Prepare for meetings like a surgeon

Source: The Future Shapers // Author: Douglas Ferguson

Imagine. You are going in for surgery. Before you get put under by the anesthesiologist, you ask if the surgeon and team are good to go. The anesthesiologist says, “I think so, but I am not really sure. They will likely just wing it.”

Would you want your surgeon to just put together the plan for your operation a few minutes before? Or maybe just walk in and freestyle? Hell no! Yet so many of our meetings are run this way. A facilitator of magical meetings is analogous to a world-class surgeon. 

A surgeon first makes sure that surgery is necessary, and if it is, they ensure that: 1) Their surgery team understands the purpose of the surgery 2) The chosen procedure and tools needed for the operation 3) The protocols and safety measures to make sure nobody is distracted 4) Choose an efficient use of time with immense clarity in communication. 

A magician-like facilitator has the same preparation mindset with preparing their meetings.

Wait, We Actually Don’t Need a Meeting  

Just like surgery might not be necessary, you might not need a meeting. If there isn’t something to operate on, then there is no need for surgery. If you do not have a clear purpose for your meeting, then you don’t need to steal focus and momentum from all participants.

It is not obvious how quickly the cost of ineffective meetings compound. With a one hour meeting with eight executives or creatives, you aren’t just wasting one hour of the company. If you waste their time, you not only wasted the collective total of eight hours, but you took away potential for other strategies and creative work they could have been doing within that hour. And the terrible meeting interruption may ruin their deep workflow for the rest of the day; they might need an entire day to recover to get back to their flow state prior to the pointless meeting. A terribly planned meeting can also lead to unnecessary decision fatigue. So, it is important to be damn sure that you are going to have a meeting, just like a surgeon ensures that the surgery is necessary and well-thought-out.

We recommend creating your own meeting decision tree that is simple and shared across your organisation. Here is a short example. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there a clear purpose for gathering people to meet? 
  2. Is there an artifact/prototype to review? 
  3. Is there going to be an artifact /prototype that we create after workshopping in the meeting? 
  4. Is there going to be a series of decisions made that alter the direction of the project?
  5. Is this essentially a status update in disguise? 

If you answer yes on question #5, then your meeting is better off as an asynchronous email or a write-up in your company’s project management software. If you answer yes to any of (or combinations of) questions #1-4, then your meeting is likely worthy and it’s time to move forward with planning.

One easy way to take the magic immediately out of a meeting is to have a meeting that is just a status update. Think this through ahead of time before spending any more resources. If there isn’t a clear purpose and work to be done in the meeting, then it would be like going into surgery without having anything to fix. 

Another pro-tip is that once you answer your meeting decision tree questions, you can share the answers (Questions #1-4 for example) with all of the attendees of the meeting prior to the meeting and at the start of your meeting. Clarity is comfort and your attendees will understand why this meeting is necessary, and hopefully, they will look forward to contributing. 

Let’s Cancel In-Person, But Meet Virtually 

We are seeing the rise of tele-surgery. It is amazing really. Qualified surgeons are virtually controlling advanced robotic equipment to perform procedures across the world in a very different timezone. A surgeon specialist in North America can do a surgical procedure on someone in a remote area in South-East Asia. If there isn’t an expert locally to perform the task, we can bring them in via an internet connection. This is lovely because a specialist across the world can share their gift thanks to amazing software. For people planning surgerys, this is now a part of their consideration.

Again, this applies to our analogy of meetings thanks to breakthroughs in online workshopping tools. You can focus on the knowledge capture and less on the logistics in your decision making. 

Sometimes we can strategically cancel the meeting in person to get a better outcome by facilitating the meeting online instead. We do this often because of strategically working with timezones of ideal participants. 

Ask yourself: What is your outcome and purpose? Who are the ideal participants? Does it make more sense to meet in person or is it better for all desired participants to do a virtual workshop – is it less stressful for participants and can they save money on travel? What is your meeting trying to accomplish here, and is that better to do in-person, or can we best achieve it online? Those are the considerations of a magical meeting facilitator.

Logistics has kept a lot of amazing gatherings of diverse minds from happening because the facilitators didn’t consider that it would be better done online.

You would never fly someone from China to Austin have a two-hour workshop on Monday and another on Friday. Even if that was the perfect design for the content and the arc of decision making, it’s just too expensive. This is now possible because all of the logistics are different.

Once you embrace virtual facilitation more, you will realize there are some things you CAN’T do in person. 

We have found some silver-linings in embracing time zone differences for increasing diversity and outside thinking into working meetings.

Double It When You Go Virtual  

If you do decide to make your workshop or meeting virtual, you need to have twice the amount of preparation time and double your facilitator count. If you are the facilitator, you also need a minder to help you manage all of the online tools and attention. 

In a virtual meeting space, you need to invest extra time prepping the environment where each meeting participant will work alone.

Timing and attention are much different in a virtual meeting or workshop. Things take longer online because of the tools and getting everyone on board. You also have to make sure people are paying attention behind their screens. One of the best ways to do this is to stretch out the activities in a way that allows people to work asynchronously and have key moments of high-engagement, where the entire group is involved at the same time. The calendar for a multi-day workshop is much different when you go virtual. Rather than blocking off one big chunk of time for each day in your workshop, we think about the key deadline moments for all participants. We consider adding that on their calendar in addition to the moments where everyone will be on a video call at the same time. 

People are not in a room together where there is a natural state of accountability. So how do you replicate the social pressure virtually? We have had success with giving individual deadlines because it is impossible to guarantee that all participants have the same working environment. So you can standardise the accountability with deadlines to have things uploaded to MURAL or other online collaborative spaces. Then, have a sync video call to workshop all of the collective solo work.

You need to double the prep time for virtual meetings because you must spend way more energy in your virtual workspace prep.

You have to make the virtual workspace highly visible and filled with self-explanatory instructions. Pre-reading assignments are bullshit and nobody does them. Deliverables with social pressure work, i.e. each person logging on and sharing an inspirational image or concept. You have to make sure that they know what their deadlines and deliverables are. As a facilitator, you demo an example of the homework for everyone, field questions, and then let them go off and do their individual work. You don’t want to surprise anyone and embarrass them. Expect that they will not read your instructions in an email. Again, this is more prep time that you need to do ahead of time and you need another facilitator/minder to help you run it smoothly. Also, what happens if the internet connection drops and you are the only facilitator? Having another person there is a smart contingency plan.

It’s also important to set expectations and explain them to participants before the workshop so that the team understands what they are about to do. You have to prep your tools, your virtual environment, and make sure the participants are trained up. Participants need to understand the tools and the process, what is expected of them, what is going to happen, and why are they even doing this. 

Set The Protocols, Rid Distractions, and Set Meeting Safety  

Online or offline, you need to establish group rules, design boot-up time, and ban distractions. 

In a short pre-meeting message to participants or in your calendar invite, include the following boilerplate to make the meeting productive:

  • Introduction: Share why this meeting is happening (use your meeting decision tree answers above.)
  • Get people excited: Explain why this meeting is important and what participants will contribute and/or get out of it.
  • Outline the working session: Give people an overview of the narrative arc of the meeting. You don’t need to go into the schedule by the hour, but outline the major activities, boot-up time, break times, etc.
  • Set expectations: Let people know how you want them to behave (i.e one speaker at a time) and outline any ground rules. For in-person meetings, one of our default ground rules is to put away smartphones and to also give each person a clear personal working space. 

Invite Others That Can See What You Can’t See  

Invite people outside of the core project team to workshop with you. Once you have your meeting purpose set, you can consider the following question in your planning: Who has an opinion or perspective about this opportunity that you don’t? Rather than assume and brainstorm what a user or potential partner wants, invite them to the meeting to give the entire group an opportunity to empathize and see things they don’t see. Some of your best meetings could be co-creating with customers, other companies, experts, communities, and even internal teams that don’t normally create together. 

If you are going to invite outside attendees, it is important to also prepare a win-win, the co-creation begins by ensuring an outcome is jointly created and mutually valuable.

Ask the potential participant what they are hoping to achieve and understand regarding your project or company and make sure that this is baked into your meeting narrative.

We have also found that inviting outsiders increases the attention and enthusiasm of your team. Because who doesn’t like hosting and hearing a new fresh perspective?

