May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Innovation Health Chief Medical Officer Sunil Budhrani urges Virginians to start a conversation about mental health. Budhrani moderated the Digital Health panel at NVTC’s Health Care Informatics & Analytics Conference on May 5.


Even for a medical expert, mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about.

I know the terminology, proper treatment plans and resources. But as a society (even among health providers), we often don’t know how to talk to those in need of mental health support – sometimes including ourselves. It’s uncomfortable. It’s emotional. It’s personal. So we don’t share. Don’t ask. Don’t act. And suicide rates across our nation skyrocket.

We need to talk about mental health.

When I joined Innovation Health as Chief Medical Officer last month, I sat down with my team and we made a collective decision. We decided to speak from our own personal experiences with mental health, however imperfectly. Because talking about mental health is the best way to truly help remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Working as an ER doctor, I frequently saw patients whose anxiety and depression had gone unmanaged and ultimately led them to attempt suicide. Some I was able to help. For others there was nothing I could do. I realized that many times these patients weren’t getting the help they needed because they feared being labeled or misunderstood. Time and again, I saw that the cost of not treating these symptoms could be fatal.

Now, after so many years, so many news reports, and seeing so many of my colleagues and friends struggle, it is clear to me that we must confront the topic of mental health head-on if we are truly going to make a difference.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I hope it will be a catalyst for this critical conversation, which impacts so many Americans.

The proof is in the numbers: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in four adults and one in five children in the U.S.  has a diagnosable mental health condition. In Virginia, more than 230,000 adults – roughly 3.8 percent of the population – have experienced a serious mental illness. These facts tell me one thing; we are not alone. We all know someone, work with someone, or love someone who struggles with mental illness. We may struggle with it ourselves. The fact is that anxiety, depression and substance abuse touch every community. The time to accept this is now. The time to speak up and reach out is now.

Many people don’t get the services they need because they don’t know where to start. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can start the healing process by following these three steps:

  1. Talk to a primary care physician about your mental health. They can help connect you with the right mental health support. If you do not have a PCP, I highly recommend you select one for your general health care needs.
  2. Educate yourself. Visit the Innovation Health website to take a depression or anxiety assessment or call 703-289-7560 to schedule an in-person assessment with a trained counselor.
  3. Be proactive about mental well-being. If you know someone who may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, encourage them to get the help they need.

It is never easy or comfortable to approach situations like this, but as a community we can’t let our fear or doubts stop us from helping others or ourselves dealing with mental illness. Talk about metal health with your family, friends and colleagues not just this month, but all year.

Together we can work to build a healthier world. But first, we have to start the conversation.

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Kristin D’Amore of Dovel Technologies provides a look into how Virginia is supporting student innovation, an essential asset to the Commonwealth’s economy.


New businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation as well as being responsible for a disproportionate share of innovative activity in the United States.* There is an enormous amount of entrepreneurial activity occurring at institutions of higher learning throughout the country, and Virginia is taking strides to strengthen student innovation on its campuses. On April 14, 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law legislation that directs the Boards of Visitors of public colleges and universities to adopt intellectual property (IP) policies that are supportive of student entrepreneurship. The legislation, which was sponsored by Del. Charniele Herring, was supported by NVTC and a broad coalition of higher education and business community organizations across Virginia.

The legislation reduces some barriers to entry for student entrepreneurs by clarifying existing university IP policies to specify the conditions under which institutions of higher education own intellectual property as opposed to student ownership. Current policies at some institutions of higher education create uncertainty about IP ownership, which discourages students from launching new ventures, starting businesses, or commercializing research based on their own ideas. The bill encourages a campus culture that supports entrepreneurship and motivates Virginia’s universities to be hubs of creativity and innovation with the potential to drive regional economic growth through research commercialization and new business formation.

The issue of student entrepreneurship and IP rights was raised by the Governor’s Council on Youth Entrepreneurship, which was formed in August 2015 to study and recommend ways to support young business owners and innovators in the Commonwealth. The group is comprised of leaders in higher education, business, innovators and entrepreneurs. As a member of the Council, I was pleased to see an early win for young entrepreneurs and students across Virginia.

