Archive for Entrepreneurism

Unread Volumes

Library pic

By Tom Fedro

The other day, I ended up browsing the internet and focused a bit on library closures.  I’m really just struck by the similarities between our libraries in the United States and the whole concept of data management.  Of course, I have opinions about public libraries and the services they provide, and I have many memories about my experiences within them.  (They even go deeper than being told to “hush!”)  The current state of libraries in our world, though, has some clear similarities to how data is managed, and I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Really, libraries are closing because they’re unused.  I realize that’s a gross generalization, and I realize that they offer critical help to many in our country who are without internet connections and have no ready access to information.  I get all that.  That may be enough of a reason to keep a library open.  I’m just struck by how much data a company has that’s unused.  The typical sales enterprise, for example, can draw from a database critical metrics and yet it doesn’t.

Do a quick Google search for “Important Sales Metrics” and you get varied results, but the problem I have is that the metrics everyone claims are important are almost always results-based metrics.  Time from suspect to prospect.  Time from prospect to lead.  Time from lead to qualified.  Proposals vs. closes.  Sure, these statistics tell us something, but in my mind, metrics ought to be process-based.  We ought to look at what our sales department does (I mean the actual actions) and how they impact sales.  Realistically, if your standard sales reports show you a problem, you can’t take real action without an objective, data-driven analysis of the actions providing the results.

The problem for me is that the data is in there, unused like countless of volumes at your local library.  Almost all CRM software has the capability to record actions, but the data is almost always unused or left only in the hands of the salesperson.  Realistically, wouldn’t you want to know that initial follow-up by email resulted in 12% higher sales than a phone call and resulting message?  Wouldn’t you want to know the reverse?  Doesn’t it make sense to discover the most successful salespeople in your organization do something different and duplicable? You can exhort your sales people to do better, but exhorting them without direction is ludicrous, and when you have an entire sales force, measuring their results isn’t the same as measuring their performance.  Results come from performance, and performance is the obligation of management to…well, to manage.  Why aren’t we looking at that data?

If we were, do you think we’d be catching on to the changing company-marketing-sales-customer dynamic a bit better?  There’s a great deal of information to be mined, but as long as we’re looking at the same queries and the same reports we used twenty-five years ago; that data is just a library sadly on its way to closure.

Activity does not always equal Accomplishment

Never confuse Activty 
By Tom Fedro
 
John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, said it best, “Never confuse Activity with Accomplishment.” One of the most difficult aspects of managing a start-up company is dealing with the excitement level of the new venture and essentially reining in the tendency to believe that constant activity for activity’s sake is critical at all times. 18 years ago, led by an almost euphoric market and the ability to tack “dot com” at the end of anything, one could watch stock prices soar as investment capital flew in and companies filled giant break rooms with ping pong tables, arcades, snack bars, and more. Everything was exciting and fun, but in many cases the activity wasn’t anything approaching good business. (This isn’t to say that amenities for employees can’t help attract and keep good staff, it just illustrates the frenetic pace of business in emerging markets.) A few years later, the tech “bubble” imploded, and the net result was a great loss of shareholder value, layoffs, and paper millionaires realizing they had non-paper debts.

Technology itself has enabled a single person to create a great deal. In the time it takes me to write and post these words, I will likely have also checked my email, sent correspondence via instant messaging, and arranged travel for a business conference. If the average businessperson accurately listed the tasks undergone in a particular day, the results would be surprising. At first glance, the sheer number of items completed will tend to create a sense of accomplishment. Who wouldn’t be proud of checking off thirty or forty items on a list? Dig a little deeper, though. Take a look at the tasks and determine which of them actually resulted in a benefit to the company? How many of them helped to fill a day but really meant less to the success of the venture than the time spent with them?

Now, multiply that activity by the number of employees working for you. There are certainly hundreds of activities happening every day that likely don’t offer anything in the way of accomplishment. This doesn’t mean your employees are bad or shirking duties. They probably go to bed at night just as tired and just as overworked as you do. It does mean, however, that every employee ought to learn what tasks impact the company. For example, I have known salespersons who spend hours “preparing” to make phone calls and others who stay on the phone constantly but somehow can’t consistently close business. I’ve known programmers who can write beautiful code but spend their time on features that have little benefit. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of management to take the best efforts of the employees and ensure that they are directed properly for maximum effect, to turn the activity into real accomplishment.

How much of what your company does is just activity?

When It’s Time for No

No

By Tom Fedro

I can remember working through the process of creating filings in order to take a startup public, and we were well on our way to making it happen only to have things change at the last moment and end up taking an acquisition offer as our way to liquidity and value to our shareholders.  I remember making my first OEM deal with a major PC manufacturer.  Those were (and still are) exciting times.  Something happens along the way, though.  When we started to succeed, we were now being pursued by the money as opposed to the other way around.

