Archive for the ‘business’ Tag

I Have seen One Future, and It Works – Pasticceria Besuschio and a Future for Retail   Leave a comment

A few days ago, during our Easter break, we drove some 14 miles (21 kilometers) to visit one specific retailer: the bakery and confectionery shop Pasticceria Besuschio.
What in Lombardy could entice anyone to drive away from Milan, a much larger, more diverse town, and go into the small, if wealthy-looking, former country market town of Abbiategrasso, for the single purpose of buying sweets?

Indeed, Pasticceria Besuschio is rated among the top 10 in Italy by the reputed Gambero Rosso guidebook of Italian bakeries. While this got us there, on a leisurely and sunny morning, we like to think we are smart enough with Italian food to tell substance from hype; our real purpose was to see for ourselves how good this place could ever be.
We looked at a number of preparations on display, from small “mignon” pastries to curiously-shaped iced cakes, from peculiar-looking Easter eggs to an impressive range of leavened cakes. Some fancy-named cakes were invented there, such as “Crakelé” (“craquelé” being the French word for a pattern of cracks on a surface, often obtained on purpose on an art work) and “porfido” (a cube-shaped cake named after porphyry, the rock once used around Milan for small cubic paving stones). Others were renditions of known traditional specialties, such as cornmeal “pan meino”, or self-proclaimed rediscovered traditions such as “pagnotta di fràa” (the friars’ bread loaf).
Finally, we listened to Mr. Besuschio’s explanations and tried a couple of pastries with our cappuccino and tea.

What was our conclusion? We walked away fully confident that this is going to be the place where we will bring international friends to show them what can sweets be in Lombardy. This is where we are going to get our sweets and cakes for special occasions at home, as well as gifts for our friends in Milan. This combination of flavour, taste and design feels better than any we have found in some of the most famous bakeries in Milan, and the less famous ones we have long liked. Almost as important, we found prices very reasonable, only slightly higher than those of mass-produced cakes at supermarkets.

On our drive home, we caught ourselves wondering about what lessons may this local, almost remote boutique shop hold for a much broader audience.
What can we glean from shops like this about the future of physical retail shops, as they struggle in many countries to keep up against both large-scale sales chains and online providers?

While walking the ancient streets of central Abbiategrasso, we had seen a few other shops that impressed us: a fashion shop, a pharmacy and L’altra libreria (“The other bookshop”). Each of their windows conveyed a conscious effort to display a very thoughtful selection of goods, chosen with specific purposes and criteria. What each window really is about is the shop itself, and reasons to enter and ask for advice, much more than any specific merchandise you may want to buy there. For example, the bookshop’s window promotes È tutta colpa di Ipazia (“It’s all Hypatia’s fault”), a public reading and discussion forum named after none less than the ancient Greek female philosopher and astronomer).
Both Pasticceria Besuschio and L’altra libreria articulate an engaging, sophisticated message in their web sites; what struck us is how much of the same message manages to come across loud and clear through a physical window.

These shops clearly show, and implicitly tell, that they can be your specialty adviser on their wares, and on the whole cultural niche that surrounds those goods, be they books or garments, sweets or health products. In their windows, this offer for advice is based on choosing very few items among the enormous number of options available; it’s the choice itself that comes across as valuable as soon as you look at the window – clearer, you will feel as you look at it, than I can articulate in words here, and the owners themselves on their web site.
Their next challenge is probably to leverage physical and virtual social networks to get their adviser message across over virtual channels, to people beyond those who happen to walk in front of their windows, then to turn that attention they fully deserve into paid sales – either of goods or of those very advice services.
This sounds difficult, for sure. Still, what they already managed to do has likely been difficult for them, and surely impossible for so many others: finding for themselves something special to do, or even to be, different from commodity, mass-market suppliers.

What may be your Pasticceria Besuschio?
What shop is so special that you are prepared to drive, walk or browse to it beyond more popular ones?
What do they offer that makes you want to do so?  

Milano, 05/05/2014. Gianluca Marcellino

Alcuni diritti riservatiSome Rights Reserved: CC – BY

I wish to thank Fiona Talbot, TQI for her advice on making this post clearer and better.


