Category Archives: B2B
Make it about me
I know I’m not alone in feeling unimportant when I contact large organisations and find they lack the customer view we’re all being told we can expect in a digital, multichannel age. I have to pro-act to get things done. I have to ask my insurance provider, for example, if my car premium reflects my years of loyalty, or if I’m due a multi-policy discount.
The time has come for insurers to focus on how they use data for true competitive advantage and customer loyalty. In this void, with a lack of tailored service, I will continue to shop around for something better. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Know data – no threat
A new report from KPMG, Transforming Insurance: Securing competitive advantage (download the pdf here) explores the viable use of data for predictable analytics in insurance. The report finds that almost two thirds of insurer respondents to its survey only use analytics for reporting what happened, rather than for driving future customer interactions. This is a process that tends to take place in distinct data silos, focused on an organisation’s internal business divisions, rather than on customer engagements.
The report missed a critical point. The discussion for insurers is not around data analytics – to an extent they do that already. The focus needs to shift quickly to understanding the data they already have and using it to augment their capabilities. ‘Transformation’ is a huge step. ‘Augmentation’ can be embarked on with no delay and at relatively low costs. It will keep insurers ahead of new market threats.
New players have no locked-down idea about how insurance models should work, but they do recognise how to identify customer needs through the data their customers freely provide. Tesco made a smooth transition from Club Card to insurance provider because it had the data necessary to market the propositions its customers needed. It knew a lot about them. What is there to stop other data-driven organisations like Amazon, Google, and Facebook from entering the market? The barrier for entry has never been lower, and those with a data-centric understanding of their customers are poised to scramble over it.
Changing the design point – thinking data first
There is an immediate strategic need for the insurance sector to view data as more than functional – information to define risk categories and set premiums. In the light of competitive threats, the insurance industry has to recognise and harness the business value of the vast amounts of data it has collected and continues to gather. A new design point is needed – one that creates a business architecture which thinks Data First.
To adopt a data first architecture is to augment the capabilities a company already has. The ‘nirvana’ business model for the insurer is to expand customer propositions beyond the individual (party, car, house, health, annuity) to the household (similar profiles, easier profiling). Based on the intelligent use of data, policy-centric grows to customer-centricity, with a viable evolution path to household-centricity, untied to legacy limitations.
Win back the customer
Changing the data architecture is a pragmatic solution to a strategic problem. By putting data first, insurers can find the golden nuggets already sitting in their systems. They can make the connections across each customer’s needs and life-stage. By trusting the data, insurers can elevate the quality of their customer service to a level of real personal care, enabling them to secure the loyalty of their customers before the market starts to rumble as new players make their pitch.
Focusing on a data architecture, the organisation also takes complexity out of the eco-system and creates headroom for innovation – fresh ideas around cross-sell and up-sell, delivering more complete and loyalty-generating service offerings to customers. Loyalty fosters trust, driving stronger relationships between insurer and client.
Insurers have the power – they have the data – to ensure that when next time someone like me makes contact they can impress me, sell me more, make me happier and, above all, make me stay.
With the European Medicines Agency (EMA) date for compliance to IDMP (Identification of Medicinal Products) looming, Q1 2015 has seen a significant increase in IDMP activity. Both Informatica & HighPoint Solution’s IDMP Round Table in January, and a February Marcus Evans conference in Berlin provided excellent forums for sharing progress, thoughts and strategies. Additional confidential conversations with pharmaceutical companies show an increase in the number of approved and active projects, although some are still seeking full funding. The following paragraphs sum up the activity and trends that I have witnessed in the first three months of the year.
I’ll start with my favourite quote, which is from Dr. Jörg Stüben of Boehringer Ingelheim, who asked:
“Isn’t part of compliance being in control of your data?”
I like it because to me it is just the right balance of stating the obvious, and questioning the way the majority of pharmaceutical companies approach compliance: A report that has to be created and submitted. If a company is in control of their data, regulatory compliance would be easier and come at a lower cost. More importantly, the company itself would benefit from easy access to high quality data.
Dr. Stüben’s question was raised during his excellent presentation at the Marcus Evans conference. Not only did he question the status quo, but proposed an alternate way for IDMP compliance: Let Boehringer benefit from their investment in IDMP compliance. His approach can be summarised as follows:
- Embrace a holistic approach to being in control of data, i.e. adopt data governance practices.
- This is not about just compliance. Include optional attributes that will deliver value to the organisation if correctly managed.
- Get started by creating simple, clear work packages.
Although Dr Stüben did not outline his technical solution, it would include data quality tools and a product data hub.
