Tag Archives: big data

Healthcare in India – still Miles from the Internet of Things Vision

28 Dec

My 81 year old dad has been having a rocky couple months.
It started with weakness and giddiness; then a feeling of numbness in his limbs; then incidences of blurred vision and slurred speech – classic stroke symptoms.
My brother and I started the usual merry go round that all caregivers of senior citizens go through – emergency-neurologist-cardiologist-nephorologist-endocrinologist-back to emergency-repeat cycle. Threw in sessions with a GP, and then a couple operations of the eye at the ophthalmologist.
Went to two hospitals, and 4 branches of one of them.

Was completely appalled at the isolated nature of patient information access and diagnostists available, even at the best hospitals, in the Silicon Valley of India. And this, when we are debating the use of Wearables, Internet of Things and Big data all the time!

Lets look at the possibilities for the Healthcare IoT first:

– At the individual/ patient level –

The ultimate beneficiaries, patients (both current and potential/ future), will basically create and consume larger amounts of data than ever before – due to wearables (e.g. Tempo from CarePredict) / implants/ other gadgets and devices owned.

This will enable better monitoring of behaviour, and, when coupled with context – facilitate hugely improved diagnostics. Diagnostics that are derived from integrated data – multi disciplinary, as well as omnichannel/ source. (So, no more – “your sodium is low, eat more salt – says nephrologist — uhhh, but BP is high, reduce salt says cardio”! )

These diagnostics will then not only treat any emergencies or negative incidences quicker/ more competently, but also act proactively – thus alerting users and discouraging them from harmful behaviours (too much smoking/ not enough walking/ too many carbs/ not enough sleep….)

This personalised patient care, is after all, the raison-d-etre of the wearables market, which, according to a recent IDC report, is set to reach 45.7 million units worldwide in 2015, and 126.1 million units in 2019.

The IoT approach can then be taken a step further – and use gamification techniques to reward compliant medical behaviour. (My constantly sudoku playing dada and candy crushing mom I’m sure will be very vulnerable to these approaches!)

– At the macro/ aggregated level –

Obviously, when taken as a large body of data, analytics organisations can develop and fine tune personas and segments, making them richer and more detailed. The way to do this would be to combine biomed research using life sciences databases with aggregated patient behaviour and symptoms. This should ideally ultimately result in predictive models, thus leading to better treatment. Basically, a higher emphasis on real time monitoring and intervention combined with traditional lab work becomes the new clinical research methodology! In long term vision, companies and nations get a jumpstart on reducing burden of disease in the overall population.

– At the enterprise level –

Many studies are saying that providers may be able to save up to a quarter of their business costs with the Internet of Things.  This would be done by integrating new technologies into their operational strategies. Think about it – a vast, dynamic mass of wearables, biometric sensors, smartphone add-ons, and other medical devices and implantables – all growing, shifting, and ripe for an IoT approach

wearables

– Miscellaneous –

The serious side of Healthcare IoT is only one side of the picture actually – the wearables landscape is fairly glamorous even from the early adopter tech consumer’s Point of View! Think Ping, a social networking garment developed by designer Jen Darmour; Smart socks that tell you when to change, and where the pair is; Electrozyme or Motorola digital tattoos (that always remind me of the Bourne Identity series); tweeting bras (to remind one of breast exam monthly); dream inducing headbands; Peekiboo, a cap that lets you see the world through your baby’s eyes; smart pajamas that help you with bedtime entertainment when your kids are ready for bed; i-Grow income hair growth helmet; Drumpants which is Multiple touch pads sewn into a pair of classy jeans give drummers a six-piece kit; and, the coolest of all, Necomimi, a set of feline-like ears that strap on to your head, supposedly measure brainwaves and then move and flick based on how you’re feeling at a given moment!

The Flip Side

But the real truth, atleast in India (as experienced by my dad and me) is a far cry from the vision. At the moment, there is NO healthcare Internet of Things – maybe just a random collection of medical devices and consumer monitoring technologies that don’t quite know what to do with each other! 

Treatment is isolated – diagnosis is gut and experience based (which actually is not necessarily a bad thing – since, given India’s huge population, doctors do get to practice a lot and so see a wide variety of patients); there is very little digitisation even in the best hospitals. (In fact, in the hospital where we treated our dad, even within the 3 buildings in the same health city campus, there are different degrees of digitisation – the newest, the Eyecare hospital introduced EMR maybe 3-4 years ago, and so it’s all modern; the next oldest Multi Specialty Hospital now scans the written prescriptions of the doctor after you come out of the treatment room, (so, atleast keeping some records – though I’m reasonably confident nothing is being done with those scans yet); and the oldest, the Cardio facility I think still does nothing digital)

To answer the question – “why” – I think it really has to do with a basic question of population – in our country, we are too busy solving the Maslow’s Hierarchy lowest rung questions of food, clothing and shelter to spend too much money and time on other stuff. Coupled with legacy systems and old habits dieing hard, it’s a tough combo to beat!

