Did you know that many breakthrough and brilliant ideas started from ridiculously sounding ones? As most people where content with their physical book, Amazon took the lead in online book business. When most people thought videos were only meant for the TV, YouTube took the ‘wild’ business idea of creating a website where people can easily share their memorable experiences. Today, these companies are generating billions of dollars in revenue annually just because they were brave enough to put their seemingly ridiculous ideas into work.
What’s the lesson here?
Great ideas don’t happen out of pure luck and accident. Ideas, no matter how ridiculous they sound at times, happen and succeed by linking knowledge, insights and experience. These companies succeed because they know how to make connections. They are thriving because they focus on creating strong connections rather than on being stuck into the thought of having a stupidly sounding idea. It’s as simple as that.
Must-have ideation tools.
The secret to business success is to learn the tricks of the trade. Tons of ideation tools abound the internet. These might overwhelm you in the process, so we’ve provided you with a concise but comprehensive list of ideation tools and tipa that you can apply to your business.
Idea Bridge. This tool uses the concept that our left and right brains are used for specific tasks and people have a bias to one side. Some people have a lot of ideas while others are hesitant of their thoughts. Hence, ideas are created through an exercise that won’t verbalize ideas or creations, making this tool work best for introverts. Everyone participates by writing ideas and questions on sticky notes. This then builds the bridge from both sides, linking ideas with constraints. Both ideas and constraints are given a fair share of focus.
This tool is designed to effectively help create your ideas by removing existing key elements in your product or business model. When you need disruptive or divergent ideas about an existing product or model because you want to disrupt your or your competitor’s product, this tool is the most suitable one for your business. Do keep in mind though that this tool isn’t for solving a problem or improving something that already exists.
Reverse Innovation. Instead of asking directly for ideas, participants are asked for their insights and observations which make it easier to engage them. Thereafter we tweak and manipulate the experience to create something new. The method is often surprising but powerful. Participants who are not used to formal meetings or brainstorming are the perfect audiences of this ideation tool. It works well for processes but assumes there’s already an existing process. It is not a tool used when you are inventing or creating something new.
Innovation Hacking. This ideation tool is used to welcome a wide array of potentially disruptive ideas. When you want different versions or variations of ideas of something that already exists, hacking or altering elements to create new ones is what you should use. However, when you want improvement ideas rather than divergent ideas or when you want a very specific result rather than a wide range of potentially disruptive ideas, then this ideation tool should not be used.
Different tools, different rules.
Setting ground rules allows facilitators to remind participants about the visual agenda without being too pushy or intimidating, and helps team members loosen up and become comfortable with the process of ideation.
Hold your nerve. Jitters are normal, even some of the most experienced facilitators in the world still get nervous and anxious at times. Do not overthink and get overwhelmed with the responsibilities given unto you. Most importantly, take a deep breath, smile and have fun.
Create and sustain energy. As the facilitator, your role is very crucial in getting your participants interested and energized not just at the beginning of the workshop, but more importantly until the workshop concludes. As a facilitator, remember that your energy is contagious whether you are the humorous or charismatic type. Make use of that tool as an advantage.
Protect the ideators. Some ideators speak comfortably and confidently while others are unsure of their ideas. As the facilitator, it is your job to protect their ideas by constantly reminding everyone that no idea is a bad idea. You can elaborate on this by providing examples of seemingly ridiculous ideas that actually worked and made breakthroughs. You have the internet for it.
Continually offer affirmation. Always give positive encouragement and affirmation physically and verbally. Studies show that positive affirmation produces positive engagement and is more successful at bringing good results. Go on and tell ideators that their ideas are brilliant, that you love their ideas, and that they are doing a great job.
Facilitate, don’t ideate. Let them do the thinking and talking. Fight the urge to think for them. Your job is to guide them, not to spoon-feed them with your own ideas. If there are ideas that you want to convey, frame it in a question to engage them to think and answer.
Don’t confuse energy with ideas. Workshops have all sorts of people with different personalities. Some have more dominant personalities over the others which make it uncomfortable for introverts. Always have fair judgment and allow all parties to share their ideas. Letting all participants write down their ideas ensures fair treatment and encouragement to both extroverts and introverts.
