Streamline Global Manufacturing with the Information Driven Supply Chain

This article was originally published in Manufacturing Business Technology.

A new kind of manufacturing company is emerging that leverages big data and analytics for a unified view of the supply chain. This new approach provides supply chain insights that enable these organizations to respond quickly and decisively to changing conditions despite geographically dispersed suppliers and customers. And yet at the same time, they can also pursue long-term opportunities by identifying products, parts and components across all the data sources where supply and demand spans states, countries and continents.

No matter the supply chain model, customers expect quality service, on-time delivery and the right product every time, which can be challenging if an organization manages erratic supply and demand on a global basis.

For most organizations, products consist of numerous parts that move through the enterprise and its network of suppliers, creating a need for parts logistics. Every part number within the organization takes on a life of its own and every department must have access to all the information surrounding it.

As organizations build new products, and service existing ones, they need cohesive and comprehensive visibility for a unified view of the entire supply chain.  This approach helps organizations optimize their supply chain and increase responsiveness by focusing on achieving greater visibility into products and parts inventory. Organizations that focus on these objectives can tighten the gaps in their supply chain and enhance their overall operations.

Supply Chain Unification

A unified view of the supply chain connects the enterprise and suppliers seamlessly to various applications and databases—such as enterprise resource planning, a data warehouse and customer relationship management systems.

This connected environment helps organizations keep abreast of the manufacturing process and supply chain management, and share relevant information across design, engineering, procurement, quality control and more. From understanding customer needs to building requirements, product prototyping and selling products, everything is streamlined and simplified across disparate systems.

By adopting a unified view of the supply chain, organizations can see what parts are in stock, which suppliers they re-order from and if those suppliers have available inventory. This gives engineers visibility into the specifications of components, the mean times between failures
for components, discontinuation plans and recent negative reports. It also promotes accurate shipping expectations and on-time delivery, while connecting all departments and partners in the supply chain into one efficient manufacturing shop.

Finding the right part information when and where needed

An information-driven supply chain makes it easier for workers to search and locate specific parts for production. Workers can create alerts to be notified when relevant information surfaces. Empowered and informed workers can then concentrate on manufacturing products on schedule.

A unified view of the supply chain helps engineers know who has previously worked with each part and learn from their experiences. If a component is found faulty during production, engineers could spend days trying to find who completed the original design. A unified view of the supply chain helps pinpoint the most knowledgeable workers and provides immediate access to information about the component and its design specifications. By empowering engineers, organizations are better able to meet customer demands.

This approach also empowers sales with information about specific parts to understand when to sell a specific version, and to know who to talk to if they need more information. Customers then get a confident, knowledgeable sales associate to help them make the right decision.

Knowing how and where to get parts in a hurry

Organizations must be able to respond immediately to customers who need replacement parts and immediate service. If a part is not available, they must know expected shipment dates, transit times and who can supply it. This is increasingly challenging with globally distributed suppliers and a dispersed customer base.

A unified view of the supply chain can resolve this issue by giving customer service representatives visibility into all parts across the enterprise, regardless of location, repository or format in which the information is stored. It can also extend access to information from supplier sites and applications.

To assist customers with support requests, customer service representatives need to be aware of past problems and how to identify and resolve them. With a unified view of the supply chain, they immediately know the parts associated with a problem and how it can be fixed.

In the final analysis, managing the supply chain is about information access. Although many applications are necessary to manage information at different stages of the supply chain, a unified view provides cohesive visibility across all applications that manage information about products, suppliers and customers. It is a critical part of streamlining and optimizing the use of an organization’s supply chain.

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Where are the Biggest Opportunities for AI?

This post was originally published as an article on Future of Everything.

There continue to be all kinds of stories about the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) in the media, many of which discuss the idea that robots are going to take over the world and put everyone out of a job. While AI is is something we must monitor and control as its capabilities continue to expand, there are tangible applications of this powerful technology happening today. So what are some realistic opportunities for AI in the near future, as opposed to all the sci-fi hype we typically hear about? (more…)

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5 Ways Information-Driven Companies Optimize Sales

This article was originally published on RT Insights.

Teamwork and corporate profitStreamlining sales and customer data eliminates the burden learning and mastering multiple applications — increasing agility and reducing operating expenses.

In an increasingly sophisticated economy where customers are inundated with options, sales forecasting is challenging, and achieving revenue goals is even harder.

Sales teams are constantly trying to identify lucrative target markets, close more deals and shorten sales cycles. Companies must become information-driven by equipping their sales team to be nimble, efficient and knowledgeable to focus on sales opportunities with the highest chance of success. Whether it’s lead generation, ecommerce or direct sales, sales teams need the power of relevant and timely information more than ever.

