Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attack & Missing Link in Intelligence: Scenario Planning

What was missing link in Intelligence which could have avoided or let India better prepare for Mumbai Terror Attack? I believe the missing link is scenario planning.

There is growing evidence now that some intelligence agencies have some information but it was not precise and actionable and consequently this was not diffused or acted upon.

Intelligence can rarely be precise. There are signals and one has to construct possible scenarios.
I wrote about Scenario Planning in Corporates and its emergence of most important career in 21st century.

In governments also the same will be true. The way credit crisis driven changes in global business environment highlighted the importance of Scenario Planning , similarly the Mumbai Terror Attacks might highlight its importance in public governance.

There is news report of setting up National Investigation Agency which will integrate all inputs from different agencies and make it actionable information

From the report ...Commenting on the intelligence machinery, Chidambaram said: "We have a number of intelligence gathering agencies. Intelligence is shared, evaluated and acted upon. However, I have found that there is a tendency to treat some intelligence inputs that are not specific or precise as not actionable intelligence." He said the responsibility for acting upon intelligence inputs is quite diffused. "While the basic structure seems sound, there is a need to make intelligence gathering and intelligence sharing more effective and result-oriented," he said adding, some changes have already been made and more were underway.

I believe effective scenario planning will find its place in new changes..

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who will be the Next Tech Gaint ? A Cellphone Application Company

Few months back I wrote a post What Next in Telecom? Investment Opportunities

In this post I wrote "Law of Nature - Old has to give place to new, Finally there will be emergence of a new company which will dominate mobile Ecosystem- Like Microsoft did it in PC era , Google did it in Internet . History says this company might not be an innovator but a "fast follower". Which one that will be? A future billionaire in making? "

Couple of days back I read Tim Drapers interview in VC Circle that Next Tech Gaint will be a CellPhone Application Company

I couldnt agree more with him...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Credit Crisis and Emergence of Career of 21 st Century: Scenario Planning

Every cloud has a silver lining. Behind every adversity lies a possibility. The adverse impact of credit crisis on big corporations, may prove to be a silver lining for emergence of Scenario Planning as a profession and a career option

Couple of weeks before Lehman’s bankruptcy, its CEO Richard Fud said that the crisis was under control and that Lehman would sail it through. So was the case with Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, he repeatedly said that Merrill would not require any further cash infusion and it would sail through the crisis.

Further, take the case of SAP CEO Henning Kagermann, who, couple of weeks back, said that he doesn’t sees any major impact of financial crisis on SAP. Two weeks later, SAP reported drop in sales and earnings, which according to Kagermann was due to very sudden and unexpected drop in business activity in last two weeks.

Were these CEO’s misleading the market earlier or did they actually didn’t knew and have not anticipated these events? I would like to believe in the latter. Their planning and intelligence process was not providing insight to visualize such a catastrophic crisis and to be prepared for the same.

Even before the credit crisis, the same planning issue, was highlighted when Ericsson CEO missed the severity of telecom downturn in late 2007 and had to reiterate his most confident outlook to most gloomy, in one week. World doesn’t completely change in one week, the clues are always there to anticipate the changes well in time.

These CEOs may even witness criminal proceeding against them for misleading the market and destroying investors’ wealth.

Though events like these are hard to predict in advance, their signs are often evident much before they occur. Few were able to detect some of the signs of changing times, but they too were surprised by the rate of change.

I wrote about rate of change in my earlier post as mega trend of this century

Complexity and Rate of Change in Business Environment are two mega trends of this century.

How can companies plan in the complex environment? Well as a starter, planning cannot be linear in this complex business environment. It cannot be a mere budgeting exercise extrapolating past performance with some adjustments.

The planning has to be scenario based.

What are scenarios? Scenarios neither are optimist, pessimist cases nor are wild predictions. Scenarios are neither risk management exercise nor contingency planning. Scenario represents instead possible alternative dimensions of the future that reflect the driving forces of that future. Understanding of these alternative dimensions of future can help corporations in preparing better. One or more scenarios will occur, depending on how future unfolds and corporations are preparing for the same.

Origin of scenario planning – Though today there is abundance of literature on scenario planning, its origin can be traced to Shell Planning Process in 1970-80’s. They envisioned scenario of Fall of Communism in Russia and helped prepare Shell its strategy around it.

Refer the book “The Art of Long View” by Peter Schwartz explaining scenario planning

Scenarios help to drive dynamic understanding of the trends and markets and relate planning to it. Employing Scenario Planning process, corporations can identify future scenarios based on current trends and then work backwards for planning.

