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Manufacturing and Service Industries are Blurring

Across industries we are seeing consumers become more demanding of personalised products and services that meet their needs, and this is now expected. While some industries are quicker to respond to this, research by SAP, the Manufacturing Success report, found that manufacturers are falling behind, with 80% agreeing they could be more customer-centric with their approach and product development.

Traditionally, moManufacturing SAPst supply chains were designed from the factory outwards and focused on optimising supplier operations, particularly in terms of cost and efficiency. The rules of competition are changing though – customers are more demanding, products are more easily copied and markets are commoditised.

UK manufacturers are still grappling with this increasing customer complexity and changing competition. In order to truly succeed and grow therefore, embracing customer demands, and putting them at the heart of everything manufacturers do is key.

Here are three things which manufacturers must do in order to succeed in the customer driven economy.

Better understanding of customer base

If manufacturers are to effectively serve customers beyond core products they offer, they must look to build a better understanding of their customer base.

It’s not just about understanding the customer themselves – what they do, and the challenges they face – but it’s also about having deep knowledge of the industry in which they operate.

This will not only help to solve short time crises but through a consultative and integrated approach, this will also mean they can better support in the long term, planning for growth and strategic change. At Invenio Solutions for example, we have extensive knowledge of SAP solutions which enables us to provide tailored SAP support.

Add value

The SAP research highlights one of the biggest shifts that manufacturers expect to see in customers over the next two years is demand for added-value services (67%).

Can you quickly adapt products to meet customer needs? Do you have the expertise and knowledge to make recommendations? Are you available to support 24/7? These are all worth considering when taking a customer first approach – by being flexible, available and positioned as the expert, customers will feel that they are getting an added value experience.

Increase transparency

Customers demand supply chain transparency according to the research which highlights that almost half of manufacturers are expecting this to be a number one priority as we move through this year.

By consolidating suppliers, and being more open and transparent, manufacturers will quickly build trust with customers. Fewer, better relationships mean a value-added consultancy service can be provided which shifts away from the commoditised, ‘race to the bottom’ model which fewer demand.

By creating whole new systems of value for customers that will help secure long term relationships and provide competitive differentiation, the lines between manufacturing and service industries are blurring.

If you would like more information about Invenio’s SAP solutions call us today on +44 (0)330 440 1800, or complete our online enquiry form for further information.

How to Increase Productivity in Manufacturing

Only last Manufacturing SAPyear, industry body EEF found that more than a quarter of UK manufacturers lagged behind rivals because they invest less in innovation. This has resulted in them struggling to remain competitive, particularly in today’s globalised economy.

With that in mind, it’s great to see that one year on, the manufacturing industry is taking steps towards changing this. EEF’s research from June this year found that it is now investing more heavily in technology and skills to help boost productivity. The idea behind this investment is to drive competition today, and secure future growth in the industry.

While this will have a positive impact, there is a lot more manufacturers should be doing. By following the below three steps, they can make this development faster, smoother and more effective.

  1. Forge relationships

In today’s global economy, markets are complex and barriers to smooth operation are endless – language, legal and consumer preference to name a few. Industry knowledge and understanding of each of the markets is important for manufacturers who want to continue to grow.

Having all this expertise in house is almost an impossible task and so forging the right business relationships is key. Partners who have specific tech know how can help remove any headaches that arise as a result of changing legislation for example. By building the right relationships, complexity can be eliminated, enabling manufacturers to concentrate on increasing productivity.

  1. Understand your customers

If manufacturers are to effectively serve customers beyond the core products they offer, they must look to build a better understanding of them. Knowing their customer, understanding what they do and the challenges they face is a good starting point. But this should be extended to include having a deep knowledge of the industry in which they operate.

This will not only help to solve short time crises but through a consultative and integrated approach, this will also mean they can better support in the long term, planning for growth and strategic change.

  1. Simplify the supply chain

Traditionally, most supply chains were designed from the factory outwards and focused on optimising supplier operations, particularly in terms of cost and efficiency. The rules of competition are changing though – customers are more demanding, products are more easily copied and markets are commoditised.

This has resulted in increasing customer complexity and changing competition, presenting UK manufactures with a new challenge. In order to truly succeed, manufacturers need to reduce the number of suppliers. By consolidating these and being more open and transparent, manufacturers will quickly build trust with customers which will help them increase productivity.

