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Business & ICT Trends, Applied to Your Organisation

What’s the secret behind successfully implementing a strategy?

Posted on October 30th, 2012 by TimClaes

Defining a strategy is one thing, Implementing a strategy is something else! What ‘s the secret?

The answer itself is simple… it lies in the LITTLE THINGS. Executing the answer is a lot more difficult.

A lot of literature exists on defining strategies, which models to use to lay-out alternative business scenario’s and on frameworks to perform all kinds of SWOT analyses. A lot of literature event exist on simply defining what ‘strategy’ really means. A book I can recommend in this area is called ‘Strategy Safari’ (which was recommended to me by a professor from the Vlerick Business School, Marcus Alexander) . It gives you an interesting perspective on possible views on how to look towards ‘strategy’. Different schools of ‘strategy’ are explained. The poem of the 6 blind men who are trying to discribe how an elephant looks like is a very interesting metaphor. We all start from our own perception, depending on what we have experienced so far.

That’s probably also why so many books exist on this topic. Everyone has his own view. And most of them are all true. Even today a lot of lectures and courses are still given on ‘strategy management’, but all too often they primarily only focus on strategy definition. While the art of truely implementing a strategy is often forgotten. And that’s a shame, because here you can make the real difference. It seems to me that we all like to go to the drawing board with all kinds of models and frameworks, but as soon as we need to make our hands dirty, we suddenly forget that also in this area a whole set of best practices exist that can help us to get things done.

The only suggestion I often hear to tackle this is the magic word ‘change management’ (see other blog post). This is of course true, but it is not enough. Did you ever hear the expression: “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”

 Nothing is more true in my opinion. If you really look for a successful implementation of your strategy, it needs to become embedded into your organizational culture. And that is easier said than done. Because you need continuously to pay attention to the desired behaviour. Every little thing counts. The devil is in the details, as they say. And in order to do so you need strong leadership at every level of your organization. You need the right energy in your organization!

Another important ingredient in order to successfully implement a strategy is operational excellence. You can have the right ‘energy’ in place, but is your organization agile enough to deliver on that strategy? Are your processes lean and mean enough? Or do you follow certain processes, because these are simply the ones you have in place and were always there in the past?

So to conclude… the secret behind successfully implementing a strategy is a combination of 3 things:

  1. Define your strategy. This is often the easiest part. 
  2. Engage the people. Understand the culture. Getting the right energy in place is upmost important
  3. Operational excellence. Don’t only do things right, make sure you do the right things. Agility
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Next generation Cloud Computing companies…

Posted on August 7th, 2012 by TimClaes

Next Gen Cloud Computing companies

It only has been a year since I’ve written an article about cloud demystified. It seems like yesterday, but, boy, how much has changed since then!

1. From hosting companies to the big cloud providers.

In the past for many years multiple ‘hosting companies’ tried to launch IAAS, PAAS and/or SAAS concepts, but they never really succeeded. Security was typically the number 1 issue. But today, now that the big players (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, salesforce.com) have been promoting cloud computing for quite a while now, the adoption level to cloud has increased drastically amongst organizations and security no longer seems to be a showstopper. It still remains important and companies still ask questions about local law compliance; but there is an important shift in mentality: “other enterprise companies are doing it, so why shouldn’t we be doing it”. Mobility seems to become the main business driver instead. (So a positive attitude instead of a negative attitude)

2. From technology to business.

The big cloud providers reached a mature state. Offerings in infrastructure, platforms and business applications become common practice. Everyone is doing it. (Which is actually becoming a new challenge, which supplier is the best fit for your company?)

Over the last 2 years people start to understand that the impact of cloud computing isn’t technology. The real impact is about rethinking what is possible when you run your business in the cloud. It is about agility & innovation. A statement I like to use is a misinterpreted statement from Darwin: “It is not the strongest that survive, but the once most adaptive to change”.

3. A new kind of solution provider gains market share.

In the beginning you had ‘isolated’ cloud solution providers that positioned a cloud solution next to a set of on-premise solutions. E.g. salesforce.com implementation partners that were positioned against other CRM players. Or google apps partners that were positioned against other productivity platforms. The answer of many product vendors was to come up with on-line versions of their on-premise solutions. Traditional solution providers look at these players as just another solution provider.

