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September 16, 2014

Internet of Things: Let's press the Buzz.

 

Let us consider a situation when the Bag tells us that we have missed something, the car alerts us if any part is not functioning properly or the clothes tell the washing machine about the temperature and water level settings. All this is going to be possible in few years with the advent of Internet of Things. Internet has come a long way from Static Pages (WWW) to Social Networking Interactive Sites (Web 2.0) to ubiquitous Computing where the Computing systems interact with the environment to generate data and insights. The IoT revolution has been driven by RFID tags which helps to automatically identify and track the objects and embedded sensors. All objects will be given unique address using IPV6 and will be connected to each other "Anytime, Anywhere". Like any other revolutionary technology, IOT has a tremendous scope to improve our lifestyle but also stays always connected will mean less privacy and also more prone to cyber-attacks and information breach

In this blog we will try to uncover the possible scenarios of IoT in our daily lives, the elements that makes this Possible. Then we will have a look at the challenges and the Road map.

IoT Scenarios:

The daily life scenarios where IoT is matured will be more like the Science fiction movies. Thrilling and exciting. Some Scenarios are listed below:

Ø Suppose on a weekend, someone plans to explore the Mother Nature and takes his bike and riding gear to hit the road to an excluded terrain. He is half way to a secluded place and the bike skids and the person lays there unconscious. The person is at the mercy of someone who traces him and gives medical help

IOT: The Sensor on the helmet detects that the head had hit the road. It contacts the Bike if it is near and if it is moving. The Bike is still, so the sensors detect that there is a possible accident, it uses the GPS to track the current location and places a call to the nearest hospital.

Ø Suppose the stock of Milk in your fridge is low and it has been a hectic day in office. While returning home, you cross several Bakery Shops. You forget to buy Milk

IOT: The Sensor in the Fridge detect that the Milk packets are not present, it alerts you as you are crossing the Bakery shop. You stop and buy it.

Ø On a lazy evening, you are sipping your favorite coffee and reading an interesting novel. You are done with half of the coffee. As soon as you place the coffee mug on the table the sensor flashes a screen asking if you want to order it again. If yes, it will place an order to the outlet counter.

IoT Elements:

Ø RFID tags: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) - These are the Bar Codes we see on Items placed on Stores, our Credit / Debit cards. The passive RFID tags are not battery powered and they use the power of the reader's interrogation signal to communicate. The Active RFID readers come with their own supply of Battery and they can initiate the communication.

 

Ø Scheme for Addressing the Objects: The capability to uniquely identify 'Devices is critical for the implementation of IoT. The addressing has to be unique, reliable and scalable. Current pool of IPV4 may not be able to cover the ever increasing number of devices and hence IPV6 will come into play.

 

Ø Intuitive Visualization for all:  With the proliferation of the IoT, visualization will play a critical role as this decides the level of interaction of the user with the environment. For a common man to fully benefit from the IoT revolution, easy to use and interactive Visualization needs to be created

 

IoT Challenges

Ø Absence of a Shared Infrastructure: The IoT is a complex interconnection of multiple device running on different platforms and ecosystems. Companies may compete for their Licensed product to be deployed which will further complicate the situation

Ø Absence of Common Standards: There has to be a common Open Standard which anyone can adopt so that there is seamless communication between the devices. Similar to the Task Force for internet, a team needs to be formed comprising of engineers, policy makers to prepare a framework for the future of IOT.

Ø Battery Life: The devices run on energy, and it is estimated that we will have almost twenty-four billion connected devices by 2020. There will be energy shortage and also providing battery enabled energy to all objects is going to be a challenge

Ø Data Control & Sharing: With so many devices connected the Data Confidentiality and integrity problem will rise like never before, hence new Data Security Standards will need to be developed.

Nevertheless even though there are challenges in the Road of complete arrival of Internet of Things, the possibilities are many. We just need to look around as it might already be present in some form with us.

September 15, 2014

BYOD: Freedom, Trust or just another Buzzword

There was a time where the IT department of any enterprise used to drive the technology by deciding the devices the employees would be using, the level to which the enterprise data will be exposed to the employees. While the IT laws are still mainly driven by the IT department and the Business, but with the Consumerization of the IT revolution, the employees are the first to get exposed to the latest smart devices, cutting edge technologies and they want to bring those to work to avoid switching between devices. The Bring your own device (BYOD) is an IT policy where the employees and the business partners are encouraged to use their smart phones / Notebooks and even PCs to access enterprise data and systems.

