Understanding the Customer Experience

I had the good fortune to be part of a BPM Forum discussion about the customer experience and what is more important, data or process. The perspectives presented by my colleagues are all valid in that in the end, it is what the customer perceives as a good or bad experience. One customer may feel their experience was good awhile the next customer expresses frustration. The question to answer is what causes one to feel good about their experience, and the other frustration.

To answer this, we have to understand the customers’ view and look at interactions as they would. (In days of old we would use “focus groups” to understand expectations, computer-stress1evaluate their experience, and refine the products and services accordingly.) In the case of data vs. process, the mindset should be they are mutually important and interdependent upon each other. Process without data serves no purpose while data without process remains static and goes nowhere.

An additional element to this is the solution-to-human interface and how all of this relates to the user. Is the interface simple and the process easy to navigate, or are there many steps to take before the end result is reached? Consider the changes made in banking and making a check deposit. Where once you had to physically go enter a bank and interact with the bank teller, today it is as simple as taking a picture of the check with your mobile phone, and uploading it through the bank’s mobile application. There isn’t even a requirement to use an ATM, which everyone thought was a major milestone.

In my view, we cannot create an effective customer experience by segregating data from process from human interaction. The approach should be a holistic view that includes these elements through the eyes of the target customer. Internal customers will view things differently than an external customer. While the goal may be to get the right data to the right person at the right time, securely and accurately, it should not be cumbersome and frustrating. If it is, they will avoid it or leave you. If it is simple, concise, and pleasant, they will stay with you and encourage others to join.

This is a big topic that can seem complex, and I know this causes one to ask more questions, but it is from these questions that we learn and become better in serving our customers.

Where’s Your Data?

I had the privilege of delivering the opening keynote yesterday at a seminar focused on regulatory compliance and information governance, hosted by Graphic Imaging Services of Las Vegas, NV. We talked about the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, The Nevada Open Meeting Law, and more regulations that impact businesses and government agencies.

As the session progressed, discussions ensued focusing on where information resides, how governance should address management and disposition of that information, and copierhow to ensure governance policies are followed. For example, it is safe to say that all modern Multi-function peripherals (MFP) have a hard drive that not only stores the copier operating system, is stores everything you have copied, faxed, or printed through that device. As such, these devices present an information management challenge and potential security risk. The question then turns to governance and how the information stored in these silos, is managed and disposed of.

In my view the first step is to identify all MFP devices that have storage capabilities, what type of storage device it contains, and how to delete any information that may reside on these devices. Once this inventory has been taken, add a section to your governance policies that address these devices, policies on retention and disposition of the stored information, assigned responsible personnel to ensure these policies are maintained in accordance with documented procedural directions on proper deletion methods.

Of course we discussed much more than this but for many, the realization that this even existed and should be a consideration was a true eye-opener. For those of you reading this post, I present you with the same question as the attendees. Do you know if your MFP devices have storage devices within them, are they storing information, and do you have a policy in place to properly address it?

 

Welcome to the Robo-truck Era

So here we are in February 2019. In a new story this morning, I learned that FL highways are now a test ground for the use of robo–trucks – autonomous tractor trailers. While this is not new – there have been robo-trucks used by TuSimple in Arizona during 2018 hauling commercial loads  with plans to increase its fleet to 40 in 2019 according to a Forbes magazine article. This news story made me stop and think a little more about what is happening here.

“Driverless” trucks can run around-the-clock without having to stop for sleep, eating or any other reason other than fuel, between destinations. There would be robot_car-1no salaries – though for now there is a driver just in case to avoid a mishap – the idea being that eventually there would be no human in the cab. (Of course the Unions are against this approach citing potential safety issues, not to mention how many drivers would be displaced.) Additionally, there is focus on robo-delivery vans – smaller scale vehicles – used to transport commercial goods as well.

While we are nearing the Era of driverless vehicles of all types, planes, trains (?), and automobiles, there is still the Chaos Theory to consider. For those unfamiliar with Chaos Theory, (Jeff Goldblum explained it well in the first Jurassic Park movie), it deals with things that are pretty much impossible to predict or control. For example, wind turbulence, severe weather, volatility in the stock market, and for discussion in this post, humans.

The concept and now adoption of driverless vehicles, whether truck, car, plane, or any other type of vehicle, must be able to sense, predict, and act in accordance to the situation at hand. The unpredictability of human actions – quick lane changes, pedestrians stepping out into traffic, etc. are all factors that must be considered and vehicle programs designed to predict and address. In a pervious post I talked about a driverless vehicle that struck and killed a robot. (Neither knew the other was there.)

This leads to a discussion of ethics and decision-making by the vehicle. Let’s say a plane carrying 150 passengers has catastrophic engine failure. Options include turning back, land at another airport, or land in a river. (Sound familiar?) If you saw the movie Sully, the computer simulations could not account for the existing conditions and the simulator pilots were trained to react to the program. When alll of this was changed to a closer simulation of the reality the crew had faced – Chaos Theory – Sully made the right decision.

Are robovehicles coming? Yes. Are we really ready for them, no. Will they make a difference? Yes, once the infrastructure is in place, and the human factor is no longer a consideration. The question now is, at what pioint in time do all of these elements align?

The Federal Government Seeks Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is. An eWeek article titled”POTUS Signs Order Aimed at Boosting AI in Federal Agencies“, shares that a Presidential Executive Order (EO) has been signed calling for support of the U.S. government in the area of AI. This order refers to the American AI Initiative providing five steps for the signing-a-contractgovernment to prioritize investments in AI. Part of the initiative is intended to make federal data more accessible to AI research, and set governance standards in relation to how AI is developed and used. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will “lead the development of appropriate technical standards for reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, portable and interoperable AI systems.”

This Executive Order appears to provide little guidance or framework, no call for funding, and no specific directive to any relevant agency for development action. While the intention of this Executive Order may be seen as positive and a first step, without funding and more definitive sense of what increased development of AI means, we are likely to witness a similar situation as HIPPA and the definition of a patient record. It took several years to gain clarity, and even now, there is still debate as to what constitues a patient record and how it is to be managed digitally.

The questions I am left with are:

What is the purpose of AI in context of the Executive Order and its application within the U.S. government? Are we actually focusing on AI in specific areas like HealthCare, Defense, security, and data analysis or are we supporting AI development because we can and to claim we are ahead of the rest of the world in AI development with no real application?

Without context, how is NIST to effectively carry out their role in the development of standards? This is like trying to build a custom designed house input from the client or a set blueprints, and hoping you got it right.

 Without funding, how will all of this come to fruition? Without funding and a clear direction, all of this appears to be lip service to tout we are doing something that will likely be nothing. I hope I am wrong.

Exhibitor! Impress Me.

It’s that time of year again. Conferences, trade shows, and suppliers are on the road showing their products, touting their greatness, and trying to attract new or add-on business. I like this time of year because it gives us a glimpse into the directions and trends technology is headed.It should also be a time when those seeking knowledge can discuss how this technology is applied to a business problem. The challenge is, keeping the person demonstrating on the discussion track and away from the canned demo. (I know, I was one of those demonstrators.) It is not that they want to avoid the discussion, it is that they are excited about their new capabilities.

As you pass through the exhibit areas, take with you a specific business problem you are trying to solve. present this scenario to the supplier representative and Demoask him/her how they would approach your situation. The response doesn’t have to be in great detail but an overview enough to help you make a decision to discuss it more outside of the exhibit area, after the conference. By using the same scenario with each supplier you visit, you will get a sense of their technology differences – if any – but certainly who you feel more comfortable with going forward.

Look for answer that include examples of other businesses like yours that have been helped. Use their focus in responding to you as a general guide. Did this person answer or keep avoiding your questions? If they were uncertain, did they bring in another representative with more experience in your area? If you get the sense you are not being heard, and you are not comfortable with the interaction at this event, you may not be happy if you choose them in the future. If you feel that the solutions is really what you want, call that supplier after the event, ask to speak with someone familiar with your market space, and let them know that you were not happy with the results at the event, but you are willing to give them a second chance for your business.

