<h1>Our Business is Helping Yours</h1>

<p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/Avanade-content-logo.png" style="float:left" />Our business is helping yours. Our focus is making a genuine impact on our clients and their customers through innovative digital services, business solutions and design-led experiences, delivered &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem.<br />
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We do much more than simply deliver technology or provide cloud and managed services. At Avanade, we offer clients the unique expertise we’ve gained from our one-of-a-kind experience with our partners and clients. Take a peek inside and you’ll see exactly what we mean.<br />
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Our solutions come from a combination of insight, innovation, and deep knowledge of Microsoft technologies that no other company can match. We offer a powerful blend of skills – backed by tools, methodologies, and best practices – that reduce the cost and risk of deployments. To put it simply, we know how to help.</p>

<p>Learn more at&nbsp;the <a href="http://www.avanade.com/en/home">Avanade website</a>.</p>


How Sales and Service Strategies for the Digital Customer are Shaping IT Buying Considerations

  • Partner: Avanade
Dave Nelson, SVP and Global CRM Lead, Avanade
Dave Nelson
SVP and Global CRM Lead

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

As many leading enterprises begin–or continue–their digital journey, two focus areas tend to emerge on the priority list: customer sales and service.

Industry analysts, consultants and companies themselves continue to identify customer experience and engagement as a key competitive differentiator and revenue generator for businesses and we fully agree. This has led business executives and IT decision-makers to prioritize the building of capabilities that meet the distinct demands of digitally focused customers. With this new emphasis on the digital customer, expectations are higher than ever and it’s up to the digital sales and service teams to deliver relevant and personalized engagements to cultivate relationships that lead to lifelong loyalty.

So, How Do we Do it?

To satisfy the needs of the digital customer, technology must be an integral part of every customer engagement. Digital sales and service systems must be built to help employees sell and resolve customer issues in a manner that fits their varying expectations and value. It is no longer acceptable to have disjointed applications and processes or to assume a one-size-fits-all approach will work. Simply collecting and presenting data, no matter how comprehensive, is insufficient without some intelligent interpretation of what that data means.

The most successful companies to develop strong relationships with customers are those that empower their workforce with solutions that can be tailored with the right information readily available for employees at the point of sale/ transaction. Sales and services teams need a ‘one stop shop’ that provides relevant information, application, workflow and collaboration tools in order to be effective.

This shift requires a substantial re-evaluation of traditional IT buying behavior.

Shifting from a ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ to a Tailored Approach

While it may have been commonly acceptable to say ‘yes’ to software and cloud solution providers pushing individual products or suites as the answer to any scenario, this is no longer the case.

Instead of trying to force-fit a set of often disparate requirements into a single software platform, such as a CRM or digital commerce tool, the IT buying process must include thoughtful examination of the desired tasks they want customers and employees to conduct during each sales and service interaction. We’ve seen successful companies empower their workforce with robust solutions that can be tailored to meet differing needs by looking at process, behavior, prediction, and adaptation as an intersecting set of scenarios.

For example, consider the differing needs among various industries to support sales activities. A large beverage manufacturer we work with needed a sales engagement tool that it could easily implement globally, but that also meets some of the unique the needs of individual local markets. Built upon Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM Online platform, we helped them deploy a state-of-the-art mobile sales force solution to streamline selling, merchandising and quality monitoring activities among their various B2B channel outlets. However, this tool didn’t exactly meet the needs of a global motorcycle manufacturer, whose sales teams needed to provide highly personalized B2B customer experiences within individual retail stores. For the motorcycle manufacturer, we leveraged user design to craft workflows and interfaces atop Microsoft Dynamics CRM that would solicit the highest use among sales, service and other teams. Both solutions leveraged the same core CRM platform but also utilized other Microsoft and third party hardware and software solution to build differentiated capabilities.

Considering a Portfolio of Interoperable Tools is Key

Having the various tools at hand to help your employees provide customers with a tailored, personally relevant experience is great, but only if the tools work well together.

Enterprises are learning that the appropriate solution to their needs will likely require integrating multiple hardware and software components into a smooth, seamless process flow across customer touch points. We’ve seen companies that leverage an ever-increasing amount of data, analytic processing and the resulting activity orchestration throughout sales and service interactions ultimately develop strong loyalty from the customers. The solutions are anchored by traditional software components such as CRM or ERP while other elements leverage hardware device capabilities such as cameras/scanners on tablets or phones, Internet-enabled sensors, smart consumer devices and even hardware robots and intelligent software “bots.” Additional solution components help gather, store and analyze all of the internal and external, structured and unstructured data and other content that make each sales or service action different from any other.

This is where interoperability comes into play. When considering digital tools for sales and customer service, IT buyers must consider options that are interoperable, not only with each other, but with the company’s larger IT portfolio and overall direction. An array of tools is only valuable if they integrate seamlessly for the end users.

In summary, the future of IT buying is about rapid integration of multiple hardware and software components to meet the ever-changing expectations and competitive actions of the digital customer. The best solutions providers possess a comprehensive, ever-expanding portfolio of offerings that offer flexibility, interoperability and comparative cost advantages. At the heart of any IT purchase decision should be an understanding of the business goals and tasks to be accomplished, coupled with a search for a connected ecosystem that maximizes business value by integrating all the relevant pieces at the right time.

This originally appeared on Avanade.com

3 Critical Steps to Improve Cybersecurity

  • Partner: Avanade
Sheetal Shah, Health Solution Architect, Avanade
Sheetal Shah
Health Solution Architect

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Recent cyberattacks have ensured that the security spotlight on healthcare organizations shines ever brighter. The seeds of threat seem to have proliferated after a number of successful ransomware attacks.

