5 Barriers to Digital Transformation

Howard Tiersky is the President and Founder of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency. He has a deep passion for digital innovation and helping each of client find success. This blog first appeared on his website.

You may be struggling to drive some sort of change, innovation, or digital transformation within your organization right now.

Why is it so hard? And what’s the secret to getting big companies to successfully transform?

There are five main barriers that large enterprises face when trying to innovate: change resistance, knowledge of customers, risk management, organizational agility and transformation vision.

Change resistance
Change is uncomfortable. Even if a change sets us up for a great future, most people won’t warm up to it quickly. To successfully drive change within an organization, create a burning platform for change so that failing to change is more painful than the change itself. Offer a compelling vision of the future once the change is complete, give people the confidence of success, and provide the opportunity to help create the change (instead of falling victim to it).

Knowledge of customers
You may think you have the answers, but how well do you actually know your customers? To incorporate your customers’ voice into your product development, you can use these five tactics:

  • Humility: Truthfully, we don’t even know ourselves that well, so it’s important to recognize that understanding someone else well enough to predict future behavior is no small feat.
  • Specificity: Figure out exactly what you need to know about your current or potential users that would make a difference to your product development. Use questions like: “What do you they like or not like about your product?” and “What are their unmet needs?”
  • Involvement: Get your whole team involved in customer research to allow the entire development process to include an understanding of the customers’ world and their current reality.
  • Iteration: One round of user testing is not enough — You need to continually study your customers to see how they’re reacting to your product and how their needs are changing.
  • 4D listening: Try to see past the surface of what your customers are saying to what they’re truly asking of you. Your customers may not be able to envision the more practical solutions that your product team conceives.

Risk management
Is it risky to transform your enterprise? Of course! The key to success is creating the expectation that innovation efforts are an iterative process. Successful innovation requires experiments, learning, persistence and, most importantly, the willingness to fail. Once you have alignment around the idea that some level of risk is necessary and appropriate, you can gain confidence from enterprise funders by envisioning the different types of risks your efforts might face and developing remediation strategies to combat those risks.

Organizational agility
As quickly as you can adapt, the digital world changes. Organizational agility is key to keeping up in the digital arena. There are five specific types of agility that are important for success in digital:

  • Sensing: This means knowing what’s going on around you so you can be aware of what actions might be required. How are customers, competitors and industry regulations changing, and what new technology exists that could impact your digital experiences?
  • Technology: Moving quickly from idea to live solution is important in supporting and growing your digital experience. Does your enterprise have technology stacks that are adaptable and easily maintained? Are your content and presentation capabilities accessible to your product owners and content managers?
  • Decision-making: Capital approval processes that take months to reach a final decision don’t work with the speed of digital. The people running your innovation projects need the autonomy and authority to make decisions on the ground-level so that they happen with the speed necessary to keep up with the digital world.
  • Strategy shifts: Embrace and expect that your innovation projects will go through a process of trial-and-error on their way to the kind of digital transformation success that you’re seeking.
  • Teaming: Despite a persistent myth, there is no one structure in which all digital work can be done by a single team of people operating under a single executive. The key to teaming agility is creating a culture with alignment across divisional silos, so that mobilization of the right people happens quickly and efficiently.

Transformation vision
Many organizations have a basic vision for growth: Optimize what already exists or expand upon current offerings. But to create a true transformation vision, one that encompasses your entire organization, you need to determine how the world is changing and how that will affect your customers’ needs. Only then can you determine what new products and services you can bring to market and the different channels you’ll need to deliver on them. You may even decide that the imminent changes will shift your focus to an entirely new set of customers! To be successful in the long-run, think in terms of transformation time so that you can get a few steps ahead.

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What is Field Service Management and Why Should You Care?

This week’s post were are pleased to share a mini info-graphic based on an article by Danny Wong from Salesforce.com. You can find the companion article here.


