Top Ten Business Innovation Posts of the Week [January 14, 2013]

Lindsey Nelson

On the Business Innovation site, we deliver the top blogs, news  and  featured content on business innovation for professionals looking to  grow and  gain a competitive  business advantage. We cover hot topics and thought  leadership on mobile applicationscloud computingbig datareal-time analytics and the top challenges facing  executives and leaders in sales & marketingfinancehuman resources and much, much more.

Each week, we curate and publish the top ten posts of the week on  business  innovation from across our content categories. We hope you find  these articles  valuable, informative, and interesting. Enjoy!

The Global Phenomenon: BYOD

Mobile – By Lindsey Nelson, @LindseyNNelson

It’s gone global! Did you know 89% of IT departments worldwide support bring your own device (BYOD) practices? This is just one of the findings from Cisco’s recent survey of mobile device usage. Check out the other interesting findings!

How The CDC Is Using Big Data To Save You From The Flu

Big Data – By Julie Bort, @Julie188

There’s Google Mail, Google AdWords, now Google Flu Trends? The CDC and Google teamed up with big data to help people fight the flu just by showing them where it is. Pretty cool!

Big Data For Marketing: I Want My Real-Time Dashboard

Sales & Marketing – By Michael Brenner, @BrennerMichael

Marketers worked with massive data sets even before big data was cool (we’re trendsetters, what can we say?). Here one marketer’s plea for a real-time dashboard and if you’re with him, he’s identified three ways to get your own.

Planning for Mobile Business in 2013 – New Year’s Mobility Resolutions [Infographic]

Mobile – By Carolyn Fitton, @carolynfitton

Look around you, I bet everyone has a smartphone or tablet in their hand. So it’s not hard to make a prediction that mobile will continue to grow. If you want to create a strong mobile strategy, here’s a few tips and with an accompanying infographic on how to do so.

5 Ways To Achieve A Profitable Customer Experience

Sales & Marketing – By Lindsey Nelson

It’s not specific to any industry or market, a great customer experience means profit, it means brand loyalty, and it means overall success for your company. How do you do it? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

2013 Forecast On Cloud Computing Trends

Cloud – By Folia Grace, @FoliaGrace

Don’t expect it to float away in 2013, here are four areas forecasted to cloud up the horizons.

3 Qualities Of A Great Sales Manager

Sales & Marketing – By Mukesh Gupta, @rmukeshgupta

Sales is fast paced and high pressure. So if you’re a sales manager how do you maintain stress and still be a good boss? Mukesh gives us three tips.

See What The Retail Stores Of The Future Will Look Like

Industries – By Ashley Lutz, @AshleyLutz

In the age of mobile technology, shoppers are changing more than ever, and retailers are rushing to catch up with their customers’ ever-evolving demands. Check out this post with pictures on what our shopping ambiance of the future will look like.

Mobile Is Maturing – Don’t Get Left Behind With a Bad Mobile Strategy

Mobile – By Stephen Brown

Just like your corporate strategy, your mobile strategy should continue to evolve in order to meet the demands of the fast-paced market. It’s bigger than a project, it requires a combined effort across teams. How do you develop one? Here are a few tips.

The Obstacles In Big Data

Big Data – By Lindsey Nelson

It’s a powerful resource and when it’s used right can make some pretty great predictions and forecasts. But make sure you’re aware of these obstacles before you start.


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3 Critical Questions For B2B Sales: Why Change? Why Now? Why You?

Bob Apollo

Your company is facing an increasingly strong competitor – yet you won’t find them listed in any Google search of the key players in your marketplace. But this competitor is playing a powerful and often-undefined role in almost every significant B2B buying decision. And it’s the reason why a growing number of your apparently well-qualified opportunities are ending up with the prospect deciding to “do nothing”.

Have you recognised the competitor yet? It’s the status quo – and in today’s increasingly risk-averse decision-making climate, where it may be harder than ever before to get approval for discretionary investments, your prospects might think that sticking with the status quo is the safest option open to them. You need to persuade them otherwise. And you need to make the case for change before you make the case for your solution.

Is the status quo holding you back?

Anchor stuck flipped

Before you can expect to win their business, you need to play your part in persuading all the key stakeholders in the buying decision process that the cost and risk of doing nothing significantly outweighs the cost and risk of the investment you are asking them to make – and that your offering represents the least risky of all the options open to them – including the decision to “do nothing”.

Let’s be clear. If you haven’t done all you can to persuade the prospect of the need for change, you probably don’t deserve their business. Yet I still observe experienced sales people rushing in to propose their company’s product or service offerings while the prospect is still unclear or unconvinced about whether they need to let go of the status quo.