The increased investment in UK manufacturing is a step in the right direction and will undoubtedly result in greater productivity. However, there is still a lot more they can do. This development will be a lot more effective if they review how they do business. Forging the right business relationships, gaining an understanding of the pain points their customers face and making the supply chain as simple as possible will future proof the UK’s manufacturing industry.

We can help

If you would like more information about Invenio’s SAP solutions call us today on +44 (0)330 440 1800, or complete our online enquiry form for further information.

Manufacturing and Service Industries are Blurring

Across industries we are seeing consumers become more demanding of personalised products and services that meet their needs, and this is now expected. While some industries are quicker to respond to this, research by SAP, the Manufacturing Success report, found that manufacturers are falling behind, with 80% agreeing they could be more customer-centric with their approach and product development.

Traditionally, moManufacturing SAPst supply chains were designed from the factory outwards and focused on optimising supplier operations, particularly in terms of cost and efficiency. The rules of competition are changing though – customers are more demanding, products are more easily copied and markets are commoditised.

UK manufacturers are still grappling with this increasing customer complexity and changing competition. In order to truly succeed and grow therefore, embracing customer demands, and putting them at the heart of everything manufacturers do is key.

Here are three things which manufacturers must do in order to succeed in the customer driven economy.

Better understanding of customer base

If manufacturers are to effectively serve customers beyond core products they offer, they must look to build a better understanding of their customer base.

It’s not just about understanding the customer themselves – what they do, and the challenges they face – but it’s also about having deep knowledge of the industry in which they operate.

This will not only help to solve short time crises but through a consultative and integrated approach, this will also mean they can better support in the long term, planning for growth and strategic change. At Invenio Solutions for example, we have extensive knowledge of SAP solutions which enables us to provide tailored SAP support.

Add value

The SAP research highlights one of the biggest shifts that manufacturers expect to see in customers over the next two years is demand for added-value services (67%).

Can you quickly adapt products to meet customer needs? Do you have the expertise and knowledge to make recommendations? Are you available to support 24/7? These are all worth considering when taking a customer first approach – by being flexible, available and positioned as the expert, customers will feel that they are getting an added value experience.

Increase transparency

Customers demand supply chain transparency according to the research which highlights that almost half of manufacturers are expecting this to be a number one priority as we move through this year.

By consolidating suppliers, and being more open and transparent, manufacturers will quickly build trust with customers. Fewer, better relationships mean a value-added consultancy service can be provided which shifts away from the commoditised, ‘race to the bottom’ model which fewer demand.

By creating whole new systems of value for customers that will help secure long term relationships and provide competitive differentiation, the lines between manufacturing and service industries are blurring.

 

We can help

If you would like more information about Invenio’s SAP solutions call us today on +44 (0)330 440 1800, or complete our online enquiry form for further information.

Big data is useless – small data is key

Craft customer experiences that drive recommendations (word-of-mouth) and sales

 

As an SME, how can you push the boundaries of your organisation? How do you extend the value of your organisation’s products & services with limited budgets?

The phrase big data is thrown around in every sector and has exploded onto every touch point for business growth, in reality, it is small data that is key. For every business large or small, it is really all about your customer, when a customer has a business problem what do they want to see? Your customer can see millions of products and millions of solutions. But what is it that your customer really needs?

Impact of word of mouth across various stages of the purchase process

We know that:

For an SME, one of the most important factors that drives your business growth is strong recommendations or word of mouth.

As recommendations are a key influencer across all stages of a purchase process; from being initially informed of a product or service through to the concrete purchase decision, you need to engage your customers with above average experiences and build positive feedback properties or word of mouth equity. This can increase the stickiness of a sale and improve the repeat purchase potential of customers.

impact_of_word_of_mouth
Figure 1: Mckinsey: Impact of word of mouth – across various stages of a purchase process.

It is reported that 8 out of 10 purchases are influenced by a recommendation by people talking face-to-face. And every product or service category  (regardless of price point) is usually influenced by friends, family or colleagues rather than more expert sources. The ‘experts’ matter more when seeking advice in technical categories such as digital cameras or cars.

 

So where do you focus for word of mouth marketing?

For an engagement to happen you need to:

  1. First identify the close & trusted set of customers that you can work with.
  2. Understand if they would recommend your product or service to others.
  3. Extract the genuine reasons behind being a promoter or a detractor.
    a.These reasons should not be ambiguous and should be a quantifiable indicator regarding the product design, service delivery or the pricing.
  4. Identify the key influenceurs of the group which you need to focus on to drive the word of mouth recommendations.
  5. Also identify the key influential detractors in the group whowould need to be converted to a promoter.

