Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a number of IT vendors such as HCL, Fujitsu, Oracle, and Dell. This has been some time coming, but over the next few weeks I am taking the opportunity to summarize the overall perceptions I have received from these vendors when evaluating them from a CIO perspective - i.e. as a potential partner for your IT organization and your business. Today I'll tackle HCL, and will move onto the other vendors throughout January. The goal of these blog posts is to give an overall perception of the vendors - something that we don't particularly capture so well in a Wave or vendor analysis where we are focusing on one particular capability of a large vendor. I am trying to capture the "culture" or "style" of the vendor, as this is something that is hard to include in a Forrester Wave, but it IS something that makes a significant difference to the partnership in the longer term.
HCL. A company that is comfortable in its own skin.
That is the way I would summarize HCL. They are a company that know where they have come from and know where they are now, and have a pretty good idea that in five years time they will be nothing like they were or are. They don't know what that future is, but they know they have to put the capabilities in place to ensure the organization can effectively morph into that future form in order to achieve longer term success. Employees First, Customers Second is the first step on this pathway, but it is only that. It will not shape the company that HCL is tomorrow, but it will probably provide the groundwork and internal culture to allow the smoother change.
We’re starting to get inquiries about complexity. Key questions are how to evaluate complexity in an IT organization and consequently how to evaluate its impact on availability and performance of applications. Evaluating complexity wouldn’t be like evaluating the maturity of IT processes, which is like fixing what’s broken, but more like preventive maintenance: understanding what’s going to break soon and taking action to prevent the failure.
Volume of application and services certainly has something to do with complexity. Watts Humphrey said that code size (in KLOC: thousands of lines of code) doubles every two years, certainly due to increase in hardware capacity and speed, and this is easily validated by the evolution of operating systems over the past years. It stands to reason that, as a consequence, the total number of errors in the code also doubles every two years.
But code is not the only cause of error: Change, configuration, and capacity are right there, too. Intuitively, the chance of an error in change and configuration would depend on the diversity of infrastructure components and on the volume of changes. Capacity issues would also be dependent on these parameters.
There is also a subjective aspect to complexity: I’m sure that my grandmother would have found an iPhone extremely complex, but my granddaughter finds it extremely simple. There are obviously human, cultural, and organizational factors in evaluating complexity.
Can we define a “complexity index,” should we turn to an evaluation model with all its subjectivity, or is the whole thing a wild goose chase?
My analyst duties took me to a number of industry and tech-vendor events this fall; in fact, looking back at my calendar, I have been out of my home area in Boston for nine of the last 12 weeks. The upside of all that time in airplane seats is that I get to meet and interact with leaders across the technology industry, including supplier companies, large and small, and their customers and partners.
In the first 10 days of December I spent time with five important technology suppliers, each of which has very different views on the opportunity in the broad arena of IT-for-sustainability (i.e., how information technology products and services help corporations achieve their sustainability goals).
He highlights text analytics technology in the report because understanding unstructured data plays a critical part in daily operations. Enterprises have too much content to review and annotate manually. Text analytics products from vendors like Temis and SAS mine, interpret, and add structure to information to reveal hidden patterns and relationships. In my 2009 overview of text analytics, I cite the primary use cases for these tools: voice of the customer, competitive intelligence, operations improvements, and compliance and law enforcement.
But there are a few other sweet spots for text analytics tools in the enterprise:
Analytics and search: Analytics tools surface and visualize patterns; search tools return discrete results to match an expressed need. But these disciplines are blending. People want to drill in to high-level analysis to find the specific thing customers buzz about. And many searchers don’t know how to articulate their need as a query and are looking for the big picture on a topic or trend. Forrester expects these solutions to come together, as search tools mainstream semantic features like entity extraction out of the box, and analytics vendors introduce new ways to investigate relationships and data output.
Consumer product strategists hold a wide variety of job titles: product manager, product development manager, services manager, or a variation of general manager, vice president, or even, sometimes, CEO or other C-level title. Despite these varying titles, many of you share a great number of job responsibilities with one another.
We recently fielded our Q4 Global Consumer Product Strategy Research Panel Online Survey to 256 consumer product strategy professionals from a wide variety of industries. Why do this? One reason was to better understand the job responsibilities that you, in your role, take on every day. But the other reason was to help you succeed: By benchmarking yourself against peers, you can identify new job responsibilities for growth, improve your effectiveness, and ultimately advance your career.
What did we find out? The bottom line is that consumer product strategy jobs are pretty tough. We found a wide range of skills are required to do the job well, since consumer product strategists are expected to:
Drive innovation. Consumer product strategists are front-and-center in driving innovation, which ideally suffuses the entire product life cycle. Being innovative is a tall task, but all of you are expected to be leaders here.
Think strategically... You've got to have a strategic view of your markets, identifying new concepts and business models and taking a long-term view of tomorrow's products.
...but execute as a business person. While thinking strategically, you generally have to execute tactically as well. You're business unit owners. At the senior-most levels, you hold the P&L for the product or portfolio of products.
Cash-starved. Fast-paced. Understaffed. Late nights. T-shirts. Jeans.
These descriptors are just as relevant to emerging tech startups as they are to the typical enterprise IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) department. And to improve customer focus and develop new skills, I&O professionals should apply a “startup” mentality.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with Locately, a four-person Boston-based startup putting a unique spin on customer insights and analytics: Location. By having consumers opt-in to Locately’s mobile application, media companies and brands can understand how their customers spend their time and where they go. Layered with other contextual information – such as purchases, time, and property identifiers (e.g. store names, train stops) – marketers and strategists can drive revenues and awareness, for example, by optimizing their marketing and advertising tactics or retail store placement.
