Monday, February 28, 2011

Survey: Closing The IT Skills Gap

By many indications, the economy has shifted to expansion mode, and businesses are gearing up for renewed growth. The pace of this growth depends in large part on information technology -- the key to smart measurement, analysis and service to customer segments and markets. Are today’s IT college graduates up to the task? Are they entering the workforce with the right sets of skills that companies now so critically need? Are companies getting the skills they expect, or is additional training required?

In a new survey of 376 employers, conducted by Unisphere Research, a majority report that they depend on the educational sector -- universities and colleges -- to provide graduates with specific IT skills in enterprise programming languages and mainframe administration skills, as well as business skills such as problem-solving and communications abilities. However, few companies are entirely satisfied with the readiness of graduates.

Key findings include:

-- One out of four companies are concerned about the technical aptitude of job candidates, but there is even greater concern about their lack of business skills. Close to four out of 10 report that their IT hires are not sufficiently prepared to perform jobs within their companies, and another 44% say at a minimum there are notable gaps in skills. Some remedial skills training is always needed; only 8% would rate their IT hires as “well-trained, ready to go.”

-- Employers overwhelmingly agree that colleges and universities need to provide the essential skills required to run IT departments. Seventy-seven percent look to educational institutions to provide programming skills, 82% look for database skills, 76% look for analysis and architectural skills. Along with appropriate technical skills, eight out of 10 companies seek problem-solving and technical skills.

-- About half of the companies in the survey hire new IT employees straight out of school, with relatively little actual working experience. Ideally, most would like to see at least a year of on-the-job experience—especially among smaller companies. A majority require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in their new IT hires, and in most cases, the preferred degree is a computer science degree. Two out of three companies seek college intern experience among IT hires.

-- Six out of 10 companies will be hiring programmers and developers over the coming year, and seek skills in application server environments, database languages, and Java. COBOL is still sought as a skill by almost four out of 10 companies.

-- Many companies seek skills that help manage IT risk. Administration skills most in demand include backup and recovery, storage administration, security, and disaster recovery.

-- Demand for applications managers is not as acute as in other skill categories. The strongest demand among companies seeking ERP skills is for professionals who can run custom-built ERP applications, PeopleSoft and SAP.

-- About one-third of companies are seeking professionals and managers that can bridge the divides between IT departments and business leaders. Project management, analytics/business intelligence, and enterprise architecture skills are in demand by more than half of the companies surveyed.

More information on IT skills can be found at

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Survey Indicates Renewed Improvement in Senior Executives' Economic Outlook; Anticipated Growth Driven by Increase in Consumer Confidence, Hiring and Capital Investment

The Corporate Executive Board released results from its quarterly Business Barometer survey, which pointed to several signs of economic improvement in the fundamentals of U.S. businesses. Driven by anticipated increases in consumer confidence, hiring and capital spending, the collective optimism of the more than 400 senior executives who participated in the survey boosted its sentiment index by 1.5 - to 50.6 in Q1 2011 from 48.9 in Q4 2010 - marking the second consecutive quarter of executives' improved economic outlook.

Notably, 82 percent of senior executives expect their firms' revenues to increase, up from 76 percent in Q4 2010, with 50 percent expecting meaningful growth of five percent or more. Additionally, 69 percent of senior executives expect their industries' revenues to grow in the next 12 months (compared to 62 percent in Q4 2010).

One of the most significant improvements in the Q1 Business Barometer was senior executives' sentiment regarding consumer confidence, with 56 percent of senior executives expecting consumer confidence to improve (compared to 39 percent in Q4 2010 and 38 percent in Q3 2010). This quarter's survey also saw a significant improvement in sentiment among executives about their companies' hiring practices, with 58 percent of senior executives expecting overall staff headcount to grow in the next twelve months (compared to 50 percent in Q4 2010).

Additional notable findings from CEB's Q1 2011 Business Barometer include:

-- Growth prospects in the U.S. and E.U. improved dramatically, with 50 percent of executives seeing stronger economic growth in these industrialized economies (compared to 32 percent in Q4 2010 and Q3 2010).

-- The percentage of executives expecting an increase in R&D spending increased to 56 percent, compared to 43 percent in Q4 2010.

-- In the next twelve months, 57 percent of executives expect more M&A deals, up from 53 percent in Q4 2010.

-- Sixty-six percent of surveyed executives expect to introduce a higher number of new products (compared to 53 percent in Q4 2010) and 94 percent expect to maintain or somewhat increase existing capacity levels (compared to 45 percent in Q4 2010).

