Does Big Data Bring Big Rewards

Marketing Strategy in a complicated world

By Rich Garling January 2018


There are huge mounds of data being gathered today by a multitude of organizations around the world. Governments, private and public companies, not-for-profit organizations are all gathering data. Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated and stored per day. The question does arise as to what to do with all that data? Can it serve a useful purpose? Tools for analyzing reams of data of information at speeds and accuracy inconceivable ten years, or even twenty years ago, have been developed. From this data company’s feel, they can derive patterns that will help to increase sales. From this processing, people can determine the proper course of exercise and diet that best fits them. This paper aims to explore the various efforts being used to analyze big data and the rewards and failures that have resulted from this effort.


There are huge mounds of data being gathered today by a multitude of organizations around the world. From Governments to private and public companies it is estimated that over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated and stored per day (Laudon, 2016). The question does arise as to what to do with all that data? Why is it being generated? Is there information within this huge mound of data that could be culled for some useful purpose? Many companies and organizations are working toward developing tools that will allow exploring this information at speeds and accuracy unimaginable ten years, or even twenty years ago. Much of this ability to accurately cull massive amounts of data has come about due to advancements in technology and data processing that allow for the analysis of data at greater speeds and accuracy. From this data, companies can derive patterns of customer purchasing. From this processing, people can determine the proper course of exercise and diet that best fits them. This paper will explore the various efforts being used to analyze big data and the rewards and failures that have resulted from this effort.

Types of Big Data Collected

There are many kinds of data gathered from a variety of sources. In many cases companies are gathering data they didn’t realize would have some value, such as addressing customer needs or increasing sales. Green Mountain Coffee had been gathering and storing voice and text data for years. This data went unused until Green Mountain invested in analyzing structured and unstructured audio and text data. Green Mountain uses this analysis to learn more about customer behavior buying habits and patterns. By learning more about what customers want, what issues they were having with their twenty different brands and over two hundred different drinks, Green Mountain could produce information that would lead to increased sales. Information responding to specific points of customer confusion or concern helped to produce answers posted on web pages and social media sites. Customer queries and the answers to those queries became a response used by customer service representatives when responding to similar queries by other customers. All of this analysis led to a better experience for Green Mountain’s customers. AutoZone used data showing the types of automobiles owned by people living near their stores. This data was used to create sales specials unique to that store. AutoZone would use this data to adjust inventory to fit the types of cars prevalent in the neighborhoods surrounding the store.

Technologies Used to Gather Big data

Green Mountain obtained the services of Calabrio Speech Analytics to analyze the mounds of data generated from its call centers. Calabrio provides sophisticated audio and text analytics that unlock the goldmine of information in a contact center, transforming every interaction into usable data (Calabria Speech, 2018). AutoZone (AutoZone, 2018) used NuoDb (NuoDb, 2018) database software system to derive automobile types owned by potential customers surrounding its stores. Sears developed a big data system using Apache Hadoop to target groups within its sixty million credit card customers with special sales and promotions. Sears spent heavily in information technology spending more than all other non-computing firms except for Boeing Corporation. Using Apache Hadoop, Sears was able to analyze immense amounts of data weekly what used to take six weeks using Teradata warehouse software and SAS servers. Sears old system could use only 10% of the data available; today it uses 100% of the data. In the past it could only retain this same data for short periods of time, usually less than ninety days, now it keeps all of the data. Today, Sears sells its knowledge of developing big data analysis tools using Apache Hadoop to other companies by setting up a subsidiary company, Metascale.

Big Data and The Benefits Derived

Sears was at one time the retailer in the United States. Then Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amazon came along (D’Onfro, 2015). Sears has been losing ground ever since and was looking for a way to stop the bleeding.  Sears realized it had a huge customer base which contained unseen data. Sears determined that it could use this data to help stem the tide and turn around its fortunes. By investing heavily in information technology, Sears figured it could regain ground lost by increasing sales to this huge customer base. With sixty million potential customers, it all made sense. By investing in Apache Hadoop, it could better analyze the data it had and identify targeted groups in which to sell products. A deeper understanding of customer buying habits or patterns would increase sales. Sears has had incomplete success since it has failed to address the fundamental issue of Sears’s cost structure. Sears’s cost structure is amongst the highest in the industry, and it has kept it from translating its big data efforts into success. Green Mountain Coffee wanted to improve the customer experience by addressing points of confusion and their buying habits. Using this information to address customer needs and requirements, it theorized, would help to increase sales and solidify the market position. Today, management can quickly identify pain points and issues before they get out of hand.

Where Big Data Worked

Examples of decisions where big data has helped improve either products or services are prevalent in consumer applications. Personal devices companies, such as Fitbit, Sony, and Garmin have helped people to analyze their exercise routines, diets, and sleep patterns (Laudon, 2016). These devices connect to the internet allowing users to join with others users to compare how their routines are working in comparison to others. Under Armour’s (UA) Map My Walk allows users to create a profile, log workouts from walking, running, and bicycle riding; even over different terrains. UA is a mobile device application commonly used on iPhones or Android devices It tracks users routines, sets up diets for them, creates goal setting, and users can join any number of groups worldwide (UA Record, 2018). Skyscanner and Trivago (Trivago, 2016) use big data systems to provide mobile applications allowing travelers to determine the best options available for purchasing airline tickets, reserving hotel rooms, and renting cars when traveling.

