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About Krisgo

I’m a mom, that has worn many different hats in this life; from scout leader, camp craft teacher, parents group president, colorguard coach, member of the community band, stay-at-home-mom to full time worker, I’ve done it all– almost! I still love learning new things, especially creating and cooking. Most of all I love to laugh! Thanks for visiting – come back soon icon smile Russell Brand and friend


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Customers Can Make or Break Your Brand, the Proof is in the Numbers

Blog Image 300x225 Customers Can Make or Break Your Brand, the Proof is in the Numbers

As the customer service industry transforms, consumer behavior is driving that transformation, challenging companies to shift the way they interact with customers and the proof is in the numbers.

Did you know that 96% of global consumers say that customer service is important in their choice of, and loyalty to a brand? So how can brands meet these new expectations? Check out this infographic to see the facts on why brands are putting a focus on their customers and team members, and the technology that will empower everyone to have better experiences. Click here to view the infographic!

Untitled 1 1 e1530118265772 Customers Can Make or Break Your Brand, the Proof is in the Numbers

Now that you have the numbers, how does your organization stack up? If you need to reevaluate your solution, get back on track with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service.

Reach out to us today to see how we can help organizations deliver superior levels of service to their customers by leveraging the Dynamics 365 for Customer Service platform.

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

How Alexa is spurring brand competition in the race for AI compatibility

 How Alexa is spurring brand competition in the race for AI compatibility

Alexa may be the most important name in business this year. During the 2017 holiday shopping season, the Echo Dot device was the top-selling product on Amazon, putting Alexa in millions more living rooms. Software, electronics, and appliance companies are rapidly building in Alexa compatibility to stay relevant. If Amazon’s Alexa continues expanding its market dominance, the lack of such compatibility could spell doom for even the biggest brands.

Amazon offers several devices that utilize Alexa, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and the Echo Spot. Each device acts as the central nervous system in a smart home, allowing thousands of voice-activated commands and skills. Alexa’s use in American homes is exploding with tens of millions of devices sold in 2017. What’s more, roughly 16 percent of Amazon Alexa users have more than one device.

Alexa sales are so high for a reason. Hundreds of products from a range of brands integrate seamlessly with Alexa, allowing voice control on everything from light bulbs to washing machines. This connectivity lets customers build their own smart home according to what they need and want. The astounding number of compatible devices separates Alexa from other AIs (like Siri and Google Assistant), and the rate of growth in the AI market could leave brands that won’t integrate with Alexa in the dust.

Smart home tech

Alexa’s rapid success has spurred nearly every major brand to integrate a Wi-Fi-connected smart device into its lineup. Companies from all corners of the home appliance market are racing to add compatibility with Alexa’s growing list of over 15,000 skills.

Larger appliances are one of the big surprises in the smart home market. Many brands didn’t expect customers to want more conversation from their refrigerator, but the success of early adopters like Samsung quickly set a trend in the market. Today, appliances of every kind are Wi-Fi enabled and integrate seamlessly with an Echo hub, and all signs point to an expanding market in 2018.

Alexa also brings a few advantages to common home appliances. With Alexa, you can start the dryer just before you leave work and set the oven to preheat while you relax on the couch. Alexa can even keep up on refills of common home products like dish detergent and dryer sheets — about 90 percent of Echo owners are also Amazon Prime members.

Streaming services

Amazon, Google, and Netflix are vying for the top spot in video streaming services, and this growing viewership is challenging other entertainment giants from cable and satellite TV. In the past year, Amazon announced in February, music streaming on Amazon devices tripled and video-on-demand streaming is “up 9x year-over-year.” Alexa’s popularity as an entertainment hub is driving more and more users away from traditional services, and big investments from streaming giants are keeping pace with audience demand.

Cable companies are mostly seeing the writing on the wall. Dish Network now offers Alexa compatibility on its Hopper DVR and Wally receiver, carving out a niche with smart home users. Comcast still hasn’t built in compatibility, however, requiring users to jump through hoops with third-party remotes.

Amazon has no trouble sharing space with the TV veterans. The company has added several new Alexa tools for compatibility with cable companies, but it’s up to the companies to build the technology into their devices. Cable users who can’t integrate their TV services with Alexa are cutting the cord. It’s a win-win scenario for Amazon — and life or death for cable companies.

The next AI battleground

Despite Alexa’s dominance in the smart home market, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant remain the leaders in the smartphone and computer markets. Amazon is taking notice, and the release of the HTC U11 with Alexa built in signals the next big competitive arena for the AI giants.

Google and Apple are not backing down without a fight, and 2018 could be the year that a new front-runner emerges. On the HTC U11, Google’s Assistant works right alongside Alexa, allowing users to choose freely between them. Meanwhile, Google and Apple are rapidly expanding their smart home lineups.

Google’s Assistant is furthest ahead in AI development; natural language capabilities and the ability to answer follow-up questions puts it at the top of the ladder for ease of use. The Google Home smart speaker is compatible with some devices and appliances in just about every category and has IFTTT services for programming routines.

Apple is catching up, too. Its new HomePod speaker leverages what it claims to be the best sound quality on the market, and it’s betting on the entertainment market to compete with Alexa. Even Microsoft is getting in on the competition, with a new speaker from Harman Kardon that comes equipped with its AI, Cortana.

With top brands embracing the sea change in home technology, Wi-Fi connections are becoming as common as power cords on home devices. Innovation in the AI market could help brands pull ahead of their competition, while late adopters risk extinction in the face of the Internet of Things.

Allie Shaw is a freelance writer who writes for PopSugar, SWAAY, and WebDesignerDepot.

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Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three Steps

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

Q118 CoverFeature img1 spine Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three Steps

Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

Q118 CoverFeature img2 future Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three StepsIn the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

Q118 CoverFeature img3 cheers ver2 Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three Steps

Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $ 1 per item saves you more than $ 52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

Q118 CoverFeature img4 roadblock Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three Steps

Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Q118 CoverFeature img5 blackout Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three StepsBlockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

Q118 CoverFeature img7 milk Reimagining The Brand Experience In Three Steps

Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!


About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President, Futurist, and Internet of Things Evangelist, at SAP.

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

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

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Digitalist Magazine

How to fix your brand experience from the outside in

success concept hitting target How to fix your brand experience from the outside in

Video: Dario Spina: Brands should become more like people

In this guest post, Johann Wrede, the global vice president of strategic marketing at SAP Hybris, explains how companies can succeed at tackling differentiation if they consider what he calls “outside in brand experience” as the means to that end.

