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Business & Finance

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 jan 2020

Food security problem is a global concern. Everyone should become a part of the solution. Technologies like drones, data analytics, blockchain etc can assist in solving some of the issues related to farming and agriculture. This is what Agriculture 4.0 is all about. It is a new age of food production that leverages digital technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to cater more precisely to the needs of crops, farmers and consumers. The coming together of - farming communities, researchers and policy makers; farm equipment and machinery, biotechnology, computer and telecommunication companies - can bring agriculture to a new state of success. Multinational agriculture and biotech companies are competing in the race to achieve the technological breakthroughs and expand their businesses and profits. Advocates of Agriculture 4.0 believe that it will solve the food security problems of the future. While critics on the other hand caution that without proper regulation few big companies will attain huge monopolistic power in global agricultural decision-making that will adversely affect small producers. According to the 2018 report Agriculture 4.0 by World Government Summit, approximately 800 million people currently suffer from hunger and by 2050 we will have to produce 70% more food to feed the world. Juanita Rodríguez, Vice-Chancellor of Innovation at Ean University (Colombia), says, 'Even though it's still not widely known, this fourth revolution in agriculture has been agile and its benefits are beginning to show, helping farmers maximise crop yields and developing ways to stop the epidemic of waste that destroys 45% of our supply.' In Mexico, Mexican engineer Julio López and German economist Manuel Richter, have created a platform helping producers to manage their crops using drone and satellite technology. Mr. Richter says, 'There is a huge potential to make the work more efficient, reduce agro-inputs, improve water use, lower environmental impact and create more economic sustainability for the farmer.' Big data use and privacy are other areas that are part of Agriculture 4.0. In 2018, North American companies spent almost US$ 20 billion on third-party data, 17.5% more than in 2017. Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC), says, 'Companies have a huge amount of data at their disposal. They can convert it into another business. What lies behind this is the generation of new profits.' Gabriel Cuéllar, an AI researcher, says, 'Data is the new oil. Companies today need data to make their systems more powerful.' Big data and analytics has positive side in agriculture and can assist farmers in effectively detecting pests, spotting failures in agricultural processes, or understanding market demands. The question with data is not only who is collecting it, but who can analyse it, and who wins or loses as a result. In the report 'The Unsustainable Agriculture 4.0 - Digitization and Corporate Power in the Food Chain', Pat Mooney of ETC explains his concerns on big data in agriculture. He believes that the concentration of power in agricultural data collection could result in a few companies controlling seed patenting data, pesticides, fertilisers and machinery, leaving little or no option for farmers and workers to choose what they buy. In recent times many multinationals have been drawn into controversy regarding Agriculture 4.0. According to Ms. Rodríguez, there is also a significant hacking risk associated with Internet of Things devices. Dennis Escudero from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, 'The profile of the farmer is changing. It is more digital. You have to understand the new tools. They don't threaten farmers, they empower them.' Read on...

Diálogo Chino: Agriculture 4.0 promises to transform food production
Authors: Emilio Godoy, Alejandra Cuéllar


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 10 dec 2019

Customers are at the core of any business. No one can think of products and services without thinking of their buyers. Profits are made with happy customers because they continue to buy products and services from those companies and organizations that keep them satisfied. They also recommend to others what they themselves like. For organizations to become truly customer-centric it is essential to create a customer oriented mindset and at the same time develop procedures and actionable tools to provide best possible customer service. This would also involve continuous training and learning on the part of customer service executives and workers. As the customer behavior changes over time with technologies so should the interactive behavior of customer service personnel to adapt to changing scenarios. But above all, the personnel who deal directly with customers should keep the care of customers in their mind and behavior at all times. Organizations should develop a proper framework for customer service excellence. Read on...

ilmeps/read: From Customer-Centric Mindset To Doing What Customers Want - Finding Ways To Do Customer Service Right And Avoiding What Not To Be Done
Author: Mohammad Anas Wahaj


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 nov 2019

Traditional market research involves quantitative methods like group surveys or self-reporting to obtain valuable data, but to get the whole story, Prof. Rebecca Rast of marketing department at Missouri State University, has embarked upon a new methodology of research that utilizes iMotion software technology and uses facial expression analysis to develop a deeper understanding into the complexity of human behavior in the marketing field. iMotion technology captures physiological reactions, such as how humans think, feel, act and respond, in real time and helps to quantify engagement and emotional responses. The software can measure seven core emotions: joy, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness and surprise. Prof. Rast says, 'I'm continuing to think of other applications I can use the software for to continue to look at marketing behavior...If I can share it with my students so they understand the outcomes, then I can apply it right back into the classroom when it comes to topics such as consumer behavior.' Read on...

