More and more companies rely on innovation as a central factor to successful business outcomes and the only reason to invest in its future. In today’s slow growth market, tougher global competition and commoditization, pursuing innovations more often is the only way to keep customers happy and their competitors at bay. One type of innovation that has been very instrumental to many businesses is through the use of technology – let’s call it technology innovation.
Others might think that technology innovation means always having the latest and greatest systems available in the market, or having the fastest computers and networks. This is a myopic view of technology innovation. Most large companies have now implemented a digitized platform using well-established ERP software, like SAP and Oracle. Further developments of those ERP platforms are available to those who have them as foundation systems. If those companies are in the same industry, there is a big chance that they will pursue the same business processes and best practices in order to offer similar product and services to the same group of customers. How do companies then differentiate?
The reality is that, it is no longer true that simply having the right digitized platform is a determinant of sustained success. It is how you use technology to transform your business capabilities in a fast and agile manner that gives companies competitive advantage. Success on these technology innovation initiatives relies on a person who has both technology and business knowledge to navigate and orchestrate shaping and execution of innovative technology and business ideas. Those individuals that fuel the cycle of technology innovations in the enterprise now have a name – Business Relationship Managers (BRMs). Companies’ focus on innovation has given momentum to the growing emergence of the BRM role and discipline. According to BRMI, Business Relationship Management (what BRMs do) is about “stimulating, surfacing and shaping business demand for a provider’s products and services, ensuring that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, optimized and communicated.”
Peter Lijnse, an IT management consultant, wrote the following in his blog entitled BRM is about innovation.
“IT Service Management people are often good at stating, ‘We need to talk to the business.’ But very few understand the business they work for.”
This is so true. One essential competency of a BRM is business IQ and that’s assuming the BRM is already a technology expert. Many BRMs tend to come from a supply organization, and therefore, they have IT background, but it is not always the case.
Innovation is relevant only when it creates value to the customer, hence the importance of customer insights as input to the innovation process. Another common misconception about innovation is that it means new things – new platform, new functionally, etc. Not all the time. Innovation can be about new business value, not necessarily new things. Hence, it is the important for BRMs to understand the business to which they provide services. BRMs are key facilitators of technology innovation and they fuel faster innovation cycles and better business outcomes.
In innovation, you aim to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. You could go right or could go wrong. Of course you do all preparations necessary to go right every time, but if you don’t, you take the lessons learned and be better next time.
Romeo Siquijor is a good friend and compatriot. He now heads Information Security in CEMEX in Mexico while I found my way to Houston after several stints in different countries. We both started as young IT managers in the Philippines. Our offices were adjacent. The thing I remember most was Romeo repeatedly telling his IT Operations team that “failure is not an option” — like it was their mantra. I did not disagree with him, but it was not the same message I would tell my team.
I headed the IT Business Processes group at that time. My department’s task was to enable and support IT solutions. For us, the mandate was to find new ways to do things, to innovate, and to test new tools with potential application to our business processes. Of course, I wanted my team to succeed but on the other hand, I did not want to have the fear of failure limit their quest for new things. I believe that sometimes the cost of finding innovation is failure – finding out what does not work on your way to finding out what does.
While working with our commercial department, we implemented a sales automation tool using handheld devices. Unfortunately, it did not fly when we piloted the project and we failed. We did not get the buy in because the tool was not user-friendly and robust. The sales managers simply did not use it. We explored another innovation we called mobile selling. Romeo helped design a simple technical architecture to run it. At the time, in 2003, text messaging or SMS was already big in the Philippines. It was a phenomenon and the use of it quickly became part of our culture. Our goal was to incorporate the use of texting to our sales process. We developed a tool that would allow our customers to request orders using SMS and they did just that. In just a few months, 60% of our sales orders were coming from our mobile channel. We were open to exploiting the best technology at that time by applying it to our sales process but we were not sure how our customers will react. We were willing to fail and so we took a risk and gave it our best shot.
When mobile selling was already operating, it became a mission critical application. The system was hosted by the IT infrastructure that my friend Romeo manages. In that perspective, I loved it when he told folks “failure is not an option.” I did not want any service interruptions to impact my mission critical applications. Romeo values productivity, availability and reliability. He wanted no failure and no surprises. He wanted things done yesterday, done better, faster and cheaper today.
