Exploring the Trends in Global Business Communications

Today, most important executive relationships are globally distributed, but many business leaders still say that they want more collaboration in person. Particularly during activities such as brainstorming for new ideas, managing a specific crisis or making presentations. This is among the key findings from a new Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey.

While the primary function of meetings is to build relationships with customers, some 89 percent of EIU survey respondents say communications where the parties can see and respond to each other benefit internal business functions such as employee coaching and training as well as communications with partners and customers.

An additional 43 percent of respondents use meetings to discuss and resolve major issues with customers such as a service or product failure or dissatisfaction with the partnership. Motivations for expanding these meetings also include contract renewals, brainstorming sessions and being introduced to other clients or customers within the organization.

This EIU survey, sponsored by Cisco, explores the challenges of global enterprise collaboration and the perceived value of different types of business communications -- including telephone, instant messaging, email and conferencing.

Survey respondents were also asked their views on what business processes can be most impacted through in-person interaction as well as on potential productivity gains through these efforts.

The 862 global senior executives surveyed identified a number of key trends in business communications. These insightful findings include:

Face time is a priority -- When it comes to different stakeholders, business leaders attach greater importance to in-person meetings with customers than with colleagues, partners or suppliers. More than half (54%) of respondents to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey said they see meetings with customers as having the greatest impact on their business. This need for face time relates to how most respondents (56%) ranked the most important aspect of business collaboration: determining audience engagement and focus.

Email is getting in the way -- Business leaders in all categories cite email as the primary tool used in collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers (as much as 66% for senior managers) with the telephone identified as the second most-used business communication tool (25%). However, neither text nor voice alone was cited as the best option in communicating critical information in a global business.

Motivations for more meetings differ regionally -- Asked to pick their strongest motivation for meetings with colleagues outside of their own office, respondents from Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are most interested in resolving a problem quickly. However, U.S. business leaders are motivated more by cost reductions in meetings with colleagues. Non-U.S. respondents are also more interested in generating better long-term relationships during their meetings with partners and customers.

Industry dictates motivations as well -- In meeting with business partners or suppliers, respondents in the consumer goods industry are most likely to meet face to face to give or receive direction, while business leaders in energy/transportation, technology and services are most likely to meet to generate better long-term relationships. Respondents in other industries are most likely to meet with partners to be motivated or inspired.

To supplement the survey, the EIU hosted a roundtable discussion with two industry leaders, Joan Parsons, head of U.S. banking for Silicon Valley Bank, and Morten Hansen, a management professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Information and co-author of the book, Great by Choice, about their perspectives on business communications.
An analysis of the findings will be included as part of a EIU video webcast on April 24th, sponsored by Cisco Systems, Inc.
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Five Megatrends are Driving the Personal Cloud Era

If you believe that you've had to learn more about the safe online operation and ongoing management of your PC than you ever wanted to know, then you'll be pleased to discover that there's relief on the horizon. According to the latest market study by Gartner, the reign of the personal computer is coming to an apparent close. By 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer -- and this transition will likely include greater use of media tablets, chromebooks or other similar devices.

Gartner analysts said the personal cloud will become the foundation for a new era that will provide users with an increased level of flexibility with the devices they use for daily activities -- leveraging the strengths of each device, ultimately enabling new levels of user satisfaction and productivity.

However, Garner says that it will require enterprise IT leaders and their staff to fundamentally rethink how they deliver applications and services to their end-users.

Seeking New Fundamental Ways to Achieve Goals

"Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices," said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner.

He says that emerging cloud computing services will become the glue that connects the various digital devices that people will choose to use during the different aspects of their daily life.

"Many call this era the post-PC era, but it isn't really about being after the PC, but rather about a new style of personal computing that frees individuals to use computing in fundamentally new ways to improve multiple aspects of their work and personal lives," said Kleynhans.

Transition is Defined by a Series of Megatrends

Several driving forces are combining to create this new era. Gartner believes that these "megatrends" have roots that extend back through the past decade, but are aligning in a new way:

1. Consumerization -- Gartner has discussed the consumerization of IT for the better part of a decade, and has seen the impact of it across various aspects of the corporate IT world. However, much of this has simply been a precursor to the major wave that is starting to take hold across all aspects of information technology as several key factors come together:
  • Users are more technologically savvy and have very different expectations of technology.
  • The Internet and social media have empowered and emboldened users.
  • The rise of powerful, affordable mobile devices changes the equation for users.
  • Users have become innovators.
  • Through the democratization of technology, users of all types and status within organizations can now have similar technology available to them.

