Monthly Archives: September 2016

Tech Tip Thursday: 4 troubleshooting tips for Power BI Gateway connectivity

social default image Tech Tip Thursday: 4 troubleshooting tips for Power BI Gateway connectivity

Microsoft’s Guy in a Cube has been providing tips and tricks for Power BI and Business Intelligence on his YouTube channel since 2014. On Thursdays, we highlight a different helpful video from his collection.

Adam Saxton, a.k.a Guy in a Cube, has been providing support for Microsoft products for over 10 years, and this week he shares some of his tips for troubleshooting! This video focuses on fixing connectivity issues with Power BI Gateway, but also gives general advice for solving data source connection errors from any application.

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Transform sphere to an ellipse in $R^2$

In Lay’s Linear Algebra and Its Applications textbook, he defines the matrix $ $ A=\begin{bmatrix} 4 & 11 & 14\8 & 7 & -2 \end{bmatrix}$ $ and claims that the transformation $ T(x)=A x$ maps the sphere to an ellipse.

grGkv Transform sphere to an ellipse in $R^2$

I’m still struggling with the mathematics on why this is true, but I would like to be able to come up with a way in Mathematica to demonstrate the transformation of the unit sphere to this ellipse to my students.

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Recent Questions – Mathematica Stack Exchange

Research Shows Mortgage Delinquencies Rise for Older Consumers

FICO research consistently shows that older consumers have higher FICO® Scores than their younger counterparts. But a recent report by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) provides evidence that people become less reliable at making their mortgage payments as they age. Can both of these assertions be right?

To get to the bottom of this, FICO conducted fresh research on credit behavior trends by age. Our study revealed not only that mortgage delinquency rates rise for US consumers beyond a certain age, but that these delinquency increases were observable across other loan types.

Is this cause for concern? And was the MBA correct in their conclusion that declining memory and other cognitive skills are the main contributing factor? In this post, I’ll share our research findings and draw a few conclusions based on what we see in the data.

Delinquency Trends by Age

For this research, we examined payment behavior using credit bureau data as of January 2016. The following chart shows the serious delinquency rate by age over the prior two years for various credit products. The analysis is limited to consumers with activity during the period. Keep in mind that because of low counts, we grouped ages 86 or older at the group’s mean age of 92. (And as a reminder, the FICO® Score does not consider age in its score calculation.)

Mortgage Delinquencies Age Research figure 1 Research Shows Mortgage Delinquencies Rise for Older Consumers

We see that 90+ delinquency rates for mortgages and other closed-end loans reach their lowest points for consumers in their late 60s or early 70s. Auto loans have their lowest delinquency rates when consumers are 68. The minimum delinquency rate for mortgages occurs at age 69. Conversely, delinquency rates for revolving trade lines (which include credit cards) decrease throughout consumers’ lives.

The following table summarizes the peaks and valleys of the previous chart:

Mortgage Delinquencies Age Research figure 2 Research Shows Mortgage Delinquencies Rise for Older Consumers

For most loan types, the highest delinquency rates prior to those seen in later life occur when consumers are in their 20s and starting to take loans. Only mortgage delinquencies return to levels comparable to their peak at age 44. Delinquency rates do increase for older consumers for their auto loans, but those rates don’t approach the rates seen for consumers in their 20s.

Are These Findings Cause For Concern?

While delinquency rates do increase for older consumers, they represent a relatively small portion of the total debt tracked by the bureaus. As evidence, this chart breaks down US debt by age and loan type:

Mortgage Delinquencies Age Research figure 3 Research Shows Mortgage Delinquencies Rise for Older Consumers

This analysis includes all consumers with at least one active trade. For a level comparison, we divided these consumers by age so that each of the five groups represents 20% of the bureau population.

Consumers aged 67 or older represent 20% of the bureau population, but they have only 11% of the total debt on the bureau – and only 11% of mortgage balances. Thus, while delinquency rates increase on this population, they have less total debt than younger Americans.

This data indicates consumers pay off their debt as they reach retirement age. In fact, when we dug deeper, we found that older Americans tend to close out their auto loans and mortgages, but keep at least one revolving trade, such as a credit card.

Mortgage Delinquencies Age Research figure 4 Research Shows Mortgage Delinquencies Rise for Older Consumers

Because revolving delinquency rates decline continuously as consumers age, and because consumers tend to close their other loans, there is no surprise that FICO® Scores increase as consumers age, despite the fact that delinquency rates increase for some loan types.

Ultimately, our research shows that older Americans have less debt than younger consumers, and that the delinquency rate increases return to levels similar to or lower than those of young people just starting to establish a credit history. So while this trend is certainly something for lenders to keep on their radar, it’s not likely to play as important a role on delinquency rates as other factors such as US economic health.

