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How can IT innovate?... Innovation Management with the Power of Data Science

In 2009 when I completed my first book "Unlocking Your Empire - keys to enable your social media powered business", social media was just starting to take off, and I made some predictions about the impact it would have on business, and the role both big data, and social media would have on the future of brand strategies. (as covered on a previous article)

Last year at a Web Conference in Parma Italy, I boldly stated on a national TV interview that companies who would not embrace social media and big data would no longer be in business inside 20 years. What you are about to read is a re-write of chapters from my book completed in 2009, with some reminders and hopefully innovative ideas that you can use today.

 

Big Data's Soul Lives in the Social Media Dimension

Social Media enable digital communication and collaboration which are increasingly spewing over onto the corporate world, but what distinguishes social media is best described not as viral but epidemic. Social media’s effect on a brand and corporate reputation can be instantaneous and far-reaching, therefor companies are discovering not only the need to monitor, but to develop metrics ad measure this growing space. The long term impact of social media will change how companies deal with product decisions, inventory alignment to various market demands, market positioning based on demand or lack thereof due to sentiment in particular markets, investments for growth and expansion in specific geographies or markets, suppliers and employee relations too. 

IT’s role is changing because all the current systems to manage the day to day business were built mostly to be linear, and cloud computing is enabling more agile scalable systems but are yet to be  “real time” enabled around data coming in as it is happening, vs. after it happened. Companies that don’t see the connection between consumer alignment and real time supply chain management will not only have difficulty competing as data science and social data grows, but won’t survive against new companies being built around real time market demands.

Anyone who thinks that’s a far reaching statement should review the impact of the web on business systems in the past 15 years. Web 2.0 technologies – with their emphasis on collaboration and sharing – continue to accelerate, but the social enabled web is changing the face of business forever. We’re reading almost daily, how your customers and prospect are communicating online using some of these tools, and making business decisions more quickly and collaboratively as a result. Why would a company not participate is beyond comprehension, and soon it will mean corporate suicide.

Mainstream media, whose platforms like radio, television and newspapers, are often one way in communication offer up static messages that do not foster immediate feedback from the audience. From the 20,000-foot view, social media enables individuals to connect to each other and then share using easy-to-publish tools, today creating a blog from scratch can take less time than creating a cheese sandwich. The visible discussions that result can include customer experiences, both negative and positive, about any particular brand, because social media truly leverages the Web’s massive scale to carry information – fact or opinion – globally and instantly. Data on consumer behaviors, both online, and offline is readily available today - in fact there is too much data which will require algorithms to make sense of it, however by tying in the social sphere the data can be synthesized to a clear signal that closely aligns to what consumers value right now.

When you find yourself questioning whether to allow employees access to social networks while at work, think back to the days the same questions came up related to allowing use of the web. It sounds silly to even think of not giving internet access to employees, it will sound even sillier 10 years from now related to social media participation.

"Employees actively participating in the social media sphere can be powerful data miners, who can translate the data into manageable information."

Furthermore, with the financial collapse of recent years, and much public disgust with CEOs of large corporations, and distrust in general – companies willing to create more transparency will be rewarded with loyalty and grow exponentially. Before the collapse of recent years, the Edelman Trust Barometer, commissioned by the global public relations firm of the same name, indicated in its 2007 study that only 22 percent of survey respondents in the U.S. trust CEOs, and that percentage is even lower in a combined audience of U.K., French and German respondents (18%).

 

Fortune 500 CEOs - Get Your Head Out of the Sand

In both the U.S and Europe, “rank-and-file” employees are more trusted than CEOs, because of the advent and adoption of social media tools, individuals can easily and quickly find these trusted peers, share opinions and learn about their experiences with products and services purchased from previously detached corporations. This is a disruption to traditional corporate communication practices, to say the least, but it’s also a great opportunity for CEOs to connect with customers and change distrust into loyalty.

The corporate world knows social media is having an effect on business but has not yet grasped the full and complete implications, in some cases because there is much to hide, and in other cases because there isn’t much to share… either way, that’s one of the many reasons social media is so important to consumers, they want everything in the open… that’s how they are, why should companies act any different?

For those companies that are attempting to understand social media, the next logical step is to figure out how to measure those implications. There are many reasons to do so, among:

  1. Creating and adjusting strategy
  2. Justifying marketing spend
  3. Managing and preventing crises
  4. Monitoring campaigns
  5. What should be measured? How? And what’s the end result?

