Tag Archives: crisis

Delusions of Safety: Getting to grips with today’s growing cyber-threat

“Delusions of Safety – The Cyber Savvy CEO: Getting to grips with today’s growing cyber-threats” video addresses a serious cyber security issue, using a fictitious scenario.
It illustrates why leadership by a CEO who truly understands the risks and opportunities of the cyber world, will be a defining characteristic of those organisations, whether public or private sector, and will realize the benefits most effectively.

This video can be used as supporting material for a Crisis Management exercise or Security Awareness program.

The Eurozone Crises and its Scenarios. What does this mean to your business?

Eurozone 02
Eurozone (Photo credit: slolee)

The chances of Greece departing the Eurozone are rising sharply so what chances are there that Grece will remain in the Euro as a compromise? Spanish banks are still holding an estimated Euro 600bn of mortgages at full value on their books so Spain will be the next big test for Europe. Spanish and other Eurozone banks are going to require hundreds of billions of Euro recapitalisation in the next 12 months.

On January 2012, Congressional Research Services looked into possible scenarios regarding the Eurozone and their impact on US economy. Latest indicators from the US are mixed and patchy but this economy is out-performing the Eurozone. CEEMEA’s central outlook remains 3-5 years of sub-par economic growth, continuous Eurozone crises and tough global business conditions. PwC also provided four scenarios, including one where Greece would exit the Eurozone.

What does this mean to your business?

The risks for a worse outlook have intensified since March/April and Eurozone restructuring has the potential to create significant change and disruption to the operations of many organisations. Global companies (both headquartered in the Eurozone and ones with extensive links with it) will be impacted across their whole value chain.

There will be:

  • Treasury changes (e.g. liquidity and financing, security over banking arrangements);
  • Operational changes (e.g. documentation, pricing arrangements, customer payment mechanisms);
  • IT changes (e.g. systems configuration, payment and billing systems changes, master data, transaction data migration, package applications and support arrangements);
  • Planning, benchmarking and forecasting (e.g. contingencies, restatement of historical data, costs to implement the Eurozone restructuring);
  • Challenges in communications to shareholders, stakeholders, customers and suppliers regarding organisational impact and arrangements to manage the impact.

How one can cope with all these challenges? Here are some suggestions:

  • Evaluate your supply chain risk, particularly where raw materials become expensive for suppliers no longer in the euro-zone;
  • Develope business cases / risk analysis to take advantage of potential new sourcing opportunities and provide delivery support to realise these benefits;
  • Run rapid diagnostic tools that can be deployed simultaneously across Finance (EPM Blueprint, Finance Effectiveness);
  • The break-up of the Eurozone may even give rise to opportunities from a tax perspective: identify them and work to build them into existing contingency plans should the right commercial fact patterns arise in the future.

Other suggestions?

Competitive intelligence: a real value or a buzzword?

ATWS Slide presentation from Sandra Carvao WTO...
Image by !/_PeacePlusOne via Flickr

“What competitive intelligence? We are in the middle of a crizes, we need to survive!” That may be the statement of many executives today, and it seems that competitive advantage is nothing but an elusive goal. The results of a recent McKinsey survey suggest one reason: just 53% of executives characterize their companies’ strategies as emphasizing the creation of relative advantage over competitors; the rest say their strategies are better described as matching industry best practices and delivering operational imperatives. In other words – this is nothing but a buzzword for stakeholders to make them feel safe.

What I even find more interesting is that only 33% say their companies’ strategies rest on novel data and insights not available to competitors, rather than widely available data. We are more or less used to see companies (especially the big ones) as having some “CIA” teams in charge with competitive intelligence but it seems that this is only true in some of them. What we don’t know from McKinsey’s survey is how many of those 33% are large multinationals and how many are not.

However, there may be one likely explanation of this fact that wouldn’t be affected by the size of the company or the existence of such intelligence units: the widespread availability of information and adoption of sophisticated strategy frameworks creates an impression that “everyone knows what we know and is probably analyzing the data in the same ways we are.” Yet if strategists question their ability to see something that no one else does, the question that raises is how reach are the powerful insight that are most likely to differentiate them from competitors?