Is Failing Memory the Cause?

As observed by the MBA, mortgage delinquency rates do increase for consumers past age 68. The MBA report suggested that these increases were due, in large part, to failing memories in older consumers. Of course, there’s nothing in the bureau data to either substantiate or contradict that assumption directly. But what we see in the data does suggest an alternate explanation.

Above, for instance, we showed how consumers pay off their closed-end loans as they get older. Much of the delinquency uptick is driven by a relatively small number of borrowers who still have sizeable mortgage and auto debts into their 70s and 80s. This suggests that some delinquencies may very well be due to a common occurrence in lending – those who have the resources pay off their loans over time, leaving only those more financially strapped consumers in the loan pool.

In addition, we showed how there were not similar increases in delinquency rates by age for revolving credit (e.g., credit cards), which is the predominant form of credit used by this age group. This contradicts the theory about ailing memories causing the rise in mortgage delinquencies. It’s hard to imagine that consumers would remember to pay their credit card but forget about their mortgage. Once again, financial health seems like a more likely reason.

No matter the cause, this – or any – delinquency increase is something we recommend lenders keep an eye on. To support those efforts, we’ll continue our periodic research on credit behavior trends by age and share key findings on this blog.

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Oracle OpenWorld

Larry Ellison was having too much fun. In his second keynote of this year’s Oracle OpenWorld user conference, he was talking about his company’s database, Oracle 12c, and comparing it highly favorably to Amazon’s competing databases. It seems Ellison always has fun, which is one likely reason that the 72 year-old CTO and executive chairman of the board, looks 52, sounds 42, and probably feels 32.

Ellison’s sunny attitude no doubt was enhanced by Oracle’s last earnings call, which delivered very good news about a company that has been working on pivoting to cloud computing for several, even many, years. The earnings results showed 82 percent revenue growth in its cloud services — not only SaaS, but also IaaS and PaaS.

Oracle still derived the vast majority of its recent revenues from traditional software and hardware products, but there no longer can be much doubt that the company Ellison founded is on track to recreate itself as a cloud company. Its current messaging suggests it’s the fastest-growing cloud company, but growth is relative when you’re starting. Nonetheless, that’s a matter for another time.

10-Year Plan

Oracle’s path to the cloud will be vastly different from that of Salesforce and NetSuite — two companies Ellison had a hand in getting off the ground. He was a board member of Salesforce and the primary investor in NetSuite.

By virtue of its success over many decades, Oracle boasts more than 420,000 customers, and it has publicly and frequently committed to continuing to support those customers as they try to pivot to the cloud as well.

At OpenWorld this year, as well as last year, Ellison and other executives — including co-CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz — made the point that the conversion is likely to take 10 years. Even at the end of that time, some users still be using traditional software. Hence, Oracle’s strategy and its messaging of continued support for the legacy base are quite different from its cloud competitors.

To bolster the cloud messaging, Oracle rolled out too many products to do them all justice in this short post. Every product line had something new or on the road map for the next year — quite a feat but no surprise, given the company’s US$ 5.2 billion R&D budget.

To my mind, just about all the announcements are in many ways subservient to this one point: Cloud computing does not mean simply placing existing apps on less expensive hardware in the sky. Instead, it’s about doing things in business that were not possible under the traditional software paradigm.

AI’s Winter Is Over

A case in point is Oracle’s focus on artificial intelligence, with its Adaptive Intelligence applications. Adaptive Intelligence uses all the buzzwords (“machine learning,” “deep learning,” “neural networks,” etc.) to deliver actionable intelligence — what used to be called “knowledge” — in order to inform business decisions that an increasing numbers of users must make in real time.

There are uses for it in sales, marketing, service and support, human resources — you name it — and those uses will beget other uses in a virtuous circle that you typically see in early innovation stages.

Consequently, the market for AI products is red hot. How hot? It is so hot that Salesforce took the opportunity again to pre-announce its AI offering, called “Einstein,” before OpenWorld got going. Salesforce most likely will have much more to say about its AI approach next week, when it holds its annual user conference, Dreamforce.

Why is AI re-emerging now? asks a recent article. After all, forms of AI have been around at least since the 1980s, but the simple truth is that running AI is so compute-intensive that there was an AI winter from roughly the mid 90s to just a few years ago.

This brings us full circle to Ellison’s giddy demeanor when comparing Oracle’s and Amazon’s database offerings.

Doing the Happy Dance

Oracle and Amazon are competitors not only in databases, but also in provisioning running systems on the cloud — aka IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service. Ellison wanted his guests to know that his company’s approach is literally thousands of times faster in AI and OLTP benchmarks than Amazon’s — especially when using Oracle-optimized gear, but even when using Amazon’s best hardware configuration.

