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Leading in Digitalized World by Next Step |   posted: 04/26/2017

The ubiquitous use of technology, from apps such as Uber, artificial intelligence by Facebook through robotics in all industries is driving change in the way company’s view and utilize ‘human resources’.

For all, digitalization brings change, which requires new perspectives, ways of working and employment structures.

In recent panel discussion between Next Step CEO Jennifer Vessels, Corporate Spring founder and previous Chief Culture Officer for Tandberg and Cisco, Annicken Day as well as Employment Attorney Gary Gansle discussed leadership challenges in the digital world.

Key points included:
• Human drivers for digitalization and why it is good for the workplace
• Approaches to gain engagement in definition and adoption of new ways of working across the organization
• Techniques for managing in a digital world (virtual teams, agility, etc) using video, collaboration and face to face (not email communications).
• The importance of building trust and respect for employees while working to achieve a vision.
• Start with people – fun, goals, rewarding accomplishment to lead to profit (not vice versa)
• Work with teams that want to change, make them successful and others will want to join/follow.
• Include employment law expert as you design organization to build in compliance.
• Hire slowly – know people well and integrate through well-organized onboarding into the organization and culture.

Today’s digital global world provides companies and leaders with many new opportunities – which also come with challenges. While there isn’t a clear ‘playbook’ for success in this environment, there are best practices which can provide insight. With experience leading Adobe, ShoreTel, Live Nation, Avinor and many other global organizations through this with a process, Next Step can help.


You have a Patent: So What? by Next Step |   posted: 04/15/2017

For many global entrepreneurs, patents may be viewed as an important part of Intellectual Property and of great value to the entrepreneur. In the Nordic, we have heard that a patent ‘ensures a 20-year monopoly’. However, in Silicon Valley, a patent is simply a document of how something could be created.

Success comes from acting on the idea and patent to build a product, customer base, revenues and hence a company to turn the idea into reality. Another question is the market need for and acceptance of the product developed from the patent. There are many examples of great ideas, technologies, and products that were simply ‘before their time’.

As an example of this, Silicon Valley based Next Step recently discovered information on granted patents in auto and logistics tech from IBM, Ford, Uber, and Google. Ford was granted a patent for a spring-loaded vehicle charging system for electric vehicles. It is only now much more than 20 years since the patent as granted that electric vehicles are mainstream across the world.

So while it is great to receive a patent, real success comes through market understanding, dedication and success in building a product and company to meet market needs and timing.

This article was recently published in Innomag.


Travel Value Network of the Future: Role of Digitalization by Next Step |   posted: 04/15/2017

Capturing the Lucrative Traveler’s Loyalty: Role of Digitalization:

Like all industries, the world of travel is evolving rapidly through technological innovation and changing consumer demographics. As many studies* have shown, the lucrative tourists of the future are middle class residents of USA, Central Europe, China and Middle East, who leverage technology to choose destinations, providers, and experiences. Their selections are based on ease of access and perceived quality and uniqueness of experience. While traveling, these passengers spend freely on local products and adventures, then openly share their experiences and opinions to their communities back at home.

The ubiquity of technology today makes it easy for travelers to learn about various destinations, then select and book flights, rooms, tours and many related products and services – all from mobile or web devices. Traditional travel agencies, hotels, tour agencies and airport shopping are often circumvented as travelers ‘self-plan’ their own experience.

Gaining the ‘wallet-share’ of from these prized customers is one of the greatest challenges facing all organizations in the ‘travel value chain’ i.e. airlines, airports, hotels, ground transportation providers, tour operators, retail and food and beverage. Globally, countries, regions and cities are all in competition to attract and retain their loyalty.

As demonstrated in retail and consumer technology products, customer commitment and referrals are based on a provider’s ability to respond to and even anticipate customer needs. This combined with ease of access drives success. By ‘digitalizing’ i.e. making offerings easily available via mobile/web apps and then analyzing and leveraging data demonstrating customer behavior, organizations enhance customer experience, leading to loyalty.