 

word_of_mouth_marketing

Figure 2: Mckinsey: Where to focus on for an Effective Word of mouth for a Brand.

How do you measure word of mouth marketing for customer engagements?

 

Your objective is to have an understanding of how customers’ experiences are influenced by their overall loyalty so you can figure out ways to improve those experiences. How do you use small data for a competitive advantage? Hence for me it is about my customer’s customer.

It’s not about presenting a billion items and handing over an inventory or your encyclopaedia of solutions, it’s about presenting a highly relevant experience for your customer.

customer_engagement

 

Connect the Dots and encourage your customers to be great!

Sheejo

Sheejo Arvind, Practice Lead – Customer solutions (CEC) at Invenio Business solutions has 9 years of strong SAP Consulting experience, and 6 years of extensive sales experience including the implementation of SAP CRM Sales specific scenarios, delivered key billing revenue & innovation management (BRIM) solutions, actively engaged with Customer engagement & commerce solutions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
References:
  1. Ed Keller
  2. The Face-to-Face Book:  Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace
  3. Mckinsey

Is Now the Time to Change your SAP Support Partner?

Whether you already have had a long established relationship with an SAP Partner or whether your relationship is fairly infant, you could be in a position where you feel the level of service you are receiving is not what was expected. There could be many reasons you feel this way, we have experienced customers coming to us for examples of:

  • Issues with initial support set-up
  • Slow response times and heavy back logs
  • Decline in service quality
  • Lack of support expertise

One of our longer standing customers came to us for these reasons listed above. They had implemented an SAP Solution which comprised of ECC with following modules financials, sales and distribution, customer service, production planning, materials management, human resources and payroll as well as BI and XI. Based in the UK, the system was used by nearly 300 people across many regional locations. Our customer had a long standing relationship with an SAP Partner. They believed it would be a simple transition to let them lead the ongoing support for this system. However, shortly after implementation, cracks began to appear. Our customer commented;

“Post go-live, the relationship with our support partner deteriorated very rapidly. ItSpeech appeared that the partner had seriously underestimated the scale of the effort needed to effectively support the system during the crucial early stages. Because of their miscalculation, the partner was unable to provide adequate coverage – which culminated in delayed response times, a continually increasing backlog of change requests and some serious knowledge gaps which became apparent in a number of the consultants placed on the job”

After a passing year, and with the customer’s confidence rapidly decreasing, they found themselves reviewing their support partner and looking for a new company to take on the project.

After initial talks, the customer found that Invenio could identify the main problems and we managed to quickly fix some of the issues that had gone unresolved for a number of years. This then gave the customer their confidence to lean on Invenio for their support and quickly signed them up as their new SAP Partner.

“When we began working with Invenio, the cut-over went very well. The previous supplier hadn’t been onsite for quite some time, whereas Invenio had taken the initiative to familiarise themselves with the system as early as possible so the handover could happen with minimal disruption”

During the early stages of the project, Invenio worked tirelessly to ensure the customer’s negative experiences were put to rest. Performance began to improve and the backlog cleared. Invenio’s turnover of staff is also very low, because of this this allowed the customer to become very familiar with the team and having continuity made dealing with queries a lot swifter.

Invenio continue to impress and look forward to progress this relationship. With everyone being clear about expectations and priorities the relationship will continue to prosper. If you would like more information on changing your SAP Support Partner you can send us an email: info@invenio-solutions.com or call +44(0)330 440 1800

Top 5 Problems Companies Seek to Address with Big Data

The Big Data trend is sweeping across every industry – and companies everywhere are keen to learn more about the subject so they can better understand what it can do for their business.

Gartner, as you might expect, is very much at the forefront of bringing fresh insight into the subject. And it seems from a survey report they released earlier this year that there is good reason for this. Even though the Big Data concept has really only taken hold in recent times, their research suggests that 64% of organisations are now planning to invest in Big Data solutions within the next two years (news that is almost certain to keep Big Data in the headlines for several years to come!).

Although actual adoption of Big Data technologies in the here and now is still in its infancy (8% according to the Gartner research), there are a wide range of business challenges that have the potential to be transformed. In this post, we take a look at the top 5 business problems that are highlighted as areas which companies are looking to address through Big Data solutions.

1. Enhancing Customer Experience
There’s a growing body of research which suggests that businesses who invest in understanding their customers better can outperform their peers by a significant margin – and Big Data technologies can play a pivotal role in this understanding.