What is Field Service Management and Why Should You Care Infographic

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Augmented Reality State of the Art 

An Identification of Key Players 

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Considered to be one of the most defining technologies of our times, Augmented Reality(AR)  provides a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment and then augments (or supplements) this view with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. AR improves users’ experience by enabling them to interact and learn from whatever they are observing.  Deployment of AR tools within a field service environment can have a measurable improvement on key performance indicators (KPIs) related to quality, productivity, and efficiency such as Mean Time to Repair, First Time Fix Rate, and Mean Time Between Failure.

The implementation of an AR solution requires integration of multiple components which must all function together to make the solution work.  First there is the viewer technology. Most often this takes the form of Smart Glasses or a mobile device such as a tablet or smart phone.  Next is the application which allows the device to read what the field service engineer (FSE) is seeing live and produce the additional content whether it be sound, video, graphics or GPS data.  In addition, many AR experiences rely on video from the onsite FSE to a control center or remote support personnel with special information or skills to assist the onsite FSE in completing the job.  Often the communication is done using a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet.

In this blog we examine some of the key players in the AR space who have developed both use case scenarios and actual solutions for maintenance and field service environments:

APX

APX’s Skylight is an AR enterprise platform which integrates with smart glasses or other wearables.   It allows field service engineers to receive in-view instructions and obtain remote assistance with video from a central control center. It also has the ability to capture information at the onsite location and receive live data feeds to aid in field service.

AR Media

I-Mechanic is an AR application for smartphones that enable consumers or mechanics to perform maintenance on automobiles.  In addition it can provide consumers with useful information on closest auto repair and parts stores.

Epson: Moverio- Augmented Reality Glasses

The Moverio product uses sensors to provide onsite 3D Augmented Reality assistance while detecting issues and seeing images of what exists inside the components.  Additionally it provides one way video to a “control room” providing other resources for the onsite technician to successfully complete repair. One of the use cases for the Moverio product is the inspection and repair of HVAC systems  on cruise ships.

Fieldbit

An AR software platform allows for both 3-D overlay of information and remote instruction/collaboration with experts using video and smart phone technology. It also provides the ability to catalog issues and capture technical information enabling users to log and track reasons for equipment failure. Fieldbit is currently being used in maintenance of Print Equipment Manufacturers, Medical Equipment Manufacturers, Utility Providers, and Industrial Machinery.  Fieldbit recently partnered with cloud based, field service management software vendor ClickSoftware  to deliver faster, more effective field service repair resolution once the workforce arrives on site.

iQagent

iQagent is a mobile-based AR application for plant floor maintenance.   It scans QR codes to provide maintenance related information such as process data, schematics, and other resource.   It can be customized to read an individual organizations data and information from its database.

Microsoft

HoloLens – AR glasses which can be purchased as part of a commercial suite allowing for customization for enterprise use.  Current partners include Volvo, NASA, Trimble, and others.

NGrain

NGrain consists of a suite of AR applications including:

ProProducer –  platform to create virtual training simulations;
Viewer – companion to ProProducer to view and use the virtual simulations;
Android Viewer – allows access to content created using ProProducer from Android devices;
SDK – allows building of 3-D imaging to provide AR experience including both surface of objects and what is inside and underneath.

NGrain has also developed a number of industrial applications for its AR suite of products including but not limited to:

Consort – for inspection and damage assessment;
Envoy – providing real-time updates and information to field service engineers and allows communication between technicians;
Scout – Use Case – Aircraft Repair shop floor – real time visual analysis with Floor Manager oversite improving efficiency.

PTC

ThingWorx Studio is an AR offering developed by PTC for use in Industrial Enterprise. It combines the power of Vuforia, an AR platform, with the ThingWorx IoT Platform. These technologies offer new ways for the industrial enterprise to create, operate, and service products. For example, this technology can be used to monitor machine conditions in real-time and provide step by step instructions on the operation, maintenance, and repair of these machines.

Scope AR

Scope AR offers several applications to facilitate an AR platform within a field service environment. The Worklink application allows 3-D images and instructions to pop up on mobile or wearable devices thus enhancing the FSE’s ability to get information on site. To see a video click here.

