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Trends to look out for in 2019

Trends to look out for in 2019

What will the year ahead bring for you and your business?

What developments will we see in the business landscape over the next 12 months? We asked some of our faculty to look ahead and, well, there’s good news and bad… On the plus side: exciting new opportunities to do things differently and get results. Better stop reading now, though, if you’re hoping for quick fixes.

1. Companies will own less
Tammy Erickson, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour

2019 will be the year in which we’ll begin to see companies step up to the “own less” reality: identifying resources (functions, facilities, people) it makes sense to “own” and embracing a variety of flexible arrangements for others (rent, contract, share).

Notice the rapid growth of companies that rent ever-changing wardrobes, allowing customers to have exactly the clothing they need for this week’s activities. Or the number of teens and twenty somethings who are not learning to drive, content to rely on just-as-needed transport options. Watch how young people arrange to meet – not through pre-established commitments, but rather through real-time coordination, based on immediate need and convenient availability.

These behaviours make sense. Economists, beginning with Ronald Coase in the 1930s, predicted that as communication costs fell, we would own less. Today it’s easy – and virtually free – to get what you want, when and where you need it.

Smart companies will continue to own or employ full-time certain categories of resources: those that are extremely scarce, to ensure availability; those that are highly strategic, to prevent availability to others. I would also argue in favour of holding tight to the humans who perform roles that will be least likely to be taken on by technology: those who form relationships and make tacit, values-based judgements. 

But there are other categories of resources, both physical and human, that companies should begin to access in new and creative ways, leveraging today’s technology: fungible resources – particularly if demand fluctuates and if qualifications are easy to verify and, most importantly, resources for which future demand is difficult to predict and where greater optionality would have high value. 

Just as the 1980s was the decade of process redesign as businesses leveraged the power of computers, the 2020s will be the decade of enterprise or business model reconstruction, leveraging the power of digital and related technologies. Smart companies will get a head start in 2019. 

2. Performance management will give way to performance leadership
Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour

In 2019, leaders will start thinking more about performance leadership systems instead of performance management systems.

The goal of management is to relieve uncertainty by making processes more predictable and efficient. Performance management systems focus on hitting quarterly targets and following known processes, so that promises and regulations are met. Achieving these results is really good, until you end up efficiently producing what customers don’t want any more. Think Kodak, Blackberry, Nokia, Sears, Borders. The goal of a leader is to help an organisation stay effective and competitive. Leaders need to balance something that doesn’t want to be balanced. Efficiently meeting promises to customers and regulators makes it hard to experiment and learn. But short-term results are in vain if they can’t help keep the organisation relevant to the future. As one leader told me: “We need to be able to work on the plane while it is flying.” 

There are two good reasons why leaders will become increasingly wary of performance management systems in 2019. First, they are usually focused on the past, not the future. Focusing on high-quality cellphone reception might work until competitors offer internet access and music capabilities on cellphones. Aiming for more and more efficient performance today is a great way to go out of business in five years. Second, measuring results means that you are not rewarding learning. When you focus on outcomes and achievement, what you lose is experimenting with new approaches. If we want people to innovate, stop rewarding good results based on bad processes and start rewarding experimentation even if the results are bad.

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“In 2019, organisations will continue to experience greater complexity and ambiguity, fuelled by the growth of nationalism, divisive politics and reverse globalisation.”

Performance leadership is when each employee understands and feels responsible for working on the airplane while flying it. Helping to meet current promises while helping the organisation adapt and learn about the future. Performance leadership encourages teams to work together to solve problems and stay market competitive, rather than individual employees trying to look good and compete with each other. Performance leadership is when an employee understands that her job is to find ways to do her job even better, and brings her unique talents, passions and interests to the work. 

3. AI will remain top-of-mind
Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Deputy Dean 

Every year brings another tech trend. 2016 was all about big data, 2017 was blockchain, and 2018 was the year AI hit the mainstream management press. 

So what comes after AI? My hunch is it will continue to stay top-of-mind among businesspeople for another few years yet. But rather than focusing on the potential benefits of artificial intelligence, we will see a complementary narrative take shape about the unique qualities of human intelligence. 

John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, authors of the 1982 guide Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, said: “Whenever a new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response… We must learn to balance the material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of our human nature.” 

The AI debate is already turning to these questions. What is left for humans to do when the computers take on more of our traditional jobs? What is the point of having firms for coordinating activities when technology can make coordination happen seamlessly and instantaneously? And what are the risks we create – for society – when we use algorithms rather than human judgment to make business decisions? These are important questions, but we have incomplete answers to them. Expect the debate in these areas to intensify in the next year or two. 

4. Data science will be democratised 
Nicos Savva, Associate Professor of Management Science and Operations 

Few pundits would disagree that data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence offer a paradigm shift from reactive, approximate and slow decision making to proactive, precise, and fast decisions. With few exceptions, these tools have been the prerogative of technology firms born in the digital era (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber) or incumbents with substantial scale (Walmart, P&G, Marriott). 2019 is going to be the year where data science will revolutionise non digital SMEs (manufacturers, hospitals, traditional media and more).

“This coming year is likely to be full of uncertainty – due to events ranging from Brexit to the US-China trade tensions to EU reforms.”

Three factors are converging to make this happen. First, cloud computing is delivering substantial amounts of computational power to anyone that needs it — power that was only available at a huge upfront cost is now available at a small variable cost. Second, new tools have made it easier to collect, analyse and use data — you no longer need a PhD in data science to be able to meet the data science needs of an SME. Third, human capital is becoming more sophisticated. The emergence of data science masters and data-science-focused MBA programmes is producing analysts and managers who have the skill sets and the imagination to make data science work at smaller scale. 

What are the implications of the new wave of data science? In the short term, more customer choice, better products/service customisation and lower costs. In the longer term, new and highly successful business models that would not have been possible without data science (e.g. AI-driven medical consultations or self-driving fleets of taxis). But as more decisions are delegated to automated data-driven systems, we need to worry about social implications — white-collar employment, data security and privacy, and algorithmic bias/discrimination will come to the forefront of public debate, as they should. With every new technology, there will be risks, and data science is no different. 

5. Political and economic uncertainty will continue
Linda Yueh, Adjunct Professor of Economics

This coming year is likely to be full of uncertainty – due to events ranging from Brexit to the US-China trade tensions to EU reforms. And it’s coming at a vulnerable stage in the business cycle where half of US Chief Financial Officers are expecting a recession in 2019 and over 80% of CFOs expect it by 2020. Starting in the UK, there is considerable uncertainty about whether Parliament will pass the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, now scheduled for a vote during the week of January 14th. 

The EU has indicated that they would be open to extending the departure date by three months, but that hasn’t precluded the Cabinet from stepping up “no deal” preparations to ensure the UK can trade on WTO terms at the end of the first quarter of 2019. 

As if that wasn’t enough uncertainty, the first quarter of the year will also see the US and China aim to agree a trade deal or see 25% tariffs on all Chinese imports into the US and likely retaliation by China. The stakes are high. Can the US and China negotiate a trade agreement in three months? In one sense, a deal can be done fairly quickly if China opens up its market, particularly for services, as that should increase American exports since the US is the world’s largest exporter of services. 

