Winning Manufacturing Strategies

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March 28, 2014

Take the Bull by the Horns: Going Multichannel

Nowadays it is very common in B2C space for buyers to research online (read reviews/ ratings/ posts), try the products in store, order online after searching for the best deals and then pick the products in store or get it delivered at their homes. The availability of so many distinct channels to the consumers has provided new avenues of sales to the organizations and at the same time there is a greater urgency to provide consistent, enriched & engaging user experience to the users across the channels. This trend is coming to the B2B eCommerce in a big way, let us quickly have a look at this domain.

multichannel.png
The above diagram shows the steps in which the purchase can be made in a Multichannel Scenario:

Step 1) First of all user researches various options, product attributes, reads through numerous ratings & reviews posted by fellow users and try to gauge the market and available options. Users can research on social sites, web or could drop in a store to evaluate the product of their interest.

Step 2) Here the user checks out (initiate the buying process) through one of the available channels. User could choose to order the product through one of the multiple channels available i.e. store, web etc.

Step 3) In this last & final step user can choose to pay through multiple channels available e.g. in store, through online checkout or COD (cash in delivery) and the product could be delivered at the user's requested address or could be picked in the store concluding the purchase.


3 Tenets of Multichannel eCommerce:

3 tenets.png

We highly recommend these three tenets which every organization should keep in mind while creating a world class multi channel experience for its audience

1)     1) Consistency: We need to provide a consistent experience across the channels, the consumer should not feel disconnected in any chosen channel. Customer view should be consistent across the channels and uniform recommendations & offers should be provided to the user irrespective of the channel accessed.

    2) Ease of use: Multiple channels should work in a seamless fashion and the consumer should be able to effortlessly switch between channels at will. 

      3) Context: Consumers expect to be shown uniform views, offers & information across the channels. The content should be tailored to each channel e.g. a smartphone user should be presented content which is mobile friendly. Organizations cannot just feed the desktop website content for the mobile devices as well, it requires an altogether different content & experience to be created for the user and it's worth the effort

Impetus for the Introduction of multiple channel experience:

1)       1) It is observed that the existing customers which are introduced to the online channels are more inclined to make more purchases bringing in better revenues.

2)       2) Advanced analytics provides organizations to extract invaluable data (customer behavior patterns) from multiple channels which in turn enables them to find cross-sell & up-sell strategies.

3)       3) Online channels considerably decrease the customer support costs by providing self-service options.

4)       4Some customers are only viable if we service them through online channels which provides organization a wider reach at lower costs.

5)       5It is observed the wallet share goes up with the increased number of channels offered to a customer which is a big incentive for organizations to increase revenues in a saturated environment.

 

These and many more advantages are compelling the organizations in the B2B space to take up Multi channel selling. So what are you waiting for, go take the bull by the horns!

 

Share your gains, pains, delights & experiences of going Multi channel with us here, would love to hear from you!

March 25, 2014

Why social collaboration for product engineering is not as easy as it seems

Some time back, I had advised and shared some thoughts with a client on how best they could roll out a platform that enabled digital collaboration for their product-engineering unit. The idea was to create a platform that would allow engineers from different disciplines such as thermodynamics and flight physics, and from different engineering programs, to informally collaborate in a product development scenario. In this manner, they would be able to record findings and share the lessons learnt with the other engineers in the organization, irrespective of the success of the project.  

Last month I heard they were planning to de-prioritize the project. I can understand why. Social collaboration in an engineering organization is not as easy at it appears at the first instance. It is easy to build a technology platform, but it requires a lot more to get the social network going.

Amongst many hurdles, the biggest is perhaps the free-rider problem. The creation and sustenance of a knowledge exchange ecosystem requires people to contribute to the knowledge, and not just consume it. With too many free-riders in the network, there are chances that the ecosystem would get obsolete with no additional content or inputs to retain readership and reference. This problem can be acute in design and engineering organizations, where teams are under significant time constraints. Although they will want to use the available information in the network, they would rarely have the time to properly document their findings from projects. Furthermore, the drain on time is pronounced if they have two different platforms - one for structured engineering and collaboration, and the other for social collaboration. This was, predominantly, the reason why the client had to turn down the social collaboration initiative.

The adoption of social networks within organizations would need an environment with the right organizational structure, incentive structure, communication planning and other roll-out strategies that are conducive to the maintenance of a collaborative platform.

Here again, one-size does not fit all - Different personas will respond to incentives differently. A 30-year veteran thermodynamic engineer may not be as excited about a T-shirt that says "I contributed a wiki today" as an engineering intern!

