By Jonny Oliver
IBM Journey Designer was released a year ago, but has now come-of-age as one of the many tools in the IBM Watson Marketing suite. It's a cloud-based collaboration product that allows marketers to plan the customer journey in a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface. It includes a real-time chat window and messages/notifications to allow users to work together, allowing Marketing, Sales and Customer Service to visualise cross-channel journeys, set marketing goals and design tailored customer experiences.
Users begin by creating a Storyboard - an editable canvas that supports Connectors and Touchpoints, and tools such as directional arrows and notes. Connectors can be a group (essentially a low-level canvas), a program (that integrates with automated programs in Marketing Cloud) or a campaign (which integrates with IBM Campaign). Touchpoints include E-mail, SMS, Landing pages, Social and more that marketers can drag onto the canvas to plan their customer journey. These can all be linked with arrows to indicate the direction, though these are just informative and do not have an effect on the journey. In fact, with the exceptions of the campaign and program integration, the entire canvas is just a reference to allow marketers to collaborate and discuss.
By Joe Mawson
IBM launched the Watson brand in late 2016 and anyone engaged in IBM Commerce in the last 5 years could be forgiven that this could be little more than another name change. As part of the PSC delegation to Amplify 2017, I was keen to see what Watson could really do and what it really means in the real-world of IBM Marketing.
The first day of Amplify kicked off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a Business Partner session. Presented by Kate Linendoll, the session immediately introduced several consumer products that use the Watson APIs in creative ways; a toy dinosaur that could talk to you, chocolates with recipes aggregated and suggested by Chef Watson and LifeBeam headphones. Using the twitter hashtag #IBMAmplify put Business Partners in the running to win one of these products as prizes. This kicked off a flurry of twitter traffic and reminds us all that social marketing is becoming central to our interaction with events. The session was held exclusively for Business Partners, with IBMers and Clients turned away at the door. IBM now place Business Partners as central to their business model, with VP Susan Reynolds promising a Business Partner in every deal.
Amplify this year promised to show off not just what Watson can do or will do in the future, but rather how Watson is being used now. In Watson Marketing this means Predictive Journey Path Analysis and Struggle Detection in Customer Experience Analytics, Rules Advisor in Real-Time Personalisation and Audience Identification in Marketing Insights. Richard Hearn declared IBM to be the only end-to-end cognitive customer engagement platform, emphasising that IBM know that clients want a seamless integration, not just a series of products bolted together. To be cognitive the platform must understand, reason, learn and interact. For IBM, cognitive is synonymous with Watson. By embedding Watson across the portfolio IBM have proved that the Watson brand is not just a clever name, the Watson brand is here to stay.
The buzz from the Business Partner session carried over to the keynote, which began with Katie Linendoll proudly announcing that what we are going to see is “not the future. It’s right here, right now”. The first demonstration had Watson perform real-time sentiment analysis to a series of questions, with cubes changing colour based on the sentiment of the answers given in the room under the #ibmamplify hashtag. Pink for excited, teal for curious, blue for eager and purple for engaged.
General Manager Harriet Green took to the stage with presentations from the Home Shopping Network (who don’t believe in Omni-Channel, it’s just shopping), Adidas (they do believe in omni-channel), and Titan each sharing high profile success stories of working with IBM.
For Watson Marketing, the stand out presentation came from Melanie Butcher who demonstrated the Watson Marketing Assistant speaking to Watson using natural language; she was able to teach Watson new terminology, ask Watson to analyse campaign results, ask Watson how it gauged that success. Melanie asked Watson to analyse the sentiment of the subject lines of the emails with the highest open rates in the past year. This was an impressive practical application of AI in Marketing providing actionable insights and it is available in beta now for customers using Watson Campaign Automation (formally Marketing Cloud). All you have to do is ask for it.
