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Anemic IT Growth or Budgeting Shift?

ZDNet reports on a recent Gartner report of 2015 IT budgets. They call it, “IT Spending for 2015 Anemic amid Digital Shift.” Here’s the breakdown on who creates vs who approves the IT budget:

Create vs Approval of IT Budget From Gartner Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t interpret it quite this way. Yes, IT budget growth is anemic but there’s one telling piece of information in the ZDnet article.

The upshot: Spending on digital innovation will be funded outside of the IT budget.

So yes, spending is anemic within IT, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spending on digital transformation is anemic. This is inline with what I’m seeing when talking to our clients. Chief Marketing Officers, Directors of Digital Marketing, and other key leaders have more spending dollars and more accountability. That’s why we see them talking to consultants who deal with more than just branding. From what I see, this will accelerate in 2015. We will spend more time talking to both marketing and IT in this digital transformation.

So, three cheers for 2015. By all accounts, it’s going to continue to be quite a ride.

Digital Transformation is All Around Us…Again

The phrase “Digital Transformation” has re-emerged as a new phenomenon. Google tells me there are 49 million (49,000,000) search results for the words Digital Transformation.

First, why do I say it is a phenomenon? It seems that many of our leading think-tanks are talking about digital transformation. Here are some examples:

But is Digital Transformation new?  Not really. The idea of digital transformation goes back many years. My guess is that it first arrived as a concept back in the 1990s when we were going through our first dot-com bubble.  In fact, way back in 2000, Keyur Patel and Mary Pat McCarthy published a book titled Digital Transformation: The Essentials of E-business Leadership.

Back in the day, companies like Amazon, Priceline and others were redefining business models, business processes and customer engagement using digital as the mainstay.  Many of these early digital transformation pioneers crashed and burned in the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but several have become powerhouses.

So why is Digital Transformation re-emerging as a new phenomenon now?  Or why, all of a sudden, are we talking about Digital Transformation again?

In my opinion, we now (finally!) have several important technologies that have matured enough and when combined together have the capability to be truly transformative.  I’ll mention a few of the technologies or concepts below and then talk about how a combination of these technologies can lead to an even higher level of customer engagement and can improve business outcomes.

First, let’s talk about big data. In the early days, our systems could not handle the amount of data or provide timely analysis of what we captured.  We had to wait until the end of the day, week or month to really analyze large volumes of data. Now we have platforms and systems capable of processing massive amounts of data and we have analytics systems that can sort through the data to provide us meaningful insights within seconds. Companies are using these capabilities to understand customer buying behaviors as fast as trends start to appear.

Second, we have “The Cloud”. Before the cloud, companies were tied to limitations of hardware buying practices.  When you wanted to build a new system, you had to wait for the servers to be acquired and installed, physical space has to be developed, network firewalls configured, etc, etc.  If your site started to get overloaded it could take weeks to add the required capacity.  “The Cloud” has enabled companies to create systems quickly and now can react quickly to changes in demand without tying us to those infrastructure buying cycles. Its becoming ever easier to connect systems and “things” together around the world.

Third, mobile.  Mobile, mobile, mobile.  As one person recently said, if you don’t have a mobile optimized web site, you are already behind.  Mobile was not a factor in the early days of digital transformation. Thanks to smart phones, anybody can now participate in the digital world any time of the day.

Fourth, we have new technologies for creating excellent customer experiences. Web Content Management Systems, Portals, and eCommerce platforms have tooling to create great sites, can be mobile ready, and can take advantage of analytics to tailor each user’s experience.

Combining all of these technologies can lead to the digital revolution we are now undergoing. Here is an example:

A customer enters a store carrying a smart phone.  A beacon system in the store monitors the customer’s movements. This data is relayed through a cloud-based system and combined with other store data from around the world.  Two transformative things are happening simultaneously:

  1. The customer stops in front of canoe on display.  Our beacon tells our content management system that the customer has stopped near this particular canoe.  Our CMS sends a notification to the customer’s smartphone with information about the canoe and a link to a video showing how fun it is.  After the customer buys the canoe, we connect their phone with the registration information in our CRM system and use that data to begin offering the customer additional content on our website.
  2. Data from all customer movement in all stores are combined into our big data system.  Analytics on that data reveals that our customers are tending to move toward a certain display area.  Using that information, we reconfigure some stores and move the display toward the front.  After monitoring the new layout, we can continue to make adjustments to optimize the store based on our customers’ behaviors while shopping.

In the early days of digital transformation, this example would not have been possible given the technology available at the time. Now this example is real and has been implemented in the U.S.

This example shows why Digital Transformation is so important. Companies that align their businesses to take advantage of all these capabilities will be more connected to their customers and will have better insights into their customers’ expectations.

Drug or Drug Device Portals

Eugene Sefanov has a nice post on the value of a patient portal for those who use a specialty drug or drug device.  He goes into some detail on the possible use cases with that kind of portal.  I like the approach  he takes.  Just being prescribed a drug doesn’t mean you are going to get the right outcome.  Anything you can do to ensure the patient has all the support he or she needs will improve that outcome.

An effective way to provide patient support is through a portal that is specific to a particular drug or medical device. A good case study revolves around a patient portal that Eisai, a pharmaceutical company with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and metabolic disorders, implemented for their weight-loss medication called BELVIQ. The portal is designed to help patients reach their weight loss goals, sustain their efforts, as well as provide safety-related information.

Users of BELVIQ can access Eisai’s portal for free and leverage a variety of educational resources and tools including:

  • Articles and tips on how to manage weight issues through eating and staying active

  • Overview of the drug

  • Important drug safety information and how to report adverse events

  • Customized meal recipes

  • Access to a mobile application for tracking calories and exercise

  • Savings card and coupons

Euguene goes on to list other possible uses of the portal so be sure to check out the entire post.

 

IBM, Microsoft to Let Each Other Use More Software in The Cloud

Interesting news came today. Two software behemoths and sometime fierce competitors have decided that co-opetition may be the best model. IBM and Microsoft today announced a partnership making it easier for cloud customers to access each other’s software.

The News

IBM cloud users will be able to get Microsoft products like Windows Server and SQL Server, while customers of Microsoft’s Azure service can use IBM’s WebSphere Liberty and DB2, the companies said today in a statement. Clients will be able to cut costs by using software licenses they already own on each company’s cloud.

Cloud computing is transforming the technology industry by letting companies rent processing power and data storage over the Internet instead of buying and maintaining their own hardware. The shift is pitting the giants of corporate computing, like IBM and Microsoft, against relative newcomers like Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc.

My Take

While the IBM and Microsoft news is new, the partnership approach among legacy software vendors is not new. (See Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft news) The article correctly states the pressure being put upon both Microsoft and IBM by the likes of Amazon and Google.  Yes, Microsoft has poured billions into a strong Office 365 SaaS offering and in Azure. Yes, Azure is worth more than a billion dollars to Microsoft right now. IBM bought Softlayer which is known for being an easy to use and manage IaaS / PaaS play. IBM is also in the process of putting every piece of software they own on Softlayer. If there’s a cloud play  at IBM, it’s going on Softlayer.

However, both Microsoft and IBM have a problem. What do you do when a client says they have Java apps on Linux or some .net apps on C#?  What do you do when SQL Server or DB2 is involved? Well, you could order up another cloud service that supports either of those options or you partner with your sometimes nemesis to put together a more comprehensive offering. Obviously Microsoft and IBM have chosen the latter.

Here’s another value.  IBM excels in the middleware layer with MQ, WebSphere ESB, PureApp and WebSphere Liberty.  Microsoft excels with firewall, virtualization (Hyper-V), and SQL Server. With both companies now supporting these tools on their respective cloud platforms, you open up a lot options when it comes to building true enterprise solutions. It makes both companies more competitive.

Overall, this can only be good for both because most times the competition isn’t IBM or Microsoft or Oracle for that matter.  It’s Amazon and Google. So it makes sense to do this. I only question how much of a difference this will make. In a world where these large software companies talk about a billion or multiple billions of dollars in revenue from cloud platforms, will this pump up the revenue enough to make a difference?  I don’t know the answer, although I welcome any and all thoughts on the subject.

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Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare

All this week I’m at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference.  Salesforce has come a long way with their platform and they’ve recently introduced Community Cloud.  Community Cloud is an evolution of their portal product and includes many features that we see in other enterprise-class, horizontal portals.

We are seeing a lot of interest in portals from our healthcare clients.  At Dreamforce, I attended a session on using Salesforce Community Cloud in healthcare.  I blogged about this on our Perficient Salesforce Blog and I encourage you to read Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare post to see how organizations like Health Leads are being innovative with portals using Community Cloud.

Salesforce Community Cloud Roadmap for 2015

Salesforce Community Cloud can be used for a variety of applications, including sales communities, customer self-service, marketing campaign management, or anywhere you need portal, content and social combined into one experience.

At Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce has been having a lot of sessions related to communities and I’ve seen a lot of communities focused on partners.  That is if you are company that has sales partners, dealers, etc. a partner community would be relevant to you.  

The Community Cloud sits on top of the Salesforce1 platform and Site.com, so it takes advantage of all the features of that platform and the mobile version as well.   For example, if you need to expose sales leads to a partner, you can use the Salesforce CRM capabilities and display that data on your Partner Community.  You can also incorporate Chatter and get instant file sharing, social networking and group features in your application.