Impact of BYOD on an Enterprise and its Employees..

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

Information Technology has evolved from Command Line interface to drag & Drop to cool apps that are simpler to use in terms of User Experience and Interface.

The corporate employees now demand to access the company applications/data on their personal mobile, they want the interfaces to be as simple like Facebook. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) boom can be attributed to the desire to serve customers and be responsive to colleagues across time zones in a global, always connected mode and to save cost by not having to purchase multiple devices.

 

 The BYOD has already gained traction in several organizations. According to Gartner's recent research 38 percent of companies will stop providing devices separately to the employees. But as with any other technological transformation, BYOD has also some trade-offs which needs to be addressed before adopting it.

Ø   Some of the Key benefits of BYOD adoption:

v  Cost Effectiveness: The companies would not need to provide expensive devices to the employees as people will be allowed to use their personal devices to access company application / data. Also since the maintenance and repair of the device will also be borne by the employees the Cost to Company will further be reduced.

v  Ease to operate the device: Most of the employees will be familiar of their personal devices and hence no training would be required.

v  Flexibility: Employees would not need to carry multiple devices to perform personal and professional work. Working remotely will become convenient as people will have access to company application / data on their personal devices.

v  Enhance productivity: Ready access to company application will allow employee to work across time zones and deliver results.

Ø  Disadvantages of BYOD:

v  Employees will have to incur additional Cost:  Since the cost of purchasing the device and it repair and maintenance will have to be borne by the employee, it will put extra burden on his pocket.

v  Data Sharing will be challenging:  Since the person devices will be of various configuration, it might not be suitable for certain kind of work. Also data sharing across multiple platforms will become challenging.

v  Concerns over Security:  The availability of company application / data on the person devices of the employees will bring threat to the data integrity as it will be difficult to prevent un-authorized access. Also threat of data being infected by virus and worms will increase.

Ø  Despite the disadvantages, there are ways to cater these challenges and harness the benefits of BYOD by following few precautions:

v  Clearly define the access Level Control: Companies should clearly define as to what information can be accessed by which type of employee. This policy shall be applicable irrespective of the device used to access that information.

v  Create a catalogue of Enterprise Applications: Employees should be allowed to use only the authorized tools provided by the company. No unauthorized downloads should be allowed.

v  Define the supported device parameters: Companies should clearly define the parameters for the device to be used in terms of configuration and security measures.

The Top Management needs to be proactive and define the policies. With the advent of Cloud based application, BYOD will become imperative, hence companies should start looking at handling the challenges brought by it.

March 24, 2014

Significance of Digital Transformation for an Enterprise and the Latest Trends.

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

In businesses of all sizes and across domains, it has become imperative for companies to be digitally engaging in order to innovate and stay competitive. Instead of being a follower in technology, companies need to invest their vast resource and capital to react and also embrace the various technological disruptions.

The penetration of Internet and User base has increased significantly in the last few years and Enterprises have realized that digital technology is more than having just a basic website. The advent of Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and various rating services have provided tremendous information to customer to make learned decision on purchasing. As a discipline, digital transformation incorporates a lot of latest technologies like big data, internet of things, gaming and cloud computing

According to Harvard Business Review "Technology innovation is not slowing down or leveling off, but ramping up -- and businesses will soon face a barrage of new digital possibilities."

Different businesses have different structures, customer's base, stakeholders, business model but they share few common challenges and themes.

Ø  Steps involved in Transformation

 

ü  Creation of a Business Case which is unique and which provides the road map for this change

ü  Assessment of the current state of Digital Maturity in order to perform industry benchmarking and to point out the objectives.

ü  Identification of the risks, compliance and legal obligations and devise steps to rectify these.

ü  Obtaining the buy-in from the Key Stakeholders

ü  Implement the Change as per plan.

 

Ø  Scope of Digital Transformation and its Significance:

Digital Transformation initiative is not only about the IT or Digital Teams. Though the digital infrastructure is the backbone of any transformation but it involves all the teams and functions of the business.

ü  Technology Infrastructure, IT Team, Analytics Team

ü  Customers, Users, Marketing and Sales Team.

ü  Compliance and Legal Team

ü  People and Human Resource.

 

Ø  Transformation can help grow business:

ü  Provide more insight into the Customer behavior and trends which will help in Cross-selling and Up-Selling

ü  Enhances customer satisfaction and hence retention as companies are able to provide more value per customer

ü  Provides multiple channels to reach and serve the customers also new channels of revenue growth.