Film star, Will Smith was the final act of the Keynote. He is Professionally Certified in Watson Campaign Automation (formally IBM Marketing Cloud, formally Silverpop) and has been an IBM Campaign user for a number of years. All part of creating a buzz around the conference, Will shared some of his life story and answered the questions we all wanted, for example “How’s DJ Jazzy Jeff?” For all the light-hearted anarchy Will Smith brought to Amplify, one point he made resonated though the week. In his early acting days he could get away with making average movies, or sometimes poor movies (Wild Wild West, anybody?). In the 1990s he could make films that hit a dud note and no one would notice until the studio had made its money back. In 2017, if you make a bad movie word gets out straight away through social media and we are all much less forgiving. Decision making in 2017 has to be much more considered.
As exciting as the keynotes are, the real substance at Amplify comes from the breakout sessions. One session of note came from Jeremy Waite. Jeremy is an IBM Evangelist (that really is his job title) and he presented a tour of the landscape Marketers face in 2017. Jeremy introduced the term ‘ personification ’ in Marketing. In a world where 55% of customers don’t want to share their data, personification is the opposite to personalisation; it’s the right message at the right time when you don’t know the customer. In social media this is advertising to lookalike profiles, or leveraging cognitive tools like Watson to deliver ‘thumb stopping moments’
Other standout sessions came from Embel Assist who used an implementation of IBM Interact and IBM PCI to deliver real time scoring and offer presentation across channels. This included scoring customers’ propensity to respond to an offer and present those offers in real time. In an inbound call centre, this might mean presenting no offers, to ensure efficiency in the customer experience.
Similarly, Shutterfly presented an example of using Interact to deliver targeted cross sell messages in transactional email. Shutterfly delivers personalised printed merchandise, they analysed their email response rates and saw an opportunity to deliver real time marketing messages in transactional mailings, and on the website, making their marketing message central to the customer experience, and not a pre or post sale activity.
PSC’s Tim Biddiscombe created a buzz with his presentation on the integration between IBM Campaign and Sprinklr using UBX. IBM Campaign is an enterprise level marketing tool that provides closed loop marketing with offer management and attribution. Sprinklr can listen for brand mentions across 25 social networks, over 500,000 websites, blogs and forums, it enables advertising to target lookalike profiles and it can be used to manage massive volumes of social conversations. Connecting the two platforms using UBX means a seamless extension to IBM Campaign, where social is more than just another channel, but part of closed loop marketing automation.
The award for best breakout session title went to ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Email Personalisation’ presented by Sam Peskin (IBM) and Dennis O’Donnel (IBM/Weather Company). The session demonstrated the cognitive capabilities of WeatherFX within Watson Marketing Automation. The integration of WeatherFX with WCA offers an interesting number of use cases, based upon the underlying research that weather drives customer demand. In the UK, weather is the single most important topic of conversation, for national retailers in large territories in the US, the weather can mean the need to target different messages across different regions. Beyond knowing that we buy ice cream when it is hot, using Cognitive Weather triggers Marketers can use weather to target given messages as a zip code level. For example during bad road conditions, a car manufacturer may want to deliver a marketing message to emphasise safety and handling. A grocery store that could target customers to a local store level to drive customer footfall ahead of incoming storms. A fashion retailer leveraged bad weather to promote ads for thermal jackets to consumers experiencing bad weather. A pharmacy identifying the first days of spring at a zip code level could target customers at a local level to remind them to stock up on hay fever medication. The key component of the weather triggers is to understand what weather means to each region at a given point in time, identifying when it is unseasonably warm, or when the weather extremes are approaching. In this way, WeatherFX triggers are cognitive, and that cognitive capability can be used to drive really targeted messages.
Amplify 2017 put cognitive at the centre of the IBM proposition and the real-world examples on show at the conference prove that cognitive marketing is more than a novelty, it is the reality for marketing in 2017 and beyond.
By Christian Pullara
Although I have taken part in many IBM functions before, this was my first IBM Amplify event and without a doubt the best I have ever been to.
I was impressed by the sheer number of IBM customers present at the event and IBM could not have chosen a better location than a Las Vegas venue. The sessions and meetings I attended were of incredible value to me.
