Changing the conversation from Big Data to insight advantage

With Big Data once again we in the IT industry are falling into the same old trap of talking about inputs (volume, velocity, variety and veracity) and technology (Hadoop, Spark) rather than the desired outcomes. No wonder then that analyst groups are reporting that only a tiny fraction of Big Data proofs of concept are being industrialised and put into production.

On one level this is understandable – talking about outcomes can seem a little dry.  Highlighting the potential for revenue gains or cost savings or reducing risk (of future costs or revenue losses); or indeed the underlying elements – such as operational excellence or an enhanced customer experience – that will deliver those financial gains can seem as if the same old story is being recycled. Consequently it is much more exciting to talk about what is new, which is why the technology always seems so exciting.

But this time there is a difference. We live in the information age and work in the knowledge economy. Insight is the lubricant of both and the most sustainable advantage any business can have is better insight than its competitors. And by better I mean in breadth, depth, accuracy and timeliness.

The good thing about Big Data is that data – the raw material for insight – is in vogue when for ages it has just been seen as digital exhaust. But to make the most of the transformational opportunity that is available, we need to steer the conversation away from Big Data to what it enables, strategically. We need to use the excitement about unstructured data and the internet of things to seed the concept of insight advantage in commercial consciousness.

I believe there are six steps to achieving insight advantage. Read my article outlining those steps – the first in a series of pieces that will be published over the next couple of months.


IoE: the ultimate digital transformation benefits accelerator?

IoE – Internet of Everything (a term defined by Cisco) – is where networked sensors, data, processes and people combine to replicate the five human senses to deliver customer and business services intelligently. It’s an exciting approach to digital transformation that has already delivered some fantastic outcomes – like heating fuel efficiency, telematics-driven car insurance and smarter cities.

But what is the potential for IoE as a tool to measure the tangible and intangible benefits of digital transformation across on-line and off-line sales channels – simultaneously, instantly – to deliver competitive advantage?

Digital transformation approaches, such as the user-centric Agile design of on-line sales channels, have already radically disrupted traditional methods of benefits realisation like payback, where value is based on the forecast time it takes a proposed change to recover the costs of its investment. This is because Agile applies continuous user feedback to drive the rapid, iterative improvement of a product or service. Consequently, an outcome such as payback may be realised quickly and cumulatively over a series of releases rather than as a long-term fixed event.

Furthermore, this approach enables the explicit linking of hard financial outcomes like payback to soft, intangible benefits like the intrinsic value of a personalised user experience. This is because these enhancements successfully deliver increased sales revenue by responding effectively to individual customer needs based on a range of instantly available data like user testing, marketing feedback and social media trends.

A key factor in the success of this approach is that an on-line sales channel is a highly controllable environment versus other channels like stores or call centres – all customers have to engage through the same small number of portals (or platforms) making the process of collecting data and responding personally less problematic than these off-line channels that require individual physical interactions in different, variable environments.

However, IoE could provide the tools to simultaneously, instantly measure the off-line customer or employee experience in ways that are comparable, aligned to on-line channel measurements. This (big?) data would then drive the user-centric Agile design of a truly seamless, responsive onmichannel experience (and consequently enable the acceleration of linked hard and soft digital transformation benefits).   Here are some ideas…

  • Sight: is customer in-store browsing (across potentially hundreds of locations) materially different to on-line behaviour during the same day? What benefits are realised when retail stores implement rapid changes to their physical layouts that match on-line channel enhancements simultaneously?
  • Hearing: how are thousands of customers reacting in store and on the phone about a product that’s receiving adverse social media reaction that started trending an hour ago? Does it align to on-line feedback? Can this collective insight be used to enable the right social media response across all channels to defuse the issue?
  • Taste: does a food product taste the same across hundreds of stores in a given day? What is the variation of quality of this product when it’s provisioned by different suppliers across different geographies? How can this real-time quality data drive consistent performance and the right pricing from multiple suppliers?
  • Touch: what impact does local temperature have on customer mood and employee sales activity? If there is a change in the weather should employees in stores or call centres be immediately directed to behave differently to help personalise off-line customer engagement? How could this also inform enhancements to the on-line user experience at the same time?
  • Smell: do all stores “smell” the same during the same day? How does this environmental factor impact customer behaviour? Is there a way of connecting/associating products with “positive” smells with the on-line user experience (for example, the use of colours that may carry the same connotations)?

If you would like to find out more about how Digital Transformation can benefit your business please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Digital 2030: user controlled contextualisation?

