Archive for the ‘VIP’ Category

Being Human in an Age That’s Digital

May 8, 2017

HumanDigital

FountainBlue’s May 5 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Being Human in an Age That’s Digital’! Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung and our participating executives. Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on how we are stretching the technology envelope. 

There was a mind-boggling discussion about how each participating company and leader is pushing the technology envelope for a Digital Tsunami with the hardware, the software, the data, analytics, AI…  The brilliance, hard work and perseverance is advancing technology solutions at an increasingly rapid pace, and the lives of almost all of us are forever changed by it.

  • Machines and programs and technology innovations are collecting the information and data necessary to make informed decisions. Humans need to make these decisions, hopefully based on the data and information collected.
  • Great minds are collaboratively designing and implementing solutions which solve the world’s problems – even the ones caused by over-population, like food production and housing at scale. But it will take humans to create and implement and integrate these solutions, and prioritize resources and research to ensure that the largest amount of people benefit in the short term and for the long term.
  • Creating innovation labs focused on solving the requests and needs of those customers just makes sense, especially as change happens so quickly, and customers become increasingly more demanding. No matter how sophisticated these digital and IoT and other solutions get, remember that managing and running the interactions, relationships and entities themselves requires experienced humans.
  • Machines and programs may be great at providing historical data in rich and detailed formats, but are not as good as seasoned humans who can do forecasting and predictions based on historical data, and current conditions and trends.
  • It takes a human to make an irrational risk that could lead to a transformational solution or experience.
  • It takes a human to create and deliver an engaging, persuasive and memorable communication and experience which connects with other humans.
  • Although IoT and other innovations will facilitate vast improvements for healthcare and education and all other industries, humans will be in charge, and it will remain difficult to delegate interactions and duties to machines and programs and drones.

Below is advice on how to balance the need for those sophisticated digital innovations with the need to support the humans who implement them.

  • Think about solutions as interactions between people, between things, and between people and things. 
  • Think not just about how to innovate and what would work, but also about what would get adopted and accepted easily. 
  • Look not just at the current anticipated value, but also at the stickiness of the value-add for the solution in the long term.
  • Consider not just the solution you’d like to implement, but also the transition strategy so that the full ecosystem of stakeholders will embrace the new solution.

The bottom line is that technology and innovation will never replace the educated, hard-working human. But humans who chose not to embrace technology, not to keep up with the digital revolution may find that there’s little place in the workforce for their skill set.

IT Trends and Predictions

April 12, 2017
ITTrendsFountainBlue’s April 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of IT Trends and Predictions.
Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at Flex, who also joined the interactive discussion. Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on IT trends and predictions.
  • The overarching theme for the conversation was a remarkable level of convergence of ideas, technologies, and business models across industries, companies and leaders. 
  • Another theme was around the need to integrate the vision, planning, development, growth and expansion of any individual solution, working in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders – investors, corporations, entrepreneurs, government, etc.,
  • Disruption is sometimes planned and sometimes fortuitous, but always requires an open mind, an ability to see larger trends, and a tendency to listen to what the customers are doing and saying. Having the people, data, and support to ensure that these disruptions take place will also support the innovation agenda for the organization.
  • Growing a concept from the tactical (like solutions for cars) to the category description (like mobility and transportation) will help companies to broaden their outcome and better see inter-relationships and opportunities.
  • Digital will be at the heart of innovation, but only if it can provide the AI and data to support customized solutions for a demanding customer base.
  • An integrated ecosystem of stakeholders requires collaboration between leaders, companies and industries in order to develop integrated, scalable solutions serving a wide range of customers. Being that type of leader and company worthy of trust will define the level of success for any endeavor, so competence and integrity are key.
  • The volume of information will increase, the expectations from customers, investors and other stakeholders will also be elevated. So it’s all about the execution at scale, at pace. Make the processes repeatable, the solutions robust, and the technology modular and flexible.
  • Everybody wants to leverage data to make a business case, but unfortunately, the data can point to some irrelevant and superstitious or self-serving conclusions, which wastes time, energy and money. To address this challenge, make sure that you are asking the right questions, that you have high-integrity leaders asking those questions, that you approach the questions with an open mind, and that you include the right data to address these questions. Then look not just at what the data is saying, but also at what it’s not saying and the implications for both. In other words, Big Data is not relevant unless you have Big Answers.
  • Core to the success of a solution and initiative is the question ‘who will pay for that innovation’? This is especially valid in highly regulated markets like healthcare. We might have a big-data-driven, sophisticated IT and AI solution, but if the patient, the provider, the insurer, the government, the caregiver can’t pay, the quandary becomes who will pay and what’s the pay-back for them if they do?
  • Policy will limit and define opportunities, so business models must take policy trends into account.
  • Inviting the diverse, out-of-the-box team members will reflect well on the company culture, the corporate exec, the forward-thinking entrepreneur, and the bottom line. Think about hiring people not necessarily for their technical capabilities, but also for their creative abilities.
  • It will always be about the people, so recruit, develop and retain those who can perform well, learn well, adapt and grow. They will shape the future of IT and business in general.
Below is a list of opportunities ahead for IT:
  • In a connected world with so many devices and solutions, integration and communication between devices is key.
  • Having that secure access to integrated devices and solutions is equally key.
  • The sheer volume of data will continue to grow. But big data solutions are not enough. There will continue to be a huge market for solutions which filter out only the ‘relevant’ data, as defined by the customer, to ‘normalize’ that data reducing redundancies and inconsistencies, so data-based decisions can be made.
  • Big data solutions which provide diagnostic solutions leveraging AI and IT will create and expand markets in all sectors.
  • Leverage open source solutions and collaboration models to build ecosystems and solutions.
  • Leverage technology to address the social challenges which matter to the millennials, a large and growing customer constituency.
  • The markets will be niche and regionalized, the range will be global, so plan solutions accordingly. 
In conclusion, I would say that today’s challenges are tomorrow’s opportunities, but nobody can be everything to everyone and the winners will be part of an coordinated, comprehensive ecosystem of providers, customers, integrators and innovators.

