EarnedWeb.com

Musings on digital business

Managing for Creativity: How to scale without hindering creativity?

The beauty of a successful digital program is that it combines the creative inspiration of the artist with the analytic rigour of the scientist.

I am often asked by my peers in various groups and councils on designing methodologies that allows scale but also doesn’t kill creativity in the process. Some assume that just building the process is enough and we can just force it upon everyone in our teams.

The reality is that doing this with scale can be a very complex and complicated task but often necessary in order to build a profitable business.

From my experience as someone who’s been designing, establishing and managing the digital marketing and transformation processes within companies and units of all sizes for the past decade and more, I can name a couple of biggest challenges to keep in mind while you work on your process implementation phases:

1. Creatives (and almost everyone else, except maybe legacy HR and Finance) don’t necessarily like processes.

They may see it as a burden, as something they are forced to follow and comply with, like doing timesheets. In my experience right of the bat you need to overcome people’s negative bias. Creativity is hard to put in a box, so there is also an objective point of making sure the process does not constrain creativity, and is not perceived to be enforced “for the sake of the process”.

Use technology creatively to ease the pain of following a process. In addition, do you really need to enforce the same process for someone who has done it the 100 times? versus someone just starting out?

2. Buy-in, especially at an executive level

Process, however great, is only as good as people using it. You may be able to get a buy-in from most executives and even sell it to most staff. Then it’s the point of enforcing it, this is a delicate balance since you don’t want people to perceive it as a hurdle, yet it loses effectiveness quickly due to lack of use.

So, Socialize. Work out Loud. Tell everyone about the benefits and how it eases their pain points.

3. High staff rotation.

A creative director or an executive who was sold on the process and was helping to put it to practice it within her team jumps ship, and a new one coming in is not a big fan of your process. That sets things way back, now you need to prove it again.

Document and socialize your process with as many leaders as you can to capture their input and earn influence in order to be successful.

Few considerations for keeping business process realistic:

  1. KISS. Keep it Simple, stupid. Keep a process minimalistic, focusing on key components and leaving a fair amount of flexibility. Focus on earned rights to give up even more control to the stakeholders.
  2. Please never use a process for the sake of the process.
  3. Document things and have the documentation easily accessible.
  4. Sell executive son the process with hard facts (saved hours, prevented screw ups, ROI).
  5. Keep reminding people gently, you don’t want to become a process police.

Hope this helps our change agents in transforming their organizations for the better.

Life with Purpose

The True Joy in Life

This quote really resonated with me today. And I hope it does it with you as well.

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw

shutterstock_115976260

Digital Business, Powered by Data in 2015

The modern digital enterprise is a collaborative, living and an engaged organism. It understands its market conditions and organizes itself in advance for it. It embraces change as its only constant.

Enabling Natural Human Interactions

The modern business is flatter than ever before. It makes its decisions in minutes, not months. It is bottoms-up vs top-down. The strategy is no longer a static document. It is ever evolving based on real-time interactions across the various internal and external channels.

Sounds impossible?

Global enterprise social software market (ESS) is expected to grow from $4.77 billion in 2014 to $8.14 billion in 2019!

It is already happening across the Fortune 50 to midsize firms to early stage global startups through the use of proper analytics and social software technologies. Global enterprise social software market (ESS) is expected to grow from $4.77 billion in 2014 to $8.14 billion in 2019. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3% from 2014 to 2019. (Click for complete report)

The technology layer enables us to be more agile and organize for the market conditions in real-time. It also allows us access to better insights so we have meaningful, deep and informed interactions with our internal and external ecosystems.

Typically, a social enterprise infrastructure is comprised of hardware and software. The hardware network layer needs to be smart enough to allow the environment to scale and interact in real time and the software layer must be smart enough to provide the venue for accelerated knowledge driven interactions with constituents inside and outside the company. The key concept here is to enable natural human interactions. Because only a natural human interaction is genuine and authentic enough to be leveraged to drive actual business.

