Monday, February 22, 2021

Make Collaborations Count with Focus

Today we find that collaboration is rapidly flourishing throughout many organizations large, medium, or small. We see collaboration as a major activity in emails, forums, chat, project management, and generalized chat tools. Where is all this collaboration and communication going? Is it to chaos or results? Let's change these questions to be focused on forward momentum and appreciating collaborations and coordinated communications through goal-driven approaches. By making goals and guardrails crucial for guiding and empowering teams, organizations will experience a significant appreciation of value in their collaborations and communications.  

Benefits of Goal-Driven Collaborations/Communications

There are a set of significant benefits that emerge from guided collaboration and communication. Besides cutting out the noise from collaborations that do not contribute to desired outcomes, there are real positive results from communication activity that is focused on the prize and keeps folks from slipping into known ditches of unproductive activity. Goals and guardrails along with group learning are key to forward momentum and results. 

Continuous Improvement

Organizations can no longer stand pat on decisions and actions of the past. This means that they must be aimed at getting better all the time. This often happens in guiding decisions and actions through smart processes that can adapt to rule changes senses by a team during both the building and maintenance of both decision and action-focused processes. 

Learning Continuously

In order to stay on top of markets, products, and changing business conditions, organizations through teams or management need to be learning and sharing at all times. It could be as simple as recognizing an emerging signal, event, or pattern in the business that one team member sees and shares. It could be a manager or a team member recognizing an opportunity to change tactics to optimize outcomes within a current business scenario. It also could be a recognition of a need to change strategy to match emerging conditions.  

Empowered Teams

Giving teams goals to achieve outcomes allows them to operate with the mind of management without management overlooking every detail.  Giving teams guardrails also keeps them from relearning lessons that came out of negative situations from the past or new and emerging dangers. Freedom levels can be given to teams to allow them to flourish and keep mistakes to a minimum. 

Innovation & Creativity

Great ideas are like fleeting moments. They are hard to capture in context and often are not captured. Collaboration can allow innovations to be captured and even shared for additional growth and testing. Groupthink on emergent change and ideas is a helpful starting point for the learning organization. 

Stakeholder Influence

Often results are different for different stakeholders inside or outside the organization. Implementors need the voice of stakeholders in their everyday activities to strike the balance between seemingly conflicting outcomes. Early detection of deviance from stakeholder goals is a major benefit of goal-driven collaborations.

Setting the Necessary Goals & Guardrails

Goals need to be established and linked to important outcomes. Since much of continuous improvement is tied to processes, linking the collaborations/communications to processes is necessary. The problem with process improvement is that it is often managed by a core set of process geeks instead of spreading out innovation and change to everyone. This democratizes improvement efforts to a larger pool of innovation sources. Stakeholders' desires and goals are often lost in the translation of building and maintaining processes. This is why constant stakeholder representation can be maintained by linking collaborations to individual or groups of stakeholders. Guardrails can also set up in advance to avoid major blunders, but new learnings can be baked into new goals and guardrails. 

Managing the Fluidity of Change

We are living in a world of constant change and the only thing we know is the pace of change is accelerating. This puts a premium on speed and agility within the context of a fail-fast world. This means that the goals and guard rails have to be adjusted on a frequent basis and the ripple effect has to be communicated fast to the implementing and operational teams along with their management. This presents a dynamic environment where teams have to be enabled with focused information quickly to optimize outcomes. 

Net; Net: 

We are in the age of pressure for continuous improvement that can be adversely affected by change both internal and external to organizations. The coping mechanisms for learning organizations that want to thrive and capitalize on improvement and change are going to have to change. While there are communication and collaboration tools aplenty, few are linked to the goals, processes, and stakeholders in and around organizations. There is a new breed of methods, techniques, and tools emerging. Here is a link to one of these emerging vendors   There will be more for sure. Salesforce bought Slack to head in this direction. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Convergent Data is Here to Stay

 The days of relying on one simple data source in any digital solution are numbered. There is a growing wave that combines multiple sources and types of data to maximize business results. Those organizations that ride this wave will thrive and capitalize on the changing conditions and emerging business moments. The best digitally-enabled organizations will leverage convergent data in new ways to stay relevant in their current business models, extend existing business models or invent new business models. This post will concentrate on the many tributaries to this evolving convergence.