Where Big Data Did Not Work

But not all big data ventures are advisable or well thought out. Google developed an algorithm it claimed could accurately show how many people nationwide had contracted influenza. Google theorized it could determine the number of people with influenza and their locations by using the search data from its search engine. The numbers Google showed constantly over-estimated flu rates when compared to conventional data gathered by other groups including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What Google failed to take into account, searches are sometimes controlled by emotion. The number of searches increased as media coverage and social media posts increased, which caused an inflated number of returns in a Google search. Sears’s use of big data has, so far, not brought it back to a profitable state. One theory may be that it is not asking the right questions in which to query their huge amounts of data. Until Sears fixes its broken cost structure, using big data; even selling it to its competitors, will not right this broken ship (Laudon, 2016). Wal-Mart understood that it needed to control its cost structure (Songini, 2006). Sears has yet to grasp it.


In conclusion, does big data bring big rewards? It can if the right questions are asked. Google and Sears are examples of where the right questions are not being asked. Sears was close, but it failed to fix fundamental problems with its structure, it was unable to put itself in a position of competitive advantage. Green Mountain and Starbucks have both utilized big data to meet customer needs (Huff, 2014). AutoZone can control its inventory to meet customer needs and control costs. Travelers now enjoy the ability to change travel on the fly. Amazon allows its customer to do comparison shopping with competitors selling similar or same products even if they’re not on Amazon (D’Onfro, 2015) (Peterson, 2015). Big Data analysis has its benefits, but it has drawbacks. Much is dependent on asking the right questions.


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eCommerce Security & Payments Systems

It’s funny how the supposed secure RFID chips on credit cards are less secure than the magnetic stripe cards are. According to Chase Bank and American Express, the chips are built with 128-bit encryption and Triple-DES (Data Encryption Standard) protecting the data on the chip. Furthermore, the chips, theoretically, send a unique, single-use code with each transaction that does not match the number on the card (Johnson, 2009). And now wallets are available at Amazon that contains shields within your wallet preventing the reading of the card chips by portable readers of RFID chips.

Part of the problem with fighting computer criminals is that once companies have developed the means to fight the latest virus or DoS attack, computer criminals have developed another way to attack. Anti-virus software is only as good as the last known virus. A computer virus, phishing scams, Trojan horses, and DoS (Denial of Service) is used to get information, prevent the use of your computer, gather the information that can be used illegally or sold for illegal use. The biggest threat to computer security has been found to be the user. In the early days, users would write their passwords on a sticky note and post it on their monitors. You may laugh at this notion, but it’s very true. The problem with fighting computer crime is the inability of many people to understand that they’re being spammed or phished. They download a file containing a Trojan horse virus thinking it’s from their best friend, or they’re gullible enough into believing that their child, who is standing next to them, is badly injured in a Nigerian hospital and needs emergency help. The file they download carries a code that will allow their computer to be used in a vast network of other computers to infect many more computers. These computers provide enough power to cause heavy-duty denial-of-service attacks on many well-known companies or government services (Brumfield, 2015)

Grameen Koota set up micro-finance and is part of Grameen Bank in Bangalore, India. It provides small loans to poor or low-income clients. One of the problems that Grameen Koota was trying to bridge by developing a mobile loan and payment system was the inability of the poor to grow their way out of poverty. They didn’t have access to the means of capital they needed to provide even for necessities of life. Grameen Koota had a desire to grow their business. Since business and government were unwilling to set up the needed infrastructure due to the heavy costs of that infrastructure, and the people had a need, and the people owned the means; an abundance of cell phones, the opportunity to provide easy banking and financial services presented itself (Turban, 2012).

M-Pesa has been providing mobile banking and micro-financing to poor, underdeveloped areas of Africa; Kenya, and Tanzania since 2009, and that has since spread to India and Afghanistan. Many people with just a simple flip phone can apply for and receive loans as small as $100.00 to finance providing electricity to their homes using solar-powered generators. And the system allows the borrower to pay the bank using the phone. Grameen Koota had a problem with providing loans when it came time to collect payment; his collectors became victims of armed robberies while returning to the bank with the day’s receipts. One can only imagine the immensity of such a change to a rural area that has never had electricity. And the ability to be able to communicate directly with buyers anywhere in the world, versus just in their local area, allowing these people to sell their products allows them to work their way out of poverty and live a better life (Mutiga, 2014).


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Starbucks. Netflix and Social Media Marketing


Today’s post will explore the success of Starbucks and Netflix on the Internet, particularly with Social Media. It will explore why Starbucks puts so much emphasis on social media like Facebook and Twitter and how these sites compare to their homegrown site. The question for Netflix is whether or not the Cinematch search tool is responsible for NetFlix’s success as a business or is it due to them moving to total streaming of movies and TV shows that created their success?


Starbucks, according to some people, makes great coffee. Their staffs of baristas are friendly, and their stores located just about everywhere in America. They even have stores in China. They’re known for their killer social media strategy (Huff, 2014).

Here are some of the stats:

●     36 million Facebook likes

●     12 million Twitter followers

●     93K YouTube subscribers

Those numbers are very impressive. There’s no doubt Starbucks is big on social media, but, why do they do it? Starbucks focus is on its customer base. Their customers are young, social media savvy, and affluent. They’re into the latest thing. On Facebook, the Starbucks management doesn’t post too often; they let their fans do all the talking. But when management does post, it’s usually fun things like contests, tips on things, as well as low-key sales pitches. Starbucks also allows customers to reload their Starbucks mobile card from Facebook. It’s all about creating relationships with existing customers to increase sales and add new customers. Free advertising from existing customer from their feedback adds on new customers at virtually no cost.

On Twitter, Starbucks connects with followers who want to catch up on the latest news and updates and the staff uses Twitter as a service reaching out to customers who are talking about their experiences with the stores and products. The staff checks out Twitter all day long to help keep satisfied customers satisfied and to settle any problems quickly before they get out of hand.

