Creating A Software Engineering Group Becomes Key To Closing The Experience Gaps

In our recent report Closing The Experience Gaps, Ted Schadler and I talked about two key elements to meeting customers’ rising expectations: creating an architecture for cross-channel experience delivery and developing a philosophy and culture of business agility. Given it builds on many of the concepts that we outlined in the Software Must Enhance Your Brand, I wanted to highlight the key aspects of the second element: developing a philosophy and culture of business agility.

Closing the experience gaps — performance, convenience, personalization, and trust — requires a different mindset. The shift in customer expectations, fueled by an increasing rate of technology change, means that firms need to act more like a cloud-based ISV, not a traditional IT shop. This requires an agile process and continuous development from small teams spanning business, design, and technology competencies. Part of this makeover includes improving technical and design competencies. Companies like GE and Wal-Mart have dramatically upskilled their technology teams.

At the core of this new mindset are five cultural, process, and skill imperatives:

  • Align business and technology executives. Successful customer experience transformation efforts at Delta Air Lines and The Home Depot have at their core an accommodation between the CEO, business executives, and the CIO.
  • Embrace an agile, sense-and-respond continuous delivery process. Great customer experiences today are table stakes tomorrow. To continuously improve experiences, companies must work differently, in small agile teams that span business, design, and technology — what we call IDEA teams.
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Closing The Experience Gaps Requires New Technology Architecture And Philosophy

Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CXi) research reveals a shocking business result: Over five years, CXi leaders outperformed the S&P with 43% stock growth, while CXi laggards had negative returns of -34%. (See this Forrester report to learn about our new customer experience index.)

As a result, firms are in an arms race to mobilize their services, deliver new digital capabilities, and delight customers on every step of their journey. eBusiness, marketing, and customer experience teams are eagerly adopting new software to deliver these digital experiences. At times, they chose a conscious uncoupling from the CIO’s team in order to move quickly and stay ahead of customers’ expectations.

Unfortunately, the mismatch of customer-facing teams scrambling to build new digital services while CIOs and their teams hunker down to cut cost and risk has caused a disconnect on the role of technology management in delivering great experiences. In a new Forrester report, Closing The Experience Gaps, my colleague Ted Schadler and I interviewed more than 35 companies and analyzed survey results from 3,502 US consumers, we uncovered this misalignment and identified the four experience gaps that result (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Experience Delivery Requires A New Architecture And Philosophy

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Surprise! CIOs Have A Radical Vision Of Their World In 2020

At Forrester’s North America CIO Forum two weeks ago, Frank Gillett, Chris Mines, and I presented a point--counterpoint debate on “The CIO’s World in 2020.” We debated and analyzed four key dynamics regarding IT and the CIO’s role in the future, and asked the 325 attendees to vote on the outcome they think is most likely to occur. The audience members’ votes were extremely telling:

  • 80% believed that technology would still be differentiating. To set the stage for the audience vote, Frank argued that technology would be so commonplace and readily available via the cloud that a company’s ability to set itself apart via technology would be fleeting at best.  I took the opposite side, saying that while much of today’s transaction-based systems will be nothing more than table stakes, systems of engagement-based systems and technologies around analytics and smart products would be central to a firm’s ability to set itself apart in the eyes of customers. The audience overwhelmingly agreed with our call that systems of engagement and other technologies would be differentiating.
  • 85% agreed that most technology would be delivered via the public cloud. I kicked off this point by arguing that technology was too important not to be centrally designed, deployed, and managed by IT. Frank came at it stating that the velocity and variability of change required the use of public cloud-based services. The Forrester call was that companies will architect and deploy business solutions from a growing pool of external as-a-service resources, with IT playing the role of orchestrator.
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Business Leaders Spending On Technology Because It’s Too Important To Let I.T. Go It Alone

In Forrester’s latest report, “Tracking The Renegade Technology Buyer,” we uncover the motivations and technology spending priorities of over 1,000 North American and European business executives. The data from the Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey was collected in Q4, 2012.  Of the 891 respondents that had a budget over US$1 million, 824 spent their own money on hardware, software, telecom or services. Twenty-four percent of the 891 spent over 21% of their budget on technology, accounting for over $US 31 billion in expenditures. Senior management and sales and marketing were the top spending business functions and financial services/insurance and telecom/utilities lead the pack from a vertical perspective.

