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Predictions for 2011: getting ready to compete in real time

December 1, 2010 3 comments

2010 was a transition year for the tech sector. It was the year when cloud suddenly began to look realistic to the large companies that had scorned it. It was the year when social media suddenly became serious business. And it was the year when hardware and software were being united as a platform – something like in the old mainframe days – but different because of high-level interfaces and modularity. There were also important trends starting to emerge like the important of managing information across both the enterprise and among partners and suppliers. Competition for ownership of the enterprise software ecosystem headed up as did the leadership of the emerging cloud computing ecosystem.

So, what do I predict for this coming year? While at the outset it might look like 2011 will be a continuation of what has been happening this year, I think there will be some important changes that will impact the world of enterprise software for the rest of the decade.

First, I think it is going to be a very big year for acquisitions. Now I have said that before and I will say it again. The software market is consolidating around major players that need to fill out their software infrastructure in order to compete. It will come as no surprise if HP begins to purchase software companies if it intends to compete with IBM and Oracle on the software front.  But IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft will not sit still either.  All these companies will purchase the incremental technology companies they need to compete and expand their share of wallet with their customers.

This will be a transitional year for the up and coming players like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce.com, and others that haven’t hit the radar yet.  These companies are plotting their own strategies to gain leadership. These companies will continue to push the boundaries in search of dominance.  As they push up market as they grab market share, they will face the familiar problem of being able to support customers who will expect them to act like adults.

Customer support, in fact, will bubble to the top of the issues for emerging as well as established companies in the enterprise space – especially as cloud computing becomes a well-established distribution and delivery platform for computing.  All these companies, whether well established or startups will have to balance the requirements to provide sophisticated customer support with the need to make profit.  This will impact everything from license and maintenance revenue to how companies will charge for consulting and support services.

But what are customers be looking for in 2011? Customers are always looking to reduce their IT expenses – that is a given. However, the major change in 2011 will be the need to innovative based on customer facing initiatives.  Of course, the idea of focusing on customer facing software itself isn’t new there are some subtle changes.  The new initiatives are based on leveraging social networking from a secure perspective to both drive business traffic, anticipate customer needs and issues before they become issues.  Companies will spend money innovating on customer relationships.

Cloud Computing is the other issue in 2011. While it was clearly a major differentiator in 2010, the cloud will take an important leap forward in 2011.  While companies were testing the water this year, next year, companies will be looking at best practices in cloud computing.  2011 will be there year where customers are going to focus on three key issues: data integration across public, private, and data centers, manageability both in terms of workload optimization, security, and overall performance.  The vendors that can demonstrate that they can provide the right level of service across cloud-based services will win significant business. These vendors will increasingly focus on expanding their partner ecosystem as a way to lock in customers to their cloud platform.

Most importantly, 2011 will be the year of analytics.  The technology industry continues to provide data at an accelerated pace never seen before. But what can we do with this data? What does it mean in organizations’ ability to make better business decisions and to prepare for an unpredictable future?  The traditional warehouse simply is too slow to be effective. 2011 will be the year where predictive analytics and information management overall will emerge as among the hottest and most important initiatives.

Now I know that we all like lists, so I will take what I’ve just said and put them into my top ten predictions:

1. Both today’s market leaders and upstarts are going to continue to acquire assets to become more competitive.  Many emerging startups will be scooped up before they see the light of day. At the same time, there will be almost as many startups emerge as we saw in the dot-com era.

2. Hardware will continue to evolve in a new way. The market will move away from hardware as a commodity. The hardware platform in 2010 will be differentiated based on software and packaging. 2010 will be the year of smart hardware packaged with enterprise software, often as appliances.

3. Cloud computing models will put extreme pressure on everything from software license and maintenance pricing to customer support. Integration between different cloud computing models will be front and center. The cloud model is moving out of risk adverse pilots to serious deployments. Best practices will emerge as a major issue for customers that see the cloud as a way to boost innovation and the rate of change.

4. Managing highly distributed services in a compliant and predictable manner will take center stage. Service management and service level agreements across cloud and on-premises environments will become a prerequisite for buyers.

5. Security software will be redefined based on challenges of customer facing initiatives and the need to more aggressively open the corporate environment to support a constantly morphing relationship with customers, partners, and suppliers.

