Forrester Blogs For Technology Industry Professionals
This is a roll-up of all Forrester blogs written for Technology Industry Professionals. Role-specific blogs are listed below. Visit Forrester.com to learn how we make Technology Industry Professionals successful every day.
Let me start off this post on a downbeat note: Improving sustainability is not a high priority for companies, according to data from the recent Forrester survey of business decision-makers. The survey, part of Forrester's Forrsights research, was fielded to 2,600 executives with budget authority at companies in Europe, North America, and Asia during the fourth quarter of 2010.
When we asked these corporate decision-makers about their company's top business priorities, revenue growth was #1, customer retention #2, and cost-cutting #3 (see Figure 1 below). Improving the corporate sustainability posture? Oops, it's down at #10, with just 10% of respondents indicating that sustainability is one of their firm's high priorities for 2011. When we cut those numbers by industry grouping, utilities/telecoms and public sector/healthcare are highest, with 15% prioritizing sustainability, compared with a low of just 7% in financial services.
Now, I'd like to contrast that eye-opening data with a much more optimistic set of figures from our recent research about the growth of sustainability consulting services. My colleague Daniel Krauss and I have worked with many of the large consultancies over the past few years and seen their sustainability practices grow from practically nothing to very substantial businesses.
Among 21 consulting firms that we surveyed late last year, 17 have a dedicated sustainability practice, and five of those count more than 1,000 practitioners (see Figure 2).
Cisco watchers have been wondering whether the company’s realignment is to take advantage of much-talked about market transitions or to hunker down for battle with the current generation of formidable competitors (like HP, Huawei, Juniper). Some might see this week’s appointment of Gary Moore as COO as an indication that the business has lacked operational excellence, but that’s easy to reject. I remember sitting down with Randy Pond nearly 10 years ago (he was EVP operations -- the de facto COO for Cisco at the time) and talking about operational priorities required to profitably take advantage of market transformations and build world class capabilities across Cisco’s complex environment. At the time, Cisco was a complex combination of acquisitions (like Crescendo where Randy had been VP Operations) and contract manufacturing around the globe. Operational excellence has always a hallmark at Cisco; that’s not the central issue facing the company. Instead, it is facing a fundamental transition to “incumbent” status. Cisco is now the object of every competitor’s attention, and high-growth markets that are large enough to make a substantive impact are increasingly hard to find.
Yesterday we received the very sad news that our great friend and wonderful colleague Julie Giera passed away earlier this week. Although we were well aware of the fact that Julie had been battling breast cancer for several years, I still find it difficult to comprehend the news – in particular since we had lost another great analyst colleague – Andrew Parker – only a few months earlier.
Julie was one of the great stars and a leading voice of Giga Information Group – the analyst firm later to be acquired by Forrester in 2003. She was instrumental in establishing and extending the Giga brand and influence across a wide community of different stakeholders, including many CIOs as well as the senior executives of many tech vendors. She later continued that fame with Forrester where she quickly became a thought leader around the broader IT services market change issues. Julie was one of the founding members of the vendor strategy research team and many of the key reports that she authored over the last years are still relevant today and represent key highlights of our team’s research portfolio. A lot of her great research can still be viewed and downloaded online, so check out the following:
You may have noticed that I was, along with the other 1,100+ professionals at Forrester, out of the office this past week. We were all together in Boston talking about our success in 2010 (I can’t talk about that — you’ll have to wait for official results to be reported next week) and more importantly about Forrester’s Vision, Values, Strategies, and Tactics to help make our clients successful. We spent time both looking inward, thinking about how we think we can do better, and scanning the horizon by asking key clients who map themselves to each of our roles to talk about what they do every day and how they are recognized and rewarded within their own companies.
I left the meetings feeling jazzed that we were truly achieving success by putting our clients first and that we had a plan to extend and accelerate our ability to positively affect every leader and every decision. I also left the meetings with that tension all analysts get in their gut: What will this strategy look like in the future? How will our values change the market’s perception of Forrester? How will we be able to translate these intentions into actionable tactics to help each and every one of our clients? What better way to test the ideas than to ask you, dear readers, what you think; so, what do you think? Are we just drinking our own Kool-Aid? Or do we have the “five-hour energy” that every one of our clients hungers for to refine their strategies and accelerate their performance and success in the market? Please weigh in with your opinion of Forrester and our strategy — as well as your suggestions on how we can best help you to succeed — in the comments section.
Last week Verizon Wireless announced it will begin selling Apple’s iPhone 4 to customers in February 2011. The new relationship between Verizon Wireless and Apple terminates the exclusive relationship AT&T had with Apple since 2007 to distribute iPhones in the US. Verizon Wireless will be able to address pent-up demand for iPhones among existing customers, as well as from customers who switch from competitors such as Sprint and T-Mobile to gain access to these devices. The introduction of Verizon’s iPhone also impacts the competitive smartphone landscape, mobile application developers, network operators, and other participants in the mobility ecosystem. Details regarding the Verizon Wireless iPhone announcement are highlighted in the report “Verizon’s iPhone Sets The Battleground For iPhone 5,” written by my colleague Charles Golvin.
Verizon’s iPhone and AT&T’s iPhone will look and cost the same, however Verizon Wireless has not yet announced the cost of voice and data service for these devices. There are also key differences in Verizon’s iPhone, which have important implications on enterprise smartphone purchasing decisions. Verizon’s iPhone will not have a multimode chip, so these devices will only roam onto CDMA networks, which are used in Verizon’s network. CDMA network technology is not as common in other countries so firms with employees who travel internationally may find this to be a limitation. Also, the timeline for replacing corporate liable smartphone devices is often 18 months. Therefore, although Verizon Wireless will begin offering the iPhone 4 in February, enterprise smartphone contract renewal cycles may mean these devices do not make their way into the hands of employees for more than a year.
