Tuesday, September 28, 2010


IT Service Meeting Highlights Social Media Program Benefits
by Brian Sherman on September 23, 2010
(Sharing Content on our personal helix blog site as coverage from a recent presentation our firm spoke at to the COMPTIA Association this week)

Is social media a boondoggle or a valuable marketing tool for your business? That’s the question many solution providers have asked since these sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter came on the scene.

The attitude of many business executives is, “If you can’t provide tangible results, what good is it?” Attendees of the CompTIA Canadian IT Services and Support Community in Toronto found several answers to that question with a deep dive discussion into the opportunities available with these web media sites. Dr. Cindy Gordon and Alex Blom, Senior Executives of Helix Commerce International Inc shared their knowledge of effective social community business models and provided advice on how to incorporate these tools into their own businesses.

Why should you incorporate social media into your organization? First of all, these interactive sites reach an international audience, including prospective customers, future industry partners, and potential employees. In addition, proper social media best practices can help strengthen relationships with current clients, collaborators and your existing workforce.

The second motive for integrating social media is to spur innovation and helps you spread your message with links to blogs, white papers and case studies, event registration (webinar or live), and product or service promotions. Through interaction and awareness of your company’s services and strategy, beneficial feedback should escalate and allow you to adapt your offerings and programs.

“Product innovation is rooted in collaboration, finding the means that allow you to build robust networks of partners that will help advance your organization’s goals,” says Dr. Cindy Gordon. “Social networks help build those relationships and allow you to receive quick and valuable feedback from a cross-section of industry experts, customers and others.”

It’s not unusual for businesses to attract 20,000 or more followers, allowing you to expand your reach and create new avenues that allow you to achieve your company goals. “Two-thirds of the global population is using social media, with millions of posts and site visits each day,” says Blom. This type of forum requires a creative sensitivity; you can’t repetitively broadcast your marketing message.

Business leaders need to talk to followers (consumers of social media) in order to develop trust and a mutually valued relationship. Success depends on attracting the right audience to your discussions. Don’t focus on the number of connections; having 10,000followers isn’t worthwhile if only a few are good prospects, partners or job candidates.

Building Twitter or Facebook communities requires a grass-roots recruiting effort, adding content and contacts in a rational manner to ensure eventual success. Posting the media profile links on your website, in newsletters and connecting to industry friends is a great first step. “This effort is not just about creating social media connections, but creating a transformational model that motivates people to communicate and collaborate,” suggests Gordon.

Here are some takeaways from the discussion:

1.) Start small and build a grassroots community, no matter what media you use
2.) Build trust via the brand messages and information you share. Make it worthwhile to be connected with your business
3.) Research and experiment by integrating programs such as Foursquare, which allows you to “check in” to a location (industry event or customer site) and notify your “followers” to your position. You can use it for onsite promotions or to publicize your attendance at certain conferences or preferred customer sites.

Reinforcing the social media discussion at the Toronto event was speaker Glen Robertson, COO of Service 800. Their Service Metric Benchmark Program takes into account many customer satisfaction variables, and social media is becoming an important part of that business measurement process.

According to Forrester studies, more than 500 billion web impressions of products and services are counted each year, with collaborative web sharing a big part of that. Businesses need to be proactive in blogs and other media, providing helpful information and discussing the topics that show they not only understand their customers, but have compassion as well. The web-enhanced customer experience isn’t relegated to the youth segment either; studies illustrate that almost 2/3 of Facebook and Twitter users are 35 and older! While they have the mass, a high percentage of people in their 20s—key group for employee recruitment— are social media consumers.

The reality is that new web communities are a force to be reckoned with. Social media is a critical component of today’s business and those that ignore or dismiss its value may lose out on connecting with a “tuned in” audience.

For more information on our Helix Social offerings, contact us at info@helixcommerce.com or contact our office at (647)477-6254.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Supply Chain Sustainability Challenges

Harvard Business Review (Oct 2010) provided highlights from a survey of 335 respondents of which nearly 80% have direct or indirect supply chain practices. Of those surveyes 54%, indicated that they are extremely or very concerned about their sustainability performance.

