Thursday, November 23, 2006

Marketing Internally

Yesterday was talking to a friend of mine, and she said something that stuck with me. She said, in effect, that : " We don't care about the Organization we represent, we don't care what impact our work will have on the Brand, the perception or the future prospects of our employers with the customer." And you know what, she is right. I have observed many times that as employees, we fail to see the larger purpose, we fail to see beyond the current realities. Haggling with customers and partners, we forget where the brick goes into the wall.
What am I driving at? I am driving at the problem of selling internally, which leaders are facing right now, and which will become more and more acute without focussed action. Generating enthusiasm amongst employees, and creating the buzz internally, making them believe in the vision that, lets face it, they are going to delivering is going to be the toughest job for leaders going forward. Every frontline employee is a marketer, and influence the perception of the organization in the customers mind. All the investment in careful marketing and PR is gone to waste if the customer facing personnel do not re-inforce the carefully crafted image. And no, you cannot legislate enthusiasm, cannot make a policy making it mandatory. It is a big problem, also a huge opportunity....

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Contemplating Employee Loyalty

CRM Mastery eJournal has an interesting excerpt from Employee Loyalty: What Makes them Stay?:

"Managers need to know how to create effective relationships. Supervisors need tools to help them identify the "value" in the life of employees. They can then use this information to begin to build relationships......

Here is a simple concept to consider. Use the CalibrationCoaching concept of the YMCA. No, not the silly dance song from the 70s, but the simple acronym that outlines how to coach in almost any situation:

  • Your Thoughts - open the conversation by listening to the employee's perspective on the issues.
  • My Thoughts - share your perspective with the employee. Explain the details and how they can change their behavior.
  • Calibration - discuss what needs to change -- choose no more three areas for focus.
  • Action - define expectations and set a timeline for change."
IMHO: Attrition levels are big concern for me, as I have written here, here and here. And yes, Managers do need to change the way they behave towards there reportees....treating them as a group, as a team, and reinforcing the precednce of the team's goals over personal goals. Also, at the same time, focussing on each individuals' own aspiration and trying to weave them into those of the team. Ultimately, it boils down to balancing the benefits equation: the higher pay, and the anxiety, time for settling in, from switching jobs, versus the trust, culture, and yes, familiarity of the current situation, but lower pay. Our job is to make sure that the latter part of the equation is always heavier.

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Dave's Workday

PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield's new venture, Workday, has just released a new product, an HCM solution based on the SaaS model. From the press release:

"About Workday:
Taking a fresh, modern approach, the company aims to provide mid- to large-sized companies with a compelling alternative to traditional enterprise software.........

Workday Enterprise Business Services are comprised of four suites of services, the first of which, Human Capital Management, is being announced and is generally available today(6th November). The subsequent suites—Workday Financial Management™, Workday Resource Management™ and Workday Revenue Management™—will be rolled out beginning in 2007. All of the Workday Enterprise Business Services share a common foundation:
  • On demand: offers web-based delivery, multi-tenant architecture, 24x7x365 availability, and enhanced security
  • Agile and Global: quickly adapts to meet your changing business needs
  • Intuitive: built for today’s generation of information workers; offers native reporting and analytical tools to help businesses make more timely and informed decisions
  • Built-in Auditing: enables tracking of all changes for governance/compliance purposes
  • Web Services Integration: offers out-of-the-box, standards-based integration capabilities, minimizing complexity and implementation time
About Workday HCM:
Workday Human Capital Management (HCM), the first service to be offered by Workday, is an on-demand solution that helps businesses dynamically align their people and organizations to adapt to fast-changing business strategies. With Workday, organizational changes that typically require weeks or months of IT support can now be done independently in hours or days by authorized business managers.

Built around a flexible organizational model and capable of managing all types of workers, Workday HCM addresses key functional areas such as Staffing, Compensation and Performance Management and is generally available as of today, November 6, 2006."

