Tag Archives: Digital

Combined thoughts on “Everything As A Service”

These are some thoughts captured and co-written by Stephen Danelutti and Jason Noble, two long time contributors to the world of Everything As a Service (XaaS) who met again recently. We realised our common background and insights and decided to produce this combined thought piece – hope you enjoy.

Background

We worked at Sony together many years back and only discovered this recently when we met. Funny how our orbits work as people, and then you collide.

We worked in different parts of a division at Sony called DADC, which invented the CD and developed digital content streaming services. This was before iPod, iPhone and Spotify. Stephen has written about that, including a demo: The end of ownership and the rise of usership. This experience was a good precursor to our thinking on Everything as a Service (XaaS).

The as a service iceberg

We met when we both were (and still are) professionally in Customer Success management leadership roles, a function of SaaS companies that is, amongst others, being translated into XaaS. So we are both rather well positioned to talk on this topic.

Stephen is writing an eBook on the subject which you can find out more about here. We decided to use that as a framework (The As a Service Iceberg) for exploring our mutual thoughts. While we divided subtopics up between us, we worked collaboratively throughout to edit and progress in tandem and what you read is very much a joint effort.

 

Everything as a Service (XaaS)

There is a distinction between the purely technological view which is where the term XaaS comes from and the one we refer to in this article. In ours we have jumped from technology to other industries – we have “crossed the chasm”. Essentially we are talking about taking the learnings from the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry and applying it to other industries.

Some examples

SaaS has been around now for a good few years, and we’ve seen other as-a-service philosophies and approaches pop up since – most related to technology (e.g. infrastructure as a service) but there are more and more examples now across all industries. Some great ones include:

  • Mobility and transport – think of an extension of your Oyster card
  • Property – renting plus add-on services and services like airbnb
  • Shopping – home delivery pre-prepared meals
  • Healthcare – shaving services
  • Airlines – yes even some airlines are often monthly subscription
  • Digital content – not just music, but now movies, TV, games and books

It’s not just about what is being delivered, but how it is being delivered – and the level of experience offered that takes these examples into the true as-a-service arena.

In times of crisis, like COVID-19, there is a stronger need to justify new technology services and innovations, and many businesses are looking at rapid return on investments as part of it. We will see a continued development of new as-a-service ideas coming over the coming years that have been accelerated by the need to innovate and change.

The as a service iceberg

1. Customer solutions

This is the outward manifestation of all of the others and is all about solving problems and meeting needs. No longer is something purchased just for its intrinsic value but what it will help a person or organisation achieve. Several sub components or theories support this and some have been around a while:

  • Systems thinking views a system as a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated and interdependent parts and in the case of customer solutions, it represents how products are now increasingly being viewed as tangible goods plus services.
  • Business outcomes management entails identifying, measuring and achieving business outcomes for the customer, often with the help of Customer Success teams (see the next influence).
  • Jobs to be done theory is a framework for understanding customer needs and innovating around them with new offerings.
  • Solution selling is an approach taken by sales teams that incorporates a consultative approach to identifying solutions to best meet a customer’s needs in the most cost efficient way, especially with multiple product offerings.

More elaborated on this in this post: As a Service trend research – customer solutions.

2. Customer success

With the shift to XaaS, the way we interact, work with and deliver to our customers has also evolved. Our customers’ expectations have risen rapidly and we need to focus on what experience they require and want, and also what it is that they are ultimately looking for, in outcome or value terms. The idea from SaaS vendors, that gave rise to customer success, is that they work with customers proactively to drive value and growth for the customer, in turn justifying the vendors offering. The old reactive way was letting the customer figure things out for themselves after the sale. This has been a monumental industry shift and it’s one that is still evolving and maturing. The role of a customer success manager (CSM) is one of the fastest growing roles today as more and more companies understand that it is critical to their own and their customers’ growth and ultimate success.

CSMs are generalists and facilitators, skilled across the business, commercial, technology and product functions. They are uniquely positioned to be able to guide and help customers achieve the outcomes they need, through the (technology) services they acquire. CSM’s act as trusted advisors, facilitators, business and growth consultants, analysts, project and programme managers, even as change managers for their customers.

3. From products to services

This fits alongside the customer solutions view where products play a role in a much wider ecosystem that includes services. It’s not just about technology and technology products, it’s much broader. Having said that, technology does enable this to a far greater degree, see next point. Think about how Apple has taken its iPhone and built an app (and services) ecosystem that serves to add value to Apple hardware and creates new revenue streams for them and third party app developers. These apps are increasingly being sold on a subscription basis which is also interrelated. For the broader context which incorporates service-dominant logic, check out this post: As a Service trend research – products to services.

