The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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November 20, 2012

Is Gamification paradigm suitable for your enterprise? - Part 1 of 2

Good question? Definitely a good one but I don't think that's really a right one if it is what you as a business leader is thinking about.

Right question to ask should be - "Where can Gamification make a meaningful impact inside my organization?" And reason is that while thought-leaders across the globe might be splitting the hair over definitions of the Gamification trying to make it clinically perfect and a highly 'frame-worked' paradigm, the citizens of the extra-ordinary social graph out there are progressively redefining how the digital engagement will rule the world - an inevitable shift that will penetrate the enterprise boundaries without much corporate control available to exercise. And that's the part of the story that makes all the difference for choices that enterprises need to make.

While interacting with the business leaders on the Gamification possibilities in their enterprises, I observed wide variety of emotions ranging from 'What has this got to be with my business?' to 'We can't allow games inside enterprise' to 'Show me how it helps in my industry' and many similar. Broadly, I can sum up all different emotions pertaining to the adoption of the Gamification into following two categories:

 

Category 1 - These enterprises either have the displaced interpretation of what Gamification really is or they are yet to unearth this paradigm in their business context.  As a result, it doesn't exist in their priority list at all and openness to explore is nearly absent.


Category 2 - These enterprises have either already plunged into it with varied degree of seriousness or they have leaders who fairly understand what Gamification brings on the table and they are willing to create the new possibilities that their business can leverage for the future growth. More often than not, conversation with such enterprises is about exploring the high-potential specific use-cases for the business and co-creating the pilot solutions that allow the business leaders to make decisions for the bigger bets of the Gamification.

From the interaction experiences of the category 1 enterprises, I have compiled some issues that I thought will help re-orient the business leaders who might be interested in revisiting their mind-maps.

  • Issue 1 - Gaming is not welcome in the enterprise
    Of course! While it might be loads of fun to play computer games sponsored by the company during office hours but no, that's not what Gamification is, not at all. Search the internet and you will be flooded with the view-points explaining the difference between gaming and Gamification. Gamification doesn't promote 'games' only as an essential medium to create user engagement impact. Instead, Gamification dives deep into the behind-the-scene mechanics that make the games so engaging and stimulating. From that learning, it offers various methods that can be applied in the context of the enterprise to make user engagement much more intensive and powerful.

 

  • Issue 2 - Gamification sounds like stuff for the marketing team
    Google search of 'Gamification + marketing' returned  4,840,000 results so there is some truth in the matter. However, potential of the Gamification is not limited to the marketing alone. There are many use cases for the internal users as well as the external users where Gamification can offer innovative solutions. Diagram below provides a high level view of some of the popular Gamification solution segments for the enterprise. While there are 'off-the-shelf' use cases available as a good starting point, more often than not, it is always a discovery process for the enterprise business leaders to conduct a deep dive exercise to design unique and innovative Gamifications options that can solve some of the most challenging business effectiveness issues deeply associated with the 'people' factor.

gamification solutions.PNG

  • Issue 3 - It sounds interesting but what is the business value that justifies the adoption?
    Well, this needs to be looked in a slightly different light. Gamification is not a direct/core business process solution; it is a business process effectiveness enablement solution. In simple terms, it means that the Gamification methods allow the enterprise to improve the contribution of the people involved in the business process (as the internal users or customers) and thus ensuring that the full potential of the business effectiveness is realized. Gamification methods offer an opportunity to realize the full resource potential of the people - their attention, their motivation, their network, their knowledge, skills and the intellectual capabilities. With technology automation and process quality control standards getting maxed out to deliver the business value, 'human factor mining' is already being recognized as the new avenue of the business value maximization. Already existing examples that we have seen in recent past are the social network enabled business growth and crowdsourcing enabled co-creation paradigms. Gamification is a powerful method for the 'human factor mining'. From business value perspective, the consequential impacts that can be addressed are summarized below:

business value.png

  • Issue 4 - Not sure who is the right person to launch this initiative inside the enterprise
    This one is not so straightforward unfortunately as I see it. Gamification being a horizontal capability but having process area specific implementation requirements makes it slightly difficult to fit into the conventional program ownership models of the enterprise. Adding to that, Gamification requires integration of  5 different competency areas - human behavioral science, domain knowledge, IT application infrastructure, Gamification engineering and user experience engineering. However, given that IT has a significant role to play to realize the Gamification solutions, typically this will be sponsored by the department that would want to adopt the Gamification (say HR, Sales, Marketing etc.) as a business innovation program and will be supported by the respective IT department. Most of the enterprise don't have mature user experience engineering and Gamification engineering skills so they invariably need to take help from experts outside the organization to ensure that it is designed, architected and deployed appropriately. Role of IT becomes extremely important in terms of integrating the Gamification systems and data with the enterprise systems and data entities and providing a scalable, customizable and configurable backbone for the Gamification so that multiple departments can tap into the common infrastructure of the Gamification.

