Your valuable and curated customer data. Throw it away and start again.


Coronavirus has taken too many lives, decimated global economies, removed the sense of place for all communities and reshaped almost all propositions in all corners of the world.

The way our world works from a social, economic, personal space and geographic perspective is now on hyper change. Simply it is the most significant upheaval that diverse and dispersed communities and individuals will hopefully experience.

Consumer behaviour is fundamentally changed. Employee behaviour has changed radically. How we view our health, government, even the neighbourhood store is not the same as it was. This means that what as individuals what we knew about the past, is no longer relevant for the future. And what we know about our history, isn’t going to help us with the future.

For enterprises, this creates a massive and frankly unprecedented problem. All the customer data that an enterprise or agency has gathered, optimised, curated and analysed in February 2020, or February 2000 now needs to be thrown out the window, and if you can be honest, has zero value.

Simple everyday processes that we have taken for granted have now changed, and the change is one-directional. I have elderly parents who were last year fitted with hearing aids. For them, this involved a trip to the audiologist to have a test done, the hearing aids fitted and optimised for their use. However, in a post Covid_19 world, I caught up with an audiology provider who was reeling at the changes to their everyday business.

The shift to no-touch, enabling one to purchase and use the hearing aid without close physical contact. Thereby no need for a large visible retail space, or a big team of face to face enablement and customer service staff. What they hew about their customers hearing hasn’t changed, but everything else has. (To be fair, six months of isolation may lead to situational deafness rising exponentially)

From an employee perspective, the way we work has changed. The transition to working from home was made in a day for millions of employees the globe over. What is possible, and what is required, how to communicate, evaluate and nurture employees all changed. What worked last year won’t work this year, so the data has to change.

Therefore what you knew is now what you need to know.

The good news is that while your data is out of date if you had a deep understanding of your data collection processes, analytics and how to make actionable outcomes you are in the fast lane for recovery from Covid_19 from a business perspective. If your processes are immature, beholden to organisational shortcomings or CFO budget constraints, then you are not going to recover.

Capture Point

It is hard to accept that your old data now has no value. Those with the best data management processes are the ones that will accelerate first in recovery. Every step you take to improve the data management processes now, and urgently will help you understand the new customer values.

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Will the CFO use the Corona Virus Black Swan Event to defund Customer Experience


Analysts, consulting firms, SaaS providers and business innovators all agree on one thing: Customer Experience has to be the number one priority for enterprise strategy as we enter 2020 and beyond. Enterprise boards and leadership teams have firstly, learnt the value of the investment in Customer Experience. Secondly, they are investing in extracting this value and providing positive customer-centric experiences for their customers.

Regardless of if it is called digital, Customer Experience, CRM or another buzzword, investment, focus and creation of strong Customer Experience success metrics is at the top of business priorities.

One of the critical challenges with enabling an enterprise-wide Customer Experience platform is that it costs money, takes time and has to be a complete transformation. Of course, something that has a vital benefit to the profitability of a company and substantial strategic shift rarely comes cheaply or at no cost. The benefits of a well-executed Customer Experience investment substantially outweigh the costs in the short term and long term. Sadly many see the price. Even well planned and executed Customer Experience investments can be bought undone with cost trimming, such as forgetting the all-important change management and training issues, or skimping on the SaaS budget.

The world is in the grip of a Black Swan event with the rise of the Corona Virus. From toilet paper hoarding to political decisions, history is not going to judge that well some of the behaviours seen to date as a result of the severe threat of the virus.

Every day brings reactions and responses from consumers, governments and enterprises. As highlighted, some rational and measured, far too many hysterical and, well frankly, hindsight will not be friendly.

We have seen enterprises slash travel due to health concerns. Every day another major event is cancelled. This reflects concerns of employees and stakeholders. We have seen enterprises slash new spending and delay investment, again, not an illogical short term consideration.

