It’s true. I’m proud of the work I accomplished this semester, and I’d like to share it with you! The following are presentations that I created for MIS5001 (the course for which this blog was built) and an Industry Competitive Analysis course offered by the Strategic Management department. Want to discuss more about the topics and companies referred to in these presentations? Contact me!
**UPDATE** As of 5/31/2012, a mere two days after I posted this note and uploaded the Collaborative Consumption presentation into Slideshare.net, the slideshow received over 500 unique views – boosting the presentation to their homepage! Isn’t it amazing what a well crafted presentation can do? Kudos to my teammates for their work putting the original presentation together! Art Gimenez, Brian Hubschmann and Ebru Isik!
What does information technology look like globally?
In the 1600s, information was restricted due to high transportation costs and high governmental barriers and political influence, so citizens had little knowledge about cultures, locations and things outside of one’s own country. Those with power held the most access to information (i.e. Scientists worked for sponsors with deep pockets, or governmental agents with political agendas), and the ease of dispersion of this information was limited.
However, as disruptive innovations broke down transportation barriers and increased the ease with which information and knowledge crossed country boundaries and dispersed globally, the people responsible for innovating became powerful.
Indeed, this “old world” view demonstrates a hybrid process of centralized and decentralized information keeping. Because their world was so small, citizens executing “corporate-wide” (or state-wide, as it were) initiatives were easy and predictable. They were responsive to local requirements and could change direction quickly – a perfect hybrid since scale had not yet occurred.
But as technology improved and distance between cultures and peoples decreased, bureaucracy and the need to maintain low costs with high responsiveness increased; a shift toward a decentralized model occurred. Responsive to local requirements but expensive to scale globally, decentralized institutions inevitably created fractions within the higher order of corporate operations. (Indeed, there is a reason why they call it a “Balkanized Mess”)
Today, the question becomes what does distance mean to IT?
A. Corporate-wide initiatives are enacted with minimal costs
B. Business-unit strategies are responsive to local requirements
C. Information hoarding (or lack of IT knowledge) presents challenging governance issues
D. A Balkanized Mess
Indeed, the answer could be all four. The larger issue is how global organizations can transmit data effectively, efficiently, and provide resources to all global business units while managing costs and responding to local needs. For example, Ford recently announced their resolution to a growing costly global scale issue: the global car. Manufactured with standard pieces, this new Ford fleet would be comprised of elements from vehicles they already produce globally (thus, saving costs), but would also be of a smaller size (thus, appealing to local demand requirements). Understanding its core competencies and core customer base, Ford utilized business intelligence to streamline their operations profitably. Ford was able to change an expensive global distance by using intelligence from a hybrid organizational structure.
So, when you take out your smart device and pull up a web mapping service application, make sure you tip your hat to those citizens of the 1600 century world who didn’t know what city was next door. As technology made smaller the world around them, organizational structures evolved to the point where today IT is the glue which connects all business units globally.
Would you like a side of Ethics with that Business Intelligence?
In this week’s class reading, two articles discuss specific examples of when business intelligence systems succeeded, or failed, and the accompanying important takeaways of how organizations should properly use, analyze, and act upon newly mined data. In general, the overall sentiment of the author of both articles remained positive to the generation of data to intelligently standardize specific business processes to make organizations better informed. While the caveat remained that BI systems didn’t necessarily make the organization better (just better informed), information is power and vital to identify opportunities to improve inefficient processes.
Additionally, similarly to knowledge management systems, force feeding business intelligence projects won’t work. As this week’s article stated:
Like so many technology projects, BI won’t yield returns if users feel threatened by, or are skeptical of, the technology and refuse to use it as a result. And when it comes to something like BI, which, when implemented strategically ought to fundamentally change how companies operate and how people make decisions, CIOs need to be extra attentive to users’ feelings.
