Central Desktop: What businesses get wrong about change management

Blog_the-horror-of-change-management-featured

Yes, I am aware that the last few months on this blog have been a series of guest posts – breaking just about every rule of blog writing (1 promotional to every 5 useful, etcetera, etcetera). However, I like to think that if I write an article it will be useful to someone somewhere, so here’s another.

Change management doesn’t have to be a horror show

The phrase “change management” may conjure up an unpleasant vision of an army of consultants roaming around your office and a large monthly bill hitting your bottom line, but in truth it’s something that applies to all businesses and projects, small or large.

If there is one scary thought about change management, it is that change is very rarely manageable. As pointed out by Michael Jarrett in his 2003 paper, The seven myths of change management: “…the rapid development of change and its divergent antecedents means that change is not something that can be managed with certainty. Outcomes can be both divergent and unexpected.”

Which, in layman’s terms, means that you never know exactly what to expect when you begin, and things never run as you intended. Still, change management isn’t as scary as it sounds. By following some simple rules, it’s possible to successfully introduce changes into a business with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience. Equally, it’s very easy to exacerbate this situation, which explains the origin of all those horror stories. Here are seven things that businesses get wrong about change management.

Read the full article and find out what the seven things are over at Central Desktop.

Central Desktop: Why is business tech spending on the rise?

Blog_tech-spending-increase-featured
Yes, it’s been a slow couple of months here, so please accept my apologies. All droughts come to an end though, and this one ends with a look at the latest forecasts for tech spending, digging under the obvious economic reasons at the some of the macro-and micro-trends that have changed our spending behaviour.

At the start of April, both Gartner and IDC released their latest forecasts for technology spending. The good news for technology vendors? Both forecast solid growth across all areas of spend, from telecoms to devices. It’s a stark turnaround from the 2013 reports that showed a contraction in spending in three of the five main tech categories. Good news, overall – but the real interest in these predictions is behind the scenes. The financial troubles of the last few years, coupled with external and internal changes in the business environment, have left us looking out at a very different landscape. As Quentin Hardy succinctly put it in The New York Times, Tech Spending Recovers, but It’s Different.”

So what is this new landscape? And how have we ended up here?

As always, you can read the full article over at Central Desktop.

Central Desktop: How to make a case for new technology to your CIO + IT team

Blog_helpful-geek-featured

New Year(ish). New Article.

Gartner have made some bold predictions that state that by 2017, the CMO will be be spending more on technology than the CIO. Well, if that’s true, CMOs need to read this right now, because buying technology for the business – even in today’s SaaS environment, isn’t as easy as clicking your fingers. They need to know how to pull together a cast-iron business case.

Luckily, this article contains five tips to make the process a little easier.

There’s nothing more unsatisfying than introducing a new system into an organization and seeing it fail. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of opportunity – and yet it happens all the time. Usually, it has nothing to do with the technology; these failures are almost always about adoption. Whether a system is over-hyped, under-utilized or simply not fit-for-purpose, the result is the same.

Unfortunately, these precedents can make it more difficult to introduce systems in the future, as “system apathy” sets in and users become inured to promise and cynical about change. This apathy can also spread to those people who install the system: IT and the CIO. Instead of a new solution, they may see ill-conceived plans, a lack of ROI and negative impact on their credibility. The erosion of the business benefit of these systems can have a massive impact on the bottom line.

[…]

It’s great that CMOs are tech-savvy, but they need to show more than a recognition of technology benefits, and start to pick up on best practices from the IT world to really bring the CIO back into the fold.

Put simply: to get a CIO on your side, you have to think like a CIO. And that means going back to the business case.

Read the full article over at Central Desktop.

3 important takeaways from LeWeb 2013

LeWeb Paris Audience

LeWeb is a fantastic conference.

All year I get invites to attend conference after conference, but LeWeb is the only one that really interests me. Why? Simply because it has a broader outlook, better speakers, and a more philosophical approach than other events (it even had a session on meditation!)

Where some events focus on the ‘doing’, LeWeb looks at the ‘why’. As a result the content is fresh and invigorating; it actually makes you think.

In London this June, the focus was on Sharing Economies (which I wrote about for Forbes). This time around, in Paris, it was looking at the Next Ten Years. The interesting thing about a conference like this is not in what the individual speakers say, although they are very interesting, but in the feeling that you get from the conference. There’s a sense of it being one giant ‘meta-presentation’, with trends leaking out and pervading the atmosphere around you, and speaker after speaker adding to the big picture. So, in light of this, here are three trends that have emerged from LeWeb 2013 that I want to share with you.

