How data gets democratized

By Lisa Halim, General Manager, Dynamics, Microsoft Asia Pacific

The gold mine of customer data has always been an asset closely guarded by marketing departments. This meant that every other employee who wanted to learn more about their customers needed to go through a long and complicated process to lay their hands on the data they required.

But imagine if everyone in an organization had their finger on the customer pulse. Imagine if everyone could sense customers’ ever-changing behavior and expectations. Imagine all of us being receptive to new ideas, services and products, throughout the supply chain. We would all be a lot more agile in driving transformation.

We are not far from this imminent reality as the giant pieces of the ‘customer awareness’ jigsaw are starting to finally fall into place.

First, there’s information and data. The thing about big data is that it’s not just one Big Thing. The change that big data brings to businesses is the ability for data to flow quickly from multiple sources to multiple destinations, with some smart analysis along the way. In a retail scenario, data from point-of-sale transactions today can be captured by buyers and retailers instantaneously. As a result, retailers can push promotions in real time to their customers, rather than planning for seasonal promotions based on historical buying trends.

Second, it is about how we work with that data. With the support of cloud technologies, data and information is now available from any device, whenever we want. I recently saw a Forrester report that said 56 percent of us send emails before we get to work, and 73 percent of us after we leave. With so much information accessible from the cloud, we can already work from anywhere, anytime.


Everyone can become a marketer in a cloud-first world

What this all adds up to is companies starting to work in very different ways. Let’s take a simplified marketing-led scenario. Periodically, department heads sit around a table, review sales data, draw conclusions, set targets and amend strategy. Change happens by organized consensus, followed by monitoring and review.

In short, companies’ response to customer behavior is a process.

But if every employee has the pulse of their customers, decisions can be made instinctively and almost spontaneously. Employees responsible for product development, service delivery, operations, and input procurement — all these employees will be instinctively customer-aware. Cloud and data analytics will enable everyone to see what is working, where it is working, and all in real time.

The result is organizations responding naturally to customer behavior and preferences. Everyone is engaging with customers proactively, and not after deliberation. Processes give way to habit which is made possible with real-time data and analytics. Marketers become enablers, as colleagues from one end of the supply chain to another constantly attune themselves to what the customer likes.

Real-time marketing brought to life with cloud technologies

One such example we have seen at Microsoft is New Zealand homewares and furniture company Citta Design. This innovative company, known for its trendy and contemporary designs, was able to expand globally into markets such as Japan, South Korea and North America by honing its employees’ customer awareness levels through the use of cloud and data.

The company was focused on developing a strong customer experience as part of their expansion strategy. They wanted to gain better control of their brand. But as a wholesaler, Citta Design had little end-customer contact. So, when the company expanded into retail – opening stores across New Zealand and Australia – they chose a cloud-based platform that brings together Enterprise Resource Planning, business intelligence, infrastructure, analytics and database services in a single offering.

Citta was able to pull all relevant information together using this one singular platform. As a result, sales, customer and supply chain data is accessible via apps on employees’ mobile devices, giving everyone complete and comprehensive visibility.

The result is amazing agility right across the organization. Citta Design’s employees are now in real-time contact with their customers. They can evaluate customer responses to new product lines in each of their markets. Today, the company doesn’t just tailor promotions for specific markets, it tailors merchandise offerings to its customers too. If offers are not creating business impact, they are modified overnight.

It also works the other way around. Every interaction with a customer is tagged, so any customer-facing employee who is speaking to a customer has all their relevant information in front of them. This means that every employee is now well placed to capitalize on deep customer awareness made possible by cloud, data and analytics.

Marketing as a way of life

To me, the ability to bring real-time customer awareness into every part of the organization is a real game changer for businesses — big or small. Strategic decisions impacting business become second nature to employees. That’s a marketing revolution.

As a marketer and business lead for Microsoft Dynamics in APAC, I have seen and learned from organizations that have embraced intelligent technology. Many are ahead of the game. And they are now able to reap the benefits from this new world of real-time marketing.



This article has been published on CIO Asia, MIS Asia and Computerworld Singapore.

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