Friday, 11 July 2014

IT & Marketing the relationship you can no longer ignore

Earlier this year I looked at why, if IT could not report to the CEO, then reporting to the Chief Marketing Officer makes good, if unconventional sense. Enter the July/August edition of Harvard Business Review and an article by Scott Brinker and Laura McLellan titled “The Rise of The Chief Marketing Technologist”. Their article draws on Gartner research and predictions and some of the statistics are remarkable, the most memorable being Gartner’s 2012 prediction that by 2017 the CMO will be spending more on technology than the CIO will. This is not necessarily dreamland when considering that digital marketing spending is experiencing double digit growth every year; CEO’s identify digital marketing as the most important technology powered investments their firm can make; e-commerce continues to rise rapidly; and the typical marketing supply chain of agencies, media outlets and industry researchers are embracing (and in many cases pioneered in many organisation) digital workflows.

 The authors claim 81% of large companies now have a Chief Marketing Technologist reporting directly into the marketing organisation, with a (sometimes) dotted line to IT. Their role is to bridge the gap between IT and marketing, working with the senior marketing executives, selecting and working with 3rd party software and service providers, the general marketing team and the CIO/IT organisation.

When I originally penned questions about the future of internal IT departments around 10 years ago as part of my IT governance lectures, I identified many emerging challenges to the typical IT team such as automation, outsourcing and offshoring, increasingly user friendly applications, and the rapidly increasing IT savvy of others in the organisation especially the younger ‘digital natives’ as they filter through organisations into management. At the time my IT management peers (including a CIO round table I was a member of and presented this to) seemed unconcerned at these potential challenges. The rapid ascension of the marketing department as the dominant IT consumer in an organisation, is only now getting attention in the CIO press and senior IT circles, is it too late?

Brinker, S. & McLellan, L., 2014, The Rise of the Chief Marketing Officer, in Harvard Business Review, July-August 2014, p.83-85

Exploring the value of IT to organisations

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why does "strategic focus" work?

In the latest McKinsey Quarterly three authors report on their research on what successful companies do. They identify 4 recipes of successful companies, that “reflect a distinct underlying approach to managing, including core beliefs about value creation and what drives organisational success” (Smet, Schaninger & Smith, "The hidden value of organisational health - and how to capure it", McKinsey Quarterly, April 2014).

There are of course lots of other ‘recipes’ out there from Michael Porters generic strategies of segmentation, differentiation or cost leadership; Treacy & Wiersema’s (HBR Jan’1993) value disciplines of customer intimacy, operational excellence and product leadership; Peter Weill’s operating models; and research by the Balanced Scorecard Collective led by David Norton into the successful modes of strategic alignment, all identify attributes of successful companies. What is remarkable about all these models is the persistent conclusion by these authors that successful organisations choose consciously or unconsciously what they will do and will not do rather than trying to do and excel in everything, and that the activities they choose to focus on are consistent and complementary to each other. What is also remarkable is that the exact details of the ‘recipe’ seems to be less important that the relationship of the actual goals and priorities to each other, as evidenced by the wide variety of models/recipes championed by the various authors.
What appears to be lacking in these models is research into why some selective choices are so successful rather than other choices or trying to excel at everything. The obvious economists answer would be that organisations are resource constrained and therefore they need to concentrate their efforts (allocation of scarce resources) in one or a limited number of areas where they get maximum bang for their buck, however this does not explain why very different models/recipes can all be successful while mixing other elements together or doing everything leads to failure.
I suspect the answer is more about people and psychology than economics and lies in the fact that an organisation that focuses on a specific area of expertise makes it easy for customers to understand what it stands for (marketing 101), is easy for employees to understand and act consistently/empowered (HR 101)and critically, it is easy for managers, especially senior executives to make decisions that are consistent with the organisations focus when allocating those scarce resources (especially their executive mindshare).
Many moons ago I did a personal goal setting exercise that was truly eye opening. The first step was to identify all my short and long term goals and dreams around work, family, health, education, wealth, spiritual self etc and document them in a long list. The second step was to build a grid on a sheet of paper with each goal listed along both the X axis and the Y axis creating a matrix. The final step was the real eye opener. For each pair of personal goals a notation was made on the matrix where they intersected. A ‘+’ was added if the two goals were complimentary or reinforcing, a ‘-‘ if they clashed or were mutually exclusive, and a ‘n’ if they were neutral. The value of the exercise was in showing where friction occurred between my goals causing personal stress, where others were likely to get mixed messages and be confused about who I am and what my priorities are, and what clusters of activities/goals support the personal my life’s mission/purpose (it also helped identify that purpose). It also helped consign to pure fantasy a few goals that were unobtainable due to incompatibility with my life’s purpose.
The same exercise could be applied to an organisation to assist in evaluating complimentary and contradictory goals to an organisation, I suspect it would help an organisation understand what goals/activities support its mission and those that do not. Perhaps something to do at your next executive strategy session

