Taking the best from the world's most authoritative business sources, Marc Brenner highlights the articles every consultant should read. Whether it's IT or trend research, if it's innovative, you'll find it detailed here


Launching Lucy

The story of, an online retailer of sports apparel for women, is the story of frantic hiring, website building, money raising and dealmaking-in other words, the story of a typical Internet startup.

The difference is the timing. In just nine months little managed to muscle up into the leading contender in the increasingly crowded field of sports websites for women. The founders had never run a business before or even worked at an Internet firm, and their company is based far from Silicon Valley or New York. How did Lucy do something that high-profile, better-financed competitors could not? A good idea, a lot of hard work and a few lucky breaks.

The Standard


Opinion: How to be a CEO for

the Information Age

Today’s vast array of web applications for supply-chain integration, salesforce automation, work group collaboration-and the sale of everything from equities to automobiles-makes it perfectly clear that information technology has evolved beyond the role of mere infrastructure in support of business strategy. In more and more industries today, IT is the business strategy.

Unfortunately, many CEOs are ill-equipped to manage effectively in the Information Age. The problem has less to do with IT literacy than with a range of behaviours and attitudes that cause such CEOs to shirk their IT responsibilities. By their actions, many CEOs send negative signals about the role of information technology to other leaders in their organisation who then repeat the behaviour. Companies with such leaders frequently fail to reap business advantage from IT.

The authors describe seven types of CEOs, their behaviours and attitudes toward IT, and explain why all but one are decidedly unfit to lead companies in the Information Age. Only the “believer CEO” is ready to play a constructive role in his or her company’s use of information technology. Believers understand that IT enables strategic advantage and demonstrate such beliefs in their daily actions. Believers are involved in IT decision making and are proactive in addressing IT problems and opportunities. They seek advice from a variety of sources, study the IT strategies of competitors, and set examples for others managers in their company to follow.

The authors provide many examples of believer CEOs-John Browne of British Petroleum, Ralph Larsen of Johnson & Johnson, Jack Welch of General Electric, Toshifumi Suzuki of Seven-Eleven Japan, and Ian Robertson of Land Rover, among others. They describe how each infused his organisation with a positive attitude toward IT and contrast their actions and beliefs with those of the six failing archetypes. They explain how these believer CEOs played a critical role in their corporate IT strategies, how they crafted IT-savvy organisational cultures, and how these actions benefited their businesses. Realising that many CEOs will see their current attitudes reflected in those of the six failing archetypes, the authors prescribe a variety of methods for leaders to address their shortcomings and master the techniques of believers.

Sloan Management Review


Finance and CRM

Financial CRM changes the balance of the channels used. How customers and potential customers of the Financial Services Providers (FSPs) will be served is a continuing debate. Multiple channels are here and new ones will emerge, change and grow. The electronic highways have for some become the only means by which customers can and should be served. They quote the uptake of Internet banking and the low cost to serve for call-centre based services. Yet in the last few years we have seen more street level activity than before. Yes, branches are closing but new kiosks, one-person outlets, supermarket outlets, and other self-service systems have become complementary to the changing branch/brokers office.

Full service bank type branches will decline in numbers but there will be increases in productivity and changes in their use. There is also the cry that interactive financial services is the only way to go for mass-customisation. Yet the traditional FSPs still hold much of the transactional data that drives the integrated vision that is being referred to as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Should you believe the hype or to try to understand what is happening and how an FSP can benefit from the changes without suffering irreparable financial loss?

This article is part of a mosaic of articles written about the uses of data/information in FSPs. It is about how transaction-based customer information can be transformed and used in an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution based on a Scalable Data Warehouse (SDW) to create value for the customer and the FSP. Viable customer relationships can be based on data that has been transformed into actionable information that in turn becomes customer insight (customer knowledge) to be used to create predictive models for active customer interaction and actual dialogue if desired.

CRM Central

Case study: Finding the right fit

Clarent is a mid-market company that has seen explosive growth since its inception in July 1996. And the voice-over IP technology company expects to see even more growth into the next millennium. Growth is never a bad thing, but finding ERP solutions for a company as dynamic as Clarent can be.

“We grew from very small to a mid-sized company practically overnight,” says David Blumhorst, director of information technology at Clarent. “So we started looking at mid-tier packages and they probably would have worked satisfactorily for now, but they don’t necessarily scale very well.”