Posted May 5, 2014 by Gianluca Marcellino in Retail

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A Big Step For Microsoft and Cloud Ecosystems, a New Step In My Own Collaboration on Alliances   1 comment

Yesterday I published a new post on the impact of the new service on Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.
I believe this service is much more than a revamping of Hotmail; it is a key development in the impact of cloud business models on partner ecosystems for Microsoft and other platform vendors. It affects the whole partner ecosystem from OEM to distributors and resellers, to systems integrators and ISVs.

This post also marks a new development for me: I have published it as guest on the blog of a fellow alliances professional, Peter Simoons.

I look forward to exploring this collaboration and others among alliances practitioners. It will be interesting to see how alliances develop among alliance managers.

Leisure Time, Valuable Business Networking for Alliances   Leave a comment

Leisure and business go hand in hand when you enjoy both.

I was biking with my wife this week end, for family business and leisure together. We stopped to consider how to overcome an obstacle just at the same time as another wanderer did, much for the same reason.

This was an obvious foreigner, if fluent in Italian.
Her request to take a picture of her prompted me to offer a business card. She shared hers and we exchanged some more details about our interests. Beyond wandering in the neighbourhood, that each of us obviously enjoys, our business focus is similar, and our similar age gets us reviewing priorities and approaches during middle age and a global business crisis.
As it turned out, all the three of us have a business in helping organizations do business together.

We have invited each other to visit and may well meet again. If we do, it will most likely for leisurely biking (and triking) together before we ever consider business.
Still, it is amazing how we complement each other’s business. The other wanderer provides a technical capability in South East Asian languages and business culture – delivered in our town; my wife may well need this in her business, and my alliances activity becomes stronger whenever a similar option comes to enrich it.

Assessing an acquaintance will be an exercise and an investment in alliances, as well as a welcome pastime.

Traveling and Meeting People – Good for Alliances – Surprisingly So   Leave a comment

So much, so obvious: alliances are a relationship business, and meeting in person strengthen relationships.
What is surprising?

Let’s start from the beginning: to make the most of precious traveling, I have sought friends and fellow alliances colleagues in my latest trips.

I have refreshed and strengthened personal relations, including with:

  • Alliances colleagues I have known online and first met in person thanks to these very trips,
  • Colleagues turned into friends that I had last seen 15 years ago
  • Persons that provided services to my company, that I am befriending and together we just thought up some activity together that it will be nice and rewarding even to try, let alone actually do!
  • Former colleagues who did my very same job few years ago and shared invaluable experiences on how similar and how different is what they do now. For some of them, I feel like what I do has changed more than what they do.

It has been an invaluable development experience for me. What has made this especially significant for alliances?

First, each and every person I met was surprised by this approach. Of course, positive surprise makes meetings and relations warmer and more useful.
Here is a reminder of the value of innovation and of personal touch. And a reminder that innovation is sometimes very, very simple and stems from applying very basic principles – such as my doing justice to the value of travel.

Second, in addition to strengthened relationships, these meetings generated new business insight and opportunity that just was absent from our minds before we met.
I take this as a testament to the value of alliances, defined as professional management of relationships to pursue value that derives from how the entities in the relationship complement each other. However simple, however small, this has been alliances management, and has created tangible value alongside the intangible pleasure of  bonding.

Finanza Etica – Ethical Finance: You Better Think then Act   Leave a comment

Naturalmente nel senso di – as in The Blues Brothers’ song by Aretha Franklin of course.
La discussione in italiano è oltre.

*** English commentary ***

Over January and February I had the opportunity to attend a valuable course (in Italian, as most of the discussion below will be), organized by Valori, a magazine about social economics, ethical finance and sustainability.

Two key lessons from that course: that free markets are good, yet most markets we see are barely free, and that people who want to learn more about this also want to involve friends and colleagues in discussing and practicing conclusions from the course.

I believe what we are trying to do, in this course and elsewhere, is reviewing after the 2007 “financial crisis” the balance each of us had achieved between different mental models of finance and business, with very different assumptions about the value and role of regulation in a market economy.

It will be interesting to watch how this effort will evolve after the course, as each of us who attended and taught grapples with change, individually and with others.
For instance, some of us are currently considering how to leverage our social networking tools and skills to support broader discussion and collaboration on these lines.