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Should IT report to marketing?

The idea is not as silly as it sounds.

CIOInsight magazine last week reported on a new IDC report on how the CIO role will change by 2018, the report identified getting close to marketing as 3 of the key trends/challenges for CIO’s due to marketing’s ownership of social media, digital engagement with customers and innovation and concerns that unless IT partners with marketing they will be left behind. Peter Weill in his CISR research briefing in May 2013 “Managing Total Digitalization: The Next frontier” identified that many business technologies are often developed and managed outside of IT such as: digital products, robots for production, CAD systems, telephone networks, digital games, digital services and social media strategies and sensors in a range of devices. Weill argues that enterprises need to take a holistic view of their digital platforms and give IT control over enterprise digitalization.

I am going to go a step further than IDC and Weill and suggest that IT should be reporting directly to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). There is one important exception to this, and that is where IT ‘is’ the organisations strategy and reports directly to the CEO. An organisations digital footprint has expended way beyond the automation of back office processes and is now a key tool for interacting with customers and a driver of business growth. CIO’s and other technology professionals are well placed to advise and manage the technical side of the digital enterprise however they are being locked out of the extended digital platforms especially digital interactions with customers and user experience which are owned by the chief marketing officer and marketing team. Having IT reporting to/teamed with marketing would ensure the organisation digitalises as fast as possible while producing agile and scalable solutions.

This is far preferable to the alternative of IT reporting to the CFO or COO (historical artefact of business process automation) both of which are focused on cost control rather than innovation and business growth, hence marketing and other customer facing areas preference for avoiding IT and going it alone.
So, should IT report to marketing?

Links and references:
CIOInsight article
Weill & Woerner, 2013, Managing Total Digitalization: The next Frontier, CISR Research Briefing, Vol XIII, Number 5, May 2013

Exploring the value of IT to organisations

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why is engaging knowledge workers so hard? And it’s not because knowledge workers are hard to engage.

Why is engaging knowledge workers so hard? And it’s not because knowledge workers are hard to engage. Gallup recently published a summary (State of global workplace 2013) of their many survey’s on employee engagement. Which they define as “employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company, they drive innovation and move the organisation forward’. Globally only 13% of employees were engaged. The numbers for Australia are slightly better at 24% engaged, 60% not engaged and 16% actively disengaged, the actively disengaged workers actually sabotage their employers and work colleagues. Why do most companies get engagement so wrong? Even Taylor’s studies back in the dawn of scientific management showed engaged workers are more productive, and that was on assembly lines where knowledge was not the premium human resource it is today.

I have written before at my bemusement of watching senior management struggle with engagement and plan more meetings, more incentives and if that fails more beatings to improve ‘engagement’. I have always had a pretty simple measure of engagement “if you leave the office feeling you have achieved something that day, then you are engaged”, the problem then is how to get employees to feel successful and valued. That is why engagement scores of divisions in a company that are meeting targets and gaining positive attention are always higher than divisions that are viewed as not meeting targets or ‘just cost centres’, it’s not that hard.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter a Harvard professor has recently added more depth to the concept of ‘feeling you have achieve something’. She identifies 3 factors strongly linked to employee engagement, they are:

Mastery: Developing and improving deep skills, being challenged to do things betters and faster.

