Category Archives: Operational Efficiency
Recently, I presented a Business Value Assessment to a client. The findings were based on a revenue-generating state government agency. Everyone at the presentation was stunned to find out how much money was left on the table by not basing their activities on transactions, which could be cleanly tied to the participating citizenry and a variety of channel partners. There was over $38 million in annual benefits left over, which included partially recovered lost revenue, cost avoidance and reduction. A higher data impact to this revenue driven business model could have prevented this.
Given the total revenue volume, this may seem small. However, after factoring in the little technology effort required to “collect and connect” data from existing transactions, it is actually extremely high.
The real challenge for this organization will be the required policy transformation to turn the organization from “data-starved” to “data-intensive”. This would eliminate strategic decisions around new products, locations and customers relying on surveys that face sampling errors, biases, etc. Additionally, surveys are often delayed, making them practically ineffective in this real-time world we live in today.
Despite no applicable legal restrictions, the leadership’s main concern was that gathering more data would erode the public’s trust and positive image of the organization.
To be clear; by “more” data being collected by this type of government agency I mean literally 10% of what any commercial retail entity has gathered on all of us for decades. This is not the next NSA revelation as any conspiracy theorist may fear.
While I respect their culturally driven self-censorship despite no legal barricades, it raises their stakeholders’ (the state’s citizenry) concern over its performance. To be clear, there would be no additional revenue for the state’s programs without more citizen data. You may believe that they already know everything about you, including your income, property value, tax information, etc. However, inter-departmental sharing of criminally-non-relevant information is legally constrained.
Another interesting finding from this evaluation was that they had no sense of conversion rate from email and social media campaigns. Impressions from click-throughs as well as hard/soft bounces were more important than tracking who actually generated revenue.
This is a very market-driven organization compared to other agencies. It actually does try to measure itself like a commercial enterprise and attempts to change in order to generate additional revenue for state programs benefiting the citizenry. I can only imagine what non-revenue-generating agencies (local, state or federal) do in this respect. Is revenue-oriented thinking something the DoD, DoJ or Social Security should subscribe to?
Think tanks and political pundits are now looking at the trade-off between bringing democracy to every backyard on our globe and its long-term, budget ramifications. The DoD is looking to reduce the active component to its lowest in decades given the U.S. federal debt level.
A recent article in HBR explains that cost cutting has never sustained an organization’s growth over a longer period of time, but new revenue sources did. Is your company or government agency only looking at cost and personnel productivity?
Recommendations and illustrations contained in this post are estimates only and are based entirely upon information provided by the prospective customer and on our observations and benchmarks. While we believe our recommendations and estimates to be sound, the degree of success achieved by the prospective customer is dependent upon a variety of factors, many of which are not under Informatica’s control and nothing in this post shall be relied upon as representative of the degree of success that may, in fact, be realized and no warranty or representation of success, either express or implied, is made.
Looking for a data integration expert? Join the club. As cloud computing and big data become more desirable within the Global 2000, an abundance of data integration talent is required to make both cloud and big data work properly.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t deploy a cloud-based system without some sort of data integration as part of the solution. Either from on-premise to cloud, cloud-to-cloud, or even intra-company use of private clouds, these projects need someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to data integration.
While many cloud projects were launched without a clear understanding of the role of data integration, most people understand it now. As companies become more familiar with the could, they learn that data integration is key to the solution. For this reason, it’s important for teams to have at least some data integration talent.
The same goes for big data projects. Massive amounts of data need to be loaded into massive databases. You can’t do these projects using ad-hoc technologies anymore. The team needs someone with integration knowledge, including what technologies to bring to the project.
Generally speaking, big data systems are built around data integration solutions. Similar to cloud, the use of data integration architectural expertise should be a core part of the project. I see big data projects succeed and fail, and the biggest cause of failure is the lack of data integration expertise.
The demand for data integration talent has exploded with the growth of both big data and cloud computing. A week does not go by that I’m not asked for the names of people who have data integration, cloud computing and big data systems skills. I know several people who fit that bill, however they all have jobs and recently got raises.
