Integrating a sustainable strategy

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Most of the people still believe that making a profit while being sustainable is complicated and time consuming. However, being sustainable has become a necessity and cannot be ignored anymore. Making profit while being sustainable is becoming easier and more accessible for any kind for companies in almost all industries. In fact, the hardest part is to properly integrate sustainability in the strategy. As for integrating technology in a strategy, one can also find the best methods to integrate sustainability. As one should not think about technology as an end in itself, but as a mean, the same applies to sustainability. The main idea is to know how one can use sustainability to achieve the organization’s strategic objectives. Sustainability should be a part of the strategy and not just considered nice supplement.

First, sustainability is mostly achieved when the company allow transparency within its functions and each function is responsible for being sustainable. Transparency will enable employees to always know how other employees are doing; they will understand the benefits of being sustainable and will try to apply the same concepts. This will give confidence that sustainability can be implemented by other departments so it could for all departments. It should be part of the integrated thinking of a company.

But sustainability also concerns the financial and accounting department. CFOs should not only focus on profits. They should understand that sustainability might be associated with some material risks, but the final value could be more interesting than if it not taken into consideration. The creation of a network of CFOs from multiple companies such as Unilever, Marks&Spencer is one the biggest initiative to help CFOs to understand how to integrate sustainability in their business processes. They have developed four guides to help accountants and CFOs doing so, covering topic such as natural and social capital accounting. This initiative is a major help to understand that being sustainable does not necessarily mean not being profitable and that even the financial and accounting community can integrate it.

Another initiative is to integrate sustainability in the core business model. Most of the companies are obliged to maximize shareholders benefits. On the contrary, Benefit Corporation (a movement of organizations) is more flexible about that, and allow serving a more holistic purpose. This is very important as it can show other companies that maximizing the shareholders benefits is not the only obligation, being as sustainable as possible could also be one. As long as the only objective of a company is to maximize shareholders benefits, it will be harder for senior managers to integrate sustainability in the strategy.

We can then summarize the best practices to integrate sustainability in the following points:

  • Transparency and cross-functional communication
  • Senior level governance and guidance for CFOs, using tools such as the CFO Leadership network… to ensure that sustainability is also integrated the financial decisions and reports
  • Publish data and results in internal reports to show how much sustainability has helped or how much more work should be done
  • Interconnection between the different aspect of your company such as finance, social, environmental…



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The biggest e-commerce event

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Before entering hibernation, animals need to store enough energy to last through the entire winter. As a member of mammals, human beings do not hibernate, but the nature of storing might coincidently reflected in the shopping days (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 11.Nov Single’s day in china) that happens at the beginning of winter.

When Western merchants think of online mega-sales, they might think of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. According to Adobe Digital Insights, online sales on black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2016 together reached a new record with $6.79 billion in the US. However, on the Single’s day (November 11) in china, Alibaba, the founder of this informal shopping festival, has smashed its online sale record to $17.8 billion in 24 hours, which is 3 times more than the achievement of Cyber Monday and Black Friday together.

Alibaba launched this annual November 11 online sale in 2009 with only 27 participating merchants. Since then, they’ve turned it into a series of activities that attracts online retailors and offline interactive activities, dominates the entire logistics chain, and turns China’s retail ecosystem upside down. Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces boast some 440 million active users shopping the virtual stores of millions of businesses. Apart from local brands and local shoppers, Alibaba said that over 14,000 international brands are taking part in its platform, and with consumers in some 207 countries buying items in the Single’s Day sale. Alibaba has invited Kobe Bryant, David Beckham and Victoria Beckham who are well-known in china nationally to produce a four-hour nationally televised gala for the evening of November 10 leading to a midnight kick-off. The gala encourage consumers to involve shopping with entertainment. A Forbes article states that 11.11 is the best tool for accessing the China market. The fast growing shopping festival with mature promotion strategies and large scale of purchase power is an ideal chance to introducing a new product or refreshing brand to Chinese consumers.

“The demand for international products continues to be very strong, the value proposition for Chinese consumers for international products continues to be enormous,” Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said.

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How the internet is helping us to trust strangers

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After the global bank crisis in 2008, we stopped trusting banks and our mortgage brokers. Trust levels were on an all-time low. The choice for Trump over Hillary was not as much about the best leader, but about the most trustworthy one. Britain choosing to exit the European Union just to get back to their own safe and trusted rules on their island is just another example of how trust in governments and governmental bodies like the EU has shrunk.

