Part 2 in a 3 part series on tools for the technology social enterprise artist/strategist/entrepreneur.
Some entrepreneurs are able to identify a technology market opportunity. Yet, they are challenged to design an operational strategy for success. The "organizational planning" techniques that I leverage and are critical for any entreprenuer are:
Business Model/Lean Business Model Canvas
- Link: http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas and http://theleanstartup.com/
- Used to: identify overall business model including go-to-market, monetization and targets – where lean ideas
- Focus period: organizational set up, periodically at times of necessity (infection points & paradigm shifts)
- Useful for: turning great ideas into realistic ideas where 'lean' tactics provides flexibility of testing ideas and adapting
Umair Haque Betterness Returns/ Constituencies
Geoffrey Moore, Core vs. Context
- Link: http://www.dealingwithdarwin.com/theBook/darwinDictionary.php
- Used to: identify what is on the critical path for success and what needs to be “good enough”
- Focus period: initial planning or post-lean product validation with periodic/annual review
- Useful for: improving organizational efficiency by eliminating the desire to improve all processes that increases overhead
Product and Service Cone
- Explanation: identify elements such as products on the bottom of a triangle with those items that the organiztion should focus on at the top so that lines of business, segments, products might be eliminated over time
- Used to: simplify a complex product and service portfolio and target markets
- Focus period: at time of strategic re-thinking
- Useful for: eliminating moving outside core competencies over time to keep focus while helping to consider line extension in a growing organization that leverages core competencies
- Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis
- Used to: articulate company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Focus period: yearly update
- Useful for: critical for identifying actions to overcome weaknesses, invest in opportunities and plan risk mitigation when completed properly and in detail
- Link: similar to Customer Segmentation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_segmentation but includes the ideal customer characteristics even through no customer will meet those needs (i.e. a zebra is never all white or all black)
- Used to: identify top customer segments and characteristics
- Focus period: initial planning with periodic revisions
- Useful for: identifying appropriate “go to market” by seeing channels used and who segments reference, helps define personas for product design, focuses sales and marketing groups
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne Competitive Canvas/Blue Ocean Strategy
- Link: http://www.blueoceanstrategy.com/
- Used to: position organization against competitors
- Focus period: initial planning with periodic updates
- Useful for: identifying what the organization will not do that competitors are doing because it isn't critical for the segment, what should be superlative relative to competitors and identifying new “blue ocean” dimensions that the organization can dominate
Edward De Bono 6 Thinking Hats/Lateral Thinking
- Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats
- Used to: brainstorming
- Focus period: any time of business planning
- Useful for: finding more agreement, reducing the negative impact of loud people in the organization, taps into creativity. Some of the advanced techniques like “Consequences and Sequel” brings longer-term thinking to sustain the organization
Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema Discipline of market Leaders
- Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Discipline_of_Market_Leaders
- Used to: identify one of three main business models: innovator, operationally efficient, customer intimate
- Focus period: planning for more mature organizations and reconsidered when markets dynamics change (i.e. technology adoption cycle)
- Useful for: creating general priorities , although in the Internet age, there is evidence that one can make a customer-intimate company innovate or a innovating company more operationally efficient
- Big Picture Strategy
- Developing Organizational Strategy
- Implementing Strategy
Doug Hadden, FreeBalance Vice President Products, presented the draft FreeBalance product roadmap. FreeBalance leverages the 6 Thinking Hats linear thinking approach for product roadmap discussion and decision. The product roadmap includes modules, sub-modules and components aligned to the Public Financial Management Component Map. The status of every roadmap item was described including those that were completed in Version 7 in 2010. Numerous roadmap items represent the FreeBalance product vision. Some were proposed recently by customers. These were all described in detail with and discussed. Mr. Hadden reminded the delegates of recent PEFA assessments and results of the FreeBalance Customer Survey: current challenges and PFM priorities.
Delegates are presented the roadmap and select items that should be delivered in the short (2011), medium (2012) and long-term (after 2012). The voting occurs on the last day of FISC so that delegates have time to analyze all of the items.
There was a spirited discussion of how to handle off-budget management. Many FreeBalance customers have progressed from operational issues like cash management and controls to considering risk management monitoring and evaluation systems.
The annual FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) conference runs from January 16 – 19, 2011 in Madeira, Portugal. FISC provides an interactive forum to exchange Public Financial Management (PFM) good practices among international customers and PFM thought leaders. FISC drives the FreeBalance Accountability Suite product vision to direct FreeBalance GRP solutions. Previous FISC events were held in Mt. Tremblant, Canada (2010); Prague, Czech Republic (2009); Cascais, Portugal (2008); and London, United Kingdom (2007).
Manuel Pietra, FreeBalance President and CEO, provided a company update to delegates at the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) conference in Madeira Portugal. He spoke about the purpose of FISC – to drive the priorities for the FreeBalance Accountability Suite and to act as a forum for knowledge transfer among Public Financial Management (PFM) practitioners. He described the use of the 6 Thinking Hats parallel thinking approach for arriving at decisions.
