technology


“A health body involves a ongoing commitment to healthy habits and despite these efforts disease can occur when we least expect it.” – J. Durant

Over the last four decades we have been involved with numerous examinations and initiatives that centered on building business.  Some occurred as a result of issues that arose and others occurred in response to potential opportunities.  Each and every effort had one common element, the lack of an objective assessment.  Now one might wonder why is this at all important?  Flanked by skilled professionals that are intimately familiar with the business why would an outsider provide value?

In this world of opportunists these are very valid questions and often the conclusions reached are abetted by prescriptive solutions of the assessing organization.  We have not seen any marked difference between the big and the small, or the local vs. international organizations performing these so called assessments.   It all comes down to ceasing opportunity when it presents itself and optimizing on existing presence within the company.

I Know My Business

This is a true statement and one that a small fraction of companies cannot attest to.  However, what you know is about what is and not what could be.  Like a person who lives with perpetual pain, they grow accustom to it and will find ways to compensate for it.  Companies will do the same whether its a matter dealing with specific human elements, market issues, product status or even leadership.  Pain becomes a condition and diverted attention is given to other options with the hope that they will replace the discomfort.

Knowing your business is a valuable element in the independent and objective evaluation process.  It solidifies consistency, understanding and harmony of operation but it can also reveal discord.  I’m sure you have heard of difference of opinion that exist between people and even documented processes.  How does this happen?  It is possible that this occurs simply as the result of maintenance attention, but it can also be the result of misinterpretation or disruptive events.  Left unattended the flexibility of adaption creates inconsistencies.  While we would hope that these would have little effect they can turn into full fledged customer servicing nightmares.

Companies that are reticent on the need for some form of independent and unbiased examination are bordering on a state of denial.  Possibly out of fear of the unknown or that they don’t wish to introduce more disruption to the existing chaos.  However in this latter case the chaos is often the result of the health conditions of the organization.

Help-Help!!

An urgent outreach is symptomatic of issues.  It may simply be the lost of insight or it can be the result of a barrage of internal and external challenges.  Think for a moment about the journey of Research In Motion (RIM aka Blackberry) and their boom to bust to recovery scenario.  Here was a company that flourished with a dominating 37% of US market and a commanding presence in almost every business technological arsenal.  It had presence and it had endorsement.  Slowed growth fueled by operational mishaps drove them to the brink of closure.  The recovery was slow, painful and littered with senior corporate replacements upon replacements.  It wasn’t until 2015 that earning returned to a level on par with 2010.   Some would argue that it was a great learning experience, but is it a ‘great’ experience to endure this level of pain and newly created uncertainty?  The future remains still in question for RIM and to a similar extent to what was experienced by Nokia during the almost identical time period.  So what went wrong?

  1. Failure to be objective and consider the ever existing presence of failure.
  2. Measuring and evaluating conditions on a routine basis but denying the reality of threats and obstacles.  You may have a better mouse trap but if you can’t maintain or convert markets it is irrelevant.
  3. Celebrating loyalty and customer support but overlooking sustaining relations.  Many still appreciate the Nokia 3310 and was recently reintroduced in early 2017.  The same holds true with the Blackberry 9800 and has features reflected in some of the new models being introduced.
  4. Narrow examination perspective concentrated heavily on back end sales and promotion and failing to look at operational/research advancements.  Let me state that this isn’t completely and 100% a complete failure.  Rather it was not given the attention that it should have been to measure holistically the health of the business.
  5. Emergence of fire fighting over attention.  As the business started its rapid downward descent more meetings, reporting and analysis took place.  Decisions were made to bring the business back on course.  In direct response to markets and investors drastic steps were taken to replace known resources with unknown resources.  Again unknown as to the context and the abilities as it pertained to each organization (and known to the extent of what they had to offer from another business enterprise).
  6. Total and complete abandonment of existing strategies.  We would call this ground up or zero based approaches.  My concern, and this isn’t a matter of personal style, is that if a total replacement is needed it makes the assumption that there was no redeeming value to what existed.  If this is the case then why did it take so long for the business to raise the flag and embark on a replacement (pride, effort, disbelief, confusion, helplessness, inabilities???)?   Therefore if there was value then why was it subjected to a more pragmatic recasting?
  7. Market conditions were totally overlooked with the belief that market presence and prominence would in fact allow for leadership to exist.   Looking back on the rise and fall of businesses, technology based or others, it all comes down to misguided arrogance and a lack of humility.

Assessment Flaws

Objectivity is an important part of assessments.  A flaw however is to what extent is objectivity is maintained.  For example, assessment organizations often have biases and build their evaluations around those biases.  Maybe its a process or a technique or even what the assessment will concentrate on.  Often is the case that its these very biases that the credibility of the assessor is based upon.  Without prejudice or opinion an example is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Research Methodology that outlines the way they depict a company’s industry positioning.  Rest assured that all organizations has some linchpin tool.  After all most would not consider any assessor or simply stated that they come in, look about and ask a few question in order to reach as assessment opinion.  So how do you address this prescriptive bias?   One must look deep and hard into what the tool/approach will address and how (aka scope).   Is this really what you are expecting, is it looking at elements that haven’t been considered, and will it provide unbiased insight?

