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Eight Business Technology TrendsTo Watch Mon 24 Mar 08

Death_valley_compass_retro_travel_2I recently ran across an article at the McKinsey Quarterly that caught my attention.  The McKinsey Quarterly is a business journal published by McKinsey & Company, a large international strategic business consulting firm.  The McKinsey Quarterly publishes both free (with registration articles) and "premium" (for a fee) articles.  The article that caught my attention is a free article published in December, 2007, entitled "Eight business technology trends to watch" by James Manyika, Roger Roberts and Kara Sprague.  These McKinsey consultants have identified some trends that we as IT leaders need to be thinking about.  It's a very thought provoking article.  The trends they identify are:

Managing relationships

  1. Distributing cocreation - the Internet offers new ways for people and teams to collaborate in developing new products and services
  2. Using consumers as innovators - "crowdsourcing" allows our customers to also be contributors
  3. Tapping into a world of talent - it's a big world out there and in the virtual world one with out borders
  4. Extracting more value from interactions - technology can help us focus our efforts into more value- added areas and transfer transactional activities to more cost effective solutions

Managing capital and assets

  1. Expanding the frontiers of automation - technology has tremendous potential for automating repetitive tasks
  2. Unbundling production from delivery - we can use technology to make our fixed assets into reusable components

Leveraging information in new ways

  1. Putting more science into management - we now have the ability for data-based decisions more than we've ever had
  2. Making businesses from information - "knowledge is power" that can help our business succeed and develop new markets

I'm a few months behind many other reviews of this article so I won't do a detailed review.  For that you may want to take a look at some of the reviews I've listed below.  Instead I'll make a different observation.

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Unintended Consequences of Overlooking the Obvious with Technology Mon 17 Mar 08

LrgclockA week ago Saturday (March 8) we moved our clocks one hour ahead for daylight savings time (DST)  to give us more daylight in the evening.  The next day I checked into a DoubleTree hotel to attend a conference.  Upon entering my room I noticed that the alarm clock was one hour behind.  My first reaction was that they missed a great customer service opportunity.  Since the housekeeping staff is in the room everyday why not simply have them adjust the alarm clocks for daylight savings?  That should be simple enough, shouldn't it?  Well maybe not.

Since I wanted to use the alarm clock I figured it would be easier to set the time correctly myself.  Upon looking at the clock I noticed 2 things.  First the clock was 53 minutes behind and not 60 as I assumed resulting from the DST change.  Second, and this is the most shocking, there is no way to adjust the time.  That's right you can not change the time.  Some of the features include:

  • Four pre-set buttons for local radio stations designated by a graphic of the music type

  • Connection cable for use with guest’s personal MP3 player, portable CD player, laptop and other entertainment devices

  • Built-in stereo speakers for radio or connected devices

  • Large LCD screen with dimmer that adjusts to high, medium or low

  • Automatic daily alarm time reset, preventing an alarm set by a previous guest from repeating

I picked up the radio and looked on the top and looked on the bottom and looked all around but couldn't find anything that would let me change the time.  My curiosity got the best of me so I called the front desk and the conversation went something like this:

Me: I must be a complete idiot but the time on the clock is wrong and I cannot figure out how to set it, can you tell me how to set the time.

Front Desk: We'll have to send up someone from engineering to do that.  You have to have a screwdriver and open up the clock to adjust the time.

Me: Am I hearing you correctly?  It takes someone from engineering to set the time on a clock?

Front Desk:  I'm afraid so.  Would you like me to send someone up?

Me: No thanks.  I'll just use the alarm feature on my BlackBerry.

I wish I would have had more time.  It would have been interesting to see if the time setting really can be corrected.  While preparing this post I did a little research and things get even more interesting.

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CIOs and the Marketing of IT Mon 10 Mar 08

I_ate_peas_whilst_waiting_stonelu_2Last Monday's post started out, "Marketing guru, Mary Schmidt, . . ." which was a similar start to the previous Monday's post, "Marketing guru, Seth Godin . . ."  At first blush it may seem strange to be referencing marketing experts in an IT blog but I believe IT can benefit greatly from applying some common marketing concepts.  For purposes of this discussion I mean true marketing, not to be confused with advertising or sales.  While I also believe advertising and sales can be important for IT, they are different from marketing so I'll defer discussions on those until later posts.

Marketing is at its heart a strategic approach to how you decide what your product is, what the target market is, its pricing and delivery.  The classical way of looking at it is the 4P's of marketing (also try a Google search for many more references):

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Place
  4. Promotion

Product for IT are the various services we deliver whether it is infrastructure services such as voice and data; productivity tools such as word processing; and business system whether ERP or individual systems.

Price in our case is what our user community is willing to pay for these services.

Place is our distribution method, how we deliver these services.   This is where you see client-server, SOA (service-oriented architecture), web technologies, etc. come to play.

Promotion is about how we make our users aware of our services and how we convince them to adopt new technologies.  This is often the one IT has the most difficulty with and I'll talk more about this in future posts.

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Oops Thu 06 Mar 08

Oops_funny_socks_i_have_prasangam I'd like to thank Daintree Peters for his comment in my last post and for pointing out that my blog did not appear properly in the Firefox browser.  Apparently the typo in my coding did not affect Internet Explorer but did affect Firefox. I try to make your reading experience enjoyable and I'm sure it wasn't for those that use Firefox.  I have corrected this error.  My apologies for making things inconvenient.

Again thank you Daintree for pointing this out and giving me the opportunity to correct it.

Mike

"oops..funny socks i have!" photo by PrASanGaM

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Let's Hang Up The Gloves Mon 03 Mar 08

Hang_em_up_smnMarketing guru, Mary Schmidt, recently wrote a post, "Don't Get Defensive.  Just Fix It." in which she makes 2 excellent points that bear a lot on how we in IT deal with our customers.  As the HelpDesk often has to deal with "issues" this is especially important in that area.  Schmidt starts off the post by saying "I’m convinced that many of the world’s problems could be quickly fixed or even avoided if people didn’t automatically get defensive when faced with an issue or disagreement."

When our customers come to us with issues we need to resist taking it as a personal affront lest we become defensive.  Often we fall into the trap of using IT's weasel words such as "It works on my machine" or "No one else has had a problem with that."  The implicit message in this is that the problem is the customer's fault which makes them defensive and it just escalates from there.  As Schmidt suggests sometimes we need to just get beyond this and just fix the problem.  Hang up the boxing gloves and work on the solution.

Joel Spolsky has a fantastic post, "Seven steps to remarkable customer service".  Be sure to read all seven steps but pay particular attention to steps 4 and 5.  In these Spolsky gives some great examples of what not being (or being) defensive can do.  They illustrate the point very effectively.

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