An aging infrastructure, and the anonymity of digital currencies have just been a couple of the drivers that have fueled the threats. Accenture’s latest research shows that cyberattacks on the U.S. health systems over the next five years will put nearly $305 billion of cumulative lifetime patient revenue at risk.

Until recently, organizations were hesitant to make security a boardroom priority, either because the business case just wasn’t there, or market and regulatory headwinds deprioritized a revamped security program. The winds are changing, however, and now health executives and IT leadership are prioritizing security in a way we haven’t seen before.

It’s getting to the “left of bang,” a term that originated in the theater of war, and it refers to handling the situation before an IED detonates using pre-incident intelligence, versus merely investigating and recovering from the incident after the fact. When you think about it, “left of bang” is an apt descriptor for a proactive cybersecurity strategy.

Here are three critical steps healthcare organizations can take to get “left of bang” on cybersecurity:

  1. Assign the Right Leader

For organizations that rely on information systems (nearly all in today’s digital economy), the common leadership component that is often missing is the appointment of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Sometimes CIOs or CFOs are charged with carrying out this function as an ancillary duty, usually when already overloaded with their core job functions. The best question to ask pre-cyber incident is who was responsible for handling our cyber security safeguards? In other words, who is responsible for managing the strategy to raise our organization’s cyber shields by deploying best-practice hardware and software, delivering user awareness training and establishing a culture of security? If the answer is more than one person, or no one, hire a CISO.

  1. Choose Your Vendors Wisely

Vendors in the cybersecurity space can either be your best friend or your worst adversary. If you consider several recent breaches in the commercial sector, you will notice that, in many cases, vendors were the conduit for adversaries to access critical cyber systems and ultimately carry out a successful cyber intrusion. To avoid this scenario, the first stage of selecting a vendor should be a survey and self-attestation request, for vendors to adequately show you they are implementing their own cybersecurity best practices. In other words, do they have skin in the game, and are they “putting their money where their mouth is” regarding their own cyber security infrastructure.

  1. Move to the Cloud

Health IT professionals face the tricky task of managing execution on multiple clinical application deployments, including population health tools, and all the while trying to balance infrastructure requirements to protect their organizations against the latest threats. Now is clearly the time for healthcare executives to consider moving their overstretched IT resources closer to the business and their consumers. Moving key components of their IT architecture to the cloud can provide for a better security and governance apparatus.

Of course, moving Protected Health Information (PHI) into the cloud can be daunting, but the challenges are by no means insurmountable, and most cloud vendors have thoroughly understood and support PHI security requirements. Health IT leaders should closely question the premise that on-site infrastructure is automatically more secure. While a cloud infrastructure alone isn’t a complete response, it is one that will free up key IT resources to work on other parts of a modern security framework.

With the recent proliferation of high-profile ransomware infections in the news, healthcare facilities have begun to take some necessary—and sometimes draconian—steps to control risks in the cyberspace domain. From disabling external access to web-based email, blocking external entities from sending to internal email servers, to turning off information technology assets on the threat of possible intrusion, often reverting to paper processing and charting – these are common tactics.

It is still the Wild, Wild West once you leave the safety of your corporate firewall, and high time for the health industry to self-subscribe some much needed cyber prophylaxis.

The steps outlined above are by no means a panacea, but they are important first steps in developing a proactive cybersecurity strategy that goes beyond basic block-and-tackle maneuvers to ensure that judicious measures are taken to prevent costly attacks before they occur.

This originally appeared on Avanade.com

Analytics in Health Care: The Hidden Benefits

  • Partner: Avanade
Sheetal Shah, Health Solution Architect, Avanade
Sheetal Shah
Health Solution Architect

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

It is an extraordinary time in the health care industry. Rapid advances in medical technology, the push for more personalized health care, a demand for real-time access to information and the ever-increasing cost are all happening at once. So many challenges, with many of them unique to the health care industry. How can organizations begin to tackle them? The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has attempted to distill the issues and optimize health system performance by using what they call the Triple Aim Initiative.

The Triple Aim seeks to do the following:

  • Improve patient experience (quality, satisfaction)
  • Improve overall population health
  • Reduce cost son a per-capita basis

IHI says that in most health care settings, no one is accountable for all three of these dimensions, but for the good of the system and the patients, the three Triple Aim dimensions must all be addressed at the same time. IHI recommends a change process that includes: identification of target populations; definition of system aims and measures; development of a portfolio of project work that is sufficiently strong to move system-level results, and rapid testing and scale-up that is adapted to local needs and conditions. Boiling this all down to the simplest terms, it’s a matter of doing more for less, as well as servicing patient communities better and more efficiently in the long run. In practical terms, to accomplish the Triple Aim Initiative, health care delivery needs to be smarter and more efficient. That is where analytics capabilities and insights can play a big role.

The time is right to extend and evolve insights that analytics can provide in health care because the source data is becoming more and more available just as the techniques and capabilities to utilize the data become mainstream. Electronic Medical Records are much more widely adopted now than just a few years ago, and the data floodgates have opened with the availability and use of wearables, mobile devices and a host of other personal and home health monitoring devices.

Analytics can be used in any number of ways in a modern health care setting, including:

  • Operations management
  • Clinical variability (cost / quality / outcomes) assessment
  • Patient segmentation
  • Risk management
  • Population health
  • Patient monitoring

Analytics can provide benefits for each of these operations individually, but they can also be combined to interesting and powerful effects. For example, a health care organization might combine population health information with clinical cost variability analysis to explore the relationship between costs for different populations. Then, they could perform patient segmentation analysis to designate a population for risk management and follow up with patient monitoring based on home health care monitoring devices. Think about the possibilities!