Collaboration Best Practices

March 6, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.08.55 PMFountainBlue’s March 3 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Collaboration Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking the executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at SignKloud and Techlab Innovation Center.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Below is a compilation of their ideas collaboration best practices leveraging technology and processes.

The conversation flowed through many technologies, solutions, stories and challenges around collaboration. Central to the conversation is the need for strong leadership, transparent and continual communication, alignment on near term and long term goals/mission/strategy across the organization, and continuous assessments and reviews to ensure that all of the above takes place. Below is advice on how to best facilitate that collaboration across stakeholders:

  • Identify and engage all stakeholders across the ecosystem and work toward common goals and milestones.
  • Proactively collaborate to create processes and adopt technologies that support the achievement of those goals.
  • Be fluid in selecting the goals, technologies and processes you leverage to achieve those goals, for change is a certainty, and the speed of change is accelerating.
  • Include a wider diversity of perspectives and people within your team, and a broader swath of partners and customers outside your team.
  • Balance in-person and video communications.
  • Physically locate teams in one geography, making sure that they have representation across all necessary functional areas so there are no inefficient road blocks due to logistical, operational or time-zone related challenges.
  • Locate corporate leadership team in one physical location for easier coordination and communication.
  • Teams may be in different geographies based on acquisition history. This may work well, provided that the product leadership team is located near corporate leadership team.
  • Have regular Agile-style stand-up, all-hands meeting to facilitate communication, collaboration and coordination, to increase overall accountability and to improve connections between people and projects.
  • Create integrated technologies and processes which take a project end-to-end, while also providing ongoing support.
  • Ask the perennial questions in this order: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How does it fit into our overall strategy? What are the metrics for success? How are we doing towards those goals? Should we change any element of our strategy based on metrics and feedback? REPEAT.
  • Hire the young blood to get things done, but also know when to bring in to the seasoned hands to lead. It takes a village and everyone should have a piece of the puzzle.
  • Know your non-negotiables for yourself, for your project, for your company, and stand behind them.
  • Communicate the following every week: What you did last week. What you plan to do next week. What you need from management to make things happen.

Below is a compilation of ideas on new and hot ideas around tech and process collaboration.

  • The innovations in data analytics, artificial intelligence, etc., are facilitating noteworthy innovations in genomic research which are leading to real-life, near term business solutions which also help patients and providers make data-based decisions around their health.
  • Healthcare is a lagging industry which is just beginning to adopt collaboration technologies and processes which will continue to transform the industry. There will be implications for: precision medicine, genomic research, patient diagnostics, medical devices, etc.,
  • Cybersecurity is a hot area in all industries.
  • There will be increased communication and coordination between people, technologies, and processes which impact all industries. Watch specifically for transformations in automobile, consumer home and health, retail, and everything in between.
  • Adding an element of creativity to existing technologies and processes may create attractive new solutions and business models. 