 

  • Issue 5 - There is already stuff like loyalty programs, employee reward and recognition program etc. in the enterprise, isn't it the same?
    While answer might be 'Yes, it the SAME' but that's like saying there is no point adopting ERP because we already have the homegrown systems in place. While fundamental philosophy at human psychology level might be quite the same but the specific techniques and methods used to leverage the human motivation factors are very different. The Gamification methods can be seen as the new avatar of the traditional techniques that were intended to deliver the people engagement goals; these have greater promise, higher mindshare with the new age population and offer superior user experience.

In the next part of this blog, I will focus on the category 2 and discuss some of the issues extracted from the interactions with the enterprises belonging to that category.

 

November 11, 2012

M2M - Looking Beyond the Hype...

M2M market is expected to grow big time in the coming years.  As per a report from Ericsson, 50 billion devices are to be inter-connected by 2020.

Naturally, there is a lot of hype surrounding the deployment of M2M solutions and services in enterprise as well as consumer markets.  While technologists are gung ho about the possibilities of M2M and Internet of Things technologies, enterprise customers are looking at M2M solutions and services for addressing their key business challenges.  For enterprises to invest in M2M solutions and services, technology / solution providers and service providers have to pay attention to these aspects:

1. Addressing the right problem with the right solution
Not all problems require an M2M solution.  Identifying the right business problem to address is the key.  Moreover, if the solution does not address the problem effectively, it will not gain wide spread adoption by enterprises.  For e.g., just gathering data from sensors and devices and presenting them to the user serves little purpose if the user does not know how to use the data/information.  The information has to help the user identify opportunities for cost and resource savings, improve productivity, efficiency, and optionally how to take remedial actions. 

In addition, automating the end-to-end business processes using M2M technologies and solutions is also not always feasible.  Automation brings its own complexities and issues.  One issue is that of integration challenges with existing enterprise systems.  Another is related to the data.  If the device data is not reliable, or the processing of the data is not effective, automating the process (e.g., initiating control or taking corrective actions) can create more problems than it solves. 

2. Maturity of the technology and solution
A number of new M2M technologies, products and solutions are being introduced every day in the market.  Not all technologies are mature enough, and not all vendors and suppliers provide mature, scalable and robust offerings. 

Compliance to industry standards based protocols, APIs, wired/wireless interfaces, etc. is another aspect that needs to be carefully considered. 

In addition, making sure that the devices comply to the country / region specific safety and regulatory certifications is important.  Not all vendors have certifications for all geographies.  Working with the vendor to get the necessary certifications before deploying the solution is essential.  Identifying the right technology and procuring M2M devices, products and solutions from the right vendors is most crucial for delivering a mature offering.

3. Operational effectiveness in enterprise and industrial environments
Many M2M solutions make use of wireless interfaces for communication between devices, and also between devices and backend infrastructure.  It is essential to ensure that the chosen wireless communication technologies and products works reliably and effectively in the appropriate deployment environment - which may have a variety of impediments such as physical obstructions (metal enclosures & doors, glass walls & doors , wooden compartments, concrete roofs, brick walls, etc.), electromagnetic interference (from other wireless signals), noise and vibrations (from machinery, equipment), etc.)  Common issues faced with quality of wireless communication include signal attenuation/loss, fading, packet drops, jitter, etc.  These aspects have to be carefully considered while developing and deploying the solution.

4. Security and Privacy
Enterprise customers have concerns regarding the security and privacy of enterprise data gathered and processed by M2M solutions.  Solutions need to address security of data at several levels - 1) the wired/wireless communication channels, 2) data storage, 3) at presentation level, 4) at interfaces with other systems, apart from others.   Enterprises want to ensure that robust security mechanisms have been built into the M2M solution before deploying the same.  M2M devices and solutions have to be certified not only for compliance to industry accepted security standards, but also have to clear enterprise-specific security policies, guidelines, and tests without which enterprises will not deploy them.  In addition, many enterprises still prefer to have data collected and processed on-premise rather than sending data to a public cloud.  These considerations have to be taken into account while designing and deploying M2M solutions. 