IMHO: Well, haven't we heard this before? Sounds very similar to the pitch of all ERP, and specially SaaS, vendors. But Workday already has a couple of customers (Biosite, and KANA software, both Calif.-based companies), and has signed up a few more. The way Workday is trying to differentiate itself is by eliminating the need for developers to go from RDBMS to what they call an Object Management System and back. Here's more on this. Let's hope that, at least technologically, Dave gives us a product as satisfying to work with as PeopleSoft.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Oracle Releases new WebCenter

From ZDNet:

"Oracle announced today WebCenter Suite 10g R3, which it describes as a "next-generation user interaction environment." It will deliver task-oriented, contextual, multi-channel interactions for information workers, bringing Web 2.0 technology to the enterprise," according to the press release. And, it's part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware. Not only that, Oracle WebCenter Suite is licensed as an option on top of Oracle Application Server Enterprise Edition for $50,000 per CPU.

....The demo of WebCenter given {this morning} at OracleWorld was impressive, with blogs, wikis, threaded discussion, widgets, instant messaging, search, VoIP, RSS and mashhups all rolled into one application development environment. However, two key components–WebCenter Composer, for creating and customizing the application user interfaces, business rules, profiles and policies, and WebCenter Spaces, which allows individuals and groups to collaborate and manage projects–are not available in the first release."

An attempt to bring Web 2.0 technologies to the Enterprise through the Fusion platform. For me, there will be limited impact of this addition to the stack, mainly because there are a lot of cheap options available for people trying to collaborate, like JotSpot. Maybe we'll see it bundled somewhere.....

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Indian IT industry's (forthcoming) woes

Vinnie has a great post up on India's inflexion point. To summarize, he brings out three trends in Indian IT services environment which might hamper their continued growth:

1. Labor Shortages
2. Failure to develop significant competence in the business/program management domain, as opposed to technical domain
3. Shying away from new investments (Vinnie says Capex, but I believe that except for human resources, more an operational cost anyways, there is no significant investment in any key area)

As an aside, an intersting conversation is going on at Infosys Blog on talent shortages.

IMHO: I have written about this before here, here and here. I would also include:

1. Lack of focus: All Indian IT vendors want to be everything to everybody, consequently lacking the depth to tackle specific challenges

2. Underutilization of resources: Efficiency and productivity are frowned upon as I have written here.

3. Short term thinking: Quarter numbers are the most important items on every agenda, punishment from the market deeply feared. This manifests as a lack of forward, longer term thinking and hence obstructs development of competencies to face future challenges.

4. Walking the Talk: The use of IT inside the industry is abysmal. HR systems, and to some extent Financial systems are used, but in silos. CRM technology, Web 2.0 technologies, and other newer technologies are severely underutilized. These are the same technologies that we sell.

All in all, while there is a lot of buzz about the industry, the shortcomings pointed out above dampen the long term prospects. Playing Safe seems to be the mantra. As Seth would say: Playing Safe is Risky!!!

PS: Just shifted to the new Beta Blogger. So some of the Category Links might not work correctly. Do drop me a note if you come upon any such links.

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SaaS Snippets

Am back after a long lay-off. Here are some relevant snippets:

SalesForce Winter Update: SalesForce announced Dreamforce (registeration required), which included the launch next year of its custom development platform called Apex. Apex is a SQL/ Java based proprietary language, which will allow customers to deploy there own code customizations on SalesForce. It is an interesting development, and one which pushes the SaaS model even closer to a hybrid with on-premise. Details of how this will be managed in a muti-tenancy model, as well as how upgrades and such things will work are still lacking though.

Oracle On-Demand: Staying with SaaS, Oracle announced the launch of On Demand offerings on PeopleSoft Enterprise suite, and Siebel CRM. Appears to be a watered down version of their on-premise software, the pitfalls of which have been well documented. Remains to be seen whether their self-proclaimed "leaders in on-demand" tag holds up.

Will try to keep up with regular postings. Keep visiting for updates....

Update: Netsuite has announced SuiteFlex, it's own version of a development platform. SuiteFlex is targeted at Service providers, developers and VARs, and allows building of vertical-specific functionalities and business processes. In addition, NetSuite has also launched SuiteSource Directory, a source of free, open-source Suitelets hosted on Source Forge. Well, these SaaS guys really know how to make things interesting....

