Why citizen integrators are today’s architects of customer experience

By Nada daVeiga

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about customer experience (CX) and the most direct, most effective ways for companies to transform it. As I recently blogged, data is the centerpiece – the metaphorical cake, as it were, compared to the martech frosting – of creating winning customer experiences.

That being said, which internal organization could possibly be better than marketing, to shape customer experience?

Nearly every enterprise function shapes CX

As it turns out, there are many teams within the modern enterprise that serve as CX architects. Think of all the different groups that contribute to customer engagement, acquisition, retention, and satisfaction: marketing, sales, service, and support are the most obvious, but what about product development, finance, manufacturing, logistics, and shipping? All of these functions impact the customer experience, directly or indirectly, and thus should be empowered to improve it through unbridled data access.

This point of view is reflected in SnapLogic’s new white paper, “Integration in the age of the customer: The five keys to connecting and elevating customer experience.” From it, a key thought:

[W]ho should corral the data? The best outcomes from customer initiatives happen when the business takes control and leads the initiative. The closer the integrators are to the customer, the better they can put themselves in their customers’ shoes and understand their needs. Often, they have a clear handle on metrics, the business processes, the data, and real-world customer experiences, whether they’re in marketing, sales, or service, and are the first to see how the changes they’re making are improving customer experience — or not.

Democratizing data integration

Because most departmental leaders in sales, service, and marketing are typically not familiar with programming, they look for integration solutions that provide click-not-code graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that enable a visual, intuitive process to democratize customer data integration. SnapLogic believes that GUI-driven, democratic data integration is an essential first step in empowering today’s CX architects to gain the analytic insight they need to improve customer experience.

In short, we believe that “citizen integrator” is really just another name for “citizen innovator;” fast, easy, seamless data integration shatters stubborn barriers to CX innovation by igniting exploration and problem-solving creativity.

To learn how to design your integration strategy to improve customer experience across the organization, download the white paper, “Integration in the age of the customer: The five keys to connecting and elevating customer experience.” In it, you’ll find actionable insights on how to optimize your organization’s data integration strategy to unlock CX innovation, including:

  • Why you need to ensure your organization’s integration strategy is customer-focused
  • How to plan around the entire customer lifecycle
  • Which five integration strategies help speed customer analytics and experience initiatives
  • How to put the odds of customer success in your favor

Nada daVeiga is VP Worldwide Pre-Sales, Customer Success, and Professional Services at SnapLogic. Follow her on Twitter @nrdaveiga.

Data management takes center stage at Rutberg 2017 conference

Each year, research-centric investment bank Rutberg & Company gathers top business leaders and technology experts for an intimate, two-day forum where they discuss and debate the technology, ideas, and trends driving global business. The annual Rutberg 2017 conference took place last week in Half Moon Bay, California, and data management was front and center.

SnapLogic CEO Gaurav Dhillon joined Mesosphere CEO Florian Leibert and Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt for a spirited panel discussion on the growing data management opportunities and challenges facing enterprises today. The panel was moderated by Fortune reporter Jonathan Vanian.

A number of important data management and integration trends emerged, including:

  • LOB’s influence grows: Gaurav noted that more and more, “innovation is coming from the LOB,” whether in Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, or elsewhere in the organization. These LOB leaders are tech-savvy, are responsible for their own P&L’s, and they know speed and agility will determine tomorrow’s winners. So they’re constantly on the hunt for the latest tech solutions that will drive innovation, spur growth, and help them beat the competition.
  • Data fragmentation on the rise: With individual LOBs procuring a flurry of new cloud applications and technologies, the result is often business silos and a disconnected enterprise. “The average enterprise has 10x more SaaS apps than a CIO thinks,” said Gaurav of the increasing SaaS sprawl, which is requiring CIOs to think differently about how they integrate and manage disparate apps and data sources across the enterprise.
  • Self-service integration is here to stay: The bigger a company gets – with more apps, more end-points, more data-types, more fragmentation – there’s never going to be enough humans to manage the required integration in a timely manner, explained Gaurav. Enter new, modern, self-service integration platforms. “The holy grail of integration is self-service and ease-of-use … we have to bring integration out of the dungeon and into the light,” Gaurav continued. And this means getting integration into the hands of the LOB, and making it fast and easy. The days of command-and-control by IT are over: “Trying to put the genie back in the bottle is wrong; instead you need to give the LOBs a self-service capability to wire this up on their own,” noted Gaurav.
  • AI will be a game-changer: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are already making apps, platforms, and people smarter. Like with Google auto-complete or shopping on Amazon, we’re already becoming accustomed to assistance from, and recommendations by, machines. “Software without AI will be like Microsoft Word or email without spell-check,” it will be jarring not to have it, said Gaurav. AI is already being applied to complex tasks like app and data integration; it’s not a future state, he said, the start of “self-driving integration is happening today.”
  • The enterprise is a retrofit job: For all the latest advances – new cloud apps, AI and ML technologies, self-service integration platforms – the enterprise remains a “retrofit job,” where the new must work with the old. Large, global enterprises aren’t about to throw out decades of technology investment all at once, particularly if it is working just fine or well-suited to handle certain business processes. So, new cloud technologies will need to work with older on-premise solutions, once again cementing integration platforms as a critical piece of an enterprise technology strategy. “It will be a hybrid world for a long, long time,” concluded Gaurav.

Without question, data has become any organization’s most valuable asset, and those that are able to integrate, manage, and analyze data effectively will be the winners of tomorrow.

Data integration and best practices in the age of the digital customer

Nada-headshotBy Nada daVeiga

Organizations are competing more than ever based on how they engage with customers. It’s become a vital part of the enterprise digital transformation agenda. Yet in the rush, integration, a foundational element, is often overlooked in the haste to deploy new digital customer applications and experiences. McKinsey recently observed that “Integrating new processes with legacy systems in a cost-efficient way is a challenge most companies face when they digitize their customer. [1]

Why does it matter, and why is it such a big obstacle anyway?

The problem is that a lack of integration can quickly become transparent to customers. In retail, lack of strong integration between an e-commerce system and the CRM or ERP can result in website ordering, pricing, or shopping cart issues that aren’t visible to customer service. This lack of integration often results in customer frustration or a lost sale. In B2B, poor integration between the CRM and ERP can also lead to incorrectly rekeyed customer or order information, resulting in downstream invoicing issues.

But why is it so hard to pull together more integrated customer processes? Because there are just so many applications within the enterprise that manage a part of the customer process.

For example, a recent study by Ventana Research on customer analytics found that 40 percent of respondents worked with 14 different types of data across at least 6 different systems to derive customer insight. [2]

Five key strategies to connect and elevate your customer experience

With integration being the biggest barrier, let’s look at five strategies key to connecting and elevating the customer experience.

  1. Start with analytics, grow to experience

Why this sequencing? Simply, we have to start somewhere in order to measure key metrics, since only things measured can be improved. Getting a clear 360-degree view of the customer – with metrics around customer satisfaction, engagement, churn, and acquisition – provides the blueprint for targeting the best opportunities to upgrade customer experience.

  1. Put customer experts in control

Who better than the sales or service team to put themselves in the customer’s shoes? Often analytics projects can quickly become an IT-led project. While IT has an incredibly important role to play, in governance and ensuring the efficient use of technology, experts in the lines of business should be enabled to connect the dots themselves.

  1. Customer experience is a team sport – get collaborative

The chances are one of your customer process steps will likely depend on another team’s app. Or the data needed for your analytics project will be within another team’s control. With so much cross-departmental integration, ensure different teams are using the same integration platform to maximize reuse.

  1. Plan to keep pace with customer touchpoint variety

Having to perform hand-coded API integrations or costly custom integrations just to keep pace is a sure way to drain budgets. Ensure your integration platform connects with your current apps, whether you’re running Salesforce, NetSuite, SAP, Oracle, or any other app, as well as the ones you plan to use in the future, without requiring having to build connectivity.