In some discussions with companies, large and small, public and private, there is a growing concern that the CFO is using the Corona Virus event as a cover for more dramatic cost-cutting. Please note, I have friends who are CFO’s, nor do I bear the role any grudges. They are not all group thinkers with a plan to slash costs for employees. Just some of them.

What is high on the list for the budget chop? Investment in technology and investment in customer experience. Even 5% cuts to a budget can have a profound impact on the execution of the initiative, particularly if it is relating to training, or selecting the best approach forward for theist business outcome. Let’s face it, for something as fundamental as Customer Experience; there is no right place to cut a lean well-considered program. The risk of budget cuts for Customer Experience investments and applications must be fought on facts and supported business plans. Enterprises and agencies must be able to quantify the return on investment, the increased stakeholder value and other measurable benefits of an investment in Customer Experience. Provide specific proof points. Benchmark the benefits of investment vs the costs of failing to invest. It is not easy to do, but unfortunately, it is essential to roll against the natural tendency of many CFO’s to cut at the first sign of trouble. I have always been a great believer in spending money to make money, not reducing costs to make money. Customer Experience has to ensure that it is in the former position within the enterprise, not the latter.

The impact of the changes wrought on the economy and how we used to do business just a few short days ago means that in fact investments in reaching, engaging and satisfying customers today are even more critical now than they have ever been. No excuse, no shortcuts in a world where foot traffic for retail is significantly reduced, people are not willing to travel, or changing consumption of communication tools is happening every day. Again, no shortcuts and measurable business outcomes.

Capture Share
While Customer Experience remains a major investment priority for virtually every enterprise and government agency, an event like the Corona Virus is a significant shift in business dynamics. It is not just impacting the travel industry, it is now touching virtually every industry, and some predictions may be overly dire, it is still a massive task to return to business as usual. A risk of this seismic change is that crucial projects and budgets will be cut. Business and IT alike have to work together to ensure that Customer Experience investments are not only made as planned but potentially fast-tracked. Do not allow for your organisations to take short cuts, remove programs or otherwise diminish the opportunity to raise the Customer Experience during the current crisis (or any future issues for that matter).

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More evidence – Tough times for legacy tech vendors, and golden time for the Cloud

Software Asset Management and Licensing app provider Flexera recently published a report on technology investments that makes fascinating, scary or reassuring reading depending upon your perspective.

The Flexera™ State of Technology Spend Report was based on over 300 interviews with enterprise IT executives. Minimum enterprise employee size was 2,000, 62% of surveys were in the US, 36% in Europe. So clearly there is some geographic bias and no representation of the views of Asia Pacific enterprises. However, the research outcomes do pass a cognitive test of analysis (without access to the data). Enterprises spend approximately 8% of revenue on IT, and the trajectory is one of growth with enterprises overwhelmingly looking to spend more on technology.

There is a lot to unpick in the document, more than a single blog post could do justice.

Cloud usage is accelerating across customer size, and workload, with PaaS, SaaS, IaaS all experiencing strong growth at the expense of on-premise. Some of the numbers of cloud adoption may seem a little hotter than the market, but not exponentially so.

The overall state of IT in the organisation is healthy, with the key focus areas being Digital Transformation, Cyber Security and the cloud. Again, no surprise here, these will be a top 3, alongside enterprise resilience for a while to come.

For me, the most interest in the report came from the perspective of investment with various enterprise platforms. The relative health of legacy and cloud providers is highlighted in the figure below. If you are a cloud-native or Microsoft, it is excellent reading. If you are a legacy IT provider, it is a challenging read.

 



The split in the market to AWS, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Google, Workday and Microsoft vs the rest is clear and distinct, but this research reinforces the shift. Not only are enterprises spending more with cloud providers, but there is a net decline for IBM and Oracle. Red Hat is more positive, but clearly, nowhere near enough to compensate for the overall decrease in IBM investment predicted by the research. For IBM and Oracle, who have always been Enterprise reliant, this is a significantly challenging outcome.