*** Discussione in italiano ***

Ho appena seguito il corso di finanza e finanza etica di Valori. Il corso ha toccato diversi temi con una utile varietà di punti di vista tra i vari docenti. Era naturalmente incentrato su una interpretazione della situazione finanziaria attuale, dopo la “crisi finanziaria” del 2007, che raccomanda di introdurre meccanismi di controllo significativi per i mercati finanziari – meccanismi peraltro di ispirazione ben più liberale che non socialista, marxista o comunque ostile al’economia di mercato in senso proprio.

E’ stato un corso sostanzialmente divulgativo, per non specialisti desiderosi però di applicare le conclusioni della discussione nelle scelte economiche e finanziarie quotidiane di ciascuno, e delle associazioni cui partecipiamo. Per questo, e grazie all’apertura e alla disponibilità dei docenti, la discussione è stata intensa.

In eventuali edizioni future credo sarà utile sfruttare questa impostazione dando più spazio alle dottrine (neo)liberiste e articolando meglio la loro critica. Molti dei partecipanti infatti vengono da una formazione fortemente critica nei confronti di aspetti importanti dell’economia di mercato e del ruolo recente della finanza nell’economia delle famiglie e delle aziende del mondo occidentale. La crisi del 2007 rafforza in chi di noi ha questo retroterra la spinta a schematizzare la valutazione dei meccanismi di mercato e dei mercati finanziari, almeno quanto chi di noi ha una formazione più liberista ha interiorizzato negli ultimi decenni una valutazione semplicistica della regolamentazione dei mercati.

Già durante il corso alcuni docenti e molti partecipanti hanno cominciato a distribuire materiali a complemento delle lezioni. E sempre durante il corso diversi docenti e insegnanti hanno proposto di coinvolgere anche altri nella discussione e nella comunicazione di questi temi.

Proprio in questi giorni con alcuni dei partecipanti stiamo cominciando a confrontarci su come utilizzare anche strumenti di social networking per favorire la comunicazione delle conclusioni raggiunte, e soprattutto la collaborazione tra persone e organizzazioni nell’applicarle alla pratica quotidiana. Cosa ne uscirà?

An Alliance has a Joint Venture is an Alliance – What Here and Now?   Leave a comment

At the highest level, the strategic alliance I am focusing on stands out for having a joint venture, too.
In a very practical sense this alliance has also been that joint venture.

This has been the case for a very long time, in a growing if carefully selected number of countries.

Here, now, we are having a great opportunity to review thoroughly: what can the practical implications of this be?
Specifically: what can it mean for an ICT strategic alliance to have, possibly even be, a joint venture in one given country at a specific moment in time?

I look forward to contributing to a new practical implementation. 
Place is here, Italy. Time is now, say the month starting today.

Posted January 17, 2011 by Gianluca Marcellino in Alliances, Computer e Internet

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International Alliances: Whatever You Do, Wherever You Work, Find a Better Phrase than “Developing Countries” – Now   Leave a comment

First, go watch this. And I say “watch” as in “look at it moving”… click the “play” button and see the world unfolding.

Oh, I do hope you were sitting. With any luck, “comfortably” will come back soon.

See the huge red ball fluttering around and literally bouncing hard on the floor between 1958 and 1961?
Now, that’s really the best part of this world by some very significant measures, as we all know- today, that is.

If you watch closely it bounces up much before hitting the bottom of the chart – mercifully.
I shiver to the thought of what must it have been like, and I do so watching this graph much more than when I read gut-wrenching accounts of that story over the last few decades.

International alliances are probably among the easiest varieties of international work, and the lesson that Professor Hans Rosling’s  Gapminder drives here feels like applying to many of the most complex kinds too, from trade and manufacturing, to cooperation, to aid, to finance and diplomacy.

I start from alliances for a very personal combination of reasons. For now, let’s just say

  1. it was a long time alliances colleague and friend pointing me to this,
  2. surely alliances must be across borders and so international, or what are they? 
  3. it looks like Gapminder can help us see the limits of some myths shaping how we act – internationally.

In his donation request, professor Rosling calls them “devastating myths”.
If you find this a bit too strong, go to the link here at the top and just watch the ball pinball around, bounce hard, then float up left. Safely, I am sure we all hope, since the vertical axis is labeled “life expectancy”. 

There’s plenty more myths where this comes from, and plenty more devastation. I so hope alliances, too, can help improve on some.

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