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Driving supplier performance improvement

November 26th, 2020

Our latest whitepaper discusses effective approaches for driving supplier performance improvement and looks at how improving performance transparency in the inbound supply chain can help.

Your can read the paper here:

How do you enable high performing suppliers – CODEXX WHITEPAPER

zuppli supplier performance improvement – new video

September 28th, 2020

We have just released an updated video of our new zuppli cloud service for helping businesses drive improved supplier performance. zuppli utilises a unique ‘two-way’ assessment to encourage collaborative improvement between businesses and their suppliers. zuppli is focused on product-based businesses such as manufacturers, distributors and MRO (maintenance and repair operations.

Currently zuppli is available for demonstration and our initial service is expected to be launched in November. For more information contact Alastair Ross

You can view the video on our Youtube channel here.

10 years since I started Codexx – what have I learned?

August 25th, 2020

Today is the 18 year anniversary of when my consulting business – Codexx Associates Ltd – was incorporated in the UK. I mentioned this to a good friend and he asked me what my thoughts were about it 18 years ago. It prompted me to think about what I’ve learned in those 18 years. So here are 10 things that I’ve learned.

1. Determine the goals for your business – that work for you

Some want to build an empire, others a small-holding – neither is right or wrong. I left my corporate consulting job and started Codexx as I wanted to do interesting, innovative and useful consulting projects, help clients, build a good reputation, keep a good family-work balance and have fun. A smart farm-sized knowledge-based business with no company politics if you like…

2. Have a clear proposition and market

This is one of the toughest tasks. Coming from a consulting career in a big corporate I had lots of experience and thus potential services I could provide. But as a small consultancy you need to focus. A wide portfolio is simply not credible to clients. You need a few service areas that you can focus on, become expert and get known for. Start with areas that you are passionate about and expert in and where there is a ready, profitable and sustained market.

3. Be prepared to change your proposition and market

As our military tell us ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’ – in this case markets and competition change and your business must adapt if it is to survive and prosper. My original focus sector was Industrial due to my past experience, but I later found a major market in professional service businesses seeking to codify and re-engineer their services. I successfully pivoted Codexx to increase focus in this area. I’m currently working with a partner on a new digital service for supply chain improvement that came out of a consulting project a few years back, when I wondered why we couldn’t do this on the internet…

4. Work to differentiate your offering

In this digital and globalised business world, it is all too easy to find that your offering is being commoditized. There are smart people everywhere, many of them able to deliver a similar service to yours much more cheaply. You need to identify critical areas of your service that clients value and can enable effective differentiation on elements other than price – things like personal relationships, proprietary methods and data (e.g. benchmarking), quality, experience and industry knowledge. You also need to identify lower value services or service elements that you should move out of. It’s an ongoing and dynamic battle to avoid being sucked down the plughole of commoditization.

5. Build your network and create win-win

Codexx is built on an associate model. One of my goals was to have a variable cost consulting model so that I was not spending my time ‘selling the bench’ to cover fixed costs and therefore sometimes providing non-optimum consulting skills to clients. I built a network of experienced consultants and academics that I brought in on Codexx projects to build a team with the skills and expertise needed for client projects. Ensure your associates are also ‘winning’ too. Pay them fairly for their work and treat them with respect; let them benefit from being part of your network.

6. Find good clients and serve them with all your energy and passion

This is simply critical to your business success. Good clients are of course profitable clients, but they are also progressive clients who are open to new ideas, won’t micro-manage you and from whom you can learn from. Unfortunately not all clients will be like this…

7. Build a thick skin

You’ll need this for selling and also working in some clients. What can you do to minimise this unpleasantness? Build a differentiated offering and marketing approach that makes selling less competitive. And work with clients for more than just the money (though this is not always possible in tough times).

8. Be brave and keep challenging the norms

Business consultants are there to change things – to make things better. Many times clients will recognise that improvement is needed. But many times they won’t. With your multi-business, multi-sector experience and awareness of new methods and technologies you can see the possibilities of improvement and new methods that your clients may not. So you will get push-back: ‘That won’t work here’, ‘It’s not practical’, ‘That’s just crazy’. Some sectors are naturally conservative and resistant to change. I found the established paradigm in the legal sector was that you couldn’t have both low cost and high quality – it was one or the other. Successful legal service re-engineering projects broke this paradigm. But it was a constant battle. You have to believe in yourself, use objective evidence, find internal champions, start small and demonstrate success.

9. Keep learning

We live in a time of such change with new methods and technologies constantly emerging. And in your client projects you receive ongoing lessons on different approaches and outcomes – on what works well and doesn’t at all. You need to continue to keep your offerings relevant to client needs and regularly improve them (and yourself) based on your experience. For the last few years I’ve been teaching consulting and innovation to MBA and MSc students. The old maxim ‘to teach you must learn’ is so true! Indeed the more I learn, the more I realise how much more I need to know. So whilst you need to be confident in your abilities as a consultant, don’t forget to keep some humbleness – you can always learn new things and be better.