The reasons for this huge speed difference aren’t restricted to the software. They include how much the software is optimized — which in Oracle’s case is a lot.

Oracle’s superiority also reflects the huge investments it made in Sun, a computer company it bought a few years ago. Since then, Oracle/Sun has delivered storage arrays that are blindingly fast, relying on solid-state memory rather than conventional spindles.

As if that weren’t enough, Intel Senior Executive Vice President Diane Bryant took the opportunity in another keynote to discuss the photonics chips her company supplies to Oracle.

All you need to know about photonics right now is that the chips use laser beams to move information rather than metal on silicon. Intel builds laser-generating components right on its chips, the same way it builds transistors.

So, with just these snippets, it should suffice to say that Ellison was happy last week because his company is performing well in so many different dimensions. Its performance is the result of big investments and patience over the last several years, as new ideas were taking form as products.

Ellison has been a consummate salesman through it all, selling what he had in lean and abundant times. However, make no mistake — you can see it on his face and hear it in his voice — abundance is better. end enn Oracle OpenWorld

Denis%20Pombriant Oracle OpenWorldDenis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

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“Mars Is Not Exactly Prime Real Estate”

mars4864 “Mars Is Not Exactly Prime Real Estate”

Elon Musk thinks we should stop worrying and learn to love Mars, but our inhospitable neighbor will make sure our ardor goes unrequited. Comparing space colonization to Manifest Destiny isn’t apt, because while we possess immensely better tools than pioneers of the past, the challenges aren’t remotely comparable. 

In a smart Bloomberg View column, Elaine Ou outlines the harsh conditions awaiting immigrants to the stratosphere. She writes of the expensive one-way tickets Musk hopes to make available: “Those who can afford a ticket to Mars are the least likely to want to move there.” True for the most part, though Christopher Columbus wasn’t among the poorest, and he sailed not to escape but to seek. He’ll probably have some modern analogues.

An excerpt:

Artistic renderings of space colonies depict plexiglass domes full of green plants and grow lights. But even if we develop the technology to build pressurized hamster balls, it needs to be recreated on Mars. The first settlers won’t have the luxury of towing a climate-controlled terrarium in the cargo hold of a SpaceX rocket. They’ll have to work the earth and figure out how to live off the fat of the Martian land.

Mars is not exactly prime real estate. The average temperature is negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Even during the warmest part of the year, temperatures reach a high of 68 near the equator and still fall to negative 100 at night. Without the dense atmosphere of Earth, temperatures can fluctuate dramatically, causing powerful dust storms that shroud the entire planet.

Also unlike Earth, Mars doesn’t have a global magnetic field. Combined with the thin atmosphere, there isn’t much to shield its inhabitants from the gigantic nuclear reactor that is our sun. Surface conditions on Mars are comparable to life near Chernobyl in the late ’80s, and no amount of Coppertone will protect humans from the deep-space radiation burn. For the most part, we should plan for life on Mars the same way we might plan for life after a nuclear apocalypse. That is, we can expect to live in underground burrows, like rabbits or prairie dogs. The first Martian settlers will be busy building fallout shelters.•

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Lenovo To Cut More Staff From Moto Smartphone Unit

Lenovo Group will implement an employee layoff program, but the total number of employees affected will be no more than 2% of its employees worldwide.

However, most of the employees affected by the layoffs will be from Moto smartphone unit, but the company did not reveal the detailed number. Lenovo Group reportedly has 55,000 employees around the world.

This marks another round of employee layoffs for Lenovo following its biggest purge in 2015. In order to improve its financial position, Lenovo announced plans to cut 3,200 employees worldwide last year, of which 500 were from Motorola Mobility.

Lenovo Group said in a statement that this latest round of employee layoffs is a part of its strategy to integrate the smartphone businesses of Lenovo and Motorola. At present, Lenovo is optimizing organizational structures and simplifying product lines to better compete in the global smartphone market. Lenovo added that though they will cut employees of the Moto smartphone unit, the company will maintain Motorola Mobility’s headquarters in Chicago.

In October 2014, Lenovo acquired Motorola Mobility from Google for USD2.91 billion, making this Chinese company the third largest smartphone maker in the world.

With this acquisition, Lenovo intended to keep a leading position in the global smartphone market. However, instead of bringing improvement to Lenovo’s mobile business, it caused a drag and lots of Motorola executives departed after the acquisition.