My goal is to show you two different perspectives from two different functions in IT. “Failure is not an option” is a good mindset for day-to-day IT service delivery. Although, I would argue that this does not apply to areas whose mandate is to innovate. In innovation, you aim to introduce something new; make changes in anything established. You could go right or could go wrong. Of course you do all preparations necessary to go right every time, but if you don’t, you take the lessons learned and be better next time.
It is better to do something and learn from mistakes than live the inertia of paralysis of analysis. – Ira Fialkow
It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to do a series of extensive analyses before making a decision. You forget to directionally see the action that you want to take because you are too focused on the analysis. Others are just afraid of making mistakes and face the embarrassment that may come with it. Some simply over-analyze because they aspire things to be perfect and expect to do everything right.
Let’s start this lesson with a very simple premise— Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing or doing things by impulse, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action. Yes, logically you would reduce the likelihood of mistakes or failure if you subject your idea to a series of analyses. That is perfectly fine and most of the time—if you want to make not only the right decision but also better decisions, you have to use analytics; it is what is expected and proper in the business environment to mitigate risk. However, you have to also caution yourself from going into “paralysis of analysis.” You could end up doing nothing. We live in a fast-paced and ultra competitive world. Sometimes, when you are a step slower in making things happen, opportunity passes you by. Over-analysis is a common cause that slows people down when it comes to making things happen or taking actions. In some extreme cases, it confines them to a cycle of continuous analysis and internal debates about the assumptions used in the analysis. This results in the actual output of the analysis being the focus rather than the action to be taken certainly, doing the right amount of analysis is important, but balancing it with action guarantees results.
Enjoy the Fun of Failure
Most people have used those little self-stick notepapers more commonly known as Post-it notes. But few know that this very successful 3M product was not a planned innovation. It did not come from a group who researched, got the idea, and followed an organized process of product development. Spencer Silver from 3M was trying to develop a strong adhesive in the 3M research laboratories in the 1970s. Silver successfully developed a new adhesive but it was weaker than what 3M already had in the market. The adhesive was weak; it stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off. From the point of view of product development given the original specifications, the exercise was a failure; but Silver did not discard it. Four years later, Arthur Fry (another 3M employee) was using paper as a bookmarker, but it kept falling out. Fry remembered Silver’s adhesive and he used it to coat the markers. With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. Today, these sticky notes are one of the most popular office products available.
The Post-it case exemplifies a culture in 3M that encourages employees to create new products and take action without fear of failure. Spencer Silver failed to develop the product he originally intended. This failure or unexpected outcome created a better opportunity for the right kind of invention that happened years later. You want people to be willing to take action. It’s better to “do something” and learn from mistakes than live in the inertia of paralysis of analysis. “Doing something” means start making something happen. “Just Do It”, as the famous Nike brand tagline advocates. Failure doesn’t always lead to success, like in the case of the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.
Increasing Innovation Speed
Speed is an attribute that companies need in today’s competitive business environment. A company’s ability to innovate is a direct driver of its capability to increase revenue and economic value. Leaders can increase innovation speed by changing the culture associated with making mistakes. Companies have to create an organizational culture whereby mistakes are seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning. Increasing innovation speed means faster product development — to be in the marketplace first with the goods and services customers want as well as to constantly innovate with new services and features that give the customers what they desire. Another kind of speed is the speed of processing everything through the organization. This means having end-to-end processes superior than those of competitors that translate to excellent customer services. Google exemplifies this today by allowing employees to spend up to 20% of their work time in personal projects related to the company’s business. Several of Google’s successful services were created by employees in their personal project work time—Gmail and Adsense for example. If you are going to innovate, you have to be willing to listen, make mistakes, and try new things. Innovation speed is the kind of speed that can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.
Work-life Lesson 6 Takeaways:
- Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.
- Failure doesn’t always lead to success, such as the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.
- Companies have to create an organizational culture where making mistakes is seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning.
- Innovation speed is the kind of speed which can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.
Photo by Maple
Work-life Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives
By: Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras
No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
Is there a secret formula for success in business – and in your career? Probably not. But I believe it makes sense to learn from the people I respect and who have been successful themselves.
