First, it was the Scandinavian-style Smorgasbord. Later, it was Old Country Buffet.
My parents were immigrants who grew up in a time and place where starvation was a reality. Naturally, all-you-can-eat restaurants seemed like one of America's Greatest Wonders.
When I was in elementary school, we would drive into the Big City (Minneapolis) and chow down at Valhalla or Asgard or whatever it was called. The horned Viking helmets and swords mounted on the wall provided the authenticity that the food lacked. After that closed down, we'd amble over to the Old Country Buffet in my suburb, where we'd partake of its endless hot dishes and gluey pies and puddings.
The thing was, even as a skinny teenager who could pack away five squares of lasagna after two hours of tennis, I can't remember ever really enjoying buffets. It wasn't because the food was mediocre - it was, though it seemed like a major upgrade to me compared to my school cafeteria and its recycled meat dishes (Turketti or Sloppy Joes, anyone?).
Rather, we always seemed to go to buffets when it was my parents who were hungry, not me. And the indifferent presentation of overwhelming amounts of unrelated food - egg rolls next to prime rib next to jello - did nothing to jumpstart my appetite even back then. Maybe my parents were right - I was an ungrateful wretch who took things for granted.
This is the same risk for enterprises and workers going mobile today. Mobile devices are giving us access to information anytime, anywhere. Just like buffet restaurants, that is an economic and technological miracle. We shouldn't dismiss or take that for granted.
Except that very soon, we will. You know how human nature is - we're easily spoiled. It's not just that. When data is over-abundant, it becomes like e-mail spam, an irritation that interferes with - rather than helps - our thinking or productivity.
And data IS over-abundant, has been for years. Did you know they coined the term Information Overload 42 years ago?
Here's the book to prove it.
Turns out that data, just like food, is less valuable to the consumer when presented as an overwhelming buffet. It is MORE valuable when it's presented:
- in manageable, high-quality portions;
- in the right context;
- using the right interface;
- at the right-time.
That's where mobile and Big Data can combine to become a powerful duo and provide subtle Right-Time Experiences instead of crude Real-Time ones.
This is something independent analyst Maribel Lopez has been arguing consistently this year, and it was the thesis of her illuminating keynote at a seminar last week hosted by SAP in Palo Alto. Other speakers included Sanjay Poonen, SAP President and Corporate Officer, Swen Carlson, senior director on the SAP Hana team, Vishy Gopalakrishnan, vice-president for SAP's Mobility Center of Excellence and others.
(Check out the Twitter conversation here).
Some examples of Right-Time Experiences include:
- Tesco is testing a virtual grocery store at Gatwick Airport in London. Passengers stuck in an airport terminal with dead time can buy items that will be delivered right when they get back from vacation. Using their smartphones and tablets, passengers simply take pictures of the item's barcode to fill their grocery cart that will be delivered up to 3 weeks away.
- General Electric uses tiny sensors to collect data about vibrations, weather, breakdowns, etc. on its gas turbines in the field. That data - 50 terabytes in just 3 minutes! - is analyzed for patterns to help anticipate when repairs might be needed, so as to prepare field technicians. Those techs are then armed with the relevant build and maintenance records, along with access to an up-to-date spare parts inventory.
- BigPoint is a German provider of online games, including its most popular, BattleStar Galactica Online, with 9 million registered players. The game is mostly free to play. BigPoint tries to make money by offering digital goods to players. Using SAP Hana to analyze where players are in the game, BigPoint is delivering better offers to the right players at the Right Time. It hopes to boost its topline revenue 10-30% as a result.
- Don't you hate it when you're roaming the aisles of a Big Box retailer and either can't find an employee or can't find one who can actually help? Lowe's is trying to fix that by arming its 42,000 employees with iPhones and apps to help check on inventory status as well as let you pay for your purchases right there and avoid the cash register lineups.
If you want to learn more about your company can accomplish things in Right-Time, register for the October 4th Webinar presented by two of the same experts from last week's event, Lopez and Gopalakrishnan.