What Lies Ahead – The Changing Face of Business and Technology

 

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The next seven years will see more change than the last 20 years combined in terms of network devices, data on the planet, and computational capabilities – we can see the change happening around us already, it’s a bit surreal watching the future unfold in front of our very eyes:

I was recently at the Kennedy Space Center with my family and we heard that colonizing Mars is the next tangible frontier for human exploration – there are challenges to pioneering Mars, but we know they are solvable. We are well on our way to getting to Mars, landing there, and living there! It is worth noting that 10 years ago private spaceflight, or even engagement of private companies was impossible. Today government agency NASA has partnered with private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to make deep space exploration and colonizing Mars possible.

Additionally, speaking on the next wave of automation, Amazon’s chairman, Jeff Bezos, said recently, “It’s probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it’s going to have on society over the next twenty years“.

Without stating the obvious regarding trends to watch for in the coming years such as Robotics, IoT, Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation which can be read here, here and here; I would instead, like to take a moment to reflect on learnings from 2016, specially in the context of the changing face of business-technology:

Today we are seeing lines between business consulting and agency work blurring, we are also seeing that technology plays an integral role in shaping business strategy and decisions.

Ad agencies and business consulting companies are working tirelessly to transform themselves into what they are not – business consulting companies are buying design houses to incorporate the design / human element into their offerings; Deloitte Digital recently acquired creative agency Heat McKinsey acquired creative agency Lunar and Razorfish merged with Sapient to become SapientRazorfish. However changing the company name does not change the company culture. If the focus of the company is growing the account and the project team is compensated based on managing hours and resources on the project rather than solving a business problem, then most likely the company will not be lazer focused on helping clients and such companies have a short shelf-life. To further illustrate this point, in 2016 we saw McDonalds drop Leo Burnett after a 35 year relationship, and is partnering with DDB to setup an agency of the future called ‘We are Unlimited’ to be paid on its ability to drive Big Mac sales.

 

Thats what I think, what do you think?

 

 

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

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Digital transformation means different things to different people – for me as well, the meaning of Digital Transformation has evolved in the past few years.

In the early years, Digital Transformation was a buzzword used to describe any business-IT project, a website or a mobile application. In the last few years the terms used in the digital space are becoming even more confusing with people using digital strategy, digital business and digital marketing interchangeably. These categories, while similar, are different; and to understand the differences and similarities we need to understand a few key trends in the market today:

  • Today we are seeing lines between business consulting and agency work blurring, we are also seeing that technology plays an integral role in shaping business strategy and decisions. There is a gap in skills in the industry where overlapping skills are needed i.e. we need tech-savvy marketers and strategic technologists.
  • Consulting firms have spent years working with chief executive officers and chief information officers on tasks ranging from developing high-end business strategies to implementing new technology. Now, they are increasingly targeting the chief marketing officer as the marketing segment of the C-suite is becoming more responsible for the overall customer experience.

Given this backdrop, it is clear that Digital Marketing and Digital Business are two sides of the Digital Transformation coin, where one is incomplete without the other. To elaborate a little further:

Relationship Marketing is a term often used in Digital Marketing to mean ‘being able to understand customer segments’. Typical tools used to identify customer segments are journey maps, job shadowing, ‘day in the life’, market research etc. These tools are used in Digital Business as well to understand the customer, create personas etc. but the context is different; the context is influenced by complex interdependencies between people, process, policies and technologies to build a common vision and vocabulary of the customer within an organization, they are used to uncover customer interactions and pain points across all channels and are key to solving the ‘right’ problem. It is worth noting that by overlaying the customer journey maps with specific business goals such as improving productivity and efficiency or increasing customer engagement and loyalty, we can not only identify  ‘new’ problems but also define ‘new’ solutions to old problems. More details are available at Niti Vaish’s blog and at Kerry Bodine’s blog.

Understanding the customer and business priorities through the lens of customer experience require a ‘new breed’ of innovators who understand the ‘convergence’ of customer experience, business / digital strategy and technology

Metrics – most marketers think of SEO and SEM when discussing metrics, while these metrics are important, they don’t paint a holistic picture if they don’t tie back to business goals. With every mobile, social and web initiative it is critical to identify the ‘the behaviors that need to change’, metrics that map to these behaviors and the process and tools available to measure and track these metrics. It is a top priority to take a measured, cohesive approach to paid social’s place in the overall business and marketing strategy – and budget.

