Guide to Video Conferencing

Cisco Telepresence

Cisco Telepresence (Photo credit: Tom Raftery)

“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American writer and activist

I recall many years ago how I used to setup video conferencing across ISDN lines and the fun of trying to make the video run smoothly. These days, video conferencing has become ubiquitous along with the availability of faster communication links, i.e. broadband etc.

With better connectivity, the downward spiral of costs associated with video conferencing (VC) and increased competition, even smaller businesses can afford much better VC systems. The cloud has assisted by many companies offering cloud based systems, including Telepresence that only a few years ago were available to large corporates only.

Here comes the technical bit (Skip this paragraph if not interested): H.323 & SIP seem to be battling it out on which will become the defacto standard/protocol for VC and I suspect that over time both will be absorbed by one another and eventually SIP may be the one that all VC systems use.

The next battle zone will be video on the move. i.e. across smart phones aka mobile phones. The technology is certainly there now and so is the connectivity. As data charges become cheaper, the need for multi national businesses and even families to view each other as they talk will drive the need for video calling on the move.

This is great for eco-friendly consumers, such as me and our planet as it will mean that people have to travel less to meet each other. Change established mindsets will however take time, as many people still think it pertinent to travel to meet!

I have done a series of articles on management styles of business leaders and would like one of my readers to recommend who I should select for the next article. So, without further ado, here is your chance to recommend your choice, just leave your recommendation as a comment to this article. Please send your recommendations by 30th April.

Connecting Young People To Engineering

IET

IET (Photo credit: Charles Mok)

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well,

but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”

Vaclav Havel (1936 – 2011) Czech Playwright, Essayist, Poet, Dissident and Politician

Adapted from a blog post I wrote for the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) My Community as a Member (MIET):

We need more young people to take up engineering related courses at a young age. The definition of young people for the purpose of this blog is young people aged 11-25.

This is very different to our (The IET) Young Professionals (YPs) forum/network/group that defines, “YPs are members in the early stages of their career, up to ten years after graduation, and are the future of the organisation.”

How can we introduce young people to engineering and increase take up of engineering related courses?

  • The IET urges school leavers to consider apprenticeships, now I am no expert on apprenticeships but maybe the IET/Local Networks(LNs) can start getting involved (maybe the IET is already involved) with organisations and helping them establish such apprenticeships.
  • IET launched a £1m scholarship fund (The IET Diamond Jubilee Scholarship) recently & I think if all members started to inform their local schools/colleges (or children’s schools/colleges), momentum and traction towards the scholarship and engineering in general could be attained.
  • The IET could perhaps launch a Young Peoples forum/network/group for 11-25 year olds in local areas, akin to LNs (or indeed under the auspices of LNs) where local children aged 11-25 arranged their own events with local mentoring provided by perhaps LNs.
  • Young people are born in the digital age and have a good idea of what they want from the future and have innovative ideas, e.g. controlling daily household appliances using the mind. (See next two bullet points)
  • The IET need representation from young people (11-25) on the board of trustees. A good example is the National Children’s Bureau (NCB)
  • The NCB also has a membership board advisory group that also has representation by young people.

Case studies:

  • A young entrepreneur’s story – Matt Wilson, CEng, FIET (No route to join professional body as a young person) “I joined IET in 2007 because I wanted to be part of an important institution that is not solely academic. The IET is made up of engineers, real people with hands on experience in engineering. Becoming a Fellow helped me to further my career and become involved in committees whose policies affect the engineering industry. This commands a lot of respect. My customers also recognise the quality of my work because I have achieved Fellow status.’ Matt

Read more: http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/iet/entrepreneurship-in-engineering/a-young-entrepreneurs-story.html#ixzz2Bx2zScDz

Do you have any ideas?

Please do comment/introduce your ideas.

Let’s start the chain reaction and get young people studying engineering/technology again…..

Facebooking for Office: How Social Media Inspires Voters

English: Data from April 2011 Editor Survey th...

English: Data from April 2011 Editor Survey that lists Social Media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article (and graphic) is attributed to & re blogged courtesy of onlinecourses.com

Traditionally, student-aged voters (those between the ages of 18 and 24) aren’t always so great at remembering to cast their votes. In fact, in the 2008 presidential election, less than 1 in 2 18-to-24 year olds actually voted. While the percentage of those in the student-aged demographic may not always be astute at remembering to fill out a ballot around election time, most 18-to-24 year olds are good at staying plugged into social media outlets. While less than half of that particular demographic voted in 2008, as of 2012 fully 98% of them have some sort of social media account with which they share content and connect to people. As social media changes and spreads, however, elections are clearly becoming a different game. For one thing, even politicians are making themselves present on the web, from Facebook pages to Twitter accounts and more. And for another thing, recent studies have begun to show that when it comes time to vote, the influence of social media can inspire younger voters (those aged 18 through 24) to get their votes out. Those who see via social media that their peers have voted become more likely to take the next step, and vote themselves. The following infographic takes a look at why social media might have become crucial to mobilizing the youngest generation of voters.

Facebooking for Office - Attibuted to OnlineCollegeCourses.com

Facebooking for Office – Attibuted to OnlineCollegeCourses.com

mubbisherahmed:

Sharing knowledge, increases knowledge. Proof is my blog, 90,000 views since May 2009 & has reached approx 150-200 daily (and climbing). Most popular: The future of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) – http://wp.me/pw27T-f4 – As it is my post popular blog post, it deserves to be reblogged….

Originally posted on Engaged IT for the CIO:

“In the automotive world the potential for intelligent transport systems is almost unlimited and eventually technology will help alleviate the major problems of congestion and safety.”

Max Mosley, President, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), 1993-2009

The world population is growing exponentially and recently hit the 7 billion mark. By 2050, we will have reached 9.3 billion. Cars have just passed the 1 billion mark. In a global society, such trends demand that we create solutions to these problems. Unfortunately, as once envisaged, the solution is not to build more roads, as the more roads that we build, the more traffic we invite onto these roads.
High rates of population growth and increased car ownership will cause, for instance, more traffic congestion making this problem worse. Traffic delays represent a huge loss of revenue for business while creating frustration and stress for road users. These delays also damage the…

View original 1,677 more words

Originally posted on Engaged IT for the CIO:

I have recently been researching the realm of competitive advantage and whether IT can still assist in creating or sustaining it. During my research, I came across an article published in 2003 by Nicholas Carr in the Harvard Business Review entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter“. This was subsequently printed as a book as, “Does IT Matter?”. This book sparked quite a debate as even Bill Gates, at Microsoft’s CEO Summit on May 21 2003, said, “And so when somebody says, to take the extreme quote from the Harvard Business Review article, they say IT doesn’t matter, they must be saying that with all this information flow, we’ve either achieved a limit where it’s just perfect, everybody sees exactly what they want, or we’ve gotten to a point where it simply can’t be improved – and that’s where we’d object very strenuously.

As this article and…

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Barack Obama’s (44th President of USA) management style

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

We didn’t come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together

(Telling students at the University of North Carolina that he and first lady Michelle Obama had “been in your shoes” and didn’t pay off their student loans until eight years ago).

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, 44th and current President of USA

Today’s article is the twelfth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner, 9th late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, 10th  Richard Branson and Sergio Marchionne), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

I must admit this is the first time that I decided to delve into the management style of a national country leader. During the last American election I was quite impressed by the way that Obama fought the election on several fronts, including his great oratory skills, defeating Hillary Clinton, using social media and the Internet to raise funds for his campaign, his views on America’s role in the world and Health care to name a few. Now that we are approx. half way through his Presidency, I wanted to find out whether there was a consensus on his Presidency, i.e was he perceived to be good, bad or indeed great. I personally thought that he could go down in the annals of history as not only the first Black President of America but as one of the greatest.

As always, my personal view is that he needs to communicate to the American public his strategy in more detail, coupled with his intentions for the future, along with his successes. For a President who successfully helped solve the American car crisis and introduced America’s first ever Health legislation, he certainly doesn’t seem to be communicating that to the public effectively enough (Maybe he needs to blow his trumpet on his small and large successes to date). He seems to forget that his stakeholders’ are the public and that he needs to communicate with them the reasons why he is the best candidate to secure America’s future prospects.

My writing style had to change as I was not just analysing a sitting President but was also writing about the management style of a manager who is managing an economy and not just an organisation. In comparison terms, that is akin to comparing, well, therein lies the problem, one cannot compare any organisation to a huge country such as USA. This is a country and it is managed by a bond between both the public and private sector.

Frank Burke, American Thinker said, “The President’s inner circle has, for the most part, consisted of Chicago machine politicians. The appointment of numerous Czars, whose functions are neither well-articulated nor understood, has led to confusion on all levels and among the public”.

This seems to be a view shared by David Brooks, NY Times, “Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget.

As president, Obama has proved to be a very good Senate majority leader — convening committees to do the work and intervening at the end.

All his life, Obama has worked in non-hierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a non-hierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favours a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view.

Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.

But this is who Obama is, and he’s not going to change, no matter how many liberals plead for him to start acting like Howard Dean”.

This comment from Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and former adviser to President Obama provides a unique insight into his management style (Courtesy of Dave Schuler, The Glittering Eye),”If you wrote Barack Obama a memo before the meeting, it is a virtual certainty that he will have read it. If you seek to explain the memo you wrote to him during the meeting, he will cut you off, and he will be irritated. If he, as the leader of the meeting, will ask one or two questions to kick the tires, but will basically focus on how whatever subject you’re talking about fits with the broad vision and approaches of his presidency.

He will basically take the attitude if you’re his financial advisor, that if you can’t — it’s up to you to figure out whether preferred stock or subordinated debt is the appropriate financial instrument for your bailout, and that if he doesn’t trust you to figure it out, he’ll get a new financial adviser, but that is not the question on which he is going to spend time”.

Obviously, every President has faced their fair share of exceptional challenges, highlighted again, the need for direct communication as Lurita Doan, Townhall said, “Obama exhibited colossal managerial negligence in refusing to communicate directly with BP leadership for almost two months. Then, when this negligence was publicized, Obama opened communications and extorted the arbitrary sum of $20 billion dollars to cover liabilities. Twenty billion dollars, without full knowledge of all the facts, without the benefit of a full investigation of the causes and without a final solution for the problem, under the control of one of Obama’s Czars just looks like a slush fund”.

NEIL KING JR. and JONATHAN WEISMAN, Wall Street Journal explains further in great detail how Obama, conducts his office and provides further details into his unique management style, “In a White House ritual new with this administration, the president gathers with his advisers every weekday morning for an Oval Office update and debate on the economy. The breadth of topics is wide, from the underemployed to childhood obesity, and Mr. Obama often dives into the minutiae.

In the sessions, according to those who attend, the president sometimes chafes at his advisers’ limitations, quizzing them on points raised by critics or asking them to do justice to a view other than their own. At times he quotes from letters sent to the White House to counter a stance taken by his team.

A president’s management style can set the tone for an administration. Jimmy Carter was a famed micromanager, often at odds with his own advisers, and he caught a lot of Beltway criticism for his focus on policy details. “If the two risks are operating at too generalized a level or micromanaging, you need to find a balance between the two,” says Peter Orszag, the White House budget director.

In early July, the president ordered a briefing on derivatives — financial contracts that track the return on stocks, bonds, currencies or other benchmarks. Critics had been raising questions about administration proposals to regulate certain derivatives, such as credit-default swaps, which many blame in part for the financial crisis. With advisers gathered round on the Oval Office’s twin sofas, Mr. Obama said he was concerned that the administration hadn’t struck the right balance.

Its proposal called for standard derivatives to be traded on an exchange, bringing them into the open. Critics were calling the proposal too timid because it also would allow “customized” derivatives to continue trading privately. “What is to assure that this won’t drive all derivatives off the exchange?” the president asked, according to Mr. Emanuel.

He says Mr. Obama was frustrated his team wasn’t offering up a full range of views on how to approach derivatives regulation. “Get me some other people’s opinions on this,” Mr. Emanuel recalls the president as saying. “I want more than what’s in this room.”

On July 1, advisers gave Mr. Obama a briefing on “House Prices, Consumer Debt and Consumption.” Among their charts was one showing how homeowners during the boom used the rising value of their houses to borrow more against them. At the end, the president pushed the presentation aside. “Guys, this is great research,” he said, according to Mr. Emanuel. “But you’re telling me that people have been using their houses as ATMs. I could have told you that.”

Letters from constituents appear to play a role in shaping the president’s thinking. Each day, the White House staff combs through mounds of letters and picks 10 for Mr. Obama to read. In May, one from a woman in Georgia caught his eye. She said she had asked a bank to refinance her house, under the administration’s plan to help struggling homeowners, but had been turned down. She mentioned that her “loan-to-value” ratio wasn’t excessive — her mortgage was for no more than 80% of the house’s value.

Mr. Obama scrawled in the margin “Is this how the ratio is supposed to be calculated?” and sent the letter to one of his economists, Mr. Goolsbee, according to a White House adviser”.

The stark contrast between managing organisation’s is made clearer by Steven Cohen, Huffington Post, “Obama relies on a combination of his own intellect, a small circle of trusted advisers and a larger group of outside experts.

Ronald Reagan began the process of deconstructing the federal government’s capacity. This effort to “starve the beast” and destroy federal capacity was reversed during the Clinton era as Vice President Gore led a well-intentioned effort to reinvent government, but the forces of disintegration picked up renewed momentum during the Bush years of 2001-2009. During the Presidency of Bush the latter, federal agencies that needed to build capacity for a new task were required to demonstrate that the capacity could not be found and purchased in the private sector. The underlying assumption of federal management during the Bush Presidency was that government was the enemy and the private sector was the great repository of management competence in America.

The “make or buy decision” requires that every well managed organization constantly ask itself: “Should we do this in-house or should we outsource?” That is a question that should be addressed pragmatically: “what would work best?” Management in the U.S. federal government has the answer provided for them: buying from the private sector is better than making it in the government. In an article I wrote in Public Administration Review in 2001, I argued for what I called “functional matching.” I wrote that some tasks are best performed by government (especially policing), some by non-profits (for example mission-driven health and social welfare programs) and some by private firms (customer driven services and manufacturing).