5. Retrofits and interoperability with other enterprise systems
In most environments, M2M solutions cannot work in isolation.  More often than not, they need to be retrofitted on to existing equipment, machinery, and integrated with other enterprise systems.  This is a very critical need for many enterprises.  Often, the M2M solution needs to have the ability to integrate with a wide variety of devices, equipment and enterprise systems using standards-based and proprietary interfaces.

6. Who will run the service
Not all enterprises have the ware withal or inclination to operate an M2M solution/service on their own.  They would prefer some third-party service provider to provide the service to them with suitable SLAs defined and enforced.  Some prefer to deploy the solution within their premise and either operate it on their own, or by a third-party.  Others prefer to minimize their investments/risks and make use of third-party cloud based services and pay for the service as they go. 

7. Tangible Business benefits 
Technology for the sake of technology will not go very far.  Enterprise look for tangible and quantifiable business benefits from M2M solutions.  Key questions that need to be answered are: will the M2M solution/service help generate new revenue stream, can it improve revenue from existing streams, will it cut down on operational costs (if so, how significant will it be), will it make the enterprise 'green', will it improve productivity, efficiency, improve health and safety of employees and customers, etc.  Many M2M deployments do not go beyond pilot phase and do not see commercial deployments due to one or more of these reasons: 1) the solution is not effective in addressing the problem, 2) business benefits are weak/unattractive, 2) solution is economically unviable.   

8. Minimal Investment
M2M devices aren't always cheap.  In fact, the more specialized a device is, the more expensive it is.  Cost of devices is one of the most significant factors of an M2M solution.  Enterprises would like to keep their upfront investment minimal.  They would prefer if the service provider can deploy the devices on their premises for no-cost, on rental basis, or on lease basis rather than they having to purchase them.

In addition, enterprises would like to take advantage of any rebates and incentives - especially while buying the M2M devices, products and solutions.  It is important to understand the rebates and incentives available in different geographies, who is offering them, which products and solutions qualify, how do the rebates and incentives affect the investment, etc. and educate the customers accordingly.

9. Pricing and Pricing Models
Right pricing is key.  The solution has to be economically viable to see light at the end of the day.  Flexible and innovative pricing models are also important.  Pricing model related questions that need to be answered are: Can the enterprise "pay-as-you-go" for the service?  Does the enterprise have to pay one time / annual licensing fee for the solution?  Is the service offered on a monthly subscription basis?  Is the pricing based on benefits derived - say cost savings achieved, etc.?

10. Reasonable Return on Investment
Return on investment is the most crucial aspect of M2M solutions.  This is one of the first questions that gets asked by a customer.  Do not go to the customer without answering these questions: How good is the return on investment? What is the payback period?  Etc.  Payback period of more than 2-3 years are hard to justify for enterprises.

November 9, 2012

The Last Mile Paradigm

 

Recently I met with a very interesting start-up, which has attempted to re-define the last mile connectivity in the financial services space. The interesting part about the model is that it uses certain elements of the e-commerce models present in India, in particular the cash on delivery (COD) model, the exception being, the product delivered is a financial product. You may ask what is so novel in this idea, the answer is that the model per se may not be so, but the context and the application makes this an unique attempt to solve 'the last mile' problem. The phenomenal success of the Cash on delivery (COD) model in the Indian e-commerce market, has meant it has become a subject of multiple case studies, but what most of them miss out in pointing, is the uniqueness of the 'last mile' context.

Picture this - for e-commerce in India today, the medium of customer engagement is the internet, but the mode of completing the transaction (payment) is mostly offline (cash on delivery, in this case). COD is fundamentally an Indian innovation which has re-defined the growth trajectory of the e-commerce industry. For example, India's largest e-commerce player transacts about 70% of its sales through COD, having set-up their own delivery and collection workforce. The dichotomy is the apparent mis-match between a customer having access to internet and the same customer not using the online medium (through credit/ debit card payments) to complete the transaction. Given the growing number of such consumers, one can safely assume that people are more than happy to shop online, but either don't have access to electronic payment mechanism or they are not comfortable with the usage of the same over the internet. Whichever angle one may choose to look at unique phenomenon, what is apparent is that the last mile connectivity for completing a transaction is fairly contextual on at least two fronts - access and preference of the customer to use cash for transaction.

