Tag Archives: strategy

Dealing with the unstructured

One of the major shifts we have seen in the past five years or so is that business models are under serious challenge from mobile technology, the Internet, and especially social media. This rapidly changing business model picture is happening because the way that organizations relate to their customers, their employees, and their stakeholders is changing, and social media is driving and shaping much of this. As a result, executives are on notice regarding the need for an urgent change of focus in organization capabilities and how these can help deliver greater business value.

One such capability is how to deal with unstructured data and information that is now permeating the Internet especially via social media. Not so long ago, we lived in a world that was highly structured and systematized. Data tended to be tightly organised into rows and columns and tables. Analysis was done by interrogating spreadsheets and using various formulas for interpreting performance in various areas. But advances in technology have caused massive amounts of unstructured data to be created on a scale never thought possible just a few years ago. Here are two examples to highlight the point –

(1) Growth in Twitter activity – from Twitter Q2 2014 results:

  • Average Monthly Active Users (MAUs) were 271 million as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 24% year-over-year
  • Timeline views reached 173 billion for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 15% year-over-year.

(2) What happens in one minute on the Internet – from Intel September 2013:

  • One hundred thousand new tweets
  • Six million Facebook views
  • More than two million search queries on Google.

The above provides some insight into the massive amount of data that is being generated. But the key point is that it is largely unstructured data. With social media, the main type of data is commentary, text and photos that come in many different forms and languages. It is not information collected in a structured form that is easy to summarise and analyse. Organisations are therefore challenged in how their capabilities need to be re-shaped to make some sense of all the data that is relevant to them. Consumer facing businesses like airlines, banks and retailers have a vital interest in the patterns that are emerging in comments and chats on social media. How are these potentially impacting their brand, their products and competitor moves?

Recent growth in the field of analytics has meant that sensible conclusions and decisions can now be more effectively made from these large volumes of data. This is especially true for the analysis of information emerging from unstructured data from social media. Pattern recognition is a key capability and interestingly the use of some skills outside of the traditional technology fields is starting to emerge.

The issue is not whether these capabilities need to be re-shaped but rather how quickly they will change organizations as we know them. The winners will be those organizations and industries that strongly embrace these capabilities as truly new change initiatives and deliver them accordingly to add value.

For many organizations, this will represent a major challenge. It does require the discipline to take a reality check on future directions and priorities. For instance, a transport business would need to ask about its capability in managing, say, a growing pattern of customer frustration regarding their booking systems. As part of this consideration, it would also need to assess how quickly such a capability can be developed or acquired, and the cost of the investment.

Organizations need to consider four factors:

  1. Think of the building of new capabilities as a major business change initiative – not just recruiting a few more analysts
  2. Consider new capabilities in the context of real competitive advantage – not just a systems improvement or upgrade
  3. Drive the change from the C-suite – new capabilities need the right level of investment and commitment from the most senior levels in the business
  4. Build new thinking in the business – patterns in social media provide the opportunity for a new agenda for the future

As French author and Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide once said, “One cannot discover new oceans without the courage to lose sight of the shore”.


Beware the two sides of strategy

Our strategy is not working – life is grim

I stood at the front of the room ready to facilitate the executive team meeting. This team in the financial services arena had just assembled for an important meeting to consider what was wrong with their social media strategy. The CEO had put much personal effort into shaping and refining the social media strategy for the business, and he and some members of the executive team had a lot riding on this meeting.

The strategy was documented via several Powerpoint decks and supporting information from six months earlier, and there were clearly identified outcomes, steps to be undertaken and an articulation of the competitive advantage. A plan had been laid out regarding greater customer and stakeholder engagement via Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter. Executives were also encouraged as part of the strategy to get more personally involved in social media via LinkedIn.

But the strategy was not working and its impact seemed to be underwhelming at best. Customer engagement via social media was poor and the social media experience was turning out to be costly and frustrating.

Framing a different conversation

Following the preamble from the CEO who was clearly somewhat agitated at this point, I started the session by writing an equation on the whiteboard:

GS + PE = LO

After a moment or two of silence and puzzled looks, I explained what this meant. It translated to:

Good Strategy + Poor Execution = Lost Opportunity

As it turned out, this was a light bulb moment for the group, perhaps not quite at that instant, but certainly over the course of the morning session. The assumption of the group going into the meeting was that their strategy on social media was wrong. This was certainly the position taken by the CEO.

But the equation above helped to frame the issue in a different way, and it led to a very different conversation within the group. The conversation was different from two perspectives in particular. First, it highlighted the dual personality of strategy that is so often overlooked or ignored, namely that strategy development and formulation must be supported by a robust and well-tuned execution or delivery of the strategy. It sounds so simple but is so often missed in both large and smaller enterprises. The disconnect between the two can compromise the outcomes for the organisation and in some case can actually destroy value because of misplaced investments or loss of opportunity for greater customer leverage. In this particular case, there was some re-visiting of the strategy itself, but the view emerged quite quickly that the strategy itself was quite logical and robust. Yes there were some aspects that needed updating and re-focus, but overall the strategy itself seemed to be in good shape, and should give strong advantage in the market place. Rather the executive team formed the view that major aspects of the implementation had let the team down and they fell short in several areas of strategy execution.