Contextualisation – the art of successfully blending positioning, relationship and emotional data together to deliver a unique, personalised user experience across all channels – is expected to be a key differentiator for many companies in 2015. But what might contextualisation be like for users in 2030?

In 2030 I don’t have a smartphone – miniaturisation means all information I need (and control) is transmitted straight into my digital contact lenses (the ultimate wearable?) and micro headphones implanted in my ears.  My own personal drone provides me digital connections around the world including a secure continuous link to my cloud AI – my guide, advisor and friend throughout any customer journey.

In 2030 I shape my physical environment using augmented AND virtual reality together – if I want to make a call I use my virtual phone; likewise I can project any content I want on to any surface and share it with friends and other people in any size or resolution. The physical and data worlds are combined and I am completely in control using my cloud AI to make my life as simple as possible and protect me from real or cyber threats.

In 2030 I use contextualisation to add layers on to my customer experience – when I go shopping my cloud AI has already scanned all relevant data sources (including my own mood and friends’ social feeds) to tell me what’s hot or not in my specific location. I can also heat-map previous visits on to the physical space to see what has interested me and my friends before. If the shop doesn’t have what I want I can create a virtual prototype of the product right in front of the retail staff (with help from my AI) to help them visualise and fulfil my needs.  And of course, I don’t take any goods home with me: paid-for digital assets are stored on my cloud AI and created at home instantly on my own 3D printer.

My entire customer experience is powered by location, transactional and social data that I apply in ANY space to create my personalised, unique experience – ‘user controlled contextualisation’.

So what could this digital dream mean for business?

Marketing serves (rather than influences) individual users – to be successful, marketing differentiates itself in terms of the services it can provide users to enable them to tell their own contextualised data powered stories

Retail Spaces could be located anywhere (physical or virtual) – staff will be fully mobilised to move to areas of high user demand as required or could be outsourced anywhere in the world

A complete re-focusing of the supply chain – suppliers will have to radically re-organise their value chain and operating model to enable individuals to manufacture their products on personal demand

Software as a service is king – products and services are developed, marketed and sold primarily as soft digital assets all driven by software/SOA that can adapt instantly to any platform of the individual user’s choosing

Telecommunications become cyber security service providers  – because individuals are managing their own personal data communications across networks they are at constant risk of direct attack. Consequently, telco companies are continually, and fiercely, innovating their security capabilities (including drone services) to protect users

Pure fantasy? Let me know what you think…

Why digital transformation? My current three key questions – what are yours?

i) What things CAN’T your customers or employees do on their own mobiles to use or serve your products and services?

ii) Do you have one application that gives your employees all the RIGHT information about the relationship you have with a specific customer or client?

iii) Is there is one area of your business (no matter how small or large) that if improved to WORK SMARTER could deliver big benefits quickly for customers and/or employees?

Answering one or more of these questions can help a client find the critical pain points that could be addressed using new ways of working supported by digital technology – the power of digital transformation!

Let me know your top three…

Championing the cause for small data

There has been much said and discussed about Big Data; combined with advanced analytics it is indeed a powerful set of techniques and does allow an incredible insight into customer behaviour and needs with the ability to gain control of previously impenetrable piles of information.

I would, however, like to champion a new cause: Small Data. The fundamental problem with Big Data as an applied science is that it is designed first and foremost to benefit the business that is selling or serving the customer. Loyalty cards may have direct consumer benefits, but the insights and power that is gained by the retailer is disproportionate. It’s why many consumers are turning away from yet another card (or app) to carry with them, to manage their points and to feel frustrated when the offer has just expired or the card is left at home. Likewise insights into seasonal, geographical or product based segmentation patterns can be of great use to a business, but why does a customer care? Indirectly the consumer may benefit from this as store patterns evolve, new products are introduced and contact centre handling times may change, but being counted as an aggregated statistic does not bring good customer experience as a direct consequence.

The data that interest customers is their data, their “world” – small data that is focused around their needs and wants:

  • It’s data that differentiates them
  • It’s data that makes it personal, but not too personal, depending on individual perceptions
  • It’s data that helps drive a good customer experience at the moments of truth

If businesses and organisations can see the whole experience from the customers’ perspective and experiences, then the collective whole – the big data picture – would be a summation of great customer experiences that would truly provide insight. It would make the customer feel that they were not just contributing to a gigantic data machine to increase the bottom line of a company, but give them recognition that each small sale and each good customer service interaction builds the experience that big data can then record as a true revolution in how to use data with the customer at the centre.