The Curious Eye

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Posts Tagged ‘lateral thinking

My first assignment: An interesting case on Enterprise Mobility

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Back in 2010, I had delivered a very interesting consulting project . This project was also, my first business assignment ever and it still reminds me of the immense impact a new technology had on the entire ecosystem it was thriving in. So without wasting more time let me begin the story of my first assignment, a very interesting one!

Here is the case:

Company A was providing a technology to company B. The company B was a logistics firm (it delivered couriers, letters and parcels to people in Mumbai, India) and company A was offering some of its cutting edge enterprise mobility technology to company B (basically handheld devices). This was apparently leading to a great amount of impact in the overall business of company B. However, the company was suffering the typical case of choosing between “financial impact vs business impact”. The Chief Financial Officer of company B was against the technology as it was very expensive and he was unsure of what impact the technology was having on their business, and even if it was highly impacting how could he financially justify the same? The Chief Operating Officer on the other hand was strongly supporting the technology given the enormous impact it was having on the overall operations and resulting profits. The Chief Executive Officer was in a state of indecisiveness given that the two sides were equally outweighing each other. Also, company A was waiting for the deal to be closed once and for all (as it was stuck in the deal pipeline for quite some time).

So, we (A colleague and I – the deadly duo that were poised to save humanity ūüôā )¬†were given the task to look at the situation and make recommendations that could help to move things faster.

Accordingly, we tried to solve this problem by formulating an objective statement as follows: “to correctly measure the impact of the technology on various aspects of the business”. To start with we looked at the old financial model which was being referred to by both the companies in order to valuate the impact of technology. It was a hardcore financial, tight numbered, direct impact, non-subjective model and spoke of things like present values, cash-flows, investments required and impact on P&L statement, etc. The COO was relatively oblivious to the P&L impact and was insisting on clear operational value, strategic value, brand value and substantial productivity the technology was bringing to the business compared to the old ways they were following.¬†So given all this we ¬†decided to roll our sleeves up and take a shot at all this and try our level best to make sense out of what is really going on out here. We decided that based on the objectives, we will measure every bit of value added by the technology, both financially and non financially.

So we started off in the morning and mapped the entire operations from one end to another end by the evening. We did this at every center that we were assigned for the study. The CEO had done something very useful; he had implemented the technology in a few select centers, about 5 of them for experimental basis. These centers had different area profiles (commercially heavy regions, residential areas, mixed areas, unorganized and market areas). So we created some operational metrics like overall time per person in delivering one unit,  number of units per person, number of persons per delivery center, area assigned per center, area per person, units per area, travel time between two points, number of papers saved, hours of time saved, expense details across entire length of delivery, amount of space saved at the centers due to the operational rationalization etc.

We got a great load of information on the amount of time and money saved and number of resources required to deliver a vast number of units within a time span and the average errors while doing so etc. And the centers loaded with technology were a clear winner in these metrics (as compared to those centers where the technology was not implemented) . But we decided to take a further deep dive and figure out what more is happening. So we spoke to employees and the customers involved in the process. We found out some really interesting points:

Wherever the technology was implemented the employees saved crucial time, and they spent this extra time in taking a break, relaxing and chilling out with each other, sharing their problems, finding solutions for each other, helping each other, cracking jokes etc. We immediately noted that they had increased levels of collaboration as a result of this. Their planning went well and they could handle tight situations in a more composed manner as they were in good mood compared to other centers where there was no technology. This led to lower errors, optimization of routes due to collaborative efforts by way of task re-assignment among themselves and other innovative ideas which they kept bouncing off each other to reduce their pain points. Also, their efficiency led to more capacity per center in terms of handling units per person and their center was a clear winner when it came to resource attrition/turnover (They did not lose a single employee ever since the technology came in). These delivery resources also did something truly great, which went unnoticed – They were much more cool-headed now and happier than other field employees which brought about a tremendous impact on their end-customers. The end customers found them more “human” than mere delivery folks and had started knowing them by their nick-names. The end customers and these field employees became much closer than rest of the centers. Also, the technology enabled employees offered some community help in their free time in residential areas; for example, whenever they could find some extra time¬†they helped to move other things around for old and retired folks in the area for free (things like fruits, electricity bills, etc). This was unofficial, and out of their own desire to help the older folks. This was a massive massive goodwill generator. And this made the field employees even more happier, customer-centric, matured, cool headed and satisfied at their work. This kind of¬†behavior¬†from the field employees was a clear competitive differentiation factor. I called it as “trust”. And this was definitely not the case, where the technology was absent and timelines + pressure was tough. In fact, the rate of error of the employees was high, they were indifferent to the customers and their own internal collaboration was low. In such areas the repeat sales were not so great, ¬†and were incurring a lot of costs owing to erroneous deliveries and subsequent reactions from customers. So, from what I could see the technology was creating a culture among the customers and employees. But the story does not stop here, there is more, to tell you.

When I interviewed the customers not only were very happy with the service due to timely operations but also they recognized the field employees as “those-with-the-jazzy-devices”. So naturally customers were attracted to the devices, interacted more with the customers which lead to further ice-breaking and fostered the customer relationships. They significantly scored higher on customer feedback.

Lastly, the most crucial impact the company B was facing and how the technology helped to solve that problem is something worth to be mentioned, and that was the real game changer. The company B, was facing high real estate costs in Mumbai (especially the commercial areas). They were also growing in business but the cost of real estate was so high that it was offsetting the profits being made in the long run. Moreover, the time and effort taken to find the right location per new center was a great financial concern.

However, what we had realized that centers where the technology was implemented, had led to greater capacity of delivery per person. This capacity was in terms of the extra time added per resource, the extra units that could be delivered in same amount of time, that too without errors. So a center with the technology had more capacity per resource. Given that there was space constraint more resources could not be added per center, but the added capacity per resource was really helping the centers to defer their real estate expansion plans by a year or two at their current rate of growth. And this impact was tremendous. It was of a mammoth size and it was something out of the box which no one had previously noticed (neither the CFO, nor the COO, nor the COO).

So we revised our model. We added all these above factors on top of their existing financial model. The new factors were successfully measured through a lot of review and brainstorming and it was led to a whopping 5x business impact than previously measured. It was so unbelievable, that this model was revised and reviewed for multiple times until its final validation from the CFO, COO and ultimately even the CEO. It formed as their base for taking future decision, this also helped them to shape their marketing strategy and they merged the technology initiatives with their CSR and branding initiatives and helped to expand their business at an even faster rate. Even today, their growth is clocked at a tremendous rate. Also, the company A who was provider of technology bagged one of its critical deals of the past few years helping it to sustain a service line that had received much criticism for bringing great operational impact but no financially unworthiness. This case, helped them to win more clients and grow their new service line in a more optimistic way. It led to multi-million profits for both the companies and achieved great strategic edge in their respective fields.

And since this was my first assignment, I knew it I had scored a phenomenal goal on my debut itself. Every time I look back at the quality, sincerity and effort involved by both of us (me and my colleague), we feel amazing about what we could achieved as young inexperienced professionals for well established industry leaders.

Also, our fresh outlook helped us to look at what most of folks were not able to gauge. I guess this is what out-of-the-box thinking in business is and I was quite glad to be able to deliver that.

This experience motivates me to deliver good quality with confidence in whichever field I step whether I have the experience or not because I have realized that sometimes even by not having an experience (but by simply having an open mind) you could be a great asset to the team you are working for.

This experience will be cherished for years to come. Cheerio!

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