March 27, 2013 10:22:52 AM by
Social Analytics platforms are playing an increasingly pivotal role in the strategic decision making process. Recently, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty highlighted the intersection between technology and data. To compete, Bid Blue's vision is that businesses must:
- Base decisions (both tactical and strategic) on predictive analytics
- Turn social conversations into productive output
- Craft offerings for individuals - not market segments
9Lenses helps companies reach these objectives. We drive better, faster predictive analysis by flushing out net-new data from every businesses best resource, it's people. Advanced dashboards leverage our schema and software platform to target very granular pains at the sub-market level.
Ginni's right "data will be your competitive advantage." That conclusion, of course, begs a significant question: are you collecting the right data?
February 15, 2013 4:09:48 PM by
If data could talk its favorite line just might be "I told you so." We recently compared an app taken by senior-level execs last June with one run last week on a smaller segment within their organization. The June results predicted a decline in market trends. Sure enough, Last week's results show a 10% drop in just eight months!
What does this say about benchmarking?
1. Do it!
Without a standard, you have no way to measure progress. Setting an initial benchmark is the first step in measuring subsequent success or failure (hopefully success). Every executive wants satisfied employees, efficient processes, and a larger profit margin, but without effective benchmarking even the most meticulously designed initiative will go untested and unevaluated. If you’re planning an effort aimed at improving some part of your business, start with a baseline assessment. You’ll get the benchmark you need to determine whether you’ve moved forward or backward six months down the road. Selecting the right type of benchmark can be complex and sometimes quite intimidating. However, the process does not have to be overwhelming.
But taking the time to run a baseline can also boost your strategy formulation.
2. Standardize it.
It is not enough to create benchmarks; these standards of measurements require some objective criteria for evaluation. In fact, benchmarking from inadequate measure can be quite counterproductive if the standards for benchmarking are too narrow or based on poor sampling techniques. Often, it is tempting to overgeneralize successes and establish standards of measurement that are both unrealistic and unhelpful. It takes longer to undo the damage of inadequate benchmarking and ultimately sets companies back. Using some objective means of benchmarking helps reduce the risk of poor benchmarking and thereby increase valuation of an offering. How do you establish those objective criteria? Run a baseline.
3. Data-driven benchmarks drive effective strategies.
Any business executive or employee can tell you that there’s at least one, and probably a lot more, things you could do to improve your organization. There is never a shortage of what needs to be changed. But how do you prioritize the multitude of ideas? Gut instinct? Listen to the loudest voices? Without a social approach it’s anyone’s guess as to what is the best idea. Running a baseline assessment gives you solid data to determine what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and where to focus your efforts first.
So run a baseline. You’ll get powerful data about your business and the power to quickly and simply measure success in 3 months and 3 years.
By now something should be obvious. Benchmarking is inextricably linked with the 9Lenses baseline. Although some people might have questions about how this works or why baselines are so critical, those who have gathered the courage to take the 9Lenses challenge have discovered the immense benefits of the process.
We are always eager to explain what the value of the 9Lenses offers to businesses both great and small. Contact our Business Development Manager Zach Enos at email@example.com
One more note. Run a baseline.
December 05, 2012 2:29:40 PM by
But why would I want a data-driven offsite? Glad you asked.
First of all, it’s faster and cheaper. You are essentially eliminating 2/3 of any consultant’s discovery process by using data collection tools available today, while embracing the social technologies that enable instant listening to your people. Second, it’s better because the data comes directly from your people, without filters. When you drive your offsite with data, the process becomes less about belief and more about confirmed facts. Imagine the first sports coaches who watched replays of a match—business leaders need an end-to-end view of their business to make the best plays.
Instead of spending too many resources on finding the problems or simply guessing, focus on solving “for sure” challenges and exploiting agreed-upon opportunities, with clarity. Under the data-driven model, you wouldn’t bring in any consulting firm until you’d thoroughly vetted your organization. Your data maximizes the consultant’s time, if you even need it, and your investment by prioritizing remediation efforts to the vital few.
So, are you ready to use your offsite to solve rather than hunt problems? Here are twelve steps towards a data-driven offsite model.
1. Get data. Identify key challenges for your whole organization through the eyes of everyone affected by your company. Do this about a month before you offsite. Your data collection process should include the perspectives of stakeholders—employees, directors, leadership, customers, and partners—and immediately reveal how aligned their perspectives are when compared side-by-side. If two C-level executives disagree, that should become immediately apparent. You will be able to pinpoint what your organization sees as its top challenges, and where groups or individuals are aligned or misaligned.
2. Structure the data. If it’s not organized, it’s useless. If it’s not in-depth, it’s also useless. What a dilemma! Your data collection should collect scores, comments, and sentiments across every
area within your business: the Market, People, Finance, Strategy, Operations, Execution, Expectations, Governance, and Entity lenses. If the data is structured well, the Top Challenges, Communication Gaps, and Training Gaps should easily float to the top with the click of a button. The dat
a’s analytics display should be simple and clear enough to allow anyone in leadership to hone in on a specific area (say Strategy > Offerings) of focus.
