Rajat Lal

Rajat Lal

Recent Posts

New Retail Landscape: Aligning Trade with Customer Experience

Posted by Rajat Lal on Sep 2, 2019 4:45:00 PM

The retail industry is experiencing exponential disruption. With new technologies coming in and transforming the way consumers interact and feel about a brand, retailers must respond by engaging customers seamlessly across all touchpoints with dynamic supply chain and agile operations.

According to a CNNMoney report, more than 7000 stores were closed, and 662 retailers filed for bankruptcy in the US alone, in 2017. Ever since Amazon began its pervasive dominance of the online retail market, the battle has always been perceived as ‘eCommerce vs brick and mortar stores.’ And for a while, that was indeed true. However, that clear dichotomy might no longer hold, as we take a closer look at customer behaviour.

Customers’ inclination towards eCommerce and the availability of mobile phones are continually evolving their behaviour and expectations.

The answer lies in the rising phenomenon of a new retail landscape, with changing consumer behaviour, which is a blend of online and offline retail experience bringing in a whole new level of convenience for customers.

The New Retail Landscape

Every retailer has a unique business situation, challenges, resources and strengths, and advantages to the marketplace. Before understanding the universal aspect that every retailer must get right, let’s look at the changing trends in the preference of the consumer.

Modern consumers prefer to buy through channel of their choice per their convenience. A PWC Study shows that 24% of consumers regularly used mobile to shop in 2019, compared with 11% in 2014.

a line graph with two lines in orange and grey

Early analysis from Internet Retailer show online retail sales in the U.S. crossed $517 billion in 2018, a 15.0% jump compared with 2017. The growth in retail sales in physical stores reached 3.7% last year.

This means that eCommerce now accounts for 14.3% of total retail sales when factoring out the sale of items not normally purchased online, such as fuel, automobiles and sales in restaurants. And it also means that in only a decade, the web has more than doubled its share of retail sales. Ten short years ago, eCommerce was at 5.1% of total retail purchases.

three hollow pie chart with numbers and text
In order to achieve great results, retailers must focus on some imperatives.

  • Customer convenience: Engaging them seamlessly across all touchpoints
  • Customer preference: Differentiate through superior and personalized offerings with dynamic supply chain
  • Agile operations: Innovate for agile operations, profitable business models and empowered employees


New technology capabilities help retailers achieve these imperatives.

Mobile and social engagement technologies allow contextual and relevant connections with consumers, employees and suppliers.

New capabilities such as machine learning, cognitive technology, and advanced analytics can decode patterns, preferences and trends that enable better and quicker marketing, increased operating efficiencies, transparent processes and agility in retail, to deliver the products and services consumers expect.

Businesses across industries, including retail, are increasingly looking to leverage cognitive technologies to innovate and position themselves for accelerated and sustainable success in the digital world.

Five colored blocks arranged in a puzzle like manner with text and

In retail, this presents an opportunity to understand things more deeply, faster, to become more relevant to consumers and to run businesses more strategically and more efficiently.

Retail Challenges and Solutions

Despite significant investments and efforts by retailers to drive digital transformation and exceptional customer experience over the last decade, challenges continue to abound across omnichannel strategy and operations functions, such as:

  • Moving away from traditional planning process to automated trading with newer technologies
  • Engaging customers in real time to deliver excellent experience and consistently stand out
  • Productize business and IT to improve operational efficiency

Addressing these omnichannel retail strategy and operations challenges calls for innovative use cases driven by cognitive abilities such as dynamic pricing, virtual product trial, and on the go notification.

Srijan can help retailers respond to challenges and influencing decisions.


  Retailer’s Priority Retailer’s Efforts/Initiative Challenges where Srijan can help
Customer Acquisition
  • Brand positioning
  • In-store footfall/ Online traffic
  • Increase customer base
  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Introductory offers
  • KYC information, segmentation
  • How to reduce acquisition cost?
  • How to optimize conversion rate
  • Incomplete customer persona
  • Delivering memorable customer experience
Upsell & Cross-Sell
  • Drive revenue
  • Increase basket size and share of wallet
  • Seamless personalized customer experience
  • Expensive digital transformation program
  • Data and insight-driven planning and marketing
  • Investment in digital solutions for context-driven offerings
  • Increasing basket size, reduce returns
  • Real-time personalized upsell/ cross-sell push
  • How to address cart abandonment effectively?
  • How to deal with real-time price changes
  • Consolidating omnichannel customer behaviour
Engagement & Retention
  • ROI from reward and loyalty programs
  • Revenue forecasting
  • Optimize ROI & customer experience
  • Drive improvements in digital systems for the desired output
  • How to identify factors that deliver conversion/ customer experience at scale
  • How to mitigate the risks of wrong actions?

 

Such challenges span both business and IT, and may have varying degrees of impact on customer experience, operational excellence, revenue growth, and cost reduction

All of this aligns perfectly with today’s business demands—to do ‘more with less’ at speed and scale, and sustain growth within the constraints of business, technology, and human capabilities.

