle to the Healthcare.gov snafu that’s been playing out in Washington, DC. If you’re involved in web applications, reviewing the government’s project might be one way to inoculate yourself and your team against an invitation to the hot seat by preventing website crash and burn. No one wants to be like the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and her squad, who’ve had to explain the most visible website flop in history.
It makes me ask: how did the Feds deal with the good/fast/cheap question for Healthcare.gov? It’s a hard reality to deal with on any digital project, never mind a project of this scale. Where would you compromise?
Chinese manufacturers are repositioning. They’re willing to invest more in improving their core competencies, like R&D and design capabilities, by using outsourcing providers that have successfully served foreign peer companies in the same industry. They must dedicate all their resources — including internal IT systems and solutions like ERP — to meeting this goal.
We recently published a case study on Tagal, a joint venture of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe and Angang Steel in China. The company was finding it difficult to face up to new business challenges; not only was its infrastructure aging, but its original outsourcing services agreement was constraining business development.
To solve these problems, Tagal changed its sourcing strategy and successfully migrated its ERP system to an Itanium x86 platform to accelerate business processes. The resulting ERP efficiencies enabled employees to process orders and reports twice as fast as before. This has improved Tagal’s relationships with its customers, which are some of the world’s largest automakers. Tagal also reduced its total cost of ownership by 20% in the first nine months alone, primarily due to the simplified sourcing strategy.
How did Tagal achieve these tangible outcomes? It redesigned its service contract and employed three key principles when re-evaluating vendors:
Modifying sourcing governance. Tagal drew on lessons that it learned from 10 years of outsourcing. Its new service provider contract contains more penalty terms; for instance, the provider now must refund the outsourcing fee in any month in which it does not fix two system errors within an agreed time period.
In-line editing? Check. Personalization? Check. Testing and optimization? Check. As the web content management market matures, functional differentiators have become tougher to find. One of the remaining functional gaps in the market is a digital customer experience platform that supports complex but unified commerce-based and marketing-based experiences. Currently, these experiences tend to be disconnected due to technical (and organizational) silos.
Count Sitecore among the vendors — such as Oracle and IBM — hoping that a hybrid commerce and content platform will make an impact on the marketplace. This week, Sitecore acquired commerceserver.net. This marks the first marriage of significant .NET content and commerce (the other commerce/content combinations available — Oracle and IBM — are built on Java).
Good move? It is significant that another vendor has taken the step towards building a digital customer experience platform that includes both commerce and content offerings. And that’s where the challenge will come in. Both IBM and Oracle have faced the challenge of integrating commerce and content products that weren’t designed and built on the same architecture. Sitecore’s challenge won’t be any different. Time will tell if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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:
In a recent report titled “Technology Management In The Age Of The Customer,” Forrester defines the Age of the Customer as: "A 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers." In this Age of the Customer, empowered consumers using social media can have tremendous influence. Technology gives the lone voice a platform to be heard across the Internet. Technology is the force multiplier for empowered consumers.
Jason Huntley, a UK-based IT consultant, is a perfect example of one of these increasingly powerful customers. He posted a blog titled “LG Smart TVs logging USB filenames and viewing info to LG servers.” In it Jason detailed how his Smart LG TV was spying on him. The TV was not only reporting data about viewing habits, but was also uploading the filenames from the storage devices he attached to the TV. His viewing habits data was collected despite the fact that he had opted out of the “Collection of watching info.” Jason wrote, “This information appears to be sent back unencrypted and in the clear to LG every time you change channel, even if you have gone to the trouble of changing the setting above to switch collection of viewing information off.” He had a false expectation of privacy. See below:
Forrester attended Microsoft’s second annual Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for an update on the company’s progress in transforming into a devices and services company. The event highlighted Microsoft’s strengths and exposed some obvious challenges, which I’ve shared below. Forrester clients can access further event-related analysis and implications here.
Day One: Impressive Capabilities And A Strong Understanding Of Customer Needs
Day one was well designed and delivered, with a clear focus on customer and partner case studies and go-to-market strategies based on three core imperatives:
Transforming IT. Focusing primarily on Cloud OS, Windows Azure, and Office 365, this imperative highlights Microsoft-enabled capabilities and resources to help IT organizations transform both internal data centers and IT delivery.
Engaging customers and employees. This imperative essentially combines mobility and social to help organizations thrive in the age of the customer by delivering improved customer service and customer and user experiences.
Accelerating customer insight and business process improvement. This imperative targets the changing needs and expectations for data and information access and real-time decision making via a combination of traditional analytics and big data.
Over the past few years, tablets have reshaped computing for many enterprise workforces. But tablets aren't general-issue devices for all employees; instead, companies equip specific groups of employees with tablets -- with particular business goals in mind. High on the list of tablet-equipped roles are salespeople: According to IT decision-makers, sales professionals are the second most likely group of employees to receive company-owned tablets as standard-issue devices.
In a new report, "Empower Salespeople With Tablets To Drive Value For Your Business," we offer infrastructure & operations professionals some guidelines about how to deploy tablets to the salesforce at their companies. It's a different exercise than with traditional PC deployments: I&O professionals must work with business leaders, sales management, sales enablement professionals, and with sales reps themselves throughout the process. To reap the full rewards of tablets, the sales process itself must be reengineered, sales reps must be trained, and customer-facing software and materials must be developed. I&O can't do all of this alone, and must instead build new, deeper relationships with business partners.
At this time 12 months ago, we released our predictions for what changes in the market would be brought about by the maturing of cloud computing. Looking back on the year, we can now see that, while the promise of a maturing market was strong, maturity was by no means uniform and thus our predictions proved to be a mixed bag.
1. We’ll finally stop saying that everything is going cloud. Grade: A. While the C-suite might still be preaching this as a long-term vision, we got real about what should and should not go to the cloud given its current maturity and capabilities. The guiding principles of architecture and economic model served as sufficient evidence that many traditional workloads have no business on the public cloud. And we started to see early signs of enterprises recognizing that the private cloud isn’t the new name for virtualization but is indeed a separate environment and not all apps in the data center are destined for this pool.