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With the B2B e-commerce market being more than twice the size of the consumer market, and with a growth rate surpassing that of the B2C market, businesses selling to other businesses cannot overlook this potential.
Traditionally, business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce has evolved faster than its business-to-business (B2B) counterpart. In recent times, however, the balance has begun to shift for multiple reasons.
B2B purchasing is chancing rapidly to more information centric and independent. Today's shoppers are expecting relevant product information regardless of time and place.
This is why Product Information Management (PIM) has become a strategic asset and vital enabler for every B2B company to manage their product information in an efficient and timely manner. This writing concentrates on B2B product information management.
Innovation is more than invention: it is the process of applying an idea or invention into practice. The nature of this process is changing. Firms are increasingly specialised and inter-dependent. Innovation is becoming more inter-organisational and non-linear.
This is made evident by the emergence and growing popularity of concepts like open innovation, networked innovation and ecosystem. One thing they have in common is that they highlight the importance of collaboration, that no firm has truly game-changing potential on its own. But to succeed, it is not enough to simply get together. Managing innovation in an inter-organisational setting is difficult. For an idea to really take off, momentum needs to be built and maintained.
By momentum we mean the perceived energy and enthusiasm associated with pursuing a goal. Its impact on innovation is best described through an analogy. Let’s say you want to send a satellite to another solar system. Because of the gravitational pull of the sun, it would require virtually impossible amounts of fuel to shoot out in a straight line. Instead, you would use the gravitational field and orbital speed of planets to gain momentum for your spaceship. This is called the the gravity assist maneuver, and it is being used all the time, because it is the fastest and cheapest way of launching stuff far out into space.
But you are probably not in the satellite business. Let’s rather say you want to develop a novel service and introduce it to the market. According to the analogy, the idea for the service is the spacecraft and its path is the innovation process. Momentum is gained by interacting with different supportive actors, represented by planets, who have varying resources at their disposal. In addition to gaining momentum, these interactions can also redirect the path of the process. The goal is ultimately to gain enough momentum to reach escape velocity, that is, to achieve commercial success for your service. And just like with space travel, the gravitational slingshot of innovation presents an overall smarter approach to innovation compared to going at it unassisted.
Suspiciously simple, right? Reality, of course, is more interesting. Throughan example of collaboration in innovation between Tieto Experience Huband Fazer Food Services we illustrate the process in 3 main steps: how an idea can take off, gain momentum and enter the market.
1. Conception of the idea
The case with Fazer Food Services is interesting because the innovation process started well before there was an idea. Rather, the process started with what their leadership team wanted to achieve: to find new digital means to drive the business forward and ahead of competition. The push to try new ways of working, engaging customers and identifying partners led Fazer Food Services to experiment with the hackathon method, which is a part of the Tieto XHub innovation program. We’ll illustrate the case using the gravitational slingshot model of innovation.
Gravitational slingshot of innovation: case Fazer Food Services and Tieto XHub:
The process started with the core project team of Tieto Experience Hub doing some ground-work on the project. In the figure this is represented by the line orbiting Fazer Food Services. The early phase of the project was mainly about planning and alignment, getting different departments and units to define common goals and identify best path to achieve them. Challenges in this stage included tight deadlines and managing a large number of stakeholders and simultaneous streams of ongoing work. High motivation of all team members and fast decision making allowed to achieve the targets and move forward.
Involving the value network was central to successfully setting up the CXHack event. Invited jury members, startups and university program partners created buzz and generated interest around the event. The main challenge at this stage was identifying potential partners that could provide most value and getting them onboard. Success was ensured by an aligned communication efforts of the combined Fazer Food Services and Tieto XHub
2. Gaining momentum
The CXHack event brought together large amount of stakeholders in a two day hackathon event, aimed at solving the challenge of continuous feedback collection at catering restaurants. Due to its intensity, the hackathon worked great for building momentum. The atmosphere was described as “electric”. The event also presented a great puzzle of complexity, which was solved by distributing responsibilities to certain team members and real-time coordination from the core team. A flexible agile and lean approach worked very well and allowed to execute the event and manage all stakeholders expectations correctly.
A Technical Proof of Concept (PoC) was created by the Tieto team in collaboration with the Fazer Food Services team and with steering from the inventors of the idea. The creation of the PoC answered some questions but raised many new ones for the actual pilot. Mutual investment of time and effort into creating the PoC was the key to making it happen fast after the hackathon took place.