Another flaw in the assessment process is bench marking.  Will the assessment measure your organization on fair terms or on an overly simplistic basis?  If you are a health care clinic are you being measured against research hospitals?  While the information may be insightful it may be a bit out of character to treat all health institutions on the same basis.  It should also be noted however that there may be some elements of similarity that will exist and need to be shown.  This is where our understanding and approval of the approach will come into play as it relates to the assessment model.

Credibility can be a problem.  New entries into the assessment arena suffer from the lack of credible endorsement.  The same can also be true when credible assessment organizations give way to the field personnel that are used on the engagement.  Both require handling with care.  It has been our observation that there have been good and bad situations overall.  The deciding factors involve;

  • Model used,
  • Level of transparency,
  • Degree of involvement,
  • Independent unbiased and adaptable data sources,
  • Field of vision beyond the present, and
  • Interpretation with action plan (which considered right options vs. ‘my’ options).

Conclusion

Humans look for approval, they look for endorsement and we strive for success.  So do companies but unfortunately daily demands get in the way of objective and ongoing self-examination.  The advent of more progressive analytics have made significant strides forward.  Despite data shortcomings many are getting authenticity back on track purely based on contributory value.  An essential part of transitioning on a routine basis and dealing with disruptions is a healthy assessment mechanism.  It cannot be effectively used on a piecemeal basis and needs to be done in a comprehensive fashion.  This is not entirely a matter of performing periodically but can also be embraced with a comprehensive framework of unbiased analytics but further supported by unbiased evaluation.

Know who you are, know where you want to go, be aware of your surroundings (internally and externally) and rapid readiness to transition remains a key component over a plan that needs constant care and attention.


 

“Our depth of adaptability is a condition of time and not one borne from education or sensitivity.” – J. Durant

I recently watching a TV program about a transgender married couple (The Kings) who had formed a lasting relationship from tradition to non-tradition.  What made it work and how did appear to have flourished?   Was it simply a matter of willingness or was there something more hidden?   As I carefully listened to the testimonies from family and friends, watched the seamless change in the relationship it started to become apparent that there were things about the maturity developed through a common bond that emerged.

First of all in this simple yet complex example there was an element of common purpose.  In life we repeatedly become distracted thinking that the ’cause’ is the purpose when it fact it’s simply an element of a common purpose.  We fight wars, loose friendships and fail as teams (and as members of those teams) based on the ’cause’ and failing to objectively understand and commit to a common purpose.

Secondly disruption can occur in a variety of ways.  If it was our desire everything would be known, anticipated and even given some advanced level of notification.  Yet there are those things that come out of ‘nearly’ the clear blue.  I stress ‘nearly’ because there are always telltale hints of what possible may come.  Denial and obstance contribute to realities, and these can also lead to subsequent blind resistance.

For these two reasons that disruption the factor of age can contribute positively but it can also be hindered.

Age as a Factor in Disruption

What is age?  In the simplistic of ways it’s our time clock of physical existence.  It starts as an empty cup and over the course of time it is filled with various exposures.  Education, experiences and environmentally driven opinions.  For the more mature audiences the cup is full enough to drive our abilities to accept disruptive change.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that we accept or even embrace the change, but it can be tolerated and even adapted to when we remained focused on common purpose.  Now there are some who can’t accept or even tolerate and this is the result of suppression of free will.  Many times this is the result of cultural and environmental stigmas that have been cast solid over time.  A lack of diversity exposure creates these factors but also the factor of age.  Unlike mature individuals who have a full cup, emerging youth has only a small amount of content and this lends itself to acceptance based on a smaller content model.  The matter of rightness is therefore inhibited by scope of criteria.

Some would argue that age brings inflexibility and this is partially true.  But it’s not as matter of resistance change as it is about a broader set of conditions under which change is measured.  By way of example let’s take the matter of smart phones vs. a simplistic cell phone.  While younger members look for functional versatility for such things as videos, photography, music and internet access the elder members are more comfortable with the basic foundations of need… calling and possibly email.  It’s not resistant to change, its more about practicality of use for each audience’s specific needs.

One last element that is age/maturity specific is the influence of disruption.  While some would deduce that elders would be more reluctant to change it is a matter of note that they are more apt to embrace change.  Why?  The first reason is that while one might enjoy consistency, it also brings with it a certain amount of acceptance (good AND bad).  Secondly, the test of time has forced by way of survival the ability to adapt to change that can be both unexpected as well as expected.  Therefore the model is much more durable than for those without the benefit of time.  This is not to say that youth is inept, on the contrary, it’s more a matter of not having sufficient exposure to change that may run counter to their ideologies of life and technologies.  You see this in software sectors that face rapid evolving disruption in processes and emerging solution options.  It is severely disruptive on implementors that complain about decisions being made by senior members.