The truth about burning platforms and compelling events

Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and the prospect will already have concluded that they are standing on a “burning platform”, or face a truly “compelling event”. But don’t be surprised if, during the course of your sales process, the flames start looking a little more bearable, or if the upcoming event seems just that little less compelling.

The answer is in your hands. As Tom Pisello of Alinean points out in a recent webinar, you need to make sure that the key stakeholders in your prospect understand why they need to change, why they need to do it now, and why they need to work with you to accomplish it. And until you’ve successfully navigated the “why change?” and “why now?” questions, you ought to be very cautious about investing a lot of sales effort in trying to answer the question “why us?”

It’s why I’ve been advising clients to test that their prospects recognise the case for change early in the sales process – and if a clear case does not yet exist, to work with the key stakeholders to either create one or to exclude the opportunity from any sales forecast until and unless the case has been made and agreed by the prospect.

No case for change? no deal!

Failure to make the case for change is one of the most common root causes when I conduct pipeline analysis to help prospects understand why opportunities are stuck or being lost to a decision to do nothing. But the impact is deceptive, because the effects often show up later in the sales cycle.

If you’re suffering from a rash of stuck late-stage sales opportunities, I strongly recommend that you investigate whether an adequate case for change had been made and agreed earlier on in the sales process. Don’t be surprised if your sales people turn out to be suffering from a condition I have come to refer to as “premature elaboration”.

Six steps to making a compelling case for change

In order to establish the strongest possible case for change, I recommend that you coach your sales people to lead their prospects through the following six-step process, and that you provide them with the sales tools and marketing messages to implement them. Don’t be put off if this approach at first appears rather long winded: try it, get the “case for change” foundation built right, and you’ll be surprised how fast the subsequent stages in the buying process can be driven – and how many fewer well-qualified opportunities end in “do nothing” decisions.

1: Start building the foundation by sharing valuable insights with the prospect – you want to stimulate them to adopt a fresh perspective about what they need, and have them believe that you can help them make smart decisions that will take their business forward

2: Next, develop those insights into specific issues that directly affect their current business situation – these could be specific problems they need to address, goals they need to achieve, or opportunities they need to realise

3: Third, and most critically, help them to calculate for themselves the impact on their business of failing to address the issue – and to conclude that action needs to be taken sooner, rather than later

4: Before jumping in and proposing your product or service solution, explain why your approach is the one most likely to help them deal with the issue. Focus on how and why you do what you do, rather than the details of what you offer

5: Once you’ve clearly differentiated your approach from all the other options open to them, now – at last – you can show how your (carefully selected) capabilities directly address the issues you have established earlier

6: Finally, eliminate as much risk as possible from the equation by proving (with tangible, relevant evidence) how your approach and capabilities are going to help them accomplish the needed change successfully

So – are your marketing and sales processes successfully building a compelling case for change? Are they providing clear answers to “why change?” “why now?” and “why you?”. Or, if not, are you really happy with all the wasted effort that will have been devoted to the rash of decisions to “do nothing” that will inevitably result?

Note: This blog post is from one of our featured guest bloggers, Bob Apollo, and has been modified slightly from its original form with Bob’s consent.  The original post can be found on Bob’s blog here.


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Cloud People: Paul Nursey, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)

Schalk Viljoen

Paul Nursey is the Vice-President of Strategy & Corporate Communications at the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). He has been with CTC for over six years; in his current role his focus is on strategic planning, managing government relationships, corporate communications, and championing change initiatives across the organization. (@PaulNursey)

What business issues factored into your decision to move to the cloud?

There are multiple reasons, the overarching factor being that we are committed to a strategy focused organization and deliver a lean and scalable operation across all our business lines. As a public organization, it’s easy to get pulled in different directions by stakeholders. In order for us to be effective, we need to be clear about our strategic vision and the initiatives that support that vision. In 2009 /2010, we went through a comprehensive IT review to really understand what our business needs; based on the outcome we decided that cloud solutions would be a good fit for our organization.

What are your goals for cloud solutions?

Three major drivers influenced our decision to move business process to hosted cloud solutions:

1. Running Lean

The majority of our funding comes from public sources; as a result we don’t have direct control over our revenue cycles, which can fluctuate quite substantially. In that context, it’s important that we run lean and minimize our overhead costs. One example of how cloud solutions have made CTC more lean is by replacing onsite servers with cloud-based technology, freeing up those resources to invest in marketing to grow the  business of tourism for Canada.

2. Scaling for Growth

Running lean is part of the equation – equally important is leveraging technologies that will grow with us. At the end of the day, our goal is to drive businesses. Solutions that are scalable ensure that our business needs are met at every stage of growth in our organization. Having the flexibility to license an as-needed number of users with different levels of access gives us the power to optimize our business processes and improve performance.