  1. Customer data is your fastest growing asset – prepare to scale

There’s often no faster growing asset in the enterprise than customer data. And not just data, the sheer number of workflows around customer experience are set to skyrocket. Choose an integration platform that’ll keep pace. Because being forced to switch customer integration platforms later can quickly put the brakes on a customer experience initiative.

Set the foundation for customer experience success

To learn how to design your integration strategy to enable success with your customer initiatives, watch our webcast, “Data integration best practices in the age of the digital customer,” featuring Michele Goetz, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research Inc, and Ravi Dharnikota, Chief Enterprise Architect, SnapLogic. You’ll take away actionable insights for ensuring your organization’s data integration strategy is optimized for the digital customer. Register today!

Nada daVeiga is VP Worldwide Pre-Sales, Customer Success, and Professional Services at SnapLogic. Follow her on Twitter @nrdaveiga.

 

[1]Digitizing customer journeys and processes: Stories from the front lines,” McKinsey, May 2017.

[2]The Next Generation of Customer Analytics,” Ventana Research, February 2014.

 

 

 

How to get valuable insights on data stored in Azure Data Lake Store

In a previous blog post, I discussed major trends in the data integration space and customers moving from on-prem to cloud. I’d like to focus on one trend which involves moving data from on-premises or cloud data sources to a Data Lake technology such as Azure Data Lake.

What is a Data Lake?

The Data Lake is a term coined for storing large amounts of data in its raw native form, including structured and unstructured data in one location. This data can come from various sources, and the Data Lake can act as a single source of truth for any organization. From the architecture standpoint, the data is first stored in data swamp/data acquisition, then cleansed/transformed as part of data transformation, and later published to gain business insights.

Data Lake

As seen in the diagram above, enterprises have multiple systems such as ERP, CRM, RDBMS, NoSQL, IoT sensors, etc. The disparate data, stored in different systems makes, is difficult to pull data from. A Data Lake brings all the data under one roof (data acquisition) using one of the following services:

  • Azure Blob
  • Azure Data Lake Store
  • Amazon S3
  • HDFS
  • Others

Data stored in one of these services can then be transformed in the following ways:

  • Aggregate
  • Sort
  • Join
  • Merge
  • Other

The transformed data is then moved to the data publish/data access section (could be the same as data acquisition services) where users can utilize the following tools to query the data:

  • Microsoft’s U-SQL
  • Amazon Athena
  • Hive
  • Presto
  • Others etc.

The bottom line is that a Data Lake can serve as a platform to run analytics in order to provide better customer experience, recommendations, and more.

Azure Data Lake is one such Data Lake from Microsoft and the repository used to store all the data is Azure Data Lake Store. Users can run Analytics Service, HDInsight or use U-SQL – a big data query language on top of this data store to gain better business insights.

ADLSSource: Microsoft

Azure Data Lake Store (ADLS) can store any data in its native format. One of the goals of this data store is to bring data from disparate sources. The Snaplogic Enterprise Integration Cloud with its pre-built connectors called Snaps help by moving data from different systems to the data store in a fast manner.

ADLS provides a complex API, which applications use to store data in ADLS. Snaplogic has abstracted all these complexities via Snaps so users can now easily move data from various systems to ADLS without needing to know anything of the complexities of these APIs.

Use case

A business needs to track and analyze content to better recommend products or services to its customers. Its data – from various sources such as Oracle, files, Twitter, etc. – needs to be stored in a central repository such as ADLS so that business users can run analytics on top to measure customer buying behavior, their interests, and products purchased.

Here’s a sample pipeline that can address this use case using Snaps:

Using the File Writer Snap and choosing the Azure Data Lake account as shown below, one can store the data merged from various systems into Azure Data Lake with ease.

