Thursday, 13 August 2009

Was I helping ? Or was I preaching ?

In my enthusiasm to get my message over, I sometimes get a bit preachy. And sometimes, I do confess, I am also apt to push the envelope a bit. I admit this, and hope my friends accept that it's all with the best intentions. I hope to open doors in people's minds, and for them to take steps forward if they feel what I am saying is appropriate to them. But not get upset if we disagree !

Today was an example, as I tried and failed to convince a guy that he needed to be open to what people were saying, to listen to them in the light they were trying to help him, not simply "tellling him what to do. He decided that I, too, was trying to tell him what to do, and I was totally unable to convince him otherwise.

I ended up feeling very upset, as I was trying to convince him that people mostly acted with the best intentions, yet ended up upsetting him ! Not what I intended at all !

Still, fortunately I had the most brilliant conversation immediately afterwards. Talk about lows and highs !

Has anyone else had any situations like that ?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Browser Battles

We have all experienced that occasional bugbear, the slow computer. Recently I found my computer grinding slower and slower, flummoxed as to the cause.

FREE RAM XP Pro helps me monitor and manage memory consumption, and I could see the memory leaking away frustratingly at 1Mb per second. Restoring memory is also a time hungry business, and I was operating at one third normal speed or worse. 

Despite the urgency of other claims on my time, something had to be done.

Using Google Search, I first tried to locate the reasons for slow computer performance, and then found that slow browser performance might be the cause.

This was a surprise, as I had moved to FireFox from Internet Explorer for just those reasons. But yes, there was a lot of comment out there about FireFox consuming or losing ever more memory, described as a "memory leak".

Of course I know my browsing habits may well make things worse, often having multiple windows and multiple tabs open for cross-referencing. I'm trying to remedy that by using bookmarks more rigorously, but getting called away from the computer and interrupted regularly means the phenomena won't go away totally.

I was aware of Safari, so tried it  to see if performance was better. It was significantly better, although I struggled to see the dark font on the dark background. What tabs did I have open ? I tried to see if I could configure it, or find any downloadable skins to alleviate the issue, but no joy.

So currently I am testing Chrome, and may also look at Opera. Plenty of skins for Chrome, but then I came across a heated discussion about the extent to which Google was "invading" our computers and whether Chrome was sufficiently secure.

This all made me think about what I value in a browser, and I would like to offer readers the following summary:

1. Rapid Performance
When we ask for a web page, we don't want to have to get a cup of coffee every time !
(Safari, Chrome)

2. Page Visibility & Retention
We should be able to see pages which are open, and keep those pages open so as to cross refer contents between pages. This should not lead to a memory drain and a drop in performance.
(IE7, FireFox, Chrome)

3. Predictive Page Search
Either the computer should offer a real-time history of pages I have visited, or predict which pages I am most likely to be interested in. If the former is too memory hungry, then surely the latter is a must have.
(FireFox, Chrome)

4. Being Offered Relevant Goods & Services
Actually, yes I do want this. I suggest to any reader that we may soon accept that being open about our needs, and getting information about things which are close to our heart may soon be a positive step we all take voluntarily.

We all do this when we ask for help in user forums, so why not be clear about what it is we are looking for, as this will help us all move forwards that much faster.

In the Enterprise 2.0 world, being open about our needs is the fastest way to move forward, and keeping issues a secret becomes much harder, and doesn't work when others have been through those same issues themselves before.

If our browsers keep a record of our key word searches and use that to select ads to display when we visit other websites, isn't that a good thing ?

And aren't all cookie enabled browsers likely to do this anyway ?
(IE7, FireFox, Safari, Chrome)

5. Secure Pages Must Keep Our Data Safe
Yes of course this is essential. How can we trust in any online financial transaction if we are not sure our money is safe ?

Many of those concerned about this have hinted darkly that Chrome security breaches are many and wide-ranging, and some have uninstalled the software. If that is so, I hope Google move to address this issue or its perception with all due speed.
(IE7, FireFox, Safari, Chrome ?)

In short, Chrome appears to answer most of my needs, and if I can put the security question to bed, then it will answer all of them. Until then it may be a mixed-browser world I inhabit !

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Social Networks Front Page Must Attract Members Interest

Some social networking sites have reacted to problems with blog rants on their front page by removing the ability to see such activity.

It is estimated by some industry experts that activity levels are down on these sites by as much as 50%.

This is really very bad news, as it means new visitors to the site find fewer reasons to join, and existing members find it harder to connect with kindred spirits and potential business partners.

Instead of straight blog censorship, social networks need to build a star rating system for blog owners, showing response from objective viewers about the validity and responsibility of the blog owners approach.

