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

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 factorFor 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

The 6 Box Model – An Eco System for sustainable performance

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

Henry Ford, industrialist, inventor (1863-1947)

There are so many new management techniques and tools published every year that it is often hard to select one that will actually work within an organisation. I recently came across the 6 box model (Created by Vlatka Hlupic, University of Westminister) and thought that it was a model that could easily be used by organisations that wanted to improve and sustain performance. Today’s business eco system is very different to the one that was prevalent, even quite recently as the early 80’s and 90’s. Professor Vlatka highlights that quite well, in the following slide:

Hlupic Slide

The 6 Box model identifies the main six key performance drivers required by organisations and how they are interlinked and rely on each other to deliver sustainable performance. Usually, when I come across business tools and techniques, the accompanying websites fail to deliver content that supports them. I was therefore quite pleasantly surprised by the 6 box model website that is a mine of information and contains a rich resource of content ranging from an article by professor Vlatka featured in Harvard Business Review that includes marked productivity improvement at both CSC and ANADIGICS. Please also view video on by Marcus Buckingham on ‘strengths’.

6BoxModel

Increasingly, Social Media has been used quite successfully by organisations to tap this resource already found within organisations and I covered this in my blog post, revised recently, ‘Organisations “Don’t get” social media’  . ‘Hlupic points to the example of HCL Technology, a software consultancy in India which developed its own Facebook-style application and used it to create a new business strategy. “Originally, 300 managers would put their strategy ideas to the CEO but with the social media application, they could put their ideas for new strategies to everyone in the global business, so 8,000 people could potentially comment. Everyone could contribute to the planning and everyone could really align themselves with the strategy and live and breath it,” she says. This all happened mid-recession and in the four years since, 70 per cent of all major deals closed by HCL were won against the big four global IT players, the number of customers has grown five-fold and employee attrition is down to 50 per cent. Revenues have also tripled over a four-year period and operating income has also tripled.’

6BoxModelCategories

I would like to conclude this article by requesting readers to read the article that I wrote in 2009 titled, ‘Can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II’  that discussed ‘Dr. Deming – The 5 Deadly Diseases 1984’ as that also discussed and emphasised the importance of employees and as the great man said,

“Unemployment is not inevitable but of bad management”- Dr Edward W Deming.

‘You’ The Brand and ‘Social Media.’

Social Media Iceberg

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

James D. Miles (1830 – 1914) Steamboat Captain in the Northwest

Some of you may remember, the television shows of the 80’s where TV series/serials, used to start with, ‘Previously on xyx.’I felt a bit nostalgic today, so I will start the same way. Previously on my blog, I have written about Social Media (SM) in various contexts. I wrote about the effect of SM on a friend’s daughter – The ugly side of social media, the conundrum facing CIOs – The Social Networking dilemma and the CIO, a quick primer on SM – Social Media Primer – Succeed by using LinkedIn and blogs, Toyota and its failure to use SM – How Toyota became the werewolf and the three step process to embrace SM: Organisations “Don’t get” social media (UPDATED, RECOMMENDED READING FOR THIS POST, with ALL NEW SM monitoring tools for both personal and business use). It is becoming evident though that some organisations have become adept at SM, as witnessed by Ford’s recent Ford Explorer, campaign. “We couldn’t think of launching a vehicle today without launching it early using social media,”Jim Farley, Ford’s Vice President for Global Marketing – Courtesy of Social Media Explorer.

Senior management need to understand the business and how IT can be utilised to provide competitive advantage – Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? The problem these days is that many CEOs start working at new employer’s without taking the time and effort to understand and appreciate the business and its culture. Without understanding fully, their business, there is no way for them to realise the potential within their existing or future procured IT systems. In addition, many businesses still have their IT chief’s reporting to CFOs. Without board level representation, IT cannot deliver any benefits to the bottom line. Within that context, Terry Leahy fully understood the impact of IT and allowed his CIO, Philip Clarke to analyse and innovate. In effect, Philip Clarke, successfully created, ‘Philip Clarke, the brand.’ Can anyone create a successful brand, using the Internet and Social Media? The answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes’. I will now outline the steps. The secret to leveraging the success of SM is to integrate, disseminate and monitor SM (automate as much of this as possible, especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints).

Integration: If you are thinking of setting up a new business or personal brand, Google Apps could be the ideal platform for you. I covered this previously, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality. Google Apps Premiere edition was recently named as  Google Apps for Business and now incorporates all the FREE apps that used to be available to personal Google/GMAIL account holders, such as my favourites, Google URL shortener and Alerts. Regardless, of whether you are a small business or corporate, the website needs to provide analytics to ascertain demographic analysis, page views, referrals (Which sites are referring your site) and statistics and words used for searches conducted, using tools such as Google Analytics. The website also needs a blog feature (Or if you are building your personal brand, enable a personal blog using WordPress/Blogger (Free)). The blog needs to auto connect with SM to deliver posts (Such as, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and YouTube) automatically.

