Enterprises are increasingly operating in a dynamically changing and fluid environment. They are constantly changing gears just to keep pace. CXOs are constantly looking for ways to overcome or create disruptions in a world becoming increasingly complex. Infosys Consulting Blog gathers a community of subject matter experts who are driving pragmatic conversations around that which is changing and that which needs to be rethought, redefined and redesigned for enterprises to achieve market-leading performance roadmaps.

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June 27, 2012

Change Management and the Taste of Vanilla

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Bob Bellantine's excellent post on the perils of out-of-the-box ERP implementations,  "What does vanilla taste like?", resonates with my own recent experience on a non-ERP engagement.  In this case, we are helping the client migrate to a standardized document management system.  While not an ERP transformation, the program is complex and global in scope, involving a host of regional implementations.

Since standardization of systems is one of the prime business drivers of the program, the global governance team has dictated, for a number of good reasons, that "vanilla" will be the flavor of choice.   It is not simply a question of delivering on time and within budget; more to the point is the strategic decision to align regions to a common technology and process for managing and controlling critical documents.  As a result, regional customizations must be kept to a minimum.

Not surprisingly, the out-of-the-box implementation strategy presents many opportunities for stakeholder engagement, communication, and organizational change management.  High on the list is the need to carefully address the gaps between current system requirements and what is possible in the new environment.  Without getting into specifics, business users of the system must frequently hear the Infosys team say: "You won't be able to do X or Y any longer when the new system goes live."  In some cases, this doesn't cause great concern.  In other cases, the change will disrupt long-standing practices that are perceived as non-negotiable.  Left unaddressed, those disruptions will create an obstacle to user adoption of the new system.

What happens when the irresistible force, i.e., a historical way of working in the as-is environment that "cannot, must not change", meets the immovable object, i.e., a hard and fast limitation in the to-be environment (imposed by governance and / or the out-of-the-box technology itself)? When customization is, for whatever reason, simply out of the question, there must be a better way than simply to say: "You'll have your Vanilla, and you'll like it."  From a change management perspective, can we find ways to make Vanilla taste like Neapolitan?

The engagement is still underway, and in future posts I'll try to share some stories of how the Infosys team has addressed the challenge.  The situation is no doubt as common as ... vanilla.  Please leave a comment if you have experiences of your own to share.

June 9, 2012

Why are Businesses Afraid of Social Media?

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I recently met with a business executive of a leading technology brand who understood the intangible value of social media but flatly refused to adopt it. His attitude was, 'We don't do social media because people might say bad things about us. Our focus is where the money is!'

I replied, 'Whether you're on social media or not, your target market of 18 to 45 year olds is very much so, and they're already saying bad things about you. And they're telling their friends. What's more, they are where the money is!"

Although social media use has exploded; the mere mention of it upsets many in the business community. There is fear of losing control over sensitive information, ROI measurability, and strategy, as well as worries about legal issues, among other concerns. I believe there are three fundamental reasons behind such resistance.

  • Ignorance of our generation -- Gen Y / 'Millennial' (Those born in the 80's and early 90's). Most business leaders are pre-Millennial. They view social media as a domain of the young. They don't really get it, or refuse to consider it. Nevertheless, the Gen Y cohort is bigger than that of the Baby Boomers. That 94% of Millennial have joined social network cannot be overlooked.

As we grow and become the core market of tomorrow, we communicate and consume media differently and have an inherent ability to embrace new technology with ease. We prefer to send messages over social media platforms than make phone calls, watch our favourite program on our mobile phones, download our music instead of tuning into a radio stations and receive news online or through virtual word of mouth.

    • The Fear Factor --The fears of failure: threats to productivity, loss of intellectual capital, privacy issues, erosion of management authority, regulatory compliance and a host of other things often discourage businesses from adopting social media, and even prohibit its use. All this leads to inaction, which is also a choice, and enterprises that make that choice are at disadvantage.

Although there are legitimate concerns associated with social media, there are ample statistics demonstrating that its benefits of far outweigh those concerns.  They key overcoming those concerns and legitimate fears is to start with a, a sound social media policy. One based on best practices such as encouraging collaboration between enterprises and their employees, encourages feedback, and emphasizes increased productivity, to name a few.

    • Internal barriers -- In addition to generalized fears such as loss of control, perceived difficulties having to do with technical implementation and security challenges and worries about  employee misuse also hinder social media adoption. All these concerns ultimately pin down to money--cost benefit analyses producing unclear results. This is a sound business rule. However, when social media integrates with cloud computing software, businesses will view the joint security and implementation cost advantages. Again, collaboration with employees is just as important as it is with customers.

The social media fear factor is real, but controllable. My advice is to leverage the reach of social media to become a trusted source of helpful content, which, in turn, will help business build a stronger community. Start now; it may take trial and error for you to find the strategy that suits your business--there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Maybe start with reexamining your reasons .Look at how others in your industry have responded to social media.  Are they using it or not?  If so, how?  Find out what has successfully worked for their organization.

Engage with the Gen Ys you know -- your sons or daughters, nieces and nephews sitting in their rooms tapping on their smart phones. Create clear and flexible policies that foster more intimate communication with customers and prospects while minimizing risks to the company.

As social media has evolved, it has become evident that there are abundant marketing opportunities to be tapped all over the internet. In my next blog, I will discuss the ways in which social media goes beyond mere advertising and how you can convince your boss to invest heavily in social media relationships.

Meanwhile, I'd like to learn about your experiences with social media. Has your company embraced it?  Have you recognized or encountered the fear factors?  I look forward to your thoughts.