So why are business leaders carving out part of their own budgets for technology? It’s contrary to what you think. The high business spenders are not doing it because it is faster or cheaper than central IT – they are doing it because they see technology as too important to their success not to be involved. In parallel, senior management is more relaxed in dealing with the technology – 33% of the high spenders say there technology IQ has increased and they are more comfortable working with IT. Another 20% say that their use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how technology should be used. The consumerization of IT is not just about younger Gen Y staff wanting to bring their own Macs and iPhones to the office; just as or more importantly, it’s also changing the way senior managers drive business and technology strategy.

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Smart Product API Extends Product Value, Leads To Smart Connected Landscape

In our February 13, 2012, “Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement” report, we talked about the important link between smart products and mobile apps. A key to that link is creating a smart product application programming interface (API) that allows third parties to easily write apps that tap into the data feeds from the connected offerings, extending the value of that product with an “app ecosystem.”

As a precursor to an upcoming report that will lay out the smart connected product landscape and the unique combination of IT and product development skills required to build them, Forrester interviewed Cédric Hutchings, the general manager of Withings, a leader in the connected medical device segment.

The highlights of the discussion with Cédric included:

  • Company vision. The company seeks to improve the value of everyday devices through connectivity and apps.
  • Role of API. An API enables different services that could not be built in-house; it makes it easy for third parties to get data flow and integrate it into app. As a result, Withings has an ecosystem of more than 40 third-party apps that integrate with its Wi-Fi-connected bathroom scale.
  • Cloud value proposition. A personal wellness data dashboard allows consumers to manage health across a range of devices and inputs/apps from Withings and other companies.
  • Smart product skill requirements. These requirements include a mix of user experience, embedded software/product development talent, traditional IT web, database and middleware competencies, and partner management liaison capabilities.
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New CSC CEO Makes Moves To Reinvigorate The Firm

Two weeks ago at the CSC analyst conference, Forrester sat down with new CEO and President Mike Lawrie. He was refreshingly frank about what the issues were and his road ahead. Based on his due diligence before taking the job, Mike concluded that the firm had the right strategy; it just could not execute. The overlying issue was the GE-style operating model that had every service line as its own P&L and was not focused on delivering an integrated solution to the client. Executive compensation and goals were misaligned and uncoordinated. The other factor that exacerbated these organization and alignment issues was a management model that would not make tough decisions and fostered the one-off solution culture.

Mike says that he has agreed with the board that it will take three plus years to turn the company around and fully establish itself as a leader. He sees it as a three-phase evolution. First, he needs to get the company fit – lowering operating costs by a billion dollars/year and improving margins and the bottom line.  With the financial house in order, he will then focus on growing the business by focusing on key opportunities like next-generation cloud-based infrastructure services and vertical software solutions. And the third phase of the reinvention will focus on leveraging leadership within those key segments.

Toward these goals, Mike is bringing in new leadership to fill roles in key areas like CFO, infrastructure outsourcing, and Federal systems. He will also be following Accenture’s lead by creating a separate software group with the true product discipline to actively compete in the vertical applications space and update its current packages. He will also simplify the offerings and build the size and capabilities of the sales organization.

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Deloitte Meets “Mad Men”

Earlier this morning, the consulting firm launched “Deloitte Digital.” Part offering and part organizational change, the initiative brings together a mix of business, technology, and creative expertise to address a perfect storm of technology change. The firm will bring together five key capabilities — strategy, mobile, social, web content, and digital ERP. Deloitte Digital will focus on mobile and social, while the traditional technology services and consulting groups will handle the strategy, web content, and digital ERP elements. The tag line for Deloitte Digital is “business led, tech enabled and creative infused.” From an organizational view point, the firm has taken a page from its 2011 acquisition of Übermind and created 11 digital studios around the globe. Approximately 50% of the staff in the studios will come from a creative, graphic design, or user experience background. The rest will be a mix of engineers focused on emerging technologies and resources coming from the traditional consulting or technology services side of Deloitte. To showcase their newfound creative chops, the Deloitte Digital Team presented the pre-announcement to the analysts using paper “pitch books” straight out of the new reality advertising TV show “The Pitch.”