Dissemination: A decision has to be made on which SM will be most effective in disseminating information (News/blogposts/articles) to your target audience. For example, with the launch of the Ford Explorer, Ford decided to use Facebook.  Appropriate profiles for various SM (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc) need to be created. There is plenty of information available on the Internet, to help in creating these profiles but the rule of thumb is that all of your SM profiles, need to be as similar to each other as possible, across all SM. Again, automate as much of this as possible, (especially if you are building your personal brand – due to time constraints)

Monitor: Once SM has been integrated and dissemination profiles/channels are completed start monitor ing‘key people and blogs and setup appropriate RSS feeds’ for content/people that your business needs ‘to follow’ in order to keep abreast of trends in your field. Monitoring also needs to be setup for adverse comments, as the case with Toyota (See above) highlights. As SmartPhones are prevalent now, appropriate phone apps need to be setup to provide the ability to monitor, regardless of location.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with some Twitter cheat sheets that also include other SM tools etc as well (Courtesy of the following):

Geneabloggers.com-Twitter-Cheat-Sheet

@gminks of Adventures in Corporate Education’s Cheat sheet

The Social Media guide.com’s Cheat sheet

The public you.com and Rich Sauser’s Cheat sheet

Eric Schmidt (Ex CEO and current Chairman – Google) management style and CIO

Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”

John Wooden (1910 – 2010) Hall of Fame basketball coach of UCLA

Eric Schmidt (1955 – ) Google CEO and Chairman from 4th April 2011 onwards

Today’s article is the sixth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet, 4th Bill Gates, 5th Larry Ellison), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

This article also follows my previous articles on Google, Microsoft Googles Apple in 2011, Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality, Weather bulletin – Google Cloud and icy Microsoft downpour and Used iphone under a palm tree where I met android and formed a symbian relationship with a blackberry

Eric Schmidt arrived at Google to help Google’s inexperienced founders; Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He has led Google to become a globally recognised company with approx 24000 employees. Recently, he has stepped down to become the chairman and to pass the leadership to Larry Page (on 4th April 2011). Over the years, he has mentored the young founders and believes that the time is now right for them to take the helm. For his efforts, he leaves with a golden shake of $100 million in equity and shares worth 9.1% of Google stock.

“As a CEO, Schmidt is more inclined to provoke than proclaim. “Google is run by its culture and not by me”, said Schmidt in 2009. In Google, when a key executive decision is reached, all interested parties are invited to the decision making process and are encouraged to share their opinions. Schmidt’s job is to oversee the whole procedure and make timely decisions. This bottoms-up way of decision making usually leads to a better buy in and a better decision.  Google allows employees to spend 20% of time on self-directed projects. To closely connect to Google’s frontline innovators, each week Schmidt and his senior associates spend up to six hours in dialogue with team members from across Google, who believe their projects have great potential. This unique management style has hatched a series of great products like Gmail and Google News.” Courtesy Vivian’s Tech Blog

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

The Management Style

What can CIOs learn from Eric Schmidt’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. How do you run this company? – ES “It’s run in a strange way. We have a normal hierarchical structure. The company is organized ‘bottoms up’ from the standpoint of product creativity and ‘tops down’ from running the quarter and the financials and so forth. We encourage dissent, we encourage large group conversation, we encourage there to be somebody who’s opposed to the decision, and we work very, very hard to be not hierarchical in the way that decisions are made. Often if we can get a decision, we get the best decision if we have two decision makers, not once. We never make decisions in private; we always do them right in front of everybody.” Courtesy Marketplace

2. When the going gets tough, investment in people always pays: ES – “Getting the most out of knowledge workers will be the key to business success for the next quarter century. Here’s how we do it at Google.

At Google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of “knowledge workers.” After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will “strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers’ way.” Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing “the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years.

At Google, we seek that advantage. The ongoing debate about whether big corporations are mismanaging knowledge workers is one we take very seriously, because those who don’t get it right will be gone. We’ve drawn on good ideas we’ve seen elsewhere and come up with a few of our own. What follows are ten key principles we use to make knowledge workers most effective. As in most technology companies, many of our employees are engineers, so we will focus on that particular group, but many of the policies apply to all sorts of knowledge workers.” – Courtesy 1000 Ventures

For more, read – Google’s ten golden rules for getting the most out of knowledge workers.

When Eric joined Novell, the company’s future was very much in doubt. He correctly recognized a culture of fear that pervaded the organization. Bright engineers with revolutionary ideas were reluctant to voice them for fear of being fired. The engineers however, complained vociferously amongst themselves leading to a culture of corporate cynicism. Recognizing this pervasive bellyaching, Eric asked two engineers he met on the company shuttle, to give him the names of the smartest
people they knew in the company. Eric met with each of them, and asked them in turn to identify the 10 smartest people they knew. In a few weeks, Eric had a list of 100 engineers he considered critical to Novell’s future. He met with each of them personally, encouraging them to take chances and follow their instincts. He removed the possibility of reprisals by their managers for voicing their opinions. This inspired the engineers and focused their efforts, resulting in innovative and improved products. These changes helped Novell transform itself from a loss of $78
million to a gain of $102 million”. – Courtesy Scribd.com

One person alone cannot handle everything. The secret is to surround yourself with employees that are smarter than yourself. These smart people will challenge organisations and force them to think differently. I covered this, under mobility of management when I covered; can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II. CIOs need to understand the importance of retaining and investing in people as one of the business’s most important assets is yet again confirmed by another business leader.

