Bots: Next big opportunity for brands to engage with customer

I have been using Google Now since a long time and really like it. It’s become like a personal assistant to me – for taking notes, reminding me of events, or simply finding answers to anything. Although it’s great, it does not solve all the information that I’d be looking for on regular basis. For e.g. “knowing how many subscriptions I have on monthly basis”, or “finding out the best Thai restaurant in downtown Boston”, “for making dinner reservation”, etc – I am forced to open up other apps like my banking, yelp, etc to get the best information or recommendations.

Bots are essentially trying to solve this problem of servicing customer with any information that he wants in a conversational manner vs. opening different apps.

Bot is basically a platform with simple conversational user interface. It connects to a number of data sources via APIs so it can deliver information or services on demand, such as financial news, weather forecasts, breaking news, etc. They  are also called Smart bots, AI Bots, or Chat bots.


With mobile apps hitting the ceiling, many developers and companies are eyeing the “bots” as the next big thing to engage with user and potentially make money down the road.

Tech companies lead Bots revolution

Most of the tech companies are already on bandwagon – Facebook M, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortona and Amazon Alexa. Massive improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by companies like IBM, Facebook, Google have bots a great kick-start. That AI enables computers to process language — and actually converse with humans — in ways they never could before. Few notables that have made headlines in recent past include –

  1. Telegram’s Chat Bot is very famous with over 100 million+ active users. Even though companies like Forbes, and others have set up bot services, Telegram doesn’t do much of advertising. Bit of a surprise to me.
  2. Trim, an AI for your financial life, raises $2.2million for its “Personal Finance Bot””: Imagine texting a bot, “how much am I paying for subscription services right now?” and receiving a list of your Amazon, Netflix, Pandora and Gym accounts with corresponding costs immediately. That’s the kind of bot that this company is developing for banking – pretty cool!
  3. Chatbots obviously lend themselves well to communication platforms, no wonder Slack is popular. There is a Slack bot for practically everything.
  4. Taco Bell’s bot that allows you to order and pay for tacos through an automated chat conversation.

Google has been silent on bots to date. With the amount of data they are sitting on, it’s only a matter of time, Google with come up with something revolutionary!

How do you build bots?

Bots are easy to build in short timeframe. There are plenty of tools and frameworks available for developers. Initially, it could be handwritten rules, followed by machine learning, which requires a massive amount of streaming data and the system learns on its own.

Pandorabots is an open-source web service for building and deploying chatbots.

Bots will have an impact on users and potentially increase productivity

1.Bots will take over our lives: I feel, sooner or later, bots will become integrated into our lives and will take over a lot of mundane activities like reading news upfront when you wake up, checking on your social media platform updates, checking weather, checking school opening delays, traffic updates, paying bills, ordering stuff, scheduling work, etc. Instead of you checking, bots will proactively inform and execute what is important for you, based off habits, behaviour, interests, financial situation, etc. Talk about “no click” era.

2. Less Apps, More Bots: Developers will shift from making apps to writing bots. In the next 2-3 years, I feel we shall see hundreds and thousands of bots literally serving all aspects of human life. With Internet of Things (IoT) innovations, I am excited to see how bots will transform our lives in years to come!

3. Greater Brand recognition for companies: Engaging with user in the context of his/her  current experience. E.g. For instance, if the shopper is waiting for a package to arrive, user can ask bot. If the shopper wants to complain about something, they have an immediate channel to write their complaint and the bot will be trained to respond immediately, or escalate the issue to a human rep. Additionally, chat does not have to be text only, bots can add rich media engaging user in up sell or cross-sell opportunities.

What is the Business viability for Bots?

Although monetary value of bots is still being debated, developers and companies see that as a non-issues for now. Getting users hooked onto bots is the first step, dollars will automatically pour in if the bots adds value.

  1. If you replace humans with bots, then it’s cost savings.
  2. Revenue opportunities could come from subscription fee, commerce offerings, advertising, etc.

Get ready for BOTS REVOLUTION. They are coming!


