All of us in the technology industry get caught up in the near-term fluctuations and pressures of our business. This quarter’s earnings, next quarter’s shipments, this year’s hiring plan . . . it’s easy to get swallowed up by the flood of immediate concerns. So one of the things that we work hard on at Forrester, and that our clients value in their relationships with us, is taking a few steps back and looking at the longer-term, bigger picture of the size and shape of the industry’s trajectory. It provides strategic and financial context for the short-term fluctuations and trends that buffet all of us.
I am lucky to co-lead research in Forrester's Vendor Strategy team, which is explicitly chartered to predict and quantify the new growth opportunities and disruptions facing strategists at some of our leading clients. We will put those predictions on display later this month at Forrester's IT Forum, our flagship client event. Among the sessions that Vendor Strategy analysts will be leading:
"The Software Industry in Transition": Holger Kisker will preview his latest research detailing best practices for software vendors navigating the tricky transition from traditional license to as-a-service pricing and engagement models.
"The Computing Technologies of 2016": Frank Gillett will put us in a time machine for a trip five years into the future of computing, storage, network, and component technologies that will underpin new applications, new experiences, and new computing capabilities.
Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).
As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site.
Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet.
As I dig into my initial research, it dawned on me – some technology trends are having an impact on information management/data warehouse (DW) architectures, and EAs should consider these when planning out their firm’s road map. The next thought I had – this wasn’t completely obvious when I began. The final thought? As the EA role analyst covering emerging technology and trends, this is the kind of material I need to be writing about.
Let me explain:
No. 1: Big Data expands the scope of DWs. A challenge with typical data management approaches is that they are not suited to dealing with data that is poorly structured, sparsely attributed, and high-volume. For example, today’s DW appliances boast abilities to handle up to a 100 TB of volume, but the data must be transformed into a highly structured format to be useful. Big Data technology applies the power of massively parallel distributed computing to capture and sift through data gone wild – that is, data at an extreme scale of volume, velocity, and variability. Big Data technology does not deliver insight, however – insights depend on analytics that result from combing the results of things like Hadoop MapReduce jobs with manageable “small data” already in your DW.
Intel has been publishing research for about a decade on what they call “3D Trigate” transistors, which held out the hope for both improved performance as well as power efficiency. Today Intel revealed details of its commercialization of this research in its upcoming 22 nm process as well as demonstrating actual systems based on 22 nm CPU parts.
The new products, under the internal name of “Ivy Bridge”, are the process shrink of the recently announced Sandy Bridge architecture in the next “Tock” cycle of the famous Intel “Tick-Tock” design methodology, where the “Tick” is a new optimized architecture and the “Tock” is the shrinking of this architecture onto then next generation semiconductor process.
What makes these Trigate transistors so innovative is the fact that they change the fundamental geometry of the semiconductors from a basically flat “planar” design to one with more vertical structure, earning them the description of “3D”. For users the concepts are simpler to understand – this new transistor design, which will become the standard across all of Intel’s products moving forward, delivers some fundamental benefits to CPUs implemented with them:
Leakage current is reduced to near zero, resulting in very efficient operation for system in an idle state.
Power consumption at equivalent performance is reduced by approximately 50% from Sandy Bridge’s already improved results with its 32 nm process.
In my new report, The Risk Manager's Handbook: How To Measure And Understand Risks, I present industry best practices and guidance on ways to articulate the extent or size of a risk. More than the interpersonal, political, and leadership skills required of a risk management professional, defining how risks are measured and communicated is where I believe they prove their worth. If risk measurement techniques are too complicated, they may discourage crucial input from colleagues and subject matter experts... but if they are too simple, they won't yield enough relevant information to guide important business decisions. Great communication skills can only hide irrelevant information for so long.
This report includes factors to use in the risk measurement process, ways to present risk measurement data in meaningful ways, and criteria to use when deciding which of these methods are most appropriate. As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated.
In addition, I will be covering a related topic with our Security and Risk Council in a session called Creating A High-Impact Executive Report along with my colleague Ed Ferrara at Forrester's upcoming IT Forum: Accelerate At The Intersection Of Business And Technology, May 25-27, in Las Vegas. Please join us if you can make it. Later in the week, I will be available for 1-on-1 meetings with attendees, and I'll also present sessions on linking goverannce and risk and establishing good vendor risk management practices. I hope to see you there.
Is your cloud strategy centered on saving money or fueling revenue growth? Where you land on this question could determine a lot about your experience level with cloud services and what guidance you should be giving to your application developers and infrastructure & operations teams. According to our research the majority of CIOs would vote for the savings, seeing cloud computing as an evolution of outsourcing and hosting that can drive down capital and operations expenses. In some cases this is correct but in many the opposite will result. Using the cloud wrong may raise your costs.
But this isn’t a debate worth having because it’s the exploration of the use cases where it does save you money that bears the real fruit. And it’s through this experience that you can start shifting your thinking from cost savings to revenue opportunities. Forrester surveys show that the top reasons developers tap into cloud services (and the empowered non-developers in your business units) is to rapidly deploy new services and capabilities. And the drivers behind these efforts – new services, better customer experience and improved productivity. Translation: Revenues and profits.
