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Thursday, October 23, 2014
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.|
Sunday, October 19, 2014
The sweeping opportunities arising out of digital centered structural changes in enterprises are really enriching and can create deep business impact in the short and, medium and long-term. The participants in the digital world enjoy high degree of empowerment with a mouse click or with access from any digital front-end device. In the multichannel world, with different ways of participants coming together, a wide range of combination of association get formed across the offline and the online world. Many of the associations will be experimental in nature to start with and over-time the collaboration aspects will become more and more important and will help create value for the enterprise/ecosystem. Seen at a different level, it can be seen that digitalization is substantially changing the ethos of interaction in our social and business lives.
On an ongoing basis, one can see that digital disruption is shifting the sands of the profit landscape as well. Studies show that enterprises that have embraced digitalization report better returns and industries affected by digitalization, by being unprepared have had to sacrifice sales and margins. Clearly, value is migrating and enterprise leaders aren’t always sure if they’re experiencing short-term cyclical change or long-term structural change. There is consensus across the board in may enterprises that legacy assets are losing value and there is a widespread need to invest to capitalize on new, digital-related opportunities. More subtly, companies are developing new digital value in their supply chains and processes. Due to the wide reach and deep impact digital can enjoy, many enterprises are forced to rethink the very nature of their core business.
It’s now well known that traditional barriers of entry don’t hold water with players muscling in with digital at their core of business. Boundaries get distorted, categorization and niche gets torn apart, enabling a new wave of entrepreneurs and getting innovation aficionados into the mix. Digital technologies and their extensions can power a phenomenal range of technologies centered innovations - these could be far reaching in their impacts and can have a powerful cascading effect across the ecosystem. The traditional players face enormous pressure to defend and grow their turf and this collective continuum of changes and their impact - bot for winning, defending and sometimes losing can be termed as “Digital Disruption” . The intensity and the range of time to experience this disruption may change across sectors and geographies. As with any major change, in some sectors, the impact may be large and may be felt at once or over time and in some sectors,the impact may be felt only over time. Some sectors/ lines of business may actually get created because of the digital forces in action.
Enterprises - big and small impacted by the digital wave of disruption have really no choice but to find effective ways to respond to defend or take advantage to grow. With the digital onslaught being so powerful - think CAT5 storm is passing through your region - the impact will be deeply felt. The enterprise response can happen at various levels and typical response would be centered around:
- Reimagining corporate strategies and business models
- Customer centricity
- Revenue stream reassessment
- Cost structure revisions
The winners here take the long view and approach any change top down - with deep commitment and care. The wide ranging impact should factor in the changes needed internally and a clear appreciation of the way traditional business landscape is getting changed - the very nature of demand generation, consumption, competition, communication, customer expectations - all have profoundly changed. The balance of power in the commerce equation between the producer and the consumer is now firmly loaded in favor of the consumer . The wide adoption of connectivity and the resultant wave of information and the ability for the consumers of the information to take part and share their views to the potential next set of customers in real time gave made the consumers the unanointed kings and queens in the equation.
First the issues around strategy - its important to realize that one size fit all wont work for all, this wont work for players even within the same industry - as value chains undergo huge change. The opportunities and threats could significantly change for different business inside enterprises. In recognition of this, the approach to embrace the digital wave has got to be so specific that business need to define the right strategy not just at the enterprise level, but preferably at the business unit level. The core model of operation needs to be reassessed for enterprises trying to embrace digital - in this universe, the power of information and data are so formidable, that many times business integration revolves around different ways of rejigging the information flow and set stage for opportunities to create more value across the chain.
The question at a high level that needs answer for every business is how to positively embrace digital disruption. While, this is a very detailed exercise calling for a rigorous evaluation of possibilities to be engaged in a highly disciplined way - assessing possibilities, opportunities for changing the game and for further upsides in traditional business outcomes, it can be safely said that the key tenet of digital disruption is about the range and amplitude of change that business could experience soon. This also involves assessing the myriad possibilities that can be reaped when powerful digital opportunities get pursued across various business streams. Digital at its heart can allow business by helping them through innovative means to target new customer segments, power new business models and in some cases help create entirely new lines of service for the enterprise. Digital technologies can help enterprises to explore adjacent markets more easily - either on their own or as part of a larger ecosystem. Repeat this for exploring adjacencies in customer segments, geographies, product segments etc. Scaling up and scaling wide can become distinct possibilities for business, when they embrace and get digital.
