Friday, 15 April 2011

Pitney Bowes Business Insight: trying to put its stamp on the software world

The company has spent over $2.5 billion on software acquisitions since 2000 – including MapInfo (location intelligence), Group 1 Software (data management and customer communications) and most recently Portrait Software (customer analytics). These are managed by Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI), which was formed in 2007 from the merger of the Group 1 Software and MapInfo businesses. However, the various acquisitions have created a patchwork product portfolio and a complex set of offerings. PBBI is now competing with far more competitors than it is used to, so must simplify its messaging and focus on the core capabilities across its product range.
PBBI’s strategy is to help its customers enable lifetime customer relationships through the application of Customer Communication Management (CCM). PBBI’s CCM comprises a set of core capabilities—data, insights, strategy and communications that help businesses acquire, serve and grow the lifetime value of their customer base. CCM particularly focuses on creating and delivering cost-effective multi-channel communications—including print, email, web, SMS and call centre interactions.
A complex product range
PBBI’s products for CCM include solutions for document composition, archive and compliance, web self-service and interactive communications for customer service representatives. PBBI’s MapInfo has long been widely regarded as the leading product for location intelligence and geographical information systems (GIS) while its latest acquisition, Portrait Software, fills a gap in PBBI’s customer and data analytic capabilities—which include data integration and data profiling, along with analytics products such as demographic and psychographic data.
PBBI now certainly has a range of products to enable businesses to gain real customer insight, particularly through geo-demographic and psychographic analysis. PBBI’s advantages over some of its competitors are the ability to go beyond traditional analytic segmentation using either geo-demographics or advanced predictive modelling as provided with Portrait Software. At one end of the scale, PBBI is competing against standard CCM vendors such as HP Exstream, Thunderhead and GMC, while at the other end is also competing in the business intelligence space with many smaller analytics companies and the large players, many of who have made acquisitions in the last few years (e.g. IBM/Cognos, Oracle/Hyperion, SAP/Business Objects). If PBBI can simplify its messaging, it can certainly be a real contender in these markets.
Exploiting the convergence of digital and print communications
As the communications landscape continues to become more complex, as online and offline channels converge and the use of social media grows, businesses must find a way to manage business processes across all these channels. Many of its customers are undoubtedly operating print and digital communication processes in silos and are probably using some elements of PBBI’s CCM suite—either for document composition, data quality, production or archival. PBBI must now encourage these customers to move to a single enterprise CCM platform, and thereby reduce the waste and inefficiency associated with decentralised communications processes.
But, ultimately, the biggest opportunity for PBBI is to pull together its wide and somewhat disjointed portfolio, and provide a unified CCM enterprise platform that can identify the “hot pockets” of customers by both geography and buying habits. Such highly targeted capabilities can lead to far higher conversion of prospects to customers, so reducing the cost of sale and also “buyer fatigue” caused by over marketing of different approaches to people who have no interest. Such an approach avoids the need to sell to multiple different groups within the organisation, as it provides a single approach that can be used directly by sales and by marketing, yet provides all the analytic and reporting capabilities as needed throughout the rest of the business.
PBBI certainly has the technology and the breadth and scale of products to enable businesses to create personalised multichannel communications but it cannot ignore that other players are snapping at its heels, particularly HP and GMC who both offer end-to-end CCM platforms. Along with the many vendors in the customer interaction space, PBBI has certainly got its work cut out in establishing a strong position in the market.

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