Get Noticed with Strategic Alliances and Partnerships

According to Hco creation wheel arvard Business Review, senior executives require a key skill. They create a “big vision” that extends beyond their organization and takes the business to the next level.

But according to this research, there’s an unwillingness to take risks and think big. It’s also a large reason why many women aren’t invited into the C-Suite. Few products and IT initiatives today exist in a vacuum; ecosystems rule the day.

Women In Technology International Summit’s “Strategic Alliances and Partnerships” panel addresses these issues.

5 key takeaways:

1. Create a bigger vision roadmap
Alliances are a critical tool to attack new market opportunities as part of a larger decision making process. Having these tools increases marketability, leads to expansion and skill sharing.

2. Profile key partners
Clearly identify how and where an alliance will help achieve business goals, who might be suitable candidates, and the short- and long-term wins for the companies involved.

Craft an efficient, repeatable model based on a set of best practices and a CLEAR strategy. A playbook can cut risk, create a platform for making decisions, reduce conflicts (or help resolve them), and increase returns.

3. Identify the win on both sides
“The industry is struggling through a time of absorption, consolidation and overcoming social/financial/legal obstacles – the landscape is forever changed. What it lacks right now is nerve and imagination,” says John Soper, Founder of New Paradigms Marketing Group.

Companies struggle with global market timing and investing in requirements. If you can’t get your company aligned, you are prey to killer sharks–your competitors. Selling the value of alliances drives global expansion: Hitting critical markets and sharing the capital risk.

4. Enlist “colored penguins”
Alliance managers are the commanders of any strategy. The sad truth is many companies pick the wrong types of people to lead the organization and then systematically fail to invest adequate resources in on-boarding employees and ongoing development. Alliance managers are colored penguins: they must be equal parts diplomat, salesperson, strategist, and circus juggler, and companies need to clearly define what they need to succeed. Honing employee skills on a consistent basis is recommended.

Nimma Bakshi, President, Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals Silicon Valley Chapter, suggests a co-creation wheel. “Bring different stakeholders together by cross-mapping their priorities to figure out what scope to create around and intermingle, he says.” The C-suite zeroes in on large business areas of development to create net value for a company. Charge employees to become “curators of co-creation.” Learn where each person fits and what they can achieve toward business growth.

5. Manage people in the process
“You have snipers everywhere,” Phoenix Consulting’s CEO Norma Watenpaugh says. You know the type — the “Debbie Downers” of the bunch. There’s a  political subtext they weave into every conversation.

Focusing on long-term goals will keep projects, people and initiatives from being squashed. Influencers typically get internal players and stakeholders to agree on priorities. “People support what they create. It’s time to draw them into the creative process,” Watenpaugh adds.

So what’s a the true measure of success? “If you create a community and you will know what to do next because the community will tell you. If they don’t then you haven’t built one,” Bakshi says.


Suzanne is an industry leading digital strategist. Currently, she’s a partner at a new interactive, post-production and full service agency: STICKS AND STONES.


IBM Sandy Carter’s ‘New’ Social Paradigm – WITI

sandycarter_witiWomen In Technology International Keynote speaker Sandy Carter, Vice President, Social Business Evangelism & Sales at IBM, says social adoption outpaces radio, TV and even Internet adoption. Facebook added 100 million users in 9 months and iPhone apps hit 1 billion downloads in 9 months.

To Carter, social networks are the new production line. She defines Social media as marketing, PR, branding and exposure.

In 2005, The Harvard Grad invented a way to move social beyond communications into talent management, sales, and customer service. “It’s not an option,” she says, “it’s really a mandate to fuse the two.”

She was one of the first execs in the tech sector to converge Social and Big Data Analytics into her internal employee structure. Her team created a proprietary crowd-sourcing app to offer solutions to complex business issues at the tech giant. IBM integrated this tool into its robust and successful social media strategy.

Carter elaborates further in her book, Get Bold Using Social Media to Create a New Type of Social Business. At its core, a social business is a company that is “engaged, transparent, and nimble,” she explains.  A social Business is one that understands how to embrace social technology, use it, get value from it and to manage risk. Carter boils it down to one acronym: AGENDA.

A – Align organization goals & culture
G – Gain social trust
E – Engage through experiences
N – Network your business processes
D – Design for reputation and risk management
A – Analyze your data

Continuous alignment of business and technology yields financial results. According to a study by the London School of Economics, synergy accounts for a boost in overall productivity by around 20%. This certainly trumps working in silos and individual contributions.

“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” Carter proclaims. She’s right. [I’ve worked for Fortune 500 brands and smaller businesses who claim they are nimble. Then they’ll allow things like legal approval processes to thwart progress. Often, there’s a lack of process around legal approval for content. The reason: no one can agree on the best process or what it could be.]

When culture norms become a stumbling block, Carter’s advice is simple: take an approach to change the culture into a collaborative place. C-level execs often say, “We need an Instagram presence” or “we need more followers” or the shiniest new toy/tool. Goals are simple or bold. Simple goals are getting new customers and more brazen goals include creating a new product in a new category or industry.

Carter’s 3 goals for a social business:

  1. Enable a good work force – operations, HR, etc increase job satisfaction and productivity when exposed to new knowledge, teleconferences, travel and collaboration.
  2. Accelerate innovation – Product research and dev teams hasten idea sharing, brainstorming and discovery. They can help generate ideas, gather feedback and share strategies from internal and external resources.
  3. Improve customer relationships – When customer service reps and agents have access to social content, they will work more efficiently. Marketing teams will also have more time to spend with customers and provide their own consumer-focused initiatives.

What are your experiences with social business?


Suzanne is an industry leading digital strategist. Currently, she’s a partner at a new interactive, post-production and full service agency: STICKS AND STONES.

