The Leader In You Can Invigorate Collective Purpose

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One thing that I heard loud and clear from all the great visionaries is that ‘to be a great team leader, it’s important to help your team understand the purpose of their work and how that work benefits the organization as a whole’.

You should ask yourself: (1) How do we ensure the team comes in unity where all have the same goal, same philosophy and same concerns? (2) Is there a plan where the entire organization can be treated as a single team and portrait that to the customer which is key for most of the organizations today. (3) How would each of my team members describe the purpose of our team? (4) Can I describe the purpose of our team and how we fit into the larger organization?

How do we know we’re on track: (1) Your team actively participants in the direction of the team (by asking question, exploring how their work fits into the big picture. (2) We overhear our team members explain the work of the team and how the team fits into the larger organization.

The Innovation Center (IC) once shared a great perspective on ‘collective leadership’ which is an emerging approach to leadership development that received national attention as the focus of a multi-year foundation initiative led by IC staff and partners. Collective leadership occurs when people come together and mobilize human, cultural, and technological resources in ways that improve their communities for the common good.  It is an inherently inclusive approach to leadership because it asks individuals to cross boundaries of all types –such as age, income, religion, and culture – as they commit to bidirectional learning, joint action, shared responsibility, and mutual accountability.  Collective leadership represents a shift away from an exclusive focus on individual change agents and highlights the importance of more collaborative approaches.

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Collective leadership is organized around a set of core principles: it is a relational approach where multiple individuals assume leadership roles within a group while the entire group provides leadership to the wider community; it is a fluid approach that evolves in response to specific situations and settings; and it is a transformational approach rooted in a commitment to social justice.

These guiding principles are enacted as leaders move through the four stages of community development: get ready, plan, implement, and sustain.  The first stage, building readiness, lays the foundation for all future work.  It involves building relationships with and among community partners and managing the logistical tasks associated with a new effort.  The planning phase begins with visioning as leaders agree on their desired goals and articulate methods for achieving them.  During the implementation stage, they work together to turn these plans into a reality.  And sustaining the work calls for robust strategies and partnerships to ensure long-term impact.

At each stage of the process, leaders focus their attention and energy on five practices: (1) foster youth-adult partnerships, (2) mobilize community assets, (3) tap into individual gifts, (4) build teamwork, and (5) reflect and learn.  These elements lie at the heart of the collective leadership approach and inform hands-on, practical work in the community.

What leadership strategies have you use with your team to build a sense of collective purpose or mission?


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Journey of IoT so far…

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For my friends who are interested in Internet of Things (IoT) Technology, I would like to share the results of a recent study conducted by Cisco. These results were discussed at the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) which is an exclusive industry event, hosted by Cisco. The IoTWF is widely recognized as the premier thought leadership forum designed to Evangelize and Energize IoT. Known as a must-attend event for key stakeholders and innovators in business, government, and academia, IoTWF brings industry leaders together to collaborate, network, partner, and solve the challenges facing IoT.

As we know, IDC predicts that the worldwide installed base of Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints will grow from 14.9 billion at the end of 2016 to more than 82 billion in 2025. At this rate, the Internet of Things may soon be as indispensable as the Internet itself.

Despite the forward momentum, the new study conducted by Cisco shows that 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage and only 26 percent of companies have had an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success. Even worse: a third of all completed projects were not considered a success.

“It’s not for lack of trying,” said Rowan Trollope, Senior Vice President and General Manager, IoT and Applications, Cisco. “But there are plenty of things we can do to get more projects out of pilot and to complete success, and that’s what we’re here in London to do.”

 Cisco surveyed 1,845 IT and business decision-makers in the United States, UK, and India across a range of industries — manufacturing, local government, retail/hospitality/sports, energy (utilities/oil & gas/mining), transportation, and health care. All respondents worked for organizations that are implementing and/or have completed IoT initiatives. All were involved in the overall strategy or direction of at least one of their organization’s IoT initiatives. The goal was to gain insight into both the successes as well as the challenges that are impacting progress.

