The beta blog

Showing all posts tagged with Agile organisation

< The beta blog | Dec 4, 2014

Five mission-critical skills required in the digital age

The digital revolution is here and has fundamentally transformed how we live and work forever. The analogue age of old is gone and while many ‘traditional’ skills are still useful and transferable, this new world in beta requires professionals of all seniority and industries to adapt and embrace new, and what I call, mission-critical skills for the digital age. 

What are they? Below I outline five of them. 

1. Digital literacy

Having a proficient understanding of technologies, applications, software programs such as search engines, social media, spreadsheets, databases, and information storage and management is a must. These digital tools are ingrained in our day-to-day lives and are becoming more intuitive and complex as the technology develops. Besides this, familiarity with technological devices such as smartphones, tablets and (as the market develops) smartwatches will be a core requirement.

I would also argue, however, that less obvious and more abstract thinking patterns like algorithmic thinking, an analytical approach to challenges or application of network theory also should be part of an individual's basic skillset.

2. Embrace and welcome change 

Understand that the rate of innovation with digital technology is only increasing and therefore embracing new technologies from the broad spectrum discussed above and embedding them in to your life will be beneficial to your career. In other words, stop being a 'digital tourist' and become a native. This is easier said than done of course and where some people adapt to change seamlessly, for others it takes hard and conscious work.

Points 1 and 2 are about different levels of internalisation, that are the ‘knowing’ and ‘digesting’ of the digital environment. Once mastered, a major turning point comes, and that’s to the external.

3. Become a meaningful content creator

Becoming a contributor by creating digital content. Being a contributor is not only sharing content per se, but sharing in a meaningful context by matching your messages with the right audience and channel. Whether it is a blog, tweet, LinkedIn post, video, image or presentation all depends on your content and the audience.

When you are on this level your sharing should not be by chance, but by choice, knowing why you do what you do.

4. Be an active contributor to a community

Shaping and building digital communities and allows you to connect with like-minded people in a meaningful way. To become a useful member (or indeed leader) of a community requires continuous participation in the form of providing useful information (links, articles, research etc.) to being personable, helpful and friendly. Of course, understanding the interconnection of networks and nodes and knowing what type of content resonates with the influencers within that community will allow you to become an influencer within that community yourself.

Ultimately becoming an active contributor to a community takes time, thoughtfulness and an understanding of network dynamics, and will take you to true cognitive and emotional influence over a well defined group of individuals.

5. Become a trust agent

Building trust in the digital world is the most critical digital skill you can acquire. Creating trust is impossible without personal interaction, and experience shows that continuous participation within online communities will help you acquire trust among relevant groups. If you become a ‘trendsetter’ or innovator in your own right by being a valuable source of information will ultimately allow you to build trust.

Uniqueness is key here: replicate your online personality offline and re-create your ego in digital space. You may argue this is more art than science, to which I would reply, is classical leadership not? Originality and being an innovator is just one element to developing trust however. Having consistency with a digital style or brand is just as important. What would you like your own personal online brand to convey?

Bonus tips: The enabler approaches

Besides these digital skills I would mention three enabler approaches which are not skills but rather mind sets or attitudes. These are:

  • Be open to learn. As the late Steve Jobs said, ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’. Being genuinely curious to trying new ‘things’, practices, technologies, disciplines that you may not know a great deal about. This is to protect you from ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ syndrome. Break your routines, routinely.
  • Critically self-reflect. Look at yourself from the inside out and also ask a group of trusted people of their constructive critical view. Use tracking tools to see your progress (or lack of) objectively.
  • Manage your cognitive load. The digital world is an ever-changing and always-on beast so for balance it’s important to maintain a sustainable digital drive without digital burnout. Instead participate in non digital recreational activities (sports, the arts, etc) to keep a level of equilibrium.

What do you think are the mission critical digital skills to stay relevant in a world in beta? 

