logistics.jpgWhen the Olympic flame was ignited at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, it had traveled through over 1,000 cities, towns and villages in the United Kingdom. The Olympic torch arrived in the UK from Greece on May 18 and started its 70 day journey from Land’s End to London the very next day.  By the time the Olympic flame was lit, it had been carried by 8,000 torch bearers.

 

The organizers have overcome a logistical challenge to ensure the Olympic Flame traveled within an hour of 95% of people in the UK, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey during the 70-day Torch Relay. My favorite and most inspiring carrier is war hero Ben Parkinson, who carried the Olympic torch after learning to walk again on artificial limbs.

 

But this isn’t the only logistics challenge to be overcome at the “Games of the XXX Olympiad.” In a recent blog I discussed the opportunities that the Olympics brings to businesses and the need to run like never before  to avoid a  lonely 4th  place finish at the Olympics.

 

Here are some examples of how great logistics ensure your business “makes the podium” at the Olympics.

 

Warehousing Logistics for the Games is the responsibility of UPS, the official logistics partner of the Olympics, who have secured 80,000 square meters of warehousing space to accommodate the demands of getting the goods to the starting blocks.  UPS has the unenviable task of literally “managing the last mile” into all the Olympic venues.  Everything is processed through UPS warehouses where the inbound deliveries are unloaded and x-rayed for security purposes. Outbound shipments are planned, loaded onto vehicles and sent to one of the 37 competition venues across the UK (27 of which are in London).   But what goes into the venues also needs to come out!  So the Olympics reverse logistics is also a significant challenge involving retrieval return to warehouses and finally disposal. In fact, by the end of the Games UPS will have moved more than 30 million items!

 

Transportation Logistics has been a key component of planning the London games. In early July, this plan was put to the test when the major motorway between Heathrow Airport and downtown London was closed due to hairline cracks on a viaduct. A lot of thought has gone into the physical logistics of moving people and goods around London. An “Olympic Route Network” has been created that is a “mass transit” network to specifically support the Olympics.  London has a road network of 9200 miles.  The Olympic Route Network leverages 109 miles (only 1% of the total) stretching across London, which can be used by the vast majority of vehicles (mainly buses and large vehicles). Of this, 30 miles of “Games Lanes” have been dedicated to athletes, officials and special traffic.  So, by reserving 0.3% of the network for the games, it is anticipated this will actually reduce the pressure on the rest of the network and therefore make movements faster for everyone.

 

Supplying the 2012 Olympic Games has provided opportunities for manufacturers of every type of product imaginable. In the “if we build it, they will come” phase, construction companies and their suppliers struck “gold.”  Food and beverage suppliers can expect a bonanza, as can suppliers of athletic clothing. Depending on the weather gods there will be a surge in sunscreen or (more likely) umbrellas and rain coats emblazoned with the London 2012 logo!

For any supplier to the 2012 Olympics, the chance will come once and once only. If grabbed effectively, the opportunities the Olympics offer may provide income and stability for many years. It is therefore highly important that supply chain organizations – whatever their role or products – ensure they meet criteria set by the International Olympic Committee about the Sustainability of the 2012 Olympics.

 

Planning for Olympic Size Demand also has its challenges. When it comes to forecasting demand, manufacturers and retailers are entering uncharted waters. They can’t exactly leverage their sales forecast history, as the last Olympics in London were in 1948!

 

The unpredictable British weather also has an impact on supply and demand when it comes to the Olympics and Paralympics. The fact that the two events are a few weeks apart could result in completely different products being required by the spectators. Where you may be buying ice cream and sunhats in the July and August heat, you may be looking for tea and blankets to warm up as the autumn chills of September take over. In unique events such as these, the accuracy of stock requirement is difficult to predict and there will be plenty of inventory buffers built in to make sure that demand can be met. Look out for the huge discounts by those companies who do not accurately match supply to demand.

 

In the next of this series, I will discuss the goals of making London 2012 the first truly sustainable Olympics and Paralympics.

 

Follow me on Twitter @howellsrichard.

Thefts and robberies of mobile devices have become increasingly common and violent. How can you deter or mitigate them?

 

A broken jaw. A torn finger. Death.

 

Pickpockets and thieves used to be the main risk to your smartphone or tablet. But violent robbers are also targeting mobile users.

 

A Wall Street Journal reporter, Rolfe Winkler, recently wrote what happened after he chased some thieves who had stolen his date's iPad:

 

But he had a crew backing him up that I never saw. Instead of winning back the iPad, I found myself lying on the platform bleeding, my jaw split in half.

 

As Winkler wrote, his story was far from unique:

 

Hwang Yang, a chef at the Modern in New York, was walking home from the subway in the Bronx in April when thieves shot him dead for his iPhone. They were caught after posting it on Craigslist. Outside Denver in 2010, Bill Jordan was leaving an Apple store, toting his new iPad in a bag. When a thief ripped the bag away, the strings tore off part of Mr. Jordan's pinkie.

 

Here's another sad story from Chicago in March 2011:

 

At rush hour on Monday, a man snatched an iPhone from a woman who was using it at Fullerton station platform in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. As he ran off, the man knocked over Sally Katona-King, 68, on her way home from her church receptionist’s job. Katona-King died yesterday after tumbling down the station stairs. Hospital officials believe that she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

 

And still another one from England in February 2011:

 

A man was stabbed to death with a screwdriver after remonstrating with two street robbers who had stolen his iPhone, a court has been told.

 

This made-for-headlines trend is being called 'apple picking', as robbers appear to be favoring iPhones and iPads for their brand recognition and higher street value. Though I'm sure plenty of Android devices are being stolen, especially newer wares like the Google Nexus tablet and the Samsung Galaxy S III superphone.

 

In New York City, there were 26,000 electronics thefts in the first 10 months of 2011, of which 81% involved mobile phones, according to the WSJ. In Washington D.C., cellphone-related robberies grew 54% between 2007 to 2011.

 

I think this will grow as organizations start to deploy thousands of iPads and similar devices on airplanes, in restaurants and airport waiting areas, in elementary schools, etc.

 

While I've misplaced cellphones, I've never had one stolen or robbed from me. And I've only had a single brush with violent crime, as I detail below.

Still, I've done some research and given some thought on what you can do prevent being a victim - and mitigate the effects if it does happen.

 

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1. Be Aware.

 

The beauty of mobile devices is their ability to whisk you away mentally from your immediate environs through music, video, the Web. Problem is, that also happens to make you a perfect target for a thief or robber.

 

I remember walking at night around the University of Minnesota campus 20 years ago with my girlfriend. We were in deep conversation about something. Suddenly, a passing bicyclist tried to grab her purse off her shoulder. We were lucky that his grip was poor - or my girlfriend was stronger than her 5'2" frame would suggest - because he rode away prize-less.

