Tag Archives | processing data

Think Like an Explorer

Businessman Walking Outdoors

When I was sixteen, I went on a 2-week horseback trip in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming. Each morning, we were given the coordinates of the location where we would camp that night, then turned loose with a map and compass. It was satisfying to arrive at the destination each night, after navigating our way through the mountains on our own.

Heading a new strategic direction—entering a new market, innovating a new product line, or changing the way we go to market—can feel like heading out into the wilderness. If we think like an explorer would, however, we can find our way to new sources of profit and growth.

Here are four points to keep in mind when navigating new strategic territory:

Continue Reading →

Is Your Corporate Culture Killing Innovation and Speed?

Easy win

In the past few years, Cisco, Coca-Cola, GE, IBM, MasterCard and other large companies have begun to launch “internal startups”—teams of employees who are sheltered from corporate rules and bureaucracy – to stimulate entrepreneurship and creativity, and infuse agility.

I spoke recently with the leader of a business that existed – for a while – as an internal startup within a large corporation.

The thinking was that employees within this quasi-startup would be free to focus on their goals. Team spirit and collaboration would replace hierarchy. Innovation, risk-taking, and learning from failure would flourish. Time formerly spent on meetings and emails with other corporate groups would be spent focusing on the customer.

All those good things came true, as long as the team was left alone. Continue Reading →

Be Prepared and Take Action Quickly!

Take action key on a computer keyboard, business concept

One Monday in 2013, my husband and I spent the night in our car. Shortly after midnight, on our way home from playing hockey (this is a new sport for us, and great fun), we were amazed to encounter a huge traffic jam on Atlanta’s I-285. As we slowed to a stop, we saw a plume of fire as big as a house rising from a burning tractor-trailer a third of a mile ahead. Scenes from disaster movies looped in my head, and we talked about what to do if things got worse.

We passed the first hour reading books on our iPhones, then slept intermittently while waiting for the emergency workers to put out the fire and clear the wreckage. Someone from a nearby car borrowed our jumper cables, and Rob got out from time to time to walk ahead to see how things were progressing. We started the car periodically to warm up.

This incident reminded me how important being prepared can be. I was thankful to have a warm coat and sensible shoes but thought about a few things that we should keep in the car in the future. Snacks, water, a first-aid kit, at least a third of a tank of gas.

I thought, too, about business preparedness. Business people tend to enjoy planning for good things, like new products, revenue growth and hiring. It’s worth taking the time to prepare for unpleasant surprises as well, since you can tremendously improve your outcomes with a little planning.

Here are a few examples: Continue Reading →

Six Obstacles That Stop Agility In Its Tracks

Professional sprinter jumping over a hurdle

Are you struggling to make your company more agile?

In my work with organizations in virtually every industry, I find that business agility – the ability to spot and capitalize on new business opportunities as they emerge – is a capability that many companies aspire to, but few achieve.

What makes agility so elusive?

I’ve observed six primary obstacles to achieving agility. Continue Reading →

Want to be more agile? Give me the data now!

meat raw data

What’s the best way to use customer data to enhance your company’s agility?

Many companies are pursuing sophisticated data analytics to quantify customer opinions, tailor offers, optimize pricing, and the like.

I’m all for that.

But it takes time – I’ve seen companies spend months developing a strategy to collect, manage, secure, analyze and use the customer data they collect.

My definition of agility is the ability to spot and quickly capture the new opportunities being created by market change.

One of the best things companies can do to strengthen this muscle immediately is to speed the flow of raw customer data into the hands of the “doers” in their ranks.

Automaker Nissan provides a great example.

Nissan’s marketing function responds on a continuous basis to comments customers make on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets.  They not only respond, they feed that information immediately to the relevant dealer, engineering group, manufacturing plant or customer service rep.

These are the folks on the ground that can fix the customer’s problem, or take advantage of the new opportunity quickly.

By establishing this fast-feedback loop, Nissan has become remarkably responsive to the market, and everyone in the company—not just marketing—has become more aware of evolving customer needs.

What can we learn from the Nissan example?

That the faster you can get data on customer problems, behaviors, emotions, etc. into the hands of the people who can respond, the more agile your company will be.

The data need not be perfectly “packaged” to be useful. In fact, raw data can be the best and most actionable. What’s raw data?

  • Complaints in the customer’s own words
  • A photo of a product failure, emailed from a customer
  • An product enhancement idea, fresh from a customer’s mind
  • Ideas customers have shared online for how to use your product most effectively in their particular use case, application or industry
  • A customer’s “work around” to a problem they experienced with your product
  • All the online, mobile and social data that gets generated every day

Speeding up the flow of customer data to R&D, manufacturing, customer service, sales and other functions not only increases the chance that you’ll fix customer problems fast, it’s also a great motivator. If I’m buried in the bowels of the company, and I “hear” an actual customer talking to me, I want to help.

So, increasing the velocity of customer data is one of the best ways to engage employees’ hearts, minds and hands in improving customer value.

Sure, you run the risk of overloading employees with too much data. Sure, the data might be messy or anecdotal.  But it’s real, and just might be something you can act on—today—to solve a customer’s problem. And that’s a good thing.

Amanda Setili is author of The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World (learn more) and managing partner of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, whose clients include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, and Walmart. She previously held positions with Global Food Exchange, McKinsey & Company, Asia Connect, in Malaysia , and Kimberly-Clark. Setili is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Harvard Business School and has taught as an adjunct professor at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. She lives in Atlanta, GA.