Business Network

Demand Forecasting for Star Wars VII Merchandise – Use the Force

One year from today (December 18, 2015) the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga will be released into movie theaters around the world. The movie will only last two hours, but kids will relive the movie for years afterwards with the Star Wars action figures and other new toys that will accompany the film. Forecasting demand for toys and merchandise associated with a major movie release can be quite challenging. When the original Star Wars action figures were released in late 1977 there was a huge supply shortage the following Christmas. A small toy company named Kenner had licensed the rights to produce toys for the original Star Wars film.  With numerous production delays and budget overruns, few associated with the film expected Star Wars to be a success before its release.  Consequently, Kenner had not bothered to manufacture any merchandise in time for the release.  Needless to say, the film was a smashing success breaking box office sales records and creating a loyal fan based of millions seemingly overnight. As a result, Kenner had to develop a merchandising strategy to capitalize on the film’s widespread popularity.   But the development of plastic toys required over a year.  The action figures needed to be designed, sculpted and tested.  Expensive and time consuming steel molds were needed to support the manufacturing activities.   Starting in mid-summer, Kenner would not be able to get the products to market in time for the all-important Christmas holiday season.  Although Kenner held the license rights to the biggest movie in history, it could not capitalize on the opportunity because it get its merchandise to market fast enough. Toy manufacturers won’t make the same mistake with Episode VII. With filming already completed in Iceland and Abu Dhabi earlier this year, I suspect design has already started on action figures, replica ships and other merchandise in preparation for launch day. Manufacturing on the toys will need to start four to six months in advance (July-September 2015) to allow adequate time for product to be shipped from China via ocean freight to stores around the world. Forecasting demand for toys will require the usual guesswork. Which action figures will be the most popular? Will it be the older versions of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo or will it be new additions Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren? Only the force could be used to accurately make these predictions. Episode VII’s release seven days before the Christmas holiday will complicate matters even further. Millions of kids will view the movie in the first few days then make last minute additions to their holiday wish lists. Santa and his elves will have to work quickly to respond to changing demand patterns up until Christmas Eve. I think the best way to launch the toys would be not to mass manufacture them in China, but instead to produce them on-demand in retail stores with 3D printers.

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Accessible Communications Deadlines Looming for Public & Private Sectors in Ontario

Do you communicate with your customers electronically? An important deadline is looming for businesses that operate in Ontario. If your organization uses PDF documents in its Customer Communications strategy, then you should be concerned about the deadline for providing accessible communication supports in those PDF documents. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was established in 2005 to help fight discrimination against people with disabilities in Ontario. Since then, in 2010, the Ontario Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. The IASR has deadlines for organizations to provide accessible communication supports which are prescribed based on type and size of organization. The Ontario Government and Legislative Assembly are already on the hook to meet this requirement as of January 1st, 2014. The Public and Private sectors are expected to comply according to the following schedule: Large Public Sector Organizations as of January 1st, 2015; Small Public Sector Organizations and Large Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2016; and Small Private Organizations as of January 1st, 2017. A large organization is one which employs 50 or more people. Programs such as paperless billing, which may involve electronic delivery of PDF-based statements, invoices and bills, are almost ubiquitous in industry today, due to their cost savings advantages and various corporate green initiatives. People with disabilities such as blindness, partial vision loss and cognitive disabilities interfering with reading ability, should be as much able to take advantage of these socially-responsible programs as anybody else. Not having communication supports built into these documents creates barriers to their participation and violates their rights under the law. Accessible Communication Supports for PDFs are provided by adhering to the PDF for Universal Accessibility (PDF/UA) standard which requires including a tag structure and other metadata within the file. PDF/UA compliant documents provide information to assistive technologies such as screen readers with regards to what is the meaningful content, and in what order it is to be read. It includes such information as language specification, identification of document hierarchy and alternate text for images used as content. Without these, screen readers see a PDF document as essentially empty. Many organizations take a manual approach to providing accessible formats, by responding to customer requests and sending documents to service providers at tremendous cost (from $5 to $35 per page) to be converted on-demand. However this is an exclusionary approach, requiring people with disabilities to inform these organizations of their disability, which to them is private information. In addition, delays in having documents made accessible by hand can disadvantage the consumer, especially when the information requested is time-sensitive in nature. An automated transformation approach, as provided by Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, can solve this problem by providing consumers with virtually instant access to accessible versions of their statements, allowing them the same timely access to information enjoyed by their sighted compatriots. Because of its ease of integration with an organization’s existing Customer Communications Management (CCM) systems, it can be provided inclusively eliminating the need for consumers to divulge private information. This can all be done at a small fraction of the per-page cost as compared with the labor-intensive manual remediation approach. This not only improves an organization’s public image, but also reduces expenses improving the bottom line. Organizations facing these deadlines under the IASR should already be thinking about how they will comply. To find out more about Actuate’s Document Accessibility Solution, simply send your request for information to ccminfo@actuate.com, and we would be delighted to start that discussion with you.

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Data Driven Summit – Can Your Car Talk To Your Watch? [Video]

Kris Clark is an engineer and technology evangelist with Actuate who loves to tinker with his Toyota Prius. He also loves data. So when Clark was looking for a cool way to show off the real-time alert capabilities in BIRT iHub, he looked no further than the dashboard of his car. As you can imagine, hacking your Prius sounds a bit presumptuous. After all, what kind of data can your car give you? Well, it turns out there is a lot you can learn from a car – and doing so is a great way to experiment with  IoT. Clark (@kclark_birt) plugged  a Bluetooth-enabled data recorder into the on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port under the dash. He then collected information like fuel economy and average speed, along with more esoteric data like GPS heading, elevation and car angle. Clark demonstrated the resulting application at JavaOne last October. But the experiment didn’t end there, because two of Clark’s colleagues wanted to take the data a step further. So Actuate’s Mark Gamble (@heygamble) and Pierre Tessier (@puckpuck) designed a “Device-driven Real Time Alert” system that sends data from Clark’s IoT-enabled Prius car to a BIRT report alert displayed on a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch. That report can then be expanded as a deeper dive BIRT report sent to a tablet computer. Here is the schema: During Data Driven Summit 2014 – Actuate’s annual series of customer events – Gamble and Tessier delivered a “must-see” live demo session exploring some of the advanced IoT features in BIRT iHub. Actuate VP of Product Marketing & Innovation Allen Bonde (@abonde) was also on hand to give perspective. Here’s that discussion at the Data Driven Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. Extra points if you can spot how fast the car was going as displayed on the watch. Also, Gamble explains why at one point Clark exclaimed “I did it for the Data!” Great catchphrase! Creating dashboards for IoT-enabled scenarios using BIRT iHub is not new to Clark. At the 2014 EclipseCon event in California, he demonstrated how to monitor and measure population, carbon dioxide, temperature and other environmental data points using a combination of Eclipse projects BIRT and Kura in a partnership with Eurotech Group. Hear  what Clark told BIRT TV about his experience with hacking his Toyota Prius. We’ll be posting more of the Data Driven Summit 2014 video series here, including the other demonstrations, BIRT data visualization insights and panel discussions with industry insiders. Subscribe (at left) to be informed when new videos are posted.

