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Supply Chain Transformation with SAP Ariba and Manutan

Author: Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Influencer & Non-Exec Cloud Industry Forum

Executive Summary

We live in a time of disruption, where brand names and legacy businesses cannot rest on their laurels due to increasingly affordable technologies empowering those embracing them to quickly pose a threat. The supply chain demands faster more cost-effective processes leading to the panacea of friction-less engagement.

Transformation sounds exciting and positive, but often the barrier of change and threat of the unknown deter the necessary action, speed and commitment needed to achieve the promised land. We live in a time where technology enables what 10 years ago was either impossible or cost prohibitive for all bar the few. Cloud, IOT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), Big Data, VR (Virtual Reality), Drones are all changing the living environment around us and with this changes the customer expectation and demand.

It is time to take stock of what is achievable, the importance of starting the journey now and to appraise the impact of doing nothing. The gain is far greater than the pain to get there; are you ready to value your future and make the 1st step?    Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Influencer and technologist with a wide experience of digital transformations in small and large firms has engaged with Manutan, a legacy firm who has transformed to stay relevant and brings us the realities from the story of their journey.

Section Headers

  • THE TIME TO TRANSFORM IS NOW
  • A DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SUCCESS STORY
  • THE DRIVERS AND CHALLENGES
  • MEETING CUSTOMER DEMANDS IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY
  • FACING UP TO THE CHANGE PROCESS
  • THE JOURNEYS PATH
  • THE NEXT STAGE OF THE JOURNEY
  • GETTING YOURSELF INVOLVED

Supply Chain Transformation with SAP Ariba and Manutan

THE TIME TO TRANSFORM IS NOW

Digitisation, business transformation, market disruption, digital transformation, all common terms we hear and read daily, and all appear easy at face value. However often human and process barriers delay the decision and outcomes desired.  Having been in the cloud sector for over 13 years I have watched as it has gone from Infant to Child, (Intially crawling past those holding onto legacy approaches and fearing the cloud) through to walking and now starting to jog, the full sprint being ahead of us, as we witness acceleration of innovative and disruptive use cases being bought to market.

We are finally seeing more cloud advocates in the room than cloud doubters / resistors and seeing enough momentum to see cloud and its cohorts of Big Data, AI and IOT push past the human barriers.  Technology used to divide the market, with solutions offering ‘Enterprise’ functions requiring associated costly infrastructure and complex deployment that priced them into the bracket of the haves in the Enterprise space alone. You would find an example application that required numerous high end servers or mini-computers to run it, database servers and complex installations which quickly raised the entery price bar to a level that distanced them from the average firm.The have nots who could not afford such elite offerings were relegated to using different products often lacking key functions or advantages or the backing of vendors large enough to deliver innovation and as many enhancement updates. This technology hindering went on for many years until the disruptive entrance of true cloud offerings.With cloud we statred to witness application delivery, through multi-tenancy eficiencies, that flattened the market, making the commercials for a 5000 user license or 5 user license viable for both respective companies.  The smaller firm for the 1st time were able to choose the same class offering as the large Enterprise brand name, without the high up front investment cost barriers. Cloud has enabled new innovative firms to revitalise many areas of the software markets, delivering innovation, more function and fresher user experiences that befit our mobile internet  based world. Legacy software vendors have been forced to revitalise their offerings, re-platform and transform them to a more flexible technical and commercial model, all to the benefit of their employees, customers and business partners in the supply chain.

Supply chains have long relied on traditional manual processes, heavy lifting and inefficient data insights into where to tune and gain competitve advantage and financial gain. Proven Cloud technology is here today to tranform this effectively and affordably and it may seem obvious to take the 1st steps to making this happen, but many embroiled in the old way are hampered by legacy thoughts and percieved barriers of the journey ahead and hence take no action. With the disruption happening across industries right now, even a succesfully performing company can quickly turn sour  should a competitor change the game on them. Today a breadth of companies are undertaking this transformational journey and are on their way to surprising competitors, as they come out of the gate refreshed and supercharged.

A DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SUCCESS STORY

I recently had the pleasure to gain great real-world insight as to the challenges and market benefits the transformation brings through conversations with both SAP Ariba and Manutan’s Xavier Laurent who has lived the journey of transformation over the past 10 years.  Digital Transformation is not as easy as the words and hype written about it may make it seem. It is a combination of change involving people, process and technology and needing the business gains to visibly outweigh the losses and pain to drive people to make it happen.

Manutan has a 50-year legacy of B2B distance selling, from original paper catalogue through to being an innovator in the initial days of the web though to dynamic cloud based digitisation of the B2B supply chain. Originating in distance selling of lower priced transactional products, higher cost of sales through manual engagements were palatable in the early days where competition was less stringent, and margins were more supporting. Manutan was one of the 1st to identify the importance of the web going back 15 years, its first foray into digitisation. This undoubtedly made the driver to digitise the supply chain process further an easier one than for many firms.

Noticing a pressure from customers looking for an easier more cost-effective relationship, it was the last 4-5 years which took the change further as Manutan invested in an E-procurement team focused on a portfolio of customers, looking to ensure everything was working correctly throughout the engagement process. Combining this with a digitisation of systems and procurement has driven a very positive increase of clients 10% ahead of industry averages, the sort of outcome any business will happily accept.

To achieve the level of supply chain digitisation and client positivity was not simply a case of technology, but a combination of smart decisions, investing and resourcing in the right places. For example, Manutan has 10 people (purchase consultants) in charge of building KPI’s around productivity speed and accuracy of customer projects. Whilst people and resources help, without the necessary new cloud systems to empower them the successful gains being recognised would not have been as great.

THE DRIVERS AND CHALLENGES

One of the initial challenges was that customers Class C spend typically only represented 5% of their acquisition process and hence it was not the focal point for gains. Purchase directors seeing low value transactions in Class C had not focused in this area. Despite there being a volume of orders with small value items across the business the true value gain that could be recognised here was hidden, a sort of could not see the wood for the trees. However, once Class A & B had been optimised fully and customers had reached this maturity in their lifecycle, they quickly realised that whilst with Class A and to a degree Class B purchases there were some easy wins in simple price savings, that with Class C price savings were not going to be as easy to achieve, as with lower item cost items there was less to play with. The gains here are to be made from process improvements; reducing supplier breadth, management/removal of rogue purchases, lowering supplier management costs and as much as possible automating and digitising the process. Through adoption of effective tools, in this case SAP Ariba, it is a clear benefit to improve productivity on Class C purchases and thus gain competitive advantage.

With C Class purchases typically having a wider spread and less attention, the challenge is even greater in procurement to collate, structure and analyse related data in order to ratify and streamline purchasing.   Reports show that up to 80% of company data is unstructured and thus not delivering business insight in order to drive value.  Unsurprising then that only 8% of companies currently believe that they have effective C class purchase process management.  On Class C products seeking to make the gains from cost reduction on unit pricing may seem obvious, but this can also be counter-productive. The impact of a lower cost supplier can be a less reliable service, costly errors and longer lead times, with knock on effects on your supply chain and larger orders and relationships where the C class itself is not the key, but they contribute to the whole for the customers output. Focusing on Streamlining inventory, removing silos, and improving forecasting of demand can all enable a gain across the chain.

