Re-Imagining Grocery Shopping

Amazon is experimenting with a grocery store with no checkout lines or counters:

E-commerce giant Amazon has opened a bricks-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle without lines or checkout counters, kicking off new competition with supermarket chains.

Amazon Go, the online shopping giant’s new 167-square-metre store, uses sensors to detect what shoppers have picked off the shelf and bills it to their Amazon account if they do not put it back.

The store marks Amazon’s latest push into groceries, one of the biggest retail categories it has yet to master.

My children and I have talked about this type of approach to grocery shopping when we’ve been at our local store. Self-scanning has become a mainstream option in almost all of the grocery stores I frequent … this takes it the next level.

Read more: Amazon lays down challenge to the supermarkets

On Overcoming Generational and Outdated Views of Work

In the interview We Can’t Work All the Time on HBR recently, there’s this gem (emphasis added in the final paragraph):

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: Well, I’m also curious to know, given these are a couple of things that you’ve learned through experience, are there other things where, as a leader, you’ve looked back now and said, you know, when such and such employee came to me with some work-life issue, I wish I had responded differently at the time? Are there other kinds of things where you looked back thought, like, huh, if I knew then what I knew now, maybe I would have responded differently?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: The thing I think I wish I’d done most is not so much individually, because I have had the view from the beginning that when people came to me, I always tell them absolutely, do what you need– but, again, I expect you to get your work done. But I wish I’d pushed back harder institutionally, and I think this does go to something many leaders encounter. You want to do it differently, and you can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t let people work from home when they need to work from home, or really be more in control of their own schedules. But you run up against an institutionalized bureaucracy that is very nervous about those kinds of changes.

And when I was a younger leader, and even to some extent today, you often don’t push as hard as you need to, because your HR department tells you, oh, we couldn’t possibly do that, or managers you depend on, and trust, and need to work with say, well, but my work is different. You know, the work in this department, really they have to be present to do it. In my younger days, I would say, well, I guess that’s right, as opposed to really saying, no, that is a generational view, or that’s just an outdated view, or we are not going to be able to attract and retain the talent we need if we keep insisting on working the old way.

In re-imagining effective work (or transformation of any kind), this is the heart of the challenge: what is held as true in the way we organise work that could have an alternative and equally valid point of view?

Change Management for Digital Transformation – my Keynote at the Digital Workplace Conference 2016

Last week I presented the opening keynote at the Digital Workplace Conference 2016 in Auckland, here in New Zealand. It was a great privilege to be able to speak at the conference, especially on the topic of change management for digital transformation, an area I have focused on for most of the past decade. My slides are above.

Here’s the story I tried to tell during the keynote:

1. (slides 2-14) there are a lot of changes happening around the world – in short-distance transportation, short-duration accommodation, package delivery, education, power, ordering coffee, footwear (with haptic feedback for navigating geographical space), and the types of people we hire into organisations.

2. (slides 15-16) there are various names applied to these changes, and one commonality is that “tec(h)” is central to them all.

3. (slides 17-22) digital transformation is about digital-enabled change, and it has direct and indirect effects. The direct effects are easy to imagine and plan for; the indirect effects (or second-order consequences) are more deeply structured and difficult to plan a direct pathway for. But the indirect effects are where the real value and impacts happens.

4. (slides 23-24) when looking inside a firm – and using Office 365 as an example – we can see the direct effects (on practices and processes) and indirect effects (on organisation structure, corporate culture, and business model).

5. (slides 26-43) approaches for managing change from introducing new digital tools into work practices and processes – using scenario examples from Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 and the effective use process from driving effective use of Office 365. My conclusion on slide 43 was that “leading people to effective use of new tools is the new fundamental skill set with Office 365.

6. (slides 44-50) examples of how changed practices and processes start to impact organisational structure, with examples from Westpac New Zealand and Cisco. Slides 46-47 provide a change prompt and single example of how new digital tools can impact organisational structure.

7. (slides 51-59) examples of how new digital tools, and changes across practices and processes and organisational structure can impact on corporate culture. I talked about the difference in corporate culture between a hierarchical organisation and a collaborative one (slide 54), and gave examples from Pivotal, Westpac New Zealand, and ASB Bank.

8. (slides 60-68) the real opportunity with digital transformation – which in my view starts from the digital tools end and flows a series of impacts across practices and processes, organisational structure, and corporate culture, is that of business transformation. This is where the executives who focus on business model transformation / innovation grasp what is newly possible across the previous areas, and say in essence “so now that is possible, how would we design our business model to capture the new possibilities?”

9. (slides 69-72) three summary statements to conclude:
– [1] get the relative-impact right (e.g., new digital tools create opportunities, but the impact is the direct / indirect effects they create)
– [2] leaders need good technologists with great business acumen (e.g., cloud services like Office 365 provide a mandate for technologists to step up their game and contributions)
– [3] getting to effective use enables your firm to benefit from significant indirect changes (and then I kicked the boxes).