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Accessibility and Government-Produced PDFs

First published on G3ict.org Government agencies are huge creators of high-volume personal communications. Tax documents, benefits and health statements, and other critical information is distributed everyday – and the U.S. federal government aims to deliver more and more of these digitally, cutting costs and making them easier for citizens to obtain. Yet, to reach all citizens, they need to ensure these digital documents are accessible to everyone – including the visually impaired. Through the accessibility conferences and events I’ve attended – including Freedom Scientific’s recent Annual Accessibility Showcase – I’ve had a chance to speak to many government audiences. They’re wrestling with how to best create equal access in the digital documents they distribute – as well as meet compliance with their own Section 508 accessibility standards – which is why I wanted to address the issue here. Government accessibility, after all, is about to become even more important, as the U.S. federal government initiates its ICT Refresh – an update of the Section 508 Standards and Guidelines, issued under the amended Rehabilitation Act. What will the changes to Section 508 cover? Section 508 standards mandate federal government agencies on how they procure, use, develop or maintain information and electronic technology – and aims to make this information accessible to people with disabilities. The update is expected to tighten accessibility regulations further, bringing them up to standards outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. It’s also expected to include a full scope of communications not currently specified including: Public-facing content Content that is broadly disseminated within the agency Letters adjudicating any cause within the jurisdiction of the agency Internal and external program and policy announcements Notices of benefits, forms, questionnaires and surveys Emergency notifications Formal acknowledgements Educational and training materials What is expected to be exempt from covered content would include: Archival copies stored or retained solely for archival purposes to preserve an exact image of a hard copy Draft versions of documents Although Section 508 is a mandate for federal government, it has had a trickle-down effect into the private sector as well. That is solely due to the procurement regulations. With federal government constituting the largest consumer of electronic and information technology, those supplying that technology must make their products, including their documents and documentation, meet Section 508 standards in order to sell it to government. So, the new refresh will apply equally to government agencies, and to companies in all industries and of all sizes that supply to them. How can government meet these needs? In my opinion, meeting the need for accessible digital content means two things: creating the right types of documents, and finding the most cost-saving and least invasive way to build accessibility in. With that in mind, consider two things: 1. Many of these government communication documents – from tax notices to health and benefits statements – need to be offered in a digital format that’s accessible as well as portable and secure, in order to be archived for official purposes. While HTML has become a popular way of providing many types of documentation, and has its uses in government as well, it doesn’t meet these criteria. PDFs do. 2. High-volume, personalized communications such as the ones government agencies produce aren’t created by individuals. They’re created by applications that can handle those large volumes. Individually building in accessibility manually after the fact can be expensive and time-consuming – often with extended delivery times versus the instant access through secure web portals afforded to those who don’t require an accessible digital format. The right technology, though, can help get around these challenges. And it’s why Actuate introduced Cloud508 for federal government. Cloud508 To meet the needs of government, Actuate recently announced Cloud508 – a collaborative partnership between Actuate, Braille Works and Venatôre – which was specifically designed to meet the stringent security requirements of federal government. Cloud508 automates the generation and remediation of accessible PDF documents on demand and meets Section 508 requirements and WCAG 2.0 standards for accessibility. What’s more, Cloud508, powered with Actuate technology, allows for the automation of traditional formats like Braille, large print and audio, all while reducing costs and significantly speeding up delivery time. Highlights include: Automates generation/remediation of accessible PDF documents Cloud-based service First and only on the market, patented technology Secure – meets federal government’s stringent security requirements Real time conversion service Designed for high volume personalized communications such as tax, health, and benefits notices Section 508, WCAG 2.0 Level AA, PDF/UA compliant formats Automates and streamlines production of Braille, large print and audio formats I think it’s the answer a lot of government agencies are looking for as they search for ways to save time, resources, money, and comply with Section 508, all while providing a comparable experience to the blind and visually impaired. For more information on Cloud508, visit www.cloud508.com.

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Choosing the right fax server: Telephony Compatibility

Many organizations can provide a unified communications strategy that includes FAX – an often forgotten form of communication with UC strategies. Organizations can leverage existing network resources to help speed investment returns on IP equipment and applications. Some additional benefits include: · Improved document and communication security · Reduced document delivery costs · Resource consolidation · Simplified IT management · Bridge data and voice networks · Enhanced compliance in regulated industries Depending on your existing telephony infrastructure, you may choose to connect via TDM, Fax over IP (in VoIP environments), SIP Trunk, or by converting fax traffic with a media gateway. Consider these options, depending on your existing infrastructure: · Support for intelligent fax boards – Support for TDM (analog, DID, BRI, T1/PRI, E1/PRI) o The fax server should natively support the latest Dialogic® Brooktrout® TruFax® and TR1034 products in scalable densities · Support for software-based Fax over IP (FoIP) o Supports Dialogic SR140 FoIP middleware o Supports T.38, T.37, H.323 and SIP · Sip Trunking – SIP Trunking vendors like AT&T, babyTEL, CenturyLink®, Level 3®, Verizon, and XO® Communications should supported. · UC/UM equipment compatibility – Integrates seamlessly with UM/UC systems, including Voice over IP (VoIP) networks. Review interoperability guides to ensure interoperability with your UM/UC or VoIP networks. · Media gateway support – Choose a media gateway vendor that supports integration to the fax server. · Cloud/Outsourced telephony – Choose a fax server that can seamlessly interconnect to a cloud-based telephony solution (this is a hybrid deployment of on-premises fax server and cloud-based telephony). Make sure when choosing a cloud provider that it is one offered by the fax server company and not a third-party cloud provider for the best service and continuity with software. This last option, the hybrid deployment, is becoming more and more popular. It is transmitting faxes via the cloud. This option is considered a hybrid option because it is a single deployment that uses on-premises fax server with cloud fax services to send and receive faxes. It completely removes the burden of connecting, troubleshooting, maintaining and managing the connection of the fax server to on-premises telephony by outsourcing the telephony connection to the cloud. This implementation typically provides unlimited capacity and built-in failover/redundancy of connectivity. However, a second type of hybrid deployment uses both cloud-based transmission and a fax server connected to in-house telephony. Some companies elect to connect their fax server by combining on-premises telephony and cloud-based telephony. This implementation allows complete failover and redundancy of fax transmission capabilities for your fax server. This implementation can easily handle spikes in fax traffic by using the cloud’s unlimited capacity to handle large volumes and eliminate congestion over in-house telephony. Finally, choose a fax server that is designed as a flexible, centralized document delivery hub which can support the telephony network that’s best for your environment. Check out the other articles that will help you choose the right fax server for your organization: 1. What is the Business Need? 2. Desktop, Email and MFP Integrations 3. Production (Automatic) Faxing and Application Integrations 4. Easy Routing and Storage of Electronic Fax Documents 5. Security, Privacy and Compliance 6. Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery 7. Ease of Administration and Administrative Tools 8. Telephony Compatibility

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Could File Sync and Share Radically Simplify B2B Commerce?