Xavier’s focus at Manutan of reducing supply chain costs for C class transactional products and helping customers gain is not an uncommon need. The drive was to deliver an application architecture that helped customers by digitising everything possible including product visibility, workflows, new orders, delivery and invoicing.  Through time spent understanding customer purchase processes and challenges with the manual approach to Class C, Manutan has achieved a 3

times reduction on overall cost for its customers, both raising the relationship bar whilst embellishing customer loyalty, competitive advantage and greater growth of revenues. Some of this has come from the attitude in the business to change and make it happen, with added empowerment from the flexibility of the Ariba platform which handles the most transactions in the Manutan group today.

In today’s demanding world customers are demanding and expecting more with a right 1st time, faster, easier engagement. The need to therefore build a solution to a customer’s specific need that includes monitoring, reporting, analytics and support (and to do it fast) is essential. The use of SAP Ariba as an enabling platform for these gains is now enabling Manutan to address new challenges from customers and deliver solutions in hours and not weeks, a ‘why would the customer go elsewhere’ advantage. Through the automation and efficiencies gained, customers are now able to see the logic and gain of reducing suppliers to one that can deliver reduced breadth of suppliers, better cost management across product lines and overall consolidation.

MEETING CUSTOMER DEMANDS IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

Manutan is driven to being known as an expert in its field, with a reputation for reliability, speed and maturity. To have maintained this and grown above industry averages is an accolade in itself. Xavier cites SAP Ariba combined with the embodied attitude of its team as the gateway to adding flexibility and agility to the Manutan Mantras. Transforming as market needs and trends demand is not easy and requires a ‘can do’ and ‘take action’ approach, this being the hindrance of many larger organisations.  Manutan did have the advantage that it was an early adopter of the web and the basics of e-procurement, but it has had to maintain this willingness to ‘early adopt’ in order to be able to send a message to clients that ‘We can adapt to your needs fast’.

However, Manutan historically had taken a re-active best efforts approach to meeting customer needs as many will recognise in their own businesses. This progressed to building a team incorporating service account managers and purchase consultants in charge of partnering with customers in the same language and then conduiting the client’s needs internally to Manutan divisions such as IT, Supply Chain, finance, etc. Part of the process change identified meant that Manutan alongside the technology changes needed to become more agile in its people engagements. This meant being able to react quickly in an opportunistic mode, no blocking of custom requests from customers due to corporate lethargy or systems but embracing them with the knowledge that Manutan’s systems and culture would support this approach.  This now allows long term projects to continue and be managed effectively but enables fast responses to short term customer needs ahead of these projects. The siloed communication approach of old was disbanded and to achieve this agility and customer efficacy, Manutan empowers all at Manutan to speak directly with clients. No more mis-interpretations as account manager takes their interpretation of a customer’s needs to IT; IT directly speaks with and engages the client, delivering faster outcomes and a greater customer experience for the expertise they access. Xavier reports this has driven a greater acceptance in the business of the new technologies and systems, empowerment from top down to staff and a great level of customer partnership.  All in all, it enables customers to move faster on anything it engages on with Manutan.

As Xavier talks you can feel the enthusiasm he has for what the business has achieved, and the excitement for what is yet to come. His words iterate what I have heard from many, that it is no easy task to bridge the gap between old and new, to utilise the amazing technologies available today to deliver what today’s customer gravitates towards.  Deferment of digitisation is easy when realisation of the work involved comes to light; mapping out processes; engaging test customers, internal workshops, sometimes changes of people’s roles and responsivities, if not their approaches and processes that have often been comfortable to them for years. A large action list of challenging activities appears at the outset and this is before technology selection and implementation even rears its head. No wonder many default to the status quo, delay projects and wade on painfully with existing systems and methods, seeing their customers churn and staff frustrations continue. However, as Manutan perfectly illustrates ‘from the other side’ viewpoint, once you step out over the chasm, momentum gains and you quickly find yourself progressing on the journey with people on-board and supporting the destination and embracing the steps to get there.

FACING UP TO THE CHANGE PROCESS

The change process should still not be underestimated. Xavier shared with me that there were still people barriers to overcome before they achieved today’s market changing delivery model. Both sides of the supply coin needed education and mentoring into the new world. Purchase Directors and decision makers were not aware of the technology approach Manutan wanted to deliver and salespeople did not initially appreciate the opportunity the technology presented. Sales was familiar with talking to procurement about price and process, but not with the capabilities of E-procurement to change the game and relationship.  Throughout the process the organisation engaged its staff, right from the outset employees were involved and not isolated from what was going on, they felt they were part of the solution Manutan was moving towards and remained heavily involved start to finish. This was clearly a transformation journey of the business and not IT in isolation, nor was it a process only issue. This encompassed people, process, IT and the organisations culture all adjusting where and whenever required to shape to what was needed to win with existing and new customers.

I probed Xavier for what had been learnt from the change process, what had to be overcome and with hindsight what would have been done differently? Unsurprisingly to me, (as it’s a theme not..

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Influencer

The telecommunications sector remains, for the majority part of the legacy world. It may not appear so to many, as customers often interact with the web and cloud-based interfaces and apps at the front-end, which hide the traditional infrastructure and process challenges under the surface at the telco provider.

This is mostly a plaster onto an old legacy architecture wound. Most are still utilising monolithic applications on-premises or at the most make a lift- and- shift into a private cloud. This means sluggishness in development, testing and release processes, slowing down go-to-market initiatives. It lumbers the organisation with a ball and chain, preventing agility in a faster moving, more demanding customer world, all while costing more.

Today’s telecom providers need to review other technology sectors and take heed now of the disruption that not becoming ‘new’ is causing. Legacy approaches leave you in the duck-on-water model; It may look smooth to the customer on the surface, but underneath, wild kicking is going on. As each day passes, the demand at the surface is growing, and by not addressing these hidden challenges, organisations are left with expensive infrastructure models requiring complex capacity planning, growing hardware Capex needs and a time-to-market that will allow competitors to take the lead. Waiting until a competitor starts to disrupt is too late! By this time, they will have already undertaken the transitional digitisation work, starting your journey will leave you in a heavy catch-up mode, which is costly, risky and painful!

The core components of any telephony offering are network, connectivity, service delivery and billing management, alongside engagement with the customer, a series of complex recurring processes that are better suited to cloud based platforms. Recently, these have most commonly been extended out to private cloud architectures which have testing and disaster recovery hosting built into the design. Whilst this approach, like in many technology sectors has been a step up from the on-premise solutions, the world has moved on quickly to a point where the public cloud has removed its initial limitations to deliver near private cloud services at far lower and diminishing costs.

Accelerating digital transformation is key. In the cloud, game-changing technology is appearing rapidly and in an affordable commercial fashion. The barrier to overcome, as I have written and spoken on before, is no longer a technology one, but the human barrier. The resistance comes from the ‘perceived pain of change’! Deferring the pain is an easier decision than taking it on sooner. Everyone has enough on their plate, transformation involves change of process, complex discussions, often a step back before five steps forward and some level of risk to be mitigated. Having to learn something new, take on extra work and engage with some risk is not something the average person seeks out.  Hence, the clearer the gain and upside, the sooner you need to start with strong leadership to drive past these human barriers. Many do not engage change until the pain of not changing outweighs that of the effort to do so.