Digitalization of the Travel Value Network:

Next Step, global consultancy based in Silicon Valley with Europe subsidiary has led digitalization of technology, transportation, finance, retail/consumer and media businesses since initial success driving Adobe’s transition from a perpetual (license) software company to a leader in ‘marketing / creativity as a service’ in 2008.

Based on work with Avinor, United Airlines, Choice Hotels and Airbnb, Next Step has defined a vision of the European Travel Value Network through which a traveler can easily plan, prepare for, experience and share their travel experience. This includes a well-designed customer journey providing easy access across the travel value network. Technology is leveraged to maximize responsiveness, adaptability and customer experience.

Ultimately the Travel Value Network allows each of the travel providers (airport, airline, hospitality, transportation, tour operators, retail and food and beverage) to attain a sustainable role in the travel value network.

Through Next Step’s Digitalization Blueprint, the Travel Value Network will provide:

• Travelers easy access to relevant (personalized) information, offers and services
• Easy, pleasant booking, planning and experience of the journey travel
• Integrate air, ground transportation, lodging, adventure, dining, shopping experiences
• Offer and deliver relevant locally produced products, services and cuisines to travelers
• Gain ongoing customer loyalty through facilitation of travelers’ communication and sharing of their experiences during and after travel
• Personalize and enhance each traveler’s experience

Next Step Digitalization Blueprint for the Travel Value Network

Next Step’s proven Blueprint for Digitalization is built on the following key principles:

1. Executive commitment to Digitalization Business Case including:

a. Reasons to change and / or complement current approach with digital, service based offerings.
b. Stakeholder Requirements
c. Financial model with five-year Return on Investment
d. Key Performance Indicators and Success Milestones
e. Risk Mitigation Plan
f. Program and Project Plans

2. Customer journey definition, monitoring, adaptation, and feedback processes to drive:

a. Service/product offerings and business model decisions
b. Pricing and packaging of offerings
c. Collaboration partner selection with revenue and data sharing models
d. Online communications
e. Organization structures and business processes

3. Value network Partner Engagement:

a. Identification of suppliers and complementary service providers required
b. Business model, rules, processes and revenue share modeling
c. Integration of go to market and digital offerings with partners

4. Organizational readiness:

a. Use of technology and tools to increase agility and operational efficiency
b. Ease of sharing and utilization of business rules defined with value network partners
c. Customer-led innovation and responsiveness
d. Consistent execution of digitalization program and project requirements

5. Integrated delivery and communications plan providing regular personalized services and information to each stakeholder audience (customers and potential customers by segment, value network partners, shareholders, employees and the market).

About Next Step

Next Step, based in Silicon Valley with Europe subsidiary, delivers revenue and valuation growth for global organizations needing to scale and transform. Since 1997, Next Step’s 40 professionals with hands-on experience in sales, marketing, leadership and innovation have delivered measurable results for Adobe, Cisco, Live Nation, Avinor, Comerica Bank, Google, Genetech, Goodwill Industries and hundreds of other organizations.

For more information, visit Next Step at www.nextstepgrowth.com or call 1 650 361 1902 or (47) 902 30 982.


Digitalization – Is Your Business Ready? by Next Step |   posted: 04/15/2017

Through effective use and leverage of technology, service-based business models, and enhanced customer experience, organizations such as Adobe, Daimler Benz, Hilton and Schibsted Finn have achieved growth in revenue, profit, and market valuation. Across all industries, digital capabilities, along with new market dynamics and buying patterns are driving the need for change.

Benefits of digitalization include:

• Increased customer loyalty and retention – leading to more predictable revenue streams
• Ability to penetrate new markets and gain incremental revenues
• Streamlined operations and improved efficiency
• Greater market position today and future

Keys to Successful Digitalization:

Success in digitalization requires planning, design, and implementation of:

1. Market and opportunity understanding and development
2. Customer journey definition, monitoring, adaptation, and feedback process development
3. Value network partner/ stakeholder engagement
4. Organizational readiness and adaptability
5. Technology and services development and implementation
6. Integrated delivery and communications with all stakeholders

Is Your Company Ready for Digitalization?