Businesses that are relatively experienced with social business perspectives and techniques are already seeing opportunities to improve internal business processes and techniques through better access to insights and pattern detection.

Data Analytics Inform Social Enterprises

The beauty of social networks and social media is in data analytics. Each and every interaction leaves a data point and builds upon a knowledge repository which allows for better and smarter future interactions.

For example, from an e-Commerce perspective, Amazon already incorporates user behavioural data in their sales recommendation engine in real time. The telecommunications space is utilizing social media insights to gauge network traffic and outages. From purely social media’s perspective, Twitter utilizes real time tweets to identify current trends and forecast potential trends, which are now being used by traditional media to identify potential stories.

Once a social enterprise has gained a critical mass in adoption towards social, it can utilize the real-time data streams of multiple social interactions to have an ability to:

  • Find Better Expertise — How many of us work with someone who is also an expert in another unrelated field but was never recruited nor has ever participated officially in that field? Their participation on social networks, internal and external, allow us to have an ability to detect and identify their uncataloged capabilities and interests. In some organizations, HR departments are utilizing this ability to recruit internally first for emerging areas of interest for the business.
  • Increase Knowledge Sharing — Being able to efficiently capture, analyze information and re-utilize knowledge assets has exponential benefit to sales, marketing, support and product units within the organization. Better knowledge sharing also allows quicker revenue recognition and unnecessary costs associated with inefficient tactics based on poor data. Reutilizing of assets is an immediate positive ROI benefit.
  • Gain Better Market Insights — As my colleague and my boss,  Vala Afshar, CMO Extreme Networks routinely calls out, “No matter how big you are, there are always more smarter people on the outside, than on the inside, of your business.” A common challenge faced by businesses of all sizes is an inability to understand the evolving needs of existing and potential new customers and markets. Utilizing social monitoring tools to “listen” and understand the social media space allows businesses to become smarter by identifying trends and gain deep insights into competitive, industry and customer ecosystems. Imagine launching a new product with deep insights in competitive landscape, positioning, branding, messaging and pricing.
  • Improved Risk Management — Imagine being able to identify potential customer service issues before they become a viral topic on Twitter? Real time social analytics allows businesses to mitigate potential risks and utilize the medium to amplify the positives. Immediate positive impact on speedy communications of new or revised safety policies, regulations and improved ability to address crisis scenarios are often seen by social enterprises.
  • Better Process Management — Minimize or eliminate delays through knowledge sharing, tagging and trend monitoring. If we know that a certain device or software app is causing a specific issue, then we have an ability to address it faster and efficiently. From a personal social interaction to a machine generated social interaction, the analytics allow us to identify the KPIs that matter the most to an social enterprise.

A greater need for social for business has grown out of fundamental changes in how our business operate today in the connected economy. Customer preferences and markets are evolving faster than ever. A social enterprise is smart enough to capitalize on the real time nature of the ecosystem it operates within. Use of real time analytics in social interactions, files and other digital assets in our ecosystem allow the social enterprise to identify patterns and relevant data points that provide it with an ability to organize for our real time connected economy.

That is the true agile social enterprise.

Watson

IBM Watson’s latest legal play: End of Overpaid Lawyer?

Is this the end of the overpaid lawyer?

Now that Ross exists, it may very well be. The computer system, which is based off of IBM’s Watson platform and developed by an amazing team at UofToronto can take any and all of your legal inquiries and spit out answers based on inputted data gleaned from legal documents, cases and statutes.

Ross is just one of the many ways that Watson is being used to better the world using big data. IBM, for one, is using the smart system to make better poutine, of all things.

Oh, and it also taught chefs new recipes at SXSW.

5 Critical Elements of Teams That Win By Bilal Jaffery

5 Critical Elements of Teams That Win

In a meeting yesterday, I was asked to define what a winning team looks like? What allows a team to win, over and over again?

There’s got to be a secret for a strong track record. A team that consistently over delivers. What should a leader look for?”, she asked. “It can’t be a fluke.”

I replied,

A winning team plans better, trusts each other more and works even harder.”

