Convenience, Integration, Context: the retail store experience 2020?

As retailers exploit the opportunities offered by digital technology and ways of working to innovate their in-store customer experience; what might this look and feel like in 2020? Here are some ideas…

Convenience: The way customers physically purchase products will be as seamless as any digital channel experience and critically will encourage them not to use their smartphone (a distraction from the real world in-store environment that also brings competitors’ offerings within easy reach). In 2020, a customer can simply touch a button on the product itself or its point of sale display to purchase it instantly – like a biometric version of Amazon’s Dash Button technology that carries out the transaction authorised by the customer’s fingerprint. This simple, convenient process also means a customer doesn’t have the hassle of queuing up at a till – freeing up their time to explore the physical retail space further.

Integration:  Delivery of purchased in-store products will rival any experience an online retailer can offer. Content such as films, music, books are downloaded immediately to the customer’s device of choice. Large and small physical goods can be dispatched from a warehouse and delivered direct to a customer’s home the same day (a service available today that is rapidly growing in scale led by retailers such as Argos). And because items can be sourced direct from distribution; the Retailer can lever greater supply chain efficiencies (such as reduced in-store inventory costs) to drive competitive, dynamic pricing to continually challenge competitors.

High Street retailers are already using cloud-driven big data analytics to accelerate and rationalise their own supply chain operations (for example, Zara levers such capabilities to achieve product lead times as short as two weeks from catwalk design to store). Further application of this “tech company” approach to achieve deeper supply chain and channel management integration could enable a fully converged physical and digital retail experience in 2020 that constantly exceeds customer expectations.

Context: Relevance with be a key way the in-store experience differentiates itself from digital-only channels in 2020. Whereas online personalisation arguably means funnelling a customer to a specific area of interest, a High Street retailer can also use other dynamic data and insights to enrich and contextualise this experience to create unique moments of delight only possible in the physical store environment.

By a customer choosing to share data (such as transmitting their location via their mobile’s Bluetooth capability to in-store beacons), the retailer can identify what product ranges he or she is browsing to trigger nearby interactive display screens that present more in-depth information about those items, share social media content such as user reviews or allocate a sales person to provide advice. Because the customer is in the physical retail space they are in complete control of their personalised shopping experience – moving to areas of interest based on their emotional reaction to the world around them without the limitations or constraints of a smartphone user interface. Nike’s emerging Fuel Station interactive store concept, where customers can choose to engage in different contextual situations (such as having their running style analysed when using an in-store treadmill to identify the right running shoes to enhance their performance) is one example of the potential power of in-store contextualisation that can’t be replicated digitally.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Digital security: battening down the hatches in a sea of data

by Torsten Saemann, Sopra Steria GmbH

Digitalisation without the use of modern technologies? Inconceivable! With cloud computing, the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming part of our everyday life. It seems like magic that we can call up practically everything known to man with tools that fit in our pocket. With a few clicks we can summon items to our front door that are produced at the other end of the world. So far so good. However, nobody seems to be interested in the fact that the technological structures of the digital world are shaky and insecure.

This is precisely how Frank Rieger of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) sees things. On Spiegel Online he explains the fragility of the foundations of Industry 4.0 by means of the following comparison:

The pillars of the world in the dawning digital age are crumbling. The technologies on which the networking of everyday life and the flows of information that drive the economy are based are more like temporary wooden frames than solid steel constructions. Generally everything functions – provided no-one jolts on the boards or saws through a beam.

Avoid flying blind during digitalisation

These digital wooden frames result in all sorts of security loopholes. They are the result of poorly written software. Programmers make errors – this much we know. However, it is frequently the case that IT management in German companies is, consciously or sub-consciously, heading towards unknown risks. Our study on the topic of digital security proves this. One third of all IT decision-makers in Germany are even implementing technologies when the IT risks are completely unknown.

Dr. Gerald Spiegel, Head of Information Security Solutions at Sopra Steria Consulting finds this insight shocking: “The fact that such a large number of IT decision-makers are, as it were, flying blind in their approach to digitalisation is worrying. The behaviour within the manufacturing sector is particularly rash – and this in spite of the fact that industrial plants increasingly fall victim to cyber attacks.” The prospects facing a digitalised economy are far from good if German companies are exposed to the danger of cyber attacks, in some cases with no protection whatsoever.

Digital negligence in German companies

The lack of initiative in many companies when it comes to protection against cyber attacks is disastrous. According to our study, this is the opinion of 85 percent of IT decision-makers. The fact that it is in particular board members and managing directors that play down the risk of cyber attacks is, given the liability risk, incomprehensible. Here the companies are fully aware of the digital weak points. And it is conceivable that their dependency on digital systems will continue to grow exponentially. Maintaining a high rate of innovation while simultaneously reducing IT costs just doesn’t work.