Ø  Trends in Digital Technology:

As we have seen that in the Digital Space, it is not sufficient for the Enterprises to follow the Technologies once al the Risks have been mitigated but they have to invest their capital and resource to become a Digital Disruptor and stay ahead in competition. Some of the Latest Trends have been listed below for reference.

ü  Custom applications: As the companies move towards attainment of IT agility, the need for Custom based application with a Pay per usage charging model has increased.  

ü  Hardware and Data Center are indispensable: The vast Data Centers are being used to provide Cloud based Storage and services on a Pay per usage model. With the ever increase in the data volume, the need for a large, cost effective data centers have increased.

ü  Internet of Things: All our devices from Microwave to Cars are getting connected to the Internet and have induced a new layer of Intelligence into our lives.

ü  Increased Workforce by Crowd Sourcing: Enterprises are no longer limited to their employees to get the problem solved or deliver, they can use talent from across geographies using the cloud, social collaboration technologies.

Hence the Companies need to recreate and redefine the business to stay competitive and not just become a follower. The growth and harnessing of this immense opportunity is limited only by the creativity and innovation of the enterprise itself.

 

Cloud Computing: Types of Risks associated and their Mitigation Procedures..

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

Cloud Computing has been at the Peak of Gartner Hype Cycle. So much has been discussed about the Deployment and Delivery Model. But we still notice the Enterprises are reluctant to apply it. Let us try to explore the Risks associated with Cloud Deployment and what are the mitigation plans. If these risks are addressed with proper mitigation plan, then Cloud Computing adoption will be smoother and faster. In this blog, the risks have been categorized as-

1. Technical Risks

2. Legal Risks

3. Organizational Risks

Risk

Description

Impact

Mitigation control

TECHNICAL RISKS

Cloud isolation failure

The service offered to the customer by the CP could be hampered if redundancy is not built in the cloud network

Service interruption or unavailability leading to loss of customer trust and reputational damage unavailability of services, loss of data confidentiality, integrity and availability, economic and reputational losses due to failure to meet customer demand, violation of SLA, cascading service failure

Implement hardware and logical redundancy in the network infrastructure supporting the cloud

Ineffective capacity management or resource exhaustion


No policies in place for resource capping. Lack of redundancy. Inability to provide current agreed capacity level. Inability to provide additional capacity in times of crisis or emergencies.

Service interruption and resource unavailability to end users due to load on the infrastructure. Customer dissatisfaction leading to reputational damage

Process to be established for capacity management. Effective real time monitoring and reporting in place. Analysis and study to carried out by the CP on a regular basis.

Malicious activities or attack due to multi-tenancy use of shared resources between various customers of the CP

Failure of mechanisms separating storage, memory, routing, and even reputation between different tenants of the shared infrastructure leading to attacks such as guest-hopping attacks, SQL injection attacks , Cloud Service Hijack, DoS attacks

Expose customers' critical and sensitive data stored in the cloud infrastructure. Unavailability or services or resource to customers leading to customer dissatisfaction and damage to reputation

Prohibit the sharing of account credentials between users and
services.
· Leverage strong two-factor authentication techniques where possible.
· Employ proactive monitoring to detect unauthorized activity

Presence of malicious insider in the cloud

Cloud architectures necessitates certain roles which are extremely high-risk. These personnel with the privileges they have can have direct or indirect access to customer data

confidentiality, integrity and availability of all kind of data and services which therefore indirectly impacts organization's reputation, customer trust and the experiences of employees

Implement controls for AAA
Identity and Access Management
Sign NDA with CC provider
Setup incident management process which is robust and transparent
Effective provisioning and de-provisioning of user ids. Define clear roles n responsibilities.

Intercepting data in transit within the cloud

Sniffing, spoofing, man-in-the-middle attacks, side channel and replay attacks are considered as possible sources by which customer data can be intercepted in the cloud

Unauthorized access to customer data thereby stealing sensitive customer information and providing to competitors

Implement strong API access control.
Encrypt and protect integrity of data in transit. Analyze data protection at both design and run time. Implement strong key generation, storage and management and destruction practices.

Data leakage or loss due to storage in backup media

Backup media used by CP could be shared among other customers of the CP. As a result, there is a possibility of data being leaked or lost if the media management is not effective

Leakage or loss of sensitive customer data leading to reputational damage and customer confidence.
Applicable Data privacy laws will also be affected leading to legal issues

Contractually demand providers wipe persistent media before if it is used as a shared backup media. Contractually specify provider backup and retention strategies. Encrypt data when stored on backup media

 

 

 

 

Legal Risks

No virtual boundaries or jurisdiction for data stored in the cloud

Customer data may be held or stored virtually anywhere in the world including data centers that are located in high-risk countries,

Due to this, regulatory issues will arise as. As per law, no customer data within the country can be sent or stored outside the Indian borders

The solution will be provided by the service provider. Also a check needs to be made on the security controls that they will apply.

