Omni-Channel

This is a CMSWire cross-post. Duringa recent conversation with colleagues from the Financial Servicessector, one person challenged: “Is there really anything new andinnovative for banking technology, or have we already seen it all?” Thelively discussion led to a far more interesting and important question: “Where are banks finding the inspiration and tools to drive customer-focused innovation?” Hereare my thoughts on Financial Service Industry (FSI) innovation and howbankers are increasingly taking cues from consumer tech and smartretailers as they practice the art of banking. I see opportunity forbankers to capitalize on changing consumer views of risk and whatconstitutes a good customer experience. What’s New in Bank Technology?I’mhearing a lot lately about exciting new technologies driving innovationin banking. There are conferences dedicated to the topic, analystreports and whitepapers being published, webinar series and more. If youGoogle “technology innovation in the financial services industry,” youget more than 200 million results. A sampling of intriguing hits includes mobile technology that reportedly can save the banking industry US$ 1.5 billion annually, Digital Shadows footprint based cyber-attack protection technology, Virtual Piggy that can support gaming and other social micro-transactions, and my favorites (because they both include awesome dogs) are Simple.com with a cool and intuitive way to save and pay and FloatMoney that helps build interest free credit by shopping (okay, the shopping part is good too). I could go on and on with this list, but as readers of my CMSWire article seriesknow, I really do prefer to start with the customer motivation and letthe technology discussion drive from there. While it’s important toconsider new external technology forces impacting a market, I like tothink first about the desired customer impact, not the technology. Sowhat are banker customer concerns that present opportunities fortechnology response these days? Here’s my take on what a banker “bucketlist” might include: Deal with the loss of customer confidence that came with economic market upheaval Capture and retain clients who have changing attitudes and expectations for online and omni-channel communication Satisfy customers who come armed with their own new technology like mobile, BYOD and social apps Read on for some artful approaches banks are taking to “check off” the list. Banks are reimagining how to create and sustain customer relationshipsInorder to drive customer-focused innovation, banks are reimagining howto create effective customer relationships in today’s environment. Forthe mega banks, and the banks who inherited customer accounts from themduring the market turmoil, dealing with customer confidence meansrestoring positive experiences. These experiences in the past wereoften represented by personal relationships and interactions with keybank branch personnel. Now, innovative technology, much of it inspiredby consumer and retail examples, can be used to achieve theseobjectives. For example, case management technology is a perfect approach to preserve the personal servicethat attracted many bank customers in the first place and at the sametime bring down cost to serve. What was perhaps once performed by arepresentative with a personal relationship with the customer can now beassisted with case management apps that bridge channel, information andprocess gaps. With this assist applied to account opening andcustomer onboarding, it becomes possible to “know your customer” notonly for compliance but also to intelligently suggest appropriatelytargeted product options, much like consumer retailers do. This alsoreduces the transaction costs involved and saves the lost opportunitycost. Case management also enables knowledge workers to innovate, that is, to perform work in their own unique ways to best respond tomanaging error exceptions as well as unusual circumstances. This is oneof the distinctive elements of this technology — the concept that theprocess participants are at times involved in defining specific actionsfor a case and at other times involved in responding to actions taken ina case. Rather than modeling the entire business process ahead oftime, you have an environment that supports access to information andprogression through tasks as needed to achieve the goal. While this isnot the same as the unique personal interactions that banks once hadwith their customers, it does enable more personalized and personalservice to occur. The added advantage is that these interactions are nowless costly and more streamlined because they are no longer bogged downin a paper chase or manual efforts. Thus fees and rates can be morecompetitive without sacrificing profitability. Banks are creating value through online experienceChangingcustomer expectations for online banking require that customerexperience needs to be consistent and coordinated across channels andyet adapted to specific channel characteristics. It also means thatinternal processes and interactions must be enabled to support this newomni-channel world. One of the most impressive examples I am familiar with is Wells Fargowho has 275,000 team members using the latest in Web ExperienceManagement (WEM) technology with responsive design, enabling theenterprise to be agile and adaptive to the consumer at the moment theywant to engage. This is all about increased productivity and access toinformation that in turn improves the end customer experience. Anothercool example is what mBank is doing with Accenture. mBank is a Polishdirect bank that originally launched as a greenfield venture. mBank is trying something new that has foundations in gamification and clever deal offers that mimic the best of Groupon and Pinterest. “Bymaking the site, for lack of a better word, fun, mBank has changed therelationship between bank and customer. This is important in almost anyB2C environment and more important when the traditionalcustomer/business relationship in banking has always been vaguelyadversarial.” Banks are combining technology in new ways around the customer experienceBankshave always been concerned with how to satisfy their different customerdemographic segments. Today’s changing customer demographics meanincreased challenges to ensure a satisfying experience, and I’m seeingsome interesting responses. Social and mobile dynamics figure prominently in this. A recent CEB TowerGroup studyfound that 42% percent of banking executive respondents now believethat a key value driver of social technology is competitive advantageover others in their industry, while 25% of respondents also thinksocial offers important functionality. Further, 65% rank socialnetworking as a top technology for near-term investment, while 56% rankmobile banking as a key technology for investment. One of my favorite examples has banks innovating by combining new technology with existing technology; ATMs with human teller video chat. NBC news recently highlighted Interactive Teller technology from NCR that is being used to remotely control the ATM and all of its functions. What’sinteresting is that the machine can work like any other ATM unless thecustomer pushes a button to request a human teller. The customer can useall the self-serve menus as normal, but they have the option to callthe teller if needed. According to the NBC report, analysts believe it’scritical that customers decide when they want to do a totallyself-service transaction and when they want some help. Banks are also experimenting with integrating social and mobile applicationsand smartphones into the ATM experience. With this, a customerapproaches an ATM and launches the application. After the app loads, thecustomer enters the four digit PIN number tied to their bank account onthe smartphone touchscreen. Then once the pin is accepted, the appbrings up all bank accounts related to the customer’s account andtransactions can proceed. Which came first, the customer or the technology?It’sclear that banks are doing some interesting and artful things withtechnology these days, and to my mind the truly important “bucket list” innovations are focused around the customer and their experience. Early in my career there was a time when I worked closely with the GE Research & Development Centeraround new and exciting distributed data processing technologies forbanking and commercial industrial use. I was very proud of the work, butwhen friends would ask what I did at GE, I always said, “I do thequality check to make sure light bulbs really turn off when you closethe refrigerator door.” (Okay it seemed funnier back then.) My friendswould smile and change the subject, commenting that I must be doingbleeding edge innovative research that required secrecy. The truthwas I didn’t think my work would make any sense or be very interestingto them. In retrospect, I should have shared more; not about thetechnology itself, but about the intended applications and benefits formy business customers and their data-dependent consumers. Fastforward to today and I am much more likely to talk about what I do, butalways in the context of what I think it means to my customers. Sure Ido get the occasional blank stare and at times responses like, “Blah bahblah, that’s so boring…” but I also often hear, “That’s so cool andtell me more.” Of course maybe my circle of friends has changed.

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The Art of Banking: How Financial Services Approach Great Customer Experiences

