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Let's End The Digital Confusion
08 Jan 2015

How many times have you had executive meetings where everyone walked in with a different view of what "digital" means? How much time is spent trying to understand how digital projects fit together? It happens way too often, and the latest buzzwords don't help. The biggest problem with this communications breakdown is that without a common and clear understanding of what "digital" is, it's very hard to come up with practical solutions. People will leave a meeting thinking they understand what needs to be done but actually misunderstanding each other. The result? Faulty strategies, misguided tactics ... and more meetings. 

Here is a simple starting point that totally changed both the tone and focus of the conversations I have had with senior leadership teams. That starts by having a clear vision of the essence of what "digitally-native" companies that succeed have done well. And that often comes down to creating a virtuous cycle that grows in scale and value over time. In this sense, then, "digital" is a cycle.

  1. Opening more routes for customers to INTERACT with the brand, ideally through channels they control, so the variable costs of each interaction are minimal, and the customer sees better ways of pursuing the journey they desire
  2. Those journeys (to buy something, learn about something, experience something) are what a brand has to get done and deliver on. Getting that stuff done requires AUTOMATION that digitizes the end-to-end process, facilitating real-time and trackable interactions that can scale at a low cost
  3. That automation generates an exhaust of information to fuel PRO-ACTIVE INTELLIGENCE that can optimize these interactions, anticipate needs, respond faster, and personalize the experience
  4. This intelligence becomes an accretive asset on top of which you can INNOVATE by establishing fast feedback cycles. This innovation leads to the creation of new experiences and businesses that add value to the user, leading them to interact with the brand even more, and uncovering new journeys they can pursue

Supporting this process is an organizational culture and operating models that encourage a cross-functional, fast-cycle approach needed to make this happen and find the talent that is attracted to this sort of iterative impact.

Adding more interaction points (social, mobile, and sensors) to support the customer - both in person and online - leads to a more complex digital cycle. Therefore, you need to ruthlessly prioritize the journeys you want to enable, and invest in the infrastructure for analytics and process execution. 

When traditional companies try to make the pivot to become more digital, they tend to pursue many of the four elements of the cycle, but they do so as a list of independent parts. They have all kinds of projects going on to automate some processes, build a new analytic data warehouse, create an innovation lab, or roll out mobile apps. BUT too often, it really is a list of disconnected endeavors, so it is impossible to get the scalability and network effect from growing one's interactions and data assets. "Digital" should be a deliberate strategy to build the cycle. This requires ore design-oriented thinking that looks to enable the complete customer journey. Building value for the business is based on building value for the customer as a cycle of growth. 

Our sense is that the Chief Digital Officer is likely a temporary but necessary role to catalyze and coordinate this cycle of growth by forcing the tough decisions on what to pursue. Of course, the CDO needs the authority to make the changes needed to turn initiatives into the core way of operating. It is a big job, and too often, from the discussions I have had, becomes just a project portfolio manager focused on elements of "digital" instead of a true change agent who builds an engine for "digital" growth. 

So how do you describe your digital value cycle? Do customers really experience it? Are your investments and operations making it happen?

Learn more this and other topics on our McKinsey Enterprise site. 

[Image: Susanne Nilsson, Flickr]

My First 90 Days: Accept That You Can’t Change the World in 3 Months
08 Jan 2015

I remember back in the day, before I started my own business, I was always very excited when I landed a new job. Every step forward in my career came with higher expectations. But I didn't mind. I was eager to change the world. "Bring it on!"

My first day on the job usually felt like drinking water after running a marathon; it tastes just like champagne. But along the way I learned that too much champagne causes terrible headaches.

You see, the first few weeks everybody's on a high. Everything is all new and shiny. But six to eight weeks on the job, many of us have a first lapse. Luckily, it is not routine kicking in. It is more of a reality check — you won't be able to change the world overnight after all. Even the obvious takes time, regardless of your good intentions or people's willingness to change. We tend to neglect that the company already existed before our arrival and that things might not have been perfect, but at least it worked. Your new colleagues made it work. Show some professional courtesy.

At the same time, people tend to feel a bit lost as expectations increase significantly. You are still trying hard to see the big picture and to keep up with your new colleagues, despite the fact that by now they start treating you as if you've been around forever.

So indeed, now is a good time for a nervous breakdown. "What have I done? I'll never be able to make a difference. I made the worst career move ever. I need to get out of here." Sounds familiar? Trust me: it does to a lot of people. After 15 years in recruiting, I can tell. Some look for a new challenge immediately, others even return to their old positions and some get stuck forever in self-pity. Sad.

