The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System

The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System

In today’s digital world, no other decision is perhaps as all-encompassing and essential as choosing an effective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. One of the questions confronting executives is understanding and implementing the appropriate system to fit their current and future needs. Does a firm go with several individual applications for business analytics, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking, project management, resource management, and other metrics? Or does an executive seek a range of features in a single ERP solution that addresses each of these needs together?

There are other concerns, such as company-level organizational goals, that executives and resource/project managers take into account when considering an ERP solution. These goals include gaining better visibility across the organization in order to achieve insight into the operations of disparate areas of the firm. Another key component that comes in making the decision of an ERP solution is the ability to streamline operations. Rather than hold on to difficult and convoluted processes, an executive will prioritize solutions that allow for better workflow and tighter integration. Upgrading legacy systems with a more current solution positions an organization for growth and overall company improvement.

Specific areas of growth include the ability to scale operations in an efficient manner. Executives want to see concrete productivity improvements along with increased profitability. Today, firms must adapt to many kinds of changes, especially those demanded by the industry. Firms require technological solutions that adapt to what Forbes had dubbed the fast-paced Agility Era—a phrase that refers to the industry’s preference for flexibility and streamlined production over stable and unshakable client relationships1. These are goals that an effective ERP solution will help bring to life. Such an ERP solution gains its effectiveness by integrating multiple interrelated parts into a single application, providing a centralized hub for all creative projects. There are several reasons that a single solution with multiple functionalities is preferable over using several separate applications. 

To begin, the need to switch between more than one application to perform a single task introduces the potential for human error, which increases as the task becomes more complicated. Along with that human error, such a human-led process introduces significant room for error that multiplies over time. Furthermore, using more than one application can have a significant decline in visibility into performance2. Many of the metrics available to an effective ERP solution will simply not be viewable through separate apps.

We’ve broken this article into two components that together provide a comprehensive guide to centralizing business operations leveraging a single ERP solution. In the first section, ‘Roles in an Integrated ERP Solution,’ we’ll look at the ability to switch between different user profiles in order to take advantage of the different ERP features such as the dashboard display and custom KPI metrics. Here we’ll explore some of the advantages of cloud-based systems such as the ability to log on via a web browser using any device from any location. We’ll also look briefly at analytics and time-based metric displays.

In the second section, ‘Integrated ERP Solutions and Resource/Project Management,’ we’ll outline how an ERP solution allows for effective resource allocation with team calendars and availability updated in real-time, along with automatic reminders and notifications once a team member is allocated to a project. We’ll also cover, in the cases where an internal resource is not available, the ability to consult outside talent through freelance resources—all through the same interface accessed through a consolidated ERP solution.

Roles and Metrics in an Integrated ERP Solution

The key to centralizing projects within a single ERP solution lies in the use of clearly defined and separated roles. Oracle’s NetSuite ERP solution, for instance, allows users that fit different profiles to log in accordingly. In one scenario, a user can log in as an executive and receive full access to KPIs, employee data, transaction logs, and other important and potentially sensitive data. In another case, one can log in as a project manager and be greeted by a different but related dashboard, replete with issue tracking, task management, budgetary numbers, and team member status. Still another profile, such as a resource manager, can be accessed with its own set of tools and settings. This profile might focus on resource allocation, timesheets, and financial data.

The paradigm outlined here is known as a role-based platform. The ERP defines exactly what one can see and do within the system and this role-based system is based on a set of defined permissions and access levels. As NetSuite describes it, “roles are based on a robust set of permissions and are the means by which we manage our segregation of duties.”3 These permissions are correlated to different respective user profiles that contain specific levels of access. While not every scenario is contained within the existing user profile sets, the profiles can be modified and tailored to suit the interests of any user. This role-based functionality is essential to centralizing your projects within a single ERP solution by enabling everyone on the team to have a one-stop portal.

Metrics, analytics, and KPIs are valuable as they provide useful insights, especially for executive users and managers. Using an executive role login, a user can select a KPI (or set of KPIs) to display as a graph over time. This will show fluctuations in performance during the selected time window. For instance, an executive may want to view a utilization summary—which shows hours tracked to billable services against project actuals4—over the course of a single quarter. Other KPIs may include timesheet summaries, jobs by company, and a full jobs summary, all data that benefit project managers and other users5.

Beyond the view of graph data displaying a longer period of time, a user can also drill down into specific numbers included in KPI and data views such as revenue reports. When viewing revenue from an income statement, for instance, an executive can choose between different time periods—monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.—and compare the results. The same executive user can drill further down into the number to reveal details at the transaction level. From there, information pertaining to the client, along with associated brands (or other parent/child information), is available for the user to peruse. 

An effective ERP solution gains its traction by centralizing these kinds of metrics in one single location across multiple user profiles. Rather than requiring several different applications, all of the necessary information is displayed in one convenient location. KPIs, metrics, and analytics provide invaluable visibility across the performance of a business, all viewable from a single dashboard. This strength is extended further through the advantage of multiple user profiles wherein views are customized and duties are segregated and related to user permissions.

Integrated ERP Solutions and Resource/Project Management

Another challenge for today’s businesses is the ability for resource and project managers to have clear visibility into the availability of those in their resource pools. Determining availability and forecasting for new hires and freelancers can be difficult, especially when relevant data is inaccurate or not up-to-date. With such unreliable information, resources can easily become double-booked and can often fail to keep track of regular assignments6. Attempting to cobble together this data from multiple sources may only add further confusion to an already challenging situation. This is why a single integrated ERP solution for resource and project management is imperative.