BYOD Benefits:

As we have noticed that the employees upgrade to the latest smart devices faster than the company level upgrade which is generally tedious. Folks are happier to use the same cutting edge device for work if allowed.

1.    Economically viable for the companies: The BYOD program generally results in the enterprises saving dollars as the cost of the device and the data service is significantly transferred to the employees. But these are just anticipated savings and need to be carefully planned at the time of actual implementation.  

2.    Productivity is increased and Innovation encouraged: Employees get comfortable and are more expert in using their personal devices which make them more productive. As employees are more likely to use a more cutting edge device, the enterprises can benefit from the latest features of the device. The up gradation to the latest features will also be more frequent.

3.    Enhancement of Employee satisfaction: People will be happier to use the device they have selected for carrying out their work than the devices that has been forced by the IT Department. Hence the overall satisfaction level of the employees will also be enhanced.

BYOD Challenges: Having seen the benefits of BYOD, let's take a look at the challenges in the road to implementing it in the enterprise.

1.    Lack of Control by the IT department: With the devices issued by the IT department, it is easier to roll out upgrades, data policies and check the misuse of the devices. These will become challenge when the employees will use their individual devices. It has to be made sure that the devices are complaint to the policies of the enterprise covering the minimum data security standards and also the mandatory security tools have been installed. In the event of employees leaving the organization, the segregation and retrieval of the company data will be a challenge. There must be a policy in place which will govern how this data will be retrieved from the employees.

2.    Personal Cost for the employees will increase: As BYOD would require the cost of the device and the data services to be partially or completely borne by the employees, this may create resistance amongst the employees who will expect the cost to be borne by the company as they will use to perform official work.

3.    Will require investment from Enterprise : With multiple devices running on different platform will get connected to the enterprise network, companies will have to ramp up their Help Desks and also educate them as there will be flood of the support related queries.

4.    Maintaining Data Integrity and Access Control: There are certain roles which require access to very sensitive data and also organizations such as in Healthcare require to be complaint with HIPAA etc. In these cases IT departments need complete control over the devices which has related data and applications. This will become a bottleneck in the BYOD.

5.    Inconsistency in the Capabilities of the Device: Different devices have different operating speeds and the OS they use. IT department will face issues in rolling out company wide application and they have to be made compatible to varied devices.

6.    Security Risks: Outside the company network. Employees may download few application and software's which can possess malwares and viruses and when they connect back to the company network, it can be serious threat to the data integrity and network security of the company.

BYOD Policies to Implement:

With so many challenges in the path of BYOD, let us have a look at some of the practices which can minimize those and help us reap the benefits of BYOD.


1. Clearly specify the list of devices that will be permitted: In the initial days, it has been a notion that BlackBerry is used for work, and that was it. Now there are many device choices, from iOS-based phones and tablets and Android handhelds to Research in Motion's Playbook and many others. It's important to decide exactly what you mean when you say "bring your own device

2. Security policy must be followed by all devices: Since the devices will be connected to the corporate network, it will have access to several sensitive information and hence the stringent security policy has to be put in place to protect the data. The devices and applications must be protected with appropriate level of authentication and the passwords must be strong as per the definition put by the organization.


3. Establish a Help Desk Support: With so many varied devices being connected to the network, the help desk team will need to be trained. Also they will have to clearly state what will be covered and what will not be covered in terms of Application upgrade, physical damage, loss of device and crash. 


4. Define clear ownership of App and Data: With both personal and professional information on the same device, there must be clear ownership of what apps and data will be owned by the enterprise and what are the personal data which should be only owned by the user. In case of Data required to be wiped out, will it also include personal pictures, music. In case of device recovery, will it also cover personal data? Also clearly list out the apps that are restricted.


5. Clearly define the Employee Exit Strategy: Define how enterprise will erase the company related data from user's device once the employees decide to leave the company 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhancing User Experience in Ecommerce and becoming Relevant to Customers:

There has been an exponential growth in the ecommerce sites in the market with many new entrants coming up lately. To gain competitive advantage over the others, the companies are continuously trying to figure out ways to attract and retain customers without having to compromise on their margins. One such example is the introduction of "Cash on Delivery" introduced for the Indian Consumers as large section of our society is still skeptical about Online Payment gateways. But such methods can be easily replicated and there is no competitive advantage. It is a well-known fact that it is always economical to retain a customer and do repeat business than hunt for new customers. This is possible only if the ecommerce site is User friendly and customers are able to easily locate the item that they are looking for. Also customers would want to do comparison, look for alternative items based on their preferences.