6. The fear of lock in will reach a fever pitch in 2011. SaaS vendors will increasingly add functionality to tighten their grip on customers.  Traditional vendors will purchase more of the components to support the lifecycle needs of customers.  How can everything be integrated from a business process and data integration standpoint and still allow for portability? Today, the answers are not there.

7. The definition of an application is changing. The traditional view that the packaged application is hermetically sealed is going away. More of the new packaged applications will be based on service orientation based on best practices. These applications will be parameter-driven so that they can be changed in real time. And yes, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) didn’t die after all.

8. Social networking grows up and will be become business social networks. These initiatives will be driven by line of business executives as a way to engage with customers and employees, gain insights into trends, to fix problems before they become widespread. Companies will leverage social networking to enhance agility and new business models.

9. Managing end points will be one of the key technology drivers in 2011. Smart phones, sensors, and tablet computers are refining what computing means. It will drive the requirement for a new approach to role and process based security.

10. Data management and predictive analytics will explode based on both the need to understand traditional information and the need to manage data coming from new sales and communications channels.

The bottom line is that 2011 will be the year where the seeds that have been planted over the last few years are now ready to become the drivers of a new generation of innovation and business change. Put together everything from the flexibility of service orientation, business process management innovation, the wide-spread impact of social and collaborative networks, the new delivery and deployment models of the cloud. Now apply tools to harness these environments like service management, new security platforms, and analytics. From my view, innovative companies are grabbing the threads of technology and focusing on outcomes. 2011 is going to be an important transition year. The corporations that get this right and transform themselves so that they are ready to change on a dime can win – even if they are smaller than their competitors.

What about Analytics in Social Media monitoring?

May 14, 2010 2 comments

Fern Halper is a partner at Hurwitz & Associates. She is a renowned expert on analytics and information management. She is a frequent speaker at analytics events and a well known consultant and commentator.  I am pleased that Fern is contributing to my blog.

By Fern Halper

I was speaking to a client the other day.  This company was very excited about tracking its brand using one of the many listening posts out on the market.  As I sat listening to him, I couldn’t help but think that a) it was nice that his company could get its feet wet in social media monitoring using a tool like this and b) that they might be getting a false sense of security because the reality is that these social media tracking tools provide a fairly rudimentary analysis about brand/product mentions, sentiment, and influencers.  For those of you not familiar with listening posts here’s a quick primer.

Listening Post Primer

Listening posts monitor the “chatter” that is occurring on the Internet in blogs, message boards, tweets, etc.  They basically:

  • Aggregate content from across many,  many Internet sources.
  • Track the number of mentions of a topic (brand or some other term) over time and source of mention.
  • Provide users with positive or negative sentiment associated with topic (often you can’t change this, if it is incorrect).
  • Provide some sort of Influencer information.
  • Possibly provide a word cloud that lets you know what other words are associated with your topic.
  • Provide you with the ability to look at the content associated with your topic.

More

Predictions for 2010: clouds, mergers, social networks and analytics

December 15, 2009 7 comments

Yes, it is predictions time. Let me start by saying that no market change happens in a single year. Therefore, what is important is to look at the nuance of a market or a technology change in the context of its evolution. So, it is in this spirit that I will make a few predictions. I’ve decided to just list my top six predictions (I don’t like odd numbers). Next week I will add another five or six predictions.

