When Analytics Is the Answer Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Depending upon what you read, who you follow, the Business Intelligence and Analytics (BI&A) market is valued anywhere from $16.9 billion in 2016, to $41.5 billion through 2018, and expected to exceed $60 billion by 2025. It’s a huge, growing, global market fueled by ongoing innovation and seemingly endless opportunity. But why now? Why is the market potential so huge? What is making analytics the new in-crowd?

Analytics as defined by Deloitte Analytics in their report titled The Analytics Advantage: We’re Just Getting Started, is the practice of using data to manage information and performance, and has been around for at least 30 years, guiding cause and effect scenarios in almost every industry, any size business.

Until recently, analytics in business communications has been known as reporting. It has been buried in individual communications applications throughout the enterprise. To find out how successful an outbound dialing campaign was, run an outbound dialing report. To determine how many customers opt out of the IVR after 6 p.m. on a weekday, run an IVR report. To determine the quality of all the video conference calls employees hosted last month, run a video report. To determine any security issues in the network, run a report. All of these various reports are separate and typically require different skillsets to run them.

While these reports are full of all the intelligence ever needed about that one specific application, if you want a view of what happened across an entire omnichannel, multitouch journey (voice, self-service IVR, social, email, SMS, online, in-store) during a specific time period, someone will have to manually source, compile and sort all of that data for each separate touch point first. In other words, if you need the information on Tuesday, it will not be compiled, analyzed and put into a consumable format until Friday at best; most likely it will be Monday evening. And this is 2016.

As recently as last year, investing in the right analytics application finally became a priority for any size business, not a nice-to-have. In fact, Gartner reports that by 2018 more than half of large organizations globally will compete based on advanced analytics and proprietary algorithms. By 2020 predictive and prescriptive analytics will attract 40% of enterprises’ net new investments in business intelligence and analytics. Yet, only 50% of the chief analytics officers will have gotten it right.

Meaning, the rush to deploy analytics is overshadowing having a clear understanding of exactly what the business wants to accomplish with analytics. First understanding what the business is trying to accomplish determines which vendor and which analytics application are best needed to meet the objectives.

In my experience, most businesses that are making analytics an urgent investment are doing so because they want to be better positioned to (1) compete more successfully and (2) grow their business to increase revenue potential. In manufacturing for example, analytics becomes an urgent investment when companies need to analyze their processes and operations. Process data is not just for tracking purposes, it’s also for improving operations. When operations can be improved upon, business can improve.

In business communications, we look at two distinct groups: internal employees and external customers/partners. The first question analytics helps us address is: Are these groups getting what they want when they want it? The second question is if they are not getting what they want, when they want it, how can we fix it?

When they are getting what they want when they want it, then internally individual and team productivity should be up, processes and operations should be streaming along and efficient. Overall company performance should be at its peak. Externally, customers/partners should be happy and loyal. It’s about the experience—employee experience and customer/partner experience—people have when they interact with the company. It really is that simple. But getting there is not so simple, which is why analytics is needed.

Ironically the need for analytics is more visible in established companies. Companies that are established have typically passed the hurdles that most start-ups face: running out of funding, being squeezed out of the market by the competition, disappearing signs of growth, unable to pivot for survival in an unstable economy, etc. An established company can be a couple years new or 100 years old. Established companies typically have an enterprise infrastructure that has evolved over time into a complex system of un-integrated silos of solutions. Some of the solutions have been consistently upgraded while others have been barely maintained, yet others have been completely abandoned and need to have all the data migrated to somewhere accessible. Most established companies need to undergo a full transformation to be current and enable the company to utilize analytics effectively in order to compete.

Digitization of the Enterprise and Analytics

One of the most talked about transformations today, is digital transformation. With the digitization of the enterprise, the expectation and realization is that everything can be integrated and made to run faster and more efficiently. Once the enterprise is digitized, there is no longer a need to have separate reporting functions for each communication. Those reporting functions buried inside each application will be able to feed the right information and right events into the single, enterprise-wide analytics application. Aristotle said it best, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In our case, the holistic view is considerably more valuable than compiling a bunch of individual reports.

With a single analytics application it becomes much easier to have a single view into the entire journey—of customer data, partner data, employee data, process data, etc., no matter the channel(s), external or internal medium(s), system(s) or platform(s). Rather all data will feed into what’s called a data lake, which aggregates raw data in multiple formats. From the lake, the data then gets sourced into the four analytics buckets: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive insight.

