Transformation Talk with Chris Hood

I had the privilege to chat with Nicole Jones at Kintone and discuss a few hot topics in today’s business world. Kinetone’s Transformation Talk is an ongoing series featuring leaders who have led impactful change initiatives at organizations of all shapes and sizes.

The interview covers the topics of positive leadership, empowering employees, reducing shadow IT, support for more female founders to be funded, cultivating customer experiences and deliberate actions to generate a positive corporate culture for success.

Leaders must continuously focus on the culture of their company. This goes beyond just saying what your company’s culture is, leaders must ensure they are leading by example every day. The culture of the organization should be open, equal, and transparent, allowing individuals to own their roles, grow their skills and help drive success. There are several different ideas around what a winning culture looks like, but the deliberate action of working on a positive culture for success is one of the best things a leader can do.

Please take a few moments to read the conversation, and then connect with me if you have questions, or would like me to help your organization change!

Biggest Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

If you want a great insight on digital marketing trends for 2016, you might want to check out this article by Angela Stringfellow over at Docurated. A panel of 72 marketing professionals outline their personal insights on ways digital marketing may have the largest impact on your business.

Add to that the fact that consumer and buyer behavior isn’t static, meaning you must predict these shifts in order to continue reaching your audience on the right channels and with the right messages, and things get pretty complicated. The other challenge is that most marketers don’t have the luxury of endless budgets, so you must carefully select the right marketing mix that offers the best ROI.

Want a quick summary? Here’s a breakdown of what the panel defined as the biggest trends for 2016. Content marketing and video streaming are kings. Companies must build loyalty, connect with their customers and build an intimate relationship with their customers. This is done through influencers, personalization and content they can relate to. As more consumers embrace mobile, we can also connect with them interactively, on the fly, using tools like SnapChat to have moments that build those relationships.

[ms_table style=”simple” striped=”yes” class=”” id=””]
Trend %
Content Marketing 20%
Video Streaming 13%
Relationships / Influencers 12%
Personalization 9%
Mobile 8%
Social 7%
SEO 6%
Engagement 6%
Retargeting Ads 5%
Real-time Analytics 4%
Micro-moments 3%
Other 7%
[/ms_table]

Which trend do you believe will be the most useful to help your business grow? If you are looking for additional insight or to form a strategy around these trends, let me know how I can help!

Transformation Talk with Chris Hood – Interview

Transformation Talk is an ongoing series featuring leaders who have led impactful change initiatives at organizations of all shapes and sizes.

We caught up with Chris Hood, a digital strategist and technology entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in online entertainment and marketing for TV, Film, Music and Video Games. He also helps businesses navigate digital transformation while advocating change, educating stakeholders, and creating successful plans with technology teams.

How did you begin your career in digital transformation and technology leadership?

CH: I started in technology as a kid. My first job was managing a software retail outlet at the local mall. Technology leadership was very natural for me, I could formulate a strategy, communicate the vision, and translate the information into business goals. Digital Transformation has always been a part of my DNA, we just never had a name for it. However, mindset and strategy drive transformation, not technology. My philosophy has always been to find the best opportunity to leverage technology, break the existing standards, and help companies grow.

You’ve written about some of the main obstacles of IT departments — which are some of the most common you notice in large enterprises?

CH: The two biggest obstacles in IT departments today are communication and leadership, both which are firmly integrated. In today’s large enterprises and sad corporate cultures, managers feel as if they know as much as the technology experts. A stable message must be communicated throughout the entire organization in order for the business to align with IT. When the direction of the IT department is being managed by individuals with personal agendas, the company will fail.

Given the rise of shadow IT, how can business lines and IT department work better together?

CH: Converge the lines. Shadow IT emerges because the business doesn’t get it. Today enterprises must support a two-speed IT architecture. Organizations must cultivate customer experiences with a new digital architecture that runs alongside legacy systems. Technology surrounds all of us. Consumers expect the same performance, agility and experience with every company they interact with. To reduce shadow IT, the business must be aligned with IT to support the speed of internal systems and external demands.

As an instructor of IT at Southern New Hampshire University, what are some of the largest changes you’ve noticed in IT education? What skills are essential for graduates to get a great job and thrive in a changing IT world?

CH: One of the largest changes we now see in education is the online degree. More and more people are able to take courses on their own schedule by logging online to take a class. This is great for students who are studying technology, because it also supplies them with a framework for how businesses should embrace technology. Despite where and how someone earns their degree, communication, organization, and critical thinking are still the key skills employers are looking for.

What can leaders do daily to get everyone to participate and share in building a great company?

CH: Leaders must continuously focus on the culture of their company. This goes beyond just saying what your company’s culture is, leaders must ensure they are leading by example every day. The culture of the organization should be open, equal, and transparent, allowing individuals to own their roles, grow their skills and help drive success. There are several different ideas around what a winning culture looks like, but the deliberate action of working on a positive culture for success is one of the best things a leader can do.

What do you consider broken in today’s business world?

CH: Oh so many things, but here are the top 3.

1. Equality. We need to support more women entrepreneurs. Currently less than 18% of women founders are funded. Why can’t this be closer to 50%? #FundFemaleFounders

2. Arrogance. This isn’t new, lots of businesses believe if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. A company unwilling to evolve will not stay around long. Remember Blockbuster?

3. Corporate politics. People are unhappy at work and when the environment is toxic, employees become disengaged accounting for about $500 billion in lost profits.

What makes a good change leader?

CH: Vision. Employees want to feel they are a part of something greater than themselves. Leaders who are able to generate an inspiring environment, with an enterprise-wide picture of what is possible, will be able to drive change. Change is obtained through recognizing emerging trends, and going “all in” with a strategy that encompasses the vision and culture of the organization.

What skills will be of utmost importance in the future workplace?

CH: Diversity. Business and technology is converging. I encourage all of my technology students to take a business class, and I encourage all of the executives I meet to take a technology class. Individuals who understand both will be extremely successful.

How can companies nurture leaders, not managers?

CH: One of the biggest issues in corporate America is the lack of quality leaders, and influx of arrogant, power-hungry managers. Today’s managers spend too much time dictating and grading what their employees do instead of allowing the employees to define how they can help bring value to the business. Every individual in an organization should feel they are a part of the company. Like great leaders, managers should be empowered to create value, mentor a culture to bring people together, and help their team realize the company’s vision.

Business Plans: 9 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know

If you believe you need to write a business plan for your new startup, consider these tips from 9 entrepreneurs. What information should you focus on in your plan, what tools should you use to write a plan (I love LivePlan), or more importantly, do you really need a business plan?

Today, investors are looking more at proofs of concept and the entrepreneur’s ability to actually build/produce/sell the product they are pitching. If you have a new mobile app idea, you need to build it more than you need a business plan. If you have a new fashion line, you need to sell it more than you need a business plan.

A business plan is designed to help you evaluate your ideas, finances and markets. It should be a living document, that changes as your company evolves. However, nothing in your business plan will matter if you can’t actually sell your product.

Entrepreneurs today must be able to leverage digital media as a proof of concept. A Los Angeles based fashion startup, Jewel Toned, received funding simply by selling their products on Instagram as their proof of concept. Spend your time and energy doing what you love, and unless you love writing business plans, your valuable time is better used building your company and products.

Do you agree? Read the full article and share your business plan tips. Business Plans: 9 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know

Is Tech Killing Off Independent Pizzerias?

Many people would consider a lack of pizza as an omen to the apocalypse. However it’s not the lack of pizza that is creating a stir, it’s what’s causing the shift in the pizza industry that has people talking. The argument is this: “Technology is killing off independent pizzerias in the United States at the rate of roughly 2,549 locations per year (in 2015 alone),” according to Aaron D. Allen, Global Restaurant Consultant at Aaron Allen & Associates. Although there is some truth in Allen’s article, “How Tech is Killing Off Independent Pizzerias,” I’d like to look at this in a slightly different way. Technology alone is not the root cause of this change. The integration of technology into our business and social relationships has enabled the change and the independent pizzerias have either not been able or willing to adapt to the change.