Membership: Create community by honouring the individual, allowing the whole person to surface. Encourage people to communicate and form bonds across the company.

Meaning: Emphasise the positive impact each employee has, along with a bigger purpose that everyone is working towards. She argues that a mission and larger purpose can make even mundane tasks meaningful.
Kanter concludes that “highly engage people who contribute more of themselves can recite Shakeshpere to win customers, weddings in the lobby that create community, or the ultimate prize: innovations that change the world.

It is time we as managers had a really good look at how we organise and manage staff, and make engagement an embedded factor of organisational life not a side goal to be agonised over annually to meet my KPI’s.


David Gwillim
Exploring the value of IT to organisations

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ownership of IP a big issue for knowledge workers

I have recently been involved in a very interesting discussion around ownership of IP in the knowledge economy, is the industrial model of all IP being owned by your organisation appropriate or should a more sharing based model be used? Should Facebook, Google, Woolworth's and other corporations be able to harvest your data and sell it without any compensation to you.

A relevant article was recently published by Wharton School of Business, interview with Felicia Day , it is an interview with Felicia Day, an American actor, writer and producer who got frustrated with Hollywood and pioneered the creation of a "TV like series" on YouTube in 2007 called "The Guild". What is interesting is that she was able to keep IP of the project because she partnered with IT companies who did not have a business model that demanded ownership of content the way the movie industry does. One of the conclusions of the article is that this ability to maintain IP ownership on the web may be fleeting as traditional media production companies move into web production and bring their business models with them.

If you are interested in more discussion around IP and knowledge workers I can recommend the Linked-in discussion group initiated by a colleague at University of Technology Sydney Building the Organisation of Tomorrow.

David Gwillim
Exploring the value of IT to organisations

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The key to employee engagement – allowing your employees to be successful

Over the past 2 decades it has become popular to measure employee engagement. And the results are always the same, senior management declare that employee engagement needs to rise to x% and the Human Resources team will help you develop a plan to ‘engage’ your team which usually involves increasing the number of ‘communications meetings’ as the only actionable questions ever asked in the standard surveys such as Hewitt’s Best Employer survey are around “has your/senior management communicated enough”. This focus on communication, a ‘nice’ working environment or other small changes has always seemed to miss the point to me. In my observations over three decades of management I have seen highly engaged teams who are working in poor environments, working huge hours, who are under paid and who are under constant pressure and stress in rapidly changing and highly uncertain environments. The common thread to the extremely high levels of engagement I have observed in these employees is that “they go home every day feeling that they have achieved something of value” yet this is so often missing from discussion around employee engagement.

This is the focus of a recent McKinsey Quarterly article by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer who phrase engaged employees as those to whom “work has meaning”. Amabile and Kramer’s study focused on how senior executives can destroy meaning for employees and list four key meaning destroyers (they call them ‘traps’):

1. Mediocrity signals – everyone wants to feel they work for the winning team, however top management can often become focused on ‘me too’ management such as cost cutting and other reactive rear guard strategies that devalue the lofty goals of most strategies and devalues the work that employees are doing to achieve those strategies.
2. Strategic ‘attention deficit disorder’ – Most strategies take many months or years to fully implement and see the benefits from (and the employee satisfaction that comes from achieving those strategies). It is almost impossible to get employees to support a strategic direction when it changes every month or is unclear, again devaluing an employee’s efforts to make a difference.
3. Corporate Keystone cops – displayed through complex reporting structures, empire building, rogue departments, rushed analysis, failure to reward success or enforce accountability and results in organisational chaos (or should that be KAOS).
4. Misbegotten ‘big, hairy, audacious goals’ – in many companies these are so grandiose to be meaningless. BHAG’s only have meaning if employees believe that the BHAG has relevance to the organisation and that senior management truly believe in it and behave accordingly.

