Technology Leap Forward

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I have been thinking about the benefits and absolute necessity of new technologies in business, and I believe that at the Advantage Co we are currently operating at a growing disadvantage.  For starters, we need to improve the way we think about transforming data into better decisions.  

In the 90’s, I felt we were one of the most technologically advanced companies anywhere, but now, increasingly, I feel we are stuck in the slow lane [despite the fact that some of our core IT businesses like Capax Global are world class providers of business intelligence].  In business, it use to be the big crushed the small and the strong devoured the weak, but in today’s disruptive environment it is the quick that overwhelm the slow.  Therefore, we are embarking on a dramatic push to put us at the vanguard of technology.  I am convinced the Advantage Co has three years to be completely transformed by technology or we will lose our relevance.

The Advantage Co is all about creating opportunity, and while I am confident we will continue to grow our profitability [especially in the event of a recession] – we must accelerate the introduction of new technologies or we will no longer be able to provide a future rich with opportunity.  Our new business technologies will help us identify, develop, and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities.  We must learn how to model future demand uncertainties, how to predict the outcomes of competing choices, and how to choose the best course of action in the face of risk and reward.  We must introduce frameworks and ideas that provide insights into business opportunities, along with introducing the methods and software available for tackling our inherent challenges quantitatively as well as the issues involved in gathering the relevant data.

Productivity is the efficiency of processes.  Companies with a high level of productivity are often characterized by their successful integration of information technology and strong data management.  With newly developed and deployed technologies we will be able to make better data-driven decisions, create an app-centric environment, and increase productivity.  

We will start by recruiting and enabling a new Chief Technology Officer [CTO], who will work in our new C Suite at the Walker Center with our current CFO, Mike McGrath, and a new Chief Development Officer [more on that position later].

I have discussed the new CTO position with the two of the most tech savvy people I know, Jerry Hawk and Tom Thomson; and they both emphasized the need to not only have someone with the requisite tech skills, but a CTO with exceptional people skills as well.  Transforming our company with new technologies will most likely cause some consternation at every level.  Our new CTO will be challenged to introduce advanced business analytics into every aspect of our business.  Change is seldom welcome, especially when things are working so well, so it is going to take someone with the unique ability to deliver new technologies to an often unreceptive audience.

Our new CTO will have direct impact in four key areas:

  1. Business Intelligence [BI]
    Business Intelligence can be described as a set of techniques and tools for the acquisition and transformation of our raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes.  

    Our new and updated BI technologies will provide us with a historical, current, and predictive view of our business operations.  The core functions of our business intelligence technologies will be reporting, data mining, business performance management, benchmarking [comparing our business performance metrics to industry bests], predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.  

    Business Analytics [BA] is the practice of methodical exploration of all our data with emphasis on statistical analysis.  Our business analytics will be used for data-driven decision making.  Recent improvements in data-collecting technologies have changed the way we can make informed and effective business decisions.  Good numbers and good instincts lead to good decisions.  

    Our new and updated business analytics will focus on developing better insights and understanding of our business performance based on data and statistical methods.  Our predictive analytics will be used to make predictions about unknown future events, while our prescriptive analytics will be used to find the best course of action for a given situation.  

    The management of our information – including the analytics used to transform it – is an evolutionary process, and we are just getting started.  Identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on BA insights can provide us with a competitive market advantage and continued long-term growth.
     
  2. Accounting
    We typically rely on our accounting department for three things: knowing the rules, getting the math right, and submitting filings on time.  Their finance function has earned our trust, but more for the role of reporting and less for analytical insight.  Our accounting department must now start to evolve their role to be looking at the organization as a whole and discussing how to best optimize our performance.

    In the accounting world, BI means automating the process of weeding through mountains of financial data to glean actionable insights to help us grow revenue and manage risk.  Today we are witnessing the the emergence of business intelligence as a way to leverage the valuable data our accountants collect every day in the ordinary course of business.  These new accounting solutions need to be fully integrated throughout our sales, production, and servicing functions allowing informed decisions at a glance, while automating repetitive functions to alleviate strain on human resources.
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  3. Operational Intelligence [OI]
    Companies of all types have critical business processes they must manage in real-time.  BI solutions are unable to address the moment-to-moment need for real-time decision making.  Operational Intelligence represents a turning point in the evolution of BI.  Traditionally, BI has been the province of business analysts who analyze trends and patterns in large volumes of historical data to improve the effectiveness of strategic and tactical decisions.  But OI changes this equation: it moves BI out of the back room and embeds it into the fabric of the business, intertwining it with operational processes and applications that drive thousands of daily decisions.  In essence, Operational Intelligence merges analytical and operational processes into a unified whole.  

