TORONTO, Sept. 09, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Burnie Group, a leading Toronto-based management consulting firm, today announced the appointment of Graeme Hartlen, who will lead the firm’s Strategy and Operations Practice.
Graeme is a results-driven, highly adaptable and strategic senior executive with a strong track record of delivering growth, solving complex challenges, and driving customer satisfaction. A collaborative leader who has managed teams as large as 150 in a diverse 20-year career spanning multiple industries, roles, and companies, ranging from high-growth startups to well-established industry leaders including DoorDash Technologies, Rogers Media, Sears Canada and Hudson’s Bay Company. Prior to this, Graeme spent several years leading consulting engagements for corporate and private equity clients as a Management Consultant with Bain & Company.
Graeme has defined his career as a leader, mentor, and advisor who excels in fostering E and C suite relationships and helping organizations drive growth, increase customer satisfaction and operational excellence.
“We are honoured and excited to have Graeme join the Strategy and Operations team at The Burnie Group. His accomplishments and business savvy will complement and enhance our offerings to clients,” said David Burnie, Founder and Principal of The Burnie Group, adding, “Graeme joins our team with hands-on experience working for some of Canada’s largest retailers, handling complex assignments, and bringing with him a specialized industry knowledge that will enable our team to provide practical solutions to our clients’ issues and adding immense value in the process.”
Graeme will assume the position of Practice lead, Strategy and Operations, effective September 9th, 2019.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a disruptive technology that can improve workforce productivity, accelerate process execution, reduce process error rates, and improve customer satisfaction. Companies that are quick to recognize the potential of automation stand to have considerable cost advantages and organizational agility. However, it can be difficult to know which provider has the automation solution specific to your company’s needs.
In this infographic, we compare the features and strengths of 5 leading RPA providers.
Disruption is an age-old force of change that both drives and destroys. Forces such as globalization and the increasing pace of innovation diffusion are accelerating the frequency of disruption and the impact it can have on industry. As a result, value can be both created and destroyed seemingly overnight. By their nature, private equity (PE) firms have always had to be quick to respond to disruptive trends.
With the rise of digital technologies, the pace of disruption and the speed of its diffusion has increased dramatically. If PE firms are to survive and thrive in this new era, they must consider the effect of digital disruption on their portfolios as well as their internal operations. They must also continuously adjust their strategy and decision-making framework, with consideration to how disruption affects industries, portfolios, and internal firm operations.
How does disruption alter industries?
With new disruptive innovations come new markets and value networks. These innovations can fuel new business models (e.g. ride-sharing applications helping to launch the sharing economy) and can disrupt existing markets and networks (e.g. how ride-sharing changed the taxi industry).
Furthermore, the very nature of what a business is changing. The power of “open innovation” means that the advantages of the classical firm as the most efficient means of creating value are giving way to ecosystems that have a much larger and more efficient means of assembling and reconfiguring resources in the pursuit of value creation.
Digital disruption has irrevocably changed the customer journey. Customers of the “digital native” generation now expect information about a product to be accessible from the palms of their hands. They expect to be able to compare prices, see demonstrations, and receive feedback and recommendations from their social networks about products. Companies that can meet these new digital expectations can reap the value, while those that do not will rapidly succumb to irrelevance and insolvency.
As pressure mounts to meet increasingly demanding customer expectations of “the newest thing,” product lifespans get shorter. Long established products can quickly become obsolete. The advent of the smartphone leading to the decrease in relevance of Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola is a clear example. The fate of Kodak, once one of the most powerful brands in the world, serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when digital disruption is ignored. This example is especially poignant as it was Kodak itself that invented the digital camera and the digital SLR camera. In Kodak’s case, the curse of a powerful product-linked brand, an aversion to self-disruption, and the inability to recognize customers’ latent desire to share photos with friends and family in real time, led Kodak to fall from the Fortune 500 to bankruptcy in less than 15 years.
How does disruption create new value opportunities for PE?
As industries are disrupted, PE firms must themselves ask the following:
Is a portfolio or target company at risk for becoming devalued by new technology?
Is a target company appropriately prepared to embrace new technology?
Is there an opportunity to capitalize on value emerging elsewhere as a result of disruption?