3. Business/IT Strategy: “At Google, Eric has stated the company’s goal as “…Organizing the world’s information making it universally accessible and useful”. An engineer working to index billions of web pages can easily identify with this laudable goal. As a practical matter the goal of making information universally accessible is a more
meaningful goal for the engineer, interested in making his mark on society, rather than a mundane goal of increasing Google’s revenues by $300 million dollars. Eric considers this transfer of ownership to be so important that while at Novell he created a quarterly in-house radio show modeled after NPR’s “Car Talk”. He even made tapes available for in-car listening.” – Courtesy Scribd.com

Sometimes it’s best to follow your instincts and to believe in yourself to do the right thing. Paralysis by analysis is often the cause that many organisations cannot do well. It’s as Nike says, Just do it!

4. Rating of employees’ performance: – In the past, I have reviewed many CEO’s management style but Eric Schmidt’s style is the closest fit to Deming’s ‘Annual rate of performance’ that I have yet come across.

“Eric management style is to let the team’s progress be reviewed by individuals the team respects. In most companies there exist a few individuals that are universally respected or at least more respected than everyone else.
These individuals have a way of articulating principles and have very good memories. Since they are considered impartial, teams are more open to receive feedback or decisions even if the decision goes against them. – Courtesy Scribd.com

5. Earn respect by ‘listening’: – ES “Listening to each other is core to our culture, and we don’t listen to each other just because we’re all so smart. We listen because everyone has good ideas, and because it’s a great way to show respect. And any company, at any point in its history, can start listening more.” Courtesy Andrew McAfee

6. Competitive advantage: This is an area of great interest, as currently, Google is the undisputed king of search but Microsoft’sa Bing is knocking on its doors. So, for the moment Google is able to keep its competitive advantage. The worry for Google has been the defection of key employees (who view Facebook as ‘cool and the place to be’) to companies such as Facebook. Social Media is an area where Google doesn’t really have a strong foothold and that is worrying for them while in the mobile arena, Android is not a huge money earner (albeit, earnings are approx $6 per user per year) when compared to Apple IOS. Google is in a battle with Apple, Microsoft and Facebook and it is ambiguous which markets Google ultimately wants to compete within.

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

7. Talent acquisition – Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees: “I might have been mistaken, actually. Having your name and picture up on that big screen at End of Quarter may not be the biggest incentive. The thing that drives the right behavior at Google, more than anything else, more than all the other things combined, is gratitude. You can’t help but want to do your absolute best for Google; you feel like you owe it to them for taking such incredibly good care of you.” Source unknown, courtesy Oliver Thylmann

Google actively recruits recent Ph.D.’s and Ph.D. candidates. All 1,900 Google employees are researchers and developers in addition to their regular duties. Where other companies will keep their research departments and core businesses separate, Google places all their Ph.D.’s in the rank and file of the company. Workers at Google enjoy a company devoted to benefits (Stross, 2004). They also enjoy an informal company culture where employees have access to gyms, massages, pool and ping-pong tables, well stocked snack rooms and other recreational amenities (Google Culture, 2009). Courtesy Marty Andrade

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. 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.

Eric Schmidt has hired the smartest people who can ‘get the job done.’ Hire your friends and past colleagues, as they will have loyalty to you and as you know them personally, an informed decision can be made on whether they have what it takes to realise your ‘vision.’

8. Spotting opportunities and innovation: LE –  “innovation is the key to Google’s success, everything Schmidt does revolves around creating more innovation. Without it, Schmidt believes there is nothing to prevent another company from overtaking Google as the king of digital information.  Innovation is systematically encouraged at Google at all levels throughout the organization, including management. At Google, management follows the “70/20/10″ rule where seventy percent of their time is spent on core business projects, twenty percent is spent on projects related to the core business and ten percent is spent on projects unrelated to the core business (Battelle, 2005). Schmidt, in order to remain true to the 70/20/10 rule, actually divides these projects into different rooms and tracks his time spent in each of the rooms.” Courtesy Marty Andrade

For More Info:

The Daily Telegraph’s articles on Eric Schmidt

Google’s greatest innovation may be its management practice

Android OS is profitable, might generate $10 billion per year

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt: “We don’t have a 5 year plan.”

The New York Times: Eric E Schmidt

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, will not talk about “Private conversations” with Apple about becoming CEO

Weather bulletin – Google Cloud and icy Microsoft downpour

Updates 13.12.11

Why not read, something different – Influential Slaves, Bigots and Size Zeros

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.’