 

With the evolution in tools and practice, the Ecommerce sites have become sophisticated and also the expectation of the buyer has increased manifold.  In addition to competitive pricing, the customers also expects an engaging, interactive and transparent online shopping experience. Research in User Experience and Content Strategy have enhanced the Ecommerce sites which now have elements of Marketing, Optimized Conversion and Personalized Shopping

 Some of the points which help Ecommerce sites to become relevant to the customers are as shown in the table.

1    Search Engine Optimization / Search Engine Marketing: The success of ecommerce sites primarily depends upon how easily it is searchable on the internet as compared to its competitors or in order words it's Page Rank in Search Engines. This is followed by providing the right content to the right customer at the right time.

2    Cross Selling and Up Selling: The ecommerce sites track the user data in real time to understand their shopping preferences and interests. Based on this analysis, particular content is directed to the customers which helps in increasing Sales per Customer.

3    Personalization increases Conversion rates: Customers prefer to have personalized shopping experience based on their preferences. With functionalities of ecommerce sites, companies are able to provide the personal shopping experience to several customers at the same time.

User experience is an integral part which encourages the customers to buy from an Ecommerce site again and again. It can be considered at the summation if "Enhanced User Experience Design" and "Content Strategy".

 The best practices for enhancing User Experience are as follows.

 1     Enhanced Usability in terms of Browsing, Comparing, Visibility and Transparency: The Product categorization and labels must be meaningful, the Visual design must be appealing and Navigation across the site must be streamline with proper links and Bread crumps. The Pages must be consistent in design and layout and contents must not be cluttered.

2    The Content must be meaningful: Enhanced Usability without proper content can hamper the growth of sales of ecommerce sites. The content should be based on the research into the customer needs, user groups, and preferences.

 3    Branding of the retailer: A brand is a perception of a particular thing. The users relate to this brand though Brand Ambassadors, Images or Ideas. It is mainly spread through Advertisements and Word of Mouth. The competition in online shopping is very fierce and hence the ecommerce sites must be designed in a way that it enforces the Brand image of the retailer.  

The main aim is to send the 'right message' to the 'right customer' through the 'right channel' at the 'right time'. A successful Ecommerce site is one which provides a platform to be usable & appealing to customers, and has the power to persuade them to do repeat purchasing though enhanced User Experience and branding. The site should also fulfill a company's business goals and create a user experience that customers will like to return to the site and not move to any other available in the market.

Digital Disruption in Manufacturing

  The industrial globalization that the world has experienced in the past decade has exposed new challenges and also provided equally exciting opportunities to the Manufacturing Industry. Adherence to Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma is not sufficient now to gain competitive advantage and companies have to come up with innovation and more user centric means to stay in the race. The demographics of the end customers and their purchasing behavior has seen a tremendous shift and companies have to redefine their Strategies to cater this. Globalization has not only brought disruption in the external environment but also in the internal arrangements of the enterprise such as change in the workforce culture, change  to their sourcing strategies, changing energy costs, shortage of workforce and new regulations etc.

As we see numerous challenges, we also realize that Manufacturing is entering an exciting new phase of opportunities. With Globalization and increased competition, it has become imperative for the companies to manage the labor & material Cost, innovate new & efficient processes, compete, innovate, grow profitably and improve safety standards as well as comply with emerging laws. The Goal is to create products & services that will help satisfy the need of the customer and also to be innovative and distinct. This includes creating a platform that facilitates the engineering, production processes, and providing a feedback to get continual improvement and alignment with the business.  These technology trends are now emerging with more visibility and enterprise must do significant investment to ride this digital disruption.

Challenges faced by Manufacturing Companies.

1.   Technology changes which has been driven by Social Computing, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things and the Mobile.

2.   There is a talent gap as the developed world faces lack of In Depth Industry Knowledge experts and knowledge of the management aspect of the Industry

3.   With Globalization and Distributed Sourcing, the companies have to manage several partners with respect to quality, Compliance and Risk.

