The Wider Value of Marketing – Relationship Equity

January 26, 2016

Marketing, as we know, is a demand generation tool.  It’s an offshoot of the sales function, or it is bigger, wider and more important than sales – depending on which side of the fence you are on.C24 collaboration

Whilst marketing is often used to generate leads or acquire clients, what is mentioned less is the value that marketing can play as a relationship equity builder.

So what do I mean when I say relationship equity builder?  Building equity into a client relationship is all about making the relationship stronger by putting in place good partnership foundations and growing trust and reliability as a supplier.

Account management can be harnessed for so much more than just generating new sales and managing the sales process with the customer.  Many companies, in a bid to generate more and more sales, have lost sight of the fact that account management’s primary function is to build collaborative customer relationships.

I wanted to focus in more detail about how a marketing activity, such as a case study in this instance, can have a wider beneficial impact on the vendor and buyer than purely ‘generating new business leads’.

When approaching a marketing activity, we like to think about how much value we can extract for both us as the vendor, and also for the client.  So we ask ourselves questions like, ‘What will make it matter for the customer?’ and ‘How could we make this activity of more direct value to the customer by tweaking or changing what we are doing?’

We believe that if we can work on a marketing activity collaboratively with a customer, in a way that benefits them as much if not more than us, then we are building a stronger relationship with the client in the process.  The marketing activity in itself helps to foster a better relationship between us and the client, and we are also able in some way to add more value to the client’s business, over and above the product or service we are already supplying.

This mentality can seem quite ‘twee’ and cliché but actually in practice, it works and makes sense.  Rather than a case study being an area of negotiation (“I’ll reduce my price if you sign up to a case study” etc), it is instead an added extra benefit to the service we are providing.

On the customer’s side, they receive the benefit of a marketing machine that they don’t have to pay for – which is the vendor’s marketing efforts in creating, promoting and sharing their case study.  This is free publicity for the customer – and in a world where organisations are paying small fortunes to improve their SEO ranking or brand awareness, then can good quality, favourable publicity ever be anything other than positive?

Providing the vendor is either of a scale or position of expertise to put the client in a good light if any case study is published, collaborating on the marketing activity is almost as beneficial to the client as the vendor.

Beyond marketing – value for client

A case study gives vendors the opportunity to exhibit their best work, and written in the right way, provides recognition for the customer at both a personal job role level and at an organisational level.  It is a way of demonstrating that they, the customer, are a company that is growing, investing and actively engaging with best of breed vendors to deliver better services.  They are working with a supplier to improve what they currently do – they want to continue flexing and transforming to be more successful.  This is a great message for the client – who doesn’t want to be seen as a successful company with big ambitions?

A case study enables organisations to differentiate themselves from those competitors who are standing still, who aren’t making changes and who are not promoting their business to the media in a meaningful and interesting way that attracts readers and new prospects.

The case study also provides the customer with free content that they can use for their own marketing efforts, whether that’s PR or content for blog posts and articles.

Additionally, a detailed case study can generate peer recognition from other organisations who are facing similar issues but unsure about which direction to take.

Perhaps most importantly, the act of researching, interviewing for and writing a case study makes the customer feel valued, as the vendor has invested time and money into creating a case study and marketing it effectively.  The process encourages collaboration and allows the vendor the opportunity to find out just how the customer feels about the service that they currently provide.  The client is also more likely to work with the vendor again in the future; after all, they have nailed their colours to the mast of sorts, and so obviously value the relationship strongly enough to be public in their approval of the vendor’s service.

Vendor benefits

For the vendor, the benefits are more obvious.  Of course, it is great PR and the content can be used across all of their campaigns and marketing vehicles; from newsletters, e-shots and blogs through to events, video and thought leadership activities.

Case studies enable vendors to develop a reputation for delivering services into a certain sector, and creating the case study hopefully allows the vendor to become deeply knowledgeable about the impact of the sold solution on a client’s business, both the direct and indirect impact which probably weren’t clear pre-installation.

 

This type of mutually beneficial marketing can apply to other areas – such as the creation of whitepapers which can become a collaborative exercise between your most valued clients, and your blog posts which can be peppered with insights from customers.

