How To Align Business Executives and IT Strategists Along A Shared Vision

InfographicThumbnail-WhatInfoProsCareAboutInformation professionals are at the core of the digital transformation. Business leaders are increasingly relying on them to help define strategy and chart the course for the unrelenting progression of the digital transformation.

We outlined before how Scott Brinker of the ChiefMarTec blog and featured speaker at the forthcoming ConnectIT conference has written an eBook on the digital transformation and its impact on marketing. But it is not just marketing technology wonks that are chiming in.

Giovanni Piazza, head of information and knowledge management of Johnson & Johnson has distilled the transformation and unlocked the value of enterprise information. He will explain how at the ConnectIT conference (save $300 by registering here). Suzanne Carson of Philips Healthcare explains how they cracked the enterprise mobility challenge with BYOD, tablets and an “access anywhere” mentality. Others have figured out how to tap into predictive analytics and behavioral patterns to reduce customer churn.  They will each, along with Seth Earley and a host of other enterprise heavy hitters will be sharing their insider information with attendees at the ConnectIT conference.

This is the one conference you must attend to engage with IT leaders who “get” business technology and Business executives who have successfully tapped into the power and promise of information IT.

Meanwhile industry experts and analysts from Forrester, Gartner and IDC dig deep to uncover the trends and leaders in digital transformation across retail, manufacturing, collaboration and cloud sectors. Each of these speakers (and others) are gathering to share their experience and expertise at the ConnectIT conference in Greenwich, CT May 13-14.

Take insight and drive it to action. That is what business leaders do. The ConnectIT conference in Greenwich, CT May 13-14 is where business leaders go to compare notes, engage analysts and confirm their strategy. You can go and Earley & Associates will give you the VIP treatment with $300 off the conference cost. That’s like getting airfare for free. Either way, they’d love to meet with you there even as you meet with other leaders on the pathway to the digital transformation.  If you can’t make it to the conference, click the link to access the decision maker’s library and the other resources that Earley & Associates have assembled to help you through the coming shift.

pinterestThumbnailAs an added treat for those of you headed to Greenwich, CT May 13 – 14, we’ve assembled a neat Pinterest board of things to do while at the conference. From restaurants to museums to a local micro-brew festival, you’ll be able to make your own great connections through our shared digital transformation. Click Here for the Pinterest Board or search for “What To Do At Connect IT”

The Top 4 Key Concepts Driving Digital Transformation

DigitalTransformationMatrixInfographicThumbnailOrganizations from large enterprises to one-man shops are in the midst of a digital transformation.  Some gladly embrace the change. Others resist while still more are so busy keeping up with demand and duty that they risk missing it all together.

Nevertheless, it is happening and business leaders need to know what is happening and what to do about it.  Scott Brinker of the ChiefMarTec blog and Ion Interactive has written a wonderful eBook on how the digital transformation affects marketing technology. We have crafted a companion infographic entitled The Digital Transformation Matrix for leaders to download.

The first step is to understand what is happening. So we have combed the presentations, articles, thought leadership pieces, books and blogs and ConnectIT conference sessions to condense the results here.  The top four key concepts driving the digital transformation are outlined below

Key Concept 1: It’s the Attention Economy, Stupid.

We live in an attention economy. Amidst an abundance of options and opportunities our attention is the scarce commodity. People, brands, games and causes compete for a share of our attention. Getting it is not enough. They must hold it in order to get us to transact. We pay with our attention to receive insight, opportunity and information. This is a necessary but not sufficient precursor to a monetary or time or labor transaction. It’s an attention tax paid by enterprises for the opportunity to present you with a call to action. Therefore, enterprises must pay that attention tax in a way that gives customers, users and prospects a great experience and something of real value.

Key Concept 2: Your Brand isn’t Your Brand. Customer Experience is Your Brand

Abundance of options plus anonymity plus ease of information mobility means bad experiences drive people away while great experiences are sticky.

While products and services can be commoditized, experiences are inherently individual. They are your automatic differentiator. They’re going to be great or poor, easy or difficult, valuable or worthless.

It all comes down to the fact that your brand, your organization, has been forcibly democratized and it has nothing to do with your manager.  The reality is that your users and customers are now, more than ever, your boss. They’re an extension of your organization. They’re your:

  • Evangelists through word of mouth recommendations
  • Sales people through referral networks
  • Marketing arm through ratings and reviews
  • Customer support through forums and user groups

So next time you’re reading a blog post or LinkedIn article or tweet about the importance of your company culture, remember that your users and customers are a huge part of that culture.  Make sure they’re a positive influence.

