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Written by: iiGrowth

Thank you Jeff Bezos for buying the Washington Post! I believe that Jeff Bezos will now lead the transformation of the customer experience at the Washington Post. Will this save the news organization, or the news industry? Who knows, but now I know I will be there for the ride and continue to buy the products and services the Washington Post offers.  Who knows, I might even buy more, if the focus as I believe will be on the customer experience.

I have been on the borderline with respect to my desire to continue buying what the Post is selling me. However, with the purchase by Jeff Bezos I am going to stick with it as I do believe the potential is there (the Post does have some very good journalists, storytellers, and trusted voices – Thomas Boswell, John Kelly, and more).

My personal angst with the Post (news industry) has been the customer experience. I really can’t say it is very compelling for me. I think in part this is because from my vantage point as a buyer the Post does not have a clear direction.  This manifests itself with a multitude of disconnected experiences that in their totality seem like a broken lab with everything in constant turmoil. Some of the annoyances as a buyer include constant changes to layout (aspects of the online version are hard to absorb visually), mixing of opinion and fact based journalism, irritating pop-ups for online advertising, changing subscription formats, and the list is much longer.

I have been thinking about the future of journalism and newspapers for some time and even explored new disruptive business models with some friends in the news and communications industry. One insightful study I suggest reading is entitled “Be the Disrupter”, which was sponsored by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and published in November of 2012. It featured the thinking and insights of Clayton Christensen (Innovators Dilemma, 1997), and David Skok (a 2012 Nieman fellow). In the study, they dissect the news industry and offer many excellent ideas for how to innovate news gathering, news distribution, and selling the news.

I believe there are many different types of opportunities for improving the news business model, but my own main interest with the Post is having a better customer experience. I do not know Jeff Bezos, but just like many other avid readers, I am a consumer of Amazon.com services(Amazon Prime Member, which I pay for each year, but get many benefits in return in purchase discounts and shipping). I have been buying from Amazon for years.

For me, Amazon replaced the online (Borders, Barnes & Noble) and the local bookstore I used to walk into. While I still love a variety of different types of bookstores because they offer a sense of place (Politics and Prose in Washington DC, the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda or Rockville, or any one of the used books stores in the historic section of Kensington, MD) Amazon was able to come in and capture my mind-share, my time, and business because of their focus on the customer experience.

For me, the Amazon customer experience is excellent and offers value to me before I buy anything, makes the buying experience very user friendly, allows me to engage with a community if I so choose, and follows up with me after a purchase. I mostly hire Amazon to help me learn and/or be entertained by business and non-business books. They are there for me in a personalized way, even though I am aware they have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million accounts.

Recently, I wrote to Amazon about helping me speed up my purchase decision by integrating digital and print purchase information (it is available under either option, but currently not across my order types). I also inquired about deeper discounts for a 2nd purchase of the same product (i.e. if I buy one print copy – offering me a deeper discount for a digital copy). Most companies will respond with a boilerplate response. Amazon provided me with thoughtful answers to each of my questions. I understand I am one voice among millions, so taking the time to respond to me was meaningful in my relationship with them. Of course, I also hope my suggestions progress up the priority board as they adjust their service offering.

I am not a futurist, but if Jeff Bezos applies the same tenacity to his leadership with the Washington Post, as he did with Amazon, count me in! Long live the customer experience!

Written by: iiGrowth

Jobs to be done based talent sourcing will provide entrepreneurs and small business owners peace of mind and make sure the right team is in place to grow the company.

As many small business owner and entrepreneur knows, running a successful small business requires a variety of skills and talents. The needed capabilities range from understanding the market and customers who have a need to get a job done (that is why they will hire you), keeping the lights running, updating the books based with the latest income or expense information, and delivering what you are selling.

Often, the entrepreneur tries to fill many of these roles, when in reality it is better to simplify, systematize, and source talent (i.e. do not try to do everything on your own). Breaking the mindset of trying to do it all is probably one of the most important lessons that successful entrepreneurs and small business owners have learned.

If you think you can do it all, you should stop doing so, or at least cut back by bringing in specialists to fill certain job roles. Your physical and emotional health will greatly improve. You will also attain positive business results as doing less is more.

The legend of Superman portrays a superhero that can be everywhere and do everything. However, for us plain folks whose parents did not come from the planet Krypton, that is a tall order, and probably not a healthy one. Trying to do it all is more analogous to being exposed to kryptonite (which is the material that was deadly to Superman, created from the planet Krypton when it exploded).

Small Business Roles
Below is my own quick brainstorm of some roles (throw titles out the door) that need to be filled in a small business. You should build your own as these will change by business type and circumstance.