My advice: keep calm and carry on. Accept that you have a lot to learn. Take every opportunity to do so and be patient. Listen to your co-workers, engage in conversations and try to understand why certain things have been done in certain ways forever. Do not give up and stay curious. It is an inseparable part of your growth trajectory. Trust me: you need to get through this phase to finally become the best possible man/woman for the job. After all, you are only getting started. Earn some credit and you might even turn things around sooner than expected.

What's your take?


How social media marketing can help your business to become more successful in 2015!
08 Jan 2015

Social media marketing is mistakenly considered by many as a hype when actually it plays an essential role in the marketing mix today. Here`s how social media marketing can help your business to become more successful in 2015:

1. Find Greater Exposure

The social media population is not only ballooning at a rapid pace, but people are increasingly spending time on these platforms to perform a legion of activities daily. There is no discussing, social media networks are excellent to increase the visibility of brands with whom the public are not that familiar with.

2. Create Brand Recognition and Trustworthiness

Companies can capitalize on the various facets of social media channels to publish content – be it videos or infographics, to beef up the image and reputation of their brand. An accessible and recognized brand is more trustworthy than otherwise!

3. Listen to your Target Audience & Generate a Loyal Community

On social media platforms, brands can have frequent, direct and sustainable interactions with their target audience. From their comments, queries and other feedbacks, brands can acquire deep insights on their target audience`s needs and expectations. Further, through constant and diversified interactions, the loyalty of the community to the brand can be strengthened.

4. Targeting and Lead Generation

Unlike traditional means, with social media marketing, you can accurately choose to whom you want your message to be exposed at. The more efficient the targeting, the higher the sales conversion will be!

5. Cut Down on Costs!

Unsurprisingly while being more efficient, social media marketing costs less than traditional marketing. Brands can derive solid Return on Investment (ROI) if there is a solid strategy and a dedicated team backstage! 

Image Courtesy:

The 7 Ultimate Soft Skills Of Truly Successful People
08 Jan 2015

Colleges and job training programs tend to focus on the hard skills you need for a particular career — how to use specific tools and programs, the knowledge needed to complete your tasks — but there are other skills, so-called “soft” skills that are perhaps even more important for a truly successful career.

In fact, there’s nothing soft at all about soft skills; they can be difficult to master, but if you do, you’ll be employable in practically any field. No matter what your industry, position, or current employment, the following seven skills are vital to success in any chosen field.

1. High EQ

EQ stands for emotional intelligence quotient, and your emotional intelligence determines how well you relate to other people, your ability to put yourself in other’s shoes, and your ability to build rapport. It’s important when you’re managing or working with a team, in networking, in understanding workplace politics and really any time you need to interact with a co-worker or client. In other words: it’s invaluable to develop these skills. You can improve your EQ by mindfully practicing putting yourself in another’s shoes, for example, to practice empathy and understanding.

2. Communication Skills

You might have the most brilliant ideas in the room, but if you aren’t able to effectively communicate those ideas, you’ll never get anywhere. Being able to communicate clearly is vital to working with managers, teams, and clients. You can start improving your communications skills by studying the words and phrases you should never use, and paying more attention to what you say.

3. Decision Making

A decisive person is going to be desirable in any position, at any level, and the ability to make decisions is especially important the higher up you climb on the ladder. Taking forever to decide, procrastinating by doing unnecessary research, or avoiding making decisions altogether aren’t a good way to get ahead anywhere. Practice being decisive and demonstrating your decision making abilities to get ahead.

4. Integrity

Integrity at work means owning your mistakes, doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, acknowledging when new information means you’re wrong, and being willing to say, “I don’t know.” People will respect and trust a person much more who has a reputation for integrity than someone who never admits he’s wrong or always puts the blame on others.

5. Drive

Having drive doesn’t have to mean working 80 hours per week or volunteering for every extra project. Instead, demonstrating that you have drive could mean consistently working hard while you’re at work. It could mean having the initiative to continue your education in your field or go the extra mile for a project. It demonstrates that you’re committed to your work, and that’s very attractive to employers and managers.

6. Focus

Maintaining focus is an extremely important skill, whether we’re talking about focusing on a single task at hand or on your long-term objectives. It also means not getting sidetracked by “shiny object syndrome” or by what seems easy or expedient.

7. Balance

Perhaps most importantly, the key to a successful career in any job is maintaining a healthy balance. Only you can determine what makes a healthy balance for you, but it’s vital to balance your career with those things that will make you truly happy.

These are my picks for the top seven skills that are essential to career success, but they’re certainly not the only ones. What soft skills would you add to the list?

