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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Illiterate Fisherman at 90, Literary Star at 98!

Retired Stonington lobsterman, 98, pens best-seller
By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day
Published 12/12/2011 12:00 AMUpdated 12/12/2011 12:29 AM
Tim Martin/The Day

In this Nov. 16 photo, Mark Hogan, left, of Mystic, a volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut, examines a book called "In a Fisherman's Language" written by Jim Henry, right, of Mystic. Hogan tutored Henry, now 98, for two years, teaching him how to read and write.

Jim Henry's story sells out first printing, attracts interest as far away as Greece, Germany
Mystic - He may not have learned to read and write until he was 91, but Jim Henry is becoming a literary star.
Since the 98-year-old Academy Point resident released his first book, "In a Fisherman's Language" last month, he and his family have found themselves immersed in a world of book printings, agents, publicity and film rights.
The book's first printing of 780 copies sold out in just two weeks and a new shipment of 1,000 more arrived last week. A New York City film producer has contacted Henry and his family, they now have a book agent and a textbook publisher wants to feature his story in one of its books. A German television station and Greek newspaper are doing stories about him, there's a offer for an audio book and Kindle and Amazon want to offer an e-version.
And people from not just around the country but the world have called and emailed wanting a book.
"Everyone seems to have a story to share about why they want to give someone the book," said Henry's oldest grandchild, Marlisa McLaughlin, who's found herself working as his agent.
"It's been the most amazing, unifying experience I've ever had," she said.
McLaughlin added that family members have helped answer emails and send out books to those who order them.
"I've had to have a crash course in running a small business," she said. "But we can't handle the distribution of all these books. It's way too big for us."
So they have hired a New York City agent and McLaughlin said they are talking with a large publishing house about a second edition that would include a hardcover book.
But before Henry gets too famous, the retired Stonington lobsterman will hold a public book signing on Sunday, Dec. 18, at the senior housing project where he lives.
Quit school in third grade
Henry's story is almost made for the movies.
When he was a third-grade student, his father made him and his brother quit school so they could work odd jobs.
When he was 18 he moved to Stonington Borough, and he went on to not only captain a lobster boat, but also work at Electric Boat and serve in the National Guard. He became a skilled carpenter and plumber and even designed and built his own home in Stonington. He helped found the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony and ran it for years.
Over the years, he hid his illiteracy from friends and relatives by employing a variety of tricks, such as ordering what he heard someone else ask for when he went to a restaurant. He could write his name just well enough get by.
Learning to read at 91
Then, seven years ago, at 91, Henry was inspired after learning about the story of George Dawson, the grandson of a slave who wanted to earn his high school diploma by learning how to read and write at 98. Dawson went on to write the book "Life is So Good."
Henry began by reading books designed for first-graders and spent countless hours practicing how to write, first the alphabet and his name, then small words.
Mark Hogan, a retired East Lyme English teacher who is a volunteer with Literary Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut, spent many hours with Henry helping him read and write and the editing the book.
"In a Fishermen's Language" is a collection of short stories such as the time he was unable to save a fellow fisherman who fell overboard, his time as professional boxer and his arrival by boat from Portugal with his parents. Many of the stories involve his career on the ocean.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 Buzzwords to Take Off Your LinkedIn Profile Now

10 Buzzwords to Take Off Your LinkedIn Profile Now
December 13, 2011 10:21 am

LinkedIn, the social-networking site for people with business cards, has released its list of the year's most overused professional buzzwords, culled from the profiles of its 135 million members. As one might expect, they're terms that sound awfully nice but say almost nothing specific about a person. They're the type of terms that are roughly the equivalent of listing "showing up to work" in your skills section. (Note: this might be rough to read if you are one of the people using these words, but we all need tough love sometimes.)

For example, dynamic is at No. 10. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, its primary meaning is "of or pertaining to force producing motion: often opposed to static." So by using this word, you have literally told your potential employer that you are adept at not being stationary. You are the type of person who does things and moves from place to place.

At No. 9 is communication skills, and at No. 8 we have problem solving. Both of these guarantee nothing more than the person not being paralyzed by the prospect of a conversation or an empty stapler. Innovative is No. 7 and motivated is No. 6 — two more generic adjectives suggesting attributes that an employer would probably like to take for granted.

