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I recently attended the 2014 global analyst summit in San Francisco hosted by Pitney Bowes, an old technology company (now in business for 94 years) that has a new focus in its software along with an entirely new executive team. These leaders unveiled a business and technology strategy meant to demonstrate the company’s commitment to software. For many years it has been known mostly for mail services and postage metering, but Pitney Bowes also has made investments in software that can help companies change their business processes by optimizing their information assets. Over the past few years the company has had its ups and downs as regards its corporate mission, as I wrote in 2012. Most of the turmoil was due to conflicting agendas from past management, but other factors were the company was not as clear in communicating the value of its combined software portfolio and not capitalizing on the demand in lines of business and IT for information management and analytics software.

vr_Info_Optimization_10_reasons_to_change_information_availabilityPitney Bowes has several important assets. Its location intelligence software can provide consumers with accurate information about and directions to locations, enable businesses to target customers more accurately and help businesses be more responsive by adding a geographic context to customer information. Pitney Bowes also has advanced its efforts in information management to integrate and enrich data through spatial processing with a specialization in customer informationMy analysis of Spectrum, its information management software suite, found innovation in its support for analytical and operational use. Organizations are changing how they make information available as lines of business and IT share responsibility for improving information availability, which they do in 42 percent of organizations participating in our information optimization research; the most common reasons for doing so are to improve operational efficiency (cited by 67%) and to gain a competitive advantage (63%).

The latest version of the Spectrum Technology Platform includes data enrichment and quality in its data integration offering. It has advanced in search, query design, in-memory caching and support for Hadoop. The platform also is the foundation for a master information hub that can build relationship-based maps that Pitney Bowes calls knowledge graphs. These maps are more powerful than data relationship-based models that can’t map complex relationships and present them visually. In IT domains this is called master data management, but it goes beyond the usual entity relationship modeling to visualize and manage customer information from a business perspective; this can help bring business users into the process. It also can discover the locations of any information, which our information optimization research finds is important to more than one-fifth (22%) of companies. Having consistent information, particularly about customers, is critical for interaction across a business in providing the best possible customer experience. The Spectrum Platform also can process data in real time, which is attractive to the company’s new customers including large retailers and social media companies like Facebook. We find that only one-fourth (26%) of organizations are happy with their current technology used to provide information, which indicates an opportunity for Pitney Bowes to take a more aggressive position in the market.

vr_Customer_Analytics_02_drivers_for_new_customer_analyticsIn addition Pitney Bowes has customer and marketing analytics software called Portrait Analytics, which offers an engaging way to visualize and interact with customer information. It also can predict potential results through the Portrait Miner application. Another product, Portrait Uplift, can help companies can use the analytics to apply adaptive learning from customer interactions to model how customers will interact and where changes might be needed to stimulate purchasing and reduce churn. These applications have significant potential for marketing and other customer-focused functions because they do not require a data scientist to use them. In our next-generation customer analytics research more than half (59%) of participants said it is very important to improve them while only 15 percent are satisfied with their current efforts. Predictive analytics is the type of advanced analytics most important to 69 percent of organizations, and only one-fifth (22%) are happy with their current software. Pitney Bowes is in position to look for opportunities here as long as it focuses its efforts to the top drivers that are improving the customer experience (63%) and improve the customer service strategy (57%).

The company has not lost its focus on location intelligence software. Its flagship product here remains MapInfo, but it has made investments to highlight its potential for enterprise location intelligence by supporting it in social media and Internet location-based services. A series of new releases of MapInfo after the current version 12 are coming in 2014. The company says that enhancements will include the user experience, a more contextual interface, 64-bit processing, a layout designer, contextual menus and display management. To take advantage of multiple-core processing, Pitney Bowes has segmented processes to accelerate performance. Our latest research in location analytics found that reliability, which includes performance and scalability, is the third-most important software evaluation criterion. The updates also will expand mapping from vector-based to grid-based analysis. In addition mobile technology is a priority for MapInfo, as it should be: This is the second-most important technology innovation according to our location analytics research. MapInfo Stratus is a cloud-based extension of MapInfo Pro. Some support for mobile devices is available today, and more improvements to the experience are coming. This and other advances address the innovations that are changing computing and users’ expectations and are critical to keep MapInfo relevant.

vr_LA_location_analytics_delivers_business_valuePitney Bowes built its position in location intelligence on geocoding, integrating data sets across on-premises and cloud systems for access from a range of applications. Pitney Bowes includes 122 countries in its geocoding, and its software can provide multiple levels of accuracy based on what is available in a cascading approach. It also provides reverse geocoding, which helps identify locations through longitude and latitude; this is used by major social media. Pitney Bowes has advanced the capabilities so users can type ahead to find locations in proximity; this is especially critical for mobile application support. The ubiquity of mobile devices and Internet use and the growth of complex event processing and visualization are bringing new opportunities for Pitney Bowes’ geocoding and location processing. Our location analytics research finds that many organizations view current methods as not reliable, taking too many resources and too slow. Using a dedicated approach can deliver business value like improve customer experience (20%) and gain competitive advantage (17%).

vr_LA_dedicated_technology_provides_satisfactionPitney Bowes has announced the release of Spectrum Spatial, a location intelligence platform built on MapInfo. Additionally Spectrum Spatial Analyst is an interactive tool to examine spatial and location attributes of data. The Spectrum Spatial technology and Spectrum Spatial for BI are the basis for Pitney Bowes establishing new partnerships with IBM and SAP. Having location analytics with business intelligence is still rare and has potential to enhance business analysis as found in almost a third (30%) of organizations while using a dedicated approach with GIS and location analytics provides satisfaction in almost half (49%) of organizations.

