Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's in it for me?

I was excited when I woke at 5:30 this morning to get on the road for a client meeting: almost as soon as I awoke, an article from Inc. arrived in my Inbox.

I sat reading http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/48317/13-Ways-To-Pull-Of-A-Killer-Demo-Day-Presentation in the client's car park and I'm glad I did, though the article is more relevant to anyone seeking investment funds near the start of a business.

I've done so many product and technology demos since my first days in IBM. One thing that always amazed me was how the tech seemed to know a customer was near so what had worked perfectly minutes before stopped mysteriously when the prospect arrived! I'd add a greater emphasis on tech backup plans to Jason's list in his article.

But for me the bottom line is to remember that the people I'm meeting with usually only have one question on their mind: "What's in it for me?" Remember to see life from others' perspective and meet their needs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Timezone triumphs speed business progress

Recently we've explored how relatively cheap and easy it is to start a business with new tools that are available. But it's not just $$ cost that can be reduced: time can be cut also, bringing savings and benefits in more or less equal measure.

We're intentionally splitting various functional roles across multiple timezones, using the tools that we wrote about to ensure that everyone is coordinated and everything documented for now and the future. Here's how it works in practice:

  • Yesterday I happened to wake at 5am and pick up where colleagues further West were finishing up and falling asleep after midnight. We didn't really stop!
  • Yesterday evening, while I was sleeping, one of my colleagues put out two software development releases in quick succession, documenting what he'd done in our internal systems. I was able to read what he'd written on my smartphone while still in bed when I woke today ... And I could think about it over a leisurely breakfast while he was sleeping ... Then, I settled down to work: I picked up the baton where he'd left it for me and carried out some thorough testing. Not only did I fix the issue he'd documented, but I found two others, low priority items but things that would have slowed us down in the future ... I was able to fix the problems and document what we need to do later in the development schedule when it suits... He'll wake and find what he thought was a problem has gone away; with an easy and quick fix he can accomplish in minutes to make sure it doesn't happen again...
I know that all sounds a bit vague because I'm trying to tell the highlights without going into too much tedious explanation; but the bottom line is that by carefully setting up our working processes - and the tools to support them - we can achieve a lot more in a lot less time.

And, as for all that stuff about waking at 5am and working from the iPhone in bed? I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to and if it didn't actually make life easier ... I've set things up so that I can do most of what I need to do from a mobile device as I wander from coffee shop to park to restaurant. It's actually a great lifestyle, even though it's hardly 9 to 5! It works for me; and for a colleague who runs errands with his wife at times during the day, or goes to the gym or for a run, then works in the evenings when it suits.

We are all secure enough in our professionalism and management style not to need to clock-watch, or supervise a team in the same physical space. We just trust each other to get the job done well.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Password monitoring threatens civil liberties

I had my own little "James Bond" moment today as, daunted by my PC's increasingly long boot-up time, I went off to make breakfast. I returned to find my security software counting down the seconds before it locked me out of the machine and I had to calmly enter the password against the pressure of seconds ticking away. Very 'Goldfinger' or 'GoldenEye.'

Managing passwords is an increasingly hard problem: according to the book and movie about Facebook, 'The Social Network' founder Mark Zuckerberg used the system's record of failed login attempts to guess users' passwords for other systems. I think of that each time I login.

But, even more bizarrely, there was breaking news last week that the French government intends to make it law for ISPs to store users' passwords in the clear. I haven't seen confirmation of the in the clear bit, but just mandating easy access to users' passwords is an invitation to fraud, identity theft, and worse.

Here's a Google translation from the French at TechDirt: "Information furnished when agreeing to a contract or opening an account, including first name, last name, business name, associated mailing addresses, and pseudonyms utilized, associated e-mail addresses and accounts, telephone numbers, and passwords as well as data permitting the verification or modification of the password."

Quite a list and something that may well tip the balance of commercial value away from cloud-based computing as users seek to regain control of their information.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Social media impression management

Today a couple of us were talking about the need we now have to manage the impression we leave behind for Google and others to discover...

I've written on this general area before, but here's what I noticed today when I looked at my Foursquare statistics - my "Most Explored Categories:"

  • Food and Drink Shop
  • Pub
  • Coffee Shop
  • Park
  • Bar
What is Zapoint going to make of that if it forms part of my profile prepared for my employer?!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't be socially unsociable

The many automation tools available to us create a double-edged sword that's difficult to wield safely.

