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Growth for Customer Loyalty Programs Slowing: Census

Membership in loyalty programs grew at 15 percent this year to total 3.8 billion, according to the recently published
2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census Report.

The growth rate recorded in the 2015 loyalty census, when membership stood at 3.3 billion, was 26 percent.

Growth has slowed because the United States is a maturing market, said Melissa Fruend, author of the report.

Mergers and acquisitions in the grocery sector, which saw memberships plummet 24 percent from 188 million to 142 million, were another factor.

However, the financial services sector is growing strongly, mainly due to cash back incentives. Membership is 664 million compared with 578 million in 2015.

The retail sector, with 1.6 billion reward program memberships, dominates the field. The travel and hospitality sector comes next with 1.1 billion memberships.

One of the most dynamic sectors is the other/emerging sector, covering online-only offerings, entertainment, daily deals, point aggregators and card-linked offers. With 462 million members, this sector makes up about 12 percent of the total membership market, according to the report.

What Drives Members

Emotion was the biggest driver across all groups represented in the census, with loyal customers most often choosing “I love the brand/retailer/service” as their main reason for participating.

Other findings:

  • 53 percent of consumers identified ease of use as the main reason for participating in a loyalty program;
  • 39 percent cited great discounts as the reason;
  • 37 percent cited ease of understanding the program;
  • 57 percent said they abandoned a program because it took too long to earn points or miles; and
  • 51 percent said they trusted loyalty programs with their personal data.

“A bad structure can impact any sector,” Colloquy’s Fruend told CRM Buyer. “As a guideline, if your best customer can’t earn a program’s lowest level reward in three to six months, your model is broken. Why would they stay around?”

As for ease of understanding, “the single biggest problem is when the consumer doesn’t understand the program value proposition,” said Freund — that is, “what’s in it for me?”

Another problem arises when the experience isn’t seamless, such as when a brand puts too much onus on customers to notify it that they’ve made a purchase, for example.

Still, business is good.

“Anything that sees double digit growth is very healthy,” noted Michael Jude, a research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Must Work Harder

Retailers have to step up efforts to attract and retain loyalty program members, Fruend suggested.

This applies to “all loyalty programs, in-person and online,” she added.

Meanwhile, brands must optimize the overall experience for their best customers by creating more personalized and relevant experiences for their best customers.

“Do loyalty with the customer, not to the customer,” Fruend suggested. “Utilize data to serve the customer by sending relevant offers and communications. Also consider offering rewards that are experiential instead of discount-driven.”

People say they want a discount, “but what they really want is an experience. Experiences translate recognition better than discounts,” Fruend remarked.

The Problem of Plenitude

“One significant barrier to adoption in loyalty programs is that there are simply so many of them,” Frost’s Jude told CRM Buyer. “It isn’t practical for the average consumer to keep track of all the loyalty programs they might be a part of.”

Further, loyalty gets diluted when customers join a number of loyalty programs.

Joining a loyalty program “doesn’t always indicate online loyalty,” suggested Paula Rosenblum, a managing partner at RSR Research.

“It indicates some kind of perk or other reason to sign up,” she told CRM Buyer.

How Online Businesses Can Improve Loyalty

Implementing big data systems might help online businesses improve customer loyalty, Frost’s Jude suggested.

“If you have a great deal of telemetry on your customers and can tailor specific offers based on their buying habits, credit history and so forth, you can improve their satisfaction and increase sales,” he explained.

Amazon used to give customers a freebie at the end of the year, Jude recalled. “I had the option of getting my books at a local bookstore, but after the first year with Amazon, I wanted to get more coffee mugs.”
end enn Growth for Customer Loyalty Programs Slowing: Census

Richard%20Adhikari Growth for Customer Loyalty Programs Slowing: CensusRichard 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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Account-Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not Campaigns

Some moments are so instantly, indelibly etched into pop culture that they shape the way we think for years to come. For virtual reality (VR), that moment may have been the scene in the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix when the Keanu Reeves character Neo learns that his entire life has been a computer-generated simulation so fully realized that he could have lived it out never knowing that he was actually an inert body in an isolation tank. Ever since, that has set the benchmark for VR: as a digital experience that seems completely, convincingly real.