Amica restaurants requesting the service to be piloted in their locations following the CXHack allowed Fazer Food Services to take the next step and together with the Tieto team to run the pilot. A common difficulty with open innovation events is that there is no continuity. Concepts in many cases remain as a collection of ideas that serve more as inspiration for internal teams than as real roadmaps for innovation. Due to high interest and multiple requests from the restaurants of Fazer Food Services, the decision was made on the leadership team level to run the pilot in two selected restaurants.
3. Entering the market
In the end, the market success of the service is in the hands of the users. The customers and restaurant staff decide whether this innovation brings value to them or not. The PoC is running until midsummer. So far the guests have been gladly participating in providing contextual feedback on a daily basis, giving guidance to the restaurant staff on immediate and long-term improvements to customer service. The end result is not yet known, but we are excited to see whether this solution is scalable and able to substitute the current feedback collection process for all 1200 Amica restaurants in the Nordics.
The role of momentum in innovation is often overlooked, while the importance of resources and capabilities is sometimes overemphasised. Innovation is routine-breaking per definition; it forces you to develop new capabilities anyway. And in the modern economy you can tap into the global pool of resources through collaboration. Therefore, what you think you are currently able of, your current capabilities, should not really be a limiting factor of innovation. Momentum, however, is always needed to overcome the resistance to change and various obstacles that present themselves in every innovation process.
How to do it then? The hackathon is a great method for gaining initial momentum because it is all about enabling an energetic, enthusiastic and creative atmosphere. The challenge, of course, is to maintain that enthusiasm among different actors, whether they are external partners or different units of your firm. No one solution fits all, but rapid prototyping and getting quick customer feedback are techniques with a proven track record of keeping things in motion.
The gravitational slingshot analogy aptly illustrates how innovation depends on interactions with supportive actors. It is intended to be generalisable to any innovation process and offers a visual model for partners to discuss shared goals and potential ways to reach them. Collaboration in innovation may be tricky, but it is necessary to realise those out-of-this-world ideas.
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Oras, which is known for its washbasin and shower faucets, purchased Germany-based Hansa in 2013, thus establishing Oras Group. In order to create a highly functional Group, the companies' procedures had to be standardised. As part of a larger change initiative, Oras Group has implemented a Product Information Management (PIM) project to combine the product information of the two brands into the same system as well as to harmonise the product information management processes of the two organisations.
Tieto delivered to Oras Group modern and easy-to-use inRiver PIM system, where product information is collected from ERP -system and other basic product information systems.
"The user interface is extremely user-friendly. People working in different countries clearly see product information, language versions and links. You can almost touch the material," says Suojanen.
The new system has impacted the employees' daily work. The amount of manual work decreases, for example, when product lists and selections are updated automatically into the customers' systems. All product information can now be processed in one place following similar procedures, which also benefits marketing.
"We always modify basic product information from the point of view of marketing. New texts, descriptions and videos are automatically updated into all materials containing product information. This increases transparency for our customers and within the company," says Oras Group's Digital Marketing Specialist Samuli Holmala.
A well-managed PIM project where everybody was up to speed
During the PIM project's first phase, which lasted for about six months, Tieto analysed the type and origin of Oras Group's product information and created a product information model for the system based on it. Once the foundation for product information had been established, the next steps were technical implementation and deployment. The project went very well, as testified by high customer satisfaction (3.8/4).
"During the project, Tieto led us where we needed to go. They were always in control of the project and were able to keep up to speed also those of our personnel who are not so well-versed in IT," says Holmala.
In the future, Oras Group will add new modules to the PIM system, for example, to manage product information and price lists on the websites of both brands through the system as well as to schedule marketing campaigns. New product information channels will also be added, which is a critical factor for getting ahead of the competition.
"We save time as we can manage our marketing campaigns better than before. Units in different countries can see the work of other units. Therefore, the information flow no longer requires extensive internal communication," says Holmala
Caption: Samuli Holmala, Kari Suojanen and Mika Malo from Oras Group have been satisfied with the new product information management system, which has boosted work efficiency and increased transparency for customers as well as within the company.
