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Archive for September, 2009

Manila Flood Disaster Update – Social Media as Channel for Disaster Coordination

September 27, 2009 7 comments

I won’t have my usual article this week. I want to use my free time following updates about the flooding in Manila, which happens to be my home country’s capital. The widespread flooding was due to tropical typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) that brought record-breaking rainfall. The most affected region of the Philippines is the Greater Manila area which has a population of around 20 million people. A state of national calamity has been declared over 27 provinces in 7 regions.

According to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the average rainfall in Manila during September is about 390 millimeters.  But last Saturday, according to the Philippine Inquirer, the typhoon poured 340 millimeters of rain in a period of six hours. This is more rain than 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The six-hour flood surged across Manila and submerged houses, swept away thousands of cars and turned main thoroughfares into raging rivers. It forced residents to seek refuge on rooftops where some waited for more than 24 hours.

Rising Death Toll

According to Philippine Star, the typhoon left the country yesterday, leaving behind a trail of 95 people dead, 29 missing. According to the NDCC (Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council), the number of affected people across Luzon has swelled to more than 300,000 people. This agency also reports that the partial total number of evacuees has reached nearly 60,000 people in 118 evacuation centers.  The Philippine government expects those numbers to rise.

Social media as channel for disaster coordination

twitter2I followed updates regarding the flooding from Facebook, where friends and groups posted up-to-date photos and news of what was happening on the ground. Many of those sites turned into assistance centers and channels that ask for and provide support for rescue and relief efforts. Through social media, I saw the resilience of the Filipino people in the face of adversity — showing once again our strong Bayanihan spirit.

I am also overwhelmed by the support of famous people in twitter like Aston Kutcher, Josh Groban, Demi Moore and Paulo Coelho. They have helped rally support for flood victims in Manila. These celebrity twitters have huge followings—Aston has 3.7 million followers online. Below are retweets from their sites.

  • @joshgroban RT The situation in the Philippines is becoming very dire. this is a good way to start helping. http://www.redcross.org.ph/
  • @mrskutcher: typhoon victims in Philippines in need of food/clothng. Call the American Red Cross to help. 18004357669 @aplusk RT
  • @RedCross: U have mobilized 4 Philippines flooding in a big way. Philippine Red Cross is on the ground. http://www.ifrc.org/
  • @paulocoelho @philredcross I already made my donation by bank order. Ur link does not have online donations. Paypal is not an option. Open online link

I have started my own donation drive here in the US starting with my friends. We will be sending voluntary donations through CEMEX Philippines Foundation. This can assist poor families in the evacuation centers who lost their homes and belongings. If you want to help also, please let me know. Our assistance, however small, goes a long way in my country; a dollar can buy half a kilo of rice and some canned goods that can feed a family a single meal while $20 could feed a family for a week.

Thank you for taking time to read this article. I will continue to post updates and news about the aftermath of the flooding and relief efforts of different concerned groups.

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“New Internet Version” is All About Participation

September 19, 2009 14 comments

Just by reading this article in this weblog, you become an official user of Web 2.0.  If you have a Facebook account, keep track of 200 or more friends, tweet at least once a day, have a professional LinkedIn account and rely on Wikipedia for the definition of things – you are an active user of Web 2.0. Congratulations! You are officially part of “generation Web 2.0 plus”! It might surprise you to know that although you might be hearing about Web 2.0 for the first time, you have actually been active users of it for quite some time.   

Comparing Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0

I think the best way to explain what Web 2.0 is to compare it to Web 1.0 which is its earlier version. Web 1.0 is a general reference to the World Wide Web before the developments of advance internet collaborative applications. This was during the period when the internet was dominated by companies who maintained heavy and static sites for promotion and marketing. At that time, it was difficult to maintain personal websites. Many attributed the dot-com-bubble in 2001 as the turning point of the internet. 

Web 1.0 and Web 2.0Basically, what happened was a change in paradigm. This was due to two main factors: people and technology. With people, I refer to us.  Yes — you and me. We who make up the critical mass of internet users who use the internet as a platform for simple, light-weight services that leverage interactions for communication and collaboration. Additionally, advancement in technology enabled these platforms, network and services. The attached illustration contrasts the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Look at the boxes closely and try to imagine how the internet has evolved from the time you started going online until now.