Amabile and Kramer conclude with a series of actions designed to avoid these ‘traps’. I feel the recommendation fall into a bit of a trap themselves but the overall article is excellent and well worth the time to track down and read.

David Gwillim
Exploring the value of IT to organisations

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Collaboration spaces - a new way of working, office design of the future

Collaboration and innovation are popular catch cries in many organisations these days, but how many organisations actually take the time to do more than just talk about it?

In our industrialised economy there is almost 200 years of managerial processes dedicated to exploiting workers as a ‘pair of hands’, indeed Henry Ford famously remarked "Why when I only want to hire a pair of hands, do I get a whole person?“. The ‘scientific management’ movement that pervades our management thinking and practices today never considered employees as a source of innovation or that employee collaboration should be encouraged.

While many organisations give lip service to innovation and collaboration very few seem to be making the broad range of changes necessary to make it a reality. As McKinsey’s 7’S model shows organisational change requires a wide a range factors all of which need to be addressed to achieve change. Setting a vision or goal for collaboration is only one part of the change process. Another area that needs to be addressed are the structural changes to where and how employees work, as offices, cubicles and assembly lines were designed for productivity and control over employees not collaboration or independent thought. In recent weeks I have been privileged to view a few examples of how some companies are restructuring the way people work.

Microsoft Australia has removed many of its offices, cubicles, desks and allocated parking spaces and replaced them with ‘first in’ open working spaces nobody owns, each employee has a locker/trolley for specific documents, devises. To work they choose a seat and plug in. Microsoft claim this has reduced office space needs by 20%, what is of more interest to this blog is that Microsoft found that staff from different departments are sitting together and interacting in ways they never would have before. In considering this observation Microsoft concluded that humans are creatures of habit and that staff in traditional office environments made ‘tracks’ from the car park, though a specific pathway to their desk, kitchen, bathroom and rarely ventured beyond that. The outcome was that staff rarely intermixed beyond their particular department. The changes are quite new but the feedback from Microsoft management is very positive.

I also visited Google’s Sydney offices, along with the legendary free canteens, play areas and chill out rooms are a host of collaboration spaces. These vary from ‘traditional’ meeting rooms (often with quirks such as the upside-down room where chairs and tables are suspended off the ceiling to provide fun to those video conferencing into the room) to a whole host of informal meeting rooms and meeting spaces resembling a plush bar or cafe. While traditional meeting rooms are ‘booked’ in the usual way, the informal meeting rooms and all other meeting spaces are on a ‘first come basis’. Every meeting room and most meeting spaces come with video conferencing and all have power for device connectivity. There are also groovy single person spaces (with video conferencing of course). The dedication and collaboration of Google staffers is the envy of all other companies, maybe the environment they have created plays its part.

The Wall Street journal also ran an article this week on the trend of unassigned working spaces, while they note companies have been motivated by cost factors they too are discovering the collaboration benefits of these arrangements.

Paradoxically one of the last bastions of personal cubicles and private spaces seem to be our universities, the very places where innovation and collaboration are supposed to endemic. In the faculty I where I teach part time, each permanent staffer gets their own little lockable office (swinging a cat inside could be a challenge for lower ranking academics), there is a kitchen area and breakout area but it is sterile and uninviting and I never see anyone using it, let alone lounging near-by to chance bumping into others. To add to the sense of isolation the departments of the faculty are spread out across the campus, not only is the opportunity for mixing ‘accidentally’ with other departments in the same faculty limited, the likelihood of informal contact with other faculties is almost non-existent. Of course there are research groups and plenty of meetings but it could be so much more. This could be acceptable if it was not for the call for more cross-discipline research that is considered essential if academia is going to help solve societies biggest dilemmas and contribute positively to human well being. Perhaps re-modelling the university and redefining the meaning of ‘faculty’ would create the environment for true collaboration.

If collaboration is essential to your business, what are you doing to ensure the environment you create truly supports human interaction?

David Gwillim
Exploring the value of IT to organisations