Fortunately, the tools to develop these kinds of capabilities are readily available. SQL Server Reporting, Power BI and Cortana Analytics are made to order for this kind of work and are already being used by many health care organizations. Add in the big data tools available in Azure and other platforms, and you can see how easily enterprises can be fully equipped to handle analytic challenges.

There are several things to keep in mind, however, when embarking on an analytics journey in the healthcare space.

First, many organizations in the industry, particularly on the provider side, are not necessarily sophisticated consumers of data and analytics. Some of the required infrastructure may be missing or immature, so work will need to be done around data movement, integration, mastering and warehousing. Much can be learned from other industries, like banking, about how to treat and handle vast amounts of sensitive data in a respectful, confidential manner.

Second, some of the data may be challenging to access, particularly if it is clinical data in an Electronic Medical Record. Some of these systems are tricky to integrate with from a technical perspective, and in all cases health care providers are cautious regarding access to these critical systems.

Third, health care data comes with very specific rules regarding privacy which places a higher, but by no means insurmountable, set of controls over transport and securement of the data. This is further complicated by the massive increase in data coming in. An Accenture study, Healthcare IT: Top 5 eHealth Trends Reshaping the Industry in 2015, reports that 41 percent of health executives say the volume of data their organization manages has grown by more than 50 percent in the last year.

With the many challenges being faced in today’s radically and rapidly evolving health care world, analytic applications can offer a potential lifeline to organizations that are tasked with both safeguarding their patients’ wellbeing and getting their economics under control. There’s no denying that challenges exist, but with the help of analytics, success can be achieved and the rewards are certainly worth it.

An organization that wants to reap these rewards doesn’t have to go with a big-bang approach. To this end, a health-specific analytics adoption model can provide a roadmap for an organization’s journey to achieve the Triple Aim. The model describes the journey from nascent to mature analytics capabilities, and there are significant benefits available even at the beginning of this scale. For example, now that the EMR installation wave is mostly over, we have a great deal of clinical data being captured. However, the reports available are typically not well suited for exploration and actionable insight, not to mention the difficulty and expense in creating new ones… the so called “last mile” problem. With a modest investment, this data can be accessible to powerful and agile data analysis tools. These include self-service capabilities benefitting both sides of the equation by decoupling data analytics from the standard IT cycle.

As the benefits of analytics become more widely understood, organizations can move up the scale from reporting to insight, to predictive and prescriptive analytics, and can be prepared to intelligently engage in the new economic models that are transforming the industry in this time of extraordinary change.

This originally appeared on Avanade.com

Is SharePoint Disappearing or is it Taking over the World?

  • Partner: Avanade
Ruven Gotz, Director, Solution Development, Avanade
Ruven Gotz
Director, Solution Development
Michelle Caldwell, Director, Solution Development, Avanade
Michelle Caldwell
Director, Solution Development

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Over the past 2-3 years, you may have read opinions from various sources that SharePoint was dead or dying and that Microsoft had lost interest in it as a core product. This left many executives and SharePoint enthusiasts asking "what do I do now with my SharePoint investment?" We've also heard many of those in IT leadership say "isn't SharePoint being deprecated?" We are happy to report that SharePoint is alive and well and in fact, SharePoint remains at the heart of Microsoft's mission to transform the way organizations are getting work done. Many organizations are embarking on digital transformation initiatives for both their customers and employees. SharePoint and 0365 is positioned better than ever before to enable organizations to realize their transformational vision. We believe that SharePoint is an important component for transforming your current intranet and legacy applications into the Digital Workplace you aspire to.

While it seemed in the early days of Office 365, that Microsoft was abandoning the on-prem product to focus exclusively on the cloud, they have adjusted their messaging to reflect the reality that they really embrace both. They are committed to providing a market-leading experience whether their clients are on-prem, in the cloud or a blend of the two. It is clear that even for clients who see the value of cloud services, there are workloads or classes of data that cannot go to the cloud – at least in the foreseeable future. With flagship products like SharePoint and OneDrive, Microsoft will remain a critical piece in many organizations that are on their digital workplace transformation journey. According to The Digital Workplace Group, 70% of corporate intranets are developed on the Microsoft SharePoint platform.

Microsoft has done a huge amount of work to make SharePoint in the cloud and on-prem a solution that appeals to more and more organizations. However, it has not been an easy path. Many companies did not realize SharePoint's promised benefits due to lack of investment in planning, change management, information architecture and governance. In addition, many felt like they had spent too much money customizing SharePoint without getting a strong enough ROI, while adding on the worry of compatibility with future upgrades. Microsoft was listening and they are building tools that are “ready to go”. Organizations can now get a very high proportion of the functionality required without a lot of customization. By reducing the need for SharePoint to be customized by their clients, Microsoft can make SharePoint responsive and mobile-ready without costly further investment. Microsoft research predicts that by 2020, 60% of all business processes will be optimized for mobile and they are laser focused on providing platforms like SharePoint that help organizations accomplish a mobile first agenda.

Another key capability of SharePoint as part of Office 365 is being able to provide a proactive and contextual search experience. This aids in solving the findability problem that has been the holy grail of search for most enterprises. Microsoft's solution is the development of the Office Graph. The Office Graph maps the relationships between people and objects: Managers, colleagues, files, appointments, emails, social posts, etc. As people within an organization work together, the graph gets signals from the applications that people use and the actions that people take. These signals are processed using machine learning to build and modify the graph. The result is a system that can help you find documents that you didn’t even know you needed to look for. The first product that makes use of the Office Graph is called Delve. In our own experience, as we add documents to SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business, we have been finding it incredibly useful in our day-to-day work. We are applying our experiences and helping our clients find new ways to apply it to their most painful productivity issues.