“Subscription based economy” – Emerging model for business?

You might have seen the news – Unilever acquires Dollar Shave Club for $1B dollars. Who knew this was coming?

All of us are accustomed to Netflix, newspapers and magazine subscriptions, software based subscription models, and a few other subscription based service, but there are plenty of companies getting to subscription business. Enter Subscription Economy – It is here! A few key subscription players are listed below –

  1. P&G starts Online Subscription Service for Tide Pods
  2. Starbucks Coffee subscription for $19/month
  3. Play! by Sephora
  4. Birchbox Beauty for $10/month
  5. GlossyBox Beauty for $21/month
  6. Macy’s beauty based subscription box for $9.99 a month
  7. Graze snacks for $11.99 each
  8. Themed collectibles for Gamers, generally <$20/month
  9. Rent the Runway for $139
  10. Adidas Avenue A delivers a selection of workout clothes and accessories for $150/quarter
  11. Amazon Dash buttons are available for 29 different brands, representing over 500 products.(Amazon Dash for Gum? For the life of me, I cannot figure this out)

In total, 185+ companies and counting …. Subscription to something in the physical world is getting exciting!

How big is the market?

The subscription commerce market has seen rapid growth over the last few years.
Subscription box - interest over time

Visits to top subscription box sites have exploded in just over 2 years. 700,000 monthly visitors to 21.4 million monthly visitors.

HITWISE sub-box-chart1

Why are customers getting onboard?

  1. Convenience – set it and forget it.
  2. Choice by experts E.g. in case of Starbucks, let the experts pick coffee of the month; In case of Rent a Runway, you get to wear expensive gowns for a lot less
  3. Price. It’s easier to shell out $10 per month, rather than going to store and spending $50-$100 or more.
  4. Lastly, Curiosity – it’s an interesting concept, why wouldn’t you want to try

Subscription model benefits companies and customers mutually

1. For Companies / Brands:

  • Eliminate middleman i.e. retailers and participate in “Direct-to-Consumer” play. Helps companies to engage with customer one-on-one
  • Cost efficient
  • It provides recurring revenue model for brands

2. For Customers:

  • Flexibility of not having to own the products with pay as you go model

Subscription Model will eventually disrupt traditional business models

In this age, when brands are heavily focused on customer experiences, subscription based model provide a mechanism to build positive relationship with customers on regular basis rather than sell and forget as in traditional model. Brands can truly personalize and customize the product + up-sell/cross-sell to customer at individual level. A great opportunity for marketers!

I am bullish on the growth of the subscription economy, and believe there are lots of untapped industries that will also jump on the bandwagon. The way we consume food, what we wear, way we watch movies, listen to music, drive cars, take vacation, etc is all changing. Consumer is undergoing a total transformation himself.

What do you think is next for the subscription box industry? How will this change the traditional business model for companies?

Don’t just look at Technology for New Product Development, process is equally important

Have you looked at Marketing Technology landscape, Digital Advertising landscape, Payments landscape, Social Media landscape lately? The number of companies developing new products is rising at alarming rate. Companies that are hugely successful are marked by 2 key qualities – great products with intense “market focus” and “customer focus“.

Product development, also called, New Product Development (NPD) is the process of creating new products to the market.

It has become an imperative for companies to innovate leveraging advances in technology to create new products, fill the gaps in market, and gain competitive advantage. Matter of fact, silicon valley, lives and breathes NPD.

New products are an organization’s most important source of revenue. New products bring in higher sales, increased customer loyalty, and ultimately higher profits.

NPD is a usually a 3-step process

There are a lot of strategic, planning and financial considerations for bringing new product to market. At a high level, it’s a 3-step process:

product development

Note that during first 2 phases, investments need to be made to develop products through launch, when it starts generating revenue. That’s why the business case development is so important during planning phase – it helps us understand what is the break even point, when the product will start generating revenues, etc.

Organizations such as the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) and the Product Development Institute (PDI) provide guidance about selecting the best development framework for a new product or service. Design Thinking is another mechanism to create new products.