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Friday, August 18, 2006

On Complexity, Fear mongering and Critical Thinking

Brad Feld has a post up on Critical Thinking, and why he thinks we don’t see too many instances of it nowadays. He points to the transcript of this speech by Michael Crichton, at Washington Center of Complexity and Public Policy. I have been a fan of Michael Crichton since I read State of Fear. I have written a brief review here. The amount of research that goes into his books is amazing, although the story is sometimes lame. He talks about the pitfalls of linear thinking and blind belief when we are dealing with complex systems, essentially everything around us. He provides convincing arguments for a change in the media propaganda, and of discouraging fear mongering and doom prophecies. Must read for anyone trying to make sense of things around him/her.

Meanwhile Atanu is having an argument over at his blog, on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (of The Art of Living Faith, or is it the other way round?). Atanu essentially asserts that SSRS is a brilliant marketer who is packaging and selling ancient Indian Wisdom to whose who want it. So how does this fit in with them topic of the moment? Well, there are a hordwe of followers of SSRS (Atanu calls it his cult) who are offended by his non-belief in SSRS’ divinity. Blind Faith. Atanu’s opinion should not matter to someone who truly believes in SSRS’ qualities, he is of course entitled to having and sharing his opinion. We had a huge uproar on the release of the Da Vinci Code ( a movie) in India. Essentially, the author tries to put forth the thought that Jesus might have been human. His followers did not like that, and mayhem ensued. Ultimately, it made for a hugely anticipated movie. Blind faith at work again.

I think that religion, blind belief, cults are all mechanisms we humans have invented to explain things (complex systems) that we can’t understand, much less explain. Linear thinking, as Michael Crichton points out, also has a part to play. Well, all questions have to have one right answer, doesn’t it? Problems have one solution, don’t they? Well, we keep forgetting the “at least” part, and hence the militant defense of our way of thinking. If I am right, surely you must be wrong if you are taking a different way? That is what makes us intolerant, hard headed, egotistic. Humans are complex systems, groups of humans increase the complexity, sometimes exponentially. And, we are all looking for simple answers. In isolation. Out of context. For very complex problems. What results?

Well, on the matter of religion, and belief, I can’t resist posting this excerpt from an interview by Douglas Adams. He really articulates it well:

Q: Mr. Adams, you have been described as a “radical Atheist.” Is this accurate?

Adams: Yes. I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism - both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.

People will then often say “But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?” This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would chose not to worship him anyway.)

Other people will ask how I can possibly claim to know? Isn’t belief-that-there-is-not-a-god as irrational, arrogant, etc., as belief-that-there-is-a-god? To which I say no for several reasons. First of all I do not believe-that-there-is-not-a-god. I don’t see what belief has got to do with it. I believe or don’t believe my four-year old daughter when she tells me that she didn’t make that mess on the floor. I believe in justice and fair play (though I don’t know exactly how we achieve them, other than by continually trying against all possible odds of success). I also believe that England should enter the European Monetary Union. I am not remotely enough of an economist to argue the issue vigorously with someone who is, but what little I do know, reinforced with a hefty dollop of gut feeling, strongly suggests to me that it’s the right course. I could very easily turn out to be wrong, and I know that. These seem to me to be legitimate uses for the word believe. As a carapace for the protection of irrational notions from legitimate questions, however, I think that the word has a lot of mischief to answer for. So, I do not believe-that-there-is-no-god. I am, however, convinced that there is no god, which is a totally different stance and takes me on to my second reason.

I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid” - then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

{emphasis mine}

Two points for clear, unconventional (critical?) thinking…


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Monday, August 07, 2006

The Relevance of Data

Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin have a beautiful conversation over on Guy's blog. This caught my eye:

"Question: Why don’t you check your Technorati ranking?

Answer: Because the data won’t change my actions. Getting data for no good reason just drives you crazy. The secret is to get very flexible in the face of data you care about—changing your x every time you see y changes—and incredibly inflexible in the face of data you don’t care about."

Simple articulation, great meaning!! The whole conversation is worth a read...



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gearing Up for 2020

Paul Kedrosky has up some findings of a June study by the RAND corporation, highlighting the key technologies for 2020, and the countries best equipped to deliver:

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