Monthly Archives: March 2016

Part 4: The Roadmap to Customer Centricity: Technology

Achieving customer centricity calls for an understanding of customer behavior, segmentation, and insights.  It requires an integration of departments, systems, processes, and channels among many other issues.  Consequently, technology becomes a critical component in a company becoming customer centric.  Technology in itself is not customer centricity, but it enables it as well as the effective management of customer experiences.
As indicated above, inherent to customer centricity are diverse components that often require innovative technology.  In this part of the ongoing series, I point out a few of these areas where technology can be used to maximize customer centricity.

  •    Designing and delivering excellent and differentiated customer experience: In this case, technologies like customer journey analytics can be adopted to measure how the organization is doing at delivering the customer experience.  Example of such technologies include 3D Journey Maps, which offer an in-depth understanding of customer journeys and then identify the most critical points and opportunities to the customer experience and bottom line.  Such technologies capture how customers are feeling and experiencing and using that information to design customer experiences. 
  •          Voice of the Customer:  Mobile and social technologies can also be used to find new ways to interact, engage, and support customers. While most companies can capture different aspects of the customer’s voice, from social media, traditional surveys or other platform – the integration of this data remains a challenge.  There isn’t a holistic view of the customer voice, but there is a need for technology that can do that.  If the truth be told, this is very difficult to achieve.  The best way to work around it is to implement technology that at least captures all customer voices leading to technology that can integrate many different platforms. 
  •   Data management:  Under this umbrella, organizations can use Customer Relationship (CRM) to understand customer segmentation and identification (i.e. focal customers and those who are not) and collect and analyze data.  Gaining in-depth customer insights and information will enable organizations to provide relevant customer experience and the right products and services.  Customer data analytics and future customer forecasting are central to customer centricity.  The right customer CRM technology provides more than mass marketing, promotions, and seasonal sales.  It is about strengthening relationships by understanding customer data. 
  •    Integration, Agility and Workflow:  Integration of different departments, channels, systems, and processes is an important part of customer centricity.  For example, collaboration across customer-facing teams, including access to and the sharing of information and resources becomes imperative.  This can only be attained through the implementation of effective technology.
Just as important is the organizations’ agility and workflow.  This speaks to the organization’s ability to deliver a customer centric experience at a speed that enables an organization to organize itself to meet the ever-changing customer needs and act on new opportunities as they arise.   To achieve this, an organization requires an agile decision-making frame supported by technology-enabled processes that integrate teams and deliver on the opportunities for real-time responses.  In addition, customer focused processes should be designed and developed on workflow principles. 
  •         Systems: Technology and systems work hand-in-hand. Systems must support the creation of great customer experiences, develop a single view of the customer, and allow for a deep customer understanding. For example, customer-facing systems should be managed effectively and help the organization deliver on the customer promise.  Customer systems address the level to which a product or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness and efficiency.  In a customer-centric business model this also implies that technology takes into account user experiences such as the users’ emotions, beliefs, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, etc., that occur before, during and after use. 
This is a wide step, and, for the purposes of this article, I will keep it short.  The main takeaway is: Technology is an integral part of furthering customer centricity and building the capabilities and structures for effective management.  The challenge that companies have is to ensure they create effective innovations/technologies that help solve customer management complex issues and create value going forward in an ever changing economy. 
Join me again in Part 5 as we continue on our journey: A Roadmap to Customer Centricity.

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Written by Dr. Mary Ritz:  International Trainer, Speaker, Author and Consultant

Showcasing Da Vinci’s Research

Dr Mary Ritz is the Owner and Founder of Almenta International. She holds a PhD in Business focussing on Customer Centricity, an MBA with a concentration in International Business and an undergraduate degree in Marketing.

RITZ, Mary
Customer Management: Creating a sense making framework for developing economies