While it’s interesting that raw data now has to be handled sensitively, where users’ feelings needs to be kept in check, what struck me most about this week’s article was the industry context of this specific article and the effects BI systems contribute to the human element.
These statistics were given for the example of Hardee’s, who successfully rolled out its new Monster Thickburger specifically because the insights the company received from its business intelligence system showed a favorable (and profitable) market reception:
- Two charbroiled 100 percent Angus beef patties, each weighing in at a third of a pound (150 grams)
- Three slices of processed cheese
- Four crispy strips of bacon
- Topped with a dollop of mayonnaise that oozes from a toasted buttery sesame seed bun.
- = 1420 calories (5945 kilojoules)
- = 107 grams of fat.
Quite possibly the most fattening mass-produced burger on the planet, the burger is selling exponentially specifically because of positive analytics received from Hardee’s BI system. However, in the context of the fast food industry which is directly affecting the US’s obesity epidemic, how could Hardee’s knowingly contribute to such a plight?
The question begged of this scenario is when does business intelligence overrule the common sense and ethical behavior businesses should operate under? Having useful data as one’s fingertips is powerful; indeed, information is power. But does having information that shows enhanced profit mean the product must be launched? … Even if the product is overwhelmingly harmful to humanity?
Can organizations motivated by the need to make profits and please shareholders concurrently maintain high ethical standards and practices?
What do you know? More importantly, tell me what you don’t know.
How would you go about answering this question? In context of the business world, specifically management consulting, the answer to this question can mean the success or failure of future projects. If this question is unanswerable, the new question then becomes: If your team doesn’t have the answer to a certain question, how do you provide them the resources to confidently proceed?
Thus, the critical importance of knowledge management.
Management consulting firms like McKinsey and Booz & Company (formerly Katzenbach Partners) have acknowledged this “best practice” of the industry: as organizations grow in scale and scope of projects, firms must embrace both knowledge management systems and strategies to leverage the firm’s human capital. It’s important to note that strategy must be paired with system implementation; implementing a new system without the awareness or understanding of the reason for the new system can have very negative consequences (and more likely than not, the refusal of employees to adopt the new system). Once the strategy to consolidate and manage knowledge has been established, building the system to collect and redistribute the knowledge in a meaningful way is where the true business value appears. Not only do documents become easily accessible, the people of the firm now have the freedom to access information to help them answer questions they don’t immediately know the answer to. This system becomes the institutional knowledge center for the entire organization, regardless of multiple office locations, a large traveling consultant base, or the acquisition of new junior staff without any prior knowledge of the firm.
Knowledge management systems allow employees to tap into a Google-esque search algorithm that not only searches the firm’s internal database, but also shows the “white space” of knowledge within an organization. Being able to pinpoint search results that have no data to answer the searched question represents the potential for new knowledge creation, and thus more value add to the firm’s clients. Interestingly enough, even though accessible documentation of knowledge seems like the most critical piece of knowledge management, in actuality it becomes what the firm doesn’t have information on that is most valuable.
In a world where Web 2.0 is standard to people’s everyday interaction with the internet (Wikipedia, Google, Second Life, Blogs, etc.), it becomes no surprise that Enterprise 2.0 components would quickly become adopted in the corporate sphere. Building systems and strategies which promote, support and extend a community of practice (where learning, meaning and identity are shared and developed) is a critical source of competitive advantage for many firms.
As a side note, while the benefit of these systems can be reaped by the corporate world, so too can Education systems benefit. My question to the class, then, would be: How could Temple University or the Fox School of Business benefit from a knowledge management strategy and/or system? What would this system look like? Who would be the primary user of this system?
“We don’t have a choice on whether DO social media; the question is how WELL we do it.”
Digital marketing and social media thrive on the conversations, needs, wants, and dreams of the crowd. Whether it’s through the sharing of images, video, written word, or even shared labor and funding, the human experience has gone viral. As I mentioned in my last post, social media as a disruptive technology has re-created the way individuals and businesses use the internet. Today, the buzzword is “engagement,” not just “communication.” The following video encapsulates a little about how disruptive this technology has been:
As web-based and mobile technologies turn communication into interactive dialogue and engagement, new disruptive technologies are begging to be born.
