How do you “Fail Fast” in Interdependent EcoSystem?

 

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Connected agriculture, connected cities, smart homes, smart airports, and the list goes on when it comes to technology enabled people and process automation in a world of Internet of Things. Digital technology is becoming more and more of a key investment opportunity that can create a long-term competitive advantage in such interdependent ecosystems. Use of telematics, wifi mesh networks, robots in the outdoor rugged environments has facilitated several companies to reduce workplace accidents, increase productivity and drive predictable workflow. Collection of data at the core and at the edge has facilitation improved decision making at each step, thus empowering the floor managers, and department heads make real time decisions towards improving asset utilization, value chain portfolio, safety and compliance on heavy machinery, and several other business critical functions. Caterpillar (CAT) is a great example of digital innovation in this space.

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Similarly, connected agriculture is an evolving opportunity in digital innovation. Use of mobile technology to improve agricultural productivity among the agricultural stakeholders and value chain is a fast growing practice with several integrated service companies worldwide. Examples of airports, smart homes, cities all are indicative of a very complex and interdependent eco-system when it comes to digitization.

Unlike digitally enabled business models like Uber, AirBnB which are B2C, strategy for digitization in such industries is very complicated. Its one thing to have a dream like vision on the impact of such technology enabled process, decisions and disruption of the business models, and a completely different beast to beat down this vision into strategic chunks of projects. A starting point would be to define a clear bounded strategy that will give way to a set of design principles for organizational alignment and execution. Decision support services will be embedded into such structural change to enable the key tenents that are important for success. Focus on improving the customer experience, enablig faster time to market on products and services, and finally on automation and agility of operations. Internally, the organization needs to focus on building the key talent at leadership and functional level, developing a culture and operating model that supports digital success with the metrics and developing capabilities to bring data and analytics into everyday process and decision making.

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Analytics can boost Customer Success

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The mission of any customer success organization is to help your customers derive maximum value from your product. The more you know about your customers business goals and operational challenges, the better you can serve them.

Its tremendously valuable to retain existing customers and drive intimacy with their business and workflow. For this, you have to know how your customers engage with your products. In SaaS business models, success is often measured by subscriptions and not by customers. There are many reasons subscriptions is great for a business, it not only improves the lifetime value of a customer and smooths out the demand, but also drives on time bookings. In addition, subscription models are hugely suitable for data ingestion and analytics. All this makes it possible to drive integration of the workflow, and drive stickiness with the customer base.

Adoption and usage data analytics provide the intelligence for the customer success managers and enable them to be proactive. Therein lies the secret sauce of customer success.. proactive instead of reactive. Customer support plays a vital role in the reactive realm of being attentive, and agile in providing timely assistance.

Understanding usage analytics of a customer uncovers product related feedback that’s vital to improving the core value of your product. Intelligent level of usage analytics can be used to parse complexity of usage, user experience metrics, integration into the workflow of sales and business operations.

Data from User adoption and Usage analytics when integrated into the CRM makes it directly relevant to the business operations for the SaaS client. Understanding the workflow for Pre-sales, marketing lead generation and post sales support, can create the most important list of the first few digitization priorities.

Several off the shelf tools make most of this possible, all the way from Data integration to Visual Analytics interfaces. The differentiating factor is the knowledge of the workflow, creating the business metrics, articulating the OKR, and developing skills at all levels of the organization to create, use and report back on the results. The iterative development and adoption of the Analytics will drive incremental revenue, reduce churn and elevate customer satisfaction.

In summary, any customer success organization which prioritizes proactive customer engagement through smart analytics and workflow automation is well on its way to driving incremental revenue to the enterprise!

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We are all biased

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While most data scientists and analysts are wary of their cognitive bias impacting their data collection and basis of their algorithms, its a good time to see if analytics in itself can combat the laziness of the human mind that falls prey to such bias!

We tend to favor information and factoids that fall within our beliefs. So, when we want to present a compelling argument, we rely almost solely on the statistics and data that conform to the conclusion we wish the audience to draw. Several of the big analyst research firms have paid special attention to this and have incorporated techniques to include information outside regular conformed boundaries and challenging assumptions.

We know that randomness plays an enormous role in business and the competitive marketplace, thus making it a business imperative to account for randomness. If we allow the bias to creep in, its likely to steer a model in an entirely wrong direction, negatively affecting the final outcome and hence minimizing the impact of data and analytics. The results of applying such flawed outcome may also create indelible damage to the firm.

