CompuCom - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 2
Page: 1 | 2
In today’s workplace, there is a wider range of devices and an increasing number of devices per person than ever before. IT has its hands full, to say the least, and different operating systems and custom apps have become an operational nightmare. This is because IT departments lack a consistent process for testing new devices and operating systems (OS) against the apps they’ve already written for a device using a previous version of an OS – and wind up behind the curve. It happens often – IT goes through the trouble of writing an app for a specific device type and it works well, but when the OS gets updated, there’s potential to break the app. This understandably becomes a major frustration for end users and for IT.
Retailers, in particular, tend to write apps specific to device types, creating a huge burden on IT. Consider a major retail chain with 68,000 iOS devices in its stores. The IT organization has many apps written for those devices, some of which are employee-facing, such as tablets to look up inventory, and some are client-facing, like kiosk-based apps. When an OS gets updated, there isn’t an out-of-the box efficient way to test all these apps, especially when end users often have the ability to update the OS on their own, without IT’s involvement.
When you head down the path of developing apps and/or services around a specific device type, you need an efficient way of introducing that device into your environment: How will you secure, provision, kit, configure and operate/update it on a daily basis?
Think about this scenario: In the world of mobility, device type and physical size are also important considerations. Increasingly, we’re seeing that if original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) don’t test all the peripherals that end-user companies use, they wind up confusing and upsetting IT folks in those industries.
For example, if a retail organization writes a barcode-scanning app for its employees then learns a few months later that the device manufacturer is going to change the format of the device, all the peripherals the company has invested in no longer fit. This happens a lot. Make sure when you’re talking to OEMs and suppliers that you work together to ensure devices being deployed will be what you need, not just today but down the road.
The key is developing an easy, well-managed process to ensure that devices are set up properly the first time, with the right policies layered on. This consumer device that is “pseudo-managed” before it even hits your IT environment now becomes an enterprise-friendly device.
IT organizations need to leverage the same governance and same process on the mobile side that they’ve used in the Windows space for a long time. These are no longer telecom devices, they’re enterprise endpoints like everything else you manage.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen mobility management develop from almost a side job in IT to a point where entire teams are responsible for determining the best way to introduce mobile devices into an environment, updating them properly and, just as important, ensuring they are using the right devices in the right situations. In the past, Windows devices all worked more or less same way. Today, you may be using Android, Windows and iOS. How do you manage all those and bring in new types of devices as they hit the market and employees demand them? It is crucial to set up a methodology within your IT organization to test new devices effectively and quickly.
We may have our own ideas of what end users want, but it’s up to IT to make sure the apps and data are secure, and that IT gets out of forcing business units to use a certain device type. Telling users they can’t use the device they want to use can be the nail in IT’s coffin. So how do you become flexible enough to offer different devices while maintaining data security? Historically, IT teams have not been staffed to make recommendations to their end users.
How much risk are you comfortable with? IT organizations may benefit from having an outside organization evaluate risk tolerance. Based on that evaluation, recommendations can be made about which types of solutions, security and governance will and won’t work. These types of conversations often help IT teams get out of their own way and make real progress to move beyond deployment mode.
Imagine your organization needs 1,000 iPads. How do you ensure those devices are available at the time you need them deployed, and then are effectively managed? The ability to purchase them through a specialized distribution partner brings a distinct advantage, since the warranty on those tablets doesn’t begin until they’re deployed, not when they’re purchased. And navigating the maintenance of such devices can best be left to mobility managed service providers – enabling IT to focus on driving its business strategy.
I’m not the only one suggesting the outsourcing of mobility services: In a recent article, Eric Klein of VDC Research said, “…outsourcing could reduce support costs and even improve the way internal employees view the IT department. At a high level, moving to managed mobility services often means reducing the cost of deploying and managing the mobile environment... Third parties can reduce the complexity of managing and securing mobile deployments, while helping IT deliver the level of service they require for business-critical mobility.”
Navigating the challenges of managing enterprise mobility management with proper IT governance, can be time consuming. At a time when IT is already stretched thin, experts are available to provide rapid help with these challenges.
What are your thoughts on mobility management? I look forward to your comments and questions.
Publish Date: June 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Technology moved us from bank tellers to ATMs to mobile banking, airline agents to airport kiosks and photo drive-throughs (remember Fotomat?) to digital prints. We’ve embraced self-service everywhere it makes sense, but one place not so aggressively ─ the tech industry that created these advancements.
We have to ask ourselves, in a technology-enabled society that has moved from interacting with people (person to person) to interacting with machines, why has IT not more actively advanced our service models? This is beginning to change, fortunately, and I expect that in the next 18-24 months, most of the managed services industry will begin leveraging new engagement and automation models to improve the service experience and reduce the costs of support by changing the mix of engagement.
In the current virtual service desk model, employees or customers call for support, often in what I call a Help Desk Moment when they are gripped with panic because the technology they depend on to do their work has failed. They call the Help Desk, have a conversation about what’s wrong and receive an incident number that goes into a queue before they get assistance. Is that what people really need in that moment of frustration? Do they want a number or do they want a solution that is accessible in a way that suits them as a performer and meets their needs in the situation they face?
You don’t follow that process to walk into a retail store for help, or to order from Amazon. Think about walking into Macy’s and being given a number before someone waits on you ─ not acceptable. Whether you talk to a salesperson, someone stocking shelves or a Customer Care manager, you want a quick response. The same scenario has to exist when an end user needs help from IT and the technologies exist to make it so.
It won’t be long before users can choose a self-service interface or pick up the phone and have someone digitally assist them, or walk up to a facility and gain resolution in a digitally directed mechanism, where customer care reps in a physical facility will leverage technology on the individual’s behalf. People will obtain the support they need or want at the time and place and of their own choosing.
