4 Posts

How can you help your organization institute the changes it requires to meet its mission and gain a competitive advantage? Begin by thinking and acting like a startup.

Forget the idea of attempting a large-scale re-engineering that was commonly advocated in the 1990s. Focus instead on disrupting what’s not working by embracing micro-development. HBR’s Robert Schaffer explains why organizations should avoid cultural change when implementing business-critical changes.

First, the organization must select and direct its resources and investments toward addressing one problem. Then it must assemble and assign a team capable of — and solely dedicated to — developing three-to-five possible solutions, rolling out each on a small-scale, and then testing, monitoring, and measuring the effectiveness of how well each resolves the specific problem. Change comes from trial-and-error; and all problems are inherently complex, and human solutions are almost always initially flawed.

To step up and compete effectively, leaders would benefit from keeping in mind that any significant organizational change will easily breed extreme anxiety, both internally and externally. The only path toward alleviating such nervousness is through proactive, transparent, and relationship-appropriate communication. Messages must accurately and honestly address and answer the specific concerns of employees, stakeholders, shareholders, partners, and customers/constituents. Some common questions to address include;

• Will the workforce need to acquire new competencies and meet new benchmarks?
• How will the proposed changes affect the communities and the supply lines that serve and rely on the organization?
• How will the proposed changes affect the organization’s mission and competitiveness?
• Will the proposed changes benefit partners and provide the communities served with the support they presently need?

Leaders can only answer these questions by first clearly identifying and defining the critical problems. Then they must select the single problem that will generate the most impact. Next, they need to organize a team of specialists — and provide them with the resources — to create an actionable, measurable solution that specifically addresses the single problem. Finding a competitive advantage begins with answering these two questions: Where do we want to play? How will we win there?.

Only by thinking small can an organization cultivate the right solution that over time enables it to adapt and evolve in ways consistent with its mission and strategic trajectory. Projects fail because too many interests are put into the mix. Larger organizations do not need to be as nimble as a startup. Size actually has no bearing; focus and purpose does. And it all begins by micro-developing a range of solutions that help the organization find an way to more effectively achieve its mission within a changing business climate.

Please comment:
Do you agree? Why? Why not? Why isn’t micro-development a good idea? When isn’t it appropriate? What would you suggest and why? Do you have an example of rolling out such an effort?

This post was originally published by the author in The WindMiner's Journal.

It’s an exciting time we live in. New markets are opening, innovative applications are reshaping the IT landscape, and social shifts are driving changes once considered unimaginable. Adapting to these transformations requires a new approach to seeing and thinking.

Investing in Big Data

Big Data AnalyticsFortunately, organizations can masterly navigate the changes transforming their markets and industries. With Big Data analytics (aka predictive or advanced analytics) software, decision makers gain, David Smith – VP of insurance solutions at Igate Patni – explains, “a powerful tool for managing the performance of the organization, both in avoiding risk and recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities.”

By identifying the patterns now shaping tomorrow’s trends– and getting rapid access to crucial real-time insights – organizations can better understand the dynamics changing their enterprises, markets, and industries.

In an InfoWorld Deep Dive report on Big Data analytics, Blue Mountain Labs Founder and CTO David S. Linthicum explains the advantages of gaining the capability to “leverage both structured and unstructured data, and visualize that data together as a single, logical set of information.” He identifies how this software can help organizations shift from traditional BI applications – which primarily show past performance – to Big Data analytics, which provide insight into what is happening right now, and what may likely occur tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.

As Linthicum notes, one of the software’s core advantages is that it enables decision makers to “imply structure at the time of analysis, and thus provide flexibility by decoupling the underlying structure from structured or unstructured physical data.” As a result, they can accurately identify and monitor their organization’s many business drivers. Perhaps more important, they can leverage this information to redirect their organizations. But getting to this level of data sophistication requires a significant change.

Identifying the Soft Benefit

Over the past year, countless experts have detailed insights similar to Linthicum’s. (Linthicum offers, however, what few others have: an 8-step plan for effectively rolling out the technology.) This advice is sound and well-informed. But most of it focuses on the hard benefits, the hard advantages that Big Data analytics can help organizations generate. Few have addressed the underlying soft benefits, which I think may show not only why companies should invest in Big Data Analytics but also why they can’t afford not to.

Simply put, Big Data analytics can change the way an organization – and therefore, its people – thinks. More than this, as Austrian Federal Government CIO Dr. Reinhard Posch suggests, organizations can only leverage this software effectively after they change how they think. How? By changing the underlying logic that organizations use to query data and analyze the results returned, the logic that also drives their operations.

