Tag Archives: Information & Communication Technology

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?

Will social technologies improve performance?

English: A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenom...
Image via Wikipedia

One of the most challenging questions… Will enterprises benefit of Web 2.0 deployments and will such technology improve performance?

On the one hand you see by far too much time spent on Facebook these days and statements like “my whole life is there” are not such unussual amongst the young generation. Therefore, the question is not how you make them use it (they already do) but what benefit you have as a company from using such technologies?

McKinsey’s conclusion is that companies are improving their mastery of social technologies, using them to enhance operations and exploit new market opportunities (“How social technologies are extending the organization,” McKinsey Quarterly, November 2011). They asked 4,261 global executives how their organizations deploy social technologies, including social networking, blogs, video sharing and microblogging, and the benefits gained. The 2011 survey reports that when adopted at scale across an emerging type of networked enterprise and integrated into the work processes of employees, social technologies can boost a company’s financial performance and market share, also confirming last year’s survey results.

I find not quite spectacular the four clusters that emerge from McKinsey’s analysis:
1. Executives at internally networked organizations note the highest improvement in benefits from interactions with employees;
2. Executives at externally networked organizations note the highest improvement in interactions with customers, partners, and suppliers;
3. Executives at fully networked organizations report greater benefits from both internal and external interactions (this result is easy to be assumed out of the first two);
4. In the fourth and by far the largest group, developing organizations, respondents report lower-than-average improvements across all interactions at their organizations.

It’s clear that there is an improvement in communication, especially for large inter-regional organisations but you don’t need a study to know that. What I would be interested in is how this is linked to performance on the job also this would be more difficult to find out once it becomes a way of life and business. Looking ahead three to five years, many respondents expect still more profound organizational changes. They say that with fewer constraints on social technologies at their companies:

  • Boundaries among employees, vendors and customers will blur.

I would raise a red flag here as this might be a signifficant risk management issue.

  • More employee teams will be able to organize themselves.

I would consider it one of the most relevant benefits.

  • Data-driven decision-making will rise in importance.

I’d also add a red flag here considering that Web 2.0 gathers unstructured data and the real challenge will be how to manage such information in a structured way.

The next decade – the “most innovative time” ?

A recent PwC survey found that that innovation is high on the executive agenda in virtually every industry. In all, 78% of CEOs surveyed believe innovation will generate “significant” new revenue and cost reduction opportunities over the next three years. But it is highest for those where technology is changing customer expectations. In both the pharmaceutical and entertainment and media sectors, for example, more than 40% of CEOs believe their greatest opportunities for growth come from spawning new products and services.

Additionally, the survey found that CEOs are re-thinking their approach to innovation and increasingly seeking to collaborate with outside partners and in markets other than where they are based. For example, a majority of entertainment and media CEOs said they expect to co-develop new products and services.

The innovation process generally has four phases: 

  • Discovery: Identifying and sourcing ideas and problems that are the basis for future innovation. Sources may include employees as well as customers, suppliers, partners and other external organisations.
  • Incubation: Refining, developing and testing good ideas to see if they are technically feasible and make business sense.
  • Acceleration: Establishing pilot programs to test commercial feasibility.
  • Scale:  Integrating the innovation into the company; commercialisation and mass marketing.

However, the drive for innovation must arise from the CEO and other executive leadership by creating a culture that is open to new ideas and systematic in its approach to their development.

Therefore, the study also identifies 7 misconceptions about the innovation process:

  • Innovation can be delegated.  Not so. The drive to innovate begins at the top. If the CEO doesn’t protect and reward the process, it will fail.
  • Middle Management is the ally of innovation. Managers are not natural champions of innovation. They to reject new ideas in favor of efficiency.
  • Innovative people work for the money. Establishing a culture that embeds innovation in the organisation will attract and retain creative talent.
  • Innovation is a lucky accident. Successful innovation most often results from a disciplined process that sorts through many ideas.
  • The more open the innovation process, the less disciplined. Advances in collaborative tools, like social networking, are accelerating open innovation.
  • Businesses know how much innovation they need. Leaders must calculate their potential for inorganic growth to determine their need to innovate.
  • Innovation can’t be measured. Leadership needs to identify its ROII (Return on Innovation Investment).

Details about the study here.

