Thinking about things differently

Thinking about things differently

 

Do you need to respond to disruption in your market but don’t know where to start?

Are you keen to capitalise on digital technologies but unsure what benefits they can deliver or how they would integrate with your existing tools and platforms?

Are you struggling to gauge where you currently are as a business with where you want to be?

By thinking differently about your concerns and challenges, it is possible to gain perspective and realism around the often interminable topic of change and to ultimately develop business strategies that deliver tangible outcomes and drive value.

At Bench, we hold to the principle that everything we do must enable you to either drive and grow revenue, reduce costs,  or empower you to take control of your technology investments and more often than not, deliver all three of these outcomes. One of the key ways we do this is by helping our clients to think differently.

Generally, we find there are four key areas where a change in thinking can help to drive business change.

  1. Understanding the ‘Gap’ and Aligning Strategic intent to Operational Capability

Refined, detailed gap analyses help organisations to understand current marketing and technology maturity levels and highlight where they need to strengthen and change in order to drive value. They also provide specific recommendations as to what needs to happen from a data, technology, people and process perspective in order to enable and deliver this change.

  1. Understanding and Articulating Value and Opportunity

Assessing business value and market opportunity helps organisations to establish and convey the value of particular investments and to identify the opportunities these could exploit and optimise in their marketplace, helping to support business and investment cases. This includes evaluating the continued relevance of current metrics and identifying and defining new, perhaps more relevant KPIs for their changing businesses and marketplaces.

  1. Course Correction

Root cause analyses help organisations to identify why technology programmes or projects may have veered off course or struggled to deliver demonstrable value and highlight ways to bring them back on-track and delivering business outcomes as quickly as possible.

  1. Transformation and Managing Disruption

Identifying how to capitalise on disruption, including how to map out future-focused SWOT and PEST analyses, Competitive Maps and Market Landscapes in order to articulate and prioritise key areas of proposition and service development is key in responding to disruption from customers, competitors and the marketplace.

 

Whether you are grappling with personalised content management for GDPR, want to know how to leverage AI to drive efficiency, review your digital estate or drive best-practice campaign management, learning to think differently  in approaching challenges will really help your strategic planning AND your operational delivery.

We work with a wide range of clients here at Bench and whilst there are commonalities in terms of the organizational challenges that technology and broader digital transformation pose, each client is at a different stage of understanding, application and operational capability.

We are often initially engaged to discuss specific technology application or enablement and where the circumstances allow, this is where our unique Act and Apply practices deliver hugely valuable acceleration against particular operational objectives.

In many cases however, by encouraging our clients to view these specific challenges in a wider perspective and to engage in what on the surface might appear to be a more complex Think exercise, we begin a longer-lasting and ultimately deeper strategic client relationship that delivers against a much broader agenda of organisational change which empowers those clients to address and meet challenges on a basis which otherwise might have become disconnected or worse, crisis-led.

Thinking about ‘thinking’ differently, on an operationally relevant but transformative canvas is at the core of the Bench consulting proposition.

 

Talk to us if you want to learn more about what we do.

ASK THE EXPERTS – Downloadable insights

Great insight from Bench!

You can now download our latest ‘Ask the Experts’ Disruption report

 

Please have a look at our previous reports:

‘Ask the Experts’ GDPR report

‘Ask the Experts’ report on Unleashing Marketing and Data Technology’s true potential

‘Ask the Experts’ report on Key Marketing and Data Opportunities and Challenges for 2017 and beyond

Welcome to the new look Bench!

Welcome to the new look Bench!

Today is the start of a new era for Bench, as we launch our new website. While we’re really proud of all the work that has gone into creating our updated look and feel, what hasn’t changed is our strong belief in the practical application of business strategy and technology to enable transformation and create value.

When we initially launched in 2015 as part of The St Ives Group, we did so in response to seeing so many companies confused and concerned by issues such as the sheer pace of change and risk of market disruption, constantly evolving customer views and expectations and the lack of and unavailability of relevant expertise and experience to help solve these problems.

Fast forward to today, and we have successfully helped organisations from across industry to transform and drive value, enabling them to make money, save money, take control and enhance their brand.

We’re committed to continuing and building on this track record, working with clients to help them overcome challenges such as dealing with disruption, understanding how to successfully harness digital technology and transforming operational models in order to compete in today’s market.

As such, we have further honed and refined our service offering under our unique methodology of:

Think – business strategy and transformation
Act – implement the right people, processes and technology
Apply – practical application of services and support

So, please come and pay us a visit at www.mybench.co.uk, where you’ll be able to explore our approach, methodology and specialist services, as well as read our market insights, latest reports and case studies. Please let us know what you think of the new site and if you’d like to have a chat contact the team here.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

 

You can also visit our LinkedIn and Twitter pages.