Always ask ideators to choose their top two favorite ideas before you finish. Now you have a long list of ideas. What do you do next? Before converging ideas, it’s important to know which ideas should be highly prioritized. This way, it would be easier for the sponsor to choose which ideas will progress further. Let participants choose a first and second favorite idea. When they can’t decide what to prioritize, let them give one of their votes to another participant’s idea.
For the organization to succeed, it needs to have a structured and business-centered prioritization process to manage innovation. What happens after generating tons of ideas? The answer is you screen those ideas: they need to be chosen and prioritized based on the organization’s needs and objectives. Criteria need to be in place supporting the measurement of an idea’s importance. The following questions can guide the prioritization process:
What is the value of the idea? How valuable is it? What is the return of investment figure? Are there any tangible benefits from the idea?
Is the idea suitable with the organization’s strategy and current situation?
Will stakeholders support and accept the idea?
Is the idea feasible? Are there enough resources and time for it?
Will the idea benefit the organization and work plausible both in short and long term?
Prioritizing innovation starts with your team. The people are the organization’s most valuable asset. Here are some of the benefits of engaging people in every step of the innovation process:
People become more confident about what they are doing and act in the best interests of the organization
There’s a higher level of productivity
Doubles the success rate of an organization
People see the connection between their tasks and the larger goals of the organization
People lookout for the needs of others, the whole organization. They are generally more engaged
Improves the quality of work and health of people
Prioritizing the innovation by following a structured approach is most important. It’ll ensure a consistent approach and reliability. Staff can then be engaged with and guided through the innovation process to ensure a successful outcome.
As SaaS solutions become commonplace in several industries, the market has felt the effects. IDC research shows that SaaS technologies are projected to constitute a quarter of all new enterprise software purchases by 2016, while PWC estimates that SaaS delivery will make up approximately 14.2 percent of all software spending. Overall, the entire SaaS market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 21.3 percent over the next two years.”
As a consultant working within a number of large and medium sized organisations over the past several years, I’m used to seeing common problems being solved over and over again, everywhere I go. Some big and some small, some more necessary than others and some with varying degrees of ‘fit for purpose’ tweaks. After all, every business is different and every implementation needs to fit the business context around what it supports.
Shift toward ‘as-a-service’
However, there is a shift taking place and more and more businesses are starting to see the benefits of moving towards “as a service” type arrangements. The transformation isn’t necessarily a new one; the introduction of web based email and corporate social networks have become a staple of the modern organisation, as well as support and maintenance team products such as Sharepoint, Dropbox and Skype.
All of these functions within the business which have begun the transformation to Software as a Service offerings have one thing in common which confuses the bigger picture. They generally still fall into the IT or technology bucket of the organisation. They perform well serving their single purpose but very often they support a technical role within the business - after all they are still technical tools.
Business Function/Operations ‘as-a-service’
The bigger piece of the pie which is yet to be realised by large business is that the ‘as a service’ offering shouldn’t be limited to internal tech centric applications. The transformation should be steering towards the business function and operations ‘as a service’. That is to say, the foundation on how that business actually conducts itself and generates revenue.
It very often still dominates business projects, and projects take time. Time costs money, and money is often the thing which is trying to be made or saved when projects are kicked off.
Occasionally, we still the response from project teams and management which is to throw people at the problem. But more people equals more churn and faster turnaround time – and we all know how that one ends. The project blows out and you’re likely no closer to achieving the goal set out to in the first place.
I’m talking specifically about the technical delivery of projects, and even more specifically about the system integration component of technical project delivery – the thing which enables the business to achieve its outcomes, service its customers and generate revenue.
When I talk about the difficulty of successfully implementing projects which have a large integration requirement, one of the main issues that arises consistently (n.b. this could be due to a potential disconnect between responsibility and understanding) is that it is underestimated just how specialised systems integration is.
Considering the people required to deliver the role on the project, reflect on the complex role for an integration specialist. It requires someone with an array of technical know-how across varying applications, with enough knowledge to understand how different systems work and what they are capable of handling. Projects additionally require that same someone to demonstrate an understanding of business functions, use cases and context in order to be able to implement appropriate solutions to business problems. In order to do that effectively, they also need to be a product specialist, and have a deep understanding of the very tool, or tools, which will be used as the integration platform of choice.
