Machine to machine (M2M) technologies are not new, but recently a wide range of service providers, device manufacturers, application developers, system integrators, and other companies are developing products, establishing business models, and implementing strategies to stake their claim in the M2M market. A quick search of M2M press releases during the past six months resulted in over 100 announcements on the topic of machine to machine or M2M.
During the past couple of years, mobile device manufacturers including Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM have deployed mobile application stores. Applications available in these stores are primarily consumer focused including games, music, news, and entertainment - but many applications are emerging that help business users. Work related application examples include PDF document readers, expense report viewers, and productivity enhancing applications for LOB workers such as medical decision-support tools and ECG-reading applications for doctors and nurses in healthcare.
SAP changes its board structure to focus again on product and technology
2009 was a tough year for the whole IT industry but SAP’s performance (-8% in total revenue and -28% in software revenue) was somewhat below the results of many other leading IT companies. The product launch of Business ByDesign is years delayed and clients are still unhappy about the way the new Enterprise Support was introduced. No question, SAP is currently in a difficult situation. At this point SAP announced yesterday that CEO Léo Apotheker’s contract will not be renewed and his resignation is effective immediately. In his place, the company appointed the two board members Jim Hagemann Snabe, responsible for product development and Bill McDermott, in charge of field operations, as co-CEOs.
After 20 years of service with SAP it would not be fair to blame Apotheker, who was certainly instrumental for SAP’s tremendous growth in the past, for the challenges SAP is currently facing. Over several years the company shifted from its traditional strengths, such as products, technology, quality and reliability to a strongly sales driven entity. In fact the whole board of SAP was slowly replaced by a team of pure sales professionals. Product innovation and quality, or customer satisfaction was no longer in the center of corporate strategy, but replaced by sales performance and quotas. In a press and analyst call today Hasso Plattner, Co-Founder of SAP and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, acknowledged that mistakes e.g. with Enterprise Support, were made, but the whole SAP board was involved and it was not Apotheker’s fault.
In a recent blog post and press kit on Building Confidence in Cloud Computing, Microsoft's General Counsel, Brad Smith, calls for government action to "ensure that a robust privacy and security legal framework exists to protect and provide user rights and benefits in the cloud." Microsoft's statement rightly suggests that in order for the promise of "cloud computing" -- be it applications, software infrastructure for developers or physical computing capacity -- to be realized issues of data protection must be better addressed. The statement appeals to the US government to to update, modernize and strengthen two existing pieces of legislation -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The statement also promotes greater transparency regarding security provided by cloud services providers as well as global collaboration around rules governing access to data for law enforcement purposes.
When HP acquired EDS in May 2008 it was clear that in the short term the company would have to manage significant integration challenges before the medium and long term benefits of the acquisition would come to bear. Now, 18 months later, HP claims that the acquisition has been completed and so it is time to take a closer look at what has been achieved so far.
A recent post on BusinessWeek explored an “emerging” concept in Western-style innovation management -- one that has deep roots in India - called Jugaad. The article mentions a meeting led by my former colleague (and still friend) Navi Radjou, and notes that jugaad is “an improvisational style of innovation that’s driven by scarce resources and attention to a customer’s immediate needs.”
Explore the term “jugaad” and you will find a range of enthusiasts and detractors. Many - particularly those more intimately familiar with the terminology -- argue that jugaad is not, by its very definition, a robust innovation solution to complex business problems. Rather, its just another way of saying “get it done whatever it takes” – meaning that innovation is done in an inexpensive manner, “on the fly”. In this context, it seems like a tough way for a multi-billion dollar company to build an innovation practice.
Take a look at Forrester’s recent Enterprise IT Services Survey and you will find a data point that highlights an interesting challenge in the IT services marketplace. When we asked North American and European IT services clients about their biggest challenges with existing IT services and outsourcing relationships, 52% said that “cost savings are lower than expected and 40% said “inconsistent or poor quality service”. No real surprises here: given the large number of companies that partner with service providers in an explicit effort to lower costs, many IT professionals simply underestimate the time and resources it takes to define and manage these relationships.
But look at the #3 and #4 responses, and the data gets more interesting. 33% of respondents said that their biggest challenges were “lack of innovation and or/continuous service-level improvements” and 35% cited “inability of vendor/contract to respond rapidly to changing business needs”. Don’t the first two responses, in some ways, conflict with the latter two?
These data point to a complaint Forrester hears all the time from professionals within the technology industry: they know that their clients want a proactive business partner – one who can help the client drive innovation and business results – but they don’t know how to charge for innovation in a way that clients will be willing to pay for it. Clients say they want greater level of business innovation from their IT service providers, but prioritize cost-reductions – which are more easily measured and which justify the investment in the IT services relationship.
Ask any business professional whether, as they look to 2010, they care more about cutting internal costs or whether they care more about driving new business-focused innovations, and you’re likely to get the response “yes…to both”. In the wake of the 2009 recession, companies are struggling with these sometimes conflicting objectives – on one hand they know that cost cutting and operating efficiently is a mandate. On the other, they must develop new technology –enabled product, service, and business model innovations or they risk falling behind.
For vendors in the B2B technology marketplace, this means balancing the need to communicate the cost-effectiveness of your product or service with messages that stress the business value you provide. I believe that far too many vendors think that only the lowest-cost provider can succeed right now, when proving strategic business value is still a critical priority for all professionals - particularly IT professionals.
For a company that gets it, look to GlobalLogic, the offshore product development firm. Their Vice President Milind Patwardhan recently told me “cutting costs for clients is the ‘table stakes’ right now. The best technology companies focus on reducing costs, but also seek to partner with clients to enable business results.” While many vendors talk this talk, one of their client references confirmed the value: He told me that GlobalLogic worked with business executives on strategic planning, was willing to take on risks in order to strengthen the relationship, and proactively looked for ways to create innovation.
Everyone seems to understand that social computing is a hot technology these days, and at Forrester we get plenty of questions from companies trying to understand how they can access the power and benefits of social computing into their own companies.
But before companies consider which technology platforms they should use, they should be carefully considering for what business purpose they need social computing tools. In my view, technology is a powerful lever in solving business problems, but it is not a solution in itself. For example, I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I can’t see much business value in it (unless looking up former high school classmates counts as business development). The same is true for far too many (but not all) of the social technology tools hitting the market today. <
This is where innovation management tools come in. While many community platforms are great at providing technology for internal collaboration, the best innovation management companies are taking the power of technology one step further - they are using social technologies, to help companies generate a response to specific business problems.