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    Entries in Technology (386)


    Change the players, or change the game

    Yesterday on Forrester CEO George Colony's blog, in a piece titled CEO's Want Better Sales Forces, Colony shared some observations from tech company CEO's about the relative effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of their sales forces.

    Some of the complaints that these CEO's cited were speed, sales reps were lagging business strategy; selling too low, i.e. reps not connecting high enough in the buyer's organization to reach the decision makers; and inability to articulate the product/service value proposition effectively, and therefore selling mainly on price.

    I suspect these CEO gripes about their sales forces, while real, are not that much different than what CEO's 10, 20, or even 50 years ago may have expressed. A sales rep having trouble making contact with the buy side person with authority to sign off on the purchase has been an issue in B2B sales pretty much forever.

    The post continues to share some of the remedies that the CEO's Colony talked with are planning to attempt to improve the performance of their sales forces.  Strategies like improving the technology available to sales reps, hiring 'smarter' people in sales, and urging the sales teams to get 'more customer focused'. Again, these seem like the same kinds of sales improvement strategies CEO's would have pursued any time in the last few decades.

    But the reason I wanted to mention this piece was not the content of the post really, since it is kind of obvious, but rather a bit of wisdom shared by one of the commenters, Walter.  From his comment:

    The biggest new wave is that salespeople are simply not needed in the same way as before, and not at the same points in the cycle, as they were due to the social web and the information available. The buyer's cycle has changed faster than the seller's cycle.

    The idea is that the 'game', the process if you will, has changed so much on the buy side that simply tweaking and fine tuning your existing sales processes, (and really your entire marketing, communications, and support as well), will not be sufficient to meet the challenges and the demands presented by buyers that are moving much, much faster than most selling organizations have been able to move.

    The key question is - can you survive by simply getting incrementally better at playing the game you have been playing forever, or will you have to more radically alter the way you educate, qualify, and sell; with the full realization that the game you are playing is likely an entirely new one.

    You can change or improve the players, or you can change the game. Knowing how to make that call is the tricky part.


    A Workplace Without Email?

    In what I promise will be my last blog post about email, (really, is there anything more tedious? Except of course people who Tweet about phone calls they just had.  So annoying. I mean would you ever have an online Tweet exchange with someone and then call someone else on the phone to let them know you have been tweeting away with the first person, and how 'amazing' they are?  No one cares who you are talking to on the phone. Get over yourself.).

    So anyway...

    Today I saw the follwing Tweet from Sarah Goodhall (@tribalimpact) on Twitter:

    Initriguing, no?  Clicking through to the link mentioned in the Tweet reveals the details of the story:

    Atos Origin moves to be email free in three years. Doable?

    Atos Origin is an international IT services company, and a very large one, with approximately 50,000 employees worldwide.  It's CEO Thierry Breton has come to the conclusion that email, in its current incarnation and use inside Atos Origin is no longer adequately serving the information sharing, creation, and collaboration needs of the large, far-flung organization.  

    He wants Atos Origin to be a 'zero email company' within three years.

    Money quote from the  Computer Business Review piece on Atos:

    So why the big move? Because email is not helping any more, basically. "The volume of emails we send and receive is unsustainable for business, with managers spending between 5 and 20 hours a week reading and writing emails... We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives. [So] we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organisations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution."

    Man - first time I have ever seen 'email pollution' compared to filth-belching smokestacks.  But in a way I get it.  Just like industrial pollutants fill the air and waterways, little by little, always more, more, more, our email inboxes never seem to ever truly 'empty'.

    More from the CBR article:

    Breton argues that social media community platforms and collaboration tools are much superior ways of letting his employees share and keep track of ideas "on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales".

    That experience, he says, has prompted him to conclude that "Businesses need to do more of this - email is on the way out as the best way to run a company and do business." Use of such replacements has already cut email use by up to 20%, claims the firm.

    Makes sense - if a reduction of email volume of 20% is seen as a great benefit to the organization, and its harried managers, then why not shoot for 40%, or 70%, or as Atos Origin is going for, an elimination of all internal email.

    Can Atos Origin, a 50,000 or so strong organization completely free itself of email in the next three years?  Perhaps.  But there seems to be no doubt if they can succeed, and do indeed see increased productivity, profits, and happiness other organizations will surely try as well.