The scary thing is, if these jobs go unfilled by qualified personnel, project directors may hire individuals without the proper skills and experience. Or worse, they may not hire anyone at all. If they plod along without the expertise required, in a year they’ll wonder why the systems are not sharing data the way they should, resulting in a big failure.
So, what can organizations do? You can find or build the talent you need before starting important projects. Thus, now is the time to begin the planning process, including how to find and hire the right resources. This might even mean internal training, hiring mentors or outside consultants, or working with data integration technology providers. Do everything necessary to make sure you get data integration done right the first time.
Analyzing current business trends helps illustrate how difficult and complex the Communication Service Provider business environment has become. CSPs face many challenges. Clients expect high quality, affordable content that can move between devices with minimum advertising or privacy concerns. To illustrate this phenomenon, here are a few recent examples:
- Apple is working with Comcast/NBC Universal on a new converged offering
- Vodafone purchased the Spanish cable operator, Ono, having to quickly separate the wireless customers from the cable ones and cross-sell existing products
- Net neutrality has been scuttled in the US and upheld in the EU so now a US CSP can give preferential bandwidth to content providers, generating higher margins
- Microsoft’s Xbox community collects terabytes of data every day making effective use, storage and disposal based on local data retention regulation a challenge
- Expensive 4G LTE infrastructure investment by operators such as Reliance is bringing streaming content to tens of millions of new consumers
To quickly capitalize on “new” (often old, but unknown) data sources, there has to be a common understanding of:
- Where the data is
- What state it is in
- What it means
- What volume and attributes are required to accommodate a one-off project vs. a recurring one
When a multitude of departments request data for analytical projects with their one-off, IT-unsanctioned on-premise or cloud applications, how will you go about it? The average European operator has between 400 and 1,500 (known) applications. Imagine what the unknown count is.
A European operator with 20-30 million subscribers incurs an average of $3 million per month due to unpaid invoices. This often results from incorrect or incomplete contact information. Imagine how much you would have to add for lost productivity efforts, including gathering, re-formatting, enriching, checking and sending invoices. And this does not even account for late invoice payments or extended incorrect credit terms.
Think about all the wrong long-term conclusions that are being drawn from this wrong data. This single data problem creates indirect cost in excess of three times the initial, direct impact of unpaid invoices.
Want to fix your data and overcome the accelerating cost of change? Involve your marketing, CEM, strategy, finance and sales leaders to help them understand data’s impact on the bottom line.
Disclaimer: Recommendations and illustrations contained in this post are estimates only and are based entirely upon information provided by the prospective customer and on our observations and benchmarks. While we believe our recommendations and estimates to be sound, the degree of success achieved by the prospective customer is dependent upon a variety of factors, many of which are not under Informatica’s control and nothing in this post shall be relied upon as representative of the degree of success that may, in fact, be realized and no warranty or representation of success, either express or implied, is made.
Over the past few years, we have assisted an increasing shift in customer behavior. Pervasive internet connectivity – along with the exponential adoption of mobile devices – has enabled shoppers to research and purchase products of all kinds, anytime and anywhere, using a combination of touch points they find most convenient. This is not a passing fad.
Consumers expect rich data and images to make purchase choices; business users require access to analytical data in order to make mission-critical decisions. These demands for information are driving a need for improved product data availability and accuracy. And this is changing the way businesses go to market.
A staggering number of stores and manufacturers are reforming their models to response to this challenge. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) model, while not new, is rapidly becoming the center stage to address these challenges. The optimal DTC model will vary depending on specific and contextual business objectives. However, there are many strategic benefits to going direct, but the main objectives include growing sales, gaining control over pricing, strengthening the brand, getting closer to consumers, and testing out new products and markets.
It is my contention that while the DTC model is gaining the deserved attention, much remains to be done. In fact, among many challenges that DTC poses, the processes and activities associated with sourcing product information, enriching product data to drive sales and lower returns, and managing product assortments across all channels loom large. More precisely, the challenges that need to be overcome are better exemplified by these points:
- Products have several variations to support different segments, markets, and campaigns.
- Product components, ingredients, care information, environmental impact data and other facets of importance to the customer.