Another astonishing result: only 12% of surveyed executives place novel insights in strategy among the top three influencers of financial performance. The financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed revealed weaknesses in many strategies and forced many companies to confront choices and trade-offs they put off in boom years. Not surprisingly, 56% report that their companies are making strategic decisions more frequently than before. This increased speed may make it difficult for some companies to analyze each decision in detail. However, a shift toward shorter planning cycles only increases the need to focus on the timeless aspects of strategy that can drive competitive advantage.

And this brings us back to our main question: is competitive intelligence a buzzword or does it bring a genuine value to the company and its financial performance?

10 guiding questions to help restructuring initiatives

Cover for the Business Strategy Wikibook.
Image via Wikipedia

Turbulent economic times are making many organisations consider restructuring. Theoretically, a company that has been restructured effectively will be more efficient, better organised, and better focused on its core business. However, in practice, many restructuring initiatives fail as a result of overlooking “insignificant” issues or taking an unrealistic approach of the reality of restructuring across multiple countries and markets.

Here are some key points you should consider before and during a restructuring initiative that may help you thrive in challenging times:

Adding value to your company

1) What are the business drivers behind your restructuring requirements?
2) What should your redesigned organisation look like?
3) Are you obtaining function efficiency and true value for money for your spend?

Engaging effectively with your employees

4) Is your approach to your restructuring consistent with your declared values?
5) Have you got effective communications plans in place?
6) Are you engaging with employee representatives in an appropriate manner in each of your markets?

Balancing your short and longterm risks

7) How do you manage your employment brand in such challenging times?
8) Is there a risk of any proposed measures damaging your future business strategy?
9) How do you retain key talent now and in years to come?
10) How do you continue the development of tomorrow’s people whilst restructuring?

You may also want to read:
Restructuring checklist #1
Restructuring checklist #2
Restructuring checklist #3

Aristotle and economy

Almost 90% of worldwide executives made cost cuts during 2009, a percentage that is not surprising at all considering the economic downturn. However, according to PwC’s “2010 Global CEOs Survey”, almost 80% of executives realised that they need long term results, not just short term liquidity.

What does this have to do with Aristotle? You may find the answer in the article bellow published in the last issue of “Capital” (Romanian only):

Online: Capital.ro

Entertainment and media forecasted to grow by 5% annually until 2014

Advertising in Stratford, England
Image via Wikipedia

Following a year of decline in 2009, the global E&M market, as a whole, is forecasted to grow by 5% compounded annually for the entire period to 2014 reaching US$1.7 trillion, up from US$1.3 trillion in 2009. Fastest growing region throughout the forecast period is Latin America growing at 8.8% compound annual rate (CAR) during the next 5 years to US$77 billion in 2014. Asia Pacific is next at 6.4% CAR through to 2014 to US$475 billion. Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) follows at 4.6% to US$581 billion in 2014. The largest, but slowest growing market is North America growing at 3.9% CAR taking it from US$460 billion in 2009 to US$558 billion in 2014.

Consumers seam to embrace new media experiences with staggering speed. The advancing digital transformation is driving audience fragmentation to a level not previously seen. However, the current wave of change is of a different magnitude from previous ones both in its speed and its simultaneous impact across all segments.

Although there is consistency in the inevitable migration to digital, the ways in which this presents itself and the pace of change continues to vary by market. Regional and country variations in current market size and future growth reflect local factors around infrastructure, access availability and consumer behaviour. For example the mobile internet explosion has already happened in Japan, accounting for some 53% of global spending on mobile Internet access in 2009 while other markets are still at the bottom of their growth curve.

Advertising on the rebound

Advertising revenues have been particularly hit by the turbulent markets and while there are signs of a rebound, this is still fragile in nature. Spend is unlikely to return to former levels. By 2014, the US advertising spend is expected to still be 9% below its level in 2006. Overall, global advertising will increase at a 4.2% CAR from US$406 billion in 2009 to US$498 billion in 2014. Internet advertising will join television in 2014 as the only media with spending in excess of US$100 billion.

