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January 31, 2014

Will wearable technology boost business productivity or make people dumb?

Do you remember that man on the busy road talking all to himself and you wondered if he was out of his wits? Only to realize later that he was wearing a Bluetooth device and speaking to someone on the other end of his cell phone. Well, be prepared to see newer forms of human behavior soon.
Technology evolution and developments in the wearable technology space are now a reality. A huge number of wearable gadgets are been unveiled. Large number of these gadgets are in the consumer space. Wearable technology has tremendous implication for the business world as well, it will lead to improved business productivity or newer ways of doing day-to-day activities and potentially result in billions of dollars of savings for the industry. There will be efficiency gains not only in terms of doing work quicker, but better.  It will make on the job training much easier and on demand. Immediate access to information will unfold further productivity gains. Very soon ways and means of our day-to-day work will see a lot of change.

Consulting experts on the go will save significant time and money spent by organizations on field jobs, perhaps wearable technology's single largest contribution towards cost savings. A technician wearing a contact lens developed by Innovega or a Google glass can relay what they see in real time for consultation. Experts could advice and also share content visible to technician in real time. This not only saves an expert's field trip but allows the team to close the issue in much shorter time and lower costs. To imagine how important this could be consider a technician working on an electric grid or an oil rig. Errors could be life threatening and costs the organizations huge sum of money.

To impart effective training managers can observe field staff as they attempt difficult or first time assignments, with the ability to share live feeds from the field through wearable devices. Field staff can be guided as needed, it also gives them an opportunity to review recorded video at a later time. This will enables better understanding and capture real life situations to be referred as case studies.  Such technology will enable new employees to leverage training materials while they're on the job or in a remote location instead of attending scheduled training programs at pre-designated locations.

Having data at your fingertips is crucial, no matter what job you do. A mobile phone, smart watch or interactive eye wear can give workers access to a nearly infinite amount of information with simple voice commands or other natural input methods. Say an emergency response team needs to quickly access building plans while responding to a fire emergency or an evacuation, they could do so while out in the field in a matter of seconds. If your sales representative is attending a very important client meeting, a team in office can quickly gather relevant information and share it with him based on key points been discussed.

Gauging your emotional response will be the new battle ground for the techies in the wearable technology industry. Wearable gadgets that can track your brain activity level will gauge your emotional response to a situation, along with tracking your body vitals. Stressful assignments that have serious consequences in an event of human errors can be made less stressful and possibly safer. Consider a deep sea diver trying to carry out a critical maintenance activity on an under-water oil rig or a Pilot trying to land air plane in distress. If people monitoring these activities from a remote operations center can gauge the emotional state of field worker they can not only assist in completing the job, but also talk to them to reduce their stress levels, if needed psychological experts could also be brought to assist in critical situations. This will improve the chances of avoiding human error and significant amount of potential life and material damages.

The increased use of wearable tech in business does come with a new set of privacy concerns. Organization will be able to monitor their employees more closely for assignment related activity but will have deep insights of personal information like health records, emotional makeup and vital information about a person's behavioral pattern etc. This will make people feel vulnerable, you never know how this information will be used. To get a perspective consider your manager and few others having access to such personal information, or participating in your company's health insurance plan may require you to give insurance company access to your health tracking devise. A more important consideration needed is with passage of time our dependency on such devices will increase drastically for day-to-day work, such gadgets will become a necessity and no longer remain an accessory. This poses an interesting question will people become more productive or dumb in the long run?
For example if you try to assist a person at a till of a super store with some extra change once the cash machine has computed the exact change to be returned, the person gets confused. While this is not true for all the case it's commonly observed. Our earlier generations were good at oral math including fractions but since this skill is no longer required we are not that well equipped now.

Humans lost their tail long back in evolution as we didn't use it for some time, what's next. If we look back a generation or two, we had a much active work life. Today most urban jobs are sedentary and at times we find it difficult to cope up with a busy active day, excluding the folks who have a regular workout. As a society we might soon be in a situation that we may not be able to do much of the physical activity un-assisted by devices. A large amount of population may be limited to using a set of gadgets which will further limit their ability to do things not part of their regular routine.

