"Sustainability" - What Does It Mean For Your Business?

Forrester is kicking off research on what it means to be a sustainable business and why it matters. In short, it matters because customers and investors care. But what do they care about? And, what does sustainability mean to them, and to the companies they do business with? 
 
First stop in exploring the definition of something is, of course, a search for the term. “Sustainable” means that something can go on, and continue and “be maintained at a certain rate or level.” For consumers, that might mean their health, their environment, or the health and environment of others -- but also their budgets. The literature on sustainability often refers to three pillars: social, environmental and economic. But how does this translate into business metrics?
 
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Musings on Mobile World Congress 2016: IoT Generates Insights From Cows To Customers

More than 100,000 people descended on Barcelona, Spain last week to be part of Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s largest annual technology events. My new report, IoT And Insights Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin, recaps some of  the MWC 2016, including expectations for new 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and applications that will deliver value from the multitude of connected things — and people. A few of those highlights include:

5G Networks Promise Speed But Require Patience. 

Telecom operators and network equipment providers eagerly discussed the faster speeds and lower latency of new 5G networks.  And, fast it will be. While reports vary, network tests show download speeds peaking at more than 20 Gbps; average 5G speed is expected to be 100 times faster than current 4G networks. With that kind of speed, true video streaming becomes a reality for consumer and business uses. And, that reality can be with virtual or augmented: AR and VR were all over the exhibit hall. I successfully fought with a dragon but had to bail out of the helicopter I was flying as the experience got a little too real.

But alas, these good things only come to those who wait. The 5G standards will not be finalized before 2018; and commercial availability not before 2020 at the earliest. Large-scale network rollouts will likely take much longer. For now, we’ll all have to live with 4G reality as it is.

Interest In The Internet Of Things Is Exploding – Well Beyond Things.

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Expectations For Mobile World Congress 2016: Is Mobile Everything?

We’re now only a week away from the Mobile World Congress 2016 to be held again in Barcelona.  As the excitement builds and we plan our schedules, it serves us to reflect back on last year’s event and to explore what we expect this year.

Mobile World Congress remains the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries – a fact which illustrates an ambiguity in the meaning itself of “mobile industry.” Last year, over 94,000 people attended the event – a 10% increase from the 2014 event but a 30% increase over the 2013 event. Interest in “mobile” continues to grow – for now.  But the most interesting stat about past attendees is diversification. Yes, the event continues to draw representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, network equipment providers, software vendors, and other usual suspects.  But representation from other industries is growing.  Last year almost ¼ of attendees came from industries other than telecom and technology, including 4% from finance, 3% from government and others from automotive, pharmaceutical, retail, education, and entertainment.  I expect even more diversity this year.

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Introducing The New Insights Service Provider

Do you ever feel like you’re facing a moving target?  Whether it’s the latest customer requirements, or how to improve operations, or to retain your best employees, or to price your products, the context in which you are doing business is increasingly dynamic.  And, so are the tools you need to better understand that context?  Everyone is talking about the promise of big data and advanced analytics, but we all know that companies struggle to reach the Holy Grail. 

Data and analytics tools and the skills required to use them are changing faster than ever. Technologies that were university research projects just last year are now part of a wide range of products and services. How can firms keep up with the accelerated pace of innovation? Alas, many cannot. According to Forrester's Q3 2015 Global State Of Strategic Planning, Enterprise Architecture, And PMO Online Survey, 73% of companies understand the business value of data and aspire to be data-driven but just 29% confirm that they are actually turning data into action. Many firms report having mature data management, governance, and analytics practices, but yesterday's skills are not necessarily what they will need tomorrow — or even today.

The same goes for data sources.  We all know that using external data sources enhances the insights from our business intelligence.  But which data and where to get it?

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Forrester’s 2016 Data Predictions: Out With Data Pack Rats. Turn Data Into Action

Instinctively we know that it is not just about collecting the data. Big and bigger doesn’t necessarily make you smart and smarter.  It just makes you one of those pack rats that has piles of stuff in all corners of your house.  Yes, it might be very well organized and could have a potential use that makes it work keeping. But will you ever take it out and use it? Will you ever really benefit from what you’ve so painstakingly collected? Likely not.

Image GalleryDon’t be a data pack rat.  This is the year to turn your data into actions and positive business outcomes.

In 2016, the energy around data-driven investments will continue to elevate the importance of data and create incremental improvement in business performance for many but some serious digital disruption for others.  Here are a few of our data predictions for 2016.

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From Insights To Innovation: Data-Driven Disruption

Tomorrow Forrester will host our Geneva-based clients for a breakfast meeting and discussion on “Powering Innovation Strategies with Insights.” My colleague, Luca Paderni, will kick off the morning with a presentation on digital disruption in the age of the customer, specifically looking at how to take a pragmatic approach to innovation with the “adjacent possible.” Then I will lead a discussion on how to build an action-oriented approach to data and analytics, exploring examples of companies that have successfully turned their data into new business opportunities – into data-derived innovation. 