Where bloggers do not respond to peer pressure, they can ultimately be ejected from the community, if they are spreading their "bad karma" and causing offence to others.

Restoring blogs to front pages but in a managed way will support the quality connections we all need in the 21st Century.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

2009 - New Year Business Resolutions

So, another year finished, a new one ahead, and turbulent times to navigate. What new year's resolutions might help ? Try these:

1) Over Xmas quiet times, revamp your IT performance to be geared up for the New Year
2) Review performance - build on successes and change or remove failures
3) Review pain - can you outsource irritating, time-consuming or just plain scary jobs ?
4) Publish your skills, get out there in online communities and develop your profile
5) Try one new thing each month - innovate your way to growth
6) Take counsel - listen to advice, bounce new ideas off others

Best wishes for 2009.

Kind Regards,

Peter Jones
Director, Business Innovation & Strategy Ltd
Manager, Membership Rules - Product Development for the 21st Century

2009 Trend Watch

Here are my top tips for 2009 and beyond:

1) Open-minded businesses and leaders will innovate their way out of economic difficulties
2) On-line businesses will continue to grow, in line with knowledge of successful online behaviours
3) Business outsourcing will continue to grow, and drive the need for excellent networking ability
4) Large corporates will continue to shrink, as they understand how to change infrastructure
5) Door-to-door delivery services will continue to grow to support on-line retail business
6) Knowledge based businesses will continue to grow to support corporate compartmentalisation
7) There will be a continued rise in blogging, online publication and niche community membership
8) Longer term, there will be a revolution in manual labour through robotic workers
9) There will be a slow growth in demand for facility management and maintenance engineers
10) A rise in production of low-tech energy and water solutions will support third world growth

Happy 2009, may we all do our bit to achieve some of these goals !

Peter Jones
Director, Business Innovation & Strategy Ltd
Harrow, London

Friday, 12 December 2008

Could Project Reviews Have Prevented the Credit Crunch ?

Feedback As a Way of Learning and Driving Successful Development
A recent city article about project management, "Why do projects never benefit from lessons learned", paints a bleak picture of project management in the city (presumably London ?). It shows a stark dearth of understanding that a more experienced project manager accustomed to project review could bring to city projects. Worse, the article commits the very sin it complains of, as it is made in a comment free environment, preventing valuable feedback which would better inform its content.

I voted "against" the article, BTW, as I feel it misses the point entirely. Why ?

Now we all know city culture is short term, and too many other UK businesses outside London also don't do project review. (I sincerely hope New York is better). So the question to ask is what are the benefits of project review ?

Knowledge Retention Saves Money ! Not Sexy, But Definitely a Wow !
Retaining project knowledge means projects are done progressively better. That means saving time and money. Yep, I'll repeat that, in case it's too hard to believe. Project Review saves time and hard earned money. But it's not sexy, and therein lies the problem. Got this job done, don't bother tidying up afterwards, just get on to the next job. Who cleans up the mess ? Who steers the next initiatives away from the rocks ? All typical city I'm afraid.

Plan B - Employ Project Managers Who Have Learned About Project Management
So if city short-termism is so endemic, plan B is to get in project managers who know how to run projects and carry the knowledge and skills around with them. The article suggests that apparently this "never" happens in the City. Answer, bring in project knowledge from outside the city. (and I know this doesn't happen, when most job specs ask for 10 years technical experience.) An experienced project manager will ensure that requirements don't run out of control, that estimates are more accurate, and can improvise and negotiate scoping issues as they arise. The city still hasn't learned what PWC and Gartner have been saying for years, that projects succeed not because of technical knowledge, but because of great leadership and a built-in supportive infrastructure.

Projects can and do run to time and budget, but as the article notes, mostly outside the city. Perhaps the city is the primary contributor to the shockingly low 50% success rate attributed to project delivery ?

Six Sigma - World Class Business Delivery
As ever, people assume that project management is simply running a project. Try instead looking at project management as a continuing process that's every bit as important as marketing and accounts, takes just as much skill, and has a focus on joining silos together not optimising them in isolation. Something that embeds innovation into an organisation's very fabric.

There are just as many textbooks on project management as there are on any other subject you care to mention. A case in point is "sexily" described as Six Sigma, which talks about world class business delivery through a process of continous business improvement. This is in stark contrast to the city model described of continuing and repeated blunders. The sexily-titled Black Belts charged with orchestrating world class delivery are all Project Managers, who work with nominated team members in the organisation, labelled Green Belts.

If this seems just pie in the sky, Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric, is quoted to have been highly committed to implementing Six Sigma across his organisation. Quite some business, one with excellent credentials, where results really do speak for themselves. Not something to be ignored, even when working in the city.

