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Live from EBRC - Applying business rules to gain competitive advantage

Blogging live from EBRC again - Applying Business Rules to Gain Competitive Advantage. A multi-channel retail case study by Qusai Sarraf, CEO of IVIS Group. Presentation is about Tesco. Qusai emphasized that competitive advantage is all about agility today - something I completely support - and then introduced Tesco (the world's largest online grocery store) with 5000 orders/hour for instance. For Tesco, like other retailers, multi-channel means coordinating and linking different store formats, kiosks, the company web site, catalogs, affiliate sites, partners, google and other search portals and more to be truly customer focused. For instance I might find a product using one channel, order it on another, have it fulfilled in a third and return it using a fourth! At present perhaps a third of online research results in an online purchase, the rest generate offline sales. A consistent experience across these channels requires consistent business rules.

Multi-channel requires people, process and technology to deliver a multi-channel architecture, integrate supply chains, manage information, drive a customer experience and manage sales channels. All of this reaches different communities of customers. Focusing in on multi-channel information management there are three main challenges:

  • Core Production Information - now coming from internal systems and external sources like the web, search, comparison sites etc.
  • Price Management - Internet has changed price sensitivity and promotions are more complex
  • Managing Channels - selecting product and product information for channels while keeping synchronized

Information management options include outsourcing, tactical IT solutions and point solutions channel by channel or product type by product type. None of these are really satisfactory as legacy and dynamic data are challenging, support for multiple channels is limited and all are somewhat technically focused. Need a way to represent, capture and consume knowledge about this multi-channel world.

  • Knowledge representation - must be freeform, interoperable, rich and concise
  • Knowledge acquisition - freedom from IT, focused on maintainability, easy to use e.g. with a by example metaphor
  • Knowledge consumption - by search, refinement, categorization and inference

Their product tries to capture knowledge from users, who train the system to make decisions in a very incremental way. The product acts as a rules-driven data hib, allowing business users to create rules that enhance and categorize the data. Business users can go on to add rules for special offers, channels etc. I liked the use of definition by example to manage rules for complex and very variable/dynamic data and it seems like it would create a rich set of valid information fairly easily with strong meta data. This data could then be used very effectively, for instance to take a best next action.

I blogged about customer centricity recently and about how Best Buy is customer-centric not just multi-channel as well as a Best Buy presentation at InterACT and one on Next Best Action. This solution seemed to me to be another great example of how to use business rules that could be enhanced by decision management. His slides are here.

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