eCommerce: Point of Digital Coalescence

eCommerce Title
eCommerce: Point of Digital Coalescence

The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit. ~ Milton Freidman

eCommerce: A Living Technology™

eCommerce enables exchange of goods or services via electronic means between people. Today, it is made up of integrated technologies that are owned and operated by separate industries.

eCommerce, however, is evolving as people broaden their expectations to include all products and services they consume. The context in which eCommerce is used is also expanding from personal to work to vacation to…well…life. Reality is that eCommerce delivers the promise of information technology:

right product or services_wp

People have always shaped the future of commerce whether it is based on brick and mortar face-to-face exchange or an online transaction. The fundamentals of commerce has not changed but processes, people and technologies have. As eCommerce attempts to meet the expanding expectations of the free market, the separately owned integrated technologies that now make up eCommerce will coalesce.

That is, technology that helps search for products or services will coalesce with the technologies that enable act of purchase, and the delivery of products or services.

Defining Digital Coalescence

Digital Coalescence is more than algorithmic joining of technologies owned by separate industries. It is the fusion of people, processes and technology to reduce overall costs of enabling eCommerce without the limitation of industries and/or regulations. Extending the concept from technology to industries would result in absorption of these industries into one.

Coalesce_wp

Future industries will be defined by how people want to use technology in their daily lives.

Addressing the Barrier: Costs of eCommerce

eCommerce like Commerce of yesteryears is shaped by the free market. And free market is insisting on driving costs out of the current processes and technologies.

Case in point is Walmart Pay. With the new payment app, Walmart “shoppers about to check out will be able to log in to their accounts on the app, scan a QR code at the cash register, and pay on their phone without producing cash or a credit card.” The use of credit card can cost merchants “1.5% to 3% of every card swipe to credit card companies.

User trust and behaviour will still remain a challenge to overcome for these coalesced technologies. In others words, people or the free market will still decide what stays and what goes based on how easy it is to use.

But change in the cost structure is necessary to sustain growth and profitability in eCommerce. eCommerce solutions are expensive to build and maintain. It can require significant investment in people, process, technology and time while still retaining significant risk of failure not to mention fierce competition.

Digital Coalescence: Will it remove the costs in eCommerce?

Yes but only within the limits of the laws of physics. Search of products or services and payment methods are for the most part digital processes. Delivery of services can also be included in Digital Coalescence. But we will have to wait for the technology that transforms matter into energy and then back into matter to deliver physical products.

_______________________________________

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making by applying strategy to tech solutions, building plans that create financial value and sharing knowledge that drives innovation.

Kiran has over ten years of experience in business and technology consulting, eCommerce, marketing and sales – in both the public and private sectors and across several industries. Her experience spans the spectrum from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. By working closely with you on technology initiatives, Kiran can help stimulate your business strategy, deliver solutions and identify value.

The Trust Channel

Title

The Postal Service can continue to evolve and operate more like a private-sector business.” ~ Megan J. Brennan, New Postmaster’s Goal: Act Like Private Sector, WSJ.com

Trust – Postal Service’s Greatest Asset

For centuries postal services in every country across the globe have aimed to serve the people by being the trusted guardians of the written word. From innocent sentiments of a child for Santa in North Pole to private, legally binding documents of multi-billion dollar conglomerates, the Postal Service has dutifully transported and delivered messages.

Although times have changed, our need for a trusted channel to communicate has not.

In fact, the need for Trust Channel has only multiplied as new technological methods of communications like Twitter, Gmail, Facebook and even LinkedIn have come into existence. These multi-billion dollar giants of communications are trusted by people from all walks of life, each one attempting to demonstrate their worth, originality, ideas, thoughts and, on occasion, dissatisfaction… all things that make us human.

These channels play on our fundamental need “To Belong” within a virtual world that attempts to expound voices of billions of people. Nothing wrong with this at all except when more than one person speaks at the same time, it becomes extremely noisy in real-time digital communication.

Inter-human communications, as we all know, is far more complex than the latest trending topic on many social media networks.

Now more than ever, there is a fundamental need to be ‘heard’ …not by the mass of invisible crowds but by the few you would like to address, privately without third party monitoring of your communications for monetary gains.

And the only entity that can still fulfill this need for private and trusted communications between people and businesses is the Postal Service.