At the same conference, Stefan Fischer Rivera & Stefan Brügger of Bayer and Guido Claes from Janssen Pharmaceuticals both came out strongly in favour of using a Master Data Management (MDM) approach to achieving compliance. Both companies have MDM technology and processes within their organisations, and realise the value a MDM approach can bring to achieving compliance in terms of data management and governance. Having Mr Claes express how well Informatica’s MDM and Data Quality solutions support his existing substance data management program, made his presentation even more enjoyable to me.
Whilst the exact approaches of Bayer and Janssen differed, there were some common themes:
- Consider both the short term (compliance) and the long term (data governance) in the strategy
- Centralised MDM is ideal, but a federated approach is practical for July 2016
- High quality data should be available to a wide audience outside of IDMP compliance
The first and third bullet points map very closely to Dr. Stüben’s key points, and in fact show a clear trend in 2015:
IDMP Compliance is an opportunity to invest in your data management solutions and processes for the benefit of the entire organisation.
Although the EMA was not represented at the conference, Andrew Marr presented their approach to IDMP, and master data in general. The EMA is undergoing a system re-organisation to focus on managing Substance, Product, Organisation and Reference data centrally, rather than within each regulation or program as it is today. MDM will play a key role in managing this data, setting a high standard of data control and management for regulatory purposes. It appears that the EMA is also using IDMP to introduce better data management practice.
Depending on the size of the company, and the skills & tools available, other non-MDM approaches have been presented or discussed during the first part of 2015. These include using XML and SharePoint to manage product data. However I share a primary concern with others in the industry with this approach: How well can you manage and control change using these tools? Some pharmaceutical companies have openly stated that data contributors often spend more time looking for data than doing their own jobs. A XML/SharePoint approach will do little to ease this burden, but an MDM approach will.
Despite the others approaches and solutions being discovered, there is another clear trend in Q1 2015
MDM is becoming a favoured approach for IDMP compliance due to its strong governance, centralised attribute-level data management and ability to track changes.
Interestingly, the opportunity to invest in data management, and the rise of MDM as a favoured approach has been backed up with research by Gens Associates. Messers Gens and Brolund found a rapid increase in investment during 2014 of what they term Information Architecture, in which MDM plays a key role. IDMP is seen as a major driver for this investment. They go on to state that investment in master data management programs will allow a much easier and cost effective approach to data exchange (internally and externally), resulting in substantial benefits. Unfortunately they do not elaborate on these benefits, but I have placed a summary on benefits of using MDM for IDMP compliance here.
In terms of active projects, the common compliance activities I have seen in the first quarter of 2015 are as follows:
- Most companies are in the discovery phase: identifying the effort for compliance
- Some are starting to make technology choices, and have submitted RFPs/RFQs
- Those furthest along in technology already have MDM programs or initiatives underway
- Despite getting a start, some are still lacking enough funding for achieving compliance
- Output from the discovery phase will in some cases be used to request full funding
- A significant number of projects have a goal to implement better data management practice throughout the company. IDMP will be the as the first release.
A final trend I have noticed in 2015 is regarding the magnitude of the compliance task ahead:
Those who have made the most progress are those who are most concerned about achieving compliance on time.
The implication is that the companies who are starting late do not yet realise the magnitude of the task ahead. It is not yet too late to comply and achieve long term benefits through better data management, despite only 15 months before the initial EMA deadline. Informatica has customers who have implemented MDM within 6 months. 15 months is achievable provided the project (or program) gets the focus and resources required.
IDMP compliance is a common challenge to all those in the pharmaceutical industry. Learning from others will help avoid common mistakes and provide tips on important topics. For example, how to secure funding and support from senior management is a common concern among those tasked with compliance. In order to encourage learning and networking, Informatica and HighPoint Solutions will be hosting our third IDMP roundtable in London on May 13th. Please do join us to share your experiences, and learn from the experiences of others.
This article was originally posted on Argyle CMO Journal and is re-posted here with permission.
According to a new global study from SDL, 90% of consumers expect a consistent customer experience across channels and devices when they interact with brands. However, according to these survey results, Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing is on the Hook, fewer than half of the companies surveyed rank their customer experience as exceptional today. The good news is that two-thirds expect it to be exceptional in two years. In fact, 89% plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016.
So, what role do CMOs play in delivering omnichannel customer experiences?
According to a recent report, Gartner’s Executive Summary for Leadership Accountability and Credibility within the C-Suite, a high percentage of CEOs expect CMOs to lead the integrated cross-functional customer experience. Also, customer experience is one of the top three areas of investment for CMOs in the next two years.
