Returning home after IBM’s Impact user conference (Impact 2010). I’ve been to a lot of BPM conferences in my time, but never one this big. 6,000 miles (to Las Vegas) there and 6,000 miles home again to see 6,000 people going through a few of days of indoctrination and engage in a few meetings with important execs. From the point of view of a busy analyst, one has to wonder whether it was all worth it. But putting aside the sore back/neck and the lack of sleep, I think that, on reflection, it was worth the trip. I am sure other pundits will have already posted their own interpretations of the conference, so this is just one report to add to your perspective of Impact 2010.
6,000 people all gathered to hear the carefully scripted message. Well that is what it seemed like; a scripted story that was supposed to sound spontaneous. Even the Q&A was scripted on the teleprompter, which, quite apart from the wooden presentation style of one or two of the speakers, sort of took away from the central message.
There was a pretty important message there. A message that was being communicated to the faithful. And whether you like it or not, IBM has a lot, and I mean a lot, of faithful followers. I didn’t do a scientific assessment of the number of IBM badges versus non IBM badges, but even if half of the attendees were internal, there were plenty of customers there too. And those internal folks were also being recruited as emissaries and evangelists for the new mantra.
I've had many discussions with clients and others about CMDB (configuration management database), not surprising as I am coauthor of a book called The CMDB Imperative. These discussions almost always come back to questions about how this thing called a CMDB looks. How is it built? What tool(s) do I use? Which "database" is best? There are many more.
My first response is usually, "I hate the term CMDB, so let's try to kill it off in favor of the ITIL v3 notion of a CMS." If you pursue a CMS (configuration management system) as opposed to a CMDB, a few things become evident:
The CMS implies a distributed (federated) model consisting of many management data repositories (MDRs). Each of these MDRs hold data relevant to the scope of coverage for the tool that encompasses that MDR (e.g., a network discovery tool is a network domain MDR and an application dependency mapping tool is the key MDR for the application domain).
While a CMDB can certainly be formed in a similar federated fashion, the term "CMDB" has become tainted by the implication that it is a database. The natural assumption here is that this database is one big monolith that holds every detail being tracked. This is unwieldy at best and almost always destructive.
The CMS has a more complex structure, but because it enables a divide-and-conquer approach to the overall system, it is a more pragmatic approach. You can bite off each piece and gradually build out your CMS. A "big bang" is not needed and certainly not recommended.
At Research In Motion’s (RIM) WES event last week (April 27-29, 2010), there was a customer panel session on individual liable versus corporate ownership of BlackBerry devices. The panelists included IT decision makers from the education sector, local government, and a large entertainment company. The panelist and audience comments validated the ongoing debate within many IT client firms about the values and challenges of managing an increasingly diverse population of mobile users in the enterprise. The debate around individual liable (IL) vs. corporate liable (CL) mobile device ownership and services payment is heating up.
Recently two large software companies separately complained that I was biased against them in the other one’s favour, which was sufficiently ironic to amuse my British sense of humour. “Biased” is one of the worst accusations you can throw at an analyst, because we strive to be scrupulously fair, and ensure that what we write and say is balanced, and evidence-based. So it started me thinking about fairness, and prejudice versus analysis.
I hear a lot of horror stories from clients about outrageous treatment by software sales reps, so one might think that software marketing execs would be shame-faced and contrite. But, actually, they love their companies and believe that analysts are merely stoking up resentment that wouldn’t exist without us, or that it’s the other guys giving their industry a bad name. “You only hear from the minority of unhappy customers,” they say. “Clients don’t ring you up when they are delighted with us.” This is true, but I speak with hundreds of clients every year, so I think I’d have found more evidence of a silent majority of delighted buyers, if it existed. The problem is that the good corporate intentions don't always translate into sales' behavior, when it's a question of spiff or rif.
Even though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.
Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.
Forrester’s survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers in North American and European enterprises, only 12% of firms officially support or manage Palm devices. In comparison, 70% of enterprises support BlackBerry smartphones, and 29% support Apple iPhones. Android devices, the newest entrants in the mobile OS wars, have strong momentum and are officially supported by 13% of firms.
