NRF 2017 highlights the need for operations to support customer experience

Phoenix Zhang

This is the first National Retail Federation Expo I’ve attended, and I must say it exceeded all of my expectations and reshaped my view of retail. Over three days in New York, I met with more than 30 vendors and had many wonderful discussions about the changes revolutionizing store operations, hardware and software developments, front-end and back-end integration, and retail analytics. HPE generated a lot of buzz on the floor with demos of its machine-learning algorithm in reducing and preventing store inventory shrinkage. And Checkpoint showed me their new RFID tunnels that promised an impressive 99.9% accuracy[i].  As a supply chain and logistics management professional, I look at these latest developments from a different angle. My top three key takeaways:

  • Digital store operations have huge implications for planning and fulfillment. I was amazed to see how much technology has been developed to improve store operational efficiency and customer experience, such as Theatro’s voice-controlled wearable. But the hidden benefits of all this for supply chain managers are still under-explored. Take the latest in-store RFID application from Tyco Retail Solutions: Stores are primarily using it inside fitting rooms to track what items customers have bought or left behind. The same application and the data it captures could give retailers and their upstream suppliers unprecedented insights into what items are most or least popular and how fast they are selling, allowing far more accurate and deliberate replenishment and inventory.
Read more

HPE Acquires Simplivity – Strong Tactical Move with Strategic Ramifications for the HCI Landscape

Richard Fichera

Rumors had been flying for some time about SimpliVity needing additional funding, and that HPE had made an offer that was unacceptably low at $650 Million. Clearly, these were more than casually well-informed rumors, since HPE announced on January 17 that it would be acquiring SimpliVity for $650 Million in cash. Was this a fair price? That is hard to say. Since I’m not really an equity analyst, I will spend no more time on this other than to say that it is far short of the kinds of valuations that the industry was expecting. Competitor Nutanix’s current market capitalization is slightly over $4B, which is more than a bit rich for such a company. Despite its high growth rates, it has yet to turn a profit.

But pricing aside, was it a smart move for HPE? Absolutely. It’s probably the smartest acquisition that HPE has done in its entire history, and certainly one that helps shatter the perception that HPE always overpays for its acquisitions, even when they are strategically sound. SimpliVity was essentially tied for first place in our recent Forrester’s recent Wave™ report on Hyperconverged Infrastructure Solutions, coming in substantially stronger than HPE’s own HC380 product.

The fit with HPE for SimpliVity’s solution is impressive because:

Read more

Your Mobile Website Sucks

Ted Schadler

This is part two in a series on Reinventing the Web to Win the Mobile Moment. Here's part one, a Drunk History Of Mobile Strategy.

For 20 years we have optimized the web as a big billboard broadcasting everything about a company. Marketing owns the public site, and cares more about acquisition than utility. Product teams own the private sites and are faced with an ever-escalating array of digital touchpoints. Is it any wonder firms, aided by their digital agency and web content management software, have built one-size-fits-all reponsive websites and punted on the responsiblity to make them great?

"Why can't they all just use our app," I hear you say. Alas, few customers and even fewer prospects will use your app. But they will visit your website on their phones, particularly when they search or link their way to it. Sadly, when they arrive, their experience — even on your new responsive site — is awful. Why?

  • Your one-size-fits-all responsive retrofit isn't mobile-first . . . While responsive web design solves a litany of problems — including making your site visible on Google Search — it doesn't magically deliver desktop conversion results. REI told us, "When we went to responsive web design, we celebrated for a minute. Then we asked, ‘Is our responsive website enough?'"
Read more

Public Cloud Providers Embark On A European Building Spree

Paul Miller

A Google data centre in Finland. Image source: Google.
(A data centre in Hamina, Finland. Source: Google)

Not long ago, European customers of the global public cloud vendors relied upon a single data centre ‘region’ for all their cloud computing needs. From Lisbon to Lviv, Kiruna to Kalamata, customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure sent everything to Ireland, and customers of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) sent everything to Belgium. And, mostly, public cloud’s early adopters in Europe just got on with it.

For the majority of public cloud workloads, storing and processing data somewhere in the European Economic Area (EEA) really was — and is — good enough. Network latency was mostly low enough not to be a problem, and European regulations covered the main use cases well enough to appease all but the most cautious lawyers.

But connections can always be faster, and there are still use cases in regulated industries and government where keeping personal data inside specific geographic borders is either essential or encouraged. And, more and more often these days, customers just seem to feel happier when their data doesn’t leave the country. Mostly, no law requires it, and no regulation recommends it. But it’s still happening. We should all be pushing back against this odd trend towards data balkanisation, much harder than we are.

Read more

Expectations And Suggestions For Mobile World Congress 2017 Visitors — From An Enterprise Angle

Dan Bieler

Photo: Bergman Group

Between February 27 and March 2, 2017, Mobile World Congress (MWC) will once again take place in Barcelona. Last year, over 100,000 attendees visited the event in search of new insights about “everything mobile.” This year’s MWC theme is "The Next Element" and aims to underline how elemental mobile has become in our everyday lives. I would go further, as I believe that mobility is increasingly treated as a key enabler of the wider digital transformation process. From an enterprise perspective, I expect that during MWC 2017:

  • Process-mobilization debates will gradually replace technology discussions. I expect a little less hype around the features and functions of shiny mobile devices and network components this year. I hope that there will be more of a debate about how mobility can enhance business processes and change business models. Events like Web Summit host more advanced debates about the impact of smart devices on accelerating the business platform economy. MWC 2017 visitors should look for relevant case studies from the likes of GE Digital that underline how these business platforms can support positive business outcomes.
Read more

Skynet is nearing awareness?