Mr. Pietra described the evolution of FISC since 2007. He welcomed first-time delegations from Kyrgyzstan, Liberia and Uganda. FISC was augmented in 2010 to include Ministers of Finance. This program will continue for every two years. The FISC conference is the most important event for aligning product development with international customer requirements. The FreeBalance Government of Canada Cluster has a similar role to FISC but with more opportunities to connect.
FreeBalance adjusted the program to meet customer priorities from FISC 2010 and FreeBalance surveys. FISC 2011 objectives include assisting governments to leverage the latest technology and to align products with needs for the coming two years. Mr. Pietra described the differences between steering committees and user groups. There are Minister’s meetings every 2 years with extended sessions.
FreeBalance continues to grow at above average rates. New offices were opened in 2010. The employee base has also increased. Mr. Pietra believes that the customer-centric approach taken in mid-2006 has assisted the company to grow. This reorganization into a matrix with a single development, implementation and support process has enabled FreeBalance to be customer-driven. He described some of the latest initiatives in customer-centric development including the full use of the balanced scorecard methodology that aligns customer measurements with financial, internal process and learning metrics.
Some of the FreeBalance highlights of 2010 include:
Corporate Social Responsibility
As a For Profit Social Enterprise(FOPSE), FreeBalance strives to make a difference in the world. Unlike most companies, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is core the FreeBalance mission to help governments across the world leverage robust government financial management technology to accelerate country growth. He described how the balanced scorecard and triple bottom linereporting is assisting FreeBalance to achieve mission objectives.
The annual FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC) conference runs from January 16 – 19, 2011 in Madeira, Portugal. FISC provides an interactive forum to exchange Public Financial Management (PFM) good practices among international customers and PFM thought leaders. FISC drives the FreeBalance Accountability Suiteproduct vision to direct FreeBalance GRP solutions. Previous FISC events were held in Mt. Tremblant, Canada (2010); Prague, Czech Republic (2009); Cascais, Portugal (2008); and London, United Kingdom (2007).
FreeBalance President and CEO, Manuel Pietra, has been nominated for the for Peter Brojde Award for Next Generation Executive Leadership by the CATA Alliance.
How has Manuel achieved profitable and responsible growth for FreeBalance? Manuel has 3 lessons learned:
- Decision-making tools
- Social responsibility
FreeBalance leverages the “Six Thinking Hats” approach developed by Edward de Bono. The company was organized like most software companies when Manuel joined in March 2006. The organization structure needed to adapt to better serve the market. And, the company needed to make numerous strategic decisions. Manuel assembled the management team. He provided training materials on the technique. He described some high level objectives. Then he left the room. Manuel believes that executives gain more control by relinquishing control.
The 6 Hats technique is used throughout the company and with customers. Members of the FreeBalance International Steering Committee leverage the technique when prioritizing product roadmap items.
Most software companies are not customer-centric. Manuel realized that traditional operational processes used by software companies can result in inferior service and put barriers between company and customer decision-makers. We reorganized the company and provided customer metrics as the main dashboard for success. We’ve written a lot about customer-centricity in the past. Initiatives such as the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC), support SWAT Teams and the FreeBalance Customer Exchange have improved support and products. This has aided our growth.
Many traditional business leaders believe that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is company cost. Companies that engage in CSR risk profits. Manuel advocated the move to a For Profit Social Enterprise (FOPSE) where CSR is core to company decisions. We’ve talked about the benefits of this approach. We’ve even published a white paper on how to become a FOPSE. The business media has been interested in this approach Manuel has explained how FOPSE companies are able to effectively achieve social goals and achieve growth.
User group meetings were part of the CARTAC FMI Conference in Belize earlier this month. We had more than a day of discussions with our FreeBalance customers from the Caribbean region.
We find that the most successful technique for user groups is to spend more time listening than talking. It is extremely important for software vendors to understand the customer context. Data collected from the FreeBalance Customer Portal and from e-mails is just a starting point.
FreeBalance provided a quick overview of the product roadmap, new products and new customers. However, this was a “PowerPoint-free zone”. We used techniques of lateral thinking developed by Edward de Bono. Many of us at FreeBalance have been trained on this “6 Thinking Hats” method.
Our first order of business was to discuss the state of customer support. FreeBalance has developed an ISO-9001/2000 certified process for customer-centric product development, implementation and support. Customer support processes can always be improved, particularly when supporting customers globally.
We believe that the traditional model used by software vendors that separate products from services under serves the international market. Services and products need to be tightly integrated to ensure success. The user group selected 11 topics for discussion. These opics were discussed in detail in the order of priority.
We gained significant insight into some business processes in use by our customers. Our international team participated through the FreeBalance Customer Exchange by providing more questions.
FreeBalance produced a report after the user group session and we are following up on action items. We will propose some support process changes and build our product roadmap.