Johann know from whence he comes. He is a very smart and, not coincidentally, a very nice human being. Additionally, his chops get extended by his experience in the industry. He’s been there, done that, and thus has an idea of what to do. I like this guy.

So, Johann, the floor is yours.

Read also: Where’s the ROI in your CRM? It’s in the process


Lately, the conversations I’ve had with sales and marketing executives across industries have made it clear that everyone is struggling with the same challenge: Differentiation.

Crowded markets and increasing commoditization make it harder to compete on attributes and qualities. This is driving a movement toward “experience” as the new competitive frontier — not just the experience of the product or service, but the entire experience the customer has with the brand.

This brand experience was once the exclusive concern of consumer industries, but it is quickly becoming a topic of conversation in boardrooms of even the most traditional B2B companies.

The problem I’ve noticed is that this new way of thinking often begins with a misunderstanding of what brand and brand experience actually are now.

In many boardrooms, brand conversations become endless debates about color, logo, tagline, vision statement, or some other experiential detail of the identity of the business. What’s often left behind is the reality that the brand exists in the mind of the customer (or potential customer), and that their view of the brand is formed by their personal experiences with the business and the experiences they hear from others.

If those experiences are uncoordinated, inconsistent, or inconsiderate of their time and needs, no amount of debate on the colors in the logo or the words in the vision statement will actually change their feelings.

The numbers bear this out: Research from the CMO Council found that nearly half of North American and European consumers will abandon a brand and take their money elsewhere if they repeatedly encounter “a poor, impersonal, or frustrating customer experience across channels of engagement.”

Read also: A company like me: Beyond customer-centric to customer-engaged

So, the fix is obvious, right? Deliver great experiences, and you’ll win the hearts and minds (and wallets) of your customers. The catch is that while the solution might be easy to articulate, most companies get the execution totally wrong.

There’s a trap hidden in your organization — and your budget

Many brand experience initiatives are doomed to fail before they even start because they respect the traditional organizational structure of the business. Marketing does the marketing, sales does the selling, customer service does the fixing, and so on. Each department looks at the experiences that only it delivers, and with the best of intentions, it sets about trying to make those experiences as good as possible using its own resources.

In my opinion, this approach is majorly flawed. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the customer doesn’t care, or even know, which department they’re interacting with at any given time. They don’t see experiences with these departments in isolation, but rather as elements of one continuous journey. And no matter how great each separate element might be, if the piece-parts don’t converge, the journey breaks as the customer crosses the border into the next adjacent department in the process.

An example we all know too well to illustrate this: A CMO invests in delivering a great click-through experience by implementing personalization and a common style between marketing emails and the web landing-page. However, when a potential customer who clicked on the email requests a sales follow-up, things break down. At best, the sales person has an incomplete view of the marketing materials and messages the customer has seen. At worst, they not only don’t know what the customer has seen, but they approach them with messages and materials that bear no resemblance to the website or email.

Read also: Football fans don’t care about sports. Wait, what?

I believe that to really engage customers, companies must take an outside-in view of their customers’ experiences. Leaders should see their company through their customers’ point of view and understand the entirety of their experiences. Only then can they invest resources in a way that doesn’t merely address the challenges within their part of the organization, but rather creates a cohesive and consistent experience.

Digital is a red herring

Unfortunately, taking this sort of a coordinated approach is harder than it seems. Companies in some industries have recognized the dysfunction inherent in trying to fix siloed experiences and have responded by creating roles that cut across departments. For instance, newly minted chief digital officers (CDOs) tackle the challenge of harmonizing the experiences customers have across marketing, commerce, and service on the web, social, and mobile. And while this seems like a great start to addressing the problem, I would argue that it’s actually a dead-end.

Just as customers don’t think in terms of departments, they also don’t think in terms of channels. Modern human communication is about convenience. We have a broad array of tools that we can use to communicate, and we don’t consciously think about switching between them.

The issue with roles like the CDO is that rather than slicing the experience by department, they slice the experience by channel. And unless the business is purely digital, it means that someone else (or perhaps no one at all) is responsible for non-digital customer experiences. For example, who is responsible for the experience when a customer executive visits their supplier’s headquarters for a sales meeting? Certainly not the CDO. In the end, if the website is beautiful and personalized, but the lobby is lackluster and no one offers the visiting executive coffee, their experience will be inconsistent and the whole brand will suffer.

To bring real consistency to the experience, leaders should stop trying to slice the problem into pieces that they try to solve independently. If they cannot appoint a customer or brand experience czar, they need to consider an executive council that coordinates the analysis and improvement of experience across the entire customer journey.

This shouldn’t be mistaken for a boil-the-ocean approach, as it’s not prescribing wholesale changes. Instead, it’s a master-plan and governance approach to the implementation of improvements for the customer experience. The ideal result: Coordinated elements that can be implemented quickly, measured easily, and integrated seamlessly.

The real solution requires everyone’s participation

Strategy and governance are good, but implementation of processes and tools in a coordinated manner is even better. From what I have seen, real success only comes when every single employee in the enterprise identifies as being customer-centric.

To get there, employees should follow these mandates:

  1. Know the Customer: Has every employee met a customer recently? Too often, the people who work behind the scenes in a business lose sight of who they serve. They get caught up in the thinking that they have an “internal customer” and forget that the work they do actually services the paying customer. Help them reconnect with that feeling by introducing them to real customers.
  2. Know the Customer’s Journey: Plaster the walls of the office with journey maps so that everyone can see how customers discover, buy, use, and advocate for the products or services you sell. Ask employees to make the time to understand, empathize, and find ways to improve and simplify the journey. You’ll not only get great ideas — you’ll get engaged employees.
  3. Know Your Role: Everyone is in customer service because anyone can make or break the customer’s experience. If accounting repeatedly sends the wrong invoice, if shipping keeps using the wrong address, if the warehouse continually gets the picklist wrong, the customer is going to leave — no matter how great your customer care representatives seem. Get every employee to understand their role in creating great customer experiences, get them to adopt a customer-first mindset, and encourage collaboration across boundaries to solve problems. Your brand experience will come to life.
  4. Know the KPIs (and make them about the customer): Encouragement is good, but financial reward is better. Once employees understand how their position directly impacts the customer experience, they should be measured on that impact. Every department, role, and employee should have KPIs that are aligned to the customer success strategy and the outcomes that the business wants to achieve. This is the proverbial “put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is” step that will transform your brand experience initiative from a good idea into an imperative.

When you put it all together, you end up with a customer-centric brand experience strategy that is broken down into manageable pieces, coordinated across the entire business, and involves every employee. As an outcome, you have meaningful connections between employees and customers, ultimately driving differentiation and revenue growth.