4. Technology ecosystems

Technology has played a massive part in the shift to as a service. As we’ve seen the rise of technology services over the last 30 years, many more traditional companies (for example content creators and manufacturers) are now working with technology partners, for their technology development and almost outsourcing it. The focus now is about being enabled and empowered to use technology, as opposed to having to own and build it directly. Think of your internal IT department and how that’s changed. They’re now there to help you better utilise technology within the business and integrate with much wider technology ecosystems with external partners.

5. Being data-driven

Collecting data and understanding usage so that it drives greater insight, which in turn drives better products and services, has become a competitive differentiator. Translating this data into meaningful insights is the real challenge that only the leading companies are mastering. Questions like who is using what, how much and to what end, with which outcomes, need answering. You also need to consider where the data is, who can access it and whether this falls within regulatory compliance or not. These are big questions that require a holistic approach. Data science is a growing field that serves this area well and smart as a service companies are investing heavily into building their capabilities in this. A data-driven, decision making culture is also imperative.

6. Customer and user experience

The terms user and customer experience are front and centre now when it comes to technology. This has been driven by the rise of the consumer application ecosystem and high bars being set by companies like Amazon, Netflix and Apple (amongst many others) in how they interact with customers. Customer experience starts from the initial engagement with your customers and potentially through your marketing campaigns and outreaches. It then follows through with onboarding and implementation, project management, delivery, support and more. The challenge is ensuring that you deliver a constant customer experience and that it is specific to that customer (or segment of customers). The key to remember is that not every customer needs, wants or expects the same levels of customer experience.

7. Subscription economics

One of the biggest aspects of the as a service business model is the shift away from one-off payments to recurring payments, or subscription economics. Products and/or services are purchased in this way (on subscription) and sometimes even on an on-demand basis. Especially for B2B firms, this has shifted the financial impact from big capital expenditures upfront (capex) to more manageable on-going operational expenditure over time (opex). Many factors that this model of payment enables, need to be considered. One of the foremost on the vendors side is the emphasis this places on ensuring the customer continues to renew their subscription (not churning) by providing excellent service. For this the customer success managers role is key. Conversely, this makes the model very flexible for customers who can stop payments if they are not receiving any benefit or value. Take a look at this post for some graphics covering other aspects of what makes subscription models successful: Subscription Model Success Factors.

Other examples of where we’re seeing this shift

The shift to as a service as we’ve said started off in the world of technology but we are now seeing it everywhere across all industries. Some great examples include:

  • Gaming – all the big players like Sony and Microsoft have game subscription services, and even Google and Apple are now also in this booming market. From our days back at Sony, this way an area that we both were both closely involved with – the digitisation of content and streaming services.
  • Groceries – this is one to watch. The big supermarkets all have loyalty plans and they know what we like to buy and when. It won’t be long before this data is used to determine what our weekly grocery deliveries should be and we pay for a subscription service and food is just delivered at the frequency we pay for, and best of all most of what is delivered is exactly what we need.
  • Technology – infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and more. With the like of AWS and Azure, we can now “subscribe” to technology services including CPU power and data storage (and the related sub-services) and we can expand or contract our technology operations in response to demand from our own customers (this is all part of the big shift we’ve seen over recent years out to the cloud).

Other considerations

Customer centricity

There’s a lot of talk today about organisations making moves to be more customer centric and it’s something we have spoken and written about many times before (see link here to previous blogs). It boils down to really understanding your customers, as an organisation and being able to be agile and responsive to change as your customers’ needs and requirements change.

From a previous talk Jason did with a firm of VCs, the reason being customer centric is important is not only the obvious – that your customers stay loyal when they have good experiences – but also as our customers keep evolving and changing, so too are the ways that we operationalise that and support those customers.

A great way to think about customer centricity that really resonates with us is – “A business is customer centric when it delivers on-going growing value to and for their customers.”

Business transformation

Becoming an as a service business is not something you can easily tack on, like a plaster. That’s because of the overarching reach of so many of the factors listed above that are required for success. So wholesale transformation is often required for long term success. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all at once – see diagram for different stages and an approach you could take. This is like a product portfolio view of the transformation and tackles it one stage at a time, eventually rolling up into wholesale organisational transformation.

Keep an eye out for more joint blog posts we’ll be working on in the future.

What is digital transformation really about?

It’s the Service Desk and IT Support Show over at Olympia next week and I’ve been invited to take part in a panel discussion on Digital Transformation, hosted by Barclay Rae with fellow panelists Matthew Hooper and Adam Haylock.  It should be a very good session with a lot of insights into what Digital Transformation means for businesses and their IT services and functions.