The similarities between Starbucks homegrown site,, And Facebook or Twitter is that while getting customers is good, keeping them is even better. With over 23,000 stores, the company has reached a point where advertising on TV or radio has only so much impact. It no practices f-Commerce where developing social relationships online becomes critically important to keep customers (Turban, 2012). There are similarities on each of the social media sites that Starbucks has a presence, such as encouraging ideas for new drinks are food, attending social events at a nearby store. But each of these sites serves a different clientele. Facebook, for instance, is more family oriented than Twitter, which is more individualistic. All have a love for coffee which is the commonality of this community. Starbucks needs to use these other social media outlets so that it captures every possible customer. And the relationship needs to be tailored to fit the audience, a time-honored tradition in sales. The message can be the same, only stated differently for each audience (McNamara & Moore-Mangin, 2015).


Was the reason for Netflix’s success due to implementing the Cinematch search engine on its system? Yes, it was a major contribution because of its ability to conduct extensive data mining; this software agent uses data mining apps to sort through a database of more than 3 billion films and customers’ rental history. Cinematch suggests different movies to rent to the customer. It’s a personalization similar to that offered by when it suggests different book titles customers. The basis of the recommendation is a comparison of the individual’s likes and preferences, comparing them to people with similar tastes. With this type of suggestive system, Netflix tells subscribers which movies they probably would like and shows a comparison of what other similar people are watching.

Netflix has already successfully moved from just DVD rentals to streaming video. They have, in fact, been offering television series shows that has drawn in an even larger audience that has helped to increase their revenues beyond what just renting movies could do (Cohen, 2013).


Both Starbucks and Netflix have successfully moved into the Web 2.0 world using social media and search tools effectively to meet their customer’s needs and demands. Netflix moved successfully from being a DVD movie rental business doing mail-order only business, to becoming the preeminent streaming entertainment company with millions of subscribers. Both companies managed to take current technology and develop systems that meet the customer’s needs and making themselves very profitable with bright futures.


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Just Coffee – EContent Magazine. Retrieved from


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perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Social Commerce & Marketing

Introduction has numerous elements that allow customers to personalize and customize features and products. The question to ask is how effective are the various elements? Do they cause a customer to buy more products? Wal-Mart, too, has similar elements built into the eCommerce (EC) site. Is it effective and will it be a cause of concern for Amazon? Will Amazon continue to be the dominant force in etailing or will Wal-Mart, being the economic juggernaut that it is, prove to be a force to be reckoned with? Wal-Mart, after all, does have a history of displacing so-called leaders in the market when it opens a new store. This paper explores these questions to help better understand the dynamics at play here in eCommerce.


Three personalization items to note are “Wishlists,” “Featured Recommendations” and “Recently Viewed.” Wish Lists allow the customer to create separate lists of items they might like to buy at some future time for themselves or someone else. An interesting thing about these lists is that if the customer waits long enough, they could see a significant drop in price. Amazon provides a way for me to schedule recurring orders for products that I use on a regular basis. The “Recommended for me” and “Recently Viewed” are Amazon’s way of suggestive advertising to see if the customer would consider buying more. It’s much like add-on products or like accessorizing; adding a matching pair of shoes to the dress you just bought (Amazon, 2016).

Where the real personalization takes place is with meeting the customers’ needs and one of the things that Amazon is known for is being a pioneer in personalization. Their use of data mining technology to make the consumer shopping experience much more memorable and exciting is being mimicked by all others, including Wal-Mart. Amazon uses the data gathered on its customer’s activities, besides to make the shopping experience more memorable to the shopper, it informs sellers what they should carry in inventory, how much they should carry in inventory, and what times of the year they should carry this suggested inventory (Rao, 2013).


Something to take note of is the types of customization in question here; one is for customizing products to meet consumer’s needs; much like what Dell Computers does for example.  Secondly is for customizing web experience such as in allowing consumers to choose what they would like to see on their “page” and what the website shows you based on your previous activity. A customizable product would be difficult for Amazon to do since they’re an eTailer and not a manufacturer like Dell Computers for instance; that doesn’t prevent Amazon from aligning with manufacturers, like Dell to provide the consumer the ability to buy customizable products through Amazon. Amazon would certainly have to ensure a good fit since Amazon is a destination and most people wouldn’t consider Amazon to be a destination for buying a car, for instance. But Amazon does, to somewhat the same extent as Dell, provide available customization on some products, for instance, golf clubs or purchasing dress shirts. But it’s limited to what the manufacturer is willing to offer, much the same as Dell does, for instance. As for customization of the interface of either Amazon or Wal-Mart’s websites, there is no evidence that either allows for such customization (Amazon, 2016).

Amazon versus Wal-Mart


Will Wal-Mart be able to beat out Amazon online? Likely it will be an interesting battle, especially since Amazon recently became bigger than Wal-Mart with a market cap of $246 billion versus $230 billion respectively. Even though Wal-Mart’s overall sales are still greater than Amazon’s, Amazon is smoking Wal-Mart in eCommerce (D’Onfro, 2015). Amazon’s EC shopping has been seeing bigger and bigger sales percentage increases than Wal-Mart’s EC and brick-and-mortar combined, with the share of EC percentage of total sales rising from a mere 0.6% to 7% from 1999 to 2015 showing quarterly increases almost triple that of brick and mortar.

But other numbers spell out a clearer picture of the differences between Amazon and Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart has far more employees: 2.2 million to Amazon’s 154,100. Net sales are clearly a victory for Wal-Mart coming in with $482.2 billion versus Amazon’s $88.988 billion. But the following is where the difference is: Amazon’s year over year growth versus Wal-Marts has been 20% to 1.9%. Amazon’s product offerings equal 250 million versus Wal-Marts mere 4.2 million. Amazon adds 75,000 new products per day while Wal-Mart opened 115 new supercenters last year, and Amazon reaches 244 million active users with 154,000 employees versus Wal-Mart’s 2.2 million employees.  The numbers tell the story (Peterson, 2015).