This is a CMSWire cross post by Deb Miller. During a recent conversation with colleagues from the Financial Services sector, one person challenged: “Is there really anything new and innovative for banking technology, or have we already seen it all?” The lively discussion led to a far more interesting and important question:“Where are banks finding the inspiration and tools to drive customer-focused innovation?”Here are my thoughts on Financial Service Industry (FSI) innovation and how bankers are increasingly taking cues from consumer tech and smart retailers as they practice the art of banking. I see opportunity for bankers to capitalize on changing consumer views of risk and what constitutes a good customer experience. What’s New in Bank Technology? I’m hearing a lot lately about exciting new technologies driving innovation in banking. There are conferences dedicated to the topic, analyst reports and whitepapers being published, webinar series and more. If you Google “technology innovation in the financial services industry,” you get more than 200 million results. A sampling of intriguing hits includes mobile technology that reportedly can save the banking industry US$ 1.5 billion annually, Digital Shadows footprint based cyber-attack protection technology, Virtual Piggy that can support gaming and other social micro-transactions, and my favorites (because they both include awesome dogs) are Simple.com with a cool and intuitive way to save and pay and FloatMoney that helps build interest free credit by shopping (okay, the shopping part is good too). I could go on and on with this list, but as readers of my CMSWire article series know, I really do prefer to start with the customer motivation and let the technology discussion drive from there. While it’s important to consider new external technology forces impacting a market, I like to think first about the desired customer impact, not the technology. So what are banker customer concerns that present opportunities for technology response these days? Here’s my take on what a banker “bucket list” might include: Deal with the loss of customer confidence that came with economic market upheaval Capture and retain clients who have changing attitudes and expectations for online and omni-channel communication Satisfy customers who come armed with their own new technology like mobile, BYOD and social apps Read on for some artful approaches banks are taking to “check off” the list. Banks are reimagining how to create and sustain customer relationships In order to drive customer-focused innovation, banks are reimagining how to create effective customer relationships in today’s environment. For the mega banks, and the banks who inherited customer accounts from them during the market turmoil, dealing with customer confidence means restoring positive experiences. These experiences in the past were often represented by personal relationships and interactions with key bank branch personnel. Now, innovative technology, much of it inspired by consumer and retail examples, can be used to achieve these objectives. For example, case management technology is a perfect approach to preserve the personal service that attracted many bank customers in the first place and at the same time bring down cost to serve. What was perhaps once performed by a representative with a personal relationship with the customer can now be assisted with case management apps that bridge channel, information and process gaps. With this assist applied to account opening and customer onboarding, it becomes possible to “know your customer” not only for compliance but also to intelligently suggest appropriately targeted product options, much like consumer retailers do. This also reduces the transaction costs involved and saves the lost opportunity cost. Case management also enables knowledge workers to innovate, that is, to perform work in their own unique ways to best respond to managing error exceptions as well as unusual circumstances. This is one of the distinctive elements of this technology — the concept that the process participants are at times involved in defining specific actions for a case and at other times involved in responding to actions taken in a case. Rather than modeling the entire business process ahead of time, you have an environment that supports access to information and progression through tasks as needed to achieve the goal. While this is not the same as the unique personal interactions that banks once had with their customers, it does enable more personalized and personal service to occur. The added advantage is that these interactions are now less costly and more streamlined because they are no longer bogged down in a paper chase or manual efforts. Thus fees and rates can be more competitive without sacrificing profitability. Banks are creating value through online experience Changing customer expectations for online banking require that customer experience needs to be consistent and coordinated across channels and yet adapted to specific channel characteristics. It also means that internal processes and interactions must be enabled to support this new omni-channel world. One of the most impressive examples I am familiar with is Wells Fargo who has 275,000 team members using the latest in Web Experience Management (WEM) technology with responsive design, enabling the enterprise to be agile and adaptive to the consumer at the moment they want to engage. This is all about increased productivity and access to information that in turn improves the end customer experience. Another cool example is what mBank is doing with Accenture. mBank is a Polish direct bank that originally launched as a greenfield venture. mBank is trying something new that has foundations in gamification and clever deal offers that mimic the best of Groupon and Pinterest. “By making the site, for lack of a better word, fun, mBank has changed the relationship between bank and customer. This is important in almost any B2C environment and more important when the traditional customer/business relationship in banking has always been vaguely adversarial”. Banks are combining technology in new ways around the customer experience Banks have always been concerned with how to satisfy their different customer demographic segments. Today’s changing customer demographics mean increased challenges to ensure a satisfying experience, and I’m seeing some interesting responses. Social and mobile dynamics figure prominently in this. A recent CEB TowerGroup study found that 42% percent of banking executive respondents now believe that a key value driver of social technology is competitive advantage over others in their industry, while 25% of respondents also think social offers important functionality. Further, 65% rank social networking as a top technology for near-term investment, while 56% rank mobile banking as a key technology for investment. One of my favorite examples has banks innovating by combining new technology with existing technology; ATMs with human teller video chat. NBC news recently highlighted Interactive Teller technology from NCR that is being used to remotely control the ATM and all of its functions. What’s interesting is that the machine can work like any other ATM unless the customer pushes a button to request a human teller. The customer can use all the self-serve menus as normal, but they have the option to call the teller if needed. According to the NBC report, analysts believe it’s critical that customers decide when they want to do a totally self-service transaction and when they want some help. Banks are also experimenting with integrating social and mobile applications and smartphones into the ATM experience. With this, a customer approaches an ATM and launches the application. After the app loads, the customer enters the four digit PIN number tied to their bank account on the smartphone touchscreen. Then once the pin is accepted, the app brings up all bank accounts related to the customer’s account and transactions can proceed. Which came first, the customer or the technology? It’s clear that banks are doing some interesting and artful things with technology these days, and to my mind the truly important “bucket list” innovations are focused around the customer and their experience. Early in my career there was a time when I worked closely with the GE Research & Development Center around new and exciting distributed data processing technologies for banking and commercial industrial use. I was very proud of the work, but when friends would ask what I did at GE, I always said, “I do the quality check to make sure light bulbs really turn off when you close the refrigerator door.” (Okay it seemed funnier back then.) My friends would smile and change the subject, commenting that I must be doing bleeding edge innovative research that required secrecy. The truth was I didn’t think my work would make any sense or be very interesting to them. In retrospect, I should have shared more; not about the technology itself, but about the intended applications and benefits for my business customers and their data-dependent consumers. Fast forward to today and I am much more likely to talk about what I do, but always in the context of what I think it means to my customers. Sure I do get the occasional blank stare and at times responses like, “Blah bah blah, that’s so boring…” but I also often hear, “That’s so cool and tell me more.” Of course maybe my circle of friends has changed.

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Information Right from the Source

Providing high degrees of customer service, while managing costs is a balancing act that is extremely difficult. Customers expect higher degrees of service, across multiple channels, and want to have it 24×7. Meanwhile organizations are under pressure to increase efficiencies and reduce agent and infrastructure costs. Your customers like self-service, but want high touch options immediately if they can’t find what they are looking for. Off-shoring and IVR systems have been tried, but have sometimes resulted in unhappy customers. Unfortunately, now those unhappy customers will go to Yelp or Twitter to talk about their experience, so it is critical to get the balance right. The head of Customer Service must often rely on technology to help them deal with these opposing forces. So in preparation for our launch of Assure for Customer Service, we decided to engage IMTS (Integrated Marketing Services) to help us better understand how customer service professionals use technology to solve their customer services challenges – and get this information right from the source. IMTS contacted 150 customer service leaders at large organizations, and using live interviews, found out some very interesting things. First, they discovered that almost 53 percent of respondents used specialized, in-house developed software to manage their customer service delivery. The rest are using a mix of CRM, BPM, manual (paper or Excel and email), or outsourcing the entire process. The 53 percent was a surprise as the costs of developing specialized applications in-house is typically far greater than buying a solution from a vendor. For those applications, the biggest burden is the maintenance and upgrades. When the business needs the software modified to meet the changing needs of the business it goes to IT for assessment, scoping, prioritizing, developing, testing, deployment and training, and that is usually completed right when business requirements have changed again, and new enhancements are needed. The survey also pointed out that 31 percent of the companies frequently need to go outside of their current system to access information to accommodate the needs of their customers.This means the agents are doing “swivel-chair” customer service, with multiple screens and systems to get all the information needed to manage customer requests. Integrations are expensive and painful with traditional systems, but this puts a serious burden on agents to understand and work across multiple systems in the heat of a customer exchange. Also of interest is that respondents using CRM systems reported various degrees of challenges when escalating service issues, getting access to order information, and supporting internal collaboration to solve customers’ problems. This is not totally unexpected as CRM systems were designed as “systems of record” for customer information, and while they provide significant benefits in information leverage, they were not designed to be strong case management tools, process tools, support broad integrations, or to be real-time collaboration systems. Some are bolting these on now, but they still have a lot of work to do. The need for multi-channel (or “omnichannel”) communications is becoming mandatory, and includes the support for phone, email, chat, SMS, and web portal interchangeably. The survey showed that only 21 percent of the respondents indicated their systems as being extremely flexible to accommodate new and innovative channels of communication. Other notable takeaways from the survey were that a little over a third of respondents felt extremely confident that their customer service system helped them meet all their internal information governance requirements (secure information retention and management), and almost half of the respondents indicated that a “top goal” was to create systems to allow customers to directly submit requests and receive status updates automatically. Details of the survey can be found here, and while it confirmed much of what we intuitively knew, it was great to hear it directly from the mouths of customer service professionals.Assure for Customer Service provides effective ways to deal with all of these challenges, which is why we’re seeing more and more companies deploying it to achieve their objectives of lowering costs and improving customer service delivery.It helps customer service executives find that delicate balance, and sleep a little better at night.

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Multi-Channel Demands: “Your Data, in Their Hands”

DM Magazine is a widely recognized bi-monthly publication circulated in the United Kingdom that focuses on Document Management and related subject matters, as well as the technologies around them. Recently, Actuate’s own Jeff Mills, VP International for Actuate Content Services Group , was featured. His article, “Your Data, in Their Hands,” focused on multi-channel delivery in today’s big data world. “Today there is more information than ever for companies to distil and keep track of,” Mills writes in the article. “Not only that, but customers increasingly want to interact with information – and to be able to access it at any time, wherever they happen to be.” In today’s age of big data, though, that’s more difficult than ever. So how do companies do it? Here are the main points Mills made: Traditional electronic document repositories and output solutions weren’t created to manage big data. They don’t have the depth of design necessary to keep up with demands for its seamless storage and presentment, while also adhering to regulatory requirements. More cohesive systems are required to satisfy modern customers’ demands. The typical file-based storage system used in repositories wastes space storing files individually, and has a limit on the number of files that can be stored. Adding storage capacity can also be complicated and expensive. A more future-proof and efficient system is needed to store transactional information and supporting resources separately, requiring less space. Every customer is different, and they want to interact with their information in unique ways, whether that be with their mobile devices, online, or through assistive technologies for those with special needs. To offer this, organizations need to consider multi-channel requirements when they create the information layout, in order to harness different technologies for different outputs. When document creation is tied to document storage, a more efficient system is formed, allowing for seamless document creation, storage and delivery. “The chain of custody from the document to its source data is clearer, and there’s no need to glue disparate pieces together, which can lead to messy results,” Mills writes. A single end-to-end solution helps ensure content integrity and makes it easier to search and find content quickly. Meanwhile, adding indexes can further enhance searching capabilities. Read the entire article: DM Strategy: Multi-Channel Delivery.