And there is uncertainty in the EU as well. Italy seems to have softened its stance around its budget deficit while France looks to be running afoul of EU budget rules after granting concessions to defuse the “yellow vest” protests. In addition, President Macron’s proposed EU reforms to create a central fiscal authority have stalled. So, where EU reforms are headed looks uncertain. 

All of this uncertainty is coming at a time when the business cycle looks to have passed its peak. That’s the consensus for the US where economic growth likely peaked in the middle of 2018. And we tend to fall within the same business cycle. So, if the above uncertain geo-economic events affect the economy, it may worsen the cyclical slowdown. 

Therefore, brace for uncertainty in 2019. It’s likely to be a volatile start to the year. 

6. Complexity will throw up new opportunities
Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour 

In 2019, organisations will continue to experience greater complexity and ambiguity, fuelled by the growth of nationalism, divisive politics and reverse globalisation. My current work with CEOs shows that they are less clear about what to do than ever before. We will continue to see firms with a track record of success struggling if they are unable to evolve. 

Themes such as agility, the emergence of millennials into managerial positions and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain will make traditional command-and-control styles of management increasingly problematic. But, while things will get more challenging, the opportunities are going to be greater – whilst there will be losers, there will be winners. 

So what will differentiate these winners? Less and less is it having the right strategy. Many organisations that fail have the right strategy – they just can’t get it to happen. The role of leaders is increasingly to create an empowering context. 

When things are so complicated, one of the toughest challenges is building and retaining confidence. Some organisations bounce between over- and under-confidence. The great ones, whether mature or early stage, are able to retain the middle ground of the confidence spectrum. 

What does this middle ground look like? Confident organisations have a well-articulated, compelling purpose; senior managers who role-model the behaviours they want from others; effective communication about what specific behaviours are needed to achieve the firm’s ambitions; a culture of psychological safety where people support each other, balanced with healthy challenge and feedback. They have a resilient attitude where “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”; people spend their time on their key priorities, rather than being lost in emails and inefficient meetings; and an environment where everyone feels that they can contribute.

Source : London Business School

Transformation-The Head, Heart, and Hands

Transformation-The Head, Heart, and Hands

It is rare these days, as digital transformation sweeps the business landscape, to meet a business leader who hasn’t either recently led or been part of a transformation. Once a one-off event in response to an urgent need—a dire competitive threat, sagging performance, an overdue process overhaul, or a post-merger integration—transformation is now the new normal. In fact, it has become so commonplace that we have dubbed this the era of “always-on” transformation. 

Yet from experience we know that transformation continues to be very difficult, and the evidence shows that it often fails or falls short of expectations. Moreover, it can exact an enormous toll on leaders and employees, who are constantly being asked to step up, reach further, move faster, and adapt to change, with no end in sight. For leaders and employees alike, it’s less a marathon and more a triathlon; no sooner does one leg finish than another is under way, giving participants no chance to catch their breath before giving their all once again. Still, many organizations overcome the odds; some even achieve lasting results. How do these companies succeed where others fail?

A REIMAGINED APPROACH TO TRANSFORMATION

While there is no one-size-fits-all method, our extensive client work, along with our study of more than 100 companies that have undergone transformations (three or more for 85% of them), points to an approach that combines three interconnected elements. It involves thinking expansively and creatively about the future that the organization aspires to and focusing on the right strategic priorities to get there. It addresses the unrelenting, ever-shifting, ever-growing demands on employees by elevating the importance of actions that will inspire and empower people at all levels of the organization. And at a time of rapid change and disruption, it calls for more than just applying the appropriate means and tools to execute; it calls for companies to innovate while they execute—and do both with agility.

“Transformation in the new digital era requires a holistic, human-centric approach.”

In other words, transformation in the new digital era requires a holistic, human-centric approach, one we call the Head, Heart, and Hands of Transformation. The heart has received the least consideration, but it is attention to all three elements that enables organizations to succeed today and thrive tomorrow.

THREE CHALLENGES IN THE ALWAYS-ON ERA

Transformation today takes place from a variety of starting positions. Some organizations need to move quickly to improve the bottom line. Others enjoy respectable performance but lack a clear path to enduring success. Many companies are simply in need of rejuvenation, ready to imagine a new destiny and perhaps even to increase their contribution to society.

Transforming not merely to survive but to thrive entails addressing three broad challenges, crystallized in these questions:

  • How do we create our vision for the future and identify the priorities to get there? Many companies face an even bigger challenge than overcoming short-term performance pressures: How to reconcile multiple strategic options to envision a different future amid shifting customer needs, evolving technologies, and increasing competition. 
  • How do we inspire and empower people? The relentless pace of always-on transformation can demoralize even the most engaged employees. Sustaining it while offering employees meaningful opportunity and fulfillment—intrinsic rewards that millennials and “digital natives” seek—adds substantial complexity to the challenge.
  • How do we execute amid constant change? Changing the business once meant executing from a playbook of primarily short-term, discrete actions. But transforming to thrive in the future often requires disrupting existing business models and value chains to solve customer needs—and doing so at digital speed. Today, when changing the business means simultaneously executing and innovating with agility, a conventional approach to execution is no longer enough.

Taken together, these three challenges can seem overwhelming. But they need not be.

Consider Microsoft. In February 2014, when Satya Nadella took the helm, the company was by no means broken, yet there were strong headwinds: Windows’ market share had declined, Microsoft had missed the mobile wave, and competitors—and customers—were moving aggressively to the cloud. The company’s inhospitable culture was depicted in a now-famous meme showing managers in different corners of the organization chart shooting guns at one another.

Since then, Microsoft’s performance hasn’t just improved; it has flourished. Revenues (particularly cloud-based revenues) have soared, the company’s stock price has more than tripled, market capitalization is approaching $1 trillion, and annualized TSR, at 26.5%, is twice that of the S&P 500. Perhaps most important, the company now boasts a visibly new culture of cooperation and a renewed commitment to innovation.

“Microsoft’s wholesale transformation has been the result not of a single move but of many changes orchestrated in parallel”

Microsoft’s wholesale transformation has been the result not of a single move but of many changes orchestrated in parallel that have touched every part of the organization. Nadella honed a mobile-first, cloud-first vision, aligning leaders around it and shifting resources toward the relevant businesses to accelerate innovation. In other words, he addressed the head of transformation. He articulated a new purpose—“to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more”—and fostered a new culture and leadership model, thus tending to the heart of transformation. He also unleashed new ways of working that have not only enabled execution but also have spurred innovation and agility; that is, he equipped the hands of transformation.

Microsoft’s transformation has reinvigorated a maturing company, positioning it to define and embrace its future with the strength and agility needed to thrive in a fast-changing, tumultuous business landscape.

THE POWER OF HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS

What actions constitute this fresh take on transformation? And what sets it apart from more traditional approaches?