And then there’s the question of reliability – many medical practitioners suspect non manual devices and gadgets – I have met with scepticism on the results of digital BP monitors from all doctors and nurses! (and my 10-times-a-day-BP-measuring dad’s experience shows significance differences between same time readings of manual/ analog BP monitors and the digital ones. Despite repeated calibrations!). So, reliability is suspect.

And, as yet, I’m not even stepping into the whole compliance/ medico-legal/ security aspect of the data

I think this is a bit like the “obvious” steps in customer centricity across functions and kind of business that are visible to everyone now with Big Data, but the fact is that no one is exploiting them – due to lack of vision, corporate lethargy, or even mal-intent in the form of vested interests! (watch out for the next blog on that topic in a few days). The good news – In a PwC study, 95% of healthcare CEOs said they were exploring better ways to harness and manage big data. The bad news – this is not confined to India alone – Read this article on how this state of affairs sadly seems true globally :(.

Maybe it’s just a matter of time – the question is how much time! Meanwhile, for my dad and me, it’s onwards and upwards to the next “o-logist” – this time the ENT specialist for new hearing aids! Yawwwnnnn….

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The IoT Ecosystem – A Beginner’s Guide for Benefiting from It

17 Dec

Last month I was at a panel discussion. The Topic was – “The Internet of Things; Leveraging Technologies in Business”. As I was thinking about what I would say to a room full of entrepreneurs, I came across a startling statistic – 87% of people in this world have not heard of the IoT!!! There bursts our collective IT/ Valley type bubble, which gets so wound up in the latest tech thing that it forgets to demystify even really applicable stuff to the real beneficiary!

I decided therefore to begin my talk with a very simple eco system clarification graphic – one that would explain to each of us our place in the Internet of Everything / Internet of Nouns whatever you want to call it. Here it is:

IoT Ecosystem

CONSUMER BENEFITS IN THREE WAYS:

What it means is basically, that as Consumers, of course, our lives will be made easier due to the Internet of Things. But that happens in essentially 3 ways:

a) The environment becoming more efficient/ optimised/ user friendly and hopefully cheaper. Think smart cities; urban lighting i.e. street lights auto switch off; transport management including traffic congestion easing and smart parking; smart energy grids; city and waste management; agriculture produce optimisation…..in effect, the Gotham city of the future without Batman! 🙂

Gotham-City

b) Better Health and Welfare – All the fitness meters and wearables will enable better quality healthcare for most of us; things like remote tracking for senior citizens; and better compliance and adherence in treatment administration. Not only that, security for kids/ adults/ everyone in fact will be much better with tracking devices and sensors.

c) Customization – What the plethora of things stuck on any and every monitor-able membrane will do, is enable micro modules of data – every action, behaviour, and even possibly thoughts and emotions will be tracked for everyone. This will enable better mapping of individuals (not just segments or clusters), thus making daily lives more efficient and easier. This is where the standard use cases of the thermostat enabled warm home before you enter from office (Google’s Nest acquisition); the pre-ordering fridge when eggs stock gets depleted (Whirlpool, Electrolux); the erstwhile Google Glass, and the pre determined shopping selections at retail play. This is also where much of the glamour and hype around the IoT exists – after all, the early adopters consumers will really be looking at these ‘cool/ quirky” gadgets to show their “with-it-ness”.

ENTERPRISE ECO SYSTEM COULD BE AS IoT VENDORS; OR USERS OF IoT FOR CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

But when it comes to businesses, the interplay changes a bit.

Most of the thought leadership coming currently on this space is from businesses participating directly in the Internet of Things – these are (largely) technology or data type firms – and they could be either manufacturing devices (the last mile therefore); or operating in the standards and protocols arena – therefore providing the platforms for all to operate; or working on applications on and around the IoT; or be working with the data arising out of the petabytes of data (erstwhile BI/ Big Data processors).

In all these avatars, the companies are providing products and services directed related to creating, harnessing and delivering the Internet of Things – whether to other businesses, or to end consumers. Also, as in most modern technological playing grounds, everyone is collaborating with everyone else (or, well, should be!). There are large interdependencies, and companies have realized that it is better to work on their chunk of the whole. Cisco, IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon, Samsung and GE with their Industrial Internet are the primary large names that pop up when this category is discussed.

The balance of the businesses, will essentially participate in the Internet of Things to harness and derive the benefits it delivers. Hence, this is about exponentially bettered customer centricity – about really hyper personalized, context driven products and solutions. The insights gleaned from processing the oodles of data generated by all the sensors will enable one to one customer dialogue in a multi channel environment, and therefore real time, event based marketing and service to customers.

But also overall, the Internet of Things will create a smarter, more efficient Enterprise Eco System (that both kinds of businesses will benefit from).

Think more predictable weather conditions bettering disaster prevention; better Industrial Automation, Logistics, shop floor management and supply chains (including traffic/ fleet management); better utilities; better buying procedures; better infrastructure at lower costs!

What this really implies is that, beyond the hype, there is something in the IoT for everyone, the only thing to do is to figure out your place in that sun, and to be able to monetize it (if you are a business), or use it (as a consumer).

Viva IoT!