The entire Big Data concept as it relates to customer-centricity lies in taking multiple sources of information, aggregating it, and using it to produce real-time business insights that deliver improved insight into customer behaviours. One of the early adopters of Big Data is the retail industry. As an example, by using Loyalty Card data combined with other sources of information, retailers can quickly track and record what their customer’s habits are. This helps them to predict which discounts or promotions would have the most likelihood of enticing them back to their store. The result? Improved customer retention, increased add-on sales and improved brand awareness. Retailers with more advanced mobility enhanced systems can even run these types of discounts and promotions when the customer enters their shop, helping to increase average transaction size with real-time offers.

2. Process Efficiency
Achieving process efficiency is the Holy Grail for both manufacturing and service organisations alike. However, this has been difficult to achieve in the past since there was no way to capture huge, disparate data sets for processing and analyses. A simple activity like month end closing used to produce financial statements is a great example of an onerous, iterative challenge experienced by many organisations. This is simply because of the lack of tools and technology available to process huge sales data multiple times, from many different sources and data feeds. This leads to an inability to aggregate and allocate costs being incurred through various sources and to crunch the numbers to produce figures under the various heads in financial statements. Appropriate use of Big Data technologies can reduce the time taken to perform month end closing activities from days to hours!

3. New Product Development
In their 2013 Innovation Monitor report (*subscription req’d), the British Manufacturers’ Association – EEF – revealed that 75% of manufacturers believe that speed to market is more important than it was in the past.

A key factor that’s driving this need for speed is that in today’s global marketplace product lifecycles are shorter. Competition from previously low cost manufacturing bases has started to intensify, with companies in these countries increasing their own levels of innovation in order to move up the value chain. As these competitors start to innovate more so the product lifecycle is shortened as technical edge is lost to other, newer ideas.

Deploying applications that can analyse Big Data sources can help build an overall picture of consumer demand and help identify market gaps that might be filled with a new product or business service innovations In addition, having an iterative, constant flow of real-time data means companies can be increasingly responsive in adapting their product developments to the needs of the market today – and they can gain that all important first-mover advantage when taking new products to market.

Another key advantage is that product development also requires a certain amount of time in research labs – be it a physical product or software. Big Data technology can potentially help in simulating various outcomes during the development phase or in analysing various test results quickly which of course allows for course correction actions before it’s too late.

4. Targeted Marketing
Gaining the tools needed to analyse Big Data stores means companies can more quickly and efficiently segment and analyse patterns, trends and sentiments that help them better understand buying behaviours. For example, banks and financial institutions are using insights gleaned from daily transactions, market feeds, customer service records, location data and click streams to create new business propositions and improve their go to market strategies.

Access to this kind of information means an opportunity to make better targeted marketing approaches – much faster than ever before. In a recent Guardian article on the subject of Big Data, Matthew Bayfield, group director of data for marketing agency Ogilvy EMEA said: “The new way of thinking about [data] is more like trying to read the river, you’re trying to spot patterns. There are numerous pots of information that exist in a digital ecosystem that [companies] can tap into to try and understand more about the consumer and what the consumer wants.”

The greater the visibility of data, the greater the opportunity to market successfully. And, with more and more consumers using digital technologies, the more important a solution that addresses that challenge becomes.

5. Cost Reduction
We normally think of Big Data solutions as expensive, so you may be surprised to see cost reduction at 5th on the list. Even though the initial outlay for a solution can seem expensive, the benefits of deploying such technologies can help to reduce cost in other areas of the business. For example, eBay use SAP’s latest Big Data innovation – the SAP HANA Platform – to manage foreign exchange and improve the hedging process. By using analytics solutions powered by the SAP HANA platform, eBay gets a complete view of cash across its entire organisation – meaning they can drive proactive currency management, increase profitability, and improve operations. This has resulted in estimated savings of $40M per quarter from better decision making on currency hedges based on real-time data and trend analysis.

Invenio Business Solutions work with one of the most talked about Big Data products in the market today, SAP HANA. SAP HANA can analyse huge quantities of data in real-time, meaning companies can get instant answers to questions and use the insight to improve multiple areas of the business.

Invenio’s SAP HANA Lab allows us to create test scenarios that enable clients to experience what they can achieve using Big Data solutions before they embark on an implementation. For more details on how we can help you achieve success using Big Data, please contact us.

