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?

 

 

Resolutions for 2016

The end of the year often is a time to look back at what we’ve accomplished and a time to evaluate what’s next in line for the New Year. While we might be happy and fulfilled in our careers and truly love what we do, we continue to constantly seek advice to further grow in our professional lives.

My resolutions for 2016:

  1. Seize the opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing to, to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.
  2. Do my best work followed by best work followed by more best work – this is far more useful and generous than merely doing our best work once and insisting we are understood.
  3. Play for the long haul. Take the more difficult route. Surround myself with people who insist I avoid the shortcut.
  4. Write to make a difference.
  5. Be more flexible in my thoughts  – change, actual change, is hard work. And changing our own minds is the most difficult place to start.
  6. Keep in mind that everything I do is either going to raise my average or lower it.

Deploying Last Mile Connectivity to Remote Villages in India

BACKGROUND

 Weak Internet connectivity is a significant barrier to introducing higher quality of education in remote villages in rural parts of India. Solving the connectivity issue will provide opportunities for asynchronous learning, easy accessibility to information, and higher education quality at an affordable cost. Broadband connectivity will allow students and teachers in schools such as Adharshila, located in district Sheopur in Madya Pradesh, approximately 180km from Gwalior the ability to access email and the internet. Availability of broadband connectivity will also provide the infrastructure to conduct remote teaching through video sessions as well as explore possibilities with remote healthcare.

Streaming video, required for real time interactive remote classroom instruction, requires a reliable, fast internet connection, one that supports on the order of 2Mbps (Megabits per second)– 6Mbps transmission speeds. To provide some context of what this means, a typical “3G” cell phone network offers speeds up to 2.5 Mbps and the more advanced 4G networks provide between 7 and 20 Mbps network speeds, the speeds being greatly affected by the presence of physical structures such as buildings, hills and other physical topographies that act as barriers to the “line-of-sight” required between the cell tower(s) and the user’s mobile phones.

The network speeds in a region are also greatly impacted by the absence or presence of cell towers in that region; the further apart the towers are placed, the weaker the signal between them becomes, resulting in slower network speeds available for use.

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In rural India – and this is especially true in the remote region of the country in which Adharshila is located – cell phone towers are spaced as far apart as they can be to just be able to provide low-bandwidth, voice and SMS communications. This how telecommunications companies have been able to make their costly investments in cell towers economically viable in these low income, low population density rural areas.

Current Status

Over the past year, we have engaged several of the largest cellular telecommunications service providers in India to assess the feasibility of providing us with cellular network based internet connectivity at Adharshila. These companies are household names as cellular service providers in India, including Reliance, Airtel, iDEA, and TATA. We even engaged a service provider – Sify Communications – that specializes in rural area communications. However owing to the extreme rural location of the school, none of these providers were able to provide connectivity with the bandwidth and reliability required for our needs.

Image2Figure 1: Cell Tower Coverage Map For Areas Around Adharshila

To further illustrate the point, the cell tower coverage map above shows that Adharshila, located inside the red circle, has no cell towers in the vicinity hence providing broadband connectivity to Adharshila using ground-based cell towers is not an option.

Despite these initial disappointments, we are pursuing another option to provide internet connectivity to the school. We have begun an evaluation of geo-stationary satellite based internet connectivity, the so-called VSAT network connectivity. VSAT connections are slower than ground-based cellular connections and cost more to use. On their own, they wouldn’t suffice for the streaming video needs of the school. However, we have found a service option that uses advanced video compression techniques that allows relatively high quality video to be run in real time over a relatively low speed network connection. As of this writing, we are working with the two entities that provide these two services, VSAT and video compression, to evaluate the feasibility of putting them together to service Adharshila’s needs. The assessment should be completed by the end of September 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Convergence of Marketing and Technology

With the convergence of marketing and technology, companies are struggling to identify the rightful owner(s) within an organization responsible for prioritizing opportunities which will drive business growth and engage the empowered customer.

Additionally as the use of mobile, social and web increases, it has become critical for organizations to create a 360-degree view of the customer, highlighting both good and bad experiences, across channels and  touchpoints. In addition to focusing on business imperatives such as reduced cost, increased loyalty etc. to drive the customer experience, companies should also consider ‘engagement imperatives’ such as identifying customer pain-points, improving convenience and motivating customers to change behaviors which in turn will lead to increased ROI.

As organizations attempt to understand the customer better by creating customer journeys as well as creating a 360 degree view of the customer cross channels and touchpoints, they need to consider the ‘impact’ these innovative technologies will have on the enterprise. Some key considerations to keep in mind are listed below:

  • Identify Leaders: Identify leaders within the organization to drive the business model innovation required to incorporate new channels such as mobile, social and digital.
  • Create New Business Models: New business models will need to be developed which are nimble, agile and rapidly iterate.
  • Portfolio Optimization:  To achieve portfolio optimization organizations will need to drive alignment and synchronization of activities cross-brand, cross-channel and cross-stakeholder group (Decentralized approaches imply higher costs).
  • Update Business Processes: Current transaction-based processes may need to be updated to deliver personalized, targeted content tailored to the lifestyle of the customer.
  • Update Operational Governance and Management Processes : Operational governance and management processes will need to be built that tap into new market opportunities and customer needs.
  • Co-Create Value with the Customer: Organizational structure of the organization will be impacted by introducing customers into product development efforts.
  • Co-Create Value with Partners: Organizations will need to collaborate with players, such as information technology companies, design agencies, companies providing strategy / management etc. to deliver customer-centric products and services, as they may not have the resources and skill-set in-house to build relevant offerings.
  • Integration of Systems : Building a 360 degree view of the customer requires an understanding of data integration requirements between disparate data sources namely systems of record such as CRM as well as data from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Data architects will now be required to build processes to connect structured as well as unstructured data