 

I wouldn't suggest testing your luck. So when you're on the subway or walking around at night in a quiet area, turn your music down a notch. Look up from your screen. Even better, put your device in your bag or inside coat pocket. Being aware - and showing others that you are aware - could make the difference.

 

2. Be Unflashy.

 

One piece of travel advice I've taken to heart is to not buy fancy, matching designer luggage. That sort of luggage is much more likely to be stolen.

 

You also want to be inconspicuous with your mobile devices. Those white ear buds Apple included with your iPhone? Total mugger bait. Put them away in favor of some generic $8 ear buds from Target or, my personal favorite, some black foam headphones that you harvested from your 90s-era Sony Discman. They probably still work great.

 

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To round out the experience, play your Nirvana channel on Pandora.

 

Similarly, those snappy magnetic covers also scream "NEW IPAD" to robbers. I protect my iPad with a homely padded leather case. It adds so much bulk to my svelte iPad it's like putting a supermodel in a fat suit. Still, I feel comfortable no one's going to target my tablet.

 

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3. Get Insurance.

 

If you live or work in an urban area or travel a lot for work or pleasure, consider getting specialized device insurance. Telcos and traditional insurance companies offer them. The cost starts at a reasonable $5 a month, or 17 cents a day.

 

You may also be able to cover your mobile device through homeowner's or renter's insurance and their "personal articles policy" option. That reportedly costs between $15 to $40 to add.

 

4. Install Device Recovery Apps.

 

All of these apps let you track a lost or stolen device. Apple's Find My iPhone is the standard for iOS. There are plenty of other options: Lookout Mobile and Where's My Droid for Android, Find My Phone for Windows Phone 7, Prey and AirCover for multiple platforms.

 

Here's a nice piece explaining how to use Find My iPhone. Anyone got a device recovery story with a happy ending to share?

 

Remember the limitations of these apps: your device must be on, can't be wiped or reformatted, or had its SIM card taken out. Experienced thieves know this. If not, your battery will run out, too. So time is of the essence.

 

5. Back Up Your Device.

 

Monetary value is one thing, but what about all of those great photos of your friends and family that you took? The Notes you took detailing that great business idea? All of your Contacts? Those can't be replaced.

 

With iCloud, it's easy to make sure your iPhone or iPad data is backed up to within the last 24 hours (you can also manually back up data whenever you have a Wi-Fi connection).

 

With Android, it appears to be more about mixing and matching various free and paid services - anyone got recommendations?

 

Once you've got Nos. 4 and 5 covered, it makes doing No. 6 much easier.

 

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6. Choose Your Life Over Your Device.

 

Replacing an on-contract smartphone is about $200. The most expensive tablet costs less than $1,000 to replace. Your life is worth more than either of those amounts.

 

So just as you shouldn't fight back or refuse when someone armed demands your wallet, you shouldn't bluff or refuse when someone armed demands your iPad. Most robbery attempts don't turn out like this.

 

7. Get Your Company To Install MDM Software.

 

That stands for Mobile Device Management software, and it's used by your IT manager to prepare new devices, secure corporate data on them, and kill these devices if lost or stolen.

 

MDM software is powerful stuff, combining more powerful versions of the features from Nos. 4 and 5 - plus dozens more. Any company with even a small population of corporate-deployed or BYOD iPhones or Android devices should be running it.

 

As for recommendations, your company could do worse than SAP Afaria. My company's MDM offering has been one of the top choices in the market for more than a decade.

 

8. Teach Your Kids.

 

As a father of two young boys who love mobile tech and have their own devices, it scares me to think that all of these risks apply to them, too. So besides installing device recovery apps and getting insurance, make sure you have the talk with them about being aware in public and giving up their devices without a struggle if facing a mugger. I'd advise that even if you are raising mini-Donnie Yens. Finally...

 

9. Help Shrivel The Market.

 

Buying used is good for the environment. Just make sure you aren't mixing good with bad by buying something that “fell off the back of a truck.”

 

Next time you are browsing ads for Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets on Craigslist, take care to avoid ads where the tablets are suspiciously cheap, or there's some excuse why they are missing the cable and power supply, receipt, manual, box, etc. If you do contact them, say you need all of that stuff for warranty reasons or that you're a paperwork freak.

 

If their excuses for not supplying you this stuff sound fishy, don't just stop dealing with them - call them out on your suspicions, or file a complaint with Craigslist.

bakedchickengl.jpgQuestion: when does a negotiation to get healthy food on the table resemble a military operation? Answer: when a team applies the principles of design thinking to cut the best deal possible—for the company and its customers. This is precisely what a team of seven SAP employees has done at SAP Labs in India. Challenged by a global food company to find a better way of shipping products from source to shelf, the team focused on how to improve negotiations with carriers for the best transportation deal. However, instead of brainstorming within traditional confines of management practices, they did two things that are the hallmarks of design thinking. First they laser focused on the pain points of the people at the company responsible for shipment success. And second, they deliberately stepped out of the business milieu to examine the problem from a completely different sphere.

 

As SAP team member Pranav Saxena, tells it, the core issue the customer faced revolved around negotiation. The team found the most logical answer in the application of so-called ‘Extreme Negotiation,’ something that military strategists do to win battles. Saxena explains that military negotiations are the hardest kind because neither side will relax constraints nor do they want to walk away. Just like the military, this customer was bombarded by questions from all sides and had to make quick decisions based on thousands of data points, comparing various carriers, all with their own unique constraints.

 

Analogies can quickly fall apart, but not this one. Similar to military negotiations, the team realized preparation was everything if this customer was going to win. So they designed a strategic freight management tool, which is a fancy name for a brilliant piece of software that literally answers questions the customer couldn’t answer before. In place of manual spreadsheets that yielded too little information too late or not at all, the new prototype instantly analyzes scads of data across multiple variables. It even displays the results in easy to understand graphics. The customer can not only easily track shipments in the here and now, but just as important, negotiate from an informed position.

 

The new software gives the customer answers to pre-configured ‘what if’ questions, like what happens if they give a percentage of their business to one carrier and the price of oil goes up, or storms delay raw material deliveries? Like seasoned military campaigners, they can plot potential moves and counter-moves aligned with their budget plans and growth objectives. All they have to do at the negotiation table is follow the plan. Once on board with a carrier, business users can immediately answer senior management questions about whether or not a shipment will be on time. Best of all, the customer has a fact-based rationale for carrier selection, and it’s foundationally connected to what everyone in the company needs to get the job done right.

 

So what does all this prove? For one thing, there’s really nothing extreme about negotiating from a position of power. All it takes is having the right information where and when you need it.  And maybe, just maybe, managing complex transportation services across international borders and navigating enormous amounts of fast-changing data from multiple sources, doesn’t have to be a major battle. With the right software, it can be a breeze.

High-tech training has obviously been around for years and infiltrated many sports. But the London 2012 Olympics is a showcase for how mobile has also infiltrated modern athletics.