Knowledge Bench – Practical applications of AI

Knowledge Bench – Practical applications of AI

Thank you to everyone who came along to our latest Knowledge Bench event on Wednesday 24 May. We enjoyed drinks, canapés and chat with a whole host of Data and Marketing Technology experts as well as having some cognitive fun with Watson!

Our focus for the event was AI and Cognitive computing, exploring what it means for the market as well as taking a look at some practical applications of machine learning in action.

We welcomed speakers Derick Wiesner from IBM and David Fearne from Arrow to discuss the topic alongside our experts and heard about some truly innovative projects that are pushing new boundaries in machine learning.

David Fearne, Technical Director at Arrow ECS, gave a fascinating insight into his ground-breaking project, How Happy is London?, a live demonstration of large scale data analytics that has recently seen him win the Software and Services category at the Data 50 Awards.

David also gave us sneak peak at other innovative AI projects underway at Arrow, including a brand new project to see if twitter can predict the general election and an exciting charity initiative based on cognitive computing that is designed to help the most vulnerable in society. He left everyone feeling inspired and opened up a new world of AI possibilities!

We were also lucky enough to hear from Derick Wiesner, IBM Commerce and Digital Marketing Agencies Segment Leader, Europe, who talked through some fascinating real world examples of Watson in action.

What was really clear from all our speakers was that AI is here and is already being used in so many ways to help businesses. As David showed us, ‘machine learning is now part of daily life’.

 

If you’re keen to get going and want to get ahead of the game, register to read myBench’s ‘Ask the Experts’ GDPR report 

To find out more about how you might be able to benefit from the latest AI and cognitive developments speak to one of our experts at Bench.

Get in touch to find out more.

A new age for retail

A new age for retail

The current pace of change and innovation within the retail marketplace is verging on a revolution. On the one hand, organisations such as Amazon are challenging existing business models and engaging customers in new ways. While on the other we have increasingly empowered consumers who expect a seamless brand offering across an ever-growing range of channels – and they want it now!

As I wrote about in Internet Retailing recently, digital transformation is redefining not just how retailers communicate with their customers, but entire business models too. Indeed, digital transformation and data intelligence are central to creating a customer-obsessed model, something which is particularly important in this ‘age of the customer’.

From mobile applications to ecommerce platforms, the Internet of Things (IoT), and, more recently, AI and VR, ever advancing digital technology has led to a fundamental change in the way retailers interact with consumers – and vice versa. Yet this is only the beginning.

All of this presents a multi-faceted challenge to retailers. Not only are they attempting to embrace new operating models and approaches in order to stay competitive and stave off disruptive forces, they are also faced with a wide array of technology to choose from, as they attempt to both navigate new terrain and implement new systems to take advantage of burgeoning technology such as AI.

For heritage retailers in particular, with large legacy technology systems, this can be particularly challenging.

However, retailers need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase – and indeed to get benefit from the technology they already have! What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as AI, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.

Don’t start with technology

Start with the customer experience, not with technology. All too often the tendency is to try and solve a need in the quickest way possible by throwing some technology at it. To really get value, retailers need to step back and start with the customer. Understand how your customers are interacting with your brand, how they are likely to in the future and also ask yourself: what disruptions are there in the market that might change the way they do?

Build a roadmap and keep it agile

Developing a technology roadmap that encompasses the entire business and is supported by the entire senior management team is hugely important. This can help to avoid questions over which department ‘owns’ a particular technology project, as they all will.  Built into this roadmap should be incremental targets, some of which can be delivered quickly in order to demonstrate value up front, as well as clear objectives that the business can work towards.

These ‘quick wins’ are critical for demonstrating the value of a system and getting that all in important buy in. This stage should not be underestimated, particularly as businesses are placing more pressure than ever before on the return on investment.

Once an overarching business roadmap has been established, organisations can then tackle the issue of whether they have right people and processes in place to execute it.

Getting your digital estate in order

Retailers are still failing to fully understand their digital estates and the systems they already have. Many are fairly digitally mature, with estates that have grown at a rapid pace and are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised or integrated properly.

In addition, each silo is in various stages of maturity when it comes to technology. Further compounding issues is the advent of the cloud, which has led to a greater ability to operate outside of an IT function and therefore not have to communicate across business functions and other silos.


Final thoughts 

Using technology to provide a seamless, engaging, personalised service to customers is within reach for retailers, but the majority still have much work to do to achieve this goal. However, by taking key steps to implement an operating model that puts the customer as the centre, establish an overarching business technology roadmap, tackle silos and use data more effectively, retailers will start to reap rewards. It is not an easy task, but with the right support and expertise, it is achievable.