  • Descriptive Analytics uses data aggregation and data mining to answer the question: ‘what has happened?’

  • Diagnostic Analytics is defined as a look at past performance to determine what happened and why. It answers the question: ‘why did it happen?’

  • Predictive Analytics is the ability to look at current trends within the business and project into the future what to expect based on those trends. Or, it can analyze data with a particular goal in mind and provide the probability of attaining that goal under current conditions. It answers the question: ‘what could happen?’

  • Prescriptive Analytics is defined as the ability to advise a variety of future actions and guide the user toward a solution. It answers the question: ‘what’s next and why?’

Each bucket of data can be further sourced to learn the journey and gain insight into how successful was the experience with the business during any event or action. Finally, a single view of everything is possible.

Internet of Things and Analytics

Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be 25 billion Internet-connected things that will produce close to $2 trillion of economic benefit globally. Such a sizeable impact deserves a mention, especially since the value of connecting something to the Internet is to have the data generated by the connected unit consistently analyzed.

From an enterprise perspective, the leading verticals utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) are manufacturing and utilities. In 2015, it was estimated that the manufacturing sector has close to 307 million units considered IoT and the utilities sector had about 300 million IoT units. The retail sector is not far behind.

The IoT is actually the enabler of the Internet of Everything. These are not interchangeable concepts. While the IoT is units connected to the Internet, whether those units are cars, smart meters, or manufacturing sensors, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is the technology connection. The IoE provides the security, software-defined networking, unified communications, analytics, application-aware networking, database federation and mobile experience. The digitization of the enterprise is the foundation for IoE which is why digitization is so important for companies to stay competitive.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Just as steam and mechanical production changed the world in the First Industry Revolution, then electricity and mass production changed it again in the Second Industrial Revolution, and IT and automated production changed it again in the Third Industrial Revolution, continuing to technologically innovate is again changing the world. As we continue to innovate—continue to improve technology—changing the world becomes not only more noticeable but also more realistic.

When we talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum describes it as: a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. What we’re talking about is the power of technology to change how we interact with each other, how we interact with objects, how objects interact with each other, how we work, how we play, how we grow as individuals and as a civilization. Answering how is the role of analytics.

The improvements we’re making with technology are very focused on making everything and everyone smarter. To become smarter requires ongoing analysis inside the technology itself and outside the technology constantly examining the environment around it, how we interact with it and react to it.

Why is analytics the new in-crowd? The ability to apply analytics to anything and everything in the enterprise is at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Analytics is now at a point where it can be the brain of the enterprise which is why it needs to be thought of separately, as its own application. Analytics allows human beings to be smarter, act faster, evolve and grow. Analytics is something that can be controlled to automatically make everything around us better.

Getting there is a journey. Like every journey the outcome is better with a destination in mind—getting stakeholders what they want when they want it. For a number of reasons described above, analytics has a very important role in enabling business to progress, compete and succeed. Whether you are a Bayesian or a connectionist—though both equally important and interesting–what matters most when investing in analytics is first to understand your business, its needs and its challenges.

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Meet Avaya’s Edison Award Gold Winner Blockchain Use Case

In less than two weeks, we are hosting Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore, a city that ranks alongside the likes of Dubai and New York as a global business hub. As I get ready for this event, those two cities are very much top of mind for me right now—and it’s because of blockchain.

By now, just about everybody is aware of blockchain, which likely originated in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the development of bitcoin. While bitcoin today seems to have gone through its bubble moment, blockchain is definitely here to stay.

Invented to serve one purpose, we’ve only just started figuring out what blockchain can do. In my world of technology and customer service, we would say we are developing “use cases.” Our job is to figure out how technologies can be used to solve a business problem, a social challenge and so on.

The inspiration to develop use cases can’t come from a single source—ideas come from everyone and everywhere. We have a team that picks up on those ideas and plays around with technology, putting the pieces together to create use cases to solve problems that are brought to us by our ecosystem or the customers we serve.

Our Winning Blockchain Use Case: Avaya Happiness Index

Inspired by the Dubai government’s drive to improve the citizen experience—and make it literally a happier place to be—our team, with our partners, looked at how blockchain can help track sentiment and enable organizations to respond more quickly to user trends.