Well, that got me wondering how Palm had fared in emerging markets. We know that device preferences are different globally. So, I thought, maybe there are some Palm fans outside of North America and Europe. I checked Forrester’s Global Technology Adoption data from last summer (new survey expected back from the field very soon) in which we surveyed 1,412 IT executives and technology decision-makers across 15 countries. Here is what I found out about PalmOS support across enterprises in a few of the countries:
During Interop, I attended two sessions on disaster recovery and backup in the virtual world, topics that are near and dear to my heart and also top of mind for infrastructure and operations professionals (judging by the number of inquiries we get on those topics). First up was How Virtualization Can Enable and Improve Disaster Recovery for Any Sized Business which was very interesting (and very well attended). The panel was moderated by Barb Goldworm, President and Chief Analyst, FOCUS, and the panelists were: George Pradel, Director of Strategic Alliances, Vizioncore; Joel McKelvey, Technical Alliance Manager, NetApp; Lynn Shourds, Senior Manager, Virtualization Solutions, Double-Take Software; and Azmir Mohamed, Sr. Product Manager, Business Continuity Solutions, VMware.
Barb kicked off the session with some statistics on disaster recovery that can help people build the business case for it: 40% of business that were shut down for 3 days, failed in 3 years. She also cautioned that you have to test DR regularly and under unexpected circumstances.
Liz Herbert and I will be speaking on this theme at Forrester's IT Forum on May 27 in our session: "Noughty" Software Licensing — Is The Obituary Premature? Andrew is absolutely right. In addition to the points he raises, there are other reasons why perpetual licenses aren’t dead yet, such as the financial results they generate. The new models haven’t yet shown they can generate both high levels of re-investment in R&D and high profits for investors. Many SaaS providers have to spend a large share of their income on sales and marketing to retain existing customers and renew subscriptions. That leaves less money left over to fund innovation or fewer profits than their old-model rivals whose entrenched installed bases guarantee high maintenance renewal rates.
But perpetual license vendors mustn’t be complacent. The SaaS model may prove equally remunerative to the license-plus-maintenance alternative when the providers get bigger. Software buyers can encourage the established companies to learn from their SaaS competitors by insisting on some of that commercial model’s advantages in their own contracts, such as low up-front commitment and cost flexibility.
At the upcoming IT Forum in Las Vegas (May 26-28), I will be collaborating with Bill Band on a piece around using the customer experience to drive breakthrough process improvement, and with it, business performance. When you think about it, satisfying the needs of customers is what all business is about (OK you could argue that governmental organizations don’t have customers, they deal with the needs of citizens, but you get my drift).
In the first part of our presentation we will present research to support the view that improving the outcomes delivered to customers adds dollars to the bottom line of the business. Then I will switch to a theme dear to my heart -- that Business Process is at the heart of all significant Customer Experience efforts. And that comes down to:
How We Do What We Do -- Of course, the relationship between the Customer Experience, and how you do things, is pretty clear. I put this in the category of “Doing Things Right” -- i.e., the way in which the processes of the firm work and the employee behaviors.
What We Do -- But in order to deliver compelling customer outcomes, it’s also a question of “Doing The Right Things.” Which is about the business offering -- the services of the organization and the components that make it up. The business capabilities are, of course, a better way of thinking about this rather than the org chart (which is what so many folks seem to do ... decomposition of the org chart as a way of understanding processes).
Why We Do It -- And then it comes back to why we do this, and how it implements organizational strategy and the impact/benefit to the overall brand.
5:30am, the family sleeps and it’s time to prepare – today is Analyst Day in Frankfurt. I’m on the road 2h45min before the event starts (1h20min should be sufficient) but sometimes the traffic is terrible. Last week I missed a flight because the highway was completely closed after an accident and I had to give up after 3h driving for nothing. When the concern of missing an appointment slowly turns into certainty, these are the moments that cost me some of my (remaining) hair.
(Of course) I arrive much too early, but other analysts are already there (probably they don’t sleep at all). Plenty of time to look through my presentation again for some final adjustments and for some small talk with customers that arrived early.
1min before the kick-off, I make the last slide changes and load it to the presentation laptop. Another analyst colleague goes first. I have seen some of the slides a hundred times and look around at the faces of the attendees. For most, it’s the first time they see e.g. our market sizing and forecasting data, and they make hectic notes into their notebooks. They don’t know yet that we will distribute all slides after the event. I’m getting a bit nervous, but I’m used to it. When I'm not nervous any more before a presentation, it’ll get boring for me and the audience, and I should probably do something else.