- People are visual. As a result, easy website navigation is essential. Eye-catching images that highlight your products or services (perhaps as they’re being performed or displayed as intended) is an effective way to visually communicate information to your customers and make it easier for them to evaluate options. If information and pictures are readily accessible, customers are more likely to engage.
- Ratings, reviews and social data, stored within the product’s record rather than in separate systems.
- Purchasing and sales measurements, for example, sales in-store, return rates, sales velocity, product views online, as well as viewing and purchasing correlations are often held across several systems. However, this information is increasingly needed for search and recommendation.
The importance of product data and its use, combined with the increased demands on business as a result of inefficient, non-scaling approaches to data management, provide an imperative to considering a PIM to ‘power’ cross-channel retail. Once established, PIM users repeatedly report higher ROI. It is likely that we’ll see PIM systems rank alongside CRM, ERP, CMS, order management and merchandising systems as the pillars of cross-channel retailing at scale.
For all these reasons, choosing the right PIM strategy (and partner) is now a key decision. Get this decision wrong and it could become an expensive mistake.
Maybe the word “death” is a bit strong, so let’s say “demise” instead. Recently I read an article in the Harvard Business Review around how Big Data and Data Scientists will rule the world of the 21st century corporation and how they have to operate for maximum value. The thing I found rather disturbing was that it takes a PhD – probably a few of them – in a variety of math areas to give executives the necessary insight to make better decisions ranging from what product to develop next to who to sell it to and where.
Don’t get me wrong – this is mixed news for any enterprise software firm helping businesses locate, acquire, contextually link, understand and distribute high-quality data. The existence of such a high-value role validates product development but it also limits adoption. It is also great news that data has finally gathered the attention it deserves. But I am starting to ask myself why it always takes individuals with a “one-in-a-million” skill set to add value. What happened to the democratization of software? Why is the design starting point for enterprise software not always similar to B2C applications, like an iPhone app, i.e. simpler is better? Why is it always such a gradual “Cold War” evolution instead of a near-instant French Revolution?
Why do development environments for Big Data not accommodate limited or existing skills but always accommodate the most complex scenarios? Well, the answer could be that the first customers will be very large, very complex organizations with super complex problems, which they were unable to solve so far. If analytical apps have become a self-service proposition for business users, data integration should be as well. So why does access to a lot of fast moving and diverse data require scarce PIG or Cassandra developers to get the data into an analyzable shape and a PhD to query and interpret patterns?
I realize new technologies start with a foundation and as they spread supply will attempt to catch up to create an equilibrium. However, this is about a problem, which has existed for decades in many industries, such as the oil & gas, telecommunication, public and retail sector. Whenever I talk to architects and business leaders in these industries, they chuckle at “Big Data” and tell me “yes, we got that – and by the way, we have been dealing with this reality for a long time”. By now I would have expected that the skill (cost) side of turning data into a meaningful insight would have been driven down more significantly.
Informatica has made a tremendous push in this regard with its “Map Once, Deploy Anywhere” paradigm. I cannot wait to see what’s next – and I just saw something recently that got me very excited. Why you ask? Because at some point I would like to have at least a business-super user pummel terabytes of transaction and interaction data into an environment (Hadoop cluster, in memory DB…) and massage it so that his self-created dashboard gets him/her where (s)he needs to go. This should include concepts like; “where is the data I need for this insight?’, “what is missing and how do I get to that piece in the best way?”, “how do I want it to look to share it?” All that is required should be a semi-experienced knowledge of Excel and PowerPoint to get your hands on advanced Big Data analytics. Don’t you think? Do you believe that this role will disappear as quickly as it has surfaced?
In a previous blog post, I wrote about when business “history” is reported via Business Intelligence (BI) systems, it’s usually too late to make a real difference. In this post, I’m going to talk about how business history becomes much more useful when combined operationally and in real time.
E. P. Thompson, a historian pointed out that all history is the history of unintended consequences. His idea / theory was that history is not always recorded in documents, but instead is ultimately derived from examining cultural meanings as well as the structures of society through hermeneutics (interpretation of texts) semiotics and in many forms and signs of the times, and concludes that history is created by people’s subjectivity and therefore is ultimately represented as they REALLY live.
