Over 430 billion SMS messages were sent globally last year, over 300 million from the city of Florence alone, at least according to Werner Sulzer, Teradata Vice President Europe, Middle East & Africa, though I assume he didn’t count them all himself.
Yes, I had the great pleasure of attending, and speaking, at Teradata’s European conference in Florence last week. It’s the second Teradata conference I’ve attended – last year’s was in Edinburgh, and I have to say they really know how to run a conference. Excellent location, good speakers, one-one sessions, and pretty fine entertainment all laid on. Only problem – an expensive ticket to get there. Most attendees (or their employers) have to buy a Teradata box to get invited!
Of course, Florence is a pretty exceptional location. 600 years ago, after the fall of Constantinople, scholars from the city fled West, many arriving in Florence, and bringing with them their books and works from classical antiquity. Their expertise and information lit the light of the renaissance, dispelling the dark of the middle ages. As well as attending the conference, I took the opportunity of visiting some of the extraordinary artistic wealth of both Florence and Sienna, and before I get to the meat of this editorial let me share with you a couple of the works that really affected me.
First, perhaps my favourite statue. In the Piaza della Signoria, in Florence there is a copy of Michaelangelo’s statue of David. Ignore that – Michaelangelo is definitely over-rated in my opinion. But, if you turn 90 degrees to the right whilst looking at the David, you’ll see the wonderful statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini that you’ll find in a photograph to the left of this text. This small picture cannot do it justice. Take a trip to Florence, and see it for yourself. It’s magnificent.
Whilst you’re in Florence, catch a bus to Sienna (it’s only an hour a way), and whilst you’re visiting Sienna’s famous Il Campo square, visit the Palazzo Pubblico museum in the square.
There, in amongst some amazing paintings, you’ll find a small wooden chest, and on that wooden chest you’ll find the painted ‘Annunciation’ that you’ll see to the right of this text. The painter is unknown, but I find the picture exquisite. Let me give my apologies for the poor quality of the photograph.
Now that’s enough about art, so let’s go back to the Teradata conference, those 430 billion SMS messages, and Werner Sulzer’s presentation. The point is, that the amount of data available to us all is growing exponentially, in a far greater explosion than the arrival of scholars from Constantinople into Florence. Of course, Teradata’s interest in this is providing the powerful hardware that can process large volumes of data and turn them into information. However, what I found most significant in Werner’s speech was one very short phrase: “In commoditised industries, information is the key differentiatior.”
Now I suspect that what Werner meant by this, is that companies who have a good grip on their IT systems, and have the resultant good access to information to help make management decisions, will have a significant advantage over those who don’t, particularly in commoditised industries. There can be little doubt that this is so, but I’d like to focus on another interpretation, but first, let me draw a small point from my own presentation, Incorporating the customer’s needs into your CRM programme at the conference. That presentation covers the trends leading to an increased need to focus on the customer’s needs and wants, and then outlines how you might change your CRM strategy to incorporate those needs, but perhaps the most important two slides in the presentation outline a misconception prevalent in most companies about the value they offer their customers (see slides 21 and 22, courtesy of Alan Mitchell, in the presentation). These two slides show that the value companies offer customers through their operation, is only a small part of the value that customers are looking to achieve. And this applies to the information that companies have. Instead of using that information only for their internal uses, perhaps it can also provide value to their customers. (Incidentally, in this week’s BCCF editorial, Buyer-centricity: What's in it for me, Alan Mitchell explores, how buyer-centric concepts will help traditional companies achieve their business goals.)
Let me give you a couple of examples of how information can add value to customers (or members) from last week’s editorial.
Firstly, towards the beginning of last week’editorial, I provided a list of all those editorials that had been read over 10,000 times. The editorials mentioned in that table have now, a week later, been read an extra 2,000 times or so. Last week’s editorial has been read 2,250 times. So presumably nearly all of the readers of last week’s editorial found that table of sufficient value to encourage them to read one or more of the editorials. A trivial example of how information can add value to customers.
A much more important example is the whole content of the editorial - A very important view of the future. In essence, it’s a review of a book that I think you all should read, The Support Economy: Why Corporations are failing individuals and the next episode of capitalism (Prof. Shosana Zuboff and James Maxim). I think that even though I haven’t yet read the book, although I’ve ordered a copy. What convinces me of its importance, and what makes up the body of the review, are the comments made by readers of the book on Amazon’s web-site.
Now this facility of Amazon’s to allow readers to share their experience of a book with other readers and potential purchasers is well known, but are other organizations taking advantage of their opportunities to provide similar services? If we generalize from the Amazon example, what we see again is the provision of information to customers that adds value. So, I’d like to modify Werner’s statement a little to say “In commoditised industries, the provision of information-based services to customers is a key differentiator.”
As always we’d like to hear your comments. Make them below or email me at mailto:[email protected]