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Supply Chain Symphony: Three Trends, One Prediction

This is a CMSWire cross-post. Eachyear at this time, supply chain geeks (and I use this term with greatregard and affection) eagerly await publication of the annual Top 25list. I have been following this list since its inception in 2004 by AMRResearch, now Gartner, and along the way have drawn some conclusionsabout the processes and technologies it takes to be the best inorchestrating the supply chain. Here is my take on key trends asinspired by this year’s leaders, plus one emerging strategy I predict isthe new “must have.” Let’s see if you agree. Best Practices for Orchestrating the Supply ChainWhenGartner releases its annual Supply Chain list, it is always interestingand fun to see who made the leaders cut on this part achievement, partpopularity contest that is the Top 25. I have written about the list in the past in my CMSWire article series and shared my observations about companies competing on the basis of their supply chain. Asa technologist and a business process improvement practitioner, I amfascinated by the value that a best in class supply chain can deliver toa company and in awe of the Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) and teamof people who can make that happen. In case you are not familiarwith the Top 25, Gartner uses a 50/50 overall weighting for an opinioncomponent and a financial component of the ranking, with the financialsfocused on three metrics: ROA, inventory turns and revenue growth. Whilethe methodology and the Top 25 list itself have changed over the years, it has always been about sharing best practices that have honed theleaders’ supply chains. Of course best practices by their very nature evolve over the years. There was a time when we talked about managingthe supply chain. The CSCO worried about streamlining their supplychain, reducing the number of strategic partners and driving results forthe business by taking costs out of the supply chain. Top of mind wereshrinking inventories, offshoring and outsourcing. While much ofthat is still important, companies are now facing increased complexityand risk in the supply chain, as well as heightened expectations forsupply chain contribution to top line growth. So today’s supply chainleaders find themselves caring more about orchestrating the supply chain, listening and collaborating with partners and customers, while at thesame time finding innovative ways to increase both revenue andsustainability, with engaged and talented teams. This is reflected inthe best practices I see as trending from this year’s Top 25: High performing supply chains collaborate in new ways Leading supply chains pursue performance with purpose Supply chain leaders partner to drive innovation Ithink all three of these must be present to be a Top 25 in the future,just as all parts of a symphony orchestra must be present, workingharmoniously to create the best sound. Trend 1: High performing supply chains collaborate in new waysCollaborationis certainly a strong underlying Top 25 theme. I am excited bycompanies who are looking to collaborate in new ways, especially usingsocial techniques. Using our supply chain symphony analogy, socialcollaboration can be likened to that of the percussion section as ittaps into the pulse of the people, amplifying the beat to create aunified sound. Including these social elements means new ways of sensing and acting upon your supply chain data. Aresponsive supply chain is all about sensing and being demand driven,and supply chain leaders are learning to do this in harmony with the new dynamicsof customer engagement. According to the 2013 Financial PerformanceReport by the GMA and PwC US, “leading CPG companies and retailersbenefit from responding to the speed of the connected digital consumer;top-performing companies see success by engaging with their customers,using digital channels, mobile and direct-to-consumer approaches.” One stand out in the Top 25 is McDonald’s, with “a recent re-emphasis on a strong customer experience, advanceddemand sensing and forecasting capabilities across geographies, and animpressive supplier collaboration framework.” Ray Kroc’s philosophy was, “None of us is as good as all of us.” These days, crowdsourcingand social media are a way to better sense and understand customersthroughout their journey, and these conversations need to be included inthe collaboration for a complete view of your supply chain. Companiesknow they must gain visibility at the boundaries and touch points of thesupply chain flow, and not only in their transaction stream, but alsoin the conversation stream that surrounds these activities. Supply chain teams were some of the first to realize that it was timeto stop talking to employees, partners and customers and instead startlistening to and collaborating with them. The earliest teams found thatthe technology to help them do this was lagging, but that has begun tochange. This year’s number four on the Top 25, Unilever, has undertaken some forward-looking initiatives with crowdsourcing andcollaboration. Crowdsourcing enables a company to broadcast an issue to adiverse audience and ask them to contribute ideas to solve the problem:”The idea is not just to create better solutions but to driveconcerted, cross-sector change.” Unilever adopted a crowdsourcingapproach, inviting all stakeholders to take part in the effort to findways to meet its goals, and unveiled a new Open Innovation websiteplatform to gather and assess ideas from external resources, inviting“anyone who has a fresh, serious approach to new thinking” to pitch in. Aberdeentells us that increasing information visibility is a critical strategyfor complex and multi-tiered global supply-demand networks. They foundthat companies have turned to social listening tools to uncovermeaningful insights hidden among the noise of the social sphere. Infact, data from Aberdeen Group’s Omni-Channel Customer Experience surveysuggests that 48% of companies have deployed social media monitoringand that an additional 38% plan to implement these tools. With the helpof this technology, companies can use the voice of the customer to makecritical adjustments and find issues related to inventory allocation,order management, returns management, cost, overall service satisfactionand beyond. At the same time companies are suffering from information overload. So while effective listening is the first step in a new way to drivevisibility, the next step must be to integrate and synthesize thatinformation with other data and put the results to work in context forthe business. Here too technology has advanced to enable orchestrationcapabilities that include social. The enterprise informationmanagement (EIM) technologies that I work with provide web, social,sharing and integration capabilities to include collaborativeinformation from conversations, emails, social discussions andcrowdsourcing in the discussion that surrounds supply chain processes,partners and customers. Perhaps most importantly they also provide theenterprise content management and case management construct to applythis information to the case or activity at hand, while capturing it forregulatory and audit compliance and for archiving governance. Trend 2: Leading supply chains pursue performance with purposePerhapsthe single strongest theme in the Top 25 narrative this year issustainability. It appears in almost every company ranking description,but quite interestingly not in a vacuum but rather combined with thepursuit of performance excellence across the board. Here again I thinkmy symphony analogy applies well. Just as trumpets and clarinetsmust be blended with the strings in an orchestra to help create theproper sound, so can the pursuit of supply chain operational efficiencybe combined with sustainability to create value for the company. To dothis effectively though, the elements must be carefully orchestrated, asin these examples from Nike, PepsiCo and Chiquita. Nike is citedby Gartner on the Top 25 list for investment in platforms and tools forits suppliers, contract manufacturers and logistics providers, includingsupplier assessment tools that incorporate sustainability-relatedmetrics. Nikehas focused on a number of aspects of sustainability for a decade ormore. Like many leading companies, Nike’s earliest response tosustainability included “going green,” removing paper to improveperformance, and achieving greater straight-through processing in thecase of their financial supply chain. I am familiar with andimpressed by Nike’s case study on using BPM (Business ProcessManagement) apps to improve processes and reduce paper in pursuit of“perfect order” performance — orders delivered in full, on time, everytime — and for improved exception handling when inevitably ordersencounter errors. Paper remains to this day a significant challenge inthe supply chain and finance cash-to-cash cycle, and removing paper isone way to not only improve productivity but also serve sustainabilityobjectives. On the list every year since the Top 25 ranking started, PepsiCois noted this year by Gartner for strengths that include“route-to-market capabilities, strong consumer insights linked to itssupply chain capabilities and an open innovation platform.” Gartner alsohighlights PepsiCo as an early mover in sustainability. I had a front row seat to see the beginnings of the current sustainability trend when I participated in the Supply Leadersin Action (SCLA) council several years ago. Top 25 companies likePepsiCo who are on the council were already showing the way, leveragingtheir supply chain for profitable growth. And that’s not all they weredoing. PepsiCo among others on the SCLA were combining efficiency withgrowth AND sustainability initiatives. PepsiCo coined the phrase“performance with purpose,” which promotes finding innovative ways toreduce the use of energy, water and packaging, and more. They won anSCLA award in 2011 for work in this area. While not on the Top 25 list, Chiquita Brandsreceived their SCLA award in 2009 for excellence in global supply chainmanagement and carbon foot-printing. Earlier this year, one of theirdivisions Chiquita Fruit Solutions demonstrated how they combine acontinuing commitment to sustainability with finding new innovativegrowth applications. Fruit Solutions began as a waste managementstream for bananas that lacked retail-ready appeal. They traditionallymade banana puree but found they couldn’t use the peel and some of thefibrous material left over. They used to just dispose of it by movingthe sludge off-site but then asked themselves, “What else can we do withthat?” The question presented an opportunity to enhance the company’ssustainability efforts. Chiquita began using the material to generateelectricity in another one of its plants. Maurice Morange, their generalmanager, highlights, “With the pressure on the world for carbon releasein the environment, we see this as another way that Chiquita willcontribute and take a leadership role not only in terms of the cost todeliver to consumers but the mechanism and manner in which we operateour facilities day in and day out.” Now a recent new product ideais resulting from that same Fruit Solutions initiative, a ready-to-eatsnack product for retail, crunchy banana, pineapple and mango chipsproduced with patent-pending technology that involves no added sugar,oil or preservatives. In my view, both PepsiCo and Chiquita aregreat examples of bringing a brand to life in meaningful new ways. AsGartner recommends in their Top 25 report for companies, they “setaspirational goals and connect the dots between the work people do everyday in supply chain and its contribution to the societies within whichthey live, building engaged supply chain talent that can lead businessgrowth.” Trend 3: Supply chain leaders partner to drive innovationEveryorchestra needs its conductor and that is the role that the best of thebest Chief Supply Chain Officers play in our supply chain symphony. Butincreasingly they are working in concert with a new set of marketingrock stars to partner on a new product idea-to-launch. Starbucks is a perfect example on the Top 25. Gartnernotes that Starbucks “puts the notion of an outside-in orientation intopractice, measuring the success of its supply chain from the storeback. Its focus on strong integration between supply chain and newproduct launch is evidenced by the success of the Starbucks K-Cup, citedas one of the top 10 food and beverage launches in 2012.” I think it is very telling that one of the most impressive, market oriented and innovative supply chain leaders that I met at the SCLA from Chiquita is now joining Starbucks to head up their global supply chain initiatives. PwC’sAnnual Global CEO Survey found that CEOs see innovation as the vehiclebest suited to put them on the road for growth. In the survey, 79% ofCEOs expect their innovation developments will drive efficiencies andcreate competitive advantages, alongside the 78% who expect innovationto generate significant new sources of revenue over the next threeyears. “Part of [being smarter] about growth is partnership across thebusiness. Leading high-tech and CP companies, for instance, areapproaching new markets with cross-functional teams that include sales,marketing, operations and IT to holistically design a synchronized entrystrategy — starting with the customer and designing the right product,pricing, margin targets, service levels, and supply chain network designand trade-offs that will all work together to achieve the goal.” The best companies in the world have customer-centric supply chainsTheTop 25 remind us that the best companies in the world have highperforming customer-oriented supply chains and supply chain teams. Wealso see that the best companies are increasingly finding new ways tocompete by leveraging innovations that are informed by new customerdata, which is being collected in new ways, and in turn made possibleand practical by their high performing supply chains. Here then is boththe opportunity and the danger ahead. The voice of the customerhas been around for quite some time, Multiple functions including thesupply-chain have paid close attention to the value of activities thatcan amplify and clarify through that voice. Today though there are newways of reaching out to customers, partners, and employees. Marketinghas been first to experiment with and understand both the technology andthe results of outreach activities like crowdsourcing for the business. In his recent Forbes article, Dan Woods discusses how the rise in CMO led technology investments is creating a siloof potentially valuable information and points to the importance of theCIO in implementing a platform to share and integrate this kind of datathroughout the business. Dan notes that the signals found in socialmedia and other marketing analysis can contain valuable information thatcan be used by many different parts of the company. While he doesn’tspecifically call out the supply chain, I will. We know thatcompanies have traditionally employed sales and operations planning(S&OP) to achieve focus, alignment and synchronization across theorganization. Done well, the S&OP process can help enable highlyeffective supply chain management. Sales integration has long been afocus for demand driven supply chains. But disconnected S&OP, ERP,CRM, and home grown systems are not well designed to withstand changingproducts, supplier costs and pressures, regulations and customer demandsthat exist today. Now there is a whole new set of data criticalto both innovation and a responsive supply chain that is being generatedlargely through marketing-led efforts. The CIO needs to ensure that aplatform, like the enterprise information management technology that Iwork with, is implemented across the enterprise so that the supply chaincan take both the structured systems data and the unstructured datagenerated around the customer social profile, integrate it and mostimportantly use it in context for their critical business decisions. Tome, it has become very clear that both the oldest and the newestorchestration challenge for the supply chain is to work in partnershipwith an outside-in customer centric approach. That is why I believe thatmarketing is going to be the supply chain leader’s new best friendforever. What differentiates the best supply chain companies from therest is an unwavering focus across the business on the customer and, forthe future, the technology to be able to integrate and leverage thatfocus. So I predict that supply chain and marketing leaders willindeed become #BFFs, and they are going to need their CIO to make theintroductions!