Planning, piloting, adapting and then implementing a digitalization initiative can be time and resource intensive. Therefore, starting with a clear and objective assessment of what will be required prior to beginning the change process is essential.

Through Next Step’s experience leading digitalization initiatives globally, we have compiled an extensive checklist and assessment of a company’s readiness (and requirements) for digitalization.

Some of the most critical factors to assess to determine readiness for digitalization include:

1. Current market segmentation today and new potential market opportunities
2. Packaging and pricing model today (products, licenses, services, delivery methods)
3. Organizational structure, management, and decision-making processes
4. Use of technology and tools for collaboration, communication and service delivery
5. Employee tenure and diversity (backgrounds, generations, and ideas)
6. Product development and delivery processes and cycles
7. Partnership model and/or value chain approach
8. Organizational adaptability to customer and market requirements

The full assessment can be conducted by Next Step’s team over a three – four week period with recommendations for value improvement provided at the end of the assessment. This can also be extended to include engagement of Next Step for strategy, business case and implementation of digitalization on a project basis.

The full assessment can be conducted by Next Step’s team over a three – four week period with recommendations for value improvement provided at the end of the assessment. This can also be extended to include engagement of Next Step for strategy, business case and implementation of digitalization on a project basis.

About Next Step:

Next Step, based in Silicon Valley with Europe subsidiary, delivers revenue and valuation growth for global organizations needing to scale and transform. Since 1997, Next Step’s 40 professionals with hands-on experience in sales, marketing, leadership, and innovation have delivered measurable results for Adobe, Avinor, Cisco, Comerica, Google, Genetech, Goodwill Industries, LiveNation and hundreds of other organizations.

For more information, visit Next Step at www.nextstepgrowth.com or call 1 650 361 1902 or (47) 902 30 982.


The Traveler’s Journey via Value Travel Value Network by Next Step |   posted: 04/03/2017

Like all industries, the world of travel is evolving rapidly through technological innovation and changing consumer demographics. The ubiquity of technology today makes it easy for travelers to learn about various destinations, then select and book flights, rooms, tours and many related products and services – all from mobile or web devices. Traditional travel agencies, hotels, tour agencies and airport shopping are often circumvented as travelers ‘self-plan’ their own experience.

Gaining the ‘wallet-share’ of from these prized customers is one of the greatest challenges facing all organizations in the ‘travel value chain’ i.e. airlines, airports, hotels, ground transportation providers, tour operators, retail and food and beverage.  Globally, countries, regions and cities are all in competition to attract and retain their loyalty.

By ‘digitalizing’ i.e. making offerings easily available via mobile/web apps and then analyzing and leveraging data demonstrating customer behavior, organizations enhance customer experience, leading to loyalty.

Ultimately the Travel Value Network allows each of the travel providers (airport, airline, hospitality, transportation, tour operators, retail and food and beverage) to attain a sustainable role in the travel value network.

The Travel Value Network will provide:

  • Travelers easy access to relevant (personalized) information, offers and services
  • Easy, pleasant booking, planning and experience of the journey travel
  • Integrate air, ground transportation, lodging, adventure, dining, shopping experiences
  • Offer and deliver relevant locally produced products, services and cuisines to travelers
  • Gain ongoing customer loyalty through facilitation of travelers’ communication and sharing of their experiences during and after travel
  • Personalize and enhance each traveler’s experience

Next Step, global consultancy based in Silicon Valley with Europe subsidiary has led digitalization of technology, transportation, finance, retail/consumer and media businesses since initial success driving Adobe’s transition from a perpetual (license) software company to a leader in ‘marketing / creativity as a service’ in 2008.

Based on work with Avinor, United Airlines, Choice Hotels and Airbnb, Next Step has defined a vision of the European Travel Value Network through which a traveler can easily plan, prepare for, experience and share their travel experience. This includes a well-designed customer journey providing easy access across the travel value network.


Digitalization is More than Technology Usage by Next Step |   posted: 03/14/2017

Today, ‘digitalization’ is the hot topic, buzzword and goal of most organizations – from industrial companies through startups and public / government entities. However the term ‘digitalization’ is frequently (mis) used to describe use of mobile and other technology in one’s daily life and work.

