Many companies are at the height of the IT strategic-planning season. For some, this is an annual ritual tied to the budgeting process. For others, this is part of a long-range planning process, with an annual review to check on progress. Still other CIOs are approaching the development of an IT strategy as an integral part of an ever-evolving business strategy, with regular adjustments as the business units flex and respond to market changes. Whatever your perspective, it’s apparent that in the past executives outside of IT have given scant attention to the machinations of the IT strategy — but this is surely changing.
The operational performance of any business unit is now so heavily dependent upon the effective and efficient deployment of appropriate technology that planning a business strategy without also planning technology strategy is like planning to win Formula One without any telemetry. You can’t even get to the starting grid.
Expectations about economic growth prospects and the resulting implications for tech markets have been gyrating wildly in 2010. First, there were fears that the Greek debt crisis would spread to Portugal, Spain, Italy, maybe even the UK, leading to a breakup of the euro zone and a renewed recession in Europe. Then, as worries about Europe started to ebb after Greece and other countries successfully held debt tenders, the slow pace of job growth and weak retail sales in the US sparked concerns that the US was facing a double-dip recession.
What should a tech market watcher make of this uncertainty? As I read the economic and tech market indicators, I see more news that is in line with our expectations than not; where there have been surprises, they have been more often positive than negative. Economic recoveries seldom move in a straight line, so I did not expect to see an unbroken string of good news. Moreover, because of the imbalances that caused this downturn (too much consumer spending in the US, housing bubbles in the US and several other countries, too much debt), I expected the US economic recovery in particular to be relatively weak, with real growth rates of 2% to 3%. True, European economic growth — in large part due to the effects of the Greek debt crisis — has been weaker than expected, and the euro dropped much more against the US dollar then I had assumed. On the other hand, economic growth in Asia Pacific and Latin America has been stronger than I expected, and many of the currencies in these regions have risen in value against the dollar. Lastly, the indicators of the tech market itself — both US and other government data on business investment in technology (where available), as well as the vendor data from earnings releases for calendar Q1 2010 — has generally been stronger than our forecasts.
Many large organizations have finally “seen the light” and are trying to figure out the best way to treat their critical data as the trusted asset it should be. As a result, master data management (MDM) strategies and the enabling architectures, organizational and governance models, methodologies, and technologies that support the delivery of MDM capabilities are…in a word…HOT! But the concept of MDM -- and the homegrown or vendor-enabled technologies that attempt to deliver that elusive “single version of truth,” “golden record,” or “360-degree view” -- has been around for decades in one form or another (e.g., data warehousing, BI, data quality, EII, CRM, ERP, etc. have all at one time or another promised to deliver that single version of truth in one form or another).
The current market view of MDM has matured significantly over the past 5 years, and today many organizations are on their way to successfully delivering multi-domain/multi-form master data solutions across various physical and federated architectural approaches. But the long-term evolution of the MDM concept is far from over. There remains a tremendous gap in what limited business value most MDM efforts deliver today compared to what all MDM and data management evangelists feel MDM is capable of delivering in terms of business optimization, risk mitigation, and competitive differentiation.
What will the next evolution of the MDM concept look like in the next 3, 5, and 10 years? Will the next breakthrough be one that’s focused on technology enablement? How about information architecture? Data governance and stewardship? Alignment with other enterprise IT and business strategies?
My colleague Margo Visitacion and I are finishing up a new report, Seven Pragmatic Practices To Improve Software Quality, that will publish in a few weeks. We realized that not everyone has the same definition of quality. More often than not application development professionals define software quality as just meaning fewer bugs. But software quality means a whole lot more than just fewer bugs.
Forrester defines software quality as:
Software that meets business requirements, provides a satisfying user experience, and has fewer defects.
What It Means: Quality Is A Team Sport
Quality must move beyond the purview of just QA professionals and must become an integrated part of the entire software development life cycle (SDLC) to reduce schedule-killing rework when business requirements are misunderstood, improve user satisfaction, and reduce the risks of untested nonfunctional requirements such as security and performance.
We are getting many requests for help on iPad strategies for the enterprise. It's clear why. iPads are a tremendously empowering technology that any employee can buy. My colleague Andy Jaquith has a report coming real soon now on the security aspects of iPhones and iPads, and I'm launching research on case studies of iPad in the enterprise.
I am currently hearing about three business scenarios for iPad and tablets, but I'd love hear of your experiences, plans, concerns, or frustrations. Ping me at tschadler(at)forrester(dot)com. Here are the three scenarios:
Sales people out in the field. This is the "Hollywood pitch deck" scenario. The iPad, particularly with a cover that can prop it up a bit, is a great way to scroll through slides to show a customer or demonstrate a Web site. In one situation, I heard that there's a competition brewing for who can manipulate the Web site upside down (so the client across the table sees it right side up) without making any mistakes. Now there's a new skill for sales: upside down Web browsing.
Executives on an overnight trip. No, iPad doesn't replace a laptop (at least not yet; more on this below). But it's great for email, calendar, reviewing documents, and presenting PDF or Keynote decks.
During CScape at Cisco Live, one of the more interesting conversations I had started with a simple question: Is social software (and collaboration software in general) a set of standalone applications or features of other business applications? This sprang from a discussion on the future of the collaboration technology business and really speaks to a couple of important developments in the market:
There has been a lot of negative press and commentary regarding the recent Queensland Health Implementation of Continuity Project (SAP HR and Payroll), which recently experienced a very public failure as many employees were not paid due to multiple points of failure in the project. The recent Auditor-General's Report on the process is damning, spreading the blame across multiple agencies and the systems integration partner, IBM. I make no claims to be familiar with the intricate details of the process, but I have read the report and feel I have a clear understanding of the (many!) points of failure.
While this project did seem to be a monumental failure, I would suggest that we consider two important facts:
VMware today released an incremental upgrade to its core vSphere platform and took the opportunity to do some product repackaging and pricing actions - the latter being a big win for enterprise customers. The vSphere 4.1 enhancements focused on scalability to accommodate larger and larger virtual pools. The number of VMs per pool and number of hosts and VMs per instance of vCenter have been ratcheted up significantly, which will simplify large environments. The new network and storage I/O features and new memory compression and VMotion improvements will help customers pushing the upper limits of resource utilization. Storage vendors will laud the changes to vStorage too, which finally ends the conflict between what storage functions VMware performs versus what arrays do natively.
The company also telegraphed the end of life for ESX in favor of the more modern ESXi hypervisor architecture.
But for the majority of VMware shops the pricing changes are perhaps the most significant. It's been a longstanding pain that in order to use some of the key value add management features such as Site Recovery Manager and AppSpeed you had to license them across the full host even if you only wanted to apply that feature to a few VMs. This led to some unnatural behavior such as grouping business critical applications on the same host - cost optimization that trumps availability best practices. Thankfully that has now been corrected.