I had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion at the Argyle CMO Forum in Dallas a few months ago. It focused on the emergence of omnichannel and the need to deliver seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels.
Lisa Zoellner, Chief Marketing Officer of Golfsmith International, was the dynamic moderator, kept the conversation lively, and the audience engaged. I was a panelist alongside:
- Chris Brogan, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Analysis,Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
• Chris Berg, Vice President, Store Operations, The Home Depot
• Chip Burgard, Senior Vice President, Marketing, CitiMortgage
Below are some highlights from the panel.
Lisa Zoellner, CMO, Golfsmith International opened the panel with a statistic. “Fifty-five percent of marketers surveyed feel they are playing catch up to customer expectations. But in that gap is a big opportunity.”
What is your definition of omnichannel?
There was consensus among the group that omnichannel is about seeing your business through the eyes of your customer and delivering seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels.
Customers don’t think in terms of channels and touch points; they just expect seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences. It’s one brand to the customer. But there is a gap between customer expectations and what most businesses can deliver today.
In fact, executives at most organizations I’ve spoken with, including the panelists, believe they are in the very beginning stages of their journey towards delivering omnichannel customer experiences. The majority are still struggling to get a single view of customers, products and inventory across channels.
“Customers don’t think in terms of channels and touch points; they just expect seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences.”
What are some of the core challenges standing in your way?
A key takeaway was that omnichannel requires organizations to fundamentally change how they do business. In particular, it requires changing existing business practices and processes. It cannot be done without cross-functional collaboration.
I think Chris Berg, VP, Store Operations at The Home Depot said it well, “One of the core challenges is the annual capital allocation cycle, which makes it difficult for organizations to be nimble. Most companies set strategies and commitments 12-24 months out and approach these strategies in silos. Marketing, operations, and merchandising teams typically ask for capital separately. Rarely does this process start with asking the question, ‘What is the core strategy we want to align ourselves around over the next 24 months?’ If you begin there and make a single capital allocation request to pursue that strategy, you remove one of the largest obstacles standing in the way.”
Chip Burgard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at CitiMortgage focused on two big barriers. “The first one is a systems barrier. I know a lot of companies struggle with this problem. We’re operating with a channel-centric rather than a customer-centric view. Now that we need to deliver omnichannel customer experiences, we realize we’re not as customer-centric as we thought we were. We need to understand what products our customers have across lines-of-business such as, credit cards, banking, investments and mortgage. But, our systems weren’t providing a total customer relationship view across products and channels. Now, we’re making progress on that. The second barrier is compensation. We have a commission-based sales force. How do you compensate the loan officers if a customer starts the transaction with the call center but completes it in the branch? That’s another issue we’re working on.”
Lisa Zoellner, CMO at Golfsmith International added, “I agree that compensation is a big barrier. Companies need to rethink their compensation plans. The sticky question is ‘Who gets credit for the sale?’ It’s easy to say that you’re channel-agnostic, but when someone’s paycheck is tied to the performance of a particular channel, it makes it difficult to drive that type of culture change.”
“We have a complicated business. More than 500 Hyatt hotels and resorts span multiple brands and regions,” said Chris Brogan, SVP of Strategy and Analytics at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. “But, customers want a seamless experience no matter where they travel. They expect that the preference they shared during their Hyatt stay at a hotel in Singapore is understood by the person working at the next hotel in Dallas. So, we’re bridging those traditional silos all the way down to the hotel. A guest doesn’t care if the person they’re interacting with is from the building engineering department, from the food and beverage department, or the rooms department. It’s all part of the same customer experience. So we’re looking at how we share the information that’s important to guests to keep the customer the focus of our operations.”
“We’re working together collectively to meet our customers’ needs across the channels they are using to engage with us.”
How are companies powering great customer experiences with great customer data?
Chris Brogan, SVP of Strategy and Analytics at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, said, “We’re going through a transformation to unleash our colleagues to deliver great customer experiences at every stage of the guest journey. Our competitive differentiation comes from knowing our customers better than our competitors. We manage our customer data like a strategic asset so we can use that information to serve customers better and build loyalty for our brand.”
Hyatt connects the fragmented customer data from numerous applications including sales, marketing, ecommerce, customer service and finance. They bring the core customer profiles together into a single, trusted location, where they are continually managed. Now their customer profiles are clean, de-duplicated, enriched, and validated. They can see the members of a household as well as the connections between corporate hierarchies. Business and analytics applications are fueled with this clean, consistent and connected information so customer-facing teams can do their jobs more effectively and hotel teams can extend simple, meaningful gestures that drive guest loyalty.
