All about distinctive capabilities

By Lim Beng Choon

I often get asked by friends, “What is a good business to be in?” At the risk of sounding cliched, my answer has always been “Take any business and run it well. Then, figure out how to build distinctive capabilities”.

For example, look at Zara, the Spanish clothing manufacturer and retailer. There is nothing new about the retailing business, but they can deliver new styles to their outlets in three to six weeks compared with up to five months for competitors. Or the Dutch insurance company Universal Leven, which has only three employees to look after 23,000 customers. Or Bristol-Myers Squibb’s innovative use of cutting edge technology to achieve overall performance improvements of several thousand days/year in their drug discovery process.

Breaking out
High-performance companies are constantly trying to find new ways to produce the breakout new product, deliver a service or operate a new business model.

When it comes to technology, they avoid the “me too” philosophy and try instead to find new ways to adapt that technology to give them an edge.

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Outsourcing: Learning from the masters

By Lim Beng Choon

Owning and managing teams in the English Premier League can be likened to running a high-performance business.

A few decades ago, managers would scour the land for homegrown talent, groom and bring them into the first team. Today, managers buy the talent globally, inject them to transform the team, and expect players to perform at their highest level in every game.

As in football, businesses these days are in a highly competitive environment. They require management and team players that are focused, have multifarious skills, demand the best from each other, and have a world view of their industry.

A key imperative to stay in the game of global business today is that of outsourcing.  Many first-time outsourcers, however, adopt the shallow view that outsourcing is all about cutting costs and relegate it merely for low value external services.

In reality, outsourcing has taken on a larger role in ensuring any company’s long-term survival. Increasingly, companies across the world are outsourcing more critical functions such as information technology, corporate learning and even customer relationship management (CRM).

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Winning the war for customers

By Lim Beng Choon

Keeping customers delighted in any business today requires fresh thinking and approaches.

To me, Suria KLCC is a world class, high-performance example. Aside from the customary festive decorations, Suria rigorously gets tenants to renew their storefronts regularly and rotates store locations to give the mall a fresh look all year round. Even the fstalls in the food courts stalls are constantly monitored and upgraded.

The same thing goes for high-performance businesses: they need to find new and innovative ways to keep customers coming back.

Two different Accenture studies show that there are strong links between innovation and sustained business performance. We found that companies such as Nokia, Samsung, Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Dell and IKEA, which continued to innovate even through downturns in the 1990s, were best positioned for success in the upturns that followed.

These companies were obsessed with winning the battle for the customer.

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Boosting human capabilities

By Lim Beng Choon

I purchased a new car  in which I discovered a small part of the steering wheel missing.  After waiting a few months for the part to arrive,  I made an appointment with the service center and was told it would take “only 15 minutes” to fix the problem.

Yet, I was made to wait for 45 minutes. Apparently, the service engineer who ordered the part was on leave and the part couldn’t be located. After they finally found it, the fixing took another 30 minutes.

How often have we encountered situations where the service levels are only as good as the personnel assisting you at that moment? Service levels drop when individuals leave or are taken ill  New employees end up learning the hard way from tough customers.

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Investing to capture value


In today’s competitive business climate, IT investments have fallen to budgetary concerns. But in fact, investing in IT now, more than ever, can create value for the future.

By Lim Beng Choon

I have a bone to pick with my previous bank. After moving house, the bank continued to send my statements to my old address despite repeated attempts to inform them of the change. Several letters and phone calls later, I moved house again—but the bank continued to send my statements to the old address.

There was only one thing to do. Close my account and move my business elsewhere.

How many of us have similar frustrations with our financial institutions?

Is this a case of technology gone awry? I beg to differ. It is easy to blame technology as the scapegoat. My previous bank is in the same boat as other  institutions and businesses across the country. The crux of the issue is acquiring the mindset to make IT investments part of building new business capabilities.

Successful IT projects have strong ownership under key business leaders and are a critical part of differentiating one business from another.

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Staying on top of the game

By Lim Beng Choon

Accenture’s country MD kicks off his monthly column by defining the concept of the connected corporation and embracing it to deliver high performance

What differentiates a company from its rivals and how does it sustain growth in the long-term? Accenture believes the answer is in enabling high-performance and continuously challenging the norms once you get there. Several findings from our nine-month research in this area have been applied to help companies and government agencies globally.

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