As someone who has just entered the world of Marketing in the cognitive era, having the opportunity to take part in these sessions and learn from industry experts was fantastic.
I arrived in Las Vegas late on Saturday. I had Saturday evening and part of Sunday to network and make the most of these two days away from my ‘everyday’ work commitments.
It was difficult to hide how excited I was to be able to fully immerse myself in the IBM Watson Customer Engagement world and have the possibility to speak directly to IBM executives who specialise in this area.
The presence of many IBM customers who are already using the IBM Watson products was an extra opportunity for me to improve my network and I could see that many other people around me shared the same excitement in such an opportunity.
The open session took place on Monday with the open keynote and a high level of information focussing on how the Customer Engagement has been redefined in the cognitive era.
In my opinion this session was important for two reasons, firstly because it gave the possibility for everyone to get familiar with the new terminologies used now in IBM to refer to the Watson products, and secondly it gave all the companies present the chance to network and share their knowledge.
Closing the session with Will Smith as a special guest was ‘the magic touch’ from IBM.
Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to specific products and sessions with the opportunity to speak with the experts.
For me, attending these sessions was very valuable as they helped me to further my understanding and knowledge in specific IBM products and strategies. There was a great diversity of topics and the format varied based on the sessions.
I found this very good as I had the opportunity to also use some of the new capabilities for some software and experience the product as a user.
Overall this has been a brilliant event for networking, getting to know product knowledge and meet the experts, IBM executives, existing clients, as well as potential clients.
The breaks in between sessions I made the most of by speaking with potential clients, business partner’s or an expert regarding a specific product, and I must say that by doing this I have seriously improved my business card collection.
By Tim Biddiscombe
Back in 2015, Gartner coined the term Big Data, a term for data sets so large, disparate or complex that traditional data processing approaches were not adequate. This applied across many areas of data processing including capture, storage, maintenance, access, reporting & compliance.
Here we are in 2017 and we thought it was worth a recap on where we’ve come from, where we’re going how Big Data applies to IBM’s Watson Marketing customers.
Big Data is still a hugely relevant topic for modern marketing, though the term has become a little distorted to mean many things to marketers trying to stay ahead of the curve, in much the same way as ‘real-time’ has.
The last 2 years have seen a continued proliferation of channels where our customers can interact with brands, with a corollary of reducing reliance on brands interacting with customers (in the traditional outbound sense). The phrase ‘too much information’ (TMI) has never been more relevant and the need to manage high-volume, high-velocity informational assets and incorporate them into your decision making, ever more important.
Analytics powerhouses such as Gartner and Nielsen have also documented a shift from investment in technology to investment in solving specific problems, which indicates a period of consolidation may be upon us. Other strong growth areas of Big Data involve the capture, contextual interpretation and analysis of visual data such as images, animated gifs and even videos. While this is in it’s infancy, it’s clearly a fascinating time to be a marketer – or a social technologist.
In terms of how Big Data currently integrates or influences the Watson Marketing portfolio, it can take a number of forms;
At the time of writing, the latest version of IBM Campaign is version 10.0.0.2, however there will be new releases during 2017. Alongside the traditionally supported heavy hitters of large scale transactional databases Teradata and IBM Netezza, several ‘big data’-bases are now supported, with more on the way:
- Amazon Redshift
- IBM dashDB
- Apache Hive (based on Hadoop Big Data)
- HP Vertica (based on Postgres)
These can all be added as base/dimension/general datasources in IBM Campaign and used to complement outbound decisioning. The data contained in these can also be fed through to an IBM Interact supported database (Oracle/SQL Server/DB2) for inclusion in real-time inbound decisioning.
Watson Campaign Automation (formerly IBM Marketing Cloud)
Although not a database in its own right, the ability to add web tagging throughout your brand real estate to capture data into WCA’s universal behaviours datastore allows extensive online interactions to play their part in CRM decisioning.
This facilitates a long awaited move away from batch communications to triggered programmatic messaging, interacting with customers when they want to be interacted with, rather than the other way around.