File Sync and Share services like Dropbox and Box.net have made it easier than ever to share files with co-workers or colleagues at other companies. You create a shared folder with another registered user then drag and drop the file you want to exchange. A copy will be placed in the other user’s folders. Even unregistered users can receive files. They receive an email with a download link. Why can’t exchanging documents with business partners in your supply chain be this easy? What if there was a file sync and share service designed for Business-to-Business (B2B) transactions? Here is how it would work. A user would establish a shared folder with each of their key business partners (customers, suppliers, banks). To make things simpler, they could search through a directory of all the businesses registered on the service and simply check a box next to those they wanted to share with. For example, a small apparel supplier (let’s call them Stripes Inc) might create folders for each of their customers – Walmart, JC Penney, Macys and Sears. When Stripes wanted to send an invoice to a retailer (for merchandise it shipped to their stores) an accounting clerk would simply copy and paste the file (PDF, spreadsheet, EDI) into the appropriate shared folder. Every few minutes the file sync serve would poll Stripes’ folder for new content. Each new (or changed) file would be copied to the retailer’s folder. Similarly, Stripes could set up folders for its banking partners (factors, cash management and trade finance providers). When Stripes wanted to send payment instructions an accounts payable clerk would simply copy them into the appropriate folder. The file sync service would identify the new files and copy them to the bank’s folder as well. Doesn’t this sound much easier than the painful supplier portals that small businesses have to endure today? No more logging into 10 different web portals. No more re-keying data (e.g. invoice fields from an accounting system). No more swivel chairing back and forth between your internal business applications and an online forms. File Sync and Share services would be faster, cheaper and easier to use than today’s web portals. File sync and share is extremely low cost. In fact, it is free in some cases. As a cloud service, file sync and share does not require users to purchase any additional software. And there is no re-keying of data required. Most end-users would require no training to learn the technology. To make this a reality, file sync and share services would need to evolve. First, these services would need to adopt enterprise-grade security. Second, file sync and share vendors would need to change their privacy policies so they could not snoop on the data being exchanged. Third, formal service level agreements would need to be in place to ensure high availability. Some functional enhancements would be required as well. Big companies are already exchanging millions of B2B transactions per day using communications protocols such as AS2, FTP and MQ. To gain adoption and endorsement, a new B2B file sync and share service could not expect large retailers, automakers, manufacturers and financial institutions to make significant changes to their IT environment. The file sync service would need to be able to send/receive files to/from corporate B2B gateways using B2B protocols such as AS2 and FTP. RESTful APIs could allow big companies to pull files every few minutes onto their own B2B gateways as well as to obtain meta-data about the files exchanged. A whole suite of value-added services could be created in the cloud. Examples might include: • Translation – PDF, Word and other unstructured document formats could be scanned and converted into XML using OCR technologies. Similarly, variants of EDI, XML and other standardized messages could be translated from one format to another in the cloud. • Data Validation – Services that check to ensure all the appropriate fields in a document (e.g. invoice) are populated. Documents with missing data would not sync. The sender could be notified with a user-friendly error message highlighting the fields requiring attention. More thoughts on file sync and share in an upcoming post.

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Choosing the right fax server: Ease of administration and administrative tools

Key to the success of any fax server implementation is the administration and management of the system. Choose a fax server which provides comprehensive guides and tools to make the administration of the fax server as successful as possible. Here are some of the things to look for in a fax server provider: · Enterprise Administration Tools : These tools are designed to ease the burden of managing the fax server and provide platforms to easily manage updates and activities. · Enterprise Management: Seek a solution that allows administrators the ability to manage all fax servers on the network from a single client application. The ability to manage users, groups, forms, coversheets, billing codes, printers, signatures, and frequently used documents (among other key functions) is a must. · Reporting tools: A fax server must include a variety of system reports that can be generated by schedule or ad hoc by users or administrators. Useful reports include server analysis reports, inbound or outbound fax reports, fax printing reports, volume reports, viewed/unviewed reports, channel utilization reports, and many others. · Administrative Tools: A fax server should include a comprehensive set of utilities for managing all aspects of the fax the database. These include server diagnostics, database backups, fax aging, fax purging, and many more. A web edition of the administration utility should be available or the tool should be web-based to allow for remote access. · Notifications: Make sure you can be notified by the system when you need to. System failure? Connectivity issue? Don’t let minutes tick by without knowing if something needs your immediate attention. Find out immediately with notifications so that the issue can be addressed as soon as possible. · Robust synchronization capabilities : Fax servers typically maintain a database of users and user-specific information like permissions, preferences, logon information, etc. Look for various ways to interface and synchronize the fax server data with company phone books and directories. Active Directory, ODBC and LDAP-compliant data sources support are a must. · Support for latest OS and productivity software : Ensure that the fax solution meets requirements to support the latest editions. From a business perspective, your fax server shouldn’t be a constant struggle to monitor, manage and maintain. Enterprise fax servers should have tools that allow you to easily asses the health of your systems and monitor traffic at a glance. You can now move on to evaluating the next key capability of a fax server – Choosing the right fax server: Telephony Compatibility. 1. What is the Business Need? 2. Desktop, Email and MFP Integrations 3. Production (Automatic) Faxing and Application Integrations 4. Easy Routing and Storage of Electronic Fax Documents 5. Security, Privacy and Compliance 6. Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery 7. Ease of Administration and Administrative Tools 8. Telephony Compatibility

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Choosing the right fax server: Building a fax deployment for business continuity and disaster recovery

So many organizations rely on fax as part of a critical business process or workflow. When these workflows are interrupted, it can cost an organization for every minute of the interruption. How much would a lapse in fax services cost your organization? How much business can you afford to lose if faxing operations are shut down for any reason? Interruptions in faxing can happen at various layers of the fax server system. These business disruptions can be planned or unplanned such as telephone equipment failures, network server failures or reboots, communication outages, electric power interruptions, or even a software application failure. To mitigate this, it is important to devise a fax server implementation that can be redundant at every necessary layer. It is important to determine the business continuity strategy of your faxing operations in the event of an unplanned disaster or planned outage. The more critical fax is to your business, the more important business continuity of faxing is to the implementation. It is recommended that you review your architecture and business continuity plans with the experts of your chosen fax server company–they can often recommend architecture and failover options that could benefit your needs. Here is a short list of deployment scenarios that can provide business continuity in the event of a planned or unplanned outage: · Shared Database for High Availability – A fax server that can load balance and share its internal services and images for high-availability. This is a scenario in which a fax server shares its database of users, groups, printers, etc. It also shares various server services and fax images across a network. The fax server database resources are shared such that the application is providing a centralized location for all company users, groups, and other data objects. · Cold Spare – A cold spare configuration is intended for use in the event of a long-term system shut down, a failure, or any other system interruption that may take more time to repair. · Active-Passive Cluster – In the case where a primary fax server had a failure, the business would revert to the secondary server to continue fax processing. Cluster environments protect against an application/service failure, system/hardware failure, site failure and downtime due to planned maintenance. · Virtualization – Among the many benefits of virtualization is the ability to consolidate multiple physical machines onto a single traditional server and do so in a remarkably expeditious fashion. The net result equals a significant reduction in expenditures (less hardware and energy costs) and a new centralized point of administration that streamlines server management and increases the agility and efficiency of your IT organization. From a business perspective, your fax services must have high availability and business continuity. The consequences of interruptions to document-based communications can put your business at risk. Developing a business continuity strategy that encompasses best practices of shared services, high availability and a fault-tolerant topology can help safeguard your business. Fax server redundancy options provide reliable solutions that ensure business process continuity, improve record keeping and support compliance goals. You can now move on to evaluating the next key capability of a fax server – Choosing the right fax server: Ease of Administration and Administrative Tools. 1. What is the Business Need? 2. Desktop, Email and MFP Integrations 3. Production (Automatic) Faxing and Application Integrations 4. Easy Routing and Storage of Electronic Fax Documents 5. Security, Privacy and Compliance 6. Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery 7. Ease of Administration and Administrative Tools 8. Telephony Compatibility

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Self-Service: Joining the Dots with Digital Wholesale Banking?