1. Product Planning

  1. Idea generation – could be brainstorming sessions, market research & analysis, competitor analysis, SWOT analysis, etc.
  2. Concept Development and Testing – Initial POC and focus group testing with actual customers to get their feedback. Read SPRINT on how to solve big problems and test new ideas in 5 days.
  3. Develop business case – All ideas need to make sense from customer, operations, financial, risk, company strategy and brand considerations perspective. The next step is developing a business case which must include at least –
    • detailed marketing strategy highlighting the target market
    • detailed sales strategy
    • product positioning and the marketing mix that will be used
    • a full appraisal of the costs
    • competition
    • identification of a break-even point, etc. If the business case is not viable, go back to drawing board.

2. Product Development and Launch

  1. Core Development – user personas, designs, and running all kinds of tests
  2. Beta Testing – testing the developed product with real customers and incorporating their feedback.
  3. Commercialization –  making the product available to the customer base at large and launching a marketing effort to support it.

3. Product Maintenance and Support

  1. Product Rationalization – continuous evaluation of product i.e. cost benefit analysis, to see if product should be enhanced with additional features, augment with new technology to realize additional benefits, retired (end of life), etc.

So, what makes certain products successful?

There are many elements, but I’ll point to few key factors –

  1. Company Culture – Encouraging everyone to come up with Innovative ideas, encouraging risk taking
  2. Leadership commitment – to digital, disruptive technologies
  3. Great understanding of customers, market and competitors
  4. Agility and Collaboration – iterative, working fast, and working together across other departments

Remember, NPD must be collaborative, iterative and innovative. During the course of NPD, errors will be made, business cases will have to be rewritten, designs will get trashed, loss could be recorded, etc. Having your entire team working and supporting each other in tight synchronicity will ensure the successful launch of goods or services.

Best selling products of all time!

Best products, as defined by those that have generated highest sales in their category –

  1. Toyota (>40M since 1996),
  2. Lipitor (>141B since 1996)
  3. iPad (>225M sold since 2010)
  4. iPhone (>700M sold since 2007)
  5. Playstation (350M consoles sold since 1995)
  6. Marios Bros (>240M games)
  7. Coke (1.8B servings daily)
  8. Angry Birds (> 2B downloads), etc.


NPD is an essential activity for all businesses. It helps organizations stay ahead of the competition. NPD very often requires long-term forecasting of market trends, development of new designs and processes, and substantial capital commitment.  How do you turn a “capital intensive” organization to “talent intensive” organization is the question that every organization should be thinking about.


How do you select right projects for investments?

Every LOB managers line up a series of projects during annual budget cycle. Ideas coming from all departments are great but given the budget constraints, organizations can only execute so many ideas. So, how does one go about selecting projects for investments?

Some projects like regulatory, compliance, safety/security, etc., have to be implemented whether they meet business case or not. For most projects, Project Selection & Prioritization Process includes the following basic steps –


  • Does the project align well with company vision, goals/objectives and strategies?

If it doesn’t, drop the idea right here.


Financial metrics are important to ensure that the investment you are proposing will provide a required return with appropriate risk exposure. Top 5 metrics that I have always seen in business cases include –

  • Net Present Value (NPV) – NPV is used to analyze projects’ profitability. A positive NPV indicates that the projected earnings generated by a project or investment exceeds the anticipated costs.
  • Payback Period  – The payback period is the length of time required to recover the cost of an investment. Shorter payback period desirable
  • Internal Rate of Return (IRR) – IRR is used to evaluate the attractiveness of a project or investment. Higher the IRR, the better.
  • Opportunity Costs (the opportunity cost of a resource is the value of the net cash flow that could be derived from it if it were put to its best alternative use)
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – a gauge of investments profitability

value vs. riskA plotting of project on Value / Risk scale. Value could be NPV or any other metrics that organizations uses to value projects.