While wearable technology will assist us in many ways to improve productivity, reliability and ease our day-to-day work.  In the future it may make you feel like a new pilot trying to land an airplane in bad weather. Or will it make you a super human.  Time will tell, but what do you think about it?

January 28, 2014

B2B Ecommerce Circa 2014- Demystifying the Hottest Trends PART 2

In the first part of this post we went through some of the most in-demand features, let us continue from there and discuss some more.

The users are demanding a better experience and it is heartening to see that Businesses and eCommerce tools are responding with all these features for the B2B space as well. Let us have a look at some of these trends in detail here.



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We are very excited and can gauge the potential of this space looking at the fact that stalwarts like Amazon & Google have also joined the fray with 'AmazonSupply' and 'Google Shopping for suppliers' respectively, this is turning out to be quite interesting!

Watch out this space for more trends in the eCommerce domain and do fill us on what do you think where B2B eCommerce is going in 2014?

January 27, 2014

Is Crowdsourcing the magic bullet to adopt Mass Customization?

 

The customer wants to buy customized products.The seller wants to sell from existing inventory.The classic dilemma exists even today. But in this internet age where information is easy and choice is abundant, the tide is strongly in favor of the customer.  Driven by demanding customers, increasing competition, and a recession weary economy, manufacturers of 21st century do not seem to have a choice than to move to customized offerings. The solution to this problem though, is not new. Mass customization or the business strategy of selling of customized products at a large scale by producing them at mass manufacturing costs, has been in the news for more than a couple of decades.  As the demand is now met from build to order stock, this scenario leads to lower accumulation of unsold inventory. So what has led manufacturers to be slow on adopting this compelling proposition till now? In the coming sections we will touch upon some of the challenges and explore whether innovations like crowdsourcing and 3D printing may finally provide the impetus leading to extensive adoption of mass customization among manufacturers. While the last century was dedicated to mass manufacturing, will the current one be known for mass customization?

One of the main challenges in adopting this philosophy is the multifold increase in number of product variants. This presents challenges not just in designing flexible manufacturing units, re-usable product structures but also on the marketing side to promote this huge variety. While options may entice customers, it presents the risk of confusing him, if the variety is not presented appropriately. Mass customization can very quickly become mass confusion leading to failure of an otherwise customer centric approach. Choice is good but too when customers have to choose from too many attributes which they don't understand and value, it leads to frustration and can have an adverse impact on the buying decision.  Take the case of mobile phones; there are so many models but few which are top selling.

One of the other big problems is that customers are not ready to wait long for customized products. While earlier a customer would be ready to wait for 60 days for a made to order car in Germany, this has now reduced to around 40 days. In an industry sector like automotive which is heavily dependent upon its suppliers for its manufacturing process, mass customization is not just about bringing a change within the company but also selecting the right set of supply chain partners. Apart from design flexibility, the increase in number of variants leads to operational burden too by increasing the complexity in accounting structures, inventory tracking and order processing.

The multitude of problems also has seen some pragmatic solutions. The recent advances in information technology have led to decrease in cost and increase in accuracy of handling transactional, accounting data and the ability to handle complex production schedules.  Advanced manufacturing systems have enabled manufacturers to adopt lean manufacturing, design modular product structures to facilitate mass customization. Distributed manufacturing and assembly is another strategy being adopted.

The ability of not just to process information but to disseminate it seamlessly has led to real time integration with suppliers thus leading to a decrease in lead time of built-to-order assemblies. The advances in visualization technology have enabled creation of online configurators which enable customers to visualize their final configured product without the manufacturer having to build it or keep it in stock.  The virtual building of the product from attributes engages the customer and takes care in reducing "mass confusion" to some extent. Another innovative practice which directly addresses the current problem of huge inventories (especially cars) is the Virtual build to order (VBTO). Online car configurators are able to search matches to selected configuration from existing inventory across retailers and factory systems, hence meeting the demand for customized products without actually manufacturing a new vehicle.  You have recommendation engines incorporated within the configurators which suggest near matches to customer inputs hence assisting him or her to make a quick choice if he or she is not ready to wait.