Listening to the conversation is not as simple as it might seem, whether that listening is part of a preliminary process to understand the environment or an active monitoring program to measure the impact of some event on a corporation’s reputation or strategy. In fact merely making the decision to engage in, and measure, consumer-generated media is just the first step, given that the influence of social media itself is often difficult to pin down due to lack of matured processes around it.

 

Example of an IT Enabled Social Media Powered Crisis Management Solution

(Source: Tullio Siragusa – Binah Advisory 2009 - Article originally shared on the ForwardThinkers Community)

The promise of all the measurability and metrics that originally attracted a lot of companies to initially go out onto the Web is only becoming possible today because of social media. To some extent, the Web does live up to its promise of providing metrics.

Advertisers know exactly how many people open pages with their ads and how many people clicked on them, however they still know little about how many people saw their billboards or newspaper ads – and even less about whether anyone cared – social media is enabling better control and understanding.

For corporations serious about tracking their “return on influence” – that is, not just standard “ROI,” but a broader more long-term, long-lasting return – in social media and the blogosphere, being able to measure, track and compare the results is a requirement for determining next steps and strategy. For organizations that want to join the conversation using social media tools, and realize that traditional Web analytics alone are not sufficient, the next question is crucial: Which attributes should be measured?

 

Measurement is Necessary.  Metrics are not Enough

Before going further it would be helpful to define two key terms in this discussion, metrics and measurement.  While they often seem interchangeable and are often misused, they are linked. Metrics, as it does in other areas of business, simply refers to the terms or parameters themselves that an organization wishes to understand. In social media circles, the word “attributes” is used as well, but the key concept is the determination that any organization needs to make about which factors are important to understand.

Measurement, on the other hand, is the next step – the process of taking these metrics or attributes and determining how they are impacting (or are being impacted by) the actions of an organization, such as a marketing campaign (internal) or a crisis (external).

It is one thing to measure with a great deal of confidence a market leader’s changing market share from year to year, but quite another to determine the extent of damage to a company’s reputation after its CEO uses company funds to purchase solid gold shower curtain rings for his home. What are the parameters, and what are the units of measure?

In some cases, blog posts, podcasts and video are designed to entice a given individual to learn more, tell others, or perhaps embed a video player on his or her own blog posts. The ability to measure such an activity is necessary to know the answers to some key questions:

  1. Is there a response to the outreach campaign, and why?
  2. Are recipients reacting to the message, and why?
  3. What are they doing next, and why? 
  4. Who is being impacted, and why?
  5. Do we have enough inventories on the shelves of the markets that are responding well?
  6. Do we need to take some products of the shelves of certain markets in crises?
  7. What should we replace them with, and why? 
  8. How long before we can turn it around?
  9. How are investors responding, and why?
  10. How are employees responding, and why?

The questions to measure can go on and on, but they always need to be centered on the consumer, because consumers used to be people who consumed stuff, people who crave good experiences; these people are now empowered to influence.

 

Technology Enables, but the Human Element Rules

Web 3.0 is about enabling semantic data from social media, to make sense of the big data not just have access to it, but at the core it’s about people actively participating and driving the data. Most people don’t like unpleasant experiences, and since today people and brands have influence together and people’s voices are the new media, brands relying on old media to build consumer relationships, are on the Titanic to say it bluntly.

Mining the social media conversation is not enough. Brands need to focus on listening in order to facilitate conversations between them and customers, employees, suppliers, and investors.  It used to be that having a solid website with a good SEM/SEO strategy was the way you engaged outside the firewall.  This is no longer the case, in fact everything that has ever been done, before social media, has simply been an internal view of the outside world…a limited perception of reality often supplemented by very expensive research, advisors, and so on to make sense of what “customers might be thinking”.  We all know that everything comes down to leveraging relationships and networks, but why have companies not done so with the customer? It was not possible before social media, and big data. The closest to engaging with the customer, was a survey, or when the customer called in with an issue, and most of these were not designed to foster honest conversations, they were mostly manipulated questions to drive a better score for the company.  Today the power of social media networks offer up raw and open feedback, real valuable data, and brands can make truly intelligent decisions around.  But how do you measure the success of social enabling your businesses?