Thirsting for Knowledge

When it comes to technology and the application of technology to solve business problems, business leaders, Department Managers, and IT professionals are on a never-ending journey to learn about the latest technologies and best practices they can bConfusedring back to their organizations. The knowledge they seek comes from many sources including formalized training, seminars, and conferences.

 

In late December of 2018, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in South Florida known as ITPalooza organized by the South Florida Technology Allianceand the ITPalooza Organizing Committee. This event was unlike most I have attended in that businesses of all types were represented ranging from Doc Solutions, to Ultimate Software, to Florida Robotics, to the FBI, and even AutoNation. Each sponsor was there discussing their technology focus, culture, solutions, and recruiting new talent. In short, they were teaching about real life business solutions while at the same time, trying to entice attendees to join their teams.

As with many of the conferences I attend, the business problems remain the same. There are security and data privacy challenges, regulatory and legal compliance requirements to be met, interest in how to leverage new technology to enhance business operations, and ways to improve corporate culture to encourage and drive innovation. No matter what the topic, more than whether it be Internet of Things, Digital Transformation, Blockchain, or AI and Machine Learning, each session was filled to capacity by the more than 1,500 attendees seeking knowledge they can apply to their own business problems. The reason they are here, as one person stated, is not only to learn from the sessions and sponsors, but to make new connections and expand their peer networks and exchange ideas and experiences in the future.

There are many ways to learn and gain knowledge, with conferences being one that I feel is extremely important, especially from a peer-to-peer networking perspective. ITPalooza seems to have filled that need locally, and I look forward to seeing it grow. I also encourage you to look at the international events like the Document Strategy Forum, AIIM Conference, and even specialized events hosted by vertical associations like NIRMA (Nuclear Information and Records Management Association). Here you will not only gain insights about technology and its business application, your peer to peer network will be substantially enhanced and knowledge increased to include how business organizations like yours, from other countries, are solving their business problems.

 

Universal Enterprise

information overload
Information overload, conceptual image

The enterprise, seen by many as a corporate entity contained in a local region or globally dispersed. Enter the era of the Universal Enterprise – expanding beyond the bounds of the Earth. NASA has created a Universal Enterprise, setting up a remote entity on a different planet, expanding their enterprise through the Mars Rover that is transmitting data back to Earth. This takes the concept of enterprise and the Internet of Things to a new level.

In addition, we are hearing of planned project to colonize Mars, the Moon, and who knows how many other possibilities exist for humanity to expand its reach. Looking out to the future of business, this means that corporate enterprises could grow beyond the bounds of Earth with an ability to conduct interplanetary transactions, increasing a need for intelligent information management practices, security, and technology. something to consider today, as tomorrow is rapidly approaching.

In My View

The Universal Enterprise is here today, and being proven as a result of the projects NASA initiated as far back as the Voyager series – still transmitting data from beyond the solar system. Data collection through remote devices, IOT if you will, has been in existence for several decades. We just never recognized it until now, and are employing this approach more rapidly than ever for business reasons.

The Universal Enterprise is evolving with the possibility of near future business transactions becoming a reality. Suppliers of food, technology, clothing, etc. are already in place, providing goods through NASA to maintain life on the space station and soon – Mars. Colonizing the Moon could set up a situation where it serves as a truck stop of today, where interplanetary vehicles can stop on their way to a destination planet in our solar system or beyond. The same could be said of the space station and others that could be built for specific purposes throughout the galaxy.

There are businesses already thinking about this and positioning to be ready when the time comes. The question I have for you is this: Is your business ready to meet the challenges of the future? What about the challenges of business today?

 

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Assimilations – OH MY!

Suppliers today are faced with many challenges and decisions regarding their products and services. Consumers demands are pushing for more functionality tied directly to their line-of-business (LOB) applications rather than having to purchase from several vendors. As one person stated to me, “I want one place to go for the functionality I need and one throat to choke when it fails”.  The implication being that a single source provider is the preference, rather than several suppliers who may not be coordinated in their product road maps, creating potential issues when new revisions are released from one and unsupported by the other.

In December of 2018, I wrote an article about the acquisition of French based PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software (NASDAQ: ULTI), a leading provider of human capital management solutions. As fate would have it, I had an opportunity to talk with Adam Rogers, Chief Technology Officer at Ultimate Software about this acquisition and how the two organizations will bring their products together and assimilate their cultures. When it comes to the product, Rogers indicated that PeopleDoc was a partner and the alignment of PeopleDoc to HR was the right fit in relation to enhancing the product set with content management capabilities PeopleDoc offered. As such, buy made more sense than trying to build that functionality.

In relation to culture – having worked for a French content management company myself – I was curious how Rogers would approach bringing the two organizations merging-culturestogether. This to me seemed an interesting challenge given the 48 hours approach Ultimate Software uses in development to support the generation of new, innovative ideas for future products and product enhancements. Rogers cited that “both organizations have some overlapping similarities culturally, in that the employees are seen as and treated as the most valuable asset of the company – it is our People First mindset that Ultimate Software has maintained since its founding”. Rogers continues, “When it comes to PeopleDoc, there are 300 employees and the mindset is very similar, the key is to make them feel and be part of Ultimate Software, not like a third-party. Regarding the 48 hours methodology, and this aids in the assimilation of cultures, we leverage video conferencing to include the team in France in our meetings, allow them to share ideas, and present working prototypes for discussion. As a result, the assimilation process is much smoother and team building is much stronger.”

We will see many more mergers and acquisitions in 2019 and beyond, of this there is no doubt. As consumers demand more interoperability and transparence across their enterprise-wide applications, LOB suppliers will move to incorporate needed functionality into their offerings. The question then becomes one of how well they integrate the products and assimilate the cultures for the greater good of the consumer. Many mergers have taken place, yet their products and cultures are still disconnected. As Rogers stated in the conclusion of our discussion, “It is nice to have the technology as a check box item but to truly provide an integrated solution, it takes true partnership by placing your people first, understanding the customer experience, and working in unison to provide the best products and highest levels of service that meet the customers’ requirements.”

If you are working with suppliers who are merging, it is important to understand their product roadmap and how the products will integrate moving forward. It is also important to understand how their cultures will meld, for if there is a cultural clash, there is potential for slowed progress in future product enhancement, new product development, and less than average service.

 

2019: Ending Another Decade

Here we are at the beginning of the end of another decade. 2019 marks the end of this decade with an eye on 2020. (So what will 20/20 be called after this year?) The irony in all of this is since the 1980 and every decade since, technology advances with the goal of making businesses operate more smoothly, streamlined, and every other term you can think of, but we are still dealing with the same old business problems.

The reason is not the technology per se, but mainly the human factor and a reluctance to move forward with technology for various reasons. These reasons can and often include a lack of understanding about the technology, lack of education in the technology, unrealistic expectations of what the technology can and will do for them, and my favorite of all – a lack of focus or purpose for the technology in the business. What business problem are you trying to solve or process are you trying to improve? What is the business goal of your efforts?

In My View

2019 can be the year where businesses truly focus on specific goal sets, get the training and understanding that is needed to move their organizations forward in flowchartwell planned business transformations using technology. The direction for this must come from the top and seen as a priority. We talk about seamless information access, yet interoperability and integration across systems is still not there. We talk about simple user interfaces, yet complexity still dominates when capture, search, and finding information.

It doesn’t help that our Federal Government leaders continue to promote the use of paper for balloting with the belief it is more secure than digital and nearly infallible as proposed in the 2019 Federal Congressional House Resolution 1. Yes, I agree that digital can be hacked, but paper ballots in this century should be retired as they too are subject to manipulation, disposal, and misinterpretation.