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Problems Become Solutions: Actuate for CCM

In our last post, we explained how Actuate’s CCM solution was designed to address the problems that have traditionally plagued Customer Communications Management (CCM). We designed it to be different, which means that instead of a hodgepodge of disparate technologies cobbled together, it’s a single solution that covers the entire process. How exactly does it stand out? Let’s count the ways: It’s a holistic solution.It’s designed and built to promote a seamless flow across the CCM lifecycle, from data acquisition to multi-channel delivery, while at the same time providing centralized management and audit capabilities. It’s also developed and supported by a single provider, promoting seamless integration across the disparate areas of CCM. It offers analytics for consumers and businesses.Data acquisition and translation technology integrates well with analytics components, letting organizations gain insight into their data at both the consumer and business level. Organizations can use this analysis to promote personalized customer messages at the composition stage or next best offer programs within online customer portals. Analysis at the business level can highlight trends across aggregate consumer patterns, or help gain insight into the macro usage patterns of consumers. It has integrated repositories.Repositories are included and integrated within the system. They continue to promote the traditional archiving values of records management and rapid document discovery, but also provide extensive integration capabilities through Web Services and API to promote back office document integration and online customer self-service channel integration. These repositories offer abstracted storage layers that can connect with a variety of devices, including standard SAN/NAS/hard disk, WORM technology and Hadoop. Complex storage reduction techniques are also used to reduce operational costs. It provides central management.The entire CCM process is managed centrally, meaning that business process rules are designed using graphical utilities that define how content is acquired, processed, stored and delivered. But that’s not all: Processes are run atop engines that are optimized for performance, scalability and availability while accounting for error handling and recovery processes. Central logging provides business insight into system utilization, workflow scheduling, execution and audit information against content as it is processed, stored, accessed, and delivered across the CCM lifecycle. Integrated transformation utilities allow organizations to handle multiple inbound content formats and transform output in batch or on-demand to meet the requirements of internal or external consumer delivery. Transformation engines can also be utilized to extract index or metadata information that is ultimately stored in databases to promote rapid search and discovery. Instead of looking to see how it’s always been done, Actuate has successfully streamlined CCM with a singular system. Learn more about Actuate’s Customer Communications Solution.

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Customer Experience Management: Art vs. Science

This is a CMSWire cross-post. There is a long-standing debate as to how much of customer experience management is science and how much is art. Asyou decide where you weigh in on the question, here are two customerexperiences for your consideration. While one experience is a customersatisfaction triumph and a pleasure to share, the other tells acautionary tale. They both illustrate the critically important roletechnology can play, blending science and art to create positiveimpressions and continuing customer loyalty. Customer Experience Management is PersonalAs followers of my CMSWire article seriesknow, I often write about how technology properly applied can changehow we do business for the better. Customer experience management livesin the oceans of data being generated every day in ever increasingamounts. This Big Data offers competitive opportunities, givingcompanies new ways to listen, learn and respond to their customers’needs. The technology I work with plays an important role in allowingcompanies to extract and apply value from Big Data. The results areespecially powerful when connected with the customer experience. Thegoal is to forge relevant interactions that are both efficient for thebusiness to deliver and at the same time personalized for the customer.And sometimes it gets VERY personal, because after all, we are allconsumers. Here is a look at two of my recent customer experiences. Youmay conclude, as I did, that it’s not a question of art vs. science increating extraordinary experiences, but rather how well you combine thetwo. Customer Experience 1: Web to Store to #DelightSaturdaymorning and I’m searching the web for of all things a replacement for adoor threshold. Our kitchen walk-in cupboard threshold had splinteredover the years and we decided we would replace it ourselves. This seemeda simple task, though in the spirit of full disclosure we are not a DIYfamily by any means. My web search for thresholds immediatelyreveals well-recognized possibilities from two of the leaders in homeimprovement. I begin to explore both and come to the realization that Iam not only viewing this customer experience from my homeowner personabut also from my “day job” persona. I am indeed part of the trend formore business happening online and product research increasingly movingto online as the first destination. I notice that both online sites aredoing a good job of organizing and presenting the product informationand images, and also providing relevant do-it-yourself video options. Then, I realize I’m late for errands we have scheduled, so I abandon mylaptop, head for the car, and continue my research on my iPhone in route(I am passenger not driver). Whether on my laptop or on myiPhone, the respective web experiences are quite good. Clearly thesecompanies use customer experience management technologies to create arich and consistent digital presence across channels. Both have whatappear to be responsive designs and good in-context channel features.Both web customer experiences immediately identify where My Store wouldbe — one got it right on the money but both are easy to adjust. Bothoffer some form of free shipping too, probably a nod to the online-onlytop competitor, whose advantage is most often fast shipping and low(er)pricing. Both companies seem to have what we need at a comparableprice, but we are not really certain we have found the right item, andwe wonder what we would need to do to “install it.” Since we are outdoing errands anyway, we decide to stop by the local Home Depot store. Thestore has the item its website displayed and at the promised price. Inperson, it doesn’t look quite like the shape of the splintered one wehad brought with us for comparison. Enter customer experience rock starCharlie, who leads the lumber department at the store. Charlie notonly assures us that we have the right item, but he also offers to trimand notch the piece based on the old one so it will be simple toreplace. But it turns out the notches need a saw they don’t have at thestore, so Charlie TAKES THE PIECE HOME TO HIS WORKSHOP, cuts it andbrings it back the next day, leaving me a message confirming that it isready to pick up. I go on the Home Depot FB to tell them about my bestcustomer experience EVER and hear right back from them thanking ME. Idon’t know if this is an isolated incident, but I do know Home Depot isdoing something right these days. They have shown the strength of theirbrand and their channel management in the last three months, withoverall sales up 13.9% and same-store sales up 7 percent. There was noextra charge for my Home Depot customer experience, though we certainlywould have paid. The result for Home Depot is that they not only wonthis small transaction but now also have a customer for life. #DELIGHT Customer Experience 2: Store to Mobile to #FailCustomerexperience management isn’t just for traditional retailers. Banking isincreasingly coming to terms with the importance of coordinatingchannels to attract and retain their retail customer business.Multi-channel is certainly necessary, but is no longer sufficient forsuccess. Now omni-channel has hit the financial services world as amajor factor in customer experience management. Cisco® refers tothis new reality as the “Era of Omni-channel Banking,” explaining thatit moves beyond the current approach, in which banks encourage customersto use the least expensive channel, to delivering a consistent andseamless customer experience across channels. The intent is to bring theindustry closer to the promise of true contextual banking in whichfinancial services become seamlessly embedded into the lives ofindividual and business customers. Creating a positive end-to-endcustomer experience is at the heart of this approach and banks aremoving toward secure integrated architectures to enable theirchannel-ready infrastructure. This future sounds great, but we stillhave a lot to learn in the here and now about holistic customerexperience management. Case in point is my own customer experience thatoccurred on the very same day that Home Depot had so delighted me. Iam shopping for pet food at a store we often frequent, and am at thecheck-out with a large order when my credit card transaction is deniedby the system. I immediately receive a message on my mobile phone tocall my bank security with a return number to call. Okay … thissounds very omni-channel and actually quite responsive and responsible.I’m a bit annoyed that my transaction was rejected, but somewhatmollified by the notion that my bank is being circumspect. This bank hasa fabulous website in my opinion and a pretty good IVR system as well,and I viewed them as advanced in their approach to customer experience.So I return the call and provide the usual account and securityinformation to the IVR system. A human voice then comes on the line,clearly reading from a script, asking me for the same information I hadjust entered PLUS additional security information. I provide it. Iam told my account is flagged and I’ll be transferred to a securityspecialist to ensure it is properly unblocked, and thanks for mypatience. I am not particularly known for my patience, but had come thisfar and would see it through since we had two very hungry goldenretrievers waiting at home. I am put on hold for a couple ofminutes and then another human voice clearly following a script asks meAGAIN for the SAME INFORMATION I had just provided. I ask why since (1)they had called me originally and told me to call them; (2) they hadthen transferred me; and (3) I had already given them the informationtwice so surely they already knew it. I am told if I do not want toprovide the information my account would remain blocked. Seriously? So, Icomplete the discussion, providing once again all and more of theinformation they asked for, and my account is unblocked. Perhapsthe worst of all in this experience was that the bank representativecould not (or would not) provide a clear reason why they had determinedto block my card at that moment, and they also left me with the warningthat it might happen again. I quickly run my card and successfullycomplete the transaction before another random event, perhaps sunshowers or gamma rays on the moon might trigger a similar block. #FAIL Perfecting the Science, Enabling the Art of Customer ExperienceIspend a great deal of my professional time helping companies gainbenefit from enterprise information management, the discipline ofdiscovering, managing, extracting value from and building applicationson top of unstructured enterprise information. EIM can bring togethercore technologies and applications within defined practices likeCustomer Experience Management. I have come to understand that totranslate information-based capabilities into value for the enterpriserequires the right technology tool set and approach that changes how theorganization accomplishes work. When this is combined with behavioralscience and artfully applied to the customer experience, it offers asimple, powerful route to improved customer satisfaction. McKinseywrites about “Using behavioral science to improve the customerexperience” noting that companies who care deeply about the quality ofcustomer interactions invest heavily in responsive websites and insimplified call centers that enable customer choice. Yet many companiesignore what makes people tick. Banks, for example, often disturb thecustomer experience through poor menus on ATMs or ill-advised and everchanging interactive-voice-response (IVR) systems. Other companies placetoo much emphasis on average handling times at call centers and notenough on the quality of the interaction. It doesn’t have to be thatway. Academics, such as Professor Richard Chase at the Universityof Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, have used researchon how people form opinions about their experiences to design actualservices. Chase and his team set forth principles to consider whendesigning any customer interaction; including: Get bad experiences over early, so customers focus more on positive subsequent elements of the interaction. Break-uppleasure, but combine pain for your customers, so that pleasant partsof the interaction form a stronger part of their recollections. Finish strong, as the final elements of the interaction will stick in the customers’ memory. Iventure to say that each of these scientific principles was violated inmy recent bank credit card interaction, and exceeded in my DIYexperience. Customer experience then is certainly partscience, part art, part technology and part human. And effectivecustomer experience management is a competitive weapon, especially inindustries where product differentiation is difficult, if notimpossible. For example, my door threshold and my credit card productsare fairly comparable across their respective vendors; thedifferentiation happens through the customer experience that isprovided. The moral of my two tales is to ensure customerexperience management capability is organized and implemented to becustomer-centric and applied in the moment to optimize the “personal”customer experience. In fact, recent Aberdeen Group research on “NextGeneration Customer Experience Management” shows that Best-in Classcompanies: Invest in CEM-related technology tools and solutions Create a unified view of customer data across the organization, and Personalize product and service offerings based on customer data Anew set of priorities and technologies are necessary to orchestratewhat is required for more effective customer experience management, andwe need to include all touch points, including the experience a customerhas with company representatives. This is true for my consumerexperiences and true in turn for the customers I serve, who aretypically large firms that operate in multinational environments withmultiple languages, and want to reach their customers through amultitude of channels. To succeed, these companies will use aholistic technology and business approach that includes customerexperience, information and communication management, as well as aninformation flow or case management paradigm that ensures the customeris the organizing principal. They will leverage technology to blend thebest of art and science with the customer in mind. At the sametime, encouraging employees to be motivated, customer-orientedrepresentatives of the company, and giving them the power to #delightcustomers wouldn’t hurt either! Editor’s Note: To read more of Deb’s thoughts on Customer Experience, see her Oz the Great and Powerful: How ACM Transforms the Customer Experience

