18 December, 2007

Find me, follow me, hide me

Dreamforce Report: the prophet margin of John Chambers



A capacity crowd turned out to listen to Cisco CEO John Chambers' keynote. What words of wisdom did he share?

John Chambers

By Chris Middleton

The network is the platform, and the old corporate hierarchies will be swept aside in the move to more collaborative working paved by software as a service (SaaS), Cisco CEO John Chambers told Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce jamboree.

As the single-minded CEO of the world’s largest enterprise supplier, Chambers made a surprising evangelist for a flatter, more collaborative way of working. But in his guest speaker slot at the event, he suggested that firms abandon the old “command and control hierarchies” that have characterised his and other large enterprises.

Chambers claimed he now favoured a culture in which everyone across the enterprise – from the mailroom to the boardroom, in effect – is free to innovate and contribute to the corporate vision, a suggestion that would leave many business leaders reading the small print of their retirement plans, given the number of successful IT giants built in the likeness of charismatic and controlling CEOs.

"It’s no longer about investing in ERP, it’s about doing it on-demand, you want it bought to the people who need it." John Chambers, CEO, Cisco

Walking prophet-like amongst the crowd, Chambers said a lack of innovation has characterised the past ten years of the IT industry, a period in which many a technology giant has continued pursuing the locked-in, proprietary business models of the mid to late twentieth century.

In fact, of course, there has been enormous, disruptive innovation over the last decade, but much of it has been in the consumer space led by the likes of Google, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and YouTube, many of which are now part of the unwieldy portfolios of a small number of media giants – or which have become media giants themselves.

What Chambers was really signalling was a welcome, if long overdue, sign of generational awareness. Most potential employees looking to join successful enterprises today are people in their twenties who have grown up with an internet and diversified communications infrastructure that allows them to connect and share and collaborate at will.

However, when those same people enter the world of work, many find corporate IT systems that do not, and cannot, offer that same flexibility and opportunity to innovate, and such rigid hierarchies built on the old client/server model are frustrating and counter-productive. This has the potential to be a recruitment and staff retention problem in future.

Second wave of innovation

The “second wave of innovation,” said Chambers, was about moving away from “internet phase one, one person to one person”, and so the main challenge (or opportunity) for business is finding new ways to work together towards common goals. “You have to see this occurring,” he said. "You have to see it three five and seven years before it is obvious to the market, and position your company for were it’s gonna go.”

The way towards this was a “common open architecture, and IP for the future… it’s no longer about investing in ERP, it’s about doing it on-demand, you want it bought to the people who need it,” Chambers concluded. In other words, the difference is being locked in because you want to be, not because you have no choice, and he even went as far as saying that he has rebuilt his own business on the modus operandi of successful social networking sites.

"People are collaborating on the internet, regardless of the CIO." Bob Suh, CTO, Accenture

Put another way, leadership is no longer about command and control but about subject matter and expertise, and being able to call on that expertise 24/7 in a greener, more efficient, global model driven by such technologies as telepresence and SaaS.

Find me, follow me, hide me is going to be a way of life in this environment,” he said, but rather undermined his own argument by adding: “If we were a democracy then the whole of my management team would have voted against it.”

Of course, this is precisely the problem that many successful enterprises – and many unsuccessful ones – face in the on-demand world, namely that of management and culture. If the role of the CIO is moving closer to that of the CEO, by becoming more about innovation than information, then that is a huge cultural challenge to the boardroom, and an equally large management challenge to middle-ranking executives. This will be particularly true in risk-averse cultures, both in the sense of nations and of vertical market sectors.

After Chambers’ departure, a panel discussion offered a less evangelical perspective. Chairing the discussion, professor and author Nicholas Carr of MIT said: “Saas and utility computing in general will change the way companies organise their collaboration elements. IT used to be built on isolation, but collaboration in that environment is difficult.”

Bob Suh, CTO of Accenture, said that there is no question that the “consumer web” will move into the company. “People are collaborating on the internet, regardless of the CIO,” he suggested. “What’s happening is that the personal world and the work world are becoming confused together [sic] and people like it that way. E-mail is no longer a document transfer piece of software. I think what’s really happening is that many of customers grew up with technology in a social context and they expect that when they get to work. I grew up with technology as a corporate mandate.”

Eric Berridge CEO Blue Wolf offered the most balanced view. “The beauty of the SaaS model is the common platform that can be rolled out department by department,” he said, adding: “Saas companies could do better selling up the food chain… a lot of them are very niche applications.”