  • Accounting – manage “the books” and financial cash flows, perform cost accounting and financial reporting, and develop tax strategy
  • Legal – develop your business structure, protect intellectual property, and develop business agreements
  • Business Strategy – Define the business model (customers, value propositions, etc.), set goals, and keep score of your progress
  • Information Technology – keep the lights on in the cloud or inside your offices (you need to fill roles for collaboration, hardware, coding and hacking, business applications, etc.)
  • Facilities – Manage the facility – one of the largest costs in most businesses (go virtual if you can)
  • Marketing – design the website, write the code, design user experience, write copy and content, develop branding materials
  • Human Capital – Hire and develop people and manage alumni relations
  • Innovation – Determine Jobs to Be Done; Design, Build, Test, and Measure what you are building and selling
  • Partnerships and Alliances – Create and manage business partnerships and alliances

Building a Team

Building the right team means having a wide variety of team members who fill the important business roles and do things better than you can do. In addition when you think of the things that the business needs to do, also consider the perspectives of vision and leadership; system and process management, and technical skills. Each of these must be applied to any of the many activities in your business to make it operate effectively.

As a small business and entrepreneur you need to be the one to initially develop the big idea about what your business stands for, what it will do, and what will make it unique. Spend less time in the “lab” and more time with potential clients and customers to get real feedback on what they will hire you to do!

Once you get feedback on your business model, you can create a “Jobs to Be Done” (JTBD) board to define what needs to be done. Using this type of JBTD board you can further construct what your business will look like in terms of people. It does not matter what industry you are in. This approach can help initially define your business activities (aligned with your vision and business model) and this can scale with the business.

Having the right team is critical. Of course you will rely on the team you have constructed. Just as important, or even more so, you customers, business partners, and investors will all rely on the team you have constructed. A good team, with the right roles filled by the right people, will give everyone a good peace of mind and produce better results.

 

Written by: iiGrowth

During the spring 2012 semester, undergraduate students in the two-year Accelerated Degree Completion Program (ADCP) at Boston University’s Metropolitan College (BU MET) gathered in teams to study International Business Management (MG 520). This course, taught by Chris Brodersen, himself a BU MET alumnus, examines the effects of overseas business investments and allows students to understand how to assess foreign market, how to develop firm operational strategies, and how to establish international operations.

Chris does more than just have the students read books. His approach is to provide guidance, and link this to a process where students immerse themselves into their work by talking to real businesses, real people, and presenting their recommendations to seasoned international executives. One word for this, “Fascinating”!

Chris Brodersen, in his first semester teaching at BU, began teaching at Bryant University in Rhode Island in 2008. When he is not teaching, he is working full-time as the Senior Manager for Releasability and Technology Transfer at Raytheon. Chris’ approach opens up country after country to these “applied” studies. It allows students from BU to gain valuable and practical international experiences. Next to being in-country, this approach to learning, decision making, and taking on real responsibility for deadlines brings BU MET students the type of experience they can take back to their own businesses. Most or all of the students in this program are already working so this course is something they can draw on and put to use.

During the Spring 2012 semester three teams were formed. One of the teams that was formed was for Latvia (Team Latvia). A group of four students, assessed Latvia, one of the Baltic Tigers, and examined setting up an Information Technology related business in Latvia. As part of the applied process, Brodersen invited iiGrowth LLC and Latvian Chamber of Commerce (LatCham) representatives Gustav Plato (CEO iiGrowth/Founder LatCham) and Rudolfs Peksens (VP Strategy and Alliances at iiGrowth) as mentors to support the team.

Team Latvia conducted research and obtained feedback from the assigned mentor team. Using iiGrowth’s collaborative technologies for project management (37 Signals Basecamp) and communications (Cisco’s WebEx) allowed for excellent interaction with the team. Once their work was to a certain stage they were able to present to a team of “Judges”, who evaluated their overall work, analytical and decision making results, and with everything else provided the teams a great overall experience. The students found the experience to be challenging.

Steve Eaton, a Team Latvia member stated, “Beyond the great overview of international business our course provided us, some of the greatest lessons learned for me were gaining deep understandings of the values and culture of Latvia and the Baltic states, and how they reflect on the business environment in the region. The ability to work directly with those with first-hand experience in Latvia proved invaluable, not only for our assignments, but also in garnering insight into doing business in the country, and the tremendous opportunities Latvia offers. Through our research and collaboration we saw a country that pulled itself out of a deep recession while much of the world stagnated, and continues to show strong growth as the EU wavers, which is in large part a testament to the strength of its ICT sector.

iiGrowth’s connection to Chris and BU, came through Krista Tassa of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce (She is an honorary member of LatCham). Krista had met Chris at World Trade in spring of June 2010 at Bryant University. He had been to the Baltics several times and they started batting ideas back and forth about how to possibly include the Baltics in his class instruction. These discussions led to Krista guest lecturing about market entry into the U.S. market (Krista has practical experience through her own venture ParkNow! as well as the Estonian Chamber). It was Krista who subsequently made the connection with Latvia. As a result, Team Latvia, including the mentors from iiGrowth, was formed for the Spring 2012 semester.