Real digitalization of an organization involves:

  • Delivering solutions to customers through technology (ie ‘solution as a service’, software, platform / API integration)
  • Gathering, understanding and leveraging data on actual customer behavior through software, sensors, analytics and / or artificial intelligence
  • Designing solutions with your customer to ensure your company and your clients’ are prepared to deliver real value to the next generation of millennial buyers.
  • Integration of complementary offerings into the value network of solutions provided to your customer – across and via a technology platform.

Through using technology, business leaders today can enhance customer satisfaction and revenues while future-proofing their and their customer’s business. Contact Next Step to learn more about Digitalization for Success and the results of our business model transformation services for Adobe, ShoreTel, Precise and many other global organizations.


Digitalize for Relevance – Next Step to Success by Next Step |   posted: 02/07/2017

With the accelerating pace of technology adoption and innovation, customers in all industries have global reach to a plethora of goods and services. Digitalization makes it easy to shop, book and use financial, transportation, education, home, health or professional resources anywhere, anytime.

For businesses, digitalization means rapid access to new markets and tools to quickly satisfy customer needs. It also brings low barriers to entry for competitors and increased customer expectations – which cannot be ignored. As shown by Adobe, Hilton, and Apple, successful digital business model transformation, customer loyalty and streamlined operations pays off – with up to 300% increase in market valuation.

From software to travel, consumer services and finance, Next Step’s Digitalization Process has delivered results through:

  • Digitalization Readiness Assessment
  • Customer Journey and Loyalty Design and Implementation
  • Partnership Model and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Go to Market Enablement
  • Organizational Change Management

Learn how you can be relevant: Digitalization – The Next Step to Success or contact us to participate in a Digitalization Best Practices Discussion Forum.

Customers today have choices. So do you. Contact Next Step to learn how to digitalize your business for relevance and success.


Innovate Daily to Remain Relevant by Next Step |   posted: 11/07/2016

Innovation is key to success and adaptability of people, teams and companies. As the pace of change accelerates through greater global access, increasing ubiquity of technology and changing competitive landscapes, we must all innovate daily to stay relevant.

Keys to innovation are:

1. Risk taking –challenge the status quo, Success is not guaranteed, so innovators embrace failure as a step on the path toward success.

2. Adaptive implementation – Try something simple, get feedback from others and then iterate using the input as your guide.

3. Diversity of perspective – See opportunities to work and interact with people from different cultures, backgrounds and generations to think ‘outside the box’.

4. Seek and provide mentorship – leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and desire to “Pay it Forward” (help someone else without expectation of a direct return).

5. Collaborate with others in your network, ‘eco-system partners’ (including those which might be considered ‘competitors’ in ways) which complement and can extend your capabilities.

Real innovation allows one to change, grow and succeed through adaptability and relevance developed and demonstrated daily.


Next Generation of Revenue Growth – Sales 3.0 What the experts are saying by Next Step |   posted: 09/21/2016

With the rapid increase in use of mobile / online resources to inform, smooth and drive the sales process for consumer goods through decision making at the corporate level, the world of ‘selling is changing rapidly. As leaders in ‘digitalization’ and transformaion of company’s business models and commercial approaches to drive sustainable value for our clients, Next Step’s team participates and provides thought leadership in a wide variety of conferences.

The recent Sales 3.0 conference confirmed our experience that sales people today must deliver unique value through anticipating and understanding customer needs then delivering real solutions not product information.

This was based on the various discussions during the conference including:

Gerhard Gschwandtner opened the conference by painting a picture of high-performance organizations enabled by Sales 3.0 thinking and technologies. Gerhard is Founder and CEO of Selling Power, Inc., a multi-channel media company, and also host of the Sales 2.0 Conference series; check out his websites, blogs and conferences.