  1. Cloud computing will move out of the fear, uncertainty and doubt phase to the reality phase for many customers. This means that large corporations will begin to move segments of their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. It will be a slow but steady movement. The biggest impact on the market is that customers will begin putting pressure on vendors to guarantee predictability and reliability and portability.
  2. Service Management will become mainstream. Over the past five years the focus of service management has been around ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) processes and certification. There is a subtle change happening as corporations are starting to take a more holistic view of how they can effectively manage how everything that has a sensor, an actuator, or a computer interface is managed. Cloud computing will have a major impact on the growing importance of service management.
  3. Cloud service providers will begin to drop their prices dramatically as competition intensifies. This will be one of the primary drivers of growth of the use of cloud services. It will put a lot of pressure on smaller niche cloud providers as the larger companies try to gain control of this emerging market.
  4. It is not a stretch to state that the pace of technology acquisitions will accelerate in 2010.  I expect that HP, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, and CA will be extremely active. While it would be foolhardy to pick a single area, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that security, data center management, service management, and information management will be the focus of many of the acquisitions.
  5. Social Networking will become much more mainstream than it was in 2009. Marketers will finally realize that blatant sales pitches on Twitter or Facebook just won’t cut it.  We will begin to see markets learn how to integrate social networking into the fabric of marketing programs. As this happens there will be hundreds of new start ups focused on analyzing the effectiveness of these marketing efforts.
  6. Information management is at the cusp of a major change. While the individual database remains important, the issue for customers is focus on the need to manage information holistically so that they can anticipate change. As markets grow increasingly complex and competitive, the hottest products in 2010 will those that help companies anticipate what will happen next.  So expect that anything with the term predictive analytics to be hot, hot, hot.

Can IBM become a business leader and a software leader?

November 23, 2009 3 comments

When I first started as an industry analyst in the 1980s IBM software was in dire straits. It was the era where IBM was making the transition from the mainframe to a new generation of distributed computing. It didn’t go really well. Even with thousands of smart developers working their hearts out the first three foresees into a new generation of software were an abysmal failure. IBM’s new architectural framework called SAA(Systems Application Architecture) didn’t work; neither did the first application built on top of that called OfficeVision. It’s first development framework called Application Development  Cycle (AD/Cycle) also ended up on the cutting room floor.  Now fast forward 20 years and a lot has changed for IBM and its software strategy.  While it is easy to sit back and laugh at these failures, it was also a signal to the market that things were changing faster than anyone could have expected. In the 1980s, the world looked very different — programming was procedural, architectures were rigid, and there were no standards except in basic networking.

My perspective on business is that embracing failure and learning from them is the only way to really have success for the future. Plenty of companies that I have worked with over my decades in the industry have made incredible mistakes in trying to lead the world. Most of them make those mistakes and keep making them until they crawl into a hole and die quietly.  The companies I admire of the ones that make the mistakes, learn from them and keep pushing. I’d put both IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle in that space.

But I promised that this piece would be about IBM. I won’t bore you with more IBM history. Let’s just say that over the next 20 years IBM did not give up on distributed computing. So, where is IBM Software today? Since it isn’t time to write the book yet, I will tease you with the five most important observations that I have on where IBM is in its software journey:

1. Common components. If you look under the covers of the technology that is embedded in everything from Tivoli to Information Management and software development you will see common software components. There is one database engine; there is a single development framework, and a single analytics backbone.  There are common interfaces between elements across a very big software portfolio. So, any management capabilities needed to manage an analytics engine will use Tivoli components, etc.

2. Analytics rules. No matter what you are doing, being able to analyze the information inside a management environment or a packaged application can make the difference between success and failure.  IBM has pushed information management to the top of stack across its software portfolio. Since we are seeing increasing levels of automation in everything from cars to factory floors to healthcare equipment, collecting and analyzing this data is becoming the norm. This is where Information Management and Service Management come together.

3. Solutions don’t have to be packaged software. More than 10 years ago IBM made the decision that it would not be in the packaged software business. Even as SAP and Oracle continued to build their empires, IBM took a different path. IBM (like HP) is building solution frameworks that over time incorporate more and more best practices and software patterns. These frameworks are intended to work in partnership with packaged software. What’s the difference? Treat the packages like ERP as the underlying commodity engine and focus on the business value add.

4. Going cloud. Over the past few years, IBM has been making a major investment in cloud computing and has begun to release some public cloud offerings for software testing and development as a starting point. IBM is investing a lot in security and overall cloud management.  It’s Cloud Burst appliance and packaged offerings are intended to be the opening salvo.   In addition, and probably even more important are the private clouds that IBM is building for its largest customers. Ironically, the growing importance of the cloud may actually be the salvation of the Lotus brand.

5. The appliance lives. Even as we look towards the cloud to wean us off of hardware, IBM is putting big bets on hardware appliances. It is actually a good strategy. Packaging all the piece parts onto an appliance that can be remotely upgraded and managed is a good sales strategy for companies cutting back on staff but still requiring capabilities.

