Posts Tagged Hurwitz & Associates

IBMs Vision for Analytics in the Midmarket: gaining deeper business insight

I recently attended an IBM analyst meeting focused on solutions for the midmarket.  What caught my attention was the focus on analytics as an important and growing revenue opportunity for IBM.  In fact, IBM mentioned during the meeting that 70 percent of midsized firms are looking for analytics solutions.  It is clear from this meeting that IBM wants to bring a comprehensive set of analytical tools to the midsize companies.  Unlike some of IBM’s packaging, analytics tools are being packaged specifically for the midmarket so that they can be more consumable and affordable.

Analytics is fast becoming a high priority for companies as a result of the explosion in the variety, velocity, and volume of data with a potential impact on business decision-making. Much of this data is unstructured, such as the text included in customer service records, customer sentiment data in social media, or streams of data from instrumented devices.  Making good business decisions  often requires analysis across multiple sources and types of data.  Companies often have independent systems designed to manage business processes ranging from order/inventory to point of sales, marketing research, and customer relationship management. The challenge for many of these companies is that answering the most urgent questions about the business requires analysis across all of these independent systems. Even a small company with a few hundred employees may have a dozen systems are are disconnected and keep the company from having a full picture of the business.

Therefore, it is not surprising that some midsize companies are finding they can benefit from business analytics solutions. Yet, while some midsize companies are finding ways to get the answers they want using analytics, the word needs to spread to other companies still struggling with manual spreadsheet analysis that doesn’t go deep enough.

IBM is going to market through its business partners that typically support midsize companies with a variety of solutions. These business partners are being asked by their clients in the midmarket to help them implement technology solutions that will enable them to make smarter business decisions. They want to find new ways to deeper their understanding of customer expectations and priorities. For example, a midsize retailer might be trying to figure out why certain products are returned while others sell well.  The analytics market offers huge opportunity for IBM and its partners.

The approach IBM is taking with analytics for the mid-market is to offer its partners a pre-configuration of hardware and software into a single system at a price point  that is both affordable for midsized companies, but also has enough of a margin to make it attractive to a partner channel.

However, the challenge for partners is to change the traditional way they have gone to market.  Many partners that have built successful businesses by specializing in hardware sales or a specific category of software such as IBM  Rational find that they need to meet a broader set of client requirements.  They now need to both learn the new analytics products and be ready to sell and implement solutions differently.  Selling analytics to the mid market requires much more than a technical sell. Partners need to have a thorough understanding of the business context in which the analytics will be used to help customer visualize the potential business value.

One of IBM’s offerings that partners should be looking at is  the IBM Smart Analytics System 5710, which is a database appliance for business intelligence and data analytics targeted at the SMB market. The IBM Smart Analytics System 5710 is based on IBM System x, runs Linux, and includes InfoSphere Warehouse Departmental Edition and Cognos 10 Business Intelligence Reporting and Query.  The system is designed to enable partners to get their clients up and running very quickly a broad set of  analytics and business intelligence capabilities. I expect that you will see a lot more of this type of packaging from IBM with collaboration from its solution business partners.

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Cashing in on the Cloud

I am welcoming my business partner, Judith Hurwitz as a contributor on my blog.  The following is her observations about the partner ecosystem in the cloud.

Judith Hurwitz

I have been spending quite a bit of time these days at Cloud Computing events. Some of these events, like the Cloud Camps are wonderful opportunities for customers, vendors, consulted, and interested parties to exchange ideas in a very interactive format. If you haven’t been to one I strongly recommend them.  Dave Nielsen who is one of the founders of the Cloud Camp concept has done a great job not just jump starting these events but participating in most of them around the world.  In addition, Marcia Kaufman and I have been conducting a number of half and full day Introduction to Cloud Computing seminars in different cities.  What has been the most interesting observation from my view is that customers are no longer sitting on the side lines with their arms crossed. Customers are ready and eager to jump into to this new computing paradigm.  Often they are urged on by business leaders who instinctively see the value in turning computing into a scalable utility.  So, for the first time, there is a clear sense that there may well be money to be made.

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Are you bypassing CIO policies to access cloud services?

I recently spoke with a CIO of a large and highly regulated organization about his company’s experiences with cloud computing. Security and compliance issues are top priorities for this CIO causing the company’s leadership to move with caution into the cloud. He expects that all cloud implementations throughout the enterprise – from Software as a Service (SaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service  (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) will receive prior approval from his office. This CIO is implementing the same approach to security and compliance that he has taken with every project undertaken within the company. In other words, security must be implemented following a centralized approach in order to ensure that information governance policies are upheld.   The company’s cloud experiences so far have included the on-demand purchase of extra compute power and storage for development and test on two small projects as well as use of Salesforce.com in several business unit sales teams. Overall, he feels confident about the level of control he has when it comes to managing cloud security issues, and understanding the potential impact of the evolving cost and economic models of cloud computing.

However, is this CIO is really as in control of the situation as he thinks?  If his experience is in line with what I have heard from CIO’s at similar enterprises, then he may well be blind sighted. For example, many businesses find that while their centralized governance processes are effective at improving security, there may also be some unintended consequences. While the CIO directs his team to implement policies to monitor the flow of information between internal users, customer, and partners, there may be some people in the company who are undermining his efforts. Tighter control at the corporate level may lead to longer approval processes for IT resources.  And departments that need to complete a project quickly have never been very patient.  As a result, developers and business unit analysts are leveraging cloud delivery models for quick and cost effective access to computing resources even if it means bypassing CIO instituted governance policies. Right now, the usage of cloud computing is small and is not impacting security or the expense structure in any significant way. However, I expect that as his company becomes more involved in cloud commuting this CIO will need to pay more attention to controlling the costs of cloud services and the management of cloud security.

Controlling costs. Cloud computing is fundamentally about the economics of delivering IT resources in a cost efficient, elastic, and secure manner.  But, the price per CPU for compute power or the price to bring the first five users onto a SaaS application is only one element of the overall economic equation.  It can be so inexpensive to access public cloud resources to meet short-term requirements that it is easy for users to enter a corporate credit card number and move ahead with the project. But, over time small projects can grow larger or take longer to complete than expected. For example, a software development team has a tight deadline to evaluate the performance of a new application prior to an upcoming sales promotion.  One of the developers uses a corporate credit card to get the extra compute power needed for this short-term test and spends a lot less money and gets faster results than by requesting additional resources from his company’s data center. Job completed. Deadline met. Cost low. However, what happens when the application requires additional testing under various scenarios and goes into production? The initial payment to Amazon may have gone unnoticed, but when the development team’s use of cloud resources expands significantly the CFO and the CEO suddenly start to ask a lot of questions.

Security. CIO’s identify security concerns as one of the top reasons why they are cautious about cloud computing. In addition to checking out the security policies of the cloud vendors under their control, CIO’s worry that you may be accessing cloud-based services without their approval. One big area of concern is the increasing use of  social networking applications accessed on mobile devices and used with little or no distinction between business and personal usage. For example, you may use LinkedIn to get help from a business contact to close a deal and Twitter and facebook to connect with friends and clients. For many people, there are few boundaries between business and personal conversations conducted in the cloud and this has some CIO worried about security and compliance issues.

The bottom Line. Unfortunately, these issues and concerns are not going away any time soon. In fact, I expect that the level of oversight will only increase. The CIO will be called to task if various departments begin relying on cloud services for various mission critical projects without any oversight.  This is only the tip of the iceberg. And I suspect this is going to be a big iceberg.


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