World Cup Blues

James Marland

A Sao Paolo construction worker was recently asked if they would have the stadium ready for Kick-off on June 12th, 2014. As he surveyed the scaffolding and general chaos, he asked Sao Paolo Stadium“Morning or Afternoon?”.

Infrastructure projects such as the Olympics or World Cup are even more complex than the usual fare of airport or high-speed rail construction because of the inability to flex the delivery date. No supply chain mix-up was going to delay the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Construction projects which ran into difficulty range from the sublime to the ridiculous. The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona remains unfinished after 130 years but still looks striking, with its cranes. At the other end of the scale, Edinburgh Tram is five years late, and is currently running at three times the cost and only one-third of the route will be built.

In the procurement world, engineering and construction projects remain one of the most challenging. But it may be time for the networked economy to finally be able to solve some of these problems.

Managing subcontractors

Business networks can create a shared workspace for all of the documents associated with the project (drawings, plans, certificates, etc.). Now, for sure, this can be done with Dropbox or Google Drive, but the advantage of a business network is that it can also include living documents such as RFPs, quotes, contracts, orders, call-offs and invoices.

Efficient management of tenders

In construction projects, there are often competing goals which must be carefully managed. These types of projects will have some very large contracts which need to have a high amount of rigour. Cloud-based solutions give the opportunity to provide a high degree of transparency, and also satisfy the need to publish RFPs in a public “journal.”

However, an even more critical need is the ability to find suppliers from a wide pool. For these types of projects (such as the Olympics and the World Cup), there is huge pressure on the organizing committee to place orders with local firms. This can be very challenging for the contractors, who typically have their own lists of preferred suppliers.

Finding competitive local suppliers, which the contractor feels comfortable using, is exactly what a business network is good for. By plugging the contractors into a network of suppliers, the commissioning body can allow small, local businesses to get a piece of the action.

Dealing with the unexpected

This comes down to managing supplier risk. A business network should have the ability to give different phases of the project a risk profile, which should include not just the contractors, but their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers. To some extents this is a crowd-sourcing problem, and can be solved with a mixture of supplier ratings (somewhat like TripAdvisor), sentiment analysis (applying Big Data analytics to unstructured data of news feeds, wire services, and even Twitter), and predictive analytics on data such as delivery reliability.

Similar doom and gloom was expressed about the Greeks in 2004 (and that is in fact where I recycled that opening joke from). I went to those Olympics, and everything looked great to me.

Will the World Cup infrastructure be ready? In football, never bet against Brazil.


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We Need Them More Than They Need Us

The Talent Project Blog

As we look ahead we know we’re running short on talent. This is why Gen Y is already driving significant changes to the workforce. Unfortunately, we need them more than they need us and this fact is forcing managers to redefine many aspects of work and workplaces. Watch this clip to find out what’s really important to Gen Y’s in the workplace.

Watch the clip now.


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Appreciating Hard Work: 4 Entrepreneurship Lessons from Trek Bicycle’s CEO

Tien Anh Nguyen

I really enjoyed reading a recent blog post featured in the “Boss” section of New York Times by john-burke-trek-e1378332681160-300x300John Burke, CEO and President of Trek Bicycle. Trek Bicycle has been a veritable success story over its 30-year-plus history, rising from a five person company building specialty bikes with hand-brazed frames for enthusiasts, and riding hard through not only many economic growth and recession cycles, but through the decline of the cycling in the US to its recent revival as a commuter transport and as a leisurely sport.

The blog post is a short read, but I took away some very interesting lessons that I think apply very well to the challenges of growing software companies and are worthwhile for anyone who works in startups or is thinking about breaking into the entrepreneurial world.

1) Make the best of the task

Burke writes about appreciating the value of “hard work and making lemonade out of lemons.” For any career, any position, or any venture there must always be a starting point – and starting points always demand hard work and perseverance. If you want to be successful in entrepreneurial ventures those are essential qualities to cultivate.

2) To make the right decision for your company and your product, you need to be as close as possible to your customers

“You don’t find out a lot when things are going well or if you sit in an office all day,” Burke says. This is a timeless advice – it is what we constantly try to do with our portfolio companies, regardless of their developmental stage.

3) Nothing is more important for a business than making customers happy

Burke mentions the efforts he put in place to improve ship time and returns processing time, which dramatically improved customer satisfaction. In OpenView’s world, this is the equivalent of enforcing a better service level for SaaS companies, as explained by our founder Scott Maxwell.

4) Build a product that you truly believe in and love

Trek Bicycles wins the hearts of customers worldwide because the company has always promoted quality, design, and innovation for superior products instead of reducing costs or outsourcing production elsewhere.

Schwinn: A contrasting cautionary tale

Nothing can be more contrasting than the fortunes of Trek and Schwinn, the once-venerable American bicycle brand that has not weathered changes nearly as well. The company lost its way even as it was enjoying years of profits and the undisputed position as the top bicycle brand. While Trek was growing and learning to be agile and make better products, Schwinn experimented with low-cost outsourcing, neglected innovations, and failed to connect with customers. Ultimately, it went bankrupt and never recovered.

What lessons have you learned in your own entrepreneurial endeavors?


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Wells Fargo Deploys Standards Across Global Operations

Tom Groenfeldt

Wells Fargo takes a different approach to global operations from many of the other banks global operations of Wells Fargoparticipating at the SWIFT Sibos conference in Dubai this month.

Unlike HSBC which ran an advertising campaign declaring it is “the world’s local bank,” Wells Fargo might toy with a line like “The global bank for American corporations.”