Key Findings:

1. The “human factor” matters. IoT may sound like it is all about technology, but human factors like culture, organization, and leadership  are critical. In fact, three of the four top factors behind successful IoT projects had to do with people and relationships:

– Collaboration between IT and the business side was the #1 factor, cited by 54 percent.

– A technology-focused culture, stemming from top-down leadership and executive sponsorship, was called key by 49 percent.

– IoT expertise, whether internal or through external partnership, was selected by 48 percent.

In addition, organizations with the most successful IoT initiatives leveraged ecosystem partnerships most widely. They used partners at every phase, from strategic planning to data analytics after rollout.

Despite the strong agreement on the importance of collaboration among IT and business decision-makers, some interesting differences emerged:

– IT decision-makers place more importance on technologies, organizational culture, expertise, and vendors.

- Business decision-makers place greatest emphasis on strategy, business cases, processes, and milestones.

- IT decision-makers are more likely to think of IoT initiatives as successful. While 35 percent of IT decision-makers called their IoT initiatives a complete success, only 15 percent of business decision-makers did.

2. Don’t Go It Alone. Sixty percent of respondents stressed that IoT initiatives often look good on paper but prove much more difficult than anyone expected. Top five challenges across all stages of implementation: time to completion, limited internal expertise, quality of data, integration across teams, and budget overruns. Cisco’s study found that the most successful organizations engage the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage, implying that strong partnerships throughout the process can smooth out the learning curve.

3. Reap the Benefits.  When critical success factors come together, organizations are in position to reap a windfall in smart-data insights.

Seventy-three percent of all participants are using data from IoT completed projects to improve their business. Globally the top 3 benefits of IoT include improved customer satisfaction (70%), operational efficiencies (67%) and improved product / service quality (66%). In addition, improved profitability was the top unexpected benefit (39%).

4. Learn from the failures. Taking on these IoT projects has led to another unexpected benefit: 64 percent agreed that learnings from stalled or failed IoT initiatives have helped accelerate their organization’s investment in IoT.

Despite the challenges, based on the survey many are optimistic for the future of IoT — a trend that, for all its forward momentum, is still in its nascent stages of evolution. Sixty-one percent believe that we have barely begun to scratch the surface of what IoT technologies can do for their businesses.

Please let me know your thoughts on IoT and it’s anticipated impact in your personal and professional life. Thanks for your time and interest.




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Resounding Need for Human Touch in Today’s Digital First World

Sharing this week’s interesting read – The results of a large-scale study of more than 24,000 consumers in 12 countries published by Verint Systems, with support from Opinium Research LLC, and research and advisory firm IDC, identifies a tipping point between digital and traditional customer service.

The Digital Tipping Point: How Do Organizations Balance the Demands for Digital and Human Customer Service? report shows that despite the rise in digital customer service channels and options, 79% of consumers prefer the human touch to remain a part of customer service when engaging with brands and service providers. Complexity of the service requests are shown to heavily influence whether a customer will choose digital or more traditional channels, such as phone or in-store, to fulfill their needs.

* Four out of five prefer that human customer service interactions remain a part of customer service.
* The phone emerged as the most popular way to contact organizations and service providers, according to nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers; visiting the store front was next at 23%.
* More than four in five (83%) believe speaking with a person will always be an important part of the customer service equation.
* Two thirds (67%) of consumers and 91%of businesses feel customer service online and via mobile devices needs to be faster and more intuitive to serve end users.

Businesses are responding to the increasing digital world by offering their customers new ways of engaging with them. However, most consumers worldwide choose using the phone (24%) or going in-store (23%) as their primary way to interact with brands or service providers. In terms of preferred digital customer service channels, 22% of consumers want access to an online account, 14% want the ability to communicate with a customer service agent via email, and 9% cited that they prefer to connect using mobile apps.