Using an integrated ERP solution for resource allocation allows a resource/project manager full visibility into the calendars and availability across the entire resource pool. The resource manager user profile, for instance, contains a home dashboard with metrics and query results that provide insight into the status of the team’s various projects7. Resource managers need to be kept up to date on this information through reminders, report links, and portlets that relate to hourly burn reports and overdue task and milestone indicators. Only a comprehensive and cross-functional ERP solution will allow such visibility for resource managers while displaying imperative data for other user profiles as well.

An effective ERP solution such as Oracle NetSuite will provide a resource manager a full view of each project which they are currently assigned. Such a view provides a full work breakdown structure with a display of tasks that remain to be completed, the resources required to complete them, how much work has already been executed, and the amount the agency expects to collect when complete8. The view will also display scheduling requirements along with standard billing rates for each resource9. From there, each task can be assigned to a specific resource such as a designer. The replacement will then appear throughout the project displays.

Another important tool included in an effective ERP system is a calendar that shows individual resources and their respective utilization. What is the current utilization of team members throughout your resource pool? Who, among your designers, is available for a two-week period starting one month from today? A resource allocation chart tool allows a resource manager detailed insight into these variables. It allows a resource manager the ability to assign resources without overworking team members, causing burnout, or neglecting important talent. Upon selecting a team member, with an integrated ERP solution, the calendar of that resource will be updated automatically.

Conclusion

Executives and project managers face important decisions on a daily basis. Choosing the right ERP solution is one of those decisions that has a deep and lasting impact on a firm’s success. A number of concerns figure into this decision. At the top of this list of concerns should be the centralization of functionality into a single solution. 

Does the ERP solution require numerous third-party applications to work? Or does it truly scale with your business as you grow? Does it work to streamline your business’s mission-critical processes10? Does the solution provide better visibility across the organization overall in order to achieve insight into the operations of disparate areas of the firm?

We’ve seen here how multiple user profiles—from executive to project manager to resource manager—allows multi-functional ERP within a single elegant solution. We’ve also explored how KPIs, metrics, and analytics can be used to monitor performance to ensure the health and viability of an organization. Then we turned to resource management and saw how an integrated ERP solution can keep resources organized and ultimately help to streamline operations. 

Centralizing all of this functionality into one single location is critical for an effective ERP solution. As opposed to launching multiple applications and using up valuable resources on human error and mistakes, a single elegant ERP solution saves both time and money. By using a flexible dashboard that adapts to different profiles, users can see what’s genuinely important to them on a project. When one considers these benefits, a multi-use ERP solution will greatly benefit companies in both the short and long run. 

For more information surrounding BORN Group’s ERP practice, please visit here.

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Footnotes

1. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2014/08/27/how-a-creative-cfo-will-save-advertising/&refURL=&referrer=#2607740412ea

2. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/34cf1b5b-c90d-4c76-8f7e-8a0ecaacf931?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

3. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/34cf1b5b-c90d-4c76-8f7e-8a0ecaacf931?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

4. https://functionpoint.com/4-important-kpis-to-measure-in-your-ad-agency/

5. https://functionpoint.com/4-important-kpis-to-measure-in-your-ad-agency/

6. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

7. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

8. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

9. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

10. http://www.netsuite.com/portal/products/erp.shtml

5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

Last week’s blog post, centered around the rise of B2B eCommerce outlined the immense potential traditional business retailers have by adopting a digital-first strategy. In this article, we’ve gathered our top 5 insights B2B brands can leverage to further develop and grow their B2B offering, to take advantage of the recent surge in online transactions.

Attract customers using organic and paid marketing

An organic, as well as paid marketing media strategy that involves an SEO strategy, will help drive relevant users to your website. This could take the form of social media marketing, display and banners ads, emails, and press releases to drive traffic and generate leads using content offers.

Focus on stellar customer experience

Traditionally, a B2B purchase involves far less emotional appeal compared to a B2C one, and they also involve many more stakeholders in a relatively standardized purchase journey. However, rest assured that customer experience is still at the top of the list of important factors to lock in a B2B sale. 

  • A fast, responsive and easily navigable website that offers intuitive search results that can also be accessed from multiple devices is key. Optimization for mobile is a trend in B2B eCommerce that most organizations are adopting to reach the millennials involved in the purchase process. An omnichannel strategy can also help in gathering data around the customer’s preferences. W. W. Grainger, which scores in the top tier on distributor B2B surveys, recently introduced a visual search on its mobile app1
  • Order approval workflows should be able to accommodate multiple parties and roles in the buying committees.
  • Personalization and user journeys are equally important to take into consideration. Unique personal content such as personalized product catalogs will appeal to your customer’s needs. Further, adjust cross-selling and upselling suggestions based on the user’s purchase history. 
  • Sales teams have to be rearranged. With marketplaces taking a chunk out of traditional B2B sales, sales teams have to be reconfigured to offer personal connection, advice, broader expertise and build relationships2. According to a Forrester Research study, 68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson, and when they engage with sales, they want that experience to be in a more problem-solving, consultative manner3.
  • Take customer feedback into account. Reliable customer support both during and after-sale is vital. Existing customers are a goldmine of feedback. 
  • AI and automation are increasingly being put to use to take the drudgery and paperwork out of the purchase process. Chatbots that are available 24/7 and also upsell and cross-sell products. At Genesys, the chatbot feature resulted in a whopping 50% less cart abandonment4
  • More information on product pages, different product views, and supporting information such as videos are even more important in B2B eCommerce, especially if you’re selling in bulk. More information will reduce communications, returns, and complaints5.