The New Measures by which SAP Support Providers Should be Judged

A recent report by the technology analyst firm, Information Services Group (ISG), found that the number of IT outsourcing contracts that were restructured between July and September this year more than doubled over the same period last year. Commenting on the report, David Barker, IT Contracts Expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Buyers are looking to change the scope of contracts and make the supply more relevant to what their business looks like today”. One of the key motivators for this change, said David, is “…the customer wanting ‘best of breed’ for each service they buy, rather than buying everything from one of the biggest players”.

In our previous post we talked about the advantage of “focus”, and how companies are moving away from large scale contracts to best of breed service providers that offer deep domain expertise over scale. In this post, we take a look at how those qualities that buyers cited as important are driving this trend. They are: agility, flexibility, vertical alignment, responsiveness and trust.

Agility
clockThe pace of business today is faster than ever before, and the technologies that support business are evolving at a rapid pace. A stark illustration of the pace of change can be seen in Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the Blackberry smartphone. In the space of a few short years, RIM went from being top dog in the smartphone industry to an ‘also ran’. Shares slumped from an all-time high of $114 in 2011 to under $10 in May of this year as rivals such as the iPhone and Samsung out-innovated and out-performed them in almost every aspect. Although an extreme example, agility is fundamentally important across every facet of every business, everywhere. And service providers who support these companies must be able to match this pace to provide the right level of support for an agile business environment.

Evaluating Agility… Talking to a prospective service provider’s existing customers about their specific experiences is key here. Questions like: “how quickly do they respond to a change in support requirements”, and “are they prepared to accommodate requests normally outside the scope of your contract” can highlight how agile a support provider can be to a changing environment.

Flexibility

ThumbsupspeachBecause business today changes so fast, flexibility is paramount. Corporate business plans and strategies change, new markets and opportunities open up (and, of course, new challenges arise). This means that the ability to change accordingly helps to make a business less vulnerable when faced with an unpredictable business environment. Likewise, not all business decisions will prove to be right and so flexibility becomes a critical factor in making the necessary course corrections quickly.

To embed flexibility into an organisation means that every system that supports the business must match the speed at which it needs to respond to change. Software that allows a business to be more flexible is a critical factor in success, but so is how that system is managed and supported. Specialist providers, like Invenio, are usually more able to adapt and tailor the support they deliver to offer that level of flexibility. This versatility in delivering the right offerings is a critical aspect in allowing customers to maintain business as usual in an ever-changing environment.

Evaluating Flexibility… Overly prescriptive SLAs and an unwillingness to flex “standard” contractual terms during the evaluation and negotiation process is a good indicator of a service provider’s flexibility. However, it is wise to be wary of those service providers who don’t ‘push back’ on certain elements of the negotiations. According to Esteban Herrera, COO of HfS Research “Providers [who] don’t raise any objections or bother to delve into the details of the service agreement – that’s a red flag. The provider that says ‘yes’ to everything usually doesn’t know or doesn’t care what they are doing. At a minimum, they should seek clarification on some SLA and other performance commitments.”

Vertical Alignment
jigsawWe think it is better to do one thing really well – which is why we focus solely on delivering SAP services. But behind this focus lies another layer of expertise which can set best of breed service providers apart – and that lies in vertical (or industry) focussed service delivery. With so many different types of business and industry categories today, being able to offer deep domain expertise across a smaller number of industry verticals means service providers like Invenio can offer an enriched support service that takes into account the specific nature of a customers’ business. By having a detailed knowledge of regulatory and compliance practices along with common industry-specific workflows and processes, the support offered can be more specific and add more value to the relationship.

Evaluating Vertical Alignment… Ask the service provider to provide specific case studies and references of customers in similar industries. Requesting sight of the CVs of consultants that offer specific industry and SAP module knowledge will also help to give you a sense of the in-house skills available to support your specific requirements.

Responsiveness

timerAccording to the London Business School, customer responsiveness is “about being fast and being right”. Increasing competition, globalisation, digitisation and many other factors combine to make the business landscape more complex, and business decisions need to be made fast for a company to maintain its competitive edge. When systems fail and problems arise, fixes must be fast, efficient and effective. With the pace of change accelerating across every business, responsiveness becomes increasingly important and, with best of breed SAP support provision, deep domain knowledge means that customers can speak to the right person at the right time to get the problem solved.

Evaluating Responsiveness: How a potential service provider responds to your requests throughout the evaluation process can provide good insight into how they will respond if you decide to become a customer. A service provider that requests an extension or delivers a proposal late should be approached with extreme caution. “The inability to organise resources or meet timelines during the honeymoon period is a clear indication of bigger issues” said Ruckman of vendor selection consultants, Sanda Partners. Speaking to existing (long-term) customers about how a service provider beats – not meets – SLAs, is another key factor that should help influence a decision.

