Vitamin Y: The app approach to building data service value

Context:

Peter O'Grady - Information Builders

New York-based Information Builders has committed to expanding its presence in Canada through a mix of community building exercises. One approach that the long-time provider of business intelligence solutions has adopted is the breakfast seminar targeted at exploring different techniques and applications for analytics. This past month, the Canadian marketing team invited Peter O’Grady, director, business intelligence product marketing at Information Builders, to Toronto’s National Club to discuss the unique requirements and user/producer benefits of customer-facing applications.

O’Grady has primary responsibility at Information Builders for brand development, product positioning and technical selling, but he is also the brain child behind “UX Design University,” a training program that aims at guiding internal employees and external customers through the creation of stunning business intelligence applications. The program takes into account user interfaces, color theory and practical implementation considerations, topics that O’Grady also touched on in his Toronto presentation Interactive eStatements: Raising Your Customer’s Experience. For a glimpse of O’Grady’s views on the key methods to improve BI solutions — and the US Bank’s online eStatement app particular — see the companion video which follows at the end of this “Y” session.

Three keYs:

Tech readiness: The consumerization of IT is lately viewed as the tendency of individuals to demand, or simply bring consumer services and technologies into the work environment — insistence on corporate recognition and enablement of employee smartphone preferences, or BYOD, is often mentioned in this regard. But at root, consumerization carries another meaning, which may be viewed as the empowerment of the consumer through creation of devices and services that make technology accessible to users of all types.  Steve Jobs’s three click rule, which mandated that any service or function be available to the iPhone user through no more than three button clicks, is a good example of this trend. The tech readiness of broad swaths of the population that consumerization has engendered has created a tipping point in opportunity for businesses to communicate with customers in new ways.

The Church of Measurement: In an article for The Atlantic back in 2012, Ben McAllister noted business addiction to data, and our need to ensure that data tells the right truth. But reliance on quantified information has not been reserved to the enterprise space; rather, it is increasingly the preserve of the consumer who has become more data focused and more adept with the use of numbers, as well as technology. O’Grady offered several examples in his presentation of individual use of data for household finances, play, etc. The rise of the Infographic as a primary communications medium is another. This is a trend that marketers have taken up (with not a little gusto) as focus has shifted from sentiment monitoring of social channels to the manufacture of “customer experience” through the creation of new services that bring value to customers.

A fine balance: By providing data points — the new version of the truth — businesses are now looking to build brand loyalty and product recognition. But the data deluge can be as problematic as the lack of information sharing: McAllister likened this practice to a “Measurement Trap,” and O’Grady to TMI for individual consumption. To ensure they are providing customers with “value” rather than noise, O’Grady advised the development of applications, as opposed to tools with rules, which present information in ways that are readily digested by individuals. The key is to balance delivery of data depth with a simple app interface that offers intuitive access to tailored information that can be cut, spliced or filtered according to user taste.

The bottom line:

Individuals’ tech readiness and predilection to consume data have combined with new technologies for social outreach to create a ‘perfect storm’ of analytics opportunity. For companies that now capture massive amounts of data on customer behaviours, processes and products, the sharing of information to provide new consumer or partner services appears a win-win proposition. Beyond building brand loyalty, the development of new means to interact with customers can introduce huge cost savings. Consider the banking industry, which in transition from a bricks and mortar operation to ubiquitous deployment of ATMs, online banking and now mobile apps for service delivery is able to better manage physical assets. But recognizing that it’s not easy to get it right, banks, (and other businesses) have made heavy investments in design and testing to ensure that the right information is delivered securely to the right user, both internal and external. Customers, as O’Grady pointed out, have new expectations for data that is simple to acquire, easy to access from any device, anywhere at any time, is flexible and delivered through self-service portals. To get this right, companies may benefit from technology like Information Builders’ InfoApps, which have been designed to appeal to emerging customer requirements.

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