A look back into 2015
When I started to work on my own account many years ago, I wondered how things would be in ten years time. Would I be employed again ? Or would I have employees ? Would I be on my own account as a single person ? Would I still be in consulting or rather have a product or special service offering ? I did not know, but I was ready to embark on the journey of uncertainty. I had nothing to loose. No kids, no real obligations or significant commitments – I was free to go for a trial and error approach. Trial and error is what many praise as an important way to innovate – incremental approaches are supposed to be more successful than waterfall type of approaches to developing products and services. And I can tell you, there were many trials. And there were many errors. Many weren´t fast, smart and cheap. But I believe, that´s part of life. But I don´t want to bother you with old stories.
So what do I feel when looking back ? I do not want to look back ten years today, because that would make this article too long. Too many stories, too many words. But I do want to look back to the year 2015.
Looking back – my (personal) start to 2015
My 2015 started pretty good. Celebrating new years with the family of my brother was a real winner. But when I got back to my home base, I wasn´t struck by luck. Playing football, I did torn my achilles tendon. BAAANG. 5 cm missing. And the achilles is no less than a major muscle in your leg. When you jump, it takes about 10 ten times your body weight. Without it, I got to know what “weak” means. So that was pretty bad. Hospital, surgery and three months that I wasn´t allowed to move my foot. Do you know how long three months can be ? I had to postpone starting my engagement for a customer to three weeks after surgery, because my doctors told me I had to stay really still until then. And to keep my leg up. So my personal business year started on February 2nd. Nevertheless, lucky as I am, my employees were able to start their year without me four weeks earlier.
In 2015, we have had a rather equilibrated project portfolio between our two major pillars, change and innovation. My favorite projects are when I help companies change, in order to innovate. And I have got the pleasure to do just that at the moment. My current project is dealing with information security. “Boooooooring!”, some of you might think. But wait – it´s different, it´s not boring at all. Let me explain why.
Projects… e.g. on how to secure knowledge-based competitive edge
Nowadays most companies in the Western hemisphere compete based on their knowledge. May it be production process specific, sales channel specific or just digital knowledge. Most competitive advantages are related to some form of knowledge. At my customer, a large 100.000 employee company, knowledge based innovation is key to competitiveness. So the approach they took is very smart, I believe. Given past incidents and the ever growing impact of denial of service (hacker) attacks – and my customer is facing about 2-3 million of those per month (!), the company decided to better secure their information. Also, I had my very personal security incident this year. On my personal homepage, I became the victim of a hacker attack due to the fact that I did not use the latest version of WordPress. I still haven´t restored all old articles although the malicious code is deleted. Damn. Backups every other week or so, yes – they do matter…
In order to secure information, it is key to know which information has to be protected in a very restricted way, and which information can be handled in a more lightweight way, due to the fact that sharing also produces tremendous value for the organization. So the logical first step we took, was to identify all knowledge and draw a knowledge map of the whole company. Once we had done that, avoiding overlaps as well as possible, we classified that information into three categories. For each of those three categories, we defined rules on how to handle that information involving where to rely upon employees usually well-reasoned judgements and where to apply mandatory rules. And we always kept the trade off between the value of sharing versus the value of protecting in our minds. In the end, we got to a complete knowledge map along with and identification of gaps and measures to close those gaps as well as a clear roadmap regarding how to make this change sustainable. This is what we will tackle next. Because change does not just happen because something is reasonable or a project has reached it´s target outcome. It takes much more than that – people who work with the knowledge need to internalize why and how they can help to protect the information. Technical measures need to be rolled out. And last but not least, organizational measures might be necessary, too. In 2016, we will continue to help our customer to make that happen.
Besides, we also worked on very interesting projects such as investigating the reasons for lack of organisational agility or innovation applying the culture of innovation assessment or helping start-ups to finetune their business ideas and business models, to get funding for their business endeavor, developing internet access based service portfolios for connected cars, training people to improve their sales skills, their creativity or the rollout of IT projects. And of course, trainings on how to make change happen in an organization. Also, we further developed our offering to deliver first-class presentations and infogrpahics to customers at a much lower price than traditional consulting projects through our online platform called PPTMaker. We also found out the the hints we give to our customers and interested internet users were really valuable to many readers of our blog on how to create great presentations. So we learned a lot and I believe we got a little bit better than we were the year before. That´s how it should be every year, every month, every week – yes, in fact every day.