  • The Head: Envision the future and focus on the big rocks. In the digital era, constant change makes it harder to commit to a view of the future; yet providing direction to the organization remains essential. That means companies and their leaders must draw on their strategic thinking, their imagination, their knowledge of customer needs and desires, and their pool of expertise, experience, and wisdom to forge an aspirational vision of a digitally enabled, growth-oriented future. They set priorities, focusing on the “big rocks” that will deliver results and create enduring value.1 They secure the alignment and commitment of the leadership team. And they establish and communicate a compelling case for change, internally and externally. In the past, these actions might have been one-and-done moves, distinct from the daily rhythms of business. But today, because the environment is constantly shifting and these strategic actions generally affect the whole enterprise, they must be revisited and updated on an ongoing basis (ideally, annually) and be integrated into the operating model of the organization.
  • The Heart: Inspire and empower your people. When transformations were viewed as one-off, short-term programs, inspiring and empowering people wasn’t seen as being essential to them; in fact, people were often treated as a means to an end or, worse, as collateral damage. But successful transformation today depends on people who are engaged and motivated to go above and beyond. Organizations can create this condition through a set of heart “practices.” What does this mean? Leaders invest time and energy in articulating, activating, and embedding the organization’s purpose. Companies create an empowering culture, shaped by leaders, that allows people to do their best work. They also demonstrate care for those whose lives are disrupted by the change—not only departing employees but those who remain to carry out the new vision. Finally, senior managers exercise a more holistic form of leadership: they clarify and navigate, they include and empower, and they delegate and enable their people and teams.
  • The Hands: Execute and innovate with agility. Executing a prescribed set of actions used to be enough to generate short-term bottom-line improvements. In this new era, when the future is unclear and the present is constantly changing, organizations need to innovate as they execute, and do both with agility. Consider this: Rather than delegate responsibility for execution to a transformation program owner (who occasionally updates leaders), companies give joint ownership of the ongoing transformation agenda to senior leaders. They ensure disciplined execution by equipping teams with the resources they need to make sound, prompt decisions. Companies also apply innovative methods and digital tools, and institute agile ways of working, to accelerate output, remove impediments, and enable end-to-end focus on the customer. Whereas building organizational capabilities was often an afterthought, today companies build capabilities while carrying out the transformation.

The head, heart, and hands approach to transformation is most powerful when each element is fully deployed. For this reason, the three elements should not be viewed as sequential actions but as three vital sets of activities that should happen in parallel—a holistic system.

Evidence of the impact of this approach is striking. In our study, which included in-depth interviews of leaders involved in these efforts, we asked whether the companies had addressed the actions consistent with the three elements. We then correlated the response with their subsequent performance. Ninety-six percent of the companies that fully engaged the three elements achieved sustained performance improvement, a rate nearly three times that of companies that did not engage the elements. (See Exhibit 1.)

When we asked survey respondents about the relative attention given to each of the three elements during transformation, the head consistently got the highest rating, followed by the hands. The heart came last. (See Exhibit 2.)

It’s thus only fitting that the heart—as the metaphorical center and source of inspiration and power—is at the center of this holistic approach.

THE HEART OF TRANSFORMATION: INSPIRE AND EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE

People—individuals and teams—are the lifeblood of successful transformation. Transformation requires their effort, engagement, alignment, and willingness to go the extra mile. But in practice, the importance of people in transformation is often neglected; people often end up being treated as expedient or even dispensable. In the always-on era, the consequences of this neglect can be great, as people grow exhausted from keeping up with the latest technologies and adapting to relentless change.

Successful transformation takes heart. The heart serves as an apt metaphor, capturing the essence of the vital, life-giving source of power that people need to effect change.

So how can organizations develop a strong, healthy heart to inspire and empower people? In the context of transformation, we see four imperatives. Each of them, like the atria and ventricles of the heart, works in concert to perform the heart’s complete job: empowering and enabling people to give life to the transformation. (See “Healthy Heart, Strong Performance.”)

HEALTHY HEART, STRONG PERFORMANCE

Activate and Embed Purpose

Increasingly, employees seek much more than a paycheck or tangible rewards; they want meaning, connection, and joy. They want to contribute, develop, and achieve. Organizations with purpose tap into these needs, producing a virtuous circle of benefits.

“In the always-on era, purpose is more important than ever.”

Purpose is an organization’s “why”—its existential reason for being. In the always-on era, it is more important than ever; it fuels transformation by fostering an emotional connection that inspires greater commitment and the willingness to go the extra mile. Purpose illuminates a direction as it links various transformation efforts in a way that is logical and accessible to everyone. But it can do so only when the organization translates it effectively into action.

Create an Empowering Culture

Culture is the lifeblood of the organization. It comprises a clear articulation of the values and behaviors that define how things get done in an organization. Activated by leaders, culture is reinforced by the organizational environment, or context, through such levers as customer service rituals, performance management systems, and informal interactions. A healthy culture serves as a tacit code of conduct that steers individuals to make choices that advance the organization’s goals and strategy. In the digital era, when self-direction and team autonomy are emphasized, a strong culture is particularly important.

Demonstrate Care

Layoffs, redeployments, and reskilling are inevitable today. Even healthy companies will likely have to restructure their workforce to add talent—in particular, people with digital skills and experience that align more closely with the business’s future needs. Such workforce turbulence can be traumatic not only for those who are laid off but also for those who remain. If left unattended, it can undermine morale and progress. At the very least, transformation can dampen engagement and disrupt employee cohesion, and it almost always puts extra demands on people.

For all these reasons, leaders must demonstrate care, compassion, and empathy—and not just through their words. For example, it is critical that leaders continue to solicit the input of employees who remain (say, through pulse checks or broader two-way communications) and actively, visibly address their concerns. To help employees who are leaving, companies can offer a battery of program options beyond the standard outplacement services, such as coaches to help individuals create a personal roadmap, job-market information sessions, resources for financial advice, and even guidance on entrepreneurship.

Lead with the Head, Heart, and Hands

Nothing is more important to the success of transformation than leaders. While they play many roles, leaders embody the heart of transformation.

Leaders clarify and navigate the way forward. Beyond envisioning the future and revisiting strategic priorities regularly, leaders provide constant guidance to their reports and unit heads and ensure that priorities remain linked to purpose. They are action oriented; they set clear accountabilities; and they work tirelessly to communicate a compelling case for change internally and externally.         

Leaders are inspiring, empowering, and inclusive. Leaders instill confidence and courage, and motivate and inspire people to perform. They strengthen and encourage teams and support cross-organization collaboration. They demonstrate care and empathy, actively and candidly communicate with their people, and exercise inclusiveness.

Leaders delegate and enable agile teams. Leaders delegate responsibilities to autonomous agile teams, remove obstacles, and ensure all the necessary cross-functional resources are in place. They also support capabilities building, both human and digital.

EMBRACING THE HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS OF TRANSFORMATION

In the digital era, transformation has become the default state for most organizations. But always-on transformation needn’t be debilitating, exhausting, or demoralizing. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, and society itself to boldly transform the approach we take to transformation.

Leaders need to move beyond short-term fixes to envision a compelling future, and focus on the big rocks required to get there. They need to stop treating people as a means to an end or, worse, as collateral damage, and instead inspire and empower them. They need to change how work gets done, moving from the expedient and prescribed set of actions to an approach that enables execution and innovation to occur simultaneously, with agility.

The head, heart, and hands of transformation is not a panacea, but it is a holistic and human-centric approach that is proven to enable organizations that truly embrace it to succeed today and thrive tomorrow.