These challenges have a direct impact on customer experience and therefore should likely be early adoption approach. These include delivering a personalized and frictionless experience, identifying factors that deliver conversion, reduce acquisition cost, break-free operations, and optimizing supply chain and fulfillment.

Solving these challenges and realizing their benefits is no longer the stuff of fiction. Consumers are already using cognitive technology enabled products and services in their daily chores.

How Srijan Can Help

These challenges and solutions are driven by the context to foresee and solve problems, simplifying and managing complexities, predicting the future, and responding to changes in real-time.

Some of the common new models to explore are:

  1. Virtual product try-on: AR-enabled virtual try on lets buyers experience the product look on them with just screens in front of them. Eyeglasses, lipstick, eye shadow, nail colour, jewellery, even clothes - customers can try and buy entire collections without leaving the try-on screen. That’s where the idea of ‘new retail’ comes in, bringing in a whole new level of experience for the customers by blending the digital and in-store retail experience.
  2. Digital price tags: Merging a brand’s online shopping app and its physical store can help offer variable pricing to customers based on their purchase intent and behaviour. As databases gather more data on buying patterns, frequently bought items or items lying in the cart for a long time can get highlighted with available offers and discounts at real time, as the customer passes by them on a store aisle. This could be helpful in inducing an on-the-spot purchase.
  3. Digital signage: An old marketing practice of drawing customers with interactive and engaging digital signage solutions. It can be used in a distinct way by fusing it physical shopping to create a cohesive multichannel experience. Digital signage at brick and mortar store in fact open up a myriad of new options increase sales, operational efficiency and brand awareness.
  4. On-the-go-notification: Similar to dynamic pricing, shoppers can receive pop-up notifications on their phones as they cross certain stores in a mall or even products within a store. This could be information on new collections, new products, deals and offers, all based on past behaviour - browsing patterns on a shopping app, time spent and aisles visited in a particular store, frequency of visits etc.
  5. Just-in-time-inventory stocking: While virtual product trials are one way to reduce logistics expenses, retail stores can also enable the just-in-time stocking to cut costs. So instead of having a huge stock of merchandise, they can selectively have pieces that customers have booked for an in-store trial. This could be especially applicable for merchandise like footwear, accessories, cosmetics, electronics, and apparel.

However, established supply chain processes will also need to change for retail enterprises to truly benefit from the just-in-time stocking. A combination of digital warehouse management, automated delivery scheduling, and adoption of low-volume, low-cost delivery methods will need to be incorporated into supply chain management.

The time for debating retail vs. in-store investments is over. The smart choice is to merge the two into a tightly integrated platform that offers an enhanced customer experience. Contact our experts today to get in touch.

Topics: Omnichannel, MarTech, Digital Experience

Can CIOs manage Digital Transformation while cutting costs?

Posted by Rajat Lal on Jun 3, 2019 5:50:00 PM

Early Encounters with Duality

Managing with Dual Strategies - a book by Derek F. Abell, was the recommended reading suggested to me early in my career - by a senior executive of ABC Consultants, India’s premier people management consulting company. I’d been in a pure sales representation role till then, moving into a new Corporate Planning function with my then company. This book was supposed to act as my Bible on the challenges faced by senior management.

I’ve forgotten most of the content I’d read then (to confess, I never read the book fully, save for a presentation I did to my Corporate Planning colleagues). But the book’s title has stayed with me all these years, and so also the subtitle Mastering the Present, Pre-empting the Future. I would see CIO equivalents in the 90’s struggle with early age technology initiatives, in a quandary whether to stay put in the air conditions environs where the Unix servers were hosted or go down to the business teams and figure out how to make life easier for them.

As was usual in that time, management wisdom then lay more faith on maximal utilisation of the former. The would-be CIOs had their KRAs quite clear - loads of report generation, and upkeep of the servers. And as it happens with most such concise pieces of wisdom that stick around in your head, I ended up applying this beyond work situations, to my personal life.

So ‘Mastering the Present’ became an early start to personal financial planning, on a self-generated spreadsheet. Jotting down all expenses each day, then doing ‘small-data’ analytics at the end of each month on where the money went. Over months and years, the sheet evolved to ‘Pre-empting the Future’ - tracking stocks, mutual funds and tax planning. The sheet is now an unwieldy behemoth with some 20 tabs, possibly tending to big-data proportions.

A blue pen pointing at a graph on a white sheet

The Contradicting Challenges Before CIOs

Coming back to work, and this dual strategy approach was applied more to my customers - largely CIOs or business-technology heads. The issues they’ve faced can largely be put under the ‘Present’ bucket of ‘managing’ Resources, or Costs. And the ‘Future’ bucket of all that goes in the name of Transformation, or ‘pre-empting’ its effects.

CIOs today deal with constant requests, expectations, demands, directives

The challenges CIOs face are essentially two - reducing or optimising  total cost of ownership, while creating Value via Transformation. But the contradiction between these two goals is perhaps as vast and unbridgeable for CIOs today, as they once did in Derek Abell’s book to a then greenhorn.