Salesforce shared their roadmap for communities today at the Dreamforce Conference.  Here are some of the items I captured that are on the roadmap for the Winter 15 release:

  • Self Service Templates
    • All templates are automatically responsive for mobile devices
    • Topics are used to organize content on the site
    • Feature topics can be used to highlight special content on the site
    • Discussions are available for public users and are separate from Chatter. When you add a new discussion item, the system will try to automatically add topics based on your content.
    • Login pages are already templated.  You can also use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
    • There is a personal news feed that shows all your own posts.
    • Profile has been simplified and you can also include gaming in the system
  • Community Console
    • A community moderator has access to community management features
    • Case management can be integrated and a case can be started from any discussion topic.  From their service console a case manager can respond through the community to an individual user or to everyone in that community.
    • Community Management now has more tools to manage community.  They can see analytics about the community – there are about 160 additional reports available to the moderators.
    •  There are reputation levels and points so you can drive adoption. You can also use these points in other applications through custom APEX objects.
  • Community Designer
    • The designer is in beta right now and is targeted at a Salesforce Administrator.  You can modify some parts of the UI.  If you need more than what’s in designer, you can get under the covers too.
    • The designer lets you change the branding with a new header image, different fonts and colors.
    • Each of the features within the community are going to be Lightning components when Lightning becomes fully available.
    • There is a preview feature to show you how your design changes look on different devices.

Future themes for Community Cloud include:

  • More templates and allowing administrators to create their own templates
  • Increasing the speed of delivering a community and more analytics
  • Improving adoption techniques for communities

Community cloud is clearly a highly viable horizontal portal that can be used to satisfy a lot of business needs.

 

Successful Partner Communities with Salesforce

Zero Motorcycles needed a way to consolidate multiple partner-facing systems into a simplified user interface, track sales and monitor participation programs and automate workflows. As we’ve seen from other customers, partners had to login to multiple systems. Using Community Cloud, Zero was able to provide one interface for the partners to login into and get information and process leads and improve sales.

Zero’s original model was B2C, thinking that consumers would order electric motorcycles on the net. But that didn’t work out and Zero found out they needed dealerships to provide test rides and provide customer engagement. Read the rest of this post »

Creating Customer Happiness with Salesforce Communities

Community Cloud is Salesforce’s newest and fastest growing cloud (until tomorrow). IDC has seen a huge jump in using social media to communicate with customers and respond to customer inquiries. The top 3 technologies that are planned to be used include discussion forums, public social networks, and online communities, which is where Community Cloud comes in.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact, an all-in-one marketing platform, has over 600,000 small business customers. Constant Contact uses over 9,000 partners to grow their business.  They have built a partner portal on Community Cloud to support their partners, which will hopefully increase revenue. Read the rest of this post »

Is Your Content Marketing Inherently Flawed?

In the past week I’ve either read or listened to two heads of global marketing for two well-known brands. Both had a similar story with different sides of the same coin. Both had a message that dealt with marketers having to forget about telling their brand story and go with what customers want to hear.

shutterstock_168761921The first was a session about leveraging social data with Michelle Lapierre who is the senior director of Customer Experience at Marriott Rewards. The second is an article at cmo.com discussing Adam Broitman, vice president of Global Digital Marketing at Mastercard, and his views on the subject.

Both said almost exactly the same thing to their internal and external marketing teams. I’ll quote Adam, but the message was almost identical:

“You need to forget about yourself–the brand–at first,” Broitman said. “There are a lot of brands out there putting garbage out and calling it content marketing. But that doesn’t serve the user.”

I love the message. As I’ve looked at what is successful, I find that it’s “real” content that people find interesting. It’s creating a conversation that’s personalized.  Michelle noted that no one thinks about their hotel stay first. They think about the need. If you highlight the hotel stay before the need then you’ve missed the boat and your results will show that. Michelle had a another great quote:

“Be BBQ worthy.”

In other words, have something that will make you worthy of being invited to the barbecue.

How To Get There

So if the flaw is that your content stinks and your content stinks because it’s about uninteresting topics, then what do you do?
Read the rest of this post »

Why Do Contextual Ads Fail?

I’ve blogged about the personalization failure before.  Now it looks like others are catching on to the ultimate failure on their part, even as they harvest huge amounts of private information about us. This article in ComputerWorld outlines the issues. The author Mike Elgan hits the topic of privacy quickly and never lets it go:

Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon violate our privacy in order to show us relevant ads. So why do their ads miss the mark?

To be honest, he has a point. We do give up a lot of information to the likes of Google and Facebook, but the personalization and ad pushes seem to leave a lot to be desired.  Where exactly does all that data go? It doesn’t seem to do a good job identifying our secret needs.

Personal data harvesting for contextual ads and content should be a beautiful thing. Companies monitor what you do, where you go, who you interact with and what your interests are. They do it privately and securely, and it’s all automated so that no human being actually learns anything about you. And then the online world becomes customized, just for you. The ads are always the things you want to buy. The services are just what you’re looking for. The content is exactly the stuff you enjoy.

It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s how it’s supposed to work.

What’s wrong with the public anxiety about this scenario? People are mostly concerned about the privacy violation. But it could be argued that there is no such violation, in most cases. It’s really a philosophical question as to whether your privacy has been violated if no human being sees your data.

The real problem with this scenario is that is we’re paying for contextual ads and content with our personal data, but we’re not getting what we pay for.

After reading the article, I was again left with the same question: How come you have the information, but cannot get the personalization right?