Another productivity enhancer is the development of groups, a powerful, yet lightweight approach to giving teams a workplace that they can set up and manage quickly and easily. Typically, in SharePoint, when a team wants a team site to work on a project, they have to request the team site and follow a process that may take hours or days. By the time they get their site, the need may have passed. A group is a secure structure based on Exchange that includes a calendar, a shared mailbox and a SharePoint document library. Groups can also tie in other Office components as needed. The ability to instantly create a space for discussion, scheduling and light-weight document management, all managed from the Outlook client, provides a great way for teams to become instantly productive without the overhead of team site management.

An additional capability is the Office 365 video portal and the new and improved video capability that Azure media services brings to the table. Many owners of intranets based on SharePoint have long struggled with attaining a seamless and responsive video streaming capability. With Azure media services, you get a simple management interface that allows you to select various formats and see the technology and protection level behind each of them. It provides support for a variety of formats, so if you've been dreaming of a great way to integrate video streaming into your current intranet look no further.

A trend we are seeing more than ever is a demand for quick, easy and secure ways to collaborate with outside partners. In the past this would have been time and resource intensive. Many of our clients are embracing cloud/hybrid models to meet this demand. Using 0ffice 365 capabilities like OneDrive for Business, Yammer External Networks and SharePoint Online, IT has more options than ever before and this is often one of the first use cases we see implemented in a Hybrid SharePoint environment.

SharePoint has been an essential building block for collaboration in a huge number of enterprises. The creation of a hybrid cloud and on-prem solution coupled with powerful new collaboration tools and concepts like the Office Graph and Groups is gaining huge traction with our largest clients. We see SharePoint and its surrounding, enabling tools contained within Office 365 as an unstoppable force in the enterprise. Long live SharePoint!

This originally appeared on CIOReview

When the Machines Report to Work, Digital Ethics Should Too

  • Partner: Avanade
Mick Slattery, President, North America, Avanade
Mick Slattery
President, North America

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Connected things, intelligent automation and even robots — what we broadly define as smart technologies — have begun to dramatically transform the way we work and interact with organizations in a digital world.

As more smart machines report to work, recent research (pdf) illustrates what’s on the minds of C-level and IT executives these days: 86 percent anticipate the pace of technology change will increase rapidly or at an unprecedented rate in their industry over the next three years. As a result, the vast majority believe that by 2020, their organization’s workforce will need to change as these technologies become more widely used.

With this seismic shift comes some weighty issues.

Executives know that connected devices, intelligent automation and even robots will transform how their organizations operate. But what about the moral, ethical and human dilemmas that increased AI interactions are creating for business?​

Digital Ethics Defined

Research firm Gartner defines digital ethics as a system of values and moral principles for the conduct of digital interactions between businesses, people and things. It sits at the nexus of what is legally required, what can be made possible by digital technology and what is ethically desirable.

How is digital ethics different than business ethics in general? In reality, it isn’t. But the potential for missteps or mishandling of information generated in the digital age requires much more awareness, thought and process to protect those potentially impacted by it.

And while organizations have always encountered ethical issues, the digital world is bringing them with more frequency as many C-level executives and IT leaders having experienced a digital ethics issue at work more than once.

While the majority of executives acknowledge they will need to establish and adhere to digital ethics guidelines in order to be successful in the future, an overwhelming majority have told us their organizations haven’t given enough thought to the ethical issues that are coming. While this may be concerning, the good news is we’re seeing more interest in investing in digital ethics over the next five years.

Building Blocks of Digital Ethics: Clarity, Communications, Consistency

As a business student many years ago, the mantra of our ethics course was, “Do right by the customer.”

While that advice still holds true today, digital technologies have the potential to do much more harm. With this tsunami of data comes much more responsibility.

As companies begin to address the ethical issues triggered by the use of smart technologies in the workplace, they can focus on three key areas:

Be Clear

When it comes to the increased use of smart technologies, doing right by the customer starts with organizations setting the right tone with their employees. Organizations should be thoughtful about how much data should be gathered, how it is used and how it must be treated. Their own culture and set of values will show their employees what is acceptable and what is not.

Customer data protection policies are a great example of setting guidelines for how to use information generated about a customer. While these policies help build clear expectations for how employees should treat information they come into contact with, it’s really only the beginning.

With so much information at their fingertips, organizations must continuously strive to build awareness among employees about where digital ethical issues may arise. Conducting an “ethics audit” at the beginning of an initiative could be a valuable step.

In this audit, marketers, IT and CIOs must come together and ask the tough questions: What information are we gathering and for what purpose? Do we need all of this information to reach our desired business goal or can we achieve the same objective with less? How will this information be secured? What potential ethical pitfalls exist that we may not have anticipated by collecting and using this data? How will the use of this information delight our customers — and how could it potentially turn them off?  How will we let customers know we’re collecting this data? Can they opt out?

Be Communicative

Consumers expect organizations will use their data to better support their experience. For example, banks use our spending patterns to predict the likelihood that a transaction may be fraudulent — and take proactive steps to alert us when a purchase doesn’t seem right. Web sites use online shopping behaviors to pitch similar products. And companies like Facebook, Pinterest and Google gather data every millisecond to make their advertising algorithms smarter and more tailored to individual preferences.

But how far is too far? One need only look to recent headlines to illustrate this point: the biggest digital ethics pitfalls come when businesses aren’t transparent about their use of data from the beginning.

Communication is critical. Organizations must be clear with their clients, customers and partners what type of information they are gathering and how it’s being used. Once they’ve communicated their intentions, they can take it one step further: give customers the ability to consent to using their data in the first place.