What you want to measure are two basic elements of social media, and these are the core metrics:

  1. Influence
  2. Convergence

 “The direct unaltered brutally honest nature of much online discussion is black gold...Texas tea to companies that want to spot trends or figure out what customers really think” ~ The Economist, March 11, 2006.

The key is to be proactive, to listen and to participate in the conversation in a real way as a means to bringing the conversation closer to the brand. If a company is not participating, the conversation is taking place away from the brand, and this can lead to tragic consequences or fantastic results… either way it’s a missed opportunity. It’s not just about monitoring, but it is about knowing when to converge in the conversation.

Brands want to be on the lookout for problems that can be solved proactively, and identify opportunities. Here are a few tips:

  1. Look for leads, potential customers are online, find them, and get to know them, make sure they know you.
  2. To gain new product ideas, listen for complaints, tune into “wishes” or just ask how you can be a better brand. 
  3. To gain competitive intelligence not only listen to what your competitors are saying, but also what customers are saying about your competitors.
  4. To gain greater exposure to your brand share good company news and developments, especially corporate responsibilities initiatives. 
  5. Be a thought-leader by sharing links to things that may or may not have anything to do with your brand, but are of value to your customers.
  6. Share what is capturing your attention right now, make it personal. 
  7. People want to do business with people, not brands… humanize the business, let the CEO Tweet about his/her kids, his/her family, and the charity he/she belongs to, the recent trip he/she has taken… and so on.
  8. Humanize your brand.  Companies are made of people. Prove it in action, not just words. 
  9. Make the participation very personal.

Everyone has a voice, and that voice can be translated into data that can drive innovation, improve time to market, inventory management, sales and marketing decisions, collaboration between employees, suppliers, clients, investors and companies.

People’s needs are basically still the same; technology doesn’t make people social, but it influences behaviors.  How has behavior been influenced?

People stopped consuming media, and started producing it. People are sharing ideas openly and giving away secrets and in doing so they are building their personal brands, and becoming self-made celebrities, while celebrities become more like regular people.  People’s social capital expands rapidly today with less degrees of separation. People are streaming their lives, and experience life collectively. The global village is real.

 

Consumers Are at the Helm – Corporate IT Systems Alignment Is Needed

People’s communications are becoming effortless and instantaneous and nearly anyone can influence, especially within their niche; the social web thrives. Social economics have equity, connections are currency, and currency gets spent finding support in networks for: philanthropy, jobs, public relations, endorsements, complaints, services, products, ideas, political campaigns and Super Bowl advertising strategies.

People used to rely on institutions for information and answers, but now people rely on the individual institution, on each other’s individual network as human filters from the noise out on the cloud. We are moving toward a people powered web, the web now has a soul and it’s uniting us all.

• “I believe that people would rather have a conversation with a person than a brand.”

~Scott Monty, Ford Motor Company

Within technology powered by social media, the human factor is not optional. Insights into behaviors lead to innovations, and innovations help people. Social Media humanizes big companies by giving the CEO a channel that talks directly to the customer and listens all at the same time… People value doing business with people, not brands.

 

Hey CIOs and CMOs… – Forget CRM – Meet CCM

Creating more social or collaborative relationships is the next wave of thinking in customer-centric business management that has evolved over the past two decades. In the 1990s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was mostly about managing customer information; a very company-centric view of the relationship, but there’s more to a customer relationship than data management and process automation.

The limitations of CRM’s internal orientation and technology-obsession led to the rise of Customer Experience Management (CEM), which is focused on designing and delivering loyalty-building experiences with integrated Business Intelligence (BI). CEM is not just about using technology. All these systems are necessary, but lack an important element in today's social world; they lack logic, emotions, and reasons behind intent.

We are entering the era of Customer Collaboration Management (CCM), which is about engaging with customers, employees, investors and suppliers in a real dialog, real time. CCM changes the role of IT from Information Technology (IT) to (IM) Innovation Management, with people at the helm, not technology; more importantly it is the customer who ultimately should drive IT’s strategy and the overall company’s direction… if the company is smart enough to listen and participate in the conversation.

