AFG Venture Group Dispatches

Corporate advisory and consultancy in Australia, South East Asia and India.

Engagement Models – Lindley Edwards, Group CEO, AFG Venture Group

“The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.”  Peter Senge 

Currently most businesses find themselves operating in altering enterprise landscapes. These alterations are underpinned by changes in how we are interacting, communicating, undertaking business, using resources and relating. This changing landscape of how we are engaging with technology and the way in which it is being deployed means that most businesses need to strategise and re-think engagement and consider what it means for the business and its stakeholders.

Some of the main themes are:

  • The rise of social media and the socialisation of goods and services
  • Movement from software to service
  • Increased ease and ability to source or deliver globally
  • Access to services and information across multiple devices
  • Real time feedback and interactions
  • Capability to use data to proactively determine patterns and usage
  • Ability to have personalised service offerings
  • Changes in perception of value which impacts pricing
  • Innovation of ways of using and not necessarily owning resources

At heart of this is a movement from a transactional approach to one of relationship. This requires a need to focus more on creating engagements that can move into maintainable quality relationships.

Such a change also means a greater focus on the social factors. Social factors include creating compelling narratives, understanding habits, meeting ‘tastes’, building collaboration, connecting, sharing, obtaining and utilising feedback and dissemination. There is a lot of skill in determining what makes up the social ‘ecology’ of a market and how this relates to the product/service offered.

The Strategic Questions

“Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them.” Dr Ralph Gerard 

Good strategists ask the best questions that seek to uncover as well as discover relationships and patterns. In market situations the skill is in discovering how ‘consumers’ of a product or service desire to consume and what and when they want to consume. In times of change it is important to keep asking the difficult, interesting and more complex questions. It is also important to allow dissenting views into the executive team debate and strategy sessions.

Geoffrey Moore, the IT strategist and author of books like “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado” has written a number of strategy and white papers. One such white paper “Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT, A Sea Change in Enterprise IT[1], detailed some of the strategic questions that enterprises need to ask. Here is the summary from this paper:

  • How will systems of engagement change the way we do business?
  • How will the core value chains within our organisations — innovating, designing, procuring, marketing, selling, servicing, and governing — be impacting by social business systems?
  • What kinds of social business use cases are associated with each of these major value and process chains?
  • What kinds of demands do these use cases create for connections back to the information in our core systems of record?
  • How can we create best practices tied to these use cases that will allow for faster and more accountable implementations?
  • How can social business systems be integrated into existing enterprise systems and applications?
  • How do we avoid replacing our existing information silos with new social silos?
  • How do our concepts of control and governance need to change to deal with the new world of systems of engagement?
  • How can organisations balance the effectiveness of personal branding with the overall goals of the organization?
  • How can organisations balance collaboration and agility with security and privacy considerations?
  • What types of governance are required for social business systems to be effective in the enterprise?
  • Given that technology policy and regulation always lag technology practice, what kind of obstacles do outdated policies and regulations pose to rapid implementation of social business systems?
  • In an environment in which we increasingly expect employees to be available 365/24/7, how do we deal with the inevitable resultant blurring of lines between what is organisational and what is personal?

And most importantly…

  • In a world of tight resources, how do we pay for these new systems and still support our legacy systems?
  • How do we deal with the change management implications of all of this?

The Need for Trial and Error

“You can be so bad at so many things….and as long as you stay focused on how you’re providing value to your users and customers, and you have something that is unique and valuable….you get through all that stuff.” Mark Zuckerberg 

In times of changes creating new business and engagement models requires an ability and willingness to innovate. Competitive and market pressures mean that innovation on engagement and business models becomes a priority. Global surveys by groups like the Economist Intelligence Unit found in recent surveys that the majority of respondents favoured new business models over new products and services as a source of future competitive advantage. EIU analysts concluded that “the overall message is clear: how companies do business will often be as, or more, important than what they do.” This research is borne out in similar studies by groups like IBM.

Innovation cannot occur without the willingness to trial new ideas and engage in a discovery process which may or may not be the ultimate solution. The preparedness to iterate is critical as knowing what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work provides valuable and often necessary insights.


Collaborative approaches are a key and critical part of innovation as new engagement models are iterated. It is not enough to consider just the business and financial models, as the future is demanding engagement models which are intelligently crafted around the key social factors that are important to users and consumers of a service or product.

About the Author

Lindley Edwards is the Group CEO of AFG Venture Group, an Australia/Asia based corporate advisory business. Refer to Lindley is also a Non-Executive Director of a number of not for profit and community organisations.

[1] Moore, Geoffrey – White Paper – “Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT, A Sea Change in Enterprise IT”,