Tag Archives: Digital Transformation

Posted on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

The old expression, “Some things never change,” is one that I’ve lived by in my 40 years in the software business—until I learned it was wrong! I thought I was so smart, because I could see the patterns in new technology repeating over the years, and I got good at mapping the latest technology terms and tools back to the older ones I learned. This worked for the most part, since some principles of software and IT are universal and transcend specific technologies. For example, the notion of dividing your program into components makes sense for lots of reasons, whether they’re called subroutines, DLLs, objects or services. However, I have to say that recent technologies—those from 2010 and beyond—have defied my attempts at simple classifications.

Specifically, the term systems of insightapplies to a terrific set of new technologies designed to harvest the vast amount of data we now have on customers, then look for patterns and gain insight into their behaviors and desires based on those data patterns. These technologies, which include machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and descriptive and predictive data analytics, offer some amazing new properties through their associated reporting and graphing tools. As an old curmudgeon in this field, I thought these new tools were just rehashed, old concepts from the 80s and early 90s: artificial intelligence, expert systems, and report writers. While they do bear some resemblance to the old tools, these new technologies have come so far and so fast, they really are something altogether new.

What the old systems have in common with their newer counterparts is the ability to look at acquired data and see patterns, whether through sorting and filtering, then applying business rules and finally graphing the trends. However, the new tools I mentioned do this on a massively larger scale, at an incredible speed, and across multiple data source types, all while dealing with far more complex relationships. Their ability to handle trillions of bytes of data and make real-time decisions based on their insights goes so far beyond what’s been done in the past.

It’s not just the old, structured data about our customers that gets scanned (like purchase history and demographics), but much more personal information gathered from their cell phones and other connected devices. Today, we can know where our customers are physically located at any given moment. We can know if they’re in motion, their heart rate, what they’ve looked at online recently, what they’ve posted on social media, where they’ve traveled recently, and with whom they’ve connected on Facebook or LinkedIn.  We can know the temperatures of our customers’ homes, how they drive, their style of writing emails, the foods they enjoy at restaurants, the movies they like to watch, and so on.

The systems of insight tools, different from those used in systems of engagement or systems of record, seek to digest all this newfound customer data and create insights into a customer’s real motivations and what he or she is most likely to want or need next. Big data tools, such as Hadoop and Cassandra, give us the ability to capture and store all this diverse data, regardless of whether it’s text, pictures, sounds, documents, videos, etc.

ML tools, NLP tools and streaming analytics tools can then be used to apply advanced mathematical models and algorithms that enable us to quickly digest all this data, identify patterns, uncover hidden insights, and build ethnographic profiles of our customers to predict what they might need and—more importantly—even understand why they might need it.

ML tools such as Apache Spark, with its MLlib and GraphX graphics framework, can be connected quickly to a live stream of data from Twitter to analyze the tweets, determine their sentiment and graph the trend lines. We at OFS did this recently as a demonstration of the power of these tools. We were even able to build this in a day, and you can see a demo of it here. These ML and NLP tools are not just for social media or mobile data. You can hook up your traditional structured data stored in SQL databases by using a massively scalable and distributed pub/sub tool such as Apache Kafka to help you push a stream of data into ML tools.

Many companies are using these technologies with incredible effectiveness. For example, Stitch Fix is an online women’s apparel vendor that uses machine learning to predict which kind of clothes to send to its customers on a monthly basis. Not only does the software learn what a particular woman likes and dislikes (based on indicated preferences, social media analysis, and returns of unwanted merchandise), but the analytical model also can be improved by experts within the company who have unique insights into that particular woman from prior dialog with her. Stitch Fix sales have skyrocketed in the past three years as they have deployed these technologies.

These tools are modern weapons you must consider to stay relevant and competitive in your marketplace, because they allow you to get inside your customers’ heads to know what products and services you should offer to meet their hidden wants and needs. For those of you older types like me who think nothing ever changes, I invite you to take a look at systems of insight tools and see that things sometimes—or rather, always—DO change.

 

Please follow and like us:
0
Posted on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 @ 6:46 am

I’m an old ­­software warhorse and wrote my first program back in 1972. Everything certainly has changed since then, but some principles endure. For example, one of my early bosses used to remark that good software was like a good axe a lumberjack used for years. Yes, the head had been changed several times and the handle was replaced a few times too, but somehow, it was still the same axe. His point was that good code should be designed and separated into components, so that as one part wears out, it can be replaced without throwing away the entire code base. Even when all the components have been replaced over time, somehow the product is still the same.

That concept of separate components with well-defined interfaces is particularly relevant in today’s digital business. As we all rush headlong into the process of digital transformation, it’s important that we don’t get so wrapped up in the latest mobile, cloud, and IoT technologies that we forget the basic notion that it will all change again. (And, like a metaphorical Yoda in the software world, I’ve lived long enough to see it change many, many times!) We can prepare for that change by moving to an API model that encapsulates our important business logic, which doesn’t change as often, from the ever-changing ways we use that logic to drive our business.

