I attended last week’s Open University Business School (OUBS) business perspectives seminar on “Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models”.

After opening comments from Hilary Collins, a lecturer in management, and Mark Fenton-O’Creevy, Associate Dean and professor of organisational behaviour we heard four speakers – each providing some food for thought.

How digital technologies impact on business strategy

This session was led by Jerry Teahan, Head of Strategic Business Development (Network, Cloud Services) at BT Group. He started his talk with robots and Pokemon indicating that automation and augmentation were the future of the digital economy.

He talked about digital platform companies and the reinvention of original digital businesses such as Amazon. And the growing need to manage businesses where clients interact on-line (“inside sales”). He focused on the digital customer experience, digital processes and digital business models.

He commented that “Marketing is becoming the new IT” and indicated that “Everyone will need to know about APIs in the next few years”. (This was timely as on return from the session I had an email from IBM offering a copy of its excellent 50 page “Beginner’s guide to APIs”). Other skills needed by future leaders will include agile/lean culture, cloud analytics and change management in complexity.

Leveraging your business model for innovation and growth

Thomas Lawton, Professor of Strategy and International Management, shared his excellent six pillars of the business model (i.e. cost, innovation, reliability, relationships, channels and brand) that aligns with the value proposition.

He talked about social currencies and their impact on foreign exchange markets, mobile technology allowing leapfrogging in banking and finance by emerging economies, the disruption by the driverless transport market and asset-light business models. He also talked about how regulations are constraining some new business models (e.g. Uber not allowed on public safety grounds and restrictions on renting an entire apartment in Berlin).

He indicated that a business model must address the value proposition, value creation, value capture and value preservation. He referred to the De Jong et al (McKinsey Quarterly) definition of business model innovation as “change economics of the value chain, diversify profit streams and/or modify delivery models”. He added his own definition of the business model as “The unique configuration of resources, capabilities and competencies that enables the organisation to deliver its value proposition, synchronising market perception and organisational reality”.

He had some cracking two by two matrices considering different growth models depending on whether an emerging or established business and the riskiness of strategies including “taking by storm”, “laggard to lates”, “expanding horizons” and “shape shifters”..

I reviewed Professor Lawton’s previous book on “Aligning for advantage” a while back http://kimtasso.com/grown-corporate-social-responsibility-regulatory-environment-strategy-book-aligning-advantage-professor-thomas-lawton/. And I’ll be taking a look at his new book “Breakout Strategy” soon.

A CTO’s perspective on digital strategy

Antoines Boatwright, CTO at Hillgate Travel, gave his perspective on “big enough data” after decades as a data scientist.

He explained that there were various types of big data:

  • Augmented data (combining your own with others’ data)
  • Derivative data (applying logic to your data)
  • Predictive data (depending on sample size)
  • Pervasive data
  • Benchmark data

He also supplemented the McKinsey 4 Vs of Big data (Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity) with the Value of data (both to the customer and to the business).

He offered a two by two matrix of digital maturity and appetite for risk to map out the roles of the CTO, CIO, CDO and highlighted the way ahead for a Chief Imagineering Officer (an unconstrained thinker, with a wealth of experience, empathy to drive through change, ability to elevate the discussion to the Board without scaring people and a performer with charisma).

Big data and small data

Patrick Callinan, Global Head of Data and Analytics at Added Value (A Kantar/WPP Plc company) got us to think about big data by saying “Market research is the most interesting place to be if you like big data”.

He reminded us that the role of data in marketing was to inform strategy (“to enhance but not replace judgement”) and recalled David Ogilvy’s quote: “As far as I know, I’m the only creative genius who started his career in research”.

He referred to the SAS research on the seven personalities of data scientists (geeks, gurus, drivers, crunchers, deliverers, voices and others) and his talk revolved around the following strategic questions:

  • Data – What is happening?
  • Insight – Why is it happening?
  • Action – What to do?
  • Feedback – Did it work?