Tag Archives: Experience

5 Reasons Why Effective Data Management Is Essential for User Experience

Delivering an excellent user experience is essential to attracting and retaining customers. And although data management may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about optimizing user experience, maybe it should be.

User experience — or just UX, as really trendy folks put it — has become something of a buzzword at the intersection of IT and business.

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That has happened with good reason. In a world where a quarter of mobile users abandon an app after just one use, and where the growth in value of design-focused companies has far outpaced the stock market in recent years, the importance of user experience for driving business value is clear. (On the negative side of things, keep in mind, too, that social media and comment systems make it very easy for a user who has a bad experience to trumpet his or her problems far and wide.)

Data and the User Experience

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When you think about how to deliver a positive user experience, things like user-focused software design and rigorous application testing probably first come to mind.

However, the way you manage and deliver data is crucial to providing a positive user experience, too. Consider the following points:

  1. Applications run on data

    Virtually all applications rely on data to deliver a meaningful user experience. And the best-designed application deployed on the fastest host infrastructure will still frustrate users if the data that it needs to operate is difficult to access because of data availability or integration problems. It doesn’t matter how well designed your user interface is if the data that users want to see through the interface takes too long to load or is difficult to interpret.

  2. Data helps you understand what users want

    Assessing user expectations through anecdotal information, such as online comments, can be one way to understand user desires. But a data-driven approach is another, arguably more effective strategy. By collecting and integrating information such as how long users use a particular feature in an application, or what they do right before they stop engaging, can help you to pinpoint what users want and expect in order to give it to them.

  3. Data personalizes the user experience

    Users like feeling that you treat them as individuals, especially if they engage with you digitally and therefore do not directly interact with any humans at your organization. One way to make users feel like you recognize their individuality is to use data to personalize their experience. This is what Netflix does by recommending shows that a user might want to see based on past viewings, for example. You need well-managed data to drive this type of personalization.

  4. User perception counts as much as actual experience

    Even if the way you manage and secure data is not directly related to the user experience you deliver, users are likely to form overall impressions of your business, and their experience with it, based on how you manage data. If they sense that your business does not take data security seriously, or if efficient data management appears to be an afterthought, users are likely to form negative impressions of your organization, no matter what their actual experience with it is.

  5. Users need data integration, too

    When we talk about data integration, the conversation tends to focus on how data integration can help your business to make sense of all of its data by analyzing it through a single pane of glass. But data integration matters for users, too. For example, if you are an online retailer, you don’t want to present your users with a bunch of confusing data sets about different elements of their shopping history. Instead, you want to aggregate data into a single place and provide visualizations that help them to interpret it. Maybe you use graphs to show how their purchases compare across different categories, for example. That’s a lot better than only allowing users to view each past sales record individually.

Make sure to download our eBook, “The New Rules for Your Data Landscape“, and take a look at the rules that are transforming the relationship between business and IT.

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Syncsort Blog

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Customer Experience Superhero? [Quiz]

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In a world where data drives business success, there can be no room for error. Systems must operate efficiently, easily, and accurately to ensure excellent customer experiences. However, PowerObjects’ resident Superhero, Joe D365, has once again been pitted against one of his most unruly nemeses – Doctor Dirty Data. Joe D365 is calling on all available Customer Experience Superheroes to rid the world the world of the mayhem Doctor Dirty Data spreads. Is that you?

Do you have what it takes? Are you a Customer Experience Superhero? Take the quiz to find out if you have what it takes to join Joe D365.

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Clean, reliable data is critical to business success. By ensuring the world’s data is safe and secure, you and Joe D365 will ensure Dynamics 365 can continue to drive business innovation and positive customer experiences around the globe.

Joe’s waiting. Take the quiz now and see if you have what it takes to drive business innovation and become a Customer Experience Superhero.

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

D365 In Focus: The PowerObjects Experience at D365UG Summit EMEA [VIDEO]

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PowerObjects was a sponsor and contributor of educational Microsoft Dynamics 365 content galore at this year’s D365 User Group Summit EMEA in Dublin. This was the second year Dynamics Communities held their user group Summit in Europe and the PowerObjects team hosted over 16 educational sessions, one “Dynamic” partner showcase, and we brought a whopping 21 staff members to work our booth and answer questions about Dynamics 365. Check out our recap video of the event to see what we were up to during the week!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

E-Commerce Alert: How Non-Functional Requirements Impact User Experience

For nerds, the weeks right before finals are a Cinderella moment. Suddenly they’re stars. Pocket protectors are fashionable; people find their jokes a whole lot funnier; Dungeons & Dragons sounds cool.