CIOs, today, deal with constant requests, expectations, demands, directives - to cut down on resources, merge functions or teams, pare down, or harmonise or consolidate vendor contracts. All the while launching into new digital transformation initiatives that seemingly come out of a parallel universe of meetings, conclaves, or business directives.

The CIO’s role seems to straddle the two universes, chasing one objective at the cost of the other.

Can Contradictions be Resolved?

Yet as a recent customer conversation revealed, this contradiction is not insurmountable. If the business goals and expected operational benefits of any initiative are clearly outlined - CIOs can bring about digital transformation and tie it in with reducing costs.

The CIO’s role seems to straddle the two universes, chasing one objective at the cost of the other


We undertook a focused study for a manufacturing company CXO whose remit was to ‘Optimise TCO in IT’:

  • we researched the company’s complete IT landscape
  • identified areas where costs were being sunk into servicing licensed software or infrastructure
  • identified where these were being deployed
  • and then came up with a list of business use cases → these licensed IT assets could be replaced by open source alternatives

 

In the process generating feasible options for mini, stand-alone digital innovation projects limited to a business unit or division - acting as a proof-of-concept for a larger transformation.

So what might ‘innovation’ mean, especially since ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation’ are heavily overused terms?

Being an Indian, I can’t help, indeed I guess I must be expected to, try to explain ‘innovation’ in terms of ‘jugaad’.

‘Jugaad’ vs ‘Frugal Innovation’ - What’s the Underlying Objective?

There are lots of books out there eulogising ‘jugaad’ but since I haven’t read any, I won’t refer them here. Also, the usual positive sense of the word - this or that entrepreneur finding a cheap alternative and making billions (they usually go bust soon after) - holds true less and less.

It's more likely to be in line with this comment (even if it's highly obnoxious) of the infamously sarcastic Prince Philip. While India has seen technology and economic boom since liberalisation in the 1990s and especially the last few years, a ‘we are like this only’ attitude prevails, and in many ways, the nation remains tied to its socialist past.

Despite recent efforts at a national level, this is the attitude that has spawned and nurtured a culture of circumventing laws, evading taxes, soliciting favours, lax service standards, and public litter...  

 … from being the stepping stone to ‘frugal innovation’, ‘jugaad’ has come to mean ‘finding short-cut ideas to cut costs/corners no matter if the objective is compromised’ as opposed to … what ‘innovation’ means - ‘translating ideas into replicable solutions at reduced costs, to help achieve the (customer’s) objective’

As long as the objective is remembered and respected - “the business goals and expected operational benefits” - and cost reduction scenarios worked out accordingly, we are on track with innovation. So CIOs/CXOs can manage with dual strategies, or indeed combine seemingly contradictory strategies into one.

Enterprise Transformation - Experiences, and Examples

Some examples to reference, on Digital Innovation and Transformation delivered using open source platforms, while reducing costs / TCO -

  • An Omnichannel CMS for a Telcos Digital Stores - with a global template framework enabling client teams in 21 EMEA countries to structure pricing & product information as per regional market needs. And an infrastructure solution for the client to shift their hosting to new servers cutting annual costs by hundreds of thousands of pounds  
  • A Video Analytics Solution for an Industrial Cleaning Solutions Company - a machine learning solution using Amazon Sagemaker, Lambda and S3 - on a scalable, pay-as-you-go model - analyzing scraped video feed data to log time-stamped asset performance ---> delivering cost benefits in terms of reduced costs of asset recall & repair, as well as reduced IT infra costs

And again, being an Indian, I can’t help but relate to some examples of successful, ‘frugal’  innovation - ‘jugaad’ gone right (or wrong..?) so to speak -  

We are yet to ‘Master the Present’ - inefficiencies still run dark and deep, many streets and lanes yet to sweep, and some more years to sow before we reap (my modest take on Robert Frost).

But we’ve made progress in ‘Pre-empting the Future’ - leaders globally in areas transformative in reach and scale - universal healthcare & insurance, digital payments and space technologies, for example. Things that might make us proud, and perhaps wake up Prince Philip from his sleep.

...

The views expressed in this blog are solely of the author and do not reflect, by any means, the view of Srijan Technologies. 

Topics: Digital Experience, Enterprises

Revisiting DrupalCamp London 2019

Posted by Rajat Lal on Apr 22, 2019 5:12:00 PM

Change is in the air!

In more ways than one, our world is in the throes of change. We live in an era where politics and governance, economy and international relations as also business and technology are all careening through an edge-of-the-seat roller coaster ride, from one ‘cutting edge’ to another.

Ideas, values, systems, processes, frameworks - what held good yesterday is today up in the air. We see this in our lives - professional and personal. We seek the new constantly, be it a new Mar-Tech platform every few months for our businesses, or a new Soc-Med channel to post our holiday pictures on, discarding the one that was ‘trusted’ till yesterday.

Not surprisingly, this affects both organizations and individuals - the changes in our experience of institutional frameworks, business models, corporate ethics, interpersonal relationships, the way we shop, eat, dress, travel, even our experiences of climate change.