But today you have ‘integrated’ cloud solution providers that start from a complete different angle than the traditional system integrators. They offer a broad range of cloud solutions and truely build a “cloud-powered business” for their customers. The concepts of cloudsourcing and serverless enterprise are introduced. This is much more disruptive for the traditional ICT market (professional services). They build solutions around the complete cloud adoption lifecycle. In the PLAN phase they create a cloud strategy together with the customer, in the BUILD phase they typically migrate application after application towards the cloud and integrate different cloud solutions with each other. They even offer help to the customer in the SUPPORT phase in managing their cloud. User adoption and customer centricity are central pillars in the complete approach.

These solution providers typically are less then 10 years old, have a complete different way of doing business with customers compared to traditional system integrators, and are gaining market share year after year. On top of that they typically partner only with true cloud providers such as Salesforce.com, Google and Amazon, less with the traditional product vendors (such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft…)

I’m curious how the traditional ICT implementation partners will react to these ‘integrated’ cloud solution providers as the cloud adoption will gain traction year over year. To be continued…

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Change management is much overrated

Posted on August 1st, 2012 by TimClaes

Change Management is much overrated… but oh so important!

 

1. Overrated…

When you start digging into ‘change management’ literature, you will find multiple theories and many complex models on how to deal with change. It almost looks like experts want you to be afraid to start kicking off change management programs yourself. So that you hire them to deliver expensive consultancy services. Why make it so complex?

2. But so important…

We all know – by nature – that people are resistent to change and that a change management process takes time during which people go through different states of mind. On the other hand I’m also a strong believer of the statement: “Change is the only constant”. So we better find a way to deal with change in an effective and efficient way. It is not the strongest that succeed, but the one most responsive to change.

3. In practice… 2 easy guidelines!

First of all… communicate. Always communicate in a transparent, concise and respectful way about the progress you’re making. Secondly communicate on a regular basis in a timely fashion. People understand that change could have an impact on their daily tasks, but not knowing what will be coming is the worst fear for all. So on a regular basis people need to get updated. Getting out the right message is often limited in time in order to get the right involvement of people.

In practice I typically use the following 2 pictures to help me with change management challenges. The first picture makes a distinction between willing to change and the ability to change. Primarily you need to focus in your communication on WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) before you start explaining how you will be able to learn the new way of working.

The second picture I like to use is a kind of detailed communication plan where I try to consolidate all the different communication touch points over time to different groups of people in 1 easy overview – typically in line with the implementation methodology you use within your organization.

 

 

This helps me to remember when I should be communicating what kind of information to which target groups of people. You should try it yourself. You will see it is quite easy to adjust to your own needs. So no more expensive external consultancy needed!

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OCO – Setting up a social db

Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by TimClaes

OCO – “Online Channel Optimization”

Today, enterprises expect Web Content management to provide measurable business benefits, not just to improve productivity. Thus – according to Gartner – enterprises have to replace older WCM applications that can’t meet the new demands. WCM achieves its greatest value as part of a wider strategy of online channel optimization – OCO – for maximizing the value of customer interactions across all channels.

Well, I couldn’t agree more, although I don’t understand why Gartner tries to put both WCM and OCO players in the same magic quadrant, because for me these are 2 different things. OCO is about orchestrating the customer touch points across multiple online channels, it is about making the dialogue relevant to the consumer and engaging no matter which online channel is used and it is about addressing the individual needs at the right time even if he is switching between channels to communicate with your organization.

So in order to make Online channel optimization – OCO – possible you should centralize all the consumer interactions in a social database, picking up all the ‘micro-decisions’ an online visitor leaves behind when he is navigating through the web. (e.g. which search words did he use to reach you, what were his clicks on your site, on which topics did he interact through social media…)

BlueConic - Customer Journey

A tool in the market that is possible to do this is BlueConic from GX software. Basically it continuously listens to all the online channels you want it to listen to (such as facebook, twitter, websites, splinternet, mobile apps, e-mail…) and it collects all the relevant information both from anonymous as from named users. The online profile information is stored in a social database. And now it becomes interesting, it allows the marketeer and/or the eBusiness manager to set up real-time dialogues that are personalized and orchestrated across all online customer touch points, based on the information from the social database.

You could look at this social database as an extension of a typical CRM database. To explain this I’ll use a picture from Peter Hinssen from his book “Digital is the new normal”.

