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Monday, July 14, 2014

What do SMAC and RGB have in common?

According to Wikipedia: “the RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors”.
So, what do colors have to do with the latest business and technology trends: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC)?
Well, like in the RGB color model, where its primary additive colors (red, green, and blue) can be combined to reproduce other colors; the SMAC technologies - social, mobile, analytics, and cloud - when combined can produce business value beyond the “primary value” inherent to a single SMAC technology.

Primary value of Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud

Social, mobile, analytics, and cloud definitions vary and so could the definitions of what their primary values are. These are some SMAC primary values I regularly come across:
  • Social: a collection of user generated data which can describe the user. A generalized user profile: preferences (likes), “people like me” (connections), recommendations (convincing power – word of mouth)
  • Mobile: beyond ubiquitous user access, mobile can provide real-time information which can be used to describe the user context (device, location, time of day, etc.). The device can also be used to assert user identity (e.g. in a three-factor authentication: something you know, something you have, something you are). Please note that the concept of mobile is being generalized by the Internet of Things (aka, ubiquitous or pervasive computing) and wearables.
  • Analytics: the capability of amassing a never ending (big data) collection of all events and data related to interests of self, friends, and “people like me”; cross-referencing it all to identify (previously hidden) interesting and actionable patterns.
  • Cloud: the capability to provide infinite (scalable) and uninterrupted (redundant and reliable) capacity. It is about the "ilities". There is also the aspect of integrating (e.g. with iPaaS) personal and enterprise services from public, private, and hybrid clouds.

The full value of SMAC

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ― Aristotle
So, how can an organization tap into the full value of SMAC? By extending the "primary value" of one or more SMAC components to empower the others, creating "combined values". Here are examples of possible combined values:
  • Social empowered by:
    • Mobile: enriched user experience based on user context (device, location, time of day, etc.) and external factors (events nearby, friends, planned activities, promotions).
    • Analytics: suggestions based on previous experiences from self, friends, and “people like me”.
    • Cloud: ability to seamlessly integrate access to personal (public cloud) and enterprise (private cloud) realms to derive value (interesting outcomes).
  • Mobile (IoT) empowered by:
    • Social: ability to adjust (IoT) behavior based on those of similar/followed individual/interests.
    • Analytics: learn and improve (IoT) behavior overtime, based on historical data, and upcoming events (e.g. weather, schedule, etc.).
    • Cloud: ability to integrate and automate a user's IoT devices by harnessing cloud resources.
  • Analytics empowered by:
    • Social: enrich decision and predictive processes by adding social data (likes, behaviors, etc.).
    • Mobile: make decisions/suggestions based on the user's “IoT footprint” (devices).
    • Cloud: pervasive analytics capability available to individuals as well as organizations.
  • Cloud empowered by:
    • Social: ability to detect viral behavior and scale resources ahead of time, avoiding service degradation.
    • Mobile: minimize costs by re-deploying assets to match a constantly changing geographic user (IoT) footprint/profile.
    • Analytics: ability to scale and minimize costs based on historical and predictive data.
What do social, mobile, analytics, and/or cloud mean to you? Do you agree with the primary values proposed? And which combined values might come to fruition in your opinion? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia; Post updated July/6/2014)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Continuous Improvement or Fail Fast? You decide!

This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

The article from Jim Belosic (CEO of ShortStack) had me considering how many times people get paralyzed by past failures. While entrepreneurs are forewarned of the danger (and sometimes likelihood) of failure, fear of failure is a challenge for all people and we all should reflect on which risks to take, how to mitigate them, and seek to learn from the outcome. It is about reframing the fear of failure into risk taking as a learning opportunity.

Prepare yourself to learn from your journey

I agree with Rob Shelton (global innovation chief of PwC), when a more scientific approach is used, learning takes center stage.

It's about having a hypothesis, and testing it, if the results don't match your hypothesis, you've got data. If the results do match your hypothesis, then you have a discovery. - Rob Shelton

Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and business leaders might use business plans to capture their hypothesis, others might use project plans. No matter which tools your situation favors, be sure to document your hypothesis.

Every time actual results invalidate your hypothesis, analyze the data to update your hypothesis. Remember, being right is not the goal, learning from this reflection process is. And applying the learning to update your hypothesis will ensure a continued learning experience.

As practical, identify “early warnings” to help you spot invalid hypothesis as early as possible, and in time for a course correction to affect the outcome. For example, while an annual plan is good, intermediate (quarterly or monthly) goals can identify shortcomings early, allowing you to update your hypothesis in time to still meet a meaningful annual goal.

Finally, it is important for you to care for your health and well-being at all times. This will prove particularly useful as the number of hypotheses reviews (pivots) mount.

Test your hypothesis

A key to success is to be diligent when testing your hypothesis. One way this can be accomplished: pre-schedule regular hypothesis review sessions and commit to them. An impartial advisor might help keep perspective, avoiding blind spots and denial from those personally invested in proving the hypothesis.

As you gain more insight into the hypothesis, you may be able to spot key performance indicators, which could prove useful to measuring progress.

