Pause for assimilation — redux

By Rob Brickman

A number of months ago, I outlined some techniques that I use to manage the influx of information that hits my desk each week. In that column, I made the case for taking information and turning it into knowledge, an asset with replicable and enduring value. Also, I suggested that we all need to pause and assimilate this tidal wave, and decide a priori whether we wanted to be an inch deep or an inch wide on certain e-business subjects.

I’ve been monitoring my own pro-gress in managing the flow and what knowledge the process reveals. I thought I’d take you through one example, drawn directly from my in-basket.

A recent article crossed my desktop highlighting a study by McKinsey & Co., a highly regarded strategic business consulting firm, projected the use of wire-less technologies in China in the coming years. It concluded that China would surpass the US as the world’s largest wireless user within three years, that the total Chinese market for communications in 2003 would be $12 billion, and that fixed-lines, wireless and cable would share this revenue in equal thirds.

Interesting information, but why should I invest any time reading this? Right now I have no Chinese clients, and I don’t consult on mobile computing issues. However, over the past month I’ve also seen at least three reports on European trends in the use of new technologies. These studies seemed to confirm that outside North America there is a greater commitment to mobile forms of access to the Internet than we have seen in North America.

On a recent conference call, my European colleagues told me that the unreliability of fixed-line communication outside North America has convinced businesses and consumers alike that mobile technologies are the infrastructure of choice. In North America, we continue to rely on our high-quality traditional communications infrastructure, which is mostly land-based.

Interesting again, but so what? It happens that I have some Canadian financial sector clients with large communities of offshore customers. And our consulting practice has recently worked with two financial institutions in the Caribbean that have large numbers of expatriate customers. Some of these banks are moving to a more adaptive business model to better anticipate and respond to customer wants and needs.

Now I start to connect the dots. China. Europe. Caribbean. Mobile infrastructure. Customer-centricity. Adaptive business model. Customer expectations. Banking services. If the expectations of offshore banking customers (whether they are businesses or consumers) are now being set by the technologies they hold in the palm of their hands, then they will expect to bank, anytime, anywhere, through any channel. As a regional bank, how would I stay on top of those customer expectations, let alone adapt and accommodate them? How might I choose to adapt if the needs of my offshore customers were significantly different from the needs of my domestic customers?

As I reflect on this, I realize that I’ve translated what seemed to be modestly interesting data on Chinese telecommunications infrastructure into a set of business challenges I might actually be able to help my own clients to solve.

How might I use this new-found know-ledge? I might post some early thoughts to a team database and ask for input from other financial sector consultants. Alternatively, I might draft a discussion paper to the banks about their positioning and how we can help them to create a process to monitor offshore customer requirements. Either way, I might have captured something that could be of value to my practice and my clients.

Rob Brickman, C.A. is a principal in the e-business Strategy & Change Practice for the Financial Services Sector at IBM Canada Ltd. Rob can be reached at

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