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Cybersecurity: Is it Time To Change Our Mindset?

Mark Testoni

For years, the standard approach to cybersecurity has been to build bigger and bigger walls to “keep the bad guys out.” But as the threat of cybercrime has evolved over time, this approach alone is not enough. Here, we look at the growing cybersecurity challenge and key imperatives facing CIOs.

As the Internet has pervaded all aspects of business and personal life, so has the list of cyber threats that could impact your enterprise. It’s not just rival companies looking to steal ideas. Currently an attack on your network could come from a wide range of sources. Your company could find itself under siege from organized crime, terrorist groups, and even foreign governments.

State and commercial interests are merging, with the networks of private companies now seen as key targets when countries are in conflict. For this reason, many corporations are adopting the same cybersecurity strategies as our national security organizations.

The enemy within

A data breach event could potentially cost millions of dollars, leaving your corporate reputation in ruins. With so much at stake, how do you protect your organization and its intellectual property from all attacks?

This is the challenge. Technological developments have moved so fast in recent years that few networks could ever claim to be 100% impenetrable. And as fast as IT security experts establish barriers to their systems, technologically advanced hackers find ways around them.

Rapid detection, agile response

So, how can commercial companies respond to the evolving cyber threat?

What we need is an entirely new mindset when it comes to cybersecurity. We should assume that hackers can and will access our networks. To complement the evolution of perimeter defenses, we need to shift our focus to detecting and acting on attacks as quickly as possible.

If this approach is to be successful, speed is essential. It is not enough to look in the rear-view mirror to understand what happened yesterday. We need a “front windshield view” to analyze, understand, and respond to threats as they occur.

Revolutionary new approach

With traditional computing approaches, companies simply cannot react fast enough to respond effectively to cyber attacks as they take place. These companies are often only able to determine that a cyber attack has already occurred and attempt to limit the damage to their operations and customers. The prevalence of this can be seen in the number of companies issuing reports about data breaches and offering credit monitoring to their compromised customers. Companies need a way to detect attacks as they are happening, and before the attacker has an opportunity to cause damage.

Sophisticated in-memory computing solutions are enabling this revolution in the way we approach cybersecurity. In an environment where there will never be one, single cyber-product answer, we need to bring the best of all worlds together in an integrated, high-performance manner. For example, with our strategic partners SS8, ThreatConnect, and Babel Street, we are leveraging SAP HANA as a high-performance hub to integrate real-time cyber-situational awareness and threat context. This enables the enterprise to understand the threat, find it, and act on it in real time.

This high-performance computing platform can achieve speeds many thousands of times faster than traditional data architectures. This enables the processing of huge data sets in seconds rather than days and allows analysis at true cyber speed. Companies using this capability can detect and stop cyber attacks while they are underway and before their data can be compromised.

Setting priorities

From the outset, we need to understand that breaches are possible and not all targets can be protected equally. Instead we must identify the high-value targets that are most likely to be attacked and prioritize the areas where a security breach would be most damaging.

For example, finance operations and critical infrastructure are key for most organizations. In addition, personal information is a high-value commodity that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting.

Managing security risk

The Internet has given us the greatest opportunity for economic expansion since the Industrial Revolution. And when you consider the fact that e-commerce accounts for trillions of dollars each year, losses due to security breaches seem minimal.

However, cyber crime is evolving and the threat is growing.

There is no absolute solution or quick fix. The imperative for CIOs is to deploy their available resources effectively to close the aperture of risk as much as possible, and re-evaluate their strategy on an ongoing basis. They need solutions with speed to detect and stop attacks while they are underway. And they must use the latest in-memory technology innovations to stay one step ahead of the cyber criminals.

Threats to your organization can come in many forms, including Supply Chain Fraud: Theft That’s Hidden in Plain Sight.

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Mark Testoni

About Mark Testoni

Mark Testoni is president and chief executive of SAP NS2. He is one of the nation’s leading experts in the application of information technology to solve problems in government and industry, especially in the U.S. national security space. With more than 15 years of IT industry experience, 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, and 30 years of public sector management experience, Testoni is a sought-after business strategist and thought leader, with a proven record of rebuilding under-performing organizations and converting visionary ideas into reality. record of rebuilding under-performing organizations and converting visionary ideas into reality.

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CIO , cybersecurity

5 Reasons Manufacturing SMEs Need Cloud More Than Ever

Falk Brauer

The business environment for sales teams in manufacturing and engineering industries is increasingly demanding: IT infrastructures have become complex, whilst everyday sales activities claim simplicity and ease. Additionally, CEOs demand a clear overview of incoming opportunities and the business process.

So how do cloud solutions help sales teams in manufacturing and high-tech industries to survive?

Before looking into the specifics of cloud solutions for sales teams, we need to understand the current situation:

Outsourcing of IT has failed

In the last decade, there was a major shift in IT operations. Starting in the late 90s, companies optimized their IT budget by shifting personal costs to project costs via outsourcing. Furthermore, decisions of “buy vs. build” often were made in favour of building software. At this time, standard software often did not exactly match the companies’ demands, and they preferred a custom-tailored solution.

The outsourcing and custom-tailored solutions approach of the past is now becoming a legacy of many companies. As a result, IT is sitting on outdated solutions that are either expensive to maintain or are not maintained at all. Upgrade projects often fail since they do not offer additional benefits to the business. At the same time, sales people are left to standard office software such as Microsoft Excel to price quotes and calculate discounts, and to MS Word, which is prone to errors and lacks efficiency, to create proposals.

However, the rise of software-as-a-service changed the availability of new specialized software as well as the IT operations model dramatically. Chances arise even for small or medium enterprises (SMEs) to support their sales people in a way that is not only affordable but also the least disruptive in regards of their current sales practices. 

As business becomes more demanding, the role of IT grows more strategic than ever

In the past, IT was more focused on operating internal systems and developing custom solutions – or managing outsourced teams. Being faced with fast-paced business environments and CEOs demanding transparency and control over business processes, their mandate is becoming more strategic. Nowadays CIOs are key to strengthen and optimize business processes and thus take over a more consultative role, which supports the business owners’ decision-making process.

Performing this shift in responsibilities, CIOs must also balance and reorganize their financial and human resources to cater for more consultative workloads. Cloud software can facilitate this shift as the operations, maintenance, and support responsibilities move to specialists, which are rented in the sense of software-as-a-service (SaaS). At the same time, the incurring costs are shared among the customers of a software product and shift from CapEx (Capital Expenditures) to OpEx (Operational Expenditures) via a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

TCO comparison cloud vs. traditional software

Centralized internal systems do not work for sales people on the road

Another trend that emerged during the last decade—not only in manufacturing—was to centralize major systems like orders and material being maintained in one ERP system. This worked out nicely for personnel with a fixed work place, but is a problem for mobile people such as the sales force.

Opening up central systems for external access to provide sales reps with relevant information where they need it poses many security and data compliance risks. IT departments try to cover this issue by management of the internal network, reverse proxies, and VPN. However, secure operations of complex network setups remain complex, and users often experience these approaches as slow and cumbersome. Sales reps depend on fast and reliable access to sales relevant data anywhere and at any time.

Cloud applications can be the answer as they offer standardized, securely managed ways to synchronize or access internal systems data like ERP data and make these accessible in the cloud. Managing bandwidths and network to the users are both off the shoulders of IT, and become part of the SaaS package.

Collaboration needs vs. ad-hoc processes

Nowadays, especially in manufacturing, the value chain of a company with several locations can appear scattered, hence hard to support by IT. Sales reps are located where the customers are, whilst manufacturing premises are built and operated in lower-cost areas. Nevertheless, the need for collaboration between sales reps, manufacturing sites, and engineering experts is key to produce marketable solutions in an engineering-to-order scenario and to produce accurate customer quotes.

Supporting this essential part of the business process is no major feature of traditional software, but rather managed externally. Employees use email or other collaboration tools and applications. These gap fillers do not only pose security risks to sensitive data, they also don’t help structuring the often ad-hoc initiated collaboration process. Mailboxes are clogged, data gets lost, and IT finds themselves surrounded by a jungle of shadow IT.