Track record is at No. 5. Note that it is not specified whether this track record is good or bad, though this person definitely has a track record of some kind. More important, a curriculum vitae is a track record in and of itself. Listing "track record" on a résumé is the equivalent of putting "reasons you should date me" on your OkCupid profile. Or tacking "things I need to buy" onto your shopping list.

At No. 4, we have extensive experience. (Please see above paragraph.)

At No. 3 is effective, a promise that when you are being dynamic, you're really making the most of it. And in second place, we have organizational — which may be important if you are, say, applying to be an accountant. But in most cases, it is not the most striking skill to be championing — it's like saying one is punctual or has neat handwriting.

And the No. one most overused professional buzzword is creative. This attribute, like many of the others, is one that is better shown than told. As LinkedIn's connection director put it in a release, "Use language that illustrates your unique professional accomplishments and experiences. Give concrete examples of results you've achieved whenever possible and reference attributes that are specific to you." And please, never use the word synergy without your tongue firmly pressed into your cheek.

Posted by Katy Steinmetz

Monday, December 26, 2011

A marriage of convenience

Saturday December 24, 2011

A marriage of convenience


HAVE you ever tried shopping for a 24 carat diamond? No? Never? Me neither.

Ever since I wrote about replacing the diamond with 24 roses to celebrate my wedding anniversary, my wife's sisters-in-arms have bombarded me with messages of disbelief calling me stingy, kedekut and unloving. They could not understand how her sacrifice of staying married to a guy like me was not worth at least a carat a year. I was stumped.

How do you value a relationship? From our marriage, my wife already owns 50% of everything that I own. Well... almost. In addition, she claims that her money is her money and my money is also her money. By the rule of the law and not by choice, I am actually generous to my wife to the point of being broke.

How do you value a business relationship? As an entrepreneur, you are always in partnership with somebody. Different valuations for different partnerships.

Partnership of convenience. Partnership of necessity. Partnership of greed.

Partnership is like marriage. Exciting moments of romance. Virgin wedding nights. Painful mutual discoveries. Then zombie existence. Partners till death do you part. In heavy losses or in share of heavenly profits.

Married partnerships are basically husband and wife teams or couples of the same sex. Like Batman and Robin, one personality should be more dominating than the other. Even better if their personalities complement each other. In my case, I do all the talking and my better half do all the work. That's great team work.

There are great debates over the merits of husband and wife working together in the same company. It's a no no if both are employees. It is just too complicated for everyone in the company.

However, as owners and entrepreneurs, a husband and wife team can be quite successful. As long as the wife can soothe the guy's ego and the husband can patiently listen to the day's woes. If it works, it is just good chemistry. That's all there is to it. No magic formulas and no marriage counselling required. I have seen some entrepreneur couples end up in divorce. Great teamwork, high profile and very successful in building their business. They just drift apart as individuals or because of mid-life infidelity. When the couple becomes successful, the wife will tend to spend lavishly on herself, to keep herself looking young and well accessorised. The husband will spend lavishly on the other younger women to keep himself feeling young and well satisfied. Broken business and broken families.

Friends in partnerships brings back fond memories. Back in the 80s, it was trendy for a group of 10 friends to invest RM10,000 each to open a pub. Since everyone loves to drink, it makes sense to open their own pub where everyone knows your name. Business was good as all the partners brought in their friends and acted like proud owners, bought drinks for everyone. Only problem was, payment was signed on 555 notebook, not on credit card slips. Soon, the pub ran out of cash and the poor hired manager was blamed for weak and irresponsible management by all the partners.

Doing business with friends have probably given me the most difficult moments. Over the years, I have lost a friend or two when I had to make a tough call. It is even more difficult when family members are involved.

On hind sight, I should have been more transparent with them. The gweilo approach of being upfront with your expectations and having clear defined roles and responsibilities will prevent any misunderstanding in the future. Nothing personal. Strictly business.

As an entrepreneur, you are always evaluating options on partnership issues. Is it better to have partners or to go it alone? If you go public, you will have to answer to hundreds or thousands of partner shareholders. Are you up to it?

If you are on your own, you only answer to yourself. This is my ideal entrepreneurship model.

But if you need financing or certain set skills, then you will have to engage in a partnership of necessity. There will be an increased element of uncertainty as now you not only have to grow the business but you have to learn how to manage other shareholder expectations. Learn to leave your ego outside when you walk into the meeting room. You are only as good as your last financial year.