At the local level, government services are visible and have an immediate impact. While ideology plays a role locally, it doesn’t usually dominate. In New York, the debate over charter schools has an ideological component, but the visibility of education performance measures provides evidence that moves the argument beyond ideology. Local officials are instantly accountable if water is not delivered, waste is not removed, fires are not put out and criminals are not apprehended. In New York City, most social services are now delivered by non-profit organizations under contract to the city’s government. No one thinks about this practice as an ideological privatization strategy. It’s simply the best way to help people in need. As a result of constant pressure to do more with less over the past three decades, New York City government has improved its performance and capacity.

In Washington D.C., symbolism and ideology drive agency management and performance takes a back seat. The story at the federal level is characterized by management incompetence. We have seen it in the Department of Interior during the Gulf oil spill, during the horror show of FEMA during Katrina, and when we analyze the overuse of contractors by an overly-small military presence during the War in Iraq. The lack of concern for capacity and management excellence has driven superb civil servants out of public service, destroyed organizational capability and made it impossible for the government to keep up with a more complicated and technologically based economy. The result has been the type of government performance we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico”.

His desire to formulate effective teams and to achieve the best for his country is highlighted by the article, Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY (Some excerpts), “There is no conversation so sweet as that of former political enemies,” Harry Truman once observed, and the modern Presidents are living proof. By the time Clinton made peace with Obama, he was also so close to the entire Bush family–vacationing with the father, raising money with the son, even escorting Barbara at Betty Ford’s funeral–that the Texas clan had bestowed a nickname: Brother from Another Mother.

Now in an age of global celebrity, when Presidents live longer and larger than ever, they retain unmatched influence long after they leave office. Plus they’re the only ones who know what the job does to a person.

They called him after he won. “They were all incredibly gracious,” Obama said. “But I think all of them recognized that there’s a certain loneliness to the job … Ultimately, you’re the person who’s going to be making decisions … You can already feel that fact.” He wanted his club initiation to include the entire membership, so he asked Bush to host a luncheon for all four living Presidents in early January. This request caused the Bush White House to gulp hard: Even Carter? aides asked. He has criticized everything we have done for nearly eight years. Yes, Obama said, Carter too”.

I have been reading the Time magazine since a very early age and wanted to conclude with observations from one of the greatest writers for Time (in my opinion), Fareed Zakaria and his article, The Strategist, “In the central battle in the war on terrorism, Obama adopted many of the Bush Administration’s aggressive tactics, used them more aggressively and achieved greater success. Republicans find it difficult to attack Obama credibly on the core issue of fighting America’s enemies because he outflanked them on the right.

When asked to describe the Obama Doctrine, the President has chosen not to respond directly, but he explained that he believes the U.S. must act with other countries. “[Mine is] an American leadership that recognizes the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil. It’s a U.S. leadership that recognizes our limits in terms of resources and capacity,” he told TIME.

A great deal of foreign policy is crisis management. “Stuff happens,” the President said, “and you have to respond.”

The strategy of “rebalancing” might well be the centrepiece of Obama’s foreign policy and what historians will point to when searching for an Obama Doctrine. It is premised on a simple, powerful recognition. The center of global economic power is shifting east. In 10 years, three of the world’s five largest economies will be in Asia: China, Japan and India. The greatest political tensions and struggles might also be in Asia as these countries seek political, cultural and military power as well. If the U.S. is going to be the central global power, it will need to be a Pacific power.

In a speech to the Australian parliament, Obama signaled America’s intent. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” he said.

Good foreign policy Presidents (like Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush) managed a complex set of challenges expertly, making few costly errors. Bad ones (like George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson) made mistakes that cost America in lives, treasure and prestige. But great foreign policy Presidents (like Harry Truman) created enduring structures and relationships that produced lasting peace and prosperity. Obama has been a good foreign policy President; he has the opportunity to become a great one”.

More Info and Reading:

Barack Obama: A Management Appraisal – American Thinker

Convener in Chief – NY Times

The Obama Management Style – The glittering eye

Obama’s Management Style: Bowing and Posturing – Townhall

A President as Micromanager: How Much Detail Is Enough? – WSJ

Changing Obama’s Management Style Alone Will Not Prevent the Next Environmental Catastrophe – Huffington post

Inside the Presidents club by NANCY GIBBS; MICHAEL DUFFY, Time Magazine

The Strategist by Fareed Zakaria, Time Magazine

Excelling at Customer Service

Customer services

Customer services (Photo credit: gordon2208)

“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.”

Ralph Marston (1907 -  ) Professional Football Player in 1929

“If you want to give a great customer experience you have to align your culture and the way you reward staff. None of our customer facing staff has sales targets or sales bonuses — their rewards and bonuses are based purely on their customer satisfaction scores.”

Anthony Thomson, Chairman, Metro Bank

Quote courtesy of Institute of customer service

Life has a way of taking everything in its stride and I am often compelled to go through the related emotions. Sometimes, I marvel at the way life turns corners and obviously as human beings, we all have this uncanny ability to learn from mistakes and move on by not repeating those same mistakes. We learn, change and adapt.

Organisations are very similar to us (in theory) and are supposed to learn from their mistakes, change processes to reflect that and become ‘the ideal organisation.’ So, I have to ask myself then, ‘Why in today’s day and age, are we still dealing with organisations’ that are failing its customers, in terms of customer service?’

Obviously, during my life, I have had many good experiences of customer services and some pretty dire ones. The reason for writing this blog is that recently, I dealt with three organisations that should have excelled at customer service but in reality, they failed in their promise to provide even the basic levels of customer service. I have debated whether to play the ‘name and shame’ game but that just wouldn’t be me. So, instead, I have decided to write about how to provide excellent customer service.

According to a survey conducted in the U.S. and eleven other countries in 2010, by American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, Americans Will Spend 9% More with Companies That Provide Excellent Service

Although only a little more than a third of Americans (37%) believe that companies have increased their focus on providing quality service:

  • 27% feel businesses have not changed their attitude toward customer service.
  • 28% say that companies are now paying less attention to good service.

So, where do I start?

Let’s start with:

  1. Culture

According to Catherine Lovering, “Make the goal of providing excellent customer service a company-wide commitment. Put a customer-service policy in writing, and post it in a prominent place. Translate customer-service objectives into specific actions for employees to follow, such as: deliver prompt service, offer a polite demeanour, and make product information readily available.”

Inc.com says, “Start by hanging on the wall a set of core values, 10 or fewer principles that include customer service ideals, suggests Susan McCartney, Maggiotto’s colleague at the Buffalo SBDC. “Share them during the training, have employees sign them, and evaluate employees based on the values,” she says. “But don’t call them rules.”

Employee training on customer service precepts should be intensive: written materials, verbal instruction, mentors, and on-the-job demonstrations all ought to be part of the coursework, says McCartney.”

This theme continues in 10 Examples of Shockingly-Excellent Customer Service and  12 ways to dazzle your customers.

  1. Staff morale and motivation

Catherine Lovering says, “Treat your employees well, so they in turn will treat customers well. Employees will bring enthusiasm and a positive attitude to their job when they know they’re appreciated and respected. Recognize employees who continually provide good customer service and praise the entire staff for their efforts. Customer-service work can be emotionally draining unless the company involved is supportive and gains the loyalty of its employees.”