10 Ways to Develop Incredible Charisma (Yet Still Be Yourself)
08 Jan 2015

Some people instantly make us feel important. Some people instantly make us feel special. Some people light up a room just by walking in.

We can't always define it, but some people have "it" -- they're naturally charismatic.

Unfortunately natural charisma quickly loses its impact. Familiarity breeds, well, familiarity.

But some people are incredibly charismatic: they build and maintain great relationships, positively influence the people around them, consistently make people feel better about themselves -- they're the kind of people everyone wants to be around... and wants to be.

Fortunately we can all be more charismatic, because charisma isn't about our level of success, or our presentation skills, or how we dress or the image we project -- charisma is about what we do.

Here are ways you can be more charismatic:

1. Listen way more than you talk.

Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond -- not so much verbally, but non-verbally.

That's all it takes to show the other person they're important.

Then when you do speak, don't offer advice unless you're asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice, because when you offer advice in most cases you make the conversation about you, not them.

Don't believe me? Who is, "Here's what I would do..." about: you, or the other person?

Only speak when you have something important to say -- and always defineimportant as what matters to the other person, not to you.

2. Don't practice selective hearing.

Some people -- I guarantee you know a few like this -- are incapable of hearing anything said by the people they feel are somehow beneath them.

Sure, you speak to them, but that particular falling tree doesn't make a sound in the forest, because there's no one actually listening.

Incredibly charismatic people listen closely to everyone, and they make all of us, regardless of our position or social status or "level," feel like we have something in common with them.

Because we do.

3. Always put your stuff away.

Don't check your phone. Don't glance at your monitor. Don't focus on anything else, even for a moment.

You can never connect with others if you're busy connecting with your stuff, too.

Give the gift of full attention. That's a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

4. Always give before you receive -- knowing you may never receive.

Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.

Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.

Just give. Be remarkably giving. Don't worry about whether you will someday receive.

5. Don't act self-important…

The only people who are impressed by your stuffy, pretentious, self-important self are other stuffy, pretentious, self-important people.

The rest of us aren't impressed. We're irritated, put off, and uncomfortable.

And we aren't too thrilled when you walk in the room.

6. …Since you know other people are more important.

You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspective and point of view.

That stuff isn't important, because it's already yours. You can't learn anything from yourself.

But you don't know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don't know.

That automatically makes them a lot more important than us because they're people we can learn from.

7. Shine the spotlight on others.

No one receives enough praise. No one. Tell people what they did well.

Wait, you say you don't know what they did well?

Shame on you -- it's your job to know. It's your job to find out ahead of time.

Not only will people appreciate your praise, they'll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they do.

And they will feel a little more accomplished -- and a lot more important.

8. Choose your attitude -- and your words.

The words you use affects the attitude of others -- and it affects you.

For example, you don't have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don't have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. You don't have to go to the gym; you get to work out and improve your health and fitness.

You don't have to interview job candidates; you get to select a great person to join your team.

We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The approach you take and the words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves -- and make you feel better about yourself, too.

9. Don't discuss the failings of others...

Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt.

The problem is, we don't necessarily like -- and we definitely don't respect -- the people who dish that dirt.

Don't laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.

10. ...But readily admit your own failings.

Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they are successful -- their success can seem to create a halo effect, almost like a glow.

The key word is "seem."

You don't have to be incredibly successful to be extremely charismatic. Scratch the shiny surface, and many successful people have the charisma of a rock.

But you do have to be incredibly genuine to be extremely charismatic.

Be humble. Share your screwups. Admit your mistakes and be the lesson learned.

And definitely laugh at yourself. When you do, other people won't laugh at you. They'll laugh with you.

And they'll like you better for it... and want to be around you a lot more.

Google is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to wring even more efficiency out of its mighty data centers.

In a presentation today at Data Centers Europe 2014, Google’s Joe Kava said the company has begun using a neural network to analyze the oceans of data it collects about its server farms and to recommend ways to improve them. Kava is the Internet giant’s vice president of data centers.

In effect, Google has built a computer that knows more about its data centers than even the company’s engineers. The humans remain in charge, but Kava said the use of neural networks will allow Google to reach new frontiers in efficiency in its server farms, moving beyond what its engineers can see and analyze.

Google already operates some of the most efficient data centers on earth. Using artificial intelligence will allow Google to peer into the future and model how its data centers will perform in thousands of scenarios.

In early usage, the neural network has been able to predict Google’s Power Usage Effectiveness with 99.6 percent accuracy. Its recommendations have led to efficiency gains that appear small, but can lead to major cost savings when applied across a data center housing tens of thousands of servers.