Many savvy business operations executives expiate themselves in how they create the utility chain for the analytics outcomes, by creating effecting change management process or challenging the status quo. This is still better than where the starting point may have been before the use of such intelligence, however, deploying robust analytical algorithms that allow the heuristic characteristics of analysis to be overcome with problem design, math and statistics will make the bigger impact.

The planning fallacy often plagues many enterprise budgeting and operations process. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first explained this phenomenon that is largely driven by hugely optimistic bias. Such poor estimations often lead to higher budget and delayed timelines which can cause customer satisfaction dips, budget overruns, investor stress amongst other negative effects.Similarly, the sunk cost fallacy also creates poor judgement where past investment decisions influence the choices on how to move forward. Cognitive dissonance leads individuals to analyze information in a biased manner. Most of us tend to place heavier emphasis on data which supports our initial position (confirmation bias), while discounting discordant information. This means that we make decisions to pursue an unprofitable course of action, because the brain only emphasizes positive results, while disregarding negative inputs.

Once again, the effective use of robust analytic methods that can overcome such biases and fallacies, will give any business operations leader a strong edge for effective leadership and digital transformation opportunities.

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Why manage when you can lead?

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We know the value of focusing on the Why, before the How and the What to be successful in any business. Simon Sinek does a great video on the golden circle on this topic. It is indeed critical to know the purpose, and sell the vision and passion that goes with it. Why do you believe in this, and why should others believe in it. The process of the specific steps it takes to build it and the result of the whole process constitute the how and the what.

When we talk about leadership, we often intertwine the leaders and the managers. Good leaders are the ones who focus on what matters and why while good mangers focus on the how. Thus leaders are successful through their ability to influence, and managers are successful through their ability to direct. Often influencing is achieved by inspiring and enabling through passion, advice and counsel. Managers are able to direct through discipline of structure, schedule and organizational command and control.

Many leadership development coaching instructors focus on leading and undermine managing. This is short sighted, because if you don’t execute and manage the vision through to the end result, then the idea is unproven! Or even if you proved the hypothesis, if you can’t scale, and drive down the price and enhance productivity, you wont be creating value.

It is important to establish controls and drive for predictable results. In order to achieve this, managers take a rational approach and a methodical plan of execution. Budgets, schedules, alignment, collaboration is all driven by an effective manager.

The best performing enterprises have behavioural traits of leadership, vision, purpose, inspiration, influence, collaboration supported by the management capabilities of process, measurement, controls and plans.

Its always best to lead first and manage next. And its very important to do both in all situations for a successful organization. So we should not debate lead vs manage, we should instead focus on when to do what.

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Why automate when you can digitize?

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Business process automation, workflow automation, and all other types of automation have been defined and deployed for many years. Key value proposition is always hinged around productivity gains, simplifying process, eliminating human error, improving collaboration and reducing cost and expediting the time to market. Digital methods of storing and retrieving data have lent themselves well to many industries including media, computing, and many other service oriented economies. Processes currently done manually become efficient and cost-effective when automated, thus allowing knowledge workers to focus on innovation. Automation goals are largely focused on saving time and money.

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Digitization is about doing different things and connecting people, process and technology in a different way, thus creating new business models and creating transformation. Because we are already in much automated world, we are able to create this digital transformation. Deep insights generated by analytics applied to big data generated from various sources creates opportunities to constantly analyze, monitor and improve any business process. Such digital transformation can create insights to create an inclusive workforce environment that includes perspectives and ideas from everyone while augmenting the decision making process with ubiquitous analytics. As mentioned in book Digital Vortex, combinatorial disruptors are all around us. Just as the lines between software and hardware is blurring when you drive a car enabled massively by the latest technology- Tesla, we are on the cusp of the retail industry, fitness industry blending with technology, like UnderArmour, Nike and Apple, amongst others.

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This digital disruption is not automation, but truly a transformation of how we can drive, workout, modify food intake, monitor health, connect with loved ones, etc.

We live in exciting times, with many opportunities. Disrupt or be disrupted.. tick-tock, tick-tock………

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Dream Big, Start Small

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Long range planning does not mean 3 years anymore, its 6-12 months in the new digital era. Waiting any longer, is equal to missed opportunity and declining customer satisfaction.