Remote AR  allows onsite technicians to interface with remote support personnel, sending video feed to allow for collaboration and assistance to the onsite maintenance team. To see a video click here.

XMReality

A Swedish company whose product, XM Reality Remote Guidance, allows onsite technicians to use video to connect to a central control center to receive visual instructions from qualified technicians with the information on how to fix the onsite problem. Their products include Smart Glasses, a Guide Station from which to provide the remote assistance, a tablet, interface with mobile phones, and a heavy duty casing for Microsoft Surface Pros to be used in the field.

Although the AR market is in its early growth stages, the vendor landscape for these solutions is already quite vast.   We anticipate that more vendors will emerge while others evolve into more robust solution providers as the market continues to mature. There are of course many other applications for AR as well outside of field service and maintenance such as retail, consumer, building and more.  We hope that you will join the conversation and let us know about your experience with these and other companies in this marketplace.

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What Do Pokémon Go and Service Lifecycle Management Have in Common?

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Augmented Reality (AR) became a physical reality earlier this month when Nintendo launched its Pokémon Go application. This is the first example of a consumer based, augmented reality application that can be downloaded free on any Android or iOS device.  According to Vox Examiner, “Pokémon Go is a game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon “appear” around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage you to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game.”

Many analysts believed that consumer applications for AR would not hit the market until 2017.   Nintendo was ahead of schedule.  Pokémon is taking the world by storm and fueling the market for  AR applications, a market that Digi-Capital reports will reach $90 billion by 2020.  Goldman Sachs estimates that 60% of the AR market will be driven by consumer applications, with the remaining 40% of the market attributable to enterprise usage.

In case you have not been paying attending to technology trends, AR provides a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment and then augments (or supplements) this view with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.  The technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.  AR improves  users’ experience by enabling them to interact and learn from whatever they are observing.

Prior to the launch of Pokémon Go, AR applications where limited to the enterprise market.  I saw an example of a real-world-use case for AR at PTC’s LiveWorx ’16 last month in Boston.  At this conference and exhibition, PTC provided a proof of concept of how AR can be utilized within the context of Service Lifecycle Management.  In conjunction with their customer FlowServe, a leading manufacturer of pump and valves for process industries, PTC demonstrated an integrated solution which provides users with a better experience when it comes to operating, maintaining, and managing centrifugal pumps.  Sensors on the pump identify when an anomaly is detected.  Using AR, a virtual representation of the machine is placed on top of the device to expose the root cause of the problem.  AR is then utilized to identify the exact steps that need to be taken to resolve the problem.

By implementing AR solutions, companies can expect to realize significant improvements in key performance indicators related to Service Lifecycle Management.  For example, AR can help equipment operators anticipate and/or avoid machine failures and thus increase equipment uptime.  AR can also facilitate repair processes, thereby reducing both repair time and downtime while improving first time fix.  In addition, AR can improve the learning curve of novice field technicians, enabling them to become more proficient in diagnosing and resolving problems.  Furthermore, the contextual knowledge that is made available through AR enables equipment owners to make smarter decisions about operating the equipment, which  in turn can help extend the equipment’s life.

These results are only possible if field service technicians embrace AR and actively utilize it.  How likely are technicians to embrace this technology? This of course is the big question on people’s mind.  One scenario is that AR adoption will be very high, so high that technicians will become dependent on it.  The implication is that technicians will lose their domain expertise and be unable to resolve problems without it.  This could pose a challenge if for some reason the AR interface is not working properly and the machine still has a problem that requires resolution.  This outcome can be avoided through ongoing education, training, and skill-assessment drills.

