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Saturday, April 30, 2011

5 Common Website Blunders Designed to Infuriate Your Customers

By Dave Johnson | April 25, 2011

Your Website is supposed to be a convenience for your customers, right? So why do so many companies insist on baking in ludicrous or tone-deaf elements that frustrate and alienate those very same customers?

You can see examples of bad Web design everywhere, and you don't have to be a Web designer to recognize them. The trick is being observant or savvy enough to point these glitches out to your Web designer so you don't foist these problems on your own customers. Keir Thomas at PC World recently rounded up his take on the 5 worst Web design blunders, and I think he's spot on:

1. Don't insist that customers get Adobe Reader. Don't get me wrong: It's okay to post PDF files to your Web site. But there are many, many programs capable of reading those documents, and virtually every one of them is better than Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader is so slow, bloated, and such a vector for malware, that you might as well throw buckets of pig blood at your visitors instead. As an alternative, consider using the Free Software Foundation Europe graphic for free PDF readers.

2. Avoid requiring plug-ins. By and large, the days of plug-ins are gone. These days, you can't be sure what kind of device your customers will arrive at your site with: PC? Mac? Smartphone? iPad? Saying that "your PC is missing the XYZ plug-in is sort of like saying "you need a buggy whip to start this car." It's frustrating to folks who can't run the plug-in on their iPhone, and it sounds a little out of touch with modern Web design. You can probably do what you need with HTML5 instead.

3. Don't tell people to upgrade their browser. What does that even mean? Does it apply if they're using Chrome or Firefox? You're making it sound like the customer has done something wrong, whereas in reality, there's a 97% chance that your site is the one that's problematic.

4. Don't automatically redirect customers to country-specific sites. If I fly to Paris for a conference and try to log into my bank, the last thing I want it to do is automatically redirect me to a French-language version of the site just because of my location. I haven't magically developed the ability to read French in the last few hours.

5. Don't force your mobile site on customers. Even better, don't do mobile sites at all; that's very 2002. These days, a better solution is to create a handful of apps for all the major mobile device platforms. That avoids the compromises you have to make when developing a mobile site, and it prevents glitches in which customers accidentally get forced to view a mobile page even if they're on a laptop or desktop.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone powered by U Mobile

10 Posts You Should Write for Your Company Blog

By Jon Gelberg | April 20, 2011

So you've decided you need to blog. As the owner of the business, you want to put a human face on the brand and become a source of valuable information for customers. Good for you!

The big question now is, what the heck are you going to write about? And, more importantly, will anyone read it?

Obviously you're going to have to get a feel for what your target audience wants to read. That will come with time. Right now you just need to start writing. To give you a jump start on your blogging efforts, I've come up with 10 specific post ideas that I've found work well with most any audience.

Once you get into the rhythm of writing, it will become second nature — even fun — and you'll figure out quickly what your readers want.

1. The "why I'm passionate about what I do" blog post
If you're an owner, especially in a service industry, you should be passionate about what you do and be able to convey that passion to readers. Use your blog to tell the story of how and why you started your business. Talk about turning points in your career and mentors you may have had along the way. Provide real life anecdotes to demonstrate your passion.

2. The "biggest mistake I ever made in business and what I learned from it" blog post
Nobody's perfect. That's what makes us human. While everyone screws up in life and in business, the ones that succeed learn from their mistakes. By providing concrete examples of your failures and then demonstrating what you took away from them, you give your audience something to relate to. Think of how Domino's pizza took a bunch of negative reviews and turned them into a positive advertising campaign.

3. The "favorite customer feedback" blog post
Every business owner deals with customer feedback on a daily basis. Some of it is positive, often it can be negative. Either way, a discussion of how you dealt with the feedback and how you resolved the issue can go a long way to developing customer loyalty and trust. If you have gotten fan mail from your customers, share it. You can even have a feature like "customer email of the week."

4. The "featured employee" blog post
Every business has employees worth showing off and employees who have interesting personal stories. These stories can be about their work, their hobbies, or even tales of overcoming adversity.
This type of post serves two purposes. On the one hand, it is another way to put a human face on the company; from an internal point of view, it's great for employee morale to get their names, faces, and stories into the company blog.

5. The "what I did on my summer vacation" blog post
When you take a break from work, give your readers a break from a "work" post. Talk about your destination, your family, even how it felt to be away from your office. If you are a workaholic and couldn't get your mind off of business while on vacation, then tell your readers about that. It's something that everyone can identify with.

6. The "10 things you didn't know about our company" blog post
This is a perfect vehicle for giving your customers a behind-the-scenes look.  You can cover a wide range of topics including company culture, trivia, philanthropy, the company bowling team, etc. To get more mileage out of this idea, turn each thing no one knows about your company into an individual post.

7. The "new product or service" blog post
When introducing a new product or service, be sure to write a blog post specific to that product or service. Unlike an advertisement, a blog post gives you the opportunity to tell the story behind the product/service and allows you to convey your enthusiasm to your audience. It also gives you an opportunity to make a special offer to your readers.

8. The "I know my readers and I'm going to give them interesting info" blog post
This is really a no-brainer. By providing useful information to your readers, you create customer loyalty and provide them with a service.
If you are a sporting goods store, blog about workout techniques, sporting events, or the latest innovations in equipment. If you are a cardiologist, blog about the latest studies and breakthroughs in medicine. If you are an accountant, provide the "10 deductions people forget to take."

9. The "company history lesson" blog post
If your company has been around for many years, then a blog post is a perfect place to talk about the origins. Here's where old photographs, advertisements, and quotes from founders in the early days can be put to great use. This is an excellent way to talk about company values, employee loyalty, and hint about plans for the future.

10. The "I've got a blog and I'm going to use it to get something off my chest" blog post

This is the most dangerous kind of blog post, but it can be the most fun. You may be a business owner, but you are also a person with opinions on a variety of subjects. If you feel strongly about certain topics and want the world to know how you feel, then the blog can be your broadcast outlet.
On the positive side, it gives you an outlet to vent your feelings and influence your target audience.

On the negative side, there is always the potential that you will turn off current and potential clients and customers who don't share your views.

The more you write, the easier it gets. If you're going to blog, remember these 3 quick tips:
Blog regularly: Fresh content keeps visitors coming back to your site. A neglected blog sheds a negative light on your business.
Write well: Blogging isn't for everyone. If you are not a naturally talented writer, then find someone at your company to help you out. If there's no one at the company, work with a professional copywriter.

Have fun: Remember, a blog is just a conversation with your clients and customers. Think of what you'd talk about at a cocktail party. Be entertaining, interesting and even amusing, and they'll keep coming back for more.

Jon Gelberg is Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone powered by U Mobile

5 Common Website Blunders Designed to Infuriate Your Customers

By Dave Johnson | April 25, 2011

Your Website is supposed to be a convenience for your customers, right? So why do so many companies insist on baking in ludicrous or tone-deaf elements that frustrate and alienate those very same customers?

You can see examples of bad Web design everywhere, and you don't have to be a Web designer to recognize them. The trick is being observant or savvy enough to point these glitches out to your Web designer so you don't foist these problems on your own customers. Keir Thomas at PC World recently rounded up his take on the 5 worst Web design blunders, and I think he's spot on:

1. Don't insist that customers get Adobe Reader. Don't get me wrong: It's okay to post PDF files to your Web site. But there are many, many programs capable of reading those documents, and virtually every one of them is better than Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader is so slow, bloated, and such a vector for malware, that you might as well throw buckets of pig blood at your visitors instead. As an alternative, consider using the Free Software Foundation Europe graphic for free PDF readers.

2. Avoid requiring plug-ins. By and large, the days of plug-ins are gone. These days, you can't be sure what kind of device your customers will arrive at your site with: PC? Mac? Smartphone? iPad? Saying that "your PC is missing the XYZ plug-in is sort of like saying "you need a buggy whip to start this car." It's frustrating to folks who can't run the plug-in on their iPhone, and it sounds a little out of touch with modern Web design. You can probably do what you need with HTML5 instead.

3. Don't tell people to upgrade their browser. What does that even mean? Does it apply if they're using Chrome or Firefox? You're making it sound like the customer has done something wrong, whereas in reality, there's a 97% chance that your site is the one that's problematic.

4. Don't automatically redirect customers to country-specific sites. If I fly to Paris for a conference and try to log into my bank, the last thing I want it to do is automatically redirect me to a French-language version of the site just because of my location. I haven't magically developed the ability to read French in the last few hours.

5. Don't force your mobile site on customers. Even better, don't do mobile sites at all; that's very 2002. These days, a better solution is to create a handful of apps for all the major mobile device platforms. That avoids the compromises you have to make when developing a mobile site, and it prevents glitches in which customers accidentally get forced to view a mobile page even if they're on a laptop or desktop.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone powered by U Mobile

When Your Company Wants to Buy Apple iPads

by Angie Mak, 24 March 2011

A personal iPad or tablet of your choice — for everyone. That was what Financial Times Group CEO John Ridding told 1,800 employees last November. The company decided to hand out a US$480 bonus to "encourage all our staff to be expert and experienced in using [tablets]."
 
It is perhaps understandable for a media company to encourage the use of the newfangled devices. The FT has developed an iPad application for its flagship newspaper and made £1 million from ad sales off that app in the six months from its launch in May last year.
 
Then there is SAP, the German business enterprise software maker. "We have taken the view that it's the absolutely right thing to roll out a thousand iPads across the organisation, so that a customer-facing person can take this iPad and show some customer applications," says Colin Sampson, Senior VP and CFO for Asia Pacific & Japan.
 