Many CIOs are enjoying this kind of moment now, as companies everywhere face the business equivalent of a final exam for a vital class they have managed to mostly avoid so far: digital transformation.

But as always, there is a limit to nerdy magic. No matter how helpful CIOs try to be, their classmates still won’t pass if they don’t learn the material. With IT increasingly central to every business—from the customer experience to the offering to the business model itself—we all need to start thinking like CIOs.

Pass the digital transformation exam, and you probably have a bright future ahead. A recent SAP-Oxford Economics study of 3,100 organizations in a variety of industries across 17 countries found that the companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation earn higher profits and revenues and have more competitive differentiation than their peers. They also expect 23% more revenue growth from their digital initiatives over the next two years—an estimate 2.5 to 4 times larger than the average company’s.

But the market is grading on a steep curve: this same SAP-Oxford study found that only 3% have completed some degree of digital transformation across their organization. Other surveys also suggest that most companies won’t be graduating anytime soon: in one recent survey of 450 heads of digital transformation for enterprises in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany by technology company Couchbase, 90% agreed that most digital projects fail to meet expectations and deliver only incremental improvements. Worse: over half (54%) believe that organizations that don’t succeed with their transformation project will fail or be absorbed by a savvier competitor within four years.

Companies that are making the grade understand that unlike earlier technical advances, digital transformation doesn’t just support the business, it’s the future of the business. That’s why 60% of digital leading companies have entrusted the leadership of their transformation to their CIO, and that’s why experts say businesspeople must do more than have a vague understanding of the technology. They must also master a way of thinking and looking at business challenges that is unfamiliar to most people outside the IT department.

In other words, if you don’t think like a CIO yet, now is a very good time to learn.

However, given that you probably don’t have a spare 15 years to learn what your CIO knows, we asked the experts what makes CIO thinking distinctive. Here are the top eight mind hacks.

1. Think in Systems

Q118 Feature3 img1 Jump E Commerce Alert: How Non Functional Requirements Impact User ExperienceA lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

CIOs have known for a long time that smart processes win. Whether they were installing enterprise resource planning systems or working with the business to imagine the customer’s journey, they always had to think in holistic ways that crossed traditional departmental, functional, and operational boundaries.

Unlike other business leaders, CIOs spend their careers looking across systems. Why did our supply chain go down? How can we support this new business initiative beyond a single department or function? Now supported by end-to-end process methodologies such as design thinking, good CIOs have developed a way of looking at the company that can lead to radical simplifications that can reduce cost and improve performance at the same time.

They are also used to thinking beyond temporal boundaries. “This idea that the power of technology doubles every two years means that as you’re planning ahead you can’t think in terms of a linear process, you have to think in terms of huge jumps,” says Jay Ferro, CIO of TransPerfect, a New York–based global translation firm.

No wonder the SAP-Oxford transformation study found that one of the values transformational leaders shared was a tendency to look beyond silos and view the digital transformation as a company-wide initiative.

This will come in handy because in digital transformation, not only do business processes evolve but the company’s entire value proposition changes, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It either already has or it’s going to, because digital technologies make things possible that weren’t possible before,” she explains.

2. Work in Diverse Teams

When it comes to large projects, CIOs have always needed input from a diverse collection of businesspeople to be successful. The best have developed ways to convince and cajole reluctant participants to come to the table. They seek out technology enthusiasts in the business and those who are respected by their peers to help build passion and commitment among the halfhearted.

Digital transformation amps up the urgency for building diverse teams even further. “A small, focused group simply won’t have the same breadth of perspective as a team that includes a salesperson and a service person and a development person, as well as an IT person,” says Ross.

At Lenovo, the global technology giant, many of these cross-functional teams become so used to working together that it’s hard to tell where each member originally belonged: “You can’t tell who is business or IT; you can’t tell who is product, IT, or design,” says the company’s CIO, Arthur Hu.