3. Put the Data on the Table. It’s time to generate buy-in. Form a consensus around the top challenges and opportunities that emerge with those who will participate in the offsite. It’s key to remember that “perception is reality” for everyone who commented in the data, even if leaders hotly disagree with the perceptions. “That’s wrong” isn’t an acceptable response. The leadership team needs to agree that the data fairly represents your company, and identify any additional “data gaps” that need to be filled pre-offsite to get your strategy team on the same page. For example, let’s say the COO and CIO are divided on the data surrounding existing systems. One argues that the data demonstrates that current systems are integrated and create efficiency, while the other staunchly disagrees. A few targeted queries can collect this data easily.
4. Get participants focused ahead of time. We suggest sending out a summary of the top finding from your data along with leading positive and negative comments. For example, if your data called the company’s “Differentiation Strategy” and “Intellectual Property Protection” policies “Elephants in the Room,” you’ll want to make sure everyone’s reviewed those issues. Let participants know that these topics will catalyze discussion at the offsite so everyone should be familiar with that data. We also recommend letting the stakeholders who identified the elephants know their issue will be a topic of focus so they can start working on solutions. These stakeholders often become your champion tiger-team leaders after the offsite concludes.
5. Open with a bang. Start by throwing down a challenge, then lighten the mood with something fun. For example, “We have been in business eight years. ‘Management Listens and Empowers’ is the top challenge in the eyes of our employees. That needs to end, starting today. The ROI on solving our top challenges is huge, and we need to leave today owning our problems, with responsibility for clear solutions, and a plan going forward.” To get loose so everyone is comfortable speaking, a get-to-know each other exercise or team-building game is a good way to start. Don’t forget the coffee.
6. Define desired outcomes. You structured the data, right? Proceed through the structure (each of the 9Lenses) and do three things:
1) 1) Pinpoint the location (e.g. “People Lens, Culture, Accountability;” “Strategy Lens, Offerings, Pricing”)
2) 2) Describe the “desired outcome” in each location (e.g. “Accountability goes from challenge to core strength;” “Touch cycles are automated so that we can decrease prices by 7%”)
3) 3) Describe the change to get there. “Add/Initiate,” “Remove/Consolidate,” “Improve/Automate,” and “Reduce/Streamline” are the four types of changes we list on a worksheet to help spark participant ideas.
When we facilitate offsites, we go through each lens in this fashion, forming consensus around desired outcomes and possible changes (don’t select the solution just yet—brainstorm). You will end up with more desired outcomes and modifications than can possibly be executed. But, this process helps define the “broad” scope of possibilities, and ensures that you don’t miss an opportunity in any area of the company because you went through the structure of each lens.
7. Focus on limited “high impact moves”. Now, sift through all the desired outcomes and moves and narrow them down. We suggest five “high impact moves” overall or one top move per lens. This is the stage where it’s absolutely crucial to inspire “buy-in.” Even if ideas from some participants are not chosen, the rationale will have been heard and the group will have made a decision—having an idea heard, vetted, and discarded or kept is a key step in gaining buy-in. Everyone needs to feel like their voice was heard, so that the offsite actually affects the way your organization operates.
8. Define success and progress. Once the desired outcomes are defined, you need to figure out what type of entity will implement the solution (e.g. an employee tiger team, just one person, or the whole company). When will progress begin? Who is involved? What is “success”? What key indicators will show the solution is on track? Execution is impossible if these questions aren’t answered. So outline a team and timeline to address each outcome one your list. Don’t forget to include periodic progress review sessions on the timeline.
9. Pass out the monkeys. The buck should stop with one person for each outcome. Even if that person is in charge of leading a tiger team or the whole company, that person is the one who needs to drive towards the objective. Everyone should walk out of the room with a monkey on their back.
10. Communicate to stakeholders. Embrace the accountability that comes from saying, “we heard you, and here is our approach, our expectations, and our timeline for implementation.” This moment helps the whole organization feel heard and often identifies the people who need to move on. If the majority of your stakeholders think the solutions are off the mark, then one of two things happened: either they did not provide authentic data or the leaders ignored their data in the boardroom. Don’t let either of these situations happen to your organization.
11. “Go and do likewise.” Projects and initiatives are under way. Because you used a structure to collect data, you have “auto-KPIs” in every part of your business—you know exactly how to measure success. These targeted measurements should take place monthly and can compare the initial set of data to your team’s progress with less than 15 minutes spent on tracking in a given week.
