Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Learning Content Strategies from the Best with Jenn VandeZande SAP's Editor in Chief for SAP CX

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with and from learning from SAP’s Editor in Chief for SAP Customer Experience, Jenn VandeZande.  We talked all about thought leadership strategies, working with influencers and other fascinating topics.  Here are some of the choice excerpts edited for readability.

KRB: Jenn, tell us about your thought leadership approach and strategy.

JV: Thought leadership means discussing current trends in a way that is relevant to the market now, and in the future.  I also focus a lot on evergreen content and making sure that we're not putting a timeline on content that we publish.  In addition, I want to be inclusive.  I purposely recruit women and people of color to be thought leader contributors, previously there were just a lot of white men sharing content on the site. I think that to be relevant we must include everybody, and in order to do that we need to be purposeful about recruiting and encouraging them to share.

KRB:  Let’s talk tactics as an editor.  Do you ever feel it would be simpler to just write all the content yourself?

JV: As an editor my job is to polish up the ideas of other people. I think it's rewarding to see other people’s ideas come to life. Some of the most meaningful feedback people have shared is how I have been a source of encouragement to them. I love writing, but my job is to help them shine.

KRB: In my experience leaders often volunteer to write content, but rarely follow through with their commitment.  Why does that happen?

JV: I think that especially this year priorities have shifted so quickly.  What might have been relevant before, just isn’t relevant now, or the content just isn’t right.  Also, some people think writing is easy, everyone will love it and it will go viral.  I have received emails from content writers asking me to make it viral.  It doesn’t work that way.  It takes a ton of work and customization to optimize a piece.

KRB:  I have a rather loose strategy for article writing.  I write as I am inspired with new ideas.  What’s your strategy?

JV: It’s not just what you find interesting or think should be a priority.  It's what your readers are thinking about. I will always look at the search terms on our sites. Covid-19 really changed how we worked, scheduled and published content. We had to adapt our strategy to address the content needs and interests of our readers.

KRB: Let's look back over the past ten years, how have you seen thought leadership and content strategies evolve? 

JV: Ten years ago, thought leadership was still very much part of corporate communications.  You'd have somebody in the C-suite drafting the messaging and giving it to spokespeople. I think thought leadership today is now more customer oriented. It’s about what the customers are interested in, and what they're searching on.  Today thought leaders look more diverse. They are more diverse. So, it evolved from a traditional corporate messaging function to be a really important part of demand generation, sales and keeping customer trust.

KRB:  There are a lot of people like me that have been writing and sharing business and technology strategies for a long time.  What are your strategies on how to differentiate your content and stay above the noise?

JV: That's the tough part of the job.  When I get content submissions, I ask what purpose does it serve? Is it what our audience wants and needs?  I think understanding our audience is very important and I dedicate a lot of time to that.  I review our search histories.  I want to know how people got to our site, and what they're looking for along the way.

KRB: As a futurist, I write a lot about things people haven’t yet thought much about or searched on.  How would you optimize new and unfamiliar content?

JV: My initial thoughts are - what does it mean for my audience?  What will my audience be looking for?  If they are new to a topic – what questions will they need to ask going into their first meeting on the subject? Put yourself in their shoes and create content for them. That’s how you do it.

KRB: If someone wants to be a business and or technology thought leader - what advice would you give them? 

JV: You have to get in the trenches and really experience things firsthand. Don't think your views are always right. A really good mark of being a thought leader is having an open mind and being able to evolve your position.  Keep an open mind and be in the trenches. Get your hands on the work. Don't assume anything. And always, always, always fact check.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

PART 2: A Pandemic's Impact on Innovation, Industry and the Future with TCS Expert Ved Sen

A few weeks back I recorded two fascinating interviews with TCS digital transformation and innovation expert Ved Sen.  This is the second interview (watch the first interview here)  that focuses on strategies for innovating.  We look at how to organize for innovation, and also how to scale innovation within an organization.  

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Retail and a History of Paying for Ignorance

During the Cold War the armies of East and West faced off along thousands of miles of borders with tens of thousands of tanks, artillery units, defensive positions, guns and soldiers.  The costs for supporting these defensive postures were enormous.  Nations invested hundreds of billions of dollars over the years maintaining these positions, not to counter a known threat, but to prevent an unknown threat.  They were investing in ignorance - a lack of knowledge.  They spent massive amounts defending against the unknown - everywhere.  That expenditure was an ignorance penalty.  A penalty, so huge, it negatively impacted the economic futures of many countries.  