The retail banking space is currently dominating headlines when it comes to the topic of self-service. In their market segment, everything is about “omnichannel,” personal convenience. It is challenging to transpose what self-service could look like in the world of wholesale banking. This post is designed to join the dots and provoke initial thoughts for transaction banking. Corporate, institutional and investment clients are driven by a number of factors, creating a compelling case for self-service. These factors include: Digitization of the Financial Supply Chain: Corporates consume banking services as part of their integrated processes, instead of separate data integration silos. Standardization of Business Processes and Technology: Each bank tries to differentiate themselves from a product and services perspective, therefore creating standardization “loose ends” for the corporate to deal with. Self-service is perceived as an area of flexibility corporates can leverage to bridge that gap with their business processes. Increased “consumerization” Culture: While straight-through processing and host-to-host integration are cornerstones of a banking relationship, corporates still require key individuals in their organization to have liquidity and transactional visibility, together with approval controls. The world of mobile banking in retail is setting high expectations with these individuals. Downwards Segmentation of Corporate Banking: Upper mid-market companies are increasingly adopting host-to-host channels, as opposed to business online banking. Every wholesale bank I’ve spoken to in the last two years has a growth of mid-market companies adopting corporate channels, leaving behind the realm of online business banking. How could these compelling drivers manifest themselves, and what could “self-service” look like for each case? Digitization of Business On-Boarding : Collecting business information, structured and unstructured, is usually the first hurdle on both sides. “Know Your Customer” (KYC) data—such as signatories’ passport information, reference information, and contractual artifacts—are gathered and maintained over time through a manual process. A content management repository is only half of the solution; the biggest opportunity for client self-service is to enable customers to share business and personal information in a nimble, automated, scalable, and user-friendly manner. T echnical On-Boarding Automation : The collection of connectivity, API, digital certificates, and other IT reference data is something done manually nowadays, with a bank’s client implementations team having to both educate and collect information with spreadsheets and email. Self-service is about on-boarding workflow portals, which validate the structure and quality of the information share by the customer, automating a huge part of the mundane on-boarding tasks. If you add a provisioning facility that leverages that data to prepare the channel and front-office technology, self-service provides the banks with exponential scale, ensuring the on-boarding teams are able to focus on high-value activities. Readiness & Compliance Testing : Historically, banks maintain expensive and complex “staging environments” (also known as pre-production CAT, or Client Acceptance Testing, setups). This effectively duplicates their entire banking architecture and staffing to flush out any issues with the client’s data and processes during on-boarding. Replace all of this with a smart, partly unattended self-test tool, with channels and front office rules replicating the production environments, and you get a digital self-service experience that can achieve tremendous business outcomes for both clients and banks. Unattended Relationship Housekeeping : Over time, people, processes, and technologies change on both sides. Client information becomes outdated; people change roles and contact details; digital certificates may expire or become revoked; the client may lose track of the bank’s decommissioning notice for their FTP backup connection; and so forth: The list goes on forever. Self-service comes with a number of artifacts such as collaborative workspaces and community management tools. It may start with simple things such as regularly prompting clients to validate or repopulate their contact details, or to revisit their reference documents and important correspondence. Is everything and anything good for a “self-serve” model? Self-Provisioning: Enabling clients to manage and change their integration setup sounds great on paper, but it could cause a lot of disruptions if left unsupervised. To use an analogy: The Engine Order Telegraph (also known as “chadburn”) was a communications device used on ship s. The pilot or captain would move a lever from “stop” to “full ahead,” which would in turn move a needle on a dial in the engine room. This way, the captain never actuates the engine components (what we would call “provisioning” in terms of banking technology), but instead provides a prompt to the engine room’s crew to act upon. I believe the “self-serve” client tools should be largely based on a web or mobile version of this device, together with “engine room SLAs” at the bank. Exposed Data Normalization Tools: While readiness and compliance “self-tests” are great value-adds for both clients and banks, I have also heard terrible ideas that would enable clients to cause chaos during an on-boarding. Just to share a few: Clients should never be allowed to develop their mapping algorithms on their own on an application exposed by the bank. Equally bad, clients should not be granted visibility into middle-office systems (I was told once clients should see their full AML hits details). And last but not least, clients should not be given control over amending their submissions after the Bank has received it in the payment processing chain (fix/repair functionality in middle-office exposed to clients). So, what stands in the bank’s way to achieve self-service? Two words: Digital Transformation. Self-service has to be part of a consistent and coordinated strategy, executed in conjunction with other areas of transformation. For instance, it takes a consolidated and smart channel to build self-service for “any product over any channel,” a degree of customer centricity awareness, as well as further IT automation. My personal take on the whole topic is that not everything should be “self service”.

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Enterprise World 2014 – Digital Disruption Across Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Supply Chains

OpenText hosted Enterprise World 2014 in Orlando last week, our main customer focused conference for the year. With nearly 2000 attendees, the event was a huge success and it provided the ideal opportunity for our customers to learn more about how OpenText will be helping companies develop a digital first strategy. OpenText also unveiled a number of exciting cloud based announcements as well as provide an opportunity to showcase enhancements to our Enterprise Information Management suite of product offerings. There was also a very strong industry focus at this year’s event and it provided me with the opportunity to define my vision of how digital disruption would impact tomorrow’s manufacturing supply chains. I wanted to use this blog entry to highlight some of the key messages from this particular session. I began the session by describing some of the macro-economic trends that were impacting today’s manufacturing industry. From globalisation to consumer driven product innovation, today’s manufacturers are quickly restructuring their supply chains to accommodate future growth and new digital trends. Much of this growth will occur in a new set of emerging markets collectively known as the MINT, (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries. For the past decade companies have focused on the BRIC countries and now they have the MINT countries to contend with! You can find out more about the MINT countries through one of my earlier blog entries. I then went on to discuss the evolution of the digital manufacturing business, this was an area that I discussed quite extensively in an earlier blog entry, click here.  I wanted to try and highlight that the manufacturing industry has seen pockets of ‘digital innovation’ evolve over the years, however most of this digital innovation has centred around information that has originated from the design department. The design department has essentially provided the central hub from which various departments across a manufacturing business have utilised digital information. I then went on to explain how digital information powers the integrated value chain and how Enterprise Information Management solutions from OpenText can help to manage all types of digital information across the entire lifecycle of a manufactured product.  I explained how at a simplistic level, an end to end product lifecycle could be broken down into twelve key process steps. From managing digital information at the market / customer requirements stage, through to production and aftermarket support, each stage of the process generates different types of digital information that needs to be managed, archived and potentially exchanged across a digital supply chain. I will expand on this concept in a future blog entry but you can see at a high level below how I have mapped across OpenText’s key solutions across each step of a product’s lifecycle, further details on this are available via the SlideShare link at the end of this blog. Following this discussion I went on to discuss the future of the digital manufacturing business and in particular how key technologies being introduced today would impact digital manufacturing strategies of the future. For the past few years manufacturers have been embracing cloud based ERP, PLM and B2B solutions, but moving forwards CIOs across the manufacturing industry will have to support a broad range of digital information coming from a variety of different sources. I highlighted five of the more popular technologies that were getting a lot of air time in the media at the moment. For example: Wearable devices such as Google Glass and how they will help in for example the warehouse and logistics management space How 3D printing was likely to revolutionise manufacturing and see ‘zero length’ supply chains being introduced Deployment of advanced robotics platforms such as ‘Baxter’ and the so called ‘Fox Bots’ to automate manual production processes Introduction of drone based logistics and how they will potentially improve the efficiency of short distance delivery networks The Internet of Things and how it was likely to impact the design of future B2B platforms and improve the efficiency of supply chain networks The Internet of Things was the last area that I covered in my presentation and this was probably the most significant from a digital disruption point of view. I have discussed the IoT in earlier blog entries, most recent example is shown here, and what I wanted to do for this presentation was provide a point of view for how B2B, EIM and IoT will work together in future manufacturing environments. I used the graphic below to try and provide a high level view of what a future manufacturing business could look like with digital information being both visible and accessible from one end of the manufacturing supply chain to the other. The grey area depicts the traditional information management space that OpenText has served over recent years.  The blue area highlights the external connectivity and exchange of digital information, provided by GXS and EasyLink, across the extended enterprise, and the orange section highlights the information that will be coming into the enterprise from thousands of connected devices that will be connected to digital business networks in the future. I had some great feedback from this presentation at Enterprise World and it certainly helped provide attendees with a vision of how OpenText can help manufacturers fight their way through the complexity of managing digital information in the future. If you would like to see my entire presentation from Enterprise World, then please click on the following link to view the SlideShare based presentation. Enterprise World 2014 – Manufacturing Industry Breakout Session from Mark Morley

