Discussion Questions 1. In discussion with Josh, Tonya foreshadows “some serious obstacles to overcome.”Describe these obstacles in detail. 2. How can Josh win support for his team’s three-point plan to use technology to help IFG to reach its customers?
Josh Novak gazed up at the gleaming glass-and-chrome skyscraper as he stepped outof the cab. “Wow!” he thought to himself. “I’ve hit the big time now.” The InternationalFoods Group (IFG) Tower was a Chicago landmark as well as part of the company’slogo, which appeared on the packages of almost every type of food one could imagine—breakfast cereals, soft drinks, frozen pizza, cheese, and snack foods, to name just afew. Walking into the tower’s marble lobby, Josh could see displays of the company’spackaging from its earliest days, when its dairy products were delivered by horse andwagon, right up to the modern global entity it had become.After signing in with security, Josh was whisked away to the 37th floor by anefficient attendant who walked him down a long hall of cubicles to a corner officeoverlooking Lake Michigan. On the way, Josh passed display photos of the company’sfounder, old Jonas Wilton looking patriarchal, and several of the family scions, whohad grown the company into a major national brand before the IPO in the 1980s hadmade IFG a public company. Josh, having “Googled” the company’s history last night inresponse to this summons, knew that IFG was now the largest purveyor of food productsthe world had ever known. While many decried the globalization of the food business,IFG kept right on growing, gobbling up dozens of companies each year—some becauseIFG wanted to stomp on its competition and others because it wanted their good ideas.Josh’s own small company, Glow-Foods, a relative newcomer in the business, was , fortunately, one of the latter, but Josh was a little puzzled about this command performance. After all, he himself wasn’t anyone important. The owners of the companyall received multiple millions and were sticking around—as per contract—during thetransition. The next level, including Josh’s boss, had mostly jumped ship as soon as the“merger” was announced. “This isn’t my thing,” drawled Nate Greenly over beer onenight at the local pub. “Corporate America isn’t going to let us stay as we are, no matter what they say. Get out while you can,” he advised. But Josh, with a freshly mintedMBA in his pocket, thought differently. And so here he was, walking into the CIO’soffice hundreds of miles away from the cramped loft in Toronto where Glow-Foods washeadquartered.As the office door swung open, two people dressed in “power suits” turned tomeet him. “Uh oh, I’m not in Kansas anymore,” thought Josh as he mentally reviewedhis outfit of neatly pressed khakis and golf shirt, which was a big step up from hisusual attire of jeans and a T-shirt. A tall man with silver hair stepped forward with hishand held out. “You must be Josh,” he boomed. “Welcome. I’m John Ahern, and this ismy associate, Tonya James, manager of IT marketing. Thanks for coming today. Please,have a seat.” Josh complied, slinging his backpack over the corner of the leather chair while taking in the rich furnishings of the office and the panoramic view. After a bit ofchitchat about the weather and the prospects of their respective baseball teams, Johnpulled out a black leather folder.“Well, we won’t keep you in suspense anymore, Josh. As you know, when we tookover Glow-Foods we decided to completely align our processes, including IT. It doesn’tmake any economic sense to run separate data centers and applications, so we alreadyhave a team in place to transfer all your hardware and software to our centralized corporate systems over the next month. We’ll be replacing your Macs with PCs, and everyone will get training on our ERP system. We’re going to keep a small team to deal withthe specifically Canadian issues, but other than that we see no need for an IT functionin Toronto any more.” Josh nodded glumly, thinking about his friends who would belosing their jobs and all the fun they’d had during those all-nighters brainstorming newways to help Glow-Foods products go “viral.” Nate was right, he thought glumly. Theydon’t really get us at all.“That said,” John continued. “We are very impressed with the work you and yourteam have done in using social networking, mashups, and multimedia to support yourmarketing strategy. Your ability to reach the under-thirty demographic with technologyis impressive.” He turned to Tonya, who added. “Here at IFG, we have traditionallymarketed our products to women with children. We have a functional Web site—a placewhere customers can find out about our products and where to buy them. More recently,we’ve added their nutritional content, some recipes, and a place where customers cancontact us directly with questions, but it’s really unidirectional and pretty dry.”Josh nodded in agreement with this assessment. The difference in the two companies’ approaches was night and day. Although not everything they had tried at GlowFoods had worked, enough of it had succeeded that demand for the company’s productshad skyrocketed. Young adults and teens had responded en masse to the opportunityto post pictures of themselves drinking their Green Tea Shakes in unusual places on theGlow-Foods Web site and to send a coupon for