Maybe in the future we will see more marketing efforts where the customer and vendor jointly engage on marketing activities; not just to promote the vendor’s product or showcase their product in use, but to drive the customer’s marketing and business generation activities; which in turn aids the vendor and invests more relationship equity into the partnership.

 

Image provided courtesy of Infusionsoft.


How Do We Keep You Safe?

January 11, 2016

The BBC has reported in the past few days in their Technology of Business section, that cybersecurity will be the main issue concerning global businesses this year, and that the Internet of Things will only increase this growing threat to security.

It’s obvious really, as more devices and systems become connected, the threat of security attacks will inevitably increase as hackers find more inventive ways to penetrate data.  The BBC suggests the cause is the ‘development of the hyper-connected world’.  As more devices are created, and more ‘things’ become connected, we are then able to interact more digitally and the opportunity to hack/attack increases.  More data is digitised, and more actions are taken on a digital platform rather than in person, by phone or on paper.

C24 Security

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things has seen its share of attacks over the past year.  A report from TrendMicro highlighted that 2015 saw baby monitors, smart TVs and connected cars as the focus of cyber attacks.

Security isn’t just about averting attacks as they occur, it’s about proactively attaining high standards to ensure you can stave off attacks before they cause issues for your technology environment, and consequently, your business.  The EU is also introducing new data protection laws which will come into effect in 2018; further increasing the responsibility on the shoulders of business owners for how they manage their data and systems in the future.

This is partly due to the change in nature of attacks, as industry experts forecast that 2016 will see a dramatic increase in ransomware attacks – where hackers break into systems, encrypt the data and then demand ransoms to decrypt the information.

 

How we keep our customers safe

At C24, we take security very seriously.  It has changed how we run our business, how we build our systems and the choices we make about infrastructure and software solutions.

For instance, we elected not to build our own datacentres and instead rent space out of Six Degrees Group (who recently joined with C24) who have state of the art datacentres, designed for mission critical systems.  Alone, we would have been able to build a datacentre that was leading edge today.  However would it still be leading edge in a years’ time, and then in three years’ time and so on?  Partnering with a specialist datacentre provider was a way for us to ensure we were housing our hosting infrastructure within the most current, enterprise-grade datacentres possible.

We split security considerations into three levels: datacentre, network and data.

 

Datacentre security

We house our hosting infrastructure within the Six Degrees Group datacentre facility in the Midlands.  We initially chose 6DG due to the high level of security externally around the datacentre facility, as very often hosters think about security within their IT systems but don’t extend their thinking to the external datacentre.  Putting your systems within your office leaves you open to potential attacks from disgruntled staff onsite, or the potential for a vehicle to ‘ram’ a building and break into the facility.  This may sound farfetched but many resellers have fallen prey to attacks in which warehouses have been broken into using vehicles to gain entry.

Our datacentres have anti-ram bollards to prevent unauthorised vehicles entering the site, and there is 24/7 CCTV monitoring all around the site to control access.  Perimeter fencing and guards ensure that only people permitted to enter the wider site (not just the building) do so, while all visitors have to prebook access requests and bring along government issued identification otherwise they will not be permitted access inside the datacentre or surrounding offices.  Unfortunately, we sometimes have to turn away customers who have come to visit the site but haven’t brought the necessary ID with them.

 

Network security

Within our datacentre ‘pod’, we ensure the security extends across all of the network layers.  We have intrusion detection and prevention software in place to continually monitor the network for unusual activity.  We perform routine tests to interrogate the network in order to check for potential holes where attackers could gain entry; this ensures we proactively manage network security before issues occur.  Our technical team also monitor the network around the clock to ensure systems are operating as they should and no unusual activity is being reported.

When setting up a client’s hosted infrastructure, we split our network into VLANs so that each client has their own private network that cannot be accessed by other customers.  This separates everything out to add increased security to our hosted infrastructure delivery.  We also use VRF (Virtual routing and forwarding) technology to segment network paths.

To reduce the possibility of malicious attacks on clients’ websites, we employ Webscreen Technology to guard against flood and applications layer distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.  Hackers sometimes use bots to ‘flood’ websites to bring them down or slow down the service, making it unusable for real users.  Our DDoS security technology averts these attacks by having the system ‘learn’ which IP addresses to trust and which to drop in the event of an attack.

