Vantage Blog

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23
Aug
2018

Connecting the Dots…making sense of disruption

Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told.



But why?

It is increasingly clear to me that the pace of change, and in particular the impact of digital technology on competition and our organisations, is the reason.

The accelerators of change including artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, big data, augmented and virtual reality, and even Blockchain (ignoring the smoke and mirrors of Bitcoin!) will, I believe, enable new products, services and business formats to develop and scale at a pace currently only just starting to be seen.

However, there is too much emphasis on the specifics of the individual technologies themselves, and not enough on how these technologies can be used together and applied to real customer problems. The ability to remove customer friction by the smart application of technology is a clear differentiator for many already. Think Uber, contactless cards, Netflix to name a few. This will be what differentiates winners in the future.

It is the role of business leaders to figure out how to ‘connect the dots’ – the nexus of technologies, models, concepts and ideas.

We are moving from a relatively linear trajectory to one of exponential change. Some sectors and industries will move faster than others, so the need to respond will be different. The opportunity, though, is available to all.

And it’s not just about start-ups – though their adoption and application of new ways of working and digital technologies are a sign of things to come and should act as a cue and/or wake up call.

Agile organisations that are able to transform their culture and think about how they can partner and work in alternative ways will be the success stories of the future. Impenetrable moats around our businesses are no longer assured.

The unbundling and re-bundling of integrated value propositions – just look at what has already happened in financial services – enables new customer offers to be designed and delivered for customers in different and exciting ways. As a result, we are already seeing industry definitions change, with some sectors effectively disappearing.

A key consideration is a shift in many companies from offering products to overseeing, participating in or facilitating ecosystems. Nespresso was an early example where the offering was a combination of components that only worked together - an espresso machine, pods, milk frother and the physical coffee making experience - in a closed fully controlled (via patents) loop.

Apple is another early ecosystem participant. They effectively embedded their ‘hardware’ (iPhone, iPad, Mac etc.), all operating of a single platform, as the core with complementary products and services creating value for customers – the sum being greater than the parts. Not ‘closed’, like Nespresso, but orchestrated or controlled by Apple with app developers, musicians etc embedding their offer in the wider ecosystem.

Newer ones worth having a look, at that are leveraging new digital technologies, include Babylon and Nest.

Ecosystems are modular (re-bundling), and rely on mutual interdependencies, two-way value flow and shared data, held together with a variable level of hierarchical control specific to each one. As a result, the various players in these ecosystems are able to embed their offers in a broader set of customer needs.

This can be challenging. It requires business leaders to think beyond a traditional ‘value chain’ that their business model has been built on. We need to consider what could be the core of an ecosystem and its (typically) digital platform – the one or two features that drive customer take up and use. What can complement that core and ensures a broader set of needs are met – not just for customers but business partners and suppliers?

Will ecosystems be the business model of the future? Will thinking about how you could embed your product or service into a broader set of needs be a key strategic question to consider? Building, catalysing or joining an ecosystem (or ecosystems) could well become a core strategy for future growth. The legacy of an organisations cost base, structure and offering could be key barriers to overcome if you want to not just ‘connect the dots’ but work out how to win by being agile in a fast-changing world.

James Atkins
Vantage Strategy & Marketing

I recently attended the London Business School’s course on Exploiting Disruption in A Digital World where these, and many other such concepts were covered. The August Vantage Leaders Forum spent half a day exploring these issues and how they could be applied to their organisations.

If you would like to discuss running a workshop, or presenting a keynote, exploring the opportunities that these new ways of thinking open up, or how these models or technologies could be applied in your organisation, please feel free to contact me on 0419 516 655 or at jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au

WEBINAR: To view a complimentary 45 minute webinar on Connecting the Dots click here



Agility is without doubt the management buzz word of the moment. Great Leaders are agile; organisations must reorganise to be agile; your products and services, and how you go to market, must have agility at its core…or so we are all told. ..

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05
Jun
2018

Achieving balance on a Board

There is no doubt that Boards and their governance are headline grabbers at the moment. And for good reason. There’s clearly been failures in some of the bigger organisations. And accountability obviously rests at the feet of the directors in many cases.


However, a big risk in all of these discussions is an overreaction. Not just in terms of regulation, but just as importantly in terms of board focus.