Increased student innovation and promoting IP commercialization and new patents by students is critical to growing Virginia’s economy.  Statistics from the Council on Virginia’s Future show that although Virginia’s rate of patent formation has improved in recent years, it is still well below the U.S. average. Furthermore, Virginia universities generated 1.94 startups per one million residents in 2013, measurably below the national rate of 2.38 startups and ranking the Commonwealth 27th in the country.

The Council on Youth Entrepreneurship is continuing its efforts assessing resources and opportunities in Virginia for young entrepreneurs and will be presenting additional recommendations to the Governor later this year.  The Council will make additional recommendations on areas including financial incentives for business formation, improving regulatory processes for entrepreneurs, strengthening academic programs for student innovators in K – 12 and higher education, and marketing the assets of Virginia’s education system to students, faculty, and business leaders across the country.  The Council’s efforts are focused on providing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators a solid foundation from which to launch their ideas, ultimately leading to further growth in the economy.

* According to the Kauffman Foundation, the largest foundation in the world devoted to entrepreneurship.

Kristin D’Amore is Director, Market Development and Strategy at Dovel Technologies and a member of Governor McAuliffe’s Council on Youth Entrepreneurship. 

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 This week on NVTC’s blog, George Lavallee of NeoSosytems offers five challenges and solutions to help customers receive the most out of CER.


Deltek Costpoint Enterprise Reporting (CER) provides customized, data-driven business intelligence (BI). Fueled by the IBM Cognos 10 analytics engine, CER enables organizations to mine their Costpoint data to provide consistent snapshots of performance, view historical trends and predict results.

CER is the king of BI. With state of the art capabilities, there are also potential roadblocks (employee turnover, user experience levels and changing data/accounting needs, other systems within the enterprise) that can keep companies from fully reaping these benefits. Unresolved, these challenges can cause inaccuracies, consume months of time and erode leader confidence.

1.   Powerful Customization Capabilities

While running CER reports is simple, developing them can be challenging  for users unfamiliar with Costpoint’s underlying data structure. To solve this problem, Deltek created standard reports (CER Reports) covering everything from project management to payroll to procurement. These prebuilt templates enable users to quickly generate reports that capture the most commonly used  fields across a wide swath of businesses. However, they may not include user-defined fields or specific metrics that you have implemented for your specific needs.

To capture these data, enterprises will want to build custom reports or modify existing standard reports. Creating or modifying Cognos reports requires a strong working knowledge of both the Cognos tool as well as the structure of the Costpoint database. For example, you can’t simply click a button to tailor a report to your accounts payable process or labor management structure. You will need to understand where the pertinent data elements reside and how to access them using the Cognos toolset. Many intermediate users lack the skills to effectively craft custom reports.

2. Complexity of Government Contracting Accounting Data

Costpoint uses more than 1,800 inter-related data tables that capture a wealth of information about your company. Access to this complex store of data can be of great benefit to your organization, but creating a report that captures the data relevant to your needs challenges many organizations. Many users are unsure about which data to query and how to convey it on a well-designed report. Common questions include:

  • What data tables do I access?
  • How do I arrange the data?
  • Which charts do I use?
  • What rendering options are best?

Additionally, most organizations have budgets and forecasts and want to integrate this data with actual results within their reports. You may have used another system to create your budgets, such as TM1, Adaptive or even Excel. Accordingly, integrating this data into reports generally means pulling data from systems outside Costpoint, further compounding complexity.

3. Robust Security

Increasingly in today’s world, data breaches are affecting companies in all sectors. Breaches tarnish a company reputation, expose data and sabotage audit requirements. Fortunately, Cognos and CER deliver robust and highly configurable security controls. The hundreds of available settings, however, can stymie many organizations.

Novice and even intermediate users may not realize that out-of-the box Cognos installations may not incorporate security settings that are optimal for their company’s situation. Organizations could inadvertently expose proprietary data and confidential employee information. For instance, you might assume that granting access to the projects package would only enable users to see project-related data but close examination of that data reveals that confidential employee information may be included if it is not properly secured by appropriate user-specific security profiles. The default security settings may not be sufficient to provide the degree of security required in rapidly changing environments.

