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Monday, July 19, 2021

Zoom + Five 9 = Momentous!

Just seeing that Zoom will be acquiring Five9 in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $14.7 billion. In the industry now, we see that UCaaS is continuing to evolve to include voice, video, contact center, chat, and messaging. Every wannabe big player wants to have a slice of the large enterprise market and this move brings together the leading video provider and cloud contact center provider and with this the combined entity becomes a formidable force for the large enterprise. Zoom has become a household name ( and attaining iconic status as a “noun” representing video teleconference across devices. as businesses and schools adopted its services to hold virtual classes, office meets and socialise. As businesses and schools adopted its services to hold virtual classes, office meets and socialise, zoom has seen a meteoric success and not to forget, it’s an investor favorite in the year since the coronavirus pandemic, The acquisition will complement Zoom Phone service, an alternative to legacy phone offerings, by adding Five9's business customers and combining its contact centre software to optimize customer interactions across channels.

Clearly, this coming together of Zoom and Five9 is big development in the world of UCaaS. Its well known in the industry circles, that Zoom used partnerships with Five9 and other CCaaS vendors to serve that segment, but the acquisition is a relatively late recognition of the fact that CCaaS is an important product to ultimately win in the enterprise going forward. Zoom has been clearly a company on the roll. It added Zoom apps interfaces last year riding on the success of the video conferencing system . This move fortifies its position in the UCaaS portfolio. Zoom is the undisputed leader in video collaboration, it is quickly establishing its position in cloud telephony (PBX), and one can see the contact center space (known as CCaaS) as the natural next step in its evolution of the product offerings and strategy. If we will look keenly, it will slowly become apparent that overtime this will bring them as a strong player in locking horns with Microsoft and will be seen to bring forth, a significantly differentiated offerings relative to Microsoft, which is matter of fact the big elephant in the lucrative enterprise market. Also, this move will bring tougher competitive love for another well known player, RingCentral in the enterprise and mid market segments.

Automation is a hot area in which Five9 has taken an early lead ahead of competitors. In the post pandemic world , we are now seeing a review of the trend wherein the large enterprises disproportionately allocate spend to labor over technology, there is a huge opportunity for making labor more efficient and allowing customers to increase their tech spend. Growing digital seats with customers should drive higher realization for FIVN given that digital agents monetize at substantially higher rates relative to human agents.

Five 9 has seen rapid growth in the last few quarters with impressive strides in winning deals centered on digital transformation of its customers' investments in their contact centers. And now begs the question - why this valuation and what's the runway ahead ? Various industry pronouncements show that on the whole, the CCaaS market is still only 10-15% penetrated. Despite the fact that FIVN has seen recent acceleration in the rate of digital transformation within contact centers, it is to be noted that the overall market is still just 10-15% penetrated into the cloud, and FIVN is at the front and center of the cloud transition opportunity. The biggest draw for FIVN’s business currently is in the enterprise space, complemented by product portfolio expansion particularly in the area of automation.

The key component of Five9’s recent success relates to its automation portfolio, centered around the Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) product. The IVA product mainly focuses on high-volume, low-value tasks that can easily be automated for customers. Five9 is also seeing strong demand for its built-in workforce optimization product that was added through the Virtual Observer acquisition. From a customer perspective, evidently Innovation drives twin advantages like increasing revenue and enhanced cost savings for customers. In all, a bold move and a definite step up for Zoom in the enteprise world - whoc could have imagoned this three years back!

Update : The merger has been called off owing shareholder objections. This definitely will hurt Zoom, unless it makes some other moves. The entry barrier to the UCaaS market is indeed substantial. Let's watch for next piece of action here.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

nVIDIA : The New PowerHouse In The Making

My son recently came with a chart to assemble a computer for himself at home and when I looked at the price, 50% of the price went to nVIDIA’s new launch GPU. There comes the news Softbank is likely to sell ARM Holdings to nVIDIA. nVIDIA and ARM have reportedly been in exclusive talks for several weeks and reports suggest that the deal may be finalized as soon as early next week if there are no last-minute issues. This acquisition of ARM, as it happens, will be a game-changer for nVIDIA, as it may potentially catapult Nvidia to be far bigger reach than rivals Intel and AMD.

nVIDIA is known for its graphics chips that power video games, but it has developed other markets including artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and data centers. With ARM under its fold, nVIDIA will now get to focus on creating what the computers of the future may be. Over the last three decades or so, we have seen a major transition in the core markets - whereby many functions previously requiring dedicated chips were replaced by software running on increasingly fast CPUs. Two decades back, it was thought that 3D graphics would be the next wave of growth. The bottlenecks in general purpose CPU’s meant that , it was not technically possible, as these CPU’s are very bad at several essential operations required to render 3D images. And GPUs, initially created just for 3D graphics, in a turn around started taking over a portion of many computations previously performed by CPUs. All the current supercomputers are built with at a minimum as many 64-bit GPUs as CPUs. More silicon area is now taken by GPUs than CPUs in a large percentage of many system-on-a-chip 'computers': smart phones, PDAs, and many laptops. The trend is that in the future 'computer chips' could consist of by area 90% GPUs, with CPUs taking only a small region the corner. If Augmented Reality becomes mainstream, it will only accelerate this.

Currently, AMD and INTEL have the most dominant marketshare of the cpu market. There's no real market where a combinations makes nVIDIA a monopoly. The main bet is ARM will be bigger in CPUs in the future. That was an aspiration for the ARM world when it began the journey. Now with this coming together, the ARM worlds domination could very well happen.

nVIDIA remains 1-2 steps ahead of competitors with rollout of its leading Ampere-based architecture for its next-gen GeForce RTX 30xx series of gaming graphic processors. During the GeForce event, Jen-Hsun Huang, nVIDIA’s CEO introduced its leading Ampere-based architecture for its next-gen GeForce RTX 3000 series of gaming graphic processors. The new GPUs have significant performance advantages vs the previous Turning-based RTX 20xx generation (2x performance and 1.9x power efficiency). Architecturally, the GeForce RTX 30xx series is built on Samsung’s 8nm process (unlike the Tesla A100 on TSMC's 7nm process) representative of its dual fab strategy and optimized with Micron’s next-gen GDDR6X memory (3080/3090). Analysts observe that the New products are rich in features – including ray tracing, AI cores, and high-speed memory and should solidify NVIDIA’s leadership in gaming GPUs.nVIDIA already has leadership in Compute Acceleration and Networking With Multiple Vectors Of Growth. As the company pivots to a total solutions approach with silicon/hardware performance and strong development of software and ecosystem. Nvidia is inching towards leadership in the data analytics space and is working in booting up the developer ecosystem (e.g Apache Spark 3.0). In the fast-growing Edge AI and IoT applications, nVIDIA is working closely with OEM’s to roll out the EGX platform. Truly a historic moment in evolution is unfolding with Nvidia gaining center stage now. An inflection point for sure!

