Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Research and Development’ Category

100 Jobs of the Future

March 29th, 2016

acad8743

Image

A new report from BrightHR, a ‘A Future that Works’ , investigates how workplaces will evolve in the future and key trends that are likely to emerge to affect all of us. Its key findings include the claim that a fifth of workforce tasks are expected to have an element of robotics in them by 2020 and that a third of UK jobs are under threat from automation.

But while job substitution by machines is always alarming for those caught up in it, we have always been able to adapt and find new roles for ourselves.  So looking forward, what sort of jobs can we expect to see in two decades’ time? A Future that Works suggests 100 new roles – some inevitable, others perhaps more fanciful. But all of them should give us food for thought about the opportunities these might represent.

Information &  communications

Personal Entertainment Programmers

Complexity Analyst, Gaiantologist

Psycho-Customizer

Human to Machine Interface Controller

Narrowcasters

Data Miner

Waste Data Handler

Social Network Analysts

In-House Simplicity Experts

Global Work Process Coordinators

Privacy Protection Consultants

Complex Security Integrators

Chief Networking Officer

Virtual Clutter Organizer

Machine Linguist

Off-the-Grid/off-the-Net Facilitator

Mind Reading Specialist

Quantum Computing Specialist

Media Ethicist

Designer of Advanced Interfaces for Ambient Intelligence systems

Knowledge Guide

Knowledge Broker

Professional VR Citizen

Virtual Lawyer

Virtual Property / Home Owners’ Association (HOA) Managers

Intelligent Agent Designers

Avatar Manager / Devotees

Network Relationship Counsellors / Therapist / Designer

Virtual Police

Virtual Personal Shopper

Cybrarians

Holographer

Virtual-Reality

 

Robotics

Robot Designers / Trainers

Robot Mechanic

Robot Counsellors

Dirigible Pilot

Alternative Vehicle Developers

Teleportation Specialists

Solar Flight Specialists

Infrastructure Specialists

Monorail Designer

 

Space

Spaceline Pilots

Spaceport Designers

Space Tour Guides

Space Architect

Terraformer of the Moon and Other Planets

Astrogeologists, Astrophysiologists and Astrobiologists

 

Demographics

Population Status Manager

Personal Learning Programmer

Societal Systems Designer

Social ‘Networking’ Worker

Intelligent Clothing

Designer / Engineer

Ghost Experience Assistant

Personal Branders

Socialization/Culturalisation Therapists

Enhanced Games Specialist

 

Energy

Biorefinery Operative

Wind Farmer

Battery Technician

Insect-Based Food Developers, Chefs, Nutritionists

Chlorophyll Technician

Fusion Engineers

 

Environmental

Resource Use Consultant

Vertical Farmers

Climate Change Reversal Specialist

Drowned City Specialist

Quarantine Enforcer

Experimental Petrologist

In-Company Sustainability Coordinator

Weather Modification Police

Consumer Energy Analysts

Water Traders

Desert Land Rights Trader

Climate Change Compliance Auditor

Business Consultant for Climate Change Compliance

Recycling Analyst

 

Medicine, biology and biogenetics

Genomics Developer / Architect / Baby Designer

Body Part Maker

Personal Enhancement Advisors

Nano-Medic

Synthetic Life Designer / Scientist / Engineer

Chief In-Company Health

Enhancement Officer

Telemedicine Technician

Farmer of Genetically Engineered Crops and Livestock

In-Company Gene Screener

Biometric Identification Specialist

Bioinformationists

Geomicrobiologists

Experimental Therapy Experts

Old Age Wellness Manager / Consultant Specialists

Personal Body Weight / Obesity Consultant

Memory Augmentation Surgeon

‘New Science’ Ethicist

Genetic Hacker

Longevity Providers

Cryonics Technicians

End-of-Life Planner

 

Download the report:

https://pages.brighthr.com/afuturethatworks-v2.html

About the authors

Lynda Gratton

“The Hot Spots Movement is a specialist research and consulting team founded by Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School, a leading expert in organisational behaviour and a world-renowned speaker on the future of work. The team works to identify where companies can future-proof their working practice, in order to foster innovation and enhance performance.”

David Smith

“A futurologist, and Chief Executive of GFF – a strategic futures research organisation, David Smith’s 30 year diverse business career has made him recognisable as one of the world’s leading futurists and strategic thinkers.David prepares views of the future on many topics including the Travel and Tourism industry, the world Insurance markets and visions of the future for government, the food, real estate, information technology and communications industries.”

