Digital Transformation, books to consider

In short digital is going to impact your business. distruption        I do not care if you are a diner, a bank, a doctor or a farmer.

There is right now more than one set of individuals building a business to steal your customers by showing them there is a NEW way to satisfy the need/want your business is currently satisfying.

thinking of customer    Thinking of your customer, why do they buy your product or service is key to digital.  You are not selling them a safe place to keep their money or to rid them of pain.  You are lowering their anxiety in a convenient manner to their individual perception of both.

I get this wrong all the time. I asked a question the other day of a very smart group of people.

What would they want the person to lead them to bring to the table?

I had surmised beforehand the answers would be either specific technology skills on cloud, analytics, security or devops and/or deep experience on implementing technologies in their niche industry.


resolute-plaque-c2009   Stability.

They wanted to have someone who can come in an manage upwards to provide a path they could work to and deliver so they could feel successful.

What does your customer today need/want from you?  How can you find out?

What can you do/change to convince a brand new customer that you can satisfy their need/want that is NOT what you do today?

The books – 

Digital lipstick on a pig – Vaasa S. Gavarasana   lipstick

A quick read though too high level.  Key points are to –

  • focus on all the interactions with the customer/consumer  Cusomer-knows-what-he-wants
    • sales of course
    • customer service
    • account receivable
    • marketing
    • IT for EDI and compliance
    • operations for special orders/customizations

I would add if you are more distribution focused to add a vendor focus to reduce cost and increase agility.

To do this change you need –

  • A star trek bridge – aka a focused group – not just IT, like a startup business in the business
  • Good basic analytics, but add to it the digital/non-digital connections so everyone sees them
  • A Winston Churchill – well for any change you need Churchill – aka an evangelist.   churchill
    • Being a bit wacky cannot hurt in my opinion.




Digital Disruption – James McQuivey   d disruption

A longer read and focused on being controversial (scare the begegus out of you) versus a guide.

Key points –

  • The power of digital disruption is that it can disrupt any aspect of any product or service
  • Processes that are deep within companies or physical things that govern partnerships, data collection, pricing and management of resources
  • Even non-digital business will be disrupted
  • Digital disruption answers the question – what if it did not take money to make money?
  • digital disrupter default answer is yes – meaning yes, we can do that to whatever the questions is.  I truly believe this with technology today
  • How can we give customers something they really want?
  • To be successful test how ready you are with energy, skills and policies
  • Ask the question will my company’s relationship with our customers will be stronger in 5 years?
  • Again start with the customer, accept failures failure                 and look at the total customer experience

Digital Uncovered – Ian Cox      uncovered

The most guide like of the three, but uses OLD case studies of Blockbuster, Borders and so on.  Gets to more modern cases later in the book and likes to quote Forrester and the like which to me has always been like using The Farmer’s Almanac for planning your vacation.  forecast    If it is right great, but you don’t get to file a claim to recoup your vacation cost from Farmer’s if it rains all week.

Stated that most businesses surveyed state digital transformation will impact their industry in three years.  Three bloody years.  Makes you feel like you are already missing the bus.  bus           Relax – not yet.

Once again – start with the customer, move quickly, take risks and be prepared to fail.

The best definition I have read/heard so far – Digital is enabling people, devices and/or machines to connect and interact (transact business) with each other from any location and at any time.   anywhere

Seven truths, eh.

  1. Customers are in chargein charge
  2. Markets move quickly
  3. Data is a valuable asset
  4. Disruption can happen anywhere
  5. There are NO boundaries
  6. Ecosystems and platforms are key
  7. Technology is fundamental

Okay, 4 and 5, are the same as well as 6 and 7.  So let’s say 5 truths.  truth













CIO and report roles changing, of course

This article had a fantastic sentence about IT roles.     

“They need greater political skills to deal with senior-level executives who may feel threatened by global business processes.”

I could not agree more.  The CIO and his IT group will be matrixes deep into the organization as IoT, analytics, cloud services along with new mobility optimize legacy processes and create brand new services.

This will create threats.  Optimizing a process by removing inefficiencies may also eliminate control points that line of business executives and managers are not happy to give up or the downsizing of their staff that might be no longer needed.

I recall a manager who over a period of 3 years lost 20 people in their 80 person department in 3 office locations.  When I was hired in the 3rd year, the finance person was explaining to me how my budget got hit for the amount of space my division used in all the buildings globally.    Asking for a breakdown by department for the past 3 years, I noticed that this same department’s salary and other expenses reduced significantly each year, but not their overhead expense or the stated office space utilized.

In speaking to the manager he explained that he had been there for 20 years and they would reduce staff and then 3 – 4 years later add them back in.  If you gave up the space, it would take another 3 – 4 years to get the additional space, so you held on to it. Use it as a storage area, move a contractor over to the desk, stop sharing for different shifts – anything to keep the space.

Oh did I open up can of angry cobras (worms are just wiggly, not mean).  Finance went through each area and found globally almost all departments guilty of the same.

I am sure that still happens today and what IT evolves into will only run up against this more and more.

