Building a Strategic Alliance Down Under

August 30, 2012 //

We are at the EMC program privileged to be working with the Business School of the University of Technology, Sydney (“UTS”) in helping develop an experiential learning model similar, but clearly not identical to, that which we have had in place at Temple for more than a decade. We are utilizing as our learning platform for a select group of Australian MBA students three strategic consulting engagements where we are committed to producing “professional grade” results for real enterprises.

We are in this new setting for our model finding again that “live” changes everything about learning business, and for the better. Case studies are an invaluable methodology for learning theory, but that is a process that will always remain incomplete until the consolidation that can only happen with carefully guided application to a real business problem takes place. We are the MBA already “rethought.”

The faculty fortunate enough to be involved in this highly collaborative effort with UTS are themselves learning from the “application” experience as respects the realities of crafting a successful strategic alliance. We know from this experience that the critical elements of actually making a partnership work include:

A shared vision, strongly held.

We both view the development of solid professional skills, in a business setting, as a mission that should be given primacy in MBA programs. Many of these skills develop best through structured interaction with a consulting client, guided by an experienced, “been there, done that” faculty member with significant real world business experience. Would you want a doctor that had never completed a residency?

Our focus is on the mission and operational excellence.

This can only happen because of the alignment of views on what we are seeking to achieve; time and resources do not have to be “spent” on revisiting strategic objectives, as those were set during the comprehensive, mutual – discovery process that led to our partnership agreement. We are thus able to hold the students, project managers and all others involved in the program to a “professional grade” standard as respects program implementation; always the hardest part of any change process.

Neither party believes, “… the way we do things here works, so that is the way it should be done everywhere”; we each have much to learn from the other.

The UTS program in Australia will benefit from our learning curve on developing and running experiential learning models of this sort, and we have already benefited from the fresh insights and meaningful improvements that can only happen when bright, engaged people doing something new work hard to help make it better. Our program in Philadelphia is stronger because of what we are doing in Australia.


We both have “flesh in the game”, and interests align.

This is a major undertaking for both schools, it has garnered significant attention both internally and externally, there would be a “cost” in not succeeding that has little to do with money, and is all about assets that are far more important to us both, reputation and brand.

We like each other.

At its roots, a strategic alliance is first and foremost a social network. We work well together because we enjoy doing so; there is a striking and palpable similarity of cultures between UTS and Temple. In our market entry analysis we explored the possibility of working with any number of universities in Australia. That the “fit” with UTS was particularly good could not have been any more obvious. These “soft”, often ill-defined assets are usually at the very heart of differentiating the partnerships in business that work and those that do not.


Our goal is to build a global consortium of MBA programs around the world incorporating an experiential learning experience as their capstone program. We could not be any prouder and happier than to have started that larger undertaking in partnership with UTS.

The fashion industry may be at the dawn of a new era with the help of Enterprise Management Consulting.

On July 16, Pickn’Tell launched its free mobile app through the Google Play Store and iPhone App Store. Intended for women ages 18 to 45, the Pickn’Tell app allows consumers to connect with friends and fashion experts, try out apparel and receive timely feedback, earn gift cards and coupons, and receive notification of sales.

While Pickn’Tell’s offering is exciting for aspiring fashionistas, it’s more so for retailers. The Pickn’Tell app is a consumer portal for a multi-facet analytics platform that allows brick-and-mortar apparel outlets to collect data on pre-sales actions and decisions. Until very recently, these outlets could only gather data after the point-of-sale. Important questions such as how long a customer took to make a decision and what garments a customer tried on prior to making a purchase could not be addressed. Now, Pickn’Tell can provide answers.

Dalit Braun, CEO, demonstrates the Pickn'Tell app to customers.

“For the retailer, [Pickn’Tell] provides the ability to bridge between the physical presence of the store and the virtual one,” said Pickn’Tell CEO Dalit Braun. “The shopping is prolonged out of the store, integrated into an m-commerce platform. It also provides the retailer the ability to build brand awareness in the social networks and collects useful aggregated information on consumers: what they tried on, what they liked, what they didn’t, etc.”