Enter: The Power of the Crowd.
This week I completed a research project about the disruptive potential of Kickstarter, an online crowd-fundraising platform which targets artists and entrepreneurs who need funds to bring their creative projects to life. The only way that these artists and entrepreneurs build awareness about their ideas and projects is by tapping into the power of the crowd. Leveraging the ubiquity of social network platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, and various other digital media tools to broadcast their creative ideas found on Kickstarter, these individuals attract other like-minded individuals (i.e.: total strangers) to build awareness and interest in backing their projects. In essence, Kickstarter is truly a representation of market demand; by taking a funding request straight to the people, if no one donates money to a project, the project does not get funded. As simple as that.
The disruptive potential of utilizing the power of the crowd is remarkably simple, yet mind-blowingly powerful. While it’s not quite the Hollywood pipe dream of “If you build it, they will come,” Crowdfunding (as the movement is called) requires effective communication between creators and customers and extends the engagement of social media with philanthropists; indeed “group conversation drives repeat visits.” The catch is that, now, everyone online can fund a piece of someone else’s vision – all while the original creator retains 100% of his or her intellectual property and ownership rights.
Of course, others criticize social media and crowdfunding, labeling them as fads or trends. What is more, other critics believe that social media is simply “digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated”. While project owners on Kickstarter do need to be fairly vocal and shout through a mass of clutter across multiple social networks, those that do receive funding, and go on to produce the work that they set out to produce, set the example for the power of the crowd. Is this the new norm of the American dream?
What has made Google successful?
Has it been its average cost-per-click to advertisers? Has it been its coverage rate? Has it been its click-through rate? It’s algorithm? It’s diversified portfolio of new businesses and applications?
I propose that Google’s success has stemmed from the company’s dedication to its original mission,
“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,”
and doing such in an ethically sound, intellectually stimulating and entrepreneurial way.
Even though I have worked on paid search campaigns in the past using Google’s AdWords and Analytics tools, I never learned about Google’s distinctive and strong corporate values. Obviously, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were first and foremost engineers, and as the 2011 HBR case “Google Inc.” states: “engineers are not the best communicators, nor do they make the best diplomats or business development executives.” However, that the two of these engineers created such strong corporate values based on a high sense of ethics and fairness, demonstrates that successful organizations can be built on strong values and continue to thrive in a hyper-competitive landscape. Indeed, a corporation does not need to “be evil” to make money, be innovative, or have fun being creative and professional.
Another source of Google’s success is its intellectually- and creatively-stimulating environment and culture it has created over the years. Many Fortune 500 companies have the distinct shadow cast over them of being stuffy, stifling, and unwilling to promote creativity. Google, on the other hand, specifically has built into company policy the requirement of having fun and working towards projects which interest employees. Called “Innovation Time Off,” engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time on projects that interest them. Being passionate about something, and being able to “do one thing really, really well,” allows Google and its employees to focus exclusively on solving problems for its users.
Lastly, the tenth item on Google’s statement of philosophy shows the organization’s dedication to entrepreneurship: “Great just isn’t good enough.” To constantly strive towards excellence, but realize that there will always be something better on the horizon, has created at Google a culture of entrepreneurial perfectionists: people who are creative, but won’t stop with “greatness.”
With a culture, corporate values, and spirit like this, it’s easy to see why Google has consistently ranked high in Fortune’s “best companies to work for.” By not being evil, Google has been a pioneer in the internet, software and advertising industries since its conception in the late 1990s.
The True Costs of Having “… an App for That”
Make a list of all of the application systems you have used throughout your life. There are applications on your phone which provide entertainment; there are applications on your computer to aid in your communication; there are applications that you use every day that eliminate some pain point and help you work faster, better, smarter.
