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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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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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Cloud for Local Government Global Blog Series, A Better Economy in the Cloud

My colleague Norm Jacknis (former CIO of Westchester County, New York) passed along a list of CIO concerns for 2013 that was prepared by Alan Shark of Public Technology Institute, a nonprofit that provides technology guidance to local government. The list for cities and counties included:

1. Big Data (Smart City)

2. Consolidation

3. GIS as centerpiece for strategic decision making

4. Mobility and broadband deployment

5. Cyber and network security

6. Cloud-based solutions

7. Legacy/modernization, RFP

8. Unified citizen engagement (311, social media)

9. Consumerization of technology (BYOD)

10. Shared services (across all jurisdictions)

What would you add or subtract?

I’d want to expand on a few of these items to include another emerging issue for CIOs and other government leaders: getting cities to embrace cloud and networking tools – while moving their urban economies forward.

Well, there’s good news to report on that overarching concern. There are several opportunities to learn more about how cities can embrace technology for economic growth:

Read More »

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Preparing for an Uncertain Media Future: Even Challenging Scenarios Offer Ways To Grow

In the midst of tremendous disruption, it is impossible to tell where the global media industry is ultimately heading. But a recent analysis from the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) explores four possible future scenarios for the media industry. While they do not “predict” the future, the scenarios help build our understanding of possible outcomes — and how various industry players could be affected.

The Shape of Things To Come: Four Scenarios

We explored the ways certain industry developments could swing future outcomes. Combining these drivers into logical groupings (consumer behavior, regulatory requirements, technology, and macroeconomic conditions), we were able to define the following four scenarios, as shown in Figure 1. These scenarios are differentiated by consumer demand, industry structure, and content supply:

  • Dark Ages — low demand, consolidated industry, and relatively low content supply
  • Survival of the Fittest — low demand, fragmented industry, and high content supply
  • Golden Age of Content — high demand, consolidated industry, and controlled content supply
  • Wonderland — high demand, fragmented industry, and high content supply

Obviously, each of the scenarios will have different winners and losers. The financial impact and the implications for players across the industry value chain will substantially change by scenario. And in each scenario, distributors and infrastructure providers will need to consider different types of investments. Consequently, each type of player will need to adapt its competitive responses to the future scenario taking shape.

Figure 1.   Four Future Scenarios Are Based on Various Groupings of Industry Drivers.

 cisco-ibsg-four-future-scenarios-based-on-industry-driversSource: Cisco IBSG, 2013

Following are examples of how two future scenarios could play out: Read More »

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The Future of Payments and Commerce: Digital Payment Strategies in the Age of Omnichannel Banking

Banks, for the most part, have realized the importance of mobile as a channel. Across the globe, empowered executives are being appointed to head up digital channel programs. Their primary mission: define and implement the mobile banking channel and seamlessly integrate it with the other major digital channels—online banking.

For the most part, they have focused their strategies on ”forklifting” online banking features to mobile without worrying much about mobile payments. However, the new reality of channel migration is a bit more complicated: the merger of virtual and digital channels in this new age of ”omnichannel banking” is bringing digital channels into bank branches, customer homes, and places of business, and transforming the world of payments and commerce.

So, how is the omnichannel reality affecting the world of payments, and why should banks care (aside from the fact that payments-related revenues can account for up to 25 percent of total retail banking revenues)?

Most of us are familiar with mobile apps that allow us, when in a retail store, to scan a product bar code, access online reviews, and potentially buy the product from Amazon.com (or a nearby retailer) at a discounted price. This capability is the new reality (and challenge) of omnichannel in the retail world. Such changes, however, will not end here: imagine receiving offers, digital coupons, credit card loyalty points, and more on your cell phone so that you can seamlessly apply them to your purchases when paying with your mobile device upon checkout (at the physical store or online).

The promise of connecting mobile payments and commerce through new capabilities embedded in the mobile wallet is real, and several mobile-wallet providers have emerged, including a number of non-financial-services players (telcos, tech companies, retailers, and others). Read More »

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