Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Architectural "Perfection" : implications for IT Projects

This is hot off the press and appears relevant esp. the part about “Architectural Perfection”. Some of it is the usual “consultant-speak” and would be preaching to the choir but I’m sure there are some nuggets to be gleaned.

McKinsey surmises that the key to success lies in mastering four broad dimensions, which combined make up a methodology for large-scale IT projects that they call “value assurance.” The following elements make up this approach :

• focusing on managing strategy and stakeholders instead of exclusively concentrating on budget and scheduling

• mastering technology and project content by securing critical internal and external talent
• building effective teams by aligning their incentives with the overall goals of projects
• excelling at core project-management practices, such as short delivery cycles and rigorous quality checks
According to survey responses, an inability to master the first two dimensions typically causes about half of all cost overruns, while poor performance on the second two dimensions accounts for an additional 40 percent of overspending.

Not surprisingly, the urge to seek Architectural “perfection” is indicated as a cost/timeline over-run driver. Brings back memories to me of some conversations with team members on “satisficing” vs. “perfect” solutions!

Friday, October 26, 2012

McKinsey underestimates traditional retailing alternatives in Emerging Markets

My published comments:

Full Comments:

I think the authors have missed two critical variables which will have a key role in determining the shape of retailing in emerging economies:

1. Real Estate Values

2. Transportation (not of the goods to the stores but for the consumers)

Mom and Pop stores may look archaic from a modern retailing and logistics perspective but they can generate high per square foot revenues at minimal costs. A very critical variable in economies such as India where real estate is at a premium.

Building mega-stores and hyper-marts in less crowded areas is sub-optimal because then lack of transportation makes it difficult for consumers to reach them and cart their purchases from store to home.

Also most consumers do not visit the Kirana store, a quick phone call ensures that all grocery items are delivered to their doorstep. In many cases the storekeeper knows the shopping list and delivers the products on a periodic basis. Not only that, they can fine tune the list and supplies based on local conditions - increase sugar and oil quantities ahead of a major festival, unrest brewing in the neighborhood - double up on the milk and eggs etc.

So viewing the mom and pop Kirana store as just a retail outlet will not suffice. It is essentially a close-to-the-customer customer service continuum. Most consumers believe that big stores will not be able to provide that level of service.

I would not call them "buggy whips"; Bicycles in an era of fast cars is a more apt analogy - both coexist and people are increasingly realizing that despite the faster, sleeker cars, the humble bike is not such a bad idea after all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To Be, Or Not To Be.........Like Apple!

One of the aspects of Change Management or Building a Culture of Innovation is benchmarking against others and attempting to emulate best practices. However, that can be a challenge when attempting to emulate companies like Apple, a recent McKinsey & Co study - "The perils of best practice: Should you emulate Apple?"   expounds (sign in may be required to read full article). The reason being it is truly "exceptional" and hence an outlier.

They also talk about a "innovation at scale" approach which may be as relevant as a "disruptive innovation" approach for most corporates.

I shared some feedback on the article which has been published on the McKinsey site:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Web of Wellness

Rising healthcare expenses is a key issue plaguing area employers and employees alike. These rising expenses attributed to increasing healthcare costs and declining employee wellness (often caused by poor lifestyle choices) are impacting corporate competitiveness and profitability; as well as leading to reduced employee motivation and morale as these increasing costs are passed on to the employees.

Traditionally, individual employers have tried to deal with this issue by working with providers to reduce costs; and encouraging employees to lead healthier lifestyles.

A team of us looked at this issue as part of coursework at the Simon School of the University of Rochester.

Along with other ideas our team outlined an integrative approach leveraging interconnected players to enhance value by creating a “Web of Wellness”.

Here's what we see: Employers like Univ. of Rochester, Xerox, Paychex etc. want to reduce healthcare expenses. Local retailers like Wegmans, Tops, Walmart etc. want to increase sales of healthy options. Local gyms and health clubs like Midtown, RAC, Planet Fitness etc. want to boost membership. Also, individuals want to indulge in healthy lifestyle choices but often see no tangible rewards or are driven away by the high costs. What is missing is a framework, a "web" which brings these disparate players together and drives increased value for each of them.

And here’s what we think needs to happen: local associations like Greater Rochester Enterprise , Rochester Business Alliance etc. would need to step in. Pull all the players together to create a "Web of Wellness". Employees get a “Web of Wellness” card from their employers and earn points for using the gym (e.g. 100 points for every hour on the treadmill) or for achieving tangible health gains (e.g. 1000 points for every pound of weight loss) which can be redeemed for cash discounts on healthy products at local retailers (e.g. 500 points gets you $5 off your next purchase of healthy snacks) . Similarly buying healthy products at the stores could lead to points which could be redeemed towards classes at the local gym.

A lot of innovative deal-making will be required amongst all the players to come up with a workable solution but let’s get the conversation started. Perhaps Rochester’s “Web of Wellness” will become a model for the entire nation!