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Let’s Get Territorial: Using Territories in FieldOne

trees 300x225 Let’s Get Territorial: Using Territories in FieldOne

Field Service dispatching can sometimes be a complex task, but since Microsoft acquired FieldOne, it’s now easier than ever! One of the ways that FieldOne simplifies the dispatching process is through the use of Territories, and in today’s blog, we’ll be giving you the foundation you need to use Territories when working with your own dispatching processes.

Territories are geographical regions that allow you to define the areas that Resources service. During a Work Order creation, a Territory can be specified so that only Resources that work in the area are considered. Think of it this way. If your business operates in Texas and in Washington, you don’t want any of your crews in Washington to be considered free to handle a Work Order in Texas, no matter how open their schedules are! Additionally, if there is only one team in Texas, it should automatically be assigned all the work in the Texas territory – no need to consider anything else.

Let’s take a look at the Territory Creation screen:

092916 1718 LetsGetTerr1 Let’s Get Territorial: Using Territories in FieldOne

By default, Territories are empty buckets to which one can assign Work Orders and Resources. They require nothing more than a name such as East Side of Town, West Side of Town, the Docks, etc. What unlocks the value of Territories, however, is on the left navigation under Common – Postal Codes. Giving a Territory a Postal Code gives it a place in space. Now, when you create a Work Order, you can tell it that it is in the Minnesota territory, or the Texas territory, or the Brazilian territory, etc.

Territories have a 1: N relationship with Postal Codes. That is to say, a Territory may have any number of Postal Codes, but each Postal Code may only be associated with a single Territory. Resources have an N: N relationship with Territories – so each Resource can be assigned to any number of Territories, and each Territory can have any number of Resources. So when you create Territories, think about how they are going to be used. Do you need a Twin Cities Territory that contains all the ZIP codes so that all resources have access to all ZIP codes, or do you need a Minneapolis Territory AND a St. Paul Territory, so that you can assign some resources to one city, some to the other, and some to both? There isn’t a right or a wrong answer, you just need to find the best answer for you and your business needs.

Once you’ve done the setup work, Territories do the heavy lifting for you. The Schedule Board can now automatically assign Work Orders to Resources with which they share a Territory. The Routing Engine will run faster now that it can filter by Territory first and schedulers can filter results for both Resources and Work Orders by Territory.

That’s all for the blog today! You can learn more about Field Service Management and CRM by downloading the whitepaper or watching our on-demand webinar, all from our Field Service Management page!

Happy CRM’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Big Data, Big Challenge: Got Governance for Hadoop?

This blog was originally posted on Cloudera VISION.

In the past few years, Apache Hadoop has become a central component of the enterprise data architecture and has changed the way organizations store and process their data. As Hadoop matures into an enterprise data platform, organizations are using it to store and process significantly more data (structured and unstructured), and, in turn, more users and tools are accessing the data. The opportunity to drive greater insights is remarkable. However, more data, users, and tools create a big governance challenge.

Keeping track of data, data security, data access, and regulatory compliance are more critical and more challenging than ever before. Data governance in Hadoop — including auditing, lineage, and metadata management — requires a scalable approach that is easy to interoperate across multiple platforms.

The first challenge customers see is that the traditional data governance frameworks are difficult to deploy and do not scale well with Hadoop. They also fail to work with many Hadoop specific metadata repositories such as HCatalog, HDFS, etc. The second challenge is that many of the legacy metadata management frameworks have implemented their own proprietary security and access protocols, which are hard to integrate with Hadoop security protocols. With Hadoop’s promise of faster-time-to-value and increased business agility, trying to fit these traditional governance frameworks into the emerging data architecture simply doesn’t work.

Cloudera recognized these challenges early on and developed Cloudera Navigator, the leading Hadoop-based metadata management and data governance solution. As a long-time Cloudera partner and contributor to Hadoop open source projects including MapReduce, Sqoop, and Spark, we’re excited to certify our DMX-h data integration product on Cloudera Navigator. Because Syncsort DMX-h is natively running in Hadoop, it seamlessly integrates with Cloudera Navigator, allowing users to search for DMX-h jobs across a unified metadata repository and view data lineage within the Navigator user interface out-of-the-box.

Our joint customers can now leverage DMX-h’s integration with Navigator to provide a single interface for accessing all enterprise data, including IBM z mainframes, enabling audit, tracking and lineage for all data across multiple platforms. DMX-h can be deployed via Cloudera Manager and supports Hadoop-based security protocols, such as Kerberos, for data security and privacy.

We look forward to continue working closely with Cloudera to provide our joint customers a best-of-breed data management platform and an open data governance solution.