Be Consistent

American author and speaker Gretchen Rubin once wrote: “What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”

This applies more today than ever before. Organizations get into trouble when they haven’t applied digital ethics standards and guidelines with the same rigor in every scenario. Establishing written policies and guidelines gives everyone involved a roadmap to follow, not just once in a while, but always.

Humans Keep the Smart Machines in Check

Regardless of how far smart technologies go in repurposing roles in the workplace, one fact remains: humans are and always will be at the center of business relationships. Humans, working side by side with intelligent automation, will deliver the best results.

Machines promise to make our jobs easier and give organizations the ability to personalize the customer experience in ways once thought impossible. But trust and loyalty will only be nurtured if we continue to navigate and address up front the new set of ethical challenges that come with this brave new digital world.

This originally appeared on CMS Wire

The New Frontier of ERP: How Cloud Has Changed the Game for CIOs

  • Partner: Avanade
Dave Seybold, COO, Avanade
Dave Seybold
Chief Operating Officer

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Chief Information Officers around the world currently stand at a crossroads regarding their approach to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Today, unstoppable and powerful trends such as mobility, analytics and cloud computing are no longer “emergent,” but rather, evolving technologies that play an increasingly vital role in developing IT and business strategies. Traditionally, ERP has not been digitally-centric, born in the cloud nor built with the mobile window in mind, but as digital experiences have become a way of life, organizations need to better harness the digital tools available in all areas to stay ahead of the competition.

Digital technology has led to an evolution in business users’ expectations about the way they work. Employees are used to having digitally enhanced experiences as a consumer and they now demand these same experiences in the workplace. But how can the digital world lead to advancements in ERP?

For starters, ERP can go through monumental improvements simply by improving its ease of use and becoming more thoughtful of how users interact with the system. We are starting to see updates to solutions like the latest Microsoft Dynamics, which embrace the latest user-experience, mobile centric, design practices and cloud platforms to develop a more thoughtful and user-friendly experience, similar to what’s experienced on mobile devices. We are in the midst of an ERP transformation; one that started as a business process, evolved into a data-centric system and is now taking steps to become a more user-centric application.

The Cloud is Rising

As businesses continue to strive to become a digital workplace, the transition to cloud computing is accelerating. Research from IDC shows that cloud computing will experience almost six times the rate of overall IT spending growth—from nearly $70 bn in 2015 to more than $141 bn in 2019. The rise of cloud computing is leading to a whole new paradigm for the way organizations view and implement ERP applications. Traditionally, ERP has been thoroughly and exhaustively designed, very protected and closed, living within its own ivory tower. Businesses operating in the cloud focused solely on moving their non-critical applications and kept ERP applications on premise. As the cost of cloud computing continues to become more affordable, security becomes superior to on-premise applications, service level start to surpass cost effective on premise levels, businesses are beginning to migrate their core applications like ledgers, payables, receivables and procurement to the cloud.

CIOs are starting to experience the features, flexibility and unlimited scalability of cloud computing not available with on-premise solutions. Fundamentally, as cloud computing starts to surpass the need for in-house services and resources to support internal data centers, organizations will increasingly move away from managing their own data centers to focus more on their core business. The firms that make this transition first will achieve the greatest competitive advantage. CIOs will spend less time on considerations around the implementation of applications and more on applying technology for business advantage. Additionally, as-a-service options that deliver incremental functionality and allow clients to pay for only what the use, at a fraction of the cost, will give business users even faster cloud-based deployments and keep pace with the demanding speeds of enterprise business.

Consider Avanade’s work with a company operating internationally across several regions. We are helping the client integrate a cloud ERP system in more than 50 countries. The traditional way of implementing an ERP system at that scale would have taken more than 10 years to complete. Thanks to the features and functionality at our disposal through cloud computing, we will be able to finish the job in 2-3 years, with significantly faster and greater financial return, much to the delight of our client. The client is expecting competitive advantage they would not have been able to accomplish 18 months ago.

There are some clear steps CIOs can take to ensure their ERP systems help drive innovation and growth. Below are some key considerations to help make the transition:

  • Consider how an ERP migration to the cloud delivers value to the business
  • Identify the business needs in order to remain competitive within the market place
  • Determine capability, agility and financial return cloud-based ERP would bring to the organization
  • Start – perhaps small, but begin today; cloud ERP will allow projects to adapt and accelerate

Cloud Computing is Only the Beginning for the New ERP

While the combination of ERP, cloud and digital is contributing to innovation, there are more advancements on the horizon. Advancements in technology like Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to completely change ERP. As connected devices become more prevalent, billions of sensors measuring data will come directly into business systems. Utilities will begin to measure data and supply chain movement will be tracked in real time. Additionally, IoT will be able to take advantage of growing offerings in analytics allowing companies to pull in data from almost anywhere in their organizations and react in real time.

These are exciting times for businesses that are embracing the digital tools available to ensure their futures as digital businesses. Imagine a future where retail associates carry hand-held platforms that allow them to predict buyers’ interests, engage in visually compelling customer service, access and share key information or order products online for customers on the spot. Similarly, imagine a scenario where a customer can use their phone to either visualize products in full 3D simulation or walk into a store and conduct a real life product experience, configure or tailor the product, purchase it and have it waiting on their doorstep when they return home. By leveraging cloud savings, paying for what they use, leveraging analytics and using compelling visualizations all on mobile devices, companies will have the resources to invest and enable innovative business solutions that leverage a smarter ERP solution to enhance customer experiences, retain customers and be prepared for a digital future in a highly competitive market.