 

One reason is the way the Olympics is a one-every-four-years showcase for certain kinds of individual sports.

 

In such individual sports - think hurdling or diving - the emphasis is on the athlete to beat a particular time, distance or other mark. Practices basically become simulations of actual competitions, making them easy for coaches to study and analyze using high-speed cameras and/or motion sensors.

 

"USA Track & Field has the mantra that we are science-based, coach-driven and athlete-centered," said one of the U.S. Olympic track coaches interviewed in this AOL Autos video about the Olympics. "Just a 1-2% change can make the difference whether you're going to make the team or win a medal."

 

Another example is the Centre d’Alt Rendiment (CAR) in Spain. There, coaches  study swimmers, gymnasts and other Olympians using HD-quality delivered  to tablets in real-time. The video can also be easily shared via  "videoconference with other collaborators or coaches who are not present  to discuss how training programmes can be improved," said Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London.

 

While many coaches use laptop PCs, mobile devices are growing because of their portability and ease of use, says Oldham.

 

Since you may not see many athletes or coaches using their iPads during the actual London 2012 Olympics, what are some of the sports where mobile and high-tech was employed?

 

 

Swimming and Diving

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is one of the powerhouses in applying high-tech to sport. Scroll down half-way this Wired article if you don't believe me.

 

The AIS has invested $17 million in its aquatic facility, including the mounting of 30 cameras above, around and under the water and a motorized cart that runs alongside the swimmers to capture data on their strokes, said Oldham.

 

"The starting blocks are rigged with force plates and motion sensors all linked to plasma screens," she said. "This is to enable the coaches, scientist and athletes to look at exactly how the athlete is performing at all stages of their event using tablet devices."

 

One of Australia's greatest swimmers, Leisel Jones, used this technology to prepare for the Olympics. To improve the four-time Olympian and eight-time medalist's starts, coaches monitor and analyze her dives into the pool via tablets.

 

The tablet displays "all the parameters of her performance from the force she pushed off with, the angle which it was applied, her angle of flight through the air, the distance she went before entering the water, the angle of her entry and the depth to which she dived," said Oldham. Using these techniques has helped Jones reportedly shave four-tenths of a second off her time in the 100 meter breaststroke, for which she is the defending champion.

 

British divers and their coaches are also employing high-speed video cameras (100 frames per second) along with tablets to analyze divers' form, said Oldham.

 

The tablets allow the coach review each dive in slow motion on a tablet device and compare it with previous dives.

 

 

Track and Field

 

For the last six months, U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones has done her practice runs with 39 reflective stickers are affixed to her body. These help the 40 Vicon motion capture cameras capture her runs at a rate of 2,000 frames per second. As Sports Illustrated reported:

Simulations of Jones's hurdling can be viewed from any angle, zoomed to any body part, slowed to fractions of a second and dissected and analyzed in mind-blowing detail. Center of mass is no longer a general area; it is a calculable point. Acceleration and velocity are not concepts; they are quantifiable numbers. These are workouts, yes, but they are also experiments.

"I've heard people say that the track athlete with the best scientists usually wins," Jones says. That line once referred to the sport's well-chronicled history of performance-enhancing chemistry, but in this case it's all about biomechanics.

 

To be honest, the Vicon analysis software apparently only works with PCs today. But Lolo was otherwise just too perfect of an example of the use of high-tech to leave out.

 

 

Field Hockey

 

I know I wrote that it's the individual sports that have taken advantage of mobile the most. But here's a team sport that is using iPads - the Indian male field hockey team.

 

The coach Michael Nobbs stores match videos, reports and replays on his iPad as well as draws up game plays and strategies using special apps. An Indian sports performance firm also provides analysis and detailed reports on matches and players to Nobbs on his iPad.

 

The players weren't left out. After the team qualified for the Olympics, each player was awarded a cash prize along with an iPad.

 

 

Sailing

 

It's no accident that high-tech moguls like Oracle's Larry Ellison and SAP's Hasso Plattner have been such huge supporters - and champions - of this sport.

Like race cars, the boats are hefty, expensive showcases for the latest technology, from hulls that glide faster through the water, to location-based analytics that help sailors avoid obstacles during races and plot the best, wind-aided courses.

 

Sailing Team Germany, Germany's Olympic representative, is using GPS tracking data from each boat and buoy, analytics software from my employer, and iPad dashboard apps to improve its times.

 

“We are getting away from guesswork towards factual knowledge, because  now we have analytics tools that visualize how the race happened  accurately," Marcus Baur, director of Sailing Team Germany, told SAP News "Although intuition will always play a large role in sailing, we are now adding facts to it and we become much more effective that way analyzing our performance.”

 

Check out a 3-minute video here which adds mor detail on how the SAP HANA database crunched more than 12.5 million data points from the Kiel Woche race last month and displayed them on the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iPad app.

 

This technology is critical for STG's chances at the Olympics, said Joachim Helmich, head of STG Academy, in the same article.

 

"With the current prediction system for Weymouth harbor, where the Olympic sailing will be carried out, we are better than any nation around the world," he said. "The simulation of the current at the Olympic venue is perfect and we are better informed than anyone else around."

 

 

Future Sport

 

iPads weren't even around at the last Olympics, but they are having an impact. So something embryonic like augmented reality headsets - think Google’s ‘Project Glass’ - could easily be in heavy use by 2016 in Rio, said Oldham.

 

"Headsets could give instant performance analysis, track competitors and even offer cyclists a rear view mirror," she said. "Spectators using the same hardware could get instant statistics on each rider or see the race as the athletes do."

 

Sensor technology is also advancing rapidly, going into things like tennis racquets, running shoes, and even our own bodies.

 

"In the future these sensors could used to measure every physiological change in the athlete, sending the data back to a coach who can then advise the athlete on strategy using an augmented reality headset," said Oldham. "The speed and depth of data analysis, both of which will be augmented by mobile technology, will have a major influence on the medals table."

Coffee Break.jpgWhen we hear strong opinions about our government around the water cooler, at social events or in the media it usually pertains to inefficiencies and waste of our tax dollars. I think what most people don’t realize is there are many federal, state and local agencies focused on utilizing best practices and technology from the private sector in order to become innovative leaders.  There are many examples of passionate people driving innovation in government and as a result we now have smart cities, a Cloud Commission, app stores for government services and dataset catalogs with many more services being offered or streamlined to save time and money and most importantly to provide a better customer experience for you and me.

 

On July 18, 2012 SAP Radio featured three such innovators in government; Dr. Natalie Helbig senior research associate at the Center for Technology in Government, Jeanne Holm, evangelist for www.Data.Gov and David Nero, Director of Technology for the City of Boston. These speakers shared their work involving analytics, business intelligence and balancing the needs of internal and external customers as it relates to data, mobility, responsibility, transparency and more.

