Capability-As-A-Service And What It Means For Technology Vendor Strategy

In my last post, I wrote about the evolving need for big business to source generic capabilities from business partners/vendors. This shift provides an enormous opportunity as well as a threat for technology vendors and CIOs.

I’m not talking about the wholesale outsourcing of IT. Rather, the selective sourcing of business capabilities and business process through software-as-a-service (SaaS), most likely deployed through cloud-based platforms (capability-as-a-service, or CaaS). Software and hardware vendors need to rethink their business from the customer’s perspective. They must figure out how to transform their products into services that deliver business capabilities and business outcomes.

If you’re a tech vendor, this means that you need to analyze each target industry and determine which business capabilities are likely to be strategic, and which are most likely to be generic. In retailing, for example, strategic capabilities might center on mastering customer data to create unique and valuable customer experiences as well as price optimization. Whereas capabilities around merchandising and assortment planning may be generic across many retailers (even though most merchandisers I know would never admit to this), these generic capabilities are likely to be delivered as SaaS in the future.

If you have existing solutions that target an industry’s generic capabilities, they are prime candidates for delivering the capability to the market as a service. Where your solutions target strategic capabilities, you will need to provide highly customized services through strategic partnership arrangements.

Sourcing Capabilities: What Big Business Can Learn From Startups

It's been clear for years now that small business startups don't build massive IT departments and big operations teams. Instead they focus on the capabilities which truly differentiate them in the marketplace - their strategic capabilities. They hire experts in these capabilities as employees and continue to improve their differentiation. At the same time, they look to source their more generic business capabilities from business partners and technology service providers.

We are going to see a seismic shift in big business in the coming years: there will be an increasing appetite to source generic capabilities from vendors and business partners; at the same time CEOs will focus increasingly scarce human capital resources on improving their strategic capabilities - the capabilities which give them a competitive edge.

While digital technology will remain at the heart of these strategic capabilities - leveraging cloud, big data analytics, mobile and social - the majority of technology services will be sourced from partners and vendors. The company's own technology resources will become more and more intensely focused on developing unique systems of engagement around strategic capabilities.

Chasing KPIs That Matter

Is there a fundamental problem in today’s IT? I believe there is, and it’s this: IT decision-makers are too often focused on the wrong things.

In a recent study, Forrester examined the top priorities, topics, and terms from a variety of data sources for both business decision-makers and technology decision-makers. What we found was a very clear — and to my mind, troubling — distinction between these two groups.

Business decision-makers focus on topics like growing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent. By contrast, IT decision-makers focus on topics like improving project delivery performance, improving budget performance, and cutting IT costs.

The fact that IT decision-makers have so little focus on business outcomes is one of the main reasons IT is seen as disconnected from the rest of the business.

The only way for CEOs and CIOs to fix this is to begin to measure IT professionals more in terms of business-outcomes and less on project delivery and system uptime. In other words, we need to measure IT professionals using the same KPIs we use to measure leaders across the rest of the business. This means we must begin measuring IT’s impact on things like the change in customer satisfaction (that’s the company’s customer satisfaction and not IT’s internal “customers” as some groups like to refer to other employees in the company), or the increase in sales, or the ability to attract and retain top talent.

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2013: The Year Of Digital Business

While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
 
The Communications Evolution
 
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
 
The Social Business Evolution
 
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Which Social Metrics Have Value?

For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?" 
 
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.) 

Every day there is a plethora of "social media experts" offering advice on how to win using social media (and nearly all of it is posted on social media). In just a single edition of SocialBizBuzz on Dec 5 21012, you could read: Alistair Rennie from IBM writing in The Huffington Post on the differences between social media and social business; Francis Gouillart writing in the HBR Blog Network on the value of co-creating through social; and Mashable's Todd Wasserman opining on how most social media marketing is a waste of time

The wonderful parody of social media expertise produced by The Onion (see video) hits the nail on the head ... without real metrics how can anyone claim social initiatives deliver value?
  
 
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Seeking The Elusive Zone Of Disruption

As I analyzed examples of digital disruption I’ll be highlighting at the upcoming CIO Forum — “Leading Digital Disruption” — I was struck by the way in which every example could be tied to a shift in customer experience along two dimensions: pleasure and time.

Along the pleasure dimension, disruptive technologies significantly increase the pleasure (or reduce the frustration) derived from the customer experience. For example the iPad significantly increased my pleasure in browsing the web and engaging with brands I like through tailored apps.

And on the time dimension, disruptive technologies save customers significant amounts of time; time being the most precious commodity in the world. My iPad allows me to do many things much faster than I could before because it is easy-to-use and contains many apps which connect my lifestyle together.

