Skip to content

J.D. Meier's Blog
Syndicate content
Program Management, Shaping Software, and Making Things Happen
Updated: 16 hours 46 min ago

Start Your Digital Vision by Reenvisioning Your Customer Experience

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 18:03

You probably hear a lot about the Mega-Trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), or the Nexus of Forces (the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and data insights patterns that drive new business scenarios), or the Mega-Trend of Mega-Trends (Internet of Things).

And you are probably hearing a lot about digital transformation and maybe even about the rise of the CDO (Chief Digital Officer.)

All of this digital transformation is about creating business change, driving business outcomes, and driving better business results.

But how do you create your digital vision and strategy?   And, where do you start?

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned from companies that are digital masters that created their digital visions and are driving business change.

3 Perspectives of Digital Vision

When it comes to creating your digital vision, you can focus on reenvisioning the customer experience, the operational processes, or your business model.

Via Leading Digital:

“Where should you focus your digital vision? Digital visions usually take one of three perspectives: reenvisioning the customer experience, reenvisioning operational processes, or combining the previous two approaches to reenvision business models.  The approach you take should reflect your organization’s capabilities, your customer’s needs, and the nature of competition in your industry.”

Start with Your Customer Experience

One of the best places to start is with your customer experience.  After all, a business exists to create a customer.  And the success of the business is how well it creates value and serves the needs of the customer.

Via Leading Digital:

“Many organizations start by reenvisioning the way they interact with customers.  They want to make themselves easier to work with, and they want to be smarter in how they sell to (and serve) customers.  Companies start from different places when reenvisioning the customer experience.”

Transform the Relationship

You can use the waves of technologies (Cloud, Mobile, Social, Data Insights, and Internet of Things), to transform how you interact with your customers and how they experience your people, your products, and your services.

Via Leading Digital:

“Some companies aim to transform their relationships with their customers.  Adam Bortman, chief digital officer of Starbucks, shared this vision: 'Digital has to help more partners and help the company be the way we can ... tell our story, build our brand, and have a relationship with our customers.' Burberry's CEO Angela Ahredts focused on multichannel coherence. 'We had a vision, and the vision was to be the first company who was fully digital end-to-end ... A customer will have total access to Burberry across any device, anywhere.'  Mare Menesquen, managing director of strategic marketing at cosmetics gitan L'Oreal, said, 'The digital world multiples the way our brands can create an emotion-filled relationship with their customers.’”

Serve Your Customers in Smarter Ways

You can use technology to personalize the experience for your customers, and create better interactions along the customer experience journey.

Via Leading Digital:

“Other companies envision how they can be smarter in serving (and selling to) their customers through analytics.  Caesars started with a vision of using real-time customer information to deliver a personalized experience to each customer.  The company was able to increase customer satisfaction and profits per customer using traditional technologies.  Then, as new technologies arose, it extended the vision to include a mobile, location-based concierge in the palm of every customer's hand.”

Learn from Customer Behavior

One of the most powerful things you can now do with the combination of Cloud, Mobile, Social, Big Data and Internet of Things is gain better customer insights.  For example, you can learn from the wealth of social media insights, or you can learn through better integration and analytics of your existing customer data.

Via Leading Digital:

“Another approach is to envision how digital tools might help the company to learn from customer behavior.  Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees new technologies as a key way of integrating customer inputs in its co-creation efforts.  According to CIO Ian Narev, 'We are progressively applying new technology to enable customers to play a greater part in product design.  That helps us create more intuitive products and services, readily understandable to our customers and more tailored to their individual needs.”

Change Customers’ Lives

If you focus on high-value activities, you can create breakthroughs in the daily lives of your customers.

Via Leading Digital:

“Finally, some companies are extending their visions beyond influencing customer experience to actually changing customers' lives.  For instance, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez wrote of this potential: ‘The technologies we use in our daily lives, such as smart phones and tablet devices, could make a real difference in helping patients to manage their own health.  We are exploring ways to use these tools to improve compliance rates and enable health-care professionals to monitor patient progress remotely.’”

If you want to change the world, one of the best places to start is right from wherever you are.

With a Cloud and a dream, what can you do to change the world?

You Might Also Like

10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

The Future of Jobs

Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack

McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data

Categories: Blogs

100 Top Agile Blogs

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 02:52

Luis Goncalves has put together a list called the 100 Top Agile Blogs:

If you don't know Luis, he lives and breathes driving adoption of Agile practices.

Luis is also an Agile Coach, Co-Author, Speaker, and Blogger.  He is also the co-founder of a MeetUp group called High Performing Teams, and he is a certified Scrum Master and Product Owner.

Here is a preview of the list of top 100 Agile Blogs:

image

 

For the rest of the list, check out 100 Top Agile Blogs.

Lists like these are a great way to discover blogs you may not be aware of.  

While there will be a bunch of blogs you already know, chances are, with that many at a glance, there will be at least a few new ones you can add to your reading list.

Categories: Blogs

The Future of IT Leaders

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 17:16

I’ll need to elaborate on this at some point, to share what I’ve experienced across lots of businesses large and small, as well as some of the biggest businesses on the planet, as they transform themselves for the digital economy.

Meanwhile, here is an interesting read on CIO Straight Talk magazine.

In their words, "CIO Straight Talk is a series of "straight talking" articles from senior IT executives and leading companies and government and nonprofit organizations."

This first edition is focused on learning, failing and learning in the Second Machine Age, and features two non-practitioner experts on current topics:

“Andrew McAfee, co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Second Machine Age, cofounder of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and Principal Research Scientist at MIT Sloan School of Management, talks about ‘The CIO’s role in the enterprise of the future.’ Says McAfee: ‘The overall trend is that companies of all stripes will need, proportionately, many fewer people in IT. Those who remain will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, very important… Enterprises are going to need someone to help them navigate the second machine age… I think that if the CIO plays her cards right, this can absolutely be her role in the enterprise.’”