Missouri State News: Understanding consumers through emotion
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 14 nov 2019

Achieving global food security is a challenge that requires all humanity to participate and work together. It is imperative to improve food production and distribution, tackle environmental degradation and climate change, alleviate poverty and resolve conflicts through peaceful means. Prof. Miguel Altieri of University of California at Berkeley focuses his research on the concepts of agroecology. His group's research and publications aid in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. He explains that urban agriculture has potential to enhance food security in US cities. According to him, 'I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.' US Dept. of Agriculture estimates that for 1 out of 8 citizens food insecurity is a near-term risk. The current food distribution system in cities of Califormia, where large population resides, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Prof. Altieri says, 'The food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line - mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7% fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.' In the past 30 years, urban farming has grown by more than 30% in the US. Moreover, it is estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20% of global food demand. But, it is yet to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities. There are limitations and challenges. According to a survey, 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30% of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production. Prof. Altieri explains, 'Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.' Cuban model of urban farming can be applied, where local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces. In Cuba, over 300000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50% of the island's fresh produce supply, along with 39000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year. Access to land and unaffordable water for irrigation are critical challenges for urban farming in US. Discounted water rates and land reforms specifically for urban farming can provide a boost to the concept. Prof. Altieri says, 'Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.' Read on...

The Conversation: How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities
Author: Miguel Altieri


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 oct 2019

Visibility is critical for the success of business ventures. Public relations is what provides businesses just that when done right. Deborah A. Geiger, CEO of Geiger Communications, suggests a 3-step process to create winning pitches that provide meaningful coverage - (1) Introduce Yourself: Reporters need professional information and capabilites of those they cover in their stories. Provide them all the required details and make them confident about yourself. (2) Place Your News In Context: For the winning pitch place your news in geographical, historical and industry context to make your business and work stand out. Make your story truly unique and newsworthy. Do competitive analysis and differentiate yourself. (3) Consider The News Cycle: News cycle is predictable. Understand it and time your pitch accordingly. Select reporters who cover events and news related to your area of expertise. Keep communication with them helpful and positive, and offer your expertise for their future stories. The core of best PR pitches is simplicity and clarity in communication. 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.', said Albert Einstein. Keeping this in mind, with no confusion about who you are, what you do and how you can help, you will no doubt make a positive impression. Read on...

Entrepreneur: How to Write a Winning PR Pitch
Author: Deborah A. Geiger


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 oct 2019

For CPAs (Certified Public Accountant) to successfully transition from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector requires a specific mindset and skill sets. Even though their for-profit experience will highly benefit and enhance the value of nonprofit finance department, but they would need add-on soft skills - (1) Adaptability: Understand and adapt to the new organizational culture. (2) Flexibility: Ability to multitask. With resource challenges nonprofits lack support staff and CPAs would need to handle administrative tasks. (3) Leadership and the ability to drive change: Emphasize the value of accurate financial reporting and use of latest processes and technologies for effective and efficient finance department. Explain that doing so will enhance chances of funding. Implement change through collaborative approach. Nonprofit organizations can benefit from for-profit CPA's in many ways - (1) Technology implementation: Many nonprofits are not fully equipped with latest financial and accounting technolgoies. For-profit CPAs bring the experience to do so. Implementation of online technology maximizes productivity, increases transparency, facilitates document flow and approvals, and improves accuracy and timeliness. (2) Documented policies and procedures: The implementation and maintenance of a documented accounting policies and procedures manual ensures continuing operational efficiency and governance, accuracy, and reliability of financial statements, as well as well-defined roles and responsibilities. (3) Effective and efficient internal controls: The system of internal controls is necessary to mitigate risk, increase transparency, and safeguard the organization's assets. For-profit CPAs are familiar with identifying and evaluating internal controls and aware that the process requires understanding and documenting the step-by-step processes that staff members follow to perform their jobs. (4) Audit management and oversight: CPAs with auditing background are familiar with the types of schedules and documents the auditors will request. The books and records of the finance department should be maintained throughout the year so that when the books are closed, only year-end adjustments are needed. Although CPAs spend most of their time with numbers, processing transactions, generating financial reports, and racing to meet numerous internal and external deadlines, but in nonprofits it is more than that - a mission to improve the lives of those in need and to make the world a better place. The transition to nonprofit career can be highly rewarding both professionally and personally. Read on...

