Transforming Planning And Budgeting In 5 Minute Bites

Richard Barrett

At home I’ve got a laptop and an iPad and Steve Player’s most recent blog got me thinking about how I used them.
Transforming Planning And Budgeting In 5 Minute BitesWhen I need to do some writing or analyse some data I still automatically reach for the laptop as its full QWERTY keyboard makes it so much more productive.

But if I’m just consuming data, authorising things or making decisions, the iPad wins every time and I find I carry it with me everywhere. For those situations, it’s the iPad that is so much more productive.

It’s on all the time so there is no booting up; it automatically hooks up to the neighbourhood Wi-Fi networks and you can hold it with one hand and operate it with the other – trying doing that with a current laptop in a coffee queue!

For the moment it seems to have everything you need to make the most of those snatched 5 minutes between meetings and calls – but no doubt Apple will show me otherwise with a future release.

For me it is this ready-whenever ease of access that tablets bring that has accelerated the demand for mobility in business. If there is stuff I can deal with in five-minute bites, give it to me on a tablet and I’ll deal with it right now.

As Steve points out mobile devices such as iPads and tablets can bring benefits to planning and budgeting by making the process more effective and more efficient.

By allowing remote contributors such as sales and field-based folk to update their forecasts based on the very latest events, (such as an unanticipated change in the size of a customer’s order), forecasts can be more granular and more accurate – and operational planning folk have quicker access to the data they need for labor and supply chain planning.

If such a process includes automated variance alerting and workflow, planning and budgeting really can be the living pulse of performance management, where it belongs.


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Giving Thanks: Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility

Todd Wilms

Police block the main street leading to the Spanish parliament in Madrid, 14 Nov 2012 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

As we approach the US Thanksgiving Day and the winter holiday season, it is a natural time to reflect.

This has been intensified this year by my recent experience in Spain.  Having spent the better part of last week in Madrid for our customer conference, I was surrounded by the warmth and hospitality of my European colleagues, partners and customers, and the Spanish people.

This was set against the harsh backdrop of protests – some of them violent – and the rash of suicides caused by Spain‘s rigid foreclosure policies. Double digit unemployment is becoming more the norm across Europe and we are experiencing a mounting debt crisis here in the US.

The world needs to create over 500 million new jobs by 2020 to manage the growing unemployed, under-employed, and the new workforce of young people entering the market.  The tension caused by an inability of this half billion who cannot find work to support themselves and their families is spilling over into violence and has an indelible impact on the “conscience of the world.”

I think we would all agree that unemployment is just one part of the miasma of high-impact global issues – ranging from epidemics, clean water, food shortages, global warming, over population, human slavery and sex trafficking, and any number of other attention worthy issues.

It is, then, a fantastic time to consider what corporations are doing to solve these issues and take a leadership role in their resolution. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has now moved into the forefront of many significant global organizations as a way for the collective force and resources of a large scale company to make significant inroads to tackle these problems.

What used to be a “public relations whitewash” for many companies is now a strategic initiative.  What used to be a scatter shot approach across a multitude of worthwhile charities and causes is now a laser focused program to create considerable value.

Brittany Lothe, Global Head of CSR for SAP, thinks of it this way: “We started seeing a trend over the past 4-5 years that companies were become more strategic with their direction.  It was less about “doing well by doing good’ and more on focusing on where the business is strong and helping to create real value for society.”  This becomes the practice of “shared value.”

Instead of practicing corporate giving in isolation, organizations focus on where they can naturally make an impact.  GE was a notable first organization to think of shared value.  They rebranded with “Ecomagination” and showed that they could not only push for environmental change, but they can drive society and – through that innovation – they can drive profits.

SAP‘s Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative

SAP has realized that it needs to work collaboratively to find solutions to help the underserved youth and unemployed to compete in this new global economy. Focusing on education ensures that youth have the skills required to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy while working with emerging entrepreneurs helps to drive new ideas and business opportunities.

Lothe continues, “For our signature global initiative – the Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative – SAP will provide support to entrepreneurs and will work to strengthen entrepreneurial infrastructure in key emerging markets through access to our technology, talent and targeted grants.

These future leaders are driving businesses that have proven proof of concepts, they have the ability to scale and utilize technology to grow, and their purpose is both responsible and sustainable. We see enormous opportunity to utilize our technology, our employees’ skills and our other core competencies to create business impact, leverage core expertise and ultimately generate lasting impact on society to improve people’s lives throughout the world.”

We face a litany of serious issues around the globe. No longer can well-resourced organizations turn a blind eye to their role in addressing these issues.


Have a similar story to tell for your organization?  Connect with me on Twitter @toddmwilms or LinkedIn at any time. I will be covering this topic in 2013 and would love to hear and possibly tell your story.


