Thursday, May 28, 2009


Today Google dominated the spotlight with with the announcement of Google Wave. The idea and implementation appear superb while the approach to open a lot of its code is very intriguing. However what I found just as important was HTML5 and how much Google is embracing it.

Google has an impressive portfolio of APIs and products for developers. They have created and embraced a large number of open standards and are working hard to bring everything together as a comprehensive platform. A platform that depends heavily on the support by "Modern Open Source Browsers" of HTML5 and Javascript.

Microsoft has a dominant footprint in the enterprise and Silverlight continues to gain popularity. Adobe's Flash is as ubiquitous as HTML and Flex is also gaining momentum. But I when I look at the power and simplicity of Google's App Engine, along with the dozens of open APIs (from visualization to online analytics to documents scripting) it is hard to believe that the status quou will resist this powerful 'wave' of innovation. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are we answering the wrong questions?

Lyndsay Wise wrote a good article on about different types of Business Intelligence (BI) and how organizations adopt them based on their level of BI maturity. It reminded me of a recent user group meeting where several people from a Fortune500 company discussed their difficulty managing the ever growing list of sales reports requested by their users. The business users were not finding the answers they were looking for and they hoped that having more reports would help answer their questions. Quantity over quality.

I think this is a reflection of how the evolution of BI has been driven by IT and not Business. This same reason is a common obstacle for BI projects and a contributor to elusive ROI. Looking around it is easy to find many vendors offering "Sales Dashboards". You can get them on a browser with AJAX or Flash, you can get them on your iPhone and even integrate them in your favorite SFA platform or portal. 

This is nice but when you look at the actual reports, they are still pretty basic. These dashboards show charts such as: Revenue and Win Rates Trends, Revenue by Industry/Region/Quarter, Variances over Plan, Count of Deals by Age, etc. These are important questions but companies have been looking at similar reports for the past 20 years. The technical delivery has improved (faster, better, easier) but the actual business content is still lagging.

What would I like to see instead? Well, if I was a sales executive I would be looking for information that can drive action. Something to tell me "what to do" and "what to stop doing" (beyond 'pick up phone and call a Region Manager to ask him why is he/she behind plan'). Knowing that my win rate for last quarter was 25% is fine but I want to know why? What are they key contributing factors? How do I increase it to 30%? 

Technology has had its 15 minutes (years?) in the spotlight. I think it is time to turn our focus on Business. This new focus will drive innovation and will ultimately make companies more effective and more competitive. Of course, I think the solution is Predictive Analytics and I will explain why in a future post.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Customer Experience beyond Customer Feedback

Customer Experience analysis and management has gained a lot of popularity as a business intelligence application. This popularity is due in part to advances in text processing technology as well as the exponential growth of unstructured data (i.e. blogs, email, IM, twitter, etc.)

A common analysis parses customer feedback to identify problems or causes of dissatisfaction. For example measuring the sentiment (positive or negative) of a hotel guest after a stay. This is an important metric for the hotel management along with identifying the root cause of that sentiment. However, I hope that we pay enough justice to these applications and consider all of their capabilities and potential. Otherwise our vision could be too narrow and a narrow vision is risky for adopters, providers and the industry in general. 

The vendors of Customer Experience software and methodologies offer depth that goes beyond the simplistic example of customer sentiment. In my opinion Customer Experience needs to be analyzed in the context of Customer Life-cycle and Customer Value. 

Once we have identified and ranked the key factors that drive customer's sentiment, we need to look at those rankings across a number of dimensions, including time and geography but most importantly customer segment. After tracking both sentiments (both positive and negative) across customer segments we need to overlay financial metrics at the customer level and at the company level. How is this sentiment affecting profitability and how big is the impact. For instance "... because the A/C was too loud in these locations, our business traveler segment reduced their number of stays by X which caused a drop in margins of Y ..." These type of analysis would offer a clear and meaningful ROI analysis to justify and champion initiatives to manage and improve Customer Experience. The next step of course is enhancing these analysis with predictive analytics to create stronger leading indicators and react before the problems appear.

Comment on this blog or email if you have any thoughts on this topic. If you are a vendor and have a case study that touches on these topics let me know as well, I'd love to write about it in this space.