Below is a list of recommended collaboration tools.

  • Slack – Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.
  • HipChat – HipChat is group chat built for teams & business.
  • WebEx – WebEx online meetings and presentations, webinars, town halls, online courses and training, and online presentations.
  • Zoho – Run your entire business with Zoho’s suite of online productivity tools and SaaS applications.
  • Salesforce – Build more meaningful and lasting relationships and connect with your customers across sales, customer service, marketing, communities, apps, analytics, and more
  • Chatter on Salesforce – Allow Employees to Share Knowledge,Drive Productivity & Innovate. 
  • Confluence – Confluence is where you create, organize and discuss work with your team.
  • JIRA – JIRA Software offers flexible issue and project tracking with best-in-class agile tooling for software teams.
  • Skype – Skype is software that enables you to make free calls anywhere in the world. 
  • RealtimeBoard: Whiteboard for Collaboration

The bottom line is that all businesses are run by people, and selecting technologies and processes which suit your people, and hiring people who fit that culture is a rudimentary requirement for success and growth.

ISMAC is Where It’s At

January 21, 2017

ISMAC.jpg

FountainBlue’s January 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘ISMAC is Where It’s At: What’s Hot in Immersive, Secure, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud Technologies for 2017. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TCV, and our executives in attendance.

This month’s roundtable executives represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives around the what’s hot and what’s next would vary greatly. However, there’s agreement that we are on the cusp of great change in the way we adopt technology and in the way we do business.

  • Open source technologies will be integral to address technology opportunities and challenges.
  • There are an abundance of solutions in the areas of ISMAC. But integration of a wide range of disparate solutions are necessary to address the wide ranging needs of customers. 
  • Adoption of new solutions and integrations will be difficult for all companies and all industries, with different issues for each company and industry. Policy, leadership, standards and protocols, etc., will all factor in throughout the adoption and integration cycle.
  • Starting first with the adoption of Salesforce and other cloud-based solutions, there’s been an increasingly marked shift in focus to adopting cloud solutions, with less reliance on IT staff and support prior to the integration.
  • DevOps is becoming a more important target and beta market as they are 1) close to the customer, 2) open to integrating new technologies, 3) tech-savvy enough to understand options and requirements, 4) increasingly more important and empowered, 5) historically known for quick deployment, and 6) known for creating libraries, modules and protocols to support rapid implementation for new and upgraded solutions. 
  • With that said, DevOps divisions in general has not historically not had the budget or the inclination to buy enterprise-targeted solutions.
  • Therefore, business units within enterprises may be more logical targets for enterprise solutions. However, working with DevOps initially would increase likelihood of success for a project and sale.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Create an architecture and infrastructure, and an ability to do regular updates. This would support a solution in the near term and for the long term. An example of doing this successfully is to create a security layer like a coat of armor around a solution, and then making it easy to provide modular updates based on ongoing threats and needs – much like a flu shot.
  • Collaboration between technologists and business leaders is essential for delivering to the needs of the customer.
  • Although DevOps might be a great initial partner for other technologies, security solutions may not be as interesting to DevOps members.  
  • Although selling solutions to engineers and DevOps team members might be attractive for many reasons, companies such as AppDynamics and Splunk are finding more success selling to enterprise business units. 
  • When looking at the security of medical devices, you must first consider the health and welfare of the patient. The security of an application is not of primary concern if the life of a patient is at stake.
  • When the health challenge is not critical and more ongoing and chronic, like diabetes treatment solutions, there’s more latitude to ensure the privacy of the patient data, while also collecting aggregated data for medical research and clinical application. 
  • Agencies such as the FDA are not well positioned to review and set protocols for the adoption of tech-based devices or cloud-based applications, yet this is their mandate. A wide range of stakeholders are working with these types of agencies to forge a path forward.

Below are some hot areas to watch.

  • Leveraging AI for voice recognition may help virtual assistance better serve customers, beyond what Alexa and Siri are doing today.
  • Integrators who work with the wide range of stakeholders on track the adoption of standards are well positioned to help customers integrate a wide breadth of solutions to address specific problems.
  • Modular solutions which follow standardized protocols and open source elements will be more likely to be adopted. 
  • Find ways to leverage aggregated data to generate targeted reports tailored to the needs of the customers. 
  • Find ways to monetize open source – perhaps by creating customized, dynamically-generated reports.
  • Find ways to containerize/modularize elements to ensure cleaner and more robust scalability and security.
  • IoT solutions will continue to be hot. Those that integrate well with others and fit protocols and standards will be more readily adopted.