It’s a tough ask, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not surprising that these people are both expensive and difficult to find.
A pain point for many project managers is ‘Where do you start when you need to find someone with the right skills for the job, with experience in the appropriate industry, within the allowed budget and available when you need?’
Benefits can be truly realised for many businesses to de-risk and implement the move towards ‘delivery as a service’. Here are benefit we see from taking such as shift:
Reduce IT expenditure / cost overheads and barriers associated with everything that comes with integration projects.
Speed up delivery, and clear the path for far more efficient implementation teams.
Improved project alignment and operation efficiency.
The first step in the ‘as a service’ movement has been taken by many businesses, and has reached the technical support functions. It’s now time to consider the bigger picture and broaden the possibilities of what can be achieved by paving the way for integration delivery to be provided as a service as well.
In this week’s Process Session, we talk about the importance of selling your process model benefits using best practice marketing tactics and approaches. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
Sandeep: Selling the benefits of process modeling is difficult. In fact it’s one of the hardest things that any process modeling project undergoes. A lot of traditional ways of selling process models have been questioned before and some of them have not worked. Others may have but what we’re offering today is a fresh new way to look at how process models have been sold. More importantly the benefits of these process models.
I’d like to introduce you to Daniel Weatherhead who’s our marketing manager in Leonardo Consulting. He is here today to answer some of our questions and provide some guidelines on how process modeling or models can benefit from a marketing perspective.
Welcome to the show Daniel.
Daniel: Thanks Sandeep. It’s great to be here today.
Sandeep: So before we get into actually answering the question of how process modeling can leverage marketing, let’s get some of the basics correct first. So Dan in your point of view, what are some of the basic techniques the world of marketing can inform and can educate the people in the modeling world?
Daniel: What we’re talking about is a shift - a shift away from what we would call the old outbound marketing tactics. These are the tactics of the previous generation - the generation before. Interruptive tactics that don’t necessarily look to inform and educate but were very much placed there interruptively into people’s lives. Now think about your television ads, your radio ads, your newspaper, advertisements. These are the sort of things that shout at you. They are one-way traffic. People didn’t necessarily go seeking those messages.
Inbound marketing seeks to be different. It's where the actual audience, the reader, the customer is active in the way that they go out and source information. We as marketers or marketing communication professionals are looking to not just push a message but mostly to offer value. So we’re looking to educate and position our products and services, or the things that we specialize in – in an education realm – so we’re offering true value to the person who is on the other end. That might be the form of a blog or a video (like what we’re doing right now) or a downloadable discussion paper, podcast or some sort of a template.
Though that conversation where we’re positioning the person, business or the product as a thought leader in the space - as someone who can be trusted and relied upon. We’re not just trying to interrupt them and sell, sell, sell. More importantly is that activity needs to be follow-up actionable. With the bit of content – the market activity needs to be actionable. It can’t just be something that sits out there and doesn’t have an endpoint or followup.
So if someone reads a blog, if someone watches a video, there needs to be a clear ‘go and do this’ at the end of it.
We start to use other communication platforms like social media, targeted timely email campaigns to push those messages and push those pieces of educational content of value to the customers at the right time.
Sandeep: I think it’s interesting that you bring up inbound as opposed to the traditional ways of putting it in your face messaging, because I think in a lot of process models tend to or at least professionals in the process model industry tend to want to put models in the face of people so that they can so that they’ll think about them each time they need them.
I also like what you’re saying in a different way to approach the same problem is to draw them in, offer the value, get them excited about process models and the benefits of the process models. So bring them in as opposed to pushing it out forward.
On that note, would you offer some techniques - some specific technical steps that people listening in can follow in order to make sure that the, the benefits of process models are realized, by the audience, by the correct audience and they’re excited about having process models which as we know are valuable elements of any organization to understand the tendencies, relationships. How do we get them excited about this?
Daniel: I suppose if you strip back and you use some of those marketing tactics that marketers tend to use - it is very much knowing what you’re selling.