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Unveiling Brand Moments That Matter

I am very excited for the latest release of our Web Experience Management product – we are transforming organizations worldwide with powerful new capabilities we unveiled this week. Our launch themes are designed to empower marketers, customer service and every line of business to engage the new digital consumer in this age of experience. Organizations must rethink how they can deliver branded moments that matter across different geographies, languages, social and media channels. We have enabled the enterprise to be truly responsive – agile and adaptive to the consumer at the moment they want to engage with you. It is imperative that every marketer worldwide reinvest in the web to deliver targeted experiences that flow across devices and screens. OpenText can enable an organization today to engage the new mobile consumer in a way that brings agility to digital marketing campaigns and at the same time engage the employee and embrace the partner channel all with the same CEM solution. It is no longer only about sharing information across multiple touch points. Organizations must map the individual’s journey with targeted omni-channel experiences across mobile, social and traditional www sites. It is one thing to be responsive but more importantly, organizations must deliver targeted moments that matter incorporating digital media from DAM to traditional print from CCM – nothing else is like it on the planet. Seeing is believing! This week,we showcased the new release of WEM at an event in San Francisco, California at the Exploratorium on Pier 15. We had guests from all across North America join us to see the product up close and hear first-hand, amazing stories from two of our customers – Wells Fargo and Taco Bell. Lori Robinson from Wells Fargo shared insights into how all 275,000 team members can use Web Experience Management to increase productivity and access information that in turn improves the end customer experience. With every percentage point of productivity and information access improvement comes thousands (if not millions) of dollars in revenue gains. Nicholas Tran from Taco Bell stated he has“the best job in the world” working with the website and social media to capture his customers’ experiences. His team helps build brand awareness by sharing stories, both humanitarian and fun, with others through WEM. If you missed it – check out www.opentext.com/wem.

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Customer Communications Management: The Rundown

Here at Actuate, we get asked this question a lot: What exactly is Customer Communications Management (CCM)? Consider organizations that handle vast amounts of information for millions of customers: cell phone bills, credit card statements or insurance policies. They need to ensure that the process that gets those statements to their customers runs smoothly, while managing every step in the data flow. The process also has to be flexible enough to respond to changing business, IT and customer requirements. For that to happen, organizations rely on the six steps of CCM: Data Acquisition and Analytics. To make it useable for transactional documents, raw data is captured, normalized and augmented to ensure accuracy and completeness. Document Composition. Data is formatted in a way that’s visually appealing and user friendly, adhering to corporate brand standards and accommodating personalized advertising with intelligent, targeted trans-promo offers. Document Processing and Transformation. Business rules are defined that outline how content will be processed, how and when data will be acquired, what composition templates will be used to format the data, where the resulting documents will be delivered, what repository the content will be stored within, what format will be used to store it and what index or metadata information should accompany that content. Multi-Channel Delivery. Everything is formatted so that customers can receive their information in the way that works best for them, whether that means print distribution, online, smart phone or tablet access. Electronic Archiving. Data is archived to satisfy regulatory requirements, provide high-speed search and retrieval for internal discovery and analysis, reduce internal helpdesk costs and improve information availability. Portal Technology. CCM portals connect customer-facing applications with relevant content to increase information availability and reduce manual processing. Portals deliver communications in traditional static formats, like PDF, for simple statement review, as well as in interactive HTML formats that provide insight through rich graphical visualizations and allow users to interact directly with the transactional content. Getting the CCM process right helps organizations use data effectively and efficiently. That’s where Actuate comes in. Learn more about Actuate’s Customer Communications Solution. Learn more about our Customer Communications Solution.

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Productive or Time Wasting – Can We Stop Asking the Question Now?

This image has been floating around Facebook for a few weeks now and it really struck a chord with me. The image made me ask myself a few questions such as; has social media really changed how I work; do I work better or are these pure distractions from the task at hand? I may be showing my age, but I started into the work force just as email was catching on and I remember asking a few of my co-workers whether or not I should even add my email address to my business card. Now I can’t imagine how I would do my job without it. The average person spends 13 hours per week processing email, but some weeks I feel as though email is all I do. Of course nowadays email is just a small part of the various channels of communication that I work with day to day. My day use to start and end in email but these days I typically start my day in Twitter, move back and forth from email to our own social collaboration tool, a few minutes on Facebook, possibly a quick peek into LinkedIn and then back to Twitter – and of course this is often done from a mix of my mobile and laptop. Has this new way of working across the “omni channel” made me more productive? I think the answer is yes! I am more connected, have a more transparent view of my organization and a wealth of experts at my fingertips. These new channels are not here to disrupt my style of work or displace my email. This is just the evolution of work as we know it. The importance is learning how to adopt these tools effectively and educating the workface on their importance in a way that showcases meaning and purpose in their use. As Jacob Morgan writes in a recent post; http://www.jmorganmarketing.com/enterprise-collaboration-replacing/ “….the notion of working 9-5 from an office is being replaced by the idea of being able to “connect to work;” an employee feeling like a cog is being replaced by the voice of the engaged employee; email and intranets are being replaced by networked and connected systems; yearly reviews are being replaced by real-time feedback; working in silos is being replaced by cross-boundary collaboration, and the traditional idea of what it means to be an organization is being replaced by evolving to a collaborative organization.” I see this as progress, do you?