Chris continues to teach International Business Management at BU MET and has many more interesting and innovative approaches for learning on the horizon. We at iiGrowth are very pleased to have been part of the BU MET ecosystem for learning and look forward to working with Chris again in the future. We also encourage serious international business management students who are seeking something unique to find out more about Chris’ applied approach. It is fascinating and provides a practical approach to studies that students can take back to their own work environments.

Written by: Gustav Plato

If someone asked you about how you are planning to improve your golf game, or lower your handicap, would you know?

  • Would you know where to turn?
  • How to find a coach?
  • How to see what you were doing?
  • Remember the feedback you received?
  • Could you visualize it?

Now you can easily answer these questions and many more related to improving your golf game with Golf Swing Exchange. Golf Swing Exchange or Golf Swing X is a new iiGrowth client. They are a client that we believe revolutionizes sports training by leveraging the new mobile platforms offered by Apple, Android, and Microsoft. Golf Swing X has a wealth of great ideas and innovations with respect to sports training and this is just the first.Just type Golfswingx.com into your URL and you will enter a community where golf players can meet golf pros. That is just the beginning. Golf Swing X has launched in advance of Valentine’s Day and spring golf with an offer that includes a full month of golf coaching and more for $98. With this program, GolfSwingX has put together a package that includes the following:

  • A complete swing analysis with Golf Swing X’s Director of Instruction, Stephen Moskal, who will provide a complete swing analysis.
  • Weekly follow-up lessons, once a week for one month, through the Golf Swing X online portal and your private web page.
  • 50% off on the next month of lessons.
  • Free membership to the Golf Swing X on-line portal.
  • Deals on selected golf equipment from GolfDom (Tyson’s Corner).

From our perspective, and we think yours when you take a look, Golf Swing X offers a new toolset that can help improve your game at breakthrough price points. Although the initial Valentine’s Day promotion is for the DC Metro area, the Golf Swing X service is an app available world-wide.
With spring just around the corner, Golf Swing X, is poised to help the casual and serious golf players make steady progress and gain a much improved understanding of the golf swing. All is documented in your account so that you can continue to learn and have a forum to store your ideas.

When we at iiGrowth are not working on strategy, finance, or operations, just look for us on the links with our new coaches at Golf Swing Exchange!

Written by: Brett Sechrest

As individuals and as a world business community, we need to embrace the role of  “sustainability,” the benefits of “green” and the workings of biological partnerships. If we are trying to do this in our lives and in our businesses, we are no doubt working toward best outcomes for our family, community, nation and the world. We also might fear the worst, but we keep embracing goals that will take us forward, yet we will continue to get hammered by both the expected and unexpected.

What we are doing is intervening into an existing system that does not measure everything we would like it to measure. Therefore, the deck is stacked against us whether we are trying to create a business in renewable energy, “green” products, “green” services or whether we are trying to make our traditional existing business a little more efficient and conscious with regards to what is happening in our communities, nation and world.

Finding leverage points to intervene in an existing system is critical to our success in business – here are several I came across while reading Donella Meadows years ago.

  • The power to transcend paradigms.
  • The mindset or paradigm out of which the system – its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters – arises.
  • The goals of this system.
  • The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
  • The rules of the system.
  • The structure of information flows.
  • The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
  • The strength of negative feedback loops relative to the impact they are trying to correct against.
  • The length of delays relative to the rate of system change.
  • The structure of material stocks and flows.
  • Constraints, parameters, numbers.

I will be digging down as deep as I can into these leverage points in future posts.

Brett Sechrest

bsechrest@iigrowth.com

Written by: iiGrowth

As discussed last month, iiGrowth has developed a process for developing your new media strategy – the 120 Marketing Process. It is a four-phase process, with the first phase being called Branding & Marketing Strategy, which is essentially the planning phase of this process.


iiGrowth's 120 Marketing Process


The Branding & Marketing Strategy phase attempts to answer:

• What is the brand and what should be your firm’s message in regards to the brand?
• What types of marketing strategies align with the branding message you are trying to get out there?
• Does this strategy align with overall corporate strategy?
• Will this approach deliver a positive customer experience?

The answers to these questions may not always be straightforward and forthcoming, but there are various tools that can be used to answer these questions. This is essentially a creative process, so as a starting point brainstorming and white boarding are recommended, which then can be refined with such techniques as surveys, interviews, and the results of these; focus groups being a particularly strong form of surveying and interviewing.

At the end of the process you should have a set of deliverables that will drive the next phase. Hopefully, if you have been successful, you will be able to deliver a concise and clear message to the customer. Another result of this phase should be the brand and marketing concept document, which serves as a guideline for the next phase, which is Design & Content.

The Branding & Marketing Strategy phase of the 120 Marketing Process essentially delivers the guidelines and scope document for the next phases. It can also be used to steer the process back on course if it gets off course in the next phases. Next Tuesday’s blog will cover Design & Content. Please comment on today’s blog or other phases of the 120 Marketing Process. We look forward to your participation.

Written by: Aleksandrs Racenis

Last Thursday we identified and classified your stakeholders, it is time to dig deeper and develop the Persona Profiles. The Persona Profile is designed to give your company a brief, but detailed insight into what kind of customers your employees will be interacting and working with on a specific task.