The Mix

I once shared with a group that it would be my hope that we would all exist without personas.  In other words no titles, seniority or even roles.  I pronounce this position because there was far too much contention being generated that served noting but to disrupt success.  This same disruption occurs in change and we know that change is an inevitable reality of existence.   It isn’t about the occurrence of change but its about the disruption caused by the lack of a process to address change itself.  Even planned change meets resistance and most often less than complete adoption.  This relates to a reliance on transitioning to occur as a result of free will and without resistance.  Enablers such as training or details task base plans seem to further alienate staff and not facilitate achievement because they become laws and not guides.

A sound mix in the management of disruption is to;

  1. Have an intake process that guides evaluation and disposition rather than becoming a reactionary exercise,
  2. Operate with a fluid approach to change that permits synchronization that embraces exploration and moderation in deployment,
  3. Commitment to exit points without reprisal,
  4. Staff dynamics that permit committed involvement, not treatment as an extra-credit exercise, and
  5. Keep a watchful eye for impending trends (not necessarily as an action item but as elements for considering their impact).

In the mix should also be the dynamics of young and old, without prejudice to age but with prejudice to contribution.  A contribution that is keenly and intently focused on a common purpose.  Far to much attention is given to the what and how, and not enough is given to credible valued investing.  The disruption is simply the situation and not the means to an end.  There are much more important reasons why and even more significant reasons to do great things despite the flows and counter-flows that may exist.

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste and I dread to think that it will become more so with the assistance of a collective of machines.” – J. Durant

No, my age has absolutely nothing to do with my concerns and apprehensions.  If anything its the result of applied human intelligence and the creative processes that spin off from it.   It is fair to say that today we are into an experimentation cycle and are using research as a means to see just how far we can take the science of artificial intelligence.  There will be some, like Alphabet, who are ahead of many.  Let be perfectly clear that this is a normal learning curve, not just for the innovators but will prove beneficial to later adopters as well.

I do have concern about the notion of intellectual implosion.  Intellectual implosion is where the deployment of AI becomes centered on a closed and narrow application universe.  A simple example would be the use of an AI framework that provides ‘what if guidance’ for business decisions.  It sources of input become limited to a single domain, the company.   Now you might respond to this by saying that we then need to entertain other external sources in order to further elaborate the possibilities both arithmetically as operationally.   But here is where we introduce several factors of concern involving these external sources.  Some of the concerns include;

  • Accessibility and negotiated access
  • Timely (at least as expedient as internal sources) Availability
  • Reliability
  • Balance of understanding (simple definitions)
  • Units of Measure
  • Raw and Deductive Elements

It then becomes a question of need and viewing the concerns with open eyes.  While traditional systems can contain damage, an AI system can propagate even the slightest condition extensively.   It’s not a ‘do not go there’ condition, it means that more regiment must be deployed to check, authenticate, isolate, repair, respond, or release in the course of use.

Beyond Implosion

Let me reiterate that my concerns are not my hesitation to progress.  In fact I am a strong proponent to most things that can make our lives more enriched and productive.  But with that said it places an immense burden on the shoulders of engineers, architects, administrators and management to see to it that we act responsibly.  Our concerns are not just something that is downstream but starts with our present conditions.  Nearly a day goes by when we don’t hear of some technological mishap.

  • Compromises
  • Attacks
  • Failures
  • Denial of Service
  • Efficiency Losses
  • Unreliability
  • Usability Challenges
  • Technological Excesses

are but a few of the things we face today.  How will these challenge what we do tomorrow if we are to advance in the direction of AI?  Overlooking these will be solved by AI, they will be magnified and even acted upon.  The old mnemonics GIGO (Garbage In-Garbage Out) takes on a whole new depth of meaning.  Where humans would act now a rule based action would occur in mostly a non-visible fashion.  To emphasize this point I recently read about experimentation being done at Alphabet where the AI platform had adapted itself to conditions that weren’t set in the rules (came up with its own auto response/reaction).  This for some might be a bit discerning but it shows not only the depth of capability but also the need for the extensive level of human consideration that must be exercised with each an every element.  Catch state, rule limitations, plausible creations elements and redo back checking are but a few of the safety nets that can be considered.

Human Intellectual Depth

As suggested in the previous section there is an elevated level of human thinking that is necessary in AI.  It’s not simply a language form, some rules, data inflow/outflow and a permissive deductive element… it requires real thought, collaboration, postulation, experimentation and a mindset of value generation maintenance.  Present experimentation aside we need to think abnormally.  I think of this is the sense that mere replication of present habits, conditions and outcomes may or may not be the way we need to go.  Why create a robotic arm that emulates the limitations of a human arm or for that matter why create an arm when it is possible that some other form of fetch-release-retain-manipulate mechanism might be better engineered?  In the same context, why think of need or solutions utilizing AI in the same way as we would today?  While it may be comforting that we ‘can do it’, the focus is upon outcomes and growing possibilities.   Even these have a strong potential for change.  The fluidity of AI will change us from thinking in a steady state sort of way to one in which we are driven by rapid adaptation.  The bigger limitation for mankind is the ability of adoption and possibly whether some of the adoption will have to remain vested with the technology.  It remains quite possible that some adoption will remain out of human hands because of the frequency and extent to which it is taking place.