A more likely scenario is that adoption rates will occur gradually.  Although technicians may embrace the use of AR in consumer applications, they may have some resistance to using it in a technical environment.  This is because AR requires technicians to modify their workflow and perceptions of themselves as problem solvers.  Technicians have been conditioned to rely on their own experience, intuition, and “tribal knowledge” to solve problems.  AR changes that basic premise.  Technicians will have to remember to activate AR applications when they are in the field and rely on the information that is presented to them to complete the task at hand. They’ll also need to become proficient at analyzing and acting upon the information they observe.  These activities are not second nature and may take some getting used to for veteran technicians because it represents a different way of working and a challenge to their conventional way of thinking.  Companies that want to leverage the value of AR can overcome these challenges by managing technicians’ performance against key performance indicators (KPIs).  They can observe who on their team is using AR and evaluate the impact on performance. They can in turn incentivize and reward good performance as well as identify who needs more training and coaching on the use of AR.

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3D Printing and The Digitization Of Field Service

3D Printing

This blog post has been reprinted with the permission of Field Technologies Online.

3D printing has received a great deal of attention by the media in recent months as this technology is rapidly being adopted in a broad array of market segments. Also known as additive layer manufacturing (ALM), 3D printing creates items using computer-aided design (CAD) and then builds them by adding thin layers of powder, melted plastic, aluminum, or other materials on top of each other. 3D printing requires fewer traditional raw materials and produces up to 90 percent less waste then traditional manufacturing. As a result, 3D printing is less costly. Furthermore, 3D printing enables companies to compress the supply chain and cycle time associated with bringing products to market.

The Role Of 3D Printing In Field Service
Indeed, 3D printing is a hot market. According to Canalys Research, the global market for 3D printers is estimated to reach $20.2 billion by 2019. This represents a sixfold increase from 2014 when the market was only $3.3 billion. Fueling this growth is the fact that 3D printers are becoming more affordable and mainstream. Given this trend, it is no wonder that the field service industry is quickly developing use cases for this technology. One example is Siemens, which uses 3D printing to make replacement parts for gas turbines. Rather than waiting weeks for an ordered spare part to arrive, Siemens can print the part and ship same day. As a result, Siemens has lowered repair time by 90 percent, which means less downtime per customer when it comes to gas turbines.

Another use case that has been proposed involves equipping service vans with 3D printers, permitting field engineers to print replacement parts on demand. This may not be practical or feasible. Many companies are moving toward variable workforce models and cutting back on company-owned vehicles. Even though 3D printing is faster than traditional manufacturing, it still requires a lot of time to print certain types of parts. This means that service calls would be extended, leading to longer customer downtime and lower productivity for the field service organization (FSO). 3D printing is also not a one-size-fits-all solution and can’t print complex parts. 3D printers vary according to the types of additive manufacturing methods employed, the types of materials utilized, and the size of the product manufactured. Unless all replacement parts have the same specifications, an FSO would need to install multiple printers in each van, which would add to the balance sheet and overhead expense structure of FSOs.

Despite these shortcomings, the concept of pushing the 3D printing closer to the customer and shortening the supply chain is very compelling. To capitalize on this idea, UPS has launched a full-scale, on-demand 3D printing manufacturing network. This network will leverage UPS’ existing global logistics network by embedding the On-Demand Production Platform and 3D Printing Factory from Fast Radius in 60 of UPS’ U.S.-based The UPS Store locations. UPS will also partner with SAP to build an end-to-end offering that marries SAP’s supply chain software with UPS’ on-demand manufacturing and global logistics network. This will simplify the production process from parts digitization and certification, order-to-manufacturing, and delivery. Now UPS’ customers can manufacture parts in the quantity they need, when they need them, and where they need them.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this solution is that instead of trying to force innovation (i.e., 3D printing) into our traditional way of thinking about spare parts management (i.e., in-house parts networks), UPS has turned service parts logistics into an on-demand economy business a la Uber. Under this model, the value for the FSO is not in the physical assets it manages (e.g., parts, 3D printers), but in the digital assets (e.g., designs, drawings, etc.) it owns. Eventually, developments in nanotechnology will enable 3D printing of all types of parts, even complex ones like microprocessors and capacitors. This creates the potential for FSOs to transform themselves into asset-light businesses. As a result they can deliver a better return on investment, lower profit volatility, greater flexibility, and higher scalability, things that weren’t possible a few years ago. UPS is of course an early entrant to the on-demand market for 3D printing. Look for more companies to offer similar solutions in the near future.

