Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ask and You Shall Receive

I pulled this from July 2008 blurb from BusinessWeek (sorry no link). Wow. Long time. However, it remains relevant as things have been turn up-side in the world.

Driving Sustainable Innovation in Tough Times
Posted by: on July 09
While many companies are hunkering down during the current economic storm, smart companies understand that it is critical to drive the market, instead of being driven down by it. CEOs have to be committed to sustainable innovation, and management must make its commitment to innovation palpable.

Here are several ways for management to drive the innovation culture at your company:
Invest in people. Develop innovation capabilities by providing innovation best-practices training.
Reward wanted behavior. Publicly reward those who distinguish themselves as innovators. Two examples: Create annual innovators awards. Build a wall of innovation.

Invest in infrastructure to support sustainable innovation.
Visibility to corporate objectives. Often investment is wasted on ideas that are doomed from the start because they are not aligned with the needs of the company. Knowledge-workers must be able to integrate corporate strategy into their innovation paths.

Practice innovation. Workers must practice innovation in everything they do. Managers must support innovation workers and not push employees to short-circuit the solution process.

Managers who avoid taking responsibility for driving an innovation culture by using the crutch of "adoption must be a grassroots thing" will always be met with failure and left wondering why they can't achieve their repeatable innovation goals.

James Todhunter
Chief Technology Officer
Invention Machine

Investing in people.... a hard concept to believe in currently, given the extremely high levels of unemployment. People are always the first to go due to the knee-jerk reaction of "cutting costs." It is one thing if it is a lazy or extremely under performing employee, but if you wipe-out the heart of your business, the people, it is harder to innovate and adapt. Businesses cannot expect their computers to change their business for them. It takes the insight of your employees on what needs to be changed to move forward.

Everyone is worried about costs. Sales drop off and revenue is not coming in, so survival is, of course, one's goal. However, survival will not come from ridding the people. How are sales supposed to come in? How are new markets supposed to be tapped? How can the business model change? How can anything be changed for the better without people?

Innovation is a scary word for some. I think a lot of people believe it strictly involves some expensive computer system or technology that is thrown into the business and expected to do all the work. Or that it is for the "big guys".

Let's take a restaurant for example. Margins are typically very slim for some establishments, so wherever they can save costs and increase revenues/traffic is a major plus. I think simply signing up for Twitter or Facebook is innovating. The business is increasing its exposure to a internet-socially networked obsessed demographic. Using Twitter to spread information about meal specials to those 'select few' who follow is free! FREE! For instance, a teenager is checking Facebook/Twitter and sees the specials. When the parents ask about where they should go for dinner, the teenager can suggest the restaurant and the specials. It eliminates the guess work. To me, this is innovation. You are changing a portion of your business model to lower costs, but increase traffic..... all for free. Before all the business magazines and media stations talked about Twitter, I bet if you asked the sixteen year old server, he would have told you about this... oh, but wait, you let him go.

If you lose people, how will ideas like this surface? Open the lines of communication in your business before letting people go. You will be amazed at how people will come up with ideas to help save costs and think about evolving the business model. Firing everyone when things are rough limits you when things pick back up again and you're left in the dust because you let everyone go. I understand there are always some employees who are not holding their weight and are more fluff than anything. Thus, they most likely need to be let go. But, when it comes to overall economic turmoil, talk with your employees about evolving the business and getting their $.02. They may just have that one idea that could change everything.

~the GURU

Friday, February 27, 2009

Review Update: Blackberry Curve (Verizon) & 8820 (AT&T)

A Few More Months of Testing

Blackberry 8820

*This phone is AWFUL in the wind. The input microphone is right below the keypad on the right, so the wind easily rushes right past it.

*The keyboard is nice to type on. I wish the buttons were slightly more crisp in responsiveness, but all in all, I like them.

*Why does the input language keep switching?!!! Even when I have the phone locked, it changes my language preset. It bothers me that when I try to write an email sometimes, it comes out in a different language.

*The microphone may be too close to the speaker's mouth so the person on the other end hears your voice as slightly muddled.

*AT&T's Edge Network: FASTER than Verizon's 1xEV. (Non-3G phones) Don't believe anything else.

Blackberry Curve

*This phone is much better in the wind than the 8820. I believe the reason is because the microphone is on the bottom edge of the phone.

*The keypad buttons are too spaced out, so I have to "peck" more at the buttons. The buttons could be bigger.

*Input language does not change ever.

*Verizon's Network: SLOWER than AT&T's. (Non-3G phones)

~the GURU

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brief Response to the Article

Things Change So Quickly

I was very fortunate to be contacted by Rachel Brown, a free lance writer, who was writing about rural telecommunications, businesses, and the potential effects of the economy. I was contacted in the early Summer (before things, well, got stirred up..)

