Digital citizens and the future of government

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Hosted a panel at the UNSW Michael Crouch Innovation Centre last week with Selena Griffith on Digital Citizens and the Future of Government with Dominic Campbell, Penny Webb-Smart, and Amelia Loye.

You can view the video here

Panel members

Dominic Campbell is a digital government entrepreneur with a background in government policy and technology-led change. He is an experienced in organisation design and has senior management experience in implementing successful change initiatives within public services. Having spent six years in government in the UK, Dominic established FutureGov in 2008. A team of 40, FutureGov supports digital and design thinking in government in the UK, Australia and many places in between. Dominic has previously been voted in the top 100 most influential people in UK local government.

Penny Webb-Smart is Executive Director, Service Reform for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation in the NSW Government. The Service Reform team was established in February 2015 to facilitate digital and service innovation on a cross-agency basis that puts customer at the heart of NSW government. The key drivers for service reform are: * Accelerating digital government * Customer centric transformation * Joined up government services Penny’s has deep experience in digital transformation, service design and development, building customer-centric cultures, and developing strategic partnerships. Prior to NSW Government, Penny spent twenty years in financial services, consulting and telecommunications in Australia and New Zealand.

Amelia Loye is a social scientist with more than a dozen years’ engaging citizens and stakeholders for Government’s in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. She has engaged across the participation spectrum, for policy, planning and project development, for legislative change, and for community education and behavioural change. Amelia now provides strategic support for organisations wanting to practice digital democracy and improve the way they engage, consider social issues, and work with others to serve the needs of community. She is also well known for her work on Australia’s first Action Plan for Open Government.

 

 

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Mobile and social media – what it means for business

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Mobile and social media have created a new business landscape

If you’re not already working out how to disrupt your business and your industry then you will be disrupted…

The web 2.0 revolution and social media changed the game for business. At a basic level brands discovered the notion of customer ‘conversations’. But for the most part this was not  strategic, rather it often consisted of random tactical efforts.

It is amusing to see that even in 2015 many brands are only just now discovering the notion of metrics and measuring their online activity:

“…many brands moving towards measuring audience impressions, clicks, and thinking cross-platform”

Tania Yuki , Shareablee CEO and Founder

Then we often hear statistics like this:

“…Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.”

The real question to ask about all statistics like this is “so what?” What does that engagement translate to as business outcomes?

“There is no ROI in anything if you don’t learn how to use it.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk, Founder VaynerMedia

The simple fact is that hardly anyone is driving direct revenue from social media, and many businesses are not optimized to sell via mobile. And the big question for businesses is what is the goal for their social and mobile activity?

But now all business online presence must be mobile friendly – Google and customers will punish businesses that do not embrace this. Increasingly users are accessing digital  content via mobile devices, and this means that businesses need to ensure a good quality experience.

Social media was only phase 1

Social media was phase one of the new digital revolution, next coming is the collaborative economy and internet of things ( IoT).

The present of social is mobile. The future of mobile is IoT and wearables. and these offer huge  monetization opportunities:

Cisco [former] CEO John Chambers Values Internet of Things at $19T #CES2014

People

People, both customers and staff, now have a default position that assumes access to any resources they want. And they want it online, on demand, real-time, anywhere, and on any device they choose.

This is all part of the democratisation of communication enabled by the digital revolution. It leads to an inversion of power relationships and puts the means of production for communication in the hands of the populace.

It leads to opportunities and growth in peer-to-peer and mobile. Kevin Kelly sums it up nicely as:

“…a shift towards the individual as the centre of a network of relationships mediated and enabled by technology…”

The shift is from customer channels to a customer continuum mediated by social and mobile.

This means that businesses need to connect social media activity to purchasing activity, they need to make it work on mobile and tablet. And it must be friction-less.

Changes to team and organisation structure

In a fast moving context like this command-control management is dead. This is because the operational tempo of a digital business is not days or weeks or months; it is minutes and seconds.