What actually are you selling? That’s not something that necessarily is difficult for people – most people have a good understanding of what it is that they’re doing -whether it selling be a toothbrush or an iPhone or a pair of headphones. They have an understanding about some of those key needs of the customer - but where the seams come apart in that process is that you start to not understand who we’re selling to.
Generally we talk about these big segment audiences as our target market. It might be a demographic. It might be a geographical spread about who we’re targeting. Inbound marketing looks at a much narrower focus or narrow target. We call that a persona. You might be familiar with persona. Persona is where you actually build up a profile of a target buyer. Rather than just getting small demographics, we start to think about what are the targets pain points in this area. What drives them in terms of their business? What are their challenges? How can we answer those challenges? What are the questions that they have?
What are the communication channels of this person may or may not focus on? What does their day look like? What are they do on the way to work? Do they have other pressures they bring in to their workplace? We all have other pressures we bring in to our workday - so let’s actually address those in the messaging that we do. So as we build up this persona of what this person looks like, we’re then able to execute marketing tactics accordingly.
I use ‘marketing’ in inverted commas because these tactics aren’t just in the realm of marketing. They just happen to be lumped in with us sometimes - but we can then leverage a whole range of tactics to suit that persona.
It might be the sort of information that we’re writing for them; it might be the video that we’re creating for them; it might be the sort of language we use and the way that we construct a blog post or it might be even the platform we use to reach that person. I suppose that that’s when we start to talk about communication channels.
Social media is just another form of communication. So if we think about things like emails and digital communication platforms, social media is just another way to do that - to reach people. But obviously we’ve got some of those personas to address.
How do we use social media blend to communicate accordingly those specific messages with those specific people. We might target them on Twitter or we might target them on LinkedIn. We might be using some of your internal social media channels. How do we start to engage people in a way that enables that informal conversation? We call it the 'digital watercooler' - where they might be able to share work in an open way for your team to start engaging where they may not normally. There’s a whole form of those internal platforms where people are allowed to informally communicate and chat and start to share ideas.
The whole idea is that as they share those ideas your team they will become more confident in the way that they build process models, build collaboration, build an understanding about what each other is doing in the business.
What we’re seeingis that an understanding of that persona now reaching out to a desired outcome in terms of the way they communicate and collaborating using some of those newer social media or newer communication platforms.
Sandeep: So I really like the idea of a persona and actually understanding your audience. I know that there’s tons of the internet about how to create personas and all this. So we won’t go into that in this session but certainly understanding your audience helps a lot and love the fact that there is a digital watercooler. I can just imagine that as, as you said it and input the process modeling world, the digital model cooler will actually make a lot of sense, to have a place where people can collaborate and really exploring the communication channels in which collaboration can be enabled. You talked about social media. I think that is absolutely crucial especially with the workforce that we are seeing these days.
There are so many social channels that you can explore doing that. My mom has about 11 ways to contact me - so you know, there is all of that and the organizations that I’ve been involved in especially I have seen at least 1 form of internal social collaboration point.
I think process modelers can actually leverage a lot of that and create their own digital water cooler to enable that collaboration.
So when, when I listen to all of this, I’m actually quite intrigued about what can do and how we can apply a lot of these techniques and a lot of these tactics that you speak about there. Do we wait until we’re done with process models to get excited about this -at what point in our journey should we be thinking about marketing our process models?
Daniel: As the marketer in the room I’m going to say you should be thinking about that yesterday. You should be starting right from the outset. From my perspective the reason why that should happen right from the start is because as we go about building those process models or as we go through that project and then we get to the point of starting to sell those models more broadly in the business, to have them used and useful - if we’re able to point to places on the project - even for people who are participating in the project - they can go and see where this collaboration is happening.
The great thing about social media channels most of them but they’re pretty open. They’re transparent. By building that internal transparency we’re able to see the communications that’s happening
If someone else has got the same sort of questions, they can see the exchange that is happening. We see that online every single day in the billions of forum post that go online that show us all collectively learning from each other’s questions and answers. If we can enable that within our own project and when we say enable that, we really to actually want to build those communication platforms. We want to encourage our teams to be using those.