All the above developments are great but only leading to incremental adoption of the mass customization philosophy. The reason is that it still does not substantially mitigate the risk of failure against the benefit. What if you discover that the variable attributes you introduce to your product or service are not the ones which the customers really value? By that time the manufacturer would have made substantial investment in redesigning manufacturing setup, driving change in organization, partners, marketing and IT systems. The sunk cost, capacity underutilization and inventory from lack of sales could lead to a shutdown. In this world of fast changing needs, market research based on historical data can hardly provide that kind of customer insight to guarantee success. This is where new innovations like "crowdsourcing" and "3D printing" can break the barrier.

Crowdsourcing or the practice of involving a large set of people especially over the internet with an intention to obtain ideas, opinions or services, allows manufacturers to involve the customer in the design stage itself. Advancement of web 2.0 technologies enables integration of visual software (3D) within collaboration platforms leading to a very interactive form of co-design between the prospective consumer and manufacturer. Advanced analytics software derives meaning out of unstructured comments from consumer and thus indicates key insights to manufacturer which otherwise would not have been possible via traditional means. With this manufacturers are reasonably sure about the key attributes of value, product variants before moving to a mass customization approach. They no longer follow suit what competitors are offering and have an opportunity to lead the game rather than catch up to it. Allowing people to participate creates a positive vibe for the brand too. Crowdsourcing also has a role to play post the manufacture of the product i.e. in the buying decision. For example a customer can build a virtual car using an online car configurator and post it on a crowdsourcing platform provided by the OEM. Based on recommendations, likes/dislikes from others he/she could make the buying decision. 

Another innovation which is hugely helping the cause for mass customization is 3D printing. With the advent of cheap 3D printers small manufacturers can quickly move to prototyping to final product. Large manufacturers also benefit as they do not have to spend a whole lot of time and money in prototyping anymore. A good use case is in the automotive aftermarket. OEMs or savvy players from the un-organized sector can provide a platform where do it yourself customers can take the core-design of the accessories and parts and can customize it. Subsequently the customized designs could be 3D printed and delivered to the customer.

By now we have seen the challenges manufacturers face in adopting a mass customization approach. There seems no single method to success except that manufacturers have to treat mass customization as a business strategy rather than a manufacturing one. But with innovations like crowdsourcing and 3D printing addressing the fundamental risks which prevented the adoption, I believe we would see more companies opting the mass customization route profitably.

What do you think??

January 17, 2014

Look ma, no speedometer on my car dashboard

Come to think of it! How many times do you keep staring at the glass panel behind the steering wheel? Until the autonomous car is on the road for you and me, we will have to continue to watch the road, enjoy the scenery and then toggle the infotainment cluster for navigation, weather report, radio, music playlist, climate controls etc. But check out the tachometer or temperature indicator? Nah! Not many times, right? Thought so!

If you have been following what's happening at the recently concluded CES in Las Vegas, you would know how fast our digital life is changing and how far it is evolving. With ubiquitous gadgets and clearer & smarter TV screens, it was just a matter of time before our cars woke up to the digital revolution as well. So don't look surprised when I tell you that Visteon Corporation launched their connected audio solution for a global vehicle manufacturer by delivering Bluetooth, voice control and integrated smartphone connection to Cloud applications. They also showcased a connected vehicle software framework that is intelligent enough to anticipate a driver's need and then produce a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) experience. This would be akin to turning an imaginary knob in the air to control the audio volume. Another example would be follow-the-gaze in which the gauges appear at the side where the driver is looking. Such HMI experience, when combined with driver behavioral data and preferences allows the HMI to not only intelligently display the most relevant information using applications and other environmental inputs but also at the right time. Even Panasonic Automotive Systems is building a dashboard that has all the gauges and controls behind the steering wheel and within the instrument cluster. This could also be reflectively displayed on the windshield such that the driver need not move the direction of his eyesight. This makes it redundant to have separate touchscreen panel for infotainment and gauges, doesn't it?