Pick the right B2B eCommerce technology platform

The architecture for your site is based on both customer need and maturity. Is it commerce-led, content-led, side-by-side or a pure headless model? Choosing the right platform that can handle all your needs can make or break your online offer. Developing an MVP (minimum viable product) can also shorten time to market and leave room to develop features based on feedback from customers. 

Flexible ordering, payment and pricing options

B2B customers need much more leeway with their ordering and custom pricing options as opposed to B2C customers. You have to be able to take purchase orders and credit applications into account and offer digital invoices, various payment methods, and a real-time snapshot of inventory. Incentivize new customers with free trials, reduced shipping costs, or a money-back guarantee. You can entice existing customers with easy order replenishment or loyalty rewards for repeat purchases such as discounts, tiered incentives, access to new features or a complimentary service.

Use social media marketing and user-generated content

Social media can not only be used to drive customers to your site but also for customer engagement. LinkedIn and Twitter are highly popular with B2B companies in regard to connecting with their audiences through text, podcasts, and video, gaining insights via feedback, providing thought leadership, and learning about their buyer persona. They can help funnel the customer from the education and awareness stage towards actual promotional content. Intel (@Intel) with its 4.8million followers is a great example of a B2B Twitter presence6. Publishing customer reviews are another way of establishing authenticity and credibility by driving user-generated content7.

As a leading systems integrator for platforms such as SAP Commerce Cloud, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus, commercetools, VTEX, and Elastic Path, BORN Group is well-qualified to assess and advise you on the best platform to meet your unique needs.

For more information around BORN Group’s B2B offerings, please visit here.

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Footnotes

1. Grainger eyes a big future for its new mobile visual search tool, Nov 2019, Digitalcommerce360.

2. In 2021, B2B Marketing And Sales Become More Human, Thanks To Tech, Forrester Research, Nov 2020, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep193-b2b-marketing-sales-predictions-2021/

3. The Death Of A (B2B) Salesman, Forrester Research, May 2017, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep12-death-b2b-salesman/

4. The Total Economic Impact of the Genesys Omnichannel Engagement Centre Solution, Forrester, Feb 2016, https://genbin.genesys.com/old/resources/TEI_Case_Study_Genesys_-_2052016_FINAL.pdf

5. Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey, LinkedIn, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/marketing-solutions/global/en_US/campaigns/pdfs/rethink-b2b-buyers-journey-v03.09-eng-us.pdf

6. 5 Top B2B Brands Delivering Exemplary Twitter Engagement, Toprankblog.com, Sep 2019, https://www.toprankblog.com/2019/09/exemplary-twitter-engagement/

7. The Rise of B2B Product Reviews,  https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/marketing-solutions/resources/pdfs/linkedin-crowd-b2b-product-review-book.pdf

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

Business-to-business (B2B) is a commercial transaction that is conducted between businesses, as opposed to B2C which is a transaction between a company and its customers. B2B transactions might take place between, say, a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. 

Multiple B2B transactions take place in a supply chain where a manufacturer might buy raw material or components that can be used in the manufacturing process. The end-result is the finished product. Much of the purchase process occurs through electronic data interchange (EDI) currently. EDI is well suited for large, recurring orders. B2B eCommerce can also include electronic products such as websites as well as software to increase business efficiencies. 

Learning from B2C

Spurred by the success of eCommerce in the B2C space, many organizations are gradually moving to the Internet and applying some principles and practices from that sphere to that of their supplier or wholesaler and retailer relationships. In 2019, global B2B eCommerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) amounted to 12.2 trillion U.S. dollars, up from approximately 5.83 trillion U.S. dollars in 20131.

Just as an eCommerce shop uses the power of the Internet to allow people to find out more about the company’s products or services and purchase them, online product or supply exchange sites allow other businesses to find out about the products and initiate procurement via an interface. B2B eCommerce sites also allow for more information, images and product descriptions that allow for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

B2B vs B2C

While B2C involves more impulse buying, B2B solutions purchasing is more thoughtful and planned. B2B relationships are long-term and ongoing and purchases are usually recurring, and for this, the customers expect reliable deliveries along with attractive and dynamic prices and terms

It is no wonder then that B2B purchasing has become even more complex with more stakeholders involved and deliberating in the purchase process2. These developments have become imperative to make the process itself easier. A smooth customer experience is paramount, even in a seemingly standardized B2B purchase journey3.