To support this shift in operational tempo we need employees with skills to work in a social or collaborative context. We need team members who can deal with ambiguity and a fast pace.

To support customers who do not have patience with internal silos businesses need to move towards integrated teams. This means using ideas like DevOps and agile to support cross-functional teams to meet customer needs and deliver across organisational silos. To achieve this all parts of the business will need to bring together expertise:

  • Tech
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Customer service

Workforce changes mean that new ways of working will emerge, such as co-working and collaboration. These will lead to increased decentralisation of the workforce and be accompanied by much shorter change cycles.

And these changes will all lead to issues with boundaries between public and private; between personal and business. With this blurring between roles it will be increasingly difficult to establish role clarity. And this means that team members need to be able to manage through ambiguity and across functional lines.

Risk and governance

In the fast-paced world of digital business we still need to consider how to manage risk and how to enact effective governance.  Some factors to consider in this regard include:

  • Monitor your business online
  • Assign responsibility for online channels
  • Include social & mobile in digital strategy
  • Link digital strategy to marketing strategy
  • Ensure cross media planning in place
  • Develop mechanisms to track progress
  • Create and manage loosely connected networks
  • Grow a business in a networked world
  • Engage people and garner advocates for your business
  • Focus outward while protecting your brand

Top 10 checklist for digital business

  1. Digital strategy: is just part of it, includes websites, email marketing, etc.
  2. Tactical plans: For implementation of campaigns
  3. Resource plan: Social is not free, it needs people and tools
  4. Tools: Required to enable management, tracking and monitoring
  5. Metrics: Need to be decided prior to implementation to enable effective reporting
  6. ROI: Need to track investment and results
  7. Reporting: For good governance
  8. Roles & responsibilities: Defined and clear to all parties, in particular governance + cross-functional teams
  9. Cross media plan: Integration with other digital and marketing activities
  10. Risk management: Includes social media policies and procedures and crisis management process
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LinkedIn and the power of networks

it's not the students that keep us young, it's all the stairs
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it's not the students that keep us young, it's all the stairs

I used to think of LinkedIn as a boring but worthy social network for business contacts. But I was wrong.

Over the years it has become a critical B2B social network, with multi-million dollar deals often being done via the platform.

LinkedIn has also disrupted the recruitment business and reshaped the way people find jobs. It changed the power dynamic in recruitment by enabling the jobs to find people. Clever recruiters embraced LinkedIn early. The rest clung to their clunky old proprietary resume databases.

With the recent acquisition of Lynda.com, the reach of LinkedIn looks like growing into training and education. This is a more interesting play than MOOCs from an education perspective.

Remembering my LinkedIn story

Last night I caught up with a longstanding buddy, Des Walsh, as he visited Sydney. Des is a doyen of social media in Australia, as well as being a passionate networker and executive coach.

As we chatted I finally remembered to tell him the story of how one of his ideas helped me to get a great job.

LinkedIn ’30 day blitz’

Back in late 2012 Des contacted a diverse bunch of folks who were active on social media, noting that LinkedIn was our ‘orphan’ social network. He was right, most of us were enamoured with other sexier social media platforms. We were all members of LinkedIn, but at that time none of us were particularly active there, nor were our profiles up to date.

Des setup a social network challenge for November 2012, rounding up a diverse group to take part in a month of LinkedIn activity.

The concept was simple – “A collaborative project, in which each participant commits to take action on his/her LinkedIn presence and activity, over a 30 day period.” – 30 Day Linking Blitz.

I signed up for the blitz, and started with updating my LinkedIn profile with previous work and a decent profile picture.

The results were immediate

Almost immediately after that I was contacted by a recruiter. The recruiter had been trying for almost a year to find a candidate for a role that called for a diverse mix of skills. She explained that my name had popped up in her LinkedIn search that morning.

The rest is history. I interviewed for the role at UNSW Australia, where I’ve been working happily since then. All thanks to Des and his 30 Day LinkedIn Blitz.

