Thursday, October 28, 2010

IOD 2010 After Math

The curtains are drawing to a close on IOD 2010 and we felt it important to draw some conclusions about what this conference means for ECM.  What were the big trends and numbers this year?

10,000 attendees
3,000 Cognos and SPSS Customers
300+ Customer Speakers

One headline for this conference: “Business Analytics Dwarfs ECM at IOD 2010.”  The sheer number of attendees focused on this maturing technology was overwhelming.  And, yet, there was very little overlap between the content and analytics spaces.  There was some discussion of content-based analytics, but no keynotes, no specific breakouts that went into detail, but there was a mention of it in the ECM Keynote on Tuesday.  One exception was information on IBM Content Analytics, formerly Cognos Analytics, but our opinion is that there was not a ton of emphasis on this key thought.

So, what does this say about our little $10B + industry?  Huge opportunities exist for solutions and firms that articulate the derived value from ECM to fuel visualizations.  With ECM + analytics, you get both the forest and the trees!

What ideas were resonating?

  • Use the content you already have, and the BI tools you are implementing to drive a more targeted customer experience to your most valuable customers

  • Use segmentation to drive visualizations to only your most profitable customers

  • Be inclusive – provide same access to visually or hearing impaired that you do for other profitable segments

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gen Y Impact on Transactional Document Delivery

Gen Y, the 80 million Americans that were born between 1979 and 1999, represents a huge opportunity for financial services, insurance and brokerage firms, but so far, this group is more elusive, even more so than their predecessors in Gen X.  But their impact will be quite clear.  Did you know that this group, also known as millennials, will have more than $3T in income by 2018, far surpassing their baby-boomer and Gen X parents?  We need to think about the impact of this generation way before they hit their earnings stride 5 years from now.

Gen Y will completely alter the way we think about managing content in general, and transactional documents in particular.  Generally speaking, this group has elevated expectations, is willing to use non-traditional financial institutions, and has adopted mobile technology far more pervasively, even compared to Gen X.  After reading about this and talking with customers over the past couple weeks, here are some amazing facts and results that will be driven by Gen Y:

  • Gen Y Loves Making Money!  6 in 10 rate making money is as important to them as it is to their parents, which contradicts conventional wisdom

  • Big Online Adopters – 89% of Gen Y banks online, 30% want to open accounts online.  This compares to only 78% and 14%, respectively for other groups

  • Tech-Engulfed: 97% have a profile on Facebook or similar, fully 35% own an iPod/iPod Touch, according to Alte Media.  Wonder how many have iPads?

  • Alerts – This group is way more apt to use SMS alerts to notify them of payments and money movements due to (currently) tighter cash flows

In talking with an exec at a large brokerage firm, the topic of Gen Y came up, and in context of eDelivery of brokerage statements.  The exec has a 22 year old son, who never even opens his bank statement, forget about opening it and using it to balance the checkbook.  His son’s attitude, is “why spend time working off some paper which is 5 days old before it hits my mailbox?”  Instead, he is online constantly, and through his mobile phone, to track and monitor what is going on.

Does this mean the end of the “old think” SEC regulated statement?  Does it mean that the frontline view we show customers may be more like the online experience, with the SEC document as backup?  Another take on this is from a Xerox whitepaper which states that transactional documents in general will be transitioning quickly from vehicles that inform to online experiences that engage.  Maybe I was wrong when I wrote that …”Transpromo is for the Birds.” Perhaps, it is the first shot at making transactional history more relevant to Gen Y.

Here are the great resources I read for some of these facts:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bridging the Gap Between Reports and Visualization

"Old Think" Reporting

Some savvy, wise souls commented on our last post COLD Reporting Meets the New Think of Biz Intelligence.  The comments express doubt about whether or not one can reliably, efficiently extract actionable information from print and harvest it in Biz Intelligence Visualizations - you know, the Executive Summary version of all that data.

Well, we’re here to tell you it is not only possible, but possibly preferable in some situations.  In fact, it may be the only data source you've got.  Let me explain:

The report-data nay-sayers rightly posit that going back to the source data is always preferable and we agree.  Why parse an abstract of that original data when you can easily tap the original source itself?  To which we must also say: Bravo!  But here is where the rub meets the chafe; the original source data is sometimes no longer available or so obscured that it would take an offshore army to reconstruct it.   Reports are really nothing more than a view to your organization's valuable finance, sales, operations and customer data.  Think of reports as the digital pics on your camera phone; they are accurate, though somewhat ugly snapshots in time.  Recreating the moments without the snapshots is difficult at best, and I have a real customer example that proves this point.

Same Data, but in a User-Driven Visualization

 A very large North American phone company is persuaded by the marketing department to change the way they present information to customers.  Does this sound familiar so far? They are fine with the way phone bills are dynamically presented in PDF instantly, but they claim that large commercial customers are demanding a more interactive experience, the ability to sort call detail columns, the ability to link to more information on the bills' tax section, and a more drill-down look and feel vs. the regular phone bill, which can be hundreds of pages for some customers.  The phone bills are assembled from dozens of billing systems and the billing detail really only exists in the bill itself.  So there are two options.  Go back to some data warehouse that contains all this data, or mine the bills themselves to generate the more dynamic experience.  Because there was no comprehensive data warehouse available, this customer chose to parse the bills during each cycle and generate the interactive experience dynamically.  
Because the report data was in a digital print format they were able to extract all of the pertinent data, call detail, tax, department breakdowns into reliable XML structures and then dynamically present a much improved customer experience.  Because the extraction process happens in advance, the actual user experience is fast and reliable.

