Category Archives: Marketing and Social Business

Why Customer Engagement Matters – Customer Dynamics and Business Judo

My briefing on The Customer Edge with host Butch Stearns and colleague Matt Healey from Technology Business Research provided the post-game interview with SAP Insider CRM 2014 conference.  Some highlights may also be found in my LinkedIn post this week, including some thoughts around generational shifts around social marketing expectations and the business judo that needs to happen to give the power of the brand back to the customer.

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Click on the photo to go to the briefing or select this link

 

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Filed under Big Data, Business Analytics, Change Management and Leadership, Cloud Computing, Digital Content Strategy, Innovation, Marketing and Social Business, Millennial Worker Shift, Mobile Society, Operations, Strategy, Technology

Changing Intended Human Behavior, and Liking It

More on my coverage of convergence forces, recently I interviewed a number of customers and executives at the SAP CRM 2014 conference in Las Vegas.  One of the big topics was the focus of location-based services, social, and predictive analytics to offer real-time perks to consumers who have opted-in for such deals.

I’m walking through the park with my wife and I receive a notification on my smart phone.  Because my wife and I enjoy a particular film festival, an offer comes to us for a free ticket with one purchase to an event happening in a nearby venue.  When we finish a lovely movie experience, we receive additional offers for a bite of dinner from three local establishments which we have frequented in the past.  We have taken a leisurely stroll in the park and extended this into a full day of entertainment and relaxation.

Science fiction? Hardly, as we saw this week at the SAP Insider CRM 2014 conference in Las Vegas the citizens of Montreal can live this experience every day with the use of the Societe du Transport Montreal (STM) application.  This location-based customer engagement mobile app identifies where the citizen is, how they can route from point to point inside the city’s transit system, and offer perks and offers along the way by participating establishments which the citizen may or may not already have a customer history with.

This was just one of several customer engagement (CE) scenarios that were discussed with applications across a wide range of product and service industries from public sector, to telecommunications, to discrete manufacturers. Unlike other location based services apps driven by big data where data privacy issues surrounding dynamic pricing my create societal concerns, this fully opt-in community-based approach works.

I am posting the STM promotional video here as well.  For my full report on findings from CRM 2014 check out my blog on the SAP Community Network (login required for comment).

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Coffee Break with Game Changers 2014 Predictions Pt 3 – More on Convergence Forces

The popular internet radio talk show program hosted by Bonnie D. Graham returns for its third full season of predictions and trends which will impact business and technology. What will be the disruptive factors in the market in 20-14? I joined Bonnie and the panel during the fourth segment around 56:00 with my take on “convergence forces” to beg the question “can you fish in a tsunami?”

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My opening statement – besides my annual holiday Irish Cream recipe which you can find elsewhere on my blog – is summarized below. You can also find more on this blog and on my SCN page.

One of the big news stories in strategy, innovation and tech circles is the growth and convergence of four key trends from the past two years. These trends – social networking, mobile computing, cloud applications and big data – are not new.  In fact our firm covered these extensively in 2012 and continue to advise clients on how to leverage these trends strategically, both individually and collectively. What is occurring now as we move into 2014 is the cumulative effect of these trends into force directions of their own.  These so-called convergence forces – or what Gartner Group calls nexus of forces (NOF) – have a tendency to amplify and extend innovation in new and more powerful directions, much like strong winds, lunar position, and seismic disturbances can affect the behavior of ocean tides.  To put it another way, you might be able to plan to fish based on high tide but planning to fish during a tsunami is, well, a bit more complicated.

You can plan to fish in a high tide but fishing in a tsunami is a bit more complicated.

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Filed under Big Data, Business Analytics, Change Management and Leadership, Cloud Computing, Cloud Readiness, Digital Content Strategy, Information Technology, Innovation, Marketing and Social Business, Millennial Worker Shift, Mobile Society, Operations, Strategy, Technology

Convergence Forces – The Coming Ethics Debate on Predictive Analytics and Location Based Services

One of the big news stories in strategy, innovation and tech circles is the growth and convergence of four key trends from the past two years. These trends – social networking, mobile computing, cloud applications and big data – are not new.  In fact our firm covered these extensively in 2012 and continue to advise clients on how to leverage these trends strategically, both  individually and collectively. What is occurring now as we move into 2014 is the cumulative effect of these trends into force directions of their own.  These so-called convergence forces – or what Gartner Group calls nexus of forces (NOF) – have a tendency to amplify and extend innovation in new and more powerful directions, much like strong winds, lunar position, and seismic disturbances can affect the behavior of ocean tides.

Photo credit, Cisco Systems.

One of the areas where we are seeing this play out is in the business to consumer pricing strategies of in-store retail.  Location based services – either by way of opt-in applications or mobile browsing cookies – allow known customers to log-in to store applications and view special VIP promotions, to quickly locate where items may be found in the store, and to recommend products which based on sentiment analysis and buying pattern might be of interest to the customer.  Location based predictive analytics can also help retailers determine the best location in a particular store to position items based on customer traffic (using big data to monitor your path via GPS as you actually browse the store or predict where you will go based on history and profile) as well as to dynamically create promotions based on your position and buying status.