52% of executives said their company will increase security spending over the next year

Lokcpick 101
Image by SerialK via Flickr

According to the 2011 Global State of Information Security Survey (conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in conjunction with CIO and CSO magazines), out of 12,800 executives from 135 countries, 52% said their company will increase security spending over the next year. Yet many executives said their company’s business partners (52%) and suppliers (50%) have been weakened by economic conditions, a substantial increase from 43% and 42%, respectively, in 2009.

Security executives said their companies also have been impacted by spending restraints, often resulting in the stalling or degradation of some fundamental security capabilities such as conducting personnel background checks and the use of vulnerability scanning tools. Additionally, 47% of respondents said their organization had reduced security-related funding for capital expenditures and 46% said their company had reduced security-related operating expenditures.

The top factors driving information security spending this year are economic conditions (reported by 49% of respondents), business continuity and disaster recovery (40%), company reputation (35%), internal policy compliance (34%) and regulatory compliance (33%).

The only spending driver to show substantial increases this year is “client requirement,” the study found. Client requirement moved up from the bottom of the list in 2007 to near parity with the top-ranking legal/regulatory environment. The rise of client requirement demonstrates the continuing strategic importance and integration of the security department to the business.

Not surprisingly, due to the cost-cutting initiatives taken by most global actors, the 2011 Global State of Information Security Survey also found a significant shift in the ongoing evolution of the CISO’s reporting channel, which has moved away from the CIO in favor of the company’s senior business decision-makers such as the CFO and the CEO.

Risks of social networking and a new role for insurance

The 2011 Global State of Information Security Survey revealed that many companies are unprepared to deal with the potential risks of social networking and other Web 2.0 applications: 60% of respondents said their organization has yet to implement security technologies supporting Web 2.0 exchanges such as social networks, blogs or wikis, according to the survey.

Additionally, 77% of respondents said their organization has not established security policies that address the use of social networks or Web 2.0 technologies. This lack of action on social networking and Web 2.0 technologies can expose organizations to a variety of risks, including loss or leakage of information, damage to the company’s reputation, illegal downloading of pirated material, and identity theft.

The survey also found that many companies are using an additional tool (insurance) to protect the organization from theft or misuse of assets such as sensitive data or customer records: 46% of respondents said their organization has an insurance policy. Additionally, 17% of respondents said their company has made a claim and 13% said their company has collected on a claim.

In Europe, the focus on information security is far more muted, the survey found. Europe now trails other regions in maturity across many security capabilities. Like North America, Europe continues to suffer poor visibility into security events and, as a result, may be unaware of the true impact of events on the business. While 68% of European respondents say their organizations place a high level of importance on protecting sensitive customer information, the responses from other global regions are higher, including Asia (80%), North America (80%), and South America (76%).

Industry specific highlights and further regional information are available here

Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch

M500 Watch Phone by SMS Technology Australia
Image by inju via Flickr

Two-and-a-half years ago, McKinsey described eight technology-enabled business trends that were profoundly reshaping strategy across a wide swath of industries. Since then, the technology landscape has continued to evolve rapidly. The dizzying pace of change has affected those original eight trends, which have continued to spread (though often at a more rapid pace than anticipated), morph in unexpected ways, and grew in number to ten:

1. Distributed cocreation moves into the mainstream

By McKinsey’s estimates, when customer communities handle an issue, the per-contact cost can be as low as 10 percent of the cost to resolve the issue through traditional call centers. Other companies are extending their reach by using the Web for word-of-mouth marketing. However, since cocreation is a two-way process, companies must also provide feedback to stimulate continuing participation and commitment.

2. Making the network the organization

The recession underscored the value of such flexibility in managing volatility. McKinsey believes that the more porous, networked organizations of the future will need to organize work around critical tasks rather than molding it to constraints imposed by corporate structures.

3. Collaboration at scale

Across many economies, the number of people who undertake knowledge work has grown much more quickly than the number of production or transactions workers. While the body of knowledge around the best use of such technologies is still developing, a number of companies have conducted experiments, as one may see in the rapid growth rates of video and Web conferencing, expected to top 20 percent annually during the next few years.

4. The growing ‘Internet of Things’

Assets themselves became elements of an information system, with the ability to capture, compute, communicate, and collaborate around information – something that has come to be known as the “Internet of Things.” Embedded with sensors, actuators, and communications capabilities, such objects will soon be able to absorb and transmit information on a massive scale and, in some cases, to adapt and react to changes in the environment automatically. These “smart” assets can make processes more efficient, give products new capabilities, and spark novel business models.