The bit about climate change brings me to my own experience within a year, at two successive DrupalCamp events. The first weekend of March 2018 caught me in the middle of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap at City University, the traditional venue for DC London.

winter-of-londonTrudging from Angel tube station down a snow-laden Goswell Road to the venue, in the lowest temperatures I have ever experienced in London.

In contrast, London saw unseasonal, unusually warm weather during DrupalCamp 2019. The weather was almost tending to summer-hood, the very same week exactly a year on. The odd tree on Goswell Road, standing like a leafless sentinel in front of a corner townhouse, provided an isolated reminder that it was officially still winter.

Almost like climate change in reverse. Talking of change, the biggest change facing UK and Europe today is Brexit… and so a passing thought - is a ‘Brexit in reverse’ still possible...?

Growth, Leadership, Diversity   Superpowers

drupal-camp-londonDrupalCamps are largely meant to be developer-centric affairs… but the DC London CXO Day goes the extra mile to make it relevant to business owners, managers, and of course CXOs.

We can leave the topic of Brexit for another day, but wasn’t it all about the absence of growth, of leadership, and about rejecting diversity? This year’s CXO Day went on to address precisely this - how growth, leadership and diversity can equip us with superpowers... to deal with ‘change’.

Three very lively and insightful presentations

  1. Prof. Costas Andriopoulos’ (CASS Business School) talk on ‘Leadership and innovation in scaling enterprises’ - dwelt upon the challenges of size.

    • initial success breeds complacency and arrogance
    • an ageing leadership is unable to embrace technology shifts
    • bureaucracy and set structures tend to be risk-averse

      Creativity and innovation are the victims of this inability to change, in the face of change.

      drupal-camp-london-picture
      The professor emphasized that change can be harnessed via ‘breakthrough innovation’ -

      • empower people to break rules - those at the fringes bring in outside perspective
      • enable ‘project labs’ - to foster innovation initiatives
      • encourage ambidexterity - simultaneously exploit current competencies and explore new domains
  2. Michel Van Velde (Director, One Shoe) - gave a contemporary and germane take on modern psychology to effectively lead and bring about change - 'Radically Candid'.
    group of people sitting on a desk and talking on mic
    Drawing from the concepts of Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis, and Thomas Antony Harris’ book ‘I’m Ok, You’re Ok’, Michel explained beautifully how the Drama Triangle traps us into responding in set ways to situations.                                                                                                                                                            This, in turn, prompts others to be unyielding in their stance, and the interaction hits a cul-de-sac. The conflicting parties are trapped in the rigidity of their responses, rendering any resolution impossible. 

    Recognizing we are trapped in the Drama Triangle opens up our minds to deviating from our set position, enabling others to react differently, and Change becomes possible.
  3. Melissa Van Der Hecht (CTO, Mulesoft) - ‘We all have Superpowers’ gave a hugely engaging talk on why we need to be more open about diversity in technology. 

    A woman standing and speaking. Text written in backgroundShe shared insights on how we tend to think of ‘diversity’ in very uni-dimensional ways - gender for example - but it actually covers several aspects. Age, background, education, experience, race, nationality, disability are all elements of diversity - but it's what makes one stand out ahead that counts. 


    Melissa illustrated how diversity is a key driver to innovation and change - and cited studies and statistics to show -
    • companies with more diverse teams report ~19% higher revenues
    • why diversity - better culture, higher performance, better customer engagement
    • coaching employees to harness their strengths encourages inclusion 

The Content Experience  Focus, Responsiveness, Security

Some very interesting and instructive developer sessions over the next two days that showcased how content technology is maturing with ever-evolving market contexts. I missed out quite a few, but the ones that caught my eye - 

  • NLP and Drupal8, by iampritish - Leveraging NLP for content tagging makes it easier to showcase focused, summarised content
  • Browser Wars 2019 - Implementing a Content Security Policy, by iAugur - The security of web content is a live threat globally - security headers are easy to implement and add an extra layer of security against malicious attacks
  • The Front-end CSS battle - Flexbox Vs Grid, by surbhig - The choice of a ‘layout-first’ versus ‘content-first’ helps create responsive designs that render content across multiple devices and platforms
  • Reusing Components between Angular, React, Vue and Web-Components - by tkssharma - Reusing components between frameworks helps drive consistent user experiences across a plethora of applications or channels
  • How to make Drupal editor-friendly - by jaro.2801 - Drupal8 offers a highly enhanced UX for content editors; this presentation shows how to make the most of it

Content - Context-less and Channel-Agnostic

Finally, Preston So’s Sunday morning keynote was a pleasure to listen to. Speaking on ‘decoupled Drupal and context-less content’, he expounded on how rising expectations from developers, editors and marketers could put Drupal at risk of a credibility chasm.

decontextualize-your-contentThis may start to happen when Drupal content is served to multiple channels beyond just the website. The multitude of devices, screens, wearables and apps that push content to us in myriad ways - audio, video, text, AR/VR as well as interactive, streaming or static.