10. Maintain your perspective

Stress and overwork is the regular bedfellow of many professionals and most small business owners. Sometimes it can all become too much. Your business is important, but you are more important. Don’t forget that.

End point

I hope this is of use to some of you looking to start your own consulting businesses. Of course the nature of learning is that this time next year I’ll have an updated top ten list…

Alastair Ross is Director of Codexx Associates Ltd and also teaches consulting and innovation on MSc and MBA programmes at the University of Southampton Business School. His latest book ‘Thinking about value’ is available on Amazon.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 10th July 2020.

Thinking about value

November 20th, 2019

How do you ensure that you take a broad and structured approach to product and service innovation – that is customer focused and simple to do?

Read Alastair’s article on LinkedIn.

Consulting skills at the University of Southampton Business School

November 19th, 2019

Alastair Ross, Director of Codexx, is again delivering the Consulting Skills lecture programme to MSc students at the University of Southampton business school from November 2019 to January 2020. This year there are 206 students signed up for the course. The programme is being delivered in the new Centenary building opened this autumn.

Thinking about value – new book

June 24th, 2019

A new book to help business improve their effectiveness in product and service innovation has just been published by Alastair Ross, Director of Codexx. ‘Thinking about value’ is a practical workbook for businesses – both large and small – to review and innovate their products or services to better meet customer needs.

The book introduces a new framework for value analysis and innovation – the value table – tested in consulting projects and in MBA teaching over the last 4 years. The model encourages a broader view of value propositions – beyond the typical focus of functionality and price – to better understand and meet customer needs.

50 innovation approaches are discussed in the book, together with plentiful case studies. ‘Thinking about value’ is intended for innovation teams looking to enhance existing or develop new value propositions. It includes detailed approaches for identifying unmet customer needs and developing new product/service/platform concepts to address them.

The book is available as a paperback on Amazon, at a special launch price until the end of July 2019. To view and order Thinking about value, go to Amazon.

If you are interested in ordering large quantities of the book, contact Codexx directly.

Innovation and Consulting to MBA students

March 25th, 2019

Alastair Ross is teaching innovation and consulting skills on the MBA programme at the University of Southampton Business School this spring – and supporting the programme’s innovation projects in Brazil. Alastair has prevously lectured on innovation and consulting to MSc students at the University of Southampton Business School and the University of Exeter MBA programme.

 

Mastering project selection – which project should I choose?

June 14th, 2018

Which project is ‘best’?

A key challenge in any innovation programme – be it creating a pipeline of new product proposals, selecting service/process re-engineering projects or deciding how best to allocate budget across multiple project proposals – is how to determine which projects are ‘best’ and therefore which to select. Managers are often faced with several possible projects and have to choose which to back, long before there is enough information to build a conventional business plan.

Once a project proposal is sufficiently developed to include details of planned implementation, financial evaluation methods such as Net Present Value (NPV) can be applied. But for projects at earlier concept stages, over-reliance on strictly financial criteria may lead to wrong decisions, simply because financial data are often wrong” – the words of Bob Cooper, who developed the stage-gate model for new product development. At this stage it can be tempting to simply fall back on intuition and previous experience but a better approach is to assess projects against a number of criteria which are pointers to likely success.

Read the full paper by Rick Mitchell & Alastair Ross:

Mastering project selection – Codexx whitepaper – June 2018

Disruption in your hand

June 13th, 2018

You are carrying a device that has been responsible for the decimation of industries, the loss of millions of jobs and has subjected billions of people to an increased risk of fraud and bullying. This same device is also responsible for enriching our lives, bringing information and money to the billions of people living in remote and less developed regions of the world and enabling thousands of new businesses. This device is of course your Smartphone. It is a prime example of disruptive innovation.

What is disruptive innovation?

The term ‘disruptive innovation’ was coined by the academic, Clayton Christensen in 1997 to describe innovations that, at their inception, pose no threat to established businesses, due to their limited functionality. But over time, as they develop their functionality/price, they begin to nibble away at the established market, taking customers who are looking for ‘good enough’ solutions. The loss of these customers may not necessarily be seen as negative by established businesses who may well regard them as less attractive lower margin customers. But as time goes on, the disruptor takes more and more market share as its proposition grows in capability and acceptance. The result is that the incumbent, and once dominant, providers are squeezed ever more upmarket and ultimately into niche markets (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Disruptive innovation (based on work by Clayton Christensen)

Christensen argues that disruptive innovations can hurt all companies – especially the successful, well managed companies that are responsive to their customers and open to new technologies and methods (see his book ‘The innovator’s dilemma’). For these companies tend to focus on meeting the needs of their existing customers. They ignore the market segments most susceptible to disruptive innovations, because these segments often have very tight profit margins and are too small to provide a good enough growth rate to attract established firms. The result is that these ‘less attractive’ market segments become the ‘beach heads’ for new value propositions that grow and develop in these segments before invading the ‘more attractive’ more profitable segments in the market – the ones that are the preserve of the established and dominant competitors.

The Smartphone as a disruptor

The smartphone is one of the most disruptive products to have appeared in the last two decades. It has disrupted a number of markets, including digital cameras, music and video players, portable satellite navigation, e-book readers, voice recorders, paper diaries and personal organizers and even the humble wristwatch. The subsequent growth in phone screen size is creating further disruption in the tablet and laptop markets.