IT is already a matrix.  Per a prior blog, each line of business area has that tech savvy person or persons.  Marketing has those web and/or analytics hot shots.  Finance has their excel guru’s who became analytics gurus.  Operations application gurus and everyone is becoming cloud based services gurus.

You have to work across all of them.  But, that is merely about application upgrades, new services or changes to the same.  They still see that as changing what IT does.

Now IoT, analytics, cloud and mobile technology can impact the business operations by changing them radically.  Thing Uber and taxis along with retail stores vs Amazon mobile app.  What will happen with self driving cars.

The issue is that protective nature over the status quo.  First you will hear IoT is unproven, analytics is too hard and cloud does not save you money.



This is where Harry Truman make some sense.   

If you can’t convince them, confuse them.  

Align your proposal with their specific concerns (illogical as they may be).

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

Make it their idea, give up ALL the credit when it is seeking approval for this GREAT business strategy idea and most of it when you are successful.







Article review – To Create Change

right wrongMr. Satell does a fantastic job of explaining the power of leadership over authority.

– Influence versus control

– Being in charge versus facilitating

He wrote the article titled To Create Change, Leadership Is More Important Than Authority.

Please please read this not once, not twice,

but yes I say thrice.

He line “The problem is that, while authority can compel action, it does little to inspire belief.” is spot on and so many people in charge spend way to much time use logic, power and failing that threats to force people to not only do what they say, but demand people go beyond compliance all the way to believing they are right.

Explaining in more detail that “To make change really happen, it doesn’t need to be managed, but empowered.”

He offers examples of failures with his poor doctor and Blockbusters, however I offer successes of Apple and Southwest.southwest

While we can pick out where they have grown so large that failures have occurred, it impresses me daily how each company empowers their teams to drive their success whether it be technology innovation or customer service excellence.

A major component of the failures is that they as Satell states “Instead of painstakingly building local majorities, they attempted to compel entire populations.”

Whether it be an airline, consumer products company or a small local restaurant.

To implement change –    change

expansion of your travel routes

end a long time successful product

having only vegan and non-vegan days of menu items




If you just explained to you employees WHY this is such a great idea and WHY it will definitely work the predictable expectation is that they WILL full accept it.    Nope – ain’t gonna happen.

Annie Lennox herself could not help you.

You might get a few people to accept, but not the ‘local majority’ as Satell says.  You have to facilitate their acceptance.

How, that is for another entry.


Do Nothing

I am a fan of ‘do nothing‘.     do nothing

Many a rainy Saturday in place of doing that home improvement thingy, visiting a friend or going to a movie – I have elected to do nothing.  On a personal level I support you all and appreciate your support.

In business, I do not support that choice

choices       As a business leader when you are considering

a new market
– how to respond to a competitive threat
– a market shift
– a customer complaint
– growing faster or slower than forecast
– improving a process, product or service
– acquiring or being acquired

and so on, you have standard options.directions

  1. approve the change
    • new market, responding, answering, expediting/slowing, optimizing, buying or selling
  2. reject the change
    • either back to the drawing board or select another option
  3. do nothing

Both 1 and 2 require a risk to be taken a reward to be gained.

Number 3 avoids risk.


See with 1 or 2 the person proposing the change has in some level of detail (or lack there of) stated the risks and how their proposal will over come identified risks.  Along with the rewards – ROI via growth of revenue and/or profit.

There is also yourself as the approving business leader or your devil’s advocate

love finance(often those Finance type people – whom I love – no sarcasm, actually love them)

will provide the counter argument

stating by rejecting this change in place of another option that has either or both a higher ROI and less risk.

Strangely, rarely have I seen where number 3 is evaluated with the same detail.

The main exception is related to compliance requirements where the do nothing risk is a fine or worse.

As such, choosing ‘do nothing‘ is horrible for your business.  The choice is not based what is better for your business as you have no evidence (risk analysis or ROI) that it is a good choice.  It certainly is not a bold choice.

choose do nothing

Yet, with only the evidence of my experience and those conversations with colleagues and friends, I would submit that ‘do nothing’ is the most often option that business leaders choose.

Leaders need to be aware of the risk of this avoidance behavior.  It is not safe, it is backing yourself into a corner.

Business leaders who are proposing changes, need to account for ‘do nothing‘ as a competing option to that new market, competitive response and other changes they are striving to accomplish.

Oh yeah, delaying a decision

  • putting off to next quarter due to other priorities
  • looking at this at the end of the year
  • requesting the proposal to be more detailed
  • need to add additional options

is the same as ‘do nothing‘.  Just ‘do nothing‘ now, but we  really plan to

do something sometime‘.procrastnator

2014 Still no jet packs and flying cars, but what about your business’s versions

Yes, you have heard that complaint before but, my pondering took me to the business side.  No jet packs needed (though Amazon is experimenting with those droney things).

So let’s talk about a few things.

One – why the heck are we still printing so much?printer

Has your business reduced paper use by half in the last 5 years?

Are most ‘reports’ still coded for printing?