Adjusting investment in digital security to suit the rate of innovation

But how can you convert wooden structures into steel? When driving forward the digitalisation and automation of processes, companies should err on the side of caution. This includes pushing the introduction and implementation of a company-wide IT security strategy. This strategy must lay out the most important information security objectives and the principles for their implementation.

The IT security strategy should also address trends and new technologies. And this must take place on a continuous basis. The IT department must ensure that a security concept is submitted to the specialist department prior to an application or IT system “going live”. Furthermore, security-relevant programming errors can be avoided through the use of secure programming languages. Penetration tests for applications and IT systems – following a release change for example – are another important security component.

Digital excellence built on digital security

The digitalisation of the economy brings with it new and far-reaching challenges regarding the digital security within a company. Cyber attacks on IT infrastructures are becoming increasingly more complex and professionally executed. And they happen on a daily basis. Defensive measures are costly and require time. However, they are beneficial and necessary. Promoting a slower, but more digitally secure approach within IT departments and in front of board members certainly isn’t cool, but in the long term it is definitely the better strategy.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Discover more about our experience in delivering secure services to protect information, applications, infrastructures and people.

The Liquid Big Data Platform – a digital business model for all organisations?

A Liquid Big Data Platform uses cloud technology and agile ways of working to enable organisations to share and analyse large volumes of data together for their mutual benefit.

If this model is scaled to a global level where any organisation (both large and small) anywhere in the world could use it collaboratively, what new business models could potentially emerge?

Here are some ideas…

Accelerated design advantage

Many organisations are already exploiting Big Data driven Machine Learning to improve their services in real time (such as search engine optimisation, medical diagnosis and fraud detection).

In the so-called “arms race”, big name tech, automotive and pharmaceutical companies are reportedly spending billions of dollars annually to realise their own IP in this area of Artificial Intelligence. A potential strategic implication is that these first movers will create barriers of entry that prevent other competitors (including small or medium sized enterprises) using AI as a disruptive source of rapid, responsive service design and organisational agility.

A global Liquid Big Data Platform could enable a form of co-opetition between these competitors to realise shared Machine Learning capabilities as a source of competitive advantage that would be unfeasible using their own limited resources. Also, by sharing with each other data or insights about their customers or services could lead to forms of innovation first movers can’t deliver in their silo positions.

Public sector power house

In the UK, health and social care organisations are exploring ways to share Big Data collaboratively to deliver better outcomes for their service users and wider society. A key technical challenge they face is interoperability – the ability of different systems to talk to each other effectively – as their data is often on different legacy networks and applications arguably not originally designed for such a cross-boundary approach.

A cloud-based Liquid Big Data Platform could enable these organisations to overcome these technical barriers to focus on the real value of this business model – joined up preventative and reactive care delivery. Also, if this platform is scalable it could enable organisations with the right analytical capabilities to efficiently power such services in other countries – global collaboration as a source of public service improvement.

Global cost optimiser

Many organisations are migrating their IT assets to cloud to enable cost savings and increased market responsiveness. This includes applications, data and other digital assets that are the source of their competitive advantage. For example, many digital disruptors exploit cloud capabilities to create platforms for services across different countries or the emergence of government transactional services on one shared platform.

An agile Liquid Big Data Platform could continually optimise such benefits by seamlessly moving these assets to different geographies or markets that offer the lowest costs and best support.  For example it could be continually transferring hosting services to different countries with the most favourable exchange rates or where there are higher skilled technical development resources.

If you would like more information about how Big Data can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

The use of technology to improve health care outcomes

Knowledge, it is said, is power. The advent of wearable health monitoring devices is being seen as an enabler to promote healthy outcomes through the use of technology. Giving one the ability to track a diverse range of health indicators from sleep patterns and calorie monitoring has meant we now are capable of having real-time personal monitoring tools that potentially could improve our health and well-being outcomes.

However, unlike the next consumer gimmick, these devices are already beginning to have an impact on the health sector, with the ability to disrupt the traditional reactive patient treatment health care model. Recent studies show that the use of healthcare apps for Apple devices is growing more than 80% faster than the apps in the entire mobile industry.