Including outside opinion and thoughts can help make a compelling and meaningful meeting narrative. Don’t be limited to just the ideas within your usual walls.

Being a Meeting-room Architect  

The art of venue selection and arranging space changes up the meeting dynamics. While you plan your meeting, think about your purpose to decide where and how you should meet. Here are some examples:

  1. Are you hoping to have a straightforward deep dive into an important decision? Try making it a walking meeting.
  2. Looking to keep a prototype review short and sweet with only essential, constructive feedback? Make it a standing meeting.
  3. Leading a team to think about and sketch moonshot innovation ideas? Host your workshops at new locations to invite fresh modes of thinking and open-mindedness.
  4. Had a sudden need for a workshop on a pressing issue? Spin up a virtual whiteboard and get your group together quickly for a design jam. Drop-in pictures and other visual components to get them in the correct mindset.

Just like an architect thinks about the dance between form and function, you can do the same with your venue.

Center The Meaning With 9-Whys  

If you are ever struggling with justifying a meeting’s purpose, 9-Whys is a tried and true form of co-creation that helps you quickly reveal a compelling purpose and move forward with clarity. At worst, you will decide you shouldn’t have a meeting! Do this with stakeholders prior to the meeting. This way, when you kick it off, you will remind people of the deep purpose of holding the meeting and why the work matters. 

Below are examples of how to use the 9-Whys structure to identify a meeting’s purpose:

Why #1: Why are we prototyping a new product idea?

Example Answer: Because we need to innovate in the market.

Why #2: Why is that important for us to do?

Example Answer: Because our customers’ needs and preferences are changing.

Why #3: Why are their preferences changing?

Example Answer: Because with ecommerce and sustainability, they have a higher expectation on supply chain transparency.

And so on…

You would ask the “why” questions up to 9 times to get to a deeper understanding of why you are going to take the time to meet and capture room intelligence. If you are calling the meeting or are being asked to facilitate a meeting, this exercise is helpful to do beforehand. The answers to the questions can be a powerful way to start the meeting or workshop. It reminds the participants of a deeper purpose of why they are gathering and why they are needed to work on something meaningful.

Do not try to establish the why and purpose on the fly. Plan properly for the most meeting success.

Global Beehive Talk: Mathias Cöster

Source: Global Beehive // Author: Hans Gillior

Global Beehive Talk with Mathias Cöster – Researcher at Centre for Advanced Studies of Innovative Price models and Uppsala University. Listen to Mathias reflect on digitalization, business/pricing models and its effects on public service. Enjoy!


Source: The Future Shapers // Author: Richard Hames

As conspiracy theories circulate, churning around every conceivable deceit — from the origin of SARS-CoV-2, disinformation regarding mask-wearing, and the imposition of martial law, to the anti-vaxxer campaigns and supposed threat to public health from the 5G radiation spectrum — I am motivated to examine the more bizarre features of a world-system that appears to be hurtling headlong into murky chaos.

But first let me be clear about conspiracy theories — as distinct from a conspiracy, where there is evidence of collusion to perpetrate fraud. Given adequate analysis of the major elements, every conspiracy theory — apart from totally zany ones suggesting aliens or Illuminati rule the world — needs moments of truth in the story for it to become plausible. Where conspiracy theories fail to withstand scrutiny, it is not in the individual ingredients, but the intuitive leaps made between shards of half-truths. Typically, this involves mistaking correlations for causal links. It only takes someone with a tendency to see things that are not there, a phenomenon known as illusory pattern perception, for a conclusion, however farfetched, to be deemed credible.

These days we are having to deal with all manner of semi-plausible fictions — from fake news and spin to half-truths and propaganda — all fused into, yet distorting, moments of actuality.

Our inability to discern the truth of any situation stems primarily from algorithmically-curated content, unfettered opinions, online searches directing us to paid (inherently biased) content, manipulated videos, and prejudiced corporate media, that come tethered to a world-system narrative (worldview) and praxis.

While ancient civilizations, such as Aztec, Indic, Sinic, and Mayan, for example, clearly gave rise to well-defined worldviews, these became extinct or melded with each other over the course of generations, losing much of their uniqueness in the process. Risking gross over-simplification of a highly diverse phenomenon, I have long held a view that the world-system each of us experiences on a daily basis, with all its vitality, surprises, routines, tensions, and myriad stories urging us to buy, decide, exercise, study, join forces, love, compete, explore, work and play, now derives from just two distinct, occasionally intersecting worldviews whose main themes and imperatives are shared by most of the 7.7 billion people on our planet.

The first of these worldviews was shaped by Western cosmology, scientific realism, Cartesian logic, democracy, and the intellectual heritage of the Enlightenment. The second by East Asian cosmologies, a fusion of Taoism and Confucianism, authoritarianism, mercantilist policies, and ancient imperialist convictions. Attempts to advance the Western worldview in non-Western countries — initially from the missionary zeal of European powers who seized territory to exploit resources, and more recently by the efforts of the US to maintain a global hegemony at any cost, mostly backfired. Indeed, at least some of the antagonism against the West in countries like India and Indonesia, for example, is a vestige from colonial times.

Each worldview has its own notion of progress, as well as other rules, norms, institutions, and societal values. A complicating factor is that each narrative is interpreted differently by groups and individuals, based on a diversity of cultural mindsets, that are contingent on tribal or local allegiances, beliefs and practices.[1] However conflicting these interpretations appear to the casual observer, they are internally consistent for those who have allegiance to the worldview in question, and only trend towards incoherence for those adhering to the opposing narrative. We will return to the importance of these mindsets in due course.

While there has been both continuity and constancy in the East Asian worldview, particularly in its purer Hanzu cultural form, the Occidental tradition has been more receptive to developing disturbances. These, occasionally radical, intrusions were absorbed, thus extending the scope of the worldview, while eroding its appeal internationally. Meanwhile, China has painstakingly peddled its support for the established order, adopting liberal ideals if or when necessary for its continued expansion, while steadfastly growing its economic and political fidelities — most recently through the enormously ambitious Belt & Road initiative.

Two questions are relevant in terms of the accelerating collision between these worldviews:

  1. Will China’s desire for political and economic primacy eventually lead it to challenge the Western system that helped bring it success, or will it be content to patiently work within and alongside liberal institutions and practices in the pursuit of that ambition?
  2. How long can the US empire cling to global hegemony while it tortures journalists and whistleblowers, arms terrorists, wages endless wars, encircles the planet with hundreds of military bases, and bullies every nation on earth using military and economic force?

We can best answer these questions by delving more deeply into the role played by cultural mindsets. During the early stages of our evolution, there were many such cultural mindsets in existence. In Australia, for example, by the time of European settlement in 1788, it is estimated there were more than 200 different aboriginal languages spoken, as well as hundreds more dialects, in a population of around one million.

Both languages and groups of people were associated with expanses of land. It is thought the largest of these language-named, territorially-anchored groups, numbered around 500. Their members shared cultural qualities and interacted more with one another than with those from dissimilar groups. While language names were used by groups as cultural markers for one another, group identity was grounded in localized relationships. That said, the worldview of Aboriginal peoples tended to be expansive, with a perception of society as a community of mutual beliefs and behaviours reaching far beyond the confines of any one group.

These groups were not political or economic entities. There was no consciousness of a shared national identity as we would understand that today. Nor did cultural differences necessarily correlate closely with ecological zones in spite of the spiritual significance of place and space.

The blurring of such boundaries accords with strong cultural emphases on diffusion and the expansion of networks of relationships — through kinship, marriage, religion, and exchange. As in today’s world, the emphasis on protecting borders, along with higher levels of ethnocentric practices and inter-group conflict, were more likely to be found in resource-rich areas with higher population densities.

Appreciating the impacts of these two opposing worldviews — one in decline for the past half-century, but whose power depends still on military reach, diplomatic bluff, the US dollar, and the illusion of moral legitimacy, the other of increasing applicability for greater numbers of people — is central to my thesis. But that counterpoint also has to be understood in conjunction with a multiplicity of individual mindsets that routinely interpret and translate reality in terms of living in one or other of these epistemological prisons. The role played by a variety of media in shaping these mindsets is obvious, given the extent to which we are relentlessly bombarded with information signifying conflicting and continuously fluid priorities, opinions, values and attitudes.

