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.

#InsightAdvantage

Continual service improvement – the clue’s in the name

Many organisations struggle to implement effective continual service improvement (CSI). Many purport to deliver CSI but are paying lip-service to the principle and missing the point. The clue is in the name.

Continual

CSI is not a once a year workshop that creates an actions list that sits in a dark recess on a shared drive for the next eleven months. It’s a consideration for every day. What isn’t working? What causes your team pain? You can even think of it from a selfish perspective – what bits of my job do I hate and why do I hate them? How can I improve them so I don’t hate them anymore?

Service

What you are providing is a service. It’s not a contract (though it is likely to be contractually bound). We hear more and more about customer experience yet we forget that we, as service professionals, are providing a service to our clients, not a list of activities or outputs. When considering CSI, ask yourself how your service feels to a customer and think about what you can do to make that experience better.

Improvement

Too often, people confuse change with improvement. Just changing something doesn’t make it better. When you are looking at ideas for CSI activity, make sure it is a measurable improvement. Can you articulate how it will make something better and measure the before and after so you’ll know if it had the desired effect?

It doesn’t have to be a tangible improvement like cost, speed or quality; intangible improvements that make a service feel better can be just as valuable, though you still need to measure the improvement (e.g. improved customer satisfaction scores). Either way, you must be able to define the improvement. If you can’t, then it probably isn’t an improvement. It’s just a change.

So, keeping the name in mind, why not dust down that CSI process and tear up that year-old CSI log?

Start afresh and enjoy the opportunity to be truly creative.

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.

Anticipating our workplaces of the future

An introduction to Aurora – Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning radar

Have you wondered why it’s getting harder to anticipate the future?  Do you ever wonder what our workplaces will be like five years from now?

Today’s digital world is changing more rapidly than ever. New ideas and technologies are now being created and released so quickly that patents and copyrighting can no longer keep up. A new pattern is emerging of hyper innovation – a collaborative approach to innovation where open relationships and co-operation is the key to competitive advantage.

Navigating through this constantly changing landscape has never been more difficult, and with new, potentially game-changing technologies appearing on a near daily basis it’s vital to be able to focus on what is important, to concentrate our efforts on these areas to work towards a successful future.

Here in the Aurora horizon scanning team we add that all important layer of focus to technical innovation. Through identifying a handful of the key topics which are going to shape our world in the next three to five years, we can nurture the innovative thinking and help seed new ideas which will remain relevant in this future.

Our work could not be successful were it not for the input from our colleagues, clients and partners and we are always interested in speaking to like-minded people.

To read a little more about the Aurora team, and to find out about the six topics that we are researching, please read our brief opinion on the world beyond digital.

If you’d like to get in touch and let us know your vision of the future, leave a reply below or email aurora@soprasteria.com.

Young Scot Awards 2015: celebrating young people in Scotland

Last week I was privileged to attend the 2015 Young Scot Awards in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. The night is a celebration of the success of young people in Scotland who have made various amazing contributions to the improve the lives of people in their communities.  A suite of celebrities were involved in the hosting and presentation of the awards, including Edith Bowman, the band Prides (definitely the loudest contributors, especially from my seat), Conor Maynard, Stevia McCrorie and Pudsey the Dog (the only one I recognised …). young-scot-performingFrom our table in the front row we got the full 360 degree sound experience – music to front and screaming to the rear. All the nominees and winners were very impressive, with the overall award going to Jak Truman for his inspirational fund raising efforts before his untimely death from cancer in February 2015.

The event made me think about the importance of young people to a company like Sopra Steria. Every year we recruit a significant number of graduates into all areas of the company (104 under 24s in 2014). Working with young people challenges us all to take a fresh approach to our work. Our graduates are invariably keen, work hard, liven things up, and bring a fresh perspective to digital technologies. Some of our projects may not involve the sort of systems they imagined they would work on while at university, e.g. paying farmer’s claims, court case management solutions and prison management systems but they always adapt quickly and successfully (although without the reward of meeting Pudsey).