Utilising the public cloud feels harder than the prior lethargy of doing nothing.  And whilst there are some minor gains in the model of ‘lifting and shifting’ an existing application to a private cloud, they are not of the scale achievable now from the public cloud, nor could they really be considered a true digitisation initiative.

What is required is a transformation to cloud native-ness, utilising the true possibilities of the cloud in as far reaching a way as possible. Public cloud now empowers you to benefit from elasticity, both technically and commercially, an auto-scaling of resources in a pay-per-use model which delivers dramatic cost and operational benefits. The capability such platforms enable have greater reach than simple cost savings and flexibility, but extend to new revenue-generating opportunities. It means being able to address new market paradigms, such as those coming from the Internet of Things (IoT) and the coming 5G.

Telcos now need to take the step to address their platforms to support the market growth and customer demand, and need to do so quickly. Cloud, IOT, 5G and other emerging technologies are accelerating and in parallel to customers’ expectations, the situation for telco operators get more fickle than ever before.

Core BSS applications for telco, based on the public cloud, from the likes of Optiva is going to enable ‘some’ who choose, to be the makers and shakers who ‘take’ the market on the new cloud journey. The ability to have real time billing and charging on the public cloud and deliver a greater user experience, faster time-to-market and more agility, all at a lower TCO, is going to be critical to a CSP’s ability to stay ahead of the competition and to maximise their revenue opportunity – throughout all of the challenges they face.

Tools and systems enabling rapid rate card deployment, any-play offerings, storefront provisioning and cross-service promotions are going to be essential; where the market could previously sustain months for delivery is fast becoming weeks to days as customer experience expectations heighten and the need to react quickly to competitors grows.

Customer experience and the demand for a shortened and personalised experience is industry reported as becoming the number one differentiator, outweighing price and feature set. With this the case, the window to get your house in order is closing. For those that successfully deliver on this need, the ability to retain margins and still gain market share is the panacea laid out. Reducing churn whilst increasing attraction is a mantra not easily achieved and is expected to become harder as the buyer dynamics continue to shape and change. Now is the time to achieve deeper integration.

Public cloud is here now, established, proven and changing the way everything is delivered. CSPs need to take heed and move now, not in 5 years’ time. The speed of change needed previously allowed the telco market to change at a slower pace, but now as other industries move faster and faster, the excuse that this is the way telcos have been, will not wear. With a clear focus on top and bottom line pressures in a market getting ever more competitive by the day, CSPs are under growing pressure to achieve cost savings and operating efficiencies whilst increasing the service quality and flexibility to clients, a tough ask in any sector.

What Optiva has launched is a key opportunity for the telco market to grasp this opportunity, to achieve change and to better serve the market opportunity, gaining an agile foundation for continued success.  Basing it on Google Cloud Platform with its flexibility and scale, is allowing Optiva customers to get the best of both worlds, cost-effective elastic compute power alongside a reliable and fast platform. With customers such as Truphone already adopting Optiva and reporting expectations of 40-60% reduced TCO against their OCS costs with accelerated speed to market, others will quickly be jumping on board to be early out of the gate.

Operators need a clear plan of action to revitalise their services for agility in the world we now live in which is only going to get more demanding! There is no going back, customers live in a world of choice and greater freedom to move provider than in previous times. Ignoring this fact and not reviewing public cloud options now will cost operators millions in loss of both revenue, market opportunity and competitive displacement, not to mention direct costs of their OSS/BSS stacks. It is time right now for CSPs to start their diligence on public cloud offerings, both for their short term and long-term success and brand reputation.

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In today’s business world who does not have a mobile/cell phone?  Whether it be a company provided device or increasingly a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) own users phone being used. Either way this poses a challenge for businesses relying increasingly on data insights and technologies such as CRM to power their business success.

Of course, Salesforce itself is mobile friendly and you have Salesforce1 and other mobile applications. These however require manual keying (at least for today) and are used mostly, in my long experience as a Sales Leader, on the road as a tool to lookup data and information and rarely for logging all key new information (after all the small touch keyboard does not facilitate this). If a user is mobile making and receiving customer calls, they often are on the move, in a position where using the keypad to make notes (even if willing and intending to) is not practical or legal. The intention to do it later is also applauded, but often not delivered upon as our fast-paced world blurs this intention into ‘I forgots’.

Historically it has been hard enough to capture telephony activity data. Click to Dial we can all do, Wrap-up codes and taking notes into the backend system from the CRM is commonplace, although we argue some do it far better than others for the users. But these are based around web phones, soft phones and desk phones which are easier to access and control from such technologies.

Introducing the mobile phone, brings new challenges; How do you log calls made from the mobile phone, record those calls and the harder, one capture inbound calls to that mobile phone.  With an increasingly mobile workforce how do you capture the activity levels of these employees? and how do you capture that data into the CRM to give insights and visibility of what is really going on?

As a Salesperson do you want to know all you can about your own business’s interactions with your client. If you are managing an important client relationship, do you want to know that this customer was speaking to finance yesterday for 45 mins before you go in for an on-site meeting today? surely so!

This is the easy part. For example, with Natterbox, even if your finance team is not on Salesforce, we can log the (non-mobile at this point) inbound or outbound conversation into Salesforce as a call made (60+ data points are captured automatically about the call with no user intervention or action, such as length of call, transfers, who called, who to, etc) with an optional call voice recording captured and logged into Salesforce against the customer record. Thus, by seeing this on the account or perhaps through having a customised alert in Salesforce on your accounts, you now know about that call having taken place and have the option to speak to your finance team before your client meeting to ask what the 45-minute call was about and hence go into the customer informed and avoiding any embarrassing surprise discussions!

So how do you achieve a similar level of logging and visibility when the calls are from or to your employee’s mobile phones? Well first it is important to understand the challenge. On a desk or web phone the inbound and outbound call is being routed through your company PBX (sort of your telecoms server), a traditional telephony approach to routing calls and thus allowing the capture of data on these calls in a consistent centralised approach. This gives the ability for this call data to be added to your Salesforce CRM records. (Do check however that this is what you are getting as more often the telephony provider whilst collecting this data, is NOT putting it in your CRM, but is storing it in their own separate proprietary database. This means a separate portal and reporting engine which makes it hard to correlate and report alongside ‘real; client data. Yes, you can try to merge the two data sets, but in our extensive experience this is cumbersome, error prone and very rarely happens. (and by the time it does it is out of date – so much for big data!).

Far more useful to have reports and dashboards alongside each other, allowing you visibility of which customers, customer types, by spend, etc have been calling your support the most; how many calls, how often, how much talk time has been spent on your key forecasted opportunities for the month or quarter. All of this captured and reported on automatically and agnostic of the user entering or not entering data to capture calls made, hence giving you a true and accurate view across each user, customer and the business; available at any time to any Salesforce user with permissions.