Society has been dumbed down to such an extent that we are constantly on edge, stuck in a gridlock of ignorance, unable to make even the simplest of decisions.

This also helps clarify why, in such a befuddled state, and especially when confronted by unanticipated or sudden events that challenge our habits and routines, we act peremptorily, with inconsequential or no objective basis for our actions, wait for others to make the first move, protest and complain, or simply try to ignore the bedlam by carrying on as best we can. Ultimately, though, there is nowhere to hide.

At an ontological level, both worldviews identified here inevitably generate their own unique delusions. American exceptionalism[2] in conflict with Chinese imperial destiny. These figments of imagination have become the dystopian driving force of a geopolitical theatre grounded in hubris and most recently lapsing into farce: a world in which a bizarre race to mutual ruin, fuelled by rampant greed and stupidity, is now infecting most of humanity.

Against that prevailing crisis, amidst the swirling vortex of propaganda aimed at stoking fear and outrage, citizens of almost every country, with the exception of a few island nations like Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu, find themselves trapped in circumstances where science remains tentative, the genetic code of the virus puzzling epidemiologists and clinicians alike, and new stories about its origins spiral into ever more fantastic conspiracy theories.

If all of that wasn’t bad enough, we then suffered an opportunistic knee-jerk political response. Lockdown. Legislators of all persuasions decided that the unpredictable nature of the disease warranted a further shock — amounting in some instances to a blatant misuse of power. Basing their decisions on an unwittingly collective consensus, in addition to dubious and ambiguous advice, most chose to ride roughshod over long-established rights. We are all witnessing the result. Draconian, albeit fairly arbitrary rules, imposed under martial law on a mostly terrified yet compliant populace.

Whether this was a wise experiment or a massive mistake will only be revealed with hindsight. Even so, this is the first time in human history that a healthy population has been strong-armed into quarantine, with a consequent breakdown of the global economy.

While current government policies are being viewed by some as sheer lunacy, particularly by orthodox economists, the imposed hiatus in production might also be interpreted as a gift in the otherwise helter-skelter existence of contemporary life.

As international air travel shuts down, businesses go into administration, city streets lose their vibrancy, unemployment figures climb sharply and entire industries appeal for assistance, the production of non-essential goods has inevitably slowed to a crawl. Not that the global crises we had been facing before the pandemic have faded or proven any less hazardous. A spate of recent reports indicate a continuing increase in carbon emissions, greater numbers of species threatened with extinction than previously thought, poverty on the increase, mental health and domestic violence escalating as a direct result of isolation — and billionaires increasing their already fantastic fortunes, sometimes by as much as one third, essentially by doing nothing.

Be that as it may, the temporary suspension of normality has afforded us time to reflect on the future we are busy creating, what really matters, and how we want to live our lives.

At the same time, it has magnified the flaws in some of our most life-critical systems, including public health of course, that were present, if mostly hidden, prior to the pandemic.

Above all, it has given us an opportunity to reconsider what steps must be taken to heal an increasingly dysfunctional human family living together on a planet increasingly under threat from our activities.

As an inevitable counterpoint to the desire of the plutocracy for entrenching their authority by deploying differing shades of authoritarianism, a new generative consciousness is emerging. This ontological force for transformational change could well shine new light on the craziness, providing hope we can survive and prosper in spite of our numerous imperfections and errors of judgment. Indeed, just a few central ideas with newfound memetic potency could provide the basis for a rapid transition of society, capable of transcending the many dangers contained within the intersection of two opposing worldviews.

Redesigning the mechanics of production using nature as our model. Rejecting the dogma of separation — from each other and from nature. Reimagining human purpose within a world that works for everyone. Consuming less. Using energy from the sun to power production. Finding ways to remove the stigma associated with unemployment and homelessness. Democratizing the global economy. Even repurposing the military to wage peace rather than war…

These are the grand challenges of our time. They must be solved if we are to avoid neo-feudal conditions where extreme wealth for a small minority of the human race is counterbalanced by serfdom for the rest of us. Be aware that this is our present trajectory. We are not sufficiently alert to the various catastrophes this is already provoking. For it is utterly untenable without further coercion and suppression, supported by fear-driven conflict and the weaponisation of words.

War is the single most irrational and self-destructive behaviour our species engages in, and the presence of nuclear weapons and autonomic swarms of drones makes it infinitely more so. In an even remotely rational world, war would be something everyone avoids without exception. In an era dominated by two empires — one driven by an agenda of unipolar hegemony, and the other by visions of an illustrious destiny — citizens should have governments too afraid of the power of civic society to keep secrets from them. Instead, wars are pursued and planned for, reasons are fabricated to ensure they occur, and whistleblowers are punished for telling the truth.

Given the emergencies facing humanity, it is essential that we develop a new set of obligations for each other, the next generation, and the planet. The smokescreen of the pandemic cannot hide the fact that peace and cooperation at scale are pre-requisites for survival. The sooner we realise this the better placed we will be to start designing a world our children will be proud to inherit.

Our most fundamental beliefs regarding human nature and the human condition — including what is possible (or not) to achieve — urgently need reframing. Humans are not innately selfish or ruthless. Indeed, there is copious evidence suggesting the opposite: that humans are hard-wired for cooperation and were originally inclined to extreme egalitarianism. Moreover, the assumption that racism or warfare are innately human traits arose from a misconception of hunter-gatherer societies. Anthropologists now tend to agree that war is a late development in human history, arising alongside the first agricultural settlements.

Based purely on the evidence, the notion that prehistoric life was a frantic struggle for survival is simply not true.

Meanwhile, the narrative of extreme self-interest, made popular by Richard Dawkins and his theory of the selfish gene, became compelling because it fitted so perfectly, and helped justify the intensely competitive individualistic ethos of 20th-century capitalism.

The proposition that we have become undeniably brutal and self-centred can be justified by psychological and environmental changes that occurred over the past few hundred years that are intensely disruptive in today’s world. When the natural habitats of primates are disturbed they become more violent and hierarchical. It seems reasonable to assume the same thing has happened to us. The advent of farming, and later the industrial revolution, gave rise to a new sense of individuality and separateness which eventually evolved into self-interest, patriarchy, and conflict.

Today’s political actors are fully conscious that the smokescreen of fear and panic created by the coronavirus, provides a rare opportunity to exploit public boredom and fatigue, especially by advancing pre-existing repressive agendas. It is likely, however, that the hazards posed by the potential exploitation of COVID-19 for broader political, economic, and societal gain, far outweigh the immediate threat to life and health from the virus itself.

Civil disobedience as a reaction to civil liberty restrictions is never far from the surface of our collective awareness. Although it is too early to accurately assess the degree of government incompetence in handling present circumstances, the authoritarian abuse of power does not appear to be falling along the lines of conventional power structures. It is also feasible that some narrative-based illusions are crumbling faster than ever before.

If any of this is true, and if the smokescreen surrounding the pandemic is playing a major role that is still too early to see, least of all appreciate, incumbent power structures may be forced to relinquish their control. In doing so they will face an end-game, not of their choosing. On the other hand, perhaps the loss of liberty and basic rights will be protracted as governments try to ramp up their increased powers of surveillance and control over citizens.

It is possible, of course, that the current policy of suspending civil liberties will be effective in eliminating most threats posed by the virus — or we will be told that it was. Governments will restore the civil liberties currently being suspended and all will quickly return to the way things were before. Perhaps the economy will weather the fallout from the lockdown and everything will return to business-as-usual. As yet we cannot know what aspects of the current pandemic are the most likely to impact us permanently.

For example, will mass gatherings of civil disobedience be outlawed? Are we about to submit to a semi-permanent state of medically-imposed martial law? Will state-imposed quarantine or other freedom-of-movement restrictions become normalised? Will the smokescreen be used as a way of covering up economic crisis and collapse? Again we do not know what lies ahead.

But one thing is sure. As the fog of ambiguity lifts and a new semblance of normalcy arises from the ashes of the old, we will find out whether we are willing and capable of adapting to a different course, and of shaping a new society. In that context, recasting prevailing narratives as a means to transform and transcend both shared worldviews, will not be radical. It will be essential.