In terms of leading customers on a digital journey, speed, insight and desired outcomes are the biggest factors. Over two-thirds (67%) state that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve their needs.
Consumers engage with brands and service providers for multiple reasons, and their channels of choice, whether digital or traditional, are quite often determined by the complexity of their requests. In fact, this Digital Tipping Point research reveals that when consumers have a simple customer service request or inquiry, the phone is the most popular option for (22%), while email and SMS come in second place (19% each).

However, as customer service requests become complex, reliance on human interaction increases. More than one third of customers prefer to go in-store (34%) for complex inquiries, while another third prefer to connect by phone (33%). The closest digital channel for complex customer service situations is email, but only 7% of consumers opt for this channel.

The research also highlights that consumers are more likely to behave favorably towards brands following instances of good customer service in-store or on the phone. A quarter of respondents would give a positive review, and almost one fifth (18%) would renew products or services, even if they aren’t the least expensive option. This compares to 21% of those who would write a positive review and just 13% who would renew products or services following good customer service on digital channels.

Alongside the consumer research, Verint also ran comparative research with businesses, asking 1,019 organizations worldwide about the digital and traditional customer service channels they are prioritizing and investing in. In contrast to customers’ preferred options, these businesses reported they are investing least in traditional channels, such as the phone or in-store.

When exploring attitudes towards service channels, almost seven in 10 consumers (68%) believe that they are more likely to negotiate a better deal in person rather than online. However, only 47% of businesses surveyed offer the availability to speak to someone in-store, relying on other methods of communication with customers such as web chat and email. Businesses also acknowledged that digital customer service needs to improve, with 91% agreeing that customer service online and via mobile devices should be faster, more intuitive and better able to serve customer needs.

Please let me know your thoughts via comments. Thanks for your time and interest!





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Architecture of Customer Service

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It’s been a while since I was thinking of writing about basic architecture of customer service that will definitely help every organization. Not only did we learn a lot from this architecture, but I strongly believe that this architecture will always be relevant no matter how much new technologies change the world. To create exceptional customer experiences, companies should implement the following four steps. This approach can be applied to new initiatives, specific process improvements, and company-wide transformation strategies. Once these steps have been completed for a particular project or initiative, they should be repeated to gain new insights, make ongoing improvements, and expand programs where appropriate.


● Identify and understand customer segments that offer the most potential.

● Gather customer insights from reports (sales and customer service), behaviors (store visits and at – home usage), and discussions (round-tables and focus groups).

● “Walk in customers’ shoes” by using techniques such as secret shopping or observational studies to gain further insights and build empathy toward customers .

● Brainstorm with customers about concepts or solutions that might meet their needs more effectively than current offerings.


● Map the customer journey and identify key touch-points where you can improve conversion rates by delivering exceptional experiences with your company.

● Develop personas (representations of target customers) with demographic, attitudinal, behavioral, consumptive,
and technological attributes that embody your typical customer segments.

● Ideate and innovate using customer-journey hotspots and personas. Seek ideas from inside and outside your company to receive multidisciplinary, diverse, and creative input.


● Aggregate all of the insights, ideas, analysis, and input into a cohesive vision of the ideal experience for your customers.

● Create and prioritize a roadmap and architecture that align with business, product / service, and technology goals.

● Develop prototypes that depict customer experience touch-points. Test the experience with customers and make adjustments based on feedback until you are satisfied with the results.


● Build the technology solutions, service experience, and new processes.

● Test the experience with actual customers at multiple stages to evaluate process flows and solution performance.

● Develop metrics that track performance and customer satisfaction after the launch.

So, forge your relationship with customers by reaching out to them proactively. Think ahead and be agile to rapid market changes. Win the trust of your customers by being genuine, transparent and make their jobs painless. Global expertise, innovation, and service quality will definitely help you achieve extraordinary business results.

Please let me know your feedback through your comments. Thanks for your time and interest!


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Are You A Corporate Citizen?