More information can be found at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Study unveils new benchmark for a powerful and profitable Online Chat customer service experience

To validate best practices for online sales chat, TELUS International commissioned the study using an independent consulting firm, SPOT Consulting. Sixty in-depth chat sessions were conducted with six Fortune 500 companies to analyze the qualitative metrics of an ideal online chat sales session.

Key findings

Agent skills

In order to evaluate agent skills, six key variables were identified including: average response time, expectation setting, accuracy of response, direct objective responses, conversation flow and patience. Key attributes of top-performing agents included:

• Ability to move beyond standardized procedures and scripting to personalize the consumer’s experience
• Ability to find relevant information quickly (within 30 seconds) to close sales
• Proactive problem solving with accurate solutions or seamless transfers to other departments
• Empowered agents able to offer incentives, such as expedited shipping, in order to close sales

Chat system features

Nine variables were examined including: hours of operation, chat transcripts available, typing notification, queue position, wait time, entitlement process, encryption of sensitive information, added features and system availability. Key features of the top systems included:

• Automatic data encryption to ensure secure, one-process transactions
• Customization and personalization, such as the ability to increase fonts and share hyperlinks
• Configuration and accessibility of chat systems and knowledge bases
• Real-time collaboration and internal instant messaging between agents, supervisors and subject matter experts within the contact center
• Ability to provide complete post-session chat transcripts via email
• Agents always available during hours of operation
• A seamless process with no system lags or dropped chats

Communications style

The following five variables were analyzed for benchmarking purposes: brevity and staying on point, grammar, spelling and sentence structure, voice and tone, terminology and personalization. Key differentiating factors included:

• Agents were professional and consistently applied proper grammar and punctuation
• Responses were clear and concise, often including links to explain complex issues
• Agents were engaged and personal, acting like a personal online shopper with multiple exchanges
• Content, tone and style reflected company brand values

More information can be found at

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Most Competitive Intelligence Teams Struggle for Visibility

According to a new study by Cutting Edge Information, competitive intelligence teams struggle to gain organizational visibility, leaving them vulnerable to extinction. It stems from being buried in the company structure. Poor visibility makes competitive intelligence teams expendable to their superiors when it comes time for budget cuts. This study dissects the structural limitations that competitive intelligence teams often face and provides real-world solutions to elevate competitive intelligence to a more visible position within the company. One of the key findings is that companies must remove competitive intelligence teams from under the market research umbrella, which often buries competitive intelligence deep within the organization and stifles their organizational voice.

Budgets and Staffing are Not Rising Fast Enough

When competitive intelligence teams are buried within the organization, they often fall victim to heavy budget cuts or cease to exist all together. The study reveals examples of why competitive intelligence teams are most commonly subjected to budget cuts. Too often, when competitive intelligence teams are buried under another department -- market research -- the overarching department will protect its budget before the competitive intelligence budget. The report provides solutions to avoid these situations.

Many Executives are Making Uninformed Strategic Decisions

Many executives are making under-informed strategic decisions and competitive intelligence is not always looped into top-level choices. This report provides support for the value of competitive intelligence. The decision support that competitive intelligence provides is incomparable and cannot be replaced by market research, for example. This study emphasizes how competitive intelligence teams can get their recommendations into the hands of company leaders.

A Typical Downsizing “Cycle” Lasts About 5 Years

The typical competitive intelligence team will find itself in a cycle of ramp ups and then drastic cuts in resources. Competitive intelligence teams often struggle to remain in place for very long. This sine wave of ramp ups and downsizing that competitive intelligence teams are on is nothing new. It’s a persistent problem that companies will only be free of when they choose to elevate their competitive intelligence function and provide it more autonomy. This report provides best practices, data and real-world case studies to support a more independent competitive intelligence structure. 

More information can be found at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility Can Enhance Customer Value

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities have the potential to enhance customer value in many ways, The Conference Board said in a new report.

The report points out four distinct forms of CSR-related value for customers: the efficiency of a product or service, the aesthetic appreciation of consuming a product, the social status a customer acquires from using a product, and the social or environmental benefit a community can derive from widespread dissemination of a product.

The report offers business leaders 10 recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of CSR activities on customer responses, such as:

-- Prioritize product-related activities over philanthropy and business practices.

-- Ensure coherence of the activities included in a CSR portfolio to build a strong and recognizable “CSR brand.”

-- Ensure consistent, long-term commitment to each activity in the CSR portfolio, especially when not product-related.

-- Make adequate use of marketing to enhance the customer value proposition of CSR activities.

-- Tie CSR to functional and utilitarian products.

