Stop being your own worst enemy

“Does CIO Behavior Derail Intentions?” by Dr. Paul Hertz and Chris Dowse (CIO Insight, May 2009) Part of being human is having a personality, as well as having habits and patterns under particular circumstances. We all admit that sometimes the past causes us to not  act in our own best interest. This is hardly an issue that’s unique to IT. This article is a friendly reminder to pause the next time a bad habit is about to undermine a moment.

Failure is in the eye of the beholder

“Failure and What You Can Learn from It” by Kim S. Nash (CIO Magazine, 15 May 2009). To some extent a slightly lengthy feel-good (read: you’re not alone) article for anyone who is battling or has battled the potentially toxic effects of “failure”. While there are some who would argue that failure is not necessary for success, the AU state of mind doesn’t judge per se – the objective at any given moment is to experiment, learn, adapt and keep evolving. Standing still is not an option. Might this state of mind lead to “failure”? Hopefully so.  But just across the thin line from today’s failure can be tomorrow’s success.  The only way out is up!

If time is tight for you at the moment then schedule time to come back to the featured article. In the mean time be sure to consume the quick, easy and helpful: “To Avoid Failure, First Define Success” also by Ms. Nash.

However, the best project methodologies cannot overcome problems created by personal agendas, conflicts and lack of alignment between groups inside the organization, says Krigsman.

Your invite to the success party

“Now is the Best Time to Start a Business” by Gary Beach, Publisher Emeritus (CIO Mag, 15 May 2009). Now granted, not everyone reading these posts here has global aspirations. None the less, Mr. Beach makes some good points. If you have a great idea (read: a burning vision) then this is a great time to get started. The start is always the start – it’s not easy building up momenteum. But with the weak hiding, making excuses and running for the sidelines, that clears the way for the true believers.  The (mental / emotional) barriers to entry are higher, and that’s a good thing. No one is going to server you / your company an invitation to the success party. You have to get out there and throw that party yourself. Let’s us know how AU can help.

Service as a software

http://AlternativeTo.net

Software, software everywhere. Sometimes the question before what to choose is how to choose. This site – and there are certainly others with similar intentions – looks to be a good starting point. Find the app you wish to “replace” (e.g. Dreamweaver) and click on from there. Aside from the major operating systems there is also a Cloud tab for those wishing to live more of their app life online. The immediate downside is there doesn’t seem to be too many comments at the moment but as that changes there will also be value add from your peers. Just keep in mind that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.

It’s a never ending process

“Time for a Change: Makeovers, Turnarounds, and Redos” by Laura Taxel (Sante Magazine, May 2009). Expand your vision a bit and apply these restraunt industry focused ideas to your particular situation. The ultimate objective is to enhance your guest’s experience. It doesn’t matter where that inspiration comes from.

• The ongoing economic turmoil makes it more important than ever for
operators to be innovative, proactive, nimble, and responsive.

• It’s not enough to have a good concept. it has to be the right one for the
location and the dining demographic you serve.

• Fixing a problem can be expensive. Not fixing it will cost more.

• Challenges are chances to rethink what you’re doing and to do it better.

• Acknowledge mistakes, and act quickly to correct them.

Staff are guests too

“Your Customers and Your Staff ” by editor Mark Vaughan (Sante Magazine, May 2009). Without a doubt, staff is important. They become an extension of your brand. Therefore, a brand seeking a more dominate position needs to be sensitive to not only it’s marketing effort to customers but also how those efforts might also enable the company’s ability to attract the right staff.

For example, in the restaurant / hospitality industry many front line employees are younger and therefore more web savvy. A second rate site might very well attract second rate applicants. Like it or not, the iGeneration will judge a book by its cover and quite possibly seek employment elsewhere.   A good web site is not just a way to build sales but also a way to attract the right talent that is also necessary for sustainable growth once the customers come in the front door and sit down.

In short, as times change and traditional lines continue to blur the need to think outside the silo gets to be more and more urgent.

Everyone has to eat. And if you offer the perfect product at a price (guests) can afford, served by professionals with personality and skill, you will survive.”
– John Foley, The Restaurant Blog, www.AllBusiness.com

Unfortunately, Sante’s site only allows access to the current issue via a Flash-esque reader, as well as registration. If you’re willing to jump through that hoop be sure to check:

“Online & Hooked” by Aaron Deal (page 23)

“Hiring the Best: No Time for Dice” by Tad Carducci and Paul Tangauy (page 27)

Yesterday is not tomorrow

“Keeping pace with evolving technologies” by Mary K. Pratt (ComputerWorld Mag, 18 May 2009). Let’s hope that these couple pull quotes inspire you to consume this one pager.