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Leaders, problems, and action

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“We measure a leader, not by the absence of problems, but how he or she confronts those problems and takes action.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

There has been a long and largely unprofitable debate in management circles about the difference between management and leadership. Over the years I have come to a realisation that management and leadership are inextricably linked and that they are defined by actions.

In the long run it does not matter what is said. The finest words pale into insignificance beside our actions. What we do defines us.

The true test of leadership is when problems arise. And the actions taken by the leader in response to problems are the measure of their leadership.

The leader needs to embody the values espoused by the organisation. The actions taken by the leader enable their teams to see how they too can respond to problems facing the organisation.

Good management goes hand in hand with good leadership, and it is how efficient and effective processes are put in place to support the business, its customers, and its staff.

Too often we see a combination of poor leadership with an absence of good management. This makes for an organisation with unhappy customers that is a horrible place to work.

And it is easily changed. Good leadership and good management will fix it. It can be surprising how quickly appointing an effective manager can turn a dysfunctional team into a functioning team. And to effect this change it is often how the leader confronts the challenges facing the team that causes a cascade of behavioural change among the team.

A good leader is a catalyst for new ways of being and of thinking for the team. As mentioned previously, the good leader embodies new ways for the team to be and gives them permission to act differently.

As managers we must give sincere thought to our role as leaders. We are the ones who set the tone for the team. For good or ill, leaders set the scene and signal the boundaries of acceptable and desirable behaviour.

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Annual Global CIO Survey 2014

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The annual Harvey Nash CIO Survey launched in Sydney in early December 2014.

Think differentlyThis is a long running CIO survey with responses from more than 3,200 CIOs and technology leaders globally.

It was interesting to join the panel at this event for a lively discussion of technology and business related matters.

My fellow panelists were:

We had a wide-ranging discussion including: big data (and its friend little data); the importance of good alignment between IT and marketing for the business; and the need for a new kind of IT that is freed up from legacy systems and closely aligned to the business.

Some of the comments are documented here.

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Why privacy on the internet of things doesn’t scare me

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The debate about the internet of things often centres on privacy, but here is why privacy on the internet of things doesn’t scare me as much as digital rights management.

I tend to suspect that issues relating to privacy on the internet of things will be sorted out as a result of consumer and government expectations enshrined in privacy regulations.

A key capability that is enabled by the internet of things is that vendors can keep charging us for services related to their device. One reason why businesses are so excited by the internet of things is it allows them to move from selling a device as a one-off sale and towards ongoing fees for services associated with that device.

This phenomenon will enable internet of things companies to increase their revenue streams and to drive sales of additional services. Thus the value of an internet of things device is not so much in the hardware as in the software and services.

Take the pacemaker as an example. If you have a pacemaker installed and the vendor decides to charge a monthly service fee to keep the device going, what happens if you miss a payment? If the vendor has, very sensibly, implemented digital rights management on your pacemaker service then they will be able to turn it off if you miss a few payments.

If this sounds far fetched, it’s not, it is already here. Last December I test drove a new electric car, the Renault Zoe, at a conference in Paris. This car has implemented digital rights management.

If you do not pay the ongoing rental fee on the battery for your Renault Zoe then you will not be allowed to recharge the battery.

Also, chipmaker FTDI,whose chips are found in many consumer electronics products, recently announced that they will kill third party chips remotely via driver updates. This will likely render useless the devices that consumers have purchased in good faith which have counterfeit chips installed.

This is why digital rights management scares me more than privacy in the brave new world of the internet of things.

Welcome to the digital revolution and our networked future.

 

 

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Business plan – ultimate waste of time or absolute necessity? #startups

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There is an enormous amount of information and advice about creating a business plan for one’s startup.

The advice ranges from the necessity to prepare a traditional narrative form business plan document, to preparing a business model canvas, or using a business planning tool or app.

There are even notions like the idea-less startup, where the team is formed before the startup idea comes together.

