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Visualise your data; be part of customer journey

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Organisations need to have a holistic view of their business to truly maximise the value of their data and analytics, writes RICHARD MULLINS, Director at Acceleration Middle East and Africa.

Most organisations today are taking a more data-driven approach to everything from sales and marketing to operations and human resources. Yet few of them have the real-time reporting information or the integrated, holistic view of their businesses that they need to truly maximise the value of their data and analytics.

In many organisations, it can take six weeks or more to receive reports in a format that anyone in the business can understand with a glance—based on data that might already be out of date. What’s more, data often sits in siloes scattered across the enterprise; even where consolidated reports are available, they may exclude many parts of the business.

The result is that the sales team may have data on hand about orders placed and fulfilled as well as inventory levels, yet little insight into how marketing has helped to achieve conversions or how many complaints the service team is fielding about a particular product line. Distribution and production might have sales forecasts, but no data about customer satisfaction.

Bringing it all together

The marketing department, meanwhile, may be happy with its brand health tracking, ad reports, social media monitoring and web analytics, yet struggle to accurately attribute the impact of marketing spending on sales. Indeed, few marketing departments can yet model the impact of different channels and touchpoints on customer conversions.

Thus, one of the largest challenges that organisations face in becoming more data-driven is to bring data together from different systems across and within departments to provide the big picture about how customer behaviour, sales, branding and marketing efforts, production, customer service and other facets of the business interact to drive sales and profits.

It is here where the latest data visualisation tools can play an important role, allowing executives to turn the data from different systems, channels and departments into purpose-built dashboards that offer a view of how their business is doing. They provide visual cues of the customer journey that spans from finance to operations to sales and marketing.

New insights unlocked

Suddenly, new insights are unlocked for everyone in the business. Consider a car manufacturer and its dealer network as an example. With access to richer data from production and sales, marketers can begin to really optimise performance. They can see how sales of the new car model are performing by region, perhaps gaining insight into how well regional marketing and advertising activations are working.

It becomes possible to get a view of how online customer engagements are bringing people into the showroom as well as the halo effect traditional branding advertising has on sales. Sales and marketing can correlate a dip in customer satisfaction (reflected in negative social sentiment and complaints to dealers and the call centre) with a drop in sales. They can look into inventory and fulfilment data to see whether a colour or model going out of stock has hurt sales.

Getting to this level of insight demands some level of data consolidation, standardisation of data formats and effort to clean and de-duplicate dirty data. With robust data governance and a sound data architecture, data visualisation tools can provide a common ‘truth’ that can be shared throughout the business—from the marketing team to the CEO.

Visual dashboards and reports can be shared and discussed between various disciplines, enabling better strategies and cross functional collaboration. These tools can automate the process of pulling data from different sources into a single view, allowing different users to customise the dimensions, metrics and segments that matter to them.

A process-driven approach

It takes a process-driven yet agile approach, focusing on answering the right questions with relevant and accurate data. In our experience, when C-suite executives start digging into the wealth of data the rest of the organisation has, they start small but soon find they need more and more data sources to answer the new questions their initial queries raise.

The result is better customer knowledge, engagements and experiences, used to craft strategies that grow the business. The results: a full understanding of the customer journeys, from pre-purchase to post-sales. This can help marketers craft engaging experiences that secure conversions and drive profitable business growth.

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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