A Whimsical Look At GDPR

Jan Gardiner

I’ll admit it—I was planning to write something terribly useful about the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that has everyone talking (and worrying). Then I realized that while I’ve been off to GRC 2017 in Amsterdam, several blogs had been added to our GRC Tuesdays site. So if you are looking for a more learned and useful discussion of GDPR, please check out the list at the bottom of this blog. For that matter, just type “GDPR” in Google, although there should be a health warning about the volume of material overloading your brain.

However, since I have been working with GDPR topics lately and I really wanted to write a blog about it, I’ll share a couple of my observations, questions, and musings.

Fundamental rights

On the very first page of the regulation, it boldly states: “The protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data is a fundamental right.” It goes so far as to state: “The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind.” (Emphasis mine)

In the current U.S. political climate (depending upon age, political leanings, and socio-economic status), some will assert as fundamental rights everything from carrying AK-47s to getting free money. But let’s not open that can of worms. My point is that I don’t hear of demonstrations in the streets about the protection of personal data as a fundamental right.

Looking historically, the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There are, of course, discussions of privacy rights in various international declarations, treaties, and conventions, but most references are focused on what governments can or can’t do. Technology advances and proliferation have now made this a topic for our businesses as well. The designers of the GDPR (and the preceding Directive 95/46/EC) assert that this is necessary to ensure free flow of personal information.

It is unknown how well the regulation will be implemented, but just relative to the fundamental rights and desire to serve mankind, I can only offer a heartfelt “WOW!”

Do you read privacy notices?

Changing gears, it’s likely that most companies subject to GDPR will need to update their privacy notices and update the consent function for the data subjects (you and me) to allow the collection and use of our personal data. But I have a silly question: Do YOU ever read the privacy notices that exist now?  Do you still click the button that says you’ve read them? How often do you NOT click the accept button?

To me, it’s a little like reading every word on each loan document before getting your home mortgage. I know I need to sign them all or I won’t get the mortgage, so I take a quick look at the terms and then proceed to sign. And I’ll confess that I “power-click” on web pages for the same reason. If I want to buy something online and I cannot do so without accepting the privacy notices, the likelihood of my clicking OK approaches 100%.

So, I’m not saying privacy notices aren’t good to have, but ONLY if the company itself is bound by them and has internal governance, policies, procedures, systems, and actions in place to ensure that they represent what is actually happening within the company.

Revenge for Sarbanes-Oxley?

In some small way, could GDPR be revenge in the EU for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX)? An interesting part of GDPR is that it applies to many countries that do not reside or even have offices in the EU. Yes, to the extent that your company gathers personal data from EU residents, you are also subject to the GDPR. If you intend to sell to data subjects in the EU (online or otherwise), you will also need to comply.

So is it revenge, in some small way (asked in jest)? Remember that SOX applies to companies outside the U.S. that are required to file reports with the SEC (mostly those registered on U.S. stock exchanges). Many non-U.S. companies, in fact, have de-listed their stock to avoid having to comply with SOX.

It’s like my loan document analogy in that I cannot imagine most non-EU companies doing significant business in the EU will walk away from the business just because of the law—but many EU companies DID de-list their stock from U.S. exchanges to avoid having compliance burdens and related costs. So how will non-EU companies respond to GDPR? Only time will tell.

New vocabulary

While I’m at it, let me touch on vocabulary and acronyms. As I read various GDPR-related documents, I noted that many of them felt the need to have a glossary of terms. So not only is the regulation itself LONG, but if you don’t first look at a glossary, it may be hard to fully understand it. Some terms are not hard to understand, like “data subjects” (people whose data we need to protect) and “personal data.”

But how easy is it to understand the difference between pseudonymization, anonymization, and minimization? Just try to say pseudonymization three times very fast—I have trouble saying it even once! And do we in the U.S. need to adopt British English spelling for pseudonymisation, especially post-Brexit? (By the way, for now the UK government has confirmed that the decision to leave the EU will not affect commencement of GDPR.)

I hope you enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek look at the General Data Protection Regulation. This is clearly a sweeping regulation that will have companies jumping through a lot of hoops to get ready by May 25, 2018. I will find it interesting to learn how ready companies are on Day 1.

Now I ask you, what do you find interesting or amusing about GDPR compliance?

Learn more

For more on this topic, please read these posts:

The Ayurvedic Approach to GDPR by Neil Patrick

Data Governance: More Than Data Management, It’s About Governance by Neil Patrick

Big Data Privacy Risks And The Role Of GDPR, Parts 1 and 2, by Evelyne Salie

This article, GRC Tuesdays: A Whimsical Look at GDPR, originally appeared on the SAP BusinessObjects Analytics blog and has been republished with permission.

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The Insider’s Guide To Improving Payments And Cash Flow: Executive Sponsorship And Project Resources

Alan Cohen and Scott Pezza

Part 3 of the Payments and Cash Flow Series

Imagine that you’ve developed a fantastic program to improve payments and cash flow, but you’ve neglected one key component: You haven’t gained executive support.

Your program may never get off the ground.

Executive support is crucial for many aspects of a successful program: goal setting, investment approval, resources allocation, meeting deadlines, and achieving goals. Cash flow initiatives are typically sponsored by the CFO with a combined focus on metrics (such as a $100 million cash flow improvement) and outcomes.

The value of outcomes can’t be overestimated. Here’s a partial list of investing options for this free cash flow:

  • Build a new plant
  • Open a new store
  • Refurbish an existing store
  • Invest in research and development
  • Pursue merger and acquisitions

There are other stakeholders who must be consulted. Payment and cash flow/discount initiatives are often supported by leadership in procurement, treasury, and accounts payable. Procurement owns supplier relationships and should be involved early as a collaborative partner in these initiatives.

Day-to-day responsibility: Successful programs require accountable leaders. Choosing the right person to lead the initiative is critical for achieving the desired goals. Focus more on their skill set than on the functional group they support.

The ideal candidate will have existing relationships within the company, can sell the program internally, be innovative and results-oriented, act as a change agent, and work as the trusted link between executive leadership and the project team.

Project team: A cross-functional team is required to execute a payment and/or cash flow initiative. Each person is vital to the overall success of the initiative:

  • Executive sponsor. Executive leadership, governance, goal setting, and resourcing
  • Program manager. Strategy definition and execution, ongoing program support, program growth plan, and executive readouts
  • Procurement lead. Supplier communications and payment terms negotiations (when appropriate)
  • Accounts payable lead: Support for supplier outreach and vendor master updates
  • Treasury lead. Payment type and terms strategy, hurdle rate or cash flow goal setting
  • IT: Connectivity, integration, data uploads, and setup of payment terms/types

Call to action At this stage, you need to identify and formalize two key stakeholders:

  1. Your champion – executive sponsor. Ensure that there is a clear executive sponsor who is committed to the initiative’s success. (Note: Estimating value to help gain executive support is the focus of the next blog in this series.)
  2. Your day-to-day lead – program manager. Identify a list of candidates who can take ownership of and lead the initiative. Ideal candidate characteristics are referenced above under “day-to-day responsibility.”

How we can help

To help you implement the call to action, we have a Project Team Overview that highlights the team structure, skill sets, and time commitment required. To request it, email

If you could benefit from a working capital management improvement program or have one underway, consider attending the Treasury & Risk complimentary webinar on August 30. You will hear a panel of analysts and experts share best practices, KPIs, and key strategies for managing working capital in a rising interest-rate environment.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Alan Cohen

About Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen is VP Payments & Financing Strategy, SAP Ariba. Alan has over 20 years of payments and working capital experience as a practitioner, consultant, and banker. In his current role, he leads the payments and financing strategy for SAP Ariba to help clients achieve improved business outcomes. Previously, at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Alan led the procure-to-pay transformation that encompassed sourcing, procurement, and payables automation, and the company became one of the first to benefit from dynamic discounting. Alan holds a supply chain management degree from Arizona State University. In 2015, he was part of a team that won SAP’s Hasso Plattner Founders Award for an innovative approach to B2B payments. Alan lives in Atlanta with his wife and 2 daughters. He has served on the board of the Weinstein School since 2007 and actively participates in 2nd Helpings, a nonprofit to rescue and deliver surplus food.

Scott Pezza

About Scott Pezza

As part of SAP Ariba's Nework Value Organization Center of Excellence, Scott researches, compiles, and shares best-practice information to help customers get the most out of their investments. With a focus on the financial supply chain (invoice management, payments, discounting, and supply chain finance), his research helps inform strategic planning, performance measurement, and program execution. He has spent the past 15 years in the B2B technology space, in roles ranging from software development and support to research and consulting. Scott earned his BA in English and Philosophy from Clark University, his MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and his JD from Boston University School of Law, where he served on the Executive Board of the Annual Review of Banking and Financial Law.

Top Uses For Machine Learning In Life Sciences

Mandar Paralkar

Empowering business growth with disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence has become a norm in IT, and machine learning is leading the way, as software applications are becoming smarter to improve our business and personal lives. With massive improvements in hardware and Big Data, machines can sense, understand, interact, predict, and respond to solve industry business problems.

Bio-pharmaceutical brands are critical intellectual property for life sciences companies, and marketing intelligence and insights are powerful ways to improve brand recognition and marketing ROI. Similarly, service ticket intelligence can automate error and issue classification and customer support ticket responses, improving service levels for medical devices.

A few key questions can help determine whether a use case is fit for machine learning. For example, can you automate the high-volume task? Is there a pattern involved in the business process’ unstructured data sets? Enterprise data is transformed into business value, with the help of a model, by using input and output parameters. Predictive models may have some bias with respect to the degree to which a model fits the data, and the variance amount can change with a model’s parameters.

There are a number of potential use cases for machine learning in life sciences. Here are some that you may wish to incorporate into your business model.

  • Quality must be enforced in supply chain and manufacturing business process for regulatory compliance. Root-cause analysis is a key aspect of corrective and preventive action (CAPA), which aligns with industry initiatives like QbD (quality by design), PAT (process analytical technique), and CPV (continued process verification). There is a clear need to identify main causes for reported defects in material assets and understand the impact of identified causes to manage the overall defect count. Based on gathered data, machines can predict what production can be produced vs. planned for a specific duration (based on historical production), thereby preventing deviations and nonconformances. Analyzing the cause of deviation from standard cycle time for manufacturing equipment, and prescribing measures to achieve standard cycle time, affect yield and scrap.
  • Life science companies spend huge amounts on direct and indirect materials and services with contract organizations. Machine learning services help commodity managers optimize global spend. Common machine learning uses in strategic sourcing and procurement include: assessment of contract-negotiation behavior, optimization of contract awards to suitable candidates, detection of single-sourcing risks, and determination of components to outsource to contract manufacturers. Intelligent enterprise strategies can recommend replacements for poorly performing suppliers; replace a supplier that poses a compliance risk; select additional suppliers to comply with purchasing policies, expansion to a new territory, or adding a category of spend; or find cheaper options for materials or services.
  • Learning management is critical in regulated industries, and training is a big part of human resources’ duties in life sciences. In hiring, HR business partners can identify the best candidates by parsing resumes into structured information, then visualize candidate profiles by skills, education, and experience, to compare and generate best-fit scores of profiles to jobs and vice versa. Talent management can take a more personalized approach towards career mapping based on employees’ unique situations, skill trajectory, and training, thereby opening opportunities to employees for fast-track growth.
  • Consider use cases where matching algorithms are used extensively for shared services like cash. Matching incoming payments with invoices is now a simplified process for intelligent enterprises to clear volumes of backlog data. Machines can match accounts receivable invoices based on learned criteria and provide a confidence score to help finance to clear payments faster (e.g., if the matching rate is within a given threshold). For payments that cannot be cleared automatically due to lower confidence levels, a list of the best-fitting invoices can be generated in order to save time identifying relevant receivables.
  • Similarly, accounts payables must release payment blocks to pay supplier invoices and receive cash discounts for early payment. Based on historical data, current user interaction, and machine learning algorithms, the system can react automatically or suggest resolution proposals. Decisions may be based on supplier rating, deviation vs. cash discount available, or purchasing category. Matching invoice line items with purchase order line items, and providing remittance advice to reduce manual errors, are ways automation helps life science accounting.
  • Sales and marketing can leverage machine learning during sales negotiations with wholesalers, hospitals, clinics, and retail pharmacies by capturing keywords, sentiments, competitors, and new contacts to feed into deal scoring, ultimately improving the win rate. Bio-pharma sales reps can share marketing collateral of interest to physicians and key opinion leaders. Third-party prescription data can create target groups for behavior-based marketing campaigns to boost sales. Thus, machine learning can help build customer loyalty with proactive retention strategies in the life sciences industry.

Smart business process enabled by machine learning, automation, and artificial intelligence can help achieve intelligent enterprise goals for the life science industry, particularly as the IoT technology adoption rate improves.

SAP machine learning services in its SAP Leonardo IoT platform help life science companies automate and prioritize routine decision making processes in order to adapt to rapidly changing business environments.


