Sunday, March 30, 2008

Business Budgets Still Cover Upgrades

A new Forrester Research report suggests that despite the uncertain U.S. economy, many enterprises are continuing to plan major software projects and purchases. Seventy-nine percent of 215 North American "business process and applications professionals" surveyed said that they intend to upgrade some or most of their core enterprise applications within three years.

Forty-nine percent of respondents plan to upgrade their enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in either 2008 or 2009, according to the report. Within the same time frame, 47 percent are set to refresh their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and 37 percent are eyeing supply chain management (SCM) upgrades. These particular results are based on answers from 191 respondents, according to Forrester.

Seventy-six percent of respondents said hardware and data center upgrades or migrations are a "priority" or a "critical priority" during the next 12 months. Sixty-five percent said the same for developing a master data management (MDM) strategy. This activity will largely revolve around a centralized point of influence, according to the study.

Eighty-four percent of enterprises surveyed said their top IT officer was either "very influential" or has "complete authority" over technology purchasing.

"[F]irms appear to be satisfied with centralized decision-making," the study states. "However, the real organizational battle will be to reconcile major software decisions being made corporatewide as the combination of senior line-of-business execs with significant authority and budget and the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model gives license to make application decisions without IT's involvement."

Forrester touts its framework for developing a long-term packaged applications strategy. The study found that only 20 percent of respondents intended to consider a five-year applications plan during 2008.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Application Delivery Architects and Engineers Should Be an IT Organization's Next Key Hires

As more organizations begin to deploy application delivery networks (ADNs) to mitigate limitations in business-critical applications, Gartner, Inc. says the emergence of ADNs creates a need for a new group of technical professionals. ADNs are required for successful deployment of modern browser-based applications and emerging Web services applications. Enterprises should recognize that designing and managing this new network overlay requires unique skills and build a team of application delivery architects and engineers. These new roles will be key to the deployment of very expensive applications and protocols.

Application delivery architects work with application development, storage, security and network architects to develop an overall approach to the delivery of each application. This team determines which optimization techniques (protocol offload, caching, application firewalls, and so on) are required and where they should be implemented.

Once the approach to application delivery has been decided, an application delivery engineer leads the operational effort. He or she configures and manages the elements of the ADN. This may involve programming application delivery controllers through scripts, developing Web application firewall rules, or working with the managed service provider to optimize the ADN service. Members of this team will often be drawn from application/server and security administration. The cross-functional nature of the application delivery engineer's job requires strong people skills as well as broad, strong technical skills.

Because ADN knowledge is in short supply, Gartner says most companies will have to develop staff in-house. Although this will require investment in training and, perhaps, pay grades higher than those of network engineers, it is a necessary investment. Application delivery architects and engineers can be key to the deployment of highly expensive business-critical applications. Gartner believes that companies which employ them will realize a very positive return on investment and could achieve strategic market advantages.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Software Spending by Retailers in China, India, and Russia will top $1.57B in 2010

According to a recent AMR Research report, software spending by retailers in China, India, and Russia will top $1.57B in 2010 -- an increase of 45% over 2007. In addition, these retailers will increase their IT budgets an average of 25% between 2007 and 2010. Aggressive first-time spending for store technology over the next few years, especially in China, will see retailer budgets in these emerging economies far outpace those of their peers in more established countries.

According to the report, the most common business priorities for retailers in these regions included increasing their understanding of consumer demand (22% cited it as their top priority) and improving the overall shopping experience (18%) in 2007. Priorities will expand in 2010, with an increased focus on consumer-centric merchandising and the strategic software investments that support this effort.

Of the 232 retailers in emerging markets surveyed, the majority will seek alternative relationships with their technology providers over the next few years. Between 2007 and 2010, acquiring software via the traditional licensed approach will diminish by 20%. Retailers in emerging areas of the world will shift toward software-as-a-service (increasing 56%), business process outsourcing (21%), and open source (69%).

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tech Support Salary Survey shows "dramatic upturn" in pay levels

Tech support salaries rose significantly across the board during 2007, according to the latest annual salary survey conducted by the Association of Support Professionals (ASP). The ASP's 13th annual Technical Support Salary Survey, which reflects compensation data supplied by 148 participating support organizations, found double-digit pay gains in five of the seven job categories that the survey tracks, with 8%-9% raises for two other groups.

The report shows pay levels for seven major job categories, including
senior support executives, department managers, analyst/project managers, senior support technicians, field support technicians, support technicians, and customer service reps.

The upturn in salary pay reflects several converging trends in the support and services world, the report notes. These include a tight employment market, customer pressure for higher-quality support, greater employee productivity, lower employee turnover, and less hiring of lower-paid entry- level staff.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Emerging Technologies Will Marginalize IT's Role in Business Intelligence

By 2012, emerging technologies will make it easier to build and consume analytical applications lessening IT’s role in building these applications, according to Gartner, Inc.