On the positive side, the research highlights that AWS, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Google, Workday and Microsoft, in particular, can be very bullish in their revenue growth. These vendors also cover a significant range of Enterprise IT requirements, particularly in innovation-driven markets such as Customer Experience, AI, and process automation. Of course, they are also 100% Cloud Based.

SAP fare better than expected; it highlights the pressure on Oracle, as well as the positive outcomes of their considerable efforts to be available, ready and waiting on Google, AWS and Microsoft Azure. Oracle has primarily taken a different approach seeking to protect its database business.

CAPTURE POINT

Everyone who pays even cursory attention to the tech machinations understands the old vendors are increasingly disrupted, and only a small few have made the leap to leadership, Microsoft at the top of that list. AWS, Salesforce, Google, ServiceNow all are leading for the enterprise from the perspective of anticipated investments. They are the future for the enterprise and also for many smaller organisations. The legacies are running out of time to break this down.

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All Go for Zoho

SaaS provider Zoho held their 2020 Analyst Day at their new US hometown of Austin, Texas January 29-31st. If you don’t know Zoho, think of them as an Austin, Texas for the tech industry. It is definitely not weird, but the culture is unique, and in several respects out of the mainstream of most significant technology firms. It is no surprise that Zoho has chosen Austin as the site of the largest US campus for the firm.

What makes Zoho unique? It is privately held, and resolutely so. It is based in Chennai, operates on all continents without a direct presence in more than just a few countries. Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu is also profoundly committed to firstly, improving the Southern Indian community that he has made his home, and then loftier goals. He seeks to empower local communities furthermore through innovation, such as the cloud, carries a lot of different tools to build and support a community.

The employees at Zoho love it and know they work at an Austin in the tech world. When I asked CEO Sridhar Vembu what the one single aspect of the culture that he would never give up, he mentioned how managers treat their employees. That approach is much more realistic in a privately held company than one tied to the whims of the listed capital markets. The ambition stretches beyond the current position as a challenger to larger vendors and a key player in the small to mid-sized market.

It is also easy to forget that Zoho also has some products, in fact, a lot. From payroll to customer experience and AI and accounting. Customers can acquire Zoho products individually, with CRM being the mainstay, or packaged up as Zoho One; a single portal to all that Zoho has to offer. The growth in both customers and product depth in Zoho One has been exceptional. Soho One has over 40 products within the umbrella suite.

From the perspective of data centres and data privacy, Zoho has a unique take. It doesn’t locate with the global cloud providers, e.g. AWS and Google. Instead, it operates 10 data centres of its own, with Australia’s pair the two most recently announced. It is differentiating on this point with the perspective that the client’s data is their own. It cannot and will not sell that data or sell access to it. This is incredibly important, particularly in light of the Google et al. approach to data privacy. Given the track record of consistency of the overall Zoho approach, it is one that would be anticipated to be maintained without fear or favour as core to the culture.

Zoho is a great success story but not perfect. No vendor is. It has been slow to move to the mid-market. It needs to both accelerate a presence in the market as well as to build out a more partner orientated integration ecosystem to enable the growth and the integration of the Zoho product set for the mid-market, before any consideration for larger enterprises. It can learn from the foe that is Salesforce to an extent for this. It has made a few growth missteps in some key markets but has an awareness of this, so can act upon it. The product suite is robust and deep, but losing focus on breadth and depth would make it a thin veneer, again, something that it is looking to avoid.

Capture Point
Zoho is a fascinating and capable provider, and part of an increasingly strong Chennai SaaS ecosystem. It’s most substantial differentiation is arguably the culture that it exudes for both customers and employees. It is building out and undeniably strong portfolio for the mid-market, with longer-term aspiration and capability. Work is needed here, and it will not fly below the radar forever if it is to succeed.