The top performance issues identified concerning their company were:

*cost and financial concerns,
*lack of interest from stakeholders (Employees and clients),
current economic realities;
*the need to run lean,
*potential risks for brand and reputation,
regulatry compliance, or
*managing the life cycle and cumulative environmental impacts.

Areas hindering sustainability in the supply chain were:

*cost and financial concerns
*focused on more pressing priorities
*limited resources
*uncertain ROI
*insufficient supplier understanding and buy-in

As more businesses demand increased transparency, more organizations will need to reveal more clearly their sustainability practices in their supply chain practices to establish trust, and secure reputation.

Increasingly companies like Wal-Mart, Tesco and Kroger are using new technologies to provide more transparent information to the marketplace.

As telepresence becomes more pervasive and even live webcams allowing monitoring of what is happening on a factory in real-time, product and service provenance will be more open to public inspection.

New forms of technology will provide unprecedented visibility into the industrial system.

Social media products like YouTube, Twiters and other forms of social media provide viral platforms for activisits that are keen to challenge SCM practices.

Organizations will need to strive to release provenance information otherwise likely come under increased scrutiny as the world continues to move to demanding supply chain sustainability and provide increased assurance of following environmentally sound practices.

Sunday, September 19, 2010



7 years ago I was a partner in a Tier one private venture capital firm, called XDLI, led by serial entrepreneurial Toronto leaders like Michael Bregman, and Dennis Bennie. Prior to joining XDLI, I was a partner with Accenture and all the excitement in the dot com space drove me to jump ship and in some respects jumped on the band wagon of the excitement to find the next holy grail. This was in 2001 - 2003 when the market was exciting as valuations were competitive and felt like the wild wild west. As we know the market came to a crashing wake-up call in 2003, and the venture capital industry in NA started to implode, and has been course correcting ever since.

However the trend continues to decline which has me personally very worried about Canada's long term economic smarts in innovation and commercialization.

Unfortunately in Canada, there is still too much retraction of VC investment activity. According to a recent Deloitte Survey released in TORONTO on September 7, 2010 — Venture capitalists (VCs)Canada expects their industry to contract further while those in emerging markets, including China, India and Brazil, expect to see theirs expand over the next five years, according to the 2010 Global Venture Capital Survey by Deloitte, Canada's Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) and several other international industry associations.

According to the survey results, two thirds (66 per cent) of Canadian survey respondents expect the number of venture firms to decrease between now and 2015, while a great majority of venture capitalists in China, India and Brazil anticipate adding more venture firms in their country during the same time frame. Venture capitalists in the U.S. and the European continent also expect an industry tightening in their respective countries, but the Canadian industry is much more vulnerable to such a trend given its much smaller size.

The outlook for the dollar amount of venture capital available for investment in the next five years followed similar trends, with half of Canadian respondents seeing a decline or no change. In fact, 11 per cent of respondents predict a decline of more than 30 per cent, the second worst outlook of any country surveyed. Comparatively, respondents in Brazil, China and India see healthy increases. The institutional source of funds is also expected to be weak by Canadian VCs: Only 25 per cent of Canadian respondents believe limited partners are likely to invest in the country’s venture capital funds in the next five years, compared to 92 per cent for Brazil, 91 per cent for China and 76 per cent for India.

The 2010 Global Venture Capital survey, which measured the opinions of more than 500 venture capitalists worldwide, also examined the factors contributing to each country’s outlook and identified sectors of future growth.

Government policies to increase the size of the domestic VC industry seen as key to maintaining a capital venture industry in Canada


As opposed to past years, and following recent Deloitte-led changes to Section 116, Canadian respondents did not say that tax policy or regulations were creating an unfavorable climate for venture capital. Only 28 per cent cited tax rules as a major barrier. And they are positive on government support of R&D, with 67 per cent naming it as a favorable factor, second only to Israel.