We showed the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain to the world at GITEX in Dubai last year—and it was a huge hit. While plenty of companies are keen to use the word “blockchain” we didn’t present a concept, we delivered a blockchain use case. Real-time sentiment analysis may seem a very long way away from cryptocurrency, but we’ve demonstrated how this technology can enhance the citizen/customer experience. The value of bitcoin may rise and fall according to market demand, but the ability to make people happier? That is priceless.

I’m proud to say that the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain was a Gold winner for innovation at the world-renowned Edison Awards in New York this week, a milestone achievement for the Avaya team, and for our partners, Avanza Innovations and Sundown.ai. By combining our efforts we’ve created something of real value—a concept we call value co-creation.

When I meet with customers in Singapore this month, I will talk more about value co-creation. In today’s fast-moving digital world, it is no longer viable for technology companies like ours to create products and solutions and just push them out to market. Real value doesn’t come from a packaged solution; it comes from stakeholders working together and combining to create better outcomes. Avaya realized this several years ago, and we opened our platforms to make it easier and faster for customers, partners and suppliers to work with us. The end goal is to share the value creation process across our digital ecosystem so that the end result is magnified for all.

For me, it doesn’t matter so much who originated a technology. What matters is what we can do with it. The Avaya Happiness Index isn’t just a blockchain use case—it’s a proof point of Avaya’s business approach and cultural belief.

I’m looking forward to Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore because I know that plenty of you share our belief. This event will give us the opportunity to come together and lay the groundwork for future collaboration. I can’t say where that will take us but maybe, it might just take some of us to New York next year for the Edison Awards 2019!

Please don’t feel you have to wait until we host an event near you. If you have an idea you want to discuss, please share it with me, or your local Avaya contact.

Five Things You Must Do to Shift Customer Experience in 2018

We all know that to drive competitiveness, you must shift customer experience—and that this is now more important than ever. But shift to what? How? When? I hear these questions all the time when meeting with customers in our Executive Briefing Centers, and at tradeshows and conferences. The industry is rallying around terms like “omnichannel,” “cloud,” and “analytics,” but the contact center is not a one-size-fits-all entity. You can’t instantly accomplish a great shift for your business simply by buying omnichannel for your contact center. Rather, it’s a delicate process that requires you to refresh and integrate systems together.

How to Shift Customer Experience

As executives and leaders in customer experience, we must be ready to make changes that can shift a contact center to deliver a better customer experience. Here are five things that Avaya recommends you do in 2018. These may seem obvious, but collectively they can yield true lifetime value results from customers:

  1. Understand Your Customer Journeys
    Rather than looking at countless different, individual interactions, choose to put your customer on a journey, one that rarely starts and stops with just one contact. Take an outside-in view by identifying several important customer journeys and customer preferences. Or, consider low CX scores that can be improved either through self-service assistance or by linking channels together with context (this helps to understand where the customer has been before).
  2. Listen to Your Feet on the Street
    While your customers’ feedback is essential, it is your frontline staff who will give you direct pointers. These individuals understand the necessary tools and training for reaching new levels of customer experience. Consider, for example, that 84% of global contact centers are adapting to meet the needs of next-gen millennial workers. Give your agents a sense of ownership and they will tell you where they can personalize and engage with customers on a greater level. Your agents could potentially sell more when they’re able to make customers feel great about their overall experience. The key is to arm agents with the right information on their desktops.
  3. Support Advanced Automation and Analytics
    According to Gartner, more than 50% of CIOs will have artificial intelligence as one of their top five investment priorities by 2020. AI will assist greatly in understanding the customer journey: augmented reality and bots can automate more processes over human-to-human interactions. Keep in mind, however, that humans are still needed. It’s just that advanced automation and analytics, when put in the right place, can lead to richer and more effective experiences between customers and representatives.
  4. Break Internal Silos
    Creating an orchestrated experience requires executives to look as a team at organizational processes. Take charge as the person who identifies and leads change across your entire organization. Departments working in silos—sales, marketing, service—all stop short when processes are not stitched together. Also keep in mind that your CRM systems and contact center processes must complement one another. They need to come together to drive better customer and business outcomes.
  5. Bridge The Gaps
    Now comes the fun stuff: ownership, budget and getting a project underway. This can be done either by way of proof of concept, or segmenting a certain group of interactions to begin changing processes. Take note of the before and after, and check-in with your customers on improvements (consider surveys or one-to-one outreach). Assess if there are new roles or skillsets needed to keep up with the change. Take it one step at a time and prove a return on investment against identified use cases before moving on.