Michelle Gallen, the CEO of Shhmooze, a social networking start-up, talks about failure, not to be confused Failure Lite – ‘I failed. How nice. I learned so much’ – often hailed breezily by management experts as something everyone should experience and every company should encourage. Real failure, according to this serial entrepreneur, isn’t pretty. Says Gallen: ‘I don’t think you learn without failing… In the start-up world, innovation is the ability to take an idea and turn it into an invoice. Lots of larger business organizations also rely on cash flow to keep them alive, and therefore innovation has to be monetized. If you’re Apple or Microsoft, you’ve got a war chest, and you can actually allow failure. A lot of companies can’t actually afford it. It’s quite an expensive hobby, failing.’”

So there you have it -- failure is an expensive hobby and the few IT leaders left in organizations will be very highly valued, very highly skilled, and very important.

There’s more to the story and I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past few years helping companies cross the Cloud chasm and accelerating their digital transformation.

Categories: Blogs

Think a Series of Sprints, Not Marathons

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:43

When you drive business change and digital initiatives with Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data (and Internet of Things), successful businesses think a series of sprints, not marathons.

Successful businesses go digital by transforming their customer experiences, their employee experiences, and their back-office experiences through rapid prototyping, building proofs-of-concept, testing pilots, and going to production.  It’s a fast cycle of prototype –> pilot –> POC –> production.

These short cycles create rapid learning loops, build momentum, and help adapt for change.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in driving digital initiatives and agile transformation.

The Digital World Moves Quickly

Avoid Big Up Front Design.  Whenever there is a big lag time between designing it, developing it, and using it, you’re introducing more risk.  You’re breaking feedback loops.  You’re falling into the pit of analysis paralysis.   Focus on “just enough design” so that you can test what works and what doesn’t, and respond accordingly.

Via Leading Digital:

“The digital world moves quickly.  The rapid pace of technology innovation today does not lend itself to multiyear planning and waterfall development methods common in the ERP era.  Markets change, new technologies become mainstream, an disruptive entrants begin courting your customers.  Your roadmap will need to be nimble enough to recognize these changes, adapt for them, and course-correct.”

Keep a Vision in Mind and Build on Success Along the Way

Hold on to the vision and use that to guide you as you test your ideas and implement them, without getting bogged down.

Via Leading Digital:

“To design an agile transformation, borrow an approach that has become common among today's leading software companies.  Keep people committed to the end goal, but pace your initiatives as short sprints of effort.  Create prototype solutions, and experiment with new technologies or approaches.  Evaluate the results, and incorporate the results into your evolving roadmap.  Adam Brotman, Starbucks CDO, explained the iterative process: 'We didn't have all the answers, but we started thinking about other things we could do ... I think it worked not to go too far, too fast, but to keep a vision in mind and keep building on success along the way.”

Test Ideas, Save Time, Adapt to Changes

Short cycle times help you respond to market change and adapt as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Via Leading Digital:

“The test-and-learn approach will require some new ways of working in its own right, but it enjoys some distinct advantages.  By marketing ideas quickly before they go to scale, this approach saves time and money.  It's short cycle times also make it more adaptive to external changes.  Finally, it enables your transformation to sustain momentum through small, incremental successes, rather than the big-bang approach of long-term programs.”

When it comes to your digital strategy and driving business transformation, drive your business change the agile way.

You Might Also Like

10 Ways to Make Agile Design More Effective

Building Better Business Cases for Digital Initiatives

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

How Digital is Changing Physical Experiences

McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics

Categories: Blogs

Building Better Business Cases for Digital Initiatives

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 19:26

It’s hard to drive digital initiatives and business transformation if you can’t create the business case.  Stakeholder want to know what their investment is supposed to get them

One of the simplest ways to think about business cases is to think in terms of stakeholders, benefits, KPIs, costs, and risks over time frames.

While that’s the basic frame, there’s a bit of art and science when it comes to building effective business cases, especially when it involves transformational change.

Lucky for us, in the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of their lessons learned in building better business cases for digital initiatives.

What I like about their guidance is that it matches my experience

Link Operational Changes to Tangible Business Benefits

The more you can link your roadmap to benefits that people care about and can measure, the better off you are.

Via Leading Digital:

“You need initiative-based business cases that establish a clear link from the operational changes in your roadmap to tangible business benefits.  You will need to involve employees on the front lines to help validate how operational changes will contribute to strategic goals.”

Work Out the Costs, the Benefits, and the Timing of Return

On a good note, the same building blocks that apply to any business case, apply to digital initiatives.

Via Leading Digital:

“The basic building blocks of a business case for digital initiatives are the same as for any business case.  Your team needs to work out the costs, the benefits, and the timing of the return.  But digital transformation is still uncharted territory.  The cost side of the equation is easier, but benefits can be difficult to quantify, even when, intuitively, they seem crystal clear.”

Start with What You Know

Building a business case is an art and a science.   To avoid getting lost in analysis paralysis, start with what you know.

Via Leading Digital:

“Building a business case for digital initiatives is both an art an a science.  With so many unknowns, you'll need to take a pragmatic approach to investments in light of what you know and what you don't know.

Start with what you know, where you have most of the information you need to support a robust cost-benefit analysis.  A few lessons learned from our Digital Masters can be useful.”

Don’t Build Your Business Case as a Series of Technology Investments

If you only consider the technology part of the story, you’ll miss the bigger picture.  Digital initiatives involves organizational change management as well as process change.  A digital initiative is really a change in terms of people, process, and technology, and adoption is a big deal.

Via Leading Digital:

“Don't build your business case as a series of technology investments.  You will miss a big part of the costs.  Cost the adoption efforts--digital skill building, organizational change, communication, and training--as well as the deployment of the technology.  You won't realize the full benefits--or possibly any benefits--without them.”