Lack of data protection by the CP

effectively check the data processing that the cloud provider carries out, and thus be sure that the data is handled in a lawful way

Failure to comply with data protection law may lead to administrative, civil and also criminal sanctions, which vary from country to country

Ensure effective data processing and data security activities and the data controls are in place
SAS70 certification for cloud providers

Licensing

 

 

 

 

Organization  Risks

Loss of Governance due to direct control by CP

 SLAs may not offer a commitment to provide such services on the part of the cloud provider, thus leaving a gap in security defenses.
Lack of completeness and transparency in terms of use

Non adherence to customers business processes leading to compliance issues. Service outages and untimely support leading to customer service getting affected

Include certifications with the CP
Policies and process must be defined and put in  place
NDA to be signed with the SP
standard technologies and solutions to be implemented
Ensure completeness and transparency in terms of use
Strong SLAs to be defined

Lock In with the CP

there is currently little on offer in the way of tools, procedures or standard data formats or services interfaces that could guarantee data, application and service portability.  This introduces a dependency on a particular CP for service provision, especially data portability,

Potential dependency for service provision on a particular CP, depending on the CP's commitments, may lead to a catastrophic business failure should the cloud provider go bankrupt or acquired and is not able to match the services provided before

The solution will be provided by the service provider. Also a check needs to be made on the security controls that they will apply.

Noncompliance to customer defined policies and procedures

The CP may not consider or implement the policies or procedures defined by its customer for the service provided as it may affect or hinder the policies set by them on the cloud.
Lack of standard technologies and solutions

This may lead to conflicting issues with compliance as the customer adheres to some standards which the CP may not. For e.g.: PCI DSS may not be achieved in a public cloud infrastructure
Storage of data in multiple jurisdictions may lead to legal and regulatory issues

Implement and follow industry standard certifications and processes

Cloud service termination or failure

The CP may not deliver as per the customer expectations due to number of outages, deterioration in services and unavailability of resources

Loss or deterioration of service delivery performance, and quality of service, as well as a loss of investment due to poor CP selection. Failures by the cloud provider may also result in liability by the customer to its employees

Contractual agreements must clearly state terms on service termination or failure and penalties that would apply in the event of occurrence. Contract must also state the alternate option which the CP must provide till the time a permanent solution is in place.

Presence of shared resource technology and co-tenant activities

Resource sharing means that malicious activities carried out by one tenant may affect the reputation of another tenant

The impact can be deterioration in service delivery and data loss, as well as problems for the organization's reputation

Implement security best practices for installation/configuration.
· Monitor environment for unauthorized changes/activity.
· Promote strong authentication and access control for
administrative access and operations.
· Enforce service level agreements for patching and vulnerability
remediation.
· Conduct vulnerability scanning and configuration audits

March 20, 2014

Is it really going to take away everything??? :( :(

WebTop or D2?? The question which has got every Documentum architect and solution analyst scratching their head, perhaps the better question that should be posed is Customization or Configuration?? The answer to this would depend upon, to which side the ball is thrown. If it is to developers, of course the answer would be "customization" as it provides them an opportunity to show the strength of coding, in delivering what is just a thought of customer. Which is justified as long as the customer is satisfied, and their expectation are delivered within time and in a cost effective manner.

 

  

On the contrary customers would definitely love to go for Configuration, and why not when there are products like D2 working for empowerment of the users. With D2 putting almost all the control/configuration in the users hands, and hence the new term for users heard more often than not, "Power User". Which makes sense, as almost everything which required customization previously, can now be implemented via configuration- simply involving a few ticks on a spread sheet.

 

     View image                            

  

At first it does seem to be a setback for current developers, having all the knowledge of configuring and customizing the WebTop, the ability to visualize the real world needs and the confidence to deliver anything and everything, in the solution. But does D2 really take away everything from developers and give it in the hand of customers?

 

Let us analyze the situation:- 

Customization (WebTop) no doubt, has stood the test of time, whether it is a minor menu option implementation, to completely new functionality, developed in isolation and then integrated later on. This has surely satisfied users, with their needs being implemented as required. It is this reason why D2 will never be considered as the replacement of WebTop.