The Problem With Context

15 Sep

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill


Credit

“I do not fear truth. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts to be in their proper context”: Gordon B Hinckley

Growing Up, my marketing 101 lesson taught me “Customer is King”. The Father of India, and probably its best known global personality, Mahatma Gandhi, said – “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

However, It could be argued in today’s world that the all important C word is being replaced with another C word – Context. So, now, Context is king – mainly, because Context is what allows an organization to understand its (first C word) Customer better.

We as prospects, shoppers, switchers; movie goers, diners, Home owners, Business people, car drivers, facebook users, are today cumulatively generating Yottabytes (10^24) of data, which is going to increase very soon to Brontobytes (10^27)! Intelligent organisations are (or atleast are thinking of, and if not, then should be thinking of) investing in technology, infrastructure and analytic decision processes to use this data for higher revenue generation as well as cost optimization. Context, the accumulated historical data generated by people, places, and things, is almost a mandatory component of these analytic processes.

In simple, laymen terms – context makes up the circumstances in which an event or an idea is set, and that therefore is what makes something clearer to you —

– Does listening to a special song make you think of a special person or a special situation? That’s context! (As “The way you look tonight” was Julia Roberts’ and Dermot Mulroney’s “special song” in My Best Friend’s Wedding)

– Think of nursery rhymes – when you delve deep into them or take them out of context of being repeatable pieces of music for kids, they are fairly disturbing! (Jack broke his crown? Humpty couldn’t be put back again? Whoaaa!!!)

For the traditional marketing folks, context analytics is a bit similar to behavioural + psychographic segmentation in the good ole fashioned days, and not just demographic – so, you add parameters of date/ time/ purchase event/ mood/ place/ company/ actions/ attitudes/ usage etc., and layer them in – to create better profiles of people/ events/ data….

When you marry Context with Data, you trigger unique, new relationships between hitherto unrelated data points – this helps you derive trends and patterns – and generates new business opportunities. Context makes data become richer, more meaningful. Someone very famously once said “Context is worth 80 IQ points”

Conversely, without Context, business conclusions might be flawed. It’s the old analogy of “knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”

So, is data and context a marriage made in heaven?

I would say, it is certainly high on the “will not make the divorce courts within the next 6 months – ok, 2 years” side of the coin, but, like all relationships, it needs work! One of the thing that contextual analytics ends up doing, counter intuitively, is still not giving the whole picture (A bit like the blind men and elephant story – where, depending on CONTEXT, each blind man ascribed a different name to the elephant – thus describing a piece part of it, but no one realized it was an elephant)

blind men elephant relativity

So, what then is the secret sauce required to turn this marriage into one made in heaven?

a) Disruptive Discovery: An inherent flaw in most predictive analytics algorithms – whether based on big data or not, is that their results are incremental – because what you know/ what has happened/ inbuilt assumptions – i.e., CONTEXT are what predict the future, they will to a certain extent pre-determine the outcome of the prediction.

As a friend said, facebook always recommends Metallica to me when because like Iron Maiden – it doesn’t realize that I also like Jazz! Similarly, Amazon always shows me more Nora Roberts – as I bought some romance once, and leaves a huge opportunity gap because it doesn’t realize that I have bought say a Khaled Hosseini elsewhere!

Not sure how many of you read this hilarious piece that was circulating recently on how “liking” everything on facebook for 2 days turned the news feed into a strange animal! Much recommended for an empathetic laugh

A good case study in how pre ordained behaviors, or context, or for that matter assumptions, to a certain extent skew actual results can be read here (a pithy commentary on Windows 8’s failure)

b) Response Timeliness: This one again is a bit counter intuitive. Experts and proponents of context analytics would say – but PART of context is the real time nature of the tracking! One is continuously refreshing data with newer and newer inputs, that turns the context richer and richer that then gives better and better outputs — and on and on and on.

The tragedy, however, is that while most organisations are (or atleast are thinking of, or if not, then should be thinking of) collecting and processing data on a real time basis, the RESPONSE to a lot of this data is NOT real time – why? Mainly because it CANNOT be! They don’t have the capabilities – this is the classical bottleneck/ the Blackwell’s limiting factor/ the critical path in the Gantt chart!

As a parent, I realized very early on that the concept of “quality time” that was created to essentially rationalize lack of adequate time spent with kids by working parents was a lot of bs. It fell into shambles the minute my tearful 1 ½ year old asked me – “when I fell down and was bleeding so much, where were you”!!

As business people, we also know the value of being at the right place at the right time. This time criticality determines a lot of what we do – how we behave as consumers – what time we eat, when we exercise, when we buy… – but also how we plan say marketing promotions, or budget calendars, or for that matter the pitch to the HR guy for a raise!

As one of my fav musicians George Harrison said:
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

What this then means in the big data world is, that when a customer sends out data – you translate it into a signal/ information/ wisdom – and then you jolly well figure out a way to respond to it at the time that the signal is asking for a response! May be immediately, may be a few days later – but, figure it out! Use the context, to not only tell you parts of the elephant, but the whole mammoth! So, its not only to find out what you can sell to the customer and where – but when/ and how quickly to lend a sympathetic ear/ when to fix a broken washing machine or a crashed site!!