The overarching message is that technology innovation will require more leadership, more collaboration and better coordination and better communication.

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.

In Search of Unicorns

November 4, 2016

pegasusFountainBlue’s November 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘In Search of Unicorns’ hosted by Samsung.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be entrepreneurial, what’s hot and what’s not varied greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • The innovation ecosystem will include investors, entrepreneurs, executives and providers. Interactive conversations and collaborations will become increasingly more important.
  • We should all value the openness and creativity of the entrepreneurs, the resources, channels and funding of the corporate partners, as well as the funding and vision of the investors, for each has a piece of the puzzle.
  • Perhaps we should re-think whether we’re looking for ‘unicorns’. So many companies are captivated by the mythical element, or the horn, and miss the importance of the wings – wings which transcend what regular horses can do. So perhaps a winged horse, a ‘Pegasus’, will more likely lead us to that billion dollar company.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • What you’ve learned throughout your business journey may feed into your future entrepreneurial efforts. So take the time to learn about what worked and what didn’t work in terms of business models and processes and in terms of technology. The answers will lie in efficiently delivering what customers are looking for.
  • Work within the needs of the customer, the mind-sets of the players in the industry, the processes embraced over decades. But find ways to provide innovation which would fit into all these forces as well.
  • Corporates may value the technology innovation over the current adoption rate of the start-up. A company’s R&D and manufacturing centers, network of partner and channel contacts, access to funding, etc. may help that promising unicorn realize its potential.
  • Whether you’re facilitating innovation conversations between teams within an organization, encouraging customers to adopt of the latest solutions, or fostering the introduction of a new hardware, software or government standard, it’s always about getting influential people to adopt a new way of thinking or speaking or doing something, and encouraging others to do the same.
  • All industries will be transformed by the immersive, social, mobile, analytics, IOT and cloud solutions.

Below are opportunities ripe for innovation.

  • Seek opportunities to transform how we do things now, leveraging IT, big data and automation. 
  • Seek opportunities to provide integrated end-to-end solutions.
  • Voice recognition leveraging Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence will continue to be of foundational importance. 
  • Automate functions which connect vetted providers with those-in-need, UBER style. Whether it’s connecting substitute teachers to classrooms, or connecting companies with excess food to nonprofits who distribute food (like gocopia.com), automating that connection adds value to all.
  • Innovative ways to digitally vet health status of patients with certified health professionals may save people and companies time and money in spades.
  • Look inside out and outside in to find those upside-down ways of addressing existing challenges. Embrace people with diverse perspectives who can help solve problems in new ways, leveraging IT, software, and devices.
  • Look for solutions beyond our world, and into the stratosphere to address a whole new layer of solutions – above the realm of drones, and within the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Connect the digital solution to the physical world. 

We are on the cusp of innovations in all markets at an astronomical scale. The world as we know it will become much bigger than we could ever imagine, and we can all choose to participate and shape that direction, to create a bigger, brighter, more collaborative and more efficient future.

Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation

October 8, 2016

innovation

FountainBlue’s October 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be innovative, what it takes to collaborate, how to remain relevant and provide value differed greatly, but they agreed on the following:

  • Innovation centers around having open, honest, transparent conversations between a wide range of stakeholders within and outside an organization.
  • Everyone sees innovation with a slightly different slant, and all have valid perspectives which could be integrated into solutions.
  • Everyone has a role in facilitating a culture of innovation, so that the best, the most diverse, the brightest want to remain and can succeed on their terms.
  • The pace of innovation is rapidly increasing, and convergences across teams, product lines, companies and industries will geometrically increase that pace of innovation.
  • Being aware of the larger business and technology trends will help tech leaders keep themselves and their products and companies relevant.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • Choose to be nimble and agile, tech-philic and client-centric in order to stay relevant, and move the needle forward.
  • Collaborate with customers and partners to deliver a collection of custom and/or reusable solutions which may serve other purposes. Adopting this reverse-hackathon mindset means that you start with a specific problem and a specific customer in mind – a problem painful enough so that funding and resources are allocated to address the problem.
  • Talk about applications and use cases, not just the technology for its own sake, brilliant as it may be.
  • Create opportunities for being entrepreneurial within a big company, so that you get the stability and funding of the big company, and the new ideas for R&D and innovation.
  • Balance the big company and small company mindset when managing teams through integrations. You want to make sure the technology and engineers are cutting edge, but it must also fit within the processes and requirements of the larger company as well.
  • Embrace open source options where possible, engaging the larger ecosystem and community. With that said, make sure that there’s an appropriate business model for the product line and the company so that the solution is sustainable.
  • Engage in side projects beyond your normal day-to-day scope of work. 
  • Have an agile structure for moving projects forward, a model for engagement, for rapid adoption, for prioritizing for repositioning. This is true whether it applies to software development or marketing and business model creation.
  • Combine and connect solutions to develop seamless, integrated infrastructure layers and solutions which would build value.
  • Collaborate with researchers, other tech companies, customers, partners, manufacturers,  even competitors etc., Sometimes you’ll have awkward fre-nemy-like relationships, but finding a way to collaborate for that win-win could benefit all parties. With that said, use your best judgment on whom you can trust in the short term and in the long term, what to share when, etc.
  • Develop international partnerships to deliver solutions to different global markets. Or build the expertise in-house so that you have a vetted and valid strategy for approaching different markets with specific products and solutions. 
  • Build communities of practice to foster internal collaborations and vendor forums so outside vendors can connect and communicate.
  • Develop automations so that you can efficiently create, communicate and collaborate, within and across companies.
  • Allow customers to self-select their level of interest so that you can focus on the customers you can best support, and who has the most interest and funding for your solution.
  • Provide ‘air cover’ for your most promising engineers so that they can have the time and resources to innovate/seek that executive who could provide you with that air coverage so that you can innovate.
  • Beware of the leader who keeps talking about leadership without doing anything, the innovator who keeps talking about innovating without doing anything, who keeps espousing the merits of diversity without doing anything.
  • Reward failures.
  • Consciously and methodically create and capture value while you innovate collaboratively.
  • Facilitate open and honest dialogue, especially with people who don’t think and act like you do.
  • Pay it forward, give back, without the expectation of getting something in return.

There was overwhelming agreement amongst our execs: collaborative innovation must begin and end with the needs of the customer, and delivering to those needs in an agile, iterative, replicative, personalized way, leveraging hardware, software, data, mobile and cloud solutions.

Please join us in thanking our execs who generously shared their time and insights for this conversation and to our hosts at Cisco.

Resources:

Balancing Privacy, Security and Access

August 9, 2016

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FountainBlue’s August 5 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Balancing Privacy, Security and Access! Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Dell and our esteemed execs in attendance. Below are notes from the conversation.

This month’s execs represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Thus, their perspectives on balancing privacy, security and access varied based on their current and past experience and their view of the future. But they shared many common viewpoints:

  • Data and apps are used by everyone everywhere and controlling who uses which app, and what data is used where is impossible! The proliferation of devices, IOT sensors, big data analytics, mobility and cloud solutions is making the security of our corporate and personal accounts so much more important AND so much more precarious now than ever before. 
  • Choosing security may mean investing more time and money to make sure that the right information and funds is being transferred to the right entity or account. 
  • Choosing security often means investing more into proactive planning as well as reactive management should breaches occur.
  • Security breaches are bound to happen, so planning for them, anticipating specific scenarios, mitigating risks, and responding thoroughly and quickly and transparently are a necessary and integral part of running a company, and managing your personal data.
  • It’s amazing how easy it is for the bad guys to get into a system, to access sensitive information. There are companies who employ people full time to do just these things. And also companies who spend many man-hours hacking into their own vulnerabilities to keep ahead of them!
  • Security and access are so important in the eyes of corporate leaders that many times privacy takes a back seat. 
  • Corporate and IT leaders are challenged with the need to educate their staff about security protocols and processes, while also making it easy for them to access the networks and devices and data so that they can efficiently get work done! It’s even more challenging when leaders are dealing with a wide range of staff members and cultures with many different and fervent thoughts about following protocols!
  • Compliance with protocols and standards is difficult at best as there are no standards across states, across countries. Yet, compliance is required, as it’s incumbent upon companies to be proactively secure, and transparently communicative should there be a breach!

Below are some collective thoughts on what you can do to proactively balance privacy, security and access.