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Finding the Right Print-to-Web Solution: 8 Things to Look For

In a recent blog post, “The Customer Communications Transformed: Who Benefits and How it Works,” we talked about the recent shift in customer needs, as more and more customers look online – rather than at the more traditional print versions – for their statements and billing information. The experience is not only beneficial for customers, who can have all of their information at their fingertips at any time, but to companies as well, which can save money and gain customer loyalty from the shift. But how do those companies ensure statement information is presented accurately, on-demand and in easily readable formats? To achieve all of that, they require the right technology solution to handle their print-to-web transformation needs. And for that, they need to know what to look for. These 8 solution attributes should be priorities on print-to-web shopping list: A Big Picture Understanding. The technology provider should have broad experience with all components of the customer communications management (CCM) and how content, transformation, visualization, reporting, analytics, etc., fit together in transforming print to web. Flexible High-Fidelity Transformation Tools. Companies don’t want a print-to-web solution that’s tied to a single input or output format. Look for something more flexible, that can work with multiple input formats (including AFP, Line Data, PCL, Metacode, PDF, TIFF, etc.) and output formats (such as PDF, accessible PDF, XML, HTML, etc.). Multichannel Capability. The right technology will allow customer communications to be delivered across all online channels – from web to mobile and email – and over all computing devices. Accessible Output for the Visually Impaired. In order to stay legally compliant and reach all of their customers, organizations need to consider accessibility, and look for a solution that automatically produces high-volume communications in a WCAG 2.0 compliant Accessible PDF format, usable through screen reader technology. Superior Performance. Look for robust, enterprise-grade performance. Excellent System Integration. Print-to-web technology should be able to interact with products not only within the same suite, but also with popular third-party business systems, for better integration into the company’s existing environment. Comprehensive Visualization and Reporting. The right print-to-web technology should accept data from multiple sources, produce multiple output formats, provide informative dashboards and give consumers the tools they need to aggregate, sort, chart, compare and rank data. Fast, User-Friendly Analytics. Analytics can help consumers and companies get more out of their data. Add these together and the result will be a robust, flexible and powerful print-to-web technology that’s also easy to use for everyone. A solution such as this will help create an online content environment that will allow both customers and companies to thrive.  

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Focus on Industry at Enterprise World 2014

Tuesday at Enterprise World was THE place to be this year for industry perspectives and peer networking. Customers and partners joined our OpenText industry team led sessions for Energy, Resources and Utilities, Financial Services and Insurance, Manufacturing and supply chain, Life Sciences, Media, Entertainment and Telecommunications, and the Public Sector. And we wrapped with a reception and industry meet-and-greet, followed by the OpenText Heroes Awards ceremony! The impact of digital on your industry “The only source of knowledge is experience.” — Albert Einstein What better way to learn about the latest best practices than from peers in your respective vertical industry! Whether it’s Agenda 2020 consumerism, digital disruption or transformative technologies like the Internet of Things, our industry sessions touched on top of mind topics; including: Powering Business Transformation in the Energy Sector Manufacturing Supply Chains of the Future Targeted Digital Marketing and Client Onboarding in Financial Services The M&E Digital Media Supply Chain How Digital is Driving Government Transformation The New Quality Paradigm for Life Sciences Meeting Compliance Objectives in 2014 & Beyond And thats not all Our main stage and keynotes were incredible and our industry discussions continued throughout the week, with solution case studies plus first hand customer success stories and roundtables. And each morning colleagues dialoged at the “Birds of a Feather” industry breakfast tables. Industry topped if off with our Financial Services Advisory Council and our Energy User Group serssions. Thanks to our awesome customers, partners and OpenText colleagues for making #EW2014 a meaningful memorable event. Now stay tuned for Innovation Tour and in the meantime check out our Industry Insights community and Blog!

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What Google Can Teach Us About Monetizing Business Networks

In my last post I discussed the dramatic differences in business models between social networks and business networks. Social networks derive revenue primarily from monetizing the content generated by their users with third parties. Business networks, however, charge end-users directly for the services they consume. The CEOs of many business networks have talked about creating analytics and reporting services for the past 10 years, but there are few examples of success. Is the data on business networks simply not of interest (or worth analyzing)? Let’s start by understanding the types of data that passes through business networks. The most popular transactions include Purchase orders Shipment notifications Commercial invoices Delivery confirmations Payment instructions Bank statements Inventory positions Product catalogs Point-of-Sale Many people review this list and think of it as mundane data. What could we learn from reviewing a company’s delivery confirmations or inventory reports? How boring? It is far more fun and interesting to focus on performing sentiment analysis of Facebook posts to guess who will win the next US Presidential election. And far more rewarding to make stock picks based upon which new high tech gadgets are getting the most buzz on Twitter. But I would argue that people thought about maps as boring 15 years ago. What could be more boring than street maps? Fifteen years ago most people owned a set of maps for their car. And the roads didn’t change much so there was relatively little repeat purchasing. So you might ask – why would anyone focus their time investing in reinventing the map?   But Google, Apple and Yahoo clearly did not agree. All three have been battling to become the de facto source of mapping and driving instructions data for over a decade – first on the browser and now mobile apps. And now these vendors are best positioned to exploit the multi-billion dollar opportunity for location-based services and mobile advertising. Out-of-print books offer another example. Google has spent the last 10 years cataloguing and digitizing 30 million different books – many of which are out of print. They have fought legal battles over copyright violations and suffered negative publicity in the press. Who cares about out-of-print books? If the books were worth reading they would still be on the printing presses, right? But Google had a broader vision. Google wanted to democratize knowledge to everyone by continuing to improve its search engine. And it also saw an opportunity to build a real-time language translator. By comparing copies of the same book published in multiple languages Google could build an algorithm that could automatically translate text from French to English, German to Dutch, Italian to Portuguese. Think “Translate This Page.”  Ten years later, who is best positioned to build a mobile app that can listen to human speech and translate it in real-time? Google is one of the top contenders. How do maps and books relate to purchase orders and invoices? They all appear on the surface to be uninteresting for analysis purposes, but are sources of unlocked potential. When it comes to data beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many types of information that would seem fundamentally uninteresting or irrelevant to the general public have immeasurable value in the eyes of a visionary entrepreneur or ambitious data scientist. By analyzing the data on business networks companies could determine – What is their perfect order fill rate? What shipments are at risk of being delayed? How does their on-time delivery performance compare to your competitors?

