Déjà Vu All Over Again, Or Why CIOs Still Fail At Communicating Value

One of my colleagues, Karen Rubenstrunk, is a principal advisor for our CIO Executive Program. I’ve known Karen for close to 20 years; she is a superior CIO coach. Recently, we found ourselves discussing the challenges CIOs have communicating business value. Here is Karen’s point of view:

If you’ve been around tech management as long as I have, at some point you’ve had the conversation that keeps on giving (like heartburn): how to better communicate the value of technology to the business.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve continued to wonder why we keep having this conversation over and over and over.

At a recent CIO Group Member Meeting, I found myself drawn into this conversation yet again — and being the lone dissenter in the room about what to do about it. While we kept talking about which new technologies or recent economic trends were making the task of communicating value so difficult, I’ve learned that the real problem isn’t technical, it’s personal: CIOs need to focus on perceptions and invest in the power of personal relationships with business peers.

Perceptions Drive Value

Technology’s perceived value to the institution is directly related to the maturity of the relationship between technology management and other functional managers and their teams, and that relationship is built on two fundamental perceptions: 1) the business’ perception of its dependence on technology, and 2) the business’ perception of technology management competence (see figure below).

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Why Disqus, And Pre-Existing Social Identities, Matter To B2B Marketers

[co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).

As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site. 

Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet. 

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From Product To Outcome Engagement

Ah, the good ol’ days, when technology customers just wanted smaller, faster, and cheaper.  Well, they still want that, but that’s not all they want. They want business outcomes: the differentiated business capabilities that technology makes possible realized with minimized risk.

Today’s business technology buyers are embedding technology deeper into their organizations. They’re using technology to not just record business, but to uniquely mediate customer interactions, stream offerings, and shape market futures.

These differentiated business capabilities are complex, requiring customers to effect a multitude of trade-offs, implementation choices, and organizational changes. The journeys businesses take to achieve differentiated capabilities are uncertain. Outcomes, therefore, often are unknown.

Business technologists have learned the hard way that happy outcomes are not achieved simply by purchasing the right stuff. The real challenge is to successfully transform technology investments into business capabilities, at the least cost, risk, and time.

Ultimately, business technologists have learned that outcomes are co-created by vendors and users.

But most vendors are still set up primarily to sell products. Product portfolios, marketing activities, and sales behaviors still presume that customers largely are passive in the value-creation process, as though the act of buying and achieving outcomes was one and the same.

Most vendors simply do not try to sustain engagement across a customer’s entire outcome lifecycle.

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Groundswell Awards Are, Well, Swell!

One of my favorite things to do here at Forrester is judge the Groundswell Awards. Started by Josh Bernoff as a way to drive increasingly practical discussion regarding the real benefits that derive from exploiting social media, judging these Awards is among the most collaborative things we do within Forrester's research community. Moreover, as we compare submissions across years, the Awards give us a chance to ask, "How is the state of the art changing in the world of social media?" Finally, each and every submission becomes a case that we can use over and over as we help clients navigate the turbulent waters of the social sphere. Very cool stuff.

Imagine the Forrester analysts that help role clients with social media -- Josh et al. -- sitting around a virtual table discussing the details of each individual submission. We consider all the POST attributes -- people, objective, strategy, and tools/tactics -- highlighting what's innovative, what's working, and what's generating returns. It reminds me a bit of being a kid and getting the Sears Catalog in the mail at the beginning of the holiday season. For those that weren't around before Lindsay Lohan was born, the Sears Catalog was the compendium of every toy, sporting good item, musical instrument, etc., that could possibly emerge from that big box from Grandma. Like me with my siblings, we analysts metaphorically sit on the sofa with the Groundswell Award submissions in our laps, pointing at the examples that we think are most cool and worthy. I say "like," of course, because I haven't yet found myself bouncing off the walls, screaming gibberish, like I did when I first saw the red bicycle I got when I was nine years old.

Yet.

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Forrester Groundswell Awards: Less Than Two Weeks Left To Submit Your Entry

The deadline to submit your entry into the Forrester Groundswell Awards is on August 27, just two weeks away. The submissions we received last year, which we wrote up in this Forrester report, provided invaluable assistance to Forrester clients seeking ways to optimize Groundswell-related investments.

We hope you’ll participate this year as well. Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, just posted his advice on how to create a great entry. I have reposted it below for our technology industry clients:

______________________________________________

If you haven't entered yet but plan to, this advice is for you. (If you just want to see other people's entries, click on the items at the left of the Awards site.)

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Why Did Google Buy ITA And Its Flight Comparison Software?

[Co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Google announced yesterday that it is buying ITA Software for $700 million. ITA does two main things: airline eCommerce and reservations management solutions and a cross-airline flight comparison tool called QPX, used by most of the major travel comparison Web sites including Kayak, Orbitz, and Microsoft Bing. 

Google purchased it for the QPX product in a classic example of buying technology instead of either building it in-house or licensing it.

Today, Bing, Microsoft’s search offering, offers a solution that is based on QPX to help customers search for flight information on the Bing Web site. Google has nothing comparable; instead, they direct customers to other travel specific sites (see the screenshots below). 

Google is focused on the goal of staying at least half a step ahead of Microsoft in all aspects of search technology; in order to stay ahead of Microsoft in this area, Google had three major options: 1) License the technology; 2) Build it themselves; 3) Buy ITA. 

Licensing the technology would mean that Google would end up with a solution equivalent to Microsoft’s and not as robust as specialized Web sites like Kayak. Building the technology would take several years, allowing Microsoft and other competitors to continue to differentiate themselves and pull ahead. 

This left the acquisition as the only viable path to regaining leadership in this area, while at the same time placing Microsoft in the awkward position of relying on Google-owned technology as the backend for one of their major search features. 

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Forrester's New Blog Network is LIVE

Cliff Condon, the Forrester VP in charge of research processes, just pulled the trigger on Forrester's new blogging network. I'm very excited about the new platform, for it provides a rock solid foundation for enhancing Forrester's research and service engagement. Let us know what you think!

And while you're thinking, here's what Cliff has to say. 

Forrester's Cliff CondonHey everyone.  Here it is – Forrester’s new blog network. We made some changes to improve the experience for readers and to encourage more analysts to blog. Feel free to poke around and let me know what you think.

There are a few things I’d like to point out to you:
 

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