2014 IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit – Tampa, FL

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I was explicitly told not to touch the crafts table because it was for the Barenaked Ladies who were using the room later that day.

Of all the annual conferences that I attend, the Smarter Commerce Global Summit is always a week’s worth of whirlwind activity. The 2014 SCGS in Tampa this past week was no exception. Between meetings, training, sessions, roundtables, and lunches with colleagues, friends, and clients during the day, and (more) meetings, dinners, receptions, concerts, and flash mob dance parties with colleagues, friends, and clients during the evening, there leaves very little time for sleep.

Upon getting home last night, I devoured a smoked turkey leg, a pot of ramen, and a bowl of clam chowder (New England, of course), before passing out whilst watching Futurama on my iPad.

Anyway, there is SO much going on in Smarter Commerce! Here are a couple key things I took away from Tampa (minus some other key points that were probably jiggled loose from my brain whilst rave-dancing at the Piranha Club on Ybor Street):

  • SMARTER COMMERCE INTEGRATION IS REAL: …and getting better every day. We’ve already productiized many integrations across the Smarter Commerce portfolio to help our customers significantly reduce their time to market, and we’re rapidly developing more, proving out the fact that Smarter Commerce enables customers to run a composable business. As an added benefit, these assets can be leveraged by our technical sales organization to efficiently and effectively respond with targeted, value-driven proposals and demonstrations. Go ahead…ask Bob Balfe about GreenWheels.
  • SMARTER COMMERCE PRODUCT MANAGEMENT IS LISTENING:  …and hemorrhaging solution enhancements. It’s a little crazy. Now more than ever, key resources in product management (you know who you are, and also what was up with that shuttle bus driver…am I right??) are tuned in with sales, engineering, and directly with our customers. Product roadmap alignment is key to quick upgrades, and taking advantage of these enhancements. If you’re not up to date on whats new in the products and solutions you’re focused on, you’re probably missing out on opportunities that can save/make you money. Talk to someone!!
  • OUR BUSINESS PARTNERS ARE FRIGGIN’ AWESOME: …and apparently all love cocktail shrimp. The investment our partners are making to meet customer’s needs is exceptional. These guys are smart, skilled, and specialized. Above all else, the partners I interact with do business with integrity. At risk of offending someone, I won’t call out specific business partners here, but ASK ME – I’d gladly have a conversation with you about finding a business partner that’s right for you and will satisfy your needs.
  • SANTA CLAUS IS REAL: …and summers in Tampa and likes ham. Image
  • OUR CUSTOMERS ARE RLY SMRT: …we had some great sessions where customers presented on various Smarter Commerce-related topics, and I was impressed every single time with their understanding of our solutions (and their value), aggressively ambitious strategic initiatives, and ability to articulate upon the importance of breaking the client-vendor paradigm and nurturing an open and honest business/technical partnership.

I want to close out by sharing the Prezi I used at the Summit to support my presentation, titled Buy Online Pickup In Store – You Know Why, Here’s How, co-hosted with Han Oster, Sterling Development Manager at GameStop. goo.gl/ALiU6N Let me know what you think!

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Folders Are Out – Tagging Is In

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Is “organizaholic” a word? According to spell check, it’s not. Whatever.

If you’re an organizaholic like me, 5, 10 years ago, you probably have a folder which contained a bunch of work stuff. Inside that folder, you had subfolders, for each project you worked on. Then within each project folder, maybe you had a couple more subfolders for each track within that project. Then inside a that track subfolder, more subfolders with scraps and notes for each document you were creating for that track. And so on and so forth….

Pretty soon you have a folder hierarchy thats 9 levels deep, and most of the time, you can’t find what you’re looking for, or when you do, it takes you 10 seconds, and twenty-two clicks (or eleven double clicks) to get there.

Welcome to the 21st century…folders are silly.

You’re probably well aware of how tagging works already, you use it for Twitter, you use it on collaboration sites, forums, blogs you publish whatever. But guess what – no one ever said tagging was exclusively for the internet. You should be tagging your local files too.

It’s actually very easy, and makes finding files a snap.

Tango: Your Commerce Solution Strategy

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Before I was an Engineer, a Consultant, a Tech Seller, a Solutions Strategist…I was a Dancer.

Okay…bear with me for a moment.

From ballroom to hip-hop, contemporary to jazz, no form of dance caught my attention and passion better than Argentine tango. To me, Argentine tango is the perfect blend of what dance is meant to be – visually beautiful, musically complex, emotionally intimate, mentally challenging, and physically connected. Depending on who you dance with, the music you dance to, and flat-out how you’re feeling that night, that one dance will be unique, and unlike any other time you’ve danced before.

Tango lessons for beginners pretty much always start the same way. The premise is simple – it starts with balanceo – the art of feeling the weight of your partners feet, and the connection with their core. Once you know what foot your partner is on, and learn to “drive” their core, which is connected to yours through some almost-tangible, viscous and elastic medium, you can practically do anything. Its just a matter of understanding the effects timing, power, space (or lack of it), and torque have on that very fundamental platform of understanding around balanceo.

Okay, here’s the punchline: a smart, successful commerce solution strategy is like Argentine tango.

Back in the heyday of ERP, it was all about defining and building a complex, rigid system from the inside out that governed and provided consistency around how an organization’s employees operated, how their customers interacted with their available channels, and ultimately how their business measured success….kinda like a cheer routine. A cheer routine is dependent upon critical components playing specific roles, all choreographed to a specific song. The result is an intricate,  shockingly well-choreographed dance number that clearly illustrates a team’s dedication and skill in pulling off something amazing. A cheer routine is great…until something changes.

All of a sudden, the day before the big dance competition, the judges decide all dance entries need to be less than four minutes, one of the girls gets sick, and Gartner analysts report that in Q4 2013, 86% of winning dance teams wore bowler hats. The Forrester Wave undeniably concurs.

Madness ensues.

Now, let’s go back to tango. Tango, like a smart, successful commerce solution strategy, provides a flexible, context-based platform that enables two dancers – ANY two dancers – to come together and create something seamless, beautiful and intricate, regardless of how corporate, social, or environmental influencers change the rules of the game. It doesn’t matter if its a different song, or if  dancers need to change out, or if bowler hats are imposed – its still tango. It still works.

The challenge most businesses are faced with today is not that change is happening too fast, or that changes are not being pre-emptively recognized and addressed – the challenge is that businesses have not adopted a strategy that accepts that “outside in” change WILL inevitably happen, and have not implemented a commerce solution platform that can flexibly and effectively adapt to that change. A decade ago it was dotcom; two years ago it was ship from store; today its mobile – is your business ready to tackle whatever 2020 has planned, regardless of whether its “mind-shopping” or “teleport to locker”?

Don’t get me wrong, cheer routines are great. But I’ll take a tango anyday.