Tag » Strategy

Conquering Data Overload – it is possible!

We all know data is important, but what do you do when you have too much data and not enough insights? Here's a company that addresses this issue.

Most of the company’s I’ve worked with are suffering from data overload.  There is too much data and not enough time to figure out what it means.  This is particularly true in the retail industry segment.  With all the point of sale data available it takes a huge amount of time and computing power to make any sense of the data.

Businesses have talked about turning data into information for years.  I think I’ve found the software tool that can do just that – easily!  (A small disclaimer…I didn’t do a thorough search for tools in this market.  I was introduced to Emcien, met with them, and think their products have promise, so I’m sharing what I know.)

Emcien has two products that I’ve learned about.  The first is their proven core platform for pattern analysis.  Their “secret sauce” is the pattern analysis logic built into the product.  Here’s my understanding of how it works:

  1. Upload your data to Emcien – This is accomplished by sending them a .csv file of your data.  They can process many different data fields and only have a few mandatory data elements; data elements that everyone wishing to find patterns in data would already have.
  2. Let them work magic – ok, it isn’t really magic!  They have very sophisticated pattern-based software analysis tools that find the patterns and represent them back to you as: basket analysis; buying pattern trends; automatic merchandizing information.
  3. Integrate the answers – Emcien also provides a multitude of APIs to facilitate integration of their analysis output into your applications, reports, and business processes.  This flexibility let’s you take your information to the next level.

The other tool from Emcien is gabbacus.com.  Gabbacus utilizes the Emcien pattern analysis tool to analyze social media information.  The value of this analysis is that you can find out what people are talking about right now instead of days or weeks later after the traditional analysis is done.  Integrating this immediate data flow into your marketing decisions is a great way to not only target your marketing campaigns, but also track and measure the effectiveness of various messages.

So if you are suffering from information overload there are now options.  Check out www.emcien.com to learn more about their products.  I’m sure you will be impressed.

The “Cloud” – Hype vs. Reality

Deciding if and when to leverage "the cloud" is a critical decision for most businesses. This post examines the pros and cons of "the cloud" and when it might be a good solution for your business.

Everywhere you look people are talking about “the cloud”.  The term is used so generally that whenever someone mentions the cloud, the first question to be asked is: “How do you define “the cloud”?”.  The term “cloud” is used to mean anything from application hosting services provided by companies like RackSpace, Amazon, and Google, to software-as-a-service offerings such as SalesForce.Com.  We won’t even get into the entire discussion of public and private clouds!

The difficult part of the entire cloud discussion is figuring out whether or not is it a good solution for your company.  Although the cloud has some advantages for consumers, there are quite a few more complexities to determining whether the cloud is ready for use by an enterprise/company.

Pros of the cloud

  • Most cloud offerings use the latest technology – if your company cannot afford to upgrade technology, then under the right circumstances, the cloud could provide an alternative.
  • Rapid scalability – since cloud offerings are architected to be a standard, shared environment, it is easy to add and remove capacity when needed.
  • Shared or restricted option – most providers allow their customers to choose between shared services (where multiple customers share the same physical devices) and restricted services (where a customer has dedicated devices for their use only).

Cons of the cloud

  • Privacy and Security – very careful consideration must be given to any usage of the cloud for data or processes that interact with private or company sensitive information.  Any organization covered by regulations such as PCI, HIPPA, or SOX should utilize the cloud with caution.
  • Monitoring/transparency – many organizations today are striving for increased monitoring and transparency in their operations.  By using the cloud the IT organization is one step removed from the actual operations of their systems.
  • Performance – many cloud service providers will site statistics of their availability, but performance is just as important.  If a service is available but running slow it will not support your business requirements.

Leveraging the potential benefit of the cloud can be a strategic investment for your company.  There are a few things an enterprise could easily host in the cloud:

1)   Publicly available information – most information that is for use by the general public would be a good choice.  An example is a customer support site containing a searchable knowledgebase or list of frequently asked questions.

2)   Properly secured development and testing environments – by hosting these environments in the cloud a company can avoid having to invest in infrastructure for new projects.  If appropriately cleaned test data can be utilized, then the cloud could be a way to develop new systems without disrupting the current production environment or support processes.

3)  Peak processing power – companies can use the cloud to provide additional processing power during peak loads.  This could be a nightly process or a seasonal processing need.  By acquiring the additional processing power with the “as needed” capability the cloud allows, companies can avoid a capital investment.

If you decide to proceed with using the cloud for your company remember to manage them as you would any third party service provider or outsourcer.  There is no magic to the cloud and it must be managed and controlled to benefit your company.

