For just a moment, think back to how businesses functioned only a few short years ago. The cloud, for instance, was still in its infancy, which meant that physical hardware was very much necessary. Server rooms were a prerequisite, company networks needed complicated infrastructure setup, and other bits and bobs of technology were required for an organisation to merely operate and remain competitive.
Today, however, we are lucky enough to operate in a more seamless environment; one that comes with far less complications, fewer hassles, and, ultimately, minimal friction. In fact, what drives both consumers and businesses today is just that – the insatiable demand for frictionless experiences.
Think about it in the context of your own business. Every time one of your clients experiences a dropped call, a delay in delivery, or anything else that potentially wastes their time and energy, they experience friction. The same logic applies internally. If an employee has tech issues to the point where their productivity is hindered, even if only slightly, they too are facing a form of friction.
To remedy these, and countless other instances of resistance, business leaders need to view their organisation through a new lens. They should take a closer look at their customer experience, for example, and ask themselves, “How can I minimise existing friction?” and “How can I create more frictionless experiences?” To answer both questions effectively, the following three laws of frictioneering should be considered.
1. The law of the lazy mind
Thinking requires lots of energy. When faced with a challenge, the mind has evolved to automatically seek the lowest-friction solution.
In his bestselling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, the author, Daniel Kahneman, notes, “…one of [the mind’s] main characteristics is laziness, a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary.” This represents human nature in general and is absolutely true with regards to customers and who they choose to do business with.
Think about it. The moment you present your clients with a bulky contract they need to read, or forms they need to fill out, sign, scan, email, and more, you are creating friction. As humans, we are biologically, chemically and electrically wired to find the easiest route possible. If your customer finds a competitor who seemingly offers a similar solution to the problem at hand, and can do it for them faster with less hurdles, chances are they’ll make the move without so much as a second of hesitation. Why would they choose you, and all your operational complications, when they could have access to the same product or service without having to expend more precious mental than is absolutely necessary?
2. The law of visible and invisible friction
Friction starts out invisible and is tolerated unconsciously by the market. But once this invisible friction is discovered, it becomes real. If significant friction is removed very quickly, “disruption” can occur.
The gist of the second law of frictioneering is this: the moment a new innovation or experience is created, it delights and wows customers. All too soon, though, this practice or service becomes the norm, and customer expectations shift once more. Technology within your own business can illustrate this perfectly. As we’ve already touched on above, consider the impact of the cloud on day-to-day operations. Before this innovation penetrated every industry, there were invisible frictions we all tolerated – slow scalability, cumbersome infrastructure setup, and more. Now, however, we take the cloud for granted, and we certainly can’t go back to working without it.
So, what can business leaders take away from this law then? How can it be used to better their own organisation? The best place to start, is by trying to identify frictions that we are unaware of, that can potentially be reduced, or even removed.
Uber is the perfect, well-touted example in this regard. By removing the invisible friction that surrounded the act of organising, directing and paying a taxi Uber created a relatively frictionless path for users. The differential in friction between the old and the new was significant enough that customers couldn’t resist flowing into the new-normal, and thus, this sector was disrupted.
3. The law of utilisation over invention
There is an abundance of friction in the system. There is also an abundance of appropriate tools available. Frictioneers should utilise today’s tools to remove today’s friction and avoid the “invention trap.”
Today, far too many people are trying to reinvent the wheel, and this can sometimes have the adverse effect of creating more friction, as opposed to eliminating it. It’s completely unnecessary, given that disruption and innovation can happen with the tools we already have at our disposal – like microservices, cloud services and digital partnerships.
Instead of assuming the role of inventors to combat friction, we should rather focus on becoming exceptional integrators. In his address at Singularity University Johannesburg, Larry Keely explained that out of the fourteen components that make up Uber’s tech stack, not a single one is proprietary. And at Airbnb, only seven of the fifty-seven components in their tech stack are proprietary. This means that today, if one has sufficient integration, and front end development capabilities you could essentially build something that does what these two organisations do, by simply licensing and integrating tools that are already available. Now, imagine what could be built on top of your existing business.
A world without friction
With these three laws in mind, you should now be better equipped to identify any friction your organisation may be experiencing, and generating, both internally and externally. All that’s left to do now is figure out how to tackle every instance.
To set you on the right path, over and above the questions we posed right at the start, you should also look at answering the following:
•Where are the obvious friction points in my customer journey?
•What fear or threat were we addressing when we created this friction?
•Does this threat still exist?
•How probable and how material is it?
•What value could I create for my customers and for my business by removing this friction?
•How can I use existing tools to reduce the friction?
Figure those out and you’ll be well on your way to making your business a frictionless one.
IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines
Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it
The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.
“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”
Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.
“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”
Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.
“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”
The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.
“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”
The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.
“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”
Oracle leads in clash of
Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews.
The three vendors received the following citations:
- Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search.
- Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
- IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.
The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.
“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group.
“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”