Trust

trustConsumer trust in many public and private corporations is at an all-time low. The authors of a report released by the Institute of Business Ethics states that: “Living up to the principles of trustworthy conduct across an organisation is a challenge”. Getting it wrong, they say, “can damage stakeholders’ trust, including that of employees, and also undermine the reputation of the organisation”. No service provider gets it absolutely right all of the time, but those providers that take the issues of trust and ethics seriously should be able to openly demonstrate how they build trust with customers by embodying the traits of trustworthiness and ethical behaviour right across the organisation.

Evaluating Trust: Ask to see evidence of how a potential service provider performs according to a stated set of principles and practices which prioritise relationships and ethical practices across the organisation. Seek out customer references that demonstate how a potential service provider deals with any failures and works to correct, protect and restore a customer’s confidence as quickly as possible.

If you would like to learn more about how Invenio can deliver a better support service for your SAP landscape please contact us.

Why bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to SAP Support

Exploring the advantages of focussed SAP Support providers.

Scale versus Specialisation?

For years, large global SAP customers have chosen to deal with large global SAP service providers. The reasons for doing so usually start with scale – a large IT estate needs a diverse team of people to provide skills across the many domains, products and functional areas that SAP offers. In addition, peripheral software applications, IT architecture and infrastructure are often subsumed into the same contract – the rationale being that combined support can be delivered at a lower cost through economies of scale. But as technology evolves, and as system complexity grows, can these all-encompassing contracts continue to provide the responsiveness and expertise that delivers best value? Or in trying to be ‘all things to all people’ is buying scale over quality becoming a sacrifice too far?

An article in CIO Magazine a few weeks ago reveals there is a growing shift from tier one outsourcing providers to midsize IT services players. Scale and price, they say, are no longer the sole interest of customers seeking these services. Instead, customers now value traits such as agility, flexibility, vertical alignment, responsiveness and trust — all of which are more likely to be found in smaller, more focused providers.

Commenting in the article, Hansa Iyengar, a sourcing and vendor management analyst with Forrester Research said “As deals get smaller, scale as a major differentiator is losing sheen. The cost arbitrage argument played in favour of larger vendors based on the economies of scale principle. But the tables are turning now, and skills are being valued more than cost.”

Benefits of Focussed Service Providers

Specialisation, in particular, is viewed as a major benefit of breaking down these large-scale contracts into specific components. Today, no large-scale service provider can afford to focus solely on SAP if they are to maintain margins and grow market share. Instead, they must offer an extended set of solutions and services, from many different vendors. This dilution of focus can impact quality. SAP technologies evolve and adapt at an incredible pace and, without significant and continuous investment in education and new skills, quality suffers. The relentless pursuit of growth can also compound this problem. Investment decisions are usually based on areas which offer the greatest profit opportunities. This means that traditional offerings like ERP can be neglected in favour of new product and service categories. So by adopting specialist partners, SAP customers can not only tap into the very specific skills needed to support today’s SAP landscape, but they can access the focussed expertise that will help plan and support their future SAP development road map.

Responsiveness and trust are other key factors that companies prioritise today in choosing suppliers. Responsiveness, to an extent can be captured and analysed in most Service Level Agreements, but trust is a factor that cannot be directly measured. Bhavesh Godhania, IT Director at life sciences firm AMCo benchmarked several large IT providers when seeking a new SAP support partner. He said: “[support] needs to be very responsive. One of the issues that I faced when looking at large-scale companies was that they weren’t able to give me the same level of attention as a small or medium company”. AMCo have been supported by Invenio for some years now and, of the trust that has built up over the years he says: “For me, it’s important that the relationship is strong and open. Anyone can offer SAP support. They’re all SAP consultants. They’re all certified. But the relationship you build, the bond you build and the trust you build is what counts”.

“One Neck to Choke”

Another advantage of implementing smaller, focussed contracts is that the transition from one supplier to another becomes easier. In an article appearing in PC Advisor earlier this month, Thomas Young, a Partner at outsourcing consultancy firm ISG said: “Back in the day, with the big ‘one-neck-to-choke’ model, when you switched providers you had to switch everything. But as the services supply chain continues to fragment all the way down to out-tasking and implementing point solutions, customers are much more likely to switch out those components. It’s the difference between switching out the stereo in your car and switching out the whole car”.

