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Realizing the Benefits of the Internet of Everything for Customer Experience, Part 2 ‘Design Thinking’ the Customer Experience of the Future

The early days of the Internet were a heady time of reimagining, rethinking, and, in effect, “e-enabling” a staggering range of business processes. Today, we stand on the cusp of an equally momentous paradigm shift driven by an explosion in connectivity—not just among devices, but also encompassing people, Rachael McBrearty Blog 2 Graphic_Finalv3process, data, and “things.” This next-generation digital revolution will upend entrenched mind-sets and disrupt existing business strategies on a nearly unprecedented scale, transforming, yet again, the customer experience.

As I shared in Part 1 of my blog, the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group projects that the Internet of Everything (IoE) economy will generate $14.4 trillion in Value at Stake for private-sector companies globally over the next decade. Nearly 26 percent of this total — $3.7 trillion — will be tied to IoE-driven customer experience advances.

But how do companies begin to tap the vast potential of the next-wave Internet? Since the Internet of Everything remains a work in progress, its uncharted waters and multidimensional scope will demand wholly new ways of thinking as organizations connect to a larger — much larger — universe. In order to meet IoE’s challenges effectively, your business will need a multidimensional toolkit — one that bridges marketing, design, engineering, economics, finance, or any other discipline required inside or outside your company.

The methodology that can enable these capabilities is design thinking. Drawing on methods used by design professionals, it combines empathy for the human context of the problem; creativity in the generation of insights and solutions; and rationality and feedback to analyze the solution within the customer context.

Design thinking is ideal for problem solving within highly complex situations. Which brings us to IoE. Its high level of complexity will demand that you rethink what you do for your customers, while redefining how issues can be addressed.

Knowing the customer is an age-old path to success. And at the heart of design thinking is a deeper understanding of the customer, citizen, or patient, pinpointing the human needs that fall between business objectives and the technology solutions. Employing user-centered qualitative research methods of observation, ideation, and prototyping, design thinking cuts to the essence of the human pain point and is centered on understanding the role you play in the lives of those whom you are serving. Defining and shaping the problem — in effect, determining the right question to ask — is key. Problem framing comes before problem solving and will be the foundation the creative insight in IoE innovation.

Unlike analytical thinking, which is based on a breakdown of ideas, design thinking concentrates on building up ideas with a broad focus, especially in the early stages of the problem-solving process. Once those early ideas are encouraged to develop, without judgment, they can spur creative thinking.

Here is an example of design thinking at work:

A retail client asked, “How do we increase sales conversions?” The client had the best merchandise selections, financing options, and competitive prices. Customers sang their praises in focus groups. Yet,  they were converting only about 25 percent of shoppers. With a design-thinking approach, we were able to reframe the problem. Customers were attracted by the assortment, we realized, but they were overwhelmed by the choices. They were looking for guidance on the right solution. By reframing the problem (“How do we help customers make a personalized choice?”), we came up with great ideas that led to new services offerings. In the end, conversion increased significantly.

Design thinking is not a new tool—Procter & Gamble and GE are but two companies employing its concepts, and Stanford and Harvard both teach it. It isn’t a magical cure, either. But it could provide critical solutions within the complex scope of the IoE economy.

As in previous Internet eras, organizations that adapt and redesign the customer experience — essentially by knowing their consumers through empathy and innovative solutions — will thrive. IoE will reach its true potential only if it is seamlessly integrated into customers’ lives. And design thinking — with its emphasis on simplicity and empathy—could cut through the complexity of the coming IoE economy, while driving the creation of products and services that resonate with the way your customers live, work, and play.

After all, isn’t that the reason for creating those products and services in the first place?

 

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Retail & Location Services – hype or happening – what is the value

Location Services has been a holy grail in many industries for almost 5 years now and none more so that in the retail industry. In recent discussions with Chief Executive Officers in leading retailers especially those from a marketing or operations persecutive some interesting comments and trends are emerging.

 

Firstly about a year ago retailers were looking at LBS and saying we must have this, were unsure how to use it to effectively drive their business.