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Archiving – Do You Need to Upgrade? [Part 4]

Part 4 – Success Stories In previous blog posts, we asked a question – do you need to upgrade your Archiving system? We examined the drivers for change, the symptoms of an older, outdated system and the features you would want to have in an upgraded system. But what about tangible results? Here are 4 real-world success stories of large, respected organizations that upgraded their ageing archive systems. 1. Repository for Regulatory Compliance A large U.S. insurance and investment management corporation stores 2 terabytes of customer data in the Repository. The company uses integrated scheduling tools to automate content retention and disposition according to rules that help them maintain regulatory compliance. Our system also makes it easier for company agents to view and combine content as they bundle products for their customers. The Repository has reduced content load times by a full two-thirds, a vast performance improvement over the company’s previous repository. 2. Repository for Fast Online Viewing A large European bank stores 43 million statements in the Repository, allowing customers to instantly view their recent account history in a web browser. At peak times, the Repository provides access to 25,000 documents per hour, or about 400 documents per minute. The bank statements are simultaneously loaded into the Repository and IBM® Content Manager OnDemand (CMOD). For the first 13 months, when the statements are more frequently viewed and referenced, users access them in the Repository. After 13 months, the Repository automatically deletes the statements, but users can still access them in the slower, more costly IBM® Content Manager OnDemand (CMOD) archive, which the bank uses for long-term storage. The Repository loads 4 million statements (averaging 10 pages per statement, for a total of 40 million pages) in a five-hour window. The system includes built-in content transformation capabilities that support real-time and batch transformations, so customers can receive content in their format of choice via their preferred communication channel. Using the Repository as high-performance frontline storage, the bank has been able to provide a better customer experience and significantly reduce the cost of operating their existing IBM® CMOD system. 3. Repository for Intermediary Archiving A large Canadian financial services company used the Repository as an intermediary system when migrating 2 terabytes of content (TIFF, RTF, PDF, MPE, and WAV files) from Global 360 ® to an IBM® FileNet® P8 archive. The Repository performed so smoothly and efficiently during the migration that the company continues to operate the system as an “intermediary” archiving solution. 4. Repository for Enterprise-Grade Performance and Seamless Integration An American telecommunications giant chose Actuate Repository to replace an obsolete and unsupported eDocs® repository. The Repository was selected for its exceptional performance and integration capabilities, including excellent compatibility with Oracle® WebLogic® and a built-in connector for IBM® CMOD. The company did not have to change any of its existing architecture. This telecommunications giant loads content from 60 million accounts into Actuate Repository every month, maintaining 18 months’ worth of bills for e-presentment. The system is capable of supporting up to 100 transactions per second as customers request content for real-time e-presentment through an online portal. With the Repository, the company has improved online self-service and enhanced their ability to analyze customer data. The company also uses Document Transform to convert print stream data from AFP to PDF and XML formats. In future, they plan to adopt a PDF Accessibility solution that will make all online statements accessible to reading-disabled customers through screen reader technology.  

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Updating a Classic: Top 3 Reasons to Streamline Your Fax Infrastructure

Faxing may seem outdated, but it became popular in the business world for a reason. It allows organizations to quickly and securely exchange information. In fact, fax is used worldwide millions of times each day to send purchase orders, claim forms, supplier quotes, contracts, and a multitude of other documents. Faxing has a long history as a trusted and secure form of communication, and it’s still at the heart of many business processes and workflows today. If any of your business operations rely on fax, it may be time to consider an enterprise fax server solution that can make your fax infrastructure more efficient and productive. Consider these top three reasons to update your fax solution: Increased Productivity: The latest fax solutions turn formerly paper-based faxing into electronic-based faxing, essentially taking the “paper” out of the process wherever possible. Fax servers integrate with desktop environments and email systems, which allows employees to send and receive fax documents directly from their computer. This greatly improves worker efficiency by letting users work from their preferred environments. Reduced Costs: Companies that rely on paper-based fax machines know how time-consuming, costly, and frustrating they can be. By implementing electronic-based faxing and getting rid of physical fax machines and phone lines, you can reduce both the amount of money and IT support your organization will need. The right fax solution helps you accelerate business processes in a cost-effective manner. Improved Compliance: Businesses face serious risks from noncompliance, with both financial and reputational ramifications. Government regulations and standards are constantly evolving, impacting how businesses around the world secure and manage their information. As pressure grows to more closely manage fax communications and document processes, leading organizations are turning to enterprise fax solutions to help them secure, track, and store information for compliance purposes. Faxing may be a classic, but it can be made more efficient and productive by increasing the speed of transmitting, routing, and processing faxed documents. Let the experts guide you through understanding desktop fax, your solution options, and what matters most when selecting a fax solution. Sign up for the Desktop Fax Solution Webinar Series.

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Announcing the Customer Communication Suite Release 5.1

We are pleased to announce the 5.1 release of the Customer Communication Suite (CCS) on October 27, 2014. This version is available to existing customers through Actuate Licensing. This release includes numerous product improvements, including a number of enhancements and all cumulative fixes from previous releases. This release encompasses the following products: Process Designer 5.1, Process Manager 5.1, Repository 5.1, Document Transform 5.1 and Data Transform 6.7. Existing customers can obtain release documentation from the Actuate Customer Support Portal. Release documentation available includes Release Notes, Technical Summary of New Features whitepaper, Supported Products Matrix (including product obsolescence information), documentation and more! Highlights of improvements in the CCS 5.1 release include: Process Manager Alternate Text Manager to improve the implementation of alternate text for accessible documents Increased flexibility in all products through the implementation of scripting support using JavaScript Enhanced API functionality to provide enhanced interoperability and integration with existing business systems Usage tracking reporting within Administration Console to enable administrators to track usage and anticipate future needs Document Transform Automated Page layout detection to improved usability and decrease new project setup time Repository Enhanced Repository reporting to include drill downs, and new user reports allowing administrators to monitor and tune existing applications Help System Enhanced help system to increase ease of use and support mobile / tablet browsers We encourage existing customers to plan your upgrade to CCS 5.1 as soon as possible to take advantage of the latest improvements and functionality. We look forward to having our Professional Services teams in North America and Europe work with you should you require their expert assistance with your implementation upgrade. For support information, please contact Customer Support.

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Should you say “YES” when your customer asks you to implement EDI?

I just completed a series of blogs about EDI onboarding of a supplier community. Those blogs assume that the reader is the buyer in the relationship.  But, if you’re the supplier in the relationship, you may be wondering what’s in it for you to comply with your customer’s request to trade electronically.  Here are just a few of the benefits you will be likely to enjoy: Better relationships with customers For many companies today, EDI is a prerequisite for doing business.  You have a greater likelihood of starting and maintaining a positive business relationship by replying: “Yes, of course we can receive your Purchases Orders (PO) via EDI.” “Yes, we will send you Advance Ship Notices (ASNs) so you will know exactly when your orders will arrive and what is included in our shipments.” “Yes, we will use barcode labels on our shipments so you can scan our shipments upon arrival and achieve greater productivity in your warehouses and distribution centers.” More revenue from current customers Answering positively to your customers’ EDI requests means your company is seen to be easy to do business with.  That frequently results in receiving more orders from the same customers. That, of course, in turn translates into higher revenues. A competitive edge Once you have developed your EDI capabilities you then have a competitive edge that you can proactively use as a differentiating service feature during the sales process with new prospects and other customers, both locally and internationally.  This means that your sales team will be happy because they don’t have to worry about whether they can accept a new customer order or not.  (Watch this video case study to hear Harper Collins describe how EDI has enabled them to accept new customer orders without fear.) Faster payments and better cash flow If you’re receiving purchase orders and sending invoices electronically, a common by-product is faster payments as a result of the faster invoicing process.  Your EDI invoice is more likely to be complete and accurate.  Thus, it can be approved for payment sooner and you should receive the funds earlier – particularly when early payment discounts are available. You should definitely say “yes!” when your customer asks you to exchange business documents via EDI.  It’s a win-win whether you’re the buyer or the supplier! If you want to learn more about the basics of EDI, you may be interested in reading this short EDI Basics book.