Back to the issue of mobile users on their cell phones. Capturing outbound calls your users make from their mobiles requires the user to utilise an app on their phone that directs the call traffic via the cloud telephony service, allowing that service to capture the call data, who made the call, who to and length of call etc, automatically logging this data in the CRM (and if opted, to also record the call using the same record policies as for the office users). This is because if not, the native dialler on the phone will route the call via the cell providers service and thus out of the control of any 3rd party telephony/PBX or Salesforce integration provider, it’s simply how the cellular networks architecture operates.

This can typically be achieved by using an easily downloadable softphone onto the mobile phone and entering some configuration settings provided by the provider (such as Natterbox). You then need to instruct the user to make business calls using the softphone and not the native phone dialler on their phone. Some businesses advise their users to make personal calls using the native phone so they are not logged or recorded and business calls via the softphone. Others have gone as far as mandating that the company will not pay the phone bill for native calls, as softphone calls are treated as data package usage and not native cell calls (going over the 3/4G data network or WIFI). As softphone calls when the user is on WIFI are routed across that network they save not only call costs but also on the cellular data charges. Thus, it is feasible to achieve a strong commercial saving on calls across your users if a lot of your users are connected to WIFI when making a portion of their calls.

Capturing Outbound call data and recordings is the easy part of the puzzle. The hard part is how do you capture the inbound. If a customer for example has the employees’ mobile number, perhaps from their business card or is calling them back, this goes directly over the cellular network and to that user’s mobile device, thus bypassing any 3rd party services and logging capabilities. Increasingly businesses want to capture and gain insights from having the most complete picture of data possible.  There are a couple of options to achieving this within the limitations imposed by the cellular network technologies. The ideal method would be for the cellular operator to allow configuration of call routing or to capture this data as it transits their network and to allow (through API’s) for a customer to route this data as a service to their chosen data service / CRM or such system. Unfortunately, this is not something on offer or seen in the market and would also require the operator you user to provide this, meaning all cellular providers would need to take part or you would need to move your provider to the one that did! Natterbox achieved this with one major operator by embedding our own technology into the cell providers data centre networks allowing call recoding to take place, but this is an impractical approach on wholesale as it would require this to be achieved in as many cell providers as possible across the globe, and for the provider to externalise the ability to move that data outside of their network. No mean feat and one that no one has shown any signs of getting any traction towards.

So, this being the case, how do you implement a solution that best encompasses cellular/mobile phones alongside your landline provisioning, to ensure logging and recording of business calls into your CRM alongside CTI/desktop calls and other activities.  Getting the true 360-degree view of client interactions has always been the CRM panacea, but yet who truly achieves it?  Every time there is a manual requirement of the user to make the data entry or for a synching or export/import of data, the chance diminishes!

So, what are the panacea needs requested;

  • you need a user to be able to make calls from their mobile and have the action of the call, time, length etc captured and ideally a recording of the call captured into the CRM with no user interaction
  • You want an inbound call to the user to be captured and recorded in the same manner
  • You ideally want the user’s personal calls to be excluded from this logging

And how might you achieve this;

  • To ensure outbound calls from mobiles are logged automatically (who called by who, call time, length of call etc) and where required voice recoded into the relevant CRM record containing that number then;
    1. a softphone/calling App needs to be installed on the user’s mobile device which the user uses and thus directs the outbound calls made via the telephony providers system and onto the recipient customer.
    2. The user needs to be mandated to make outbound business calls from and via this softphone and to NOT use the native phone dialler application on the device.

In this way outbound mobile calls are data captured and recorded automatically.

  • For inbound calls to cellular devices;
    1. Firstly purchase a new pseudo mobile number for each user (in some regions this can be another actual mobile number that is not SIM related, in some this may not be possible and you would use a normal number (non cellular) to become the Pseudo mobile number for each user), this will become their new ‘public’ mobile number – This number is configured at the telephony provider (Natterbox) to direct the call onto the users ‘true’ mobile number. In this way anyone calling the users mobile on the new number is automatically directed via the telephony provider and on to the user’s mobile device, thus allowing logging and recording of the call as above into the company system (Natterbox).
    2. Publish this new number on business cards and email signatures. Consider asking users to not answer calls direct to their mobile number for an introductory period to encourage existing clients to call this new number. Perhaps put on their voicemail ‘please call this new mobile number xxxx for me now’. Even if you start to capture 80% of calls this way you are 80% better off than a nothing to/from mobiles is being captured.
    3. A bi-product of this process is that if this customers number is in the CRM rules can be applied automatically such as;
      1. When directing the call to the users mobile, before connecting the call machine whisper the customer name; ‘this is customer ABC calling’, so they can answer more informed, even if that client’s number is NOT stored in their mobile phone!
      2. Automatically have rules set for example that when the person is on holiday it re-directs the inbound call to their sales admin, their PA etc to help the customer advising the customer automatically, ‘<Name> is on Holiday this week, well direct your call to Paul in the office to assist”, instead of simply letting the call go to the mobile voicemail, where often they have forgotten to edit the message to say they are on holiday.

There are several additional benefits of this approach;

  • It separates business and personal calls, meaning that you get a more distinct cellular breakdown of the % of associated costs
  • It supports BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) well. Often today an employee either uses their own phone and number or are issued a company phone and end up carrying around 2 mobile phones, meaning out of work it is easy to leave work behind, taking only the personal mobile! Another challenge of the BYOD approach is that if you put the users ‘own’ mobile number on their cards, when they leave customers may still be calling direct to your ex-employee, perhaps now at a competitor!
    • With this new approach you can allow an employee to use their own phone and mask that number with your business owned one, meaning if they leave calls still come to you and you can even easily re-direct all calls to another individual or Better still you can re-allocate that persons accounts and set a rule centrally to direct the calls to the relevant new account manager and electronically whisper to that person before the call is put through that this is one of (LEAVERS_NAME) accounts calling and being diverted to you!
    • It also means that for the user claiming calls back from the company is simpler as they simply claim back data costs and mobile outbound calls from the native phone/number are treated as their personal calls.

At Natterbox we empower out customers to improve their telephony alongside their Salesforce investment. With an ever-increasing mobile workforce, incorporating the user’s remote calls easily into the overall telephony and Salesforce world is important.

Natterbox allows a user working remotely to easily select their mobile as their calling device, perform click to dial inside Salesforce and have Natterbox do the rest; Connecting the call between the users mobile and customer number, capturing the automatic telephony data, recording the call and improving the user experience and efficiency of the call and logging of data for the user inside Salesforce (such as notes and wrap-up codes). Importantly you now gain the easy option to incorporate mobile users and their calls into the centralised data and reporting capabilities that Salesforce provides you.

“We need to be able to capture data, make sure it is accurate and do it fast. Our customers now expect it as standard. Natterbox gives us that whole picture, which means we can give our contact centre teams the knowledge they need to help customers quickly.” Andrew Evers, Head of IT at Reconomy.

