According to IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano, “vision without execution is delusion.” That saying stuck in the minds of attendees at IBM’s SmarterCities event in Shanghai last week making it the de facto theme of the event. According to Palmisano, it’s time to move beyond ideas and put those ideas into practice.
I would argue, however, that when it comes to making “cities” smarter it’s not a question of “vision without execution.” IBM and others are executing, particularly in China and other emerging markets. IBM’s growth markets revenue was up 19% in 2009, up from 18% growth in 2008. China alone grew 14.7 % in 2010. In many markets, stimulus funding has spurred spending on “smart” initiatives.
Rather, it is still more a question of vision. The mantra of smarter cities resonates with many — it’s like motherhood and apple pie, or the equivalents across the globe (rice pudding? crème brûlée?). You can’t argue against it. But, can you show me a smarter city? “Smarter cities” is a catch-all phrase for any initiative undertaken by a government or even nongovernmental entity — the transport ministry or tax agency, the postal service, a hospital or university, or even an association of exporters. Don’t get me wrong; I love the idea. I’ve just been wrestling with a definition for some time now. Everything can be a “city” and within IBM’s sights.
Unfortunately, this week’s IT Forum is at the same time as the World Innovation Forum, which many of my professional colleagues are attending. But Forrester’s IT Forums still give me a much great opportunity to interact with people who are working on innovation initiatives, so I'm not complaining. I’m looking forward to reporting on my experience in Lisbon next week.
Here are a few of my observations from the Vegas event:
I know many of you already know my position on this, but I thought I'd get it out in the open and challenge all of you with a controversial discussion. In my definition – and believe it, I am fighting and defending it every day – analytics has always been, and will always be, part of BI. What many of the vendors and analysts describe as "the new age of analytics" I built at Citibank in the early '80s and then built in about 50+ enterprises in the '90s at PwC. I think the effort of trying to differentiate analytics from BI is a vendor-invented hype, since many BI vendors are running out of ways to differentiate themselves (and incorrectly so: see the next paragraph, and many other next-gen BI trends). I also disagree with the “old BI = bad”, “new analytics = good” premise that I see in many analysts' papers. You and I know that you can’t build analytics (OLAP, advanced analytics, etc.) without basic ETL, DW, MDM, etc. So nothing’s really changed as far as I am concerned: we are still fighting the same battles – silos, data quality, etc.
Consider the following scenario. You have realized that your firm can benefit from having a documented business architecture – perhaps based on business capabilities – not for any one issue or need but rather as a general framework for planning, strategic execution and coordination by different parts of business and IT. You are in a meeting with your CIO, making the case, when the CIO says, “In a couple of minutes our CEO is dropping by. You can make your case to him. If he’s interested, we’ll go ahead.”
OK – that scenario may seem like kind of a stretch – after all, how often does the CEO drop in on the CIO and want to listen to a pitch on business architecture? Well, something like this happened to me recently, and I’d like your thoughts on how to make the case. I was visiting a client – the head of EA at this client (a medium-size financial services firm) – when he said, “I’ve started to lobby with our business management that we need a business capability map. The CEO is dropping by and would like to hear the reasons from you. I think you’ll have about 15 minutes.”
Talk about a challenge! When CEO arrived, after initial introductions, this is the case I made:
Last week I recorded a podcast on what has recently become a very hot IT research topic at Forrester right now — Microsoft licensing. June 2010 signifies an extremely active and very hectic month for a large number of businesses because it's not only the last month of Microsoft’s fiscal year but also the last month for a large portion of Microsoft's three-year contracts.
The reason for this pileup of Microsoft licensing activity partially stems back to 2000: Microsoft refreshed their volume licensing program and introduced Software Assurance. Microsoft Enterprise Agreements are typically for three years. Facing the initial June deadline in 2001, many businesses switched over to this offering and since then, every three years their licensing agreements need to be reassessed and renegotiated. Now fast forward nine years to June 2010 and factor in several significant new products releases — and here we are again witnessing what is truly the perfect storm of activity, discussion, and negotiation for businesses and their Microsoft licensing, decision-making personnel.
