Conference delegate – a better ROI

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The Fall conference season is starting, but what is your attitude to conferences? Do you sign up as an enthusiastic delegate? Do you feel you need to attend, but resent the time away from the family? Or are you a conscientious objector who stays at home catching up via conference videos and blogs?

Flawed thinking

Maybe you’re thinking about conferences the wrong way.  And organisers need to take note.

It costs a ton of time and money to go to a conference. So, other than the parties and freebies, why go? If you cast your mind back to last year’s – or last month’s – conference, what do you remember?

Now, social media is starting to change the nature of conferences.

Presentations: Before it was about listening to sessions. Now they are available streamed in perfect quality on YouTube or the conference website. Or at least the slide decks are available for download.
Coverage:  Analysts, bloggers and delegates will all be tweeting and blogging during the sessions for the benefit of delegates and those stay-at-homes. Which means the organizer needs to provide wifi and a room which is not pitch black.
Networking: Before you might make a few valuable contacts. Now with Twitter and Facebook you form offline relationships before the event. And at the event you meet the people face to face. Putting a face to the gravatar and finding out if they match up to their online profile….
Organization: The set up of the conference needs to reflect these changes. The agenda needs to allow for more networking,  the venue needs wifi to enable people to connect, and there should be space for informal meetings.  Finally, the organizers should not be overly concerned if people are not attending sessions, but instead are engaged in conversations with other delegates.

This means that the conference starts well before the actual day (making contacts, arranging to meet) and lasts beyond the event (listening to sessions, reading blogs).

So next conference, focus on engaged conversations. The one on one discussions of what someone is working on. Helping a friend think about a a project approach or solve a thorny  problem. Discover why it is the CMO not the CIO with the IT budget. Sneaking out to go to a coffee shop with a very cool CEO…

Small talk or engaged conversations?

Want some ideas to break the ice and get beyond small talk?  Take a look at this TED blog

Not ALL Silicon Valley CEOs are psychopaths

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Last night Pando Daily ran one of their “Fireside Chats” with the LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, hosted by Rackspace in San Francisco and sponsored by  TriNet and Atlassian.

It was an entertaining evening but also very educational.  Partly because Sarah Lacy, sassy founder of Pando Daily, was not afraid to answer to probing and off the wall questions – “So let’s start with grooming – how do often do you shave to get the stubble look?” – and because Jeff was happy to play along. Sarah got as good as she gave.

Not all of it was a surprise, as Jeff had recently been interviewed by Fortune magazine and his great attitude and philosophies come shining through. But it was great hearing him talk about how he think s about life, management and the vision of LinkedIn.

What came over is that Jeff is a very thoughtful, likeable and charismatic CEO.  In many ways, similar to the founder and Chairman, Reid Hoffman. So a refreshing change from the celebrity, egomaniac CEOs that populate Silicon Valley. We all know who these are and the worrying issue is that the younger up and coming CEOs are using the ego-CEOs as role models. To be successful, you clearly have to behave like and arsehole.

But what is more interesting, or scary, is the startling commonality between the ego-CEO traits and those of psychopaths.

Psychopaths lack empathy, are pathological liars, have an enormous sense of self-worth, are impulsive, irresponsible and won’t accept responsibility for their own actions.

They make up 1% of the total population, 25% of the criminal population. The Psy-Fi Blog in their blog Is your CEO a Psychopath? puts a strong case for as high as 4% of corporate boardrooms have psychopaths as inmates. I haven’t done the exhaustive research, but it feels like this is way too low when you look around the Valley.

Here are some traits to watch out for, or maybe aspire to if you want to make it to the top of the corporate world.

  • They have superficial charm: They are a smooth talker and very charming.
  • They are self-centered and think they are way more important than others, even if in reality they aren’t.
  • They have a need for stimulation and is prone to boredom.
  • Their behavior is deceptive: They lie and cheat without difficulty. They don’t mind being caught.
  • They manipulate others for personal gain.
  • They show little remorse or guilt. Sometimes They’ll say there sorry, just so others will stop bugging her/him.
  • Their emotional response is shallow.
  • They are callous with a lack of empathy. They feels no pity.
  • They lives off others or has a predatory attitude.
  • They have poor self-control.
  • They are promiscuous.
  • They had behavioral problems at an early age already.
  • They lacks the ability to set realistic long term goals.
  • They have an impulsive lifestyle. They are a risk-taker.
  • They behave irresponsibly.
  • They always blame others for their behavior.
  • They can only commit to short term relationships.