Big Questions

Thinking about the topic should excite us but is also apt to raise up a multitude of questions, concerns and elements for investigation.  Listed below are few of the ones that I have been pondering and I hope that it can be used as a basis for your further inquisitiveness.

  1. How will AI-AI or even Global AI be negotiated?
  2. Will AI-AI/Global AI represent a definable limited and restricted access point(s)?
  3. How does Smart Cities play into AI applications?
  4. To what extent will not AI institutions hinder?  Who will be hindered, AI or the non-AI player or both?
  5. What happens when AI acts cross over that are either wrong or out of control?
  6. Will risk become normality and normality become risk (in the present context)?
  7. Rogue AI threats and issues?
  8. What other present day technologies and practices will put under strain?
  9. How much computing power will be required and the importance levied for comprehensive network connectivity?
  10. How does it affect society and human collateral?
  11. Will the divergence from task to intellectual focus enable or disable societies and companies?
  12. Pervasive and responsible constraint becomes a matter of philosophy.  Should it be regulated, mandated and reshaped?
  13. Convergent roles require collaborative AI interaction (eg. elements of software engineering such as dev-ops, verification & validation (V&V), analysis).  Considered or overlooked or simply ignored?
  14. Extent of human intrusion and at what level of intrusion?
  15. Is there a safe state for change or is it invoked real-time (and should it)?
  16. What paradigms will change, become obsolete or need to be totally created that involve not just AI but also it’s close partnership with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and advanced analytics?
  17. Speed and quality have plagued businesses, will diametrically different levels of speed give way to quality issues (resolve, mask or create)?
  18. …. Others…. over time there are I’m sure more.  What will your additions be?

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken and as I have often said “A complex problem doesn’t necessarily require a complex solution.” (J. Durant)

Do we move forward with AI…. YES.  Moving forward is not with reckless abandon but still following sound business and engineering tenants.

 

 

 

“Life is not a cookbook where you find a recipe and suddenly your are a chef.  Mastering balance, flavor and presentations are key to award winning results.” – J. Durant

We are on an eternal quest for answers.  Seeking out the story of people who have experience success often relates to what we perceive is wisdom.   We seek with intent to replicate and overlook the importance of mastery.

If you look back over articles and books on such topics as start-ups, innovation, disruptive technologies and the many things that whirl about us there is a natural abundance of ‘how to’ or ‘guidance’ sources.  Why?   Simply put these things sell, people want quick and decisive real life examples.  But in opting for speed and outcomes there is also a natural tendency to acquire intellectual command of the topics, and the pursuit of further immersion.

I recently read an article that described the pursuit of venture capital and the frustrations experience with not only the process but the deployment of resources once financing was acquired.  The real crux of the matter was an over attention on need and less of an attention to having formed a financial and operational structure to accept revenue inflows (regardless of source).  Why is it important?  From personal experience the importance lies in the value produced from having routine operational elements, including finance, to be carried out in an almost automatic fashion.  This permits us to be attentive to pressing and often disruptive events without having to be immersed in routine care and maintenance of critical business elements.   In the case of startups the failures are routinely caused by an over attention to critical elements that have not achieved steady state reliability, caused in large part to care as  you go.  As the title suggests we think too much, and we own too little in terms of intellectual ownership.  In the context of start-up organizations there is an abundance of attention given to product/service promotion but all in the wrong way.  We really don’t need to know what a car is made of or what the material specifications are, we do however need to understand the market and how it can be convinced to make a commitment (aka market conversion).

Leap of Faith

Life is not easy and while our vision is to win, our most daunting challenge is to survive.  Survival of the fitness epitomizes the struggles and the acclaims achieved during the course of life’s ventures.  Maybe this is reflected in marriages that last, our is lifetime commitment but the struggle is everyday life with another person.  In the case of business its surviving the daily on-slot not just from market or competition but societies as a whole.  Rigidity has its place but in terms of staying the course of survival we must be prepared and capable to transition at a moments notice.  Talk is cheap when trying to characterize ourselves as flexible or are we?  Are we simply saying we are because our world of flexibility is dependent upon a rigid framework for addressing change?

To leap forward means that we need to change our behavior (aka transition).  We need to view knowledge as the fuel for adopting personal knowledge, not as an instruction to follow.  Think beyond the norm, looking for big questions that possibly don’t have answers (because they haven’t been asked before or thought about in a particular way), and a search of wisdom from places that are on your hostile radar will open your mind in ways that you might not expect.  At the same time we must be resistant to pessimism, refrain from dooming anything to unacceptable before you have taken it in, pondered, prodded, experimented and adapted to characteristics (personal and professional).

I’m not a name you would see on a billboard list of successful entrepreneurs because I haven’t achieved multi-billion dollar levels.  But is the achievement of a level a sign of commanding understanding and abilities?  Maybe so, by your scorecard, and thus the reason why the words of wisdom reach a level of respectable acceptance.  But you also may remember cases in which the wisdom was inappropriate for your needs.  Why is that given that it resulted in success?  Was it that we didn’t dig deep enough to understand the conditions by which success was achieved, or was it a matter of conditions taking place at the time of the success story?  Maybe it was first to market, or maybe it was simply something as simple as selling an interest that was in fact the source of the success.   This is somewhat like a book on Success that creates a revenue stream of success or a methodology that sells you on discovering who you are (when we would hope that you already some idea of that already).