As people are less related to a single group and more independent individuals the trust issue with corporate bank ans governments seems a bigger problem then ever. A problem because trust is a fundamental attribute of a functioning society. Paradoxically we are getting some of the trust back through the same way we learned not to trust everybody: The internet.

The internet is connecting people with information that only a decade ago was pretty much unavailable. Looking at platforms like Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and Blablacar it becomes apparent that trust is maybe even more present today then it was some 20 years ago. The internet has given everybody the option to be a critique. Being anonymous stands at the core of this growing population of criticizers. What the before mentioned platforms are doing however is the opposite. Everything is rated by your peers. Where you a nice host? Was the apartment as expected? Did you leave the a very messy apartment? All these possible questions are going to make a difference in the reviews. Offering some sort of social control that was typically reserved for small villages. This social control enables us to trust people we did not know before and make the era of global citizens an era of renewed trust. Imagine the affect it would have if we could make this type of trust available on the biggest scale and get everybody to join. What a world it would be.

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The virtual future

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The idea of virtual and augmented reality is been around for some time now, but has only since recent years taken off. Thanks to Samsung and its cheap virtual reality glasses, it has become accessible for almost anyone in the western world. It has yet to become a worldwide success, but the possibilities are still limited, with techniques advancing more and more everyday. Some examples below show how the future could look like in 5-10 years.

Virtual dressing room
With online clothing purchases becoming the norm all around the western world, an augmented reality app that shows you how these clothes fit will definately come in handy. It will not only give the customer a more realistic shopping experience, it will also lower the amount of articles that are send back and the costs that go with it.

Real live meetings
Bringing things to live is one of the perks virtual reality has to offer. What better way to use it than to reduce traveling times. I know skype offers this to some extend already, but this is simply not the same as seeing someone and being able to read the non-verbal signs they are transmitting. Enabling your employees to work from a distance is already happening in some companies. Think about Boeing and Schindler using the Microsoft HoloLens to help technisians  solve difficult problems.

The possiblities seem endless, but are just too far away for most people at the time. Virtual and augmented reality is coming however, and it is closer than we think. Seeing the rise of PokemonGO showed us how fast people adopt it and how big the market for virtual and augmented reality actually is. Benefitting from this up and coming technology will be a case on its own. Being at the right place and with perfect timing is crucial for the existing software companies in becoming the leader in a virtually unstoppable market.



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Can Google AMP optimize mobile web?

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Technology has made things faster and easier, smartphones put internet in everyone’s pocket. Mobile has officially eclipsed desktop in terms of usage numbers, and is cementing itself as the go-to platform for connecting, engaging, shopping and general consumption. According to comScore Media’s research, the number of mobile-only internet users has excess desktop-only users in the US since last year.  Mobile users tend to be less patient on browsing and surfing, 47% of mobile users expect a web page to load within 2 seconds (Soasta). Advertising and server latency limitation could be burdens for web loading speed. If the user experience isn’t spectacular on these platforms, however, consumers are likely to drop off.


Google together with dozens of other publishers and technology companies launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project in February 24, 2016. AMP is an open-source framework that enables publisher to easily improve speed for their mobile readership without sacrificing any as revenue that they may rely upon. When AMP downloads resources, it optimizes downloads so that the currently most important resources are downloaded first. Moreover, AMP store static content like text and images by caching, so Google can serve them almost instantaneously since the pages are sitting on their servers — servers that are closer and much faster to users. Any changes in content updated within publishers’ CMS will be recognized by Google’s cache in few seconds. Apart from that, AMP compliant content always gets displayed in high priority among the Google search results. Google claims that the loading speed of AMP based web can be 4 to 10 times faster than conventional JavaScript based web.

Google is still optimizing the web-advertising frame in AMP. Majority web ads contains complex author-written JavaScript package, which are excludes from AMP standard web. At this moment, AMP only allow asynchronous scripts to keep JavaScript from delaying page rendering. Therefore, it still leaves publishers in a dilemma of sacrificing part of the advertising revenue or improving customer experience. In other words, if Google AMP is not able to create possibility for more type of ads, the level of acceptance of AMP among small scale publishers, who are mainly supported by advertisement revenue, would be very low.
