 

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Mind the gap – don’t let a poor understanding of the tech you already have in place trip you up

Mind the gap – don’t let a poor understanding of the tech you already have in place trip you up

When catching the tube between meetings today, I was struck by the familiar warning phrase issued to busy underground passengers to ‘Mind the gap’. Whilst I wasn’t in any danger of slipping onto the track, the advice was remarkably similar to what I’d just been discussing with a company keen to make the most of a planned, new technology purchase.

My meeting was to determine if a proper Gap Analysis had been undertaken to make sure the company’s operating model was at the right stage of maturity for the adoption of the new technology it was keen to implement and to benefit from its promise.

Gap Analysis is essential

Not properly minding ‘the gap’ in my experience is one of the most common mistakes organisations make when looking to embrace new technology and it’s one that all too often sees them trip up.

While innovation is imperative, organisations need to be mindful that innovation isn’t done for the sake of it or too early to realise its benefits. Undertaking Gap Analysis and looking at the technology you have and how to get the most out of it should be the first step in accelerating your digital journey.

Know what you’ve got

Organisations need to know what’s in their armoury and how to use the data and people they have before they embark on new innovation. Crucially, they need to understand how to use these resources to meet their business goals and there is no better way to achieve this than through a comprehensive Gap Analysis.

So often businesses have grown organically and have a hodge-podge of technology in place. Understanding what this is, identifying the skill sets required to achieve the most out of existing technology and gaining real insight into how data is being used and stored must be a prerequisite to acquiring the latest and greatest piece of shiny tech.

Aligning with business goals

Marketing and data technologies only have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better, if they align with business goals and objectives. Understanding this will lead to successful implementations.

All too often, I see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation. They are all driven by a desire to stay one step ahead of the competition and carve out an advantage in an increasingly crowded and fast-paced environment.

Arrive successfully at your destination  

By closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), organisations can gather a clearer idea of where there is a genuine need for new technology or how current technology which can be utilised.

It may be that instead of putting new technology in place, an organisation would get more value from using its current technology better – for example by configuring it, staff training or integrating it in a smarter way. In order to successfully do this though, organisations need to have conducted thorough Gap Analysis and audits to identify where technology might be better capitalised on.

Investing upfront at this stage and truly minding the gap will lead to an efficient and effective digital journey and ensure that businesses successfully arrive at their desired destination.

To find out more about how to balance innovation and get the basics of technology selection, implementation and integration right, download our latest  ‘Ask the Expert’ Report on Unleashing marketing and data technology’s true potential designed to help businesses identify and capitalise on key marketing and data technology.

 

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Amplify showed that Watson is out of the lab

Amplify showed that Watson is out of the lab

I’m back from IBM Amplify 2017 with renewed enthusiasm for Watson Customer Engagement. I left Las Vegas with a sense of purpose; feeling IBM has real direction with A.I and cognitive computing in Watson. Its nailed its transition from on-premise to SaaS and its proposition is strong and clear. Watson is out of the lab and into the marketplace, ready to be discovered…

A.I and Cognitive is left, right and centre     

There are many compelling reasons to use Watson but what clearly came out of out Amplify last week was that A.I and cognitive is left, right and centre for IBM.

I saw some really dynamic presentations from Harriet Green, Richard Hearn and Will Smith, who all spoke fervently about redefining customer engagement in the cognitive era and the opportunities that Watson will bring to connect with customers as individuals.

Ginni Rometty’s address also convincingly set out how bringing cognitive capabilities together with the cloud will enable new innovation to solve problems and create new marketing solutions.

The new wave of people at IBM has led to a change in culture, with those at the heart of the organisation driving a real understanding of A.I and cognitive.

Watson heralds a new era     

With IBM Watson Customer Engagement, cognitive is now accessible through its simplified product range and easy to understand language.

There’s a new clarity with Watson. Its highly structured and well-defined platform, its user-centric design, smooth integration and cognitive expertise is just waiting to be discovered.

The challenge now is for businesses to understand how A.I and cognitive can be practically applied.

Grant Williams 

 

To read myBench’s Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

 Talk to us if you want to learn more.

It’s time to get practical with A.I and cognitive computing

It’s time to get practical with AI and cognitive computing

Everyone is excited about A.I and cognitive computing – the boundless opportunities, the raft of applications in development and the promise of a new era ahead for marketers. I’m excited too, especially by how these technologies are already being used, but I see many businesses falling into a trap. In the rush to embrace A.I and cognitive computing, many of the practicalities around its implementation are being overlooked.

Truly understanding the technology

As I wrote about last week in the Huffington Post  a large part of harnessing the opportunities cognitive computing and A.I can bring is in truly understanding how these technologies work and how they can benefit an organisation. There’s still a lot of confusion around this.

Many organisations mix up predictive systems and cognitive systems, for example. Predictive marketing is based on analysing huge amounts of data and automating responses. True cognitive computing is teaching a system to think like a person and learn as you train it. It can take data (which does not have to be personal) and learn from this. This, in conjunction with A.I technology opens up a huge range of new ways to reach and interact with customers.