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Equifax : Disturbing Developments

Credit-rating company Equifax’s data breach, which involves an estimated 143 million people, may not be the largest that we have seen, after all Yahoo lost billions of emails in a series of data breaches, most of them brought out to the public much later. Given the nature of data at play here, this is clearly becoming the most deadly of all data breaches - like tropical storm IRMA. The feared IRMA is on its way to touch Florida(pray for the safety of all living in Florida), but the Equifax data breach storm has the potential to affect large set of Americans to become the worst ever data breach. The sensitivity and the direct information access makes the big difference between the two. Yahoo email’s could have exposed some back account information or some personal information and the hacker must be scanning so wide to find relevance that can be good enough for him/her to benefit from, An occasional back account, credit card information might have been exposed. The odds are stacked against given the volume of information to sift and find the useful ones. But Equifax is a different ball game altogether. Equifax is one of the three biggest credit-reporting companies in the U.S. and incidentally the breach is reported to have occurred occurred mid-May through July 2017,even though the public got to know about this on Sep 7, 2017

According to Equifax, the information that were accessed includes: Names Social Security numbers Birth dates Addresses In some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for north of 200,000 U.S. consumers Certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for north of 180,000 U.S. consumers Come to think of it, this is precisely the information US residents share with a bank to get credit cards, get certain types of jobs, or get a mortgage. This is important information, and a seem to have affected a wide number of Americans. The class-action lawsuits are already being filed less than 24 hours after the information became public.

Equifax’ s response so far has been so pathetic and uncaring, to say the least.

To start with, Equifax did not share news of the breach for several weeks, since it began investigating this breach. Second, three top executives sold stocks between the time Equifax knew about this and the time they shared the news with Public. Public sources reveal chief financial officer John Gamble sold $946,374 worth of stock, president of U.S. information solutions Joseph Loughran sold $584,099 worth of stock, and Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold $250,458. It may be the case that these gentlemen were not aware when they sold, (looks difficult to believe though, as the CFO and the IT head were not aware of data breach of this magnitude happening but as key executives inside Equifax they could not find out what the matter was!)but clearly Equifax is defensive based on popular perception on this ground. Equifax has since set up a web page with information and a way to enroll in “complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services and how to find out if your personal information may have been impacted.” The site requires you to enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number, and Equifax won’t tell you right away if you’ve been impacted but the site promises to let you know when you can enroll in the company’s “TrustedID Premier” program” and tells you to “mark your calendar” to check back. And some security experts were concerned about the basic setup of the site and that even there, new set of data breaches can happen. Many trade sources complained that “Customer service agents contacted by phone on the emergency telephone line said they couldn’t provide further clarity on the matter.” And the people fielding those calls, were telling callers that that they don’t have access to the database of those affected.

What next to do

The options in front of the affected person is indeed very limited. There’s the standard advice after a data breach: Change passwords if you reuse the same one , turn on two-factor authentication when possible, and watch for any suspicious links or emails from Equifax or others. Some suggested freezing the credit score, so that external players cannot access such information till this is waived. You can also turn to the other big two credit-reporting agencies in the U.S., Experian and TransUnion, and make sure there haven’t been any recent inquiries made into your credit history. Equifax is giving away a free year of credit monitoring and identity-theft insurance, which everyone is highly encouraged to take advantage of. For those who are already a victim of identity theft, are encouraged to visit the FTC Identity Theft Recovery website and follow the steps therein. The Federal Trade Commission will provide the victim with a specific identity theft report and "to-do" recovery plans

On an ongoing basis, ensure that one spends the time keeping a closer eye on credit-card statements - the newly issued cards may be more exposed. Don’t leave any financial statement archive without your express approval. .At the end of it, it is clear that a tremendous amount of data is now floating out there with someone not authorized to hold them - either in the hands of criminals or a nation-state. Your Social Security number will never change, your past addresses will always be your past addresses. The effects of the Equifax breach will be felt for years to come. Beware of phishing mails which are clickbaits to draw one into rogue schemes and keep your machines remain state of the art and all patches applied. One of the things I find disturbing about this data breach is that there is essentially nothing any of us could have done to protect ourselves. We’re told to have strong passwords, avoid risk sites and apps and use security software but that only protects our devices, not data stored by others. And, in the case of Equifax and other credit reporting bureaus, it’s not as if we’ve even chosen to do business with these companies. They collect and store sensitive data about us whether we like it or not and I’m even sure if there is a way to opt-out.Increasingly, companies are supposed to safeguard this information, but they’re subject to hacks, human error and even deliberate breaches from within. Medicare even puts recipients social security number on their card, which they usually care in their wallet so if their wallet is stolen, their identify is at risk. Medicare plans to change this next year, but in the meantime millions of people over 62 are vulnerable. We need to figure out a way to disempower the use of the social security number to steal our identities. I’m not sure how that can be done, but I’m pretty sure it’s doable.

Some hacker is reportedly trying to take advantage of this development. I also demand a national center of cyber breaks and all enterprises should have an annual checkup of their enterprises and would act as the clearinghouse for providing national relief. Hope America comes out of this unscathed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Google Cloud Platform : Good Times Ahead

The tech behemoths Amazon, Microsoft & Google are established players in one of the battes that will change the future of customers view and investments of computing. This is an area with a potential hundred billion dollars plus that can be secured for the vendors – a lucrative space that each one wants to corner : the cloud. For a quick recap of the dollars under consideration - read here. Cloud lets business tap on demand the processing, storage and software over the web. Tall, powerful and cool servers with gargantuan memory onboard installed inside enterprises now are gradually giving way to tap on need model –use when needed and shut them down in other times. The vast data centers and governance brought in by these tech behemoths make them ideal partners for business to tap such services on a need to have basis – whenever and wherever required.

Amazon is by far the well-established leader here with a revenue that far exceeds the combined revenue of all competitors put together. Amazon partly achieved this by bringing a single-minded focus to this space to scale up and win and it paid back handsomely. Amazon’s first-mover advantage coupled with slow reactions from competition has now made Amazon an almost insurmountable lead in business in this space. That’s the focus and attention of the next two players. Microsoft has been pushing Azure extensively last 2-3 years and clocking impressive success. The lesser known of the trio in this space – Google is now flexing its muscle and is now focused on striking it big here. Google is recognized primarily as the early proponent of cloud computing – after all, Google built huge date centers in its early days and ran services like search, gmail and maps , available around the world and with unthinkable scale in action. Alongside, developers build other applications on top resulting in an expanding google universe. Google has the strong reputation of running scalable, secure services and recognized as one delivering successfully for a long time. By being late and remaining indifferent to this space, Google lost out on big time opportunities that were out there and Amazon happily grabbed these. Now, Google wants to get back aggressively and be counted as large player in this space and is increasing its investments, market messaging and outreach efforts. Last week the company hosted an event to talk about their upcoming plans around the Google cloud platform and talk loudly about some notable success that they have notched thus far. I listened to the webcast and followed the announcements keenly to see how Google is planning to move things here and I heard good actionable things.

