Does business strategy matter?
Having been both on the client side and a consultant, I firmly believe that business strategy matters. I remember as a consultant when we would get a proposal from a client; it would be well organized, thoughtful, and long! I would complete the proposal with minute details of where we had done this type of work before, the experience of the team, and a strategy of how we could meet the clients’ needs. The strategy was always the trickiest as we did not have a lot of details and we wanted to leave room for tweaking.
Now that I am working for a client, I put together my own strategy for 2013. This strategy was not something that I created overnight but it took months of long hours, lots of research and countless meetings with other areas. That being said, I landed in a position where I know where the focus will be and where it won’t be. This will help when a product partner says we need to focus on Product A. If Product A is not in the strategy, I will evaluate if things have changed and if we should focus on it or no, we should stay the course. By meeting with other business areas, I was able to get a better understanding of their focus and priorities for 2013. This allowed me to create a cohesive marketing plan, one in which I could highlight how I was going to work with each business area.
Have a strategy that allows for flexibility is important as nothing is set in stone. A strategy to me is like an outline for a paper. It has a beginning, middle and end but as you begin to write, things may change and you have to adapt. Being able to adapt to change and understand how to navigate it is imperative when creating and implementing a strategy. Who knows when something will go really well or really poorly, you need to adapt. Having a strategy gives you a framework and reference that will lead to success.
Nothing beats an Ess-a-bagel! Yum!
Data can be nebulous and difficult to understand. A way to make data more user friendly a picture can be created. This is know as data visualization. At work, I use data visualization to tell a story. For example, in looking at how many people complete our online application, I could identify the drop off points. Using the raw data I created a picture to tell a story where we if enhanced or reconfigured the flow we may have a higher completion rate.
One company, Tableau Software, is doing exciting things in data visualization. They are working with companies across industries in the globe in helping them visualize big data. Examples of Tableau is below:
See data in an Excel file can be overwhelming and difficult to find the story. By using data visualization, users can tell a story with data.
Doing the right thing means making it part of the culture
I enjoyed the articles this week as it was interesting to see how companies like Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, Potash and more integrate “doing good” with their brand. I agree with the author’s point that social responsibility cannot be a short term, one time initiative should be woven into a company’s long term strategy. It should be engrained in the corporate culture otherwise it will appear to be transparent in the eyes of the consumer. Patagonia was an excellent example as it promoted its Common Threads program and encourages consumers to think twice before purchasing a product. I would think that encouraging people not to buy a product would frustrate shareholders but the Common Threads initiative has been successful and even in the recession years of 2008 and 2009, Patagonia had record sales. Patagonia is just one example of a company that lives and breathes its mission of “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a buzz phrase in recent years as consumers are becoming more passionate about knowing about where their product comes from and what it is doing to the environment. I believe that companies cannot just implement CSR but it has to be part of their brand otherwise it will appear as false. In the example of the Pepsi Refresh Project I was surprised because of the media I read had said that the project was successful. What that media failed to mention was that it felt “off brand” and did not sell more Pepsi. Pepsi is one of many examples of companies who created CSR but did not think about it how it fits in with its long term goals.
TV is ripe for revolution
Phones have evolved, computers have evolved and now all eyes are on the TV industry. TVs have remained highly unchanged over the past ten years. There is an opportunity for a real revolution in TV.
The user can have a truly integrated experience with a TV as I can be watching a show, checking my email, going online to see where to purchase the outfit that I saw the character wear in the show and then post it to Facebook or other social media channels. TV will become just a screen in which to display the content. Channels will become a thing of the past as people will just look for shows.
The way people interact with TVs will also change. As we have already seen with Samsung, gesture and voice controlled TVs are here. Gesture based TVs make the remote obsolete. Voice controlled TVs are in their infancy as the voice controlling technology is not as sophisticated as users would like. When engaging with the TV, the experience has to be as simple and efficient as browsing the internet.
There is also the question of content. With more users creating and publishing content, that content can be streamed to the TV. Content providers will shift as new entrants enter the market. What if an algorithm can get all content around “Law and Order” like shows which could be added to my TV queue. I could then sift through to see what is more relevant for me. I am looking forward to seeing how providers adapt based on the innovations in TV.
Tip of the e-commerce iceberg
“By 2015 the online retail industry will be worth $279 billion” (Personalizing eCommerce: The Evolution of Filters, 2/29/12). One of my favorite consulting projects was in e-commerce for a client who had a large bricks and mortar presence and wanted to take their online platform to the next level by not only offering their proprietary product but also offer other merchants’ products. At the time, this was revolutionary as the client’s competition was still trying to get the multi-channel approach in sync. Having an online store is one thing but the back end mechanics from the order to fulfillment to delivery all of those areas need to be aligned for a successful e-commerce strategy.
The article about the social graphs was interesting as I agree that people are becoming numb to the daily deals as we know what to expect, we know some may apply to us and others will not. The more targeted these deals (eg. Hair salons within a 10 block radius of my apartment) they more attractive they will be. The other aspect which takes us a step further is we do not necessarily look to our friends for advice. The author used the example of the motorcycle. I would want to get my knowledge about motorcycles from those who are passionate about it instead of my friend who knows nothing about them.
