tisdag 24 november 2015

Let the trend be your Friend

A well-known saying from the world of investments and stock-trading is to “let the trend be your friend”.  In essence, it captures the fact that an established trend in the market is likely to continue, compared to your – the individual investors’ – ability to pinpoint the point in time where the trend reverses, and capitalize on the change in direction.  There are some similarities between this captured wisdom, and how decision makers and strategists in the IT-field may benefit from keeping an eye on what’s “hot or not” in the eyes of their customers as well as the competition.

Gartner, Forrester, and Radar (with a specific focus on the Nordic market) are among the top-ranked analysts and trend-spotters with experts monitoring and identifying the main trends, as well as niche areas in different technologies and software platforms.  The most recent mega-trends which you most likely will have been made aware of are – “of course” – “big data”, “mobile everything” and “Internet of Things”, which are part of making up the “nexus of forces”, driving a major part of the IT investments in different industries forward. 

The hype-cycle curve
Over time, a pattern has been identified through which technology trends and ideas evolve – impacting the market in different ways.  Gartner, as one of the leading industry analysts, have branded this illustration and the stages through which a concept moves in relation to the mindset of the market as the “hype-cycle”. 

The main stages are ..

-          Technology Trigger

-          Peak of Inflated Expectations

-          Trough of Disillusionment

-          Slope of Enlightenment

-          Plateau of Productivity

.. and I’m sure that most of us can relate to these stages to different ideas and events on a personal level as well – regardless of relating to business or not.

There is of course a certain risk of confirmation bias involved in dealing with trends – in part that analysts and trend-setters take part in shaping demand as well as the supplier environment, but also considering the fact that mainly successful examples and ‘evidence’ from past performance are the ones remaining to as examples – failed attempts and projects rarely remain to tell the tale.  In fairness, however, analyst companies are in general quite open and honest with regard to the fluidity of trends as well as previous predictions failing to come true.  In general, the actual innovation and application in a business context may be valid – but the predicted timing can differ quite a bit vs reality for some concepts (e.g. e-learning and associated predictions during the late 90:s).

Only dead fish follow the stream

      -           “Won’t my business just be exactly like the competition if I keep chasing the next trend?”

The potential benefit for your specific business may not be at the very frontline of each trend – but rather in the general direction as established by the industry, in combination with what skilled experts and technologists can provide bespoke applications for in relation to your customers.  A unique value-adding offering and solution can never come ‘for free’ based on the trend itself – the key lies in drawing maximum benefit from the general direction and wisdom of the market as a whole, whilst establishing your own, tailor-made proposition to your customer base.

Enfo is constantly working with customers as well as market analyst firms to make sure we develop the right set of competencies as well as the product- and services offering suited to meet the customer requirements ahead of the main market trend.  Regardless if your ambition is to be the unchallenged leader of the pack by breaking ground through technical innovation, or if you want to discuss where and how to differentiate your business versus the competition within the existing macro trend we’re here to help. 

By the way, one of the predominant trends over the past 20 years is to focus on your specific core expertise, minding your own business, whilst working in partnership with experts in other fields such as technology or logistics, to provide better customer value.  Ignore it at your peril!
Fredric Travaglia, Business Development Consultant @ Enfo

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torsdag 19 november 2015

It's a kind of Magic ..

(This post is also available in a Swedish version, from the Enfo blog @ enfo.se/om/media/blogg/)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
(Arthur C. Clarke)
I have the pleasure and privilege of working with a few of those extremely talented and gifted individuals who possess not only the expertise and skillset to wield different technology stacks and software concepts to their will, but the versatility to be able to express and explain how it works to colleagues in other disciplines, as well as suggest innovative solutions of how such technologies can be used to solve challenges in Customer business scenarios.

I’m sure there are a number of examples of similar levels of mastery you can relate to even if your relationship with technology is dominated by the user perspective – Imagine watching your favorite sport, golf for example, where the player you root for confidently walks up to the tee, effortlessly drives the first shot down the fairway to the ideal location for an easy pitch onto green, and executes a single controlled put to score a comfortable birdie.  If you’re not a sports fan – I think we’ve all seen street artists sketch a portrait or caricature where at first, the few simple lines on the blank sheet of paper through a mesmerizing transformation move from a nonsensical shape to a beautifully detailed likeness which, if asked to explain or perform the task, the untrained layman would face poor odds.

Both circumstances require repetitive training, analysis, learning and experimenting over extended periods of time combined with the passion and curiosity to reach those extraordinary levels of mastery exhibited by our billboard athletes, artists, and top-tier professionals in different fields in business.

When we encounter these skills skillfully applied in a neat streamlined little package of seamlessly integrated technology, we get the impression of some intangible reality changing properties being imbued with the object – put more simply, it’s like magic!