Google’s overall messaging shows that the momentum in the business continues and the focus to scale this platform with enterprise as a key segment to focus on for adoption. Google positioning is getting better to take a sizable chunk of business in the ever growing public cloud space over the next few years. The overall market is projected to have 50% of the enterprise workloads moved into overtime. Google paraded customers/customer stories – the likes of Spotify, Coca-Cola, Disney etc. as proof of successful adoption of their services.

The emphasis on a move forward basis is positioned around:

A. Machine learning as a cornerstone of their approach and hence drive the attendant benefits for customers.

B. Monetization/Commercialization of native security tools used within Google to make these available to customers.

C. Make ease of deployment and migration more easy.

In terms of upcoming innovation, consistent with its focus on enterprise adoption, Google talked about the lofty vision of No-ops goal for enterprises. This will be an ideal demonstration of the power of cloud computing and if Google and others are able to make it happen everywhere, it’s a true sign of the changed paradigm here.Another important facet of the evolution of the cloud revolved around the extreme emphasis on machine learning and the Google cloud platform’s leverage of this. A new product called Tensorflow has been open sourced by Google and it is their core belief that embracing machine learning will become a non-negotiable for innovative startups focused on scaling globally and offering sophisticated services.Add into the mix cloud monitoring tools working across clouds – enterprises can hardly resist massive cloud adoption with these. And in order to keep helping enterprises adopt and scale faster, Google wants to focus on the three important aspects of cloud computing – data centers, security and containers.

I drilled into these a little more to find what could be differentiated in offering such services and what I could recollect from the conference webcast included the following, which Google finds as the drivers for increasing enterprise adoption of their services.

1. Better value: GCP can cost up to 50% less than competitors. Google provides automatic discounts as customers consume higher volumes. And GCP also offers custom machine types (i.e., cores or gigabytes), which helps save customers versus static instance types from other vendors that often lead to overprovisioning.

2. Accelarate innovation: Google’s approach here is to allow customers to run applications with no additional operations staff needed. For example, Google showcases Snapchat here - grew from zero to 100mn users without hiring an operations team (just two people).

3. Risk Management : Google shall be focused on providing best-in-class security for customer’s data and digital assets, protect privacy and help in conforming to compliance and regulatory needs.

4. Open Source adoption –leading to better management by customers for products like Kubernotes( focused on managing data containers).

I got the feeling that the GCP was comparable to Amazon’s fabled AWS services for the purpose of enterprise adoption. While the engineering and under the hoods battle is one part of the equation, the real determinant of success and also ran lay in shaping market forces – GTM, Solutions, Partnerships, support and ease of doing business – an area that Google will have to heavily focus on. With Google’s stated plans to triple their data center regions and with some good early demonstrated success, the market should begin to warm up for Google.Enterprise success depends not just on what’s available from a service provider – determination of what and how to move to cloud, transforming IT landscape, flipping over the governance model and change management – all these have a say in the eventual success of any cloud initiative. With substantial progress and focus on this space with the tech giants competing aggressively for their pie in this fast growing space, the competition expands the market, services get more sophisticated and yet mature fast and the industry improves and courtesy of Moore’s effect, the customers get superior services at a lower cost. It’s a win-win situation for all.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Taylor Swift & L’affaire Apple In The Digital Universe

As known for quite sometime, Apple is working to get its new streaming music service, Connect, up and running. It followed what is generally taken as the standard way of launching things: offer the service free for the first three months. But, Apple then made a decision that quickly showed itself as short-sighted. Apple also decided that during the three months, writers, performers, and producers - in other words, all the people who created the content Apple was giving away - would not get paid any royalties. A call taken by them , before being upturned owing to opposition by many in the industry most notably, a 25 year old Taylor Swift. The manner in which the upstage unfurled itself is legendary. The affected indie artists and record houses could have threatened to sue. Apple, of course, has the resources to fight the battle and the outcome could have gone in any direction. The larger issue, of course, was actually taking on the mighty corporation, Apple. Doing so would have been a big risk for an artist. Except, as it turns out, Taylor Swift - the winner of seven Grammy awards, 11 Country Music Association awards, 20 Billboard Music awards, who could perceive no such risk for herself.

Taylor Swift wrote one note, and the world’s richest company, Apple couldn't shake it off. What an electric impact that this record industry star has made. It was just yesterday that Swift published a post threatening to pull her latest album from the about to be launched Apple music streaming service. Her principal concern (though she says in her post that her view reflects the views of her fellow industry artistes) for keeping mega-hit 1989 off Apple's new streaming service: the world’s most cash rich company wasn't planning to compensate the artistes and business of the record music industry - music writers, producers, and artists during the three-month free trial period. The star, aptly called as the music industry,who could easily endure the pay cut, decided to speak for the 99% of the industry who couldn't. She wrote, “These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call”.

Ms Swift is right on the money. Quite arguably, she is not a lone voice in this battle against Apple's policy—she's just the most impactful, latest and probably the loudest. It may be noted that Beggars Group, associated with such an array of indie labels like 4AD, Matador, and Rough Trade, released a statement about their decision to steer clear of Apple's contract: "Whilst we understand the logic of their proposal and their aim to introduce a subscription-only service, we struggle to see why rights owners and artists should bear this aspect of Apple’s customer acquisition costs." (The best iTunes album seller in history—Adele's 21—belongs to Beggars Group label XL Recordings.) Another indie label exec told Rolling Stone, "A lot of independent labels are of the same mind – that it's kind of a raw deal." The American Association of Independent Music expressed some concern:

Please do not feel rushed to sign Apple’s current offer.
And yet,it was unmistakably Taylor Swift’s widely followed blog - which got the mighty Apple to see sense and back down. Apple’s Eddy Cue responded positively to her demands in a series of tweets. In her earlier Wall Street Journal op-ed , she wrote:
The value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace.
Her WSJ op-ed and her controversial decision to stay off was of course controversial but she has come a long way in acknowledging that streaming is a trend that she and the industry can’t fight and has to embraced. Ms. Swift’s bold stand with L’affaire Apple needs to be welcomed. For her stature and success, she could have just remained silent - taking on Apple would send cold shivers down the spine for many in the technology, retail, entertainment industry and Ms. swift has shown real leadership and changed the course. What Ms.Swift gains from this move is much more valuable than album sales. To quote Bob Lefsetz, a music industry observer:
Efforts like Taylor Swift's are career-defining moments of credibility that are trumpeted for eons, they're what cement artists' careers. It's not only hits, it's identity. Records come and go, people remain. If you stand for something, you're the hook that catches the velcro loop, and we're all loops waiting to be caught.

Ms. Swift is a tour de force in the world of entertainment. Her records sell too well and her live performance tickets get sold in record time and yet she stands apart from her peers by an almost old-fashioned sense of poise. How Ms. Swift engaged Apple tells a story of the modern leader. She combined analytical skills and emotional intelligence to turn Apple around leveraging social media expertise and analytical reasoning.. As technology increases its role in our lives, and more decisions are handled by software, the role of humans in the world is becoming less clear. Humans possess capabilities that computers are still far from matching. As analytically adept as they may be, computers are still far from understanding and using the soft skills, such as emotional intelligence. Ms. Swift nicely demonstrates why soft skills are so important in the modern world, and how deftly used they can lead an army. No wonder Apple couldn't shake off Ms. Swift.