One response could be for nervous boards to disproportionately focus on governance above all other responsibilities. Yes, in some cases governance clearly needs to be tightened, but not to the detriment of a clear focus on looking forward; tackling the big challenges and opportunities that face each and every organisation.


On the boards that I am involved with, and in particular that I have or am currently chairing, I have a 70/20/10 framework.


Our aspiration is to focus discussions 70% on strategy (looking forward), 20% on performance (looking back) and 10% on governance (looking both ways).


Not always easy to do, and urgent challenges can get in the way, but it is a good frame within which directors can think about their role and the value they can truly add.


However, the trick is to firstly ensure that the governance foundation is firm and is regularly reviewed against a changing environment. Culture is key. Having the right systems and processes are important, as well as ensuring they are regularly stress checked.


Similarly, for performance – what are the key metrics being used, and how open and transparent are management in discussing performance issues with the board. Insights around performance obviously are key inputs to the explorations in the strategy space.


Once there are transparent and robust foundations around governance and performance, the board should be able to focus on the most critical area in my opinion – strategy. As a board you need to agree the process and approach you are going to take with management to review, refine and stress test your strategy – today and into the future.





 I find it handy to have a board toolkit – a set of frameworks, tools and models that suit each board in the four areas of strategy, performance and governance. But also, in a fourth – capability. What processes, skills and experiences do the board need to do its job well.


I am happy to share my board toolkit - please feel free to contact me at jatkins@vantagemarketing.com.au or on 0419 516 655.


James Atkins 

Vantage Strategy & Marketing

There is no doubt that Boards and their governance are headline grabbers at the moment. And for good reason. There’s clearly been failures in some of the bigger organisations. And accountability obviously rests at the feet of the directors in many cases.  ..

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13
Apr
2017

Uncovering your Why

Simon Sinek is one of those thought leaders who has had amazing cut through in the world of business strategy, including recently in relation to millennials in the workforce (if you haven't looked at this video yet, it is worth 15 minutes of your time).


I was therefore keen to see what he had to say when he presented to a packed house at The Growth Faculty forum in Melbourne recently.


Sinek was the morning attraction and for me reinforced much of the value in his 'Start with Why' model (click here for an overview of the model). He also spent a lot of time around leadership. One quote that had real resonance related to how you build and engage your team as a leader.


We are all familiar with the concept of "getting the right people on the bus" and its various variants. He had a different spin to it. As he said, "it’s not about the right people, it’s about the right bus!". And, of course, that's the leader’s role - both in ensuring the bus is 'safe' and 'sound', but also as leader being a great driver!





















The afternoon session was presented by his colleague Peter Docker whose focus was on how do you harness the "Power of Why". That is, how do you uncover your Why? 

This is something that has not always been clear to me, and I have had varying degrees of success in working with clients on this very issue. It is, in part, an iterative process. A process that Sinek identified as being about the origin of the business and why it exists. For some companies this may or may not still be relevant. 

Docker outlined 4 steps to help with the Why discovery process; less scientific, more reductive:
  1. Identify the Human Connection. To do that ask your team to identify specific stories about the organisation when it is at its best, when it makes them feel proud. Not about $ and cents per se - but what you have given, less so received.
  2. Isolate the Contribution - in those stories what was the specific contribution the organisations made in the lives of others. Collate and cluster these stories into themes - describe them as verbs, not nouns.
  3. Find the Impact - determine what that contribution enabled others to go on to do, or to be. How were their lives different because of this contribution - however small or large it may be.
  4. You can then start to draft potential WHY statements. A simple structure for a WHY statement is: To (what your organisation does - its contribution) so that (the effect you want to have in the world - the impact)


From there you will have some clarity on your WHY. You can iterate or road test to ensure it has resonance and, of course, relevance to who you are, and what you want to be as an organisation.


During the day, I sat next to a leader from one of the big 4 banks. She told me an amazing WHY story. It related to a client who had superannuation with them and had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The client rang the personal banker to inquire about their insurance only to find that the super account didn't include appropriate cover. Rather than leaving it at that the bank manager took it upon herself to look for so called 'lost' super with other organisations. Subsequently she identified one super account that did include insurance cover that would be of real value to her client. No direct value to the bank. Not an additional product sold. But a true human connection and contribution that would have real impact and benefit for that customer. Inspirational! 