Web 2.0 is the portion of the Internet that is being developed continuously and interactively by participating Internet users. It is commonly associated with web development and web design that facilitates interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design. Web 2.0 is a catch-all term used to illustrate a variety of developments on the web and a perceived shift in the way the web is utilized. This has been characterized as the evolution of web use from passive consumption of content to more active participation, creation and sharing – to what is sometimes called the read/write web. 

Example of Web 2.0 Tools

Web 2.0 is a platform that enables the user to comment, tag, modify, improve and rank. The most well-known examples of this technology are found in sites like YouTube, Amazon, and Google where user ratings make it easier for other users to find what they are looking for. Social media tools like Facebook and Blogs allow users to write stories and stay connected with friends. Twitter opened up the world of sharing short thoughts. And Wikipedia is powered by users who provide and keep content up-to-date and accurate. 

Personally, I am particularly attracted to the aspects of communication and free online expression of ideas. That’s the reason why I invest time writing articles. A few years ago, it would have been extremely difficult for me to find a medium to express my ideas.  Web 2.0 tools have reduced barriers to the publication and distribution of information. 

In its most basic form, Web 2.0 is about participation. It is about communication and collaboration. It has indeed change the way of life of this generation and it is still evolving! 

Enterprise 2.0 – A Peek into my next Post 

Many of the Web 2.0 platforms began as customer-facing sites designed for marketing and communications until people looked for ways to apply these ideas to the enterprise. You might have noticed already that blogs, social media and microblogs have evolved as key components of the corporate internal and external communications arsenal. This use of the Web 2.0 paradigm and technologies in business is now widely known as Enterprise 2.0. On my succeeding posts, I will elaborate on this further and provide business practical applications of Enterprise 2.0.

Keep it Simple- Build a Little, Benefit a Lot

September 11, 2009 2 comments

Typically, big companies invest one percent to four percent of revenue in IT. This investment is usually spent on integrated business model implementations, continuous innovations, and day-to-day IT operations. There must be a way to assess and take full advantage on the return of these investments; otherwise, IT organizations cannot move from being cost centers to value centers. Optimizing the value of IT is a top priority in today’s tough economy. Companies rush to reduce IT operating cost and IT capital expenditures mainly because of falling revenue sources. 

Many companies are so focused on evolution in order to always be steps ahead of competitors. They, at times, push themselves hard through IT implementations and afterwards, fail to take advantage of the benefits. They resort to old habits, making change process difficult to achieve. 

Keep it simpleOnce you implement new systems and processes, you need to aggressively drive value creation from it. Peter Weill, in his book IT Savvy wrote, “The firms that are best at this start driving value early. If you start driving value early as you take the first small steps towards building it, you will reduce the disruptions of major transformation. The goal should be—build a little, benefit a lot; build some more, benefit some more; and so on.” 1 In other words, keep it simple! Now is probably the best time to resort to this time-tested principle where investment is placed only on IT solutions that are cost effective and that deliver better value and greater performance for the business. Below are just some key initiatives that can help organizations maximize value of IT in a company. 

Define Clear Strategic Vision 

The first step is to have clarity of strategic vision for each of your IT portfolios. Executive managers in Steering Committees have the responsibility to clearly define the main business objectives of projects and portfolio of projects. They are the ultimate architects for the organizational transformation that will happen. The objectives that they define will guide IT project leaders in their decision making and will help them prioritize business requirements. 

Maximize ERP systems 

Most big firms implement a digitized platform anchored on a major piece of purchased enterprise resource planning software such as SAP and Oracle. Implementation should be kept within the standard configuration as much as possible. This is a difficult challenge though. Of course, some business requirements cannot be addressed by standard functionalities. They will have to be developed or coded to change standard functionalities of the application to suit business needs. The challenge is to keep the balance between benefits and costs of these developments. Keeping solution within the platform configuration standards will reduce consulting cost, configuration and development effort. In the long run it will reduce cost of IT operation and application support. Additionally, companies can leverage on continuous evolution of those ERP platforms whenever new releases and versions become available. They can change to the new version without lengthy and costly upgrade process. 

IT Infrastructure Consolidation 

Data center consolidation is a major focus of many organizations today. According to Computer Economics, in 2008, 76% of organizations had some level of activity in the area of data center consolidation.  It is one of the most essential ways to lower the cost of IT operations. Bigger data centers are simply more cost-effective on a per unit basis. Therefore, for many organizations, consolidating multiple data centers into a single facility should be a primary strategy for cutting cost. Additionally, this consolidation effort can also result to mitigating risk and improving service levels. Concentrating computing resources into one or a small number of physical locations can boost the productivity of IT assets and personnel. It will also simplify IT operations management. Most organizations will realize quantifiable returns from such efforts. 