Unless you can gear up your response mechanism to be time dynamic and responsive, all that context married to your data – is going to —- to use the marriage analogy – not produce a baby!!!

c) The Human Touch – AI, the Internet of Things and all automation notwithstanding, atleast for now, we humans are just wired to need human intervention

a. This is because technology is still flawed – Watson notwithstanding, most humans actually instinctively and judgementally can scan a wide breadth of data and more or less give reasonably accurate judgements – after all, that is what experience and seniority lend to a man.

b.Man is a social animal after all – most of us want, nay need, human contact – a good case is customer service. Automated responses just don’t cut it for many – they want to talk to a real person, the more serious the issue, the higher the need for human contact (maybe shortly that “real person” will also be a drone, but that’s besides the point).

After all, how else but due to a human would you see these 2 really delightful examples of ‘customer service” interactions – one by a Netflix representative, and this one by an amazon guy.

Make no mistakes, human beings could just as easily make bad mistakes – like seen in this http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/15/5901057/comcast-call-cancel-service-ryan-block!

But, by and large, if one could only afford it, human beings would be the best response mechanism.

All in all, its great to see the progress made due to big data and the Internet of Things etc, but the organization who can take the best of the context plus data marriage, and add the disruption, the time criticality and the human interface element would be the one on which I would put my money!

What I figured out last year

6 Jan

a-tale-of-two-cities

To borrow from my favorite Charles Dickens novel, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Most bloggers probably write posts revisiting 2013, making resolutions for 2014. I thought I’d do my version of the same, but instead list out stuff that was eye opening/ confirmation of previously mildly held hypotheses/ new learnings/ breaking down of myths for me…So, here goes:

I learnt:

(On Retirement):

That it is possible to be busy without “achieving” anything
(Look at my previous blog post of outlay vs. outcome). So, being recently retired, I learnt how to make activities expand such that it fills time available.

This is by no means a phenomenon that affects homemakers (aah! I luuuvvv it when I apply this description to myself!) only – don’t we all know those colleagues/ subordinates/ even managers who procrastinate all day long doing gawd-only-knows-what, and then in the evening start looking/ being really busy, and/or calling meetings! I bet only 10ish percent of them are really overloaded – most are suffering from a time management issue.

I read a recent article in the same vein – about how an ad that goes viral doesn’t necessarily give great sales results! Click on this link for Mashable’s take on effective vs. viral ads (and a look at some of them).

A corollary of the above is the learning,

That lethargy is addictive.
(Look at another old post on habits, and hiatuses). So, not only does one have the ability to “feel busy” all the time, one can apparently do it over and over again! A tad dangerous, that!

And, finally on this topic of learnings from retirement,

That while workaholism is fun; retirement is funner.
For those gawking at me in disbelief/ or thinking wistfully “If only I could….”, here’s a good take on “giving yourself time for leisure”

(On Parenting) – since that’s the job I did do consistently both before and after retirement:

momhood

That parenting is the toughest job in the world
That u can manage thousands of people at your workplace, but, however phlegmatic you are, your pre teen/ teen WILL be able to draw out a screaming/ hysterical monster from inside you

That your children don’t really appreciate your “so called sacrifices”. Both my kids now feel it was better for them when I was at work than when I am home!

That battling the “sense of entitlement” modern day kids of reasonably-well-to-do-parents have, is a universal and perennial dilemma for the parents. I didn’t get to any answers about how to solve this – but just now read a nice take on it..may it help others like me!

That DNA is a real thing! – and really messes with lots of things.
I see kids of my friends – all bright/ super achiever type people – excelling in their chosen fields – makes me feel proud. In general, strangely, it is in inherited areas of skill – Namita writes well, Sharan paints and bakes well, Arjun and Gowri sing and play all instruments, Antara is a public speaker/ debater, Dhanya is a super sportsperson, Neel tops class in all subjects…

I also similarly see the lack of drive/ casual attitude in my kids – guess who I have to blame for it?..:(

(On modern communication/ technology etc):

That facebook newsfeed is different on phone than on PC.
Ofcourse we all know that FB has – just from a legacy perspective – been slower on mobile. But, thank god for that! I really truly don’t like the new newsfeed optimisations they are doing – where they try and show you content that is “more important/ customized” rather than new/ just being posted. So, I have a good way of getting the best of both worlds – my phone newsfeed still mainly populates newsfeed based on chronology, and that on PC, based on relevance – I just log onto both at the same time!

That Big Data is more talked about than used
But, to be fair to it, this is true of a lot of things ahead of time. Nevertheless, for all the share of mind it gets on tech related content nowadays, the actual implementation/ results are abysmal – at < 2% of all servers.

That there is no accounting for what takes peoples’ fantasies
Have any of you looked at the list of the top 10 youtube videos in 2013? (I have been making discreet enquiries amongst my kids since then about whether they have seen Miley’s wrecking ball video!)

That there is NO end to the number of things you want to read nowadays
My list of “Things to read in the day” just seems never ending – no wonder, with, even back in 2012, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being produced every day! Sometimes, I feel its better to stick to trashy romance 🙂

(On body, mind, and mind over body):

That your body does have a mind of its own
If you've abused yr body for upwards of 40 yrs, it WILL show u attitude when u start working out. Hence, the slooowwww rate of weight loss that my husband Manoj and I see despite an infinite order of multiple increase in workout time (well, when the base is zero, any increase makes it infinity!)