To encourage consumers to engage the platform, the company offers retailers the option to install the Pickn’Tell Interactive Mirror or Tablet. Positioned like a dressing mirror, this device interfaces with mobile devices and enables a consumer to take quality pictures of themselves, share them online, and hear what their friends have to say. However, the Interactive Mirror or Tablet is not required for the Pickn’Tell platform to function.

“Research shows the shoppers crave feedback,” said Braun. “Pickn’Tell eliminates the pain-points of shopping alone and makes any shopping excursion social.”

Mark Frieser, Director of Business Development, demonstrates the Pickn'Tell app to new users.

Based in Israel, Pickn’Tell was established last year by Braun and Asaf Lewin, both veteran technology executives. Understanding the vital need for physical, real-world boutiques to integrate the experiences of mobile social networking, Braun and Lewin sought to provide a solution. In August 2011, Pickn’Tell approached EMC to develop a strategy and business plan for entering social media and fashion markets, attracting consumer-users, acquiring retail apparel clients, and pricing.

By conducting primary research with retail apparel outlets, mining analytical data, and studying recent trends with both mobile applications and the retail apparel industry, the EMC team assigned to Pickn’Tell made several recommendations for long-term growth strategy, marketing and information management. Some recommendations—loyalty rewards and barcode scanning—are featured in Pickn’Tell’s second-generation app.

“We took the base of the recommendations and worked from them, adapting them to our understanding of the market,” said Braun. “The work done provided us with a good foresight to the value proposition and future strategy we have with our technology and that in the end our main focus will be in providing data.”

For the immediate future, Pickn’Tell will continue to promote its consumer app on its website and among fashion and mobile bloggers. In addition, the company will continue expanding its retail client base by targeting small independent boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, and the Old City District in Philadelphia. The company is currently negotiating several contracts for placement of its Interactive Mirror or Tablet.

Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business provides strategy consulting to clients in the private, public and social sectors. To find out more about EMC’s services, contact Becca Zinn at

– Tyler Sagardoy, MBA ’13

This spring, students in the Fox School’s Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC) Practice traveled to Rome to observe and participate in the planned expansion of an Oxfam America and United Nations World Food Programme initiative that seeks to relieve poverty and enhance food security through risk reduction.

The Fox School’s EMC program provides MBA students with a professional consulting project for a paying client under the guidance of academic instruction and an executive mentor. This year, five EMC students advised Oxfam America (OA) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on the expansion of their R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, which aims to address rural resilience against climate-related risks. The R4 Initiative seeks to provide risk-reduction tools to the world’s most vulnerable populations – those who depend on agriculture and live on less than $1 per day.

The EMC students studied OA’s pilot program, launched in Ethiopia, and the R4 Initiative’s expansion into Senegal and two additional developing countries. The team developed a five-year strategic business plan for the partners, OA and WFP, to implement and share with potential funders, as well as several other deliverables, including a research presentation, research report and R4 budget workbook.

“A large part of this was research, getting to understand micro insurance, Senegal, Africa and poverty,” said Natalie Barndt, the independent consultant who served as the EMC project manager. “There was a huge learning curve because this is not a traditional business case.”

The students presented key research findings on Senegal and the vulnerability of the country’s rural poor, and they proposed solutions and preliminary implementation considerations. Their research delved into issues including environmental factors on levels of food insecurity, poverty reduction efforts in place and current approaches for micro risk management.

After the research phases, the team put together a compelling, 388-page R4 Initiative strategic and operation plan, which provides a technical and strategic foundation for the R4 five-year plan and which will aid in the funding of the R4 Initiative. In addition, the EMC team developed a comprehensive R4 Budget Workbook.

After the team produced this extensive research and strategic plan, the partners invited Barndt and two EMC students to Rome to participate in a gathering of world leaders working to develop a detailed R4 Initiative business plan.

For the students, Barndt said, the consulting engagement, R4 strategic plan development and international exposure is invaluable.