In EC avatars have become quite common. They’re used extensively in eLearning and customer support. These are referred to as picons (personal icons), but that has long since stopped. Avatar as a word is derived from Hindu and is stands for the “descent” of a deity in a terrestrial out of body form (Avater-Wikipedia, 2015). Using an avatar can certainly be more efficient for the company since it doesn’t have actually to pay an actor or hire an actual human to interface with a customer; it seems that some people could be turned off from using one. It’s much like going through an automated answering system when you call your insurance company, very frustrating. Since the company using the avatar has to try to predict what the customer is going to ask commonly, it makes it difficult for that customer who asks a question that doesn’t quite fit the mold.

But in virtual world websites like in Second Life, the blend of virtual-world EC and the real world creates opportunities for creative marketers. Companies like MacDonald’s and Dell have created few instances of selling real-world products in virtual worlds to real-world customers and delivered them to their real-world addresses (Hemp, 2006)

Banner Advertising

A banner ad is an advertisement usually displayed across the top of a web page or along the side of the page and is commonly served up by an ad server. This advertising form is embedded into the web page. Its intention is to attract traffic to an advertiser’s website accessible because the ad hyperlinks to the advertiser’s website. Web banners function much like traditional advertisements in print media function: they serve to attract immediate attention to whatever the advertiser is selling in the hopes the viewer will be attracted and enticed enough to click on the ad. Interestingly, this data can be tracked from the ad: how many times the ad displayed; how many clicks; how far those who clicked went into the hyperlinked website from clicking in and out to actually purchasing the product (Web Banner-Wikipedia, 2015). What makes any ad popular? Banner ads are a quick and easy way to place your wares in front of millions of people all at once. Traditional full-page newspaper ads don’t even get that kind of coverage. Tracking a web page banner ad is certainly far simpler than tracking an ad in the yellow pages. And you can advertise just about any product from automobiles to children’s toys to food. Banner ads are much like billboard advertising because people are likely only taking a quick glance; makes it so they’re more appropriate for brand reinforcement than for unique product advertising.


As you can see, Amazon doesn’t need to fear Wal-Mart running it over in the EC world anytime soon. In fact, Wal-Mart needs to pick up the pace a tad bit it would seem (Peterson, 2015). Judging from the numbers, it seems Wal-Mart’s cost per sale is higher than Amazon’s. After all, Amazon is doing much more overall with a lot less personnel than Wal-Mart.

Avatars and banner ads certainly have their place in the EC world. Baner ads placement or use is limited: banner ads are placed somewhere in whatever medium happens to be popular at the moment. It used to be newspapers and magazines; now it’s the internet.  Avatars are useful in areas like eLearning or introducing potential customers initially to a product or a service. The hope here, like banner ads, is that you click to exploring further into the connected website and possibly buy.

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Peterson, H. (2015, July 13). The key differences between Wal-Mart and Amazon in one chart. Retrieved from

Rao, L. (2013, August 31). How Amazon Is Tackling Personalization And Curation For Sellers On Its Marketplace | TechCrunch. Retrieved from

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eGovernment & Technology


eGovernment use of technology has grown over the years from using totally internal systems open only to government workers to today’s internet based systems that allow citizens to interact with their government. Government services today allow citizens to pay local utility bills online, pay taxes, and seek out government services to assist with building a business to getting a road repaired. Citizens can even read the minutes of the last board meeting and download a copy if they wish. Much of this interaction between government and its constituents can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (Joseph, 2015).

But there will be a mix of ePortal style government sites in use for the foreseeable future. Much of this is due to the cost of creating and maintaining these web properties. Most local governments are ill-positioned to spend the tax dollars. Nor do they have the qualified personnel to manage the current system or to change to an internet based system. And, a basic mistrust on the part of local governments in using an internet based system; mostly with the security of such a system and their ability to control it. This post will explore various aspects of eGovernment and m-Commerce.

eGovernment Portal or Social Networking

The advantages of changing eGovernment from an ePortal system to a social networking system are in improving the efficiency over of the current system of paper-based work. It reduces the need for manpower needed in dealing with the bulk of paper-based work. Thus, it allows for involvement of the process by fewer employees, quicker service, and, therefore, leading to reduced operations cost (Tolley & Mundy, 2009). Other benefits include an increased participation by citizens in the activities of the government due to more information being literally at your fingertips. There is greater transparency in how the government operates and less chance for corruption to occur (Andersen, 2009).

Will government switch from an ePortal, or even paper based, system to a social networking system? The answer is an unequivocal yes. The reasons are that the technology will force the change. Society will force the change. Other levels of government will force the change. Changes in support for equipment, as well as the expense of maintaining the equipment, will cause local governments to switch to cloud-based applications. Constituents will make demands for information or assistance that requires easy access 24 hours a day.

Internal Initiatives

Internal initiatives provide tools that make government operations efficient and effective. Such applications as e-Payroll can consolidate dozens of different payroll systems into one easily managed system where employees can input their time worked, and the system automatically deposits their paycheck into their bank account. Other initiatives include records keeping, training of personnel, litigation case management, procurement management, personnel management and equipment management (Turban, 2012). All of these different apps run on an enterprise system very similar to what is used in many corporations today. All of these systems run across the enterprise on the internet successfully and securely.

The Role of Wikis and Blogs

Wikis and blogs serve the system by allowing groups and departments to collaborate on solving issues and problems. Many of these problems are cross-functional, and wikis allow the participants to be able to share information quickly and at less cost than having to make numerous copies for everyone. Wiki’s allow everyone to access all documents needed to hold a meeting. Wikis and blogs are valuable tools for sharing information and making decisions in government.

