Last week I found out about something that has got me really excited. Seriously. I am not one for jumping up and down about the latest social tool. The cold hard businessman inside me looks at most of these things and thinks – so what? How is it any use to my business? How is it going to make me money? It's not that I don't see the attraction (although Frankie Boyle's description of Twitter as the modern day equivalent of mumbling to yourself seems pretty spot on) or appreciate their value, but I think many businesses struggle to see how they can really harness them to them advantage.
I'm not stupid. I understand Facebook fans and Daily Deals and I get that companies like Groupon have got themselves a ridiculously large market cap largely because of their innovative use of social networks and the internet but, perhaps controversially, I don't really see any of these as game changing. It's just traditional marketing techniques in a different channel.
So what is it that finally got this cynic's attention? Well it's a company called SCVNGR. Before you ask, yes it is run by a 21-year-old Ivy league drop out and yes it is already worth significantly more than all the houses in Surrey put together but this is one occasion where I think the market might have got it right. The concept is fairly simple. Businesses use the platform to build a gaming tool that utilises the location of the player to create an interactive collaborative experience.
SCVNGR is different for two main reasons. Firstly, and most importantly it brings enterprise and consumers together using the concept of location based gaming. Secondly, it takes social media out into the real world. You could argue that the mobile phone brought social media into the real world but in actual fact its still a virtual world – just one you carry with you. The difference with SCVNGR is that the social interaction between the game and the player actually takes place in the real world.
I am quite sure the more innovative marketing departments will be on to this already – lining up SCVNGR alongside Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, direct mail, advertising and PR. As a CIO though why should you care? It's not your department, thankfully.
If only it was a simple as that. The reason I mention SCVNGR is that tools like this create yet another channel out to the customer and every one of these channels is not just a conduit for information and campaigns to flow out – it is also channelling data back in. Tonnes of it and its growing at an exponential rate.
The key to SCVNGR's attractiveness as a marketing tool is the layering of social media, gaming and marketing over one simple platform. What is perhaps most valuable is the locational element. Now you can not only find out what someone is doing but where and when he is doing it – simply by using the available information. This is like gold dust to most enterprises because it allows them to target their customers much more effectively. But to do this they have to be able to make sense of the information that they are receiving.
So again we are coming round to the issue of information management and how critical it is – especially now – to get this right. Not only is the volume of information coming in to the business growing but the speed with which the business wants to absorb, understand and reuse the information is accelerating. Smart companies understand that often there is a limited window for them to capitalise on customer interest. When you add the issue of individual location into the mix this makes speed all the more critical.
As well as the problem of managing the information in such as a way as to make it useful you have also got to figure out where you are going to put it and how the business is going to access it. This requires an infrastructure than is flexible and scalable enough to expand and contract to match requirements. Speed is an issue here – there can't be too much time lag because real time demands require real time responses. This is where the cloud comes in. A cloud infrastructure allows you to take in the multiple data sources and master data management allows you to handle the data effectively so it has meaning and is usable by the business.
Getting this right isn't just about getting the board of your back. A CIO's ability to give the business the information it wants in a digestible format makes them very valuable to the business. You become an enabler – the person who gives them access to the most valuable thing the business possesses - Information. Now that's got to be worth a pay rise.