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Why Businesses Need to Adopt Mobile Marketing Plans Today

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This guest blog post was written by Sophorn Chhay. Sophorn is the marketing guy at Trumpia, the most complete SMS software with mass mobile messaging, smart targeting and automation. Follow Sophorn on Twitter(@Trumpia)

Each year, mobile marketing grows stronger. The world currently hosts over 3.65 billion unique smartphone users. Industries are expanding rapidly, facilitating the consumer’s need for deep, dynamic mobile connectivity.

To stand out, companies need to rework communicative and marketing outreaches to play upon mobile’s far-reaching impact. Creating a winning campaign takes time, but actionable plans certainly exist. Check out the following reasons companies are opting for smartphone support, and double-check your brand’s strategy for a watertight platform capable of harnessing the power of mobile.

One: Mobile Interaction Boosts Reaction

In the past, Internet-based content was vital to a modern marketer’s toolkit. Businesses now, however, are relying on mobile contact for interaction. 58 percent of consumers experiencing one-way communication tell their friends and family about it. Dynamic feedback has become the norm, and real-time SMS strategies, strategically media outreach and mobile web support are laying the future’s foundation.

Two: Mobile Coupons are Highly Redeemable

In 2015, SMS-delivered coupons experienced an open rate 10 times higher than printed coupons. Mobile coupons are highly convenient, and their discounts are commonly sought by day-to-day consumers. Because SMS, again, is a two-way street, brands can create custom-tailored offers. Mobile coupons both attract and retain customers, opening the doors to ongoing loyalty rewards.

Three: Mobile Apps are Taking Over

Mobile apps have become preferred engagement platforms in recent years. In fact, 20 percent of American buyers are considered to be “mobile app addicts.” They install, on average, 17 apps per month. The mobile marketing industry’s inclination to boost customer involvement via apps is telling of the mobile world’s overall health. Mobile apps are quickly becoming advertisement breeding grounds, and companies holding an app-centric course are prospering.

Four: SMS is a Preferred Communication Platform

Over 205 billion emails are sent daily. Unfortunately, they’re being ignored for text messages. While email open rates vary by industry, most companies experience an average open rate of 20 to 40 percent. Texts, however, experience an astounding 90 percent open rate. Consumers are reading texts, and they’re engaging brands at deep, intuitive levels. After 2016, brands unable to enchant buyers by way of text will be more than a few steps behind. Sure, email is still a viable marketing tool, but it fails to compete against SMS’s inherent communicative power.

Five: MMS is Even Better than SMS

MMS messages strike more conversations than SMS messages do. Many mobile marketers are redefining their strategies upon media-centric engagement strategies. Viral videos offered through Facebook and YouTube might be effective—but few platforms can compete with texting.

MMS content is highly shareable. It’s preferred by mobile marketing’s biggest fan-base, too. Millennials are viewing, sharing, voting on and even creating mobile video content. While Snapchat sparked much of the MMS craze, it’s currently unable to content with several of the business world’s creative initiatives. Branded SMS messages have a limit of 160 characters, while MMS messages can jam-pack thousands of words within a single video. Check out this article, and find out how your MMS strategy compares to baseline SMS approaches.

It’s important to understand the mobile world’s trajectory. The Internet of Things, alongside much of the business world’s contingency on immediacy, has made smartphone-centric marketing incomparable. Your brand, your workers, your strategy and your consumer base need mobile connectivity. The smartphone has created a paradigm shift, and it’s hitting the professional world hard. Double-check your strategy, find a gap for mobile and expand a smartphone-centric plan from within.

What’s Next?

What do you think of what I’ve covered so far? Will you adopt mobile as your tool for marketing?  I would love to read your comments below.

Jumpstart your business by grabbing your free copy of Sophorn’s powerful Mobile Marketing Success Kit.

