Making Business Realities Work For You
BY TONY RYBCZYNSKI
Time was, the business world operated like a Monopoly game. Stay on a
predictable path that marches around the board, deal with the cards as they
fall, grow as big as possible. Do this, and youï¿½re virtually assured of
accumulating wealth. Those old rules have changed. Todayï¿½s business game is
more like ï¿½Survivor,ï¿½ where success rests on the ability to forge close
alliances and constantly adapt to new challenges. This isnï¿½t a game where a
business can have much success with a prescribed path or a vain prayer for
The technology advances of the last decade -- particularly the
Internet -- have fundamentally reshaped business environments in ways that
are simultaneously advantageous and detrimental. In a business climate that
is more punishing than ever to the inefficient and the slow moving,
businesses are under pressure to manage their information assets more
effectively, efficiently, and wisely. The information management framework
is no longer an adjunct support structure; it is the essential foundation
for corporate performance. How information is obtained, validated, stored,
accessed, distributed... these issues are central to organizational survival
and profitability. The instantaneous, global communication that fosters new
opportunity has also accelerated all the pressures and demands of doing
business. Sure, businesses have more tools and infrastructure than ever to
create innovation, service, and profitability... but so does the
New business realities bring profound implications for network and
information management strategies:
These require IT executives to reassess ways of managing and using their
information infrastructure, and to continually strive for more competitive
and proactive information management models.
- The alternative to evolution is extinction.
- True value is in relationships; not transactions.
- The map of business geography is more virtual than real.
- Thereï¿½s a dark side to the Internet.
- If you keep doing the same thing, youï¿½ll keep getting the same
- The rules of the game have changed.
- You have to do more with less.
This article is the first in a seven-part, monthly series, which will
look at each of these realities in turn and the technology responses
available to IT.
Business Reality: The Alternative To Evolution Is Extinction
ï¿½As organizations become more connected with their environment, they
become more like living organisms and are governed by the same rules of
adaptation and evolution,ï¿½ wrote Mankin and Srivastava of the Cap Gemini
Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation. ï¿½No organization can ignore
the reality of permanent economic volatility or the success of nature to
overcome constant change.ï¿½
By design or by default, corporate information management has already been
through massive evolutionary change in the last 50 years. Those that didnï¿½t
evolve became extinct. A few decades have witnessed the evolution from
manual business machines with carbon forms in the 1950s... to electric
business machines and photocopiers in the ï¿½60s... to monolithic mainframes
in the ï¿½70s... then personal computers, fax, and dial-up modems in the
ï¿½80s... to high-speed global networking in the ï¿½90s.
The next critical evolution will reshape how businesses use high-speed
global networking. Will they use it to accelerate old ways of doing
business? Or will they use it to embrace a new, more efficient, and
profitable paradigm? Enterprises can be generally classified into four
categories based on their level of operational maturity, reflected in
strategies, information management practices and systems, and in the
customer experience they deliver.
The Siloed enterprise defines business strategy primarily around cost
containment and focuses on unit- and product-level metrics.
The Linked enterprise defines business strategy largely around customer
service and focuses on customer satisfaction metrics.
The Integrated enterprise defines business strategy around personalization
of products and services and focuses on profit and revenue by customer
The Engaged enterprise anticipates customer needs and delivers critical and
time-sensitive information to customers precisely when, where, and how they
want to receive it. Success is measured by indicators of enduring success,
namely return on engagement (RoE).
ROE is a measure of a businessï¿½s ability to turn customer data into
business strategies and customer relationships into equity. ROE can be
The Engaged enterprise is a business whose customer service strategy is
beyond just providing service and is focused on developing relationships
with its customers. Providing the level of service necessary to maintain
this special relationship is not normally practical or cost-effective for
all of the enterpriseï¿½s customers. The challenge for the Engaged enterprise
is to identify those customers who represent the biggest opportunity for the
enterprise; those who will always be transactional; and those
high-maintenance customers who do not represent a profitable relationship.
The focus is on delivering service capabilities that create a unique bond
between a subset of customers and the enterprise, while serving all
customers in the most appropriate way.
- Anticipating the service a customer requires and seamlessly delivering the
service, sometimes before the customer even knows there is a need;
- Initiating more intelligent, timely, and context sensitive services;
- Providing a consistent and adaptive interface across all touch points,
from marketing to sales, fulfillment, installation, and service.
Technology Response: Evolution To Engaged Application Architecture
What is it that makes an Engaged service different from what we have
today and whatï¿½s needed to make it happen?
Well first, an engaged service is anticipatory. Based on information on
the customer, it anticipates the information, service, or product the
customer needs. The norm for service today is to wait for the customer to
walk in, call, write, or click before providing customer service. Proactive
services offered today take the form of telemarketing provided by an
outbound call center, which are often viewed as unwanted, intrusive, and
irritating. But Engaged service is not intrusive, because it is
permission-based with the customer in control.