B2B eCommerce Marketplaces

Leveraging an eCommerce platform, companies can set up marketplaces and online directories specializing in certain industries or products that facilitate B2B transactions. Besides Amazon Business which uses very similar principles to its B2C business, some of the most well-known B2B marketplaces include:

  • Horizontal marketplaces: An early pioneer of a horizontal B2B marketplace was Alibaba. Launched in Guangzhou by Jack Ma in 1998, Alibaba filled a need – to connect Chinese small and medium-sized businesses and wholesalers with clients overseas. Like Amazon, it charged a subscription to sellers who wanted to customize their shop. Unlike Amazon which leveraged its logistics network, Alibaba remains a platform player. Similar generalist marketplaces such as ThomasNet in the US and Tradenet India also exist. The other elephant in the room is Amazon Business. Like Alibaba, an Amazon Business account is a one-stop shop that enables a company which purchases corporate items and supplies to save costs and makes the process efficient. Amazon Business is set to top US$31 billion in revenue and US$52 billion in gross merchandise volume by 2023, including sales by third-party sellers on the marketplace, according to RBC Capital Markets4.
  • Vertical marketplaces: Vertical marketplaces have been around in industries such as automotive and healthcare for a couple of decades but new ones such as Makers Row for fashion, GoDirect Trade in aerospace, CheMondis in chemicals, FastMetals in iron and steel, and Farmers Business Network in agriculture are proliferating. Today, there are more than 70 B2B marketplaces in more than 13 diverse industries, according to research compiled by Digital Commerce 360 B2B5.
  • Service marketplaces: Service marketplaces such as Upwork (for freelancers) and Fiverr (micro-services), where the buying process is different from that of physical goods. One does not choose a supplier or offer but instead sends a request for quotation through the system, and receive offers from all the service providers. Buyers generally can’t browse seller profiles.

B2B eCommerce Trends 

  • Mobile: Mobile transactions for B2B eCommerce are becoming increasingly popular as more millennials drive the purchasing process. Given the 90% increase in B2B executives using mobile devices to research business purchases, mobile sites are now an essential business tool6. Mobile B2B eCommerce requires dynamic pricing and stock indications as well as real-time discount calculation.
  • Personalization, user personas and user journeys: According to Salesforce, almost 75% of business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagements to their needs and 8 in 10 say that the experience is as important as the products and services themselves7. These are high-level decision-makers with complex priorities and speaking to them about their pain-points, roles, goals, and objectives cuts through the noise.
  • AI-driven features: Tools powered by machine learning such as search enable the customer to find what they are looking for faster, with features like auto-suggestions, as well as fuzzy, partial and faceted searches, only added to the utility of the site.
  • Content marketing: The General Electric (GE) B2B experience is held as the gold standard of how to communicate with customers in a B2B environment. Using innovative videos, blogs, user-generated content and collaborations with influencers, GE uses content marketing to demystify its business products and build its brand8.

B2B at BORN

For a North American machine tool manufacturer, BORN implemented a sophisticated solution whereby when a part of a client’s machine goes down, an automated email is sent and the unit is reordered and replaced. This was a vast improvement from the previous system that consisted of multiple steps executed manually.

In another use case, BORN developed an innovative and efficient eCommerce and service experience for client Nestlé Starbucks and its Starbucks Branded Solutions by delivering a best-practice, extensible, global eCommerce framework leveraging an enterprise-grade platform and other key systems to amplify the growth of the online channel.

Over the years, BORN has worked with leading enterprise eCommerce platforms with a focus on B2B commerce, as well as associated applications such as order (OMS), content (CMS) and product management systems (PIM). Powering many of BORN’s solutions are B2B accelerators such as the first-ever SAP-certified accelerator for SAP Commerce Cloud, Eagle. Eagle is our eCommerce framework built exclusively by BORN for SAP Commerce Cloud (B2B, B2C & Custom C2C). In addition, Bulldog is BORN’s Adobe Commerce accelerator which includes pre-built extensions, B2B custom UX & UI features, and special B2B enhancements to essential functionalities.

For more information surrounding BORN’s B2B offerings and case studies, please visit here.

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1. Global B2B e-commerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) 2013-2019, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/705606/global-b2b-e-commerce-gmv/

2. The New Sales Imperative, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-sales-imperative

3.  New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales, Gartner, https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey

4.  There’s a unit inside Amazon that will be a $31 billion business in four years, RBC says, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/06/amazon-business-a-b2b-unit-to-reach-31-billion-revenue-by-2023-rbc.html

5.  Why marketplaces occupy center stage in B2B ecommerce, DigitalCommerce360, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/03/05/why-marketplaces-occupy-center-stage-in-b2b-ecommerce/

6. The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/

7. Young Buyers Are Driving B2B Expectations of B2C-Like Experiences, Marketingcharts.com, https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/business-to-business-83757

8.  GE Raises the Bar for B2B Content Marketing, enveritasgroup.com, https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/ge-raises-the-bar-for-b2b-content-marketing/

Inside Project Management at BORN Group with Anita Sforza

Inside Project Management at BORN Group with Anita Sforza

Project management is a skill that can be found in almost every career. To deliberate with and lead a team to achieve a particular objective while navigating constraints is a talent found across verticals and throughout life. That broad, multifaceted skill can be a lot to unpack for someone outside the space, and even outside the particular industry they intend to project manage for. That’s why we’ve reached out to Senior Director of Project Management & Delivery at BORN Group, Anita Sforza, to gain insights into what project management looks like in the eCommerce space, and what skills and concepts are most essential to find success in that community.