The overriding goal of the study was to determine if the customer management phenomenon should be treated and managed differently in different economic environments to improve its probability of success. This was based on the viewpoint that most of the literature on customer centricity seemed to be based on the developed world’s ways of thinking and doing, and the assumptions given were that these (often) western originated frameworks, would work in any socio-economic environment. However, if, as part of the study, the above was proven not to be true, the researcher indicated her need to develop such a framework for developing socio-economic contexts. The proposed framework consists of attributes that were considered best and most relevant for the developing world. Therefore, the main objective of the study was to address the phenomenon from a socio-economic perspective in the hope of offering new knowledge that can possibly assist people in the workplace to solve some of the challenges experienced in the customer management domain. The researcher’s underlying epistemological perspective is influenced by systems thinking. The relationship to the Cynefin Framework (Snowden and Kurtz, 2006), which makes reference to different market domains, was also referenced and adopted for the study. The researcher identified the customer centricity phenomenon as relevant to the Complex and Chaotic domains where context is unordered , which means there is no direct or obvious relationships between cause and effect, and problem-solving in these domains is accomplished by determining emerging patterns. Lastly, because the study was based on a particular socio-economic context, the researcher found it appropriate to base some of the thinking on Lessem’s (2001) principles of the “Four Worlds”. In addition, a literature review was carried out that confirmed the complexity of the matter under review by looking at some constructs of customer management (customer service, customer experience and customer relationship management). It was established how these components were complex in their own right. From the same literature review, certain aspects of the customer management phenomenon were identified, e.g. business performance and culture. A Grounded Theory methodology was followed utilizing a variety of data sources. The proposed customer-centric framework is based on the findings derived from a developing context, which in turn has been compared to a framework that was derived from the 5 customer management frameworks utilized for purposes of this research.

Academic supervisor: Prof B Anderson 


Dr Vulumuzi Bhebhe is the Executive Chairman of UI Group, a consultancy firm specialising in corporate advisory. He holds a PhD in the Management of Technology and Innovation, an MBA with a concentration in Marketing Research as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management.

BHEBHE, Vulumuzi

Total early stage development of small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs): Creating a sustainability framework for emerging economies

The study investigated the total early stage development of SMMEs in emerging markets, and the tributary objective of this thesis is to create a sustainability framework. The study’s pinnacle focus was on five constructs (Internal Market Capacity; Relationship Marketing Capacity; Innovative Capacity; Customer Satisfaction and Business Performance) that affected sustainability and performance of start-ups and SMMEs in emerging markets. These business performance constructs are comprised of one predictor variable (Internal Marketing), three mediator variables (Relationship Marketing, Customer Satisfaction and Innovative Capacity) and one outcome variable (Business Performance). The research results reveal that all the business constructs (Internal Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Innovative Capacity and Customer Satisfaction) are antecedents of business performance. However, it was also observed that paramount and central to these constructs for business performance is Customer Satisfaction. The analysis revealed that Internal Marketing positively influences the mediators and outcome variable in a significant way. Academic discernments drawn and pragmatic implications provided are based on the thesis’ findings.

Academic supervisor: Prof R Chinomona;
Field supervisor: Dr M Ncube 

The process of planning

“If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.” Tariq Siddique
 There is a plethora of literature that highlights the importance of planning, not only in organisations but also in one’s everyday life. The concept of planning is to ensure that a roadmap is set out in order to ensure the achievement of tasks related to an organisations strategy.
 Sharkar (2014) states that the planning function answers two important questions. Firstly, it asks what needs to be accomplished and the second question refers to how it should be accomplished. 
 Sharkar goes on to add that there are four elements evident in planning. These include the clarification of objectives, the articulation of actions, the delegation of resources and the implementation of the project.
 In order to ensure total alignment between each of these elements a process is needed. The process is referred to as the planning process and consists of the following steps.
  •  Clarify goals
  • List of actions
  • Prioritize and order
  • Determine resources (financial and human resources)
  • Determine time frame
  • Evaluation method
 The first step is to clarify the goals required in order to ensure that the required outcome is achieved. Once the goal is clear, then a list of actions can be formulated in order to achieve this goal.  
 It is imperative to ensure what priority each action will take and emphasis on high priority actions need to be taken. The list of actions can be put into order taking note of high priority items and the logical flow in terms of planning.
 These actions can then be delegated to pre-determined resources who will assist in the implementation of tasks. The execution of these actions should be documented alongside a timeline in ensuring that such deliverables are completed within the designated time frame.
 Once these actions are implemented, an appropriate evaluation method is needed to ensure that these actions are completed as agreed. The evaluation method is critical in ensuring overall success of both individual actions and the goal as an overarching achievement.
The important aspect is to continuously monitor and review the planning process to ensure that actions are timeously completed in order to achieve the required goal.
 By Storm Thomas
Communications Manager
The Da Vinci Institute
March 2016
 Sharka, S, R. 2016. Basic elements of planning and decision making. Basic elements of planning and decision making. [ONLINE] Available at: 
[Accessed March 2016].