4. Analytics Development and Optimization

Unless you have a dedicated analytics staff with the required expertise, individuals developing your reports may not be effective. Why? Developing reports and maximizing efficiency requires experience with both Costpoint and Cognos.

Often, employees tasked with reporting business intelligence have other duties. CER management is a part-time responsibility. They may have deep functional knowledge, but minimal understanding of Costpoint data structures and Cognos query and reporting requirements.

If you are caught in this situation the results can be challenging. Inexperienced users take 10 to 20 times longer to develop a report than an expert. Reports can be late compressing the time available for meaningful analysis as well as diverting time away from other business-critical duties, which may better align with their hired skillset.

5. Meaningful Results

Inexperience can also cause inaccuracy in reported results. Novice users may query the wrong data or omit data that would dramatically improve the reports usefulness. Such mistakes could put contracts at risk or result in poor or ill-informed business decisions. You want your reports to carry the most meaningful data possible.

Imagine you’ve tasked your logistics manager with developing an incurred cost submission report. That individual skillfully maintains your supply chain. But he or she doesn’t use Costpoint every day and may not understand which direct and indirect cost tables to query. Your report might miss critical costs or include unallowable items.

Errors like these erode leader confidence. Just one inaccurate report, and senior managers may mistrust all your data outputs. You’ve damaged your reputation and possibly jeopardized your contracts simply because you didn’t fully understand the data structures and how to best capture the data that conveys the most meaning.

Signs You Need Help

How do you know if these challenges are hindering your data analytics? Talk to your users and business managers. If you hear the following, you are probably underutilizing the power of CER or you might need a CER tune-up.

  1. Reports are consistently late.
  2. More time is spent collecting data than analyzing it.
  3. Executives don’t trust data accuracy.
  4. Significant manipulation is required to analyze data.
  5. Reports have unusually long run times.
  6. Project managers lack administrative visibility (i.e., they can’t see unpaid invoices, approaching funding ceilings, missing bill rates, etc.)

Consequences of Inaction

Inexperienced users waste time collecting the wrong data and not enough time analyzing results. Inaccuracies cause executives to doubt the validity of all your reports. Poor security can expose proprietary data and compromise audit results. Depending upon the number of users, solving these challenges could save your company months of labor and lead to better, more timely business decisions.

If you owned a Telsa, you would make sure you were trained and educated in how to fully utilize it. At a minimum you would take it to experts to make sure it was operating efficiently and effectively.

What You Need to Know:

To fully benefit from Deltek CER, companies should routinely assess their CER configurations, processes and output. A CER tune-up is easy and should be a standard operating procedure within all Deltek organizations. Maximizing the power of CER will allow companies to reap substantial benefits, overcome any “obstacles” and enable their organizations to succeed.

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Who Owns the Data?

March 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

The greatest meaning of “big” in Big Data is the role of data in the digital economy. The question who owns the data is big too. With IoT and cloud, data ownership will matter soon even to those who don’t care now. Svetlana Sicular of the Gartner Blog Network explores this issue in this week’s blog post. 


The greatest meaning of “big” in Big Data is the role of data in the digital economy. The question who owns the data is big too. With IoT and cloud, data ownership will matter soon even to those who don’t care now.

And there is no universal answer — data ownership is culture-specific. In some cases, nobody wants to own the data, in other cases, everybody wants to grab a piece (“it’s mine!” although the “owner” didn’t even know before you asked that this data existed). With participating external parties, things are even more complicated: for example, one party might learn that it does not have rights for the data it considered its own.  To solve ownership — but not alleviate the problem! — some organizations decide that data belongs to their customers, citizens or third-parties, and the company is only a custodian.

What successful approaches to data ownership have I seen?