Importantly, although cognitive computing is designed to learn and run independently, it will always work best in partnership with people. For example, cognitive technology can run automated tasks such as reporting or email campaigns, freeing up people to focus on creativity and delivering better customer experiences, such as Augmented Intelligence.

Don’t be seduced by gimmicks 

Whilst organisations are keen to stay one step ahead of their competitors, they do need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

To do this, organisations need to step back and start with the customer. Understand how customers are interacting with a brand and what kind of experience they are looking for. People don’t necessarily want a relationship with a brand, they just want a good experience.

The North Face is one example of where cognitive computing is being practically applied to deliver this kind of experience. Users visiting The North Face website can have a similar experience online as in-store, thanks to intelligent natural language processing technology that helps customers choose a jacket by asking a series of questions and learning from the answers supplied. Powered by IBM Watson cognitive computing technology together with Fluid XPS the retailer can provide customers with outerwear suggestions tailored to their needs, creating a more engaging, relevant and personalised shopping experience.

Getting your house in order

Perhaps more fundamentally though, businesses first need to get their own houses in order before embarking on implementing new technologies such as cognitive or A.I.

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible through the use of exciting technologies is of course great. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance. As Kevin Kelly, author and founder of Wired famously said “perfect what you know”.

 

To read myBench’s Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

 Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Time for a spring clean

Time for a spring clean

The daffodils are out and the crocuses are blooming. Spring is finally here. Lighter days and the warmer weather means one thing for me – it’s time for a spot of spring-cleaning. There’s nothing more satisfying then having a really good clear out of the house and a good cut back in the garden. I love it – it makes me feel on top of life. The same goes for data.

Clean up your data

Where data is concerned a spring clean is actually pretty essential and not just an exercise in feeling good. Making sure you have a data spring clean before purchasing the next new bit of technology or the latest AI or cognitive computing kit is really crucial. Time and again, this is where organisations fall down with the use of technology in marketing campaigns.

Weed away

None of the benefits of voice recognition technology or the latest developments in robotics can be realised until you first, fully understand the data and systems you have in place. In the same way that I wouldn’t dream of planting this year’s seeds in the garden without first having weeded my boarders, the data that underpins marketing campaigns needs to be clearly understood before new technology is implemented to enhance personalised and responsive campaigns.

A clear out for future innovation

Once you’ve undertaken an in-depth audit and know how your current marketing and data architecture, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be) you’ll gather a clear picture of where there is a genuine need for new technology.

It may be that instead of putting new technology in place, you will get more value from using your current technology better – for example by configuring it or integrating it in a smarter way.

All too often, I see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation.

The technology to do this is available, it is just not being selected and implemented in the right way. When implemented and integrated correctly, marketing and data technology have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better.

Before any of this can happen though you must have your data in order and there is no better time than now to have a really good spring clean.

 

To read myBench’s Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

 Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Adobe Campaign Management – get it right first time!

Adobe Campaign Management – get it right first time!

Marketing automation doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. It doesn’t even need to be difficult to prove ROI. Not if you get the implementation right first time.

With Adobe Campaign Management there are some core considerations to ensure you deliver consistent campaigns everywhere, first time.

Take a look at our checklist to find out more about ‘Getting Adobe Campaign Management right first time’, so you get off to the best start with Adobe Campaign Management.

Advice:

Thinking about implementing Adobe Campaign Management and want to get it right first time?

The golden rule is to make sure you have a clear Requirements Definition – this is the most important stage in the entire process.

Here’s our checklist on how to do this:

  1. Identify who your stakeholders are – both inbound and outbound
  2. Identify what channels the solution will be supporting – do you have a native engine or do you require API integration?
  3. Define the customer journey and contact strategy against business objectives – Welcome, Upsell / Cross sell, Lapse / Retention, Abandon Basket, Order confirmation / Dispatch can be defined based on segment objectives and customer preferences but in order to enable these the data has to be right!
  4. To plan messaging and enable only the most relevant messages to reach the customer – consider if you need to integrate the service messaging into the contact history
  5. Get data integration right – the core operational (behavioural and transactional) data is key and must be right before the integration of new channels or sources of data are added into the equation such as mobile app behaviour, i-beacon information, website behaviour, social interaction.

Thought all this through? Then you’re ready to implement! If not, contact us to find out more.

If you need more information on implementing Adobe Campaign Management or if you’d like to chat the process through then please contact Grant about ‘Getting Adobe Campaign Management right first time’ to speak to our team of experts who will be on hand to help and answer any questions you have.

Ask the experts report

 Ask the experts report

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible are part of the very fabric of the technology industry. There will always be new and exciting technologies and trends to explore. This is entirely as it should be. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance.

By all means follow the latest predictions and set aside time and budget to innovate, but make sure the basic building blocks are in place too.