Big Data analytics not only enable organizations to quickly access and track the ongoing stream of global tweets, status updates, texts, videos, and blog posts. It also empowers decision makers with the deep-dive capability they need to accurately query and analyze the opinions shared by their organization’s customers, suppliers, stakeholders, shareholders, and employees.

Accessing this body of public sentiment is one capability. Deciding how to use it is an entirely different matter, one that requires an expanded mindset that contrasts the deterministic model organizations rely on to structure and drive their operations. The new model that seems well matched to the challenge isprobabilistic logic.

Making the Shift

Probabilistic logic could become instrumental in using Big Data analytics because it can help organizations leverage the probabilities of future events that the software predicts. By adopting a probabilistic mindset, organizations can gain flexibility that is not possible when using a cause-and-effect (objective logic) approach.

By gaining the capability to better consider and integrate the numerous possibilities which can occur (subjective logic), they could realize a change that CWDN’s Adrian Bridgwater suggests: Replace deterministic applications (similar to objective-oriented logic) with probabilistic applications (similar to subjective-based logic).

It’s a change that could help Western organizations better integrate within the global business environment. As researchers Oliver Bakewell and Anne Garbutt found, international non-government organizations (NGOs) felt the highly deterministic logic framework approach (LFA) prevented them from having the flexibility they needed to work within non-Western cultures and often impeded their ability to effectively plan and implement development projects.

Though the study’s participants acknowledged that deterministic logic could help them think more clearly, overall they felt the LFA prevented them from easily adapting to change, a concern that businesses worldwide are increasingly feeling as they attempt to navigate the uncertainty presently shaping markets worldwide.

And considering the level of flexibility organizations need to effectively run Big Data analytics, and then efficiently leverage the insight they gain, only an approach that based on the probabilities of possible ranges of action, instead of relying on deterministic structures for pursuing iron-clad objectives, seems most appropriate when adapting to the dynamics now driving and transforming our political, social, and economic institutions worldwide.

Many organizations may consider such a shift neither feasible nor desired. For them, there is an alternative: Recent research shows that software-based artificial neural networks can strengthen deterministic logic. But this hybrid may only provide some of the benefits and may delay the more fundamental shift that could prove – as technology becomes more innovative and the world more uncertain – inevitable.

Integrating probability into the core structure could help organizations gain the flexibility, adaptability, and capability needed to dismantle the barriers that long hindered effective knowledge transfer and management, that long prevented effective engagement with their public, but that did help businesses operate in the knowable, Western-centric global climate. But this climate is shifting, and tomorrow no longer seems as determinable as it once was.

This post was originally published by the author on SAP's Business Innovation blog.

How did previous generations ever get anything accomplished?

Over the past twenty-five years, the span of a single human generation, we have transformed our communication and workplace behaviors. Complex activities that once may have taken weeks to finish can now be completed within minutes.

Unfortunately, our most advanced smartphones and tablets – and the data we create and share on these tools – are highly vulnerable to cyber attacks. According to recent reports, black-hat hackers are increasing their attacks on mobile devices. This threat is garnering international attention.

“Political leaders around the world, including President Obama,” writes Juniper Networks CEO Kevin Johnson, “have begun calling for a greater focus on [mobile security]… A typical security breach costs a business more than a half a million dollars to address in terms of cash outlays, business disruption, and revenue losses….” Fortunately, most IT security teams are developing strategies to eradicate this threat.

Building a Mobile IT Security Strategy

For most organizations, “the challenge,” writes IT security specialist Mark Bouchard, “is [understanding] how to enable productivity and mitigate the threats, vulnerabilities, and risks in a way that strikes the best balance and the lowest total costs.”

In a whitepaper authored for Websense, Bouchard – founder of the IT research and analysis companyAimPoint Group – details a three-tier plan that secures the two critical points: corporate data and mobile devices.

  • Tier Two: Using encrypted data tunnels, DLP technology, and user-authentication systems. Shielding data from hackers has proven an effective technique. What’s the risk of not running these shields? Ever hear of sidejacking? It’s a popular tactic that hackers use; it enables them to quickly tap into a mobile device and access data transmitted via a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Tier Three: Relying on server-hosted virtualizations, enterprise sandboxes, and always-on-VPN. Sandboxing, touted by Savid Technologies CEO Michael A. Davis, supports data encryption and provides enough security to protect high-level communications, such as those President Obama sends on his mobile phone. Virtualizations work well with native mobile apps.

Implementing the Plan

But a sound IT security strategy is only the beginning. Organizations need to police their IT environment and educate mobile users. The first step is standard practice; the second is frequently overlooked or many times, poorly implemented – and often is the cause of much cybercrime.

When mobile users don’t understand usage policies, or worse, when these policies are inflexible to the point of interfering with productivity, users will most likely ignore the rules. And when they do, they are not simply making themselves vulnerable to attack: They are potentially putting an entire network at risk. How?