Inc.com says, “Companies renowned for their customer service — the online shoe retailer Zappos, for example — treat employees as they would have their employees treat their customers. “Employees take on more responsibility because they know they are appreciated and an important part of the team,” says the University of Missouri’s Proffer. “People who don’t feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, who feel like a small cog in a big machine, are not willing to go the extra mile.”

Not every business can afford to shower staff with generous pay and benefits, but not every business has to. Small companies, says McCartney, can show “intense interest” in employees, in their welfare, their families, and their future — what McCartney calls the family model. It’s also important to recognize an employee — publicly — for a job well done. Some companies also offer incentives for exceptional customer service, but if you can’t spare the cash, you might throw an office party or offer another token of appreciation. When he was a manager at cable provider Tele-Communications Inc., for instance, Proffer personally washed the cars of notable employees.”

  1. Knowledgeable staff

Staff need to know their products and services and that can only be achieved by a comprehensive induction and training programme for staff that not only includes products and services but also includes an initiation with an organisation’s processes and knowledge of the internal and external network of people who can help resolve issues and problems. A ‘can do attitude’ needs to be instilled in staff right at the outset while empowering customer service staff to engage in activities that resolve the problem while highlighting to management any processes that hinder resolution. That way employees are highlighting processes that hinder the delivery of excellent customer service while improving customer service delivery at the same time.

Inc.com says, “The best salespeople spend 80 percent of their time listening, not talking,” says Marc Willson, a retail and restaurant consultant for the Virginia SBDC network. Ask open-ended questions to elicit a customer’s needs and wants. “

Further in the article, Proffer offers the The Five A’s. method, “It’s helpful to think of resolving a dispute as a five-step process called the Five A’s: Acknowledge the problem. Apologize, even if you think you’re right. Accept responsibility. Adjust the situation with a negotiation to fix the problem. Assure the customer that you will follow through.”

  1. Well trained staff

Training is paramount and well trained staff needs to help customers resolve their problems regardless of how much time they have spent resolving it (within reason). Many organisations tend to operate their measuring metrics for customer services advisors’ on calls closed rather than calls resolved. Well trained staff will have the ability to resolve calls and close them better than ill trained staff. Staff training should be reviewed periodically and refresher courses offered based around lessons learnt, processes improved and latest innovations in delivering better customer service.

Catherine Lovering in her article on customer service said, “Teach the staff stress-reduction methods and techniques in conflict resolution. Train staff to use language that promotes good customer service. Phrases such as “How can I help,” “I don’t know, but I will find out,” and “I will keep you updated” let customers know that their needs will be met. It also will demonstrate a willingness to find a solution to any problem and a commitment to communicate with the customer. This dedication will go a long way toward defusing dissatisfaction among clientele.”

She further adds, “Train staff to accept responsibility for errors and to apologize to upset customers. Good customer-service representatives must refrain from arguing with an upset customer and instead ask the customer what they can do to solve the problem. Advise employees to speak calmly to customers and to assure them that they’ll do what they can to help. Follow up with a clear resolution to the complaint.”

  1. Empowered staff

Catherine Lovering says, “Empower these staff members to not only deal well with upset customers on an emotional level but also to provide tangible benefits. For example, “Entrepreneur” magazine recommends giving employees the authority to give any dissatisfied customer a 10-percent discount.”

The emphasis should be on, “What can we do that will make the situation better for you? Add the wow factor -For example, one winner of The WOW! Awards is a restaurant in Leeds called Gueller’s. They keep a range of prescription spectacles, just in case customers forget their own and are having difficulty reading the menu.”

Give them something that will make them feel valuable. That could be a freebie, the ability to resolve their problem, following up the matter on their behalf and make them feel that their concerns have been heard and addressed (or will be addressed)

  1. Customer service, IT systems and process review – Capture, monitor and report

IT systems need to be setup according to effective measurement metrics. For example, it is not good enough to measure “How many calls did an agent take/close today?” An effective metric would be, “How many calls did an agent close today that was satisfactorily resolved for the customer?” Each call should also be followed up by the completion of customer satisfaction surveys and that opportunity utilised for creating other effective metrics and for highlighting process improvements.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is used extensively within the IT industry and it can be modified to deliver excellent customer service. Karen Francis of Macanta consulting says, “My opinion is that we shouldn’t be too precious about what we use as long as it works for us. If an organisation is already using ITIL for the IT department and finds that it can be adapted for the non-IT departments, then why not do it.

ITIL may not cover things such as sales and marketing and HR, but if you already have effective and efficient processes for managing faults, problems, changes, inventory, capacity, business continuity, service levels and so on, why not use them for non-IT if they translate well?”

As a fan of Deming, I would like to add Danielle J Baker’s thoughts, “ITIL’s iterative approach and focus on continuous improvement is the basis of IT Service Management as defined by the ITIL set of best practices.

The following needs to be done prior to the installation of any IT system for customer service.

  1. Do we know what processes we have captured in existing systems?
  2. How do we go about capturing processes that are not captured by our existing systems?
  3. What processes can we improve, prior to using IT?

Use new innovative tools for interacting with customers, such as Desk.com (Or similar tool). According to Desk.com website, “Connect to your customers on Facebook and Twitter as easily as on traditional support channels like email, phone and web. Desk.com organizes all of your support in one place so you can respond efficiently wherever your customers reach out.”

One of their client’s, Bonobos said, “I was excited by the look and feel of Desk.com when I saw it. By lunchtime the next day we had switched over entirely.”

  1. Benchmark

As a big fan of benchmarking, I highly recommend benchmarking and covered this in my blog post, IT benchmarking

Catherine Lovering said, “Create customer service benchmarks for employees to meet, and reward the workers who meet and exceed them.”

  1. Customer service and relationship management

Catherine Lovering said, “Communicate with customers so you know what they want. Distribute surveys, request feedback, and make it easy for customers to let you know how they feel about their shopping experience. Add a personal touch to customer communication by answering comment letters with a note of thanks. Keep an eye on the competition to see how they implement customer-service policies, especially if it appears that those services are well-received by customers.”

Inc.com says, “The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one.”

Contact with the organisation should be easy and should include an element of ‘self service’ via social media and an organisation’s own website. That could include, for example, a knowledge base or frequently asked questions (FAQ). This could be done by keeping track of the most common type of service desk requests and enabling access to them via these methods.

In her excellent article, 4 Steps to Overcome Being a Pain in the Ass Call Center that I would recommend reading (All 3 parts), Dr. Jodie Monger says, “According to W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality evolution, “workforces are only responsible for 15% of mistakes, where the system desired by management is responsible for 85% of the unintended consequences. [1]”  In other words, 85% of a worker’s effectiveness is entirely out of his or her control!   It’s rather unfortunate that it is the 15% that is under workers’ control that call centers tend to focus on through quality monitoring efforts, Voice of the Customer programs, mystery shopping and the like.

A well-designed, well-executed quality program will provide a holistic view of your organization’s strengths and opportunities by answering ALL four of the vital questions:

  1. How are we—as an organization—doing at representing our company to its customers?
  2. What can we—as an organization—do to improve?
  3. How are you—as an individual agent—doing at representing our company to its customers?
  4. What can we—as a management team—do to help you improve?

Note that in accordance with Deming’s philosophy of systems and process management, only one of the four vital questions focuses on the activities of the worker.

What would your answers be?”