This is the ‘Change’ digital technology is going through - an explosion of channels, along with rapidly evolving front-end Javascript frameworks. In such a scenario, content shouldn’t just be context-specific, for example just mobile-friendly or website-friendly. Content in its pure form should be channel-agnostic - able to adapt to different contexts, just the way water adapts to the shape of the vessel its poured into.

Preston explained how decoupled Drupal helps configure front-end channels (the ‘vessels’) that own their contexts fully, enabling enterprises to target specific audiences. A whole new proposition to leverage Drupal in ways that evolve with the business.

And one for the road…

Can’t help coming back to Brexit - was the 2016 vote an outcome of the Remainers’ inability to effectively channel its messaging content to its targeted audience? Is the current imbroglio in the UK Parliament a result of similar shortcomings in the current dispensation?

As I said, a topic for another day. However, AI and big data technologies are increasingly impacting the spread of news, ideas and public opinion. In the post-truth era, the standing of media companies - to take an example - depends more and more on how they create and disseminate credible content to discerning audiences, across their preferred channels.

Will the near future see spiralling audience demand for peer-reviewed journalism, tagging of fake news, detection of fraud content, false references, fabricated statements? Technologies such as natural language processing, blockchain and bigdata + cloud are already addressing similar challenges for the scientific publishing world - how far behind is mainstream media?

The road ahead perhaps, for a modern CMS working with such technologies of tomorrow, backed by secure cloud platforms - an all-encompassing enterprise digital ecosystem. A topic for future DrupalCamps?

Truly, change is in the cloud, er… air.

Rajat Lal is the Business Head, UK and Europe at Srijan Technologies. Srijan was the CXO Day sponsor at DrupalCamp London 2019.

Topics: Drupal, Community, Event

The silver lining: GDPR as an opportunity for enterprises

Posted by Rajat Lal on Jan 8, 2018 4:56:00 PM

With the May 25th, 2018 deadline to get GDPR compliance into effect, enterprises are busy evaluating their data collection, usage, and storage. The penalties for non-compliance are severe, which is why enterprises do not want to be on the wrong side of the law. 

There’s also an expectation that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is looking to make an example of companies that breach the law. Add to that, the fact that firms have to incur additional expenditure to realign their data security practices to GDPR guidelines. 

All this combined has made GDPR seem like a threat to enterprise operations and revenues. In fact, there have been several instances of companies deleting their entire email database, just so they do not have to bother with GDPR compliance.

But maybe there is a silver lining in all this. 

Here’s a look at the opportunities GDPR presents for different enterprise teams:

Data Security Teams

Large enterprises often collect personal data across several touchpoints: marketing, billing, legal, HR and more. Often there’s no single place where all this data is stored, or no standardized security measures around the data collected by different departments. 

With GDPR, enterprises now have to re-evaluate all this data. That’s the chance for the data security teams to tighten the ship. They can set up efficient systems that help legally collect and store data. They can also train departments on how to handle and use the data while ensuring compliance. 

As these systems are put in place, enterprises will also become more transparent with their customers. And that could become a huge differentiator for their brand, earning greater trust and consequently more business.

Marketing Teams

For global enterprises, marketing is the one area that’s really feeling the heat with GDPR. They are having to review entire contact lists, trying to figure out how each contact got into their database. And whether they have documentation to show that contacts opted in.

But the fact that GDPR is forcing marketing teams to closely adhere to people’s preferences for receiving communication, is what makes it an opportunity. Here’s how:

  • Without the option of mass mailing contacts from a haphazardly curated list, they now have to create valuable content that people actively want to receive

  • Their forms now have to reveal why they are collecting personal information

  • They have to document consent through opt-in emails, rather than just giving them an option to opt-out later

 

This puts a stop to bad marketing practices. And also makes sure you get greater returns on your marketing efforts, by communicating with people who have explicitly expressed interested in hearing from you.

Product Teams

For enterprises in industries like IT, AI, IoT, and business intelligence, GDPR presents a huge opportunity for innovation. They can launch new products and services that:

  • Help companies assess their security standards and GDPR readiness

  • Offer end-to-end change management while establishing systems of compliance

Collect and interpret customer behavior data without having to rely on personal information

The demand for these is huge, and enterprises that can launch fast will swiftly consolidate their share of the market. 

Viewing GDPR as an opportunity might not come easy for enterprises. But let’s put it this way: enterprises have to make changes if they are to ensure compliance. And that will be easier to do if they know there are actual benefits for them, rather than just avoiding fines.

Topics: Enterprises

GDPR and how it impacts global enterprises

Posted by Rajat Lal on Dec 7, 2017 1:19:00 PM

The General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), adopted by the EU in April 2016, replaces the previous 1995 data protection directive. It brings into effect a more comprehensive and stringent set of laws around collecting, storing, and processing data of EU citizens. The regulation standardizes data privacy and protection throughout EU’s member nations and gives them greater rights over their data.

With the approaching deadline of May 25, 2018, when it comes into effect, let’s take a quick look what is GDPR, and figure out the next steps for your enterprise.