Project Prioritization is required to rank projects for execution. The criteria for ranking them is highly subjective e.g. some firms many value financial metrics more and may have higher weightage, others may value investment types more, etc. Each organization will have a different model for how its projects create value and, therefore, will want to use different metrics. There is no one set of project metrics that works for every organization.

project investments types

Another factor to keep in mind: Sr. Management very often have a good idea in terms of how much investments should go for innovation vs. maintenance, etc. So, picking a right mix of “strategic investments”(Growth, Innovation) and “operational investments” (Maintenance, Productivity) is critical.

E.g. For 2017, mix could be 75% productivity; 10% maintenance; 10% growth; 5% innovation
……….. moving to ……
2018, mix could be 70% productivity; 10% maintenance; 15% growth; 10% innovation
………..  moving to …..
2019, mix could be 55% productivity; 10% maintenance; 25% growth; 15% innovation, etc.
In this example, focus is on cost reduction (i.e. with productivity gains), with progressive elaboration on innovation and growth.

The following diagram shows an example of a weighted attribute project selection process.

project scoring criteria

….. and plotted on scale again. Note that size of bubble indicates the total investments and color indicates the investment type. This chart can then be used to guide decisions.

prioritized projects


Formally document the project approval process via project charter, which is provides the basis for project execution. The Project Charter is a key document and communication tool that describes the customers, problem, goal, scope, business case, milestones, budget allocated and team composition.

So, what can be done to improve the process further?

Managing investments and project portfolio is critical. Few questions to ask –

  1. Does your organization have a rigorous process for investing in right projects as part of PPM methodology?
  2. Does your organization involve Program Manager and PMs during project selection process?
  3. Does your organization feed the output from project selection in writing project charters? In other words, does business case translate to project charter?
  4. How often do leaders meet to review projects and investments? (Hint: Moving from annual to bi-annual review process helps bring innovative ideas faster to market and helps kill projects that are adding no value)
  5. What is the target investment mix for your organization today? How does that fare to competitors or disruptors?

Its time to start asking right questions and select projects that further the organizations goals.

How to organize and write effective Business Requirements

47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management. (Source: PMI)

Only half of organizations (49 percent) report that they have the necessary resources in place to properly perform requirements management, leaving the other half of organizations lacking resources (Source: PMI)

One in six IT projects have an average cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of 70%. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

Mind boggling statistics.  Poor requirements analysis causes many of these failures, meaning projects are doomed right from the start. Yet, companies are not paying enough attention to one of the most important areas of project – requirements management!

How do you effectively write business requirements?

First, Identify/review few key projects artifacts

Writing effective business requirements is a CSF on a project. There are several considerations for BA at the onset of requirements gathering –

1.IDENTIFY STAKEHOLDERS – Clearly identify audience and stakeholders for requirements gathering – a proper representation across LOBs like Business, IT, Marketing, Operations, QA should be included from the onset. Use RACI Chart

2.REVIEW PROJECT CHARTER – Review business case, project vision, high-level scope, timelines, budget, risks and assumptions (Project Charter should provide this information)

3.DEFINE PROCESS – Define requirements managements process i.e. how requirements will be gathered, documented, reviewed and signed-off. Discuss tools that will be leveraged. Define and implement change control process.

Next, Start developing requirements

4.USE STAKEHOLDER TERMINOLOGY – Develop glossary of terms

5.START WITH BIG PICTURE – Start with big picture view, in other words, a birds-eye view of business processes, functional areas and technical scope.

effective business requirements approach

6.ORGANIZE REQUIREMENTS – by categories and sub-categories

7.PRIORITIZE REQUIREMENTS – Not all requirements are created equal. Develop a methodology to prioritize requirements, something along the lines of –

  • Business Priority – Critical / must-have / good-to-have
  • Technical Feasibility – Very complex to implement/ Moderate / Easy to implement

That’s it. I hope this provides a good guidance for BA’s to write effective requirements which will later be consumed by technology team for design and development..

Have I missed anything? Please chime in with your comments.

How well do you understand the strategic elements of your project?

Strategy and TacticsStrategy, Execution, tactics, goals, etc – how does this all fit together? I encounter this question every now and then. I’ll explain this in one-liners.