But that’s not all…the use of these devices and the data harnessed by them has the potential to reach out and revolutionise patient care, to a much greater audience than those who want solely to measure their day-to-day exercise progress or calorie intake. Numerous examples are out there, but there are a couple that I want to share with you:

  • Accessing a patient’s electronic health record and broadcasting it to Google Glass, for example, allows a clinician to view patient data, including lab data and vital signs without the need to divert away to a computer
  • Linking a patient’s personal health data recorded on a wearable device to an electronic patient record (epr) in a clinic/hospital setting. Apple is working with a number of suppliers, towards transferring data between Apple’s Health Kit platform and the epr. Medical professionals could use the ‘right data’ to detect patient warning signs more easily and prevent diseases and complications before they worsen rather than reacting to them after they occur
  • Intel’s funded partnership with the Michael J Fox Foundation to research into improving the monitoring of Parkinson’s disease. Through the use of wearable technology, patient data is collected to measure symptoms and track the disease’s progression. Data collected from patients, for example, following a new therapy routine or taking new medication and the effects this has on movement frequency may lead to further insights into the disease

Whilst wearable device technology is attracting much interest in the health sector, it’s important that we do not lose sight that technology alone will not solve the sector’s problems – I have seen this many times where today’s tech becomes tomorrow’s doorstop.

The sector needs to look at ways to ensure that through the use of technology, society at large will benefit (…and assuming regulatory issues, buy-in from heath care professionals and personal privacy concerns amongst others can be resolved – but that’s for another blog!).

There needs to be a clear focus on the “meaningful” data to be targeted to improve specific health outcomes, otherwise the market will remain dominated by fad and noise and more big data. Technology should be aligned to areas e.g. chronic illness such as diabetes, or epilepsy where it can help shift from a reactionary care model to predictive and preventive care, leading potentially to a reduction in patient visits to surgeries/hospitals. This may in turn aid to the reduction in long term patient health costs.

Finally, it’s worth noting that at a recent conference I attended one of the speakers outlined that just under 2% of Scotland’s population account for approximately 50% of health expenditure; many of these will be chronic patients for whom these technologies may benefit greatly.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Interoperability and information sharing

Experiences of early adopters in information sharing have not found the path to be as straight forward as first envisaged. Through their efforts and lessons learnt, we can now share some of the pain points and critical success factors encountered along the way towards a holistic approach for treatment. These lists are not exhaustive but provide some of the inputs and opinions collated.

Pain points:

  1. Who is driving the change – e.g., dominance of health “medical model” over social “care model”
  2. Differing work cultures between health and social care
  3. Financial funding arrangements of agencies
  4. Inadequate technical infrastructure to enable a cohesive working
  5. IT skills gap for some workers
  6. A major concern around confidentiality, data protection and privacy of the patient/ client
  7. The costs and risk factors associated with integrating data
  8. Constructing large databases

Critical success factors:

  1. Developing integrated datasets and information systems
  2. Alignment of financial incentives, and sharing benefits and risks
  3. Developing an integrated workforce and culture
  4. Scope defined and managed by a centrally governed design authority
  5. Enterprise Architecture operations within transformation program governance
  6. Anticipate the demands of the business transition
  7. Deep and wide stakeholder involvement
  8. Mature Digital platform – application integration and ‘model office’
  9. Developing IT service operating models for end-to-end not just a single client organisation

Considering both these pain points and critical success factors show us that for successful information sharing, we need a set of standards.

For years NHS England, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and their previous incumbents have been advising on interoperability standards. As a result the development of the Interoperability Toolkit (ITK) was introduced for the NHS. This has been beneficial to system integrators by adopting the standard through ITK compliance. Further developments have seen a shift towards Open Interoperability and suppliers of systems providing Open APIs, which have become necessary as the ITK was initially developed for healthcare systems.  However in the age of Digital Integrated Care it has become necessary for disparate systems particularly in social care, community services, OOH/111/999, etc., for information sharing to be accessible at the point of need.

The creation of a virtual record enables vital information to be retrieved in real-time, a care plan formulated, and appropriate actions taken to provide immediate help.  This implies that retrieval and collation of the above information to form the virtual record resides on the end-user health and social care systems. In this context, following a period agreed by partners (multi agency/professional teams…) – for example 24 hours – the virtual record will expire, and no database or repository has been created.

The initiatives and approach in Scotland (the refreshed eHealth Strategy 2014- 2017) and Wales (Health Social Care and Wellbeing Strategies 2011-14) are also good examples:

  • Scotland Ayrshire Councils, in partnership with NHS Ayrshire, have developed a system (AYRShare) enabling effective, timely and secure sharing of information to help address concerns about the well-being and protection of children and young people
  • The Welsh Government is seeing real progress through the ‘Community Care Information Solution’ which allows information to be shared “instantly” across different Welsh health and social services. The first deployment is scheduled for later in 2015 in Bridgend County Borough Council to health, social services, mental health, therapy and community services. Other projects that have benefited Wales are data sharing and matching trial to identify vulnerable citizens
  • NHS England has also started exploring some of the processes and ways of working for adoption in their own programmes

Citizens and patients are willing to share information across care settings if they feel it benefits their health and well-being, but are keen to still have the option of opting in/out.