[1] Some people believe an argument should be made for the expansion of Islam globally to be considered the genesis of a third dominant worldview narrative. Although it is impossible to ignore Islam as a major factor, I am reluctant to categorize it as a worldview in this context, given that it derives almost entirely from religious dogma, rather than from a variety of philosophical, religious, moral, cosmological, and ideologically coherent sources.

[2] American exceptionalism is not the same as claiming the United States is unique, different, or more powerful than other countries. It is a belief that the US is morally superior to other countries. In the past two generations, this has become less of a coherent doctrine. Linked only to military might, even this is about to be challenged by China’s expansionism.

Preparing for a different kind of planning during COVID-19 and beyond

Published by Enterprise Times // Author:  Gordon Stuart

At the end of 2019, organizations “finalized” their budgets only for 2020 to remind them that nothing is ever final. In the face of this kind of uncertainty, finance organizations need the ability to plan for the unforeseeable and steer the ship even when the course isn’t clear. Gordon Stuart, Unit4’s CFO, reveals the latest thinking on the role of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) during COVID-19 and beyond.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown organizations of every kind into very unfamiliar territory. No-one knows what’s going to happen next, yet financial planners and analysts are still expected to advise their business colleagues about the future.

So how should financial professionals plan for the unknowable? The first step is to stop thinking and acting the way one used to. Instead, adopt mindsets, techniques and technologies that are better suited to unpredictable situations – and keep up to date on the latest approaches by learning from peers and trusted partners.

Dump your long-term plans

Getting hold of current data can be a nightmare if your systems are disjointed and use different formats. What one needs for real-time planning are integrated systems – FP&A that works seamlessly with ERPHCM and other solutions – to give you a complete, up to date feed.

Model a wide range of scenarios

Traditional planning would have viewed the situation we’re currently living through as highly unlikely. This goes to show that you now need to prepare not just for variations of what’s likely to happen, but also different permutations of what seems unlikely to happen.

You also can’t afford long planning cycles any more. For some time, best practice has been moving towards continuous planning. Having the capability to work with much closer planning horizons is going to be critical to survival in the coming months.

Drop manual processes and outdated tools

Believe it or not, many organizations are still trying to manage with manual financial processes. Doing things by hand can not only slow down operations including financial, it also means analysts and planners have to wait for the data they need – and when they do get it, it’s often out of date.

Digitizing financial processes can have a revolutionary impact on cash flow and labor costs as well as improving the accuracy and timeliness of financial forecasts. Using FP&A software with built-in AI will speed up and improve the accuracy of your number crunching and leave you more time for interpretation and strategic thinking.

Now is the time to change

It may not feel like it, but now is precisely the time to make these changes. Uncertainty isn’t going to go away. So, the sooner you gain the ability to process transactions automatically and do scenario planning with live data, the better.

Making these changes can be surprisingly easy, even under current conditions. With the Software-as-a-Service model, while there are some up-front fees, there’s no capital purchase – you pay for the service when you start using it. And with today’s cloud architectures and homeworking technology, implementation projects can be conducted entirely remotely.

Published by Enterprise Times

The future of managing learning will be through ecosystems and platforms

Source: The Future Shapers

Author: Paul Hobcraft

I am constantly drawn to ecosystems and platforms as the connecting mechanism that can drive the need for greater collaboration, sharing, and exchanging, and for this, we need to learn a new form of ’emerging’ management practice.

Collaborating in collective ways helps break down complexity. To be ready to respond we must be ready to seek out unexpected outcomes, to be increasingly exposed to new opinions, experiences, and to learn from all those adjacencies and external connections, so as to help us add and define new potential within our domain of expertise.

In our past management practices, we have operated and exploited the linear world for ever-increasing efficiencies and effectiveness. This relied on stability, predictability, and a willing end-user, ready to accept ‘our’ offer of product or service. All three of these conditions are increasingly absent from our world today and will increasingly be challenged in the future.

Our increasing connectivity, brought about by our digital world is giving us increasing volume, richness at increasing speed. We are in a hyper-connected world, potentially global for all of us and increasingly we will operate in interdependent ecosystems that allow us to collaborate and share, driving up awareness and performance.

What will be rewarded in this connecting world is the agility to respond, the ability to absorb and learn quickly, and the nimbleness to translate and adapt new learning into insights and eventual outcomes, that build out our businesses, keeping them healthy, growing, and sustainable.

Classic models of management get broken down in any ecosystem approach, that is why I believe we must search for ways to adapt to this new world of ecosystem and platform collaboration.

It requires some very different management thinking, let me offer some thoughts:

Our world is shifting from scalable efficiency to scalable learning

In the work of John Hagel and John Seely Brown and their associates at Deloitte University Press, this scalable change from efficiency to learning, is a central tenet of their work. Achieving scale is critical for all in business, be it the entrepreneur or start-up or the large institutions wanting to span the world. If you wanted to scale it had to be “efficient and effective” in our past approaches.

Yet as the two John’s point out, that is great in the stable, more predictable world or market conditions of the past but not when everything is evolving rapidly or changing before our eyes. The efficiency mantra often allows for applying the “lowest common denominator of need” and reduces the impact of ‘true’ innovation.

The ability to adapt to our digital world

We are now in a world that sees exponential change caused by digital technologies, this is making everything we do  uncertain. We are seeing increasing friction, deteriorating trust, and growing gaps in expectancy between “what we want and expect with what we actually receive” and institutions need to respond to these pressures. The pressures of sorting false information with the relevant knowledge needed to build on what you have to improve it.  It cannot be the approach anymore as “business as usual” it needs a new recognition, the new normal means we need to act and respond differently.

We are recognising “existing knowledge is depreciating at an accelerating rate”. To create new knowledge we have to step out of our silo of the one institution into a collaborative world, connecting with others where the physical, virtual, and management of systems help accelerate learning.

Increasingly these learnings will come through ecosystems and platforms where you can meet and exchange in systematic and holistic ways, building growing trusted relationships, sharing, and exploring ‘collective’ knowledge to solve common problems.

You move from the need of conformity to be efficient, seeking out where you fit within a ‘given’ system you look for increasing the ‘flow’ of learning by encouraging increasing fluidity and being highly adaptive. Your role is not to fit as such, it becomes how you can separate, identify and deliver more value, to translate and learn faster, to rapidly connect understanding, ideas, and potential outcomes for  new value.

Balancing fluidity and stability

The world we live in is relentless, it is demanding and constantly changing. We begin to believe it is in a “continuously unstable state” yet it is this ongoing receiving of contradictions we can build a different, more fluid state that is adaptive, responsive, and encourages different thinking to break through our bewilderment.

We need to build far more for countervailing functions and opinions, have greater understandings of pattern recognition and maintenance, and be highly adaptive in our outcomes. We need to keep balancing the acts of fluidity with stability.

To get to a point of being fluid we need to hone our navigation skills, we need to have more assignment driven work, not get stuck in repeating work that can be automated far more effectively in today’s digital world.

Where do we start to think this through?

We must start by establishing a different boundary building understanding (governance, risk-taking, ability to recognise managing exceptions are becoming the rule in individual consumer worlds).

We need a growing identity formation set of mechanisms and responses (in customer touchpoints, response alternatives, conflict skills to resolve issues early) and develop the problem-solving architecture to be constantly evolving (shared, reinforcing, and breaking down present orthodoxies).

Ambidexterity and countervailing processes need developing and embedding. Achieving a constant duality to manage in our three horizons that come into play, to manage the short-term (differently), and pivot into the longer-term. It is the horizon two exploration and exploitation that allows this change in managing transit from the old (h1) to the new (h3). We need to reinforce and extend (h2-), we need to ‘undo’, explore and redesign (h2+).

The challenge becomes how can we eventually move towards a fluid state?

If we can design a framework that transforms us into being highly fluid and adaptive, we can move through horizon two and its conflicting challenges. We are seeking to balance stability with an ongoing need for dynamism and responsiveness, at agile and fast ‘reaction’ times from our ‘incoming learning’ and ‘outgoing value-added‘ outcome

To become fluid we need to absorb and respond at a faster rate and that comes from the increasing flow of new knowledge. We need to be highly adaptive to a constant, multi-faceted world of connections, systems and knowing where the different pieces need to be found, so we can then ‘pieced’ together into the ‘new whole’ you are needing to design, at the individual or institutional design level.