All our graduates start with an induction programme and then move on to work on various projects, potentially involving a range of technologies and types of clients. We make sure our graduates have more experienced people to mentor them, as well as a buddy to help them settle in. See information about our Graduate opportunities.

In a similar way the Young Scot Awards show that with a little support and encouragement young people can achieve great things and make a real difference.

Many thanks to my hosts SOLACE (the UK representative body for Local Authority Chief Executives), Young Scot for organising a very inspiring and professional event, and above all to the many fantastic young people who were nominated for, and won, the awards.

On a personal note, my 16 year old daughter is part of a Young Scot focus group and was also enjoying the show. However no thanks for the text telling me I looked bald from her seat in the Grand Circle.

Don’t let ITIL get in your eyes

Driving to work today, the sun was low in the sky and it made it hard to see clearly.  Pulling down the sun visor helped but if you’re like me – vertically challenged – it can have a limited effect.  So it was a difficult journey because the sunshine, though welcome, obscured the view.

I think ITIL can be like that sometimes.

Some people worship at the altar of ITIL as though it is there to be obeyed at all costs. You must do it like this; you must have this process in place; you must implement this tool.

In our desire to adopt ITIL, we forget that ITIL was never set up to be a religion. ITIL is guidance, not God.

As a consultant, it can be easier to step back and see the bigger picture, because we are not caught up in the weeds of day-to-day service operations. The flipside is that we can be a bit evangelical and over-zealous.  And that’s where the balance needs to be struck.

In reality, a full-blown incident management solution is great, but if a spreadsheet and a one-page procedure will do, then we need to suggest that. Not deliver two-hundred pages of shelf-ware and a sexy top of the range piece of kit that takes months to implement.

A good consultant will know the Albert Einstein quote and suggest a solution that “should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”; one that will get you started on the right path and will lead you to the promised land of an ITIL-aligned solution that best serves your business’s needs.

Rather than being blinded by the ITIL sunshine, if your sun visor does not provide adequate shade, a cushion on your seat can be a better solution than hiring a chauffeur or buying a new car.

The UX “snowball effect”

How transforming the user experience can deliver rapid, ever-increasing business benefits

A key strength of applying a user centric Agile approach to digital transformation is that it can deliver incremental improvements to the customer and employee experience without having to reconfigure an organisation’s entire operating model “all at once”.  Furthermore this approach can enable further benefits to be potentially realised across the whole business.

These improvements alone may not always generate great bottom line benefits for different organisational stakeholders, but cumulatively they can have a massive (“snowballing”) sustainable impact.  Also this approach may be the only way smaller organisations can realise the benefits of digital ways of working and technology at an acceptable level of risk.

Here’s an example of how this UX snowball effect could potentially deliver the tangible business benefits of digital transformation in less than one year for a medium sized high street and on-line retailer (note all change activities described in this scenario are tactical, not strategic):

  1. An on-line channel requires users to complete a free text form; the process is cumbersome for customers leading to a significant number of complaints and drop-out to off-line sales channels. Based on customer and service centre feedback, the onsite UX team designed and implemented a new on-line form that uses drop down menus. This made the process of completing the form for all users easier and more responsive – and resulted in more on-line purchases and a reduction in complaints
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score 
  2. Because the UX team used Agile to deliver this user experience enhancement quickly in collaboration with the customer service centre management team, these stakeholders were able to rationalise back office capabilities in parallel that generated cost efficiencies
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve 
  3. The significantly reduced admin burden meant sales staff could focus on higher value engagement activities such as engaging new customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition 
  4. The user-friendly on-line form also enabled cleaner, more accurate data to be collected about customers’ browsing and purchasing behaviour; using money saved from back office efficiencies, managers invested in analytics/reporting tools to create a better understanding of customer needs based on this deeper information. This insight meant the company could pro-actively respond to the changing demands of individual customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation 
  5. Using insights gathered from the data analysis, marketing were able to use this evidence to build a business case for new innovative services that addressed genuine gaps in the market
    Total UX “snowball benefits” realised in one year: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation + lower risk diversification

…And all resulting from innovating the user experience for completing an on-line form!

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice