How digital changes organisations

Digital changes organisations in fundamental ways. Just think about it…

We are publishers – We need to understand content marketing and strategy, how to write digitally and how to make best use of rich media and video.

We are software providers – We create self-service online software with no training and minimal support, We develop apps and design digital channel customer experiences; like Amazon, Argos, John Lewis and Google.

We are community leaders – We talk directly to our customers through social media and other channels, letting our customers create content for our websites and engaging them in real-time.

Adding digital to the strategic map

Although digital is core to every business, in reality there’s no such thing as a separate digital strategy. You need a business strategy that works in the modern digital world. Digital touches every part the organisation, both internally and externally.

To implement and run a successful digital program you need to know the environment you operate in; including industry changes, competitor activity and  customer requirements. This  then filters through your strategy to meet the needs of your target market by the propositions you create, the distribution models you use and the insight you gather.

Understand and choose how digital can support your business

But where does digital fit? Would you run customer service from IT or set up a new mini-IT team in marketing? Or publish content without proper copywriting or editing and set-up a separate digital sales department?

The truth is that it’s disruptive for organisations. It adds:

  • New skills
  • New outputs
  • New technology and
  • New business channels.
There is no single best solution as every business is different. The most important thing is that you’ve got the right skills, roles and responsibilities in place, with a clear roadmap and appropriate sponsorship at a senior level.

The future is digital, the future is now…

In the good old days – the early ‘90s – it was simple. You got the odd telephone call, paper-based forms and letters by post and nothing was really urgent. The concepts of immediate responses and 24/7 customer service didn’t exist. For many businesses, the first sign of change was the fax machine – days turned to hours and the digital revolution had begun.

The modern world

Today it’s a totally different story; we live in a digital world where everyone expects everything to be instant. If it’s not they take to Twitter to complain so everyone can see and, if that’s not enough, they might be using a computer, a tablet or even a phone. How times have changed.

The consultancy view

These are just a few statements by respected consultancies around the world..

  • Gartner states that this year, refusing to communicate with customers via social media will be as harmful as ignoring emails or ‘phone calls is today.
  • IBM say social media will become the #2 customer interaction method in the next three to five years.
  • From IDC, more people in the United States will access the web via mobile devices than via computers by 2015.

Old is the new young

The truth of the matter is that our customers aren’t getting younger, we’re getting older. It’s estimated that by 2025, 40-60% of workers across the world will come from Generation Y.

So who are these people? They go from teenagers to people in their mid-30s – a group that was raised on MTV and the internet. They are the children of Baby Boomers and Generation X.

Generation Y represents a massive group of influencers – the largest and the most cutting edge generation in our history – that is until Gen Z hits us. Which is why it’s so important for businesses to create strategies that attract and retain this powerful demographic.

Paraphrasing Greg Pitcher from Personnel Today; before Generation Y came along, people obsessed with computers were called nerds or geeks. But now you’re nobody without an iPhone and hundreds friends on Facebook.

Gen Y – the facts

And just to position what this means for your organisation, here is some behavioural insight about Gen Y.

  • 70% talk daily with friends on a mobile phone but just 46% talk to friends on a landline phone
  • 60% send text messages every day
  • 54% use instant messaging
  • and 46% use search engines to find out about brands.

They spend an average of 16 hours a week online and 9 out of 10 teens have access to a home computer. In fact, 45% say they couldn’t live without a PC and web connection…

  • 96% have joined a social network
  • 28% have talked about a product or brand in an online forum during the past month.
  • 49% have reviewed a product online.

Engagement can be simple

So, how can we engage with them? We need to understand:

  1. Their mindset and attitudes
  2. How they consume media and information
  3. And their preferences in sourcing and sharing information.

In simple terms what this means is:

  • They’re happy to use technology
  • Buying decisions are made based on peer recommendations, especially friends.
  • They want information easily and instantly, in real time across multiple channels
  • And they’ll lose interest if information isn’t relevant and engaging.

Adapt to survive

To survive, organisations like need to adapt and change to meet the needs of their customers. It’s no longer the case of a few geeks in the corner playing with computers and iPhones. Most companies will need to put digital at the heart of their business to survive.

Adapting to the digital age is about turning your company inside out, listening to your customers and putting them at the heart of your organisation.

Social media for financial services – part 4

Can you use social media to facilitate engagement with intermediaries?

Intermediary relationships and sales are typically high-touch and are mainly established through building direct relationships with customers. With social media, you can interact with both potential leads and customers using an array of touch points. The two-way, real-time nature of these tools can lend a highly personal dimension to the relationship. And, unlike traditional marketing channels, social media allows you to engage and build relationships with customers and prospects, increasing the high touch effect.