All in all, the Data Lake can be a one-stop shop of storage for any data, giving users more ways to derive insights from multiple data sources. And SnapLogic is ready to make it easier for users to move their data into the Data Lake (in this case, an Azure Data Lake Store) in a quick and easy way.

Pavan Venkatesh is Senior Product Manager at SnapLogic. Follow him on Twitter @pavankv.

Introducing SnapLogic Community

We are happy to announce that our new SnapLogic Community is live!

community-overview

Created by popular demand - it’s been running in alpha and beta for a few months – the community is a place where we encourage customers to ask questions about SnapLogic’s software integration tools and share their expertise and best practices. Whether you’re looking for help or have tips or tricks, the goal is to provide a community that helps each other.

community-categories

  • Want assistance configuring a particular Snap? Post a question in the Snap Packs category.
  • Interested in sharing a pipeline you have found to be particularly useful? Write about it in the Designing Pipeline category.
  • Want to build your own Snap Pack? Go to the Developing Snaps category.

And yes, we are involved. SnapLogic developers, product managers, field teams, and others review the posts as they come in and when they are updated, but we will rely on the community to support each other.

How to get started

The SnapLogic community is currently for SnapLogic customers only. If you’re a customer with a verified customer email domain, it won’t take us long to approve you and grant you access. 

Go to https://community.snaplogic.com/ to request access. 

When approved, look out for an email with further instructions.

Once you’re approved and logged in, take a look at the content already provided by customers and SnapLogic employees who took part in the alpha and beta releases. Find something particularly useful? Go ahead and “Like” the post. Want to contribute to a thread or have a question? Please do! This community is for you. You will help drive the direction the community takes as it evolves. As your Community Manager, I will occasionally ask for suggestions for the site, but feel free to post ideas that you might have as they come up to the Community Info category.

We’re looking forward to growing this community. Sign up today and let us know what you think.

Request access at  https://community.snaplogic.com/.

Gaurav Dhillon on Nathan Latka’s “The Top” Podcast

Popular podcast host Nathan Latka has a built a large following getting top CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs to share strategies and tactics that set them up for business success. A data industry veteran and self-described “company-builder,” SnapLogic founder and CEO Gaurav Dhillon was recently invited by Nathan to appear as a featured guest on “The Top.”

Nathan is known for his rapid-fire, straight-to-the-point questioning, and Gaurav was more than up to the challenge. In this episode, the two looked back at Gaurav’s founding of Informatica in the ’90s; how he took that company public and helped it grow to become a billion-plus dollar business; why he stepped away from Informatica and decided to start SnapLogic; how data integration fuels digital business and why customers are demanding modern solutions like SnapLogic’s that are easy to use and built for the cloud; and how he’s building a fast-growing, innovative business that also has it’s feet on the ground.

The two also kept it fun, with Gaurav fielding Nathan’s “Famous Five” show-closing questions, including favorite book, most admired CEO, advice to your 20-year-old self, and more.

You can listen to the full podcast above or via the following links:

We Left Informatica. Now You Can, Too | Webinar

 

You can run a modern company on a mainframe. You can also ride a horse to the office. But would it really make sense to do this? Join us on Wednesday, March 22 for a discussion with Informatica’s former CEO Gaurav Dhillon and CTO James Markarian about reinventing data integration for the modern enterprise.

Infa Webinar Banner

Does your business still run on Informatica? It might make more sense to switch to a more modern platform. Join the conversation, hosted by industry analyst David Linthicum, as our distinguished panel discusses the key business reasons and technology factors driving modern enterprises to embrace data integration built for the cloud.

They will also cover:

  • The evolution of data integration – from the pre-internet, mainframe days of Informatica – to today’s modern cloud solutions
  • How they have re-invented application and data integration in the cloud
  • The changing role of IT – from “helicopter” to enabler
  • The cost to modern enterprises of inaction
  • Why sticking to the status quo is not an option

Register for this exclusive webinar here and be sure to join the conversation on Wednesday at 11am PT/ 2pm ET.