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing excerpts from our latest ‘Ask the Experts’ report, which outlines the key marketing and data technology challenges and opportunities facing organisations at the moment.

These can be summarised as:

  1. Getting the basics right

When implemented and integrated correctly, marketing and data technologies have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better.

All too often, we see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation.

Businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.

  1. Real-time decision making finally gets real

While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.

This is set to change from 2017 onwards. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.

  1. Taking steps towards cognitive computing

The concept of cognitive computing and A.I has been much discussed recently, in the same way that real time marketing was a few years ago. While there have been a limited amount of practical applications of this technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time.

The next few years will see organisations start to get to grips with what cognitive computing can offer. There are still fundamental kinks to be worked out, more fundamentally, though, businesses need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

  1. The growing need for data management and governance

Data management is a huge commodity. Proponents of data value management have long urged organisations to see data as a corporate asset and they are right.

Just like any asset organisations should attach cost and value to their data.

Yet how many organisations are actually doing any of this?  Only a small minority of market leaders.

The majority only considers data in this way when a specific requirement rears its head.  Often this will be a regulatory or technology driven change.

The temptation to wait until a project demands better data management is commonplace.  But project thinking can mean data governance and lifecycle management processes happen in a ‘siloed’ fashion.

  1. Getting your digital estate in order

Organisations are still failing to fully understand their digital estates and the systems they already have. Many are fairly digitally mature, with estates that have grown at a rapid pace. Due to the particularly high turn-over in senior marketing roles, coupled with increasing marketing technology spend, businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised or integrated properly.

These ‘Frankenstacks’ of disconnected technology have developed for a number of reasons, primarily due to the fact that organisations have been working in silos for years. This creates a monster of parts, all probably very good in their own area but as a combination stitched and patched together and not always serving the common good.

However, in this age of the customer, consumers expect – in fact demand – a seamless, joined up, personalised experience. Something that is difficult to deliver in a disjointed digital estate.

By closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), organisations can gather a clearer idea of how to effectively join up and better manage a digital estate.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Getting your digital estate in order

Getting your digital estate in order

Organisations are still failing to fully understand their digital estates and the systems they already have. Many are fairly digitally mature, with estates that have grown at a rapid pace. Due to the particularly high turn-over in senior marketing roles, coupled with increasing marketing technology spend, businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised or integrated properly

These ‘Frankenstacks’ of disconnected technology have developed for a number of reasons, primarily due to the fact that organisations have been working in silos for years. Each area, line of business, division, etc. often acquires technology separately. This creates a monster of parts, all probably very good in their own area but as a combination stitched and patched together and not always serving the common good.

In addition, each silo is in various stages of maturity when it comes to technology. Further compounding issues is the advent of the cloud, which has led to a greater ability to operate outside of an IT function and therefore not have to communicate across business functions and other silos.

However, in this age of the customer, consumers expect – in fact demand – a seamless, joined up, personalised experience. Something that is difficult to deliver in a disjointed digital estate.

This disconnect also makes it increasingly difficult to track and understand why and where problems are occurring across the digital estate, especially when there are many stakeholders and agencies involved.

By closely examining current marketing and data architecture, and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), organisations can gather a clearer idea of how to effectively join up and better manage a digital estate.

It may be that instead of putting new technology in place, an organisation could get more value from using its current technology better – for example by configuring it or integrating it in a smarter way. Alternatively, by conducting a thorough audit, organisations will be in a much better position to speedily identify and solve problems such as a sudden drop in transactions. In order to successfully do this though, organisations need to have access to the right skills and expertise to review an estate in its entirety.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

The growing need for data management and governance

Data management is a huge commodity

 

Proponents of data value management have long urged organisations to see data as a corporate asset and they are right.

Just like any asset organisations should attach cost and value to their data.

Yet how many organisations are actually doing any of this?  Only a small minority of market leaders.

The majority only considers data in this way when a specific requirement rears its head.  Often this will be a regulatory or technology driven change.

This is understandable as the cost of entry into the data value management club can be high.  There are software costs, management consulting costs and technical implementation costs. The promise of return on investment from data governance needs to be cast iron.

The temptation to wait until a project demands better data management is commonplace.  But project thinking can mean data governance and lifecycle management processes happen in a ‘siloed’ fashion.

There is another problem too.  It is a hackneyed question but apposite in this context; ‘What does good look like’?  The response is typically difficult to define.  What is good for a pharmaceutical company may be quite different to what is good for a retailer. The question also exposes a failing in traditional approaches to data value management projects.  Common wisdom would ask an organisation to consider, say, people process and technology.

Organisations need to identify all the stakeholders, the steering committee and nominate the data stewards, define data related rules and processes, implement data quality related processes and assigned decision rights and accountabilities.

In addition, they also need to constantly ask: ‘where’s the value?’ This is where two key factors come into their own.