Getting to this point starts with changing our thinking about service. Right now we think about Service Desk, self-service and walk-up services each as individual entities, but they are not. They’re components of a continuum to help performers achieve their objectives by leveraging technologies in an efficient, expedient way. When we thread together the service desk, self-service and walk-up services, they transform from separate entities into a service enablement continuum, a virtual service platform where users will be able to choose the support channel appropriate to their need, persona and situation, boosting end-user experience and satisfaction. IT will able to deliver a channel of communication and delivery that the user desires.
Ultimately, it's possible and reasonable to think that the Service Desk as we know it will disappear, melting into this continuum of engagement models.
What this means for the Service Desk industry is that our obsession with traditional service frameworks such as coin sorter, FIFO stack delivery model, will disappear and be replaced by these new forms of engagement and automation.
Will we ever get to zero-people support? It’s fair to expect that we’ll never eliminate all people support because there are classes of users who still want it. Yet digital mechanisms will continue to get smarter and smarter as technologies advance, including scripting technologies, evolving from scripting technologies to orchestration and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technologies enhanced by cognitive computing.
The service enablement continuum is all about “Change Management 101,” and that part of the journey will be much more difficult than the technology. Most of the paradigms that we’ve hung our shingles on will dissipate and disappear and be replaced by machines. Many humans fear that evolution. I would argue that you don’t really have to buy that eventuality but you’re in denial if you don’t at least ascribe to the significant advances that are being delivered through this automation. It’s time for IT to adopt the advice that we so ambitiously give to customers: Time to drink our own champagne!
Please comment with your thoughts on the service enablement continuum. You may also be interested in Martin Ford’s 2015 book that addresses issues like these, “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.”
Publish Date: June 9, 2016 5:00 AM
We’re seeing a fundamental change in how software is being consumed and, in turn, how hardware is being used – probably one of the biggest market shifts in the last 25 years. Office 365, for example, is one of the hottest products on the market and is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based, designed to let users work anywhere, anytime from any device, and enabling organizations to pay monthly or annually via subscription.
As a result of this shift, we must adapt our IT expertise in order to help solve business challenges by offering a business-outcome approach. For those of us selling tech products and services, it’s simply no longer enough to close a transaction and move on. In the subscription economy, realizing value is intimately tied to the client’s successful adoption of technology investments and the resulting business outcomes they achieve. Clients are looking to their IT staff and business leaders to help them take their business to the next level, so we need to listen and respond to their evolving needs and help them build on their foundation.
What types of business outcomes are clients increasingly looking to IT to address? Examples include:
- Increasing customer satisfaction levels
- Meeting new legislative and or compliance requirements
- Maximizing productivity
- Bringing new products/services to market more quickly
- Improving product/service quality
- Breaking into new markets
- Growing market share or defending against competitors
- Increasing levels of innovation
- Providing business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) capability
This focus on outcomes is more important than ever because, as providers, there is so much we can offer to leverage and expand on what organizations have already purchased. In fact, to address this market shift, the industry has adopted a model known as LAER (for Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew), designed to encourage organizations to make the most of their technology investments The purpose is to “land” on a technology decision, help the client “adopt” and take full advantage of its technology investment, “expand” and leverage the initial sale so the client consumes more features and functionalities, and strengthen and “renew” the life cycle of product or service.
The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) book “Introducing Technology-as-a-Service Playbook” by Thomas Lah and J.B. Wood supports this new tech world view, outlining the next-generation tech industry. It’s a world in which suppliers play an active, ongoing role in helping business customers achieve value from their technology investments. The book describes four supplier operating models, moving across a spectrum from a completely product-focused approach to a completely outcome-focused approach.
Suppliers that fall under the first two levels (the majority of them today) are focused more on a transaction-based approach, working with clients to establish performance indicators. Those at level three become more focused on the utilization-level agreement, while at level four – where companies such as CompuCom are headed – the focus shifts to the value-level agreement, in which the client sees the supplier as a partner, a trusted advisor helping them to solve business challenges and meet their objectives.
Clients are in the driver’s seat in the subscription-based economy, with suppliers focused as never before on delivering greater value to help them. At the end of the day, clients’ satisfaction is no longer enough. We must work with them to make sure they are achieving and exceeding their business goals, opening up a whole new realm of opportunities for suppliers. This approach will help them – and us – to grow.
What are your thoughts on working with clients in the new economy? I welcome your comments and questions.
Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM
Endless applications on smartphones, tablets and laptops, bring your own device and the cloud have all complicated the choices that companies make in selecting which end-user devices to support. Standardizing is impossible since needs differ widely among, for example, executives and highly mobile desktop or power users. Most users today have an average of three devices, with power users using many more (this technology specialist confesses to having more than 40). Still, we are getting better at narrowing down the choices to support employees and protect corporate priorities, especially around security.
Three questions get to the heart of a user’s needs:
- What is your business function?
- What apps do you use in that function?
- Which devices are required to get your job done?
Exploring answers to these questions can help develop a targeted grouping for device selections, and whiteboarding the ideal device can help zero in on choices, if it’s done in full recognition that the perfect device is a fantasy. The exercise, which gets to the heart of important must-have/could-have preferences, asks: If anything were possible, what would it be? Examples:
- Long-lasting battery
- Light, portable, carry-friendly
- Ease of use/touchscreen
- Ruggedized device
- Unique form factor
- 4K HD Display
- Direct sunlight viewable
Recently, I was whiteboarding with office workers in an environment with floating office spaces who like to carry a laptop to a co-worker’s space to show their work or collaborate. The problem is that a laptop screen sits at an angle when carrying it and standing or walking around. If you are demonstrating or sharing content, this position has an interrupted view of the screen unless you are sitting directly in front of it. They wanted a laptop that lies flat for easier viewing while standing so they can still type or navigate. Other workers said they prefer a stylus or digital pen to capture their thoughts more fluidly. Whiteboarding helped us get as close to their needs as possible, with a plan to get even closer as capabilities advance.
Staying current with change is daunting. Some cellphone-sized mobile devices have processing power equal to an Intel Core i5 desktop (I often say we have more processing power on our belt than on our desktop). Before box.net, Apple iCloud, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, we had to synch data on an external disk to work between different devices and form factors, a slow, complicated and painstaking process prone to human error. Now the cloud can operate as a synch tool, making data available in real time across multiple devices.
