Monday, December 1, 2014

Of Swarms and Smart Devices....

As I read "How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition" by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann in the November 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I thought the article just scratched the surface of how smart, connected products can transform competition.
To me it seemed like they missed out on a key point on how connected devices can drive corporate collaboration and thereby transform competition.
This article viewed the connected product as a discrete autonomous entity connected to a larger grid. What it misses out is the "swarming" which can happen when these products interconnect with each other (let the image of a murmuration of starlings flash before your eyes - millions of birds swooping as one single shape-shifting entity).
While the authors visualize your toaster connecting to the toaster manufacturer and fridge connecting to the fridge manufacturer; in reality we will have the toaster, refrigerator and all other appliances connecting to each other and transforming our lives (Car notifying the coffeemaker as it approaches the house to make sure a pot is ready for me as I pull into the garage or thousands of discrete store/street cameras collaborating to create a seamless surveillance grid).
This will have an impact on competition too esp. in terms of the opportunities of collaboration which may emerge viz. Will the "swarm" allow devices of other manufacturers to join or will each manufacturer restrict participation to its own products?
Here's what I would like to add to the authors postulates:
  • Future of connected devices is not just the device but the "swarm".
  • Swarming or the need for swarms will force collaboration between competitors to enable establishment of swarming protocols and inter-connectivity.
  • Companies will need to fathom approaches where they compete at device level but collaborate at the swarm level.
  • A new kind of player, a swarm manager/enabler, will emerge which will focus on enablement of the swarm and monetizing it. Google could be one such player (Think where Nest may be headed...and the self-driving cars). Social Media companies like Facebook etc. may also move up the value chain from just being people connectors to swarm enablers.
How do you think your company's smart products can be part of a collaborative "swarm" ?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Enterprise Architecture Redux

Redux comes to us from the Latin reducere - to lead back.
And, that's what I was reminded of when Jason Bloomberg touched a raw nerve with his Forbes article: Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?.
I think he is pretty harsh in comparing Enterprise Architects to Milton the red stapler guy from the movie Office Space ; "showing up for work day after day, clueless about why he has nothing useful to do."
But he may be on to something when he says : ".....practice of EA has become all about documentation rather than effecting business change." That may indeed be the case in some organizations.
His recommendation for a cure: "The field of Enterprise Architecture must itself transform into a new, Agile Architecture in order to drive digital transformation effectively in today’s increasingly wired world."
He is however silent about how to make that transformation. Here's how successful organizations can "lead back" with Enterprise Architecture (EA):
  • Align EA more closely with overall business strategy.
  • Redeploy EA resources in alignment with business processes/solutions rather than technology stacks.
  • Communicate.Communicate. Communicate. Traditional EA does a poor job with this. An architecture is of no use if stakeholders are not aware of what it is.
  • Harmony. Talk to building architects and they will talk about the need for the building to be in harmony with the elements. This piece often gets missed out in Enterprise Architecture. Harmony should be an EA objective and it make business sense too (Think Steve Jobs).
  • Influence and lead with Ideas. EA needs to be source of and the go to for technology related thought for business stakeholders. Needs to be looking ahead through a telescope rather than just peering at the rear view mirror or looking out of the front window.
  • Teamwork. Work across the Technology and Process Silos. Solution Architects who are often closer to the business and technology pain-points are EAs friends not foes.
  • Exit the Ivory Towers. Ditch the highfalutin "frameworks". Well, not exactly, use them but speak the language of the masses. They are not interested in the "frameworks" per se but what the end result is. They know you are smart ; no need to remind them of that at every interaction with EA jargon.
  • Collaborate. Create an EA organization which encourages collaboration within the teams and with stakeholders.
  • Tolerate. The technology roadmap is great but EA would need to tolerate those pesky legacy applications esp. if the appetite of the business for technology investments/change is limited.
  • Ubiquitous.Pervasive, Omnipresent, Everywhere... call it by whatever name EA influence should permeate the organization.
  • Rapid and Agile....and Timely. Those strategic roadmaps are not meant to be filed away in a shelf. But that's where they will end up if their delivery is not aligned with business objectives which are ever-changing and dynamic.
  • Evangelize. People/Stakeholders need to see, feel the passion of EA. EA needs to be perceived as Change Agents rather than as Auditors. One of my favorite CIOs talks about IT organizations (and I think it would apply to EA too) need to decide whether they want to be pizza order takers or dietitians for their business partners.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

VUCA - a four-letter word. How does your company plan to deal with it?