The Rise of the Robots

March 29th, 2016

acad8743

Image

by Leslie P. Willcocks

Too many organisations have chosen to displace workers rather than think through how technology and humans can work together symbiotically, a set of choices described as the automate or informate dilemma. In practice, automation can be deployed by either “automating”, “informating”, or both.So in the not-too distant future, we may come to see robots and automation as a way of augmenting human skills, with the ‘smart machines’ operating as collaborators in solving business problems and delivering service. We also see the future of operations as less pre-determined than many think. The big takeaway from our work so far is that automation will increasingly create workgroups comprising both human and robotic workers, and each will be assigned tasks for which they are ideally suited.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the automation of service tasks that were previously performed by humans, is just one technology that is changing the future of operations. Cognitive intelligence tools, like IBM’s Watson, are other soon-to-be game changers. In the near future, knowledge workers in the middle of a task could request a multi-tasking robotic co-worker to help — a robot on request. Contrary to today’s worst fears, robotics could facilitate the rise, not the demise, of the knowledge worker. But much depends on the imaginations of managers expanding as rapidly as their automation toolkits.

The economic implications of RPA are difficult to assess because the world does not sit still. But if clients are using robots for low-level tasks, fewer people will be needed for those jobs. What new job categories may emerge is a very interesting question. In Lights in The Tunnel and Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford writes about the drastic job loss that will accompany automation. We suggest a more nuanced future, and are testing this in present research, and a follow-up next year.

On a horizon of 1 to 5 years, we anticipate a mixed scenario:

1. Robotic Process Automation will begin to seriously change the delivery of services, substituting technology for people, which will alter the economics of service delivery, causing labour to be less of a factor and making labour arbitrage, which allows companies to switch between international sources of labour, less important.

2. The domestic/re-shoring/in-house tides will rise, with the superior “ease of engagement” and the need for the remaining humans to be near the action to handle exceptions, complexity and new services. Re-shoring (bringing production back to the home country) will rise. This will make domestic production more advantageous vis-à-vis most forms of offshoring, whether outsourcing or captive (through a subsidiary of the company abroad).

3. We predict a backlash against the impacts of automation, especially in terms of threatening jobs — which will become a symbol for the workforce and economic health generally, in both domestic and offshore locations.

4. Domestic and offshore outsourcing will continue to grow globally at anything between 5% and 12% a year depending on the function or process outsourced. Leading providers will increasingly seek automation as a core capability for delivery of services. Advisory firms will shift capabilities from assisting clients with outsourcing decisions to optimizing service delivery that will increasingly rely on automation and may or may not involve external sourcing.

On a horizon of 5-10 years these factors will kick in and be game changing in impact:

5. Through automation, there will be much more in-house, domestic outsourcing and re-shoring of IT and business services. Automation will move from routine manual and cognitive tasks to non-routine manual and cognitive ones. Automation will breed further automation, as humans will no longer fit into the new systems and processes.

6. Through automation, providers competing against clients (in-house sourcing) and other providers (outsourcing) will use automation to reduce costs and improve process metrics – e.g., responsiveness, timeliness, quality, defect levels, ease of use.

7. Through automation, issues around socially responsible sourcing/outsourcing and work design will rise in importance and profile, raising internal issues of management ethos and external issues of reputation management in the marketplace.

8. There will be changes in client-supplier relations and types of contracting.

9. At the same time, automation will not stop the rise in offshore and domestic outsourcing, as there is still so much work that will be open to outsourced options. Providers will work hard at making these options attractive. We anticipate a continued growth in the global outsourcing markets for information technology and business processes.

Wilcox

Leslie P. Willcocks is Professor of Technology Work and Globalisation at LSE’s Department of Management. His research interests include technology, work and globalisation and social theory and philosophy of information systems. Mary C. Lacity is Curators’ Professor of Information Systems and an International Business Fellow at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. They are the authors of the forthcoming book, Service Automation Robots and The Future of Work (SB Publishing).

They are the authors of the forthcoming book, Service Automation Robots and The Future of Work (SB Publishing).

 

All ideas are made of old ideas

March 29th, 2016

acad8743

Image

by Max McKeown

When we think about the sort of world that might exist in 100 years’ time, it’s easy to be seduced by sci-fi style flights of fantasy.  But very often, it isn’t radical innovations that fuel progress so much as a mash-up of ideas that have come before.