    Need to run, in the 20 minutes it took to write this post, I got about 33 new emails......

    Have a great weekend!


    Where's the Employee Handbook again?

    Although I recently took a bit of a swipe at the Apple iPad, even I would be foolish to deny the current and certainly near-future impact that the iPad and increasingly other tablet devices like the BlackBerry PlayBook and even the Motorola Xoom will have on the enterprise IT landscape.BlackBerry PlayBook

    Whether it is the potential for Apple to support the creation of restricted and IT-managed enterprise App stores, the emergence of third-party tools to facilitate the development and distribution of company created and approved apps, or the likely shift from one size fits all enterprise portals to more individually created and defined tablet or smartphone environments, there is clearly a growing trend towards more specialization, personalization, and well, I hate to say it again, consumerization of enterprise systems.

    With the continuing proliferation of smartphone ownership in the US and elsewhere, and the preferred and accepted means for accessing, consuming, and creating content on these devices (and their tablet cousins), it seems apparent that any forward-thinking organization would start to strategize and develop its own response to this 'appification' of information consumption. 

    When an employee sends an email or makes a call to the HR support desk because they can't seem to locate a copy of the company bereavement leave policy, (leaving aside the certainly questionable decision to even have such a policy, 'two days for an Uncle' - absurd), the typical response from the HR administrator will almost certainly be one of the following:

    1. All the HR policies can be found on the shared Network drive, just navigate to:

    J:/Corporate/Resources/Employee Resources/Information/Policy/Staff/PTO/Bereavement.doc

    2. The bereavement policy is sub-bullet 4 of the overall Time-Off Policy, just find the PTO policy. If you don't want to page down through all 39 pages, just do a search for 'death'

    3. The bereavement policy is in the Employee Handbook you were given on your first day.  What's that? You started in 1997?  You didn't save your copy? 

    4. What is your email? I can email you the latest copy of the policy.  Make sure to archive it though, since the file is 8MB, it will take a big chunk out of your email storage allotment.

    You get the idea.  While many forward thinking organizations have rightfully moved beyond this state of affairs and deployed searchable, personalized portals for employees, even more haven't.  For those organizations still struggling with file shares, dead Sharepoint installs, and mainly sending file attachments around in email; the next few years will present both a choice and a challenge.

    Figure out a way to adopt yesterday's technologies to solve today's problems, or try to see past the current state, anticipate both where the market for tablets and smartphones is heading, coupled with the needs of your anticipated workforce mix (will they be more geographically diverse, more mobile, younger), and develop and deploy technologies and more accurately, build methods to support your organizations with the needed information how and where they are most apt to consume it effectively and efficiently.

    In three years when that same employee rings up asking 'Where can I find the bereavement policy?', chances are the savviest HR organizations will answer:

    Employee Policies?  There's an app for that.  It should be on the home screen of your PlayBook. Open up the app, and search for 'ludicrous', it should take you straight there.


    Experience Management

    I had my first and only hands-on iPad experience yesterday, and it was unquestioningly crappy.

    The scene - I was in the Delta departure area at JFK airport in New York City, with an hour or so to kill before my flight.  Near the gate was a small seating area with tables and benches, with mini-walls or partitions in which were embedded Apple iPads.  The idea being travelers could access information and services (check flight status, weather, news, order a club sandwich and a Toblerone, etc.) using the iPad screen.Better than an iPad?

    Really a neat idea, right?  Information and services a mere touch screen away, and using the hottest tech device to come on the scene in years.  

    So what happened when I tried my hand at this wondrous device (again, while I have seen and heard about the iPad ad nauseam, I had never actually tried one out).  

    It was an altogether unsatisfying experience. The device was exceedingly slow. Many of the apps did not respond at all.  The ones that did, (news, weather) seemed to hang endlessly waiting for the information to refresh. And quite honestly, flight status was readily available on the ‘normal’ airport monitors, and I could look outside to check out the weather.

    The one and only thing that I really wanted to do, check my email, lead me into a hard sell for some kind of recurring deal for Boingo internet access.  And one other thing, the sun was glaring in at such an angle that it made the iPad screens really tough to read, not that it really had much information anyway.

    No big deal really, the airport is just trying to offer a new service, generate some additional revenue, and mounting iPads in the waiting area is probably a good idea.  And on another day, without the technical issues, the sun, and my general crabbiness I might have left there and marched straight to the Apple store to buy myself the iPad.  