Customer Engagement Management

CRM is becoming more and more a ‘middleware’ solution allowing you to store all the ‘macro-decisions’ of a customer (e.g. orders, complaints, sales visit reports…). CRM could be considered as the hub between all the front-end channels and the rest of your organization to deliver end-to-end integration. At the same time CRM allows you to store all the relevant customer information. This customer information can be used by any front-end channel to allow cross channel consistency. It is there that a social database comes in – to allow cross channel consistency – on a ‘micro’ level instead of only on a ‘macro’ level, as visually explained in the next picture from BlueConic.

micro & macro decisions - CEM

So a CRM solution, extended with a social database, is capable to capture all relevant customer information, both on a micro-level as on a macro-level, giving you insights in both the CRM profile as the online profile. This will become key for organisations to establish efficient OCO programs in order to get true Customer Engagement Management in place.

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Closed Loop Marketing… Old wine in new barrels?

Posted on December 19th, 2011 by TimClaes

Closed Loop Marketing… Old wine in new barrels?

Closed Loop Marketing is a definition that is around for decades. That’s not so new to blog about, so what is? Will this post be about old wine that is ”packaged” in new barrels? Not really. Basically I will be using the same old definition – Closed Loop Marketing – but illustrate that the content is potentially changed. So a better question would be… New wine in old barrels?

According to Gartner, CIOs will have lost effective control of 25 percent of their organization’s IT spending by 2014, and by 2017, chief marketing officers may have a bigger IT budget than CIOs do. And that is exactly what I want to talk about!

The CMO strategic agenda is about automating Closed Loop Marketing. 88% of best-in-class companies use Closed Loop Marketing where as only 43% of industry average performing organizations use it. (study of Aberdeen group) The 2 primary strategies are developing and maintaining a marketing database and automating Closed Loop Marketing with technology.

And the best-in-class technologies for Closed Loop Marketing are evolving fast, too fast to be able to follow adequately.

On the other hand Closed Loop Marketing can no longer survive without information technology. So as marketeer you should be able to deal with this new content for Closed Loop Marketing. Two take-aways are important for you in this new digital age:

1. Always go for an integrated sales and marketing database. You first need to have the basics in place before moving on. ROMI is an important parameter to convince non-believers in your organization.

2. Choose for the right mix of technologies. Don’t always go for the niche players, only when they fit into your overall Marketing technology landscape and your overall Customer Engagement Management strategy. Because before you know it, you’ll no longer have an integrated overview of what’s going on. On the other hand invest in technologies that make a difference, don’t always take the cheapest solution. The devil is in the details.

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How agile was your budgeting and planning cycle?

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by TimClaes

How agile was your budgeting and planning process?

Or is it still ongoing? The last couple of months I visited many companies and most of them had the same complaint: “It is that ‘frustrating’ time of the year again, where we need to enter our budget for next year.”

Instead of enjoying this strategic exercise, most people get lost in the details and waist a lot of time. Too often I notice that the budgeting and planning exercise still happens in excel. People create formulas, add columns, remove lines and before you know it, you end up in a true excel hell. No security, no version control, no process flows… nothing.

On the other hand some companies work with ‘high-tech’ programs for their budgeting and planning process. Typically these systems are ‘over-engineered’: resulting into an unfriendly user interface, asking for too many parameters and not allowing any flexibility towards the end users.

That is where ‘Agile BI’ comes in the picture. You give the power to the business users, allowing for a ‘controlled’ flexibility. So that they have all the tools available at their fingertips to perform ‘self-service BI’. But at the same time – behind the scenes – you have a centralized controlled environment monitoring the different process flows, executing the complex calculations and providing the correct information towards the right people.

SAP BPC is such a solution, where the end-user can continue to fill in his/her budgeting and planning details in a familiar environment (= excel), but the files are synchronized with a central database where all the process/approval flows and security rights are set up: Bottom-up and Top-down flows; sales forecasts and operational forecasts; high-level simulations and detailed level simulations… you name it, it is possible.

So maybe you can start thinking about next year already… So that the budgeting and planning cycle becomes a strategic exercise again, instead of a frustrating period of time where people get lost in the details.

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Short summary on the CIO Leadership Summit

Posted on December 2nd, 2011 by TimClaes

CIO Leadership Summit

Yesterday evening was the first edition of the CIO Leadership Summit at the Chateau du Lac in Genval. Quite a lot of people showed up for the event, the room was very crowded. Many CIO’s of course, but also the press and some CEO’s of multiple Belgian companies were present. The expectations were set.

