I learned very early on in my career that what gets measured gets improved.  Yet, I am still surprised to this day at how many business leaders do not practice this principle. Maybe they do not understand or believe in this principle, maybe they are too busy to implement this principle or maybe they just don’t ask their technology departments to mine the data necessary to implement this principle.

As a leader in Micro Technology Stewardship I do my best on a daily basis to preach this principle of utilizing data from Business Intelligence initiatives to track those items you look to improve, be it sales, revenue, costs or productivity.

Striving to improve and utilize the many models of continues improvement is a key element in leadership success.  Continuous improvement at the  most basic level is easy, just ask yourself and your personnel three easy “How” questions:

1. How are we doing

2. How can it may be better

3. How about if we try something different

But remember, you can not improve without the data, you need the data to establish a baseline starting point (what are we doing today) and you need the data to measure if your changes positively improve or negatively impact your desired outcome and you need the data on an ongoing basis to continue to improve and course correct if things start to slip.

The technology that makes up many of the systems in the IT world today is at a critical juncture and in the next five years everything from mobile devices and applications to servers and social networking will impact IT in ways companies need to prepare for now, Gartner Vice President David Cearley says.

Cearley offered the following as examples of the way the tech world is changing:

  1. 30 billion pieces of content were added to Facebook this past month.
  2. Worldwide IP traffic will quadruple by 2015.
  3. More than 2 billion videos were watched on YouTube … yesterday.
  4. The average teenager sends 4,762 text messages per month.
  5. 32 billion searches were performed last month … on Twitter.

So what issues need to be on IT’s radar screen for 2012? Here’s a look at the Top 10 Tech Trends and the implications of those issues according to Gartner:

1. Media tablets and beyond: Bring-your-own-technology at work has become the norm, not the exception. With that come security and management challenges that IT needs to address. By 2015 media tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Android and Apple.

2. Mobile-centric applications and interfaces: Here touch, gesture and voice search is going to change the way mobile apps work in the future, Cearley says. By 2014, there will be more than 70 billion mobile application downloads from app stores every year.

3. Social and contextual user experience: According to Gartner, context-aware computing uses information about an end user’s or object’s environment, activities connections and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end user or object. A contextually aware system anticipates the user’s needs and proactively serves up the most appropriate and customized content, product or service. The tipping point here could be technology such as near-field communications getting into more and more devices. Some interesting facts here: By 2015, 40% of the world’s smartphone users will opt in to context service providers that track their activities with Google, Microsoft, Nokia and Apple continuously tracking daily journeys and digital habits for 10% of the world population by 2015, Cearley says.

4. Application stores and marketplace: The key here is the rise of enterprise application stores that can develop specific apps for users. This will let IT manage and control certain apps. But embracing the idea of user choice might be a difficult concept for enterprise IT to embrace, Cearley says. Enterprises should use a managed diversity approach to focus app store efforts and segment apps by risk and value. Where the business value of an app is low and the potential risk, such as the loss of sensitive data, is high, apps might be blocked entirely.

5. The Internet of everything: The idea here is that we are building on pervasive computing where cameras, sensors, microphones, image recognition — everything — is now part of the environment. Remote sensing of everything from electricity to air conditioning use is now part of the network. In addition, increasingly intelligent devices create issues such as privacy concerns. Eventually IT will need some central unified management of all these devices, Cearley says.

6. Next-generation analytics: Most enterprises have reached the point in the improvement of performance and costs where Cearley says they can afford to perform analytics and simulation for every action taken in the business. Not only will data center systems be able to do this, but mobile devices will have access to data and enough capability to perform analytics themselves, potentially enabling use of optimization and simulation everywhere. Going forward, IT can focus on developing analytics that enable and track collaborative decision making.

7. Big data: Big data has quickly emerged as a significant challenge for IT leaders. The term only became popular in 2009. By February 2011, a Google search on “big data” yielded 2.9 million hits, and vendors now advertise their products as solutions to the big data challenge. The key thing enterprises have to realize is that they just can’t store it all. There are new techniques to handle extreme data, such as Apache Hadoop, but companies will have to develop new skills to effectively use these technologies, Cearley says.

8. In-memory computing: We will see huge use of flash memory in consumer devices, entertainment devices, equipment and other embedded IT systems. In addition, flash offers a new layer of the memory hierarchy in servers and client computers that has key advantages — space, heat, performance and ruggedness among them. Unlike RAM, the main memory in servers and PCs, flash memory is persistent even when power is removed. In that way, it looks more like disk drives where we place information that must survive power-downs and reboots, yet it has much of the speed of memory, far faster than a disk drive. As lower-cost — and lower-quality — flash is used in the data center, software that can optimize the use of flash and minimize the endurance cycles becomes critical. Users and IT providers should look at in-memory computing as a long-term technology trend that could have a disruptive impact comparable to that of cloud computing, Cearley says.