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No US Credit Card, then No Go for Amazon Go

I have written in the past about potential of the Amazon Go experience and the fact that if executed properly it can lead to enhanced skills for retail employees in a similar style that the Barista changed getting a cup of coffee. When I first saw it in Seattle in 2017 the potential was clear.
Now Amazon Go is out of Beta, with nearly 20 stores in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Chicago all having a handful of stores. Rumours abound of course as to whether Amazon wants 20 or 2,000 stores.
Off I went to a NY store keen to buy some lunch at Amazon Go. I downloaded the app, registered, uploaded my credit card and no bingo. It would not work. I tried another credit card. After talking to a staff member, checking my numbers still no go for Amazon Go. The reason, in New York the most global of American cities, the Amazon Go app only took US-based credit cards. I could not get my lunch, and the shortcomings of the system were evident for all to see. There are of course equity issues around the use of credit card only stores, and San Francisco has made this illegal, with stores having to take cash.
New York does not appear to have this requirement, again leaving me without lunch.

Given the global nature of Amazon, and how it has disrupted and transformed industries in the US and globally it seems remarkable that an Australian credit card is not accepted at Amazon Go’s four walls, but is allowed in the legacy stores opposite Amazon Go. I have Amazon Prime, so it is also not as if I am an unfamiliar customer to Amazon, not that this should matter.

Capture Point
The Amazon Go store is a remarkable concept that has the chance to change the customer experience, increase the skill of employees and transform retail. However, failure to understand that not every customer has a US credit card is a shortcoming that Amazon should have considered. It also highlights how difficult end to end disruption is, and that a total digital experience needs to consider a range of issues from equity, to global payments systems.

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AWS goes Local – Bringing the Cloud Closer

In December 2019, AWS had its key global customer event re:Invent in Las Vegas. It is no surprise that the game gets bigger, the event gets broader and the content overwhelming in scale and scope.

AWS now hosts 65,000 from one end of the strip to the other. Even the always charming LAX immigration officials muttered to me “oh Amazon” when I told them I was in transit to Las Vegas. Word gets around.

So what did AWS announce? A lot. Hundreds of new or enhanced offerings. Even the Machine Learning tools of AWS probably struggle to keep up with the announcements.

Key themes from my perspective were as follows.

  • Localising AWS
  • Broader, deeper Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Increased depth in Database

Of course, there is more than this. Quantum Computing, Chips, Contact Centres, were all enhanced as was security, networking and every product offering that AWS has.

As someone who at least pays their taxes in the outer reaches of the cloud universe, for me, the most important announcements were around bringing AWS closer to their customers. There were three significant aspects of this.

  • AWS Local Zones
  • AWS Outposts
  • AWS Wavelength

While it is positive AWS Outposts is finally GA, after one of the few launch missteps from AWS, and AWS Wavelength has excellent application for edge computing driven by 5G, I was most excited by AWS Local Zones.

What is AWAS Local Zone? It extends the Availability Zone to a dedicated local environment reducing latency and increasing the speed at the point of content creation. The first of these is extending the Oregon AZ to Los Angeles. This is an industry-specific investment specifically for the entertainment industry; content renderers can celebrate. capioIT expects that the next will be to New York and Chicago for financial services transaction support.

This is just the first stage of the local zone. When it is considered a scaled-down version of an AWS AZ, then it opens up considerable opportunities to strengthen up regional coverage. In Australia, a local zone for Canberra and Melbourne will enable AWS to make the first stage of investment without the need for a full-blown Availability Zone. Similarly, coverage in Japan, India and China will be significantly enhanced if the technology is applied to these markets.

The next opportunity will be to make the technology cross border. This will not work in all jurisdictions. No-one expects a Local Zone working from India to Pakistan any time soon. However, for markets such as Australia and New Zealand, it is potentially a way to provide stronger coverage for the New Zealand market. It will just depend on the priority list of AWS from an investment perspective.

Capture Point 

AWS re:Invent is the ultimate firehose event. The number, breadth and depth of announcements are overwhelming even for a five-time event veteran like myself. 

While there is a lot to digest, Local Zones for me is essential to bring the AWS business to more clients and a broader geographic footprint. It has much more full deployment potential than the first steps; however, this is no surprise and no doubt the AWS roadmap dartboard is full of a range of options that will enable the democratisation of the cloud to spread even further. 