If you’re still not convinced that the revolution in social customer service is coming, take a close look at your customers’ complete service experience; you may find that it starts in the social web outside your official service processes and firewalls–when your customer searches on Google or interacts on a Facebook group. The service experience could also end outside your organization–when the customer Tweets about you; its common practice today to post a question on the social sphere for help on a number of topics, vs. picking up the phone and calling a call center representative. When was the last time you picked up the phone to find out how to increase the battery life of your iPhone?  You can search for that online and find a number of answers and solutions; customer service is being provided among consumers - it's happening outside your company walls.

The next big opportunity for executives will be engaging with customers, employees, suppliers, and investors in the world of social media, and transforming the function of Information Technology to customer centric Innovation Management. Your Customers are Already There!

Individuals are becoming brands, – but what’s really happening is that individuals want brands to be on equal footing, consumers want brands to become a part of their network, and to talk with them, not at them, and they want their voices heard and acted upon.  Social media powered business is not just a new frontier of how business gets’ done, it is the oldest form of business dynamics, based on people talking to people. The right social media strategy will enable companies to harness the power of the relationships with customers, employees, suppliers and investors to drive market innovation, improve profits and reduce costs – REAL TIME.

It’s a business to consumer and business to business highly collaborative live network to help drive:

  • Product and Services Innovation
    • Improving business intelligence (based on real time information)
  • Better Relationships
    • Increase sales by knowing where to focus efforts
  • Real Time Inventory Management
    • Reduce costs, and increase profits by knowing which shelves to stock, where, and when
  • Operational Excellence
    • Just In Time Supply Chain Management (SCM), and resource planning by markets, and verticals
  • Investor Relations
    • Crises management can reduce impact from months, to weeks – possibly days
  • Training and Development Requirements
    • Improving customer care by knowing which complaints are coming from which location - focus improvements via employee training where it's needed the most

 

Transforming Information Technology into Innovation Management

When you move IT into the customer value chain, IT becomes more about innovation, less about managing information, IT becomes the intelligence behind the execution; based on the feedback loop that social media and bigdata creates into back office environment already in place.

The next generation of IT services, powered by social media, will be dynamic and agile; capable of responding to the needs of a company real time, allowing the company to save money by not introducing products or services of no value, and allowing the company to make money by providing value to customers based on real time feedback and demand.

The dynamics of markets ever changing consumer behavior is adding complexity and costs to IT departments; IT simply can’t do it all anymore within its traditional mode of operation. Decisions have to be made faster – from years/months to days/minutes, none of the environments in place today, not even cloud computing can enable that without adding consumer convergence data. You need access to what the people have to say real time.

 “You might have a Ferrari (modern IT systems), but without a driver (consumers social data) you are not going to see it go very far”

Technology has become democratized and it’s harder to control user behaviors when they can just go to the cloud for answers or alternative solutions. Social computing is changing user expectations as consumers and employees expect faster responses, more transparency and action on complaints right away. The experience needs to be consistent inside the brand’s firewall, as they are outside. Without participation in social media a brand simply cannot deliver this and this will result in frustrated customers.  It’s inevitable, social media powered business is not a nice to have, it is a must have to not only thrive in the future, but survive.

Encourage everyone in the company to converge; connecting with real and potential customers is not just one department's job, it’s the role of the entire company. Establish a social media policy, and launch a communication and training plan for at least six months, or until it has become second nature.

Dialogue about what you are hearing and learning, but remember it is not a spectator sport. Share the feedback internally and to the networks, and capture the data to improve the flow of information within the company. You can gain real time access to make inventory, supply chain, customer care, sales and marketing, and product decisions. You can gain insight into managing employee relations better, improving investor sentiment, and creating improved transparency with suppliers and vendors, which allows them to plan in advance to best support your needs.  The more you know about your audience, the less it will cost you to keep them happy, the more your audience knows you and have a relationship with you on equal footing, the more profitable you can become.

A social media powered business 3.0 is all about people.  Create a program that empowers your key people to become the brand, to become the voice of the business, engage on a one to one basis, the key is to align with the values of the consumer, the more you know what the consumer values, the better you can follow them.  That last statement is the key here.

So much effort is put into getting consumers to follow and like you as a brand – the key is to flip this strategy around, as in following the consumer, and having the technology platforms with the intelligence to respond to the consumer’s needs, real time.  The company of the future won’t need to drive innovation; it will discover it from those who truly drive it – people who crave good experiences.

Today IT manages information; in the future IT will manage the innovation coming in from consumers, and integrate it into appropriate response systems to help the company be aligned real time with market demands.

 

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