About Mandar Paralkar

Mandar Paralkar is the director of Global Life Sciences Industry Solution Management at SAP, where he has a leading role in creating the industry solution strategy and global business plans. He works with customers to define industry requirements to corporate development and shares global life sciences trends and solution innovations internally and externally. Further, he supports customer engagements with his deep industry expertise that includes a sound compliance and validation background.

Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy

Volker Hildebrand, Sam Yen, and Fawn Fitter

When it comes to buying things—even big-ticket items—the way we make decisions makes no sense. One person makes an impulsive offer on a house because of the way the light comes in through the kitchen windows. Another gleefully drives a high-end sports car off the lot even though it will probably never approach the limits it was designed to push.

We can (and usually do) rationalize these decisions after the fact by talking about needing more closet space or wanting to out-accelerate an 18-wheeler as we merge onto the highway, but years of study have arrived at a clear conclusion:

When it comes to the customer experience, human beings are fundamentally irrational.

In the brick-and-mortar past, companies could leverage that irrationality in time-tested ways. They relied heavily on physical context, such as an inviting retail space, to make products and services as psychologically appealing as possible. They used well-trained salespeople and employees to maximize positive interactions and rescue negative ones. They carefully sequenced customer experiences, such as having a captain’s dinner on the final night of a cruise, to play on our hard-wired craving to end experiences on a high note.

Today, though, customer interactions are increasingly moving online. Fortune reports that on 2016’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is so crucial to holiday retail results, 108.5 million Americans shopped online, while only 99.1 million visited brick-and-mortar stores. The 9.4% gap between the two was a dramatic change from just one year prior, when on- and offline Black Friday shopping were more or less equal.

When people browse in a store for a few minutes, an astute salesperson can read the telltale signs that they’re losing interest and heading for the exit. The salesperson can then intervene, answering questions and closing the sale.

Replicating that in a digital environment isn’t as easy, however. Despite all the investments companies have made to counteract e-shopping cart abandonment, they lack the data that would let them anticipate when a shopper is on the verge of opting out of a transaction, and the actions they take to lure someone back afterwards can easily come across as less helpful than intrusive.

In a digital environment, companies need to figure out how to use Big Data analysis and digital design to compensate for the absence of persuasive human communication and physical sights, sounds, and sensations. What’s more, a 2014 Gartner survey found that 89% of marketers expected customer experience to be their primary differentiator by 2016, and we’re already well into 2017.

As transactions continue to shift toward the digital and omnichannel, companies need to figure out new ways to gently push customers along the customer journey—and to do so without frustrating, offending, or otherwise alienating them.

The quest to understand online customers better in order to influence them more effectively is built on a decades-old foundation: behavioral psychology, the study of the connections between what people believe and what they actually do. All of marketing and advertising is based on changing people’s thoughts in order to influence their actions. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that a now-famous article in the Harvard Business Review formally introduced the idea of applying behavioral psychology to customer service in particular.

The article’s authors, Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu, respectively a professor and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, describe how companies could apply fundamental tenets of behavioral psychology research to “optimize those extraordinarily important moments when the company touches its customers—for better and for worse.” Their five main points were simple but have proven effective across multiple industries:

  1. Finish strong. People evaluate experiences after the fact based on their high points and their endings, so the way a transaction ends is more important than how it begins.
  2. Front-load the negatives. To ensure a strong positive finish, get bad experiences out of the way early.
  3. Spread out the positives. Break up the pleasurable experiences into segments so they seem to last longer.
  4. Provide choices. People don’t like to be shoved toward an outcome; they prefer to feel in control. Giving them options within the boundaries of your ability to deliver builds their commitment.
  5. Be consistent. People like routine and predictability.

For example, McKinsey cites a major health insurance company that experimented with this framework in 2009 as part of its health management program. A test group of patients received regular coaching phone calls from nurses to help them meet health goals.

The front-loaded negative was inherent: the patients knew they had health problems that needed ongoing intervention, such as weight control or consistent use of medication. Nurses called each patient on a frequent, regular schedule to check their progress (consistency and spread-out positives), suggested next steps to keep them on track (choices), and cheered on their improvements (a strong finish).

McKinsey reports the patients in the test group were more satisfied with the health management program by seven percentage points, more satisfied with the insurance company by eight percentage points, and more likely to say the program motivated them to change their behavior by five percentage points.