The universal first step is establishing an institute of data governance.  I just published a research note on how to do this: EIM 1.0: Setting Up Enterprise Information Management and Governance. You don’t have to call it “data governance.” It could be “data advocacy” or simply a name reflecting the nature of taking care of data. It should resonate with a specific organizational or ecosystem culture.

The next steps would be specific to the culture and the nature of the business: figuring out what data is most vital. This will narrow down data ownership to the decisions that matter (which will save a lot of grief and lots of hours).

The versions of data ownership I have seen:

  • Information governance mechanism resolves it through top-down decision making.
  • Subject matter experts make a step forward to own the data on which they are SMEs (bottom up).
  • Application business owners are offered to own the data, accept it and take it (unexpectedly) seriously, which is fruitful to everyone.
  • Data operators become de-facto data owners (which could be a solution, but could be a greater problem). Transparency in what is being done with data and explicit data access rules make it a solution.
  • When data ownership is hard to resolve on the high level, going more granular, and resolving data elements’ ownership (which is usually more obvious), answers the question.
  • A business executives assumes data ownership. The worst case is when such ownership belongs to an executive who has control, but has no idea about data. E.g. the executive owns the data, but does nothing because executives are busy doing other things. The best case is when this executive is a sponsor of data-related work.

The ownership is just part of taking care of the data. Look at the root of the issue: who can do what with which data without stepping on each other’s toes, avoid troubles with regulations and ensure you put data to work ethically. Data governance often starts with compliance and ownership, but — unavoidably — it ends up finding value in the data, which is big in the digital economy.

Follow Svetlana on Twitter @Sve_Sic. For more on Big Data, check out NVTC’s Big Data and Analytics Committee.  The NVTC committee is hosting its first conference on May 5 which will explore health care informatics and analytics.

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Overcoming Obstacles in Entrepreneurship

March 14th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog: on Feb. 18, the NVTC Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee sponsored a fireside chat entitled “Journey to Success: Overcoming Obstacles in Entrepreneurship.” Nate Miller, an assurance intern at Aronson LLC, shares the top tips from that event, which featured a fireside chat with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, and Scott Case, the founding CTO of Priceline.com and founding CEO of Startup America. 


On February 18, the NVTC Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee sponsored a fireside chat entitled “Journey to Success: Overcoming Obstacles in Entrepreneurship.” The event was moderated by Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, who interviewed Scott Case, the founding CTO of Priceline.com and founding CEO of Startup America.

The discussion focused on Case’s experiences throughout his lengthy career as a key member of several startup companies; Case also shared his thoughts on the potential pitfalls startup companies can fall victim to. Some of Case’s key points to attendees included:

  • The time commitment required to be a successful entrepreneur.
  • The importance of creating and expanding connections in a growing area such as the D.C.
  • Overcoming failure repeatedly is a necessary trait to success.
  • The importance of maintaining a valuable network with the appropriate resources.

Case’s entrepreneurial journey started with part time jobs as an assistant for a plumbing company and a well driller, and running a local lawn-mowing business, where he gained an understanding of mastering his trade, servicing customers, and constantly looking for the next opportunity. While attending college at the University of Connecticut, Case spent his free time developing an advanced flight simulator with fellow classmates only to discover that the startup could not generate sales due to a lack of marketing. As a result, a key lesson that Case carries with him to this day is the need to supplement a great product with a sales and marketing team and other supporting functions.

Undeterred, Case shunned more secure employment opportunities to continue working with startups and, following an introduction to Priceline.com Founder Jay Walker a few years later, joined Priceline as the founding CTO. During his tenure, Case’s team at Priceline developed a “name your own price” system in the early days of the internet that allowed the company to grow significantly and successfully undergo an IPO with an initial market capitalization of more than $12 billion. Case attributes his success at Priceline to his understanding of the available technology, as well as the ability to effectively market it and while creating a team willing to try a number of ventures without fear of failure.