There is a lot more that is important about this stage in IBM’s evolution as a company. If I had to sum up what I took away from this annual analyst software event is that IBM is focused at winning the hearts, minds, and dollars of the business leader looking for ways to innovate. That’s what Smarter Planet is about. Will IBM be able to juggle its place as a software leader with its push into business leadership? It is a complicated task that will take years to accomplish and even longer to assess its success.

What’s a Smarter Planet (and what does that have to do with technology?)

November 20, 2008 2 comments

So, who could argue that we need a smarter planet. I certainly couldn’t. I am at an IBM software analyst meeting. I have been attending this meeting for many years. The focus, as you might imagine is on the software strategy. But  there was something this time that I think is worth talking about.  Rather than providing us analysts with a laundry list of products and go to market strategies (yes, they did some of that too), the focus this year is around vertical solutions and markets.  But more than that, there is an overarching theme that is about to become the major theme that will envelope IBM over the coming years – Smarter Planet.  This initiative is driven by Sam Palmisano not just with his operational good sense, but his ability to provide vision for the company.
In his address to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City on November 6, 2008, Palmisano proclaimed that the next challenge as our world gets more interconnected, hotter, and challenged for growth we need to leverage a new approach to innovation that is smarter.
This approach according to Palmisano, “This isn’t just a metaphor. I mean infusing intelligence into the way the world literally works – the systems and processes that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold…services to be delivered…everything from people and money to oil, water, and electronics to move…and billions of people to work and live.”
Good thinking but what does this mean from a technology lens? It is clear that we have an overabundance of technology. What we lack right now is the right way to leverage technology to truly focus on customer benefit from both an agility perspective (being able to change quickly and without too much pain) and the ability to support an increasingly connected world.  It is interesting to think about looking at the world this way.

If you think about it, the world is, in fact, a system. To make the concept even further, the world can be viewed as a biological system. The human body itself is an interconnected set of sensors, actions that trigger other actions. The body interacts with other humans, with the physical world as well as the virtual world. We take actions based on the information we are given or intuit from our experiences.
IBM is trying to tap into one of the most important transitions in our world today. And they are not shy about focusing these transformations to their products and services (it is a commercial world, after all).
Here’s a quick view of this idea of the Smarter Planet.  If we look at the idea of a Smarter Planet, it starts with the idea that everything is an asset that takes inputs processes them and produces outcomes.  Therefore, we can look at this from Smarter Planet from five different perspectives:
•    Innovation can transform companies, countries, and governments to lower costs and increase revenue
•    Intelligence that provides an ability to learn from the vast amounts of information in the world (I call this anticipation management). In essence, this means managing information, predicting outcomes, leveraging information across partners, suppliers, and customers
•    Optimizing, managing, and changing based on the customer experience. Organizations no matter how big or small are looking for ways to transform themselves so they are ready for whatever happens.  Companies that focused on this type of change are better able to weather very tough and complicated times.
•    Greening of business. You can’t talk about the planet without thinking about the impact of green on everything we do. This includes everything from saving cash by better usage of energy to protecting the climate.
•    Leveraging smart people.  I think that people makes or breaks this noble goal. Leveraging all these innovative approaches to doing things smarter and more responsibly typically fail if people don’t work together as effective teams.  Politics can kill innovation more quickly than anything else.

Now begin to take this concept out of the general view and apply it to specific industries, their problems, and opportunities. That is precisely what makes the idea of the Smarter Planet intriguing.  For example, manufacturing itself is being transformed as we speak.  Manufacturing has been transformed by technology with sensors and actuators so that the information produced is helping smart companies better control the manufacturing process both in terms of innovation, efficiency, and energy conservation.  In retail, companies are leveraging new processes and technology to leapfrog the competition. If a retailer can optimize the way they change inventory based on an early understanding of changing buying habits of customers they can become a leader.

I think it is important that IBM is talking about this idea now.  This idea of a Smarter Planet is really tailor made for a time when the natural inclination is to hide until things get better.  There is no question that we are in very challenging time.  It isn’t the first time that we have found ourselves in this position and it certainly won’t be the last.  But in my experience, the companies that take action when everyone else is hiding under the bed to innovate, change, and learn will win.  When the world comes back, these companies will be way ahead and everyone else will be playing catchup.