A cloud solution can tackle this challenge when the respective collaborative processes are backed deeply into the system itself. Collaborative processes such as information exchange, collaborative quote inputs by different parties, document sharing, and approval processes happen directly in the software and on the objects that run the business processes rather than externally; for example, via email. Leveraging the numeral integration capabilities of a reasonable cloud solution, the users such as sales reps and managers can enjoy seamless integration with email programs like Microsoft Outlook.Collaboration is Key in manufacturing_web

Usability is key for sales people

As reality shows, IT cannot force users to stick to outdated software with insufficient features to support their everyday business challenges. Furthermore, users also stop using given software or tools if the usability is not satisfactory. The so-called “consumerization of business software” describes this trend and explains the resulting behaviour: Sales people go back to using pen and paper, look for easy-to-use applications running on personal devices like tablets, or don’t document their sales process at all. This is not only inefficient and non-scalable for an entire company, it also leads to a lack of transparency of the sales process, and managers are unable to pull production forecasts or make accurate revenue predictions.

Cloud software usually covers only a small business process in comparison to the much bigger on-premise suites of the past. This enables cloud solutions to focus on the specific requirements of users like sales reps and sales managers. Hence, usability is backed into the DNA of cloud companies, and this term does not only cover design and interaction patterns, but also general performance and response times which are essential in fast-paced business environments. The integration of existing workflows via Excel uploads and Excel, Word, or PDF downloads further help to increase the user adoption rate, thereby increasing productivity.

The 5 reasons to shift sales operations to the cloud

Summarizing the main challenges that CIOs in manufacturing and engineering businesses face nowadays, the following chances for a shift of the sales operations to the cloud arise:

  1. For SMEs, cloud solutions are an affordable and least disruptive way to replace legacy custom solutions or error-prone and inefficient gap-filling solutions.
  1. With the software-as-a-service model, IT operations, maintenance, and support can be shifted to experts whilst costs are moved from CapEx to OpEx, and the total cost of ownership (TCO) decreases drastically.
  1. Cloud solutions relieve the negative effects of data centralization for sales reps on the road, and deliver relevant sales knowledge to them in a reliable manner and under high security standards.
  1. A reasonable cloud software not only fulfills collaboration needs amongst the users, but also deeply backs collaboration processes into the system and ensures compliance with security standards and internal company approval structures.
  1. A strong focus on usability in cloud solutions leads to a high user adoption rate, and thus enables an efficient sales process in the organisation.

outdated software user experience vs. high usability in cloudConfronted with the role shift for IT departments from operations to strategic responsibilities – a fast-paced and highly competitive business environment and a highly demanding user group – CIOs of today need to invest in cloud solutions if they want to keep up. Leveraging smart and lean cloud solutions that limit costs and multiply productivity can be seen as a road to business success for SMEs in manufacturing and engineering industries.

This article originally appeared on the In Mind Cloud Blog.

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Falk Brauer

About Falk Brauer

Falk is In Mind´s Vice President Technology. He writes about technology trends around cloud, semantic web and analytics and how they apply to our customers in manufacturing and engineering companies.

Data: The Foundation Of Real-Time Digital Business

R “Ray” Wang

From Big Data to small data, the digital world measures and values every interaction. Digital technology enables every touch point, click, conversation, picture, and byte of digital exhaust to be used to improve decision-making. In fact, data provides the foundation for success in a real-time digital business. This is why organizations must carefully design a data strategy as the first step in digital transformation.

To get started, successful organizations map out a data-to-decisions framework (see Figure 1). This framework uses all types of upstream and downstream data (for example, structured, unstructured, big, small, and contextual) to align with business processes, creating information flows. From order to cash, procure to pay, campaign to lead, hire to retire, and incident to resolution, context is applied to information flows.

In the next step, algorithms apply context attributes such as role, relationship, weather, product, geo-spatial location, time, sentiment, and even intent to the information flows. The bigger the data set, the more opportunities for algorithms to find patterns of insight. The goals are to ask questions of the data and expose patterns of insight, using performance, deduction, inference, and prediction.