One interesting corollary of this trend toward broader teamwork is that talent is a priority among digital leaders: they spend more on training their employees and partners than ordinary companies, as well as on hiring the people they need, according to the SAP-Oxford Economics survey. They’re also already being rewarded for their faith in their teams: 71% of leaders say that their successful digital transformation has made it easier for them to attract and retain talent, and 64% say that their employees are now more engaged than they were before the transformation.

3. Become a Consultant

Good CIOs have long needed to be internal consultants to the business. Ever since technology moved out of the glasshouse and onto employees’ desks, CIOs have not only needed a deep understanding of the goals of a given project but also to make sure that the project didn’t stray from those goals, even after the businesspeople who had ordered the project went back to their day jobs. “Businesspeople didn’t really need to get into the details of what IT was really doing,” recalls Ferro. “They just had a set of demands and said, ‘Hey, IT, go do that.’”

But that was then. Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants. “If you’re building a house, you don’t just disappear for six months and come back and go, ‘Oh, it looks pretty good,’” says Ferro. “You’re on that work site constantly and all of a sudden you’re looking at something, going, ‘Well, that looked really good on the blueprint, not sure it makes sense in reality. Let’s move that over six feet.’ Or, ‘I don’t know if I like that anymore.’ It’s really not much different in application development or for IT or technical projects, where on paper it looked really good and three weeks in, in that second sprint, you’re going, ‘Oh, now that I look at it, that’s really stupid.’”

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

CIOs have always needed the ability to educate and influence other leaders that they don’t directly control. For major IT projects to be successful, they need other leaders to contribute budget, time, and resources from multiple areas of the business.

It’s a kind of horizontal leadership that will become critical for businesspeople to acquire in digital transformation. “The leadership role becomes one much more of coaching others across the organization—encouraging people to be creative, making sure everybody knows how to use data well,” Ross says.

In this team-based environment, having all the answers becomes less important. “It used to be that the best business executives and leaders had the best answers. Today that is no longer the case,” observes Gary Cokins, a technology consultant who focuses on analytics-based performance management. “Increasingly, it’s the executives and leaders who ask the best questions. There is too much volatility and uncertainty for them to rely on their intuition or past experiences.”

Many experts expect this trend to continue as the confluence of automation and data keeps chipping away at the organizational pyramid. “Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership will become obsolete,” says Edward Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “Flatter, distributive leadership via teams will become the dominant structure.”

Q118 Feature3 img3 rock E Commerce Alert: How Non Functional Requirements Impact User Experience5. Understand Process Design

When business processes were simpler, IT could analyze the process and improve it without input from the business. But today many processes are triggered on the fly by the customer, making a seamless customer experience more difficult to build without the benefit of a larger, multifunctional team. In a highly digitalized organization like Amazon, which releases thousands of new software programs each year, IT can no longer do it all.

While businesspeople aren’t expected to start coding, their involvement in process design is crucial. One of the techniques that many organizations have adopted to help IT and businesspeople visualize business processes together is design thinking (for more on design thinking techniques, see “A Cult of Creation“).

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better processes. Among the 100 companies the SAP-Oxford Economics researchers have identified as digital leaders, two-thirds say that they are making their employees’ lives easier by eliminating process roadblocks that interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Ninety percent of leaders surveyed expect to see value from these projects in the next two years alone.

6. Learn to Keep Learning

The ability to learn and keep learning has been a part of IT from the start. Since the first mainframes in the 1950s, technologists have understood that they need to keep reinventing themselves and their skills to adapt to the changes around them.

Now that’s starting to become part of other job descriptions too. Many companies are investing in teaching their employees new digital skills. One South American auto products company, for example, has created a custom-education institute that trained 20,000 employees and partner-employees in 2016. In addition to training current staff, many leading digital companies are also hiring new employees and creating new roles, such as a chief robotics officer, to support their digital transformation efforts.

Nicolas van Zeebroeck, professor of information systems and digital business innovation at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, says that he expects the ability to learn quickly will remain crucial. “If I had to think of one critical skill,” he explains, “I would have to say it’s the ability to learn and keep learning—the ability to challenge the status quo and question what you take for granted.”

7. Fail Smarter

Traditionally, CIOs tended to be good at thinking through tests that would allow the company to experiment with new technology without risking the entire network.

This is another unfamiliar skill that smart managers are trying to pick up. “There’s a lot of trial and error in the best companies right now,” notes MIT’s Ross. But there’s a catch, she adds. “Most companies aren’t designed for trial and error—they’re trying to avoid an error,” she says.

Q118 Feature3 img4 fail E Commerce Alert: How Non Functional Requirements Impact User ExperienceTo learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

For example, business managers must learn how to think in terms of a minimum viable product: build a simple version of what you have in mind, test it, and if it works start building. You don’t build the whole thing at once anymore.… It’s really important to build things incrementally,” Ross says.

Flexibility and the ability to capitalize on accidental discoveries during experimentation are more important than having a concrete project plan, says Ross. At Spotify, the music service, and CarMax, the used-car retailer, change is driven not from the center but from small teams that have developed something new. “The thing you have to get comfortable with is not having the formalized plan that we would have traditionally relied on, because as soon as you insist on that, you limit your ability to keep learning,” Ross warns.

8. Understand the True Cost—and Speed—of Data

Gut instincts have never had much to do with being a CIO; now they should have less to do with being an ordinary manager as well, as data becomes more important.

As part of that calculation, businesspeople must have the ability to analyze the value of the data that they seek. “You’ll need to apply a pinch of knowledge salt to your data,” advises Solvay’s van Zeebroeck. “What really matters is the ability not just to tap into data but to see what is behind the data. Is it a fair representation? Is it impartial?”

Increasingly, businesspeople will need to do their analysis in real time, just as CIOs have always had to manage live systems and processes. Moving toward real-time reports and away from paper-based decisions increases accuracy and effectiveness—and leaves less time for long meetings and PowerPoint presentations (let us all rejoice).

Not Every CIO Is Ready

Of course, not all CIOs are ready for these changes. Just as high school has a lot of false positives—genius nerds who turn out to be merely nearsighted—so there are many CIOs who aren’t good role models for transformation.

Success as a CIO these days requires more than delivering near-perfect uptime, says Lenovo’s Hu. You need to be able to understand the business as well. Some CIOs simply don’t have all the business skills that are needed to succeed in the transformation. Others lack the internal clout: a 2016 KPMG study found that only 34% of CIOs report directly to the CEO.

This lack of a strategic perspective is holding back digital transformation at many organizations. They approach digital transformation as a cool, one-off project: we’re going to put this new mobile app in place and we’re done. But that’s not a systematic approach; it’s an island of innovation that doesn’t join up with the other islands of innovation. In the longer term, this kind of development creates more problems than it fixes.

Such organizations are not building in the capacity for change; they’re trying to get away with just doing it once rather than thinking about how they’re going to use digitalization as a means to constantly experiment and become a better company over the long term.

Q118 Feature3 img6 CIOready E Commerce Alert: How Non Functional Requirements Impact User ExperienceAs a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Thanks to cloud computing and easier development tools, many departments are developing on their own, without IT’s support. These days, anybody with a credit card can do it.

Traditionally, IT departments looked askance at these kinds of do-it-yourself shadow IT programs, but that’s changing. Ferro, for one, says that it’s better to look at those teams not as rogue groups but as people who are trying to help. “It’s less about ‘Hey, something’s escaped,’ and more about ‘No, we just actually grew our capacity and grew our ability to innovate,’” he explains.

“I don’t like the term ‘shadow IT,’” agrees Lenovo’s Hu. “I think it’s an artifact of a very traditional CIO team. If you think of it as shadow IT, you’re out of step with reality,” he says.

The reality today is that a company needs both a strong IT department and strong digital capacities outside its IT department. If the relationship is good, the CIO and IT become valuable allies in helping businesspeople add digital capabilities without disrupting or duplicating existing IT infrastructure.

If a company already has strong digital capacities, it should be able to move forward quickly, according to Ross. But many companies are still playing catch-up and aren’t even ready to begin transforming, as the SAP-Oxford Economics survey shows.

For enterprises where business and IT are unable to get their collective act together, Ross predicts that the next few years will be rough. “I think these companies ought to panic,” she says. D!


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer at SAP and Managing Director of SAP Labs.