But still there are a few aspects, which need to be taken with a pinch of salt as far as customization is concerned. The following deserves consideration before taking a decision on configuration versus customization.

1.   Over customization: - Surely there is no way to identify this stage of the solution, and it is realized only when a limitation in the product is encountered and there is no fall back option. But the idea here is to make solution reach perfection, as far as the needs of the users are concerned.

2.   The customizations avert streamlined migration of the solution from one release to another. The greater the customization, the harder upgrade becomes.

3.   Support of the solution: - There are instances wherein the solution requires a root cause analysis by the product company, customization makes these analysis a tough task to handle, hence prolonging the resolution of the issue. Or a customization might invalidate the warranty and support.

4.   Poor quality customization creates an additional stress for deployment, upgrade and support of solution. It may be rejected by the end user.

5.   Last but not the least customization comes with a cost of ownership, related risks and downstream effects.

 

Now let's flip the coin and see what is there on the other side, Documentum D2, based on the mantra to ensure that the "power" relies with users, which is quite comprehensible, as they are the people who know business and their needs the best. This power includes not only the ability to configure their solution but also to have an intuitive user experience, which has made the long awaited goal of WebTop personalization possible.

 

D2 is considered to be a game changer, a product that will change the perception of user community, about content applications. The product is considered as more of a purpose- centric solution rather than a content-centric one like WebTop, following the below equation

 

Purpose-centric= Content centric + comfort/ease/personalized execution of the solution.

 

Hence eliminating the stress out from the solution execution and making it more of a fun activity. 

 

As D2 is not yet explored much it would be a good idea to have a deeper dive into the architecture of the latest version, to find out what it really offers, how the transition of power to users is going to take place and more importantly, is there really nothing left for developers?? L  

 

 D2Arch.png

 

               Documentum D2ver 4.1 Architecture 

 

Reviewing the architecture a few things are clear- D2 has an edge over WebTop as far as performance is concerned. This enhanced performance is due to the use of GWT based browser related communication. The use of widgets has a not only contributed to the performance, by providing an alternative to complete HTML page reloading (now it is a part of the page i.e. the concerned widget only) during navigation, but also has given the capability of personalizing the UI.

 

A few important features of Documentum D2 are:-

1.   D2 permits extending the widget set beyond those present out of the box, using Google Gadgets, allowing access to external content and applications such as calculators, calendar, maps, weather and social media accounts

2.   Allows a way to integrate custom webapp or widgets (charts, graphs etc.) with the internal widgets, retrieving live data from docbase using DFC API and DQL.

3.   D2 allows different themes to be applied for workspaces, defining the consistent appearance combination, with color settings for tabs, headers, widgets and background.

4.   D2 supports the most popular browsers such as Firefox, IE, Google Chrome and Safari, providing greater cross browser compatibility.

5.   It provides a very strong feature of cross repository (repositories registered with the same docbroker) search, in a single operation.

6.   Advanced auditing, workflow and lifecycle capabilities all configurable to content and user type.

7.   Configurable metadata and import screens for document types.

8.   Simple and advanced search made catered through configurable search screens and search forms.

9.   Documentum D2 + Pack provide add on utility for MS Office documents, PDF configuration and Outlook metadata synching with repository.

10.  Brava Integration is another advanced feature supported by D2.

11.  Xplore Integration with the use of facets, full text search with relevance, Kerberos support and customer SSO API. 

12.  Programmable button, which can be programmed for suitable business requirements.

 

Ah!!  it means it's not all over for us. I see the hope from the second (also first) point which talks about external/custom widgets, with product already supporting the bidirectional communication/integration between the external and internal widgets and D2FS, which is an extremely important and powerful aspect of the product, yet to be explored by developers. These two aspects, will lay the foundation of a new era in content management application experience.

Looking forward this would really be an awesome experience, not only for users but for developers as well. And it is to the product company that they have kept the product extension options open. So it is not all taken away from developers. At least as far as I understand the customer's psychology sooner than later there will be needs/demands, which will definitely require the extension of the product, and developers will be in action. JJ

Ride the "connected" bike

The connected car is getting crowded (literally!), so borrowing concepts from the car to motorbike makes a lot of sense, isn't it? The explosion of M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies and specifically communication technologies is expanding the possibilities for anything connected.

So, what makes a bike connected and what are the possibilities once you have connectivity to the bike? In my opinion, a bike is truly connected when access to bike data is available outside of the bike - be it on the cloud or be it for bike peripherals or accessories. Once the connectivity is established, there are a number of applications around safety, ride planning, navigation, infotainment, preemptive diagnostics that are possible.