Source : BCG.com

Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

This technique can help managers reduce attrition costs.

The future of human resources is changing. Like the rest of the business world, chief human resource officers (CHROs) and their teams are beginning to find that they need to focus on building a robust analytics capability to best prepare for the data-driven world.

“CHROs have said that they feel [pressured] as the only ones not bringing data to the table. The business is expecting HR to have similar numbers to marketing, though maybe not finance or operations,” observed Andrew Marritt, CEO of OrganizationView, a people analytics practice based in St Moritz, Switzerland. According to Marritt, the data-centric modern HR leader needs to know not only what has happened, but what is likely to happen.

A key HR concern for businesses is employee retention. There are significant financial and intangible costs associated with losing loyal and high-performing employees. Investments need to be made to find, hire, and train their replacements. There could also be a negative impact on the stakeholders they worked with regularly such as suppliers, colleagues, and customers. Some companies are starting to look to predictive analytics to increase their ability to mitigate the risk of employee turnover and increase retention.

Investment in building a people analytics capability need not be big at first, and businesses can benefit greatly from it. “Our research shows that the financial costs associated with attrition can range anywhere between 13% and 23% of annual compensation depending on the function/level of the employees under the scope of the study. In our experience, a focused attrition analytics predictive model can help lower this risk by 5% to 8% annually,” said Neeraj Tandon, director for workforce analytics and planning, Asia-Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson, in Gurgaon, India.

WHAT’S NEW

Traditional HR analytics are descriptive in nature and examine employee data across different dimensions such as department and demographics to identify past patterns within metrics like turnover and retention. Conclusions are then used to formulate talent policies. Descriptive analytics, however, cannot predict future outcomes at an individual employee level.

Predictive analytics does this by going a step further and using the evidence from descriptive analytics as inputs for advanced techniques like statistical modelling and machine learning. These methodologies provide forward-looking measures such as flight risk, which quantifies the likelihood of an employee’s leaving the organisation within a certain period of time.

Predictive analytics also identifies hidden connections between key factors contributing to employee turnover. The main predictor variables normally studied include pay, promotion, performance reviews, time spent at work, commute distance, and relationship with a manager. (See the chart, “Factors Contributing to Voluntary Turnover”, for a breakdown of key reasons for attrition at a sample organisation.) Organisations also use external data such as labour market indicators and the current economic scenario as causative variables while formulating hypotheses and building models for retention. HR teams and managers use the findings from the modelling to better design timely interventions to help retain employees.

Factors contributing to voluntary turnover

An ADP Research Institute white paper examined the factors leading to voluntary turnover at a sample company. The graphic below breaks down the reasons cited. By collecting and analysing the factors that contribute to turnover, companies can institute policies and procedures to address concerns.

In this example, management may want to focus its retention efforts on industry veterans who have not been with the company for very long or look at implementing more lenient telecommuting rules to ease attrition.

Source: ADP Research Institute white paper, Revelations From Workforce Turnover Study.

Deloitte estimates that about 8% of global businesses leverage predictive analytics for talent management, and the ones that do tend to be larger. According to Brian Kropp, group vice president at Gartner, organisations that develop this capability tend to be in sectors that are intellectual property dependent such as financial services, healthcare, and fast-moving consumer goods. Globally, businesses in all major economies are working towards acquiring this competence.

COST VERSUS BENEFITS

Organisations looking to develop competence in predictive analytics have several options. Consulting organisations offer expertise towards building this capability. For businesses looking to set up internal capabilities for smaller capital outlay, many choose to employ or train in-house data scientists who may turn to inexpensive software such as IBM SPSS or free open-source software known as R for their initial modelling.

External vendors that set up human capital management systems with predictive analytics capabilities are also available at different price points. However, experts warn that internal teams should make sure that the human capital management systems offered integrate with data systems within the organisation. The systems should not overpromise and underdeliver in terms of features and tools, and vendors should provide the guidance to use them insightfully.

DATA-BASED CHALLENGES

According to Bersin by Deloitte, an HR research organisation, setting up clean and accurate data streams is, and will remain, a challenge for people analytics. As the research indicates, most big organisations have five to seven systems of record for their human resources data. This means that information often used in predictive modelling is inaccurate or unavailable, a serious stumbling block.

“As statisticians, we do deploy multiple data treatments to improve the quality of data. However, often data on some important variable are incomplete, and as a result we ignore these variables. Some of these variables could be important to predict the outputs. Hence, it’s important that organisations continuously focus on data quality improvement,” Tandon said.

Companies should run specific data quality programs to make the data fit for modelling. These programs would be of greater effectiveness if they were directed at key variables that predict output variables such as attrition rather than across the entire dataset, he added.

BUILDING A GOOD MODEL

Besides clean, accurate data streams, a few further steps can be taken to ensure that predictive retention models are a robust tool for decision-making. For one, studying the workforce in clusters of employees with similar characteristics and reasons for leaving the organisation is essential for building models that lead to targeted and effective retention strategies, according to Tandon.

Model building also goes through multiple iterations to ensure it fits the data optimally, which includes choosing or eliminating causative variables scientifically, and testing the model on an existing dataset to gauge how accurately it predicts actual outcomes. With the acknowledgement that numbers do not tell the entire story, intuition is also factored into models. “There is a good reason people are intuitive; they have got experience,” explained Marritt on how this contributes to the model’s effectiveness.

However, a degree of inaccuracy is associated with predictive modelling, and this is where HR and managers play an important role. “Data should just be another voice at the table. Decisions have to be made by humans,” said Marritt, on how these tools can influence employees’ working lives. It is always better to roll up the data and use them at an aggregated level such as teams, rather than at an individual level, because the implications of making an incorrect decision are considerable, he added.

Last but not least, as with any new initiative, organisations must recognise that adequate coaching and oversight mechanisms should be in place to help users leverage the technique correctly and thoughtfully. According to Tandon, managers are being trained on the key objectives of developing attrition models and coached on how to use the information to prevent high-performing employees from leaving, without creating a bias against the identified individuals.

Central governing teams (often comprising business and HR team members) monitor and track interventions taken by line managers to reduce attrition risk for employees identified as a high flight risk. This also helps organisations bring some level of consistency in interventions to control attrition, Tandon added.

TARGETED APPROACHES

Once these checks and balances are in place, a data-driven approach that includes predictive analytics is seen to bring greater transparency and balance to decision-making. “There have been instances where decisions were made by those who were the most vocal. This will be harder in a world where data is needed to support decisions,” observed Marritt.

The key causative variables that emerge during modelling will also help organisations craft more effective retention strategies. If commute distance emerges as a major driver, for example, greater efforts can be directed towards options such as remote working. If a limited training budget is available, it can be used to provide inputs for those employee segments that have a high flight risk. While HR and managers have always designed these interventions, a forward-looking, rigorous technique enables them to direct time and money towards these efforts with greater precision and with greater confidence in the outcome.

Furthermore, finding unexpected patterns in the data can help design retention strategies that make strong business sense. Marritt’s team at OrganizationView, for instance, found that high work pressure was a key cause for attrition at a certain financial services organisation. However, it was more so for low to midlevel performers while top performers actually thrived under high pressure and were more likely to leave in its absence. Since high-performer attrition had a greater financial impact, the organisation focused on this rather than overall attrition.