Windows 10, Universal Applications and HTML 5 are steps in the right direction so that a document can move from form factor to form factor (phone, tablet, laptop or large screen display), providing a consistent experience to the user. Imagine opening a website on your phone and having the page present to you correctly and not seeing the tiny print that you have to try and zoom to make readable. Or opening a document on your phone next to your bed when you wake up, then picking up where you left off when you take your tablet on the way to get breakfast, and finally landing in the office where you can seamlessly continue to work! Other advances are in the works as well.
We are constantly looking for unifying experiences such as these, so that we can move from device to device as we go through our day with seamless access to our applications and data whether we are on our phone, laptop or tablet. The Holy Grail is one device that that gives us access to everything. We are not quite there yet, but in the meantime, considering all the factors relevant to a user’s experience gets us to smarter decisions about supported devices.
When making the case to decision makers in the lines of business who control the financial decisions and deal with security concerns around key applications and supported devices, IT always needs to strike the balance of delivering devices today with an eye to technology changes on the horizon. Control, support and security are top of mind with any choices: control because not all data on a device is corporate (the issue of digital rights and work/life balance); support for users in the office, at home or while traveling; and security because there is no risk more critical to manage for IT and the organization at large.
Technology creates options we didn’t dream of even three years ago. That’s the opportunity and challenge for IT in its selection of end-user devices. IT organizations are using tools like interactive workshops, environing sessions, whiteboarding and consumption analytics to shape those choices even as new ones emerge.
Are you a whiteboarder, a workshopper or a big data miner? What other tools help you to select which devices to support? I welcome your comments and questions.
Publish Date: May 18, 2016 5:00 AM
New cloud technologies are in your hands to drive business strategy
Today’s data center architect has more choices and features to understand and select from than ever before. In the past decade, we have seen the emergence of multiple converged infrastructure designs, private cloud technologies and open source platforms – but even these modern approaches are becoming outdated as solutions such as hyper converged infrastructures (HCI) and public cloud gain momentum. However, these changes bring opportunity. IT now has the real ability to become a business enabler instead of just an operations center.
Historically, IT has been considered a cost center and more or less a means to an end. Companies know they need technology to be competitive, but typically do not look to IT for business strategy leadership and new ideas. But as the global marketplace has evolved, organizations must respond more rapidly to changing market conditions, produce products at a faster pace, and embrace new ways of connecting with their customers through mobility, big (and small) data and the Internet of Things (IoT). We naturally see this in companies born in the cloud, including Airbnb, Uber and Fitbit, but companies that are sometimes not thought of as “high tech” are producing new and innovative ways of showing value to their clients.
Take for example John Deere, recognized worldwide as a leader in farm and commercial equipment. Manufacturers such as this are viewed as engineering leaders but not always as leaders in digital technology. However, John Deere identified an opportunity to provide connectivity between its equipment, owners, operators and dealers to provide more efficient crop management, and reduce operating expenses and fleet downtime. These solutions came from an integration of IoT technologies, big data analytics and public cloud services.
So what does this mean for IT leaders today? IT has to shift its mindset from thinking about maintaining the status quo and “keeping the lights on” to how technology can drive the company’s business. IT leaders can answer this question by considering:
How can the products/services my company produces be delivered to our clients more effectively?
Whether you are providing online reservations, ride sharing, or industrial manufacturing, modern technologies enable your business to connect with your clients. Ask questions like, how can big data analytics reduce product failures? How can I deliver real-time services to my clients through mobile-enabled apps? How can automation and robotic processing improve my time to market?
- Why do I have data centers?
While this may seem like an elementary question with an obvious answer, the reality is that there are a number of reasons why we should be asking this question. Data centers are terribly expensive, both in terms of real estate and operational costs, and they may not always meet your needs for data location, disaster recovery and scalability. When there are options to use private cloud technologies and co-location facilities to provide the same or better data center capabilities at a lower capital and operational expense, then IT can begin getting out of the facilities business and start focusing on delivering true business value.
- Why do I still have client/server apps?
Sure, there are mission- and business-critical apps that are not going away anytime soon, but there are many applications that have cloud-delivered, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) alternatives. By shifting your legacy apps to cloud-hosted versions, you can reduce your data center footprint, enable your modern workforce and end-user clients, and provide the ability to support a number of different device types.
- How can I manage and secure my data center more effectively?
As you distribute workloads and data across traditional data centers, co-location facilities and public cloud services, the ability to apply standard policies, controls and services in all of these environments is necessary. But, by doing so you can now proactively respond to your business demands in real-time. You will be able to use auto-scaling features of public cloud providers to expand your application footprint when traffic increases and shrink it back when the demands subside. You can also place workloads in data center facilities that are closer to your end users and clients, so their response times are improved and satisfaction rates go up, as well as provide reports showing how all of your assets meet or exceed desired security and compliance policies.
- Public cloud services are probably being used in my company without my knowledge, why am I not as well?
Public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM/SoftLayer provide not only platforms for DevOps projects, but also for production workloads of many types. By putting the tools, processes and people in place to integrate your private, public and hybrid cloud environments, you can begin to embrace cloud usage in your organization and shift to modern data center approaches.
How has your organization embraced modern data center options? How have you used new technologies to drive your business? We would like from hear from you and what has worked for you and even the challenges you have faced. Please share your thoughts and experiences below.
Publish Date: May 11, 2016 5:00 AM
Outcome engineering is an approach to technology investment that is gaining momentum in the ever-increasing “as-a-service” economy. Customers invest not because of the features-based sales tactics of the past but on providers’ ability to map customer services to clear, measurable business outcomes – primarily increased profitability, reduced cost and reduced security risk.
This shift in customer demand requires a distinct upgrade in the skills of salespeople to partner with customers to identify, track and measure outcomes that are a far cry from selling feature-function-benefit. From the early days of typewriters and cash registers sold in volume, technology was sold up front based on product features. Sales were transactional: sell a product made competitive with as many features as possible, then move on to the next feature-packed option and then move on again. Service was a customer-demanded add-on, not a strategy.