Read also:Change agents aren’t personas, they are human

What kind of growth? According to Forrester, the revenue growth of customer experience leaders is 5.1x that of laggards. That’s a pretty compelling incentive to get your brand experience right — from the outside in.


Thank you, Johann.

Just a reminder to everyone: Registration for the CRM Watchlist 2019 and the 2019 EMI Awards are open now. If you are interested, see what it takes here and here and send me an email requesting the appropriate registration form at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com.


Previous and related coverage

The CRM Watchlist 2019: Welcome to the show

Changes in the CRM world have led to major changes in the CRM Watchlist and the new Emergence Maturity Index Awards. See how the customer-facing technology market correlates to these changes, and how you can register and submit to these.

Ringing in a belated New Year with SAP, Oracle, and the CRM Watchlist 2019

I promised that I would cover my speculations about Oracle and SAP, and to fulfill my obligations for 2017, here they are — in 2018.

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ZDNet | crm RSS

A New Brand: Reflecting the Present, Preparing for the Future

Over the last couple years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing first hand the remarkable transformation taking place at Syncsort. In that time, we have tripled our revenue, more than doubled the number of talented employees, and established a definitive leadership position in a segment of the data management software market that we call Big Iron to Big Data.

Today, we proudly talk about our more than 7,000 customers, our deep engineering & product relationships with leading next-generation analytics platform providers, and that we transact business in more than 100 countries. You can feel the palpable sense of excitement that has been building within our company.

blog banner landscape A New Brand: Reflecting the Present, Preparing for the Future

Embarking on a Journey to Energize the Brand

An important part of transforming any business is being honest about areas where more focus is needed. Our leadership team has known for some time that a brand refresh was in order. We recognized the need for a new brand identity that honors our heritage, reflects the company we are today, and accommodates our ambitions for the future.

With strong support from Centerbridge Partners, the private investment firm that acquired Syncsort in the summer of 2017, we embarked on our brand journey last fall. We were determined to infuse the Syncsort brand with meaning and make it stand for the very best in the market. As the May 2018 public unveiling of our new brand approaches, we are well on our way.

strong brand A New Brand: Reflecting the Present, Preparing for the Future

Building an Authentic Brand Starts with our Employees

We have learned a lot and come to fully appreciate that brand building is about so much more than marketing or hiring some fancy brand agency, although I cannot say enough about my amazing marketing team at Syncsort and the incredible work of our London-based agency team at Text100. Branding is about ensuring clarity, creating recognition and connecting emotionally. It is about our culture – being a purpose-driven company and employer of choice. It starts with our employees.

As part of an intensive research phase that kicked off our branding initiative, we had hundreds of employees across all levels and functions within the company complete detailed surveys sharing their views on our brand and business. My favorite question was the one about what fictional character or personality Syncsort would be and why. As you might imagine, we have some creative employees and answers ranged from Obi-Wan Kenobi to the Flash to Santa Claus (always delivers!).

brand drawing A New Brand: Reflecting the Present, Preparing for the Future

As part of the brand building workshops, groups of employees were asked to draw Syncsort as a person.

Dozens of employees around the world participated in brand building workshops in New York and London. We also completed stakeholder interviews with customers, partners, and key leaders from across the company. In taking a research-driven approach and putting in the work, we are not only creating a stronger brand, but also an authentic one. A new brand created by our employees with valuable input from customers and partners.

Looking Forward to Rollout in May

Bringing our employees along on our brand journey has been incredibly rewarding. Our employees work so hard to support each other and to deliver value to our customers every day. To see them respond with such excitement to our new brand visuals, themes and messaging has been beyond satisfying.

We truly can’t wait to share our new brand, visual identity and website with our customers, partners and the entire world. We are proud of the way we have grown and transformed Syncsort. Our brand journey has always been about making deeper connections with all of you.

Stay tuned!

Download our eBook – The New Rules for Your Data Landscape – to see how the rules for data have changed with the evolution of the relationship between business and IT.

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How to fix your brand experience from the outside in

success concept hitting target How to fix your brand experience from the outside in

Video: Dario Spina: Brands should become more like people

In this guest post, Johann Wrede, the global vice president of strategic marketing at SAP Hybris, explains how companies can succeed at tackling differentiation if they consider what he calls “outside in brand experience” as the means to that end.

Johann know from whence he comes. He is a very smart and, not coincidentally, a very nice human being. Additionally, his chops get extended by his experience in the industry. He’s been there, done that, and thus has an idea of what to do. I like this guy.

So, Johann, the floor is yours.

Read also: Where’s the ROI in your CRM? It’s in the process


Lately, the conversations I’ve had with sales and marketing executives across industries have made it clear that everyone is struggling with the same challenge: Differentiation.

Crowded markets and increasing commoditization make it harder to compete on attributes and qualities. This is driving a movement toward “experience” as the new competitive frontier — not just the experience of the product or service, but the entire experience the customer has with the brand.

This brand experience was once the exclusive concern of consumer industries, but it is quickly becoming a topic of conversation in boardrooms of even the most traditional B2B companies.

The problem I’ve noticed is that this new way of thinking often begins with a misunderstanding of what brand and brand experience actually are now.

In many boardrooms, brand conversations become endless debates about color, logo, tagline, vision statement, or some other experiential detail of the identity of the business. What’s often left behind is the reality that the brand exists in the mind of the customer (or potential customer), and that their view of the brand is formed by their personal experiences with the business and the experiences they hear from others.

If those experiences are uncoordinated, inconsistent, or inconsiderate of their time and needs, no amount of debate on the colors in the logo or the words in the vision statement will actually change their feelings.

The numbers bear this out: Research from the CMO Council found that nearly half of North American and European consumers will abandon a brand and take their money elsewhere if they repeatedly encounter “a poor, impersonal, or frustrating customer experience across channels of engagement.”

Read also: A company like me: Beyond customer-centric to customer-engaged

So, the fix is obvious, right? Deliver great experiences, and you’ll win the hearts and minds (and wallets) of your customers. The catch is that while the solution might be easy to articulate, most companies get the execution totally wrong.

There’s a trap hidden in your organization — and your budget

Many brand experience initiatives are doomed to fail before they even start because they respect the traditional organizational structure of the business. Marketing does the marketing, sales does the selling, customer service does the fixing, and so on. Each department looks at the experiences that only it delivers, and with the best of intentions, it sets about trying to make those experiences as good as possible using its own resources.