THE NEAR HORIZON

Companies are experiencing a massive change in the data they have about customers, and the same change is coming to what they know about employees, according to Kropp. Organisations that figure this out and get there faster will retain a higher-quality workforce. It will be the single most successful differentiating factor on that front, and a must-have for businesses that cross a thousand employees, he added.

Over the last three years, Gartner has also seen a significant increase in the number of organisations that collect employee data in unconventional ways, such as social media activity, speed of keystrokes, mood recognition, email text and frequency, and wearable microphones. Organisations are attempting to understand employee behaviour and experience through these experiments, and some of them will be input into models, which will increasingly graduate from predicting flight risk and quality of hire, which are relatively easy to measure, to hard-to-define variables such as employee engagement and performance, Kropp said.

On the maturity front, while only a small percentage of organisations surveyed by Deloitte currently have the capability for people analytics, in a more recent survey 69% of businesses say they are integrating data to build a people analytics database. The analytics function will also grow into a multidisciplinary team that will solve business-critical problems to drive business results.

Source : FM UK

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

CFOs to participate on corporate boards is increasing.

Seventy-nine per cent of CFOs are experiencing increased demand for their expertise on corporate boards, according to an Ernst & Young survey of 800 global finance chiefs. CFO and Beyond: The Possibilities and Pathways Outside Finance communicated the results of the survey and a study of 347 companies worldwide with annual revenue over $5 billion.

Current or former CFOs make up 14% of board members of the companies studied, up from 8% in 2002. And 41% of audit committee chairs are current or former CFOs, up from 19% in 2002.

The desire on the part of CEOs to have finance professionals look beyond their functional silo to collaborate effectively on strategic decisions was revealed in the CGMA report Rebooting Business: Valuing the Human Dimension. Those same skills are sought by corporate boards, and CFOs are supplying them.

Jim Ladd, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president of finance and operations at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, estimated that he has served on about 18 boards during his career. His current board responsibilities include an audit committee role for a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, a lead independent director position with a privately owned company in Seattle, and participation on two not-for-profit boards.

He said finance executives can contribute a lot to boards.

“They’re generally sought out initially because of finance background and a knowledge of financial reporting and audit risks and that sort of thing,” Ladd said. “But CPAs have a broader background than that. And people discover that.”

Audit committee a good fit

Finance skills make CFOs ideal candidates for audit committee positions. In many jurisdictions, regulatory requirements demand that at least one audit committee member have financial expertise to keep abreast of evolving accounting standards, risks and regulations.

Public companies listed in the United States, for example, must disclose whether they have at least one financial expert independent of management on their audit committee. The United Kingdom’s Corporate Governance Code says a board should satisfy itself that at least one audit committee member has recent, relevant financial experience.

This can be a benefit and a frustration to CFOs. Eighty-one per cent of them say finance leaders are good choices for audit committee jobs because of their finance acumen. But CFOs want to make sure their skills in strategic development and other areas are recognised, too.

“Some of them can be a little insulted that the breadth of their experience as CFO is not necessarily recognised,” Gerard Dalbosco, an E&Y managing partner, said in the report.

Opportunity to branch out

Although CFOs already have busy jobs, about two-thirds of them reported that they have taken on, or would be willing to accept, more part-time, voluntary or non-executive roles. Twenty-seven per cent said they already have taken such a role, and 40% said they haven’t yet, but would be interested in doing so.

Scott Lampe, vice president and CFO of Hendrick Motorsports in North Carolina, serves on a few community and government boards and said he is willing to consider working on boards of companies that don’t have a lot of risk and are looking to grow organically. “I want to work with companies who share my philosophy about how a business should be run and what kind of contribution it can make in improving the communities is operates in,” Lampe said.

What do CFOs reap from serving on boards? Three-quarters of survey respondents said gaining general management or board level experience is a benefit. Other top benefits included gaining exposure to another company or industry (65%) and getting a different perspective on running an organisation (62%).

“You get to look beyond the purely financial and think more strategically about a different organisation,” Qatar Foundation CFO Faisal Al-Hajri said in the report. “You can also use these roles to play a broader role in society or the community.”

Serving on charitable and community service boards also gives CFOs an opportunity to give back to the community. Mick Armstrong, CPA, CGMA, recently agreed to serve as treasurer on the board of directors of the chamber of commerce in Meridian, Idaho, where he is employed as CFO of Micro 100 Tool Corp.

“We as a company are committed to the community and realise that just our business environment, the quality of life for our employees, all is wrapped up together,” Armstrong said. “So we choose to be involved in the community.”

Protection from liability

Ladd said a key question any potential board member should ask before considering a seat on a board is whether the organisation carries liability insurance for its directors and officers. He said risk exists even at not-for-profit organisations, so board members should make sure they are protected.

In addition, Ladd said, it is important to make sure you are working for an organisation that supports your involvement on an external board. And you need to have the time and energy to fulfil your board duties in addition to your regular job.

Armstrong, for example, said his duties as chamber of commerce treasurer are made easier by Micro 100’s recent hiring of an accounting manager with a public accounting background. As Armstrong moves toward more of an executive leadership role with his company, this distancing from Micro 100’s daily accounting activity also has helped him find more time – early in the morning, at lunchtime and on weekends – to devote to his board duties.

Ladd said he does a lot of his board work during evenings and weekends.

“I sometimes joke with my wife when I come home at night that I’m starting my second job,” Ladd said. “…But most of the meetings are during the day, so you do have to have an understanding employer. That puts some strain and requires extra time in your life. There is no doubt about that.”

Source :GCMA

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Organisations are building momentum for the use of Big Data by integrating data analytics into their strategy in small projects that deliver substantial results, according a new report.

Almost all respondents – 96% – said that analytics will become more important to their organisations in the next three years, according to a Deloitte report based on a mix of 100 online surveys and 35 interviews conducted with senior executives at 35 companies in North America, the UK and Asia.

Although analytics already is an important resource for many companies, analytical technology remains immature and data under-utilised, according to the report. Getting buy-in for further projects is essential, so analytics leaders are starting small.

“Projects that demonstrate analytics’ ability to improve competitive positioning help these initiatives gain traction across the enterprise,” Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s Global Analytics Leader Tim Phillipps wrote in the report.

Companies can prepare themselves to use analytics for competitive advantage, according to the report, by using the following strategies:

  • Acquire the right talent now. Talent for analytics and Big Data is in high demand. Talent shortages may become more of a barrier to analytics implementation as more companies use data to drive more processes and decisions.
  • Tie analytics to decision-making. Better data and analysis don’t necessarily result in better decisions. Specific initiatives to improve decision cultures and processes, along with changing the understanding and behaviours of front-line workers, lead to better decisions, the report says.
  • Apply analytics to marketing and customers. Finance operations are the most frequent area of analytics investment, with implementation by 79% of respondents. Marketing and sales groups, at 55%, are the second-most frequent analytics users, and the report says the best financial returns from analytics often come from marketing and customer-oriented applications.
  • Coordinate and align analytics. There is little consistency among companies with regard to who oversees analytics initiatives. Business units or division heads (23%), no single executive (20%), CFOs (18%) and CIOs (15%) were most commonly cited. More co-ordination may be needed to realise the full benefits of data throughout the organisation.
  • Create a long-term strategy for analytics. While current analytical processes are being implemented, a multi-year plan for the growth of analytical capabilities – linked to strategy development – will help organisations better use data over time, the report says.