Oras Group is the market leader for domestic sanitary fittings in the Nordic countries and a leading company in continental Europe. The company's mission is to make the use of water easy and sustainable. The Group has two strong brands: Oras and Hansa. Oras Group is owned by Oras Invest, a family company and an industrial owner. http://www.orasgroup.com/
Oras Group was established in 2013 with the merger of Oras and Hansa. Oras Group wanted to standardise its procedures and boost work efficiency by combining the product information of the two brands into the same system. Up-to-date product information constitutes a competitive advantage.
Tieto delivered to Oras Group modern and easy-to-use inRiver PIM system, where product information is collected from ERP -system and other basic product information systems. The project consisted of four phases, analysis, product information model construction, technical implementation and deployment.
Thanks to up-to-date product information, customers are more likely to choose Oras' products, which brings a competitive advantage. Shared and automatically updated product information enables Oras Group to save time and money as the amount of manual work decreases and information management is simplified. It is now easier and faster to manage marketing campaigns and enhance basic product information for marketing use.
Marketing Director Joni Tikkanen develops the Elo brand in bright yellow in social media. Use the hashtag #elokehittää to monitor the progress of XHub and join in on the conversation.
Every company is currently thinking about digitalization – what it is and how best to implement it in their field of business. The fast-paced modern world demands new kinds of innovation from companies. There is a constant need to develop digital services that take into account the special needs of customers.
The pension insurance company Elo began to develop digital service models and approaches for well-being at work with the Tieto Experience Hub innovation programme (XHub). XHub is based on fast innovation, the testing of ideas and validation by end-users. “XHub is an interesting programme. It combines two things: solving practical issues and finding a new way of development. At the same time, it allows us to see how we can be agile as an organisation,” Tikkanen describes.
Innovation through networks and open dialogue
“XHub supports innovation through networks and open interaction with Elo customers. This makes the development more efficient and ensures that the new services meet the needs of the users. Furthermore, we encourage Elo to step outside their comfort zone and recognise new business models from outside their sector as well,” says Business Consultant Fanny Vakkila from Tieto.
The XHub programme stages can include, for example, innovation workshops with new partners, design projects, service design and the discovery of prototypes through hackathons.
“Everything is based on trials and receiving immediate feedback. If something doesn’t work, we don’t hesitate to change direction. This lets us now early on whether the idea is good and whether there is an actual need for the service,” Tikkanen describes.
Tieto experts have directed the development and the new working method. Furthermore, Tieto has compiled a network of different operators to innovate together with Elo.
“Tieto has managed to find good people with vision both from technology and digital services. Our operation has become faster, as the partners understand our field,” Tikkanen states.
Services promoting well-being at work for entrepreneurs
The development of digital solutions was initially concentrated on well-being at work, and then, as the XHub programme progressed, the focus shifted to Elo’s business customers. In terms of the number of insurance policies, Elo is the largest pension insurer of entrepreneurs in Finland, so this new solution will serve a great number of customers. Digital services help entrepreneurs as they can be used in the evenings or at weekends, when Elo cannot offer personal customer service.
“We have received positive feedback on our personal service, so it is important to figure out how to get our digital services to the same level,” Tikkanen points out.
According to Tikkanen, the participation of end-users, i.e. entrepreneurs, in every stage of the development has been important. Furthermore, XHub has combined different sectors of business within Elo.
“Within the company, XHub has been a valuable project. It passes through the entire organisation and combines well-being experts, IT and business development. Everyone has been excited about the new approach and learned a lot,” Tikkanen explains.
“It has been a treat to follow Elo’s journey in the XHub programme. Their courage and enthusiasm to try out new working methods has been an inspiration to the entire XHub team,” Vakkila says happily.
Mutual Pension Insurance Company Elo
Owned by its customers, Elo is a pension insurance company that takes care of the statutory pension insurances of its customer company employees and entrepreneurs. Elo is the largest pension insurance company in Finland: a third of all Finnish companies and over 40% of entrepreneurs have chosen Elo to manage their pension insurances. Elo is responsible for the future pensions of around 500,000 employees and entrepreneurs, and takes care of 210,000 pensioners and around €20 billion worth of investments.
The modern world demands Elo to provide digital services that benefit customers. The development of these services has traditionally required a great deal of time and effort. There was a need to develop a faster working method.
The Tieto Experience Hub innovation programme discovers, tests and validates new ideas and solutions together with business partners and end-users. Within the programme, Elo began to develop digital well-being at work services for its business customers.