Strategic Advantage of m-Commerce

The strategic advantage of m-Commerce includes increasing the geographic area in which even a small company can sell a product. Many companies that make it big on the internet wouldn’t have done so if the internet didn’t exist because it would force them to sell in a smaller geographic location. These companies may be selling a specialized service or product which locally there isn’t much interest, but worldwide there is a huge market. The strategic advantage these companies have is the ability to reach those customers using m-Commerce that they would otherwise have to employ other methods such as advertising in national publications or on television; both very expensive alternatives. m-Commerce is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Two years ago sales for smartphones was greater than sales for laptops. Forecasts have sales for Ipads and tablets overtaking laptop sales by 2016 (Blodget, 2013).

m-Commerce provides true personalization because it provides the means to access personal information immediately from the palm of your hand. Medical Insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Medical providers such as Advocate Health Care, provide mobile apps that provide immediate access to patient information. Patients become more involved with their care, and the portals provide information, such as what medicines they take and in what doses, upon request.

Conducting m-Commerce on Social Networks

The benefits of conducting m-Commerce on social network include increased sales because of being able to order from anywhere at any time. The ability for location-based sales benefit local business people, whose wares sell only in the local area; an example is a local restaurant that caters to the local community. M-Commerce provides a local channel for coupons providing a wider reach. It provides for improved customer satisfaction due to real-time apps providing direct information which helps increase sales. Reduces costs such as training and help-desk support staff. It improves the productivity of mobile employees such as service technicians repairing in-home appliances. iPads and tablets have been programmed to provide technicians with the tools in which to test or look up parts information; being able to place an order for parts saves time and money for both customer and supplier. Entertainment comes right to the user’s smartphone allowing them to watch a movie or television show any time of the day or night. Pizza can be ordered from your smartphone while on the way home from work, paid for using a credit card, and be on your table 20 minutes later. M-Commerce comes to users over a nationwide private communications network that the users do not have to maintain, yet regulated by the government for the good of all.


It stands to reason that what New Zealand is doing has helped to make their government run more efficiently because they’re sharing information across departments by using the various wikis and blog tools available. Internet technologies allowed them to share that information with the general public thus affording them valuable feedback that otherwise would have been cumbersome to gather. Many governments here in the US could certainly learn how to improve their m-Commerce sites by studying what New Zealand is doing today.


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eGovernment use of technology has grown over the years from using totally internal systems to internet based systems that allow citizens to interact with their government. Online services offered by local governments range from paying water/trash bills to paying taxes to read the minutes from the last board meeting. The government can run survey’s to get citizens opinions on the issues of the day and enables citizens to interact with all levels of government from Federal down to local levels 24 hours a day (Joseph, 2015).

One of the advantages of eGovernment is that of improving the efficiency of the current system of paperwork. It reduces the need for manpower to deal with the bulk of paper-based work. Thus, the process becomes more efficient and, therefore, leading to reduced operations cost (Tolley & Mundy, 2009). Other benefits include an increased participation by citizens in the activities of the government due to more information being literally at your fingertips. There is greater transparency in how the government operates and less chance for corruption to occur (Andersen, 2009).

A drawback to using eGovernment concern privacy issues. Potentially government information gathering may lead to a lack of privacy for civilians. There are very real concerns about turning over much information to the government by the citizens or businesses (Singel, 2007). The concern is that since the government is running the online system, the need for monitoring control will require very careful consideration.

Voting is one area of concern to using eGovernment. While voting on a touch screen can make voting easier, it can also be full of fraud since hacking systems are possible, and software can be coded fraudulently to favor one candidate over another. One answer to possible fraud is to have a paper backup of the ballot cast so that the vote count for both computer and paper has to match. Paper ballots with electronic readers are in use in elections in both Lake and McHenry Counties in Illinois.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has been in use since WWII when the Germans used it to identify its returning aircraft from a mission (Roberti, 2005). Since that time RFID has expanded to allow literally for the identification of all kinds of products and services. Companies like Zebra Technologies, a leader in the development of bar code technology, has become a leader in RFID having developed passive and active RFID tags used today on drivers licenses. Companies, like Wal-Mart, use RFID exclusively to identify all products entering and leaving their system, and they require any company doing business with them to use the technology (Songini, 2006).

The government today is using RFID extensively on drivers licenses,  and passports. The improvements in tracking the movement of people can occur in many areas of government. When traveling through airports, having a government issued ID can help quicken the check in through security since the TSA doesn’t have to type in every person’s name who comes before them. A quick scan provides all the information needed to identify the individual requesting admittance onto an airplane at the airport.

There are numerous limitations to m-commerce. First, the technology itself is limited. The use has to be within reach of a transmitting tower. Many parts of the world, many parts of the US, are not within reach of a cell tower. This inability to receive a signal limits the usage of the phone. There are limitations in the technology, especially when introducing new phones or when the signaling technology improves. While this may be good for manufacturers like Apple or Samsung, it creates havoc in the app world and for consumers who can either buy an upgrade or live with an inferior service (Lei, Chatwin, & Young, 2004).


Andersen, K. V., & Henriksen, H. Z. (2006). E-government maturity models: Extension of the Layne and Lee model. Government Information Quarterly, 23(2), 236-248. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2005.11.008

Joseph, S. (2015, September 1). Advantages and disadvantages of E- government implementation: literature review (PDF Download Available). Retrieved from


Lei, P. W., Chatwin, C. R., & Young, R. C. (2004). Chapter 4: Opportunities and Limitations in

M-Commerce – Wireless Communications and Mobile Commerce. Retrieved from /books/en/

Roberti, M. (2005, January 16). The History of RFID Technology – RFID Journal. Retrieved from

Singel, R. (2007, August 6). Analysis: New Law Gives Government Six Months to Turn Internet and Phone Systems into Permanent Spying Architecture – UPDATED | WIRED. Retrieved from

Songini, M. (2006, March 2). Wal-Mart details its RFID journey | Computerworld. Retrieved from

Tolley, A., & Mundy, D. (2009). Towards workable privacy for UK e-government on the web. IJEG, 2(1), 74.doi:10.1504/ijeg.2009.024965

Mass Customization in eCommerce

The idea behind mass-customization is to create specific products based on the customer’s needs and to deliver that product quickly. Personalization is where the customer’s preferences are aligned with the products being advertised.