Partnership of convenience is normally short term in nature. Team up, make money then split up. Until the next opportunity comes along. This partnership works particularly well if all partners have mutual trust and are contented with their fair share of spoils. In times of global and political uncertainty, this approach reduces risk in addition to a quicker turnaround return on investment.

Who would have thought that PAS and DAP will engage in a partnership of convenience? With ideologies poles apart, they have mutual distrust and like all politicians, are never contented with their fair share of spoils.

Sniffing the possibility of more success, they are now engaged in a partnership of necessity. Which makes them look like an odd couple. Throw in PKR and we now have a mish mash offering of rojak to the poor suffering voters.

With a GE 13 menu of either rojak or Barisan's nasi campur minus the beef, voters will have to make a choice. Chances are, the poor rakyat will go hungry for another 5 years. While the partners of greed continue to feast upon the wealth of the nation. Santa Claus is indeed coming to town. The season of giving has just started.

To all entrepreneurs, Merry Christmas.

The writer is an entrepreneur who hopes to shares his experience and insights with readers who want to take that giant leap into business but are not sure if they should. Email him at

Saturday, December 24, 2011

10 biggest ERP software failures of 2011

10 biggest ERP software failures of 2011

It was another year filled with high-profile problem ERP projects

By Chris Kanaracus
December 20, 2011 09:43 AM ET

IDG News Service - With the year drawing to a close, one thing seems abundantly clear: There are still an awful lot of ERP and other software projects running off the rails out there.
Software project failures are no fun for anyone involved. They lead to piles of wasted money and effort, heaps of accusations and recriminations, and even to lawsuits.

Here's a look at some of the highest-profile problem projects to surface this year.

UK government scraps the 12 billion National program for IT in the NHS
In September, U.K. officials pulled the plug on what is considered to be the largest public IT project of all time, an attempt to provide electronic health records for all of the country's citizens.
The sprawling effort was begun in 2002 but failed to produce a workable system, despite massive spending outlays that have been estimated at about 12 billion (US$18.7 billion).

The U.K.'s Major Projects Authority concluded the project was "not fit to provide the modern IT services that the NHS needs."

"The higher they fly the farther they fall," said Michael Krigsman, CEO of the consulting firm Asuret, which helps companies run successful IT projects. "They tried to impose a centralized solution onto just an enormous geographic and political base. It was a massive undertaking filled with political differences and technical failures, and in the end it serves as an example of what not to do."

New York City's CityTime project
Fallout continued this year over New York's massive CityTime payroll system project, which has been wracked by cost overruns and a criminal probe into an alleged kickback scheme involving former employees of systems integrator SAIC and a subcontractor, TechnoDyne.

CityTime originally had a $63 million budget, but costs since skyrocketed astonishingly, with total estimates reportedly reaching $760 million.

In June, officials indicted TechnoDyne executives Reddy and Padma Allen. Others, including a number of former SAIC employees, have also been charged.

New York officials are seeking to recover money paid to SAIC. Earlier this month, SAIC said it had set aside a $232 million loss provision in connection with the case.

SAP project woes impact Ingram Micro's profits -- twice
In April, massive technology distributor Ingram Micro announced that problems with an SAP project in Australia had made a significant dent in its first-quarter profits.

Net income stood at $56.3 million, a drop from $70.3 million in the same quarter the previous year, Ingram Micro said at the time. The shortfall was "primarily attributable to difficulties transitioning to a new enterprise system in Australia," it said.
Ingram Micro went on to stress that the system would provide a great deal of value and efficiency once in place. However, it also warned that its financial results may yet again be impacted by the project's issues, a premonition that proved true.

In the second quarter, net income stood at $59.7 million, down from $67.7 million in the same period last year, Ingram Micro reported in July.

However, the SAP project's issues had been largely resolved, it said.
Montclair State University sues Oracle over a PeopleSoft project, but Oracle returns fire

In May, Montclair State University in New Jersey filed suit against Oracle, claiming the vendor had completely botched a PeopleSoft project that was supposed to replace the school's aging legacy systems.

Because of Oracle's alleged misdeeds, it might cost up to $20 million to finish the project, Montclair has claimed.

But Oracle quickly fired back, claiming that the problems were the school's fault.