Already digital promotional/ad spend is becoming a dominant category in an enterprise customer/prospect reach out efforts. These mechanisms help enterprises target newer segments leveraging the ecosystem - search engines and low cost online advertising etc. The data that gets collected will embolden business to more specifically target their customer-base, opening possibilities of cross sell, upsell and rich returns. For example, location information discerned through maps or email usage or spreading content through multiple channels, value added data procured from mobile service providers - all these help in better targeting the enterprise customers. The customer segmentation models gain more maturity by learning from enterprises more focussed on enhanced targeting mechanisms.
Some strategies that help enterprises reach new customers include adequate leverage of the 4P’s of marketing and beyond. For example, social is becoming a significant frontier in targeting - in allowing business to interact directly with customers and prospects and being able to reach out to them at very low cost to the enterprise. With adequate leverage of social enterprises gain much better targeting insights, leading to more better granular segmentation.The highest level of maturity in an enterprise digital journey is the ability of the enterprise to leverage the pervasive digital connections that exist in their ecosystem connecting systems, people, location and things. All the technologies - ranging from smartphones to remote sensors, need to be appropriately leveraged for pursuing strategy refresh, customer centricity, creating new business models. realigning the cost structure and setting up new new streams of revenue. Such measures would collectively propel the enterprise to acquire a digital edge, which it needs to continually review and hone for success.|
Sunday, October 12, 2014
It is now common knowledge that digital is changing the fortunes of many business – impacting both positively and negatively, depending on their level of preparedness to embrace digitalization. In every industry, competing business leveraging digital technologies, platforms and relationship to win over rivals, get more customers and their business and loyalty, and thereby rewriting the rules of competing in business, is perhaps the order of the day.
Reimagining the possibilities for business by becoming a digital enterprise is a key expectation for survival in the future for many businesses around the world. That calls for going beyond creating revenue by mere digital substitution. A digital strategy that focuses on specific business outcomes leveraging various forms of digital technologies can create an edge for the enterprise and in many cases, a sustainable edge comes in where the inane physical resources mutate with the vibrant digital information to create new value. Winners in doing this get there by thinking big and small together transforming processes, creating/validating/rebooting business models and enabling new waves of customer experience. The reality is that any company large or small, old or new can leverage digital technology and principles to create a winning edge for its business and perhaps, its industry. Your customers, your competitors, and your suppliers are all digital now. You can’t address this change with a bolt-on strategy that adds an app here or a site there. You need a comprehensive strategy that embraces both digital markets and digital operations.
Firms like Amazon and Netflix, were born digital — they find embracing these digital principles far easier. Most others strive to have significant digital business and imbibe /embrace digital DNA as their core mantra. For some of them, who were not tuned in, a near extinction threat could be shaking them up. The good news is that, with the body of expertise and collected wisdom available, survival and being competitive is possible like Kodak and Burberry with varying motivations and expectations were able to reorient and restructure their commercial business and have created formidable digital business. The old and well established business of last century or the ones started in the century before are totally capable of successful digital transformation.
Being self-aware is the key to reinventing oneself – this universal principle holds good for enterprises as well. At whatever level of maturity an organization is, digital journey for enterprises would call for substantial degree of change with respect to organizational DNA – this would permeate the culture, organizational structure, operations and governance. As I wrote here, “digital transformation, for a company board or a transformation council could look like a large scale revamp, but in reality, it is a series of coordinated number of changes – on multiple dimensions - across various attributes covering some planned, known unknowns, unknown unknowns - the coming together of this creates a deep impact and effects change, leading into a converged advantage. One can say that the commonality across different true transformation initiatives would rest on ability to think differently about set ways of functioning and willingness and ability to revisit all known models and think and act on them to change to deliver different results”.