You often hear about the API economy these days, and as a veteran from the early days, I think it’s great to see us reach that nirvana of re-use we had long hoped for years ago. You no longer need to know the details of where data is stored, how it is accessed, or all the rules pertaining to it. You just call the component with an agreed-to format (API) and you instantly get the data you need to incorporate into your own program’s needs. This has given cloud-based software a tremendous boost that allows us to quickly build new software that stands on the shoulders of software already written and tested by someone else.

That same concept applies to our internal business software. If we can componentize our business rules and database access and create a set of well-defined API calls to handle things like adding a customer, calculating a payment, or giving out the current inventory level of a specific product, we are setting up our own building blocks that enable us to assemble them in new and important ways during our digital transformation efforts. Put another way, if we expect to fully participate in the API economy with other businesses, we must build our own APIs for ourselves first.

For example, APIs that record and monitor a car rental can be used by the rental agency’s website for booking purposes, by the renter’s expense management system to get the receipt and charges, and by the car’s manufacturer to provide usage information for warranty coverage.

While all this would certainly help the customer on his journey and streamline the car rental agency’s processing, it requires a lot of effort. The agency first must simplify its backend systems by getting rid of duplicate systems of record that store rental information inherited from prior acquisitions.  However, it takes years to decommission old systems of record. In the meantime, it may be necessary to design and build lower-level APIs around each of the duplicate systems and then build higher-level APIs to hide the fact that some of the data is actually stored in different systems. Neither the renter, nor his expense management system, nor the car manufacturer care one bit about which internal system the agency is using to record the transactions they need. You need to have your APIs mask all that complexity so you can offer a single view into your company and a single way to do business. This is the essence of what APIs offer to both your external customers and your own developers.

While it might be nice to try to build APIs for all your corporate data, the reality is that even if you could do it, the time and cost required would be prohibitive. You have to focus on building your APIs over time, embedding the work to do them in each of the short-term projects that our business requires. This requires some real discipline, as it always takes longer to build some APIs first than it would to just bang out the code asked for by the business.

Also, it always seems that your own staff, who are building new APIs, are the last ones to use them. However, by incenting them through carrots and sticks (like authorship awards for new APIs or penalties for not using them), you’ll create the ability to change the axehead and handle of your systems while keeping the essence of them the same.

Please follow and like us:
0
Posted on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Banner_Landingpage_Replay-1

Missed OFS’s webinar earlier this month? Now you can experience all the valuable insights from Forrester’s John C. McCarthy and OFS’s Rich Napoli at your own convenience!

“Understanding Your Digital Transformation Agenda: How Do You Meet Customers’ Real-Time Expectations?”

Featuring Forrester Analyst John C. McCarthy
with OFS CEO Rich Napoli
from December 2014

Digitally transforming your enterprise requires a whole new way of thinking and operating – not only in the IT department, but throughout the entire corporation. It all starts with re-examining your customer’s journey to predict their next most likely actions, and then building your digital products and services around your customer’s needs.

The Reality: Companies that are customer experience leaders outperform their peers by nearly 30% on the S & P index. (Forrester Research, Inc., The Business Impact of Customer Experience, June 2013).

The Challenge: Customers are constantly changing their behavior faster than firms are evolving their business model, processes, and technology.

Check out our 30-minute webinar so you can future-proof your business strategy and adapt your organization to the digital world! These topics will be covered:

  • Why it’s essential to understand your customer’s complete journey
  • How businesses today are using digital to drive engagement and revenue
  • How to adopt a Product Engineering Mindset to foster business agility
  • How to structure your organization and find the right skillsets
  • How to bridge the gap between customer expectations and the products you deliver

 

Please follow and like us:
0
Posted on Mon, Dec 1, 2014 @ 2:04 am

Understanding Your Digital Transformation Agenda:

How Do You Meet Customers’ Real-Time Expectations?

Thursday, December 4, 2014 from 1:00-1:30pm ET

Featuring Forrester Analyst John C. McCarthy and OFS CEO Rich Napoli!
Digital-Transformation-Webinar-Banner_Dec_4

With the pervasiveness of digital devices in today’s world, firms must rethink their business strategy – from the outside in – to capitalize on the competitive advantages that today’s digital technology provides.

The best digital experiences are ones that understand a customer’s complete journey, not just their current transactions with your company. Predicting your customer’s next most likely need by analyzing his prior purchase patterns, his current location through his smartphone, and his recent requests, lets you build innovative, engaging apps and services that make your customer likely to return. Rather than designing a technology stack around assembling components, it must be designed around the tasks that customers are actually trying to accomplish.