5. Experimentation and big data

McKinsey affirms that some companies haven’t even mastered the technologies needed to capture and analyze the valuable information they can access. More commonly, they don’t have the right talent and processes to design experiments and extract business value from big data, which require changes in the way many executives now make decisions: trusting instincts and experience over experimentation and rigorous analysis. To get managers at all echelons to accept the value of experimentation, senior leaders must buy into a “test and learn” mind-set and then serve as role models for their teams.

6. Wiring for a sustainable world

Companies are now taking the first steps to reduce the environmental impact of their IT. Information technology is both a significant source of environmental emissions and a key enabler of many strategies to mitigate environmental damage.

7. Imagining anything as a service

In the IT industry, the growth of “cloud computing” (accessing computer resources provided through networks rather than running software or storing data on a local computer) exemplifies this shift. Consumer acceptance of Web-based cloud services for everything from e-mail to video is of course becoming universal, and companies are following suit.

8. The age of the multisided business model

Thr advertising-supported model has proliferated on the Internet, underwriting Web content sites, as well as services such as search and e-mail. It is now spreading to new markets, such as enterprise software: Spiceworks offers IT-management applications to 950,000 users at no cost, while it collects advertising from B2B companies that want access to IT professionals.

9. Innovating from the bottom of the pyramid

Hundreds of companies are now appearing on the global scene from emerging markets. For most global incumbents, these represent a new type of competitor: they are not only challenging the dominant players’ growth plans in developing markets but also exporting their extreme models to developed ones. To respond, global players must plug into the local networks of entrepreneurs, fast-growing businesses, suppliers, investors, and influencers spawning such disruptions.

10. Producing public good on the grid

Technology can also improve the delivery and effectiveness of many public services. At the UK Web site FixMyStreet.com, for example, citizens report, view, and discuss local problems, such as graffiti and the illegal dumping of waste, and interact with local officials who provide updates on actions to solve them.

For detailed analysis see McKisey Quarterly

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:
https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com

The value companies have realized from their Web 2.0 deployments

McKinsey Quarterly conducted a survey in June 2009 and received nearly 1,700 executives from around the world, across a range of industries and functional areas. The survey focused on the value they have realized from their Web 2.0 deployments in three main areas: within their organizations; externally, in their relations with customers; and in their dealings with suppliers, partners, and outside experts.

Their responses suggest why Web 2.0 remains of high interest: 69% of respondents report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits, including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues. Companies that made greater use of the technologies, the results show, report even greater benefits. The survey also looked closely at the factors driving these improvements—for example, the types of technologies companies are using, management practices that produce benefits, and any organizational and cultural characteristics that may contribute to the gains. The results show that successful companies not only tightly integrate Web 2.0 technologies with the work flows of their employees but also create a “networked company,” linking themselves with customers and suppliers through the use of Web 2.0 tools. Despite the current recession, respondents overwhelmingly say that they will continue to invest in Web 2.0.

What benefits do Web 2.0 deployments bring to a company?

This year’s survey turned up strong evidence that these advantages are translating into measurable business gains: greater ability to share ideas; improved access to knowledge experts; and reduced costs of communications, travel, and operations. Many respondents also say Web 2.0 tools have decreased the time to market for products and have had the effect of improving employee satisfaction.

Looking beyond company borders, significant benefits have stemmed from better interactions with organizations and customers. The ability to forge closer ties has increased customers’ awareness and consideration of companies’ products and has improved customer satisfaction. Some respondents report that these customer interactions have resulted in measurable increases in revenues.

Respondents cite similar gains resulting from better ties to suppliers and partners: the ability to gain access to expertise outside company walls more quickly, lower costs of communication with business partners and lower travel costs.

How do companies use Web 2.0?

Among respondents who report seeing benefits within their companies, many cite blogs, RSS, and social networks as important means of exchanging knowledge. These networks often help companies coalesce affinity groups internally. Finally, respondents report using Web videos more frequently since the previous survey; technology improvements have made videos easier to produce and disseminate within organizations.

Respondents who report that Web technologies have strengthened their companies’ links to customers also cite blogs and social networks as important. Both allow companies to distribute product information more readily and, perhaps more critically, they invite customer feedback and even participation in the creation of products.

What’s next?

• Over half of the companies in this year’s survey plan to increase their investments in Web 2.0 technologies, while another quarter expect to maintain investments at current levels.
• The current downturn has increased interest in the technologies, presumably because companies count on extending their gains.
• About 1/3 of respondents have not yet achieved business benefits, either because they aren’t using Web 2.0 for one of the three major usage categories (internal, customer, and partner/supplier) or because they have yet to learn how to achieve measurable benefits with the tools they are using.

For a closer look at how companies are using Web 2.0 and their benefits, see the articles “Business and Web 2.0: An interactive feature,” and “How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0” on www.mckinseyquarterly.com

Virtual teams: opportunity during crisis. Tips & tricks on effectively managing virtual project teams.

Market Watch recently published one of my articles regarding virtual teams’ management seen as an opportunity of cost-cutting and performance improvement. However, significant issues could arise in managing virtual team communication; overcoming them is one of the most challenging tasks of any project manager.

Article headlines:
– Available technologies;
– Tips & tricks on effectively managing virtual teams;
– Virtual communication problems: how can we overcome them?

You may find a PDF copy (Romanian version only) at:
“Echipele virtuale: oportunitate in timp de criza”, Market Watch Nr. 116, Iunie 2009, 12-13

or you may read it online at:
http://www.marketwatch.ro/articol/4991/Echipele_virtuale_oportunitate_pe_timp_de_criza/

IT investments management: solutions in a downturn

“Ziarul Financiar” published today one of my articles in which I stated that the indiscriminate slashing of IT investments could be harmful to the current economic context.

I believe this to be one of the most common traps companies fall into these days as medium and long term perspectives are overshadowed by short term cash flow requirements. Within the article, I also offered some suggestions for a short, medium and long term approach to IT investments.

You may read the full article (Romanian only) in PDF:
“Managementul investitiilor IT: solutii in timp de criza”, Ziarul Financiar, 3 iulie 2009

and online:
http://www.zf.ro/opinii/managementul-investitiilor-it-solutii-in-timp-de-criza-4613097/

Global Entertainment & Media Forecast for 2009-2013

Over the next five years, digital technologies will become increasingly widespread across all segments of entertainment & media (E&M) as the digital migration continues to expand according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2009-2013.

The study shows that this recession will last longer than previous ones due to a steeper downturn and that the impact on consumer spending will be much steeper than in the past. E&M is not immune to that trend – consumer spending in E&M will fall by a projected 1.2% in 2009, remaining weak in 2010 and seeing only relatively low growth at 3.2% in 2011.

Responses to the recession will vary from country to country and region to region with some territories showing little ill effects while others experience steep declines. Latin America and Asia Pacific remain the fastest growing regions increasing at an annual compound rate of 5.1% and 4.5% through to 2013 reaching $73 billion and $413 billion respectively. Excluding Japan, the dominant country in the Asia Pacific region which accounted for 45% of total spending in 2008, E&M spending in Asia Pacific will increase at a projected 7.1% compound annual rate over the period of the Forecast.

According to PwC’s analysis, this ongoing migration to digital will occur and manifest itself across three parallel and interrelated dimensions:

Economic

The overall, effect of the current global economic downturn will be to accelerate and intensify the migration to digital technologies among both providers and consumers of E&M content and services.

Consumer behaviour

The accelerating digital transformation will in turn reinforce and proliferate new consumption habits and “digital behaviours”, as consumers seek (1) more control over where, when, and how they consume content, and (2) higher value from their entertainment and media choices.

Advertising

As digital behaviours become more widespread and embedded, a new generation of advertising-funded revenue models will emerge, aiming to reflect and capitalize on the evolving consumption habits by delivering advertising that is ever more targeted and relevant to the specific audience.

By 2013, the combination of these three change dimensions will give rise to a much more fragmented E&M landscape than today’s, characterized by a wide divergence of revenue models aimed at exploiting the digital opportunity. Traditional, long-established revenue models in segments such as TV and magazines will be replaced by more targeted and tailored models that will differ widely within and across segments and geographies.

E&M companies will have to commit themselves to participating actively in this industry-wide shift, or risk suffering lower growth than their competitors and ultimately possible extinction. As we said at the beginning of this article, they will have no place to hide from the remorseless digital advance.

More information about PwC’s study: www.pwc.com/outlook