The whole point of the Persona Profile is to understand your customer or client and deliver the optimum level of customer experience for the individual. We collect data about our customer on topics including the person’s job, special skills, work experience, education, salary, and most importantly, how they interact in the work environment. The information that we target includes who the employee works and interacts with and their preferred communications methods. These interlocking ideas provide us with the necessary ingredients to tailor a unique customer experience.

To give you an idea of how I assemble a Persona Profile, take a look at what Ten Ton Marketing suggests as questions to begin the creation of a Persona Profile. The profile should look almost like a brief resume complete with a picture of the individual. Using the questions outlined by Stephanie Tilton, your employees are now able to effectively differentiate your client’s skills, needs, and necessary working conditions.

In my experience, this profile building helps develop a deep understanding of the clients/customer’s expectations and habits in the work environment. This is important to understand because work satisfaction, productivity, and collaboration are imperative to success in ramping up your customer experience efforts.

I frequently take advice of other experts in the field and incorporate new techniques into to my own processes. These are just introductory questions that can be tweaked to specific individuals and circumstances so that customer and client understanding are achieved.

We collected our data through various channels and continually consult these networks to revise, update, and enhance the customer experience. I would be interested in hearing about your experience. How does your organization practice these techniques? If not, why not?

Written by: Aleksandrs Racenis

In my previous blog post on October 20, 2010, I outlined an approach to customer experience through a Customer Experience Model we have been developing. In this post I begin to share some of the tools that I envision are part of this model.

In my experience, step 1 requires a thorough investigation into the identity of customers and their value propositions. One tool that can be used to get at the customer’s identity is the Stakeholder Matrix. The Stakeholder Matrix provides the ability to identify and classify levels of importance and interest in collaboration for all stakeholders. This is important for the development of branding, marketing, and communications efforts throughout the customer experience.

How is this best done? I like to begin with a brainstorm and write down each stakeholder or group of stakeholders to an organization. The next step is to group or organize the stakeholders into a Stakeholder Matrix by asking a few simple questions about each individual or group of stakeholders.

The chart below shows you what the matrix looks like:

Stakeholder Matrix

The matrix will undoubtedly help in assessing the degree of influence and interest among your stakeholders to improve the overall customer experience. The building of the Matrix itself can be a time-consuming task, but will result in an honest assessment and useful resource.

Now that that your stakeholders have been identified and classified, it is time to dig deeper and develop the Persona Profiles. The Persona Profile is designed to give your company a brief, but detailed insight into what kind of customers your employees will interacting and working with on a specific task. This will be the topic for next Tuesday’s blog.

Again, please feel free to comment or ask questions on our blog. Your participation is greatly appreciated. Also, as you might have guessed our blogs now will be posted twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Written by: iiGrowth

iiGrowth has developed a 120 Marketing Process that is specifically tailored to New Media. The process has a four stage approach as depicted in the accompanying process flow diagram.


iiGrowth's 120 Marketing Process


Essentially it is a structured approach which begins with a fundamental concept of developing Branding and Marketing Strategies that are tied in with a firm’s overall corporate strategy. These Branding and Marketing Strategies then become the cornerstone and starting point for the Design and Content development of a firm’s New Media approach. The Design and Content then feed the actual Development and Implementation. At the end of the process are Launch, Refinement, and Campaign, which in effect is the execution of the entire 120 Marketing Process. In essence, by following the 120 Marketing Process, it ensures that a company is maximized on the New Media execution of the overall corporate strategy, thereby maximizing a firm’s New Media ROI.


Each of these four phases of the 120 Marketing Process will be investigated in further depth in future Blogs. Anyone interested in this topic is invited to comment on our blog. These comments can be questions that we would hope to answer, or comments that could help refine our process. iiGrowth looks forward to participation.

Written by: Aleksandrs Racenis

Customer Experience Methodology and Process
As discussed in the previous CE blog posting, the importance of a comprehensive customer experience guideline and implementation process is absolutely necessary for a firm that desires to be a leader in whichever industry it does business.

iiGrowth has studied and adapted its own Customer Experience Model (CEM) and we continue our development in a continuous learning environment. The iiGrowth CEM serves as a useful tool and guide as a customer experience methodology and process for our client engagements.

iiGrowth customizes steps of the model to a client’s specific needs (i.e. corporate or project level), strengths, weaknesses, and an acceptable time line when each step should be taken. This ensures that the customer processes that a firm undertakes are beneficial to the firm itself as well as fit into the firm’s ecosystem, or set of stakeholders.

1. Define Customer Value: This process is important because it sets up the rest of the customer experience framework. Identifying who your customers are is an obvious, yet crucial act. Once the customer is identified you must understand their values, expectations, and how your product/service will benefit the customer. iiGrowth’s consultants aggregate Stakeholder Lists and draw up Persona Profiles and begin the process of building a Persuasion Architecture as a way to get started with the discovery process. Persuasion Architecure is used by iiGrowth for building our customer experience model into websites and web-based businesses. The building of the Persuasion Architecture spans the first two steps of our customer experience model.