What type of data is covered by GDPR?

The GDPR is concerned with the following types of data:

  • Personal information: Any piece of information that can be used to identify a person; name, address etc
  • Sensitive personal data: Information that is not considered common public knowledge: religious, sexual, political orientation, race etc.
  • Pseudonymised data: Data where personal identifiers have been assigned pseudonyms. For example: the name being replaced with a unique number.

What’s new with GDPR is the inclusion of pseudonymised data under the law. However, GDPR actually incentivizes pseudonymization and relaxes several requirements on data controllers that use this method.

Which organizations need to comply with GDPR?

Any organization, whether charity or for-profit, that collects, stores, and processes data belonging to EU citizens, will have to comply with GDPR. It’s applicable to your enterprise if you are:

  • Based in EU, and collect and use EU citizens’ data in any form
  • Based outside EU, but cater to or monitor EU citizens and collect data in the process
  • Do not collect or use EU citizen data, but are contracted to process such data 

How exactly does GDPR impact enterprises?

While GDPR gives greater rights to EU citizens over their personal data, it also creates certain new obligations for enterprises: 

Seeking Consent

Enterprises have to review the mechanisms via which they collect personal information. GDPR mandates that all citizens have to provide active consent to their personal information being collected. So organizations have to be transparent about why data is being collected and how it will be used. Pre-ticked checkboxes to gain information or using collected data for any purpose other than the one disclosed, will be in violation of GDPR.

Granting Access

GDPR gives citizens access to their data stored by any organization, via a Subject Access Request (SAR). Enterprises should be able to process SARs within a month, and be ready to erase personal information from their database, if so requested by an individual. 

Documentation

What data is being collected, why, for how long will it be stored, and what are the security measures around it: all this information has to be documented by enterprises. Any data collected should have a verifiable trail that shows information was collected with citizen’s consent and is being used for a purpose that they are aware of.

Reporting Data Breaches

Any unauthorized access, loss, alteration or destruction of data is considered a breach of data privacy, and has to be disclosed to the country’s data regulator, within 72 hours. In case the breach has repercussions for EU citizens, the concerned individuals have to be informed as well. 

Data Protection Officers

Considering all that is required of enterprises to ensure compliance with GDPR, most large enterprise will feel the need for dedicated personnel. Data Protection Officers (DPO) will be in-charge of maintaining fair and transparent data collection and processing systems, as well as evaluating every new project for its impact on data privacy. While hiring a DPO is not mandatory, large enterprises should definitely consider appointing third-party consultants for this role. 

Fines

One of the key features that make GDPR effective is the ability of data regulators to levy fines on non-compliant organizations. Not processing data in a specified manner, or failure to appoint a DPO if your company requires one, are all grounds for penalties. More serious infractions, like a data breach, or failure to report data breach within the stipulated time, also draws heavy fines. These can go up to € 20 million or four percent of the company’s global turnover, whichever is greater.

What are the next steps?

If you haven’t already given a thought to GDPR, now is the right time to get started. Even for enterprises that follow stringent internal data protection policies, GDPR will mean implementing certain changes. Here’s what enterprise need to do now:

  • Go over your enterprise's data protection policies with a fine tooth comb and identify the areas that will need improvements or changes. Review data collection, processing, and storage procedures, to make sure they are compliant.
  • Identify any on-going projects that can cause compliance problems under the GDPR.
  • Take stock of all data held within the enterprise and document what, why, and how it was collected and being stored and handled
  • Review all data privacy notices/forms and make sure it informs citizens how their data is being used
  • Set up processes to handle data access, correction, and deletion requests. Ensure that they are swift and stick to the timelines set out in the GDPR
  • Ensure you have a streamlined process to identify, control and report data breaches
  • Review if your organizations requires a DPO, under the GDPR guidelines, and appoint one accordingly
  • And finally, plan the transition to new systems and process, including allocation of adequate time and resources

That was a quick round up of GDPR and how it is set to impact enterprises. Once they review their current data protection policies to identify the gaps, the next step will be implementing the technical changes on their online properties. So enterprise decision makers should also start thinking about how this will be done, what in-house resources they require, or which technology partner to outsource to. 

With all of this going on, GDPR might look like a major threat to businesses in 2018. However, enterprises should keep an eye on the silver lining of how GDPR compliance can also throw up new business opportunities.

Topics: Enterprises

Redefining the Travel Industry: Internet of Things

Posted by Rajat Lal on Sep 6, 2017 5:55:00 PM

Travel can be fraught with worry, even for seasoned travelers. How much time is immigration or security going to take? Will everything go smoothly? Will the luggage make it to the destination? What happens if it’s put on a different flight-? What’s the stay going to be like? And so on.

If airports, airlines and hotels could take a lot of this worry out of the equation, it would translate into a less-stressed traveler. And that usually means more money spent on the services on offer, and less effort and time on trying to resolve problems. Everybody wins. Similarly if every asset that comes into the purview of flights, luggage management, and room handling, can be tracked and monitored the result is  improved availability and enhanced efficiency.  In turn, turnaround times become far better and operational costs go down drastically. Again, great wins.