Learn more about Syncsort’s solutions for Cloudera, and experience them for yourself with a free test drive at

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How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High-Tech Innovation

The lines between the digital and physical customer experience today are largely artificial. Customers shop in retail stores with their devices at the ready. They expect online-like personalization and recommendations in the aisles. They’re looking for instant gratification and better sensory experiences from digital channels. It’s an omnichannel world and companies must figure out how to live in it: delivering a superior customer experience regardless of the entry point.

Luxury fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, for example, opened its first three retail stores with the intent of taking customers’ best online experiences and bringing them to life. “In the past, you had this brick-and-mortar experience, and you had the online experience,” says company president Uri Minkoff. “There were such great advantages and efficiencies that emerged with shopping online. You could get recommendations, see how something should be styled, create wish lists, access user-generated content. In the store, it was still just you and the product, and maybe a sales associate. But [unlike online] you had all five of your senses.”

Rebecca Minkoff’s new stores still stimulate those senses while incorporating some of the intelligence that online channels typically bring to bear. Each store features a large interactive screen at the entrance, where customers can browse products or order a beverage. Shoppers can interact with salespeople or they can make purchases on a mobile app without ever talking to a soul. Inside a fitting room, RFID-tagged merchandise is displayed on an interactive mirror, where customers can request new sizes or the designer’s recommended coordinates (a real-life recommendation engine).

The company has found that 30% of women ask for additional items based on the recommendations. It has also sold three times more of its new ready-to-wear line than it anticipated. “We were an accessories-dominant brand,” says Minkoff. “But we’ve been able to build this direct relationship with our customers, helping them with outfit completers and also getting a better sense of what they want based on what’s actually happening in our fitting rooms.”

Each piece of technology adds to the experience while capturing the details. Rebecca Minkoff’s integrated systems can remember a customer’s previous visits and preferred colors and sizes, and can enable associates to set up a fitting room with appropriate garments. On the back end, the company gets the kind of visibility into in-store conversions once possible only in digital transactions. “The technology gives us the ability to create the kind of experience each customer wants. She can shop anonymously or be treated like a VIP,” says Minkoff.

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images1 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech Innovation

Build Around a Big Idea

Rebecca Minkoff’s approach is a bellwether. It’s not enough simply to provide continuity or consistency from one channel to another. Customers don’t think in terms of channels, and neither should companies. Rather, it’s about defining the overarching experience you want to deliver to customers and then building the appropriate offline and online elements to achieve that intended outcome.

As more goods and even services are commoditized, companies must compete on the experiences they create (see The ROI of Customer Experience). That means coming up with a big idea that drives the design of the customer experience. “Every great experience needs to have a theme,” says Joe Pine, consultant and coauthor of The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. “That’s the organizing principle of the experience. It’s how you decide what’s in and what’s out.”

For example, Rebecca Minkoff serves as an image consultant to its Millennial customers, who expect personalization, recognition, and tech innovation, using a mix of online and offline techniques. To stand apart, companies must come up with their own unifying idea and then integrate data and systems, rework organizational models, and rethink key strategic metrics and employee incentives in order to integrate the physical and digital worlds around that idea.

Here are some examples of companies that have created a theme-driven experience using online and offline elements.

Nespresso: Imparting a Sense of Luxury

At the most basic level, Nespresso is a manufacturer of coffee and coffee machines. But the company has successfully turned what it sells and how it sells it into a very specific type of experience. Nespresso strives to impart a feeling of quality, exclusivity, even luxury in a host of ways.

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images2 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech InnovationThe company has created the Nespresso Club, which maintains direct relationships with thousands of customers. Its customer service centers are staffed by 1,000 highly trained coffee experts who don’t just push products but offer advice and guidance as a sommelier might do with wine. Its 450 retail stores (up from just one Parisian in 2000) are called boutiques; the largely inventory-free showrooms are built around tasting and learning.

Online, the focus is on efficiency and service. Customers who prefer digital interactions can order through the web site or mobile app, which offers the option of courier delivery within a two-hour window. The company also recently introduced a Bluetooth-enabled coffee machine, which when paired with a smartphone app, can track a customer’s usage, simplify machine maintenance, and as Wired pointed out, enable remote brewing.

Success didn’t happen overnight, but today Nespresso is one of Nestlé’s fastest growing and most profitable brands, according to Bloomberg.

QVC: Using Online to Complement the Experience

The theme that has driven television-shopping giant QVC’s customer experience for decades has been “inspiration and entertainment.” Traditionally that was delivered through the joy of spontaneous discovery while watching the channel.

Matching that experience online has been difficult, however. At a digital retail conference in 2015, QVC’s CEO explained that in the past the company had failed to deliver the same rich interactions online that it had developed with its TV audiences, according to Total Retail. So the company decided to rethink its use of digital tools to focus on complementing the experience it delivers through TV screens, according to RetailWire.