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

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Digitalist Magazine

The Customer Experience Impact [VIDEO]

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How you interact with your customers matters. As technology evolves so do the needs of our customers. Microsoft’s stack of applications provide a unified platform that enables users to engage with customers, empower employees, and improve service levels and responsiveness. What impact do you have on your customers? Watch our video to learn how you can achieve a superior customer experience with Microsoft Dynamics 365:

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Livestream: P&G Innovator Talk on Rethinking Your Customer Experience Strategy

Live Broadcast 300x225 Livestream: P&G Innovator Talk on Rethinking Your Customer Experience Strategy

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s no hiding from the experiential brand revolution that is taking our global marketplace by force. In this live-streamed event, watch keynote speaker Dustin Garis share customer experience strategy lessons from the world’s most-innovative brands. You may be surprised about which industries you should be looking to for innovation in customer experience.

Garis will bring the same no-holds-barred approach to his keynotes that help him blaze trails in the world’s largest companies and entrepreneurial startups. His deep insights and charismatic persona keep audiences captivated while helping organizations embark on the next frontier of innovation—whether he’s break-dancing on stage or blowing wide open the rise of the “experience economy” with anecdotes and visuals. With a particular focus on how brands can enrich lives, Garis offers examples of brands that are getting it right by “revolting against routine,” and creating memorable experiences to drive engagement among Millennial consumers and employees.

Join us! Event details:

  • Location: Online livestream
  • Date: Thursday, April 12 at 9AM CST (Chicago)
  • Register here OR Can’t make it but want a recording? We’ve got you! Just register now and we’ll send you a recording a few days after the live event.

040318 2036 LivestreamP1 Livestream: P&G Innovator Talk on Rethinking Your Customer Experience Strategy

Who would benefit from watching this broadcast?

  • Business Drivers
  • Marketing Leaders
  • Customer Experience Strategists
  • Sales Agents
  • Brand Managers

What will you take away from this broadcast?

  • Discover the human side of CRM and ERP
  • See examples of specific industries and companies that are getting it right
  • Participate in a live Q&A

We hope you’re able to tune in on April 12! Until then, happy Dynamics 365-ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer Experience

In a future teeming with robots and artificial intelligence, humans seem to be on the verge of being crowded out. But in reality the opposite is true.

To be successful, organizations need to become more human than ever.

Organizations that focus only on automation will automate away their competitive edge. The most successful will focus instead on skills that set them apart and that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning. Those skills can be summed up in one word: humanness.

You can see it in the numbers. According to David J. Deming of the Harvard Kennedy School, demand for jobs that require social skills has risen nearly 12 percentage points since 1980, while less-social jobs, such as computer coding, have declined by a little over 3 percentage points.

AI is in its infancy, which means that it cannot yet come close to duplicating our most human skills. Stefan van Duin and Naser Bakhshi, consultants at professional services company Deloitte, break down artificial intelligence into two types: narrow and general. Narrow AI is good at specific tasks, such as playing chess or identifying facial expressions. General AI, which can learn and solve complex, multifaceted problems the way a human being does, exists today only in the minds of futurists.

The only thing narrow artificial intelligence can do is automate. It can’t empathize. It can’t collaborate. It can’t innovate. Those abilities, if they ever come, are still a long way off. In the meantime, AI’s biggest value is in augmentation. When human beings work with AI tools, the process results in a sort of augmented intelligence. This augmented intelligence outperforms the work of either human beings or AI software tools on their own.

Q118 ft2 image1 DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer Experience

AI-powered tools will be the partners that free employees and management to tackle higher-level challenges.

Those challenges will, by default, be more human and social in nature because many rote, repetitive tasks will be automated away. Companies will find that developing fundamental human skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, within the organization will take on a new importance. These skills can’t be automated and they won’t become process steps for algorithms anytime soon.

In a world where technology change is constant and unpredictable, those organizations that make the fullest use of uniquely human skills will win. These skills will be used in collaboration with both other humans and AI-fueled software and hardware tools. The degree of humanness an organization possesses will become a competitive advantage.

This means that today’s companies must think about hiring, training, and leading differently. Most of today’s corporate training programs focus on imparting specific knowledge that will likely become obsolete over time.

Instead of hiring for portfolios of specific subject knowledge, organizations should instead hire—and train—for more foundational skills, whose value can’t erode away as easily.