That alcoholism is a real disease.
I always thought it was a simple case of willpower (or lack of it) – but learnt this year that it is a real, physiological disease!

That if u have the conviction, you CAN turn around things.
Even a largely apathetic nation – look at the wonders a very very new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party in India has done already – rising from nothingness to actually form the government in the capital city in a year and a half, arousing the largely apathetic middle class intellengtsia to vote in unprecedented numbers, forcing political stalwarts to “learn from them”, and giving hope to a billion plus population!

I see similar examples in the smaller scale but still significant good deeds that our community undertakes on many levels – schools in the neighbourhood, domestic worker camps, help for the aged…

It really needs a few people to say “I want to/ I can/ I will”

That you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
I started music and guitar classes this year – and made some inroads into both. I guess it’s a question of wanting to do something badly enough, and then having no excuse to not do it 🙂 (no time/ no money/ no teacher…)

inscrutable americans

Also, unlike in Inscrutable Americans, one of my all time favourite books, people now CAN haggle in shops in America, specially in response to showrooming.

Oh btw, this article indicates that you know you’ve fully integrated your new skill when you dream about it! I HAVE to now start somehow getting myself to dream of a trim runner’s body! Kekule anyone?

Again, I think examples of this in work life abound – e.g., flexibility seen in cross functional assignments – some companies really excel in developing this value in their people by posting folks in all kinds of functions irrespective of core skill.

That left brain and right brain are real things.
I see all around me the creative/ right brain types of people – and, this creativity is really truly multifaceted. Most of these folks cook, paint, sew, design, sing-play-dance, write with consummate ease. It unfortunately doesn’t seem so for the left brain types (I may be a good case in point 😦 ).

However, recent research shows that certain things are processed across both hemispheres.

(On New Words in the English language):

That Indulgence has a new nameself gifting.
So has second thoughts: self censorship (its also called spying when done by Facebook. But, also see facebook’s denial of this!)

And, very topically, a Drynuary doesn’t really help – it’s better to have a few “off days” every week!

(On startups):

That startups can always use help
It’s just that all don’t know when/ how to ask for it. Interestingly also, help is always available to those who truly want it, ask for it and deserve it (ask Harry Potter/ Dumbledore)!

In this last year, I have met maybe a start-up a week – ranging from tech/ services/ drama/ NGO/ sports – all topics. Each and every one of them has a set of bright, passionate, talented people – desperately trying to make it big. Each and every one of them is struggling with time/ money/ people/ clients/ content/ tips whatever. Some are good at reaching out and asking for help, others have to be pretty much be forced into it. Most agree that help is always welcome 🙂

Interestingly, what I also learnt as a corollary is

That, if you’ve sold one company, you kind of are perceived as having the magic formula to crack it!.
The sad truth is that in many cases, it really is trial and error that leads to success – but ofcourse, atleast selling one company qualifies you to advise others in the field of “what not to do!”

(On life/ death and the in between):

That the world continues to be a male oriented one, with heinous crimes being committed against women on and on and on – and that I have done/ am doing nothing about it, despite now having time/ money 😦

That erstwhile people on pedestals are more bound to come crashing down than not – we’ve had so many scams – but I think the ones that personally bothered me most were, in chronological order: Satyam/ Ramalingam Raju; Shashi Tharoor, Rajat Gupta, and now Tarun Tejpal. (Sounds a bit elitist, but as I think about it – the take-aways are probably that I expect politicians to be corrupt, but not so much corporate folks 😦 – clearly not so true)

That, Marc Anthony/ Ceaser/ Brutus notwithstanding, ambition is not an endless/ infinte thing – atleast not for everyone.

(Ofcourse, I chose the Charlton Heston version 🙂 (RIP), but for those who prefer the other one, here it is..)

I am NOT saying ambition is bad – it is, after all, probably a big driver for most of our deeds and achievements. What I meant is, that I discovered, that mine has an end goal – it reminds me of my cousin Anupam telling me years ago – “I only want enough money such that I don’t have to think about it”. I realised that I am now happy with my house/ car/ friends/ and many material things – and so am not looking for the bigger/ better…I AM however ambitious for kids and family – I want them to be happy, my body – I want it to be slimmer….so, maybe, it IS infinite – only, changes direction?

That happiness is truly a state of mind

That whatever u do, death is final

(not “new learnings”, but re-inforced as never before this year), and, finally:

That it IS possible to have a place look better than its picture postcards

(The Mughal Emperor Jehangeer is said to have once written about Kashmir: Agar firdaus bar rue zamin ast hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast! – meaning if there is paradise on earth, it is here…I think New Zealand could very easily have made the cut, and far better!)

IMG_4873

So, Happy New Year All – may the odds be in your favour 🙂

It really is about the PEOPLE

18 Nov

oscar the grouch
(credit)

There’s a great google search ad doing the rounds – its about reunion post partition between India and pakistan. I think by now most folks have watched it, but if you havn’t, click here. (It even got written up in mashable).

For me, it drove home something I’ve been thinking about on and off for a few days – that, we sometimes tend to get so wrapped up in whatever we are doing/ seeing/ making – whether it is technology and all its accoutrements, parenting as a job, management strategies, that we forget a very essential point of any exercise – the people it affects/ for whom we are doing it.

Think about it –

Big Data – Cloud – Hadoop – Analytics – e commerce – social collaboration – smart meters — all big buzzwords of today. Many big names chase this – IBM/ Cisco/ Microsoft/ Google/ Facebook – everyone. But it feels sometimes like the chase overwhelms the purpose – the process/ the technology – whatever is almost taking over the final reason FOR the tech. (It parallels the age old “features vs. benefit” marketing debate – you know, better agitator vs. whiter clothes/ purer chocolate vs. smoother texture). To some extent, some advertising is changing – IBM’s smarter planet / (erstwhile) Nokia’s connecting people – were all attempts at getting to the raison d’etre. Thats why I like the google ad – its not about better/ more precise/ faster/ more relevant search, but the reason behind the search. Lovely!

I like that a lot of healthcare is moving towards this now – Sanofi just released an app that gamifies blood testing (you get more points the oftener you test your blood sugar) thus making adherence for diabetes easier for patients!

Most organisations are now moving from “product centricity” to “customer centricity” – run a google search on CC and you get some half a million hits…a few years ago, it was one tenth of this number!

customercentricity cartoon
(credit)

Look at other aspects of this “people” thing – as I said in an earlier blog, enterprises are not run by processes – but by PEOPLE – if you can figure out how to motivate/ empower/ manage the people; you've got it made! I'm sure EVERY organization can cite examples of leaders who are maybe not so technically competent, but get better results than others because they are good with people – their people management skills are better! It’s heart breaking at times for those who do have the nuts and bolts, but not the guts and holds ..(over people that is 🙂 (ok, ok, very contrived I know – just felt like incorporating some rhyming stuff).This is what also makes for organisational culture (that intangible thing that defines many org metrics – retention/ values/ client service…see my earlier blog on org culture) Its one of the things an org “loses” when it scales to a behemoth – and one of the things that folks in start up cultures value – the fact of knowing everyone around – their happiness/ their sadness/ their strengths and weaknesses what makes them tick/ what hot buttons to press. It’s also one of the hallmarks of different leadership styles (read another blog on theory x vs. y of leadership – and which one works better)

Think about home – our kids have become “projects” almost – we are forever exhorting them to – get up in the morning/ eat breakfast properly/ go to school on time/ change, bathe, whatever once they are back/ go to whatever class they are enrolled for in a bid to get upskilled/ finish homework/ study for tests/ attend the birthday party…blah blah blah – in our timely and efficient execution of all these projects – we forget that the “subjects” are KIDS – and they WILL NOT be as good/ as efficient/ as task oriented as maybe we are trained and constrained to be. Takes the joy out of childhood somewhat eh?

child with mask

School kids can figure this out easily – my older daughter and her clan don’t like one of their teachers – and, the reason is not that she doesnt know her stuff, or is strict, or the usual anti teacher reasons, but that “she hates us”. After all, if a teacher doesn’t LIKE kids, its self defeating almost. I see live examples of effectiveness in the community schools I go teach in as a volunteer. One of the schools is making a huge success of the volunteer program our folks are helping them with – mainly because the principle is involved, interested, and she LIKES the kids, and likes US! Another school, is the exact reverse because the principle is a grouch!

Ofcourse, nothing brings this whole people thing home as well as just meeting old friends – despite everyone being in the ratrace – and attempting to “achieve” more and more everyday – one afternoon spent with friends – old or new (as i did yesterday), reminds you over and over again – it really is all about the people!

Digital / Social Transformation = CRM = Big Data (About Old Wine in New Bottles, Darwin and Levitt)

26 Jul

Enid Blyton Gypsy

My biggest comfort reading STILL is Enid Blyton’s books. I was reading one the other day, and realised that the word “gypsies” (In Enid Blyton’s debatably bigoted world, Gypsies were the bad guys – generally robbing and stealing!) was now replaced by “travelers”! (read this article on changes to Enid Blyton’s language)

It started me thinking on how concepts evolve with time – and how they get nuanced depending on context.

Look at our world of Social/ Digital Media.

First there was listening, then there was engagement, ofcourse then people started talking about ROI, then folks started talking digital transformation…and now about social integration.

Its a fairly normal evolution – you take piece parts of a whole process, and start attacking it from small angles, then the small piece parts coalese to form a larger part – which you can then make sequential evolution like a process. Then you bring the whole piece together and start talking the big picture – till you then leapfrog into next level applications etc.

We saw this in devices – the whole unification piece arising out of networking -> convergence -> wifi. (I did write an earlier piece on this). The world view that arises from this is that of the super connected/ “always on” world.