The nurses who worked with the test group also reported increased job satisfaction. And these improvements all appeared in the first two weeks of the pilot program, without significantly affecting the company’s costs or tweaking key metrics, like the number and length of the calls.

Indeed, an ongoing body of research shows that positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence our decisions better and more subtly than blatant demands. This concept hit popular culture in 2008 with the bestselling book Nudge.

Written by University of Chicago economics professor Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge first explains this principle, then explores it as a way to help people make decisions in their best interests, such as encouraging people to eat healthier by displaying fruits and vegetables at eye level or combatting credit card debt by placing a prominent notice on every credit card statement informing cardholders how much more they’ll spend over a year if they make only the minimum payment.

Whether they’re altruistic or commercial, nudges work because our decision-making is irrational in a predictable way. The question is how to apply that awareness to the digital economy.

In its early days, digital marketing assumed that online shopping would be purely rational, a tool that customers would use to help them zero in on the best product at the best price. The assumption was logical, but customer behavior remained irrational.

Our society is overloaded with information and short on time, says Brad Berens, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, Annenberg, so it’s no surprise that the speed of the digital economy exacerbates our desire to make a fast decision rather than a perfect one, as well as increasing our tendency to make choices based on impulse rather than logic.

Buyers want what they want, but they don’t necessarily understand or care why they want it. They just want to get it and move on, with minimal friction, to the next thing. “Most of our decisions aren’t very important, and we only have so much time to interrogate and analyze them,” Berens points out.

But limited time and mental capacity for decision-making is only half the issue. The other half is that while our brains are both logical and emotional, the emotional side—also known as the limbic system or, more casually, the primitive lizard brain—is far older and more developed. It’s strong enough to override logic and drive our decisions, leaving rational thought to, well, rationalize our choices after the fact.

This is as true in the B2B realm as it is for consumers. The business purchasing process, governed as it is by requests for proposals, structured procurement processes, and permission gating, is designed to ensure that the people with spending authority make the most sensible deals possible. However, research shows that even in this supposedly rational process, the relationship with the seller is still more influential than product quality in driving customer commitment and loyalty.

Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, studies how the emotional brain shapes decisions and experiences. In a popular TED Talk, he says that people in the process of making decisions fall into one of two mindsets: Type 1, which is stressed and wants to feel comforted and safe, and Type 2, which is bored or eager and wants to explore and take action.

People can move between these two mindsets, he says, but in both cases, the emotional brain is in control. Influencing it means first delivering a message that soothes or motivates, depending on the mindset the person happens to be in at the moment and only then presenting the logical argument to help rationalize the action.

In the digital economy, working with those tendencies means designing digital experiences with the full awareness that people will not evaluate them objectively, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management. Since any experience’s greatest subjective impact in retrospect depends on what happens at the beginning, the end, and the peaks in between, companies need to design digital experiences to optimize those moments—to rationally design experiences for limited rationality.

This often involves making multiple small changes in the way options are presented well before the final nudge into making a purchase. A paper that Dhar co-authored for McKinsey offers the example of a media company that puts most of its content behind a paywall but offers free access to a limited number of articles a month as an incentive to drive subscriptions.

Many nonsubscribers reached their limit of free articles in the morning, but they were least likely to respond to a subscription offer generated by the paywall at that hour, because they were reading just before rushing out the door for the day. When the company delayed offers until later in the day, when readers were less distracted, successful subscription conversions increased.

Pre-selecting default options for necessary choices is another way companies can design digital experiences to follow customers’ preference for the path of least resistance. “We know from a decade of research that…defaults are a de facto nudge,” Dhar says.

For example, many online retailers set a default shipping option because customers have to choose a way to receive their packages and are more likely to passively allow the default option than actively choose another one. Similarly, he says, customers are more likely to enroll in a program when the default choice is set to accept it rather than to opt out.

Another intriguing possibility lies in the way customers react differently to on-screen information based on how that information is presented. Even minor tweaks can have a disproportionate impact on the choices people make, as explained in depth by University of California, Los Angeles, behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi in his 2015 book, The Smarter Screen.

A few of the conclusions Benartzi reached: items at the center of a laptop screen draw more attention than those at the edges. Those on the upper left of a screen split into quadrants attract more attention than those on the lower left. And intriguingly, demographics are important variables.

Benartzi cites research showing that people over 40 prefer more visually complicated, text-heavy screens than younger people, who are drawn to saturated colors and large images. Women like screens that use a lot of different colors, including pastels, while men prefer primary colors on a grey or white background. People in Malaysia like lots of color; people in Germany don’t.