In about 460 B.C., for example, Greek philosopher, Democritus, asked: If you divide a piece of matter in half and then in half again, how many breaks will you have to make until you can break it no further? He concluded that everything was made of various arrangements of atoms or átomos, “the smallest indivisible particle of matter” or something that cannot be divided.

Naturally this idea was ignored – partly because Aristotle, who was very good at selling ideas, dismissed it – and partly because Democritus didn’t write his ideas down.

And so it remained until the early 19th Century, when an English chemist, John Dalton, showed that (broadly) everything was made of atoms. Then, in 1897, the physicist, J.J. Thompson described an atomic structure complete with a nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by constantly moving electrons.

And so it turned out that Democritus had been right all along. Everything and everyone are made up of atoms which behave in very different ways depending on how they are combined. Including, of course, the blueprint for life, DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid – arranged in the now-famous double helix molecule composed of two ribbons with a backbone of alternating sugar and phosphate residues, which is then connected by rungs of hydrogen bonds and four bases.

The point here is not the chemistry but the notion that life, evolution and innovation can only ever rearrange what already exists. Mice and elephants, sharks and penguins, the blue whale and the flea, the chimpanzee and man, all share the same atomic composition – the same stuff – but their dramatic diversity in weight, size, colour, texture, and behaviour come about because of microscopic differences in their DNA.

Even between humans, who of course share DNA, we find differences that we would all agree are significant. Part of this is down to differences not in DNA itself but in the combinations of DNA in the two sets of chromosomes gifted to us by our parents.

So the component parts of Robert Pershing Wadlow, the world’s tallest man at eight feet 11 inches, and Nelson Aquino de la Rosa, one of the world’s shortest at 20 inches, are the same. They are just organised differently.

Early man observed the benefits of naturally occurring forest fires and learned to control it perhaps 1.8 million years ago. By 3,500 BC, the old idea of fire was added to fallen tree trunks to create a new idea – log canoes.

Around 4000 BC in Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq, Syria, and Iran) the old idea of log canoes was added to flat potters wheels and wild horses to create a new idea – the horse-drawn cart.

In 1672, Ferdinand Verbiest, a member of a Jesuit mission in China, added the old idea of carts to another old idea, steam power, to create a new idea – the first automobile, albeit a toy for the son of the Kangxi Emperor. And at 4:17:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, July 20, 1969 the old ideas of ships, fireworks, and science fiction were added together to enable the first landing on the moon.

The difference in success between individual lives, or companies, relies not on creating something from nothing, but in combining existing ideas and materials. At its best this process meets existing needs with new ideas or even creates new needs from old ideas.

In 1955, Walt Disney combined three old ideas – the fairytale, notably those collected by the Brothers Grimm; animation, developed from stop motion techniques discovered accidentally by French filmmaker Georges Méliès; and the ornamental garden, something dating back to Ancient Egyptian and to Arabian pleasure gardens. Together, they combined to produce a new idea – the Theme Park.

More recently, Nintendo took the old idea of Kokeshi, traditional Japanese wooden dolls, and developed software that lets you create digital avatars – uncannily accurate cartoon characters (Miis) of yourself, friends and family who become characters in Mii-oriented games. The result is a kind of ‘virtual family’ play room.

New art, literature, and music are constantly recycled from existing works. William Shakespeare started with traditional dramatic structures and often borrowed his themes. (Romeo and Juliet came from a poem by Arthur Brooke and was retold in prose by William Painter). He adapted the language of the street as well inventing at least 1,700 new words of his own, not to mention a swath of new dramatic techniques.

In her Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling takes a little bit of Enid Blyton’s naughtiest school girl, a dollop of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch at School, and Dicken’s Oliver Twist. She prefers to avoid discussion of influences, yet they are there – the raw materials, literary atoms and molecules with which she has created the Hogwarts universe.

Elsewhere, mash-up, bootleg, smash-up, blend, or bastard pop combines the music from one song with the singing from another. Ideally, as Wikipedia puts it, “the music and vocals belong to completely different styles/genres generally considered to be incompatible, yet skilfully and artfully combined into a pleasurably euphonic hybrid”.  Understanding that everything new is made from something old and studying how what we enjoy is the result of this new-for-old mash-up allows us all to do the same.

