SAP Sapphire 2014: Keep it Simple, Smart

While the mantra of “keep it simple, stupid” has long been a staple in the world of business, the message of the recent SAP Sapphire 2014 conference in Orlando could be summed up as “keep it simple, smart.” Speakers throughout the three-day event stressed how leading-edge technology allows enterprises to operate with a previously unavailable simplicity and flexibility, providing new and exciting capabilities. Here are a few examples.

Getting Socially Active

While anyone who was a shy teenager probably remembers being encouraged to get more socially active, in terms of retail CRM, social activation has a different meaning.

“Social activation is a move from measuring sentiment to changing perceptions,” Bill Briggs, director at Deloitte Consulting, said during a presentation. “It’s not social listening, it’s creating consumer advocacy in their own words.”

Briggs said retailers need to move beyond abstract, empty social media statistics such as how many followers they have and what percentage of social commentary has positive sentiment. Instead, retailers should focus on creating a positive consumer perception through social media.

Thus, rather than focusing strictly on measuring sentiment, retailers should take the direct approach of identifying social influencers and the social communities that represent the bulk of their business. By using old-fashioned community outreach methods such as events, contests, request for feedback, and special offers, retailers can build trust in these important social segments and create social evangelists who perform peer-to-peer marketing.

Ditching the ‘Big Iron’

The development of in-memory processing, which stores data directly into computer memory rather than on hard disks, and of virtual servers, is creating an environment where traditional, infrastructure-heavy data warehousing solutions are less necessary.

“Big iron costs a lot to maintain,” Stew Wenerstrom, senior VP/CIO of Big Lots, said of legacy data warehousing systems during a retail industry forum. “It’s one of the biggest items on my budget.”

While the “big iron” is not going away in the immediate future, moving forward, retailers will likely continue gravitating to the architecturally simpler and more cost-effective virtual in-memory processing model of storing, analyzing and acting upon data. This model also offers the potential of much greater insight and flexibility from data, leading to the third takeaway from Sapphire…

Gutting the Cube

In addition to moving beyond the need for complex infrastructure, in-memory processing also holds the promise of moving beyond the need for data aggregations and cubes. Traditional data warehousing solutions aggregate data into cubes that are then analyzed to uncover patterns and insights.

However, the massive computational power of in-memory processing can let retailers analyze specific pieces of data about individual consumers. Data aggregation still occurs with in-memory processing, but as an extension of initial granular analysis, rather than as the first step toward obtaining deeper consumer insight.

During a keynote presentation, Clayton M. Christensen, professor, Harvard Business School, explained how this new granular analytical capability will let retailers align their organizations around customer service. According to Christensen, customers are usually motivated to make a purchase in order to get a specific job done, rather than by their demographic characteristics.

“We’re breaking down cubes and removing aggregates so you can reorganize on the fly,” said Christensen. “You can respond to jobs that customers need to get done and arrange your organization around processes that give the customers what they need.”


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