This suggests companies need to design their online experiences very differently for middle-aged women than they do for teenage boys. And, as Benartzi writes, “it’s easy to imagine a future in which each Internet user has his or her own ‘aesthetic algorithm,’ customizing the appearance of every site they see.”

Applying behavioral psychology to the digital experience in more sophisticated ways will require additional formal research into recommendation algorithms, predictions, and other applications of customer data science, says Jim Guszcza, PhD, chief U.S. data scientist for Deloitte Consulting.

In fact, given customers’ tendency to make the fastest decisions, Guszcza believes that in some cases, companies may want to consider making choice environments more difficult to navigate— a process he calls “disfluencing”—in high-stakes situations, like making an important medical decision or an irreversible big-ticket purchase. Choosing a harder-to-read font and a layout that requires more time to navigate forces customers to work harder to process the information, sending a subtle signal that it deserves their close attention.

That said, a company can’t apply behavioral psychology to deliver a digital experience if customers don’t engage with its site or mobile app in the first place. Addressing this often means making the process as convenient as possible, itself a behavioral nudge.

A digital solution that’s easy to use and search, offers a variety of choices pre-screened for relevance, and provides a friction-free transaction process is the equivalent of putting a product at eye level—and that applies far beyond retail. Consider the Global Entry program, which streamlines border crossings into the U.S. for pre-approved international travelers. Members can skip long passport control lines in favor of scanning their passports and answering a few questions at a touchscreen kiosk. To date, 1.8 million people have decided this convenience far outweighs the slow pace of approvals.

The basics of influencing irrational customers are essentially the same whether they’re taking place in a store or on a screen. A business still needs to know who its customers are, understand their needs and motivations, and give them a reason to buy.

And despite the accelerating shift to digital commerce, we still live in a physical world. “There’s no divide between old-style analog retail and new-style digital retail,” Berens says. “Increasingly, the two are overlapping. One of the things we’ve seen for years is that people go into a store with their phones, shop for a better price, and buy online. Or vice versa: they shop online and then go to a store to negotiate for a better deal.”

Still, digital increases the number of touchpoints from which the business can gather, cluster, and filter more types of data to make great suggestions that delight and surprise customers. That’s why the hottest word in marketing today is omnichannel. Bringing behavioral psychology to bear on the right person in the right place in the right way at the right time requires companies to design customer experiences that bridge multiple channels, on- and offline.

Amazon, for example, is known for its friction-free online purchasing. The company’s pilot store in Seattle has no lines or checkout counters, extending the brand experience into the physical world in a way that aligns with what customers already expect of it, Dhar says.

Omnichannel helps counter some people’s tendency to believe their purchasing decision isn’t truly well informed unless they can see, touch, hear, and in some cases taste and smell a product. Until we have ubiquitous access to virtual reality systems with full haptic feedback, the best way to address these concerns is by providing personalized, timely, relevant information and feedback in the moment through whatever channel is appropriate. That could be an automated call center that answers frequently asked questions, a video that shows a product from every angle, or a demonstration wizard built into the product. Any of these channels could also suggest the customer visit the nearest store to receive help from a human.

The omnichannel approach gives businesses plenty of opportunities to apply subtle nudges across physical and digital channels. For example, a supermarket chain could use store-club card data to push personalized offers to customers’ smartphones while they shop. “If the data tells them that your goal is to feed a family while balancing nutrition and cost, they could send you an e-coupon offering a discount on a brand of breakfast cereal that tastes like what you usually buy but contains half the sugar,” Guszcza says.

Similarly, a car insurance company could provide periodic feedback to policyholders through an app or even the digital screens in their cars, he suggests. “Getting a warning that you’re more aggressive than 90% of comparable drivers and three tips to avoid risk and lower your rates would not only incentivize the driver to be more careful for financial reasons but reduce claims and make the road safer for everyone.”

Digital channels can also show shoppers what similar people or organizations are buying, let them solicit feedback from colleagues or friends, and read reviews from other people who have made the same purchases. This leverages one of the most familiar forms of behavioral psychology—reinforcement from peers—and reassures buyers with Shiv’s Type 1 mindset that they’re making a choice that meets their needs or encourages those with the Type 2 mindset to move forward with the purchase. The rational mind only has to ask at the end of the process “Am I getting the best deal?” And as Guszcza points out, “If you can create solutions that use behavioral design and digital technology to turn my personal data into insight to reach my goals, you’ve increased the value of your engagement with me so much that I might even be willing to pay you more.”