While I might have just stated the obvious analysis, what is interesting is how this dichotomy has led to new delivery models coming up in different product/ service categories. The key here is that the context will lead to several innovations in bridging the 'last mile', be it for customer engagement or for enabling transactions. The challenges and opportunities for product and services companies would be to scale delivery to keep pace with the raising demand of today's consumer, especially for products/ services which need to be delivered off-line. The question therefore is, who will take a lead on this, will it be your fast growth ecommerce companies, your traditional retailer or the manufacturer who would like to access the consumer directly, redefining the traditional delivery channel as we know it.  

Changing Trends in the Consumer Ecosystem

A recent study by the global consulting firm Mckinsey&Co suggests that, of the mega trends that will affect the Consumer Packaged Goods(CPG) Industry over the next decade, a change in profile of the consumer is ranked as one of the most significant of all trends. The changes in consumer profile is the result of demographic shifts in certain parts of the world, changes in consumer buying preferences (value products as opposed to 'branded products') and the all-pervasive 'rise of the digital consumer'. To address these changes, the CPG industry will grapple with multiple issues, related to consumer engagement, given the new paradigm of changing consumer preferences for products/ services. Significantly how these products/ services are delivered with the most relevant (and best) consumer experience on platforms which are innovative and accomplishing tasks in the most efficient and effective way

While it seems a tall order to change the traditional mode of engaging the consumers for a mature Industry, these challenges are being addressed by some of the leading CPG companies in innovative ways, where the key aspects of engagement  - Consumer, product and engagement context are brought together. Let's look at the example of a leading food and beverages company, which launched a unique contest to bring crowd-sourced ideas for new flavours for their popular brand of crisps. The result was that about 8 million ideas were generated covering multiple countries, with about 20 of these flavours being launched commercially. The significant outcome of this was that large number of consumers were brought on a platform where they actively participated in creating new products (consumer+product+engagement contex) for consumption by its own community. Take for instance the case of a leading footwear manufacturer who has innovated a kiosk which uses about 2000 sensors to enable orthotics solutions for its consumers, redefining the traditional mode of engaging the consumer, not just to provide more effective and relevant products but also customize the user experience.

There are multiple instances of innovation in the 'consumer engagement' space, especially given the growing pervasiveness of digital media, now being experimented and adopted by the CPG industry. The understanding is that digital media, changing mode of consumer engagement and the given mega trends that the Industry needs to address, more such innovations will become imperative.

 

November 2, 2012

Technologies influencing widespread adoption of M2M today...

In this exploratory blog on M2M technologies, we look at some of the prominent technologies that are influencing the widespread adoption of M2M applications and solutions in the market today:

 

  • Sensors, actuators & smart devices: Sensors, actuators and smart devices (including smart phones) are becoming more and more powerful, intelligent, programmable, smaller in size, consume very low power, are significantly lower in cost, and widely available today.  They can monitor a wide variety of physical and non-physical entities effectively and relay them to a remote monitoring station over a wired or wireless interface for further processing and analysis.  Some of these devices are even capable of working autonomously - taking decisions and acting on their own.
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  • Wireless technologies: Wireless technologies such as zigbee, bluetooth, cellular, WiFi, etc. are widely available today.  These wireless technologies are often integrated with sensing devices allowing these devices to readily communicate between themselves, and with external systems wirelessly.
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  • Access devices: A wide variety of access technologies and devices such as desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs, and tablet are available in the market today, which provide the advantage of accessing enterprise information from anywhere, and at any time. 
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  • Web technologies: Web technologies such as web-services, REST based protocols are today ubiquitous, are based on open standards.  M2M solutions based on web technologies readily make devices interwork with each other. 
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  • Software tools, frameworks and platforms: Several data gathering, storage, analysis, reporting and other software tools, products, platforms, frameworks and solutions (including open source ones) are widely available today that makes it easy to put together M2M applications and solution rapidly and deploy them in the market. 
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  • Cloud technologies: Cloud technologies and infrastructure are increasingly being deployed across the world making it possible to offer M2M solutions as a service to customers.  Many small and medium sized enterprises, who could not afford to pay for expensive M2M software solutions earlier can now leverage the power of the cloud to address their business needs at a fraction of the cost than was possible earlier.

 

In subsequent blogs on M2M technologies, we will discuss the above technologies (and additional ones) in more detail.