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Thought Leader & Cloud Sales Director at Natterbox

Cloud is undoubtedly the driver of the new tech economy. Be it SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, Public, Private or Hybrid clouds, E-Commerce, IOT (Internet of Things), Big Data or some iteration that at the back of it is supported by cloud technologies. Technology is both enhancing and reducing in cost at such a speed, that it is no longer the entitlement of only the large firms, but can empower any organisation from small to large, from start up to established, to be able to revolutionise their customer offering and to elect to disrupt or be disrupted.

With this speed of technology change comes a need for those supporting the business to adapt quickly and adopt new methodologies, knowledge and skills to empower a company to take advantage of these new possibilities. Switching from Waterfall to Agile, from networking to virtualisation to Docker, from hosting to IaaS & PaaS and from C, through Java into Swift, Hack and Dart.

AWS, AZURE AND TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURES

Take Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure as examples. It is extremely easy now to spin up these cloud offerings to run applications or to act as a temporary testing environment. However whilst easy, there is also complexity to address, from which modules, security model and storage approach to utilise through to managing the user of these across an organisation to ensure optimisation commercially and that security is not compromised.

A wide range of firms still rely on traditional IT infrastructure (locally deployed server applications and databases) despite the increasing rapid rate of companies migrating to cloud based systems.  Digital Transformation seems to be on the agenda of most Enterprise organisations, banded about as if it’s a switch to flick and a fast thing to undertake. However, the reality is far from the truth and accepting the change required and having the skills at hand to achieve it, are barriers impeding a growing number of companies.

CHANGE AND MIGRATION

Change is hard to accept at the best of times, particularly if you have previously been the subject expert on a vendor / technology for a long period, to now find that is being disrupted at pace and your worth is diminishing either in your own firm or to the general market. Being prepared to let go of many years of acquired skills and accept the need to re-start and learn a whole range of new skills is hard to accept and many will resist, defending the status quo and hindering business change and their own personal progress.

For companies moving applications and services to cloud platforms, migration challenges are one of the top constraints affecting IT, as there are no automated switchovers on offer and customised internal or external migrations vary from mild to heavy development changes. For example, migrating a home grown or proprietary application requires new application development and testing. However, if taken on with commitment, the move can provide faster more agile application development through devops and utilisation of enhanced cloud features and API’s leading to improved application lifecycle management.

However, with this comes the need for professionals with the skills and knowledge of the chosen cloud platform to deliver the migration project in a structured effective manner. Cloud continues to enhance quickly and even those in cloud a decade ago are finding they are needing to continue to learn new skills, such as the usage surge in containers, for which a Robin Systems Survey recently cited that 81% of organisations are planning to increase their use.

Big Data has introduced new approaches, tools, skills and with an expected 60% per annum growth (IDC) cannot be ignored. With the increased volume of data and continual crunching demands databases are going to live in the cloud and demand new platforms and approaches.

SECURITY, SECURITY & SECURITY

With the plethora of changes from new coded Applications and architectures holding vast data stores in the cloud, the need for greater cyber security expertise is an essential requirement. With the human element recognised as the most vulnerable area of security, the introduction of so many new skill areas will introduce increased risk of new security exposures. Software developers in cloud must understand and treat with extreme caution, the need for increased responsibility of security assurance and compliance. With the heightened awareness of security threats and breaches and the introduction of the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe with far heftier and damaging fines, getting this wrong is now going to be catastrophic. It is estimated that less than 5% of cloud applications are ready for GDPR, leading to a vast breadth of enhancement In a very short period.

The perfect storm circling this comes from the expectation that 30-40% of the corporate workforce will retire in the next decade, combined with a reduction in those studying relevant ICT subjects and the reduction in educations capability to provide effective education in the required areas. We have a rapidly increasing need for new technology skills (to both support new technologies and to support digital transformation from old to new) and a big % of those with technology backgrounds retiring rather than reskilling, backed a reduction in educations capability to attract and educate to the level of need required.

Businesses now have pressures upon them like never before!  Markets that shift quicker, more fickle and demanding customers, users being influenced by or becoming millennials (who expect faster, quicker, easier, cheaper from the world they have grown up within) and disruption all around them from new born firms who can attack with the gusto of using all the new world tech and methods, with no legacies to unchain themselves from.

SUMMARY

Companies MUST have access to the skills required to be able to employ the full scope of new tech on offer to their business advantage. to be able to move old creaking applications to newer form factors and to deliver a better quality of service and user experience to the demands of any device, any place, any time working for both their employee and their increasingly new breed of customer.

Unless the issue is addresses quickly, you can expect ‘Supply & Demand’ for these new skills is going to simultaneously implode and explode, creating a chasm between need and affordability, as those who can do become scarce and valuable commodities, available to the few who can afford!

You can follow Ian at www.ianmoyse.cloud

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Thought Leader & Cloud Sales Director at Natterbox

At the recent and 1st Oracle Openworld European Edition, there was a large excited audience listening to the many real-world use cases on offer, both from the exhibition floor and in the many keynote sessions.

I not only had the pleasure of mixing and engaging with many from this community to broaden my cloud knowledge of what is possible, happening and Oracle’s part in this new world order, but also of speaking personally with Steve Daheb, Global SVP of Oracle Cloud.

At the event Oracle detailed how its channels are continuing to grow to deliver over 50% of its cloud revenues in EMEA, how Oracle is proud to be showing itself as a SaaS leader in most analyst Quadrants and its focused drive to work with fewer, but more aligned cloud partners than the breadth of channel it had historically. What was clear throughout the sessions and conversations, is that technology is no longer the barrier to delivering on the wants of businesses and their customer expectations, human’s willingness to make it happen is!

People issues are hindering innovation, with the need for a digitally focused mindset key, as is having the skills and attitude to execute upon the mindset. There is a wide need to un-learn and re-learn to embrace the new approaches now possible and we need to see a new term embraced in business, a need for Re-lag (Retiring Laggards), meaning those holding back business change through old school thoughts and resistance need to step aside and allow the intrapreneurs to drive and thrive. We need to see a new mindset in leadership of passioned agility, with new skills driving tech innovation and removing the barriers to change. Transformation requires the acceptance that it will get harder and steeper before pedalling gets easier and you enter the freewheeling acceleration stage.

Those that use ball and chain process and systems as the excuse will continually be threatened and disrupted. Legacy systems and its data have made delivering business insights challenging and it takes more than a big data solution to simply fix this.  Many have been spending more time and effort collating data than is justified by any rich outcome it has delivered to the business.  It is not pure data that holds the value, but the correlated insight it has the potential to give and the resultant changes this can drive.  Modern supply chains demand a need to be connected intimately at a data level and to deliver real time insights at all stages to all elements of the chain. Achieving this model requires a willing to overcome the process change, effort and cost driven by the vision of the can be that is now available.

Steve expanded on the events sessions and insights, describing how cloud is now a necessary business mandate and no longer a maybe, having gone beyond stacking the rack to delivering an end to end integration across platforms and clouds. Oracle has widened its engagement with end user business agenda’s and stepped past the traditional CIO / CTO engagement to have a wider interaction across the business, both leveraged through its breadth of technology offerings, possibilities, transformation skillsets and partners solutions.  He described how Oracle now has engagement with a breadth of new partner technologies, many from firms that were not around in the old traditional Oracle channel times and how partners remain an important strategy for Oracle, but that the right partners in this new cloud world are key.