Anita has a unique path that cultivated her passion in project management – at nineteen, she worked part-time at a multimedia agency that specializes in higher education in app development. After beginning to help pick up calls by various educational publishers to ease work among the smaller team, her work developing apps soon transitioned into the role of development and project management. From there, she began to build on her experience in project management in the tech sector.

“Project management is a multifaceted discipline that demands a combination of strategic and technical skills, working with the development team as well as clients,” began Anita, recognizing how many different talents that the solutions demanded of PMs in the space – namely technical experience, analytical skills, and passion for process improvement. The financial components and skill cannot be understated as well, as project managers are tasked with overseeing budgets as well as the project itself. Tying these talents together is a key foundation of risk mitigation and risk management – complications can emerge at any step of the journey, and it’s essential to be able to reorient.

On a broader level, project managers should try to see themselves as product owners to help cultivate the right end goal. Product owners think and breath the requirements of what they are building, whether on an app or website in the eCommerce space. Envisioning what the requirements are, how one executes on them, and how one delivers are shared between the product owner and the project manager – it is just on the project manager to execute. Balancing technical and creative skills comes a long way in envisioning how to execute in the shortest path possible. Partnering up with your team and leaning in on their expertise is also one of the biggest assets one might have as a PM practitioner. When some people think of PMs, they assume someone who exclusively builds timelines around client expectations, but building out a project execution while consulting and continuously validating with one’s own team can ensure a seamless experience.

Anita then followed up, noting how, “first and foremost, a successful project manager understands that knowledge of the area they are working in is key to their success.” Project management as a whole is platform-agnostic, there are project managers in construction as well as in healthcare, or any given space where work needs to be overseen. Given BORN specializes in eCommerce, anyone seeking success in BORN project management should have that background and interest in eCommerce, and understand that relevant platform knowledge goes a long way. 

In context to BORN and most digital agencies, project managers should be familiar with agile and sprint planning. It takes a lot of skill to look at an implementation project and create a development plan for your team based on targeted agile development KPIs. That development plan process can be broken down into a few major components, beginning with calculating the total team capacity via its raw allocated time. A couple of those KPIs consist of the overall team capacity and the velocity that is needed to achieve on-time delivery for our sprint goals. The velocity is one KPI that’s generally a moving target that is measured sprint-by-sprint. Not every team works at the same pace, and the variety of skill levels in a team should be accounted for. The simplest way to gauge team velocity is to set baselines and expectations early on. Measuring and adjusting sprint by sprint is the mark of a good project manager, who should pace tickets to accelerate or decelerate velocity to avoid blockers and missed deadlines. With all those points in mind, a project manager can effectively capture large implementations and integrations at a healthy speed, mindful of capturing weighted features first with the right talent to take them on.

Project management is a field that inspires leadership and teamwork to deliver a client’s task. When it comes to exploring Anita’s particular role at BORN as Senior Director of Project Management & Delivery, one sees all the above skills and techniques at full display. Anita manages a series of project deliveries for her portfolio with oversight from BORN, reviewing teams internally and externally, while scoping, budgeting, and resourcing to capture a holistic view of client objectives.

For those aspiring toward project management in eCommerce, she advises that project management is “a rigorous field that rewards collaboration, honesty, and creativity” and those interested are best to do research to gain a deeper understanding of the artifacts that go into the job. Building out one’s experience and having the best foot forward is key – don’t be afraid to apply for project management jobs where you might only have 20% of what is asked, so long as you are willing to demonstrate an effort to learn and adapt. Everyone has an inner project manager within themselves, and it is an intense yet rewarding field that can provide dividends in one’s personal growth and career, especially in the eCommerce sector.

For further insights on BORN Groups and Anita’s project management in action, check out our recent case study on Nestlé Purina here.

9 Tips for Creating Exceptional Digital Content

9 Tips for Creating Exceptional Digital Content


It takes a potential B2B customer seeing thirteen pieces of content on their journey before they decide to commit to a product, according to a FocusVision study1

In an omnichannel retail world, customer experience and engagement are paramount. Content that can be used to engage customers at various touchpoints in their buyer’s journey is an essential part of an organization’s digital strategy. The creation of these digital assets can be resource-intensive, and there is a lot of competition vying for consumer attention. Below are nine tips to help laser-focus your content in order to reach maximum return.

1. Define Your Goals

Setting out what you want to achieve is a great start – your profitability depends on it. Different kinds of content serve different purposes. A case study might build the credibility of a brand while a shoppable social media post exists to drive lead generation through the sales funnel. 

2. Customer-focused Content and User Discovery

Once you know your audience along with their interests, needs, and challenges, you can show them content that is valuable to them in that context. If they like it enough, they might even share it. Know where and when they congregate, so that you can map their personas to the channels they prefer, and the content or stories they are likely to engage with. Moreover, it’s critical to create content that can evolve with its intended audience.

3. Digital Content Creation

The creation of digital content involves a few processes:

  • Audit the technology, workflows, processes, and resources involved in your current content creation to see if there are any gaps that can be filled, or to identify and improve existing content.
  • Create a relevant and useful pipeline of content. How does one come up with digital content ideas? Collect, curate, and schedule topics that would be interesting to your audience and group them in clusters. An SEO Strategy involves using Google and other tools to come up with popular and valuable keywords and keyword phrases. Ideally, the content should be evergreen so that it doesn’t need to be updated often. Metadata needs to be included in the backend. Non-search methods include published articles about research analyses or survey results related to your industry. New products, technology or brands can be introduced via text or video. Good storytelling is still very relevant in digital content creation.
  • Content templates and outlines are important to keep up-to-date with the trends in content creation and align with the overall marketing strategy.
  • Curate, refine, and publish at different times of the day or on a pre-set schedule. 