  • Look closely at the scenarios when someone is identified as an owner of something (like a car for example). In some contexts, it’s necessary to know, and in other cases, it’s an invasion of privacy to know. Consider making all necessary-to-know contexts (which owner of a 2016 car must be contacted regarding a recall notice for example) mostly automated, between machine-to-machine, while making most no-need-to-know scenarios (which Starbucks locations or grocery stores are most visited for example) managed by the owner, so they define who gets access to this type of information. 
  • To respect the privacy of users while also understanding trends, consider aggregating data usage for specific locations, genders, backgrounds, etc.,
  • A Knowledge-As-A-Service or Data-As-A-Service model empower users to control who has access to their patterns of behavior and usage and even charge interested others to get that information from them.
  • Reward people for successfully hacking into a system, to help keep in front of the professional hacking companies!
  • Do understand the preferences of your customers so that you can anticipate their preferences and tendencies, but don’t keep enough data so that their privacy is compromised.
  • Limit access to sensitive data only to those who need-to-know, and know why and in which contexts they need to know.
  • Particularly sensitive areas around data include healthcare and children. Both areas have many support groups and many policies managing how data is used and exchanged. 
  • We have enough data and information to be able to mitigate risks and manage and understand risk profiles, and even anticipate security breaches. There’s a business opportunity to serve companies charged with managing the security of their data and assets.

As leaders, be the conscience of the company and fluctuate between the big picture and the execution pieces to proactively navigate that balance between security, access and privacy.

Communication Strategies at the Speed of Change

July 8, 2016

CommunicationStrategies

FountainBlue’s July 8 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Communication Strategies at the Speed of Change’. Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Polycom and our execs in attendance, who share the insights below. 

Change has always been a part of life, but tech leaders today are feeling it more quickly and more primally. 

  • Communication today is cheap – there’s too much noise out there. But communication today is so much more important than it ever has been – because of the importance of immediacy, the importance of coordinating and collaborating with a wider range of others.
  • A leader today needs to do what has always been important: digest huge amounts of data to communicate key points which are most important for each audience. But to be effective, she or he must also sift through the volumes of information to identify and ingest only the most relevant pieces of information, so that a strategy and communication is clear and backed by data.
  • Relationships are even more important today than they were decades ago. Because there are so many more people and so much information, it’s MORE important to build deep, trust-based relationships with significant others in the network who can help to both craft the message and strategy, and also to spread that word to different networks and channels.
  • Poignant and engaging writing is still important, but today we are more careful about what we share with whom, due to constraints around NDAs for example. However, leaders who share openly and transparently with an authentic voice, using good judgment, will be best heard.
  • The immediacy of communication between individuals and groups adopted by millennials is spilling over into other generations and is here to stay. The question becomes how each leader will manage their communications to best connect with others and to stay on-message, as an individual and as an exec.

Below is advice on how to successfully communicate during times of great change.

  • Leveraging neutral and informed outside perspectives can help shape communications strategy and messaging. Building relationships with these influential and connected others is essential for building credibility and achieving results.
  • Identify your niche audiences and strategize on how the core message should be delivered to each audience, based on how they think, where they are located, what resonates for them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely in language the audience would understand, preferably with a request for action.
  • Be clear on ownership of programs and processes and document communications, players and intentions.
  • Have others take ownership for taking actions and communicating results, so that they are engaged in the process.
  • Be clear on what measurable results look like from a quantitative perspective, and update others on the progress based on data.
  • Live interviews with trusted interviewers lead to the type of authentic programs others would watch and learn from – which could lead to revenues.
  • Be clear on your own value-add in terms of skills and tangible/measured results and outcomes. Evaluate where you can best add value based on what you’re passionate about and what results you’ve driven to date.
  • Work with those who are more engineering-minded about the value of communicating more of the bigger picture, and less of the details when connecting with those-outside engineering.
  • Stakes are high when companies decide to merge. And execs are restricted on what they can say during sensitive timeframes. But working with the lines and connecting with others to meaningfully and authentically share progress during change will help keep staff loyal and engaged.

The conclusion is that communicating strategically and authentically will help effectively building credibility and relationships which are core to leading anyone, no matter where you sit at the table.

Our thanks once again to our hosts at Polycom and to our execs in attendance for this month’s VIP roundtable!

The Future of Retail

June 5, 2016

Retail.jpg

FountainBlue’s June 3 VIP roundtable was on the Future of Retail. Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Newmark Carey and our execs who participated in the conversation. Below are notes from the conversation.