IBM Universal Behavior Exchange
A relative newcomer to the Watson Marketing portfolio, Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX) has already made huge inroads into the core platform of many blue chip and enterprise level organisations.
UBX allows disparate (and distant) endpoints to be connected up, in order to ensure that data (no matter it’s origin) is where it needs to be to facilitate your business requirements, whether for marketing or analytics purposes.
With more endpoints being added all the time, UBX allows marketers working with IBM technologies (Campaign or WCA) to bring together and leverage data from ever further flung areas such as social, online advertising and even emoji analytics!
In 2017 we are seeing the rise of Cognitive Computing as a crucial next phase of evolution in data driven marketing. With the continued explosion of data sets available (or that should be available) to the modern marketer attempting to promote brands, products and services, cognitive computing is one mechanism that has the potential for making sense of the madness.
At the core of IBMs Cognitive Computing offering is Watson, its natural language, machine learning artificial intelligence capability. We’ve all heard the stories of how Watson has beaten chess grandmasters, won on Jeopardy and even played its part in cancer treatments in a truly astonishing project - Watson has now found its home in the Cognitive Computing arena.
IBM Watson brings to the marketer the capability to consume and make sense of the terabytes of data being generated (including unstructured text, images, audio and video), to provide personalised recommendations on next-best-action across inbound, outbound, social, live-chat and much, much more. The marketer stays in charge, but they are assisted with analysis, guidance and recommendations (including the reasoning behind them) rather than a googolplex of data and a headache…
In conclusion, Big Data is here to stay and on the horizon, are more and more innovative ways to make sense of it, to bring order from chaos.
By Andrew Addison
I’m delighted to officially announce the launch of Purple Square Consulting (Australia). It’s been some time in the planning, but PSC have now opened our southern hemisphere operation.
We’ve been working very closely with IBM and several Australian and New Zealand partners on projects since 2012, but it was often too prohibitive to support properly from the UK due to flight times, significant time zone differences and jet lag recovery! This meant that it didn’t really work for anyone involved, and so we went quiet!
This was only ever going to be a short-term hiatus, as we felt that there was always an opportunity for a highly-specialised consultancy in the region. So, over the last 18 months we’ve been working on the next stage of Purple Square Consulting’s business growth.
We made the decision early last year to soft launch in July 2016, this has involved everything from setting the local business up, getting set up as an IBM reseller, performing additional local research through to quietly shipping a number of our experts into the country.
It took a lot longer to organise the Australian Immigration 457 visas than expected. We mistakenly hit Australian summer holidays for the application, it didn’t take too long for approvals to come through once everything started moving.
I’ve had enough of jetlag! I’ve visited Australia 3 times in the last 7 months, and no matter how hard I try, I haven’t found the perfect formula for when to sleep and when to stay awake on the flights to minimise recovery time. Usually I start to feel normal again about 48 hours before I’m flying back!
And the time zones! The end of British Summer Time really caused confusion, suddenly Sydney went from being a 9-hour time difference to 11 hours, so the check in calls with the team moved from morning to evening!
The remote interviewing has been difficult, but thankfully we’ve always had one of the management team available for face to face second interviews when needed - and very kind candidates who didn’t mind taking calls during their evenings.
Since arriving, we’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in several new projects early on with clients new and existing. This is enabling us to build the relationships and reputation across the region that we enjoy in Europe.
We’ve continued to recruit people that meet our exacting standards, specialists with extensive technical, consulting and campaign management experience. The team is growing slowly, but is already able to operate as a self-supporting unit, without daily hand-holding from the UK.
It’s an exciting time for PSC, the recent Watson Marketing launch has generated some real interest for us and our clients. Our close relationships with the Offering Managers at IBM is enabling us to be at the forefront of developments and lead the way in the region.
We’re developing new relationships and re-establishing old alliances in Australia and New Zealand and look forward to continued growth across both the direct client and IBM partner network. Whilst the short-term focus is in Australia and New Zealand, the team will eventually support APAC providing implementation, consulting and learning services to IBM, Clients, Business Partners and Consultancies throughout the region.
