My Challenge for 2009

With the global economy in decline, and the financial services more or less freezing the flow of cash that is the lifeblood of small businesses it looks like being a year of challenges for all of us. Looking at my own team (cut by 20%) and my own budget (cut by 20%) and the goals for 2009 (also cut – but not by 20%) we’ll be facing challenges to deliver the quality we’ve built our reputation on. Lucky I have a smart team – we’re starting the year with an open planning session I’m currently working on how to make that as fun and productive as possible – which is pretty much my challenge for the whole year.

I said at the beginning of last year that in my view a great team was one which;

  • delivers on time
  • beats expectations on quality
  • has a strong team spirit

I still believe that, this year we add budgetary pressures, and development needs into the mix. I have a young team, for two of the team it’s their first “real” job. Two others only joined the team this year, so I want all four of them to develop in some way that we agree on. The fifth member of the team is nearing retirement, so I have to balance his needs – and facilitate the transfer of his knowledge.

So my workshop will be about;

  • budget
  • planning goals
  • year planning
  • individual goals (work & development)
  • what do we want to celebrate at the end of the year?

This last is very important, we’re a service team and much of what we do is behind the scenes and often goes unacknowledged. I try very hard to make sure we get recognition throughout the year – it means something to my team members and it helps with discussions with upper management during the year if they’re aware of at least some of what we’ve done.

I’ll be making sure the seniors in my team do some of the presenting, and everyone talks about their own goals. I have to find a fun exercise related to the end of year celebration – I want us to end on a high note.

And we need some jokes, it’s going to be a tough year – it’s important we keep our sense of humour.

Roll on 2009!

Predictions 2009

It’s with some trepidation that I throw a few predictions into the ring for 2009; who could have predicted 2008’s global economic meltdown? Few did although in hindsight the signs were there. Without doubt 2009 is going to be full of challenges for businesses, perhaps especially those in the technology and communications areas.

Web 2.0

There has been a tidal wave of start-ups and social media tools. Without a doubt there will now be a shake out, those with a strong business – producing revenue and growth – will survive. Some will be bought by bigger fish, or merge with others who are providing the same service, others will die. We’ve seen this before.

Start-up money will be harder to come by, particularly in the US and Europe, so new companies are going to have to be cheaper and smarter in how they develop. VCs are likely to want a faster payback and ask more penetrating questions on the business model – not just the technology. We could see start-up money coming out of Asia and NEMA rather than the US.

Big Players

For big companies in the tech space like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo expectations will increase. Microsoft and Google provide a huge range of services to large corporates who are going to want more for the money they have available.

In terms of the services provided directly to customers Google needs to start providing service to the local user or disillusionment will grow – they’re no longer the cool start up and it’s going to get tougher for them.

Mobile

The technology has advanced, the content had advanced, but so far it’s been early adopters who’ve really benefitted. This is changing,  it’s going mainstream which means that it is generating an advertising opportunity. If this can be linked to location then we can get to micro targeting – and micro searching. Finally I can search for the product I want and get local results.

Cybercrime

The web is no longer anonymous. Open standards, services like Sxipper, will develop further to improve authentication on the web. Companies, registration authorities and governments will pressure IP suppliers and other web site suppliers to crack down on cybercrime – forward fee fraud alone made more profit than Disney in 2007. In the past financial services companies have paid up in some cases of cybercrime even when not at fault, but this year they haven’t got any money so I predict a greater fightback from them.

So overall, a shakeout of the proliferation of social media sites and apps – those with a real audience and a revenue stream have the best chance of survival (however good the concept is). Opportunities for real innovation, both from startups and established companies, and bigger demands for companies and customers who are also trying to do more with less in their own fields.  2009 is here;  ready, steady, GO!

Let’s Meet

We’ve all tried to schedule meetings with colleagues who have busy schedules

If you’re all on the same calendar system – and everyone updates their schedule – it might not be too painful. If not you can play email tag for days, and by the time it’s resolved someone’s availability has changed. But there’s a very simple way to find the right time for everyone to meet.

Doodle creates a simple poll, you send people the link, and they specify when they’re available – one function allows them to also specify when they are potentially available and definitely not available.

picture-6

The poll automatically totals the responses per time and it’s really easy to see the best time – even with a long list of participants.