Fast forward 100 years to the “as a service” economy where software-as-a-service and platforms-as-a-service are the norm and we have customers investing in technology not based on features so much as lifecycle support and business outcomes; the measures of profitability, cost and risk. The traditional approach, still ingrained in some sales organizations today, was about sales involving large sums of money up front with the customer left holding the bag when providers didn’t deliver as promised, with business value unfulfilled. As-a-service platforms are forcing vendors to reevaluate their sales and delivery/services approach and become experts in outcome engineering.
Today the customer’s message to providers is, “Don’t just sell capabilities and features – what about the service so I’m enabled to run my business seamlessly, with low risk?” Customers spending a lot of money demand that their partners provide excellent service and consulting over time. And if they pay monthly, it is easy to cut their losses and switch to another vendor.
XaaS (X as a Service) offerings from companies such as Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services have challenged existing models, and all providers are on the hook to rethink their approach by delivering the following:
- Offerings focused on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) mapped to desired business outcomes developed through intense consultation with customers.
- Concrete measurements identified with related mechanisms for tracking and reporting.
- Verticalization to understand their customer’s businesses in depth, how technology can increase profit, reduce cost and improve security/reduce risk in different businesses (salespeople conversant in each customer’s industry).
- Gaining buy-in and commitment from everyone who touches the end users, the stakeholders, the executives – are they on board with change or resistant to the new lifecycle approach?
- A technology lifecycle mentality selling through the project so that the customer is supported beyond initial sale through full service, evolving needs and consulting for future technology decisions.
- Recognition that not all customers will choose the outcome engineering approach (customers choose partners, but partners need to choose customers, too, and map the sales solution to the customer’s mindset).
Mindset and expectations have changed, but opportunities exist. Revenue continues throughout the lifecycle and there’s greater opportunity to gain revenue in the long run, even if it’s now exchanged in chunks, rather than a large sum up front. Outcome engineering is a way to excel because you’re no longer just selling the promise, you’re delivering on the promise.
Adapting to the new model takes resources, commitment and training to upgrade skills for a sophisticated lifecycle approach and an understanding of business outcomes, but it offers a great opportunity to work more closely with customers to nurture business relationships and develop “stickiness” to net more business and revenue over time because you don’t stop selling. Change takes work, but you know the old saying, “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevancy even less.”
Outcome engineering is here. Providers need to get moving on the opportunity to help customers consistently achieve targeted business outcomes to meet their business goals.
What is your experience with outcome engineering and lifecycle support? Share your thoughts and questions.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Companies regularly explore new IT technology investments, and upon discovering the promise of new advances, quickly make their way to their traditional comfort zone: the knee-jerk reaction of leveraging technology only to reduce operating expenditures (usually starting with the CIO’s budget). This is increasingly true in the case of one of the newest technologies to enter our “technosphere,” known as Robotics Process Automation (RPA). Simple downward pressure on IT labor costs often generates a “CFO-friendly” return on investment (ROI) that justifies the business case for new technologies such as this. This is a “business of IT” pattern that repeats itself all too often as CIOs seek the tools necessary to modernize their company’s technology footprint, and their associated competitive enablement.
This thinking misses the mark.
Technology is one of the most powerful conduits available to enhance the experience of our true “customers” – the employee population, those employed to sell, deliver, manufacture and administer – who depend on technology to do their jobs more effectively. By extension, our “customer’s customer” and their experience can be directly correlated to technology enablement decisions! So, do we really win by only taking out cost, or do we win by empowering the workforce to be more effective and drive the top line? In the case of RPA, automating IT-related processes and systems will reduce labor costs. However, we quickly realize that the most significant impact of this very promising technology is on improving employees’ ability to do their jobs better. This, in turn, enables the competitive edge that differentiated customer experiences require.
We live in an economy where almost everything we do in the workplace is technology enabled, spanning all sectors from service through manufacturing. Yet still, IT systems and software remain complex. Even though we’ve been engineering software for 40-plus years, it is still a flawed process (imagine if we built bridges the way we engineer software!). Use of RPA as a technology to remediate the inevitable technology faults helps us to instantaneously execute fixes at machine speed. This minimizes the mean time to restore, which ultimately enhances the end-user experience of IT’s true customers.
Robotic Process Automation technologies can be transformational.
RPA use cases and applications are infinite – it’s mind-boggling. RPA is enabled by several artificial intelligence-based component technologies, and extends well beyond fault remediation. To get started with automating IT-related processes and systems, understanding the differences between scripting, orchestration and robotic process automation is good way to begin the ultimate journey:
- Techniques such as scripting (and macro-routines) are often as diverse in their structure and syntax as the engineers that created them; this makes scripting a brittle solution that defies standardization by its very nature and remains tightly coupled to a specific component of technology that it services.
- Orchestration introduces both structure and syntax and often involves participation and decision making on the part of the technology that is being orchestrated. Hence, the infrastructure itself becomes an active participant and collaborator – for instance, by publishing its configuration information that is then consumed by the orchestrated process. This characteristic makes orchestration “smarter” and so it can be loosely coupled to the technology that it supports.
- RPA has a unique ability to be aware and adapt to changing circumstances, exceptions and new situations. It can manipulate data, trigger responses, initiate new actions and communicate with other systems autonomously. RPA is built on machine learning (a base component of AI) which makes it the “smartest” and enables a wide variety of use cases, building on its own knowledge and determining what to do, where to do it and when to do it.
Historically, the worry around large-scale scripting and even orchestration has traditionally been that if your automation doesn’t have the knowledge of what-where-and-when, to do it or not do it, you’re in no-man’s land and at risk of actually breaking more than you fix. However, the integration of orchestration and machine learning, which both fundamentally underpin RPA, is a way to ensure that you know when to initiate an orchestrated task, where and which one.
