Category Archives: Latest News

5 Product-Configuration Essentials for a Next-Generation Customer Experience

How leading companies leverage product configurators to boost efficiency, revenue, and the customer experience

By Darshak D. Patel

5 Essentials for a Next-Generation User Experience

Product configurators allow B2B customers to customize items in real time from a variety of components and options. Product configuration as part of eBusiness/eCommerce is essential in providing a seamless and more personalized customer experience. Product configuration is so much more than color, size, and material selections; it enables complex combinations and variances in construction, shape, and functionality.  There are a multitude of algorithms and unique identifiers that run in the background. Thousands of options and restrictions must be indexed and updated regularly. A product configurator is a component of the user interface (UI) which dictates the user experience (UX).

Here are five things to consider: 

  1. Assign unique identifiers: Not only does it simplify the repurchase process, it can be used to identify and reward customers for referrals. This identification system also ensures that your clients receive the right products and that shipping costs stay low.
  2. Leverage dynamic pricing science: In this competitive climate, price, demand, and market conditions change rapidly. Dynamic pricing enables companies to respond in real time while providing the most advantageous options for the customer.  Complete configuration details can then be sent to the customer and to the sales rep.
  3. Enable a next-generation customer experience: The user interface and experience should be seamless. At the most basic level your modeler should include a definition of parts, complete structural data, and dynamic pricing. Any restrictions or potential conflicts should push an alert to the customer and to the engineering team for immediate review.
  4. Personalize the experience: Full integration with back-end systems such as ERP and CRM provides efficiency and agility for responding to customers’ unique needs and preferences on the fly.
  5. Ensure scalability: Customized solutions allow companies to create their ideal system today with the flexibility to add more features tomorrow. Some key components include:
    • Adding custom text to products
    • Sharing configurations in social media or email
    • Adding customized products to a wish list
    • Enabling easy access to quotation and negotiation tools
    • Automating bill of material (BOM)
    • Providing free training and support
    • 3D visualization via third-party (REST/SOAP)
    • CAD model design via third-party (REST/SOAP)

Companies that are serious about meeting B2B buyers’ rapidly changing expectations are modernizing their eCommerce strategies to further engage customers, increase sales, and improve the overall quality of the eBusiness experience. Have questions or need help in this area? Let us know.



4 Reasons Not to Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence

AI is creating sea change in the manufacturing and healthcare industries and there are multiple positives for businesses and individuals.

artificial intelligence

Anytime you have two well-known entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, at odds about a topic you know it’s something transcendent. Some common perceptions about artificial intelligence include job loss, conspiracy theories, and even world dominance. At this moment, however, we cannot ignore the extremely positive outcomes AI affords. What AI is, according to Forbes, is a concept of machines’ ability to carry out tasks in a way that people consider “smart.” Many applications fall under the AI umbrella such as machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, and others.

Here are four solid reasons not to be afraid of AI:

  1. It saves lives: Early cancer detection and treatment, recognition of brain disorders, and new drug discoveries and treatments are just a few ways in which AI is changing medicine as we know it. Machine learning also helps advance the collection and digitization of electronic health records, thereby improving the quality of the doctor/patient relationship.
  2. It creates possibilities: Ultrasound has been an essential tool in critical moments for monitoring and diagnosing patients for almost a century. A new break-through technology packs the power of ultrasound into a lightweight, cost-effective silicon chip with built-in deep learning. These chips could potentially give access to many healthcare professionals around the world who wouldn’t otherwise.
  3. It entertains: Alexa’s presence in the patient’s room, doctors and nurses can access the records without troubling the patients or logging into computers. Alexa can be a great companion providing stories and music for patients with disabilities. Alexa can also give reminders when it’s time to take/administer medication or serve/eat food.
  4. It skyrockets efficiency: From faster production to optimizing worker schedules leading manufacturers are already experiencing the benefits of AI in their smart factories. Manufacturers can foresee trends and be more innovative by making better, faster business decisions. All of the data from IoT sources presents endless possibilities for manufacturers.

AI

Since AI is still rather young, there are much more applications to which we can look forward. According to Forrester, the evolution of AI will likely see the most success in three – five years.

