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Archive for January, 2012

The power of data

January 26, 2012 1 comment

Within the Healthcare sector, innovative organisations are developing unique approaches of managing data, enabling businesses to make more effective business decisions.

Ginger.io mines and interprets data collected through smartphone usage. The business concept was founded during a PhD study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. During the study students were given smartphones which tracked their behaviour over the next few weeks: where they went, who they texted, and the frequency of calls and texts.

Data obtained during the study indicated when students were ill by signalling when individuals derived from their typical behavioural patterns. This change in behaviour accurately predicted cases of flu and depression among the student body.

The technology supplied by Ginger.io and similar innovative businesses enables the capture and synthesis of large scale real-time data. The scope of the application of this technology is vast and Ginger.io are currently developing applications that can be used within the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and insurance industry. But the technology’s application could extend far beyond these areas.

The technology itself is derived from a branch of computer science called machine learning. Using this approach, applications are built with algorithms allowing computers to predict behaviours based on data obtained through devices – in Ginger.io’s case, smartphones.

As well as the Healthcare industry, this business concept is becoming increasingly more critical for the insurance industry. The insurance industry is data intensive, and organisations are having to deal with continually increasing volumes of information, and at the same time, increase the speed of decision making.

Big data is a term that refers to the massive amounts of data businesses are having to deal with. A study by McKinsey has shown that an organisation optimising their use of big data can improve margins up to 60%. Using technologies, such as Ginger.io’s, organisations can aggregate large data populations and subsets with increasing efficiency. Patterns and trends can be found, and as such, inferences can be made among specific consumer groups allowing businesses to identify groups of individuals at higher levels of risks on a number of different issues.

Accenture have predicted a number of Insurance Industry Technology Trends for 2012, which purports that the use of analytics to gain customer insights will become increasingly important for insurance companies this coming year. Innovative applications, like those developed by Ginger.io will be critical for large insurance organisations to gain and sustain a competitive edge, which is especially relevant in the more developed markets where competition is fierce.

Organisations are already exploiting the data intense nature of the insurance industry. Bupa for example owns Health Dialog, who are a care management, healthcare analytics and decision support company based in Boston, USA. Among the range of business services they offer are analytical solutions which allow their clients to delve into the deep depths of their customers data. Health Dialog’s services can be leveraged to identify cost-savings and areas which could potentially lead to business opportunity.

This increasing challenges being fueled by a data intensive environment also demands specific skills – researching, analysis, synthesis and so on… There has been a proven correlation between grasping big data and business success, so for the foreseeable future organisations will be seeking individuals with proven skills in this field.

Many industries will be responding to the current economic downturn by engaging in cost cutting and efficiency improvements. The bottom line for these organisations, and those situated in more prosperous climates, is that enhanced performance in data analytics allows for the acceleration of data-driven decision making and can facilitate a more accurate understanding of the customer base.

This post is based on an article from Business Week Jan 9-15 2012, titled “The Nurse in Your Pocket”. 

Job-fairs – There are two sides of the story

January 19, 2012 3 comments

To most students job fairs (or careers fairs) are quite familiar. However, the true purpose of job fairs is rather elusive. In my opinion, quite a number of students go to a careers fair expecting to receive a job or a call back. But while those outcomes are possible, they are infrequent. As the result of these heightened expectations students are discouraged when, after giving a long spiel, they receive a generic answer: “Apply on our website”.

But if most of the time recruiters direct potential candidates to go through the online recruitment process, what is the true purpose of career fairs? I asked some young professionals who had experience of being on the other side of the recruitment barricades. From the answers I got it seems quite clear that it’s not selection, but a desire to increase the image of the company within the educated workforce and drive the traffic to their recruitment website. Moreover, it would be quite logistically impossible for larger companies to accept paper résumés during career fairs, input all the résumé information into their recruitment databases and make a comparison with hundreds or thousands of other online applicants.

So it seems that recruitment fairs are there to attract talent by providing additional information about the companies, but they generally are not intended to function as a selection mechanism. If recruiters think that the main purpose of career fairs is to inform student populations about their company and raise their recruitment profile – what should students do to get the maximum value from such events instead  of returning home slightly discouraged?