We should be taking away that informal layer of composing a composed post and putting it out there - we want this to be a conversation - and so that’s where those Twitter like streams or Facebook like stream or, or slack like messaging apps; that’s where those tools encourage that informal conversation that go back and forth.
That again is visible and transparent by the person at the top. That needs to happen now. That needs to happen right at the start- not at the end, because then we’re starting to look back and say “Why was that conversation captured at the start?” We want to have these things captured from the start and have those strategic conversations now.
Sandeep: So it’s really common for a lot of projects especially for modeling projects to kind of leave it until the end. And I can see the, the benefit of actually starting way up ahead sooner rather than later because then you create that buzz. And not only do you create that buzz and awareness, what I’m also hearing from you is you’re creating an inclusive environment where people who are involved in projects like that can, can actually contribute to the project.
I think that that’s very valuable and, and immediately I can see some benefits - I’ll be excited if I was involved in a project way up ahead and people asking me for my input and I had some influence in the way things went.
I agree that the best time to start would be as soon as possible or at the start of the project. So, at that start of the project, would I as a process modeling professional bring along someone like yourself to be part of the team so a marketing professional, a marketing guru - someone who’s an expert in this field to come along and join me on the journey?
Daniel: Yes – as I said before, having someone who’s a communication professional involved - whether that be someone who’s a marketing person with a capital M or someone who is just engaged in leading communications for the project – who is able to point to people and say - “We need to be looking over the horizon - not just at the project we’re having to do right now but actually what’s it going to look like when we deliver this.”
Starting to think about the key personas that we’re going to have to address in the business is to get them engaged and excited. To have that person who can tie that all together, who is not necessarily doing the day to day modeling – for me that is crucial.
The job of that person that ties together all those strands, to actually help position, to help the modeler who has the expertise but maybe doesn’t maybe have the knowledge to tie that to a persona, and to tie that to an outcome, to tie that to a particular tactic - that’s where I see the role of the marketer to help in those situations.
The modeler is there just trying to do the work that he or she is trying to do - getting into thinking strategically - not just about the work they’re doing today - but what they’re doing now and how it’s going to impact someone when the modeler’s delivered of being used - that’s very, very difficult.
Having someone who’s the professional -who can create that strategic goal of what’s going to be delivered and what’s the benefit, as well as starting to that point to and create that timely bits of communication - whether that be social media or otherwise –within the organization to address those personas that have been agreed to by that team. That person is crucial for me to help build that engagement; the current engagement; the future engagement and also that excitement of delivering that unsexy model to the business.
Sandeep: So I think that, that, that there’s a lot of good insight here. I feel like world of marketing and the world of process modeling need to collaborate to in order to achieve success for any kind of process modeling project, any kind of process modeling endeavor and most importantly the process modeling journey as obviously as we all know we don’t stop at a single process, we keep going. So the ways that I can see, a lot of the principles of marketing being employed in the process modeling is more about the inbound - rather than putting it out into people’s faces - then I can also see some of the key techniques by creating the digital watercooler. I love that term.
Using personas and social media as a way to interact and understand your audience, - start at the at the word go - don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t wait until the end of the project and involve the professionals like the marketing managers of the world. Every organization, every large organization at least should have access to a marketing professional. So involve them in the project as soon as you possibly can. I think some great insights come out of this discussion. So thank you very much for your time Daniel. and I really appreciate those insights you’ve given us.
Daniel: Great chatting and all the best on your modeling journey everyone.
Sandeep: All right. Now worries at all - so if you like this video click on the like button. , be sure to connect with us, Daniel and myself on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter – and we’ll see you next time.
The goal of most business is to grow revenue, whilst reducing costs and increasing profits - sounds simple enough.
The problem is, we often have to invest a substantial amount of capital in the business only to get a return on that investment over a number of years. It is this investment that is usually an inhibiter to a business adopting a best of breed approach resulting in sub-par solutions full of technical debt which is then difficult to maintain. The business gets bound to key staff, infrastructure that becomes obsolete, software that requires constant upgrades and excessive ongoing ’business-as-usual’ costs.