On that thought provoking question by Dr Judie Monger, I would like to end this blog and hope that this blog post contributes to even better customer service!

References and further Information:

10 Examples of Shockingly-Excellent Customer Service

12 ways to dazzle your customers

Why is Customer Service Still So Lousy?

Customer service frustration leads to lawsuit

Americans Will Spend 9% More With Companies That Provide Excellent Service

The high price of bad customer service

American Express – A story of customer service gone bad

Create a culture of excellent customer service

Institute of customer service

7 Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Tips for excellent customer service

How to provide excellent customer service

How to deliver great customer service

How to provide excellent customer service

Salesforce.com Revolutionizes Customer Service for a Social and Mobile World with Desk.com

desk.com

Using ITIL for Non-IT Purposes

How ITIL Help Desk can help SMBs?

ITIL and Deming

Are you a Pain in the Ass Call Centre?

The Deming Centre for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness at Columbia Business School

Sergio Marchionne (CEO Fiat and Chrysler ) management style and CIOs

SERGIO MARCHIONNE

Image by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) co-founder and CEO of Apple

Sergio Marchionne (1952 -) CEO Fiat and Chrysler

Today’s article is the eleventh in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner, 9th late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, and Richard Branson), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

Sergio Marchionne (mar-key-OWN-ee) also won the 2011 Deming Cup (and other accolades) and regular readers will know that I am a big Deming fan and as such, I really wanted to find out more….

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Sergio Marchionne is a chartered accountant and barrister and holds a Bachelor of law (LLB) and MBA. Although he was born in Italy, he emigrated to Canada at 14 and his first job was with Deloitte and Touche. He has a pretty unconventional management style (According to European CEO, “His management style is to manage his companies. Not to control them.”) that he has used with great effect at various companies, in particular to turn around the fortunes at Fiat and Chrysler. According to Money CNN, “The principles of his management style are simple: He values merit over rank, excellence over mediocrity, competition over insularity, and accountability over promises. Marchionne presents himself like a ’60s intellectual from a Fellini movie, with his baggy sweaters, longish hair, and cigarettes. He rations his public appearances and gets movie star treatment wherever he shows up. Marchionne says his job as CEO is not to make business decisions — it is to push managers to be leaders. What other CEO can you think of who likes to characterize himself as a “simple, homeless, ever-wandering metal basher?”

Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this ‘turnaround’ specialist. (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1.When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays:

“We flattened the organization out. We reached out and brought people on the management team who had been buried underneath the classical hierarchy of corporate America,” says Marchionne. “They were given an opportunity to play. These are people who had been two or three layers down from the senior leadership.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

In another article by Money CNN, Sergio said, “The hardest job is getting personalities to mesh. Some people become dysfunctional — their egos become blown out. It is like having an evil spirit in the house.”

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne runs Chrysler with 26 direct reports, an unusually large number, because he believes it flattens the organization and leads to faster decision making. He demands complete openness, fast communication, and accountability. Marchionne arrived at Fiat from outside the auto industry, and doesn’t try to pass himself off as an expert. Instead, as he told the Harvard Business Review in 2008, “A lot of what I do is challenge assumptions — which often looks like you are asking stupid questions.”

In another article by Money CNN, “Marchionne hopes his round-the-clock zeal will become contagious inside the company. For the launch of the first new vehicle of his tenure, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Marchionne got deeply involved. Instead of laying off workers when the plant was revamped last fall, he kept them working, and they scrubbed the Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit from top to bottom — it’s most thorough cleaning since it opened in 1991. When Marchionne showed up one Saturday to review their progress, the workers beamed, even more so when President Obama toured the plant a few weeks later and called it “this magnificent factory.”

The sign of a true leader is that he not only inspires and motivates but ensures that he is surrounded by the best talent, especially in the areas where he doesn’t excel. Sergio does this brilliantly by promoting the best talent and allowing them make their own decisions, coupled with clear, achievable targets. As an accountant he knows his figures and utilises that aspect to his advantage. Senior managers need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as displayed by Sergio.

2. Constant analysis:

“Once it’s execution, then you’ve got to look into your shorts and you’ve got to say to yourself, Do you actually have–do you–I mean I, as a person, do you have the wherewithal to get this done?”–SM- Time Mag –America24

One of the reasons for Sergio’s success is that he is constantly analysing his businesses to find out how further improvements can be made. He expects his managers to have their finger on the pulse of the business and failure is NOT an option.

3. Spotting opportunities:

According to European CEO, “We spit blood to clean up and restart Fiat. When I took over, there was a smell of death here,” Marchionne has said of the experience.

Marchionne refused to get bogged down in the engineering technicalities of running a car manufacturer. He took a more philosophical approach and modelled sales of the Fiat 500 on the iPod – when it broke into the UK’s top 10 selling vehicles in 2009, it became the car people didn’t think twice about buying. It became the iPod on wheels – practical, stylish and affordable.

Sergio was a big fan of Steve Jobs and used his philosophy with great effect in selling the Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 has not done so well in USA and it remains to be seen whether he can launch more cars akin to the iPod!

Certainly, like Steve Jobs, he needs to create an environment and culture that thrives on spotting opportunities.

4. Improve productivity: –

According to Forbes and Vecchio (Mediobanca analyst) “When Marchionne took over the company, he was literally firing one manager a day but there was a leadership problem and nobody wanted to take hard decisions. The communication from bottom to top in management was slow and wrong. He also changed that,” the analyst added. “He reduced the layers of management and gave his role a more direct view of what the business was doing. And of course his ego is very big and sometimes people who had clashes with him were basically fired. Looking at his style from outside it seems awful but he delivered.”

When profits are dwindling and an organisation is on the brink of producing losses, serious questions have to be asked of its management. Sergio, was quite right to question his management team and change the structure based to a performance related one (Based on meritocracy, as Deming envisaged). Something has to change, as in that situation if nothing changes, the organisation will cease to exist!

5. Success in general may be built on failure:

“I don’t think that people really understand what the implications would have been of a lack of decisiveness at that point in time,” says Marchionne. “It would have been a mess.”(Referring to the purchase of Chrysler) – SM- Time Mag –America24-.

Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy and decisions had to be made. Sergio did not shy away from such decisions and followed his instinct, just as Steve Jobs did (Sergio is a fan). The secret is to learn from your mistakes, put them behind you and move on.

6. Competitive advantage:

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne believes his competitive advantage is speed. By wiping out layers of management and making decisions more quickly, he’ll get closer to the market and bring out new models faster than his slower-moving rivals.

“They have access to me 24/7,” he says, and when they call or e-mail, he makes decisions in minutes — or seconds. While traveling, he stays in contact with one of his six BlackBerrys. “BlackBerrys are divine instruments,” he purrs.

Marchionne-style management is not for compromising types. He works all the time, subordinates say, and his wife has left Italy to live separately at their home in Switzerland (they have two boys). “The lifestyle I have today is the most abusive way to achieve a lasting impact,” he concedes.”

Sergio, clearly knows his own competitive advantage and he uses that with great effect for the benefit of his company. While other CEOs may reply to such emails a day or two later, he almost communicates with them in ‘real time.’ This allows the business to be very agile in terms of making crucial decisions. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

7. Succession planning and his reputation:

According to Money CNN, “Marchionne is trying to provide some clarity about his retirement plans. He’s announced that he plans to stay until 2015 or 2016, and that his successor will likely come from inside the company.”