Digital Transformation continues to be a hot topic for many businesses but many are still struggling with what it means for them and what they need to do.  Our panel session, and a number of other sessions at the show, will help business leaders gain a better understanding of what it means and the implications for them.

As part of the Digital Transformation sessions, I have also been asked to participate in a blog series for the Service Desk and IT Support Show which I am looking forward to.  The first article covers the fundamentals of what it actually is all about.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the show next week and talking more about Digital Transformation and how it’s impacting you as a technology leader.

 

Are we ready for real 24×7 connectivity?

We’ve had the key note and it was impressive – I’ve never had my family members watch one with me, and all be excited by the new technology!  What technology you say?  The Apple Watch…

Apple Watch

Yes I’ll admit I’m an Apple fanboy at heart – it’s their whole customer experience and the simplicity of the Apple ecosystem that does it for me.  It’s the idea of a “service bubble” again (as I’ve blogged about before – i.e. when you’re there with a brand and the whole experience is just right – from every interaction you have and you know it’s them), it just works.

The Apple Watch won’t be the first smart watch on the block (just like the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone), but it will work and it will sell and it will have the same consistent simple experience we expect and that we want.

I don’t wear watches any more and I haven’t now for probably 30 years, but I’ll be one of those looking at spending £300 on an Apple Watch when it comes out.  Yes it will tell the time like a traditional watch but I don’t need it for that (when in 2014 are you somewhere where you can’t find the time out?).

It’s the ability to do so much more without having to find your phone and pull it out.  Maps telling you the direction to go, a heart rate monitor (that you don’t have to strap around your chest and get friction burns from – that’s another story), messages from friends and family, access to my photos, online shopping, a camera and access to passbook (boarding cards, loyalty passes and more), to name a few.  It will ultimately replace my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 (that’s beginning to drop the signal a bit more than it should) but maybe when v2 comes out with GPS included (running with the Apple Watch and having to have an iPhone on me, doesn’t work for races just yet).

Apple Watch apps

But – and this is the big question – am I prepared to never be offline?  Never offline – this was the title of Time Magazine this week – have we even considered what this means?

Time Magazine Never Offline

You may say that you’re never offline now, with a smart phone always near by.  But you can put it down.  How often do you take a watch off?  Rarely if ever.  Always reachable, location always known and apps reacting to you realtime giving advice and directions – 24×7 365 days a year wherever you are (yes assuming you have a mobile data connection).  We’ll get to a point when retailers know where we are and can automatically make recommendations on what to do, where to go and what to buy.  We’ll see consumer behaviour changes that we’ve not even thought about yet.  A lot absolutely will make sense and after a while we won’t know what we did without them (just like smart phones).  But we need to consider the implications of some and work to make sure we don’t create a situation where having a smart watch becomes a necessity and if you don’t have one you lose out, to some extent.

We need good – no make that excellent – mobile data coverage everywhere as well, to make most of the use cases for smart watches work.  Not just global coverage, as in in all countries around the world, but even within countries and regions.  Even near the great city that is London, solid 3G and 4G coverage isn’t there yet.  And then there’s good old network roaming – just imagine travelling around the globe as we do, and suddenly being hit by extortionate data charges – it won’t work.  Telco’s and other businesses will need to rethink their existing business models and come up with ones!

It’s an exciting time!  I can’t wait to see how things go when the Apple Watch hits the streets in 2015!

Apple Watch this space!

High street shops are fighting back

The emporium strikes back

Nothing like a Star Wars-esq headline to catch my eye…

“The emporium strikes back”

Following very neatly on from my last post – way back in April – I found a great article this week, talking about the growing “threat” from online retailers and what the more traditional high street shops (our bricks and mortar friends) are doing to come back.

Things like bundle deals, profiling great accessories, personalised high street shopping and shopping as an experience much like Apple do now are all coming.

The one thing that’s sure, is that for the customer and consumer, the shopping experience of the future is going to be very different from today!

Is this the future of shopping? Showrooming and paying to browse.

My first blog for a few months – this article caught my eye and is on a similar vein to some of my previous ones about the future of shopping.

A very interesting article from the BBC on “showrooming”.  Something you may have never heard of but like me something you do lots.  So what is it?

The peril of showrooming - BBC

You’re out shopping with the family and browsing a high street bookshop (for example) and find something that takes your fancy – your normal reaction now is to scan the barcode and check the price on Amazon (pretty much the de facto online shop for us all) and no surprise it’s cheaper.  You then order online and a couple of days later it arrives, backed up by the great service that Amazon provides.  The high street bookshop clearly loses out here and there isn’t much it can do – they have more physical shop space to pay for and staff to help customers.  Or is there?

