Update your Operating System

On June 11th 2013, Apple unveiled the next version of iOS – the Apple device operating Imagesystem. The new system will update the current device functionality and enable new services. What about your business operating system? Have you been thinking about updating how your business operates to improve your functionality, improve quality, and enable new services?

Your company is just like Apple.  The market moves ahead and your customers are always expecting more. Your customers’ needs change, competition changes and the way you operate needs to adjust along with them.

Find out what customers are expecting and how well you measure up:

  • Implement a metrics driven review of customer needs. Track Net Promoter Score and benchmark your company’s performance.
  • Understand what’s new in the market. Talk to your customers about the way they would like to do business with you.
  • Look closely: what are your customers are collectively saying and note any patterns or trends.

Uncover sources of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction inside your organization:

  • Optimize processes to determine the most efficient workflow, reducing wasted time and resources.
  • Define the key operational process metrics that lead to customer satisfaction, such as on-time delivery, back-orders, or returns.
  • Determine the cost of quality in your organization. Find ways to eliminate double- or triple-checking of a single step in the process.

Keep up with the times and remember to continuously innovate:

  • Innovate your business processes from supply chain to ordering to customer delivery. Make use of mobile technologies and automation to streamline the information flow and get real-time updates.
  • Create new services to improve your connection to the customer, create repeat business, and generate new revenue streams.
  • Need ideas? Read the article 3 Ways Mid-Market Companies Can Innovate

Updating the way you do business is just another way to take care of your customers, employees and yourself. Think back to when you started the company, or took over as the CEO, COO or CFO – you wanted to leave your mark on the company by making things better, and changing the status quo. It’s time to do it again!

DataKey Difference: Our passion is helping our clients accelerate their financial and business objectives. Our goal is to give you the tools for lasting and self-sustaining advancement. Over the last 10 years, DataKey has successfully completed hundreds of projects across 30+ different industries for mid-market and Fortune 1000 companies. As a measure of client satisfaction, over 90% of our clients reengage on multiple projects. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and see how we can help your business thrive.

Is there a Social Media Bubble?

Social Media BubbleSocial media represents the real world network we all desire but prefer to access from the comfort of our couch, desk, or coffee shop. We can effectively ‘keep in touch’ with many more people at one time than if we were to plan coffee, lunches, dinners and phone calls. The old standard email among friends has diminished. Instead, we say, “Didn’t you see my Facebook post?” For individuals, social networking is a big win. What about for business? Does social media efficiently help businesses grow revenues, reduce expenses, and build a brand? The answer: it depends.

Social media is a powerful tool as part of an overall strategy and aligns well with organizational functions such as customer service, HR, marketing, and sales. DataKey consults with CEOs and leaders of mid-market companies in dozens of industries who are primarily concerned with business growth. Organizations that identify a target market, define their customer needs and fine-tune content to build engagement use social media more effectively than those without a well-defined marketing strategy.

Social media is often more useful in B2C organizations for lead generation, voice of the market / customer and customer support. According to Nielsen[1], there’s a 92% trust level with a recommendation from a friend, vs. only a 29% trust level from the advertiser itself. Social media has enabled a more informed consumer who now gathers third-party reviews, references and ratings before visiting your website or making a purchase. Once a customer (or potential customer) follows your company on social media, they are more much likely to make a purchase. According to one study[2], “64% of Twitter users and 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online.”

Case in point: Pretzel Crisps[3]. They launched a $1.00 coupon on their Facebook page. Within 36 hours, their fan base grew from 5,000 to 12,000. So, they launched another coupon – Buy One, Get One Free. Only this time, they didn’t tell their fans. No matter – fans found out on their own and the “letting you in on a secret” factor had a viral effect that exploded the fanbase from 14,000 to 29,000.  Now it’s at over 250,000. But fans just tell one side of the story.  The redemption rate for the fist coupon was 87%; the redemption rate for the second was 95%, and annual sales increased 93%.

The case is not as clear for social media for B2B business development and sales. We did a poll of 25 mid-sized B2B business owners and found that none of them are using social media as a major component of their business development strategy. In some cases, it is gaining traction where digital natives are the organizational buyers and leaders. Yet, business leaders are constantly being bombarded with messaging about “getting social” and the new “integrated marketing.” Perhaps we are experiencing a social media bubble where it is hyped to the point of not being realistic. Where is the ROI?

There is a big downside and RISK in ignoring social media – it’s ever-evolving, businesses are constantly innovating new ways to use it, and the last thing you want to do is fall behind. Undoubtedly, the value to all companies in any industry will only continue to grow over time. So even if you’re one of those B2B companies that doesn’t see the value today, it’s essential to keep your eye on social media trends and be ready to invest when you can gain an advantage.  Any well-developed marketing strategy must include a comprehensive social media plan – even if that plan is to watch and wait – now and in the future.