And most important of all, Culture and Skillset – organizations require leaders with business-technology skills, innovative mindset and new organization models that understand the need for convergence of business, technology and marketing. These high-performing, experienced individual with a knack for identifying business and technology process improvement opportunities and simplifying interfaces, make the difference between project success and failure because of their judgement and ability to understand data patterns.

In this brave new world ‘Every Brand is a Media Company and Every Brand is a Technology Company’ – its time to think big and be transformative.

Resolutions for 2015

I read this sometime back and could not have said it any better ….
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a little better place than when we found it, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

My Wishlist, Must-Haves and Some Predictions for 2014

 

1. MDM is Not Just for Large Organizations – Ever felt helpless when you know your kid(s) have sneaked in the smartphone / tablet and are playing video games under the comforter in the night?  Enter Mobile Device Management (MDM) for parents! the MDM platform will allow you to block URL’s, find your child, track activity, have a family app store and control when devices are used.  While it may seem a little big-brother like, better safe than sorry. Can’t wait to get this soon enough! http://www.zdnet.com/mdm-for-parents-you-want-it-too-7000022292/.

2. Car of the Future – At a time when we are experimenting with driverless cars and connected cars http://www.citeworld.com/consumerization/22717/your-car-will-be-big-data-collector-every-time-you-drive why is it that having a holder with a built-in charger for my smartphone which seamlessly projects to the screen in the car and allows me to listen to Pandora through the car speakers is not mainstream, but part of a ‘technology package’ which requires an extra fee and has a clunky interface?  Imagine this for the car of the future – as I sit in the drivers seat, the car knows its me driving instead of my husband – the seat, mirrors, temperature,seat warmers, music channels automatically adjust, my smartphone connects seamlessly and greets me personally, I speak and tell it where I am going and turn-by-turn navigation map displays on the car screen. Its not too far-fetched and very doable … the key is having ‘connected ecosystems’. 

3. Future of Streaming Content :  Netflix – please,please improve the content in 2014. The best userinterface http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/13/netflix-redesign_n_4262877.html, multi-channel experience and search algorithm will not keep users on Netflix. If content is not improved in 2014 and you may just drive us to using Amazon Instant, Redbox Instant or whatever is the latest streaming content platform.  Also please buy rights in other countries, we feel a little lost without our daily dose of movies and shows when we travel.

 4. One Integrated System to Manage Social Content : Have one integrated system to manage posting content, replies, notifications and engagement across various social sites such as  LinkedIn, Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Quora (does anyone still use this??), Google+, Medium with an easy-to-use interface,  and groups / security / authentication / profiles working seamlessly across these systems.  

 5. Wearable Technology and Digital Health – will it always be 5 years away? Is there a market for it?  There has been a lot of talk about smart watches and smart glasses making the frontier of wearable tech. Bloomberg is even talking about a smart wig! http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-26/sony-seeks-smartwig-patent-for-hairpieces-with-camera-sensors.html. Agreed that prototypes available today like Goggle Glass make us look a little dorky and don’t seamlessly fit in with our current lifestyle. Activity trackers are a good start but until FDA relaxes its stringent guidelines they will simply be dumb trackers of our activity and not elevated to intelligent devices which can predict (as an example) the onset of a heart-attack and inform the doctor in advance http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=r13uYs7jglg. That being said I do believe that wearable Technology and Digital Health will go mainstream PROVIDED we are able to create ‘connected ecosystems’ and integrate ‘systems of record’ with ‘systems of engagement’ which in-turn will improve the overall experience.

6. Rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) : Progressive companies will realize role differentiation between CMO, CIO and CDO. The CMO will drive brand management and communications, the CIO will focus on technology selection and deployment and the CDO will be responsible for identifying trends and impact of business – technology convergence, creating digital capabilities roadmap and identifying convergence and integration opportunities.

It Takes More Than Blood, Sweat and Tears to Start a Digital Practice

Over the last several years I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to start and sustain a digital practice – I have joined companies to start their Digital Practice as well as started my own Digital Practice and along the way I have made assumptions (often incorrectly), not asked the ‘right’ questions and taken missteps. Hopefully this post will help you assess the opportunity as you look to start your own Digital Practice or join one. 
 