Traditionally, most systems stop after discovering insight. In a digital business, though, insight powers the ability to guide decision-making. By using the ability to take actions based on data, organizations can consider how to identify the next best actions, make recommendations, suggest risk mitigation, and even suggest that no actions be taken. By designing a data-to-decisions framework, organizations gain the ability to build a digital business and enable real-time business.

Once a data-to-decisions foundation is established, organizations can think about how they can apply the framework to augment decision-making. Successful leaders start by putting together a list of questions they seek answers for. They prioritize that list and then begin addressing these questions within the data-to-decisions framework. The secret to success is not what answers can be provided, but what questions should be asked. Successful organizations learn how to ask questions that have never been asked before, sometimes by employing techniques such as design thinking.

Figure 1: Use the data-to-decisions framework to drive real-time business
Data-real time

With mastery of data to decisions, organizations eventually will move from real-time to right-time models. Real-time immediately provides data to decisions as requested, resulting in a data deluge. Unfortunately, real time on its own may not be fast enough. Organizations may need to anticipate when data should be delivered. Why? Real time describes the speed at which the transformation from data to decisions must occur. Right time is about the precision that relevant, contextual information can provide once cognitive capabilities are applied to the data-to-decisions framework. In other words, right-time systems ensure organizations see what they need to see before they even know they need it.

So where do you begin?

1. Start by identifying the questions your organization seeks to answer.
2. Ask what traits make up the most valuable products, employees, customers, and suppliers. These traits drive the questions around what context matters.
3. Determine the information flows and business processes that drive context.
4. Understand the people and devices touched to provide the next level of journey mapping.
5. Apply the data sources and channels of data to recommendation engines and decision frameworks.

After taking these 5 steps, you can then start creating big data business models powered by insight. Digital technologies, data, and algorithms should all be aggressively used to create business models that take advantage of insights. Visibility, relevance, and immediacy will come from these insights-based business models. The goals are to simplify the complexity of decision making and enable real-time digital business.

Learn more how real-time business is impacting companies like yours.

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R “Ray” Wang

About R “Ray” Wang

R “Ray” Wang is the Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman of Silicon Valley based Constellation Research, Inc. He’s also the author of the popular business strategy and technology blog “A Software Insider’s Point of View”. With viewership in the 10’s of millions of page views a year, his blog provides insight into how disruptive technologies and new business models such as digital transformation impact brands, enterprises, and organizations. Wang has held executive roles in product, marketing, strategy, and consulting at companies such as Forrester Research, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. His new best selling book Disrupting Digital Business, published by Harvard Business Review Press and globally available in Spring of 2015, provides insights on why 52% of the Fortune 500 have been merged, acquired, gone bankrupt, or fallen off the list since 2000. In fact, this impact of digital disruption is real. However, it’s not the technologies that drive this change. It’s a shift in how new business models are created.

Live Businesses Deliver a Personal Customer Experience Without Losing Trust

Lori Mitchell-Keller, Brian Walker, Johann Wrede, Polly Traylor, and Stephanie Overby

Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. People who don’t trust your business are not likely to become or remain customers.

The trust relationship has taken some big hits lately. Beloved brands like Chipotle and Toyota have seen customer trust ebb due to public perception of their roles in safety issues. Consumers continue to experience occasional data breaches from large brands.

Yet these traditional threats have short half-lives. The latest threat could last forever.

Most customers claim they want personalization across all the channels in which they interact with companies. Such personalization should create long-term loyalty by creating a new level of intimacy in the relationship.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images2But that intimacy comes at a high price. For personalization to work, brands need to gather unprecedented amounts of personal information about customers and continue to do so over the course of the relationship. Customers are already wary: 80% of consumers have updated their privacy settings recently, according to an article in VentureBeat.

Companies must get personalization right. If they do, customers are more likely to purchase again and less likely to switch to a competitor. Personalization is also an important step toward the holy grail of digital transformation: becoming a Live Business, capable of meeting customers with relevant and customized offers, products, and services in real time or in the moments of customers’ choosing.

When done wrong, personalization can cause customers to feel that they’ve been deceived and that their privacy has been violated. It can also turn into an uncomfortable headline. When Target used its database of customer purchases to send coupons for diapers to the home of an expectant teen before her father knew about the pregnancy, its action backfired. The incident became the centerpiece of a New York Times story on Target’s consumer intelligence gathering practices and privacy.

