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Voice of Our Readers: The 2006 Strategic Management Survey

What's top of mind with Intelligent Enterprise readers? The more than 1,100 who responded to our Web Poll say inadequate security, misplaced vendor priorities, disparate systems and poor IT planning are big problems. Here's what your peers are doing to refocus spending and deliver better, more timely insight.

Vendors: Time to Step Up

Readers aren't happy with vendors' efforts to solve integration problems; 62 percent overall indicated that vendors aren't doing enough (see the breakout by company size in the second Listening Post at right). About 43 percent said that recent enhancements to software products and applications aren't in sync with their business and IT requirements, and that they are therefore putting off upgrades. Just over 41 percent believe a shared legal responsibility should exist between their organizations and software vendors (or service providers) for when things go wrong. And nearly a third said that their more extensive product testing is forcing vendors to adapt to longer sales cycles.

Will vendors' long, lucrative ride on maintenance revenues come to an end any time soon? About a quarter of the respondents said they're reducing maintenance costs by canceling contracts with their original vendors and either outsourcing the work or contracting with cheaper third-party support firms. However, 46 percent said that they're not.

We wondered whether traditional licenses and maintenance arrangements present major obstacles to complete exploitation of SOA and the Internet generally. Nearly 35 percent said yes, while about 25 percent said no. And are readers moving toward subscription-based arrangements and away from standard up-front licensing? A little more than 32 percent said yes, but the same percentage said no.

Overall, SOA received a thumbs-up from 42 percent of respondents as their "template for the development, deployment and licensing of future applications and software tools." However, SOA has some challenges to overcome. About the same number cited security concerns as a key reason why they "restrict" SOA deployment and use of Web services. Nearly the same number of respondents called the technology immature, and 29 percent restrict their implementations because "it's not possible to couple Web services as loosely as software marketers and salespeople say you can."

Will customers' intentions with SOA eventually push more change in licensing relationships with vendors? It's too soon to tell, but interestingly, 40 percent of respondents said their organization "legally protects some business processes, analytic approaches and templates," and sees potential business opportunities in licensing these to partners. This result sheds light on how SOA integration with BPM might develop. Clearly, a good percentage of our readers will be looking for business opportunities in this fusion, not just better enterprise integration and efficiency.

Smarts in the Here and Now

"Real time" has become a rallying cry—and something of an IT imperative—in many organizations. We wanted to find out where readers are placing the most emphasis on "reducing information latency." Perhaps not surprisingly, about 40 percent are making a "big effort" toward speeding up the information flow to deal with fraud and security problems (12 percent called it their "highest priority"). Call center, customer service and sales support came in second, with 32 percent applying at least a "big effort." Regulatory and compliance issues came in with 31 percent, with the next highest percentage saying that end-of-quarter reporting required a big effort to cut down on information delays.

BI and data warehousing are often the target of "real-time" partisans, in part because their legacy is in a batch-oriented world dominated by historical reporting and strategic analysis of long-term trends. However, as performance management catches on, especially for operational users throughout enterprise, the desire for actionable information rises. Business activity monitoring (BAM) of the status of processes, transactions and other operations sits at the most "active" end of the scale right now.

We asked readers how they view themselves on the passive-to-active spectrum. The highest number (nearly 39 percent) said their strategy was to make BI more active as the technology matures. About 28 percent said they're currently deploying active BI features, especially for service and sales management, performance management and end-of-quarter business condition reporting. Less than 10 percent have employed BAM and other active BI features outside of their "passive" BI and data warehousing infrastructures.

"Faster, better, cheaper" remains the motto of the software industry generally and of most IT users: so, it wouldn't surprise us to see more readers embrace the real-time vision and edge toward the "active" end of the spectrum with BI and data warehousing. Once SOA security and performance challenges are overcome, BI Web services will hit the market and demand timely information and analysis. Even the passive world of strategic analysis will come to depend on speedy refreshes of information. Organizations will want instant visibility into transactions and processes so employees and/or systems can act quickly to seize opportunities or head off disaster.

Your survey answers have given us much to think about as we organize our coverage for 2006. The quest for strategic and competitive advantage comes with an unquenchable thirst for the best information and analysis—and for unique intelligence with which to improve business processes, customer relationships and profitability. Our quest remains to bring you insights that keep you moving forward and never falling back.