Thanks for your time

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It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.”

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

“Jack, did you hear me?”

“Oh sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.

“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him.

“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.

“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.

“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important… Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time.

The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture… Jack stopped suddenly.

“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.

“The box is gone,” he said.

“What box?” Mom asked.

“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most,'” Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

“Mr. Harold Belser” it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside.

“Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

“Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser.”

“The thing he valued most…was…my time.”

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked.

“I need some time to spend with my son,” he said. “Oh, by the way, Janet… thanks for your time!”


Smart marketing in the era of agile commerce – VentureBeat

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Excerpts from the article

Today’s consumers possess more digital devices than ever, which feed them more data than ever and, in turn, fuel more informed and nuanced purchasing decisions. As a result, your marketing efforts need to extend to include all of the points your company interacts with current and potential customers. And those efforts must be executed with sufficient speed to keep pace with the connected consumer.

Ironically, one of the best models for agility and persuasion is found offline, in the world of traditional retailing. Merchandisers at brick-and-mortar chains continually experiment with displays and layouts, offers and messaging, in order to find what works best at each store, then share their findings among stores. This is a continuous process of iterative testing which many websites have yet to match.

Before they can match that real-world agility, website marketers and merchandisers need to create systems and processes that enable quick and efficient action. With that in mind, here are four ways companies can inject agility into their eCommerce operations:

Think beyond multichannel

Act on your analytics

Make agility and speed a corporate imperative

Create a multifaceted/cross-functional team structure

Read the article here


Contributed by Ramya Iyer

5 Traits of the Analytically Empowered Organization – From Clickz

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Clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs)
If the strategy isn’t clear, how can you possibly measure its success? In my experience, defining good, robust KPIs is not an easy task. As a result, KPIs are often not very good. Going through the process forces an organization to think hard about its strategy, define what success looks like, and make a commitment to measurement. If you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it.
Holistic approach to measurement
Ever since the log file was developed, the digital marketing industry has been banging away with its web analytics hammer. The analytical empowered organization understands that it needs a whole toolbox. Web analytics provides some but not all of the answers about digital performance measurement. It’s great for telling you what is going on but even a well-configured web analytics tool (itself a rarity) isn’t very diagnostic. Organizations need to invest in additional quantitative and qualitative data sources to truly understand what is going on and why. Additional investment requirements include voice-of-the-customer feedback on a number of levels (based on visit, page level, and post-experience), ongoing user experience measurement and analysis, site performance tracking, and contextual information about trends in the marketplace.
Integrated data strategy
An organization also needs to understand how all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together. This requires some effort around data definition (what the metrics actually mean) and where different types of data will be housed. In an ideal world, data is integrated around known users but this may not always be appropriate or possible. Different data types have different characteristics, so planning is needed to understand how the different components fit together. For example, some internal data may be on a customer level, but digital data is often based on cookie level data and one customer may use a number of different devices to interact with the organization resulting is a number of different cookie records.
One powerful outcome of data integration is the ability to match behavioral data with data around attitudes and opinions. By integrating web analytics data with voice-of-the-customer data, it’s possible to look at the relationship between what people do in a digital channel and the experience they have. This type of integration gives the organization the ability to measure outputs (things that happen in the channel) and to understand outcomes, which are often the most important things to know.

Investment in “humanware”
Today, analytics teams are taking a more multi-disciplinary approach. As data becomes more integrated, an integrated approach to analysis and insight is needed as well. Web analysts must start working alongside customer insight specialists and user experience experts, sharing their knowledge and expertise.
Ability to execute
Organizations gain a competitive advantage from the application of insight, not by the generation of insight. Insight has no value unless something happens as a result. So the analytically empowered organization has the ability to execute and make decisions. This has implications beyond the immediate concerns of analytical technologies; it also concerns a business’s entire technology landscape. Often, a product or site development process and technology constrain an organization’s ability to affect change. So the analytically empowered organization must develop strategies in technology and processes that enable it to act on its insights.