Personalization is quite common on Social Media like Facebook or Google. If you mention on FaceBook that you’re thinking about buying a car, you will begin to see ads for cars on your FaceBook site. Likely you will also see those ads on Google as they see what topics I’m searching.  What is interesting about personalization is not that neither Google nor FaceBook really care, nor does the advertiser, who you are, they just care that you’ve expressed an interest in a topic. The advertiser has bought certain keywords from either Google or FaceBook so that when those keywords are used that advertisers ads will appear.  The FaceBook user is unknown to the advertiser until the user decides to let the advertiser know their identity.

Knowledge of your interests can be kept in on a cookie that contains as a user profile and is put on your hard drive of your computer, frequently without you knowing about it or without your permission (Turban, 2012). Some sites do it differently. Amazon, for instance, uses your past buying history to determine the ads or suggestion you see. Google just simply relies on current information as you’re browsing. Personalization also extends to cell phones, tablets, and other forms of digital media (Personalization-Wikipedia, 2016).

Mass-customization is where the customer gets to order a product based on their preferences and it is usually delivered within a short period of time (McCarthy, 2004). Dell Computers is a prime example of a company that has mass-customization down to a science (Mass-Customization-Wikipedia, 2016). The customer will place an order for a laptop that contains certain features they prefer. The customer pays for the order via credit card; Dell sends the order to the factory which produces the ordered laptop. The laptop is then shipped to the customer, usually within 1 week. Mass customization aims to deliver customized products while using the efficiency of mass production (Chen, 2009). The idea is to be to control the costs of production while also meeting the demands of the market.

Amazon’s critical success factors are in its basic challenge: How does it sell consumer goods online and show a profit and decent return on investment. Amazon sells in three basic categories: media, electronics, and other products including Kindle, office supplies, cameras, and toys (Turban, 2012). Amazon has to ensure that it is the innovator in the field constantly staying ahead of the competition in offering a broad variety of products, make it easy to buy from them and even allow the customer to easily return products when not satisfied. This is a good strategy as it makes it a one stop shop online. One just needs to look at Wal-Mart or Target to see the success of one stop shopping. By making it easy to do business with them, Amazon makes it the destination of choice whenever one is shopping, wherever one is shopping. The shopper can access Amazon via their smartphone in Wal-Mart and do comparison shopping right on the spot; even buy it while standing in the store. All of this makes it so that Amazon will continue to grow into the foreseeable future (Amazon-Wikipedia, 2016).

Having recently bought an iPhone 6S+ I was able to go to the Apple website and view the phone, see the different features, and weigh various price breaks. From their website I was able to make the decision between the smaller versions versus the bigger versions by viewing the differences online. But full trust in what I was buying didn’t occur until I went to the Apple store to actually touch and feel the product.

One way that online retailers have solved the problem of trust is by allowing shoppers to buy and easily return, satisfaction guaranteed. Zappos is a prime example of where a customer can buy several sizes of the same shoe, try them on, and return those items that don’t satisfy (Zappos-Wikipedia, 2015). Online trust is difficult to achieve due to the fact that a potential customer cannot touch or examine the product. Without a good return policy, many people will simply not buy the product. Another good policy is allowing customers to rate the product. Amazon encourages and publishes customer opinions on their purchases because they know it encourages others to buy.

References: – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2016, February 11). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from
Chen, S., Wang, Y., & Tseng, M. (2009). Mass customisation as a collaborative engineering effort.

International Journal of Collaborative Engineering, 1(1), 152.

Mass customization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2016, January 4). Retrieved February 11, 2016,


McCarthy, I. P. (2004). Special issue editorial: the what, why and how of mass customization. Production

Planning & Control, 15(4), 347-351. doi:10.1080/0953728042000238854

Personalization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2016, February 11). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from

Turban, E. (2012). Electronic commerce 2012: A managerial and social networks perspective. Upper Saddle

River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Zappos – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2015, December 15). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from

How can Electronic Commerce be a business pressure and an organizational response?


How can eCommerce (EC) be a business pressure and an organizational response? Has EC somehow lost the human interaction or touch? Why do businesses change their business models in the digital age? How has EC affected dynamic and fixed pricing of products or services? What are the risks of using Web 2.0 tools? These questions are the gist of this paper and they will be discussed briefly herein.

Business Pressure and Organizational Response

With ever-changing business climates, globalization, technical advancements, changing governmental rules, and societal factors are creating a highly competitive business environment. Many of these factors can change quickly and unpredictably (Turban, 2012). Business must be nimble and agile in order to respond to the circumstances. Electronic Commerce (EC) can be the means in which a company responds effectively to an ever-changing business environment.

These business pressures are divided into a market (economical), societal, and technological categories. The market or economic, pressures include stronger competition, much from a global economy; includes regional trade agreements, such as NAFTA, and low wages in many third world nations. Societal pressure includes the changing workforce, government regulation/deregulation, shrinking governmental subsidies or increasing subsidies, and rapid political changes including terrorism. Technical pressures are due to the rapid change in technology almost  on a daily basis including product obsolescence and rapid advancement.

The question of how EC can be a business pressure and an organizational pressure can be seen in having to respond to the various changes that occur in the marketplace, in society, or in government changes that occur. An example would be when Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) was passed by the Federal Government in response to gross accounting irregularities of companies like Enron and WorldCom. The law imposed stringent requirements on accounting reporting and management’s responsibility for the information contained therein. The business pressure was the SOX requirements and how could EC provide the answer to meeting those requirements. Today there are many accounting applications businesses can use that are readily accessible from the cloud such as Intuits QuickBooks.