The ability to recognize the potential value of digital technologies in yet-unconsidered applications can add limitless value to a PE portfolio. Consider, for example, the emergence of bitcoin as a disruptive new asset class in the financial industry. It turns out that bitcoin’s underlying technology, blockchain, will be far more disruptive than bitcoin and will fundamentally impact countless industries. The ability to recognize the potential value of digital technologies in yet-unconsidered applications can add significant value to a PE portfolio.
Another source of value generated by digital disruption and efficient diffusion is accelerated innovation. Rather than focusing on developing a new product that may soon be outdated, accelerated innovation focuses on using new technologies to re-engineer research and development processes. Approaches include reducing lead times by engineering product elements simultaneously, reducing the learning curve by quickly incorporating user feedback, and increasing problem-solving efficiency by restructuring the organization. Despite the associated risk of failure, the ability of accelerated innovation to cut costs and reduce production times has proved highly valuable to customers, and worth considering not only as a framework to evaluate assets in a PE portfolio but as a means of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the PE firm itself.
How can PE firms realize new value opportunities?
In the age of digital disruption, it is no longer sufficient for PE firms to evaluate a target company using traditional value indicators (e.g. cash flow, capital expenditures, and historical performance). Historically valued companies may still be vulnerable to the newest wave of digital disruption. Others that appear to be digital laggards may actually have the potential for huge value generation given the right injection of capital, technology, and coaching.
To realize a valuable investment, PE firms must conduct due digital diligence on potential investments, asking the following:
What is the target company’s level of digital maturity? I.e. have multiple aspects of the company–talent acquisition, marketing, sales, and customer relations, etc.—been digitized?
What is the target company’s strategy for managing digital disruption?
Does the target company have a method for measuring the financial impact of digital disruption and a formal discipline of data-driven decision making?
Are the target company’s operations being reshaped by any industry trends?
What technology has the potential to destroy profit across the current value chain?
Which companies might emerge as unexpected competitors?
Does the company’s senior leadership team support a culture of innovation and risk-taking?
Digital disruption can increase the potential revenue of a business that is culturally prepared embrace disruption. As a result, it can generate new business growth in new and adjacent markets. To capitalize on this potential value, PE firms must calculate risks and opportunities by conducting conduct rigorous digital due diligence on potential investments. They should also consider what value they can contribute to prospective and existing investments to help those companies survive and prosper in an age of accelerating innovation.
How can disruption impact PE firms internally?
The primary focus of most PE firms is on the operations and business prospects of their portfolio companies. The internal operations of the firm itself are often of secondary importance. But digital disruption is as much of a risk, and a potential opportunity, for firms. Disruption can impact investors and partners alike, altering expectations of business conduct and introducing new security threats.
PE firms should address their own place in their digital ecosystems by asking:
How will new and growing threats to privacy and cybersecurity be addressed?
Should the firm buy an existing system to enhance its digital capabilities, or build its own?
Which disruptive technologies can be utilized to improve and enhance firm operations?
How can PE firms use disruptive technology to optimize internal operations?
Despite sophisticated financial tools, transactions currently rely on manual processes that are legally and paperwork-intensive. As a result, PE firms are an ideal environment for leveraging many disruptive technologies. The following technologies can all be implemented to optimize PE internal operations:
Robotic process automation (RPA): Improves productivity through automation. Processes that can be improved using RPA include investor reporting, waterfall calculations, capital call and distribution notices, performance calculations, tax compliance, management reporting, and regulatory reporting.
Advanced cybersecurity: Enables proactive protection and improves risk mitigation. Can be used to secure internal PE firm operations, including the exchange of money and sensitive information during deals and the management of the portfolio company post-deal. Cybersecurity ensures the safety of finances, intellectual property, and customer data.
Cloud: Improves the operational speed and ease of deployment, resource utilization, the agility of adjustments, security of materials, and containment of costs.
Advanced analytics: Drives decision making and insight with deep pattern recognition and outcome prediction. Use of analytics can also improve and accelerate the due diligence process. Advanced analytics also can rationalize unstructured and complex data sets already available.
Blockchain: Improves workflow efficiency, fraud reduction, and onboarding and identity management. Blockchain can also be used to secure deal execution.
Artificial Intelligence: Improves insight and exception handling. AI can be applied to valuations, using qualitative and quantitative variables to estimate the odds of achieving higher risk-adjusted returns. Natural language processing can improve sentiment analyses, identify trends, and automate call centres. A noteworthy example, Deep Knowledge Ventures uses an AI system, called VITAL, with its investment committees. This system makes decisions by scanning prospective companies’ intellectual property, clinical trials, financing, and previous funding rounds to determine the attractiveness of an investment and assess related risk.
