innovative technology

The Perfect Dose of Innovation

MedAvail is reshaping the future of healthcare and Spyder Works is proud to have contributed to the shaping of MedAvail.

A Canadian company with investments from large pharmacy chains, MedAvail and MedAvail’s MedCenter™ kiosk redefine and extend the reach of today’s pharmacy.

The MedCenter pharmacy kiosk allows customers to fill prescriptions quickly and easily from any location, any time, while on the go.

Says Randy Remme, Chief Technology Officer of MedAvail, “Going to market with a radical breakthrough in technology, convenience and the engagement of pharmacy customers required an understanding of the healthcare business and an intimate knowledge of customer experience. John and his team at Spyder Works brought it all to the table.”

With easy deployment into convenient locations, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and corporate clinics, customers have ready access to their prescription medication and OTCs without having to travel to a pharmacy.

Says John Paulo Cardoso, founder and Chief Creative Officer, “In creating the brand and contributing to the design elements of the user interface for the OTC version of the MedCenter, our team looked past the technology to the positively disruptive experience for the customer. As with all of the breakthrough market launches that we work on, clarity of concept is paramount – customers need to understand and engage with ease or the opportunity will be lost.“

MedAvail’s MedCenter can be located virtually making them pharmacy’s answer to the ATM, and providing the ultimate in convenience and ease of use for the pharmacy customer.

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Why big data only tells half the story

Originally published on May 08, 2014 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail.

Thick Data vs. Big Data

For the past few months, big data has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue. I’ve been asked about it in conference and planning sessions, and I was recently stopped in the hallway by a client’s CEO to discuss its impact on business, industry and society.

The first thing you need to know is that big data is BIG.

It has been heralded as the next essential tool for market success. According to a research report by McKinsey Global Institute, “so-called big data will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus.”

To my layman’s way of thinking, big data is technology’s answer to the classic McDonald’s question: “Would you like fries with that?” It scours our electronic footprints to suggest related things that we may be interested in buying, owning or doing. Big data tries to predict our behaviour, in many ways, and as such it could become an indispensable tool for business builders.

How can small and medium-sized businesses use big data? Any startup building digital games and apps may be in a position to collect and scrutinize many terabytes of user data, enabling them to identify behaviours, problems and needs – and new growth opportunities – faster than ever. They can also test different versions of their software and measure the results instantly, so they can continually innovate and bring new products to market ahead of their competitors.

And if you’re not a super-smart IT company, you can still benefit from huge databases (in the cloud and elsewhere) that are increasingly becoming available to third-party users. For instance, retailers could tap into big data services that measure real-time consumer confidence, customer travel patterns, or even the weather – to find out whether to put swimsuits or umbrellas on sale tomorrow.

But big data has its limits. Giant generic databases may be able to tell you where your customers went yesterday, but they won’t tell you if those people were smiling along the way.

For business leaders, this is a critical insight: Big data tells us only half of the story. And it might even leave out the identification of opportunity, which is the most compelling part of the tale.

I’m not big on quoting academic principles, but there is one that has stayed with me since my undergraduate days in consumer behaviour 101: the concept of cognitive dissonance. Loosely defined, it’s the gap between consumer behaviour and feelings.

Consumers might be behaving in a certain favourable way (using your product), but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. They may, secretly or openly, crave a better solution. But they don’t know where or how to find it. It is in this gap that opportunity thrives – identifying and addressing the wants and needs of consumers who are still not satisfied.

This is why big data tells only half of the story. To understand the other half, I turned to Leslie Perkins, a seasoned qualitative researcher and strategic planner who now runs her own research firm. “Big data is global; it has a seemingly limitless ability to connect data points,” she says. “It sees patterns in all behaviours: social, consumer, political, religious.

“However, on its own, big data is limited by the intelligence of its analytics, and it lacks emotional insight. Big data’s effectiveness is dependent on analytics to connect meaningful data points, but numerical meaning and practical meaning are extraordinarily different.”

Ms. Perkins adds that big data cannot explain customer motivation or satisfaction, or whether consumers’ relationship with a brand makes them feel like an inspired advocate or an unwilling captive. “Big data is thin,” she points out. “It is simply the trace or outline of behaviours, without context or understanding.”