 

The resounding message is that government does care about citizens and their right to services that are on par or better than the private sector.

 

Listen to the show on SAP Radio's Coffee Break with Game Changers here and feel free to Tweet your comments using #SAPRadio.

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Diversity doesn’t necessarily play well in an atmosphere of public discourse that feeds on polarization. It’s not really an either/or issue. Most people aren’t against diversity, despite the hand-wringing about quotas. Diversity is good. Launching programs that actively support diversity is even better. But behind the applause for admittedly worthy programs, the truth is much more nuanced. Here are a few of my somewhat random, personal musings on diversity.

 

First, diversity is not just about women. I have been privileged to work with people around the world for many years, long before virtual teams were the norm. Interacting with people from cultures different than my own has been one of the most fascinating and enjoyable aspects of my career. It still is. So part of me rejects any diversity approach that’s purely gender-based. Discrimination typically isn’t confined to just gender. It is all of a piece.

 

Which is a good segue to my next point. We rarely talk about the elephant in the room, namely, the ingrained attitudes and behavior that prevent women from moving up. This reluctance is understandable. It’s an emotional subject, and the role that feelings play in business is murky at best. If women aren’t going after the positions that will lead to more senior roles, we have to ask why not. Years ago, I remember a public service announcement on television that portrayed a women being interviewed for a job by a man. He began the conversation with oblique hints that the candidate wasn’t right for the job. But the woman wouldn’t take the hint. She kept coming back with the right answers that proved she was qualified. The conversation ping ponged back and forth until the male interviewer, clearly frustrated and angry, blurted out plaintively, “but you’re a woman.” The piece ended with a gravelly male voice-over pronouncing, “THIS is illegal.” I remember thinking how easy it would be to solve the problem if gender bias was that transparent. It is not. It is seamlessly woven into the fabric and minutiae of business life in so many ways.

 

So how do we transform official policies into a workplace that organically opens up opportunities for the best person for the job? At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not easy. I’m proud to work for a company whose leadership team has the guts to make diversity a core priority. The findings of a scientific study commissioned by SAP should go a long way in helping all companies address the inequities that hold women back. I also think there are real cultural differences that an expanded study would reveal if it included other places like the United States, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Diversity isn’t just about women. It’s about everyone.

Tim Clark

Inside the SAP DocuSign Deal

Posted by Tim Clark Jul 23, 2012

Docusign.jpgSAP Ventures recently invested in e-signature provider DocuSign. The press release didn’t mention how the investment will benefit SAP. Is this a pure investment play? How much did SAP Ventures invest? Will DocuSign somehow integrate with SAP products? I caught up with Andreas Weiskam, Managing Director, SAP Ventures to learn more.

 

“We always try to be smart investors and smart investors are typically value-add investors,” said Weiskam. “We seek out opportunities where we can not only put money to work but where we think we can help companies including the entire SAP ecosystem.”

 

Weiskam said SAP Venutres is primarily interested in “later stage” companies, ones with products and customers - criteria DocuSign definitely fulfills. From the press release:

 

DocuSign’s legally binding, secure, cloud-based platform helps consumers and businesses of all sizes and industries collect information and sign documents online – eliminating the hassles, costs, and lack of security in printing, faxing, scanning, and overnighting documents to capture information and signatures. Companies use DocuSign to create better customer experiences and save money by automating and streamlining their business processes.

 

Here’s why Weiskman believes DocuSign makes sense:

 

  • Today, only a small portion of contracts are being signed online. Most are still handled offline, printed out, signed with ink and paper. Then it becomes a struggle to integrate contracts back into the workflow via scanning and faxing. “Going forward, the process of editing and collaborating on contracts is going to happen online,” said Weiskam. “The sending, signing and storing of contracts will also happen online.”
  • More documents handled online, a driver for a cloud based solution. Rise in popularity around Dropbox and Google Docs and workflows being automated and integrated within most organizations.
  • Increased accessibility of broadband and 3G. More people working on smartphones, mobile devices.

 

How does DocuSign tie back to SAP? Core adoption of e-signatures is mainly driven out of sales organizations, which means integration with CRM systems. So when you have thousands of different contracts being signed, or you’re trying to get them closed by the end of the quarter, being able to see if a customer opened a contract and signed it makes the CRM system extremely valuable, according to Weiskam. Potential e-signature synergies exist on the back end as well since managers can assess contract activity in different sales regions, for instance.

 

How much did SAP invest in DocuSign?

 

“It’s a meaningful investment,” said Weiskam. “We think it’s a big opportunity with many potential integration points with SAP.” 

BaseCamp20123.jpgEarlier this month, more than 50 of the top analysts in our community, along with a few members of the press, traveled to the SAP offices in Newtown Square, PA to get an update on SAP’s strategy for Industries. SAP has long been known for its deep expertise within industries across the globe, and the Industries Base Camp is designed to help the analyst community understand how SAP is combining applications, technologies and go-to-market knowledge to create innovative solutions that help our customers “run like never before.”

 

 

Dr. Kerstin Geiger kicked off the event, illustrating how SAP’s industry strategy  to run, grow and transform businesses arises from our history as a leading supplier of applications, our investments in new technologies such as mobile and cloud and our global presence across 24 industries.  She also spoke about our commitment to customers, fielding questions about the ways SAP balances the support for systems we’ve created over the past 40 years with the need to implement cutting edge technology. Her depth and breadth of experience were evident to the audience. Nicole Engelbert of Ovum remarked via Twitter that “Kerstin Geiger is the human representation of why customers buy from SAP.”

 

 

Whether the delivery platform is on premise or in the cloud, SAP’s applications help customers optimize and understand complex value chains and our business suite applications are still in high demand. As Geraldine McBride jokingly pointed out, “Thank god for industry laggards. We can still sell them ERP.” Kidding aside, SAP’s strategy emphasizes ‘innovation without disruption’ – allowing customers to actualize long term benefits from core applications, while still providing a platform from which to deploy new technologies.

 

 

With investments from the past several years in cloud, mobility, analytics and database, SAP is now uniquely positioned to help our customers grow – whether that’s due to increasing volume from more streamlined operations or a move to an unfamiliar geography. Albert Pang of Apps Run the World remarked, “After buying Sybase, SuccessFactors, Crossgate, and Ariba, SAP’s industry footprint is felt wide and deep.”

 

 

Across the board, SAP speakers discussed how customers in all industries transform their businesses in fundamental ways.  Whether it’s a manufacturer like Nike opening its own retail shops, or an airline buying its own refinery, the lines between industries are blurring. Enterprises are working like never before to understand how they can leverage new technologies to target consumers, manage logistics and inventory, and optimize resources with more precision. One customer cited by SAP’s Stephanie Buscemi found that average revenue per unit (ARPU) increased 10% to 25% by using personalized, real-time offers.