So I began to explore how CIOs might use this understanding to help shape the analysis of prospective disruptive strategies. What I came up with is the customer experience zone of disruption (or CxZOD for short — see illustration).

In the zone of disruption, the impact on pleasure and/or time is so great as to cause a disruptive force in the marketplace. When coupled with an assessment of potential market impact, this becomes an easy-to-understand visual model for comparing potential disruptive initiatives.

In my session at the forum, I’ll be exploring this model and showing how to use it to better understand existing technologies, such as mobile apps, and their potential to become disruptive.

What disruptive digital technologies would you place in the CxZOD? Post your comments below or Tweet #CXZOD

Five Lessons From Dreamforce 2012

DreamforceIt’s been a couple of weeks since Dreamforce ended, and in between client engagements and research I’ve had some time to digest the event — so I’d like to share some lessons from Dreamforce 2012:

1. If you build it they will come (no, really)

Setting a record for attendance at a vendor-led technology conference, Dreamforce 2012 was BIG. With over 90,000 attendees, it was hard not to be impressed by the logistical efforts taking place behind the scenes. Think of it ... How do you feed 90,000 people in a couple of hours? Not to mention the enormous bandwidth issues for Wi-Fi and even 4G providers when you put this many social people together. Back when I was running marketing at a tech vendor, I was planning events based on how many square feet of conference space we would we need ... the Salesforce team plans on a scale of how many conference centers will they need. This was an amazingly large event with very few crowd control issues. And the mobile app for the conference made everything much easier, despite occasional Wi-Fi outages. My hat's off to the conference team at Salesforce for pulling this off.

2. Salesforce.com has adopted a business strategy which embraces social business

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Will Amazon's Deep Pockets Strangle Netflix?

IronMan2Amazon’s recent distribution agreement with Epix is a big threat to the dominance of Netflix in the movie streaming market.

Last year Netflix attempted to shift its business strategy to focus mainly on streaming video. Although I wasn’t present in the boardroom discussions, it’s a reasonable bet that Reed Hastings and his team had decided the future was online streaming and that physical discs were a dinosaur. Since the war for content would be fought over streaming, Netflix would focus on adding value to its streaming customers and spin off the disc customers. On the surface this seemed to many a reasonable strategy, especially since Netflix reported that its digital streaming customers and the disc-in-the-mail customers were mostly not one and the same. So Netflix execs crunched the numbers and decided this was the right move for them. Perhaps they had hoped to spin off the disc side of the business to raise some capital. Whatever their thinking, their strategy choices left some gaping unanswered questions for observers like me:

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Do Enterprise Architects Have Value?

I love nothing more than a good debate, so when I read George Colony’s recent blog post “Enterprise Architects For Dummies (CEOs)” and then read the comments from infuriated architects I just had to chime in and post a comment. My EA colleagues were the first to enter the fray, with Brian Hopkins posting a reply to many comments on his own post “It Doesn't Matter Where EA Lives - So Let's Stop Arguing About It.”

What’s interesting is that the most comments centered not on whether George was right in highlighting the importance of the EA role, but on whether EA should be seen as an IT role at all. And what is fascinating to me is that some folks believe EA should report to the CEO. The thinking goes that the CIO is too techie, and the EA role is much broader than IT because it involves business process and even org design. This seems to ignore the fact that George actually wrote, “Techies invariably screw up the business; business guys screw up the tech. For years (actually, decades) we've looked for someone to span both -- and that's what Enterprise Architects do.

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BT Strategic Planning: Upcoming Events

For many traditional IT organizations, BT Strategic Planning is a new approach to developing technology strategy. As such, it often raises more questions than answers. If you’d like to know how to get more answers then this blog post is for you (if not you can skip the rest).

To help you get stuck in and apply the strat planning framework in your environment, we’re scheduling a couple of webinars and a two-day workshop for this September. In the first webinar on Sept. 11, we’ll go into the best practices CIOs put in place in order to set up their teams for success in developing business technology strategy. In the second webinar on Sept. 14, we’ll explore the levers of BT value and how to successfully communicate BT value. While both webinars are connected, you don’t need to attend the first to get value from attending the second.  

And if you are interested in rolling up your sleeves some more, I’m facilitating a two-day workshop on BT Strategic Planning on Sept 25th and 26th in San Francisco. This open workshop builds upon the successful custom workshops we deliver for clients looking to apply Forrester’s planning framework. Over the course of two full, mind-bending days, you will go through the entire strategy planning framework and learn how to apply it in your organization.

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