Crisis in a modern business — whether it be a startup or a large enterprise is inevitable. Budgets get cut, systems break, projects get delayed, legal issues arise, products don’t get shipped, customers complain, social media mishaps happen, key employees quit. To survive, executives and management teams have to respond quickly, and strategically.

There’s a great book written by two University of Michigan professors on this topic —Managing the Unexpected. It examines the key elements that dictate the behavior of great teams that survive and thrive while others fail. The professors analyzed teams of all sizes, from factory workers to aircraft operators to medical specialists to come to their conclusions.

These teams, which they referred to as, “High Reliability Organizations”, are distinguished by their extraordinary ability to handle risk, stress and steer across the unexpected turns. Their ability to plan, strategize and react is what makes them standout from the crowd to achieve a state of mindfulness.

At their core, these teams have the following 5 elements that make up their mindfulness.

  1. Preoccupation with failure – a burning desire to learn from mistakes to prevent future ones. Having processes to document and share learnings freely with each other.
  2. Reluctance to simplify interpretations – employing brutal honesty in their cultures. In the digital space, over simplification of scope and requirements is often the cause of projects failing.
  3. Sensitivity to crisis – being ready to identify and respond to a crisis. Plan in advance. Data is all here now.
  4. Commitment to resilience – building a team that is excited to handle and bounce back from crisis without tearing each other apart.
  5. Deference to expertise – respecting insights from “experts” within the business irrespective of their seniority or lack thereof. (This is highly relevant in the digital space, given its more about the mindset than the age).

429 of the original Fortune 500 companies are no longer in business today.

Business world is rapidly changing. Your past success is no longer a prove point of your future success. To survive, your businesses must be built to move fast, be agile and experiment and always be learning. Moving fast and experimentation means your teams are bound to break a thing or two. The organization must be built to address these moments of crisis. The teams must be built to absorb, react, recover and learn from these incidents.

As you build your teams, your culture and your hiring practices. Look for folks who are never satisfied with mediocre, who don’t fit your typical moulds, who care more, and who truly are passionate. Afterall,

Best Practices for Digital Media

3 Principles for Successful Engagement in the Digital World

Best Practices for Digital Media

Last week, I had an honor of speaking at the Canadian Financial Marketing Forum with some of the brightest minds in the digital space. We discussed variety of issues facing the industry — from building a holistic strategy to best practices that generate a positive ROI. Here are few thoughts on some of my learnings from the session.

The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.

The common theme that emerged from the debates and talks was that the world has changed but not everyone is impacted equally by it. Some can’t live without it. And some aren’t impacted at all.

In some industries, regulations and rules have made it difficult for the change to occur. And for some, no matter what they do, it isn’t working.

There is no cookie cutter tactic that works for everyone. At the same time, we are all seeking ways to be less distracted, more productive and more engaging within our networks.

Tactics and buzz words aside, there are some key principles that have proven to true over the years — no matter who you are, what you do and where you operate.

Less shiny objects

It is much easier for us to chase shiny objects. It requires less thought. It gets executed faster but..

As Seth Godin said yesterday, “A tactic might feel fun, or the next thing to do, or a lot like what your competition is doing. But a tactic by itself is nothing much worth doing. If it supports a strategy, a longer-term plan that builds on itself and generates leverage, that’s far more powerful.”

In our world, vastly influenced by the shiny, fluffy and ideas that are oversimplified, it becomes even harder to filter out the noise from the signal.

Authentic, Approachable and Compelling

Without further ado, I would like to share the top 3 principles that have proven to work for my own programs over the years at organizations of all kinds (IBM, Bell Canada, Enterasys, Extreme Networks etc). This analysis is further validated and influenced by the latest Gallop study on what is working on the social web and what is not.

