2 years, 10 days ago

Amazon Blends Digital and Physical Experiences At Their New Book Store

Recently I stopped in at the new Amazon Book store on 34th Street in Manhattan to see how Amazon is re-imagining the in-store experience. While Amazon has much to learn about retail from the brick and mortar giants, physical stores can learn a lot from how Amazon is successfully bringing the digital experience into the […]

2 years, 15 days ago

Announcing Forrester’s 2017 B2B Commerce Suites For Midsize Organizations

One size does not fit all and when it comes to Commerce Suites, midsize organizations want a full spectrum of selling capabilities, packaged with out of the box templates delivered via cloud services. Today we released Forrester’s Commerce Suites Wave, written by Andy Hoar. This research focuses on the unique needs of midsize organizations (i.e. […]

2 years, 22 days ago

Walmart and Google’s Voice-Assisted Commerce Partnership Highlight the Next Big Disrupter in Retail

Walmart and Google have announced an important new partnership that directly addresses the growing markets for voice-assisted shopping and free expedited delivery. Marc Lore, President and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce, wrote on Walmart’s blog, “Starting in late September, we’ll be working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google […]

2 years, 1 month ago

How Should Insurers Unleash Their Digital Businesses? By Mastering The Digital Basics

Canadian and US insurers have a lot on their plates this year.  They’re not just grappling with extreme weather, substantial underwriting losses from all those motor vehicle claims, but also rising customer expectations and an onslaught of fintech disruptors.  These disruptors are spurring lots of activity in insurance digital labs, insurance venture capital arms, and […]

2 years, 1 month ago

Want Recurring Customer Relationships? Choose The Right Billing Platform

Recurring customer relationships are key to surviving and thriving in the age of the customer. And Billing technology is key to building recurring customer relationships. How so? As we heard from one client, “My billing experience is my top touchpoint. It’s where I make or break my business goals so it’s where I need to […]

2 years, 1 month ago

Amazon’s Singapore Launch Signals the End of Digital Complacency in Southeast Asia

July 27th marked Amazon’s first e-commerce official foray into the 640 million people strong region. It launched its Prime Now app in Singapore with a compelling two-hour delivery offering that signals a new era in the region’s digital landscape. We see the impact of Amazon’s move not only on the e-commerce and retail industries, but […]

2 years, 1 month ago

An Interview: Lily Varon And The E-commerce Brasil Org On – you guessed it – eCommerce In Brazil

An interview I did with E-commerce Brasil published online today in Portuguese. I’ve been getting requests for it in English so I thought I’d post it here. Happy reading! 1. “The State of Retail eCommerce in Brazil” series gave us an intereting look at eCommerce in Brazil during a difficult economic situation in the country. […]

2 years, 6 months ago

Inspector Sands to Platform Nine and Three Quarters

Last week was not a good one for the platform business. Uber continues to receive bad publicity on multiple fronts, as noted in my post on Uber’s Defeat Device and Denial of Service (March 2017). And on Tuesday, a fat-fingered system admin at AWS managed to take out a significant chunk of the largest platform on the planet, seriously degrading online retail in the Northern Virginia (US-EAST-1) Region. According to one estimate, performance at over half of the top internet retailers was hit by 20 percent or more, and some websites were completely down.

What have we learned from this? Yahoo Finance tells us not to worry.

“The good news: Amazon has addressed the issue, and is working to ensure nothing similar happens again. … Let’s just hope … that Amazon doesn’t experience any further issues in the near future.”

Other commentators are not so optimistic. For Computer Weekly, this incident

“highlights the risk of running critical systems in the public cloud. Even the most sophisticated cloud IT infrastructure is not infallible.”

So perhaps one lesson is not to trust platforms. Or at least not to practice wilful blindness when your chosen platform or cloud provider represents a single point of failure.

One of the myths of cloud, according to Aidan Finn,

“is that you get disaster recovery by default from your cloud vendor (such as Microsoft and Amazon). Everything in the cloud is a utility, and every utility has a price. If you want it, you need to pay for it and deploy it, and this includes a scenario in which a data center burns down and you need to recover. If you didn’t design in and deploy a disaster recovery solution, you’re as cooked as the servers in the smoky data center.”