Will RPA and “AI-like” software just fizzle out again as AI has in the past?
The open source community, academia such as MIT, and industry giants such as Google and Facebook are all actively contributing the core technology components driving RPA advancements, as well as the cognitive and AI computing space. As the open source community continues to become the prevalent contributor of technology advancement, we are beginning to see a number of start-ups entering the marketplace. These start-ups leverage machine learning, RPA and cognitive computing, and apply these technology advancements in commercial software and services. We’ll see more start-ups emerge out of stealth mode in the very near future.
This will benefit organizations that are adept in capitalizing on start-up technologies. The organizations who successfully leverage RPA and cognitive computing create better experiences for their employees and clients and also drive increased revenues, while the rest find it increasingly harder to compete in the evolving marketplace. That’s a glimpse of what the current path looks like today, the “haves” and the “have nots.” What will alter this scenario is the broad impact of open source, the API economy and SaaS, where a whole new community of start-ups and venture capital firms begin to invest in this space aggressively enough until the technology becomes fully ubiquitous, commonplace and generally available to all.
To empower the workforce by improving the customer experience, do we need to first make the case for cost savings, to entice our leadership to buy in and take the leap of faith? Can we change our current mental model to one that emphasizes building a more effective workforce to drive revenue up, rather than simply drive cost down? Can we transform our corporate belief system to where if revenue goes up, cost cutting becomes less of a problem and would in turn improve the effectiveness and morale of the workforce, further contributing to increased revenue and margin?
In the IT industry itself, across the major players, there is statistical evidence that 17-22 percent of the activities (incidents/requests) are being addressed using advanced automation. That’s estimated to go at least as high as 40 percent in the next three years, according to IT industry analysts. A doubling of automated fulfillment events in the next three years…is this a new expression of Moore’s Law, whereby processing speed doubles every two years?
Regardless of your choice of technology strategy, RPA, cognitive computing and AI are all still dependent on the data that you have, generate and consume. Not a day should go by that organizations, departments and functions do not pay attention to the quality of their data and their ability to collect, aggregate and interpret it.
Nor should a day should go by when CIOs are not promoting the idea that employee job satisfaction is at least as good an argument for RPA adoption as the potential for reducing labor costs. Satisfied, productive employees stay loyal and drive more top line revenue. This saves on the cost of employee and customer churn and disruption to the organization. As to the initial costs of new technologies, including RPA, the old saying remains true: You can’t cut your way to prosperity.
What are your thoughts on RPA? Post a comment or question here!
Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Security breaches, malicious software (malware) and other forms of cyber-attacks affect individuals, companies, industries, and governments every minute of every day. Now more than ever, cybersecurity awareness and actions to address these challenges need to be a top-of-mind focus for executives in the C-suite. As companies find ways to mitigate cybersecurity threats, here are some tips that may help organizations add value to their cybersecurity defense programs.
1. Good cybersecurity = good business = adding value to the bottom line
We know from reading the frequent headlines that financial loss, intellectual property theft and, often, damage to shareholder value or brand reputation are just some of the negative ways data breaches can impact an organization’s bottom line. For those companies taking the right steps to protect privacy and security – from credit card data to sensitive customer information – there is more support from shareholders and partners. At the end of the day, customers tend to remain loyal to companies they trust.
Due to the nature of the information they process, highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare are the number-one target of cyber-attacks perpetrated by a variety of attackers, including other competitors, organized crime and foreign intelligence agencies. For example, most large international banks are more proactive in protecting the financial and personal information of their clients. Some banks have gone beyond protecting their systems and have worked with their marketing departments to educate consumers on cyber risks and, in some cases, even empowering their clients by providing licensed copies of anti-virus software for home computers or for mobile smartphones. When a bank educates its clients on cybersecurity threats, they make an investment in helping the bank protect its online based banking websites and systems. If you educate your customers on cybersecurity risks and how they as consumers can protect their personal information, that may help your organization to build trust with your customer. Customers who trust their bank or their healthcare provider organization remain customers for many years.
While organizations may be afraid of the reputational impact of disclosing a cybersecurity data breach, organizations may be better off addressing the challenges quickly and publicly. For some companies, keeping a cybersecurity data breach confidential is no longer an option. In the U.S., public companies are now required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to disclose any material impact of cyber breaches.
2. Understand your threat ecosystem.
In the midst of evolving threats and risks posed by insiders, business associates and external bad actors, the hardest concept for most organizations to grasp is identifying what actually needs to be protected. This should be the very first question: What am I protecting? Once you know what you must protect, you can then define HOW you will protect that information. The next step is to understand what specific threats your organization may face in protecting specific information such as financial data.
3. Develop a security strategy for the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT is unique because companies are just learning the unintended consequences of the instrumentation of “non-standard” devices. In a home environment, a good example of IoT is the commonly used Nest thermostat along with Wi-Fi enabled coffeemakers, refrigerators that alert you when it’s time to buy eggs or milk and other “smart” devices.
We’re now seeing the unintended consequences which can result when these unmanaged and untrusted wireless devices are online. From a security perspective, these devices create additional pathways for cybersecurity threats and increase the cybersecurity risks for your IT environments. IoT is the next evolution of bring your own device (BYOD) — IoT is BYOD on a much larger scale.
Most organizations are still trying to understand how to adequately protect environments with the explosion of IoT devices. How are you approaching the cybersecurity challenges of IoT?
4. Adopt a risk-based cybersecurity framework.
Many organizations don’t understand the value of having a cybersecurity framework in place to ensure that defined processes and plans are followed. Certification with the global framework ISO 27001, for example, gives customers at the international level a better assurance that your organization is following well-established procedures and that you have internal governance for security.
Organizations should begin now to think about and address a security framework to help effectively communicate within their organizations to other executives, the board and IT groups.
5. Know the geopolitical impact on cybersecurity.
While geopolitical implications on cybersecurity are difficult to keep up with, it is increasingly important for organizations to be aware of what is happening with cybersecurity on a global level.