Showrooming

 

We all do it.  And it saves us money as online is normally (much) cheaper.  But it doesn’t help the high streets stores.  Charging for browsing is an idea to tackle this growing problem and it only needs to be a small charge, that you get knocked off your bill in the shop if you buy anything from them.  I like it – it makes sense and it’s easy to do.  But unless the prices come down in the shops, it’s not going to help long term get us back on the high street buying, which is what’s needed.

Another interesting article over on Euromonitor talks about other ways retailers are looking to address this problem – in-store discounts, store loyalty schemes, online price matching and more.  Some I can’t see working – loyalty schemes can apply online and the likes of Amazon have their own loyalty scheme (attached to their credit card); online price matching hasn’t caught on – any price matching that is done now is very restricted and never includes online as it’s more often than not too big a difference to match.

Euromonitor - showrooming prevention

Jessops, HMW and Waterstones in the UK have all had this problem and in some cases suffered massively as a result – and gone out of business.

Is it too late for the rest of the high street to change?

 

Connected content – it’s nearly time!

I’ve long preached the time when we’ll be paying a single fee that covers all our home connectivity and includes unlimited access to all the content we would ever want (music, videos, games, books and more), and all through a single joined up service provider that knows what they’re doing and where it all just works (including how I access everything and when – so a big mobile and hardware bit).

Are we there yet?  Nope, but there are some very clever interim solutions and ways to almost get some of this.

I caught up with a good friend this week who I’ve not seen for some years and we were talking about the joys of using Apple devices and in particular how good Netflix was on it.

Image

So far I’d resisted the Netflix move.  Just couldn’t convince myself it was worth it and that it would be that good.  But I took the plunge today and boy am I impressed.  On the Apple TV it really is as if it’s a content channel with the same great Apple usability as the Apple TV box.  And even the little Nobles can successfully navigate it.  There are box sets on there to watch, that I’ve recently bought the physical DVDs for – yes I know it’s physical but I couldn’t find digital anywhere for the right price (until now).  My DVD collection (that has been getting smaller as we move to a digital world) is now pretty much obsolete thanks to Netflix – minus Disney and Star Wars (technically though that’s also Disney).  They’ll all come I’m sure – they’re already on Lovefilm and similar.

Image

So my Apple TV is now looking even more appealing.  The music link is still missing – sure I can link to my iTunes library but I want more content streamed, not my library only.  Spotify can plug that gap for the music but it’s not on the Apple TV (yet).

I can only see this getting better and very quickly.  Whether we need Apple to bring out a physical TV box I’m now not sure.  Their little Apple TV box of magic does it all and plugs into any screen I want.  I can control it with my iPhone and it works.

Total connected content as I described above?  Not yet.  My broadband, phone, TV and content are all with many different (carefully) selected (good) providers – including Sky, BBC (care of the license fee), BT, O2 and now Netflix.  But thanks to good devices it’s all joined up and it won’t be long before we see some very clever services coming in that offer more or all of it in one package.

Anytime, anyhow and anywhere – IS coming soon…!

So long MiniDisc – one more nail in the physical media coffin

Newsflash today (from the BBC) – not unexpected, far too much of a niche market…

BBC News – Sony to make last MiniDisc stereo system in March

Are we sad?  Not really.  Will we miss it as much as other physical media?  No. It’s been around 21 years – wow!  I didn’t realise that and I’ve never had one or used them.

Too much of proprietary format – like many others – but amazing that it’s lasted so long.

MiniDisc

MiniDisc

One more physical format gone.  And it will be interesting to see how much of a dip, if any, there is in the sales of physical media (music) as a result.  Not much I suspect.

The big question is, who’s next?  And when?

The death of physical media

The death of physical media

Do digital and online mean the end of the high street?

I’ve long been a big fan of digital content – in all its forms – and how it’s changing our lives for the better.  More choice, more variety, better (read cheaper) prices and convenience.  It’s all about the anytime, anywhere and anyhow philosophy – with us consumers far more in control of when, where and how we consume.  But, this clearly has an impact on the more traditional world of content in its physical form.  And also drives our retail experiences – beyond simple content.

Digital media and content

Some interesting questions come up…

  1. Can digital/online and physical/traditional retail co-exist peacefully?  Yes they can.
  2. What about our traditional high street shops?  We need them but they need to change.
  3. Should we all buy online?  A good question!

It’s not just about digital content – going online for content ultimately impacts my other retail experiences and drives me to the same retail channels, online, for other products.