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Actuate Tops Dresner Embedded BI Report, a Critical Tool for Data-Hungry Execs

A little horn-tooting first: Actuate was ranked as the No. 1 vendor in the “Dresner 2014 Embedded Business Intelligence Study.” The study is the latest in Dresner’s “Wisdom of Crowds” series of market insights. These reports comprise the only comprehensive research on BI usage and trends from the viewpoint of the customers, and virtually all BI vendors are ranked. It’s a really big deal for us to be recognized by the input of companies like yours in this kind of report. Our competition included all of the traditional and emerging business intelligence software providers. We left them all in the dust. Actuate was the only ranked vendor who met 100 percent of the Embedded BI architecture requirements, including rarely provided desktop widgets, Google Gadgets and Python API. Actuate was also ranked as providing superior custom, white-label branding for companies such as banks and telecoms who provide their customers with data driven analytics apps. Now we’ll put the promo banner down for a bit to bring you the other big news from the Embedded BI report: You and your manager are extremely likely to have embedded BI on the list of most critical software tools for your organization in the next year… so its’s best to be prepared!, Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer at Dresner Advisory Services advises. “Across all relevant technologies, embedded BI technology falls into the top third of initiatives considered strategic to business intelligence,” the report states. “This reflects awareness and openness toward embedded technologies and an expectation that they will support more pervasive uses of BI.” The survey combines the ratings of roughly 2,500 organizations including crowdsourcing and the BI software vendor community. Dresner added the Embedded BI Report to his industry reporting to better understand how organizations are using embedded BI within data-driven apps they are creating for internal and external customers. The Value of Embedded BI It’s impressive to think that embedded BI ranks ahead of other enterprise concerns, including mobile device support, data mining and advanced algorithms, and software as a service and/or cloud computing. But why Embedded BI? What’s it good for? Typically, embedding business intelligence allows development teams to provide personalized analytics in their data driven apps. These apps let users get the maximum benefit of their data mining, ad hoc queries, dashboards and performance monitoring. Companies using financial management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and marketing automation tend to use embedded BI in their own apps. But the specific applications targeted for embedded BI vary by industry, according to the Dresner report. Manufacturing businesses favor transactional and planning platforms, whereas retail and wholesale businesses favor embedded BI support for Web portals and workforce management. Technology companies are likely to use embedded BI to help them improve marketing and call centers. The emphasis on embedded BI could not come at a better time for the vendor community, says Dresner. This year, organizations see a broad span of targets for embedded BI that cover the full range of traditional back-office transaction systems all the way to operational and customer-facing Web applications. “Like the user sample, industry respondents have a strong view of the importance of embedded BI in 2014,” Dresner said in the report. “There is good industry support for integration resources and preferred BI features. Industry support for core embedded technologies has been increasing and in many cases is nearing 100 percent.” Other Points Of Interest There are a couple of standouts in the Dresner report that bear exploration. First off, very small companies (between 1 to 100 employees) and very large companies (more than 5,000 employees) were the most enthusiastic toward a range of embedded BI approaches. HTML, iframes, Web services, and JavaScript are the most popular mechanisms for embedded BI. Custom branding and white-label solutions are also in high demand. Vendors consider sales the most important area of focus for embedded BI, followed by marketing automation and, curiously, workforce management, which may be a function of short-term staffing. Among larger organizations, the number-one application is Web portals. Companies centered in Latin America, EMEA and Asia Pacific were most likely to identify embedded BI as a critical function of their business, although even in North America, it’s still considered a positive investment.   As more companies provide services for customers and end users, embedded BI will continue to take a lead role in shaping those data driven conversations.        

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Monetizing the Data on Business Networks

The business model for most social networks is to offer free access to a large community of users then seek to monetize the content being created on the network with third parties. Some networks use the content on their networks to offer more highly targeted advertising than has been available historically. For example, LinkedIn can better target job ads by leveraging the data it has about its users (e.g. the skills and experiences listed in their profiles). Facebook takes a similar approach to targeted advertising. Facebook can analyze the content you offer about hobbies, interests and products you have purchased (data most brands would struggle to get through other channels) to serve up relevant ads. Business networks, however, have very different business models than social networks. Business networks do not offer their services for free. And they historically have not tried to monetize the data being exchanged on their network. Business networks have grown up using old-fashioned, 20th century business models in which you charge end-users directly for services they consume. Suppose a bank sends 100,000 daily account statements out to its customers. The bank would then pay a per document change for each of the 100,000 statements. If a retailer issues 5,000 purchase orders in a month then it pays a corresponding fee for each purchase order. In some cases, customers are offered a flat monthly fee as long as they do not exceed a certain transaction volume. A direct fee, usage-based model would never work on social networks. Can you imagine if Twitter charged you for every tweet or follower? Or if Instagram charged by the megabyte for every photo you shared? Or if Facebook charged you for each post you liked? Conversely, the business model for social networks would never work for business networks. A business network that analyzes their data for the benefits of an unknown third party would scare off most companies. The data exchanged on a business network is not in the public domain (like a social network) so it cannot be sold to advertising agencies or any third party. The data really cannot be sold to anyone. It is owned by the companies that send or receive it. However, business networks could analyze the data from individual companies and sell the insights back to them. Using data from business networks we could better understand financial and supply chain performance. Networks could possibly identify risks or issues that are not easily obtainable from a company’s ERP systems. For example, you might be able to identify changing consumer demand patterns that would provide you with an early warning of a possible economic slowdown. Or you could estimate how long it will take shipments to traverse the pre-holiday congestion at California ports. Despite the massive potential, few business networks have released analytics or reporting services to customers. And those who have released these services have not been able to generate a significant revenue stream yet – at least not that has been publicly disclosed. Are business networks simply failing to execute on the opportunity? Could it be that customers don’t really see the value analyzing data in business networks make sense? Or are the privacy concerns by corporate users providing too big of an obstacle to overcome?  