Despite those advantages, when asked about the dangers of a lack of an established VC industry, Canadian VCs were by far the most critical in the world, with 61 per cent suggesting our lack of critical mass is creating a poor climate for investment and innovation. In contrast, VCs in other developed nations saw this as a non-factor, with only seven per cent on average mentioning it.

“Clearly, Canadian venture capital firms are up against serious competition from emerging markets, as are their counterparts in the U.S and Europe. But with the small size of the Canadian industry, the impact of this decline is even more devastating for Canada,” said John Ruffolo, National Leader, Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry Group, Deloitte.

“This is an urgent situation and policy makers need to move quickly with measures that improve the odds of this vital sector here at home” Ruffolo added. “We need to get more dollars into the hands of existing Canadian VCs, and encourage the creation of more domestic VCs. A reinvigorated Retail Venture Capital program (particularly in Ontario), angel and VC investing tax credits, and the expansion of government-sponsored fund of funds programs are the three main priorities. Some of these measures have been adopted in Quebec, and that province’s venture industry has seen growth in both the number of firms and the amount of capital available for innovation.”

Clean tech and new media/social networking: Opportunities to seize now for the future
Despite numerous challenges, survey respondents across the globe show interest in new investment opportunities on the horizon. In looking ahead, respondents singled out clean technologies, healthcare services and new media/social networking as areas of great interest over the next five years.

Clean tech is the leader overall, with 67 per cent of Canadian survey respondents expecting increased investments. It is also ranked number one by China (95 per cent), Brazil (92 per cent), India (90 per cent), U.K. (85 per cent), U.S. (72 per cent) and Germany (71 per cent).

New media/social networking is seen as the second key sector of the future by 50 per cent of Canadian venture capitalists as well as 58 per cent of respondents in the U.S. and 64 per cent in Germany. Healthcare services were ranked second by survey respondents in China (92 percent), India (89 per cent), France (69 per cent) and the U.K. (62 per cent).

“With characteristic optimism, venture capitalists are already looking ahead to new growth industries and opportunities. In order for Canada to participate fully in this new economy, we need to have a larger and better-financed VC community to help incubate and grow these industries of Canada’s future,” concludes Ruffolo.


This blog has been sourced from major extracts from the Deloitte and CVCA Global Trends in Venture Capital: Outlook for the Future The Global Trends in Venture Capital: Outlook for the Future Survey was sponsored by Deloitte in cooperation with the Canadian Venture Capital Association and numerous other VC associations around the world. It surveyed venture capitalists in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Deloitte received 516 responses from general partners with assets under management ranging from less than US$100 million to greater than US$1 billion. The survey was conducted during March and April 2010. Of the total number of respondents, 61 per cent were based in the Americas (of which 7% or 36 firms were Canadian,) 16 per cent in Europe, 23 per cent in Asia Pacific.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Social Innovation (SI) is all about simply strengthening community interaction models. It is a growth area impacting business strategies, innovation ideation practices, organizational designs, talent management, employee and customer engagement appraoches.

Working Definition

According to wikipedia, social innovation has developed several meanings. It can be used to refer to social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques. Alternatively it refers to innovations which have a social purpose - like microcredit or distance learning. The concept can also be related to social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship isn't always or even usually innovative, but it can be a means of innovation) and it also overlaps with innovation in public policy and governance. Social innovation can take place within government, within companies, or within the nonprofit sector (also known as the third sector), but is increasingly seen to happen most effectively in the space between the three sectors. Recent research has focused on the different types of platforms needed to facilitate such cross-sector collaborative social innovation.[1] Currently, social innovation is becoming increasingly important within the academic debate, also regarding its theoretical concepts.