  • Authenticity: The social web is highly personal and conversational. Folks within social networks don’t want to hear sales pitches. They are more likely to listen and respond to brands that seem genuine and personable. They want to interact with a human, not a logo.
  • Responsive: The digital world is 24/7 and consumers expect timely responses — even on nights and weekends. If you are part of the medium, be truly part of it. If you aren’t available 24/7, make it known so that expectations can be managed effectively.
  • Compelling: Content is everywhere and consumers have an ability to pick and choose what they like — Create interesting content that appeals to busy, picky social media users. Create content that develops affinity. A cause that people want to be part of. (Think IBM’s People for the Smarter Planet, Charity Water Campaigns etc).

“People like to buy but no one likes to be sold to”.

Let’s move from being document centric to becoming more people centric.

I tell my teams to keep this in mind every time they sit down to create content, design digital interfaces or just engage in a conversation. Luckily, the rising importance of design based thinking and processes in our businesses has allowed us to be more sensitive to the user’s needs and desired experiences.

 

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. I regularly write about digital enterprise management and technology issues and trends. If you would like to read my regular posts then please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and send me a LinkedIn invite. And, of course, feel free to also connect via Twitter as well.

Marc Benioff and Bilal Jaffery

How Marc Benioff convinced me to buy a Fitbit?

This is a lighthearted story of how social media influences consumer behaviors and accelerates sales. Also a proof point and validation of why executives need to be on social and have a personality. (Hint: No ghost writing, scheduled tweets etc.)

At the verge of Fitbit’s new activity tracker launch last year, like most addicted to tech husbands, I needed a reason to validate — yet another gadget purchase — to my dear wife.

I had read the reviews. I had checked the beautifully crafted copy on Fitbit’s website and had even checked out the gorgeous marketing video. It was convincing but was it going to be another flop? I thought. Was it just a pedometer? Reviews were mixed. Is there anyone within my network using it? After all, I trust them more.

So, I asked on twitter for opinions and one of my beloved followers, Marc Benioff, personally recommended the Fitbit flex. He had been using it for a while. He also happens to be one of the most innovative executives in the world whose passion for wearables is unmatched in the industry.

A little while ago, Weber Shandwick and KRC conducted a survey involving around 2000 consumers that revealed that peer reviews and social recommendations have grown beyond just friends advising each other on the new purchases.

Some of the findings include:

  • 65% of consumers have bought a product they weren’t intending to buy after reading a positive review;
  • 74% of consumers search for reviews online before making a decision;
  • Consumers read an average 11 reviews before making a decision;
  • Peer reviews are trusted by more consumers (77%) than professional ones (23%)

How are you designing your marketing efforts around this?

So it is critical that in your content marketing efforts, you consider the impact of a word of mouth recommendation for your product or service. Not just what you are writing and sharing on the social web but also what your advocates are saying as well.

After all, it may be just that recommendation, an opinion, or even perhaps a comment from someone that matters that closes the deal.

For me — just like my wife said, I am still not as active as I should be but with a Fitbit, she can prove it. ;)

For a copy of the full Executive Report on the survey referenced above, please click here.

Likers Gonna Like Facebook IPO

True Passion is Contiguous

Likers Gonna Like Facebook IPO

True trait of a leader is to invoke and inspire others to join in a movement.  The ability to communicate, influence and persuade others to do things is indispensable to everything one accomplishes in life.

Check out how a Celtics fan, Jeremy Fry, shows his passion and leadership by truly being part of a moment.  As my friend, Bobby Umar states, “THIS is the kind of passion and fun that is contagious. As was once shown in a TED talk, if he got 2 or 3 others to join him, they could have started a movement“.

Indeed, the most effective men and women are those who can competently organize the cooperation and assistance of other people to accomplish goals and objectives.

Good job Jeremy. Your passion is truly contiguous.

Is your self-worth defined by your likes/follows?

How you use internet and the social web depends on you. The time we spend on social networks can be a waste, or it can make us smarter, connected, empathetic, and aware. It can amplify the good as well as the bad. You can use it to form deep emotional connections or ignore the person right beside you.

We’re so consumed by our phones and social networks, that sometimes we forget to live.

Can we auto-correct humanity is a strong piece on social media and its impact on us. Enjoy.