Insights from the Advanced Practices Council - June 2018 Meeting Highlights
By all accounts, the June APC meeting exceeded members' high expectations. In the words of Steve
Heilenman, "Thank you all again for an incredible APC meeting. I thought last year's Cambridge meeting
would be hard to beat .. but I think this year's may have been better. I know how much thought and
time went into this meeting. It is very much appreciated."
A key theme of the two-day meeting was that senior IT executives must take a wider-angled view of
gaining business value than in the past due to greater inter-connectedness of all elements of the
company's business model and processes.
Digital technologies enable transformations in business models, functions, and processes when
executives envision the possibilities. How can digital twins of physical objects and service interactions
reduce costs and actually improve objects and interactions? Gabe Piccoli and Federico Pigni explained
how leading-edge software combined with digital data streams make it feasible to capture and analyze
high-resolution data on how the object or service is being performed and then actually improve objects
and service. Consider how a roomba learns the dimensions of your room as it cleans all corners of your
floors, how computer-activated goggles inform the runner of where to go and how to improve his
performance, how Tesla improves its breaking time through software updates, and how amazon go
allows shoppers to purchase items without stopping to pay. Gabe's and Federico's advice to APC
members: position your organization for digital twinning opportunities (technology capabilities plus
innovation mindset) and seek opportunities to leverage sensors while trying to anticipate competitive
disruptions, which can come from almost any direction.
Today's computers can achieve specific goals in a given environment, but they don't have the general
intelligence of a five year old to achieve a wide range of goals in different environments. But combine
the capabilities of today's computers with human groups and you get what Thomas Malone of MIT calls
superminds that can outperform either category alone. Malone's research confirmed that superminds
create far-superior documents, forecasts, diagnoses of diseases, and solutions to intractable problems
than the smartest humans alone. Instead of putting humans in the computer loop, Tom recommends
putting computers in the human group.
BUILDING A TEAM-BASED LEARNING ORGANIZATION
Succeeding in today's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous organizational environment requires
a culture that supports innovation, experimentation, and diverse cross-boundary teams. Whether or not
such teams are focused on IT-related projects, diverse cross-boundary teams are better at anticipating
and responding to current challenges than homogeneous ones. But to gain these benefits, Amy
Edmondson of the Harvard Business School discovered that leaders must do three things: instill an
enterprise mindset, embrace intelligent failure, and build psychological safety.
An enterprise mindset is created by leaders who model passionate commitment to the customer.
Leaders with such a mindset consistently ask, "What's best for the enterprise?"; and engage people in
the shared mission. Pilots to test innovative initiatives are set up thoughtfully so that they are
representative of possible future rollouts. Investments are minimal, the organization can learn from
outcomes, and risks of failing are understood and mitigated to the extent possible. Edmondson pointed
out that pilots are often set up to succeed, rather than to learn from failures. Psychological safety allows
people to embrace risks and speak up to leaders who are accessible, invite input, and acknowledge their
own fallibility. Leaders build psychological safety by setting the stage (we may fail, but we will learn from
it); inviting engagement (ask good questions, invite careful thought, and give people room to respond);
and responding appreciatively. Eli Lilly holds failure parties; Grey Agency gives a heroic failure award;
NASA gives a lean forward, fail smart award; and Tata Group gives a dare to try award.
STRATEGY, SALES, GROWTH AND THE BUSINESS MODEL
Executives must integrate business strategy considerations with those of sales because just about all
business functions are inter-related. According to Frank Cespedes of the Harvard Business School, if
executives fail to choose proactively which products and services they want to pursue actively,
customers or competitors will choose for them. And decisions related to which products and services to
sell or how to enhance them will impact costs to produce them, skills needed, value chain
considerations, and performance measures. Technology can provide data that can help in both strategy
decisions and operational considerations such as whether to hire or outsource, how to free sales people
to spend more time with prospects, and how to set up the customer conversion funnel. The top three
areas in which sales analytics are currently deployed are: lead generation and lead scoring, pipeline
management and forecasting, and identifying cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Data analytics and
sales operations functions are increasingly reporting to the CFO, who most likely doesn't have deep
knowledge of the sales cycle and its implications on business strategy and execution. In sum, the
systems approach, very familiar to IT executives, becomes even more important to business success.