The first is measurement.  Don’t they say if you want to improve something you must measure it first?  By building a data governance scorecard organisations can benchmark their progress and see if their strategy is working over time.

The second factor is experience – for which there is no substitute. Here, that means choosing people with experience in delivering a true value-driven approach.  Organisations should also be mindful to select people who understand what value means to their business and have the experience to deliver the results and add value.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Taking steps towards cognitive computing

The concept of cognitive computing and A.I has been much discussed recently, in the same way that real time marketing was a few years ago. While there have been a limited number of practical applications of this technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time. All the big players such as Adobe, Salesforce and IBM are vying to take the lead here, with IBM’s Watson in particular making waves in the industry.

The next few years will see organisations start to get to grips with what cognitive computing can offer. While there is much fascination with the potential for cognitive, there is still an element of nervousness from many organisations, especially when it comes to A.I. This is not unfounded, as A.I has not yet reached the point where it can run without careful human monitoring.

There are still fundamentals to be worked out to achieve true machine learning where the machine is fully responding and recalculating on changing inputs without any programming from a human party.

More fundamentally, though, businesses need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.

For example, this could take the form of a holiday company knowing that an individual likes to ski, has two children aged six and nine, has been on skiing holidays before in the February half term and favours Italian resorts over French ones, and then drawing information from 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data as well as analysing weather statistics and flight information and then offering appropriate holiday options based on this information.

Again, data is the key here. The more relevant data that is gathered, the more personalised the experience for customers. The importance of having excellent processes in place to capture and manage data is perhaps more significant than ever. As data scientist Bradley Voytek famously said while at Uber: “I don’t need to know everything about everybody. I just need to know a little bit about a whole bunch of people.”

Those that succeed will be the ones who can properly leverage both data and technology to make customers’ lives better.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

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Real time gets real…

While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.

This is set to change from 2017 onward. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.

The reasons for this are manifold. The tendency is often to purchase a particular piece of technology, without first stepping back and putting together a clear business case and roadmap for the technology. Before purchasing any technology, organisations need to address the following:

  • Why are we doing this? Is there a clear articulation of the existing or soon to be business problem we need to solve?
  • What value is the purchase directly linked to? g. saving money, making money, enhancing the brand
  • What is the measure of success? This is often too generic and not specific enough. It should be clearly articulated and documented.
  • What do we actually need from the technology?
  • Will value be achieved through core functionality or through the use of advanced features?
  • Has this been documented in the business and investment plan?
  • Do we have the right operating model and skills to successfully implement and integrate the technology?
  • Are we already utilising the technology we have to best effect?

All too often these questions are not asked or answered until after a piece of technology has been purchased, which can lead to a significant disconnect between what a business thinks it is getting from a vendor and what it actually needs.

This has been the case with many implementations of real time marketing technology, which is why it has taken some time to see significant practical applications of this.

 

To read the Ask the Experts Report in full request your copy.

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The Tech Skills Gap

 

Hays’ 2016 Global Skills Index found that Britain’s skill shortage had worsened for the fifth consecutive year, especially in terms of specialist technology skills. This is bad news for organisations and the economy alike. The contribution of technology skills to the UK economy is substantial, with a recent report from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills entitled ‘Digital Skills for the UK Economy’ highlighting that the technology sector alone makes up 6% of the UK economy. The same report also revealed that 72% of large organisations and 49% of SMEs are currently suffering from technology skills gaps.

This comes against a background of immense change and innovation within the marketplace. On the one hand, digital disruptors are challenging existing business models and engaging customers in new ways. While on the other increasingly empowered, savvy consumers expect a seamless brand offering across an ever-growing range of channels.

In order to keep up with the pace of change and deliver the services customers expect, organisations need access to the right talent, yet many are increasingly struggling to find people with the skills they need.

Digital marketing evangelist Avinash Kaushik was spot on when he said “invest 90% of your effort in the people”. Having a tight, expert team is the difference between success and failure when it comes to marketing and data technology. An organisation can select the best piece of technology in the world, but its true value cannot be unlocked without the appropriate expertise to implement, integrate and optimise it. For instance, a particular technology may claim to deliver X,Y and Z straight out of the box, but in reality it will need careful configuration and this means having the right talent available.

This is especially true in terms of integrating new technology with existing systems. Organisations need to really understand how certain technologies work with others, as well as the strengths and limitations of both existing and new technologies. For example, making sure marketing automation tools work closely with CRM tools to help track the entire customer experience.

If a new technology is not integrated correctly, then adoption rates are likely to be low, it will be perceived badly and ultimately it will not provide the required return on investment or solve the issues it was bought in to address.

One way around this talent gap is to bring together a team of subject matter experts from outside the organisation. This requires a mindset shift; developing relationships with contractors or even gaining support from a third party agency that can manage this process and the required expertise.