Recently, educational consulting firm Hanover Research looked at high-growth occupations identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and determined the core skills required in each of them based on a database that it had developed. The most valuable skills were active listening, speaking, and critical thinking—giving lie to the dismissive term soft skills. They’re not soft; they’re human.

Q118 ft2 image2 softskills DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer Experience
This doesn’t mean that STEM skills won’t be important in the future. But organizations will find that their most valuable employees are those with both math and social skills.

That’s because technical skills will become more perishable as AI shifts the pace of technology change from linear to exponential. Employees will require constant retraining over time. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is already outdated by the time students graduate, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The WEF’s report further notes that “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.” By contrast, human skills such as interpersonal communication and project management will remain consistent over the years.

For example, organizations already report that they are having difficulty finding people equipped for the Big Data era’s hot job: data scientist. That’s because data scientists need a combination of hard and soft skills. Data scientists can’t just be good programmers and statisticians; they also need to be intuitive and inquisitive and have good communication skills. We don’t expect all these qualities from our engineering graduates, nor from most of our employees.

But we need to start.

From Self-Help to Self-Skills

Even if most schools and employers have yet to see it, employees are starting to understand that their future viability depends on improving their innately human qualities. One of the most popular courses on Coursera, an online learning platform, is called Learning How to Learn. Created by the University of California, San Diego, the course is essentially a master class in human skills: students learn everything from memory techniques to dealing with procrastination and communicating complicated ideas, according to an article in The New York Times.

Although there is a longstanding assumption that social skills are innate, nothing is further from the truth. As the popularity of Learning How to Learn attests, human skills—everything from learning skills to communication skills to empathy—can, and indeed must, be taught.

These human skills are integral for training workers for a workplace where artificial intelligence and automation are part of the daily routine. According to the WEF’s New Vision for Education report, the skills that employees will need in the future fall into three primary categories:

  • Foundational literacies: These core skills needed for the coming age of robotics and AI include understanding the basics of math, science, computing, finance, civics, and culture. While mastery of every topic isn’t required, workers who have a basic comprehension of many different areas will be richly rewarded in the coming economy.
  • Competencies: Developing competencies requires mastering very human skills, such as active listening, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
  • Character qualities: Over the next decade, employees will need to master the skills that will help them grasp changing job duties and responsibilities. This means learning the skills that help employees acquire curiosity, initiative, persistence, grit, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness.

Q118 ft2 image4 usingsoftskills DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer Experience
The good news is that learning human skills is not completely divorced from how work is structured today. Yonatan Zunger, a Google engineer with a background working with AI, argues that there is a considerable need for human skills in the workplace already—especially in the tech world. Many employees are simply unaware that when they are working on complicated software or hardware projects, they are using empathy, strategic problem solving, intuition, and interpersonal communication.

The unconscious deployment of human skills takes place even more frequently when employees climb the corporate ladder into management. “This is closely tied to the deeper difference between junior and senior roles: a junior person’s job is to find answers to questions; a senior person’s job is to find the right questions to ask,” says Zunger.

Human skills will be crucial to navigating the AI-infused workplace. There will be no shortage of need for the right questions to ask.

One of the biggest changes narrow AI tools will bring to the workplace is an evolution in how work is performed. AI-based tools will automate repetitive tasks across a wide swath of industries, which means that the day-to-day work for many white-collar workers will become far more focused on tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking. These tasks will present challenges centered on interpersonal collaboration, clear communication, and autonomous decision-making—all human skills.

Being More Human Is Hard

However, the human skills that are essential for tomorrow’s AI-ified workplace, such as interpersonal communication, project planning, and conflict management, require a different approach from traditional learning. Often, these skills don’t just require people to learn new facts and techniques; they also call for basic changes in the ways individuals behave on—and off—the job.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing. As science gains a better understanding of how the human brain works, many behaviors that affect employees on the job are understood to be universal and natural rather than individual (see “Human Skills 101”).

Human Skills 101

As neuroscience has improved our understanding of the brain, human skills have become increasingly quantifiable—and teachable.

Though the term soft skills has managed to hang on in the popular lexicon, our understanding of these human skills has increased to the point where they aren’t soft at all: they are a clearly definable set of skills that are crucial for organizations in the AI era.