More information can be found at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Worldwide IT Spending Outperformed Expectations in 2010, Reaching $1.5 Trillion

Global spending on information technology (IT) surged to its fastest rate of growth since 2007 last year, driven by pent-up demand for hardware upgrades and infrastructure investment after the financial crisis and global recession of 2009. According to the new International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Black Book, the global IT market grew by 8% year over year to more than $1.5 trillion at constant currency. Including telecom services, the overall information and communications technology (ICT) market grew by 6% to almost $3 trillion in 2010.

Hardware spending led the way, as a major capital spending cycle saw IT spending on computer systems, peripherals, storage, mobile devices, and network equipment increase by 16% to more than $661 billion, the fastest rate of growth for hardware investment since 1996. Storage spending grew by 14%, servers by 9%, and PCs by 11%.

The pace of recovery was more robust than after any previous economic recession, in spite of the severity of the 2008/2009 financial crisis. Spending on software and services, while lagging the pace of hardware investment, also returned to positive growth of 4% and 2% respectively. This is set to accelerate in 2011, as investment in new IT projects (including rapid adoption of cloud computing) begins to make up for an inevitable deceleration in the pace of capital spending by the end of the year. The overall IT market will grow by 7% this year to $1.65 trillion with another year of double-digit growth for hardware spending (10%), while software and services markets will increase by 5% and 4% respectively.

The U.S. IT market grew by 6% in 2010, and will expand by another 5% in 2011, but emerging economies are again leading the way and driving the overall growth of the global industry to higher levels. The Asia/Pacific region, excluding Japan (APeJ), saw growth of 13% last year, which will be followed by a 10% increase in 2011. Double-digit growth is also forecast in Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa. Meanwhile, other mature economies including Western Europe, Japan, and Canada will continue to expand at a lower but sustainable rate of growth, much like the U.S. High levels of unemployment will continue to inhibit overall IT investment in many of those countries, but positive drivers will include adoption of cloud computing, the continued proliferation of mobile devices, and investment in new software analytics tools. 

More information in IT spending can be found at

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eight Trends Driving The Future of Information Technology

The emerging world of information technology is one in which data is king, social platforms evolve as a new source of business intelligence, and cloud computing finally delivers on IT’s role as a driver of business growth, according to a new report from Accenture.

The Accenture Technology Vision 2011 identifies eight emerging trends that challenge long-held assumptions about IT and are poised to reshape the business landscape. The report also offers “action steps” that high performing businesses and governments can take to prepare for the new world of computing.

One of the most significant trends identified in the report finds that the age of “viewing everything through an application lens is coming to an end.” Instead, platform architectures will be selected primarily to cope with soaring volumes of data and the complexity of data management, not for their ability to support applications.

The tried and true relational database will not go away, but it will soon start to make way for other types of databases – streaming databases, for instance – that mark a significant departure from what IT departments and business users have relied on for decades.

The vision also predicts the evolution of social media into social platforms. This means company web sites may no longer be the first port of call for customers. This has the potential to disrupt the way companies conduct business, posing new challenges – and opportunities – for IT.

For example, “social identities” – based on the rich history of information that individuals leave in social networks – will become much more valuable to businesses than the traditional and isolated information they get when an individual registers on their corporate website.

Accenture also sees a new conversation emerging around cloud computing, which will become so pervasive that the term itself becomes superfluous. According to the report, hybrid clouds – software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) in combination with internal applications – will “cement IT’s role as a driver of business growth.”

The focus will shift from simple infrastructure solutions to developing cloud strategies that deliver increased functionality and flexibility using a mix of public and private cloud-based application and platform services. While many challenges remain, cloud is nonetheless poised to change the face of enterprise computing.

The other trends identified in the report are:

-- Data Security: The fortress mentality, in which all IT has to be architected to be foolproof, is giving way to a security architecture that responds proportionately to threats when and where they happen.” As a result, the role of people in data security will decline, replaced by automated capabilities that detect, assess, and respond immediately.

-- Data Privacy: Individual privacy will take center stage as a result of increased government regulation and policy enforcement. The report concludes: “We expect that leading players will develop superior levels of understanding, enterprise-wide, about the distinctions between being a data processor – broadly handling the personal data of others – versus being a datacontroller, thus lowering the risks of unwitting breaches or privacy regulations and perceptions of privacy breakdowns.”

-- Analytics: Companies that continue to view analytics as a simple extension of business intelligence will be “severely underestimating analytics’ potential to move the needles on the business.” Among other failings, traditional BI does not take advantage of the wealth of unstructured data that is now available. IT leaders will need to work closely with business leaders to identify where analytics can be leveraged effectively, as well as the proper mix of services required to optimize analytics capabilities across the enterprise.

--Architecture: Information technology is evolving from a world that is server-centric to one that is service-centric. Companies are quickly moving away from monolithic systems that were wedded to one or more servers toward finer-grained, reusable services distributed inside and outside the enterprise. The goal: to decouple infrastructure, systems, applications, and business processes from one another.

