Notes From My Meeting With Pitney Bowes CEO Marc Lautenbach

Back in July 2012, I authored a post about Pitney Bowes and the company’s focus on reinventing itself. At that time, the company had a great portfolio of software assets and a good overall market message — but its market approach was fragmented, its solutions were not integrated, and it was a difficult company to figure out from the perspective of a customer or prospect. About 15 months ago, Pitney Bowes appointed Marc Lautenbach as its new CEO to address these issues.

Fast forward to today. Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with Marc while he was in Sydney. In his brief time with the company, he has sorted out a number of the challenges I was referring to — including giving the firm a laser-sharp focus on a few key areas, bringing traditional assets into the digital world, refining its sales model, and leveraging those areas in which it has competitive advantage.

Marc sees PB’s main opportunities in the following areas:

  • eCommerce. PB has the ability to classify assets for all types of commerce providers and ship them anywhere around the globe.
  • Location-based solutions. Not only does PB have great mapping information, but it can also integrate data from any domain and apply its own algorithms to make that data valuable.
  • Printers, sorters, meters, and inserters. This isn’t a fast-growing business, but it’s a big one — and one that’s still important to many companies. It’s also a segment in which PB has some unique capabilities.
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CIOs Are Leading The Mobile Mind Shift In The Australian Government

Over the past few months I have spoken with a lot of CIOs, customer experience professionals, marketing professionals, and BT strategists in both the public and private sectors in Australia about their organization’s or department’s mobile strategy. This culminated in a number of meetings in Canberra last week, where I got a great feel for how mobile strategies are playing out within the Australian federal government.

While there is a broad spectrum of maturity when it comes to embracing the mobile mind shift, the good news is that everyone I spoke with recognized not only how important mobility is to existing business processes, but also that mobile will transform their customer base and their organization.

It was interesting to note that the conversations I’ve been having with private-sector organizations about mobility usually involve both someone from the CIO’s department and someone from marketing (sometimes CX, sometimes management, sometimes channels). Mobile initiatives are generally partnerships; while the business side leads these initiatives, they also involve the technology department. In contrast, in the public sector the mobile initiative is often led by the technology department — and often by the CIO herself.

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How Do You Make Sense Of Your Unstructured Data?

Many of us have spent the past 10 years focusing on business intelligence solutions in order to help our businesses make better fact-based decisions. In fact, BI has been among CIOs’ top 10 priorities for more than a decade. These solutions have, for the most part, been successful — and we continue to improve our BI capabilities as the demand for fact-based decision-making goes deeper, wider, and further into the business.

This whole time, we’ve also been aware of the significant amount of unstructured data that resides within our business, and the fact that we struggle to use it to make better decisions. To begin to get value from this data, we have made our organizations more collaborative and implemented tools and platforms to support that collaboration — with varying degrees of success.

The fact remains that there’s a huge amount of unstructured information and data that we do not get value from. However, a growing number of solutions are beginning to mine elements of this data: product information, software code, legal case files, medical literature, messaging data, and other unstructured business data.

I’ve recently been working with TrustSphere, which is a messaging intelligence provider. TrustSphere has an interesting solution that mines your messaging data to get real insights and information from the mountains of emails and messages that bounce into, out of, and around your organization every day. This is an interesting concept, and TrustSphere has developed a number of use cases for its solution. I’ll be presenting at a webinar hosted by TrustSphere on February 25— feel free to register here

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Wearable Technology Is Breaking The Retail Distribution Model

Smart technology is becoming mainstream very quickly. Not a day goes by without hearing about some new piece of smart technology that can help you get fitter or smarter or improve your life in some other way. In the past week alone, I’ve heard about devices that can improve your tennis swing, improve your posture, sense your presence, and generate energy from walking — not to mention the new smart watches, handheld 3D printers that can draw bones, smart breathalyzers, and, of course (!) smart wigs!

These devices are starting to find their way into the hands of consumers, but much of the retail channel has yet to catch up. Smart locks, smart wearables, and smart fitness devices are all generally being sold through the traditional online and offline channels for electronics and devices; sports stores, clothing retailers, and home hardware stores have been slow on the uptake. In the US, we have already seen some electronics retailers (such as Best Buy) significantly expand their “smart wearables” section from a small pod to an entire aisle or even a dedicated corner or section of the store. At the same time, many sports stores have not even started carrying the latest fitness tracking devices — something that should be in their sweet spot.

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For Australian IT Shops, 2014 Is About Customer Obsession

I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.

We recently published our predictions for CIOs in Asia Pacific in 2014 (see blog post here). Our entire analyst team in region was involved in the process — all submitting their thoughts and feedback. Here are some of our thoughts about Australia in 2014:

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Where Is IBM’s Sweet Spot In Asia Pacific?