In my opinion, this approach is majorly flawed. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the customer doesn’t care, or even know, which department they’re interacting with at any given time. They don’t see experiences with these departments in isolation, but rather as elements of one continuous journey. And no matter how great each separate element might be, if the piece-parts don’t converge, the journey breaks as the customer crosses the border into the next adjacent department in the process.

An example we all know too well to illustrate this: A CMO invests in delivering a great click-through experience by implementing personalization and a common style between marketing emails and the web landing-page. However, when a potential customer who clicked on the email requests a sales follow-up, things break down. At best, the sales person has an incomplete view of the marketing materials and messages the customer has seen. At worst, they not only don’t know what the customer has seen, but they approach them with messages and materials that bear no resemblance to the website or email.

Read also: Football fans don’t care about sports. Wait, what?

I believe that to really engage customers, companies must take an outside-in view of their customers’ experiences. Leaders should see their company through their customers’ point of view and understand the entirety of their experiences. Only then can they invest resources in a way that doesn’t merely address the challenges within their part of the organization, but rather creates a cohesive and consistent experience.

Digital is a red herring

Unfortunately, taking this sort of a coordinated approach is harder than it seems. Companies in some industries have recognized the dysfunction inherent in trying to fix siloed experiences and have responded by creating roles that cut across departments. For instance, newly minted chief digital officers (CDOs) tackle the challenge of harmonizing the experiences customers have across marketing, commerce, and service on the web, social, and mobile. And while this seems like a great start to addressing the problem, I would argue that it’s actually a dead-end.

Just as customers don’t think in terms of departments, they also don’t think in terms of channels. Modern human communication is about convenience. We have a broad array of tools that we can use to communicate, and we don’t consciously think about switching between them.

The issue with roles like the CDO is that rather than slicing the experience by department, they slice the experience by channel. And unless the business is purely digital, it means that someone else (or perhaps no one at all) is responsible for non-digital customer experiences. For example, who is responsible for the experience when a customer executive visits their supplier’s headquarters for a sales meeting? Certainly not the CDO. In the end, if the website is beautiful and personalized, but the lobby is lackluster and no one offers the visiting executive coffee, their experience will be inconsistent and the whole brand will suffer.

To bring real consistency to the experience, leaders should stop trying to slice the problem into pieces that they try to solve independently. If they cannot appoint a customer or brand experience czar, they need to consider an executive council that coordinates the analysis and improvement of experience across the entire customer journey.

This shouldn’t be mistaken for a boil-the-ocean approach, as it’s not prescribing wholesale changes. Instead, it’s a master-plan and governance approach to the implementation of improvements for the customer experience. The ideal result: Coordinated elements that can be implemented quickly, measured easily, and integrated seamlessly.

The real solution requires everyone’s participation

Strategy and governance are good, but implementation of processes and tools in a coordinated manner is even better. From what I have seen, real success only comes when every single employee in the enterprise identifies as being customer-centric.

To get there, employees should follow these mandates:

  1. Know the Customer: Has every employee met a customer recently? Too often, the people who work behind the scenes in a business lose sight of who they serve. They get caught up in the thinking that they have an “internal customer” and forget that the work they do actually services the paying customer. Help them reconnect with that feeling by introducing them to real customers.
  2. Know the Customer’s Journey: Plaster the walls of the office with journey maps so that everyone can see how customers discover, buy, use, and advocate for the products or services you sell. Ask employees to make the time to understand, empathize, and find ways to improve and simplify the journey. You’ll not only get great ideas — you’ll get engaged employees.
  3. Know Your Role: Everyone is in customer service because anyone can make or break the customer’s experience. If accounting repeatedly sends the wrong invoice, if shipping keeps using the wrong address, if the warehouse continually gets the picklist wrong, the customer is going to leave — no matter how great your customer care representatives seem. Get every employee to understand their role in creating great customer experiences, get them to adopt a customer-first mindset, and encourage collaboration across boundaries to solve problems. Your brand experience will come to life.
  4. Know the KPIs (and make them about the customer): Encouragement is good, but financial reward is better. Once employees understand how their position directly impacts the customer experience, they should be measured on that impact. Every department, role, and employee should have KPIs that are aligned to the customer success strategy and the outcomes that the business wants to achieve. This is the proverbial “put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is” step that will transform your brand experience initiative from a good idea into an imperative.

When you put it all together, you end up with a customer-centric brand experience strategy that is broken down into manageable pieces, coordinated across the entire business, and involves every employee. As an outcome, you have meaningful connections between employees and customers, ultimately driving differentiation and revenue growth.

Read also:Change agents aren’t personas, they are human

What kind of growth? According to Forrester, the revenue growth of customer experience leaders is 5.1x that of laggards. That’s a pretty compelling incentive to get your brand experience right — from the outside in.


Thank you, Johann.

Just a reminder to everyone: Registration for the CRM Watchlist 2019 and the 2019 EMI Awards are open now. If you are interested, see what it takes here and here and send me an email requesting the appropriate registration form at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com.


Previous and related coverage

The CRM Watchlist 2019: Welcome to the show

Changes in the CRM world have led to major changes in the CRM Watchlist and the new Emergence Maturity Index Awards. See how the customer-facing technology market correlates to these changes, and how you can register and submit to these.

Ringing in a belated New Year with SAP, Oracle, and the CRM Watchlist 2019

I promised that I would cover my speculations about Oracle and SAP, and to fulfill my obligations for 2017, here they are — in 2018.

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ZDNet | crm RSS

How to Perform a Competitive Analysis of Your Brand

20180307 bnr competitive analysis 351x200 How to Perform a Competitive Analysis of Your Brand

Let’s find out how to perform a competitive analysis – and how you can use that information to your advantage.

Why do you need a competitive analysis? Building a successful marketing plan requires knowing your customers and their pain points intimately. That is step one. And step two is knowing how your competitors are addressing their needs (if they are) and where opportunities may exist for your company.

Marketing ethics 101: Don’t be shady!

Before I go any further, I want to state something up front. This post is meant to teach you how and why to do a competitive analysis. It’s not meant to encourage or even hint at something more malicious. Stealing – whether from your competitors or your neighbors – is never cool. Please don’t do it!

What is a competitive analysis?

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the topic at hand: competitive analysis. What is a competitive analysis?

A competitive analysis is a formal process of evaluating what your competitors are up to. And in this case, we’re talking about a qualitative analysis, not a quantitative or cost analysis. You’d look at things like their product, their marketing approach, their customers, their strengths and weaknesses – and how those may become threats. This may sound similar to a SWOT exercise – and that is for a reason. SWOT (which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and Competitive Analyses are related concepts. They’re marketing cousins, so to speak.