Frame the Benefits in Terms of Business Outcomes

If you don’t work backwards from the end-in-mind, you might not get there.  You need clarity on the business outcomes so that you can chunk up the right path to get there, while flowing continuous value along the way.

Via Leading Digital:

“Frame the benefits in terms of the business outcomes you want to reach.  These outcomes can be the achievement of goals or the fixing of problems--that is, outcomes that drive more customer value, higher revenue, or a better cost position.  Then define the tangible business impact and work backward into the levers and metrics that will indicate what 'good' looks like.  For instance, if one of your investments is supposed to increase digital customer engagement, your outcome might be increasing engagement-to-sales conversation.  Then work back into the main metrics that drive this outcome, for example, visits, like inquiries, ratings, reorders, and the like.

When the business impact5 of an initiative is not totally clear, look at companies that have already made similar investments.  Your technology vendors can also be a rich, if somewhat biased, source of business cases for some digital investments.”

Run Small Pilots, Evaluate Results, and Refine Your Approach

To reduce risk, start with pilots to live and learn.   This will help you make informed decisions as part of your business case development.

Via Leading Digital:

“But, whatever you do, some digital investment cases will be trickier to justify, be they investments in emerging technologies or cutting-edge practices.  For example, what is the value of gamifying your brand's social communities?  For these types of investment opportunities, experiment with a test-and-learn approach.  State your measures of success, run small pilots, evaluate results, and refine your approach.  Several useful tools and methods exist, such as hypothesis-driven experiments with control groups, or A/B testing.  The successes (and failures) of small experiments can then become the benefits rationale to invest at greater scale.  Whatever the method, use an analytical approach; the quality of your estimated return depends on it.

Translating your vision into strategic goals and building an actionable roadmap is the firs step in focusing your investment.  It will galvanize the organization into action.  But if you needed to be an architect to develop your vision, you need to be a plumber to develop your roadmap.  Be prepared to get your hands dirty.”

While practice makes perfect, business cases aren’t about perfect.  Their job is to help you get the right investment from stakeholders so you can work on the right things, at the right time, to make the right impact.

You Might Also Like

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

How Digital is Changing Physical Experiences

McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics

Categories: Blogs

How Digital is Changing Physical Experiences

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 18:12

The business economy is going through massive change, as the old world meets the new world.

The convergence of mobility, analytics, social media, cloud computing, and embedded devices is driving the next wave of digital business transformation, where the physical world meets new online possibilities.

And it’s not limited to high-tech and media companies.

Businesses that master the digital landscape are able to gain strategic, competitive advantage.   They are able to create new customer experiences, they are able to gain better insights into customers, and they are able to respond to new opportunities and changing demands in a seamless and agile way.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share some of the ways that businesses are meshing the physical experience with the digital experience to generate new business value.

Provide Customers with an Integrated Experience

Businesses that win find new ways to blend the physical world with the digital world.  To serve customers better, businesses are integrating the experience across physical, phone, mail, social, and mobile channels for their customers.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“Companies with multiple channels to customers--physical, phone, mail, social, mobile, and so on--are experiencing pressure to provide an integrated experience.  Delivering these omni-channel experiences requires envisioning and implementing change across both front-end and operational processes.  Innovation does not come from opposing the old and the new.  But as Burberry has shown,  innovation comes from creatively meshing the digital and the physical to reinvent new and compelling customer experiences and to foster continuous innovation.”

Bridge In-Store Experiences with New Online Possibilities

Starbucks is a simple example of blending digital experiences with their physical store.   To serve customers better, they deliver premium content to their in-store customers.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“Similarly, the unique Starbucks experience is rooted in connecting with customers in engaging ways.  But Starbucks does not stop with the physical store.  It has digitally enriched the customer experience by bridging its local, in-store experience with attractive new online possibilities.  Delivered via a free Wi-Fi connection, the Starbucks Digital Network offers in-store customers premium digital content, such as the New York Times or The Economist, to enjoy alongside their coffee.  The network also offers access to local content, from free local restaurant reviews from Zagat to check-in via Foursquare.”

An Example of Museums Blending Technology + Art

Museums can create new possibilities by turning walls into digital displays.  With a digital display, the museum can showcase all of their collections and provide rich information, as well as create new backdrops, or tailor information and tours for their customers.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“Combining physical and digital to enhance customer experiences is not limited to just commercial enterprises.  Public services are getting on the act.  The Cleveland Museum of Art is using technology to enhance the experience and the management of visitors.  'EVERY museum is searching for this holy grail, this blending of technology and art,' said David Franklin, the director of the museum.

 

Fort-foot-wide touch screens display greeting-card sized images of all three thousand objects, and offers information like the location of the actual piece.  By touching an icon on the image, visitors can transfer it from the wall to an iPad (their own, or rented from the museum for $5 a day), creating a personal list of favorites.  From this list, visitors can design a personalized tour, which they can share with others.

 

'There is only so much information you can put on a wall, and no one walks around with catalogs anymore,' Franklin said.  The app can produce a photo of the artwork's original setting--seeing a tapestry in a room filled with tapestries, rather than in a white-walled gallery, is more interesting.  Another feature lets you take the elements of a large tapestry and rearrange them in either comic-book or movie-trailer format.  The experience becomes fun, educational, and engaging.  This reinvention has lured new technology-savvy visitors, but has also made seasoned museum-goers come more often.”

As you figure out the future capability vision for your business, and re-imagine what’s possible, consider how the Nexus of Forces (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data), along with the mega mega-trend (Internet-of-Things), can help you shape your digital business transformation.

You Might Also Like

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack

McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics

Categories: Blogs

Emotional Intelligence is a Key Leadership Skill

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 17:19

You probably already know that emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, is a key to success in work and life.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, others, and groups.