Key Concept 3: All Marketing is Interactive

If you don’t believe it; if you love your brochures, billboards and business cards, you’re simply wrong.  Today, businesses are either more or less interactive than their competition.  Interaction is how customers and users experience brands (see concept 1).

It’s not that brochures, billboards and business cards are bad because they’re static. It’s that they’ve lost their edge because they’re bad interaction mechanisms.

What is the measure of a billboard’s interaction? The number of cars that drive past it? How does it create engagement or establish a give and receive relationship. How does it cultivate a great culture? It doesn’t. Some things are important for announcements and awareness. But awareness is not relationship and awareness without interaction is quickly forgotten.

Key Concept 4: Increasing Technological Sophistication

The abundance of good experiences available to users drives increasing sophistication in technology. In a milieu of abundant experience options, enterprise increasingly rely on ever-improving technology to differentiate, stand out and gain a competitive edge.

This means that marketing has moved out of the arts and crafts closet and into the growth hacking corner of the data center. Finding and keeping the edge in the attention economy requires faster, deeper understanding of the audience and their motivations. Engaging the audience and staying top of mind means creating and delivering content of real utility and value to them (not you) before you ever ask for a purchase or registration.

In order to do that, businesses must understand who their audiences are (demographics data), what they desire (trend analysis), what they ought to desire (predictive analytics), how they prefer to be approached (channel metrics) and what their influences are (social proof).  For deep dives into each of these topics from industry specific perspectives, check out the ConnectIT conference May 13-14.


The digital transformation is overtaking all global organizations. Some are quick and agile in adaptation. Others will resist for a time while some will undoubtedly be broken just as Blockbuster was by Netflix.

The Digital Transformation Matrix (download here) outlines and expands upon the 4 key concepts outlined here:

  1. It’s The Attention Economy, Stupid
  2. Your Brand Isn’t Your Brand. Customer Experience is Your Brand
  3. All Marketing is Interactive
  4. Increasing technological sophistication

These are distilled from our reading of Scott Brinker’s free eBook “A New Brand of Marketing” (PDF). We invite you to join us at the ConnectIT conference to engage.

Answering the ‘So What’ Question

Social Competitive Intelligence From BloomThinkBlending BI and Social Competitive Intelligence for deep insight into your business.

Business intelligence tells you what happened at work. Good business intelligence tells you what is happening now.  Competitive intelligence tells you what your competitors and the market did.  Good competitive intelligence tells you where they’re headed.  Both BI and CI crunch big data to deliver answers to the questions, “what happened?” and “how did that happen?” Only a social and deep web competitive intelligence framework can answer the most important question, “so what?”

In order to be actionable, intelligence must answer the “so what?” question.  The answer to “so what?” describes the impact of the information.  It describes assumed and presupposed context.  It fills in the rest of the statement that starts out, “we care about this because…”

Social competitive intelligence is a new discipline.  It is emerging now and will continue to grow over the next decade.  Some solutions exist already. But they and their marketing cousins – social media management software – are still largely focused on listening to and tracking social mentions and sentiment activity.  While these are important, the solutions today are overly simplistic.  They can list changes to competitor websites, report on where competitor PPC (pay per click) ads are run and measure generic brand sentiment.  However, rather than exerting a contextualizing force on the already massive volumes of available business and social information, they add to the data tsunami.  When your cup is already running over, it makes little sense to put it under a faster faucet.

The better solution is to put into place a framework that gathers, filters, synthesizes and analyzes social competitive intelligence and deep-web analytics (i.e. the web beyond Google indexes).  Then use that framework as a lens through which to view your existing BI and CI data.  Then you will be able to answer the all-important, “so what?” question.

Here are several real-world examples and a free flowchart to the right to show you exactly how to locate and use your competitor’s social and web  postings.

Social Competitive Intelligence - WebIntel
click for larger social competitive intelligence image

The Call Center Cost Hole

BI reporting shows increasing costs and increasing churn in your call center; overall a bad trend.  If that were the only information you had, the “so what?” answer would be to kick up call center recruiting a fill the gaps and some stricter MBOs for call center managers on employee retention.  However, with a social competitive intelligence framework in place, it is revealed that social media, blogs and discussion boards are full with blistering criticism of your call center escalation processes.  The withering criticism is poisoning the work environment and making a tough job even more unpleasant.  Viewed through this lens, the correct answer to “so what?” is not to step up recruiting.  Rather, it is to fix the poison call center environment and re-engineer the escalation processes while empowering call center employees.

Not only does this save substantial time and money, it actually boosts net productivity by empowering knowledgeable employees and eliminating training and the ramp up to full productivity required for each new hire.