Trend 1: Human experiences, not technology, will rule the next ten years

Just to be clear, technology is still underpinning everything – in fact I can’t think of a more exciting industry to be working in at the moment – but the face of this technology will be human. Technology will be applied to create human experiences and meet human needs, it will not be a goal in itself.

Forrester CEO, George Colony, described the next ten years as ‘The Age of the Customer’ – an age in which enterprises will need to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. This age will require completely frictionless customer experiences to be created, based around the maturing technologies of mobile, sensors, location, social, and data. Products will be highly personalised and anticipatory in nature – knowing what you need based on where you are and what you are doing. Robert Scoble’s ‘Age of Context‘.

Colony, quite fittingly, gave the example of a taking a trip to a conference. In this example the products and services were completely transparent: when entering the airport you would be directed to your gate automatically, your seat would indicate itself when you came near, and when you got to your hotel the lift would take you to the right floor by communicating with your phone, with your door unlocking  itself when you arrived at your room.

The companies that can create these experiences will be the ones that thrive.

Trend 2: You are your product

It’s easy to think of a product as something separate from you, but actually it’s more than this. The best innovations come from the heart, and are linked tightly to things you care about solving. In this respect, you are your product. If the product is central to your purpose, if it isn’t your passion, then the chances of succeeding are much lower. Being able to stay on the path, to believe on your idea, and to have the courage to see it through are the outstanding characteristics that will build the successful products of the future. Ask yourself, why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? What drives you to act? It was no coincidence that the majority of successful entrepreneurs speaking at LeWeb had started their businesses based on a very personal experience. This was exemplified by Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. Uber was founded at LeWeb in 2008, when Travis was unable to get a taxi to the conference. That frustration, and his sweaty appearance onstage, gave birth to the idea that would disrupt the taxi and ride-sharing industry. It’s a personal crusade for Uber, one that has led to bigger ideas in its wake. Expect big things from the $3.5 billion-valued ‘Urban Logistics’ company over the next few years

Trend 3: In future, all companies will be software companies

This is a trend that is very close to my heart, and very close to my purpose. Products are evolving, customers are evolving. In the next ten years, it will be the company that adds value to its products, be it smoke detectors or tyres, that has the competitive advantage. As a result, all companies will be come software companies, as this will be the primary medium through which companies add value to their products. For example, Nest are disrupting the home safety market through building smoke detectors that communicate with you proactively, that give you warnings that are useful to you. What if a tyre company could produce tyres that told you when they ended to be changed, or informed you – or your car – how to drive more appropriately for the current conditions. the possibilities are endless, and it touches every industry, every product.

What next?

I’m really excited about the possibilities for technology in creating a better user experience for us all, actually, a better life experience for us all. It’s going to be great to watch develop, even better to be a part of. The ability to create new businesses and disrupt existing industries has never been more accessible. Even if some of the predictions don’t turn out to be right, there’s no doubt that things will be a lot different in ten years time.

See you at LeWeb 2014!

Central Desktop: Software Subscription Models – Pros and Cons

Logo for Central Desktop

It’s been a few months since I last wrote at Central Desktop, so it’s nice to get something published there again. This time around we’re looking at the pros and cons of subscription software (or SaaS, if you prefer it).

Subscription software has been around a long time, much longer than the hoo-ha about Adobe Creative Cloud earlier this year. When Adobe changed their business model, it was treated like the death of a family pet in some quarters. However, the real question isn’t why Adobe changed, but why we were surprised.

The move to software subscription models is tied inextricably to the changing culture of business and the ever-moving world of technology that surrounds it. It is inevitable.

Shortly, we’ll look at the pros and cons of subscription software, but first a brief history lesson.

Read the full article for a history lessons and to find out what iTunes and Nike have to do with the rise of SaaS over at Central Desktop.

Central Desktop: Cloud App Usage in the Workplace

Skynet - Central DesktopRogue cloud apps – it all sounds a little ominous, as if Skynet will be raising its ugly self-aware artificially-intelligent head sometime soon. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort; it’s just a bunch of employees trying to bring the some of the benefits of consumer life into the workplace, and why shouldn’t they?