A central tenet? It’s time to adopt enabling technologies like cognitive computing and AI. The CEOs of Amazon, Oracle, IBM (below), Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP are all focused on the importance of these technologies. They see them as extending beyond just big data, to include behavioral analysis, pattern recognition and predictive capabilities DxContinuum’s Jim Frazee echoed the theme. Jim’s presentation provided a nuts-and- bolts view of using predictive analytics to improve forecasting, optimize marketing spend based on conversions, and increase win rates.

Integrated programs and tools – and an evolution in roles

A future building on cognitive computing is all well and good – but how do we more effectively nurture and close leads?

Conversica offered well-grounded insights into this problem plus some solutions. They shared their Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up (fill out form to download) – a data-rich survey that highlighted how much more work most of us have in front of us so that we’re not squandering our leadgen efforts. Their tools provide a missing link between marketing automation and sales automation, with AI-based personalization of messaging and tuning to stage of sales cycle and demonstrated interest – with genuine and timely follow-up. Worth checking out.

With new technology and tools come new opportunities to evolve how we approach selling. Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco previewed their new book ‘Next Era Selling’. One of their insights summarizes the evolution in how inside sales and outside sales can best work together going forward:

Winning mindset – plus a focus on challenger/provocation-based selling

Sales 3.0 is also about people and enabling high performance – not just new tools. Gerhard spoke to the need to develop peak performers, based in part on no-limit thinking and greater mindfulness, with examples like Branson:

Dan Waldschmidt did an inspiring job reminding us how we can remove impediments to peak performance, with a presentation that included examples from thousands of years of world history.

And Anthony Iannarino brought us back to how we need to identify and create the need – classic Brent Adamson challenger-selling or Geoffrey Moore provocation-based selling. His summary of the new buying cycle:

Doing training right

While not as sexy a topic, we had a lot of insights into training, with three examples we’d highlight:

  • Dennis Michalis, Oracle’s Group VP of Customer Experience, focused on how he was building a high-performance culture, from start to finish. He emphasized the need to rehearse what you learn and showed how he baked this into product rollouts and sales campaigns.
  • Chris Beall, of Connect and Sell, zeroed in on coaching sequence – both what and who.
  • Steve Osborne, of TopGun Sales Performance, reminded us that the key is to certify reps based on real skills absorption.

Plan and act

The biggest takeaway? To get to the top and stay there, you need to stay fresh. Take some time to see how other high-performance people and organizations are doing things, integrate new ideas into your plans, and execute.

Provided by Next Step:

Next Step, a global consulting firm based in Silicon Valley, maximizes revenue results for technology, life science, sustainability, professional service and consumer product companies.

Next Step’s team of 40 seasoned professionals with practical experience in sales, marketing, people and business process enhancemet have facilitated revenue and profitability growth for Adobe, Avinor, Google, Lily, Opera, Palo Alto Networks, Tandberg, Ticketmaster and many other global enterprises since 1997.

For more information, visit us at www.nextstepgrowth.no or call on 1 650 361 1902 or (47) 902 30 982.


Flexible Worker Model by Next Step |   posted: 05/24/2016

“The Age of the New Worker Model: How to Safely Navigate Legal Obstacles and Reach Your Goal of Flexibility and Scalability”

Workers and businesses alike favor flexibility and independence.  Work only when you want and how much you want; work hard and play hard.  Businesses want to hire based on immediate need with coverage around  the clock – scalability is key.  The rise of the new worker model is hampered by dated laws that fail to recognize and adopt to the new model.  Learn from the panelists how to achieve scalability and flexibility in the U.S. and abroad; when to hire independent contractors vs. employees; when, how to safely classify a worker as exempt; discuss recent industry examples and trends.

Challenges of the Independent Contractor Model

A strong message from the panel was that the 1099 vs w2 is a very tricky landscape to navigate. Darren Shafae spoke in detail about the difficult transition from a 1099 shop to a W-2 shop following a painful IRS investigation. His business is now once again doing well but it was not easy. The clear message was “when in doubt consult with an attorney,” as the mistakes can be very costly and detrimental to your business.

