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Need to Align with Ever-Changing Technological Landscape
Abnesh Raina
Founder and CEO-PlumSlice Labs
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The evolution of technology especially, Cloud, Mobile, and Social at the same time during the last few years has changed the business landscape quite dramatically. Also on the horizon are wearable/ IoT, robotic, and Big Data technologies that are also going to have groundbreaking impact on commerce in the next few years, continually shifting consumer expectations and behaviors. While this will be challenging to deal with for some companies, others will use these to their advantage and speed ahead of the competition.

From Google Glass and Nest Thermostats to several types of Tech Watches and Health Bands, consumer technology is moving at a pace never seen before; but how about the technology to run these companies that design, manufacture, market and sell products to consumers in this ever changing and fast paced environment. Do these companies need to do something different to manage their customers, products, internal workflows and data or keep doing what they have been for the last 20 years?

Savvy businesses of all sizes understand these trends well and are using technology to produce smarter goods, faster, and deliver consistent experience to all stakeholders across all sales channels. Newer and upcoming businesses do have an advantage though of not having the baggage of outdated technology and mindset and are usually ahead in adopting newer technology products versus a majority of larger companies that only want to go with proven age old solutions regardless of the fact that those solutions were proven in a very different environment for a very different type of customer. As businesses work on their technology strategy to deal with the magnitude of this change a few considerations to keep in mind that have transitioned from being important to critical in this new environment-

Use of formal collaboration tools to manage business processes and workflows with extended enterprise including suppliers and customers has become a necessity now since most companies large or small have a global ecosystem. Cloud based collaboration and workflow tools can help in this area. While continuing to evolve, cloud technology has already gained a certain level of maturity and prices have come down significantly, thus the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market is tapping into these tools with unprecedented ability to communicate, collaborate, and innovate. This is huge, as smaller to mid size businesses can now use these low cost technologies to easily source materials globally and make decisions fast, an advantage once held only by larger enterprises with many physical locations.

In order to scale and grow effectively companies also continue to move towards data driven decision making as well as increase their reliance on automation in decision making by use of vast amounts of data that is being collected today. Their success in doing this will be defined by two aspects:
1. Their ability to understand and identify relevant linkages between their data sets within and across structured as well as unstructured data.
2. Accuracy of this data which is being used in this manual or automated decision making processes.

Understanding linkages between data sets will enable much faster response to changing marketplace needs, proving them to be a competitive advantage; for example having the ability to understand social acceptance of a product in a certain geography, being able to combine that information with current inventory levels, open orders, and POS to make various types of decisions needed in an automated fashion provides a significant advantage over other companies that may take days or even weeks to understand and act on this information.

Similarly businesses that have better, more reliable and accurate data will definitely make better decisions faster having a direct impact on their top and bottom lines. Hence data quality has now become a top mandate for several companies. Clean and consistent data is a requirement across all of a company's channels. Achieving this, however, is proving to be a challenge as the sheer volume of data is simply making data quality unmanageable. Also as they add more and more products to their portfolio, details about each product, and sales channels, it's easy to see how the clean data problem is unfolding.

For many companies, data governance-who owns the data and its integrity, and who owns creation of which data and when-is also unfolding as a key issue. Various teams own individual pieces of data, for example, product photos, videos, and copy content, may be owned by different parts of the organization. Traditional systems were never designed to handle the volume and variety of data they're seeing today. Such complex processes with multiple owners and channels need end-to-end workflows that allow for collaboration between internal and external stakeholders; for example, the photographer needs to upload shots from product photo shoots for review and approval, the approver then needs to go through a filtering process and approve the final shots or request additional ones, the retailer needs to be able to use the workflow to set deadlines with automated email alerts to remind participants of their specific due dates, and so on. Retailers and brands also need to disseminate this product information to many other systems and tools. Today, much of this back and forth is done via emails, spreadsheets and other manual channels, but it's unreasonable to expect that type of manual process to scale to hundreds of products, never mind thousands, and still maintain the integrity of the data. However, there are ways and some new tools companies can use to start to get their data under control in this fast-paced, high-growth environment.
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