Customer Service Tips For Today's Digital World

Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. There’s an explosion of communication channels that customers use—voice, digital channels like email and chat, and social channels like Facebook and Twitter. There’s also an explosion of touchpoints, like smartphones, tablets, and self-service kiosks. Customers expect efficient, consistent, personalized service experiences across these channels and touchpoints.

There’s no denying that mastering the service experience is hard to do. Yet focusing on leveraging digital channels is one way customer service leaders can move the needle on customer experiences.

Here’s how:

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Red Prairie Acquires JDA

New Mountain Capital, the owner of Red Prairie, the demand sensing and supply chain execution software vendor, announced last week that it would fully acquire supply chain planning vendor JDA. The merger will result in a supply-chain planning and execution solution provider with more than $1 billion in revenue with 87 of the world’s top 100 consumer goods manufacturers and 82 of the world’s top 100 retailers running either Red Prairie or JDA applications.

For some time Red Prairie has been buying assets to extend supply chain into the store, a strategy it calls “commerce in motion.” The idea is to extend beyond mere inventory visibility to better predict where inventory should be held. Red Prairie’s demand sensing and eCommerce solutions as well as its warehouse management and store execution capabilities can complement JDA’s collaborative planning to provide a platform for collaborative new product introduction and promotion investments.

This looks like an extension of the idea that applications and processes will become interenterprise or value-chain centered rather than enterprise focused and will ultimately move to the cloud to capitalize on collaboration opportunities with a whole network of value chain partners. JDA 8.0 is already delivered (together with multichannel assortment planning) as a cloud solution.

It seems to me the opportunity to think beyond "four walls" and plan demand, in the case of retailers all the way back up to sourcing, or in the case of manufacturers to plan and execute down to the shelf or the fulfilment of e-commerce orders, offers a really intriguing opportunity to deliver more effectively on private-label and branded merchandise assortments to demanding consumers browsing and buying across channels.

Infor Challenges ERP Duopoly

Some of my readers know that I worked in my career before Forrester in product management and business development at MSA, SSA, and Mapics, all now part of Infor. When people ask if I “follow Infor,” I’m inclined to reply that Infor follows me. I attended an “Infor on the road” event last week to listen to the briefing from CEO Charles Phillips and President Duncan Angove. I learned that Infor’s strategy for disrupting the SAP Oracle duopoly depends on choices that Infor has made about:

1) Architecture: Infor’s clients have a wide choice of application portfolio elements and choices about when to upgrade each element thanks to its loose coupling strategy and its maturing of the ION platform that I described here:

http://www.forrester.com/The+Digital+Drop+IT+Opportunities+In+The+Oil+And+Gas+Industry/quickscan/-/E-RES56698#/Its+Time+To+Tame+The+ERP+Integration+Beast/fulltext/-/E-RES56797

This is attractive to firms that can no longer force all their functions and divisions to upgrade simultaneously to a lowest common denominator set of functionality.

Message-based interoperability also enables Infor’s apps to Tweet to interested users about changes in status of accounts, documents, people, or objects as previously described by my colleague China Martens here:

http://www.forrester.com/home#/Emerging+Trends+Social+Collaboration+Is+Poised+To+Accelerate+ERP+Business+Processes/quickscan/-/E-RES60626

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Craft Your Future State BI Reference Architecture

In the face of rising data volume and complexity and increased need for self-service, enterprises need an effective business intelligence (BI) reference architecture to utilize BI as a key corporate asset for competitive differentiation. BI stakeholders — such as project managers, developers, data architects, enterprise architects, database administrators, and data quality specialists — may find the myriad choices and constant influx of new business requirements overwhelming. Forrester's BI reference architecture provides a framework with architectural patterns and building blocks to guide these BI stakeholders in managing BI strategy and architecture.

Enterprise information management (EIM) is complex — from a technical, organizational, and operational standpoint. But to business users, all that complexity is behind the scenes. What they need is BI, an interface to enterprise data — whether it's structured, semistructured, or unstructured. Our June 2011 Global Technology Trends Online Survey showed that BI topped even mobility — the frontrunner in recent years — as the technology most likely to provide business value over the next three years.

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