1. What is Digital Strategy?

If you are reading this post you have probably heard your fair share of definitions for Digital Strategy, here is mine – “Digital Strategy is building holistic multi-channel strategies to drive business growth and productivity by aligning business and technology initiatives, defining governance models and best practices, establishing a digital center of excellence, identifying convergence, integration and process changes – all geared towards personalizing the experience for the ‘connected’ customer and advancing self-service opportunities”. I’ll be the first to admit that the definition is a mouthful and  it will continue to evolve overtime, however in my perspective it  captures the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘whom’ and ‘why’ of digital strategy.
 
 

 2. Is the Sales Team On-Board?

Is the sales team committed to the idea of seeking out  digital strategy projects and are they adequately incentivized to sell projects that will typically be priced lower than  the  average implementation / vendor management / business process project. If the sales team is not engaged it is almost impossible for a digital practice to thrive because “Old Ways Will Not Open New Doors”. We cannot ‘dress-up’ software development and start selling it as ‘Digital Strategy’ to the same clients – we need to be tenacious and seek out new clients and find new ways to sell. To use a line from Godin Seth’s post “Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work” http://bit.ly/17DpTuw 
 

3) Does the Account Team at the Client Site Understand Digital Strategy? 

It is very likely that while the client is looking for Digital Strategy skills, the position is NOT advertised as a ‘Digital Strategy’ position – the team at the client site will need to understand the ‘true needs’ and advise the client on hiring someone with business, technology, process and innovation background who is equipped to ask the ‘right’ questions and connect the dots to successfully align business and technology roadmaps and prioritize opportunities in the mobile, social, web and streaming media space.

4) Where Does Digital Strategy Fit in the Company Functional Organization?

Does the company consider Digital Strategy to be the same as business strategy, IT strategy, marketing strategy or perhaps even creative strategy? Is there a turf war within the organization on who owns digital? The company will need to recognize that digital (including mobile and social) are horizontal capabilities and while rest of the organization might be organized by function, digital capability need to span functional silos. At a more tactical level this will also determine staffing for digital projects.
 

5) Is There a Go-To Market Strategy?

Is there consensus within the organization on a go-to market strategy which clearly describes a plan for acquiring digital customers as well as converting existing clients into digital clients (if possible)? Is there consensus within the organization on the approach that will be followed, marketing collateral that will be used, percentage of the overall company revenue that come from digital initiatives and the plan to grow this percentage? To build the Go-To Market Strategy it takes someone who can clearly articulate the impact of ‘going digital’ and can advise on convergence of business and technology. Additional details on the impact of ‘going digital’ are available on my blog post http://bit.ly/17DpTuw.
 
6) Digital Strategy is not “One Size Fits All”
 
Digital strategy is not “One Size Fits All” – it needs to be carefully crafted for the client by understanding the business direction, technology constraints, best practices in the industry, competitive landscape and most importantly the company culture. The tools, mechanics, methodology to create a digital strategy can be reused from one client to another but it takes true partnership to craft a digital vision for a client which will result in an actionable roadmap rather than a document that never gets looked at.
 
 
Leave a comment, start a discussion, make a noise … after all we are in the hot seat and poised to shape the future of business and technology!
 

9 Business Technology Trends that will Transform Companies

  1. The need for new business leaders who understand the importance convergence of business and technology and are able to address the impact of digital innovation within the boundaries set by organizational readiness
  2. Gartner prediction : By 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIOs
  3. Videos will account for half of global mobile data
  4. Partnerships are key – no one company can do it all
  5. Collaborative Economy – rather than own people with want to rent or borrow. Have access to products on an as as-needed basis
  6. Integration is key – no one tool can do it all
  7. Fitness app installs will grow 70% by 2017
  8. Forrester Research predicts that by 2020 most IT departments in companies will disappear as applications such as email etc. move to the cloud (yet we have large,conservative clients that want on-prem solutions today)
  9. Successful companies will depend more than ever on the quality of their employees

Driving Business Growth, Priorities and Engagement through Customer Experience

BACKGROUND

Forrester recently released a book ‘ Outside In : The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business’. The book highlights that customer experience is the greatest untapped source of cost savings and increased revenue today. Additionally customer experience strategies can drive differentiating activities and processes at top companies. Forrester also discuss how to design and measure enterprise-wide customer experience.

