A More Decentralized Workplace Is Becoming Inevitable

Max Nisen

The future of work in America is changing dramatically. As companies continue to streamline their operations, low-skill jobs are increasingly going offshore, to robots, or being outsourced in some way. According to a new report by McKinsey, we are moving full-force into a knowledge economy, where high-skilled workers will be valued more than ever before. Tech companies are accelerating this trend.


The consultancy finds that there could be an 18 million person shortage in the supply of high-skill, college-educated workers by 2020. And that’s just in advanced economies; countries like China and India are going to demand more of those workers than they can supply.

That means that companies will have to work harder than ever to attract the top talent, focusing on the sorts of amenities and workplace cultures that will attract and keep the millennial generation. According to McKinsey, that means accommodating more flexible hours and a more virtual workforce. It also means keeping those scarcer, more expensive, highly-skilled employees focused on the specialized tasks that create the most value.

The flipside of that is that they’re going to have to replace less specialized work. One of the biggest trends you can see in the above chart is that there’s been a massive decline in the number of office support jobs. Increasingly, companies are going to look to innovative solutions and new technology to replace them.

One of the ways they’re doing that is by engaging with digital technology, freelancers, and startups to do work remotely that used to require contract workers. According to an Elance survey, 42 percent of employers say they expect to hire more freelancers in 2013 than in 2012, and a majority of freelancers expect their incomes to rise.

And it doesn’t mean companies are getting lower-quality work; it’s just in shorter bursts, and in a different way. As the demand rises, companies are coming up with innovative ways to supply it. Anders Jones, the COO of virtual assistant company Zirtual explains.

“We’re looking at this as collaborative consumption for human capital,” says Jones. “We split the revenue 50/50 between the assistant and Zirtual. If you look at the makeup of our specific demographic, many assistants have just graduated and aren’t interested in a 9-to-5 job. ZAs have the ability to move to a different city every month. The service is just transactional. It’s high-touch.”

A service letting you hire a virtual assistant for a few hours at a time, or other, on-demand services like Fancy Hands probably couldn’t have existed just a few years ago. It’s the culmination of a number of trends, Jones explains.

“There are a number of things happening. The infrastructure — including the cost of laptops, etc. — is getting cheaper. There are coworking spaces and incubators. If you look at the Millennial generation, people are not content with 9-to-5 jobs. There are lots of solo practitioners doing web design. Freelancing is a big thing that’s increasing.”

The workplace used to be about everyone being in the same office, able to meet at just about any time. Companies and managers will be challenged by keeping everyone on the same page, but also have more resources than ever.

READ MORE: Future Of Business

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Banning BANT: It’s Not How Big The Budget Is, But How Big The Issue Is

Bob Apollo

Regular readers will know that I’m no great fan of the traditional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) approach to sales qualification. It might work for simple transactional sales in which the prospect has an already recognised need they are trying to work out how best to satisfy, but in the complex-sales world most of the readers of this blog work in, BANT is at best a naive approach to opportunity qualification.

You see, for high-value, considered purchases with lengthy decision-making cycles, multiple stakeholders and the very real chance that the prospect might decide to either do nothing or do something completely different after a long and resource-intensive sales campaign, insisting on BANT qualification can cause you to ignore opportunities you should be pursuing, and chase opportunities you have little chance of winning.

Ticking the wrong boxes

Ban BANT tornHere’s why: by the time you can tick all the “BANT boxes”, your prospect is probably already well advanced in their buying decision process. They have already determined their need and will probably already have some clear opinions about how to solve them problem.

Another vendor’s fingerprints may well be all over their specification. They may have assigned a completely unrealistic budget. And your ability to influence their thinking may be fading away rapidly.

In a considered purchase environment, telling your
sales people to focus on already-existing, BANT-qualified opportunities can not only get them chasing deals that may never close or that they have little chance of winning, it can also divert or dissuade them from uncovering opportunities that are a much better fit for your offering and which are much more likely to result in a buying decision.

Most RFPs would appear to fit BANT criteria, so you might think it would be a good to pursue them all. But as anyone who looks at the statistics knows to their cost, if the first time you are aware of an opportunity is when an RFP drops through your letterbox, you’re probably just making up the numbers and no more than column fodder for an already-preferred alternative.

Introducing IFISU

I only wish it made for a more elegant acronym, but I’ve seen clients drive much greater sales success by focusing on IFISU: Issue, Fit, Impact, Sponsor, Urgency. Let’s look at these five elements in a little more detail:

1: Issue

Has the prospect acknowledged a critical issue that is having or could have a significant effect on their business?

2: Fit

Is our offering capable of resolving the identified issue better than any other option open to the prospect (including a decision to “do nothing”)?

3: Impact

Does the prospect recognise and acknowledge that the cost and risk of doing nothing far outweighs the cost and risk of implementing a new solution?

4: Sponsor

Are we in direct contact with a sponsor that recognises the need to address the issue and is capable of allocating the resources required to deal with it?

5: Urgency

Is there an obvious need to take action sooner, rather than later? Do the costs and risks associated with not dealing with the issue grow over time?