Today in April & May 2013 these executives are equally as excited about the possibilities location services brings to their business, however they are also putting an even greater focus on the ROI. When vying for capex resources a compelling business case is one that has a clear return on the investments needed. When considering a guest WiFi deployment and associated location based services the business cases emerging are varied especially  when speaking with some global retailers. Read More »

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Concert Connects Students, Celebrities on Virtual Stage

May 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm PST

Budget cuts are costing many American students their arts education. As a wanna-be artist and overall proponent of all things creative, I have long valued the impact of arts education – especially in public schools. Unfortunately, these are the programs that are too often cut when budgets are slashed and difficult decisions must be made.

OK, so you probably won’t argue with me that art is important – after all, as children, it’s how we learned a lot of things, right? Who doesn’t have at least one thing they use a song to remember? I only have to key into the tune of ’3 blind mice’ to remember how to calculate the area of a circle (thanks to Mr. Bowlware, my fourth grade math teacher).

LAUSD students participate in BridgingGapsconcert

Studies show, too, that arts-engaged students show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers – especially in socially and economically disadvantaged student populations. This is exactly what makes programs like Fred Martin’s Urban Entertainment Institute (UEI) so valuable – and inspiring. Read More »

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Accelerating Your Success with Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions

Earlier today, Cisco introduced an expanded portfolio of desktop virtualization solution architectures, based on Cisco UCS, that extend Cisco’s value proposition, solution breadth and market reach.  This is very important for our partner ecosystem, which continues to be the foundation for selling Cisco’s Desktop Virtualization Solutions.

Desktop virtualization continues to gain traction.  According to a recent Gartner forecast, companies are projected to add 59 million more virtual desktop users worldwide between 2013 and 2016. Despite that growth, we found that significant challenges remain for getting VDI implementations off the ground.  These include:

  • Up-front CAPEX often associated with upgrading the data center and network infrastructure required to support VDI
  • Complexity associated with combining multiple disparate technologies together in a way that’s cohesive and easy to manage
  • Guesswork and risk associated with ensuring that the success seen in a small pilot is replicated in larger production environments

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Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World

It has long been known that a combination of both formal and informal learning is an effective way of turning theory (explicit knowledge) into practice (tacit knowledge). This includes working and learning alongside more experienced people, both online and face-to-face.

The nature of learning is changing, and new learning technologies are proliferating. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that suggests many learners can benefit from alternative models and novel spaces for developing their skills and gaining further knowledge. Couple this with the increase in distance and virtual learning offerings—which offer little opportunity for face-to-face contact for both formal learning and networking—and a significant need for additional learner support begins to emerge.

This need is also being driven by our busy lifestyles: learners may not always have time to study at their chosen institution or study center; entrepreneurs and startups may need access to temporary experts and more formal learning opportunities; and learners and workers may need more than just online support from time to time. Sometimes learners want a place to study away from the distractions of home or work, or they may need an informal learning place to engage with peers and mentors.

Learning hubs” may be the solution. Learning hubs are technology-enabled, flexible, formal and informal learning spaces designed to support learners of all ages. As opposed to study centers or traditional classrooms, learning hubs:

  • Are purpose-built to accommodate more than just tutorial instructions and seminars 
  • Serve as a space for temporary or prearranged meetings and discussions with peers
  • Enable students to meet with experts and mentors virtually or to join a class remotely (from one or more hubs) via high-definition video-conferencing or telepresence facilities

Learning hubs can be located in Smart Work Centers, university and school campuses with spare real estate, community centers, and other places. Or, they can be “pop-up” hubs—physical spaces connected through high-end video-conferencing technology to enable city-to-city and multicity events—that meet specific, short-term needs. Dialogue Café is one example of a pop-up hub. Other types of hubs are shown in Figure 1.  

 Figure 1.  Potential Learning Hub Locations.

Learning Hubs

Source: Cisco IBSG, 2013

A more detailed perspective from Cisco IBSG on learning hubs—including existing hubs and those in development—is available for download at “Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World.”

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