It’s the key to helping you respond vs. react.  When we react, it’s our lizard brain in action.  When we respond, we are aware of our emotions, but they are input, and they don’t rule our actions.  Instead, emotions inform our actions.

Emotional intelligence is how you avoid letting other people push your buttons.  And, at the same time, you can push your own buttons, because of your self-awareness.  

Emotional intelligence takes empathy.  Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. 

When somebody is intelligent, and has a high IQ, you would think that they would be successful.

But, if there is a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence), then their relationships suffer.

As a result, their effectiveness, their influence, and their impact are marginalized.

That’s what makes emotional intelligence such an important and powerful leadership skill.

And, it’s emotional intelligence that often sets leaders apart.

Truly exceptional leaders, not only demonstrate emotional intelligence, but within emotional intelligence, they stand out.

Outstanding leaders shine in the following 7 emotional intelligence competencies: Self-reliance, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Actualization, Self-Confidence, Relationship Skills, and Empathy.

I’ve summarized 10 Big Ideas from Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders.  It’s an insightful book by Martyn Newman, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on the art and science of emotional intelligence.   What sets this book apart is that Newman focused on turning emotional intelligence into a skill you can practice, with measurable results (he has a scoring system.)

If there’s one take away, it’s really this.  The leaders that get the best results know how to get employees and customers emotionally invested in the business.  

Without emotional investment, people don’t bring out their best and you end up with a brand that’s blah.

You Might Also Like

10 Emotional Intelligence Articles for Effectiveness in Work and Life

Emotional Intelligence Quotes

Positive Intelligence at Microsoft

Categories: Blogs

The Future of Jobs

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 17:46

Will you have a job in the future?

What will that job look like and how will the nature of work change?

Will automation take over your job in the near future?

These are the kinds of questions that Ruth Fisher, author of Winning the Hardware-Software Game, has tackled in a series of posts.

I wrote a summary post to distill her big ideas and insights about the future of jobs in my post:

The Future of Jobs

Fisher has done an outstanding job of framing out the landscape and walking the various arguments and perspectives on how automation will change the nature of work and shape the future of jobs.

One of the first things you might be wondering is, what jobs will automation take away?

Fisher addresses that.

Another question is, what new types jobs will be created?

While that’s an exercise for the reader, Fisher provides clues based on what industry luminaries have seen in terms of how jobs are changing.

The key is to know what automation can and can’t do, and to look at the pattern of work in terms of what’s better suited for humans, and what’s better suited for machines.

As one of my mentors puts it, “If the work can be automated, it’s not human.”

He’s a fan of people doing creative, non-routine work, where they can thrive and shine.

As I take on work, or push back on work, I look through a pretty simple lens:

  1. Is the work repetitive in nature? (in which case, something that should be automated)
  2. Is the work a high-value activity? (if not, why am I doing non high-value activities?)
  3. Does the work create greater capability? (for me, the team, the organization, etc.)
  4. Does the work play to my strengths? (if not, who is a better resource or provider.  You grow faster in your strengths, and in today’s world, if people aren’t giving their best where they have their best to give, it leads to a low-impact team that eventually gets out-executed, or put out to Pasteur.)
  5. Does the work lead to world-class impact?  (When everything gets exposed beyond the firewall, and when it’s a globally connected ecosystem, it’s really important to not only bring your A-game, but to play in a way where you can provide the best service in the world for your specific niche.   If you can’t be the best in your niche in a sustainable way, then you’re in the wrong niche.)

I find that by using this simple lens, I tend to take on high-value work that creates high-impact, that cannot be easily automated.  At the same time, while I perform the work, I look for way to turn things into repetitive activities that can be outsources or automated so that I can keep moving up the stack, and producing higher-value work … that’s more human.

Categories: Blogs

McKinsey on Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics

Sun, 09/21/2014 - 19:15

Big Data Analytics and Insights are changing the game, as more businesses introduce automated systems to support human judgment.

Add to this, advanced visualizations of Big Data, and throw in some power tools for motivated users and you have a powerful way to empower the front-line to better analyze, predict, and serve their customers.

McKinsey shares a framework and their insights on how advanced analytics can create and unleash new business value from Big Data, in their article:
Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance

Creating World-Class Capabilities

The exciting part is how you can create a new world-class capability, as you bake Big Data Analytics and Insights into your business.

Via Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance:

“Weaving analytics into the fabric of an organization is a journey. Every organization will progress at its own pace, from fragmented beginnings to emerging influence to world-class corporate capability.”

5-Part Framework for Unleashing the Value of Big Data Analytics

McKinsey's transformation involves five components.  The five components include the source of business value, the data ecosystem, modeling the insights, workflow integration, and adoption.

Via Unleashing the value of advanced analytics in insurance:

1. The source of business value Every analytics project should start by identifying the business value that can lead to revenue growth and increased profitability (for example, selecting customers, controlling operating expenses, lowering risk, or improving pricing). 2. The data ecosystem It is not enough for analytics teams to be “builders” of models. These advanced-analytics experts also need to be “architects” and “general contractors” who can quickly assess what resources are available inside and outside the company. 3. Modeling insights Building a robust predictive model has many layers: identifying and clarifying the business problem and source of value, creatively incorporating the business insights of everyone with an informed opinion about the problem and the outcome, reducing the complexity of the solution path, and validating the model with data. 4. Transformation: Work-flow integration The goal is always to design the integration of new decision-support tools to be as simple and user friendly as possible. The way analytics are deployed depends on how the work is done. A key issue is to determine the appropriate level of automation. A high-volume, low-value decision process lends itself to automation. 5. Transformation: Adoption Successful adoption requires employees to accept and trust the tools, understand how they work, and use them consistently. That is why managing the adoption phase well is critical to achieving optimal analytics impact. All the right steps can be made to this point, but if frontline decision makers do not use the analytics the way they are intended to be used, the value to the business evaporates.