The smartphone is a good illustration of the process of disruption. Consider but one of its functions, its ability to take digital photographs. The first mobile phone with a built-in camera was manufactured by Samsung and released in South Korea in June 2000. It had a 1.5-inch LCD screen, and the built-in digital camera was capable of taking only 20 photos each at 0.35-megapixels in size, but the user had to connect it to a computer to share their photos. Sharp launched an improvement on this concept in November 2000 – the J-SH04 could take photos at 0.11-megapixels, a lower resolution than the Samsung, but importantly photos could be shared using mobile data transmission. This phone therefore combined the key elements of today’s smartphone cameras – picture capture and immediate distribution.

By the end of 2004 the camera phone was riding high. It was reported that over half of the phones sold worldwide in the first 9 months of 2004 had cameras in them, and two-thirds of all the phones shipped in the third quarter were camera phones. Leading the way was Finnish manufacturer, Nokia.

The arrival of mobile phone cameras at the functional level of ‘good enough’ was illustrated in 2013 when the Chicago Sun-Times sacked its entire staff of 28 full-time photographers and replaced them with reporters using smartphones. As well as significantly reducing the newspaper’s costs, the paper was able to increase its video content. The paper released a statement saying: “The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.” It was reported that reporters were to be trained in ‘iPhone photography basics’.

Figure 2: Digital camera sales volumes  (Source: IC Insights)

The impact of the disruption caused by camera phones on traditional cameras was clear to see with the market leaders being squeezed into the smaller more specialist and profitable, niches such as digital SLRs.

Other victims of smartphone disruption were closer to home

Apple has benefitted from the disruptive impact of its iPhone smartphone product on the mobile phone market since it was launched in 2007. The immediate loser was Nokia which was the market leader at the time, with handsets that focused primarily on mobile telephony and secondarily on mobile computing and entertainment. But another major player, BlackBerry (originally called Research in Motion) was also hit by the move away from the traditional keyboard to touchscreens.

It is also interesting to consider why it was Apple that was the disruptor of the mobile-phone market and not IBM, whose Simon Personal Communicator introduced in 1994, was effectively the first Smartphone or Nokia, the market leader, whose Communicator series of Smartphones were successfully sold into business markets for several years before the iPhone was launched.

One key factor in Apple’s successful disruption of the mobile phone and smartphone sectors was that the company primarily targeted consumers and not businesses with its smartphone offering, unlike both IBM and Nokia. This enabled it to quickly build volume and sizeable market share. It cemented this success with its complementary ecosystem built around the iTunes App store and its partners’ offerings. This enabled it to then enter the business market taking advantage of the BYOD (‘bring your own device’) movement with its customers using their phones at work and helping to convince purchasing decision-makers of their benefits.

Dealing with disruption?

Disruptive Innovation can threaten any business. It also offers the opportunity for innovative businesses to enter new markets with the strategic potential for overcoming the existing dominant competitors. So any forward-looking organization today should have approaches and mechanisms that try and spot such potential disruptive innovations when they are still ‘over the horizon’. Indeed such disruptive innovation, used proactively, can form the core element of a powerful business transformation strategy.

Unfortunately there is no one approach that can be used to identify potential disruptions early. Businesses need to select a range of complementary approaches for ‘scanning’ the business environment for potential disruptions. They also need to develop and assess scenarios of technology, competition and market changes to determine when and how they should best respond to potential disruption. Whatever approaches they choose to adopt, it is important that they are proactive, rather than planning to react when disruptions become visible – for by then it is likely to be too late.

The one approach that business leaders should most definitely not adopt – is unfortunately the most common: to take a dominant market position for granted or to consider it has some degree of permanence. The business history books are full of companies that have made that mistake.

This article is an extract from ‘Sowing the seeds of business transformation’ by Alastair Ross,available as paperback or e-book on Amazon. It was originally published on LinkedIn on 13-6-18.

 

Professional development in an age of uncertainty

March 13th, 2018

Yesterday the University of Exeter Business School presented its report on professional development and the needs of Executive Education in a seminar at the Business School.

‘Executive education in an age of uncertainty’ shared the findings of a study involving nearly 50 business and public sector organisations in the South of England.

Codexx was pleased to be involved in the study as the lead research partner and build on its existing relationship with the Business School by supporting Bill Russell, the Director of Executive Education in this project. 

The report provides insights into the challenges and approaches organisations are taking for professional development in these ‘uncertain’ times – with a combination of Brexit, economic challenges, accelerating technology and new business models. It also identifies key requirements for the providers of Executive Education based on the feedback from organisations in the study interviews and questionnaire.

The report also shares the new degree and executive education services the Business School will be launching from 2018, enabling organisations to make use of the Apprenticeship Levy for Level 6 and Level 7 personnel development.

You can read the report here.

Executive Education in an age of uncertainty

For more information on the Executive Education programmes, contact the University of Exeter Business School here.

 

Energizing Change

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