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Okapi’s Spotlight on Data: Interview with Jennifer Sertl

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This month, we’re featuring author, thought leader, and Okapi partner Jennifer Sertl in our latest installment of the Okapi Spotlight on Data Q&A series.

Jennifer Sertl is an author, thought leader, and the founder/president of Agility3R, focusing on strengthening the strategic and critical thinking skills of companies to make their leaders more resilient, responsive, and reflective. She is the author of the book, Strategy, Leadership and the Soul: Resilience, Responsiveness and Reflection for a Global Economy which she co-wrote with Okapi Advisory Board member Koby Huberman.

We talked to Jennifer about the many challenges surrounding organizational data & strategy and her approach to this.

Okapi: As someone dedicated to strategic critical thinking, how well do you think companies are handling the challenges they face around the data they collect and how they distribute & deliver it?

JS: I think Clay Shirky said it best: The issue today is not information overload, it’s filter failure.
I believe that companies have yet to sufficiently codify their strategies to enable them to truly leverage information that they’re collecting. The result? Many businesses attempt to accommodate everyone without a clear strategic intent. But if companies create a strategic filter to streamline the data, it can be more easily leveraged to reinforce certain themes. This allows the disseminated information to be used to increase productivity, employee cohesion, and ultimately optimize brand strategy. This strategic filter reveals the company’s level of innovation, know-how, and collaboration.
Many companies are preoccupied with just “getting the data” and using machine learning to do so. But are they actually executing a strategy and going to market using this data? Many are not there yet.
Okapi: What’s your approach to this challenge?
JS: There’s a business simulation game I run called Interplay. It allows teams to choose out of six strategies: synergy, know-how, velocity, collaboration, cost, and delivery. What we see, (e.g., in a company of 3000 employees with a 12-person executive team), is that a small subset of people each select a different subset of strategies. That means that even at the executive level, there an absence of alignment of priorities. And that impacts execution, for example: If cost is at the epicenter, there’s one way to execute. If it’s delivery, there’s another. So marketing and data can be acquired, but the core issue is getting a consensus around what we care about the most as an organization—strategically.
Okapi: So how do we change the mindset?

JS: If we think of every employee as a strategic agent, we know that every choice they make can bring us closer or further away from brand alignment. So it’s not just what they do, but how they execute that impacts the cumulative outcomes of an organization. By changing how we think, we can hierarchize our choices, rank them in terms of our organization’s priorities, and communicate that at the customer interface level to impact perception and outcomes. It gives us a behavioral blueprint. And it has allowed companies a way to ground themselves, sharpen their skills, and be more productive.

Okapi: That’s what our customers are saying.

JS: That’s what I love about Okapi. With the dashboard in your solution, you’re creating grounded criteria to generate visibility and feedback. Our behavior models are aligned. It just blows my mind that we actually have to strategically convince people that they need to be doing this.

Okapi: Why do you think that is?

JS: I think that understandably, people are reluctant to give all that information away. It can terrify people that everything is so transparent. Company leaders must understand that it’s their job to create clarity and a framework via which information can be leveraged as quickly as possible to win. That’s when the magic happens.

Want to make some operational and organizational magic for your business? Contact us for a demo today. Okapi is a custom data filter, a personal virtual assistant and an integrated, web-and-mobile-enabled dashboard—designed to help you reach your business goals.

Iris TsidonOkapi’s Spotlight on Data: Interview with Jennifer Sertl
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Identifying Your Main Challenges

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Over many years of working with organizations, we have encountered numerous challenges and misses that have repeated themselves. These are the main mistakes which you should look out for in your organization. By heading them off at the pass, you can prevent them all together and move forward with your strategy:
People are not connected enough to the larger business needs; rather, they are motivated by professional considerations, without seeing the prices we pay in the commercial aspects.

Lack of progress:
The tasks truly important for the growth of the business are not progressing. People here work very hard and are very devoted to their work, however, the assignments we need to perform in order to grow the business are not given priority

Unable to change to stay competitive:
In a competitive market, you need the ability to adapt your management infrastructure to change. However, this process as to happen quickly and efficiently. Many organizations do not succeed in changing courses in time to keep up with their competition.

Data is to complicated to understand easily:
To receive a picture of the state of the company, you should not need to dig through intricate Excel reports. Complicated reports and their preparation of consumes lots of valuable time. Creating a system to enabling the receipt of a timely, readily available picture on a current basis will add a great deal of value.

No coherent management plan:
There are many people who think that systematic management is not important, or they don’t use one because setting it up and following a plan is not one of their strong points and they pay too heavy a price for it. They get too involved in facilitating transactions, leading business development, and creating solutions to immediate problems in the company. Managers need to learn how to delegate responsibility for their own current management so that others can work towards the shared objectives we have defined.

To download the full “Six Steps to Operational Excellence” FREE E-Book click here:

Iris TsidonIdentifying Your Main Challenges
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Okapi’s Spotlight on Data Series: Q&A with Dr. Cindy Gordon

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In the latest installment of Okapi’s Spotlight on Data series, we talked to Dr. Cindy Gordon, CEO and Founder of Saleschoice, a predictive and prescriptive sales analytics cloud company. Cindy is a leading expert and recognized thought leader on the subjects of Big Data, SaaS, business innovation, early-stage software commercialization & sales business practices. She is the author of 15 books.

Okapi: What’s your take on the relationship between the data that companies collect & disseminate internally and sales performance?

CG: Data is a huge asset to any organization; a sacred resource, if you will. But it’s also a liability—and we have to treat it that way. Firstly, organizations need to lead by example from the top. A CRO should be using tools that they expect their sales reps to use to promote harmonization amongst the processes.
The second point is that we must reward good behavior when it comes to data. That means laying out very clearly—in every job description—responsibilities around data quality and cleanliness. Too often, information and knowledge are hoarded in other repositories for self-serving reasons, namely sales commissions. But if we can tie awards and recognition to KPIs and data responsibilities, we can actually improve sales performance across the organization.

Okapi: How is this best achieved?

CG: The key is mandatory fields: If you make fields mandatory and tie the completion of these fields to rewards, you get results. The goal is to not allow the salesperson to advance to the next sales gate unless all of the fields have been populated. That’s the only way to manage the gate. Right now, the mistake that companies are making is having too many open fields that are not mandatory. If it’s not mandatory, chances are it won’t be filled in. And when you tie these inputting tasks to commission, (i.e., withholding commission until the data is accurate and complete), we start to see the data coming in.
It comes down to this: if you measure it, you will succeed and if you don’t you won’t. And in order to measure it, you need consequences.

Okapi: Who is doing this well?

CG: In terms of pipeline management and sales forecasting and supply; advancing those opportunities and those target accounts and demonstrating closure to drive top-line profitable growth? There are many companies that do this well.
Take Intel, for example. They have gone through a long journey where they had 30-50 different workflows or instances of Salesforce running in North America. They consolidated everything into one unified workflow across all the different product and solution sets, giving them a 360-degree view of every product cycle, every segment in the lifecycle, etc. They know how many proposals are at the introductory phase, how many of them are in negotiation, etc.—across the whole product solution services portfolio. That’s smart thinking. They care about data quality and controls because of who Intel is and what they stand for.

Okapi: What about Artificial Intelligence? How does it fit in?

CG: When we leverage AI, we are predicting the future. And to do that, we need to rely on good quality data in order to achieve accurate sales forecasts. But science aside, as long as we’ve got 40 to 50 percent, we can at least get a baseline if there’s enough volume of data. And at the end of the day, it’s not about the workarounds. It’s about a clear vision and understanding.
The companies that have really anchored their operating processes with good control systems will be able to take advantage AI more skillfully than others. Take the manufacturing sector, for example. They have worked so hard for so long and may be in a better position because of their dedication to ISO standards and the quality improvement cycle. The hi-tech industries—despite their success—are always a little bit more cowboy-ish in this area and their processes aren’t always as tight. They are driven more by innovation than operations.

Data is one of the most significant resources in our economy and our future. And if we ever hope to get to a true AI layer, we need the best quality, reliable data. It’s like running on a dirt road vs. a bullet train.

Want to ride the bullet train? Contact Okapi for a demo today. Okapi is a custom data filter, a personal virtual assistant and an integrated, web-and-mobile-enabled dashboard-designed to help you reach your sales and operational goals.

Iris TsidonOkapi’s Spotlight on Data Series: Q&A with Dr. Cindy Gordon
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Business Performance KPI Word Puzzle

How knowledgeable are you in the world of business performance improvement based on objectives and KPIs?

In the word puzzle in front of you are some of the core words associated with business performance.

Experts will be able to spot 20 different words 🙂



If you got to this page then you are probably wondering what they are, so here is the full list:

Smart, Objective, Perspective, Scorecard, Okapi, Value, Performance, Vision, Trend, Transparent, Align, Goal, Business, Management, Success, Result, Plan, KPI, Insights, Data

Iris TsidonBusiness Performance KPI Word Puzzle
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Embedding Your Strategy

Last week I visited a big conference at San Francisco which focused organizational objectives.

One of the lecturers was Dr. Donald Sol concluded his research on 300 companies and shared some of his fascinating findings. In his research, he approached the CEOs and COOs of the companies and asked them to interview the people in charge in their organization regarding transforming goals to results.

These interviews discovered that an amazing 60% of the participants could not name the top three objectives of the company for the upcoming year.
Makes sense??

There is a well-known philosophical question: Does a tree falling in the woods with nobody around make a sound?

Does a manager, who has an excellent strategy, think he can steer his company into the right direction if no one is aware of his strategy?

Iris Tsidon,

Iris TsidonEmbedding Your Strategy
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