When I first engaged with Twitter, I found a tool that would automatically follow-back those who follow me. Combined with another tool that followed followers of my followers, it was set up in minutes. I could sit back and watch my community of followers grow steadily as my 'bot' found others using the same tools and we'd increase mutual following in a kind of ratchet effect.

The trouble is, no one was actually reading the content being produced and, it seemed, no one had anything useful to say. I'm still getting Twitter accounts following me, sometimes with thousands of apparent followers, but no tweets, and no relationship with me.

This past week I've seen two further problems:

  1. I follow a man I've met in real life, a clear thinker about the future, who communicates frequently with interesting things to say. The trouble is, several times I've sent him either a private Twitter DM (direct message) or a public reply. And got silence in return.
  2. Also last week a friend told me of a very public Gloucestershire figure who's using a terrible automated tool on his Twitter account: whenever someone 'unfollows' a user of this tool, it automatically tweets to name-and-shame the individual who's stopped following ... 
How could publicly embarrassing your customer possibly be good for your relationship with that customer, or those looking on at the way you do customer service?! It's a bullying tactic and makes me think poorly of the individual concerned and the public sector organization he heads. I'm even less impressed when I learn that my friend stopped following because he'd sent several DM and public reply messages in the past, trying to engage in conversation and stopped following when he got silence!

Social media is about being social. Neither of the individuals behind these examples gets that: old school 'marketing' was about shouting more loudly and more creatively to try to get a message noticed. The Internet has changed the game and now it's about engaging in two-way interaction, using technology to listen and respond with what customers want; not brow-beating them into responding to what you have to say.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Technology affecting our lives unexpectedly @LeightonEvans & @EvgenyMorozov #4sq4m

Last night at #4sq4m I met @LeightonEvans, a PhD student studying "Philosophy of Technology" - reminded me of @EvgenyMorozov, though the latter has more of a focus on what's technically called 'dystopia,' what happens when the technology nirvana becomes a nightmare!

Leighton's thesis sounds interesting as he's exploring the relationships we're forming with our gadgets. Shame I have to wait until the end of the year before it's published and I can read it!

Update: Strange how often I find the BBC reporting the same thing I write about each day - I know they're not reading me! Today I've just found this. "Friends, family and birthdays top the list of things that UK children say make them happy, a survey suggests. Computer games came in above chocolate, while social networking websites languished below both..."

So, for Leighton and all the others watching unfolding changes on a daily basis, I spotted this in this week's edition of one of my favourite publications, The Economist,

"Like so much else under Heaven, repression in China has often seemed to go in cycles. Every now and then it has suited the country’s leaders to relax their steely grip on the country and allow a modicum of political liberty."

The article explores more than merely technology's dark side - it's about the much broader political agenda in this massively influential nation. But, like in Sudan and elsewhere across the Middle East, it's clear that those who frolic with the choices and capabilities of each day's new tech offerings should remember those elsewhere in the world where the same geekery can lead to costly difficulties. And very often, as WSJ reported, it's Western companies that shout about Internet freedoms that are providing the monitoring technologies to repressive regimes.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I re-engaged with Facebook

Some time ago I committed personal "Facebook suicide" but now am forced back into engaging with the social network, simply because I've started to create a business page there.

Please join my fragile ego in 'Liking' the business page by clicking the button shown here to the left!

Here's a great list of five mistakes that many businesses make with Facebook marketing. As I start to experiment, I'll be sure to try to avoid them!

  1. Broadcasting instead of conversing
    It's true that most of our engagement will be via Twitter, but fans still want the ability to interact and get relevant news from Facebook. The business needs to be on Facebook, simply because that's where customers are.

  2. Taking the time
    Setting up the Facebook page and then forgetting about it will be a recipe for failure: we have a daily routine of working through various social media properties to try to keep relevant content - and because we know that fans will want timely responses if they engage with us. The challenge is that there are so many channels to communicate across, but it's no good a business refusing to take phone calls because they prefer letters in the mail - the principle is to communicate in whatever way your correspondent chooses to engage!

  3. Boredom can kill!
    This one is going to be hard - at the moment, we're working almost completely round the clock to prepare for a product beta release and we just can't spend as much time as we want being socially innovative! But, tempting as it is, I've resisted auto-publishing the blog feed to Facebook. Automation can come across as too impersonal.