2. Design Customer Experience: The goals of this step require customer centric thinking. It begins with understanding and outlining the customer’s needs. The Persuasion Architecture continues in step two with processes of wire framing, storyboarding, prototyping, development, and optimizing that come from a model developed by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg several years ago.

Once the desired solutions have been identified, you must design a specialized customer experience for the customer’s segments you identified in step one, as well as develop a plan of how and when to proceed with implementation. iiGrowth’s consultants prefer to use Journey Maps as their primary tool in designing the customer experience.

3. Empower People: Step three requires you to embody the work done in steps 1 & 2 with your firm’s employees. If 1 & 2 are done in an executive boardroom out of sight of employees who interact with the customers, then the exercise will be wasted. You must provide your staff with the resources, skills, and knowledge of the Customer Experience Framework. This involves developing training programs, governance models, and metrics to monitor the implementation. iiGrowth’s consultants typically use Resource Maps linked to the Journey Maps created in step 2.

4. Sustain Customer Initiatives: This step involves listening to your customers and employees about the progress of the program. You must align the company culture with metrics and remain in constant communication with your stakeholders. iiGrowth’s consultants use a simple, yet effective Customer Experience Survey.

5. Measure Performance: The last step allows your company to review, critique, and modify the whole customer experience. The identification of met goals, metrics, intermediate targets and scoring these results is important. The aspects of the assessment should be shared with your stakeholders. iiGrowth’s consultants use the Customer Experience Scorecard.

Typically iiGrowth advises clients to undertake the implementation of the Customer Experience within a 12-18 month time frame (e.g. corporate level) so that set goals are tangible and within the foreseeable future, while establishing a long term precedent. iiGrowth’s research has identified success in implementing this in every type of organization. The importance of a good customer experience is a universally understood concept, yet the hard part is to understand just how to tweak the model for each organization’s needs while maintaining the drive to see the change process through to the end.

Future blog postings will break down each of the tools iiGrowth believes can be most helpful in implementing the CEM. We are interested in your experience with the Customer Experience and possible models and tools that you have found beneficial. Please join the discussion and we will keep you informed about future discussions and meet-ups we hope to promote. The contributions of the community will make this blog theme much more interesting and meaningful. We look forward to your ideas, questions, and comments.

Written by: iiGrowth

Your Business and New Media

The Retail Challenge

In the not so distant past a retailer’s marketing strategy was relatively straight forward: print, TV, and radio. Depending on the business, the choices by which to structure and implement a marketing strategy has now cascaded beyond the traditional media into the web, blogs, vlogs, cell phones, iPads (tablet computer), texting, social media, and so on. Thinking about these it is even hard to find where one medium stops and another ends. For instance are blogs part of the central web strategy or are they independent and managed in their own space? There is not one right answer; I think it suffices to say that the choices provided to businesses are out there and all are adding to how companies must communicate and build experiences with their customers. For instance, the average store visit before a consumer buys a big ticket item now is 1.5, it used to be 3.0 and higher, meaning consumers are first researching all the choices, primarily on the web, before they make their purchase. So even if you are just selling commodities you better have a website and good one at that, if you wish to remain competitive.

New Media & B2B

In the retail space, New Media and the necessity to create a compelling customer experience in this entirety of media choices is relatively easy to understand, but in B2B models this may not seem so straight forward. However, the challenge is still there, how to reach your customers when there are so many competing media: the web, print, TV, radio, smart phones, texting, iPads, etc? What message do you want your customers to hear, what do you want them to experience,  and how do you deliver it via a clear consistent strategy?  While trying to answer these questions  may seem confusing and too much to comprehend, it is a necessity to succeed in business in this digital century. Companies like iiGrowth exist to help B2Bs gain this understanding and resulting competitive advantage.

Measuring This?

Let’s say a company understands that it needs to have a new media presence and they have made the commitment to be out there. Beyond just sales, how do companies measure their success? Generally, until now, the basic measure has been long in depth hit reports developed by IT staff and only appreciated by IT staff. A challenge in this new world then would be to come up with a way to clearly define what is and not important and present in a balanced scorecard fashion (i.e. to include a balanced set of metrics including financial, customer, brand, process, and learning/growth) and understand how the metrics relate to one another. iiGrowth is working on just such a solution. A more in depth discussion on New Media scorecards will be a topic of a future Blog.

Written by: Aleksandrs Racenis

Almost all private businesses know that customer experience is a huge aspect of success in today’s consumer centric market.  There is so much competition in every sector of the economy, that business have to stand out and provide exceptional customer experience every step of the way.  Experts like Bruce Temkin and Forester Research do in depth research and analysis of private sector customer experience goals, practices, expectations, and realities.  This year’s top company in terms of customer service in Forester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index, Barnes & Noble, probably worked exceptionally hard to earn this title.  There are of course happy customers at Barnes & Noble.