Straddling the Line of Trust

Customers can’t define the line between helpful and creepy, but they know it when they see it.

Research conducted by RichRelevance in 2015 made something abundantly clear: what marketers think is cool may be seen as creepy by consumers. For example, facial-recognition technology that identifies age and gender to target advertisements on digital screens is considered creepy by 73% of people surveyed. Yet consumers were happy about scanning a product on their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items they might like, the survey revealed. Here’s what else resonates as creepy or cool when it comes to digital engagement with consumers, courtesy of RichRelevance and Edelman Berland (now called Edelman).

Creepy

  • Shoppers are put off when salespeople greet them by name because of mobile phone signals or know their spending habits because of facial-recognition software.
  • Dynamic pricing, such as a digital display showing a lower price “just for you,” also puts shoppers off.
  • When brands collect data on consumers without their knowledge, 83% of people consider it an invasion of privacy, according to RichRelevance’s research, and 65% feel the same way about ads that follow them from Web site to Web site (retargeting).

Cool

  • Shoppers like mobile apps with interactive maps that efficiently guide them to products in the store.
  • They also like when their in-store location triggers a coupon or other promotion for a product nearby.
  • When a Web site reminds the consumer of past purchases, a majority of shoppers like it.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about which personalization tactics are creepy and which are cool, but trust is particularly threatened in face-to-face interactions. Nobody minds much if Amazon sends product recommendations through a computer, but when salespeople approach customers like a long-lost friend based on information collected without the customer’s knowledge or permission, the violation of trust feels much more personal and emotional. The stage is set for an angry, embarrassed customer to walk out  the door, forever.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images3It doesn’t help that the limits of trust shift constantly as social media tempts us to reveal more and more about ourselves and as companies’ data collection techniques continue to improve. It’s easy to cross the line from helpful to creepy or annoying (see Straddling the Line of Trust).

Online, customers are similarly choosy about personalization. For example, when online shoppers are simply looking at a product category, ads that matched their prior Web-browsing interests are ineffective, an MIT study reports. Yet after consumers have visited a review site to seek out information and are closer to a purchase, personalized content is more effective than generic ads.

Personalization Requires a Live Business

Yet the limits of trust are definitely shifting toward more personalization, not less. Customers already enjoy frictionless personalized experiences with digital-native companies like Uber, and they are applying those heightened expectations to all companies. For example, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, according to Aspect research. And personalization is helpful when you receive recommendations for products that you would like based on previous in-store or online purchases.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0004Customers also want their interactions to be live—or in the moment they choose. Fulfilling that need means that companies must become Live Businesses, capable of creating a technological infrastructure that allows real-time interactions and that allows the entire organization—its structure, people, and processes—to respond to customers in all the moments that matter.

Coordinating across channels and meeting customers in the right moments with personalized interactions will become critical as the digital economy matures and customer expectations rise. For instance, when customers air complaints about a brand on social media, 72% expect a response within an hour, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. Meanwhile, an Accenture survey found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions; 48% like online reminders to order items that they might have run out of; and 51% like the idea of a one-click checkout, where they can skip payment method or shipping forms because the retailer has saved their preferences. Those types of services build trust, showing that companies care enough to understand their customers and send offers or information that save them time, money, or both.

So while trust is difficult to earn, once you’ve earned it and figured out how to maintain it, you can have customers for life—as long as you respect the shifting boundaries.

“Do customers think the company is truly acting with their best interests at heart, or is it just trying to feed the quarterly earnings beast?” asks Donna Peeples, a customer experience expert and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. “Customer data should be accurate and timely, the company should be transparent about how the data is being used, and it should give customers control over data collection.”

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0005How to Earn Trust for a Live Business

Despite spending US$600 billion on online purchases, U.S. consumers are concerned with transaction privacy, the 2015 Consumer Trust Survey from CA Security Council reveals. These concerns will become acute as Live Businesses make personalization across channels a reality.

Here are some ways to improve trust while moving forward with omnichannel personalization.