Big Data & Analytics – A Transformational Journey

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Last month I had the good fortune to attend the Reverse Logistics Sustainability Council (RLSC) and Warranty Chain Management (WCM) conferences.   Big Data & Analytics was a topic that gained much prominence at both of these conferences.  Indeed, this is a subject that is gaining much attention in business and academic circles these days.  Interestingly, there is a general consensus among academics and industry thought leaders that Big Data Analytics is one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in the business world.  For some business professionals, the term analytics applies specifically to performance metrics, for others it has to do with unstructured data sets and data lakes, while still others think it relates to predicting the future.

Big Data refers to the volume, velocity, and variety of data that a company has at their disposal. Analytics applies to the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data.  The truth is that there are actually four (4) different types of Big Data Analytics that firms can rely on to make business decisions.

  • Descriptive Analytics: This type of Analytics answers the question “What is happening?”  In a field service organization (FSO) this may be as simple as KPIs like SLA compliance or First Time Fix rate.  The exact measurement tells an FSO how well it is doing when it comes to fixing problems right the first time and meeting customer obligations for response time.
  • Diagnostic Analytics: Understanding what is happening is important, but it is even more important to understand why something is happening.  This is how managers and executives can identify and resolve problems before they get out of hand. Diagnostic Analytics provides this level of insight, for example by pin-pointing why First Time Fix Rate is low.  Maybe it’s because the company is making poor decisions about which Field Engineers (FEs) are dispatched to the customers’ sites.  Or, perhaps selected Field Engineers do not have access to the right parts when they arrive on site and must return for a second visit.
  • Predictive Analytics: Ok, so now we know why something is happening. Wouldn’t it also be good to know what is likely to happen next?  Predictive Analytics provides this level of insight. In other words, it provides a forecast about what may happen if a company continues to experience a low first time fix rate.  For example, it could show the specific impact on customer satisfaction or the measurable effect on service costs and/or gross margins.   In this case, Predictive Analytics helps a company understand with a high level of statistical confidence how long it may continue to maintain the status quo before financial problems may arise.
  • Prescriptive Analytics: The final component of analytics is Prescriptive A This level of information helps a company understand at a granular level of certainty exactly what it should do to resolve a current situation and avoid future problems.  For example, Prescriptive Analytics may reveal that a company must ensure the field engineer has the right parts on hand prior to being dispatched to arriving at the customer site.  The Analytics can show which parts must be available and where they should be located.

In summary, Analytics takes the guesswork out of decision-making.  Instead of relying on intuition or prior experience, service executives can make sound business decisions based on objective analysis of data.  As a result, the probability of making the right decision increases.   Relying on Analytics to drive business decisions involves a transformational journey.  As innovative as it seems, a company cannot just start using Predictive or Prescriptive Analytics. It must first become proficient with Descriptive Analytics before it can leverage the power of more advanced analytic models.    This journey is not just about the data.  Many managers mistakenly believe that they must have enough of the right data to make Analytics work.  The truth is that we all have a wealth of data at our disposal.  Our challenge is finding the tools and technology to process the data, making Analytics a winning business proposition.  This begs the question: does your service organization have an optimal system in place to harness the power of Analytics?  If you are not certain, it may be time to conduct an audit and assessment of your infrastructure.  To learn more, schedule a free consultation today.

Leverage Geographically-Distributed Development

Mike Miranda is a writer concerning topics ranging from Legacy modernization to Application life cycle management, data management, big data and more. He’s had over 70 articles published in 2015 by many reputable tech sites.

Global-Networks

An impressive IT strategy model known as Geographically-Distributed Development or GDD, is becoming a valuable ally for businesses in industrialized nations all over the world. GDD is taking the place of archaic business methodologies that utilize one or multiple project sites, resulting in minimized efficiency and compromised success.

In order for GDD to operate at full-potential, substantial hindrances must be eradicated or maximally reduced within the GDD strategy. Businesses embedded in a globally-distributed market possess inherent and significant expenses associated with communication and coordination logistics. Businesses must find strategies that will combat those costs since they can oppose the very benefits GDD provides. On-going challenges include cultural and language differences as well as staff having little or no access to information that must be presented in a timely fashion to meet deadlines. All these issues endanger the success of distributed projects.

An Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution enables companies to successfully manage and enhance the breadth and quality of communication for all stakeholders in the change process. Challenges embedded in geographically-distributed environments are to be reckoned with, and include: language boundaries, cultural differences, dissimilar software-development methods, change-management requisites, security enforcement, adaptations regarding industry protocol, and client business mandates. The ALM solution very effectively meets these crucial areas.

Companies can establish clear, repeatable, measurable and traceable processes based on best practices due to the simplicity ALM offers during every stage of application development. Point-and-click functions allow users to very easily create a portfolio of authorized processes which can automate assigned tasks and the movement of application artifacts.

Change management becomes simplified due to ALM’s streamlining regarding changes and required actions, enabling changes to be scrutinized and prioritized. The approval management functions demand that official verification be staunchly in place prior to any changes moving forward. ALM’s tracking of software changes are performed with ease by way of the ALM’s automated logging functions. Changes can be traced starting with a request being received up to a solution being presented to production.

Staff within the global development team would be notified of any assigned tasks as well as circumstances that could impact their efforts.

As the enterprise becomes increasingly interlinked, changes occurring in one system can also impact other systems. ALM’s multi-platform support means changes made on desperate platforms, among geographically-distributed teams, can travel through the application lifecycle, compatibly and collectively. A BOMP, or Bill of Materials Processor, serves as an on-board feature purposed to generate file portfolios that combine features from multiple platforms. As a result, file portfolios can to travel through the lifecycle as a combined unit. Also, various ALM solutions guarantee that parts integrated into the assemblies are situated within the corresponding platforms during every phase of the lifecycle.

General project plans must satisfy deadlines while enforcing accountability for agreed-upon deliveries. The ALM solution meets a variety of specific needs including: 1) tracking and verifying tasks and processes 2) ensuring assignments are properly performed and 3) assisting with meeting Service Level Agreement (SLA) demands within an outsourcing contract. Assigned tasks to developers are flawlessly coordinated with tasks that are a part of a project plan; and this optimizes the tracking of targeted achievements. An additional ALM feature allows reports to be generated which dependably track response and resolution times. Service level workflows provide flexibility and automate service processes. In turn, this results in a quickening of processes to respective resources which helps meet project deadlines. An assortment of reports and dashboards efficiently track performance with service level agreements.

Reaping the full benefits of GDD means the caliber of communication and coordination must be enhanced. When this takes place, management strategies can be utilized to deal with obstacles that can compromise a company’s level of success. ALM’s centralized repository presents ideas, designs, dialogue, requirements, tasks and an array of other information at one’s fingertips. Development processes and tasks are automated, coordinated and monitored via ALM’s workflow capabilities with every bit of intellectual property being vitally protected within the central repository. Project management is impressively synchronized due to local and remote software development that is highly coordinated. Cohesiveness regarding monitoring, tracking, auditing of reports, and dashboards all function together, seamlessly, to satisfy crucial deadlines. ALM caters to organizations where mission-critical solutions meet mission-critical needs, head on!

Understanding the DNA of Reverse Logistics

DNA Images

A common expression among Reverse Logistics (RL) professionals is that nothing happens until a product is returned. To be more precise, nothing gets done without a Return Material Authorization (RMA). Anyone who has experienced a situation where a product just shows up on the receiving dock without an RMA knows what I am talking about. As such, the RMA process is one of the most critical elements in the management of the Reverse Logistics (RL) Supply Chain.

The RMA can be considered the DNA of the reverse logistics process because it provides all the critical information about where the product has been and the reason for its return. This information in turn provides guidance about what should happen next to the product once it has been returned. For example, should it be tested, repaired, or destroyed? It also provides information that enables the service provider to complete financial transactions related to the returns process such as warranty entitlement, adjudication, and reimbursement.