 

Data security

Whilst we deliver hosting to the infrastructure level, we do not directly handle clients’ data, however we do have a number of processes internally to ensure that, as a company, we adhere to data protection guidelines and keep our customer data safe.

We have data protection policies in place that govern how we consume, process, collect and store customer data and our utilisation across the firm of Citrix desktop technology means we are able to take data away from the individual PC or laptop in the event of the device being stolen or lost, and keep information at the datacentre level where it can be managed and monitored centrally.

 

You can’t always be prepared for every type of attack, but it’s important when you speak with a hoster or Software-as-a-service provider that you ensure they have covered off the issue of security across a range of areas, not just within the systems itself but the physical infrastructure that prevents the outside world getting into your data.

Security is often only important after you’ve been through an attack and resolve to never let it happen again, but with the Internet of Things increasing the array of devices that can be accessed by hackers, from within your home to the datacentre, IT Managers will need to be looking at how this new trend could affect their day to day operations and how to control the devices and appliances across the workplace that IT may not have visibility of.

 

Image provided courtesy of Holly Victoria Norval.


20 Facts We Learnt From Our Blog in 2015

December 21, 2015

Facts

During 2015, I published a number of blog articles on LinkedIn and our company blog.  44 to be exact.  And within those blogs were quite a few facts, statistics and insights that we collected – so here is a round up of some of those facts to highlight the key numbers from our blog this year:

  1. C24 research found that 87% of legal firms were mainly motivated to investigate business intelligence solutions so that they could achieve better visibility of sales and business development information. (Read the blog here).
  2. Nearly 31% of law firms are at risk of financial failure in the coming year due to pressure created by competition from new volume market entrants such as Tesco, DirectLine and other insurance companies branching out into the legal market. (Read the blog here).
  3. Attorney at Work (2015) conducted a survey across legal firms and found that of the 91% of lawyers that use social media, 60% identified social media as playing a part in their marketing strategy.  (Read the blog here).
  4. PWC reports that investments in software as a service (SAAS) applications will more than double to $78bn while investments in traditional ERP deployments will decline by more than 30% to less than $15bn in the next year.  (Read the blog here).
  5. PWC predicts that cloud based SAAS ERP models are 6x less costly to implement, manage and support than traditional ERP deployments. (Read the blog here).
  6. PWC have also calculated that over a 10 year period, the total cost of ownership of a cloud-based ERP solution can be 50 to 60% less expensive than a traditional on-premise system. (Read the blog here).
  7. Complex supply chains can have up to 52 different sources of big data, generated from the supply chain alone. (Read the blog here).
  8. A report from Information Week highlighted that organisations only analyse 12% of their data, and that the challenge was dealing with the remaining 88% of data left. (Read the blog here).
  9. The average worker is said to stay at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years. (Read the blog here).
  10. LexBlog estimate that 80% of the largest law firms now publish blogs. (Read the blog here).
  11. IT Directors in the Legal sector are predominantly white, male and have held their positions for circa 20 years.  On the contrary, a typical legal new hire is young, tech savvy with 57.1% of trainee’s being female, according to a recent survey. (Read the blog here).
  12. According to RBS, traditional law firms have lost out on over 50% of income that they would normally generate from transactional services such as legal-aid support and conveyancing. (Read the blog here).
  13. A founder of a CRM app called CRMNext found that the main reason that 50% of CRM application deployments failed was due to difficulty and complexity experienced by users. (Read the blog here).
  14. In 2012, Gartner reported that 80% of gamification applications would fail to meet business objectives.  However they have also predicted that 40% of Global 1000 organisations will introduce forms of gamification to boost revenue and drive better employee engagement.  Their analysts also believe that the gamification market will grow from $242 million to $2.8 billion in 2016. (Read the blog here).
  15. A survey conducted by Deloitte found that 54% of respondents would be investing in technology to improve user (customer) experience, mainly by delivering self-service portals to consumers. (Read the blog here).
  16. A 2013 study by the Aberdeen Group found that one of the key challenges to meeting sales goals was insufficient or inadequate information available. (Read the blog here).
  17. HBR found that 61% of sales reps thought that greater sales intelligence would deliver better lead quality and quantity – therefore resulting in more time spent actively selling. (Read the blog here).
  18. Companies that personalise customer information down to sales rep level (i.e. creating specific marketing and sales content at a sales rep level) have been known to achieve a 36% increase in lead conversions.  (Read the blog here).
  19. The Bank of America recently conducted research into how artificial intelligence could impact on workers across the US and found that 47% of American jobs had the potential to be automated by 2020, and that as many as 25 million finance legal job roles globally would be disrupted.  (Read the blog here).
  20. Accenture estimates that combining business intelligence with the Internet of Things could be a $500bn activity by 2020 and Gartner predicts that there will also be 25 billion IOT connected devices by 2020. (Read the blog here).