1 Weill, Peter. IT Savvy: What Top Executives Must Know to Go from Pain to Gain. 2009.

 Simple Processes

Incremental Change vs. Radical Improvement

September 1, 2009 7 comments

Building an engine that generates a steady stream of innovations in processes, technology and product development is difficult, but companies that are able to do it, differentiate themselves from competitors. Innovation groups (other companies call it evolution committees or R&D groups) should focus their energy on: 

  • Incremental Improvements (streamlining, optimization, reengineering, cost reduction, reliability) 
  • Radical Periodic Improvement (New platform, new methods, new strategy, new philosophy, Enterprise 2.0, leap to Process Culture, etc)   

Examples of two companies who have mastered innovation are Toyota and Google. Both are leaders in their respective industries. Toyota’s success is tied up to its well-known business model– the Toyota Way that has been duplicated by other companies in different industries. The Toyota business model has been so successful that the company has relied on it for decades now to run its global business successfully. Toyota, for a long time, has a strong process culture and its continuous dominance is driven by its focus on incremental process improvement that is tied up to its quality operations and production management. 

Google, on the other hand, grew rapidly because of the radical rules they initiated that redefined the use of the Internet. Roberto Verganti in his book Design-Driven innovation compares this radical change to having a vision, and taking that vision to the heart of the customers.   In the case of Google, this means the Web users. Think about it.  This company has overturned our understanding of the use of information and networking. Jeff Jarvis in his book What Would Goggle Do?, talked about Google differentiating itself from the likes of Yahoo and AOL. Unlike the previous search giants, Google is not a portal; it is a network of platforms. Google, in a way, empowered the users of the internet, changed media and redefined the advertising rules. We as users have not asked for these new necessities, but when we experienced them, it was love at first sight. 

Radical vs Incremental Change

It’s hard to imagine how already huge companies such as Toyota and Google can continue to improve and sustain growth well into the future. They have perfected the fuel that keep them competitive and well ahead of everyone else. They rely on the combination of continuous incremental changes and periodic radical innovations. I think it is mandatory for companies who aim for sustainable growth and continued primary industry position in the future to push for visionary innovation. There is no single scheme to follow. It is a transversal process that depends on combining industry experience and strong innovation methodologies that create new ideas, new technologies, new products and new processes. 

Design-Driven Innovation- Book Recommendation 

Last weekend, I came across a book entitled “Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean”.  This recently-published book is written by Roberto Verganti — a professor of Management of Innovation at Politecnico di Milano. He is the founder of PROject Science, a consulting institute that provides consulting services on management strategic innovation. 

Design-Driven InnovationThe book caught my attention initially because of its title. I have a close affinity for design initiatives, having moved early last year across the Pacific from Asia to the company headquarters to join a Global Design Team. I have always believed that innovation from a well-thought out design initiative can radically improve a company and change the rules of competition in its industry — be it product innovation, organizational, technological, process and company philosophy. 

From the front flap of his book, Professor Verganti presented his vision of a bold new way of competing. He wrote, “Until now, innovation studies have focused either on radical innovation or incremental innovation pulled by the market.” He explains that “…design-driven innovations do not come from new markets; they create new markets. They don’t push new technologies; they push radically new meanings.” His book talked about innovative products like Swatch in the 80s and as well as Nintendo’s Wii and Apple’s iPod – both of which are currently dominating their respective markets.   In the fourth chapter of his book, Professor Verganti provided a comparison between the innovation strategies of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in the US$30 billion game console industry. Nintendo, after dominating the game market in the 80s, was experiencing a downturn, until they released their revolutionary Nintendo Wii. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony were focused on incremental improvements on their Xbox and Playstation products through better speed and graphics.  Nintendo, on the other hand, introduced the radical idea of using game consoles as an active physical entertaining medium. It generated new meaning to game consoles and appealed to different consumers worldwide. 

I think managers who are interested in innovation should get a hold of this book. This can be used as essential reference for all those interested in design and determined to make innovation the driving factor in their business and profession. In my case, the reason I bought this book is because I am interested in Processes and IT innovations. I believe this book will definitely provide me insights on methodologies that can drive process innovation initiatives. It is something that I want to write about and explore.

Book Cover Image Courtesy of Harvard Business Press.

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