Why: the benefits of doing a competitive analysis

With a successful competitive analysis, you look at what the other guys are doing, and, more importantly, what you can do in response. A competitive analysis pulls you out of your myopic bubble to find what else is going on in the world … to take a step back and then analyze your findings.

Here are some other benefits of doing a competitive analysis:

  • Get a view of the market landscape. See what else is out there – and where customers may go if they don’t choose you. You or your predecessor probably did this when your company or product was initially concepted. This isn’t a one-and-done exercise, though. You need to constantly keep an eye on the competitive landscape.
  • Meet a need. Ultimately your goal as a marketer (or R&D team member) is to find a niche (or chasm) to fill a need that isn’t already being met. To create a product or service that customers want or need – and expertly sell it in a way that garners the most traffic. Essentials of Marketing, a textbook on all things marketing that sits on my bookshelf, words it this way: “The search for a breakthrough opportunity – or some sort of competitive advantage – requires an understanding not only of customers but also of competitors.”
  • Find ways to get new customers – or hang on to the ones you have. During a competitive analysis, you get time to think about acquisition and retention. For example, how are you competitors winning new customers or retaining them? Look at their loyalty programs and win-back strategies. Also consider what you could do to win customers from your competitors and take over more market share.

When to perform a competitive analysis

There are a variety of times to perform a competitive analysis. Maybe you’re launching a new product and need to know how to approach it. Maybe your brand is feeling stale and you need ideas. Or, maybe it’s simply a downtime in your marketing schedule and you want to do extra credit work. Whatever the case, I encourage you to perform competitive analyses at least once or twice per year.

How to perform a competitive analysis

Now let’s get into the how-tos.

  1. First, scope out the competition and name them. In order to perform a competitive analysis, you have to know who your competitors are. If you have a list, great. Go grab it. If not – or if you’re launching something new and don’t yet have your competitors ID’d – let’s walk through a few questions to help identify them:Who else is doing what you’re doing, or striving to do? Who is the closest competitor? Also consider less obvious competitors, such as brands or products that may not replicate your product, but may feel similar in tone. And also think about those whose work is similar enough – or those who have a similar ethos. Consider that they could pose a future threat if they develop something new.
  2. Next, ID their strengths and weaknesses. This is where SWOT comes in. Literally write down each competitor’s name and product, and then run a mini SWOT on them.
  3. Pay attention to the details. What kind of marketing campaigns are your competitors running – and in what channels? What keywords are they using? What obvious keywords are they avoiding? Take note of your observations. You may make some very interesting discoveries here, so take detailed notes.
  4. Get a little help from your friends – and the Internet. You don’t have to do all of this research on your own. Turn to your colleagues, for example, the folks on your R&D team who came up with the product you’re in charge of marketing. It’s possible that they’ve done similar competitive research while concepting and creating the product. Get your hands on that material.Also, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can access a wealth of consumer-authored and brand-authored information online. As we know by now, today’s consumers do a ton of pre-work before they make a decision. In fact, I just did this exact thing: I’m in the market for a new blender and spent a good chunk of time doing research online before making my decision. I read the product descriptions, reviews, and user comments. I paid attention to all the details – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As a marketer, you can use that same data and strategy to gain understanding of what customers want and how your competitors are responding. For example, scour competitors’ product reviews and their social media feeds. Pay attention both to what consumers are saying and how brands respond. These primary sources may be time-consuming to shuffle through, but yield invaluable results.

  1. Turn your research inward and make recommendations. The ultimate goal of a competitive analysis is to better position your own product against the competitors. Once you’ve found your competitors and what they’re doing, turn your focus to your own brand or product. How do you – or could you – do things differently? What are your strengths above theirs – and/or differentiators? For ideas, turn back to your SWOT here and look at your “S” and “O” categories specifically. What have you learned, and what could you try?Remember to use your knowledge for good. It’s worth repeating: Once you’ve done your work, you will likely have a great playbook of what the competition does and how they do it. Now’s the time to put your white hat back on and remind yourself and your colleagues of good business practices. Ideate ‒ don’t imitate.
  2. Formalize your findings. Take copious notes, and pull them into a format that you and your colleagues can use. It might look like this:
    1. Devote one page (or slide) per competitor/product.
    2. On each page note the competitor’s name and the specific product name. Include a quick SWOT grid. Note three top-level findings.
    3. In your conclusion, summarize your findings and recommendations.

Don’t forget to add the date of your research; a lot can change in a few months, so it’s helpful to notate when research was performed.

Practice makes perfect

The first time you perform a competitive analysis can be shaky. Personally, I ended up with a laundry list of brands, products, and notes. Once I went through the exercise a few more times, I got more of a rhythm with what I was trying to do – and what kind of information I was looking for. As with anything, practice makes perfect (or at least makes you more comfortable).

For bonus points, look outside your own rabbit hole. Try performing a competitive analysis for a totally unrelated company or industry. For example, if you’re a marketer for software, pretend instead that you’re marketing a specialty clothing line. Or do a competitive analysis for a retail coffee chain, or an e-learning platform, or … the possibilities are endless. I recommend doing these exercises to get practice with the craft of competitive analysis, but also to gain perspective and inspiration. You may even want to do a competitive analysis of an industry or company that you really want to work in. This way you have it in your back pocket when you secure an interview!

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Act-On Blog

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent It

Mention the word fintech to veteran financial services executives and watch the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up.

Fintech is a broad term that applies to new digital financial technologies, from cryptocurrencies to mobile wallets, as well as the startups attempting to use those new technologies to blast centuries-old financial institutions out of the water.

Recognizing the existential threat, leaders of 233-year-old U.S. financial giant Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) became convinced that continuous IT-enabled innovation was essential. To do that right, the IT team reorganized around specific capabilities—190 so far. Each capability has an owner who serves as a kind of CEO of that service and who is free to make any changes deemed necessary for success.

Like any radical change, BNY Mellon’s effort has seen its share of growing pains. For example, some take to the ownership roles better than others. And employees have required significant coaching throughout.

Several years in, however, a fundamental shift has taken place at the bank established by U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton. “Change is no longer some big project,” says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, who has studied BNY Mellon’s efforts. “Change is what you do every morning when you get out of bed.”