"It's a very powerful message when you get in front of a customer with a very light, easy-to-carry device and say, 'Hey, look at what you can do for an executive on the run.'"
 
Factors to Consider
The Financial Times and SAP are among the early adopters. Many more companies are likely considering investing in tablets for their customer-facing staff and other employees – and their CFOs will, of course, be part of the decision.
 
Should you say yes? There are several factors to consider. Tablets are not cheap. The Financial Times is estimated to have spent US$864,000 on the subsidies. There are also issues around security, running costs, applications and features.
 
Don't forget the growing number of brands and models, which have different sizes, weights and technical specifications.
 
Then there is the question of whether the company needs tablet devices at all. While smaller and lighter than mobile computers, high-end tablets can cost more than a middle level business laptop – but have less computing power and fewer features. The iPad has no USB port or a replaceable battery, for example.
 
Note, too, that a tablet is not a replacement for a computer. Indeed, you will need a desktop, laptop or netbook to download, upload and update files and applications Nor can it entirely replace a mobile phone, although you can use a tablet to call other people through Skype. The two exceptions are the Samsung Galaxy and the Dell Streak, which function both as a tablet and a rather oversized phone, and do not need to be plugged into a computer to download or upload files and apps.
 
Still interested? We put together some of the important considerations for choosing which tablet may be the most appropriate and useful for your organization.
 
How Much Is It?
Tablets come in a variety of prices, depending on storage capacity (from 16GB to 64GB for the iPad), connectivity (wifi only or wifi and 3G) and other features. Below is a rundown of the models available or due to be launched in Asia:
 
Apple iPad 1 and iPad 2: US$498 to US$830
BlackBerry PlayBook: US$499 to US$700
Dell Streak: US$550 to US$705 
Motorola Xoom: US$799
Samsung Galaxy Tab:  US$600

For business use, we estimate that a company will need to pony up an additional US$900 or more per user for peripherals and services, including:
 
3G access, 36 months (US$15/month): US$553
Expandable memory, MicroSD card, 32GB: US$75
Virtual Public Network (VPN) license, per user/year: US$50
Basic productivity app licenses, per user/year: US$50
HDMI connector (iPad): US$39
Security tracking service, 3-year plan: US$139
(e.g. *CompuTrace LoJack for Laptops)
 
Large and Clear
Since a big part of the tablet's appeal is its ability to show still and moving images and zoom in on tiny details, the screen size and resolution should be a key consideration in choosing which tablet to buy for companies in media, fashion, architecture and design, hospitality and hotels, luxury cars and fine wine, among others.
 
The iPad has a 9.7-inch screen, while the Samsung Galaxy has a 7-inch screen (the same size as the BlackBerry Playbook, which is due to be released in the U.S. and Canada on April 19). The Dell Streak is the smallest at 5 inches. The Motorola Xoom boasts the biggest screen at 10.1 inches. Samsung plans to launch a 10.1-inch version on June 6 and an 8.9-inch model "in early summer."
 
In terms of resolution, the iPad's is comparable to High Definition TV video. Its screen shows images at 1024x768 pixels (132 dpi), which is finer than that of the Blackberry PlayBook.
 
The Galaxy Tab, which is smaller in size, has a lower resolution than either the iPad or the PlayBook, at 1024x600. But the 8.9-inch and 10-inch screen models will have a resolution of 1280x800 pixels (160 dpi). The Dell Streak, again, lags behind with a resolution of just 800x480 pixels.
 
The champion in size and resolution is the Motorola Xoom, which boasts a superior resolution of 1280x800 pixels and a 10.1-inch screen. The Xoom is not yet available in Asia, however.
 
While slightly smaller and with less rich resolution than the Xoom, the iPad is the champ at scrolling and interface animation, which are important in sales and product presentations. Still and moving images of products and services appear more sleek and impressive on the iPad as a result. In comparison, the Galaxy Tab tends to stutter in its scrolling and animation.
 
The downside for the iPad (both version 1 and 2) is that it doesn't display Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight animations, which designers often use. It also doesn't support expandable memory, nor does it have a USB port, precluding use of USB sticks to download and upload files.
 
This makes moving files to and from the iPad rather annoying, as all transfers have to be performed through synchronisation with its proprietary iTunes store on a computer. On the Galaxy, you can drag and drop files from the USB stick to the tablet and vice versa; you can also play Flash animations.
 
Tablet in the Pocket
Screen size is directly correlated with portability, which is a key consideration for certain companies. Doctors are said to be partial to the Dell Streak, for example, because its smaller size and weight (227 grams) make it compact enough to fit into a lab coat pocket.

Relative to the Streak, the two Apple tablets are heavy blocks by comparison. The iPad 1 weighs in at 680 grams, while the iPad 2 is just a bit lighter at 600 grams, about the same as the Galaxy Tab. On the other hand, those with big hands will find it easier to send email on the bigger tablets than on the Streak.
 
Still, the Streak's portability is a plus in the medical field (and in mining, fisheries and other industries requiring travel to remote places). Leveraging on its foothold in providing IT infrastructure to hospitals, Dell says it has designed the Streak to allow configurations that give the user quick access to the hospital's electronic medical records and lab results.
 
The tablet can also be configured to hold passwords and security keys. The encrypted data is stored in the cloud, housed in a data centre operated by the hospital or by Dell, which minimizes the security risks in the event the Streak is lost or stolen.
 
Running on Empty
One downside for the Streak: the battery charge could be exhausted in half a day of use, including talk time. It's a shortcoming the Streak shares with the Galaxy. But both devices have an external power source, so users can buy extra batteries for continued usage.
 
Tablets powered by internal batteries such as the iPad can be used for longer, but the battery cannot be replaced, only recharged.
 
Most tablets have a considerably longer battery life than laptops, making them ideal for use onboard a plane or when working away from the office for a full day. The Xoom and the iPad boast the longest runtime of the currently available tablets, at around ten hours.
 
The soon-to-be-released PlayBook is rumored to have 17 hours of juice for surfing the Internet when fully charged.
 
Multitude of Tasks
Battery life, operating system, processor random access memory (RAM) and storage size are important for running word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications, not to say enterprise software suites like customer relationship management and financial reporting.
 
But because the iPad 1 comes only with 256 MB RAM, the factory-installed operating system was not able to support multi-tasking – users needed to exit an application before they could open another. If users download an upraded OS, however, they will be able to have limited multi-tasking. The iPad 2 allows limited multi-tasking, too, with a bigger 512 MB RAM (the same as the 7-inch Galaxy) and an upgraded operating system.
 
It is the Motorola Xoom that boasts true multi-tasking. It has 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal memory (with the option to add 32 GB more via an SD card slot), a USB port, and it runs on the Android 2.2 platform with a 1GHz processor. The yet to be released PlayBook and 10.1-inch Galaxy will have 1 GB RAM and other similar features too.

Unlike the iPad, Xoom, Galaxy and most other tablets support Flash applications. This means that they can run business applications like SAP BusinessObjects OnDemand, which uses a mixture of Flash and HTML.
 
However, for the sheer number of apps available for use, the iPad still rules. As of March this year, there are at least 350,000 apps officially available on Apple's App Store, both paid and free. The Google-administered Android Market, which can be accessed by users of smart phones and tablets on the Android platform, has some 250,000 apps. Additional apps can be downloaded from the just-launched Amazon Appstore for Android.
 
Unfortunately, not all of the apps in the Android markets can be used universally, according to some users, who say that apps meant for a particular tablet cannot be used by another Android device. Usage is further limited by which country the user is in, they add.
 
Would-be users of the BlackBerry PlayBook will have even more limited options – the BlackBerry App World only has some 15,000 apps. Even then, the PlayBook will not be able to download all of them because it will run on a new operating system. Research in Motion (RIM), the tablet's maker, says the PlayBook will be able to download 4,000 of those 15,000 apps when the device is launched.
 
Viruses and Detonators
Security, of course, is a key concern for all companies, although perhaps in varying degrees.
 
The Android Market came under fire recently when over 50 malicious applications were uploaded to it. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Unlike Apple Inc. or BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., Google doesn't have employees dedicated to approving apps submitted to its [Android Market] store."
 
Google says that apps that violate its policies are removed, but while it has some internal measures to identify offenders, it "largely relies on users to rate apps and raise the alarm about any problems with them," reports the Journal.
 
Because it doesn't have external ports, the iPad is protected from viruses that may be uploaded via USB flash drives and SD cards. Users of the other tablets will have to be vigilant about the provenance and content of the thumb drives and cards they plug into their devices, including would-be buyers of the PlayBook, which will have a microUSB port.
 
All of the tablet models allow users to set a password, although some may not activate this feature because of the inconvenience. Most devices also allow the user to remotely 'detonate' their contents in case of loss.
 
The iPad, for example, has a Remote Wipe feature. So long as the owner has a MobileMe account, the tablet can be instructed to erase the information it contains and to reset the device to its original factory settings. If the iPad is later found, the same MobileMe account can restore email, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks.
 
The BlackBerry PlayBook touts more security features. It will work in tandem with a proprietary BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and Network Operations Center to make sure that data sent to and from the tablet will be encrypted in transit and cannot be decrypted outside of the corporate firewall.

RIM claims that the tablet's inbuilt Bluetooth device will allow the tablet to connect with a variety of devices in a highly secure manner. In addition, files handled or viewed on the device are only temporarily cached on it, and are automatically cleared once the tablet is closed.
 