Image courtesy of Inpivic.


berg Solicitors: Making Smart Decisions in the Legal Sector

December 16, 2015

Legal firms have always used data to make better business decisions.  But now it’s getting easier and quicker to collate data into meaningful insights from which partners can make executive decisions.berglogo-new

Ian Brownhill, Finance Director at leading Manchester-based law firm berg, has recently implemented a new approach to data management by extracting data across the firm’s core business applications to draw new insights from the combined information. This is just one of the innovative approaches berg has taken, focusing on core values as the imaginative law firm which in 2015 has celebrated its 35th year with a growing national profile and client base.

“Our existing Practice Management System already included a degree of reporting functionality,” commented Brownhill, “however it didn’t integrate information from other sources such as spreadsheets created by staff or data coming from other applications.  In order for the information to be presented simply and concisely, we needed to collate data across our systems into one output, giving us a single version of the truth.”

Dealing with the mass of data

berg has responded to a situation that many firms are still struggling with.  Law firms now have sophisticated systems in place that generate masses of data, but are only just starting to pull this information together rather than relying on application-specific reporting that doesn’t integrate with other application data.

So data is now abundant, but it is not being harnessed. 

One of the reasons behind this data paradox, says Brownhill, is that many Practice Management Systems designed for the mid-market legal sector do not include mature reporting capabilities, meaning that in order to access integrated reporting functionality a firm would need to purchase expensive enterprise legal software or completely overhaul their legacy PMS platform; both of which are costly and disruptive exercises.

Law firms in particular face a growing problem when it comes to managing data; primarily due to the fact that they collate huge amounts of client data, in addition to their own data generated from day to day business operations.  Firms are now looking to harness this data to gain a more holistic view of their organisations’ operations.

Big data is a behaviour; not just a technology

In addition to harmonising existing financial and operational data, the big data trend is driving firms’ behaviour; encouraging them to mine for data across each function of their business.  Business development and marketing departments are now recognising that business analytics data showing customer trends, purchasing quirks and campaign performance can ensure that revenue generation activities are more successful and targeted.  This is also a focus for Berg, as Brownhill commented, “Using data tools to bring our management reporting overview documents down from 20 pages to a simple one pager has been a huge help to our business in achieving high level visibility of our business, however harnessing information that we already have within our systems to aid with marketing and business development activities is the natural next step – and is where business analytics really starts to impact on revenue generation.”

Moving beyond the PMS

Data held within PMS systems delivers some degree of insight to Managing Partners, however when that information is combined with outputs from the CRM system, invoicing and payment applications and outbound marketing results, the information rapidly becomes a source of valuable insight that can help teams with creating sales strategies, assessing client payment probability and recovering historic debt.

The future of data in the legal sector will inevitably see reporting functionality extended out to firms’ clients.  Some companies already offer functionality to clients allowing them to access portals for viewing updates on their own cases; however sophisticated analytics tools will soon enable partners to share real-time KPI and case reporting to customers within a secure system to keep clients updated on their terms, rather than those of the firm.

David Ricketts, Head of Sales at legal hosting and analytics specialist, C24 Ltd, sees extending visibility to end clients as a crucial step for law firms competing with online providers.  “Online service providers are already very adept at providing real-time reporting to clients,” commented Ricketts, “and traditional firms are now able to use clever analytics tools to combine data and present it back to clients securely – to ultimately improve the wider customer experience”.

PMS platforms will naturally look to build analytics capabilities into the PMS application from the ground up, rather than reporting being an add-on service to an existing tool.  This will allow for the integration of multiple external data feeds to add new insight to existing information – to enable better business decision making at every level within the modern law firm.