Tech innovation is changing the back-office CFO role from that of traditional scorekeeper, to increasingly being a business partner to the CEO, driving the innovation and future of the business. We are seeing an increase of IT responsibility falling into the wider remit of the CFO.  Tech ‘done right’ is no longer about keeping the lights on, but about the insights, business outcomes/efficiencies and customer experience it empowers. At all levels this involves being increasingly connected and ‘outsourced’ to other platforms, using hybrid clouds talking to ‘cloudified’ technologies from disparate vendors and form factors.

Oracle is increasingly empowering these end games through the breadth of its cloud technology, partner offerings and flexible delivery methods.  This includes its ‘Universal Credits’ program (unfortunately named for the UK) enabling customers a way to utilise flexible financial credits in a re-purposable fashion, across all and any of the cloud offerings from the Oracle portfolio.  A very different flexible approach from the now cloud led Oracle, to that of the old Oracle known by many from the database focused era.

With its focus on driving new cloud partner solutions, increased breadth of engagement across AI, VR, Database and Cloud platforms complimented by its commercial flexibility for Hybridity, Oracle is continuing to forge its place as a power player in the cloud community and changing the historical engagement it had with clients to a far broader level.

Ian Moyse is a recognised Cloud Thought Leader & Oracle Cloud Social Influencer and can be found at www.ianmoyse.cloud and www.ianmoyse.co.uk

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Thought Leader & Cloud Sales Director at Natterbox

At the very 1st Oracle Openworld Europe there was plentiful discussion, debate and example of how Cloud enabled technologies are rapidly transforming the approach to business delivery and a theme of strong visions of the near future was shared with the large audience.

Oracle talked strongly how it’s breadth of Hybrid solutions differentiates its value proposition when compared to those vendors such as AWS  and of a smart future, autonomous and scalable as we have never before seen! Much coverage was given to supporting customers transformations from a partnership and not technology perspective, founding on how technology is available, affordable and rapidly ahead its adoption levels with the key barriers of adapting our processes and attitude to accepting and using the power now at hand.

Accenture gave insightful examples of its massive shift to cloud across its own business and in its client engagements, AI (Artificial Intelligence being a heavy foundation). Accenture firmly illustrating that we are in time of Citizen AI  (Meaning AI working as a partner and alongside people, not as the feared replacer!) This led to powerful reality setting foundations that we should recognise AI as a ‘Citizen that needs to be raised and trained responsibly’ in order for it to serve us well.  Digital Assistants need to be thought of more generically and not just for the typical support function.  By combining AI, Chatbot and Big Data principles we enable a Human front end interaction to trigger a multi-flow of under the cover technology collaborations, with multiple digital assistants colluding to provide a single answer to the human through use of a heterogenous mix of backend systems and data sources. Thus, the human gets a powerful insightful outcome, which looks simple and singular, but in fact was founded on a complex mix of technical digital assistants talking to each other and working out the result under the covers.

Extended Reality was not only discussed, but shown in an entertaining presentation delivered in augmented reality, presenting a 3d accompanying explanation next to a stage speaker which rendered on the large screens to illustrate the reality of new tech today.  Posed as XR, eXtended Reality) this embraces VR as well as Augmented and new immersive tech to deliver new and remote ways of using specialised skills and tech to extend the reach and value of humans with these skills.

Big Data was given a different more realistic view, as not being the easy solution to everything that many pertain, with a firm focus on the critical importance of having confidence and integrity in the data being used. ‘It is not about having data, or Big Data, but about having trusted data and relative insights from it!’

IOT interestingly repositioned as the Internet of Thinking, delivered insights into having smart edge devices that can enact upon rulesets and data from a centralised cloud brain that can be disconnected at any time, leaving the edge capable to still deliver safe and accurate ongoing value to the whole. This was expanded into exciting insights as to how smart edge devices are already capable of transforming supply chains into autonomous automated, market gaining efficiency engines.

The combination of all these new smart technologies (IOT / Blockchain / Cloud / Edge) was described as delivering and enabling the ‘intelligent enterprise unleashed’; a world where tech and its commercials is no longer a barrier to innovation and disruption. The new tech making the impossible possible, for a wide range of applications, industries and business scales and leading to the true possibilities of frictionless business and supply chains which can partner rapidly, at scale.

We are clearly in the midst of immense change, a time where technological possibilities are reshaping and disrupting the rate of innovation.  Application capabilities are now empowering informed decisions and increasingly engaged employees, driving productivity and greater strength for those that embrace and adopt it.  Analysis was presented to re-affirm something we all know, that 70% of customer effort is still typically spent keeping technology lights on and that automation needs to rapidly fix this and allow effort, resource and investment to be spent on more valued innovation and change.  Organisations that are taking change action now and road-mapping them strongly are taking a rapid lead on those that are not!  Organisations need to become innovation powerhouses driven by the ‘now’ capabilities of cloud.

One speaker spoke of us being at the End of the IQ Era and the start of the EQ era. The importance of Smart insights from a growing plethora of cloud driven systems are driving the ability for systems to feen business IQ to be fed to the masses and a need for EQ on what to do with the information and how to relate it to smart business decisions is going to be key.

An independently produced survey  was unveiled ‘Uncovering the hype around innovative technology’ and discussed during the event, giving good additional insights into the placement of Chatbots, AI, Blockchain,  Cloud Security and Autonomous Database technologies were reported as lead agenda points for businesses looking to use cloud to innovate and disrupt their sectors.  The report showed indications that there is a wide range of piloting and planning around many of these new technologies, whilst others such as Security from Cloud is already experiencing accelerated deployments.

The challenge to all of this happening is no longer technology or commercial barriers, but the key enabler or disabler is clearly the acceptance of people and the drive to make change happen. Examples were strongly given of organisations where a Line of Business (LOB) Intrapreneur was the conduit and instigator for a far bigger market outcome for the business.

‘Throughout the day the audience was engaged by ‘real’ exciting incredible use cases of IOT, AI and CLOUD that will be touching all of our everyday consumer lives already or in the very near future.’

Ian Moyse is a recognised Cloud Thought Leader & Oracle Cloud Social Influencer and can be found at www.ianmoyse.cloud and www.ianmoyse.co.uk

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VIDEO HERE

The big noise in the market right now is GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation. This is the new European rule for data protection which is replacing and superseding other local country laws. It still applies despite Brexit for the UK, and it will be enforced as of 25th May 2018, so we’re not that far off.

It will have a big impact – businesses will be truly accountable for how they handle data, and the consequences of getting it wrong are high. So where does that fit within telephony?

One the major parts of GDPR is around gaining consent from the customer in order to use their data – you don’t own it, you just have a right to use it. That’s great if they fill in a form on a website or you’ve got something electronically trackable, but what happens if they give you verbal acceptance, how can you track that? Having your agent tick a box on a system or CRM is not enough because there is no proof the customer has agreed to it. A better solution is to have a call recording of the customer providing consent, easily accessible and attributed to their record.