Today, no one is going to be unaware, Matrix-like, that they’re wearing an Oculus Rift or a Google Cardboard headset, but the virtual worlds already available to us are catching up to what we’ve imagined they could be at a startling rate. It’s been hard to miss all the Pokémon Go players bumping into one another on the street as they chased animated characters rendered in augmented reality (AR), which overlays and even blends digital artifacts seamlessly with the actual environment around us.

For all the justifiable hype about the exploding consumer market for VR and, to a lesser extent, AR, there’s surprisingly little discussion of their latent business value—and that’s a blind spot that companies and CIOs can’t afford to have. It hasn’t been that long since consumer demand for the iPhone and iPad forced companies, grumbling all the way, into finding business cases for them.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images1 Account Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not CampaignsIf digitally enhanced reality generates even half as much consumer enthusiasm as smartphones and tablets, you can expect to see a new wave of consumerization of IT as employees who have embraced VR and AR at home insist on bringing it to the workplace. This wave of consumerization could have an even greater impact than the last one. Rather than risk being blindsided for a second time, organizations would be well advised to take a proactive approach and be ready with potential business uses for VR and AR technologies by the time they invade the enterprise.

They don’t have much time to get started.

The two technologies are already making inroads in fields as diverse as medicine, warehouse operations, and retail. And make no mistake: the possibilities are breathtaking. VR can bring human eyes to locations that are difficult, dangerous, or physically impossible for the human body, while AR can deliver vast amounts of contextual information and guidance at the precise time and place they’re needed.

As consumer adoption and acceptance drives down costs, enterprise use cases for VR and AR will blossom. In fact, these technologies could potentially revolutionize the way companies communicate, manage employees, and digitize and automate operations. Yet revolution is rarely bloodless. The impact will probably alter many aspects of the workplace that we currently take for granted, and we need to think through the implications of those changes.

VR and AR are related, but they’re not so much siblings as cousins. VR is immersive. It creates a fully realized digital environment that users experience through goggles or screens (and sometimes additional equipment that provides physical feedback) that make them feel like they’re surrounded by and interacting entirely within this created world.

AR, by contrast, is additive. It displays text or images in glasses, on a window or windshield, or inside a mirror, but the user is still aware of and interacting with reality. There is also an emerging hybrid called “mixed reality,” which is essentially AR with VR-quality digital elements, that superimposes holographic images on reality so convincingly that trying to touch them is the only way to be sure they aren’t actually there.

Although VR is a hot topic, especially in the consumer gaming world, AR has far more enterprise use cases, and several enterprise apps are already in production. In fact, industry analyst Digi-Capital forecasts that while VR companies will generate US$ 30 billion in revenue by 2020, AR companies will generate $ 120 billion, or four times as much.

Both numbers are enormous, especially given how new the VR/AR market is. As recently as 2014, it barely existed, and almost nothing available was appropriate for enterprise users. What’s more, the market is evolving so quickly that standards and industry leaders have yet to emerge. There’s no guarantee that early market entrants like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and HTC’s Vive will continue to exist, never mind set enduring benchmarks.

Nonetheless, it’s already clear that these technologies will have a major impact on both internal and customer-facing business. They will make customer service more accurate, personalized, and relevant. They will reduce human risk and enhance public safety. They will streamline operations and smash physical boundaries. And that’s just the beginning.

Cleveland Clinic: Healing from the Next Room

Medicine is already testing the limits of learning with VR and AR.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 imageseight Account Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not CampaignsThe most potentially disruptive operational use of VR and AR could be in education and training. With VR, students can be immersed in any environment, from medieval architecture to molecular biology, in classroom groups or on demand, to better understand what they’re studying. And no industry is pursuing this with more enthusiasm than medicine. Even though Google Glass hasn’t been widely adopted elsewhere, for example, it’s been a big success story in the medical world.

Pamela Davis, MD, senior vice president for medical affairs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the leading proponents of medical education using VR and AR. She’s the dean of the university’s medical school, which is working with Cleveland Clinic to develop the Microsoft HoloLens “mixed reality” device for medical education and training, turning MRIs and other conventional 2D medical images into 3D images that can be projected at the site of a procedure for training and guidance during surgery. “As you push a catheter into the heart or place a deep brain stimulation electrode, you can see where you want to be and guide your actions by watching the hologram,” Davis explains.