Conflict – To make Money or Serve the People

Neither the need for a trusted, private communication channel; nor the benefits of advanced technological communications can be fundamentally denied. They are both equally important to modern communications.

Yet these two concepts remain mortal enemies in today’s digital world.

Why?

One problem is ‘Data’. Data, it seems, is the source of golden nuggets that must be mined for intelligence to make money. And, there is nothing wrong with this at all. Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, LinkedIn and many other communication entities attempt to gather data, buy and sell data, mine data, add to data, statistically manipulate data, react to data or otherwise use it to make money. Without data, social media networks would not be worth billions.

So what can reconcile the delicate balance between the need for private, trusted communications between people and the need to use technological communications to make/save money?

Only an entity that does not have a required obligation of pleasing its investors and at the same time serve the fundamental need for private and trusted communications between citizens can fulfill this need.

This balance can only be achieved if an entity is mandated to serve the people first and the market needs second while sustaining the strength of people’s trust.

Can the answer to this paradox still be Postal Services?

Opportunity – Industries that Serve People

Need for private and trusted communications that is not intervened by third party monitoring is paramount in today’s technologically advanced world. Electronic communications is no longer private in any form. The only security measures holding back intervention in individual communications is the sheer volume of data available and, of course, whether the information gleaned from the data is really worth any money. Sometimes the effort is worth it but in most cases finding the golden nugget has been extremely costly.

But this is no guarantee of privacy or trust in electronic communications. It seems to be more luck of the draw than secure, trusted communication channel.

So where in the marketplace is private and trusted channel of communication still required:

Financial Services

Banks and its customers (business and consumers) require a means to communicate highly private and secure information on a daily basis in real-time. From discussion about which account number to use to what amount of money needs to be transacted to which billing account number to debit…are all highly sensitive information that require private, trusted and secure communication channel.

Medical Services

Individual medical records are private and should be private between physician and the patient. Only a secure and private communication channel can ensure that this remain such.

Legal Services

Legal records are also private unless they are legally required to be disclosed. Once again a need for private exchange of information is necessary to ensure that trust is reinforced between the legal system and the people.

Identity Services

The records of your existence are private and trust-bound. These records should remain yours and any communications associated with these records should remain within the control of the holder of identity—you.

For the longest time Postal Services have handled these documents and records within the security of its Trusted Channel. And the practice still continues worldwide.

Evolution – Innovation in Trust

Imagine the Evolution of The Trust Channel.

What if it was no longer necessary to worry about privacy and security when instructing your financial advisor about your decision on financial management through a secure email?

What if you could view your medical records online with absolute knowledge that no one but you and your doctor knows your medical conditions? What if you know which doctor has access to your records and you own the ability to block them if you don’t trust them or their judgment?

What if you and your lawyer can discuss your pending legal matter without worrying about privacy?

What if you and your government have a private and trusted channel to communicate about your passport renewal?

What if….

Fact is that there is absolutely no other entity out there today that can own and manage The Trust Channel other than an evolved Postal Service without compromising itself on the alter of privacy invasion for the purpose of making money. Only a service with a clear mandate to first serve the people and not the money can do this job.

Even if a new innovative, entrepreneurial company builds a super secure and private communications technology to be used for Trust Communications, it will eventually become part of a private enterprise that wants to make money from your private information. Case in point, PasswordBox being acquired by Intel’s Safe Identity Organization. PasswordBox was a great company with approximately 14 million downloads and as Intel evolves the technology to integrate it into its own solutions, it would be interesting to see how data is used.

Actions – Re-Modelling the Business of Postal Services

Postal Services are no strangers to innovation and risk-taking as they have been addressing the issue of shipping and delivery for centuries. Well before Amazon’s drone delivery services, Postal Service was experimenting with human-powered drone services. Here is a picture of Autogyro from 1930s piloted by John Miller demonstrating shuttle mail delivery to Washington D.C.

Autogyro

Source: Library of Congress

Perhaps, it is time to rejuvenate the spirit of innovation once more and re-consider how Postal Service business model should serve the people and businesses. The opportunity does not solely include mail delivery and parcels, it spans into meeting the need for trusted, private and secure communications for foundational businesses and people across the globe.

