Cloud Tag

In the past, government operations relied solely on manpower. Everything was done manually, with no technology to build on or to store documents and more. Today, digital transformation has touched virtually every industry; however, the government is still a step behind.

To alleviate this lag, many agencies are starting to partner with SaaS (software as a service) companies. This is giving governments the unique opportunity to reduce their administrative costs while providing more services to their constituents.

What is SaaS?

SaaS is a method of software delivery allowing users to access data from any device that has a web browser and an internet connection. With this method in place, software vendors host and maintain the code, databases, and servers that make up an application.

This is a massive departure from the prior on-premise software delivery model that most government agencies used in the past (and that many still use today). With SaaS, companies don’t have to invest in hardware for hosting their software, which allows buyers to outsource IT responsibilities for maintenance purposes.

3 Ways SaaS is the Future of Government Technology

The federal government is not immune to the growth and evolution of technology. Three ways that show how and why SaaS is the future of government technology can be found here.

1. SaaS is Easy to Customize

There are many government websites and systems that suffer from inflexible designs. With modern SaaS applications, it’s possible to support simple application configuration. This means that end users can adjust the parameters that will impact the functionality of the system.

2. SaaS Products are Continually Optimized

A huge benefit of adopting SaaS in the government is the fact that these applications are updated more frequently than traditional software that is still used by most agencies and organizations. This ensures that new features and significant upgrades are available as quickly as possible.

Because the software is housed on a server, which is controlled by the vendor, it can be upgraded centrally. This is opposed to the traditional model, where the software being used would have to be upgraded on every single machine that uses it. What this means is that SaaS is easily maintained and all upgrades can be made instantaneously with the latest version at the source. This helps save those using this model both time and money.

3. SaaS Products Can be Easily Integrated with Existing Systems

While there are more than a few reasons that companies and organizations are transferring to web-based applications, the fact is that this transition is one that has been complicated for governments. This is mainly due to the use of legacy systems. These outdated systems hold quite a bit of data and information.

Integrating a new system means that all the information has to be migrated over from the former system, which can be a huge challenge.

When it comes to the migration process, there are two basic options that government agencies can opt for:

  • Using a cloud server built from scratch
  • Existing application migration “as is” to the cloud

With SaaS, the components are adaptable and flexible, which makes this migration fast and easy, minimizing the stress and hassle it may otherwise present.

While the federal government has been slow to adopt SaaS technology due to perceived challenges, the fact is that this process is not only worthwhile, it can also lead to huge cost and time savings benefits in the long run. It is something that government agencies should begin doing today to see all the benefits SaaS has to offer.

Enterprise DevOps. On the surface, it seems like the right answer to keeping business objectives running at optimum levels. But when your IT team dives a little deeper, the complexities rise to the surface and progress stalls before it even has a chance to begin.

Before you dive into a DevOps initiative, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Can your current tools address security and application monitoring for maximum visualization for informed decision making?
  • Can your current infrastructure leverage the cloud?
  • What type of containers will be utilized for deployment anytime, anywhere?
  • How will you utilize automation to ensure stable and scalable deployments?
  • IT teams will support internal systems that employees use. How will you cultivate a collaborative culture between development and support teams?
Whether you’re launching a DevOps initiative internally or seeking help from a third party, starting with the right infrastructure is critical to your success. Before you take the first step, begin with a thorough system evaluation to ensure an end-result with a seamless workflow, end-to-end transparency, and holistic reporting.

DevOps: System Evaluation Overview

Automation Tools

End-to-end workflow automation is a critical part of any DevOps toolkit. These tools should enable your team to submit requests effortlessly, sync & export documents, and integrate financials when necessary.

Configuration

Syncing information between systems; the ability to create custom workflow events and triggers; and aggregate all your data for secure analysis, reporting and sharing is a critical part of DevOps. Evaluate current configuration tools and systems for their ability to work with the other components of your system.

Intelligence

DevOps tools include a healthy mix of intelligent solutions that can provide both analytics and security monitoring, capacity planning, and availability and performance. Features like cross-platform syncing, data aggregation from different systems, available in a web-based platform are critical to intelligent processes.

Cloud & Virtualization

The best DevOps toolkits include a hosting environment that eases application installations and configures security easily. In advanced cases, application support and managed administration services are required. Platforms like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, & Amazon Web Services are the best place to begin, but access and knowledge of cloud add-ons are critical to collaborative DevOps environments.

