Monday, 28 June 2010

ExSer HQ Sessions - growing to maturity

Last Thursday I attended an ExSer XQ session in Almere. This one was titled "does better customer insight lead to better service innovation". See here for info in Dutch.

ExSer is a Dutch organizations that attempts - since halfway 2009 - to increase the interest and knowledge about Services Innovation in the Netherlands. The XQ sessions are aimed at improving the knowledge of Services Innovation as a profession. Each HQ session features lectures from business, academics and consultants so that these groups learn to from each other. At least that is the idea.

I won't discuss the details of the presentations here as my focus for today is that I noticed that the public that comes to these types of events is maturing fast. An ever growing crowd of practitioners from business shows up and has lively discussions. Considering the three blood groups separately I noticed the following:
  • As said, the business community is growing and maturing. They tell practical stories about pragmatic projects - in this case from KLM - that illustrate very well that companies, especially larges ones, are actively seeking ways to improve customer experience, which starts with ... understanding it. Naturally, this often starts from marketing, but there are participants from e-business and government and financial/insurance organizations front and back-offices too.
  • The consultancy community seems to fall apart in two parts, the pragmatic service design community that focuses on designing experiences and the psychology/subconscious/anthropology/sociology based consultants that often base their approach on the ideas of a their specific theory/guru and follow their method.
  • The university representatives thus far seems to come from a design background. They focus on the experiences part of product usage, but seems to find it very hard to loose the product completely.
So how mature can we say the ExSer community is today. Well, I'll leave you today with two observations:
  1. On the positive side, I notice that the Services Innovation public has moved on from IT-based services, to human-related/centered/experiences focused. That is good news, as this means most have moved on from the idea that software and web-functionality are services and embrace the idea that for services there need to be humans involved.
  2. On the negative side, I notice that universities are still unable to shed their design/product/statistiscs/engineering past and move on into the services realm of interaction/co-creation/complexity and pattern. It will be interesting to see when the first one makes the jump into the unknown.
This leaves us with the consultants. Well, I think I said almost enough about them above. Let me finish with the observation that the consultants seen to get along well with the business community. That's natural and good don't you think?

Friday, 18 June 2010

The end of the BHAG, whats next?

Remember the BHAG? - the BIG HAIRY AUDICIOUS GOAL - introduced by Collins and Porris in their article Building Your Companies Vision and later in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. They define a BHAG as:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
—Collins and Porras, 1996


What has happened, I rarely hear the BHAG word these days.

Well to me it seems quite simple. A BHAG is simply defined as a goal for the organisation. That doesn't resonate very well with today's mantra of open innovation.

But worse, goals seems to be so fluent and dynamic these days! Who still dares to define a long-term goal?

Still the world seems full of potential BHAG's: poverty, aging of population, the looming food crisis, the looming energy crisis, global destablization to name just a few. These are however not BHAG's that can be handled by a single organization. For that a whole network is needed. Hence my idea that the next big thing could be BHANG's: Big Hairy Audicios Network Goals.

I really like the HANG part :-) What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Open Innovation. What is it?

Lots has been said about innovation here already. That it is about the effect, not the "thing", that it is a value-system game, not a sales game, etc.

In that light, actually nothing new can be said about Open Innovation. It is with us now for a couple of years and has quickly become the "A New Kid on The Block Tzunami". In the last 24 hours only, 9.840 new pages with the combi "open innovation" appeared in the GoogleDB. The top 2 are very instructive:
  1. The Apple exception: where open innovation theory breaks down
  2. Using open innovation to meet ambitious carbon emission targets

The 1st is about the closedness of Apple that seems to rebunk succesfully what the Open Innovation Mantra demands companies to do. The 2nd is about "Green ICT" and tells us that without opening up and collaboration it can't be done.

These two examples IMHO illustrate how broad interpretation of terms leads to confusion between "imparative" and "use wisely".

