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Business Technology

Web friendly new art technique using Pantone pens

illustration made with pantone marker pens
Click on the image to zoom in and see more like it

The web enabled world makes us all very choosy in terms of eye candy.  We just see too much good stuff to take notice of a striking visual.  Which makes it all the more interesting when someone actually does something new.   A children’s book, just out, is possibly opening a whole new stylistic category and one that is very web friendly.

Dimitris Fousekis executed it entirely using Pantone marker pens!  (I would link to the relevant product page but at http://www.pantone.com it is impossible to find anything.)  It isn’t just the textures that are interesting.  For sure the artist’s view on even something as simple as a fish is fascinating and with unique levels of detail and character.  But it is the richness of the image based on something as simple and standard as Pantone colors which opens up whole new worlds for images going around the web enabled world that is fascinating.

Apparently the artist is working on an exhibition of oil paintings for the Fall of 2010; it will be interesting to see how the colours are used in relation to this technique.  I personally think that this is so original it merits being made into a type of brush for Illustrator or Corel Painter like they have Van Gogh or other master brushes.

Categories
Business Technology

The politics of software piracy statistics

Working with software in the Balkans, piracy has always been a prominent issue.  Whether it was during an initial meeting with a new vendor trying to figure out which parts of the market to first aim at, or with an old partner looking to squeeze out some particular segment.  “Nah, we can’t do that.  Too much piracy.”  Discussion ends.  For people in technology as long as me, a big part of us is resigned to the situation.  Everything can be copied.  Change your business model.

But then BSA (the Business Software Alliance is the most polite version of the acronym) came along.  Sure it was only backed by a few companies but they were the big ones that matter.  And their PR, well, I don’t need to tell you how many millions piracy costs the software industry because everyone else does.  OK, it sort of makes sense to accept a number like this from an organization that represents software companies.  Not!  Why on earth should we not assume that they are greatly exaggerating?  It is like accepting the data from McDonald’s about the nutritional value of their food!  “Ultimately, determining the global PC software piracy rate includes collecting 182 discrete data inputs and evaluating PC and software trends and data in each of 111 economies.”  No mention of the exact data inputs…no wonder Pearson is selling of IDC with shoddy work like that.

And it gets worse.  “Worse” as in “worrying that most people/journalists/politicians take them at face value”.  You read a title like “Piracy down in Canada”.  Based on what numbers?  BSA.  Well, actually a mish mash of pseudo proper looking numbers from IDC and whatever else they can combine to make it look scientific.  In Canada’s case even IDC and BSA admitted they overdid it.  Their numbers were wild guesstimates!   Now this sort of megahoax gets people like me interested.  Why should BSA want Canada to appear like a low piracy country?   A good example.

It seems that the main purpose of BSA is to get legislation passed so the companies involved can sell more while doing less.  To achieve this:

1. Statistics are fabricated and presented in such a way so as to apply pressure when and where needed.  Yeah, let’s change around the top ranking so as to get different countries in the spot light.

2. PR and advertising focuses on either general wishy washy “principles” or specific cases (for intimidational purposes – it is cheaper than actually suing every culprit)

3. Position the lobbying effort as high as possible with as many vaguely relevant organisations as possible.  Then get them to regurgitate the rubbish data, or – better still – to simply take action based on the false information.

So why has piracy dropped in Greece?  I would love to take the credit through the increased retail presence of ProgramA.  It has been a truly massive change in retail indeed.  But let’s be honest.  Not even GfK monitors most retail sales!   So it must be, because the Greek government bowed to the pressure and passed the laws BSA asked for.  Bill Gates shook hands with our prime minister, got his top level deal, threw in a bone with a Microsoft research centre in Greece.  Guess what?  We are no longer top of their list!

The list of countries on this year’s BSA report read like a US terrorist suspect roll call!  Georgia    95% Zimbabwe  92% bangladesh  91% Moldova    91% armenia    90% yemen    90% sri lanka   89% azerbaijan  88% libya    88%  belarus    87% Venezuela  87%  Indonesia   86% Vietnam    85%  Ukraine    85%  Iraq    85%  Pakistan    84% algeria    84%  cameroon   83% nigeria    83%  Paraguay   82%  Zambia    82%  Montenegro  81%  bolivia    80%  el salvador  80%  Guatemala  80%  botswana   79%  china    79%  Ivory coast   79% Kenya    79%  nicaragua  79%   On the other hand “Serbia is one of a handful of economies, including Italy, Greece and Colombia, where tax audits also include software license compliance. This is one of the reasons piracy has dropped six points from 2005 to 2008.”  Great work guys, you got government agencies working for you in these countries!