The CPA Journal: Making the Transition to the Nonprofit Sector
Author: Roberta Katz


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 oct 2019

Even though AI (artificial intelligence) and big data are enabling automation in marketing and customer interactions, enhancing consumer experience, saving cost and improving ROI, but customers still seem to prefer the great old human touch. According to the report by Calabrio titled 'Are You Listening? The Truth About What Customers Want in a Digital World', three out of four consumers in the US and UK are more loyal to businesses that give them the option to interact to human as opposed to only chatbots or digital channels. Morever, 37% even question the legitimacy of the company itself, if not given the option. Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group and author of 'Mean People Suck', explains how organizational empathy is the key to benefit from marketing automation along with becoming more human at the same time. He mentions limitations of AI, automation and martech - Complexity of implementation; Robotic customer service; Uncertainties in decision-making. He explains, 'When businesses use technology such as AI and automation to boost efficiencies, the outcomes will scale quickly. Managing the consequences calls for not just empathy, but alignment of "purpose" between the brand and its consumers. But while humans survive on meaning and a sense of fulfillment, machines thrive on clear instructions...By clarifying their strategic purpose, organizations can not only provide better customer experiences, but also increase brand loyalty, build a community, as well as foster a meaningful and productive work culture.' Kate O'Neill, author of 'Tech Humanist', says, 'Businesses that transform themselves digitally need to do so in a human-centric way and communicate their purpose to their customers.' Mentioning empathy as the missing link between AI and humans, Mr. Brenner says, 'Empathetic Marketing connects companies, brands, employees and customers in a harmonious, productive and win-win way. You might be forgiven for thinking that ROI and the bottom line is all that matters to companies. While authoring my first book 'The Content Formula', I stumbled on the counter-intuitive secret to selling: Don't talk about the stuff you sell. Then what should we talk about? I hear you asking. Show, don't talk. Show empathy towards your customers. Help, don't sell. Help them solve a problem.' Empathy is the only antidote for the phenomenon termed by Google's Noah Fenn as 'collective amnesia of marketers', where marketers begin to see 'people' as users, leads, personas, prospects, audience, cohorts or whatever label is the flavor of the day. Mr. Brenner suggests 'be human, do human' and in order to fix the brand-customer empathy gap, you need to ask (and honestly answer) yourself - Do you understand the core emotional motivators of your customers? Does your messaging resonate with these motivators?; Do you build a connection before you attempt a conversion?; Do you test your assumptions and biases for every marketing campaign?; Does your AI-driven revenue model incorporate the nuances of empathetic marketing? Read on...

Chief Marketer: The AI Paradox: Why More Automation Means We Need More Humanity
Author: Michael Brenner