4.   The Competition has become fiercer as firms have to defend their local markets from new global rivals

5.   There has been increase in the environmental regulatory concerns and standards

 The Companies must strive to achieve these: 

1.   Gain competitive advantage by Implementing new manu­facturing IT solutions that helps to reduce the cost of development of Product, distribution and increase their Return on Investment

2.   Redesign their supply chain and place their production facilities to best cater the change in pattern of demand and increase in complexity of cost and risk

3.   Gain access to Skilled Workforce for increasingly sophisticated production methodologies

4.   Access their audit practices and tax strategies to make it more suitable in the current environment.

 

We understand that Globalization and technological shifts are altering the value creation the basis of competition and in manufacturing. Lower cost is no longer the sole criteria for success. There are various new materials and new processes that provides an opportunity to manufacturers ensure more value to their customer. This includes quicker delivery, enhanced, product customization, and flexible productive volumes.

Methods for deriving value 

ü Change in  value proposition - All the Product, Services, Information and customer engagement need to be redesigned using new capabilities for interactivity and access to information so that these creates value as well as ROI

ü Change in operating model - Information from each activity & process of the Supply chain should be captured and analyzed holistically to transform the value proposition of the customer and designing operations for delivering that value proposition. It will create the following:

          Streamline the  product risk mitigation and ensure the regulatory compliance

          Reducing IT costs & Reducing product development costs

          Improve the product quality and also Increase customer satisfaction

          Accelerate the innovation of products & Reduce the time-to-market

We understand that Globalization and technological shifts are altering the value creation the basis of competition and in manufacturing. Lower cost is no longer the sole criteria for success. There are various new materials and new processes that provides an opportunity to manufacturers ensure more value to their customer. This includes quicker delivery, enhanced, product customization, and flexible productive volumes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 3, 2014

Master the Right Metrics to Ace Digital Commerce

In the pursuit to increase the sales, it is of utmost importance to not only keep track of the metrics but it to have the most appropriate metrics in place. The metrics should help you quantify the impact of the website on sales, conversions, consumer behavior and help you identify latent opportunities of improvement. Without the tracking of the relevant metrics you will never be able to ascertain the true impact of your efforts and will be missing on the crucial data which can help you optimize the whole customer experience!

Effective metrics are required to minutely analyze each functionality, new initiatives, effectiveness on various devices, opportunities to capture new segments etc. With the avalanche of information it is quite possible that many a times we are not tracking the essential data we need to make important business decisions. The first step in this direction is to identify the right metrics and the most crucial data points to regularly keep tab on the health of your website.

The data which needs to be collected should answer the three most important questions for you:

  • What are the most critical opportunities for enhancement?
  • What is the quantifiable impact of the website on the sales figures?
  • What is the impact of the eCommerce implementation on the other channels?


The process which we need to follow to master the right metrics is depicted below:

Milestone 1: Ascertain what needs to be measured

The first step is to comprehend what we can measure and what needs to be measured. We need to collect data around Website, Usability, Consumer experience and cross channel behavior.

 

Milestone 2: Establish the most crucial metrics

The identification of metrics will depend on what suits the business purpose the best. Some of the most crucial metric categories usually seen are- Awareness, Usage, Consumer experience & Impact.

  • Awareness- Customer awareness, employee awareness, Traffic changes over a period, App downloads etc.
  • Usage- Site conversion, Page views, Cart abandonment, bounce rate, Path analysis etc.
  • Consumer experience- Net Promoter score, Site availability etc.
  • Impact- Cost per order, Sales changes over a period etc.

 

Milestone 3: Gather the data points

Once we have established the list of the shortlisted metrics, the next crucial step is to effectively collect the data. Tap in to the various sources such as third party analytics solutions, internal data sources which business analysts could mine & consumer surveys which provides you first hand invaluable insights into the customer behavior.


Milestone 4: Create easy to understand Dashboards & Reports

The final step in this journey is to make use of all the crucial information that has been gathered and provide it to the business in the form of actionable insights. eCommerce team needs to create easy to comprehend yet useful Dashboards & reports which could be used as a quick check by the business. Additionally we can contextualize to suit the needs of each department and spread the eCommerce awareness across the organization which will help you get the much needed support for future eCommerce initiatives.

 

Treading this journey carefully will enable organizations to make decisions with sound reasoning & data points placing actionable insights at their fingertips and will enable teams to benchmark against the best across industries in today's hyper competitive digital world. So go ahead and discover the right metrics for your eCommerce business!