The projections reflect the fragmentation of the market and behavioural changes of consumers. The advertising industry is responding to consumers’ shifting attention and has embarked upon a long-term journey towards total marketing or total brand communication. Brands are changing their focus from advertising on a medium, to marketing through, and with, content.

Conversing with consumers

Consumer feedback and usage provides the only reliable guide to the commercial viability of products and services, and the global consumer base is being used as a test-bed for new offerings and consumption modes. However, as responses are still evolving it is up to the industry to anticipate and identify where they are heading and pre-empt the needs and wants of consumers. PwC believes that three themes will emerge from changing consumer behaviour:

The rising power of mobility and devices: Advances in technology and products will see increasingly converged, multi-functional and interoperable mobile devices come of age as a consumption platform by the end of 2011. Consumers are increasingly demanding “ubiquity”, with content flowing across different devices to support ever-greater interactivity and convenience. They are using mobile in new ways, and downloading ever-increasing numbers of mobile applications (“apps”) to support their lifestyles. The ability to consume and interact with content anywhere, anytime—and to share and discuss that content experience with other people via social networks—will become an increasingly integral part of people’s lives.

The growing dominance of the Internet experience over all content consumption: Using the Internet is now one of the great unifying experiences of the current era for consumers everywhere—and their expectation of Internet-style interactivity and access to content will continue to expand across media consumption in every segment. This trend is initially at its clearest in television. Equally, people are already consuming magazines and newspapers on Internet-enabled tablets, and streaming personalised music services such as Pandora in preference to buying physical CDs or even digital downloads.

Increasing engagement and readiness to pay for content—driven by improved consumption experiences and convenience: Ongoing fragmentation means that media offerings will need greater consumer engagement and quality to get themselves heard – and paid. Consumers are more willing to pay for content when accompanied by convenience and flexibility in usage, personalisation , and/or a differentiated experience that cannot be created elsewhere. Local relevance will also become important once again as an aspect of convenience and relevance.

Revolutionising the business

Digital migration and the changes in consumer behaviour have put extreme pressure on existing business models. It has caused the industry to radically rethink its approach to monetising content as it strives to capture new sources of revenue, be it from transactions or from participation with others operating in the evolving digital value chain.

Inevitably this results in individual companies searching for where to position themselves in the new digital world. Partnering with other organisations is becoming imperative in order to create viable commercial content offerings while sharing the costs and risks. Increasingly potential partners are being found from a diverse set of industries.

Whatever the partnership or collaboration PwC identifies seven critical factors for operating succesfully in the new value chain:
• Strategic flexibility
• Delivery of engagement and reationship with the customer through the consumption experience
• Economics of scale and scope
• Speed of decision-making and execution, with the appetite to experiment and fail
• Agility in talent management
• Ability to monetise brand/rights across platforms
• Strong capabilities in partnership structuring and M&A targeting and integration