You can see how that story would be a strong foundation around which to build the bank's WHY. A WHY in action - helping their clients have a secure, stronger financial foundation that supports them throughout their life - no matter what it throws at them. 

A day well spent - equal doses of inspiration and practical application!

by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing
This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

Simon Sinek is one of those thought leaders who has had amazing cut through in the world of business strategy, including recently in relation to millennials in the workforce (if you haven't looked at this video yet, it is worth 15 minutes of your time). ..

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02
Nov
2016

Time to break some rules...

Why is so much marketing bland and plain uninspiring? Are we trying to bore customers into buying? Lists of services masquerading as advertising. Images that make clip art look good. Websites that if you blanked out the logo would read exactly the same as all the others.


It seems to me that many businesses play by a set of unspoken category rules. Rules that restrict and contain, rather than excite and enthuse potential customers. 


If you are a services business you’d better list each and every one of your individual offerings – much like a restaurant does on its menu.  If you are a car company you’re more than likely to show shots of your pride and joy only in beautiful or rugged landscapes (sedan or 4WD respectively!).  Copy that sounds and looks the same.  Emails, proposals, business cards, newsletters and brochures all from a cookie cutter template. 


I am not arguing creativity for creativity’s sake.  Marketing needs to be targeted and relevant - and hopefully hit the sweet spot.  But with over 300 commercial messages bombarding customers every day sometimes you need to be really clever to make a memorable impression.  One that will engage and hopefully cause a reaction (like clicking through, picking up the phone or even buying!). 


Here’s a great example... 


SKF is a Swedish company selling such things as bearings, seals, and lubrication systems. 


Not very exciting right? Looks like they play by the category rules of using well lit product shots with reams of technical information (though obviously there is a place for that in the mix). 


Not much opportunity to stand out?



Well here’s what they sent to some of their customers on Valentine’s Day...


Certainly not playing by the rules! I can just imagine that even the most conservative of procurement managers cracking the faintest of smiles on receiving this post card. Connecting on an emotional level in a sea of sameness.

So are you playing by the category rules? If so time to break some and cut through the clutter.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing


This article is linked to James' Google+ profile



Why is so much marketing bland and plain uninspiring? Are we trying to bore customers into buying? Lists of services masquerading as advertising. Images that make clip art look good. Websites that if you blanked out the logo would read exactly the same as all the others. ..

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15
Oct
2016

Can it fit on one page?

It seems to me that many business consultants and so called strategy experts try to make things complex. This really comes to the fore when the challenge of planning is on the agenda.

SWOT, PESTLE, 5 Forces, etc. Lots of acronyms, not much clarity.

Don’t get me wrong these are all good tools that can be used to uncover insights and develop strategy. However without a clear framework they can end up making things more complex – lots of data not much information.

I have found the most sensible approach is the idea around one page planning. Yes one page.


The one page planning approach is based on the tried and true Now-Where-How framework.

Being clear on where you are NOW as a business (across all the key factors that drive value). Determining WHERE you want to be and then finally starting to develop strategies on HOW you are going to get there.

The beauty is that using this simple framework and then consolidating onto one page can be provide real focus.

But more importantly it enables you to cascade your plans throughout the organisation as per below. 


One of the biggest failures in strategic planning is not the qualities of the strategies developed but the lack of effective implementation.

One page planning enables a line of sight to be developed from the overall business strategic plan though to teams, projects and individuals. All aligned and easily verified that you are on track.

Add to this regular reviews and updates on progress and you have a simple process that can engage your teams and be easily monitored.

And the gold – you can run this internally without the need for expensive annual strategic offsites – yes it becomes part of how you do business!

And what if it’s more than one page? It’s a concept not a rule. Though focusing on a smaller number of strategies will mean increased likelihood of successful implementation – both organisationally and individually.


by James Atkins, Vantage Strategy & Marketing


This article is linked to James' Google+ profile

It seems to me that many business consultants and so called strategy experts try to make things complex. This really comes to the fore when the challenge of planning is on the agenda.

SWOT, PESTLE, 5 Forces, etc. Lots of acronyms, not much clarity.

Don’t get me wrong these are all good tools that can be used to uncover insights and develop strategy. However without a clear framework they can end up making things more complex – lots of data not much information.

I have found the most sensible approach is the idea around one page planning. Yes one page. ..


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