Recently I experienced an opportunity to question a person who contrived a model.  The model was interesting, although more confirming than discovery.  What was more concerning from my perspective was the lack of credentials (thus personal opinion and packaging) and the forward thinking as to where to go beyond the model to affect organizations.  In retrospect, and without malice, it was an example of marketing creativity over material substance.  Many of you have heard the term, “we can sell ice cream to Eskimos”, but is this a condition we are apt to subject our livelihood to or for that matter wish to be associated with?

Honor and integrity in business have been cheapened by clever wordsmithing to legitimize our mission to produce growth and revenue.  I think of this a bit like a petty thief who steals to feed his family and uses this to justify the illegal behavior.  The decision rests in your hands whether need over rides principals.  What hinders us, once again, is fear.   Whether it be the fear of failure or the fear of the unknown we shackle ourselves to opportunities in which we marginalize ourselves.

As stated earlier I’m not a named commodity except to a few long time followers who have come to realize the virtues that I possess at a personal and professional level.  These has resulted in loyalty but also a life journey stewardship.  I am also a strong believer in survival and as a result believe that aside from traits we must be capable to exist in disruption.  Disruption that has valued purpose and not leaning towards it being a ‘Distraction’.   The separation in meaning is quite clear to me, it’s the difference between a plausible occurrence and one that is of little to no value.  But be careful because what may be of little to no value today, may be essential tomorrow.  Sometimes we need to give a bit of pondering thought and other cases we simply need to file it away for periodic examination.  Often what may fade has the probability of re-occurrence later on, almost like the idea that is ahead of its time.  This is an example how failures can and often are more valuable than the sagas of acclaimed success.

In Conclusion

There is no conclusion, only a continuum.   The river doesn’t dry up because we can’t make it upstream, it expects us to understand the ebb and flow, the rapids and the flat waters of our journey.  We command the river when we understand our role and the conditions by which we chart a path to the headwaters.  The same holds true in our journey in life and in business.  We are driven not by answers but by wisdom, and that is further embellished with our rendition uniquely crafted to fit our needs to produce a valued outcome.  Mastery however involves an intuitive reflect in the application of knowledge.  Not a quick reference or a set of notes but a humble and childlike inquisitiveness that is never satisfied.  As parents we know the stage of ‘Why?’ that occurs.  Unfortunately it gives way to answers and principals that stems the question of ‘Why’.  This creates a sad state, but it is not without redemption.  While we can postulate on what causes this, it’s really not important because the cause isn’t what needs correction.  What needs correct is us, today, at this very moment, to act upon a need to redeem our desires to own the ‘Why?’.

“A thousand jumps without a mishap is no basis to decide to abandon your reserve parachute.” – J. Durant

There are several assumptions that I’m not going to make.  One is that there isn’t some sort of contingency plan and secondly that the plan (if it exists) is actually plausible.  The existence of a Plan B may very well exist and was thought to be durable enough to work in the event of the unexpected.   It is also quite possible that anticipated projects of markets failed to recognize that there were not only fatal flaws in service offerings but also had not considered the potential rapid acceleration of disruptive technologies.  These situations are all possible and realistic so where does this leave us in the world known as ‘outsourcing’?

The Here & Now

I should come as no surprise about certain conditions existing that leads us up to today.  Nearly 7 years ago President Obama was threatening H1b visa reform so it should become as no surprise that it would again regain visibility under President Trumps initiatives to put America back to work.  Nationalism whether in the US or India is always of utmost concern.  Employed workers reduce the possibility of civil unrest and if band-standing about the topic brings support from citizens.  But the US is not the only ones in the throws of employment concerns as you look about all of the other nations.  Some nations, such as the Philippines, who gained BPO notoriety in 2010, continues to struggle with providing sustainable employment opportunities and relies heavily on the export of human capital.

There here is that as nations of service providers we need to earn revenues in order to provide employment and foster continued growth.  What happens however is as the revenue streams shift the organization becomes challenged to remain in step.  It is possible that the size of an organization can hamper its ability to be nimble in this situation but it can also be a case that the labor force is too narrowly skilled to adapt to the rising challenges.  As a result labor falls under direct attack through downsizing.  It isn’t always about tenure but it can also be about skills and the ability to advance those skills in a reasonable time frame.

What were some of the sourcing challenge that sat in abeyance waiting for a tipping point?  As I stated back in 2011 (Frost & Sullivan/Manila), ‘The celebration of successful BPO supremacy must be short lived.  The time is NOW to transform and advance the services provided by the BPO community whether it be in Information Technology (IT) or Knowledge Processing (KPO… which we now refer to as analytics).”   The message while loud and clear went unanswered until now and the reaction has been anything other than chaotic.   In large part, the absence of a Plan B is becoming more and more apparent as a rush is being made to educate up.   Unfortunately equally concerning is that education is but an introduction and a far cry from the level of expertise that this new wave of technological disruption is causing.

Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda

What is a Plan B?   Not to sound too parochial, it a preconceived game plan that addresses anticipated and unanticipated conditions.  Often it is considered as having a Plan B when we feel amply equipped to make decisions at a moments notice.  This is not planning, this is reacting.  As with most reactions they are best serving in the moment but in the long term (and that could be as short as a couple of days).  A reaction is intended to be exercised by skilled and experience personnel who are willing to be accountable for their decisions.   The question is whether this is taking place or not?

For employees that are most apt to say NO.  This response is influenced by fear and uncertainty caused by a situation that is beyond their ability to in control of.  It may further justify or erode confidence in those making these decisions.  What is however within the control of the employee is to be aware and ready of the changing world that they are employed in.  Accepting a complacent role is not going to insulate you from the havoc caused by change and is most likely going to put you in jeopardy.

For the decision makers, the leaders, and the visionaries of the company its a profound wake-up call.   There may be a multitude of sins that has place the business in a vulnerable position,

  • too much time and effort place in self-promoting and not enough time keeping your ear to the ground for change,
  • thinking that you are a leader when in fact there is a void in the sound ability to deliver and thus creating trust issues in the market,
  • riding out the good ride as though it will never end and when it does end finding plausible but untrue reasons why it happened,
  • failure to plan, anticipate, monitor and adjust.  This is not an ancillary or optional element but one that serves as your reserve for adapting to change, and
  • viewing a plan as the end and overlooking the elements of transitioning as a part of a success formula.

It should however come as no surprise that these small elements with high impact are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of critical failings in outsourcing.  Don’t view my words as too harsh but simply a reality check and the opportunity for companies to reinvent their role engagement.

Metamorphism

It is far to easy to either live life in the moment or react to the ebb-and-tide of change.  But nearly a decade ago the word in favor was ‘sustainability’ and it didn’t just pertain to startup enterprises it served equally well for established institutions.  It was however difficult to envision sustainability when you were living in that moment.  Probably for that reason alone the notion of considering a Plan B was viewed more as an opinion than as a necessity.   Looking over thousands of Plan A’s and B’s they fail on content but do exceedingly well on form.  The plans also tend to portray the world as some sort of orderly process that takes place and relies heavily on past performance, despite changing social and consumer interests that add the element of context.  These and the lack of diverse thinking, because of confidentiality trust concerns, has created a storybook saga where the element of realism was more wishful that plausible.

Not everyone has been doom and gloom on either not having or having but poorly orchestrated plans that address planned and disruptive change that has been tempered by current situations.  The few companies are surprisingly small but are riding the wave of current success and in doing so are forced by institutional investment circumstances to think ahead and anticipate.  They have also, possibly caused by having done this for a period of time, has immortalized planning and specifically a plan B mindset into their regular protocol.

Circling Back

Let’s return back to outsourcing and where we go from here.  Whether you have a plan, a Plan B, it’s not working or it is the reality is what we face and what the clock looks like.  In all cases we have a small amount of time to transform and perform.  This opportunity is fueled by the customer and their drive to embark on significant technological change.  It is a bitter pill for the customer to swallow when shifting off of legacy linear solution technology in favor of more aggressive, machine driven solutions.  Not only does risk need to be mitigated but trust needs to be earned through concept, technology and custodians.   Secondly, there is an opportunity for adaption of present intervening environments.   When dealing with such elements as machine learning, artifical intelligence, robotics (both mechanical and intellectual) and advanced analytics these do not permit a lift and drop approach.  They must be carefully crafted, deployed, adjusted and grown in order to further reduce the impact of risk that they introduce.  This provides both a service opportunity to providers but also invaluable time to grow accustom to a greatly different paradigm.   Despite what one might think humans are resistant to change.  A study by the University of North Carolina (USA/2000) illustrated that people resist change, despite unhappiness with present circumstances, based on known vs. unknown trust.  A lack of participation in change only added to the reservations that they had that change could take place and if not that they wouldn’t be held to blame for it failure.

For sourcing companies there are immediate course adjustments that will be necessary.  Obviously resource levels will require adjustment, locations modified, work modes modified and reinvestment employed with these only being a few of the many things that need to be put into play.  It will however also require a shift in thinking about the role of the business, the attitude towards labor resources and even a willingness to trust from both within and from outside.  Historically openness has been cautiously provided when it came to business relationships, but the door of local proprietary behavior has been shut on operational improvements.  If at all, it has been relegated to a simple one way providing of inward value without the opportunity for shared and mutual inclusion.

Is there hope for the future, of course there is always hope.  Is it too late to make change?  Let’s just say we need to get moving and not adopt a wait and see.  It will be too late if the need is already here and you have nothing to offer except hopes and promises that can’t be fulfilled.

 

In the spring of 2011 Frost & Sullivan held a BPO event in Manila.  Held on the heals of the much welcomed attainment of #1 global status as the lead in BPO services the Philippine BPO celebration was in full swing.  There is nothing like a celebration in the Philippines and nothing can dampen the opportunity or the spirit of such revelry.  So it comes as no big surprise that the words I shared at that event were drowned out by the merriment that was being enjoyed.  It was no small feat that rising to this level of achievement over India had taken place.  The future was all bright and there was a sense of invincibility.