I think we are at the tip of the e-commerce iceberg as there are new ideas coming regularly like an interactive wall of groceries where someone can snap a picture, add it to their shopping cart and it will be delivered by the time they get home (eg. Tesco http://www.retailwire.com/discussion/15360/tesco-takes-virtual-store-to-subway-riders-in-south-korea). There is a lot of opportunity in this space to use multiple technologies to enhance the shopping experience.
APIs and why they matter
API’s have always been an abstract to me. Understanding that they allow applications to talk to each other who might otherwise not are the way of the future, they provide the “cocktail talk” so that two companies can do business together.
In talking with my fiance who works for a start up that leverages APIs, I understand how companies talk each other to share resources. I believe that APIs are part of the future in digital as it takes away the need for large systems integration projects. Companies can use information and resources as it sees fit for a win-win situation. In the education space, being a provider of report cards, attendance records and more, having an API would allow that company to leverage information and resources to create tests, reading assignments and more. API’s provide a level of accessibility that was not possible before.
From a shareholder value perspective, some open APIs’ such as Kahn Academy provide partners with resources that they would not otherwise have available. The win for Kahn is that they get their name out there and the partnering company can provide a better experience for the customers. I believe that APIs are the next step in systems integrations.
Martin’s “The Design of Business”
Reading “The Design of Business” immediately reminded me of my Competitive Strategy class as a business can be many things but it must deliver shareholder value. I enjoyed reading about examples where leadership focused on design thinking but was also conscious of the bottom line and revenue growth.
One example which surprised me was RIM as the company when the book was published and the company now feels like two different companies. When the book was written, RIM’s CEO, Mike Lazaridis was championed as a design thinker. I think that RIM did bring design thinking and innovation to the handheld market as it developed a short message format which became the handheld for most businesses. RIM was solving for a mystery of what do consumers want, where do they want it and how do they want it. While developing their handheld, RIM rested on its laurels a bit as it did not look to the competition; Apple, Nokia and Motorola where all vying for the same market share. Had RIM looked to see what the competition was doing, they may have been able to change priorities and innovate at a faster pace than Apple since RIM was already in the lead.
Mike Lazaridis and James Balsillie were asked to step down as co-CEOs in January 2012. There is an interesting video on YouTube from Mike Woods of CSS Insight (http://www.bloomberg.com/video/84745304/) who advocates splitting the hardware and software units into two different organizations. In my mind, this would help RIM as it can continue to leverage design thinking to innovate in its software offerings and refresh its hardware offerings. RIM needs to go back to its roots of what is it good doing which is software instead of focusing on two problems at the same time.
Overall I enjoyed learning about the funnel and how to solve the wicked problems as it helped me to focus on what design thinking is and how it can be actionable without being intimidating.
Get into the game!
I thoroughly enjoyed Aaron Dignan’s “Game Frame” book as I feel like I could apply many of the stages to my current job. It was also interesting as I could relate to many of the examples (Foursquare, Gilt Group, Kickstarter, etc). I never thought of any of these sites as a “game” (well, maybe Foursquare since there is a healthy competition about out of your friends who goes the most exciting places) but it makes sense as I try to become mayor of my local restaurant or beat that person from getting that highly desired dress.
The book resonated with me as I agreed with Dignan that games need to have the ten building blocks as people get lost interest. These building blocks were developed based on people’s motivations and behaviors. This hit home for me as in online banking, if you do not have an easy application or engaging content then prospects will choose another company. Most people inherently want to do more, learn something new, win at anything and be congratulated for it. A lot of Dignan’s theories on gaming made me think about some of the process that I am currently working on. A progress bar is not a novel idea but one that not only helps me know where we lost the prospect but also helps the prospect know how many steps he has until he opens an account (wins). I have also found myself asking for more work or more challenges at the office as I like to test my skills and move to the next level. By tapping into that gaming mentality, I believe I can create lasting, memorable client experiences.
Lanier’s “You are not a gadget”
This like some of the other books we have read was a challenging read. I posed the title of one chapter (“The noosphere is just another name for everyone’s inner troll” to my Facebook friends and only one person was able to make sense of it. The Noosphere is the internet and the trolls are those who do nefarious actions on the internet.
In today’s age, we depend a lot on the crowd. I use the crowd to learn about restaurants, places to visit when travelling and more. Have I ever met these people that I am taking advice from? No, but in seeing the collective, there is a sense of confidence that they know what I want to do. As Lanier says, “what makes a market work is the marriage of collective and individual intelligence.” We need to think for ourselves and have our own thoughts but also look to the crowd. The internet has brought about the use of the individual (take this blog for instance) and the crowd (eg. Yelp).
One thought that hit me was the thought that “life has turned into a database.” Lanier refers to Facebook and now with Timeline, we are able to recount our lives in ways we could not before. If there was a picture we never wanted to see again, we did not have to but with the internet that picture is ever present. I think there are positives and negatives with our lives living in the digital space. On the positive side, we are able to stay in touch with friends and family across the world. On the negative, whatever is in the digital world lives forever which is disconcerting. I agree with Lanier that the internet has its positives and negatives. It is like living in a city, on the internet you need to keep your street smarts about you and not let the trolls get you.