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< The beta blog | Sep 26, 2014

iOS8 & three waves of digital development: What this means for businesses in the digital age

A lot has been said and written about iOS8, what works, what doesn't work, whether one should install it or whether one should wait. There are statistics on the number of installations compared to iOS 7 and both my colleague Simon and I have received numerous calls from our friends asking us whether we felt it was safe for them to go ahead and download it! Well, we did download and install iOS8 on our devices and were pleasantly surprised with to see how nice the features were!

Put a Digital Strategist (Simon) and a Digital Transformation Specialist (myself) together and what you are bound to get is a conversation around customer journeys and need gaps addressed by the new features. And here were the conclusions that the two of us came to:

i. The new features could help us do things we couldn't do before (send an audio message, get reply notifications, see when a message was sent, manage mails quickly, Siri knows the tune)

ii. The new features could help us accomplish more than what we could do before (Reach your favourite people, actionable notifications, Extensions, Quick Type, Selfies on a timer)

iii. If we chose to share some of our personal data, we could get a differentiated experience and enjoy both a cost advantage and a knowledge advantage (Healthkit, Share with your family)

This neatly ties up with PwC’s Three Waves of digital development:

  • First wave: Economies of products and services

This is all about successfully offering new digital capabilities to customers and stakeholders

  • Second wave: Economies of outcomes

This is all about enhancing digital capabilities to enable customers and stakeholders to accomplish more

  • Third wave: Economies of wishes

This is about providing a differentiated experience and a clear advantage/benefit when a customer or stakeholder provides access to his or her data

Putting the two together, it seemed safe enough to infer that companies that were highly successful in this digital age (a.k.a Apple – one cannot argue with that):

  • Tended to have product releases that addressed all 3 waves at the same time.
  • Seemed to have a “magic ratio” of features in each wave for every release (for example it could be argued that the iOS 7 release with the movement away from skeuomorphism was skewed towards the first wave – economies of products and services).
  • Had greater integration with what was “good” out there with each release while still differentiating themselves on core brand value. A fearless market stance seldom exhibited before! (Apple taking tentative steps into opening up iOS for integration with extensions and widgets)

Gartner’s view is by 2020, 75% of businesses will be digital businesses – hence there are implications of these inferences on almost every business and client we provide advice to. Simon and I have taken a look at these inferences and interpreted these into actionable suggestions at the strategy level:

  • From Agile Development To An Agile Mindset

The world is truly in beta and internet and mobile banking product owners, heads of development and customer experience specialists need to think of their platform capabilities as versions and plan on quarterly, yearly or minor and major releases. This mindset is very prevalent in the digital and IT departments in banks, but this mindset needs to move into Business and the Board.

  • The Rise Of Three Dimensional Capabilities

As explained in the 3 waves of digital development; digital capabilities, like physical assets exist in 3 states. Digital capabilities exist either as products & services, as outcomes or as wishes just as physical assets exist in solid, liquid or gaseous states. And just as physical assets behave differently when they are in different states (water has different properties to steam, energy can be generated from both but through different ways), digital capabilities in different states need to be leveraged differently (example OAC through actionable notifications is a capability as a product, when we use actionable notifications for employees in customer care to react instantaneously to customer queries, it is an outcome.) Digital capabilities like physical assets can move between states, so business leaders need to clearly understand the state and the resultant properties of each digital capability to get the desired impact in the marketplace.

  • Customer Empowerment May Be A Sharper Differentiator To Customer Experience

As platforms and capabilities between competitors open up, to allow customers to configure what they consider “best” (for example, I can choose the Apple keyboard or choose to use Swiftkey or Swype), we will enter the bold new era of truly unified, best in class customer experience as defined by customers. The question that customers are likely to ask is “where am I empowered more?” and make choices based on that rather than pure play best in class customer experience. So we may need “Customer Empowerment” departments rather than “Customer Experience” skills.

We may already have iOS8.0.1 to handle all the bugs that have cropped up, but we know that Apple will solve those, and all of these features will become “best in class” and will herald in the age when beta became mainstream.

