Tuesday, 21 June 2011 12:13

Tough Calls from the Corner Office

Written by Steve Blash

BA_Blash_June21I just finished reading an exciting new book: Tough Calls from the Corner Office by Harlan Steinbaum which reflects on how business leaders reveal their career-defining moments. The book contains many articles written by many current and previous CEOs about experiences that helped them achieve success for their companies.

The one recurring theme that I saw in many of the articles was the importance of planning to be ahead of the technology curve and the resulting changes that affect the business. The more things change, the more things continue to change, usually because of advancements in technology which force companies to adapt to the resulting new circumstances. The core competency of any business must be positioned to manage the ever-changing business environment and it is the business analyst that needs to be a leader in this effort.

The business analyst must be constantly scanning the horizon for change and innovation as the cycles in business are being shortened.  It’s difficult to keep up with all the new gadgets; including smarts phone, PDAs, and tablets, as well as the affect that social networking has on businesses. When developing a five year plan at one company a few years ago, I predicted that the PDA would replace laptops in the field for sales people. I still remember everyone laughing at me saying that I was dreaming. But today businesses are rushing out to buy PDAs and tablets and developers are daily adding new applications for these devices. It was only a few years ago when business people were working on their laptops during their flights, but today it is smaller devices like tables, PDAs and/or smart phones.

These fast-paced technology developments rarely come without warning. The problem is that most companies are slow to see what is being adopted at other companies. They don’t like taking risks especially in being the first to adopt new technology. Unfortunately as a result they wait too long and wind up being last. Many business analysts can get very frustrated when trying to “sell” the idea to the business of the benefits of being on the leading edge of technology. (There is the risk that being the first may not be the leading edge, but rather the “bleeding edge.”) 

The author believes that the business analysts should develop a rigorous plan of the pros and cons of how anticipated new technologies could affect the business and continue to review and adjust the plan accordingly, as needed. The business analyst must also be aware of the competitors and what they are doing. BAs also need to continually monitor potential government regulations that could impact the business.

Next the business analyst should research and monitor how to apply any new technology to the business, especially if that solution has the potential to help the business gain a competitive advantage.  The business analysts must be pushing for the ‘best of breed‘ for the business, especially if their company is a leader in their industry or wants to become the leader.  

One very useful tool that the author recommends is SWOT analysis that looks at a company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats. The company’s strengths and weakness require internal analysis: What the company does well and where there is poor performance that could benefit from improvement, especially in relationship to its goals. The external analysis is applied to the opportunities and threats. Does the company have the strengths to take advantage of the opportunities or neutralize the threats? Is the company in position to take advantage of the new technologies? What planning needs to be adjusted and what areas of the business need to change?  Who will be affected by the change in technology?

Here is an example of new IVR technology and how it has helped me as a customer calling my Internet provider. It is Sunday afternoon and I have lost connection to the Internet. Last year when I called the company about the same problem, I got the ‘because it’s Sunday we are closed’ message. Today when I called about losing connection again, I simply gave the Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) my identification and it told me that they were aware of the technical outage and repair personnel were working on it. This was a significant improvement to their customer service and I didn’t have to go through the numerous annoying prompts.  I also didn’t have to speak to anyone in customer service unless I wanted to. So now they do have a person working on Sunday but the demand on the customer service personnel during the week has been reduced.

There are too many excellent ideas in this book to discuss here but this book does provide a wonderful opportunity to learn from the masters of business.

Here is what Chick-Fil-A’s CEO, S. Truett Cathy said about his success: “I was successful because I made many good decisions and when I made bad decisions, I learned not to make the same mistake twice.”

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Steve Blash is an experienced IT professional consultant providing business and technology leadership, mentoring and vision. His areas of experience include business process improvement, business analysis, business intelligence, data analytics, project and IT management.
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