While many other US banks have grown from the bottom up through acquisitions and have acquired local market infrastructures, Wells Fargo supports its clients outside the US through a top-down approach, said Judd Holroyde, head of Wells Fargo’s global product management.
“We have shifted our view and decided the way to drive consistency is from the top down, keep a single customer portal. We have taken everything in our new [wholesale] branch services platform and tied them back to the enterprise so we create a cohesive customer experience.”

The bank’s primary customer base is US corporations and their subsidiaries abroad, he added. For a US parent, it makes sense to use Wells Fargo for subsidiaries abroad because it facilities interactivity between domestic and foreign operations – they get consistency on products and billing, and it is easier to handle approvals for something like a wire that originates in a foreign office and requires a sign-off from the parent.

“Because we are primarily focused on the subsidiaries of the U.S. company and not nearly as focused on market acquisition of local companies in one of these local markets, we can stay committed to the products and services our customers need.”

The bank enforces a high level of standardization through its operations globally – aiming for no more than 5 percent variation market to market. That means it doesn’t offer much customization to compete, but the bank has decided its approach offers more value to its customers, Holroyde said.
“A standard product set that is deployed in multiple markets affords more value to the customer and a better total experience than a highly customized offering which may have a little more per market product depth but at the expense of consistency.”

And just who tells a local country manager that she can’t have a customized feature?
“Right now it is the product side and we have pretty rigid standards,” said Holroyde, who has been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance of the standards.

“I find it amazing because we thought you would get a tremendous amount of pushback from the local marketplace but the local markets understand value to the customer increases with standardization and interoperability.”

This way, if a treasury manager in a US firm moves abroad, he will find the Wells Fargo interface familiar.

“If we use a system in the US and extend to international we can provide better continuity and visibility. We have the Commercial Electronic Office with 80-100 products and services. We are extending that same portal to encompass any of these new international capabilities, so we can support the portal and apps in a consistent way on a global basis.

Maintaining a standard platform also reduces costs and allows the bank to roll out new features and products because its infrastructure is the same globally.

“If you take expansion through acquisition, buying small banks in multiple markets, you end up with multiple different DDA and wire systems,” he added. “In many cases you will see banks spend time and effort to integrate these acquired systems rather than replacing them and moving to a single consistent processing environment. That is where we have the benefit of this top-down approach. We aren’t integrating what we bought; instead we are pushing out one thing we control to multiple places.”


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Precision Marketing: It’s Not Just for Retailers Anymore

SAP Guest

by Lori Mitchell-Keller, SVP Retail Business Unit, SAP

Three recent developments have made precision marketing the hot new trend in retailing:precision marketing in action at a train station

  • Exponential increase in what merchants now know about their customers
  • Growth of new technologies that can transform the data into insights
  • Widespread use of connected mobile devices that enable instant and personal interaction between businesses and consumers

Yet precision marketing isn’t limited to retail. It can work for any industry in which consumers connect directly with businesses – and where businesses recognize the need to understand their customers, and to deliver a precise and personalized experience.

All aboard for precision marketing

One of my favorite examples of precision marketing by a non-retail business comes from Montreal, where the city’s public transit system has made precision marketing a key part of its business strategy.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM), which offers both bus and metro service, has been an important part of life in Montreal since the mid-1960s. But, officials at the public corporation were not content to rest on their laurels.

Recognizing that they had an opportunity to increase ridership by enhancing the customer experience for passengers, they launched STM Merci an innovative precision marketing program. By leveraging the purchasing behavior from the Opus Smart Card along with the self-declared personal preferences and interests from the STM Merci application, they set up a system to send targeted, geo-localized offers to passengers’ smartphones. Offers originate from retailers located in and around Montreal’s 68 metro stations who have joined the STM partner ecosystem, extending this powerful technology to many small and midsized businesses in the metro area.

How can precision marketing help a transit system?

At first glance, a public transit system may not seem to have much to do with retail, but the Montreal example shows the value of being precise in providing targeted marketing to consumers.

STM is working with over 500 merchants and delivered well over 1.5M offers in the first 2 months. At launch, they were the top app on the Canadian iTunes in the Lifestyle category. The improvement in customer engagement is also demonstrated by the impressive 27% conversion rate on the mobile retail offers.

Today, STM provides 1.2 million passenger trips daily. By 2020, that number is forecasted to grow to 540 million annually, a 40 percent increase. By leveraging innovative precision marketing technology, STM is able to deliver personalized and individualized customer experiences and improve their own business as well as a vast ecosystem of retailers throughout the city of Montreal. And in the process, STM provides better service and a richer transit experience to the people who matter most: the passengers.

The implications of collaboration in the networked economy will continue to shape every aspect of the world we live in today and the changing world we will live in tomorrow. Get involved in the conversations on The Future of Business and read, watch and learn about the networked economy.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is senior vice president of SAP’s Global Industry Business Unit for Retail, leading solution management for all SAP Retail solutions. Her team focuses on delivering end-to-end solutions that help retailers build unified channels, customer-driven supply networks, customer insight, and integrated merchandising and marketing. Previously at SAP, Mitchell-Keller led Line-of-Business Solution Management for Idea-to-Delivery, overseeing the delivery of end-to-end solutions in the areas of Supply Chain Management, Product Lifecycle Management, Manufacturing, Procurement, Operational Performance Management and Business Networks. Prior to joining SAP, she spent ten years in leadership positions with Manugistics and JDA Software Group. Mitchell-Keller holds a master’s degree in management from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a master’s degree in operations research from Stanford University, and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Iowa State University.


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