Elimination of Human Touch

Some claim that digital business eliminates the “human touch”. The loss of human contact with the digital age is likely a tad overblown. While there have been significant changes in manufacturing due to automation, there has also been a significant increase in the number of ways in which we are able to reach out and touch someone. When you get down to it, EC has really created much more ways for humans to interact with the world around us (NSF, 2015)

The coming of digital technology has certainly changed the way people interact and do business. For example, people used to talk with each other face-to-face. We had to go to the local store in order to buy a loaf of bread. Of course, that type of communication took place in a very limited manner and it was with people who lived within your local community. Today millions of people across the world are interacting via Facebook. One can call a friend living in Holland from the US at little to no costs and talk for hours using Skype. Our local community has become worldwide. Just because we use Facebook for better than three hours a day on average doesn’t relinquish the requirement to build trust and lasting friendships (Fuller, 2014). We still need that human contact as a species.

Changing Business Models

Why do companies frequently change their business model?  What are the advantages and disadvantages? Companies frequently change their business models when it becomes either advantageous or necessary to do so. Advantageous because the business stands to gain financially from making an EC change that would make them more competitive. Necessary because if the business doesn’t change they will be less competitive and perhaps out of business as a result.

An example would be when many companies like Sears and JC Penney decided to quit producing their old line print catalogs in favor of producing an online catalog of the goods they sell. By producing the catalog online they were able to see huge cost savings and an increase in sales. Plus, each company was able to reach out to many more potential customers by using social media, email, and online advertising to draw people to their online catalogs (Turban, 2012).

Effects on Dynamic and Fixed Pricing

Discuss the advantages of dynamic pricing over fixed pricing? What are the potential disadvantages of dynamic pricing? Dynamic pricing is based on supply and demand of a given product. The pricing is considered dynamic as it fluctuates depending on the circumstances of supply and demand. The process could include a company posting a bid to buy or sell a product, a forward/reverse auction; buyers/sellers see the offers/bids online and they interact in real time competing with the other buyers/bidders but they may not whom they are competing with. Many variables have to come into play in order for the transaction to be completed such as price, time, location and other variables before the transaction is completed (Turban, 2012). The advantages are numerous for these types of interactions. It is easier to conduct an auction online than it is at a physical location; one has to actually secure a location, hire people to help run the auction, bring the product to the location. EBay, for instance, conducts auctions on hundreds of thousands of products daily without a physical structure in which to show all of these products. Everything is shown in the customer’s living room on their computers. These customers can view the products at their leisure when they want to. They can watch the bidding in real time, they know what they’re buying, and thus eBay is not losing customers due to the fast nature of live auctions.

Fixed pricing means the price is set, the only negotiating may be quantity price breaks or sales deals of the moment. Many companies offer the opportunity for the consumer, mostly on the retail side, to do comparison shopping so they can see if they’re getting a good deal at a good price.

Web 2.0 Risks

Web 2.0 tools include social media, wikis, blogs, Business Intelligence Analytics, dashboards, chat rooms and much more than can be listed here. The ability of Web 2.0 to change our lives has been tremendous and exciting. One of the main risks with Web 2.0 is that it has opened us up to the possibility of fraud. Craigslist is an example of where the possibility of fraud exists as there have been numerous complaints of illegal ads and other practices (Wikipedia, 2016). Security issues abound, especially with credit card usage. Hackers have the ability to access transactions as they occur, especially at ATM’s. The government realizes the benefits of using Web 2.0 technology, but they also understand the risks (Uthayasankar, Zahir, & Vishanth, 2015). Today we see the proliferation of anti-virus software like Norton, or the growth of cybersecurity companies like Palo Alto, Inc. Many companies, when considering using Web 2.0, have to weigh the benefits with the risks. They have teams of developers that concentrate on areas that help to secure the benefits being delivered.


Has EC had a profound affect on our lives. Yes, it has, even for those who claim it hasn’t. Everywhere we go we see the effect of Web 2.0 technology being used even if we don’t realize it. Business are constantly changing the way they do business. People are communicating more and sharing more than at any time in human history. Just look at Facebook for proof of sharing. Does it all have its downside? Of course, it does. Jobs have been eliminated due to changes in technology. Just look at the coal industry as an example; in 1920, almost 785,00 people were working in the coal industry. Today around 80,000 are employed in the production or use of coal. The cause of the decline is due to modernization (SourceWatch, 2015). Is it risky to use Web 2.0 technology, yes it is. But the benefits outweigh the risks. Just looking at the effect on dynamic pricing activities shows how much more efficient the whole system works is proof of the positive effect on society Web 2.0 has had.


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Uthayasankar, S., Zahir, I., & Vishanth, W. (2015, October 4). Evaluating the use and impact of Web 2.0

technologies in local government. Retrieved from


Is eLearning part of eCommerce?

The question came up the other day on why is e-learning considered EC? How does EC facilitate customization of products and services?

Electronic Commerce (EC); aka, eCommerce, is so diverse that it is more than just commerce. EC has expanded to include classroom training at Universities, in the military, elementary schools as well as online. American Military University is a prime example of how far EC has come. The organization I work for maintains a protocol that is utilized in all different aspects of EC including controlling the landing of jet flights, traffic signals, utility control, medical devices, satellites and stock transactions. All of this is considered EC because it utilizes Web 2.0 technology. It is B2B, B2C, C2B, and everything in between (Turban, 2012)

Craigslist is a business-oriented social network that helps its users by providing a service based on trust and ease of use so they can find just about anything from a job to selling that old sofa to finding a tenant for an apartment. The company isn’t interested in maximizing profit, but it makes money by selling ad space for those help wanted ads or apartments in various cities such as San Francisco and Chicago. The site draws in over 60 million users in the US serving up over 50 billion pages per month ranking it tenth amongst all websites overall in the United States (craigslist, 2016). Craig Newmark envisioned to be a community-based model rather than a for-profit business with a site that offered basic no frill look similar to the classified ads in the newspaper (Wikipedia, 2016).