3. Keeping Technology Current

The reality of on-premise solutions is that the day you buy something, it becomes obsolete. You end up paying consultants to upgrade all the time or build customizations, which adds extra expense. We really liked the idea that by embracing the cloud we’ll get new releases and our systems will be current all the time. We know that the providers we’ve chosen are dedicated to staying current.

What key elements have made your transition to the cloud successful?

There’s an old saying: “It takes a whole village to raise a child” – I would amend that to “It takes a whole village to embrace the cloud”! It’s really true – moving to the cloud requires an organization shift that goes wide and deep. Through our experience, I can point to two key elements that have helped CTC make the transition successfully.

1. Know what you want

We made a conscious decision – we recognized early on that we’re not different from many organizations in that we wanted functional, good systems that worked well and supported our employees. It was important to us that we license a system that we considered to be a “Chevy” – something everyone can drive – as opposed to a Cadillac. We intentionally chose a solution that is mid-range without a lot of bells and whistles that we may never use.

2. Embrace changes in your business process

Fundamentally, embracing change is about good, clear communication within your organization throughout the change management process. It’s important to be very clear on what you want to achieve and recognize that your business processes are going to have to change. We went in with eyes wide open, knowing that we would need to adapt our business practices, communicate changes clearly to our staff, and set the expectation up front that customization wasn’t really going to be an option in our situation. Ultimately our approach was to find the best tool we could against our price point and strategy and work from there.

What’s the one critical question every customer should ask when selecting a cloud vendor or solution?

For me, it was really about the relationship more then a specific question. Of course, it’s imperative to make sure your technical requirements are covered. Beyond that, what I really look for is solid business relationship experience that I can rely on. You’re getting into a long-term relationship where core business functions are moving onto a different platform – you have to be able to pick up the phone and know that you can have frank discussions to address critical business needs. Having excellent support throughout this process has had a huge impact on our success.


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Leadership Lessons From Everyday Acts - Part 1

Mukesh Gupta

leadership is like riding a bikeLeadership is like riding.

  • you need to know where you want to go.
  • you need a fair idea of how to reach there.
  • you re-route yourself if you face a traffic jam or any other situation which might stop you from reaching your destination.
  • you decide on the route based on the type of vehicle that you are driving. The routes that you can take while driving a bike is very different from the one that you can take while driving a car, which could be very different from the one that you can take if you were driving a huge 26 tire truck.
  • if you want to reach a specific place at a specific time, you plan to leave at a specific time based on facts like which vehicle are you driving, what route you will be taking, the traffic conditions on that route at that particular time, etc.
  • you know when, where and how much to re-fuel.
  • you also plan for maintenance of your vehicle.

All of these are the same qualities that a leader needs to exhibit while leading an organization or a nation:

  • they need to have a vision or know where they want to lead to.
  • they need to have a fair idea of how to reach there (a plan).
  • they should be able to recognise when things are not going according to plan, and be able to change strategies to be able to reach the goals.
  • they design their strategies based on their understanding of the people whom they are leading. Strategies that work while leading a start-up will be very different from the ones that will work while leading large scale organisations.
  • they also understand the resources that will be required to reach their goals and find ways to get these resources at the right times.
  • they also understand that people and organizations need overhaul and maintenance on a regular basis to weed out inefficiencies and straighten out cultural issues.

So, if you know how to ride from one place to another, you already know more about leadership than you will ever need. The only thing that you need to do is to be aware of these and put them in action.

What do you think of this comparison between driving and leadership. Do let me know by commenting below or by tweeting me (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: you can also watch Popeye’s leadership lessons:

Popeye’s leadership lessons 


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Big Data Gets Bigger

Tim Minahan

Nearly 14 billion years ago, massive forces of gravity and friction converged to spark the big bang that gave life to the universe as we know it. Today, the same type of convergence is occurring in the business world. After years of technological innovation and aggressive IT investment, companies now sit atop a vast volume of data on their business activities.

The sea of structured data on production, marketing, sales and pricing, HR, finance, facilities and operations, and other internal high speed trafficmatters is matched by transaction-level data from supplier, customer, and partner relationships.  Best-in-class companies are deriving extraordinary value from this data by mining it for hidden insights on their customers, products, and business activities. But the convergence of major technology shifts like cloud computing, mobility, and social and business networks has sparked an explosion of a new class of “unstructured” data – texts, tweets, blog posts, web-based videos, and other social postings – that  now greatly exceeds traditional data types found within most organizations.

According to a study by independent research firm Aberdeen Group, the vast majority – more than 83% – of the information companies now have is unstructured.  And companies that effectively harness such information stand poised to gain unique insights that give them significant advantage over their peers.

Online networks have been key enablers of the first-wave of globalization, making it as easy and transparent to conduct business with a partner on the other side of the world as with one across the street. Consumers tap into personal networks like Facebook, Twitter and to learn, share and shop better. Leading companies leverage business networks to collaborate more efficiently with their employees, customers and other trading partners. But networks are about more than just connecting companies, people and processes.