And that’s how the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the key technology innovations in the travel industry, promises to transform the tourism and hospitality landscape. And the wave already here, maybe not as quickly as travelers would like, but there are implementations across the world, and the results look good.

Airports take off with IoT

innovation in travel IoT at Airports

Reduce Flight TAT: Things started moving in 2013, when the London City Airport became the first airport to test out IoT. In the pilot project that ran across 12 months, saw the deployment of a way to measure passenger journeys using a sensor and camera network. The project also had asset tracking that used GPS/3G/Wi-Fi enabled tracking devices to monitor the position and movement of airport equipment, to reduce the turnaround time for flights. The other key part of the project was an app for passengers that would deliver alerts related to their specific flights and services available to them based on their location in the airport.

Other airports soon followed suit.

Download our Travel, Tech, & Transformation ebook to stay on top of industry trends, and leverage emerging tech to ride the travel industry growth wave.

Passenger Notification: In 2015, Gatwick Airport started trials for a queue measurement system using sensors with cameras mounted in the ceiling. The sensors could measure the height and shape of the objects below and could detect people with almost 100% accuracy. The idea was to give an estimate of check-in times and then push that information to the passengers. 

Personalized Airport Experience: Miami International Airport installed a network of 500 Bluetooth data beacons around key areas in the airport. The data is used to feed into the app meant for passengers who can scan their boarding passes, and receive navigation information to their gates. Suggestions for nearby shopping and dining can also be pushed to the users, based on a customizable profile.

Reduce Passenger Congestion: The Internet of Business reports that since 2016, the busiest year for UK’s Birmingham Airport, the airport authorities decided to leverage technology solutions to ease out the congestion. They deployed a sensor-agnostic tracking and monitoring system called BlipTrack. It captures data from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connected sensors to detect mobile devices. And pushes information such as “travel times, dwell times and passenger movement patterns.” The data captures helps the airport teams figure out wait times, allowing  in time resource planning for resources  and thus avoiding  passenger congestion.

Improve Hygiene Compliance: Another use case that has been in the pipeline for Columbus Regional Airport Authority is that of sensors on soap and other toiletries dispensers to send out information as they begin to run out. This cuts down on the need for manual checks of all such dispensers, which brings down costs significantly while pushing up efficiency. 

So airports are well on their way with testing IoT. What about hotels?

Delivering a personalized service in hotels

innovation in travel IoT in hotel_0

Personalized Service: Virgin Hotels offer an app to their guests with which they can control their room’s thermostat or TV. Many hotels are experimenting with keyless entry as well. Marriott has been testing out real Like buttons to let guests give feedback on the amenities and services. 

Use cases can be limitless, as hotels strive to deliver a seamless, delightful experience to their guests. Sensors can be used across a property in - various ways to predict guests’  needs and moods, offer recommendations and make it easy for the guest to partake of that experience. As a guest visits again and again, the data can be used to deliver highly personalized services - turning a happy guest into a brand advocate.

Enhanced Customer Experience: At Disney World, Orlando, guests have been experiencing some tech magic using a MagicBand. If you have made reservations to eat at a restaurant, and you’re wearing your band, you will be welcomed by name. And the food will automatically find you no matter where you sit. The MagicBands are stylish rubber wristbands, each with an RFID chip and a radio in it. It connects to a vast system of sensors in the park. With the data you have made available, the park then can tailor an experience that is customized for you. You can use the band to swipe into rides. You don’t have to carry cash, the band is linked to your credit card. You don’t have to wait in queues, don’t have to worry about calling cabs. The benefits are endless. If you have signed up for Magic Express, you don’t even have to worry about your luggage reaching your hotel from the airport. It is nothing short of magic.

And that’s how IoT is enabling travel related businesses bring a whole new experience to travelers and guests. A lot of sensor or beacon data that they can use in a million different ways to make the travel experience not just great, but memorable.

What would you want to deliver using IoT to your customers? Have an idea? Let’s chat.
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Topics: Travel & Hospitality

Business Process Management with the Camunda Workflow Engine

Posted by Rajat Lal on Feb 14, 2017 11:55:00 AM

What’s your company’s annual turnover? Something in the range of $2.0 billion, €2.2 billion, Rs2,000 crore, or Rs500 crore? Is your company growing gradually, or does it change shape seasonally? Do you have a robust and scalable workflow and business process management infrastructure to deliver efficiently both at the time of peak and low? If not, you are yet to appropriate more from your process and workflow management system. 

Suppose you are a lending organization specializing in social enterprise; or an international travel agency. How do you manage the lifecycle of a loan request from its inception to approval and then to appropriation, or a price inquiry for a holiday package to invoicing for the tour for two? Are you thinking if these are at all realistic? That’s because you are yet to meet the Camunda workflow engine. 

What is Camunda BPM Engine? 