Once you have a list of topics, let’s look at the forms the content can take. 

4. Types of digital macro and micro content

  • Written content: Blogs that are regularly updated are the most common form of written digital content. They can be interspersed with long-form text-based content such as guides, white papers, press releases, case studies and eBooks.
  • eNewsletters and eMagazines: Besides blogs, scheduled newsletters sent by email are one of the most effective forms of digital content.
  • Infographics: A well-placed infographic can tell a story better than a thousand words.
  • Animation & videos: Animation and videos are visually compelling elements that can be embedded in or used alongside both social media as well as written content. Video is considered to be the number one form of content creation2.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are increasingly being used both in B2C and B2B environments to tell stories.
  • SMS: eCommerce transactions are increasingly done using mobile devices and apps3. 81% of visits on Shopify sites are from a user’s mobile device. SMS marketing is becoming increasingly important. 
  • Games: Gamification tools such as polls and quizzes expand the repertoire of ways in which to engage with your audience and help gain insights to what they are thinking.
  • Website/Microsite/Intranet: Corporate or eCommerce sites are not the only ways to present a company to the world. Large companies have Intranets and brands have their own sites too, even if just for a short while.
  • Social media posts: Depending on where your audience is, you could post sponsored stories, shoppable posts and other content across any or all of the top social media apps or pages – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok et al. They could take many of the forms above. 
  • User-generated content: Last but not least, user-generated content (UGC) such as reviews or posts published by satisfied customers have a far greater reach and impact than out-bound only content created by brands. 2.4 times, in fact4. Any brand that is present on social media channels should also have a UGC strategy to showcase that content on its other platforms.

5. Visual appeal and/or readability

Optimize layouts, chunk text, use color contrasts and introduce microcontent elements such as images, graphics, animation and video where appropriate for visually stimulating and easy-to-digest content. Smart content can personalize pages to groups of customers. Above all, the content should still reflect the brand values. 

6. Conversion

The whole point of the digital content is to gain more conversions, either in terms of engagement or sales. Call-to-actions such as links to relevant pages or social media buttons are important in all of the content being created.

7. Digital content marketing

The promotion of content is as important as its creation. It is a way to reach out to your target audience – or let them find you. It also can build brand awareness and a deeper relationship with your customer– ultimately encompassing advocacy and brand loyalty. Digital content marketing includes techniques such as search engine marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), optimization for search engines (SEO) and social media marketing.

8.Track and analyze 

Engagement statistics for digital content provide multiple data points that can be analyzed. Currently analytics can extend as far as evaluating online behaviors of individuals viewing specific pieces of content. Page views and likes as well as using the right keywords in the right places and building backlinks could get you a higher ranking in search engine results. However, search engine algorithms change, so constant re-evaluation and fine-tuning of topics, statistics and search intent is necessary to maintain or improve rankings.

9. Digital content creation in the future

While currently popular forms of digital content will persist for a while, the future is already here in terms of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML). These cutting-edge technologies are already enabling content creation where the viewer has an active role and is not just the spectator.

With BORN Group’s roots in content production, we have expertise across content strategy, consultancy, production, and more. Visit here to learn more.

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1. Content Really is King: Content Consumption in the B2B Buyer’s Journey, FocusVision, https://cloud.kapostcontent.net/pub/ed24339d-0b16-4341-8fef-c4d921903f8c/whitepaper-marketing-content-consumption-study?kui=lrDgMQf8fFSSJ0tc_I4n7w

2.  Not Another State of Marketing Report 2020, HubSpot, https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/tools/state-of-marketing/PDFs/Not%20Another%20State%20of%20Marketing%20Report%20-%20Web%20Version.pdf

3.  Shopify Announces Third-Quarter 2019 Financial Results, Shopify, https://news.shopify.com/shopify-announces-third-quarter-2019-financial-results

4.  Stackla Survey Reveals Disconnect Between the Content Consumers Want & What Marketers Deliver, Businesswire, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190220005302/en/Stackla-Survey-Reveals-Disconnect-Content-Consumers-Marketers


Best Practices: Why Search Engine Optimization Belongs in Every Marketer’s Toolkit

Best Practices: Why Search Engine Optimization Belongs in Every Marketer’s Toolkit

Searching online via a browser is the main way potential customers discover a brand’s or organization’s website. Making it easier for them – with paid ads or otherwise – to find your site is one of the most effective ways to draw more traffic and awareness to your site. 

Designing, writing and coding your website with this in mind can not only increase the volume but also the quality of visitors to your site. 

A savvy digital marketer who cares about one of the first touchpoints in the customer journey needs to have a search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in his toolkit. 

Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing is the branch of digital marketing that relies on both paid advertising and organic techniques that don’t involve payment – the latter falling under the term SEO – to increase the visibility of websites in search engine results pages (SERPs). Globally, Google is the leading search engine by far, accounting for over 91% of searches, followed by Bing and Yahoo!1. Google also owns Ask, the sixth-largest search engine. Baidu and Yandex are the most popular search engines in China and Russia, respectively, making up around a percentage each of searches worldwide.