Read the article here

Contributed by Ramya Iyer

5 real-world uses of big data – Reuters

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Excerpts from the article-
Organizations today are generating more data in a single day than that the entire Internet was generated as recently as 2000. The explosion of “big data”–much of it in complex and unstructured formats–has presented companies with a tremendous opportunity to leverage their data for better business insights through analytics.
Wal-Mart was one of the early pioneers in this field, using predictive analytics to better identify customer preferences on a regional basis and stock their branch locations accordingly. It was an incredibly effective tactic that yielded strong ROI and allowed them to separate themselves from the retail pack. Other industries took notice of Wal-Mart’s tactics — and the success they gleaned from processing and analyzing their data — and began to employ the same tactics.
While data analytics was once considered a competitive advantage, it’s increasingly being seen as a necessity for enterprises–to the point that those that aren’t employing some kind of analytics are seen to be at a competitive disadvantage.
Statistician develops innovative metrics tracking for baseball players, gains widespread recognition and a job with the Boston Red Sox: Bill James (he of Moneyball fame) is a well-known figure in the world of both baseball and statistics at this point, but that has not always been the case. James, a classically trained statistician and avid baseball fan, began publishing research in the early 1970s that took a more quantitative approach to analyzing the performance of baseball players. His work focused on providing specific metrics that could empirically support or refute specific claims about players, be it the amount of runs they contributed to in a given season or how their defensive abilities contributed to or detracted from a team’s success. James’ approach became known as sabermetrics and has since expanded to incorporate a wide range of quantitative analyses for measuring baseball metrics. Over time, sabermetrics has gained wide recognition in baseball to the point that it’s now employed by all 30 Major League Baseball teams for tracking player metrics. In 2003, James was named Senior Advisor of Baseball Operations by the Boston Red Sox, a position he holds to this day.

Medical diagnostics company analyzes millions of lines of data to develop first non-intrusive test for predicting coronary artery disease: CardioDX is a relatively small, Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that performs genomic research. One of their major initiatives over the past several years was developing a predictive test that could identify coronary artery disease in its most nascent stages. To do so, researchers at the company analyzed over 100 million gene samples to ultimately identify the 23 primary predictive genes for coronary artery disease. The resulting test, known as the “Corus CAD Test,” was recognized as on of the “Top Ten Medical Breakthroughs of 2010” by TIME Magazine.

Read the article here

Contributed by Ramya Iyer

Predictive analytics will soon power many decisions, whether we know it or not – From smartplanet

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Joe McKendrick interviews Jason Verlen, director of SPSS Predictive Analytics Product Strategy at IBM, about predictive analytics.

Excerpts from the conversation

“Predictive analytics is looking at data that describes past events in various ways. It could be data about transactions, things that people have bought. It could be data about outreaches, whether or not somebody responded or did not respond to a marketing campaign. It could be data about peoples’ attitudes and opinions in the past. So taking all of those kinds of data, putting them together, and then making predictions about what people will do.

We basically see three key pillars where this technology is applied: consumers, risk, and operations. With consumers, predictive analytics can be applied to gain understanding the behavior of specific people to sell them things that they’ll really get value from.

In risk and fraud, if you’re a financial institution, and you’re offering financial products to customers such as mortgages, you can understand the probability that a mortgage will be paid back. Or, let’s say you’re an insurance company. Some small percentage of claims is fraud. You use technology to figure out which ones are frauds, so you can use your investigative resources more efficiently and take a closer look at those.

In operations, let’s say you’re dealing with a big machine or a tractor. The cost of a breakdown of those kinds of machines that catch you unaware is huge. There are downtime opportunity costs. There’s the time and expense to ship those kinds of parts just in time to repair it. Those are not the kind of parts that you can just put in a UPS truck. What you want to do is predict when things could happen, and act proactively to prevent that kind of negative scenario.”

Read the article here

Contributed by Ramya Iyer

20-simple-ways-to-get-happy — Readers Digest

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Happiness is ephemeral, subject to the vagaries of everything from the weather to the size of your bank account.