9. Extreme low-energy servers: What if you could turn 10 virtual machines in one box into 40 slow physical servers that are tiny and use very low amounts of energy? There is a call for this type of computing to handle big data. For example, thousands of these little processors could work on a Hadoop process, Cearley says. Gartner says that 10%-15% of enterprise workloads are good for this. Moving the application from 10 images to 40 slower, less capable machines will only deliver on that promise if the software will perform the same. Server technologies are going to change to handle big data.

10. Cloud computing: This topic went from No. 1 last year to No. 10 this year, but it’s still an important trend. It will become the next-generation battleground for the likes of Google and Amazon. Going forward, enterprise IT will be concerned with developing hybrid private/public cloud apps, improving security and governance, Cearley says.

GARTNER: 10 key IT trends for 2012

As social media continues to explode as a marketing tool, limited-service restaurants will likely face even more decisions about how to spend their time and dollars in an effort to use special online deals to grab the attention and loyalty of customers.

Whether it’s the use of Facebook, Twitter, or other tools to drive fans to the restaurant or daily deal couponing via Groupon and LivingSocial, operators are continuing to see their social media options grow.

Social media “is an ever-changing world,” said Hilary Allard, a vice president of Boston-based marketing communications company The Castle Group, Boston. “Who knows where it will be a year from now? You have to dive in and see where it takes you.”

http://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/live-social-media-deal-sites-boom-operators

The link to the article below explores only one reason for not cultivating IT heroes.  I would suggest that allowing employees to develop a  hero mentality is not good Micro Technology Stewardship.

Creating gaps in your staff as it relates to knowledge and allowing those individuals to abuse that gap to make them self look good is not only bad Micro Technology Stewardship, it is bad leadership.  Remember the definition   – “Micro Technology Stewardship is the use of people with enough experience of the workings of a business or department to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs.” By allowing an employee to play hero, we, as leaders,  are not properly addressing the needs of the business on a proactive basis.

Don’t cultivate IT heroes – FierceCIO.

Here is an interesting current event that I would like to comment on, recently I saw that a local BPO here in the DFW area

I love my job

was accused of ‘forcing” their contact center employees to go onto a chat room designed for call center employees and talk about how much they like their jobs and they love the company and its culture.  I find this interesting because I believe that these types of complaints may occur more frequently as employees are asked to engage in social media strategies.  Let me explain.

 

As I have mentioned before social media is a new tool to the organization and as such, we have to learn how to use it.  As the first, primary and sometimes only customer touch point for most organizations, the call center is the obvious choice for taking charge of and carrying out an enterprise’s social media strategy.  But in order for that to happen a few things need to be in place first;

1. Company Policies

2. Training

3. Integration into the call center through tools

Company Policies:

Your employees are already social networking with other employees, friends and customers and if left unchecked, could impact your company’s reputation (both in a good or bad way).  So if your company is not ahead of this yet from a policy perspective, I suggest you get ahead of it quickly by releasing the corporate policies on social media to your employee groups.

Training:

As we all know, in a call center, training never stops.  Train on the corporate policies created above as well as other important topics related to social media use such as Media Literacy, Privacy, Copyright, “Terms of Use” etc.  BUT most importantly, train your call center employees specifically on how to be good corporate ambassadors.  A good corporate ambassador is nothing other than an enthusiastic, engaged staff member functioning as an evangelist.

Getting back to where I started this post, I suggest that this is where the DFW Company mentioned above was when these accusations surfaced.  I hope that this company was simply encouraging employees to begin their training as corporate ambassadors.

For all companies, now, more than ever, contact center employees must be trained to deliver stellar service and positive customer experiences if the company wants to compete.  Why? Because if they don’t their customer’s will be online telling the world that they didn’t. Look at this quote from Chuck Ganapathi from salesforce.com.

“The rules of customer service are being rewritten,” says Chuck Ganapathi, vice president of marketing for on-demand CRM application provider salesforce.com. “Web 2.0 consumers, who have become accustomed to the instant access and gratification of the Internet, now expect the same level of speed and ease in their customer service interactions. They trust their social networks, and they look to their peers online for information and advice. An unhappy customer has the power to destroy a company’s brand with a single click.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention that frequently the Social Ambassador role is broken into two elements: One, the Social Media Manager role that is more outward bound in its focus, but still involves the community.  And two, the Community Manager role which is more inward bound, starting with the community, perhaps through more of a service or support focus.