No business plan at all is not a good idea

While the consensus nowadays seems to be that shorter business plans are better, some folks even argue that preparing a business plan is a complete waste of time. Others who argue that business plans are a waste of time suggest:

“Throw your business plan in the recycling bin. Instead, focus on your team and on getting to market as quickly as you can.”

What a business needs to think about

That notion of no business plan is all very well. But a new business does need to consider things that are traditionally covered in a business plan, such as:

  • Business purpose – the purpose for which the business exists (some like to include mission and/or vision); what makes the business and its products special or different
  • Markets in which the business will operate – including competitors, geography, since these inform operational matters such as logistics and distribution
  • Sales – how the business will make money, as Guy Kawasaki said recently during his visit to Canva in Sydney: “Sales fix everything“, also need to consider pricing and distribution
  • Business finances – funding sources, financial projections including operating costs and revenue; how the business will make money
  • Business structure – incorporation, board and directors
  • Management and ownership – who will manage the business operations, who owns what and what obligations are to be fulfilled
  • Key personnel – people required to run the business, either contract or staff positions
  • Products or services, innovation, and intellectual property – including how the product will be developed and brought to market
  • Insurance and risk management
  • Legal considerations
  • Business operations – how the business will manage production, logistics, distribution, customer service, sales, accounting, bookkeeping, statutory requirements, etc

If these types of information are not written down it is hard to ensure that all participants share a common understanding.

Quick approaches to business planning

My approach to business planning is to do it in stages, with each stage focused on checking the team’s current understanding of key issues, risks, and obtaining agreement as to sensible next steps.

Lean business model canvas

A good way to start the planning process is to use a lean business model canvas to get the team thinking about the key issues for the business. If the team cannot answer the questions posed in this document then it is a clear risk signifier for the project.

Once agreement is reached on the high level information in the lean business canvas it is a good checkpoint for the team. The canvas also provides a helpful artefact for sharing with potential collaborators and investors. It is a useful way to assess the viability of the business idea.

More detailed planning

For the preparation of the next level of detailed business plan I had traditionally used the narrative form document with charts and tables. However, recently Avis Mulhall put me onto a business planning tool called Live Plan. I’m now a total convert to this approach (please note that I have no affiliation with Live Plan, just find it a very handy tool).

This kind of tool asks the right questions and enables the team to prepare a good looking presentation document that includes sensible categories of information.

This more detailed plan provides another useful artefact for sharing with potential collaborators and investors.

Quick business planning

For a few startups I’m working with, the teams went through the entire planning process outlined above – including lean canvas and detailed business plan – in a single day.

The business planning process does not have to be onerous.

Business planning at its best

At its best, business planning is about the team asking sensible questions about:

  • how the business will work,
  • how it will find and keep happy customers,
  • how it will make money,
  • how the risks will be mitigated,
  • and how the rewards for success will be shared among the founders and investors.
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Predicting success #startups

Un bonobo mâle du parc Lola ya bonobo
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“The only major personality trait that consistently leads to success is conscientiousness.” via Business Insider

In large companies personality tests and similar instruments are often deployed to provide people with better insight into their own and team performance.

Over the years I have participated in many of these – for example, Myers Briggs, DISC, Belbin Team Roles, Hermann Brain Dominance, 16PF, Big Five Inventory, etc.

Many people debate the efficacy of any or all of these instruments. However, the primary importance of these kind of instruments is the opportunity they provide for people to reflect upon their personal and work preferences. They also provide an opportunity for people to consider how best to participate in teams and to collaborate with others in a work context. These personal reflections and insights are the true value of these personality profile tools in the workplace.

Startups rarely have the luxury of investing time or money into administering these kind of instruments for their teams. This means that personal traits and interpersonal skills are not explicitly considered as part of the setup of a startup.

For co-founders and investors due diligence on the business is typically about the ‘hard’ data – budgets, sales targets, capital – rather than on ‘soft’ skills of the startup team.

Success, focus, and startups

In recent times I have been pondering how to assess the soft skills of startup teams. The one trait that keeps coming up is conscientiousness.