              Figure 1 Convergent Data Sources

Reasons for Convergent Data

Convergent data is a result of both push and pull trends. There is the push of technological progress that invades organizations with capabilities and results that are hard to pass up. As success breeds more success these new sources of data such as video, voice, and integrated video over GPS data, organizations are hard-pressed not to leverage some if not all of these new data sources. The pull comes from the increasing demand for deeper understanding represented by multiple traditional sources combines with new and progressing data sources. In other words, the problems demand more complicated and complex data sources.

Leveraging Convergent Data

All aspects of running an organization will need or even require convergent data. Convergent and more complete data sourcing helps organizations sense events or patterns of interest, define opportunities or threats, ideate potential responses, and experiment with or implement proper responses. Each step in design thinking requires richer data offered by convergent data sources. 

Sources of Convergent Data

Refer to Figure 1 for an illustration of the typical sources of convergent data. Starting with the bottom of the chart with base data, moving up to the time continuum, and finally to the top, base data is organized into more functional groups of related data to save time and effort.

Base Data:

Operational Data is typically at the lowest level and considered as base data. Its domain definition is usually defined, such as text, numbers, etc., and relationship to other data.

Video/Image Data is typically a picture represented by pixels captured at a point in time representing positions, colors, objects, texture, and relative positions of multiple items to each other. Video is a set of successive images captured over time to create movement in time and space.

Voice Data is sound captured over a time continuum to represent inflection, volume, anomalies, and emotion to leverage in the capture, storage, and analysis for sentiment and reoccurring themes/events.

Aged Data:

Instantaneous Data is the date that is captured at the moment of focus. It is often associated with a real-time signal, event and is often more usable as a pattern, especially from multiple sources. This kind of data is often related to the Internet of Things (IoT) but not exclusively.

Archival/Backup Data is older than in nature and deemed necessary to capture in a specific time corridor. It would be ready and prepared for backup data to replace current data in a short period to repair data loss. Most archival data kept for historical purposes and trend analysis.

Organized Data:

Aggregated Data is base data grouped and organized in a fashion deemed useful for further processing or analysis. Often this data is from multiple sources and is often summarized for ease of use and access.

Management Data is data that helps organizations manage better at several levels. The most frequent service would be for describing operations to monitor or optimize operational activity. While less common, but more important would be to adjust management policies for better organizational outcomes. For ultimate impact, data would be leveraged to adjust major strategies to adapt to emergent threats or opportunities.

Time Series Data is data captured in predetermined time slots and quite often organized specific sequences.  Typically this is detailed data, but it could be summarized or aggregated in other categories.

Net; Net:

Organizations will either ride the convergent data wave, which typically creates views across multiple data sources, or get swamped by it. Convergent data is an unstoppable trend that promises new revenue sources, better situational awareness for operational optimization, and better customer engagement sources. The challenge here is managing all this convergent data smoothly. There are emerging methods, techniques, and technologies ready to assist this portion of digital transformation.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Continuous Improvement in Your DNA?

Change is nonstop these days often driven by the need for better outcomes, but now equally driven by outside and sometimes unforeseen events/forces. The implication is that improvement will move from a cluster of improvement projects attempted periodically to becoming a business capability that will be highly prized.  Those organizations that build continuous improvement in their DNA will be in a more advantageous position to capitalize on change and thrive the best during more stable periods of time. This post will describe a seven-way helix that should be in your organization's DNA to be poised for continuous improvement. 

The Culture of Shared Insight

Organizations in the past operated on keeping knowledge for advantage, but today the sharing of knowledge and insights is the way organizations prosper. This means that collaboration across all sorts of boundaries is the way to successful improvements. This means that the change and improvement process needs to take advantage of collaboration in a bigger way so that stakeholders, process owners, and implementors are encouraged to share their insights on the way to results. 

