Interview – A Finance Transformation Expert at DSM

So I’ve decided to continue the series of transformation leaders’ interviews and I’m starting this year with Thierry Zedda, a French engineer, currently working as a Performance and Portfolio Manager at DSM [one of the largest Dutch companies with 10 bill € in revenue, and employing over 20,000 people].  Going from engineering to finance to more transversal roles, leading or involved in complex large scale transformations and with the creation of a knowledge platform [aqboost.com], Thierry has an interesting experience and perspective on finance transformation.

His engineering background grants him a pragmatic approach to transformation and a penchant for technology. But don’t be fooled, Thierry is curious but not crazy for the techno hype we have seen recently entering finance (automation, AI, block chain etc.). And for a finance guy, he has learned to look way beyond the figures and work with the cultural change required to really implement beautifully crafted solutions.

The two key subjects that struck me in our conversation were :

  • His passion for helping the finance profession to question itself and do a real introspection about its roles, about the meaning of new technologies and about its valuable new position in the organisation. 
  • Measuring the effectiveness of mindset transformation with maturity assessment, non-financial KPIs and storytelling.
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So, now Apple is a bank (finally?)

In 2013, Apple launched Apple Pay as both a digital wallet and a mobile payment service, and now Apple is a bank?

Up to now, even with iPhones NFC capabilities, biometric authentication and the very robust Apple ecosystem, Apple Pay wasn’t a amazing success. An extra feature in Apple’s ecosystem yes, not a revolution. And since then, I’ve been waiting for more news and more commitment to this service.

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Keynote (Pas de risques, pas de startup !)

I haven’t done a public keynote in a while, so just a quick heads up: I will be in Toulouse (France) and have a one hour talk on startup valuation, managing risk and uncertainties, and what it means for investors (including corporations and their innovation programs).

It’s in partnership with Nubbo the local incubator and a dear partner of us since 2013. The keynote will be on April 8 and starting at 6:30pm. It’s a free event (you’re welcome).

You just have to register here.

Click below for the full presentation (in French):

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Why innovation is not about being smart and fast

We use innovation to say many things, which usually translates in being smart and fast about it. This is a wide-spread fallacy. Let’s understand why…

There is this on-going fallacy about innovation. Innovation should be about being smart and and being fast. Or at least, smarter and faster than competitors. Seeing the next big thing, catching the next wave, seizing the white space, finding the blue ocean… These narratives are all about a promised Eden, hidden from the masses of companies that are not smart enough to read the market or the technology.

If we unpack this mindset, we get the following familiar reasoning:

  1. There will be an optimal way to go ahead and outcompete everyone else;
  2. We are then at point A in time and need to go to B (the future optimum);
  3. Investment is needed and we’ll have ROI when at B;
  4. Going from A to B shall then be as fast as possible;
  5. Knowing where B is, requires intuition if we’re looking into it too early;
  6. If we are too late (others are already getting to B) we’ll need to spend more money and, as followers, get less ROI.
  7. We obviously need to be smart to be just in time to run for B.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

This has been taught in every innovation class of every business school, university and tech entrepreneurship class since 1962, when Everett ROGERS modelled his diffusion of innovation theory.
Let me make the case that it’s actually a terrible (terrible) reasoning. Continue reading “Why innovation is not about being smart and fast”

The stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones…

The stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones, and the oil age will not end because we run out of oil. It ended because bronze tools became cheaper.

The origin of that quote attributed to Ahmed Zaki Yamani who was the Minister of Oil for Saudi Arabia in the 70s, is actually difficult to trace back (and the analogy can be critiqued in many ways). But in any case, as experts of any given industry this brings us back to what we love to forget:

We’re not going out of business, because what we are experts in is getting out of fashion by itself (or as a resource, is depleted). We get out of business because “better” comes in. Innovation answers to this simple formula: Customers x Time

So pause a minute and ask yourself:

What are your stone? What are the bronze tools coming in? And what can you do about it if your salary depends on cutting more stones?

Is Privacy the new iPhone?

Apple is playing big on privacy against the other GAFA and right now specially Facebook. This seems to be an obvious move easy to play. But is it really?

Apple is in a dangerous place this year. You might think that it’s because China doesn’t buy as much iPhones as in the previous years, or because their Mac Pro is still not updated, or whatever other reason… But no, the real reason as that Apple has been a success in the market for far too long. Continue reading “Is Privacy the new iPhone?”

Our New #1Day Corporate Trainings for Execs

After trying not to sell stand-alone training programs for execs for so many years, we must admit that this is more necessary than ever. Let’s discuss what we want to offer and why:

Since 2007, we’ve designed and delivered many corporate trainings for execs and management teams on innovation, strategy, culture change, etc. They were rarely stand-alone programs, but were always designed to support a consulting mission we had with a company. Following that, their goal has always been to allow the teams involved to appropriate our tools and mindset, and get autonomous cross-divisions, to follow up on the outputs of our mission.

This was business as usual. But a few years ago, things changed.

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How to Feed Digital Monkeys (a discusssion on Status as a Service)

Eugene WEI wrote a reference article on social network business as « Status as a Service ». This is an important read. Here’s why:

Eugene WEI has been writing on tech since 2001. I’m not going to sell you his CV that goes from Facebook to Hulu and Flipboard. Let it just be said that he knows what he’s talking about. And his latest article he’s writing on Status as a Service and this is one of the most remarkable reading I had on the digital social media and consumerism.

He starts of by dissecting how traditional network effects are twisted in social networks through three axis (social capital, entertainment and utility):

There are several different paths to success for social networks, but those which compete on the social capital axis are often more mysterious than pure utilities. Competition on raw utility tends to be Darwinian, ruthless, and highly legible. This is the world, for example, of communication services like messaging and video conferencing. Investing in this space also tends to be a bit more straightforward: how useful is your app or service, can you get distribution, etc. (…) The creation of a successful status game is so mysterious that it often smacks of alchemy. For that reason, entrepreneurs who succeed in this space are thought of us a sort of shaman, perhaps because most investors are middle-aged white men who are already so high status they haven’t the first idea why people would seek virtual status (more on that later).

Continue reading “How to Feed Digital Monkeys (a discusssion on Status as a Service)”