For example, after enticing TV viewers with products, QVC introduces the next step in the buying journey—“impulse to buy”—in which viewers are spurred on with televised countdown clocks or limited merchandise availability. Online, the company has been experimenting with second-screen content (for instance, recipes that compliment a cooking product being sold on TV) to further propel purchases. The QVC app features the same item that is on-air along with a prompt that reveals all the items featured on TV in recent hours. On Apple devices equipped with Touch ID, customers can check out in less than 10 seconds with the fingerprint-enabled “speed buy” button. The third phase—“purchase and receive”—is complemented by a simple and reliable online browsing and purchasing platform. The last stage—“own and enjoy”—is accompanied by follow-on e-mail communication with tips on how to use products.

Last year, the company reported that 44% of total QVC sales came from online channels (up from 40% in 2014), and nearly half of those were completed on a mobile device. In fact, QVC is currently the tenth largest mobile commerce retailer in the United States, according to Internet Retailer.

Domino’s: Focusing on Speed and Convenience

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images3 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech InnovationDomino’s Pizza built a fast-food empire not necessarily on the quality of its pies but instead on the experience of getting hot food delivered quickly. What started out as a promise to deliver a pizza within 30 minutes to customers who phoned in their order is now a themed experience of efficient food delivery that can be fulfilled a number of ways. Domino’s AnyWare project enables customers to order pizzas from their TV, their Twitter account, their smartwatch, or their connected car, for starters. The Domino’s app features zero-click ordering functionality: Domino’s will start fulfilling the usual order for customers who opt in 10 seconds after opening the app.

Domino’s Australian stores are piloting GPS tracking whereby employees begin working on an order only when the customer enters the “cook zone”—a dynamically updated area around a given store that results in the customer arriving to a just-prepared order. The tool builds upon previously developed GPS-based technology for tracking delivery drivers, according to ZDNet. And the company that came up with the corrugated pizza box and the Heatwave Bag to keep pies warm is now building the DXP—a delivery car with a built-in warming oven. All in the name of the fast- and hot-food delivery experience.

Mohawk Industries: Using Social to Streamline Customer Interactions

Mohawk Industries grew to become a US$ 8 billion flooring manufacturer by relying on customers to visit its dealers’ retail locations to see, touch, and feel the carpet, hardwood, laminate, or tile they planned to purchase.

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images4 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech InnovationToday, instead of waiting for customers to find Mohawk, it has redesigned its experience to find them. It has adopted new technology and reworked its sales processes to reflect that new focus. The company’s 1,200 sales representatives have access to a 360-degree view of each customer, complete with analytics and sales tools on their tablets, enabling them to capture and follow through on leads generated through social media engagement.

By analyzing online discussions in real time, representatives can jump into the conversation and help customers find the product they may be searching for and direct the consumer to a retailer to finish the sale. In one episode, a woman was posting about her interest in a particular leopard rug on Twitter. Mohawk’s team surfaced the tweet, passed it on to a channel partner who contacted the woman and closed the sale within two minutes. Today, the company boasts an 80% close rate on sales started and guided in social media and has made $ 8 million on 14,000 such social leads. Mohawk Industries expects an increase of $ 25 million in sales year-over-year, thanks to its new customer-centric approach.

Customer Experience Design: Where to Begin

Developing a unique, valuable, and relevant customer experience that combines the best of offline and online capabilities is a huge undertaking. All corporate functions, including marketing, customer service, sales, operations, finance, and HR as well as product or business lines—all of which typically have competing metrics and agendas—must buy into the experience and collaborate to make it happen. And the ideal mix of digital and physical components will vary by company. But there are some best practices to get companies started on their own journeys.

Start at the Top

Without leadership buy-in, changes will not happen. “Customer experience is not a feature, it’s not a shiny button. It’s a concept that sometimes is tough to grasp. But we believe that if done right, it will keep customers loyal. And so we put a lot of effort into it,” says Kevin Scanlon, director of total customer experience at tech company EMC. “That’s why having that top-down support is paramount. If you don’t have it, you’re spinning your wheels. It’s going to give you the resources, the focus, and the attention that you need to design that consistent experience.”

To demonstrate its commitment, every VP and above at EMC has a customer experience metric as part of their quarterly goal.

Begin with the End in Mind

Companies can take a page from the design-thinking approach to product development, starting with the experience they want customers to have with their company and then putting in place the people, processes, and systems to make that happen across various touchpoints. Uber didn’t start by buying 1,000 cars. It started with a completely new customer experience it wanted to deliver—straddling the digital and physical—and then built the organization around that. Uber ultimately leveraged people, process, and technology to bring that to life, but it started with a unique customer journey.