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 sep 2019

In the closing speech of United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, 'You understand that climate emergency is the fight of our lives, and for our lives. I thank young people around the world for leading the charge – and holding my generation accountable. We have been losing the race against climate crisis. But the world is waking up. Pressure is building. Momentum is growing. And - action by action - the tide is turning.' Not so long ago, Ernest Hemingway (Novelist and Nobel Laureate) said, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.' And now the stern remarks of Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, in the UN Climate Summit resonated around the world and were call to action for governments, businesses and all those responsible. Although all humans have responsibility to maintain the environment, but along with governments, businesses have extra responsibility towards the upkeep of environment, particularly those that use natural resources or have direct impact on natural environment. So, what it takes to be a sustainable business? The answers are many and approaches different. In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as 'meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' For businesses to be sustainable would require change in current practices and they come with a cost. They have to evolve strategies towards sustainability by taking all the stakeholders on board. Moreover, one's move to sustainability may impact the environment in some other way. So, there are challenges to attain sustainability. Here are 4 reasons why it's hard for businesses to be sustainable - (1) THERE IS NO SINGLE DEFINITION OF 'SUSTAINABILITY': UN's Mr. Guterres in the recent Summit sets the goal to completely transform the world's economies to be more sustainable and find solutions to climate change. A daunting task considering the slow pace governments and businesses have been moving in that direction so far. Geoffrey Jones, a business history professor at Harvard University and the author of 'Profits and Sustainability: A History of Green Entrepreneurship', says, 'There is a crippling vagueness about what sustainability means. While carbon emissions are receiving much of the focus because of climate change, deforestation, water shortages and soil erosion are also serious problems that should not be ignored.' Lack of clear definition translates to lack of accountability. At present few companies can provide hard evidence that their businesses are not negatively impacting environment. Socially responsible investment funds (Environmental, Social & Governance - ESG) often include oil & gas companies, and also those that have plastics as an essential component of their business model. Businesses are tryig but it is a long way to go before they become truly sustainable. (2) DETERMINING THE VALUE OF SUSTAINABILITY: Switch to sustainability is costly for businesses. Bruno Sarda, President of the Carbon Disclosure Project North America, says, 'Someone can come up with a cost of doing something different much more quickly than determining what is the value to the business.' Sustainability solutions can be complex and expensive. (3) CONSUMING LESS CAN REDUCE PROFITS: Experts suggest that less consumption is road to sustainability. But, it is contrary to the basics of businesses - more consumption, more profits. There are exceptions though. Doug Freeman, COO of Patagonia (an outdoor clothing and gear company), says, 'We hope our existing customers do indeed buy less. But we hope to attract more customers that are interested in our message: to build the best product, to reduce our impact and cause the least amount of environmental harm.' (4) CLIMATE SOLUTIONS REQUIRE COLLECTIVE ACTION: 'Tragedy of the commons', an economic problem, creates a situation of competitive consumption of natural resources thereby depleting them. To overcome this, collaboration and cooperation, is imperative. Companies are now teaming up with each other and with environmental nonprofits. Joanne Sonenshine, CEO of Connective Impact, says, 'By working together, companies gain more leverage in the national and global marketplace and legitimacy in the eyes of consumers. If you have a group of very respectable nonprofits or research agencies saying we are working with this company because we believe they can make a change, that puts a lot of credence behind what they are trying to do.' Read on...

PBS: 4 reasons it's hard to become a sustainable business
Author: Gretchen Frazee


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 sep 2019

Jeff Bradford, PR expert and President & CEO of Bradford Group, suggests that now it is imperative to think about business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy the same way as thinking about building relationships. He says, 'We expect to gain something from our friendships or relationships. Potential customers have the same expectations. You need to prove your value. Tactics like targeted media exposure contributed content, influencer relations, social media, speaking engagements and website downloads invite potential customers into your company story as friends versus onlookers. A strategic B2B marketing approach builds a relationship with the customer by providing valuable, relevant and consistent content.' He provides 3 ways to build lasting customer relationships - (1) Get Social: According to GlobalWebIndex's latest report on social media trends 2019, more than one in three internet users revealed that they go to social networks when trying to find out more information about a brand, company or product; Share recent company news, media coverage and industry articles to keep a steady stream of content; Add CSR initiatives, videos and behind-the-scenes photos to enable deeper customer exploration of brand; Aim to win customer engagement and share content that encourages dialogue; Implement gated content. (2) Tell Your Story: Have a compelling story to reveal to potential customers, just as in new friendships; Each piece of content should invite customer to the brand; Highlight CSR efforts on social media and website; Welcome new faces to your brand by proving you have a clear vision and showing how they can be a part of it; Make sure to honor customer's time by using your social media, website and media exposure to explain how you can help solve your customer's problem, not simply sell your services. (3) Renew And Recycle: Extend value of content by updating and resharing to reach wider audience; Repurposing a blog post into a series of social media posts linking back to the blog, a YouTube video, an infographic or a pitch for a bylined article; Strike a balance between quantity and quality of content; Existing content can be a foundation to build more content. With all this done right will make marketing to businesses simple, making them brand friends and customers for life. Read on...