19 November, 2007

The Ten Faces

The Ten Faces

The Learning Personas

Individuals and organizations need to constantly gather new sources of information in order to expand their knowledge and grow, so the first three personas are learning roles. These personas are driven by the idea that no matter how successful a company currently is, no one can afford to be complacent. The world is changing at an accelerated pace, and today's great idea may be tomorrow's anachronism. The learning roles help keep your team from becoming too internally focused, and remind the organization not to be so smug about what you “know”. People who adopt the learning roles are humble enough to question their own worldview, and in doing so they remain open to new insights every day.

The Anthropologist is rarely stationary. Rather, this is the person who ventures into the field to observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences in order to come up with new innovations. The Anthropologist is extremely good at reframing a problem in a new way, humanizing the scientific method to apply it to daily life. Anthropologists share such distinguishing characteristics as the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind; empathy; intuition; the ability to "see" things that have gone unnoticed; a tendency to keep running lists of innovative concepts worth emulating and problems that need solving; and a way of seeking inspiration in unusual places.

The Experimenter
celebrates the process, not the tool, testing and retesting potential scenarios to make ideas tangible. A calculated risk-taker, this person models everything from products to services to proposals in order to efficiently reach a solution. To share the fun of discovery, the Experimenter invites others to collaborate, while making sure that the entire process is saving time and money.

The Cross-Pollinator
draws associations and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts to break new ground. Armed with a wide set of interests, an avid curiosity, and an aptitude for learning and teaching, the Cross-Pollinator brings in big ideas from the outside world to enliven their organization. People in this role can often be identified by their open mindedness, diligent note-taking, tendency to think in metaphors, and ability to reap inspiration from constraints.

The Organizing Personas

The next three personas are organizing roles, played by individuals who are savvy about the often counter-intuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. At IDEO, we used to believe that the ideas should speak for themselves. Now we understand what the Hurdler, the Collaborator, and the Director have known all along: that even the best ideas must continuously compete for time, attention, and resources. Those who adopt these organizing roles don't dismiss the process of budget and resource allocation as “politics” or “red tape.” They recognize it as a complex game of chess, and they play to win.

The Hurdler
is a tireless problem-solver who gets a charge out of tackling something that's never been done before. When confronted with a challenge, the Hurdler gracefully sidesteps the obstacle while maintaining a quiet, positive determination. This optimism and perseverance can help big ideas upend the status quo as well as turn setbacks into an organization's greatest successes—despite doomsday forecasting by shortsighted experts.

The Collaborator
is the rare person who truly values the team over the individual. In the interest of getting things done, the Collaborator coaxes people out of their work silos to form multidisciplinary teams. In doing so, the person in this role dissolves traditional boundaries within organizations and creates opportunities for team members to assume new roles. More of a coach than a boss, the Collaborator instills their team with the confidence and skills needed to complete the shared journey.

The Director
has an acute understanding of the bigger picture, with a firm grasp on the pulse of their organization. Subsequently, the Director is talented at setting the stage, targeting opportunities, bringing out the best in their players, and getting things done. Through empowerment and inspiration, the person in this role motivates those around them to take center stage and embrace the unexpected.

The Building Personas

The four remaining personas are building roles that apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen. When people adopt the building personas, they stamp their mark on your organization. People in these roles are highly visible, so you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.

The Experience Architect
is that person relentlessly focused on creating remarkable individual experiences. This person facilitates positive encounters with your organization through products, services, digital interactions, spaces, or events. Whether an architect or a sushi chef, the Experience Architect maps out how to turn something ordinary into something distinctive—even delightful—every chance they get.

The Set Designer
looks at every day as a chance to liven up their workspace. They promote energetic, inspired cultures by creating work environments that celebrate the individual and stimulate creativity. To keep up with shifting needs and foster continuous innovation, the Set Designer makes adjustments to a physical space to balance private and collaborative work opportunities. In doing so, this person makes space itself one of an organization's most versatile and powerful tools.

The Storyteller captures our imagination with compelling narratives of initiative, hard work, and innovation. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message: video, narrative, animation, even comic strips. By rooting their stories in authenticity, the Storyteller can spark emotion and action, transmit values and objectives, foster collaboration, create heroes, and lead people and organizations into the future.

The Caregiver is the foundation of human-powered innovation. Through empathy, they work to understand each individual customer and create a relationship. Whether a nurse in a hospital, a salesperson in a retail shop, or a teller at an international financial institution, the Caregiver guides the client through the process to provide them with a comfortable, human-centered experience.

Overstating the Obvious?

Another goal is to speed the processes of getting to know each other in a large organisation and establish points of common interest and engage in meaningful communication. People won't naturally share information, sometimes due to compliance and security restraints, time constraints, siloed think or simple self-interest ('what's in it for me') so businesses have to break down those barriers to sharing and develop positive reasons to contribute information.