Succession planning is paramount for businesses as without ‘nurturing’ successors businesses will run into difficulties and sometimes that can result in situations where the successor ‘fails’ to do his/her job effectively. So, while succession is paramount, so is the need to appoint the ‘most suitable’ candidate.’

8. Focus:

According to Money CNN, “ Marchionne takes an all-but-gleeful delight in reminding audiences about the deficiencies of the Western auto industry. He calls it a business of hand-me-downs and seldom let’s an opportunity go by to remind his audience that the autos have been “rigorously and methodically” destroying billions of dollars in shareholder value. He’s particularly critical of what he calls “M&A sprees” that have made automakers “into rambling ranch houses onto which one room after another was added — with no rational architecture uniting the whole.”

Senior management need to focus on the core activities of a business and shy away from getting involved in M&A’s that do not contribute or add value to that core perspective. In the car industry, failures have occurred when businesses have not produced cars that the public want to buy with features/quality that the public want to buy. Shy away from the projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

9. Successful innovation and success in general may be built on failure:

“What I look for in people is the ability to use that space intelligently, not to abuse the freedom,” he says. “It’s to remain absolutely focused on the objective but not to define the method of execution.”-SM - Time Mag –America24-.

Sergio did not have to buy Chrysler but he had the conviction that he could turn it around as he could innovate and launch cars that the public really wanted to buy. Some will inevitably fail but many will be huge successes. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

10. Earn respect:

“I told them, I said, ‘You’ve got more than money on the table,’” Marchionne recalls. “‘You’ve got me … You’ve got Fiat.’”–SM- Time Mag –America24

Prior to negotiating with the US administration, Sergio had already turned Fiat around and as such held the respect of Obama and his team and their belief that he could turn the ailing giant around. Unfortunately, such ‘respect’ can only be earned.

11. Quality management:

“Leadership is not a quantitative thing. People either smell it in you or they don’t,” says Marchionne. “People need to trust you that you’re going to pull them out and that they will follow you when you pull them out. If they don’t get that comfort, they’re going to drop you. This is true of organizations. It’s true of countries.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

12. Use numbers to season the points you serve — they’re not the main dish:

According to Money CNN, Sergio said, “I’ve always hit my numbers and will with Chrysler’s five-year profitability plan,” he told a group of dealers in June. “We told people we’d break even in 2010. We made an [operating] profit in the first quarter. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it’s black, and it is from selling cars. From what I can tell, we’ll do significantly better than zero this year.”

Sergio will drop references to his numbers but will not get carried away with them and only uses them ‘sparingly’ so that he can make convincing arguments while avoiding the detail.

13. Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’ –

In a move that signalled where his heart is, earlier this year Marchionne became CEO of Chrysler Group. His office is on the fourth floor in the engineering department, not the executive penthouse, now sitting empty, where a chairman and three vice chairmen used to rule. “I don’t have an office of the chairman. Which is what used to run this joint,” he says, quickly adding, “with all due respect.”-SM- Time Mag –America24

Sergio wanted to break down the barriers between senior Management and employees and the ideal way to do this was to be closer to the action, i.e. the engineering department where cars were ‘visualised’ and eventually made.

14. Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. –

“There were things that Fiat had, that I had, that if applied here could have pulled this out,” Marchionne explains. “I knew I could help technically. And I had a guy who was willing to fund it.”-SM-

A guy named Obama. (Time Mag –America24)

15. Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ –

“It’s pretty intense, because he questions–and again, rightfully so–and there are times when you think you’re so prepared and ready and he’ll bring something completely that you weren’t thinking of,” says Laura Soave Time Mag –America24

This is a trait in common with other leaders, such as Bill Gates. Sergio, surrounds himself with smart people and ensures that when they present their information, they have investigated it thoroughly. Questioning the assumptions that they may have made, ensures that such information is ‘de-risked’ and provides a sound foundation for them to make progress.

More Info:

Fiat’s extreme makeover

Sergio Marchionne’s bad bet at Fiat

Columbia business school address by Sergio Marchionne – Recepient of Deming cup 2011

Columbia Business School’s Deming Centre

W. Edwards Deming Institute®

The future of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)

“In the automotive world the potential for intelligent transport systems is almost unlimited and eventually technology will help alleviate the major problems of congestion and safety.”

Max Mosley, President, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), 1993-2009

The world population is growing exponentially and recently hit the 7 billion mark. By 2050, we will have reached 9.3 billion. Cars have just passed the 1 billion mark. In a global society, such trends demand that we create solutions to these problems. Unfortunately, as once envisaged, the solution is not to build more roads, as the more roads that we build, the more traffic we invite onto these roads.
High rates of population growth and increased car ownership will cause, for instance, more traffic congestion making this problem worse. Traffic delays represent a huge loss of revenue for business while creating frustration and stress for road users. These delays also damage the environment and increase emissions of greenhouse gases. While alternatives to road transport are currently being looked at by most countries, the use of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), could become increasingly more important.

One of the disadvantages of all this activity is that currently there is no global standards body controlling the way that these systems are developed. However, there are European and American bodies that are involved and are driving ITS forward.

One such initiative gathering pace globally is CALM:

According to Wikipedia, “CALM enables the following communication modes:

  • Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I): communication initiated by either roadside or vehicle (e.g. petrol forecourt or toll booth)
  • Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V): peer to peer ad-hoc networking amongst fast moving objects following the idea of MANET’s/VANET’s.
  • Infrastructure-to-Infrastructure (I2I): point-to-point connection where conventional cabling is undesirable (e.g. using lamp posts or street signs to relay signals).”

Other situations could be cars (V2I) automatically stopping (In the future), as ambulances communicate their emergency to traffic lights, cars (V2V) braking automatically as cars in front brake etc.

Ford has recently developed and demonstrated a Car-to-Car and Car-to-Infrastructure Communications system for a German Safety Research Project.

What are Intelligent Transport Systems?

According to ETSI, “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) add information and communications technology to transport infrastructures and vehicles in an effort to improve their safety, reliability, efficiency and quality.

ITS services are also designed to optimise transportation times and fuel consumption thus providing greener and safer transportation. However, the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems and the provision of corresponding services are not limited to the road transport sector only, but includes other domains such as railways, aviation and maritime as well.”

ETSI adds that, “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) include telematics and all types of communications in vehicles, between vehicles (e.g. car-to-car), and between vehicles and fixed locations (e.g. car-to-infrastructure). However, ITS is not restricted to Road Transport – it also includes the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for rail, water and air transport, including navigation systems.

In general, the various types of ITS rely on radio services for communication and use specialised technologies.

Uses of Traffic Data

ITS systems are reliant on traffic Data as it is extremely valuable for both traffic planning purposes and for live traffic updates. This “Live” information can be broadcast as real-time traffic updates to users of Satellite Navigation systems, radio listeners, TV viewers and website users. Mobile phone users can receive this information by SMS message, a dial-in traffic information service or iPhone type applications, such as iHop2. This information can also be displayed on road signs such as the illuminated displays often seen on motorways.