Blumhorst was not worried about the database side of scalability because most ERP companies that cater for mid-market companies use databases like Oracle, which scale rather well. Instead, he was worried about the business process side, which he claims cannot be broken down into fine pieces when a company gets really big.

“So, in a few years we would outgrow the mid-tier packages and have to convert to a tier one package like PeopleSoft,” he says. “That becomes a huge project, which typically involves millions of dollars and a lot of pain in migrating data across to the other system.”

The telecoms equipment provider began looking at larger packages, but it couldn’t afford them at this particular time. Installing them onsite would mean a lot of overhead costs for hardware and software and the need to hire additional IT staff for the implementation and ongoing operation. “We had five IT people at the time and I didn’t want my two-person helpdesk to have to handle customer service calls for our people who were trying to resolve problems with the new system,” Blumhorst says.

Supply chain management

Logistics boom

A growing group of service providers is using information technology to offer a range of logistics services, helping e-businesses get products into customers’ hands, according to research from IDC. The research shows that these service providers are going beyond traditional logistics, defined as the process of moving products from the supplier to the vendor to the customer, offering ordering, fulfilment, and transportation services necessary to optimise e-business logistics. IDC calls this market the logistics business process outsourcing (LBPO) market, which it says is being driven to new levels with the growth of e-business.

The Advisor


Why most enterprise initiatives fail

To make your enterprise application projects succeed, you must identify clear objectives, remain faithful to them, and closely manage the process.

Is your enterprise application initiative a success? Statistically, the odds are against you, according to a new study. The numbers show that just one-third of enterprise application initiatives are successful.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) says that the outcome of “very few” of more than 100 large-scale enterprise initiatives surveyed could be called positive, when considering value creation, cost effectiveness, tangible financial impact, and goal achievement.

Though the market for enterprise computing applications is skyrocketing, and will be worth US$125bn by 2001, BCG cautions that companies rely “too heavily” on this industry for enterprise initiatives, which comprise software module suites that integrate a company’s internal/external operations.

“Enterprise computing applications will continue to be vitally important. But the success of an initiative depends on whether the company adapting the applications thinks hard about its objectives, sticks to them and manages the process closely,” said Harold Sirkin, head of BCG’s information technology practice and co-author of the study.

BCG studied the spectrum of enterprise initiatives, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), and e-commerce.

The Advisor


IP voice quality: Is there a price to pay?

The merging of packet and circuit technologies in the public network is at the top of everyone’s agenda, with Internet techniques offering a dynamic new avenue for the development of services and revenues. Voice continues to represent one of the highest revenue streams for operators, regardless of the many predictions to the contrary. With 90 percent (according to James Crowe, Level 3 Communications) of revenues tied up in the delivery of carrier-grade voice, the development of the new IP-based networks relies heavily on achieving comparable voice quality to circuit-based networks.

An operator’s ability to launch new services efficiently and quickly, anticipating and perhaps even creating demand from customers, is fundamental in today’s competitive arena. Of equal importance is the need to develop existing services, enabling the original infrastructure investment to be maximised by raising the quality stakes. At its most basic level, building revenue means increasing the number of subscribers, together with the number and amount of services that they use.

Telecommunications Online

Layer one monitoring

for competitive advantage

Supplying end-to-end services over infrastructure and network elements owned by a combination of operators is a major challenge in terms of fault management for providers of end-to-end services. One solution may lie in the ability to monitor the often ignored but ever essential transmission layer-or layer one of the open systems interconnection (OSI) model-allowing faults to be spotted before they reach the upper layers and the customer.

The right information at the right time in the right place has become a key factor for success. IT is being used by companies to differentiate themselves from the competition. To shorten delays and to cut costs, businesses are connecting suppliers as well as customers to their in-house information systems. Courier DHL, for example, now provides web access to customers wishing to trace parcel delivery. IT is also increasingly included in service offerings themselves. Dell Computer allows customers the possibility of downloading specific applications onto ready-to-ship PCs; a service enabled by high-speed local area network (LAN) interconnections for fast file transfer between customer sites and the Dell plant.

These new service possibilities and the continuous introduction of new applications are boosting traffic levels tremendously with IP traffic now doubling every 100 days. This bandwidth explosion is clearly impacting both networks and network players.

Telecommunications Online

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