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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in William's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

September 2005 Archives

Customer Specific Pricing (CSP) allows retailers to vary the price they charge their customers for the same products. I find it occurring more and more, especially in the online environment. Business intelligence is the prime enabler of this strategy. Many retail organizations are afraid of publishing the fact they do this, fearful of irritating the customer base. Most customers, even those on the receiving end of better pricing, would instinctively say they are opposed to CSP. It cuts against our grain somehow. But it shouldn’t necessarily. Retail has been doing forms of this for years.

CSP gets back to the retail organization’s business model. As long as discriminatory features are not used in its application, I believe it is the responsibility of each organization to set their focus point, short-term or long-term, and price accordingly by customer.

Know, however, that those customers who are attracted to your pricing deals may not be the most loyal. Which is precisely why some retail organizations have gone “CSP-lite” with variants such as customer specific warranties and shipping charge fees and options. Or, some do CSP with a “couponing” strategy, selectively offering coupons as opposed to handling CSP directly at the checkout. Speaking of coupons, my friend Neal Rapoport is the creator of www.dealtaker.com where internet offers and how to get them are continually posted. Check it out.

This requires sophistication. It requires a data warehouse with years of history data so that customer profiling can be done with real information. I have written about profiling strategies before, based on what I've done with some retail organizations implementing business intelligence. At the time, the use of the profiling was primarily determining whether to invest in a customer in the form of general marketing and customer service. Today, that model includes pricing.

If you have any thoughts about customer specific pricing, from either the “good business” or consumer perspective, please post them here.


Posted September 27, 2005 6:35 PM
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One of my assertions recently has been that the business intelligence industry is momentarily distracted by the high end deals. Recent titan acquisitons (Ascential, Siebel) are clearly focused on bringing in the Fortune level customer. We now see some balance being brought into the equation. Microsoft has never neglected the lower end BI customer. Actually, you could say they have not neglected the lower end anything customer.

Microsoft is "on the hunt for SMBs" according to a recent article.

As well, their SQL Server product has always had appeal to SMBs for business intelligence. SQL Server 2005 has a launch on November 7 in San Francisco. Every major city will have an event related to this launch. SQL Server should be released on or about that date. I have been analyzing SQL 2005 for business intelligence and will provide that analysis here at a later date. But I can say that I'm excited about the BI possibilities for SMBs.


Posted September 27, 2005 8:49 AM
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I was in Orlando last week for the Teradata Partners Conference. This was my fourth Partners and it is one extremely well done conference which reinforces the great customer satisfaction that Teradata clients have for Teradata technology. Teradata has always been a leader in terms of data warehousing best practices and that came across through its customer case examples and promotion of best practices in the sessions.

I gave a session on "Enabling Business Intelligence Across the Enterprise." It was designed for those numerous programs who have achieved some early returns on their BI program and have met first targets but find themselves challenged in getting beyond those targets. My goal was to enable the attendees with advice to convert prospective users to daily users of the warehouse, using examples from numerous programs I've worked on that have crossed that chasm.

I caught Marcus Buckingham's keynote on Wednesday and I'm glad I did as I am very interested in how people achieve success and this is exactly where he focuses. He gave a presentation on becoming an excellent leader (one who targets a clear, optimistic future) or an excellent manager (one who focuses on enhancing people's strengths).

In succession, the following conferences are in Orlando in the next 7 weeks: DCI (Sept. 26-29), TDWI and Business Objects Insight. If you're going to be at any of these conferences and would like to meet, please let me know.


Posted September 26, 2005 6:56 PM
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I've received few phone calls and emails about the William McKnight in the news. Though mostly coming from people who know better, I thought I'd say here that it's not me folks.

Reminds me of a similar happening in 2002, shortly after I moved away from the San Francisco area and many people still thought I lived there (I live in Texas now.) That wasn't me either.

This one is me. And hey, it's just about this blog, nothing as exciting as aggravated burglary of a country star.


Posted September 24, 2005 8:10 PM
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Whither the POS system. Retail has a broad range of POS systems deployed. Check out the varied POS systems you encounter in the next month. It is a very difficult process, especially for a large retailer, to make changes to their POS environment. It requires field work and is very disruptive. New POS systems typically are phased in and seldom reach 100% deployment.

I have been following and evaluating Triversity for some time now for my retail clients. Asked about a hot pick in an interview a couple of months ago, I mentioned them. This week, they announced they were being acquired by SAP. Triversity alleviates some of the pain associated with the POS rollout as well as adding some modern CRM functionality that interface to a data warehouse (DW). This is a hot pick with growth potential for SAP.

Here are some examples of modern POS functionality around interface to the DW or the usage of DW information:

POS interfaces to the DW - during a transaction, the POS system will collect a customer ID, perhaps by scanning a magnetic card, or by the cashier entering the customer phone number. It will send this ID to the DW and receive back a message containing customer data. From this message, the POS will retrieve customer eligibility data, in the form of a list of target groups. It will relate these groups to its own offer/segment mapping file, thus determining which offers the customer is entitled to. It will execute these offers if their criteria are satisfied.

POS will retrieve any messages directed at the customer, and print them at the end of the receipt.

POS will retrieve any continuity offer totals currently active. If spend within the transaction should trigger a continuity offer, its award will be given.

At the end of the transaction, POS will send a message to the DW indicating any updates which may have occurred within the transaction. This would include transaction spend, any contribution to continuity totals, and notification of any continuity awards.

When this message is sent, POS must wait for a positive acknowledgement before sending the next message. This process is normally done by a background process on the POS controller, to avoid impact on the POS terminal itself.

The Offer Management System performs Offer, Promotion definition, and campaign definition. It feeds the DW with customer/target grouping data, and the POS system with offer definitions and target group offer mapping.

The POS stream will be monitored for customers responding to offers and response information will be held.

It will be possible to target offers to specific customer target customers or household groups (of any size) at the POS.

Of course, to enable much of this functionality, the retail organization will need to track their customers through a frequent shopper program. Our wallets will be filling with more and more of these cards as time goes on - in order to enable this kind of functionality for the retail organizations.


Posted September 23, 2005 10:17 AM
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