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Is anybody out there? January 16, 2013

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, IT Services.
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It is no secret that social media has become an integral part of any marketing department worth their salt. These tools are no longer a mere reactive contact channel, but as a means to obtain knowledge and map the needs of the target audience.

Businesses that jump on the social media bandwagon without a clear strategy in mind will focus on numbers: how many followers they have on Twitter, how many entries are posted on Facebook daily. More often than not, it is one big monologue of information flowing one way.

In fact, 56 per cent of customer tweets to companies are being ignored. So, no matter how much or what customers are saying about the brands they do business with online – most of them are just not listening.

Sharing positive and negative interactions with relation to customer service on social media channels is on the rise. This is because people know they can be rewarded for their loyalty, or demonstrate their disappointment to a large audience if they are not.

While the corporate silence on social media has the massive potential to damage a brand – as we have seen on the now classic United Airlines example – positive cases where brands were really listening can earn real kudos from the public and spread like wildfire. Companies such as Walmart, XBox, and even steakhouses are showing us how it can be done well.

What about your company, are you listening to what your customers have to say?

Steak, Up close and personal [Explored]

 

Photo by Allan licensed under Creative Commons

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Outsourcing without losing jobs March 29, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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I had the opportunity to spend some time recently with the Chief Executive of a county council. We were talking about the looming spending cuts and what he might be able to achieve through the rationalisation of infrastructure, such as contact centres.

He explained to me that he had eleven premises with call centres handling enquiries from the public. Eleven!

I asked him why he doesn’t just rationalise them all into a single customer service centre. It would mean less property to manage, and without all that real estate overhead he could reduce headcount too.

He explained to me that in his part of the UK, the public sector employs around half of all employed adults. He not only has a mandate to try keeping costs down, but as one of the biggest employers in the region, he has to think of the social consequences of suddenly automating processes and casting hundreds into unemployment.

This is a very peculiar problem that most business leaders fortunately don’t have to face, but even the council leader could be exploring his data centre requirements without an immense impact on jobs.

Every process and system used today requires storage. Those banks of servers used to be lined up in the basement of every office until it became more efficient to use communications lines to large data centres, where the servers could be maintained more efficiently.

Storage is a homogenous kind of product. Apart from differing security considerations, there is not much else that is required other than the ability to store data safely, and to have backup and business continuity plans in place, just in case things go wrong.

Ultimately storage will go to the cloud. The players offering us space to store our company data will be Amazon and Google, but in the meantime there are many organisations – such as the county council – where individual departments still manage their own servers and storage.

Ensuring the enterprise uses a shared storage strategy through a rationalised data centre is one step towards reducing cost and running a smoother operation, but it also gets people ready for the future, a future where storage is on tap.

Who is the customer? February 24, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services, Outsourcing.
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Possibly the most important discussion I had at the Nasscom event in India recently was around the changing role of the CIO, and how this changes the whole relationship between the client and the service supplier.

The CIO is an evolving role. It is becoming more strategically significant and is focusing more purely on information use and flow – which means that there is less emphasis on the purchase of IT systems.

At the same time, services are getting easier to buy. Companies are offering complete solutions that can be delivered using a web browser so absolutely no infrastructure or software is required – beyond Internet access.

So business heads are getting far more involved in specifying what they need and even going to the market and purchasing it without any involvement from the IT department. In fact, if there is no IT infrastructure requirement then why would the IT department need to know what is being purchased or used by the business?

This has always been the case in BPO. The person buying a new HR system was the HR director – not the CIO. They might purchase a system in communication with the CIO, but ultimately the decision was that of the business line head.

Now the same is applicable for a wider variety of systems – even technical systems that would previously have needed agreement from the CIO.

Does it make the CIO redundant as a function? I don’t think so as there still needs to be a strategy around infrastructure and security, but this does signal a complete change in the way companies use IT. The business user not only has the budget, but the power to buy, install, and maintain their own systems without any IT department interference.