How are you managing change for digital transformation in your work? I would love to hear your story and brainstorm possibilities.

Digital Transformation at McDonalds – Drive Through Ordering


In partnership with a Microsoft Business Partner, McDonalds is exploring the use of speech to text to point-of-sale for drive-through customers (presented as a cognitive play). In the way I think of digital transformation (or re-imagining effective work), this is a change of work practice: switching from one way of doing something to a new / enhanced / better way. It’s a great experiment, and shaving seconds off the time waiting in drive-through will quickly add up to many millions of hours per year (as Starbucks did with its transformation of the ordering process) and some level of CO2 emissions reduction .

But how about going further? Putting on my re-imagining hat:

– If a customer has a standard order at a particular time of day, on sensing that customer is there again, the ordering system asks if the customer wants a repeat of their previous order. If it’s in the morning when the order is usually breakfast and black coffee, that’s what’s offered. If it is after 5pm when the order is generally 2x Big Macs with fries and a sundae, that’s what’s offered. Still a change of work practice.

– McDonalds will have scheduling algorithms in place for the specific ebbs and flows of orders through the day, to ensure the right food is on hand to cook and deliver when customers come. Those should be updated frequently based on specials, time of day, weather patterns, who won the football, etc. Taking the aforementioned cognitive capabilities, the near-proximity of a particular customer (based on sensor data from their vehicle or phone) could be feed into the scheduling system as well. The perfect and ideal scenario is the customer can bypass the ordering line altogether and just drive to the collection window to retrieve their standard order.

– McDonalds needs to become a financial institution, with credit cards and rechargeable prepaid cards on offer for paying for food. Drive into the drive through, your standard orders are available on your phone, you click approve, the scheduling system inside McDonalds calculates queue waiting time based on specifically who else is in the queue, you pick up your ordered meal when arriving at the collection window, and your meal cost is automatically charged. Now that’s getting far beyond work practice, and would be a business model transformation worthy of a case study.

I look forward to seeing it happen.

Digital Transformation at ASB Bank

I don’t bank with ASB Bank in New Zealand, and neither of the two banks I do business with offer this capability, but I was thinking about (okay, passionately arguing to myself about) one of the digital transformations introduced to the customer experience by ASB Bank while I was driving to a client’s site this morning.

That transformation is ASB Card Control, the ability within the ASB Bank mobile app to turn on/off your credit card, set a spending limit, turn off/on specific types of transactions (international, online), and more. Known as something of an innovator within the New Zealand context, ASB Bank has mixed together a set of ideas and developed an easy and creative solution. Those ideas would include:

– People are increasingly using credit cards to buy stuff. We want to encourage this.
– People have advanced mobile phones in their pockets, providing mobile computing and real-time communications capabilities like never before.
– Fraud with credit cards is annoying and costly, and a customer bitten by fraud will be less likely to keep using their card into the future.

I wonder what we could do about that?

And so Card Control was created at the intersection of concerns and opportunities, giving a simple way for every credit card user to have nuanced control over what their card can and cannot do. By comparison, the only control over my credit card offered at my business bank is to call them and get the card cancelled. That’s a very blunt status field – cancelled or current.

Where other banks see a mobile app as a way to report on the current balance of your credit card, ASB Bank has taken a transformation approach to the issue, in effect asking “What possibilities exist in improving the customer experience based on what is generally true now?

Whether applied to customer experience (the outward facing digital transformation opportunity) or the employee experience (the internal facing digital transformation opportunity), that’s the key question to start asking. And trying to answer, in whatever tentative and experimental ways are available to you.

Re-Imagining Effective Work (aka Digital Transformation) – Going Beyond Work Practice

In the series:
Re-Imagining Effective Work (aka Digital Transformation) – What Is This?

The re-imagining discipline / mindset / methodology isn’t content to stop at how new tools—of which Office 365 is but one example—impact work practice. If you embrace the work practice transformations as the first step, you will probably see some changes start to filter through into the subsequent levels too. Organisational structure may pivot or morph, because hierarchy isn’t required to assign work to the right people; with new tools you can find the right people to engage with, and get their input using co-authoring directly.

Or more significantly, executives may decide that having an internal corporate legal function is no longer needed, and instead work is distributed across a legal marketplace for the right expert—with whom you share online team sites and secure co-authoring of documents.

Or that the product designer can now be a freelancer who lives a continent away, but is deeply involved in design meetings using OneNote and a Surface Hub.

Corporate culture can change too, away from a divisive and competitive one, to a pull-together collaborative one as people start to work with others across what was previously a silo based design. Where it was us vs. them internally instead of everyone in the same boat, now the boat is recognized, embraced, and becomes part of the cultural ethos.

And perhaps business model changes too, although starting from the tools and pushing toward a business model change can be a challenge.