Source www.top-consultant.com

24 September, 2007

Plug and Play Employees

Once employees become individuals too, they can no longer be regarded as „plug and play“ parts in an ongoing exercise of producing goods and services. True to the observations of fractal geometry, their individuality now matters. Indeed, it is essential to all outcomes, because through the medium of that individuality, they learn to produce the intangibles that are the critical inputs to competitive success. Work cannot be a question of managing false emotional displays in the service of some kind of “customer satisfaction”. The work of nourishing relationships with individuals cannot be cynical. The I-You relationship requires two individuals, each imperfect but committed to honestly doing their best. These things simply cannot be faked.

17 September, 2007

It's about dignity, stupid!

Most managers spend their time and effort trying to force the workforce to do what they want. If they found out what the workforce wanted, to be proud of what they do, and spent their time instead creating the environment that allowed them to become proud, then the difference in their performance would be astonishing.

24 June, 2007

process to empathy ratio

Knowledge@Wharton: Would you explain the concept of the process to empathy ratio?

Bagchi: Yes. This is actually not a scientific explanation. I, like any MBA, would talk about P/E ratios [price-equity ratios]. You talk about one of the indicators of the financial health of an organization through P/E ratios. When I was raising MindTree, one day it occurred to me that we were putting too much of an emphasis on process and building of process and process as an enabler. I found that the Human Resources folks -- we actually call them People Function folks in MindTree -- were becoming more process-centric, and process does not solve all problems. Process works only when it is given life through empathy. I didn't know how to drive home the point, and then it occurred to me that we could have a different take on the P/E ratio concept. I called those folks and said that we need to balance every process with empathy. Think of it as a new way of looking at the P/E ratio. Deal with every situation partly by looking at process and partly by looking at empathy.

Subroto Bagchi
Physical infrastructure you can buy. Intellectual infrastructure you can create, borrow, or inter-network. But emotional infrastructure is the most nebulous and most difficult to build. It offers the most sustainable competitive advantage.

Subroto Bagchi

Seven consumer trends you need to know about

By Reinier Evers, trendwatching.com

In a traditional consumer society, he or she who consumes the most, the best, the coolest, the most expensive, the scarcest, or the most popular goods, will typically also ‘gain’ the most status. However, expect 2007 to be the year in which many brands realise (if not grudgingly accept) that the ‘old’, mass-era status symbols, from the Audi Q7 to the De Beers Radiance collection, are no longer every consumer’s wet dream. After all, as mature consumer societies are increasingly dominated by (physical) abundance, by saturation, by experiences, by virtual worlds, by individualism, by participation, by feelings of guilt and concern about the side-effects of unbridled consumption, status is to be had in many more ways than leading a somewhat dated lifestyle centred on hoarding as many branded, luxury goods as possible. In light of this and factors such as the proliferation of social networking, expect the following trends in 2007:

1. Transumers – An increasing number of consumers are driven by experiences instead of ‘the fixed’. They are driven by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom; people who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. These consumers have been around for some time but there will be many more of them in 2007. The implications? An obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible, are undermining the perceived value (and thus status) of fixed goods and services. How can firms react? Fashion brands are leading the way in tapping into ‘transumerism’. From the very transient (and affordable) collections at Zara and H&M, to innovative lease concepts that play to the temporary nature of the business, and to transumers’ desires. Elsewhere, exclusive car sharing clubs are popping up faster than you can trade in your old jalopy. Why spend all your money on a Bentley when you can experience a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maybach, too? Check out the likes of Classic Car Club, P1 Club, LuxShare Auto Club and Ascari.

2. Participative lifestyles - Especially for younger consumers, participation is the new consumption. For these creatives, status comes from finding an appreciative audience (in much the same way as brands operate). No wonder that it's becoming increasingly important to hone one's creative skills. Status symbols, make way for status skills. In economies that increasingly depend on (and thus value) creative thinking and acting, well-known status symbols tied to owning and consuming goods and services will find worthy competition from status skills: those skills that consumers are mastering to make the most of those same goods and services, bringing them status by being good at something, and the story telling that comes with it. Once you get into spotting status skills, you’ll notice they are spreading everywhere. Travel is a case in point. As reported in the New York Times last year: “While many travellers are still happy to spend their vacations lollygagging on the beach, more and more of them want to learn something on their trips. [...] Adventure travel captured the American imagination years ago, but now more people are seeking skills, not just thrills.” Equitours, for instance, offers instruction-based horse-riding tours in the United States and across continental Europe, while Access Trips takes small groups off the beaten track for sports programs and a maximum instructor-to-client ratio of 1 to 5. In other sectors, Volkswagen AutoStadt Driving Courses provide customers with a personal trainer to teach them everything from reducing fuel consumption to keeping one’s car under control in extreme circumstances.