When he first joined Hyatt, Chris did a search for his name in the central customer database and found 13 different versions of himself. This included the single Chris Brogan who lived across the street from Wrigley Field with his buddies in his 20s and the Chris Brogan who lives in the suburbs with his wife and two children. “I can guarantee those two guys want something very different from a hotel stay. Mostly just sleep now,” he joked. Those guest profiles have now been successfully consolidated.
This solid customer data foundation means Hyatt colleagues can more easily personalize a guest’s experience. For example, colleagues at the front desk are now able to use the limited check-in time to congratulate a new Diamond member on just achieving the highest loyalty program tier or offer a better room to those guests most likely to take them up on the offer and appreciate it.
According to Chris, “Successful marketing, sales and customer experience initiatives need to be built on a solid customer data foundation. It’s much harder to execute effectively and continually improve if your customer data is not in order.”
How are you shifting from channel-centric to customer-centric?
Chip Burgard, SVP of Marketing at CitiMortgage answered, “In the beginning of our omnichannel journey, we were trying to allow customer choice through multi-channel. Our whole organization was designed around people managing different channels. But, we quickly realized that allowing separate experiences that a customer can choose from is not being customer-centric.
Now we have new sales leadership that understands the importance of delivering seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels. And they are changing incentives to drive that customer-centric behavior. We’re no longer holding people accountable specifically for activity in their channels. We’re working together collectively to meet our customers’ needs across the channels they are using to engage with us.”
Chris Berg, VP of Store Operations at The Home Depot, explained, “For us, it’s about transitioning from a store-centric to customer-centric approach. It’s a cultural change. The managers of our 2,000 stores have traditionally been compensated based on their own store’s performance. But we are one brand. For example in the future, a store may be fulfilling an order, however because of the geography of where the order originated they may not receive credit for the sale. We’re in the process of working through how to better reward that collaboration. Also, we’re making investments in our systems so they support an omnichannel, or what we call interconnected, business. We have 40,000 products in store and over 1,000,000 products online. Now that we’re on the interconnected journey, we’re rethinking how we manage our product information so we can better manage inventory across channels more effectively and efficiently.”
Omnichannel is all about shifting from channel-centric to customer-centric – much more customer-centric than you are today. Knowing who your customers are and having a view of products and inventory across channels are the basic requirements to delivering exceptional customer experiences across channels and touch points.
This is not a project. A business transformation is required to empower people to deliver omnichannel customer experiences. The executive team needs to drive it and align compensation and incentives around it. A collaborative cross-functional approach is needed to achieve it.
Omnichannel depends on customer-facing teams such as marketing, sales and call centers to have access to a total customer relationship view based on clean, consistent and connected customer, product and inventory information. This is the basic foundation needed to deliver seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels and touch points and improve their effectiveness.
Last week was Informatica’s first ever Data Mania event, held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. We had an A-list lineup of speakers from leading cloud and data companies, such as Salesforce, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Tableau, Dun & Bradstreet, Marketo, AppDynamics, Birst, Adobe, and Qlik. The event and speakers covered a range of topics all related to data, including Big Data processing in the cloud, data-driven customer success, and cloud analytics.
While these companies are giants today in the world of cloud and have created their own unique ecosystems, we also wanted to take a peek at and hear from the leaders of tomorrow. Before startups can become market leaders in their own realm, they face the challenge of ramping up a stellar roster of customers so that they can get to subsequent rounds of venture funding. But what gets in their way are the numerous data integration challenges of onboarding customer data onto their software platform. When these challenges remain unaddressed, R&D resources are spent on professional services instead of building value-differentiating IP. Bugs also continue to mount, and technical debt increases.
Enter the Informatica Cloud Connector SDK. Built entirely in Java and able to browse through any cloud application’s API, the Cloud Connector SDK parses the metadata behind each data object and presents it in the context of what a business user should see. We had four startups build a native connector to their application in less than two weeks: BigML, Databricks, FollowAnalytics, and ThoughtSpot. Let’s take a look at each one of them.
With predictive analytics becoming a growing imperative, machine-learning algorithms that can have a higher probability of prediction are also becoming increasingly important. BigML provides an intuitive yet powerful machine-learning platform for actionable and consumable predictive analytics. Watch their demo on how they used Informatica Cloud’s Connector SDK to help them better predict customer churn.
Can’t play the video? Click here, http://youtu.be/lop7m9IH2aw
Databricks was founded out of the UC Berkeley AMPLab by the creators of Apache Spark. Databricks Cloud is a hosted end-to-end data platform powered by Spark. It enables organizations to unlock the value of their data, seamlessly transitioning from data ingest through exploration and production. Watch their demo that showcases how the Informatica Cloud connector for Databricks Cloud was used to analyze lead contact rates in Salesforce, and also performing machine learning on a dataset built using either Scala or Python.