As modern businesses attempt to become more efficient through the use of technology, they sometimes hedge due to the risk/ROI ratio that includes a large ticket price and a moderate time to market.
They essentially see the benefits like opening up their ‘digital channel’, or making their core systems more cohesive and the business more efficient. However, they can’t justify the unguaranteed ROI over a multi-year return period.
It’s a problem faced by Tier-n companies as they are constantly under pressure to reduce IT costs and until now their options have been limited to some form of outsourcing. Anyone who has worked in the industry knows that it does not work and quality is the victim. It’s a strategy mostly enforced by short term thinkers who need to hit short term KPI’s and who create a problem for the next person to fix. It’s time for a paradigm shift in thinking how we can reduce cost and maintain quality and even improve it.
Let’s look at this considering an analysis of 4 different models.
We’ll assume that a company or business has decided it can achieve process improvement through systems integration, or they just need to reduce IT costs, and that includes the yearly integration bill. It might seem odd to bundle these two opposing motivations into the same motivation for change – but in essence they are the same: Positive IT outcomes that help improve the business at a reasonable cost.
What options do these organizations have:
Enterprise Integration Software - Mature, fully featured established integration platforms which are the preferred option, however the higher license costs make these an expensive option
Opensource software - Whilst this option is appealing due to the lower license fee (opensource rarely means ‘free’), the business will most likely spend the majority of any license costs savings on building the appropriate framework and establishing a platform
A Custom Solution - Many tier 2 or 3 organizations feel they can get away with developing a custom solution to suit their needs. What often happens is the final solution is barely functional and lacks the inherent platform functionality often required to meet minimal requirements or regulatory requirements
Managed Integration Delivery as a Service (MiDaaS) - The paradigm shift. A complete subscription based managed service. This option gives you the full feature stack of the Enterprise Software at an affordable price, lower overheads and a quicker time to market.
Let’s take a look at where each of these options may work:
Traditional approach with large overheads, establishment costs, large license and support fees, and are generally tied to larger transformation projects. This results in maintaining staff and capability over a longer period.
The perception that opensource is freeware is a misconception. These platforms do have a licensing component, and there is also the issue of resourcing with skilled people, and the software itself having the inherent frameworks of the Enterprise software. This may result in cheaper licensing costs, however, it will most likely result in a more expensive development cost. It also does not solve the issue of maintaining capability, staff and infrastructure overheads.
From the seeds of a custom solution, I give you technical debt and key resource reliability and constraint. Custom solutions are good if you are tweaking your spreadsheet, or writing a small piece of code to make you irritating daily task easier to do, but in the realm of system integration, there is always a techie who thinks they can build their own integration platform.
This is OK if you have 2 systems doing point to point and 1 or 2 integrations and you don’t want to expose those systems for consumption elsewhere. All custom solutions very quickly outgrow their use as they soon discover that logging, message affinity, auditing etc., are pretty important things. What seemed like a quick time to market at the time soon becomes a functionally limited highly customized piece of software that 1 person knows how to fix…
Managed Integration Delivery as a Service (MiDaaS)
Has the horsepower of the Enterprise software
Lower Total Cost of Ownership
Makes the organization technology agnostic
No technical debt will be carried by the business
Key resources/Capability maintenance/Staff overheads are no longer a problem
Subscription based pricing includes all infrastructure, design, build, test, maintenance, monitoring and alerting are all included
Reduces yearly cost of integration by a significant amount
Local account presence
Quality assured and consistency of service
Upgrades, maintenance, monitoring and alerting are all included
In today’s world we are seeing a shift to the cloud and a form of managed services that see organizations infrastructure being managed by 3rd parties, but the actual work being done on the applications on that infrastructure is still managed in-house. What I’m talking about is managing the complete Integration service from Design to BAU. Sure all of the other approaches have their place for the moment because existing systems, teams, IT managers etc. are all in place and can’t see how to make the move to a fully managed service. However, if we can make the move to the cloud, it shouldn’t take much to nudge us further along.
We are already seeing companies move to this model as they can see the immediate benefits and cost savings they can realize for their business. This shift will continue at an increased pace once other companies see the benefits being realized by their competitors.