DataKey Difference: Anticipating ever-changing demands in the marketplace has never been more critical, especially when the competition is only a mouse-click away. To make data-driven management decisions, it is essential to fully understand the market, prospects and customers. DataKey will bring knowledge, experience and best practices to your door and translate them into techniques that will create results for your company. DataKey is accountable for recommendations and implementation. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

Build Competitive Advantage – Trend Advantage Part 3

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Clarifying a vision of the future is intended to ignite the creative minds of your R&D engineers, marketing and new product development teams. Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the third in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

You will want to encourage the ideation process by helping your team to find the gaps from where your company is today and put the plans in place to create the vision you describe. A structure for your idea will help to focus the brainstorming – and ultimately selection – process for specific projects that represent the best business opportunities.

Initial Brainstorm

Bring your creative thought leaders together into a room and review the vision for the future in all the areas that apply to your business. Review and discuss the vision so that each person has a good understanding of the mega trends and the rationale that drives the vision. The objective of the brainstorming activity is to ultimately design near-term actions that will allow the company to take advantage of the vast change that is inevitable. This goal is often achieved over a series of workshops mixed with additional research, formation of sub-teams, and team expansion.

Evaluate Ideas

After your initial investigation, you may have multiple topic areas to explore further. Brainstorming and planning begins with the future market needs.  Focus on the mega trends and vision in each topic area and complete the grid below to help you determine which ideas are most viable. An example based on automobile connectivity and infotainment is provided in the table below.

Automobile Connectivity and Infotainment
What is important in the
Market in 2015 – 2020?
Ÿ Drivers are distracted in the car, not safeŸ
Gen Y Drivers want always-on connectivityŸ
Passengers want access to entertainment, like at home
Business and Technology Challenges Ÿ Cars are not connected to the internetŸ
Few automotive manufactures have adopted service models like the ones we typically offer
Laws / Rules / Standards
/ Expected Behavior
Ÿ Upcoming laws for electric vehicle efficiencyŸ
Expectations for driver safety and control
Competition (Who / What) Ÿ Other automotive suppliersŸ Google, Amazon, Apple, entertainment services
Strategic Alignment and Opportunity Ÿ Aligned with growth strategy in Automotive marketŸ
Aligned with growth strategy in services
New Business, R&D Topics Ÿ Infotainment services for automotive passengers delivered via the internet

In-Depth Exploration

In the above example, the team has successfully narrowed the market vision to the new business or R&D topic “infotainment services for automotive passengers delivered via the internet.” Once that is accomplished, they can then shift the focus to the traditional business planning using PEST, eScan, SWOT and business strategy tools for further refinement and planning.  The business planning may include a look at the industry focusing on topics such as:

  • Current State and Projected Industry Outlook
  • Major Challenges/Threats
  • Regulatory / Political Impact on Industry
  • Current Consumer Trends
  • Current Technology Trends
  • Emerging New Products / Leading Companies
  • Ecosystem: Potential Partnerships / Alliances.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Imagine the Future – Trend Advantage Part 2

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Understanding mega trends and their potential for strategic change in your company is critical to long term survival and profits. Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the second in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

Once you have identified the mega trend impacts, validated your assessment of those impacts, and positioned yourself to take advantage of the oncoming wave of change, it is time to inspire others around you to see the future the same way. While it’s tempting to look at market share, CAGR, ROI and other business case metrics, the unfortunate fact is that the numbers are all SWAGs about the future that cannot be gathered or confirmed. In some cases, the market is so new that a business case would not provide sufficient investment justification.

So what can you do to get your company on board? You are not promising immediate payback; instead, you are asking the company leaders to position the company for a longer term survival and profits.  To be successful, you’ll need to create a vision of the future that’s compelling – it must be believable, rational and, most importantly, inspiring. Keep in mind that the vision needs to satisfy the needs of the audience at almost every decision level, from the Board of Directors and top management to the leaders that manage the resources working on the new projects – perhaps in R&D, the CTO office, Product Innovation Labs or New Product Development.

To successfully reach all these groups, the idea needs to be visual and conceptual while still appealing to the power of data-driven decision making. You may need to create a vision in multiple areas depending on the scope of your business. Mock-up diagrams, use cases, and supporting data about the trend are all essential tools for making an effective and cohesive case for your vision.