Over the past few years, IBM has certainly copped its fair share of criticism in the Asian media, particularly in Australia. Whether this criticism is deserved or not is beside the point. Perception is reality — and it’s led some companies and governments to exclude IBM from project bids and longer-term sourcing deals. On top of this, the firm’s recent earnings in Asia Pacific have disappointed.
 
But I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time with IBM at analyst events across Asia Pacific over the past 12 months, and it’s clear that the company does some things well — in fact, IBM is sometimes years ahead of the pack. For this reason, I advise clients that it would be detrimental to exclude IBM from a deal that may play to one of these strengths.
 
IBM’s value lies in the innovation and global best practices it can bring to deals; the capabilities coming out of IBM Labs and the resulting products, services, and capabilities continue to lead the industry. IBM is one of the few IT vendors whose R&D has struck the right balance between shorter-term business returns and longer-term big bets.
 
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Does ITSM Still Have Relevance In The Empowered BT Era?

In August this year I am heading down to our nation’s capital to take part in the annual itSMF Australia event – LEADit. I have taken part in this event to a greater or lesser extent over the past few years across Australia – Sydney, Perth, the Gold Coast and now Canberra. As an analyst who broadly covers the Service Management space (as well as a previously ITIL qualified practitioner), this event is the mecca for those interested in service management in Australia.

Year after year at this event, I see a fair amount of change in the content and focus, but little change in the thinking, and little real movement in the implementation or improvement of the processes – a recent survey between itSMF-USA and Forrester displays the current maturity levels of processes in organisations:

Here we are – years (decades?) after the first ITIL books were written, and demand management is STILL immature. Even financial management has barely shifted in maturity over the past few years. Why is this the case?

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NetSuite Strengthens Its Push Into The Enterprise – Lessons From The SuiteWorld Forum

I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with NetSuite in San Jose at its customer forum — SuiteWorld. The event gave me a long, overdue deep-dive into their current strategy and the chance to speak with many of their customers one-on-one. 
 
The big announcement from the event was the availability of its manufacturing solution. The evening before the event started I had a good conversation with our Sourcing Analyst Liz Herbert — who spends a lot of her life focused on the SaaS providers — and asked her why NetSuite was not growing more quickly. Her response was that its lack of a manufacturing solution is partly to blame. So when it was announced by CEO Zach Nelson the next morning, it certainly helped to fill me with confidence about its future.
 
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Microsoft Launches Office On The iPhone - Welcome To The Next Stage Of Employee Empowerment

UPDATED 26th June 2013  As you may be aware Microsoft has finally introduced its Office Suite for the iPhone (launched in the US on Friday 14th June, and now available in much of the rest of the world according to my sources). This is great news — it has been one of the real holes in the iOS application store and in high demand in many businesses we speak to (although will be MUCH more valuable when it's available as a native iPad app). Over the next week or so it is likely that many of your senior executives will read this news — as it has already made the consumer press. Soon they'll be knocking down your door asking how to get access to it.
 
However, the licensing model that Microsoft has chosen is one to encourage the uptake of the Office 365 Suite. ONLY those users with a MS Office 365 license will be able to activate the apps on their iPhone. This may mean a significant licensing impact for you. If, like many companies, you have not yet made the move to Office 365, your company’s employees will not be able to use the Office apps on their iPhone. There is a big risk here that you will see employees activate the license themselves and charge it back through the traditional expenses channel. And if senior management are doing it, it is hard for them to say no to the more junior ranks.
 
I reached out to Duncan Jones, one of our resident sourcing pros and Microsoft licensing experts to get his analysis of the situation. Here are his thoughts:
 
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How Is Your IT Department Assisting The Organisation With Innovation?

Data from the Q2 2012 Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey shows that for nearly 70% of Australian and New Zealand organisations, the top IT management priority is to increase IT capacity or resources to drive business innovations. This focus on innovation has been reflected in numerous discussions I’ve been having with CIOs. At a panel session on innovation towards the beginning of 2012, the audience were pretty evenly split between those who believed IT has a key role to play in business innovation and those who thought innovation was not IT’s job. Now, however, innovation seems top of mind with most CIOs I speak to.

So what can your IT department do to help drive business innovation? Well – really there are lots of ways – but most importantly you can help by implementing processes that help drive “sustainable innovation”. Sustainable innovation is not small changes – and not the big changes – it is everything in the middle. I call it the “gut feel” innovation – i.e. “I have this idea and I think it could help improve the business. The thing is that I don’t have the stats to prove it can help – hence I can’t build a business case – hence we can’t put this idea through the traditional business investment process.” In a scenario like this, what you need is a process to quickly test and measure the idea to give you the data to put into the traditional business process to either move it forward or discard it as a bad idea. If fewer than 45% of your ideas move from ideation to reality you are probably testing too many “bad ideas” and you need to tighten your process to get rid of more bad ideas earlier – and on the flip side, if more than 70% of the ideas are being commercialised then you probably aren’t testing enough ideas.
 
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