NGE


Man! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. A lot has happened in the last 2 months. First, we bought a little company called Iconixx, and added them to the BSG Alliance platform. Second, I became an aunt again. Third, we launched an internal communications vehicle (known as The Buzz), which is published Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Fourth, I got elected to the Board of Directors of my homeowner’s association. I also continue to manage the four kids and cute husband. So, without coming right out and using those as excuses… Aw, heck. I’m using them as excuses.

Onward and upward, then!

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in The Buzz based upon an email sent by one of my colleagues. He was explaining that a potential customer used Google to research him before a meeting, and how what the customer found provided instant credibility.

I followed up to his comments with this:

In today’s connected world, people use Google. When there are candidates to interview – we Google them. When there are prospects to approach – we Google them. When there are potential business partners to meet – we Google them. And the results of those searches often help us develop initial impressions about the people with whom we’ll be interacting. Good or bad, those impressions are lasting.

Smart companies – NGE companies – encourage their team members to build on-line identities. On-line identities are helpful for team members in a personal sense, since they can increase visibility in the ever-tightening labor market, and make someone more desirable to potential employers. They’re also helpful to companies, though. The more “Buzz” a company can build through the on-line identities of their team members, the stronger the company brand. On-line identities are a 1-2 punch – the personal credibility of the team member is coupled with the brand credibility of the company, thereby making the customer experience that much better.

At BSG Alliance, we encourage our team members to build on-line identities. Collaboration, especially on-line collaboration, is absolutely essential to our NGEness. In fact, in our Policies and Procedures document, we’ve dedicated a whole section to our external electronic communication. Here’s a key point:

We expect BSG Alliance employees to be active, vigorous and opinionated in their engagement with the public. This may mean asserting and defending strong points of view, taking provocative positions that are not the norm, and overall participating in the challenge we have of educating the industry about the changes to business that we are leading.

If you’re interested in how you can build your on-line identity and help build the BSG Alliance brand, start by determining where you’re starting. Career Distinction has a tool for determining your Google Quotient (GQ), which is a great place to start. If you’re curious, my GQ is 6.5 out of 10. I have some identity building to do…

I am trying to find ways to be more creative. I like having ideas. I like having creative ideas even more. In my quest to become more creative, I find myself constantly hunting for tools to help me achieve “creativity nirvana.” One tool I’ve uncovered is a funky web site called GetFreshMinds.com. You know it must be cool since the author’s name is Katie, and, as we all know, Katie is the greatest name in the world. But, once again, I digress.

When I was reading one of Katie’s recent posts about innovation lessons she learned in 2007 I was led to IdeaList, a site where anyone can post an idea and get feedback from the community at large. There are a lot of really interesting ideas on IdeaList (not, however, this one), but one caught my eye because it is very much in line with what BSG Alliance calls Agile Talent.

The “idea” is actually a design contest sponsored by Samsonite. Samsonite wants to bring a new product to market, and they are looking outside their own design team for the right idea. They’re going worldwide, seeking a solution in the global marketplace, on-demand. The top prize is 5,000 Euros, and the total of all the prize money is 11,500 Euros (I had to look up the conversion on Google – it’s just under $17,000). $17,000 is a paltry sum for a company whose quarterly revenue is almost $300MM. I don’t have access to their budgets, but I think it’s safe to say that Samsonite’s product development group has a yearly budget well in excess of $17,000. For a fraction of what they could spend on a handful of internal ideas, Samsonite is getting potentially hundreds of ideas from an external talent pool – all for a total of $17,000 in prize money (and, yes, the overhead of coming up with the contest, marketing it, yaddayaddayadda).

By looking outside its walls for creative ideas, Samsonite is implementing Agile Talent. They are coming up with innovative ways to engage new thought leaders, without the burden of bringing them on as employees. They are getting the very best ideas that people have to offer, and they are not required to invest any capital up front. It’s like getting an employee to work for you for months, and only paying her if she actually produces something you like and can sell. It’s a very effective way to remain flexible, efficient, and profitable in the 21st Century.