The same can be extrapolated for businesses. However, the BI systems of today only capture a miniscule piece of the larger pie of knowledge representation that may be gained from things like meetings, videos, sales calls, anecdotal win / loss reports, shadow IT projects, 10Ks and Qs, even company blog posts – the point is; how can you better capture the essence of meaning and perhaps importance out of the everyday non-database events taking place in your company and its activities – in other words, how it REALLY operates.
One of the keys to figuring out how businesses really operate is identifying and utilizing those undocumented RULES that are usually underlying every business. Select company employees, often veterans, know these rules intuitively. If you watch them, and every company has them, they just have a knack for getting projects pushed through the system, or making customers happy, or diagnosing a problem in a short time and with little fanfare. They just know how things work and what needs to be done.
These rules have been, and still are difficult to quantify and apply or “Data-ify” if you will. Certain companies (and hopefully Informatica) will end up being major players in the race to datify these non-traditional rules and events, in addition to helping companies make sense out of big data in a whole new way. But in daydreaming about it, it’s not hard to imagine business systems that will eventually be able to understand the optimization rules of a business, accounting for possible unintended scenarios or consequences, and then apply them in the time when they are most needed. Anyhow, that’s the goal of a new generation of Operational Intelligence systems.
In my final post on the subject, I’ll explain how it works and business problems it solves (in a nutshell). And if I’ve managed to pique your curiosity and you want to hear about Operational Intelligence sooner, tune in to to a webinar we’re having TODAY at 10 AM PST. Here’s the link.
Shhhh… RulePoint Programmer Hard at Work
End of year. Out with the old, in with the new. A time where everyone gets their ducks in order, clears the pipe and gets ready for the New Year. For R&D, one of the gating events driving the New Year is the annual sales kickoff event where we present to Sales the new features so they can better communicate a products’ road map and value to potential buyers. All well and good. But part of the process is to fill out a Q and A that explains the product “Value Prop” and they only gave us 4 lines. I think the answer also helps determine speaking slots and priority.
So here’s the question I had to fill out -
FOR SALES TO UNDERSTAND THE PRODUCT BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:
WHAT IS THE PRODUCT VALUE PROPOSITION AND ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT DEPLOYMENTS OR OTHER CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE THE PRODUCT OFFERING?
Here’s what I wrote:
Informatica RULEPOINT is a real-time integration and event processing software product that is deployed very innovatively by many businesses and vertical industries. Its value proposition is that it helps large enterprises discover important situations from their droves of data and events and then enables users to take timely action on discovered business opportunities as well as stop problems while or before they happen.
Here’s what I wanted to write:
RulePoint is scalable, low latency, flexible and extensible and was born in the pure and exotic wilds of the Amazon from the minds of natives that have never once spoken out loud – only programmed. RulePoint captures the essence of true wisdom of the greatest sages of yesteryear. It is the programming equivalent and captures what Esperanto linguistically tried to do but failed to accomplish.
As to high availability, (HA) there has never been anything in the history of software as available as RulePoint. Madonna’s availability only pales in comparison to RulePoint’s availability. We are talking 8 Nines cubed and then squared ( ). Oracle = Unavailable. IBM = Unavailable. Informatica RulePoint = Available.
RulePoint works hard, but plays hard too. When not solving those mission critical business problems, RulePoint creates Arias worthy of Grammy nominations. In the wee hours of the AM, RulePoint single-handedly prevented the outbreak and heartbreak of psoriasis in East Angola.
One of the little known benefits of RulePoint is its ability to train the trainer, coach the coach and play the player. Via chalk talks? No, RulePoint uses mind melds instead. Much more effective. RulePoint knows Chuck Norris. How do you think Chuck Norris became so famous in the first place? Yes, RulePoint. Greenpeace used RulePoint to save dozens of whales, 2 narwhal, a polar bear and a few collateral penguins (the bear was about to eat the penguins). RulePoint has been banned in 16 countries because it was TOO effective. “Veni, Vidi, RulePoint Vici” was Julius Caesar’s actual quote.
The inspiration for Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings? RulePoint. IT heads worldwide shudder with pride when they hear the name RulePoint mentioned and know that they acquired it. RulePoint is stirred but never shaken. RulePoint is used to train the Sherpas that help climbers reach the highest of heights. RulePoint cooks Minute rice in 20 seconds.
The running of the bulls in Pamplona every year - What do you think they are running from? Yes, RulePoint. RulePoint put the Vinyasa back into Yoga. In fact, RulePoint will eventually create a new derivative called Full Contact Vinyasa Yoga and it will eventually supplant gymnastics in the 2028 Summer Olympic games.
The laws of physics were disproved last year by RulePoint. RulePoint was drafted in the 9th round by the LA Lakers in the 90s, but opted instead to teach math to inner city youngsters. 5 years ago, RulePoint came up with an antivenin to the Black Mamba and has yet to ask for any form of recompense. RulePoint’s rules bend but never break. The stand-in for the “Mind” in the movie “A Beautiful Mind” was RulePoint.
RulePoint will define a new category for the Turing award and will name it the 2Turing Award. As a bonus, the 2Turing Award will then be modestly won by RulePoint and the whole category will be retired shortly thereafter. RulePoint is… tada… the most interesting software in the world.
But I didn’t get to write any of these true facts and product differentiators on the form. No room.
Hopefully I can still get a primo slot to talk about RulePoint.
And so from all the RulePoint and Emerging Technologies team, including sales and marketing, here’s hoping you have great holiday season and a Happy New Year!
That tag line got your attention – did it not? Last week I talked about how companies are trying to squeeze more value out of their asset data (e.g. equipment of any kind) and the systems that house it. I also highlighted the fact that IT departments in many companies with physical asset-heavy business models have tried (and often failed) to create a consistent view of asset data in a new ERP or data warehouse application. These environments are neither equipped to deal with all life cycle aspects of asset information, nor are they fixing the root of the data problem in the sources, i.e. where the stuff is and what it look like. It is like a teenager whose parents have spent thousands of dollars on buying him the latest garments but he always wears the same three outfits because he cannot find the other ones in the pile he hoardes under her bed. And now they bought him a smart phone to fix it. So before you buy him the next black designer shirt, maybe it would be good to find out how many of the same designer shirts he already has, what state they are in and where they are.
Recently, I had the chance to work on a like problem with a large overseas oil & gas company and a North American utility. Both are by definition asset heavy, very conservative in their business practices, highly regulated, very much dependent on outside market forces such as the oil price and geographically very dispersed; and thus, by default a classic system integration spaghetti dish.
My challenge was to find out where the biggest opportunities were in terms of harnessing data for financial benefit.
The initial sense in oil & gas was that most of the financial opportunity hidden in asset data was in G&G (geophysical & geological) and the least on the retail side (lubricants and gas for sale at operated gas stations). On the utility side, the go to area for opportunity appeared to be maintenance operations. Let’s say that I was about right with these assertions but that there were a lot more skeletons in the closet with diamond rings on their fingers than I anticipated.
After talking extensively with a number of department heads in the oil company; starting with the IT folks running half of the 400 G&G applications, the ERP instances (turns out there were 5, not 1) and the data warehouses (3), I queried the people in charge of lubricant and crude plant operations, hydrocarbon trading, finance (tax, insurance, treasury) as well as supply chain, production management, land management and HSE (health, safety, environmental).
The net-net was that the production management people said that there is no issue as they already cleaned up the ERP instance around customer and asset (well) information. The supply chain folks also indicated that they have used another vendor’s MDM application to clean up their vendor data, which funnily enough was not put back into the procurement system responsible for ordering parts. The data warehouse/BI team was comfortable that they cleaned up any information for supply chain, production and finance reports before dimension and fact tables were populated for any data marts.
All of this was pretty much a series of denial sessions on your 12-step road to recovery as the IT folks had very little interaction with the business to get any sense of how relevant, correct, timely and useful these actions are for the end consumer of the information. They also had to run and adjust fixes every month or quarter as source systems changed, new legislation dictated adjustments and new executive guidelines were announced.
While every department tried to run semi-automated and monthly clean up jobs with scripts and some off-the-shelve software to fix their particular situation, the corporate (holding) company and any downstream consumers had no consistency to make sensible decisions on where and how to invest without throwing another legion of bodies (by now over 100 FTEs in total) at the same problem.
