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Looking ahead to Business Analytics Forum: Interview with Farhana Alarakhiya
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  cognos spss analytic_applications ceo_study farhana_alarakhiya baforum
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In this installment of our popular interview series with Farhana Alarakhiya, we talk about getting closer to customers, integrating with SPSS and look ahead to sessions at Business Analytics Forum.
Much has made during this downturn for the need to develop better relationships with customers – in some cases through different social media. As Google’s Eric Schmidt recently said in the Wall Street Journal: “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next … it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them."
For many companies, it’s far more cost-effective to retain and grow their existing customers than to attract new ones. And in these lean economic times, it makes a tremendous amount of business sense and real bottom line cents to do so. That, however, is not the real news story here. Organizations are indeed making concerted efforts to “know” their customers. The recession is certainly the short-term trigger, but prudent organizations are taking a longer view – one that includes navigating the complexity and turbulence of social media to engage in sustained and, yes, profitable customer relationships.
IBM makes this point in its global survey of CEOs, which was released earlier this year. Getting closer to the customer ranked as the top priority among CEOs from what the survey identified as standout organizations. Additionally, nearly 9 in 10 CEOs told IBM that they will focus on getting closer to their customers. This makes customer focus the number one priority to succeed in the new economic environment.
Applications are already playing a critical enabling role delivering the right combination of data, insight and foresight to organizations’ analyses of their customers. Schmidt is right – but only in how they set and heighten the expectations of a business user’s experience with enterprise applications. Apple, Google and others have created a farmer’s market for applications that to varying degrees consist of prescriptive, predictive and personalized content models for consumers. These models help consumers engage, cater and target their interests across a very wide social media landscape. While not completely analogous, they have however raised expectations among business users in terms of their analytic expectations – the impact of their content models and integration with a wider business landscape.
For our enterprise customers, though, there needs to be a unifying force. We’re dealing with high-velocity and volume brand and customer interaction; enterprise customers want depth and dimensionality across multiple channels – from the Internet to mobile to word of mouth, among others - that help them assess brand preference and loyalty. IBM Business Analytics has already begun to shape this richer analytic world. Our approach is to bring the full force of application solutions to not only help organizations understand these interactions through different social media, but also their affect on equity, reputation and ultimately financial value of their brand. At Business Analytics Forumin October, we will explore these dynamics in several sessions, some of which I’ve highlighted below.
So how has your group managed your customer relationships?
A large part of our success this year can be attributed to our focus on customers’ success. Now, that may sound like a motherhood statement to you. We do, however, have a very specific program that is helping our customers gain time to value and insight faster compared to other application vendors – in effect, accelerating our customers’ ability to make fact-based decisions and gain new insight about their businesses’ performance.
And while we’ll never claim to be perfect, the proof nonetheless of our customer focus is reflected in the record number of application customers participating at Forum this year. In total, we have 11 sessions – more than half of which of which will involve customers – one workshop on reconciling IT and LOB business needs and a kick off for our Customer Advisory Board.
Our team has cast a wide, thoughtful and engaging range of content for attendees, from the future of analytic applications to more advanced technical sessions on SPSS, TM1 and Maximo integration with our portfolio. Your readers can learn more and register for these sessions by visiting the Business Analytics Fourm web site.
Can you shed some more light on how your customers are making better fact-based decisions?
Sure. Let’s take a look at one examples. First, Time Warner Cable – the second largest American cable operator with 47,000 employees. At Forum, they’ll discuss the need for HR professionals and line of business managers to simply access reporting and analytics on their human capital investments, in particular employee retention and acquisition. They’ll explore the business and IT reasons why they selected IBM Cognos Workforce Performance, focusing on the adaptability of the application and its ability to provide faster access to detailed insight to respond to human capital issues more quickly. In addition, TWC is planning to incorporate SPSS into their Workforce solution to effectively predict potential retention issues within categories of employees. In our view, this really takes core performance insight and transforms it to foresight to determine outcomes, available courses of actions against risks and opportunities that confront this company’s workforce.
This just some real-world examples of how customers are using our applications to gain insight and help solve fundamental performance issues, whether that’s spend, sales force performance, or in this cases workforce performance.
You mentioned earlier some head way integrating SPSS into your portfolio – HR was one example? Can you provide an update on this?
Yes, we are creating a blueprint that’s focused on the predictive capabilities of SPSS. In this case, it’s cross-sell up-sell with our Sales application. What we’ve done is link the underlying application content model to SPSS to help customers gain greater predictability of customer buying behavior, sales segmentation, product affinity, offer analytics, sales analysis and campaign analysis – all of which become seamless extensions to our core packaged reports and analytics.
In a sales and marketing context, this means a more effective, consistent way to evaluate risks and opportunities to speed time to revenue, gain better profitability and improve visibility into sales and marketing outcomes using common analytic and predictive models that ultimately deliver more agile decision-making.
This is what’s fundamental about Business Analytics. Product assets brought to bear on specific business problems, so customers can change the current course of action to improve outcomes. We believe that organizations committed to analytics can better anticipate and shape business outcomes and outperform their peers.
Let’s go back to Business Analytics Forum for a moment. If there were three "must-see" sessions, what would they be, and why?
Well, I would see them all. It’s frankly like asking which child do you love more than the other. But if I were pressed, I would say the following: