Status Reports 2.0

Rands In Repose strikes a chord:

To me, their are two major consumers who need Status Reports. The first consumers are the executives/overseers/managers. This is your senior management crowd who want a high level overview of where all that money is going. You want to keep this group in the loop because they sign the checks, they can be very good at discerning warning signs from seemingly vanilla Status Reports, and they also usually are big influencers on strategy… this is key when you want them on board when you’re proposing that two month slip to improve quality.

Due to the fact these folks see a lot of Stats Reports, there’s a requirement for the data to be somewhat normalized via a familiar template otherwise they’re going to get frustrated spending their time figuring out what information is being conveyed rather than acting on it.

The other major consumer for Status Reports is, well, everyone else in the company. Actually, let me rephrase, the other consumer is everyone else in the company who wants to read your status report.

What I do have is a rough knowledge of many of the emerging information management tools and I know there is a solution which:

– Makes it easy/attractive for larger organizations to share their information
– Provides a facility to publish scheduled structured reports to executive-types

Blogs could help in this, as Stuart Henshall points out:

Consider introducing your co-bloggers to blogging via e-mail. Give them the remote@typepad.com or equivalent address. Redirect all status reports or what you are trying to capture to the blog e-mail. What’s missing here is any capability to add categories. However now a project manager can do that easily converting the posts from drafts to publish status. The new participant can see the updates in the “blog” via the url. In fact confirmations could be posted back to them. Dependent on the blog… either subscribe your new bloggers or alternatively add NewsGator so their RSS feeds become active. It won’t be until you are swamped with posts or editing issues that the team needs to become more active and responsible.

Now we get multiple participants with the blogging manager / owner assigning categories and coaching on posts. In this process there is never anything to stop the new blogger from going direct to the authoring tool. In fact now’s the time to start the second blog in parallel that reports on the implementation, enables questions and answers. This is simply a place for learning about blogging. As it is an internal blog, combine it with other easy to navigate features and enable a quick log-in from the home page.

What’s different in this strategy? These initial blogs are more likely to be informative rather than linking blogs. Blogs involved in research and for gathering ideas and spreading memes are more likely to come later or be specific to a particular department. I’d not advocate the above for a research department, however using e-mail to move my reps from e-mail to blogs might well make sense. Similarly with marketing and HR.

One of the things we are missing in internal BLOG implementations, is the idea of managing up! We talk about it and see it as a grass roots phenomena. It’s why you will really need so few to change the work pattern. When a blog helps you personally manage better, flows more effective information from your department into buckets (categories) that are consistent with what your peers want then you are on the way to winning the blog vs e-mail challenge.

Using e-mail to initiate blogs starts with tools that people are already comfortable with. Appointing a manager (or two or three) that manage the initial flow helps to build categories and the “managing up” dashboards that blogging pages easily adapt to. Adding subscriptions and RSS keeps people in the loop and yet begins the recategorization process. You copy the blog not CC the world.

ITU Digital Access Index

ITUpublishes the world’s first global ICT ranking. An interesting comment by Michael Minges of the Market, Economics and Finance Unit at ITU: “”Until now, limited infrastructure has often been regarded as the main barrier to bridging the Digital Divide. Our research, however, suggests that affordability and education are equally important factors.” India falls in the medium access category with an index of 0.32.

The one factor I want us to fix is that of affordability with thin clients, server-centric computing, open-source software and remote server management.

Social Networking as Disruptive Innovation?

Silicon Valley writes: “The gold mine, as VCs see it, rests in using the Internet to give a personalized, user-friendly twist to mainstream industries like dating services, job listings and classified advertising.”

Adds News.com:

Publishers Knight Ridder and The Washington Post Co. are banking on social networking to be the future of online classifieds, having invested $6.3 million in a “six degrees” Web venture. The two publishers, along with venture capitalist Mayfield, invested in Tribe Networks, the owner of an online community that links friends and friends of friends, and then promotes them as the ideal network through which to buy things, find a job or even get a restaurant recommendation.

Called Tribe.net, the four-month-old site plays on the theory of “six degrees of separation,” in which strangers are inevitably linked to each other by at most six people. The goal is to join like-minded people for socializing, dating, networking or building a local marketplace.

the publishers’ interest is significant, because it signals a potentially new direction for online classifieds, a billion-dollar market newspapers risk losing to niche sites like job clearinghouse Monster or online communities such as Craigslist. Knight Ridder and The Washington Post Co., parent of newspaper The Washington Post, say they want to incorporate social networking as a means of building an indispensable local marketplace for information or goods, and ultimately to inspire loyalty to their publications.

Social networking seems to follow the path of a disruptive innovation as it starts to disrupt mainstream industries. Still too early to tell, but with VC money flowing in, the task will get easier.

Microsoft’s USD 10 billion SME Bet

Washington Post (via Reuters) reports:

SMB sales strategy chief Orlando Ayala told the paper in an interview Microsoft was taking a long-term view of the sector, which consists of some 40 million companies around the world, and expected its investments to turn profitable in 2005.

Ayala said: “In the next five years, we will concentrate on the market for companies with 2,000 to 5,000 employees, or maybe up to 8,000.”

SMEs are the next frontier in tech – especially those in emerging markets, whom very few are focusing on.

Indian Telco Disruptions

There are three things which can (positively) disrupt the Indian telco scene: VoIP, LNP (local number portability) and fixed-price broadband bundles.

We need to legalise VoIP completely and allow ISPs and cable providers to offer voice services. Voice needs to be thought of as just another application on the IP network.

LNP will cause a lot of churn in the mobile space and cause prices to fall even further. Today, one of the factors that holds me from switching providers is the fact that my cell number will change.

Fixed-price broadband bundles will make a big impact on Internet usage. By broadband, I mean real good connectivity speeds (at least 256 Kbps, if not more). The plans need to come with no limits to data transfers. Home users should not have to pay more than Rs 500-750 (USD 10-15) for this, with enterprises should be charged about Rs 1,500 (USD 30) for speeds of about 1 Mbps. Then, see the transformation in the India IT space.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Attributes: Risk Reduction, Listening

Risk Reduction Not the Other Way

The typical notion of an entrepreneur is as a risk-taker. I believe the opposite to be true. Yes, the entrepreneur makes a bet at the start of the venture, but after that, the entrepreneur actually works every day of the ventures life to reduce risk. Each day beings new opportunities and new threats. The entrepreneur must balance the short-term survival needs with the long-term hopes for exponential growth. And in doing so, ensure that risk is minimised. This is not to say that entrepreneurs are not gamblers or adventurers it is just that they make their calculations carefully, and then lay their bets. This belief comes from deep insights into the world around what is happening and what is likely to happen which help shape the vision of the entrepreneur.

Risk and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. Every entrepreneur believes that there is 70-90% chance of success, and yet fewer than 1 in a thousand ventures reach the pinnacle of success. The optimism of the entrepreneur is the engine that drives the team, and even as others perceive the entrepreneur to be taking risks, the captain of the ship is charting a course which actually reduces the odds of failure. The entrepreneur is constantly making calculations as the winds change sometimes, one is caught in a storm, at others times, one rides the waves.

Listening Learning from Others

Listening and learning from others is not something which comes naturally to us. It is even less natural for entrepreneurs. The typical tendency is to have a strong belief in oneself and use that to lead the venture forward. But if the entrepreneur has succeeded in attracting a good team, then there is great merit and value in listening to others and learning from their collective experiences. At times, their viewpoints are likely to differ from that of the entrepreneur and this can pose a challenge. It is times like these that can decide the fate of the venture. An entrepreneur needs to put ego aside and solicit inputs from others, even though they may be to the contrary.

At the end of the day, the final decision needs to be made by the entrepreneur. But by asking others for opinions, the entrepreneur may see aspects of the situation that otherwise may have been looked. This requires courage at times, it may even force the entrepreneur to reverse previous decisions. But, the success of the venture must be above everything else, especially personal ego. The entrepreneur is not always right in fact, most entrepreneurs will have plenty of weaknesses. By recognising these, and leveraging on the strengths of the other team members, the entrepreneur can greatly increase the chances for the ventures success.

Tomorrow: Blogging, Liking

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