Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dynamic Case Management: Business Benefits Wrapped in Cold, Dead Fish

I and others have been saying for years that if you let many if not most technically focused people open a sushi bar, the sign outside would likely say something like "cold, dead fish for sale." It's a metaphor for the unfortunate fact that technical people are often…inconsistent in their abilities to communicate the value of their knowledge and efforts to the non-technical.

In this context, I absolutely HATE the term "dynamic case management." In case you haven't yet heard said term, DCM is currently a Hot Thing among growing numbers of pundits and observers. It's supposedly the way that decision makers in marketing, customer care and related areas will develop and leverage that real-time, 360-degree view of everybody who matters to the business, or at least its revenue stream(s).

So far, OK. Now, here's where the cold, dead fish comes in.

In the first place, I am a customer, partner, prospect or competitor, and therefore the focal point of a relationship to be nurtured. NOT a "case" to be "managed." Ugh!

In the second place, there's way too much focus on the technologies that enable and support DCM, and too little on the goal itself. And that goal is not DCM, or the implementation of any specific DCM-related technologies.

The ultimate goal of DCM and related initiatives such as those focused on customer experience management (CEM) is to improve relationships with customers, partners and prospects, and the value of those relationships to the business. Specifically, this means ensuring that every interaction with your business is optimized, for those interacting with your business and for your business. (I call this online experience optimization or OEO.) It also means ensuring that the knowledge generated by those interactions can be channeled in ways that improve and refine the business processes that drive and support future such interactions. (I call this business knowledge optimization or BKO.)

These are all business goals that are human-centric and process-driven. To the extent that DCM efforts share these two characteristics, their chances for success are improved. To the extent that they do not, their likelihood of failure is increased. Whatever you want to call it, and whichever technologies you consider or deploy.

DCM is not the destination. It is an important step in the journey toward making your business more agile, more responsive, more social and more successful. DCM is also both a challenge and an opportunity for those seeking to make their companies more human-centric, process-driven. The goals, challenges and opportunities surrounding DCM require committed, focused collaboration among all key leaders and decision makers within an organization. The benefits are there to be had, if there is sufficient will and focus. And more plain-language business talk. And a lot less cold, dead fish.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Inventory Management: New Collaboration Opportunities

Inventory management? What's that got to do with collaboration? A fair amount, it turns out…

What do pundits and observers like me repeat almost as often as the answer, "Well, that depends?" How about "IT and 'the business' must work together more closely!" Heard that one before?

Well, that's another type of collaboration. When it works, it drives higher levels of corporate agility and responsiveness, lead and prospect conversion, customer satisfaction, revenues and profits. When it's not? Well, you've probably seen that before…

But how to decide where to focus efforts intended to increase and improve collaboration among "the suits" and "the geeks?" I submit that a great starting point is anyplace you can identify that costs the company money, leaves money on the table or both. I further submit that one such opportunity is…inventory management.

Why? Because it's how customers perceive and determine how agile and responsive your company is. Which means everything that supports good inventory management is critical to your company. Because getting it wrong costs your company money, leaves money on the table or both.

And remember, your customers, partners, prospects, competitors and purchase influencers are all increasingly participatory inhabitants of "the mobile, social cloud." Which means that what you do well gets trumpeted widely almost immediately, as does all that you do wrong. Such as not getting what your customers want to them in a timely fashion. Inventory management again.

And let's not forget the IT connection. After all, it's your technology infrastructure that makes it possible for you to monitor social media, be more responsive and agile, and manage your critical inventories. But at many if not most businesses, 60 to 80 percent of the IT budget is being spent on just keeping what's already in place working with what's already in place. Not much room to take on new initiatives such as improving inventory management.

What to do?

Do what you need to do to get sales, marketing, operations and IT around the same table to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by inventory management at your company. Determine how and how well inventory is being managed now, and where improvements might be found most quickly. Then, identify and road-test some premise-based, cloud-based and cloud-enabled inventory management solutions that show promise for your company.

A jump start: several worthy candidate solutions appear in an article published by Inc. in May 2011. My favorite: Fishbowl Inventory. It integrates with Intuit's QuickBooks and offers options that can take a company from better inventory management to more and better sales, fulfillment and resource planning and management, as recently covered by eWeek.

We in the punditocracy blather on incessantly about how business and IT have to get better at working together. A great way to foster such collaboration in meaningful ways is to focus on areas that avoid leaving money on the table while improving customer satisfaction, corporate perception and revenues. Improved inventory management can do all of these things.

A Special Offer: If you're interested in Fishbowl Inventory, drop a line to vip@fishbowlinventory.com. I've negotiated a relationship with the company that guarantees that every one of my readers who uses that e-mail address will get priority treatment and help getting started with their free trial of the software. And if you promise to share your feedback with me for possible inclusion in future blog posts or research (anonymously if you prefer), you'll get undying gratitude from me -- AND a five-percent discount from Fishbowl if you purchase Fishbowl Inventory! A win for everybody!