One more benefit to be found in mid-size service providers is good old-fashioned customer service. Forrester estimate that about 95% of [mid-sized firms] engagements are less than $5 million in value. This means that they must differentiate from scale in order to win (and retain) business. Factors that include specialisation, flexibility, agility and attentiveness become key when differentiating from large scale providers. These attributes are what customers today look for – making firms like Invenio, an ideal partner for those looking for a better SAP support service.

Customer First

At Invenio we have an important and unbreakable rule “Customer First”. It’s true to say that no organisation will say that they are not customer focused – but this is much easier to implement when you don’t need to worry about external shareholders or service delivery across a multiplicity of other vendor product lines. Focus and autonomy gives us the freedom to put our customers at the heart of any business or investment decision we make. We are also careful to hire people not just for their technical expertise but also for their attitude. Our low attrition rate and considered growth strategy also means we are not under constant pressure to sacrifice quality over quantity when it comes to our new recruits. These and many other small actions that we perform on a daily basis means that the “Customer First” ethos is firmly ingrained into our culture, allowing our customers to experience a service that cannot be easily replicated by a large firm, with so many other interests to take care of.

In our next blog post, we’ll be sharing our thoughts on how the new measures by which SAP Support providers should be judged. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how we can provide you with a better SAP Support service contact us.


 

Online Consumer Privacy. How will it affect the media brands you love?

Advertising and the data that helps drive personalised ad targeting dominates the virtual world. For some, it helps to make online browsing, shopping and searching more relevant. But the number of online users not wanting to be seen, or sold to, is increasing – and that is driving a worrying rise in the number of people who are amending their privacy settings to block unwanted ads or promotions.

As consumers, many of us welcome the opportunity to stop annoying pop-ups and continuous ads being served up on the basis of a search we’ve made some days before. But, from a business perspective, what does ad blocking mean for today’s media companies who rely on advertising revenues to help them make money in today’s digital era? And should media companies be looking at ways to offset a potential decline in ad revenues as the adoption of ad blocking technology grows?

A recent report from PageFair – a technology provider that helps businesses detect site visitors using ad blocking – stated that an average of 22.7% of internet users are now blocking ads – and it’s a number that’s growing at around 43% per year. The report said “[The] high adblocking rate translates directly into revenue loss for advertising-funded web businesses. One typical PageFair client site suffers from 25% adblocking, costing them nearly $500,000 per year. This scale of revenue loss can be fatal. Indeed, several sites that formerly reported data are no longer online”.

The chart below breaks down some of the Pagefair findings into industries that are most affected

adblockingSites that attract more technically advanced audiences such as the gaming and technology industries are particularly affected by this trend. These internet-savvy visitors are more likely to know how to block ads and/or change their security settings which shows in the higher incidence of ad blocking on these sites. As for the news and entertainment industries, their ads are currently being blocked by 16% and 18% of visitors respectively. Should PageFair’s reported growth in adoption prove to be accurate, then these figures are likely to climb significantly during the coming years.

Research from Google Trends also shows that over a number of years the interest in ad blocking has grown at a significant rate

GoogleTrends

 

Although ad blocking may still be in its infancy, these trends do suggest that the number of internet users deploying ad blockers is highly likely to rise in the future. And with new security settings such as the Google keyword blocking coming into force this month, media brands need to be prepared in the event that these trends do ultimately trigger a decline in revenues from the sale of online advertising space.

Is Paid Content the Answer?

One way to mitigate the possible decline in ad revenues is to offer paid and subscription-based media content. Reports around newspaper giants such as The Sun newspaper which has recently erected a paywall on its site have made the headlines in recent months. Although the paywall has resulted in a substantial decline in the paper’s online readership, The Sun’s owners, News UK, still believe that the overall profit to be gained from the paywall will prove to be a winner in the long term. The rationale behind this move is two-fold: build a revenue stream through subscription based sales, and exploit the rich data set that a subscriber’s digital footprint can offer to sell relevant advertising and cross-sell various products and services.

But of course many of us consumers are used to accessing free information – and are loathe to pay money for content that can be found for free elsewhere. If advertising revenues start to decline, News UK’s move may well be prescient in that a paywall will be one of the very few ways in which news publishers can survive online.

How technology can help protect and grow revenues

Protecting and growing revenues in the midst of shifting consumer behaviour is never easy but using technology to support business decision-making can help. Tools such as SAP solutions for the media industry are specifically designed to help companies address these kinds of challenges. They provide a good supporting mechanism in helping media brands overcoming challenges in a dynamic, ever-changing environment.