The HoloLens can also be programmed as a “lead” device that transmits those images and live video to other “learner” devices, allowing the person wearing the lead device to provide oversight and input. This will enable a single doctor to demonstrate a delicate procedure up-close to multiple students at once, or do patient examinations remotely in an emergency or epidemic.

Davis herself was convinced of the technology’s broader potential during a demonstration in which she put on a learner HoloLens and rewired a light switch, something decidedly outside her expertise, under the guidance of an engineer wearing a lead HoloLens in the next room. In the near future, she predicts, it will help people perform surgery and other sensitive, detailed tasks not just from the next room, but from the next state or country.

Consumers are already getting used to sap Q316 digital double feature1 images3 Account Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not Campaignsthinking of VR and AR in the context of entertainment. Companies interested in the technologies should be thinking about how they might engage consumers as part of the buying experience.

Because the technologies deliver more information and a better shopping experience with less effort, e-commerce is going to give rise to v-commerce, where people research, interact with, and share products in VR and AR before they order them online or go to a store to make a purchase.

Online eyewear retailers already allow people to “try on” glasses virtually and share the images with friends to get their feedback, but that’s rudimentary compared to what’s emerging.

Mirrors as Personal Shoppers

Clothing stores from high-end boutiques to low-end fashion chains are experimenting with AR mirrors that take the shopper’s measurements and recommend outfits, showing what items look like without requiring the customer to undress.

Instant Designer Shows

Luxury design house Dior uses Oculus Rift VR goggles to let its well-heeled customers experience a runway show without flying to Paris.

Custom Shopping Malls

British designer Allison Crank has created an experimental VR shopping mall. As people walk through it, they encounter virtual people (and the occasional zoo animal) and shop in stores stocked only with items that users are most likely to buy, based on past purchase information and demographic data.

A New Perspective

IKEA’s AR application lets shoppers envisage a piece of furniture in the room they plan to use it in. They can look at products from the point of view of a specific height—useful for especially tall or short customers looking for comfortable furniture or for parents trying to design rooms that are safe for a toddler or a young child.

Painless Do-it-Yourself Instructions

Instead of forcing customers to puzzle over a diagram or watch an online video, companies will be able to offer customers detailed VR or AR demonstrations that show how to assemble and disassemble products for use, cleaning, and storage.

The customer-facing benefits of VR and AR are inarguably flashy, but it’s in internal business use that these technologies promise to shine brightest: boosting efficiency and productivity, eliminating previously unavoidable risks, and literally giving employers and managers new ways to look at information and operations. The following examples aren’t blue-sky cases; experts say they’re promising, realistic, and just around the corner.

Real-Time Guidance

A combination of AR glasses and audio essentially creates a user-specific, contextually relevant guidance system that confirms that wearers are in the right place, looking at the right thing, and taking the right action. This technology could benefit almost any employee who is not working at a desk: walking field service reps through repair procedures, guiding miners to the best escape route in an emergency, or optimizing home health aides’ driving routes and giving them up-to-date instructions and health data when they arrive at each patient’s home.

Linking to the Hidden

AR technology will be able to display any type of information the wearer needs to know. Linked to facial identification software, it could help police officers identify suspects or missing persons in real time. Used to visualize thermal gradients, chemical signatures, radioactivity, and other things that are invisible to the naked eye, it could help researchers refine their experiments or let insurance claims assessors spot arson. Similarly, VR will allow users to create and manipulate detailed three-dimensional models of everything from molecules to large machinery so that they can examine, explore, and change them.

Reducing the Human Risk

VR will allow users to perform high-risk jobs while reducing their need to be in harm’s way. The users will be able to operate equipment remotely while seeing exactly what they would if they were there, a use case that is ideal for industries like mining, firefighting, search and rescue, and toxic site cleanup. While VR won’t necessarily eliminate the need for humans to perform these high-risk jobs, it will improve their safety, and it will allow companies to pursue new opportunities in situations that remain too dangerous for humans.

Reducing the Commercial Risk

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images5 Account Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not CampaignsVR can also reduce an entirely different type of operational risk: that of introducing new products and services. Manufacturers can let designers or even customers “test” a product, gather their feedback, and tweak the design accordingly before the product ever goes into production. Indeed, auto manufacturer Ford has already created a VR Immersion Lab for its engineers, which, among other things, helped them redesign the interior of the 2015 Ford Mustang to make the dashboard and windshield wipers more user-friendly, according to Fortune. In addition to improving customer experience, this application of VR is likely to accelerate product development and shorten time to market.

