Christmas 2011: The First Mass Customized Holiday Season

JP Gownder

Ah, Black Friday: What would the post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza be without a visit to the local mall? This year, I was keen to perform some gumshoe research on a theme I've been talking about all year long: mass customization, a product strategy that's ready for prime time across multiple industries.

A trip to the Natick Mall (yes, "Mall," no longer "Collection," New Englanders) reveals that mass customization isn't just the future; it's the present. In fact, it's hiding in plain sight. Build-a-Bear Workshop, Hallmark, Lego, and LensCrafters are all stores in the Natick Mall that offer significant customization for consumer products. Burberry is the latest Natick Mall vendor to offer mass customization; I am quoted in Time magazine this week (here, but subscription required to view the link; page 82 in the December 5 paper edition) discussing how luxury clothing and customization fit together well. As I've written before, one of the benefits of employing mass customization is that it empowers consumers to create products that express their personalities -- a particularly relevant feature for clothing and apparel products.

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Rethink Your IT Strategy If You’re Serious About Cloud

Brian  Hopkins

Cloud – people can’t agree on exactly what it is, but everyone can agree that they want some piece of it. I have not talked to a single client who isn’t doing something proactively to pursue cloud in some form or fashion. This cloud-obsession was really evident in our 2011 technology tweet jam as well, which is why this year’s business technology and technology trends reports cover cloud extensively. Our research further supports this – for example, 29% of infrastructure and operations executives surveyed stated that building a private cloud was a critical priority for 2011, while 28% plan to use public offerings, and these numbers are rising every year.

So what should EAs think about cloud? My suggestion is that you think about how your current IT strategy supports taking advantage of what cloud is offering (and what it’s not). Here are our cloud-related technology trends along with some food for thought:

  • The next phase of IT industrialization begins. This trend points out how unprepared our current IT delivery model is for the coming pace of technology change, which is why cloud is appealing. It offers potentially faster ways to acquire technology services. Ask yourself – is my firm’s current IT model and strategy good enough to meet technology demands of the future?
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The Tech Market Gives Small Thanks — "It Coulda Been Worse"

Andrew Bartels

The day before Thanksgiving is a good point to pause and give thanks for the recent news in the tech market, before we give thanks for our personal blessings with our families and friends tomorrow.  So, amidst the glum news about the ongoing European debt crisis that is grinding growth to a standstill, the failure of the congressional supercommittee to make any progress on US budget deficits or stimulus, and the crashing stock markets, here are some things that tech vendors can be thankful for.

  1. US economy is still growing.  The revised real GDP growth rate for Q3 2011 was 2%, down from the preliminary report of 2.5% (Gross Domestic Product, 3rd Quarter 2011 [second estimate]).  That's not much growth, but at least it is growth.  And the report on "Personal Income and Outlays: October 2011" released this morning showed a 0.4% increase in October from September (5% at an annualized rate), with consumer spending up by 0.1% (1% annualized).  So, the fourth quarter began with some good momentum for consumer spending. 
  2. The US tech market is still growing — better than the government data indicates.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis data on business investment in information technology was revised downward from the preliminary release, with total IT investment growing by just 3.3%.  However, computer equipment grew by 10.6% and software by 6%, with software doing even better if we make adjustments to exclude the "own account" software that is created by firms for their own use.  The bad news was that communications equipment investment declined by 13.2%. 
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T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011: Getting Past A Lost Year

Dan Bieler

T-Systems’ Analyst Summit 2011 in Frankfurt was dominated by updates on the progress the company made regarding its restructuring projects. As a result of these efforts, T-Systems has created the basis to become a more efficient and agile ICT services provider going forward. Still, in our view, the period between mid-2010 to mid-2011 was a lost year for T-Systems — despite the obvious progress T-Systems made in addressing its past challenges.