To get to a point of being fluid we need to hone our navigation skills, we need to have more assignment driven work, and need to be looking to constantly enter and exit projects where we can truly contribute to driving up our own confidence and belief, our personal satisfaction, and contributing worth.

We need to be more agile, iterative, to be encouraged to be experimenting and exploring. We need to believe and be given the trust to execute and drive our results into more value-add. We need to seek out empowerment, participate in collaborative endeavours, and most importantly grasp the makeup of value creation. To get to this point we need to build one of those boundary-spanning guidelines of a sound conflict resolution pathway for ourselves, our customers, and our institutions and these will be ‘living constantly evolving pathways‘ that feed on new learning.

To get to this ‘fluid state‘ we all must strive for authenticity, trust, and recognition.

This authenticity and trust will only come from a real willingness to seek out diversity in opinion, knowledge, and experience. We all need to have higher visibility and seek an understanding of what this means in risk and reward for taking this path. Our growing ability to look to constantly enter and exit projects where we can truly contribute to driving up our own confidence and belief, our personal satisfaction, and contributing worth.

If we can design a framework that transforms us into being highly fluid and adaptive, we can move through horizon two and its conflicting challenges. We are seeking to balance stability with an ongoing need for dynamism and responsiveness, at agile and fast ‘reaction’ times from our ‘incoming learning’ and ‘outgoing value-added‘ outcome

Seeking out the relevant flows within new knowledge for increasing scalable learning, our new institutional state.

The stock of our existing knowledge is rapidly diminishing, we need to seek out the flow of new knowledge. Our fixed and enduring know-how and sets of experiences are being diminished in their value inside organisations.

We need to harness the capacity of learning through the competencies for new knowledge acquiring. We need to replenish the internal diminishing stocks of knowledge with a constant flow of new knowledge. This comes from outside, it comes through networks, relationships, and collaborations increasingly built on ecosystems and platforms.

We need a call to arms, to establish a new set of operating principles

It is our increasing ability to participate in this growing formation of managing knowledge flows, harnessed through digital solutions, as they will through practice and time, move us towards achieving a greater value creation. We move towards an increasingly collaborative environment, between partners and appreciating all stakeholders but also more specifically sharing more understanding and exchanges with customers, all contributing, increasingly aimed at their knowledge, insights, and needs to find joint solutions and resolving challenges.

To achieve better outcomes and to drive sustained growth we need different management practices. We require scalable participation (ecosystems) to relate to and generate new knowledge flows. We need to be increasingly responsive, adaptive, and fluid in any design of structures and solutions.

Performance requires us to quickly learn and translate, that cannot come from the pursuit of efficiency, it comes from learning to be highly adaptive and responsive, to have a high level of fluidity to fuse all the flows of knowledge into new potential value creation.

In summary

We do need this new management model to adapt to the digital world and all the uncertainty of our prevailing conditions of more open competitive and challenging markets, more demanding customers, and the constant waves of information and ‘forces of change’ raining down on us.

What is clear is we need a new way of working to counter this sense of constant disruption and exponential change. It is the recognition that ecosystems and platforms will be playing a far more critical role in our managing, that we need to become ready to fuse, flow, and become far more fluid in the ways we work.

What are the challenges for employers of a distributed work model

Source: Enterprise Times

Author: Mylo Kaye

COVID-19 has brought us challenges of all kinds. From dealing with lockdown, home-schooling our kids to working from home. And it’s the latter that will be one of the lasting legacies of 2020. We will see marked shift towards a distributed working model for an increasing number of businesses with current government guidelines advising employees to work at home where possible.

Most businesses in the UK will continue to use some form of distributed working model, whether through a hybrid approach or everyone working remotely. Very few have returned to pre-pandemic working practices with current government guidelines advising employees to work at home where possible.

What are the challenges of a distributed working model?

It does look as though a distributed working model is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Despite the Government asking businesses to get their staff back to work, most businesses, including public services, have not yet fully done so. This is due to a mix of reasons, ranging from the difficulty of ‘COVID-proofing’ the space to cutting costs in office rent.

Capita plc, for example, announced a permanent closure of a significant number of its offices. One of the biggest outsourcing businesses in the country, Capita employs 45,000 people. It is now ending the leases on approximately 100 of its previous workplaces. For companies like this, who were struggling even before the virus, opportunities to slash costs are vital.

This means more companies that traditionally had their entire workforce in offices will switch to flexible working practices. A move that saves so much money in office rents is too good an opportunity to miss. Many more companies are likely to reduce office space.

Shift in attitude towards working from home

It appears that there has been a significant cultural shift towards working from home, or as part of a distributed working pattern in the UK. This is due to a combination of factors, including:

  • We went into lockdown later than other countries.
  • The significant cost and stress of commuting for employees.
  • Schools have only just gone back after six months in lockdown.
  • Businesses see an opportunity to save money.
  • The tech works and is easy to use.

A BBC survey recently found that of 50 major employers in the UK, none have plans to have all their employees back in the office full time. The fact remains that the virus is still here, and while the Government urges a return to the office, The Financial Times says that only a tenth of civil servants have done so.

Challenges of distributed working models

Distributed working brings with it its own set of challenges. One of the biggest and most important for employers is how to ensure employees feel fully integrated. Here are some of the common problems employers can come across with distributed teams along with potential solutions.

Very little in-person interaction

Distributed teams can stay in touch throughout the working day using all kinds of technological innovations. From video calls to messenger systems, there are plenty of ways to communicate often. However, it is more difficult to read the mood of the team or wider company without in-person interaction.

Holding regular virtual meetings is a good way to combat this. Remote collaboration and communication are possible with the right technology and video conferences allow employees to see each other’s facial expressions and body language. All of which helps to make employees feel more connected.

A common issue for employees while remote working is feeling out of the loop. This is particularly marked with employees who usually work in the office 100% of the time. Remote working requires different collaborative approaches to ensure that creativity, communication, and workflow remains constant.

To combat this, employers and managers must ramp up their internal communications. Avoid giving one-to-one instructions without a team meeting to show everyone their place in the overarching goal. Ensure daily communication, and ‘open-door’ management structure and regular video conferences for best results.

Lack of team building opportunities

Meetings still need to happen, and employers should consider how to roll out socially distanced get-togethers. There is a danger that team building opportunities are lost with teams working in different locations. The challenge for employers is to find regular ways to facilitate meetings for work purposes and for social reasons.

Virtual meetings are the logical answer, with simple tech necessary to get everyone together online. Zoom has become extremely popular as a virtual platform, but there are other more heavily encrypted services available too. Away from work, virtual meetups work well for social meetups too. Lockdown saw a sharp rise in online virtual quizzes of all kinds, wine tastings, silent discos and virtual escape rooms among other innovative team-building opportunities.

Poor understanding between remote teams

With people working remotely, it’s common to see interactions between team members become more difficult. This is often due to a lack of understanding of each other’s role or position. Without regular face to face interaction and in-office meetings, communication can quickly become clouded.

Employers must take the time to encourage inter-team alliances and help remote workers feel like they’re still part of the company and its overall vision. This means using real time messenger apps, virtual meetings and socially distanced meetups if possible.

Distributed working can suit employers and employees alike

Many companies say that their employees are fully behind switching to distributed working models. People who are situated all over the country can work together effectively. They can still service clients and the business can still function.

This represents a sea-change in the way we all view the office. It is still there, and it’s still an important part of our working lives, but it is no longer the only way to work. I think we will see more businesses terminating leases and using serviced offices along with remote working. This will become the new reality for many.

A survey of UK workers by the University of Southampton and Cardiff University researchers shows that 88% of employees who began working from home during lockdown want to continue doing so, at least some of the time. Almost half of the respondents said they want to work from home all of the time.

By early August 2020, only 17% of people had returned to work in offices across the 63 biggest cities in the country. This is roughly the same number as at the beginning of June when lockdown was first relaxed. Interestingly, in France, 83% of office workers are back in their building and 76% in Italy.

Transform communication

Most of the issues employers face when switching to distributed working or partial home working can be rectified through proper internal communication. Communication plans must change and be reworked to allow for the fundamental differences between in-office teams and remote working teams.

Integrating employees within distributed working models is crucial for their success. But as we’re seeing across the board in the UK, companies are moving towards making remote working permanent. This change of attitude towards working from home could be one of the lasting legacies of COVID-19.