References:
www.dataversity.net/artificial-intelligence-use-cases-overview/
www.macadamian.com/2016/06/29/amazons-alexa-voice-service-in-healthcare/



SharePoint’s Progression: Creating Perfect Balance in the World

By Umang Shah

SharePoint's Progression Header Image
*Source: Ignite 2015

Microsoft provides one of the premiere solutions for enterprise collaboration. If we compare SharePoint’s evolution over the past decade to those of the IT industry you’ll find that they have many similarities:

  • Loose coupling/microservice-based architecture: SharePoint started this approach in 2010 with service applications (remember shared service in MOSS?). Since then, Microsoft has been working diligently to decouple as much as possible.
  • Mobile-first approach (Cross-platform, device-specific app development): This trend changed the face of IT services, and Microsoft SharePoint embraced it with responsive design and multi-channel support.
  • Cloud-first model: Features such as Delve are only possible in a Cloud-first environment, and Microsoft invests heavily in machine learning and research to the advantage of its subscribers. On-premise models are no longer feasible, as they require significant investments of time and resources.
  • Improvement in identity management: AAD (Azure Active Directory) is a global active directory. One of the biggest advantages of any enterprise solution is SSO (single sign on), and Microsoft’s AAD is a powerful option. Moreover, Office Groups’ all-in-one authorization maintenance is a cherry on top.

SharePoint developers are anticipating even more changes. For power users and developers, here are the latest developments:

  • SharePoint Community Portal > Yammer: SharePoint Community Portal was one of the most underrated features. It had badges, reputation, and gamification components. Now, with a more modern interface in Yammer it is difficult to find a strong use case for SharePoint Community Portal. Some features of SharePoint Community Portal are not in Yammer but it can be added via Market Place.
  • Insights (PerformancePoint/PowerPivot/Report Viewer/Excel Services) > PowerBI: From the beginning SharePoint has focused on BI. It supported reporting service web parts in MOSS, and then acquired Business Scorecard Manager which morphed into PerformancePoint. It also introduced PowerPivot (SSAS) and Power View (SSRS) in SharePoint mode. These are now separate components of Power BI as a service and are available as an independent component of Office 365.
  • SharePoint Search > Delve & Hybrid Enterprise Search: Search has been a cornerstone of SharePoint and it continues to evolve. Delve “lets the content find you automatically” based on your personal interaction and permissions (machine learning). Hybrid Search (Office 365’s on-premise search service) is a true hybrid option with a single index rather than two separate indices. Although Delve is evolving, it is still not a replacement for the traditional search center.
  • Forms customization from List/InfoPath > PowerApps. InfoPath Form Designer: A rapid form designer found in SharePoint’s older versions that still supports quick editing of list forms and task forms in (Workflow Designer). Eventually PowerApps will replace it, but for now it’s decoupled and can be applied to any data. It also has built-in support across devices with a Cloud-first, mobile-first approach.
  • Task Lists > Planner in Office 365: Originally designed to be used in Workflow, a 2013 addition of the timeline allowed for more seamless project management. It remains the preferred option for structured project management, but Planner has a better user interface and seamless integration with other services.
  • SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Workflow Engine > Microsoft Flow and Logic apps: Many people have moved on because of a workflow issue. The Workflow engine evolved drastically in 2010, and then again changed in 2013, but decoupling would make it even more efficient.
  • Customization (WebPart > client-side WebPart/Sandbox > SP Apps > add in > SharePoint Framework component: Customization has changed significantly in SharePoint. From manually copying all to GAC and web.config changes to structured WSP to APP packages. With the evolution of CSOM API, we are in the era of SPF in which Microsoft decoupled development away from Visual Studio/MSBuild. Also it focused more on a full-stack development model. SPF (SharePoint Framework) is one of the most common buzzwords in the SharePoint environment.

We’ve been helping enterprise companies leverage the power of SharePoint for over two decades. As the Office 365/SharePoint Lead for ISM, Inc.,  we’re always here to answer any questions you may have regarding your company’s strategy, architecture, and governance for implementation.  Connect with me on LinkedIn.



*https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2015/FND2203