Which Tablet?
So which device is most appropriate for your company? It will depend on how you envision the tablet will be used for. The iPad, for example, is the current tablet of choice among fashion and other lifestyle enterprises, which are apparently attracted by its sexy design, fine resolution and top-notch scrolling and animation.
 
Thus, fashion icon Burberry gave iPads to its in-store customers, allowing them to immediately buy the label's new collection of clothes during a private viewing at London's Fashion Week. Burberry stores in 16 countries will now offer customers the use of an iPad to browse for clothes.
 
That's not to say that the iPad is the only option for customer-facing devices. When the Xoom and the 10.1-inch Galaxy are finally available in Asia, they can certainly be considered for sales, marketing and presentation purposes.
 
If portability and communications are the priorities, then the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy phones-cum-tablets are probably the best bets. As an aside, note that it is only the Streak that is able to support 4G (similar to broadband-speed connections but through a cellular network) at this time, although most tablets promise 4G capabilities in the future.
 
For companies that wish to give executives access to business applications software on the road while making sure security is not compromised, the PlayBook may be the more robust option.
 
No, Thanks
What if the decision is not to equip staff with tablets at all? Some companies may decide that presenting the actual products, rather than a digitised version, is the way to go. Others may not want the hassle of maintaining yet another slew of IT devices, in addition to servers, desktops, laptops, smart phones and other existing devices.
 
That will still not get companies off the hook. Technology research provider Gartner advises executives to seriously evaluate the capabilities of tablets within their organisation, as the new devices can potentially be disruptive to the business models and markets of many enterprises.
 
Since individuals are willing to buy iPads and other tablets and use them in the work environment, regardless of their company's existing IT infrastructure, enterprises should be ready to support them, Gartner argues.
 
"Organizations need to recognise that there are soft benefits in a device of this type in the quest to improve recruitment and retention," adds Stephen Prentice, Gartner Fellow and Vice President.
 
"Even if you think it is just a passing fad," he asserts, "the cost of early action is low, while the price of delay may well be extremely high."
 
About the Author
Angie Mak is Online Editor at CFO Innovation
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Another Reason to Hate Micromanagers

By Kimberly Weisul | March 23, 2011

No one likes to work for a micromanager. Now research shows that micromanaging is not only frustrating and bad for morale-it also hurts productivity.

The three professors from Harvard Business School and Rice University analyzed data from six MGM-Mirage Group hotel/casino properties, concentrating on the performance of casino 'hosts.' The hosts are in charge of taking care of the casinos' high rollers, giving them 'comps'-free hotel rooms, tickets to shows and other perks-to build their loyalty to a particular casino. In general, a host is allowed to comp a high-roller up to 40% of his or her 'expected win.' That's the amount that, statistically, the casino expects to make off of such a client during his or her trip, regardless of whether a client wins or loses on that particular visit.
With cooperation from the casinos, the researchers were able to review 349,887 customer trips, all of which were managed by a casino host.

Tracking High Rollers
Casinos are pretty good at tracking their big customers, either through floor monitors who walk around and keep note of how much different gamblers are wagering at different tables, or through their loyalty programs. But hosts still occasionally over-comp, especially when they're trying to cultivate a relatively new customer who, in the end, doesn't repay the investment. If a host comps too much, it triggers an 'exception report' that needs to be reviewed by the CFO.

Because the casinos used to be owned independently, they have different policies for keeping tabs on comps. At some properties, comps are monitored daily, and each host is reviewed monthly. The researchers considered this to be tight monitoring. At other properties, comps are monitored once a week and each host is reviewed once a quarter. The researchers considered this to be loose monitoring.

The findings?
Workers perform just fine when managers don't keep close tabs on them. The researchers found that the least experienced hosts comped the most-often 60% of a customer's expected win. But at properties with loose monitoring, hosts came up the learning curve, quickly settling in close to the 40% guideline.

Workers are more likely to be fearful of experimenting when their managers micromanage; as a result, the employees learn less and performance suffers. At properties where the finance departments more closely monitored the hosts, the hosts were less likely to experiment by over-comping new customers. Because the hosts didn't experiment with different customers, instead sticking close to 40% at all times, they didn't do as well learning which customers were likely to become important to the casino and should get the most attention and comps.

"Employees in tightly monitored business units face strong implicit incentives to experiment less…and have fewer opportunities to learn," write Dennis Campbell, of Harvard Business School, Marc Epstein, of Rice University, and Asis Martinez-Jerez, also of Harvard.

What impact have you seen micromanagers have on your workplace? Has performance been hurt or helped by having a manager keep close tabs?
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The Trouble with Younger CEOs

By Kimberly Weisul | April 26, 2011

A new CEO is enough to make most employees at least a little nervous. But if your new CEO is under 50? You might want to hold on-it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Three researchers–Xiayang Li, of the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Angie Low of Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, and Anil K. Makhija, of Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business-tried to determine if career concerns cause young CEOs to act differently from older ones.

 Using Census Bureau data, they examined 9,344 firms between 1988 and 2005, looking for any activities that changed a firm's business segments or the establishments within each segment.  A "young" CEO was one under 50; an "older" CEO was over 60. If your company has a younger CEO, here's what their study says you should expect:

Get ready for a restructuring. Younger CEOs are more likely to enter new lines of business and to discard old ones. In the sample, one quarter of the firms either enter a new segment or leave an existing one any given year. A young CEO increases the probability of restructuring by 10 to 15 percent.

An acquisition is more likely with a young CEO. Younger CEOs also prefer bolder ways of getting into or getting out of a business. Younger CEOs are more likely to acquire a plant from another company, while older ones are more likely to buy a plant from scratch.

Younger CEOs take on larger restructurings. To measure the size of the restructurings, the researchers used the number of employees affected–think layoffs–rather than the dollars at stake.

Asset growth is faster under younger CEOs.
Plants tend to be more efficient under younger CEOs. This is counterintuitive, because rapid churn in production plants is generally associated with lower efficiency. So younger CEOs may actually make better decisions about which plants to buy or build.

The "Not Invented Here" syndrome is alive and well. Both older CEOs and younger ones favor plants that they themselves built or acquired, directing more money for investment their way.

Why so Bold?
Since there's a pretty healthy market for serial CEOs, it could be that young chieftains are more willing to act boldly to win some attention (hopefully of the positive variety) and establish themselves for the next gig. Older CEOs may have more to gain by being conservative, because their reputation travels with them from company to company. A sudden change in their management style, whether perceived or real, could be seen as a repudiation of the decisions they made at previous companies.
Do you think these young CEOs know what they're doing? Or are they just showing off at the expense of their companies?
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Warren Buffett: Why Did He Enable a Bullying Exec?

http://m.bnet.com/blog/management/warren-buffett-why-did-he-enable-a-bullying-exec/4240?promo=713&tag=nl.e713

By John Baldoni | April 28, 2011
While I will not admit to enjoying the downfall of others, it is refreshing to see an executive who treats others poorly fall from power.
Such is the case with David Sokol, once believed to be the heir apparent to Warren Buffett as the next CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. That plan evaporated when Sokol resigned in March after it was revealed that he had bought shares in Lubrizol, a company that Berkshire Hathaway since bought.
Now, according to reporting by Peter Latman and Geraldine Fabrikant in the New York Times, Sokol had an unsavory reputation within Berkshire Hathaway. He could be gruff and abusive and worse his track record as a "Mr. Fix It" was unwarranted. Insiders wonder why Buffett valued Sokol so highly. [Berkshire Hathaway has since announced that Sokol, in violation of corporate ethics policies, gave "misleadingly incomplete disclosures" about his stock purchases.]
Far be it from me to speculate on what Buffett saw in Sokol, but it seems that Buffett, who prides himself on hands-off management, is one more in long line of top executives who willfully or woefully are blind to the negative behaviors of underlings, even when those behaviors rise to the level of bullying.
Bullying Bosses: A Scourge in Corporate America
Bullying is not what Sokol is accused of, but as the Times reported, Sokol suggested getting rid of employees because they were in poor health or going through a divorce, which is bully-like behavior.
Bully bosses are the scourge of many organizations. According to a 2010 survey released by the National Workplace Bullying Institute, bullies are commonplace. One in three workers report being bullied by a boss. Six in ten bullies are men and 58% of their targets are women. Cases of bullying are four times greater than illegal harassment.
Bullies wreck a terrible toll within an organization. Their behavior leads to increased levels of stress among employees, higher rates of absenteeism, and higher than normal attrition. But here is the irony. Bullies do get results, typically because they push people to the wall forcing them to put in longer than necessary hours. Senior managers see only the results and look no further.
If you look at management as an exercise in employee engagement, bullies fall short. Bullies get employees to comply, but not to commit. Compliance is okay for day-to-day operations but when an organization is faced with a challenge or even a crisis, you need employees who are willing to go the extra mile. People who work for a bully are biding their time looking for a way out, or a time when the bully will be replaced.
Bullies also sully the reputation of their department. Talented employees will avoid working there. Couple that with the talented people in the department who have left or are seeking to leave, pretty soon the bully is left with employees whose only option is to endure.
Avoidance of the bullying issue by senior management is a contributing factor to why bully bosses remain in their positions. Until senior management looks more closely at the "numbers behind the numbers" – absenteeism, lower engagement scores, and turnover – bullies will remain with us.
Have you seen CEOs blind to bullies, and what impact has that had on the company?

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2011 Leadership Gurus International ranked John no. 11 on its list of the world's top leadership experts. John is the author of nine books on leadership including his Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results and Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.  Follow him on Twitter
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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Billionaire Dropout Club

By Mark Henricks | January 24, 2011

Before Gerry Laybourne co-founded Oxygen Media Network and sold it for nearly $1 billion, she attended Vassar College, where participating in student government, she says, first exposed her to the management skills that would catapult her to entrepreneurial success and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.
That is the story told by Vassar's official newspaper, The Miscellany News, in a piece that similarly portrays the backgrounds of entrepreneurs Christopher English, a hedge fund manager, and technology consulting firm founder Anthony Friscia. The premise is that leadership roles in extracurricular activities such as student government and athletics prepared these students for running organizations later on.
It's a believable premise. Still, to test it, the Debunker checked the educational backgrounds of the top 10 self-made members of the latest Forbes 400 list of the country's wealthiest people. The self-made rule disqualified four offspring of Sam Walton and the two sons of Fred C. Koch, founder of Koch Industries, all of whom inherited great wealth.
The most common educational background of this high-dollar decapod is not a Vassar degree. It is not a prominent role in extracurricular activities at the university level. The typical self-made member of the nation's richest 10 people is a college dropout.  Here's the ranked list:
1. Bill Gates: Dropped out of Harvard after a year and a half.
2. Warren Buffett: Received a bachelor's degree from University of Nebraska and a master's in business from Columbia University.
3. Larry Ellison: Dropped out twice, from the University of Illinois and then the University of Chicago.
4. Michael Bloomberg: Received an engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Harvard University.
5. Larry Page: Got an engineering degree from the University of Michigan, then entered Stanford University's doctoral program in computer science. According to Stanford's website, Page didn't finish his Ph.D., leaving after receiving a master's degree.
6. Sergey Brin: Receive a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, after which his story parallels fellow Google co-founder Page.
7. Sheldon Adelson: Dropped out of City College of New York.
8. George Soros: Took a bachelor's degree from the London School of Economics.
9. Michael Dell: Dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin after one year.
10. Steve Ballmer: Got a bachelor's in applied math from Harvard University, then entered Stanford University's graduate business school before dropping out.
Five of the 10 richest self-made Americans dropped out of college before getting any degree. Three others, if you count Brin's and Page's interrupted Ph.D. programs, left later without completing planned graduate degrees. Things don't get any better for the "you-gotta-have-a-degree" crowd if you go to No. 11: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dropped out of Washington State University.
There are a few other things you could get from this list. The biggest is, you'd better attend college, even if you never graduate. It's not a bad idea to be Jewish, but don't be a woman, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander. It helps to be book smart — most of these multi-billionaires, even the dropouts, were recognized as outstanding students. Attending an elite university, whether you finish or not, seems to give a leg up. And when you're picking majors, look hard at engineering, computer science, finance, economics or business.
As far as extracurricular activities, the record is muddy. Gates has said that he participated in nothing extracurricular while Ballmer, who attended Harvard at the same time, was a leader of several campus groups. In fact, Ballmer is the only one on this list who is said to have been a big man on campus outside class.
Of course, these mega-entrepreneurs are outliers. By their nature they are exceptions to the rule. The Census Bureau says college graduates earn nearly twice as much per year, on average, as those who complete only high school. So maybe going to Vassar and running for student body president is a good idea, even if it doesn't put you in the company of Gates et al.
Mark Henricks has reported on business, technology and other topics for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications long enough to lay somewhat legitimate claim to being The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.
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Business Books That Waste Your Time and Money

By Mark Henricks | January 26, 2011

My BNET colleague Margaret Heffernan opened a can of anacondas with her post about the difference between business and war. It revived memories of my years reviewing business books, during which I encountered numerous authors who claimed lessons learned in another sphere of life could be applied to business. Sports, coaching, parenting, the military — the list is long indeed.
One of the first — and weirdest — examples is "Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World" (Berrett-Koehler), by Margaret Wheatley. I confess that I gave this business-as-quantum-physics thesis serious treatment when it appeared in 1992. I wasn't the only one who bought the validity of transplanting successful techniques from one area of endeavor to the world of business. "Leadership and the New Science," for example, was reissued in a third edition as recently as 2006.
But suspicion mounted. Eventually, entries such as 1995's "Finding a Way to Win: The Principles of Leadership, Teamwork and Motivation" (Doubleday), by Super Bowl-winning football coach Bill Parcells and Jeff Coplon, did the trick. By 2002 I was able to resist "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy" (Grand Central ), by D. Michael Abrashoff.
Nothing since has changed my opinion that bupkis permeates the genre. The value of exporting business insights from anywhere else — physics, coaching, you name it — is limited, at best. Business is business. Running a Navy ship is similar in some ways, but has so many differences that the two worlds barely brush each other, much less collide.
If you're looking for books about running a small business (as opposed to a football team), here are my favorites:
1. Will It Fly?: How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings … Before You Take the Leap (FT Prentice Hall), by Thomas K. McKnight. Forty-four things to check before you do or don't pull the trigger.
2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What To Do about It (HarperCollins), by Michael E. Gerber. Why and how you should stop working in your business and start working on your businesses.
3. Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business (Houghton Mifflin), By Jay Conrad Levinson. The original guide to marketing on the cheap remains relevant (thanks to updating through four editions) after nearly three decades.
4. The Business Planning Guide, (Kaplan), by David H. Bangs. Best of the many books (possibly even including my own) on business planning.
5. Start Run & Grow a Successful Small Business (CCH), by Toolkit Media Group (editors). Something on nearly everything about small business.
Publishers continue to mine the reliable "business is like …" vein. Today I received notice of "The Most Dangerous Business Book You'll Ever Read" (Wiley), by Gregory Hartley and Maryann Karinch. This just-published work purports to "take the tools of military intelligence" and "relate their potential value to the business world today."
If your next performance review starts with somebody throwing a hood over your head and progresses to waterboarding, you'll know why.
Mark Henricks has reported on business, technology and other topics for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications long enough to lay somewhat legitimate claim to being The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.
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There’s No Such Thing as a Compromise in Business

By Jay Steinfeld | January 27, 2011

There's something about the word "compromise" that irks me. Many people say, "If everyone just compromised, we'd all be better off."
I don't think so.
As a CEO, I cannot allow my company to compromise its core values, which include things like continuous improvement and experimentation. When you lead, you need to be clear as to what's important — and it can't be important only some of the time. So, for example, when we hire, we're always looking for personal traits that reflect our core values. If they're not present, we don't hire. If we compromised on these core values, we would be suggesting that they're not really core to our success, that they are negotiable.
Same thing goes for performance standards. If an employee wanted to negotiate with you so that she need only meet your standards 70% of the time, would you accept that? Of course not. Your minimum expectation is 100% — compromising would lead to wasted resources and a teammate who requires everyone else to pick up his slack.
Let's take a look at another example: Say you want a lower price from your supplier and that supplier responds (truthfully) by telling you he cannot lower the price without sacrificing quality or delivery times. You might compromise somewhere in the middle on price, but ultimately your reputation for quality and service will suffer.
Compromising is like standing in the middle of a railroad track. There's a person on one side of the track telling you to move off the tracks to the left, and a second person on the other side of the tracks suggesting you move off to the right. You could compromise and stand in the middle — where you'll get smacked by an oncoming train.
Instead, I believe in the concept of principled negotiation, particularly as explained in one of my favorite books of all time, "Getting to Yes." The concept does not involve compromising one's core values or minimum acceptable standards. It's about achieving a win-win, where each side finds common ground, and avoids ending up on opposite "sides."
Using that approach, the supplier and buyer in the example above would agree to keep the price where it is, but the supplier perhaps agrees to ship his goods sooner than the competition. Or, the buyer might get a better price — only when he achieves economy of scale with sufficient volume.
I propose that we all decide what's mandatory for the success of our businesses, then set aside the word "compromise" and work toward our common good.
And I might add, Congress, are you listening? You're about to embark on a whole range of important decisions. I'd like to at least see an agreement that the national budget is too big and that something needs to be cut. Can you find at least that common ground?
Readers, where are you unwilling to compromise in your business?
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Bad Bosses: 5 Things to Say to Your Mirror Every Day

By Jeff Haden | February 2, 2011

We've all had a boss we despised working for. That's bad, but what's worse is when we become that person. 
Want to avoid becoming the boss you would hate to work for?  Every morning, stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eye, and repeat after me:
"I am not that important." Studies show changes in leadership, on average, cause about 10% of the overall variance in corporate profitability.  (Arguably a business owner has more influence, but the more employees you have the less influence you have.)  Great leadership won't solve every problem.  And some problems get solved in spite of terrible leadership.  While you matter, you don't matter that much.  Focus less on your skills and more on your limitations — and work hard to overcome those limitations.
"I am not that smart." Just because you're in charge doesn't mean all your opinions are valid — or should even be shared.  I worked at a plant and a sinkhole formed in the parking lot.  It was expensive, but we brought in a geologist to test for sub-surface issues under the building.  (Sinkholes + multi-million dollar equipment = Career Limiting Event.)  In the middle of a highly technical presentation our CEO jumped up, drew a few lines on a topographical map, and said to the geologist, "That's all you need to do.  Settled.  Next topic?"  Holding a position of authority does not automatically confer wisdom.  Be quiet when you don't know… and often when you do know.
"I am not that funny." Leading a business is a little like being famous; your employees treat you differently because of your position.  But in reality your thoughts aren't that profound.  Your insights aren't that insightful.  And your jokes definitely aren't that funny. If you sometimes wonder why your friends don't think you're as wonderful as your employees do, now you know.  And speaking of friends…
"My employees are not my friends." Your job is to win customers, increase efficiency, reduce waste, and make things happen.  Making friends isn't part of the job.  You should be friendly. But you can't be friends with your employees.  Don't say you have the interpersonal and professional skills to strike the right balance, because you don't.  No one does.  (In some cases interacting with the boss is less enjoyable than doing household chores.) Never put employees in a position to feel they should do the "friend" thing with you outside of work.  Make other friends.  Better yet spend more time with your family.  Keep relationships separate and you'll be a better leader.
"My employees will never care as much as I do." They won't and they shouldn't. No matter how dependable or self-motivated, and no matter what incentives you provide, your employees are still employees.  It's your business.  You should care more.  Set high standards and expect excellence — but don't expect the same level of dedication.  You'll only frustrate yourself and disengage your employees.  Inspire your employees by setting goals and helping them achieve those goals.
Are there things you remind yourself every day?  Any notes taped to your monitor?  If so — share them!
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The Business Lesson I Learned From My Grandfather, His Broom, and His Horse

By Jeff Haden | April 5, 2011

I can still see the picture.  My grandfather stands awkwardly in the way of a poor man unused to being photographed.  He clutches a small cloth sack and a one-way ticket in one hand, a broom in the other.  He waits to board a train in search of work during the Depression.

The sack holds clothing and the little food his wife and two small children can spare. The broom?  Besides a fifth grade education and a strong back, the broom is the only tool he owns.
When I asked him about the broom he said, "I didn't want to show up on a man's doorstep empty-handed.  I was hoping somebody could at least use me to sweep up for them."
Fortunately he and his broom find work as a farm laborer.  He sleeps in a barn at first and is eventually able to send for his family.  He lived and worked for the rest of his life on that 3,000-acre property.
When I was young I didn't recognize the fundamental dichotomy in his life: Employed by the wealthiest man in the county and taking justifiable pride in maintaining a showcase property, he was also in essence a tenant farmer who never owned his own home or vehicle.  Losing his job would not just take away his income, it would instantly make his family homeless.
So, some years later, he bought a racehorse.
Buying the horse made no sense considering he spent nearly all of what little savings they had.  He scraped together money for entry fees and ran without success at small tracks across the state. Finally his horse managed a second place finish at his local county fair.
After the race he held up the small silver plate at the finish line so I could take his picture.  Then we slowly led the horse back up the track to the stables as people he knew congratulated him.  I was only twelve, but even I saw a noticeable difference in the way he walked.  For a few brief moments he stood tall and carried himself with a visible sense of accomplishment, dignity, and pride.
Years later I realized why my grandfather bought the horse.  He desperately wanted to be someone.  He wanted to matter.
So do your employees.
I know: Sometimes your employees do things that aren't logical.  Sometimes they take over projects or roles without approval or justification.  Sometimes they jockey for position, play political games, or ignore company or team objectives in pursuit of personal goals.
At those moments it's easy to assume your employees don't listen or simply don't care.  But instead they could be striving to add significance to their lives, to gain a sense of meaning that pay rates and titles can never provide.
As a leader, providing a sense of meaning is arguably your most important role.  Assign projects, no matter how small.  Praise individual employees in public as often as you can.  Extend responsibility, since implicit in responsibility lies trust and regard.  Help employees understand their place in a larger effort that transcends procedures, tasks, and measurable outcomes.
Like my grandfather, we all want to matter.  Help your employees know they matter.  Especially to you.
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You’re Not a Great Leader Unless You Pass the Big Issue Test

By Jeff Haden | April 20, 2011

Passing the Big Issue test doesn't require making brilliant strategic decisions.  The Big Issue test is all about your employees.  Here's why.
Every day you make hundreds of decisions, most minor, a few major.  Dealing with major problems can consume your entire focus, especially when the future of your business rides on the outcome.
That's when a Big Issue is most likely to pop up.
Say you run a factory.  A component shipment just arrived and the defect rate in tested samples is too high. Normally you would reject the shipment and let the vendor inspect and sort, but you need to meet a ship date for your largest customer.  Sorting in-house means shutting down other operations.  Do you eat the cost and the delays on other jobs and satisfy the customer, or do you miss the ship date?
You sit staring at your desk, knowing no matter what you decide you're kinda screwed…
… and that's the moment an employee walks in and says, "I really need to talk to you."  You automatically start to say, "Let me get with you a little later…" but you look up and see he is visibly upset.
He continues. "I used to be able to call our babysitter to make sure she got the kids home safe from nursery school, but our lunch period was changed to an earlier time this week so now that doesn't work.  My supervisor won't let me leave the line to call, so all I can do is worry until we take our break…"
Inwardly you wince.  You empathize but you have your own problems to deal with:  Deciding whether to eat thousands of dollars in cost or upset your biggest customer.
That's when you take the Big Issue test: Can you deal with the employee and his problem as if it was a Big Issue?  To you it's not a big issue; to him it is a very Big Issue.
Give his problem the attention and consideration he feels it deserves and you pass.  Assume your issue is more important and brush him aside — no matter how politely — and you fail.
Every employee perceives issues differently.  To a shop-floor employee, break schedules, interpersonal problems with team members, lack of proper tools… all can be Big Issues.  To you, losing a major customer or incurring thousands in additional expense is a Big Issue.
Both of you are right.
Great leaders treat employee issues, no matter how "small," as Big Issues. Great leaders give employee concerns the same attention they give "larger," business-critical concerns.
When an employee comes to you with a problem, no matter how minor it may seem to you, to them it is a Big Issue.  You only pass the Big Issue test when you can view problems from the employee's perspective.
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7 Ways to Ruin a New Employee

http://m.bnet.com/blog/small-biz-advice/7-ways-to-ruin-a-new-employee/404?tag=content;drawer-container

By Jeff Haden | March 8, 2011
Recently I read an article about welcoming new employees so they get off to a great start.  Tips included welcome baskets, long lunches with key members of the team, and plenty of small talk to make them feel comfortable.
This is not that type of article.
The first few days of employment are critical. New employees are a lot like aircraft carriers:  Once the course is set, it takes a lot of time and energy to change direction.
Here are seven ways you can set the wrong course, and in the process ruin a new employee:
1. Welcome them to the family. Strong interpersonal relationships, positive working relationships, friendships… all those come later, if ever.  You hire an employee to work, not build relationships.  Be polite, courteous, and friendly, but stay focused on the fact the employee was hired to perform a job, and jobs involve work.  Let new employees earn their way into the "family" through hard work and achievement.
2. Train holistically. Many training guides say providing context for tasks is critical for new employees.  Wrong: Initially a new employee doesn't need to know how they fit into the overall operation.  They need to know how to perform the tasks you hired them to perform.  Leave the broader context and holistic approach for later.  Besides, evidence shows people best learn to master complex tasks when those tasks are broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks.  (Check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.)  Teach specific processes and let new employees demonstrate mastery of those processes. Context will wait.
3. Hesitate to give immediate feedback. New employees are tentative, nervous, and mistake-prone.  It feels harsh or unfair to correct or criticize, but if you don't, you lose an opportunity to set the right tone.  Unless the job involves creativity, every task should have a right way or best way to be performed.  Expect — heck, demand — that new employees do things your way.  Bad habits are easily formed and nearly impossible to correct.
4. Fail to set immediate, tangible goals. Successful companies execute.  Every new employee should complete at least one concrete, job-related task, even on their first day.  Not only do you establish that output is all-important, new employees will go home feeling a sense of personal achievement.  Days spent in "orientation" are not only unfulfilling, they make the eventual transition to "work" harder.
5. Leave gaps in the schedule. I know: It's hard to coordinate new employee orientation and training.  Managers, trainers, and mentors get delayed or called away.  When that happens, what message do you send?  New employees who sit waiting decide you don't value continual performance.  My first day at one new job I was pulled out of orientation and sent to shipping to help load 16 trailers.  All hands were on deck, including the CEO, and I immediately learned that job description is important but mission is everything.  Keep them busy.
6. Allow new employees to modify processes. Is there a better way to perform just about any task?  Absolutely.  But new employees should not be allowed to reinvent the wheel until after they fully understand how the present wheel works.  Be polite, but ask them to hold their ideas for now.
7. Talk about empowerment. Empowerment is a privilege, not a right.  Every employee should earn the right to make broader decisions, take on additional authority, or be given latitude and discretion.  Earned empowerment is the only valid empowerment culture.
One final thought:  Accountability and responsibility should always precede privilege.  Give new employees the tools they need to succeed.  Then make them earn greater authority and privilege.  You — and eventually they — will be glad you did.
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The Fine Art of Praising Employees

http://m.bnet.com/blog/small-biz-advice/the-fine-art-of-praising-employees/1420?tag=sec-river3

By Jeff Haden | April 28, 2011
On a scale of 1 to 10 — no negative numbers allowed — where would you rate your current or past bosses' skills at recognizing, praising, and rewarding your hard work and achievement?
Let me guess:  A 2?  Maybe a 3?
Effective employee recognition is mostly art, not science. That's why a lot of formal recognition programs quickly sputter and die.  It's easy to spot an insincere, pro forma recognition program.
So don't create a program to praise your employees — you don't need one. Just follow these tips to make sure you're giving them the recognition they deserve:
Treat employees like snowflakes. Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise.  Others cringe and want to run away.  Recognize each employee in the way that produces the greatest impact for them.
Never wait. The greater the interval between performance and recognition, the lower the impact.  Right away is never too soon.
Be specific. Generic praise is nice, but specific praise is wonderful.  Don't just tell me I did a good job; tell me how I did a good job.  Not only will I appreciate the gesture, I'll also know you pay attention.  And I'll know exactly what to do next time, too.
Be sincere. This one should go without saying, but how many times have you been praised by someone who made you feel they were just checking a box on their task list?  Never praise for the sake of praising — you'll only reduce the impact when you really do mean what you say.
Leave out the "constructive" stuff. Many leaders can't withstand the temptation to throw in a little feedback while praising an employee.  (Don't you hate the "say two positive things for every negative" guideline?)  Praise and recognize; leave performance improvement opportunities for later.
Be proactive. Sometimes managers spend too much time looking for problems.  Focus just as much on catching employees doing good things, too.
Try the "just because" flowers approach. Just like a surprise bouquet can make a bigger impact than Valentine's Day roses, unexpected recognition is always more powerful.  Winning the weekly "great customer service" award is nice, but a surprise visit from the CEO to thank someone for winning back a client is priceless.
Always seek a balance. It's easy to recognize some of your best employees.  (Maybe consistent recognition is one of the reasons why they're the best employees?)  Find ways to share the positive feedback love.  You might have to look hard to find reasons to recognize some employees, but that's okay:  A little encouragement may be all a poor performer needs to turn the productivity corner.
Make recognition systemic: To create a culture of recognition, try starting every management meeting differently.  Go around the room and have everyone share two examples of employees they recognized or praised that day. Then you get a nice bonus:  Peer pressure and natural competitiveness will cause many to help their employees accomplish things worthy of praise if only so they have great stuff to report.
Recognizing effort and achievement is self-reinforcing:  When you do a better job of recognizing employees they tend to perform better — giving you even more achievements to recognize.
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8 Things You Should Never Say to Employees

http://m.bnet.com/blog/small-biz-advice/8-things-you-should-never-say-to-employees/1386?promo=713&tag=nl.e713

By Jeff Haden | April 27, 2011
Your employees constantly watch you.  Say the wrong thing, no matter how unintentionally, and at the very least you send the wrong message.  Sometimes what you say can even destroy employee morale.
Here are 8 things a good leader should never say to employees:
"I'm in charge, so this is what we're going to do." Dealing with different opinions or even open dissent is challenging for any leader and can make you feel defensive and insecure.  When that happens you might be tempted to fall back on the golden rule:  She who has the gold makes the rules.  Don't.  Everyone knows you're in charge; saying you are instantly destroys any feelings of collaboration, teamwork, and esprit de corps.  When you can't back up a decision with data or logic, possibly that decision isn't the right decision.  Don't be afraid to back down and be wrong.  Employees respect you even more when you admit you make a mistake.
"I have a great opportunity for you." No, you don't; you just want the employee to agree to take on additional work or the project no one wants.  If you say, "Mary, next week I'm assigning you to work on a new project with our best customer," she immediately knows it's a great opportunity.  If you say, "Mary, I have a great opportunity for you; next week I'm assigning you to sort out the problems in our warehouse," she knows she just got stuck with a less-than-plum assignment.  Any opportunity that really is great requires no preface or setup.  Don't sell.
"Man, this has been a long day.  I'll see you guys.  It's time for me to get out of here." No employee wants to feel your pain. From your perspective, running a business can be stressful, draining, and overwhelming.  From the employee's perspective you have it made because you make all the rules.  Don't expect employee empathy; instead talk about how today was challenging and everyone pulled together, or how you really appreciate that employee's help.
"Hey, that's a great idea — and if we do it this way…" As BNET colleagues Kelly and Marshall Goldsmith note, successful people often try too hard to add value.  (Unsuccessful people do too, by the way.)  You may be able to improve an employee's idea and lay out a specific path for implementation, but in the process you kill their enthusiasm.  Instead, say, "Hey, that's a great idea," then ask questions:  How they came up with the idea, the data or reasoning they used, how they think the idea should be implemented, etc.  In the process the employee may identify small tweaks on her own, and if not you can gently guide him in the right direction.  The best ideas, from an employee's point of view, are not your ideas.  The best ideas are always their ideas, and rightfully so.  Make sure employees' ideas stay their ideas, and everyone benefits.
"Sure, I'll be happy to talk to your brother about a job." The smaller the company the less you can afford interpersonal problems, especially those created by cliques and "alliances."  (Doesn't running a small business sometimes feel like an episode of "Survivor"?)  There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but think carefully before you hire an employee's family member.  Blood is always thicker than business.
"No." Actually, "no" can be okay — as long as it is always followed with an explanation.  Still, better choices are "I don't think we can, and here's why…" or "I would like to, but here's why we can't…" or "That sounds like a great idea, but we'll need to do a couple of things first…"  Explain, explain, explain: As a leader, explaining is near the top of your job description.
"I can't wait to go to Cancun next week." Don't assume your employees will be inspired by and hope to emulate your success. They won't.  Leave your Porsche in the garage.  I've consulted for a number of family-run businesses, and in every instance (sometimes when I was on-site less than a day), at least one employee spoke of resenting how "good" the owners have it — at the expense of underpaid employees.  Is resenting your success, even if you don't flaunt it, fair?  No.  Is it a real issue for employees?  Absolutely.
"We." This one is conditional:  Use "we" when it fits, but never use the royal "we."  Employees are aware there is no "I" in team, but they know when you are paying lip service to "we."  Just as it's incredibly obvious to employees when you take an insincere, obligatory tour to "check in" and show how much you seem to care, it's just as obvious when you say "we" just because you think you should.  Build a real sense of teamwork first and using "we" comes naturally.  Teamwork actions speak much louder than any theoretically inclusive words.
I know there are plenty more.  Feel free to share things on your "do not say" list — and things you wish had never been said to you.
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Smartphone enterprise security risks and best practices

http://m.techrepublic.com/blog/smartphones/smartphone-enterprise-security-risks-and-best-practices/1935

Smartphones

Smartphone enterprise security risks and best practices

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder | December 2, 2010, 5:04 PM PST

If your organization allows users to connect their smartphones to the company network, you need to consider the following potential security risks and then develop policies for addressing those issues. I also list 10 security best practices for your company's smartphone policies.

Potential smartphone security risks
Lack of security software
Smartphones can be infected by malware delivered across the Internet connection, or from an infected PC when the phone is connected to the PC over USB to sync data. It's even possible to infect the phone via a Bluetooth connection. It's a good idea to require that those users who connect their smartphones to your network install security software on the devices.
Mobile security software is available for all of the major smartphone platforms. Some of the most popular mobile security suites include Kaspersky Mobile Security, Trend Micro Mobile Security, F-Secure Mobile Security, and Norton's mobile security products.

Security bypass
Some phones make it easy to bypass security mechanisms for the convenience of the user. This makes it a lot easier and less frustrating for those who are trying to set up their phones to connect, but it also defeats the purpose of those security measures.

For example, I was able to easily set up an Android phone (Fascinate) with an Exchange Server account despite the fact that it notified me that there was a problem with the certificate. It simply asked me if I wanted to accept all SSL certificates and set it up anyway. I clicked Yes and was connected to my mail. On a Windows Phone 7 device, that same message gave me no option for bypassing the certificate problem. I had to import the certificate to the device and install it before I could access the mail. This was obviously more trouble, but also more secure.

Web security
Web browsers on smartphones have gotten a lot better and are actually usable. However, the web is a major source of malicious code, and with a small screen, it's more difficult for users to detect that a site is a phishing site. The malware can then be transferred onto the network from the phone. To protect the network, you should use a corporate firewall that does deep packet inspection of the smartphone traffic.

The Wi-Fi threat
Most modern smartphones utilize the wireless carrier's 3G or 4G network, as well as connect to Wi-Fi networks. If users connect their phones to an unsecured Wi-Fi network, they become vulnerable to attack. If company information (such as a network password) is stored on the phone, this creates a real security issue. If the user connects back to the corporate network over a public Wi-Fi network, it could put the entire company network at risk. Users should be required to connect to the company network via an SSL VPN, so that the data traveling between the phone and the company network will be encrypted in transit and can't be read if it's intercepted.

Data confidentiality
If users store business-related information on their smartphones, they should be required to encrypt the data in storage, both data that is stored on the phone's internal storage and on flash memory cards. Interestingly, a recent article in Cellular News notes that a Goode Intelligence survey found that 64% of users don't encrypt the confidential data stored on their smartphones. This is despite the fact that another survey by Juniper Networks found that more than 76% of users access sensitive information with their mobile devices.

In the past, this could be justified by the amount of processing power required to encrypt data and the slow processors on the phones. Today's phones, however, boast much more powerful hardware; the Motorola Droid 2 Global, for example, has a 1.2 GHz processor.

You also need to consider cached data in smartphone applications that are always running. Some applications display updates on the screen that could contain confidential data, as well. This is another reason to password-protect the phone. Smartphones should be capable of being remotely wiped if lost or stolen.

Physical security
Because of their highly portable nature, smartphones are particularly prone to loss or theft, resulting in unauthorized persons gaining physical access to the devices. In addition, some people may share their phones with family members or loan them to friends from time to time. If those phones are set up with corporate email or VPN software configured to connect to the corporate network, for example, this is a security problem.