This originally appeared on Avanade.com

3 Tips for CRM Investment in the Digital Age

  • Partner: Avanade
Dave Nelson, SVP and Global CRM Lead, Avanade
Dave Nelson
SVP and Global CRM Lead

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Ask any CFO or sales executive about the value of spending millions on CRM solutions and you will probably hear plenty of skepticism, due largely to the fact that many CRM efforts over the past 25 years have failed to deliver on the lofty business goals outlined in funding requests. And now we see the majority of IT investments going to cloud, mobile, and digital "experience" solutions. Expected ROI horizons are shorter, technology refresh rates are faster, and anything that hints at a traditional application suite is derided as behind the times.

Given these realities, it's easy to question why CRM solutions are still viable in today's marketplace. But there are three major drivers that point squarely to the need, and value, of deploying CRM solutions in today's increasingly digital world.

Process and Data Still Trump Function and Features

CRM has become synonymous with the software solutions that support it—but if we examine some of the original concepts behind CRM, we realize that the premise is more valid than ever. For simplicity's sake, let's define CRM as the strategies, processes, and tools deployed by an organization to identify, engage/transact with, and retain its most valuable customers. Most executives would agree that these objectives are still core to business, and while many newer technologies boast compelling functionality and ease-of-use features, they simply do not fully address the vast array of activities and workloads that must be performed to identify, engage, and retain customers. Nor do they typically store and organize the immense data sets needed to perform these tasks in an optimal way. Therefore, organizations continue to invest in CRM technologies as part of a broader effort to remain connected to customers in an increasingly digital environment.

Customer Interaction and Commerce Channels Continue to Evolve

It's true that the "golden age" of CRM software occurred during a time when most B2C engagement took place at a retail store, contact center, or a company's Web site, and most B2B engagement happened via field sales and contact center interactions. Today, the channels for engaging with and selling to customers have expanded, with the disintermediation of the "wholesale" channel coupled with the rise of direct e-commerce, mobile platforms, third-party commerce facilitators, and social media–enabled commerce options. Each means that potentially a new set of processes, data, and technology will be needed to effectively ensure a smooth, predictable customer experience that is consistent across channels. Many newer technologies (e.g. an e-commerce Web site or mobile application) optimize portions of this mix but do not effectively manage the full set of customer interactions and supporting data in a way that meets these objectives.

The Rise of Social

Beyond their potential as a sales/commerce channel, social media sites provide a forum for customers and prospects to post or read about others’ experience with an organization, representing a critical avenue of influence that must be monitored and managed. Many proven technologies for social listening and analytics are already available, and several have been acquired or developed by CRM solution providers. The goal is to incorporate this social feedback into the overall fabric of customer interactions, making it part of the full range of customer data available and applying segment-relevant analytics to determine and execute the appropriate responses. In this context, CRM tools provide a strong platform for enabling these interactions and managing the data—even if other technologies are providing data capture and analysis.

Building a CRM Strategy

Organizations looking to invest in CRM technologies to stay connected to today's digital customer should consider the following guidance:

  1. Start with business process and outcomes, then select technology. It's amazing how many CRM solutions are acquired based on vague sets of requirements, expectations that optimum processes are available "out of the box," and soft (and elusive) metrics such as a "360-degree view of the customer." There remains no effective substitute for careful analysis of the capabilities and/or process changes that will drive greater sales, greater customer retention/promotion, or lower selling/servicing costs.
  2. Recognize that CRM platforms are a valuable part of the solution—but not the only part. Despite claims to the contrary, CRM software platforms will rarely address all of the process and data needs for a comprehensive customer engagement capability. But many companies have learned that CRM platforms provide a strong foundation for customer interaction process orchestration and data management. The key is in understanding the strengths and limitations of the major CRM platforms and planning for the use of legacy or other new technologies to augment the CRM tool—rather than force-fitting requirements onto a platform that is not designed to support them.
  3. Invest in business expertise to keep customer engagement initiatives on track. Even with the best of intentions, along with carefully crafted business requirements and expected outcomes, many organizations still fail to realize customer engagement benefits because such programs quickly devolve into IT-only initiatives. Having a knowledgeable, credible group of business leaders actively and intimately involved in the program can help the team remain focused on requirements that provide the optimal returns—while also maintaining a sense of urgency and relevance for the initiative to prevent stalls.

Engaging customers has never been more challenging than it is in today's digital world. The companies that succeed in an ever-changing digital landscape will be those that transform all of their customer interactions into digitally empowered experiences. The right CRM strategy and tools can be a critical differentiator.

This originally appeared on Destination CRM

Inverting the IT Iceberg

  • Partner: Avanade
Chris Miller, CTO, Avanade
Chris Miller
Chief Technology Officer

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

IT professionals are at the crossroads. The pace of technology innovation is accelerating, wherein new buyer types for IT services are emerging, and budgets and control are shifting outside of the traditional IT department—forcing IT to rethink its value to organizations and find new ways to contribute in a meaningful way. Historically, IT was regarded as an iceberg—where two-thirds of the work happened at the infrastructure level below the water line, largely invisible to employees, C-suite and other stakeholders. The part that was visible above the water was where IT drove new innovation and showcased its expertise.

As CIO of Avanade—a global provider of innovative digital services, business solutions and design-led experiences for its clients, delivered through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem—I think it’s time for IT to invert the iceberg. I’ve seen the role of the IT department and the workplace change significantly in recent years; the convergence of disruptive trends like mobile, cloud and big data has challenged companies to bring digital capabilities to the workforce while keeping data secure and productivity and engagement high. Today, IT leaders must invert the iceberg if they are to thrive and remain relevant in a rapidly changing digital world—and this means bringing IT innovation to the forefront of transformational discussions around the way people work, collaborate and drive results.