My Top Eleven Predictions for 2009 (I bet you thought there would be only ten)

November 14, 2008 11 comments

What a difference a year makes. The past year was filled with a lot of interesting innovations and market shifts. For example, Software as a Service went from being something for small companies or departments within large ones to a mainstream option.  Real customers are beginning to solve real business problems with service oriented architecture.  The latest hype is around Cloud Computing – afterall, the software industry seems to need hype to survive. As we look forward into 2009, it is going to be a very different and difficult year but one that will be full of some surprising twists and turns.  Here are my top predictions for the coming year.
One. Software as a Service (SaaS) goes mainstream. It isn’t just for small companies anymore. While this has been happening slowly and steadily, it is rapidly becoming mainstream because with the dramatic cuts in capital budgets companies are going to fulfill their needs with SaaS.  While companies like SalesForce.com have been the successful pioneers, the big guys (like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and HP) are going to make a major push for dominance and strong partner ecosystems.
Two. Tough economic times favor the big and stable technology companies. Yes, these companies will trim expenses and cut back like everyone else. However, customers will be less willing to bet the farm on emerging startups with cool technology. The only way emerging companies will survive is to do what I call “follow the pain”. In other words, come up with compelling technology that solves really tough problems that others can’t do. They need to fill the white space that the big vendors have not filled yet. The best option for emerging companies is to use this time when people will be hiding under their beds to get aggressive and show value to customers and prospects. It is best to shout when everyone else is quiet. You will be heard!
Three.  The Service Oriented Architecture market enters the post hype phase. This is actually good news. We have had in-depth discussions with almost 30 companies for the second edition of SOA for Dummies (coming out December 19th). They are all finding business benefit from the transition. They are all view SOA as a journey – not a project.  So, there will be less noise in the market but more good work getting done.
Four. Service Management gets hot. This has long been an important area whether companies were looking at automating data centers or managing process tied to business metrics.  So, what is different? Companies are starting to seriously plan a service management strategy tied both to customer experience and satisfaction. They are tying this objective to their physical assets, their IT environment, and their business process across the company. There will be vendor consolidation and a lot of innovation in this area.
Five. The desktop takes a beating in a tough economy. When times get tough companies look for ways to cut back and I expect that the desktop will be an area where companies will delay replacement of existing PCs. They will make do with what they have or they will expand their virtualization implementation.
Six. The Cloud grows more serious. Cloud computing has actually been around since early time sharing days if we are to be honest with each other.  However, there is a difference is the emerging technologies like multi-tenancy that make this approach to shared resources different. Just as companies are moving to SaaS because of economic reasons, companies will move to Clouds with the same goal – decreasing capital expenditures.  Companies will start to have to gain an understanding of the impact of trusting a third party provider. Performance, scalability, predictability, and security are not guaranteed just because some company offers a cloud. Service management of the cloud will become a key success factors. And there will be plenty of problems to go around next year.
Seven. There will be tech companies that fail in 2009. Not all companies will make it through this financial crisis.  Even large companies with cash will be potentially on the failure list.  I predict that Sun Microsystems, for example, will fail to remain intact.  I expect that company will be broken apart.  It could be that the hardware assets could be sold to its partner Fujitsu while pieces of software could be sold off as well.  It is hard to see how a company without a well-crafted software strategy and execution model can remain financially viable. Similarly, companies without a focus on the consumer market will have a tough time in the coming year.
Eight. Open Source will soar in this tight market. Open Source companies are in a good position in this type of market—with a caveat.  There is a danger for customers to simply adopt an open source solution unless there is a strong commercial support structure behind it. Companies that offer commercial open source will emerge as strong players.
Nine.  Software goes vertical. I am not talking about packaged software. I anticipate that more and more companies will begin to package everything based on a solutions focus. Even middleware, data management, security, and process management will be packaged so that customers will spend less time building and more time configuring. This will have an impact in the next decade on the way systems integrators will make (or not make) money.
Ten. Appliances become a software platform of choice for customers. Hardware appliances have been around for a number of years and are growing in acceptance and capability.  This trend will accelerate in the coming year.  The most common solutions used with appliances include security, storage, and data warehousing. The appliance platform will expand dramatically this coming year.  More software solutions will be sold with prepackaged solutions to make the acceptance rate for complex enterprise software easier.