Below is one example of the future of automobile connectivity and infotainment. It is easy to imagine that all of these elements that exist in a different form today could be put together and integrated into the environment of the car for safety, driver information, multi-purpose analytics and entertainment. With the vision clarified, it’s easy for top management to sign-off on the project. Your creative R&D engineers, marketing and new product development teams can begin the process of ideation, find the gaps from where your company is today, and put the plans in place to create the vision you describe.

Example of How Mega Trends Spark Innovation

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Mega Trend Strategy – Trend Advantage Part 1

Introducing DataKey’s Trend Advantage article series – learn how to recognize and capitalize on marketplace trends to accelerate your business!  [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3]

Companies that act now to analyze future mega trends are able build competitive advantage. Trend Advantage is a repeatable, reliable process to assess mega trends that are just starting to build today, and to design actions so that your company can profit over the long term. The entire process is based on three steps as shown below. This is the first in a series of articles that explains the steps in greater detail.

Turning Marketplace Trends Into Competitive Innovation

A mega trend is defined as a gathering of changes, changes which are slow to form but nearly impossible to reverse. Mega trends significantly influence the direction of the future with far and wide reaching impact on society and business alike. In 2010, Frost and Sullivan described dozens of high-impact mega trends[1]  that covered all areas of life and all geographies of the world.

While the timing of the business impact for your company may not be imminent, these mega trends cannot be ignored. Business strategists, general managers and R&D leaders that attend to the mega trends will create near-term actions to take advantage of the vast change that is inevitable, and that can carry a thriving and profitable company into the future.

Social media is a good example of a mega trend that has come upon us recently. It started small with Web 2.0 and built up over time to see mass adoption through companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Pinterest. In the early days of social media when MySpace was dominant, the idea of social networking didn’t move far beyond the college campus. Today, companies are scrambling to take advantage of social media as a new avenue for customer engagement and to buffer competitors who seek to erode customer loyalty.

Now is the time to identify the next trends, those that are just starting to gain steam and that will change your business in the near future.  The question to ask is, “Which trends are out there that are most likely to impact my business? And, how do I identify them?”

1. Assess Impact Potential

Consider the business you are in right now. Compare your business to the Frost and Sullivan mega trends to see if there is a positive, neutral or negative impact. For example, “Smart” is the next evolution after “Green.” According to the Smart mega trend, devices will have embedded sensors and processors which can handle the basic processing of environmental information. Imagine that your home heating and cooling system automatically deciding if the A/C or heat should be on based on the temperature inside and outside of the house.  How could your business be changed with this kind of sensor technology?

2. Validate the Trend

Second, gather additional validation of the mega trends that you believe will have an impact. Research the technology, investment and demographic changes that are fueling the trend. Are all of these factors logically supporting the trends? If so, that’s a clear indicator that this trend may be worth investing in.  For example, in 2020, today’s Gen Y will be between 24 and 36 years old. They are the future corporate managers, business owners and purchasers. They are social, have a preference for video, and expect 24/7 internet connectivity. How well will your business serve their needs?

3. Focus & Gather Resources

Third, narrow your focus to the mega trends where your business could benefit most by a change in products or business model. Identify companies already working in this area and how your company can leverage their knowledge, products or services. Similarly, identify individuals in these companies and find ways to enter into their network so that you can become knowledgeable as well.

Understanding mega trends and their potential for strategic change in your company is critical to long term survival and profits. Take action today to start to identify mega trend impacts, validate your assessment of those impacts, and position your company to take advantage of the oncoming wave of change.

MegaTrends Word Cloud

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation. Generate inspiration towards a profitable and sustainable future for your company.  Don’t let mega trends catch you unprepared.  DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create effective strategies to interpret and evaluate mega trends, specifically tailored to your company’s industry, products and services. With DataKey as part of your team, take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start building towards your potential today.

Ready to learn more?  Read the rest of the series [Part 1] | [Part 2] | [Part 3] or contact DataKey today!

Delivering Despite Complexity

The company has big plans. You have an obligation to delivery results because you are part of the leadership team. In order to get an enterprise-wide project completed by the end of the year, you need a project team. The project is complex, so you assemble a cross-functional team to achieve the results. A team leader or project manager is appointed, and you think to yourself, “Good, this is all set and ready to go.” Then a few weeks or months down the road, you look up and find that the project is not running smoothly, the team is spinning their wheels and the results that you promised are now at risk.

You start searching for answers that are just not there. So you jump in to the detail, trying to understand how to get the project back on track. As a leader of an organization, you really don’t have the time to spend on the tactical project management. You want to avoid disrupting the team but now you know you need a great project manager to get the job done. You need to know the attributes of exactly the right person.