Looking forward to your comments!

Here some useful links:

1. I think that this link provides a traditional and a bit old fashioned view of career fairs
http://www.career.vt.edu/JobSearchGuide/JobCareerFairPrep.html

2.This is more in line with what I perceive career fairs to be

Note the third guy in the blue shirt.

3.Another quite clear and useful post By Mark Lyden
http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/08/19/3-crucial-career-fair-tips-for-college-students/

Supermarket wars, it’s a mugs game

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Tesco, one of the big 4 supermarkets in the UK, is going through a bit of a tough time presently. Over the last few years the fight for supermarket sales has been intense. There’s a myriad of promotions, discounts, and sales going on all the time. And you’d be forgiven if you were a little confused with it all.

Whenever I go to Tesco or any other supermarket (which I prefer to avoid like the plague), the extent to which they use subtle and mystifying tactics to confuse and seduce customers never surprises me.

Take Asda for example. Firstly, they promote their price matching ‘offer’ heavily (more recently followed by Sainsbury’s) – which basically states that they guarantee to be at least 10% cheaper than any other rival on any product, and if you find your shopping cheaper anywhere else, they give you your money back. “Wow, that’s not too bad!” I hear you say. Well, if you think you’ll get it back easily, you may need to read the small print…

First of all you don’t actually get your money back, as Asda only provides vouchers as a reimbursement. You also have to keep the receipts from both purchases, and then you obviously have to queue at the customer service points (have you ever seen anyone working in one of those?). Asda consider all of these hurdles in their marketing strategy, which only expects a minimal number of customers (likely to be significantly less than 1%) to actually go through all this effort to get the vouchers at the end of the day anyway. Clever eh.

Now my second case, Tesco, and their big price drop flop. In late 2011, Tesco announced their £500m ‘big price drop’ investment which aims to support the majority of the English population being squeezed by the despairing economic conditions. The fact they promoted this campaign as a ‘cost-cutting initiative’ is quite ironic, as it offers a price discount both for the customer and the supermarket itself. Tesco decided to reduce the number of Clubcard points customers can receive, conveniently at the same time the big price drop was launched. This basically nullified any overall gain a Tesco customer would receive, if they paid in cash and used their Clubcard.


Storm Troopers Shopping

As you can see, the supermarkets do play some dirty tricks. But in these challenging times, there has to be some creativeness applied in order to survive. From my point of view, the problem with the supermarkets’ strategies is that they do not seem to be balancing their priorities correctly.

Supermarkets sit in a mature industry where all the players are vying for market share. This has obviously led to the increased levels of competitive rivalry over the years. Within these grocery store wars, all supermarkets are fighting for market share and there appears to be a lack of focus on profitability. They are all focusing on their volume objectives, but how much of the gain they are making on profits is being eaten away by the continued discounting?

There’s no doubt that pricing is a key issue for the supermarket sector, but how do supermarkets expect to sustain themselves in the long-term by continually lowering prices? Have you got any ideas?

Categories: Andi, Strategy

Service Power Thinking

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Almost every object humans produce and sell, can be viewed either from a goods-oriented or service based perspective. When selling a good what we aim to trade is a physical, tangible article. We may want to sell shoes, cars, vacuum cleaners or video cameras. All of the aforementioned items are simply equipment, the value of which is limited by its function and qualities. For example, a customer would pay more money for a high quality car and less for poorer quality, but at a certain point, the quality of the car reaches its maximum as does its value. At this point if we want to add any additional value to our item we need to bundle a service along with it.

What if we were not bound by the limiting perspective of selling just cars? What if what we really provided was an enhancement of the social status? Then we could sell our goods at exceptionally high prices, far above the value of its function. In the luxury goods industry the service is letting everyone know that people who buy certain goods are of a higher social status. By acquiring luxury goods one may benefit from all the marketing services provided. Luxury industry figured out how to attach value to an item without being restricted by diminishing returns of better quality, but is such approach limited only to this specific context?

How can we apply this service perspective in our own jobs to spark innovation? How can it be applied to electricity providers? Pharmaceutical Industry? Or airlines?

Categories: Alex, Service