Let’s set the foundation for this argument. Do you remember Blockbuster? Several case studies about the demise of Blockbuster suggest that the Internet and new digital distribution options lead to the closure of the $6.5B annual mega video store chain. The Internet didn’t kill Blockbuster; the company did it to itself. “Blockbuster didn’t have a technology problem — digital distribution was minimal, albeit talked about incessantly — but rather a customer problem. It gave them no reason to visit stores in lieu of a latest, greatest hit,” Jonathan Salem Baskin reveals. The reality is, Blockbuster refused to change; they were comfortable, complacent and not in touch with how their customers were evolving.

Fast forward, and returning to pizza, we see a similar trend, not only in those companies that have embraced technology but in how we have culturally shifted in the way we use technology. The simple fact is this: as of January 2014, 90% of American adults own a cell phone (PewResearch, 2015), approximately 51% of media time is on a mobile device (KPCB, 2015) and for Millennials, 89% off all internet activity is through a smartphone (Entrepreneur, 2015). As a connected society, we expect technology to be readily accessible and designed to meet our needs. As a business, you must have a mobile first strategy. You must be digitally connected to your customer.

In the last 2-3 years, we have seen a massive shift for chain pizza brands. Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s have seen huge increases in sales through online and mobile orders. Domino’s price per share has grown more than 3,000 percent since 2008, with digital and online ordering growing 300%. I previously wrote that all companies must be a technology company. Domino’s CEO agrees, ‘We don’t see ourselves as a pizza company. We’re a technology company that sells pizza.’ This is the heart of digital transformation.

Digital transformation is the accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, and competencies to fully leverage the changes and opportunities around technology and its impact on society. Today people are looking for convenience, simplicity and accessibility. The world of “30-min or it’s free” has reached a new level, with count-down clocks allowing customers to track every step of their pizza ordering process. Technology hasn’t killed independent pizzerias; a society of instant gratification, and deliverability has. More options, no hassles and on-demand ordering is what people crave. New food ordering platforms like DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, Eat24 and more cater directly to this desire, and I’m confident all would be happy to assist a local pizzeria with online ordering and delivery options.

Unfortunately, as we saw with Blockbuster, technology isn’t messing everything up. Small businesses have grown comfortable with what they are doing and either don’t want to evolve or unfortunately, are unable or don’t know how to evolve. These trends will continue, either in food delivery, pizza sales, video rentals or any small business. If you are not invested in technology, you will not survive. Technology isn’t killing off pizzerias. The tools are available to everyone. Those companies that embrace them will not only survive, they will grow.

Do you have a small business, startup or growing business looking to accelerate your digital strategy? I would love to talk with you.

3 Benefits of API-First Design

The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us, and it’s time to embrace it. Robotics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, are all built on the foundation of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Jennifer Yeadon at SmartFile just posted a great piece about the Benefits of API-First Design.

APIs are everywhere and unless you live off the grid or on a private island with no cell reception, you’ve interacted with an API. This interconnectivity is often a result of API-first design. “APIs are being used in the real world today, from rewards points when buying coffee, to tracking which parking meters are available. The Internet of Things (IoT) is being built on APIs that help dim the lights in your house or have your fridge tell you the sports scores,” says Chris Hood.

We are surrounded by APIs today, and industries are embracing them to help expand their digital reach. When Twitter is hitting 15 billion calls a day, you quickly realize why Apigee, an API dedicated hosting platform, announced record revenues in 2015 and again this week, with $22.9 million in its second quarter.

If you haven’t embraced the API revolution, it’s time you get on board. A strong API platform and digital transformation strategy could help your organization thrive like never before.