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While reminiscing about a recent trip to London, England I was reminded of my travels on the Underground. With every step onto or off the commuter train I was instructed by the overhead loud speaker to pay close attention to the small opening in front of me. Any misstep could have caused harm or hindered my journey onward. There have been a number of conversations about the importance of marketing automation tools and WEM’s function in helping organizations elevate brand identity and distinguish themselves from all the noise and other distractions. A larger customer experience ecosystem begins to emerge where both technologies play critical roles in helping organizations understand a 3-D view of their customer and deliver optimized online experiences. As marketing programs and campaigns become more sophisticated, we need to be “mindful” of some of the hand-off points and gaps between these complimentary technologies. As with all hot new buzzwords “marketing automation” is not a new concept and has been around for some time. Marketing Automation is the process of creating and defining programs and campaigns that engage customers across multiple, interactive touch points. Following specific rules of engagement (e.g. scoring) the intent is to generate demand, nurture and convert only those leads that are qualified. Reporting and accountability are essential at every touch point and are used by marketing departments to justify each dollar spent. WEM solutions support all online marketing initiatives by providing marketers (such as content authors, web designers and graphic designers) with simplified tools for creating and managing all your corporate web properties. It delivers dynamic, interactive, personalized and contextualized web content to customers regardless of the channel they arrive from. Inherent in these tools are enterprise social capabilities that allow for ongoing collaborative discussions that facilitate expert communities of knowledge. Finally, web and social analytics tools collect and measure real-time, click stream data in the context of the published “live” site. What if you could have both technologies working together harmoniously? A fully integrated marketing platform that exchanged customer related information, supported all marketing related activities, and managed your corporate brand content from one central point of access? The goal of marketing automation and WEM is to integrate marketing processes that collect data and content from multiple locations toward developing meaningful customer relationships that begin and continue well after the initial sales cycle is complete. Consumers do not want to feel as though they are being marketed at — they want to feel the content they uncover is part of their organic efforts. Let’s look at some of the gaps between the two technologies: 1. The Focus on Content Marketing Sourced for the Web According to Forrester’s report “The Rise of Content Marketing: Invest In Content Development and Management for Success,” 58 percent of marketers consider their website to be the most important channel when creating interactive marketing content, second to social media (15%). Marketers will continue to evolve and enhance the online experience by creating great and meaningful content for their sites. It’s no surprise that companies that invest in WEM solutions report greater online success in delivering and managing all corporate content. Marketing automation solutions need to leverage not only the creation of new content for websites but all the other technical features in WEM. For example, WEM systems can determine how content is consumed and from what device; gather analytics on customer behavior, geo-location, previous interactions and social media participation. This type of data can be used by marketing automation solutions to influence how subsequent follow-up conversations get started and remain open. 2. CMO and CIO Alignment A consistent trend I’m seeing is how marketers are solving their own business problems with little or no IT intervention. End users are self-provisioning solutions, in the cloud or on premises, and using marketing spend to do so. WEM solutions traditionally owned, built and secured by IT are now sharing ownership with marketing. But a three dimensional view of the customer can only be achieved when information can be gathered from all corporate data stores — whether managed by IT or marketing. According the Aberdeen Group report “Enhancing Customer Experience through CIO and CMO Alignment,” companies with CIO and CMO alignment achieve a 10.1 percent higher annual year-over-year growth in ROMI, compared with 5.6 percent of their peers. “This shows that partnering with peers in IT helps marketers better analyze customer information and launch campaigns that deliver quantifiable results by addressing changing customer needs.” 3. Omni-Channel Consistency Marketers are faced with the challenge of providing a consistent online experience across all delivery touch points — namely mobile devices. The same challenge is replicated by a marketing automation tool that needs to maintain a dialogue via the same context of the interaction. WEM solutions offer native support to many social media features (e.g. blogs, wikis, discussion threads) and packaged integration into many social networking sites. Harnessing WEM’s targeted listening capabilities will enhance how marketing automation tools evaluate customer engagement and influence lead scoring. 4. Cross-enterprise Information Processing Customers are engaged with a number of different systems stored across the enterprise — ERP, CRM, e-Commerce, WEM and CMS. The proper application of a Business Process Management system can capture content and metadata from multiple corporate locations and help facilitate marketing automation systems to properly respond to customer inquiries. 5. Capturing Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) Marketing wisdom tell us that if you cannot measure effectiveness, you cannot measure its change. Without a common set of metrics, as provided by both systems, all marketing efforts are at risk and offer no opportunity for correction and improvement. According to the Aberdeen report “CEM: Using the Power of Analytics to Optimize Customer Delight,” “analytical tools are a critical component for providing businesses with the intelligence that can be used to create both contextual and potential prospect / customer conversations.” One of the common questions I hear from customers is “how do we collect data from disparate systems, which utilize different metrics, and standardize it within one meaningful report?” Rather than selling products or services to your customers, ensure that both your WEM and marketing automation system’s primary goal is to help customers find the information they need. Identifying and addressing these gaps is the first step in achieving a complete customer view that elevates your brand to one that generates loyalty, advocacy and satisfaction. My advice — Don’t try and close all the gaps at once. Start small but think big. Start by integrating “progressive profiling” in your WEM system so that it passes information to your marketing automation tool. This will provide incremental insights into what prospects are looking to understand and qualify how likely they will be to purchase. Image courtesy of dutourdumonde (Shutterstock)

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How the ‘Omnichannel’ Effect Placed a Curse on UK Consumer Electronics Retailers

Over the past two months the so called ‘Omnichannel’ effect has been tightening its grip on the UK retail industry. The consumer electronics retail sector seems to have come off worst and as I have a keen interest in the High Tech sector here at GXS I thought it would be worth taking a few minutes to find out what has been going on. There has been a bit of a revolution in retail spending over the past thirty years. When I was a young boy, I remember cycling into town to do some lengthy window shopping at the numerous small consumer electronics shops that were around at that time. These small shops expanded over the years into large out of town stores, normally within big retail parks. The final level of expansion saw online stores being set up to allow consumers to browse goods via websites. In recent years online related product browsing has expanded across PCs, tablets and of course smart phones. So the Omnichannel effect is exactly that, providing companies with multiple ways to promote their goods to the consumer and the consumer has multiple ways to view or review the products concerned, eg online or in a traditional bricks and mortar store. So here is an example of how my buying pattern has changed over the years. Thirty years ago I enjoyed going into Dixons, a major consumer electronics retailer in the UK, to see the latest gadgets, I liked to see how they worked and mentally trying to work out what they would look like in my bedroom at home! Tell me who didn’t go in to a store to play music, change TV channels or play the Atari console based games at the time? Ten years ago, as my career got progressively busy, I had less time to actually visit the stores so I would review the different products online, choose my top 3 products and then go to the store, select and then buy in the ‘physical’ store. At that time buying online was not really the thing to do as the internet could not be trusted to process your payments. Then coming right up to date, today I look at the goods online, review other purchasers comments, compare prices across other websites before paying online and the goods get delivered to my house and I haven’t even left the comfort of my chair at home! Apple has been one of the main companies fuelling the growth in online technology purchases. Apple products are renowned for being high quality, so there is no real need to go into the store as they are a ‘trusted brand’ ie you know what you are getting. So why do Apple need physical stores?, well it is brand recognition in the eyes of the consumer and quite cleverly they hold in store workshops where you can go in and learn about a specific device or how to use a piece of software or app. In fact last week Apple announced that they have patented the way in which they layout their stores to prevent other companies from copying it! So Apple has indirectly fuelled the growth in online consumer electronics shopping which has then given consumers the confidence to pay for other goods online. This effectively created a snowball effect over the years especially retailers in the high tech space, as consumers shifted their buying power to the internet, it made physical stores pretty much redundant. But this has only affected one or two stores right?, wrong, it has completely changed the look of high streets and retail parks, especially in the UK. I am sure other national retailers in other countries have suffered the same problem. Online stores certainly offer consumers the choice of where to spend their hard earned money and this shift in retail spend has contributed to many bricks and mortar stores to become purely online stores instead. For a new start-up retail operation, particularly in the high tech space, an online retail presence is certainly the way to go as setup costs are minimal and more profitable. So here are four high street brands that have recently gone into administration, each being a household name in the UK for many years:- Blockbusters – Leading DVD rental store – 4190 employees, 528 stores. Increased competition from online stores, streaming films over the internet as well as rentals through the post. Appointed administrators on 16th January 2012 HMV – Leading retailer of DVDs/Consoles & Games – 4350 employees, 239 stores. Sales of CDs and DVDs undermimed by competition from supermarkets, online retailers and online downloads. Announced on 15th January that they would be entering administration Jessops – Leading retailer of digital cameras and associated accessories – 1534 employees, 187 stores. Hit by increasing competition from supermarkets and internet retailers. Improved quality of smart phone based cameras means people think less about buying a dedicated camera. Went into administration on 9th January, all stores ceased trading with most jobs lost on 11th January. UK Dragon’s Den star, Peter Jones, has now agreed to buy the brand and remaining stock which is likely to help create a new online retailer to continue the Jessops name Comet – Leading retailer of consumer electronics and white goods/appliances – 6611 employees across 236 stores. Economic downturn led to many consumers put off purchases of big ticket items such as TVs and large appliances. Sales of these types of items, the ‘bread and butter sales at Comet’ have increasingly moved online. Administrators were appointed on 2nd November after suppliers refused to provide credit in the run up to Christmas. Last remaining stores closed on 18th December. In fact Comet’s main competitor is Curry’s/PC World and they are, for the moment at least, still in business. If they close down as well then the whole consumer electronics sector of the UK retail industry will have been more or less wiped out. These particular four high street brands have very high brand value with UK consumers and it is this brand recognition which is leading some entrepreneurs to buy the brand name so that they can develop the equivalent online brand and the bricks and mortar stores will in most cases simply close down. The move to online platforms is driving a requirement for tighter integration between consumer focused ecommerce sites and back end order management systems. From a B2C perspective, consumers need to be able to conduct real time queries of stock levels for certain products. This means that synchronous based communication methods are going to become more and more important over the coming years. Traditionally business related EDI based systems have been asynchronous based, ie they receive and process transactions at specific times. Synchronous communication undertakes a query via a web based service that is directly integrated to a back end order management system. So in summary, will the Omnichannel effect drive further investment in web based services and synchronous communications?, only time will tell but it is certainly heading in that direction at this moment in time. Synchronous communications will be a subject for a future blog as real time inventory queries are becoming a key requirement across many manufacturing based companies as well.

