Way back in September, I promised a series of blogs addressing this subject. I had high hopes of delivering a post a week for five weeks on the topic. Needless to say . . . life interjected!
So here, a little later than planned, is the second post in the series.
Step 1 - Change where you work
If I had a thousand bucks for each time I’ve heard someone in technology management say “IT and the business,” I’d have retired long ago. And it’s not just something we hear in technology circles either. The plain truth is technology professionals have been using isolationist language for decades. I say isolationist because any time we refer to "IT and the business” as if they were two different entities, we are creating an artificial divide. As a department of the business, IT is very much part of “the business.”
When technology leaders create this divide between the technology group and the rest of the business, it separates their actions from the purpose of the business. Technology professionals start to see themselves as some sort of technology service provider to the business. But the truth is that the technology team should be integral to delivering value to the customer. If “the business” wanted a technology service provider, the leadership team would outsource IT. Unfortunately, one consequence of managing IT like a vendor is that it becomes much easier for the leadership team to make that outsourcing decision.
As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:
1. Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.
2. ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.
3. The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.
4. Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.
A few weeks ago, Cisco announced plans for its “spin-in” investment, Insieme Networks: The newest next-generation data center network called, Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).This new offering includes hardware (the Cisco Nexus 9000 series), new firmware (enhanced version of NX-OS), and a new controller (Application Policing Infrastructure Controller).
Even though Cisco’s ACI launch indicates the magnitude of disruption software-defined networking (SDN) is causing in the industry, and Forrester has provided our quick takeon this announcement, I think we have a much bigger story at play here. We are only at the beginning – not middle or end – of sorting out the hot mess that networking is in. And for good reason. The network is the only technology in the business that touches every person, device, and aspect of the business. With that said, networking professionals are trying to support the data center team’s request for a private cloud, employees bringing their own devices and applications to work, and the business circumventing infrastructure and operations for backup-as-a-service or software-as-a-service. Don’t even get me started about the Internet of Things shifting the ownership of the network to non-information technology (IT) personnel or the business opportunity it could bring.
I’ve been experimenting for the past year or so with several proactive assistant apps to guide my day — they remind me to get on conference calls with clients, offer to text participants if I'm running late to an in-person lunch, and keep me in touch with friends and colleagues. Some of these apps also integrate Salesforce, Yammer, and BaseCamp for job-specific context and assistance.
Among the most popular apps, Google Now personalizes recommendations and assistance by applying predictive analytics to data stored in email, contacts, calendar, social, docs, and other types of online services users opt in. Other examples include Tipbit applying predictive analytics to make a more intelligent inbox, and EasilyDo using the notification system to recommend ways to automate common everyday tasks. Expect Labs is tackling this space from the other end of the spectrum, offering an intelligent assistance engine for enterprises to plug into and add proactive features to their own apps.
Here’s what we think:
• Vendors will experience burnouts and early customer frustration, much like in voice recognition. In the music industry, it’s said that an artist is only as good as her last hit. We saw that analogy apply to voice recognition when users got frustrated at Siri as soon as she failed once on them. Expect a similar dynamic with all types of predictive apps.
Symantec held its EMEA Industry Analyst Conference in the UK recently. Symantec saw targeted attacks increase by 42% during 2013. Although it’s always mentioned among the top concerns by businesses in surveys, security is still often treated in a somewhat blasé way by many of those businesses in reality. We took several messages away from Symantec’s conference:
Security is not just a simple IT issue but has wider business implications. Digital security has many facets, including cybercrime and online privacy. Security is an economic and societal dimension for the digital ecosystem. Just think of privacy legislation -- customers expect the businesses with which they interact to adhere to it. This also means that the future security manager will be someone who understands business requirements and employee wishes well enough to balance them against specific security threats and compliance obligations. The security officer who just “shuts the gates” and says “no” to requests like accessing video websites or installing software is damaging to what we call the connected business.
Privacy is on trial in the United States. Legal activist Larry Klayman asked US District Judge Richard J. Leon to require the NSA to stop collecting phone data and immediately delete the data it already has. His argument was that US citizens have a right to privacy and this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protecting citizens from illegal search and seizure. Monday's ruling that this practice is unconstitutional has privacy activists cheering in the streets, but it will not be a lasting victory.
