Managing Information for Competitive Advantage

According to Pullen, as the amount of information and data that companies can store has skyrocketed, financial institutions (FIs) and corporates alike face multiple challenges.

FIs need to follow strict due diligence and reporting requirements while still building a single view of their customer across multiple lines of business, so that they can add value. They also need to articulate and audit the advice they are giving. While governance at companies in other sectors may be different, they still similarly need to pull information together so that they can use it towards serving customers more effectively. And all companies regardless of sector need to manage information in a way that ensures they won’t face leaks and hackers aren’t able to access it. 

The sheer amount of data they must deal with adds to the challenge. Pullen says that data stored by organizations and individuals is doubling every three months. Adding to the complexity, only 4% of it is readily visible and the remaining 96% is hidden, often within multiple corporate databases. He singles out three key disruptors as especially challenging for companies amidst this plethora of data.

The first is mobility, since people want content on their phone or tablet regardless of where they are. When staff are remote from their office, they need secure applications so they can access the information they require to make decisions and keep their business running.

The second is the collaborative use of social networking. Workplaces are more social and the younger generation in particular expects a collaborative environment there. Employees make choices about their employer based on the experience when they go to work, and when companies don’t allow a social environment to flourish, they become unable to attract good talent. Companies therefore need to leverage secure social networking, public clouds, private clouds and use other innovations to retain their staff.

The third disruptor is the cloud, with data stored outside the company. While companies are trying to force down the price of computing, and FIs in particular were among the first to outsource, more companies are bringing computing back inside their firm to ensure data security.

According to Pullen, software products still need to be cloud-ready because companies may soon look again at outsourcing or external data storage. What they need as they deal with the data and these disruptors is to use all their information for business advantage and mine the 96% that is hidden – mostly as unstructured information. 

Five Pillars for Managing Information

Pullen outlines five pillars that companies can use to manage their information and gain competitive advantage:

  • To manage and consolidate all their content, regardless of the source and wherever that information may reside among potentially thousands of software applications inside the company.
  • To manage business processes, so that they can use the information effectively.
  • To focus on the customer. Companies need to manage the customer experience by showing that they know who the customer is when he/she logs in, providing everything the customer needs, offering social interaction, using recommendation engines to describe products that may be relevant, and building a relationship with the customer.
    In Singapore, for example, one bank is using better data management to identify target customers, link them with family members, make relevant offers and use the communications channels they prefer.
  • To find relevant data and make sense of all that information. Companies may leverage technology so they can use key words, social networking, crowd-sourcing or other techniques to make sense of all the data. 
  • To have an information exchange so that information from all departments – finance, HR, sales, customer service and more – is linked in a way that any staff who needs information can access it. Companies need to link one piece of information with another and offer a single view of information.

The Solution

In today’s world, FIs in particular are embracing change because it brings business value, suggests Pullen. Performance and speed are especially important, even though companies sometimes might seem to be moving so fast that people get left behind. He adds that some banks don’t even sound like a bank when he talks with their staff because they use digital asset management applications from organizations such Disney and focus the marketing team on managing their brand rather than just promoting products.

Pullen outlines several components that are important for any solution that an organisation considers as they look at how to leverage that information to gain competitive advantage. One is that software solutions need to be plug-and-play, so that companies can implement solutions cost-effectively and quickly. Companies will only spend a dollar if it produces results, so they are using value engineering to look at how they work and what the impact will be if they invest in a solution. At the same time, the solution still needs to meet corporate governance requirements and organisations need to put some order around the data. 

Another is to focus on how to improve the customer experience, create memorable service experiences and exceed expectations using multichannel distribution to maximize convenience. Chief information officers (CIOs) want to free up more time for staff to spend with the customer. 

Pullen cites an insurance company in Asia Pacific as an example of the change. The company is installing a new claims management system that reflects a different world from when letters, faxes and forms predominated. When a claim comes in now it has to be resolved within a certain timeframe or the company can be penalised. The company is using its software to manage service-level agreements (SLAs) and customers take photos with their phone, as well as sending information or third party witness details, to support their claim. After a claim is filed, customers receive automatic acknowledgement that it was received and they can monitor its progress electronically. As he says, that represents a very different visibility and a new way of leveraging data than in the past.  

While it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities, managing data for competitive advantage is more important than ever. Those companies that leverage its lessons and do it well will be the ones that stay ahead of the game.

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