Much of the innovation in the BI space will come from emerging technologies that will make it easier for users to build and consume their own reports and analytical applications. In particular, five technologies -- interactive visualization, in-memory analytics, search integrated with BI, software as a service (SaaS) and service-oriented architecture (SOA) -- will help drive mainstream BI adoption.

Interactive visualization will be quickly accepted during the next two years as a common front end to analytical application, driven by the ubiquity of rich Internet applications. This technology trend will make reports and analytic applications easier and more fun to use. With its attractive display, it should be more widely adopted by users who aren't accustomed to the grid style of analysis and reporting offered by relational databases and spreadsheets. By definition, interactive visualization enables users to perform typical BI tasks, such as data filters, drill down and pivots, with little training by interacting with the visual, such as clicking on a pie wedge, or circling the dots on a scatter plot.

Because BI explores huge amounts of data, it has traditionally relied on IT to build aggregate and summary tables to optimize performance on disc-based data storage. This requirement to build a performance layer impeded self-service BI. Falling memory prices and the prevalence of 64-bit computing is making in memory analytics a more attractive alternative. With this approach, business users no longer require IT to build a performance layer.

Many BI systems hold thousands of reports in a complex hierarchical structure. Users find it easier to find reports with search technologies backed by sophisticated relevance rankings instead of a folder navigation structure. Search will make it easier for users to find data for ad hoc queries although it will not help with related tasks such as formatting reports consistently.

Smaller companies that lack the base of investments in BI systems will increasingly turn to service companies to deliver services that integrate, analyze and report on data from numerous systems. Wider adoption of SaaS business models will make analytical applications more widely used, particularly among midsize companies. However, even large companies with full BI and data warehouse teams will embrace the SaaS model for some aspects of BI. The best example today is in Web site analytics, where business users — typically in marketing — can access very sophisticated reports and analytic applications of Web site activity with virtually no need for IT by leveraging a software as a service provider. The increasing trend toward business process outsourcing and cloud computing will only accelerate this trend, enabling the delivery of BI-related information and analysis for particular subject area domains via the SaaS model.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Survey Explores Global Differences in how CIOs Approach and Employ ITIL

Management (ITSM) best practice frameworks to improve their ITefforts, says a recent study commissioned by Dimension Data, a $3.8 billion leading IT solutions and services provider. The study targeted more than 370 CIOs from 14 countries across five continents. The results reflect the differences by region among CIOs who are still dealing with how to adequately capitalize on ITIL best practices.

In the U.S., 40% of CIOs from 100 enterprises overwhelmingly cited grass roots initiatives as the primary driver in their decision to evaluate and adopt an ITIL framework. The study showed that U.S. CIOs report business department initiatives as a secondary driver (20%) and regulatory compliance requirements as a third key driver (16%). In addition, U.S. CIOs were twice as likely as their EMEA counterparts to cite compliance as a strong motivator to evaluate and adopt IT Service Management, while only 5% of their APAC counterparts cited compliance as a motivator.

The survey shows increasing recognition for ITSM’s potential to align IT more tightly with the business’ strategic objectives, provide additional resources for innovation through more efficient dealing with routine tasks and facilitate communication by providing a common language.

When asked what the primary inhibitors are to the adoption of ITIL/ITSM best practices, U.S. CIOs overwhelmingly said that the costs associated with implementation – as well as the lack of resources to assess implementation readiness, training costs and certification – were principal obstacles. Based on worldwide responses, these restrictions were most keenly felt by U.S. CIOs compared to their EMEA and APAC counterparts.

Other statistics from the report showcase the differences and similarities of CIOs across the globe:

-- 30% of U.S. and APAC CIOs report a close link between innovation and IT efficiencies, while less than 20% of CIOs in EMEA believed that to be true. More than 20% of EMEA CIOs cited innovation as the best way to facilitate the alignment between IT and business departments.

-- In the U.S. and APAC, 30% of CIOs believe real business value is derived from ITIL when an organization develops an actionable roadmap for continuous process improvement based on ITIL best practices. In EMEA, 30% of CIOs queried are satisfied with the framework but need more explicit indicators or successes.

-- More than 50% of U.S. and EMEA-based CIOs believe that in order to retain strategic ownership and focus, IT must align to business and focus on key strategic needs of the organization.

