Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Next Big Think - Podcast: Blockchain Changing the Future

My latest podcast episode is a deep dive into what blockchain brings to industry – specifically the insurance industry. Ranvir Saggu, CEO, Blocksure, a startup under the TCS COIN™ Accelerator program, explains how blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) are different but often used interchangeably. Blocksure has developed a technology platform that delivers tailored products and schemes for over three billion people across the globe. As a blockchain expert, Ranvir believes that with insurance becoming an embedded feature in our daily lives, blockchain will bring a fundamental shift in the global insurance industry. It will change the future of insurance.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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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, October 05, 2021

Precision as a Competitive Advantage

Throughout history military leaders have suffered from a lack of knowledge.  They often were desperately searching through the "fog of war" to find the answers to seven key questions:
  1. Where are my enemies?
  2. Where are my own forces?
  3. Where are my allies?
  4. Where are everyone's supplies, materials and equipment?
  5. What condition are they in?
  6. What capabilities are available at a given time and location?
  7. What are the location and environmental conditions that might degrade capabilities?
These great “unknowns” impacted the strategies and tactics leaders used and the results of battles throughout history.  Leaders were forced to expend massive amounts of resources just defending themselves against the inherent risks of these unknowns.  

While military leaders of the past were handicapped by a lack of tools for gathering insights and intelligence, today we have many. With sensors of all kinds, wireless and satellite networks, mobile technologies, drones, analytics and artificial intelligence the “fog of war” can be greatly reduced.  Precise, real-time data from around the globe can be instantly aggregated, analyzed and results distributed to all relevant groups nearly instantaneously through network centric operations.  The resulting reduction of unknowns, releases leaders and resources to be focused more on strategies and solving problems based on knowns.   This is a monumental development in history.

Sensors extend our senses beyond our physical reach and act as our globally distributed digital nerves. These new capabilities significantly impact how businesses can operate, and offer new opportunities for competitive advantages for business leaders.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality improvement, once said, “The biggest problems are where people don't realize they have one in the first place.”  These “blind spots” – the unknown status of a process, schedule, delivery or available resource, for example – should be a relic of the past. Today, we have the ability to remove conjecture and work with precise data.

Many companies have yet to evolve from legacy business models based on the “unknown and imprecise” and continue to throw good money after bad by following "estimate-based" models. Many companies have yet to implement a comprehensive digital nervous systems.  As a result, these organizations have yet to update their strategies and tactics to support new models of real-time precision. Ignoring today’s “revolution in precision” is unacceptable, and would be like a manufacturer ignoring the “continuous quality improvement” movement in manufacturing. Leaders must recognize both the micro and the macro-trends impacting their markets.

Deming also said, “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.” Taking advantage of precision is a must if surviving is in your plan. As automation increases due to advances in sensors, bandwidth, artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, precision becomes not only possible, but necessary.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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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, October 01, 2021

The Speed Impact on Businesses

Roman Roads
The concept of speed as an advantage is not new. Over the course of 700 years, the Romans built and maintained a system of roads extending over 55,000 miles.  They built it to enable speedy communications and the quick movement of troops and supplies across the vast expanse of their global empire.

Today, our perception of time and speed is being shaped and confused by technologies. A person might say they live five minutes from town, but is that calculated by walking, riding a bike or driving a car.  In the roman era, their military calculations were determined by a standard measurement based on how far and fast a soldier could walk on a stone road carrying their equipment.  It was about 20 miles per day.

Today, digital technologies compress our perception of time, speed and space while expanding our expectations of what can be accomplished in a given time period. We expect to complete the equivalent of one hour of shopping in a supermarket in five minutes online.  These changes significantly impact the way businesses must operate in a digital era to compete and remain relevant.  

In a shareholder letter from a few years ago, Jeff Bezos identified one of Amazon's key competitive advantages as high-speed decision-making.   

In one research project I worked on, many of the participants were from technology and consulting firms.  As a group they identified the pursuit of speed as a key motivation for digital transformation.  In particular, those surveyed identified the following areas of need:

Speed developing - new products and services to meet customer demands
Speed going to market (GTM) - with new products and services
Speed responding - to changing market conditions and customer preferences
Speed adopting and implementing - new innovations and technologies

When asked about the biggest challenges their customers were facing with digital transformation, respondents in another survey answered using all kinds of references to speed (or lack of speed) issues: legacy systems (are too slow), iterative approaches (are too slow), technologies are evolving too fast to react (and responses are too slow), business strategy alignment (was too slow).  The consensus among the technology leaders surveyed, however, was that the biggest mistake leaders make - was moving too slow.  

We learned four key points:

1. Technology Performance

Most executives felt their IT infrastructures were a disadvantage to their business.  The limitations of their IT infrastructure limited the speed they could respond to changing conditions.  They saw their internal systems as a hindrance not a help.

We also found a series of "Legacy Rules" inside the data:
  • The longer an organization is in business, the more complex the technology infrastructure becomes, and the more difficult it is to change. They lose agility and speed the longer they are in business.
  • These limitations prevent businesses from changing at the speeds required to remain relevant.
  • Limitations often impact a business' options and their potential strategies.
  • The size of a company’s IT challenge is directly proportional to the number of legacy and custom (non-standard) solutions they use.
2. Organizational Agility

The speed at which an organization can change directions - its agility - is critical to success in a fast changing digital world.  The lack of organizational agility has real world consequences. “We missed [revenue] opportunities,” said one of the participants.

Agility doesn’t happen by accident. An agile organization must be purposefully developed to act and react with speed to changing market conditions and consumer behaviors.  Agility requires a business model, platform and ecosystem with the right organizational culture, and IT infrastructure capable of responding with speed.

3. Leadership Decision-Making

It takes real-time speed to support real-time interactions with real-time digital customers.  Decision making must be automated to support these digital speeds and environments.

4. Customer Alignment

Fast-changing customer behaviors were identified as a top motivation for digital transformation.

Consumers today are changing their habits and behaviors at an extraordinary rate.  An executive we interviewed said, “Our customers’ expectations are always three or four steps beyond us...we are always behind.”

Businesses today must measure and track the speed and pace of changing consumer preferences and behaviors, and align resources and priorities to ensure they are transforming, if not at the same pace, at least at a pace ahead of their competition.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist 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.