Take Delta Air Lines, for example. The company was looking to improve the efficiency of its business operations and offer customers a more comfortable in-flight experience. In partnership with Microsoft and AT&T, Avanade developed a mobile solution for Delta’s 19,000 flight attendants—enabling the Delta team to process passenger transactions more efficiently, as well as download and read manuals, check flight schedules and email updates to management in real time. This digital implementation was a win-win for Delta’s business and its employees, as well as for the in-flight experiences and customer satisfaction.

A global manufacturer, Henkel AG, wanted to empower its 47,000 employees in 75 countries to deliver information on any device, anywhere, at any time. To achieve this vision, Avanade led Henkel’s migration to Office 365, from envisioning and confirming the business case through devising and implementing the migration plan, preparing employees to use the new software and providing continuous technical support. As a result, Henkel now has a modern, unified communications and collaboration cloud-based platform.

An advanced digital workplace gives companies a leg up when it comes to meeting the needs of today’s digitally empowered customers and employees. A digital workplace not only helps organizations better serve their customers; it helps drive revenues and attract the talent that companies need to grow their business and outperform competition. A recent Avanade-commissioned global study of 500 business and IT leaders around the world found that organizations that have adopted digital workplace solutions have experienced business benefits as a direct result of these technologies, including increased productivity and employee engagement as well as revenue growth.

As CIOs think about how they can contribute business value in a meaningful way, helping guide organizations’ digital workplace transformation should be a linchpin in theirstrategies. However, many IT leaders don’t know where to start, and find themselves grappling with questions such as, “What does digital transformation look like for my organization? How do I realize value from it? What’s the first step?”

These are common questions, and important ones. Based on Avanade’s experience working with clients across industries and sectors, here are three tips for CIOs around transforming to a digital workplace:

  • First, make sure you understand what a digital workplace actually means. Avanade’s research showed that an overwhelming majority of companies (84 percent) mistakenly believe that using email and social media alone constitute a digital workplace. The reality is that a truly digital workplace brings together applications, information and collaboration in an intelligent context that is tailored to the individual employee’s role, location and tasks. As a technology leader, strive to create a common taxonomy when you’re talking to your colleagues, peers and other business stakeholders.
  • Consider it a journey. The digital workplace transformation will be slightly different for every company. Key to success is to understand your business and identify the various revenue streams—this will vary by business model, industry, your organization’s digital maturity and a host of other factors. Because of the complexities involved, it’s important for CIOs to partner with business leads and have candid conversations about the technologies available, how they align to company strategy and what they can enable for the organization. Be careful of taking large leaps, and take it one step at a time.
  • Start your journey now. The expectations of IT to deliver business value have never been higher, and given the clear competitive advantages of a digital workplace, doing nothing isn’t an option. It might be tempting to take a “wait and see” approach, or hold out for the perfect opportunity, but consider this: Avanade’s research found that a majority of companies already have at least one of the building blocks for a digital workplace in place—such as connectivity solutions or social collaboration tools—or are planning to invest in the next 12-24 months. Clearly, companies that delay taking the critical first step risk being left behind.


CIOs and IT leaders are currently faced with unprecedented opportunity to create lasting value for their organizations. Digital transformation continues to drive companies to rethink their response to markets and customers, reshape their operations and engage and empower their workforces. As technology moves ever closer to the heart of the business, IT leaders are on the front lines of this digital revolution. By prioritizing a digital workplace and leading the charge on those transformational discussions, CIOs can invert the iceberg, bring innovation to the forefront and help their organizations achieve measurable, sustained business results.

This originally appeared on CIOReview

How We Made Our Marketing Group Better

  • Partner: Avanade
Stella Goulet, CMO, Avanade
Stella Goulet

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

In an ever-more digital world, marketers have seemingly endless opportunities to engage customers and bring them closer to their brands. However, the value of marketing can be challenging to communicate to relevant stakeholders, especially those in the C-suite. While sales teams can measure their impact through sales and revenue, marketers tend to struggle to show ROI.

We all want to demonstrate marketing’s contribution to the business but sometimes lack the necessary people, processes and tools to make it happen. That was the situation Avanade faced three years ago.

When I joined Avanade in 2012, the company had just launched a sales effectiveness program. Marketing needed a similar kick start. The marketing organization at the time was primarily focused on communications and brand initiatives, with less emphasis on alignment with sales, demand generation or campaign development and execution. Measurement and reporting were limited.

Evaluating the global marketing organization, we wanted to strengthen marketing – both its people and programs – and create a more strategic, comprehensive marketing function. So, in 2013, Avanade launched a three-year global marketing effectiveness program aimed at:

  • Becoming more relevant to clients and improving their experience;
  • Improving our ability to measure marketing’s performance and assess ROI;
  • Improving alignment with sales; and
  • Increasing marketing’s value to the business.

Here’s a close-up look at our transformation program.

Building Blocks Of Success

As a critical first step, we sought input and buy-in from key stakeholders, including the marketing team, business leadership, sales, IT and other functions. Next, a marketing operations leader was charged with running the program and developing the operations function.

We organized the program into four work streams:

  1. Planning, budgeting, measurement and reporting: Driven centrally by marketing operations, this work stream focused on strategic marketing planning, allocation of marketing funds, and establishing metrics and reporting. This included enhancing our use of data and analytics to measure marketing’s impact and improve decision making.
  2. Capabilities: This focused on execution, including service line and industry marketing, our go-to-market model with global programs and campaigns, virtual centers of excellence, alliance marketing and digital marketing.
  3. People and organization: We moved everyone into a single, cohesive team. Key success factors included getting the right people with the right skills on board, moving people into the right roles and establishing training. We strengthened skill sets, reorganized the corporate marketing functions and built out the field marketing teams.
  4. Tools and processes: New tools and processes were critical to realizing results from the program. An expert marketing technologist was brought in to lead digital channels and platforms, and implement a marketing automation system. Integrating with our CRM platform enabled us to create a true closed-loop lead management system to properly route, assign, accept/recycle, qualify/disqualify, convert, progress and track leads throughout the sales and marketing funnel.