These guidelines provide an Information Sharing Framework to work with and a set of early learnings from others that are collated below for easy reference. Each section contains a list of key considerations:

  1. Business requirements – ensuring that agreement is reached by stakeholders, estimating the size of the project and how much it is going to cost. At the enterprise level it must meet the organizational objectives and still be solution independent
  2. Outcomes – the results of the work carried out in delivering a solution and could be, for example, supporting the integration of care across a health and social care – a Portal Solution
  3. Governance – this context would be around Information Governance and that all parties involved in meeting the requirements of minimal data persistence for the portal solution
  4. Agreements – in most cases the framework agreement as part of a selection criteria process during the tender phase and prior to the supplier being awarded the contract
  5. Legal Considerations – generally applying to and covering
    – consent/informed refusal
    – opt in/out
    – beginning of life
    – end of life care
    – safeguarding
    – accountability
    – negligence
  6. Organisational considerations – aligning their IT Strategies, roles and responsibilities, maturity
  7. Informatics considerations – data sharing and migration planning – the information systems (data and application) and technology architectures

We share information every day of our lives through social media and the internet, but yet when it comes to sharing health and social care information we see and experience blockers. In addition, there exists an age divide in terms of competency in the use of technology, particularly in the elderly as mobile interoperability becomes a the more accepted way in sharing of this information.

What do you consider as some of the critical success factors and pain points in the delivery of Integrated Care? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

An ugly word, but the source of all human progress

‘Datafication’ is a newly invented word, and like many of that ilk it is painful on the ear and embarrassing on the tongue. But for all its ugliness, what it describes – the creation of data through the extraction of measurable features from the unstructured information that surrounds us and quantifying, classifying or categorising them – is arguably the single biggest contributor to human progress.  Datafication has delivered the numeral system, maps and double-entry book-keeping; underpins the scientific method, statistical inference and ratio visualisations; without which the world we live in would be far less advanced.

“So what?”, you may say. These things were happening long before a few neurons got overexcited and the word datafication was born. Why is it important?

The simple answer is that in the digital age the rate of datafication is accelerating.  The ability to capture information from the world around us via digital technology, quantify it and pattern match it with other data is unprecedented. These new forms of data will become an increasingly important source as we seek to predict rather than simply understand. As any data scientist will tell you, the broader and more complete the set of data a model is based on, the more accurate it will be.

Even something as abstract as human behaviour can be quantified; how is covered in my latest article on insight advantage.

In this article, I use the example of someone being interviewed regarding a crime, but the same principles apply in different situations, for example to identify genuine buyers who need help in making their purchase decision from browsers who have no intention of buying and where sales effort will be wasted or shoplifters who need to be encouraged to leave. More obviously the same applies with on-line behaviour. And the organisations that are best able to collect and analyse this diffuse information about customer behaviours will be the ones that end up with insight advantage.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Data: exhaust rather than oil but key to turbocharging performance

My likening data to a by-product of combustion rather than its fuel may seem strange, especially as I have argued that superior data-driven insight is the most sustainable source of competitive advantage in the knowledge economy.

Analogies can help our thinking in two ways – firstly grabbing attention to change a mind set; secondly changing the way we think to support behaviour changes. In the context of the latter, analogies are a staple for therapists – as anyone who has recently visited a physio or other therapist will probably remember. And given the continuing need for organisations to change – whether by continuous improvement or more radical transformation – analogies of the second type are a valuable enabler in business.

Data as the new oil fits into the first type of analogy. It’s memorable, signals value (both fuel and lubricant to the global economy) with some eco-friendly overtones (the age of oil is over). So it stands out. But does it help beyond that?  Not really.  There may appear to be some mileage in the refining idea. But crude oil is refined into multiple different products – jet fuel at the top end of the quality spectrum and bitumen at the bottom with petrol, diesel, gas, lubricants, marine fuel and liquified gas coming somewhere in between – all of which are then sold to different types of customers. Outside organisations that specialise in data monetisation, the data as oil analogy doesn’t really stretch into anything that has practical application.

A far more useful analogy is seeing data as digital exhaust. Automotive exhaust was originally collected and treated in catalytic converters to meet emission controls. Similarly data in organisations has traditionally been collected to meet regulatory requirements – financial reporting, compliance, etc. Catalytic converters were replaced by turbochargers which didn’t just ensure that regulatory requirements were met, they recycled exhaust emissions to improve performance.  And turbocharging technology has developed to such a level that a small car can achieve 60 mpg driving across a town while emitting cleaner air than it takes in.

In the case of digital exhaust, the turbocharger age is just beginning.  The organisations who achieve superior performance will be the ones that recycle data most effectively to reduce costs while providing a superior experience to customers (and other stakeholders), differentiating them from competitors and driving growth in revenues and investment returns.

Read my article describing how businesses can build a data turbocharger to enable insight advantage can be found here:

What are your views? Leave  a reply below or contact me by email
photo credit: TURBO R via photopin (license)