Integral Advantage: Revisiting Emerging Economies and Societies by Prof Ronnie Lessem

Integral Advantage: Revisiting Emerging Economies and Societies by Prof Ronnie Lessem

Published by Gower (Now Taylor Frances) released in January 2016

The BRICS countries are heralded for their double-digit economic growth rates and while this has indeed been impressive, particularly in India and China, it is clear that significant social and environmental fault-lines have developed in these regions. Building on the integral heritage of Ronnie Lessem’s previous work through Trans4m’s Centre for Integral Development, here he makes the case for ‘integral advantage’, a philosophy inclusive of nature and culture, technology and economy, altogether accommodated by an integral polity. 

Moreover, and as will be illustrated in each of the cases of the five BRICS countries, each one is an integral entity in its own particular right, and needs to be viewed, and duly evolved, as such. In the final analysis, he argues, then, that around the world, the failure of a society to develop is not due to its economic limitations, in isolation, but to the failure of nature and culture, technology and economy, to co-evolve in unison, under the rubric of an integral polity, altogether aligned with that particular society. 

Drawing on the approach he has developed towards the release of a society’s genius, in each case, he demonstrates how the pursuit of integral advantage may actually arise. Most specifically, he indicates how a balance between the spiritual and the material, on the one hand, and the natural and the social, on the other, needs to be achieved.

Prof Ronnie Lessem is a facilitator at The Da Vinci Institute.

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Seven Key Considerations for Effective SME Disaster Recovery by Ross Saunders

By Ross Saunders (MSc student and Facilitator at Da Vinci)

26 February 2015

Introduction to disaster recovery

Within any organisation, business continuity is paramount to the organisation fulfilling its responsibilities to both stakeholders and clients alike. In ordinary day-to-day operations, the continuity of activities is rarely thought of consciously, however it is key that this exercise takes place. In the event, of a disaster, be it a single server going down or a building fire, a rapid response and implementation of a disaster recovery plan can be the deciding factor of continuing or closing your doors. In this article, seven key considerations are discussed in order to help ensure you have covered some often overlooked bases with regards to Disaster Recovery.

Executive Support and Understanding

Part of the reason (at least in my experience) that disaster recovery takes a back-seat, is that the executives of the organisation either do not understand the gravity of needing to have a DR plan or that they assume that the IT department has “taken care of it”. This is often not the case unless the department is specifically mandated to look after this critical function.
Conveying the severity of a disaster is key to educating the executive as to the importance of a plan. No organisation wants to demonstrate the severity of a disaster in practice, however this is often the only time planning (or the lack thereof) reaches executive levels.
With this in mind, it is vital that members of the IT department meet with the business executives to convey a mutual understanding of the severity and necessity of planning for a disaster. This too needs to be managed in a calm and level-headed manner, as often the response from business executives is that the only acceptable situation is that there is never a disaster. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world, and failures will happen, be they physical or otherwise.
The IT department should consider the use of stories as a means to discuss the acceptable turnaround time for various disaster scenarios. Each potential situation should be hashed out in a considered manner that can be understood by all parties; technical jargon is a no-no. For example, a major payment gateway system for the organisation may only be down for minutes before the business starts suffering losses, whereas the internal system containing last year’s employee picnic photos may be down for days before Christine in PR notices. Speaking of multiple systems…

Disasters Don’t Only Happen to IT Systems

Another myth of disaster recovery is that it should be self-contained within the IT department. Yes, the responsibility of DR may well fall on IT, however the problem belongs to every department in the organisation.
Each department in the organisation should at the very least complete a self-assessment of their own requirements for disaster recovery. In this age of Software-as-a-Service, it is a frequent occurrence that departments will subscribe to systems without the knowledge of the IT department, complicating the issue of Disaster Recovery. Similarly, a critical function of a department may not be understood by the IT department, and subsequently ignored as a non-critical function.
In both cases, the situation would be avoided by communications between departments. Both parties should understand the systemic details of the departmental functions of the business, from start to finish, in order to ensure coverage.

Cost vs Downtime

Once departmental functions have been mapped, it’s back to the executive for the golden conversation around costs versus downtime. In many cases, the shorter the downtime, the higher the costs in implementing disaster recovery.
This is where creativity and lateral thinking can greatly assist in keeping costs down while keeping availability up. Gone are the days when the only option for failover was to have an entire carbon copy of your infrastructure. Benefits of the cloud and hybrid models can be easily adopted (albeit at the cost of bandwidth and performance) where certain aspects of infrastructure can be outsourced to scalable functions such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
A novel hybrid model that I was privileged to have assisted on, involved completely rethinking the requirements of some business functions; eventually scrapping many of the internal services entirely in favour of migrating them to a cloud service.
For a small software company hosting its applications offsite and having uncapped, high-speed data, it made little sense to retain backup servers, project management servers, file servers or code repositories on-site, and as such all of these functions were migrated to the Amazon Web Services cloud. All that remained on site was a directory server for password management internally, as well as in the cloud by means of Federation Services.
While novel in footprint and cost, this approach did have its downsides should the internet line fail, however a fail-over internet connection carried a much lower cost than a fail-over environment would have. Sometimes you need to break the existing mould of thinking to find a better, more modern solution!