The Camunda BPM engine is an open source, Java-based framework that provides an intelligent workflow or camunda bpm enginebusiness process management (BPM) system for any kind and size of organisation. It offers pre-designed BPM systems that can be modeled and executed for workflow and business process automation, for Case Management, and for Business Decision Management. It is centered around a runtime engine and uses an in-built modeling tool to execute the business process designs.

Camunda supports the following processes and environments: 

  • BPMN 2.0 Processes for completely automated service orchestration and human workflow management

  • CMMN 1.1 Cases for less structured case management activities

  • DMN 1.1 Decisions for executing decision tables for business rule automation

Technical Architecture 

Teams of Camunda developers are continuously striving to make design and implementation easier for Java developers who work with workflow processes. They are innovating and adding new tools for better execution of business processes and workflows on the Java virtual machine. 

To enable non-Java developers use the BPM system and the process engine technology, Camunda BPM offers REST API that allows one to build applications with a remote process engine connection. 

The core consists of a lightweight execution engine that uses less than 3MB of disk space. The engine can run in any Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and comes with extended integration for different runtime containers.     

The following diagram depicts the most important components of Camunda architecture.

Business Process Management with the Camunda Workflow Engine

Process Engine and Infrastructure

This comprise a lightweight POJO core and a Java library that executes BPMN 2.0 processes, CMMN 1.1 cases and DMN 1.1 decisions. The core uses a relational database for persistence, a Spring Framework Integration, a CDI/Java EE Integration, and a Runtime Container Integration.

Modeler

The Camunda Modeler helps modeling both diagrams and decision tables for BPMN 2.0, CMMN 1.1, and DMN 1.1.

Web Application

The Camunda BPM web applications are based on a RESTful architecture that allows business users to use the process engine from a remote application or a JavaScript application. The app includes: 

  • Tasklist: Enables human workflow management by allowing users to inspect their workflow tasks and accordingly navigate to the task forms to execute those and provide data input.

  • Cockpit: Allows inspection of continuing and completed process instances and take care of incidents.

  • Admin: Allows management and organisation of users, and granting of permissions according to roles and groups.

  • Cycle: Allows integrating Camunda BPM with a third-party BPMN modeler.

  • Custom Application: Allow seamless integration of third party applications with Camunda BPM components.

Why Camunda?

Camunda is extremely developer-friendly on one hand, while being extremely business-friendly on the other. Camunda developers say, “developers and business users should hug at least once per day.” They make this possible by almost closing the gap between business processes visualized by business analysts and the actual software that automates and replicates those processes, in Camunda. 

Camunda is both developer- and business-friendly

To achieve both developer- and business-friendliness, Camunda: 

  • Has kept the core engine very light; it needs less than 3 MB of disk space 

  • Doesn’t force model driven development for every aspect of process implementation

  • Strives to maintain ease of use in its BPMN-CMMN-DMN modeler 

  • Enables business users to change and customize elements of the process application easily

  • Provides real-time monitoring data as model annotations, which are more intuitive and useful

Integrating Camunda with Third-Party apps, like Drupal, is easy

When multiple teams and applications in an enterprise team have to work together, a combination of a content management system with a Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (BPMN 2.0) Workflow Management System seems to be the requirement of the day. In such situations, the Camunda-Drupal connector module can be configured to set up a content creation workflow.

Camunda is often a preferred choice because it allows for seamless integration with such third party apps. For example, Camunda can be integrated with Drupal in a way where users interact with Drupal to complete each step of the workflow, while Drupal workflow administrators configure the forms and actions for each step.  

Camunda is Highly Scalable

The Camunda workflow engine can be scaled to any imaginable level – for the $2.0 billion company, the €2.2 billion company, as well as for the Rs200 crore company. 

Specific features that allow Camunda to scale at such magical levels are: 

  • Persistence Strategies: Camunda can run on various different relational databases by using each of them efficiently. Its efficiency in using databases rises from features such as its compact data model and sophisticated algorithms, optimistic concurrency control that also minimizes risk of deadlocks, fine granular control over the placement of savepoints thereby allowing balance of fault tolerance and performance, and intelligent caching. 

  • Clustering: Camunda allows running on Clusters to achieve load balancing and high availability. It allocates a minimal amount of RAM resource per node, which means many process engine instances can be run on each node.

  • Runtime vs. History: Camunda separates Runtime Data from History Data, which is a very powerful architectural concept for performance optimization. It also allows for History Event streaming where the process engine will simply write this event stream to the Camunda history database. Additionally, the history level controls the amount of data the process engine provides and thus allows creating one’s unique log level configuration. 

 

The scalability features alone makes Camunda stand apart from various other hybrid and in-house developed BPM models. Teams of Camunda developers follow a short-term roadmap that aligns with their long-term vision. The vision is to make the best pre-designed workflow management process that yields easily to design and implementation situations, both for Java developers who work with workflow processes and non-Java developers. 

If your enterprise works on a Drupal, and the Camunda workflow engine looks like the answer to your workflow automation requirements, an integration could yield powerful results. Just drop us a line and let’s get things started.

Topics: BPM

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