Recently, Fortune magazine while naming her amongst the most powerful women earlier this year wrote,”

She’s also the highest-paid woman in the music industry. In the past year, Swift racked up an impressive list of savvy business moves. Back in November, she pulled her entire catalogue from Spotify, saying that the streaming service doesn’t adequately compensate artists. Since then, she’s proved to be one of the savviest brand creators going. The singer took steps to trademark some of her key phrases (think “This sick beat”), devalued paparazzi snaps by posting her own photos to Instagram, and, just this week, made the news for buying up any adult-sounding web domains that include her name.
Fortune further noted that She’s become a massive cultural influencer—exemplifying the exact model leadership that forms the basis of this year’s list. Ms. Swift has definitely stood up in time and made her stand be counted with the mighty Apple and in the process is standing more tall. In the process, the world is witness to how effective one can be if determined in the digital universe, to make change happen through influence. Powerful lessons indeed out of this happening for individual(s) and mighty corporations as well.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Digital Transformation To Serve The Business

The goal of digital initiatives have clearly gone far beyond to be a matter of smooth and trouble-free provision of digital technologies. Leading edge enterprises state their goal of digital initiatives as one that can and should create a path for new way of doing business with customers and also as an general enabler of operational efficiency working at digital speed and scale and by extension serve as a catalyst for growth.

The real challenge comes in when in their respective laudable initiatives for growth, many enterprises may tend to take ownership of technology decisions for themselves and tend to operate on the belief that they would know the means to digitalize their part of the business including purchase and transformation programs, potentially in the process creating a fragmented and incoherent islands across the enterprise. The enterprise concerns about such an approach and their outcomes. How can enterprises put in place a program to manage this overall digression while pursuing their digital initiatives is a ringing concern begging an answer. We will briefly attempt to take a shot in getting some concrete answers here.

Digital transformation is a long journey - it’s a marathon and not just a sprint. Today’s enterprises are living in the most accelerated innovation lifecycle ever seen in the history of mankind. Leading edge enterprises recognize and try to take advantage of the fact that digital technologies have created a new sense and purpose for consumer behavior with very different ways of engagement. Added to this is the increasing global wealth and the propensity to spend more in the consumer era.

Staying ahead of the curve - While the explosion of connectivity, data and internet of things have created great opportunities for innovation , the fact of the matter is that these provide great difficulties to organizations as well. In the nee spend paradigm, more bang for the buck with frozen or near frozen levels of budget are expected to bring greater value and in shorter time with larger positive impact. External service providers can step in here -providing the much needed services on storage, development and processing paraphernalia. In fact, a new niche of value added data providers are emerging who can provide valuable insights with the data that enterprises have with them. Niches can get richer and deeper experience and expertise - enterprises should always look for leveraging them. Digital speed and scale are very different and in many ways characterize what digital business actually means.

People - It can be easily said that look for change agents, who are versatile and flexible, who are the tree shakers bringing in change and who understand the forces that are driving the market now in terms of trends, technology and business. It’s so difficult to find them or mould them to fit these expectations. unfortunately digital transformation would perforce demand these changes in people inside enterprises. Every enterprise is entitled to minimize risks but the risk profile and propensity should move higher over time and needs to adapt to a changing market and develop mitigation proposals, while keeping an eye on growth.

Technology - An unstoppable stream of technology advances keep happening at a blistering pace and breakthroughs are getting reported much more than usual. Some of these technologies can have a deep impact in the way business can get conducted changing people and organizational behaviour and sometimes transforming the value chain. It's a judgemental call which set o technologies and business models can create such a deep impact and enterprises need to be alert in constantly looking for and assessing such opportunities.Robust scenario planning exercises including emerging opportunities, assumption busting, changing the status quo and competitive advantage assessments need to be conducted in an effective way regularly.

Enter the Chief Digital Officer(CDO) - Any enterprise not taking the initiative for digitalization would be missing out majorly on getting competitive and securing long term success for themselves. This is regardless of the industry that an enterprise falls under - from museums to special events industry - every industry is going to get engulfed in the wave of digitization. The existing leadership dispensation may not be rightly equipped to drive the needed changes required to capitalize on the digital wave. Consequently, the emergence of the chief digital officer (CDO) is essential for the new age of digital business.The chief digital officer will be the primary mover for transforming regular business into digital business besides creating new digital centric business models In embracing digital tenets of running an enterprise, the basic nature of functioning of the enterprise undergoes massive changes. Digital business brings in its own expectations that include cultural shifts as part of a new digital DNA - every part of work - why, what, where and how are susceptible to big changes. And, the gamut of changes covers areas like business models and extending into data, security, digital platforms and the extended digital ecosystem - all need to be properly leveraged to help enterprise remain competitive -in the short term to longer term. The CDO is integral to planning and executing digital transformation in the enterprise.

As I wrote here, every transformation efforts brings along with it substantial degree of risk. Digital proponents leverage the fact that the business strategies that embrace. New process models and couple powerful new technologies are transforming the way we do business and the vibrant nature of the marketplace. It’s clear that yesteryears paradigm of economic and business models are too inadequate to secure future years success. New paradigms need to be created, starting with the vision to innovate and enormous energy and skills to stay the course and realize quantifiable benefits. The core ability needed to enable digital transformation rests around customer centricity and a focus on making their businesses different through technology but not per se on the technologies. No technology should be deployed without a fully thought through vision of how it advances business goals, addresses customer needs, or both. Beyond that, technology should be so tightly intertwined with strategy that the two drive and reinforce each other.

A digital strategy that focuses on specific business outcomes leveraging various forms of digital technologies can create a massive edge for the enterprise. Sustainable edge comes in where the physical world and digital universe come together in creating new value. Digital winners get there by thinking big and small together transforming processes, creating/validating/rebooting business models and enabling new waves of customer experience. Any company large or small, old or new can use this digital technology to create a winning edge for its business and perhaps, its industry.

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Digital Enterprise : Key Tenets Of Success

Digital technology is clearly driving massive change in enterprise and consumer behavior, prompting business and brands to rethink the way they reimagine the ecosystem in which they operate and in their strategies to reach, engage and retain customers. In simple terms, it can be said that the customers expect more from the business that they choose to do business with, thereby putting enormous pressure on the enterprise. The heightened expectation on business translates into pressure on all aspects of the business - marketing to fulfillment and this is a collective reflection of how enterprises value and deliver on the customer experience. As noted earlier, optimized customer experience can effectively help enterprises sell 20x more offers – leading to anywhere from a 30% to 100% increase in conversions and more importantly in a few years from now, the expectation is that customer experience will triumph product, price differentiation across many sectors. Think Netfilx, Starbucks and Amazon experience and project these in the various sectors - that reality could be faster than general expectations. Now there is evidence to suggest that business that provide the best forms of customer experience see a huge upside in their potential and the corollary fact that poor customer experience would drive customers to competition for sure underlies the criticality of investing there. This is both defensive and an aggressive move for success and growth.