There are multiple ways to measure an enterprise maturity and determine the strong and weak points (the most common way to measure is to plot a two- by-two with internal capability vs delivered excellence or capability vs maturity etc). Digital Babies” Digital Natives”, “Digital Phoenixes”, “Digital Masters” etc. are some of the terms used to denote categories, depending on whom you choose to listen to. From Slow moving to Wannabe leaders to Visionaries to Path breaking leaders, the different players can be classified through an assessment. My preferred assessment, as a next step is to chart radar diagrams covering the entire customer lifecycle journey measuring the efficiencies of various attributes along the way and using the outcome to rate against overall expectations. With such classification at hand, depending on the industry trends, a rapid path - either as a protective measure or as a winning measure need to be laid out. The important thing to notice here is no enterprise needs to be left behind in this digital journey lest they suffer extinction over time.
The successful undertakers of the digital journey need to look beyond bolt-on initiatives and look at transformation possibilities holistically, covering digital experience, digital operations and process outcomes. The nature of digital business is such that there are a lot of players/processes that need to be aligned – and some of them could be internal and some could be external involving partners, customers etc. So, the overall ecosystem would matter to get the best experience and outcome to customers. Think travel business or something like how ozon, the leading ecommerce player in Russia achieved success.
The need for holistic view cannot be under emphasized. With the proliferation of digital touch points and increased range of services that customers are beginning to expect, it is unwise to look at each of these as discrete or sequential projects – as such an approach would lead to increased cost and take a long time to deliver overall best results for the enterprise. In an age where time-to-market is a key determinant of success, such approaches are not in tune delivering for the needs of the day for enterprises.
When we digitalize enterprises, we set the seed for destruction of the old practices and policies and instead embed new age practices and leading edge policies. The customer expectations, service levels, support mechanisms etc. substantially change in the digital age and as such, those types of changes cannot be avoided. How do we conceptualize and validate such changes? The answer lays in being able to think for digital solutions wearing the shoes of the customer. Should services be delivered separately or in combinations – should we restrict the combined services to what can be natively delivered by the enterprise or combine them with external services. These types of questions need to be objectively assessed and answers though through – the answers will in turn shape the contours of digital transformation covering both strategy and operations.
One of the defining characteristics of cutting edge digital solutions is the ability to seamlessly weave associated services available with a bevy of partners made into a seemingly single stranded service for the customers – imagine airline ticketing service or financial services like Intuit(Mint) or Amazon marketplace. This is both an opportunity and a challenge – opportunity is to provide service under one virtual roof, challenge lies in integrating a variety of services real time. The customer expectations would not care for challenges though – so long as some other enterprise is able to provide similar integrated services, the baseline of expectations get already set in. The key to note here is that by offering such services leveraging relevant partners/services, an enterprise protects itself from the competitive effects of digital disruptors.
Such an ecosystem of partners sharing data and services protects the players within, overall from competitive onslaught. In every industry, digital thinking for business forces non-linear thinking and the can provide disproportionate returns to the enterprise. As the Ozon case illustrates, the partners can be sometimes competitors but such arrangements done through smart working relationship frameworks can provide great agility and scalability to business and can provide endearing value to customers.For some, such outcome may not be magical – remember, it’s a journey and the game keeps improving. It’s truly transformative for some, but in ways that will feel right and sometimes may not even look so special, given that these may become second nature. Many times, we don’t realize that the future that we envisaged in the past, when it arrives look so reachable and understandable – every enterprise embarking on a digital journey, can feel that along the way, if digitalization is pursued in a vigorous way with discipline inside their respective enterprise.
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
On my flight to Boston, I came across this article titled: We Need Better Managers, Not More Technocrats from Harvard Business Review. This set me thinking for not many articles have touched the issues of digital transformation at its core, in so far what I have seen and so mentally egged me to draw this note. The part of the article that set me thinking started with the perspective: “digital technology is not the true story. Digital transformation is “and adds, “ Leaders need to engage their people in a process of redefining how they work and what their companies do. Digital transformation is therefore the key managerial imperative for today’s business leaders”. This implies that enterprises need more proactive technical and business leaders, willing to shake the tree and get deeper to challenge the established norms of doing business in their respective business. Transformation possibilities come out of beating the status quo and propelling powerful forces forward.
The article adds that those companies that get the greatest benefit are those that:
- Make smart investments in digital technology to innovate their customer engagements, and the business processes and business models that support them
- Build strong leadership capabilities to envision and drive transformation within their companies and their cultures.To my mind, to gain advantage many things need to happen at the enterprise level to deliver sustainable results. It’s not just managers alone who matter, there are a whole host of issues that enterprises will need to focus on, besides leadership commitment.Let’s now focus on what this digital transformation is all about and the range of issues and opportunities that come into interplay. What’s Digital Transformation?