The order is intentional because one feeds the other, macro to micro. Also, illustrated with a hypothetical example.

1.MISSION – What does the company stand for?

2. VISION – Where does the company want to be in future? Always, think 3-5 years down the road. Big, important things here. E.g. To make DHL the largest delivery company in USA

3. GOALS – they are the translation of the vision and answer “what do we want to do?” It is helpful to organize the goals under broader labels, e.g.  Product Design & Development, Financial, Branding, Marketing, etc. Some common business goals are, increase profit, improve customer loyalty, create brand presence in Europe, etc. E.g: Increase top line revenue, Increase volume, improve brand (company-image)

4. OBJECTIVES – are quantifiable metrics that show progress toward stated goals.  Objectives are specific, measurable, and have a defined completion date. E.g. Some objectives could be maximize time delivering packages, deliver more packages per stop, deliver grocery along-with packages, minimize downtime, contribute to community activities, etc. 

5. STRATEGY – How to achieve an objective or a goal? E.g. some strategies to achieve objective could be – optimize delivery time and routes; create partnerships with grocery vendors; group deliveries, etc

6. EXECUTION – How do you deliver on the strategy? E.g. Run a marketing campaign to showcase that DHL is more than fastest package delivery company. DHL can now deliver grocery! 

7. TACTICS – These are actions/activities taken to achieved stated objective. E.g. deliver between 7-9 AM; deliver both sides of road in one-go, allow customers to drop off packages at grocery stores, etc.

If you want to explore more, read mission, vision statements for Coca ColaGoogle, Apple. Few other examples here.

Treat these as living documents and refine during every offsite Strategy Review sessions (or as needed)

Except for company’s mission which does not change that often, all other statements should be treated as “living documents” that are changed as the needs of the business change. It is not one time creation to be stored in a safe place. If you don’t use them, you have wasted your time.

While on project …. ASK

It’s always good to introduce clients to this terminology before beginning of any strategy engagement to ensure alignment. Better yet, I’d paste it to the wall through the duration of strategy sessions.

Also, while on project, it’s always good to ask  your clients about projects’ stated goals and objectives. If you don’t know them, how do you know if you have been working on the right projects?


BPM: A key step towards Process Digitization, in turn, aiding Digital Transformation

BPM“Digital” and “Customer-centricity” has been key agenda items for many organizations nowadays. Broadly speaking, digital transformation entails 3 aspects (a) Greatly improving customer experience (b) process digitization and (c) rethinking/recreating new business models. Majority of the firms are focusing on (a) and (b).

Companies must tackle customer experience and process automation together to be able to leap-frog in digital transformation.

Part of process digitization is automating the existing business processes and gaining efficiencies. That’s where Business Process Management (BPM) comes in.

BPM is ….

… end-to-end business process improvement leveraging technology, innovation and human capital. BPM is not a product or service that you buy, it is something you do.

BPM strives to enable partnership between business, marketing, sales, operations, IT, customer service, product development, etc. – basically, all aspects of business, for better customer outcomes and operational agility. BPM enables an organization to develop business processes as “reusable assets” that can be leveraged partially or in whole, similar to enterprise data.

Why now? What are the current business process issues?

Big organizations have processes and applications that were built over a decade ago. Since then add-on functionalities have been patched over years. So, this has caused several problems –

  • Business Processes are poorly defined or understood within organizations, impeding visibility and strategic planning.
  • Metrics and KPIs are often very hard to measure, thereby limiting good decision-making
  • Business Processes are inconsistent across organizational or geographical silos.
  • Changes to the business strategy take too long to realize. Changes too hard to implement in business process and takes several weeks to months
  • Existing business processes and underlying systems restrict the business from innovating or creating market differentiation.
  • Lack of alignment of Business Processes with strategic goals and objectives
  • Business Processes involve unnecessary delays: due to manually intensive tasks, inefficient and/or redundant steps, or restrictions due to governance/ technology / organization.

If organization need to innovate, they must redesign business processes and adapt “Build once, leverage many times” mantra.

