Thursday, 19 February 2015

Company Culture as a Competitive Advantage

Get more done and be happier at work

For a company to grow it needs firm foundations, and foundations in the business world are made of systems and culture.  Systems ensure things get done, and get done properly.  And culture ensures the company stays nimble in a competitive world.

Without a strong and positive culture, decisions are agonizingly slow, and disagreements are alarmingly frequent. 

Systems and culture are the two things that don’t get thought about as a company is struggling to survive and grow.  But at some point, both become very important.

But what is culture?  And does it really have an impact on the bottom line?  Culture is a combination of strategy and the choices that are made to implement that strategy.  For example, if strategy is to service a small number of high value clients, then culture is the choices that are made in implementing that strategy.  Culture is a corporate shorthand – “the way we do things here” – and when it works it means that everyone understands how to make good decisions.

Even something as seemingly vague as culture  must be measured.  Without measurement you don’t know whether you are actually creating the culture you want, or whether people are just paying lip service to the ideals.  Culture is only an asset to the business when it adds value day by day and customer by customer.

Once you can define what sort of culture you want in your business, lots of decisions start to get easier.  Building capabilities within the organisation is done in line with company culture.  Handling clients is done in line with company culture. 

Once good measurements are in place you can clearly see how things are progressing, and have an idea whether you are on target or not.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Digital Disruption

Throughout history innovation has changed lives for the better, whether the printing press or electricity, air travel or computers.  At each juncture the world got a little easier to live in; people, goods and information moved a little faster.

Today we can work as easily with someone in another country as the next room.  All because of one invention - the internet.

The Internet of Everything

Arguably, the internet is like no invention before.  The impact is just starting to be felt but not properly understood.  The digital world is one where new boys Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and eBay call the shots.  A world where books are so freely available we struggle to get rid of them, rather than prize them as we have for centuries.

From a world where it took some small amount of effort to buy goods and services, it now takes “one click” to have your latest whim satisfied.  From a time where rarities were genuinely rare, now they surface like rabbits and collected together to be viewed and compared, for anyone to haggle over the price.  Where choices were once limited, now they are endless.  Professionals and experts see their hard won knowledge made freely available by eager bloggers.  This is digital disruption on a global scale.

Digital Advertising

Nowhere has the internet’s impact been more obvious than the world of commerce.  Where once high streets were filled with busy shoppers, now retail units lay empty or taken over by coffee shops.  Famous and familiar retail brands have vanished, unable to change fast enough when faced with online competition.  Bank branches have closed, long since replaced by an app.  Drip by digital drip, our familiar towns and cities have changed.

While the high street has been opening coffee shops, eCommerce has been adopted by retailers major and minor.  High street names let you browse and buy online, whilst small niche players open ecommerce sites easily and cheaply.  What years ago was known as “mail order” is alive and thriving on the internet. 

But there is a difference; a big data difference. Direct marketing always provided more information than traditional retail, but the internet has increased that by an order of magnitude. You can now see how long customers spend looking at your products, whether they open your email, whether they mention you on Facebook, or complain about your customer service on Twitter.  It all adds up to a tidal wave of information that’s there for the taking. 

Marketing Data Indigestion

Arguably one of the greatest challenges for the marketing profession is to make sense of all this data.  To sift, sort and decide what matters and what doesn’t. To adapt from a data sparse world, to a data rich world.

Data warehouses, cubes and user-centric spreadsheets are replacing the “take it or leave it” static reports traditionally used by marketing people. This, surely, is where the commercial battles are being fought.  

A world where data is ubiquitous, ownership is no longer the competitive differentiator.  It’s how you use the data, and how you adapt to what it teaches you.