    Operational Intelligence is real-time, whereas BI is an after-the-fact and report-based approach to identifying patterns.  OI is primarily event-centric, whereas BI is primarily data-centric.  Although BI tools give clues about business processes, they don’t give any real insight into the business process itself.  This operational insight is provided by a comprehensive OI solution.

    Our operational Intelligence (OI) will be a form of real-time dynamic, business analytics that will deliver visibility and insight into our business operations.  Our OI solutions will run query analysis against live feeds and event data to deliver real-time visibility and insight into our business and IT operations.  This real-time information can be acted upon in a variety of ways: alerts can be sent, business processes can be triggered, and  executive decisions can be made and implemented using live dashboards.  More often than not, our Operational Intelligence will be enabled for its real-time monitoring capabilities when we want to take immediate action.

    Additionally, our OI will increase the value of our BI by delivering information and insights on demand to all participants – from the shipping department to partners – so they can work smarter and faster to achieve our critical business objectives.  In essence, our OI must deliver the right information to the right people at the right time so we can take action.
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  4. Customer Interface
    The customer interface is the environment in which our products or services are delivered.  It involves contact with the customer [encompassing interactions that are person-to-person or via an app, email, phone, Skype, blog, website, ecommerce, or some other medium].

    Our customers expect us to anticipate their needs and wants.  This requires a set of integrated solutions that will allow us to create an environment where customers get what they want, when they want it.  We must bring together solutions that are able to push and pull data so we can use the most complete insights.  We can then use these deep insights to predict what our customers want, at the right time, and in the right way.

    For us to realize the benefits of recent innovations in customer interface technology, we need to understand the value consumers place on technology as part of the shopping process.  Customers today are less satisfied with the level of service provided, the availability of product information, and the speed of the shopping process.  New technologies can enhance the shopping experience, but our applications must be tailored to the unique requirements of our customers.

    The essence of Customer Experience Management [the process of managing a customer’s entire experience with us] is treating customers as individuals.  However, with the growing trend toward online purchases, successful interactions through traditional channels [such as in-store purchases and call center communications] often fall to second place behind social media.  While it is important to stay ahead of the product comment pages, user-generated content, positive and negative feedback from referral sites, and other online customer data, it is equally important to create a customer experience strategy that incorporates all customer touch points.  In particular, this includes the impact of customer-facing employees who will require more technology than ever to be at their disposal in order to fully ensure a successful customer experience.

    Our goal is to merge the digital space with our physical environments.  We’re not there yet [and it may take beyond 2017 to get there], but we need to create a mobile and digital app-centric interaction with our physical environments as the main area for continued growth:
  • Mobile payment and rewards solutions [like Apple pay].
  • Geolocated advertising based on our customer’s proximity to our physical location.
  • Digital interactions with products, services, and promotions for our customers while they are in our environments [not only the environment itself but the actual department notices that our customer is there and starts communicating with them, via their phone app, about product info, FAQs, and promotions].

We certainly have a long way to go, but I am confident that over the next three years we will be able move out to the forefront of technology.  We are going to put together a tech panel of experts (starting with Jeff Wynn), and I would really like everyone to participate.  I will have more on this over the next few weeks.  I am heading back to Naples for 10 days to put together a gameplan.  

And if you know of anyone who would make a great CTO, let me know at tonywalker13@yahoo.com.


PS  I took liberal advantage of several websites for the information and descriptions used above.


Mission Statement:  Business technology encompasses a wide range of hardware, software, and services that keep companies running and enhance operations.  Technology plays into every aspect of a business, from accounting to customer interface to product design and development to distribution to sales to service, etc.

Advantage Global Management will develop new business technologies over the next three years in order to push us to the vanguard of technological innovation.  With newly developed and deployed technologies we will be able to make better data-driven decisions, create an app-centric environment, and increase productivity.  

Additionally, by making our new business technologies available to clients as a comprehensive SaaS and MBaaS solution, we will be able to stay at the forefront of technological innovation without the burden of escalating costs as our new technologies become a profit producing enterprise [on their own].

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