Now look at your mobile phone or tablet or even the laptop on which you are reading this blog. You have a home screen, a background wall paper, a screen lock wall paper and different color options. We all set the preferences based on what we feel is most meaningful or appropriate to us. It could be a family portrait or a celebrity close-up or a beautiful scenic waterfall. We see what we want to see on these devices. If that's the freedom we get on our mobile devices, then why not in the car? The functional needs of the various gauges on the typical car dashboard viz. Tachometer, Speedometer, Odometer, Fuel gauge, temperature gauge, seat belt indicator, door open indicator, etc. have a limited and conditional need. Hence, this information is not required all the time. Now, how about adding a character to the visualization and personalizing it like we do to our mobile phones. How about giving it flair and charisma? Feeling good already?

Not many in the automotive industry will argue that the digital world of a consumer outside a car is very quickly merging with the one inside a car. This is what the connected car intends to do by making it an extension of the digital world. Imagine if the same could be extended to the dashboard as well. Think of it as a changing wall-paper. Instead of a cumbersome instrument cluster and a central console hosting the touchscreen panel & controls, we could see a more simple design of having a single screen within the car that displays the requested information. This will also be event-triggered such that if the temperature increases to an abnormal level, then the temperature gauge will show up or if the speed is exceedingly high, then the Speedometer will show-up and so on. There could also be gesture controlled or voice controlled or native buttons on the steering wheel that will bring the required screen on display. Of course, customers will have an opportunity to connect a USB drive or connect to the cloud to change the wallpaper display of the 'normal' screen. This has an added unique advantage as well. In India which is one of the countries with the largest number of road accidents, an experiment on government run transport buses showed that drivers drove more cautiously and safely when a picture of their family was put up on the dash. Using the same, a family portrait could be displayed on the dash by connecting the mobile or USB drive.

Already, last week Audi showed a dashboard on its TT model which had an integrated dashboard showing the gauges as well as navigation all in the same view. This has been termed by a few experts as an 'overload of beautiful information'. But naysayers apart, this will be the future. Consumers will be allowed to choose what they see on their dashboard. It is exciting times for automotive companies and their Tier 1 electronic partners. Radical changes within the cockpit are to be expected in the coming years and our perspective about the inside of a car will change drastically. What do you think?

January 7, 2014

Importance of Organization Change Management (OCM) in large programs.

In the context of programs that involve fundamental change in the IT delivery model for clients, the focus on organization change management (OCM) required or the scale and the coverage required for the exercise is usually overlooked.

Most customers tend to rely on the deal consultants who have advisory services to address the OCM requirements. Usually the answer is," Yes", we have factored in the need for the change and we have an internal team working on it along with our HR.

Most sales people do not factor in OCM as a part of the solution. The sales team does not push to add an OCM component fearing the increases in the deal cost.

This mind set and approach usually result in a poorly designed organization structure and an eco system, including the business, which poorly understands the new delivery model and has incorrect expectations.

While the business case would be met both on the client side and the vendor side at the start of the deal, the misalignment of  new organization structure results in operational pains that has the potential to derail the business case on both sides resulting in statements like "I knew that this would not work for us. This was a cost cutting mechanism that failed for us ...". "The client organization is unreasonable..". "The internal staff is not aligned with management and has wrecked this initiative..."

Based on my experience from multiple deals, following are anecdotal situations during transition

  1. Surprised Business user --> I am used to calling Joe to get this resolved.... now I have to call and log a ticket?
  2. IT manager with expectation mismatch --> I need a resource with X years of experiences in this skill and this technology and to be located in this town like how I had in my team before!!
  3. IT manager in the retained organization with misalignment of capabilities and role  Not ready to manage vendor but wants to be hands on and manage work instead of monitoring and measuring results.
  4. Staffing mismatch by vendor --> Resource mix and experience is changed to accommodate the reality of the retained structure or in some cases this adjustment does not happen resulting in addition friction.
  5. New governance is not adequately adjusted to the change

In an organization that changes the way IT has been delivered from an in-house organization to a vendor managed organization or to a completely outsourced organization, each stakeholder will wake up to a new world the day the transition is complete. If the stake holders, whether it be the CIO, the IT manager, the Business VP or the end user,  are not oriented and have an training of what to expect and how to operate in the new environment then the chance of the program and the business case being met will be jeopardized and the business potentially impacted.