The “Live” data is only valuable for a few minutes as it is constantly replaced. This data is still valuable however and can be stored in large databases. This “historical” data can be used by traffic planners to analyse traffic movements over a period of time. The ability to compare average journey times and conduct studies using origin / destination analysis is all essential tools for good traffic planning.

The traditional method of collecting data has been to use a network of static sensors. There are several different methods such as infra-red cameras and inductive loops. These methods all have two things in common. Firstly a large amount of capital expenditure is required to build the network and secondly they are expensive to maintain.

The future of ITS

Future solutions will warrant moving beyond just collecting data and providing information for one mode of transport, i.e. road traffic data.

The vision for future ITS: to design true multi modal ITS (Integrates several data streams from air, land and sea) systems capable of ‘real time’ traffic information (for example, even from car parks and parking meters). This process utilises maturity modelling and stream computing applications (YouTube) and information gathered is disseminated through multiple delivery channels. This information can also be displayed on road signs such as the illuminated displays often seen on motorways.

According to a Press release by IBM – “The trend in transportation management is to use data to predict future traffic conditions and allow agencies to implement strategies and provide traveller information in anticipation of those future conditions,” said Christopher Poe, assistant agency director, TTI.

When it comes to addressing traffic problems today, transportation agencies are largely reactive, focusing on isolated incidents and single areas of congestion. Through innovations such as road sensors and predictive analytics, transportation systems can be made smarter, allowing agencies to be more proactive in dealing with traffic issues. For example, technologies exist today that make it possible to predict traffic conditions anywhere from an hour to 15 minutes in advance, providing drivers with valuable information on what is going to happen, rather than what has already happened – even before they get in their vehicles.

Beyond easing traffic congestion, smarter transportation systems can help reduce accidents, improve emergency response times, lead to cost savings, and increase community liveability by promoting increased use of public transit. In addition, intelligent transportation projects have the potential to drive sustainable economic development through the creation of new jobs, technologies and businesses.

For example, the city of Stockholm is using IBM’s streaming analytics technology to gather real-time information from GPS devices on nearly 1,500 taxi cabs to provide the city and its residents with real-time information on traffic flow, travel times and the best commuting options. The service will soon expand to gather data from delivery trucks, traffic sensors, transit systems, pollutions monitors and weather information sources. IBM is also assisting the cities of Brisbane, London and Singapore to address traffic management and congestion challenges.

More Info:

Intelligent transportation system – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Floating car data – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Forums and International ITS bodies

Communications, Air-interface, Long and Medium range – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cooperative Vehicle Infrastructure Systems (CVIS) project

Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) – Vehcle to Vehicle Infrastructure

Safespot

European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) ITS

TRL – Independent Transport Research, Consultancy & Testing.

International Transport Forum

European Commission CORDIS – Search for ITS etc

Network of National ITS Associations

ERTICO (Europe)

Institute for Transport Studies: Institute for Transport Studies

Project MESA – Mobile Broadband for Public Safety – Home Page

International Transport Forum – Web TV

Intelligentransport’s Channel – YouTube

ITSA

ITS South Africa

ITS-UK › Home › About ITS › About Us

IBEC ITS | International Benefits, Evaluation and Costs (IBEC) Working Group

Guidance on Investment in ITS

Transport: What do we want to achieve ? – European commission

ITS/Operations Resource Guide 2009

World road association – Includes complete PIARC handbook on ITS

Easyway – Co-financed by the EU

Transport Advice Portal: Intelligent Transport Systems

Urban Traffic Management & Control – UTMC

ITS-Arab > Home الرئيسية

Home – Multimodal ITS

Conferences

RTIC 2010 | The IET Road Transport Information and Control Conference and the ITS United Kingdom Members’ Conference.

ITS World Congress

World ITS Summit·China 2011

data.gov.uk | Opening up government

Consortiums

Saferider – ADVANCED RIDER ASSISTANCE SYSTEMS (ARAS) and IVIS become ON BIKE INFORMATION SYSTEMS (OBIS).

EU Funded HAVE IT – Highly automated vehicles for intelligent transport

MIRA | Smarter Thinking for Vehicle Engineering, Test and Defence

News

Traffic Management – Industry Projects Category – Road Traffic Technology

Mobile Synergetics

San Francisco rolls out new smart parking meters with ‘demand-responsive pricing’ — Engadget

Twitter, Now With Geo-Location | In Telematics Today

Twitter Blog: Location, Location, Location

Facebook, Twitter Ready Location-Based Features – PCWorld

KeepMoving – UK Traffic and Cheap Fuel Price Information

Sir Henry Royce Lecture 2010 – Smarter Transport by Jamie Houghton, Head of ITS, IBM

Country and global City Resources:

USA

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology–

Section 4 – Vehicle Classification Monitoring

Be-Mobile | Control the traffic flow!

Singapore

MIT School of Architecture and Planning and future urban transport

Future Urban Mobility

Intelligent Cities

Kuwait

Openware – The GIS Software Leader – ESRI Openware Kuwait – Kuwait Maps

Axis Solutions – Committed To Our Customers’ Success

Australia

Brisbane Metropolitan Transport Management Centre

Traffic & Transport – Brisbane City Council

131940 Traffic and Travel Information

Scotland

Traffic Scotland

Wales

Traffic Wales – the Welsh Assembly Government’s Traffic Management and Information Service

England

Welcome to Traffic England

UK Highways Agency

Highways Agency – Traffic Information

Malaysia

CSC DBKL’s ITIS Set To Ease Traffic Woes

Suppliers:

Siemens

Siemens Traffic Solutions SITRAFFIC Concert

Serve atOnce Traffica | Nokia Siemens Networks

Logica

Intelligent Transport Systems

IBM

IBM – Intelligent transport: How cities can improve mobility

IBM – Smarter Transport for a Sustainable Future – Start Summit Day 3 – United Kingdom

IBM News room – 2010-04-16 IBM Helps City of Stockholm Predict Better Commuting Options – United States

IBM: The Smarter City

IBM: The Smarter City – Traffic

InfoSphere Streams enables smarter transportation at the city of Stockholm. – YouTube

IBM – Stream Computing – InfoSphere Streams – Software

INRIX

ITIS Holdings plc acquired by INRIX – Historical, Real-Time and Predictive Traffic Information

Mott MacDonald & ITIS Floating Vehicle Data system Transport Technology Services

ITIS Floating Vehicle Data system – realisation of a commercial system

OPTUS TRIALS ITIS CELLULAR FLOATING VEHICLE DATA TECHNOLOGY IN SYDNEY. Goliath Business News

ITIS Integrated Transport Information System

ITraffic.ie Home Real Time Traffic Information

Other suppliers

Home – Q-Free

PSI Transcom – Solutions for Public Transport Systems

INIT

SmartTrans | A Global Leader in Intelligent Transport Solutions

Nortech Detection Motorway Traffic Monitoring Systems

Traffic Products, Services, And Solutions – Motus Traffic

Pell Frischmann – Traffic & Transportation

Road Transport – Thales

ENVITIA Transport

ibigroup.com – Transportation

Spatial Technology (UK) – Home

TomTom Licensing

WebTech Wireless – GPS Vehicle Tracking and Telematics Solutions

TAN – Transport Associates Network | International Independent Consultants | UK based

ITS Action Plan for Europe | Ankerbold International

hop>2: Travel Information

Richard Branson’s (CEO Virgin) management style and CIOs

Industrialist Richard Branson at the Time 100 ...