Similarly, retailers can use VR to create and test branch or franchise location designs on the fly to optimize traffic flow, product display, the accessibility of products, and even decor. Instead of building models or concept stores, a designer will be able to create the store design with VR, do a virtual walkthrough with executives, and adjust it in real time until it achieves the desired effect.

Seeing in Tongues

At some point, we will see an AR app that can translate written language in near-real time, which will dramatically streamline global business communications. Mobile apps already exist to do this in certain languages, so it’s just a matter of time before we can slip on glasses that let us read menus, signs, agendas, and documents in our native tongue.

Decide with the Eye

More dramatically, AR project management software will be able to deliver real-time data at a literal glance. On a construction site, for example, simply scanning the area could trigger data about real-time costs, supply inventories, planned versus actual spending, employee and equipment scheduling, and more. By linking to construction workers’ own AR glasses that provide information about what to know and do at any given location and time, managers could also evaluate and adjust workloads.

Squeeze Distance

Farther in the future, VR and AR will create true telepresence, enhancing collaboration and potentially replacing in-person meetings. Users could transmit AR holograms of themselves to someone else’s office, allowing them to be seen as if they were in the room. We could have VR workspaces with high-fidelity avatars that transmit characteristic facial expressions and gestures. Companies could show off a virtual product in a virtual room with virtual coworkers, on demand.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

If nothing else, true telepresence could practically eliminate business travel costs. More critically, though, in an era of rising temperatures and shrinking resources, the ability to create and view virtual people and objects rather than manufacturing and transporting physical artifacts also conserves materials and reduces the use of fossil fuel.

The strength of digitally enhanced reality—and AR in particular—is its ability to determine a user’s context and deliver relevant information accordingly. This makes it valuable for monitoring and managing employee behavior and performance. Employees could, for example, use the location and time data recorded by AR glasses to prove that they were (or weren’t) in a particular place at a particular time. The same glasses could provide them with heads-up guided navigation, alert employers that they’re due for a legally mandated break, verify that they completed an assigned task, and confirm hours worked without requiring them to fill out a timesheet.

However, even as these capabilities improve data governance and help manage productivity, they also raise critical issues of privacy and autonomy (see The Norms of Virtual Behavior). If you’re an employee using VR or AR technology, and if your company is leveraging it to monitor your performance, who owns that information? Who’s allowed to use it, and for what purposes? These are still open legal questions for these technologies.

Another unsettled—and unsettling—question is how far employers can use these technologies to direct employees’ work. While employers have the right to tell employees how to do their jobs, autonomy is a key component of workplace satisfaction. The extent to which employees are required to let a pair of AR glasses govern their actions could have a direct impact on hiring and retention.

Finally, these technologies could be one more step toward greater automation. A warehouse-picking AR application that guides pickers to the appropriate product faster makes them more productive and saves them from having to memorize hundreds or even thousands of SKUs. But the same technology that can guide a person will also be able to guide a semiautonomous robot.

The Norms of Virtual Behavior

VR and AR could disrupt our social norms and take identity hacking to a new level.

The future of AR and VR isn’t without its hazards. We’ve all witnessed how distracting and even dangerous smartphones can be, but at least people have to pull a phone out of a pocket before getting lost in the screen. What happens when the distraction is sitting on their faces?

This technology is going to affect how we interact, both in the workplace and out of it. The annoyance verging on rage that met the first people wearing Google Glass devices in public proves that we’re going to need to evolve new social norms. We’ll need to signal how engaged we are with what’s right in front of us when we’re wearing AR glasses, what we’re doing with the glasses while we interact, or whether we’re paying attention at all.

More sinister possibilities will present themselves down the line. How do you protect sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized or “shadow” VR/AR devices? How do you prove you’re the one operating your avatar in a virtual meeting? How do you know that the person across from you is who they say they are and not a competitor or industrial spy who’s stolen a trusted avatar? How do you keep someone from hacking your VR or AR equipment to send you faulty data, flood your field of vision with disturbing images, or even direct you into physical danger?

As the technology gets more sophisticated, VR and AR vendors will have to start addressing these issues.