The complement to big data is not “small data” – it’s what social scientists call thick data. It’s filtered through the lens of human experience and interaction, enhancing numerical data with colour, observation and meaning – not so much a 90-year survey of weather patterns as a look at what people in a beach community do when it rains.

With big data, we use automated algorithms to infer meaning from the patterns in millions of data points. With thick data, we see the stories behind those patterns.

To understand how big and thick complement one another, consider the following comparisons:

  • Big data delivers numbers, thick data delivers meaning. It reveals the social context and connections between data points.
  • Big data is data-centric, thick data is human-centric.
  • Big data would answer where and how far you travel in an average week. Thick data explains the meaning of those trips, and which ones are valued and which ones are loathed.

Adding the qualitative insights of thick data to a foundation of big data adds depth to our understanding of consumers, and helps us do the following:

  • Segment markets based on factors deeper than behavioral metrics.
  • Enable deeper, more robust conversations with consumers.
  • Understand not just what consumers want to hear, but how they want to be spoken to.
  • Engage customers’ emotions to build loyalty and preference, and create brand advocates.
  • Achieve deep and disruptive insights that reveal the meaning and motivators that can change consumers’ perceptions and even affections.

When I coach business leaders I ask them to continually ask themselves one question: “What is keeping my customers up at night?” I ask myself the same question regularly. If I can understand and solve my customers’ challenges before my competitors do, then I will have a thriving business.

Big data is critically important. But it will never be a substitute for face-to-face insights or the understanding of human emotion as a motivator for every decision that we make – in business and life.

Balance both.

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The Business of People – Six Trends to Capitalize On


HR as a strategic business partner? Absolutely. It’s no longer simply a support function for hiring and firing, and I made this point clear to a room full of senior executives during a recent workshop that I delivered. I even reinforced the point with the one trend that is music to the ears of everyone in business — happy, engaged and well-trained team members can move top-line growth.

This was only one of the six trends that I highlighted that are impacting business and the teams that we build. As a senior business leader, I view these as a great opportunity to maximize the impact your people practices can have on the bottom line. I wanted to take the opportunity to share them with you so that you can leverage them in your businesses:

1. The Leadership Gap
The top business issue reported in Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2014” was that more than 60 percent of executives are struggling with leadership gaps at all levels. Organizations need to have a strategy to develop the talent required to deliver corporate goals today and in the future.

2. Big Data
The call for Big Data is starting to ring in all facets of business. And while Big Data tells you the analytics at a quantitative level there is an absence of qualitative data associated with it. For example, Big Data can tell you that someone drove five miles but it can’t tell you how the driver enjoyed the ride. As the human element of Big Data evolves and using data to make decisions permeates organizations it will be imperative to establish and utilize people metrics.

3. Hyper Connected Consumer
With 91% of U.S. adults online using social media regularly and the average person checking their cell phone 150 times per day, it is driving a frantic consumption of information and a rapid pace of change. With this pace of change it is essential to have processes in place that makes change “sticky”.

4. Experience Seekers
Customer loyalty is no longer a singular function of product satisfaction. Customer experience now plays such a substantial role that customers are willing to pay a premium for a better experience. The Disney Institute and McKinsey Company recently reported companies whose employees consistently offered exceptional customer experience realized a 2-percentage point advantage over their peers in revenue growth along with an increased employee satisfaction and engagement of 30 percent. Companies need to focus on employee engagement to drive employee satisfaction and create customer loyalty.

5. Customer Disloyalty
According to Forbes, among unhappy customers, 86 percent will stop doing business with a company because of bad service, 51 percent will give a company only one chance and only 4 percent will ever voice their dissatisfaction. Even 24 percent of content customers continue to seek out new vendors. It is more challenging now than ever to get and keep satisfied customers and we know the key to customer satisfaction is employee engagement.

6. Investing for Growth
There is a further shift away cost reduction and towards investment in growth. Deloitte is reporting that 24 percent of companies will be investing for growth this year; this is up from only 16 percent the past three years. To take advantage of this investment in growth, senior HR leaders need to have readied a business case for increased spending.

Now, more than ever, there are profound possibilities for people practices to have a significant business impact through:
• Crafting a talent development strategy
• Establishing and utilizing people metrics
• Making your change management process “sticky”
• Building employee engagement to create customer loyalty
• Having a business case for increased spending

Being able to seize the opportunity these business trends offer can have a significant impact on your bottom line!

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