Your event here has been on the subject of “digital disruption.” How is that topic affecting the way you work with Forrester clients?
It is changing our work but it also reinforces the way we’ve been looking at the world for a while. Of all the changes that have taken place in the last couple of years, we’ve especially seen a movement that is driving IT more into the business. I’m not talking so much about the infrastructure side of IT, it’s more about the true application delivery and architecture. A lot of our clients have disbanded what used to be functional silos and are now giving up ownership of some of those functional areas.
What kind of silos are they disbanding?
Areas like architecture, application development and delivery, business analysts, program management, have been broken up and are now being embedded into the business. For us it means we have had to up our game in the business arena more than in the technology arena to really focus on the outcome the business is after. It’s about the roles that go along with achieving an outcome and how technology relates to that.
What would be an example of that mindset?
As an example, we hear a lot about how everyone loves the term ‘big data’ right now. We hate it and it’s largely because if you look at the business stakeholders that we’re trying to help our clients address, big data is not the outcome that they are looking for. They are looking to improve intelligence around their customers to drive better engagement. They are looking to improve their operational insights so they can contribute two more pennies to their earnings per share. You’ll see that manifest itself in our research going forward also. It will have more of that business insight into what they are after and how they measure it. With a return to that focus you’ll hear less about the next great widget.
Companies are trying to be nimble but they’re also dragging a lot of inflexible legacy technology that currently runs the business. Are they balancing risk and timing versus opportunity?
Yes, I think it’s about seizing the next opportunity. How do I use an investment to be different? How do I get to an outcome? They are interested in the risk but our clients get the most benefit from us when they leverage us to focus on real opportunities. I’ll pick on big data again. We have regular conversations with some of our clients that are less around big data, big ‘B’ big ‘D’, and more around opportunity. I’ll give you an example, a firm you wouldn’t think is very innovative in this area that manages a lot of customer loyalty with a large base. They’re sort of like the AARP, for example. They’ve never looked at themselves as being a provider of information to help drive affinity and loyalty for other firms. In a world with disruptive technologies, they can look at themselves a bit differently. It’s an adjacent opportunity you couldn’t think of a few years ago but is now within reach because things have changed.
We’ve contemplated new economies based on selling your corporate data as a service, is that what you mean and how many brick and mortar companies can use that model?
For many it will be an opportunity if they are able to see where the value is. For brick and mortar companies the opportunities will vary. If a company is in a highly leveraged ecosystem with a large partner network they might have more of an opportunity. That might be a big manufacturer relying on a distribution channels outside of their direct control to launch products and services to market. In that case, one central firm is building up a lot of information around behaviors in the market, behaviors of consumers and so on and they can play a different role to help enable their distribution partners. It’s not something everyone can get after but if you take a step back and look beyond just big data to the fact that we’re now in this digital age, I think it’s relevant for every firm. You start to look at the skill set differently. Some organizations are going to be more data centric and others like we heard today are growing a skill set around customer centricity so they can build stronger engagements.
Right, I saw a presentation from Trane today showing how they’d built powerful sales apps for indirect sellers. They said it had doubled customer engagement, to the point their competitors might want to license it. Rather than brokering their data, they might have built an adjacent business model.
It’s possibly a new business model or an extension of a business model and a redefinition of the value chain they had before with their partners and maybe their customers as well. What’s ultimately appealing with any type of disruption is that it will introduce new business models and change the value stream. For a company like Ingersoll Rand and Trane, they jumped on it and now that’s why their competitors are looking at it and thinking, whoa, maybe we need that too.