DevOps Solutions

If your infrastructure lacks the systems and tools listed above, it doesn’t mean you can’t begin moving toward DevOps solutions right away. Custom software solutions are available to bring your infrastructure up to a healthy mix of orchestration and automation tools.
While there are plenty of great SaaS options out there, they are inherently designed to meet the needs of the masses, and the heart of DevOps is using software to do exactly what it is you need. If you’re going to evaluate a SaaS option, look for all of the following features before you start a trial:
  • Platform Synchronization
  • Eliminates Manual Processes
  • Data Storage, Accessibility & Security
  • Workflow Automation w/ Event Triggers
  • Robust data Analysis w/Data Aggregation
Powerful all-in-one solutions can help you get started on the right track, and an expert consulting team can work behind the scenes to bring development projects and add-ons up to standard.
Once you’ve evaluated your company’s preparedness to implement a DevOps initiative, don’t forget about culture preparedness. DevOps implementation and changes should establish a culture that learns and changes, together. The most critical asset in your business—your people—should receive the same level of attention as other areas. Planning a people strategy while preparing your infrastructure for DevOps will ensure long-term success.

Organizations need agility to craft and distribute useful marketing messages that can convert in a highly segmented, fickle marketplace. With seemingly countless marketing solutions now available, the advent of the ad stack – both independent and platform-based – is in full swing. Of the many different options available, an innovative solution from one of the digital environment’s older and well-established names is leading the charge for comprehensive, flexible, vertically integrated marketing suites that is redefining the industry – Adobe.

Adobe’s Marketing Cloud at a Glance

Available on a subscription basis with several optional components that range in specialty from Adobe’s creative foundation to analytics platforms, campaign management tools, and social media integration, Marketing Cloud aims to be a one-stop shop for organizations needing a comprehensive solution without relying on different vendors.

Using the universal Adobe interface as the basis for most of the component UIs, Adobe takes full advantage of its popularity to create an immediate sense of familiarity between the user and the many different parts available within the platform. Perhaps more importantly, however, organizations can choose which of those components are necessary for their specific needs, not forced to subscribe to unneeded functions that would increase costs and complexity.

As a direct competitor to similar platforms from both digital titans like Google and Yahoo as well as ad stacks from specialized vendors, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud shines with its ability to seamlessly combine immersive, engaging, customized creative with the distribution channels most impactful in reaching a highly segmented audience with wide-ranging affinities. Its analytical tools allow organizations to track results in real time, measuring effectiveness through the ever-important metrics needed to inform and guide the campaign amongst a crowded and complicated marketplace.

Although a streamlined and efficient ad stack solution for any organization requiring a considerable degree of vertical integration, those that are unfamiliar with the classic Adobe UI face a steep learning curve that, while in no way too great of a barrier to prevent proper implementation and usage, can be somewhat overwhelming at first. With an abundance of training materials available as well as outstanding customer service, however, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud should always be on the short list of options for organizations in search of a potent ad stack that blends utility with convenience, power with flexibility.

Is Adobe’s Marketing Cloud Right for You?

As compelling a solution as Adobe’s Marketing Cloud can be for most organizations; it’s not the only solution available. In fact, when an organization is in need of a new ad stack platform, the decision should always begin with a choice between a comprehensive, unified platform and an independent ad stack built of several best-in-breed vendors that are market leaders in specific functions but don’t necessarily work well in conjunction with one another.

Simply put, organizations must choose between a high degree of convenience and efficiency versus maximum ability. For instance, if an organization needs a comprehensive analytical platform that specializes in isolating and analyzing nuanced metrics, they might be best served to build an independent ad stack built around a specialized analytics platform. In this case, while a vertically integrated solution like the Adobe Marketing Cloud is abundantly useful and more than adequate for the vast majority of organizations, it’s analytical abilities might fall short of this highly specialized need.

For organizations looking for a combination of power and convenience, the Adobe Marketing Cloud is writing a new ad stack narrative, one that effectively addresses nearly all of the marketing needs for the majority of companies within the marketplace. Organizations no longer have to choose between ability and efficiency.

Salesforce released its Einstein platform to the public in Spring 2017, giving the average user access to powerful CRM with promised AI predictive analytic powers. The release came with a tidal wave of hype, promising revolutionary changes to marketing departments. Companies have had time to implement Einstein for a period of months, so accurate reviews are in. Experts believe that Salesforce Einstein is an excellent tool with a number of useful analytic uses. While it isn’t entirely stand-alone, the basic platform does more than simply complete data-based applications. Einstein probably deserves about 80 percent of the original hype. As stats go, that’s not bad.