Forrester believes that the Deloitte announcement highlights the hybrid skill model that the new mobile apps and systems of engagement will require. Deloitte Digital is an innovative approach for multidisciplinary new skills required for success. However, it is still not apparent how the firm would tackle the other key side of the mobile equation, building the broad ecosystem of software and as-a-service partners in order to quickly roll out solutions for clients.

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Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2012: Understanding The Engagement Context

Starting Monday, there will be a cavalcade of announcements at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While many suppliers will continue the phone and tablet hardware arms race, it is more important to understand what is really going on here: mobile engagement. Ted Schadler and I have just finished a report for Forrester clients, “Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement,” that provides the background to put these announcements into context. The report makes clear that mobile is not simply another device for IT to support with a shrunken website or a screen-scraped SAP application. Rather, mobile is the manifestation of a much broader shift to new systems of engagement. These systems of engagement help firms empower their customers, partners, and employees with context-aware apps and smart products (see the figure below).

So as you walk the show floor or read about the announcements, think differently about what you are seeing:

  • Are the tools just first-gen screen-scraping/tiny Web or do they really leverage context — the person’s location, preferences, and history — to engage? There will be a bevy of software products that help firms slim down their websites for viewing on mobile devices, but the real innovation will come from tools and engagement platforms that use predictive analytics and social feedback to create a full context that better serves customers and employees.
  • Are the hardware announcements kicking off another round of the device wars or a new generation of smart products powered by apps? In addition to the latest Android, RIM, and Windows Mobile press releases, there will be a whole new set of smart cars, appliances, and other products where mobile apps provide key features by taking advantage of smart product APIs.
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HP's Reinvention Around Software And Services Will Be A Tough Transition

HP's big announcement yesterday that it was “exploring strategic alternatives for its PC and mobile businesses mobile devices discontinuing, exploring options for WebOS” to focus on software and services is a bold but extremely treacherous move. While the comparisons to IBM have been bandied about on the Web all day, in Forrester’s mind this is a very different time than when IBM began that shift almost 20 years ago. The market today is very different, making it much harder for HP to execute the pivot.

The services business, especially the outsourcing segment, has stalled out. There is no better example than HP’s own services business, which has shown negative growth over the last two fiscal years. It is becoming increasingly clear that IT shops think that pursuing a cloud strategy public or private is the way to keep control and not have to outsource.

The software business may be on the same brink of fundamental change as mobile and as a service combine to change the pricing, delivery model, and focus of innovation. There is also a fundamental shift away from spending on the traditional systems of record like ERP to systems of engagement with customers, partners, and the business decision-maker. The $10 billion Autonomy Corp deal is targeted at the analytics element that will underpin many of these systems of engagement. The analytics space is getting increasingly crowded as IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte seem to acquire an analytics software firm on a weekly basis.

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Google Motorola Mobility Deal Leaves Android OEMs HTC, Samsung, And LG Out In The Cold

Earlier this morning, Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion in cash or $40/share.  There are three broad justifications for the deal:

  • Access to the Motorola patent portfolio which it could then license to partners like HTC and Samsung to protect against the long arm of Apple's lawyers. 
  • An integrated hardware/software play to compete with Apple.  The problem with this logic is that the deal does not address the fragmentation on the Android platform, which is the bigger issue.
  • The set-top business to bolster its lagging Google TV offering.

This said, the deal leaves Google in a very awkward position of being half-pregnant and trying to be a provider of an open source "environment" while at the same time competing with its "customers."  It also means that there are four integrated hardware/software offerings: Apple/iOS, HP/WebOS, RIM/QNX, and now Google/Motorola, and potentially a 5th if this deal emboldens Microsoft to pull the trigger on the long-rumored full takeover of Nokia.  The Apple story of simplicity and focused innovation at the app level has won out over complexity and innovation at all levels. Unfortunately, the deal extends the overall market fragmentation at a platform level well into 2013 to the frustration of developers.

So where does this leave the Asian OEMs HTC, Samsung, and LG? If Microsoft passes on the Nokia acquisition, this deal could throw Windows Mobile a temporary lifeline.  Forrester can hear Steve Ballmer and company pitching the Asian players on how Microsoft is the only hardware agnostic player left and that HTC, Samsung, and LG should increase their support for Windows Mobile as protection against Google favoring its own hardware play.