Access to information isn’t enough to optimize sales

With information in the typical global enterprise scattered across a growing digital landscape, including CRM, ERP and myriad internal and external repositories and applications, harnessing it can be a tremendous challenge. Mere access to this information is pointless if it is not timely and relevant. Successful information-driven organizations have learned how to address this issue, fueling sales productivity and increasing revenues as a result.

Every sales leader, regardless industry, faces these challenges:

  • Increase average deal size and drive top line revenue.
  • Shorten sales cycles and increase close rates.
  • Increase the number of net new customers.
  • Capture as much business as possible from existing customers.
  • Train new reps to become effective in their new roles as quickly as possible.

While high-performing corporations expect their sales teams to accomplish the following:

  • Maximize contract value and increase revenues.
  • Make informed strategic decisions.
  • Anticipate and respond faster to customer needs.
  • Create a thriving business based on thorough understanding of key clients.
  • Know what markets to target and who the players are within an organization.
  • Fuel higher operational efficiencies.

5 ways information gives you a competitive advantage

With these challenges and expectations in mind, here are five examples of how information-driven sales teams are leveraging modern data analytics technologies to improve their effectiveness and creating distinctive competitive differentiation for their organizations:

  1. Seamlessly aggregating and integrating all the company’s diverse data repositories toward delivering relevant, real-time information to sales teams around the world.
  2. Providing a comprehensive view of every customer interaction within their organization from a single access point, even if the basic data is stored in separate systems and databases. This helps maximize contract value by providing sales professionals with the visibility to better understand the customer’s overall needs in order to customize offers and services.
  3. Delivering unified information at both the contact and company level to enable information-driven sales teams to prioritize where they spend their time and energy to develop better relationships with their prospects. This includes the business drivers of senior leadership, the latest public financial information, changes in key management, buying behaviors relevant to cross-selling other products and more.
  4. Contextualizing information by product or by territory. Based on a sales group or individual profile, the information is automatically filtered by product and/or territory assignment.
  5. Enabling easy collaboration and knowledge-sharing uniformly across disparate silos of information. This promotes knowledge transfer among sales reps, helps surface important content, simplifies training and reduces the learning curve as new hires get up to speed quickly.

Optimize sales data for real cost and time savings

Eliminating the need to navigate multiple systems and databases to find information simplifies the sales process and creates a highly productive and efficient environment where sales professionals thrive. This translates to real cost and time savings.

Take technology vendors, for example, a group that Forrester Research found spends close to 20 percent of their selling, general and administrative (SG&A) costs — more than $135,000 per quota-carrying salesperson — on support-related activities.

By streamlining sales and customer data, information-driven sales organizations eliminate the burden and time consumption of learning, retention and mastery of multiple applications, thereby increasing agility and reducing operating expenses. This creates a critical competitive differentiator as it frees up sales teams to elevate their performance toward maximizing contract values, making informed strategic decisions and responding faster to client needs.

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Sinequa Helps Box Customers To Be Information-Driven

noiseMany customers that use Box for cloud content management are typically large, geographically distributed organizations. The four scenarios below describe common ways that Sinequa helps these customers leverage their enterprise information to become information-driven.

Increase the Signal, Decrease the Noise
Customers who have migrated even a portion of their enterprise content to Box have made a significant step.  Workers in their organization can no doubt share and collaborate more easily than ever before; they no doubt have reduced email overhead; and they are probably working the way they want to given all of the friendly integrations with Box, including Outlook, Office365, Google Docs and the like.   However, being in the cloud does not automatically mean the valuable “signals” in your data rise above the “noise”.  Messy data migrated to the cloud is still messy data.  Sinequa helps workers quickly narrow in on the information and insights necessary to do their job effectively and with confidence.  By analyzing the content and enriching it using natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, Box users can quickly find the information and insights they need to be effective and responsive.

Connect Data

connect-data

Many Box customers run their business with other enterprise applications and information repositories, all of which contain data and content related to the information
stored in Box.  Sinequa brings advanced analytics and cognitive techniques to “connect” the data and bring context across all of the various enterprise sources, whether they be in the cloud or on premise.  By connecting the data, knowledge workers can better navigate and see how the data and connect fit together along topical lines, regardless of how many repositories make up the enterprise information landscape.

Identify Knowledge & Expertise

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 2.40.37 PMAs previously mentioned, many Box customers are large (or even very large) geographically distributed organizations with expertise in a wide variety of subject matter areas.  In these organizations, specific experts are difficult to identify given the size and distributed nature of the organization.  This is a modern problem that requires a modern solution.  As users store content and collaborate within Box, Sinequa’s advanced cognitive capabilities analyze that content to determine not only the areas of expertise across the organization but who the specific experts are and surfaces that information to end users.  This connects people across geographic and departmental boundaries, accelerating innovation and elevating the performance of the overall organization.