The Hype

Salesforce hailed its own product by announcing that “The world’s No. 1 CRM is now the world’s smartest CRM . . .” The company also emphasized Einstein didn’t need the major customization that other similar platforms required because it contained “state-of-the-art algorithms built directly into the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Platform . . .” You get the picture. What was already a premier product would now usher marketing into the promised land of predictive data, and ultimately, finalized sales, enchanted customers, and home-grown marketing gurus.

The Reality

Salesforce Einstein Analytics Platform costs $75 per month per user, approximately the same price as Adobe Creative Cloud, which features Adobe Sensei. For that reasonable price, you get many features, including advanced sales and service apps. You can use them to analyze data from any source up to 100 million data rows, according to Salesforce. You can also create your own custom apps and dashboards and have access to all the online training you need. The platform isn’t as advanced as others, but it provides an advantage to companies without their own data geniuses on staff. It takes time to set up and manage effectively, despite the rosy predictions on the Salesforce site.

AI Capacity

Some experts say that Einstein doesn’t include actual “cognitive computing” (AI) but instead uses machine learning (ML). However, the company’s partnerships with Watson and other industry leaders provide Einstein users with impressive analytic power. For marketing departments, the pertinent question isn’t “Is this ‘real’ AI?”, but “How does it help us do our jobs?”

The machine learning allows the program to study data and determine, for itself, how to predict the future. Einstein constantly analyzes new data and makes model adjustments, determining what tasks you need to address next in your marketing efforts. Einstein can tell you which sales prospect is “most likely to close” and also sort a mailing list according to who’s most likely to open your email.

Einstein goes way beyond simply organizing data. It can, on a daily basis, make your sales department more efficient and effective. Whether it’s defined as actual AI probably won’t affect you or your employees.

Other Features

Salesforce offers other advanced features. For instance, your company can also use the Product Identification feature to manage inventory and improve sales potential. In addition, the Brand Detection feature helps your marketing department learn more about customer preferences and offers tools to refine sales campaigns. The technology also offers features that increase customer satisfaction. Visual search employs visual filters that let consumers find products that meet their needs. They can also take product photos and find out where they’re available.

Nuts and Bolts

Salesforce touts Einstein as a way to democratize AI. You don’t have to have your own data scientist to join the marketing analytic revolution. It’s not as simple as subscribing to the service, however. While many features are packaged in easy-to-use Cloud applications, customizing it for your particular company takes a little work and some online training. Yes, it’s pretty easy to use, but like any platform, it requires study and practice, particularly on the part of admins to fully use it. You have to build a model for your business and also refine your data so you get the best results. In short: Excellence in, excellence out.

Company Success

Salesforce boasts a number of high-profile success stories, and these online testimonials pack a punch. Companies such as Adidas, AWS, US Bank and Farmer’s Insurance are on record praising Salesforce offerings.

Kone, a leader in escalators, elevators and moving walkways, used Salesforce Einstein in conjunction with IBM Watson to build a customer-centered company in lieu of a hardware-centered one, allowing them to thrive around the world. They attribute much of their recent success to the Salesforce platform.

The Bottom Line

Salesforce has been a wildly successful Cloud Computing, CRM-based company for some time, but their addition of Einstein to their customer offerings has enhanced their business and made AI (really machine learning) more available to the those who aren’t data experts.

Einstein is not the most advanced platform you can choose, and you may need to pair it with Watson or add other Salesforce products to reach the productivity level that you desire. Still, experts in the industry rank it pretty high as a tool that helps most marketing departments. Will it unleash marketing magic on its own? No. But it will give more power to your marketing efforts. For companies looking for predictive analytics, Einstein is worth a try.

Have you wondered if you’d benefit from one of the new marketing tools powered by artificial intelligence? Some of these platforms make claims that sound almost magical, and it can be tricky to sort out whether they’re worth the investment. Here’s a look at three of the major players in marketing AI, together with an overview of their unique capabilities — as well as a glance at which claims are over the top.

Salesforce Einstein

Einstein is the AI platform created by Salesforce and launched in Fall 2016. It has grown in sophistication since then, using customer data to automatically generate models. These models are continually improved by the AI, which analyzes the history of data and decides which factors are most accurate at predicting the behavior of individual customers. As the unit receives more information, it learns which of its models need adjusting, without the need for any intervention by developers.

Salesforce recently announced that its Einstein engine is now delivering over 1 billion pieces of information to its customers each day. It ranks lists of sales leads and puts information at one side of the screen to show each prospect’s probability of deciding to buy. For marketers, Einstein sorts email lists and says which recipients are most likely to open a given message. Salesforce’s director of product marketing Ally Witherspoon gives an example in Wired of a solar energy supplier discovering through AI that a person’s chances of buying are influenced by the pitch of their roof. In the future, she envisions, satellite photography could tag prospects’ homes according to the geometry of their roof.