The Culture of Rewarded Innovation

Organizations in the past operated on not making mistakes or taking risks, but incenting innovation is the way of the future. This means that successes are prized, published, and rewarded, but also those who take risks and fail are not punished. Rewards for taking risks and feeding back when things don't work are prized as well. How else is the learning organization going to thrive to be better and frankly there may be more than one ethical path to desired outcomes? 

The Culture of Holistic Goals

Organizations in the past operated on tactical results that delivered in the short term, often driven by the pressure for quarterly results. While we can't change the quarterly pressure or the desire for short term results, we can design efforts that deliver partial outcomes while keeping the "big picture" in mind. This means that organizations are careful to not negatively impact the strategic long term outcomes with short term and sometimes temporary benefits. This means practicing the art of the long view and incrementally gleaning benefits. 

The Culture of "Adjustment of Now"

Organizations of the past were often driving through the rearview mirrors and making forward adjustments based on past experiences. While we shouldn't throw away the past or the lessons to learn from past events/patterns, a new set of approaches need to be absorbed around operating in a real-time fashion to deal with emergent events/patterns to make critical adjustments to intercept desirable outcomes. Dashboards will turn to fast boards while combinations of machine learning AI and analytics will help cast future outcomes. 

The Culture of Funding Through Success

Organizations in the past took nearly all of the benefits from past improvements and dropped them to the bottom line immediately. The organizations with the right outlook will defer some of these benefits for future improvements or reserves to challenge unforeseen change. The idea of having a "success fund" that wisely invests in a portfolio of improvement efforts like a wise investor picks investments is a sign of a growing continuous improvement culture. 

The Culture of Time Boxed Improvements

Organizations in the past either let improvement projects languish over time with marginal funding and resources or shut them down prematurely when they didn't deliver in the short term. The idea of having limits on the projects that deliver partial outcomes on the way to strategic delivery makes good sense. Putting a limit of 90 days duration is essential with the first 30 days focused on "what and how", the second 30 days on the building of solutions, and the final 30 days on deployment, support, or measurement.  

The Culture of Providing Savvy Supports 

Organizations in the past were great at telling the change foot soldiers to take a hill but did little to equip them. Part of the successful funding should go for methods, tools, and techniques even if they are not perfect before the start of efforts. With today's model of freemium cloud solutions, there should be tools available to leverage while the methods will evolve over time along with successful techniques that are gleaned from experience. "Parallel" is an example 

Net; Net: 

The improvement project approach is getting obsolete and organizations will have to shift to continuous improvement with operations tuned in real-time and improvement projects done in a highly rewarded and strategically time-boxed approach. This is going to require a culture change to move from a batch suggestion box to real-time collaboration on stakeholder goals. There is a great shift coming as more change is inflicted by outside forces. Start building the continuous improvement culture now that is strategically aligned practicing deliberate continuous improvement in a problem-solving way.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Turning Voice Insights into Action

We all know that we can detect what is happening by listening to customers or employees and turning those insights into better long-term success actions. It is essential to think about the bigger picture when doing the small things because what you hear from your customers today shows up in your financials tomorrow. By listening to the vocabulary, speed of talking, the speech's energy along with the pitch can unlock some critical trends. By matching the descriptions, insights, and potential problems to positive actions, organizations can steer outcomes in their direction. So, what actions can organizations take to affect the results they want for their reputation and financials? This post will identify several actions to take when voice data indicates a need for change.

Actions for Customers

Better link to Customer Goals

Often organizations are focused on their own goals and short-term KPIs without considering the customer's goals or where they are on their journey. Focusing on customer goals helps move organizations from just performing their transactions at their doorstep in a minimum time window to solve the customer's real needs.

Adapt Real-Time for a Better Experience

When customer representatives encounter a problematic situation or customer, voice sentiment can help intercept negative emotions, predict potential outcomes and suggest appropriate responses.

Collect Ideas for Product/Service Improvements

Often representatives are too busy servicing the “now request’ and don’t hear the suggestion for a new or better product/feature. Even if the rep understood the hint, often completing the immediate transaction overrides collecting the good ideas.