 

 

For the analysts who attend the Industries Base Camp, the event provides a unique opportunity to get visibility into the full SAP technology and product stack, insight into how we work with customers, and a chance to form new relationships with key SAP executives and other thought leaders across industries. 

 

If you missed the event, or want more information, check out our videos on YouTube  or www.sap.com/industries.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @kmcneel

loyal2.jpgA lot is being said and discussed about customer loyalty programs - what works and what does not.

 

  • Maggie Starvish in his article titled Customer Loyalty Programs That Work, argues that customer engagement is the key in successful loyalty programs in Retail industry.
  • This interesting Infographic talks about the connection between customer loyalty programs and social media and how they can become a potent combination.
  • In this video, second-generation vintner John Jordan reflects on the creation of Jordan Estate Rewards. Through exclusive, intimate experiences, Jordan Estate Rewards membership creates lasting wine country memories — such as lunch in their dining room, fishing on Jordan lake or a luxurious overnight stay in one of its chateau suites, just to name a few.

 

Add to this the proliferation of Groupon and its clones and it's not hard to see that discount offers are everywhere. So, just offering some more of your product/service at a discount or free does not make any loyalty program interesting. In my opinion, it is time for loyalty programs to re-invent themselves. While doing so, some key points that they need to keep in mind could be:

 

  • Trust: Build trust. This should reflect in the quality of your products/services. You need to find ways to build trust in every transaction that you have with your customers. This is the foundation on which you can build loyal customers.
  • Make it personal: With the proliferation of technology everywhere, the personal interaction is somewhere missing. Use technology to make it more personal and not the otherway round.
  • Offer experiences: People forget products, services or discount offers. They do not forget memorable experiences. Make sure you give them enough opportunity to click pictures and shoot videos. That is your measure of success.
  • Closed community: Do not start selling the loyalty program to everyone. Let your customers earn to be a part of this closed community. It is a fact well-known, that the difficult it is to achieve something, the more we cherish the achievements.
  • Customer focused: Do not use the program to focus on what you want to do with the members. Focus on what the members want to do with you and other members. Be bold; be creative in the activities that you plan.
  • Celebrate: Celebrate your successes with this closed community. Nothing binds people more than celebrating success together.
  • Simple: Make it a very simple program to roll-out, manage and benefit from.

 

I would definitely love to be a part of such a loyalty program.

 

Do you know of programs that truly "wow" their members?

ball.jpgI am currently reading the update of the famous 1972 publication The Limits to Growth.” The report, published by the Club of Rome, is still considered very influential in sustainability circles - even though it was wrong. The doom predicted in the report never really happened, although its main insight—that resources are not limitless—remains true.


There have been various updates to that report over the years, with the latest version stretching the predictions out ahead to 2052. Why should I care about predictions that might be wrong again and will probably only affect the next generations?


Personally, the futures of my children and grandchildren are enough for me to care, but I also have professional reasons. From a business perspective, I want to know which factors might influence SAP and its ecosystem and what that might imply, with a very concrete goal in mind: telling stories.


 

 

Why We Should Continue to Predict the Future

At SAP I work in a thought leadership team. The term is overused but it is the best-known way we have to describe what we would like to achieve: We seek interesting ideas that we can transform into stories about IT and business—without pitching products or services. Ideally, the stories are ahead of their time and offer the reader new perspectives. If the stories prompt them to get in contact with SAP, then all the better. But at the least we want to demonstrate that SAP is thinking ahead.


My task is to research future trends. I have been doing that for quite some time already at SAP; some of my SAP colleagues may know the annual Trend Book that I have been publishing internally each year since 2007. But we need more than a collection of trends to tell interesting stories. Jorgen Randers, one of the authors of the original report and the author of the recent update, explains why we should continue to try to predict the future:


  • Together as a society we can determine if there is a reason to be concerned and what to do
  • We can seek our own personal answers, as we will draw different conclusions
  • We can better plan investments
  • Political, legislative, and social institutions can better plan their upcoming tasks

·       

Even Faulty Predictions Are Better Than Passivity

In other words, if we want to be active designers of our future instead of passively waiting for it to happen to us, we have to predict and interpret the trends. We cannot predict exact how things will turn out, but by using all the data we have we can think creatively about it.

By that I mean that our methodology for predicting the future must change. The world has become too complex for a single concrete truth. There is nothing new about this approach; the ancient Oracle of Delphi always delivered ambivalent answers.


The latest Club of Rome report is not a silver bullet. The future won’t look exactly as the authors envision it, although some aspect will probably come true. But it provides stimulation for us to think about the future—and to create it. The first report helped found the green movement and influenced our modern thinking on sustainability. I don’t expect less from the new edition.


 

The Future: the Visible and the Invisible

I’m going to start publishing here on SCN about the future that we know will happen—the visible—and the one we must think about and create—the invisible. Very often it will be my personal view that I will put up for discussion. I hope that you get engaged and challenge and comment on my assumptions, as we need a diversity of thinking to creatively think about the future.


 

 

In the meantime, if you would like to connect through LinkedIn, my profile is here: Kai Goerlich, or follow me on Twitter.

 

sm273804_l_srgb_s_gl.jpgAs someone who earns a living as a writer, I remember my mixed feelings when I first realized the internet would forever change how people create and share information. On the plus side, surely this was a good thing I reasoned. More people can share different ideas. The exchange of viewpoints will fuel innovation. Voices previously unheard will have a fair say. Can world peace be within reach?

 

 

BUT, and this is a big one--as a professional writer, I admit I was horrified. I braced myself for an onslaught of poor syntax, grammatical errors, and jumbled thoughts—where will it all end?! With the maturity of the internet came reconciliation. Of course being a writer, that translates to a blog post with my top five dos and don’ts for writers in any medium:

 

  1. DON’T confuse the power of the channel with the power of the content. A web page doesn’t automatically bring enlightenment to your audience. Clear, crisp writing is the only path to meaningful communication.
  2. DO keep in mind that your readers have absolutely no way of knowing your unique experience—the reality that shapes your perspectives. Your job as a writer is to make your experience resonate with your audience’s reality. That is the only way they will hear you.
  3. DO sweat the details for absolute, fact-based accuracy. Trust is fragile and hard to win back if you share erroneous information with readers who count on you.
  4. DO question everything. Keep your creativity alive by being open to new ideas that no one has thought of before.
  5. DO be yourself. Resist the temptation to assume a different persona when you write. The most powerful words come from the heart, and that has to be genuine.

 

I understand that all of the above has been said before. But like most fundamentals, they are well worth repeating, especially as the internet spawns more content creators. As for me, some days are better than others. On the best ones, I take all manner of writing in stride. Split infinitives—who cares? Garbled, run-on sentences minus prepositions or punctuation—bring it on! Made up words that aren’t yet in the dictionary--ok if they’re clever enough. But please, please spare me the superfluous “ly” (i.e., firstly, secondly, importantly).  After all, I have to draw the line somewhere.

