A Vendor Arms Race To Fuel Contextual Mobile Apps

Vendors across the board are building tools to add context-driven personalization features to mobile apps. Specifically, we see new offerings from vendors in personalization, mobile analytics, API management, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and the digital agencies for product and content recommendations, in-app messages, and voice-driven digital assistance
 
Marketers and developers are jumping at these solutions because creating more personalized digital experiences will be critical to remaining competitive. And as CIOs rationalize a larger software platform strategy, these solutions will plug specific mobile engagement gaps along the way. 
 
Want to hear more? In our new brief, Vendors Scramble To Enable Contextual Mobile Moments, we examine how different groups of vendors extend their capabilities to compete in the arms race to deliver contextual mobile apps and provide guidance for CIOs on managing the myriad solutions entering their organization.

A Few Startup Trends Worth Watching

With the press overhyping 3D printing, virtual reality, and Bitcoin, it’s hard for CIOs to track the startup trends impacting business today. Below are two trends we see startups and their investors focused on, and a future trend we expect to gain interest in the next 12 to 24 months that CIOs should care about.

Self-service business models disrupting industries. Startups are coming up with creative ways to reengineer cumbersome analog business processes with technology. Uber uses cloud, mobile, and analytics to recreate and bypass parts of the taxi/private car value chain. It connects customers directly to drivers, and uses data and analytics to make more efficient use of vehicle capacity. Other examples of startups developing new approaches to old industry processes include Oscar in health insurance and Simple in retail banking. What’s next? As 3D printers and connected products become more mainstream, and digital is further embedded in the physical world, we’ll see entrepreneurs apply self-service to new markets. Sols hopes to shake up orthotics by allowing customers to customize and print custom-insoles on 3D printers.

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Apple Extensibility And Powerful Network Effects

Apple’s new "Extensibility" feature took somewhat of a backseat to a host of exciting new developer tools announced at Apple’s developer conference a week ago. I’d like to briefly highlight its importance to the enterprise. 

In short, Extensibility makes it easy for apps to talk to each other, facilitating more complex mobile workflows and easy access to data stored in personal cloud services. It will spur app developers work together to speed the advancement of what employees will be able to accomplish on mobile. 

 To elaborate, Extensibility will enable:

  • Complex inter-app workflows for mobile employees. More advanced content creation apps have been slow to develop on mobile platforms, in part due to lack of app interoperability. Think of the multiple software tools we use to pull a contract from email, sign it, and send it back on a PC. Data must similarly flow across a variety of apps to accomplish this on mobile. Apple has done little to address this, until now.
  • Access to the personal cloud in enterprise apps. Employees rely on personal cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote to manage an expanding array of digital content online. But these repositories don’t integrate with the enterprise off the bat. Extensibility can act as a router to connect personal data with the apps your employees use every day on the job. 
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3D Printing Trends 2014

Now that the media hype of 2013 has settled . . . somewhat, 2014 will be a pivotal year in which we see small, tangible steps towards reality. Below are a few trends and commentary on what we’re seeing in the market:
 
1. Ecosystem components begin to marry. Investments, acquisitions, partnerships, and new developments will focus around unifying printers, software, and services for seamless 3D printing experiences. For example, Adobe recently announced direct integration with MakerBot and Shapeways to close the gap between 3D modeling tools and what printers need to physically produce objects. Other major software vendors like Autodesk will play an evangelist role in bringing ecosystem players together to enable interoperability across proprietary platforms. 
 
2. New startups stretch our imaginations of business model disruption. 3D printing is a catalyst for rethinking inefficient analog processes. Startup SOLS aims to disrupt the entire orthotics value chain with an end-to-end digital service for custom shoe insoles. Customers scan a 3D model of their feet, input data on weight, lifestyle, and activity patterns, and send to print.
 
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Framing The Discussion On Cloud Visibility And Encryption

According to recent Business Technographics data, half of US enterprise technology management professionals report that there is 1.) no way to gain a single view of status and availability across their portfolio of cloud services, 2.) that they don’t have a clear way to assess the risk of using a third-party public as-a-service offering, and/or 3.) that they have no way to manage how providers handle their data. 

An interesting debate is ensuing regarding how to best protect cloud data, given the market landscape. So far two modalities are emerging: 

·A.  Inserting in-line encryption between the enterprise and the SaaS provider that encrypts and/or tokenizes all data before it goes to the cloud to ensure safety interoperating within public cloud systems. 

·B. The human-firewall model, in which IT closely monitors activity with context/content analytics and anomaly detection tools. 

The truth lies somewhere between the two. By carefully applying Forrester’s data security and control framework, clients should incrementally encrypt data deemed sensitive to compliance or regulation, such as credit card and Social Security numbers, and closely monitor all activity across users and cloud applications. 

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3 Personal Cloud Startups Worth Watching

[Written with Nate Fleming, Research Associate]

We all use a multitude of personal cloud apps, both at work and at home. But getting meaningful tasks accomplished can be frustrating, particularly on mobile, as files, data, and workflows fragment across the various services we use. Take for example finalizing and signing a contract on iOS. This would involve fetching a document from email, annotating it, signing it, and sending it back to the client. Today, no one app can do all that, and iOS and Android offers very limited data-interoperability functionality with both Open In and Android Intent features.