Active listening: Paying close attention when receiving information and drawing out more information than received in normal discourse

Critical thinking: Gathering, analyzing, and evaluating issues and information to come to an unbiased conclusion

Problem solving: Finding solutions to problems and understanding the steps used to solve the problem

Decision-making: Weighing the evidence and options at hand to determine a specific course of action

Monitoring: Paying close attention to an issue, topic, or interaction in order to retain information for the future

Coordination: Working with individuals and other groups to achieve common goals

Social perceptiveness: Inferring what others are thinking by observing them

Time management: Budgeting and allocating time for projects and goals and structuring schedules to minimize conflicts and maximize productivity

Creativity: Generating ideas, concepts, or inferences that can be used to create new things

Curiosity: Desiring to learn and understand new or unfamiliar concepts

Imagination: Conceiving and thinking about new ideas, concepts, or images

Storytelling: Building narratives and concepts out of both new and existing ideas

Experimentation: Trying out new ideas, theories, and activities

Ethics: Practicing rules and standards that guide conduct and guarantee rights and fairness

Empathy: Identifying and understanding the emotional states of others

Collaboration: Working with others, coordinating efforts, and sharing resources to accomplish a common project

Resiliency: Withstanding setbacks, avoiding discouragement, and persisting toward a larger goal

Resistance to change, for example, is now known to result from an involuntary chemical reaction in the brain known as the fight-or-flight response, not from a weakness of character. Scientists and psychologists have developed objective ways of identifying these kinds of behaviors and have come up with universally applicable ways for employees to learn how to deal with them.

Organizations that emphasize such individual behavioral traits as active listening, social perceptiveness, and experimentation will have both an easier transition to a workplace that uses AI tools and more success operating in it.

Framing behavioral training in ways that emphasize its practical application at work and in advancing career goals helps employees feel more comfortable confronting behavioral roadblocks without feeling bad about themselves or stigmatized by others. It also helps organizations see the potential ROI of investing in what has traditionally been dismissed as touchy-feely stuff.

Q118 ft2 image3 automation DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer ExperienceIn fact, offering objective means for examining inner behaviors and tools for modifying them is more beneficial than just leaving the job to employees. For example, according to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, introspection, which is how most of us try to understand our behaviors, can actually be counterproductive.

Human beings are complex creatures. There is generally way too much going on inside our minds to be able to pinpoint the conscious and unconscious behaviors that drive us to act the way we do. We wind up inventing explanations—usually negative—for our behaviors, which can lead to anxiety and depression, according to Eurich’s research.

Structured, objective training can help employees improve their human skills without the negative side effects. At SAP, for example, we offer employees a course on conflict resolution that uses objective research techniques for determining what happens when people get into conflicts. Employees learn about the different conflict styles that researchers have identified and take an assessment to determine their own style of dealing with conflict. Then employees work in teams to discuss their different styles and work together to resolve a specific conflict that one of the group members is currently experiencing.

Q118 ft2 image5 talkingtoAI DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer ExperienceHow Knowing One’s Self Helps the Organization

Courses like this are helpful not just for reducing conflicts between individuals and among teams (and improving organizational productivity); they also contribute to greater self-awareness, which is the basis for enabling people to take fullest advantage of their human skills.

Self-awareness is a powerful tool for improving performance at both the individual and organizational levels. Self-aware people are more confident and creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. They are also less likely to lie, cheat, and steal, according to Eurich.

It naturally follows that such people make better employees and are more likely to be promoted. They also make more effective leaders with happier employees, which makes the organization more profitable, according to research by Atuma Okpara and Agwu M. Edwin.

There are two types of self-awareness, writes Eurich. One is having a clear view inside of one’s self: one’s own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses. The second type is understanding how others view us in terms of these same categories.

Interestingly, while we often assume that those who possess one type of awareness also possess the other, there is no direct correlation between the two. In fact, just 10% to 15% of people have both, according to a survey by Eurich. That means that the vast majority of us must learn one or the other—or both.

Gaining self-awareness is a process that can take many years. But training that gives employees the opportunity to examine their own behaviors against objective standards and gain feedback from expert instructors and peers can help speed up the journey. Just like the conflict management course, there are many ways to do this in a practical context that benefits employees and the organization alike.