In their book Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams discussed another company that uses this type of Agile Talent to decrease time-to-market and increase innovation – Procter & Gamble. From the Wikinomics web page, they have this to say:

Smart, multibillion dollar companies like Procter & Gamble that cultivate nimble, trust-based relationships with external collaborators to form vibrant business ecosystems that create value more effectively than hierarchically organized businesses.

Through this design competition, Samsonite is exploring a new landscape in human resources. They are building a community of “workers” to provide talent in an on-demand capacity – when Samsonite needs new ideas, they can call upon the community (the network, if you will), and can expect to get the right answers, right away. This is Agile Talent.

Agile Talent is a key factor in successful Next Generation Enterprises. Once you combine an innovative resource pool with a distinctive customer experience, agile & collaborative technologies, education, and research, you have the makings of an organization that will thrive in today’s hypercompetitive global marketplace.

Thanks to Twitter, I ran across a post by Jevon MacDonald about an Enterprise 2.0 market. More specifically, the post was Jevon arguing that there is no Enterprise 2.0 market. His valid points include:

  1. There are very few companies with Enterprise 2.0 budget line items.
  2. Enterprise 2.0 is too loosely defined at this point to make it valuable as a solution (or set of solutions) for organization problems.
  3. There aren’t enough companies providing Enterprise 2.0 solutions (and providing them successfully) to roll up into a larger market.

What I gathered from Jevon’s article was something that we strongly believe at BSG Alliance: if what you’re selling doesn’t provide some bottom-line benefit (read: increase in profitability, productivity, and market share), then you’re not selling something that’s got a valid market value.

Here’s my take: A good Enterprise 2.0 startup doesn’t need an Enterprise 2.0 market. A good Enterprise 2.0 startup needs to address a real business problem, and do it well enough to make some money. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.

Enterprise 2.0 startups need a market for what they’re selling – and they’d better be selling something that creates efficiencies, cost savings, and competitive advantages.

Take a look at Jeff Nolan’s “Dude, Where’s My Market?” post from last month to see a great example of a startup, Echosign, with a product that solves a real business problem, and does it well enough (using Enterprise 2.0 tools, technologies, and philosophies) to make money for themselves and their customers. Here is how Jeff explains Echosign’s success:

This company is growing not because they have a trendy set of buzzwords they use consistently, but because they solve a real problem that spans a significant number of prospect buyers, understand how to target and sell it at the price points they do, and manage their costs by taking advantage of efficiencies that technology enables and eliminating potential expenses by having discipline about the product management and development cycles.

At BSG Alliance, we’re focusing on our customers’ needs to increase efficiency and profits. Next Generation Enterprises are all about the bottom line: cost savings that come from increased collaboration, better systems that come from using agile methodologies, increased sales that come from a focus on the customer (rather than the competitor), and increased productivity that comes from engaging talent in unique, efficient ways. BSG Alliance is one of those Enterprise 2.0 startups that didn’t look for an Enterprise 2.0 market – instead, we saw that companies were struggling because of their inability to effectively manage talent, technology, and customer expectations in an wired world. Their lack of flexibility is their pain point, and becoming a Next Generation Enterprise is what solves it. Just like Echosign, we’re building our solutions to solve real business issues, and we’re continuing to be successful because of it.

While sitting in the family room, scanning LinkedIn Profiles and looking for a NYC-based recruiter, I was half-listening to the Funniest Commercials of 2007 special on TBS. One of the commercials that caught my ear (and, subsequently, eye) was from Hydro Energy in Norway, and involved a group of kids and a train. Take a look at the commercial here:

This ad is a classic example of how companies can use Social Media to drive publicity efforts. Hydro isn’t looking to recruit 10-year-olds. They’re looking to build interest in their products, services, and mission by developing a sense of curiosity about what do. Frankly, I was driven to www.hydro.com because I wanted to see what kind of company came up with such a creative ad campaign. I happened to see the original ad on television, but given that you can see it on veryfunnyads.com, YouTube, MSN Videos, and others, it has become a form of Social Media, easily shared, and open to collaboration. It’s funny to read some of the YouTube comments, where it appears that some people thought it was REAL. Yikes. Let’s not go there.