    But instead, I was left with a less than favorable experience. Who is at fault? Hard to know. But it feels like Apple, JFK, Delta, and Boingo all sort of conspired to deliver the suck. It is great for Apple to sell a bunch of iPads to Delta or whomever owns them, but I wonder if they care at all if their ‘coolest in the world device’ is being used to deliver such a lousy service message and experience.  

    I guess the question is once you ship a product, design a service, or otherwise offer your concepts and ideas to the market, how much do you need to care about how your work gets presented by third parties to the eventual consumers of your efforts?  I imagine it depends on what you are really selling, just a product,  or an entire experience that your product enables, and the extent to which you can and desire to manage those end user experiences.

    I am sure the iPad is a fantastically wonderful life-altering device, my mistake was expecting an airport to deliver the experience the way Apple designed it to be delivered.



    Drive Thru Technology

    No - it's not a post about the technical magic that happens from the time you give your order into the clown's mouth and you stuff your face with that McRib - it's a post to talk about the Drive Thru HR show on BlogTalkRadio.Want fries with that? Sir? Sir?

    This afternoon, (1:00 PM ET, 12 Noon Central, Mountain and Pacific figure it out on your own), I am a guest on the Drive Thru HR show on Blog Talk Radio.  Drive Thru HR is a daily (insanely hard to produce) talk show ably hosted by Bryan Wempen and William Tincup.  Two smart, interesting, and classy gentlemen.  It will be easy for you to tell me apart from them, I assure you. You can listen live on the show page here.

    I appreciate the invitation to appear, especially in light of the fact that with the HR Happy Hour show, this blog, and occasional contributions on Fistful of Talent that the listeners of Drive Thru HR have to be this close to becoming completely tired of me. Perhaps many are already.  But if you do listen, and I hope you will at least to hear Bryan and William, here are some of the ideas I plan to talk about on the show.

    Consumerization of Enterprise Technology

    This is not new, at least conceptually, since many enterprise web applications have made strides to design interfaces that are more user-friendly, more intuitive, and certainly easier to adopt by casual users in the enterprise.  But while interfaces and design have adapted to the expectations of the internet and Web 2.0 age, very little else in ‘big technology’ has. Lengthy deployment and upgrade cycles, little transparency in price and deployment costs, and an appalling lack of unbiased information on technology options for the small and mid-market customer.

    Finding, evaluating, purchasing, and deploying HR technology is about as painful a process as a root canal.  Think about the very best companies that you deal with as a consumer, I’m not talking about the UI on the web or their ‘quirky but approachable’ Twitter account, but the best ones in terms of the entire buying and owning experience.  Easy to find the initial information on my own, without handing over contact information or being badgered on the phone. Multiple ways to interact with the organization depending on my preference and style.  A simple, transparent, and clean sales process, that doesn’t require a Dream Team of lawyers to vet.  Works when you need it to, and when it doesn't obtaining support is fast, simple, and effective. Enterprise Tech doesn’t need to just look like the best consumer tech, it needs to act more like it too.

    Keeping Secrets

    So many technology decisions operate from a basic position of fear.  Fear ‘company secrets’ will get leaked, fear employees can’t be trusted to create passwords that aren’t hackable, fear that if anyone outside the organization had a glimpse of what really goes on around here that the company would lose the plot and ideas would be breached, great employees would flee, and dirty little secrets would no longer be secret.  So we hide behind firewalls, pretend our ideas and processes are sacred and special, and pretend not to notice the speed of change and progress being made by smaller, adaptable, and organizations that are simply not afraid of honesty, openness, collaboration, and co-creation.  I’ll bet 90% of what most companies sell is also sold, in almost exactly the same way, in the same package, using the same processes as their competitors. Just what in the heck needs to be ‘secret’ about any of that?


    What do people mean when they say - ‘It’s not about the technology’
    Why does it seem that vendors building bigger and more integrated HR Technology suites looks a lot like the old, massive, monolithic ERP suites everyone know hates?
    Why do so many great HR pros still appear to not give a hoot about technology?
    Are my eyes really brown?

    I think that’s it. Actually it is way too much content for a half-hour show.  Maybe if I don’t bomb Bryan and William can come on the HR Happy Hour to continue the conversation.