Last weekend I came accross Hermann Simons' book Hidden Champions again and realized that whereas Apple itself is surely not hidden anymore (it never has BTW), it is still a Champion in Hiding. But what does it hide? The products itself, not the underlying technologies. Lots of small bits and pieces leak (are leaked?) in the months before every product introduction. Quite often these are about cooperations, designs, technology-sourced, etc. In fact Apple buys most of its components on the open market and only keeps private what they consider core. That seems to be very much in line with what the Hidden Champions do. Herman notes that the attitude to outsourcing R&D is (quote p 181, table 8.1)

Negative, with in-house R&D seen as critical for protection of core competencies

And for outsourcing noncore activities

Positive, owing to variability of cost and quality, continuing relationships with supplies

That is exactly what Apple does. Their core is product development & marketing. That is why they source their hardware components and develop their own architectures and sofware frameworks.

Looking at the Open Innovation phenomenon in this way explains most of its popularity. Every organisation can be good (read: can declare something to be core) at a few things only. All the rest must be sourced otherwise.

IMHO opinion that large volume of sourcing of hardware and sharing of ideas - which is today too easily called cooperation - is what comprises the bulk of the Open Innovation Tzunami. It also explains most of the activities described in the 2nd story on meeting Carbon emissions.

One thing however keeps on nagging me: how many product-based companies are making some of the lethal errors, f.e. by confusing technology leadership and product leadership. Or by confusing collaboration with total openess. How many hidden or public Champions will become extinct as a result of the IO Tzunami?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Values get together? - personal, communal and corporate

It has been said many times already in this blog that innovation is about the effect of changing values. Whatever influences the current values of users, customers or markets for me counts as innovation.

A value system - as I understand it - is what people use to base there decisions on. As usual Wikipedia both helps to clear things up and also makes things more complicated. Here is what it says about value systems:
A value system is a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures used for the purpose of ethical or ideological integrity. A well defined value system is a moral code.
Words like ethics, integrity and code in essence sound positive to me, but I fully realize they also apply in case a value system is not so well-intentioned. But let's leave that as an aside for a moment and take a look at what Wikipedia tells us next:

One or more people can hold a value system. Likewise, a value system can apply to either one person or many.

  • A personal value system is held by and applied to one individual only.
  • A communal or cultural value system is held by and applied to a community/group/society. Some communal value systems are reflected in the form of legal codes or law.
I guess we all recognize both forms. Yes, at time you seems to have other values that others and yes, at times, one really recognizes ones values in that of the group you are with. And some groups indeed have codes or "laws" that at times seem to work for you and that you would like to change a others.

A bit further down it says:
As a member of a society, group or community, an individual can hold both a personal value system and a communal value system at the same time. In this case, the two value systems (one personal and one communal) are externally consistent provided they bear no contradictions or situational exceptions between them.
So people can have and act in two value systems as long as these can "go together". In between these two quotes Wikipedia also explains corporate value systems:
Fred Wenstøp and Arild Myrmel have proposed a structure for corporate value systems that consists of three value categories. These are considered complementary and juxtaposed on the same level if illustrated graphically on for instance an organization’s web page.
  1. The first value category is Core Values, which prescribe the attitude and character of an organization, and are often found in sections on Code of conduct on its web page. The philosophical antecedents of these values are Virtue ethics, which is often attributed to Aristotle.
  2. Protected Values are protected through rules, standards and certifications. They are often concerned with areas such as health, environment and safety.
  3. The third category, Created Values, is the values that stakeholders, including the shareholders expect in return for their contributions to the firm. These values are subject to trade-off by decision-makers or bargaining processes. This process is explained further in Stakeholder theory.
I'll have to study this a bit further, but for the moment I wonder: people can hold two value systems when they go together, but when we add a third, the corporate value systems .... can they hold three? And if they can, do the three go together?

A hunch tells me there are sources of trouble here, can tell where, why and when. I'll dive into it. Suggestions very welcome.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The end of process

Processes in general and Business Processes in particular are very popular notions today. Popularized by writers like Hammel and heavily marketed by all sorts of software, systems and consultancy firms, process now seems to have conquered the vocabulary of business and government alike. If anything goes wrong the usual response is "we need to look closely at our processes" and (ofcourse) Process Improvement projects flourish abundantly.