When designed correctly, the RMA function enables a manufacturer or service provider to obtain critical information required for processing the return (e.g., reason codes) and tracking labor and material costs associated with this return process. That’s why it is important for information captured in the RMA process to be linked to other corporate information systems such as their ERP, CRM, and WMS applications. Data gathered from the RMA can be analyzed to anticipate and forecast future returns. More importantly, it can be evaluated to determine the root cause of the returns. With this root cause information in hand, manufacturers can take steps to reduce returns by designing better products or improving the service delivery process (e.g., troubleshooting, remote support, etc.). In short, capturing and analyzing data about the return process will lead to reduced operating costs, enhanced service quality, and improved corporate profits.

The RMA is more than simply a transaction; it is a process that must be coordinated strategically. Indeed, products get returned for a variety of reasons at any time during the product lifecycle. By capturing the appropriate information about why the product is being returned, manufacturers and service providers can more efficiently manage back-end processes, for example by routing the returned product to the right point in the supply chain, whether it is a depot repair facility, asset recovery provider, or liquidation vendor. By anticipating returns, service providers can also take the appropriate action to ensure they have the necessary resources in place to process the returns and support the customer in a timely manner.

In summary, manufacturers and service providers are urged to place greater emphasis on the RMA when designing business processes and information system requirements related to the reverse logistics supply chain. This perspective can have a positive impact on identifying opportunities for improvement in productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction. End-to-end integration of the RMA process and related transactions with other corporate information systems is a critical element to achieving this outcome.

Innovate or Die

3 Strategies that will Transform your Service Business

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Recently someone asked me if service businesses face any fear when it comes to implementing new technologies or are they open to innovation. I had the think about this for minute and my answer is yes, they do face fear. Sure, a lot of business executives appreciate how important innovation is to the success of their company. However, few really step up and make change. Many more just talk about it or are forever planning to do it. This is fear rearing its ugly head.

Ridiculous you might say. Businesses are supposed to think rationally. How could a competent business let emotions get in the way? The answer is simple…businesses are run by people, people are only human, and fear is part of being human. In fact, business people have an uncanny way of expressing their fears as though they are rational objections. Here are just a few examples of typical objections that I have heard leaders give over then last twenty years for not adopting new technologies and the emotional sub-text (i.e., fear) about what they are really thinking:

Objection: Technology will not be able to do as good a job as me or my people
Fear: I will be replaced by a machine

Objection: Our Company is not ready for this new technology
Fear: People will resist my suggestion and I don’t want to risk my job over it

Objection: We tried something like this before and it didn’t work
Fear: I’ll be ridiculed for suggesting this idea. The last guy that tried to do this failed at it and lost his job.

Objection: This new technology is just hype. I can’t see it working for us.
Fear: I am really uncertain if we’ll be able to implement this effectively and don’t want to be the guy that failed, and lost his job because of it.

Objection: We can’t afford it. It’s not in the budget.
Fear: This could personally hurt me (us) financially this year (i.e. no bonus).

So what can leaders do to overcome their own fears? Tony Robbins, the great motivational speaker and self-help author offers three strategies:

1. Find something you are more scared of: Sure the fear of making a mistake about adopting new technology can be paralyzing but lost customers, increased operating costs, service inefficiencies and quality issues can be even more devastating.

2. Visualize what the future will be like: Imagine yourself and your company 3 or 5 years in the future. What will your future look like if you don’t make the change today? What impact will it have on market share, customer experience, or profits? If your answer is that things will be worse, much worse, then you will probably make the investment in the new technology.

3. Get Passionate about it: You can do this by defining all the reasons why you want to make a change and then make the change an absolute must.

Each one of these strategies has something in common. They require a leader to analyze their current situation and understand the implications of doing nothing versus the benefits of doing something. It also requires the leader have a well-defined plan for the future, and that he/she works diligently to carry out that plan. Remember that fear is acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Therefore the more supporting evidence you have that your plans are attainable, the more certain you will be at achieving it.

Let me know what you think of this post by sharing your comments below. If you believe you need more supporting evidence to pursue innovation in your service business then let’s schedule a FREE strategy session today. Last but not least, check out my new e-book titled “Unlocking value you within your service supply chain” for more suggestions on how to innovate and grow your service business.