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Research study conducted by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship emphasizes that the community involvement contributes to key business goals including improved reputation and the attraction and retention of employees. Nearly 90 percent of the companies that measure the connection between volunteer participation and employee engagement found a positive correlation between participation and engagement scores. Companies are increasingly tying their community involvement efforts to their business strategy, and prioritizing social goals that are most relevant to their operating contexts.

By engaging employees in corporate citizenship, any organization can derive a variety of benefits, including: greater productivity, improved reputation, increased employee retention, and lower cost of recruiting. A recent Gallup study found that 70 percent of U.S. employees are disengaged at work (87 percent of workers globally), and estimates that actively disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses $450–$550 billion per year in productivity losses. Corporate citizenship initiatives, especially volunteer and giving programs, have the potential to increase engagement.

Engaging employees volunteer opportunities provides individuals with an outlet for sharing their talents. It also grants them an opportunity to build meaningful networks both within the company and with external stakeholders. Empirical research shows consistently that engaged employees feel more positively about their jobs and are more productive. When you employ CSR programs that provide employees with opportunities to develop, challenge themselves, and form meaningful connections to peers within the company and in the broader community, you can help your company reap the benefits of an engaged workforce.

Given the fierce competition for talented employees and the growing commitment to corporate citizenship, there is increasing evidence that a company’s corporate citizenship activities are a legitimate, compelling and increasingly important way to engage and retain top talent (Bhattacharya, Sen & Korschun, 2008). Corporate citizenship includes a variety of activities ranging from cash or gift donations to volunteering programs to socially responsible products and services.

Employee volunteers are perhaps the greatest asset companies can leverage when trying to have a positive impact in the communities where they operate and do business. Employee Volunteer Programs allow companies to make a difference at a much lower cost than traditional checkbook philanthropy. Nonprofit partners are often an essential part of volunteering that can ensure employee efforts address a critical social need. Volunteer work also provides companies and employees with a hands-on perspective on the good they can accomplish through corporate citizenship.

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Employer-supported volunteering gives companies a personal presence in the community that its daily operations may not offer, particularly for companies that are not consumer facing. As with all aspects of corporate citizenship, a strategic approach to corporate volunteerism enhances the social and business value it creates.

Please let me know your thoughts about corporate citizenship through your comments.

Thanks for your time!



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Impact of Cloud Transformation on Customer Services

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 11.25.54 PMGartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a business without interacting with a human. What interactions do take place will have to be quick and intuitive. Forrester estimates that 45% of U.S. adults will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to a question.

The digital dynamic has made delighting the customer an essential goal for nearly every organization. With customer relationships increasingly defined by digital channels, optimizing that experience is leading many organizations to the cloud as a way to speed up deployment times, lower costs, and add not only better functionality but also entirely new ways to serve customers.

“Only customer-obsessed businesses can increase market share, revenue and profit in the age of the customer,” says Peter Burris, a veteran industry analyst.

Wanted to share some facts from an interesting article that I read this week – Paul Gillin’s ‘The Customer-Centric Business: Great Expectations’ talks about compelling survey facts regarding cloud computing transformation and its impact on the customer services.

CIO’s 2016 State of the CIO Survey finds that 63% of CIOs currently meet with external customers, and 54% of those are looking to increase that frequency in the coming year. Two-thirds of IT leaders surveyed by IDG Research cite security as a challenge to implementing a cloud strategy, up slightly from the previous year’s study. Among organizations in the financial sector, 78% cite security as a concern. Because of the nature of their business, cloud computing vendors have a compelling interest to provide state-of-the-art protection to their customers. And most do.

Reputable cloud providers are more than willing to put their money where their mouth is on this issue. More than half of the respondents to the IDG Research survey say they require security guarantees from cloud providers. Security shouldn’t be a concern when moving to the cloud. In reality, it has become a strength.

Customers increasingly demand that the companies they do business with not waste their time with irrelevant marketing or promotional offers. But businesses can use cloud services to gather rich data that lets them customize and even personalize the customer experience. Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software can capture data from multiple touch points, as well as social network interactions, to present a unified and personalized experience across multiple channels.