Emerging Technology – Friend or Foe?

Deciding when to adopt an emerging technology within your business is a critical decision. This post poses a few key questions to consider.

Emerging TechnologiesDeciding when to adopt an emerging technology within your business is a critical decision.  Not every business is the same when it comes to emerging technologies. You may be working for an innovative, growth-oriented company that’s always on the lookout for new solutions, or you could have responsibility for an established, structured organization that’s wary of jumping into the latest IT invention.  Either way, if you’re going to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you’ve got to keep your eye on emerging technologies and know how best to benefit from them.

The question is: how do I know when to embrace an emerging technology? The bad news is that there is no “silver bullet” that provides the answer to this question.  The good news is that there are a few critical questions that can help you decide.

  • Is technology a competitive differentiator for your company? if so, emerging technology is your friend.  You should budget and resource to investigate emerging technologies when they are on the “bleeding edge”.
  • How aggressive is your business strategy? If your company has aggressive growth plans that involve innovations, then emerging technology is your friend.  Many emerging technologies can help your organization grow with less initial investment.  Even if the technologies don’t work for the long-term, they may let you be first to market with a new product or service.
  • Does your company have a highly structured culture and approach to initiatives? if so, then emerging technology may be your foe.  By their nature emerging technologies are often fraught with starts and stops with projects rarely going as planned.
  • Do your company processes include R&D activities? If not, then emerging technology may be your foe.  Companies without a tolerance for R&D activities will lose patience with emerging technologies.
  • Is 100% quality at all times a priority for your company? If so, then emerging technologies may be your foe.  You will be better served to wait until a technology is mature before adoption.
  • Do your clients demand innovative solutions? If so, emerging technology is your friend.  By embracing new technologies earlier in their lifecycle you can meet your client demands sooner than the competition.

Assessing your company’s culture and processes will allow you to determine whether emerging technologies are right for your enterprise.  Be sure to readdress the tolerance for emerging technologies frequently since company strategies change frequently.  Whether a friend or foe, emerging technologies will play a big part in your IT success.

‘Tis the season for planning

While we are enjoying the holidays our businesses must continue.  How well your business finishes 2009 and starts 2010 is dependent upon good planning.  Although plans without action are not very useful, actions without plans can be very harmful.  Below are five tips for planning success.

  1. Set aside dedicated planning time.  It is easy for planning to be “rescheduled” due to immediate priorities.  Everyone has urgent items that keep taking precedence over planning and strategic thinking.  During the holidays is a great time to focus on planning.  Be sure to set aside a day or half-day to plan for 2010.
  2. Define clear objectives for planning.  A good plan does not get created by accident.  You need an approach to make the plan come alive.  Create an agenda for your planning session.  Even if you are the only one doing the planning, know what your objectives are for the plan and attack them.  Whether you will be growing your business through acquisition, expansion, or new products and services, all of your activities need clear objectives and measures of success.  Be sure you have objectives for your planning as well and consider all areas of your business: sales and marketing, infrastructure, product development, support services, customer care, company leadership, your competitors, etc.  Whether you need to make major changes, protect the base, or create a market, a stable plan with clear objectives is essential.
  3. Invite advisors – but not friends.  Friends are great and can be very supportive.  They are a necessary part of any successful business, but you need your trusted advisors to participate in planning.  You need advisors who will challenge you and push you to excel.  They should help you identify your blindspots and assist in identifying ways to drive the business forward.  Stay focused during the planning and make the best use of the talent available to you.  Be open to new ideas, prioritize the ideas to be implemented, and then send your advisors away.  Now you need some “alone time” with your leadership team.
  4. Turn strategies into Tactics.  A plan is only as good as your ability to execute it.  Take the strategies you’ve identified and determine how they will be implemented.  Answer questions like: How much will this cost?; How soon will I get a return on my investment?; Can I afford to do this now — can I afford not to?; What other resources do I need?  Once you have each strategy defined, go back and be sure you have a holistic plan that includes the “baseline” efforts you perform today as well as any new activities.  This will ensure you have an integrated plan that can succeed.
  5. GO!  Be strategic at least a few minutes each day.  Things don’t change overnight, but without effort, they never change.  Spend a few minutes every day making sure you are sticking with your plans.  Don’t be afraid to abandon something if it isn’t working out, just do so consciously and not because you didn’t have time to think about it.  Measure your progress and hold yourself accountable for the successful implementation of the strategies.

If you spend the time now to create a good plan for 2010, you will reap the rewards.  You will be more confident in your business model and everyone on your team will know where the company is headed.  They will have a plan to rally around, and they will help it succeed.

Enjoy the holidays and have a great 2010!