Interestingly, Amazon itself was relatively unaffected by Tuesday’s problem. This may have been because they split their deployment across multiple geographical zones. However, as Brian Guy points out, there are significant costs involved in multi-region deployment, as well as data protection issues. He also notes that this question is not (yet) addressed by Amazon’s architectural guidelines for AWS users, known as the Well-Architected Framework.

Amazon recently added another pillar to the Well-Architected Framework, namely operational excellence. This includes such practices as performing operations with code: in other words, automating operations as much as possible. Did someone say Fat Finger?


Abel Avram, The AWS Well-Architected Framework Adds Operational Excellence (InfoQ, 25 Nov 2016)

Julie Bort, The massive AWS outage hurt 54 of the top 100 internet retailers — but not Amazon (Business Insider, 1 March 2017)

Aidan Finn, How to Avoid an AWS-Style Outage in Azure (Petri, 6 March 2017)

Brian Guy, Analysis: Rethinking cloud architecture after the outage of Amazon Web Services (GeekWire, 5 March 2017)

Daniel Howley, Why you should still trust Amazon Web Services even though it took down the internet (Yahoo Finance, 6 March 2017)

Chris Mellor, Tuesday’s AWS S3-izure exposes Amazon-sized internet bottleneck (The Register, 1 March 2017)

Shaun Nichols, Amazon S3-izure cause: Half the web vanished because an AWS bod fat-fingered a command (The Register, 2 March 2017)

Cliff Saran, AWS outage shows vulnerability of cloud disaster recovery (Computer Weekly, 6 March 2017)

6 years, 11 months ago

Is Enterprise Architecture accountable for improving customer experience?

A recent experience with poor customer service has got me thinking about the role of EA in addressing customer experience issues. 

One of the last things I was working on, while still in Microsoft IT, was working on an initiative to systematically help improve customer experience.  With that experience fresh in mind, I was dealing with an issue with my Tivo DVR today where the Tivo box started to misbehave.  I began a chat with their representative and the experience was less than ideal.  (If someone from Tivo wants to chat, just drop me a line for details).

That got me thinking.  Can EA help?  In general, can EA be part of the solution to problems caused by poor customer experiences? 

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Customer Services is important to the success of any organization

First off, I’d like to say that customer experience is one of the most important elements of the highly competitive online world.  The Web has made it very easy for customers to abandon their existing relationships and switch to new ones.  Even the slightest provocation can send a customer in search of a competitor, and the features of a product are not as “sticky” as they once were.  It is increasingly easy for new small companies to appear that copy all of the key features of a technology and release a competing product, sometimes within a few months of the first one.  The results can be fierce competition that, unfortunately, is often addressed in courtrooms instead of the marketplace (Samsung vs. Apple, Google vs. Microsoft, Apple vs. Microsoft, etc.).

Some companies will not pay proper attention to their customer’s experience.  This is fairly common, especially in manufacturing companies where there are both software and hardware components involved.  For some reason, the fact that two different engineering teams are involved often produces a disjointed experience.  (Apple has been leading the way in addressing these kinds of problems.  The rest of us need to do so as well).

What are the questions you must always be ready to answer?  (The Ten Strategic Questions)

In general, an Enterprise Architect assists with the development of strategic alignment, not by deciding what is important, but making sure that executives don’t miss the important stuff while they are overwhelmed with the mundane.  One way to anchor your analysis to ensure that YOU don’t miss the important stuff is to consider some of the high level tools suggested in traditional strategic analysis… tools like SWOT analysis, Five Forces analysis, and partner accountability mapping.  However, most of those tools do a poor job of considering the importance of customer experience to enterprise success.