Guy Kawasaki Keynote – WITI

guy kawasaki suzanne baran Spending three days with some of the most innovative women working in technology confirms that inspiration isn’t in short supply.

Women in Technology International held a summit in Santa Clara this month. Inspiration is what drives excellence and innovation in a fast-paced world with no signs of slowing down. Progression is fuel.

The Women Powering Technology Summit showcased global talent otherwise inaccessible.

Thought leaders in technology, entrepreneurs, recruiters, and high-powered execs shared the ways technology is empowering change. The summit was the perfect backdrop for idea exchange, knowledge and networking in a collaborative, non-competitive space.

Guy Kawasaki original Apple evangelist, special advisor at Motorola and Google, says the key to driving change is Overcoming procedural and people-driven challenges means breaking down silos. Based on three pillars of enchantment, anyone can learn how to accomplish greatness in marketing, tech and beyond:

  • Be Likeable
  • Accept Others
  • Default to Yes

Seems basic, right? So simple in fact that they are the bedrock of building trust. “Bakers are more trustworthy than eaters,” Guy quips. Finding common ground and arriving at a place of agreement no matter how trivial — is a segue to acceptance and trust. By defaulting to yes, you send the message of “I know you’d do the same for me,” Guy says.

Companies that embody these “noble truths” are Zappos and Nordstrom. “My wife never tried on any of their shoes” but [she] will make a purchase and Zappos will ship  and return it for free. A company based on mutual trust takes a small leap of faith. Now Zappos is a large-scale successful business model.

Guy says there’s a roadmap companies like Zappos and Nordstrom use for its employees:
M – Mastery of new skills
A – Autonomy
P – Purpose

By empowering people, a company demonstrates a willingness to get its hands dirty and take risks.


Suzanne is an industry leading digital strategist. Currently, she’s a partner at a new interactive, post-production and full service agency: STICKS AND STONES.

Content Curation & Social Bookmarks

Back by high demand, here’s the updated list of curation and social bookmarking sites: platform_comparison_baran_111612

Let these tools be your virtual personal assistant, a cyberspace concierge to increase your knowledge or collect cool stuff. Since brands are now publishers, it helps to survey and document which content has an impact.

Remember, less is always more.

For a complete map of curation tools and platforms, check it:

Content Curation Platforms

content curation platforms, proces

I’ve recently updated the content curation platform – excel file here: Platform_Comparison_baran_091412
comparison list to include a new player in the space: Lingospot is a curation software platform and content marketing consultancy with partner publishers such as USA Today and Bloomberg, to name a few.

Content Curation Rules of Engagement:

1. No One is an All Knowing Expert
You may know a lot about your industry, enough to write regular blogs with plenty of insight. You might experience a gap in your knowledge base which others may care to explore. Find true experts on the topic. This is where content curation comes in. It supplements original content.

2. Build Authority
When I was a reporter in the early 90s, I created queries. These queries were stored in a database media/press folks could access to find subject matter experts for interviews/resources. Today, when readers recognize the names of the authors of your curated content, they are more likely to engage.

3. Have a Content Mix
Many of us can write informative blogs but we may not have production chops at making videos, designing infographics, or whitepapers.

By creating a hybrid strategy of the right mix of content, content types and subjects, your site will provide the learning experience readers need. They won’t be scattered in their efforts to find original and curated quality content.

Remembrance: September 11th

A look back — and ahead.

Here’s a personal post in remembrance of a difficult day, written a few years ago. The message is still relevant and powerful today.

Four years ago today the city I love was attacked. I was at the doctor’s office pretty far downtown. I asked the receptionist what all the commotion was outside. She couldn’t respond. I left the office. Chaos greeted me. People scrambling to use pay phones, screaming, running in all directions.

I looked up and saw the World Trade Center on fire, just blocks away. The blaze from the first building located near the top of the tower, and little black specs falling from the top. Those specs, I would learn, were people.

I managed to get on a crosstown bus. My mom called my cell from Jersey. “Terrorists have attacked the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center.” “Is Laura OK?” “Yes,” she said. I sat stunned, paralyzed. The bus stopped and the driver told us to get off because he couldn’t go any further. I walked on 14th, trying not to look behind me at the inferno and wreckage; trying to move on.

My mind began racing — are my friends dead or alive? My ex-boyfriend began a new job at the WTC and I had to call to see if he was alive. I tried him at home, he was there! He said he was transferred by the firm who hired him exactly two days ago. His new office was in midtown. “Why are you calling me anyway, you broke my heart…” and with that he hung up.

Just then I spotted flames rising from a parked car, people covered in white powder, running uptown like a mass exodus. A woman began to scream and I yelled at her, “Don’t panic, it’s just a car on fire…don’t alarm anyone.” I trudged to 89th street where I was living at the time with my friends Julie and Chris. I couldn’t wait to see them; to know they were alive and safe. There they were, with hugs and tears when I walked through the door. Some people from Julie’s office were there, too, unsure of how to get home. We climbed up the fire escape to the roof and watched the WTC smoldering in the haze. We hugged each other for a long time, and Julie was never the emotional sort, but she was crying the most.

Days later, I heard my cousin was the last person to see his friend Mark who worked in the WTC. Mark was my junior high crush. His sister knew mine since 1st grade. She paid us a shiva call when my brother died. Hers died that day. I have had dreams of Mark for years since, intermittently throughout the years. I never did get in touch with his sister, and to this day, especially today, I feel a tremendous gaping void in my heart.

Today I decided to volunteer at an elementary school sorting clothes to send to the victims of Katrina. Human suffering — one cycle after the next, tragedy begets tragedy, but it also brings us together and creates a more collaborative humanity.