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Black Friday Shopping: Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod and MacBook Black Friday Deals

Brian Rice

It’s that time of year again when the masses will be out looking for the best Black Friday deals at retailers across the country.

Once again it is expected that Apple’s line of iPads, iPhones, iPods and MacBooks will be highly sought after from Black Friday shoppers.

This year Target, Walmart and Best Buy are all offering discounts on and special offers on Apple products.  Below is a look at some of the deals you can expect to see this year.

2012 Target Black Friday Deals

  • iPad with Retina display $499.99 + Free $60 Target gift card
  • iPad 2 starting at 399.99 + free $60 Target gift card
  • iPod Touch 16GB 4th gen $195 + free $40 Target gift card
  • iPod Nano 16GB $149 + free $20 Target gift card
  • iPhone 4S for Virgin Mobile – No Contract – $499.99
  • iPhone 4 for Virgin Mobile – No Contract – $399.99

2012 Walmart Black Friday Deals

  • Apple iPad 2, 16GB with Wi-FI. Colors vary by store (white and black). Comes with $75 Walmart gift card. 1 Hour in-stock guarantee. $399 each
  • iPod Touch 4th Generation 16GB (4″ retina display, Apple A5 chip, 5 mp iSight camera with 1080p HD video recording. FaceTime camera with 1.2 mp photos and 720p HD video recording. iOS 6, Siri) $195

2012 Best Buy Black Friday Deals

  • Apple 32GB iPod Touch – 5th Generation w/ $50 Best Buy Gift Card (assorted colors) $294.99
  • iPhone 4S 16GB with 2-year AT&T, Sprint or Verizon plan – $99.99
  • 16GB iPod Touch, 4th Generation + free $50 Best Buy gift card $194.99
  • iPod Nano 16GB (assorted colors) 7th Generation + $20 BB Gift Card $144.99
  • Apple MacBook Air 13.3″ Laptop w/ Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage $1199.99 (save $175)
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13.3″ laptop w/ Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 500GB HD $1199.99 (save $165)

Where are you doing your Black Friday shopping this year?


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A Geek's Primer To Rugged Smartphone And Tablet Cases

Eric Lai

You don’t want a wimpy case for your new iPad Mini or Google Nexus 10. You want one with the most modern materials so it can take an assassin’s bullet for you.

If you’re the type of person that picked your last iPhone case because it matched your pants/eye color/belt buckle, then you can stop reading right now.

Unless, that is, you have seen the ERROR OF YOUR WAYS, having dropped your last smartphone on the street and watched in horror as the glass shattered like pond ice in spring.


Kind of like this.

While you can get cases made from wood, bamboo, metal and other more exotic materials, the vast majority are made out of plastic. The better cases always feature two layers of plastic: a hard outer one, often made out of polycarbonate, and a soft inner one (though the well-known OtterBox Defender comes with THREE layers, while the Ballistic Hard Core comes with UP TO FIVE).

I recently spoke with two experts who explained how much the plastic materials in smartphone and tablet cases have improved in the six years since the iPhone’s introduction.

One is a business manager with one of the leading suppliers of plastics to case makers such as OtterBox, Speck,  Incase and others. Because he is not authorized to speak to the media, I’m not giving his name.

The other is Jeremy Russell, director of sales for G-Form, a Providence, Rhode Island-based maker which claims its cases are more protective than others. How protective? (Click on the images below to watch the videos)



Or enable an iPhone to survive a slapshot aimed at an NHL goalie:



Plastic cases have actually come a long way. Most early cases – or their inner layers – were made with PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) that was treated to become a soft rubbery material (think pleather).

While soft PVC is reasonably protective, it is very insulating, making devices overheat and sapping their battery life. PVC also tends turn yellow when it gets too hot, says the manager.

As a result, a lot of manufacturers moved to cases that used silicone for shock absorption. Silicone’s merits include its soft feel, its resistance to UV sunlight as well as potentially-disintegrating hand lotions. The problem with silicone, at least for vendors, is that it is “very expensive” and “tedious” to manufacture, he says.

Recently, many case manufacturers have switched from silicone to a rubber-plastic hybrid called TPE, or Thermoplastic elastomer, as the inner lining. TPEs are easier to manufacture, resistant to hand oils and lotions and can be made transparent, he says. And unlike bulky foam-type materials, it can be cut to fit the mobile device precisely.

That has been the knock against the cases made by G-Form – that their cases, while protective enough to survive 100,000 foot falls from space, aren’t the sleekest on the block.

It’s less about G-Form’s design, and more that their cases are based around a special foam called PORON XRD. According to G-Form, the material stiffens upon impact in order to absorb shock.