Secondly, the executive team realised that strategy execution was easier said than done. They came to the realisation that they needed more thinking around the capabilities needed to deliver and around how delivery happens. Some fundamental issues needed to be re-visited in regards to the social media strategy namely, what needs to be done, when does it need to be done, who is responsible for doing it and what resources are needed to make it happen. For example, in the previous six months there was too much reliance on business functions to execute aspects of the strategy and not enough around key individuals in those functions to drive clear accountability.

In this case, the focus was on social media, but the same principles apply across the strategy space more broadly. Strategy formulation and strategy execution must go hand-in-hand to drive value for the business.

Strategy execution delivers the value

Strategy is too often seen as one-dimensional and too locked into a process. Don’t get me wrong, strategy needs to have some structure and framework, but it is the execution of the strategy that delivers the value. If the execution does not go according to plan, the value from the strategy will be compromised. Too often, we see the execution of strategy get buried in the day-to-day clutter of operational activity where lots of things get done but little achieved in terms of strategic outcomes. The execution aspect of strategy needs focus and patience to make it happen. As Jen-Jacques Rousseau once said “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”.

Key questions to consider –

  • How well defined is your social media strategy?
  • How well have you executed against your social media strategy?
  • Is poor strategy execution causing lost opportunity in your business?


The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at https://www.createspace.com/4678871

Matt English is pleased to be associated with KR Strategy a consulting firm operating primarily in the US and Australia which has a special focus on strategy execution. Over many years, its founder and CEO Kathryn Ritchie has developed practical  approaches and tools to help executive teams deliver the right focus, resources and efforts on strategy execution.

What is your game plan with social media?


Getting the most from social media does not just happen. Indeed, many people can be frustrated by the social media experience because they have not thought through what they want from social media. Of course, there is a valid place for trying different things and experimenting with different aspects of social media. However, there needs to be an overarching strategy for what you want out of social media and where you want to go with it. A strategy of some form needs to be embraced by individuals and especially by organizations.

In developing this strategy, lessons can be learned from the game of golf, a global game of great popularity that is played by people of all ages and in many diverse locations. Various surveys suggest that some fifty to sixty million people across the world play golf regularly. It is a game of great challenge, but also one of enjoyment. It is also a game that is strongly dependent on individual performance, commitment, judgment, and adaptation to prevailing conditions.

Regarding social media, four lessons from golf are very relevant.

1. Have a game plan

Golfers know that a game plan is important. Each game is different depending on a range of factors including weather conditions and the state of the fairways. A good golfer will assess how to play the game in advance and whether more aggressive club selections are needed for the game because of prevailing conditions.

 An individual seeking to embrace social media needs to have a broad game plan of what he or she is trying to achieve and how to go about it. This is not about the volume of thought but rather the clarity of thought. Be clear on where you want to head with social media, and, as stated earlier, it is important to create enough personal time and space to give it a go and get the most out of it. Is it more about using social media for business or professional activity or is its main focus going to be more on social aspects? Or is there a blend of the two?

2. Maintain a strong social media focus and commitment

Golfers often lose focus or grow overconfident about their final score. They may have had a good first half of the game, but the score can turn badly on just one or two strokes or one bad hole. Top players have all too often seen the winner’s trophy in sight, only to find it eluding them in the final few holes of the game.

Like these golfers, individuals should establish and maintain a strong commitment once they have embarked on their social media journey. Participating in social media must be done in a way to maximize the chance of success and enjoyment. A fleeting visit to social media sites from time to time will not provide a decent level of satisfaction or enjoyment and may cause disenchantment.

A friend once said to me that he had tried a social media tool for a couple of weeks and then lost interest. I suggest this person did not give anywhere near the commitment and focus that was needed to give it a go. It is a bit like fitness. A casual visit to the gym from time to time will not deliver the fitness benefits expected. It needs commitment to a regular and frequent programme.

3. Tactical choices really matter

For a golfer, the tactics on each hole need to be carefully considered. The choice of club for a particular shot is most often cited as a key decision to be made. Likewise, the approach to the green is a tactical choice. Should the player loft over a nasty bunker or perhaps play a safer shot shy of the bunker but a little farther from the pin? 

For individual social media activity, the choice of the right social media tools is of equal tactical importance. For an individual wanting to have more of a professional interaction with work colleagues and work interests, the use of LinkedIn would be a better choice than social media tools that are geared to more social commentary and the exchange of photos. It is important that the right tools are chosen to ensure individuals get what they seek from social media

4. Don’t complain about the conditions—deal with them

The final point involves the conditions in which individuals and businesses operate. Again, consider golf, a sport that is played in all conditions—the wind, the rain, the heat, and so on. The conditions cannot be changed, so golfers have to learn to deal with these variables and change their game or their gear accordingly.

Individuals using social media need to deal with whatever social media serves up to them on a daily basis. This is especially true in the early days of their social media activity. How friends respond to their various posts (or perhaps don’t respond), how many friends or connections they have, and what kind of information they find are all factors and conditions that individuals will confront.

Think about your social media strategy…….

  • What do you really want from social media?
  • What is your game plan for making the most out of social media?


The above is drawn from material contained in Matt English’s book Grasping Social Media available online at https://www.createspace.com/4678871