We will also, in time, have a mirror support team to that in the UK, to ensure that we’re able to provide our advanced application support and management capabilities anywhere in the world, with some clients taking advantage of 24*7 coverage where they need it.
It was always going to be a bit of a gamble, opening a new office in a location so far away, but as I’ve learned;
She’ll be right, mate!
By Ben North
As someone who’s worked in the marketing technology domain for 18+ years, I’ve been to more marketing software vendor company, customer and sales events than I care to remember. In some respects, last week’s IBM Cognitive Engagement Sales Academy event was un-remarkable. It was held in Las Vegas, being a regular destination for such conventions (Unica themselves had a customer summit there back in the day). The venue itself (Bellagio) was vast and sprawling, with the usual ‘main tent’ for keynote speeches, breakout rooms for track sessions and enormous halls for breakfast, lunch and evening receptions. Although the agenda was packed with sessions from 7:30am to 6pm, there was of course time the customary social gatherings and the feeling at the end of the four days was one of too much food and drink and not enough sleep. Par for the course then.
However, this was the first time that, as an IBM Business Partner, we had been invited to join the full event that the IBM Commerce business unit runs for its global sales team. Previously we’ve been asked to local sales gatherings, to present on a specific topic or join social gettogethers after the event, but this time we got to hear the same messages from IBM top brass, receive the same enablement, at the same time, as IBM sales themselves. This was in itself a privilege and represented the significant commitment and importance that IBM places on its business partners. The first morning’s session was aimed at BPs and of course we expected to hear that partners are important, however that commitment was repeated and reinforced again and again throughout the event and to all the IBMers as well. I don’t doubt that IBM are serious about business partners now more than ever before.
This renewed focus on partners has in part been driven by a number of new partner-friendly faces at IBM, brought in recently by Harriet Green , GM, Watson Internet of Things, Commerce & Education. These include Richard Hearn , GM & Global Head of Watson Customer Engagement Sales and Susan Reynolds , Global VP Partner Ecosystem. These new senior managers, and others, headhunted from the likes of Razorfish, SAP, AOL, Oracle and Adobe, also bring decades of industry and domain experience and a fresh perspective on the opportunity for marketing solutions at IBM.
The opportunity that attracted all this new talent can be summed up in one word…Watson. The re-branding of IBM Marketing Solutions to Watson Marketing was announced in November last year (see my blog on IBM Amplify for Marketing 2016 ) but coming out of this Las Vegas event, it is clear that IBM have bet BIG on Watson for 2017. As of Thursday last week, IBM Commerce is now IBM Watson Customer Engagement (search #WatsonCE to see some of IBMs social activity).
More than just yet another re-branding exercise, IBM believe this moment will be a pivotal one in their history. After years of acquisitions and struggling to position the myriad products in a meaningful and coherent manner, IBM have slimmed-down their marketing portfolio and simplified its positioning in clear and relevant terms for a defined target audience. As a platform for practitioners, IBM Watson Customer Engagement will be differentiated by user-centric design, seamless integration and of course, cognitive expertise. Several Watson-prefixed offerings already provide embedded cognitive capabilities (e.g. struggle detection for websites, or content tagging) and there are many more on the roadmap for this year. The overarching goal of this cognitive revolution is to help (not replace!) marketers faced with the growing challenge of big and dark data.
Of course it was an objective of this event but I for one have found a renewed enthusiasm for IBMs and our opportunity in 2017 and beyond.
By Joe Mawson
A Day in the life of a Purple Square Consultant
For a PSC Consultant, no two days are the same, as each day can mean a new client, travel to a new location or new IBM software to become an expert in. Each client engagement can require a Consultant to wear a different hat; PM, Technical Consultant, Marketing Professional, Trainer, Business Partner. That can mean an early train or flight from home and nights away spent in hotels, bedtime reading can often be an IBM Administrators Guide.
We find ourselves in leading technology companies, in impressive offices in landmark locations, working with very talented Marketers and IT Professionals, all of whom expect, quite rightly, for a PSC Consultant to be an expert in IBM Watson Marketing and IBM Marketing Cloud. And that’s what we are.