  4. Failing to learn about Facebook
    There is a ton of information out there, and people who run Facebook marketing courses (I plan to make time to attend one) ... It's important to think through how best to present a company logo on Facebook, given its quirky resizing that can damage the visual when the feed goes across the site... In the midst of everything else we have to do to run a business, it's still extremely important to know how to make the best of the tools that you do have at your disposal.

  5. Sticking to the rules
    For me, this is the bottom line why I re-engaged with Facebook. Apart from being against the site's terms of use, it's just not ethical to create a false personality to manage the company Facebook account. I'm still locking down my personal page, not making personal friends, publishing information, photos or status updates ... But I am administering the page as myself and will consider gradually relaxing my personal privacy settings as time goes by.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

LinkedIn company pages

LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to promote your company, and its products and services, as well as your own professional profile. I've been putting the lessons from a great article at Inc. in to practice:

Click on the links to see some examples:
As Inc. says, "Your LinkedIn profile is at 100%. You know how to make connections. You belong to groups. But, if you don’t have a company page on LinkedIn, you’re not taking full advantage of all that LinkedIn can do for you and your business. With over 100 million members, LinkedIn is the top business social networking site. Your LinkedIn company page gets listed in Google’s and LinkedIn’s search engines, allows others to follow your company’s updates, gives you a place to promote services and products and even reports analytics."

Rather than reproduce the excellent tips blow by blow, here's a link to the article for you to do what I did.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

GeoSocial awareness - things we now have to think about

Notes from a meeting yesterday about the implications of new GeoSocial apps like Foursquare:

  • (Relatively) few businesses are using the capabilities; which is a great opportunity for those who move first into this space.
  • They're mostly of use if your business has bricks-and-mortar outlets and physical product to sell: great for Starbucks and local small stores; less relevant for Amazon and iTunes!
  • It's more obvious how to use GeoSocial to benefit B2C businesses rather than B2B, but even in the latter case there are opportunities, as some clients are discovering.
  • We're seeing objective evidence of increases in footfall, traffic coming to businesses as a result of B2C GeoSocial promotions. And product sales increasing as a result. For some businesses in difficult times this is an opportunity not to be squandered.
  • Even a drinks machine vendor can benefit from implementing GeoSocial: at the moment, that vendor has got zero knowledge about the consumer who buys from the machine. By implementing GeoSocial, the vendor can begin to form a sales and service relationship with consumers who can become fans. And there are at least three more benefits that will impact the vendor's bottom line...
  • As individual consumers, users of GeoSocial, we suddenly have a new set of considerations to manage, in addition to everything else we have to think about: to what extent do we wish to trade privacy for deals?
My mobile cell phone provider already knows where I am all the time: it's one of the things I concede in order to allow Orange to provide me the service I pay for. I know I can be tracked, but I assume that most of the time, unless I fall foul of the law, that's not going to happen because it's difficult and expensive and the data is supposed to be kept private.

In having this discussion yesterday I was meeting in a public place with another industry professional: anyone could see us there. But those around didn't know us, and couldn't hear what we were talking about. As soon as one of us did a Foursquare check-in, or made a post to Twitter, our presence in that place was made visible to a much wider audience, and for all eternity (whereas previously the data would only persist until the CCTV footage is over-written!).

We're voluntarily broadcasting our presence to a very wide (public) audience; an audience that can use powerful search and aggregation and mapping tools... And that probably doesn't matter much, for most people, for most of the time. Sure, a competitor could make guesses about what my business plans are by knowing where I'm going and with whom I'm meeting, but really for most of us, life's too short to worry about those things. 

The bottom line, though, is that one of the unforeseen consequences of GeoSocial technology is that suddenly we should be thinking about those issues as part of our calculus! Many people struggle to understand the importance of data backup and virus protection; fewer still understand the trade-off they make every time they collect points on a credit card purchase or use a supermarket loyalty card; what hope do we have that average users will care about the down-sides of GeoSocial tracking until it's too late to pull out? That inertia and ignorance is what Facebook Places, Foursquare and others will build profitable business models on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cloud backup and file sharing

Last week I noted a number of different free or low-cost tools that help a new business to get started at minimal cost. Here's another that should be on the list: online backup and file sharing tools.

The idea is to store some of your information in the 'cloud' so that it's backed-up off your local machine; you can get to your stuff from other machines when travelling if you can get to a web browser; and you can potentially share your files with other collaborators. Useful.