 

Access the full case study at C24’s website.

 

About the author

David Ricketts is Head of Sales and Marketing at C24 Ltd, a specialist applications hoster with a particular focus on the legal sector.


New Year’s Resolutions for Complex Selling

December 15, 2015

Fireworks

2015 has gone by so quickly and there has been lots of change here.  We have grown the C24 business, made great new headway into delivering analytics solutions and have merged with Six Degrees Group – all in one year.

We have continued to grow in a challenging economic climate and have expanded our range and breadth of customers.

So how do I recommend sales teams in companies such as ourselves (in the technology industry) approach 2016?

 

Year of simplicity

Firstly, I believe 2016 will be the year of simplicity.  As technology solutions at a business and consumer level become evermore complex and interconnected, IT purchasers will be looking for help through the confusion.  Sales people should be looking at how they can radically simplify their propositions and also the challenges facing customers.  Don’t try to overcomplicate an already complicated situation.

As Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”.

In any sales scenario, the situation is pretty straightforward.  The customer has an issue, need or desire.  Or usually all three – they have a business issue, so they need a solution and desire a successful outcome.

You have something that can appeal to one of those three motivators.  If you don’t, then you had probably best move on.

Getting in touch with the customer, explaining how your solution could make their life better/easier/more profitable is a way of you helping the customer – they should want to hear from you.  If you get that message correct, then the selling has already been done for you.

When customers are struggling to see the value of a solution, it’s usually because you haven’t done a good enough job of first understanding why they want it.  Take one of our solutions as an example.  We sell a business analytics solution to help people make sense of their data.  But until we speak to customers and truly understand their business processes and objectives, they don’t understand that what they need is in fact a business analytics solution.  It’s your job to link up the dots to build a picture for your customer.  They might be struggling to formulate a marketing strategy.  That has nothing to do with IT.  Or does it?  In fact, business analytics is a great tool for building marketing strategies, setting targets and measuring results.  But as the sales person, you should do that for the customer – not the other way around.

 

Get the basics in place, then think about the rest

Secondly, I still regularly meet with sales people who are failing to do the basics.  It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day admin that stops you evaluating your activities.  But there’s no point looking for fancy software or solutions to problems if you aren’t doing the sales basics.  The fundamentals of selling often revolve around data; collecting data to identify target customers, collating information about your customers to define strategy, taking down data points from customers in meetings, plugging that data back into CRM systems to aid future marketing activities and analysing activities to form data trends and insights about your selling processes.

Data collection in sales can be seen as a fairly new trend only in place over the past 10 – 20 years with the advent of slick CRM systems.  But data, or customer information, has been the backbone of selling forever.  If you don’t understand your customers and the basics about their industry, then how can you credibly hold a conversation with a client?

If you’re working in the IT sector and selling complex solutions to multiple contacts across a business then you can’t afford to not know about the industry, market challenges, specific line of business departmental challenges and competitor products being sold into that customer.

 

Keep trying, keep selling

This brings me nicely onto my third point. Tenacity.  I have been lucky enough to be working with a number of new business startups and the story is the same across established sales teams and startups.  Tenacity is often lacking when it comes to the sales process.  In the product development side, people spend years refining a product and making it function.  On the admin side, people hire the right people to help them with accounting or their orders to make it work.  But on the sales side, a knock back often results in giving up.

People speak to one person in an organisation and then give up if the answer isn’t positive.   But a relationship can take years to develop and multiple contacts across the organisation are often required to get a decision in place.

I have recently been called a number of times by a sales person for a particular marketing product.  The sales person has kept in touch and regularly phoned to check in on where my thoughts are at in terms of a sale and if the situation has changed.  They have displayed tenacity without hassling.  If they had given up after the first call then I would have forgotten about them by now.  But because they have made the effort to regularly touch base in a polite and respectful manner then I remember them and will probably look to make a decision in the New Year.

Your solution might not fit that person’s priorities on one particular day.  But it might fit tomorrow or the day after.  That’s not to say you should hassle them every day, but you should work on building an initial relationship and seeing the process as a long play with ups and downs.  If you believe the client has a genuine need for your type of solution then it’s your job to stay in the running.