Charles Darwin

I looked at the quote above from my post a few weeks ago and was quite surprised as it quite aptly grasped my thoughts for this post (so I’ll leave it there for this week as well). Last year, I wrote a post, What is Cloud Computing? Its Pros/Cons and making it work. Before, I start, I want to clarify that the Microsoft platform (includes all its business software) is, in my eyes, legendary. The world would be completely different, if it wasn’t for Microsoft’s computing vision. I trained on Microsoft, (MS-DOS days) as Novell started to falter and Microsoft continued with its visionary flare. Keep reading and all will be revealed!

Nine months is a long time within the IT world and for the past few weeks I have been researching Cloud Computing again. Hang on, now, let me finish. This time around, I have asked myself three questions:

  1. Can I create an IT strategy, infrastructure and business systems for a small business on Google Apps?
  2. Is Microsoft future proofed with Web Apps?
  3. Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction? (I will post this separately soon)

This week, I will attempt to answer the first two questions and follow up with an answer to the third question soon. Now, don’t forget, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, just opinions (Pre-requisite: Visioning hat required). To make this a great debate, I welcome opinions from both camps (This is a test in social media monitoring as well; let’s see if Microsoft and Google are monitoring the web). It goes without saying that I value readers’ opinions, so feel free to have a say. So…

  1. Can I create an IT strategy, infrastructure and business systems for a small business on Google Apps (Announced 9/3/10)?

‘Seek and ye shall find.’ So, I did. The answer (in my opinion) is a resounding YES. Why, well, because, the cloud allows a business to do the following:

  • Fast ubiquitous accessibility 24/7, 365 days a year (Increasingly easily available Wifi and Internet connectivity).
  • Enables quicker, cost effective IT start-up for new businesses.
  • Faster product/application development.
  • Not machine dependant (Requires only a browser).
  • Accessible on entry level machines.
  • Cost savings through lower machine, maintenance and software costs.
  • Scalability can be provided very quickly.
  • Opex vs Capex costs.
  • Less environmental impact through virtualisation of hardware/software and other areas.

AND, Google Apps allows:

  • Entire Google Apps infrastructure built towards a vision of cloud computing.
  • Access to the Premier edition that contains a comprehensive suite of apps.
  • Access to a growing number of applications including ERP, Social media etc from the Apps store, many are free for 1-3 users .
  • A flat fee licensing system (£33 per user per annum) vs Microsoft licensing that even Microsoft don’t understand!
  • Collaborative features are enabled from the start allowing, for example, multiple users to edit documents simultaneously.

In effect, Google have created the perfect platform for a small business. It provides the infrastructure and a starter IT system. Once Google Apps are combined with the available ERP and social media solution, the IT system is raring to go.

Obviously, the larger an organisation and the larger the investment in Microsoft and/or other IT systems, the harder it will find to move into the cloud. As I said, in last year’s post, there are other considerations that need to be considered as well. Google, meanwhile continues to blow its trumpet for acquiring 2 million users and counts the USA city of Los Angeles move to Google as a major feather in its cap!

2. Is Microsoft future proofed with Web Apps?

The answer (in my opinion) is NO. Why, for a number of reasons.

According to CIO.com, ‘On the Microsoft Office side, price for the full suite range from $150 to $680 depending which of its many versions you are looking for. With Office 2010, Microsoft will be offering Office Web Apps, free but not fully-featured online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

There will be three versions of Web Apps: One for consumers supported by ads; a hosted version for businesses that pay for hosted accounts on Microsoft Online Services, which is powered by SharePoint; and a corporate in-house version for enterprises with volume licenses for Microsoft Office and a SharePoint server.

Office 2010 will launch for businesses on May 12, but Office Web Apps are not scheduled to launch until mid-June.

Microsoft also has BPOS (business productivity online suite) – now superceded by Office365, in its arsenal, a part of Microsoft Online services that includes online versions of SharePoint, Exchange, Office Communications Server and Live Meeting for $10 per user per month for all four apps.

A version for OEMs will allow Office 2010 starter edition (Word and Excel 2010 only) to be shipped with the computer.’

REASON 1

Microsoft is a giant in the software world and one of the penalties it is paying for its enormous success is that:

  1. Its products are now so diverse that only IT experts can make any sense of them. Need convincing. Ask any non IT personnel to visit any Microsoft site and ask them to explain a particular Microsoft site’s products and what they can actually do for them.
  2. Sheer confusion. As a business owner, for my Microsoft IT system, where do I start? Do I need Office 2010? (What does it have that will improve my productivity?) What version do I use? (Client installation? Which one of the three Office Web Apps, do I need? What the hell is the BPOS (business productivity online suite) – now superceded by Office365?)
  3. Microsoft Licensing and its payment model – Again, this is an open challenge to Microsoft. How many Microsoft employees can explain Microsoft licensing without referring to a price model manual? The correct answer should be at least half its workforce. Why? You cannot sell what you don’t understand (Microsoft have actually done remarkably well then!). Ah, would an employee be able to explain it all in a pub, though?
  4. Microsoft’s entire business model is built on desktop/laptop client installation and as long as it has enough businesses that utilise that legacy because they have no other option, for the short term, it faces no financial problem. In the long term though, I believe businesses will start to abandon ship. Afterall, Google and others will start to offer simple (in licensing terms, products’, versions, etc), cost effective, non business owned infrastructure. Look at what happened to WordPerfect, Novell and many others.