Nature has mixed and remixed matter to arrive at our current universe. Mankind has mixed and remixed ideas to arrive at our current global society. And it is to new combinations of old ideas that we must look to for innovation – to make our lives better.

 

Maxmckeown

Max McKeown works as a strategic adviser for four of the five most admired companies in the world. He is a well-known speaker on subjects including innovation and competitive advantage. His latest book, The Strategy Book is now in its second edition.

Top Tips: Surviving the Future

March 29th, 2016

acad8743

Image

by Patrick Dixon

Here is a five step guide to future-proof any business, based on my new book The Future of Almost Everything.

 1) Bring in outsiders to challenge your world view

The greatest risk to any business is institutional blindness.  The greatest risk to any leader is being seduced by one’s own world-view.  The greatest risk to any marketing department is believing your own slogans.

When too many bankers spend too much time with bankers, the result is a sub-prime crisis. Too many generals playing too many war games with too many other generals in the same nation, and the result can be disaster.

So seek out advice from experts, consultants, innovators – people who think very differently to you and others in your company.  Take them out to dinner. Include them in key strategy discussions.  Hire them into your teams.

 2) Listen to your customers – but don’t believe them

Always take what your customers tell you seriously. Fix their problems. Make life easier. Thank them for their feedback. But don’t believe them when it comes to predicting the future.

Get to know your customers well, with deep insights into how they think and feel, and then try to imagine how they may behave in a very different kind of future world.  Take online banking for example:  in many nations most customers told banks a few years ago that they were not interested in online banking or making payments using a smartphone – and if banks had listened to them, they would have missed one of the greatest transformations in retail banking for decades.

One of the best ways to find those insights is to pretend to be a customer in your own business as a “mystery shopper”. Every senior manager should do that at least once a month.  Mystery shopping is often shocking to business leaders – not so much how they are treated as customers, but what it feels like to be that customer.

3) Read widely – and be curious about all you meet

I wrote The Future of Almost Everything as a one-stop guide to the future of every industry, region and market. Many of the insights came from reading everything I can get my hands on – unfamiliar magazines in airports, blogs by influential people, newspapers like the Financial Times, and other key publications like the Economist.

The key is to challenge your own views on the future, rather than just absorb the forecasts made by others.

When did you last have a conversation with someone that really changed how you think?

One of the fastest ways to stay ahead of change is to be constantly curious about the lives of those you meet. For example, when you arrive in a new city, talk to your taxi driver who will likely be a very reliable guide to what is really going on, if the local economy is picking up, who is spending what and where.

Every person has unique insights and personal experience. Their own way of viewing the world.  High school students, mothers with children at home, people who are retired, shop assistants, bus drivers, car mechanics, journalists, pharmacists and so on.  And in each town or city, in every nation, the answers such people will give will be different.

4) Review your strategies every year

The world is changing faster than you can hold a board meeting, which means that you need to have more than one strategy. Bring your team together regularly to think again. Develop contingencies to stay ahead of constant change. What are you going to do if….

The smartest corporations and teams all have multiple strategies. They already know more or less exactly what they will do if a particular event takes place.

Focus on major long-term trends, which change relatively slowly and you already understand most of your future. Things like demographics, growing life expectancy, the relentless fall in price of most technologies, rapid pace of globalization, rise of emerging markets and so on.  These things form the foundation stones of every corporate strategy or government policy.

The rest will be driven by Wild Cards – low probability, high impact events – but there are a huge number of them, and in a hyper-connected world, their combined impact can be awesome. Remember that in every risk or challenge there is a new business opportunity.

5) Be agile!

And finally, prepare for rapid change, by developing more agile teams. That means simplifying decision-making, giving more power to local teams to innovate, diversify and respond to events rapidly. Recruit and promote leaders who cope well with ambiguity and uncertainty, who enjoy taking initiative, have courage and are great collaborators.

It is shocking how many organisations still have a very top-down culture, where managers basically do as they are told, and where many leaders are reduced to mere implementers of someone else’s business plan.  Part of agility is encouraging innovation:  creative thinking, new solutions to old problems, radical steps to serve customers better.

Agility is so much easier when you have completed steps 1-4 above. When you have a dynamic view of your future and have mapped out different possible directions depending on what happens around you.