We’re not suggesting that you can reach a permanent state called “happiness” and remain there. But there are many ways to swerve off the path of anxiety, anger, frustration, and sadness into a state of happiness once or even several times throughout the day. Here are 20 ideas to get you started. Choose the ones that work for you. If tuning out the news or making lists will serve only to stress you further, try another approach.

1. Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment. Instead of worrying about your checkup tomorrow while you have dinner with your family, focus on the here and now — the food, the company, the conversation.

2. Laugh out loud. Just anticipating a happy, funny event can raise levels of endorphins and other pleasure-inducing hormones and lower production of stress hormones. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, tested 16 men who all agreed they thought a certain videotape was funny. Half were told three days in advance they would watch it. They started experiencing biological changes right away. When they actually watched the video, their levels of stress hormones dropped significantly, while their endorphin levels rose 27 percent and their growth hormone levels (indicating benefit to the immune system) rose 87 percent.

3. Go to sleep. We have become a nation of sleep-deprived citizens. Taking a daily nap or getting into bed at 8 p.m. one night with a good book — and turning the light out an hour later — can do more for your mood and outlook on life than any number of bubble baths or massages.

4. Hum along. Music soothes more than the savage beast. Studies find music activates parts of the brain that produce happiness — the same parts activated by food or sex. It’s also relaxing. In one study older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates, blood pressure, and cardiac workload (that is, their heart didn’t have to work as hard) as those who had silent surgery.

5. Declutter. It’s nearly impossible to meditate, breathe deeply, or simply relax when every surface is covered with papers and bills and magazines, your cabinets bulge, and you haven’t balanced your checkbook in six months. Plus, the repetitive nature of certain cleaning tasks — such as sweeping, wiping, and scrubbing — can be meditative in and of itself if you focus on what you’re doing.

6. Just say no. Eliminate activities that aren’t necessary and that you don’t enjoy. If there are enough people already to handle the church bazaar and you’re feeling stressed by the thought of running the committee for yet another year, step down and let someone else handle things.

7. Make a list. There’s nothing like writing down your tasks to help you organize your thoughts and calm your anxiety. Checking off each item provides a great sense of fulfillment.

8. Do one thing at a time. Edward Suarez, Ph.D., associate professor of medical psychology at Duke, found that people who multitask are more likely to have high blood pressure. Take that finding to heart. Instead of talking on the phone while you fold laundry or clean the kitchen, sit down in a comfortable chair and turn your entire attention over to the conversation. Instead of checking e-mail as you work on other projects, turn off your e-mail function until you finish the report you’re writing. This is similar to the concept of mindfulness.

9. Garden. Not only will the fresh air and exercise provide their own stress reduction and feeling of well-being, but the sense of accomplishment that comes from clearing a weedy patch, watching seeds turn into flowers, or pruning out dead wood will last for hours, if not days.

10. Tune out the news. For one week go without reading the newspaper, watching the news, or scanning the headlines online. Instead, take a vacation from the misery we’re exposed to every day via the media and use that time for a walk, a meditation session, or to write in your journal.
11. Take a dog for a walk. There are numerous studies that attest to the stress-relieving benefits of pets. In one analysis researchers evaluated the heart health of 240 couples, half of whom owned a pet. Those couples with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels when exposed to stressors than the couples who did not have pets. In fact, the pets worked even better at buffering stress than the spouses did.

12. Scent the air. Research finds that the benefits of aromatherapy in relieving stress are real. In one study people exposed to rosemary had lower anxiety levels, increased alertness, and performed math computations faster. Adults exposed to lavender showed an increase in the type of brain waves that suggest increased relaxation. Today you have a variety of room-scenting methods, from plug-in air fresheners to essential oil diffusers, potpourri, and scented candles.