It is not just technical expertise that is needed. Your team also needs to be expert communicators and bridge the gap between both marketing and technology, but also the rest of the organisation. They need to obtain stakeholder buy-in across the business and ensure they are regularly communicating about how the implementation and integration process is progressing and highlighting success in areas where value can be demonstrated quickly.

The skills are out there – albeit in short supply – organisations just need to know where to look for them and how to use them in the best possible way.

 

Written by Louise Hughes.


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It was all about Watson at the Bellagio, Las Vegas

Returning from the whirlwind of IBM’s Cognitive Engagement Sales Academy, it wasn’t the bright lights of Las Vegas or the sumptuous hospitality laid on at the many evening receptions that really impressed me but IBM’s focus on partners and the opportunities that Watson promises in 2017.

A new era with Watson  

Sitting alongside IBMers last week at the Cognitive Engagement Sales Academy was quite something; as the IBM Sales team and Business Partners were collectively told the benefits of IBM Commerce becoming IBM Watson Customer Engagement.

There’s been huge anticipation and excitement about Watson since IBM Marketing Solutions was re-branded in November last year to Watson Marketing, and I was eager to attend the Sales Academy in January to really get under the skin of the new offering.

But it wasn’t just the innovation and enhancements of Watson that were so exciting to find out about, it was the whole nature and focus of the conference which makes 2017 feel like the start of a new era in marketing solutions for IBM. This really was business partnership at its best with IBM Sales and Business Partners accessing the promise of Watson together.

What will Watson Marketing bring?   

So what did I learn? There seems to be a new clarity with IBM Watson Customer Engagement, with a highly structured and well-defined platform, distinguished by user-centric design, smooth integration and most importantly cognitive expertise. There are already embedded cognitive capabilities in the new offering such as struggle detection for websites and content tagging, with many more features on the way.

At heart, Watson Customer Engagement has been designed to help overcome the data challenges that marketers grapple with on a daily basis and to manage the growing complexities of big and dark data which will dominate the year ahead. So I left the dazzle of Las Vegas for a snowbound UK really rather excited about getting home, despite the weather, and seizing the opportunities Watson offers in 2017.

Written by Adele Ross.

 

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Don’t run before you can walk…

Don’t run before you can walk – getting back to basics will help accelerate your business 

The usual rush is on to adopt the latest technologies of the coming year and keep ahead of the trends but it’s important not to run before you can walk or you’ll trip up. While constantly looking forward and innovating is imperative, organisations do need to be mindful that innovation isn’t done for the sake of it.  Getting back to basics and looking at the technology you have and how to get the most out of it should be the first step in accelerating your business.

The importance of getting back to basics

With agile start-ups nipping at the heels of more established businesses and levels of data reaching saturation point, innovation is perhaps more key than ever. Encouragingly, Gartner’s 2016 CMO Spend Report shows that 71% of marketing leaders have a dedicated budget for innovation. However, innovation doesn’t necessarily have to equate to purchasing the latest technology trend.

Ironically, organisations often have more access to innovation than they realise. Businesses regularly purchase the ‘Ferrari’ of marketing and data technology, but then leave it in the garage, by not taking advantage of all the innovative functions it can offer.

Don’t overlook what you already have

When implemented and integrated correctly, marketing and data technologies have the potential to drive digital transformation, enable business intelligence, allow organisations to become truly data led and ultimately transform customer experience for the better.

All too often, I see organisations either rushing to buy marketing and data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation. They are all driven by a desire to stay one step ahead of the competition and carve out an advantage in an increasingly crowded and fast-paced environment.

Frustratingly, the technology to enable them to do this is available, it is just not being selected and implemented in the right way.

Get your data right and the rest will follow

Businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What’s commonly overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core and without getting this basic foundation right and establishing good integration between accurate and relevant data it simply isn’t possible to realise the potential of new and exciting technology.

To find out more about how to balance innovation and get the basics of technology selection, implementation and integration right, download our latest  ‘Ask the Experts’ guide, designed to help businesses identify and capitalise on key marketing and data technology.

To read the report in full request your copy.

We run regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events. Find out more. 

 

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Ask The Experts – Is 2017 a Challenge or Opportunity?

We have launched our latest ‘Ask the Experts’ guide designed to help businesses identify the challenges and capitalise on opportunities presented by the key marketing and data technology developments for 2017 and beyond.

The guide also offers practical advice for organisations about the importance As a new year dawns, there is always a rush to predict the key trends and technologies. While constantly looking forward and innovating is of course hugely important, organisations need to be mindful that innovation does not simply mean chasing after the next big thing.

Businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.

Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible are part of the very fabric of the technology industry. There will always be new and exciting technologies and trends to explore. This is entirely as it should be. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance.