Regional variations aside, the Dimension Data study confirms that CIOs around the globe demonstrate a growing recognition of the potential ITSM best practices (particularly ITIL) have to get IT functioning like a well-oiled machine and deliver real business benefits. However, some CIOs cite challenges with implementing ITIL due to the fact that much is open to interpretation, and often first-time ITIL implementations fall short. ITIL describes what best practices are, but doesn’t describe how to implement processes. CIOs in the U.S. are most comfortable undertaking ITIL initiatives when the result is an actionable roadmap based on ITIL suggestions.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

PC Market Is Expected To Continue Double-Digit Growth Despite Increasing Economic Concerns

Worldwide PC shipments are projected to grow by 12.8% in 2008 to reach 302 million units, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Growth will continue at above 11% in 2009 followed by high single-digit growth through 2012, boosting annual shipments to over 426 million in 2012. Overall volume growth, combined with a steady transition to Portable PCs, which generally cost more than Desktops, will help offset falling average prices. The total value of PC shipments is projected to grow by 7.4% in 2008 to nearly $280 billion. Shipment value will continue to grow by roughly 4% annually from 2009 through 2012, reaching nearly $330 billion by 2012.

Portable adoption remains the primary driver in all regions, nearly matching record quarterly growth in Q3 2007, and record annual growth in 2005. Increases of more than 50% in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) and Rest of World helped boost these regions to more than 36% of Portable volume, while the United States and Western Europe saw growth above 20% and continue to account for more than 50% of Portable volume.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

IDC's SMB Survey Reveals Unique Behaviors Driving Software Investment Decisions in Asia/Pacific Excluding Japan

IDC's “SMB IT Investment Trends Survey 2008 – Software and Services” revealed that a high level of expertise or support needed from the vendor is the most important factor affecting software investment decisions of mid-market companies, defined as companies with 500 to 999 employees, in the Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APEJ) region. Relatively smaller companies, defined as companies with 100 to 499 employees, also viewed this as an important factor, but they were more concerned about Security. Small companies, defined as those with less than 100 employees, were even more concerned about the price (32% regarded it as the top factor).

Some other highlights of the study are as follows:

--The main compelling factor for the SMBs surveyed to move ahead with “software on demand” solutions was the lower cost to implement and maintain. The second most important factor mentioned was that it could ease IT staff workload. When asked why they would not use software on demand, the major factor mentioned was the concern about data security, hence their preference to have software and data on-site.

--More than half of the SMBs surveyed had full-time IT dedicated staff and viewed IT as strategic to their businesses. But still, more than 40% of the SMBs surveyed had their IT staff also handling non IT-duties.

--When buying IT Services, more than 64% of the SMBs surveyed preferred to deal with a local system integrator or service partner. Such a preference was even more important for small companies. Mid-market companies, on the other hand, preferred to deal more with the technology owners, and were more likely to use a multinational or global service provider.

--When deciding on an IT Services provider, small and medium businesses in general ranked price, local knowledge and local market experience as top priorities, while mid-market businesses viewed personal attention and the turnaround time a partner can offer them, as important decision factors.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Green Is The New Gold, According to Aberdeen Group

Aberdeen, a Harte-Hanks Company, announced upcoming findings from "The 2008 Aberdeen Report: State of the Market." Over 4500 survey participants identified how their organizations are seeing the emergence of "Green" initiatives like never before fueled by social, ecological and economic implications. The increasing complexity of the global business environment, rising energy and transport costs, and mounting compliance challenges are driving a major focus on sustainability and green initiatives.

Forty-seven percent of the respondents in the 2008 Aberdeen Report revealed that they already have green initiatives in place. Of these firms, 74 percent cite Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as the main driver for their green initiative and 52 percent of the surveyed audience identified competitive advantage as the second top pressure for having a green initiative (see chart). Overall, green initiatives ranked in the top eight corporate strategic goals for organizations in 2008.

In 2008 "Green" is more than just politically correct; it is a path to sustainability and to a more competitive position in the global market. Companies have also found innovative ways in which to successfully implement Green initiatives into their organizations such as green product development, green technology infrastructure, and green server architecture, to name a few. Green Marketing is also an emerging notion as companies seek targeted, lower volume direct mail solicitations stemming from environmental awareness. Green Supply Chains are also cropping up in companies with global operating requirements, increasing environmental challenges, and supply chain cost pressures which are rapidly driving the need for improved sustainability and social responsibility programs and solutions.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tech and Telecom Companies Continue to Rely on Traditional Recruitment Methods Despite Talent Shortage

With technology and telecommunications companies still looking to lure talent using traditional compensation-based approaches, there is a disconnect between HR practices and candidates’ priorities, according to a new Deloitte survey.

The study, “Competing For Talent,” found that the vast majority of companies in these sectors are relying on financial incentives to attract and retain employees. In contrast, the study found that today’s workforce values greater freedom in schedules and control of where and how they work over financial compensation.

The survey also found that creative and other critical talent that generates greater-than-average value for customers and shareholders is most difficult to attract, and the problem is expected to increase over the next three to five years.

Deloitte surveyed more than 150 technology and telecommunications companies in North America to understand their most significant talent issues and what they are doing to address them.

Key findings of the survey include:

--Two-thirds of respondents expect their workforce to grow by at least 6 percent over the next 12 months, and only 6 percent expect their workforce to shrink.