Matthew Guarini

In the Terminator franchise, the rise of uncontrollable artificial intelligence (AI) result in threats to the existence of mankind. While the movies provide a stark image of where AI may take us, the risks have a basis in reality. I will leave it to my colleague, Martha Bennett, to talk about the challenges that AI presents to today's tech leaders. Check out her blog here: http://blogs.forrester.com/martha_bennett/17-01-09-reap_the_benefits_while_avoiding_the_pitfalls_the_three_key_challenges_that_could_derail_your_ai_pr.

Read more

Digital Customer Experience ROI: (How To) Show Me The Money

Ted Schadler

Forrester's clients frequently ask us how to build the business case for customer journey mapping, particularly for digital experiences and digital products. We have proven that better customer experiences drive revenue in industries with low switching costs. But what about investments in customer journey mapping?

Now that I've taken on Forrester's digital business and transformation playbook, I've been thinking a lot about the benefits of journey mapping, which I believe is the front end to any transformation initiative. I don't have a wealth of evidence yet to justify your investments in journey mapping (though my CX colleagues have a lot more to share for Forrester clients). But I have been developing a framework to measure the impact of better customer experiences. These metrics range from hard to squishy:

  • Higher satisfaction drives repeat business, hence higher customer lifetime value. This is a hard metric, particularly if you are using journey mapping to improve an existing touchpoint. A major online retailer told us that they prioritize digital investments (in, for example, a better mobile web experience) based on two metrics: revenue and satisfaction. Their business model succeeds or fails based on repeat business, so they build, measure, and continuously optimize the best digital engagement possible. Repeat business is something you can measure. Next, bracket the business improvement through better customer understanding with a best-case and worst-case analysis. Start by correlating customer satisfaction studies with touchpoint use and experience quality.
Read more

Welcome to 2017: The year of #DevOps

Robert Stroud

We are eager to announce a beacon of light to help penetrate the post-holiday fog: Forrester’s DevOps Benchmark Survey for 2017 is officially live! Led by myself and Researcher Elinor Klavens, this benchmark survey serves as the backbone for a large portion of our DevOps research, facilitating the identification and tracking of trends and supporting our research including predictions for the future. Pivotal to many of our reports, this is your opportunity to shape our research, including our upcoming report “Six Trends That Shape DevOps Adoption In 2017 And Beyond.”

The DevOps survey expands on the extensive data contained in Forrester’s Business Technographics survey, drilling into the context, adoption, use, and plans with DevOps. The research team uses the survey’s findings to provide deeper, more informed insights to help guide your DevOps journey.  Questions - including how you are dealing with the business mandate of velocity, how DevOps is changing your culture, and where you see DevOps heading - are partnered with practical use of tools and automation.

No matter where you are on your DevOps journey, please take five minutes to complete the survey! All participants can receive an executive summary of the results of the survey after it closes on February 13, 2017.

Additionally, should you want to share your DevOps experiences in more detail or provide more feedback please connect with me at RStroud@Forrester.com or @RobertEStroud

Again, welcome to 2017, the year of #DevOps…. 

In The Digital World, CIOs Need To Help The Business Move Faster

Tim Sheedy
Too many businesses believe that their digital business strategy is actually a roadmap, or a series of IT projects. Being digital is a capability – in your business it impacts the culture, metrics, organization, skills, and finally – the technology.
 
As a CIO, one of the most important roles you’ll play is helping to make the business FAST – removing friction points from processes and enabling new capabilities to be developed as required by the customer, partners, and business stakeholders. Too often technology is one of the (many!) bottlenecks in our ability to quickly meet customer needs or respond to changing or new competitive threats.
 
I recently had the chance to spend some time with some senior technology leaders in Sydney discussing the need for quality when delivering digital business outcomes. With the growing need for speed, many businesses sacrifice quality for speed. This is ok – to an extent – but there are also many companies with their own horror stories of delivering a mobile app that is unstable, a website that is slow, or a connected/smart product that doesn’t work as planned. It can take years to recover from negative feedback and bad mobile app ratings, and poor products can cost millions in ongoing customer support.
 
Unfortunately, QA and Testing have too often been afterthoughts in the rush to Agile development. Your Quality Assurance and Testing practices must adapt to digital business too – testing needs to be able to accelerate development – not slow it down. QA needs to focus on customer needs. The QA team need to speak the language of the customer, get involved with new technology projects at the ideation stage, line up and manage test data before it is required, and empower developers to do much of the testing themselves. 
 
Read more

Reap The Benefits While Avoiding The Pitfalls: The Three Key Challenges That Could Derail Your AI Project

Martha Bennett

It’s been abundantly clear for a while that in 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to be front and center of vendor marketing as well as enterprise interest. Not that AI is new – it’s been around for decades as a computer science discipline. What’s different now is that advances in technology have made it possible for companies ranging from search engine providers to camera and smartphone manufacturers to deliver AI-enabled products and services, many of which have become an integral part of many people’s daily lives. More than that, those same AI techniques and building blocks are increasingly available for enterprises to leverage in their own products and services without needing to bring on board AI experts, a breed that’s rare and expensive.

Sentient systems capable of true cognition remain a dream for the future.  But AI today can help organizations transform everything from operations to the customer experience. The winners will be those who not only understand the true potential of AI but are also keenly aware of what’s needed to deploy a performant AI-based system that minimizes rather than creates risk and doesn’t result in unflattering headlines.

These are the three key challenges all AI projects must tackle:

  • Underestimating the time and effort it takes to get an AI-powered system up and running. Even if the components are available out of the box, systems still need to be trained and fine-tuned. Depending on the exact use case and requirements for accuracy, it can be anything between a few hours and a couple of years to have a new system up and running. That’s assuming you have a well-curated data set available; if you don’t, that’s another challenge.
Read more