The cloud is helping organizations to redefine the customer experience in several ways: Insights-as-a-service, customization, personalization, functionality and building trust.

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For instance, companies can tap into world-class services to analyze and better understand customer needs at an affordable cost. Data-intensive tasks like analyzing years of sales data to identify patterns, once the domain of only the largest companies, are now available at a price nearly any business can afford. These insights can be used to better target promotional campaigns and delight the customer with personalized

The arrival of the empowered customer has rewritten the laws of competition. Presenting an engaging experience is not simply table stakes for customer acquisition and retention, it’s an opportunity to realize operational efficiencies and develop new revenue streams through more precise targeting and better understanding of customer needs.

Please share your thoughts on how cloud computing might change the customer service industry.

Thanks for your time!


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Collaboration accelerates decision making, or does NOT?

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Most of you will agree with me that collaboration has been one of the famous business buzzwords in the recent years. As business becomes increasingly global and cross-functional, silos are breaking down, connectivity is increasing, and teamwork is seen as a key to organizational success. Several organizations believe that face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture. According to research data captured over the past two decades, the time spent by employees and their leaders in collaborative activities has risen by 50% or more.

In his book People Analytics, MIT visiting scientist Ben Waber discusses the role of dependencies for programmers, that teams must coordinate closely to ensure their code meshes well. Citing others’ research as well as his own, Waber argues remote programmers are 8% less likely than co-located groups to communicate about dependencies, which translates to 32% longer code completion times.

On the other side of the ledger, research done across more than 300 organizations by Rob Cross and team shows that the distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. As people become known for being both capable and willing to help, they are drawn into projects and roles of growing importance. Their giving mindset and desire to help others quickly enhances their performance and reputation. As a recent study led by Ning Li, of the University of Iowa, shows, a single “extra miler”—an employee who frequently contributes beyond the scope of his or her role—can drive team performance more than all the other members combined.

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‘Time, Talent, Energy’ authors Eric Garton and Michael C. Mankins looked inside companies with high burnout rates, and saw three common culprits: excessive collaboration, weak time management disciplines, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work. These forces not only rob employees of time to concentrate on completing complex tasks or for idea generation, they also crunch the downtime that is necessary for restoration.

One of the proposed solutions is that by adopting agile principles, leaders can motivate and energize teams, and give individual team members a way to own the results. With Agile approaches, teams focus on fewer, more critical activities. Initiative backlogs are used to set priorities, and the team reprioritizes the list whenever they add new tasks. This provides a mechanism for sustained focus on the most important priorities and constant pruning of less important ones. Projects are time-boxed and focused so that there is more doing and less energy-draining process. Executives can also work on culture and coaching. Leaders can help establish new cultural norms around time and make clear that everyone’s time is a precious resource.

So, organizations should maintain the fine balance between collaboration and excessive collaboration. An effective collaboration environment definitely allows us to get closer to customers, accelerates problem solving, gain better understanding of customer needs, and respond quickly and consistently through the customer’s channel of choice. Rich collaboration capabilities also allow us to create innovative services for customers to promote satisfaction and build loyalty. More—and better— interaction can stimulate sales and growth.

Although in-person meetings are most effective, sometimes travel is too expensive or time-consuming. Rich video or voice conferencing solutions can bring the immediacy of in-person meetings to a packed schedule. Conferencing collaboration solutions extend your reach to more people, regardless of their locations. When it’s easier to collaborate, people tend to meet more frequently, thus strengthening relationships.

Collaboration promotes business. With access to the resources and information they need, employees are more engaged. And an engaged workforce is more productive, loyal, and satisfied.

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As my employer puts it – ‘Bringing people together often means collaborating inside and outside of the organization. They brainstorm new ideas. Multiple points of view spark new ideas and offer new perspectives. And collaboration accelerates decision making. Empowering employees to work the way they want positions your company for faster and greater success.’

Please let me know your thoughts on collaboration through your comments below.

Thanks for your time!


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