On the first morning of the Pitney Bowes (PB) Insights 2012 User Conference in New Orleans I had the opportunity to meet with John O’Hara, president of Pitney Bowes Software, and his management team. Given the staid reputation of the company, I expected to encounter more formal behavior and a highly structured meeting format. Instead I met an engagingly curious and purposeful management team with a fresh perspective and a portfolio of products that puts the company in the middle of the business intelligence (BI) revolution towards enabling analytics and actions into business. PB has been able to use the income from its traditional postage business to acquire a variety of agile, fast-growing software companies. Its products now span customer analytics, unified communications, location intelligence, data quality and information management. Here are some observations on what I saw at the conference.
The Portrait software suite delivers customer analytics and marketing intelligence designed to move us beyond the merchant John Wanamaker’s famous lament to the effect that “half of advertising is wasted; we just don’t know which half.” Mark Smith, SVP of the Portrait group (no relation to our own Mark Smith, though they apparently had an interesting e-mail mix-up once), showed how Portrait is addressing the new challenges of marketers including micromarketing, opt-out management, uplift modeling and contact optimization.
O’Hara mentioned “sleeping dogs” in his keynote address in the context of uplift modeling. This concept is well-known in retention marketing but not so much in acquisition marketing, where it is difficult to implement; Portrait helps address this issue. The idea is that some people react negatively to marketing. Examples include consumers put off by the constant approaches through email or postal mail, or the business buyer who gets multiple calls from other divisions of a company just because he or she started buying from one division. Using campaign management tools and predictive analytics that our benchmark has identified as key benefit in 55 percent of organizations for generating revenue, Portrait is able to assess and score the customer data to ensure that the right messages are delivered to people in ways and at times they prefer.
A second area of innovation for PB is unified communications, delivered through the EngageOne Communication Suite announced in April. Compatible with legacy systems and mainframe environments, the suite enables high-speed processing of transactional documents as well as interactive communications. When used with the Portrait suite, it can address the challenge of marrying cross-channel analysis and strategy with cross-channel execution that our benchmark on customer relationship maturity found is a required step to maturing.
Based on similar technology, the Volley digital mailbox replaces traditional approaches of bill processing by delivering billing documents through a digital mailbox and enabling digital payment. When you think about the traditional infrastructure associated with utility billing, and PBs experience with such systems, you begin to see the compelling nature of this offer.
Yet another exciting technology is the reverse geocoding that will drive Facebook’s own next generation of location-based strategies. Reverse geocoding is the ability to derive a physical location from a geographic coordinate and assign a profile to the surrounding area. Reverse coding was the critical differentiator in the Facebook deal and in other large projects. The technology gives PB opportunities in markets including insurance, telecommunications, healthcare and retail. This location intelligence also makes PB competitive for a variety of predictive geo-modeling use cases such as retail location assessment and placement, asset management, mobile workforce management and government antiterrorism efforts. While it is undisclosed exactly how Facebook will use this technology, it should be able to compete more effectively with Foursquare and the location service strategies of Google and Apple. With 500 million addressable users and 95 countries, Facebook will have the largest implementation of this type in history.
PB’s Spectrum platform is another key driver for deals like the one with Facebook. Spectrum is an enabling technology that addresses issues in data quality and management. Our benchmark research into business analytics reveals that 68% of business analysts spend their time performing data-related tasks, which leaves little time for analysis and action. I see data quality and management as table stakes for the new generation of analytical tools. A company that does not address these issues cannot be competitive. PB has taken this into account and continues serious development in this area.
Moving forward, I’d like to see PB continue to integrate aspects of this diverse portfolio. I am interested in the Portrait Explorer product, which will eventually serve as an interactive control center for the combined PB offerings, including unstructured data sources. Integration with the Spectrum product could create opportunities in areas such as retail and social graph analytics. These will require further focus what our big data benchmark research and enable predictive analytics that 41 percent of organizations do not have this capability today. As the company executes on the vision of combined analytics in the three areas of location, social media and mobility, it should gain a competitive advantage in the market.