Image via Wikipedia

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

Richard Branson, Entrepreneur and businessman (1950-)

Today’s article is the tenth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison, 6th Eric Schmidt, 7th CIOs and the ideal management style, 8th Louis V Gerstner and the late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s, analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how senior management including  Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

Richard Branson started his working life in the 60’s by starting a magazine called, ‘Student’ and has never looked back. He is an entrepreneur that defies the usual rules of business. He sold his record label and company and started Virgin Atlantic defying convention and established business practices as he not only had no experience of the airline industry but was also stepping into a hugely competitive marketplace. He also took on the might of British airways when he claimed that his business had been the victim of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign. In both cases, he proved that he could ‘win’ and has since gone from strength to strength.

Let’s see what CIOs and general management can learn from this icon of modern business. (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Succession planning and his reputation: RB – “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”

Richard Branson has created autonomous companies under the Virgin umbrella, precisely so that these companies can operate without him. Succession planning has been ‘built in’ to the very core of Virgin. As such, it is important for CIOs to have succession planning in order that the business has continuity in the unfortunate event of a CIO not being able to provide management.

2. Spotting opportunities: RB – “If something is a good idea, consider it, then work out how to make it happen.”

As someone who has created 200 plus companies, the lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

3. Focus: RB – “Whatever you sell, first identify your market.”

Richard Branson has always identified markets where he can add value. That has often happened in an already crowded marketplace, with existing competitors. The secret to his success is that he enters these markets and creates and delivers products, better than his rivals, usually through value for money and a better customer experience.

CIOs needs to focus on the most important issues that are relevant to the business and to shy away from the issues/projects that do not add value to the business but may just be a ‘nice have’ or appear to add value. Learn to say, ‘No’.

4. Talent acquisition: RB -Employees think for themselves. They have good ideas to listen to. What is the point of hiring bright people if you don’t apply their talent?

Richard Branson believes in empowering his employees to make the decisions and to make it happen.

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct and allow his/her staff to get the job done and to believe in their capabilities. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

5. Handling barriers and roadblocks: RB – “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable, challenges and trying to rise above them”

It is hard to stop someone who knows how to tackle barriers and roadblocks. CIOs need to know when to intervene. For example, in many cases that could mean stopping projects altogether to take stock of current situations or to change the direction. Create challenges for your employees and set them targets that ‘stretch’ their capabilities.

6. Successful innovation: RB -. Pioneer, don’t follow the leader, Drive for change  

CIOs need to think how they can do their jobs differently to provide competitive advantage for their companies. As IT becomes standardised across many industries, it will become harder to differentiate the IT offering. Look harder, competitive advantage is still achievable through innovative uses of IT. The question is whether you as the leader can locate and exploit it?

Virgin has proved that such success is achievable. Many businesses lack of innovation is due to their fear of failures.

7. Earn respect: RB – “Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”

CIOs need to care more about their staff and have to understand and overcome any difficulties that they face in their everyday jobs. Caring managers will always be able to deliver better results.

8. Family commitment: RB – “Divide your private life from your work life. The break down in family live has played a big role in lack of social cohesion and skills.”

This is an aspect of life that I firmly believe in as well. Time cannot be turned around or replaced. It is very important that we spend time with spouses and spend time with our children. As they grow up we have to ensure that they become responsible and active citizens. A work/life balance is crucial and ensures that we work optimally.

9. Learning: RB – “People don’t leave their jobs through lack of pay – they leave because they aren’t valued. Many companies leave people in boxes; encourage them to be adaptable and innovative.”

All great leaders have made it a habit to constantly learn. RB constantly interacts with his employees and is always open to suggestions on how to improve the business or to welcome ideas about new business.

10. Business reputation: RB - Detached from values, money may indeed be the root of all evil, but linked effectively to social purpose; it can be the root of opportunity.

Richard Branson believes in the power of money to achieve a better world and he constantly strives for that through his Virgin unite charity. As he became involved with the airline industry, he started to look into ways of offsetting the carbon footprint of Virgin through the usage of eco-friendly fuels etc. Companies’ need to support the eco system that they operate in.

CIOs need to understand that IT systems can enhance and assist companies to become better corporate citizens and need to look for these opportunities

11. Follow your instinct: RB – ‘Never let facts get in the way of a good idea. If something is what you really want to do, just do it. Whatever your goal is you will never succeed unless you let go of your fears. It’s easy to give up when things are hard but we have to keep chasing dreams and our goals; once we decide to do something, we should never look back, never regret it. I rely on my gut instinct more than thick reports.”

CIOs need to listen to their inner voice and recommend changes accordingly.

12. Create and nurture ‘the correct culture.’RB-“Staff first, then customers and shareholders, Shape the business around the people. Having a personality of caring about people is important. You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them. For the people who work for you or with you, you must lavish praise on them at all times,” Branson says. “If a flower is watered, it flourishes. If not, it shrivels up and dies. People don’t need to be told where they’ve slipped up or made a mess of something.”

13. Develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It. – RB – Around the world we’re looking at taking the brand into a number of different industries. Our criterion is, will it fulfil the Virgin yardstick of being good value for the money? Will it enhance the brand by bringing great quality? Will we have fun doing it and can we make it profitable? If those criteria work, then we’ll seriously look at a new industry.”

Above all, you want to create something you are proud of…. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off doing nothing

14. Relax and feel at home RB –“Work should not be a chore and should be fun. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

CIOs often forget to create a culture of fun within their department. This results in a high turnover of staff. Create strategies such as allowing staff to spend a percentage of their time on projects that they want to do. The more staff enjoy work, the more productive they will become.

15. ‘Image’ is everything. – RB – “Outstanding brands are built around great people who deliver consistently great customer service every day.”

CIOs need to change their images from just being technology leaders to leaders who understand business and can apply their strategic IT and business skills to the wider business.

16. Employees’ performance: RB – “As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back.”

Branson hires the best and brightest people that he can and then allows them to have a stake in the ownership of that business. CIOs need to become better at delegating tasks, trusting employees to get the job done.

17. Earn respect by ‘listening’: RB – “You learn more by listening to other people.”

18. How do you run this company? RB – “I’ve had to create companies that I believe in 100%. These are companies I feel will make a genuine difference. Then I have to be willing to find the time myself to talk about them, promote them and market them. I don’t want to spend my life doing something that I’m not proud of.”

19. Time Management: Richard Branson spends an equal third of his time on trouble shooting his businesses, new projects (business/charity) and on promoting and marketing his businesses while creating time for family and vacations.

More:

Lesson #1: Be A Good Leader

Richard Branson and the Virgin group of companies in 2004

Leadership by IBEC.IE

Management style of Richard Branson

The importance of being Richard Branson

Michael Walenius blog – The leadership style of Richard Branson

Time – Many times a virgin

Time Video – 10 questions for Sir Richard Branson

Time – How to raise a billionaire

Time – Q&A – Virgin founder, Richard Branson

15 small business lessons from Richard Branson

Five secrets to business success by Richard Branson

Richard Branson as a leader

Business book notes – Richard Branson – Screw it let’s do it

Richard Branson’s, Screw it, let’s do it (Review)

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