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< The beta blog | Sep 23, 2014

'The world is in beta' event 30 September, Science Museum, London

We believe the world is exploding with potential and the way organisations embrace emerging technology will allow them to create value, reaching more customers, more quickly, and more directly. Because of this, we believe the world is in a perpetual state of beta and companies need to develop not a digital strategy, but a business strategy for the digital age.

On 30 Sept at the Science Museum in London's South Kensington, we are hosting the world in beta event to discuss the opportunities and implications of digital transformation and what companies need to do in order to gain an advantage in this increasingly complex environment. The full agenda is below and I'm happy to say we have assembled a fantastic list of speakers from both inside and outside of our firm.

The event starts at 15:30 GMT and for those interested in keeping up with it, follow the Twitter hashtag #worldinbeta or the PwC UK Twitter account. We will be tweeting live from the event and sharing materials, insights and videos of the sessions post-event.

'The world is in beta' agenda

Registration - 15:00-15:30

Welcome address - 15:30-15:40

Welcome from the event host Mike Greig (@_MikeGreig), Digital Leader at PwC and Warwick Hunt, our CFO and Head of Operations.

The world is in beta – Digitally driven change and its impact on your organisation - 15:40-16:00

PwC Partner, Carlo Gagliardi (@_carlogagliardi), will discuss what it means to be in a world 'in beta' and what companies must do to adapt and prosper in this age defined by digital opportunities.

Five emerging technologies shaping today’s world - 16:00-16:30

Tom Standage (@tomstandage) is Digital Editor at The Economist, overseeing its output on digital platforms, and is the editor-in-chief of its website, He previously served as Business Affairs Editor, Business Editor, Technology Editor and Science Correspondent.

Tom will be focusing on five key emerging technologies that are cutting across and breaking down the boundaries between sectors and the opportunities they present for those organisations willing to challenge their perception of themselves.

The consumer of the future - 16:30-17:10

We have all heard lots about digital natives and their impact, but the fact is, the expectations of digital natives are changing every day. In this session we will put ourselves in the shoes of children today and look at how the technologies they are using now will mean new challenges for organisations tomorrow.

This fun and engaging session will be delivered by our dynamic Emerging Technology team; a group of young entrepreneurs and business people. Our speakers are Mia Bennett @mialomo and Kiran Earwaker.

Session 2 - 17:40- 18:50

‘You are here’ – Discover your organisation's digital starting point in this live and interactive diagnostic session

During this interactive diagnostic session, our speakers will ask the audience a series of questions and highlight best practice so you can build a picture of where your organisation is relative to others in the room. All data will be available for you to take-away after the event and explore further.

There will also be a chance to hear how other organisations are leading digitally driven change and the challenges they face in doing so.

Our speakers for this session are Richard Horne; Partner and Cyber Specialist at PwC and Matthew Tod (@LoganTod), Mike Greig and Carlo Gagliardi; Partners within PwC's Consulting practice.

Close - 18:50-19:00 

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< The beta blog | Sep 17, 2014

The digital world of freight haulage

It is hard to think of an industry less likely to conjure up an image of digital revolution than freight haulage, which is more associated with heavy vehicles, roadside cafes and the movement of physical goods around transport networks.

However, at the forefront it is, with haulage firms around the world grasping the potential of the ‘internet of things’, and busily harvesting data from all possible sources and applying advanced analytics to address their biggest business challenges. The industry now abounds with examples:

  • Locus Traxx, a specialist in refrigerated cargo haulage in the US, has wired up its entire fleet with sensors to detect a range of metrics on its containers and the goods inside them – temperature, vibration, door opening events – all of which send data back to HQ in real time. As a result, Locus Traxx is able to immediately identify when its cargo is in danger of being damaged, causing wastage with the inevitable impacts on costs and customer relationships. Through its data approach, Locus Traxx claims to have reduced wastage to zero.
  • Other operators have started to combine vehicle telematics and other journey log data, with HR data on lorry drivers to predict which drivers are most at risk of having a road accident, in order to proactively intervene and address risk factors.
  • Some innovative European haulage firms are collecting journey log data from on-board vehicle systems, and combing this with external data sources – such as weather data - to optimise route planning and freight scheduling, with claims of up to 10% in fuel savings.