Design for the Customer, Not the Company

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images5 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech InnovationTo date, most corporate processes have been designed for internal efficiency or cost savings with little consideration for the impact on the customer. Companies that want to design for consistent experiences have to reexamine those business processes from the customer perspective. In order to deliver a standout and consistent experience, enterprises must bring together an assortment of data from a variety of systems—including POS transactions, mobile purchases, call center activity, notes from sales calls, and social media.

The average retailer has customer data in more than a dozen different systems. But it’s not just the front-end customer-facing systems that need orchestrating; back office systems and processes, from your supply chain to fulfillment to customer service, must be designed to deliver the intended experience. For example, Nespresso has to orchestrate a number of back-end and front-end systems to offer customers premium courier delivery within two-hour windows.

Put Someone in Charge

Companies that are truly invested in creating integrated, standout customer experiences often create a centralized function that can bring together the people, processes, and technology to bring them to life. Sometimes there is a chief customer officer or head of customer experience. But unless these people are really empowered, they’re toothless.

EMC’s Scanlon is empowered. He heads up a function that has been transformed from focusing on product quality into a centralized customer experience center of excellence staffed with 60 full-time professionals. The center has translated into “more focus, more energy, more insight to our customers,” says Scanlon. “And we can deliver that insight to our internal stakeholders, which trickles down to our account teams and lets them have more meaningful conversations that benefit our customers—and benefit the company over time.”

Centralize Customer Data

Even if there is no central customer experience function, there needs to be a central data repository and analytics system: a digital foundation that everyone can use to improve their piece of that experience. EMC’s customer experience group has a data governance function that maintains a single source of customer truth. “They’re able to pull all relevant data sources into one location and get past the typical customer data challenges,” says Scanlon.

Invest in People

Companies that care about the customer experience invest in the people who deliver it. Human beings are the clearest signposts on the customer journey. Companies must hire the best, train for desired outcomes, and reward based on experience metrics: for being brand ambassadors and for going above and beyond on behalf of the customer.

sap Q316 digital double feature3 images6 How Restaurants Can Feast On The Growing Appetite For High Tech InnovationRethink Metrics and Incentives

One major bank was having trouble driving adoption of its online banking tools. The customers that used the tools loved them, but the tools weren’t getting traction. The problem? The branch managers had no interest in promoting digital banking. They wanted to drive as much traffic as possible to their physical branches because this was one of their key performance metrics.

The solution was to change the compensation approach in order to reward employees for the entire customer experience, including online banking adoption. Branch managers were measured on online and offline customer behavior in their regions. That became a single and critical KPI, and it boosted the desired behaviors and improved overall customer satisfaction.

Create a Single View of the Company

For years, companies have talked about the importance of understanding the customer. And that remains true, particularly when it comes to delivering a valuable customer experience online and off. But successful customer experience design is just as much about giving customers a clear understanding of the company through coordinated experiences that deliver on the brand’s theme and bring it to life in various ways in bricks and mortar, through devices, in online interactions, and everywhere in between. D!

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


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Digitalist Magazine

Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)

image thumb Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)

Award-Winning Work “Steely Ingenuity” Was Painted in 4 Hours Using “Elementary-School-Grade” Paints!
(Now on display in our office, ‘cuz we like that sort of thing)

Did you read the caption on the picture above?  Something awesome was created by a single person, in four hours, with readily-available materials.  Doesn’t that rock?  And doesn’t that seem like what we do these days in Power BI and Power Pivot?  (The “correct” answer to both questions is yes, btw, heh heh).

Today, painting is such an accessible practice that we can “discover” hidden genius lurking everywhere among us.  A few hours and a few dollars is all it takes.  Talent is also necessary of course, but talent tends to be randomly distributed, rather than concentrated in wealthy or academic circles.  People like Ryan Alvis (the artist who created the above) don’t have to be born famous or privileged in order to produce great works, they can rise, from anywhere, to greatness.

Paradoxically though, the era that produced some of our most-famous paintings did NOT benefit from such a broad and deep talent pool, but instead was limited to a highly narrow and stunted, closed society of talent.