 

This is my first blog post on SCN. While I plan to write about all kinds of business trends, I wanted to begin with some of my thoughts that are foundational to the writing craft itself. I welcome your comments. More to come…

blindfold2.jpgI'm not alone in using the term "enterprise mobile/mobility" when I want to talk about something of interest to all business customers. That's lazy writing, though. Strictly speaking, enterprises means large firms, which in Europe, means more than 250 employees/50 million euro in revenue, or more than 500 employees in the U.S.

 

Defined that way, two things are clear: 1) the vast majority of companies are small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); 2) the needs and attitudes of SMEs can differ from their bigger brothers.

 

Getting an enterprise CIO on the phone can be difficult. But finding out who actually runs IT at an SME can be even more elusive.

 

So I turned to a colleague at SAP who deals with this world every day.

 

Shawn Robertson is a vice-president in charge of SAP mobile inside sales based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 

SAP's inside sales team for mobile has grown by leaps and bounds since the acquisition of Sybase in mid-2010. There were just two Inside Sales Executives devoted to mobile in the second half of 2010. That grew to ten mobile ISEs last year. That has grown to 32 mobile inside reps (out of 1,000 inside sales reps worldwide for SAP) under Robertson's watch.

 

Unlike field-based account executives, inside sales reps do most of their work over telephone and e-mail. That doesn't make their work any less demanding. ISEs are expected not only to be able to sell SAP's entire mobile portfolio, which also now includes the Sybase 365 and Syclo apps, but even help customers "mock up a potential custom app" written for them by SAP.

 

And because they focus on deals under $175,000 in worth, they tend to talk to more SMEs than other SAP mobile reps, says Robertson.

 

And what do Robertson and his reps see? Poor mobile device management and security, for one. Many SMEs are still wrestling with how to handle the BYOD influx.

 

One company Robertson worked with recently was starting to deploy iPads due to the CEO's sudden conversion to the merits of mobile real-time sales dashboards.

 

Of course, the CEO hadn't considered the security implications - but his director of IT had. She bought a 25-seat package of SAP Afaria mobile device management software as part of the proof of concept deployment, which she fully expects to be successful, Robertson said. When that happens, "it will trigger them to go big" on mobile, Robertson said.

 

Once de facto aimed at enterprises, Afaria is more appealing to SMEs today for two reasons: a 14-day free trial, as well as a cloud version hosted on Amazon Web Services.

 

Arming salespeople with CRM apps - popular with enterprises - is also popular with SMEs, too.

 

One consumer goods vendor had a problem with field reps that would go out in trucks. Once out in the field, though, the company had no visibility into their real-time inventory, while reps had little to no information on customer accounts.

 

"The customer's reps would go in blind every time," he said.

 

Ironically, the company did have a CRM application running on laptops. But it was inconvenient to use, requiring reps to dial into a server to refresh data. That doomed it to poor usage, Robertson said.

 

To fix that, the company deployed SAP CRM Sales Mobile app to 75 field reps. "What they have now are reps who actually use the system now, and can intuitively access the latest account information, be more intelligent about the account, and get back to the job of relationship selling," he said.

 

The final thing that smaller customers tend to embrace today are apps that accelerate internal workflows.

 

"Everyone's got pain points," Robertson said, citing his own personal bugaboos - approving his employees' gas receipts, and getting all of the necessary signatures on a sales contract during end of quarter crunch time.

 

"This stuff is very easily understood," he said. And SMEs "just want to make things light speed faster."

On July 11, 2012 SAP Radio featured four experts on the topics of Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC). They each brought their own special insights to this broad topic, the conversation was high-energy and spirited.  A common theme from the show was the need to break down company silos in order for an enterprise information governance strategy to be defined, executed and measured.

 

The show opened with a very strong statement from Dr. Parveen Gupta Department Chair of Accounting at Lehigh University: “Today, nothing is more fundamental to business and more vexing to a company’s directors than effective risk governance... a failure in risk oversight could be interpreted by the regulators and the courts as a breach of fiduciary duty by the Board.”

 

This implies there is more at stake than business concerns, that indeed there is a responsibility at a legal level. He also cited two Senior Supervisor’s reports that concluded the global financial meltdown was a result of poor risk management and oversight.

 

Barry Murphy, co-founder and Principal Analyst with The eDJ Group however did focus on the business concerns yet didn’t ignore the legal aspects. “Good information governance allows companies to get value out of information while minimizing the costs associated with information events like litigation or regulatory requests," he said.

 

With the needs and risks clearly established by Dr. Parveen Gupta and Barry Murphy, Fiona Williams of Deloitte & Touche brought up the need for an enterprise wide strategy. “Every organization will face uncertainty and risk ─ the effectiveness of how you deal with governance, risk and compliance (GRC) is what separates market leaders.” She went on to address the challenge in unifying risk efforts across the organization, what an effective methodology looks like and the role leadership plays. I believe she even coined a term in the conversation, Risk Intelligence.

 

Bruce McQuaig Director, Solution Marketing for SAP Governance Risk and Compliance Solutions opened his comments with a concern for the value of a governance program. "Risk management practices are too often failing to meet the value test. Practitioners are looking for the wrong risks in all the wrong places,” he said. McQuaig also shared a three step methodology that asks specific value questions that need to be answered to ensure the business is getting value out of a program.

 

While traditionally we understand The “C” in GRC to mean compliance, the panel alluded it should also mean control, costs and culture. Fraud, social media and mobile devices all played a role in this conversation. Dr. Gupta put a humorous spin on the Libor scandal saying it is now spelled Liebor.

 

The panel clearly made a case that there is competitive advantage in knowing your company’s risks and effectively managing your enterprise data. Moreover, they concluded ignoring the risks can have detrimental effects on the company and the freedom and liberty of its leadership.

 

Listen to SAP Coffee Break with Game-Changers presents GRC: Risky Business: Time for Governance here. And Tweet your comments to #SAPRadio.

It’s only a matter of time until banking becomes as personal and customized as other services or retail experiences. This industry is quickly moving to seamlessly align its service offerings with customer needs and profiles and offer additional perks to boost loyalty.

 

Historically, the typical banking transaction – whether opening a long-term savings account or signing up for a mortgage – was managed directly through any given branch and with relatively limited choice for the customer to choose from. A set menu of options or services was presented with little variation depending on the customer profile.

 

Now, with an increasingly competitive market place and much more savvy customers, banks are being forced to rethink the “old standards” and start getting a little more creative, actually offering tailored programs that take the individual customer seriously.

 

Does this mean banks are going to actually start treating their customers with a little bit of humanity?!

 

I sure hope so.

 

The virtualization of finance

 

Retail or corporate, banks have reaped enormous benefits from the virtualization of finance and currency exchange - not to mention the global trading and the rapid expansion of markets. Financial institutions have equally responded by growing their offerings to cover all aspects of economic life. This is great for their business, but the obvious downside is rapidly diminishing trust in these institutions, fervent competition, and increasingly stringent regulations, particularly in Europe and France. So something needs to shift, and fast.