Just about every industry is facing its own version of fintech these days, forcing organizations to disrupt their established ways of doing business or face disruption by an upstart unburdened by legacy processes and technology. It’s the age of digital transformation, which business consultancy Capgemini calls “the ultimate challenge in change management because it affects not only industry structures and strategic positioning, but also all levels of an organization (every task, activity, process) as well as the extended supply chain.” Dramatic increases in connectivity and improvements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and advanced analytics let companies optimize their processes continuously, but usually not without making enormous changes first.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image2 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItTo make the most of frequent and successive waves of technology innovation, organizations must build adaptability into their structures, their functions, and their individual employees. That calls for new approaches designed to make transformation real and continuous. “The ability to develop a culture of change where people rely less on habits and more on imagining what’s possible every day is going to be part and parcel of being a great company,” says Ross.

Unfortunately, the traditional command-and-control architecture of most businesses was not built for continuous adaptation. “The speed with which we need to take a good idea and get it in place is so much faster than before, which is why we are having this moment of truth,” Ross says. “Traditional approaches that rely on a lot of hierarchy to make changes are too slow.”

For years, most change efforts have been top-down, episodic, all-encompassing “big bang” attempts to alter systems, processes, and cultures. Executives announced a restructuring or an acquisition or the implementation of new technology and brought in external change management consultants to try to get people to adapt to new ways of working. It rarely succeeded.

Despite significant investment in the change management discipline and a library of books on the subject, just a quarter of change management initiatives succeed long term, according to a 2013 survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson.

Digital transformation isn’t going much better. Worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will grow to US$ 1.2 trillion in 2017, up 17.8% over 2016, according to IDC. But fewer than 2 in 10 respondents to a recent survey by the SAP Center for Business Insight and Oxford Economics have seen substantial or transformational value from their technology investments so far. And just 12% say that digitalization has affected their organizational structure in a meaningful way.

Furthermore, even though 84% of the C-level executives surveyed ranked digital transformation as “critically important” to the survival of their businesses, just 3% have completed transformation efforts that span the entire organization.

For digital transformation to deliver value, an entire organization needs to buy into new ways not just of working, but also of thinking. “It’s not about bringing consultants in. It’s about really designing systems that enable an organization to adapt innately,” says Pravir Malik, founder of organizational change development firm Deep Order Technologies and author of Connecting Inner Power with Global Change: The Fractal Ladder and The Fractal Organization: Creating Enterprises of Tomorrow.

Companies are experimenting with new approaches that encourage and support the flexibility required to embrace continuous transformation. Some are rethinking how they operate. Others are investing in helping employees become more adaptable. Still others are clarifying their mission in a way that makes room for individuals to drive change themselves.

Ultimately, gaining the ability to change constantly will help both organizations and employees over the long term. Change becomes less episodic, less massive, and less jarring; there is no end state, no go-live. Instead, the organization is always moving, but at a step-by-step pace that makes it easier for employees to adapt.

However, evolving into this state of constant, fluid change isn’t easy. It only works if you have the right approach and methodologies.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image3 1024x572 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent It

Changing Mindsets

Indeed, as companies tackle digital transformation, traditional highly structured change management programs can actually do more harm than good, says Tom Weeks, senior consultant with The Arbinger Institute, a consultancy that works with organizations to encourage change from within. “The change program becomes the change rather than the results you’re trying to achieve,” he says.

Such change efforts can create a short-term view. As a result, says Weeks, “they drive short-term change, but they don’t change people’s minds. You can force the issues and try to make change happen for change’s sake. But eventually the effort loses energy.”

“Everyone is surprised by that,” adds Weeks. “But it’s just nature at play. We’re hardwired to resist change. If you’re not shifting fundamental mindsets, it doesn’t matter how much money or how many resources you put behind it.”

In her behavioral research, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has focused on two types of mindsets that she sees in most organizations: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are static.

Those with a growth mindset think that talents and capabilities develop over time through effort—a way of thinking that Dweck says creates more individual resilience and adaptability. People in the latter group tend to be better at collaboration, problem solving, and, naturally, continuing change.

The good news, according to Dweck, is that the growth mindset can be a learned behavior. She points to Microsoft as a company attempting to do just that. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has publicly stated that the corporate mission “starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset.”

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image4 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItMicrosoft’s leaders are emphasizing learning and creativity with programs like hackathons in which the best projects are funded and their originators rewarded. The company is more explicitly rewarding risk-taking and the pursuit of stretch goals. When Microsoft’s foray into artificial intelligence, the chatbot Tay, was hacked, the CEO sent the team an e-mail of encouragement rather than rebuke.

Rather than limiting leadership development programs to those easily identified as having innate management potential, Microsoft says it is moving a broader swath of employees up and across teams, augmenting their skills, and expanding their work experiences. The most valuable employees are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, as in the past, but those who are the most adaptable—and capable of bringing that out in others.

While Dweck’s mindset work focuses on peoples’ ability to learn and grow, at The Arbinger Institute, consultants focus on an individual’s ability to work productively and with others. Arbinger’s methodology differentiates between an inward mindset, which causes people to be self-centered—seeing other people as objects or tools to either help or hurt them—and an outward mindset, which engenders more connection with and understanding of others as human beings.

Those with an outward mindset can work more collaboratively and productively. That’s incredibly important in an environment of change, such as when Raytheon Missile Systems was trying to integrate a series of mergers that were rife with infighting.

The company overcame the battles by working with all 12,000 employees on shifting their mindsets. Employees worked to uncover their part in company problems and devised ways to work collaboratively with others to solve them and hold themselves accountable for results. When tasked by company leaders to cut $ 100 million in expenses in two months or face layoffs, employees worked together to uncover alternatives.

They began to look beyond their own individual roles and needs, and focused instead on the needs of their colleagues and of the organization as a whole, says Weeks. That resulted in some big, organization-wide changes that went far beyond cost savings and helped increase sales dramatically.

Typically, companies like Raytheon come to Arbinger for help changing mindsets after they’ve struggled with failed change for a while. But that’s beginning to change, says Weeks, and that’s the ideal.

One company is offering employees training on the outward mindset approach before the launch of its six-year transformation effort. “If employees don’t have the right mindset, you can push change as much as you want, but eventually there will be a snap back. What’s required is people who want to hold themselves accountable at a higher level.”

Flexibility by Design

Neuroscientists are not surprised by the shift toward employee-centric rather than top-down change. They have proven that a brain’s “plasticity”—its ability to restructure and learn new things—is enduring. An old dog can learn new tricks. But when change is forced upon people, they quickly become overwhelmed, which activates the fight-or-flight response in the primitive emotional center of the brain, the amygdala.

They bottle up that instinctive response and it reemerges as anxiety, depression, and poor health if not managed. And not only are those potentially toxic emotions harmful to the individual, they are contagious in the organization.