All this process-thinking and focus started to annoy me lately, but I couldn't tell why. Until I saw this slide by Dave Snowden:


In it he explains three waves of management practice. The first, scientific management, led to the industrial revolution, where - inspired by military forms of organization - the organization was managed and optimized by function: purchasing, production, sales, marketing, service, HR, etc. Life was simpel then, processes were siloed and controlled by function. The ability to mass-produce was the result of this new form of functional organization.
This lasted until the '60s when it turned out it had become a bit more complicated. No longer mass but mass-customized production became the norm. To achieve that one had to look at the organization as system that turned customer demands (multiple) into targetted delivery. All this based on information such as demand expectation, strategic planning, scenarios, production planning, etc. So there was a clear need to exchange information between the silos. Many organizations "tumbled over" to become process oriented (often disguised as becoming customer focussed). ICT became a very important factor as information in general and process information in particular became prime suspect as a source for optimization. The ability to control information became the key to business succes.
In todays world information is still seen as key, but is it really? If we listen to the process-addicts it is. It is all there is. How to make sense of the very high variety found in todays consumers and citizens. And can we separate those. 9 to 5 has gone. We can be a citizen for 3 minutes, a consumer for the next 3 and go on as an employee for a while after that. Mass collaboration creates Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter influences the way small organizations and individual critters lead their productive/commercial lives. Social is back on the agenda, not just in computing but everywhere: eco, care, gov, the list is endless. Why? Well, because it is no longer key to control the information, but key to get things moving. In Dave's words: it is key to situate a network, the ability to create a group of followers and actually do someting with it.
What is all means? Time will tell, but I'm glad that we can forget process. Things aren't neat anymore. Networks dissipate, they don't process. They are resilient, not designed.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Not sure this post is about services directly, but hear what happened to me yesterday.

Last week my wife had an MRI scan (no worries, all is fine, thanks for asking) so we went to hear the results and conclusions yesterday. After going trough all the detailed results the docter proposed to try a kind of medicine (no worries, as said, all is fine). She remembered the medicine has some by-effects but couldn't remember them exactly. Something with "orange" and "stripes".

So she went on the hospitals portal to find the drug leaflet, found it and .... no hit. The by-effects were not mentioned. Hmmmm.

So she went on to the manufacturers website to find more specific details and ... no hit. Some by-effects mentioned but not this one. Hmmmm.

As a last resort, she tried Google, typing in the full name of the diagnosis, four very scrabble-worthy Latin-like words and .... lets try the first hit. Hmmmm, no succes.

Meanwhile she muttered, I guess I will have to go to Wikipedia and indeed the 5th hit was a Wikipedia page on exactly the abovementioned scrabble term. And indeed, there is was. The by-effect was neatly desribed and the advice was "propably you won't like the taste of Cola anymore". Hmmmm.

So I got very curious and asked her: does this happen often? The reply was as expected. Yes, wikipedia-pages are often more accurate than the internal hospital system, simply becuase thousands of medical professionals share facts and insights this way.

Hmmmm. What does this example mean for services innovation or innovating services. It looks like the docters service to us depended on a good piece of EXTERNAL infrastructure that was built by a collective effort of thousands of very serious professionals. I would love to hear more of these kind of examples of services being dependent on efforts of external networks.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The Services Sector does not exist

After a long pause, I finally came over the barrier that kept me from posting. It was a sentence I read just five minutes ago about a professors whose chair is named "Economy of the Services Sector".

It is not the word economy that got me fired, not even the words Services or Sector, but the combined notion of the latter two: Services Sector. How long will it take before we finally get rid of this incorrect use of the word Service?

Lets face it, who speaks of the product sector? Nobody isn't it? We have PC's, cars, tiles, gasoline, even software licences, but these do not form the product sector, they are part of sectors like Oil & Gas, Consumer Tech, or Automotive.

But for some strange reason the term Services Sector continues to creep in from time to time. And that simply annoys me. Especially because the solution is so simple: every economic activity has a services part, even product-related activities.

Aroujo and Spring have been very clear on this: products alone cannot be sold so mankind invented the product/service combination to make things transferable. Economic goods are goods because they can be traded like a good.

And ofcourse there are examples where trading does not work. Not in the sense that a certain good is traded. When that happens, when the customer does not know in advance what he or she will get, one can be very sure services are near! For the rest, its a combi. Every product has a services lining. And almost every services comes with a product. Isn't that what economists call complementaty consumption?

Wouldn't that be a good title for a chair "Professor of complementary product/service consumption". Any suggestions who is willing to sponsor that Chair are more than welcome :-)