As USPS has already demonstrated, Postal Services should partner with the private sector, enable new communication technologies, address the problems of modern retailers, and rebuild the foundation of The Trust Channel once again.

Private sector technology and government entities should not be enemies.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
~ Abraham Lincoln

There is no perfect business model or solution for modernization of Postal Services but it is worth searching for one to keep the trust of the people.

The answer may be found in balancing two extreme principles that at first seem to be mortal enemies in digital world:

making profits vs. serving the people.

End

 

_______________________________________

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making by applying strategy to tech solutions, building plans that create value and sharing knowledge that drives innovation.

openwrxconsulting.com

 

Smart City: If you build it for the People, they will come

Smart City

Government needs to take a lead in removing barriers to innovation and facilitating collaboration between multiple diverse actors. ~ The Smart City Market

Challenges of building a Smart City

Smart City efforts are being initiated by cities across the globe. Regardless of the size of effort and investment, enabling smart technologies at large scale have a number of challenges.

Here are some issues outlined in assessments by Gov.UK:

  • A lack of funding for multiple Smart City initiatives
  • Creating a common and long term vision that is sustainable across government agencies regardless of who is in office
  • High cost of investment in new technologies and its implementation
  • Collaboration across different procurement and agency policies to ensure high volume cost savings for technologies and associated services
  • A common user experience and transparency across services regardless of type of service, whom it serves and which agency manages it
  • Common understanding of privacy, data management and safety policies across agencies
  • Regulations and legislation that encourage innovation and facilitate growth while serving citizens and businesses alike
  • A business model that serves the needs of citizens first

Barcelona has created a Smart City PMO (Personnel Management Office) which coordinates all the projects in the city that are classified under the smart city tag. This has meant transitioning from silo’d work to “transversal” work. The city has produced an early strategy document which attempts to set up the basis of the smart city strategy in the city. Ms. Lopez Ventura claims: “I think that this change to get all departments working towards the same strategy is quite new.”~ Global Innovators, International Case Studies on Smart Cities

A Model for Innovation and Collaboration:
Major League Baseball Internet and Interactive

MLB.com was originally created by investments from 30 team owners and a mandate from the league with a total cost of $77M. Originally, it built and managed a common user experience for all baseball fans while pursuing digital revenue streams including ticket sales, subscriptions, sponsorships, merchandising, etc. MLB.com also has a media channel called MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) centred around the game of baseball across all media channels and devices. Estimated value of IPO in 2005 for MLBAM was $2.5 Billion. Current estimates are not available as MLBAM has no plans to go public any time soon.

So what makes MLB a model for innovation and collaboration:

  • MLB Interactive has one coherent mission mandated by the league and agreed upon by team owners:To be the internet and interactive branch of baseball league.
  • It collaborates with
    • players
    • owners
    • leagues (including NBA)
    • tech partners (Apple)
    • non-tech partners (cities across North America)
    • non-tech branches (MLB retail)
    • television and radio
    • online media
    • gaming partners
    • music bands
    • sports networks
    • and more…
      to generate revenue and serve the fans.
  • It serves all segments of baseball fans…from season ticket holders to fringe fans who occasionally dip into the game on their mobile devices.
  • It is autonomous in its decision making about technology investments and innovation.

Without question, BAM’s success stems in part from its autonomy. “It’s unlike other things in baseball where someone is meddling,” says Gary Gillette, coeditor of ESPN’s Baseball Encyclopedia. Bowman, who answers to a board of club owners, is free to make decisions about pursuing new devices or new technologies. ~ MLB Advanced Media’s Bob Bowman is Playing Digital Hardball. And he’s Winning

  • It is innovative in both identifying opportunities to serve baseball fans and in creating new ways to enjoy the game. A good example is PITCHf/x.
  • They build technology for the digital fans. User experience spans all devices, technologies and use of data to enhance the experience.
  • Cost is managed centrally thus allowing for better assessment of investments in technologies including ROI.

BAM’s business is more multifaceted than YouTube’s; [in 2009], it sold more than 35 million MLB tickets, more than half of the league’s inventory. It streams more live video than any other spots entity — and any other company ~ MLB Advanced Media’s Bob Bowman is Playing Digital Hardball. And he’s Winning

  • Privacy and data management policies are all led centrally and the fans are never in doubt about safety.