Quick prototyping allows for real customer input that then allows a fail fast approach to a faster development cycle. This may seem challenging for incumbent companies, but it can actually be turned into an advantage, because many big incumbents have the brand recognition, the funding, and experience.

Hiring a charismatic CDO is not the only lever of creating digital transformation within large companies, the disruption should target all functions end to end to transform the IT systems and core business processes.

Internal and external data should be processed and leveraged to drive decision making analytical models. These insights provide the key to agile and customized process transformations that can make large corporation move fast with precision.

A common pitfall in digitization strategy is to drive an overarching strategy from the get-go. Every change in core business process should be thought through outside in, to be able to connect it in the larger eco system of the overall corporation, and in many cases, they may not all tie in together in the first 90 – 180 – 360 days. This is where following a ‘leader’ in the industry can be detrimental. Its important to articulate a strategy that’s bespoke for your respective company and then double click down from there to the individual organizations and functions.

Pure play disruptive models like Uber, Air BnB, have a stronger starting point because they have built their business models on data. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix are digitally conceived from the get go. For incumbents, frequent concern on the prediction stage is the quality of the data. That concern often paralyzes executives and downstream organizations. This is where the IT investments, over the last few years, with the right algorithmic approach and compressive data strategies, have equipped most companies with sufficient information to obtain new insights even from incomplete and disparate data sets.

It helps to look for low hanging fruit and start small and build up rapidly. This also aids the transformation and change management process in the enterprise where operational changes may be resisted. Ability to frequently evaluate the results of how the organization or process is benefiting the machine learning outcomes will prove to be the pivotal foundation of driving enterprise digitization.

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What is the prediction on Predictive Analytics?

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Its not just a play on words, but a truly intriguing topic that’s on many top executives’ minds.

In the past, predictive analytics was more prevalent in big companies and mostly used to create insights of customer churn, adjust product pricing, improve marketing campaigns and other knowledge elements from big data. Very quickly many small companies across all markets started seeing the value of predictive analytics.

In order to make all this possible, complex modeling techniques are developed, validated and modified. This requires deep technical skill, knowledge of the popular modeling platforms, understanding which attributes are relevant, are the co-relations statistically significant, and so on. Hence today’s much desired need for data scientists.

As we evaluate today’s requirements for analytics, the business leaders in large companies and small firms, are in dire need of such actionable business insights to aid them in day to day operations and critical decision making. Its important to differentiate the need for analytics that improve and refine the day to day business and process, from the insights that can help solve big problems and generating revolutionary ideas, which requires digging into embedded patterns, and focus on bigger-picture and potentially new and incremental opportunities.

The SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) environment has made multiple data sources more relevant to the big data, thus evolving a multi dimensional view of the end customer.

We have moved from closed systems of communication to open platforms. We have moved from physical systems to wireless systems that makes data be on the move. We have moved from verbal and structured content to intelligent processing of multiple sources of content, and from location-specific data centers to use-as-you-go forms of usage, communication and interaction. We know more about the knowledge user now than ever before.

So, how is technology and new tools in the market help a business user to be able to define the business problem at hand, and be able to design a model to give him/her insights? How do the decision scientists pair up with such business users for maximum leverage? How can we stand up a data science department to be a revenue generator and not cost center?

It all starts from the top. First we focus on Evangelizing Data-Driven Business decisions, which is best done top down with a sound understanding of organizational priority. Then create a strong infrastructure where the data is physically stored and processed, identify software tools that are needed to process and consume the insights generated. Then establish a well understood data governance to monitor Data quality, Data security, Data Management and Data compliance. Hence the tight partnership between CIO and Digital executives to drive the IT department and all other functions to work with data centric decision making. Finally, create accountability to all levels of the organization that will use the analytics, that can monitor performance and trends real time.

Today’s executive is much more empowered than ever before to make the best holistic decisions for his/her business

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Digital Transformation possible through Leadership

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Digital transformation of the company requires transformation of the team and the individuals on the team. The culture of a company embodies old behaviors and processes, and we forget why it was there to begin with. Such passive acceptance leads to lack of innovation, or kills innovation early in the cycle.

We left behind video tapes and CDs and prefer to watch streaming media. Such rapidly changing trends mark significant shifts in consumption that will leave large business corporations such as Blockbuster behind, if they don’t transform themselves in an agile way. Since this is core to the DNA of the company, such a massive transformation can only be successful if its driven from the top down, and made highly relevant to each functional team.