Recently the federal government, one of the largest buyers in the world has realized its needs to improve the customer experience.  It is measuring, analyzing, and practicing consumer needs.  We see this improvement happening in many different areas of the government, both federal and local.  RightNow is pioneering these advances in over 170 federal, national, state, provincial, and local government agencies world-wide.  They are calling it “Government 3.0” that is achieved on four fronts designed to involve citizens in the process of developing improved service mechanisms, communicating through social networking sites, personalizing interactions with agency employees, and developing ways to measure their ROI on communication techniques.

The USAF is an example of internal realization of certain customer needs within the government sector.  The USAF is a critical force in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s Air Force Personnel Center was struggling to manage its documentation, curb spending, and support its military operations. The Human Resource tools and services needed to undergo a drastic transformation phase. “The primary goal was to create a better customer experience by providing self-service solutions and tracking customer service needs.”  RightNow’s Software as a Service provided the USAF with the increased ability for knowledge management, case tracking, contact center tracking, and customer survey mission needs.  This initiative has saved the USAF $4 million annually and improved customer engagement by 70%.

Send in posts about your experiences with Government 3.0 services and products.  How are the public and private sectors complementing each other?  What are your ideas on making positive changes?

Written by: LeeAnne Haworth

The Estonian daily news Eesti Päevaleht reports that a dozen or so Estonian IT companies are planning to enter the US market via Silicon Valley. Interest in this market has been growing over the last three years, according to Andrus Viirg, Director of Enterprise Estonia in Silicon Valley. Several companies are planning a big push into the market this fall. Jüri Kaljundi, a serial entrepreneur and head of Talentag, a social CV and recruitment tool, says that Estonian start-ups are focused in Silicon Valley for four main reasons:  investors, marketing, customers, and business partners. Kaljundi acknowledges that mistakes will probably be made, but this interest illustrates the development, maturity, and globalization of the Estonian tech sector. Several of the companies mentioned include:  Fortumo, Emp.ly and Talentag, ZeroTurnaround, CrystalSol, Yoga, and Modesat. To read the whole article, see: http://www.epl.ee/artikkel/582237

Written by: iiGrowth

The iiGrowth LLC’s Global Innovation Center is designed to provide firms with the tools and expertise to generate new ideas, innovate, and develop strategies for growing the bottom line and core competencies.

The center is focused on bringing best of breed solutions to global businesses and has identified a need to make social network analysis (SNA) or organizational network analysis (ONA) accessible and affordable to businesses across the globe.

iiGrowth has created a strategic partnership with Keyhubs, a firm that is an innovator in social network analysis, to offer solutions for mapping informal (human) networks in the workplace.  Using Keyhubs’ unique methodologies and tools now makes it possible to uncover hidden talent, expose key influencers and identify high-performing teams to help organizations realize their full potential.

iiGrowth’s program is founded on the principle that establishing relationships with best-in-class organizations, such as Keyhubs, will offer superior solutions to the market, faster, with lower cost, and with reduced risk.   iiGrowth’s Idea and Innovation Center will be launching a series of partnerships in 2010 and 2011 that will offer our clients a one-stop shop for solutions and also look to build collaborative communities.

Keyhubs Founder, Vikas Narula, stated, “we have made significant investments to create a game changing solution in the field of organizational development.  The companies that have already been introduced to Keyhubs have been amazed by its clarity and ability to provide them with valuable information on the true workings of the organization.  We admit, we are biased, but this product offers a competitive advantage for the early adopters.  For those companies that come later, this will be the solution that will help them level the playing field.  We are excited about the offering and expanding it globally.  In that light, we are also very pleased about connecting with iiGrowth to help us bring the solution to global markets.

Written by: Gustav Plato

The efforts to lead an international team in developing the Supply Chain Ventures Forum to be held in Washington DC from May 13-17, 2009 are filled with adventure and excitement.  More importantly the lessons learned to date, and the many more to come, have afforded us the knowledge base critical for developing international conferences and helping companies with market entry at a much lower cost threshold than they could get anywhere else.

The US Baltic Foundation asked iiGrowth to lead the development of the business program for 2009.  We are very excited in how things are shaping up.

  • Leadership Team: We have had a great team with help from the Department of Commerce and the three Baltic Countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  We have had active participation of Ministers and Ambassadors.
  • Customer Participation: We have been signing up some really great companies like Raytheon whose international experience in supply chain partnerships is world class.  On the other end of the spectrum we are working with small startups, such as MobileNow!, which is a provider of mobile parking solutions.  It is a very diverse group and this is what will really provide great value to this conference.
  • Alliance Partners: We have also received ideas from our friends at the Swedish Embassy and the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce who have been helping the Latvian Chamber of Commerce that iiGrowth co-founded.
  • Web 2.0 Technologies: In addition, the team is also leveraging web 2.0 technology to help promote the event through tools such as Facebook and Linked in, as well as signing up companies for matchmaking events.

