Scenario planning: strategy for the future of global financial services

For my keynote at the Vision 2020 Financial Services conference last month in Mumbai I prepared some ‘quick and dirty’ scenarios for the global financial services industry landscape in 2020 from a technology perspective. Below is an overview of the content I used in my presentation. The complete slide deck from my keynote is also available, though it needs the explanation as below.

WARNING: These are scenarios prepared for a presentation, so they are far from rigorous or comprehensive. True scenarios should have fully developed storylines that evoke the richness of how the scenario unfolds and could actually happen. To be truly valuable, scenarios need to be created for a specific organization or strategic decisions – generic scenarios are of limited value. Always work with someone highly experienced in the field – most consultants that claim to do scenario planning are making it up. The Driving Forces and Critical Uncertainties identified below are highly summarized, and would be presented and aggregated very differently in a real scenario project. OK warning over, on with the content…

Scenario planning

Scenario planning recognizes that beyond a certain degree of uncertainty forecasting is of limited value (or can even be detrimental to good decisions). The process of creating a set of relevant, plausible, and complementary scenarios (more than the scenarios themselves) can be invaluable in creating and implementing effective, responsive strategies.

The heart of the scenario planning process is distinguishing between Driving Forces (consistent long-term trends) and Critical Uncertainties (unpredictable elements). Once these are identified, they are brought together to create a set of scenarios that reflect both what you know and what you don’t know about how the environment will change.

The image below shows a sanitized version of the process for a scenario planning project I ran for a major financial institution. This was quite a streamlined process relative to a comprehensive scenario planning project, however was designed to bring the insights directly into the existing group and divisional strategy process.

scenarioprocess.jpg

Below are the scenarios in detail:

  • Driving Forces: Global Financial Services
  • Critical Uncertainties: Global Financial Services
  • Scenario Framework for Global Financial Services
  • Four Scenarios for Global Financial Services

DRIVING FORCES: GLOBAL FINANCIAL SERVICES

1. Economic shift

Economic power is shifting to the major developing countries. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) together host close to half the world’s population, and their pace of economic development means that before long there will be multiple economic superpowers. In addition, global economic growth is shifting to the virtual, and developing countries will gradually wean themselves from primary and secondary industries to be significantly based on knowledge-based services.

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Web 2.0 is happening inside organizations anyway – time to recognize it and do it well

The current issue of MIS magazine Australia has an excellent feature on Corporate Web 2.0 titled Meetings of 2.0 Minds, introduced with the words: The social communication tools of the web are making their irrevocably into today’s enterprise.

The piece begins with the example of how Bond University conducted an audit of use of Web 2.0 technologies, and “uncovered a vast, organic network of technologies already being used…”

The article goes on to quote me:

The experience of Bond University is far from unique, says chairman Ross Dawson of events and strategy company Future Exploration Network, who researches Web 2.0 technologies. Whether companies realise it or not, Dawson believes there are already instances of Web 2.0 tools being used within every large corporation in Australia, usually without any managerial oversight.

“One of the important characteristics of Web 2.0 is that it emerged in the consumer space, and made its ways in the corporate space, whereas most technologies did the opposite,” he says.

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Future Files by Richard Watson hits global markets

A little while ago I announced that Future Exploration Network’s extraordinary Chief Futurist, Richard Watson, had released his book Future Files: A History of the Next 50 Years, including a few excerpts.

Since then it has sold at a giddying pace, selling out in Australia, and has now been launched in 10 editions worldwide, including two Chinese versions. The book has now been launched in the US and UK to great fanfare. The London book launch broke RSA’s record for most books sold, exceeding that for Clay Shirky’s event (see the event video).