SAP Business Intelligences solutions can also help to support decision-making around content and content monetisation which can help media companies to:

  • Improve the delivery of relevant premium content based on current consumer demand.
  • Optimise sales by formulating pricing strategies that accommodate different audience segments.
  • Deliver relevant content and offers that help improve subscriber relationships and foster loyalty.
  • Better analyse feedback and behavioural metrics to assess content popularity.
  • Manage complex financial workflow to improve operational efficiencies.
  • Provide highly granular reporting on all content segments for more informed decision-making
  • Communicate up-to-date key performance indicators to relevant parties throughout the business, quickly and efficiently.
  • Better use intelligence to forecast and predict trends thereby helping to identify challenges and opportunities for increased revenues.
  • Visually represent objectives, goals and key performance indicators for improve internal collaboration and confident decision-making.
  • In today’s business climate, a well-designed technology platform can make the world of difference across many areas of your business – allowing you to take decisions with confidence and chart new courses for growth and profitability.

To explore your options in more detail please get in touch with Kedar

3 Ways to Improve Advertising Inventory Management with Business Intelligence

eMarketer’s latest estimates on digital ad spend in the US suggests that it is set to grow to $42.26bn in 2013 – accounting for 24.7% of all total media ad spending in 2013. The research also found that mobile spend is expected to grow by a healthy 95 per cent – accounting for a fifth of all digital ad spending, and 5% of total media ad spending. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Internet Advertising Bureau reported that in 2012, UK digital ad spend rose by 12.5% to a record high of almost £5.5bn. Just as digital spend crossed the £5 billion threshold, mobile ad spend reached its own milestone as surpassed the £½ billion mark in 2012 – representing an increase of 148% on the 2011 figure of £203.2 million.

The increase may help many media companies for whom advertising is a key revenue stream to offset the decline in ad spend across “traditional” offline business models – and particular in the beleaguered newspaper industry where a hefty fall in circulation for six national UK newspapers has recently been announced. But maximising revenues from online advertising inventory brings its own unique set of challenges.

Forecasting and pricing of advertising inventory – digital or otherwise – is complex. The challenges of selling perishable inventory at the right time and for the right price means publishers need to deploy sophisticated, insightful analytic applications to be successful. But when you take into account the deluge of data that’s being generated from any company’s online activities you begin to see the issue that media firms are faced with in turning this data into timely – and meaningful – business insight. Fortunately analytical technologies have moved with the times and there are a range of solutions that can help media companies to make sense of the vast repository of data produced in today’s digital economy.

Below are three ways in which media firms can deploy analytical platforms like SAP Business Objects to transform raw digital data into the meaningful business information that’s needed to inform digital advertising sales strategies:

1. Optimise Pricing Strategies.

Pricing and business analysts can spend much of their time cleaning and checking data – meaning they spend less time on analysing the information that’s needed to make optimal pricing decisions. What’s more, the amount of data that is available for analysis is increasing. Digital data has the potential to offer much deeper insight into various performance metrics (e.g. video v banner), across a variety of placement options and across differing delivery platforms (e.g mobile v tablet). Analytical tools like SAP BusinessObjects can take raw data and help organisations to create insight into the possibilities and potential of inventory, and help to inform cross-selling and up-selling strategies.

2. Improve Demand Forecasting.

A new breed of predictive analytical applications is helping organisations to identify patterns in past data to inform future business strategy. This is particularly pertinent for media companies who need to optimise demand forecasting to sell inventory. These technologies allow organisations to analyse current data and historical facts helping to better identify potential future demand for inventory.

3. Reduce Unsold Inventory.

Because of the perishable nature of advertising inventory, Media sales reps need fast, unambiguous recommendations on how to price ad inventory to maximize sales – without having to sift through large amounts of data or reading through long-winded reports. Business Intelligence solutions can equip them with this information while, at the same time, allowing them to analyse high volumes of pipeline data at any level of granularity to help inform their pricing decisions. This visibility means advertising sales professionals can react more quickly to changing sales conditions, with real-time information and accelerate deals through the pipeline to reduce the occurrence of unsold inventory.

These are just a few of the ways that business intelligence solutions like SAP BusinessObjects can help media executives to sell more space for the best price. Invenio are specialists in delivering cutting edge SAP solutions for their media customers. Contact us directly for more information.