Building all this technology requires a whole new way of thinking and operation not only in the IT department, but the entire corporation as well. With the customer journey as the focus, it’s not just the front-end UI that needs attention – exceptional digital products require that you simplify all your systems on the back-end, too.

But reorganizing and re-operating in this way is a huge undertaking. And what’s more – customers are constantly changing their behavior faster than firms are evolving their business model, processes, and technology. Find out how to stay a step ahead of customers’ expectations and transform your business to provide meaningful digital experiences using an agile, product mindset.

Discover in 30 minutes:

  • Why it’s essential to understand your customer’s complete journey
  • How businesses today are using digital to drive engagement and revenue
  • How to adopt a Product Engineering Mindset to foster business agility
  • How to structure your organization and find the right skillsets
  • How to bridge the gap between customer expectations and the products you deliver
Please follow and like us:
0
Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 @ 5:17 am

Forrester Research Inc. explains in a recent research brief, “Customer Journey Mapping is Becoming Key to Digital Transformation” (Oct. 2014), that businesses are rethinking the entirety of their customer’s journey to fully understand what their customer actually wants to accomplish in engaging with them.

Customer Journey Maps are a visual representation of the series of interactions between a customer and a company that occur as the customer pursues a specific goal.”

Using this tool helps businesses refocus on their customer with an outside-in perspective, allowing them to see with fresh eyes how they can best serve them. The business can then evaluate how well their digital offerings meet these customer needs, and which digital investments will help them fill the gaps that exist.

Join us for a webinar featuring Forrester Analyst John C. McCarthy to find out more on how to accurately map your customer’s journey and how to use it to bridge the gap between customer expectations and the digital products you deliver!

Understanding Your Digital Transformation Agenda:

How Do You Meet Customers’ Real-Time Expectations?

Dec. 4, 2014, 1:00-1:30 PM EST

 

Please follow and like us:
0
Posted on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

Digital-Transformation-Webinar-Banner_Dec_4

Digitally transforming your enterprise requires a whole new way of thinking and operating – not only in the IT department, but throughout the entire corporation.

It all starts with re-examining your customer’s journey from their perspective to predict their next most likely actions, and then building your digital products and services around those needs. It requires anoutside-in approach that focuses on what the customer actually wants to do rather than what the business thinks they should do.

Check out the numbers: Companies that are customer experience leaders outperform their peers by nearly 30% on the S & P index (Forrester Research, Inc. The Business Impact of Customer Experience, 2013). These businesses know that it’s not just the front-end UI that needs attention – exceptional digital products require that you simplify all your systems on the back-end, too. But reorganizing and re-operating in this way is a huge undertaking…

The Challenge: Customers are constantly changing their behavior faster than firms are evolving their business model, processes, and technology.

Join us for a 30-minute webinar so you can future-proof your business strategy and adapt your organization to the digital world!

Understanding Your Digital Transformation Agenda:

How Do You Meet Customers’ Real-Time Expectations?

Thursday, December 4, 2014, 1:00-1:30pm ET

Featuring Forrester Analyst John McCarthy and OFS CEO Rich Napoli

Discover:

  • Why it’s essential to understand your customer’s complete journey
  • How businesses today are using digital to drive engagement and revenue
  • How to adopt a Product Engineering Mindset to foster business agility
  • How to structure your organization and find the right skillsets
  • How to bridge the gap between customer expectations and the products you deliver

Find out how to stay a step ahead of customers’ expectations and transform your business to provide meaningful digital experiences using an agile, product mindset.

About Our Presenters:

Rich N1b5fc23apoli, CEO of ObjectFrontier Software, has an impressive 35+ years of experience in the software industry with senior management and CEO roles in five different software firms and two software engineering firms including Datalogix, Princeton Financial Systems, and Fusion Technologies where he helped lead their growth and sale to Oracle, State Street, and Safeguard respectively.

Since 2010, Rich has been leading ObjectFrontier Software, Inc (OFS) as CEO, providing software product engineering services up and down the East Coast. In the past four years, Rich has guided the company through a dramatic growth period of over 650%. He has positioned OFS as a leader in software product engineering, attracting the attention of Forrester Research and being mentioned by them in a recent report as among the best in mid-sized product development service providers.

Rich has a BS in Computer Science from Stony Brook University and an MBA from New York University.


John-McCarthy-NEOPDF_(3)-resized-600John McCarthy
 has 27 years of experience at Forrester, and is a key contributor to their work on predicting the business impact of technology. As such, he covers such topics as the future of IT services and mobile apps and their impact on IT and vendors, the impact of cloud computing, the emergence of “platform” BPO offerings, and implications of SaaS on traditional services. John also has more than 12 years of insight into the development of a global delivery model for IT services and product development.

To define their mobile app, vendor management, offshore, and IT management and governance strategies, John has worked with leading-edge firms and governments in many countries and regions, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and the UK.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in European history and economics from Connecticut College.

Please follow and like us:
0