The key to success is to plan for the change ahead of time. Budget for the change management exercise. Involve the vendor in the change management exercise and not treat the vendor as a piece of puzzle that will fit in. The change management required will depend significantly on the model being proposed by the vendor and the organization structure that the vendor is proposing/building as a part of the solution. This will potentially be different for each vendor and is not a one size fits all vendor. Involve the business and the end users in the communication and the training.

Paying close attention to the structure of the retained organization and the skill set of the resources that will be part of the retained organization is key.  A manager who is highly technical may not fit the role of a retained vendor manager even though s/he may have deep expertise in the underlying technology but may not be able to manage and coordinate geographically dispersed vendor teams. The change requires that the role transform from a "Responsible" to an "Accountable" role. To add clarity, earlier the manager was responsible and accountable for the delivery of the IT function using his/her teams.  In the new scheme of the organization, the manager is still accountable but the vendor teams are responsible for delivery and the client manager has to manage this using a set of pre determined KPIs and vendor management/governance mechanism. This change is not easy and often times require that a new person handle the role.

A regular and well defined process is required to ensure that the organization has the ability to train and orient a new employee to the delivery model.  A periodic refresher in the initial years of the journey would help to align the entire initiative to the goals set out during the start of the program. Creating a potential set of scenarios that might arise in the new way of working and understanding the potential workflows and governance required for it will ensure that both sides understand how each other would react in some of these tough situations.

Understanding the vendor model and the vendor organization's proposed solution is very important. The level, role and the internal KPI of the key vendor resources deployed will play a crucial role in the success of the engagement. Ensuring that there is alignment of  these to the KPIs of the initiative is very important.

Summary of key takeaways

  1. Incorporate OCM right from the beginning
  2. Involve all stakeholders including business
  3. Design the retained organization with care and select the right people
  4. Involve the vendor in the retained organization definition
  5. Define goals and KPIs on both sides
  6. Conduct refreshers periodically during the initial years
  7. The client must understand the KPI of the vendor key resources
  8. Prepare and play out some of the scenarios ahead of time
     

 

January 2, 2014

Technology Trends of 2014 and How They Apply to the Manufacturing Industry

It is the start of a new year and we are seeing a lot of predictions being made on trends for 2014 - be it technologies, industries, business functions, business models, enterprises or consumers. Being focused on the Manufacturing industry for a few years now, here is my take on how some of the top technology trends apply to this industry, how they will be leveraged over this year and the kind of changes we may see them bring about.

 

1.   Big Data & Advanced Analytics

This was the hot technology trend in 2013 and I say it will continue to be so in 2014 as well. However, a lot of "noise" around it will be cut out and the industry will focus on the real and practical value it can bring. In effect, a lot more of application and a lot less of the "magic wand" buzz.

 

From a manufacturing perspective, we would see a lot of "big data" being generated by machines - be it in the form of device logs, sensor feeds, RFID/barcode feeds or GPS locations coming from aircrafts, vehicles, consumer devices, tracking devices, mobile phones or manufacturing equipment themselves. Capturing, storage, analysis of this data and integration with enterprise applications will provide for a lot of value - to consumers and eventually to enterprises. Analysis of this data can generate a lot of insight into how consumers use these devices, when usage is at its peak, where there is wastage, what kind of usage leads to what kind of results - breakdown, dip in output, optimal usage, how the devices are being used by different consumer groups in different locations, in different environmental/industrial conditions. All of these insights can be used to make better products, to provide better services to buyers/leasers of these products, to provide targeted promotions, to improve customer satisfaction & loyalty, to improve internal processes. The possibilities here are immense, a lot of prototyping and algorithms have been tried out in 2013, and we should see some of these being put to productive use in 2014 and enterprises getting some real bang for the buck.

 

2.   Mobility & Next Gen Interfaces

We have already seen smart phones and tablets capture the consumer market in full force. We have also seen good penetration in enterprises with BYOD gaining ground over 2013. As we see this grow further in 2014, what we will also start seeing is mobility becoming a central theme in consumer devices and enterprise processes in the form of wearable devices and new interfaces for interaction with these. Think Augmented Reality, Voice Commands, Touch Screens and the likes.