The usefulness of these applications is amplified when the bike data is coupled with location and contextual rider information. The electric bike phenomenon is fueling these applications as well.

Let's now demystify the components of a connected bike. I would like to explain this through three simple components -

  1. On the bike: Many motorcycle OEMs are moving towards a standard protocol for the communication between the electronic components. The CAN (Controller Area Network) is a popular protocol that is borrowed from auto OEMs. The data that passes on this network is typically exposed through a data port and once again, the OBD (On Board Diagnostics) protocol is becoming popular. The ability to tap into this data port lets external applications read bike data such as Speed, RPM, Battery level, Fuel level etc.

  2. Bi-directional Connectivity: Connectivity is critical and has two end points, one that connects to the bike data and other to an application "off" the bike. Of course, all of us are aware of the evolution of communication technologies - Moore's law for communication would be "A generation jump every 24-36 months" . While this is a crucial element, I think the applications that are built have to be connectivity agnostic. 

  3. "Off" or "Outside" the bike: This is probably the interesting part where a mash up of data from different sources such as bike data, location, rider preferences, social information is intelligently analyzed and presented to rider, and other stakeholders in a usable manner. The applications could either reside on the "cloud" or on the "mobile".

Now that we understand the components of a connected bike, let's delve into the applications. First and foremost is safety related which is obvious given the "openness" of a bike vs. a car. The number of deaths on bikes is 30 times higher than in cars. Safety applications include collision avoidance, road condition warning, and in the future bike to bike connectivity. Next in the list is maintenance related, if the app can perform bike diagnostics and alert the rider real time and asynchronously these would be really useful. The alerts can be delivered real time to any number of peripherals such as helmets, haptic gloves, or mobile applications.

Next up, is the ability to plan rides and provide guidance during the ride. When you think about it, this may not sound very different from the cars, however weather, road conditions influence the ride much more than in cars. The art of the possible is limited only by imagination, however I think a company has to start building or buying capabilities to support newer services as they evolve.

Given that we have now looked at the benefits for the rider, what must OEMs be doing to make this happen? It's going back to the classics and fundamentals of people, process and technology.

  1. Having a dedicated organization with the right governance to drive the connected bike initiatives
  2. Continue to be customer centric, listen to the voice of customer and do a show and tell since
  3. Create a holistic strategy and roadmap that aligns to the product plan
  4. Encourage innovation through supplier community
  5. Ensure that the customer experience is consistent right from purchase till ownership transition and while on the bike
  6. Provide tools that encourage the community to plan and share rides

I really think the connected bike is real, and has immense potential in emerging markets where the volume is high.

March 18, 2014

Is your 'content marketing' strategy hitting the right notes?

The recent past has awakened to the dawn of social media as the buzzword for industries worldwide. The consumer need for constant communication and real time information has attracted businesses to platforms like Twitter, Linkedin and its social counterparts. Manufacturers, these days, are increasingly looking at leveraging them for access to business insights, supplier information, expertise and new product ideas. According to a Gartner survey, vendors ought to position themselves better on the market with ROI messaging.  

A robust social media strategy would help incorporate the voice of customers and fine-tune content strategies by using social media analytic tools. As per global estimates that have recorded over 200mn monthly active users on twitter, 70% users in the US and Europe use mobile devices to access their networks and share updates online. This also hints at the fact that companies need to embrace adoption of mobile friendly content and websites.

It has been observed that for every piece of content created there are 2000 people reading it, which makes for an interesting ratio. Since the marketplace has no dearth of marketing content and subject matter experts, how do you reach out to the scores of prospects out there who might just be interested in what you are saying? You ought to slow down on spending those dollars on mining data, related to consumer behavior and trends, when your customers might be out there voicing their concerns on social media. 

With an increase in content clutter, infographics seem to work much better than words to describe great solutions. And this also seems to be the best way to grab eyeballs for your message. There was an age when we felt that we were getting too old for Dilbert, but now the biggest communication campaigns are built on this wireframe. Ellen's star studded Oscar selfie using Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 broke all previous records on Twitter, with over 3mn retweets and counting, making Samsung's sponsorship worth every single penny. Like they say - 'A picture is worth a thousand words'. After all, not every company opts to spend $4mn on a Superbowl ad which could alternately be used to write 17,000 blogs, potentially generating 10 million shares on social media.