Case in point: Ira Fialkow was the Executive Vice President for Shared Services at CEMEX, until recently. His career spans 25 years and he is a highly respected leader in his field. This series marks the culmination of 25 business lessons documented and developed by Ira over the past 25 years of his career. Ira used to distribute these lessons to the team every year. In this series, I will endeavor to share the 25 business lessons that I’ve learned from Ira and our shared services team.
This is part four of the series: 25 Lessons for Work (and Life!) – 3-Minute Coaching Sessions
Nowadays, having good presentation skills seem to be a no-brainer. In fact, there is plenty of information out there about how to give good presentations – for example, how to be a good speaker, which gestures to use, correct posture, how to capture your audience’s attention, etc. However, I think it is just as important that the message of each presentation is delivered concisely and effectively.
First of all, if your audience doesn’t get your message, then you didn’t deliver it. This is part of accountability – a common theme in all these 25 work-life lessons. The audience must be considered first. It is your responsibility to ensure that the message your audience receives is exactly the same as what you intended to deliver. Secondly, if you are not able to deliver your idea or solution, then there is no innovation – the second repeating theme on these work-life lessons. No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
Make sure your message is the one they receive
Before you even create your presentation start with the end in mind by asking yourself: With what message do I want the audience to leave? Business leaders that develop exceptional presentation skills do it by analyzing both their audience and their purpose for presenting. This message needs to be the exact message the audience receives. To do this, you will need to consider how your audience best processes information. For instance, will a story that relates to the solution you are offering going to engage your audience, or will it make them impatient?
In discussing this with Ira, he mentioned that whenever it came to issues related to change management, he would always try to engage the audience with a story that they can relate to. The story should be relevant to the current situation and help explain the “Why behind the what?” For people to engage in change, they first need to understand the need for the change. Without that understanding, there will be no desire to hear the message.
In giving a presentation to executives, usually they know the “why” and are primarily interested in the “what”, “who” “how much” and “by when”. However brief the presentation is, that too needs to have a good story flow, but delivered in a much more summarized manner.
The success of your presentation is best measured by how well the audience understands or appreciates the subject matter after you finish speaking. Naturally, presentations will be very different depending on the target audience and the message being delivered. Your presentation should have a logical sequence and the message should tell a story that can be readily retold by the audience.
Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.
A 2009 report on American consumers, published by the Global Information Industry Center of the University of California – San Diego, stated that the average American receives about 33.80GB or more than 100,000 words of information per day. (Bohn & Short, 2009) That’s a lot of information to process! If you want your message to be heard and understood, keep it short and relevant. Studies show that the average adult’s “undivided attention span” is roughly 30 seconds. So even if you have the most interesting topic or are the most exceptional presenter, you still can’t keep the audience’s undivided attention for so long. That’s why our advice in this lesson is, “be brief be bright, be gone.” The story or message needs to be brief and focused — compelling and worth retelling for it to stick. Everybody is busy and you have to be able to cut through the clutter. You need to be able to present your idea concisely. We call it the “elevator speech” – a 30-second presentation you would give to your audience (such as your CEO) if you found yourself alone in an elevator with them (and you have their undivided attention).
Secondly, your message needs to be memorable. This is what “be bright” means. Your presentation needs to be impressive enough to cut through all of the other information that your audience receives. And finally, after you have delivered your message concisely and memorably, finish your presentation, and “be gone”. There’s nothing worse than having a drawn out presentation. For this, you need to assess your audience and determine if the message has been received or if more information is required. Remember that the closing part of the presentation is what the audience will remember the most. Repeat your purpose statement. By doing so, you deliver your key messages one final time.
Work-life Lesson 4 Takeaways:
- Know your audience. Each presentation must be tailor-made for the audience.
- No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
- Make sure that your message is the one they receive. Your message should tell a story and it should be one worth retelling.
- “Be brief, be bright, be gone”. It is important that you deliver your message concisely and memorably.
Link to Previous Lesson: Set your performance standards high and never give in to “good enough”. Be your own toughest critic.
About the collaborators:
Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.
Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.
Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.
Photos courtesy of Jscreationzs and Pixomar.