Let’s get past that because I don’t what the paper industry to get upset, not that they ever learn about this entry.


Two – Excel.

excel-cartoon-lores(1)Do I have to say it?  You know what I am talking about – all those commercials about smarter planets.

Yet, along with myself and most colleagues who work for large companies still use spreadsheets not as standard decision making reports, but the go to for ad-hoc reporting.

I would surmise that 90% of all analytics data from whatever tool you purchased still makes its way into a spreadsheet.



Last – The information you need to make the decision at hand is available at by merely asking for it.  You know like Star Trek (thank you, Gene Roddenberry).  

‘Computer, which of my customers will go to my competitors this year?’


‘Computer, what is the quality of my data of that I am using to decide the most important directions of my company?’

Nope, if you are lucky you get to pull up a standard report and modify it to add other data or calculations to get close to those answers.  Or, if you are truly lucky you have both the access to the data and have been able to build your skills to pose your questions through a query tool.

Now to my point which is not a rant about we do not have the future of business technology we were promised.  Unlike jet packs, we DO have the future we talked about for business technology.

We have the technology that is not cutting edge, but proven and that could do away with the need for printing anything via large size monitors, tablets and dashboards versus row and column reports.

There is analytic tools that go so far beyond spreadsheets and many are in place in most businesses now, but their use is limited to a few who will invest the time and gain the reward they promise.

And, yes the same tools combined with collaboration and mobility technologies allow you to get answers to questions by asking them, not running a report.

Consider this, the future is here the only thing stopping it is the lack of embracing the change. change







Full disclosure – I own a printer, a recent copy of a spreadsheet program (OO) and currently work for a company that sells those Smarter Planet guys stuff.

Business Presentations – the horror.

If you have been in business a PowerPoint is not just the likely tool of choice to communicate material in group setting, but apparently the unwritten  never broken rule.

I mean it, when was the last time you sat in a room to listen to someone tell you something and PowerPoint was not used – heck even most Ted talks use it.  The feeling I get is that if you pulled out a flipchart or just showed pictures of what you were talking about without one slide (at-least an intro one) the world might come to an end.     end of world







So, this got me thinking.  If something is being used so broadly it should be a good thing, right.  You know like unleaded fuel or pasteurized milk.  So is PowerPoint (or whatever you use) good,

ah No.    NO



I am not the only one who thinks so –

Edward Tufte – Wired

David Silverman – Harvard Business Review

First, start with a story.  You know like when you were little.  Tell it with a story.

Then, one thought per slide should equal – you know like – one word, a picture instead would be nice.

Think more like Eve from Wall-e    Eve from Wall-ein communicating versus Tolstoy – I am talking to you IBM.

Ask yourself this – if the bulb burns out on the projector, your laptop catches on fire, your backup USB drive becomes forgetful and your paper copy backup, backup, backups all become stuck together.

Could you delivery your

  • persuasive proposal
  • arousing argument
  • instruction
  • decision making points

in 60 seconds verbally with say a couple of simple words/drawings on a whiteboard?  60sec






10 minutesin 10 minutes with several words/drawings on a whiteboard?



One of the most memorable training presentations I have attended was on the dangers of straining your back.  The presenter used nothing more than a onion and some grape jelly with a couple of drawings on a whiteboard.onionTo simulate a disk in your back, slowly slicing one ring at a time to demostrate what happens each time you strain your back by lifting/twisting improperly.  That was 22 years ago.  disk




Now the can be done well, as this presentation about evil PowerPoint by John Goalby.

and these tips by Geoffrey James.  He has tell a story as #3, I would disagree, make it #1.

So, please, pleasssssseeee be kind to your audience and make your presentations, if not memorable, at least information that can be remembered.

Article review What the IT department will look like 2015/2

What the IT department will look like 

–Jason Hiner, writing in TechRepublic’s Tech Sanity Check blog


“A decade ago, there was a lot of new stuff that needed to be set up — ethernet networks, directory servers, mail servers, company laptops — and a lot of baby boomers who still needed helped transitioning into a computerized workplace. Those days are long gone.”


This will be a debate about the above statement, but I for one agree with it completely.  That does not mean that there are not a need for setting up servers and networks, but those can be focused with cloud based services versus every company having their own data centers filled or not so filled with equipment.


The short article does bring to light what many business leaders need to recognize about their information technology evolution in the next 5 years (not 10 or 20, 5).  It will not be about hardware or devices.  It will be about the data and the applications that present and manage that data.


This is where I veer from Mr. Hiner.  He states “it’s going to increasingly be about web-based applications that will be expected to work smoothly, be self-evident, and require very little training or intervention from tech support.”


Fully agreeing with the ‘require very little training’ portion of the statement as Apple has proven that intuitive design trumps feature rich.  However, the focus of development on applications without a mention of database development is where I feel he left something out.  Those web-apps will need databases that integrate data from multiple sources and be optimized to deliver that data to the app at the performance rate of the customer’s expectation.

Therefore, the developers will two sets, the presentation side with web-applications and the data side with data modeling, integration and optimization of performance across multiple virtual installations.