Can’t play the video? Click here, http://youtu.be/607ugvhzVnY
With mobile usage growing by leaps and bounds, the area of customer engagement on a mobile app has become a fertile area for marketers. Marketers are charged with acquiring new customers, increasing customer loyalty and driving new revenue streams. But without the technological infrastructure to back them up, their efforts are in vain. FollowAnalytics is a mobile analytics and marketing automation platform for the enterprise that helps companies better understand audience engagement on their mobile apps. Watch this demo where FollowAnalytics first builds a completely native connector to its mobile analytics platform using the Informatica Cloud Connector SDK and then connects it to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online using Informatica Cloud’s prebuilt connector for it. Then, see FollowAnalytics go one step further by performing even deeper analytics on their engagement data using Informatica Cloud’s prebuilt connector for Salesforce Wave Analytics Cloud.
Can’t play the video? Click here, http://youtu.be/E568vxZ2LAg
Analytics has taken center stage this year due to the rise in cloud applications, but most of the existing BI tools out there still stick to the old way of doing BI. ThoughtSpot brings a consumer-like simplicity to the world of BI by allowing users to search for the information they’re looking for just as if they were using a search engine like Google. Watch this demo where ThoughtSpot uses Informatica Cloud’s vast library of over 100 native connectors to move data into the ThoughtSpot appliance.
Can’t play the video? Click here, http://youtu.be/6gJD6hRD9h4
Retail friends – sorry to say it was not a surprise that reinventing the store and making it more digital impacted the Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) in London this week. I saw a similar trend at the National Retail Federation Big Show back in January, which I discussed in this blog post.
With that being said, I was not shy finding the fantastic five that thrilled me in the Olympia Hammersmith center hall.
Here they are:
Engaging Spaces: Their booth was making the most noise with interactive touchable wooden walls, which emphasize interaction with sound and lights. No booth was inspiring more people taking pictures than this one. I took the liberty to record this short clip
Engaging Spaces was surrounded by lots of fancy digital signage vendors to display products in-store. Some demos did not work, or did not come with comprehensive product details and are still not personalized.
Panel: Optimizing the supply chain and omnichannel experience are twins. Moderated by Spencer Izard and completed by Craig Sears-Black from Manhattan Associates and Tom Enright from Gartner, showed that the lines between retailers and CPG companies are blurring. Retailers become eTailers and brands act like retailers.
We learned that consumers don’t care where they buy from, but they always expect trust! The experts see co-existence, overlap and changes for partnering between vendors and retailers. Analysts said that retail organizations are still siloed on the internal structure, which prevents omnichannel execution. We expect that a balance of power will take place between brands and retailers.
Orderella: Let the phone do the queuing. This app is perfect for people like me who hate waiting in line for lunch.. The app connects with PayPal, soI was able to order my snack and drink from my phone, and to my table. It was delivered in 1 minute, and I was able to monitor the process within the app. In addition, they also delivered to each both with localizing your phone and offered a 6 bucks voucher for each new deal. Great combination of location, real-time, product and customer data.
Red Ant: The seamless in-store experience. The app sits on top of ecommerce tools like Demandware, hybris, Intershop, Magento, Oxid, Oracle ATG or IBM WebSphere Commerce, which are used by many of our customers tosupport barcode scanning and flexibility in the checkout process. It also supports the in-store assistant to complete the transaction. Red Ant is very easy to use for our eCommerce clients, who already fuel their commerce with perfect product information.
Iconeme: Again for digital in-store experience. The app uses iBeacon to help users see where the product is in the store, share it, view looks (product bundles), a virtual dressing room, and of course, check out payment. Definitely something to take a look at.
Who remembers their first game of Pong? Celebrating more than 40 years of innovation, gaming is no longer limited to monochromatic screens and dedicated, proprietary platforms. The PC gaming industry is expected to exceed $35bn by 2018. Phone and handheld games is estimated at $34bn in 5 years and quickly closing the gap. According to EEDAR, 2014 recorded more than 141 million mobile gamers just in North America, generating $4.6B in revenue for mobile game vendors.
This growth has spawned a growing list of conferences specifically targeting gamers, game developers, the gaming industry and more recently gaming analytics! This past weekend in Boston, for example, was PAX East where people of all ages and walks of life played games on consoles, PC, handhelds, and good old fashioned board games. With my own children in attendance, the debate of commercial games versus indie favorites, such as Minecraft , dominates the dinner table.