Social innovation was discussed in the writings of figures such as Peter Drucker and Michael Young (founder of the Open University and dozens of other organizations) in the 1960s. It also appeared in the work of French writers in the 1970s, for example Pierre Rosanvallon, Jacques Fournier, and Jacques Attali. However, the themes and concepts in social innovation have existed long before that. Benjamin Franklin, for example, talked about social innovation in terms of small modifications within the social organisation of communities that could help to solve everyday problems. Many radical 19th century reformers like Robert Owen, founder of the cooperative movement, promoted innovation in the social field and all of the great sociologists including Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim focused much of their attention to broader processes of social change.

However, more detailed theories of social innovation only became prominent in the 20th century. Joseph Schumpeter, for example, addressed the process of innovation more directly with his theories of creative destruction and his definition of entrepreneurs as people who combined existing elements in new ways. In the 1980s and after, writers on technological change increasingly addressed the importance of social factors in affecting technology diffusion.

Toronto is Alive with Social Innovation Leadership

There are many leaders in Toronto alert to the transformation needs of this type of thinking integrated into our business models and cultural communication practices. Centers like the Social Innovation Center or MARS where small businesses leverage for collective jamming, and cross-pollination are effective new age real-estate models integrated with community foundations.

Helix is in the early stages of developing a Social Innovation practice that extends our deep expertise in business innovation, New Product/Service Commercialization, and Channel Innovation practices to integrate our deep know-how in collaboration. Having written over 8 books in these areas, and hundreds of articles, and client engagements - we want to increase this know-how into a more open social innovation cluster vision.


I often think what we really have happening is less about SOCIAL INNOVATION and is simply more about MOTIVATING HUMANS. Humans have always been social creatures, enjoying social rituals. The kitchen is the place always for great conversations, whether by a fire in the woods eating a meal close to a cave, or in a luxury 5 star restaurant, humans are social creatures and are more open and relaxed over a good meal, surrounded by diverse sensations.

Research in Sweden on the impact of smell being airated into offices that increase social happiness has found that apple pie is one leading scent that stimulates conversation connectedness.

What is clear is the impact of community and the value of social sustainability challenges how the majority of organizations are designed and led.

Developing social competencies into our university programs will also be a key success factor in developing more universal knowledge with our future business leaders. There is a great deal of work to be done.

Any ideas, do not hesitate to contact me directly at cindy@helixcommerce.com.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Social Voice Strength on the Web and Implications to Changing Business Models

In August 1991, Sir Timothy John Berners Lee put the first website online. The first consumer web we recall were the likes of: AOL, AMAZON, eBAY, and Yahoo.

Little did we appreciate the impacts new models like: PayPal, TicketMaster would have on revolutionizing and creating the transactional web.

The new era we are in is the Social Era as solutions like :Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Orkut create a more faciltiating, engaging and rewarding social experience. It's now all about self-expression, naked conversations, relationships, user affiliation, trust and user generated content.

The Social Web is now called Web 3.0 or the Semantic web.

Larry Weber in his book, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build your Business, says that:

" The social web is the online place where people with a common interest can gather to share thoughts, comments, and opinions. It includes social networks such as: My Space, Gather, Friendster, BlackPlanet, Eons, linked and hundreds more. It also includes branded web destination sites like: Amazon, Netflix, and eBay. It also includes enterprise sites such as: IBM, Circuit City, Cisco, and Oracle. The social web is a new world of unpaid media created by individuals or enterprises on the web."

The real job of the marketing professional in the social web is to aggregate customers. You can do this in two ways:

1.)Providing compelling content to create a pull factor to return again and again and spread the word to others to create a following by creating retail rich media experiences, and
2.) Visibly becoming an influencer in the public arena and actively participating in the conversations.

Brian Solis, Founder of Future works says:

Social Media is no longer an option or debtable. It represents a powerful, and additional channel to first listen to customers, stakeholders, media, bloggers, peers and other influencers and in turn build two way paths of conversation to them.

Yes conversations are taking place about your company, product and service right now with or without you. This represents priceless opportunities to build relationships and shape perceptions at every step. In the process, you become a resource to the very people looking for leadership, expertise, visions, and also solutions.