An enterprise-level Project Manager ensures success by:

  • Envisioning what it takes to achieve the end results.
  • Involving the team members to create a project plan that includes more detailed tactical planning, key activities, and milestones including report out events.
  • Identifying lead times and dependencies to ensure efficient workflow.
  • Identifying the milestones that are on the critical path.
  • Proactively assessing the risk of achieving the milestones, and recruiting the necessary help to mitigate risk.
  • Issuing highly organized communication to support the team and ensure progress.
  • Maintaining living documents that retain action items, highlight upcoming milestones and proactively address risks in the project execution.
  • Leveraging the senior leadership or project sponsor to remove obstacles or roadblocks, including funding or resource challenges.
  • Being knowledgeable about each area of the project but holding the team accountable to their part of the overall plan instead of “taking over” the individual tasks.
  • Holding effective team meetings and providing meaningful updates to the senior leaders of the organization.

A great project manager takes the stress out of a large and complex project. With a lot of moving parts, the project manager is the conductor that makes the noise sound like a musical masterpiece. The music to your ears at the end of the project is achieving the desired results, on time and on budget.

DataKey Difference: Strengthens and energizes client organizations by becoming part of the team to accelerate key initiatives.  DataKey is accountable for recommendations and implementation. Without corporate politics getting in the way, clients trust DataKey for unbiased input, advancement and realistic change. We bring the tools and know-how to you to ensure lasting, self-sustainable advancement for your company. DataKey loves to jump in with your team, run with you, and drive results! If you have a big project on the drawing board – or in progress – that needs project management guidance, contact us today for an initial consultation.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Getting Out the Gate: Driving Internal Change

 Inertia is a difficult force to overcome. Driving internal change is dependent on a company’s ability to mobilize behind an objective, make continual progress, and see the project through to the end. And no one person can enact change on their own; to truly be successful, change must have support throughout the entire organization. Almost every company has struggled with internal change. Even with a brilliant strategy and enthusiastic leadership, all too often those leaders will find themselves in the frustrating position of being within sight of the finish line but unable to reach it. This is rarely due to shortcomings of individuals or of the plan itself, but rather due to the nature of the beast. Change is hard.

Typically, the leadership of a company has a clear picture of where the business needs to be in a certain timeframe. Grow this division to $500M in revenues in 5 years, or double the volume growth rate of a particular product line by next fiscal year. With a goal in mind, the management team sets to devising a plan to reach that goal, or maybe brings in an outside consultant to provide unbiased expertise. A plan is wrought, everyone seems to be on board, but soon it’s apparent that something’s not working. Progress reaches a plateau and won’t budge for weeks. Meetings are spent rehashing the same old issues instead of focusing on what’s next. Before long, the project is abandoned and it’s back to the drawing table. What went wrong?

Unsuccessful internal change is generally the result of a variety of factors which compound to prevent real change from ever getting out of the gate. Change requires organization, planning, socialization, flexibility, and dedication. It requires an understanding that it’s not going to be easy, and that there may be bumps along the way. It requires accountability, tracking, risk management, and good old fashioned hard work. Most of all, change requires confidence.

Everyone involved must believe that they, as individuals and as a team, have the ability to push through difficult or uncomfortable situations in order to reach a common goal.

To drive successful change throughout your organization:

  • Start with a comprehensive plan. Detailed, measureable, achievable goals are great, but also consider risks and countermeasures to anticipate and resolve problems before they happen. Do you foresee clashes in the personalities involved or opposition to tinkering with long-standing processes? The more you are prepared for in advance, the easier it will be to address issues as they surface.
  • Set your team up for success with the right tools to assign responsibility and track progress against goals. Goals should have clear ownership by individuals. Regular status meetings give everyone the chance to share successes and will keep each team member accountable for delivering on time.
  • Before implementing a plan, socialize it with all of the key stakeholders. Make sure that everyone the plan depends on is bought in, from the top of the management chain all the way to the mail room. Even an entry-level employee can undermine a major initiative if there is not broad support and dedication established.
  • Make it a priority. Management needs to be vocal about why this initiative is important and how it will benefit everyone within the company, and also needs to solicit (and react to) feedback. Employees must have confidence that the project is supported by the people at the top, and that those people will do what it takes to make sure it’s successful, even if it means taking constructive criticism.
  • Always be looking to improve. Once the process is complete, reflect back on which aspects were successful, which weren’t, and why. Document this learning and be sure to incorporate the lessons from this project into the next.

DataKey Difference: Strengthens and energizes client organizations by becoming part of the team to accelerate key initiatives.  Sometimes change requires an outside catalyst to really make it stick. DataKey integrates unbiased leadership and world-class expertise directly into your team to get the results you need fast. With proven tools, dedicated capacity, and best practice experience, DataKey can help your team hit the ground running.

Download a PDF version of this article here.