13. Ignore the stock market. Simply getting your quarterly 401(k) statement can be enough to send your blood pressure skyrocketing. In fact, Chinese researchers found a direct link between the daily performance of the stock market and the mental health of those who closely followed it. Astute investors know that time heals most financial wounds, so give your investments time — and give yourself a break.

14. Visit a quiet place. Libraries, museums, gardens, and places of worship provide islands of peace and calm in today’s frantic world. Find a quiet place near your house and make it your secret getaway.

15. Volunteer. Helping others enables you to put your own problems into perspective and also provides social interaction. While happy people are more likely to help others, helping others increases your happiness. One study found that volunteer work enhanced all six aspects of well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression.

16. Spend time alone. Although relationships are one of the best antidotes to stress, sometimes you need time alone to recharge and reflect. Take yourself out to lunch or to a movie, or simply spend an afternoon reading, browsing in a bookstore, or antiquing.

17. Walk mindfully. You probably already know that exercise is better than tranquilizers for relieving anxiety and stress. But what you do with your mind while you’re walking can make your walk even more beneficial. In a study called the Ruth Stricker Mind/Body Study, researchers divided 135 people into five groups of walkers for 16 weeks. Group one walked briskly, group two at a slow pace, and group three at a slow pace while practicing “mindfulness,” a mental technique to bring about the relaxation response, a physiological response in which the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. This group was asked to pay attention to their footsteps, counting one, two, one, two, and to visualize the numbers in their mind. Group four practiced a form of tai chi, and group five served as the control, changing nothing about their lives. The group practicing mindfulness showed significant declines in anxiety and had fewer negative and more positive feelings about themselves. Overall they experienced the same stress-reducing effects of the brisk walkers. Better yet, the effects were evident immediately.

18. Give priority to close relationships. One study of more than 1,300 men and women of various ages found that those who had a lot of supportive friends were much more likely to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar metabolism, and stress hormone levels than those with two or fewer close friends. Women, and to a lesser extent men, also seemed to benefit from good relationships with their parents and spouses. Studies also find that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are three to five times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have feelings of love, connection, and community.

19. Take care of the soul. In study after study, actively religious people are happier and cope better with crises, according to David Myers, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. For many people faith provides a support community, a sense of life’s meaning, feelings of ultimate acceptance, a reason to focus beyond yourself, and a timeless perspective on life’s woes. Even if you’re not religious, a strong spirituality may offer similar benefits.

20. Count your blessings. People who pause each day to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (their health, friends, family, freedom, education, etc.) experience a heightened sense of well-being.

Contributed by Ramya Iyer

How is mobile technology redefining the customer relationship? —

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A fantastic round-table discussion on how mobile technology is redefining the customer relationship.

Excerpts from the article:

I think one of the most compelling things about mobile is the way we have access to data. Having the new devices that have come out, they are connected, they have location and they have access to CRM systems. You combine those and you have the ability to know information about your customer. Get routing information and have real-time access to anything that is going on with them, not just the CRM database, but in any of the other social feeds.
We really see mobile, social and local coming together to change the customer experience and to enhance how businesses deal with customers, and what kind of information they have.

I think tablets in particular seem to be really transforming the way that organisations can begin to reach their customers

 There is no question the privacy issue is huge, whether it is Facebook, NFC or again, even that user that is leveraging their own device for the company. There is lot of implications there and Maribel has a good point about where those boundaries are. Unfortunately in some of these cases, it could be a catastrophic boundary. We have already seen examples of mobile malware that have come in and really changed the way – because we are doing so much on our phones. We are quick to say accept and yes, yes, yes and move forward on our devices. There will be increasing payment exchanges from not only person-to-person, but person to other equipment and other companies that will have lots of opportunities for malicious activity there. Again, there has been a lot that has gone on already. But nothing huge and until that sort of catastrophic front page, New York Times comes about, people don’t get to excited or worried about it. Unfortunately, it may take something large and I think there has been lots going on in the none-mobile world, whether its laptops or hacking of various websites and getting contact information that is pretty private.”

Contributed by Anand Siva

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