Cargo wastage, accidents, fuel costs – data analytics is now having a major impact on some of the haulage industry’s biggest cost drivers, in some cases making a genuinely transformational difference to the operator’s bottom line.

The lesson? Analytics is powering a revolution in the transport and logistics industry. The new digital age is not just about consumer devices, apps and disruptive online businesses. It is also profoundly changing some of the most – ostensibly - old world industries, by enabling the better management of physical assets and real world operations.

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< The beta blog | Sep 5, 2014

The importance of social media policies

Over the last number of years social media has become a useful communications channel for both our personal and work lives. The rise of mainstream social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has been nothing short of phenomenal as people have joined in their millions and, in Facebook’s case, billions to communicate with friends, loved-ones and colleagues regardless of their physical location.

Social media is certainly here to stay and is growing in more importance as organisations of all kinds understand the benefits it can bring. However, social media is still a relatively new form of open and transparent communication and one which has legal and ethical implications in a work setting if employees don’t understand how to use it properly.

For example, a recent BBC report indicates that police forces in England and Wales are making use of social media policies to discipline employees who have posted inappropriate content online (both during working hours and outside of working hours). This is with good cause as some examples of cases investigated by police forces included:

  • A community support officer with Devon and Cornwall Police who received a final written warning after posing with weapons on Facebook
  • A sergeant with the same force who was given a written warning after making remarks about senior officers on the site
  • A Gwent police officer who was using Facebook was given a written warning for sending an "abusive" message to a member of the public

While a social media policy is not restricted to the police force the examples above illustrate that even the professionals working in the emergency services are not immune to inappropriate use of social media.

Rolling out a social media policy

Drafting a pragmatic social media policy can allow an employer to minimise risk associated with employees’ use of social media (in both a business and a personal capacity), by proactively defining acceptable and unacceptable uses in the context of the employment relationship, and ensuring that disciplinary action can be taken if required. Social media policies can be aligned to company-wide employee policies and there is often an overlap between the two. Aggressive behaviour online and off is never tolerated, for example.

What should the policy cover?

When drafting a social media policy an employer should carefully consider its purpose and objectives, weighing up factors such as the employer’s attitude towards social media use in the workplace (will use be encouraged or discouraged?), the nature of the employer’s business (a young, cool, table tennis playing start up at Silicon Roundabout is unlikely to want to have the same social media policy as a more traditional City organisation), the workplace environment, and just how stupid some of its employees have the potential to be (if in doubt just dig out the damning snaps from the most recent office Christmas party).

Nevertheless, most policies should at least include appropriate restrictions to:

  • Limit personal social media use during work time
  • Protect the employer’s confidential information and intellectual property
  • Prevent infringement of third party IP
  • Prevent discrimination, harassment or bullying
  • Prevent liability for discriminatory or defamatory comments posted by employees
  • Prevent the misuse of personal data belonging to other employees, or customers
  • Protect the employer’s reputation.

Can employees’ use of social media be monitored?

A policy can address use of social media outside office hours, and regardless of whether an employer’s device is used. However, employers should remember that the Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code explains that employees have legitimate expectations that they can keep their personal lives private and that they are entitled to a degree of privacy in the work environment. If employers wish to monitor their workers, they should be clear about the purpose, and satisfied that the particular monitoring arrangement is not excessive, and is justified by real benefits that will be delivered. This is increasingly becoming an area of focus for Claimants who may try to allege that an employer’s actions in monitoring their personal messages is a breach of their right to a private life. A well drafted social media policy could help employers rebut such an argument.

When is disciplinary action appropriate?

Employees can do and say unwise things when using social media, often in the heat of the moment and without thought, or on the mistaken assumption that their words won’t be seen by anyone except their friends. As with all disciplinary issues, employers should follow a fair procedure (with reference to its disciplinary policy) and ensure that any sanction is reasonable in all the circumstances. They should consider whether employee training on the topic may be appropriate.