The digital age is as much about use as you go, use only as much as you need, and ‘snacking’ on bits of information all the time, as much as it also sets the willingness to pay for the consumer. The level of flexibility and ease with which you can dial up or dial down your consumption, alter your preferences, go from an individual power user to a social group user, sets the tone for highly elastic consumption of services. There is a need to keep innovating without a preset idea of outcome or ROI. The investment in bottoms up innovation is much more promising than top down initiative prioritization in today’s changing landscape.

The retail industry is undergoing digital transformation in many facets. Much as I love shopping and trying new clothes and shoes in the store, I have found myself very comfortable with choosing options such as StitchFix, LeTote where you can give highly customized style preferences, event-ready choices, changing body type selections and try all this in the comfort of your home, and mix and match with your ever expanding wardrobe. The added value, I have found as have many others, is also the opening to go beyond your usual comfort zone and style, thus enjoying the experience beyond store shopping. Such is the power of innovation, which allows companies like Nordstrom, to take on Hautelook or similar digital avenues to stay in tune with changing trends. Now you can get the combination of great service in store or on your mobile!

Omni commerce requires that we can transact in any way we wish; desktop, store, mobile, phone, etc. This is great because the more we push towards a paperless transaction, the more information we collect towards improving customer experience. Insights into preferences, allow for fine tuning of the service offering while adjusting processes in the traditional framework. This can cut down costs and time.

Traditional approach towards demographics and customer segmentation are not always relevant in this shifting world of digital consumerism. Old paradigms are not based on a real understanding of needs and behavior of the end customer. We should now capture the person and the behavior in context of each other.

Lastly, creating a digital transformation is about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Monitoring the behaviors, community chats, traditional and non-traditional feedback will allow you to improve the customer experience. Ease of searching, buying, adoption, pricing and obtaining support, all contribute to the full experience.

In summary, digital transformation is as much about technology and process as it is about leadership and creating organization readiness.

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Analytics in Digital Selling

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Data is everywhere. What if there was a way to harness it and almost instantly predict a richer and more current view of customer needs and wants, and therefore drive true customer experience?

And we know in no uncertain terms, how data analytics enables targeted service, sales and marketing activities in any enterprise.

Selling has never been easier and more precisely targeted thanks to analytics. It starts with taking hundreds or even thousands of seemingly random or incomprehensible data points and turning them into valuable information. Discovering patterns through data mining is a great way for us to leverage information, helping us to tap into user behavior; understand their wants and needs and determine ways we can help achieve their businesses requirements.

Companies today can no longer rely solely on traditional sales tactics and good relationships. They must supplement the process with analytics to retain their competitive edge and deliver an end-to-end solution more efficiently. Ironically, the addition of automation and analytics can change customer relationships for the better by creating greater personalization and making the selling process more efficient. The Mirror Sales Analogy is a good way to understand how science and art come together in sales.

We are not done with single view of the customer, and providing relevant stakeholders with the same view of account data

What makes it relevant is delivering the right marketing messages to the right customer through the right channel and device, at the right time. It all starts with:

  • Driving accountability by empowering sales reps with timely insights needed to create and guide sales conversations for each target account.
  • Providing easy to access single screen view that can support optimizing the customer service experience by delivering timely support to resolve issues with minimal client effort

In today’s networking world, it is difficult to identify new leads on a timely basis without using some sort of data management system. By taking an in-depth look at customers’ Installed Base data and combined that with usage information, you can see which products are currently installed and which features are adopted on their network. Taking this a step further, you can then find out products approaching End of Life or Last Day of Support thus endangering security policies, or lagging behind on mobility based applications . Such combined views of unstructured data profiles that overlay traditional structured data gives you valuable insights to plan and qualify all potential leads and rank opportunities. Once qualified, you can confidently reach out to customers and engage in a more meaningful success conversation with the knowledge of customer’s infrastructure. Such an approach will allow a business outcomes driven conversation rather than the traditional sales process where it’s a box with a service bill of material. Adding analytics insights creates a true consultation, where you effectively become a value-added participant in solving your customer’s problems.

With enough data, your analytic scry ball can point you toward more and more answers:

What products to offer a specific customer.