The secret is to create conditions in which people direct more of the change themselves. When individuals solve a problem on their own, for example, their brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters that can create good feelings associated with the change.

One way to create this kind of personal change ownership is by taking a design thinking approach. The iterative, human-centric design concept that was first developed in the early 1970s has become a popular approach to developing products and services for customers. But design thinking principles can also bring new systems and processes to an organization.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image5 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItThat was the case when furniture maker Herman Miller began exploring the potential of an office chair connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) three years ago. Instead of designing a new chair, Herman Miller came away with the foundation for an organizational transformation from hard goods maker to service provider. This is the latest fundamental shift in a company that has evolved from traditional Queen Anne-style furniture maker in the 1930s to office designer in the 1970s to ergonomics innovator in the 1980s and 1990s, says Chris Hoyt, design exploration leader at Herman Miller.

Taking a design thinking approach meant interviewing a wide cross section of stakeholders. The interviews revealed that simply putting a sensor into a desk chair did not make business sense, but putting one into the company’s sit-to-stand desk—and creating a series of IoT-enabled services around it—did. The exercise turned out to be an entry point into an entirely new business model.

“Design thinking wasn’t new to Herman Miller, but there was a lot of skepticism about whether integrating technology into its furniture made business sense,” explains Kurt Dykema, co-founder and director of technology at product innovation and business strategy consultancy Twisthink, which worked with Herman Miller. “This process guided them through a transformation where they have to think about selling a digital experience and monetizing that instead of just selling a capital good and then being done with it.”

For example, none of Herman Miller’s back office operations was built to support the IoT subscription models it planned to offer with the desk. But the design thinking approach created consensus around IoT business value and helped to clarify the organizational changes required to capitalize on the new opportunity.

“It forced them through the process of retooling the business to sell and maintain digital experiences,” Dykema says. Herman Miller launched its Live OS furniture line in June, with the smart desk as the first product, and plans for more to follow.

Getting Agile

Like many companies that incorporate a design thinking approach to organizational change, the performance car division of Daimler AG, Mercedes-AMG, married its process with agile development methods.

Agile turns conventional change management on its head. Rather than making big changes all at once, agile uses an incremental approach to creating software that gives users a chance to use and react to new functionality as it is developed and to validate its value (as opposed to the more traditional waterfall approach where users don’t experience a solution until it is finished).

With agile, there is no predetermined end state. Instead, change is constant, but never so rapid that it becomes overwhelming.

At Mercedes-AMG, clickable prototypes were produced and tested with users weekly and their feedback was funneled back into development streams, continuously improving the resulting system. Based on early success at Mercedes-AMG, Daimler’s enterprise IT organization launched a similar program to develop new digital services for the enterprise.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image6 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent ItAt BNY Mellon, the adoption of agile development methods has enabled the company to introduce an incredible amount of systems change—but two weeks at a time.

The product of years of mergers and acquisitions, BNY Mellon had operated in product silos, each with their own systems and processes. The company wanted to develop a digital platform from which it could orchestrate a more unified and innovative customer experience. The goal was to put one of America’s oldest financial institutions on equal footing with some of the newest and most nimble newcomers in fintech.

Agile was a new way of working for the IT organization, which was accustomed to introducing releases a couple of times a year rather than a couple of times a month. So IT leaders invested significant time and money helping employees adopt new skills and adapt to the changes.

Eventually, agile enabled the bank to introduce new systems to its 52,000 employees in phases for their ongoing input, fine-tuning the systems over time to best meet employees’ needs and better ensure their adoption. It’s led to the creation—and ongoing enhancement—of an open-source, cloud-based platform that serves as a portal for both internal employees and customers. This app store will provide access to all BNY Mellon’s products and services as well as capabilities from select fintech and established financial services partners.

Increasing Autonomy

Though making change constant relies heavily on individual employees, leaders still have an important role to play. They need to provide the alignment with organizational principles that, when combined with individual autonomy, can create the kind of fluid and adaptive organization required for digital transformation, according to Mark Bonchek, CEO of Shift Thinking, a consultancy that works with leaders and organizations to update their thinking for a digital age.

The U.S. military takes this kind of approach on the battlefield, putting in place a doctrine that authoritatively guides soldiers but gives them autonomy and requires judgment in action to respond to rapidly changing conditions.

In business, organizations are adapting this principle by giving employees guidance on how to take action without requiring them to first seek approval. For example, when Suresh Kumar took over as CIO of BNY Mellon, he reorganized IT around end-to-end IT and business services. IT leaders subdivided each service into smaller components, each with its own leader. These hundreds of services leaders maintain their own service strategy document that covers the current state as well as a one- to three-year improvement plan.

Each service leader is measured on user experience. And because the services are highly interdependent, leaders are also judged on the experience of other service leaders who depend on their service.

As a result, BNY Mellon’s top IT leadership no longer directs team members, but coaches them. Early on, only about a third of the service leaders were successful. The IT group ultimately developed a maturity model for the approach to foster leader development.

Leading a service is as much a mindset as it is a job, says Kumar. The goal of the new approaches—agile software development, physical reorganization, increased autonomy and responsibility—is to create a digital foundation of services linking the bank to its customers and external partners and fostering ongoing digital transformation. The shift began in the IT organization, but the plan is to expand it enterprise-wide and to bring partners and customers into the loop as well.

The Power of Language

In the digital transformation era, companies need a new strategic narrative to help drive a mindset of constant change. A strategic narrative describes the shared purpose that all stakeholders are working toward, says Bonchek. That creates a shared purpose that everyone can wrap their minds—and ultimately their behaviors—around.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image7 1024x572 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why Consumers End Brand Loyalty And How To Prevent It

For example, BNY Mellon’s working narrative is that “we believe each of us has the power to improve lives through investing.” And that applies not only to the investment of capital, but investing in people, in ideas, and in the future. At a high level, the theme helps reorient employees’ thinking and behaviors as they consider new ways the bank might differentiate itself.

The Importance of Being Resilient

If an organization is going to adapt itself to constant change, employees need tools to manage the psychological stress that comes with it.

Luckily, personal adaptability is something that you can teach. That’s just what Wendy Quan, a former in-house change management professional, does. As the founder of The Calm Monkey, she’s working with organizations from Google to the government of Dubai, helping them implement self-sustaining mindfulness meditation programs.

Quan used mindfulness and meditation practices to increase her own resilience during cancer treatment. “It alters your experience of a change,” she explains, “even when things around you aren’t changing the way you want them to.”