Backups Are Not Disaster Recovery

Speaking of more modern solutions, having backups within the organisation does not in any way mean that disaster recovery is in place. Yes, backups are vital to have, but not having anywhere to restore them to renders them little more than digital paperweights.
I see it often that organisations accept the fact that they have backups, and they believe that this is sufficient. These are the same organisations that realise the errors of their ways too late. Procurement of hardware is more often than not a drawn out, costly process. Should a server go down in a blaze of glory and silicon, replacement of the hardware may take weeks, particularly if you are in a remote location or if there is an out of date component involved.
Always make sure that your planning takes the wider ecosystem into account. Your backups will amount to naught if you have no-where to restore them to.

On-site versus Off-site

Again a discussion of cost, one needs to decide what will be held offsite and what will be held onsite. I can guarantee that a building burns to the ground faster than you would expect! Consider that significant disasters do happen, and as such, what can you not live without.
Having off-site disaster recovery may be costly for a physical environment, but again, hybrid models may well come to your rescue. The cost of hosting systems in the cloud is often flexible, and depends largely on the amount of resources you wish to allocate to a system. As such, moving critical and non-critical functions to copies in the cloud with reduced system specifications, while not ideal, is cost effective and at the very least may get you up and running in a short period of time while you set up shop in a temporary location.

Process and Plans

All of the above is worth little without a plan to implement it. Similarly, the plan is worth little without responsible people driving it. This aspect of Disaster Recovery is often neglected due to similar reasons above, such as “the IT department will handle it”.
The IT department may also end up wasting a significant amount of time if its constituents do not know ‘who’ is supposed to do ‘what’. Proper planning with responsible parties is a critical part of your Disaster Recovery. The responsible staff members should be versed in the process they are assigned to, and they should have contact details available should a disaster happen.
Lastly, the process should be revisited on at least a quarterly basis, both to ensure that the information contained within the plan is still valid, but also to ensure that the responsible parties are still able to perform their duties. It does not help if a disaster occurs and Jabu – who is responsible for swapping out the hardware in the Johannesburg data centre – was transferred to Cape Town last month.
Of course, the best way to test your plans is to…

Drill Them!

Having buy-in from the executive, it should not be difficult to get time allocated to perform a dry-run of your disaster recovery plans. This practice will allow you to see the loopholes and faults in your planning, and allow for a correction of the plan before a real disaster occurs.
Situational dry runs are also great to determine whether your failover systems are adequate. Run your business on them, see how they perform, you will rapidly gain results as to whether you should be concerned or comforted.
In the end, disaster recovery is up to everyone in the organisation. It is beneficial to discuss it at all levels, and that others in the organisation have an input. You’ll be amazed at what departments outside of IT have to offer in an advisory capacity when they are actively engaged.
Without fail, an isolated disaster recovery plan, will result in an isolated and slow disaster recovery.
Contact Ross Saunders for more information:

SAB Risk Certificate students present their work based challenge

Students in the Risk Management divisions of SAB reached the pinnacle of their learning journey on 3 February 2016. This pinnacle took the form of a final presentation to be presented to members of the SAB Risk Management team. 

Students were put into groups of four per team and each team was responsible to note a challenge within their division which is also referred to as their work based challenge.

Each team worked together on this research project in identifying their challenge and conducting research around this challenge. The work based challenge module was set over the year and promoted the inclusion of the groups ontology, epistemology, research design, research methodology and research findings.

The following research titles were given to each work based challenge.

“Contractor Safety Management: A boarding pass to Safety!” by Team Jollie Rogers

“Maturing SAB’s Safety Culture – Are we harnessing the full potential of our SHE Representatives?” by Team Diversity

“Do we have enough lifeboats?

An SAB Brewery Manufacturing Case Study.”

by Team 911 

“Effective closing of Incidents: A Manufacturing Example” by Team Four

After all four presentations took place, comment was given to the students by the panel of SAB Managers which prompted each team to logically defend their research and to incorporate suggested changes.