“I’ve had to change the way I think about what work means, because technology is changing us. Everything has to be instantaneous, and convenience is a big factor,” says Christopher R. Barber, senior vice president and CIO at Western Corporate Federal Credit Union.

“It used to be I just programmed in the functionality. Now we have to think almost psychologically about what the consumer wants and expects,” says Michael Carlson, vice president and CIO at Xcel Energy Inc. in Minneapolis.

The world is changing. The internet is here to stay. Embrace an AU state of mind or get left behind.

Welcome of Fantasy Island?

“Opinion: When head counts are low, take time to save time” by Sharon Machlis (ComputerWorld Mag, 18 May 2009).

In theory Ms. Machlis is correct. It is true, there is always room for improvement.

Unfortunately, it is rare that management (in larger organizatios) incents such behavior – let alone rewards it. As the fear of loss of job increases the willingness to take chances (read: invest time in investigating / developing a more productive approaches) decreases.

What Ms. Machlis is advocating rarely takes place in the best of times. It doesn’t seem realistic that corporate-think (i.e., small minded, short sighted, territorial based behaviors, etc.) will change when the man/woman in the next cubical (or corner office) might be your replacement.

This isn’t a glass half empty opinion but an accepted and well established reality.

Can customer service get any worse?

” Will Customer Service Be Another Casualty of the Recession?” by Donna Fluss (CRM Magazine, May 2009)

Ms. Fluss raises a  good question as well as adds a number of helpful insights. To her foundation I’d like to add:

— True high-quality customer service has been suffering for years, even through the best of revenue times. Maybe the reality that it is the customer who drives a company forward (not just revenue) will finally come back in fashion?

— I too appreciate the need to keep a business solvent. However, I think it should be said that the impact of changes in how budget is spent (in this case cutting back) should be the same whether the tide is rising for falling. All budget decision should be made with the intention of adding the most value to the customer. In short, cuts that fail to have empathy for the customer and therefore possibly damage the relationship with the customer will only lead to more cuts.

Unfortunately, when the going gets tough it seems that too many “decision makers” become small minde and short sighted, only to take the easy way out rather than prove they are truly deserving of their inflated salaries.

Let’s talk about the solutions

The latest issue (May 2009) of The New York Enterprise Report (NYReport.com) is bursting with must-reads. Below are the highlights with an essential pull quote from each, as well as a few caveats.

Enjoy! Pass it on…

“Marketing Matters More Than Ever” by Robert S. Levin

The reality is that marketing is on the back burner of most small businesses, but marketing is what puts your company on the front burner of your prospects.

AU caveat: As tbarriers to entry (read: costs) for marketing falls for the amount of clutter is going to increase. Now more than ever the quality and relevance of the impression is as important as the quantity.

“Levin’s Law on Cheap and Easy Marketing Mediums” by Robert S. Levin

There is no magic pill in marketing, regardless of the cost of the medium. Success in marketing depends, and always will, on hitting the right audience with a compelling message.

“Get The Right PR For Your Event In 8 Steps” by Beth Silver

Whether in magazines and newspapers, or on radio, TV, or the web, it’s vital to understand the different types of media and audiences that are available, and what is correct for your audience.

AU caveat: Where Step 4 speaks of focus we would use target, targeting, etc.

“Maximize Your Online Presence” by Tony Grass

SEO is not about chasing marginally interested traffic and then trying to sell everything to everybody, it’s about targeting and pulling in those customers who want to buy, and selling to them by featuring what they are searching for. To put it another way, traffic quality means more than quantity.

AU caveat 1: If it’s been three years since you’ve revisited the objectives of your web site – or any other part of your business for that matter – then it’s probably time for a redesign or at least a serious make over.

AU caveat 2: When done property SEO is all part of the up-front analysis / design / development process. Yes, there are adjustments that can be made after the fact but doing so once the site has been built is the less than ideal approach.

AU caveat 3: To paraphrase President Obama, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” All the SEO / SEM in the world is not going to save an ugly site with a poor UX. Get your house in order before you decide to invite guests.

AU caveat 4: In 2009, if your designer / developer isn’t insisting on a content manamgent system (CMS) then engage someone else. ASAP!

The best investment right now is in yourself

“100 Free Open Courseware Classes on Journalism, Blogging and New Media” from OnlineDegreeWorld.com Simply put… WOW! Even if you only find a couple winners for you, that’s still a wow!

The guest expects more than a “just a web site” experience

“The Promise of Private-label Media” by Matthew Egol, Leslie H. Moeller and Christopher Vollmer (Strategy + Business, Summer 2009). As found in the latest print issue – not yet available online. Here’s a summary of the take aways:

– The days of “just a web site” are over.
– While the article doesn’t address it, the mindset / approach outlined e is available to single person companies all the way on up.
– Traditional media’s value add used to be having a unique channel that attracted eye balls. That value add is losing value. Why pay someone else for something you can develop yourself.
– The consumer is agnostic, as they should be. Their need is entertainment and information. The channel through which that is consumed is irrelevant.