The neat thing is that the team, the customers, the experience of our friends, and the use of technology has afforded us the insights and approach to develop a business model, where I believe we have taken the unnecessary non-value added costs of a typical international conference and matchmaking out of the picture.  That is pretty good!

In today’s economy, there is no other way to do it.

Written by: Gustav Plato

If you are an emerging company, or are still in the process of maturing your business model, you probably do not have a General Services Administration (GSA) schedule. This is understandable. As a start-up, your focus was on your business concept. However, as you mature you need to begin to consider implementing the tools that will help you be competitive. One such tool is a GSA contract schedule.

As an emerging company, you probably did not consider a schedule because you did not know what it is, or how it could help you. So let us begin with the basics, and let us answer what a GSA schedule is and why you may want to have one.

Last year, the government spent over $ 35,750,000,000 through GSA Schedules. That is a lot of zeros and a lot of buying power. Here is what you need to know; if a product or service is commercially available, there is a good chance that the GSA buys it for all government agencies.

GSA is a centralized procurement and property management agency for the Federal government and manages more than one-quarter of the government’s total procurement dollars, and oversees the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including more than 8,300 government-owned or leased buildings and 170,000 vehicles. Suffice it to say, keep track of what GSA is doing as part of understanding the Federal market and how it is managing its business.

There is a variety of GSA schedule contracts (87 are shown on their web site) including ones for information technology, small business, or transportation. GSA Schedule Contract presents an excellent opportunity for a service provider, manufacturer, dealer or distributor who bases his or her business on quality, feature-rich products/services and sound business practices. Having a GSA number is like being listed catalogue or directory that has ONLY contractors who have been certified as responsible vendors by the federal government. Most federal government departments/agencies now require that their procurement offices use authorized GSA contractors. In some cases, they are not allowed to purchase goods or services from those vendors who are not GSA Schedule holders.

Being and authorized GSA Schedule holder provides you with visibility, establishes your credentials, and certifies to the buyer that you will be a ‘responsible’ contractor. GSA Schedules are available to federal buyers across the nation, and in some cases, for certain commodity areas, state and local procurement offices can purchase goods and services using the GSA contracts as well. Therefore, if you own or direct a company, this is a proven strategy to generate new business opportunities and create jobs.

Generally, getting a GSA Schedule can be pretty straightforward. That is if you understand its rules and procedures and the pages of acquisition regulations that underlie the Contract. Next, we will look at some of the requirements and restrictions that GSA imposes on businesses to help you understand what you can do and what makes sense for your organization.

We hope that this will help allay your concerns about getting a Schedule and will encourage you to take the next step and investigate the rewarding possibilities of such a contract for your firm.

Written by: Gustav Plato

iiGrowth is rolling out its Business Value Navigator Service Line. We have listened to the voices of many business executives in recent weeks.  The questions, comments and concerns are very similar.

  • How bad will it get?
  • What should we be doing?
  • How should we manage our risks and investments?
  • Where can we get into trouble/where are we exposed?
  • How can we beat this thing?

iiGrowth has assembled a cadre of seasoned executives and business partners to help address these questions of how to navigate a downturn.  We have identified key areas that you must look at, in order to not only survive the financial crisis, but to also use it as a catalyst for accelerating your path towards being a great and highly profitable company.  The key areas that we will help you examine include the following:

  • Business Strategy & Leadership
  • Customer/Stakeholder Management
  • Financial, Investment, and Risk Strategy
  • Operational Innovation (Information Technology Leverage, Lean Processes)

iiGrowth’s experienced team will come in and rapidly triage any critical areas, augment the triage with a long term blueprint that sets forth objective and reachable targets, and an execution approach that achieves results in time-boxed 90-120 day cycles.  We tell you what you need to do in 4 months and we tell you what you will need to do next Monday.

Our approach is proven.  It will give you the foundation today to manage through this financial storm.  Don’t wait, too much is at stake.  In the coming days look for more details on our crisis management service line.

Gustav

CEO iiGrowth LLC

Written by: Gustav Plato

There has been an explosion in social networking. The growth has been fueled and driven by individuals and their desire to connect with one another. The “enterprise” in the public or private sector is just beginning to explore how business and professional networks could be used for competitive advantage. What are the greatest areas of opportunity? What role could/should the enterprise have? How could business networks enhance the enterprise’s human capital? Would this be different in public versus private sector?

Gustav Plato, CEO of iiGrowth, and Aldo Bello, Chief Creative Officer, of Mind and Media are engaging public and private sector new media thought leaders on these questions and many more in some of the leading social networks including Facebook (see posts in Partnership for Public Service and the Collaboration Project) and LinkedIn (Questions and Answers), as well as a social networking tool, Ning.

Join the discussion!  If you are interested in participating in the discussion please go to these forums, our blogs, or contact us directly.

