THINKING FORWARD – Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management


Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications

+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK October 17 – October 23, 2021

1. How can companies ensure they’re allocating the right resources to their digital initiatives? A new briefing from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research follows the case of global financial services group BBVA, which created the Single Development Agenda to evaluate and prioritize more than 2,000 initiatives each quarter.

Following these four guidelines helped the company increase investment in initiatives that advanced strategic objectives:

  • Generate evidence related to value, not just to deliverables. Companies need to know what type of value the initiatives aim to generate, and how much.
  • Hold individuals accountable, rather than committees. BBVA designated two leaders for each initiative: one held accountable for a technological solution, and another who is charged with creating value for the initiative’s client.
  • Allocate talent to initiatives. BBVA uses staffing experts to allocate the right talent to the most promising initiatives. People are assigned based on their availability, strategic priority, and abilities required by the initiative.
  • Rely on one transparent process — not politics. Portfolio management processes are often subject to politics, the CISR researchers write. To avoid this, BBVA instituted a transparent, evidence-based process that is applied to every strategic initiative.


2. Andrea Friedenson has experienced the business world from multiple angles, from working in marketing at Disney Interactive to founding and serving as CEO for two companies: Halfshark Industries, a marketing consultancy, and Project Armor, a behavioral and physiological analytics company.

In a recent Q&A, Friedenson, MBA ’09, talked about her commitment to connect women with capital and where she sees hope for the tech industry.

Can you give an example of a time you’ve experienced gender bias?

A few years ago, someone accidentally sent me the employee compensation spreadsheet for the company where I worked. I thought I had negotiated well coming into the role, but I saw that at every level, the women in the company — including myself — were given equity packages that were significantly lower than our male peers.

Where do you see progress, and how can we scale that throughout your industry?

I have seen the tech industry take huge strides over the past five years. But in business, you can’t have control if you don’t have capital. Having more women in positions closer to capital — as investors, founders, and executives — will do the most in accelerating the tech industry’s evolution.


3. In the Indian state of Karnataka, smallholder farmers, many of whom are impoverished, have traditionally sold their products to intermediaries without knowing what a fair price for their products should be.

To address the problem, the Karnataka state government initiated a new digital market platformto connect over 150 previously isolated physical markets, working in collaboration with MIT Sloan associate professor Karen Zheng, an operations management scholar and supply chain expert.

Analysis of the initial platform revealed that prices increased significantly for some products, but stayed practically the same for others.

So Zheng, working with colleagues and students, designed a new two-stage auction, with a second round of bidding added on for the highest-offering traders from the first round, and ran a pilot of the new auction for a major lentils market.

The result? Over a three-month period in the spring of 2019, average prices increased by about 5%, benefitting more than 10,000 farmers who traded under the new auction design, when compared to a similar market using the legacy auction format.

“Implementing the two-stage auction really led to significant improvements,” Zheng told MIT News. “It is equally exciting to see that the same improvements persist into the next selling season.”

Content from the: MIT Sloan Office of Communications Building E90, 9th Floor 1 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142

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