Big Data Analytics and Insights is a hot trend for good reason.  If you saw the movie Moneyball you know why.

Businesses are using analytics to identify their most profitable customers and offer them the right price, accelerate product innovation, optimize supply chains, and identify the true drivers of financial performance.

In the book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris share examples of how organizations like Amazon, Barclay’s, Capital One, Harrah’s, Procter & Gamble, Wachovia, and the Boston Red Sox, are using the power of Big Data Analytics and Insights to achieve new levels of performance and compete in the digital economy.

You can read it pretty quickly to get a good sense of how analytics can be used to change the business and the more you expose yourself to the patterns, the more you can apply analytics to your work and life.

You Might Also Like

10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack

Categories: Blogs

Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 18:13

Management Innovation is at the top of the Innovation Stack.  

The Innovation Stack includes the following layers:

  1. Management Innovation
  2. Strategic Innovation
  3. Product Innovation
  4. Operational Innovation

While there is value in all of the layers, some layers of the Innovation Stack are more valuable than others in terms of overall impact.  I wrote a post that walks through each of the layers in the Innovation Stack.

I think it’s often a surprise for people that Product or Service Innovation is not at the top of the stack.   Many people assume that if you figure out the ultimate product, then victory is yours.

History shows that’s not the case, and that Management Innovation is actually where you create a breeding ground for ideas and people to flourish.

Management Innovation is all about new ways of mobilizing talent, allocating resources, and building strategies.

If you want to build an extremely competitive advantage, then build a Management Innovation advantage.  Management Innovation advantages are tough to copy or replicate.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’m a fan of extreme effectiveness.   When it comes to innovation, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of playing a role in lots of types of innovation over the years at Microsoft.   If I look back, the most significant impact has always been in the area of Management Innovation.

It’s the trump card.

Categories: Blogs

How To Think Like a Microsoft Executive

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:06

One of the things I do, as a patterns and practices kind of guy, is research and share success patterns. 

One of my more interesting bodies of work is my set of patterns and practices for successful executive thinking.

A while back, I interviewed several Microsoft executives to get their take on how to think like an effective executive.

While the styles vary, what I enjoyed is the different mindset that each executive uses as they approach the challenge of how to change the world in a meaningful way.

5 Key Questions to Share Proven Practices for Executive Thinking

My approach was pretty simple.   I tried to think of a simple way to capture and distill the essence. I originally went the path of identifying key thinking scenarios (changing perspective, creating ideas, evaluating ideas, making decisions, making meaning, prioritizing ideas, and solving problems) ... and the path of identifying key thinking techniques (blue ocean/strategic profile, PMI, Six Thinking Hats, PQ/PA, BusinessThink, Five Whys, ... etc.) -- but I think just a simple set of 5 key questions was more effective.

These are the five questions I ended up using:

  1. What frame do you mostly use to evaluate ideas? (for example, one frame is: who's the customer? what's the problem? what's the competition doing? what does success look like?)
  2. How do you think differently, than other people might, that helps you get a better perspective on the problem?
  3. How do you think differently, than other people might, that helps you make a better decision?
  4. What are the top 3 questions you ask yourself the most each day that make the most difference?
  5. How do you get in your best state of mind or frame of mind for your best thinking?

The insights and lessons learned could fill books, but I thought I would share three of the responses that I tend to use and draw from on a regular basis …

Microsoft Executive #1

1) The dominant framework I like to use for decisions is: how can we best help the customer? Prioritizing the customer is nearly always the right way to make good decisions for the long term. While one has to have awareness of the competition and the like, it usually fails to “follow taillights” excessively. The best lens through which to view the competition is, “how are they helping their customers, and is there anything we can learn from them about how to help our own customers?”

2) I don’t think that there is anything magical about executive thinking. The one thing we hopefully have is a greater breadth and depth of experience on key decisions. We use this experience to discern patterns, and those patterns often help us make good decisions on relatively little data.

3) Same answer as #2.

4) How can we help our customers more? Are we being realistic in our assessments of ourselves, our offerings and the needs of our customers? How can we best execute on delivering customer value?

5) It is key to keep some discretionary time for connecting with customers, studying the competition and the marketplace and “white space thinking.” It is too easy to get caught up on being reactionary to lots of short-term details and therefore lose the time to think about the long term.

Microsoft Executive #2

There are three things that I think about as it relates to leading organizations: Vision, People and Results. Some of the principles in each of these components will apply to any organization, whether the organization's goal is to make profit, achieve strategic objectives, or make non-profit social impact.

Vision

In setting the vision and top level objectives, it is very important to pick the right priorities. I like to focus on the big rocks instead of small rocks at the vision-setting stage. In today's world of information overload, it is really easy to get bombarded with too many things needing attention. This can dilute your focus across too many objectives. The negative effect of not having a clear concentrated focus multiplies rapidly across many people when you are running a large organization. So, you need to first ask yourself what are the few ultimate results that are the objectives of your organization and then stay disciplined to focus on those objectives. The ultimate goal might be a single objective or a few, but should not be a laundry list. It is alright to have multiple metrics that are aligned to drive each objective, but the overall objectives themselves should be crisp and focused.

People

The next step in running an organization is to make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. This starts with first identifying the needs of the business to achieve the vision set out above. Then, I try to figure out what types of roles are needed to meet those needs. What will the organization structure look like? What kind of competencies, that is, attributes, skills, and behaviors, are needed in those roles to meet expected results? If there is a mismatch between the role and the person, it can set up both the employee and the business for failure. So, this is a crucial step in making sure you've a well running organization.

