United States’ Strategic Sourcing Initiative using e-Governance

USA, the largest economy in the world is facing a fiscal crisis, even now. Ever since 2003, its major economy bearer states like California, there was a major projected budget deficit. The Government took adequate care to approach the problem and to tackle the imminent crisis, but even though the black ages are gone, the repercussions from the shock still exists. The goverment launched many programs, one of which is the majorly popular California Strategic Sourcing Initiative, to control spending and stimulate the revamp of the economy. These focused primarily on the way the state purchased goods and services.

These programs aimed to identify saving opportunities. The focus to do so was through strategic sourcing. This was achieved by establishing new contracts or renegotiating existing ones. A team consisting of key professional procurement staff was created to achieve this goal, and not only at a short term goal, but to look towards achieving this as a sustainable long term process. Rather than a one time program, these initiatives were designed as an ongoing program to save money in the long term and position the United States to com out of the economic slump.

e-Governance played a crucial role in the revamp of the economies. Information Technology was widely used to issue electronic RFPs and conduct reverse auctions. The usage of these technologies also helped to streamline processes and speeded up the savings potential. Consulting firms like A.T. Kearney helped in the processes by developing cross-agency and departmental training programs, in which the procurement staff members were taught new skills in the area of spend analysis, e-sourcing, reverse auctions and e-negotiations. This training, which took place in classrooms and on hands, ensured that the team was well positioned for the change. Change management was the crucial success factor in this initiative.

In the coming few years, these strategic sourcing initiatives are expected to create savings in the tune of billions of dollars. The first wave of the program is already completed, and thus the spend categories have been identified, addressed and initial savings have been achieved which helped to forecast future savings. This e-governance strategic sourcing initiative has demonstrated how economies can be revamped using e-governance and information technology.

You have to have your heart in the business and the business in your heart

Thomas J. Watson as always comes up with a great one liner. So what does he mean?

Its obvious that you need to be passionate about what you do to be successful in your endeavors, but it appears he is also talking about the famous Shakespearean “nature” vs “nurture” dogma here also. Are successful entrepreneurs born and not made? In that case, a lot of B-School education would fall flat on its face. Is this quote indicating that formal training provides one only a platform to move on in business?

Another great quote flashes to the mind: “Great leaders are born and not made”.

By the way, do check out Cornerstone LMS. They offer great learning solutions.

Any suggestions on these viewpoints on success of entrepreneurs and leadership?

Google Priority Inbox-Revolutionizing emails

Check out what Google has to offer now along with its core offerings in email. Google is planning a launch of its priority inbox, where, each user will mark mails as being more important and less important. Based on the priorities of individual users, obtained from feedback and text analysis of the mails more viewed by the same, incoming emails will be prioritized.

And intelligence ensures that users don’t need to set up rules to make the sorting happen. The feature takes its cues from things like who users e-mail the most and what messages are open and replied to rather than being skipped over.

Priority Inbox is scheduled to be rolled out to all Gmail users over the next week or so. Users just have to look for the “New! Priority Inbox” link in the top right corner of their Gmail account.

A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain

Ever heard of private banks financing the needs of the really needy? They don’t. That’s because the really needy customers will never have the monetary disposition to pay off the interest which is applicable for their risk profile. Isn’t that a tragedy of errors for these financial institutions?

E-Governance Failures – Can it be averted?

E-government, in short, allows the private sector to operate in areas that used to fall strictly within the public domain. The challenge for policy makers is to recognize that what is good for business is consistent with good government. Planners start with grand visions of on-line services but then flounder amid cross-agency squabbling. Or they fail to attract enough users or get sidetracked by expensive high-tech bells and whistles. Research on e-government efforts around the world has helped to identify three critical lessons for their proponents.

First, don’t underestimate the resistance of government employees to change. Washington State overcame this barrier by creating the Digital Information Academy. Mandated by the state’s governor, the academy helps departments map their existing services, encourages them to rethink the design of their services, and tries out new processes on focus groups. By involving government employees, the academy makes them less fearful and gives them a stake in e-government’s success. To ensure cooperation among departments, the governor required all of his chiefs to sign contracts stipulating the services they would put on-line within a specified time frame. When friction arises, the academy mediates.

Second, e-government services don’t justify the investment if citizens and businesses don’t use them. The majority of the people of almost every country don’t have Internet access (Exhibit 3), so e-government initiatives must include efforts to increase Internet penetration and usage. Most countries will have to develop channels other than personal computers in homes. In Dubai, for instance, where PC-based Internet penetration is under 15 percent but mobile-telephone penetration is over 50 percent, e-government will eventually adopt wireless applications. In Hong Kong, where Internet penetration is more than 40 percent, the government is nonetheless building e-government kiosks in shopping malls, supermarkets, and railway stations.

But access isn’t enough: e-government must also give the public financial or other incentives to use the Internet for transactions. In the United States, for example, people who file their tax returns on-line get their refunds deposited into their bank accounts within three weeks—half as long as it takes those who file paper returns to get a check in the mail. More than 30 percent of US tax returns are currently filed on-line.