To realize the full business value of VR and AR, companies will need to tackle certain technical challenges. To be precise, they’ll have to wait for the vendors to take them on, because the market is still so new that standards and practices are far from mature.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images6 Account Based And Content Marketing Programs Are Not CampaignsFor one thing, successful implementation requires devices (smartphones, tablets, and glasses, for now) that are capable of delivering, augmenting, and overlaying information in a meaningful way. Only in the last year or so has the available hardware progressed beyond problems like overheating with demand, too-small screens, low-resolution cameras, insufficient memory, and underpowered batteries. While hardware is improving, so many vendors have emerged that companies have a hard time choosing among their many options.
The proliferation of devices has also increased software complexity. For enterprise VR and AR to take off, vendors need to create software that can run on the maximum number of devices with minimal modifications. Otherwise, companies are limited to software based on what it’s capable of doing on their hardware of choice, rather than software that meets their company’s needs.

The lack of standards only adds to the confusion. Porting data to VR or AR systems is different from mobilizing front-end or even back-end systems, because it requires users to enter, display, and interact with data in new ways. For devices like AR glasses that don’t use a keyboard or touch screen, vendors must determine how to enter data (voice recognition? eye tracking? image recognition?), how to display it legibly in any given environment, and whether to develop their own user interface tools or work with a third party.

Finally, delivering convincing digital enhancements to reality demands such vast amounts of data that many networks simply can’t accommodate it. Much as videoconferencing didn’t truly take off until high-speed broadband became widely available, VR and AR adoption will lag until a zero-latency infrastructure exists to
support them.

For all that VR and AR solutions have improved dramatically in a short time, they’re still primarily supplemental to existing systems, and not just because the software is still evolving. Wearables still have such limited processing power, memory, and battery life that they can handle only a small amount of information. That said, hardware is catching up quickly (see The Supporting Cast).

The Supporting Cast

VR and AR would still be science fiction if it weren’t for these supporting technologies.

The latest developments in VR and AR technologies wouldn’t be possible without other breakthroughs that bring things once considered science fiction squarely into the realm of science fact:

  • Advanced semiconductor designs pack more processing power into less space.
  • Microdisplays fit more information onto smaller screens.
  • New power storage technologies extend battery life while shrinking battery size.
  • Development tools for low-latency, high-resolution image rendering and improved 3D-graphics displays make digital artifacts more realistic and detailed.
  • Omnidirectional cameras that can record in 360 degrees simultaneously create fully immersive environments.
  • Plummeting prices for accelerometers lower the cost of VR devices.

Companies in the emerging VR/AR industry are encouraging the makers of smartglasses and safety glasses to work together to create ergonomic smartglasses that deliver information in a nondistracting way and that are also comfortable to wear for an eight-hour shift.

The argument in favor of VR and AR for business is so powerful that once vendors solve the obvious hardware problems, experts predict that existing enterprise mobile apps will quickly start to include VR or AR components, while new apps will emerge to satisfy as yet unmet needs.

In other words, it’s time to start thinking about how your company might put these technologies to use—and how to do so in a way that minimizes concerns about data privacy, corporate security, and employee comfort. Because digitally enhanced reality is coming tomorrow, so business needs to start planning for it today. D!

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


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Identifying must-have features in file-sharing programs

Commoditized cloud offerings like file-sharing programs offer consumer choice. But, perversely, choice may also…

drive the need for migration as the market and feature sets shake out. The file-sharing market is still in a state of flux and growing maturity.

File sharing — or enterprise file sync and share apps — has been a staple enterprise need since digital transformation has come to define the workplace. Companies need a central place to share, edit, manage and find files securely, without losing control of versions and without creating undue hurdles that force employees to default to easier modes of exchange, such as email attachments. Workers need to be able to share these files regardless of their location and regardless of the device they’re using.

File-sharing programs can be distinguished from more full-featured enterprise content management (ECM) software in that they tend to be cloud-based and less heavyweight. They are often easier to use and less heavyweight in terms of configuration, management and users’ day-to-day interactions. At the same time, file-sharing programs have sometimes failed to meet expectations. They may not provide sufficient security or features to be compliant with regulatory needs. They may not be rigorous enough in terms of workflow automation or editing capabilities. This is why users have sometimes defaulted to ECM platforms, despite their heavyweight, difficult-to-use reputations.