Here's what Deloitte thinks smart companies would need to do to deal with VUCA : a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous world: 

Today’s organizations must create regular, systematic mechanisms to accelerate the pace at which they discover sources of surprise. 

2 Scan Ruthlessly
Any potential source of change won’t be coming with a big sign that says “disruptor.” It won’t be coming from the usual places. And there won’t be just one.

3 Confront Your Biases.
“That will never happen” is the most dangerous phrase in today’s C-Suite. 

When an emergent risk turns into a strategic threat, it’s too late to study the problem. You have to respond like a Navy SEAL, with confidence, clarity, and precision.
Seems to be in close alignment with what I had written in the Harvard Business Review and blogged about a few months ago:
.......that most Disruptions can be prevented from having a Big Bang effect by smart companies by:

- early identification of emerging trends

- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business

- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend

- get "co-opted" into the evolution process

- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.

Companies which do not do so will feel the impact of what was actually an evolutionary process as if it was a "Big Bang". Guys who see an oncoming bus and prepare for it can run alongside it a bit and then board it ; guys who are oblivious will be "hit by a bus".

Friday, October 10, 2014

Battle lines are drawn: Next Generation IT Operating Model - Plan/Build/Run Or Broker/Integrate/Orchestrate

The first salvo in the battle was fired when Mark Settle, CIO, BMC Software in a2012 Forbes Guest Essay said "Employing a Plan/Build/Run model to deploy critical business systems in the 21st century is a little like employing horse cavalry units to fight battles in World War II."
A bit harsh given that major consulting organizations are still in two minds about which horse to back. McKinsey in Winter 2013 was espousing "Using a plan-build-run organizational model to drive IT infrastructure objectives" while KPMG in early 2014 touted Broker/Orchestrate/Integrate as a Next Generation IT Operating Model, Deloitte stayed away from either of these in their 2014 report "The Next Generation of IT Operating Models"
A tad bit confusing ? Or is it really. While both Plan/Build/Run and Broker/Integrate/Orchestrate are a marked shift from the traditional stovepipe organization, they can be viewed to be on the same evolutionary continuum. The two models very closely align with each other with remarkable correlation between Plan and Broker; Build and Integrate; and Run and Orchestrate.
So IT organizations which are currently transitioning into the Plan/Build/Run model can view the Broker/Integrate/Orchestrate as a logical progression. For the others which are still stuck in the stovepipe Mark Settle says "these stovepipe organizations are uniquely positioned to leapfrog the Plan/Build/Run orthodoxy and move directly to the new IT operating model: Broker/Integrate/Orchestrate."
So the onus is on CIOs to recommend a viable path based on the organizational culture and the risk profile of their organizations - A revolutionary approach which transforms them from stovepipe directly to Broker/Integrate/Orchestrate or an evolutionary path which takes them to the same end-point but via an interim transition to Plan/Build/Run.
As a CIO/IT Strategist which path did you choose and Why?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is Your Business Ready For The Self-Driving Car ?

In my comments published in the Harvard Business Review last year I had opined that failure to recognize platform disrupters (like the self-driving car) can be very detrimental to corporate health and existence.
However, most such Disruptions can be prevented from having a Big Bang effect by smart companies by:

- early identification of emerging trends

- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business

- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend

- get "co-opted" into the evolution process

- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.

Companies which do not do so will feel the impact of what was actually an evolutionary process as if it was a "Big Bang". Guys who see an oncoming "self-driving car' and prepare for it can run alongside it a bit and then board it ; guys who are oblivious will be "hit by a self-driving car". (with due apologies to the proverbial "bus")
So has your company started to think about self-driving cars and their likely impact on your business?
Google's motivation to be in this business may be to make more time available to individuals for web browsing (you gotta do something when you are not driving!); but a little bit of crystal ball gazing can see lots of potential downstream disruptive effects on other businesses:
- Drive thru's and Drive Thru Foods (KFC, Burger King et al): Service could be from either side of the car. Food packaging and portions, even the kinds of food available can change since the individual can focus on eating not driving and eating.
- Pepsi, Coke, Media et al: How can we get a share of the time made free from driving available to us. Can we make the "non-driver" drink more of our soda? eat more of our munchies? watch our t.v. show?
- Corporate: Can we productively engage people in our office work while they are non-driving to work? What tools/gizmos can support that?
- Electronics, Accessories: What do we get into the design pipeline to be available as ready to market products when the "self-drivong car" hits us.
Moral of the Story: The Self-Driving Car is coming. Its not as far as you think. And no, it is not likely that you will not be impacted. Better start preparing for it. The early birds will get all the worms. Others will be history.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Ultimate Marketing Machine: Ruled by the Head or the Heart?

