The New Power Of Sourcing And Vendor Management -- Reflected At Forrester's IT Forum

Christopher Andrews

After two weeks at Forrester’s IT Forums (in Las Vegas and Barcelona) the Sourcing and Vendor Management research team came back more energized than ever. Why? We were able to spend a week interacting with our clients, who all face diverse challenges, yet remain very optimistic about the strategic value they can provide to their IT and business counterparts. While it's an exhausting week for all of our analysts, we love this week (second only to our own team's Sourcing and Vendor Management Forum in November) because of the chance to interact with all of you.  

 Coming back from this conference, I realized a few key themes had dominated my conversations with clients:

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Forrester's Best Practice Framework For Customer Service

Kate Leggett

How do you know how well your customer service offering compares with best practices? How do you know what to do to differentiate yourself from your competitors? To answer this question, I put together a Best Practices Framework that you can use to assess your current capabilities. There’s an associated tool in the form of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that allows you to evaluate yourself against 150 best practices, organized in eight different categories grouped into the four dimensions of strategy, process, technology, and people. Here’s a quick synopsis of the eight categories:

Strategy

  • Customer service strategy. What is your customer service strategy across all the communication channels you use to interact with your customers and how does that strategy incorporate the voice of the customer (VoC)?
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Watch Out For A Potential Glut Of “Dark Cloud” IaaS

Andrew Bartels

Back during the dot.com boom years, existing telcos and dozens of new network operators, especially in western Europe and North America, laid vast amounts of fiber optic networks in anticipation of rapidly rising Internet usage and traffic. When the expected volumes of Internet usage failed to materialize, they did not turn on or “light up” most (some estimate 80% and even 90% on many routes) of this fiber network capacity. This unused capacity was called “dark fiber,” and it has only been in recent years that this dark fiber has been put to use.

I am seeing early signs of something similar in the build-out of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud offerings. Of course, the data centers of servers, storage devices, and networks that IaaS vendors need can scale up in a more linear fashion (add another rack of blade servers as needed to support an new client) than the all-or-nothing build-out of fiber optic networks, so the magnitude of “dark cloud” will never reach the magnitude of “dark fiber.” Nonetheless, if current trends continue and accelerate, there is a real potential for IaaS wannabes creating a glut of “dark cloud” capacity that exceeds actual demand, with resulting downward pressure on prices and shakeouts of unsuccessful IaaS providers.

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The Next Three Weeks Are Very Important To Microsoft, And That Gives Buyers Leverage

Duncan Jones

A couple of months ago I was blogging from sunny Barcelona with the Red Sox 0-6. Now I'm in Barcelona again for our IT Forum, but this month its raining heavily here, while back in UK we officially have a drought. But the good news is that Boston is 6-0,  at least in Yankee Stadium. A lot can change in two months.

The same is true in IT.  Just now, Microsoft faces threats to its strong market position from many directions, and Steve Ballmer is under pressure, but strong results for its June fourth quarter could deflect the flak. That's one reason why sales teams will have greater incentives than ever to close Enterprise Agreement deals in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully if you're negotiating an EA right now, whether a new deal or a renewal, you've read my report Consider These Five Criteria When Choosing A Microsoft Volume Licensing Program and maybe even had an inquiry call with my colleage Christopher Voce or me. One common question we get is whether the stated deadline to accept an offer is real, or will the same deals be available in the last days of the quarter or even in the subsequent months? The short answers are Yes, it is, and no, they won't." Microsoft has its own deal approval processes that take time to complete, and though it won't want to reject Purchase Orders, it may have problems processing them if they arrive too late.  And the deals available almost certainly wont be as good next quarter because sales teams will still have 9 months remaining in which to recoup any shortfall.

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Canadian ICT Market Will Be Similar To US In Growth Rates, But Differs In Product And Industry Mix

Andrew Bartels

On the same day that we published our latest forecast for the European ICT market, Forrester has also published our forecast for the Canadian tech market (see June 8, 2011,“The Canadian Tech Market 2011-2012 -- Different From US In Industry Mix of Purchases; Similar Growth Rates").   The following are my key takeaways from this report:

  • The Canadian market for purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) by businesses and governments is about 10% the size of the US ICT market, and only about 3% of the global ICT market.  Still, it is an important market because of the sophisticated level of its tech adoption (i.e., its readiness to adopt advanced technologies) and its proximity to the US market.  
     
  • Canada's ICT market growth rates of 6.2% in 2011 and 2012 growth of 8.1% in Canadian dollars will be very similar to the US ICT market growth in US dollars in the same periods.  With the Canadian dollar having gained strength against the US dollar, that means that US vendors will see even stronger Canadian revenue growth when they convert their Canadian sales back into US dollars. 
     
  • Communications equipment and software will have the strongest growth in 2011, at 10.5% and 8.4%, respectively.  Computer equipment growth of 4.4% and telecommunications services growth of 2.2% will be the weakest product categories.
     