Online games are where people congregate online, collaborate, and generate petabytes of data daily. With the added bonus of geospatial data from smart phones, the opportunity for more advanced analytics. Some of the basic metrics that determine whether a game is successful, according to Ninja Metrics, include:
- New Users, Daily Active Users, Retention
- Revenue per user
- Session length and number of sessions per user
Additionally, they provide predictive analytics, customer lifetime value, and cohort analysis. If this is your gig, there’s a conference for that as well – the Gaming Analytics Summit !
At the Game Developers Conference recently held in San Francisco, the focus of this event has shifted over the years from computer games to new gaming platforms that need to incorporate mobile, smartphone, and online components. In order to produce a successful game, it requires the following:
- Needs to be able to connect to a variety of devices and platforms
- Needs to use data to drive decisions and improve user experience
- Needs to ensure privacy laws are adhered to.
Developers are able to quickly access online gaming data and tweak or change their sprites’ attributes dynamically to maximize player experience.
When you look at what is happening in the gaming industry, you can start to see why colleges and universities like my own alma mater, WPI, now offers a computer science degree in Interactive Media and Game Design degree . The IMGD curriculum includes heavy coursework in data science, game theory, artificial intelligence and story boarding. When I asked a WPI IMGD student about what they are working on, they are mapping out decision trees that dictate what adversary to pop up based on the player’s history (sounds a lot like what we do in digital marketing…).
As we start to look at the Millennial Generation entering into the workforce, maybe we should look at our own recruiting efforts and consider game designers. They are masters in analytics and creativity with an appreciation for the importance of great data. Combining the magic and the math makes a great gaming experience. Who wouldn’t want that for their customers?
In honor of International Women’s Day 2015, Informatica is celebrating female leadership in a blog series. Every day this week, we will showcase a new female leader at Informatica, who will share their perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in the tech industry.
Area Vice President for US Financial Services
Women bring different perspectives to all situations. Sometimes it’s welcomed and sometimes it’s not embraced because it’s outside of the norm – which actually makes it of even greater value. The technology field is still dominated by men. Many times I am the only woman in the room and most times I am the only woman in a position of leadership; this also presents a unique opportunity to stand out.
It has been a long haul to get to where I am today with many stories of great successes and some real misses. Those “misses” always lead me to the vow of “never again” and to exceed in new ways. Today I have the confidence that my “different perspective” will change the course of things. I am unapologetic for my ideas or directions even though they may be contrary to the norm. I am grateful to have been given the chance to work personally with leaders in the tech industry and been given opportunities that stretched me beyond what I believed my own capabilities to be. Only to realize I am more than capable and actually able to move beyond.
As a leader, the most critical aspect is to build a management team that complements my own skills.
- Diversity in talent is important so that we leverage each other’s strengths.
- Open communication is a critical aspect to my leadership and success.
- Honoring and respecting what each individual brings to their teams – while giving just enough guidance, has led to ensuring forward momentum, having ultimate buy-in to what we do, and delivering consistent contributions – all of which is the foundation for great success.
Advice for women:
Put yourself out there. Be bold. Take your seat at the table in a big way! Have mentors. Know who to trust (and who not). Create a network of colleagues. Always help other women succeed.
Thoughts about Informatica’s culture:
Informatica is a great place to be. I wake up every day, passionate about what I do and excited about the difference that my team and I are making for our company and for our customers. We have a culture of integrity, excellence and innovation. This translates in everything we do. As we are critical in some many transformational initiatives for our customers. Who we are has been the basis for how we have delivered for our customers time and time again. Now with the future being all things ‘data’, Informatica will be instrumental in helping our customers leapfrog to their next level of growth. This is the best time to be part of Informatica.
With Informatica’s Data Mania on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about REST APIs. In particular, I’ve been considering how and why they’ve become so ubiquitous, especially for SaaS companies. Today they are the prerequisite for any company looking to connect with other ecosystems, accelerate adoption and, ultimately, separate themselves from the pack.
Let’s unpack why.
To trace the rise of the REST API, we’ll first need to take a look at the SOAP web services protocol that preceded it. SOAP is still very much in play and remains important to many application integration scenarios. But it doesn’t receive much use or love from the thousands of SaaS applications that just want to get or place data with one another or in one of the large SaaS ecosystems like Salesforce.
Why this is the case has more to do with needs and demands of a SaaS business than it does with the capabilities of SOAP web services. SOAP, as it turns out, is perfectly fine for making and receiving web service calls, but it does require work on behalf of both the calling application and the producing application. And therein lies the rub.