Why turn to machine learning and neural networks? The primary reason is the growing complexity of data centers, a challenge for Google, which uses sensors to collect hundreds of millions of data points about its infrastructure and its energy use.

“In a dynamic environment like a data center, it can be difficult for humans to see how all of the variables interact with each other,” said Kava. “We’ve been at this (data center optimization) for a long time. All of the obvious best practices have already been implemented, and you really have to look beyond that.”

Enter Google’s ‘Boy Genius’

Google’s neural network was created by Jim Gao, an engineer whose colleagues have given him the nickname “Boy Genius” for his prowess analyzing large datasets. Gao had been doing cooling analysis using computational fluid dynamics, which uses monitoring data to create a 3D model of airflow within a server room.

Gao thought it was possible to create a model that tracks a broader set of variables, including IT load, weather conditions, and the operations of the cooling towers, water pumps and heat exchangers that keep Google’s servers cool.

“One thing computers are good at is seeing the underlying story in the data, so Jim took the information we gather in the course of our daily operations and ran it through a model to help make sense of complex interactions that his team – being mere mortals – may not otherwise have noticed,” Kava said in a blog post. “After some trial and error, Jim’s models are now 99.6 percent accurate in predicting PUE. This means he can use the models to come up with new ways to squeeze more efficiency out of our operations. ”

How it Works

Gao began working on the machine learning initiative as a “20 percent project,” a Google tradition of allowing employees to spend a chunk of their work time exploring innovations beyond their specific work duties. Gao wasn’t yet an expert in artificial intelligence. To learn the fine points of machine learning, he took a course from Stanford University Professor Andrew Ng.

Neural networks mimic how the human brain works, allowing computers to adapt and “learn” tasks without being explicitly programmed for them. Google’s search engine is often cited as an example of this type of machine learning, which is also a key research focus at the company.

“The model is nothing more than series of differential calculus equations,” Kava explained. “But you need to understand the math. The model begins to learn about the interactions between these variables.”

Gao’s first task was crunching the numbers to identify the factors that had the largest impact on energy efficiency of Google’s data centers, as measured by PUE. He narrowed the list down to 19 variables and then designed the neural network, a machine learning system that can analyze large datasets to recognize patterns.

“The sheer number of possible equipment combinations and their setpoint values makes it difficult to determine where the optimal efficiency lies,” Gao writes in the white paper on his initiative. “In a live DC, it is possible to meet the target setpoints through many possible combinations of hardware (mechanical and electrical equipment) and software (control strategies and setpoints). Testing each and every feature combination to maximize efficiency would be unfeasible given time constraints, frequent fluctuations in the IT load and weather conditions, as well as the need to maintain a stable DC environment.”

Runs On a Single Server

As for hardware, the machine learning doesn’t require unusual computing horsepower, according to Kava, who says it runs on a single server and could even work on a high-end desktop.

The system was put to work inside several Google data centers. The machine learning tool was able to suggest several changes that yield incremental improvements in PUE, including refinements in data center load migrations during upgrades of power infrastructure, and small changes in the water temperature across several components of the chiller system.

“Actual testing on Google (data centers) indicates that machine learning is an effective method of using existing sensor data to model DC energy efficiency and can yield significant cost savings,” Gao writes.

The Machines aren’t Taking Over

Kava said that the tool may help Google run simulations and refine future designs. But not to worry — Google’s data centers won’t become self-aware anytime soon. While the company is keen on automation, and has recently been acquiring robotics firms, the new machine learning tools won’t be taking over the management of any of its data centers.

“You still need humans to make good judgments about these things,” said Kava. “I still want our engineers to review the recommendations.”

The neural networks’ biggest benefits may be seen in the way Google builds its server farms in years to come. “I can envision using this during the data center design cycle,” said Kava. “You can use it as a forward-looking tool to test design changes and innovations. I know that we’re going to find more use cases.”

Google is sharing its approach to machine learning in Gao’s white paper, in the hopes that other hyper scale data center operators may be able to develop similar tools.

“This isn’t something that only Google or only Jim Gao can do,” said Kava. “I would love to see this type of analysis tool used more widely. I think the industry can benefit from it. It’s a great tool for being as efficient as possible.”


Adobe is continuing its full-court press to convince photographers to move to its Creative Cloud subscription-based licensing model. Today’s announcement of Creative Cloud 2014 marks its biggest effort yet. New features in Photoshop, lots of new mobile goodies, and a permanent discounted subscription for photographers were highlighted by Adobe as it rolled out its newly branded 2014 edition of its Creative Suite for the Cloud.