"When issues arose during the course of the project, it became clear that MSU's leadership did not adequately understand the technology and the steps necessary to complete the project," Oracle said in a court filing. "Instead of cooperating with Oracle and resolving issues through discussions and collaboration, MSU's project leadership, motivated by their own agenda and fearful of being blamed for delays, escalated manageable differences into major disputes."

Montclair recently filed an amended complaint that adds a wealth of detail to its claims, including an allegation that Oracle ran a "rigged" software demo during the sales process and was also guilty of extortion.
Oracle hasn't commented on Montclair's latest claims.

Epicor sued by customer over ERP project that turned into a 'big mess'
Some ERP failures are bigger than others with respect to scope and cost, but they all can have a serious impact on a company's operations.

Commercial outdoor furniture seller ParknPool took Epicor to court in late November over a "big mess" of an ERP project that it says will results in it taking a loss this year.

ParknPool was looking to move up from its QuickBooks system, which it was outgrowing, Jim Fonner, administrative manager of the Lexington, Virginia, company, told IDG News Service in a previous interview.

It chose Epicor over a Sage system because Epicor's product seemed more tightly integrated, Fonner said. But nothing seemed to go right once the contract was signed, according to ParknPool, which has about 20 employees.

"Epicor said they could do it in seven weeks. We gave them seven months, and we got zero," he said in the interview. "I couldn't even look at a profit-and-loss statement. We couldn't process orders. We were saying, 'QuickBooks is so much better than this' and we were paying $3,500 a year for it."

In a previous statement, Epicor denied wrongdoing: "Our products, consulting personnel and partner performed well, all of which Epicor believes will be borne out as we defend our position in any proceedings."

Marin County accuses SAP, Deloitte Consulting of a racketeering scheme
In February, the government of Marin County, California, sued Deloitte Consulting and SAP in federal court, claiming they had "engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity" aiming at bilking the county out of more than $20 million in connection with a failed ERP project.

Marin County had originally sued Deloitte in a lower court last year, claiming that the systems integrator had dumped inexperienced workers on the project, which led to the problems.

The county has decided to rip out the SAP software and replace it with something else, in the belief that doing so would be a lower-cost option to finishing the job.

Its suit alleges that SAP and Deloitte are in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act (RICO). Under the statute, the county's desired $35 million in damages would be tripled.
Marin County later said that SAP enticed it into joining a "Ramp-Up" early adopter program for the software suite, a move it claims ended up contributing to the project's failure since the software was new and risky.

SAP and Deloitte have both denied any culpability. Deloitte has called Marin County's federal suit a "frivolous" tactic and an attempt to get a more favorable legal forum for its claims, while SAP has questioned why it would want to collude with Deloitte on a project that was doomed to fail, among other defenses.

The lawsuit has yet to go to trial. A case management conference is set for Jan. 27.

Epicor customer sues after allegedly wild cost overruns

It's common, and the cynical might say expected, for ERP projects to end up costing more than originally expected. But five times as much?
That's the claim of Whaley Foodservice Repairs of South Carolina, which sued Epicor in August.

Whaley, which sells and fixes equipment used by commercial kitchens, first started talking to Epicor about an ERP project in 2006. The system was supposed to be implemented and live in Whaley's home office as well as a dozen branches by March 2007, but that goal was never met and the software has never worked as it was supposed to, according to Whaley's lawsuit.

The project's implementation topped $1 million, or more than five times the original estimate of $190,000, according to the suit. Epicor has denied wrongdoing, and says that under the terms of the companies' agreement, Whaley still owes it more than $283,000.

Auditors: ERP software woes could cost Idaho millions

In March, an Idaho state auditor released a report that found that problems with a new system developed by Unisys for processing Medicaid claims could end up leading to the loss of millions of dollars.

The system is supposed to handle claims from health care organizations that treat patients who receive Medicaid. But design defects and other issues led to many payment delays and faulty processing of claims, according to the auditor. The state ended up sending more than $100 million in advance payments to providers while figuring out the problems.

It since began attempting to get that money back, but some $2 million was "at risk of not being recouped at all," the report said.

The auditor's report also pinpointed a potential root cause for the problems, noting that the system went live before certain testing milestones had been reached.

Lawson, CareSource Management head to court

Health care plan administrator CareSource Management Group sued Lawson Software in September, claiming that an ERP system from the company hadn't been able to get beyond the testing phase and wasn't the fully integrated suite Lawson promised.