The MLB internet and interactive business has grown to BAM proportions simply because it sits outside the game. Yet it still serves the game, the stakeholders and ultimately the fans using the latest smart technology.

MLBAM on CBS Segment

Click to Watch

Challenging Status Quo Models of Smart City Initiatives

Building a Smart City is not a two-term proposition. It is an ongoing effort to change the way city folk live and work by actively using smart technologies on a daily basis. Smart City effort requires not only an innovative and collaborative effort from inside different government agencies but also a willingness to engage and serve citizens transparently and work with partners across the public/private horizon.

Mr. Godfrey, Government CIO for Hong Kong Smart City initiative explains “The vision is that our clients should find the government service as convenient, as efficient, as pleasurable to use as the best services they get from the private sector. ~ Global Innovators, International Case Studies on Smart Cities

MLB demonstrates a model for collaboration and innovation in technology all while serving fans with unforgettable experiences that are emphatically rooted in tradition as they often are within a city.

Smart City effort should be approached in the same way. An independent partnership between government agencies that are looking to use smart technologies to improve the experience for their customer: The citizens of a Smart City.

Why? Because it will enable:

  • Singular accountability with multi-agency, business and citizen stakeholders
  • A common vision of success across agencies and for perpetuity
  • Autonomous decision making by singularly accountable
  • Common and transparent experience for citizens across services
  • Cost consolidation, driving ROI and investment transparency
  • Integrated technologies across agencies with citizen-focused delivery
  • Common privacy and data policies across agencies
  • A need to drive collaboration and innovation to be successful
  • Serving the direct customer: Citizens of Smart City

The real challenge for Smart City initiatives is to find the balance between

End

_______________________________________

UPDATE: December 11, 2014
HBO to Use MLB Advanced Media for Stand-Alone Streaming Product
_______________________________________

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making by applying strategy to tech solutions, building plans that create value and sharing knowledge that drives innovation.

openwrxconsulting.com

ReEvolution of IT: Why CIOs should Own Digital Future

Title

As products evolve to contain more and more digital components, the skills, experiences and best practices of IT become crucial for success of product development in a digital world. by Patrick Meehan and Tomas Nielsen

Owning the Digital Future

I remember when this IBM commercial first came out in mid 2000’s.  I was very excited about how technology would change everyday life forever. Unfortunately, RFID required large investment in infrastructure and couldn’t connect products with customers from end to end. And so it failed to complete its true promise of connectivity.  Majority of the retailers could not invest in the technology at the scale required. Instead RFID became an instrument of back room inventory and logistics management along with improved operational efficiencies on manufacturing floor. But it did not deliver the promise of “The Future Market”. 

The good news is that today many companies are re-creating “The Future Market” with their own products.  Once again, a new generation of inventors are building a world where products can talk to people through phones, websites and connect throughout the lifecycle. This time digital products or digital components are being developed by both grassroots inventors and product teams in large enterprises everywhere. Finally, the promise of “Digital Future” has value that is driving action and engagement.

Now is the time for CIOs to re-evaluate how IT can add value to the product portfolio by enabling digital products and components to create strategic, long term benefits for customers and company.

Why

Driving Strategy

CIOs have an opportunity to drive business strategy by building functional products that will generate revenue, brand value, customer experience, and valuable customer data.  Objectives may vary based on industry, regulatory environment, customer needs, etc.  But enabling a digital product is a long-term business strategy that can help grow value for customer and company.

CIOs and IT have tech knowledge and methodologies that are indispensable for long term evolution of the company’s product portfolio.  The processes for System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and Product Design are similar in that the competency can be easily transferred from one to the other. (Source: Gartner, 2014)

SDLC-Prod Des

Table

The most important gap that exists between IT and New Product Development is business strategy. The business strategy for new products can include understanding target customer, product lifecycle relative to target market, having a measure of market size, pricing, sales, marketing and customer experience just to name a few.  Having an understanding of these important product concepts can allow IT to better transition from the tech side to the business side.

Architecture

IT has the competency to integrate digital products with existing platforms within the company to ensure ongoing service management, upgrades, error correction, etc. IT no longer has to be a back room activity that drives a company’s competitive advantage without directly connecting to the customer.  They can take initiative to ensure that they own the long term vision of product digitization for the company and integrate systems to create one customer experience, one perspective of customer relationship and one representation of customer activities.