The excerpt pertinent to my section:

Focusing on the business side of the shop, another analyst said small telcos may actually benefit from a recession as businesses turn to them for a competitive edge. "Most small businesses realize that you get what you pay for," explained Zane Schweer, a small business telecommunications specialist. "If they skimp on telecommunications, it's not a good business move. You need telecommunications to survive. It's how you pull in clients, it's how you place orders, it's how you communicate."

For most companies, telecommunications is only 3% to 5% of the budget, Schweer said, adding that in a recession, many will look to additional telecommunications services to improve their bottom line. "Telecommunications is what drives businesses forward," he said. "It's not just a budget cost; it's an investment and revenue generator. A lot of businesses are looking to grow. They're not scared of an economic downturn."

Schweer also questioned whether the economy is truly in terrible shape. "If you turn on the news, it's all negative and there's too much emphasis on the economy," he said. "They don't focus on the positives."

Even the high cost of gas can be viewed positively, Schweer said. "Gas prices are pinching people, but it spurs innovation," he said, adding that telecommunications solutions can lower gas consumption. "Say that you have a fleet of trucks. With wireless and tracking technology, you can ensure that no one's getting lost or taking extra trips. If a driver comes in and has a 30-minute detour, you can ask, 'What's this about?"'

Higher gas prices also will spur video conferencing, Schweer said. "It's not as personal [as face-to-face meetings], but after 9/11, it's much cheaper and safer," he said. "And with cameras that move in the room and offer three-dimensional pictures, it almost feels as if you're there."

RTFC's Buchanan agreed that the green movement is growing. "In a world with increased energy costs, telecommunications assumes an even greater importance," he said, speculating that high gas prices will spur more telecommuting. "If people work from home, they'll need high-speed access to get into their company's virtual private network, so that means more broadband installations."

King and West said they haven't seen a huge shift toward telecommuting yet, but King agreed it's still a positive trend for rural carriers. "More people working from home translates into increased usage in residential landlines and increased demand for broadband," he said.

As another gas-saving example, Schweer cited a salesman who drives to client A and then back to headquarters to check e-mail and voice mail and then drives to client B. "With a BlackBerry, he can log in remotely and drive directly to client B," Schweer said. "In rural areas especially, this can translate into big distances--it's not uncommon to have 50 to 75 miles between clients. You want to be as efficient as possible, and telecommunications is what allows that."

I wanted to comment quickly on a couple of my remarks. I am sure some of you laughed when I said business' telecom. budgets are 3-5% of their expenses. It certainly depends on the industry and the type of customer. For example to look at the far extremes, an ISP provider's telecom expense is going to be fairly high (ie investing in a huge pipe of bandwidth and redundancy) while a Quickie shop would barely have any (ie couple lines and a DSL).

The blurring of the telecommunications and information technology fields also makes that 3-5% seem inaccurate and I embrace that fact. I was considering a simple, yet emerging small business.

Now, when I was interviewed, all the news of scandal and inappropriate money practices was unbeknownst to me (and the rest of U.S. and world), so I truly believed things were being over-played. I would be silly to still say everything is not a problem. Things are tough. Companies are laying hard-working people off left and right. But for media outlets to continually harp that we are doomed and in a Depression is overkill. Even President Obama is using words like "catastrophic". Let's stop using scare tactics here to push certain agendas. We are coping with a lot, but people are learning how to survive and push forward.

With the dynamic environment that we are in, we will see who the strong businesses are and weed out the weaker ones. It is painful and people are dealing with a plethora of hardships, but with hardships comes innovation. With innovation comes success and with success comes a rebound of the economy. (It will not happen overnight) There is a lot of good going on in the corporate world right now, but too many outlets are focusing on negatives all day long. (ie Cobblers See Resurgence (they aren't going to save the economy, but they are part of it) or AT&T Brining Back 4,000 Jobs (yes, they did lay off 12,000, but they are bringing jobs back from overseas), Manufacturing Moving Strong) We're in a rebuilding phase.

The rest of the article in relation to me continues on about innovation and looks for ways to streamline. A lot of businesses and people are in a certain routine and all it takes is for someone to come along and provide an alternative view point that garners value and of course, cost justification. Answering the question of, "How will this save me time, which will save me money?"

Every penny is being re-analyzed today. People need to evaluate how they do business. Invest time in contemplating alternative ways of doing business. If you have multiple locations that you travel between many times for meetings, why not, for example, invest in a multi-location video conference solution? Reduce windshield time, save gas money, and sit in your favorite chair. Do not go cutting all your expenses just to save money because if it affects how your provide service to your clients, you will do more hard then good.

I know I have sort of jumped around in this post, but on a whole, telecommunication companies, especially the rural ones are providing valuable service to clients. The reliance on telco. establishments to provide innovative solutions for you is only gaining momentum because if they do not, how will you reach your customers in the future? More importantly, how will they reach you?

~the GURU