 

Tell a story, build a picture

Finally, in 2016 we will continue to be big on stories.  We make sure our sales people are well versed in real-life, relevant stories that help them to paint a picture about the solutions they sell, where they fit and how customers can be supported on their IT journeys.

Customers’ expectations of sales people are higher – they don’t want to do the work themselves to make a solution fit their own story, they want the sales person to do that for them.  Sales people should look at how to personalise stories before visiting clients, with use cases and industry relevant perspectives readily available to draw on.

For instance, if I were going to visit a bank to talk about C24’s business analytics product, I wouldn’t go in and talk about how well it can visualise data or pull in multiple feeds.  I would look at the financial market and find out a few insights about what is going on in the industry.  So a few examples might be that banks are delivering more services online, customers want to view their info on the go within mobile apps and data security requirements are higher than ever.

If I were visiting that customer, I would now be much better placed to look at how my analytics product can deliver against each of those trends, and I can make it into a compelling story – providing a view of what the future could look like and how it would be delivered.  Then you can build in the potential outcomes and results for the bank and its customers.

So to recap, my 4 ‘resolutions’ for sales people in the New Year are:

  • Simplicity: making the complex incredibly simple
  • Basics: ensuring the basic skills are in place and the fundamental sales activities are being completed
  • Tenacity: making sure we don’t stop at the first no and looking for other ways to help the customer
  • Stories: ensure that every customer conversation we have is tied into a relevant, compelling story

 

 

Image courtesy of Bayasaa.


ERP Industry News Roundup

November 26, 2015

We thought we would do a roundup of a few of the top ERP news stories over the past few weeks that caught our eye.  Here is our ERP news roundup.

C24 News ERP

 

Cloud or nothing

Firstly, Forbes reported that many people find the headache of upgrading or implementing newer versions of their ERP systems (and the associated customizations that go with it) so painful that they decide to remain with their existing software rather than change.

However despite this reticence to change, Gartner reports that alternative procurement models to on-premise licence purchases now account for more than half of new software deployments.  Maybe this suggests that when companies are electing for change on their ERP systems, they are moving to cloud or SAAS platforms.

Read the full article here.

 

 

Oracle’s Cloud Solutions for Manufacturers

Oracle has announced that it has released the industry’s first new software as a service product for the manufacturing industry in years with the introduction of its Manufacturing Cloud solution.

Oracle has said its new solution will enable the design of manufacturing processes and standards, management of work orders and the monitoring of shop-floor status – all delivered as a service rather than an on-premise licence.  Manufacturing and warehouse management solutions have traditionally involved large scale purchases of expensive onsite software licences that require chunky hardware to maintain and run the applications.  Oracle’s plan to deliver more of these enterprise applications within the cloud mean that companies can start to diversify how they pay for and consume their applications depending on what makes the most sense for their business.

Despite the new announcement, analysts highlighted the fact that changing applications in this sector is usually triggered by a change in overall manufacturing equipment, which then requires a software upgrade.  This suggests the market is led more by the underlying manufacturing hardware systems rather than by the vendors bringing new and improved functionality to market.

Read more here.

 

 

Microsoft reorganising its ERP division

Microsoft has recently made changes to its Cloud and Enterprise business unit, bringing enterprise software teams closer to the cloud division.  It has moved around teams in order to bring its Windows Server, SQL Server, Dynamics CRM and ERP teams into the vendor’s cloud organisation, to hopefully encourage more cross-divisional sales of enterprise applications into the Microsoft cloud.

Microsoft is betting on its commercial cloud revenues soaring, which includes Azure and Office365, so is trying to better integrate the range of enterprise applications that businesses can purchase through its cloud solution.

Are companies ready to put all of their enterprise app eggs into the Microsoft cloud basket?

Read the article in full here.

 

 

ERP: Departmental or just IT?

A recent study has found that despite ERP affecting many different departments and often sitting within the control of the manufacturing and production teams, 80 percent of business leaders deferred to their CIO or IT leaders for advice and strategy about moving ERP functions to the cloud.

This is perhaps the opposite of what can be seen in other departments where cloud often enables departments to circumvent IT in order to deploy a new application or service.

In reality, changing such a business-critical application such as ERP should involve all stakeholders, especially if the ERP system is highly integrated into other periphery tools and data vaults across the organisation.

The research also highlighted that 60% of companies are concerned about their dependence on an external vendor when choosing a cloud solution, yet 53% recognise that the scalability offered by cloud solutions is one of the key benefits for ERP deployments.

Read the full press release here.

 

 

Highly sensitive: Highly cloudable?

Verizon have published their State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2016 report which suggests that companies are now becoming more open to transitioning ‘highly sensitive’ workloads to the private cloud (which Verizon terms as a private cloud within a hosted datacentre, not on premise).

The report goes against Gartner’s wider prediction that hybrid cloud was still some way off being a mainstream method of IT resource consumption for enterprises.

The full article in Computer Weekly is available here.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Mick Baker Rooster.


Data: Moving from Ordinary to Visionary

November 17, 2015

Death_to_stock_communicate_hands_1

 

Management information reporting is pretty standard now in all companies – after all, if the management team don’t know their key financial data points then there are probably more important concerns to focus on than how to integrate data analysis into other parts of the business.

Management information (MI) can span across the finance and operational departments, looking at staff KPIs, attendance records and revenue positions.  MI reporting can pull in data from the transaction processing systems, e-commerce platforms or financial applications – to give a view of the overall health of the business.

Business intelligence looks at taking this structured, often static information and making it more valuable and wider in its perspective.  Financial information can be combined with other data sets to provide insights that benefit not just the executive and financial teams, but also marketing and sales divisions to help drive their activities.

Moving from the ordinary to the visionary is about how to take management information and make it into business intelligence. 

 

How can information be continually made more valuable?

Business intelligence programs seek to amalgamate all of a business’ data into one system, in order to be able to cross-reference trends for deeper analysis.

Many tools now exist that can mine text across petabytes worth of documents to make data retrieval quick and easy – such as mining through emails to see how many times certain products were mentioned across a set period of time to determine potential product issues or popularity trends.

Text mining can be particularly helpful for support departments in reviewing and improving their operations.  Being able to mine the text of thousands of support calls enables management to better spot problems or identify breakdowns in support.  Once these issues can be identified (or a process for identifying issues has been formulated) then trend analysis can be utilised to spot ‘triggers’ to certain scenarios – such as an internet provider’s support calls may rise during bad weather at weekends when more people are surfing the net rather than braving the outdoors.  This could lead the internet provider to recruit more staff at weekends dependent on weather forecasts to reduce call waiting times when lines are particularly busy.

Business intelligence (BI) activities involve the collating of historical data, real-time data and future predictive analytics.  BI doesn’t just look at one set of static data, it combines data from different timeframes and scenarios to build a more accurate picture of the business through information.

For instance, a law firm we work with is looking at how they can combine all of their CRM data (which is relatively static on one level, but fluid in content at another level as new sales opportunities are inputted), with their prospect marketing database (such as e-mail distribution lists, e-mail tracking software data and event attendance).  Layered on top of this information will be data flowing in from their social media platforms, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter, in order to build a more holistic view of their business development activities.  Once this information is centralised, it is then easy to delve into trends such as uncovering the percentage of prospects that are converted to customers each month, what percentage of new customers come from their prospect list, and what percentage come from other sources.  Based on this information, the firm can then predict what revenue values mining this list of prospects will potentially yield in the future (i.e. anticipated monthly new customer revenues).

This data could then be of interest to not just the marketing division but also the finance department, showing how business intelligence can create data insights that are valuable across multiple departments.  This in turn encourages more sharing of data between departments, as the potential for new insights means better information output for each division.

Finance and marketing divisions sit on fairly opposite sides of the business.  However, combining CRM data with key financial information would enable the business to work out a number of key insights which could help them to better understand how they do business and what their customer base looks like.

Being able to understand the average revenue position per customer would help you to identify whether the business has too many customers with low levels of spend or in fact too few customers, each with a precariously high (and potentially business-damaging) average level of spend each.

CRM information combined with financial data can help companies to understand churn rates across their customer base, and what this in turn costs the business when customers leave.  It can also help to identify operational costs per sale for each customer – does one customer incur higher expense claims across your employees?  Or is the geographical location of a certain customer significantly reducing margin levels due to high travel costs?

Without business intelligence, this management information and fluid marketing data would be kept separate within the business.  The data would be there, but the value would be missing.


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