Overall was the evening ok, only the catering could have been better. The idea of having debate panels about certain CIO Leadership topics was very appealing. (small tip for next edition: try to differentiate the formula from debate to debate, now it was quite heavy – after 3 debates everyone had heard enough) Nevertheless – from an integrator point of view – it was interesting to understand how CIO’s think about certain topics themselves.

The following topics were discussed during the debate panels. I added a few highlights per topic.

1. The future of Infrastructure Management – During the debate opinions were shared about cloud computing and about the true costs of pay per use models. Security was also one of the main concerns during this debate.

2. The connected enterprise – This was a very interesting debate with a lot of interaction between the different CIO’s in the panel. It moved from social networks, to unified communications and digital natives, towards business process integration with customers and suppliers. It was clear that this was a topic on many agenda’s of many CIO’s.

3. The New Mandate of the CIO – This debate opened very interesting. You need to have the basics in place first. Key elements like “trust” and “transparency” were often mentioned by many CIO’s and only then you can start moving to the next phase.

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Trends that shape the workplace

Posted on September 14th, 2011 by TimClaes

The High Performance Workplace

Multiple trends will influence our daily workplace. The digital workplace of tomorrow – or also called the High Performance Workplace – will look quite different than what we are used to today. The question will be how quickly will you react with your company on these trends on the high performance workplace?

Let me list some important trends you need to be aware of:

1. The Information Wave

Thanks to the internet we have an overload of information. It is no longer a question whether the information you are looking for exists, it now become a question will you find it. As we are no longer able to deal with these amounts of information, due to the lack of efficient filtering processes, people will start treating information in a different way. They SCAN the information, instead of reading it. Nowadays many people simply read the headlines and no longer dive into the articles themselves.

Also from a business point of view this will have an impact on our daily workplace.

2. The (social) Network

The social media tools are here to stay, so instead of blocking these sites from your company, you better start thinking about how you can use these channels in a positive way in your organisation and stimulate the on-line presence of your company through these networks. The social networks become more and more important for your organization to be top of mind. Especially if you know that the emotional driver of people is more important than the rational driver in their decision process.

3. The Digital Natives

“Je pense, donc je suis” from Descartes is re-invented into ”I share, so I am… on line”. A shift is taking place about the information value from ‘searching information’ towards ‘sharing information’. Other demographics like mobility, Work/Life balance and aging workforces are also important trends you could position under this same umbrella.

4. The Economy

A recent study from the New York times illustrates that the companies that are performing better than the rest have a few similar characteristics. They typically position PEOPLE and INNOVATION as important drivers for success. Needless to say that the high performance workplace is an ideal medium to support these drivers in your company.

5. Consumerization of IT

Thanks to Apple is ICT moving faster in the consumer space than in the b2b area. For the first time since decades. This brings a whole new dimension into our typical business and ICT alignment question. It no longer is enough to set up an efficient/productive solution, it also needs to be ‘sexy’, look good and very user friendly. The high performance workplace will be no exception.

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The “Presence” concept?

Posted on September 1st, 2011 by TimClaes

The Holidays…

Today it is the 1st of september. The holiday period is for many of us behind us. The kids go back to school, so time for me to go back to my ‘Trends Applied’ blogs. And what would be a better topic to start with than the “Presence” concept. I’m sure many of you have encountered similar challenges as I have during this holiday period. Trying to reach out for people that weren’t there, checking social media updates from certain people that were still showing their latest post and many similar situations where a good introduction of “presence” could come in handy. Let me elaborate.

The power of “Presence” in the high performance workplace

 The book “Employees first, Customers second: turning conventional management upside down” by Vineet Nayar clearly illustrates that our employees are our most important assets. Not only the managers, but especially the people in the field, the people who actually create value for the company.

It is therefore important to set up a high performance workplace for these employees, recognizing that each one of them has specific needs to realize the necessary results for the company. The “presence” concept is one of these needs.

Presence Concept

What is the “presence” concept about? Well, in essence it allows you – as an end user – to check whether other people in the company are available, busy or not on-line. This will avoid unnecessary e-mails to other people that are not available and help you to get in contact with the available people in an easy way.

Some tools – like Lync from Microsoft – visualize the “presence” concept simply by adding a green, yellow, orange or red bullet next to a person’s name.