So at every stage of the data flow from sources to the ERP to the operational BI and lastly the finance BI environment, people repeated the same tasks: profile, understand, move, aggregate, enrich, format and load.
Despite the departmental clean-up efforts, areas like production operations did not know with certainty (even after their clean up) how many well heads and bores they had, where they were downhole and who changed a characteristic as mundane as the well name last and why (governance, location match).
Marketing (Trading) was surprisingly open about their issues. They could not process incoming, anchored crude shipments into inventory or assess who the counterparty they sold to was owned by and what payment terms were appropriate given the credit or concentration risk associated (reference data, hierarchy mgmt.). As a consequence, operating cash accuracy was low despite ongoing improvements in the process and thus, incurred opportunity cost.
Operational assets like rig equipment had excess insurance coverage (location, operational data linkage) and fines paid to local governments for incorrectly filing or not renewing work visas was not returned for up to two years incurring opportunity cost (employee reference data).
A big chunk of savings was locked up in unplanned NPT (non-production time) because inconsistent, incorrect well data triggered incorrect maintenance intervals. Similarly, OEM specific DCS (drill control system) component software was lacking a central reference data store, which did not trigger alerts before components failed. If you add on top a lack of linkage of data served by thousands of sensors via well logs and Pi historians and their ever changing roll-up for operations and finance, the resulting chaos is complete.
One approach we employed around NPT improvements was to take the revenue from production figure from their 10k and combine it with the industry benchmark related to number of NPT days per 100 day of production (typically about 30% across avg depth on & offshore types). Then you overlay it with a benchmark (if they don’t know) how many of these NPT days were due to bad data, not equipment failure or alike, and just fix a portion of that, you are getting big numbers.
When I sat back and looked at all the potential it came to more than $200 million in savings over 5 years and this before any sensor data from rig equipment, like the myriad of siloed applications running within a drill control system, are integrated and leveraged via a Hadoop cluster to influence operational decisions like drill string configuration or asmyth.
Next time I’ll share some insight into the results of my most recent utility engagement but I would love to hear from you what your experience is in these two or other similar industries.
Recommendations contained in this post are estimates only and are based entirely upon information provided by the prospective customer and on our observations. While we believe our recommendations and estimates to be sound, the degree of success achieved by the prospective customer is dependent upon a variety of factors, many of which are not under Informatica’s control and nothing in this post shall be relied upon as representative of the degree of success that may, in fact, be realized and no warrantee or representation of success, either express or implied, is made.
I had a disturbing conversation at Dreamforce. Long story short, thousands of highly skilled and highly paid financial advisors (read sales reps) at a large financial services company are spending most of their day pulling together information about their clients in a spreadsheet, leaving only a few hours to engage with clients and generate revenue.
Not all valuable customer information is in Salesforce
Why? They don’t have a 360-degree customer view within Salesforce.
Why not? Not all client information that’s valuable to the financial advisors is in Salesforce. Important client information is in other applications too, such as:
- Marketing automation application
- Customer support application
- Account management applications
- Finance applications
- Business intelligence applications
Are you in sales? Do you work for a company that has multiple products or lines of business? Then you can probably relate. In my 15 years of experience working with sales, I’ve found this to be a harsh reality. You have to manually pull together customer information, which is a time-consuming process that doesn’t boost job satisfaction.
Stop building 360-degree customer views in spreadsheets
So what can you do about it? Stop building 360-degree customer views in spreadsheets. There is a better way and your sales operations leader can help.
One of my favorite customer success stories is about one of the world’s leading wealth management companies, with 16,000 financial advisors globally. Like most companies, their goal is to increase revenue by understanding their customers’ needs and making relevant cross-sell and up-sell offers.
But, the financial advisors needed an up-to-date view of the “total customer relationship” with the bank before they talked to their high net-worth clients. They wanted to appear knowledgeable and offer a product the client might actually want.
Can you guess what was holding them back? The bank operated in an account-centric world. Each line of business had its own account management application. To get a 360-degree customer view, the financial advisors spent 70% of their time pulling important client information from different applications into spreadsheets. Sound familiar?