Once you have the right people in the right jobs, I try to make sure that the work environment encourages people to do their best. Selfless leadership, where the leaders have a sense of humility and are committed to the success of the business over their own self, is essential. An inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute is also a must. People's experience with the organization is for the most part shaped by their interaction with their immediate manager. Therefore, it is very important that a lot of care goes into selecting, encouraging and rewarding people managers who can create a positive environment for their employees.

Results

Finally, the organization needs to produce results towards achieving the vision and the objectives you set out. Do not confuse results with actions. You need to make sure you reward people based on performance towards producing results instead of actions. When setting commitments for people, you need to be thoughtful about what metrics you choose so that you incent the right behavior. This again helps build an environment that encourages people to do their best. Producing results also requires that you've a compelling strategy for the organization. Thus, you need to stay on top of where the market and customers are. This will help you focus your organization's efforts on anticipating customer needs, and proactively taking steps to delight customers. This is necessary to ensure that organization's resources are prioritized towards those efforts that will produce the highest return on investment.

Microsoft Executive #3
  1. Different situations call for different pivots.  That said, I most often start with the customer, as technology is just a tool; ultimately, people are trying to solve problems.  I should note, however, that “customer” does not always mean the person who licenses or uses our products and/or services.  While they may be the focus, my true “customer” is sometimes the business itself (and its management), a business group, or a government (addressing a policy issue).  Often, the problem presented has to be solved in a multi-disciplinary way (e.g., a mixture of policy changes, education, technological innovation, and business process refinements).  Think, for example, about protecting children on-line.  While technology may help, any comprehensive solution may also involve government laws, parental and child education, a change in website business practices, etc.
  2. As noted above, the key is thinking in a multi-disciplinary way. People gravitate to what they know; thus the old adage that “if you have a hammer, everything you see is a nail.” Think more broadly about an issue, and a more interesting solution to the customer’s problem may present itself. (Scenario focused engineering works this way too.)
  3. It is partially about thinking differently (as discussed above), but also about seeking the right counsel.  There is an interesting truth about hard Presidential decisions.  The more sensitive an issue, the fewer the number of people consulted (because of the sensitivity) and the less informed the decision.  Obtaining good counsel – while avoiding the pitfall of paralysis (either because you have yet to speak to everyone on the planet or because there was not universal consensus on what to do next) is the key.
  4. (1) What is the right thing to do? (This may be harder than it looks because the different customers described above may have different interests.  For example, a costly solution may be good for customers but bad for shareholders.  A regulatory solution might be convenient for governments but stifle technological innovation.)  (2) What unintended consequences might occur? (The best laid plans….).  (3) Will the solution be achievable?
  5. I need quiet time; time to think deeply.

The big things that really stand out for me are using the customer as the North Star, balancing with multi-disciplinary perspectives, evaluating multiple, cascading ramifications, and leading with vision.

You Might Also Like

100 Articles to Sharpen Your Mind

Rituals for Results

Thinking About Career Paths

Categories: Blogs

Cuttable Scope

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:22

Early on in my Program Management career, I ran into challenges around cutting scope.

The schedule said the project was done by next week, but scope said the project would be done a few months from now.

On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we optimized around “fix time, flex scope.”   This ensured we were on time, on budget.  This helped constrain risk.  Plus, as soon as you start chasing scope, you become a victim of scope creep, and create a runaway train.  It’s better to get smart people shipping on a cadence, and focus on creating incremental value.  If the trains leave the station on time, then if you miss a train, you know you can count on the next train.  Plus, this builds a reputation for shipping and execution excellence.

And so I would have to cut scope, and feel the pains of impact ripple across multiple dependencies.

Without a simple chunking mechanism, it was a game of trying to cut features and trying to figure out which requirements could be completed and still be useful within a given time frame.

This is where User Stories and System Stories helped.  

Stories created a simple way to chunk up value.   Stories help us put requirements into a context and a testable outcome, share what good looks like, and estimate our work.  So paring stories down is fine, and a good thing, as long as we can still achieve those basic goals.

Stories help us create Cuttable Scope.  

They make it easier to deliver value in incremental chunks.

A healthy project start includes a baseline set of stories that help define a Minimum Credible Release, and additional stories that would add additional, incremental value.

It helps create a lot of confidence in your project when there is a clear vision for what your solution will do, along with a healthy path of execution that includes a baseline release, along with a healthy pipeline of additional value, chunked up in the form of user stories that your stakeholders and user community can relate to.

You Might Also Like

Continuous Value Delivery the Agile Way

Experience-Driven Development

Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft

Minimum Credible Release (MCR) and Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Portfolios, Programs, and Projects

Categories: Blogs

Ten at Ten Meetings

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 17:54

Ten at Ten are a very simple tool for helping teams stay focused, connected, and collaborate more effectively, the Agile way.

I’ve been leading distributed teams and v-teams for years.   I needed a simple way to keep everybody on the same page, expose issues, and help everybody on the team increase their awareness of results and progress, as well as unblock and breakthrough blocking issues.

Why Ten at Ten Meetings?

When people are remote, it’s easy to feel disconnected, and it’s easy to start to feel like different people are just a “black box” or “go dark.”

Ten at Ten Meetings have been my friend and have helped me help everybody on the team stay in sync and appreciate each other’s work, while finding better ways to team up on things, and drive to results, in a collaborative way.  I believe I started Ten at Ten Meetings back in 2003 (before that, I wasn’t as consistent … I think 2003 is where I realized a quick sync each day, keeps the “black box” away.)

Overview of Ten at Ten Meetings

I’ve written about Ten at Ten Meetings before in my posts on How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams, How I Use Agile Results, Interview on Timeboxing for HBR (Harvard Business Review), Agile Results Works for Teams and Leaders Too,  and 10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life, but I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the key information at a glance.