The final word.
To develop the operational framework necessary to manage internal and external disruption, organizations require a well-designed strategy led by an aligned and engaged management team. By combining a robust operating framework with a formalized approach to strategic innovation, organizations can foster a culture of continuous improvement and adjustment. This includes looking outside of the organization to forecast possible scenarios, new domains, and potential offerings. Internally, this includes the reallocation and definition of roles and responsibilities with leadership capabilities. With these strategies in place, the focus can shift to the creation of an innovative culture that seeks new value in both internal operations and external performance.
There is a well-supported link between employee engagement and business performance. The logic is simple: a more engaged workforce leads to increased operational efficiency, happier customers, and higher profits. But how does a more engaged workforce produce these desirable outcomes, and how can a business improve engagement?
One of the key differences between the performance of an engaged and a disengaged employee is “discretionary effort,” or “the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, but above and beyond the minimum required.”[i] Simply put, if employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace they are likely to exceed the expectations and requirements of their position. But how can businesses encourage higher levels of engagement in their staff? Moreover, how can they prevent disengagement from occurring in the first place?
Engaged employees are passionate about their work. They feel motivated by their leaders and are confident they can achieve success in their roles. Engaged employees see the purpose in what they do every day and play a significant role in business successes.
However, many workers do not experience this level of engagement. According to research conducted by Gallup, around 50% of the US workforce is disengaged, and 15% to 20% is actively disengaged.[ii] Disengagement may be caused by a poor relationship with a direct manager or by a lack of meaningful feedback or recognition. It may even be a basic misalignment between the company and employees’ values. Without a way to measure employee engagement, business leaders are left to guess at what actions will improve the employee experience.
Collecting and monitoring employee engagement metrics enhances business leaders’ ability to detect problems in their organization, take specific action to address issues and opportunities, and evaluate subsequent progress.
Using this information, we work with leaders to develop action plans to improve employee engagement. Through a repeatable improvement cycle, we help businesses take control of employee engagement and achieve the desired results: increased operational efficiency, happier customers, and higher profits.
Looking at the list of metrics above, how do you think your business compares? If you see room for improvement, give us a call and realize the potential of an engaged workforce.
By: Bret McCaffrey, Senior Associate
[i]Earning Above and Beyond Performance: Understanding the effective use of positive reinforcement (ADI Aubrey Daniels International)
[ii]State of the American Workplace (Gallup News), 2017
With blockchain grabbing headlines, people want to learn about this transformative technology. While a good first step is reading our primer, The Blockchain Disruption: Insight report on Blockchain, the following titles are a great place to start or deepen your understanding of this disruptive technology. Read on …
1. Blockchain Revolution – Don Tapscott & Alex Tapscott
Wikinomics author Don Tapscott and his son, Alex, explain blockchain, its applications, and provide a broad overview of changes that could be brought about. For those getting started in the space, Blockchain Revolution describes the technology as a simple but transformative protocol that enables financial transactions to be anonymous and secure through the decentralized ledger—a public, tamper-proof virtual ledger of value.
2. Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy – Melanie Swan
Melanie Swan is a technology theorist at Purdue University’s Philosophy Department and founder of The Institute for Blockchain Studies. She focuses on detailing the implications of decentralized ledger technology in an academic style. This book is a good next read after Tapscott and Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution (above) and takes you beyond currency and smart contracts to explore blockchain as a new form of information technology and the possibility of how it can expand how we think in financial markets.
3. Mastering Bitcoin Programming the Open Blockchain – Andreas M. Antonopoulos
This guide is recommended for those looking for a deeper understanding of Bitcoin’s technical operation. Mastering Bitcoin describes its and other cryptocurrencies’ technical foundations, from cryptography basics (such as keys and addresses) to data structures, network protocols and the consensus mechanism mining that underpin Bitcoin. Each technical topic is explained with user stories, analogies and examples, and code snippets illustrating the key concepts.
4. The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology – William Mougayar
William Mougayar is an angel investor who has been investigating cryptocurrency and broader distributed ledger ecosystem. His book explores how enterprises and organizations should look at distributed ledgers and specifically, blockchain.