This new normal brings with it both abundant opportunities coupled with associated set of challenges.. As a result, enterprises today recognize that their ability to win and retain customers will have to massively leverage the experience and the overall journey that they can offer to their customers. Enterprises genuinely get caught up in getting things done when they have the plans conceptualized well and the plan -action - result gap is always a matter of concern for business leaders attempting to get their enterprise into a leadership position by embracing the best and the upcoming tenets. They are aware of the substantial challenges that they would face in transitioning to an experience centric world. They also very well realize that their organizations need to be glued into a process with strong linkages to system, data , analytics and being able to reach the customers through all the channels. Every enterprise should focus on getting a digital DNA like signature that would uniquely represent their customer acquisition, advocacy, retention and delight plans.

Digital is really on the verge of seamlessly integrating with the core world of business and promising to transform with the proliferation of multiple digital channels . The stage is now set for digital transformation to be one of the most critical initiatives for enterprises and early adopters are clearly reporting huge success out of such efforts I would define digital transformation as the action around digital strategy that focuses on specific business outcomes leveraging various forms of digital technologies can create an edge for the enterprise. Enterprises need to conquer the quest of shifts that are happening in the realms of social, organization and technology. These may manifest as outcomes that include the likes of new business models and approaches to customer delight using digital technologies. Let’s now look at some practical ways where key success factors of digitally led customer experience initiatives can be focussed on inside enterprises. Based on the lessons of the pioneers, who have successfully managed mastery of the opportunity and waded the challenges, it is seen:

A. The marketplace is not homogeneous and customers really demand varied services across the spectrum - digital customer experience must deliver a continual range of interactive experience. Customer experience is not the average of “aha” moment or other moments of truth The sum of all good and bad interactions drive the overall experience across all possible moments of interaction is what matters. Imagine talking in the social media about the good and bad moments of customer experience - then enterprises would realize the need to best and consistent throughout. These businesses have users, customers, devices, or interactions numbered in the hundreds of millions, billions, or more. Countless ways of of interactions and data points, and these in turn, mean that events with only a one-in-a-million probability are happening many times a day. Many enterprises start with focusing a lot on either getting the experience or the back office right - neither is enough of their own. The key leap needed here is to move from engaging to providing experience leveraging analytics by closing the loop. In the digital world, enterprises can track each click, navigation path - points of entry, stay and exit and can gain enormous insights. and enterprises can gain this power by powerful data analysis. Data is king, whether it comes from the outward-facing systems of engagement or inward-facing systems of record. The most effective digital business efforts will enable closing the loop at ease. This must be done by meticulous integration, standardization, analysis and application of data from both types of system covering all processes into business planning and management.

B. Consistent and seamlessly connected experience across all channel of interaction with the customers. Many times enterprises tailor experience specific to channels owing to their operational reasons and internal processes. this flexibility is passe. The more flexibility that we provide for customers to interact in their own comfortable ways - the more endearing the customer experience is going to be. Digital age needs demand cross channel consistency and utmost ease in doing business, this includes laying elegant solutions leveraging common third party services like payments as part of customer experience.

C. Niche, Context & The Ultimate: Superior experience is a tablestake in engaging customers - the real differentiated/innovative value comes out of getting the context right - this means being able to integrate everything from the profile to location to navigation to entity of interest and provide a super personalized manner of interaction for the customer and if we add the dimension of being the best by integrating vertical/niche experience, the game really gets ready to be won by enterprise in winning the customer. Many times, the niche capabilities may force business to leverage their own expertise before the market is able to provide those as affordable common services.

Digitalization is redefining the nature of of competition among industries by easy market expansion - achieved through lowering the cost of entering markets and providing opportunity to scale up and scale wide in impressive ways.Every enterprise will find its own ways and means of delivering customer experience but what has been captured above is a clear common denominator.Of course, enterprises need to carefully calibrate and define their own models of success in the digital age; but they can’t succeed without mastering customer experience, monetization models and platform resilience and, digital business transformation is a journey that takes many years and quantum efforts to stabilize, so the effort requires constant focus to sustain and grow.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Digital : Now Or Never

The present era of business is seeing lot of excitement and promise all around. Around the world, every day in our lives bring lot of changes – fast, unpredictable and may times we have to struggle hard to understand what the change stands for. Globalization, technology has transformed the playing fields across continents, industries and sectors. Very powerful forces of change have shaken the beliefs in many aspects of governance and social thinking. Fortune 500 companies list is changing faster than the fast pace that we have seen in the past. Powerful brands have suffered huge damages and many industries have gotten transformed substantially so much so that many successful leaders today claim their business need to adapt and transform faster than ever. Leading edge corporations run faster in this direction to ensure that their rate of change inside is ahead of the change seen in their external environments. Looking at these developments, it’s clear that the time to re-imagine the future is now, and it is best done by a fresh school of thought that governs our thinking frameworks to enable a fundamental rethink and envision what is desirable and sustainable. For some of the enterprises, it looks like embarking on a massive digital initiative would help meet some of these opportunities and challenges.

One of the most opportune moments in business today is the ability to strike really big in the digital space. The opportunities provided by digital structural change are really far reaching and there’s every indication that such initiatives will get more bold and impactful in the future. The reach and virulence of such initiatives become more evident when it can be seen that everyone can participate in varying capacities in the digital space so long as they have access to the internet. In the word of myriad type of configurations, it can be seen that flexible and varied relationships are formed between people and their diverse identities in the online and offline worlds. This also throws itself amenable to experimental forms of participation and such collaboration will become more pronounced in the medium term, which will continually influence the value creation process in many firms. Digitalisation is thus changing our social and economic lives as well as the way that we interact with one another and how corporates and individuals (have to learn to) handle (personal) data in future.

The larger risk that corporates face in this sweeping wave of digitalization is one of existence. If they do not manage to change and succeed in the digital world, they will be out of market over a period of time. The question then is who are at risk and to what degrees and how to mitigate the risk while capitalizing on the opportunity to grow in this age? The road to survival for several longstanding players is thus paved with painful consolidation measures and cost-intensive reforms that are; however, important in ensuring they hold their own in the new competitive environment of the future. The increasing adoption of digital models and technologies give rise to new market entry opportunities, particularly for corporates who can leverage technology in their core operations. As in the case of a market changing and a new market emerging, the attractive opportunities for the new players, create and impose new norms of competitive pressure on the established players. Due to digitalization, many traditional firms are finding themselves exposed in some areas that could in turn develop into Achilles' heels. These vulnerabilities provide especially fast-growing internet firms with the opportunity to occupy certain market niches, both to monetize their digital content and make their own product range more appealing to an even wider audience. After all, the business world is ever dynamic, and the dynamism is heavily accelerated in the digital wave that’s engulfing the world of business.