Revising a hypothesis (or pivoting in entrepreneur terms) could happen either because the current hypothesis was proven invalid or even because a better and more powerful hypothesis can be formulated, based on the insight and data gathered during the hypothesis testing.

Learn from your journey

As soon as a more powerful hypothesis is identified by analyzing the data gathered, take the time to reflect:
  • How would it have been possible to identify this more powerful hypothesis earlier in the process? Which “early warnings” should have been in place?
  • Is this the most powerful hypothesis you can identify at this point in time?

Writing down your findings and/or sharing them with others is a great way to make sure this experience is internalized and becomes an intrinsic part of your life experience.

And please note than a culture of “fail fast” should not promote or expect failure. Rather, it should aim to succeed by mitigating risks to the best of one’s abilities, incorporating learning from eventual failures to the point where finding the path to success becomes second nature.

How comfortable are you with risk taking? Are you wired to succeed? How do you learn from your past experiences? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of Naypong -; Post updated Apr/22/2014)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Corporate Innovation in a Numbers Driven World

This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

In his Forbes article, Neil Howe suggests that the shared leadership of Boomers and Gen Xers is a key driver behind the current risk-aversion behavior we see in the corporate environment.

This risk-aversion further challenges corporate entrepreneurs (aka intrapreneurs), and the execution of innovation driven projects, especially disruptive innovation ones. Here are some suggestions on how you can win support from your Gen Xer leadership and even engage millennials, who are eager to innovate and become intrapreneurs!

Be Numbers Driven Yourself

Revenue and profitability are key numbers for most customer facing projects. So start by figuring out how much revenue and profit your innovation project may bring.

It is much easier to convince a numbers driven leadership to invest in an innovation project, once there is a “proven customer demand”. Customer demand can be proven either through traditional means (e.g. market research, customer interviews, etc.) or by using corporate crowdfunding.

Regardless of the chosen approach to prove customer demand, remember that revenue data linked to customers opportunities is much more powerful than market size data. As such, a traditional sales funnel of sorts, or a pre-order list from a crowdfunding campaign are great ways to collect revenue data.

On the profitability side of things, focus on keeping costs down. Determining a minimum feature set, and then scaling up in phases is a great way to minimize costs, and increase profit margins throughout all phases of your project.

Identify your Minimum Viable Product

The term “minimum viable product” or MVP (Wikipedia) can be defined as
that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
If a few customers can fund your innovation project, you may opt for offering it as a customized solution to be sold to a couple customers (or even a single one). On the other hand, if a high number of customers is required to fund your innovation project, you may do better with a corporate crowdfunding approach.

Keeping costs down during this initial phase will increase your likelihood of fully funding your project with the customers identified, then your numbers challenge will be reduced to proving profitability. Lower costs can be accomplished by using 3D printing for rapid prototyping (Wikipedia) of hardware components and public cloud (Wikipedia) for deployment of software components.

The project focus during this initial phase is to validate the market demand and customer needs. Scalability is not yet a concern, as the solution is not available for the general public but just a few customers.

For continued success, it is critical to use this initial phase to identify potential future customers. If you used a crowdfunding approach, you may want to keep the campaign open, so you continue to gather customer interest. For a customized solution, you definitely want to get the word out to other potential customers and build a sales funnel.

Scaling up to serve a larger audience

Once your customer interest has been validated and you understand the customer needs, it is now time to make your ground breaking solution available to the masses, building scalability into the process. In the numbers game, this phase is all about growing revenue and/or improving profit margins over time.

Get started by leveraging the customer interest gathered in the previous phase. Here is where keeping your crowdfunding campaign open could really pay off, if potential customers continue to express interest, and commit money, as your existing customers start to spread the word about their results.

It is always best to continue to serve your customers without disruption. Look for ways to gradually and smoothly transition from the 3D rapid prototyping and public cloud deployment to a more cost effective and scalable approach. This will also allow you to bring cost efficiencies and revenue growth into your project, allowing numbers to gradually improve over time.

Can these suggestions help you “sell” your innovation project to a numbers driven leadership? Is the corporate crowdfunding or traditional approach a better fit for you? Did you use a different approach to “sell” your innovation project? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view, and please let me know about your innovation project. If there is enough interest, I will look into internal facing and social innovation projects in a future post. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of bplanet -; Post updated June/9/2014)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Drive Corporate Innovation with Crowdfunding

This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

I have been tinkering with the concept of using crowdfunding to drive corporate innovation and I believe it can be done. While companies like IBM are experimenting with an internally focused corporate crowdfunding approach (HBR, Time), I believe a customer focused corporate crowdfunding approach can deliver far more value. So, let me share with you how you can unlock this value in your organization.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

In the article from Henry Chesbrough, he explains that: "You have to fight – and win – on two fronts (both outside and inside), in order to succeed in corporate venturing". This internal and external duality is a natural way to describe the corporate entrepreneurship challenge, and it is complementary to Peter F. Drucker's five simple questions (Amazon):
"What is the mission?
 What are our results?
 What is our plan?
 Who is the customer?
 What does the customer value?"
Please note that in the context of Henry Chesbrough's article, corporate venturing refers to: "new ventures inside a company", also known as intrapreneurship or corporate entrepreneurship (Wikipedia).