You know what the initials BS stand for.  Now you know what BSA stands for.  Only believe statistics you have made up yourself!

Categories
Business Communication Technology

Social CRM is better than flossing

A long time ago I helped develop what was at the time the cutting edge of CRM.  My gripe with traditional CRM systems, even the really big, fancy, expensive ones, was that they made you do double work.  Keep your contact details in one system and then remember to fill in all the details in another one.  Finish a meeting and then don’t forget to open up a different system, find the contact and write what happened.  It is too much like a visit to the dentist for me: yeah I know I should floss every day, it just never finds its way into my schedule!

So my CRM system made sure all the inputs where automatic.  Send an email through Outlook if you want but with the press of a button it gets attached to your contact’s activity record.  Incoming emails can even be tagged automatically based on rules.  They can even autogenerate actions like being considered a lead.  Same with phone calls or any other action.  The CRM is integrated with the ERP system so all products, knowledge base items, prices and customer or company information is in one single database.  Even setting up a meeting is better as it can link to a touch screen enabled monitor at your entrance or meeting room door.  “Enter your invitation number to enter” it says to the visitor.  When you finish your meeting and get back to your desk there is an open window showing that your guest left two minutes ago (he checked out using the same touch screen) and asking what happened at the meeting.  Like everything else in this CRM you can generate next actions easily from any item.

It was cool.  It still is cool and you can buy it as a finished product, complete with a web front end that seamlessly allows you to make any of this information available to the customers themselves as any self respecting company needs to do in 2010 in order to be transparent and online.

Enter sCRM.  Yet another acronym, but this one makes sense as it solves many new problems in one.  What it gives you is a way to very quickly “touch” many contacts.  Open up a project and see all the people involved in the decision.  It shows you how long since you “touched” them in some way.  A “touch” is a contact, but in this day and age it doesn’t have to be an email, phone call or visit.   It could be a comment on their status on LinkedIn or a discussion in a group.  You are in “touch” and in a way that is much more meaningful than calling up out of the blue.

In many ways, the “S”(social) in front of CRM is not necessary.  Customer Relationship Management is one acronym which will always be around as business and life itself will always be about our contacts, the people around us.  We can call it People Relationship Management or whatever else in the future but that is what it is about.  Who are my friends and what can I do for them?  So, if you haven’t tried out Flights, I thoroughly recommend it.  If there are other similar systems out there, I am not aware of them yet.  (Please tell me!)

You can use the free version of Flights (up to 5 objectives and a few other limitations) even for personal goals.  Heck, most people have turned to professional networking tools like Xing, Plaxo, Viadeo and LinkedIn in order to find a job in this climate, they might as well be a bit more systematic about it!

Categories
Business ENGLISH Technology

Why on earth did you leave CRM implementation to the IT department?

I was talking to the CEO of a market leading services company recently.  He was trying to entice me to get involved, I was trying to avoid telling him too bluntly that the cosy family-style management he had lived with all these years was about to crash completely.  We skirted about the issues.

“With your sort of market position, it sounds like you could really do magic with a good CRM” I suggested.  “Oh yeah, we bought one of those last year…I think the IT guys are doing it.”

Here’s what I propose:  go get some social scientists to do it instead.  Anthropologists would be great, sociologists if they are not too wishy washy.  Because focusing on the customer should no longer be the domain even of the traditional marketing department.

Marketing has always been squashed between a sales department gung ho attitude and some magical creative juice produced on demand to impress.  Throw a CRM project their way and yes, they will do a better job than IT for sure.  But is that what we need these days?

What sort of salary is your customer living on?  Where is she living?  How on earth do you expect to relate to someone so different unless you have developed the methodological toolset?  This does sound a lot like anthropology, because this is what you need to do.  I would willingly have one of my fingers chopped off for access to Facebook, VISA or Google customer data.  Not that I wouldn’t miss playing the guitar, but the social scientist in me would be in heaven.  It is not about finding shortcuts to selling to them.  It is about understanding how they think and how they feel.