If you’re in the midst of starting your venture, or if you’ve been through the process; you already know what an exciting and yet desperate time it is.  Conferences, meetings, speaking engagements, marketing partnerships of tenuous value, and activity—a ton of activity—and it’s really somewhat of a scattergun approach.  All of this activity is designed to expose you to investment and to create buzz, and the hope is that something will come from it all.  If it doesn’t cost a fortune to attend (and sometimes even when it does) you’ll be there.  Some startups never make it past this stage.  Investment money doesn’t come in fast enough or the business just doesn’t take off.

I’m convinced some startups should be past this stage but just can’t break free of it.  If things go as you hope, there will come a time when the value of the exposure activity and the frenetic pace of presentations, conferences, and endless cash-less marketing meetings will be worth far less than the effort expended.  You may react differently, but when that time came, I was confused and unable to immediately recognize it. I didn’t say “No” enough.

Where are you in the development of your company, and are you behaving like you’re still a few steps back?

What Mac’s Battle for Workplace Dominance Means for IT Professionals

mac
by Tom Fedro

Mac’s growing popularity in the workplace doesn’t have to be a whole new set of IT headaches – if IT pros are willing to consider broader enterprise management tools.
For more than three decades, Apple has had a strong play in desktop publishing, education and other creative fields (e.g. photographers, graphic designers, video editors), but for many years, it was a rare exception to see a Mac in most other business environments. Ever since the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomena began picking up momentum over the past decade, things have changed.
According to JAMF Software’s second annual global survey of IT pros, 96% of all enterprise IT professionals say their internal teams are now supporting Macs. In fact, PC shipping estimates from Gartner show that the Windows PC market has been steadily declining, with shipments down 9.6% in Q1 2016 compared with the previous quarter. At the same time, worldwide Mac sales are holding steady.
Macs Bring New IT Management Challenges
Although end-users may find Macs easier to use, 73% of IT administrators feel the exact opposite, according to a study by Dimensional Research. Specifically, there are three areas where IT administrators run into challenges with Macs in the workplace:
1. Security. There is an obvious risk of putting business software and other intellectual property on personal devices—especially when employees lose their devices, or they terminate employment. The Find My iPhone app, which is the same app used to manage MacBooks and iMacs, is not able to distinguish between personal data and corporate data when performing a remote wipe. Additionally, the software requires an IT administrator to use the device owner’s user ID and password, which are the same credentials used to access users’ personal emails, photos, videos and anything else stored in iCloud. This can create a power struggle between users and IT professionals, and many headaches as well.
2. Backup and Recovery. Like Microsoft, Apple bundles backup and recovery software with its computers. However, Time Machine, like the Find My iPhone app, has its shortcomings. For instance, Time Machine doesn’t, in normal operation, create a bootable backup of the internal drive. It can only restore an internal drive from the backup archive. Additionally, Time Machine offers no flexibility with backup intervals; it runs a backup once per hour, which for some companies may be too often and for others not often enough. It is also difficult to verify the success of each backup since Apple makes the backup file log an invisible file, not intended for user inspection.
3. Networking. Although many popular software suites run on Mac and Windows platforms (e.g. Microsoft Office), there are always one or two that either only support Windows or have limited functionality on a Mac. Rather than using two devices, Apple’s Boot Camp software, which is included with Macs, can be used to install Windows on a Mac and allow users to switch between platforms during the boot-up process. Configuring Boot Camp requires hard drive partitioning, which isn’t problematic until users need to add more space to the partition down the road, an IT professional wants to move one of the Boot Camp partitions to another computer, or to perform an advanced task such as converting a partition table without data loss.
Minimize Mixed OS Frustrations with Disk Management Software
Instead of accepting Mac’s software limitations, there is another option that many IT teams overlook: investing in a disk management solution. When made specifically for the Apple platform, these solutions can give IT pros the kind of advanced data protection, backup, networking and overall granular control that they’re accustomed to in traditional PC/Windows environments, including:
• Secure disk wiping of business apps, files and directories using system administrator privileges instead of users’ personal IDs and passwords.
• Snapshot-driven backup and recovery and sector-level imaging, which minimizes backup storage footprints and enables users to create bootable USB drives, recover lost or accidentally deleted partitions, and perform full bare metal restores.
• The capability to resize partitions and redistribute unused space, perform non-destructive partition conversions and move partitions to new machines.
If you’re an IT professional who’s hoping Mac’s presence in business is a passing fad, you might want to reconsider your position, especially since millennials are playing a greater role in businesses’ IT strategies – and a large percent of them are Mac loyalists. Today’s new breed of enterprise-grade solutions built just for the Mac make it possible to get beyond what many consider a “Mac vs. Windows” IT battleground, and instead focus on getting the job done right, regardless of platform. The good news is both platforms can (finally) play nice together and create a better work experience for everyone.

First seen in CTR
Published with permission of WestWorldWide, LLC, publisher of Computer Technology Review. All rights reserved. 2016