It is the role of a PSC Consultant to know everything they should already know and be resourceful enough to identify and fill gaps in technical and marketing expertise. In a company like PSC there is no room for gaps in a skill set, and at PSC we all work together to share our knowledge and experience. A consultant can be working alone on-site with a client and get stuck on a problem they’ve never seen before. When this happens, we have the back up of the rest of the company to resolve the problem. This can be by scheduling a call to subject matter expert, posting on our internal message board, reading our internal cache of error messages, and more recently contacting our Support Team. Every PSC Consultant will tell you the great feeling they get when a problem is resolved. Of course, subtlety in these situations is crucial and I have found myself doing a quiet lap of victory around an office, or rewarding myself to a celebratory cup of tea on the resolution of a problem without delaying the project. The more problems you resolve as a Consultant, the easier the next problem is to resolve. The more knowledge we share the fewer problems the next person will encounter.
As PSC’s most Northern based Consultant I find myself picking up projects across the North of England. Many PSC Consultants are based around London, across Europe and Australia. For me, when not travelling to a client’s site, this means working from home or calling into the PSC Support Office in Leeds. But it’s not unusual to be working hundreds of miles from colleagues. Tools like Skype for Business become vital to stop you from becoming isolated and prevent colleagues becoming strangers. Ensuring we are all ‘in the loop’ of upcoming projects. If the person you need to speak to is in Australia that means getting up early.
A day in the life of Purple Square Consultant can be challenging and rewarding, but for most of the time it is rewarding because it is challenging.
This year feels like it's been tough, we’ve lost numerous celebrities and media icons that have spanned generations and genres, we’ve had close fought and at times divisive political events both in the UK and US and devastating natural disasters across the world. A quick google search for "was 2016 the worst year ever?" yielded 65.2 million results, the same search for "was 2015 the worst year ever?" gave us a mere 12.9 million search results!
Whilst it's been challenging, 2016 has also been a year of opportunity and growth in a number of areas for myself and Purple Square.
Much of our focus for the year has been spent building, defining and refining our dedicated IBM Marketing support proposition. Working alongside a number of clients and partners, we have created what we believe to be the right combination of customer support requirements, technical expertise and schedule availability to meet most of our existing and future client needs, whilst reducing financial overheads for the ongoing management of their services. I am also delighted that we’ve been able to pull together a broad functional team to drive this forward. (You can see more about our support service here)
Our second big initiative for the year has been to launch our PSC Australia business, and whilst I’m not always excited by the 30 hours of travelling to get to the office in Sydney, I have enjoyed seeing the team engaging with our clients and partners in country. The team has been in place since June and is already developing what I believe will be long term, meaningful relationships with IBM, our business partners and clients in the region.
Some highlights from the rest of the year:
- the team has continued to deliver leading IBM marketing technology implementations for our clients and partners in the UK and Europe.
- I was invited by IBM to co-present the global v10 release webinar, alongside Arjen van der Broek (Senior Product Manager for IBM’s Marketing Technology), we discussed the relative benefits and approach of moving from v8/v9 to v10. (register your interest in our upcoming webinars here)
-we have developed a number of our own standard training courses to meet developing needs of our clients and plugging the gaps of the standard course materials
-following up our ‘world first’ Gold IBM Software Practice Accreditation for IBM Campaign at the end of 2015, this year, PSC consultants became the worlds first recipients of IBM’s Watson Marketing Badges for IBM Campaign and IBM Interact.
-we have even started marketing ourselves, albeit baby steps, with newsletters and other light touch activities.
But it’s not all been about us.
IBM have also made significant changes over the course of the last year both to the technology we work with and the way it’s positioned. The long awaited release of IBM Campaign v10 introduced a much closer integration with IBM Marketing Cloud (formerly Silverpop), enabling user marketing teams to seamlessly communicate over online and offline channels with minimal user involvement. We have already supported a large number of clients to upgrade and migrate from eMessage and expect this to continue into 2017 once the [expected] end of life announcement is made for IBM eMessage.