I’m using this tool for one project with participants from two busines units of our company and two external suppliers – setting meetings is now easy. A doodle in fact.

Job Applications via Video

If companies could use videos as part of the job ads, couldn’t they also use it as part of the recruitment process? As an employer would you believe a CV stating “Proven Sales Skills” or a video clip of the candidate giving her best sales pitch?

Actually this isn’t at all original – it was done 50 years ago by Milt Grant. See if your candidates can beat this pitch.

Wouldn’t it help you in the selection process if you could see people in action before hiring them for certain roles? You could watch a chef, view a presenter, see a sales pitch, an interview, a demonstration of their motor repair skills, a sample of their film direction work…. I’m sure there are others. It could be time consuming so maybe it’s for your shortlisted applicants rather than the hundreds of applicants.

If Milt Grant didn’t inspire you, surely the muppets will.

Using Videos to Recruit

What if companies used videos to recruit?

Most recruiting sites are pretty boring. Even the world leader monsterboard is all about function rather than attracting talent. Yet recruiting talented people is tough.

The standard process consists of a CV casting the best possible light on the candidate being sent in response to an advertisement written by HR for a job they may not understand.

If the candidate is lucky enough to proceed to the interview a big part of the assessment – on both sides – is whether there’s a ‘fit’ between the candidate and the team. Or more particularly the candidate and the manager.

So what if the job ad included a video?

Hi I’m Chris Smith, I could be your next manager, I’m looking for someone with a background in finance, who speaks English and French, who’s attentive to detail…. These people here could be your new colleagues…. and this is where you could be working.

Assuming the manager has some personality (which might be the big downfall in the plan!) this could be a more appealing way of marketing your company to potential talent – rather than the generic videos seen on HR sites.

Employers need to market to the YouTube generation. I haven’t seen it started anywhere yet.

Blogging for Companies

Blogging is maturing into a communications tool for companies, you know when a solid company like General Electric start blogging it’s entering the mainstream.

Or is it?

I was at a conference recently when a woman, who had mentioned the low-key, humble nature of her company’s business culture went on to lament that she couldn’t get her senior executives to blog. They were too worried that there might be a negative reaction. Company Blogs
Innocent
Nuts about Southwest
Fast Lane – General Motors
Direct2Dell
GE Reports

The most successful individual bloggers have tons of personality, something to say, and chase controversy rather than fear it. Companies need to think the same way when setting up a blog.

Innocent and Southwest blogs both shine with personality, both are companies that have a certain amount of fun in their image and both have exploited that. Both use writers from around the company, rather than simply assigning a top exec. Both blogs are fun to read.

Dell sees blogging – including interacting with key blogs that follow the company – as an opportunity. They might have started a bit bumpily but their outreach to bloggers has earned them respect.

Fast Lane from General Motors shows great understanding of their target audience – they are talking to someone.

Of those listed above only GE Reports fails in my view. Lots of good video, but it reads as if it’s written by their corporate communications team, as an extension of their press function. But it’s early days yet, the blog is only two months old so perhaps it will develop.

Your executives might not be the best people to blog for your company
Your executives might not be the best people to blog for your company
If you want to start blogging at your company look for someone with personality, who has an interesting role, who has something to say.

This probably won’t be your executives whose days are filled with meetings, who may be bound by closeout regulations around the publications of figures, and whose most interesting tasks may be commercially sensitive.

Instead look into your sponsoring, marketing, product development or corporate responsibility teams.

Me and the Meme

I want to write about ideas relating change in business, new technology and communication; only ‘idea’ seems so big and sweeping and life changing. Ideas belong to the ivory towers, the philosophers, the educators. So I chose the word “meme” instead.

Meme is “the fundamental unit of information, analogous to the gene”, according to the online Urban Dictionary. So gene for how we are physical built up, and meme for our knowledge and cultural make-up. The dictionary also adds that memes can spread through a culture horizontally, by cultural acquisition. Ah! so we can share memes.

A third, more cynical definition from the same source “a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable”, hinting that memes might have a life of their own, they might behave in a viral way to spread ideas. I like the subversive underscoring this gives, and it matches some of the new concepts in technology and business that I want to write about.

So welcome to Change Meme, a personal brainstorm on technology, communication and business.

Digital | Social | Innovation

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