Eleven. Companies will spend money on anticipation management. Companies must be able to use their information resources to understand where things are going. Being able to anticipate trends and customer needs is critical.  Therefore, one of the bright spots this coming year will be the need to spend money getting a handle on data.  Companies will need to understand not just what happened last year but where they should invest for the future. They cannot do this without understanding their data.

The bottom line is that 2009 will be a complicated year for software.  There will be many companies without a compelling solution to customer pain will and should fail. The market favors safe companies. As in any down market, some companies will focus on avoiding any risk and waiting. The smart companies – both providers and users of software will take advantage of the rough market to plan for innovation and success when things improve – and they always do.

What’s an information agenda?

September 29, 2008 5 comments

I had an opportunity to have a chat with Ambuj Goyal, General Manager of IBM’s Information Management division about the idea of an information agenda —  an initiative that IBM recently announced. The company intends to make a major investment in methodologies, best practices, and technologies over the coming years as way to help its customers implement the information on demand strategy.
While it may seem confusing at the outset, I think that the idea of an information agenda makes sense.  But first, I want to clear up a confusion that I have seen.  I asked Ambju to define the difference between information on demand and the information agenda.  While he agreed that both ideas are aspirational goals, he distinguishes between the two.  Information on Demand is really the specific techniques and technology that help companies architect their information assets so that they can be able to deliver business value on time and in context.  In contrast, he explains that an information agenda is really the business strategy for information that becomes the road map for the future.  While the distinctions are subtle it is interesting to think about these two concepts.
Here are my thoughts.  This problem is not new, it has been around for many generations of information management.  I won’t use this blog to remind you that we have so many disconnected information sources, with differing definitions of what the simplest concepts – what’s a customer and what’s a price – just to name a few.  And the problem is really getting worse. It isn’t enough anymore to just do joins across relational data sources. There is so much information that is stored in documents, on websites, in social networks, and customer service sites.  And you can’t just throw everything into one massive warehouse.
I think that the initial instinct of most technically oriented organizations is to react.  They embark on a Master Data Management strategy to quickly get one consistent view of data across relational sources.  Or in many situations, they might go out and buy a tool that makes it easier to query many different sources.  In some situations, customers are apt to invest in a massive data warehouse.  Each one is a valid strategy and will work to solve one specific problem.  But here is the difference that I see — reacting to one problem at a time is what has always gotten us into a mess with enterprise software in the first place.
Our team has been finalizing the second edition of Service Oriented Architectures for Dummies.  One of the key lessons we have taken away from this project is that customers who are successful are those that have moved away from being reactive to the crisis de jour to creating a business focused strategy.  For example, rather than taking on a project in isolation, these managers will make that project fit into an overall strategy for managing their business services or managing data across lots of business units.  So, while they are solving problems on an incremental basis, they are ensuring that these problems are solved in context with the overall business strategy.
What I like about the idea of an information agenda is that it focuses customers on the idea of having a strategy and a plan.  So, here’s my view of the top three things that should be in a customer’s information agenda:
1.    Starting with an honest assessment. Companies need to start by taking a step back and determine how they use information as part of their business strategy.  Information is used in different ways – both formal and informal.  It is used as part of structured databases, document management systems, warehouses, and informal paper based workflows.  Companies still use spreadsheets as their formal information management strategy.  Taking stock is critical.
2.    Imagining success. What would it look like if information could be available on demand and if that information could be trusted?  I think this approach could become a strategic differentiation for companies.  In fact, many of the companies that were interviewed for the second edition of SOA for Dummies were in the process of creating a strategy based on this idea.  Most of these companies were looking for ways to leverage information as part of the strategy to proactively engage customers.
3.    Fit small steps into a roadmap. I think this is the most important issue for companies.  It is so easy to devolve into a reactive state – especially in complex financial times.  I suspect that many companies will dump the idea of having a strategy and just try to do only what is necessary to survive.  You can’t blame them.  But, it is dangerous to take this approach.  Yes, companies should implement pragmatic projects that match their current pain. However, they should be a step in a journey towards a strategic approach to managing information.