Defuse Emotions by Better Listening

Sometimes predicting negative emotions can trigger the representative to go into the listening mode to show empathy. Voice sentiment can warn all of a conversation headed for difficulty.

Collect Ideas for Better Customer Journeys

There are often suggestions for better products/services, but sometimes a tweak in the journey, even if only at your organization's doorstep is helpful long run. In rare cases, organizations can look at the more significant customer journey and link to other partners for a seamless experience.

Actions for Employees/Stringers

Assist Employees with Better Responses

By listening to situations, management can assist employees with additional collaborations with other employees or knowledge bots to help while clients are on the line or online at the web.

Manage Remote Workers More Effectively

By listening to workers, management can hear the interactions to help employees proactively manage their technologies and businesses better.

Rollout New Processes & Scripts for Outcomes

Employees are often the lightning rods for organizations and ideas for tweaks to the processes. This focus is genuine for remote workers who feel alone and isolated.

Build Assists for Balancing Corporate KPIs with Customer Goals

To change the balance from KPIs and to get the customer off the phone as fast as possible, organizations can listen between the lines for satisfying customers better.

Listen for Training & Promotional Opportunities

By analyzing conversations, organizations can find stars to promote and train those employees that are struggling.

Actions for Management

Identify New Segments/Personas

By listening to voice data, management can identify new and emerging groups of prospects or customers to build unique paths for them,

Update Scripts for Better Outcomes

By listening to sticking points in scripts or exceptions to the well-worn paths in a script, management can adapt for better future outcomes.

Identify Automation Potentials

By listing to typical patterns of activities and areas of too much manual activity while the client is sitting there in silent lucidity, automation opportunities will rise for attention. 

 Identify Churn Threats

Analyzing specific phrases and sentiments, individual customers or segments can be identified for future churn. Management can respond with an exceptional follow up instead of a rigged survey.

Competitive Differentiation via New Products/Features

Customers always have great ideas, but if they slip through the cracks, organizations lose and future interactions with other clients.

Net; Net:

By leveraging voice data and analytic insights, organizations can not only understand issues and opportunities, but they can proactively respond to immediate needs and build for future outcomes. This habit requires turning insights into the proper actions at the appropriate time. Voice analytics is one of the more powerful methods for organizations to leverage in their digital transformation journey. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Specialty Digital Business Platforms are Flourishing

 Digital Business Platforms (DBPs) are springing up worldwide because of the need for more combined functionality that works seamlessly together for the business professional. While there are still many richly featured/complete business platforms out there that are thriving well, there is also an explosion of specialty digital business platforms that focus on outcomes that are immediately appealing to organizations. This post will try to identify and describe the business-focused digital platforms instead of technical and infrastructural digital platforms. I have found 10 of these categories so far that I have described below.  I give some example vendors, but my lists are not exhaustive. Click on the names of the vendors if you wish to link to their web presence.  

All-Inclusive DBPs

These DBPs bring together as close to fully functional digital features that typically business function for core transactions,  business process for automation combined with friendly customer/employee experiences, analytics/AI for the added insight, low code data integration (aka Fabric/Mesh) and development and a comprehensive internet of things (IoT) with digital twins. These first started to emerge in 2015 and rapidly grew with the digital transformation emphasis. They bring the advantage of holistic and integrated platforms that need little augmentation. DBPs put the integration of many silo technology stacks in the rearview mirror. The degree of integration quality and the amount will vary by vendor. Please see one of the first posts on DBP with one of the first illustrations to reach the light of day by clicking here.

Example Vendors Include:






Specialty Digital Business Platforms

Specialty DBPs combine/integrate two or more needed technology silos for significant benefit to organizations in their digital transformation journey, even if it is only a portion of that journey. The key driver for these decisions is often tactical to deliver a sorely needed set of business outcomes as quickly as possible. They are not necessarily aimed at becoming an all-inclusive DBP, but they can play a role in creating their own all-inclusive digital business platform.