While some make predictions on the basis of a hope that no one will remember when it doesn’t take place.  I chose my words careful in issuing a warning that while celebrations are taking place it is also the time to look towards reinvention.  Clients were investing heavily in technology and in doing so it remained committed to solutions that provided long term value and not simply long term reduced cost containment.  This being the case in supporting a month-on-month commitment to manual and voice based BPO support.  The investment in technology would inevitably lead to some form of replacement for shifting from people to an asset invested technology solution.  At that time we weren’t talking artificial intelligence or robots, I was simply looking at a commitment to technologies that could dutifully provided consistent support with a minimum of added capital investment (vs. expensed loss).

Now that the vogue technologies have reached a level of interest concerns have been raised.  IBAP (Information Technology and Business Processing Association of the Philippines – 5/12/2017) is stepping up measures to address the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the BPO industry.  Conferences like the Digital Transformation Summit are also adding to the pace by increasing the interchange on what measures need to be taken now in order to combat the effect that might occur on the BPO industry.  Leading Data Analytics Super Star Dan Mayer has weighed in with the importance to embrace the change by shifting focus to data analytics services.  Finally, even the government (DOST – 2/20/2017 – Fortunato dela Peña) has jumped on board to address the real possibilities of AI based impact on the BPO sector.  So the question is why did the message miss being heard?  But even more importantly why didn’t any of the leading analyst groups (Gartner, McKinsey, HfS…) see or hear it either?  It appears as though there was an intermediate fixation with a much broader expanse of technologies dealing with the cloud, Internet-of-Things (IoT), Big Data and Shared Services leaving way for those up-and-coming technologies to remain as background noise.

I don’t want to be too cynical but the story doesn’t end with an acknowledgement of change.  Its not even going to end with a concern and a grass roots movement to follow a correction path.  What is about to happen will be a groundswell of concern by executive management to not only understand the potential accompanied by the ebb-and-tide effect of change.  It will involve significant strategic decisions being made that will lead to tactical plans being crafted.   History however is a horrifying reminder that shifts, such as this have painful paths.  These are littered by potholes of interruptions and a steep learning curves.

There are many questions that remain unanswered.

  • Can #BPO as a service transition to providing high value/high risk value services (this sector was once called ‘knowledge based outsourcing’… #KPO)?
  • Will customers trust offshore institutions with this level of operational intimacy and have the stakes changed for what a provider will be required to maintain (e.g. institutional security)?
  • Cradle to grave time… trained to capability (is it doable given the current state of AI and robotics considerations)?
  • What mindset change will be necessary to make the shift?  Those that have already set an information technology business unit will find the shift easier.  HOWEVER, it isn’t just about technology enable AI, robotics or analytics its about understanding the various industries being serviced.
  • What should be happening now?  Obviously action but what kind?  Waiting is not suitable at the present, a plan needs to be formed.  But more important is the need to understand that success requires intense consideration for #transitioning.

As early as May 2017 the DTI continues to track progress and goals of BPO as though nothing has changed.  This is of concern, it also echos my concern why the messages of dutiful messengers is not reaching those that can address change and the elements necessary to respond to the ever changing technology and commerce worlds.   You cannot rely upon revenue predictions or employment numbers to remain the same, even if you capture a significant segment of the AI/Robotics/Analytics markets.  There will be reductions in head counts, increases in both revenue and cost predictions and an investment in capital assets to support these sciences.  You cannot expect that these will follow the historical ‘life-and-drop’ paradigm of BPO.  There will be issues of trans border data transfer, security, time sensitivity, ground up development, repository control and matters as simple as general understanding of socio-business transference.  In short, allot to be done in a short period of time.

In closing, I remember the day when the Philippines became #1 in the BPO sector.  I remember some of my Indian clients exclaiming that it was always their plan to shift away from BPO (which I considered to be just a sour grapes comment).  Was it that they saw something that others were seeing but from a different perspective, was it that BPO was the low end of the outsourcing food chain in terms of complexity and cost or was it simply ill sentiments?  Regardless, we need to look at conditions not with a focus on critique but with a look towards the potential opportunities that need to be acted upon now.

#BPO #Analytics #AI #Robotics #Transition #TransitionalSciences

Credibility is one of the critical elements of life whether professionally or personally.  It is also one of those conditions that is often illusive.  But why?  How can I become credible and to whom should that credibility be directed to?

You cannot command credibility no more than you can command respect.  If anything the notion of commanding is limited to rigid organized structures, such as the military, as a direct response to risk.  Therefore our credibility must be earned and unfortunately our personalities create the ‘great race’ in pursuit thereof.

I was recently thinking about why management, especially senior executives seems adamant about technical efforts.  Some of  you may have event done a bit of a roadshow of what your approach was about, how it would function and what would be achieved.  In return the response was met with flat faced silence and in some rare cases a subtle nod of the head endorsement.  Rarely did we see out and out conflict unless of course we chose a more adversarial criticism of the company or specific people that are still working there.  So why the lack of enthusiasm and credibility building which didn’t take place?