Most IT attacks result from user actions. To prevent cyber attacks, users need to change their patterns of mobile behavior. To help them, organizations can offer programs in self-directed education and group training; they can also develop clearly defined mobile-security policies and run top-level mobile IT security apps. These measures can help prevent cyber attacks. In the struggle to stop unauthorized users from gaining access to critical networks – and extracting and exploiting crucial business information – IT executives must use every option available to them to persuade their organization’s mobile users to both follow standardized policies and act vigilantly in protecting their data and guarding their devices.

Is your company implementing any of the strategic tiers that Bouchard suggests? Does it have clearly defined mobile usage policies? Does it offer user education? Does the organization’s culture continuously promote adherence to these policies?

NOTE: This post was originally published by the author on SAP’s Business Innovation blog.

For centuries, humans traveled the Earth’s seas, guided only by their experience in reading the stars, the temperature, and the currents. Rarely could they anticipate the unfolding often life-and-death situations they were steering into.

Today, our ships travel the world guided by technology that scans present conditions and reads evolving water, weather, and seismic patterns. With such insight, captains can safely guide their vessels to any global destination.

Seeing Beyond Yesterday

Rarely can today’s business decision makers get the same type of insight. Rarely can they lead with the same confidence. Every day, unanticipated interruptions shake the most seemingly stable organizations. Markets rise and fall unexpectedly; supply chains break and prove unreliable; and political and economic systems are collapsing and changing our business and social landscapes.

It’s time for decision makers to stop wasting time analyzing last year’s results. This outdated data only shows yesterday’s shortfalls, gaps, and strengths. Such information fails to suggest future patterns. Leaders are left in the dark, unable to make accurate decisions and predict achievable outcomes.

Every day, more people are using mobile devices. And a larger number are relying on digital communications to carry out their daily lives. To help organizations leverage this Big Data to perform better and improve services to customers, technology innovators have developed a new generation of software analytics.

These advanced analytics solutions provide leaders with the insight to gauge the patterns driving business success. InformationWeek Executive Editor Doug Henshen explains this shift: “the old practice of following the money – using lagging financial indicators to guide a company’s decisions – [is] giving way to the forward-looking approach of following the data” (p.4).

Propelling Forward

In running advanced analytics software, organizations can see more than a simple trend analysis. They are looking beyond the structured data stored in relational and SQL databases. And they are tapping into open source-and-NoSQL data (aka Big Data) to mine exabytes of real-time tweets, status updates, and blog posts. It’s from this unstructured data that decision makers can distill the current and evolving patterns of thought and behavior affecting their customers, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, employees, and competitors. What’s these mean for organizations?

Retailers can track style trends to determine which sweaters to stock during the upcoming holidays. Car dealers can predict – using data on energy, economic, and employment news – which types of vehicles consumers will more likely want. Travel agents can see – from traditional and online media placements, magazine features, travel bloggers, and commercial development news – where customers are more likely to vacation. In fact, any organization in any industry can better understand the dynamics driving their supply, demand, and value chains. How? By supercharging their listening with the most advanced analytics software.

Charting the Depths

Why are online sales suddenly dropping? What are Facebookers and Twitterers saying about your company? How can your company become the business world’s next one-to-watch phenom? Is your organization effectively differentiating itself from its competitors? Which approaches are most effective for nurturing sustainable relationships with new customers, stakeholders, partners, and suppliers?

Advanced analytics cuts through the Web’s clutter. It reveals patterns that even the most astute researcher can easily miss. How? Advanced analytics tap into “real-time information from sensors”write Thomas H. Davenport, Paul Barth, and Randy Bean, “…at a more granular level…” And from this, the authors say, organizations better know how to “respond to changes in usage patterns as they occur.”

It is these responses which can mean the difference between a lost sale or a PR fiasco and a satisfied customer or a marketing homerun. What’s the key? Tracking customer sentiment on Twitter and market shifts worldwide. In these nuggets of data are the treasures sought. The art is looking at the patters and identifying the collapsing markets, new gaps, and emerging opportunities.

Leaders need to “embrace the viewpoint of all sectors,” says Public Squared’s Rich Tafel, “and see the bigger vision for all.” Only from this can they think differently and use this information to respond proactively. This is the crucial factor in turning a data pattern into actionable information – into strategies, tactics, and processes that enable their organization to create the disruptions which transform industries, marketplaces, and economies.

Is your company running advanced analytics? If so, what advantages has it been getting from its solutions? Has it helped leaders identify new business opportunities and make more accurate predictions? How could your analytics solutions better meet your needs?


NOTE: This post was originally published by the author on SAP’s Business Innovation blog.