A basic measure is to require that users safeguard their devices by enabling PIN or password protection to get into the operating system when you turn the phone on or to unlock it. Most smartphones include this feature but most users don't enable it because it takes a little more time to enter the PIN/password each time. This will protect from access by a casual user who finds the phone or picks it up when the owner leaves it unattended. However, those features can often be defeated by a knowledgeable person.

Android 2.0.1 had a bug that made it easy to get to the homescreen without entering the PIN by simply hitting the Back button when a call came in on the locked Droid. The iPhone had a similar issue in versions 2.0.1 and 2.0.2, which let you get around the security by hitting Emergency Call and double clicking the Home button.

In the future, PINs and passwords may be replaced by biometric or facial recognition systems.

Security best practices for smartphone policies

Smartphone security in the business environment requires a two-pronged approach: protect the phones from being compromised and protect the company network from being compromised by the compromised phones.

Here are some security best practices that you can incorporate into your smartphone policies.

Require users to enable PIN/password protection on their phones.

Require users to use the strongest PINs/passwords on their phones.

Require users to encrypt data stored on their phones.

Require users to install mobile security software on their phones to protect against viruses and malware.

Educate users to turn off the applications that aren't needed. This will not only reduce the attack surface, it will also increase battery life.

Have users turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS when not specifically in use.
Have users connect to the corporate network through an SSL VPN.

Consider deploying smartphone security, monitoring, and management software such as that offered by Juniper Networks for Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.

Some smartphones can be configured to use your rights management system to prevent unauthorized persons from viewing data or to prevent authorized users from copying or forwarding it.

Carefully consider a risk/benefits analysis when making the decision to allow employee-owned smartphones to connect to the corporate network.

Motorola Atrix review: The beginning of the smartphone-as-PC

http://m.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/motorola-atrix-review-the-beginning-of-the-smartphone-as-pc/8101

Tech Sanity Check

Motorola Atrix review: The beginning of the smartphone-as-PC

By Jason Hiner | April 13, 2011, 7:38 AM PDT

When I first saw the Motorola Atrix at CES 2011 in January, I was pretty shocked. I didn't expect to see smartphones that could double as PCs for at least another year or two, and I certainly didn't expect Motorola — and not Microsoft or Apple or Hewlett-Packard — to be the first company to deliver it.

Now that I've had the opportunity to use the Motorola Atrix for a couple weeks — including its two docking accessories — I'm still impressed by what Motorola created. While the Atrix isn't quite ready to replace corporate or personal PCs on a large scale, the phone itself is quite impressive and Motorola's Webtop experience offers a glimpse of where the future of computing is headed.

Photo gallery
Motorola Atrix photos: The docking smartphone

http://www.techrepublic.com/photos/motorola-atrix-photos-the-docking-smartphone/6216338

Specifications
Carrier: AT&T Wireless
OS: Android 2.2.1 (Froyo) with MotoBlur UI; Motorola Webtop
Processor: NVIDIA Tegra 2 AP20H Dual Core
RAM: 1.0GB
Storage: 16GB internal; microSD slot (add up to 32GB)
Display: 4.0-inch qHD, 540×960 resolution, 240 dpi, 24-bit color
Battery: Lithium-ion with 1930 mAh capacity
Ports: Micro USB 2.0, Micro HDMI 1.3, 3.5mm audio jack
Weight: 4.76 ounces (135 grams)
Dimensions: 4.64(h) x 2.5(w) x 0.43(d) inches
Camera: 5MP (2592×1936), auto-focus, dual LED flash, 1.3MP (640×480) front-facing camera
Sensors: Accelerometer, A-GPS, e-compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, fingerprint scanner
Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY
Networks: UMTS 850/1900/2100, GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, HSDPA up to 14.4 Mbps
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR; DLNA
Tethering: USB + mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
Price: $199 (with 2-year contract)

Who is it for?
The Motorola Atrix is the first smartphone with a dual core processor and one of the first to include a full 1.0GB of RAM. It has all of the horsepower needed to run the most demanding Android apps, to multitask, and to soar through multimedia. When you combine that with its Webtop capability, the Atrix is clearly a device for power users who do a lot work on their smartphones beyond just phone calls, email, and light Web surfing. More than any smartphone on the market, the Atrix is capable of replacing a secondary PC.

What problems does it solve?
For years, people have talked about the idea of a smartphone running a full PC operating system and docking to become a full-fledged computer. Bill Gates championed the idea almost a decade ago, and lots of people in the technology industry have been hinting about it the past few years as powerful ARM and Intel chips have gotten dramatically smaller and consumed far less power. Companies like Palm and Redfly toyed with the concept of the smartphone-as-PC before the technology was ready, but Motorola is the first to pull off a device that runs a smartphone OS as well as an embedded desktop OS that offers a full PC experience when docked. Another key innovation of the Atrix is the integration of a fingerprint scanner for logging in and unlocking the device.

Standout features
Speed to burn - The Atrix is smooth and zippy for almost any task you throw at it. A smartphone doesn't really need a full 1.0GB of RAM. The extra is there to run the Webtop in docking mode. So, when you're not docked, there's plenty of RAM to burn for multitasking. The Atrix isn't quite as snappy at opening apps and Web pages as the HTC ThunderBolt, but it doesn't suffer from the battery life challenges of the ThunderBolt either.

Excellent battery life - For a smartphone this powerful, I expected the Atrix to struggle in terms of its battery life. However, Motorola has shown once again that it knows how to balance speed and power in its mobile devices. The NVIDIA's Tegra 2 dual core processor also deserves a nod for battery efficiency (see why NVIDIA says multiple cores can be better for battery life). The Atrix battery easily gets through a full day, even when it's on AT&T's HSPA+ network, and the Lapdock can give it a boost by charging the docked phone even when the Lapdock is unplugged.
Ultra-slim form factor - Smartphones are almost like fashion now in that people prefer different styles and sizes. If you like something a little more svelte in your smartphone, then you'll like the Atrix. It is small, thin, and light — the exact opposite of the ThunderBolt. You pay for it with a little bit smaller 4-inch screen, which is still an excellent display but not as roomy as the ThunderBolt and other 4.3-inch Android devices.

PC-like docking - The Atrix's docking experience uses Motorola's Webtop software, which is essentially a stripped-down, customized version of Ubuntu Linux that primarily runs a Firefox Web browser and MobileView software that pulls up the Android OS in a window on the desktop. That way, you can still answer calls and text messages from your phone while in Webtop mode, as well as open Android apps in full screen view.

Fingerprint scanner - Another thing to add to the list of the Atrix's breakthroughs is that it's the first major smartphone to integrate a fingerprint scanner, which the user can easily set up and which serves as a more secure method of unlocking the device than either a passcode or a pattern lock.

What's wrong?
Webtop feels like a beta - While I'm impressed with how good the Motorola Webtop software is, considering Motorola is a hardware company and not a software company — and keeping in mind that this is version 1.0 of something quite new — the Webtop still feels raw in spots. In the Lapdock, the performance can get pretty laggy, especially when running videos and Flash sites. The performance in the desktop/multimedia dock is better, but it needs to be able to support larger display sizes. In general, I felt like the Webtop experience was acceptable and workable, but it could have really used more power to make it run smoothly. With quad core mobile chips coming soon from NVIDIA and Qualcomm, this kind of software will soon have the hardware it needs to be a much more formidable product.
Plastic finish - For a high-end device that packs in so many innovations and breakthroughs, the Atrix feels remarkably ordinary and even a little cheap when you hold it in your hand. Its plastic casing feels a little more substantial than the Samsung Galaxy S phones, but not much.

Accessories are too expensive - The Lapdock for the Atrix is thin, light, sturdy, and has a very impressive look and feel with its brushed aluminum finish. However, it's just a display, keyboard, touchpad, and extended battery for the docked Atrix, and Motorola has priced it at $499 (you can get it as low as $399 by ordering online). It really shouldn't cost more than $200. The HD Multimedia Dock that you need to connect desktop peripherals to the Atrix retails for $129. Companies typically mark up accessories so that they can make more money on them than the actual devices, but with the Atrix, they've priced them way too high. Even though the Lapdock is impressive, for $400-$500 I can't recommend it.

Bottom line for business
The Motorola Atrix breaks through barriers in performance and mobile experience, and it's one of the most impressive Android devices that you'll be able to get your hands on in 2011. It combines impressive speed with excellent battery life. It packs a lot of punch into a svelte form factor. And, it introduces the first true desktop PC-like experience in a smartphone.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Atrix just for the docking experience, because you'll be likely disappointed. However, if you want a thin, highly-capable smartphone with a battery that can last all day and that can also give you a glimpse of the future of smartphone/PC convergence by serving as a replacement for a secondary PC, then the Atrix is a pretty exciting option.

The concept of the smartphone PC may still be slightly ahead of its time, but Motorola has given it a big boost with the Atrix, and the quad core mobile chips that are coming to market over the next year could give it another push forward. While I don't see this replacing primary PCs for heavy users like software engineers, IT professionals, and financial wizards, I think it could have a big impact on non-desk workers in sales, manufacturing, health care, transportation, etc.