TOP key concerns keeping directors up at night AND How board can address them

TOP key concerns keeping directors up at night AND How board can address them

Concerns on board members’ minds are similar across the globe, the surveys suggest. Here are the top four:

Managing cybersecurity. “In my opinion, and as reflected in the two surveys referenced, cybersecurity is an area of focus for most boards,” Pickering said.

New digital technologies and cybercrime were two of the three top concerns amongst respondents in the InterSearch survey. The PwC survey found that cybersecurity is top of mind for US directors, with 95% of respondents saying their board is preparing for cybersecurity incidents and two-thirds (67%) saying their board is receiving more reports on cybersecurity metrics. Among the tactics boards are using to address gaps are increasing cybersecurity budgets (57%), engaging third-party consultants or advisers (56%), and providing directors with additional education opportunities on cybersecurity (66%).

The PwC survey suggests that increasingly, directors want the entire board to oversee cybersecurity instead of allocating the responsibility to a smaller group, such as the audit committee. In 2017, half of directors said the audit committee was responsible for overseeing cybersecurity, but in 2018, that number fell to 43%. In 2018, more than a third (36%) said the full board has taken responsibility for cybersecurity, up from 30% last year.

In Pickering’s experience, cybersecurity has best been overseen by the risk committee. “It’s such a specialised area, we really need people who are involved in risk oversight on a more regular basis,” she said, adding that the full board gets regular reports and participates in drills. According to the survey, just 34% of directors said their companies had staged crisis management drills or simulations.

Refreshing the board. Serving as a director is more demanding than ever, said Pickering, who was appointed to her first board two decades ago. “It takes a lot of time. You have to stay informed, read the journals, and make sure you are on the leading edge of what’s coming down the pipe. I believe every director needs to be fully engaged.”

But not all directors are as engaged as colleagues expect, both surveys found. Just 10% of the respondents in the InterSearch survey thought the competencies of current board members matched the competencies needed for the future, and 32% suggested their boards needed alterations. Competencies respondents felt were needed more on the board were digitalisation and new technologies (24.3%), innovation (12.2%), and customer orientation (9.3%).

In the PwC survey, 45% of respondents said at least one board member should be replaced. Directors age 60 or under were also more likely to say a fellow director should be replaced (52%) compared with those age 61 or older (43%) who wanted to replace a colleague. Among their chief complaints about colleagues were directors overstepping their roles (18%), being reluctant to challenge management (16%), negatively impacting board dynamics with their interaction style (14%), and lacking the appropriate skills or expertise for their role (12%). At the bottom of the list, 10% of respondents said they thought advanced age had diminished a colleague’s performance, which ties into long-standing debates about mandatory retirement ages and director term limits.

According to the PwC survey, directors think both mandatory retirement ages (73%) and term limits (64%) are effective strategies for refreshing boards, but less effective than a leadership focus on board refreshment, as well as assessments of the board, committees, and individuals.

PwC recommends annual assessments to identify directors whose expertise no longer aligns with the company’s needs. Less than one-third of respondents (31%) said their boards already use director assessments, but another 46% said they thought the board would be willing to adopt their use.

Avoiding corporate culture crises. Corporate culture is often thought of as the “tone at the top”, but according to the PwC survey, most directors think cultural problems can start both at the executive level (87%) and in middle management (79%). That’s why it’s important to offer employees at all levels opportunities to offer feedback, such as with an anonymous survey, Pickering said.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your employees these questions,” Pickering said. “You need to know if there’s a potential issue. It’s good for culture and the health of the company.”

More than 80% of respondents in the PwC survey said their companies have taken action to address culture concerns, many by enhancing employee training (60%) or improving whistle-blower programmes (42%). But some organisations still are missing the mark by using ineffective tools.

According to the PwC survey, 64% of directors said they evaluated company culture using their intuition or “gut feelings”, even though just 32% said this was a useful approach. Another 63% said they looked to employee turnover to get a read on work culture.

PwC recommends that boards review the quantitative and qualitative metrics the company may already measure to identify gaps and ensure organisational culture is a regular topic on the full board’s agenda. Even if elements that contribute to organisational culture, such as ethics or compensation, are broken off and discussed in committees, the full board should discuss concerns that arise as part of their broader oversight of culture.

Determining the value of diversity. “Gender diversity on boards is still not where it needs to be,” Rand said. “Increased diversity on boards should not be the result of a box ticking or a public relations exercise.”

Almost all directors (94%) in the PwC survey agreed that board diversity brings unique perspectives into their discussions, and 91% said their boards are taking steps to increase diversity on the board, which is a slight increase from last year. However, about half the directors surveyed also said they thought efforts to increase diversity on boards are driven by a desire for political correctness (52%) and that shareholders were too preoccupied with this issue (48%). About a third (30%) said diversity efforts result in boards nominating extraneous candidates, and 26% said diversity results in unqualified candidates being nominated.

In the InterSearch survey, 43% of respondents reported changes in board membership that had already taken place to make the boards more diverse — 67% were driven by the wish for greater gender diversity, 46% to promote greater diversity in competencies, and 25% to provide greater diversity in nationality.

“Being a female, I understand and appreciate diversity,” said Pickering, who was the sole woman on the board for Hancock Whitney Bank for years. “You want to have a diverse board; I believe it makes a huge difference in how boards operate.”

Among attributes, respondents in the PwC survey placed the most importance on gender diversity (46%) compared with racial and ethnic diversity (34%) and age diversity (21%).

PwC recommends that boards consider diversity whilst developing strategies for board refreshment. Boards often recruit new directors by relying on recommendations from current ones, which limits results. The firm encourages boards to look more broadly and consider recommendations from investors rather than board members, and find candidates outside of the corporate world, such as those who have served in the military or worked in academia or at a not-for-profit.

To her board’s credit, Pickering said, it has added two female directors in the last two to three years, including one who was featured in Savoy magazine as one of the “2017 Power 300: Most Influential Black Corporate Directors”. “We partnered with a search firm and found great talent,” Pickering said.

 

What makes a CFO great

What makes a CFO great

A majority of finance leaders said they are increasingly expected to have digital know-how, use data analytics, and manage risks. They also have to deal more with shareholders and regulators than before, according to a global EY survey of more than 750 finance leaders.

Corporate finance leaders face four main challenges. Tackling them will allow CFOs to shape strategy and drive innovation necessary for sustainable growth, but it will also rapidly expand their role, EY research suggests.

Taking on the additional responsibilities is crucial to help develop and enable an overall strategy for the business, provide insights and analysis to the company’s executive management, ensure that business decisions are grounded in sound financial criteria, and represent progress on financial goals to external stakeholders, according to EY.

A great CFO is a partner to the CEO and in private his or her harshest critic when warranted, he said.

Digital know-how. To fulfil critical strategic priorities, 58% of the respondents said they need to better understand digital technologies and data analytics. Two technologies are shaping up to become particularly important for finance leaders to understand: Blockchain, which allows data to be exchanged with the help of a decentralised ledger, could transform corporate reporting. Robotics process automation promises to automate and reduce the cost of back-office processes.