We would agree that this use case does not represent all your Biz Intelligence scenarios, but we see this often enough to suggest it to our readers.  Please keep those cards and letters coming! And, please consider those trusty HVTO reports next time your marketing department comes calling!

Our next post: How to balance the need to present more relevant, timely transactional data to Gen X and Y while still complying with SEC, FCC guidelines.

Monday, October 11, 2010

COLD reporting meets the New Think of Biz Intelligence

We've discussed the unique, even peculiar nature of COLD systems, or HVTO archiving, and the conclusion is that there is a place for these beasts at the table, or at least a place for tools that enable traditional ECM’s to handle this content efficiently.  But the question remains: is there a newer paradigm? 

“Old Think”: mainframe compute, generate standard reports, archive reports, wait for users to retrieve, repeat, repeat.

“New Think”: Don't generate anything, give users interactive tools to "pull" data from reliable data stores, and generate only "their" own reports in real-time.  Users Rule!

New Think Impacts:

  • Huge reduction in mainframe MIPS costs
  • Reduction in effort to maintain voluminous report archives
  • Users get what they want
  • Shift in report ownership to rightful owners – report geeks themselves
  • Drive content through new channels, iPads, mobile, SMS
  • Absolutely necessary if you have made the decision to move off the mainframe anyway

This shift presupposes that you own some BIRT Open Source or Enterprise equivalent like Actuate or Business Objects, and it assumes you've made the cultural and ownership shift, but man is the business impact for real!  We’ve talked to several organizations that have done this due to cost reduction initiatives, and if you are looking for both cost takeout, and improved efficiencies, this one is for real.

As with every big move, there is room for synthesizing old and new to bridge the chasm, and this is where the COLD helper apps can still play a role.  For example, did you know that the reports we are discussing have been generated for years, and represent “cleansed” data that has been proven to be reliable and accurate?  Whenever you stand up a data warehouse to use with BIRT or similar, one of the key tasks is making sure the data is cleansed, not duplicated.  This can gobble up a lot of time and resources.  If you do it right, you can use HVTO technology to parse report data and feed your Biz Intelligence engines.  The data in those reports is abundantly available, clean, and can be mined.  By tapping the HVTO report archive, you build in a natural segway to the point at which you can easily connect to reliable datawarehouses to create BI reports, and for those users who are in love with those old reports, you can even maintain some of the comfortable look and feel.  It's all about the users, isn't it?

So, don’t throw the old report apps away.  Combine their intelligence, and ubiquity to carry your organization to the new world of real-time, user driven reporting.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Only Have Ice for You

In our previous post, we outlined how the big boys have traditionally dealt with large volumes of computer output by storing this voluminous content into COLD systems, aka HVTO archiving.  There are specialized systems for handling HVTO archiving, but many of our customers have attempted to store output into traditional ECM systems like FileNet, Documentum, Content Manager, and now Sharepoint, Alfresco and Nuxio.

The big question is: If you can get by with one ECM, why have two, or three?  Or, as a customer recently told me: “Why do I need another ECM when I already have four?”  Apparently ECM’s breed like guinea pigs.  The answer is: it depends upon a couple key factors.  Some of these factors have to do with your existing systems and others have to do with the nature of the HVTO content itself.

HVTO archiving products like OnDemand, ASR, ViewDirect, and others do an excellent job of working with large reports.  In our last post we wrote that reports represent a whole other conflict.  This is true because reports can require discreet access privileges, bursting by department or user, and some report applications require bundling of reports together into super-reports, comprised of multiple reports for specific users.  I dare you to try this with a traditional ECM!

Another use case well-suited to HVTO archiving is high volume statement generation.  What is interesting about this content is that it is repetitive.  Sorry to report this, but my bank statement is almost identical to your statement, which is the same as Lindsay Lohan’s – really, it is!  What changes are transactions, names, addresses, but the really big stuff, like logos, fonts, fancy tables, and terms and conditions stay pretty much the same, but are repeated millions of times for all the banks’ customers.  What OnDemand and others do to reduce massive resource duplication, is that they store a “stacked” file of these statements.  In other words, they store the repetitive stuff once, with special tags to keep track of individual statements in the stack, and reference the repetitive stuff to the multiple individual statements.  In this way, they are able to retrieve the statement file for me, you and Lindsay, and re-combine it with the fancy graphics, and display the statement in real-time.  Again, don’t try this with a standard ECM without some additional technology, or you are likely to present Lindsay’s statement to somebody else.  Or worse, my statement goes to Lindsay in the slammer.  Does minimum security have Wi Fi?

Having said this, there are ways to turn a P8, for example, into a system that can handle HVTO, but it takes some special technology and know-how.  By using specialized output manipulation software and a web-based presentation layer, you can replicate most of the COLD features like indexing, bursting, and bundling found in OnDemand or similar systems, and then use emerging web presentation techniques to display the content in real-time.  This prevents ECM reproduction.  This will also mimic the storage savings you would have gotten, and enables you to manage some of the peculiar report delivery requirements.  But the rub with traditional ECM systems is that they are object-oriented warehouses, not really built with the stacking thing in mind.  So, if you are storing lots of very large reports, for example, you might be better off looking at COLD or HVTO archiving (OnDemand and others) anyway.

So, my next question is: Is any of this relevant anymore?  Is the old paradigm of creating massive report content with very few actual report retrievals really cost effective?  Do you, or anybody you know, actually download bank statements?  The advent of newer technologies around real-time information delivery and that famous oxymoron, Biz Intelligence, are turning this COLD world on its head.  Check out the next post for answers to these and other chilling questions.