Published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle as : Creating a 'web of wellness' in Rochester

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

India's manufacturing sector: Miles to go.........

McKinsey Quarterly's article "Fulfilling the promise of India’s manufacturing sector" made me opine:

The authors have rightly opined "India has a massive workforce, an emerging supply base, and access to natural resources needed in production" but what they did not allude to was a very lax and subjective environmental policy, poor infrastructure and an ill-defined land acquisition policy.

Prior to any expansion of manufacturing capabilities getting the environmental policy, safeguards and monitoring mechanism in place is critical if India does not want to end up with the kind of polluted environment China has. Expansion of manufacturing capabilities needs to be more than just moving smokestacks from one geography to another.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From "Kodak Moment" to Teaching Moment

From "Kodak Moment" to Teaching Moment

Much ink has been spilled over the last few weeks with countless pages being written about the misfortunes plaguing Kodak and the likely impact on the local community. One wonders and worries what all this means to our kids. The steady stream of disturbing news about lost jobs and economic despair.

However, I feel, as the Kodak moments fade away, several teaching moments emerge to help our kids make sense and learn from the Kodak related news they are confronted with on a daily basis.

One can start off with "never rest on your laurels" or "do not keep all your eggs in one basket". Kodak was so entrenched in its leadership of film and print photography that it was never able to make the transition to digital as that new world emerged. There could not be a better lesson for kids- scholars or athletes or artists, that as they strive to attain perfection in their pursuit of choice, it would be appropriate to develop some all-round skills that may come in handy for the challenges that life may throw at them in the future. Better be a jack of all trades, than a master of "one".

Another pithy aphorism that comes to mind is "a stitch in time saves nine", kids can be made to fathom from the Kodak experience that timely responses to issues is critical as else the issues will spiral out of control. It is important to confront the issues directly and vigorously ("grapple the bull by the horns") or else they will be left to "cry over spilt milk" or "closing the stable door after the horse has bolted". Kodak's late foray into consumer digital photography is a case study in doing too little too late.

Forever a fan of the "Happy Ending", I hope as Kodak makes a recovery from the bankruptcy, kids will learn a lesson, "The game is not over till it is over"; through perseverance, commitment and resolve one can rise like a "Phoenix from the ashes".

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 24: The difference a year makes! Gartner's 2012 Magic Quadrant for BI

Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms 2011 vs. 2012
It has been a year since I posted : The Business Intelligence Chronicles Part 20: The Battlelines are drawn: Traditional Enterprise BI Platforms vs. Data Discovery Platforms
Gartner has now come out with the 2012 version of its Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms.

The difference a year makes! Or does it?

Nothing much seems to have changed. The leaders  are essentially the same and more or less in the same positions. The same 2 players are the challengers, they have not been able to break through to the leaders quadrant. And, the niche players quadrant is as cluttered as ever.  What is a little disturbing though is that the visionary quadrant continues to be blank.

Where are the visionaries? The ones who are going to marry traditional platform BI, Data discovery/visualization, Google like search, Big Data, Data Mining, realtime Geo-location, Gamification, Twitter like notifications and deploy it via a socially pervasive framework like Facebook throughout the user community.

Btw, if this quadrant is based on surveys and data as part of a scientific process, why is it called "Magic"?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ellison's Oracle vs. Plattner's SAP - Battle of "In-Memory"

The battle between Ellison’s Oracle and Plattner’s SAP seems to be heating up with Plattner having fired a salvo across Ellison’s bow with “HANA” (Hasso Plattner’s New Architecture – neither of these gentlemen can ever be accused of humility/modesty).

Plattner seems to have upped the ante by taking the battle beyond the usual mooning each other at yacht races and billion dollar acquisitions as bolt-on’s for their core platforms to the core of Oracle’s key strength – its underlying data base. SAP claims HANA which allows companies to store data in servers' main memory, instead of using the relational databases that Oracle dominates is significantly faster than Oracle’s Exadata .

The Jury is still out. T-mobile has taken HANA out for a test drive and has been impressed.

Ellison’s response- “Whacko”, adding he wants the name of SAP’s “Pharmacist”.

Read more in this article from the WSJ (01/26): Inside SAP's Skunkworks as It Takes Aim at Oracle

Key question: which way are the database technology winds going to blow – in-memory or relational?

In the BI space an in-memory application like Qliktech’s Qlikview emerged as a serious contender to traditional BI vendors (strengthening Data Discovery vis-a-vis traditional enterprise BI).

If SAP’s HANA pans out, I think the database market will see a new segment emerge for applications focused on “Big Data” (McKinsey’s definition: Datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze) , with Oracle too strengthening its offerings in that area ( Oracle has bought an in-memory database company called TimesTen ).

It may be a few years before data in-memory database architecture really matures and comes center-stage. Process may be speeded up with a behemoth like SAP putting its financial muscle behind it. The strong demand for tools with ability to manage/ mine “big data” which companies are accumulating as a result of tapping into their customers web-usage, geo-location etc. is another driver.

Search Google


Site Meter