Let’s continue with CIO.com, ‘Google itself concedes that any overnight success in the enterprise is unrealistic, yet remains fully committed to the enterprise, citing rapid growth in Google Apps’ short three-year life span.

“Google Apps have only been in the market since 2007 and we’ve gone from zero to two million business customers,” says Rajen Sheth, Google’s senior product manager for Google Apps. “There’s so much potential here and we’re in it for the long haul.”

Where Microsoft is trying to migrate its products into a cloud environment, Google is fundamentally a cloud company, says Sheth, and has gone to great pains to build extremely large data centers designed specifically for nimble Web-based applications.

“It will be tough to build up the cloud expertise that’s been built into Google’s DNA since day one,” Sheth says.’

REASON 2

That, as they say, is the fundamental problem. Google is fundamentally a cloud company as Sheth said.  Microsoft never was and never will be. It’s just not in its ‘DNA.’

FINAL THOUGHTS

So, Microsoft should be very worried. Microsoft should not get carried away with analyst reports that paint a rosy future but start to listen to customers, such as the city of LA. The paradigm is shifting and it’s shifting fast towards the cloud. After all, the other promise of the likes of Google is not just the simplicity of the entire model but the entire spectrum of cost savings!

It’s the dawn of a new era, where even financial wizardry by Gordon Brown could not save him. Globally, change is happening. The question to ask though within IT is, ‘Who will win this war, Google or Microsoft?’ Or, is there room for a coalition?

WANT TO READ MORE?

Search wars – Past, Present and future – Bing, Google or new entrant?

Will Office 2010 Shred Google Docs?

Microsoft Office vs. Google Apps: The Business Brawl

Google Apps vs. Office Web Apps: Can Microsoft compete in the cloud?

Microsoft Web Apps Will Force Google’s Hand

Free Microsoft Office – with Ads

Microsoft Office 2010: 3 Reasons to Switch

Microsoft vs. Google: Tech Giants’ Turf War Heats Up

Google and Salesforce: composite applications for better enterprise lift

Microsoft counterattacks Google for Apps sales pitch

Office 2010 goes into the cloud

Top 10 Google App Add-Ons for Business Users

Design Your Business Model With Google Docs!

Prepare to mashup

Links updated 12.12.11

The majority of this article has been ‘mashed-up’ courtesy of four IET articles that appeared in issue 5, 24th March edition.

Mashup is a relatively new concept that originated within the computer industry in the early 2000’s. ‘Raj Krishnamurthy (Chief Architect at JackBe Corporation) and Deepak Alur (VP Engineering at JackBe Corporation) started working on Enterprise Mashup Markup Language (EMML) in 2006. Their objective was to enable user-oriented and user-enabled mashups by creating what was then a new type of middleware called an Enterprise Mashup Platform. Raj Krishnamurthy became the chief language designer and implementer of EMML and also led the team to create an Eclipse-based EMML IDE called Mashup Studio.[7] This work evolved into the EMML reference implementation that was donated to the Open Mashup Alliance. Raj Krishnamurthy continues to be one of the key contributors to EMML through the Open Mashup Alliance’ – (Wikipedia –Enterprise Mashup Markup Language – EMML).

‘Mashups were first used in the early 2000s to describe music tracks created by blending parts of songs from different genres – for example, taking the vocals from a rock song and laying them over a hip-hop beat’ – (IET – A sophisticated mess?). ‘Mash-up platforms comprise three elements: software components that help users source and display different types of data, like portlets, widgets or gadgets; tools that allow developers to create mash-ups for others to use; and an underlying software infrastructure to manage, secure and maintain the new data combinations’. ‘Mash-ups were harnessed by inventive Internet consumers and explorative Web developers who monkeyed around with the technology on a largely experimental basis; but businesses soon caught on to the potential of mash-ups’ practicality and ease-of-use. This led software vendors to design mash-up creation tools.’

‘Indicators agree that the potential for market growth is there, in part inspired by the ‘open ethos’ re-use/re-service approach promulgated by service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology. Research company Forrester reckons that sales of this type of software were worth a modest £106m in 2008; the figure is forecast to reach £1.14bn by 2013.’ (IET – Mashup tools: enterprise enablers for the mashed age.)