That feature isn’t unique, says the unnamed manager, who says all polymers are, at some level, “non-Newtonian” – meaning they stiffen upon impact.

But G-Form claims it further enhances PORON XRD by blending it with other materials in a special formulation it calls Reactive Protection Technology.

“The magic is in our molding process,” G-Form’s Russell said, asserting, “We absorb 10 times more energy than other foams of the same thickness.”

That makes G-Form cases much more rugged than other cases, including OtterBox, claims Russell. Schools using G-Form cases have been able to reduce their iPad breakage rates from 20% a year to just 1-2 a year, he said.

G-Form is about to introduce a new line of $39.99 Xtreme cases for the iPhone 5 that it says offers the same level of protection but in a slimmer, more stylish package. On looks, you be the judge:


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Predictive and Proactive: Leveraging Advanced Analytics

Joseph Dennis Kelly

For centuries, humans traveled the Earth’s seas, guided only by their experience in reading the stars, the temperature, and the currents. Rarely could they anticipate the unfolding often life-and-death situations they were steering into.

Today, our ships travel the world guided by technology that scans present conditions and reads evolving water, weather, and seismic patterns. With such insight, captains can safely guide their vessels to any global destination.

Seeing Beyond Yesterday

Rarely can today’s business decision makers get the same type of insight. Rarely can they lead with the same confidence. Every day, unanticipated interruptions shake the most seemingly stable organizations. Markets rise and fall unexpectedly; supply chains break and prove unreliable; and political and economic systems are collapsing and changing our business and social landscapes.

It’s time for decision makers to stop wasting time analyzing last year’s results. This outdated data only shows yesterday’s shortfalls, gaps, and strengths. Such information fails to suggest future patterns. Leaders are left in the dark, unable to make accurate decisions and predict achievable outcomes.

Every day, more people are using mobile devices. And a larger number are relying on digital communications to carry out their daily lives. To help organizations leverage this Big Data to perform better and improve services to customers, technology innovators have developed a new generation of software analytics.

These advanced analytics solutions provide leaders with the insight to gauge the patterns driving business success. InformationWeek Executive Editor Doug Henshen explains this shift: “the old practice of following the money – using lagging financial indicators to guide a company’s decisions – [is] giving way to the forward-looking approach of following the data” (p.4).

Propelling Forward

In running advanced analytics software, organizations can see more than a simple trend analysis. They are looking beyond the structured data stored in relational and SQL databases. And they are tapping into open source-and-NoSQL data (aka Big Data) to mine exabytes of real-time tweets, status updates, and blog posts. It’s from this unstructured data that decision makers can distill the current and evolving patterns of thought and behavior affecting their customers, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, employees, and competitors. What’s these mean for organizations?

Retailers can track style trends to determine which sweaters to stock during the upcoming holidays. Car dealers can predict – using data on energy, economic, and employment news – which types of vehicles consumers will more likely want. Travel agents can see – from traditional and online media placements, magazine features, travel bloggers, and commercial development news – where customers are more likely to vacation. In fact, any organization in any industry can better understand the dynamics driving their supply, demand, and value chains. How? By supercharging their listening with the most advanced analytics software.

Charting the Depths

Why are online sales suddenly dropping? What are Facebookers and Twitterers saying about your company? How can your company become the business world’s next one-to-watch phenom? Is your organization effectively differentiating itself from its competitors? Which approaches are most effective for nurturing sustainable relationships with new customers, stakeholders, partners, and suppliers?

Advanced analytics cuts through the Web’s clutter. It reveals patterns that even the most astute researcher can easily miss. How? Advanced analytics tap into “real-time information from sensors” write Thomas H. Davenport, Paul Barth, and Randy Bean, “…at a more granular level…” And from this, the authors say, organizations better know how to “respond to changes in usage patterns as they occur.”

It is these responses which can mean the difference between a lost sale or a PR fiasco and a satisfied customer or a marketing homerun. What’s the key? Tracking customer sentiment on Twitter and market shifts worldwide. In these nuggets of data are the treasures sought. The art is looking at the patters and identifying the collapsing markets, new gaps, and emerging opportunities.

Leaders need to “embrace the viewpoint of all sectors,” says Public Squared’s Rich Tafel, “and see the bigger vision for all.” Only from this can they think differently and use this information to respond proactively. This is the crucial factor in turning a data pattern into actionable information – into strategies, tactics, and processes that enable their organization to create the disruptions which transform industries, marketplaces, and economies.

Is your company running advanced analytics? If so, what advantages has it been getting from its solutions? Has it helped leaders identify new business opportunities and make more accurate predictions? How could your analytics solutions better meet your needs?



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