Archive for December, 2016

When Digital Meets Physical

December 31, 2016

digitalphysicalDigital will continue to be the buzz – the differentiator which makes it easier to gather, digest and interpret data, easier to send personalized solutions to a wide range of customers. There’s no question that AI, BI and the Internet of Everything will affect the amount of information we receive online through our computers and through our wide range of smart devices. But there will be a physical element to digital solutions and elegantly integrating the two will set products and solutions apart.

  1. Yes, this means that IoT in general will continue to be hot, and affecting all of us in our day to day lives in ways we can barely imagine, and much more pervasively than we expect. Companies who can create a standard for the physical devices and the digital output from these devices will help the entire industry further ride that boom.
  2. IoT in the health and fitness space will continue to produce volumes of data, but also begin exploring the implications of the data and also interpreting volumes of data for patterns, while respecting the privacy of individual users.
  3. IoT in the retail space will help companies do everything from managing inventory to tracking customers, from improving security to anticipating orders.
  4. IoT in the transportation space will go far beyond GPS and emergency services and parking support. It will soon transform everything from car upgrades to changing appearances and going driverless!
  5. IoT in the consumer at home space will be all around automation a la Google and Nest and its temperature settings, and going far beyond that into appliance automation, lawn and garden care, and automated cooking and anticipatory grocery buying.
  6. Digital Out Of the Home (DOOH) solutions provide digital experiences going beyond computers and mobile phones and devices. Think about bus stops, bill boards, airports, train stations, food courts . . . pushing information out where people congregate, without the need for a computer or mobile device.
  7. Digital solutions can extend far beyond the tech world . . . including into agriculture. Imagine if we had tools which could support the full food supply chain – from production to processing to distribution and storage. These innovations will help improve efficiencies and the physical world for millions of people.
  8. Digital solutions enable peer-to-peer platforms which will continue to explode. Whether it’s with transportation services such as UBER and Lyft or vacation rental services such as AirBnB, or funding and loan services such as Indiegogo and Lending Club, people will connect with each other to deliver physical services, leveraging the digital platform to ensure fit, efficiency, security, etc.
  9. The quantity and quality of easily-available streaming digital videos is mind-boggling. We’re rapidly reaching the point where videos are preferred over standard television. And the point where original content, even if produced in non-commercial ways a la YouTube is preferred.
  10. And the point where immersive and interactive components are mandatory requirements for a successful digital experience, leveraging AR, QVC codes, motion sensory or MAC detectors.

The list could go on from here . . . Suffice it to say that the trend is going from Online to Offline (the physical), moving the user Onward – to a richer, more fulfilled, better served future. And if there’s success, there will be a loop back to the Online option, for more information, for more connections, for additional options.

Power to the Team

December 12, 2016

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FountainBlue’s December 9 When She Speaks was on the topic of Power to the Team, hosted by Nutanix. Below are notes from the conversation.

This month’s panel represented a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but they had much in common.

  • Their authentic voice and leadership style helped them connect with people across the organization and between people and teams. 
  • Their varied experience helps them work with a wide range of people and perspectives, in a broad range of functions and roles.
  • Their track record for success helps them succeed in higher-impact positions and projects, and gains them credibility across the board, and including executive suite members.

Leading teams is much more challenging today than it used to be for many reasons. 

  1. The technology is more complex. There are many more moving pieces and many more people and groups involved in development. 
  2. The pace of change has accelerated, from the technology side and from the business side.
  3. The size of the team, and the number of groups and teams involved is now greatly increased.
  4. The customers are much more discerning, much more demanding. They are also requesting customizations and personalizations. It takes a coordinated team effort to deliver these solutions at scale to this discerning customer base.
  5. Changes in corporate direction happen, and teams must deliver to new objectives mid-stream, even when the new goals are contrary to prior plans!
  6. There’s a greater need to include more diversity on the team, to represent a much larger and broader customer base.

The need for collaboration and communication is much greater because of these changes. Below are some best practices for leading teams.