their favorite Glow-Foods product toa friend. Serialized company mini-dramas popped up on YouTube and viewers wereasked to go online to help shape what happened to the characters—all of them usingGlow-Foods products extensively. Contests, mass collaboration in package design, anda huge network of young part-time sales reps linked through Facebook all contributedto making the brand hip and exciting—and drove sales through the roof.John adjusted his French cuffs. “We want to tap into the youth and young adultmarket with IT, and we think you’re the one who can help us do this. We’re going togive you a team and whatever resources you need right here in Chicago. With ourglobal reach and much larger budgets, you could do great things for our company.”John went on to outline a job offer to Josh that sent tingles down his spine. “I reallyhave hit the big time,” he thought as he signed the documents making him a team manager at IFG at a salary that was almost double what he was earning now. “I can’t waitto get started.”Six weeks later he was being walked down the same hall by Tonya, now hisimmediate boss, and into her office, a smaller version of his with a window lookingPOUP BOPUIFS IJHISJTF i8IBUT OFYU u IF BTLFE i*WF CPPLFE B NFFUJOH SPPN GPSyou to meet your new team at ten-thirty,” Tonya explained. “But before that, I want togo over a few things with you first. As the manager of IT Marketing, I am personallythrilled that we’re going to be experimenting with new technologies and, as your coach and mentor at IFG, I’m going to make it my job to see that you have the resources andsupport that you need. However, you may find that not everyone else at this companywill be as encouraging. We’re going to have some serious obstacles to overcome, bothwithin IT and with the larger company. It will be my responsibility to help you dealwith them over the next few months as you put your ideas together. But you need toknow that IFG may have different expectations of you than Glow-Foods. And you mayfind you will get a better reception to your ideas if you look a bit more professional.”Josh winced and nodded. He’d already ramped up the wardrobe for his first day witha sports jacket, but clearly he needed to do more. “Finally, I’d like you to come up hereevery Friday afternoon at four o’clock to go over your progress and your plans. Myschedule is usually fully booked, but if you have any questions you can always send mean e-mail. I’m pretty good at getting back to people within twenty-four hours. Now let’sgo meet your new team. I think you’ll be happy with them.”An hour later Josh and his new team were busy taking notes as Tonya outlinedtheir mandate. “You have a dual role here,” she explained. “First, I want you to workwith Ben here to develop some exciting new ideas for online marketing. We’re lookingfor whatever creative ideas you have.” Ben Nokony was the team’s marketing liaison.Any ideas would be vetted through him, and all proposals to the individual productteams would be arranged by him. “Second, I need you to keep your eyes open and yourears to the ground for any innovative technologies you think might work here at IFG.These are our future, and you’re our vanguard.” Josh glanced around at his team, aneclectic group. They seemed eager and enthusiastic, and he knew they were talented,having had a say in choosing them. With the exception of Ben, all were new to IFG,experienced in using a variety of new media, and under thirty years old. They weregoing to do great things together, he could see.The next couple of weeks were taken up with orientation. Ben introduced eachof the major product divisions to the team, and everybody had come back from eachmeeting full of new possibilities. Tonya had also arranged for the team to meet withthe chief technology officer, Rick Visser, who was in charge of architecture, privacy andsecurity, risk management, and the technology roadmap. Rick had been pleasant butcool. “Please remember that we have a process for incorporating new technology intoour architecture,” he explained as he handed over a thick manual of procedures. “In acompany our size we can’t operate without formal processes. Anything else would bechaos.” The team had returned from that meeting full of gloom that their ideas wouldall be shot down before they were even tried. Finally, they had met with the IT financeofficer. “I’m your liaison with corporate finance,” Sheema Singh stated. “You need towork with me to develop your business cases. Nothing gets funded unless it has a business case and is approved through our office.”Finally, having dragged some chairs into Josh’s eighteenth-floor and marginallylarger cubicle and desk, the team got down to work. “This is ridiculous,” fumed MandySawh, shuffling her papers on her lap. “I can’t believe you need to book a conferenceSPPN UXP XFFLT JO BEWBODF BSPVOE IFSF 8IP LOPXT XIFO ZPV OFFE UP HFU UPHFUIFS u“Okay, team, let’s settle down and take a look at what you’ve got,” said Josh. One byone, they outlined their preliminary ideas—some workable and some not—and togetherthey identified three strong possibilities for their first initiatives and two new technologies they wanted to explore. “Great work, team,” said Josh. “We’re on our way.”The problems began to surface slowly. First, it was a polite email from Rick Visserreminding them that