At StarEAST, desktop takes a back seat to mobile

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How John Deere Turned Technology into Business Transformation

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting more and more prevalent in our daily lives. Smart thermostats allow us to remotely control the temperature in our homes, Philips Hue bulbs light up automatically when we come home and change their colors dependent on the environment. But the Internet of Things is not only limited to consumer products, as research shows that businesses will become the top adopter of IoT solutions. Companies can use these solutions to improve their bottom line in three ways: they can lower operating costs; increase productivity; and expand to new markets or develop new product offerings.

John Deere did the latter, by using the IoT to completely transform their business model. Traditionally John Deere is a manufacturer of farming equipment, producing products like tractors and plows for farmers. In this business model, the revenue is generated at a single point in time, at the moment of the sale. John Deere was looking for ways to change their business model and extend their products and service offering, allowing for a more constant flow of revenue from a single customer. The IoT allows them to do just that.

The ability to connect their products and exchange data between them allows John Deere to create an entire ecosystem of smart products. Farm equipment, irrigation systems, speed optimization systems and weather data systems will be connected to the farm management system through IoT technology. This ecosystem helps farmers to gain insight into their current operations and manage their farms more proactively. Not only do farmers reap benefits from this approach, John Deere does so too. By creating an entire ecosystem, John Deere extends their offering beyond products into delivering services. Moreover, only allowing John Deere products access to the ecosystem creates a buyer lock-in for the farmers. Once they own John Deere equipment and make use of their services, it will be very expensive to switch to another supplier, thus strengthening John Deere’s strategic position.


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Without Big Data No Trump?

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The use of big data to influence election outcomes been highly controversial.

It is no coincidence that the same company, Cambrige Analytica, stands behind the success of Trump’s online election campaign as well as behind the Brexit campaign. Trump paid $5 million in September alone to Cambridge Analytica to help him influence voters and target non-voters in his Presidential campaign.

The company uses psychometrics, a scientific attempt to measure a person’s personality, to create psychological profiles. In order to create these profiles, the company gathers personal data on potential voters on Facebook and other platforms, such as “likes” in order to predict their attitudes and beliefs. The company claims to have data on 230 million Americans and around 4 000 “data points” on each of them.

x_lon_analytica_161104-nbcnews-ux-1080-600Based on the profiles created they personalize campaign ads for each individual. The data-driven psychometric micro-targeting model allowed Trump’s campaign to reach voters in the key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that delivered his majority over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A report by Bloomberg/BusinessWeek also said that the Trump campaign used micro-targeting to deliver negative messages on Facebook, reminding them of Clinton’s comments and “super predators” seen as insulting to the African-Americans with the aim to depress turnout.

Cambridge Analytica has also played a role in the strategic momentum of the pro-Brexit “” campaign by targeting Brits who usually don’t vote. Although this kind of big data usage can help to deliver more focused marketing and campaign efforts; Cambridge Analytical has been criticised for its borderline ethical use of personal data.


Will a British big data company win Trump the U.S. election?

A Lot of People Are Saying Trump’s New Data Team Is Shady

A British firm which helped deliver Brexit is working for Donald Trump’s campaign

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The Artificial Intelligence Race: Apple must open up

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It is a known fact that all the big names in the digital industry are doing research in Artificial Intelligence. To clearify: Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence that is exhibited by machines. What is sought are computers that acts like a flexible rational agent that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success.
While the first applications of AI are already showing up (e.g. deep machine learning, the independent robots of google), behind the scenes Facebook, Google, Elon Musk and other big companies are trying to keep up with each other and become the leader in AI.

During this race it is very important to be an open company and to share (at least a substantial part) of your research/knowledge with other companies, according to the AI head of Facebook, Yann LeCun. ‘When you do research in secret, you fall behind’ is what LeCun said to earlier this year. To give strength to this idea Facebook joined the Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI, an open source platform on which researchers within and outside companies are enabled to freely share all their (or at least the most as possible) research on AI. Facebook finds themselves joined by Google, Microsoft and as mentioned above, Elon Musk. Which lets the platform add great value for the AI departments of each of these mentioned companies.