Finally, e-government can be either a profit engine or a financial black hole, depending on the strategy and mind-set chosen. Its cost ranges from $30 million for department-specific efforts to over $100 million for fully integrated service portals. Unless vendors too invest at the outset, governments must justify these commitments by identifying, up front, the specific ways in which costs will be cut and users will be served more cheaply and conveniently. The National Information Consortium, for example, agreed to provide e-services to the citizens and businesses of the US state of Virginia in return for a cut of every transaction.

E-governance – The way ahead

A new way to the new economy is on the cards.

E-government, in short, allows the private sector to operate in areas that used to fall strictly within the public domain. The challenge for policy makers is to recognize that what is good for business is consistent with good government.

In many countries, particularly in emerging markets, e-government efforts can benefit private start-ups. E-government, for instance, involves investments in the public Internet infrastructure that would be too costly for individual companies. These investments finance gateways for electronic payments (in coordination with financial institutions) as well as encryption-and-decryption technology that ensures the security of electronic transactions.

Furthermore, e-government forces policy makers to establish a regulatory and legal framework to protect privacy and intellectual property insofar as they are involved in e-commerce. Examples of such frameworks include the Electronics Transactions Ordinance, in Hong Kong; the Electronics Transactions Act, in Singapore; and the Digital Signatures Act, in Malaysia.E-government also gets global information technology companies involved in everything from the design of systems to the development of applications. In the course of building the necessary infrastructure, those companies make significant investments in the local economy. Their local presence makes it easier for nearby companies to utilize their services or to partner with them.

Finally, e-government benefits private Internet ventures by increasing the number of World Wide Web–savvy locals. For this electronic new regime to succeed, government workers must have sufficient IT skills to maintain the system, and the general public must have the knowledge to take advantage of it. To ensure the diffusion of the required expertise, Malaysia has joined forces with world-class IT companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Electronic Data Systems, to employ and train local people. Hong Kong offered computer training in community centers and blitzed the territory with television advertisements promoting Internet usage and with home videos on how e-government efforts work. Most governments in emerging markets also encourage Internet use by offering access through kiosks and computers in libraries and other public places.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Memorable Dawn of Independence Speech

Today is our Independence Day. And what better way to celebrate the same than by remembering and honoring the day when it all started. If there is one place on this earth where all the dreams of men and women have found a home since when we began the dream of existence, it is with our Mother India. May we do justice to her and recognize her role in our lives, how we are indebted to her for our success and happiness.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL MY FELLOW INDIANS.

Customer Knowledge Management

Coined in 2002 by García-Murillo and Annabi, customer knowledge management is the newest thing in the series of customer value management (See customer life time value management & customer network value management). Gathering,  managing,  and  sharing  customer  knowledge  can be a highly valuable  competitive  tool that  companies  and scholars have not yet considered to the extent possible it can be done. Today, the insights of the customers should be used right from the very beginning from the product development stage to the final stages of the product life cycle. García-Murillo and Annabi (2002) gives a pretty comprehensive framework of knowledge management, across the entire continuum, that a firm needs to practice throughout the  value chain to deliver value for the potential customers.

Having customer insights and managing the same through good processes and is important for getting  better and more timely design of new products and services; early warning of possible turbulence and competitive intelligence; customer commitment and loyalty; and deriving the maximum benefits from the synergy of collaboration. So how should one manage the insights customers may have effectively to draw the maximum value for the firm?

Today, a lot of informal knowledge lies in the knowledge portals available in the web.  There are so many blogs and online forums where there is a high level of potential customer engagement, through mutual exchanges of information and discussions. Knowledge management through the mining of such unstructured data is one of the surest way to capture the customer sentiments and knowledge. If the insights can be successfully incorporated into the processes while the firm is developing a product, it may be a sure gateway to success.

Today many companies are incorporating a higher degree of customer engagement activities in their relationship management strategies. It is being felt that active voice of a customer can have an effect beyond the customer’s lifetime value and the customer’s network value. The insights can be actually incorporated within the product finalization stage itself, so that the customer can be engaged and bound into a relationship, even before the product is formally launched into the market. Not only this tactic draws higher brand recognition, it paves the path for a higher relationship development of the firm with its customers. Gibbert et al. provides an excellent framework for managing the knowledge of customers through three focused strategies, namely, Prosumerism, Team based co-learning and mutual innovation.

  • Alvin Toffler (1980) first used the expression “prosumer” to denote that the customer could fill the dual roles of producer and consumer. The CKM process transforms the customer into a co-value creator, endowing them with new competencies and benefaction opportunities.  It liberates the customer from the platform of only past, accumulated knowledge by stimulating the knowledge within them for the co-production of value.
  • In team based co-learning, the inter-linkages with the customer base and their interactive joint learning with the customers require a higher level of engagement of the firm with the customers. Customer may be actively involved in the product refinement itself.
  • Mutual innovation is possible when the firm actually starts incentivising the potential customers for the mutual creation of value. This is often feasible only if custom made products are being manufactured, and less feasible for standardized products.

In all the three cases, it is evident that there is immense benefits that can be reaped if customer knowledge management can be done to co-create value with the customers. The insights of the customers can be of extreme significance to sustainably market a product throughout the product life cycle. Hopefully, in the future, a higher degree of customer engagement will be available while developing the product itself and throughout the PLC curve.