Over the past three decades, the Silicon Valley has evolved from a privately held, institutional, relationship-based business economy to a more inter-connected, international, venture-funded, tech-driven economy, where relationships are equally important.

We have evolved from a period where large retail centers dominated, to an era where mixed use is common and restaurants are more plentiful. International investors are investigating in real estate in the valley, a more solid investment opportunity than those which present themselves at home. 

As it becomes increasingly easier for consumers to choose online ordering options, we must look closely at how much retail space we have – 45 sq ft per person in US, much more than the second highest ratios in UK and Australia who are tied at 25 sq ft per person – and how we can make best use of that space. Ideas for doing so are listed below.

  • Leverage technology to efficient deliver customized solutions for demanding customers. Ideas include entering precise measurements for shoe and clothing, using virtual reality try before you buy options (which have failed in the past, but perhaps time might be more ripe now), using the web for comparison shopping, etc.,
  • Marketplaces like Amazon and NewEgg serve their purpose with efficient purchase and distribution channels. Amazon is more for the general population, but techies might prefer the wide range of tech solutions and attractive prices at NewEgg, or they may prefer physically going into Frys for example. But organizations like Best Buy and office supply chains may be challenged to find that edge which would bring customers into the store.
  • Retail thrives when populations are dense, and the experience is good – with great selections.
  • In today’s economy, there’s the barbell effect where retailers selling to the lower income and to the higher income are doing well, but those appealing to the mid markets aren’t doing quite as well.
  • Retailers with access to mass transit like CalTran are doing better.
  • Older, free standing tilt-up R&D buildings in Silicon Valley are being converted into mixed use office and retail space, and the trend is for NetZero impact with less HVAC, more ‘big ass’ fans, and more solar and natural lighting.
  • Densifying of people is also a trend, with collaborative work spaces preferred over individual office spaces and isolated cubes. 

Below are some technology and business predictions offered by our attendees.

  • Distressed regional malls in populous areas will continue to be converted to mixed-use office/retail and housing, with a new trend of parks on ceilings.
  • Technology will continue to be efficiently leveraged to better understand and deliver to the needs of customers, even to the point of predicting what they want and need next. 
  • Manufacturing and delivery processes will become ever more efficient as big data and analytics may help retailers better plan for both.
  • There’s a love-hate relationship with channels such as Amazon – see article below on Amazon is not your friend – and retailers need to understand how Amazon will fit their overall distribution strategy.
  • Strong communities may help build niche retail markets and channels for specialty goods that are vetted and approved by fellow members. Retailers should consider supporting or starting such communities.
  • Leveraging technology to customize size and color will help drive sales and lower returns.
  • Forward-thinking CIOs of retail firms are adopting sensors and apps which can track inventory and help customers on-site real-time.
  • Retailers (in China) with individual air conditioning units are leverage IoT to manage large retail spaces. (This is more difficult to adopt in the US as most large retailers have central air.)
    • As an aside, utilities can use this data from these air conditioning units to manage brown-outs.
  • Light-enabled technology (LiFi) may replace wifi at on-site retailers and help retailers track and manage inventory and customers to identify and find what they’re looking for on-site. (Note that light has fewer security risks than wifi, as the distance between the light of a mobile phone and a sensor or a label are generally short, and the time of emission is generally small.)

Resources:

PSFK Future of Retail 2016 Summary Report

10Pillars.jpg10 Pillars Delivering the New Shopper Experience

Synchrony Financial: 10 THINGS TO KNOW: THE TOP 10 RETAIL TRENDS FOR 2016

  1. Wearables
  2. Retail Holidays
  3. Voice Technology
  4. Virtual Reality in the Shopping Experience
  5. Video Streaming
  6. Internet of Things
  7. Mobile Payments
  8. Social Network Buy Buttons
  9. Increased Spending on Pets
  10. Personalization

Amazon is not your friend, Caroline Fairchild’s May 17, 2016 

Amazon’s impact on both the retail and delivery spaces is not new. But their announcement earlier this week might all but makes the funding slowdown inevitable for retail startups. The e-commerce giant will reportedly soon sell private label groceries and household products exclusively to Amazon Prime members. The move is huge because Amazon already owns half of all e-commerce sales. With all the growth in retail happening online, anything Amazon does to increase their already massive share is bad news for retail startups looking to scale.

Retail, early adopter of new technologies. LiFi a very promising one of them ! Tom Van Den Bussche