Working backwards, Scenario Planners need to identify events, milestones that will increase or decrease probability of each scenario. It has to be dynamic activity with periodic updates both on status of existing scenarios and on developing of new scenarios.

Scenario has to come in main stream of planning activity. Even external communication to media, investors, and analysts should be through scenario.

Danger – Poor Implementation.

Though scenario planning is becoming popular, many implementers do not understand the basics of scenario planning. What I have seen in many corporate planning exercises is developing of three scenarios i.e. normal scenario, better scenario and worse scenario. The templates of these scenarios are filled like a linear plan for a normal scenario and +-20% for better and worse scenarios. This approach will not give any unique insight and will not help organizations prepare better.

Companies need to envision scenarios and plan accordingly to survive or win in this complex business world.

While scenario planning will be relevant for organization of any size, big corporations can drive more value out of it. Small companies have agility and they can respond to external events faster. Big companies take time and they need to plan much before, where scenario planning can be helpful.

Good news is that some big organizations have started taking scenario planning seriously. Kishore Biyani in “It Happened in India” also admits the importance of scenario based planning in Future Groups Strategic Planning Process. In future difference between survivors, winners and losers will depend on their accuracy of scenario planning.

Scenario Planning might even become most sought career in future somewhat like management consulting has become in last few decades. However, scenario planning will require both left and right brain equally as opposed to management consulting which relies more on left brain. But the question is how MBA’s will learn to use the right brain?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mobile as E Learning Device

I wrote in my earlier post on What next in Telecom ? about use of Mobile in Education

Here are more details on use of Mobile in E Learning

E Learning by Mobile can be used in different situations , each being unique, targeting different users and requiring different interfaces, content, approach, processing capabilities

  • Access in Geographical Areas where access to education is unavailable. For Developing Countries - It could be lack of even the most basic education and for developed world it can be lack of access to specialized education like learning Chinese language etc or Direct Courses.

  • Access in Spare Time - Which can be used for practising lessons as the supplement for traditional education. When I was preparing for my MBA entrance , I had an Electronic dictionary using which I used to solve random vocabulary exercises during my work commute. Now this can be done by using mobile.
    At basic level - It is access to lessons and notes
    At next level - It can be access to customized tests using software

  • Access in Real Time - Most students don’t have real-time access to internet. Mobile can be used for real-time teacher to students or students to students response/ disucssions on questions, queries or feedback ( some thing like messenger )

  • Analytics - Mobile can be used to track students performance, his weak points and can transmit data in realtime to teachers

  • Learning as Cool Fun - Cool learning on iphone with touch screen interfaces than learning on computers or learning in brick mortar class rooms. This cool learning on smart phones will need cool content as well

  • Learning More Easy and Convenient on Mobile than on computer - Making mobile as choice of medium for E Learning. But this will also require making of lessons which are more readable on mobile

  • Mobile as a Learning Accessory- Multiple uses - Language Translator, Advanced Dictionary, Scientific Calculators, Instructions in Voice , Repeating lessons etc

  • Real Time Lectures by Famous, Passionate Teachers -- Opportunity to kick mediocrity out of educational system - Mediocrity is witnessed today in the education system because of lack of passionate teachers. Every teacher is not passionate for teaching and for few it is a boring job which sucks. Using mobile, good and passionate teachers can transmit their real time lectures, which can be accessed by thousands negating location constraint. This can replace the mediocre teachers in the schools thus kicking mediocrity in education. Mobile has the potential to do it as a transmitting medium

For the above to be achieved, one needs specialized content for mobiles (considering in mind small screens, fonts, graphics capabilities etc). Copying computer content into mobile will not help. Not all cases listed above are same. Every case is unique , requires unique interface and content approach

I wish Mobile can spark revolution in E Learning like this advertisement. What an Idea Sir Jee !!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Next in Telecom? Investment Opportunities

To analyze investment opportunities in Telecom we need to answer first what next in Telecom and then analyze them from investment perspective.

What next in Telecom ?

1. Telecom companies will transform from being Utility Companies to New Age Marketing Conglomerates ..Serving Entertainment, Financial, Education, Business Services, E Commerce and yes Communication too.

2. Voice will become a commodity and even can become free with advertisement sustaining the ecosystem. VOIP, WiMax can make the basic voice free

3. Communication will be intelligent - Video along with Voice, Even in future Smell also ..also Real time language Translation , Speech to text capability

4. Mobile or End device will become part of a large real time data collection and analytical grid – like sensing pollution, traffic patterns, weather information, smart driving, location based communication

Analyzing these trends, we can develop insight about investment opportunities

Operators with New business models –

  • Offering voice as free and leveraging advertisements , data analytics and other services to sustain the ecosystem

Hardware – Telecom Infrastructure – Today geared for traditional voice model, this will transformed into conglomerate.