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How Not to Build a Digital Business

How do you become a digital business? You may discover many different paths to success on your digital journey, and even more opportunities to take a wrong turn along the way. Here are three traps to avoid, inspired by some classic Beatles songs plus a turn of phrase from Taylor Swift. Be sure you never ever get caught in these mistakes as you build your digital business. What’s a Digital Business? In Gartner’s recent study, 22 percent of the respondents defined themselves as already being a digital business: one focused on a world where people, businesses and things communicate, interact and even negotiate with one another. What paths are being taken to build those digital businesses? A large segment of the Gartner study — 41 percent — defined themselves as a digital marketing business, a stage that leverages the Nexus of Forces (social, mobile, cloud and information) to build intimate relationships with their customers that advance their businesses. Cognizant views businesses being reshaped into digital businesses by how customers behave: “the way we shop, consume entertainment, socialize, learn and do just about everything, every day. It’s the digital lives of customers that are changing the rules of engagement and we’re seeing their loyalty grow stronger for the brands that keep pace.” Based on a survey conducted by Circle Research for Vodafone, machine “behavior” is driving digital business and more importantly digital business returns. The research found that digital Machine-to-Machine (M2M) adoption has increased by more than 80 percent globally in the last year and revealed that nearly all (96 percent) of the America organizations implementing M2M strategies have experienced a return on their investment (ROI) such as greater competitive advantage, customer service and productivity. For Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of The Second Machine Age, it is all about artificial intelligence and the pace at which digital technologies are growing in power that will inform the path to digital business. An interesting article in Tech Republic gives some examples, from Brynjolfsson and others, of what our digital business future might look like. These range from call center operators gradually being replaced by question-answering, automated systems (Think “When Watson Met Siri”), to the declining cost of sensors “driving” automation of transportation and logistics occupations. A new research report from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assessed the readiness of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, designed to transmit safety information between autos and warn drivers of imminent crashes. NHTSA estimates that anywhere from 25,000 to 592,000 crashes could be prevented and save roughly 50 to 1,083 lives per year. In a recent meeting with ARC Advisory, the conversation turned to the industrial Internet of Things and then on to the subject of consumer impacts. In the digital business world of the future, refrigerators will alert what and when they need to replenish, and grocery shelves will leverage their connected digital supply chain to drive demand response back through to supplier distribution centers and logistics providers. Cars will drive themselves and notify insurance firms and garage services when they break down, negotiate claims and arrange payment and repair. While we consider just how distant or near a future all this might be, I wish to make it clear I would much prefer to have a chef and a chauffeur. Just old fashioned I guess, but one who does recognize that our collective progress towards digital business is at times exhilarating, at other times disappointing, and at all times inevitable. So with that as backdrop, here are three common mistakes to avoid as you build your digital business. Mistake #1: Digital business is just a new kind of psychedelic experience Gartner states, “Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.” It predicts that by 2020, 75 percent of businesses will be a digital business or will be preparing to become one. Some might say the best way to achieve this blurring is through psychedelic experience — just listen to the Beatles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to be transported to a world of “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.” As business people we need to be careful that the bright shiny object of “digital” does not blind us on our path forward. Digital innovation and creativity need to stay grounded in and aligned with the strategic direction of the business, with clear context to the parent industry. As McKinsey states in finding your Digital Sweet Spot, “To capture the value available, organizations will need to assess the value at stake, invest proportionally to that value, and align their business and operating models accordingly.” Not all industries face the same opportunities or the same threats. The McKinsey study found that industries in the “eye of the digital storm,” like retail banking, property and casualty insurance, and mobile telecommunications that offer virtual rather than physical products and focus on processing and servicing, need to have a strategy for digital that includes omnichannel distribution. McKinsey projects that digital-channel use in these sectors will average 35 percent bottom-line impact, while cost-base potential reductions could average 20 percent. On the other hand, industry sectors like grocery retail and apparel need a different strategy. For them, digital sales may realize only a 20 percent average bottom-line impact over the next five years. A significant opportunity, but much less than the potential bottom-line impact from digital driven cost reductions, which could average 36 percent. So as business moves on its digital path, those who forget the basics of good market analysis and business strategy do so at their own peril. Just look back to the dot.com days, when Webvan was founded as an online grocery store. According to C-Net, “Webvan went from being a $1.2 Billion company with 4,500 employees to being liquidated in under two years.” What looks to be a much smarter trend is the birth of gourmet marketplaces like Foodoro with food crafted by artisan producers. A startup with a targeted market aligned with their digital business strategy. Hmmm, I need to look to see if they are selling “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.” Mistake #2: To find the right path you must look within The great George Harrison wrote a song called The Inner Light based on a passage from Tao Te Ching “Without going out of my door I can know all things on earth.” He was heavily influenced by the Beatles time in India and his truly inspirational advice might work well for the path to enlightenment. For the path to digital business, I believe this approach could prove to be fatal. Getting outside yourself is critical, look outside your business, to your partners and your customers, and keeping your industry structure and dynamics in mind. McKinsey notes “The potential impact of digital technology varies widely by industry, but most enterprise leaders share an important challenge: how to get beyond the small share of the prize they are capturing today by looking for impact across the whole value chain.” The Boston Consulting Group perspective, Exploiting Digital Disruption, asserts that because digital technologies enable companies to work more easily across traditional boundaries, it can result in leapfrogging entire links in the value chain. “The most common example is manufacturers using e-commerce capabilities to bypass wholesalers and distributors by establishing or strengthening direct distribution channels with customers. The risk to traditional wholesalers and distributors is high.” McKinsey also makes the critical point that a too-narrow focus on distribution channels means organizations are getting only a small share of the full value that digital transformation can provide. That narrow focus may also be leaving organizations vulnerable to new entrants and agile incumbents that can translate operational improvements across the full value chain, combined with innovative operating models, into better, cheaper, more customized products, faster service, and an improved customer experience. For organizations that can step back and apply their digital investments in such a holistic way, the prize is significant.” This dynamic is showing itself in the Financial Services industry where new entrants are employing digital business models to disrupt traditional banks and insurance companies. Point approaches or applications fall short as a means to counter this insurgency. What is needed is a digital omnichannel approach integrated with digital marketing, client onboarding and servicing. As important as it is to take an external view on your digital transformation journey, it is also important to look within to ensure you have the competencies in place to execute on your holistic digital business vision. Perhaps George had it right all along. Mistake #3: Digital business is all about process. Digital business is all about content There is a constant and natural tension between those who favor process and those who favor content as THE best path for digitizing business in a meaningful way. Your personal perspective is shaped by professional history, your current role in the organization, and often by the nature of the particular challenge you presently face in building your digital business. Here again, we can learn much from the Beatles song book. Come Together is the lead song on their Abbey Road album that had some of the last Beatles recording sessions. Recorded in 1969 and originally politically inspired, this song wound up illustrating the clash between Lennon and McCartney that would ultimately lead to the end of the Beatles in 1970. If Team John vs. Team Paul gives us any lesson, then it is perhaps that it is time for Team Process and Team Content to come together to best move the digital business forward. I’ve written extensively about adaptive case management technology and disciplines that can bring together process and content for your business initiatives. Business processes are essential to digital business as the engines of work activity. They move you forward in your daily job, help propel strategic initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, give you the framework to make and implement good business decisions. Content is equally critical because it represents essential information needed to fuel your business decisions, and as such it is most valuable when properly served and effectively consumed by your business processes. My conclusion then is that process and content together are a powerful means to drive better business results. Digital business advances are increasingly being used by companies to differentiate and gain advantage over the competition. If you’re in the Insurance industry, that might mean a focus on better approaches to managing customers through multiple channels – brokers, agents, online and more. In Banking, efficient customer on-boarding, new account opening and servicing are considered critical to success. And, in the supply chain sector, meeting customer and supplier SLAs (service level agreements) can be the singular difference. All of these will require an integrated content and process strategy with technology that comes together to support that approach. The long and winding road As in so many disruptive situations, there is no single straight path to success. To build a digital roadmap for your business, you’ll need to ask where the value is to your enterprise in operating as a digital business. To identify and pursue the value you will need to align to your strategic business initiatives, look to the external forces impacting your vertical industry, and consider the full breadth of digital technologies and methodologies available to you. While you are doing all that it couldn’t hurt to listen to more Beatles for inspiration!  

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