Noteworthy digital innovations in 2015
When I started looking back at 2015, I thought about what the digital innovations were, that occured in 2015 and changed my life to some extent. My personal top 2015 innovations were
- Uber gaining traction in the German market. After entering the German market in October 2014, Uber became a noticeable competitor to taxi drivers in Germany. Nevertheless, the German legislation is stopping Uber´s expansion here and there
- Streaming services, especially Amazon Prime enlarged their choice of video on demand and music streaming significantly – moving, at least in my perception, from a pure premium delivery service to a true competitor to Netflix, Watchever or (in a limited way) also to Apple Music or Spotify
- The Apple Watch was launched with a lot of buzz. Nevertheless all owners I spoke to, including myself, do rate the user experience with a Smart Watch that needs an iPhone to go online, at about 5-6 out of 10. It´s ok, I do not regret the investment but I am not enthusiastic about it. I would never get a luxury model, because it´s value will go down massively once the Apple Watch II is released. This does not happen to those great swiss watches like a good TAG Heuer or to a Rolex. The only real benefit of the Apple Watch, which is ok for me, is that I do now have a fitness tracker including music, so I don´t need to carry my phone around or wrap it around my arm while doing sports
- At 4-advice, we switched our CRM from Salesforce to Pipedrive. And – oh my – I am glad we did. Pipedrive is so easy to use and works just fine. And it costs just a fraction of Salesforce. But the usability is much more important than the savings. For the first time, administrative tasks in the sales process are becoming fun !
When I look at sites like the German digital award or on TechCrunch, most of those aren´t things that changed my life or touched my heart. Sven Denecken of SAP made top 10 predictions for 2015. My perception is that he wasn´t wrong but those weren´t disruptions, but rather incremental steps forward – e.g. in Industry 4.0/ IoT or cloud. The digital transformation aspects we talked about in our blog are also still valid.
So cut a long story short: There were some changes, but 2015 does not feel like the year of big digital disruption to me. What about you – do you have a different perception ?
Digital transformation, award from Statista and brandeins as “Best Consultants 2015” and other steps forward
In our blog, we focused on digital transformation – and we will continue to do so. Unfortunately (or fortunately ?) everyone talks about digital transformation now. It´s become a big buzz. But not many know how to manage the challenges of digitalization. I find it difficult wether to judge the fact that everyone talks about it good or bad for us. On the one hand, it seems that every consultant does now know how to consult customers on it. But very few have the many years of experience on it, like we do. So it kind of waters down the credibility of a consultant saying “hey, I can help you with your digitalization efforts and challenges”. On the other hand, there is a much higher awareness in the markt, so it means that you do not need to educate customers first, before they buy.
We were very positively surprised to be awarded the title “Best Consultants 2015” by brandeins and Statista in May 2015. It was an unexpected, nice surprise. And until today we still do not know which lovely customers of ours have praised us so we got this. Thank you, again ! Being awarded this as just one of about 250 consultancies in total in Germany (out of more than 15.000 consultancies) meant something to us. Also being one of only a handful of consultancies being awared this title in the category “Internet & Media” and having had the highest possible *** customer rating was a real motivation to continue the good work.
We decided to leave the association of German Consultants (BDU) and join the association of German SMBs instead (BVMW) because our offering is becoming more of a mix of consulting and other services. And we started doing a newsletter again, calling it the digital transformation insider, which you can subscribe to, of course. Also – very important to mention, we have intensified our collaboration with our Spanish partner Dicere furthermore and will continue to do so in 2016.
So the year 2015 was a very good year. We hope things continue as they were this year and we´re looking forward to working with you in the future – no matter if you´re a returning or a new customer. In 2016, we will strengthen our online service offering, but can´t tell you yet, what it will be that we offer in addition to what we do today. But stay tuned, it might be rather interesting for you
Thanks for being with us this year, and hope to hear from you soon. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year 2016. We´d love to continue helping you with your change and innovation challenges. We´d love to hear how YOUR 2015 was. Let us know.