You need to make a shift happen in 2018 to continually innovate customer experience and improve lifetime value. It will require some research and a few bold moves. I promise it will be a rewarding process if it is inclusive of input and bridges critical gaps.

So, where do you start? I encourage you to talk to Avaya about an assessment or visit one of our Executive Briefing Center sites. From initial strategizing to execution, Avaya can help you develop a solid customer experience plan that yields true lifetime value—we can even model a potential ROI or CLV based on your own estimates. Contact Avaya to learn more.

Avaya A.I.Connect Focuses on Improving Companies’ Customer Experiences

For Avaya, AI is all about people. Sure, there are clearly opportunities to increase automation, to provide higher quality, more natural, more life-like conversational self-service solutions for automated IVR, text, and chat interactions. But in all these cases, there is still a person at one end of the interaction—the end customer. At Avaya, our A.I.Connect initiative focuses on using AI and machine learning technologies to enable our customers to deliver more engaging experiences for their end customers.

The Evolution of AI

The term artificial intelligence dates back to 1956 as an academic discipline, born out of a workshop at Dartmouth College by leading researchers in the computer science field. AI’s success has come in fits and starts, with overblown expectations and not a small bit of fear—it’s been predicted that AI-enabled systems and machines will somehow impinge upon the place of human beings in the global pecking order. But interest in AI (and its associated results) is stronger than ever, poised perhaps to deliver upon an almost 70-year-old hypothesis that machines can be smarter than people. But no, we aren’t welcoming our new robotic overlords. At least not yet.

Keeping People in the Center of Our AI Story

Bringing AI capabilities to the table ultimately centers on increasing the positive nature of the customer’s experience. And doing so in the most innocuous, unobtrusive, comforting and, dare I say, enjoyable ways possible.

End customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a little artificial intelligence boost. AI’s benefits extend to contact center agents and supervisors, making them more capable of meeting customer needs. AI provides capabilities for customer insight and an almost prescient ability for agents to have the right information at their fingertips (and get it to the end customer) just when it can have the most positive impact towards a successful outcome.

Our Key Focus Areas for AI Enablement

Companies are applying AI capabilities in a dizzying number of ways. While consumers may be familiar with automated back-and-forth interactions to select music, play games, order and re-order supplies, or simply update their family calendars, AI in the enterprise is stretching more broadly and deeply.

Within the scope of customer experience, Avaya’s AI strategy takes a more holistic view of the customer journey, creating a feedback loop from first contact through subsequent interactions across any and all channels, to continuously improve the key metrics for customer satisfaction. And through analytics, to feed the outcomes of the customer journey back into the AI engines so that smart technology can grow even smarter for the next iteration of contact by the customer.

As we apply AI to the contact center, we’re focusing on how it intersects with key areas, including:

  • Effortless Self-Service, including adoption through conversational interfaces, and extending Bot-based interaction capabilities.
  • Smart Routing, using Big Data and interaction history, as well as customer sentiment and other analytical/statistical measures, to provide pinpoint customer routing strategies.
  • Agent Augmentation, to drive upsell/retention opportunities through proactive guidance and next-best-action suggestions consistently across voice, video, chat, email and messaging channels.
  • Interaction Insights, using trend spotting and sentiment analysis among other techniques to allow enterprises to elevate offerings and enhance business processes with improved best practices and voice-of-customer analytics.
  • Enhanced Workforce Optimization, automating and improving QA and discovery of best practice models with the assistance of AI, as well as improving resource scheduling by predicting volumes and absentee rates within the enterprise

Introducing A.I.Connect, our Ecosystem of Partners

There’s an adage that says “to be a great leader, surround yourself with people smarter than you.” And that is exactly what we are doing with the launch of A.I.Connect.

A.I.Connect represents our partner ecosystem for delivering AI-enabled experiences joined to Avaya’s team and customer engagement solutions. Drawing upon top-notch AI-enabled technologies, integrators, and capabilities from companies like Afiniti, ArrowSI, Cogito, EXP360, Nuance, ScoreData and Sundown.ai, as well as others to be made public in the coming weeks, we aim to build an ecosystem that delivers exceptional experiences across the entire customer journey, from first contact to improving every subsequent interaction for the lifetime of that customer relationship.