The good news though with the whole social/ digital piece is that after a lot of “wandering in the wilderness” and marketers and the C Suite looking upon it as the new kid on the block and not “real” marketing; then viewing it as stand alone another element in the marketing mix; now most folks are realising the ubiquitousness of the medium and figuring that “social business” is almost a way of life – for people personally, and therefore for enterprises. This is leading to integrated social marketing in the true sense of the word. Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism is a good example of a visualisation of an integrated world!

Conversation Prism

Evolutionarily, it first started with social media integration tools – how do you cross post/ make sure you don’t replicate/ undertake SEO for your Social Content etc. A look at some of the tools for this can be had here . But now you have some interesting campaigns that truly integrate many diverse elements so the consumer sees ONE brand/ ONE entity – and so do the employees – and so do the vendors/ suppliers and other stakeholders!

The case with Big Data is a bit similar. While it is greater volume/ velocity/ variety, it is ultimately about crunching vast masses of Data – something that actually gave rise to computers!! Also, if you then start looking at its applications, its the same ole same ole (old wine in new bottles) – CRM being a BIG one. So, ultimately, Big Data helps you compute, quickly and cheaply, thanks to the cloud.

The point, however, is, that its no longer smart to talk “Computing”, or even “Analytics” – you say “BIG Data”; just like you no longer say “Listening” – you say “Digital Transformation” (I’ve seen some folks calling it “Social Integration”, but as the economists and social scientists would know, THAT is more about social/ cultural amalgamation of immigrants into their adopted mileu :).)

But, think about this evolution – Darwin and his theory of natural selection actually applies to the technology/ data front as well! (For those who have forgotten Darwinism – I found this cute animated video tutorial – a bit long, but a nice refresher!). It basically states that living organisms evolved through a process of adaptation to surroundings, following “survival of the fittest” – hence, while computing is still the fossil, Big data is the evolved mammal. I did on my favourite facebook page I fucking love science today see a picture of this amazing fish – which is amphibious!

mudskippers

Coming back to business, in a way Theodore Levitt and his concept of “Marketing Myopia” – implied a bit of an evolutionary path too – from photo paper to duplicating machines to business process and document management (Xerox); from Time Keeping and Weighing Machines to Smarter Planet (IBM); from Petroleum to Energy (Shell); From Fast Food to “I’m Lovin’ It” (McDonald’s); from making movies to “entertainment” (Hollywood) and from paper to “connecting people” (Nokia). It was about evolving your business/ broadening its spectrum to serve your consumers’ basic needs!

marketng myopia

You think about it then – concepts evolve, just as language evolves (etymology being the science of how words evolve – just so you know, “Digital” – seems to have taken the following path : “of or pertaining to a digit or finger” –> “resembling a digit or finger” –> “manipulated with a finger or the fingertips eg a digital switch” –> “displaying a readout in digital form”

etymology of mother

To wind up, think about some stuff that used to be called something else in the olden days :

Motivation = gamification
Beauty parlour = Salon
Step cut (a particular hair style) = Layers
Fund raising = Crowdsourcing
Bribery = Lobbying
Plagiarism = Research 🙂

Some that have changed with the technology: (These are called retronyms):
Phone –> From Landline to mobile
Guitar –> To acoustic/ electric etc.

Some where our influence changed (in India, that implies becoming more American from being more British) or we became more politically correct/ less racist etc..:

Biscuits = Cookies
Toilet = Washroom
Merry Christmas –> Happy Holidays
Negro –> African American
I’m fine, thank u –> I’m good

In the end, evolution notwithstanding, look at where Homo Sapiens has got to, thanks largely to digital/ big data etc etc:

Human Evolution Retro

The Power of 7 (or 77) ! IBM Big Data, Wimbledon, and B2B marketing

10 Jul

Wimbledon

What a Wimbledon this was! From slides (all around the court) to falls (of top seeds), to a dream win for a relative unknown Frenchwoman followed by the win Britain was waiting for – it took 77 years for a male to win it; was the first one after 1977 (Virginia Wade – the media certainly took a beating on this one, didn’t it? – and this despite the felicitation to Ms. Wade during the championships!)) and was won on 7/7…wow, the power of 7! Maybe Murray will win it 7 times!

This number/ data crunching reminded me of the ad that I saw on ESPN while the match was being aired – it was one of the series of ads that IBM released for its “smarter planet” positioning….by the way, I like that positioning – and I do think that IBM is doing many things right to work towards fulfilling that promise.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the series

But I was really confused about why there was a Big Data campaign airing on TV! Who buys Intel? Businesses – so CEO/ CTO/ CDO and of late, ever since their CMO focus, the CMO. (See this interesting article about IBM’s focus on the CMO). These are ALL C suite execs in enterprises! Intel is the quintessential B2B marketing firm! On top of which it has traditionally focussed large enterprises though it did start a mid market push a while ago (just to check – a google search for IBM enterprise vs SMB shows a ration of 153 million to 4 million!).