By all means follow the latest predictions and set aside time and budget to innovate, but make sure the basic building blocks are in place too.

To read the report in full request your copy.

 

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New Year Business Resolutions

Five business resolutions every marketer should have this New Year…

Back to work, fresh from the holiday festivities, brands and businesses are eager to break new ground, beat sales targets and embrace the latest marketing technology to put them at the cutting edge of their field. These are admirable ambitions for 2017 but making this a reality will require the adoption of five practical business resolutions.

  1. Don’t get fixated on technology – all too often there is the temptation to try and get ahead by simply implementing the latest hot technology. 2017 is certainly full of promise on this front, offering everything from cognitive computing to the latest augmented reality solutions, but to really make a difference organisations need to step back and start with the customer. Before looking at any new tech you must first understand how your customers are interacting with your brand, how they are likely to do so in the future and what disruptions there are likely to be in the market that might change the way they will do this in the year ahead.
  2. Conduct an audit – Before purchasing anything, fully understand the systems you already have. Like most businesses, you are likely to have multiple legacy systems in place that are probably not being used properly. Closely examine current marketing and data architecture and the way systems, tools and data presently connect (or fail to connect as the case may be), to give you a clear idea of where there is a genuine need for new technology. It may be that instead of implementing new technology you could get more value from using current technology better – for example by configuring it or integrating it in a smarter way.
  3. Keep it agile – Despite the pressure to deliver results quickly and show how sales targets are being beaten, it is crucial not to rush the implementation of any technology project undertaken. Indeed, 55% of big data projects fail because they can’t demonstrate value quickly enough so it’s absolutely essential to effectively manage expectations across the business. Developing a roadmap prior to implementation is essential to long-term success. Build into this roadmap incremental targets, some of which can be delivered quickly in order to demonstrate value up front, as well as clear objectives that the whole business can work towards.
  4. Choose your team wisely – You can select the best piece of technology in the world, but its true value won’t be unlocked without the right knowledge to implement, integrate and optimise it. If there is a talent gap when adopting the latest tech, consider bringing together a virtual team of subject matter experts to fill the void. Look at developing relationships with contractors or even gaining support from a third party agency that can manage this process and the required expertise. Your team also needs to include expert communicators in order to regularly keep the rest of the organisation updated about how a project’s implementation and integration process is progressing as well as highlighting success in areas where value can be demonstrated.
  5. Take time to innovate, but don’t forget the basics – There will always be new and exciting technologies and trends to explore. This is entirely as it should be and innovation is key to success but as the New Year unfolds organisations need to be mindful that they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not always headline grabbing but if you don’t have good integration between accurate and relevant data you’re going nowhere this year.

2017 is full of technological promise but there is the danger that unless certain New Year business resolutions are kept it will not be selected and implemented in the right way. In order to fully unleash the potential of marketing and data technology you need to stick to these five practical resolutions. This is not always an easy task, but with access to the right skills and expertise, it is achievable.

Over the last few weeks of 2016 we have shared our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report.To read the report in full request your copy.

We run regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events. Find out more.

 

Talk to us if you want to learn more.

Big data can tell you everything – even how happy you are!

 

One of our partners, Arrow ECS, has recently launched a fascinating project, which really showcases the power of analytics. Named ‘‘How Happy Is London?the project collects, processes and continually refreshes around 2.6 billion different units of data from unconnected sources every day – all of which are freely available in the public domain. Data sources range from Transport for London alerts on possible disruptions, to weather updates from the Met Office, along with the use of sentiment words in conjunction with ‘London’ on Twitter.

The final output is a happiness indicator, which is refreshed from new data every 60 seconds – creating an up to the minute picture of the city’s mood. The data is digitally represented on the ‘How Happy Is London?’ website as a series of images of people and places in the capital, with the overall happiness indicator fluctuating between ‘business as usual’, through ‘happy’ and ‘life’s good’, up to ‘on top of the world’.

While a light-hearted topic, this project is particularly interesting on a number of levels. The hugely important role data plays is often overlooked. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.

Yet the vast majority of organisations still do not have even the basic building blocks in place when it comes to managing and integrating data. All too often, we see organisations either rushing to buy data technology, or investing in new technology, which then does not deliver on its promise or expectation. They are all driven by a desire to stay one step ahead of the competition and carve out an advantage in an increasingly crowded and fast-paced environment.

Frustratingly, the technology to enable them to do this is available, it is just not being selected and implemented in the right way. In order to really unleash the potential of data organisations need to shift their mindset. This is not an easy task, but with access to the right skills and expertise, it is achievable – and that will make everyone happy!

Over the last few weeks we have been sharing our advice for achieving data technology success, featuring excerpts from the ‘Ask The Experts’ report.To read the report in full request your copy.

Find out more regarding the regular ‘Knowledge Bench’ events we run.

 

Talk to us if you want to find out more.