“They get real-life experience at a very complex project with a very, very sophisticated client,” she said. “They really learn to develop the consulting story. They learn about the program, and they learn to format it in a way that tells a story that is compelling and has data and facts to back it up.”

Research indicates that marketers plan to increase social media spending by 46% in 2012.   However, not all social media platforms are alike.  To make the most of a social media marketing budget and effectively engage new and existing customers, marketers should understand the culture and features available with each platform and develop strategy accordingly.   To help with this process, this following infographic offers a snapshot comparison between Google+ and Facebook.

The risk and insurance industry fills a unique role in the world’s economy as a private market mechanism for the sharing of risk, with the global pooling of what would be risks otherwise borne solely by the individual and/or entity estimated at US $100 trillion.   As this risk pooling is instrumental for creating the resilience that underpins the efficient functioning of economies and societies, the insurance industry is clearly a legitimate object of public policy.  As the risk pooling afforded is only possible with investors’ willingness to put capital at risk, value creation is a necessary condition for its continued existence.

The convergence of public and private interests in the industry are nowhere more keenly apparent than in the risks and opportunities presented by “sustainability,” the issues and factors illustrated with a “Taxonomy of Sustainability” developed at the Fox School of Business.  An EMC faculty member and MBA team conducted a global survey of sustainability and the insurance industry on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (“UNEP FI”).  This survey had two lines of inquiry.

First, what is current “state of play” as respects the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) factors in insurance underwriting?  Secondly, what is needed for the development of a more purposeful dialogue on the role of the insurance industry in response to ESG factors?  From the survey results, five broad themes emerged, each of which is discussed in depth in the publication that resulted from the survey: The Global State of Sustainable Insurance.

Dialoguing on Sustainability & Risk

  1. ESG factors influence underwriting.
  2. Proper management of ESG factors potentially enhances insurance industry earnings via avoided loss and new product offerings.  This in turn could afford greater protection for the insureds’ they serve.
  3. Given their assessment of ESG risks, insurance underwriters judge societal response for many ESG factors as under-developed.
  4. There are significant differences in the assessment of ESG factors dependent on whether an underwriter is operating in the “developed” or “developing” world.
  5. Promotion of ESG risk management and financing requires:
  • Working with a fragmented insurance industry structure to achieve integration
  • Enhanced forums for dialogue between stakeholders
  • Distinct, and sometimes new, skill sets
  • A recognition and respect for interests divergence

Understanding sustainability allows insurance companies to better understand the risks they are assuming, and in so doing, make more money – all while doing the “right” thing as well.

James W. Hutchin
Willis Research Network 

ESG Factors at work

Reaching through prison walls to develop strategy

March 25, 2012 //
Image Credit: The Inside-Out Center

A little over a year ago, a team of our MBA students spent a Saturday in maximum security Graterford Prison facilitating a day-long strategy session for the steering committee for Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.  Started at Graterford more than 15 years ago, Inside-Out has grown into an international network of 310 trained facilitators and several prison-based think tanks – all without a well-formulated business model.  The strategy session was designed to stimulate the steering committee – roughly half inmates and half professors, with a smattering of students and staff – to design a business model to support the organizational component of Inside-Out.

Programmatically, Inside-Out provides incredible educational offerings in which inside and outside students conduct workshops and take college classes together, inside prison walls.  The quality of thinking is exemplary, with the inside students holding the (often younger) outside students to an extremely high standard of preparation and logic, and the outside students (often having the benefit of more formal schooling) bringing to bear strong technical skills in reading and writing.  Even more important telling the high-quality thinking is the commitment to mutual respect and deep listening such that participants draw from each other and the group deeper insights than would be available individually.

Needless to say, talking business and strategy in this setting was extraordinarily challenging, both because many of the participants are actively suspicious of business and because the group expects the highest level of honest and respectful participation in decision-making.  The team prepared by clarifying the goals of the session, designing a flow, blocking out the day in 15 minute intervals, assembling needed materials, and practicing various listening, recording and facilitating techniques.  On the actual day, this meticulous preparation allowed the team to adjust nimbly as the group challenged, changed and eventually found its way back to the central themes and decisions.