In my latest article for Central Desktop, I look at how you can make cloud applications work for you, rather than giving you a headache, and make a plea for IT departments to drop the “command and control” attitude and start collaborating.

Here’s the obligatory extract:

Cloud busting. No, not the fabulous Kate Bush song, but rather what most IT departments would like to be doing. Personal clouds and cloud apps are subjects of growing concern to corporate business, something highlighted in Forbes columnist Joe McKendricks’ article “Corporate Crackdown on Rogue Clouds Has Begun, Survey Suggests” – based on the PMG “Cloud Sprawl 2013′” survey. The trouble is, as always, that numbers only tell one side of the story, and articles wrapped in jargon and littered with percentages aren’t always helpful.

The questions we should be asking ourselves are: what is this really telling us and what should we be doing about it?

Read the full article over at Central Desktop.

Book Review: I Have a Strategy (No, You Don’t) by Howell J. Malham Jr.

I Have a Strategy - Book CoverStrategy…

It’s a word that is so overused in the business world that it has almost lost its meaning. Everyone has a strategy… for everything. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of the existence of a ‘Visiting the Bathroom strategy’ or  a ‘Having my lunch strategy’, such is its ubiquity. Look at my personal portfolio, even I’m at it! A digital technology strategist of all things!

It’s time to reclaim the word, to give it some real meaning, to rescue it from the mire into which it has descended. If not for its own sake, then certainly for mine; I’ll never be taken seriously otherwise.

Luckily, that’s exactly what Howard J. Malham Jr. – or simply Malham from this point on – is aiming to do in his book: I Have a Strategy (No, You Don’t) – The Illustrated Guide To Strategy. It sounds like a lofty subject and you might expect a rather dry examination of the subject, given the length of the title, but it’s anything but that. Short, simple, fun (yes, fun) and easily digested, Malham’s book is surprisingly effective.

Malham – just who is he?

Howard J. Malham Jr. is a Co-founder and Director of Insight Labs, a Chicago-based consultancy that works on some of the world’s (read United States) biggest challenges and issues, from the state of schooling to the future of healthcare. It’s this experience, born out of trying to make sense of seemingly impenetrable challenges, that is distilled down into the book.

So this tells me what a strategy is? Right?

Absolutely.

For Malham, a strategy is simple defined as:

A planned, doable sequence of actions designed to achieve a distinct, measurable goal.

That’s it. Simple and easy.

Malham’s book comes to life through a few carefully selected examples and the ongoing commentary from Gary and Larry – two cartoon characters that explore the serious page content a little less seriously. They’re not always funny, but it’s a nice change of pace and certainly isn’t an unwelcome addition, keeping the writing light and away from the self-satisfied navel-gazing that some ‘business’ books descend into.

The examples he uses are, by and large, good ones, including Boeing versus Airbus, and even US foreign policy. If I had one criticism, there are some smaller examples, such as REDF and AGC (academy for Global Citizenship), that although being worthy, are not recognisable. It’s a small criticism, but some readers might want to see Malham’s obviously incisive mind to throw light on some more well-known brands (Nike versus Reebok, Apple versus the computer industry, Apple versus the music industry… you get the idea).

Within each example, the elements of the strategy are broken down, supporting his initial definition:

  • Purpose
  • Plan
  • Series of actions
  • Measureable goal

It’s clear and precise, which is exactly…

Why you should read it

Malham applies a light touch to the misconceptions around strategy. In a world full of weighty tomes on all matter of subjects, it’s a pleasure to pick up something that is as simple and concise as ‘I have a Strategy’. And the best thing about it is, because of its brevity, you really remember what you have read. It makes the book actionable.

And isn’t that the point?

If you’re interested in finding out more about the book you can visit http://ihaveastrategy.com/, or alternatively you can follow Malham on Twitter or find out more about his work at Insight Labs.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Have you changed your behaviour or your approach to business strategy as a result? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is an independent review based on a copy of the book supplied to me. I have no business relationship with Howell J. Malham Jr., InsightLabs, or Wiley (the publishers). I have not received any monetary incentives or payments, but they did let me keep the book, which was nice. I don’t need to write this bit, but I think it’s always good to be completely transparent.

Central Desktop: “Growing pains” – why business expansion leads to inefficiency

Logo for Central Desktop

Hot on the heels of a bloody BYOD comes more discomfort, this time in the form of growing pains. This guest article looks at the reason why businesses become inefficient as they grow and how these issues can be avoided, drawing on an paper from 1972 for inspiration – if you’re running a small business or on the verge of creating a start-up this is a definite read!