Patrick Dixon

Patrick Dixon is a futurist, keynote speaker author and adviser to boards and senior teams on strategic impact of global trends, innovation and risk.  His latest book, The Future of Almost Everything, describes hundreds of key trends which will impact your business and personal life, and explains what it all means for our wider world. http://www.globalchange.com

 

Why Did I Lose that Piece of Business?

April 9th, 2015

acad8743

feb-03_240

By Phil Shipperlee

This is always a good question to ask, as is why/how did I win that piece of business?but that is a question for another day. We should all strive to understand the dynamics of the customer decision making processes so that we can adapt the way we bid to make it more likely customers will say yes to us. Although each customer will have some individual characteristics, by analysing the results, a pattern will emerge that you can use to tune your future bidding process to increase the likelihood of winning.

One important thing to consider is whether a particular deal that you feel you should have won has been lost. Extending this; is this a one off or a growing trend? To answer this question you need to have good sound data about the type of deals you win and lose against which you can compare individual cases. If you do not have such data then it is never too late to start collecting it.

Another factor that must be considered is whether there was actually a genuine chance that the deal could be won. Were you dealing with an actual prospect that had a problem they were willing and able to solve with the help of an external supplier? This is often summarised as; need, authority and money but we would also add “will”; do they have the will to proceed.

Even with the need, authority and money in place there can be other reasons why people do not proceed; one of the most common being risk. It may be a subconscious thing but people confronted with making a decision assess the risk; are they better to stay with the status quo even if that is a less than ideal scenario is the sort of question people ask themselves.

We have worked with various businesses in recent years where the habit has developed that quotes or proposals are provided to almost anyone they talk to who appears to have a problem they can solve. I can hear the cry; “we have a huge pipeline but no one is making a decision …” ringing in my ears. It may be that of every 10 opportunities your bid for, only four or five were winnable by any company, so that will distort the results. It must also be recognised that at least 50% of the time, effort and money spent on bidding for work is wasted before you even start.

So, an obvious starting point when answering the question “Why did I lose that piece of business?” is to decide first whether it was winnable by anyone and then was it winnable by you. Assuming it was winnable by you – you then need to explore why you lost. As mentioned earlier we recommend formal evaluation of both losses and wins through a structured process of win/loss reviews. In undertaking such an evaluation you will need to look at your organisation as well as each prospect’s.

In looking at the prospect organisations some key things to consider, after establishing that they had the need, authority, money and will, are:

  • Does the prospect actually have a process for decision making? When they get your proposal or quotation what will they do to systematically make a decision and to make the right decision when choosing between different supplier’s proposals. This pre-supposes that receiving a proposal is a part of their buying process. Did you find out what their process was and did you align with it?
  • In many cases today decisions are made by a number of people; the decision making unit (DMU). The people that make up the DMU will wear different and sometimes multiple hats such as; buyer, user, influencer, decision maker and budget holder. You need to know who these people are and engage with all of them as early as possible. If the first time you are meeting these people is when submitting your proposal you are probably in a weak position as other potential suppliers (including incumbents) will already have relationships with these people.
  • What you will need to provide in your proposal will be determined by the individuals when you meet them. By way of an example; if you are supplying a piece of equipment to a factory the DMU is likely to include such functions as; engineers, health & safety, facilities manager, general manager and finance director. Each will have a different need in terms of the information they want from you; finance may want a RoI justification, H&S will want certificates and other relevant information, and so on.
  • Now you know the people, the hats they wear in the buying process and what they will want to see, you need to establish what format they want the information in and what critical timings they want you to meet. Once you understand them and their specific requirements you can align everything to what matters to them.
  • You need to understand the specific process they will use and key timings. If the actual decision will be made at a steering committee meeting that is held every quarter it is obvious what you need to do.

All of the above is in effect a summary of the key points of the role of an account manager. It is all about understanding the complete prospect or customer, and building the appropriate relationships both with the individuals and with the account as a whole.

If you have sent proposals but received no decisions or feedback it may well be because you sent the proposal at an identified point in your selling process, but that it was not relevant to their decision making process. It is not good enough to ask the prospect “do you want us to do a proposal?” why would they say no as you are in effect offering free research and market intelligence.

If the situation has stalled then you need to go back and ask them tough questions like; did you actually want what we proposed and if so when and how will you make the decision? This will be tough because you will have to accept that some will not turn into new business but at least you will know where you stand and you will get stronger for the next bid.

 

Phil ShipperleePhil Shipperlee is co-founder and CEO of Performative, where he combines his knowledge of sales and selling with his extensive practical business experience to help other people to grow their businesses and transform their sales performance.