Borrowing a page from the startup play book

For a startup, crowdfunding (Wikipedia) can deliver the following advantages (Fundable, MDDIonline):
  • Funding: reduce the financial risk
  • Market validation: will people buy it?
  • Networking: identify potential investors
  • Free publicity: potential media coverage
  • Fail quickly: avoid "backing the wrong horse", and learn in the process
Now, let us explore how these points should translate to the corporate (or enterprise) crowdfunding world.

Winning the war in the external front

The war in the external front is won by addressing the following Peter F. Drucker's questions:
"Who is the customer?
  What does the customer value?"
And so, corporate crowdfunding should:
  • Stack up projects against each other to gauge customer interests, needs, and desires of a much broader audience.
  • Validate the market for innovative projects, and identify potential customers, before any significant investment is made.
For more information about current market research practices and resources, check this Inc article.

Winning the war in the internal front

The war in the internal front is won by addressing the following Peter F. Drucker's questions:
"What are our results?
  What is our plan?"
And so, corporate crowdfunding should:
  • Collect enough field data to prepare or fine-tune a business plan, setting more accurate expectations of project results.
  • Identify sufficiently motivated customers to "share" the project cost, thus reducing the project risk early on.
  • Gather data to prioritize projects, allowing the organization to focus on those projects more likely to appeal to the broader customer base.
  • Lead to a better understanding of the customer needs, helping identify critical cross-functional resources early on.
For more information about challenges associated with innovation within corporations, check this WSJ article or @InnovateWithin.

Success depends on flawless execution

Due to the very public nature of a crowdfunding effort, those looking to implement corporate crowdfunding should avoid:
  • Intellectual property exposure: consider engaging your legal team and filling the necessary patents up-front.
  • PR backlash: failure to deliver on such public commitments is likely to lead to a very negative press and social media repercussion (check this previous article for examples)
  • "Too much customer focus": what would have been the customer feedback if five years ago Amazon had asked their customers about possible interest to buy cloud based services? So, it is important to use the corporate crowdfunding data to complement your strategic planning, rather than replace it. Specially when pursuing disruptive innovation and opportunities to break into new customer segments.
While this approach can be used for both B2C and B2B scenarios, B2B corporate crowdfunding should address specific needs, which I will cover in a future article.

What is your take? Can corporate crowdfunding fuel corporate innovation? Are current market research processes able to address these new trends? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Leadership: attract & retain millennials or fail!

This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally published on LinkedIn.

Over the next decade, many organizations are at risk as they fail to attract and retain the very professionals necessary to keep them "alive".

Here is why

The workforce is changing:
"By 2025, millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce and by next year (2014), they will account for 36% of the American workforce." (Forbes)
"Millennials want to work for organizations that support innovation. In fact, 78 percent of Millennials are influenced by how innovative a company is when deciding if they want to work there, but most say their current employer does not greatly encourage them to think creatively." (Deloitte Millennial Survey)
So organizations will need to find ways to bridge any existing gaps with millennials, as those unable to cater to this millennial desire to innovate will struggle to attract and retain millennials, and may be unable to secure their own existence.

The enemy within

For years, a lot has been said about the inability of large organizations to innovate. In a recent article, Steve Blank, states "Every large company, ... is executing a proven business model". So, it should come as no surprise when large companies "... have a hard time with continuous and disruptive innovation.", continues Blank (Inc.). Does it sound familiar to you?

Still, organizations like 3M, and Google are widely recognized for their effort to promote innovation from within, also known as intrapreneurship, or corporate entrepreneurship (Wikipedia).

So, could intrapreneurship be just the tool to attract and retains millennials, and solve this conundrum? I say at the very least, it is worth educating yourself about it, after all, the future of your organization might be at stake.

Intrapreneurship 101

Although with a significantly smaller media coverage than its counterpart entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship reference material has been around for decades, and is still being created and fine-tuned as we speak. Here are two recently released books on the topic:
If your organization would rather focus on the greater good, social intrapreneurship (Wikipedia) might be a better fit. In this case, The League of Intrapreneurs is a great starting point for you. In particular, their Cubicle Warriors Toolkit, is a great resource which can be used to guide your own social intrapreneurs.

And finally, for curated articles on intrapreneurship and related topics, feel free to join us at Innovate Within (@InnovateWithin), where our goal is to keep novices and experienced intrapreneurs alike up-to-date on the latest information about intrapreneurship, and uncover areas where intrapreneurship concepts may be worth exploring within your organization.

The healthy intrapreneurship "side effect"

Once your intrapreneurship program is underway, engage millennials and gather their feedback. And make sure to measure the program impact on employee retention. Including questions about the program on your regular employee surveys and exit surveys is a great way to track progress, and fine-tune the program.

It could also be of interest to track other business results, after all, a well oiled intrapreneurship program should increase your ability to create value from within and improve your organization social accomplishments and bottom line.
What is your take? How is your organizations attracting and retaining millennials? Do you have experience with intrapreneurship programs? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.