 

Proliferation of technology paired with almost constant Internet access has changed not only the way we consume and share information but how we consume goods and services as well. This trend (if we can still call it that) does not exclude our relationship and expectations of the banking industry.

 

Most of us connect remotely to check account balances, make an investment or transfer money. These actions have become second nature and most importantly, ones we manage independent of any need to visit the bank directly or connect with a live service employee. This is just the beginning.

 

Younger clientele are growing up taking these options for granted and with the movement towards servitization across industries, we are all coming to expect greater personalization of services in addition to simple conveniences. 

 

Passive, trusting and  grateful customers are making way for more demanding (rightfully so) populations who demand more transparency and tailored, personalized service. It’s no doubt that the newer online competitors have flourished on the web, enabling and empowering customers and being much quicker to respond to their growing needs. Each client feels (and is) unique and wants proof of that recognition in the form of via an “A La Carte” menu created specifically for them! I know I do.

 

Banking “A la carte”


To genuinely become service oriented, banks must look beyond the recognition of needing to evolve and embrace true business model transformation. From implementing the right IT and business support processes, to training their staff at all levels to begin thinking and acting as service providers it needs to get into the DNA of their business, not only their technology. The traditional (and yes, I’ll say it, stiff and uninviting) customer approach must be forgotten in favor of an “à la carte” one, where the customer sits at the heart of their strategy.

 

With the proper technology and strategy realignments,  a 360 degree  real-time view of customer behavior is enabled, including changes to profile, day-to-day transactions, overall loyalty and asset performance. Naturally this needs to be responded to in a personalized fashion but also rewarded to increase satisfaction and retention. These changes can’t happen fast enough if banks want to stay competitive and be successful. Honestly, if the meal at my local restaurant isn’t satisfying me anymore and there are a few more restaurants down the road that promise tasty choices at a better price – you can bet I’m going to try them out. So why wouldn’t I apply the exact same customer prerogative with my bank? Well, the answer is I would and I’m guessing so would you.

 

Wouldn’t you?

 

olympics2.jpgAs a child in the UK, I grew up watching British athletes become the also-rans of Olympic finals. We celebrated “just being there” where “making the podium” was victory and “bronze was the new gold.”  And while there isn’t a fourth place medal at the Olympics, there have been plenty of spectacularly frustrating fourth place finishes over the years, including:

 

  • Roger Bannister was fourth in the 15,000 meters in the 1952 Helsinki games. He went on to become famous for being the first man to break the four minute mile.
  • Mary Peters finished fourth on the 1964 Rome Olympics. She went on to win gold in the 1972 Summer Olympics.
  • Steve Prefontaine finished fourth in one of the greatest Olympic 5000 meter races of all-time at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. And yes, I know he is not British.
  • David Broome was the World’s top rider at the time but finished fourth place in the individual show jumping (not sure why it is called “individual” as he had a horse with him) event, at 1988 Olympics.
  • Paula Radcliffe the top long distance runner of her generation could only finish fourth in the 10,000 meters in Sydney in 2000. She hopes to fare better in the Marathon in London.

 

I can imagine nothing worse than to run, swim, ride, shoot, vault or leap your hardest, only to see three of your fiercest competitors on the podium. So from a business perspective, what are some of the lessons learned to be in peak shape for the Olympics? How can we make sure to “medal” and “go for the gold”? How can you avoid being an onlooker when the abundance of gold, silver and bronze is being handed out?

 

Millions of different factors come into consideration in order to pull off something as spectacular as the Olympics. Here are just a few of the staggering facts (and opportunities) about the “Games of the XXX Olympiad”:

 

Plenty to feed, clothe and sell memorabilia to, including:

  • 10,500 Olympic athletes and 4000 Para lympic athletes
  • 6,000 coaches and officials
  • 150,00 official workers
  • 70,000 volunteers
  • 20,000 media
  • 10,000,000 spectators

  In total it is estimated that 60,000 meals will be served daily at the Olympic village and 12 million in total (including spectators). 

 

Sports apparel manufacturers will have a “field day”:

  • 63,400 official uniforms totaling one million items
  • One million pieces of sports equipment will be used

 

No shortage on building and construction over the past few years: 

  • 32 venues constructed
  • More than 800 pre-training venues
  • 140,000 square meters of temporary facilities
  • 30 new bridges built in Olympic Park
  • 4,000 trees planted
  • 50,000 hotel rooms built
  • 150,000 temporary seats

 

The motto of the Olympic Games is “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”. This is true for the athletes taking part and for the businesses servicing the games.  The Olympic Games brings with them the opportunity of substantial income and the potential to generate considerable publicity (good and bad) for suppliers of goods and services at all stages in the supply chain. It has been estimated that around £5 billion worth of Olympic Games related contracts have already been won.

 

Be ready. There is no lonelier place than fourth place in the Olympics. Companies and the athletes need to run like never before.

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @howellsrichard

     

Stevey.jpgGreat companies have great leaders who are great communicators. If you follow the rise and fall of successful companies, the ones that consistently stay on top are the ones with exceptional leaders, people who can inspire others with the story of their innovation.  Remember when Steve Jobs pulled the MacBook Air out of an office envelope? That gesture was worth a thousand words, and today Apple’s market value is at $600bn thanks in part to the fact that Steve Jobs was one of the most extraordinary communicators in the corporate world.

 

Or take the story of shwopping. Marc Bolland, CEO of Marks and Spencers, was just awarded the EACD Communication Award 2012 for his brilliant campaign introducing  the notion of recycling old clothes when buying new ones, a move that will revolutionize the way we shop for decades to come.

 

Yet in spite of such compelling examples, most managers and executives still fail to understand that communication is a key element of success. In a recent survey of 2200 communication professionals throughout Europe, 84% state that top management lacks understanding of communications, and 75% think it is difficult to prove the impact of communications on business goals.

 

The survey, part of the European Communication Monitor 2012,  also identified key trends in communication for the upcoming years.  One trend is a clear move away from the operational practice of producing and disseminating communication materials to a new, strategic management function which includes responsibility for educating and training  management  to communicate better, and thereby become better leaders.

 

Sanjay Poonen, SAP Corporate Officer, President of Solutions and Head of Mobile Division, is a firm believer that leaders should teach leaders. “SAP’s market share has risen consistently over the years thanks to visionary leadership and strong execution. Now it’s up to us to train the next generation. I don’t relegate my leadership sessions to trainers, but run them myself.  That means I have to keep learning  because every leader should be a lifelong teacher and student, ” says Sanjay, referring to the teachable point of view, a concept refined by Noel Tichy that helps leaders teach leadership by linking their  personal experience to organizational goals.