  • Determine the value of trust. Customers want to know what value they are getting in exchange for their data. An Accenture study found that the majority of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and offers.
    “If customers get substantial discounts or offers that are appealing to them, they are often more than willing to make that trade-off,” says Tom Davenport, author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities. “But a lot of companies are cheap. They use the information but don’t give anything back. They make offers that aren’t particularly relevant or useful. They don’t give discounts for loyalty. They’re just trying to sell more.”
  • Let customers make the first move. Customers who voluntarily give up data are more likely to trust personalization across the channels where they do business. Mobile apps are a great way to invite customers to share more data in a more intimate relationship that they control. By entering the data they choose into the app, customers won’t be annoyed by personalization that’s built around it.
    For example, a leading luxury retailer’s sales associates may offer customers their favorite beverages based on information they entered into the app about their interests and preferences.
  • Simplify data collection and usage policies. Slapping a dense data- use policy written in legalese on the corporate website does little to earn customers’ trust. Instead, companies should think about the customer data transaction, such as what information the customer is giving them, how they’re using it, and what the result will be, and describe it as simply as possible.
    “Try to describe it in words so simple that your grandmother can understand it. And then ask your grandmother if it’s reasonable,” suggests Elea McDonnell Feit, assistant professor of marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “If your grandmother can’t understand what’s happening, you’ve got a problem.”
    The use of data should be totally transparent in the interaction itself, adds Feit. “When a company uses data to customize a service or offering to a customer, the customer should be able to figure out where the company got the data and immediately see how the company is providing added value to the customers by using the data,” Feit says.
  • Create trust through education. Yes, bombarding customers with generic offers and pushing those offers across the different Web sites they visit may boost profits over the short term, but customers will eventually become weary and mistrustful. To create trust that lasts and that supports personalization, educate the customers.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Mean Stinks campaign for Secret deodorant encourages girl-to-girl anti-bullying posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The pages let participants send apologies to those they have bullied; view videos; and share tips, tools, and challenges with their peers.

P&G has said that participation in Mean Stinks has helped drive market share increases for the core Secret brand as well as the specific line of deodorant promoted by the effort. Offering education without pushing products or services creates a sense that companies are putting customers’ interests before their own, which is one of the bedrock elements of trust. Opting in to personalization seems less risky to customers if they perceive that companies have built up a reserve of value and trust.

“Companies that do personalization well demonstrate that they care, respect customers’ time, know and understand their customers and their needs and interests,” says Peeples. “It also reinforces that interactions are not merely transactions but opportunities to build a long-term relationship with that customer.”

Laying the Foundation for Live, Personalized Omnichannel Processes

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0006Creating a personalized omnichannel strategy that balances trust and business goals starts with knowing the customer. This can happen only when multiple aspects of your business are coordinated in a live fashion. But marketers today struggle to collect the kind of data that could drive more meaningful connections with customers. In an Infogroup survey of more than 500 marketers, only 21% said they are “very confident in the accuracy and completeness of their customer profiles.” A little over half of respondents said they aren’t collecting enough data overall.

Collecting enough of the right types of data requires more holistic data-collection techniques:

  • Take advantage of the lower costs for processing and storing terabytes of data, and develop a data strategy that combines and crunches all the customer data points needed to drive relevant interactions. This includes transactional, mobile, sensor, and  Web data.
  • Social media analytics is also a central tactic. Social profiles and activity are rich sources of data about behavior and character, merging what people buy or look for with their interests, for instance. Such data can feed predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.
  • Experiment with commercial tools that can filter and mine the data of customers and prospects in real time. This is a significant step beyond basic demographic data collections of the past.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0007Once the necessary data is available, companies need the technology, processes, and people to make sensible use of it in an omnichannel personalization strategy. Only when a company is organized as a Live Business can that happen. Here’s how your company can move toward being a Live Business:
Be live across channels. Having a consistent customer journey map across channels is core to omnichannel personalization. It requires integration across multiple systems and organizational silos to enable core capabilities, such as inventory visibility and purchase/pickup/return across channels. This integration also constitutes a major chunk of the transition to becoming a company that can act in the moments that matter most to customers. If all channels can sync in real time, customers can get what they want in the moment they want it.