Written by: Gustav Plato

Newseum (www.newseum.org), located in Washington DC, is not just a museum about news.  From the time you enter the facility, you are greeted by warm and friendly people, knowledgeable about the entire facility.  There are 6 floors of interactivity.  As someone who visited the Idea Factory a few years back while in San Francisco, I have understood that the ultimate customer service moments are about having a memorable experience.  The newseum, does just that, and more.

From the Berlin wall to the Annenberg Theater the facility mesmerizes you with history and it also spawns new ideas.  The 4-D film, entitled, Witness: A 4-D Time Travel Adventure, connects you with historic events ( Battle of Lexington, Nellie Bly investigating a women’s insane asylum and Edward R. Murrow broadcasting from World War II London)  in a way that you feel that you are there, inside the event, with not only holographic images all around you, but with wind blowing in your hair, and moving seats!  WOW!

The Newseum is located at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, N.W., Washington, DC.

Written by: Gustav Plato

Greenversations is a blog that can be found on EPA’s front page. It is written by EPA employees as well as guests who want to share their thoughts with EPA.
It is an enterprise wide blog. It is not considered official policy, nor does EPA verify the accuracy of the posts. Nevertheless, it is about the work the agency does, the interests of its employees, and shared interests with the public at large.

The blog covers a variety of relevant and interesting environmental issues. For example recent posts include the following:

  • The use of canvas (reusable) versus plastic (throwaway) bags with a link to where you can get canvas bags
  • A question that has been posted to find out if people use plastic water bottles and why?
  • An informational post about community involvement in environmental decision making
  • A question about what it would take to change your driving habits (this received a lot of comments – are you surprised?)

This blog certainly looks like a step in the right direction.  It could be even more powerful with a community type forum built around it.

Creating a community type forum raises the level of participation and citizen democracy to a higher level. The forum offers the venue to move from the discussion/awareness phase to the action/implementation phase. Forums, can include a variety of tools that offer the ability to bring together citizens and public officials to work on problems and achieve results.

Written by: Gustav Plato

It seems inevitable that social networking and new media will permeate government.  None of us can predict how, but there is a way to speed this up.

In order to accellerate the process government departments and agencies should look to enabling a hybrid networking strategy.  A hybrid strategy is one where leadership sets the strategic intent and direction, top-down,  for the use of new media and support of social networking to enable the mission of the department.  This includes allowing for a groundswell of grassroots efforts by encouraging this.

The other part of the hybrid approach is for individuals to drive the participation (encouraged by the leadership) from a bottom-up perspective.  Hundreds or thousands of grass roots initiatives can be formed by individuals at all levels of government.  People who are interested in global warming, or health care, or technology can easily form social neworks on platforms such as Ning, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  These networks can use a variety of communications tools such as WIKIs, Blogs, instant messaging, etc. to enable and foster communications.  They already do and the numbers are growing.  Here a a few examples.

  • NAPA for example along with Mind and Media have created a site for collaboration (www.collaborationproject.org).
  • For example in the intelligence community, Intelink, includes document storage, bookmarking, photo sharing, instant messaging, video sharing, wiki (Intellipedia) and email all operating inside a secure fireweall.
  • LacCarling.ca is a social networking platform for government and industry to work together to communicate and advance the government’s service delivery. It has both a public and private view.

The point is that we do not need to micro-architect the outcomes, but allow for certain conditions and encourage certain behaviours.
Over the coming months, iiGrowth will look for examples of social networks and new media in government.  If you come across this blog, post what you have seen on the growth of collaborative government.

Written by: Gustav Plato

IBM is rapidly moving into the collaborative Web 2.0 world.  IBM has already been active in using customer facing Web 2.0 technologies to enable its customer facing business as shown in its Virtual Business Center housed in the 2nd Life Virtual World.  It has also announced building its own virtual world, called Metaverse, in several news articles including eWeek, Information Week, and ZDNET.  These articles also address “Bluepedia” which is IBM’s internal Wiki.

At IBM the Web 2.0 world is fostering an environment that promotes communication and information exchange within IBM.  As a former IBMer (from the late 90s to the early 00s under CEO Lou Gerstner) one of the more attractive elements of working there was our use of technology to simplify the back office operations (accounting, human resources, supply chain) so that we could focus on our clients and service delivery.   At the time, although we were hoteling, and attempting to work in a distributed environment, the social aspects of being an IBM employee were a challenge.  That is now changing.

IBM leadership, many of whom were there, back in the day, have recognized the benefits of social networking as applied to internal business environments.  Keep watching large innovative companies as you look for examples for how to enable your own emerging business.   Figuring out how to apply these Web 2.0 technologies to your own business, and business culture, cost effectively, will enable your firm to innovate and execute.

Written by: Gustav Plato

Are you behind the curve?

Network-centric innovation is one is one of the fastest moving business model disrupters in many years. What we are seeing is that the world’s largest firms, like IBM and Proctor and Gamble (P&G), as well as emerging and medium sized firms, are moving away from purely internally driven innovation. They are accelerating their efforts in forging new business models by expanding their use of external partners (individuals or companies). They are “plugging in to the network



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