Forbes: Three Ways To Bolster Your B2B Marketing
Author: Jeff Bradford


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 sep 2019

According to Learning Enterprise Institute (lean.org), the book, 'Designing the Future' by James M. Morgan and Jeffrey K. Liker, describes the robust new Lean Product and Process Development (LPPD) framework and shares real-world examples from a diverse set of industries. The book explains how the leading companies are using LPPD to create better futures for themselves and all their stakeholders. Authors go beyond broad generalizations on how to 'be innovative' and dig deeper into the theoretical bedrock and concrete development practices that are generating exceptional results at pioneering LPPD companies. Examples in the book show specifically how companies are redesigning product development systems to consistently design and deliver a progression of market-leading products and services. The book explains how LPPD is different from traditional ways of thinking and doing product development. The book helps in learning how to - (1) Avoid the 'extremes' that turn milestones into a 'coercive bureaucracy' and instead turn them into the foundation of a lean development process. (2) Drive out fear, but not accountability. (3) Develop high-performance teams and team members. (4) Cultivate chief architects with complete product and business responsibility. (5) Create flow and reduce rework in the development process. (6) Apply leadership lessons from Alan Mulally and other senior development leaders, as well as the critical elements of a powerful management system. (7) Use the Obeya (big room, war room) system to increase transparency, collaboration, focus, and speed while engaging the entire enterprise. (8) Improve the scientific thinking skills of engineers and developers. (9) Apply the seemingly contradictory concept of 'fixed and flexible' - Yin and Yang - of lean product development as an opportunity, not a conflict. (10) Hire the right people using different approaches, including extreme interviewing events. (11) Use a Commodity Development Plan to develop components in parallel that are on time, functional, and fit together. (12) Improve development problem solving through effective use of A3s and employ a simple but effective 'trick' to check the quality of an A3 report. EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW WITH AUTHORS - James M. Morgan: 'The book is for all serious practitioners who are working to find a better way to develop products, processes and services. Especially for those who are in leadership positions who want to improve organizational development capabilities in order to create great products and a great place to work.'; 'Deep immersion at the gemba (the actual place) during the study period to truly understand your customer and their context. To truly study and listen deeply to your customer in a very intentional way. To look broadly across your industry to understand the current state and conduct detailed product or service dissections where called for. Creating an active learning plan and experimentation to test ideas and close knowledge gaps. To create a concept paper to clarify your thinking and engage and enroll others.'; 'Milestones are the key to orchestrating development across functions. They are the primary mechanism for integrating work and for understanding normal from abnormal conditions so that the development team may act accordingly.'; 'The obeya space needs to become the center and the heartbeat of the project. Whether the team is collocated or not, it is the place where they come together to share and collaborate. It is the primary source of project information.'; 'I believe that it (to build aligned and focused teams) is impacted by hiring/selection of people, development of people, manager selection and promotion and of course leadership behaviors. One key is to develop an effective management system. In my view a management system is comprised of two key elements: leadership behaviors and an operating system.'; 'The best leaders have the grit to keep going - and to keep their team moving forward. One key is to look at problems as gems, as opportunities to improve your product, your process, your team - yourself.'; 'Make it okay to experiment, make mistakes, question things and raise issues. Create time and resources for learning - both capturing and applying learning. Design reviews are an excellent mechanism for learning. Then make knowledge available in user-friendly way.'; 'Apply the LPPD principles and practices in your transformation. Start by deeply understanding your current state, develop a compelling vision, learn through pilot experimentation, create an aligned plan, and focus on relentless executing leveraging tools like obeya, milestones, reflection events and design reviews.' Jeffrey K. Liker: 'We also talk about the role of the chief engineer - an overall architect for the product who assimilates all the data and spends time with customers and integrates many perspectives into a vision. These are specially developed people who become the chief architects.'; 'The main failure mode of milestones is viewing them as checkpoints. In LPPD there is feedback and adjustment happening all of the time. The checkpoint is a major opportunity to reflect and learn. It should not feel like passing a test.'; 'The obeya paces the work of many functional specialists so they are checking the status of their work products in short intervals, seeing how they can help each other, seeing gaps between plan versus actual and taking corrective action. It should focus on deviation management.'; 'A big part of the management system is the target setting process. The chief engineer sets the product targets and each function develops appropriate targets to support the chief engineer.'; 'It is also critical to have knowledge gatekeepers for each function who are the keepers of the know-how database for their specialty to avoid lots of information that never gets used.'; 'An exciting culture leads to an exciting product. We also talk about the importance of strong functional groups that are teaching the deep knowledge of their engineering discipline.' Read on...

InfoQ: Q&A on the Book 'Designing the Future'
Authors: Ben Linders, James Morgan, Jeffrey Liker

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