Monthly Archives: February 2009

McKinsey recommend IT investment for efficiency gains

Executives are anxious to trim spending. Yet a McKinsey survey shows that judicious IT investments can generate short- and medium-term revenue and efficiency gains that greatly exceed the savings from traditional cost-cutting efforts. The key is to have business and IT executives jointly take an end-to-end look at business processes and scan for opportunities such as improving the customer experience, reducing revenue leakage, and improving operating leverage.

Read the full article here:

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/newsletters/chartfocus/2009_02.htm

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly aimed at marketing managers who use digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Advertisements

Woodpeckers in the workplace

 

Lucy

Lucy

When I take Lucy (the dog) for a walk in The New Forest I see many different species of birds. I could make a list of those that I expect to see every time – Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Rooks, Jackdaws, Buzzards and Canada Geese would top the list. I’d expect to see 9 out of 10 of these in 9 out of 10 visits. I wouldn’t be far out.

I also come across other species, of course, but these are less common in the forest and so I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see them every time. Or indeed, ever.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Goldcrests on two consecutive days – these will be the subject of a later post. This morning, I was walking along beside some gorse bushes when a Green Woodpecker flew up from the ground into a nearby tree. These woodpeckers are reasonably common in the forest but they are usually heard but not seen – their machine gun like hammering on tree trunks alerts us to their whereabouts ‘somewhere over there.’ Today I was much luckier. The Green Woodpecker flew up into the tree and settled within view. As I watched, I realised that he (or she) was not alone. A second woodpecker hopped into view further up the tree. I have never seen two woodpeckers together so it was a memorable sight.

The point of this story is this. If the first woodpecker hadn’t caught the corner of my eye as I walked past it, I would never have known that it was there. I would never have seen one woodpecker, let alone two. I would have walked on by, completely oblivious to their existence.

In the workplace, how often do we make assumptions about what we expect to do, what issues we expect to encounter, what risks we’re prepared to take and then blithely carry on thinking that we’ve covered all of our bases. Sometimes, we’re blind to those unexpected issues that occur until it’s too late. If we don’t look for them, we often don’t recognise them as issues at all. Sometimes that may not matter. Other times, it matters a lot!

Always expect the unexpected. One project, or piece of work, is unlikely to be exactly the same as the last. You will always have your list of expected risks and issues but please look out for the unexpected. If you remain alert to the chance of something unusual occurring you will spot it early and deal with it. This may prevent a disaster. On the other hand, it may turn out to be something beneficial, like my woodpeckers. Ignorance, in this case, is definitely NOT bliss!

===============================================

REPORTS IN BRITISH NEWSPAPERS:

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, ‘We agree it was rather high
for the time of year. It’s possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the
gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.’
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami
in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was
missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester  Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because
they cannot issue a description. It’s a Special Branch vehicle and they
don’t want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was
rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman
commented, ‘This sort of thing is all too common’.
(The Times)

================================================

 

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of working with agencies and turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

To process or not to process?

Business ProcessesAre you process driven? If you’re a sales manager or marketer reading this then you’ve probably gone cold and shivery at the thought. You may feel the need to press the ‘back’ button and look for something more interesting, like your LinkedIn or Facebook updates. Please don’t go…
The majority of sales and marketing professionals are results driven – quite rightly. The end is everything and the means of getting there is far less important. Which is fine up to a point. You may know what is going on in your world but unless you communicate regularly with your colleagues, they won’t know where you’re at. Importantly for them, they won’t know the status of the work that you’re doing which affects their world.
Those of you that have been reading past posts on this blog might be wondering where the link to nature comes in. Simplistically, I guess we could say ‘everywhere’. Nature follows its predefined natural processes – the seasons, the passing of the days, the hierarchy within the food chain, the evolution of species, the natural movement of energy deep within the Earth which brings chaos and disaster to those in its path when it breaks through the surface crust. The process is predetermined; the reaction to changes in the process or unexpected outcomes is not. The natural world adapts, moves on and the cycle continues. The world of business (and your department head in particular) tends to be less forgiving of surprises and unexpected change is not welcomed – in fact it’s positively discouraged! The change itself shouldn’t be the issue, the fact that it has appeared unannounced will always start an inquest!
Documented processes, plans, briefings and status updates will head off most surprises. They will be in the public domain throughout the lifecycle of the project so everyone concerned knows the status of the project and contingencies can be put in place if changes occur. It is worth putting in a bit of effort at the beginning of the process to agree the plan, document it and think about potential Risks. Put a process in place to head off these risks before they have a chance to occur. Keep your colleagues up to date with your status, as they must do for you. Agreeing the process up front, documenting a plan and anticipating potential pitfalls will save you a lot of time during the course of the project.
Surprise tsunamis in the business world are just as unpopular as they are in nature. They may not cause as much death and destruction, it’ll just seem that way to you if it’s all your fault and you forgot to warn people in time!