Our big data research finds that only 16 percent of organizations are using geospatial analysis in big data analytics; we think this is an overlooked opportunity given the value of location in enhancing information assets. Pitney Bowes has focused on providing location intelligence to suppliers of standard RDBMSs and data warehousing, which are only a subset of the big data environment. But the company realizes the importance of big data and has announced expanded support for it in Spectrum to ensure it can rapidly access these new sources. It includes new in-memory support (50%) for SAP HANA and Hadoop (42%), which are the two types of big data support revealed as most important in our research.

vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsOverall Pitney Bowes software combines data management and analytics with its specialization in location to meet today’s need to optimize information in real time to support both consumers and business decision-makers. In the past year it has gained traction with social media companies and other types of businesses through direct approaches. Its main challenges are that its brand is not known for solving these types of problems and that it has not been able to assert its presence through marketing. Our research on buyers and users of software for information management and big data analytics has identified demand for these capabilities; Pitney Bowes should use its own software to better market and sell its products as well as the technology deserves. Its new executives have made the strategy more clear; now it is time for the organization to execute it through more and better marketing to ensure that potential customers consider its products that deliver business insights.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Pitney Bowes (PB) opened its annual technology summit (Twitter: #TechSummit12) with a review of its organizational assets and its rich history of engineering hardware and systems for physical and now digital delivery of communications. The multibillion-dollar technology giant is transforming itself to address the digital needs of business for interaction with consumers. It also is working to transform how business communications and interactions work across all channels. Handling new media interactions using Facebook, Twitter, e-commerce and mobile technologies are critical to managing communications in a consistent manner and improving the customer experience.

Over the last several years Pitney Bowes has advanced its business through acquisitions and the integration of its own software into its traditional areas of business. It also has further integrated its software efforts to emphasize that it is not primarily a mail-related hardware company. The company reports that its software revenue is $407 million and that it invests 15 percent of overall corporate revenue into software. It also is investing in growth initiatives to expand its presence into markets where it does not currently operate.

Pitney Bowes CEO Murray Martin discussed the company’s philosophy of helping its clients develop value in lifetime relationships with their own customers through communications management. It does this by providing profiling and segmentation, data preparation, multichannel response management and analytics. Martin explained that the days of businesses telling customers how to communicate with them are over. I agree that customers and consumers will take control of communication, and this means businesses must adapt, as the channels will not be predetermined but will change with customer preferences.

To help companies move ahead on this path, Pitney Bowes introduced Volly, which provides secure communications for digital billing and payment for customers and providers. It also takes advantage of mobile computing, with native applications for smartphones and tablets and the ability to get quick access to applications and information using customized QR codes. PB currently has more than 50 billers using the service.

Pitney Bowes has been improving its applications for helping organizations understand and act on customer communications more intelligently. It now has one of the most sophisticated sets of applications for increasing the value velocity of customer relationships. To accomplish this, PB has organized its software offerings into four areas. First, the data area includes a collection of data integration, quality and master data management capabilities to address the two top barriers to  information management according to our benchmark research: having data spread across systems and having multiple versions of the truth. In this area, location intelligence improves the quality of the information through geocoding, use of its Spectrum technology platform and partnerships with Experian to help enrich the data. The company has announced a new master data management (MDM) solution that does not take a traditional data-centric IT approach but is built for businesses that need to establish a consistent definition of customers and the social networks they operate within, and thus is more of a customer information management application. While MDM is an engaging topic and focus for IT, its time to value for businesses has not been short, as it requires a degree of data transformation.

The second area of its focus is insight, where the company can help with building strategies to better identify the direction of communications and interactions with customers through the use of customer analytics and location intelligence software.

The third area is strategy, where software can help define customer segments and direction to show where to focus to get the most value. This area is powered through business unit Portrait Software’s analytics and segmentation. PB recently released a new version of Portrait Explorer with a new user experience for assessing customers and segments. The new release simplifies ways to assess and understand customers and allows for enrichment of the data through its partnership with Experian. It uses predictive analytics, which our benchmark found is helping businesses take advantage of new revenue opportunities and increase profitability, among other benefits.

The fourth area is communications. Pitney Bowes helps users design and deploy communications across channels to improve customer dialogue. It offers multiple products in this area, including Portrait Interaction Optimizer and a new version of Pitney Bowes EngageOne that was announced in April. The EngageOne product provides a robust way to design templates for personalized interactions with customers and can manage interactions in a secure document vault.

Pitney Bowes is evolving the focus of customer communications management from transactions to marketing and customer service, and turning itself into a more strategic and analytics-driven software provider for this. By stratifying the message, method and relevancy of its efforts, it can articulate the value of its offerings. The company has a large potential market to tap; our benchmark research into customer relationship maturity found that marketing, customer service, sales and contact center are the most popular channels in more than half of organizations but are not necessarily where personalized interactions are occurring across multiple channels.

Pitney Bowes’ biggest challenge is not the market or its technology advancement but  communicating the value of its products through its website and social media channels. It will need to dramatically improve its marketing efforts to gain recognition for what is has developed and made available today.

If you are interested in an analytical, interactive approach to developing effective customer communications and interactions for improving the customer experience, consider the depth of the software Pitney Bowes provides. It is advancing the efficiency and outcomes of communications with customers, which is an area in which just about every organization has room for improvement.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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