So, what is the typical purchase process for IBM like engagements? Long drawn out pitches/ the typical commercial engagement cycle…resulting generally in bids against 2 others (Accenture and/or Oracle may very likely be atleast one of the others – interestingly, I found in my inbox today an email from Accenture talking about the looming shortage of analytics talent – talk about topicality! ). What is the ‘discovery’ process in this Bizdev cycle? Well, Intel in the appropriate circles I would imagine doesn’t need discovery – it may need outreach, but not discovery. Which means, that the relevant people in a buying situation WOULD reach out to IBM. Now, sure, the world is becoming more and more socially integrated – and ofcourse, the business that IBM in, has a core foundation of social. So, should they give a social presence to this new positioning? Certainly! And, to their credit, they’ve done so. I do think salience of IBM along with Big data, Predictive analytics and Smart is probably highest amongst all comparative business entities. They’ve also done outdoors visibility well on the “smarter planet” platform – including a massive hoarding just outside the airport in my hometown Bangalore. So, why on earth would they advertise on TV???

B2B branding

Which brings me to the larger premise – B2B marketing and the role of mass media – I think the only scenarios that justify the use of mass media for a B2B entity are:

a) Launch of company/ large product – one which is revolutionary! (Typically a big bang ad may work in this case if it is a well known company launching a biggie product – Apple/ Mac/ Superbowl comes to mind for this ofcourse! See my earlier related post here). If it’s an unknown company and u want to build traction very quickly, then you may want repeated airings over TV/ other media…

b) Existing company repositioning in that it is targeting a newer audience – say an enterprise oriented company expands to now address the SMB segment only – mass media seems ideal to tell you that hey we talk to you too (actually in a way, in tone atleast, the IBM ads seem oriented towards consumers/ SOHO and the SMB segment)

c) A company is going IPO – ofcourse then, the target for the ad becomes the consumer/ investing public – and given the company is B2B, the mass public may not know much about it.

d) The media chosen is very very select (and hence not “mass” at all 🙂 – but I meant select very targeted print specially if it’s a specialist domain that relies very heavily still on traditional media – Print and Packaging/ fragrances/ maybe even some tech e.g. select storage/ design etc may be good examples – these are journals that may be peer reviewed etc – and strangely enough still do not have online editions – specially in geographies across the world. (Autodesk was one such product category). A corollary is select very targeted media programs that are clearly and squarely meant for that select audience (so, not Wimbledon Men’s final on ESPN 🙂 )

Interestingly, writing this side of the story nearly made me forget the early pains of proving the utility of social media – then a relatively new life form – for B2B businesses when we were running EmPower Research. Specially the fight we had on our hands when we started selling our services to the large clients of our aquirer – these were companies that largely required BPM services from our acquirer – and so, were all B2B – and when I say B2B, I even mean utility/ transport/ heavy engineering companies. At one time, we even created a two by two matrix showing how B2B companies were NOT good targets for our effort. That is why, most articles online for B2B marketing currently are selling the utility of social media/ business for propagating B2B businesses 🙂 .

Our own experience – ultimately – showed us that social could be integrated into B2B businesses at various stages:

B2B Social

– Listening for reputation management/ disaster preparedness – this meant you constantly trawl social conversations to a) spot any broad reputation detractors (or enhancers for that matter) for your business; but also check for any broad/ macro events that may turn viral and therefore increase your risk profile (nice predictive algorithms could be created to show when something could get viral)

– Lead Generation – this use has been questioned – but, atleast in user groups/ domain specific sites of certain types of product categories, there are lots of questions on upgrades/ switches/ problem solution type issues. These could generally cue the smart Bizdev person to atleast prospect

– Customer service – similar to the above – just for existing users

– Thought Leadership – creating enriching/ engaging content realted to the business you are in – in an effort to broaden the horizon of what your brand stands for…

– Using Social Technologies for collaboration for better efficiencies and smarter decision making…

So, in a way, we circle back towards the points IBM is making – predictions to enable cleverer decisions, more “right” decisions, etc – and all these are what social will enable – so my point – why use mass media to make this point? And why 5 years after the point has been made already, and well?

Please note – I am not questioning the “Big Idea” of the Smarter Planet at all! I think, for a company that was to the larger world known as the chip/ processor company, the “Smarter Planet” was a really superb plank – it was motivational internally, focused on what was important – core research leading to ‘intelligence” – an idea probably before its time 5 years ago; was applicable across verticals or domains easily; and ofcourse was executed brilliantly by Ogilvy and Office. (read this for an eulogic analysis!) My objection is really to the use – after 5 years – of the campaign in mass media…still!

And ofcourse the Watson vs. Man @ Jeopardy idea was a gem – by all standards – PR, engagement, amplification, just stressing core brand values.

watson jeopardy

At the end, as the pundits would say though, what sells is success – as this, slightly older article shows, IBM certainly reaped the benefits of the campaign – whether they make incremental returns on continuing the campaign is anyone’s guess. (for those interested in some behind the scenes photos of the commercial production, click here )

To come back to Wimbledon, many may not know (I have to confess I didn’t – and in hindsight maybe as partners they get some media time anyway, and THAT”S why they aired this campaign that is making me froth at the mouth so much!!!) – but IBM actually crunches all Wimbledon’s and other Grand Slams’ data for the interesting stats and analyses – including giving tips to players, and prompting commentators as they give you a blow by blow account of what is transpiring on court! (read here for some details on their SlamTracker)

So, as far as I am concerned, advertising or no, power to IBM and its like!