As this presentation from the UK’s Institute of Risk Management suggests there are a range of possible problems with psychopaths in the boardroom.  These include risky decision making, unethical behavior and a lack of loyalty to the company and stakeholders: does this sound familiar?  One of the problems with these people is they’re very good at managing upwards – they charm superiors, manipulate peers and abuse subordinates.  Once they get in senior positions it’s easy to see how problems could escalate.

So the argument is that the rise of the mantra of value maximisation, increased corporate instability and the ever increasing turnover of staff has allowed corporate psychopaths to flourish, further reinforced by the desire of the media to find ‘media-friendly CEOs’.  Whilst their PR teams massage their images as cuddly, empathetic leaders they are in fact ruthless and driven. And it appears it is fine line between the focused, driven leader and the psychopath.

But it doesn’t have to be so, as Jeff showed. In fact, it was summarised in his instinctive answer to the final off-the-wall question from Sarah.

What mediocre super-power would you like to have? The answer  – “infinite patience”.

Sue your way to a better Gartner MQ position

dollar's flow in black hole

NetScout has just filed a lawsuit against Gartner because they were ranked a “Challenger” claiming it was punishment for not spending enough with Gartner. David Carr examines this issue in an article in Information Week.  But is it the only way?

If you are a multi-million dollar vendor then perhaps you can spend your way into the MQ. I couldn’t possibly comment. But if you are a smaller,  innovative and growing software vendor, that is not an option. But if you are going to accelerate growth without piling on expensive sales guy and make it easier for the large corporates to find you and get comfortable placing big orders with you, then you need to create relationships with the analyst community.

Analysts are important

Analysts have the ear of people with the purse strings. When they speak, the C-Suite listens. When a company goes out to tender for a third party product invariably an analyst will be involved in the decision making process, whether directly as a result of a consultation or indirectly through a research paper. They are able to influence not only potential customers, but they also coach and advise your potential acquirer on their product strategy including which vendors to buy.

Being included in an analyst research note is worth more than 100 blog posts, column inches in the FT/ WSJ or exhibiting at the next xyz conference. You need the analysts, whether you like it or not, to survive in both the short-term and thrive in the long term because their word carries weight. If a customer refers to an analyst for a product shortlist and you’ve never engaged with the analyst you can guarantee you’ll never make that list no matter how mind-blowingly awesome your product is.

Analyst Relations (AR) can deliver far greater short term and long term tangible benefits than any PR campaigns. Yet many vendors start engaging PR before they even consider AR.

It’s never too early

It takes time to build a relationship with the right analysts that cover your product’s area. Let’s not confuse a relationship with meeting the analyst once or twice and fire-hosing them with your product pitch. You are aiming for a relationship of mutual respect, and that takes time to develop which is why engaging as early as possible is critical for survival for a startup. Done well it can position a vendor ahead of the short list in product selections and gain the attention of the leaders of industry, the media, and the competition. Poor (or no) analyst relations can result in your product being ignored by potential clients and it may limit your penetration in your existing clients

Being spotted by an analyst early on is major kudos for a small company but also for the analyst because they love to be the one who discovered a cool new vendors and write about them. And it’s also their opportunity to help you out and form part of your success. Analysts are no different from anyone else, they love being part of the action and have an ego to fuel. And again, it can’t be stressed enough, if they don’t know you neither will their clients when they ask about the market.

But they are expensive and we don’t have the time!

Certainly there are costs with engaging with analysts. Most charge an annual fee to be a client and have access to the analysts and research. But don’t think that you can buy your way to the top of a Magic Quadrant or Wave, or into the minds of the analysts. Or that paying for one or two consulting engagements with the analysts will do it. Think relationship, not prostitution.

Often it is the amount of money that vendors perceive they have to spend which stops them building a relationship with the analysts. The issue is most vendors spend too much money in the wrong places. It doesn’t have to be that way.

And apart from the hefty fees they ask you to sign up for there’s also the potential overhead of someone in an Analyst Relations role. Traditionally this is a new, fairly junior hire or it is outsourced to a PR/AR agency. Both of these lead to the wrong relationship being developed with the analysts, but it is a very common mistake.

Analysts need to be briefed on product functionality, but they are far more interested in customer stories. However, meeting or calls with analysts, understanding their needs and providing the information they need in the format that they want can be time consuming. They often feel like they are more difficult to deal with than clients. But they can afford to be as their influence and value is so much greater than even your best client.

What is required is a carefully crafted strategy and deep understanding of what drives analysts and how they operate. It also needs someone who has the ability and gravitas to engage them as peers and forge that professional relationship your company and product deserves. It’s not about booking appointments or grovelling for time. It is the role of a senior exec or founder who inevitably has other priorities – company operation, client sales or product strategy.

So how do I make this work?

Few senior executives have engaged with analysts or developed an effective analyst strategy. And with conflicting priorities they do not have the time or luxury to learn. But companies readily hire a Non Exec Director to add an external perspective, exercising their ancient Rolodex and to sit on a board. Their brief is often financial or governance and they offer pithy advice like “if you sell more and spend less”.

A more cost effective approach is to hire a Non-Exec Director or Advisor who understands Analyst Relations and can help shape the analyst strategy, coach the senior team on the best way to engage with analysts, and act as a sounding board for decisions. They will add more value to the business as your go to market plans are meaningless without the visibility in the market that strong analyst relationships will bring.

For the price of a junior in your AR/PR firm you can bag a NED or Advisor who knows how to tango with the analysts.

In summary: Brains, not budget. And leverage the skills of others.

This post was co-authored with Theo Priestley  He has written analysis on the industry and tech space in general since 2007 which isn’t long to get the notoriety and recognition he has earned. He has collaborated with and advised the large and the small, from stealth startups to industry established players, introducing new ideas and connections, adding value, industry insight, analyst relations and marketing analysis for those who ask for it.  As an independent business transformation consultant of over ten years he is closer to the real enterprise issues that keep the execs up at night and what they’re looking for to solve them.

#BPM is dead. Nothing to see here. Move along

Process

Like the frog in water being steadily heated that it doesn’t notice the change until it boils to death, “BPM” (vendors, analysts, bloggers) have not recognised the gradual shift. But, the signs of BPM death are all around. Sorry to sounds so negative, a but pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist.

No one is buying BPM. Customers are buying “increase sales effectiveness”, “more engaged customer experience”, “more responsive support”, “regulatory compliance”, “better shared services”…… All these require BPM techniques, methodologies and technologies.

Which leads me to – BPM is embedded in specific applications such as CRM, Support, Call Centre, Compliance.

So the role of generic BPM is dead. It is everything and nothing.

Case in point. Cordys, who has “a next generation Business Process Management Suite” was recently bought by OpenText for $33m. Cordys has had $180m of investment. And then compare it with the explosive growth in vendors selling BPM wrapped up as customer service, or support, or even managing expenses etc etc.

Robin Williams (RIP) – upstaging #TED conference

BuzJMJ2CEAERlaq

Robin was such a talented actor but had such a quick and brilliant mind that he set the standard for improv around the world. The world will be a less special place without him. RIP

Here is classic Robin Williams. During technical difficulties at a TED conference in London he gets up and improvises. Brilliant for the audience, but it probably left the TED speaker backstage who were due to go on feeling woefully inadequate.

Why internal BPM projects fail

drivers_education

We have just completed a 12 week project where I have been the Program Manager for a critical business transformation project for a multi-national company that delivers major ($1-10 billion) projects for clients. The first phase, which has just finished, was a proof of concept. The objective was to develop a hierarchical process map for their Deliver Project process. But as it is so huge – 90% of the employees are delivering projects – we were asked to only map down a few levels. In fact is many places we went down much further. Down far enough to prove that the approach would work, to build a business case for roll-out and develop implementation plans.

Therefore my Q9 team facilitated the workshops and developed the process maps. The client staff were the subject matter experts in the workshops; engaged but innocent bystanders.

For the next phase the client has only just decided that they want to pick up where we have left off. They want us to train a couple of their team to use the mapping tool and they will take it from there. But I can see that this could be high risk approach. They have been involved in some workshops and mapping. They have not been exposed to what is the most important part; thinking about how to personalize and present the content to the end users so that they actually want to use it, and then encouraging or driving adoption.

Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no interest in spending the next year away from home working at the client. So my comments are not a way to generate follow on work for me or the team. But the client doesn’t know what they don’t know. The initial project had no element of skills transfer as it was not scoped or planned that way by the client as it was expected that this would be in a second phase. Plus my team are so polished at facilitating the workshops, they have made it look easy. The client doesn’t really appreciate what is “going on behind what is going on”; the preparation before the workshop, the facilitation techniques, the years of experience of capturing complex processes and making them intelligible.

Sure we have developed a detailed set of implementation recommendations that include the cost benefit case, implementation plans and technical implementation guidelines. But only when you start implementing the processes into a live project will you start uncovering the issues that need to be resolved. That will require a deep knowledge of BPM and experience of implementing process-centric programs.

Learning to drive is a lovely analogy.

To date the client has been sitting in the back seat and we have driven down a relatively straight road. The drivers (my team) are so skilled that gear changes and avoiding the odd pothole have been imperceptible from the back of the car. The ride has seemed beautifully calm and easy.

So running a product training course will teach the client how the car works. And we have given them a destination and roadmap; the implementation recommendations. But it will not prepare them for the issues on the open road; other road users, pedestrians stepping out, the driving rain or the odd patch of ice, whilst trying to remember how to change gear. Dealing with those without crashing is built up of years of experience on the road, and the inevitable near misses.

The client is considering asking us to spend a little time supporting them as they get going. That is analogous to sitting in the passenger seat whilst they learn to drive. As any driving instructor or parent of teenage children will tell you is a very scary experience. Fighting the urge to grab the wheel. Some of you may remember the fantastic Bob Newhart sketch, “The Driving Instructor”.

Implementing a process-driven approach, changing engrained working approaches and getting engagement across hundreds of projects spread around the world makes learning to drive look like “Driving with Miss Daisy”.

So why is does the client want to do it themselves? It is not because they are unhappy with our work, as they have told us several times how impressed they are with my team. They run huge, complex projects so perhaps they believe, having watched us that they understand what to do.

Or maybe it is the normal issue: cost. The value of external BPM consultancy is always questioned, particularly in construction firms who are notoriously tight-fisted. They probably think we are expensive, but we are not nearly as expensive as ignorance. And the cost of ignorance is not “getting it wrong”, but it is about “not getting it right”. We have conservatively identified $4m of savings per project which means $150k per day for the company if it was rolled out to just the major projects around the world. And they are running hundreds of projects around the world concurrently. Implementing successfully in all those projects will have a material affect on the company bottom line.

We have spent 12 weeks understanding their project processes.  I have run some large projects in my time, but that doesn’t mean I could do what they do after just 12 weeks. So why would they think that they could do what we can do?  Perhaps that is why BPM projects fail. It doesn’t look that hard.

I hope it ends well as the client has been the best we have worked with in the last 15 years. Open minded, engaged and super organized. For their long term profitability, growth and success, they desperately need this to work. And they know it.

Why AR comes before PR. Just look in the dictionary

gears in skull

You’re an innovative and growing software vendor, I get that. You’ve got a fab new product that’s going drive dramatic benefits for enterprise customers, I get that.You’ve even got a blog to push out great customer stories now and then, I get that too.

But how do you accelerate growth without piling on expensive sales guys? And how do you make it easier for the large corporates to find you and get comfortable placing big orders with you?

ANSWER: You create relationships with the analyst community. And here’s why.

Analysts are important

Analysts have the ear of people with the purse strings. When they speak, the C-Suite listens. When a company goes out to tender for a third party product invariably an analyst will be involved in the decision making process, whether directly as a result of a consultation or indirectly through a research paper. They are able to influence not only potential customers, but they also coach and advise your potential acquirer on their product strategy including which vendors to buy.

Being included in an analyst research note is worth more than 100 blog posts, column inches in the FT/ WSJ or exhibiting at the next xyz conference. You need the analysts, whether you like it or not, to survive in both the short-term and thrive in the long term because their word carries weight. If a customer refers to an analyst for a product shortlist and you’ve never engaged with the analyst you can guarantee you’ll never make that list no matter how mind-blowingly awesome your product is.

Analyst Relations (AR) can deliver far greater short term and long term tangible benefits than any PR campaigns. Yet many vendors start engaging PR before they even consider AR.

It’s never too early

It takes time to build a relationship with the right analysts that cover your product’s area. Let’s not confuse a relationship with meeting the analyst once or twice and fire-hosing them with your product pitch. You are aiming for a relationship of mutual respect, and that takes time to develop which is why engaging as early as possible is critical for survival for a startup. Done well it can position a vendor ahead of the short list in product selections and gain the attention of the leaders of industry, the media, and the competition. Poor (or no) analyst relations can result in your product being ignored by potential clients and it may limit your penetration in your existing clients

Being spotted by an analyst early on is major kudos for a small company but also for the analyst because they love to be the one who discovered a cool new vendors and write about them. And it’s also their opportunity to help you out and form part of your success. Analysts are no different from anyone else, they love being part of the action and have an ego to fuel. And again, it can’t be stressed enough, if they don’t know you neither will their clients when they ask about the market.

But they are expensive and we don’t have the time!

Certainly there are costs with engaging with analysts. Most charge an annual fee to be a client and have access to the analysts and research. But don’t think that you can buy your way to the top of a Magic Quadrant or Wave, or into the minds of the analysts. Or that paying for one or two consulting engagements with the analysts will do it. Think relationship, not prostitution.

Often it is the amount of money that vendors perceive they have to spend which stops them building a relationship with the analysts. The issue is most vendors spend too much money in the wrong places. It doesn’t have to be that way.

And apart from the hefty fees they ask you to sign up for there’s also the potential overhead of someone in an Analyst Relations role. Traditionally this is a new, fairly junior hire or it is outsourced to a PR/AR agency. Both of these lead to the wrong relationship being developed with the analysts, but it is a very common mistake.

Analysts need to be briefed on product functionality, but they are far more interested in customer stories. However, meeting or calls with analysts, understanding their needs and providing the information they need in the format that they want can be time consuming. They often feel like they are more difficult to deal with than clients. But they can afford to be as their influence and value is so much greater than even your best client.

What is required is a carefully crafted strategy and deep understanding of what drives analysts and how they operate. It also needs someone who has the ability and gravitas to engage them as peers and forge that professional relationship your company and product deserves. It’s not about booking appointments or grovelling for time. It is the role of a senior exec or founder who inevitably has other priorities – company operation, client sales or product strategy.

So how do I make this work?

Few senior executives have engaged with analysts or developed an effective analyst strategy. And with conflicting priorities they do not have the time or luxury to learn. But companies readily hire a Non Exec Director to add an external perspective, exercising their ancient Rolodex and to sit on a board. Their brief is often financial or governance and they offer pithy advice like “if you sell more and spend less”.

A more cost effective approach is to hire a Non-Exec Director or Advisor who understands Analyst Relations and can help shape the analyst strategy, coach the senior team on the best way to engage with analysts, and act as a sounding board for decisions. They will add more value to the business as your go to market plans are meaningless without the visibility in the market that strong analyst relationships will bring.

For the price of a junior in your AR/PR firm you can bag a NED or Advisor who knows how to tango with the analysts.

In summary: Brains, not budget. And leverage the skills of others.

Corporates: pay your bills on time

bullying2

Payment terms of 30, 45 and 60 days are not unknown. But the time it takes big companies to pay their little suppliers can be as much as 120 days, and it is getting worse with the average now 58.5 days according to a report by D&B. This is not only tantamount to corporate bullying, but also BAD FOR BUSINESS.

Paying bills on time, whether you are a large corporate, an SME or a consumer has a dramatic effect on the money supply. And this has a positive impact on US businesses.

Not convinced?

If a large corporate pays its invoice to a smaller supplier after 15 days instead of 45  several things happen:

-  the supplier can pay its suppliers for products purchased, often on a credit card with 30 days terms, and its employees, who are paid monthly, WITHOUT driving up its working capital requirements

- this means that there is no need to burn up time with the banks trying to agree a working capital loan, and eliminates the set up fees, interest payments and lawyers fees

- it means that supplies can grow more easily and therefore employ more people and pay more taxes

- time is not spent by supplier’s admin staff chasing the large corporates and listening to their ‘standard Accounts Payable lies‘  –   “it will be in the next payment run”, “you just missed the cutoff for this month”, “the person who has to approve it is not in this week”., “we can’t find it so can you resend it” and so on.

- most small business, which have great products, dedicated staff and huge potential are killed by cash flow problems.

So why do we as companies or even as consumers fail to pay our bills on time?

There are number of reasons

There is the view that we will somehow benefit from hanging onto the money. But this is no longer true with interest rates hovering around 0%.

Companies think hanging onto the money will make their balance sheet look good, but this is not true because the unpaid invoice appears on the balance sheet as a liability.

Companies of every size, even large companies, have customers who are delaying paying their bills- all the way down the supply chain   ie shit flows downhill

Many suppliers do not make it easy to be paid. Their invoices are inaccurate so matching invoice to Purchase Order and goods receipt note is difficult. But also then need to make it easy to pay bills electronically.

And finally, many large corporates are just plain inefficient.  Their Procure2Pay processes are shocking often supported by multiple disconnected IT systems.  Staggeringly, in the US many large corporates are still paying invoices by cheque (check). When working in our San Francisco office I would often open up the morning post and find checks for $50,000, $100,000, $150,000 or more.

So what can be done about this?

  1. CFO’s of companies at every level need to realise the huge damage that their late payment approach is doing to the entire supply chain. If one of their key suppliers goes under because of cash flow problems that stem from late payments, they they are hurting themselves.
  2. The endemic ‘pay late’ culture needs to be broken and this has to be lead from the top. And it is the leaders of the countries largest companies who need to initiate it.  BUT THEY ARE NOT.  Payment terms of 60 days in contracts are common place. And you can guarantee that they will string it out payment way longer than that.
  3. The Government, rather than beating up banks to lend more, should instead focus on big corporates and their own Government finance departments to encourage them to pay more quickly.  BTW the Late Payment Directive has no teeth and is largely ignored
  4. Suppliers need to get more professional and diligent about their invoicing
  5. Companies need to review, simplify and drive out non value added activities from their Procure2 Pay processes.

I am happy to help facilitate the process mapping.  But the payment terms are ‘cash up front’.

Are you a radiator or a drain?

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Oprah Winfrey, was asked what she wished she’d learned earlier in life said “I wish I’d known how to distinguish radiators from drains”.

Radiators are people who give out warmth, kindness, love, honesty, positivity, energy, enthusiasm and all the good things which people need and respond to.  Drains are people who are negative, downbeat, suck the energy out of others  and don’t like themselves.

So life’s too short to work with drains …………… unless of course you’re Dynorod.

So how does this work in practice?  Sir Clive Woodward, coach of world cup winning England Rugby team in 2003 inherited a set of players.  For a number of matches he was selecting on their match playing abilities – on their rugby skills.  But a training camp with the Royal Marines made him change his mind about team selection.  The Marine’s words were ringing in his ears “It’s not about skills. It’s about attitude and the effect on the team. One wrong team player can sap all the energy from the group.”

The ultimate test is going into battle, ie the Royal Marines. You’re in the helicopter with 8 of your team going into a firefight. Looking around those 8 individuals you need to be very clear that they are the right people – energisers, not energy sappers. So with sport the results are  very visible. There is no place to hide.  Win or lose.

So does this work in businesses?    It is totally true but decisions that could and should have been made about staffing are fudged and avoided.  There appears to be less at stake in business compared with sport.

So what are you….  And if you are a drain can you change?   Here are 3 steps

1. Recognise if you are drain (or have drain-like moments)
2. Catch yourself once a day about to say something drain-like, turn it around and look for the bright side
3. Do this every day for 21 days and you will be staggered by the results

My latest brilliant idea. www.monkeygirlfriend.com

can-you-get-you-ex-girlfriend-back

Based on the success, measured by column inches, of MonkeyParking I have decided to launch MonkeyGirlfriend. And possibly a sister site MonkeyExWife.

For those of you not up to speed on the latest app, MonkeyParking, it has hit on the brilliant idea of allowing someone to be paid to tell others that they are about to leave a parking space. It has caused a huge uproar as some have deemed that a person is selling a public parking space. The MonkeyParking CEO is refuting this, and is in a battle of words with the San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera who has asked him to stop trading.  Herrera has just issued a cease-and-desist demand today to Monkey Parking, an iOS app that lets users bid for other people’s parking spaces. The letter cites San Francisco Police Code section 63(c) that states: “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to enter into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind, written or oral, with or without compensation, for the use of any street or sidewalk.”

MonkeyParking is claiming that the app is not selling a public parking space, but the convenience of knowing that a space is about to become free.

Brilliant, just brilliant

Which is where the brilliance of MonkeyGirlfriend lies.  How many times do you see a girl you fancy, but find that she is in a relationship? But you know at some point that she will split up with him and be available. But you don’t know when that will be.  How much would you pay to know that she has just, or is about to, break up with her boyfriend?  Knowing that you can be perfectly positioned to become her new boyfriend, with the added benefit that your timing is perfect to catch her on the rebound. Thereby improving your chances of scoring. Brilliant.