As social media continues to grow and become even more ingrained in our day-to-day lives, the need for a tailored social media policy will only increase.

If you’d like to know more, please contact John D. McGonagle, (PwC Legal IP/IT and Commercial team) or Jonathan Harries, (PwC Legal Employment team).

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< The beta blog | Sep 1, 2014

20 Questions for the CCO: #3 Are your marketing communications a fair exchange for customer attention?

‘From interruption to engagement’ has probably featured loudly in the title of a major marketing conference or paper every month for the last fifteen years. In an era of time shifted TV, the decline of print and rise of ‘skip ad’, why on earth would anyone watch, read or interact with an advert that gets in the way of something they are trying to do?

In truth it’s still possible to buy ad space, fill it with ordinary creative and see something happen as a result, it’s just got harder, more expensive and less rewarding. This is not a sustainable strategy.

The best marketing communications of today (and by extension those that will form the table stakes behaviour of tomorrow) are about a fair exchange between you and the customer. Do you offer them enough of value to warrant their precious time and attention? This fair exchange could be one, or ideally a combination of the following things:

It arrives at the right time – I’m in the market for something and you reach me at the right time. In the old world this just meant keeping your car ad running in What Car? every week. In the digital age this is about developing a sophisticated understanding of your customer’s behaviour, both on and offline and using the right data and tools to be present when it suits them.

It entertains me – Marketing communication that reaches people on an emotional level, making them laugh, cry or think is always more effective than a straight ‘buy me now’ message and generally builds brand as well as driving action. It can be hard to justify the investment required but just ask Cadbury, Honda or Nike if they thought it was worth it.

It’s useful – Great marketing isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do, sometimes to the point that your product is its own marketing. What useful products or services are you offering to your customers for free as a way of building a relationship? Whilst examples like Strava and Tesco Clubcard come to mind, remember this isn’t new, it’s a fundamental human truth. In fact the original Michelin Restaurant guide was a piece of free content designed to encourage people to drive out of Paris and wear out their tyres!

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< The beta blog | Aug 20, 2014

20 Questions for the CCO: #2 The best digital experiences are available to all, do you measure up?

In pre-digital era, the best customer experiences were only accessible to the wealthy. If you didn’t ‘turn left’ in life you didn’t get to enjoy them. Equally, normal customers couldn’t miss what they didn’t have, ignorance was bliss. Consequently the standards a company had to reach to satisfy those customers were lower.

Today it’s a different story. In our democratised digital world, the best experiences aren’t just accessible to all, they are often free. Everyone has access to the most seamless, intelligent and thoughtful experiences like watching content on Netflix or finding music on Spotify. And whilst services might come with premium features, the basic process of interacting and using them is the same for everyone – rich people don’t get buttons that are easier to click.

There are no shortcuts in how to respond to this. Great digital experiences are rarely just about hiring the right design agency or paying for testing, they are born from businesses that either start the right way, or those that are prepared to make the often difficult and expensive structural changes necessary to put customer experience at the heart of what they do. It’s about defeating internal politics about who owns what part of the process and making an investment in something that doesn’t always have an obvious and directly measurable return.

Next in this series we'll be asking if your marketing communications are a fair exchange for customer attention.  

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< The beta blog | Aug 19, 2014

The personal data revolution and why it could benefit everyone

Yesterday we launched PwC’s Future of Work series which looks at trends and changes in the work place. Today’s announcement looks at the growing trend of personal data and how both employees and employers can utilise it for mutual benefit.

In the report we predict that data monitoring of employees is set to rise over the next decade as Generation Y enters the workforce – by 2020 this generation will form half of the global workforce and bring with them their different attitudes to technology and personal data. The research reveals that the younger generation are more open to sharing their personal data with their employees, with 36% of Generation Y workers saying they would be happy to do so.

Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data (with their permission) to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues. This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave.