If there are similar customers, how do they compare.

Benchmark their competition.

The potential revenue impact of a deal.

If there are any products that can be added to grow the deal.

The list goes on and on. As you can see just from one instance, correlating the amount of information you now have and the amount of data you just collected continually enhances customer understanding over time. Data is King – and Queen. And combining data with process is what makes you peer into the scry for insights!

Companies like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and just about every online and offline retailer realize how important analytics are to their sales. Not only does it grow their top line, but it also offers a better experience for their customers; making sure they have all of their needs met when buying a product.

For example, someone who is looking to buy a new television will rely heavily on customer reviews to narrow down their prospective choices. Once found and committed, “Customers who bought X also bought Y.” Here is the “up-sell” point where HDMI and other cables, DVD/Blu-ray players, surround sound systems, and other connected devices can be offered. There is nothing worse than getting a new product and not having all of the necessary components to get if fully operational.

In short, the more data you can collect about your audience, the better you can understand their needs. With one last shake of the scry ball, are analytics in digital selling here to stay?

Without a doubt..Yes!

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Lucidity over morning coffee

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I was excited to have the reunion with my class from high school. I was meeting some of them for the first time in 25+ years. Each of us had traversed down a different path, from the time we graduated and threw our graduation hats into the air on a hot summer afternoon.

I’ll admit…I was nervous, almost backed out at the last minute. I had decided to make this trip a few weeks ago, and it was out of true determination to work at building my external network. I am not an introvert, but I do get caught up in my every day work and family and forget to stay fresh with my perspective. I wanted to bring in more diversity into my thought and action.

We had a great weekend of reunion times together, made new connections, exchanged phone numbers and Facebook names. Many of them walked away praising me on what a vivacious person I am, how great I look from the chubby teenager they remembered in high school. But here is the thing..

This wonderful group of friends saw me for two days under controlled set of activities. I was all dressed up, always excited, eager to chat, genuinely interested in the other person, high energy. This is what they saw. Therefore, this is what they knew.

And truth be told, there is darkness in this kind of knowledge. Especially now, when so many of our connections happen only one fleeting minute at a time…fully filtered and perfectly hash tagged. Sometimes, even a video message through Snapchat or WhatsApp. In our defense though, it’s not entirely our fault. That battle we’re fighting…those rough days we are having…the loved one who is ill, all this does not translate well when you have a hundred and forty character limit or ~800 other friends who view your profile to spell out your day.

Honestly, what could I really tell my friends who I met after 25+ years?

“Yes, I am with a great guy, and a great job, but scared shit to consider what future can bring?! I just had a terrifying health scare…I’m suffering hypo-thyroid weight gain…and I’m feeling pretty far from vivacious and perfect right now.

No. I wasn’t going to tell them all this. Because shocking friends and total strangers into oblivion is not only cold and harsh but also cruel. Especially when they watch your profile with a completely different view.

But I did spend the entirety of that flight wondering; about our sense of authenticity…our collective vulnerability…our polished identity. And it made me feel like a total fraud. Because I’m not any of those things that this group of friends see me for that one happy weekend.

If I showed up one morning, wearing my most frumpy clothes and scarred past…it would be a very different reaction wherever I go!

Because I was happy and free spirited as a teenager….

Lost all my will and passion during my twenties…

Afraid of water.. and terrified of drowning…

I spend an absurd amount of time worrying about what other people think of me.

I hide behind my humor for fear that people will want to know the real me without it.

I feel like I have failed as a daughter.

I function on the assumption that others view me so much lesser than I view myself.

I am eternally guilty of not being the best mother pretty much all the time.

I hate cleaning up after cooking.

I want to write a book, but afraid that no one will ever read it.

I struggle, every single day, if I can be good enough for everything I want to be.

I cry often, alone, so I don’t shatter the image of being strong.

But now, at this time, I know better.. I know that scars tell volumes. Scars indicate that you have survived. Scars mean you showed up for the fight instead of running from it.

And we’ve all got them…

And maybe it’s not about accumulating the maximum number of ‘Likes’ on your Facebook post, for the perceived reality we give the world…but it’s about the brave hearts we get for living in the real one.

Because life requires guts…it requires bravery…and it requires vulnerability.

So, tweet your thoughts, post your feelings…wear your scars proudly…and carry on…

Welcome to the digital world.. its just as real!

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