For example, SAP also offers courses on building self-confidence, increasing trust with peers, creating connections with others, solving complex problems, and increasing resiliency in the face of difficult situations—all of which increase self-awareness in constructive ways. These human-skills courses are as popular with our employees as the hard-skill courses in new technologies or new programming techniques.

Depending on an organization’s size, budget, and goals, learning programs like these can include small group training, large lectures, online courses, licensing of third-party online content, reimbursement for students to attain certification, and many other models.
Q118 ft2 image6 AIandhumans DD Six Ways Customer Service Can Transform Customer Experience

Human Skills Are the Constant

Automation and artificial intelligence will change the workplace in unpredictable ways. One thing we can predict, however, is that human skills will be needed more than ever.

The connection between conflict resolution skills, critical thinking courses, and the rise of AI-aided technology might not be immediately obvious. But these new AI tools are leading us down the path to a much more human workplace.

Employees will interact with their computers through voice conversations and image recognition. Machine learning will find unexpected correlations in massive amounts of data but empathy and creativity will be required for data scientists to figure out the right questions to ask. Interpersonal communication will become even more important as teams coordinate between offices, remote workplaces, and AI aides.

While the future might be filled with artificial intelligence, deep learning, and untold amounts of data, uniquely human capabilities will be the ones that matter. Machines can’t write a symphony, design a building, teach a college course, or manage a department. The future belongs to humans working with machines, and for that, you need human skills. D!


About the Authors

Jenny Dearborn is Chief Learning Officer at SAP.

David Judge is Vice President, SAP Leonardo, at SAP.

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

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

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Digitalist Magazine

How Can Analytics Improve the Customer Experience?

Customer Experience Analytics How Can Analytics Improve the Customer Experience?

Communications Service Providers are competing on customer experience powered by data, advanced analytics and connected decisions. In this third and final article of our series, we take a look at how embedding real-time analytics can lead to higher customer satisfaction.

We have already discussed how CSPs have internal obstacles to overcome with regard to understanding the data at their disposal, turning insight into operational decisions that improve customer satisfaction and designing processes from a customer perspective

According to research by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT and published in Harvard Business Review (October 2017), “Companies that inject big data and analytics into their operations show productivity rates and profitability that are 5% to 6% higher than their peers.” Embedding advanced analytics into operational and decision processes will increase speed, agility and impact.

This is what we have observed at FICO, working with businesses in multiple industries to use advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics. For example:

  • Avis Europe increased their car fleet utilisation by two points, resulting in an economic gain of $ 19 million, including an improved customer experience by ensuring that the right car is in the right place for the right customer.
  • Canadian retailer Loblaws are able to calculate individually appropriate offers for around 10 million loyalty members, translating to 90 million predictive offers per week and a 200% increase in response rates.
  • Southwest Airlines, the largest domestic carrier in the US, uses analytics across the complex logistics of profitably running an airline. Optimised decisions have reduced the cost of purchasing fuel by $ 20 million p/a, increased on-time flight performance by 2% and reduced connection times for passengers and crew by an average of 5 minutes.

These businesses share a desire to really improve the experience for their customers by having the most complete and current picture that data allows and having the ability to act upon that information.  Furthermore, having centralised decision centres enables a single source of truth and thus a consistent view of how actions have knock-on impacts across other business areas.

With CSPs having access to incredibly rich data which can be streamed in real time, there is huge scope to utilise this in order to enrich the overall customer experience.  Data is fluid and begins to lose value once it has been generated.  In the CSP world, data could include location, time of day, type of use — activity which can be used to understand the context of a customer’s behaviour and create insight that enables the right offers or assistance to be offered via the right channel.  Similarly, network operations will be able to better predict and mitigate network capacity and maintenance, thereby reducing the risk of network downtime and impact to revenue.

When coupled with machine learning capabilities, the power to learn the “unknown unknowns” from outlier data results in decisions that adapt to shifts as customer behaviour changes.  Therefore, the interactions with those customers can be based on up-to-date knowledge and personalised to the context of the situation.

Ultimately, the CSPs that genuinely compete on customer experience through advanced analytics and decision management will focus on better customer outcomes. This is the path to growth.

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