3. Connecting lifestyles - In a post-material world, all that’s left to covet is… other people? From networking sites to buddy lists to meetup.org to a boom in members-only clubs, social status 2.0 is all about who you connect to and who wants to connect to you, tribal-style. This lifestyle is a subset of a larger trend, ‘online lifestyles’, which encompasses everything from status gained from the number of views for one’s photos on Flickr, the real estate one owns in Second Life, to the good looks (and outfit) of one’s avatar.

4. Eco-lifestyles - With the environment finally on the agenda of most powers that be, and millions of consumers now actively trying to ‘greenify’ their lives, status from leading an eco-responsible lifestyle is both more readily available, and increasing in value. A substantial subset of consumers is already bestowing recognition and praise on Prius drivers while scorning SUV owners, and this will only accelerate as design-minded and branding-savvy eco-firms push to the forefront in 2007. Make it green, make it chic, make it effortless, make it visible, and don't hesitate to point out your competitor's polluting alternatives!

5. Trysumers – Trysumers are transient, experienced consumers who are becoming more daring in how and what they consume, thanks to a wide range of societal and technological changes. As saturated, experienced consumers can draw on plenty of past experiences, and know that many more experiences will follow, it's easier to cope with possible disappointment stemming from trying out the unknown. Freed from the shackles of convention and scarcity, immune to most advertising, and enjoying full access to information, reviews and navigation, experienced consumers are trying out new appliances, new services, new flavours, new authors, new destinations, new artists, new outfits, new relationships, new anything with post mass-market gusto. Companies that are latching on to the trend are enabling such experimentation through ‘rent instead of buy’ deals – from handbag subscriptions to super car sharing.

6. Transparency tyranny - Remember the promises of flawless matching of supply and demand, and limitless consumer power, when the web burst onto the scene a dozen years ago? While the last few years didn’t disappoint(consumers are already enjoying near-full transparency of prices and, in categories like travel and music, near-full transparency of opinions as well), 2007 could be the year in which transparency tyranny really starts scaring the shit out of non-performing brands. Why? For one, 1+ billion consumers are now online, and the majority of them have been online for years. They're skilled bargain seekers and ‘best of the best’ hunters, they're avid online networkers and they're opinionated reviewers and advisors (tripadvisor.com now boasts 5+ million travel reviews). Now, for 2007, add camera and video phones becoming both ubiquitous and more powerful - reviews of anything and everything will go multimedia. The impact? Well, a picture says more than a thousand words, and a video says more than a thousand pictures. Everything brands do or don’t do will end up on YouTube.com, or on an undoubtedly soon to be launched YouTube-clone dedicated to product reviews.

7. Generation C(ASH) – Three and a half years ago, Generation C(ontent) emerged as "an avalanche of consumer generated content that is building on the web, adding tera-peta bytes of new text, images, audio and video on an ongoing basis." Fast forward to 2007, and it's hard to find anyone still in awe about the fact that content-creating consumers are behind some of the biggest Web 2.0 success stories, from the tens of millions of blogs to the Flickrs and YouTubes. However, this trend still has a lots of room to grow, as younger, participation-minded consumers will eventually dominate all of the online space, meaning the stakes will continue to be raised as well. And now Generation C(ontent) is joining Generation C(ash). If consumers produce the content, if they are the content, and that content brings in money for aggregating brands, then revenue and profit-sharing is going to be one of 2007’s main themes in the online space. It’s not like brands will have a choice: talented consumers are going to be too sought after to remain satisfied with thank you notes. Get ready for an avalanche of revenue sharing deals, reward schemes and sumptuous gifts aimed at luring creative consumers.

14 April, 2007

Six of One

"...in academia there is much talk, little action. In industry, there is much action, little thought."

Donald A. Norman

06 April, 2007

Novel Book Publishing Initiative
We Are Smarter Than Me

Having read about business books, here is your chance to get involved with writing one. Wharton (along with the MIT Sloan School and Pearson Publishing) is working on a novel initiative in book publishing, and readers of Knowledge@Wharton are welcome to participate. The project -- tentatively called We Are Smarter Than Me -- is an experiment to see whether a large community of business people can jointly author a book of the same name. Pearson will publish the book later this year. The book focuses on ways in which companies are learning to leverage social networks and the power of communities to improve their performance by allowing customers or others to take over functions typically performed by experts. Every contributor will be credited as an author, and will help direct royalties to charity. We encourage you to explore this interesting opportunity by going to the We Are Smarter website.