The purpose of my visit to Locately was not to write this blog post, at least not initially. It was to give the team of five Research Associates that I manage exposure to a different type of technology organization than they usually have access to – the emerging tech startup. Throughout our discussion with Locately, it struck me that I&O organizations share a number of similarities with startups. In particular, here are two entrepreneurial characteristics that I&O professionals should embody in their own organizations:
Two months ago, we announced our upcoming Forrester Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010. Now the data is back from more than 2,400 respondents in North America and Europe and provides us with deep and sometimes surprising insights into the software market dynamics of today and the next 24 months.
We’d like to give you a sneak preview of interesting results around some of the most important trends in the software market: cloud computing integrated information technology, business intelligence, mobile strategy, and overall software budgets and buying preferences.
Companies Start To Invest More Into Innovation In 2011
After the recent recession, companies are starting to invest more in 2011, with 12% and 22% of companies planning to increase their software budgets by more than 10% or between 5% and 10%, respectively. At the same time, companies will invest a significant part of the additional budget into new solutions. While 50% of the total software budgets are still going into software operations and maintenance (Figure 1), this number has significantly dropped from 55% in 2010; spending on new software licenses will accordingly increase from 23% to 26% and custom-development budgets from 23% to 24% in 2011.
Cloud Computing Is Getting Serious
In this year’s survey, we have taken a much deeper look into companies’ strategies and plans around cloud computing besides simple adoption numbers. We have tested to what extent cloud computing makes its way from complementary services into business critical processes, replacing core applications and moving sensitive data into public clouds.
Just posted an OpEd piece on IT's role in supporting the Splinternet. The Splinternet is a lot like the Internet except that it's fragmented by devices and passwords (and media formats and screen sizes and location). Customers don't get a single experience across mobile, social, and Web channels today. But they need to. Marketing is scrambling to give customers the mobile apps and social engagement they desire, scambling to overcome the Splinternet. But marketing can't do it alone.
The most digitally advanced firms and organizations on the planet realize that they need a whole-company response (and that includes all of IT as well as customer service, sales, and product development; supported by finance and legal and ops) already and are investing to deal with the Splinternet. (ESPN, NPR, Amazon, Google, and Bank of America come to mind.)
I won't repeat the article here, but I will point out that IT has a choice to make. It starts with a logic argument:
Customers expect a single experience across the Web, mobile, and social channels.
IT is the only part of the organization that can stitch together all of the systems across all of the channels to deliver that single experience.
Therefore, IT needs to step up and confront the challenges and opportunities presented by the Splinternet.
Therefore, IT must work even more closely with marketing, sales, customer service, and product development.
I just spent some time talking to ScaleMP, an interesting niche player that provides a server virtualization solution. What is interesting about ScaleMP is that rather than splitting a single physical server into multiple VMs, they are the only successful offering (to the best of my knowledge) that allows I&O groups to scale up a collection of smaller servers to work as a larger SMP.
Others have tried and failed to deliver this kind of solution, but ScaleMP seems to have actually succeeded, with a claimed 200 customers and expectations of somewhere between 250 and 300 next year.
Their vSMP product comes in two flavors, one that allows a cluster of machines to look like a single system for purposes of management and maintenance while still running as independent cluster nodes, and one that glues the member systems together to appear as a single monolithic SMP.
Does it work? I haven’t been able to verify their claims with actual customers, but they have been selling for about five years, claim over 200 accounts, with a couple of dozen publicly referenced. All in all, probably too elaborate a front to maintain if there was really nothing there. The background of the principals and the technical details they were willing to share convinced me that they have a deep understanding of the low-level memory management, prefectching, and caching that would be needed to make a collection of systems function effectively as a single system image. Their smaller scale benchmarks displayed good scalability in the range of 4 – 8 systems, well short of their theoretical limits.
My quick take is that the software works, and bears investigation if you have an application that:
Either is certified to run with ScaleMP (not many), or one where that you control the code.
You understand the memory reference patterns of the application, and
It’s rumored that the Ford Model T’s track dimension (the distance between the wheels of the same axle) could be traced from the Conestoga wagon to the Roman chariot by the ruts they created. Roman roads forced European coachbuilders to adapt their wagons to the Roman chariot track, a measurement they carried over when building wagons in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s said that Ford had no choice but to adapt his cars to the rural environment created by these wagons. This cycle was finally broken by paving the roads and freeing the car from the chariot legacy.
IT has also carried over a long legacy of habits and processes that contrast with the advanced technology that it uses. While many IT organizations are happy to manage 20 servers per administrator, some Internet service providers are managing 1 or 2 million servers and achieving ratios of 1 administrator per 2000 servers. The problem is not how to use the cloud to gain 80% savings in data center costs, the problem is how to multiply IT organizations’ productivity by a factor of 100. In other words, don’t try the Model T approach of adapting the car to the old roads; think about building new roads so you can take full advantage of the new technology.
Gains in productivity come from technology improvements and economy of scale. The economy of scale is what the cloud is all about: cookie cutter servers using virtualization as a computing platform, for example. The technology advancement that paves the road to economy of scale is automation. Automation is what will abstract diversity and mask the management differences between proprietary and commodity platforms and eventually make the economy of scale possible.