Creating an Integrated Multi-Channel Strategy Using a ‘Top-Down-Bottom-Up’ Approach

Challenge

Mobile and Social have been hot topics of discussion over the past several years but not very well understood by most organizations. With 130M idevices sold worldwide, 300,000 native iPhone applications created, more than 7B downloads by Q3 2010 and with the market research firm Nielsen projecting the US smartphone penetration to be over 50% by 2011, it is not surprising that many organizations are gravitating towards creating iPhone and other mobile device based applications. In addition, the relatively low cost of entry into the mobile device app market has encouraged organizations to develop such applications just for the sake of getting themselves a mobile presence. However, without a holistic understanding of how the apps would integrate into the organization’s business functions and goals, companies are unable to establish or generate a measurable ROI such as building and sustaining a community or customer relationship, improving customer loyalty, increasing revenue or decreasing cost. Without a clear strategy in place defining how to leverage the mobile, social and digital channels to meet business goals, confusing or even conflicting directions arise within an organization that will eventually lead to disenchantment with these critically important communication vehicles.

Key Considerations

Prior to creating the first iPhone application, enlisting fans for a Facebook page or responding to users on Twitter, brands should consider holistically understanding the dependencies between the mobile, social and digital channels as well as key considerations for each of these distinct channels.

Developing an integrated multi-channel strategy which ties back to business goals and considering mobile, social and digital as key customer interaction channels are critical steps in developing a holistic approach to understand a client’s business functions and goals.

When implemented correctly, an integrated multi-channel strategy can provide a 360 degree view of the customer, create a consistent customer experience and leverage business rules and processes across channels, which are all imperative to building customer relationships and meeting business objectives.

Intergrated Multi-Channel Strategy

Integrated Multi-Channel Strategy

Approach

An integrated multi-channel strategy which ties back to business objectives provides an over-arching framework to drive a consistent approach for implementing mobile, social and digital initiatives within an organization. It creates a shared vision and common language among the stakeholders.

A ‘top-down and bottom-up’ approach is used to implement the integrated multi-channel strategy. The top-down component focuses on interviewing stakeholders to evaluate the maturity of each of the dimensions in the hub-and-spoke diagram (above) using a maturity model, conducting a gap analysis between the current and desired maturity levels, prioritizing capabilities on a prioritization matrix and finally creating an actionable roadmap. The bottom-up approach relies on deriving  analytics-focused business insights using structured and unstructured data.

Create a Maturity Model

Within an organization different channels could be at different levels of maturity however they all play a critical role in holistically implementing the integrated multi-channel strategy for the organization.

A maturity model should be created for each of the dimensions in the hub-and-spoke diagram to clearly evaluate an organization’s current and desired maturity level for that dimension.  The key practices defined for each of the maturity levels provide an objective criteria to assess an organization’s maturity level for that dimension.

Maturity Level 0, Limited Presence: Organizations at maturity level 0 are characterized with limited mobile, social and digital presence. These channels are not considered core to the business and need for a better solution is not acknowledged by the organization.

Maturity Level 1, Reactive and Experimental: Organizations at maturity level 1 are characterized by the business reacting to external pressures. The need for improvement is acknowledged and pilot implementations exist but overall vision is absent.

Maturity Level 2, Defined and Repeated: Organizations at maturity level 2 are characterized by mobile, social and digital being considered core customer interaction channels and a global vision drives investment in these channels.

Maturity Level 3, Managed and Measured: Organizations at maturity level 3 are characterized by a seamlessly integrated channel experience and mobile capabilities expanding beyond implementing the core business capabilities.

Maturity Level 4, Optimization and Innovation: Organizations at maturity level 4 are characterized by a rich, dynamic, seamless channel experience where continuous improvement and optimization becomes the focus and capabilities drive deeper efficiencies and innovation.

Create a Prioritization Matrix

Analyzing a brand’s current and desired maturity level is the first step towards performing a Gap Analysis which identifies capabilities of interest required to close the gap between the current and desired maturity levels. These capabilities then need to be prioritized using a Prioritization Matrix across several dimensions such as risk, effort, implementation complexity and business impact.

Sample Prioritization Matrix

Sample Prioritization Matrix

Create a Roadmap

Areas of interest prioritized on the prioritization matrix serve as input to create an actionable roadmap showing project dependencies and estimated timeframes for long-term and short-term projects with a focus on incrementally deploying capabilities within the organization.

Implementation Roadmap

Implementation Roadmap

Derive Analytics-Focused Business Insights

Analytics-focused business insights provide direction on how to refine the implementation strategy to meet business objectives. Business insights can be derived from structured data (data stored in a structured format such as web logs or databases) as well as unstructured data (data collected via comments, reviews and the social channel). With the correct tools, processes and infrastructure in place, this data can be analyzed to draw business insights such as top selling products, top revenue producing search terms and provide real-time predictive analysis.