As an alternative step-by-step approach, you can apply the re-imagining discipline / mindset / methodology from the other direction, but that requires an upfront deep sense of what’s possible in business model / culture / organisational structure design as a consequence of new technology. It’s like asking for a meeting with someone on the other side of the world: if the only technology you have available (or that you have internalised in your decision making / evaluative approach) is the wooden sailing ship, then the prospect of a 7-8 month return journey in order to have a meeting is likely to be rejected outright. Most in the business world realise we have much faster options available to us … from the 24 to 30 hour flights with Air New Zealand (or another carrier of choice), to a phone call, to a Skype meeting, to a Facetime call. But those more recent options have to become internalised into how work can be done in order for a good decision to be made on having a meeting.

The internalisation process of what’s possible is required when exploring transformation of the business model, corporate culture, and the organisational structure.

More to come …

Digital Transformation at Air New Zealand


One of my favourite examples of digital transformation is Air New Zealand. It’s a favourite because I get to fly Air New Zealand regularly to locations around the world, and so experience first-hand (some of) the innovations they have introduced. Those innovations include:

– check-in machines in the check-in area. Passengers with simple travel requirements can use the machine to identify themselves, confirm the trip itinerary, choose seating, and print luggage tags. Having to wait in line – as the only option – to check in is no longer required.

– the Air New Zealand mobile app, for checking upcoming flights, reviewing AirPoints account balance details, ordering coffee in the lounge, booking a new flight, checking in, and using the app as your boarding pass. And if you have an Apple Watch, there are specific notifications such as boarding calls, coffee orders, and boarding passes.

– being reminded through the mobile app on entering an Air New Zealand lounge that you can order coffee through the app, and when it is available, being notified by the app again that it is ready to pick up. That notification happens almost instantaneously when entering a lounge, and it makes me smile every time I enter. I know there are very specific sensor technologies to make it work in the background, but it presents itself as magic.

– the Airband for children travelling alone on a domestic or international Air New Zealand flight. The chip in the band is read by sensors at various points of the journey, and up to five nominated contacts are notified by text where the band (and by implication the child) is.

– while not landed yet, there are more innovations coming (good).

Among other benefits, these innovations improve the customer experience and introduce operational efficiencies. I’m getting ready for a trip to Europe in September, and I’m going to spend more money to fly with Air New Zealand than its competitors because I want the Air New Zealand experience. And there are many operational efficiencies – fewer queues at check-in, options for personalised service for new or premium customers, and lounges that just work.

For all of the above innovations, I imagine someone looking at what was currently happening, closing their eyes, and trying to imagine how the current processes, structures, and ways of doing things could be different – based on new technologies that are now available but weren’t available when the current approach was designed. It wasn’t about optimising check-in times by better queuing. It was a re-imagining of how to process passengers through the check-in area. It wasn’t about having a clearer sign-in and sign-out process for children travelling alone; it was how to drive a level of comfort for parents or guardians that their child was going to the right destination. It wasn’t about better email or text notifications; it was about how to create an engaging and informative way of engaging with customers through their phone of choice.

A spark of inspiration led to the innovations now on offer. But there was a lot of hard work after the spark to get it delivered. A lot had to change …

Re-Imagining Effective Work (aka Digital Transformation) – What Is This?

One of my key themes is called Re-Imagine Effective Work to Transform Possibilities to Realities, which I describe this way:

Taking a wide view of the business world reveals many challengers to current industry business models, often fuelled by new technological innovations that are creatively applied to overturn entrenched players. Applying the re-imagining discipline allows organisations to re-think work practices, organisational structures, corporate culture, and even their business model. This discipline is the necessary antidote to staying stuck in outdated approaches, with the attendant costs of reduced market share, decreased competitiveness, and business failure.

What I call “re-imagining effective work” other people call “digital transformation” or even “creative destruction.” Since my mindset and view of the world is more fuelled by creative opportunities that leverage the new to improve the current, I definitely prefer the positive proactive re-imagining label over the creative destruction one, and while the term digital transformation is a correct application of new generation digital tools to drive transformation, I prefer the emphasis in the label on the world of work not the enablers thereof. Regardless of your phrase of choice, all three are focused on essentially the same reality: how do we see beyond the immediate effects of new tools and approaches on work practice and envision a different way of designing organisations.

For example, as I do in Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 (or alternatively Doing Business with IBM Connections if that’s your current tool of choice), you can very quickly look through the capabilities in Office 365 and see how work practice can be improved:
– for co-authoring documents, use real-time typing in Microsoft Word for letter-by-letter co-authoring, or near-real-time sharing of text in Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote for a similar effect. No more email and attachments.
– for managing meetings, use a OneNote notebook plus Skype for Business to plan and hold better meetings. If you have a large screen Surface Hub available, use that too when you are actually meeting.
– for holding discussions, use a Yammer Group for team or project discussions around a common theme. This makes the discussions accessible for future reference, rather than being locked in email.

Those improvements are real and tangible, and can add a variety of performance improvements to how work gets done … today. Re-imagining effective work / digital transformation, however, calls for looking beyond the immediate impacts of today.

More to come …