Publisher’s Week in the US made Future Files its Web Pick of Week, saying…


Cheaper than a crystal ball and twice as fun, this book by futurist and web creator Watson examines what “someday” could be like, based on the five key trends of ageing; power shift to the East; global connectivity; the “GRIN” technologies of Genetics, Robotics, Internet, and Nanotechnology; environmental concerns, and 50 less general but equally influential developments that will radically alter human life by the year 2050. Watson gently scoffs at Jetsons-like wishful-thinking technology and flying cars; instead he predicts the fanciful (mindwipes, stress-control clothing, napcaps that induce sleep) and the useful (devices to harness the sea to generate energy; self-repairing car paint; retail technology that helps us shop, based on past buying habits; hospital plasters that monitor vital signs). In between the fun and frivolity, he prognosticates the frightening: the “extinction” of individual ugliness and free public spaces; the creation of hybrid humans; a society made of people who are incapable of the tiniest tasks; and insects that carry wireless cameras to monitor our lives. Part Jules Verne, part Malcolm Gladwell, Watson has a puckish sense of humor and his book is a thought-provoking, laughter-inducing delight.

Great to see Richard’s thinking getting out there! His talents and provocative insights are highly valued by Future Exploration Network’s consulting clients.

The steady shift to an RSS-based universe

The Guardian is now providing full-text RSS feeds.

Let’s dig into why this is important, and an indicator of one of the broadest shifts happening in the information landscape.

Over the last few years RSS has shifted from a geek-thing that required explanation, to the point where most people have an RSS reader of some type on their desktops. As people go to more and more information sources, it becomes highly inefficient to visit to them separately, while an RSS readers allows all of your selected information sources to be found in the one place.

Currently virtually every professional publisher provides partial feeds, meaning that if you subscribe to their news feeds in an RSS reader you only get an excerpt or the beginning of the article, and you have to click through to the publishers’ website to read the article. For some years there has been a vigorous debate on whether publishers should provide full or partial feeds. Professional publishers have almost always chosen to direct readers back to their sites, where they can ply them with advertising and make money.

The Guardian is in fact the first major newspaper in the world to provide full-text feeds, according to the Google Reader team.

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Expertise location: linking social networks and text mining

A very interesting article in the Guardian today, US military targets social nets, describes new expertise location technologies.

Expertise location has always been a central ‘killer app’ first sought by knowledge management and now part of the promised of Web 2.0. It is a fundamental driver in any large organization being able to tap its own capabilities and take advantage of being large. This was always epitomized by the quote from Lew Platt, who as CEO of HP famously said “If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable!”.

I wrote in 2005 about how Morgan Stanley was finding that blogging was trumping in effectiveness its years of efforts into dedicated expertise location systems. The next layer is tapping social network and content creation patterns to identify experts, as has been implemented in some content management systems (CMS) over the last couple of years. This can be taken further when used within online communities and social networks, as SRI International is currently doing:

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Business models for micro-blogging in the enterprise

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article titled Start-Ups Test Dot-Com Business Models, which compares the business models of Twitter and Yammer (a recent start-up focusing on business micro-blogging that I wrote about in a recent review of the space).

It says that Yammer, while a tiny fraction of the size of Twitter, is already getting revenue, while Twitter is still focusing on growth and waiting to monetize.

His focus on profits helped Yammer, which is based in West Hollywood, Calif., win the TechCrunch50 prize for start-ups in September. TechCrunch, a leading technology news blog that sponsored the contest, called the company “Twitter with a business model.”

Yammer’s business model is compelling, Mr. Sacks said, because it spreads virally like a consumer service, but earns revenue like a business service. Anyone with a company e-mail address can use Yammer free. When that company officially joins — which gives the administrator more control over security and how employees use the service — it pays $1 a month for each user. In Yammer’s first six weeks, 10,000 companies with 60,000 users signed up, though only 200 companies with 4,000 users are paying so far.

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Detailed case study of Twitter in the enterprise: Janssen-Cilag

Earlier in the month I wrote a post on Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come? I mentioned a number of the current corporate initiatives in the space, including those of Janssen-Cilag, which in February implemented an internal version of Twitter it called Jitter.