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 inter twined with strategy that the two drive and reinforce each other.
Seen at one level, transformation is a proactive process that begins with a large and bold vision centered around making customer linked processed and operations to be made global class and the drive in support of this to effect appropriate changes in the environment. At the highest level, this is the common denominator that enterprises strive to achieve – call out the objective, introduce the variables (exogenic factor) and focus on transforming this into new order of creativity and innovation. To me, digital transformation, for a company board or a transformation council could look like a large scale revamp, but in reality, it is a series of coordinated number of changes – on multiple dimensions - across various attributes covering some planned, known unknowns, unknown unknowns - the coming together of this creates a deep impact and effects change, leading into a converged advantage. One can say that the commonality across different true transformation initiatives would rest on ability to think differently about set ways of functioning and willingness and ability to revisit all known models and think and act on them to change to deliver different results.
Digital Transformation is not a silver bullet, as seasoned business executives would confirm – there is no permanent state of advantage in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey. The true meaning of this journey is that the exogenic factors enables new avenues of powerful possibilities of change and too often this in turn opens the floodgates of passion, creativity and innovation. In a typical digital transformation journey, such release of convergent forces produce massive doses of change on the enterprises model of delivering value, the underpinning culture leading to authentic and visible transformative ways of doing business.
To repeat the often repeated cliché, “Progress can’t be achieved by doing the same things we’ve always done and expecting different results”. It’s plain talk : Unless new, progressive models are employed, true transformation can’t occur. Yet in the real world, its only to be seen that lag metrics centered thinking hold executives to protect the past. An Amazon’s way of thinking and action on growth, investments and customer advocacy efforts would substantially vary with most other business today. But that level of challenging set ways of thinking and busting assumptions are needed to effect true digital transformation efforts that can bring in sustainable success. From incubation to creating a large digital platform at enterprise level calls for ability to both think big and small, deep and wide, create capabilities at scale and target narrow skills in some cases. A clear plan, well thought through investment, and a rigorously focused implementations involving cross functional units are key to rope in success.
Creating an operational blueprint centered around digital ops would become a key requirement to carry forward the journey, an area mostly underfocussed on early on in the digital transformation journey – a big mistake.. A digital operation framework ties in executives to work together across functions to demonstrate early success that enterprise can build on. The to-be state of operation should appropriately balance opportunity upsides, core execution strengths and leverage differentiated business models. As the scale and maturity of adoption of digital transformation inside enterprises increase over time, it will be critical to replace guesstimates with more directly captured metrics leading to set the stage for repeatable, measurable and scalable outcomes.
Why are digital ops so important? Because early success and quantifiable returns feed more momentum and so is important to think through early enough in the enterprise digital journey. A well-executed strategy of putting in place a robust digital transformation framework would enable enterprises to
1) Optimize ROI at an earlier stage in the funding lifecycle of each initiative, and collectively across the enterprise; self-funding models are also being demanded by enterprises;
2) Bring in linkages and transparency between strategies, funding model, execution model including digital ops
3) Relentless prioritization for improved performance, value, and sustainable growth.True transformation entails transforming from outdated methods to new, more productive ways of conducting business to produce new ideas, profound change, dynamic innovation, and sustainable opportunities and all these are directed at enhancing customer experience provides lasting value.
Digital transformation is not a linear process where a step follows another in a predictable way. Parallel initiatives, competing attention needs will be the order of the day inside many enterprises. The advantage is going to be accrued by those enterprises, who envision, plan and execute well leveraging on the rapid advances in the marketplace and behold, we have not seen much here compared to what’s going to come with sensory and analytics technologies providing a whole lot of new perspectives about how much the digital transformation boundaries can be pushed. As I noted earlier, there is a need for enterprises to completely re-visualize the possibilities by becoming a digital enterprise. That calls for going beyond creating revenue by mere digital substitution. A digital strategy that focuses on specific business outcomes leveraging various forms of digital technologies can create an edge for the enterprise. It must be noted that a sustainable edge comes in where the inane physical resources mutate with the vibrant digital information to create new value. Winners in doing this 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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