Since leaving Priceline in 2000, Case has co-founded or led several other ventures focused on technology, entrepreneurship and philanthropy such as Main Street Genome, Startup America Partnership, Malaria No More, and most recently, Potomac Innovation, a new business travel purchasing company. Case stressed the need for entrepreneurs to remain connected to advisers, financiers, peers and customers if they are to be successful, and noted that incubators, such as 1776 in D.C. and others in startup hubs such as New York City and Silicone Valley, can greatly help a new entrepreneur. Case also stressed the importance of minimizing government regulation to allow new business owners to focus on their core activities, but noted that government can help by listening and responding to entrepreneurs’ needs – such as the recent decision by the city of Nashville, Tennessee to significantly increase its broadband access, which appears to be attracting entrepreneurs to the city.

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3 Reasons Why M&A Will Continue to Thrive in 2015

February 17th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, guest blogger Gretchen Guandolo of member company Clearsight Advisors discusses the success of M&A in 2014 with the return of gargantuan deals, largely seller-friendly transaction structures and premium valuations, and offers three reasons why 2015 will be just as successful.


dollar-exchange-rate-544949_1280In what was widely considered a banner year for M&A, 2014 was the return of gargantuan deals, largely seller-friendly transaction structures and premium valuations. In spite of the turbulent equity markets being driven by fluctuating oil prices, a gathering storm in Europe, and uncertainty around rising interest rates, we at Clearsight are already seeing the makings of a very big M&A year. Globally, investment banks are seeing increased deal flow and expanding pipelines. Our team is already out to market with several deals that are garnering high demand and premium valuations from a number of unique buyer groups. We expect the rising M&A tide to continue through 2015, as we believe demand for niche leadership positioning, strong growth trajectories, and seasoned management teams is unlikely to dissipate. First, a few fun facts from 2014 that will continue the momentum through 2015:

  • In 2014 there was $3.5 trillion worth of global M&A activity, which is up 47 percent from the year before
  • Global private equity investments totaled at $561.9 billion. That’s the highest figure since 2007, and a 43 percent bump over 2013 – with 60 percent of 2014 buyout activity focused on add-on investments
  • Venture capitalists disbursed a massive $87.8 billion (compared to $50.3 billion for 2013) via 7,731 deals
  • Companies raised around $249 billion in global IPOs in 2014, which was the busiest year for new listings since 2010

So what do we expect for this year?

  • There is likely to be a frenzy of activity in certain verticals, including: healthcare, energy and technology. Technology continues apace with no sign of slowdown and while the energy sector is harder to predict, one thing is clear – disruption in a regulated industry makes for a great M&A environment
  • Investor interest in certain technologies is likely to grow. Some of our favorites include: customer experience, big data, and human capital management. Technologies that enable us to get into the minds of customers and lead them on a journey to experience and buy a product has become the goal of retailers, financial services companies and even government! We see the market of big data continue to evolve and mature. This year will be a great growth year for data analytics consulting businesses who leverage Hadoop and other open source technologies to deliver predictive behavior, lower costs and drive increased revenue. Human capital technologies will continue to surge as employers seek out the best talent and retain and train individuals in a hyper competitive market.
  • As seen in 2014, both private equity and strategic acquirers will drive robust market competition. Nearly all of our processes include both strategic and financial buyers and as private equity grows increasingly aggressive in pricing in an effort to put money to work, we see strategic buyers dominating 2015.

Growth will continue to be the main driver of valuations throughout 2015. Premium multiples go to the companies with a demonstrated high growth track record and robust pipeline for future growth. Growth eclipses profitability through 2015.

 

 

 

 

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Contribute to the NVTC Blog!

October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in About NVTC | Member Blog Posts | Social Media - (Comments Off)

NVTC welcomes member submissions for guest blog posts. There is no suggested word count and posts do NOT need to be original content (i.e. they can be excerpted or summarized from other authored material coming out of your company). Guest blog posts should offer information and thought leadership, and must NOT be promotional.

The best blog posts incorporate lists, graphics and/or photos, and include links to supplemental information and a concise headline. Check out this example. (Note: This post plugs a product, but only because the product is the source of the information the blog author is providing us.)