Governance and Strategic Partnerships

CIOs already manage governance of information across the enterprise. Adding digital products to the mix will be like adding a new program to governance portfolio.  IT already has the policies, processes, ownership and compliance structure defined and enforced as part of existing governance process for all technologies. Digitized products will simply be an addition to the existing structure with new business owners, policies, processes and compliance reviews. It is important to note that as you change your portfolio, flexibility in governance policies is important. A strategic mindset always aims to explore new options and new ways of accomplishing objectives. 

Another important aspect of governance is building strategic partnerships that can enable higher value for the company and customer through digital products. CIOs and IT have long been working with tech partners and have the know-how to start a symbiotic relationship that can be beneficial to both parties. Again, adding another strategic partner is no more work than enabling a new set of business objectives via contractual relationship. 

Data Capture and Analytics

The greatest strategic advantage digital products offer is data. CIOs can drive a comprehensive information strategy that can not only continue to inform future product development but also marketing, operations, human capital and future strategies. Data is the core of why products should be digitized. Collecting information about how the customer is using the product, when they are using it, why they are using it is essential to long term digital strategy. 

When Nike first got into the data-collection game it stuck sensors to elite athletes running, jumping, spinning and generally doing those impossible things they do. The idea was that the data collected would point Nike designers and engineers toward building better shoes. It did that, but the Nike brain trust understood there was much more the data could unlock”, says Stefan Olander, VP Digital Sport at Nike. “We quickly realized that data can be applied much more broadly,” Olander says. “Why wouldn’t we take all this knowledge, all this innovation and give it back to everyone?” ~ Nike Shoe Sensors Boot Up Performance Data, Michael V. Copeland, CNBC.com.

CIOs can also append product data to other information far more effectively because they own the flow of information from channels, functions and partners. The strategy is to have direct product use data married up to central customers data thus enabling a singular view of the customer from end to end. Analytics can reveal insights about the customer that is both product specific and customer centric.

How

Envisioning Digital Business Model

CIOs should lead the effort to envision a Digital Business Model for their business. The objective of this exercise is to take the traditional business model where technology only automates and improves efficiency of existing processes and “Re-Evolves” it to identify a new value proposition.  This exercise will require team members who think in design and work in technology. But instead of thinking one product at a time, the goal is to think in a product portfolio unified with multi-product customer experience.  These will be challenging discussions that include such questions as who “owns” the product portfolio, customer information and experience. (Gartner, 2014) Given that IT will lead this discussion the owners of the strategy becomes obvious: Information Technology.

But there is another reason why IT should lead the discussion:

 To achieve economies of scale with digital business models requires the development and reuse of digitized platforms across the enterprise. Without such shared platforms, the IT units in companies implement a new solution in response to every business need, creating a spaghetti-like arrangement of systems that do meet specific customer need but are expensive and fragile – and don’t scale enterprise-wide ~ Optimizing Your Digital Business Model, MIT Sloan Management

In order to ensure Digital Business Model is envisioned as a long term strategy, a strategic planning process and roadmap activities are necessary. And creating a Digital Business Model is not only about developing digital products or components but “creating strategic positioning by performing activities differently than rivals do.”  ~Michael E. Porter, HBR.org

Nurturing Key Competencies

Beyond envisioning the Digital Future, CIOs should also consider nurturing key competencies required to enable a strategic direction.

Org

Innovation Mindset

There is an absolute need for IT organizations to evolve their culture to an innovation mindset.  This battle must be fought by all managers, business and tech, within the company. Every manager knows that “change” of any kind is generally a massive undertaking and the thought of re-thinking, re-building, re-evolving requires a brave heart in IT. Yet, this is exactly what is required when you enter the fray of a Digital Future. The word “No” should no longer be the response to “change”. CIOs must encourage the troops to close this mindset gap first and foremost.

How should this be done? Establish a change management team that creates the necessary momentum and maintains it. One of the failings of strategic effort in IT is that after the initial momentum in driving strategic change, people abandon the battle of managing change. So to enable a long term strategy, the troops must battle on, even when things are looking bleak. And giving change management the authority to help manage the tough times is more important than initially building the momentum for change.