 

What does this mean for the manufacturing industry? A lot more of hi-tech devices getting manufactured, a lot more mobile based asset management, a lot more of cool visualizations in devices, new ways of interacting with these devices, a lot more of automation of processes that save time and improve quality and efficiency. From a consumer's perspective think of cars with digital dashboards and windscreens - the dashboards can be configured the way you like it, with only the information you want to be appearing and in the place you would like to see it. The windscreens can give you alerts by flashing warning messages in real-time, done in a way that it doesn't distract the driver and at the same time provides relevant information at the right time such that the driving experience is more satisfying. From a manufacturer's perspective - think about being able to monitor the health of an employee in a hazardous working condition, think about being able to significantly reduce service time of a machine by referring to a handheld and get to a faulty equipment faster, by being able to read instructions to dismantle the machine using augmented reality directly on the machine and by being able to directly order and receive the replacement parts as the repair is being done. All this at the touch of a screen, or just by speaking into a device, if your hands are already occupied with the machine.

 

3.   Internet of Things

This one has many names already - internet of everything, industrial internet, M2M (++), industry 4.0 (purely in the manufacturing context). How much of this can shape up in 2014 will purely depend upon the kind/extent of usage/automation that one wants to achieve. Sensors in machines sending out data, capturing the data in different forms and via different means and integrating this data with enterprise applications is certainly possible and proven already. If one is looking at full factory automation - with machines and raw material being lined up for effective use of machines and with least wait times - this will take a few more years. But if you are looking at aspects of condition monitoring, command center for device management, track and trace use cases, these will certainly make way for a lot of automation in 2014. Think emergency response, connected vehicles, predictive maintenance, precision agriculture etc.

 

4.   3D Printing or Adaptive Manufacturing

In 2013, I did read a few blogs around 4D printing as well - basically they were talking about the printed object transforming its shape, based on the environment it is kept under after printing. It sounded very promising, but I think, it may take some more time and may simply become an extension of 3D printing over due course. So, I am still sticking to the 3D world for now. This has seen a good growth in popularity over 2013, while it started with rapid prototyping, moved on to the toy and medical industry, it finally found place in some big manufacturing organizations who are making bigger and better use of 3D printing even as of today. 2014 may see enterprise class 3D printers becoming cheaper and usage growing across large and small enterprises for end products, components or even manufacturing devices themselves.

 

Impact of 3D printing on product design, inventory management, supply chain management and manufacturing process itself will grow over 2014. We should see a lot more of 3D printing being adopted in the areas where it is more suitable and provides for a better ROI. Integration with PLM systems, integration with enterprise applications, a lot more focus on computer aided design techniques suited for 3D printing, research on more materials, multiple materials and better output finish will also be seen in this space.

 

5.   Robotics

Robotics has seen growth mainly in automotive and metals and machinery industries, but there has been increased adoption in other segments as well. The speed, accuracy, waste reduction, consistency and reliability of robots make them well suited for electronics, food and beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging applications. Robots also help organizations with the flexibility to respond quickly to changing demands - in quantity, in design and in different products.

 

With a lot of stress on Automation as well as most countries focusing on manufacturing internally, Robotics will continue to see growth in 2014, particularly in large scale and standardized products or components manufacturing where tasks are repeatable.

 

Most of these trends eventually point to Digital Enterprise and Automation being the key technology theme for the manufacturing industry and causing further shifts in business models by means of near-shoring, re-shoring and "servitization".

 

Two technology trends that I did not cover above are 'Social' and 'Cloud' - these have seen significant leverage over the last few years and will continue to grow in 2014. Benefits of cloud infrastructure are well understood today and most organizations have shifted to either a private or public version of the same depending on the size, scale and risk. Cloud based applications are still catching on and there will be a big need for on-premise and in-cloud integration over the next year. Social, Gamification and Collaboration are now finding a place not only from a consumer or sentiment analysis perspective but also as a means of crowd-sourcing of ideas, seamless execution of processes and of course Innovation which has a central place in all these technology trends and their impact to the Manufacturing industry.

 

Only time will tell how widely used and common-place each of these technology trends will become in the Manufacturing industry. But, the speed of evolution of technology and its adoption is certainly bringing around a complete paradigm change towards the importance of technology to business.