Remember your first encounter with the iPhone, or Spotify, or having a video-chat with a loved one around the world, or perhaps the combination of internet and Google putting the knowledge of the world at your fingertips.  The inherent complexity of the multiple layers of technology, infrastructure and software making these experiences possible is practically incomprehensible for regular mortals – yet these wizards of technology conceive and realize the end-results, and possible next generation technologies which lie beyond.

In current cutting edge application of Big Data technologies, machine learning, efforts towards predictive algorithms and the beginnings of Artificial Intelligence visible in concepts like the IBM Watson – a whole new range of business models and value creation will take place, and any business with the ambition to remain competitive tomorrow needs to maintain a split vision between the day-to-day challenges in the business, and the opportunities brought into the industry by disruptive technologies.

Classic business examples of failing the challenge of the future upheld in classrooms around the world include Eastman-Kodak (film), Facit (calculators), Xerox (copier machines), Nokia (mobile handsets) and perhaps within a shorter timeframe than we realize – well-known hotel chains, taxi companies, network television and record companies.

What then, is the take-home insight we should derive from the connection between the individual effort, leading to mastery, leading to wonderful – practically magic – technological advances and solutions?  Here are my conclusions –

-          Focus on your goals, your reality, your ability to explain the challenges of your business to people who can help you resolve some of those problems with solutions you may not even have imagined were possible.  Sometimes, this opens up transformational possibilities which may expand business and create new revenue streams previously not available to the organization.

-          Start small, and build trust with a dedicated team of technology experts who share your vision of where the business should be heading, introducing technological solutions to create value for your end Customers.  Let the results speak for themselves, and iterate to progress forward.

-          The day-to-day, bread and butter, core-part of your business should run like clockwork and create as little “fuss” as possible, in order for you to enable a focus on innovation and expansion – regardless if it’s relating to technological improvements or not.
Recently, I’ve come across a few great examples of how this can work out in the real world.
 - Ambea
.. and some bonus material -

– I hope you find them inspiring!

Fredric Travaglia, Business Development Consultant @ Enfo

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tisdag 27 oktober 2015

Who is your Customer?

What the Customer really needed ..

(This post is also available in a Swedish version, from the Enfo blog @ enfo.se/om/media/blogg/)

Working with technology on a daily basis carries the risk of aligning ones thinking with the rather square and binary conditions applying to the way technological solutions are developed – does variable x equal value z (true/false), is version a compatible with platform z, do the stated conditions fulfil the requirements (Yes/No) etc.

When transferred to the realm of day to day business operations this perhaps accurate but somewhat two-dimensional perspective needs to be expanded to match the real-life requirements of the challenges of delivering value in our Customers’ business.

In the end, it’s the difference we can make for our Customers end-Customer – the end of the value chain - that really counts.  Better value, lower cost, improved quality, raised service levels – the classic hallmarks of successfully applying technology craftsmanship to business improvement.  With that as a starting point however, another level of complexity is added – it’s not enough to understand what our main counterpart – the purchaser, the requirement owner – say they need and want us to deliver.  We need to understand how our Customer works to fulfil their Customer expectations, to create and deliver value.

Our ever-increasingly complex world of tailor-made services, bespoke supply chains and specialized areas of expertise enable tremendous levels of flexibility, but tends to break up reality into individual frames of reference we understand individually, but carries a slight distortion through each layer when it comes to explaining what better Customer value – or business requirements – really means.  From the consumer, all throughout the value-chain, to – in this case – us, as the supplier.  Just like Chinese whispers ..

There’s a very striking – well- known and -circulated on the internet - illustration of the innate challenge in successfully communicating actual requirements between different roles and perspectives within a business, “What the Customer really wanted ..”.

Working with Process Innovation and Project Management, I believe in striving to take a holistic approach to help Customers cover an extra perspective or two, in their role as purchasers, requirement owners, or change leaders in IT implementation projects in their business.  We all have our own unique set of experiences and understanding for a particular situation – assets we can use to help each other understand and fill in the gaps of the picture we don’t see at first, and collaboratively identify what the Customer really needs.  At Enfo, our established framework for working with an EnterpriseArchitecture, or an Information Competency Center, are great examples of how this approach can be applied practically in real-life Customer projects.

As this rather infamous illustration of crossing human nature with the art of delivery vs expectations testifies, only attempting to circumvent such pitfalls does not always make it so – but the awareness of the inherent challenge we all face in the “Customer/supplier-relationships” around us, regardless of business type, can support us in avoiding a few more of them each time, and improving the business value delivered.

This helps us reaching further towards not only what the Customer wanted in the “one-to-one” customer-supplier relationship – but also in supporting our Customers in delivering what their own – colleagues as well as end-Customers – really wanted.  To draw an analogy from age-old wisdom, - the Customer of my Customer is .. my Customer!
Fredric Travaglia, Business Development Consultant @ Enfo

Keep up to speed with new posts to the blog through RSS or join the discussion on Twitter @ FxTravaglia