Consulting Team

The consulting layer involves selecting or hiring a team of business consultants who ‘get’ both technology and business functions. These are the ‘sales’ managers and the ‘doers’.  CIOs must consider communications with the functions to be the greatest challenge in driving a strategic Digital Future. Gaining the support of key C-Level managers and their subordinates will drive a company wide commitment. Consultants can help manage this communications. Ideally each business consultant would have a speciality and will be the conduit to conversations across the enterprise…both strategic and tactical in nature.

IT Skills Expansion

IT organizations already have many skills that are transferable to new product development platform.  But it is always best to ensure that there are no gaps. Some gaps that may need to be filled include a pure corporate strategy, analytics and customer experience competencies. If IT is to lead the long term Digital Future of the company, having these skills within IT will be valuable. Corporate strategy role will help establish the strategic positioning of product portfolio and internal technology from a business perspective. The analytics role will assist in designing and commissioning information necessary to back the strategy. Customer experience acumen will ensure that regardless of the strategy or information, the Digital Future is serving the customers first. With these skills and the current IT organization, CIOs can’t lose in building and collaborating with the business functions to realize the promise of a “Digital Future”.

END


Untitled

Kiran Sohi’s career has focused on leading businesses to success by enabling strategic decision making. While my passion is strategy and technology, my work spans a number of corporate disciplines including marketing, finance and operations.

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making. Services include structuring, facilitating and implementing strategic planning process and strategic solutions for businesses, functional departments and/or channels.

Visit openwrxconsulting.com for more info.

Cloud Computing: Why Strategic Planning is imperative for CIOs

Cloud Computing_Title

Banks, insurers, universities, hospitals, retailers and government agencies as well as their IT service providers are rapidly transforming into ‘digital businesses’ based on the four converging forces: social, mobile, cloud and information. ~Gartner, Feb. 2014

Cloud

Cloud, simply, is a commune of scalable IT infrastructure (hardware and software) that allows multiple users access to storage and applications. It is no different than having a system that is outsourced to third party vendor like CRM or ERP where the users pay cost of ongoing support. The difference is that you are sharing it with a lot of other entities thus, reducing overall cost of operations. And, as cloud is available 24/7, it allows any user to access the content of Cloud at any time, any place and with any device.

Components

Depending on business needs, you can build any type of technology within the Cloud including Software, Platform and Infrastructure. Here is a snapshot that shows different Cloud technology market values.

Image

Software simply means any application that helps complete a business process, example, annual strategic and business planning process. A Platform is more complex and can include multiple applications running on infrastructure. An example might be a CRM system which may include a real-time database, data storage, campaign build application and analytics software. In a Platform, all components of the system are connected thus allowing applications to use data and process to produce the right information for business. Infrastructure usage can include delivering basic desktop services (aka client/master from old school), network services and even communications services like VOIP telecom. Fact is, Cloud services allow users to build whatever they need for a meagre monthly fee based on usage.

Benefits

Cost

Because Cloud is shared, users can leverage economies of scale to reduce operational costs and eliminate capital investment in technology for their business.

Image*The total capitalized IT spending for the fiscal year (i.e., the full value of capitalized assets acquired in the fiscal year). This includes investments in new application development and IT infrastructure.

^The total day-to-day operations and maintenance expenses for this fiscal year that have not been capitalized. These do not include any amortization and depreciation expenses.

Source: Gartner IT Metrics Data, 2012 IT Enterprise, Summary Report

Agile

Building and deploying various technologies can be far more efficient than trying to maintain in-house systems. Keep in mind that all the best practices for developing, deploying new changes and maintenance of applications still apply even in the Cloud.

Shared

Cloud service providers have built optimized systems that allow users to share the innovation that providers are using themselves. Users can take advantage of this scale and complexity regardless of size of their business.

Reliable

There is greater onus on service providers to ensure that the service is available and reliable. So service levels for Cloud is considerably robust compared to in-house infrastructure.

Web Scale

Cloud service is easy to scale as business needs grow compared to the existing enterprise. Depending on the provider, there can be significant diversity in types of applications that can be built in Cloud.