Digital savvy is a priority across industry sectors, because it offers opportunities for growth – in new markets, through new products and delivery models, or by transforming existing products. Financial leaders who understand how their company can deliver on its digital strategy can co-ordinate and focus investments accordingly.

Digital issues to tackle include global tax implications for how goods and services are sold; where companies base their operations; robotics; and new competitors.

A good digital strategy helps a company figure out which technology provides the best return on investment and possibly other intangible benefits. “Not everything will work for your business.”

Data analytics. In the past decade, half of the finance leaders polled by EY have increased the amount of time they dedicate to advanced analytics to provide more insight to the CEO and senior management. Of the respondents in the 2016 survey, 57% said that being able to deliver the data and advanced analytics will be critical for the finance function.

“Using Big Data along with your own internal data makes your internal data even more powerful, and it provides context and connection to the marketplace,”.

For companies to turn these efforts into a long-term competitive advantage, data must become integral to the business strategy, and analytics delivery must match business requirements. To gain more value from analytics, business leaders should focus on training, easy-to-use tools for data users, and aligning incentives, rewards, and measurements.

Risk management. Two-thirds of financial leaders in large companies (more than $5 billion in annual revenue) and 54% of financial leaders in smaller companies said they believe risk management will be a key capability demanded of the finance function.

To play their part effectively, CFOs must think beyond prevention and identify strategic risks, bring up risks in strategic and business planning discussions, and take the time and resources to recruit talent in advanced analytical skills.

“By understanding the pain points of pivotal departments in your organisation,”, “you can look at a balanced level of risk that allows for creativity and mistakes in order to drive the best possible solutions and outcomes.”

Stakeholder scrutiny and regulation. Half of the financial leaders polled said they will have to improve their skills managing relationships with stakeholders, including investors and senior management; in emerging markets it was 59% of respondents.

Understanding what drives stakeholders, communicating proactively, and telling a consistent story about the business will be critical to strengthen stakeholder relationships.

Intense regulatory scrutiny requires CFOs to also work ever more closely with policymakers. Of the finance leaders polled, 71% said they will increasingly be responsible for the ethics of their company’s decision-making.

A great CFO “is a great communicator and is as comfortable talking to boards and investors as [he or she is talking to] a roomful of software engineers,”. “They are flexible and listen to ideas, commercially astute, and up to date with technologies.”

HOW TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES

To help identify and assess fresh strategic approaches and help their companies, EY considers these five areas as critical:

  • Support innovation and new business models. Collaborating with entrepreneurs and start-ups helps drive innovation and meet changing customer and emerging market needs. CFOs play a key role in building successful collaborations, including effective due diligence on potential partners, aligning incentives between partners, and establishing an effective governance model.
  • Develop and deliver agile strategy. Business strategies should adapt to changing competitive dynamics, differing customer needs, emerging technologies, and a changing regulatory environment. CFOs can develop and deliver these strategies, for example, by unlocking capital for new business opportunities.
  • Drive sustained, long-term growth. Identifying risks as early as possible, managing negative exposures, and seizing opportunities help companies adapt to uncertainties generated by market and regulatory volatility. CFOs can provide investment flexibility to seize growth opportunities, such as new products and services or entering new markets.
  • Inspire and lead the way with strong purpose and ethics. Articulating a business’s purpose and ethical stance motivates employees to meet new challenges. CFOs help embed purpose in the business by leading through example and by grounding it to performance measurements.
  • Support digital. Understanding the opportunities and risks allows companies to incorporate digital into their strategy and into the delivery of the strategy. CFOs can then help the business to deliver the right digital capability at scale, be it by striking a balance between near-term targets and long-term potential or by building the business case for significant technology investments.

Think finance is about to get more stressful – CFOs

Think finance is about to get more stressful – CFOs

Concerns about stress were widespread amongst executives in 13 countries, the survey suggests. In the UK, for example, 78% of CFOs predicted that finance jobs would get more demanding. The results were similar in countries such as Germany, Chile, and Singapore.

The vast majority of CFOs expect work for finance employees to become more stressful by 2020, according to a global survey Robert Half UK conducted with 1,800 respondents.

Despite the executives’ grim expectations, relatively few companies had taken action, according to Robert Half UK. Only 34% of respondents said that their departments regularly discussed health and wellness. About 53% allowed flexible work schedules, while 39% encouraged employees to give feedback to management.

Stress on the job is already prevalent amongst finance professionals. The looming deadlines, overlapping priorities, ever-recurring monthly close, quarterly financial statements, and tax time they face can even lead to sleeplessness, especially amongst younger employees.

5 TACTICS TO COUNTER STRESS

To counter the increase in stress, Robert Half suggests these tactics:

Take breaks. Short breaks can offer big health benefits. Set your alarm to force yourself to get up from your desk at regular intervals. Go on occasional head-clearing strolls, preferably outside. Stretch and do some light exercise. Refill your water bottle. Meet a co-worker in the break room for a snack and some chitchat.

True breaks are needed to fully recharge and recalibrate your approach to the job. Studies have shown that people are happier and more productive when they take time off. Having your feet in the sand but your fingers scrolling through your Outlook calendar is not “disconnecting”. If you truly lack the resources to take an extended break, schedule a few long weekends throughout the year or even a midweek day off here and there to relax and focus on yourself.

Never let conflicts fester. Given the amount of time you spend with your creative colleagues, you’re bound to bump heads from time to time. The problem comes when the tension is never addressed effectively. Try to nip problems in the bud. Stewing leads to stress, and you risk damaging your own career if you lack the ability to be seen as a team player.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried in projects, don’t suffer in silence. Your manager can’t help you if he or she is not aware of the problem. Before you set up a meeting, think of a few solutions you can suggest that would ease your pressure, such as offloading some of the work to a freelancer or adjusting deadlines.

Try some time management tactics.Identify your most critical and time-sensitive tasks, and then make a prioritised to-do list. If you frequently must dig for files buried underneath piles of sticky notes and lunch receipts, perhaps it’s time to clear the clutter and make a clean sweep. Be willing to tactfully say no sometimes. Also, protect your time by guarding against scope creep. If you’re a hard worker with a reputation for meeting deadlines and fulfilling obligations, don’t feel guilty about occasionally delegating or pushing back against unrealistic expectations or an unmanageable workload.

Practise mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being actively attentive to your situation and your mental and physical responses to it. A few intentional changes, such as mentally preparing for your day, running more mindful meetings, and actively practising stress management, can go a long way towards making the workplace experience less stressful.

Source : GCMA

The problem is the solution

The problem is the solution

The four-step process for better problem solving

If you strip any project down to its essence, you’ll find there are two fundamental tasks. The first is defining the problem that you’re trying to solve, and the second is actually setting out to solve it.

It sounds pretty intuitive, but I think that first step usually receives short shrift. In my experience, people are so geared up to get in there, roll up their sleeves, and come up with ideas, that they forget to really set the stage and understand why a client even needs their help in the first place. What is their marketplace situation like? How is their business performing? What are they setting out to achieve, and what’s getting in their way?