Possibly the best-recognised name in the business is Dropbox: simple to set up and to invite others to access your shared files and the 2Gb storage space option is free of charge. However, I'm concerned that insecurity is built in to its design. Anyone can potentially access your Dropbox files; you won't know they're doing it; and you can't stop them, even if you change your password.

Update: There is further confirmation here that Dropbox is insecure.

(Dropbox uses a 'config.db' file that contains a 'host_id' - either can easily be read or copied from your phone, laptop or other computer connected to your Dropbox account, whether that's your device or one belonging to someone you've shared some of your Dropbox space with ... Copying this information to a new computer immediately connects the new device to your Dropbox space, without notifying you; and even changing your password for Dropbox isn't sufficient to fix this issue...)

So, a much better solution could be SpiderOak: also free of charge for 2Gb of space, but automatically encrypting your files for you, on your desktop, before uploading them to the cloud.

What do you think? How important is it to you to take basic security precautions with your information?
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Location privacy: shared photos know where you are (were)

Who knew before Facebook, Flickr and similar just how widely people wanted to share photos of what a great time they're having?

You can opt out of Facebook Places (for now); you don't have to sign up to Foursquare, Gowalla or turn on the geo-location of your Tweets. Last month's news was of a German politician's movements tracked through his cell phone. The map was only produced after he got the data from his mobile phone service provider, hardly something most of us can do.

But every photo you take on a smartphone and publish with services like Twitpic or Yfrog or Facebook has the location of the photo stored as part of the image data. Your locations are out there, for others to discover.

An individual Tweet or a single photo or 'check-in' doesn't reveal much; but try viewing your Foursquare travel history on a 'heat map.' Or learn about an app suitably called 'Creepy.' These tools will reveal clusters of your presence around home, workplace and the spots you hang out - Do you go to the gym, or church, or a bar at the same time each week? These apps know it. And they show where you were, when, maybe where you are now, and (because most of us live fairly routine lives) people looking on can make a fair guess about where'll you'll be in the future.

It occurred to me as I 'checked in' to a certain city that people viewing my history could make a great guess about the organisation I was meeting with and the sales relationship I was hoping to form!

Why build 'Creepy?' There's a great interview with the developer at thinq. He says he did it,
"First, to try and raise awareness about privacy in social networking platforms. I wanted to stress how 'easy' it is to aggregate all the seemingly small and innocent pieces of data people are sharing into a 'larger picture' that potentially gives away information that users wouldn't think of sharing. For example, where do they live, where do they work, where and at what times they are hanging out, when they are not at home et cetera. I think that sometimes it is worth 'scaring' people into being more careful on how much they share online.

"Secondly, I wanted to create a tool for social engineers to help with information gathering. I believe Creepy can be of real use to security analysts performing penetration testing for the initial process of gathering information about the 'targets' - information that can be used later for a number of purposes."

I'm not sure I understand what he means by his second reason, but to the extent I do it succeeds in scaring me!
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Employee profiling a reality - take control for yourself

I got a shock today when I visited a company's website. Not only did the banner headline there scream at me, "Like It Or Not, We're Going To Profile You" but it was clear that they're using tracking techniques to identify my visit to their web site.

Graphics on their website are almost inspired by a horror movie! (Jagged blood-drip writing for their '300' Project; sinister eyes on a shadowy figure). Clicking the image here will let you navigate to the website of Zapoint to find out more. But if you browse there with Chrome or Internet Explorer then you'll get a pop-up warning that the website is requesting a certificate to identify you by name. (Firefox didn't warn me.) And they're using services from Hubspot that help companies to "generate traffic and leads through their websites, and convert more of those leads into customers."

So, what's The 300 Project about? Over the next year, Zapoint will process publicly accessible records from social networks and other web sources to compile reports on the employees of 300 selected Fortune-size companies. The company will then use its SkillsMapper software to analyze the data from the Web and present the results in graphical reports to the HR departments of the 300 targeted companies. Company employees will have their skill set, CV and experience ranked and compared to other employees and competitors.

For now, the information about employees will be held in the aggregate. But The 300 Project is a marketing exercise by Zapoint: they are publishing a schedule of which companies they will profile, and when. Then they hope that the companies will pay them for their SkillsMapper software - and to get the names associated with their profiled employees.