You can do a lot of this without losing any fingers.  Work a different position in your company.  Dress up and play a different role on any sidewalk.  Talk to strangers.  But companies need to be a bit more systematic about this effort.  And what the social sciences have learned over the past half century is an invaluable starting point.  Call him a CCO or whatever you want, but someone near the top of the organisation has to want to understand customers and to add value to their lives.  It isn’t just market research or R&D that has to come under this position, but it is a good place to start.   Any customer facing function needs to be rethought with this hat on.  And in a position to get things done about it. 

Because the customer isn’t going to wait around for you to get it right much longer.

Categories
Business ENGLISH Society

Tribal Shame, Doping Control and how to keep Greece’s deficit from mounting again

I should be ashamed of myself.  After the Greek football team triumphed in Euro 2004 Iwas the only person in the country and probably the planet, publicly stating (and even writing) that we didn’t deserve it.   I claimed the Greek team was doped (any other way to explain how a team that never lasted past 65′ suddenly went into overtime running like Ben Johnson?) and that opponents took bribes.  It was an Olympic year, we had the budget!   To add insult to the injury I am fairly sure that even our first ever modern Olympic medal in marathon running, back in 1896 with Spyros Louis was in fact the result of Greeks giving him a couple of lifts at parts of the route not covered by judges.  OK, I am an obvious cynic.

 

One of the reasons I got particularly annoyed at Greek doping scandals is because I experienced the disappointment in kids that looked up to them first hand

It is not just because they are unusual that these views didn’t get much airing.   There is no public forum designed to feel ashamed of itself.  When Kostas Kenderis was almost caught just before the2004 Olympics ( a ridiculous story with him escaping doping control on a moped and then staging an accident so as to avoid a blood sample being taken) it hit me even more strongly.   The reason everyone gets away with such behaviour is because we are not acting in a natural, tribal  way.  Can you imagine the same athlete being of Japanese decent?  He would have been found dead in his apartment for the shame.  The shame he brought to his country, to his fellow athletes, to the Olympic ideal. 

You only had to look at the hearings for the Toyota case recently in the US to see this in vibrant colors.  Toyota’s only sin was spreading too thin in terms of control of its enormous supply chain.  They didn’t do an Enron.  But the shame of it all…  So why don’t we just purposely design controls in business and in sport to encourage the tribal approach to guilt. 

“Guilt” as a legal term is way to shallow.  Someone can be pronounced “not guilty” even though we 

all know he is; and he can laugh straight into the cameras as he glides away from the court.  And people can feel deep guilt or remorse about things they never controlled or were in any way responsible for.   It is a social construct.  The whole concept of “corporate responsibility” was always inadequate in my mind.  It is like trying to sell a product that nobody really needs.  “You really need this product, buy it!” sell which gets a “and why the hell do I need this?” response type of situation. 

Tribal guilt is not like that.  Get that athlete to go to court with his entire team.  Introduce penalties to his federation.  Make the negative publicity a communal hit, not something personal.  Shrugging it off as a whim of a particular person is too easy.   This is not some kind of twisted mean streak, it makes perfect sense.  The reason we need guilt is to reinforce our common values.  Tiger Woods apologised not because it is any of our business what he does in his bed or a hotel room, but to show us he is not evil; he feels remorse and agrees that the societal norm of not sleeping around too much in an obvious way is correct. 

Get Kenderis, Enron board members and the Greek football team in the limelight with the system that turned a blind eye to their misbehaviours and we achieve a similar pressure point.  Which seems to me to be a pretty similar set of problems and solutions to Greece’s current financial mess.   Individual citizen’s as wrongdoers hide behind the “everyone else was doing it” facade.   Politician’s hide behind the “every other government did it” scenario. 

It is common in such situations to assume that the system that creates the problem, can’t solve it.  Especially amongst Greeks it is taken for granted that it is too deeply ingrained in our characters, our national “style”.  Heck, even in the war of liberation against the Turks in 1821, it is well documented that Greek soldiers refused to fight if their pay was late.  (With the battle raging right next to them!) 

This is not the case.  It only takes one prominent working  example of the shame system I propose for it to become established.  It could catch on like a Greek summer wild fire and spread as fast.  And maybe sports is the ideal place to start.  I put myself forward as an initial victim of this approach.  If footballers in the 2004 Euro team, Kostas Kenderis supporters or relatives of Spyro Louis want to,  I am willing to be put in front of a jury of fellow bloggers to test whether this slander I am spreading is justified or not! 

Maybe they will start commenting things like “hey, alex, this post seems preposterous!” instead of just letting me get away with it so easily next time…