Many transactions take place through corporate procurement systems that allow a company to leverage not just its own purchasing patterns but all the data in a marketplace specifically designed to facilitate enterprise purchasing. Machine learning can leverage this vast database of information to provide the necessary nudge to optimize purchasing patterns, when to buy, how best to negotiate, and more. To some extent, this is an attempt to eliminate psychology and make choices more rational.

B2B spending is tied into financial systems and processes, logistics systems, transportation systems, and other operational requirements in a way no consumer spending can be. A B2B decision is less about making a purchase that satisfies a desire than it is about making a purchase that keeps the company functioning.

That said, the decision still isn’t entirely rational, Berens says. When organizations have to choose among vendors offering relatively similar products and services, they generally opt for the vendor whose salespeople they like the best.

This means B2B companies have to make sure they meet or exceed parity with competitors on product quality, pricing, and time to delivery to satisfy all the rational requirements of the decision process. Only then can they bring behavioral psychology to bear by delivering consistently superior customer service, starting as soon as the customer hits their app or website and spreading out positive interactions all the way through post-purchase support. Finishing strong with a satisfied customer reinforces the relationship with a business customer just as much as it does with a consumer.

The best nudges make the customer relationship easy and enjoyable by providing experiences that are effortless and fun to choose, on- or offline, Dhar says. What sets the digital nudge apart in accommodating irrational customers is its ability to turn data about them and their journey into more effective, personalized persuasion even in the absence of the human touch.

Yet the subtle art of influencing customers isn’t just about making a sale, and it certainly shouldn’t be about persuading people to act against their own best interests, as Nudge co-author Thaler reminds audiences by exhorting them to “nudge for good.”

Guszcza, who talks about influencing people to make the choices they would make if only they had unlimited rationality, says companies that leverage behavioral psychology in their digital experiences should do so with an eye to creating positive impact for the customer, the company, and, where appropriate, the society.

In keeping with that ethos, any customer experience designed along behavioral lines has to include the option of letting the customer make a different choice, such as presenting a confirmation screen at the end of the purchase process with the cold, hard numbers and letting them opt out of the transaction altogether.

“A nudge is directing people in a certain direction,” Dhar says. “But for an ethical vendor, the only right direction to nudge is the right direction as judged by the customers themselves.” D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

About the Authors:

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer and Managing Director at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.



Artificial Intelligence: The Future Of Oil And Gas

Anoop Srivastava

Oil prices have fallen dramatically over last few years, forcing some major oil companies to take drastic actions such as layoffs, cutting investments and budgets, and more. Shell, for example, shelved its plan to invest in Qatar, Aramco put on hold its deep-water exploration in the Red Sea, Schlumberger fired a few thousand employees, and the list goes on…

In view of falling oil prices and the resulting squeeze on cash flows, the oil and gas industry has been challenged to adapt and optimize its performance to remain profitable while maintaining a long-term investment and operating outlook. Currently, oil and gas companies find it difficult to maintain the same level of investment in exploration and production as when crude prices were at their peak. Operations in the oil and gas industry today means balancing a dizzying array of trade-offs in the drive for competitive advantage while maximizing return on investment.

The result is a dire need to optimize performance and optimize the cost of production per barrel. Companies have many optimization opportunities once they start using the massive data being generated by oil fields. Oil and gas companies can turn this crisis into an opportunity by leveraging technological innovations like artificial intelligence to build a foundation for long-term success. If volatility in oil prices is the new norm, the push for “value over volume” is the key to success going forward.

Using AI tools, upstream oil and gas companies can shift their approach from production at all costs to producing in context. They will need to do profit and loss management at the well level to optimize the production cost per barrel. To do this, they must integrate all aspects of production management, collect the data for analysis and forecasting, and leverage artificial intelligence to optimize operations.

When remote sensors are connected to wireless networks, data can be collected and centrally analyzed from any location. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, the oil and gas supply chain stands to gain $50 billion in savings and increased profit by adopting AI. As an example, using AI algorithms to more accurately sift through signals and noise in seismic data can decrease dry wellhead development by 10 percent.

How oil and gas can leverage artificial intelligence

1. Planning and forecasting

On a macro scale, deep machine learning can help increase awareness of macroeconomic trends to drive investment decisions in exploration and production. Economic conditions and even weather patterns can be considered to determine where investments should take place as well as intensity of production.