2. Virtualization -- it has improved flexibility and increased the options for how IT organizations can implement client environments. Virtualization has, to some extent, freed applications from the peculiarities of individual devices, operating systems or even processor architectures. Virtualization provides a way to move the legacy of applications and processes developed in the PC era forward into the new emerging world. This provides low-power devices access to much-greater processing power, thus expanding their utility and increasing the reach of processor-intensive applications.

3. Software App-ification -- When the way that applications are designed, delivered and consumed by users changes, it has a dramatic impact on all other aspects of the market. These changes will have a profound impact on how applications are written and managed in corporate environments. They also raise the prospect of greater cross-platform portability as small user experience (UX) apps are used to adjust a server- or cloud-resident application to the unique characteristics of a specific device or scenario. One application can now be exposed in multiple ways and used in varying situations by the user.

4. The Self-Service Cloud -- The advent of the cloud for servicing individual users opens a whole new level of opportunity. Every user can now have a scalable and nearly infinite set of resources available for whatever they need to do. The impacts for IT infrastructures are stunning, but when this is applied to the individual, there are some specific benefits that emerge. Users' digital activities are far more self-directed than ever before. Users demand to make their own choices about applications, services and content, selecting from a nearly limitless collection on the Internet. This encourages a culture of self-service that users expect in all aspects of their digital experience. Users can now store their virtual workspace or digital personality online.

5. The Mobility Shift -- Today, mobile devices combined with the cloud can fulfill most computing tasks, and any tradeoffs are outweighed in the minds of the user by the convenience and flexibility provided by the mobile devices. The emergence of more-natural user interface experiences is making mobility practical. Touch- and gesture-based user experiences, coupled with speech and contextual awareness, are enabling rich interaction with devices and a much greater level of freedom. At any point in time, and depending on the scenario, any given device will take on the role of the user's primary device -- the one at the center of the user's constellation of devices.
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Why Big Data Applications Adoption is Accelerating

Big Data applications have gained new momentum in the marketplace, as the benefits of working with larger and larger data sets enables analysts to spot key business-related trends. International Data Corporation (IDC) released a worldwide forecast of Big Data opportunities, noting that the market is expected to grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $16.9 billion in 2015.

This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent -- or about 7 times that of the overall Information and Communications Technology (ICT) market.

"The Big Data market is expanding rapidly as large IT companies and start-ups vie for customers and market share," said Dan Vesset, program vice president, Business Analytics Solutions at IDC.

IDC believes that for business technology buyers, opportunities exist to use Big Data solutions to improve operational efficiency and to drive innovation. Use cases are already present across industries and geographic regions.

"There are also Big Data opportunities for both large IT vendors and start ups," Vesset continued. "Major IT vendors are offering both database solutions and configurations supporting Big Data by evolving their own products as well as by acquisition. At the same time, more than half a billion dollars in venture capital has been invested in new Big Data technology."

Findings from the latest IDC market study include:

  • While the five-year CAGR for the worldwide market is expected to be nearly 40 percent, the growth of individual segments varies from 27.3 percent for servers and 34.2 percent for software to 61.4 percent for storage.
  • The growth in appliances, cloud services, and outsourcing deals for Big Data technology will likely mean that over time end users will pay increasingly less attention to technology capabilities and will focus instead on the business value arguments. System performance, availability, security, and manageability will all matter greatly. However, how they are achieved will be less of a point for differentiation among vendors.
  • Today there is a shortage of trained Big Data technology experts, in addition to a shortage of analytics experts. This labor supply constraint will act as an inhibitor of adoption and use of Big Data technologies, and it will also encourage vendors to deliver Big Data technologies as cloud-based solutions.

"While software and services make up the bulk of the market opportunity through 2015, infrastructure technology for Big Data deployments is expected to grow slightly faster at 44 percent CAGR. Storage, in particular, shows the strongest growth opportunity, growing at 61.4 percent CAGR through 2015," said Benjamin S. Woo, program vice president, Storage Systems at IDC.

The significant growth rate in revenue is underscored by the large number of new open source projects that drive infrastructure investments.

Focus on Big Data Deployment Methodology

IDC methodology for sizing the Big Data technology and services market includes evaluation of current and expected deployments that follow one of the following three scenarios:

  1. Deployments where the data collected is over 100 terabytes (TB). IDC is using data collected, not stored, to account for the use of in-memory technology where data may not be stored on a disk.
  2. Deployments of ultra-high-speed messaging technology for real-time, streaming data capture and monitoring. This scenario represents Big Data in motion as opposed to Big Data at rest.
  3. Deployments where the data sets may not be very large today, but are growing very rapidly at a rate of 60 percent or more annually.

Additionally, IDC requires that in each of these three scenarios, the technology is deployed on scale-out infrastructure and deployments that include either two or more data types or data sources or those that include high-speed data sources such as click-stream tracking or monitoring of machine-generated data.
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