access to instant messaging and Facebook required prior approvalfrom his group. “They want to know why we need it,” groused Veejay Mitra. “Theydon’t seem to understand that this is how people work these days.” Then Ben got a bitsnippy about talking directly to the product teams. “You’re supposed to go throughme,” he told Josh’s team. “I’m the contact person, and I am supposed to be present at allmeetings.” “But these weren’t ‘meetings,’” Candis Chung objected. “We just wanted tobounce some ideas around with them.” Next, it was a request from Sheema to outlinetheir proposed work, with costs and benefits, for the next fiscal year—beginning sixNPOUIT GSPN OPX i$BOU XF KVTU NBLF VQ B CVODI PG OVNCFST u BTLFE 5PN 8FCTUFS“We don’t know how this stuff is going to play out. It could be great and we’ll need lotsof resources to scale up, or it could bomb and we won’t need anything.” Everywherethe team went, they seemed to run into issues with the larger corporate environment.Tonya was helpful when Josh complained about it at their Friday afternoon meetings,smoothing things over with Rick, helping Josh to navigate corporate procedures, andeven dropping by to tell the team they were doing a great job.Nevertheless, Josh could sense his own and everyone else’s frustration as they prepared for their first big project review presentation. “They want us to be innovative, butthey keep putting us in a straight-jacket with their ‘procedures’ and their ‘proper way togo about things,’” he sighed to himself. Thank goodness, the presentation was comingtogether nicely. Although it was only to the more junior executives and, of course, Johnand Rick, he had high hopes for the vision his team was developing to get IFG out andinteracting with its customers.“And in conclusion, we believe that we can use technology to help IFG reach itscustomers in three new ways,” Josh summarized after all of his team members hadpresented their ideas. “First, we want the company to connect directly with customersabout new product development ideas through an interactive Web site with real-timeresponse from internal staff. Second, we want to reach out to different communitiesand gain insights into their needs and interests, which in turn will guide our futuremarketing plans. And third, we want to implement these and other ideas on the ‘cloud,’which will enable us to scale up or down rapidly as we need to while linking with comQBOZ EBUBCBTFT “OZ RVFTUJPOT uThere was a moment of stunned silence, and then the barrage began. “What’sUIF CVTJOFTT WBMVF PG UIFTF JOJUJBUJWFT u BTLFE 4IFFNB i* DBOU UBLF UIFN VQTUBJST UPour finance committee meeting without a clear commitment on what the benefits aregoing to be.” Ben looked nonplussed. “We don’t really know,” he said. “We’ve neverreally done this before, but we like the ideas.” “I’m concerned that we don’t bite offmore than we can chew,” said John thoughtfully. “What if these customers don’t like theDPNQBOZ PS JUT QSPEVDUT BOE TBZ CBE UIJOHT BCPVU VT %P XF IBWF BOZ QSPDFEVSFT GPSIBOEMJOH UIFTF UZQFT PG TJUVBUJPOT u i5IFSFT EFGJOJUFMZ B TFSJPVT SJTL UP PVS SFQVUBUJPOhere,” said Rick, “but I’m more concerned about this ‘cloud’ thing. We haven’t even gotcloud in our architecture yet, and this plan could make company intellectual propertyavailable to everyone in cyberspace!” Sheema spoke again. “I hate to mention this, butEJEOU XF EP TPNFUIJOH MJLF UIJT DPNNVOJUZ QSPKFDU BCPVU UFO ZFBST BHP 8F DBMMFE JUknowledge management, and it flopped. No one knew what to do with it or how tohandle the information it generated.” On and on they went, picking holes in every partof every idea as the team slumped lower in their seats.Finally, Tonya stood up. “I’d like to thank you all for raising some legitimate andimportant concerns,” she said. “And I’d like to thank Josh and his team for some finework and some excellent ideas. Marketing was looking for creativity, and we havedelivered on that part of our mandate. But now we have a more important job. And thatis innovation. Innovation is about more than good ideas; it’s about delivering the bestones to the marketplace. We’re in a new world of technology, and IT can’t be the onesto be saying ‘no’ all the time to the business. Yes, we need to protect ourselves, and wedon’t want to throw money at every half-baked idea, but we’ve got to find a way to beopen to new ideas at the same time. We know there’s value in these new ideas—we sawit work at Glow-Foods. That’s why Josh is here. He has a proven track record. We justhave to find a way to identify it without taking too much risk.”The room sat in stunned silence as Tonya looked from one to the other. At last,John cleared his throat. “You’re right, Tonya. We want creativity and innovation, andwe need a better way to get it than we have now. I think what we need is a processfor creativity and innovation that will help us overcome some of the roadblocks weput in place.” As Josh mentally rolled his eyes at the thought of yet another process,Tonya replied. “I think you’re partially right, John. Processes do have their place, butwe also need some space to play with new ideas before we cast them in concrete. WhatI’d like to do over the next two weeks is speak with Josh and his team and each ofyou and then develop a plan as to how we can, as an IT department, better supportinnovation at IFG.”