September 1, 2014

Digital Thinking Revolution

IT is going through thrilling times where organizations need to completely reinvent their strategic digital thinking and re-model the old ways to thrive in the ever competitive world of digital disruption which is at the cusp of a tipping point. It is no more adequate to just have a mobile app and a cool website to engage the customers, it takes much more than that. Organizations have to rethink their whole ecosystem and adopt digital as a way of doing business if they have to grip & retain the interest of the consumer.

In the greater digital scheme, SMAC and internet of things are going to play a pivotal role in shaping the modern digital enterprise: Social, Mobile, Analytics, BI & Big data, Cloud and Internet of things. Infosys has identified trends such as Plug-and-play factory, predictive asset analytics, enterprise mobility solutions, Industrial Internet, Connected cars, Digital aviation, Smart machines, 3D printing, Social manufacturing, Wearable technology etc. 

Digitalization is everywhere for enterprises, be it the employees, customers or suppliers. Stakeholders expects a better experience each time they interact with the organization's systems. Digital touches every part of our life- the way we shop, communicate, socially interact with the world, experience things, explore, analyze and research. There has to be a holistic shift in mindset to address this development as the whole experience needs to be redesigned in a way which considers how a customer interacts with the products and its allied services. Organizations which are adapting to this rapid change will rule the roost in the new pecking order and the digital laggards (organizations slow to adopt digital thinking) will be devoured in this survival of the fittest episode. 

Check here what some of the Digital Disruptors are doing:

  • Connected racquets: These racquets come loaded with the latest sensors and are able to capture holistic second by second data of a player's game such as number of backhands, hitting areas etc. and these devices work with smartphones too. Clearly revolutionizing the game!
  • Smart Aircraft Propellers:  Engine manufacturers are using real time data from the jet engines to provide up to date invaluable data to airlines resulting in considerably reduced down time & maintenance costs.
  • Disrupting the commute: BMW has launched DriveNow mobile app which helps its users reach the registered vehicles across six cities, disrupting the whole transport business!
  • Wearable technologies: Google and many others have launched wearable devices which helps collect data of diverse nature having applications in healthcare, entertainment to retail.
  • Commerce collaboration: Online retailers are teaming up with the courier service providers to enable rapid deliveries of online eCommerce purchases for its customers.
  • Connected cars: Car manufacturers are coming out with ever smarter vehicles having sensors which drastically enhance driver safety e.g. if the vehicle senses an emergency situation it brakes automatically to possibly avert crashes.

Enterprises are jumping on the digital bandwagon and three clear patterns of organizations are emerging on the scene that we have observed:

digital maturity.png


      Laggards- Still undecided about the digital and for their own peril! These are the organizations in the sectors such as construction, mining etc. Organizations in this group assume that digital is not going to hit their business, but so did Kodak!

      Cautious Converts- Organizations in this group are testing the waters.  Excited about the early mover's gains, these are investing in the tried & tested spaces. Needs to be a bit more adventurous though!

     Digital Daredevils- Proactively experimenting with digital customer experiences and on the forefront of the digital breakthrough. These organizations are redefining the very contours of the customer experience and capturing the market share and mind space in the process.

Mind Space:  This represents the mind share captured by the enterprise through engaging the consumers by employing the digital differentiators in its armory.

Digital Maturity: Digital maturity comprises of two factors-

1)      1) Digital proclivity: This signifies the depth of investments in digital initiatives to completely revitalize the consumer               engagement, operations and the partner network

2)     2) Digital Intent: This represents the seriousness of management's intent towards building capabilities (technical &                managerial) in the enterprise

Digital has already disrupted various enterprises such as blockbuster, Borders etc. and it is high time the enterprises wake up to this urgency not only in the B2C but in the B2B space as well. B2B customers are also expecting same level of experience & delight that is being strived for by the B2C enterprises. Employees/ customers use various apps and productivity tools in their personal life and if the organizations are not ready to fill this gap in the enterprise space, their competitors will! 

It's not anymore about just acquiring the clients but now the enterprises will have to acquire, delight and forge long lasting relationships with their customers using Digital at each step of the relationship building process, Be it using social & mobile technologies to acquire or using smart analytics to better engage client. One reality to which the enterprises will have to quickly adapt is that customer experience is the only key in this age of hyper competition!

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