Businesses that operate in the dark, and have not digitally transformed fast enough, are also paying an ignorance penalty today.  The ignorance penalty is the cumulative effect of conducting business without digitally derived data providing precise insights and knowledge, and without the ability to act instantly from afar.  In markets where all competitors are equally paying the ignorance penalty, competition is not impacted.  However, when a few companies decide to digitally transform to reduce their ignorance penalty, then competitive markets are very much disrupted.

When some competitors are stuck paying a very expensive ignorance penalty, and others aren’t, a competitive gap quickly opens.  We see this in the form of Amazon and other digitally transformed retailers precisely marketing personalized products to individuals, while traditional stores spend massive amounts marketing generic products to regions filled with unknown customers.

The ignorance penalty rate is high enough that it will bankrupt many companies required to pay it.  In my research, I see data that suggests laggard companies (those slow to digitally transform) believe they can afford to pay the ignorance penalty for a few years while slowly preparing to digitally transform in the future without suffering unduly.  This, however, is what we call digital delusion. 
  • When the retailer, Sports Authority, filed for bankruptcy analysts stated it was due in large part to their slow response to digital commerce competition.  The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.  
  • When the retailer, Aeropostale, filed for bankruptcy analyst reported they were not able to keep up with the speed of their more digitally enabled competitors. The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.
  • When the retailer, British Home Stores (BHS), filed for Administration (UK’s version of bankruptcy), analysts reported they were "very slow to embrace digital transformation, and their products were no longer relevant.”  The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.
The need to stay competitive by digitally transforming does not wait for budget cycles to finish, 5-year plans to be accomplished or alternative strategic priorities.  Your competitors certainly aren't waiting.  Digitally transformed competitors are rapidly propelled forward by new digital insights and knowledge integrated with agile business systems capable of responding to the new information in real-time.  

Businesses have a choice to pay the ignorance penalty, or use the money today to invest in digital transformation - either way, it will be payed.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Facebook's Infodemic on the Pandemic

I am a long-time technology enthusiast, analyst and futurist, and love to discuss and write about the positive impact emerging technologies offer humanity.  That said, we can’t be blind to the negative impacts as well.  Facebook’s algorithms are increasingly showing up as the source and amplifer of many false and misleading postings that are widely distributed and promoted causing serious consequences for us all.  The sheer volume of false information being distributed today by Facebook algorithms is overwhelming the truth.

A recent research paper by the organization Avaaz titled Facebook's Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health, found that health misinformation spreading networks on Facebook appear to have outpaced authoritative health websites, despite the platform’s declared aggressive efforts to moderate and downgrade health misinformation and boost authoritative sources.  This finding suggests that "Facebook’s moderation tactics are not keeping up with the amplification Facebook’s own algorithm provides to health misinformation content and those spreading it.” In other words, Facebook’s amplification algorithm robots are battling and winning over their moderation robots that are trying to protect truth.  This is an important research finding, because when false information overwhelms truth on Facebook people’s lives are at risk.

This year in the month of April 2020, 82 websites, a relatively small number, that were flagged by NewsGuard for repeatedly sharing false information, received over 460 million estimated views on Facebook.  That is a massive amount of influence from websites already identified as regularly sharing false information.

The total estimate for the past 12 months is that false health information on Facebook was viewed 3.8 billion times across the five countries in the study — the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.  When false health related information is viewed that many times, a lot of people are going to believe it – with serious consequences.

I don’t believe Facebook is purposely trying to destroy the world, as they do need living, breathing, humans as users and customers. I just think they have created a Frankenstein monster and no longer have full control over it. Here is what Facebook says, “False news is bad for people and bad for Facebook. We’re making significant investments to stop it from spreading and to promote high-quality journalism and news literacy....our adversaries are going to keep trying to get around us. We need to stay ahead of them, and we can’t do this alone.” I just hope they realize that in a lot of documented cases, their adversaries are their own internal amplification robots and algorithms.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.