Thanks to Forrester’s Business Technographics, we know that business and technology leaders prioritize initiatives that secure their position in the age of the customer – to improve customer experience, address rising customer expectations, and improve their products and services (kind of all the same thing, or very closely related). It’s all about the customer.  But when we ask about these priorities, the one that comes next – right after the customer-focused initiatives – is innovation: “improving our ability to innovate.” They know that the disruptions they face in the age of the customer won’t be addressed with business as usual (BAU as one of my clients referred to it yesterday; I learned a new TLA).  Innovation has been elevated to an initiative, which means that executives are focused on it and likely someone is in-charge of it – we’ll come back to that one. 

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Do You Need A Chief Data Officer?

You’ve heard it before but we said it again – this time in our recent webinar. There's a new kid in town: the chief data officer. Why the new role?  Because of an increasing awareness of the value of data and the painful recognition of an inability to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides — due to technology, business, or basic cultural barriers. That was the topic of our webinar presented to a full house a few days ago; we discussed our recent report, Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers. Fortunately for those who weren’t there, the presentation – Chief Data Officers Cross The Chasm – is available (to clients) for download.

As the title suggests, chief data officers are no longer just for the early adopters – those enthusiasts and visionaries on the forefront of new technology trends.  With 45% of global companies having appointed a chief data officer (not to be confused with a chief digital officer, as we specifically asked about “data”) and another 16% planning to make an appointment in the next 12 months – according to Forrester's Business Technographics surveys, the role of the chief data officer really has move into the mainstream. 

However, there remain many companies who are not sure of whether they need a CDO or not.  Many of those in our audience fell into that category.  We asked two questions of the audience to gauge their interest and their actions to improve their data maturity:

  • Are you making organizational changes specifically to improve your data capabilities?
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You May Not Need A CDO - But Wouldn’t You Want To Improve Your Odds Of Success

Gene Leganza and I just published a report on the role of the Chief Data Officer that we’re hearing so much about these days – Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers.  To introduce the report, we sat down with our press team at Forrester to talk about the findings, and the implications for our clients.

Forrester PR: There's a ton of fantastic data in the report around the CDO. If you had to call out the most surprising finding, what would top your list?

Gene:  No question it's the high correlation between high-performing companies and those with CDOs. Jennifer and I both feel that strong data capabilities are critical for organizations today and that the data agenda is quite complex and in need of strong leadership. That all means that it's quite logical to expect a correlation between strong data leadership and company performance - but given the relative newness of the CDO role it was surprising to see firm performance so closely linked to the role.

Of course, you can't infer cause and effect from correlation – the data could mean that execs in high-performing companies think having a CDO role is a good idea as much as it could mean CDOs are materially contributing to high performance. Either way that single statistic should make one take a serious look at the role in organizations without clear data leadership. 

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Coming Of Age, Not Mid-Life Crisis: Cities Are Ready...

Smart cities are a myth.  But cities are now finally ready to invest in new technology.  No, I don’t find those two sentences contradictory. Yes, I do finally feel like the hype of smart cities is fading.  And, yes, I do think the promise still holds much potential for cities. But boy have I tired of hearing smart, smart, smart, smart, smart (somehow 5 times sounded right to me, or should I say sounded “smart”). 

Back in 2010 I wrote a lengthy report on the smart city opportunity for vendors. At the time my research was focused on vendors, and as the vendors were all worked up about smart cities it made sense to put some structure around the opportunity.  What were the primary market drivers?  What issues were cities currently facing or expecting to face in the future?  Anyone who has attended a talk on smart cities knows the drill ad naseam:  population explosion, urbanization, startling impact on city services (transportation, waste and water management, public safety, health, education etc.)  And, I’m just as guilty.  The slide at the right was from my first webinar on smart cities in 2010.

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Beyond Light: Smart Lighting Illuminates More Than Streets

Gone are the days when the only signal a streetlight sent out was that it was time to go home on a summer evening.  Many kids grew up with that rule.  My mom had a cowbell, which was infinitely more embarrassing but likely more effective in calling us home. But times have changed. We now text our kids to get them home for dinner.  And, street lights themselves would no longer deign to serve just that purpose. 

Streetlights these days do provide light (and do that much more efficiently), but they just might be your source of Wi-Fi or of information on the weather, air quality, traffic, and parking availability, or might be the city’s source of information on you.  They will also be a platform for new services that leverage all of the data the new light poles collect through their embedded sensors, or also a source of electricity to power digital signs through solar-energy. These new and improved streetlights are becoming increasingly popular as they demonstrate a clear cost-savings over their predecessors and promise the potential for revenue generation through new applications and services.  That is a win-win for cities, citizens and the ecosystem of potential application and service providers out there. 

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