We live in a start-up culture, where it seems as if everyone is able to have an idea and start a company. Many of these will fail, some will be a success. For those that are a success, they may find that the real challenges are not with that first product launch, but the inevitable growth that success bestows upon them.

The issues that face these companies are nothing new. In July 1972, Larry E. Greiner published Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow in the Harvard Business Review (on paper, of all things!). He describes a pattern that would be familiar to entrepreneurs and business owners everywhere – that of evolution, in which the business grows smoothly, followed by revolution, where the business goes through a crisis brought about by its own growth. Solving each crisis brings about another period of evolution. Despite its age, Greiner’s piece remains amazingly relevant, even if the companies of today are working in very different industries and producing very different products.

So what does cause a company to become inefficient as it grows? The first inefficiency falls squarely at the feet of the company founders.

Read the full article and find out more about Greiner and the five reasons why companies become inefficient as they grow over at Central Desktop.

DoNanza: The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora

DoNanza - QuoraThe 15th April saw my first article published for DoNanza. DoNanza is an online service that helps freelancers find work, providing a range of tools to help them get noticed by potential employers.

“The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora” covers the basics of using Quora to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge across multiple subject areas, and highlights how you can use this effectively in creating your own personal brand – opening up job opportunities.

As well as the website, you can find them on Twitter or on Facebook.

+

Still nervous about Social Media… here’s the bottom line

Money - image by AMagill
Image taken from Flickr - AMagill

Over the last few years, the perception of Social Media has undergone a dramatic transformation. Long the preserve of the individual, and used solely for social networking amongst friends and family, it is now increasingly being used by business to communicate with their customers. But there are still many businesses that fear social media, who are either nervous about getting involved or that have made a decision to stay away.

This is unfortunate, as Social Media is providing real benefits to business, from sole proprietors to global corporations. These benefits are not just tangible, but also measurable.

Here are two key reasons why you should look to Social Media to help move your business forward.

1. Social Media = Dramatically lower cost-per-lead

Businesses that spend more than 50% of their marketing budget on Inbound marketing activities are spending more than 60% less per lead generated, compared to those that are spending 50% of their budget on outbound marketing. That’s a staggering difference, and shows the cost-effectiveness of using social media, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click advertising). Outbound marketing includes direct mail, events and telemarketing.

Let’s look at those numbers. If we invest £25,000 in generating 5000 leads using outbound marketing, we pay £5 per lead. Using the same budget on inbound marketing, in which we would pay £2 per lead, we could expect to generate 12,500 leads (assuming the potential audience is there).

It’s this cost-effectiveness that is pushing marketing spend towards inbound marketing and away from outbound. And if that cost-effectiveness wasn’t enough, the quality of the leads is higher. Inbound marketing engages users, creating warm leads that are more likely to convert. Which brings us on to reason 2.

2. You can generate revenue from Social Media

It’s been a long-held view that Social Media is only really good at generating brand exposure. That’s true, but it’s also a successful route to generating revenue. Of the companies using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a company blog, approximately 40% have acquired a customer. Dell has been a model for this approach.

After a shaky start, which became known as “Dell Hell”, in which Jeff Jarvis, a prominent blogger, spoke out about the poor customer service he had received, Dell has completely turned things around. They have embraced Social Media as a way of getting closer to its customers, and have used it to drive innovation and sales. In 2009, they generated $6.5 million of sales through their interactions with customers on Twitter alone. Including Facebook into that total brings it up to $9 million (source: Steven Felice, President, Dell SMB).

Sony has also used Twitter as a sales platform, generating £1 million from their Twitter feed directly. They have also used Social Media as an integral part of their Cybershot campaign, which accounted for £12.5 in revenue (source: Nick Sharples, Head of Corporate Communications).

These numbers may be small when compared to the annual sales figures across all retail platforms, but they do show how effective these emerging digital channels can be.

More and more, companies are expected to have a presence in the Social Media space. Consumers have been given a voice, and they are using it. Businesses of all sizes have been given the perfect opportunity to engage with their consumers and build a relationship with them, at a cost that would not have been possible just a few years ago. It requires a different mindset, but those that are able to make the transition are starting realise the benefits; not just in the perception of their brand, but on the bottom line too.

Figures taken from HubSpot’s 2010 ‘State of Inbound Marketing’ report.