B2B Ecommerce Circa 2014- Demystifying the Hottest Trends PART 1

In one of my earlier Blog posts (E-Commerce in B2B Arena: The wheels are moving albeit slow) we talked about the latest Ecommerce trends and B2B ecommerce. A lot has happened since then, let us have a look at some of the developments!

Here are a few interesting facts involving B2B eCommerce which are getting the Manufacturers all excited and charged up:

1) Sheer size of B2B eCommerce: B2B eCommerce market in the US alone is roughly double the size of the US B2C eCommerce market. 

2) Rising Mobility: Mobile traffic is gaining traction and will be almost one- fourth of the overall business Internet traffic in a few years.

3) Profitable Online customers: It is becoming more and more profitable to migrate offline customers online fuelling a better and fatter net spend.

4) Reducing support Costs: It is much more cost effective to support the consumers who have moved online providing better savings on support activities.

5) Greater penetration: B2B companies can also service small accounts online effectively which could have been a cost burden in the offline scenario, thus profitably adding new customers.


All these facts are encouraging more and more Manufacturers to take up B2B eCommerce initiatives.

There are also certain expectations that Businesses have from the eCommerce tools as more & more Businesses are demanding B2C like state of the art features for their B2B sites as well. MFG Clients want to engage their users with 'Amazon like' experience and this trend has been noticed where users are demanding to have all the latest features which were only seen in B2C sites earlier.

The users are demanding a better experience and it is heartening to see that Businesses and eCommerce tools are responding with all these features for the B2B space as well. Let us have a look at some of these trends in detail here: 


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These are some of the latest trends we are seeing in the B2B eCommerce domain and we will discover more hot trends and features spanning the eCommerce space in the next part of this post, Meanwhile fill us on what do you think where B2B eCommerce is going in 2014?

January 1, 2014

Is enough being done for enterprises in connected cars?

Technology and gadgets have always caught man's fancy since centuries. And cars - always a hotbed for new cool technology - have historically pulled more customers into dealer showrooms whenever there is an exciting feature to showcase. Hence, it is no surprise that more and more automotive companies are focusing on building cool connected car apps for the technology trendy customer of today.

The usual consumer apps in a connected car are GPS navigation, traffic alerts, internet radio or music, search engines, internet browsers, remote door lock/unlock, etc. All these are consumer focused and will heavily rely on transactions between the car, the driver and the World Wide Web. However, enterprise is often the last place for automotive customers to focus upon. The reasons are evident:

  • Consumer apps create better selling and marketing points since their benefits can be fully perceived by customers
  • Building mobile applications is easier and faster as compared to enterprise applications
  • Compatibility and integration are enterprise challenges that are comparatively easier to resolve on the consumer app side
  • The customer need for ubiquitous connectivity can be met more satisfyingly with consumer apps in cars

Let's face it. It's now a given that the sprint race would be won by consumer apps. But does that leave out enterprise apps completely?

The answer is a big No. For the amount of data that a car can generate, the analytics wealth hidden within that data is of unimaginable value. Imagine if the enterprise (automotive manufacturer) can forewarn you of an impending breakdown and book a service appointment. Imagine if based on someone else's recent warranty report, your car gets recalled earlier than usual and thus prevents any accident of breakdown for anyone using the same batch model. Imagine if your car broadcasts a lease payment notification as soon as you start the engine and thus helps you to maintain your credit ratings. There are many more benefits of using the power of the enterprise to make the driver experience enjoyable and stress free. No one wants to have a breakdown in the middle of the road or mess up their credit rating unnecessarily.

Cars can be connected to enterprises using a connected car platform and can allow millions of bytes of car data to be analyzed using big data and analytics. The output of this can then be used to tailor the services back to the car or the car driver. Unlike consumer apps that are more or less a one-on-one interaction between the car and the car driver, enterprise apps have a wider use of big data and analytics. These help automotive companies to better understand the car's behavior and pass this learning to other cars such that timely intervention can make the car experience more enjoyable.

If your customer is truly at the center of your automotive business, it is time now to do more by unleashing the enterprise power on connected cars. Can you agree more?

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