Business Process Integration

The Rise of the Tech Savvy User (and the case for Business Process Integration – Part Two)

Oscar Wilde once said, “It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.”  The year was 1894. If only he was alive today to witness a civilization now firmly addicted to data. Studies from UCSD (University of California San Diego) state that, in 2008, American households were bombarded with 3.6 zettabytes of information – that’s 3.6 trillion gigabytes, or the equivalent of 34 gigabytes per person per day. The biggest culprits were TV and video, followed by phone, music/iPod, social media and the internet, with written content amounting to less than 0.1%. However, there are marked changes in recent data consumption trends. The amount of reading people do has tripled since 1980 (due to internet searching) and, importantly, information consumption has migrated from passive to interactive.

Social media is now an integral part of our personal (and business) lives. 55.6 million American adults (about 32% of the US population) visit social media networks a least monthly – compared to 18% in 2008 and 15% in 2007. Americans already average over 5 hours per month on Facebook and 50 million tweets per day. Gartner predicts 1 billion Facebook users by year end with significant increases in traffic and unique visitors – European traffic alone grew last year by over 300% (999% in Spain, and 2,721% in Italy).

YouTube last year served 75 billion video streams to 375 million unique visitors (at a rumored cost to Google, its owner, of 1.65 million dollars per day – a drop in the ocean when you consider it reported 23.6 billion dollars in annual revenue for 2009). Over the last two years, Twitter has averaged a global annual growth rate of 1,380%, and as of the end of 2009 there were 75 million user accounts. Social news sites (such as Digg, DiggBar, Reddit, and StumbleUpon), fared well through the end of 2009, with Digg averaging 36 million unique visitors per month (these numbers have dropped though through the first half of 2010).

It is no wonder that 2009 was dubbed the year of social media. Contrary to public opinion though, social media is not being fueled solely by the young – the fastest social media demographic is the 35 to 49 age bracket. Notably, at the close of 2008, social networking overtook email in terms of global reach.

A significant portion of the world is now almost permanently connected. There are nearly 5 billion active mobile phone subscriptions compared to a global population of around 7 billion people. 27% of the world has internet connectivity (77% in North America), a 400% increase since 2000.

Organizations today capitalize on the technical savvy of their target consumer and have extended their eCommerce strategies beyond SEO and SEM to include SMO (social media optimization) and socialytics. In return, this tech savvy consumer is now more demanding, expecting to receive relevant and personalized information to be pushed by default to them via text, email, RSS feeds and member community and forum subscriptions. This high level of personalized and timely content that we receive through rich contemporary user experiences in our daily lives raises the bar on what we expect when we transcend to our business lives, and these two worlds are rapidly colliding. For example:

  • If can give me regular emails, texts, and web updates on the status of my orders and shipments and their anticipated arrival dates, and send me suggested products for purchase that match my profile, and2.
  • If my airline can proactively phone me with flight and gate announcements and changes, enable me to check in on-line, have my boarding pass sent to my mobile phone and allow me to use this for scanning at ticketing and security gates, and email me suggested future travel itineraries based upon my history, then

Why can’t my trading partners automatically collaborate with me and share relevant information in a timely, electronic, and streamlined fashion:

  1. Automatically send/receive regular updated purchasing forecasts that, in turn, electronically feed into updated manufacturing schedules, raw material inventory planning and facilitate automatic  placement/updates of orders with suppliers.
  2. Warehouse and distribution center inventory forecasts to reduce excess inventory or backorders resulting from insufficient inventory.
  3. Order changes and cancellations, anticipated shipping and deliveries of raw materials and finished products, and so on.

This pampered tech savvy user is also a powerful one with a collective voice. Case in point, in 2009 Pepsi/Tropicana changed their orange carton packaging. Consumers were so incensed with this new carton design and voiced their displeasure over social networks. Within days this reached tipping point, with national newspapers picking up on the social media traffic and running editorials, and Tropicana’s competition mass mailing disgruntled Tropicana customers with coupons for their products. Pepsi ultimately recalled all their new Tropicana orange cartons nationally and replaced these with the original carton design – this took three months at an estimated cost of 35 million dollars and a permanent loss of 20% of their customer base. A lesson learned in marketing and also underestimating the power of the modern consumer.

This initiative to fulfill the instantaneous needs and expectations of the modern tech savvy consumer and business user is further driving the need for organizations to work more efficiently, collaborate across their demand and supply chains more effectively, and modernize the technology toolsets they provide to enhance the capabilities, productivity, and quality of work performance.

The economist, Herbert Simon once wrote “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”  However, we rarely deal with raw data but rather processed data that has been aggregated and massaged via such technologies as business intelligence and analytics, recursive machine learning, augmented reality (AR) and augmented virtuality.

In my next posting I will examine the successes of data mining and the data deluge, and examine the pitfalls (there are many).

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