It’s number 3 that right now is the big one.  In the UK we’ve seen some major high street shops go under recently – or change hands and scale down.  Including – Game, Jessops, Comet and HMV.  Some with years and years of history going right back to when consumers started listening to and consuming content (and buying products).

Consumers

So why are they struggling?  I think it’s quite simple – a reluctance to change and move with what consumers want (all of the above in the introductory paragraph).  Cheaper prices, more choice and one not mentioned above better service.

This last one is important and maybe something not considered as much as it should be.  Good service – or even excellent service (of which I’m a huge fan) – is crucial to build relationships with your customers and get them back and get the all important repeat business going.  Just look at how Amazon do customer service.  No quibbles when taking items back – fantastic return policies – and people to help when you need it, however you want to contact them (not waiting round for someone who might not be the right person to help).

Customer service

Another big plus online is the whole idea of reviews – from consumers just like you, telling you exactly what they think of the item, good or bad.  This helps you make your decisions.

Your typical high street shops now are used more for browsing – and people then compare prices with online retailers, go away and order online for it to be delivered a couple of days later.  Sure there are some purchases that don’t make sense to do this way but more people are going this way.  And yes I’m one of them.  How can I justify a book in one of the few remaining high street shops, when online (and by online I mean Amazon) it’s half price (with great service and quick delivery) – there just isn’t any competition.

Traditional UK high street

I can shop when I want and even when mobile.  It’s all so convenient.

Everyone talks about how much of their Christmas shopping these days is done online and typically this means Amazon.

It’s another post about whether Amazon’s business models (pricing) are sustainable or not for them – but so far it’s working and their bottom line is healthy (now)!

So now to the crunch question – is there still a place for the traditional high street?  I think there is.  A lot of change is needed and retailers need to embrace online and digital as well as their traditional retail arms.  This is critical.  If they don’t – and don’t do it quickly, they’ll sadly go the same way as others.

For us consumers, it’s an exciting time but will be a sad one as well if we lose well known names from the high street.

It’s time to change!

It's time for change

Digital pricing – it’s not difficult

Still on the digital books theme as I’m loving iBooks on the iPhone right now.

Pretty much the only reason I visit a real bookshop these days is to browse and let the kids enjoy kiddies book sections. Inevitably I go away and order online (yes through Amazon), for the printed book, as it’s cheaper and not just a bit cheaper.

Last weekend on such a browsing session, I spotted a book called “The Art of Running Faster”. It looked great, (and yes I’m trying to run faster) so I went to Amazon but then thought no, let me check on Apple’s digital bookstore. And yes it was there and about 30% cheaper than the printed one. Sample downloaded, read and enjoyed and I went to click the buy button. Suddenly the price had jumped up to more than the printed book in the real shop. Say what? Why on earth have they done this? Convenience yes but more expensive to download and read on my phone? No thanks. Right now we’re in the transition to digital for books so we need to be incentivised to buy digital. You don’t get more features, it’s just a bit more convenient. It should be cheaper.

What to do? I decided to check out the Kindle app on the iPhone – a first for me – and it was there and even cheaper than the first cheaper price on iBooks. Brilliant. So buy I did, and boy is the purchasing process on Amazon good. So simple and quick. A top result. And yes the Kindle app works well. iBooks now has a competitor.

Please please get the pricing right. Digital should be cheaper. The production costs and other costs of sale should be cheaper. Help us consumers make the transition to digital. Don’t have wildly different prices across digital shops and not more expensive than physical…

iBooks – yes it works (or digital books are now main stream)

Another nail in the physical content coffin – books. Back on the commuter trail into London, I’ve been using iBooks on the iPhone (my trusty 4S) for a while now. It’s near perfect for train reading. You can hold it in one hand, navigate through the book with your thumb and one finger and with the right type of books, you couldn’t ask for a better reading (consumption) experience.

The books I’m reading right now are a series of history books – “History In An Hour“. Ok so they do take me, a bit more than an hour – 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there (journey in isn’t one hour) – but they’re very readable and hey I’m learning something. South African history, World Wars One and Two, The Afghan Wars (there have been a few), The Cold War and The American Civil War to name a few.

The huge plus with reading them on the iPhone, is the convenience. The phone’s pretty much always with me and very accessible. No more having to carry books around with me, that take up more shelf space at home. Yes I am a huge fan of printed books and my home office wall resembles a small library. That bit about physical books I love and also reading for the little Nobles, but there is a need now for me for digital books and Apple’s iBooks application is the answer. The genius of Apple usability and customer experience helps big time!