2010 – 2014 Media Outlook in numbers

• There were 12 countries in 2009 with E&M spending above US$20 billion, led by the United States at US$428 billion and Japan at US$164 billion. Of the leading countries, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be by far the fastest growing with a projected 12% compound annual increase, fuelled by a vibrant economy and large increases in broadband penetration that in turn propel other segments. Japan will be the slowest growing of the leading countries at 2.8% compounded annually.
• Internet access is a key driver of spending in most segments. Increased broadband penetration will boost wired access while growing smartphone penetration and wireless network upgrades will drive mobile access. Spending on wired and mobile Internet access will rise from US$228 billion in 2009 to US$351 billion in 2014.
• PwC expects a relatively flat market in aggregate global advertising and consumer/end-user spending in 2010, improved growth in 2011 and a return to mid-single-digit gains during 2014. Overall global advertising will increase at a 4.2% CAR from US$406 billion in 2009 to US$498 billion in 2014. Overall consumer/end-user spending will rise from US$688 billion in 2009 to US$842 billion in 2014, a 4.1% compound annual increase.
• Globally, the video game market will grow from US$52.5 billion in 2009 to US$86.8 billion in 2014, growing at a compound growth rate of 10.6%. This will make it the second fastest-growing segment of E&M behind internet advertising wired and mobile, but will be the fastest-growing consumer/end user segment ahead of TV subscriptions and license fees.
• The global television subscription and license fee market will increase from $185.9 billion in 2009 to US$258.1 billion in 2014, a CAGR of 6.8%. This will outpace TV advertising, which will grow at a CAGR of 5.7%. The biggest component of this market is subscription spending and this will increase at 7.5% CAR to US$210.8 billion in 2014. Asia Pacific will be the fastest-growing region with a 10% compund annual increase rising to US$47.1 billion in 2014 from US$29.2 billion in 2009.
• Total global spending on consumer magazines fell by 10.6 percent in 2009. PwC projects an additional 2.7% decrease in 2010, a flat market in 2011, and modest growth during 2012–14. As a result, spending will total $74 billion in 2014, up 0.7 percent compounded annually from $71.5 billion in 2009.
• Electronic educational books will grow at a CAGR of 36.5% globally throughout the forecast period yet will still only account for less than 6% of global spend on educational books in 2014.

Details on PwC’s study: www.pwc.com

How can we make cost cuts stick

54% of the executives surveyed by McKinsey in April indicated that they would take steps to reduce operating costs in the next 12 months, compared with 47% in February. In April, 2/3 of the respondents rated economic conditions in their countries as better than they had been six months previously, and another 2/3 expected further improvement by the end of the first half of 2010 (“Economic Conditions Snapshot, April 2010: McKinsey Global Survey results,” mckinseyquarterly.com, April 2010). Yet any successes companies have at cutting costs during the downturn will erode with time. Many executives expect some proportion of the costs cut during the recent recession to return within 12 to 18 months (“What worked in cost cutting -and what’s next: McKinsey Global Survey results,” mckinseyquarterly.com, January 2010) – and prior research found that only 10% of cost reduction programs show sustained results three years later (Suzanne P. Nimocks, Robert L. Rosiello, and Oliver Wright, “Managing overhead costs,” mckinseyquarterly.com, May 2005).

Why is it then so difficult to make cost cuts stick?

In most cases, it’s because reduction programs don’t address the true drivers of costs or are simply too difficult to maintain over time. Sometimes, managers lack deep enough insight into their own operations to set useful cost reduction targets. In the midst of a crisis, they look for easily available benchmarks, such as what similar companies have accomplished, rather than taking the time to conduct a bottom-up examination of which costs should be cut. In other cases, individual business unit heads try to meet targets with draconian measures that are unrealistic over the long term, such as across-the-board cuts that don’t differentiate between those that add value or destroy it. In still others, managers use inaccurate or incomplete data to track costs, thus missing important opportunities and confounding efforts to ensure accountability.

Some possible solutions:

Focus on how to cut, not just how much

Benchmarks matter. External ones on some measures may be difficult to get, but where they are available – for example, on travel expenses – they can enable managers to compare performance across different units and identify real differences, as well as trade-offs that may not be in line with the organization’s overall strategy. Internal benchmarks are easier to access and provide great insights, especially because managers are more likely to understand and adjust for differences among their company’s organizational units than among different companies represented by external benchmarks.

P&L accounting data is not enough to make lasting decisions

Unfortunately, few companies have the kinds of systems they need to track costs at a fine-grained level – and they face a number of challenges in establishing them. Multiple data systems may make it difficult to aggregate and compare data from different geographies. Inconsistent accounting practices between businesses or time periods may lead to significant distortions. Changes in organizational structure (as a result of acquisitions, divestitures, or even changes in the allocation of overhead costs) may similarly distort tracking.

Clearly link cost management and strategy

Strategy must lead cost-cutting efforts, not vice versa. The goal cannot be merely to meet a bottom-line target. Indeed, among participants in a November 2009 survey, those who worked for companies that took an across-the-board approach to cost cutting in the recent downturn doubt that the cuts are sustainable. Those who predicted that the cuts could be sustained over the next 18 months were more likely to say that their companies chose a targeted approach. (“What worked in cost cutting – and what’s next: McKinsey Global Survey results,” mckinseyquarterly.com, January 2010).