Another major aspect of GDPR is the customer’s right to be forgotten. If requested, your system needs to be set up such that you are able to identify and remove all data relating to them, including call recordings. Often CRM systems are complex, set up in a way which makes accessing call recording difficult, often impossible depending on access rights. This is where Natterbox differs – we make it really easy to access call recording and other associated customer data. We put the relevant data against the record in Salesforce, so you can find the call recording quickly and easily.

Natterbox allows the business to have its view, and admins and users their own relevant access.

With GDPR you need to respond rapidly to comply with the rules – it is therefore imperative that it’s simple to manage customer data and preferences. Natterbox delivers this easily and affordably, helping you manage some of the requirements GDPR will bring into play. By recording both outbound and inbound calls, landline or mobile, and attaching them directly to the Salesforce record, allowing you to link to all the other data you have.

Another benefit of automatic call recording, outside of GDPR, is the ability to utilise the recordings for training and quality purposes. Improvements in customer care can be attained by allowing the agents to listen to previous conversions and find areas to train and coach on – a major advantage allowing staff to pick on things they may have missed.

For more great content like this VISIT HERE

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I have written and spoken many a time on Disruptonomics, the economy of rapid change we now live and survive within.

We have seen an accelerating growth of large reputable and seemingly safe brand names slipping from customer favour and even going bust.

Blockbuster Video succumbed to the new world of Netflix and Amazon Lovefilm, Tower Records fell (as did HMV before its recovery) to the new music world driven by Apple, Spotify and others.

The most recent news was that of Toys R’ Us, a 69 year old firm and a globally loved brand with 1,600 stores worldwide is failing badly and putting 64,000 jobs at risk with $5bn in debt at a time where customers can order online quicker, faster and cheaper. Amazon Toys reputedly did $4bn revenue in the USA alone in 2016 of the total $20.4bn USA toy sales.

In 1960 the average age of firms in the fortune 500 was 60 years. In 2015 we now saw an average age of 12 years, with 52% of the fortune 500 firms having changed since year 2000. In the top 10 valued companies we now see 5 whom have been around less than 20 years (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Netflix).

We now live in a world where as a business and brand you are only safe only until you are not! We hear the phrase Digital Transformation used widely, but this is not easy to achieve as a legacy firm. It involves an aggressive willingness to accept change where required in all its forms from Process, and technology right through often to people. To really transform to align to the new world can be painful, risky and unpalatable for many. The first discussion that normally occurs is how does this affect what we’ve got, our existing revenue, profit and valuation. What CEO and board is willing to accept that to get to a more successful new foundation for growth, that they may have to go backwards before going forwards. Facing a drop in revenue or profits, a stock price drop on the promise of future gains is a painful one that puts most into a ‘do what we can but don’t commit to that’ mode!

And for this reason, we see many dipping their toe into the new world order, but not truly committing and wondering why new Unicorn, new born companies with no legacy ball and shackle holding them back, accelerate, disrupt and take business from them. This usually resulting in the same outcome they sought to avoid, deficits in revenue profit, growth and share price. But this was done to us, not to ourselves so were not at fault. This was out of our control, it’s the market, its customers being fickle; blame anyone but themselves for the short sightedness and protective nature from old world thinking. Blockbuster Video is a perfect case in point, at one point they had the opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000 for a price of $50m and chose not to!

Old world thinking is no longer working, we have seen this with the growth of historic brand failures that have already occurred and will occur in the coming few years.

There is no doubting a need to transform and across sectors, In the IT sector itself, Microsoft famously re-invented itself as the Cloud company over the last 5-7 years, moving at one point 95%+ of its development to cloud to all in and ensure it happened. Oracle, SAP and others have followed, publicly mandating their commitment to cloud as not an option! In Banking we are seeing challenger banks such as Metro Bank and Number26 (N26), challenging old traditional models to better serve the customer of today.

The customer and buying dynamic has changed. The customer offered a simpler, faster and more convenient to their modern life option (sometimes cheaper as well often simply comparable) will change from a legacy brand to a new name quickly. We have seen this proven with Amazon, Uber, AirBnB and will see an increase as customers become more app and new world accepting.

The clear message is a need to understand and be willing to bet on future success over existing status quo and to take step backs as ways to step forwards and acceptable and needed risks for survival.

We are already witnessing the start of a 2nd wave of disruption as the disruptors up their game and expand into other arenas. For example Uber, mostly and incorrectly labelled a Taxi firm, is in reality a platform for moving something from A to B using a 3rd party vehicle. They have launched Uber Eats (Food delivery) and Uber Rush (Parcel Delivery) and you can see the similarity with how Amazon entered our world as a Book seller, only to widen the platform to other products rapidly.

Amazon as a case in point is a multi-disruptor; firstly in online e-tailing, then onto Video streaming, through to the providing of providing its own cloud services (having had to build for its own use) and now moving rapidly into food retailing and e-tailing through its acquisition of Whole Foods. Netflix like Amazon has also moved from the disruption of the video film rental market to online through to true content production and ownership which now threatens the traditional broadcasters. We can expect to see these disruptive companies gaining power through success and revenues and divesting themselves into other markets where they can take on the historic names at their own game.

In the coming 3-7 years we will unfortunately witness more of these legacy brand name failures hitting the news and if you are sitting their now thinking you don’t need to change, think again.

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Thought Leader & Cloud Sales Director at Natterbox

Cloud is undoubtedly the driver of the new tech economy. Be it SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, Public, Private or Hybrid clouds, E-Commerce, IOT (Internet of Things), Big Data or some iteration that at the back of it is supported by cloud technologies. Technology is both enhancing and reducing in cost at such a speed, that it is no longer the entitlement of only the large firms, but can empower any organisation from small to large, from start up to established, to be able to revolutionise their customer offering and to elect to disrupt or be disrupted.

With this speed of technology change comes a need for those supporting the business to adapt quickly and adopt new methodologies, knowledge and skills to empower a company to take advantage of these new possibilities. Switching from Waterfall to Agile, from networking to virtualisation to Docker, from hosting to IaaS & PaaS and from C, through Java into Swift, Hack and Dart.

A wide range of firms still rely on traditional IT infrastructure (locally deployed server applications and databases) despite the increasing rapid rate of companies migrating to cloud based systems.  Digital Transformation seems to be on the agenda of most Enterprise organisations, banded about as if it’s a switch to flick and a fast thing to undertake. However, the reality is far from the truth and accepting the change required and having the skills at hand to achieve it, are barriers impeding a growing number of companies.

Change is hard to accept at the best of times, particularly if you have previously been the subject expert on a vendor / technology for a long period, to now find that is being disrupted at pace and your worth is diminishing either in your own firm or to the general market. Being prepared to let go of many years of acquired skills and accept the need to re-start and learn a whole range of new skills is hard to accept and many will resist, defending the status quo and hindering business change and their own personal progress.

For companies moving applications and services to cloud platforms, migration challenges are one of the top constraints affecting IT, as there are no automated switchovers on offer and customised internal or external migrations vary from mild to heavy development changes. For example, migrating a home grown or proprietary application requires new application development and testing. However, if taken on with commitment, the move can provide faster more agile application development through devops and utilisation of enhanced cloud features and API’s leading to improved application lifecycle management.