Competitive products
Apple iPhone 4
HTC Inspire
HTC ThunderBolt
Google Nexus S

Where to get more info
AT&T's official Motorola Atrix page
Motorola's official Motorola Atrix page
Motorola's developer specs for the Atrix
Motorola's overview of the Webtop application
AT&T: Smartphones like Motorola Atrix can replace corporate desktops

Why RIM will sell more tablets than everybody except Apple

http://m.zdnet.com/blog/mobile-news/why-rim-will-sell-more-tablets-than-everybody-except-apple/2083?tag=nl.e019

Why RIM will sell more tablets than everybody except Apple

By James Kendrick | April 21, 2011, 2:30pm PDT

http://i.zdnet.com/blogs/jk-4-21-playbook.jpg

Say what you will about the BlackBerry PlayBook, I am convinced RIM is going to sell boatloads of them. Reviews of the PlayBook have been less than stellar, but the ones I've seen are written from the perspective of the techie who compares it to the rest of the tablet field. I am testing the PlayBook, and I see the point being made by these reviews. But I've also been showing it to lots of non-techies, and every BlackBerry owner I've shown it to gets downright excited about the PlayBook. There are millions of folks like these, and I am convinced RIM will sell more tablets than all tablet makers except Apple.

Last night I showed it to such a group, and every person who played with it liked it. There were plenty of comments about how nice the gadget is and how easy it is to use. Those comments were tame compared to the members of the group who currently own BlackBerry phones. These folks reacted like kids on Christmas morning, and got more excited the longer they played with the PlayBook.

The primary beef that reviewers have pointed out is the single best feature according to this group of BlackBerry owners. I'm referring to the lack of native email, calendaring, and contact apps on the PlayBook. That didn't concern this group in the least, and when I explained how the BlackBerry Bridge lets them work with those functions on the PlayBook while leaving the data on the phone, I wasn't prepared for the reaction I got. I actually heard squeals of delight from several BlackBerry owners.

RIM gets it. They understand how devoted the core group of BlackBerry owners is to its products, and they have aimed the PlayBook squarely at them. The BlackBerry is an integral part of these folks' lives, and the PlayBook takes that experience and makes it much better. As one BlackBerry owner told me, "this is a window into my BlackBerry, and that is wonderful!" She went on to exclaim she was going to buy one today. "Let my husband keep his beloved iPad, my PlayBook brings my BlackBerry front and center".

Apple iPad 2 review: Why it's still winning with business users

http://m.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/apple-ipad-2-review-why-its-still-winning-with-business-users/8108

Tech Sanity Check

Apple iPad 2 review: Why it's still winning with business users

By Jason Hiner | April 20, 2011, 6:04 AM PDT

It's been over a month since the arrival of the iPad 2 and Apple still can't build them fast enough for all of the people who are ready to buy one — let alone keep the retail shelves stocked.

Meanwhile, the iPad's two most widely-hyped rivals so far in 2011 — the Motorola Xoom and the BlackBerry PlayBook — have been greeted by mediocre reviews and tepid sales.
Even more surprising is the fact that most business users are choosing the Apple tablet over the ones built by enterprise stalwarts Motorola and RIM. After evaluating the iPad 2 for a month, this review explores the reasons why most business users still prefer the Apple tablet and looks at where the iPad 2 still has work to do from an enterprise perspective.

Photo gallery
Apple iPad 2: Unboxing, accessories, and comparison photos
http://www.techrepublic.com/photos/apple-ipad-2-unboxing-accessories-and-comparison-photos/6220812

Specifications
Carrier: Verizon, AT&T, and international carriers

OS: Apple iOS 4.3

Processor: 1GHz dual core Apple A5
RAM: 512MB

Storage: 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB internal; no SD expansion slot

Display: 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS display; 1024×768, 132 ppi

Battery: Lithium-ion polymer with 6930 mAh capacity

Ports: 30-pin Apple connector, 3.5mm headphone jack

Weight: 1.33 pounds (21.28 ounces, or 601 grams)

Dimensions: 9.50(h) x 7.31(w) x 0.34(d) inches

Camera: backside 720p video recording at 30fps; front-facing VGA

Sensors: Accelerometer, aGPS, digital compass, ambient light sensor, three-axis gyroscope

Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY

Networks: CDMA or GSM; no LTE

Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1+EDR

Tethering: No

Price: Wi-Fi: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB); 3G: $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB),

Who is it for?
As I've said before, I think business users are the unseen force driving a large proportion of the iPad's bullish sales numbers. Nearly everyone I know that has an iPad is a business user who bought the tablet for business meetings, answering emails from the couch or the bedroom, watching movies during business travel, reading news and books, and occasionally handing it to a kid to keep him busy using Angry Birds or Stack the States. While Apple's marketing and promotional videos predominantly show kids and college students and average consumers using the iPad, in the real world, I'd suggest that at least 50% of iPad users are professionals. Of course, the interesting thing with the iPad is that it's a combo work/personal device, and that may be one of the things that's driving its success since many professionals have increasingly blurry boundaries between work time and personal time.

What problems does it solve?
There weren't many desperately-needed fixes after the success of the first generation iPad. The biggest complaints were that it was a little heavy to hold for a long period of time, that it didn't have cameras for video calls, that its screen wasn't nearly as impressive as the iPhone 4, and that it wasn't very powerful as a content creation device. Apple made the second generation iPad 33% thinner and 15% lighter than the original iPad, added front-facing and back-facing cameras (albeit low-quality ones) and FaceTime software for video calls, slightly upgraded the LCD to a brighter, more colorful screen, and added a dual core CPU and a few new apps (GarageBand and iMovie) to help increase some of the iPad's content creation mojo — though it's still not great for complicated emails (w/ attachments) or document creation.

Standout features

The one button solution - As far as tablets go, it's still tough to beat the iPad's simplicity. It's essentially just an app delivery mechanism with multiple screens and a home button. That's it. It doesn't really dazzle you with its UI, and the multitouch user experience could still be enhanced to make it more effective for working with files and documents. Nevertheless, the user experience is simple enough that even the most technophobic old school business executives (who've traditionally had their assistants send all their emails) can pick this thing up and figure it out.

Burgeoning ecosystem - Again, since the iPad is primarily an app delivery system, its strength is the huge (and still growing) catalog of third-party apps. That includes a lot of enterprise software that has jumped on board the iPad express, including apps from Citrix, Cisco, Oracle, SAP, Wyse, IBM, SalesForce.com, and more. Plus, there are lots of clever business apps from smaller players like OmniGraffle, Penultimate, Roambi Visualizer, QlikView, and Board Vantage.

10+ hours of battery life - As I've said before, the real world battery life of 10-12 hours of peak usage is the iPad's quiet killer feature. It allows you to work consistently all day, make it through a cross-continental or overseas flight, or forget to charge the iPad overnight and still have juice to use the next day. Other tablets such as the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab max out at 7-8 hours and don't quite approach the iPad.

The price is still right - While Apple added upgrades and new features to the iPad 2, it kept the same aggressive pricing structure, starting at $500 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and scaling up to $829 for the 64GB 3G models. Other tablets have struggled to match the iPad's price tag for a number of reasons, which I've written about.

What's wrong?
Email app needs major improvement - My biggest complaint about the iPad is the email application. It's very bare bones, and even a little awkward in terms of the way that it always leaves a message open in the preview pane as you scan through your mailbox. It also doesn't integrate any of the features of popular email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook and Gmail, and it does not handle attachments very well.

Cameras are awful - While Apple added front-facing and rear-facing cameras to the iPad 2, the cameras are very low quality. Both the photos and videos taken with the iPad 2 are grainy, pixelated, and disappointing. The cameras are mostly there for video calling, since taking photos with a big tablet like this is pretty silly. However, with that in mind, Apple should swap the cameras. It should put the higher quality camera on the front and put the low-res camera on the back (used only for showing what you're looking at when you're on a video call). All in all, the cameras on the iPad 2 are worse than the cameras on the Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. I suspect that the low-quality cameras are a result of Apple trying to keep the price of the iPad down. Still, Apple should have done a better job here.

Enterprise is an afterthought - While Apple has spent a lot more effort making the iPhone and the iPad friendly to the enterprise than it ever did with the Mac, the enterprise features of the iPad are still an afterthought to Apple — simply an additional revenue stream. Steve Jobs has made it clear that he does not think very highly of the way things work in the enterprise. As a result, I doubt we'll see Apple do the kinds of things Samsung is doing to court the enterprise, such as drop-shopping 10,000 Wi-Fi tablets at a discounted price, integrating hardware encryption, and partnering extensively with enterprise software companies.
Apple lock-in - One of the greatest obstacles that the iPad has to overcome with some business and IT professionals is that, like most Apple products, it's locked into the Apple ecosystem and doesn't play very nice with other products outside of that ecosystem. For example, unlike other mobile devices, the iPad 2 doesn't support DLNA for wireless streaming to TVs — it only supports the Apple TV's proprietary protocol. While Apple is certainly not alone among tech vendors in trying to push its own software and services on its customers, it is the most aggressive. And, while Apple often does this in the name of streamlining the customer experience, it can lead to annoyances and frustrations for many customers who have a diverse coterie of tech that they work with on a daily basis.

Bottom line for business
The iPad 2 is a minimal refinement of the original iPad that adds a better screen, a slimmer form factor, and a dual core processor (the new cameras are barely worth mentioning). However, by retaining its great battery life, simple user experience, huge catalog of apps, and low price, the iPad 2 has enough to maintain a stronghold over the nascent multitouch tablet market. Even among business professionals — many of whom use the iPad for both work and personal use — the iPad 2 remains the tablet of choice. And, judging by the early competitors so far this year, it's not in danger of being dethroned in 2011.

Competitive products
Motorola Xoom
Samsung Galaxy Tab
BlackBerry PlayBook
HP TouchPad