The basic issue is whether or not you as a business owner have misclassified your workers as 1099s when they really are being treated as W-2s. According to the IRS, there are several factors that are considered when deciding on whether someone is a W-2 or a 1099, including do you determine when, how and where they do their work? Do they have other clients? Do you provide them with job-related equipment or do they provide their own?

Important to note for the 1099 shops out there is that there are several government entities that can make decisions about your business including the IRS, the EDD, the California Labor Commission and more. Even worse,  the EDD has a pattern of coming back to previous offenders since they already know your biz model, it’s easy pickings.

There have been several significant misclassification cases in US recently:

At risk for government entities is a significant amount of lost tax revenue. In 2009, employee misclassifications cost the federal government $2.7B, Simone noted. Improper misclassification of employees is considered fraud and subject to substantial fines and criminal charges.  For example, California Labor Law states a willful misclassification has a $5-15K penalty per employee. The government also wants to protect employees from wage theft, such as unpaid overtime, sick time, double time, breaks, etc.

Additionally, every 1099 shop is at high risk of painful, expensive and distracting audits for misclassification. Sometimes these audits can cost the business. There are some who perceive that hiring 1099s gives you less liability, but as an employer you are always liable.

In many European countries, such as the Netherlands, independent contractors are growing rapidly and becoming more regulated, making the landscape even trickier in some countries.

Benefits of the Independent Contractor Model

Despite the risks, a recent Forbes article reported that 100% of job growth in the US over the past decade was through contractors and temps.

The panel discussed the benefits of hiring 1099s, including:

  • It can be less costly (25%-30% cheaper than W-2 workers)
  • There is lots more flexibility
  • Scalability is easier (clients don’t want to pay for the time a consultant sits on the bench)
  • It creates the ability to hire a very specific expert skill set
  • Some believe employee engagement is higher with independent contractors (I am one of those, given that employee engagement is reported to be at 31.5% – why pay for 100% of someone you only get 40% out of??)
  • It allows for a leaner organization (clients want their money focused on results, not employee benefits!)
  • It creates tremendous flexibility that is very valuable, especially for millennials, women and working moms, who are trying to balance a lot of responsibilities.

Women, whether moms or not, still do the vast majority of family and home care, with recent studies showing that on an average day, 83% of women do housework vs. 65% of men. Regardless of their paycheck size. And when “43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time,” according to Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, the typical corporate environment does not provide the kinds of flexible arrangements needed for women in their 20s/30s/40s. Beyond that point, she probably ain’t coming back to corporate typically once she leaves!. A 1099 world usually is structured to be more flexible, enabling more women to participate in the workforce and make an impact in the economy of their families and communities.

There is also one very important point about 1099s that must be taken into account. A typical 1099 worker is a totally different mindset from the employee mindset. Many of the folks who are 1099s would never be willing to become W-2s. Millennials and women, especially working moms, in particular enjoy the flexibility and freedom of 1099 work model. They use the flexibility to travel between gigs, take care of children, parents, and sometimes even husbands. There are a world of options available to 1099 workers that are simply not yet possible in our current W-2 work models.

Solutions and Tips for Implementing Either Model

Of course, the 1099 model doesn’t work for everyone, you really have to have the right mindset. Many choose to work the W-2 model, since they need the (perceived) job security and benefits that comes with that such as health insurance benefits and retirement plans.

So what is a business owner to do? How do we navigate this landscape? First of all, if you are using the 1099 model to run your business, understand the boundaries clearly (see the IRS link above). Here are some of the highlights of the key criteria when evaluating misclassification cases:

  • Does the worker have control over work and work environment?
  • Are the results produced on their own or do they need direct supervision?
  • Do they use/own their own equipment?
  • Are they providing a specialized skill?

Very important point raised by the panel was that you are not protected or exempt from misclassification when hiring from agency. Some businesses have tried this and it has not worked out well (eg., the UC Berkeley janitorial services case).

As a final point, and one also echoed in the Forbes article above, one size does not fit all we need both types of workers to keep the economy growing and all types of workers engaged. The challenge for us is how do we create a universal safety net so that medical and other benefits are not tied to only some workers, the W-2s , in our new and evolving gig economy?

Watch the full recording of the event.


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