An Enterprise Times article

Engagement 4.0: Mindfulness + Design Thinking + Culture Transformation Advisory

According to some polls somewhere by some very important agency, over 73% of people or so worldwide are unhappy with their jobs. They experience no motivation and no engagement at their place of work or in doing what they do or working for whom they work.

Unhappy and disengaged workers are a lot less resilient, a lot less creative and innovative, and a lot less productive.

….what can we do about the above? how can we help our friends, family, co-workers, and organizations do better by the people that work for them with respect to creating a more positive, engaging, and productive workplace? 

I propose implementing a series of programs that combine two of my favorite methodologies for pretty much anything: Design Thinking and Mindfulness Meditation. 

Mindfulness is the ultimate tool for achieving self-awareness and understanding of our innate strengths and talents; and design thinking is the most effective approach and methodology for empathizing with and tapping, in a systematic way, into the emotional sphere of stakeholders…[…]

It all indicates that, in general, People who engaged in mindfulness practices simply are able to maintain more peace of mind, focus better, and work better with their peers. 

Harvard Business Review recently published that “Design thinking has the potential to unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.”

By using Design Thinking to discover those unarticulated needs and pains of our stakeholders, we are able to build solutions that are human-centered-designed and therefore, more effective. 

It all starts with the self-awareness gained through Mindfulness practice and continues on with the awareness of and empathy towards “the other” developed through Design Thinking.

Combine Design Thinking with the growing self-awareness and personal insights acquired through Mindfulness practices, and you have a sure-fire approach for transforming your organizational culture for the better.

Read the full article here:

How Remote Migrations Play Into Continued Business Success

Source: Enterprise Times

Author: Mark Rochester

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced legions of employees to work remotely. This shift has highlighted the importance of cloud technology to spur digital transformation and enable business continuity. Cloud technologies have proven to be integral to helping companies continue operations and build long-term business while employees work remotely. Given the uncertainty we face in the year ahead, now is the time for companies to leverage cloud solutions and managed services on a grand scale.

At this year’s Microsoft Inspire digital event, the Redmond giant identified four top partner priorities for MSPs and IT service providers to meet market needs. These priorities call for innovative solutions and services to enhance remote work, business continuity, secure environments and cloud migrations. At the heart of these priorities is the successful remote migration of data.

How remote migrations help

Remote migrations can usher in a digital transformation, all while a company’s workforce is working from home. It is possible to securely complete remote migrations while adhering to social-distancing guidelines because the IT work does not require onsite labor. The benefits of remotely migrating data are many. For companies with on-premises IT systems, moving their data and workloads to the cloud provides employees a greater ability to work remotely. It removes the confines of needing to connect to an office server or VPN.

After all the company’s employee identities are moved to the cloud, remote migration projects enable companies to implement digital upgrades for email, workplace collaboration and systems monitoring. This can lead to enhanced operational efficiencies, cost savings and scalabilities. In times when organizational resilience is essential, such opportunities must not be overlooked.

Enabling companies to work remotely

MSPs and IT service providers can play a critical role in helping businesses enable company-wide remote operations. The cloud allows companies to mobilize remote work plans that aren’t possible for on-premises systems. They can deploy workplace collaboration technologies such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Implementing these technologies helps companies improve communication, collaboration and engagement among their workforce and external customers. Additional workloads and resources can be moved to the cloud as well, where employees can access resources whenever they need them to boost productivity and maintain business continuity.

Improving company-wide security protections

Security is, of course, a leading consideration. Thanks to network updates and routine monitoring of potential threats, the cloud offers greater protections than on-premises infrastructures. In the cloud, data is protected from loss and damage from onsite vulnerabilities such as power outages, natural disasters or fires.

Moving to the cloud allows companies to employ stronger protections. Single sign-on enables users to log in with a single ID and password to securely access multiple applications across their company. By reducing logins to a single set of credentials, the risk of attack is significantly minimized. This also allows an IT team to easily secure sensitive data by adding or removing employee access or setting role-based permissions from a single location.

In addition, on-premises upgrades can be very costly. For example, if companies are upgrading from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2019, they are responsible for the hardware and the incremental upgrades such as patching. The cloud requires much less management and upgrades can be automated so that labor-intensive implementations can be avoided. Companies control what they spend and have the ability to ensure they’re paying only for the resources that they use.

Maintaining business continuity in uncertain times

Remote operations mean more flexibility for your company and employees. Once all employee identities and email are moved to a cloud suite, enhanced cloud technologies are available, which are not available on-premises. Workplace collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom enable your remote workforce to continue operations with minimal interruption.

Via these platforms, employees can continue to communicate, collaborate and engage with co-workers and customers from anywhere, enhancing business continuity.  This flexibility can lead to increased overall productivity, with the technological infrastructure in place for employees to effectively work remotely both now and in the future.

Tips for approaching remote migrations

Best practices for successful remote migrations include a few simple planning tips:

Identify migration components: Before acting, decide what components your company needs to migrate. Some companies may choose to clean files and delete unnecessary archives. Other companies may choose to move all their data first and then re-evaluate in their new environment. For instance, compliance archiving is much easier to manage in the cloud. The great thing about modern cloud migration technology is that companies can choose either scenario.

Assess potential hurdles with an eye toward risk aversion: It helps to view your project holistically. First, determine immediate challenges, and then consider the counsel of a partner. Don’t be afraid to enlist help. It will ensure a smoother process.

Migrate mailboxes first: Prioritize email when remotely migrating data. This maintains communication during the migration. Once it’s complete, you can determine what other data or workloads need to be moved – such as Microsoft Teams, groups or other workloads.

Be mindful of bandwidth: A significant number of organizations are working remotely, and usage of SharePoint Online, OneDrive and similar cloud technologies and services has skyrocketed during peak daytime hours. Microsoft and Google have announced throttling to some cloud services – limiting simultaneous service requests to prevent an overuse of resources. They have indicated that throttling is reduced during evenings and weekends to allow for migrations. Smart MSPs are cognizant of peak-hour schedules. They can conduct migration projects during a window that allows swift execution and efficiency for a seamless migration.

Leveraging remote migrations for future success

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work. We’ll likely continue to navigate its impacts in the months ahead. The good news is that remote migrations can help improve your business operations and enable large-scale remote work sooner than you think.

The biggest benefit is the business outcome that companies will gain from moving to the cloud. It will enhance remote work and establish secure environments, resulting in business continuity and future success.

An Enterprise Times article

Global Beehive Talk: Julia Goga-Cooke

Source: Global Beehive

Author: Hans Gillior

Global Beehive Talk with Julia Goga-Cooke – the CEO Academy of Design Thinking. She shares here experience and thoughts about Design Thinking and why companies and organisations succeed in implementing it. In the end – it is all about mindset. Enjoy!

Global Beehive Talk: Mark Leonard

Source: Global Beehive

Author: Hans Gillior

Global Beehive Talk with Mark Leonard – Director and Researcher at Mindfulness Connect. He has worked closely with Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) to implement mindfulness and study its effects. It was a great talk about collective intelligence, social collaboration and change. Enjoy!

Building the Foundations of Effective Data Protection Compliance

Source: Enterprise Times

Author: Adam Strange

Achieving compliance across a wealth of new international data privacy laws and regulations is a growing challenge, with many organisations struggling to keep pace. A significant number still have not yet invested in data discovery and classification in their efforts to help fulfil compliance obligations. Add to this the open systems that employees have in place to communicate through the supply chain, especially in the new remote working dimension established by COVID-19, and business is at risk of significant data breaches.

The landscape of Regulatory Change

Serious data breaches and incidents of cyber-intrusion have resulted in a myriad of regulations coming into force across the globe. GDPR, CCPA, the Australian Privacy Act, DPTM and the Japanese Privacy Law are just a few. These will only grow as businesses scramble to make sure they are compliant.

The extent to which businesses are concerned about meeting new regulations was evident by recent calls to delay the start of enforcement of the CCPA. It was scheduled for July 1, 2020, and businesses wanted it delayed due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that businesses are facing a heavier burden than ever before when it comes to proving they are meeting data protection and cybersecurity obligations. However, higher authentication should not be thought of as a burden. It is a must for businesses if they wish to remain secure.