Leverage 360º Views

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 2.42.23 PM

Think of all the “entities” that are critical to Box customers running their business.  These business entities include customers, either specific individuals (B2C) or accounts (B2B), products, parts, drugs, diseases, financial securities, regulations, etc.  Having all of the enterprise data virtually connected by Sinequa makes it possibly to provide a unified “360º View” of these various entities to bring all of the right information to the right person at the right time.
As you can see, leveraging Sinequa to contextualize the information within Box and other enterprise repositories not only boosts productivity and keeps knowledge workers in the flow but has repeatedly proven to enhance customer service, improve regulatory compliance and increase revenue within different areas of the business.  Achieving these benefits positively impacts the bottom line and serves as validation that an organization has become truly information-driven.
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4 Ways Real-Time Data Improves Customer Service

This article was originally published on RT Insights.

Instant access and 360-degree views of all customer and product data is mandatory to enable customer service representatives to operate more efficiently.

Customer Service

Customer service centers serve as organizational information hubs, resonating with the voices of the customers. They are strategic to an enterprise, as they are often the most recent and most frequent point of contact that the customer has with an organization.

Properly used, customer service centers can satisfy customers and improve retention. They can also drive revenue by cross-selling and upselling. To do this, they must manage the volume of interactions efficiently and control average handle time (AHT). Increasingly, they must achieve this with tighter budgets. Instant access and 360-degree views of all customer and product data is mandatory to enable customer service representatives (CSRs) to operate more efficiently.

With people and information spread across various locations, this task can seem daunting. The right mix of technology can enable customer service centers to overcome these challenges and run at peak performance. Below are four tips for CSRs to manage high volume of interactions:

Improving visibility into real-time customer data

CSRs need visibility into customer data across all contact and interaction points within the enterprise — regardless of location, repository and format. By aggregating all data and providing a single, secure access point to relevant and real-time customer and product information, a unified view of information can be formed to help CSRs respond to customers’ concerns and issues quickly and accurately.

Relieved of the burden of navigating multiple applications to find a single piece of relevant information, CSRs can immediately concentrate on the callers’ concerns and quickly resolve their issues — increasing first call resolution and reducing average handle time to minimize the volume of customer interactions. Automatically providing a unified view of customer information effectively enables the customer service center to improve productivity and reduce operating expenses.

Automating access to relevant information

High attrition has always been a major concern for customer service center managers. Rehiring and retraining costs directly impact the bottom line. More importantly, high turnover rates burden CSRs, affect productivity and hamper the customer service center’s ability to provide quality service.

Automating access to relevant information can help customer service centers lower attrition by minimizing the excessive pressure and stress of the customer service center environment, which is cited as a major reason for attrition.

Leveraging automated analytics on top of customer and product information, customer service center managers can quickly spotlight new products for training and push information out to their CSRs. Simplifying the way CSRs access customer and product information and providing ways for CSRs to easily collaborate and share knowledge reduces CSR stress and consequently turnover. When CSRs have the information needed to answer customer questions and resolve issues confidently, they are much better able to interact comfortably and build close and lasting customer relationships.

Accelerating time to proficiency

CSRs never know what inquiry or problem they will face on the other side of an inbound call. As such, they must be well-versed on the products, services and policies of their organization. Successfully training CSRs is vital to the success of the customer service center. The cost of attrition per CSR is high, with new employees taking up to three months to complete initial training in many industries.

This can be exacerbated as many customer service centers have myriad applications and repositories, such as CRMs, ERPs and external databases, that CSRs must learn to navigate to prepare for and complete a call. The ability to seamlessly connect to these applications and provide a unified view to information greatly reduces training time and cost.

Sharing CSR knowledge

Collaboration capabilities that promote knowledge sharing and retention — even if employees leave — enable the remaining CSRs to maximize and enrich each customer interaction. Enterprise data is continually growing; as a result, CSRs have even more information to learn and retain. In addition, customer service centers are often scattered across far-reaching locations without sufficient support for their distributed organization. A scalable, distributed platform for information access solves this problem and allows data to grow without compromising access or speed for CSRs. They can then concentrate on listening to customer concerns and ensuring complete satisfaction, enhancing the entire customer experience.

Companies that employ the right mix of technology in their customer service centers empower their CSRs to go beyond solving customer issues to being customer champions — listening and responding fittingly to their needs.  By actively listening, CSRs can turn complaints into revenue. By having relevant information consistently and securely available, organizations can react quickly to customer demands, innovate business processes, profile new target markets and formulate ideas for new product features.

Consolidating silos and promoting the quick and easy transfer of information and insight captured in the customer service center across the entire enterprise allows executives to make informed decisions that positively impact the direction of the company.

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