In 2011, she began conducting mindfulness training for a handful of executives working on a seven-year business and technology transformation project at Pacific Blue Cross. The leaders found the training so valuable that they made it available to the entire workforce.

Quan used the sessions to help employees experience the change on their own terms rather than feeling victimized. She focused change-specific meditations on becoming aware of one’s own perceptions about change, recognizing emotions and their impact on behaviors, learning how to mindfully choose reactions, and cultivating calm and clarity.

Quan surveyed employees after the training. The percentage of employees who rated their personal resiliency as low at the beginning decreased from 40% to just 2% while those who characterized themselves as highly resilient increased by a factor of 600% to 72%. And 83% said that meditation has moderately to significantly helped them through a significant transition.

“Change management methodologies favor the corporate perspective,” says Quan. “But it’s really important to focus on helping people be more self-aware of how they’re journeying through the change.”

Deep Order Technologies’ Malik also focuses his approach to resiliency training on self-awareness. He built a mobile app that enables employees to register what they’re feeling throughout the day. Recording emotional states gives employees a better understanding of what drives their own behaviors and how to cope with their feelings.

Leaders can then look at the aggregated, anonymized readings to identify patterns across the organization. Those patterns give leaders a good idea of the overall orientation of employees going through a change at a given point in time and whether they are poised to go along with it or resist.

Change the Ways of Changing

There is no simple solution to making change easier. A combination of new approaches at the organizational and individual level will be required to adapt to the constant change demanded by the digital future.

These approaches are all in the early adoption phases in most companies. Ironically, they are, in and of themselves, significant changes that must be absorbed. But the speed of digital change is relentless. “It’s just getting faster and faster,” says Quan. “And what companies are seeing is that stress and the inability to adapt to change cause reduced performance and increased absenteeism and disability rates. Leaders who see these trends know they need to pay attention,” says Quan.

Those that don’t? “They’ll go away. They’ll be history,” says Ross. “I don’t think this is an issue they can ignore.” D!


About the Authors

Andreas Hauser is Senior Vice President, Strategic Design Services and AppHaus Network, at SAP.

Paul Kurchina is a community builder with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) who focuses on digital transformation and change.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.


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

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With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball Game

Advances in technology — including speech analytics, metrics, a wider array of scrabble data, and perhaps even big data — are making gamification a must-have tool in customer relationship management, call centers, collections, sales and other business areas.

Technological advances have enabled the design of games that offer employees incentives to make customers happy.

For example, ConnectLeader in July unveiled its TopRung sales gamification and performance management tool, which works with Salesforce.

CRMGamified released Motivation Engine 3.0 in 2015, a version of its gamification platform tailored for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Microsoft itself purchased gamification platform FantasySalesTeam in 2015, and has a website dedicated to gamification help and training.

“Gamification capabilities have now been built into — or can be integrated easily into — most CRM applications,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“Effectively, gamification is applying technology to what sales and call center managers have been doing for decades — trying to incentivize certain behaviors,” she told CRM Buyer. “CRM, and call centers in particular, was an early area for leaderboards and gamification.”

Why Gamification?

Gamification appears to be a solution to one of the biggest hurdles in CRM implementation — persuading people to use the system.

Many sales professionals see administrative work as a time waster. One increasingly popular way to attract their interest is by making the updating and use of a CRM package more like a game. Good behaviors (entering data) are rewarded, and friendly competition between departments and individuals is encouraged.

“A gamification solution is the facilitator of increasing employee engagement,” observed Brett Brosseau, CEO of
FidoTrack, which has implemented high-yield gamification solutions for call centers in various industries with CallMiner.

Impact of Gamified CRMs

Microsoft published two case studies on the effect of gamification with its
acquisition of FantasySalesTeam.

One was a pilot project by Service Corporation International with 130 sales reps using FantasySalesTeam. The reps closed 88 percent more deals, on average, at 213 percent of the average contract value when compared to about 700 others.

The other was Wireless Zone, which saw a 176 percent increase in total sales, 35 percent more specific product sales, and a 9 percent increase in profits in the first month it ran FantasySalesTeam.

Organizations best suited for gamification “would be environments capturing key activity or data points across employees and teams,” FidoTrack’s Brosseau told CRM Buyer.

Another critical characteristic is to have those data points readily available to share among third-party vendors and the gamification platforms.

“Better data capture through automation and more real-time analytics and metrics — dashboards — have made it easier to operationalize data-based gamification,” Nucleus’ Wettemann noted.

The Art of Gamification

The three parts to gamifying a process, according to Brosseau, are on-boarding, implementation and ongoing management.

The process isn’t difficult, but “there can be a few challenges within each area of the gamifying experience,” he remarked.

Successful gamification requires the following:

  • a clear goal of what the company wants to achieve;
  • total organizational commitment;
  • focus; and
  • a gamification solution that can integrate with its key analytics vendor.

Training is key, Nucleus’ Wettemann said.

“Real advances are in areas where training and coaching are aligned with gamification and monitoring,” she explained, “so it’s not just pushing for desired behaviors but enabling them.”

It’s the Culture, Not the Technology

Among the major factors that hamper the gamification process, Brosseau said, are these:

  • unclear goals;
  • the inability to reliably and consistently share data with the gamification platform;
  • improper ROI evaluation; and
  • lack of focus.

The major reason these challenges crop up is that the implementation and utilization of a gamification platform requires a cultural shift, Brosseau pointed out.

“It’s critical for organizational decision makers and key influencers to both be committed,” he said. “In addition, it’s a management mentality shift. No longer are employees exclusively motivated by money like in the past.”

Prepare to Lather, Rinse and Repeat

“To gamify a process you must understand all possible outputs, not just the ones that are most desirable,” noted Denis Pombriant, principal at Beagle Research.

“It takes more than one iteration to get things right,” he told CRM Buyer.

Companies must ensure there are ways “for people to gracefully exit and re-enter later,” Pombriant noted. “Game creators have this down, and they’re worth listening to.”

Words of Caution

Technology isn’t everything, though.

“You make better customers by engaging them and by providing better end-to-end experiences, not by applying gizmos designed to speed up the process,” said Pombriant. “IT’s already moving at warp speed.”

There’s also concern over ways the gamification process
may be abused.

Ultimately, “when good managers put incentives and measures in place to drive performance, they get desired outcomes from good employees,” Nucleus’ Wettemann said. “When bad managers put gamification in place instead of real leadership, they get just what you’d expect.”
end enn With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball Game


Richard%20Adhikari With Gamification, CRM Is a Brand New Ball GameRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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