 

While many companies like SAP are embedding the concept that leaders should teach leaders into their leadership programs, what are they doing to help managers communciate better?

 

“People think in stories, so I find storytelling to be one of the best teaching tools,” says Sanjay. “We’re developing storytelling workshops to help people  articulate the value of our solutions. I also like whiteboarding, which helps me tell the story of SAP’s entire portfolio in 9 minutes!”

 

Can you pull your innovation story  out of an office envelope or put it on a whiteboard? If not, whether you’re in the business of developing products, sales strategies or leadership skills, you may want  to involve your communication expert from the get go. By helping  you set the direction and destination of your enterprise, good communications can indeed have an impact on your business! You’ll be a better leader, and your company will be all the greater.  

bizzy4.pngThe consumer today is lot more digital and social-driven than ever before in history, yet companies continue to market to them and service them just as they would have decades ago. Think of the number of times you have received unsolicited spam from providers you regularly do business with, or the large number of zombie Facebook pages with content so old you can almost discern the cobwebs, or the perpetual stream of mismatched offers from vendors who ostensibly have your purchase history on record. And even though customer relationship management (CRM) software is a near $50 billion category with an established footprint in companies both big and small, businesses still struggle to serve (and service) their digital customers. 

 

Beyond the Obligatory

 

Take Sears Kenmore, for example. A decade ago, they had a 40% plus market share in the US major appliance market. Today it is below 30% and dropping fast, thanks to savvy big box retailers who are offering cleaner, better lit stores with programs that cater to web-savvy buyers who have done their homework before they even walk into the store (i.e. product reviews read, check; price comparisons done, check; service histories pored over, check, check and check again). When I had an issue with one of my Kenmore appliances, I discovered they had a Facebook page, so off I went and logged my comments where it appeared many other customers like me had found relief. Within 2 hours a rep responded and asked me to contact him directly with specific warranty details etc. At that point, I thought, wow, this company really has their act together; maybe I need to look beyond their less than perfect stores. Alas, it has been 3 months since and no one has responded thus far, either to my post on their Facebook page or to the direct emails I sent to the person who was triaging social media posts that day. In an epic comedy of errors, I was also provided a customer service survey asking for my feedback on the way my non-existent service call had been handled. 

 

Customers Won't Wait

 

From my perspective, Sears messed up on multiple fronts, giving me multiple reasons to defect the next time I am in the market for a replacement appliance:

 

  • You have to understand the totality of a customer’s experience with the company, not just in silos. The guys who ultimately helped resolve my issue were great but my overall experience with the company was spectacularly sub-par
  • When it comes to social media, merely checking the proverbial box doesn’t work. If you want to do social right, you have to have someone who monitors the appropriate watering holes all the time and has the ability to engage in a dialogue that customers are there for
  • Close the loop with your customers - after I dutifully filled in the feedback form, not a single person either contacted me or bothered to explain their side of the story. I don’t know if the feedback was even read by anyone. 

 

There are several vendors in the market, like SAP for e.g., that offer solutions that connect the social media world (data from Facebook and other community sites) into the customer service workflow, so that the social web becomes just another extension of the same service process. Integrating social and traditional communication can be a huge win-win for both companies and their customers, as companies can deliver a richer and more superior customer experience by engaging with their customers where they are likely to hang out anyway. 

 

Understanding the Customer

 

An example of a company that does get it is Sherwin Williams, the paint company. They have figured out the fine art of aligning their online marketing with their physical stores to deliver an unmatched customer experience. I was in their stores a couple of months ago to buy some paint and when I got home, I found one of those customer feedback forms waiting in my email inbox. As is my habit, I filled those in, fully aware that it was likely going into yet another black hole. To my surprise, 48 hours later I received a personal email from the manager of the local store where I had done my shopping thanking me for my business, and inviting me back again to shop with a set of exclusive, high-value coupons that were relevant to my needs as a homeowner.

 

In the olden days, the friendly hardware store owner personally knew his customers and their unique situations in life. Today, companies like Sherwin Williams are attempting to replicate that level of informed customer service by using their CRM systems well. Since my original purchase, every time I have redeemed one of those coupons, I get another high-value offer redeemable for a product that is a natural fit with what my purchase history is telling them. In another words, Sherwin Williams does more for consumers who spend in the hundreds than Sears does for consumer who spend in the thousands. Maybe it is a function of being a smaller company (as compared to Sears, that also owns K-Mart), or a more agile company that knows how to use CRM software more efficiently, it is pretty clear that even though this company was founded back in 1866, it is firmly moving with the times. No wonder the stock is up +89% in the last 52 weeks. 

 

In the real world, we might voice our displeasure with a particular provider to a handful of friends and colleagues; in the virtual world that gets multiplied by a factor of hundreds, if not more. After all, who knew that “Like” could have the power to be a potent 4-letter word.

I know what you’re thinking.

 

Does SAP really need another blog site?

 

Yes we do. And this isn’t just another blog site. Let me explain.

 

Over the past two years, I’ve been helping SAP employees and execs find their blogging voice. It’s not an easy process, or a pretty one. And that’s not such a bad thing.

 

See, I’m not a big fan of ghost writing, writing by committee, or cutting and pasting a press release and passing it off as a blog. So when I provide counsel, well, let’s just say the ride sometimes gets a little bit bumpy. But once those bumps are smoothed out, and people find their voice, amazing things happen. Page views increase, profiles are raised, meetings happen and yes, even sales cycles occur.

 

That’s why I still believe content is king. Treat the content creation process with the respect it deserves and more often than not, good things will happen. The SAP Community Network also believes in this process and will help create good things for SAP’s business storytellers, the premise of SAP Business Trends.

 

You’ll see the usual suspects covered here like cloud, big data and mobile. You might also see content that offers different perspectives on recent SAP announcements. Or a behind-the-scenes story that provides insight on how we’re humanizing the SAP brand. What’s important to remember is the glue holding it all together: the potential business benefits of SAP’s products, strategies and solutions. We’ll get the party started on our end but this is an open space and that means BYOC (Bring Your Own Content). Can’t wait to see who shows up.

 

So why make the SAP Community Network ground zero for folks with an SAP-flavored business story to tell?  Three things:

 

The Platform rocks. Why re-create, re-brand, re-launch a “new” blog site that would end up competing with one of SAP’s most respected and social media savvy online channels?

 

The People are passionate and plugged in. SAP Business Trends will benefit from and hopefully complement technical content and discussions across the myriad other SAP Community Network spaces.

 

The Possibilities are endless. The last thing I want to happen is call my boss into an emergency meeting and say, “We’re gonna need a bigger blog.” As a complementary space to an established community or a standalone entity that resides firmly under the mighty SAP name, there’s plenty of room for Business Trends growth on the SAP Community Network.

 

Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to hearing your feedback, reading your content and answering any questions as we build out the space.

 

- Tim

 

@TClark01

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