 

 

Case Study: The Power of Listening

March 4th, 2015

acad8743

Beth Butterwick, Academy member

Beth Butterwick
Academy member

Bonmarché, one of the UK’s largest womenswear value retailers, catering for women over 50, won the IPO of the Year Award at the 2014 Annual Small Cap Awards after is floatation on AIM in November 2013, having raised some £40m.

What makes this so remarkable is that less than two years previously, the Wakefield-based company had faced an uncertain future after its parent group, Peacocks, collapsed into administration with debts of £250 million.

Bonmarché’s phoenix-like rebirth and turnaround from the ashes of what was one of the largest retail failures since Woolworths was masterminded by Academy Group 45 member, Beth Butterwick, who had joined Bonmarché as Brand Director in 2011.

“Bonmarché was a niche gem on the high street, but it needed to be loved,” she said. “It had drifted into trying to cater for much younger customers and as sales declined, it made the mistake of putting prices up to compensate for this. In other words, it had moved away from its primary values.”Over and above the woes of its parent group, Butterwick quicklyrealised that the business had lost touch with its core customer.

With over 20 year’s retail experience, she was well-placed to identify a company that was out of touch with its customers. Having started her career as a graduate trainee with Marks & Spencer, where she progressed to Head of Buying for the Accessories Group, she moved to a senior with GAP and spent three years in Holland as Commercial Director of a women’s fashion business with 450 stores across six countries.

So when Bonmarché went into administration, she joined forces with Finance Director, Stephen Alldridge, to devise a turnaround strategy that would see the company return to what it does best. Within two weeks, private equity firm Sun European Partners acquired Bonmarché via a pre-pack administration deal with KPMG, and she was catapulted into the role of CEO.

“The low-hanging fruit was to reposition the product positioning and prices back to the core customer,” she said. “We had to focus on listening to what our customers wanted as well as establishing a differentiated on-line offering to supplement the on-site stores.”

Bonmarché’s on-line offering was critical, Beth says, because the 55-plus demographic represents the fastest-growing online market segment. These customers are becoming increasingly internet-savvy, with the birth of the tablet device.

“Through our loyalty programme, we’ve have been able to better evaluate our customers and understand their purchasing profiles. This information is really qualitative as we have 6.5 million members, 1.8 million of whom are active. Three -quarters of our weekly sales are driven through Bonus Club customers.’’

‘’Developing a robust multi-channel business has been a fundamental requirement as customers shopping channel habits change. For example, 37% of our customers who buy online choose to collect their purchases in store and with circa 273 shops across the country, our stores represent an important opportunity to interact with our customers.

“On collection, we encourage them to open up their package and try it for size. At this point suggestions can be made regarding additional outfit solutions. Our data tells us that customers who shop across multi-channels spend on average 36% more than customers who shop one channel.’’

Continual customer feedback is key. Therefore once a month, we have a focus group feedback session from our customers via stores.. What we learn from this information helps shape our forward strategy.”

With a website, mail order catalogue, a telephone order service and a TV shopping channel, Bonmarché is now a truly multi-channel operation with a deep understanding of its customers; one of the key components as to why it has gone from administration to 200% growth and a successful float on AIM in less than two years.

Another key factor in this remarkable turnaround, however, is trust.

“Businesses with a strong ‘trust ethic’ consistently deliver a higher ROI,” Beth says. “At all times, I need to know what the business is feeling, and this applies to both our customers and staff. Sometimes it could be a feeling that’s under the cover. I encourage our staff to obsess about listening to our customers; understanding what they are saying and giving them what they want is absolutely core to Bonmarché’s values. I believe our unique point of difference to other retailers is that we are essentially a customer-centric business.”

Beth met Academy Group 45 Chairman, Kevin Kerley, in 2012, and has been a member since becoming Bonmarché’s CEO.

“The prospect of joining the Academy seemed absolutely right. It felt important to build up a network and get external support for the business issues that I was not familiar as a first-time CEO, such as supply chain and property.

“One business initiative, in which the Academy has supported me on, was in helping me to consider whether an in-house or out-sourced ‘customer services’ model was right. We brainstormed this issue in one of our monthly meetings and finally, through good questioning, it felt that an out-sourced one would be the right ‘service’ and cost solution. So in May 2013, we set up a partnership with a small company in Wetherby, who are the perfect ‘fit’ for Bonmarché; in that they work with other ‘like partners’, therefore understand how to speak to our customers.’’

