What ever happened to e- ?

What ever happened to e- ? You remember don’t you?

The time when everything that had some technology element to it was referred to as e-something…. e-enabled, e-business, e-reader, e-marketing.
How time moves on. We rarely see this now. Not only the technology develops, but I suggest the terminology moves even faster. Along with the popularity of the iPhone was the i-everything but that is now not fashionable either.

I was at an Australian Institute of Company Directors event this evening. It was on Digital Strategy, the impact that technology was having on business, on competitors, on industry structure, on internal risk management and a multitude of other critical business impacts. But No, it was not about these, or at least not all of them. It covered some of this ground but not all. It covered, what used to be called e-marketing or perhaps what we could call Digital (Marketing) Strategy.

This is an important area. Social media, marketing, employee engagement, customer intelligence are all critical. But there is more to the impact of technology than this.

My fellow colleagues at the event asked two questions in particular that I enjoyed that were reflective of this bigger picture. One question was about Board capability and competence in relation to marketing, technology and the like. Another question related to competitor behaviour and business model design, and I shall add to that with own interpretation of suggesting a link to industry structure. These considerations are all crucial to forming a complete view of the digital/technology/information age related change impacts on all organisations, and indeed on the community at large.

These change impacts are happening in waves. One of the latest waves is on marketing. Not that marketing hasn’t been impacted before. It has. But now it is gaining pace and importance, and in some quarters, the Chief Marketing Officer is claimed to be a bigger technology purchaser than the Chief Information Officer.

And so now we have the Digital Strategy. The “marketers who do technology” are now getting so powerful they too can reinvent their own terms. After all the “technologists who do marketing” have been doing this for a long time.

There is a broader picture here though. There was a time in history when finance was not a skill or capability pervasive to all business people. Today you would not get far without it. This evolution is happening with technology. Eventually technology related skills and perspectives, and being able to apply these into every role and every part of the organisation will be standard practice. This remains some decades away.

But stay tuned, the changes are continuous and there are many many steps ahead, despite what we have already seen. And whatever happens, there is bound to be a new name we can call it too.

Written by: 


Mark is the founder of Information Professionals and Managing Director. He is one of the most trusted IT management advisors in Australia, and has managed, advised or reviewed some of the most complex IT and Change Management projects in Australia. A full outline of Mark and his Bio is available here.

Big Data – Business or Technology Problem?

Big Data – the technology challenge for our age, or part of the ongoing development of the art of management?  You get a strong technology push if you listen to the messages coming from the ICT vendor, enterprise software and consulting communities.

We have a different take on Big Data – we see it as a bigger challenge and opportunity than just transmitting and storing large amounts of data.
For many years now, the teaching of business strategy has been about looking at the environment, identifying the relevant signals and then acting on them.
We liken this to the historical challenges faced by the explorers setting out on sea voyages of discovery.  At the outset, they may not have known their destination – indeed the very nature of exploration is to see what’s out there.  However, they did not set out blindly.  The captain, navigator and crew all had their particular skills to help drive the ship, and in doing this they had to take in, act on and manage lots of signals – the weather, the sun and stars, their food supplies, enemies (and pirates!).
Isn’t this akin to today’s business planning and management?  Todays’ business managers have to do their job in a world where the data that’s available is growing exponentially.  Still, their challenges remain the same – managing the torrent of data and turning it into useful information.
So now, we come to big data.  The challenge for management is to both manage this data (and that includes the technology issues to do with bandwidth and storage) and to use it to their advantage.  Analysing and acting on Big Data enables more real time decision making, insight discovery and process optimisation.
How do we address the big data challenge??
Well, the storage vendors say “buy more”.  They may even be joined by the CIOs in saying this. The CEOs are saying “how will this benefit us”?  The CFOs, on the other hand, are saying “how do I pay for this – where’s the financial return”?  The HR managers are saying “who’s going to manage this – who has the skills”?  And the customers (and corporate lawyers) are saying “what about the privacy of my information”?
So senior executives can be forgiven for asking “What’s going on? Who else is working on this? What information is out there that I need and what would we do if we had it?”
This brings us back to the original question.  Is big data a technology issue or a wider management challenge?  We believe that the technology cannot be ignored.  However, we also believe that there are bigger problems to solve – management, skills, planning – to name a few.
That’s our thinking.   
What’s yours?  
Are you doing anything in the big data space? Do you have any successes that you would like to share?  What do you think is the biggest roadblock to embarking on your voyage of big data discovery? 



Written by Information Professionals – Senior Consultants, David Ekert and Tom Collins.

David is an experienced Program Manager, CIO, business manager and a CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant). David has a broad range of Finance, HR, IT and Program Management capabilities, having provided well considered opinions and trusted advice to others over a period of many years. David maintains his CPA and AIM memberships and keeps his knowledge current on emerging issues for his government and business clients.
Tom has over 11 years Organisation Development and Project Management experience leading and managing business improvement in large and medium size organisations. Tom’s key consulting expertise includes business process review, customer relationship management, change management, workshop facilitation, systems planning, development and implementation. 
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Strategic Business Planning: Casting a Very Wide Net

by David Ekert, Senior Consultant, Information Professionals

I just did a Google search on “Strategic Business Planning” – and got 88.2 million hits! Now, I haven’t read every one of them, but I bet that they would fall into one of these categories:
  • Definitions of strategy. Which would be contained in:
  • Copies of academic papers on the subject. Which would lead to:
  • Arguments about these academic papers. Which would be described in:
  • Course notes from universities. And finally:
  • A fair percentage from consultants who can advise you on how to best develop your strategy.
Perhaps it is obvious, but I like to keep an all-embracing view on strategy development and management, so we dont lose the context on where something fits.
Does Strategic Planning always go well? Of course not. And in my opinion this view is sector-agnostic, in that I have seen the best and worst of planning and implementation in both public and private sector worlds.
I have been involved in organisations who do this very well. In these organisations, everyone, and I mean everyone, knows what the organisation stands for, where it is going, how it proposes to get there, and how each person contributes to this. There are direct links from the highest level of strategic planning through business unit plans to individuals’ performance agreements.
I have also had experience with organisations where it is not done well. One of these organisations worked hard at it, although missed some key aspects of success. They ran through planning sessions every year, dutifully described projects to achieve strategic objectives through the year and then produced a report every three or four months on how they were going, with lovely colour scales. The good bit – if a program hadn’t started yet, it got the best green rating, because (stay with me here) if it hadn’t started yet, it wasn’t late finishing (yet)!
As you may be able to tell, I enjoy talking about, discussing and understanding strategic business planning. The whys, hows, whos, who cares etc are all of interest to me. One topic close to my thinking is that the usual targets of marketing and sales, while vital, don’t tell the whole story. There are so many areas of consideration, like the dollars, the people, the supply chain, risks.
As a CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant), although working more in the IT, Planning and Strategy, and Program Delivery worlds these days, I do recognise the integral nature of finance and budgeting to every aspect of an organisation, and therefore to Strategic Business Planning.
And what about ICT (Info & Comms Technology)? Every one of the above areas I mentioned, in fact almost every area of business is now touched in some way by ICT. But it is also an area where it is treated in so many different ways from a Strategic Planning perspective, sometimes ignored, but I would argue, rarely integrated well.
Is it coming a time where we let ICT out of the back office and recognise the part that it plays in delivering real value to a business? And in fairness can also have a significant capacity for creating risk?
And how does that impact stakeholder involvement across the business or ensure the right perspectives is flowing into the planning process? Perhaps those thoughts are for another time.