The Outside Expert

You are ready to launch a new product into an overseas market.  But there are a host of regulatory issues to navigate.  While you have plenty of “independent” research and case studies validating your approach, you still want an expert in your technology and the foreign market to help guide you through the approval process.  The regulators don’t look kindly on experts who are among your paid staff due to potential conflict of interest.  You want an external expert but you want to avoid someone who regularly works for your competitors or who has expressed harsh opinions of your company or product in the past.

Traditional competitive intelligence will not provide expertise location like this.  Traditional BI only tells you that your new market has a lot of potential. If that were the only information you had, the “so what?” answer would be to get some internal recommendations and do a Google search and hope the person is available and credible.  But hope makes for a poor strategy, especially with something as big as a new foreign market launch.

With a social competitive intelligence framework in place, you are able to perform a social network analysis to first locate the influencers on the topic area, measure their credibility and influence relative to one another, and finally screen them for competitor interaction and engagement.  This approach yields not only a deeper, more highly qualified “short list” of available experts, it also reveals a large and rich set of topic influencers who your team can target for engagement and awareness of your new product.  Ultimately, this delivers not only the help navigating new regulatory processes in new markets, it also identifies a new set of up and coming influencers who will help your product remain successful after the initial splash.

The Competitor Customer List

Your internal BI tells you that sales are plateauing despite the fact that you have a better product with more features and a better history of quality.  Your competitive intelligence tells you that competitors are facing similar slow-growth periods.  It looks like the market is reaching saturation and new opportunities are small.  If that were all the information you had, the answer to the “so what?” question would be to switch over your sales strategy from a hunting to a farming operation.  Marketing would shift to promoting small incremental improvements and the grind of upgrades/maintenance/renewal would become the core of your revenue model.

However, with a social competitive intelligence framework in place you would reveal a gold mine of new accounts that you can hunt while dramatically boosting your competitive advantage.  The framework would reveal your competitor’s customer lists.  First, realize that all customers – yours and your competitors – are interested first in solving a business problem and only secondarily staying with a particular vendor or service provider.  Staying with a particular provider tends to be more a matter of convenience and trust than inherent and continued ability to deliver value.  This means there is opportunity to knock out your competitor or at least to come alongside them and establish a beach head; but only if you know who they are and how to approach them.  This is what a social competitive intelligence framework delivers.

That they are your competitor’s customer means that at one time in the past, they got a better deal or had a better recommendation or were simply aware of your competitor at the time they needed a solution. In the B2B world, there are few things that lock in customer.  Sure, they exist; big computing platform and enterprise application decisions tend to have at least a 7 year life cycle.  Similarly, being a Mac, Windows or Linux shop tend to be about corporate culture.  But as the recent Samsung mobile vs Apple iPhone campaigns demonstrate, even the most loyal customers can switch to a completely different platform if the reason to switch is compelling.

A social competitive intelligence framework makes developing a target list of your competitor’s customers easy.  First, perform a social network analysis of your competitor.  See who is commenting, following, liking and (re)tweeting about your competitor.  Then filter that list by companies and contacts you’d like to target.  Perform this analysis again around the time of your competitor’s big events like conferences and trade shows.  The cadence of social activity spikes during those times.  Additionally, your competitor will trot out their favorite case studies and customer testimonials during that time to add credibility to their pitch.  What they’re doing for you is validating the customer need, interest and ability to pay.  You just need to get them to switch or try out your product too.  Finally, mine your competitor’s website for their customer information.  Companies routinely post logos and ROI or case studies online.  Even if competitor brag sheets use unnamed customers, there will generally be enough information to make a very educated guess and narrow it down to only one or two possible companies (your potential customers!) in the area.

My company, BloomThink, recently performed a social competitive intelligence engagement designed to create a competitor customer list.  During one trade show, the target competitor was demonstrating an unbranded intranet system.  However, the layout, color scheme and look/feel of their demo perfectly matched an educational YouTube video posted at about the same time by a large local health care organization.  The health care company was added to the “competitor customer target list”.  Only a social competitive intelligence framework and strategy could have revealed the connection that was publicly available but buried in a mountain of previously unrelated social data.


As the old saying goes, “text without context becomes pretext”.  No matter how good your BI data is alone, without the contextualizing force of a social competitive intelligence framework, it becomes justification for gut feelings, political games-playing and flights of fancy. That is no way to run a business.

Enterprises and especially CIOs, CMOs and Sales EVPs need to implement a social competitive intelligence framework that understands how to do the following:

  1. Collect & Gather deep web and social information
  2. Filter & Categorize information to keep what matters and cull what doesn’t
  3. Analyze & Synthesize that information with existing BI & CI data
  4. Report & Act so that actionable intelligence can deliver meaningful business impact

BloomThink stands ready to assist.