A lasting change in consumption and media usage behavior has occurred. Today it is not always about ownership and possession, but more often only about access to products and services. For some time, lots of small technology-driven start-ups and niche operators active in the markets that are also fighting with the incumbents for market share. In addition, the internet behemoths have been spreading their wings/ influencing the business models across various industries and services,, investing billions of dollars, experimenting in diverse markets – increasingly also outside their core business – and offering new especially digitalized business models. Competition is therefore intensifying appreciably in many sectors and in many markets.Sharing assets, services, and time are known elements; in fact the “sharing economy” is not new, but the internet is accelerating its penetration into daily life. The sharing economy is a phenomenon created by individuals seeking to provide flexible services, lower costs and generate profits; it works because it creates more favorable economics when parties share underutilized assets. In this model, the ability to scale up the business is related more to imagination and not just around asset ownership.The publishing sector is now offering e-books on demand (Scribd, Kindle Unlimited); in the music and film segments digital content is increasingly being streamed (Spotify, Amazon); accommodation is being offered and organized globally by private individuals (Airbnb); projects and start-ups are obtaining finance via the crowd (Seedmatch, Kickstarter) and the mobility and local public transport sectors are also seeing alternative, web-based business models being offered (Uber, Lyft). Add to this the consumer’s desire to be globally minded, sustainable, and adventurous and valuable. This shift in consumer behavior towards welcoming services and sharing assets with strangers was born out of the peer-to-peer marketplace model first introduced by internet companies like eBay, Craigslist, Napster, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Ask.com. The business ideas behind them are often not really new in and of themselves, but they are based on digital value creation processes. In addition, the new players speak the language of the internet. “Convenience”, ubiquitous access across channels and “one-stop shop” are the key ideas. The economics behind this is relatively simple: digital value creation processes can be managed much more cost efficiently and wider (customer) reach is achieved faster thanks to economies of scale and network effects. In dynamic markets with shorter product life cycles these are valuable competitive advantages.

Ofcourse, some of these modern developments are still in their infancy and require an appropriate regulatory framework in order to be able to achieve their full potential. Various parts of the word is just seeing some maturity regarding applicable laws for the internet. The challenges include finding ways of usefully integrating modern technologies and methods into people's daily lives without violating freedoms, without discrimination, competition infringements or tampering taking place or without increasing people's fear of being spied upon. On account of the many varied interests and the international nature of the products and services, however, (national) legislation pertaining to online issues often has a limited impact.Many new player have their noses in front in many markets because from the outset their business model concepts have been “digital”, as have been the structuring and regular development of these models. These digital players can expose their offerings as services to their ecosystem, enabling collaboration amongst with partners and sometimes competitors. This makes them fast and flexible in their reaction to market needs but most importantly they change the dynamics of the business as a whole. The consumers benefit a lot and they begin to demand more and more. It is apparent that many of the traditional general firms can be found to be lagging behind the new players with regard to implementing the necessary digitalisation of their various marketing and communications channels and of preferring to work on siloed solutions instead of subjecting their processes to radical innovation therapy. The battle for the wallet share of digital customers is in full swing and is so intense that many established companies are (still) not adequately prepared for it.

With the digital ecosystems currently in place the firms operating online are relatively small in number, but they command a relatively strong position in the market. All the same, many small start-ups as well as niche operators are providing valuable stimulus to the market, but it is not uncommon to see them serve as attractive takeover candidates for the wallet rich or bigger digital players. However, although some digital firms and some start-ups are currently (still) leaders in modern technologies and data analysis – the battle for customers and market share in the digital age has only just begun. Internet behemoths like Google, Facebook were also small when they started out. Of course they enjoy a certain lead in information and expertise with respect to algorithms and data analysis.The wannabe’s and the ambitious enterprise must begin planning the digital re-imagination of their businesses now – just as companies like Netflix/Amazon did long time back. Established companies in these sectors will be challenged by outsiders and newcomers that aren’t burdened by legacy business models and assets. Just as online publishers are trying to displace established publishers, Netflix displaced Blockbuster companies in sectors with high digital intensity should expect serious incursions into their markets. In contrast, companies whose offerings and customer experience can’t be replaced by a digital version – think Disney World – might focus less on digital reimagination and more on transforming the offering they provide today, as Disney is doing with its theme park digital initiative or like in the case of a bank/insurance company leveraging digital technologies to the hilt in providing services to their customers. . The strategy in this case may be more about digital transformation. These companies – especially ones with big investments in physical assets – must find ways to use digital technologies to give customers a better experience with products and services (e.g., a trip to a Disney resort) that they already value.

Many online innovations are incremental in nature and emerge largely via trial and error. However, they require investment, scope for experimentation, scope for freedom as well as scope for creativity and error tolerance. Traditional firms, too, must continually adapt and improve their capabilities for this. After all, there is no magic bullet for innovations in the internet age. Just as in the analogue age, the people behind them are creative types who have good ideas, are courageous and prepared to take risks – and of course need a bit of luck. This is, however, not the main issue.it's a tribute to the accelerating accelerating digital phenomenon that some nations are now focussed on innovation-stimulating measures that includes an appropriate internet policy, improved immigration opportunities for skilled personnel, greater autonomy in the higher education sector or the rethinking of the (excessively) long periods for which intellectual property rights are protected in some sectors. With the limitless possibilities for upside in the digital world, the most often asked question is which is the right digital strategy for a company or a division of that company (if its business is quite different from the businesses of other divisions – different customers, different offerings, and so on)? We believe it depends largely on two factors - Digital affability of the company or division: This refers to the degree to which its core offerings, business processes (especially marketing, sales, and distribution),and market’s experience in using those offerings can get digitized. The sectors that have a greater digital intensity are banking & financial services, insurance, media and entertainment, telecommunications besides software Such companies are especially vulnerable to disruption, since their products can be fully digitized: payments made through a smartphone, movies streamed to a desk or tablet computer, software rented ‘by the tap’ from the cloud, and so on.

Like in every other evolving paradigm, clearly not all can get into the digital bandwagon and count results by the quarter - aside from the vision and sophistication of the program being attempted influencing the quality and upside of the outcomes, different sectors will clearly have graded adoption. while overnight quick ramp-up success stories will continue to show up, fact is that a complete digital canvas as a reality for all industries will take its own time. Apart from the inertia inside enterprises, investment size, regulations, market acceptance of digital offerings will play a big role in shaping their digital journey. There may be some industries that may not see digital disruption in some parts of their business - like in the utility business with massive assets and providing everyday service to customers, but these companies need to exploit digitalization for providing better experience - which in turn could beget huge upsides in their top lines and bottom line. Like Uber experience or IoT enabled Barbie toys almost redefining the core of the business, automobiles and wearables embracing digital, there are enough white spaces to conquer. It’s seen that in early adapters, digitization helps the enterprises to get closer to the customers and are redesigning the future of business. The gap in traditional customer engagement models will directly and the new avenues of interactions powered by technology will pave the way for the next wave of disruption. The best guideline to make this happen will be to build an ecosystem that will help us look at our products from the customer’s perspective, and help conduct easy business with everyone. Clearly, the question is not how and why,but fast becoming “when” but the answer is ready : it’s “now or never”.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Digital Customers : The Success Of Relevance

In this consumer era, the power of the consumer is such that they tend to make no practical between the digital and the real, the online and the offline. The current age is characterized by the fact that digital is simply part of our daily lives, from working and shopping to sleeping and eating—even finding a partner. This has led to the situation where the boundaries between channels are virtually non-existent but customers need unique experiences.. The expectation is for the brands and the entities to provide exceptional experiences. Any evolving idea/concept/framework soon becomes outdated with the galloping customer expectations and the innumerable choices that parade before them. This means, on a standalone basis, the device, platform or location don’t so much count as the defining edge that would persuade a customer to buy a product/service. The overall experience counts more powered by engaging content and the superior value offered by service/product.