Underpinning much of the new integration capability is IBM’s Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX). IBM have made a step change in the market, opening up access to the platform for third parties and enabling simpler access to technologies outside of IBM’s own control. Over the last few years we have seen marketing technology purchase decisions pulse between fully integrated single vendor solutions to best-of-breed technologies built in to composite “frankenstacks” and back again. It’s rare for either approach to answer every client need without some level of compromise in either functionality or total cost of ownership as a result of complex integration requirements. The UBX solution significantly reduces this cost, by enabling third parties to create their own “point to UBX” integrations for event and audience syndication, both reducing cost to implement and speed of delivery and best of all it’s free if you have IBM Campaign or IBM Marketing Cloud. (see our UBX overview here)
In the latter part of the year IBM launched “Watson Marketing”, part of the IBM Cognitive Engagement platform. Yes, the incorporation of the Jeopardy winning technology has added significantly to the ability of the marketing tools to think and predict the next approach, but much of the technology is the same. For me the biggest change has been the way in which IBM are talking about their strategy for marketing, the discussion has changed to the core business needs of Campaign Automation, Marketing Insights and Real-time Personalisation and away from the legacy application focus. It’s very early days, but for the first time in a while we can see IBM delivering a consistent cross functional conversation that works for marketers as well as technologists.
I'm sure we're all prepared for 2017, which promises to be equally challenging and interesting.
On that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a prosperous 2017
By Ben North
After the global IBM Amplify event in Tampa earlier this year, the IBM Amplify for Marketing 2016 event in London this week was always going to be a lower-key affair. Having said that, the fact that it was preceded by a day of content specifically for business partners, it actually ended up being an enlightening and valuable way for myself and a number of colleagues at PSC to spend a couple of days.
I was pleased to see that IBM rolled-out the ‘big guns’ for us Europeans as well – Harriet Green OBE, General Manager & VP, IBM Watson, IoT, Commerce and Education; Rusty Warner, Forrester Research Principal Analyst; Jay Henderson (an ex-Unica colleague of mine), Director, IBM Marketing Cloud; and Jeremy Waite, Strategic Marketing Evangelist, not to mention Dara Ó Briain, who was scheduled as the final keynote to ensure as many people as possible stuck around for the full day. Jeremy Waite, who was an enthusiastic master of ceremonies for the day, has also brought a breath of fresh air the previous day with his surprisingly open and honest review of the competitive Marketing Cloud solutions, which was very well received and exactly the sort of content partners like to see. Melanie Butcher (another ex-Unica colleague), User Experience Director, also returned to the stage in a repeat of her Tampa demonstration of Watson (IBM’s cognitive technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data) embedded into IBM’s Marketing Solution. Watson, as it turns out, may finally have found some useful applications in our world…
‘Cognitive’ was a key theme of the Amplify event in Tampa, with talk about how cognitive (understand, reason and learn) computing solutions like Watson are able to unlock the potential in data. This week though the Watson connection was left in no doubt with yet another rebranding exercise for which IBM are becoming notorious – ‘IBM Marketing Solutions’ is dead…long live ‘ Watson Marketing ’! Of course, the underlying solutions are largely un-changed, for today at least, however it is clear that the goal is to embed cognitive capabilities in IBM technology to support marketers wherever possible across the suite. I’m not sure who got there first but Salesforce are also now pitching ‘Salesforce Einstein’ as the artificial intelligence (AI) build into the core of their platform, so this is clearly the direction marketing solutions are heading in. IBM at least have been in the cognitive/AI game for a while already, so my hope is that this enables some cognitive use cases in marketing to become a reality before the hype passes.
Although by IBM’s own admission, this is a work-in-progress and it remains to be seen exactly how Watson will surface in the solutions we know and love (insights, real-time personalisation and content are three areas where we expect to see cognitive capabilities very soon), one thing you can do right now if you want to have a play with the technology is to try the Watson Tone Analyzer . This is a service that uses linguistic analysis to detect and interpret emotions, social tendencies and language style cues found in text. I for one will make a point of analysing any blogs/important emails before I hit publish/send, just to make sure I have the right tone (or at least, haven’t inadvertently set the wrong one!).