The task of identifying anticipatory triggers is the task of data mining of
the large amount of customer and demographic information held by an
enterprise. The role of the CRM system is to capture all customer
interaction information in a single logical database, acquired across all
customer-facing activities including marketing, sales, service, and support,
whether in the field, face to face, via contact centers, or self-serve
applications. The CRM system has the capability to link activities to
outcomes across all interactions, and gives a total cost-benefit analysis
for the customer relationship. It applies consistent rules based on this
analysis to every person and every system that interfaces with the customer.
It also measures the performance of people and systems in terms of
relationship outcomes, rather than in terms of activities -- for example
rating people on their success rate in completing up-sells, rather than on
the time spent with the customer.
The second differentiator is that Engaged service is time-critical. Today
the main concern with time is usually ï¿½wait-timeï¿½ -- donï¿½t keep customers
waiting on the line too long when they call. But time is of essence. Itï¿½s
important that information is provided just-in-time or it may be of little
use. The key technology in dealing with time-critical environments is the
contact center, which has as its central role the customer-facing
ï¿½front-endï¿½ to the enterpriseï¿½s CRM and data mining system. It brings
together agent and self-serve applications, supporting notification,
transactions, interaction and collaboration. The contact center interfaces
into the CRM environment over a highly reliable, application-optimized
network infrastructure, which itself is part of a highly integrated IT
The third differentiator is that Engaged service is media-adaptive. It
adapts to the media and device the customer happens to be using. The problem
today is that services are media-specific. For example, notification
services send the customer a media-specific message, so thereï¿½s no guarantee
the customer will get the message. Alternatively, many notification services
are additive, resulting in three or more messages (cell phone, voice mail,
e-mail) for the same information, instead of one message that is guaranteed
to be delivered to the customer. But Engaged applications go out and find
the user device being used and formats the message for that device. If the
customer is on a PDA, a text message is sent. If the user switches to a
cell-phone, a voice message is sent. And if logged on to a PC, then a text
message with added graphics and URLs is sent. With Engaged applications, the
customer receives consistent, fast, effective, 24-hour information -- whether
via telephone, e-mail, fax, instant messaging, cell phones, personal digital
assistants, or the Web.
An example may be the best way of illustrating the time-criticality and
media-adaptiveness of Engaged applications. Imagine you are an airlineï¿½s
premier customer. After hours getting through airport procedures, you get on
the airplane, just in time to hear the announcement that the flight has been
canceled. Normally, you would have to gather your belongings, get off the
plane, and try to beat the rush back to the ticket counter, only to line up
for rebooking on another flight.
But if this was an Engaged enterprise, when the Airline Reservation
System is advised your flight is canceled, the system anticipates you will
need to be re-booked quickly. Information on your current situation is sent
to the front of the queue at the contact center, your file pops up on the
agentï¿½s screen and you are rebooked on the next flight. The reservation
system sends your new itinerary to the Engaged application and the
Media-Adaptive locator goes out and finds the device youï¿½re using. It comes
back and says you have a PDA, so the system formats the new itinerary for
that device, and sends you the message. If you wish to speak with an agent
you can press that option on your PDA and the Engaged Application will make
all the connections: Your cell phone rings, you answer it, and youï¿½re
speaking to an agent.
In this example, the airline proactively turns a negative event into a
positive service experience, rerouting you and eliminating a frustrating
part of the overall travel experience: Waiting for service.
This Engaged Applications Architecture also enables the airline to better
utilize its resources -- human and automated resources alike. For example,
agents in the reservation area who arenï¿½t busy can help out and reduce the
load on the gate agents: resources in any location are available
network-wide. Also, because the rebooking is started immediately, more
passengers are sent on their way quicker and can fill flights that arenï¿½t
full. Ultimately, the architecture significantly increases business
effectiveness, improving flexibility, manageability, and agility, and
enabling a business to respond much more quickly to customers -- while
gaining more effective use of resources.
Every business has the potential to engage their customers and propel
customer service to superior levels. A finance company could detect a
purchase that indicates suspicious activity on a customerï¿½s platinum card,
notify the card owner and take proactive action, before the card owner tries
to make his next purchase. A healthcare organization can notify a
wait-listed patient that they can be looked at, because a previous
appointment has been cleared.
An increasingly commoditized world leads to extinction of all but the
lowest cost provider. Where technology once removed the personal nature of
the community-level, country-store experience, now technology is restoring
it. Evolving to an engaged enterprise can make the difference -- for your
business and for your customer.
Tony Rybczynski is director of strategic enterprise technologies for
Nortel Networks with 30 years experience in networking. For more
information, visit the companyï¿½s Web site at
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