The system instead was two modules, including the then-new Lawson Talent Management, according to the organization's suit. CareSource was in fact one of the first companies to install the new application, it added.

As the project went on, severe data-transfer issues between the talent management module and a financial application occurred, to the degree that at one point CareSource had 20 open tech-support cases with Lawson, it states. CareSource is demanding at least $1.5 million in damages.

In response, Lawson acknowledged that "certain issues" occurred with the modules' integration, but they were resolved. In addition, while the project did remain in a testing phase, CareSource "halted" it before filing the lawsuit, according to Lawson, which is seeking more than $335,000 in unpaid fees.

SAP-IBM payroll system woes fouled up nurses' pay

Nurses in Nova Scotia reportedly suffered through at least six months of faulty paychecks this year due to problems with an SAP system project led by IBM.

After the Victorian Order of Nurses flipped the switch on the SAP system in January, some nurses got shortchanged while others got double their expected pay, said Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, in a July interview.

"My concern is with the nurses that got $100 more," Hazelton said. "They may not have noticed it. Our pay is never the same."

SAP's payroll software is solid technology, but tricky to implement given all the variables with worker pay, as well as the job of mapping over details from the legacy system, consultant Jarret Pazahanick previously told IDG News Service.

Most problematic SAP payroll project failures have the same characteristics, according to Pazahanick: "The common thread is junior consultants and weak testing."

Despite the above roll-call of ERP horrors, there's reason to be hopeful, said consultant Krigsman.

While the number of high-profile failures was about the same this year as last, Krigsman thinks the industry "is waking up to the fact that customers find this situation abhorrent and unacceptable." And many of the major vendors are taking steps to address the problem.

But, "ERP vendors are only one step in a broader ecosystem that includes the customers and the system integrators," Krigsman said.

"Ultimately solving the problem requires coordination among these three groups, but certainly the ERP vendors should take strong leadership."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Plans to migrate LAPD to Google's cloud apps dropped

Service is incompatible with FBI's security requirements, city says

By Jaikumar Vijayan
December 22, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - After more than two years of trying, the City of Los Angeles has abandoned plans to migrate its police department to Google's hosted email and office application platform saying the service cannot meet certain FBI security requirements.

As a result, close to 13,000 law-enforcement employees will remain indefinitely on the LAPD's existing Novell GroupWise applications, while other city departments will use the Google Apps for Government cloud platform.

Council members last week amended a November 2009 contract the city has with systems integrator Computer Science Corp. (CSC) under which CSC was supposed to have replaced LA's GroupWise e-mail system with Google's email and collaboration system. Under the amended contract, the LAPD will no longer move its email applications to Google.

Instead, Google will pay up to $350,000 per year for the LAPD to maintain its GroupWise licenses for the entire term of the CSC contract and any extensions beyond that. Google will also substantially reduce the amount it charges for the rest of the city's use of Google Apps. Under the amendment, CSC too will reduce its initial integration fee for the project by $250,000.

Earlier this month, LA's chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller, and its chief administrative officer, Miguel Santana, said the contract amendment was necessary because the Google service could not be brought into compliance with the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) requirements.

"Although CSC does not have the technical ability to comply with the City's security requirements, it should be noted that the DOJ requirements are not currently compatible with cloud computing," the two wrote in a memo to council members.

The CJIS database is maintained by the FBI and is one of the world's largest repositories of criminal history records and fingerprints. The records are accessible to law enforcement officials around the country, but all entities authorized to access the database are required to comply with a strict set of security requirements pertaining to the manner in which the data is accessed, shared, transmitted, stored and destroyed. The security requirements include encryption of all data, both in transit and at rest, and FBI background checks on anyone who accesses the database. The policy applies to anyone with access to the database, including contractors.
The contract amendment proposal recommended by Miller and Santana does not make it clear how Google and CSC failed to comply with those requirements.

In the past however, city officials have not minced words in expressing their frustration over the issue. In a strongly worded notice of deficiencies to CSC last December, LA CTO Randi Levin blasted Google and CSC for repeatedly committing to deadlines for implementing the security requirements but then failing to meet them. At the time, Levin noted that the delays had forced the LAPD to move about 1,900 users who had migrated to Google's new email system back to the old GroupWise platform. The delay also caused the LAPD to postpone its planned migration of 4,000 more users to the new system last October, Levin said.