“At a senior management level, too, the Academy has supported me on the appropriate multi-channel strategies and on-going is a discussion around what make a great ‘people focused’ HR department, including what this team could look like.”

So what’s the next goal?

“No business can stand still now – the moment you do, your business is backward-looking. It’s critical to remain ahead of the curve, especially in the world of retail! The biggest discipline is to make sure that the support functions are in good shape and that my team don’t get overloaded by taking on too many exciting business initiatives. Assess your objectives and map out your priorities so that the inception of an idea can progress to delivery. However most importantly, never forget who your customers are.”

 

Top Tips on Market Research: Start with the Basics

March 4th, 2015

acad8743

10-01-start-basics

By Carter McNamara

It is extremely difficult to develop and provide a high-quality product or service without conducting at least some basic market research. Some people have a strong aversion to the word “research” because they believe that the word implies a highly sophisticated set of techniques that only highly trained people can use. Some people also believe that, too often, research generates lots of useless data that is in lots of written reports that rarely are ever read, much less used in the real world.

This is a major misunderstanding.

The chances are that you have already conducted at least some basic forms of market research. For example, you have listened (a research technique) to others complain about not having enough of something — that should suggest providing what they need in the form of a product or service.

Market research has a variety of purposes and a variety of data collection methods might be used for each purpose. So the particular data collection method that you use during your market research depends very much on the particular information that you are seeking to understand.

Some of the most common ways organisations use market research – and the tactics that accompany these – include:

1. Identify opportunities to serve various groups of customers.

Verify and understand the unmet needs of a certain group (or market) of customers. What do they say that they want? What do they say that they need? Some useful data collection methods might be, for example, conducting focus groups, interviewing customers and investors, reading the newspaper and other key library publications, and listening to what clients say and observing what they do. Later on, you might even develop a preliminary version of your product that you pilot, or test market, to verify if the product would sell or not.

2. Examine the size of the market – how many people have the unmet need.

Identify various subgroups, or market segments, in that overall market along with each of their unique features and preferences. Useful data collection methods might be, for example, reading about demographic and societal trends in publications at the library. You might even observe each group for a while to notice what they do, where they go and what they discuss. Consider interviewing some members of each group. Finally, consider conducting a focus group or two among each group.

3. Determine the best methods to meet the unmet needs of the target markets.

How can you develop a product with the features and benefits to meet that unmet need? How can you ensure that you have the capacity to continue to meet the demand? Here’s where focus groups can really come in handy. Conduct some focus groups, including asking them about their preferences, unmet needs and how those needs might be met. Run your ideas past them. At the same time, ask them what they would need to use your services and what they would pay for them.

4. Investigate the competition.

Examine their products, services, marketing techniques, pricing, location, etc. One of the best ways to understand your competitors is to use their services. Go to their location, look around and look at some of their literature. Look at their web sites. Notice their ads in newsletters and the newspaper. Follow them on Twitter and look them up on LinkedIn.

5. Clarify your unique value proposition.

Your proposition describes why others should use your organization and not the competition’s. A particularly useful data collection method in this area is the use of focus groups. Get some groups of potential clients together and tell them about your ideas. Tell them how your ideas are unique. Tell them how you would want your program to be seen (its positioning). Ask them what they think.

6. Conclude if the product is effectively meeting the needs of the customers.

One of the best ways to make this conclusion is to conduct an evaluation. An evaluation often includes the use of various data collection methods, usually several of them, for example, observing clients, interviewing them, administrating questionnaires with them, developing some case studies, and, ideally, conducting a product field test, or pilot.

7. Conclude if your advertising and promotions strategies are effective or not.

One of the best ways to make this conclusion is to evaluate the results of the advertising. This could include use of several data collection methods among your clients, such as observing clients, interviewing them, administrating questionnaires with them, developing some case studies.

 

Carter McNamaraCarter McNamara isco-founder of Authenticity Consulting, which provides long-lasting services in organizational and professional development. He has extensive experience in consulting, leadership, management and organizational development, in both small and large organizations. He is also founder and developer of the Free Management Library, one of the world’s largest collections of on-line resources for personal, professional and organizational development at www.managementhelp.org. Published with permission from Authenticity Consulting, LLC

 

Image via shutterstock.com