Image  Source: Of That Blog

Before Entering the Cloud

Working in the Cloud is no different from building a new system in-house or when outsourced to third party. CIOs should set aside time with the organization to plan out a business roadmap that outlines a long-term vision, strategies for growth, tactics and resource requirements. Here is a high level guide on where to start:

Review Tech Portfolio and Costs

A technology portfolio is a complete inventory of your current technologies including infrastructure, platforms, and applications. In completing this effort, managers may find that significant number of applications are old, customized and serving only a small group of users at any given time. They are also not generally mission critical and can easily be transitioned to ERP technologies or the Cloud. This action alone can sometimes save considerable support costs for the company.

For Cloud transition look for the “sweet spot” where application costs are low and criticality to business is minimum. Generally this is the best way to dip your toes into  the Cloud.

ImageFinancial savings benchmarks from in-house IT to Cloud have not yet been thoroughly researched but here are some numbers from Betchel, a giant construction firm (Sales $27B in 2007), that benchmarked its costs for number of IT resources against costs using cloud providers.

Cost structure for Bechtel in-house IT were higher than the best of breed cloud providers:

Image

Define Service Levels

This is a very important step in making sure that your business needs are being met. Define the service levels based on what you need. So for Desktop-as-a-Service, you will require almost 24/7 availability, especially if the company is global and multiple users can access the Service from anywhere in the world. Here is a very high-level guide to Service Level Agreement that help develop Long Term Strategic Partnerships. Everything is negotiable.

Craft Data and IT Policies

CIOs need to be very clear about Data and IT Policies like data archiving and critical business continuity requirements. Ensure that data archiving policies are defined and enforced in the Cloud, for example, all transaction data will be accessible for 7 years. These policies should be automated to ensure further cost savings in data storage and usage is realized on an ongoing basis. Also, keep archiving policies up to date as new data are collected like social media communications, mobile data, etc.

Business continuity is imperative for CIOs when they are thinking of moving into the Cloud. Regardless of whether the application is low cost and not business critical, business continuity must be in place in case there is an outage. A site called cloutage.org keeps tabs on which Cloud service has experienced an outage and when. But regardless of this information, it is important that your business is ready for any disaster recovery if an incident does impact the service provider.

Document Everything

IT is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to not documenting original build and ongoing changes. Moving into the Cloud demands that you document what you are building in the Cloud and how. Document data flows, work flows, architecture, application lists, service levels, business rules, and even simple programming documentation are a must. Simple reason for this is that if the business decides to move out of the Cloud or switch to another service provider, you will have the details to ensure that the transition is smooth. This will also ensure that you do not get locked into a provider. Not knowing what you own is the greatest sin in technology and it can cost the business money and intelligence.

Knowing your Cloud Provider

Having a relationship with your Cloud Provider is a necessity not a nice-to-have. Here are some key facets to look out for when selecting a provider:

Optimization & Transparency

Most of the larger providers already have a highly optimized Cloud service simply because their own business services rely on it. But make sure you can monitor and manage your piece of the pie because your business depends on it. Ensure there is a dashboard that continuously shows capacity and costs. Amazon Web Services uses Splunk Cloud as a way for users to manage their activities and costs.

Managing the Contract

Where possible, ensure that you have control over the terms of contract especially if you are thinking of moving business critical applications into the Cloud. Smaller start ups may have to accept the terms and be agile enough to move to another provider if the Cloud service restricts any part of your business. For larger enterprises, it is critical to manage the contract on an ongoing basis because this is the only way you can ensure that you build a long term partnership with your Cloud provider that serves your business.

Redundancy and Service Info

Although it is important for the business to clean unwanted data, transactions and applications prior to moving to the Cloud, ensure that you are also able to do this after transition to the Cloud. Having transparency into your costs for Cloud usage is only useful if you can take action to manage it.

Cloud service providers should also be able to provide information on:

  • Where your data resides
  • Who controls the data
  • When data is moved to another location

Strategic Planning For CIOs

In 2014, CIOs and IT leaders want to know how to deliver converging solutions using the four converging forces: social, mobile, cloud and informationGartner, Feb. 2014

Given the “convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information”; it is imperative for CIOs to define a clear vision and roadmap for the future of their business using these technologies. CIOs should not only deliver a Technology Roadmap but also a Strategic Plan that clearly outlines how the organization will build and conduct business for the next 5 years in the context of these technologies. The Strategic Plan should be renewed on annual basis to consider new technological market forces that will impact the business. The business is no longer in competition with only the immediate competitors in the same industry but also business disruptors who will do it for less using Cloud.