In April, the Los Angeles Times reported that the city was considering suing Google and CSC over their delay in implementing the CJIS security requirements, despite assuring city officials that they would do so.
Google maintains that the LAPD's security requirements were never part of the original contract. The company claims that the security requirements were introduced only after the migration to Google Apps was well underway at LA. According to the company, CJIS requirements are incompatible with cloud computing environments, and therefore present a unique challenge not just for Google but any cloud vendor attempting to migrate a law enforcement system to the cloud.

On Tuesday, the company reiterated those claims in an emailed statement: "We're disappointed that the City introduced requirements for the LAPD after the contract was signed that are, in its own words, 'currently incompatible with cloud computing,' the Google statement said. "We realize this means the LAPD may not be joining the 17,000 other City employees successfully using Google Apps. Even so, Los Angeles taxpayers have already saved more than two million dollars and the City expects to save millions more in the years ahead."

Jeff Gould, CEO of IT consulting firm Peerstone Research, said that Google's problems may have to do with an FBI requirement that all IT contractor personnel pass a criminal background check and sign a document known as the FBI Security Addendum. Levin's notice of deficiency says that the LAPD embarked on its migration to Google Apps based on the understanding that Google and CSC employees, who were required to sign the addendum, would do so by October 2010.

However, some of Google's support staff with access to Google Apps for Government servers, are based in Europe and will likely be unwilling to sign such an addendum, said Gould, who belongs to a group called that is focused on promoting a set of best practices for cloud deployment in the government. The FBI does not mandate that support personnel be based in the U.S, he said.
However, EU law might make it difficult for Google and others to get European employees to submit to FBI screening and fingerprinting, he said.

Gould added that it is disingenuous for Google or others to claim that CJIS requirements are incompatible with cloud environments. Google and CSC should have known what the requirements were because the CJIS policy document at the time the contract was signed clearly spells them out.

Going forward, the LAPD has the option of upgrading GroupWise, switching to a competing on-premise technology, or moving to cloud email services such as Microsoft's Exchange Online, which complies with CJIS, he said.

The lesson here for other city governments looking to move their police departments to cloud apps is not to get scared off by LA's experience, Gould said. Rather what it highlights is the need for them to do their due diligence better before embarking on it, he said.

"I see CJIS compliance requirements posing a problem for all large-scale cloud vendors, which are having difficulty getting U.S. nationals to perform all cloud-related work," said Matthew Cain, an analyst with Gartner.
"Most mega-vendors utilize some off-shore resources for development and operational reasons."

An LA City spokeswoman directed questions about the city's decision to Levin and to an LAPD spokeswoman. Neither one could be reached immediately.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Firefox - Different by Design

Firefox = Speed, Flexibility and Security.
As a non-profit, Firefox is free to innovate on your behalf without any pressure to compromise. That means a better experience for you and a brighter future for the Web.

Best Practices in Implementing Self-Checkout

Dec 01, 2011
Best Practices in Implementing Self-Checkout

By Rick Chavie, NCR Corp.
Introducing self-service technology can reap enormous benefits for retailers if implemented strategically, keeping in mind the store's current business model, culture, clientele and goals. For convenience stores, incorporating self-checkout systems can dramatically improve store operations, revenue generation and customer satisfaction. According to research conducted by The NPD Group for NCR Corp., two out of three consumers would prefer to have self-checkout available when they shop in a physical store. And, for the most part, the "convenience store culture" is uniquely suited to embrace and benefit from self-service technologies, like self-checkout.

Caters to On-the-Go Environment/Customers

First, convenience stores are already equipped with "serve yourself" features like ATMs, pay-at-the-pump gas, and self-serve coffee and food stations. Not only do customers enter convenience stores expecting to serve themselves, many prefer it. In fact, that same research study by The NPD Group found that more than half of consumers find having the option to use self-service kiosks and/or self-checkout is important for creating a positive experience, and one out of five find it to be extremely important.

By nature, convenience store customers are on the go, looking to pick up a few items quickly and get on their way. Technologies, like self-checkout, that support and maximize this expedited business model are good solutions for convenience store retailers looking to optimize customer satisfaction and create a positive "serve yourself" experience.