Given the array of options in the market for file-sharing programs and content management, more generally, users should feel empowered — but also cautious. There is no shortage of technologies in the market, and they include brands such as Box, Dropbox, OneDrive for Business, Google and Syncplicity.

Technology buyers and users should recognize that choice is good, but it can also create a need rather than trying to choose a technology that has every feature under the sun. Requirements change over time, and service offerings change rapidly, bringing competitive functionality to the market. Organizations typically won’t require all features from the outset, but rather a roadmap to accommodate needs as level of maturity of use increases.

Companies may need to migrate for a variety of reasons, from the quality of support of the provider; licensing cost; and the ability to integrate the technology with existing technologies a company has in-house, such as electronic signature.

Often organizations will be using many file-sharing mechanisms, sometimes by design, but more likely because of organic growth and personal preferences of employees largely supported by a lack of centrally defined governance standards and IT controls.

If a company is migrating to or from a file-sharing program, it is no different from when it was choosing a provider for the first time. There are two principles of change, namely to what target solutions and how will the change be executed. The target solutions must be well thought through based on solid principles of spec and select rather than wishes or whims.

Important features in file-sharing programs

Solution and service provider criteria to consider should include the following:

  • Analysis including statistics. Ability to meet regulatory reporting requirements including audit history of file access such as reads, updates, downloads and uploads.
  • Collaboration. Ability to develop notes external to the file as well as embed and track changes within the file. The ultimate ability for collaboration is to have multiple users operating on the same file at the same time without overwriting changes or versions, known as co-authoring.
  • Integration with other applications. Ability to seamlessly move files in and out of the file-sharing environment from other applications, including services in the Microsoft Office suite as well as CRM and ERP systems. Integration also includes the ability to interoperate with different and often disparate repositories.
  • Mobile functionality. Full capabilities of the file-sharing service being available on mobile devices including across different operating systems and different form factors.
  • Preview. Comprehensive preview capability, including not only common office document formats such as Microsoft Word and Excel, but other, less common everyday formats.
  • Retention policies. Rules-based tools to support content governance including automatically deleting, archiving and moving files among repositories.
  • Security and permissions. Ability for comprehensive, fine-grained permission attributes such as read only, prohibit downloads and allow updates support for when users are not in the organization domain and potentially not signed up to the file-sharing provider — solutions to this include file access links with timed expiry.
  • Synchronization. Background moving of files between the file-sharing environment and local resources for offline access — typically desktop, but also mobile devices. Synchronization should manage multiple offline changes by potentially different users by effecting a merge or gracefully denying updates.

As well as the function and feature criteria outlined above, a mature spec and select strategy will also include nonfunctional aspects, such as cost of operation and deployment, quality of service and defined service-level agreements. Migration considerations include the project roadmap, project plan, approach, pilot, user training and adoption, change management and planning an actual physical content move.

The latter is often the most overlooked, with organizations taking a holistic approach to content migration without considering the detail gleaned through a proper information architecture assessment. Constructing an information architecture following a content inventory will help drive out use cases, inform business taxonomy classification and start to drive efficiency in overall content management. Content management is critical to support effective governance, retention and archiving, effective search and electronic process-driven efficiencies. When considering a file-sharing program, here are some important steps:

  • Develop a formal request-for-proposal process with several vendors to compare feature sets.
  • Execute a proper strategy and planning exercise.
  • Pay close attention to content detail through a formal content inventory and information architecture approach.
  • Set up a hybrid content migration approach with a correct blend of automated and user-driven migration.

The file-sharing program market will continue to shake out over the coming years. Expect to see file sharing become more intrinsic with ECM, collaboration, document management, backup and recovery, and storage solutions more broadly. The leading providers will have better integration with line-of-business applications and with multiple content repositories, comprehensive cross-systems federation, powerful management tools and integrated content governance capabilities.