To provide such an edge in every transaction with the customer it becomes important to satisfy customer demands and expectations, technology, process and business alignment across service and marketing becomes highly critical. It’s now part of the established folklore - technology can get companies only that far, cross functional processes aligned to business performance leveraging state of the art technology implemented in a disciplined manner are essentially needed to provide an enriching customer experience. In this digital age, for an enterprise, the ability to connect real time business and social interactions across business units - say social media monitoring cell (part of marketing) tracing a customer remark on a service and business response to such remarks enables enterprises to provide the digital experience in real time delivered in a personalized way in a channel of customer’s choice. From the role of anchoring promotion, marketing today walks almost the entire path in a customer’s journey and they can be effective only if they are real time integrated with the business units, to provide the customer right set of responses.

The reality is that customer interaction is a treasured moment for every enterprise. Every interaction could have a varied purpose ranging from selling to needing a service or a potential cancellation. The interaction may or may not be attributed to company’s campaigns or promotions Being aware and in a state of readiness to interact with customers –known or new with a variety of expectations is fast becoming a basic expectation that every modern enterprise need to have. If done well, by empowering frontline employees, there is an enormous opportunity to maximize the value of each interaction Empirical evidence suggest that if executed properly, optimizing customer interactions can effectively sell 20x more offers – leading to anywhere from a 30% to 100% increase in conversions.

With all the technology options and opportunities that business has today, where do we start and what do we focus on is a standard question that would come to one’s mind. The hard fact is that , it is in this moment that your strategy will earn its success. Without proportionate investments with customer behavior in the moments of truth and aligning everything with business outcomes, thestrategy may come as a cropper. Let’s now look some of the critical blocks that need to be set in place for enterprises to get to this level of maturity and sophistication. The customer data is very important for any enterprise. The data sources can be varied – CRM, Self Service Application, Marketing Automation etc. These data have untapped value and are highly relevant in finding value over the customer’s lifetime. The data gets a life of its own with contextual integration done in real time or near real time. The marketing folks would be well focused to create strategic insights out of these data. The hard reality is that these customer data sets are going to explode in volume, variety and the speed at which these get captured. As business grows, your company succeeds, business needs to manage more data – calling for new capabilities to process these data in real time/near real time and find patterns. Reliability of the data, speed of processing matters in making the outcomes more relevant to business needs.

Customer data should be made available to all inside the enterprise dealing with them. Not just in raw form – but the processed data sets – segmented and amenable for targeting and other actions, in easily accessible ways. Such data ought to provide direct , measurable and meaningful l insights into customers and provide an easy path to defining and delivering a relevant set of products/information/services to them. If enterprises were to leverage this effectively, the net result would be a very significant mechanism in action that can provide enhanced meaning and value in every possible interaction with the customer. In many places this can be automated data that acts programmatically or with some moderated manual overrides, where necessary. The outcomes of such initiatives are highly alluring – it’s seen that, successful data-driven marketers realize a 40% competitive advantage over the customer.Again the cardinal principles kick in here – the data sources and data set are only relevant based on the efficacy of integration and processing of the raw data available with the business. Remember Garbage In, Garbage out – except that the outcome can substantially vary based on the means emp0loyed to integrate and process the basic data. The cost of inefficiency and cost of quality here could be very high – essentially taking off substantial money out of the table that could have come from possible business revenue. . Any business generating initiative starting from segmentation to targeting to running campaigns are like recipes in real world – all portions need to come together in sequence with appropriate levels of gradations to get the perfect accolade from the consumers. Needless to say, mismatched and uncoordinated recipe mix or inefficient cooking process could lead to a catastrophe – the analogy holds good for the business marketing world as well.

Next, the role of analytics, a pillar in the marketing and customer world. First off, analytics provides the global view of the status if various campaigns and the net results driven thereof. The best part of analytics is the ability to zoom in and zoom out – look from the prism of micro and macro at the same time. In real life, the customer data can be made available to business in various forms – micro data or macro data. The beauty of analytics kicks in with its variety in being able to process/handle individual interactions and entire set of campaigns as the need may be. With deeper insights pertaining to specific customers, the business team/ system can bring forth more efficiency in dealing with them. An early judgment of the customer needs and expected outcomes makes the process lot more efficient and result oriented. The superior insight that analytics can drive towards specific customer needs can provide awesome experience to customers and deliver disproportionate results to business. Once data transforms to actionable insights, the results can be of very high value to the business.

Data driven companies find that their advantage lay across the marketing spectrum from customer loyalty to retention to gaining customers and increasing revenues and enhanced profitability. This is a hard won state – how to get to that state and be competitive? Being data driven inherently means the value comes from integrating the basic data coming from various streams within the organization and finding a relevant meaning in their combine. The insight gathered out of such a process would be able to provide actionable insights, helping the frontline staff and the system to provide meaning to every interaction. Remember Burberry started their journey with the stated mission of being able to be totally connected with everyone who touches the brand, a strategy that got them very handsome returns. Many times business teams are confronted with massive set of data with very high potential value associated with them. This is going to increase across the board and business need to gear up to handling such vast amounts of data. Would there be more value or would be it be like finding a needle in the haystack, The verdict is coming out from various sources. Analyst firms believe that a larger proportion of such data in the digital universe would carry substantial value for business. The means employed to harness such data would also having a bearing in the expected outcomes of such initiatives.

What can not be overemphasized is the fact that every interaction matters. Every time a customer visits your digital or physical property, there is a footprint left –these carry great value. The more footprints that enterprises are able to collect and bring them together for analysis and real time action, the customer experience is going to be that much better. The opportunity to cross sell, up sell increases manifold and additional interactions out of such efforts, provide disproportionate returns . The good marketer recognized such efforts and the executives need to recognize the upside here. The savvy marketer powers customer interactions with analytics, empowering representatives to maximize the value of that interaction and delight your customers. This journey needs to be repeated across channels to get great returns, over the lifetime of the customer. As they say, digital is a battle of relevance versus irrelevance and then it’s a game of the survival of the fittest.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Digital Marketing & Enterprise Adoption

On my flight back to San Francisco tonight, I managed to read the book, What Stays In Vegas, where the author of the book - Adam Tanner shows how Using loyalty programs, ubiquitous cameras, math,“math nerds,” Casinos have mastered data analytics and the collection and use of customer data to gain “an edge in a business where rivals compete fiercely with the very same games.” Caesars showcased here is shown as the casino player who knows its clients intimately by tracking the activities of the overwhelming majority of gamblers. Caesars seems to know exactly the gamblers liking of games, food, stay etc and using these data they can target them better and ensure the gamblers come again and again back to them in a predictable way.