You might ask yourself now where the name of Apple remains in this blogpost. Of course, Apple is also doing research into on AI, since it will probably play a big role within their future business models. However, Apple has some difficulties by keeping up because of their Steve-Jobsian secrecy policy. Which is the principle of Apple that the researchers that work for them are not allowed to publish or share their research with the outside world. Although this policy might helped or still helps Apple to remain ahead of their competitors, it clearly drops them behind in the case of AI.
It looks like Apple recognized this weakness too and took action earlier this year by hiring Russ Salakhutdinov as the one that oversees Apple’s AI group. And let it be so that the Carnegie Mellon professor is allowed to still spend some of his time at the university. On top of this, he announced last week that he is going to start publishing journal articles and spend time on talking with academics.
This change in policy, might open up the way for Apple to get back at the level of their competitors on AI. However, there could be another problem for Apple, which is about the contribution to platforms like OpenAI. To produce proper research and contribution to the platform, a large amount of digital data is needed and this might be difficult for Apple. The company has currently very strict privacy policies that could block the research that has to done by Apple. So, as it seems Apple has one more problem to solve, to get back into the race.

Artificial Intelligence Just Broke Steve Jobs’ Wall of Secrecy

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Amazon Go: No more cash desks and queues due to technology

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Nowadays a lot of retail companies make use of self-scanning cash desks, to make the checkout process faster and more comfortable for the customer. However, last week web shop Amazon opened the first real-world supermarket in which the customer can pick their groceries and walk out without standing in a line at a cash desk. The customers check in with the Amazon Go application on their smartphone and can walk out, while the checkout is automatically done via their smartphone. Which could solve one of the biggest nuisances of grocery shoppers.

The supermarket is named Amazon Go and the first location is based in Amazon’s hometown Seattle, where Amazon employees are testing the concept right now.
The Amazon Go supermarket makes use of ‘Just Walk Out’ technology, which is based on computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. This means that the technology uses sensors across the supermarket and artificial intelligence to track the customers and the products that they pick out of the shelves. Although Amazon is acting secretive about the way their technology exactly works, retail tech specialists believe that the technology that is introduced is actually enforceable.

In my opinion this step of Amazon is good development for the company and the industry, since it actually enforces a completely new way of shopping in physical stores, which will provide new impulses for customers to keep on shopping in physical retail stores. Besides this Amazon forces the customers that would like to make use of the store to open an account with Amazon, to finish the transactions related to the products that are purchased during a visit. With this obligation Amazon will get more feet on the ground in the banking sector. Furthermore Amazon will gather a new kind of data by tracking customers behaviour within the store in an unrivalled way. With this data Amazon will be a step ahead of other retailers that do not use technologies like this yet and be able to increase the recommendations, service and experience for the customer.

Despite all these advantages, it is questionable whether the concept will actually appeal to the customers of today and will be enforced by competitors to subsequently really change the industry. For now it is still cheaper for retailers to put a cashier behind a cash desk to fulfil the checkout process. And on top of this, the cashier behind the cash desk fulfils an important function for a lot of customers that actually don’t hate the standing in the line and wait for other customers to pay part of the physical retail stores. They can answer questions and attend the customer on promotions or entire loyalty programs, which will lead to a continuous stream of customer data.

Only Amazon Could Make a Checkout-Free Grocery Store a Reality

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What is the future of work

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Companies use increasing amount of technology in their scope of operation to keep up with the trends. But have you ever wondered how is the future going look like (after all the companies became digital masters)?

Digital workplace is a new buzzword, but what does it actually mean? It includes the technologies that employees use to perform their jobs. It is everything from instant messaging, ERP, business application, online planning tools, email, intranet and any other technology that companies use.

Let’s look at some of the future trends:

Millennials joining the workforce
In a few years, the digital natives will enter the workforce – those are the children that were practically born with a tablet in their hands. Research shows that they are less driven by how much money they earn, but care about the value of their work.

More flexibility
More flexibility undoubtedly puts greater demands on individual responsibility. Every mobile, tablet, and computer can be turned off, and your boss cannot force you to check your email during holidays or when you are sitting around a Christmas tree. Leadership will not be any more about instructing people but will be about empowering. People will also not be bound to physical spaces, because with access to the internet, any job will be possible to perform.

Since the digital workplace allows for the work to be performed from anywhere in the world, the borders between countries will play a decreasing role as the companies will have an increasingly borderless dynamic workforce. Initiatives such as “Remote year are already becoming increasingly popular – for a year, a group of “digital nomads” travels and lives in 12 different countries (1 month in each). The only condition for this is that you have to have a job that you can perform from anywhere.

Of course, there are many more trends, but for the purpose of this blog post, I chose the ones I found the most interesting.

What do you think is going to happen?


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