Q&A With Greg Swimer, VP IT, Business Intelligence, Unilever

In advance of next week’s Forrester’s European Business Technology Forums in London on June 10 and 11, we had an opportunity to speak with Greg Swimer about information management and how Unilever delivers real-time data to its employeesGreg Swimer is a global IT leader at Unilever, responsible for delivering new information management, business intelligence, reporting, consolidation, analytics, and master data solutions to more than 20,000 users across all of Unilever’s businesses globally.
 

1) What are the two forces you and the Unilever team are balancing with your “Data At Your Fingertips” vision?

Putting the data at Unilever’s fingertips means working on two complementary aspects of information management. One aspect is to build an analytics powerhouse with the capacity to handle big data, providing users with the technological power to analyse that data in order to gain greater insight and drive better decision-making. The other aspect is the importance of simplifying and standardizing that data so that it’s accessible enough to understand and act upon. We want to create a simplified landscape, one that allows better decisions, in real time, where there is a common language and a great experience for users.

 

2) What keys to success have you uncovered in your efforts?

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Tomorrow's Digital Fueled Business Outcomes — And You

Digital technologies, and the software running on them, have done more than just make it easy for consumers to connect with each other and entertain themselves. Digital technologies have changed both business and society. Look around you now, and increasingly, people — your customers and employees — are perpetually connected to the Internet, able to connect, share, and transact with the firms they choose to do business with. Look even closer and you’ll see digital capability thrusted into emerging products and services across industries: from automotive (GM partnering with AT&T) to sportswear (Nike Fuelband) and from agriculture (Monsanto acquires software firm) to grocery (Tesco launches virtual grocery store).

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Get Bullish On Software: Three Data Points From Our Business And Software Decision-Maker Surveys

I’m bullish on software — specifically design and engineering — and I’m starting to see that many of today’s business leaders share that opinion as they come to terms with digital disruption and the age of the customer’s impact on their competitive strategies. I hear this often as I travel to meet with both business and IT leaders, and I increasingly see it in the survey data we annually collect. What do I see in our most recent Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2012 and Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2012 results? Software, from design through development, matters:

  • Business leaders have revenue growth first and foremost on their minds. On average, 70% of these business leaders place a high or critical priority on revenue growthcustomer acquisition and retention, and addressing rising customer experience expectations for 2013. Our data suggests business leaders are 50% more likely to identify these as critical initiatives than they do margin improvement or reducing operating costs. Growth and customer experience improvement take business priority.
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Common Mistakes In The Era Of Digital Disruption

“Yep, we’re doing it wrong.”

That’s what one front office development leader who attended our Digital Disruption Summits and Forums in London and Orlando told us after hearing stories of how to survive and thrive in this age of constant consumer-led, software-fueled digital disruption.

And this front office development leader—whose scope ran the gamut from CRM and customer service to Web and mobile apps—wasn’t alone. In this age of digital disruption, where empowered customers and employees demand new levels of engagement with your firm, what might you be doing wrong?

If you’re not reaching out to stakeholders in your marketing and product development organizations, you’re doing it wrong.

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Digital Disruption: What Software Dev & Delivery Competencies Matter?

The team and I have been testing a hypothesis for the past year while meeting with business and IT leaders in large enterprises, agencies, and smaller firms, and I'd like your input. My working hypothesis is this:

 

In this age of digital disruption and a society empowered by software-fueled technology, firms that can cultivate competencies in software development and delivery will establish competitive advantage, as they will be better equipped to meet and exceed the engagement and experience needs of their customers, employees, and constituencies.

 

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Delivering A Unified Digital Experience

Every day our clients flood us with inquiries on what to do about mobile and social software and smartphone and tablet adoption—not just as it pertains to their customers but to their employees too. Many firms seem to be scrambling to develop their mobile application strategy, spinning up new teams or working with outside agencies in a rush to introduce their own “killer app” or deploy some mobile capability on their CRM platforms. Smartphones and tablets are just the beginning of an explosion of digital touchpoints we will use to engage with each other, commercial enterprises, and public sector institutions. Gaming platforms, smart TVs, goggles, “magical mirrors”—there’s no end in sight.

 
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Three More Things I'd Tell Your CIO

Last December, I published three things I'd tell your CIO. Since then, I've spent time with dozens and dozens of sourcing and vendor management professionals, CIOs, and leaders of application development and delivery, including last week's Paris Forrester Forums. Most days, I share our ongoing research on what impact today's software-fueled, consumer-led digital disruption has on your ability to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers and the employees serving them. For some folks, software and software development remains a commodity. But for many, the need to deliver great software has taken hold of 2013 planning discussions. With July just around the corner, and as you start 2013 planning, focus on what you need to start delivering great software (remember, software is your business), and keep these three things I'd tell you and your CIO in mind:

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Want To Learn How To Embrace, Lead, And Deliver Digital Disruption? Join Us This Fall

Digital disruption is real and shows no signs of slowing down – our research shows that 1 billion consumers will utilize smartphones by 2016. Digital upstart companies are disrupting long-standing business models as documented by stories in the major business news outlets such as Fortune, Forbes, NBC Universal's business channel CNBC, and The Wall Street Journal. If your industry / company is not under siege yet, it’s safe to assume it will be.

Your challenge is to disrupt while avoiding the chaos that will ensue if you fail to adapt.

"When companies adopt technology, they do old things in new ways. When companies internalize technology, they find disruptive things to do." James L. McQuivey, Forrester Vice President & Principal Analyst

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Software Is Your Business - Forrsights Survey Data To Help Bust "No Software" And "Software Development's Not Important" Myths

Just over 3 months ago, I made note of three things I'd tell your CIO, all of which focused on your need to build a software development competency to help your firm thrive in this age of software-fueled, consumer-led disruption. Since then, we've heard from a number of clients stating that they're having a tough time convincing their executives, from COOs and CFOs through to CIOs, that they need to stop looking at software and app development as a commodity. 

Vendors you work with aren't helping. System integrators and consultancies continue to tell your CFO and CEO to outsource your software development work to them, that they can deliver more quickly, and more cheaply, than you can. Software application vendors build their marketing around needing no customization, even "no software." This helps fuel the perception and myths many executives hold that software development, especially app dev, is a commodity.

Recent research published by Phil Murphy and survey data we recently collected in our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011 can help you bust those perceptions and myths and help you show your executives the importance of software development. 

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Two Truths And A Lie: Software Development In 2020

When getting introduced to a new subject or new people, we sometimes play a game called "two truths and a lie." The basics of the game are simple: Anyone introducing a subject - or themselves - states two truths and one lie. The audience then has to identify what the lie is. 

Below, you will find three bullets related to our future of software development research. Two are truths as identified by our research, one is a lie: 

  • Software's fueling today's disruption, becoming embedded in everything to make technology useful, usable, and desirable.  
  • Software development expertise will increasingly be centered on Java, .NET, and proprietary development and application platforms. 
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects software-development-related roles and jobs to increase at double the national average through 2020. 
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