If the cloud is bringing new money in the door, does it really matter if it’s the cheaper solution? Not at first. But over time using cloud as a revenue engine doesn’t necessarily mean high margins on that revenue. That’s where your experience with the cost advantaged uses of cloud come in.
SAP BusinessObjects (BO) 4.0 suite is here. It’s been in the ramp-up phase since last fall; according to our sources, SAP plans to announce its general availability sometime in May, possibly at Sapphire. It’s about a year late (SAP first told Forrester that it planned to roll it out in the spring of 2010, so I wanted to include it in the latest edition of the Forrester Wave™ for enterprise BI platforms but couldn’t), and the big question is: Was it worth the wait? In my humble opinion, yes, it was! Here are seven major reasons to upgrade or to consider SAP BI if you haven’t done so before:
BO Universe (semantic layer) can now be sourced from multiple databases, overcoming a major obstacle of previous versions.
Universe can now access MOLAP (cubes from Microsoft Analysis Services, Essbase, Mondrian, etc.) data sources directly via MDX without having to “flatten them out” first. In prior versions, Universe could only access SQL sources.
There’s now a more common look and feel to individual BI products, including Crystal, WebI, Explorer, and Analysis (former BEx). This is another step in the right direction to unify SAP BI products, but it’s still not a complete solution. It will be a while before all SAP BI products are fully and seamlessly integrated, as well as other BI tools/platforms that grew more organically.
All SAP BI tools, including Xcelsius (Dashboards in 4.0), that did not have access to BO Universe now do.
There’s now a tighter integration with BW via direct exposure of BW metadata (BEx queries and InfoProviders) to all BO tools.
An empowered BT model includes the idea that end users will take on some functions that are typically performed within an IT organization. These may include selecting and deploying applications, buying mobile devices, and contracting with services firms.
With factors such as increased availability of cloud applications, more IT-savvy businesspeople, and IT shops buried in maintenance of existing applications, there’s a lot on the side of increasing IT functions outside of IT. However, security and compliance concerns, the need to integrate apps and data, the complexity of these applications, and cost are just some of the constraints that are holding back this approach.
Whether there will be a trend towards functions moving out of the IT organization or the reverse, with IT taking on more control, empowered BT will happen in some organizations. When it does, there are things that CIOs can do to exploit this and minimize potential damage:
Shift senior IT people from “doing” to consulting and overseeing. Architects, for example, spend a significant amount of their time on projects (doing). Some of their time needs to be freed up to provide advice to businesspeople on how to make these functions scalable, secure, and integrated where necessary. Similarly, vendor managers need time to help businesspeople in the selection process for vendors.
Select for and build up negotiations skills. The leader of apps that speaks in technical terms, the security expert who generates every possible scenario as an argument for not doing something, and the architect who hoards information while making pronouncements on what the business should and should not do are working against you in an empowered BT world. With technically sophisticated end users and tools that can quickly build functionality, business requests leading to IT responses now become negotiations.
Having attended the OpenStack Design Summit this week and at the same time fielding calls from Forrester clients affected by the Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage, an interesting contrast in approaches bore out. You could boil it down to closed versus open but there’s more to this contrast that should be part of your consideration when selecting your Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers.
The obvious comparison is that AWS’ architecture and operational procedures are very much their own and few outside the company know how it works. Not even close partners like RightScale or those behind the open source derivative Eucalyptus know it well enough to do more than deduce what happened based on their experience and what they could observe. OpenStack, on the other hand, is fully open source so if you want to know how it works you can download the code. At the Design Summit here in Santa Clara, Calif. this week, developers and infrastructure & operations professionals had ample opportunity to dig into the design and suggest and submit changes right there. And there were plenty of conversations this week about how CloudFiles and other storage services worked and how to ensure an AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) mirror storm could be avoided.
A major announcement in the human capital management (HCM) world occurred on April 26, 2011. SuccessFactors, a top vendor in performance management, announced its intention to purchase Plateau Systems, a leading learning management system (LMS) vendor. Although both vendors have competing products in the talent management space, Plateau had something SuccessFactors needed: an LMS. With the loss of GeoLearning, SuccessFactors’ former LMS partner, which was acquired by SumTotal in January 2011, SuccessFactors was left with a gaping hole in its solution set. Although SuccessFactors executives believe that the future of learning is more in the informal and social realms, organizations need and want LMSes to manage their increasing compliance training needs while keeping a close eye on the whole social and informal learning market. Organizations also have formal courses and simulated and role-play learning that the LMS tracks and reports on. The word is that SuccessFactors’ sales staff have been bemoaning the lack of an LMS to help them close deals. Today, organizations are much more interested in getting multiple HRM functionality from one vendor. Often this suite approach includes performance, compensation, learning, and even recruiting (for more details, see my “Four Pillars of Talent Management” research report). SuccessFactors now has a very strong and complete “four-pillar” solution.