Free the data scientists. Marketing rarely has full control over the omnichannel experience, but it is the undisputed leader in understanding customer behavior. While data science is part of that understanding, it has traditionally played a background role. Marketers need to bring the data scientists into efforts to sort through the different options for digitizing the omnichannel experience. The right data scientists understand not only how to use the tools but also how to apply the data to make accurate decisions and follow customers from channel to channel with personalized offers.

Walgreens’ Technology Approach to Personalization

Walgreens is a leader in building the kind of technology base that can enable real-time, omnichannel personalization. Its digital transformation is 16 years in the making, according to Jason Fei, senior director of architecture for digital engineering at Walgreens. At the heart of its infrastructure is a Big Data engine that feeds many customer interaction and omnichannel processes, including customer segmentation. The company adds third-party systems in areas such as predictive analytics and marketing software. Walgreens has a cloud-first strategy for all new applications, such as its image-processing and print-ordering applications. Other elements of the drugstore chain’s technology platform include:

  • Application programming interface (API)-driven architecture. Walgreens’ APIs enable more than 50 partners to connect with its apps and systems to drive customer-facing processes, including integrations with consumer wearables to drive reward points for healthy habits, as well as content partnerships with companies such as WebMD. “With APIs we can be an extensible business, allowing other companies to connect to us easily and help in the digital enablement of our physical stores,” Fei says.
  • Responsive Web sites. The company’s Web site is built using responsive and adaptive design practices so that the site automatically adapts to the consumer’s device, whether that is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. “We have a single code base that runs anywhere and delivers a consistent, optimized experience to all of our customers,” Fei says.

Making the Most of the Technology Base

This technology foundation has allowed Walgreens to push forward in personalization. For example, according to Fei the company uses sophisticated segmentation and personalization engines to drive outbound e-mail and text campaigns to customers based on their purchase history and profile. “We don’t blast out messages to customers; we use our personalization recommendations to be relevant,” says Fei.

The next phase of this strategy is to develop live inbound personalization tactics, such as recognizing customers when they come back to the Web site and tailoring their experience accordingly. These highly automated, self-learning systems improve over time, becoming more relevant at the moment a customer logs back in.

“When you search for a product, the Web site will take a good guess of what you might actually want. If you always print greeting cards at the same time of year, for example, the system would automatically deliver content around that,” Fei explains. “Everyone comes to Walgreens with a mission, so we can be very targeted with our communications.”

Walgreens’ mobile app combines real-time personalization with convenience. You can scan a pill bottle to refill a prescription, access coupons, send photos from your phone to print in the store, track rewards, and find the exact location of a product on the shelf.

Walgreens also recently deployed a new integrated interactive voice-response system that includes a personalization engine that recognizes the individual, says Troy Mills, vice president of customer care at Walgreens. The system can then predict the most probable reason for the customer’s call and quickly get them to the right individual for further help.

How to Get Started with Live Customer Experiences

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0008As Fei can attest, getting Walgreens’ omnichannel and personalization infrastructure to this point has involved a lot of work, with much more to come. For companies just now embarking on this journey, especially midsize and large companies, getting started will mean overhauling an outdated and ineffective technology infrastructure where duplicate systems and processes for managing customer data, marketing programs, and transactions are common.

A bad internal user experience often transcends into a bad customer-facing experience, says Peeples. “We can’t afford the distractions of the latest app or social ‘shiny penny’ without addressing the root causes of our systems’ issues.”

Live Business Requires Striking the Right Balance

The boundaries of trust are a moving target. Sales tactics that used to be acceptable decades ago, such as the door-to-door salesperson, are unwelcome today to most homeowners. And consumers’ expectations are unpredictable. At the dawn of social media, many people were anxious about their photos unexpectedly showing up online. Now our identities are tagged and our posts and photos distributed and commented on regularly.

But while consumers are getting more comfortable with online technology and its trade-offs, they won’t put up with personalization efforts that make use of their data without their knowledge or permission. That data has value, and customers want to decide for themselves when it’s worth giving it away. Marketers need to strike the right balance between personalization and a healthy respect for the unique needs and concerns of individuals. D!