Creating special offers and promotions based on an existing relationship is not new in the business to business world.  Suppliers and customers alike receive special treatment and extended services and bundle pricing based on volume of sales, excellent quality, and other relationship management KPIs.  In fact in the world of wealth management and retail banking, customers may find that with particularly large financial institutions the first question they are asked after pleasantries may be “what is your current relationship with us?” While this is hardly endearing to the uninformed, it does grant status to those who may, have for example, several accounts, a loan, a trust and other financial products all aggregated under the same customer portfolio with a particular financial institution.

Where things may run amok in the future is when customers (a) receive deferential pricing based on relationship without permission and (b) when a relationship is implied based on socio-demographic profiling or  when facial recognition technologies are employed.  Let me give two very possible scenarios.  I have an account at a sports and recreation retailer and I walk into the store. As a member I have given them permission to my specific profile information (where I live, what I purchase via history, my demographics) in exchange for an annual dividend at no fee.  The retailer has the ability while I am in-store to make me aware of specific items I might want and key promotions going on at that store on that day.  What the retailer can do is also annotate the base price while I walk through the store.  Meaning that what price I may see before logging in and what price I see after I log-in may be different.  Imagine digital price tags changing and updating dynamically as I walk through the store.  Now in this scenario I am going to assume that the incentive I have to purchase items is a benefit versus a cost so I assume that the store is truly giving me a deal even if they don’t.

Another scenario gets more futuristic but again the convergence forces suggest all plausibility.  I walk into a store that I don’t actively have a relationship with nor have I given permission to share my profile and demographic information.  However due to advances in facial recognition technology (such as what is available in Facebook and other applications commercially), the store can tap into vast image databases and make a best estimate at who I am based on my movements in the store and camera images obtained while I move throughout the store.  This correlation of implied relationship and implied demographics can, under the proper scenario, suggest promotions and product recommendations not aligned to my actual relationship nor my actual demographic and in extreme cases improperly tweak dynamic pricing levels.

While this extreme case is just that, convergence forces already have the attention of retail strategists, ethics experts, media tech publications and even sparked political debate. Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) suggested that analytics companies engaging in such practices without customer knowledge would be “intrusive and unsettling.” prompting the Senator to issue a statement with eight of the key location analytics companies in this space to a new code of conduct which would discourage such practices. Other industry segments have also begun to weigh in on the legitimate and ethical use of predictive analytics including higher education, which can use the technology as a early warning system for right-tracking student performance through degree programs.

Convergence forces in this area have already begun and the debate is reaching the mainstream.  What are your thoughts? And – outside of leaving your phone in the car or forgoing permission to give your profile information to any customer loyalty system or social media site – how do we as consumers protect ourselves from retail profiling when we don’t want it?

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Filed under Big Data, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Cloud Readiness, Financial Management, Information Technology, Innovation, Marketing and Social Business, Mobile Society, Operations, Strategy, Technology

KXEN brings SAP Analytics to the Business Analyst Community

This week in Las Vegas I held a number of executive interviews as part of my role with the SAP Business Influencer community at TechED.  I’ll be posting on the SAP Community Network with abstracts here to link to the full content.  

This week at SAP TechED, the KXEN team was in full force both demonstrating the continuing value of the brand which SAP acquired last month and also their new SAP employee badges after cutting over to their new teams inside the SAP Analytics group earlier in the month.

According to Saravana Chandran, Senior Director for Advanced Analytics, SAP had good position with the up-market visualization space with its Lumira product and relatively good penetration in the statistician and data scientist market with its predictive analytics tools.  What KXEN brings to the table is the middle ground of business analysts who look for trends and forecasts as part of their day to day activities but who are not overtly looking to dissect the data into complex and reusable algorithms like statisticians.

“The vision of SAP Analytics is to reduce the data to decision latency, operationalize predictive model, and bring predictive analytics to broad set of users – beyond the data scientist while being open and flexible” claimed Chandran in my business influence interview this week at SAP TechED.  “Customers can leverage predictive models and extend the usefulness to the end user across all levels of expertise.  So you can democratize analytics and overcome the skills gap in today’s environment” where either the data is too complex (requiring more data scientists) or the application to simple to drive real trends and value to business decision making.  Chandran claims that due to the skills gap currently in the market, for every $1 spent on solutions an additional $99 is spent on services needed to use those solutions productively.  In today’s world you need to hire data scientists or bring in service providers to perform necessary analysis over time, pricing many companies (even large enterprises) out of the predictive analytics space.

To read the full article, including an embedded YouTube interview with Chandran and KXEN VP of Product Management Marco Casalaina, visit the SCN posting.  Thanks to Chandran and Charles Gadalla for their time to sit together and talk about predictive analysis at SAP TechED.  Follow my other SCN postings via my SCN profile page or Twitter (@william_newman).

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Snowden Case Illustrates Gaps in Governance Policy

While the world watches Edward Snowden and his serendipitous travels and possible end game as he faces charges of US espionage at home, the security world has been asking the same question since the Guardian made its bombshell disclosures: How did this happen?