1.      Business Application Driven DBPs

These platforms concentrate on a business application or specific business processes that contribute to horizontal business outcomes, such as human resource (HR) onboarding or enterprise resource planning (ERP). Additionally, vertically based suites of processes and applications revolve around specific industries such as insurance claims, oil and gas platforms management, mortgage loan processing, or banking systems. The list is relatively long of vertical applications or services available.

Example Vendors Include:




2.      Sales/Customer Experience Enablement Platforms

This class of platforms combines customer relationship management from sales through the servicing of customers. Customer Experience platforms are usually a collection of tools that help companies establish their customer interaction experiences and goals. The breadth of channels through which customers can interact with a company is often so spread out that it's difficult for just one solution to manage them all. The sales process is where the interaction starts with the customer, and these platforms also include sales automation capabilities that speed sales and revenue pipeline management.

Example Vendors Include:




3.      Business Process/Workflow Platforms (BPM)BPM software

A BPM platform provides a framework and tools for managing the tasks and workflow related to people or systems. Typically, BPM software helps define, automate, and report processes to help businesses optimize businesses to deliver on organizational goals. The processes often span an organization's full operations and are aimed at monitoring the effectiveness of operations. They manage the full process lifecycle and processes instances.

Example Vendors Include





4.      Hyperautomation Platforms

Hyperautomation is the application of various combinations of advanced technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), low-code, and Process Mining (PM) to augment workers, accelerate task completion, and even automate processes in ways that are significantly more impactful than traditional automation capabilities. An example would smart bots who collaborate with knowledge workers to complete work.

Example Vendors Include


Automation Anywhere

Blue Prism

UI Path



5.      Collaborative Work Platform

A collaborative platform is a virtual workspace where resources and tools are aggregated to facilitate communication and personal interaction, particularly in projects or casework. Often sharing content is involved even if it is real-time or leveraged in work schedules.

Example Vendors Include




6.      Data Science/Analytic Platform

These platforms rely on transparent data access, consistent metadata, strong enterprise governance, automated machine learning, deep learning, and model building, operationalized model management, and tools that measure and improve its impact on business. You might think of a data science platform as a factory for creating analytic models. These platforms are for organizations that are always listening and analyzing for innovation.

Example Vendors Include

Apache Spark




7.      Data Mesh/Fabric Platform

Data mesh/fabric is an architecture and set of data services that provide consistent capabilities across a choice of endpoints spanning on-premises and multiple cloud environmentsThe Data Mesh/Fabric simplifies and integrates data management across cloud and on-premises to accelerate digital transformation. It allows for creating dynamic data views quickly in real-time to manage to the moment.

Example Vendors Include






8.      Digital Twin Platform

Digital twin software provides a virtual representation or simulation of a physical asset and is used to monitor the asset's performance in real-time. These tools are used to simulate performance, predict potential maintenance needs, and ultimately optimize the asset for peak performance.

Example Vendors Include





9.      Cybersecurity Platform

Cybersecurity platforms should be able to prevent, detect, and respond to threats across an enterprise IT infrastructure (i.e., endpoints, networks, servers, or cloud-based workloads). In simple terms, a Data Security Platform (DSP) is a type of data security solution that aims to combine a suite of traditionally siloed security tools. Most Data Security Platforms will combine functionality designed to locate and protect data on-premises and in the cloud.

Example Vendors Include





10   Emerging Hybrid Platforms

Emerging Hybrid Platforms combine various siloed technologies into a more usable combination of functionalities. We are still in the emergent stage of the specialized and generalized digital business platforms.

Example Vendors Include

ABBYY                 Process and Content Intelligence

Parallel                   Collaboration and Process Improvement

VoiceBase              Analytics, Sentiment, and Voice Data

Wizly                     Corporate Performance and Data Science                      


Net; Net

Specialty DBPs started sprouting up around specific outcomes that organizations wanted early in their digital journeys. Vendors that chased these outcomes became popular, and some are even growing to all-inclusive DBPs while delivering impressive and focused benefits along the way. I expect this convergence for convenience to accelerate and continue before a consolidation that will likely be economically and advantage driven. Over time some of these specialty vendors will grow to compete with the all-inclusive DBPs and possibly collaborate with the all-inclusive DBPs.