[For earlier posts in this series, click here and here.]
Imagine that you're dining at a new Italian restaurant that just opened in your neighborhood. You've heard that the chef is well known and widely respected, so you're expecting a great first experience.
You sit down, and the waiter hands you a menu. Actually, it's not a menu, but a listing of all the top-quality ingredients in the restaurant's refrigerator. Some ingredients suggest the kind of recipes that the chef might prepare: For example, the veal shank might be destined to become Osso Bucco. Since you're not an expert in Italian cuisine, it's hard to guess what kind of recipe might require some of the other ingredients (rabbit, goat, boar, etc.).
The waiter is no help. He'll dutifully return to the kitchen with the ingredients you tell him the chef should prepare, but he won't tell you if that combination will transform into a delicious meal or an indigestible lump.
In this scenario, chances are slim that you'll get the sort of dining experience you expected. If you were hoping for an experience you've never had before, the kind that a world-class chef could provide, the odds are even worse.
Sadly, this is exactly the way in which technology companies have pitched their products. Rather than explaining the experience you should have, they leave it up to you to figure out what experience might be possible, given the ingredients (features and functions) available in the product. This approach has two pernicious consequences:
Politics is a word that we use so loosely that it risks losing meaning altogether. When we talk about office politics, as some recent posts by product management bloggers, we're usually expressing scorn for odious behaviors that stand in the way of some rational course of action. Every organization is susceptible to politics, in this negative sense, including every development team. Better to assume it, or even take advantage of it when possible, than to pretend that some magic tool or methodology will do away with politics.
Can't Live With Politics. Can't Live Without Politics
In their blogs, both Jim Holland and Jennifer Doctor recounted a session about politics at a recent Product Camp in Seattle. The topic struck a nerve, as evidenced by the outpouring of complaints from the audience. We've all heard them, whether we're product managers or not: Empire builders put themselves ahead of the interests of the group; real decisions happen in a back channel, instead of in the open; teams decide in haste, and repent at leisure . . . It sounds as if this session was as therapeutic for the audience as it was informative.
Since there's no systematized, look-it-up-in-your-economics-textbook definition of thought leadership, people generally lapse into metaphor when they try to describe the concept. The language usually gets very Joseph Campbell-ish. Thought leaders might be visionaries, Delphic conduits into some shared future. Or, they might be heroic trailblazers, clearing a path into places that no one knew existed, or they were afraid to venture.
Our recent research into thought leadership points to a different metaphor. Thought leaders are not seers, like Cassandra or the Sibyl. They're closer to trailblazers or founders, like Romulus or (less mythologically) Alexander the Great. But even that's not exactly right, since thought leadership depends critically on communication. Alexander got a lot of good press; Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, got much less (at least in the West). As a result, people are still sifting through Alexander's career for nuggets about successful leadership. Cyrus the Great? Not so much.
Thought leaders are, to a big extent, more like Homer than the people whom Homer chronicled. They're good story-tellers, which demands far more than relating a collection of incidents.
Just ask anyone reading a success story on a tech vendor's web site.
Earlier this month, the Silicon Valley Product Management Association kindly invited me to participate in a panel discussion about the state of PM as a profession. Since the role has wide responsibilities, the conversation ranged widely, but we did dwell a great deal on requirements. One participant asked, "If you could pick only one source of information for requirements, what would it be?" My response was a little tart: I hate that question, because there's no way to answer it.
First, no single type of information will be sufficient to answer a substantive question. Requirements are an exercise in triangulation. Is it worth pursuing a project? You could count the number of people who have asked for it, but that's hardly a reliable basis for making a potentially expensive investment. The next logical questions -- Why do they want it? How important is it? Do we really understand the request? -- require a conversation with at least a couple of potential consumers of this technology.
Second, the question determines the type of information needed to answer it. One type of market development question, such as, is there opportunity for us? requires market-level data. A different market development question, do people in this market need a different mix of functionality in our product? leads to an investigation of potential use cases.
The people responsible for requirements -- product managers, in the tech industry -- have no training in selecting the questions to ask, or the right way to ask them. Which is odd, because you might define the PM role as the questions person, delving into markets, users, competitors, stakeholders, business problems, and a towering pile of other topics.
One of the face palm moments I had while researching PM's role in SaaS was the timeline for platform and app development. The traditional path for on-premise products was platform first, then application. The cloud products flip this sequence, putting the applications first, then the platform. We're so used to seeing this pattern that it's easy to take it for granted, or mistake the reasons why it exists (hence the face palm).
There were two reasons for this evolution in the natural history of a tech vendor's portfolio. The first is distance from the customer. In an on-premise world, where there's a lot of geographic and organizational distance between the producers and consumers of technology, the collection mechanisms about customer adoption (infrequent "How ya doin'?" conference calls, cryptic bug reports, etc.) are labor-intensive. For however much effort you put into this research, the information returned is often incomplete, distorted, or just plain wrong. For example, the game of Telephone played among product teams, customers, and the salespeople in between often leaves PMs with more questions than answers about what a customer really wants.
Therefore, the product strategy for on-premise products have to accommodate a lot of uncertainty about how customers use the technology. While it's not the only reason for customization and custom application development, it's certainly an important one. Rather than guess wrong about customer adoption, on-premise vendors tend to say, "Here's a toolkit. Go build what you want."