Earlier in the day, I was busy discussing digital marketing to people in the industry, who were not so convinced about its power and reach for them to feel guilty about not participating thus far. I was telling my friends that the era of the traditional methods of marketing campaign are ending. When it comes to digital marketing, many enterprises unfortunately, do not get these right and as a result, massively lose out on the range and depth of adjustments needed to better engage consumers and get superior results.If we carefully analyze the range and magnitude of disruption heaped by the advent of digital phenomenon, it can be easily seen that one among the top business functions severely influenced by digital disruption is marketing as a business function. Seen from the prism of empowerment powered by digital forces, today consumers across every industry are enjoying unlimited amount of influence and authority over any business. The traditional enterprise, hitherto engaged in the era of expensive and wide reaching campaigns find their approach either getting minimal returns or finding them inadequate to reach their customers and prospects in a convincing manner. Its now, a common knowledge across enterprises that the era of glossy campaigns pushing products and services through mass media has been toppled by empowered customers basking under the glory of digital forces churning out information at their disposal, demanding more and more from their vendors.

Traditionally, enterprises based on the industry in which they operate and in alignment with their business objectives,take decision on types of campaigns that they would like to launch. In many enterprises due to budgetary planning, the frequency and reach of campaigns get decided annually and typically campaign calendars are drawn in terms of weekly, monthly, quarterly frequencies. In this model of outreach to customers, in reality, enterprises tend to send campaigns in this preplanned form of campaigning, one or two messages about products or services deemed relevant to the customer(s). In this age of abundance, the enterprises should be in fact catering to different set of customers with entirely different range of product/offerings making the campaign process more effective. This is precisely what digital provides for – enterprises are empowered to push out campaigns that are highly relevant to individual customers. Eg, Visa worked with Facebook to find unique segments of soccer fans on the social platform. Visa’s campaign used social and transactional data to form clusters of people who were served ads.Take the case of a leading elite online retailer (for a change this is not Amazon). They have centralized data and leverage cutting edge data for marketing to create the most personalized e-communication to their customers, so that every customer gets a different message when they receive Likewise, when customers do onsite shopping , the retailer might prioritize certain sales for them to see first, taking into account their stated and observed preferences. They make more nuanced communication – and minutes before the peak shopping hours, several thousands of different versions of messages go out to their customers. In short, this online retailer is practicing a different model of marketing compared to traditional ways of pushing campaigns to their customers.

The ubiquitous smartphone has changed the basis of relationship between the customer and the service provider. Customers can navigate better and learn not only about the price of the product but also about performance, they can see detailed reviews by the users, do comparative analysis of competing products or jump into researching into a different category of product/service altogether – all within a matter of few seconds and doing all these at their choice of place and timing.A seemingly harmless search that a customer does on their phone can reveal so much more about their preferences, if leveraged along with associated data about the customer, his/her preferences etc. Customers could be looking at online websites for information or could be polling in social media for feedback and could be talking to other customers, unknown to each other in real life but connected through digital media.This forces enterprises to push out order of magnitude number of differentiated variants as offers. Coupled with behavioral data and profile data, highly customized campaigns can be launched. This is admittedly very different from the traditional means of marketing where lot of upfront efforts go towards deciding the profile of the customers, the focal group for targeting. From a brute force push of campaigns, the model is changing to guided delivery model. This model makes things faster and can cater to complexity of high order effortlessly. And this is akin to agile software development, fast rollout, constant testing and fixing while repeating this cycle.

The next set of challenges revolves around internal issues. Typically in the past, many enterprises have had multiple divisions or centers of power responsible for different set of channel outreach and doing business. In reality, customers tend to leverage information across channels and consummate sale at a channel – typically research over the web / mobile and walk into the store or vice versa. The customers may tend to talk about post purchase experience in another channel altogether. It must be remembered that the customer journey is more important and not necessarily point of consummation or post purchase discussions. Each of the channels would have to play a relevant role in a customer’s engagement journey.Many enterprises complain about taking the first steps by taking umbrage under budgetary needs and legal compliance requirements. Too often, it can be found that this boils to attitude and leadership – these are workable and there are enough impactful working examples of enterprises who have crossed these humps and beginning to get good returns across industries that can be paraded to convince internal powers, if its indeed the case. Pilots are a killer deal inside enterprises trying to push such initiatives and are facing internal pockets of resistance. Either a product line, a limited service, a small geography can be the candidate for a pilot roll out. Such an initiative will provide the enterprise to understand the typical challenges, changes that need to be done to processes and policies, issues around data and discovery and help the enterprise prepare well for the follow on initiatives.

Digital initiative success hinges on organizational readiness, decision mechanism, data and process gearing as much as tools, algorithms and system. As in the classical way of defining success, it’s the direction that matters and not the altitude to start with. A sensible prioritization of possibilities and starting with what is internally accessible immediately is a surefire way of launching such initiatives. Like in the agile model of development, we will tend to see lot more incremental capabilities getting added over time. The philosophy of continual test, learn and redeploy often should be the specified implementation approach. A carefully enacted design leveraging available data can go a long way in setting the stage for the initiative to move forward. It’s shared objective with a firm leadership that sets the tone for the initiative.The troika – data and discovery prioritization, right leadership and teams, philosophy of continual build, test and redeploy are the key tenets that can drive an enterprise to success. The right technology infrastructure is of course needed for enterprise wide success. Likewise, the ability to map a customer journey across channels is a capability that enterprises need to develop. Associated with these are the issues around process and decision making set up inside enterprises given the massive convergence of traditional processes Many enterprises think through their to-be state technology stack encompassing support/ needed technology upgrades for capabilities in data collection & discovery, content management, business models, test and target and go-to-market approach etc. This is a critical process that should be definitely considered and long term decisions accordingly taken.

The leadership mindset inside enterprises need to change as well, for digital initiatives to have legs and gain strong support within. The key thing to note is that digital initiatives are not just one more channel, Like Burberry experienced a massive acceleration in its business, owing to digital initiatives. For almost every business, digital is massive opportunity for growth and future success. For some business, the fact is that digital may end up to be the only way to survive and grow. The leadership team needs to ensure that newer set of processes required to enable success of digital initiatives are adequately supported across the enterprise. True opportunity to transform and provide superior service to customers may get lost, if sufficient levels of executive support is not extended.Another important trait to be imbibed by the leadership team is the ability to work with data and make decisions data driven across the enterprise. Data strategy should should be treated with as much importance as customer experience strategy. This may look a little odd at first, but when the organization leverages digital, scale of operations coupled with variety will impose different kind of expectations and so would need to embrace data centricity as a key tenet of digitalization. Case at hand Kraft Foods. Kraft recently claimed that their easter campaign brought them 23% increased sales in some categories and by April got four times the return on investment. Kraft disclosed that they serve more than six billion ad impressions targeting 500+ customer segments. The average Kraft brand uses data from 10 to 15 custom segments when buying media. It must be noted that without these data, none of the campaigns would be possible at all.

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