Integration into the call center through tools

1. Conduct social media monitoring and analysis. Social media-wise organizations have invested in one (or more) of the many tools that scan the Web’s most influential consumer sites and social networks and “listen” to what customers – as well as would-be customers – are saying about the organization’s brand in general, its specifics products, and its level of customer service. Forward thinking organizations also use these powerful monitoring tools to stay abreast of what’s being said in the blogosphere and social media communities about their competition.

2. Offer an interactive, company-hosted social network for customers. The most progressive and customer-centric organizations do more than just scan the Web for customer-generated feedback on their products and services; they host their own “Social” communities that invites such feedback and enable customers to review and rate products and services, comment on the company in general and/or on the support received online, and interact with and share perspectives with one another. Such site would enable the company to provide key information – and to respond to customer comments or criticism via blogs and wikis of its own.

Because these customer portals are created and overseen internally by the company, managers in key areas within the organization (the contact center, Marketing, Product & Development) easily gain visibility into what customers think, prefer and demand, says salesforce.com’s Ganapathi. “By creating these compelling online experiences and being part of the conversation with the community, companies can build greater customer loyalty.”

3. Integrate into CRM. Information gathered from social media sites should be incorporated into the contact center’s customer history

4. Take it offline. Not all customer issues and concerns should be handled publicly. Develop guidelines to help agents determine when they should extend an invitation for customers to interact one-on-one via email, chat or phone.

Some vendors are experimenting with applications and tools that are intended to help customers contact the call center directly via social media sites. For instance, Avaya has a Facephone prototype (an overview video here) , which enables customers to contact a call center via a Facebook page and be connected to an agent. The agent can query the Facebook page of the caller prior to taking the call to gain some insight into what the caller’s issue may be……how cool is that?

In quite a few of my blogs I state that the term social media will become obsolete.  Well, in this post, I wanted to take some time and show how social media is being used in a contact center setting but not  being looked at as “social media” but rather a call center tool, or in this case a communications channel to lower incoming call volume.

I am working with a client on call center improvements and one of the areas I am looking at is “the Helpdesk”.  As many of you know, when large-scale (regional/enterprise) outages occur, the call center is barraged with callers all reporting the same thing.  Many call centers will look to “front end” the ACD with a recording in an effort to offload the completed calls and this is quite effective, but not very proactive from the customer’s perspective.

In this case, one of the tools we used to “get proactive” was to Twitter our Helpdesk updates to the subscribed employee base, thereby proactively alerting the employee that the Helpdesk knew about the problem and was working on it and thusly, reducing incoming call volume.

What are your thoughts?  Would a company be brave enough to take this strategy from the “internal customers” serviced through the Helpdesk to the external customers served bu your call center?

What social media integration tricks have you implemented lately?

As 2010 comes to a close I find myself looking back at the year and evaluating how well I practiced what I preached as an IT leader.  Not only do I believe that all successful IT executives need to become successful at MicroTech Stewardship, I wanted to capture a few other skills I believe we all need to focus on as leaders.  Below is the list I came up with:

1. Promote Micro Technology Stewardship within the organization through leadership.  In order to develop good Microtech Stewards under you, leaders have to really commit to leadership and recognize that they are always “on stage”.  In fact, I saw that both Gartner and Korn/Ferry’s research reveals that the highest performing CIOs are effective because they embrace the idea that everything they need to accomplish will be achieved through people, by people, and with people. I know you have seen this said before, but as a leader, we have to ” build people, not systems”.

2. Think Strategic, Deliver Clear Direction. A high-performing technology leader is a complex and (hopefully) creative thinker but when it comes to leading, the message must be clear, concise and easy to execute against.

3. Abandon your 70s School of Management. 70s school of management is not a concept I have explored in this blog and I hope to in the future but it is a term I coined to describe the old school “do what I say, when I say and tell me when it is done” leaders that still exist in organizations.  Today, technology leaders need to be more collaborative than ever in order to inspire people both inside and outside their organization in order to be successful in executing against your vision.  Inspire your people to consistently deliver their best work through collaboration and motivation, inspire them to feel like they are involved in something exciting.

4. Lead sideways. Successful leaders spend a great deal of their time and energy managing relationships that exist sideways: relationships with peers, vendors, and customers.  As in the above point, collaboration is key in driving results.

5.Be a Master of Communication. Constantly reiterate your core message and values. Focus on clarity, consistency, and simplicity.  Do it with passion and make sure your message is not only understood but also felt.

Well that is my short list, what do you have to add?