By 2017, 70 percent of successful digital business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift with customers’ needs (Source: Gartner)

Deliberately unstable processes are designed for change and can dynamically adjust to customers’ needs.

BPM is “Internal” process improvement (not External)

Digital transformation can be looked at from two lens – from eyes of customer (external) and internal. BPM is internal part and provides all the capabilities to enable cool external features for end customers like blending digital+physical worlds, IoT, sensors, smart phone apps, wearables etc.

A few Business use cases that can be addressed by BPM

I’ll list some use cases as food for thought. It is recommended to pick use cases / business process that have high value and high impact, for BPM projects.

  1. Usecase 1: How to? New business initiatives and innovation, Time to market, Agility, etc
    • Answer: With BPM, you can simulate “what-if” scenarios. With process simulation, you can do cost-benefit analysis on processes well before the processes are implemented.
  2. Usecase 2: How to? Gaining operational efficiency
    • Answer: Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) provides end-to-end process view of all costs and throughput (people and technology); BPM enables monitoring compliance of key processes.
  3. Usecase 3: How to? Process standardization across geographies for ‘Performance management’
    • Answer: BPM can help define consistent and global definition of processes (centralizing business process and business rules) along-with ways to standardized KPIs for measuring performance. BPM helps move from paper-based processing to automated workflow.


You may ask – I am focused on building customer experience, so, how important is BPM for me?  Very important, it’s like 2 sides of same coin.  BPM is the like the foundation to a house…. and the orchestration of the digital enterprise.  You can only enable great customer experiences provided underlying processes and technology is robust. Key point being that technology, marketing and business are now one entity in their delivery of value into digital age. All organization must  recognize “process as core business asset”.

Being relevant today requires increasing focus on customer focus, innovation and speed-to-market. BPM is a core requirement for the Digital Enterprise. BPM market is expected to grow from $3.4 billion to $10 billion by 2020 – a huge opportunity for consulting firms.

What do you think? Is your organization undertaking BPM effort and if so, what success has it seen so far? Please chime in with your thoughts.

CLV: One key metric that every company must measure

Customer Lifetime ValueIn this digital and customer-centric age, organizations must change their strategy from “product-focus” to “customer-focus” to engage and retain customers. Understanding customers and knowing the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) has become very important for all companies, especially B2C. But, very few companies truly know their CLV.

Just 42% of companies are able to measure customer lifetime value (Source: eConsultancy)

Other companies have challenges to calculate CLV because there are so many different parameters and demographic and macro influences that will shape the calculation process. It’s time for remaining 58% to catchup.

The importance of calculating CLV is becoming more and more clear, especially as web profitability metrics shift priorities from page views to engagement.

CLV should be one of the measures driving Marketing Strategy …

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is projected amount of revenue a customer will generate over their lifetime doing business with your company.

Many start-ups die because they underestimate the cost to acquire new customers and very often cost to acquire new customers > monetization (CLV). Why is this? Startups are so focused on transactional cost of acquiring customers but pay little attention to invest in customer experience and service after the conversion.

Let’s say, you launched and new product and is doing awesome – great sales, great PR, etc. Now, you want to scale up your acquisitions efforts by running marketing campaigns. The question is – how much should the Marketing/Sales dept spend for campaigns? Which customer segments? How much should my Customer Service dept spend on servicing customers? What products should I offer? etc. CLV answers such questions.

All Marketers focus on “Lead Generation”, which is important. But many CMOs have no idea on how much is the lead worth. When you have a definitive CLV and understand your lead-to-customer conversion rate you know exactly how much a lead is worth, and how much you should be willing to spend on new leads – in turn help marketers tweak customer acquisition strategy.

CMOs must ensure that every product has CLV number attached to it

Let’s take an simple example  – Let’s apply this first step to one of the hottest subscription services out there: Dollar Shave Club. A subscription is $9/mo. In return, customers receive 4 replacement cartridges per box. How much should Marketing spend to acquire a new customer? Let’s find out.