5. Business Innovation Through Blockchain – Vincenzo Morabito
This book explores the main challenges and trends related to the use of blockchain technology for digital business innovation and provides stimulating insights and ideas. It explores topics in three broad sections: 1) Blockchain technology and management (including impacts on value chains and systems, governance, and security issues) 2) The Bitcoin phenomenon and main technological trends in the use of blockchain, and 3) Examples of business innovation using blockchain that is drawn from across the globe.
Workforce Management (WFM) is a fairly common word in the world of consulting and business. Encompassing a variety of topics and features, WFM is generally associated with the process and organizational behaviour change around maximizing the performance level of staff.
Top organizations take Workforce Management to the next level by encompassing a full circle approach. Listed below are the main components of an efficient and fully structured Workforce Management program for any company of any size.
Data Collection & Process Definition Organizational data is found everywhere, however, finding the right data is often hidden. Implementing a successful workforce management program begins by finding the right data within an organization. Through detailed cataloging, defining business processes, and collecting data on an ongoing basis, workforce management provides organizations with up to date findings.
Coaching & Staff Development In today’s workforce, it is essential for management to identify and develop employee’s skillset to meet the needs of a growing business. By understanding an organization’s current and future staffing needs, Workforce Management aims to create a dynamic workforce that produces high performing staff armed with cross-functional skills. This proven approach helps management harvest the true potential of their employees in a sustainable manner, producing long-term results.
Forecasting & Planning Experience has proven that management often struggle to identify expected work or capacity beyond a one month time frame. Without adequate forecasting and planning abilities, organizations often either waste valuable resources or fail to meet SLA’s. By leveraging industry best practices and equipped with reliable algorithms, Workforce Management helps senior leaders predict and anticipate change in demand and provide tools for resource management. Whether it’s busy season, or slow season, having a strong grasp on future needs and the resources available is essential to remain competitive in today’s demanding business landscape. Through successful forecasting and planning abilities, businesses can realize tremendous cost savings that extend to the bottom line.
Analytics & Insights Workforce Management provides leaders with data-driven insights to promote informed decision-making. By collecting and synthesizing large data sets, sophisticated analytical tools provide user-friendly dashboards and insight-driven action plans. Within minutes of viewing these reports, filled from key collected data, management will be well-equipped with the information needed to make the right decisions and management choices.
To learn more about top-tier Workforce Management, please reach out to The Burnie Group to discuss how WFM can help take your company to the next level.
by: Andrew Martel, Senior Business Analyst & Darren Olevson, Business Analyst
Stress, the root cause of burnout, causes Canadian economy an estimated $33 billion a year in lost productivity each year. Over 6 in 10 highly stressed workers identified work as the main source of their stress.
Taking some simple measures to prevent burnout and reduce stress can go a long way towards keeping workers fitter, happier, more productive, and stress-free.
It is a proven fact that reading can help reduce stress. However, many of us don’t find this to be true because we have so much “required” reading in our daily lives. But when we read for pleasure we know it’s an enjoyable and stress-relieving activity.
The simple act of reading can have considerable benefits, from improving our health and well-being—even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds—to enlarging our capacity for empathy and strategic decision making.
Naturally, we thought we’d ask our practice leaders about some of their favourite reads. And, well, they geeked out, offering us this list of 10 recommended books. Read on …
1. The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
Set in a world torn apart, where man enslaves his fellow man and freedom remains elusive, THE POWER OF ONE is the moving story of one young man’s search for the love that binds friends, the passion that binds lovers, and the realization that it takes only one to change the world. A weak and friendless boy growing up in South Africa during World War II, Peekay turns to two older men, one black and one white, to show him how to find the courage to dream, to succeed, to triumph over a world when all seems lost, and to inspire him to summon up the most irresistible force of all: the Power of One.
2. The Innovators Dilemma – Clayton M. Christensen
Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen says outstanding companies can do everything right and still lose their market leadership — or worse, disappear completely. And he not only proves what he says, he tells others how to avoid a similar fate. Focusing on “disruptive technology” — the Honda Super Cub, Intel’s 8088 processor, or the hydraulic excavator, for example — Christensen shows why most companies miss “the next great wave.” Whether in electronics or retailing, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know when to abandon traditional business practices. Using the lessons of successes and failures from leading companies, The Innovator’s Dilemma presents a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.
3. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
4. This is Water – David Foster Wallace
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
A commencement speech turned book, David Foster Wallace’s This is Water explores how one keeps from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace’s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others.
5. Outsmarting Google – Evan Bailyn
If you aren’t at or near the top of Google searches, you won’t be found. Your company might as well not exist. But many common Google “search optimization” techniques don’t work–or even make things worse. In Outsmarting Google, world-renowned search expert Evan Bailyn reveals real, gritty, up-to-the-minute tactics that helped him attract more than 50,000,000 visitors last year without spending a dime on advertising! You won’t find any unethical “black hat” tricks here: only proven techniques that reflect comprehensive testing and extraordinary insight into Google’s secret rules.
6. Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea – Jang Jin-sung
In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counter-intelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom.
With in-depth insight into the workings of everyday life in North Korea, a society that is very closed-off from the rest of the world, this book can be difficult to read but will leave you with great appreciation for life in Canada.
7. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t – Nate Silver
Nate Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.
Nate Silver’s book provides a foundation for analyzing and asking questions about the statistical models and predictions that surround us.
8. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done – Peter F. Drucker
What makes an effective executive? The measure of the executive, Peter F. Drucker reminds us, is the ability to “get the right things done.” This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mould them into results.
Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned: Managing time Choosing what to contribute to the organization Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect Setting the right priorities Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making.
9. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?
Simon Sinek’s book is a well-argued narrative that both people and companies should rethink their approach to work or to the marketplace. Most of us start with ‘What do I want?’ and end with ‘How will I get there?”. Rarely do we ask ‘Why?’. Sinek challenges us to turn this around and begin with ‘Why do I work?’ or if a company, ‘Why do we exist?’. Only once this has been answered, should we move on to ‘how’ and ‘what’. Although more difficult than may first appear, understanding one’s “Why” can be a powerful lever in both personal career success as well as overall business success.
10. Bossypants – Tina Fey
Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.
Burnout—exhaustion, lack of motivation, and feelings of ineffectiveness and frustration—is a growing concern for many Canadian companies. As workplace stress rises, the implications of disengaged, overworked, highly-stressed employees present some very real challenges for businesses.
Stats Canada recently reported that the majority of highly stressed workers (62%) identified work as the main source of their stress. A separate 2013 survey by Kronos, found that 54 percent of employed Canadians admitted that they have called in sick to avoid going to work. And the majority of those (65%) said it was because they felt stressed or burned out.
It can be tough enough to manage your own stress. But how can you, as a manager, help the members of your team handle their feelings of stress, burnout, or disengagement? As a leader, you play a huge role in creating a work environment in which staff have the resources and support they need to be productive and effective and where they feel valued.
Although it’s unlikely that the pace or intensity of work will change anytime soon, there’s a growing body of research that suggests certain types of activities can effectively build personal capacity for resilience. Below we delve further into two tactics that we at The Burnie Group believe are effective in managing workplace stress before it becomes burnout.
A key challenge that many of The Burnie Group’s clients face is having access to in-depth daily data from which to make operating decisions. They often do not know what was accomplished, what was left behind, and how to meet SLAs on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Without this data, managers and staff are often overwhelmed by workloads that appear to be beyond their daily capacity, which is one of the main culprits of burnout.
Workforce management allows an organization to optimize the productivity of its employees at the individual, team, and entity-wide levels. Managers are empowered with tools that help them develop an agile workforce and meet targets in a steady and stress-free manner. From matching employee skills to specific tasks over time, to quantifying the amount and types of labour needed to accomplish particular jobs on a day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour basis, effective workforce management has been proven to dramatically reduce workplace stress while enhancing staff engagement.
Investing in Wellness
Understanding and prioritizing activities that promote well-being for yourself and your team will not only contribute towards the prevention of burnout, it will also increase productivity and team engagement. Simple activities or tools that we have found to be effective include: mindfulness and resilience training; encouraging people to take time for exercise or other renewal activities, such as walking meetings; and building buffer time between key deliverables to help work at a manageable pace. These 5 Productivity Hacks are also great ways to help keep staff motivated and engaged.
The bottom line is that both personal development and effective team management can truly help reduce burnout, all the while enabling higher productivity and greater staff engagement. Doing well at work and encouraging people to feel well isn’t just possible — it’s the foundation of a high-performing team.