Besides SEO, SEM encompasses the following: paid inclusion or sponsored listings placed within the results of search engine queries using Google Adwords or Bing Ads, pay-per-click (PPC), article submissions, and search retargeting. With search retargeting, display ads target searches made on other sites by customers who have never visited your site. 

Getting on the first page of SERPs

SERPs include paid ads on top as well as organic results below them in an ordered list. Traffic that comes through SEO are referred to as ‘organic search results’ to differentiate it from traffic that comes from paid search. The higher up on the list your website can get, the more traffic it will receive. 

A Sistrix study that analyzed over 80 million keywords and billions of search results found that the first organic result in Google search has an average click-through rate of 28.5%2. The second and third positions have only a 15% and 11% click-through rate respectively. The tenth position in Google has a measly 2.5% click-through rate. Rarely does anyone even click to the second page. 

What is SEO and how does it work? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) sounds as though it’s mainly about the search engines. Search engines do play a starring role as the medium through which the search is conducted and routed and their algorithms used to direct the customers looking for information. An example is how Google ‘crawls’ through the web to find and analyze new content, pages or websites to index them even before you search one word. Then its famed algorithms – which is tweaked regularly – matches the searches that users put in to match them to the entries in its search index3

However, SEO is also about your customers. It is just as pivotal to understand what they are seeking, what the words they use when they seek it and the type of content they consume. It is using that knowledge to differentiate your website from that of your competitors’ so that potential customers are led to yours instead of theirs.

SEO techniques

SEO techniques to optimize content can be divided into three categories: on-page, technical and off-page.

On-page SEO relates to the content on an individual page or website.

  • Identify and optimize keywords and opportunities
    • Research the best terms and phrases (keywords) that might generate traffic to your site as well as their intent. Creating and publishing high-quality content that includes those target keywords in all the right places is the next step. 
    • Copywriting for the web keeping SEO in mind uses writing techniques such as the inverted pyramid of information with the conclusion first, ‘chunking’ text to keep readers interested and uses calls to action and instructions.
  • Metatags are snippets of text which are included in the source code of the webpage that help search engines understand the content. These need to be reviewed and updated over time.

Technical SEO involves the technical elements of a website beyond content. It not only improves the site’s readability for crawlers but also improves the user experience, so it is doubly important.

  • Speed and site performance The speed at which pages load, how pages respond and if they are mobile-friendly or relevant to local or international users are directly connected to user engagement. With voice search exploding, being optimized for voice is becoming more important too.
  • On-site coding implementation This relates to the placement of elements on the page as well as the HTML source code. On-site SEO helps search engines as well as users understand what a page is about and identify it as relevant to the search query or keywords.
  • Ranking report & tracking There are a variety of tools that track metrics such as a rise or drop in the value of keyword rankings and SERP features such as snippets and Knowledge Graphs, 

Off-page SEO is about amplifying the authority and influence that your website has in relation to other sites. 

  • Link building High-quality links that point to your site from relevant and authoritative sites show search engines that your website is a trusted source, that it is established and valuable to many others. 
  • Social optimization also involves using social media outlets and communities to generate awareness for your site and your products and services.

As you can see, there are many moving parts to an SEM/SEO strategy. As an unpaid alternative, SEO may be cost-effective, but it is very tricky to get right. The strategy also needs to be monitored and reviewed constantly. This is why a site redesign is the ideal time to involve an SEO expert to optimize your website for search engines. 

Find out more about BORN’s expertise in digital marketing and behavioral experience.

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1. Search Engine Market Share Worldwide, Dec 2020, Statcounter Globalstats, https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share

2. Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid, Sixtrix, July 14, 2020, https://www.sistrix.com/blog/why-almost-everything-you-knew-about-google-ctr-is-no-longer-valid/

3. How Google Search works, Google, https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/

Bringing the Left Brain and Right Brain Together within Agencies

Bringing the Left Brain and Right Brain Together within Agencies

A typical digital agency contains highly diverse personnel, each with a refined set of talents, abilities, communication styles, and ways of thinking. Generally, these roles can be divided into two categories: administrative or executive roles and creative roles. The first category is often thought of as primarily organizational. They are in charge of assembling productive teams, defining the company vision, securing short and long-term funding, and planning and executing long-term goals. Such a set of tasks and responsibilities is generally considered to involve a high degree of logical and analytical thinking. Conversely, the second category of roles in an agency demands a host of creative skills such as aesthetic expression, emotional intelligence, and imagination. These attributes are often found concentrated in the roles of creative directors, copywriters, art directors, designers, web developers, production artists, and storyboard artists. 

How, then, can the differences between these two kinds of agency team members be categorized? One way of conceiving the differences between executives and creatives is through their left- brain versus right-brain dominance. This notion comes from the popular (yet largely debunked) notion that for each individual, one side of the brain is more active. Those with left-brain dominance (or simply “left-brained” individuals) often excel at logical, analytical, and objective problems. On the other hand, right-brained individuals, as the theory contends, succeed in creative tasks that demand spontaneity, visual-thinking, and invention. So-called left brain/right brain theory contends that everyone’s brain dominates in only one of these two regions. But in reality, this theory represents, at best, only half of the truth. Indeed, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Roger W. Sperry, extending from his research into epilepsy, suggested in 1981 that language is controlled primarily by the left side of the brain, while spatial information and visual thinking occur in the right hemisphere.1 Yet, while this separation can to an extent be verified, virtually all neurological activity happens across both sides of the brain. As science writer Carl Zimmer explains, “No matter how lateralized the brain can get, the two sides still work together.”