After my post I learned (on Twitter) that Janssen-Cilag was highly commended in the 2008 Intranet Innovation Awards. The executive summary of the report includes a description of Jitter. James Robertson from the Intranet Innovation Awards has also recently posted a seven-minute video interview of Janssen-Cilag’s Nathan Wallace on one of their other Intranet initiatives, Juice, for ordering IT supplies.

Last week Nathan wrote up in detail Janssen-Cilag’s experiences with micro-blogging, very generously sharing insights into the challenges as well as benefits from the initiative. This is a must read for anyone interested in the realities of implementing Web 2.0 and new communications technologies. Some selected insights from Nathan’s review:

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Smart Company names the top 15 business blogs in Australia – TLN makes the list

A great article in Smart Company on Australia’s best business blogs by Brad Howarth discussing the ins and outs of business blogging, and names the top 15 business blogs in Australia.

Trends in the Living Networks makes the list, which seems reasonable considering Wikio ranks us in the top 40 business blogs globally.

The article begins:

Australian businesses have shown remarkable trepidation when it comes to communicating with customers and stakeholders through blogs. But blogging need not be a difficult exercise.

Numerous individuals and small businesses are leaping into the blogosphere as they seek new ways to engage with their customers.

I’ve spoken and written many times before about how slow Australian business has been to embrace blogging. Fortunately we have come quite a long way, with a number of major corporates involved in the space, however I still believe that Australia is lagging, and there are many opportunities for those companies that do it well. I look forward to greater momentum on this front.

The article is definitely worth a read, with some great quotes from companies that are already getting benefits from blogging.

For the record, the top 15 list is:

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Seth Godin says write so it couldn’t be any shorter

Hugh MacLeod has published a delightful interview with Seth Godin on the launch of his new book Tribes.

A couple of excerpts that particularly struck me:

Your books and blog posts seem to have one thing in common, they seem to be getting shorter and shorter with every passing year. I have no problem with that; I think people genuinely prefer short reads to long ones. For people aspiring to publish their own books one day, what advice would you give them re. deciding on a book’s length?



Try to write a book or a blog post that can’t possibly be any shorter than it is.

Yes, very well put. That is the discipline we all must have today. As attention is spread ever more thinly, there is no luxury for padded content.

You’ve been publishing your books for about a decade now. Obviously, in that time period there’s been a lot of changes in the world. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s narrow the field down a bit, to the “Purple Cow”, new-marketing world you’ve been happily residing in. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in this brave new world, since Purple Cow and IdeaVirus first hit the bookstores?



There’s no doubt that the biggest change is that most smart people now realize that the world has changed.

When I started, I was working in a status quo, static world, where the future was expected to be just like the past, but a little sleeker.

Now, chaos is the new normal. That makes it easier to sell an idea but a lot harder to sound like a crackpot.

Yes again. I think we almost all find it hard to comprehend quite how much business has changed over the last 10 years. We now live in a very. very different world, and just about everyone at least implicitly recognises it. Almost all the change for the good, I think.

Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come?

Over the last few months there has been increasing discussion of how micro-blogging tools such as Twitter could be used in organizations.

Twitter is now frequently used in external communication, with organizations as diverse as @SouthwestAir, @Comcastcares, @BigPondTeam, @SEC_Investor_Ed, and @mosmancouncil using Twitter to communicate to stakeholders and for customer service. Given the rapid rise of Twitter and how influential comments can be, this clearly needs to be on the radar for any major organization.

However there are significant constraints in using public micro-blogging services such as Twitter, Jaiku, or identi.ca for internal communication. Even with the ability to protect people’s updates to being viewed only by approved followers, few organizations would like to have this kind of information hosted externally.

As such they often look at internal tools to see how yet another consumer technology can be adapted to create value for the enterprise.

At our Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in February, Australian pharmaceutical company Janssen-Cilag described how it was implementing an internal version of Twitter.

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