Once the head of sales realized this, he decided to invest in information management technology that provides clean, consistent and connected customer information and delivers a 360-degree customer view within Salesforce.
The result? They’ve had a $50 million dollar impact annually and a 30% increase in productivity. In fact, word spread to other banks and the 360-degree customer view in Salesforce became an incentive to attract top talent in the industry.
Ask sales operations to give you 360-degree customer views within Salesforce
I urge you to take action. In particular, talk to your sales operations leader if he or she is at all interested in improving performance and productivity, acquiring and retaining top sales talent, and cutting costs.
Want to see how you can get 360-degree customer views in Salesforce? Check out this demo: Enrich Customer Data in Your CRM Application with MDM. Then schedule a meeting with your sales operations leader.
Have a similar experience to share? Please share it in the comments below.
I believe that most in the software business believe that it is tough enough to calculate and hence financially justify the purchase or build of an application - especially middleware – to a business leader or even a CIO. Most of business-centric IT initiatives involve improving processes (order, billing, service) and visualization (scorecarding, trending) for end users to be more efficient in engaging accounts. Some of these have actually migrated to targeting improvements towards customers rather than their logical placeholders like accounts. Similar strides have been made in the realm of other party-type (vendor, employee) as well as product data. They also tackle analyzing larger or smaller data sets and providing a visual set of clues on how to interpret historical or predictive trends on orders, bills, usage, clicks, conversions, etc.
If you think this is a tough enough proposition in itself, imagine the challenge of quantifying the financial benefit derived from understanding where your “hardware” is physically located, how it is configured, who maintained it, when and how. Depending on the business model you may even have to figure out who built it or owns it. All of this has bottom-line effects on how, who and when expenses are paid and revenues get realized and recognized. And then there is the added complication that these dimensions of hardware are often fairly dynamic as they can also change ownership and/or physical location and hence, tax treatment, insurance risk, etc.
Such hardware could be a pump, a valve, a compressor, a substation, a cell tower, a truck or components within these assets. Over time, with new technologies and acquisitions coming about, the systems that plan for, install and maintain these assets become very departmentalized in terms of scope and specialized in terms of function. The same application that designs an asset for department A or region B, is not the same as the one accounting for its value, which is not the same as the one reading its operational status, which is not the one scheduling maintenance, which is not the same as the one billing for any repairs or replacement. The same folks who said the Data Warehouse is the “Golden Copy” now say the “new ERP system” is the new central source for everything. Practitioners know that this is either naiveté or maliciousness. And then there are manual adjustments….
Moreover, to truly take squeeze value out of these assets being installed and upgraded, the massive amounts of data they generate in a myriad of formats and intervals need to be understood, moved, formatted, fixed, interpreted at the right time and stored for future use in a cost-sensitive, easy-to-access and contextual meaningful way.
I wish I could tell you one application does it all but the unsurprising reality is that it takes a concoction of multiple. None or very few asset life cycle-supporting legacy applications will be retired as they often house data in formats commensurate with the age of the assets they were built for. It makes little financial sense to shut down these systems in a big bang approach but rather migrate region after region and process after process to the new system. After all, some of the assets have been in service for 50 or more years and the institutional knowledge tied to them is becoming nearly as old. Also, it is probably easier to engage in often required manual data fixes (hopefully only outliers) bit-by-bit, especially to accommodate imminent audits.
So what do you do in the meantime until all the relevant data is in a single system to get an enterprise-level way to fix your asset tower of Babel and leverage the data volume rather than treat it like an unwanted step child? Most companies, which operate in asset, fixed-cost heavy business models do not want to create a disruption but a steady tuning effect (squeezing the data orange), something rather unsexy in this internet day and age. This is especially true in “older” industries where data is still considered a necessary evil, not an opportunity ready to exploit. Fact is though; that in order to improve the bottom line, we better get going, even if it is with baby steps.
If you are aware of business models and their difficulties to leverage data, write to me. If you even know about an annoying, peculiar or esoteric data “domain”, which does not lend itself to be easily leveraged, share your thoughts. Next time, I will share some examples on how certain industries try to work in this environment, what they envision and how they go about getting there.