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Dreamforce 2019 – Still going its own way

A Barack Obama fireside chat, Alicia Keys and a piano out of nowhere to sign off on Marc Benioff’s keynote, members of Prince’s band on the concourse, Neil Finn’s latest backing band AKA Fleetwood Mac at an apparently un-named baseball stadium, upstart blimps, 171,000 attendees and 2,700 sessions, it can only be Dreamforce.

It is a unique event, not least for the scale and the theatre that it brings to San Francisco, but more importantly, for the opportunity to engage, learn, share ideas and break step tracking records.

The big question to consider is there more to Dreamforce than celebrity keynotes and concerts. The answer for most attendees is and should be, yes!! Considering the time and investment in attending the event, that is critical. Some of the scale of Dreamforce could wallow to self-parody but to date that has not happened. It seems to grow effortlessly as an event.

There was a lot of energy from Salesforce, partners and customers to ensure that the value for the attendees is real. As one senior executive of a major bank told me, there is no other forum for them to talk to their global banking peers in an unconstrained manner, just as long as you can find each other and a spare patch of ground.

The key theme this year from a content perspective was trust. Trust is a crucial positioning for Salesforce and one in which it can gain a competitive and moral advantage. It requires consideration as the engine that can provide clients with trust for their clients. This shift to enhance focus on consumer assurance and the related requirements is overdue for Salesforce. The broader data governance is one aspect of the business that they have had the capability in but seemingly underplayed. Consumers have to trust their B2C providers; at the same time, they need to trust the technology platforms that the B2C providers run on.

One of the critical announcement areas for Dreamforce 2019 was the enhancement of partnerships with key platform providers, especially Microsoft and AWS, alongside Apple. The platform push is incredibly crucial for Salesforce, itself a reliable platform for enterprises. Currently, the drive to working closer with AWS is more critical and has higher potential than Microsoft.

Salesforce and Microsoft will often have a merry dance together, but they are fundamentally different companies and compete more aggressively. They define Frenemies.

By comparison, there is a little more substance to the relationship with AWS. The two platforms made announcements covering a range of business solutions from Contact Centres, open data and training. In particular, the Trailhead announcement is of significance. Trailhead is a very well executed platform for training, engagement and narrative building. It is one of the best, if not the best single “product” in the tech industry at this point. The total package is put together with consistent themes, outcomes and usability. The challenge for Salesforce is to get AWS to buy in fully. When I attended the followup AWS RE: Invent event, there was little awareness from AWS of the nature of the Salesforce relationship and enhanced partnership.

AWS and Salesforce also have the opportunity to work closely together in helping each other manage their respective weaknesses. AWS is influential in the mid-market and startup ecosystems, and Salesforce arguably has greater enterprise strength and relationships. The ability to share ideas and execution approaches in this market would be an expected outcome of their closer relationship.

In other areas, there were the expected improvements in each of the clouds. All are improving incrementally. The closing of the Tableau acquisition happened just too late for massive integration and engagement at the event. Still, it will be a piece in the puzzle to get Einstein more front and centre from a business value perspective.

A final word on diversity. In a world where the pushback against diversity, science and reason can be a crescendo, I have to give credit for Salesforce. It double downs on biodiversity every year and this year was no different. AWS, Google and every other tech firm, and business, in general, can and must learn from it. It would be helpful for another scaled firm to be the benchmark alongside Salesforce. Perhaps 2020 can be the year that another champion emerges.

Capture Point

Salesforce each year continues to grow and enhance the Dreamforce event. It is a credit that each year it is still managed in one piece. Unlike Oracle abandoning San Francisco for the charm of Las Vegas, I expect Salesforce to hold tight, even if it cannot name the baseball stadium.

The improvements in engagement with AWS are a crucial outcome, as is the continued performance of the company and social engagement. When it works as advertised, it is a formidable organisation for clients and business outcomes.

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