 

 

What if I was wrong all these years?

swimlanes

As founder and CEO of Nimbus I spent 14 years evangelizing the importance of processes as a way of driving improved operational performance. I don’t think anyone in the BPM community would have issue with that.

Since Nimbus was acquired by TIBCO over 2 years ago, I had very little to do with processes and clients directly. In December was then asked by an ex-Nimbus client to support him as the Program Manager on a major transformation at the company where he had joined as SVP. The company, a major global engineering and construction firm desperately needed to drive some standardization, risk management and accountability into the way it delivers major projects.

So I am now back in the thick of process mapping, running a great team, which is fun as we see the client’s excitement build in the live workshops. The hierarchical mapping approach is so powerful in helping them understand what they (should) do, from the high level “Deliver Project”, the hand-offs between departments and the critical stage gates that can help reduce risk.

Which got me thinking. Have I been wrong all this time?

Are the principles, that we, and our clients, have lived and breathed for over a decade, correct? The guiding principles can be described simply as: easily understood process diagrams that fit on a single sheet, even for large cross functional processes

  • simple mapping approach with boxes and lines; not swimlanes, flowcharts or BPMN diagram notation
  • diagrams organised as a hierarchy; not single diagrams
  • deployment to the masses is the aim; not analysis for the few or just a per-cursor to workflow
  • making the process content consumable by a wide range of stakeholders; end users, risk & audit and IT
  • role-specific guided walk-throughs overlaid on the process diagrams

So, if the hierarchical mapping approach (which has its origins in IDEF0  ) seems to work so well, why are we surrounded by business people drawing single level process diagrams using Visio Powerpoint and even Excel in swimlanes? Once they see the hierarchical mapping approach they are instantly converted, but are we expected to be evangelists forever?

I remember the saying “Eat shit – 100 billion flies can’t be wrong!” So all the millions of people drawing swimlanes – are they right or are they simply waiting to discover the power of hierarchical mapping and swimlanes are the default because that is what Visio does? Also, consider the new web-based, and very elegant, diagramming tools that have emerged that only draw single level diagrams and swimlanes, like gluu.biz and the free http://www.draw.io. Are they responding to a need or simply chose to develop a less complex application to code? As Steve Jobs famously said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Henry Ford (allegedly) said that if he had asked his customers they would have said they wanted faster horses.

Hierarchical process maps  or single diagram swimlanes? Which is best?

So, finally with no axe to grind I am genuinely interested in the answer.

Get inside the mind of the very very best speakers

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In the pecking order of presenters, stand up comedians are at the very top. Sadly most business people are near the bottom just above the best man at a wedding.  But for those who really want to stretch and improve ourselves (myself included) it is fascinating to understand “what is going on behind what is going on” by hearing the thinking, philosophy, the drivers and approach of the very best stand up comedians in the world.

Here are four of them – Jerry Seinfield, Chris Rock, Louis C.K. and Ricky Gervais talk very candidly about how they think about their work, how they prepare, and other stuff.

Pure gold dust

 

Big data is (very) old news for sportsmen

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As the momentum grows for big data in businesses, it is sometimes useful to look outside to other markets to get a sense of what is happening or where the future lies. Sports is often held up as a useful metaphor for business as the results are very visible and therefore the players and coaches have nowhere to hide.

The most obvious examples are Formula1 where the cars stream gigabytes of data every race. More recently the power of big data came to the America’s Cup to both measure the performance of the boats but also to make is easier for spectators to understand what the hell was going on. With complex machinery – Formula1 cars and America’s Cup yachts – you can understand how big data can make a difference and why it has grown in the last year or two.

So it is slightly surprising to learn that sports with just a team of players on the pitch are able to reap the benefits of big data. As the video below shows, the ability to keep the team performing at peak levels during training is amazing. And what they have discovered is that the players gain from the immediate feedback. They have a better understanding of what is expected of them so they can self-train – in the moment.

What is most surprising is that this video was shot in 2010 – over 3 years ago.   Businesses are nowhere near this use of big data. The idea of measuring individuals’ performance real time and helping them improve and perform at their best, or monitoring customer behaviour and adjusting a website dynamically, is a pipe dream. Big data for business has a long way to go, and sports can lead the way.