In a way, there's no news here: Zapoint is only making use of publicly available information, stuff that's published by the individuals concerned. The problem is that most individuals have probably not begun to think about how their activity - or lack of it - on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks will be picked up and used by their employer, competitors and companies like Zapoint and those who sell adverts, like Facebook and Google.
You see, it's not sufficient in this connected age just to opt-out: the fact that an employee is not on the social networks makes them invisible to Zapoint and so terribly unimpressive compared to others viewed in the rankings Zapoint will make available to HR departments.

And there are untold implications of the technology if you do make use of it: For example, 'checking in' with location-aware apps (Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.) can let your sales competitors know you're making a call on a prospect! But that's another story...

Bottom line: we referred yesterday to the article by Tom Peters The Brand Called You and this is still more impetus to take control of how you, as an individual, are perceived on the Internet. It's no longer good enough to be casual about what you publish; and you can't escape by opting out, because people will draw their own conclusions from that.

Ironic, isn't it, that 'time saving' technology now means we have to spend more time managing our own 'brand.'
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eight perspectives on business

Tom Peters wrote The Brand Called You in Fast Company in 1997. Few of us read the print edition back then, but thanks to the Internet you can still read the article; and it's probably so much more relevant now than when he wrote it with such prophetic foresight before the turn of the Millennium. (And, thanks to the Internet, Fast Company is still earning ad revenue off the article; but that's another story!)

Bottom line: take control of your life and career; treat yourself as your own enterprise.

So for some years I've organized everything I do, whether for the companies that pay me a salary or my own initiatives, according to some basic principles.

I think it was Peter Russell in The Brain Book who claimed that our brains can manage to hold an overview of up to nine things at once. Trying to handle more increases our stress.

Combined with Peter Drucker's insight that the only things that matter in business are the innovation (R&D) that meets the needs of customers identified by Marketing, here are my eight perspectives on running a business. Everything I do falls into one of these eight buckets and I use them to structure filing in email and computer folders and even the odd bits of paper I still have to keep.
  1. Marketing - Everything involved in understanding what customers want
  2. Sales - Everything I do to bring solutions to the awareness of potential customers
  3. Implementation - Most businesses 'build, deliver, deploy.' You actually have to do something to get paid before moving on to Support
  4. Support - Systems and processes to look after existing customers and keep them coming back for more
  5. Admin - This is where I keep all those finance, personnel, infrastructure and other resources
  6. Projects - There are normally one or two areas of special short-term focus that I pull, temporarily, out of my other filing areas to make sure that I give them my complete attention
  7. Suppliers - Every business needs resources from outside, even if it's just an Internet connection
  8. R&D - This is where I make sure that I keep an emphasis on the Innovation that Drucker encourages
And the ninth area? I keep Number 9 for Personal, Family, Friends and non-business interests.

I've probably got ten years' experience of organising my life this way. It's worked for me in the big corporate wage-slave world; running a non-profit; as a principal in several small or startup companies; and it's helped me keep track of my personal life. Try it yourself: I hope this insight helps you stay focused!
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Value startup tools

OK, this is uncanny: I come to write today's blog post on some of the tools we're using to support a business startup and find that the BBC is covering a similar story on the same day! Bizarre.

The key point, as the BBC says it, is the quote that "It's never been cheaper to start a business," according to Bindi Karia from Microsoft.
  • Firstly, make selective use of cloud computing: there are dangers as well as benefits in having all of your eggs in the cloud basket. We are careful about which of our business assets we entrust to others.

  • Next, use GoDaddy or 1&1 or one of their very many competitors: with simple tools from them you can set up a basic website and email hosting and more (e.g. hosted custom databases) and have most of the complexity handled for you quite easily.

    This week I'd planned to push a web re-design tender out to suppliers for proposals; but I realised that with a bit of investment of time I could achieve what the business needs at this stage with the tools I have available to me, for a lower cost. We'll save that budget to spend elsewhere and buy in professional services as we need them later, and when we have more revenue to justify it!

  • We've chosen to handle our business finance tracking, saving on accounting costs, with the use of QuickBooks on a local computer as we've done for many years, but Intuit also offers a hosted version if you want access for several colleagues, or from smartphone and tablet devices while travelling.

  • It's easy to connect your blog on Blogger or WordPress to Twitter, and from there push updates out to your business Facebook page, LinkedIn and a ton of other services.