Beware so-called “compelling events”

Note that I recommend focusing on urgency, rather than just on a “compelling event”. If there is truly a compelling, must-do-something date in the diary, then of course this can drive real urgency. But all too often, so-called compelling events prove to be artificial. The deadline passes, and nothing changes. What’s compelling about that?

On the other hand, if your prospect has associated the issue with a real and growing impact to their organisation, they are not only motivated to deal with it, they are in a much better position to submit a compelling internal business case to whatever ultimate approval process will be applied to your project.

The importance of impact, urgency and fit

Without impact and urgency, even if you have the decision-making group’s recommendation, there’s a real and obvious possibility that the prospect will simply decide to stick with the status quo. Without fit, there’s a real and obvious risk that you’ll simply help another competitor make the case for change.

When you focus your thought leadership, demand generation and top-of-the funnel sales activities on this IFISU qualification model, you stand a much better chance of uncovering opportunities that are likely to do something, and that you are likely to win. You end up looking for issues, rather than projects.

And – perhaps counter intuitively – by getting involved at an earlier stage in the prospect’s decision making process, you often close sales far faster and with much higher win rates that you do if you insist on waiting for BANT. Just as important, you are able to qualify out “opportunities” you are never likely to win before wasting a great deal of sales resource on them.

Applying IFISU

I encourage you to have a go – try applying these IFISU criteria to your current sales pipeline and compare your existing opportunities against them. Where you identify weaknesses, determine whether you can put a plan together to address them, or whether you should consider qualifying the opportunity out.

Brief anyone who prospects for new business on these IFISU criteria. Encourage them to look for issues, rather than already-existing projects, and to ask questions that quickly determine whether any potential new opportunity would be a good fit.

By the way, IFISU is just one of a number of B2B sales and marketing best practices we’ve managed to identify. Why not invest 10 minutes in completing our on-line self-assessment?

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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Why Cloud Computing: An Interview with Brian Kinion

Schalk Viljoen

Brian Kinion, VP of Finance at SuccessFactors, took time to talk about why cloud computing and how it has impacted his business. SuccessFactors, an SAP Company, is the leading provider of cloud-based business execution software.

What does the cloud mean to you?

Cloud What it means to me is being able to get the right data at the right time to the right people. The cloud allows you to conduct your business anytime and anywhere, like setting up and aligning your goals, conducting your performance reviews, etc. You can use a mobile device, tablet, or whatever you need.

While being mobile is big for me, I also love how you can run your business much more efficiently with the cloud. You don’t need a bunch of employees working on the back-end to make these systems operate.

Before I worked at SuccessFactors, I had little interaction with the cloud in my previous jobs. Now, I only need the IT group for a few things; and we can basically manage and administer the systems in finance ourselves.

So it really is about the total cost of ownership. You can drive down expenses and be much more efficient by configuring your systems when you want it and the way you want it.

Furthermore, you can watch the rapid innovation of cloud based vendors and drive this innovation to your needs because they deliver functionality improvements much more rapidly than anything in-house or in on-premise systems.

How has the cloud affected your work personally?

Personally, it has made me much more efficient in my job. Twenty years ago, I had to come to the office to work. Now, I don’t need go into the office; I can be anywhere! I can work using my phone, traveling on an airplane, or hanging out by the beach. I take my job wherever I go. While e-mail is accessible everywhere, so are cloud based products. I can do an expense report in no time. I just snap a shot of my expenses, save it, get back to the office, and put it in my report. Just like that, I’m done, and I get reimbursed. It’s that easy!

What cloud based solutions do you value?

I really believe in SAP Financials OnDemand because everybody should have their own dashboard to manage their tasks, self-serve on reports that are relevant to them and be able collaborate with others.

You don’t want to operate in a black box; you want to have a transparent workspace where you can contribute to a team and influence projects quickly. And that’s what we get with cloud: through your dashboard and the reports and KPI’s, you can see what needs to be done and cover your teammates if they’re sick or behind in their work as well as see if there are issues that need to be addressed immediately in the business. The transparency provided by these tools is what I see as cloud.

I also love how all these tools can be well integrated. You can go buy different systems and integrate them together, so that you get one master source of information without worrying about whether or not your team’s files are synced. You get that kind of convenience with the cloud, and you make your operations more efficient. You just have to be cognizant of maintaining your integration tools.

What does the future hold for the cloud?

Today, cloud is a new thing. There are so many cloud based applications coming out, both social and cloud are adopting fast and innovating fast. Will that be the case in 20 years? Possibly, but I don’t know what it will be. What’s exciting about these times is the rapid pace of new technologies and attempting to keep up with them.

This post originally appeared on the SAP Community Network and is reprinted here with permission.



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Business Intelligence for Everyone? Not Yet, Says 2012 BI Scorecard Report

Courtney Bjorlin

Bi ScorecardDespite years of vendor hype, the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, and scores of technological improvements, pervasive business intelligence remains elusive for most organizations, according to the results of the recent BI Scorecard survey.