Social media is a great way for people to actively network and build professional communities, ask questions, solve problems and share knowledge. This in turn means you can leverage these interactions to build brand, reputation and prospects.

Demonstrating thought-leadership

Social media engagements are a good platform to consistently demonstrate thought leadership. Thought leadership can help strengthen your market positioning, enhance your perceived value to clients and build greater trust and loyalty.

It can help you present insightful, compelling and even provocative perspectives. Get it right and your organisation could be acknowledged as a thought leader – the “go to“ business for a particular interest area.

Meetings without leaving your desk

Would you like to reach your customers and collaborate with colleagues but save on travel costs and time out of the office? If so, web meetings might well be worth investigating.

For example, according to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, in 2005 his company saved nearly $40 million (approx. £22m) in travel expenses using their own Live Meeting tool.

More powerful computers, greater access to broadband and faster wireless connections mean that virtual meetings are becoming a viable alternative for a lot of businesses. If you couple this with the current weather problems, recent security threats and the focus on environmental awareness, then they become a very attractive proposition indeed.

A number of options

It’s also worth pointing out that we’re not just talking about large all-singing, all dancing seminars with huge production costs. There are a number of different options out there, offering different levels of functionality to suit all budgets and needs. But it’s probably worth pointing out that there’s no point in paying for things you won’t use.

These range from simple instant messaging tools, allowing two or more people to communicate in real time, to basic solutions that will allow you to run a PowerPoint presentation with an accompanying conference call.

More advanced systems offer more bells and whistles including video, audio, screen-sharing (great if you need to provide customer support), instant messaging and virtual whiteboards for collaboration. A lot of tools will also allow you to record the presentation or meeting and play it back online at a later date, handy if not all your invited audience can attend.

How they work

Most systems work in a fairly similar fashion. Meetings can either be instant or scheduled for a later date. Typically, the instant option tends to be used for more collaborative sessions with colleagues or suppliers, whereas the scheduled meeting can be used to run a workshop, presentation or training session.

Once you’ve set-up the meeting in your tool, an email is generated with all the details in it that you can just send out to your prospective audience.

Normally they can just click on a link to register. Depending on the system, the email might also have a link to automatically add the details to their calendar. Some will also automatically send out reminders nearer the event. 

When the time comes, it’s just a question of logging on, dialling in and kicking-off the meeting. There’s normally a small piece of software or plug-in to download but you only have to do this once.

Once you’re up and running, you’ll be presented with a simple interface that shows your presentation or demo and provides easy access to any widgets the system has. For instance, a simple question and answer box, drawing/highlighting tools and a “share screen” option.

For training and support the latter is great, as it means you can hand control of your computer over to someone else o practise what’s been shown. You can also let them take over the presentation, so you don’t even have to be in the same room  or even country as your co-presenters.

Things to think about

If you’re looking to involve a large number of people, then having a one-way call, (where your audience can only listen, not talk) is much easier to manage. Its also helpful to have an assistant to manage any questions you get. 

Our experience has shown that using a separate telephone or conference call is preferable. Not everyone can listen via their computer as they might not have sound enabled or work in an open-plan office. Offering a freephone telephone number to your clients can help to improve uptake. Watch out though, as you will have to pay the costs of the calls, plus any set-up fees. 

For tools like PowerPoint, making sure there’s not too much animation or moving around is quite important, as your audience might be using older computers or slower web connections.

In practice

We’ve being using a tool called GoToMeeting, from CitrixOnline, since last year. This was introduced to complement the existing ways we communicate with our customers, allowing us to offer greater support to a wider range of IFAs. Our consultants can easily demonstrate how a product or service works and then use the screen-sharing tools to watch the customer practise, guiding them as and when necessary. 

We’ve also successfully used it as an emergency back-up for a live presentation, when a security threat meant flights were grounded.

Internally, we’ve found a number of benefits, from meeting with suppliers to training. If we’re developing some new product plans or want to show someone a presentation we’re working on we can just click on a button and we’re up and running, meaning fewer flights, quicker decisions and less early mornings.

And another UMPC – part 4

Packard Bell have launched the Packard Bell EasyNote XS, the latest EEE imitator. It’s about the same size/weight as the ASUS but boasts a 30Gb hard drive and 1 Gb of ram, as well as a mouse track pad and buttons above the keyboard, eh?

On the plus side, the hard drive is big enough to store some music and movies, but on the downside, the cost is nearly £400.