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Top 10 B2B Predictions for 2013

Here are our Top 10 2013 predictions for the B2B industry. Our experts in Cloud Computing, Retail, Manufacturing, e-Invoicing put together their thoughts on the major changes for the coming year. The predictions, which span different industry verticals, geographic regions and technology sectors, are based on research, news, trends and customer discussions. Continued Threat of Distributed Denial of Service Attacks will Drive Banks to Embrace Host-to-Host Transmission – In late 2012, hacktivists launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several global and regional banks. These DDoS attacks flooded banks’ website servers, preventing access to internet banking and other online services. The news media focused on how consumers were not able to access online banking services.  However, many corporate users were impacted as well.  Unable to access online corporate banking portals, these corporations could not conduct time-sensitive financial activities such as initiating wire transfers.  In 2013, financial institutions will begin to recommend a different, more secure approach for their corporate clients.  Host-to-host transmission solutions enable corporate clients to upload files using secure FTP protocols that are less likely to disruption by hacktivists and fraudsters. – Follow Patty’s blog here or join her on Twitter. Competition in Emerging Markets will Drive Significant Growth in Managed File Transfer for Manufacturers– In 2013, manufacturers will continue to invest in servicing the fast-growing markets of China, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico.  Heightened competition in these emerging markets will drive companies to decentralize their design departments.  They will push product design and development closer to these emerging market locations to enable them to quickly and more accurately tailor their products to meet local demand.  But this new decentralized structure will create information sharing challenges for designers around the world.   Design files such as CAD/CAM diagrams will need to be exchanged quickly and securely between users and locations. This will drive a significant increase in Managed File Transfer related projects across manufacturing companies to transfer the engineering related information from one location to another with ease. – Follow Mark’s blog here or join him on Twitter. 2013 will be the Watershed Year for E-Invoicing – Despite being a simple solution to optimize financial processes with compelling savings for both the buyer and seller, e-Invoicing has yet to reach critical mass.   But 2013 will be e-Invoicing’s watershed year.  Governments around the world will continue to enforce e-invoicing mandates for suppliers doing business with the public sector.  Large corporations will push suppliers more aggressively as well.  E-Invoicing enables these large buyers to reduce supplier credit risk with early supplier payment and supply chain finance programs.  To simplify the process for small suppliers, accounting software vendors, such as Sage and Intuit, will promote the turnkey e-invoicing features in their products.  – Follow Nigel’s blog here or join him on Twitter. US Businesses Will Expand Use of EDI Documents in the Supply Chain – With the debt ceiling issues behind us, the US economy will see a surge in consumer demand and manufacturing output.  There will be a major push by industry to replenish inventories.  To support the growth, companies will invest in supply chain automation technologies such as EDI.  Not only will the volumes of purchase orders and invoices increase, but companies will start to exchange a broader range of transactions.   Advance Ship Notices (ASN) will become more common.  In addition, we will begin to see the widespread adoption of the Purchase Order Change and Purchase Order Acknowledgment documents. -Follow Rochelle’s blog here 2013’s Supplier of the Year – The Crowd – In 2013, crowdsourcing will move from being considered a risky experiment that a handful of innovative companies are piloting to a more mainstream approach to business.   Retailers are beginning to more extensively source new product ideas from the crowd as they seek to differentiate their merchandise mix from the competition (Think Etsy and Shapeways).  Professional services companies are starting to source labor-intensive projects to the crowd as they continue to seek out cost advantages in labor (Think Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk).  And high tech companies are awarding prizes for breakthrough ideas from the crowd as they continue to seek answers to their most complex design problems (Think InnoCentive and Spigit).  But much like any supplier, the crowd will need to do business electronically with these large corporations.  And this need to automate the registration, invoicing and payment process with the crowd will create a new B2B challenge for the market. – Follow Steve’s blog here or join him on Twitter. Re-shoring will Lead to an Increase in B2B integration – Issues such as the rising cost of labor in China and the natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, have led many manufacturers to rethink their production strategies.  In 2013, we will continue to witness leading corporations reshoring their manufacturing activities to Western locations away from the Far East.   But to compete successfully with a re-shoring strategy will require a supply chain that is optimized for cost and agility.  As a result, companies will further invest in connectivity and integration with their business partners.  Not only will B2B help to optimize costs, but it will ensure companies can collaborate with their business partners and maintain visibility over their activities. – Follow Matthew’s blog here.   Online Marketplaces will shape the Content Collaboration Agenda for Omnichannel initiatives– The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets have given consumers persistent and pervasive access to the Internet, allowing them to research, compare, shop, and buy anytime and anywhere.  But without the ability to see, smell, touch, hear or feel the products in a store, consumers are critically dependent upon the information on retailer websites to make purchasing decisions.  The surge in omnichannel commerce over recent years has forced brands and manufacturers to develop a better understanding of the information consumers need.  Without accurate, up-to-date and complete item attribute information consumers either won’t buy online or they will return what they did buy. In 2013, consumer products manufacturers will get more aggressive about sharing item attribute information with online marketplaces and etailers. And the more successful collaborators will drive higher volumes of omnichannel sales.  – Follow Melanie’s blog here or join her on Twitter.   Social B2B Graphs will Embrace Capabilities from their Consumer-Oriented Counterparts and add Role-Driven, Dynamic “Circles”– There are many similarities between the social networks used by consumers and the business networks used by corporations.  Much as Facebook maintains a social graph showing the connections between friends and family members, business networks can map a business social graph that shows the relationships between customers and suppliers.  Each consumer relationship, or verb, such as “follows,” “likes,” has a counterpart in B2B such as “trades with,” “follows,” and “endorses.” And much like Google+, circles of business partners can be can be formed by grouping companies according to the role they pay. For example, “suppliers,” “3rd party logistics providers,” and “financial providers”are each circles of business partners.  Business partners can also be grouped into circles by the attributes of their organization, including “industry,” “geography,” and “regulatory compliance.” These groups, or circles, will then support dynamic, extensible, transaction sets that are available to its members. As with the consumer space, in 2013, the network which can best leverage these social graphs and circles will enjoy a competitive advantage.  –  Follow Miguel on Twitter. Big Data and B2B Integration Cloud Platforms will enable Predictive Analytics to improve Supply Chain Performance – Omnichannel commerce produces significant amounts of unstructured buying behavior information and B2B integration cloud platforms process structured supply chain data. Combining the two, companies will have a holistic approach to predictive supply chain analytics, rather than fragmented.  In 2013, by combining big data and B2B integration cloud platforms information, companies will gain a better understanding of how to achieve their desired outcomes.  – Follow Andrea on Twitter. Supply Chain Network Providers will Simplify Master Data Management for all of us, Finally– In the same way that LinkedIn has simplified our ability to keep one single online resume/CV, there is a need for businesses to be able to keep a portable profile of the information they share among trading partners that is not relationship-specific.  Now that supply chain network providers have reached massive scale, this can become a reality. In 2013, businesses should select the network provider that has the biggest scale in addition to financial viability to ensure business continuity. Follow Nick on Twitter.  

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In 2013, online marketplaces will shape the content collaboration agenda for omnichannel retail initiatives

Consumers are all the rage. It may sound controversial, and perhaps not as exciting as Tickle Me Elmo or Wii U. However, if you are a retail or consumer products marketer, I’m sure you agree. The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets have given consumers persistent and pervasive access to the Internet, allowing them to research, compare, shop, and buy anytime and anywhere. Because consumers have the ability to constantly access information about the products we make and sell, our needs as brands and manufacturers have intensified: We need to know what consumers are thinking We need to know what consumers are searching for on the Internet in terms of information and products We need to have content, products and services available for consumers when they want it We need to anticipate where the market is going and develop forecasts and product plans that will keep us one step ahead of our buyers     In the past, business-to-business (B2B) relationships between traditional brick and mortar retailers, brand owners and distributors were heavily focused on electronic data interchange (EDI) for the most basic order-to-cash transactions, such as the purchase order, invoice, and advance ship notice (ASN). We have seen a shift in the past several years to broader B2B programs and the use of extended business documents. More recently, we have embraced omnichannel retailing as a critical business imperative and are increasing our channel reach and our efforts to automate trading relationships across channels. And we have certainly witnessed the explosive growth of online retailers (etailers) and marketplaces, pushing the envelope with innovative go-to-market models and reaching the needs of even very niche demographics. These pure play online businesses are full of bright, energetic, super-intelligent personnel that are challenging traditional ways of thinking. They are detail oriented yet able to articulate the broad vision. They are agile and looking for quick solutions to further engage consumers, build communities, and connect people with the “stuff” they want to buy.  In 2013, online marketplaces and successful etailers will drive the retail and consumer products industry to get aggressive about sharing content. And not just the fundamentals like style, UPC/EAN (GTIN), color, size and price, but substantive information that consumers really want to know when researching items, like fabric content, where products are manufactured, care instructions, how to prepare food items, important features and benefits, warranty information and key product characteristics like the heel height for shoes, sleeve and collar type for shirts, and dimensions and style for jewelry and accessories. It is shaping up to be a banner year for growth in our B2B initiatives. We can certainly thank consumers for ensuring we’ll be very busy again in 2013, but we should also embrace the emerging and ever growing population of online retailers and marketplaces for joining our efforts and encouraging us to new heights!