2. Eliminate costly risks in drilling

Drilling is an expensive and risky investment, and applying AI in the operational planning and execution stages can significantly improve well planning, real-time drilling optimization, frictional drag estimation, and well cleaning predictions. Additionally, geoscientists can better assess variables such as the rate of penetration (ROP) improvement, well integrity, operational troubleshooting, drilling equipment condition recognition, real-time drilling risk recognition, and operational decision-making.

When drilling, machine-learning software takes into consideration a plethora of factors, such as seismic vibrations, thermal gradients, and strata permeability, along with more traditional data such as pressure differentials. AI can help optimize drilling operations by driving decisions such as direction and speed in real time, and it can predict failure of equipment such as semi-submersible pumps (ESPs) to reduce unplanned downtime and equipment costs.

3. Well reservoir facility management

Wells, reservoirs, and facility management includes integration of multiple disciplines: reservoir engineering, geology, production technology, petro physics, operations, and seismic interpretation. AI can help to create tools that allow asset teams to build professional understanding and identify opportunities to improve operational performance.

AI techniques can also be applied in other activities such as reservoir characterization, modeling and     field surveillance. Fuzzy logic, artificial neural networks and expert systems are used extensively across the industry to accurately characterize reservoirs in order to attain optimum production level.

Today, AI systems form the backbone of digital oil field (DOF) concepts and implementations. However, there is still great potential for new ways to optimize field development and production costs, prolong field life, and increase the recovery factor.

4. Predictive maintenance

Today, artificial intelligence is taking the industry by storm. AI-powered software and sensor hardware enables us to use very large amounts of data to gain real-time responses on the best future course of action. With predictive analytics and cognitive security, for example, oil and gas companies can operate equipment safely and securely while receiving recommendations on how to avoid future equipment failure or mediate potential security breaches.

5. Oil and gas well surveying and inspections

Drones have been part of the oil and gas industry since 2013, when ConocoPhillips used the Boeing ScanEagle drone in trials in the Chukchi Sea.  In June 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the first commercial permit for drone use over United States soil to BP, allowing the company to survey pipelines, roads, and equipment in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. In January, Sky-Futures completed the first drone inspection in the Gulf of Mexico.

While drones are primarily used in the midstream sector, they can be applied to almost every aspect of the industry, including land surveying and mapping, well and pipeline inspections, and security. Technology is being developed to enable drones to detect early methane leaks. In addition, one day, drones could be used to find oil and gas reservoirs underlying remote uninhabited regions, from the comfort of a warm office.

6. Remote logistics

As logistics to offshore locations is always a challenge, AI-enhanced drones can be used to deliver materials to remote offshore locations.

Current adoption of AI

Chevron is currently using AI to identify new well locations and simulation candidates in California. By using AI software to analyze the company’s large collection of historical well performance data, the company is drilling in better locations and has seen production rise 30% over conventional methods. Chevron is also using predictive models to analyze the performance of thousands of pieces of rotating equipment to detect failures before they occur. By addressing problems before they become critical, Chevron has avoided unplanned shutdowns and lowered repair expenses. Increased production and lower costs have translated to more profit per well.

Future journey

Today’s oil and gas industry has been transformed by two industry downturns in one decade. Although adoption of new hard technology such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has helped, the oil and gas industry needs to continue to innovate in today’s low-price market to survive. AI has the potential to differentiate companies that thrive and those that are left behind.

The promise of AI is already being realized in the oil and gas industry. Early adopters are taking advantage of their position  to get a head start on the competition and protect their assets. The industry has always leveraged technology to adapt to change, and early adopters have always benefited the most. As competition in the oil and gas industry continues to heat up, companies cannot afford to be left behind. For those that understand and seize the opportunities inherent in adopting cognitive technologies, the future looks bright.

For more insight on advanced technology in the energy sector, see How Digital Transformation Is Refueling The Energy Industry.


Anoop Srivastava

About Anoop Srivastava

Anoop Srivastava is Senior Director of the Energy and Natural Resources Industries at SAP Value Engineering in Middle East and North Africa. He advises clients on their digital transformation strategies and helps them align their business strategy with IT strategy leveraging digital technology innovations such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Advanced Analytics, Cloud etc. He has 21+ years of work experience spanning across Oil& Gas Industry, Business Consulting, Industry Value Advisory and Digital Transformation.