Forrester’s Tech Radar Assessment Of 24 Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service

Kate Leggett

The contact center technology ecosystem for customer service is a nightmare of complexity. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:

  1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum.
  2. Route the inquiry to the right customer service agent pool.
  3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
  4. Find the answer to the inquiry; this can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
  5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
  6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution and close the case.
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Financial Market Turmoil And The Impact On Telecoms Providers

Dan Bieler

As a former investment analyst, I remember the feeling when stock market screens turn deep red. Such days turn one’s stomach upside down on a dealing floor. But even from the outside, such days are unnerving. The big question in the telecoms markets making the rounds at present is how the current market turmoil will affect the telcos. The 2008 financial crisis might provide some clues to what we could expect in 2011 and 2012, albeit in a less-pronounced fashion:

  • Consumer spending on communications will remain pretty stable. During the last financial crisis, spending on communications remained largely untouched by the consumer. We do expect a slight migration towards flat rates for customers with the desire for greater cost certainties and towards prepaid by customers with the desire to lower their communication expenditure. One obvious danger in times of turmoil are price wars between service providers. They can offer only short-term growth relief, but at a high cost. Resulting poor margins will be felt for a long time.
  • Businesses will put nonessential IT projects on hold or water them down. We have not yet seen evidence that COOs and IT departments have tapped the brakes on their tech buying, but they certainly have become more cautious. If the economies of the US or Europe go into recession — a possibility, but not our baseline forecast — that will hit IT budgets, as happened in 2008 and 2009. I am hearing from telecoms providers that their enterprise sales pipelines are already under pressure as customers slow their IT investments and look for ways to reduce their telecom services spending. Projects that support end-users with their sales efforts, e.g., sales force automation projects, are likely to be less affected than others.
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How The Sustainability Boom Changes Business As Usual For Green Suppliers

Chris Mines
How the Sustainability Boom Changes Business as Usual for Green Suppliers

Call me crazy, but there's a revival of interest in sustainability underway. Despite the Collapse in Copenhagen, the Demise of (US) Cap & Trade, and the ongoing Great Recession, companies around the world continue to invest in IT solutions to improve their operational efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.

My travels these past few weeks had me visiting with two sustainability practice leaders at large consulting/integration firms, the product heads for two of the leading energy and carbon management software providers, and the internal sustainability champions at a very large IT systems company.

In all five instances, folks were surprisingly chipper given the economic environment and its drag effect on sustainability spending. One of the sustainability practice leaders, for example, told me of their plans to grow from 150 people at the end of 2011 to 1,000 people three years hence.

What's going on? Here's my theory: Sustainability is becoming embedded in corporate behavior, metrics, and strategy. It's not a separate investment line item, a separate set of metrics, a separate organization . . . it's embedded into mainstream operations. As one of the software leaders put it, "Sustainability is sitting at the adults' table now."

What does that mean for these suppliers and their brethren? A big change in the way they go to market.

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Oracle Delivers On SPARC Promises With New T4 Processors And Systems

Richard Fichera

Background – Promises And Potential

Last year I wrote about Oracle’s new plans for SPARC, anchored by a new line of SPARC CPUs engineered in conjunction with Fujitsu (Does SPARC have a Future?), and commented that the first deliveries of this new technology would probably be in early 2012, and until we saw this tangible evidence of Oracle’s actual execution of this road map we could not predict with any confidence the future viability of SPARC.

The T4 CPU

Fast forward a year and Oracle has delivered the first of the new CPUs, ahead of schedule and with impressive gains in performance that make it look like SPARC will remain a viable platform for years. Specifically, Oracle has introduced the T4 CPU and systems based on them. The T4, an evolution of Oracle’s highly threaded T-Series architecture, is implemented with an entirely new core that will form the basis, with variations in number of threads versus cores and cache designs, of the future M and T series systems. The M series will have fewer threads and more performance per thread, while the T CPUs will, like their predecessors, emphasize throughput for highly threaded workloads. The new T4 will have 8 cores, and each core will have 8 threads. While the T4 emphasizes highly threaded workload performance, it is important to note that Oracles has radically improved single-thread performance over its predecessors, with Oracle claiming performance per thread improvements of 5X over its predecessors, greatly improving its utility as a CPU to power less thread-intensive workloads as well.

The SPARC SuperCluster

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New Study Yields Eye-Opening IT Service Management Benefits

Glenn O'Donnell

In April and May of this year, Forrester and the IT Service Management Forum’s US chapter (itSMF-USA) conducted a joint study to assess the state of ITSM. We collected data from 491 qualified subjects that are heavily involved in ITSM efforts (69% have two or more years of ITSM experience and 95% hold some level of ITIL certification; 50% at an advanced level). Since it was in conjunction with the US chapter, the responses were heavily US-centric.

The results offer empirical evidence of something ITSM professionals already know: ITSM offers significant benefits to the organization and to the professionals themselves. The full report is now in the final editing stages and will be available soon to all Forrester clients, all itSMF-USA members, and all participants who do not already fall into one of those groups. Forrester clients and itSMF USA members will receive email notifications when it is ready. Others will be contacted directly by itSMF.

This morning (Monday, September 26, 2011), I presented the results at the itSMF-USA’s national conference known as Fusion 11. Here are a few key insights from the study:

  • 51% of ITSM efforts are driven primarily by IT or business executives
  • ITIL has had an overwhelming positive impact on:
    • Organizational productivity: 85% positive and 2% negative
    • Service quality: 83% positive and 1% negative
    • IT’s reputation with the business: 65% positive and 3% negative
    • Operational costs: 41% positive and 4% negative
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Security & Risk And Infrastructure & Operations Pros: Drive Customer Growth And Business Differentiation

Laura Koetzle

Security & Risk (S&R) chiefs and Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) leaders have a lot in common, and in great companies, we work in concert to run an efficient, reliable technology infrastructure that keeps critical business assets safe. Much has changed in the world of technology since I pulled my first all-nighter in a data center (falling asleep next to the EMC Symmetrix array was not one of my better ideas – those corners were sharp!), but that partnership is still the same – it takes security engineers and network/server engineers working together to solve really thorny problems.