Photoshop 2014: Path-based blurs and focus-based selection are headline features

While Adobe plans to continue to roll out incremental improvements to its Suite as they are ready, it has decided to provide annual milestone releases to make it easier for plug-in developers to have known release numbers for testing. Today’s CC 2014 launch features updates to all 14 Creative Suite applications, but two new features in Photoshop CC will be of the most interest to photographers — path-based blurs and focus-based selections.

Adobe has previously provided a variety of tools for creative blurring on an image, including for simulating motion, but Photoshop 2014 takes the capability to a new level. Motion blurs can be made along a line, a radius, or just about any path that can be constructed using Photoshop’s curve construction tools. So in addition to simple motion, like a vehicle in a straight line, it is possible to mimic spinning wheels or even a vehicle in a swerving path.

Creating selections based on focus is also new in Photoshop 2014. You can tell Photoshop to only select areas that are in focus, and use that selection to create a mask for other commands. The magic is far from perfect, so you can further refine the selection using the usual set of Adobe tools, of course. This worked quite well for the demo images Adobe chose — that featured an in-focus subject in the foreground with a distant and out-of-focus background. We’ll see how accurate it is with real world images now that the production version has been released.

Photoshop 2014 now has “experimental features,” including touch and high-dpi support for Windows

With this release of Photoshop CC, Adobe is also providing an experimental features capability. Users will be able to selectively activate features that otherwise would not have made it into the product. The most exciting of these for Windows users are support for high-dpi displays and for touch gestures. The high-dpi support scales user interface elements by 200%, which will make Photoshop a lot less painful to use on high-resolution laptops and tablets. Touch gesture support includes standard Windows 8 gestures like pinch to zoom, and the new version offers improved stylus support.

Creative Cloud subscribers with an iPhone or iPad will also benefit from a new capability to manage their Adobe assets from their mobile device, using Adobe’s Creative Cloud app for iOS. All these goodies are available for immediate download from Adobe, or by using the integrated Update capability in your Creative Cloud applications.

Adobe is pushing hard into mobile — as long as you own an iPad

Adobe continued to expand its family of Apple-centric mobile products. On the heels of its Lightroom mobile announcement, today brought two new drawing applications for recent iPads — Line and Sketch — along with supporting hardware: The Ink stylus and Slide digital ruler. New application Photoshop Mix provides a more casual interface to image editing than Adobe’s existing Photoshop Touch for mobile. It too is iPad-only, and for Creative Cloud subscribers can even tie into Adobe servers to apply sophisticated effects like content-aware fill. Mix can work with any image (except for Raw files) from your iPad’s Camera Roll or from your Adobe cloud. It can even open individual layers from PSD files if needed. In the meantime, Lightroom mobile adds support for iPhones from the 4S onward, along with star ratings for images.

hotographer subscriptions are here to stay

Adobe has finally settled on a permanent subscription plan for photographers. For $10 per month you get Photoshop CC, plus the current version of Lightroom, and a measly 2GB of cloud storage. The requirement of owning a previous Adobe product has been dropped, but so has the capability of creating a Behance website. All in all, $120 a year for both Photoshop and Lightroom is well worth it for anyone who uses either application heavily. Frankly, you may not have a choice if you shoot Raw, as it will only be a matter of time before you need the latest version to get support for a new camera.

This plan addresses the cost issue quite well, but doesn’t solve the problem of having images locked up in an Adobe proprietary format that will require paying them forever to retain access. Adobe still needs to come up with a more coherent strategy for how photographers can gracefully “withdraw” from the Creative Treadmill if and when they become less active but still want to be able to access their images.

Adobe pushing to become a cloud-based platform

Under the covers of Adobe’s new mobile tools is a yet-to-be-released Creative SDK. Adobe claims it will allow developers to harness the power of the Creative Suite (assuming customers have a subscription) from mobile devices in their own applications. Photoshop Mix is designed to be a showcase for what is possible using the Creative SDK — like allowing iPad users to run sophisticated image filters on Adobe’s servers while seeing the results right on their tablet.

Putting together all of Adobe’s initiatives it is clear that it wants to extend its creative toolset dominance to the cloud — and to become as successful as a platform company as it has been as a tools company. Clearly its mobile apps are a great start, and if the Creative SDK is well-received it could gain traction with the broader community of content creators. Adobe still needs to figure out the storage side of the equation. The ridiculously small amount of storage provided with its subscriptions is nearly useless for serious work, and pales in comparison to the sizable offerings from other cloud vendors. It will also have a hard time getting developer attention if only paying Creative Cloud subscribers can get the full benefit of the Creative SDK. Most mobile app developers aim at the broadest audience possible, so Adobe is likely to need to do some more tuning on how, and by whom, it allows its cloud to be accessed.


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