What I’m saying is, the Renaissance kinda sucked for art!  Yeah, I just went there.  Read on to learn why, and more about the semi-obvious parallels to our world of data.

image thumb 1 Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)A little internet sleuthing confirms it:  yep, you had to BE SOMEBODY in order to paint back in the 1500’s.  In the era when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, artists had to MAKE THEIR OWN PAINTS.  Which sounds all self-sufficient and all, but no, not really.  Before you could paint anything back then, you had to:

  1. Obtain/purchase oil and thinner.  Remember, we didn’t have petroleum products back then, and even the oil itself had to be pressed out of seeds, so even the basics came at significant cost.
  2. Obtain/purchase pigments, some of which were so expensive that when a painting contract was signed, it had to explicitly specify if certain colors were required, and if so, how much of each!
  3. Grind said pigments to a very fine and consistent particle size.
  4. Carefully mix the pigments, at precise proportions, with the oil and thinner.
  5. Do it all over again every single day, since paints didn’t “keep” overnight.

Simply making paint was so expensive and laborious that aspiring artists had to subject themselves to lengthy apprenticeship programs – programs which ostensibly taught them how to paint, but which were really just pyramid schemes in which the students were required to make all of the paints for the Master artist who ran the school.

Some background on how I got started thinking down this road:  This weekend, Jocelyn and I went to a local art event called “Art vs Art” – essentially a 32-artist deathmatch tournament.  All the artists were given four hours, simultaneously, to paint whatever they wanted –  using the canvases and paints supplied by the competition.  The painting session happened a couple weeks back, but the tournament was Friday night:

  1. image48 thumb Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)The contest proceeded, one-on-one, single-elimination tournament style, with audience cheering determining the winner of each head-to-head matchup (measured via decibel meter).
  2. The loser of each matchup had to face the Wheel Of Death, which provided a random chance that the losing painting would be instantly destroyed on stage (!).
  3. If the losing painting survived the Wheel, it was auctioned off, with 70% of the proceeds going to the artist.
  4. Steely Ingenuity emerged as the champion, and we snatched it up.

image thumb 2 Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)Sounds like fun right?  And it was!  Except for the time that someone outbid me for an awesome painting and then SUBMITTED IT TO BE DESTROYED.  We got to watch the world get a tiny bit uglier (as the painting was trashed on stage), and contemplate what kind of person gets off on such a thing.  (But it does underscore:  art is so much “cheaper” to create now, that we even have contests in which good stuff gets destroyed!)

But I digress!  On net this was still a very, VERY positive experience.  Especially as I started to focus my thinking on how these amazing paintings were created.

So, breakthroughs in paint manufacturing (as well as basically ALL manufacturing) have dramatically democratized the world of art.  You no longer need a wealthy patron, a team of assistants, access to exclusive materials and facilities, or to emerge from a lengthy pyramid-scheme apprenticeship in order to produce art.

This means that we inherently “tap into” a talent pool, today, that is probably thousands of times larger than what was being “tapped” during the Renaissance!

Which brings me to the soundly mathematical statement:  Ryan Alvis, young artist from Indiana, is probably a better painter than Michelangelo was!  If we have dramatically more efficient talent discovery today, the folks who are rising to the top, even locally, are just probably more talented than what the old system managed to discover and nurture.  (If you’re a lover of art and find this statement offensive, I encourage you to look on the bright side:  I’m not saying Michelangelo was BAD, I’m just saying we’re living in a golden age for art, which is GREAT if you love art right?)

finger pointing Steely Ingenuity: The Backbone of Analytics (aka “Why a Local Artist is Probably Better than Michelangelo”)The same sort of dynamic – 1500’s art industry vs. today – is playing out right now in Data.  But unlike in the world of art, it didn’t take centuries.  The entire field of computing-powered analysis got started basically during world war two.  Look how far it has come in 70 years!

Even after computers themselves shrunk from city-block-sized instruments owned by NATIONS down to desktop devices purchasable by the general public, we STILL experienced another 30 years, from the mid-1980’s until now, in which the software and the skills were so arcane (cough cough traditional BI tools) that the domain of “serious” analysis remained an “aristocratic” exercise.

For instance, I remember at one point having a conversation with an expert in which he estimated that there were probably only about a few hundred people WORLDWIDE who TRULY knew how to operate Microsoft’s former flagship BI product, SSAS-MD.  Furthermore, I had worked at Microsoft, up close and personal with SSAS-MD and the team who built it, for YEARS…  and never once made sense of its formula language.  If someone like me with that kind of exposure couldn’t “break in” to the elite club, well, that reinforces the idea that it was probably a bit too hard.

Only since the release of tools like Power Pivot, Power BI, and ok some of their competitors have we truly been able to “discover” talent on that same kind of broad scale that the art world has enjoyed since the 1800’s or so.  This is our moment folks.  YOUR moment.  It’s a virtual certainty that some of the people reading this right now are better than “the best of the best” from 15 years ago, 30 years ago, etc., and I absolutely believe that the overall level of talent in the world is exploding.  It’s just getting started folks.  Buckle up for the ride, we’re thrilled to have you with us.

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