  • Be authentic to your values and your goals, and ensure alignment between who you are, and what you do, working with people who share your values.
  • Be a versatile team leader who are also adept at following. 
  • Help others disagree and commit where necessary.
  • Be positive, candid, transparent and clear in all communications. It’s not always easy to ensure seamless alignment on clear, measurable goals, especially when changes and challenges take place. It takes courage to have difficult conversations, to own up to mistakes and problems, to maintain momentum and credibility, despite the changes. But it must be done to maintain energy and progress.
  • Be nimble, agile and quick. 
  • Make it about the data and the cause, not about personal or political agendas. 
  • Focus on quality and results rather than volume and quantity.
  • Build relationships that are deep and broad in the short term and for the long term. Build relationships not because you might need something from them someday, but because you can build these relationships, because you can help each other one day, because you can better understand the perspectives of others, especially when they don’t think like you, especially when change is in the works!
  • Focus on high-impact tasks which would generate measurable progress towards well-defined goals. Communicate progress to stakeholders regularly and build momentum around the cause.
  • Secure the sponsorship of key execs to help ensure your team has the resources and support it needs to succeed.
  • Pivots will happen. Be transparent and clear about why pivots happen, what it means for the team and company and individuals, etc.
  • Celebrate successes and progress.
  • Be inclusive, productive and positive.
  • Enlist the support of a Board of Directors, a group of mentors and supporters to help you identify and work around your blind spots. Play that role for others as well – whether they are execs who would value an opinion or a high-potential team member.

The overarching message from our inspiring and diverse panel is clear – be true to YOU, and keep the energy and results flowing, so you can serve your customers, support your team, and deliver for your product and company!

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Nutanix and our panelists for the Power to the Team Event.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Neela Deshpande, R&D Programs Director, Chief of Staff, VMware
  • Panelist Natasha Hoady, Senior Director of HR, Nutanix
  • Panelist Cheri Leonard, Senior Technical Program Manager, Samsung Research America
  • Panelist Martina Sourada, Senior Director, SWQA, ISV Certification, NVIDIA

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M&A Best Practices

December 7, 2016

mergersFountainBlue’s December 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘M&A Best Practices’,and was graciously hosted by NetApp. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the planning, envisioning and execution of a success merger, acquisition and integration vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • Plan-fully envisioning and executing a successful M&A is a team effort.
  • Transparent, strategic and ongoing communication between all affected parties is critical to the success of any integration.
  • M&A deals are bigger and faster than they’ve been in the past, with the potential to transform markets and industries, with BIG companies buying each other, with companies buying new products, channels and markets, etc.
  • Some companies are more ‘acquisition-minded’ than others. Those that are generally have a complex and comprehensive process to help ensure that the integration goes well end to end and generally measure specific data points, agreed prior to the initiation of a merger, whether the data is around innovation/technology deliverables or Gartner hype curve appearance, operational cost optimization or lowered support and outreach costs, improved distribution channels or larger footprint in specific geographies.
  • The trend toward having a broader and more diverse, more demanding customer base will continue to evolve. Corporate M&A strategists will take this into account.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • When you are looking at best merger opportunities, consider not just the market landscape, customer base and technology fit, but look also at the cultural fit. Even if everything else fits well, the lack of cultural fit can immensely impact the success of a merger.
  • Seasoned M&A leaders know the cycle of response around M&A events – from the ‘shock’ to the ‘work overload’ phase, and on to the ‘disillusionment’ and then the ‘acceptance’ phase, and on from there to the ‘search-for-the-next-deal’ phase. Sharing their stories and experience will help companies retain their best people through these high-change cycles.
  • Understand their motivations and facilitate collaboration between stakeholders.
  • Plan-fully and pro-actively manage the integration from beginning to end through an Integration Playbook highlighting People, Process and Technology details. Know when it’s business as usual for the integration, and when something is urgent, who which exec needs to respond in what manner in order to get the integration on track. Make sure that happens – the success of the deal may depend on it.
  • Build relationships with all stakeholders. Know what their role is for the integration process. If possible, know also how they would respond to stress and change prior to their being subjected to it. Have a plan B if plan A may not work out.
  • With ongoing communications based on measurable results, also include self-assessments. Make sure that everyone has the time and support and resources to deliver their piece of the puzzle to help keep the integration project on-track.
  • Ensure clear and ongoing executive sponsorship throughout the M&A deal.
  • No matter how much you plan for the merger, no matter how well it’s going, no matter how quickly or elegantly it’s coming together, there will be surprises and unintended consequences. Accept that this will happen, and respond and react using your best judgment, while aligning motivations and remaining transparent and communicative.
  • Be clear on what must be done, what’s nice to be done, what doesn’t need to be done yet, and what will never happen. Negotiate with important stakeholders if you’re not in alignment on which buckets each objective or task fits in.

Below are how to best leverage mergers to grow a business.

  • Identify adjacent markets and technologies location for expansion.
  • Know the value and timing for fast organic group, for new market growth, for headcount growth, for industry consolidation, etc.,
  • Find higher-margin services and customizations for low-margin businesses.

Again, please join me in thanking our participating execs and our hosts at NetApp.