Asking yourself “What solution should I recommend?” is the worst first step. Before you can answer that question, you need to do four things.

1. DEFINING THE PROBLEM

All effective problem solving starts with effective problem defining. Too often, people jump right to solving without knowing exactly what they are solving. The big challenge here is figuring out how to separate the symptom from the disease. Many of us address the symptom only to find the solution to be a temporary fix.

A great way to uncover the root cause of any problem is to go through the “Five Whys” exercise. “Five Whys” is a technique that was developed by Toyota to identify manufacturing issues and solve them in the most effective and efficient way possible. The way you start is to articulate the problem you’re facing. In terms of corporate strategy, that’s typically a surface level issue like losing market share or declining sales. With the “Five Whys” technique, the goal is to ask “why” five times to help you dig deeper and deeper to uncover the root cause of the problem.

For instance, say you’re working with a local, downtown restaurant that has seen revenue decline. Ask yourself, “Why is revenue declining?” The answer might be that the average ticket is lower than it used to be. Why is that? Maybe because fewer tickets include an alcoholic beverage? Ask yourself why that is. Maybe it’s because traffic on Friday and Saturday nights is down, which is bringing overall alcohol sales down. Why is traffic down on Fridays and Saturdays? Perhaps it’s because the performing arts center around the corner recently closed down.

By going through the “Five Whys” exercise, you’re able to better define the problem. Rather than a food problem or a bar problem, what you might really need to fix is the entertainment problem.

2. REFRAMING THE PROBLEM

The next step is to create a few different reframes of the problem. Each reframe of the problem statement could lead to a number of potential solutions. The way we do this is by creating “How might we…” statements.

Going back to the restaurant example, a few reframes of the problem statement might be:

How might we get more people to add alcohol to weekday tickets (to counterbalance the dip in weekend sales)?

How might we get more people to spend a Saturday night downtown?

How might we get more happy hour visits from downtown professionals before they leave downtown for the weekend?

Sharp and varied reframe statements can help unlock some new, surprising solutions.

3. COMING UP WITH SOLUTIONS

These reframed problem statements are great fodder for a brainstorming process. Actually, in many situations we prefer brainwriting as opposed to brainstorming. Brainwriting is where a group of individuals is tasked with a problem to solve and each individual is required to think and ideate on their own.

You can do these brainwriting sessions in person with a group of people, or do them remotely and over the course of a few days. Simply asking team members to come up with three ideas for each “How might we…” statement can give you dozens of potential solutions to consider.

Remember, when it comes to new ideas, quantity is quality. The more ideas you generate, the more likely you are to have a few gems in the bunch.

4. EVALUATING OPTIONS

You can’t solve every problem or implement every solution. Resources and time are limited. To narrow in on the best opportunities, evaluate and score each potential solution for 1.) ease of implementation and 2.) its potential size of impact if implemented. This scoring can be done as a group or be the responsibility of a few key decision makers.

Sometimes it’s helpful to even map these out on a two-by-two matrix, with the ideas that are easiest and most impactful populating the top right quadrant.

Getting Bruno Mars to play a few sets at our restaurant every other Saturday might be impactful, but not all that easy to pull off. And a standing karaoke night might be easy to implement but perhaps not all that impactful. The goal is to identify the ideas that check both boxes, and then assign the appropriate resources to them.

Keep in mind, there isn’t a framework or methodology in the world that will get you the results you’re looking for if you’re solving for the wrong problem. Spend as much time (if not more) diagnosing the problem as solving it, and you’re well on your way to generating truly valuable solutions for your clients.

Source : GCMA

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

Customer experience

Digital transformation is on the minds of CFOs, who expect to invest more in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) that can transform their businesses by improving customer experience.

That’s according to a recent Grant Thornton report, which shows that 69% of CFOs and senior finance executives plan to increase investment in technologies that quicken business change. CFOs themselves will need to have more technical skills, and they are divided in how to improve their overall workforce’s financial and technical expertise.

“It’s really a question of who’s more visionary as a CFO in moving forward with their products and services and reaching their customers,” said Srikant Sastry, Grant Thornton’s national managing principal for advisory services.

IMPROVEMENT TIED TO DIGITAL INITIATIVES

Companies that have figured out a way to reach customers more effectively through digital advances are reaping benefits. In one notable increase, Costco saw its second-quarter 2018 e-commerce sales grow about 29% year-over-year, to $1.5 billion, CFO Richard Galanti told analysts and reporters on a recent earnings call.

Additionally, firms that embraced digital transformation averaged a 55% increase in gross margins over a three-year period, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School study. Companies that were slow to adapt generated lower margin growth on average (37%) during the same period.

Meanwhile, International Data Corporation estimates that, by 2019, enterprises will spend $1.7 trillion on digital transformation — a 42% increase compared with 2017.

A year ago, Sastry said CFOs likened strategising on digital transformation to gazing into a crystal ball. Now, he says they are trying to gain a clearer picture of what is inside the sphere.

Accordingly, CFOs are not necessarily seeking digital transformation to improve efficiencies in their IT systems. The goals now are to enhance the customer experience, grow the business, and outperform the competition, according to the Grant Thornton report.

CHANGING THE VIEW OF ANALYTICS

CFOs have recognised that they were not thinking enough about analytics. Consequently, 24% of respondents said their finance team is currently adopting advanced analytics, another 24% will do likewise over the next year, and an additional 25% plan to adopt advanced analytics within two years. But CFOs will have to adapt, too.

CFOs have traditionally been focused on operational performance, cost reduction, and business management, but now they want to drive strategy and clear a path to digital transformation by leveraging information and technology, Sastry said.

“They have to make sure that they have the right skillset and innovation to leverage advanced analytics,” he said. “So the crystal ball is still there, but I think they’re trying to clarify the fog in the ball.”

Forty-one per cent of respondents do not believe they have good financial metrics that show the return on IT investments. And only 12% strongly agree that they possess an effective system to measure financial performance tied to newly implemented technology.

The report points out tension between companies’ current need to invest in maintenance and system updates and their desire to allocate funds to new automation technologies, such as AI. Investment in AI is projected to increase significantly: Beyond the 7% who say they have already adopted AI, an additional 47% expect to adopt it over the course of five years. A similar number of CFO respondents expect implementation of innovations such as distributed-ledger technology (also known as blockchain), machine learning, robotic-process automation, and optical-character recognition within five years.

“Ostensibly, AI will help improve quality, improve accuracy, and streamline the number of people required to perform tasks,” Sastry said. “It’ll change the face of business, including financial management.”

The top IT challenges in the survey are:

  • Systems complexity, including enterprise-wide systems integration;
  • Upkeep of legacy systems; and
  • IT talent.

Regarding the talent challenge, most executives — 52% — would prefer to retrain existing staff. Twenty per cent want to recruit new, technically skilled employees, and 17% aim to outsource tech hiring.

In addition to being aware of AI concepts, Sastry said, CFOs will need to know how AI systems work and how they can improve the business through a better customer experience.

“Those skillsets have, historically, resided in the technology space,” he said. “They’ve resided in the IT shop and the CIO [chief information officer] function. So CFOs need to really embrace the technology portions of their business, or the CIOs.”

Source : FM