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, engagement and service, many brands are looking to social and digital channels as a means to better understand customer interactions with the brand across multiple channels and touch points.

Also as the use of mobile and social channels increases exponentially, it is becoming critical that brands are able to create a 360-degree customer view by aggregating data from each one of these interactive channels. Without drawing from all touch-points, brands fail to have a holistic understanding of the consumer and run the risk of presenting disjointed messaging to the consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.

CHALLENGE

How can we help our customers service their customers? How can we increase customer engagement and loyalty with the brand?How do we ensure that we are solving the right problem?

SOLUTION

When is Customer Experience the Right Approach? If the answer to the questions below is ‘NO’ then customer experience is the right approach to drive business priorities – are you able to pinpoint the customer’s painpoints? Are you addressing the pain they feel? Does everyone in the organization have a clear picture of the processes customers go through when interacting with the organization?

Are we Solving the Right Problem?: A common vision and vocabulary within an organization of the customer’ and ‘customer interactions’, across all channels is key to solving the ‘right’ problem. It is worth noting that by overlaying the customer journey maps with specific business goals such as improving productivity and efficiency of the sales force or increasing customer engagement and loyalty, we can not only identify  ‘new’ problems but also define ‘new’ solutions to old problems.

 Have we Identified the Right Opportunities? : Identify the ‘right’ opportunities by mapping customer interactions across channels and touchpoints and identifying highlights and lowlights by focusing on complex interdependencies between people, process and tools.

Have we Prioritized the Opportunities? : Once the opportunities across all channels have been identified, shared and verified by internal business stakeholders, they need to be collaboratively prioritized based on factors such as business impact and risk weighed against cost and effort.

APPROACH

Customer Experience Approach

User Centered Design Approach

Key Considerations:

Ensure Executive Sponsorship: The stakeholders selected as part of the steering committee typically span lines of businesses (LOB).  Since journey maps visualize ‘end-to-end’ interactions, multiple departments and stakeholders get involved in the discovery process hence leadership commitment is crucial to drive decision making across LOBs and for the success of a customer experience engagement.

Select Key Customer Segments: To obtain a good cross-section of interviewees it is critical to identify customer variability across several dimensions. As an example, for the sales force variability could be based on region, tenure, role and the type of customer the sales person services. It is also important to create a 360 degree view of the customer by creating a touchpoint mapand interviewing all teams within the organization that the customer interacts with.

Create Discussion Guide: The discussion guide should be tailored to the audience and aligned with business objectives.

Conduct Interviews: drill-down to the root cause, discuss what-if scenarios, best practices and current initiatives within the organization.

Create Customer Journey Maps: : Identify people, process, tools and technologies that affect the customer journey

Create Prioritization Matrix: collaborate with stakeholders to get a common view of the business impact and prioritization of the initiatives

Create Business Case / Enable Experience: Visualize the experience for one or more key areas by creating process flow and conceptual wireframes

BENEFITS

Truly understanding customer behavior, interactions, positive and negative experiences can lead to the following benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – Just because people share some similar characteristics such as age and gender (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share the same passions and interests. Understanding customer behavior, motivators and interactions will help to deeply engage with them and identify needs of the ‘niche’ customer segments which can drive development of personalized experiences which motivate customers to change behaviors.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – Moving beyond ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ – integrating back-end data sources, structured and unstructured data to create a 360 degree of the customer  can provide a wealth of information for improving customer understanding and targeting them with personalized content.

Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.

CONCLUSIONS

The key to building applications which drive business growth and improve customer engagement lies in identifying a new breed of business leaders who understand the importance of customer experience and evaluating organizational readiness to deal with the impact of digital innovation.

Companies can truly understand the ‘empowered’ customer and build applications which transform the business by creating a common view of the customer (customer segments) across the organization by mastering behavioral, business and emotional context. Behavioral context measures engagement and propensity to buy, business context identifies business drivers and how to generate customer value differentiation and finally emotional context measures sentiment, customer preference and perceived value.