The model that I use is the EA metamodel behind business models.  In a prior post, I created a rationalized ontology for the business model canvas that addressed the gaps left by Osterwalder in his analysis.  However, in keeping with the effort to make that kind of model useful, I followed the pattern of Osterwalder and created a visual table that represented the corrected business model ontology.

image

The guidance that you can get from this is to look at each of the blocks in the canvas and consider the possibility that you have not missed anything important in that block.  Therefore, if you use this model, you would ask the following ten questions:

  • Are we targeting the right customers for the growth that we need?  (Customer Profile)
  • Do we have a good understanding of what our customers want and need? (VOC)
  • Do we have a compelling value proposition to address the needs and demands of those customers? (Value Proposition)
  • Are we developing products and services that deliver on our value proposition, or is there a gap in our products and/or services that we need to address? (Products and Services)
  • Have we considered all of the channels we should be using, or are we using too many channels, to distribute our products and services to our customers? (Channels)
  • Do we have a good idea of the resources we need to deliver on our value proposition? (Resources)
  • Do we know how to use our resources sufficiently well to produce the results that customers expect? (Required Competencies)
  • Have we addressed all the cost and revenue implications of the resources, competencies, and channels that we’ve selected? (Cost and Revenue Models)
  • Are we reaching our customers in the geographies and locales in which they live and work, and if not, why not? (Geographies and Locales)
  • Have we relied on partners in the right way, leveraging their strengths and the cost implications of using them without opening ourselves to problems of key dependencies? (partner profiles)

This list of questions includes the core questions that we need to be asking in order to address customer experience issues at the strategic level.  This is a far more comprehensive list that “5 forces” or “SWOT” and will help you to ensure that you are not missing anything. 

How does Enterprise Architecture address customer experience?

The actual experience of a customer is a function of their needs and your products.  If a customer needs to drive a nail, a hammer will do.  If the customer needs to drive their car to an unfamiliar place, then a Global Positioning System with turn-by-turn directions would be more compelling.  If you offer the customer a product that does NOT meet their needs (like a GPS that only shows maps, but doesn’t tell the driver where and when to turn), then they will not be loyal to the product.  Their experience will be poor and they will quickly find better products.

Customers don’t want ten inch drills.  They want ten inch holes.

When doing a strategy workshop, it is best for the Enterprise Architect to walk in to the workshop with all their preparation in place.  Walking in unprepared will produce really poor results.  To be prepared, the Enterprise Architect will have already collected the list of “proposed strategies” for the coming period and will have analyzed those strategies from the standpoint of the organization’s business model(s).  In other words, for each of the questions above, which ones are being answered by strategy.  Now, for the kicker, which ones are not? 

Customer experience may already be covered by a strategy, and if it is, you have to do very little.  Simply make sure that everyone sees the relative value of that strategy when compared to others (like reducing costs or negotiating new boundaries with existing partners).  That is not simple, but not as difficult as the alternative: no strategy for customer experience.

On the other hand, let’s assume that there are goals, or objectives, or themes (rarely actual strategies) already articulated that address the other areas of business model considerations, like costs, or products, or partners.  Address the lack of customer focus in your interviews PRIOR to the strategic workshop.  Ask your key stakeholders what their customers need.  Specifically don’t ask for how those needs are being met… ask what the needs are!  Make sure that you plant, in the minds of your stakeholders, the seeds of doubt: do we KNOW what our customers want and need?  Is it written down?  Would our customers agree with what we wrote down?

During the workshop, propose an initiative to capture the needs of the customers (of each business model) and to map the products and services to those needs.  This will let you answer the question: are our products and services meeting the needs of customers?  This may involve the development of user personas, scenarios, and competitive surveys.  This initiative, when complete, will provide the ammunition that you will need later to propose initiatives to address customer experience gaps. 

Note that gaps can exist in many places… not just in the products themselves, but also in the customer service experience that occurs when customers are not happy with their products or have an issue with them. 

Conclusion

Enterprise Architecture is a strategic planning function that uses a methodical scientific approach to address the gaps between the goals of a business and the execution of strategy needed to reach them.  Using the TEN STRATEGIC QUESTIONS above, Enterprise Architects can capture opportunities and oversights that senior executives may miss.  One of those key questions addresses customer experience issues. 