In the long run, brilliance and inventiveness are less important than the ability to focus and persist in the everyday tasks that accrete to make a successful business.

As Thomas Edison said:

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.

Related research on the Big Five

How Universal Is the Big Five? Testing the Five-Factor
Model of Personality Variation Among Forager–Farmers
in the Bolivian Amazon

 

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Startup, stay in business.

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The biggest hurdle facing most startups is to stay in business long enough to be successful. If they accomplish this then they have the chance to turn into an ‘overnight success’ after many years of hard work.

The numbers are against most new businesses. Many new businesses fail within the first three to five years. Even inside well-resourced large companies the challenges of bringing new products to market see many fail to make it.

This means that every startup sets out on a journey with the odds stacked against it. Every new startup is a triumph of optimism over evidence of other startup failures.

The real challenge for each startup is to stay in business. And sometimes hard questions must be asked to help the business survive.

The important factors in small business survival are:

  1. Focus – ability to say no to interesting opportunities that do not support the strategy
  2. Revenue – realistic sales targets with concrete and realistic plans to achieve them
  3. Cost control – ability to resist non-focused expenditure
  4. Customer focus – understand the specific market or markets and deliver what they will pay for; be ruthless with products that they don’t want
  5. Competitor analysis – know what competitors are doing and how to respond (if at all)

Focus

As Mick Liubinskas is well-known for telling entrepreneurs, startups must “focus or fail“. It is easy for a new business to find many things that it could possibly do. Often it is more important to identify the things that the business will not do (or will not do now).

One of the most important things to know is what things the business will absolutely not do. Out of scope items are more critical than in scope items, since they determine the boundaries within which the business will operate.

Survival

Everyday that the business survives and makes money is a good day. Many startups have big dreams. But if the business cannot survive to realise them then those big dreams will be crushed.

Cashflow and sales are nourishment for the business. There is a temptation to say “more capital will solve our problems”. However, this is not always the best course of action. The more investors a business has, then the more obligations one has to deliver for the investors.

Substance over style

There is a temptation for many startups to focus on external impressions and public relations at the expense of doing the hard work. That is, the hard work of setting up proper business management systems and processes to support the enterprise. While marketing and public relations are important, if the substance of the business is not well formed, the business will likely struggle to scale (or even to survive).

Leadership and management

Typically people startup a new business due to passion, and very often they do not have previous experience in leadership and management.

Business leaders undertake serious roles with obligations to shareholders, investors, customers, and staff. The fiduciary duties associated with business leadership are often not common knowledge.

Some things to do…

  • Set up sound management and operational processes and systems to support the business
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities within the business
  • Have a clearly documented business plan together with key performance indicators to track progress
  • Set up a business support or mentor network – get advice from people with experience (and be willing to act on that advice)
  • Read up on why other businesses failed and work out how to avoid the same pitfalls
  • If in doubt, seek professional advice, and be smart enough to take it

Some useful links from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) about running a company:

Articles on business failures

 

 

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Inspiring millennials

Enactus UNSW Pitch Fest
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Millennials or Generation Y have been getting a hard time in the media for a while now. They are alleged to be entitled, they don’t buy cars (which will apparently destroy the economy), and they are said to be extraordinarily optimistic in spite of the economic circumstances into which the emerge as adults.

Enactus UNSW

But that is not my experience of millennials. It was inspiring to meet the young people at Enactus UNSW earlier in the week at their pitching competition.

There I found committed and engaged people who are working to make the world a better place. They were pitching projects to help with youth mental health issues, recycle computers and get them to community groups, provide business support to social enterprises.

The diversity of ideas was remarkable, the passion and enthusiasm encouraging. The university students who participate in these projects are getting valuable experience for their post university lives. And they are also gaining valuable experience in working to create sustainable business solutions. It is what I like to call a win-win.

More information about Enactus UNSW here

Enactus UNSW Australia

 Quiz

Why not try the Pew Institute’s How Millennial Are You quiz?

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