Here is an overview of Ten at Ten Meetings:

This is one of my favorite tools for reducing email and administration overhead and getting everybody on the same page fast.  It's simply a stand-up meeting.  I tend to have them at 10:00, and I set a limit of 10 minutes.  This way people look forward to the meeting as a way to very quickly catch up with each other, and to stay on top of what's going on, and what's important.  The way it works is I go around the (virtual) room, and each person identifies what they got done yesterday, what they're getting done today, and any help they need.  It's a fast process, although it can take practice in the beginning.  When I first started, I had to get in the habit of hanging up on people if it went past 10 minutes.  People very quickly realized that the ten minute meeting was serious.  Also, as issues came up, if they weren't fast to solve on the fly and felt like a distraction, then we had to learn to take them offline.  Eventually, this helped build a case for a recurring team meeting where we could drill deeper into recurring issues or patterns, and focus on improving overall team effectiveness.

3 Steps for Ten at Ten Meetings

Here is more of a step-by-step approach:

  1. I schedule ten minutes for Monday through Thursday, at whatever time the team can agree to, but in the AM. (no meetings on Friday)
  2. During the meeting, we go around and ask three simple questions:  1)  What did you get done?  2) What are you getting done today? (focused on Three Wins), and 3) Where do you need help?
  3. We focus on the process (the 3 questions) and the timebox (10 minutes) so it’s a swift meeting with great results.   We put issues that need more drill-down or exploration into a “parking lot” for follow up.  We focus the meeting on status and clarity of the work, the progress, and the impediments.

You’d be surprised at how quickly people start to pay attention to what they’re working on and on what’s worth working on.  It also helps team members very quickly see each other’s impact and results.  It also helps people raise their bar, especially when they get to hear  and experience what good looks like from their peers.

Most importantly, it shines the light on little, incremental progress, and, if you didn’t already know, progress is the key to happiness in work and life.

You Might Also Like

10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life

How I Use Agile Results

How To Lead High-Performance Distributed Teams

Categories: Blogs

Cloud Changes the Game from Deployment to Adoption

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 17:22

Before the Cloud, there was a lot of focus on deployment, as if deployment was success. 

Once you shipped the project, it was time to move on to the next project.  And project success was measured in terms of “on time” and “on budget.”   If you could deploy things quickly, you were a super shipper.

Of course, what we learned was that if you simply throw things over the wall and hope they stick, it’s not very successful.

"If you build it" ... users don't always come.

It was easy to confuse shipping projects on time and on budget with business impact.  

But let's compound the problem. 

The Development Hump

The big hump of software development was the hump in the middle—A big development hump.  And that hump was followed by a big deployment hump (installing software, fixing issues, dealing with deployment hassles, etc.)

So not only were development cycles long, but deployment was tough, too.

Because development cycles were long, and deployment was so tough, it was easy to confuse effort for value.

Cloud Changes the Hump

Now, let's turn it around.

With the Cloud, deployment is simplified.  You can reach more users, and it's easier to scale.  And it's easier to be available 24x7.

Add Agile to the mix, and people ship smaller, more frequent releases.

So with smaller, more-frequent releases, and simpler deployment, some software teams have turned into shipping machines.

The Cloud shrinks the development and deployment humps.

So now the game is a lot more obvious.

Deployment doesn't mark the finish.  It starts the game.

The real game of software success is adoption.

The Adoption Hump is Where the Benefits Are

If you picture the old IT project hump, where there is a long development cycle in the middle, now it's shorter humps in the middle.

The big hump is now user adoption.

It’s not new.  It was always there.   But the adoption hump was hidden beyond the development and deployment humps, and simply written off as “Value Leakage.”

And if you made it over the first two humps, since most projects did not plan or design for adoption, or allocate any resources or time, adoption was mostly an afterthought.  

And so the value leaked.

But the adoption hump is where the business benefits are.   The ROI is sitting there, gathering dust, in our "pay-for-play" world.   The value is simply waiting to be released and unleashed. 

Software solutions are sitting idle waiting for somebody to realize the value.

Accelerate Value by Accelerating Adoption

All of the benefits to the business are locked up in that adoption hump.   All of the benefits around how users will work better, faster, or cheaper, or how you will change the customer interaction experience, or how back-office systems will be better, faster, cheaper ... they are all locked up in that adoption hump.

As I said before, the key to Value Realization is adoption.  

So if you want to realize more value, drive more user adoption. 

And if you want to accelerate value, then accelerate user adoption.

In Essence …

In a Cloud world, the original humps of design, development, and deployment shrink.   But it’s not just time and effort that shrink.  Costs shrink, too.   With online platforms to build on (Infrastructure as a Service, Platforms as a Service, and Software as a Service), you don’t have to start from scratch or roll your own.   And if you adopt a configure before customize mindset, you can further reduce your costs of design and development.

Architecture moves up the stack from basic building blocks to composition.

And adoption is where the action is.  

What was the afterthought in the last generation of solutions, is now front and center. 

In the new world, adoption is a planned spend, and it’s core to the success of the planned value delivery.

If you want to win the game, think “Adoption-First.”

You Might Also Like

Continuous Value Delivery the Agile Way

How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?

How To Use Personas and Scenarios to Drive Adoption and Realize Value

Categories: Blogs

How To Rapidly Brainstorm and Share Ideas with Method 635

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 18:07

So, if you have a bunch of smart people, a bunch of bright ideas, and everybody wants to talk at the same time ... what do you do?

Or, you have a bunch of smart people, but they are quiet and nobody is sharing their bright ideas, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil ... what do you do?

Whenever you get a bunch of smart people together to change the world it helps to have some proven practices for better results.

One of the techniques a colleague shared with me recently is Method 635.  It stands for six participants, three ideas, and five rounds of supplements. 

He's used Method 635 successfully to get a large room of smart people to brainstorm ideas and put their top three ideas forward.

Here's how he uses Method 635 in practice.