Having analysed the four paragraphs above, I’m pleased to report that the overwhelming emotional tone of this blog is JOYFUL, with a probability of 0.74. Room for improvement with my ‘agreeableness’ score though.
By Darren Webb
The last two days highlighted why this is a technical conference.
An excellent presentation on IBM Interact Performance but one that would leave the non-technical among the crowd going a little cross-eyed. The key take away from this is that to take advantage of all the work that has gone on behind the scenes around performance and security you should aim to get onto version 126.96.36.199 as a minimum, with the best possible user experience in version 10 (You will get access to the new API test utilities via the UI). With far too much information to absorb in the single session this is one presentation among many that we are looking forward to getting our hands on - not to say that this isn’t the case with other products but we got the feeling that Interact is in safe hands with this team.
Continuing the Interact theme we also got to look at Interact Event Patterns (Counter, Weighted Counter and Match All) and how these can be used to drive the new IBM Interact Triggered Messaging. Using these two capabilities you can capture a series of events from your inbound channel and once the pattern fires (Events A, B and C all happened) you can push out a real-time offer to another outbound channel (email, SMS etc.). The interface is neat and intuitive to use, as proved in a hands-on lab later in the day. Additionally, you can use the capabilities from IBM Opportunity Detect (aka Advanced Event Patterns) embedded into your Interact implementation you can also time bound the event patterns. I can see this easier to use than Omni Channel Message Orchestrator (OMO) which it replaces.
Another technically-heavy session around REST API’s (including Campaign, Marketing Ops and Interact) that demonstrated how it’s getting easier to integrate third party applications with the IBM Marketing suite. Recent additions have also started to consider the security side of the communication which we know has caused concern in the past with some of our clients.
While we didn’t get a chance to attend sessions around the cloud offerings, we did register our interest with the team on a trip around and how that will shape the future of the IMS/EMM/Marketing (Insert the word Watson as applicable) suite. We did get a chance to speak to the IBM Campaign User Experience Designer as part of our role as a Campaign Sponsor User and will be looking to do the same for Customer Experience analytics. It’s great to be able to take the experience we have with customers to feed back to the IBM product team.
With various other sessions attended and catch-ups with various IBM “colleagues”, business partners and attending customers, it was soon time to jump back onto the buses in smaller teams for a guided run around the Tapas bars of Madrid. I’m personally trying not to think too much about the Pulpo (Octopus)!
On to Friday, and as always with these events, things had started to empty out a bit for the final day and the morning after the night before. It was pleasing then to see a decent audience for the sessions we attended. Credit here to the presenters who pile many hours of effort into their sessions knowing that they are tagged onto the end and may have a limited audience – it is much appreciated.
Special mentions therefore for sessions that showed us how to get those social media channels up and running in Campaign V10 along with the bespoke flowchart process boxes for email, SMS and Push App to Silverpop and a good insight into releasing the potential of your data. One of the key takeaways here for us was the highlighting of the end-point creation facility in the UBX UI so making it easier to hook your own applications into the UBX environment and hence all subscribers to that data (e.g. IBM Campaign or IMC).
It wasn’t long before we were sat on a shuttle bus ready for the airport and the journey back to the UK. With time to reflect we made these observations:
- IBM Marketing Software V10 looks good and performs well, using all the latest browser technology to deliver the best possible user experience
- After concentrating for a long time on integration it seems like the speed of progression on new functionality is picking up all the time
- IBM have definitely got a hold of Unica now – it truly is their product and there’s a lot more to come
- #UBX is going to be central to everything so find out now how it works and how you can make it work for you
- @PurpleSqConsult now have the job of deconstructing this information and working out how to use it to best serve our clients and partners while building on our wide and varied relationships with IBM
- @LearnQuest know how to organise an event and Madrid is a great place to hold it in