Caveat Emptor: I am a Big Data/BI/Analytics guy with a Marketing background.
I shudder a bit though when I hear the hype equating Big Data/Analytics Driven Marketing to the Marketer's Magic Wand. A Magic Wand which will bundle up hitherto unidentified customers and deliver them at your doorsteps in neatly labeled packets.
As Marketing increasingly focuses on its "head" (using Big Data and Analytics), there is a danger that it will lose touch with its "heart". The pendulum can swing too far in one direction!
While finding the Right Customer at the Right Time is very important and Big Data/Analytics can help with that, even more important is making the Right Emotional Connection with the Right Customer at the Right Time. So creating the Right Message, Brand Identity et al will continue to be key attributes of Marketing even in 2020 and beyond.
A brand which tugs at my purse-strings will surely get my attention but one which tugs at my heart-strings will be a steady partner.
Successful Marketing Leaders create the right mix and balance of head and heart in their teams. That has been the secret sauce of successful Marketers in the past and will continue to be in the future...2020 and Beyond!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Contextual Intelligence: A conversation with Prof. Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School

I recently had an interesting online conversation with Prof. Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School and director of Harvard University's South Asia Institute. This was with reference to his September 2014 Harvard Business Review article : Contextual Intelligence

The author has opined about how intelligence - including market and business related can be contextual (he spoke about it being influenced by the country of operation) and how new technologies developed elsewhere (beyond the "context") are slow to diffuse. I had a slightly differing view and we had a great dialogue.
    • Avatar
      Interesting article. I found the title "Contextual Intelligence" to be somewhat of an oxymoron. Isn't all intelligence contextual? If not, then it is not intelligence but stupidity.
      The author has limited the context to countries in a global context but in real life the concept is infinitely extensible even from a business/marketing perspective - regions within countries, cities within regions, localities within cities and so on. One size/shape does not fit all. Most successful corporations/businesses have allowed variations in their "uniform" strategies to support/leverage these contextual nuances.
      I am surprised by the assertion : "Robust research shows that countries take decades, on average, to adopt new technologies invented elsewhere." I would think the underlying research even if robust is likely to be outdated. Cellphones are just the tip of the iceberg as far as disruptive technologies which have exhibited explosive growth and acceptance much beyond the shores where they were invented. That seems to be the norm rather than the exception for most modern technologies. I was surprised to see a newspaper image from India showing a cop readying a drone to go airborne to monitor a riot when similar use of that technology is still being debated in the US. I also hear about drones being used to photograph weddings and cultural events in India. Just an example of how the absence of rules or legislation in some cases helps the proliferation of a new technology rather than hinder it.
      I would like the author to revisit some of his assertions in light of emerging trends from within the last decade (given the fast pace of change even a decade could be too long a horizon) rather than basing it on research from an earlier time-frame.
        • Avatar
          hi Deepak
          thanks for this. on the first point, i couldn't agree more; country is merely a (n imperfect) proxy for context. finer-grained geographic subdivisions, social communities, differing industry contexts, might all be relevant proxies for context in the sense of this article.
          On the speed of diffusion, the assertion is a large sample, statistical one, spanning multiple decades and multiple countries and multiple technologies (for example, as analyzed rigorously by the econometrician Diego Comin at Dartmouth in recent years). No one disputes that cellphones diffuse fast, as do other easy-to-spot technologies, but there are numerous others (again, over past decades) whose diffusion has been super-slow.
          ultimately though its an empirical point. you might be proven right that diffusion has sped up (when someone analyzes it rigorously) and will continue to do so. never say never, i say to myself! :)
            • Avatar
              Thanks Tarun! Appreciate the feedback.
              Contextual Intelligence reminds me of the premise of the ancient Indian Jain doctrine of “Anekāntavāda” – doctrine of non-absolutism or non-one sidedness or non-exclusivity . A classical elaboration of the doctrine has been the parable of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant where each man depending on where they touched the elephant described it as a spear (tusk), snake (trunk), wall (side), fan (ear), rope (tail) and tree (leg), with none of them able to visualize the animal itself.
              Similarly depending on the context ("country") the same elephant ("cement industry") may have many different manifestations - highly efficient/inefficient , consolidated/ fragmented etc. Maybe a stretch of the logic but that's what I was reminded of.

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