Fact is Cloud is an equalizer of small businesses to large enterprises. It provides smaller businesses with the same technological power that larger organizations have already invested in for decades. And more Cloud providers are popping up every day in the market. Bottom line is that Cloud is a cost saver based on economies of scale and organizations should not ignore this phenomenon but figure out how they can use it to their own advantage in their business.

Cloud is the foundation that will lay out the future of Information Technology:

Image


Image

Kiran Sohi’s career has focused on leading companies to success by enabling strategic decision making. While her passion is strategy and technology, her work spans a number of disciplines including IT, marketing, finance and operations.

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making. Services include structuring, facilitating and implementing strategic planning process and strategic solutions for businesses, functional departments and/or channels.

Visit openwrxconsulting.com for more info.

 

 

Strategic Planning: Why Boeing wants to do it like #AppleLive

Title

“Rather than take on expensive, gargantuan projects like the 787 Dreamliner, which CEO Jim McNerney characterized as ‘moon shots,’ he said he wants Boeing ‘to be more like Apple’ with its carefully planned development strategies on successful product launches.”The Street 

Start At The Top

Image

ImageApple has traditionally used “stories” to communicate Mission and Vision statements to the world. These statements are specific, achievable and realistic. The words are simple and easy to understand.  Everyone knows what Apple means when it says “high quality” or “low cost” or “easy to use” in reference to Apple products. Apple’s statements hone in on “products” and “customers”.  Both employees and business partners get it and without asking the question: What do you mean by….?

Recommendations:

  • Mention products and customers
  • Keep it simple
  • Be realistic
  • Tell it like it can be done by anyone
  • Do it like it can’t be done by anyone

Build Products Like it’s The Only ONE

Apple is master of design. Design thinking rules the culture regardless of function.  New product ideas become an internal ‘start-up’ and report directly to executive team on progress. A detailed product development plan is created based on Apple New Product Process that lays out stages, responsible people, and when each stage is to be completed. Exec Team reviews progress every Monday on each of the new products. The “EPM mafia” is engaged. This includes an engineering program manager and a global supply manager who work together to produce a product with ‘what is best for the product’ in mind. Once built, the product is tested. If it is not ‘right’, it is sent through the production process again. Each iteration of product is reviewed by Exec Team and commented on. If it is unsatisfactory…it is sent back for redesign and production. Packaging is designed and tested after production cycle is complete. ‘Rules of the Road’ provide a framework for every stage of release of the product to the public. More info available in Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works by Adam Lashinsky.

An overarching competitive advantage Apple retains that others in the industry have not been able to replicate is CULTURE OF LOYALTY. Interestingly enough, this loyalty permeates not only Apple’s employees but also its customers. This is why Apple customers line up to buy new products. The law of Scarcity working overtime. (Check out today’s #AppleLive event line up)

Recommendations:

  • Don’t let realities like costs hold design back
  • Exec team must be directly involved
  • Prototype and test, repeat
  • Be physically there on the production floor for every prototype
  • Inspire Loyalty from managers and employees

Taking New Product to Customers

Product launch is not a function at Apple, it is a company wide event that unfolds on Apple fans and bystanders alike. It is the best example of “Social Proof” enabled by a company. Many tech companies including Microsoft and Alibaba now mimic Apple’s product launch. And it works!

Rumours also play an important role in spreading news before it actually happens. Recently Apple has been in the news about devices that will enable Healthy Living. And the news is so well permeated in the media that the rumours alone fuelled a tech surge in the markets.

Recommendations:

  • Build a cult following for your products
  • Spread rumours about what you are working on
  • Have a party at new product launch!

SWOT Analysis

Image

Financials

Image

 

Source: WSJ.com

 

Market Share

Image

 

Source: Bloomberg

______________________

Kiran Sohi’s career has focused on leading companies to success by enabling strategic decision making. While her passion is Strategic Planning, her work spans a number of corporate strategy disciplines including IT, marketing, finance and operations.

Prior to finding OPEN WRX Consulting, Kiran was a Strategic Planning consultant at CIBC and Business Consultant at Innovapost, where her clients included Canada Post and Purolator. She also had the pleasure of working as a Digital Strategist for NBA, Kraft, Samsung and Travelex.

Visit openwrxconsulting.com for more info.