The president of China visited President Obama to sign a cybersecurity cooperation agreement. The same day, China was hacking critical U.S. government and military installations. News headlines also point to Russia ramping up cyber-attacks against western countries.
The global conversation on cybersecurity is quickly becoming more complex due to international laws and regulations. The trend on increased government and international laws on cybersecurity and privacy protections are increasing due to governments perceiving these threats as material – not only to their economic health but also to their national security. These new laws and regulations have unintended consequences, including financial costs not planned by organizations. We live in a new global economy where cybersecurity will be a determining factor in the financial performance of companies, regardless of industry.
What are your thoughts and best practices on how to approach cybersecurity? I look forward to your questions and comments.
Publish Date: April 15, 2016 5:00 AM
In a couple of memorable moments from the futuristic sci-fi blockbuster movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise’s character is served up personalized ads as he passes video billboards and as he enters The Gap, where a video salesperson greets him by name and suggests products based on his shopping history. Sound crazy? Well, these scenarios are much closer to becoming reality than you might think.
We’re in the middle of an interesting transition from traditional static advertising to a much more interactive medium, driven by advances in technology and changing buyer behavior. Digital signage, also known as dynamic signage, is becoming integral to how companies will interact with consumers to create a more optimized user experience: IDC predicts that digital signage in the retail sector alone will grow from $6 billion in 2013 to $27.5 billion in 2018, a 35.7 percent five-year CAGR, as retailers continue to digitize the consumer experience.
The challenge and the opportunity for marketers is to make that experience more seamless for users while also accommodating new buying behaviors in a walk-up, in-store setting. How do we break down the barriers between brick and mortar and digital while making the experience fun and productive?
From a marketing perspective, we’re creating an environment in which we move beyond traditional form factors and toward a personalized way of information sharing and problem solving. Consumers have increasingly high expectations and less patience. We expect great experiences all the time and we’re irritated when that doesn’t happen. A survey of 1,500 consumers found that 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience, so the stakes are very high to get it right the first time (Source: Gomez Report). As a result, we choose more carefully with whom we interact.
To embrace the customer experience model, marketing, sales and customer service must come together to make it a seamless experience. Digital signage offers a very powerful channel to engage with consumers, but the technology is only part of the equation. Today, the average consumer is bombarded with more than 5,000 advertising messages per day. The opportunity is to serve up content that is more appropriate and personalized, to align with what that consumer is trying to do at that point in time. Think of it as Just-in-Time manufacturing but from a digital marketing standpoint. What information is most important to a buyer at specific points in the buyer journey? How best can you leverage the impact of reviews and endorsements from other consumers? How can you truly demonstrate the value of a solution or product in a digitally engaging manner that is part educational and part entertainment? You need to orchestrate all of the channels to present your story in an integrated way that makes sense.
On the technology side, it is important to put the customer at the center of this universe and ensure that technology is an enabler and not a barrier. Leading technology organizations such as Intel, Cisco, H-P, and Samsung are investing significantly in the area of digital signage. Solutions are being developed in a wide variety of areas, including:
- Rich Content, with touch-enabled displays to render video streaming of sales support informationAnonymous Video Analytics, with facial recognition software to empower personalized interactivity by demographic group (for example, females over the age of 50 in a shopping environment)
- Augmented Reality, looking through glass at actual products, along with related pop-up graphics
- Wayfinding and Product Information, to quickly locate desired products in a physical shopping environment
- Mobile Phone Integration, to save product information for later, or to access real-time discounts in store.
CompuCom has strong partnerships with each of these technology firms, which enables us to co-develop solutions and help make the experience more rewarding for consumers and B2B end users. For example, we’ve partnered with Intel to create a tool called End-User Orchestrator that enables remote takeover of devices and digital signage for support, repairs and even to change content. CompuCom is also developing an ecosystem of persona portals that deliver a more robust consumer-like experience in B2B settings (think Amazon website for enterprise support and service).
As consumer preferences continue to evolve toward more immersive experiences and expectations, it is a wonderful challenge and opportunity for organizations to embrace this change and create a digitally powered conversation and conversion toward lifelong customers.
Do you have thoughts about where digital signage is headed? I welcome your comments and questions.
Publish Date: April 8, 2016 5:00 AM
Companies have always claimed that they prioritize their customers’ needs. Yet, customers have never had more power than they do today. They increasingly demand personalized attention, fast service and a consistent, excellent experience across every touch point.
In fact, Forrester calls this era the “age of the customer” and predicts that 2016 is the year companies will either succeed or fail in their efforts to adapt to today’s digitally savvy, empowered buyers.
The good news is that organizations have tremendous opportunities to leverage data to better understand customers and improve their experience. The key is to know how to capture that data, manipulate it in ways that lead to new insights and then take action to gain competitive advantage.
Unique Customer Insights
What gives CompuCom unique perspective into the customer experience? We help a broad range of organizations deliver IT services to their end users. For many of these clients, we implement personas — detailed definitions of groups of end users who require a particular set of devices, applications and IT support.
With personas in place, we can capture data about end-user behaviors that give us insights into how they consume technology and the type of IT experience they expect. These insights are directly transferrable to how customers interact with brands.
There’s a broad range of data that we can capture that helps us understand user preferences by persona. This data includes information spanning age, income, location and industry. The data delves into more detail as we can find out customers’ technology consumption patterns, the devices they use, as well as the IT problems they have experienced.
In addition, we can look at how they consume IT support — their contact preferences, whether they try self-service and then call the service desk, that sort of thing. We can see whether certain types of problems result in certain behaviors — for example, maybe a password problem generates a call, but an application problem drives self-service.
We can also watch behaviors change over time. For example, Millennials are recognized as digital natives who have high expectations for a fast, always-on experience. But Gen Xers and Boomers are catching up quickly. As these older generations become more comfortable with technology, they’re behaving more like Millennials, and their expectations for customer experience are rising in parallel.