The Cause of the Credit Crunch ?
From the scenario described, it isn't hard to see why the credit crunch took place.

As ever, constructive views are welcome.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Recruitment 2.0 ? Getting to the UK in 2020 ?

Having spent some 7 years in the "employment wilderness" now, I am struck by how little recruitment has changed, even where new attitudes can and should be making inroads in the Enterprise 2.0 age.

I note the following:

  1. UK satisfaction levels with recruitment remain below 45%
  2. The same tired old recruitment headlines are exhumed time after time in the quality UK newspapers; there are no primary innovators
  3. The UK still operates risk avoidance in preference to US risk management, most especially in the recruitment arena
  4. Nowhere is the Gartner / PWC message about leadership and culture being taken up in recruitment; box tickers still rule

At 48, and with a highly successful PM track record until 2001, I have been excluded from many jobs because of:

  • "lack of recent experience"
  • "out of date technical skills"
  • "inability to physically attend regularly enough"
  • in one instance, I "wouldn't fit the culture", aka too old - b**l**ks !! What about integrated work forces of "all the talents" ?
  • "those already working are the only ones good enough to target" - Headhunter X !!

I expect to be past retirement age, yet still working, before "recruiters" get outside their comfort zones and embrace the new means of contact and working which are evolving in the world outside their cosy front parlours. This must involve real "thinking outside the box", rejecting spurious employment "blockers", and finding better ways to discover and recruit real talent. Employers must start considering "fresh" talent, not just at board levels, and also really get angry, and demand radically better results from recruiters.

Where are the messages about developing personal contacts, business networks and the online worlds of reputation, working communities and wikinomics ? Who is reaching out and adopting really new thinking ?

I remain optimistic, though, that one day, I can write to others explaining how to overcome these "issues" and who can help them. I am still working on presenting my diverse, and to too many, confusing bundle of skills and talents, so I can once again contribute to society effectively.

And BTW, we shouldn't accept issues without solutions from our Project Management experience, they are just waiting for a higher priority. We all need to take our recruitment issues as ones which are both important and urgent, and need solving sooner rather than of necessity because, finally, everyone else has changed the way they are doing it.

May that day come sooner rather than later, because too many talented people are finding it too hard to get back to work through conventional recruitment.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Unions to face up to challenge of change

Two current developments in the UK are beginning to highlight growing challenges unions must face in the years ahead.

Moving Ever Upwards ?
Aside from two obvious challenges the Postal Workers Union have to face, namely deregulation and the introduction of internet based communication, what about the need to embrace the tough mindset that many of us have faced ? That of taking a step backwards before we can again move forwards ?

Too many of us have believed that we can only move upwards in life, that any kind of backward step is admitting failure, or giving up. But sometimes it is necessary to admit that things haven't worked, or that the goalposts have moved substantially.

Too often, we hear unions refusing to accept their employees receive any less than they get now. Perhaps this is just a negotiating tactic, but what are the effects ?

Introducing Competition
When competition is introduced, communications workers begin to have a choice, and we can see the introduction not only from the likes of UBS & TNT, but the legions of white van driver companies now springing up to deliver physical goods purchased over the internet.

Choice of employer means operators can begin to negotiate their own salaries, and appreciate their true value.

Artificial Constraints ?
Where unions then artificially apply an across the board salary structure and rigidly stick to pay grades, this distorts an operators ability to perform effectively in the market, and provides the competition with cost and reliability advantages. It is folly to suggest, for example, that unions can control wages across national borders, as might soon be discussed with outsourced teaching resources from India. Regional costing has to be a key factor, and has to be market driven, even inside the UK.

The Introduction of New Choices
For the Royal Mail postal workers, strike action taken allows customers time and the motivation to consider other options. This could be UBS or TNT for parcel delivery and email for posting any literature.

The point here is that the goal posts have now moved substantially. As we all know, those who try to resist change are often left behind, and do worse than those who try to adapt to change and move with it.

Facing Behavioural Challenges
For unions then, it appears the 3 key challenges they face are actually internal: adapting to face up to changed market circumstances; understanding the need to cost regionally and flexibly; and taking on board that sometimes we all have to move back a step before we can move forward again.

With BT having gone through similar painful change, can the unions step up to the mark today and help their Postal Worker members meet this challenge more successfully. And how will the teacher's union adapt to potential changes in their market ? We watch and wait ......

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Beating Jargon Supports Business & Service Growth

Too many people have a tendency to hide behind business and services jargon.

The rationale is that it is a shortcut, a quick way to convey meaning, and that it speeds up conversation.

But is that true for new recruits ? Potential older employees who may not be part of the current zeitgeist after having brought up children ? Customers & suppliers ?