”Mash-up’ has become more commonly associated with the merging of software, in particular websites or applications built using content from more than one source to create a new service. Typical examples include Nightfeed (www.nightfeed.com), which combines social networking sites such as Facebook with Google maps to help you find the most popular nightlife in your area; Twittervision (www.twittervision.com), which displays Twitter posts on a global map in real time; and SoupSoup (www.soup-soup.net), a news mash-up that complements stories from the BBC, CNN and other sources with articles from Wikipedia and pictures from Flickr. Since you don’t need a degree in computer science to build a mash-up and the tools to do so are readily available, there are already thousands of such applications on the Web, covering everything from shopping to real estate.’ (see IET – A sophisticated mess?‘).

‘Web mash-ups hardly represent a technological revolution, but they are likely to play a big role in shaping the future of the Web. Today’s Web is all about participation and the collective experience – applications that can be easily adapted to allow users to manipulate data will be key to how it evolves. Take the Google Mobile Application for the iPhone, which uses speech recognition technology to allow you to search the Web. Suddenly you’re interacting with the Internet by talking to it, which makes a keyboard interface seem a little old-fashioned.’

”The smartphone revolution has moved the Web from our desks to our pockets,’ says Tim O’Reilly, software guru and founder of the computer book publisher O’Reilly Media. ‘Our phones and cameras are being turned into eyes and ears for applications.’

‘The trickiest transition for any new generation of computer application is that from nascency to immaturity. For mash-up developers the potential for significant market take-up seems evident – mash-up plus-points carry much force in the context of business IT – yet even as the factors for success fall into place, the ‘tipping point’ still seems a way off. The mash-up proposition holds attractions for enterprise IT, especially the potential to enable task-specific browser-based applications (relatively) quickly and cheaply, that energise existing corporate information by combining it with external data sources and other resources online.’

The mash-ups model is also claimed to be adept at integrating data already ‘siloed’ inside an organisation, and enterprise IT strategists will like the fact that mash-ups applications are scalable. But these qualities are for nothing if no standards exist to validate them.’

‘‘Mash-ups are not, of course, completely dissociated from industry standards. They work on standard browsers and are based on open-source software elements; this may or may not be a good thing, depending on an organisation’s stance toward open-source. Some IT leaders recognise the benefits of open-source and embrace it; others think that the compatibility problems it can cause make it more trouble than it’s worth.’

‘The mash-up ethos is strongly predicated on ‘openness’, both in respect to code accessibility and toward data ownership, but even very open-minded open-sourcers may want to see standards-driven controls. The focus here centres around user demand driving better standards and this encouraging adoption.’

‘According to mash-up standards doyen Dion Hinchcliffe, founder of Enterprise 2.0 firm Hinchcliffe & Co, demand-driven interest is pressuring the standards process. ‘As business conditions increase the internal demand to leverage untapped corporate knowledge, mash-ups offer a model that aligns to the needs of the business by connecting workers to resources they need,’ he says. ‘[They] allow for the easy creation of inexpensive, ‘situational’ applications that can now fall inside resource, budget and time [targets] that were difficult to meet with older generation techniques.’ (IET – Mashup standards: crucial to enterprise acceptance)

‘Market watcher Gartner has categorised the benefits of emerging mash-up tools to corporate buyers into five elements: application flexibility; faster application delivery; development productivity; end-user empowerment; application innovation. That flexibility is perhaps best shown when a single mash-up interface is used to replace multiple different applications which would otherwise have to be used simultaneously to display the same data.’

‘Pharmaceutical company Pfizer, for instance, uses an Intranet-based business intelligence (BI) mash-up to deliver ad hoc query, forecasting, planning, and modelling to its product research executives making investment decisions.’

‘The mash-up is based on Composite Software’s Information Server platform, which takes information from factory, project and portfolio management, inventory and supply chain databases, and uses a combination of other tools, including BusinessObjects WEBi reports, Spotfire DecisionSite analystics, SharePoint Designer and ASP net pages for presentation.’

‘Mash-ups also allow Pfizer to develop new software tools which help Pfizer’s researchers share information more quickly, and let end-users configure their own mash-ups and test them out before they go into production.’ – (IET – Making mash-ups)

As governments’ release their data sets, it will become increasingly easier to create mashups from government data. ‘These include Openly Local (Replaces planningalerts.com), a free service that emails you if someone has put in a planning application to build near your house (although to be fair it launched before the government’s move). FillThatHole lets people report potholes and other road hazards across the UK, using location data from the Office for National Statistics.’ – (Techcrunch)

For more, please also read – IET – Managing mash-ups and The 10 Best Mashups on the Web

Organisations “Don’t get” social media

Social Media: Changing Business

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

POST UPDATED 09.12.11

In general most organisations still don’t understand or don’t want to understand the impact, benefits and competitive advantage that social media can, in many cases, still provide. The problem lies in the half hearted way many organisations introduce social media within the organisation. Brian Glick, in his ComputerWeekly column said that (In summary) organisations in general still thought that employees, if given the option, would spend their time on social media sites instead of working are missing the important point. Organisations could reap significant benefits and it was in the interests of organisations to improve collaboration and communication with ‘customers, suppliers and partners.’ One of the reasons for not adopting social media is that social media is at the stage where email and the Internet were 15-20 years ago. I remember that at the time many organisations used to view email/Internet access in the same way. Now, email and Internet access forms the fabric of most organisations. For those organisations that just ‘don’t get’ social media, I will provide a simple three step process to ‘get you there.’