However, with this comes the need for professionals with the skills and knowledge of the chosen cloud platform to deliver the migration project in a structured effective manner. Cloud continues to enhance quickly and even those in cloud a decade ago are finding they are needing to continue to learn new skills, such as the usage surge in containers, for which a Robin Systems Survey recently cited that 81% of organisations are planning to increase their use.

Big Data has introduced new approaches, tools, skills and with an expected 60% per annum growth (IDC) cannot be ignored. With the increased volume of data and continual crunching demands databases are going to live in the cloud and demand new platforms and approaches.

With the plethora of changes from new coded Applications and architectures holding vast data stores in the cloud, the need for greater cyber security expertise is an essential requirement. With the human element recognised as the most vulnerable area of security, the introduction of so many new skill areas will introduce increased risk of new security exposures. Software developers in cloud must understand and treat with extreme caution, the need for increased responsibility of security assurance and compliance. With the heightened awareness of security threats and breaches and the introduction of the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe with far heftier and damaging fines, getting this wrong is now going to be catastrophic. It is estimated that less than 5% of cloud applications are ready for GDPR, leading to a vast breadth of enhancement In a very short period.

The perfect storm circling this comes from the expectation that 30-40% of the corporate workforce will retire in the next decade, combined with a reduction in those studying relevant ICT subjects and the reduction in educations capability to provide effective education in the required areas. We have a rapidly increasing need for new technology skills (to both support new technologies and to support digital transformation from old to new) and a big % of those with technology backgrounds retiring rather than reskilling, backed a reduction in educations capability to attract and educate to the level of need required.

Businesses now have pressures upon them like never before!  Markets that shift quicker, more fickle and demanding customers, users being influenced by or becoming millennials (who expect faster, quicker, easier, cheaper from the world they have grown up within) and disruption all around them from new born firms who can attack with the gusto of using all the new world tech and methods, with no legacies to unchain themselves from.

Companies MUST have access to the skills required to be able to employ the full scope of new tech on offer to their business advantage. to be able to move old creaking applications to newer form factors and to deliver a better quality of service and user experience to the demands of any device, any place, any time working for both their employee and their increasingly new breed of customer.

Unless the issue is addresses quickly,  you can expect ‘Supply & Demand’ for these new skills is going to simultaneously implode and explode, creating a chasm between need and affordability, as those who can do become scarce and valuable commodities, available to the few who can afford!

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Ian Moyse, Cloud Industry Thought Leader & Cloud Sales Director at Natterbox

A decade ago, smartphones did not exist; 14 years ago Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter were not thought of;  only 3 decades ago no one had a personal computer. Today we live amongst rapidly accelerating advancements. As each generation of technology is improved, the rate of progress from edition to edition speeds up exponentially. We are bystanders as Cloud, Big Data, Virtual Reality, Drones, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Robotics & more change the world around us and get more powerful, affordable and ubiquitous. In the 21st century we won’t see 100 years of progress, it will be more likely 1000 years or more!

The role of technology innovation is to make our lives easier. more productive, more efficient, more informed and quicker, to do things better or achieve things we could not do previously. Innovation should create better lives and experiences for the user or interactor with that technology.

So, taking this all into account I have to ask, do you not think one technology has been left behind? We have had phones and switchboards since the late 1800’s, soon after which the PBX  (Private Branch eXchange) evolved.   So why has the phone experience stagnated for the last 15 years when other technology has accelerated ahead?   Think about the experience you get when you call an organisation, standard long IVR’s (Interactive Voice Response) menus. Being transferred from I’ll-informed agent to agent, repeating your story, sitting in call queues and then living the pleasure of this again when you call in the next day to chase the call back, promised, but that didn’t come!

Web site journeys have long been personalised, linking to customer data (CRM) and to live choices and behaviours to keep the customer engaged and enjoying the experience.  Money and time is spent making sure that a user’s web interaction, is not bland or frustrating, that it does not push the customer away!

Yet, when it comes to the good old phone interaction, one that has been around far longer we find ‘85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their phone experience.’ (Source: Salesforce). In the world of customer service, we have seen the game changed by the likes of Amazon who emerged quickly to disrupt, delivering an experience of volume and efficiency.  Unfortunately, this also set the bar for the consumer of what to expect and demand from others.

When it comes to customer service and interaction, a vast breadth of firms with margin pressures and a need to sell and service more effectively, have taken to changing customer interaction models to utilise the technologies now available. Businesses have fast moved to online self-service, web forms, live chat and automated phone systems in order to serve more with less and aim for the 24*7 service to anyone, anytime on any device, the omni-channel panacea!

Unfortunately to achieve the level of self-service of the likes of Amazon is costly, difficult and most do not have the resources and skills at hand to achieve it. Thus, the poor customer even when self-serving often falls between the cracks, finds exception cases and needs help. Needing to speak to someone the hunt for the phone number starts, you should be able to choose to speak to a company if you wish, let alone when you need to!

The commonest choices of a customer when seeking help are to speak to someone on the phone (61%), email (60%), live-chat (57%) (Source: LivePerson’s Connecting with Consumers report).

Once you have achieved base camp and found the number, the climb begins. Anyone called a company to hear the message, ‘Unfortunately we are experiencing a particularly busy time right now’. Why?  Because they have cut too deep and pushed customers to the self-service approach to the level that they cannot support traditional methods of interaction, hence blocking customers from it.

How has the medium that has been around the longest become the worst to engage through? We call through, expecting to get a IVR (Interactive Voice Response) menu. You wade through these to be put in a queue or be told ‘all our agents are busy please call back later’ or ‘your call is important to us please hold’ (for the next 25 mins, so not that important I guess), Leading to the classic buzzword bingo winner of ‘Sorry I can’t help, you should have pressed 5 not 4 on the options. I’ll put you back into the queue for the right person’. What world have we created, where companies want you to self-serve, as they cannot serve you themselves!

It’s no wonder customers get furious, ranting on social media to their friends and anyone that will listen.  Has anyone who has set any of these systems up actually acted as a customer, realising the lack of good experience they are delivering?

Why can we not have telephony, that when needed is efficient, personal and helps, not hinders us. What a pleasant surprise that would be gaining great customer Sat. or NPS scores. Customer agents would have less disgruntled and impatient callers to deal with and businesses would not be afraid of receiving calls and start publishing their phone numbers once again.

Why can we not be presented with a personal greeting, from knowing the phone number on our account or that we have called recently. For example, “Hello the Moyse family, thanks for calling back. If you are calling about the Boiler issue logged yesterday please press 1 to go right through to your agent, if not press 2 for other options” Immediately making me feel served and also shortening my phone journey on the likelihood that is why I am calling back.

This is possible today and far more, the cloud technology is available, affordable and easier to configure than older systems. Businesses need to up their Phone games refresh their telephony and align it to customer experience and centricity, integrating to live CRM data to allow them to deliver the personalised shortened phone journeys that their customers are shouting out for!

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