12. Get data. Sound familiar? It’s time to focus on the next set of “high impact moves. Here we go again. Grab your coffee and get ready for another data-driven offsite. Yep, that’s right. You just automated the strategic planning process. Great job! Hopefully, your organization has improved in all of its previous areas of focus and you’re ready to tackle a different set of issues.
The question now is: how would you find that out? Back to the beginning!
A word of encouragement: At 9Lenses we make this process straightforward and thorough, but it’s never painless. Change is hard and involves conflict, piercing data, difficult meetings, and humble communication with all the stakeholders. We hope you feel just a little better equipped to lead a data-driven offsite, and welcome any comments or critiques below!
October 08, 2012 2:32:36 PM by
Top down strategy is dead, but executives still have to lead, and they do so by setting forth strategies. Those strategies control how even the most social companies behave. Strategy will always matter most, but in the social era it’s holistic rather than top-down. The most important question then, is how does the social era affect strategic planning?
Meet Social Strategy: Or Strategic Planning Gone Social
Even social businesses (e.g. KickStart, which relies on a crowdsourcing-as-service model) fail to bring social strategies into the boardroom. For most organizations, “social” means nothing more than CRM, marketing, and product feedback cycles. Few realize the exponential rewards hidden in every company’s “Social Consciousness.” That’s what social era leaders need to tap into.
Imagine a business where every employee, customer, executive, board member, and investor could share his/her perspective on the organization’s performance with the CEO before the next strategic offsite. Pretend for a moment, that the executive leadership team collaborated and strategically planned around up-to-the-second data that accurately reflected the business’s health.
Stop imagining! The age of social strategic planning is here, and it all starts by connecting every part of a business; here we say by connecting all 9Lenses. Business leaders need to find social tools that don’t just collect data, but organize it, make it meaningful. The best social tools use schemas to map and interrelate business data end-to-end, cut through the clutter, or at least organize data in a super useful way, to make insights actionable.
Too few organizations are applying social principles like transparency, collaboration, innovation, and connected learning to strategic planning. That’s probably because it’s difficult to know how. Social technology is new, and many executives are still struggling to discern the best way to integrate new solutions.
However you chose to take on social strategy, remember, you need to listen and learn from everyone affected by you business. Your employees, customers, investors, and advisors have knowledge you need to strategize effectively. Find a way to hear “the crowd” across your entire business, and connect rather than segment the input. Now you’ve got a thousand strategists pushing information to the top in a way that enables good decisions, instead of the top dictating a strategy that a thousand innovative employees think is bunk. Or, worse, nobody knows if it is or isn’t because the business isn’t connected.
We’ve crowd sourced business strategy: check it out!
Let me know what you think of this post, and sign up for our RSS feed because Part II: Structuring the Social Strategy is coming out soon. Don’t miss this step-by-step guide for executives who want to use social data to drive strategic planning initiatives.
enterprise management software
October 04, 2012 2:16:41 PM by
Most executives I speak with intuitively understand the value of leveraging “social” business solutions. Companies that foster transparent collaboration, innovative pipelines, and passionate communities are redefining the marketplace.
Success is all about breaking down bureaucratic hierarchies, doing a few things well, and creating continuous social feedback loops. Unfortunately, “social” solutions are great, but social tools are often too unstructured, disconnected, and complex to gain traction in enterprise-level boardrooms.
Welcome to the Social Era:
I’m borrowing the term “Social Era” from the popular Stanford lecturer Nilofer Merchant. She’s argues quite persuasively that Schumpeter and Taylor’s traditional model of strategy is dead. Traditional strategy rests on 5 key pillars that Merchant believes are incompatible with flexible, collaborative business communities:
I think she’s right on the money. Vertical integration became a central principle of successful big business management towards the mid-twentieth century and by the 1970’s was above reproach. 19th century steel tycoons like Carnegie pioneered this methodology by chopping out middleman and processing their own raw materials from ground to product. In the 20th century, companies like Ford and Wal-Mart mastered integrated end-to-end supply-chain management systems. “Bigger is better” was the adage, and companies thrived by pushing their weight around, swaggering, and consolidating competitors.
- Top Down Strategy Matters Most
- Size Matters
- Stability Rules
- Sustainable Advantages Exist
- Company Controls Everything
But things have changed. As Nilofer points out the 800-pound gorillas of yesteryear need to become “a herd of 800 nimble gazelles.” Businesses that emphasize flexibility, creativity, and synergy are now winning the race to the top, and they’re doing it by becoming more social.
Dispersing power and enabling innovation are the next dispensation of business; that means top-down strategy is fundamentally different or dead. Traditional strategy has clearly perished. The question now is what does that mean for the future of “strategic planning?”
- Nordstrom and AT&T are pioneering innovative pipelines and in-store labs.
- Twitter and LinkedIn and creating value through social dialogues.
- Goodreads, Yelp, and Pinterest are only successful because they engage (crowdsource) lots of people.
Crowd Sourcing Applications