As you might expect, we receive an ever-increasing number of inquiries related to this subject as we continue to get closer to the aforementioned June 30th deadline. Clients bring a range of questions like whether or not they should renew their enterprise agreement (EA), if Software Assurance holds enough value to justify the commitment, or what IT upgrades and migrations impact their decisions. My first response to these questions is. . . there is no easy answer. Each company has their own set of requirements, cost limitations, and future strategic plans that affect which decision is right for them.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Citrix Online Executive Meet-Up here in Boston; as an East Coast-based technology analyst, I rarely see the vendors I cover in person without hopping on a plane. For those unfamiliar, Citrix Online is the maker of popular remote access and Web conferencing technologies GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. The centerpiece of this event was a customer panel exclusively made up of marketing professionals who use the conferencing technologies for customer and channel interactions. It was a fact I made sure to jot down in my notebook – why such a marketing-heavy panel? This prompted a broader question: are sales and marketing the real killer applications for Web conferencing?
A myriad of companies occupy the Web conferencing market, offering solutions that address four basic use cases:
Ad hoc meetings: collaborative sessions that need to happen on short notice. These could be quick screen sharing/document sharing sessions, technical support or demonstrations.
Formal meetings: planned sessions with formal agendas that are centered on a group considering one or more pieces of content.
Large & small group presentations: more formal events where a presenter addresses a group of some size with varying degrees of interactivity.
Training sessions: educational sessions where participants get information, have interactive learning sessions and can be tested on content.
I recently recorded a podcast with Stephanie Balaouras, discussing the potential for increased collaboration between crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management functions. The strategies that businesses implement to manage disasters can mean the difference between bankruptcy and resilience... and we unfortunately see reminders of this on an almost weekly basis.
As each disaster hits the news (BP’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the recent volcanic eruption over Iceland, the financial crisis, the H1N1 virus, the extreme weather that crippled Washington, DC this past winter, etc.), the overwhelmingly negative impacts that occur start to hit home. Fortunately, we are starting to see our clients turning more to their crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management teams to ensure that they are prepared for the worst.
There are many potential points of collaboration between these teams. . . from modeling critical business processes and assessing the business impact of incidents to executing effective remediation plans and conducting post-incident loss analysis. Recently, I’ve also seen companies that talk about starting from scratch with a risk management function, although they have already done a substantial amount of relevant work for their business continuity function.
Of course, while there are some good trends that point to increased cooperation, there are still many areas for further improvement for every company. In fact, our data shows it to be the rare case in which both internal and external crisis communication functions are handled well in the same plan, with one usually being much stronger and more of a focal point.
Defining a successful BI strategy is a lot more than gathering requirements and selecting a vendor. While it’s been a subject of many books, I know few of you have time to read them, so here’s a short version.
First defining what BI is and what it is not. Is it just reporting, analytics and dashboards? Or does it involve ETL, DW, portal, MDM, etc., as well?
If the former, you then need to define linkages, dependencies, overlaps and integration with all of the latter (including - very importantly - integration and coordination with the higher level enterprise architecture efforts). If latter, it’s a whole different subject. You then really do need to read a few thick books.
Ensure senior business executive commitment and top down mandate. If you cannot get that, do not proceed until you do. Two ways to “sell BI” to them (even though that’s not a good position to be in):
Educate them on BI ROI. Here's where you'd build a high level BI business case.
Deltek’s announcement today of its intent to acquire Maconomy has the potential to vault the vendor’s position as a potential leader in the project-based solutions (PBS) space. For midmarket organizations that deliver projects as a crucial part of their revenue generation, this is a good move.
While the focuses of the products share slight overlaps, the products themselves target different functionality and different markets. Deltek has long been a major vendor in the AEC and government contractor markets, while Maconomy, a Denmark-based PBS vendor, focuses on the public relations/advertising, legal, publishing and accounting markets.
Few overlaps – in customers and in industries.
Opening doors to new regions – Deltek has limited exposure in EMEA, and Maconomy has had a very difficult time penetrating North America.
Mature product sets – Deltek isn’t acquiring an idea but a full blown product. This will allow them to quickly pursue new customers in expanding regions.
What’s going to be a challenge:
Create visibility in existing markets in new regions – The struggles to gain penetration in the new regions won’t get any easier for either vendor; however, the solutions’ strengths may gain them easier entry.
Integration – Deltek is still working through integration challenges with some of its earlier acquisitions (namely, Welcom) and now adds another platform into the mix. The positive here is that Maconomy is fully functional on its own, and we don’t expect there to be huge overlap, if any.
Sales integration – Opening new regions and new industries can be a tough sales training challenge. Expect a few bumps.