We have our frictions, of course – I&O pros prioritize operational stability and continuity of service, while S&R pros must occasionally interrupt that continuity to contain security breaches. But when a serious incident (whether security breach or system failure) threatens to sideline our business systems, it falls to us to find and fix the problems – together. We may be organizationally separate now, with I&O reporting into the CIO and the CISO reporting into a COO or Head of Operational Risk, but we share a set of fundamental challenges.  We must excel in our own domains (not exactly a cakewalk) but also anticipate and deliver on what our businesses need (much harder).

 And what our businesses seek today is growth – in Forrester’s most recent survey of business decision-makers, the top two priorities were growing overall company revenue and acquiring and retaining customers. S&R pros have already worked hard to escape their “Department of No” reputations, and I&O pros have labored tirelessly to get out of the data center and into the business. 

But that’s not enough. 

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Categories:

The Revenge Of The Politburo! One Company's Quest For Soviet-esque Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

David Johnson

The Politburo is making a comeback
Winston Churchill described Soviet-era politics as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It came to mind recently as I was engaged in a conversation with an I&O professional who works for a US-based company, and he needed help. Seems his executives had decided that due to two data breaches over the past year from stolen hard drives, that the new Central Committee policy should be to have everyone use a locked down virtual desktop, no matter their role or workstyle. It was hard for me to conjure up a picture of the profound lack of understanding that led to such a misguided policy, though images of nondescript buildings, row after row of undifferentiated cubicles, and Gulag-style productivity quotas came quickly to mind. Had he not been on the other end of a telephone line, he could've knocked me over with a feather.

Big vendors are using top party relationships to push huge pork-barrel deals under the banner of security and mobility

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To HP’s New CEO: Keep PCs And Focus On Consumerization Of IT To Best Serve The Enterprise Customer

Frank Gillett

Picture the scene in the HP boardroom when the board members decide the company needs (another) new CEO. They had trouble just last fall finding outside candidates and don’t seem satisfied with internal candidates. I can imagine a New Yorker cartoon–like scene, where they all agree to draw straws, and the board member drawing the short straw gets the CEO job!

But it was not like that. The board realized something that Forrester felt for some time — that HP needs better communications to customers, markets, and employees. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, is a not an obvious choice, especially given her primarily consumer and web business experience. But she brings strong Silicon Valley roots, something lacking in HP’s recent CEOs, which should help a lot with injecting new energy into HP. And she starts with a strong business reputation for growing eBay, being a good leader, and communicating well. Plus she’s got a nine-month head start as board member on understanding HP over any outside candidate.

As the new HP CEO, Whitman faces a difficult situation. HP has a strong set of products and customer brand that are being damaged by the uncertain directions of the board and the repeated CEO turmoil. Meanwhile, the Wall Street traders and technology press are overreacting, as they often do — HP has solid product and service offerings that are just as good as they were last week, before the latest leadership turmoil. So what should she do?

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Winners of the 2011 Forrester Groundswell Awards (Management Division)

Ted Schadler

We're announcing the first set of winners of the Forrester Groundswell Awards -- the management division winners, with applications aimed at employees. These awards are being announced today at the Forrester Content & Collaboration Forum in Boston. Congratulations to the winners and finalists -- with 205 entries this year, being selected for one of these awards is a real accomplishment.

Collaboration System (Management)

Finalists

An Agenda For Social Sales by IBM
Alcoa Fastening Systems by Alcoa

Winner: Collaboration (Management)

Deloitte Australia Yammer Network by Yammer

The Australian affiliate of Deloitte, the global services company, deployed Yammer in 2008 with no plans for mass adoption. But usage rapidly exploded, spreading to 5,000 of the company's staff and 12 national offices. Yammer users have lower staff turnover (2% vs. company average 15-20%) and Deloitte says Yammer has reduced costs, broken down silos, and accelerated innovation. It also builds culture, improves connections for mobile workers, and makes it easier to leverage knowledge and expertise.



 

Employee Mobile Application (Management)

Winner: Mobile (Management)

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Brocade Offers I&O An Opportunity To Control Costs With Their Subscription Program

Andre Kindness

Brocade isn’t the loudest networking vendor on the block, but more than two weeks ago it released a subscription switching service that should have sent a shockwave through the industry. With Brocade Network Subscription,customers pay for their network infrastructure on a monthly basis.  Sadly, the new service was not some new xfabric or new-fangled technology, the industry was quick to dismiss the news as anything more than another cloud announcement, and so Brocade’s subscription program registered only a murmur. What was missed was that the service helps to solidify I&O as a business unit on the same level as manufacturing, services, energy, and other businesses.

I’ve written extensively about how networking solutions need to support two business realities: 1) Enterprises are embedding themselves in their customers’ lives, and 2) businesses are forming symbiotic relationships with their vendors. In regard to the latter, businesses want to ensure that their vendor is creating products and solutions that are in the best interest of that company, and so there is an expectation that their partners will carry some of the financial risk and burden, ensuring that they will stay committed. On the vendor side and with respect to embedding themselves, the reasoning is twofold. First, Wall Street rewards recurring revenue streams, and this is more likely if the vendor can create something the customers can only get from that particular source. Second, vendors know it costs ten times as much to find new customers and would prefer to have a customer keep coming back to keep their operating costs as low as possible.

As a result, there has been a shift to a subscription service model. Take for example three distinct markets that support this strategy:

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