--Technology and telecommunications companies surveyed are generally less worried than companies in other industries about a prolonged global labor crisis. This may be due to the fact that technology and telecommunications companies are considered “sexy” and, therefore, have an easier time attracting talent. It may also be attributable to their younger workforces, which are less affected by Baby Boomer retirements.

--Respondents that fail to address their talent management challenges over the next three years will feel the pain where it really hurts: in limited growth, increased time to market, reduced innovation, damage to customer relationships, and more.

--Forty-four percent of respondents have either not defined a list of critical skills for future growth or are in need of updating their list to meet current needs.

--Roughly a third of respondents regularly discuss the talent shortage at board meetings, while another third discuss it once or twice a year. Moreover, nearly half of the surveyed companies have started to conduct workforce planning to identify critical skills and talent gaps.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Improving Web-Based Support is Crucial to Good Customer Service

InQuira, Inc., a provider of integrated software applications for intelligent search, knowledge management, analytics and user experience, announced the publication of a study it sponsored from independent research firm ServiceXRG that examines the current state of online shopping and customer service. The study, entitled "Influencing the Online Experience," reveals that in order to maintain customer mindshare and loyalty, companies must improve available content and provide a superior web-based service experience.

ServiceXRG surveyed nearly 1,000 companies and online shoppers to gain insights from both the consumption and supply sides of the online experience to learn how the web is changing the way businesses engage with customers, and in turn how it impacts consumer perceptions of companies. Specifically, ServiceXRG examined how consumers use search for online support, conduct product research and engage in shopping activities; and then explored the investments, tools and resources the "supply side" provides to encourage Web use, drive successful online transaction and deliver a positive customer experience.

Key findings from the study include:

--Content quality and the ability to find information remains a top concern for consumers: 74.5% indicate that they use a company's web site to get information about a product or service, but only 44% of consumers surveyed felt that the information met their needs;

--Only 38.9% of the surveyed companies say they're currently able to provide a powerful advanced search function to their site visitors. In addition, 31.2% say they specifically plan to implement enhanced search in the future;

--97% of companies surveyed plan to make future investments to enhance customer's ability to find the service information they need, with content enhancements topping the list; and

--Less than 20% of companies provide a form of escalation through live chat to help customers during their shopping experience.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

IT Leaders Must Place IT Modernization at the Core of Their 2008 Objectives

IT management teams must place modernizing strategic planning at the core of their 2008 objectives and immediately apply this capability to IT modernization efforts, according to Gartner, Inc. By year-end 2010, more than one-third of all application projects will be driven by the need to deal with technology or skills obsolescence.

Gartner defines IT modernization as a movement that includes market forces, strategies and approaches to manage the ongoing, coordinated evolution of the business process, application and supporting technology portfolios to achieve an optimized value, cost and risk objective.

There are three major contributing factors to why IT modernization is needed now:

Lack of agility of IT systems and services in responding to business requests for change. As the IT environment becomes more crowded and more complex, it simultaneously becomes less able to respond in a timely manner to business demand for change. Every CIO struggles with this backlog of demand, which cannot be addressed simply by working harder with the artifacts that constitute the IT environment. The IT architecture was not designed or built for agility, so working harder is not going to close the agility gap.

Increasing integration among portfolios. Integration is capable of delivering real value to the business, reducing latency and increasing the throughput capacity of the organization. However, there is increased complexity in managing service delivery and maintaining the portfolios of assets needed to support the integrated organization. These benefits come at a price with increased complexity in managing service delivery and maintaining the portfolios of assets needed to support the integrated organization.

Increased obsolescence of deployed assets. The recession in 2000 and 2001 caused many enterprises to take a hiatus for a year or two from investing in IT. IT teams learned the disciplines of placing systems on life support, squeezing the last possible value from sunk costs. Although IT management teams may well be able to keep systems on life support for some time, there is a finite limit to the willingness of business users to keep on using solutions that fail to deliver modern standards of functionality and agility.

Skills crisis. Enterprises worldwide are operating under circumstances in which a significant portion of the people who understand their mission-critical systems are eligible to retire during the next five years. Organizations should not be surprised to find that 25 percent to 30 percent of their employees with legacy skills will be eligible to retire in the next three years.

Gartner recommends that CIOs identify the key asset portfolios across the IT domain, and assign management responsibility across the IT management team for each asset portfolio. The staff should be certain that the CIO will hold them individually responsible for participation in the activity. CIOs must also identify the best individual available to take responsibility for comprehensive IT planning across all portfolios, and make this individual a direct report.

CIOs should also organize a planning session where all the asset owners can explain the maturity and modernization issues inside their own portfolios to all the other asset owners. This will expose opportunities for synergy in all the interactions between each of the portfolio strategies.

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