Marketing strategies are constantly formulated around increasing content visibility. These often constitute innovative ways to promote key messages and maximize viewership amidst your target audience. The webinar on 'The Social Employee' by Social Media Today that I attended a couple of weeks ago, discussed how well governed employee advocacy initiatives could bring more returns to the table than you ever imagined. Based on the survey findings of a leading analyst firm, social media engagement will help drive initiatives by leveraging the power of two way communication with the target market as opposed to unidirectional communication alone. This will mark a clear shift from the norm. 

So how social is your brand? Take a step back, listen to your customer's voice and gather your energy to lunge ahead with a renewed purpose.


 

March 16, 2014

Better analytics could help improve economics of customer order fulfillment

This year, the US witnessed one of the longest and harshest winters in recent history. This has caused worrisome implications on the supply chain economics of the Consumer Electronic Industry since many customers resorted to shopping for products from the warmth of their homes. Manufacturers who were focused on omni-channel sales lost out on margins due to the increase in fulfilment costs, sometimes as high as 7-10% of sales.

This has unlocked a huge opportunity to use ongoing analytics to streamline fulfillment economics.


In general, there are 3 ways in which customers can chose to purchase their electronic gadgets

  • 1.     Direct purchase by walking into company owned or reseller stores
  • 2.     Ordering (or reserving) online and picking up their wares from a store of their choice
  • 3.     Ordering online and opting for home delivery

Creation of the right fulfillment incentive for each channel is paramount since costs, consumer experience and opportunity tradeoff for companies depend on the channel choice made by the consumer.

 

For instance, today we see the extensive use of online channels to sell long tail products. Whereas, smaller products are sold through stores due to lesser storage costs. Although online configuration and cross-sales sophistication is improving, products with higher sales complexity would require the customer to visit the store sometime during the sales cycle.

 

So why should companies look for the right analytic tools?

 

Fulfilment costs, based on parameters like real-estate, shipment, retail floor traffic, SLA compliance rates of third party logistics providers, are prone to fluctuation throughout the year somewhat predictably during the holiday season, but unpredictably during unforeseen weather conditions. This is what happened this winter, when the tradeoffs between the various parameters changed. The affected companies were still latched onto static and simplistic approaches for pricing online fulfillment of products. This is where 'right analytics' comes into play in order to optimize consumer incentives and improve profitability.

 

The prize for such analytics extends beyond immediate fulfillment cost reduction. This will help plan fulfilment more efficiently and lead to better negotiations with third party logistics providers. It will also help drive improved cross sales leading to enhanced customer lifetime value.  

March 13, 2014

Chunks, Slices, bits, bytes...are we really simplifying our life?

 

While the Manufacturing industry, the machinery, the equipments and the factories are large in physical dimensions atleast, content marketing or content in itself is getting smaller and simpler. As a marketer, writing chunky bits about something as large as an automotive manufacturing plant, sometimes is a dilemma in question. But having said that, one often has to simplify lengthy case studies into 3-column content and yet convey the meaning. Or if needed, into a 140-character count twitter post too as needed. This got me thinking if we are simplifying our life or are we actually shrinking our attention-span as well?

The human brain consists of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections. The brain's memory storage capacity is around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder connected to a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. Well, that would mean that one runs the TV continuously switched on for more than 300 years to consume this storage.

 

Probably this is the first time that voluminous, instant information has been easily available than the resources it takes to consume the same. There is also a need to ration our attention or we could risk inviting what Timothy Young calls "Infobesity". We will need to learn to consume more high-quality content rather than wasting our attention on sugary YouTube videos. Web giants like Google and other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, our mobile devices have contributed to this.

While the question still remains: because the amount of information readily available will continue to only increase, how do we manage it? How will we continue to integrate it into our busy, overpacked, exhausted lives? How will it continue to complicate and easen our lives in certain ways? Also will our attention-span only get weaker?

Are we knocking on the doors of the 'Attention-deficit-Age'?

R.I.P Information Age.

 

 

March 1, 2014

BYOD, Mobility and Beyond...