Assuming a new and more agile working method helps Elo to develop concrete digital services for its customers. Fast innovation and testing of ideas with end-users weeds out bad ideas and supports the establishment of a positive customer experience.
Pasi Laine, Eija Andström-Saarinen, Ksenia Avetisova,
Simon Panelius, Mikko Leinonen and Sami Sivonen
Starting from Monday 11 March 2016 visitors to two of Fazer Food Services' Amica restaurants have had a unique and engaging new way to leave feedback on the quality of their customer experience.
Specifically, wireless smart buttons will be set up at key touchpoints around the venues so that visitors can leave contextual feedback, sharing their thoughts and feelings on each stage of the customer journey, in real time and based on their immediate context
"Smooth and spontaneous dialogue and a sense of community between our quests and our employees is important for our restaurant success and development. Based on the early trials and testing our solution is addressing this in a nice way. Solution has been easy to use and the tailored questions with smart buttons has created a new fresh way for giving and gathering feedback. It’s not only what we want to ask from our guests, it’s giving possibilty for our quests to share their thoughts and experiences", comments Eija Andström-Saarinen, Senior Manager, Digital Solutions Development, Fazer Food Services.
The innovative feedback solution was developed in just 48 hours as part of Fazer Food Services' and Tieto joint hackathon, CXHack Fazer, in February. Two months later, the winning concept is now undergoing its first real-world pilot for 3 months.
Created by Rahul Abhisek and Laura Leppälä, both students at Aalto University, and Ann Plough, author of the Eat Simply Eat Well blog, the concept was rewarded by Mikko Leinonen, Head of Tieto's Customer Experience Management startup, as having a direct impact on improving the lunch experience at Amica restaurants.
Simon Panelius, Vice President of Operational Development at Fazer Food Services, said of the solution: "Contract catering is all about making a lot of different people happy, but traditionally we've only been able to gather feedback through intermittent questionnaires and focus groups. Having this high quality data available in real time could make a genuine difference to how we manage our customers' experience."
The solution further extends the Tieto Retail Experience portfolio and Tieto's Adaptive Store concept, which combines an interactive customer experience with real-time data so that staff can serve those customers better.
Sami Sivonen, Solution Manager at Tieto, said: "We've now taken the first steps to test the concept in a real-world setting by adapting it to our cloud-based solution accelerator framework. "We believe in an agile and field-proven approach to innovation, and trust that this web-based contextual feedback solution will further enhance Fazer Food Services' lunch experience", says Ksenia Avetisova, Lead CX Consultant at Tieto.
“The launch today demonstrates common commitment and truly agility way of working - taking the raw idea, which was not part of any earlier roadmaps, and defining it in business context and current tech landscape over a very short period of time”, Ksenia continues.
"By putting real customers at the heart of our development process, and by bringing new solutions directly to their business environments, we gain an unprecedented opportunity to create value and accelerate innovation and growth", adds Mikko Leinonen.
For more information on CXHack Fazer and the winning concept, click here.
Tieto publishes a new report with HUI Research, the second in the line of outlook reports: Digitization and integrity - In search of the balance between cool and creepy.
Digitialization has had a huge impact on the retail sector over the past years and it´s a trend that only seems to continue. With digitaliization comes opportunities that gives retailers access to more personal information about their customers.
But where goes the line of what the consumer considers to be acceptable or even beneficial versus uncomfortable or even offensive when it comes to how companies use customer information?
Download our study which investigates Customer Experience Management (CEM) within the finance industry in the Nordic region, with emphasis on the generic CEM maturity and development actions on digital CEM. 98 Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian decision makers within Finance were interviewed in this quantitative study.
"While many financial services providers have worked hard to make their services available via digital channels, there are still some persistent gaps in their communications with customers. Our survey, for instance, found that only 16 per cent of respondents were active on social media, even though we know that more and more of consumers’ decisions are made based on information in uncontrolled channels."
Download our white paper and read how to create a digital customer experience in retail sector. We concluded over 200 Nordic retail sector decision-makers in Finland, Sweden and Norway to gain insights into their firms’ digital CEM challenges, pain points.
"Interestingly, around 55 per cent and 70 per cent of Norwegian and Swedish firms respectively reckoned that digital CEM was key to increasing current customer spending, compared to around ten per cent of respondents from Finland."