SOAP web service calls are by their very nature incredibly structured arrangements, with specifications that must be clearly defined by both parties. Only after both the calling and producing application have their frameworks in place can the call be validated. While the contract within SOAP WSDLs makes SOAP more robust, it also makes it too rigid, and less adaptable to change. But today’s apps need a more agile and more loosely defined API framework that requires less work to consume and can adapt to the inevitable and frequent changes demanded by cloud applications.
Enter REST APIs
REST APIs are the perfect vehicle for today’s SaaS businesses and mash-up applications. Sure, they’re more loosely defined than SOAP, but when all you want to do is get and receive some data, now, in the context you need, nothing is easier or better for the job than a REST API.
With a REST API, the calls are mostly done as HTTP with some loose structure and don’t require a lot of mechanics from the calling application, or effort on behalf of the producing application.
SaaS businesses prefer REST APIs because they are easy to consume. They also make it easy to onboard new customers and extend the use of the platform to other applications. The latter is important because it is primarily through integration that SaaS applications get to become part of an enterprise business process and gain the stickiness needed to accelerate adoption and growth.
Without APIs of any sort, integration can only be done through manual data movement, which opens the application and enterprise up to the potential errors caused by fat-finger data movement. That typically will give you the opposite result of stickiness, and is to be avoided at all costs.
While publishing an API as a way to get and receive data from other applications is a great start, it is just a means to an end. If you’re a SaaS business with greater ambitions, you may want to consider taking the next step of building native connectors to other apps using an integration system such as Informatica Cloud. A connector can provide a nice layer of abstraction on the APIs so that the data can be accessed as application data objects within business processes. Clearly, stickiness with any SaaS application improves in direct proportion to the number of business processes or other applications that it is integrated with.
The Informatica Cloud Connector SDK is Java-based and enables you easily to cut and paste the code necessary to create the connectors. Informatica Cloud’s SDKs are also richer and make it possible for you to adapt the REST API to something any business user will want to use – which is a huge advantage.
In addition to making your app stickier, native connectors have the added benefit of increasing your portability. Without this layer of abstraction, direct interaction with a REST API that’s been structurally changed would be impossible without also changing the data flows that depend on it. Building a native connector makes you more agile, and inoculates your custom built integration from breaking.
Building your connectors with Informatica Cloud also provides you with some other advantages. One of the most important is entrance to a community that includes all of the major cloud ecosystems and the thousands of business apps that orbit them. As a participant, you’ll become part of an interconnected web of applications that make up the business processes for the enterprises that use them.
Another ancillary benefit is access to integration templates that you can easily customize to connect with any number of known applications. The templates abstract the complexity from complicated integrations, can be quickly customized with just a few composition screens, and are easily invoked using Informatica Cloud’s APIs.
The best part of all this is that you can use Informatica Cloud’s integration technology to become a part of any business process without stepping outside of your application.
For those interested in continuing the conversation and learning more about how leading SaaS businesses are using REST API’s and native connectors to separate themselves, I invite you to join me at Data Mania, March 4th in San Francisco. Hope to see you there.
What does it take to be an analytics-driven business? That’s a question that requires a long answer. Recently, Gartner research director Lisa Kart took on this question, noting how the key to becoming an analytics-driven business.
So, the secret of becoming an analytics-driven business is to bust down the silos — easier than done, of course. The good news, as Kart tells it, is that one doesn’t need to be casting a wide net across the world in search of the right data for the right occasion. The biggest opportunities are with connecting the data you already have, she says.
Taking Kart’s differentiation of just-using-analytics versus analytics-driven culture a step further, hare is a brief rundown of how businesses just using analytics approach the challenge, versus their more enlightened counterparts:
Business just using analytics: Lots of data, but no one really understands how much is around, or what to do with it.
Analytics-driven business: The enterprise has a vision and strategy, supported from the top down, closely tied to the business strategy. Management also recognizes that existing data has great value to the business.
Business just using analytics: Every department does its own thing, with varying degrees of success.
Analytics-driven business: Makes connections between all the data – of all types — floating around the organization. For example, gets a cross-channel view of a customer by digging deeper and connecting the silos together to transform the data into something consumable.
Business just using analytics: Some people in marketing have been collecting customer data and making recommendations to their managers.
Analytics-driven business: Marketing departments, through analytics, engage and interact with customers, Kart says. An example would be creating high end, in-store customer experiences that gave customers greater intimacy and interaction.
Business just using analytics: The CFO’s staff crunches numbers within their BI tools and arrive at what-if scenarios.
Analytics-driven business: Operations and finance departments share online data to improve performance using analytics. For example, a company may tap into a variety of data, including satellite images, weather patterns, and other factors that may shape business conditions, Kart says.