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3 Levels of Data Analysis to Revitalize Your Automated Email Programs in 2016

I’ve broken the process down into a three-pronged approach:

  1. Macro-Categorical
  2. Individual Program
  3. Individual Email/Subject Line

Here are examples and definitions of each of the stages:

1. Macro-categorical

Here you categorize your collection of email programs into broad, meaningful categories, such as:

  1. DemandGen
  2. Top of Funnel
  3. Bottom of Funnel

2. Individual programs

Within categories, look at each program. Pay particular attention to the amalgamation of steps and email templates for each. These should be complete, discrete programs, such as:

  1. Anonymous Website Visitors
  2. Top of Funnel Program – USA
  3. Middle of Funnel Program – EMEA

3. Individual email/subject line

Within each program, analyze each individual email and subject line for performance, such as:

  1. DemandGen – 2015 Happy New Year Email
  2. Top of Funnel  – Invitation to View New Video
  3. Customer  – All About the New Feature

Categorical analysis

Hopefully, you’re already using macro organization for your automated programs…that is, you will have already organized your email programs into broad general ideas/buckets.

For example, categories such as Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel sort programs by buyer stage. Categories such as EMEA and ROW sort by geography. Website, Webinar, and DemandGen are also perfect examples of macro-categorical buckets. These broad categories are perfect for this first stage analysis. This is important because not only will you want to see how multiple programs are performing in a single category, but this will give you a great birds-eye view of the bulk of your campaigns.

Programmatical analysis

Next up is the program level analysis. Each program is a combination of email templates, steps, and other programmable actions that make up a program. What we want to investigate at this level are how the different programs within one macro-category are performing. If there are programs that are similar, why is one performing better than others? Additionally, are there any ways for us to condense and consolidate our programs down to a smaller number?

If I were to give my humble opinion as to which of the three stages is the most difficult to assess, I would say that the program level is the most difficult. This is because the success of the program is contingent on the multitude of email templates contained within it. The only way to really look at the success of a program level stage is to either look at a program’s numbers vs another program in the same category (regardless of any other variables), or to examine the programs by what went wrong with individual email templates/subject lines. There could be several rotten apples in certain programs that are affecting the entire operation.

Individual email analysis

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Humanizing Technology Behind Employee Recognition Programs

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

SCN+SY Humanizing Technology Behind Employee Recognition Programs

Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock


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Digitalist Magazine

Three trends to watch in businesses’ big data programs

Instead of a shift in big data developments for the coming year, expect variations on ideas that garnered interest in 2014.

With so many organizations still trying to get their big data projects up to speed, it’s worth looking at trends that will impact this technology space. In an interview with John Lucker, principal and leader of Deloitte’s global advanced analytics and modeling market, we got the details on what businesses should expect.

Data ethics

Data ethics, distinct from data privacy for Lucker, will be a trend in 2015. Lucker expects the idea of ethics in collecting and analyzing data to be big for businesses this year. He said consumers are waking up to the ways in which businesses use their data, and they aren’t always happy. Using data in underhanded ways could lead to bad publicity. At the same time, President Obama has proposed legislation to strengthen existing requirements. Running afoul of regulations could cost businesses through penalties.

Companies can solve a lot of these problems by assigning someone like a chief data officer to determine how to handle customers’ data ethically and then put governance programs in place that ensure policies are followed, Lucker said

“The problem is that in the back rooms of companies there are people who are doing things with the best of intentions and something can be done accidentally that needs to be evaluated,” he said. “Companies need to be very rigorous about making sure they’re comfortable with what’s going on.”

Open source

Last year saw tremendous interest in open source tools like Hadoop, Spark and R. But Lucker said he expects open source to be even bigger in 2015.

A word of caution for organizations: Assess the stability of any piece of open source technology before inserting it into key business processes.

When a product enters large-scale production, companies can’t be “at the mercy of people sitting around a college dorm room,” he said. “They want something that has commercial teeth.”

One option he discussed is looking into commercial distributions of open source products. These may be safer bets — less likely to introduce code changes that significantly alter functionality — than pure open source implementations. However, the downside to this approach is the cost.

Cognitive computing

Lucker said 2015 may not be the year we see true thinking machines, but he expects vendors to make machine-learning tools and other cognitive computing technology more accessible — and businesses are taking note.

“It comes down to the fact that there [has] been this maturity of hardware and software that’s hitting the mainstream,” Lucker said. “This technology has become quite available and affordable.”

He admitted that some developers working on cognitive computing are looking more toward artificial intelligence, something that is still years away and of debatable value for businesses. But more targeted cognitive computing projects — like pairing natural language processing tools with machine-learning algorithms to assess feeds from customer service call lines and direct inquiries appropriately –could have big payoffs.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at eburns@techtarget.com and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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