Three decades ago, even if you were lucky enough to own a mobile phone (Dynatac - also known as "the Brick"), first developed by Motorola, you would need to hold it in your hands all the time owing to its sheer size and price. A mobile phone way back in 1984 which would weigh a whopping 900 grams and make your pockets lighter by $4000, performed only one function - making calls. A nostalgic ride back to the past to look at how cellphones evolved from Monolithic brick sized instruments to their Swipe-Savvy progenies should be a topic for discussion for some other day. This high technology ubiquitous device and its capabilities to serve the current generation and the ones to come enthrall me.
As a teenager, I was always fascinated to see Corporate Business Class flyers at airports, glued to their laptops screens working on intricate charts and graphs. Back then, I was neither aware that such applications are needed to run a business, nor was virtualization a part of my vocabulary. Now, with my association with the INFOR practice at Infosys, I am acquainted with the immense capabilities of Virtualization and Mobility (access to enterprise applications on the go over a mobile phone). INFOR Motion is a platform for deploying, managing and securing enterprise applications on a mobile device with the help of Cloud. One can monitor business, accomplish tasks and keep things moving using a mobile device of one's choice with the help of INFOR Motion. Mobility may become bread and butter in future for System Integrators like us because of the following facts:
•         According to a recent Gartner study, enterprises across the globe will spend $13 billion by this year end on application development software, which is a 2.5% increase from last year.
•         By 2015, projects that enable mobility would make up 80% share of all development activities.
•         There has been a rapid increase in the mobile workforce, as the end users aspire for a seamless, assimilated work experience which would help them be as productive on the go, as they are on their desktops or laptops.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a type of office environment where employees get their own mobile devices, without any restriction. BYOD culture is here to stay much to the chagrin of any IT manager as it opens up immense avenues through which sensitive corporate information can be leaked. The most unassailable arguments in favour of BYOD are more responsive business, flexible working hours and increased productivity. INFOR Motion is a godsend in a BYOD office environment as it not only gives the employees the freedom to work away from their desks (also called "work from anywhere computing trend"), but also, the data is safe, securely stored on a cloud platform. With the advent of optical fiber connectivity, GBPS data speeds and availability of Wi-Fi on airplanes, virtualization/mobility of applications on mobile devices is gaining huge strides. Employees across the globe can now have easy to use, anywhere, anytime access to data and enterprise applications from their mobile devices. Products like INFOR Motion are a boon to security compliances of an organization as they provide complete data control, without losing mobility and collaboration capabilities on the go.
Having appreciated the good side of mobility, I won't do justice if I don't flip the coin to unveil some of the threats of mobility. According to the latest CCMI survey on BYOD, 60% of the survey respondents have developed a corporate liable policy, though only an alarming 10% have put up a pure BYOD policy in place. Multiple mobile platforms across multiple devices need the gargantuan task of data encryption and mobile data management for the IT department. Data breach is also a threat, which can be taken care of, if the data is hosted on a cloud assisted by Industry level Service Level Agreements and security by the cloud provider. A stolen mobile phone/device is a major threat which BYOD brings to the table, unless the mobile device is securely on-device data encrypted. Within 5 years of its inception, Android has outshined Apple's iOS, RIM's BlackBerry OS and Nokia's Symbian platforms. It now has more than double of Apple's market share in the Mobile/Tablet OS world. The most prevailing version of Android across the globe is the 2.3 version which lacks an on-device encryption. Encryption was later introduced in the 4.0 version which hardly has any share in the market. With RIM's (Research in Motion) demise, Apple and Windows phones sales dwindling, the market leader Android is the best bet for enterprise wireless connectivity provided it wins its battle against Malware (there was a 470% increase in malware attack on Android phones in the second half of 2011).
Nevertheless, IT departments have realized that a mobile workforce will soon be a norm. Though there have been enough reasons to approach mobility with cautiousness, the barriers are swiftly waning making possible the integration of mobile devices with the core systems, a leap in mobile enablement of a business environment. According to a report by CIO Insight, 44% of the organizations have already implemented an enterprise mobility project, 45% of the enterprises will spend at least $500,000 on the same, while half a slice of the pie of any company's investment will be on app development and mobile device management. This boom in the mobility market was proactively and precisely anticipated by the major Enterprise Solution vendors, who have developed mobile apps for their ERPs, and other software which can be taken mobile. Known for its futuristic and intuitive user experience, Infor may well lead the mobility revolution. Infor has already developed applications like Road warrior (for a company's sales force), Activity deck (Mobile alerts and approval app), shop floor (for uninterrupted production), Warehouse director, dashboard (any top management's go to app) and Customer Lifecycle Management (Completed CRM functions on mobile). These applications, a dedicated design team named Hook n Loop for an out of the world UI experience, and ION (sophisticated middleware which amalgamates enterprise business with social network) have put Infor in the forefront of the race. With companies like Infor developing such futuristic solutions, an employee may leave his office tangibly but not digitally.
With the entry of Big Data, Cloud and Augmented reality, the mobility app developers have got a shot in the arm, as it has opened up a plethora of possibilities in the Enterprise Wireless Connectivity field. This is how a 900 gm weighing brick has evolved over the decades.

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