But, I digress… Because the Hydro train ad is so interesting, it’s all over the internet. If you search Google for “Hydro Train,” you will see over 462,000 results, most of which are sites like mine – blogs and aggregators.

Hydro struck gold with this ad (and a couple of others like it). They are harnessing the power of the internet to spread their message, and they are doing it exceptionally well.

The other day, I was commenting on the innovative nature of BSG Alliance. The way we deliver value to our customers is by guiding their transformation into Next Generation Enterprises. We accomplish this through an on-demand platform of services and software. Delivering a value proposition this innovative makes BSG Alliance very, very unique, and piques the interest of some very important, influential leaders. One of those leaders is Dr. Jim Cash.

Today, we announced that Dr. Cash has been appointed to the BSG Alliance Board of Directors. If Dr. Cash’s name sounds familiar to you, it might be because he is also a member of the boards of several other (not-so-small) companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), General Electric (GE), WalMart (WMT) and Chubb (CB). Further, he is a retired professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School. He is an exceptionally talented, highly visionary leader, and he sees the potential in BSG Alliance.

I’ve said it before (heck, even in this post), and I will continue to reiterate it… BSG Alliance is innovative. We’re focused on bringing benefits to our customers that other companies can’t. At the end of the day, our customers are more flexible than their competitors, and better able to meet the demands of a hypercompetitive global marketplace.

My boss and I were talking today, and she mentioned that, every so often, she runs across a candidate who is literally scared by the innovative way BSG Alliance delivers value. I agreed with her – I have seen a few of those candidates myself. You see, BSG Alliance is focused on transforming our customers into Next Generation Enterprises. Next Generation Enterprises are flexible, and will remain highly competitive and profitable because of their unique management of internal and external human resources, their delivery of unique and distinctive customer experiences, and their ability to develop and implement agile, collaborative technology solutions. In short, Next Generation Enterprises are INNOVATIVE.

In order for BSG Alliance to properly guide our customers on their journey to NGEness, we must lead by example – we must be NGE. And we are. We are so innovative and NGE, in fact, that Business Week recently gave us a plug in their Innovation Predictions 2008 article.

We understand how to provide our customers with exactly what they need to increase their profitability. We understand how to build flexible, agile software. We can provide the right solution, right now, on demand. That’s a very innovative way of doing business.

But, for some people, this is a scary proposition. Being innovative means that we’re in uncharted waters. People aren’t familiar with Agile Talent, or Distinctive Customer Experience, or Agile & Collaborative technology. They are afraid of the unknown, and unwilling to leave their comfort zone; unwilling to escape the hierarchical, traditional ways of doing things. Unwilling to acknowledge that the future of business is changing, and BSG Alliance is leading that change (back at BSG version 1.0, we used to say that BSG was Leading the Change, and Changing the Lead – we were then, and we are now).

So, we’ve had a few candidates hear about how we deliver this exceptional value proposition, and decide that they’re more comfortable in “SuperMegaLargeHierarchy Industries.” Which is fine, really – they aren’t the kind of people we need to make BSG Alliance successful. And, 10 years down the road, when BSG Alliance is a household name, they’ll realize that it may have been a good idea to be a part of the new way of doing business. We may be innovative, but our innovation is what make us unique. And our innovation is why people like me, Tom Steinthal, Brian Magierski, Susan Scrupski, and a host of others have been drawn to BSG Alliance. And, at the end of the day, our innovation is what makes us better able to truly address our customers’ pain points, and provide them with a path to enlightenment – a path to becoming NGE.