========================================

The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so “profound”
that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One
student, however, wrote the following: First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are
moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore,
no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these
religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do
not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of
souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:
1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.
So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you’ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”

THIS STUDENT RECEIVED THE ONLY “A”

=========================================================================================================
Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of turning prospects into customers and working with digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Millions lost by companies that ignore the internet

Small businesses are losing millions of pounds in potential sales because they are wary of using the internet to sell products or services. 

Six out of ten do not sell online, though they use the internet to buy goods, according to a study by BT to be published this week. 

The Voice of Small Business report, which surveyed more than 400 firms employing up to 50 people, found that they were failing to take advantage of consumer demand for online shopping. 

Read the full article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1145503/Millions-lost-firms-ignore-net.html

===========================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Marketing Projects – what are they?

What is a Marketing Project? ‘We don’t do ‘projects‘ in Marketing’, I hear you say. ‘We do strategy and conceptualisation; we uncover insight and manage brand equities, etc.’ Yes, that’s true. Ultimately, though, the purpose of Marketing is to sell more of your goods and services by giving the consumer (and the trade) more reasons to purchase your products rather than the competition’s offerings.

So, you develop New Products, you Repackage existing products, you develop Line Extensions and invest in various Branding techniques. You develop Advertising campaigns, Promotions, Sponsorships, Memberships Clubs and send out Email Newsletters. You’ll almost certainly set up a Website, you might highlight your Green Credentials to your target audience, you’ll definitely want to gain as much visibility as possible, whether that’s by Merchandising products in store or gaining Testimonials for your services. All great initiatives and all could be described as discrete pieces of work, or ‘projects’! Each piece of work has a defined beginning and end and it has constraints – Time, Quality and Budget – all of which sound very much like a project.

So, if marketers manage ‘projects’ on a day to day basis, then there are lots of helpful tools that can be used to improve the likelihood of success:

  • Write a Project Plan, keep an Issues Log, anticipate the Risks and (very importantly), capture the Learnings at the end of the project
  • There are several software applications to help you to manage your marketing projects, some very complex, some much simpler to use

To many marketers, this all smacks of process‘, a dirty word which ‘stifles creativity’. This mindset should be questioned, particularly with the growth of Web2.0 technologies and Social Networking. You need to collaborate with your colleagues and this means that you all need to understand where you’re at with the project, which will not be the case if all of the details are logged firmly in your head!

Our society enables us all to specialise and work together. If we hadn’t evolved this way we’d still all be hunter-gatherers, struggling for our own survival each year. So why, when we get to work, do we often revert back to working for ourselves? We keep our own spreadsheets, manage our own work in our own ways and often do little to collaborate effectively. Why not share more and reduce the burden on ourselves? That’s how Facebook has grown into the phenomenon that’s it’s become – they encourage anyone to develop their own software to share with other Facebook members.

There is no doubt that a more ‘process driven’ approach to marketing projects will grow the bottom line of your business – less duplication of effort, fewer misunderstandings and smarter team working are obvious benefits. There are many more. A bit of process will not stifle creativity, quite the reverse. If you’re more organised, you’ll have more time for thinking. If you can’t stand the thought of increasing your own admin, maybe it can be centralised within the department – there will be staff members who enjoy it! Why have brands such as AudiCadbury, Heinz, Hovis and Persil and a host of others thrived? Apart from all the other things that they do so well, they believe in the benefit of using processes to manage their brands.

