Tag Archives: customer centricity

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!

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The Sudden Rise of Social Conscience; OR; How incentives work

30 Mar

Incentive

– Yesterday, a neighbour came to me and asked – do you remember the name of the lady who was running a “clean up your neighborhood” drive? My daughter has to do some community service for her higher studies so we are actively looking for causes.

– Our community is involved in a lot of good causes in the surroundings – schools, pet shelters, adult vocational training, health, hygiene and life skills for the under privileged, scholarships for bright students — many many such causes. It has even given birth to a trust, which was created to manage the funds generated due to an annual run/ walkathon. A lot of middle and high school kids help out in many ways – some by tutoring the domestic helpers’ kids; some by teaching govt. school kids to dance and sing and thus prepare them for various functions like Independence day etc…The organisers, ALWAYS,at the end give away certificates of participation, and one mentioned to me that they may not have had so many kids participating if it wasn’t for the community service “credits” they notch up

band

– My daughter, who is part of a band, recently performed at a fund raiser – this was organised by a 10th std. girl – at a 5-star hotel. She did it because her “education counselling services” mentor advised her to organise a fund raiser to support some charity in the “health” arena. It was really well done – nice location, great performances by middle and high school kids, and the beneficiary kids, a DJ playing dance beats later. (But, as the founder of the beneficiary organisation observed, the “rich” kids, (including mine), didn’t really even talk to the kids of the beneficiary NGO!

– March marks the end of the financial year in India – most companies are scrambling to meet quotas – revenue/ profitability/ spend budgeted. Many companies are therefore desperately looking for projects to fund – specially with respect to the 2% of their profits on CSR that the new companies act has mandated.

In general, atleast in urban India nowadays, there is a much higher emphasis on CSR and community service, than there used to be when we were growing up. This rise of “share of voice” and mind towards Social causes, I suspect has been primarily led by powerful mandates – in the case of children seeking admissions in university, by the universities mandating comm-service credits; in the case of corporates abroad e.g. in the US, by higher weightage in deals etc to companies showing comm-service, and now in India , by the much talked about but little understood by now famous Companies Act of 2013.

Essentially, what it means, that a lot of things in life boil down to incentives – pets are trained using incentives, babies are raised using incentives, organisational goals are realised using incentives, and now, Social good is done using incentives!

In today’s world, where there is a great degree of buzz about Customer Centricity, and how the customer should really be at the centre of business (obvious no brainer, one wd say, but in actual fact it doesnt happen!), the reason why this generally agreed upon tenet is not really implemented is because there aren’t enough organisational incentives to change the whole culture around! We all know how Jeff Bezos keeps an empty seat representing the customer at his board meetings – and gives incentives for customer centricity. Just like Google and 3M made such names for themselves for innovation, basically because they have incentive structures designed accordingly!

We need incentives for every little thing – my games of tetris and farm heroes progress at the rapid pace that they do, basically because of incentives – dont need to be material, or public…just higher levels achieved is by itself an incentive! In this context, do read my previous post on goal setting and gamification which is basically incentives in a different form

Another previous post on carrot vs. stick, and the power of positive incentives vs. penalty is also an interesting thought.

Incentive design itself, however, is a complex phenomenon. In some cases, a NEGATIVE incentive works – (parents of teenagers will agree) – so, I only have to say “I dislike something”, for my daughter to LOVE it!

Having said all of this, to me, its great that incentives for social cause do exist, because without it, we wouldn’t see our born-with-silver-spoons-in-their-mouth children be as sensitive to environment around them and people who dont have the priveleges that they have.

Similarly, nearly $1.5 billion wouldn’t flow into the NGO world, if Sachin Pilot hadn’t created the clause. Interestingly, it wasn’t so much the money – as the uptick in visibility and consciousness that it promoted, that was the great impact!

Long live incentives for social cause!

Build a Toilet Project

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!

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!