However, how many of these systems work together?
In the business world, there are application systems for supply chain management, customer relationship management, business intelligence applications, and other data management systems devoted to managing data from HR, health care and other internal communications. However, these systems typically cannot communicate with each other to share data or business rules. Inefficiencies are created in a business setting when one functional area cannot communicate effectively with another department; inevitably, information silos are created and the organization’s expense line suffers.
Enter commercialized products such as Oracle, IBM, SAP and Microsoft. These firms specialize and produce products dedicated to Enterprise Application Integration: “the process of linking such applications within a single organization together in order to simplify and automate business processes to the greatest extent possible, while at the same time avoiding having to make sweeping changes to the existing applications or data structures.”
Close the books. Put your pen down. Your business problem has been solved.
But wait. This process is not as easy as giving the green-light to IT to install a new software on all servers. Before implementing enterprise resource planning software you must know more about how your business side performs.
Thus, one key point taken from my class’s readings as a whole is the fact that even though new software and remarkable tools come to market every day, unless a company understands its business and what functions the company must perform (and perform extraordinarily efficiently) in order to serve its end user, implementing a new application system will prove ineffective. Cisco Systems, Inc. did this process well: a team of dedicated executives along with employees from all crucial business functional areas (not just from the IT wing) performed an in-depth search for an ERP product. The prerequisite to be a part of this search team: both technical skill and business knowledge. Cisco executives understood that unless the company could serve all different departments’ particular needs and pain points (including its consumer end-user), this new application system would be worthless.
Indeed, in Barnett’s article “What IT can learn from the railroad business,” he comments on what businesses should be looking for from their IT departments:
Focusing on how the business side performs its tasks and finding solutions for its concerns will pay much bigger dividends in the end than will rolling out the latest multimillion-dollar project that has all the hottest bells and whistles but doesn’t give the business what it needs.
Instead of looking at IT to cut costs and save the company money, look more to the department needs to drive more flexible strategies that will alleviate pain points for the entire organization. IT should be defined less by the actual technology the department provides and more by the value it adds to the business as a whole.
So, the next time you take a look at your business operations and wonder what software it would take to streamline more processes, think first about what business processes you need to electronically capture and coordinate. Take time to determine what your business’s “job” is, and what value your business provides to your end customer, before you jump in and attempt to fit your operations into a cookie-cutter software system. Implementing an ERP product can be a long and expensive process; by taking time to mold the software to your process, educating your employees about how to use the new system, and setting reasonable deadlines and budgets, your business can take ensure a well-coordinated and streamlined rolling-out of an integrated platform in the manner as Cisco Systems, Inc.
How do you see the world?
I applied to Temple’s full-time MBA program knowing that I brought to the table a specific way of seeing the world: I analyze an issue and wrap my head around the end goal, and then systematically break apart the steps necessary to achieve that end result. As I’ve come to understand my brain’s way of thinking, I begin with a holistic approach and then delve down into more logical methods of analyzing the steps crucial to task completion.
As I read through this week’s case study (STARS Air Ambulance: An Information Systems Challenge), it became apparent that protagonist Sharaz Khan similarly analyzed STARS’ information system holistically followed by a logical step-by-step task analysis approach as I have found myself performing over the years. What Khan saw was a company with an organization-wide lack of awareness about system and IT solutions, where departments were not unified and instead operating in a reactionary mode to any critical IT needs, and such a disconnect between centralized IT function and IS personnel created a palpable lack of supervision.
Exemplified in this HBR case, IT systems and sytems-thinking allow professionals to manage complexities within the workplace. Not only are lines of data streamlined by systems, so too are interpersonal relationships and day-to-day business operations. By developing a streamlined communications system that linked all departments within STARS, and seeing the world through an information technology/systems lens, Khan was able to reduce the complexity in the workplace and even build trust within his team.