In the United States, there is not a single privacy law on the books. (You can argue that HIPAA is a privacy law, but nuances exist that can lessen its impact.) What is protected has come from judgments based on the application of the Fourth Amendment regarding search and seizure. US citizens were given "privileges,” thanks to Richard Nixon, which say we have an expectation of privacy when using a phone, which basically means that the government has to get a warrant for a wiretap. (It’s worth noting that in the UK, they don’t get that privilege.)
The majority of large organizations have either already shifted away from using BI as just another back-office process and toward competing on BI-enabled information or are in the process of doing so. Businesses can no longer compete just on the cost, margins, or quality of their products and services in an increasingly commoditized global economy. Two kinds of companies will ultimately be more successful, prosperous, and profitable: 1) those with richer, more accurate information about their customers and products than their competitors and 2) those that have the same quality of information as their competitors but get it sooner. Forrester's Forrsights Strategy Spotlight: Business Intelligence And Big Data, Q4 2012 (we are currently fielding a 2014 update, stay tuned for the results) survey showed that enterprises that invest more in BI have higher growth.
The software industry recognized this trend decades ago, resulting in a market swarming with startups that appeared and (very often) found success faster than large vendors could acquire them. The market is still jam-packed and includes multiple dynamics such as (see more details here):
All ERP and software stack vendors offer leading BI platforms
. . . but there's also plenty of room for independent BI vendors
Departmental desktop BI tools aimed at business users are scaling up
Enterprise BI platform vendors are going after self-service use cases.
Cloud offers options to organizations that would rather not deal with BI stack complexity.
Hadoop is breathing new life into open source BI.
The line between BI software and services is blurring
Now that WeChat has more than 100 million overseas subscribers, Tencent, China’s leading web content provider, faces a new challenge: improving the experience of its customers outside of China. Steep rises in content consumption — largely driven by the increasing use of mobile devices to access services and information — represent a significant opportunity for content companies like WeChat to go global. To achieve this, Tencent has made positive steps in boosting its investment in data centers and networking outside of China.
To improve its user experience in the rest of Asia, Tencent recently announced that it will colocate one data center in Hong Kong and has chosen Equinix to operate it. This is already the second node that Tencent has built outside of mainland China; the first was implemented in Canada to serve North American users.
As an Internet company that operates its own large data centers in mainland China, Tencent has deep experience in data center construction and management and has leveraged this experience to develop best practices and key criteria for data center provider selection. These include:
Networking and interconnection options. As Tencent intends to rapidly expand its business into more countries, it needs carrier-neutral data center providers to offer the necessary connectivity options. For its Hong Kong implementation, Tencent used Equinix to optimize transit routes to achieve lower latency and better connect users inside and outside of mainland China; the data center provider can access multiple networks and peer with members of the Equinix Internet Exchange.
Disclaimer: I am not a political analyst, and this post is not intended to promote any political party.
December 8 was an historic day for Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which arose from the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare a year ago, achieved a spectacular result in Delhi’s assembly elections — one far beyond anyone’s expectations. The party won 39% of the total assembly seats, sending Congress (which is India’s oldest party and had ruled Delhi for the past 15 years) plummeting to third place.
AAP’s rapid rise and strong showing highlight a fundamental shift in India’s political system toward citizen engagement and empowerment, especially in urban and semiurban areas. In particular, India’s youth are ready to take risks to realize their hopes and aspirations. About 350,000 18- and 19-year-olds have recently joined the voter rolls and saw in AAP the possibility to change the existing political system. And AAP was in tune with them, putting volunteers to work on social media platforms to connect with citizens on issues like corruption.
Indian CIOs should sit up and take heed, because just as empowered citizens can disrupt traditional politics, digitally empowered customers will disrupt businesses in every industry. Forrester calls this the age of the customer, and we define it as:
A 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.
You must prepare to deal with this disruption and understand what you must do to make your organization customer-obsessed:
As the second largest economy in the world, China is moving toward digital faster than anyone can imagine. The number of online buyers in China alone will reach 356 million in 2014 — surpassing the total US population. In addition, the value of China’s online retail market reached $294 billion in 2013, the first time it’s ever taken over the US market, which is estimated at $262 billion. However, the experience that Chinese consumers are receiving in digital media, either on PC or mobile, is still far behind many mature markets.
At the same time, the Chinese economy is slowing down; annual GDP growth will slow from 10% in 2010 to a probable 7% in 2014. The slower economic growth is a challenge for multinational companies and local enterprises to win customers, be it in tier one or tier six cities. Under such circumstances, we believe that China has entered the “age of the customer,” which Forrester defines as “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.”