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RSA Breach: Two-Factor Authentication Is Not Dead But Is Morphing And Getting More Granular

Andras Cser

Many IT end-user companies deployed hard tokens at a time when intermediate-risk choices were thinner on the ground, and some of these companies would have benefited from a more granular approach anyway. In general, we are seeing companies moving towards risk-based authentication augmented by mobile soft tokens (sometimes called from a mobile application through an API). These software-only solutions are easier and cheaper to deploy, particularly if the target population is on smartphones, and a lot easier to patch in case of an attack. Interestingly, risk-based authentication is now asked about not only in the B2C context (which was a norm about a year ago), but also in the B2E context as well. Right now, end-user companies are thinking about:

  1. How they can ditch hardware tokens altogether; and
  2. How can they can move risk-based authentication, and increasingly authorization (fraud management), into the cloud.

IBM's Intelligent Operations Center for Smart Cities: Think Cities not just Departments.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Government investment in ICT is growing. At Forrester we expect the overall government ICT budget to reach $346 billion in 2011, growing to $382 billion in 2012 or by about 10%.  That makes government one of the largest vertical industries – almost double the size of the retail industry, well above the telecom industry and actually behind only professional services and financial services.  As government soul searching intensifies in the wake of the financial crisis, and in light of global competition and economic recovery, we expect the dawn of a new government – not “big government” but a government that operates more effectively and certainly more efficiently.  What does that look like, and what does that entail?  We see three primary trends:

  • A move to greater performance management processes with an emphasis on KPIs for specific programs rather than just budget targets.
  • An increased dependence on technology but with an eye to rationalization and consolidation, and an increased role of a centralized CIO to coordinate technology adoption;
  • And, a growing adoption of enterprise management tools with visibility not only into department level programs but including executive dashboards to enable a holistic view of the government. 
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European ICT Market Will Grow More Slowly Than US Market, But With Wide Geographic Variances

Andrew Bartels

I am in Barcelona, Spain, at our IT Forum EMEA event, where my colleague Peter O'Neill and I presented our latest forecasts for the tech market in Western and Central Europe.  In parallel, Forrester has just published our report with this and much more information (see June 8, 2011, “European Information And Communications Technology Market 2011 To 2012 -- The North-South Divide Persists, With Wide Variations In Country Information And Communications Technology Growth”).  Here are the key conclusions that I would highlight from the report:

  • As a geographic unit, the market for business and government purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) in Western and Central Europe will grow by 3.8% in 2011 (measured in euros), compared with 6.4% growth in the US (measured in US dollars).  Excluding slow-growing telecommunications services, the information technology (IT) market in Western and Central Europe will grow by 4.5% in euros vs. the 7.4% growth in US dollars in the US (see June 7, “European Information And Communications Technology Market 2011 To 2012 -- The North-South Divide Persists, With Wide Variations In Country Information And Communications Technology Growth”).
     
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"Anywhere, Anytime" Work Means IT Must Provide The Right Technology, To The Right Person, At The Right Time

TJ Keitt

Giving workers flexibility in when, where, and how they work is a hot topic right now. The US federal government has passed legislation to make telecommuting easier and multinational firms, like State Street, are instituting programs to let employees choose when and where they work. Why are organizations emphasizing this so much? Mobile and remote employees have more control over their work/life balance and won't have to stop working if circumstance prevents them from coming to the office. Furthermore, they can easily be collocated with clients and allow the company to reduce its real estate and carbon footprint. However, as this chart from my new report, Demystifying The Mobile Workforce, shows, information workers may be moving more quickly to this flexible way of working than their companies currently acknowledge: 66% of the North American and European workforce work outside the office at some point during a month.

If business leaders and their counterparts in IT are to get in front of this trend, they have to understand their mobile and remote workforce. For example, who is shifting work between the office and home? What technology are they using to do so? Do they believe that the company is doing a good job of providing them the policies and technology to work in this way? If business and IT leaders can't answer these questions, they will be hard pressed to accurately:

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HP Stirs The Pot With New Converged Infrastructure Offerings

Richard Fichera

HP this week really stirred up the Converged Infrastructure world by introducing three new solution offerings, one an incremental evolution of an existing offering and the other two representing new options which will put increased pressure on competitors. The trio includes:

  • HP VirtualSystem - HP’s answer to vStart, Flex Pod and vBlocks, VirtualSystem is a pre-integrated stack of servers (blade and racked options), HP network switches and HP Converged Storage (3Par and Left Hand Networks iSCSI) along with software, including the relevant OS and virtualization software. Clients can choose from four scalable deployment options that support up to 750, 2500 or 6000 virtual servers or up to 3000 virtual clients. It supports Microsoft and Linux along with VMware and Citrix. Since this product is new, announced within weeks of the publication of this document, we have had limited exposure it, but HP claims that they have added significant value in terms of optimized infrastructure, automation of VM deployment, management and security. In addition, HP will be offering a variety of services and hosting options along with VirtualSystem. Forrester expects that VirtualSystem will change the existing competitive dynamics and will result in a general uptick of interest it similar solutions. HP is positioning VirtualSystem as a growth path to CloudSystem, with what they describe as a “streamlined” upgrade path to a hybrid cloud environment.
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