Realizing Better, Faster Results

Today, Avanade’s marketing organization bears little resemblance to its predecessor, thanks to the program, the commitment and buy-in of our marketing team, and the support of the business leadership.

With our centralized, global approach, campaigns are brought to market faster and with better results. In fiscal year 2015, time to market for campaigns accelerated by three months over last year, and we’ve seen exponential year-over-year growth in our demand-related KPIs, including such measures as marketing’s impact on sales and its influence within the pipeline. In addition, we’ve seen an improvement in our effectiveness and are more closely aligned with sales.

The success of the program is attributed primarily to three factors:

  1. Global planning, local execution: The transformation program cut across the marketing organization – corporate and the field. We shifted our approach to doing as much as possible centrally to free up our field marketers to focus on clients, execution of marketing programs and campaigns, and supporting sales.
  2. Alignment with and support from the business: The program was always positioned in the context of Avanade’s overall business objectives with strong support from executive leadership.
  3. Art wrapped in technology: Our program recognizes the need for both the art and science of marketing. There is art in what we do; positioning, messaging, and having compelling content, clear writing and strong visual imagery. These are essential to effective marketing. But technology – specifically, data and analytics – plays a vital role as our marketing team now uses data to make better decisions.

Digital technology has changed client expectations, business opportunities and marketing. Our program is an example of how organizations are adapting marketing strategies to better harness digital technologies to empower people and improve communication, collaboration and innovation. Given the success of our program, we’re confident that with the right people, processes and tools, we’ll continue to advance as a world-class marketing organization with the ability to show our impact on business results.

This originally appeared on IT Best of Breed

Don't Let Silos Destroy the Customer Experience

  • Partner: Avanade
Jamie Hunt, VP, Global Advisory Services, Avanade
Jamie Hunt
Vice President, Global Advisory Services

AvanadeThank you to Avanade for underwriting CXOTALK.

Every company has silos. They separate people from each other and from information — and generally speaking, the bigger the company, the bigger the silos. They can exist along regional, country, business unit, product team or other lines.

Silos can even influence your digital operations. Many brands have separate teams for physical and online stores who rarely collaborate, and may even compete with each other. Or sub-brands and business units may try to optimize their experience instead of collaborating to create a unified user experience when the user journey could (and should) cross multiple business units or brands.

Silos Create Opportunity for Competition

Consider the example of a cosmetics company with disparate product lines that spanned the age when their customers first started wearing makeup to the time when they looked at ways to prevent the signs of aging. Instead of building a lifelong journey across all of their brands, each brand hoarded its customers. The company had several user databases, but they could not get senior executive-level support for a strategy that leveraged the data and insights from across the company. Instead, each brand, region, and country had its own strategy. Competition between them was — and still is — fierce, which creates great opportunities for their competitors.

Another client faced a similar issue. The silos in their company were preventing a great customer experience. They had a vision of leveraging reusable content, components and templates to improve user experiences while increasing the value of their investment and engaged us to help them achieve this vision.

They wanted to start with the Sitecore platform, but had a few problems. One division we worked with had eight business units (BUs). Funds to build out the Sitecore experience were allocated per BU, not at the division level.

Despite having one platform and implementation partner, business units still had no incentive to collaborate. Each BU was used to creating experiences autonomously and didn’t want to be slowed down by collaboration with other BUs. This resulted in the first couple of teams duplicating each other’s effort on the platform rather than building upon each other’s experience. This also created a disjointed customer experience with missed opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.

Once we helped the client understand the problem, we worked with their senior executives to help them modify their governance model. Together we developed a digital and platform strategy, set up a governance model for direction and collaboration across the BUs, and helped them get the most from their Sitecore investment. With that in place, they gave each BU a smaller budget to run campaigns — supporting their unique offerings — and started budgeting at the division level for strategy, platform build and overall user experience.

Rules of Thumb for Destroying Silos

1. Know the difference between strategy and tactics

Strategy is the art of the general and the diplomat. It lets one country defeat another on the world stage. It requires distance, restraint and the ability to see the big picture.

Tactics are the art of the soldier on the ground — how we win this fight, right here, right now. People tend to focus on tactics because tactics are clearly tied to the situation at hand, but this is where silos are born.

2. Demolish silos from the top down instead of from the bottom up

A major key to demolishing silos is working with people who are senior enough to understand strategy, who see beyond tactics, and who can sponsor strategic initiatives. People without these attributes may be able to help execute, but only once the strategy is in place.

3. Follow the user journey

Users don't care about your org chart, so don't have your site reflect it. Instead, focus on their journey. It will always tell you the best ways to connect data, experiences and all of the back-end stuff. You can’t destroy silos and create a great user experience unless you understand how to connect everything to the user journey and how technology can support it.

4. There are no right or wrong answers about sharing information ... if people actually share it

Technological tools are a vital part of the equation. But if people don't use them, then they're part of the problem, not part of the solution. Again, focus on understanding the user journey and this problem will practically solve itself.

Demolishing silos is simple in theory. But like all simple things, it can be very hard to do in practice. Silos rarely help anyone. Smart managers get rid of them by looking at governance from a strategic — not tactical — point of view.

This originally appeared on CMS Wire