  • CLV = (Average Order Value) x (Number of Repeat Sales) x (Average Retention Time). Pls note that this is simplest formula. There are other variables that I have not factored to this calculation.
  • CLV = $9 * 12 months * 5 years  = $540
  • This means that user acquired today would be expected to generate revenue of $540 over next 5 yrs, OR  $180 per year.  If company wants to break-even within a year, company can afford to spend up to $180 on marketing/sales to acquire a user i.e. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) = $180

If CAC is known,

  • CLV = average revenue from customer/year * average retention rate – CAC.

Two things to keep in mind – (a) CLV > CAC; and (b) CAC should be recovered in about a year.

CLV for some Fortune 500 companies

Many companies do not release CLV information as this could give competitors advantage to their strategy. So, we can only go by analysts calculations and a few industry reports.

  • Apple: iPhone = $700 to $900; Mac = $600 to $650; iPad = $275 to $300 (Bernstein)
  • eCommerce companies: Best in class = $3600; Other companies = $1300 (RJMetrics)
  • Starbucks, supposedly, has CLV of ~25K. Read on for Starbucks CLV analysis.
  • Netflix = $291.25


Understanding CLV specific to individual/segmented customers can help marketers target specific product/content. Customer’s happiness = success for brand -> more revenue for company.

Do you know you CAC and CLV?

Blockchain Use Cases are exploding across non-financial industries

BlockchainFinancial and non-financial industry is buzzing about Blockchain. It is arguably the most disruptive and the most important discoveries of our age.


Blockchain is a shared database or ledger technology for managing and recording transactions with no middle-man (or intermediaries)

Think of Block chain as giant digital spreadsheets shared by everyone in a decentralized network.

Blockchain = Distributed Ledger. The ledger can only be changed when there is a consensus among the group. That makes them more secure, and it means there’s no need for a central authority to approve transactions.

Blockchain is not Bitcoin. It is technology behind Bitcoin.

A few “BLOCKCHAIN USE CASES” across industries

  1. HOTELS: Everyone knows Airbnb, $65 billion dollar startup. But it now has a competitor in Slock, which is eliminating middle-man leveraging blockchain allowing renters to use their smartphones to lock and unlock apartments. Great concept leveraging smart contract (a feature of “Bitcoin 2.0” technologies such as Ethereum), check out here. It’s only a matter of time when hotels chains will replace front-desk with robots and blockchain for all transactions.  The key difference between Airbnb and Slack is that Airbnb has intermediary and Slock does not.
  2. FINANCIAL: P2P payments Circle uses blockchain to send money anywhere, in any currency, without the friction (transfer delays and fees) of traditional clearance options like Western Union. Money could be in bitcoin or debit cards, credit cards like Visa/Mastercard — all this enabling faster, transparent cross-border transactions.
  3. CONSUMER GOODS COMPANY: A common use case for consumer – IBM + Samsung partnership, ADEPT: Detecting problems in washing machine i.e. autonomous maintenance. Checkout Samsung WW9000 washing machine that detects low detergent, automatically contacts the supplier with whom you have a contract, places the order and initiate transfer of payments and delivery. ADEPT (Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry) uses BitTorrent to share files, Ethereum for smart contracts and TeleHash for peer-to-peer messaging.
  4. UTILITY COMPANY: German power company, RWE, changing energy delivery using blockchain. The POC is “car charging” with the charging station acting as a point at which both customer authentication and the processing of payments takes place. Read more.
  5. ARTSAscribe allows artists to claim ownership and issue numbered, limited-edition prints of all kinds of artwork in their digital form using the Blockchain. It even includes a marketplace and assists in buying and selling art through their website, removing the need for escrow.
  6. DIAMONDS: Everledger is using industry’s expensive fraud and theft problem – tracking individual diamonds from mines to consumer. Legality of diamonds is always a big question with proof of ownership locked in paper, and difficult to track. Stolen diamonds are floating in market too. So, Everledger went on to create tamper-proof digital ledger for diamonds. Read more.
  7. MEDICAL: Genecoin –  helps back up your DNA on blockchain. Supposedly, there are medical use case for keeping DNA handy.
  8. CONSUMER, LAW ENFORCEMENT: UProov – helps timestamp your photos and videos and put it on blockchain. In this day and age, is no limit to the situations you can find yourself in needing to prove something that happened around you.
  9. MUSICUjomusic – liberate musicians from being under the thumbs of overbearing music labels and streaming services. Artist creates a song it will be stored on the blockchain with its own unique ID and a blockchain value.