The most important driver for outbound and proactive online relationship is that's its measurable and absolutetly tied to the bottom line. Much in the same way that Web marketers integrates calls to action and dedicated splash pages to direct responses, successful conversations can also benefit from strategically carved inbound and interconnected paths that can be tracked and measured.

From listening, participation to analytics, social media creates new opportunities to make deep and meaningful connections, forge relationships, and influence without manipulation. And, in the process, we also earn a place within their network as a trustworthy resource."

David Meerman Scott lists three uses of blogs for marketing and PR:

1.) To easily monitor what millions of people are saying about you.
2.) To participate in those conversations by commenting on other's blogs.
3.) To begin and to shape those conversations by creating and writing your own blog.

Social professional niche networks abound and they will continue to flourish. For example, Art Cloud for the Art world, Inmobile for the wireless industry, MarCom Professional for Marketing communicators, Sermo for Physicians, etc.

In summary, Cluetrain Manifesto proclaimed:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering, and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter - and getting smarter faster than other companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny, and often shocking. Whether explaining, or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."


Every Canadian business should have a cleared defined digital social media strategy in place and reaching out to the world for new growth connections. If you cannot afford to hire FT engage PT professionals from outsourcing Social media solution providers, a growing trend globally as marketing professionals and business recognize being social is a skill and a core competency.

Helix has a new offering on social media outsourcing solutions. Want to hear more reach us at info@helixcommerce.com.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Intelligent Cities - Technology Big 3 Leadership

In my role as Vice Chair for the Intelligent Communities for i-CANADA, I recently researched some of the leadership activities of the BIG THREE technnology leaders: CISCO, MICROSOFT and IBM.

I am pleased to say, our firm and sister company, TerraForum have strong relationships with these organizations as clients, and partners.


In 2009, Cisco launched its global Intelligent Urbanization initiative from Bangalore and signed a MOU with the local government to develop a roadmap for an intelligent and sustainable Bangalore City.

The global Intelligent Urbanization initiative was designed to help cities around the world using the networks as the fourth utility for integrated city management, better quality for life for citizens and economic development.

Bringing together a broad portfolio of products, services, partners and solutions across CISCO, the intiatives in initially focused on intelligent, sustainable solutions for public safety, and security, transportation, buidlings, energy, health care and education. An example of how technology can be used to improve security operations, Cisco proposed its own internal Security Operations Center, Real-Time security monitoring and alerts, video surveillance, tools, acoustic sensors, card-readers with biometric recognition, automatic alerts, and security activation systems were the highlights of this environment.


IBM announced its Smarter Cities program as part of its initiative to create an Intelligent Planet. The program was created to stimulate economic growth and quality of life in cities and metropolitan areas witht the activation of new approaches of thinking and acting in the urban ecosystem. Interconnected and instrumented smart technologies offer a real-time integrated view of complex city systems, enabling administrators to monitor operations, improve performance andrespond to the needs of their jurisdications each day. IBM's initiative focuses on seven areas: education, health, safety, transport, water management, energy and public governance in each of which the company describes a series of best practices, strategies, technologies and applications.


Microsoft is working with Coventry University and Birmingham City Council to establish Birmingham as the first UK Intelligent City able to showcase new and innovation applications.

The Intelligent City Proof of Concept is about an interoperable technology platform focusing on transport.

The objectives include demonstating the intelligent city vision for Birmingham and creating a service layer platform integrated with exisiting data/services, managing journeys across devices and modes of transport, empowering individuals to make more informed, smarter choices, and describing the impact on travel patterns, and economic and environmental issues.

Reference Sources:

Intelligent Cities, R&D OffShoring, by N Komninos and E. Sefertzi, Paper Presented at the Second Knowledge Cities Summit, China, Nov 2009.

IBM (2009) " A smarter Planet - Smarter Cities" Online http://www-05.ibm.com/uk/smarterplanet/topics/cities/index1.html
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