Business just using analytics: Some quants in the organization pour over the data and crank out reports.
Analytics-driven business: Encourages maximum opportunities for innovation by putting analytics in the hands of all employees. Analytics-driven businesses recognize that more innovation comes from front-line decision-makers than the executive suite.
Business just using analytics: Decision makers put in report requests to IT for analysis.
Analytics-driven business: Decision makers can go to an online interface that enables them to build and display reports with a click (or two).
Business just using analytics: Analytics spits out standard bar charts, perhaps a scattergram.
Analytics-driven business: Decision makers can quickly visualize insights through 3D graphics, also reflecting real-time shifts.
Despite spending more than $30 Billion in annual spending on Big Data, successful big data implementations elude most organizations. That’s the sobering assessment of a recent study of 226 senior executives from Capgemini, which found that only 13 percent feel they have truly have made any headway with their big data efforts.
The reasons for Big Data’s lackluster performance include the following:
- Data is in silos or legacy systems, scattered across the enterprise
- No convincing business case
- Ineffective alignment of Big Data and analytics teams across the organization
- Most data locked up in petrified, difficult to access legacy systems
- Lack of Big Data and analytics skills
Actually, there is nothing new about any of these issues – in fact, the perceived issues with Big Data initiatives so far map closely with the failed expect many other technology-driven initiatives. First, there’s the hype that tends to get way ahead of any actual well-functioning case studies. Second, there’s the notion that managers can simply take a solution of impressive magnitude and drop it on top of their organizations, expecting overnight delivery of profits and enhanced competitiveness.
Technology, and Big Data itself, is but a tool that supports the vision, well-designed plans and hard work of forward-looking organizations. Those managers seeking transformative effects need to look deep inside their organizations, at how deeply innovation is allowed to flourish, and in turn, how their employees are allowed to flourish. Think about it: if line employees suddenly have access to alternative ways of doing things, would they be allowed to run with it? If someone discovers through Big Data that customers are using a product differently than intended, do they have the latitude to promote that new use? Or do they have to go through chains of approval?
Big Data may be what everybody is after, but Big Culture is the ultimate key to success.
For its part, Capgemini provides some high-level recommendations for better baking in transformative values as part of Big Data initiatives, based on their observations of best-in-class enterprises:
The vision thing: “It all starts with vision,” says Capgemini’s Ron Tolido. “If the company executive leadership does not actively, demonstrably embrace the power of technology and data as the driver of change and future performance, nothing digitally convincing will happen. We have not even found one single exception to this rule. The CIO may live and breathe Big Data and there may even be a separate Chief Data Officer appointed – expect more of these soon – if they fail to commit their board of executives to data as the engine of success, there will be a dark void beyond the proof of concept.”
Establish a well-defined organizational structure: “Big Data initiatives are rarely, if ever, division-centric,” the Capgemini report states. “They often cut across various departments in an organization. Organizations that have clear organizational structures for managing rollout can minimize the problems of having to engage multiple stakeholders.”
Adopt a systematic implementation approach: Surprisingly, even the largest and most sophisticated organizations that do everything on process don’t necessarily approach Big Data this way, the report states. “Intuitively, it would seem that a systematic and structured approach should be the way to go in large-scale implementations. However, our survey shows that this philosophy and approach are rare. Seventy-four percent of organizations did not have well-defined criteria to identify, qualify and select Big Data use-cases. Sixty-seven percent of companies did not have clearly defined KPIs to assess initiatives. The lack of a systematic approach affects success rates.”
Adopt a “venture capitalist” approach to securing buy-in and funding: “The returns from investments in emerging digital technologies such as Big Data are often highly speculative, given the lack of historical benchmarks,” the Capgemini report points out. “Consequently, in many organizations, Big Data initiatives get stuck due to the lack of a clear and attributable business case.” To address this challenge, the report urges that Big Data leaders manage investments “by using a similar approach to venture capitalists. This involves making multiple small investments in a variety of proofs of concept, allowing rapid iteration, and then identifying PoCs that have potential and discarding those that do not.”
Leverage multiple channels to secure skills and capabilities: “The Big Data talent gap is something that organizations are increasingly coming face-to-face with. Closing this gap is a larger societal challenge. However, smart organizations realize that they need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy. They not only invest more on hiring and training, but also explore unconventional channels to source talent. Capgemini advises reaching out to partner organizations for the skills needed to develop Big Data initiatives. These can be employee exchanges, or “setting up innovation labs in high-tech hubs such as Silicon Valley.” Startups may also be another source of Big Data talent.