As you can see, the blockchain innovation is not just in financial industry, but all the  more in non-financial industries.

What is the biggest “value prop” for blockchain?

Tamper-proof, speed, transparency, security, low-cost. 

The ability for all kinds of data to be stored and time stamped on it, in a way that no one can delete, censor, nor edit, is far more useful than many can imagine.

Other Distributed Ledger Technologies

Ripple Labs, Chain, Eris


Anything where you need an accurate record, a blockchain can be useful. So, use caseS will continue to evolve and be used across industries. Blockchain, in about 5-10 years, will be as significant (or as common as) as databases are today, for every organization, in my opinion. To learn more, click here.

What do you think? Will this technology sustain? Will Bitcoin take over payments industry in future? Please chime in with your thoughts.

Retire Legacy Applications and invest in Digital Technologies

Legacy-Systems-RetirementAlmost all big firms continue to accumulate systems after systems over decades. Once the systems goes live, there is never a word of retiring and whether the user use the application or not, it continues to run with nobody paying attention to it. Retiring any legacy application is last in priority on any CIOs agenda. Why is it so hard to kill off old systems?

One word: Metrics. Older systems lack measurements and KPIs. Given that there is no quantifiable measure to review the data, it’s hard to kill. Often times it becomes and matter of opinion vs. matter of fact.

I once had made a suggestion to turn off 10 year old Powerbuilder reporting system after initial tech assessment. But several client stakeholders objected saying they use that systems to generate reports on regular basis. With no metrics to prove, I decided to test this. I  asked the developer to include line of code to track who logged when. So, we watched for 2 weeks. Result: Zero logins. Then we turned off the reporting system completely without letting the user know. What was the result after 2 months? Zero logins again! Nobody ever knew it was turned off because they had not used it. So, when we reviewed the findings and results, CIO agreed to decommission the application. What we all learnt is this – users are notoriously inaccurate in deciding these things; perception and reality is different.

Most organizations spend 80% of their IT budgets on “keeping the lights on” (Source: Gartner)

Only 20% for new business and innovation (Source: Gartner)

Cycle needs to be reversed. Don’t you think?

Why is this important?

Three words: Free up $$ for investments in Digital, Innovation and New Business Development.

There are other reasons to move away from legacy – lack of available legacy skills, closed architecture hindering integration and experimentation, old infrastructure risks, high maintenance costs (hardware, software, storage costs +labor+vendor), not useful for customers, and so on.

Companies have to invest in digital to get ahead – and they need dollars for digital investments. So, instead of maintaining old legacy apps that may not provide any business value, CIOs must retire them and free up the budget for digital investments.

Planning and Rationalization should follow a continuous cycle… applications must be evaluated every quarter

Any investment that is approved needs to be planned through end of life cycle. In other words, any product/service that you put out has to provide immense value to customers relative to cost incurred, minimize risk for companies, and has to make financial and technical sense – all the time. When this criteria is not met, it’s time to pull the plug.

Application Rationalization

All applications should measure key KPIs and report these to line managers on regular basis for evaluation. For in-depth approach on how to run Application rationalization efforts for your organization, please see my earlier post.


In this customer-centric age where agility and fast-paced innovation rules coupled with moving to digital, it is very important for CIOs to pay attention on application rationalization strategies and focus investments on flexible, agile disruptive technologies which can advance organizations strategies. Today’s competitive marketplace requires that enterprises modernize their application portfolios – its a business imperative.

What other measures can CIOs take to gain advantage in this digital age? Share your thoughts down below.