I saw this post recently – “The fat tail will be human, the medium tail social, the long tail algorithmic” – in which Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) says “The short head will be human, the fat middle social and the long tail algorithmic”. This made me think some more about the role of Enterprise Decision Management – EDM – in this context, something Neil and I discussed at some length in Smart (enough) Systems.
The idea that EDM can be used to automate product recommendations, up-sell and cross-sell and generally manage the consequences of the long tail (far too many products or services or configurations to handle manually) is not much of a stretch. Clearly one is going to use data mining to analyze patterns and handle segmentation and many businesses are going to have policies or regulations that must also be applied or areas where expertise, but not data, is available. Some of the scenarios in question might not have “right” answers either so adaptive control and the constant testing of new approaches to see if they are better than existing ones is also key. Long tails may (will) cut across processes and systems so the idea of decision services to provide the decisions needed independent of those systems and processes is very appealing. Thus EDM can deliver the “algorithms” needed for the long tail.
However, to some extent my title is misleading as I believe EDM can be usefully applied at all levels in the model – the short head, fat middle and long tail. In the short head, where the primary focus is on humans, EDM can be used to empower people with better information – accurate prices even when these are dynamic, consistency across channels, systems updated to reflect current availability or other issues. I have blogged before about how I see EDM and social media as one of the issues with social media, in the fat middle, is the volume of data being generated. If the systems involved cannot help you find people worth following and cannot synthesize what is being said then it will become increasingly hard to navigate this middle. Here, again, EDM can help. Lastly, of course, the power of EDM when marketing to/with algorithms is pretty well established. Applying EDM to your marketing and sales efforts can yield benefits across the whole spectrum of your products by making it easier for customers to buy your most popular products, by leveraging social media to navigate the fat middle and by automating the decisions around the long tail.