--User Experience: Today, business process design is driven by the need for optimization and cost reduction. Tomorrow it will be driven by the need to create superior user experiences that help to boost customer satisfaction. Great user experiences will require more layered approaches than what is typical today. As such, application design will be a multidisciplinary exercise: Typically handled today by IT architects and business owners, tomorrow it will involve optimization from the perspective of the process actor, with the emphasis on simplicity and on removing inefficiencies.

More information on IT can be found at

Monday, February 7, 2011

Five Long-Term, Overarching, and Interdependent Trends Affecting the Enterprise Software Industry

Business intelligence (BI), collaboration, content management, social software and supply chain management will be the top application software growth segments in 2011, according to Gartner, Inc. This year, the focus will be on modernizing packaged application systems, enabling diverse user access through software as a service (SaaS) and cloud services, and driving revenue and innovation.

Worldwide enterprise software revenue is forecast to surpass $253.7 billion in 2011, a 7.5 percent increase from 2010 revenue of $235.9 billion.
The market-disrupting influences of SaaS, cloud-based services, open-source software, consumerization and Web 2.0 technologies will expand, while developing countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), will prove themselves to be pivotal innovation and growth engines.

Gartner has identified the five long-term, overarching, and interdependent trends affecting the enterprise software markets as globalization, implementation, modernization, socialization and verticalization.

Globalization: This encompasses market consolidation and technology convergence trends, as well as the connected society, vendor mergers, and acquisitions. Gartner predicts significant technology and vendor consolidation during the next several years will reshape the current landscape. During this period of market disruption, highly fragmented software markets will become more structured and marked by an extensive reduction of vendors. Even though organizations compete globally, localization requirements -- including languages, cultures and laws -- must be supported.

Implementation: How organizations procure and deliver software is being challenged with cloud-computing, platform as a service (PaaS) and SaaS, coupled with pervasive and mobile access. The demand for cloud-based solutions will continue throughout the next several years. Mobile solutions have led to the opening of many new industry-based market opportunities, such as mobile banking, mobile commerce and remote healthcare diagnostics.

Modernization: Enterprises continue to migrate to open-source software (OSS) and SOA as older applications and systems become more costly to upgrade and maintain. Aligned with the modernization trend, automating business processes and streamlining workflows continue to gain traction. Enterprises are expecting to provide significant resources in 2011 to upgrade all types of systems and software, ranging from personal productivity tools, to build-run-manage infrastructure software, to user-driven applications. Virtualization is a key modernization factor.

Socialization: Use of social media and networking continues to gain traction. In the trend of socialization, which includes personalization, collaboration and content in the context of user-defined activities, Gartner predicts that unified communications and collaboration will see increased adoption in 2012, and context-aware and presence-based computing will gain more traction in 2013.

Verticalization: This trend involves a cycle of horizontal software applications becoming more customized and catered toward specific industries. In deploying new software technologies, it is common for vendors to initially provide generalized technology that, over time, can then give rise to more industry-specific and line-of-business features. Examples are communications-enabled business processes and composite content applications.

Gartner analysts said that worldwide economic and financial uncertainty, although somewhat improved in 2010, will continue to impact the technology industry through 2011 as end users maintain reduced-cost and controlled-spending strategies. Although the crisis has weakened, new technologies, delivery models, user demands and a combination of economic and business forces persist in the ability to rapidly change the environment for software vendors and service providers. Most segments of the enterprise software marketplace will continue to grow, but there will be fewer new purchases as enterprises align spending to augmentation, integration and modernization programs.

More information on enterprise software can be found at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Survey Finds Scope of Responsibilities Expanding for CFOs

In the wake of the economic downturn, 80 percent of senior finance executives said their scope of responsibilities has expanded, with finance also now overseeing programs in other departments across the enterprise, according to findings of a new Accenture survey.

The departments where senior finance executives most frequently said they also now manage projects include: information technology (43 percent), strategy and business development (41 percent), and human resources (39 percent). They also mentioned having program responsibilities in risk and customer service (37 percent each), procurement (35 percent), marketing and sales (33 percent), research and development (30 percent), and supply chain management (25 percent).

To enable greater market responsiveness, 84 percent of the executives said they need to update their processes, data or content (including analytics), IT systems and/or workforce centralization. Breaking that down, 63 percent of the executives said they had modified or needed to modify their financial planning and forecasting processes, and 48 percent said they had modified or needed to modify their corresponding IT systems. More than half of the executives (53 percent) also said they have expanded or are expanding their content or data (including analytics) in planning and forecasting.

More information on IT can be found at