Therefore, when an organization fails to deliver good customer experiences, Enterprise Architecture, when used properly, can help to address the situation.

7 years, 6 months ago

Don’t buy flowers from ReadyFlowers

I usually don’t blog about my personal shopping experience, but a recent experience forced me to publish this post. I travel a lot for business, so for Valentine’s Day I decided to order a bouquet of flowers for my wife. Well knowing that online flower delivery is a trivial online commodity these days, I opened up Google and searched for “flower delivery”. One of the first hits was an allegedly Australian company, ReadyFlowers.com.au, which promoted their special same-day Valentine’s Day delivery of high quality roses. Order before 1pm and the flowers will be delivered the same day all over Australia, the company advertises proudly. Valentine’s Day is on February 14 and I put in my order for “6 long stem premium roses” (product link) on February 13 before lunch. According to ReadyFlowers, everything was all good and on track for delivery:


I was away for business on Valentine’s Day, so I ordered the flowers to be delivered to our apartment in the city as a surprise for my wife when she returned home after a long day at work. The flowers never arrived. I waited for her reaction throughout the day, but nothing happened. When I called her at night, I asked her: “So did the flowers arrive?” Puzzled and surprised she told me that she had not seen even a dry flower leaf at the doorstep.

Actually, the flowers did not arrive the next day – or the following day. On Friday February 17, I received a call from my concierge that somebody had dropped off a bouquet of flowers in the reception. When I got home, this is what I found:


They had sent my wife six small, dry roses without any water (normally, florists deliver flowers with a temporary water container so they remain fresh for the day). They were by no comparison the “six long stem roses” I had ordered. The flower heads were dry and mistreated. The wrapping was crushed. The obviously careless florist had added six dry leaves into the bouquet, most likely to compensate for the lack of fresh flowers and long stems. The greeting card, for which I was asked to add a friendly note during online order, was crushed. My wife’s name was not spelled correctly.

Unsurprisingly, I was furious. Not only had the company decided to charge me AUD $ 90.90 (almost DKK 500) for this pathetic so-called “bouquet” of dry, mistreated roses. They also delivered them three days too late without sending me a single notification of delay. Even half-decent companies send a quick apology and an estimated time of delivery to their clients if orders are stuck or delayed. But ReadyFlowers? Zip, nil, zero, nothing. As I was waiting for the flowers to arrive, I called ReadyFlowers’ so-called customer service centre three times (a 1 800 number) with no luck. Both times I was stuck in the waiting queue as number 23 or 33 with “an estimated holding time of 65 minutes”. Go figure. At least I knew that I was not alone in my pointless endeavour to trace up my missing flower delivery. The third time I called, I was in the queue for 20 minutes before I was diverted to a voice mail with the friendly message that ReadyFlowers had taken their customer service  offline due to a high number of calls! I What kind of company pulls the plug on their customer support during expected peak periods?

Friday, I called the company on the Friday the flowers had arrived. Instead of going into the “enquire about existing orders” I selected the third option for local distributors. This time I got straight through to a ReadyFlowers employee within two minutes. I explained my story and complaint to the customer “service” officer (named Leo) who obviously couldn’t care less about their recent atrocity. I explained to him that I expected them to come and pick up the flowers and that I wanted an immediate refund. Leo, who was probably working in a call centre far away from Sydney, responded that his managers had “left work for today” without any kind of apology or desire to help me. He asked me to send them an email with pictures of the flowers (which I did) and they would get back to me as soon as possible. This, of course, turned out to be a pure scam — five days have gone by without a single reply from the ReadyFlowers service desk. I have sent multiple requests to their support email address – still with no reply.

I can’t emphasise this enough: ReadyFlowers is a scam, a fraudulent company that should be penalised by the ACCC. They simply to not deliver what they promise on their web site and they overcharge their clients for products that do not meet the expected, decent level of quality and timeliness. Save yourself time and money – avoid ReadyFlowers at all costs.

My next step is taking this case to the ACCC, NSW Fair Trading, and, if necessary, the NSW police.