That being said, the separation of agencies into left-brained and right-brained remains a useful strategy to assemble more productive teams. Even though team members consistently use both sides of their brains, the kinds of personalities that gravitate toward such roles are almost guaranteed to contain the kinds of distinctions that pertain to the theory of left brain/right brain dominance. Here we can outline a series of best practices for digital agency team members that pertain to collaboration between business executives/managers and creatives. The first section begins from the perspective of the CFO and provides advice for working with creatives. 

Through a combination of disciplined management and open-ended flexibility, CFOs can get the most out of agency creatives by understanding their right-brain proclivities. The subsequent section (“Tips for Creatives”) proceeds from the vantage point of the agency creative and explains useful methodologies for working effectively with CFOs, management, and executives. By using clear communication, anticipating misunderstandings, and attending to details, creatives can continue to meet and exceed management’s expectations. All in all, each of these perspectives will take into account the practicalities of today’s agency landscape, which prioritizes on-your-feet decision making and flexible workflows. 

Cultivating the Creative

Creative types often thrive in open-ended environments in which structure and rules are undefined or perhaps do not even exist. Designers, for example, often need unstructured time to experiment with new ideas, and try out different approaches to an upcoming project deliverable. Of course, such open-ended activities must also occur within limits: a copywriter can’t spend two months brainstorming ideas for a campaign that is due to the client in two weeks. This is why many managers explicitly build in time for “discovery.” During this dedicated period, creatives can iterate over multiple versions and explore different directions before committing to specific determinations, which may be made later in consultation with the client. This way, creatives are given a kind of “sandbox” in which they can feel free to experiment and put forth their most adventurous and innovative ideas without feeling constrained, at least at this point, by impending deadlines and other restrictions In addition to cultivating flexibility within limits, effective facilitation of the work of right-brained should also include tried-and-trusted project management techniques. 

It may seem obvious to industry insiders, but it’s worth reviewing the power of good project management when it comes to working with graphic designers, copywriters, creative directors, and web developers. Most importantly, each of these team members should be aware of all of the important project dates and goals. So, how can project managers keep creatives up to date on important dates and timelines, especially when these data points often change in the middle of a project? One helpful practice is to keep a calendar, which is accessible to all team members, in a place that is centrally located. For such a location there is often a default reference page, or dashboard, on every major project management software package like WorkBook or Confluence. Another technique, which should accompany centralized date-keeping, and which is no less important, is the practice of reiterating important dates, especially those that have recently been modified, in all internal and external communication. Sending a brief check-in email to your designers? Why not include a table reminding the team of upcoming deliverables and their respective due dates? Thankfully, such information can be conveniently stored on your project management dashboard. So a quick copy and paste is all it takes. 

Executing the Design

Switching roles to the perspective of the creative, many of the same principles apply when considering the task of designers and artistic directors collaborating with CFOs and project managers. One way of describing this shift in perspective is to simply invert the advice we covered above. For instance, if managing dates in today’s agile advertising industry is a challenge for those in organizational roles, as a creative it should be considered a primary responsibility to help project managers keep track of timelines.

Imagine two designers. Both are great at their craft, but Designer A spends more time following up with the client following their design meeting. Designer A asks key questions to confirm the direction of the project, along with how the project works with the client’s overall vision. Rather than spending this time following up with the client to clarify the direction, however, Designer B immediately goes to work and spends twice as long as designer A on the initial wireframes. It should go without saying that designer A was, by far, more successful with the client. And, more importantly, designer A saved the agency a significant amount of profit by using fewer work hours while, ultimately, delivering the project ahead of schedule. The moral of the story for creatives? Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask for clarity when anything seems less than completely transparent. Creatives should anticipate any potential misunderstandings among themselves, the rest of the team, and/or the client. Parts of the project that seem less certain in terms of the timeline should be highlighted. Where are the “known unknowns”? What are the “unknown unknowns”? No designer should be too proud to inquire and inform their team of vital information.

Synchronizing Together

The disparities between right-brained creatives and left-brained, executives, and project managers may at first seem insurmountable. These personality traits relate to cognitive abilities that become encouraged, perhaps at an early stage of life, and then become reinforced through professional specialization. Despite a lack of scientific support for the left brain/right brain theory, there is plenty of social evidence for its continued relevance—especially in today’s advertising industry. One excels in math early on and is then admitted into a fast-track MBA program, only later to become a highly successful CFO. Or, one shows a talent for drawing, is accepted into design school, and then becomes an all-star designer for a top agency. In neither of these cases is anything said about the ability of either personality type to deal effectively with the other. But when considered carefully—whether you are a creative looking to collaborate better with CFOs, or an executive looking to relate more directly to your creative team—there are specific strategies for crossing the seemingly unbridgeable divide between cognitive hemispheres.

Whether right-brained or left-brained, together we can make the digital agency world a better place to work. 

1 https://www.verywell.com/left-brain-vs-right-brain-2795005 

2 https://www.verywell.com/left-brain-vs-right-brain-2795005