Yet, many companies do not explicitly link cost reduction initiatives to broader strategic plans. As a result, reduction targets are set so that each business unit does “its share” – which starves high-performing units of the resources needed for valuable growth investments while generating only meager improvements at poorly performing units. Moreover, initiatives in one area of a business often have unintended negative consequences for the company as a whole.

Aim at results for 2-3 years not just 12 months

Most companies treat cost management as a one-off exercise driven by the need to manage short-term profit targets. Yet such hasty cost-cutting activity typically goes into reverse once the pressure is removed and rarely results in sustainable changes in cost structure. A better approach is to use the initial cost reduction program as an opportunity to build a competency in cost management rather than in cost reduction.

60% of executives say R&D will be top priority this year

Scientist Nestlé R&D Centre Tours, France
Image by Nestlé via Flickr

Research and development has risen sharply on the corporate agenda in the wake of the global economic crisis, a McKinsey survey finds. Four in ten respondents report that both R&D budgets and activity levels are up this year relative to 2009. What’s more, executives are remarkably optimistic that the R&D moves their companies made during the downturn will serve them well in the coming three to five years.

Moreover, nearly 60% of executives say R&D will be either the top priority or among the top three priorities this year – significantly higher than the 47% of executives who said the same last year. Despite the increased levels of spending and activity, companies are taking a wait-and-see approach to R&D hiring. Relatively few respondents say their companies are hiring or firing; the most common approach is a focus on retention.

Executives recognize that delaying, reducing, and eliminating R&D projects can limit long term competitiveness. Still, 42% of respondents say their organizations cut R&D costs in 2009, perhaps reflecting the lengths to which some companies needed to go in order to survive the recent economic turmoil. Further, when compared to the moves companies had made in spring 2009 (when McKinsey’s first R&D survey was conducted) with the moves they made by year’s end, it becomes clear that for many R&D organizations, conditions worsened steadily. Far more companies eliminated projects, delayed spending, and instituted hiring freezes as the year progressed.

These actions may well haunt some companies for years to come. A significant share of executives whose companies cut costs expect that these moves will have adverse effects in the coming three to five years. The problems respondents are most likely to expect include reduced market share, a loss of technological ground to competitors, a weaker R&D talent pool, a loss of institutional knowledge, and damage to morale.

Meanwhile, a significant number of companies appear to have used the downturn as an opportunity to add a measure of discipline to their R&D organizations, infrastructure, or processes. Among the most frequent changes in 2009 were increased accountability for performance and spending, increased collaboration with outside R&D groups, increased use of global R&D resources, and the streamlining of core R&D processes. All these moves should help companies innovate more effectively over the long term.

Moreover, high performers in the survey appear more attuned to the “softer” aspects of R&D than other companies are. Executives at high-performing companies, for instance, are significantly more likely to say their organizations are focusing on retention of key employees (40% versus 29%). And while the majority of high-performing companies didn’t cut R&D costs in 2009 — 63% of high performers didn’t, versus 56% of the others — those that did are far more likely than other companies to fear weaker R&D talent pools, a loss of institutional knowledge, and damage to company morale. Finally, high-performing companies appear to be markedly more proactive than the others in two operational areas that represent significant long-term investments: the streamlining of core R&D processes and the expansion of R&D infrastructure.

You may find more details at:

International fraud, corruption and the economic crisis: what connection is there between defence contracts, banks, USA, Tanzania and Romania?

A possible answer may be found in the article bellow which I wrote for the last issue of Forbes. The article aims to look for reasons of the sharp raise in international corruption cases compared to the global downturn trail. References are made to SFO’s investigation of British Aerospace (BAE) as well as several corruption surveys and FCPA analysis.

PDF version available at the link bellow (Romanian version only):
“International fraud, corruption and the economic crisis”, Forbes Romania Nr. 24, 8-19 February 2010, 80-81