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Five Steps to Digitally Transforming City Government

  • Blog

Boston Mayor Tom Menino is almost radically tech averse, yet he’s led a revamp of a customer relationship management system that has transformed the way the city, its workers, and its citizens interact. Starting with its Citizens Connect app (initially for better pothole reporting), Boston has expanded its data interface to allow faster turnaround times for repair, and has even held a competition across departments to reward the quickest response to citizen requests.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul L Dineen.
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Does Data Have a Shelf Life?

Recent research out of the Department of Operations and Information Systems at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Department of Management Information Systems, Eller School of Management at the University of Arizona, Tucson, asks a seemingly simple question about organizations’ data collection and usage that could have some big implications on your own data techniques. The question: When is the right time to refresh data to support organizational decision-making?

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Capturing the Value of Synchronized Innovation

How can companies coordinate their product development efforts? Research by Jason P. Davis (MIT Sloan School of Management) shows that synchronization can take three forms: proactive planning with partner organizations; reactive action to signals by other companies; or combining these two in a hybrid. Each approach has its own implementation costs and challenges. Moreover, the network of relationships that already exist within an industry affects how quickly synchrony emerges.

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Analyzing Performance in Service Organizations

We can’t always trust our intuition about how employees will perform. Intuition can be misleading, or just plain wrong. So a growing number of savvy service businesses have investigated the use of a sophisticated linear programming technique called DEA, or data envelopment analysis. Authors H. David Sherman and Joe Zhu, who call DEA “balanced benchmarking,” write that the technique helps companies locate best practices not visible through other management methodologies.

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How to Drive Customer Satisfaction

There are six significant drivers of customer satisfaction for companies to pay attention to: adaptability, commitment to customers, connection with other customers, product assortment, easy transactions and appealing environment. A Trader Joe’s grocery store, for instance, carries about 4,000 items, compared to 50,000 in a typical store. Less is better: Items are chosen to match the demographic and psychographic profiles of Trader Joe’s customers, and provide the assortment customers want.

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Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing

Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing, enabling retailers to interact with consumers through multiple touch points and expose them to a rich blend of offline sensory information and online content. In response to these changes, retailers and their supply-chain partners will need to rethink their competitive strategies.

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Video: The Digital Transformation of Health Care

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 1 min 

One of the largest health insurers in the United States, WellPoint, is using technology to change its business model. Lori Beer, WellPoint’s executive vice president of specialty businesses and information technology, talks about how technology is helping doctors and nurses be more efficient and effective and lowering costs. Beer explains how WellPoint, which is the first commercial adopter of IBM’s Watson technology, is using analytics to help health-care providers work more efficiently.

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How Starbucks Has Gone Digital

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 15 min 

Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman and chief information officer Curt Garner explain how they collaborate closely. The two constantly seek to improve customer experience through technology and to unify marketing efforts across channels. Their partnership has forged a fast-paced rollout of new digital efforts, from faster payment processing to mobile ordering, across Starbucks’ 17,000 stores.

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Outsourcing Business Processes for Innovation

Although many organizations initiate business process outsourcing to reduce costs or acquire new skills, it can evolve into much more. Sometimes, service providers deliver substantial long-term improvements to the client’s operating efficiency and strategic performance. But these improvements seldom happen unless clients and providers implement a process that combines acculturation across organizations, a method for generating ideas, adequate funding and a system for managing change.

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Why Managing Consumer Privacy Can Be an Opportunity

How many privacy policy updates does your credit card company send you each year? Companies often “manage privacy” and “keep consumers informed” by drafting their privacy policies as broadly as possible and consider their job done if they change the policy 10 times a year to fit with changing practices. However, managing privacy should not be seen by businesses as a burden. Instead, it can be a valuable way to generate and maintain a good relationship with your customers.

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Experiments in Open Innovation at Harvard Medical School

What happens when an academic institution rethinks how research gets done? In an experiment in open innovation applied to scientific research, Harvard Catalyst, a pan-Harvard agency, modified the traditional grant proposal process to bring greater openness into every stage of research. In the end, 150 new hypotheses were proposed. The Harvard Catalyst experience suggests that open-innovation principles can be applied to a well-established research organization.

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The Importance of IT-Enabled Flexibility in Alliances

Strategic alliances are arguably more critical now than ever before. In this highly digital age, organizations rely increasingly on Internet-based or computerized products and services that require the simultaneous cooperation of multiple organizations. The authors’ research has shown that flexible IT systems can help enable successful partnerships. But the opposite — that inflexible IT systems can hinder partnerships — is true, too. And it’s something about which organizations should be careful.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Robert Scoble.

Managing the Human Cloud

Online crowdsourcing platforms are growing at double-digit rates and are starting to attract the attention of large companies. Just as cloud computing offers unconstrained access to processing capacity and storage, the “human cloud” promises to connect businesses to millions of workers on tap, ready to perform tasks and solve problems that range from the simple to the complex. The article explores four new human cloud models: The Facilitator model, The Arbitrator, The Aggregator, The Governor.

Image courtesy of Wal-Mart.

Rebuilding the Relationship Between Manufacturers and Retailers

In the tug of war between manufacturers and retailers, retailers seem to be winning. Retailers control market access and influence consumer behavior. Their power has moved downstream. What can be done to improve the situation? While manufacturers are locked into fixed investments and products with long payback cycles, retailers have a variety of ways of making money. This article explores how manufacturers can benefit by tailoring their approaches to a retailer’s specific business model.

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When One Size Does Not Fit All

Although executives understand the difference between efficiency and responsiveness, many are confused about when to apply each strategy. In recent years, companies have been caught in the bind in which Dell Inc. found itself in 2008, when it needed to transform its supply chain to serve new customers in new channels. The question was: how to do that? Dell decided to create multiple supply chains, configured so that the company could reduce complexity and benefit from economies of scale.

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How to Change an Organization Without Blowing It Up

Too often, organizational change occurs all at once, on a large scale, and often in response to crisis. Yet we know from a great deal of experience that such transformation attempts often fail, fostering employee discontent and producing mediocre solutions with little lasting impact. Continuously pursuing smaller-scale changes — and weaving them together — offers a practical middle path between large-scale transformation and small-scale pilot projects

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What You Can Learn From Your Customer’s Customer

Innovative companies fund internal research and development to gain an edge in the marketplace. They also work closely with suppliers to offer greater functionality and performance for their customers. However, some critical new product insights don’t come from suppliers and customers working together but from the customer’s customers. Drawing on numerous examples from technology companies, this article explores the various ways parties can collaborate so that everyone benefits.

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New Ways to Engage Employees, Suppliers and Competitors in CSR

Timberland LLC, a global boot and outdoor apparel manufacturer, goes beyond simply telling the world about its sustainability work. According to Betsy Blaisdell, the company’s senior manager of environmental stewardship, it has creative new ways to involve employees and to partner with suppliers — and competitors. In this interview, Blaisdell talks about the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs (from Adidas to Patagonia to DuPont to the World Resources Institute) to develop an environmental index called the Higg Index.

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Driving Growth and Employment Through Logistics

Logistics clusters are local networks of businesses that provide a wide array of services, including transportation carriers, warehousing companies, and freight forwarders. Logistics clusters address several challenges that economies face, including the need for good jobs. In addition to helping companies navigate global supply networks, logistics clusters are contributing to the efficiency of global supply chains and, in the process, increasing international trade and global trade flows.

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