Step One – The social media policy

This does not have to be a completely new policy; this can be an addendum to the existing computer usage or Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) of an organisation. This should include acceptable/unacceptable behaviour for employees on social media such as blogging, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter etc. The secret is to embrace social media, get your employees involved and make them your ambassadors in the new world of social media. Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO captures the essence well, “If you want people to use it, you have to tolerate them using it and not always in the way you expect.” To get you started, here are a few links:

Step two – Internal and external Social Media adoption

Harnessing the power of social media will provide you with two key benefits:

  1. Collaboration and knowledge sharing becomes easier. Organisations of all sizes have struggled for years to capture the expertise of their knowledge experts without much success. Internal Social media platforms make that process simple and employees are encouraged to create ‘expert’ content. Expertise becomes easier to access, as Aviva’s example (QUICK STATS – £350 Billion assets, £50 billion sales, 54000 staff, and currently 120 wikis with potential for 600 more) demonstrates. For example, in Aviva’s case, Tony Redshaw, Aviva CIO said, “One of our people in the Melbourne office was having a complex issue. Someone in our York (England) office saw their online post. Within 24 hours they had related their experience and suggested a way of fixing it, and…problem solved. There was no way before for the two to hook up and for that information exchange to happen.”
  2. The younger generation leaving schools and universities is social media literate. They already have social media profiles on Facebook, MySpace and Bebo etc. Organisations are finding it hard to recruit and retain youngsters where social media equivalents are not available internally and where social media access generally is restrained. The primary reason is that these younger people utilise these technologies to communicate and interact with the world at large. Embracing the younger generation through social media adoption can bring benefits that may not have been anticipated. They will utilise these platforms in innovative ways, providing competitive advantage and adding to the bottom line.

Step three – Setup and monitoring Social Media

Organisations’ spend tremendous amounts of their finances on marketing and advertising but tend to spend no money on correct setup, creating the correct social media culture and actually monitoring social media. For the past month, I have been researching an organisation that thinks that it ‘gets’ social media. The way they have decided to setup their social media, I am sure, in their opinion is correct. Let me just explain how they have setup their social media. They have a blog but only their wholesalers can access it and oh, by the way, they would have to register to read the blog articles. They have setup a social media account with one of the main social media platforms. End customers are not allowed to become members of that group, as it is aimed at the wholesalers only. Customers have been wandering the web looking for information about their products but cannot easily access information about their products or have anywhere or anyone to go to for further information; even product enhancements have been discussed by customers. An independent site talks about the chemical products in their products as naturally occurring and their website fails to display that information. Ok, so why am I telling you all this and why is it important?

Let me explain. Social media is not a tool where the success can be measured in a given time frame/short term. Relationships are developed and nurtured utilising various social media platforms over both short/long term. It is a tool that allows us to interact with each other and our customers. The need is to, ‘engage and interact.’ This particular organisation has not done that. In actual fact, it has unconsciously created all sorts of barriers stopping its very customers reaching and interacting with it. I couldn’t find any evidence of anyone utilising social media to have any conversations anywhere with its customers. Social media is not being monitored and so this organisation has no way of knowing if anyone is posting any comments (positive or negative) anywhere on social media.

For example, I did come across some negative comments that could have been countered by simply informing the customer on where to find the information. Another example covered in my blog post a few weeks ago showed that if , Toyota had monitored social media, it would have become aware much earlier that its customers were unhappy and that it could impact Toyota’s reputation. Here are a few links to get you started:

More SM Tools:

Hootsuite , Tweetdeck , Yoono , Wefollow , Listorious , Twellow , Twellowhood , Klout , Visibli , Quora, Instagr.am , Pitchengine , Addictomatic , Tubemogul , Untweeps, Twitalyzer , Topsy , Ping.fm , Friendfeed , Google Alerts , Postrank , Storify , Backtype , Big-boards/ , Getclicky , Twitterfeed , Twitter Search , Onlywire , Hashtracking , Socialmention , Seesmic.com/ , Flock , Pingdom.com/ , Hubspot , Diaspora , Monitter.com/

Top Commercial Tools for large organisations (Cost more, probably not affordable by small business or for personal use):

Top 20 Social Media monitoring vendors for business

Radian 6 , Lithium , Attensity 360 , Alterian , Spiral 16 , Buzz Logic, Cymfony , Cision , Trackur

In summary:

  • Ensure that you have appropriate policies/guidelines to help employees navigate social media.
  • Adopt social media in a way that benefits your organisation and interact with a wide audience.
  • Monitor social media and use it to interact with your customers, suppliers and partners.
  • The objective internally is to create an environment of collaboration that allows the open exchange of ideas.
  • The objective externally is to create a ‘buzz’ and awareness about your product and organisation, in addition to PR.

How Toyota became the Werewolf

Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corpora...

