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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Personalization & Standardization - a Contradiction

Enterprise and Consumer customers alike are increasingly looking for personalized products and services. The Businesses providing these services though are now looking at how they can standardize their offerings to address increasing costs and market expectations for greater profitability.

The on-going transition of products and services from Hardware to Software along with accelerated technology developments, have driven the demand for personalization of products and services phenomenally fast and in so doing created a whole new buzz on tailored solutions. The providers of these services are indeed finding more creative ways to provide greater flexibility. Additionally in a Glocal (Globally Local) Market as we find ourselves in today, businesses are sacrificing profit for market share and customer retention, knowing full well the extensive alternatives available to their customers from around the world today. These Providers however, are increasingly struggling with “tailored” products with the justification being a hope that other customers will be interested in a similar offering and provide an opportunity for reuse.

The market IS demanding ever greater personalization and businesses are under increasing pressure to respond whilst managing costs through a desperate need for standardization. These are contradicting requirements which would suggest they cannot exist in parallel – however I would suggest it’s time to go back to basics and look at products and services in a new way.

Consider Lego for a moment – different block sizes, shapes and colours, yet they all can be seamlessly integrated into any overall shape that I want. To that effect businesses should be looking at the future of their own products and services in a similar way.

I am sure some of you are looking at this thinking well “We” already do that with our service offerings and that may be true for offering a basic triple play offering – Phone, Internet and TV or even Network, Voice and Security. However I am sure if you consider the complexity behind the facade of the customer offering where everything rapidly becomes manual and bespoke you will realize we are only scratching the surface of what needs to be done.

It’s time to consider a system, one which underpins the platform of tools, systems and their associated products and services with a common architecture. With the majority of services increasingly being IP enabled this should be progressively more viable, consider for example how we can provide a person with various communication services remotely today. Imagine therefore for a moment, scripts that would automatically create a communication pack for a new employee or consumer based on all services being underpinned by a single foundation. If businesses don’t start to consider this change now either the cost of customization or the declining demand for their services will begin to undermine their own business plan.

Businesses need to look at establishing a single Architecture and identify how and which products and services should be migrated onto that platform. Next consider the personalization variables you need for your products and services, how can you encourage the take up of additional products and services through suggestions and feedback on what other users are ordering leveraging common profiles. Identify which services should be sunset based on a waning demand and your own life-cycle management. In many cases you may find changes will be required to your products to be able to execute a “Lego” or modular type model however once executed, the door is increasingly open for automation, improved visibility of customer behavior and evolving services based on customer trends.

This does not mean the death of customization, far from it, what it allows businesses to do is once again place a value on customization. When customers are educated on the options and integration choices available from a business’s products and services, and are still demanding further personalization they will quickly seek to adjust based on your existing services which will either come at a premium OR form the basis for the next evolution of your own portfolio.

The growing demand for Personalized solutions ARE going to place increasing pressure on businesses both those targeting B2B and likewise consumer markets. It is crucial that Businesses start planning a refresh of the architecture underpinning their products and services to ensure a robust Go To Market model which will be able to address the growing Personalization need from the market, yet also provide a cost effective deployment and service management model for the future.

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