Einstein is also in a partnership with IBM’s Watson, integrating its own CRM data with Watson’s insights. This wider reach offers access to customer data sources beyond what Salesforce itself is able to collect.

Motiva AI Cloud

Motiva works with Oracle’s Eloqua to optimize messaging through its ability to characterize audiences. In the words of Chris Diehl, Motiva’s CTO, the purpose of the AI is “removing the need to manually define the relevant population.” Diehl points out that by using artificial intelligence, marketers can discover new affinities and associations and “uncover meaningful populations that exhibit shared content preferences.” In other words, the AI gives new insight into whom to target and which target populations can be grouped together.

The real-world example that Diehl describes is very similar to that offered by Witherspoon when she talked about Einstein. Diehl mentions learning the external web browsing behavior of a marketing audience, then using that data to sort and rank this audience. Once the Motiva AI platform knows these people’s messaging channel preferences, it will advise the marketer about how to customize their messaging. In one example, a healthcare provider used Motiva to vary and improve the messaging sent to patients, and achieved a doubling of click-through rates.

Adobe Sensei

Adobe Sensei is an interesting addition to the AI mix, because unlike Salesforce or Oracle Eloqua, Adobe didn’t originate with CRM and marketing. Instead, the company drew on its deep graphic expertise and entered the AI universe through its interest in recognizing and manipulating visual data. This exploration eventually led Adobe to capitalize on the fact that logical patterns lend themselves to machine learning as readily as do visual patterns.

Fortune magazine says, “Sensei pores over tons of data (the more the better) to detect patterns and present results in a visual way.” While Adobe offers much the same customer experience options as the other two marketing AI systems mentioned here, it plays up two specific virtues: information security and cross-device access. Its “Cross-Device Co-op” program lets brands who use other Adobe marketing products recognize their consumers regardless of what type of device those consumers use. Adobe points out that marketing spend will decrease, because companies can “focus on people, not on devices.”

A number of banks currently use Sensei. If anonymous users visit the bank’s website, the AI platform can make suggestions about products to show them, even if the user doesn’t have a profile with the bank. HSBC used Sensei to highlight a specific product and saw a 109 percent increase in customers reaching that product.

But Will AI Really Help You Market Your Products?

Automatic customer model generation is flashy, but the amount of time it will save you depends on your individual needs. A platform like Salesforce allows businesses that aren’t Google or Facebook to simply purchase AI power without having to customize it and teach it what’s important to that particular business. That efficiency can definitely come in handy if you need help identifying your audience.

Eloqua Motiva can develop and dynamically revise models for messaging prospects automatically, so that the human marketer doesn’t have to waste time testing out which message will work best with which group.

On the other hand, when Einstein itemizes the factors it uses to score prospects, that transparency can either be helpful or distracting. And it’s definitely hype when Salesforce puts out a press release saying that by 2021, “AI-powered CRM activities ‘could’ increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion and create 800,000 net-new jobs.” Salesforce customers alone, it points out, will account for $293 billion of those jobs. While it does seem promising that AI will increase the number of jobs overall, due to streamlining the time-consuming processes of segmenting and testing audiences, sky-high predictions are not enlightening.

Sorting Out What AI Can Offer You

Tech developers are understandably enthused over the capacity of AI, and marketing is indeed a practice that needs to be — at least partly — data driven. Fifty-one percent of marketers currently use some form of artificial intelligence, and no human being can handle data with the finesse of AI. But the claims made by some of these companies go a bit too far; they imply that you can just toss an AI platform into your marketing campaign and passively let it work its behind-the-scenes wizardry. As Motiva’s website seductively promises, “Turn it on, get results.” No AI platform can synthesize the intuitive insight of a skilled marketer.

There’s an elusive sweet spot between the creativity of a human marketing professional and the efficiencies offered by artificial intelligence. AI can be a useful tool, as long as you identify your goals ahead of time and have a clear idea of how you’ll use intelligent data manipulation to streamline your daily tasks. Certainly the platforms we’ve mentioned above can save time by making sure you’re speaking to the right audience, delivering the message they want to hear via the channels they like best. Furthermore, each system focuses on differentiating themselves from their competitors by delivering something unique. In our upcoming posts, we’ll take a deeper dive into what each of these three brands have to offer. We’ll examine their specific benefits and help you determine which one would be most applicable to your particular situation. We’ll also sort through the three brands’ own verbiage and clarify which of their claims are actually meaningful and which ones are just … well … marketing.