Image via Wikipedia

Akio Toyoda to testify in Washington: maybe he’s finally waking up to the fact that he runs a global company and has to behave that way. – Tweet by Michael Schuman, Correspondent Time magazine – 18/2/10

As most of us know (If you follow movies), there is some lead time involved before ‘The man’, turns into a Werewolf (only when there is a full moon). Well, Toyota (the werewolf) had known about the complaints ranging from unintended acceleration to brake failure in 2002 (US regulators informed 2004). Even Steve Wozniak, mentioned his Prius problems and indicated that the problem was software based in an interview in early February. The transitional phase had started for Toyota to become a werewolf. All Toyota had to wait for was nightfall. The dreaded night for the werewolf came in January and by the end of that night, the werewolf had killed an estimated 19 people in the US alone, recalled 8.5 million cars, sales had fallen by 16% in January alone and an inquiry launched into Toyota Corolla’s power steering problems. The Toyota that had won the Japanese quality award for 1980 had been consumed by the powerful werewolf that was now the largest car maker in the world since 2008.

The damage had been done! The werewolf awoke the following morning and realised that it had to remedy the situation. As we know, the remedies for werewolves are painful (not mentioning the silver bullet). As Japan sped up its car recall system, the US knew it could not live with a werewolf amongst its midst and congressman Edolphus Towns, told Toyoda in a letter that American drivers were “unsure as to what exactly the problem is, whether it is safe to drive their cars, or what they should do about it.” The latest news is that the werewolf’s representative (the boss himself) has agreed to attend the Congress hearing.

The werewolf is trying hard to fix its problems, including the infamous sticky accelerator problem – Click here – (excellent interactive graphical courtesy of the Guardian) with a brake-override system in all future models. The werewolf had hugely underestimated the problem as in the winter of 2008-09 it had reports of “stiff” pedals.

President Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota acknowledged on 17/2 for the first time that the firm had expanded too fast in its quest to increase profits and overtake General Motors as the world’s biggest carmaker, a feat it achieved two years ago, according to the Guardian website. He acknowledged in an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post recently that the company had “failed to connect the dots” between the sticky pedals in Europe, surfacing as early as December 2008, and those in the U.S. that culminated in the massive recalls. He also said, “The Company needed to improve sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations.” The werewolf believed it to be a “quality” not a “safety” issue. Steven C. McNeely. Manager, SMS , in his article, Lesson Learned from Toyota, argues that, “safety is an unspoken and unwritten quality expectation of our customers, and you cannot separate the two. You can have a quality product or service, as defined by the ISO standards, and still not have a safe product or service. Toyotas’ problem clearly accentuates this point”.

“Toyota managers did not respond to the early signals. That’s when they should have identified the root causes,” said Sharma, who teaches Toyota production methods to businesses. “If the Toyota brand no longer stands for quality, what does it stand for?” – Anand Sharma, chief executive of TBM Consulting Group, based in Durham, North Carolina, told The Associated Press

“Toyota drivers have gone from being customers of the company to being wards of the government,” says Jim Cain, senior vice president of Quell Group, a marketing-communications firm in Detroit, and a former Ford media-relations executive. ” according to Time.

“As far as we know, Toyota is still the best manufacturing company in the world when it comes to production management,” Michael A. Cusumano, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the gas pedal and floor-mat defects were design errors in supplier parts, and the faulty braking in hybrid models was caused by a software glitch. They weren’t manufacturing errors, the kinds of defects workers at plants have been trained to pick out — a piece that doesn’t fit, a crack in a part, something that diverges from the design.

“Toyota has been exemplary at surfacing problems in the factory and stopping production before a crisis was reached,” said Jeffrey Liker, professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, who has written books on the Toyota Way.

“Failure to follow all the principles of the Toyota Way led to this crisis. Now the Toyota Way is the only way out of it,” said Liker.

CIOs and IT Management can learn from the Toyota debacle. The most important question I had to ask myself when I heard of Toyota’s woes was a simple one. Do I unlearn everything about Just In Time (JIT), lean management, Total Quality Management (TQM) and ‘The Toyota Way’ and start over? I will leave that question open, for now!

The key lessons for CIOs are:

  1. Acknowledge and fix the problem with any process, system or project as soon as it is highlighted by stakeholders. Do not allow it to spiral out of control.
  2. Listen, listen, and listen again.
  3. Isolate the issue(s) and ensure that it is not a part of a much larger problem.
  4. Everybody within the company is an ambassador for the company, including the IT department. If the IT dept spot a non IT issue that affects the company, take 100% responsibility for it and get it addressed.
  5. Use social media (SM) channels such as LinkedIn, facebook and Twitter to monitor your user community by proactively listening, anticipating problems and getting involved with these communities.
  6. Do not hide/shy away from social media (SM) and use it to create competitive advantage.
  7. Brand reputation can be enhanced or irreparably damaged on SM. Be there to get your message across

Related Article on Toyota pay the price for not connecting the dots