We’ll post the link once S+B makes it available.

Every cloud has a silver lining

“Retail Trainer Sees The Recession’s Silver Lining” By Alan Wolf (TWICE Magazine, 4 May 2009) This article makes five key recommendations. Skip the fluff and jump right to the list. They’re right to the point so the RTI (reading time invested) to ROI ratio is significant. Here’s point number five:

Manage expectations and deliver. The current economic crisis does not prevent companies from raising consumer expectations. This is evident from the frequency of ads in recent months that encourage consumers to expect a consultative sales experience while shopping. While it’s extremely important to set expectations, it’s more important to deliver on them. Set moderate expectations and then focus on delivering those realistic standards, rather than implementing expectations that can no longer be met.

The one thing that should not be overlooked is that your employees are your guests (i.e., customers), as well as your partners. Naturally, guests are partners too. If you want to catch the bouncing ball, you’ve got to keep your eye on it.

The never ending story of the new evil empire

“Companies Object to Google Policy on Trademarks” By Miguel Helft (New York Times, 15 May 2009) Simply put, all hype and blind envy aside, Google is a publicly traded company and is oblicated to act in the best interest of ther shareholders. If Google can make a profit on a service in spite of a couple random lawsuit then they will continue to do that regardless of how evil it is. Ignore the slogans and the tag lines – once again, actions speak louder than words.

Love thy Big Brother?

“What Google knows about you” by Robert L. Mitchell (ComputerWorld, 11 May 2009)  One has to wonder if Google isn’t upset with Geiko for stealing their theme song. You know the one… “I always feel like somebody’s watching me…” If this article troubles you – and it should at least a bit – then also invest some time in this:

“6 ways to protect your privacy on Google” by Robert L. Mitchell (ComputerWorld, 11 May 2009)

So much for not doing evil, eh?

Grab an iced tea, kick your shoes off and relax

Change of pace this time. These two from Wired magazine should get your grey matter jazzed to think a little deeper:

“American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse” by Randall Sullivan (20 April 2009)

“Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA Can’t Crack” by Steven Levy (20 April 2009)

Btw, the May issue features guest editor Mr. JJ Abrams.

Share your home movies with the world

“Make your own HD movie” by By Suranga Chandratillake (Fortune Small Business, March 2009). While doing some research for a project that might entail some video we came across this round up. FSB might not be a technology bible but this is a good place to start if you’re considering some simple video solutions. At this point, the revolution probably isn’t going to be televised but it will most certainly be on YouTube.

Three up is just a penny a pop

“New Inks Cut Costs of Office Color Printing” By Ashlee Vance (New York Times, 6 May 2009). Color at three cents a page could be a bigger game changer than music at 99 cents a song. That said, inexpensive output can’t make up for poor design and lack of a proper marketing message. It’s always amazing, in a disappointing sort of way, how many organizations spend significant resources to establish their business, cut corners to market / sell it, and then wonder why revenue isn’t what they projected.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

“The Psychology of the Sale” by Marshall Lager (CRM Magazine, May 2009).  No matter how you cut it, we are all in sales. Whether it’s getting someone to buy our product or service, or getting the kids to buy into the idea of cleaning up after themselves, it’s sales.  A sale is establishing a relationship and getting someone else to embrace your ideas.  This is a handy article end to end but this paragraph was worth pulling:

More than mere honesty and comprehensive product knowledge, it’s important to express what your product or service is really worth to the customer, Champy says—what it means to their lives and livelihoods. “Pricing is not it,” he says. “The value proposition is what brings them back.” Knowing why your offer is better—and especially why it’s different—is something every salesperson must communicate. “Zipcar is a highly compelling and attractive business because its value is shared ownership, not car rental,” Champy says. “It changes the frame of reference.”

Google 101

“Google Wants You” by Chris Morrison (Fortune Small Businss, May 2009). As overviews of Google’s advertising options go,  this is a pretty good one. There are three majors gaps that deserve to be mentioned:

1) The estimated click fraud rate of Ad Sense / Ad Words ads is anywhere from 15% – 20%. That’s a fairly significant amount of waste and might be more than you’re willing to hand over to an already uber-rich company.

2) If you also want to sell ads yourself on your site, as well as use Ad Sense, then check out Google Ad Manager. Good stuff.And it’s free.

3) There are ways to increase (organic search) traffic without having to pay for keywords. However, what you save in money might cost you in time. That said, a blog (for example) is something that can keep people coming back and helps to develop and support your brand on an ongoing basis. Ad Words are more of a one shot approach.