How much duplication of effort goes on in your business? (a ‘best guess’ will suffice). If you applied a more process driven approach, how much less time would be wasted? Worth pondering?

==================================

Quotations:

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: – ‘No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’

Eleanor Roosevelt 

The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.

George Burns 

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.

Victor Borge 

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. 

Mark Twain 

I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.

Groucho Marx 

My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe. 

Jimmy Durante

I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.

Zsa Zsa Gabor 

====================================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk


What Seth Godin says about the importance of process

Processes in business

Processes in business

 

If you read Seth Godin’s blog you may have seen what he wrote about ‘Process’ on 31-1-09. In case you missed it, I have reproduced it below. (And in case you haven’t come across Seth before, he is a renowned author whose books have been bestsellers around the world and who has changed the way people think about marketing, change and work. He is a guru!)

Seth Godin’s blog 31-1-09:

What are you good at?

As you consider marketing yourself for your next gig, consider the difference between process and content.

Content is domain knowledge. People you know or skills you’ve developed. Playing the piano or writing copy about furniture sales. A rolodex of movers in a given industry, or your ability to compute stress ratios in your head.

Domain knowledge is important, but it’s (often) easily learnable.

Process, on the other hand, refers to the emotional intelligence skills you have about managing projects, visualizing success, persuading other people of your point of view, dealing with multiple priorities, etc. This stuff is insanely valuable and hard to learn. Unfortunately, it’s usually overlooked by headhunters and HR folks, partly because it’s hard to accredit or check off in a database.

Venture capitalists like hiring second or third time entrepreneurs because they understand process, not because they can do a spreadsheet.

As the world changes ever faster, as industries shrink and others grow, process ability is priceless. Figure out which sort of process you’re world-class at and get even better at it. Then, learn the domain… that’s what the internet is for.

One of the reasons that super-talented people become entrepreneurs is that they can put their process expertise to work in a world that often undervalues it.

Seth is writing about the importance of ‘process’ to entrepreneurs and the self-employed. The points still apply, though, in medium and large businesses. Having the ‘process knowledge’ underpinned by ‘defined processes’ is an additional step which larger organisations should consider. Think how powerful your team would be if they all understood the importance of ‘process’ and how to manage their processes effectively and efficiently.

============================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Snowfall and contingency planning

During the first week of February, Britain was blanketed in snow. Over a foot deep in places, several inches even fell in London, causing the London Transport system almost to grind to a halt. It’s been almost two decades since southern England saw so much snow.

I took Lucy for a walk out in to the forest early in the morning when the snow was still falling. It was the first time that she had seen a decent covering of snow and after a few hesitant steps she realised that this might be fun and ran around like a young puppy. There was a distinct lack of wildlife around. No birds singing and no ponies grazing on the winter gorse. All in hiding, waiting for the snow to stop and the temperature to rise. They are adapting to the unexpected circumstances. They don’t have the benefit of a weather forecast but they are very sensitive to change and will have anticipated the arrival of the bad weather.

Inevitably, the disruption to business led to criticism of the authorities.

‘A couple of inches of snow and everything stops.’ ‘In Canada, we have 2 feet of snow, not 2 inches every winter and we cope, everyone gets about.’ That, of course, is the point. Canada always copes because it happens every year, not once every two decades. Canada is geared up to expect snow and has the resources allocated to deal with it. London, on the other hand, is not geared up to deal with heavy snowfalls. The authorities have assessed the Risk versus the Cost and decided that investing in a fleet of snowploughs that might be used once every 10 years is not the best way to spend their budget. They understand the Risks and have taken the decision not to make a contingency plan for heavy snow. They will deal with it when it happens, using their limited resources.

When assessing business risks, always assess the risk of something happening versus the likelihood of it occurring and the effect that it would have. If your decision is to accept the risk and do nothing, that’s fine, but make sure that this is understood by all interested parties. Don’t wait for them to be surprised when they wake up one morning to find themselves snowed in with no means of getting out of the garden!

=======================================================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the area of turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk