Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Education for a New Age

As school is back in session, parents and teachers meet again to discuss and decide how best to prepare our children to thrive in the world around us.
And to make the challenge a bit more interesting, many say that change is happening faster and faster (HBR), leading professionals to learn new skills to be effective in their organizations, higher education institutions to adapt their curricula and even business models (Georgia Tech MOOC), and kids to learn how to code (TED).
So, let us step beyond typical school programs and brainstorm what else we can do to better prepare our children to succeed over the next decade, starting by exploring what is going on around us.

The world is changing

Our Industrial Age workplace is changing (Inc). And here are a some other changes going on right now:
  • The multi-generational workplace: as more generations continue to share the workplace (Forbes), it is important for newer generations to not only be able to collaborate, but also lead individuals from previous generations.
  • Global challenges for humanity: there are still various critical challenges like hunger, access to drinking water, and others (Millennium Project), where unprecedented levels of collaboration and selflessness significantly increase our ability to succeed.
  • Continuous learning: with life expectancy increasing (Wikipedia), it is paramount to encourage all age groups to make innovative contributions. In particular for school age children, should we be be looking for ways to teach today’s kids to be more receptive to change as they age and throughout their lives?

The right tools for the "job"

In order to succeed at these new challenges, we might want to upgrade out kids' tool set. And here are some skills which might just do the trick:
  • Purposeful networking: in order to tackle big challenges, it is critical to be able to understand the big picture, break it down into its actionable components, and identify individuals interested in partnering to accomplish common goals.
  • Cultural diversity: solving global challenges means required capital, solution designers, and impacted individuals might be in different continents. Individuals willing and able to understand and communicate with all involved are most likely to succeed.
  • Crowdsourcing: while many schools already expose students to teamwork, there is something to be said about the ability to selflessly partner with a stranger half way across the world to achieve a common goal, regardless of who “had which idea” or “solved that problem”.
  • Continuous improvement: beyond the simple exercise of patience and persistence, it is desirable to intentionally use patience and persistence to make actionable, incremental, and realistic progress towards solving global challenges, rather than simply idealized them as unachievable goals.
  • Learner for Life: moving from a “learning for grades” to focus on learning to acquire the necessary proficiency to accomplish a goal. And being willing to adapt as the world challenges continually morph around us.
  • Contextual leadership: leadership shift from a fight for power towards meaningfully connecting to a multi-generational workforce to engage each individual, helping increase innovation and productivity (infographic)

I am sure you have your own ideas on where we are headed and which skills might benefits our kids the most. I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss how we can expose our kids to these or other skills, allowing them to thrive in this new world. Feel free to use the comment box below to share your thoughts, so we can explore options together! And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of digitalart

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Can Proofs of Concept Shorten Sales Cycles?

Image courtesy of cooldesign - ID-100266058.jpg
This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

Recently I was asked about my experience using proofs of concept to shorten the sales cycle of complex solution sales engagements. And the audience was surprised to hear that, in my experience, while proofs of concept should increase the win rate, they may actually stretch the sales cycle of a specific deal, rather than shorten it!

And yet, it is possible for proofs of concept to shorten the overall sales cycle in complex solution sales engagements, when they are part of a wider solution showcase program.

A Layered Approach to Your Solution Showcase Program

In order to balance your ability to shorten the sales cycle and cover specific customer scenarios, it is best to devise a layered approach to your solution showcase program, where commonly asked scenarios can be readily demonstrated, while highly-customized scenarios requiring additional time can be built as needed.

The layered approach could look something like this, when organized by turnaround time:
  • Readily available (within minutes or hours): “self-service” resources like documented findings from prior proofs of concept, pre-recorded demos or mock-up proofs of concept, individualized cloud based demos, and other similar resources.
  • Available within days: “presenter led” canned demos of a pre-defined set of use cases, which can be selected from a “demo menu”.
  • Available within weeks: “configured for purpose” engagements using either parametrized demos based on a pre-defined set of configurable use cases, or customizable proofs of concept based on a list of predefined test scenarios.
  • Available within months: “built for purpose” engagements, where a fully customized proof of concept is built from the ground up to simulate key customer environment characteristics and requirements, where a previously agreed upon custom set of test cases defines the scope of the engagement.

Continually Shortening Turnaround Times

No matter how mature your solution showcase program, it is important to make sure the necessary “triggers” are in place to identify areas of improvement. In the context of this article, improvements to a solution showcase program mean keeping the Pareto (80-20) rule in mind, and making sure that over time, regularly requested tasks are packaged and can be available within shorter turnaround times.

For example, built for purpose engagements should be continuously assessed, leading to the creation of new configured for purpose predefined test scenarios, presenter led demo menus, and even self-service resources.

Use Your Solution Showcase Program to Shorten Sales Cycles

As you fine tune your solution showcase program, it is critical to make sure the sales teams are making the most of it. When the goal is to shorten sales cycles, a good approach is to partner with the sales team and review the customer requirements (or objections to purchase) and identify the solution showcase resources which address these requirements within the shortest turnaround, starting with self-service resources all the way to built for purpose engagements.

For example, this might mean looking for ways to re-direct a customized proof of concept towards a mix of resources more readily available, like previous proof of concept findings of similar use cases, and canned demos. After which, re-assessing customer objections might lead to a reduced scope of the customized proof of concept, or even no need for it at all!

In the end, decreasing overall turnaround times of solution showcase resources will lead to shorter sales cycles, while still leveraging proof of concept to increase the win rate of complex solution sales engagements.

In your experience, do proofs of concepts shorten the sales cycle? Is your solution showcase program continually evolving? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of cooldesign; Post updated Feb/11/2015)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What do SMAC and RGB have in common?

This work by Marcelo Bernardes (@marcelobern) was originally posted on LinkedIn.

According to Wikipedia: “the RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors”.
So, what do colors have to do with the latest business and technology trends: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC)?
Well, like in the RGB color model, where its primary additive colors (red, green, and blue) can be combined to reproduce other colors; the SMAC technologies - social, mobile, analytics, and cloud - when combined can produce business value beyond the “primary value” inherent to a single SMAC technology.

Primary value of Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud

Social, mobile, analytics, and cloud definitions vary and so could the definitions of what their primary values are. These are some SMAC primary values I regularly come across:
  • Social: a collection of user generated data which can describe the user. A generalized user profile: preferences (likes), “people like me” (connections), recommendations (convincing power – word of mouth)
  • Mobile: beyond ubiquitous user access, mobile can provide real-time information which can be used to describe the user context (device, location, time of day, etc.). The device can also be used to assert user identity (e.g. in a three-factor authentication: something you know, something you have, something you are). Please note that the concept of mobile is being generalized by the Internet of Things (aka, ubiquitous or pervasive computing) and wearables.
  • Analytics: the capability of amassing a never ending (big data) collection of all events and data related to interests of self, friends, and “people like me”; cross-referencing it all to identify (previously hidden) interesting and actionable patterns.
  • Cloud: the capability to provide infinite (scalable) and uninterrupted (redundant and reliable) capacity. It is about the "ilities". There is also the aspect of integrating (e.g. with iPaaS) personal and enterprise services from public, private, and hybrid clouds.

The full value of SMAC

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ― Aristotle
So, how can an organization tap into the full value of SMAC? By extending the "primary value" of one or more SMAC components to empower the others, creating "combined values". Here are examples of possible combined values:
  • Social empowered by:
    • Mobile: enriched user experience based on user context (device, location, time of day, etc.) and external factors (events nearby, friends, planned activities, promotions).
    • Analytics: suggestions based on previous experiences from self, friends, and “people like me”.
    • Cloud: ability to seamlessly integrate access to personal (public cloud) and enterprise (private cloud) realms to derive value (interesting outcomes).
  • Mobile (IoT) empowered by:
    • Social: ability to adjust (IoT) behavior based on those of similar/followed individual/interests.
    • Analytics: learn and improve (IoT) behavior overtime, based on historical data, and upcoming events (e.g. weather, schedule, etc.).
    • Cloud: ability to integrate and automate a user's IoT devices by harnessing cloud resources.
  • Analytics empowered by:
    • Social: enrich decision and predictive processes by adding social data (likes, behaviors, etc.).
    • Mobile: make decisions/suggestions based on the user's “IoT footprint” (devices).
    • Cloud: pervasive analytics capability available to individuals as well as organizations.
  • Cloud empowered by:
    • Social: ability to detect viral behavior and scale resources ahead of time, avoiding service degradation.
    • Mobile: minimize costs by re-deploying assets to match a constantly changing geographic user (IoT) footprint/profile.
    • Analytics: ability to scale and minimize costs based on historical and predictive data.

What do social, mobile, analytics, and/or cloud mean to you? Do you agree with the primary values proposed? And which combined values might come to fruition in your opinion? Feel free to use the comment box below to share your experience and point of view. And please follow me, if you would like to be automatically notified when I publish new articles.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia; Post updated February/4/2015)