The number of BI users within an organization has remained flat, as an industry wide average, for the last five years of the survey, standing firm at around ¼ of employees since 2007, according to the “2012 Successful BI Survey.” BI Scorecard, a resource for in-depth business intelligence tool evaluations based on exclusive hands-on testing, surveyed 634 small, medium and enterprise organizations from a variety of industries.

“With BI product innovations such as in-memory, visual data discovery and mobile deployments, particularly on iPads, I thought 2012 would finally show accelerated adoption,” writes Cindi Howson, founder of BI Scorecard, in the report. “Instead, BI adoption hasn’t budged since we first began assessing this point in 2005.”

While that’s the average industry wide, in some companies business intelligence tool adoption has continued to improve, Howson says by email. For example, at those companies that have strong business-IT partnerships, a hybrid business-IT BI leader, and appropriate resources and funding, BI adoption is about 34 percent. And at companies that have successfully deployed mobile BI, the average is higher: 39 percent adoption.

Organizational issues are the main culprit holding back wider adoption, as well as whether those already using the business intelligence tools rank their deployments as successful.

“If BI teams are not adequately funded—and a large portion are not—then they will be stuck trying to service mainly the existing power user base, back log of requests and not be able to leverage what’s new,” Howson says. “It is a combination of addressing BI budget limitations, but also about being smart about what IT must do and what the business must do.”

Why CEO Sponsorship Is Better Than the CIO’s

Most companies surveyed rank themselves as experiencing moderate BI success—the majority (73 percent) reporting slight to moderate success and business impact. Organizations that had support from the CEO or multiple sponsors of a BI effort reported having the most success with their efforts, while those whose efforts were sponsored by the CIO or IT manager had the least (Howson points out that this has much to do with the type of CIO leading the effort).

Organizations measured success as having better access to data, followed by operating efficiency and support to manage day to day business. Howson recommends that customers should measure success by both quantitative and qualitative measures. “Tracking the number of BI users is one of the easiest metrics to obtain,” she writes. “Such measures of success are necessary in ensuring continued executive support as well as increased investments in new or advanced BI deployments.”

For BI to have a more profound impact, however, BI teams need to study the business goals and analyze what information is required to improve and measure progress—then build the applications. They must be proactive in looking for places where it will make a business impact, with the goal of deploying BI tools to all personnel who make decisions.

Other interesting findings from Howson: (the full report is  available for purchase here)

Mobile Is the New Desktop? Not Yet

Only 11 percent of companies surveyed have successfully deployed mobile BI. Howson says some of this is a combination of the fact that the tools are still so new. For the SAP installed base, in particular, good SAP mobile BI capabilities really only just came out, and mobile dashboarding capabilities still need to improve.

Mad Dash to Dashboards

Customers are most looking to improve and innovate around dashboarding tools in 2013. Self-service and mobile BI were the second and third most-important priorities.

Technically Speaking

This year, those surveyed ranked the ability to combine and analyze data from different sources as the most important factor affecting BI success, followed by easy-to-use BI tools. These factors outranked last year’s victor: data quality.

Suite Success

Companies that have a predominant business intelligence standard are more likely to rank their projects as having a significant impact. But even with those companies who said they had a predominant BI standard, only 38 percent said it’s exclusive, while the majority reported using complementary tools.


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Monday Metric: Trade Promotion Optimization In Consumer Products

SAP Performance Benchmarking

By Nipun Gujral

This week’s analysis focuses on trade promotion optimization in consumer products.

Creating and unlocking value in an organization starts with knowing precisely where things stand, and where the opportunities for improvement lie.  To help, SAP’s Performance Benchmarking group publishes a short analysis each Monday, highlighting hot industry topics and high-impact strategies.  This week’s analysis focuses on the issue of trade promotion optimization in the consumer product industry.

KEY QUESTION: Are you maximizing your return on trade promotion spending?

Trade Promotion Optimization in Consumer Products

KEY TAKEAWAY: For consumer product companies, competing aggressively for every retail sale, focused “trade promotion spending” tends to create more value than dispersed spending. While companies frequently run many different promotions at the same time to minimize risk and increase demand, the approach also results in lower average spend per program – which in turn prevents programs from reaching their full potential and can even lead to a perception by retailers that a company is under-spending on promotions.

In contrast, according to SAP Performance Benchmarking, focused trade promotion spending programs tend to result not only in higher spend per program but also increased rates of productive spending and overall sales volume, compared with dispersed spending. Specifically, almost 53% of focused trade spend is productive, compared with only 43% for dispersed spend.



Note to readers: SAP’s Performance Benchmarking program is a strategic service sponsored by its Value Engineering organization. Originally launched in 2004 together with ASUG as a forum to exchange metrics and best practices, the program today has grown into a global effort and one of the largest such programs in the industry—with more than 12,000 participants from more than 4,000 companies and studies available in 12 languages. Participants receive—free of charge—customized and confidential benchmarking comparisons against industry peers as well as aggregate analyses. To participate in the SAP benchmarking program, visit


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