  1. Split the group into 6 people per table (6 people per team or table).
  2. Explain the issue or challenge to the group, so that everybody understands it. Each group of 6 writes down 3 solutions to the problem (5 minutes).
  3. Go five rounds (5 minutes per round).  During each round, pass the ideas to the participant's neighbor (one of the other participants).  The participant's neighbor will add three additional ideas or modify three of the existing ones.
  4. At the end of the five rounds, each team votes on their top three ideas (5 minutes.)  For example, you can use “impact” and “ability to execute” as criteria for voting (after all, who cares about good ideas that can't be done, and who cares about low-value ideas that can easily be executed.)
  5. Each team presents their top three ideas to the group.  You could then vote again, by a show of hands, on the top three ideas across the teams of six.

The outcome is that each person will see the original three solutions and contribute to the overall set of ideas.

By using this method, if each of the 5 rounds is 5 minutes, and if you take 10 minutes to start by explaining the issue, and you give teams 5 minutes to write down their initial set of 3 ideas, and then another 5 minutes at the end to vote, and another 5 minutes to present, you’ve accomplished a lot within an hour.   Voices were heard.  Smart people contributed their ideas and got their fingerprints on the solutions.  And you’ve driven to consensus by first elaborating on ideas, while at the same time, driving to convergence and allowing refinement along the way.

Not bad.

All in a good day’s work, and another great example of how structuring an activity, even loosely structuring an activity, can help people bring out their best.

You Might Also Like

How To Use Six Thinking Hats

Idea to Done: How to Use a Personal Kanban for Getting Results

Workshop Planning Framework

Categories: Blogs

10 High-Value Activities in the Enterprise

Sat, 09/06/2014 - 22:59

I was flipping back over the past year and reflecting on the high-value activities that I’ve seen across various Enterprise customers.  I think the high-value activities tend to be some variation of the following:

  1. Customer interaction (virtual, remote, connect with experts)
  2. Product innovation and ideation.
  3. Work from anywhere on any device.
  4. Comprehensive and cross-boundary collaboration (employees, customers, and partners.)
  5. Connecting with experts.
  6. Operational intelligence (predictive analytics, predictive maintenance)
  7. Cross-sell / up-sell and real-time marketing.
  8. Development and ALM in the Cloud.
  9. Protecting information and assets.
  10. Onboarding and enablement.

At first I was thinking of Porter’s Value Chain (Inbound Logistics, Operations, Outbound Logistics, Marketing & Sales, Services), which do help identify where the action is.   Next, I was reviewing how when we drive big changes with a customer, it tends to be around changing the customer experience, or changing the employee experiences, or changing the back-office and systems experiences.

You can probably recognize how the mega-trends (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data) influence the activities above, as well as some popular trends like Consumerization of IT.

High-Value Activities in the Enterprise from the Microsoft “Transforming Our Company” Memo

I also found it helpful to review the original memo from July 11, 2013 titled Transforming Our Company.  Below are some of my favorite sections from the memo:

Via Transforming Our Company:

We will engage enterprise on all sides — investing in more high-value activities for enterprise users to do their jobs; empowering people to be productive independent of their enterprise; and building new and innovative solutions for IT professionals and developers. We will also invest in ways to provide value to businesses for their interactions with their customers, building on our strong Dynamics foundation.

Specifically, we will aim to do the following:

  • Facilitate adoption of our devices and end-user services in enterprise settings. This means embracing consumerization of IT with the vigor we pursued in the initial adoption of PCs by end users and business in the ’90s. Our family of devices must allow people to be more productive, and for them to easily use our devices for work.

  • Extend our family of devices and services for enterprise high-value activities. We have unique expertise and capacity in this space.

  • Information assurance. Going forward this will be an area of critical importance to enterprises. We are their trusted partners in this space, and we must continue to innovate for them against a changing security and compliance landscape.

  • IT management. With more IT delivered as services from the cloud, the function of IT itself will be reimagined. We are best positioned to build the tools and training for that new breed of IT professional.

  • Big data insight. Businesses have new and expanded needs and opportunities to generate, store and use their own data and the data of the Web to better serve customers, make better decisions and design better products. As our customers’ online interactions with their customers accelerate, they generate massive amounts of data, with the cloud now offering the processing power to make sense of it. We are well-positioned to reimagine data platforms for the cloud, and help unlock insight from the data.

  • Customer interaction. Organizations today value most those activities that help them fully understand their customers’ needs and help them interact and communicate with them in more responsive and personalized ways. We are well-positioned to deliver services that will enable our customers to interact as never before — to help them match their prospects to the right products and services, derive the insights so they can successfully engage with them, and even help them find and create brand evangelists.

  • Software development. Finally, developers will continue to write the apps and sites that power the world, and integrate to solve individual problems and challenges. We will support them with the simplest turnkey way to build apps, sites and cloud services, easy integration with our products, and innovation for projects of every size.”

A Story of High-Value Activities in Action

If you can’t imagine what high-value activities look like, or what business transformation would look like, then have a look at this video:

Nedbank:  Video Banking with Lync

Nedbank was a brick-and-mortar bank that wanted to go digital and, not just catch up to the Cloud world, but leap frog into the future.  According to the video description, “Nedbank initiated a program called the Integrated Channel Strategy, focusing on client centered banking experiences using Microsoft Lync. The client experience is integrated and aligned across all channels and seeks to bring about efficiencies for the bank. Video banking with Microsoft Lync gives Nedbank a competitive advantage.”

The most interesting thing about the video is not just what’s possible, but that’s it’s real and happening.

They set a new bar for the future of digital banking.

You Might Also Like

Continuous Value Delivery the Agile Way

How Can Enterprise Architects Drive Business Value the Agile Way?

How To Use Personas and Scenarios to Drive Adoption and Realize Value

Categories: Blogs