Their real power lies in what goes on inside them – all the interactions, transactions and commentary  – and the massive amounts of unstructured data that they generate. It is from this data that the next wave of innovation and business productivity will come. Traditional relational or structured data may serve as the foundation for analytic efforts. But by combining it with unstructured information, companies can gain additional insights that enable them to make better business decisions. And with the right technologies, they can do it in real time.

Consider how consumers are already benefiting from the convergence of structured and unstructured data:

  • harvests the buying patterns (transactions) of its customers to recommend complementary products for up-sale. It also uses community-generated ratings and tips to further guide buying decisions.
  • Twitter and Facebook mine unstructured comments to develop psychographic profiles of users and deliver highly targeted advertisements (e.g., promoted Tweets) that have much higher conversion rates than traditional advertising approaches based on demographic segmentation alone.
  • The Facebook “Like” button – now pervasive on websites ranging from online stores to leading news media outlets to political blogs-  offers far more accurate (and quicker) insights into buyer preferences and public opinion than traditional focus groups and straw polls.
  • New online and mobile banking options from startups like Square are capitalizing on the convergence of mobile, cloud, and social to foster entirely new payment models, where a consumer’s mobile device can, using geo-location information, detect when its owner is in his favorite coffee shop, use the Cloud to automatically place an order, and virtual financial networks to settle out between the customer, the shop’s register and the bank. If the consumer is so inclined, he can include a tip and even post a rating or comment on his visit via integrated social channels.

This new Internet of Things  is not only making our lives more efficient, it’s unleashing a host of new data that can be used for everything from social research to targeted marketing to post-sale service. Leveraging the hundreds of billions of dollars of financial transactions and transactional data along with relationship history that resides in business networks, for instance, buyers and sellers can make more informed decisions by detecting changes in buying patterns or pricing trends and provide confidence and qualifying information on a potential – yet unfamiliar – trading partner. And, when combined with community-generated ratings and content, they can glean not only real-time insights, but also recommended strategies for moving their businesses forward.So things like performance ratings where buyers rate suppliers and suppliers rate buyers. Others in the community can use this information to help determine who to do business with or to help detect risk in their supply chain.

By accessing the real-time insights into invoice approval status married with historical data on payment patterns of given buyers that business networks provide, banks and other service providers can remove the risks from receivables financing, allowing them to offer more competitive rates and new services to network members that increase revenue. Innovative companies are already on the bandwagon, harvesting the information inside the communities they participate in to deliver new insights and capabilities.

For example:

  • When looking for alternative sources of supply, Plaid Enterprises, a mid-sized manufacturer of do-it-yourself products used a business network to uncover potential suppliers. The network not only provided a directory of suppliers that met Plaid’s requirements, but offered up insights into each supplier – such as how many other buyers the supplier was doing business with on the network; how many RFPs it had been invited to and won within the past year; and how other buyers rated the performance of each supplier – all drawn from structured transactions and unstructured comments and ratings from other network members.
  • Accessing real-time insights into invoice approval status available on a business network, Mediafly, a fast-growing mobile marketing solution provider, has not only been able to view its outstanding invoices and know when they’ll get paid, but make offers to secure early payment. Mediafly CFO John Evarts says such network-based ‘dynamic discounting’ has helped him manage the business differently: “We can now get access to capital at favorable rates when we need it, allowing us to hire new developers so we can take on new projects and grow the business.” Evarts says the transparency and control afforded by the network has even helped Mediafly put off the need to take a new round of funding.

Cases like this make clear that the so-called “Big Data” served up by networks will inherently change the way and speed at which business gets done. Armed with the right tools, companies can get the right information to the right people in real time on any device, fueling better business decisions and results.

Demand for such real-time insights is at an all-time high. A growing number of business executives are fed up with lagging indicators and feel the lack of access to timely information is negatively impacting their personal decisions and the performance of their business. Case in point: 35% of the companies surveyed as part of the Aberdeen study say data is too slow to access. 47% indicated that they need information within an hour of a business event, but that they achieve this goal just 71% of the time.

To fill this void, a new breed of technology has emerged. Known as in-memory computing, it increases processing speed by 100% or greater by loading data directly into Random Access Memory of a server. When combined with a mobile platform, it enables companies to serve up the right information to the right people in the right places in real time.

It’s a powerful proposition. And companies that embrace it will be able to make the most of their Big Data by bringing structure to the unstructured and gleaning insights that enable them to deliver game-changing gains in collaboration, productivity and insight that vault and keep them ahead of the competition.

Yes, Big Data is getting bigger. But so too are the possibilities for businesses that effectively harness it.


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