Context

How often has your brainchild and initiative come totally out of the blue?  Even with having a spot on purpose people do not transition their mindset easily.  To overcome this situation one must ‘prime for preparation’, in other words ask some baited questions to get the whole process started.  Even for those in which your idea is in response to a problem there is often remaining a bit of doubt.  It would be far more appropriate to do a review of conditions in order to affirm or contribute to a broader understanding of the problem.  In doing so we exhibit a sense of capable and conscientious thinking instead of a ‘know it all’ or knee jerked reaction to situations.  This builds trust and also builds confidence.

You may however face a group in which they what to hear your opinions but will follow it up with a line of questioning to affirm responsible and focused attention.  Therefore the preceding remains a sound basis for starting the transforming process.

Audience Interest

The profile of your company will dictate the level of interest.  Whether its good or bad we must completely understand the level of information sharing that is required.  Some organizations expect you to interact in a hierarchical fashion.  Other organizations may employ a network structure where the free flow of ideas and concepts occur across the organization.  Even network organization structures will often expect a degree of decorum in terms of sharing up within its structural walls.  These conditions are not an affront to your credibility it is simply a means in which the organizational leadership has cast its operating paradigm in order to avoid chaos.  While not perfect, as illustrated by the two ton elephant syndrome (painfully slow but purposeful movements), it none the less is a condition in which you are expected to conform to.  As many of us have experienced, trying to change the paradigm reduces our credibility and is often has unsuccessful outcomes.

To a large extent management wants credibility of concept doability.   In the information technology world our history has not served us well.  With such facts as…

  • 17% of all companies experience project failures so sever that they jeopardize the company (McKinsey 2012),
  • 70% of companies experience at least one project failure in the last 12 months (KPMG 2010),
  • Failures in changing mindsets and attitudes (58%), corporate culture (49%) and lack of senior management support (32%) (IBM 2008), and
  • Despite failures success rates even for proven methods have failed to achieve high rates of success.  70% of respondents have been involved with projects that failed from the onset.  Agile projects 72% success rate vs. traditional approaches at 63% (Dr. Dobbs Journal 08/2007 & 10/2011)

Conditions have created both complacency (it is what it is) and also trepidation about change, even when for the better.   This reflects a concern about credibility even when the individual is worthy but conditions are not.  How can this be overcome?

Electrifying Credibility

We must regain control of our professional and personal worlds through building credibility.   At the center of this is trust, not hype.  Today we see allot of hype and this has created a carnival atmosphere about topics and technologies.  To build a trust relationship also commands a commitment to sustaining it.  A lack of attention will not only destroy trust but will create an almost impossible challenge to regain trust.  Our level of vigilant attention to trust maintenance will challenge us and can possible even result in becoming apart from the mainstream.  Are you up for that challenge or will you simply wait and see when it happens.  Truly the decision is yours to make.

There are seven (7) elements to gaining credibility.

  1. Define your values and mission.  Without context great ideas can get lost, misunderstood and possible be discounted as a standalone idea.
  2. Know your personality and your personal brand.  We see adoration being given to people based on name, company association, title or success.  These points of brand personality vary with societies.  In some cultures its held in high regard while in others it simply considered a condition.
  3. Set your boundaries.  Limit your domain of abilities as well as the circle of credibility that you have.  As the saying goes “maintain healthy boundaries”.
  4. Chose how and where to showcase.   In the course of building your credibility you will have numerous opportunities to showcase who you are and what you level of credible trust is.  Don’t expect to hit a home run with every chance you have to swing.  Pick your opportunities and recognize its important to chose the right means to showcase.  Maybe its a thoughtful note or a focused illustration that will give you and opportunity to perfect your credibility.  Also beware that complexity and commanded attention are dangerous as well as potentially damaging.
  5. Release your Authenticity.  Be yourself and if by chance there are things about you that aren’t particularly endearing to others, keep them tucked away.  Restraint is better than uncontrolled transparency.
  6. Consistency.  Inconsistency as the potential for confusion and mistrust.  Not that you are trying to be misleading its just that your irregular presence makes conditions unstable.  People seek consistency even when conditions are not perfect.  Change and the ability to transition are challenged by inconsistencies and the classic “it depends” creates no added comfort for those simply trying to overcome their concerns.
  7. Be Prepared for Opposition.  It is going to happen and it may come from a variety of reasons.  Some possibilities;
    • new out of context situations
    • paradigm contention
    • past history
    • wrong vehicle for conveying message
    • compliance failure in the chain of communication
    • current conditions
    • receiver state of mind and status and
    • lack of endorsement

Next-Next

Practice makes perfect and perfect results in credibility.  Credibility will become second nature but one must remain vigilant to maintain our credibility.  Even as a sage citizen with profound accomplishments and accolades one must remain eternally humble and trustworthy.   Unfortunately some err on the side of personality, connections and luck to achieve a level of perceived credibility.  This is just the way it is, don’t sweat it.  Focus on building your credibility and with that it will create trust.