Billy Cripe’s BoomThink is at the forefront of this new social competitive intelligence wave.  By not simply focusing on competitor marketing, but rather on internal BI and CI, competitor behavior, deep web (beyond Google) and social media streams, BloomThink’s social web intelligence framework and tactics – SWIFT – program delivers deep insight with actionable results.

Help IT Understand The Business Impact Of Back End Work To Drive Business Value

wile_businesscardA Business Impact Example from the World of Business Intelligence

Whether you’re a DBA Wizard or a business user who relies on some mysterious back end where the heavy lifting of computing gets done you are swimming in data.  But all too often the data wranglers we rely upon to keep systems performing under peak loads and at peak capacity are left in the dark as to why the systems they manage do what they do.

The result is that updates, upgrades and capacity expansions become their own justifications.  Context is lost.  Eventually an executive asks the simplistic question; why are we spending so much to update these systems? The results are predictable; answers are devoid of business impact and budget cuts and even layoffs are the result.  Unfortunately, this is an all too common a scenario and it does not have to be this way.

There is a wealth of value and insight trapped inside the data that is being processed and stored every second.  The challenge for those who manage the data systems is to both understand the business impact of that data and make it readily available.

To some extent Business Intelligence systems and fancy reporting dashboards have helped expose the value hidden in large amounts of work-a-day data.  These can display efficiencies, machine and network monitoring statistics and regional sales activities at a glance.  But even those findings are still missing the core point about exposing the value inherent in the data.

It is vital that data practitioners understand how to explain why the dashboard data is important.  For instance, operational efficiency charts show through-put from physical processes and business workflows.  Spotting clogs in the process is as valuable as having real-time traffic maps when you decide your daily commute route.  It lets you advise the decision makers on how best to rout your products, services or information so that it gets to its destination on time.  While a traffic jam may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for why you are late to an appointment, it is always better if you can get there on time by taking an alternate route.  This is the business impact that operational efficiency reporting delivers.

Machine and network monitoring have similar values.  These display much data from load to processor heat to the health of network pathways that our critical business systems rely upon.  But the biggest business value is not in simply being able to see when a node is down and then reacting to it.  Rather the value is in spotting trends that suggest something new is happening.  The ability to predict load and health and then respond appropriately is the entire premise behind the cloud and elastic buzzwords so prevalent in technology today.  But why is elasticity so important?  Why should we take for granted that it is a good worth thousands of dollars a year?  Elasticity of compute systems allow organizations to consume (and therefore pay) for only what the system needs at the time.  Rather than staying reactive and buying more bandwidth or new nodes after a spike occurs, machine and network monitoring data combine over time to illustrate trends that are graphed and displayed.  Automated elastic compute triggers are configured to free up or obtain necessary compute and network resources ahead of a demand spike.  The end result and the impact is that there are no dropped transactions (whether buying/selling transactions in the case of e-commerce or internal processing transactions in the case of back office/back end operations).  No dropped transactions means no lost business (aka revenue) and no drops in efficiency (which impacts on the business operations intelligence you read about earlier).

Most BI systems also have a roll up dashboard view of sales activities. At first glance these will illustrate the performance of different sales regions.  Managers and executives can get an idea of how revenue is flowing against the backdrop of quarterly expectations.  Sales managers can see geographic regions where demand is strong or weak and then use that insight to redeploy account managers to areas where they’ll be most effective. This data relies upon integrated and normalized schemas between a host of systems that back end data wizards manage.  From CRM to Help Desk to HCM and IDM, they’re all integrated in order to display the easily digestible heat maps and speed dials that are popular on reporting dashboards.  But in order for those systems to first be integrated, the network health and compute capacity must first be available.  Business transactions and operational efficiency must be operating correctly.  Otherwise the sales reporting might be incorrect, incomplete or showing old information.  That would be a disaster for intelligent decision making.  The impact of a sales BI dashboard is most easily observed.  The relationship between the deployment of sales assets and business revenue is one of the most direct.  Better sales means more revenue.

When IT data wizards understand how their back end world helps drive better sales, better business operations and better health of business technology systems, they can feel a better sense of ownership in the workings of the entire organization rather than just the databases, warehouses and portal systems they manage.

New Independent Oracle Magazine Launches

OTech-Magazine-Fall-2013We’re so proud of Douwe Pieter and the OTECH magazine team for launching a truly independent, deeply expert magazine for Oracle professionals.

OTECH is available as a PDF or to print.  Check OTECH out HERE.