It would be good to see a side-by-side comparison/review of these devices soon.

More at CNET and Packard Bell.

This UMPC thing is really taking off… part 3

And if all that’s not enough, ASUS have announced the ASUS Eee PC 900.  It will feature a 8.9″ screen, running at 1024 x 600 resolution. You’ll be able to store 12GB of data, and will have 1GB of ram to access in a package a bit larger than the Eee PC 701. The cost? $600 US to you.

This UMPC thing is really taking off… part 2

My last post reminded me of an article over at CNET recently about Elonex launching a £99 laptop aimed at students.

The British manufacturer unveiled the “One” laptop at The Education Show, in Birmingham. According to Elonex, the Linux-based laptop will boast a three-hour battery life, Wi-Fi, a flash-based hard drive, a “hard-wearing case” and a “wireless music server”, and will weigh less than 1Kg.

“The One removes the cost barrier that has prevented the one-laptop-per- person, large-scale uptake of computers in the education system that has for so long been just a pipe dream,” said Sam Goult, Elonex’s marketing manager, in a statement last week. “Investment in digital technology is paramount to help the next generation achieve their full potential.”

Elonex One website – you can now pre-order for a £10 deposit.

Yet more competition in the UMPC market, along with the OLPC (one laptop per child) initiative and Intel’s Classmate PC .

CNET Article

ASUS EEE PC – small (and cheap) is beautiful

If you look at my previous post about mobile computing, you’ll see I mentioned this small, shiny object last year, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve got my hands on a couple of them for work.

The EEE is classed as a UMPC ( Ultra Mobile Portable Computer), and features a 7″ screen, as well as wifi, a web cam and most of the key tools a normal laptop has. The key difference is the small, 4Gb flash hard-drive. However, this is plenty of storage for a machine that is designed for mobile usage.

The machine itself is a bit cramped for everyday use, but for short spells at the airport or on a train, its fantastic. In fact, the small size makes it ideal to use where room is at a premium.

 We’ve installed XP on the machines, removing the existing Linux o/s it comes with, and it runs fine. We’ve also added a 3G modem (via Vodaphone) for each one, meaning a truly portable machine.

 Out on the road they make a great replacement for a standard laptop, being much lighter and smaller, and they make a great addition to the mobile office.

Why the mobile internet has been slow to take-off but is the killer app

I’m a big fan of smart phones and mobile computing in general. In the not too distant future I can see a time when people no longer trudge around with laptops, but use smaller, less powerful machines specifically designed for wireless use.

 A number of machines do this or have been announced (e.g. the Nokia 770, 800, Asus’ Eee PC and the Palm Foleo) and there’s sure to be more – with alot of the development coming-off the back of the $100 laptop charity.

 There have been a number of good apps out there for ages (Avant Go for nes, Opera for mobile phones) and with faster connections, you’re no longer waiting for ages to view a web page.

Blackberries have made great inroads into the corporate market and people are now buying them as private users – but they are pretty poor at the web thing so are predominently e-mail based.

Connections are also up to speed now, with 3G networks available and compatible phones easy and cheap to come by. So why isn’t usage much greater? There are a number of reasons, but I’ll highlight what I think are the key issues.

  1. Launch of 3G focussed on the wrong aspects – when 3G launched (especially the “3” network), they focussed on video calling, and, like other products before, no one was really interested. It doesn’t work particularly well and really adds little, apart from cost, to a mobile phone call.
  2. Data charges – historically its been really expensive. People on contracts now have fairly cheap deals so that particular barrier has been removed but pay as you go customers still get a raw deal. For example, Orange charge you £1 per day to use mobile browsing etc., regardless of how much data you transfer.If they offered data packages, like the do for bundled text messages, surely they would see a rise in the number of users.
  3. Devices – current phones aren’t very good for surfing or email. If you look at alot of smart phones and blackberries, their primary function is to provide a QWERTY keyboard in as small a space as possible, with a slightly larger screen, but this isn’t suitable for everyone. Hopefully the iPhone and its clones will help with this.
  4. Web sites and services – in the financial services arena, no one I know of has seriously looked at using protable devices as a serious business tool. This is something I’d like to look at sooner, rather that later.I think there’s great potential to offer a cut-down online services app that works on blackberries and smartphones. we’re not talking the ability to process new schemes, but certainly a few key functions like policy valuations and personal details would be very handy, and mean you didn’t have to lug a laptop around all the time, and hope there was a phone line or wifi access when you arrive.

All we need to do is get Origo to develop a mobile Unipass certificate and we’re sorted.