In some respects, T-Systems had become a victim of its own success in 2009 and 2010. T-Systems was clearly overwhelmed by its multibillion deals (with clients including Linde, BP, Shell, E.ON, MAN, Continental, etc). Delivery capacities were stretched to the limit, manifesting in serious transition and transformation challenges. T-Systems was forced to allocate more capacities to big deals, thus depressing margins to just over 2% in Q3 2011 (see chart below). T-Systems still aims to reach the peer-group average EBIT margin.

Source: company reports

About a year ago, T-Systems began to restructure its entire operations in a mammoth project, effectively redrawing the entire organisational structure and reshuffling the top management team, except for the CEO and CFO. The Analyst Summit provided some insights that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit:

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Customer Service Done Right In 10 Easy Steps: Step 7

Kate Leggett

Step 7 of my 10-step program on how to master your service experience is to think outside the customer service box.

We know that customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you on whatever the most suitable channel for them at that point in time is — which could be via their mobile device, a chat session, a phone call, email, or web self-service from their iPad. This agile behavior is not limited to customer service; it extends to everything that we do, from buying to receiving marketing offers to getting service. Saying this another way, customers don’t make a distinction between a sales transaction and a customer service transaction. All they expect is to be able to receive the same customer experience every time they interact with a company, over any communication channel that they use. This point is very well illustrated in fellow Forrester analyst Brian Walker's report “Welcome To The Age Of Agile Commerce.”

More than that, customers expect personalized service targeted to their situation at hand. Customers expect you to know who they are, what products and services they have purchased, what issues they have had, over what channels they have used to contact you in the past, and what offers they have been presented with and either accepted or rejected. In addition, they would like to know whether you have read and responded to the feedback that they have given you.

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Update On Cisco's Collaboration Strategy

Philipp Karcher

Special thanks to Art Schoeller, TJ Keitt, Henry Dewing, and Ted Schadler for their input

I went to Cisco's Collaboration Summit last week to hear the latest from the various product teams and some of their marquee customers. Much of the story remains the same: Cisco continues to dominate in video and web conferencing; it is taking strong steps in the right direction but still has a lot of work ahead to deliver a cohesive collaboration platform with the likes of Microsoft, IBM, and Google:

  • Video continues to be a key differentiator. Cisco is expanding its foothold in video at different ends of the market. Highlights from the conference include Telepresence Conductor, a component that optimizes the video traffic in large enterprises with multiple MCUs; and Callway, a hosted service for SMBs that don't want to invest in dedicated infrastructure. The most interesting development to me is the redesigned Jabber client, Cisco's push to compete with Lync. SVP for Telepresence OJ Winge described it to me as a combination of the best technologies from Cisco's applications for IM (Jabber), video (Movi), and voice. The recently released Jabber SDK also allows developers to enable Jabber IM, presence, voice, web conferencing -- and in the future, video -- in web applications like Gmail or SAP.
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HP Expands Its x86 Options With Mission-Critical Program – Defense And Offense Combined

Richard Fichera

Today HP announced a new set of technology programs and future products designed to move x86 server technology for both Windows and Linux more fully into the realm of truly mission-critical computing. My interpretation of these moves is that it is both a combined defensive and pro-active offensive action on HP’s part that will both protect them as their Itanium/HP-UX portfolio slowly declines as well as offer attractive and potentially unique options for both current and future customers who want to deploy increasingly critical services on x86 platforms.

What’s Coming?

Bearing in mind that the earliest of these elements will not be in place until approximately mid-2012, the key elements that HP is currently disclosing are:

ServiceGuard for Linux – This is a big win for Linux users on HP, and removes a major operational and architectural hurdle for HP-UX migrations. ServiceGuard is a highly regarded clustering and HA facility on HP-UX, and includes many features for local and geographically distributed HA. The lack of ServiceGuard is often cited as a risk in HP-UX migrations. The availability of ServiceGuard by mid-2012 will remove yet another barrier to smooth migration from HP-UX to Linux, and will help make sure that HP retains the business as it migrates from HP-UX.