If you believe in making New Year resolutions, let’s make this year the year we all become more aware of technology capabilities, learn how it is best applied and where is can help solve business problems, and truly plan for it by setting goals, proper expectations, and measurements to ensure successful business transformation.

Bob Larrivee is President and Founder of Bob Larrivee Consultancy, a recognized expert in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement, a Journalist on Information Technology for Document Strategy, and Advisory Board member to several software companies. In his career, Bob has led many projects and authored hundreds of eBooks, Industry Reports, Blogs, Articles, and Infographics. In addition, he has served as host and guest Subject Matter Expert on a wide variety of Webinars, Podcasts, Virtual Events, and lectured at in-person seminars and conferences around the globe.

Bob can be reached at bob@boblarriveeconsulting.com and his website is www.boblarriveeconsulting.com

 

The Universal Enterprise

For many, the enterprise represents some corporate boundary whether local or global in size. It is our business space where business transacted, data created, collected and managed. It is that sphere through which all things pass. are governed, and churned into products, services, and revenue. It is the extension of our businesses and data collection capabilities through use of technology and the Internet of Things on this planet we call Earth.

While we may not realize it, the enterprise for NASA extends beyond our planet into the far reaches of our solar system and beyond, creating the Universal Enterprise. Voyagers 1 and 2 have left our solar system and are still sending data back to NASA project personnel. The moon projects proved that humans can travel to and from other planets with the Moon projects where Astronauts successfully landed, traveled to different areas of the moon using the Rover, NASA Mars Landercollected data, and brought back samples for scientists to work with here in Earth.

Now NASA has deployed and is successfully collecting data from MARS using the Mars Rover – an extension of IoT devices, with plans to colonize that planet in the future. If you haven’t looked, I encourage you to visit NASA and look at the pictures being sent from MARS, as seen in the picture from NASA I inserted here. The clarity, definition, and view is amazing. This leads me to a discussion about business in the future and the extension of the business enterprise.

In the future, there will be opportunity to conduct interplanetary business and in fact to a certain level, this is in place today with the International Space Station (ISS). Supplies are purchased, for the resident Astronauts, and transported to the ISS by both governments and commercial logistics companies. This means that business data – transactional data – is being collected relating to a more galactic region. Additionally, there is data collected, analyzed and used for improvement purposes from the vehicles used to transport the goods, the Astronauts using the supplies, and the ISS itself.

In My View

The Universal Enterprise is here and growing. Plans exist to colonize the Moon, Mars, and who knows how far this could go. Looking forward, businesses will need to adopt new methods of transacting business, delivering supplies, and servicing the needs of humanity beyond the bounds of Earth. NASA along with commercial business, have broken some of the barriers, and is now on the cusp of initiating the expansion of humanity across the Galaxy.

This translates to opportunity for business expansion, interplanetary transaction, and a galactic presence with the need to establish new enterprise boundaries on a universal scale. Imagine not only a colony on Mars, but maybe one on the Moon serving as a logistical transfer station for supplies transportation. Perhaps even a series of ISS spread across the Galaxy serving as the truck stop of today where space craft and travelers could stop, refresh themselves and their supplies, before continuing on to their destinations. All of this requires data collection. Data about the vehicles, travelers, supply levels, and all of those things that keep commerce in motion here on Earth.

The question I have or you is this, Are you ready to meet the data and business challenges of tomorrow’s interplanetary markets? Are you even ready to meet the business challenges of today, here on Earth? Tomorrow is only a day away, and businesses must be ready for what tomorrow brings.

Bob Larrivee is President and Founder of Bob Larrivee Consultancy, a recognized expert in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement, and Journalist on Information Technology for Document Strategy. In his career, Bob has led many projects and authored hundreds of eBooks, Industry Reports, Blogs, Articles, and Infographics. In addition, he has served as host and guest Subject Matter Expert on a wide variety of Webinars, Podcasts, Virtual Events, and lectured at in-person seminars and conferences around the globe.

Bob can be reached at bob@boblarriveeconsulting.com and his website is www.boblarriveeconsulting.com