  • Need of Telecom infrastructure will be transformed to High Reliability, Real time transaction capability, Opex Saving, High traffic enabling
  • Vertical Focused- Finance , Entertainment , Education, Ecommerce


  • End user equipment – VOIP, WiMax
  • Low Cost equipment for Developing world
  • User Interface for browsing, entertainment, financial transaction, Education, ecommerce
  • Video and Picture capability
  • Smell Sensing Capability
  • Real time translation capability
  • Speech to Text Capability
  • Sensing capability – Air Pollution, Weather, Noise, Traffic
  • Improvement in Storage , Power Usage, Cost


  • Software is intelligent layer enabling Equipment and hardware to perform above tasks in cost effective, efficient and user friendly way – There will be bunch of tools, components developing enablers or solving one or more pain points for the new ecosystem
  • Special use will drive special needs like security and identity in financial transaction, Multiple identity for family, communication, entertainment
  • Specialized capability to try free voice model sustained by real time advertisements
  • Collaboration need in education, entertainment ( multi user games)
  • Analytical capability for analyzing sensed real time data

Value Added Service

  • Content for this new ecosystem ( Creation and Delivery )
  • There will be hundreds of value added services which will be part of ecosystem in above scenario from simple ones like ringtones collection to very complex smell library

I foresee that while existing companies will try to extend their products and services or transform themselves for this scenario, there will defnately be place for new companies to come with new models like Yahoo, Google, ebay, Amazon, Hotmail did it in internet era.

Law of Nature - Old has to give place to new, Finally there will be emergence of a new company which will dominate mobile Ecosystem- Like Microsoft did it in PC era , Google did it in Internet . History says this company might not be an innovator but a “fast follower”. Which one that will be? A future billionaire in making?

Publishing Date : July 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mega Trend - "Change" or "Rate of Change"

Current Mega Trend is "Change or Rate of Change" –

People Wants the Change, Globalization is creating Opportunity, Technology is creating possibility, Financial situation is creating necessity, Entrepreneurship and Leadership is making it happen. While it can be argued that Change has always been the trend, I would like to classify as rate of change which is current Mega Trend

Change from Corporate Power from US, Europe to Asia

  • Rise of Asian MNC's
  • Aggressiveness of Asians to acquire US, Europeans Companies and make global Empires
  • Shifting of corporate power, headquarters of MNC's to Asia

Changes in Financial Bubble-

  • Technology stocks , Real State, Commodity – What next where capital will shift next?

Changes in Telecom Industry –

  • Change from Local Operators to Global Operators - Cross border M&A to make Global Telcos
  • Changes in Traditional Telco Model - Internet and VOIP - slowly replacing traditional Telco Model
  • Change in Revenue Mix - Data Revenue and Video Revenue is growing faster than voice revenue

Change in Access Medium

  • Mobile as access medium - Communication, Entertainment, Information, Analytics, Financial Transactions

Change in IT and Software Market

  • Change from growing to mature market ,Software and Internet Cos- Sign of maturing market, Large scale Mergers
  • Change in Microsoft – Bill Gates Retiring, Implications and Change in IT Market

People wanting Change

  • Rise of Obamah

Changing demographics and Impact on Global Business

  • Old age Population in Developed World - Problems in Workforce and new market opportunity
  • Asian Countries - Growing working population, Rise in incomes, Rise of Women Power, Divorce Rates, Nuclear Families

Changes in Frontiers of Globalization

  • New countries From Japan to Korea, Singapore, China, India what next ? Vietnam , Africa?

Technology enabled Changes in New Areas

  • Education – Change to Student Centric Education Model from School Centric Education Model
  • Health Care – Change to Patient Centric Health Care from Hospital Centric Health Care

Changes in Energy Use

  • Change from Traditional energy sources to use of Renewable – Solar, Wind, Clean Tech

Changes in Disease Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Changes from traditional diagnosis and treatment to Biotech and Genetics and leap advancement in disease diagnosis and treatment

Changes in approach towards Nature

  • Changing approach towards Natural Disasters- Increase in frequency, Planning and Preparing for them
  • Change in Environment friendly business approach – From Social Responsibility to business imperative

Change from reality experience to Virtual Reality Experience

  • Change from two senses ( sound, sight) to three senses ( sound, sight and smell)
  • Changes in entertainment technologies – New age video games involving virtual reality

Publishing Date : July 2008