Does it really help speed up conversations that much if people don't actually understand, and either have to assume (spelt "ass" "u" & "me") meanings or leave the concept unquestioned, too scared to appear "stupid" ?

So how can businesses and services help customers, suppliers and employees understand their jargon, so that everyone is on the same footing, and conversation can genuinely be speed up.

Our resident business consultant, Peter Jones from Blue Oyster Innovation, Harrow says that it is now straightforward to build externally accessible reference points which customers, suppliers and new recruits can visit to learn about a business and how to connect successfully with it.

Rather than erecting a barrier to working relationships, this helps to build relationship bridges, and cement better working dialogue between all concerned. I turn this creates tremendous opportunity for the building and exchange of knowledge, both directly about a business or service and also in terms of complemetary businesses and services.

Isn't it about time the jargon barriers started coming down, and communication bridges started being built ?

Friday, 31 August 2007

Technology Changes Use of Office Space

Now that so much technology is available to SME businesses, the need for office space has been drastically reduced.

The effect of this can be seen in lower prices being advertised for office unit leases, and office units unused and vacant. But what are the causes ?

The UK is still engaged in a drift towards a more service based economy. Services don't need product storage space, whether in-house or through outsourced warehousing services, and therefore no need to have physical space to either display or store products.

Also with the move towards out-sourced business units, core work-force sizes are shrinking, and business networks are growing. Why invest in a permanent skill set when the same skills can be found and brought in for specific tasks as and when needed, and not retained on a year-round basis. Services can now be found in abundance to help with marketing, sales, warehousing and distribution, accounts and customer service.

So the move away from physical products and the fragmenting of business operations all mean less core office space is needed. What will business centre managers do about using spare capacity ?

Our resident business consultant, Peter Jones of Blue Oyster Innovation, tells us that office suites are now getting better at recognising the need for office space purely for display and presentation purposes. He is aware of the growth of specialist service providers who can organise room space on a daily basis to take advantage of capacity outages in office suites.

Whilst bigger business centre owners already have their own software to target maximum usage from the available office space, smaller business centre owners had better wake up to the opportunity to increase their revenues and take full cashflow advantage of their capital assets.

Business Information Can Make You Money

SMEs often have a significant amount of customer and supplier information, but find it difficult to put it to use, to add value to their business.

There are some strategic actions they can take, looking in turn at top 10 cost and revenue figures.

Take marketing spend for example. Does the business know who their best customers are, and who are growing in spending profile ? Which advertising channel has the highest returns, in terms of customers who stay long term, and build a spending profile.

Like as not this information is all available, in accounts and in mailing lists, but how to analyse it all and give a precise and complete picture of which customers matter most to a company ?

Is it possible to ask customers what their preferences are through a succinct, easy to manage questionnaire ? Can this information be put to use to determine company strategy and direction regarding products, services and target customers ?

How effective is the corporate website ? Does it get a clear and unique message across to would-be clients about the company, what it does and why that benefits clients ?

On the cost side, can mailing and printing costs be reduced ? Are there other ways to reach customers such as ezines which would actually be better at keeping them in touch ?

Looking at a small workforce, where is their time spent, and where might it be spent to add more value to business turnover ?

Our resident business consultant, Peter Jones, of Blue Oyster Innovation, says that most business owners would benefit from a short introductory chat lasting no more than one hour, reviewing their business from the perspective of the top 10 costs and revenues. Any business consultant can use this to assess where savings and additional revenue can be made, and whether working with them will actually benefit the business over the course of a financial year.

The technology to analyse business information is already available, and can be applied readily to standard format business information. Business managers need to grasp the nettle, take time off from the daily battle ground, and find out whether a small short term investment would pay dividends in the longer term.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Google Missing An Advertising Opportunity

Google are currently exploring myriad ways of presenting topics of interest to web browsers and earning advertising revenue from browser click through.

One such way is Google Desktop, whereby news and web page items are shown on a regular basis, and browsers are tempted to click through, in the process building up a usage profile.

However, some of the Google Desktop scripts are now being picked up as "malicious" by current Norton Anti-Virus software. This results in the Google Desktop shutting down.

The conventional way to solve this is by customers complaining to Norton, and waiting for a body of opinion to build up before Norton take action. This would be very slow.

From the Google perspective, missing revenue streams while the situation persists, a quicker solution would come by collaborating with Norton at a suitable level, finding out what Norton are trying to detect and how, and developing Google Desktop scripts in a way which integrates with Norton AV development practices.

The question now is, how to bring this to Google's attention. We can all play a part, providing we know someone who knows someone, who then knows someone inside Google.

Pass it on !