Analysis engine for x86 – Analysis engine is internal software that provides system diagnostics, predictive failure analysis and self-repair on HP-UX systems. With an uncommitted delivery date, HP will port this to selected x86 servers. My guess is that since the analysis engine probably requires some level of hardware assist, the analysis engine will be paired with the next item on the list…

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Dusting Off Our Content Security Crystal Ball

Rick Holland

Winter is coming; the year is quickly drawing to a close, and its time to a look back and see how accurate our content security crystal ball was for 2011.  Last year we predicted three trends; two were accurate and one was partially correct. Let's take a closer look.

1)  Content security spending will slow down - We were right. According to our latest survey data, the content security budget represented 6% of the total IT security budget; this is a 1% decrease from 2010. Content security remains one of the lowest budgeted technology areas in IT.

2)  Consolidation will continue to drive suite offerings - We were partially correct. In 2011, we didn't see any significant M&A activity in the content security space.  While we were wrong on the vendor consolidation prediction, we were correct on the prediction that market leaders would increase their data loss prevention and mobile capabilities to further solidify their market positions.

3)  Mobile filtering will enter mainstream IT - We were correct. Laptop filtering is mainstream, and mobile device filtering is gaining momentum and getting significant attention. Content security vendors are currently testing content filtering on mobile phones and tablets.

What about 2012?  To see what five trends we predict will impact your strategy next year, check out the full document: "Content Security: 2012 Budget And Planning Guide."  Here's a teaser, is your content security strategy ready for the extended enterprise?

Fujitsu Forum 2011 In Munich: A Global Reset

Dan Bieler

During its Fujitsu Forum, which was attended by over 10,000 customers and partners, Fujitsu presented itself as a company in transformation from a fairly disjointed business to a more streamlined international business. Fujitsu’s new strategy has three main components:

  • Focus on organic growth: Fujitsu is investing more in its sales and services structure as well as its internal IT systems. It aims to get better in what it has already been doing, such as exploiting its large software and hardware portfolio, including smartphones, thin clients, handsets, tablets, mainframes, laptops, and super computers. In terms of services, Fujitsu is pushing its multivendor maintenance capabilities and its IT outsourcing experience. Fujitsu considers its product knowledge and near- and offshore mix a key, unique selling point vis-à-vis its competitors. Given Fujitsu's weak marketing and sales structures of the past, we would believe that it is high-time to improve its go-to-market approach.
  • Target emerging markets: The main focus is on Russia, India, and the Middle East. Fujitsu is ramping up local operations and also adapting its go-to-market approaches. For instance, in India it is using its promotion campaign via auto rickshaw on “see-try-buy” basis. Fujitsu’s goal is to double emerging markets sales by 2015 from €800 in 2010. Given its Asian roots, it is astonishing how long it took Fujitsu to realise the opportunities at its doorstep.
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What Is ADV And Why Do We Need It?

Boris Evelson

As one of the industry-renowned data visualization experts Edward Tufte once said, “The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” There’s indeed just too much information out there to be effectively analyzed by all categories of knowledge workers. More often than not, traditional tabular row-and-column reports do not paint the whole picture or — even worse — can lead an analyst to a wrong conclusion. There are multiple reasons to use data visualization; the three main ones are that one:

  • Cannot see a pattern without data visualization. Simply seeing numbers on a grid often does not tell the whole story; in the worst case, it can even lead one to a wrong conclusion. This is best demonstrated by Anscombe’s quartet, where four seemingly similar groups of x and y coordinates reveal very different patterns when represented in a graph.
  • Cannot fit all of the necessary data points onto a single screen. Even with the smallest reasonably readable font, single line spacing, and no grid, one cannot realistically fit more than a few thousand data points using numerical information only. When using advanced data visualization techniques, one can fit tens of thousands data points onto a single screen — a difference of an order of magnitude. In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte gives an example of more than 21,000 data points effectively displayed on a US map that fits onto a single screen.
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