Content is never paid and only recognized experts are selected/invited.  That means OTECH is fiercely independent and that you can get the best information available.

The first issue covers the following topics in depth:

  1. content security
  2. Database 12C for developers
  3. BI and Social Competitive Intelligence
  4. Book Reviews
  5. ADF for user experience
  6. Weblogic on the Oracle Database Appliance Virtual Platform
  7. How to select the best integration infrastructure component
  8. PL/SQL function strategies
  9. Moving from generated to designed UIs

As you can see, the topics range wide and all articles contain specific code snippets, diagrams, best practices and practical advice that you can use immediately.

Hats off to the OTECH team!

Fall 2013 Job Trends Show Focus On Maintaining Existing Business Rather Than Growing New Business

8553474140_21d87df062_hHacking hiring data is a fun hobby.  The trends show activities and may (sometimes) indicate where we’re headed.  Either way, understanding what businesses are looking for gives some insight into what their collaboration and social business needs are (or will be).

Looking at the top job titles for the top industries according to Indeed Trends shows that business is focused on keeping things running and running a tight ship rather than expanding into new frontiers.

Remember these are just trends and only my personal interpretation so check out Indeed Trends and other sites and let me know what you conclude!

According to Indeed, the top industries by job postings and their most sought title are

Without exception, these tend to be lower level positions that are responsible for keeping operations humming.  They could indicate that there is more demand and therefore more need to keep larger operations humming, but other economic data on slow growth and soft consumer demand seems to counterbalance such an interpretation.

The impact for social business should not be ignored.  An influx of entry or junior level employees will almost certainly be Millennial generation.  There is a heightened need to get these employees access to the institutional knowledge quickly so they can become productive quickly.  That means social business tools and enterprise collaboration systems.

Make sure you have a strategy in place to promote just-in-time-information, self-leaning and employee enablement.  There are lots of them and your business needs them to be successful on day Zero!

10 Steps for Social Competitive Intelligence

10StepsToSocialCompetitiveIntelligenceHere is a quick, real life example for how to estimate your competitor’s event marketing budget and get a hint as to when they’re going to launch a new product or service in 10 steps:

1)      List your key competitors. You know your market and the main players in your space so make a list.

2)      List key industry events.  You also know your industry has several “main events” each year.  These might be conferences, meet-ups, or trade shows. List those events.

3)      Most big events from the past several years have their own Twitter hashtag, Facebook page, Pinterest Page and even conversation threads in relevant LinkedIn Groups.  Make a note of those.

4)      Search, Scribd and other presentation / document sharing sites for presentations from your competitors at those events.  See our list of “sources and signals” for a great starter of places to visit for social competitive intelligence research.

5)      Make a note of how many presentations your competitors had at each event and the number of different presenters they had delivering those keynote and breakout sessions.

6)      Make a note of whether or not there is a “visit booth #12345” in the presentations.

7)      Now you’ve got your data, start the synthesis.

  • Estimate a cost of $500 – $1000 per presenter per conference.
  • Estimate a cost of $10,000 per small booth at a trade show and up to $100,000 for large conference sponsorship.
  • Remember that you’re not trying to re-create your competitor’s budget, rather you’re trying to determine if they’re ramping up to a big announcement or simply staying in maintenance mode or struggling to stay above water.
  • Did they have more presentations, more staff, bigger booth, new sponsorships this year than they have in years past?
  • Who is tweeting with the event hashtag from your competitor?  Who is re-tweeting them?  Who are they re-tweeting?  What are they saying on their Facebook Page?  What are they saying on the event’s Facebook page?

8)      Combine the data you’ve overlaid to produce the intelligence.  Is your competitor ramping up their spending?  Is the increased spending significant for them?  If they’re a small or medium sized company or a large company that has been struggling recently, a big marketing spend is a significant flag for upcoming activity.  Remember that employees will tweet, post and blog about items they know and that they think will help the company.  So a competitor’s retweet of a keynote speaker’s point may hold much more competitive significance than mere interest.

9)      What should you do about it?  Is there a way you can pre-empt your competitor’s announcements?  Is there a bandwagon that you should be on as well?  Do you need to take a legal action?  Speed up your own R&D? Or maybe just continue to pay attention?

10)   Compile the key points, synthesis and recommendations into an easy to digest report, dashboard or brief.  Make sure that every point you make is backed up by hard data that you found.  If you say your competitor is ramping up for a big product launch because of increased budget spends on conferences and increased chatter then make sure you can show that there was actually an increase over previous years. Strive for Actionable Intelligence and you will bring traditional CI into the new reality of social business.