Craigslist changed the world because it offered a no-frills, plain, simple, socially oriented, trusted and useful free website to its users. It literally destroyed the classified ad section of newspapers by offering free ad space to sell whatever it was you wanted to sell (Turban, 2012).

What I dislike about the site is that it’s too plain which makes it unattractive to the eye. Its cluttered would seem to make it hard to find what you’re looking for at first glance; fortunately, its search functionality is top notch. What I find interesting is that this site is so successful in spite of its simplicity. It reminds me a distributor of shipping supplies, Uline, in which they still use a traditional printed catalog that is sent out twice a year to over a million customers and publish a catalog look to their eCommerce website. What amazes me is that it works.

Some of the risks in using is inherent to doing business in general. Because doesn’t monitor everything going on, on the website, the old phrase caveat emptor comes to mind (let the buyer beware). Common complaints concerning the site involve fraud, illegal advertising can be rampant on the site due to craigslist staff inability to monitor the site. Some case in which sellers are asked to accept checks from the buyers only to find out the check is worthless.


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craigslist | about > factsheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Turban, E. (2012). Electronic commerce 2012: A managerial and social networks perspective. Upper

Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Cross Functional Integration in Project Management


Bill Swanston and Gary Biggar work, respectively, as an Operations Manager and Senior Business Analyst for Robbins-Gioia, Inc. delivered a presentation to the Project Management Institutes (PMI) annual Seminars & Symposium on September 7–16, 2000 in Houston, TX. I will be summarizing their article “Developing a framework for establishing cross-functional integration within a product development project” (Swanston & Bigger, 2000), published on the PMI website, and showing how what they do to run projects relates to the concepts we will be studying in our course this semester.

In order to understand Project Management Integration one has to first understand what makes up a project. All projects have a start and a finish; they’re not an ongoing endeavor. The parts between the beginning and the end are what concerns Project managers the most. And it’s how these parts are brought together to perform the required tasks, at the right time, bringing the project to a successful conclusion that is known as project integration. This integration management comprises the processes and activities that identify, describe, join, and synchronize the various processes and activities within the process groups (PMBOK, 2013). What Swanston and Biggar have developed is a process they use to manage the various projects they work on within the auto industry, but these processes are applicable to any industry.

Project Templates

Swanston points out that the creation of project templates in which to organize integration of projects is essential. The first of these templates Swanston calls the “Overall Project Template”. It contains the major milestones and key events for a typical product development project within the organization. The Overall Project Template is used to set the margins or parameters for the project. These parameters are commonly referred to as the scope of the project. All team members, once this is complete, will use the Overall Project Template as a reference to plan their exact detailed work.

The Project Integration template is second of the templates and it is the integration/management template that incorporates the details for the milestones and the key events used to effectively manage the project.  The Project Integration Template includes the detailed tasks needed to complete all of the high-level tasks. It basically fills in the blanks for the Overall Project Template. But this template should not be too detailed; it should not go deeper than 3 or 4 levels down. The smaller details will be handled at the functional level by developers or programmers.

One thing to note, as in any Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is basically what the integration template is; the project integration template is best when it’s structured by function. By this Swanston and Bigger mean that all functions need to be included in the template and each task identified needs to be linked to an appropriate deliverable. They do this linking using the “Text” and “Flag” fields in Microsoft Project in which to filter out the essential tasks from the summary tasks. Swanston points out that developing these templates requires participation from all involved in the project. Their buy-in is extremely important to the successful conclusion of the project (Swanston & Bigger, 2000). They advocate holding weekly strategy meetings in which at least one member from each impacted team is required to attend. Swanston and Biggars use these templates to help define the high-level requirements of the project and to bring together all the different impacted teams in order to properly integrate the management of the overall project.

How the Overall Project Template and the Project Integration Template Relate to Course Goals

A key in any project; the earlier the Project manager can get a high-level plan to the impacted teams, the better. Part of the process, in the beginning, is to get all of the impacted teams thinking of what this project is about and to get them started on discussing project strategy, to identify tasks, and what resources will be required in order to complete those tasks. Swanston’s overall project template is much like putting together the project charter which includes the project scope, project work statement, and business case on a high level.

The Project Integration template begins to put the teams on the planning path bringing together expert judgment to review the charter and scope requirements and creating the WBS from which the project plan/schedule/budget will be created. The WBS, like Swanston’s Project Integration Template, allows the team to tie together the different tasks to a specific deliverable which is tied to a specific business requirement. It also allows the team to ensure that all tasks are completed in order and on time.

Getting team members to work together is also an essential part of integration management. Part of the challenge with many projects is that the teams involved come from a variety of departments. Getting them to work together has its own issues. Each department can have its own set of rules and requirements. One department could require a special work request form to be submitted. Another could require that it needs authorization from another department before it can begin work. And each of those departments didn’t bother to mention these requirements until shortly before their work was to begin. There is a certain amount of skill and experience required on the part of the Project Manager in order to stay ahead of these types of obstacles. Integration plays a huge role in defining the skills a Project Manager will need.


Implementation of the project management process presented is essential to the successful integration of any project. True cross-functional integration involves bringing together multiple vertical and horizontal functional tasks in developing the project charter and scope, creating the project plan so that the work and tasks can be identified so that execution is properly scheduled. Swanston and Biggars use a tool they created that aligns quite well with the PMI PMBOK requirements and it shows to be quite adaptable to other industries as a result.


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