 

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Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

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How Mobile Technology Impacts The HR Industry

Meghan M. Biro

We use mobile devices for nearly everything, from shopping and researching to scheduling our daily lives. In fact, more than 85 percent of U.S. millennials own a smartphone and use it frequently throughout the day.

Businesses are already optimizing their use of mobile technology to reach their customers and to make their employees work lives more efficient, but there’s one area where they’re overlooking a huge opportunity: Human resources. 

Mobile use for HR needs

Considering how tethered many of us are to our smartphones, it should come as no surprise that employees appreciate mobile access to information as much as customers. A recent study by ADP found that 37 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones to access pay information through an HR app. That’s a significant chunk of the workforce already turning to mobile solutions—and those numbers will only continue to grow.

I’ve said for years that the world is growing ever more global and mobile and HR has to be, too. To reach the right talent, you need to be mobile-friendly in design and ease of usage. HR should always go where the talent is – and these days it’s on mobile.

Harnessing the power of mobile—and cloud technology—will provide business with opportunities to make huge changes for the better.

Use technology to attract a younger workforce

Baby boomers are quickly reaching retirement, and the new workforce is made up of tech-savvy millennials—with the equally savvy Generation Z not far behind.

These younger professionals have a different perspective, work ethic, and set of expectations for employment. Mobility is their calling card; one study by Aruba Networks found that the “#GenMobile” demographic prefers flexibility when it comes to where they work, and when. An estimated 37 percent of workers telecommute full-time, with the average worker telecommuting two days a month. Technology has given us not just mobile devices, but also a mobile lifestyle.

Competition in the job market is fierce; businesses are clamoring to find the best talent, wherever it may be. Many companies are changing their HR processes to attract and retain workers—not just by tossing around perks like flexible hours or unlimited vacation days, but also through the smart use of mobile technology.

Mobile HR apps

Mobile HR apps help put data at employees’ fingertips—but what does that really mean? Here’s an example: ADP’s mobile app already has more than two million downloads, and less than two percent of customers have opted out of the service. The ADP app allows employees to access data like pay information anytime, anywhere.

This kind of 24/7/365 connectivity is important to a generation of wired-in (or, more precisely, wireless) professionals. To take this example a little further, let’s have a look at what else employees can do with the ADP app:

  • View payroll statements.
  • Clock in and out.
  • Send messages if they’re running late or going to be absent.
  • Request time off.
  • Track their schedules.
  • Review benefits, savings accounts, and spending accounts.
  • Create or revise timesheets.

Mobile recruiting

Mobile technology isn’t just affecting how employees access information; it’s changing the way businesses recruit new employees. According to Capterra, a free service to help companies find the right software, 2016 will be the year more HR tools offer mobile functionality and HR professionals use their mobile devices to apply, recruit and work. Capterra projects that those numbers will continue to grow in 2016 as more of online activities move to mobile.

According to Deloitte’s Global mobile consumer survey, 97 percent of adults aged 18-24 check their mobile phones within three hours of waking up and check their mobile devices an average of 74 times per day. The same research reveals that 50 percent of users of all ages check their phones one last time, 15 minutes before going to sleep. Mobile is where the people (and the candidates) are and where they will be in increasing numbers as time goes on.

Social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook, are quickly becoming the go-to way for businesses to find and communicate with potential candidates. An Aberdeen study found that 73 percent of 18-34-year-olds found their last job through a social network and 89 percent of recruiters have hired an employee through LinkedIn.

Undoubtedly, mobile technology and apps have made a huge impact on both internal and external HR functions.

Consumer products and technology have conditioned us to use mobile for a variety of needs, and employees expect the same responsiveness and ease of use in workplace applications. Mobile apps are beneficial across the board: They bring your business into the 21st century, increase HR accessibility, and allow you to reach a wider audience for recruiting, communication, and marketing.

Mobile is fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. Businesses need to get moving on the implementation of mobile technology throughout all departments, especially HR.

For more on how cutting-edge technology is transforming HR, see How Big Data Drives HR In 2016.

A version of this post was originally published on Converge.xyz.

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