With limited editorial space (usually one or two guest posts a week), we urge you to reach out to us with your proposed submission in advance (especially if it’s time sensitive or needs to be coordinated with an event). NVTC’s editorial staff will select an appropriate date for publication of each guest post, and reserves the right to make suggestions for edits to a post before publication.

To share your insights with NVTC’s readers, contact Sarah Jones at sjones@nvtc.org or 703-268-7878 ext. 207.

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imageIn today’s workplace, a company must change to move ahead.  This requires a corporate culture that supports innovation.  (Whereas “invention” is the creation of a new idea, “innovation” is that new idea actually put to the test.)  And because experimenting with new ideas can sometimes lead to a dead end, a success-oriented company must encourage a tolerance for failure.

It’s really not hard to help your employees reach their creative potential.  You simply remove the barriers that impede their innovative ideas.  Here’s how:

  1. Build trust by telling the truth.
    Make sure employees know what is expected of them – then be consistent in your speech and behavior.
  2. Promote risk-taking.
    Use interviews or anonymous surveys to determine if employees hold back ideas – then explain why your company values creative thinking.
  3. Suspend judgment when employees offer recommendations.
    Say “yes, and…” instead of “yes, but…”
  4. Remove fear of blame for ideas that don’t work out.
    Explain that the company holds employees responsible for ideas – which is different from criticizing them when those ideas meet with failure.
  5. Help employees understand failures to prevent repeat occurrences.
    Involve those accountable in after-action reviews, and then make sure all employees understand why an idea did not succeed.

You cannot deny the need for certainty.  It’s only natural for the mind to predict and control the future.  But since the only certainty is change, the only companies who keep ahead of the curve are those which encourage innovation – even at the cost of failure.

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When Vision is Not Enough

March 18th, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research & Communications shares her insights below.


A clear organizational vision is vital to moving your people in the same direction to meet strategic goals. Attaining a vision supposes a lot of things going right along your journey, or at least being somewhat in your control – but what happens when inconvenient realities make things go, well, differently?

Many of today’s leaders simply lack the time, bandwidth or vantage point to think beyond the near term. Yet never-ending change makes it increasingly important to examine macro forces that can impact your customers’ environments, and to prepare yourself for flexible decision-making in an unexpected future.

Scenario planning is a powerful but often overlooked tool in strategic planning. Scenarios don’t define the most likely future – they map uncertainties and explore alternative futures, so you are better prepared for both.

While employed by organizations as large as Royal Dutch Shell, the World Bank and the Military, even smaller to mid-sized businesses can incorporate at least some foundational work into their planning efforts.

The biggest premise in scenario planning is don’t assume the future will closely mirror the present. [Consider the unanticipated changes that resulted from the 1970s oil shock, the ripple effects of the 9/11 attacks or even the recent Target data breach.] Start outside-in. Invest in truly understanding your customer’s world – what are they planning for? What external forces must they anticipate or react to? Such forces can be the root of opportunities, surprises, or unforeseen crises.

Then shift to inside-out thinking to assess the implications of those external forces on your core business practices, organizational capacity, culture and current strategies. Develop a set of plausible ‘what if’ scenarios grounded in your customers’ contextual environment. Explore postures such as…

  • Does our current [intended] strategy hold up in each scenario? What are our strengths and weaknesses in each situation?
  • In 3 years, will there still be a fit between what we do and the customer environment?
  • Who or what kind of businesses will be successful in each scenario?
  • Can we be reasonably sure a certain change will occur? What could the outcome of that change be on our customers?  And what then is truly uncertain? What should we do or not do in each scenario?

Brainstorm, be creative, and stretch your thinking. A recent customer of mine reacted to our example scenarios as “mind bending” for the entrenched organizational culture. Generate options and test them against your scenarios. You can use a variety of tools – from team brainstorming workshops to highly structured analytical modeling.

Remember this is about plausibility, not prediction. But with this more informed perspective, you can design a strategic roadmap with enough flexibility to navigate unexpected turns. Then go for it.

For further reading: http://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures/ar/1


Contributed by Kathy Stershic, Principal Consultant, Dialog Research & Communications

www.dialogrc.com, kstershic@dialogrc.com

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