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How Adaptive Case Management Can Help in the Battle for Same Day Delivery

The award for special delivery arguably goes to Santa Claus, but this holiday season delivery may also prove to be the competitive edge for retailers. In this article, I take a look at the latest moves by Walmart and Amazon to extend Santa’s supply chain with same-day delivery. The Battle of the Brands While brand continues to be THE foundation for retail success,the supply chain is once again shaping up to be a top weapon in the battle for the customer. With 180 million shoppers annually,Walmart takes the No. 1 position on the Interbrand U.S. Most Valuable Retail Brands by a large margin for 2012.Yet Walmart’s brand value actually decreased over the last year as shoppers continue to spread theirspending.In response to these changing shopping behaviors and market pressures on its brand value, Walmart is doubling down on its strengths, including its well-recognized world-class supply chain mastery.  Amazon reached the No. 9 position in the 2012 Retail Brands list, increasing its brand value by 32 percent,and also appeared as a Top Riser on Interbrand’s Top Global Brands list. Amazon’s upward path is built in part on strong growth and emphasis onB2C and B2B fulfillment services. What do the Interbrand placements tell us about our favorite retailers? “One of the most compelling lessons from the list is that the best brands didn’t stand idly by, waiting for further signs of recovery. They contributed to it by anticipating their customer’s desire to return-not to shopping as usual-but to something better,” says Bruce Dybvad, CEO of Interbrand Design Forum. Why Compete on Same-Day Delivery? This year, Walmart and Amazon are competing head on for the holiday buying season with same-day delivery. As NBC’s Janet Shamlian recently reported,“Whoever masters same-day delivery will be the winner.” For Walmart, it is a way to counter the e-Commerce convenience of Amazon and signal their intent to compete across all channels. “While e-commerce sales are just a sliver of the [Walmart’s] overall revenues, the distinction between online and offline shopping is becoming more and more blurred. With the retail landscape changing so rapidly, it makes sense for the firm to engage in low-risk experiments like same day delivery [for products ordered online].” For Amazon it is a way to deliver the “instant gratification” that a traditional brick and mortar retail store provides.Amazon is trying to neutralize that advantage by offering same-day delivery for some products in a limited number of areas. How to Deliver Same-Day? Justas the motivation for pursuing same-day delivery is different for Walmart and Amazon, so are their respective execution approaches. Both are dependent on their positions in the marketplace and concomitant strengths. While neither Walmart nor Amazon have Santa’s special delivery abilities, they do each have unique supply chain strengths that can be leveraged. Amazon launched same-day delivery from their warehouses in 2009 for ten cities, including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and Seattle, and their distribution centers will total about 60. Slate’s technology columnist offers insight into Amazon’s strategy: “Now that [Amazon] has agreed to collect sales taxes, the company can legally set up warehouses right inside some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Why would it want to do that? Because Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately — as soon as a few hours after you hit buy. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop.” As Time Business reports, “Walmart isn’t taking it lying down.”Walmart is using its extensive network of superstores as distribution centers, and shipping products to consumers via UPS. The service will initially be available in the Northern Virginia, Philadelphia,Minneapolis, San Jose and San Francisco areas. While Walmart’s claim to fame has been supply chain mastery, it has traditionally focused on delivery to stores, not to consumers, where Amazon may well have the edge.Shipping from stores, rather than from warehouses as Amazon does, is expensive.“It can be three to four times the cost for the retailer to pick items and pack them from a store versus having a really efficient, automated process back in a distribution center,”according to Al Sambar, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon. Where Can Adaptive Case Management Help? Where does case management figure into this retail battle?As those who pursue the “perfect order” know far too well, supply chain processes can be difficult to control.Introducing a new element like same-day increases the challenge.Here are four areas where case management can help: 1. Order Management Order management cost and coordination challenges span from the point where an order is submitted through product fulfillment to payment for goods or services received,and often to the reverse logistics of product return.These challenges and especially the associated costs are all extended and heightened -day delivery requirements. Applying business process management approaches and tools can certainly help through automation. However in today’s multi-channel retail environment, every customer order becomes both an opportunity and a challenge, requiring collaborative tools that can aid exception handling and decision making.This is where adaptive case management can help as it has in other areas of order management to relieve supply chain stress and improve management of the financial flows. 2. Logistics Same-day delivery introduces new logistics and value chain partners with new (and old)systems all combining to do tasks in potentially new ways.To manage product logistics, including the ever challenging reverse logistics area, documents and decision-making must span application and organizational silos.Case management’s ability to integrate and scale across ERP systems and to coordinate logistics systems and participants, while adapting to new circumstances and market demands, is a significant value proposition. Traditional BPMS systems can be used to track each shipment across all the different participants and legs of the journey. Straight through processing is not always possible or practical though, especially when shipments do not take the anticipated “happy path.” With same-day, when an error occurs or a shipment fails to correctly deliver on the first attempt,many of the tasks and decisions taken may be dependent upon relatively slow and error-prone human beings in what are untamed process areas that fall between established systems and procedures. A collaborative case management implementation could allow immediate and informed decisionmaking to occur rather than automatically trying to redeliver the shipment the next day (which of course defeats the same-day delivery promise) keeping the package in play, and possibly saving significant costs per delivery.  3. Customer Service Customer service challenges and responses are well understood and there is general consensus that this area presents a tremendous opportunity for differentiation. Here is an area where there is a multitude of existing CRM and legacy systems in place, and once again next-day will introduce new requirements.Mapping all the possible paths for automation is simply not feasible, yet organizing the work in a customer-centric wa yis of great importance. This relatively new retail “omni-channel”environment is a natural target to apply case management, filled as it is with information silos, organization issues and non-interoperable programs that drive up costs and frustrate employees and customers alike. With a case management approach you can combine relevant document content and intelligent workflow to create an effective customer support and decision making environment for each of the participants involved in the customer activity.The result will be an operation that meets next-day requirements and adapts as new options are introduced. 4. Executive Oversight and Insight Optimizing operations requires visibility into the business and across the extended supply chain.Case management can enable dashboards for all levels of management, including executive views.These provide insight into the product, financial and information flows over the supply chain to better understand how the business is doing against their“perfect-order” goals.And, case management can be used to help management determine how the business is responding to new offerings like same-day delivery. What’s Next for Same-Day? The economics of same-day delivery are yet to be worked out.Physical supply chain issues are certainly a part of what must be mastered. For example,Amazon is opening up a lot of new shipping centers and investing in making those centers much more efficient with Kiva Systems that makes “picking robots” that improve shipping times while reducing errors. In addition, both Amazon and Walmart and their fellow retailers will need to improve their end-to-end supply chain systems transparency and agility with cost-effective exception handling and decision making using tools like case management. For this year, same-day delivery is really just an interesting experiment,albeit an experiment that could have significant impact on the future of retailing.For now, I think that Santa is still the delivery winner …and Santa just might already have discovered case management as his secret supply chain weapon.

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Financial Services and Mobile: What Next?

The past twelve months has been full of market announcements and technology roll-outs in mobile-based Financial Services. I don’t think that I am alone in struggling to keep up with all of the different use case examples, business models and technologies – mobile banking, mobile payments, contactless near-field communications, QR codes, e-wallets, mobile wallets, card reader dongles, apps, mobile invoicing, M-Pesa.  Apart from mobile banking, you probably don’t even remember many of them, and in my opinion this is because they are all fighting against each other to impose themselves in your smartphone. Each one is supposedly designed to be a “game changer” for consumers, merchants, banks or mobile network operators, each offering slightly different benefits and functionality, but with a lot of overlap in functionality. So, it’s maybe not surprising why none of them has been widely adopted yet. The UK Payments Council is overseeing an Olympian project that may, I think, be a game changer for mobile Financial Services consolidation: the UK-wide Mobile Payments project. This top down industry approach is driving the creation of a central database that links UK mobile phone numbers to bank account details. The overall aim is to maintain a bank-neutral proxy framework that will hold mobile phone number and associated banking details. The database will allow UK banks connected to LINK or Faster Payments to launch a mobile payment service, utilising the UK Payments Council database. Personally, I am convinced that an industry-wide technical foundation with a common framework for mobile payments will drive high adoption. Yet, even with the best thought through and widely adopted industry governance, I still wonder if we are ready to drop the habit of visiting bank branches or doing internet banking? And, will the expectation of “always on availability” mean customers are deterred from mobile banking services? Mobile-based Financial Services are built on three key components: a smartphone handset, a mobile network operator and a bank (or closed-loop payment facilitator).  If any of these components is not working or suffering disruptions on a regular basis how patient will customers be? The mobile banking concept is as weak as its weakest point and the last few months may be an indication of what could lie ahead: Point of failure #1: Last week, O2, one of the largest UK’s Mobile Network Operators, had a severe outage across its network for 24 hours, preventing many clients from using either their data or regular 2G/GSM voice service. Of course, everyone has a few hiccups now and then but SME companies couldn’t conclude transactions over the phone or on their mobile banking apps and as a result claimed they had lost business. Point of failure #2: A few days before that, the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest had well publicised outage that prevented clients’ current accounts from being updated, and payments weren’t made or received. This is a pretty rare occurrence in the banking industry, but nevertheless, it impacted consumers and companies. Some customers couldn’t complete on house purchases so weren’t able to move house, many Finance and Treasury departments couldn’t submit their payrolls, customers couldn’t check their account balances, or meet standing orders or direct debit commitments. Point of failure #3: A while ago, RIM had a 4-day service interruption on most of their infrastructure, leaving customers without network access, so couldn’t send and receive emails and calls or do instant messaging. Many users were limited to just playing games on their mobile handsets. So, in conclusion, my view is that adoption of Financial Services mobile services is much more likely to get high adoption if the industry players including technology vendors, mobile network operators and Financial Institutions, work together. The example of the UK Payments Council driving a UK-wide foundation layer around mobile phone/bank account database is a good example, and leaves plenty of room for Banks, technology vendors and mobile network operators to create their own value proposition, but one that is based on common standards. Some element of service disruption is a fact of life, of course, and we live with that, but it seems to me that the Financial Services mobile market as it stands today is made of a number of totally independent building blocks stacked on top of each other. I leave you with these thoughts – is this a good ecosystem to execute critical business transactions, to submit or to receive high value instructions?  And, is this something we would want to rely on to drive sector-wide or even nationwide adoption?

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