Photograph: The Guardian/AFP/Getty Images

Indeed despite any personal views on whether Snowden is a whistle-blower, a spy, or a confused young man one thing is certain.  With a relatively low analyst role inside of the National Security Agency (NSA), Snowden had access to large data piles of sensitive information – both metadata as well as content data – on the US surveillance programs.  While the deep content data was under the auspices of US government efforts to get a handle on thwarting terrorist attacks and cyber espionage from commercial and political entities, it illustrates what can happen when large organization do not pay attention to those able to come and go from their own systems and what information they can see.

Commercial organizations have been dealing with this problem for the past two decades.  In the outsourcing shift of the late 1990s and early 2000s, American and other Western-based companies looked to offshore security, network administration, and call center services to countries with lower wage knowledge workers.  Countries like Brazil, India and China began to sprout data centers and call centers creating huge demand for trained and skilled tech workers.  While many of these workers used their positions to eventually emigrate to developed nations, many remained close to families and absorbed good-wage, local jobs with very exciting large, multinational corporations.

And that’s when the fun stopped.  Once in, unless you have multi-tiered governance and access models over all systems users, these third party offshore providers found there were ways to increase their value by siphoning off intellectual property (IP) for use with related home country industries.  Granted the vast majority of offshore information technology providers were of good repute and legitimate in their contracts and task execution.  However while working for a government contractor – a large multi-national subject to ITAR and other commercial export and technology transfer laws – the candy store was discovered not only open but unlocked.

It seems in their haste and desire to spin-0ff a large offshore company that had been created for the purpose of taking care of their systems in a joint venture, headquarters personnel of this multinational corporation became aware of unusual logs in the use and view of certain key data files.  These files related to the design and manufacture of product governed by commercial and government controls, and did not have anything to do with the core systems management processes the offshore company was now contracted to provide and maintain.  In short, network administrators had such broad access based on the definition of their user profile they could essentially view, edit, delete and copy any product related files.  This led to a large discussion and renegotiation of the service level agreement between the multinational and offshore provider. Eventually a domestic systems management services provider was contracted to take on the network care over product and manufacturing data.

There will always be the Edward Snowden’s of the world, who feel they must act on what they see or re-purpose information that is available to them.  However with greater governance and controls of information policy we can limit the availability of future Snowden’s to have full visibility of information that is not on a need-to-know basis.  We have the tools and methods available to put these governance policies in place.  In both government and commercial sectors, responsible management is needed to do so.

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Can Supply Chain Visibility Save Lives?

My recent SCN blog post “Focused Brand Management via Supply Chain Visibility” has received nearly 1,000 views since it was posted earlier in the month following my interview with Markus Rosemann, Head of Supply Chain Execution at SAP during the SAPPHIRE Orlando conference.  It is provided here as an abstract to create visibility in non-technical circles so we can all consider if increased supply chain visibility can detect issues before they occur. Or kill. 

Read the full article on SCN under the Business Trends topic for Sustainability and Supply Chain.

Rena Plaza collapse (image courtesy NY Times, Reuters)

In the wake of devastating tragedies in Bangladesh and Paskistan over the past 18 months, OEMs are developing action plans and mitigation strategies to avoid collateral brand damage associated with poorly run and often dangerously unsafe external contract manufacturers.  During my recent podcast for the IXN (Episode IXN002 on iTunes) I was asked what is the top challenge facing global supply chains.  My answer was terrifyingly predictive: brand management and the impact it has on brand sales when a horrific event happens overseas.  Two weeks later, over 1,000 workers (mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers) lost their lives in the building collapse at the Rena Plaza factory in Bangladesh.  While the death toll rose, Disney was one of the first brands to pull out of the country, and the EU developed a memorandum of understanding that many appareland footwear manufacturers were voluntarily adopting.

This week at SAPPHIRE I sat down with Markus Rosemann, Head of Supply Chain Execution, LOB Solution Management, to discuss this problem.  Given the actions of the previous several weeks this issue is top of mind in supply chain operations and risk management functions inside, it was a familiar topic.

Integrated supply chain issues for brand management is a critical success factor because as Rosemann put it, “you cannot lose on this front. How you integrate with your partners is a growing need, not only the process and order level (for example, who was manufacturing on Bangladesh and what percentage of your portfolio), but also the need for the supply network to create visibility.” While this has been an issue for years, the impact on brand management today creates a new need to track and trace supplier activity so companies can protect their brand.

Social and sentiment analysis can also play into that from a demand signal management perspective. Social plug-ins can see the sentiment analysis on brands, platform, and customer preferences. So what does this mean having a true voice of the customer in the wake of a horrific supplier event?  According to Rosemann, “that is finally changing, best margin is not the only driving force” in industries such as apparel and footwear. “This is an area that we see changing in the market place – demand patterns which are changing, and this can all be viewed inside real-time analytics. We see this as a huge opportunity to leverage the power of HANA, for massive data which can be analyzed and understood. From this, information can be pushed onto strategy, supply planning, and then sourced.  This is the real integration and opportunity for a real time supply chain.” I agree and none too soon.

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