Covid-19 creates an escalating threat environment

You only have to look at recent attacks like the those faced by Honda to see that the threat landscape is intensifying. The Covid-19 Pandemic has created additional security threats. Organisations are facing increasing risks from threat actors looking to take advantage of the increased proportion of employees working from home. Being away from the office in an unfamiliar working environment, with the domestic distractions that come along with it, means the frequency of breaches is likely to increase as security is not in the forefront of people’s minds.

The list of threats associated with the pandemic is extensive. It includes phishing emails, spearphishing attachments, cybercriminals masquerading fake VPNs, remote meeting software and mobile apps. There is also a new family of ransomware known as Coronavirus that has recently been reported. However, not all threats are external. A high percentage are caused by simple employee errors like inadvertently sending a file to the wrong person by email.

Forrester analyst Heidi Shey recently published a report entitled: “The State of Data Security and Privacy, 2020”. Among breaches in the past 12 months, 46% involved insiders like employees and third-party partners. These can actually be more damaging as businesses should appear to have a strong hold on their internal data and who can access it.

Meanwhile, the tone from regulators remains unchanged. The ICO states: “A crisis situation is no excuse for failing to meet data security obligations”. Compliance penalties are not frozen whilst we are in a pandemic. It means businesses need to make sure they are covered more than ever whilst the risk of data breaches is greater.

What Can Be Done?

Investment decisions have to focus on protecting data. By incorporating technology that directly touches data, businesses can start to establish a compliance position in a regulated environment. To do this, businesses need to first know where all their data is located, establish what is sensitive and what is not. They also need to determine appropriate access rights to data and in so doing, control its movement. The better the visibility, the more compliant an organisation will be, which can then be used to drive competitive advantage.

In basic terms, they need to adopt a ‘Privacy by Design’ approach. This takes privacy into account throughout the whole process and starts with Data Classification.

Classification by Design

Data protection by design and default needs to be planned within the whole system. It should be based on the type of data and how much data a business has. Data classification is the categorisation of data according to its level of sensitivity or value, using labels. These are attached as visual markings and metadata within the file. When classification is applied, the metadata ensures that the data can only be accessed or used in accordance with the rules that correspond to its label.

Businesses need to mitigate attacks and employee mistakes by starting with policy – assessing who has access. Then they should select a tool that fits the policy, not the other way round. Never select a tool and then rewrite your policy to fit it. This will then support users with automation and labelling that will enhance the downstream technology.

Once data is appropriately classified, security tools such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP), policy-based email encryption, access control and data governance tools are exponentially more effective. They can access the information provided by the classification label and metadata that tells them how data should be managed and protected.

Compliance pointers when setting your strategy

Compliance can be a challenging task, but businesses should see it as a positive. Customers who know their data will be secure will trust businesses with their most important data. Here are a few pointers to keep top of mind when looking at data classification and your compliance strategy:

  • IT security and operations do not own business data – so do not look to the CISO for all the answers.
  • Data stewardship will correctly align to regulations only when the data owners are identified and engaged.
  • Identify and engage stakeholders right across the business, including risk, legal, and compliance. This is critical to the success of your compliance programme.
  • Organisations must educate users as a whole about the sensitivity of data. They must also ensure the appropriate controls are in place around confidential and sensitive information.
  • Alert users when data is leaving the organisation to warn them before sending messages that contain sensitive information.
  • Users must classify or label data with visual labels to highlight any specific handling requirements.
  • Use metadata labels to enforce security controls to stop unauthorised distribution of data.
  • Link data classification tools to solutions such as DLP, encryption and rights management to enhance overall data protection.
  • Make sure you provide critical audit information on classification events. It enables remediation activity and helps prove your compliance position to the regulatory authorities.

With this methodology in place, it will provide a firm foundation towards onward compliance and long-term competitive differentiation and efficiencies to businesses.

An Enterprise Times article

The Threat of Digital Business Models

Source: Global Beehive

Author: Hans Gillior

What happened? We suddenly live in a society in full motion into a digital unknown – affecting all aspects of our lives. What we know is that the way we consume, communicate and interact is undergoing rapid change with the help of digital technology. The role of institutions such as banks and government agencies are being questioned and challenged with an increased demand for customer centricity and value-driven interaction. Size (power) is no-longer a decisive factor for success but rather how well these institutions adjust to customer needs and behavior – build trust with their customers and citizens. The fact is that the industrial barriers that have protected industries and institutions (based on required capital, regulations, and physical patents/technology) for decades have been reduced or eliminated – meaning that everybody can compete with a democratized technology, global capabilities and easy access to funding. Companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Spotify are a few examples of companies that have successfully challenged traditions and opened a door to a new digital rivalry. There are many factors and trends that have made this digital transformation possible. But why have these digital companies been so successful?

The question is very complex and includes many perspectives – such as culture, leadership, and governance. For example, we know that digital companies have a higher degree of motivated and engaged staff, shorter response time for trends, and view digital capabilities (for example: technology and information) in a different way. Competitiveness is based on quickly understanding, analyzing and acting (applying digital capabilities) on new trends and behavior – with focus on customer experience and value creation. The role of the business model plays a decisive factor in how the digital companies compete and acts as a basis for their role in the market.

“A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts.” Wikipedia 2018

The business model takes its starting point from the organization’s assets and capabilities. Here we see a difference between traditional and digital companies in how they view their assets. Traditional companies tend to rely on physical assets (buildings, machinery, labor, and distribution) as a foundation for their business model while digital companies rely more on digital assets (information, business intelligence and digital platforms). Traditional hotels rely on the availability of physical buildings and rooms as basis for their revenue, while Airbnb (and other digital companies) focus on creating the optimal customer experience through digital services and data analysis (consumer habits and needs) leaving the physical building or room to someone else to provide. Traditional taxi companies rely on physical cars while Uber focus on customer experience without cars. We see this scenario in industry after industry where new digital companies emerge with new business model focusing on customer experience based on digital assets. This is the new normal.

Traditional Business ModelDigital Business Model
Based on physical assetsBased on digital assets
Buildings, Machinery, Labor, DistributionTraditional Governance (slow iterations > 12 months)Digital Platforms, Business Intelligence, InformationAgile Governance (fast iterations < 12 months)
Increase productivityIncrease customer experience & value
Low growth and profit marginsHigh growth and profit margins

Table 1: Traditional versus Digital Business Models

If we take a step closer, we see that the digital business model includes a number of digital capabilities that supports customer experience and value creation. The digital companies excel in digital capabilities such as customer interaction (digital channels), digital service development/innovation, IT and information, (edge) competence and structure (including value chain and ecosystem) – all on a platform of motivating and empowering culture and change leadership. It is interesting to see how these capabilities work effectively together (never in silos) toward a common customer-centric vision and value proposition. These factors are a natural part of the digital company DNA making it easy (digital readiness) to compete in the new digital environment. In the end, it is about mind-set.

An interesting aspect of the digital and traditional business model comparison is how they perform. During the last couple of years, we have seen an increased business growth and margins in the digital business model. Why is that? Digital companies deliver higher value-adding service (what customers are willing to pay for) that traditional companies by capturing and managing their expectations in an effective way. For example, are customers willing to pay extra for a car mortgage to cover the bank’s high infrastructure cost? No, they could not care less. In the digital landscape, customer wants to pay for the capabilities and services in relationship to the value and experience they provide. Low value = low revenues!

My view is that all companies need to understand the new digital prerequisites of business – and how they deliver value to their customers (business model). The business performance of companies will depend how well they deliver value to their customers in every moment. Any value gap/deficit will automatically result in All industries will, sooner or later, be challenges by new digital companies and business models as the industry becomes more and more IT intensive. It is an unstoppable mega-trend that we all need to relate to. The question we need to ask ourselves is what our role is in the new digital business landscape – continued traditional or upgraded digital. What do we concretely do when that moment comes? Are we ready for the digital transformation? A digital transformation will take years to complete (addressing culture, leadership, capabilities and governance) while disruption comes quickly – from nowhere.


  • Build awareness internally of how your company and industry will be challenged in the future. Assume that your company and industry will be challenged with negative impact on your competitiveness, and change is needed. Denying the digital challenges will not work.
  • Assess how well your company is prepared for the digital transformation. There are a number of assessment tools on the market to assess your digital readiness (capabilities) and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your organization (where to focus).
  • Start recruiting/hiring experts, advisers and change agents/coaches with hands-on experience to drive the digital transformation agenda to increase probability of success. 70% of all transformation initiatives fail and mainly due to challenges relating to culture and leadership. What can you do to increase that probability?