The report, which is based on a survey of 10,000 workers (2,000 in the UK) and 500 HR professionals globally, found that employees are more open to sharing their personal data than previously thought. Today’s millennial generation of workers are tomorrow’s decision makers, and with over a third happy to share their personal data (including their social media data) this could become routine in the years to come.

What’s clear is that the personal data revolution is upon us as we collect more and more data about ourselves through digital, social and (increasingly) wearable technologies. Organisations have an opportunity to develop measureable benefits for those who hand over their data and building trust through clear rules about how it is acquired, used and shared since digital trust is vital in a world in beta

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< The beta blog | Aug 18, 2014

20 Questions for the CCO: #1 Does the business get your role?

There have been several new additions to the C-Suite titles in the last few years. Some have been pretty frivolous and say more about an organisation’s marketing strategy than its management. The role of ‘CCO’ or Chief Customer Officer is one that’s here to stay however.

The challenge is getting the rest of the business to actually understand what the role means. A recent Forrester report groups CCO roles into three types: Advisory – representing the customer view across the business and seeking to influence different areas to serve that view. Matrix – a formal part of the organisation with dotted line responsibility over different business units. Operational – a powerful position with structural control over areas directly related to customer experience and the authority to bring other departments into line with that. Under any of these models the CCO is dependent on many different functions to succeed. To create a seamless omni-channel retail experience for example, a CCO might need to coordinate IT, distribution, marketing and sales teams. It can be difficult to define where they stop and those other functions begin. After all, shouldn’t everyone be thinking about the customer and shaping their activities with him/her in mind, regardless of whether they are accountable to a CCO?

This makes it critical that everyone in your organisation has a clear idea of why you are there, what you want to achieve, how you fit in and what value you add. We believe getting this right starts with three key things:

Authority – The necessary remit from leadership and the visible support of the rest of the C-suite team.

Personality – A CCO must be able to relate to everyone in a firm, making their vision and plans for better customer experience relevant and specific to very different people in very different ways.

Footprint – Whilst CCOs might have direct responsibility for functions, they rarely come with a large bespoke team. That makes it critical to find and maintain a network of fellow customer evangelists across the business that can make delivery of the customer centric vision sustainable.

Next in this series we'll be looking at the digital experiences you're creating for your customers and if you're creating the right ones for them. 

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< The beta blog | Aug 13, 2014

Learning to be customer centric in a world in beta

“Any colour you like as long as it’s black”. Surely our ability to respond to customer demands has moved on since the time of Henry Ford’s famous quip.

Life and pensions businesses are certainly determined to become more customer-centric. Digital developments are a key part of this, helping to create closer connections and a more appealing customer experience. Health sensors, social media monitoring and other new profiling techniques can sharpen customer understanding.

But how genuinely customer-centric are the results? I’ve come across a lot of organisations that know a great deal more about their customers, but are still trying to sell them the same old products. Most life insurers are still divided into protection, savings and annuity siloes. They try to match their products with an appropriate customer rather than starting with what customers want and then developing solutions to meet this. This is an approach to customer demands that owes more to the industrial age of Henry Ford than the digital age of Apple and Amazon.

But a very different future is now opening up for life and pensions. Digital interaction and insight can move your business from product push to a personalised customer experience – true customer-centricity. A good example of how this might work would be helping customers to balance the emotional as well as financial trade-offs between how much they want to live off now and their desired standard of living when they retire. We all struggle with these questions. But nobody is really providing the answers or at least helping people to get a real handle on the various options and their implications.

Helping people to manage these different needs and aspirations is an opportunity to create genuinely customised solutions for customers. Product boundaries would no longer exist. Solutions could contain mortgages, equity release, tax and inheritance planning, as well as pensions and life cover.

This isn’t just a question of technology. It demands a fundamental shift in culture and objectives. And while it might seem like a distant future, the foundations are already coming into place. If your business can’t keep pace, other financial services businesses and new entrants will move in ahead of you.

Click here for more information on how insurance can thrive in an increasingly digital world. 

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