  • We use a hosted version of FogBugz to communicate internally; and we've given a full account (that we pay for) to one of our key clients - They've said how much they appreciate the complete transparency. FogBugz is also set up to acknowledge most of our incoming email and allocate it to the right person. We can all check on progress of the incoming cases, including our customers and clients who send in an email and get an immediate acknowledgement complete with tracking number and a web link for them to see what's happening. We're about to implement the FogBugz Wiki to assist our customer support documentation still further.

  • TechSmith tools enable us to prepare high quality video quickly. We can then upload them to YouTube and we've got user training and documentation that's a lot more engaging and easier to keep current than long documents that won't get read. This week's client project status report will be in the form of a 5-minute video, tailored to the client's staff needs. They're more likely to understand what I'm communicating more quickly than by reading a report, and they can pause and re-wind to go back over stuff. And I'll track viewing figures to know how useful it has been!

  • http://bit.ly is one of several services that we can use along with Google Analytics, Feedburner and more to track our marketing reach. Feedburner handles subscriptions to our websites, sending out emails to subscribers whenever there is an update. Have you seen Klout yet? We use a combination of tools like this to check our effectiveness as it's not just about efficiency and low cost!

  • But our biggest saving has to be in office space: with a team scattered across two continents and six time zones apart, why would we need an expensive physical office at this stage of business development? Of course, we have to have a legal Registered Office, but there are plenty of other companies around that will offer to forward any physical mail that arrives; and even provide physical meeting space that we can hire by the hour if we need something more formal than a coffee shop or hotel lobby with WiFi.

  • Managing a geographically diverse team can be tough: that's one reason that FogBugz project management is so incredibly valuable to keep us all appropriately informed. But here's where combined instant messaging, video calling, shared virtual whiteboard and remote desktop viewing/sharing all come into play. We even sometimes invite a prospect or a client to view a shared desktop over a voice conference call so that we can do a sales pitch or training session without the costs and time delays of travel. This is so effective that I've even been able to conduct all-day, chargeable group training events using remote access software!

  • Phone services, too, are virtual: "Skype In" provides us with two virtual numbers, one in the US and the other in the UK, for a small annual fee; "Skype Out Unlimited World" plan enables us to call out to regular landlines and mobiles, either as part of the monthly fee or at low additional cost. We can route unanswered calls to voice mail or a mobile cell phone as we wish. When we need it we'll implement virtual switchboard facilities, fully hosted, so that calls can be answered and routed appropriately.
Best of all, many of these services are either free of charge (if we allow advertising alongside) or low cost and paid for monthly: this helps our cash flow as we don't have to find large sums for investment up-front and can generally switch a service off if it's not proving its worth, or a better alternative comes along.

UPDATE: The nice people at Intuit contacted me today (12 Nov 2012) to ask me to update the QuickBooks link above. Happy to help!
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Super irony on Facebook as a CIA surveillance program

A bit of light relief today as I finally have room in my publication schedule to refer readers to a fabulously ironic production by US satirical comedy site The Onion about Facebook and other social networking sites as extensions of CIA surveillance projects. Look out for lots of additional side-swipes such as the one about Foursquare users.

The extraordinary thing is that a quick Google search reveals that there's quite a history to this whole Facebook CIA conspiracy theory!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Customer Managed Relations (CMR replacing CRM) trends

In a Wiki-fuelled march towards collaborative intelligence expect customers increasingly to want control of the information their suppliers hold about them.

Think Amazon - As their customer, I make sure that my name and address(es) information is correct; I input my various credit card details; and I can self-serve not just the placing of the order, but the packaging and delivery options ... and I can track the parcel all the way to my door; and more.

This is Version 1.0 and Amazon loves it: there's huge brand loyalty as customers find it easier to go back to place an order than to enter details afresh in a competitor site; and the customers are bearing the cost of data entry and checking for Amazon. By giving them tools to self-serve Amazon reduces costs, retains customers, and locks out competitors. And the database helps them cross-sell or upsell products to increase revenue.

However, in early signs of customer demands evolving, expect customers to want still greater control of the information that companies like Amazon hold: customers feel the down-side of an Amazon-like system is the transfer of power that means the company can make increasingly detailed assumptions about products and services to offer based on their detailed database of customer browsing and purchasing history. Some customers are beginning to react against that and look for a redress of power. Expect suppliers to innovate a solution.
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