The User Is in the Data
For organizations that want to leverage data to improve customer experience, the good news is that they’re probably already capturing relevant information in their transaction systems. The bad news is that this information tends to remain stranded in silos. Therefore, organizations will need to aggregate and normalize that data so they can analyze it and gain valuable insights.
Leveraging data is a bigger challenge for more established companies that still rely on legacy systems. But it’s an issue for any company that interacts with customers across channels: through direct sales, in a retail store, through a call center, over the web, on mobile platforms, through social media and so on. You need to gain a view of customers through each channel. But you also need to get a picture of customers across channels.
This is as much a technical challenge as an organizational one. You can’t use different data models for different customers and different channels and expect to achieve a unified view. So you need to normalize your customer data in a way that you can analyze it to gain a true picture of customer preferences and behavior.
From Experience to Retention
Based on our insights, we know that end users increasingly have these expectations for customer experience:
- They want a simple and streamlined buying process.
- If they can’t get answers immediately, they’ll quickly go somewhere else.
- These preferences and behaviors are consistent throughout the buying journey, from information gathering, to transaction, to after-sales service.
- Their price sensitivity or willingness to “shop around” varies by persona or demographic.
- In many cases they, prefer self-service, but some personas prefer to be walked through the process.
Finally, customer experience has a direct impact on retention rates. Customers have less and less patience if they’re not immediately satisfied. Online, mobile and social channels give them instant access to your competitors. If they’re not happy with your brand, it’s relatively painless for them to find another.
But organizations that learn how to leverage customer data can increasingly serve customers the way they want to be served. They can use their insights to deliver a superior customer experience and retain customers over the long-term.
I welcome you to leave a comment on how you see data being used to enhance your customers’ experience.
Publish Date: April 1, 2016 5:00 AM
For the past few years, information technology (IT) industry analysts have been emphasizing the critical importance of focusing on the customer and end-user experience. Web, mobility and social technologies have raised customer expectations to new levels. In response, companies must deliver a superior and consistent omnichannel customer experience — if they hope to compete and win in what Forrester calls the Age of the Customer.
Now, the pundits are shifting their focus to automation and supply chains. An emerging digital economy will drive massive digital transformation, IDC predicts. The resulting digitalization will revolutionize supply chains, Gartner forecasts.
What happens to the customer and the end user in this newly digitalized and automated world? Will employees be replaced by robots? Will customer centricity be pushed aside for operational efficiency?
Customer Experience Drivers
Fifteen years ago, IT began to transform automobiles. Navigation systems, traffic alerts, Bluetooth streaming music, wireless charging, rearview cameras and other options better connected drivers with their driving and with their vehicles. Today’s cars are veritable computers-on-wheels, with significant compute power.
Today, digital nannies, from parking assist to dynamic cruise control, lane-departure warnings, cross-traffic alerts and assisted braking, enable cars to practically drive themselves. In fact, actual self-driving cars have been so successful in testing that it was big news when a Lexus recently became the first autonomous vehicle to cause an accident. Within 10 years, drivers themselves may become largely irrelevant.
A similar phenomenon is occurring within the enterprise. Web, mobile and social commerce connected customers with brands in new ways. That was good for customers, because it gave them choices and leverage; if they weren’t satisfied with one brand, they could easily find another that met their needs. And it was good for companies, because it gave them more touch points with customers; that meant more opportunities to sell goods and build relationships.
But new layers of abstraction — the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence, the so-called Industry 4.0 — threaten to tilt the balance from customer to computer, from experience to automation. In their quest to digitally interconnect products, processes and partners, companies can lose sight of the end consumer.
The solution isn’t to forego emerging technologies that can benefit your business, but to leverage them to both accelerate processes and elevate people. For leading organizations, the point of nirvana is to increasingly leverage new technology to offer a highly personalized experience with each customer.
Inside the enterprise, IoT must connect not only machines but also the people who manage them. Robots need to not only work alongside people but also enable those people to shift their focus to more strategic work. Automation should be applied in ways that don’t alienate the workforce but actually improve the end-user experience, driving better job satisfaction and employee engagement.
Employee engagement has a direct impact on customer experience, by the way, as study after study has shown. But organizations have work to do here. While 81 percent of companies measure customer experience, only 31 percent take the temperature of employee experience, according to IDC.
Outside the enterprise, IoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and other automation shouldn’t merely streamline supply chains for cost efficiencies. The ultimate result should be a greater ability to understand demand signals and then accurately and rapidly meet customer needs. If automation improves your processes with simultaneously providing a lift in customer experience, you’re realizing only half the potential return on your investment.
Organizations need more focus here, as well. Nearly two-thirds of companies say they’ve created models to assess drivers of customer-experience quality, Forrester reports. But only 28 percent can actually show a link between customer experience and business outcomes.
In the auto industry, autonomous vehicles will fundamentally change how carmakers go to market. It will no longer be about how you drive the car, but about how the car drives you. Literally, people will take a back seat to technology. But figuratively, the customer must remain in the driver’s seat and firmly in control.
I welcome your comments and insights on this new era of technology and how it influences the customer experience.
Publish Date: March 16, 2016 5:00 AM
What does it really mean to be “digital?” The definition covers everything from employees with access to high-speed Internet, millennials who regularly use email, e-filed tax returns, employees who use mobile phones to access news and information, freelancers who perform work online, video streaming services, digital payment, and information and communications technology (ICT) as a share of total investment.
When companies begin to qualify the concept of becoming a digital enterprise, they think about it in a very current context. The horizon has more to do with how digitization will change the shape of our economy: There are estimates predicting that by 2025, the effects of digitization could boost the U.S. GDP by $2 trillion dollars. The impact is generally applied to three categories:
- Increased supply and productivity, or increasing the participation of the labor force, better and faster matching of workers with employees and tasks to employees, and increased productivity of workers. This in itself is viewed to be a quarter of the predicted GDP growth.
- Improved asset efficiency. How does a digital world decrease downtime and expenditure on maintenance and preventative activities, and how does it enable us to understand the current utilization of assets? This will take up another quarter or so of the $2 trillion.
- The single biggest impact, almost half of the $2 trillion, will result from operations and supply chain optimizations. When you think about the concept of multi-faceted productivity – impact on supply chain operations, monitoring and control of production, logistics and routing, product development with criss-crosses into sales and marketing, quality control, and the piece that everyone seems to be talking about, Internet of Things or IoT (intelligent building systems, improved fuel efficiency) – these kinds of things will all have a major impact.
When we ask companies what it means to be a digital enterprise, they may be thinking about digital labor, digitally optimized capital investments or productivity. That’s the key – what are those factors and behaviors? They turn into broadband or smartphone subscriptions, digital payments, streaming video, video as a channel and a digital labor force.
Different industries are moving at different paces. Those transforming the fastest are technology, media, and finance and insurance, while healthcare, construction and hospitality fall at the bottom of the totem pole. We’re just now beginning to see electronic check-in in the hotel industry, for example, which has been the norm in the airline industry for several years. What is driving the shift is industries that strongly subscribe to the principle that digital assets create competitive advantage.
For those industries in the middle of the totem pole, the “intermediaries” such as manufacturing and retail, there are a lot of steps – logistics and just in time (JIT) inventory and the like – so failure to subscribe to the right level of urgency can translate into a risk that the value chain a particular organization delivers gets broken apart. You buy from one place, it gets delivered from another and these vertically integrated value chains get broken apart.
What’s at stake? It’s a winner-take-all dynamic because digitization blurs industry boundaries. Media companies, for example, were for decades about content and delivery, and distribution was handled by an entirely separate sector of the industry. Today, if you have content but not the delivery channel, you’re almost irrelevant. This applies to all of us. I saw a recent statistic stating that in the neighborhood of 28 percent of all payments today are made digitally.
Generationally, you expect that Millennial penetration will be 100 percent and Gen-Xers will also be high – but when you look at Baby Boomers, 84 percent are using the Internet and 64 percent are using smartphones. This means that the digital world has encroached across all generational boundaries. If this is true, failure to become a digital business means that in mobile alone, between 65 percent and 85 percent of your customers will have access to your competitors who are faster and easier.
If you’re in healthcare, you don’t have a driving need to transform the way a media company does. Those moving slower are doing so because they don’t see the need and are thinking only about their channel, not about things such as digital labor, digitally optimized capital and multifactor productivity.
A recent poll conducted by CompuCom shows that it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when, digitization will take place. More than half of 152 IT professionals surveyed, 58 percent, indicated their organizations are already at least 70 percent digital, while a quarter, 26 percent, said their organizations are 50 percent digital or less. Sixteen percent noted that becoming digital is not yet a priority.
Laggards will be pushed, because as digitization enters their industry, competitors will pay the cost out of their model and use pricing as a competitive weapon to gain market share. Legacy companies find themselves challenged by born-in-the-cloud companies – for example, online brokerage and investment services compete with traditional brokerage houses, which have thousands of brokers – but what are the cost differentials? And if the data that drives all this is being built on Big Data and predictive analytics, the tools that sit behind an online service are fundamentally equivalent to the tools that sit behind the human-delivered model…but the cost basis is different.
The digital hybrid model says that: 1) we must become a digital enterprise; and 2) our marketplace that was first transformed by a multigenerational customer base is now influenced by situational factors. These factors drive how individuals make choices around how they want to obtain products and services. Some people simply want to talk to a live person, and that will never change. To successfully address this very sophisticated marketplace, not only do you need to offer digital, remote assistance and face-to-face options, but also you need to be able to provide the opportunity for an individual who engages with one of those options to channel shift to another.
Real estate is another example. Born-in-the-cloud companies such as Zillow are beginning to challenge what a multiple listing service has done for years. Do all the research you want, but then stop and look around. Digital assets determine competitive advantage. Information has become widely available and it will disrupt all of our traditional value chains. Digitization will create openings for new competitors, like it or not, and our cost basis and market prices will be impacted, our industry boundaries are going to blur and our economy will change. Pay now or pay later.
How digital is your organization? Leave your comments here on that or any aspect of my post.
Publish Date: March 7, 2016 5:00 AM
In the past, significant innovations in technology were single-threaded and came along one at a time – so the journey was simple and linear. However, today we live in a world where multi-threaded innovations arrive together, with competition closing in on them quickly (think of Apple, Samsung and FitBit). From Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC), each of these advances has the potential to produce enormous value in its own right; however, the full potential emerges only when those capabilities work in combination to create new experiences for users and businesses.
While the shift to digital may be empowered by advances in technology, success depends on a new level of engagement and consensus among stakeholders across the entire organization. The business case for genuinely innovative investment will look much different from the sustaining investment that simply keeps the lights on. Clearly, the stakes are higher and the ROI may be less certain, or longer in coming. From an IT perspective, we expect to see great potential for the CIO to perform the role of enterprise-enabler. However, it may be necessary to build new kinds of relationships with experts in the digital landscape. Naturally, it will require a new operating model and sourcing strategy because IT organizations can no longer afford to go it alone as single-source providers of technology solutions. They will build new kinds of relationships ranging from experts in IT transformation services and digital technologies to acquire needed skills, plus Cloud-based infrastructure and service-based solutions.
Today, many of the leading IT services companies have built practices specifically to bring digital enablement capabilities that provides full-cycle support to CIOs and their teams. Their mission is to help CIOs understand the kind of talent needed to organize a team that is agile and thinks digitally while providing the wider business advisory expertise that grounds digital strategy in the real world. Building relationships of this type brings strategic partnering to the top of the pyramid, and this helps position the IT team as the go-to partner for solution delivery and business success.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of IT service companies who can provide basic services, and there are many others who want to help you re-engineer your IT, but that mixture is like oil and water. You need a provider who sees both sides of the coin and one that brings both types of capability; that means you get practical, value-adding innovation that supports the business objectives and delivers sustainable value not only today, but three to five years down the road.
Publish Date: February 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Page: 1 | 2
Upcoming EventsSubmit Event