In the end, the steering committee’s insights and decisions shaped the EMC teams recommendations for Inside-Out, even as these recommendations have guided Inside-Out.

On the dissecting table [at a recent Think Tank discussion] was the EMC team’s comprehensive 176-page report prepared for Inside-Out, entitled “Pathways to Sustainable Growth.” Out of this critical meeting of minds rose a guiding theme: harnessing the power of the international network. To maximize this power, the Graterford Think Tank has been placing special focus on the continued development of what EMC identified as Inside-Out’s core competencies (what has made Inside-Out successful, unique, hard to copy, and what will give Inside-Out an edge moving forward). They are: the Graterford Think Tank, the international network, and the instructor trainings.
The Inside-Out Center Newsletter, Fall 2011

As useful as the strategic work has been to Inside-Out, the experience of working with such a powerful group of people, inside and out, has also left its mark on the EMC team:

On a practical level, the facilitation at Graterford made me realize how important preparation is for any sort of meeting and how being intentional – about activities, questions, etc. – can make an incredible difference on the outcome of your discussion and the richness of the content and dialogue that you create.

On a personal level, as always – going into Graterford was a transformational experience.  It was incredibly humbling to stand up in front of professional facilitators and try to facilitate a meeting.  It was also incredibly rewarding to be able to create a structure – and see it unfold in expected and unexpected ways – that allowed people to discuss their ideas and reactions to our work and listen to their suggestions of how we could make it better and support Inside-Out in deepening their own impact.   Also, as a person who can be on the shy-side, especially in large groups, having to facilitate in front of 40 people – without my teammates! – was character building to say the least.
–          Christy B., GMBA, 2010

What’s the added value of a strategy consulting course?

March 20, 2012 //

Today I was re-reading Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (and feeling quaint and anachronistic while holding an actual library book) and was struck by Smith’s notion of “productive” and “unproductive” labor.  I wonder if our students would count all of the time they put into the EMC as productive or unproductive?

Productive labor is labor that “adds value” to something, such that some of the labor is captured and stored for later use.  (This must be one of the earliest uses of the b-school jargon, “added value.”)  An example is manufacture, in which some of the labor is captured in a product and (in a sense) released as the product is used and eventually re-sold.  Unproductive labor is labor that dissipates even as the effort is expended; Smith uses the example of housekeeping and other servant services which provide some immediate but not lasting value.

The Enterprise Management Consulting Practice requires from each students perhaps 300 hours of work, between classes, team meetings, client meetings, research, modeling, writing, presenting and, we hope, thinking.  Does any of this effort transform into value that can be called on at a later point to solve a problem or make a decision?  Is there true “value add” to MBA education?

Coming up with objective measures of the added value is a topic for another post.  Anecdotally, we measure the impact of EMC by the increasing confidence we see in our students’ faces and actions, and by the emails we receive, sometimes years later, telling us how they have used their EMC skills to solve business problems.

EMC gave me much more than knowledge of a particular industry.  It gave me soft skills: I learned to work under pressure, to deliver high standards of quality on time and to manage various characters and competencies within a team.
Matthieu Guillaume, IMBA 2001
Lloyds TSB Monaco

I use EMC tools to evaluate potential investments and acquisitions for my firm.
Francine Pramana, PMBA 2011
Business Development Specialist
Independence Blue Cross

A study of the negotiating strategies of new employees suggests that the best deal is the most well-rounded one. Those who are willing to collaborate with their new employer and sacrifice some monetary compensation for non-salary benefits felt better about the outcome and their role at the company. They also gained in other ways. “When they collaborate, they raise their salary a bit; get some non-salary benefits like more vacation, better healthcare, or help with education expenses; and walk away thinking it’s a win-win,” says one of the study’s co-authors, Crystal Harold, an assistant professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.