It is difficult to foresee the future for the two different business model (traditional versus digital). Today we see high growth in the digital companies with a digital business model but what we need to understand is that both models are required in the future. One cannot exist without the other. Uber and Airbnb would not have any business if nobody supplied the physical attributes to their business model. There will with all certainty come new business models (hybrid) that re-shape the game. It will be an exciting and unpredictable future that brutally will phase out companies and organizations not finding their role in the new digital normal.

Global Beehive Talk: Andi Kravljaca

Source: Global Beehive

Author: Hans Gillior

Global Beehive Talk with Andi Kravljaca – the Digital Strategist of Nacka Kommun. He talks about the challenges of driving digitalisation of a municipality with very diverse needs and challenges. Hear him talk about the impact of Covid-19, Robotic Process Automation and other topics.

What Role Will Cryptocurrencies Play In The Future Of E-commerce?

Source: Enterprise Times

Author: David Adams

Cryptocurrencies, often interchanged with digital currencies, refers to a decentralized digital payment platform outside of the control of a government or central bank. Users from all over the world can securely and anonymously transact with each other. Multiple exchanges like help people legally buy and sell one or more of the approximate 1,600 cryptocurrencies in existence.

Cryptocurrencies are backed by complicated encryption protocols. They make it difficult to counterfeit and steal people’s property. Each and every transaction is recorded in a blockchain. It adds a layer of security that makes it nearly impossible to reverse transactions.

For many people, this sounds like the future of e-commerce. They see it as replacing the current outdated system where credit card innovation has been absent for years.

The Case For Cryptos

The most notable selling point for cryptocurrencies to be used for online payments is the speed of the transaction. Cryptocurrencies can change hands within minutes. Bank transfers can take days to travel across the world.

Online sellers can take advantage of the lower fees per transaction that cryptocurrencies offer. Currently, online business owners that use Shopify, for example, pay a fixed monthly cost for the platform on top of 2.4% to 2.6% per transaction plus another 30 cents per transaction.

Additionally, the list of notable breaches in 2020 includes some of the largest United Kingdom-based companies like Tesco and Boots. These companies are counted on to offer the most secure and safe shopping experience, given their large scale. But if multi-billion pound valued companies can’t guarantee full safety, what chance do smaller players have?

Isn’t it time to make way for cryptocurrencies to have a chance to prove their safety profile?

The Case Against Cryptos

Opponents of cryptocurrencies like to point out the volatility nature of the digital currency. It isn’t uncommon for the price of bitcoin to fluctuate by thousands of pounds in a few short months.

In 2020, Bitcoin, perhaps the most notable cryptocurrency, has seen its value range from £3,840 (Mar 16) to £9,630 (Aug 18). In 2010, the price of bitcoin traded at a fraction of a pound.

Proponents are also quick to point to a large number of cryptocurrencies in existence. While bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency by market value and general knowledge today among the public, there is no evidence it will hold its status over the years ahead.

Companies would be wasting time and money setting up their business to accept bitcoin over the coming years only to find out no one even uses it anymore.

Lastly, the general public may not even be ready to embrace the future of online shopping, even if they are open to changes. Terms like blockchain and digital currencies are often associated with illegal activity.

In 2013 a Dark Web marketplace called Silk Road was shut down. It sold anything and everything illegal from counterfeit passports, dangerous chemicals, drugs, and much more. Since then, many more Dark Web marketplaces have grabbed the headlines. The US government seized and sold the Bitcoin held by the alleged owner of Silk Road.

Conclusion: Nowhere Close To Widespread

Cryptocurrencies and online sales may seem like an ideal match but we are nowhere close to widespread usage in 2020. Many large and global companies like Starbucks do accept bitcoin in some form, but it isn’t a big part of their business. Perhaps it isn’t even on management’s mind.

Consider the coffee chain’s emphasis on digital and mobile accessibilities in recent months to present consumers with a safer experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet bitcoin and cryptocurrency mentions during the company’s third-quarter conference call in late July totalled zero. The term “digital” and “Starbucks Rewards” were each mentioned 25 times while “app” was mentioned another seven times.

Perhaps expectations for widespread use across the multi-trillion-dollar eCommerce universe is unrealistic. There might however be a large niche for cryptocurrency use in segments like video-games and computing.

An Enterprise Times Article

Living in the Disruptive Economy

Source: Global Beehive

Author: Hans Gillior

During the last couple of years, the concept of ‘disruption’ has been a central theme of digitalization. The idea is that new digital themes and companies will challenges and re-define the rules of an industry or sector. It challenges traditional with ease and threatening those companies unable to adjust to new pre-requisites. Digital technology, business models and customer behavior can be seen as the engine for the new disruptive economy. The business disruptive usually take time before it gathers critical mass until it forcefully can disrupt an industry or sector – but when it finally has gathered critical mass it moves quickly and forcefully. Seldom we experience quick disruption that changes the society or business landscape in a matter of weeks. How would we react then? How can be prepare for this scenario?

The world is currently overwhelmed by the Corona pandemic disrupting society, business and political landscape. In a few weeks, we have moved from a normal society to a society shut down to prevent the spread of the ill-willing flu virus. Currently, schools and travel are restricted in many countries and countries such as Italy is completely isolated. What is remarkable is the speed in which a complete society is disrupted and turned upside down. What is hard to grasp is that this kind of disruptions will increase in frequency and magnitude with increased digitalization, globalization and urbanization. Even though we seem to be prepared for all eventualities, the society is in fact highly vulnerable and an easy target for new disruptors.

The disruption threat is not only concentrated to business trends and new competition/technology, but can included other dimensions such as political, social, economic and environmental. In fact, a majority of the latest business disruptions were linked to these other dimensions and they are increasing in magnitude and frequency. The biggest threat to business, designed to avoid and risk and uncertainty, are disruptors outside the reach of current business leaders. It is difficult for business leaders to influence the impact and direction of new wave of refugees, climate catastrophes, volcano out-breaks, pandemics, and global terrorism. Business need to have a readiness for disruptors in real-time. A scenario where new disruptors can change the business rules within a week or two.

The new business situation requires new capabilities and leadership. A leadership that continuously analyze and evaluates trends from all perspectives and have continuity plans to quickly adjust to the new situation. To cope with situations when for example – travel is not allowed, customer demand is reduced by 50% and a large portion of the work force is home sick.  What we see today is that most companies and organization are unprepared for these kind of scenarios as they have traditionally been very unlikely. These scenarios are not unlikely any longer – but a reality here and now.

But how to be prepared for the unthinkable? First of all, it is a matter of attitude and awareness. The disruptors will occur and will increase in magnitude and frequency. The difference between survival and being phased out of the market is the ability to act quickly and make fact-based decisions. To quickly change business, management and operation from a normal state to a crisis state where new principles, governance and leadership applies. It is a rapid-business transformation (few weeks) that need to occur at once without chocking or paralyzing the employees and managers. The same rules and phases of business transformation applies but need to be executed in a matter of weeks. Secondly, it is necessary to train for these kinds of disruptive events with expensive stress tests playing up these scenarios. To identify bottlenecks and obstacles for quick reaction to new pre-requisites and situation. What happens in the organization if employees are not allowed to travel or that customer demand is reduced by 50% over a period of time? These scenarios will happen in real-life – it is just a matter of time.

What we need to understand is that survival in the disruptive economy is not a matter of luck but the ability to quickly manage opportunities and threats in an effect and efficient way. Being prepared with right leadership, governance and capabilities is crucial for survival and need to be in place at once – when disruption attack our business and society with full force.  How well are you prepared for the new disruptive economy?

Disruption will continue to pivotal role in the future of business and society. The increased digitalization, globalization and urbanization has created a vulnerable world and are an engine for the disruptive economy. What we know is that the disruptive economy will be increased in speed, magnitude and frequency for many years to come. But there are help and support for the new disruptive economy in terms of online collaboration tools, digital e-commerce platforms and governance concepts such a ‘beyond budgeting’ to quickly cope with increase unpredictability. The question is you are ready to challenge tradition to survive in the future?