You also have the possibility to link “skills” to people, and then the “presence” concept starts to get interesting. Imagine that you’re working on a certain task which requires an in-depth opinion about a certain topic. Then you can start looking in your organisation to the people who work a lot around these items. This last feature is in my opinion still undervalued and could help us in working better together more efficiently.

Another area where the presence concept is undervalued are the social media tools.

Should the “Presence” concept be integrated in social media tools?

Last month I’ve enjoyed my holidays and most of the time I was completely disconnected from the digital world. In the beginning it felt a bit strange, but after a while I started to get used to it, and now – to be honest – it took me quite some time to start off again. (I know… I’m a digital immigrant…)

But what happened now during the last holiday period? When I looked at my profile on twitter or linkedin for instance I noticed that my last tweet and my last activity was still present. So this means that during a complete month people associated me with my latest message. That is something to think about, no? Could the “presence” concept not be of help here? A simple ‘out-of-office’ message or something alike?

Anyways the “presence” concept is something people understand, but ’til now I must say that the potential behind this presence concept – in my opinion – is truely undervalued. It is not about inventing new thing, it is about using the existing technologies smartly together.

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Cloud Computing Demystified

Posted on June 21st, 2011 by TimClaes

Cloud Computing? What is it all about?

 

With the launch of the iCloud by Apple, the phenomenon ‘cloud computing‘ revives. But what exactly is this all about? Many different flavours exist in cloud computing in B2B.

In essence it is about a new way of dealing with your datacenter. The ‘cloud model’ tries to manage multiple inefficiencies in your current datacenter environment. For example – through the use of cloud computing – you will be able to manage better the overcapacity and under-capacity of allocated ICT resources (networking, data, storage, processing power). If the demand changes over time, you try to adjust your capacity of ICT resources accordingly – on demand & scalable. Scalable in such a way that it becomes even possible to implement new kinds of architecture set-ups. Architecture designs that were not feasible in the old days, but now – with the limitation taken away of the scalability – these designs could suddenly become very attractive and interesting for your business.

On top of that – depending on the cloud computing flavour – you only pay for what you use. So cloud computing is clearly much more than virtualisation, a term cloud computing sometimes is confused with. Virtualisation is one of the main techniques used to make cloud computing possible in practice.

Now when does it become interesting for your organization to consider a ‘cloud model’? Cost optimization is of course an important driver, but how do you measure this cost and which are the business scenario’s that have a major impact on your costs?

4 Interesting Business scenario’s for cloud computing

 

  1. On and Off” – Do you have many batch processes running on your servers? And as such a lot of idle servers most of the time, that are only running on full capacity during very specific moments? (eg. monthly close of the figures)
  2. Growing fast” – Are you in a fast growing market? Do you have a start-up company and expect to grow exponentially over the upcoming months/years? Are you launching new services in the market and don’t know yet how the public will respond? These are ideal candidates for the cloud.
  3. Unpredictable bursting” – Do you sometimes have unplanned ‘peaks’ in the demand for capacity of ICT resources? (eg. the volcano of iceland that becomes active, this influences all air companies and the frequent schedule updates on the websites)
  4. Predictable bursting” – Do you offer services where you know upfront that you will have certain peaks you need to deal with? (E.g. certain on-line marketing campaign, certain big events, …) Then the cloud becomes an interesting scenario.

 

When you consider to take the step to move to the cloud, it does not need to be all or nothing right from the start. Many ‘in-between’ solutions exist depending on your exact needs. To start with you can simply start by optimizing your own datacenter and if necessary you can move to an external datacenter with extra scalability advantages, but where you can still ask for dedicated servers as well, next to the shared servers with other customers. and off course you also have the public cloud, provided to you by companies like google, microsoft… where by definition all the servers are made available in a shared mode.

On these environments you can then choose for yourself how far you want to go with ‘as a service’. Instead of maintaining the infrastructure yourself , you can decide to ‘outsource’ this, then we talk about Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service). But you could also go 1 step further and decide to also outsource the databases, the security & integration services, then we talk about Paas (Platform as a Service). Sometimes it could even be interesting to outsource complete applications and then we talk about Saas (Software as a Service).

iCloud of Apple

 

Now with the launch of iCloud of Apple, Cloud computing gets a new dimension. It is no longer used in a B2B context – as described above, but it now also becomes rapidly available in a B2C context.

In this context Cloud computing is all about ease of use, making it possible to share data across multiple devices rapidly and no longer having the need for a physical hard drive.

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