We’re seeing three types of personal cloud startups emerging to offering capabilities to link across apps, services and devices:

  • Access: search, unified visibility, and portability for files, photos, and information. Younity networks and delivers content across your devices using P2P technology. And Otixo facilitates data interoperability across cloud services within a virtual file system-type interface. Simply drag and drop to move files from one service to another.
  • Interconnection: tasks and data flows that use info from multiple services. Ink facilitates workflows as an alternative to iOS’s Open In.
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3D Printing Expands The Reach Of Digital Disruption

2013 was a year in which media attention and hype targeted 3D printing: “artisanal” do-it-yourself (DIY) upstarts on Kickstarter making headlines across the blogosphere every week; high-profile speculation, such as President Obama’s quip that 3D printing will create a new manufacturing economy in the US; and Victoria's Secret models strutting down the runway in elaborate 3D printed corsets and signature wing accessories.

The excitement has reached the C-suite, where execs are wondering how this elusive and unfamiliar new technology will affect their business. As the resident techie, the CIO should expect the questions to come her way: What are the business implications? How fast is the technology developing? What are the implications for business technology at your organization?

Over the past six months, my colleague Sophia Vargas and I have been working to understand the trajectory of 3D printing and its impact on business and technology. Clients can read our newly released Forrester report 3D Printing Drives Digitization Further Into Products, Processes, And Delivery Models for our full analysis.

Here are three angles on how 3D printing is driving business impact and digital disruption:

1. 3D printing can create tremendous business value — today. 3D printing enables key business imperatives in the age of the customer: faster time to market, new products and new markets, and the expansion of personalized products or services.

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Level-Up Your Mobile Engagement With Proactive Experiences

Last year, we saw mobile apps getting smarter, tapping a wider range of personal data to anticipate and deliver in-the-moment needs before a customer takes action. Google is in the lead with Google Now, but Apple and Microsoft also signal interest in this space. Much like the VIP concierge services of major credit cards and airlines, these apps have the potential to form intimate customer relationships and increase affinity for products and services. And they are resetting expectations in a new paradigm we call the mobile mind shift — the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access any service, in context, in their moments of need.

You have an opportunity to play in the game, but to a different tune, one that enriches your brand by enhancing existing scenarios, engagement points, and relationships. 

In 2014 and 2015, we anticipate that customer-obsessed companies in verticals such as retail, finance, and insurance will introduce and develop proactive features in their mobile loyalty apps. CIOs should expect an influx of requirements from marketing peers leading such efforts. With the opportunities will come challenges on three dimensions: 

1. Business strategy. Proactive experiences can reap extraodinary rewards but can also lead to devastating consequences. For example, achieving 85% accuracy with your recommendation engine appears to be a success — until you consider the diminishing returns of a 5x penalty on trust factor for that 15% you got wrong. 

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Three Proactive Assistance Startups Worth Watching

I’ve been experimenting for the past year or so with several proactive assistant apps to guide my day — they remind me to get on conference calls with clients, offer to text participants if I'm running late to an in-person lunch, and keep me in touch with friends and colleagues. Some of these apps also integrate Salesforce, Yammer, and BaseCamp for job-specific context and assistance.

Among the most popular apps, Google Now personalizes recommendations and assistance by applying predictive analytics to data stored in email, contacts, calendar, social, docs, and other types of online services users opt in. Other examples include Tipbit applying predictive analytics to make a more intelligent inbox, and EasilyDo using the notification system to recommend ways to automate common everyday tasks. Expect Labs is tackling this space from the other end of the spectrum, offering an intelligent assistance engine for enterprises to plug into and add proactive features to their own apps. 

Here’s what we think:

•    Vendors will experience burnouts and early customer frustration, much like in voice recognition. In the music industry, it’s said that an artist is only as good as her last hit. We saw that analogy apply to voice recognition when users got frustrated at Siri as soon as she failed once on them. Expect a similar dynamic with all types of predictive apps.

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Glimpse Conference 2013 Takeaways: Systems Of Engagement Need Access To Personal Data

We attended the recent Glimpse Conference 2013, where members of New York's tech scene came together at Bloomberg headquarters to talk about social discovery, predictive analytics, and customer engagement.

Our key takeaway from the event: small, real-time data coming from very personal apps like email, calendar, social, and other online services will fuel next-level predictive apps and services. Specifically:

•    Better insight doesn’t require more data; it needs the right data. Amassing large databases of customer profiles, purchase history, and web browser activity only goes so far, and is costing companies millions, if not billions of dollars every year. Mikael Berner from EasilyDo sees a new opportunity in better utilizing data scattered across personal email indices, calendars, social networks, and file and content repositories that directly indicate customers’ plans, interests, and motivations. 

•    Email, calendar, and location data is a goldmine for predictive analytics. Expedia or TripAdvisor can track web activities to recall a user searched for hotels last November and is likely to travel again this year, but a flight confirmation sitting in email or vacation time logged in calendar is a much stronger indicator of travel plans.

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