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Industry 4.0 and business analytics - more room for innovative power

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The world of medium-sized companies is being stirred at present by one topic, in particular: Industry 4.0. Pressure here is growing enormously because the digitization bus must not be missed if successful interaction on the market is to remain possible in the long term. What most companies do not know, however: Not all internal procedures must be cast overboard in order to remain abreast of the issues of big data and Industry 4.0. It is much more important make use of one's own employees' curiosity and convey the data culture to all departments. This blog post shows how to master the change to digitization step by step.

The first step is always the hardest – clear definition of objectives and intentions

From time to time, companies face a challenge to optimize their internal processes. Before initial measures are taken, however, it is necessary to clarify the pursued goals and intentions as well as the related benefits. For example, do I want to increase my sales, or better understand the behavior of my buyers? This also applies, in particular, during introduction of a business intelligence strategy. At the beginning of cooperation with a customer, it is therefore worthwhile to set up a workshop for the purpose of working out and defining precisely these factors together. In this manner, it is possible to obtain results much more quickly in most cases, prevent any misunderstandings, and discuss new approaches which would usually not have occurred to someone acting single-handedly. Important: Concentrate not only on optimizing existing processes, but try to think in new directions. Electric light did not arise through optimization of candle light.

Good to know: First harvest the low-hanging fruits

A recurrent topic: The well-known "low hanging fruits". One's own CRM system deserves special attention here. Orphaned data are a no go, so that the system constantly needs to be maintained. Only in the next step can one consider how to establish a link to further customer or production data, or which trends and existents links will be useful. Once the CRM system has been brought into proper condition, wonderful insights into one's own customers can be obtained: For example, do customers cancel purchases from the online shop because a certain form of payment is not offered? Are there other reasons why transactions are not concluded? Without additional hardware integration, however, the possibilities are limited. The keyword "IoT" is of help here: Compared with collections of entirely new data, this little aid greatly facilitates links between inventory data and analyses. In other words: Look carefully and specifically develop new, individualized offers.

Chatbots: A blessing for customer service

Once integrated into the website of one's own enterprise, chatbots are a true blessing for customers as well as the enterprise. Interested buyers don't have to scour the website for information, but can enter their question directly into the chatbot which then immediately presents a solution to them. The best thing about this: It simultaneously provides enterprises with significant support in the area of customer service. A chatbot proves useful especially if linked to the data in the DWH:  Service employees are then not immediately confronted by requests just because they exceed the logic of the system. As a result, complex questions concerning order statuses and offer details can be processed quickly. This is clear added value for the customer. An example of best practice by Microsoft in this regard: On the Microsoft Azure platform, the NLU (natural language understanding) now works so well that customers no longer need to pose their questions in a strict syntax or "chat language", but the chatbot instead detects the correct context and offers a suitable solution, especially if connected with the cloud. The best thing here: This measure quickly achieves good results, and the whole system can be integrated easily without needing to be independently developed in its entirety. Evaluations of customer feedback subsequently allow improvement and adaptation of own processes.

A look behind the scenes

During consultations on business intelligence, our clients receive new perspectives of their data. This often gives rise to ideas for services which were previously not possible. To increase customer satisfaction, an insight into the production line from outside can convey transparency to the customer and provide information on product delivery times, for example. For decades, German companies have put a great deal of effort into planning and organizing supply and production chains, which is exactly why many medium-sized German companies are global market leaders in their respective sectors. It is therefore necessary to first consider one's upstream and downstream processes in order to cope with the pressure of having to satisfy one's own customers to the highest degree in times of digitization and globalization.

The key is motivation …

In our workshop, we keep seeing how quickly good results can be achieved through healthy employee motivation. Already an initial analysis of different data as part of a workshop provides staff from the various departments with preliminary findings, thus enabling them to quickly realize what can be achieved with which queries and analyses, and what their benefits are. In this manner all participants develop a healthy curiosity which allows them to perpetuate new measures on the basis of their own motivation. Recognize your measures' potentials for improvement and quickly achieve good results together.

… and agility

To maintain the motivation and curiosity gained by staff, it always makes sense to appoint project managers already from the outset. This is because additional success can be achieved if there is someone who can continue driving processes by means of their decision-making authority as well as appropriate budget management. In our various agile BI projects, we were able to establish that departments achieve very good results when they can independently evaluate data and obtain new findings from this - using the right tools, of course. If this culture is adopted, a project's success is transferred to other departments in the best case, so that the enterprise's overarching objectives are pursued more consistently and also achieved.

Food for thought outside the box

In cooperation with our customers and, in particular, during the workshops, we always greatly emphasize initiation of a holistic approach. Only if a holistic view is maintained from the start can faults be avoided before they show up during a project. Again and again, the chosen data strategy proves too narrow. This can necessitate readjustment of the data model at a later stage. Take a look at the entirety instead of just individual departments in order to recognize and take into account important connections between the departments at an early stage.

Customer loyalty is the be-all and end-all

The after-sales phase is underestimated at many companies. It is here, in particular, that customer loyalty can be strengthened. Proper use of Industry 4.0 and business analytics measures provides a better understanding of one's customers and the correct answers at all times to questions such as 'which product is the right one and how can I make sure that customers will remain satisfied also after delivery?' or 'how can I offer my customers ever newer and better services?'. However, a long-term consideration is required when evaluating customer feedback: Customer loyalty cannot make a 180° turn overnight. Over the long term, though, customer relationships are strengthened, thereby providing clear competitive advantages for the future.

Conclusion: Awaken innovative power with room for ideas

Every company's goal should be to minimize the manual effort of processes. Chatbots, establishment of a DWH and provision of further services are always steps in the right direction. Furthermore, automated evaluations and new systems make it possible to significantly reduce error rates. This simplifies processes for all participants while simultaneously freeing time for ideas and innovation.

Dr. Sebastian Petry
Dr. Sebastian Petry
Competence Center Manager
As a "datanaut", Sebastian uses data science and AI to reveal undiscovered potential in the infinite expanses of the data universe. His mission is "Use Case First – AI Second". He identifies use cases in a variety of subject areas, such as customer communication and personalization, supply chain management, and Industry 4.0. He then designs sustainable concepts and strategies and supports their implementation. He is convinced that data science and AI are innovation drivers that can and should be implemented in every company.
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