Short lines, quick transaction times and efficient staff assistance when requested are critical to securing repeat customers. If the typical on-the-go convenience store customer finds that they are frequently slowed down by waiting for a parking space and then standing in line to check out, they will find a convenience store that better caters to their needs.

Allows Redeployment of Resources
The typical convenience store customer does not want to wait for service. Most convenience stores operate with very limited staff -- often just one employee working at a time -- and limited time for customer related tasks such as checkout, restocking refrigerators and shelves, brewing coffee and replenishing fountain modules and hot/prepared food. This doesn't include other duties, including cleaning the store, handling vendor orders and correspondence, emptying trash containers and checking on gas delivery.

With self-checkout systems in place, busy convenience store staffs will have more free time to offer personal assistance when requested, delivering better customer service as needed.

Drives Repeat Customers & Long-Term Gains
Offering self-checkout has a wide-ranging, positive impact on the customer experience. Introducing self-checkout systems not only improves store operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, but also increases revenue generation. C-stores experience peaks in customer flow, and must keep checkout lines moving to maximize the number of transactions and decrease the number of walkaways.

When customers in a rush see a long, stagnant line, they will leave. Fifty percent of c-store customers admitted that they became so frustrated waiting in a retailer line that they walked out without completing their purchase, according to the 2008 Maritz Poll, "Are Checkout Lines Affecting Retailers' Bottom Lines?"

Delivering a fast checkout process is critical to fostering repeat customers who know they can expect a quick stop at the store. Selecting reliable, state-of-the-art self-service technology that has minimal disruptions and fewer equipment failures will facilitate quick transactions, keep lines moving and reduce parking lot and in-store congestion. Overall, customer flow is improved by speeding up point-of-sale transactions. Self-checkout allows for more customers per hour and therefore, the opportunity for increased sales.

In the May 2010 issue of Convenience Store News, Maria Fidelibus, vice president of technology for c-store chain Quick Chek, said "self-checkout has allowed the stores to handle more customers during peak periods, while reducing checkout lines and parking lot congestion; increased the number of transactions completed hourly … allowed store employees to complete tasks in the store rather than having to stop and assist during the checkout process."

Retailers can redeploy staffs who would have previously worked at checkout stations during peak rush to assist customers as they shop, improving the customer's experience while in the store.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Once each retailer determines that self-service technologies are appropriate, creative integration based on each store's unique needs will be important to success -- one size does not fit all.

C-stores should closely review their POS transaction logs (T-logs) and evaluate analytics to determine if self-checkout is an appropriate addition to the store's infrastructure. Analytics include volume of transactions, average amount of each purchase and purchase methods. This data helps determine which self-service hardware and software best fits the store's needs and how many systems will offer the best return on investment.

Implementation is also an important consideration when adopting self-checkout systems. Placement, front-end integration, and aesthetics like color and size have a significant impact on how the technology is received by customers and how valuable the systems are for revenue generation. For example, c-stores are small and space must be maximized. Effective integration of self-checkout systems makes the best use of limited real estate and positions the hardware in a manner that increases sales. The latter can include arranging smaller, last-minute purchase items like candy and gum around the machines.

Quick Chek demonstrates a successful model of a store that effectively implemented self-checkout and has benefitted from the investment. Working with its technology provider, Quick Chek selected self-checkout systems with a sleek, "saw-tooth alignment" to match the look and feel of their stores. With candy racks placed around the machines to make the best use of space, the POS station offers a welcoming, visually pleasing transaction point.

In sum, c-stores have the potential to see great benefits from the implementation of self-service technologies. Self-checkout systems are well-suited to fit consumer demands, business operations and the existing "culture" of a typical c-store. However, retailers must understand and consider their business analytics and clientele preferences when selecting and incorporating self-checkout systems to ensure the greatest return on investment.

Rick Chavie is vice president, marketing, retail and hospitality solutions, for NCR Corp. He brings extensive experience in global retail industry roles with major service providers and retailers. He has served as senior vice president for Industry Solution Management at SAP where he created a new vision for SAP's retail industry leadership and global innovation; led Strategy and International for The Home Depot including responsibility for Home Depot's China entry, and played a key role in developing Accenture's retail consulting practices in Germany and Japan. A Fulbright Scholar in International Trade, Chavie holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) and a master's of business administration degree from the Harvard Business School.

Kum & Go Adds Radiant Technology to Portfolio

Dec 14, 2011
Kum & Go Adds Radiant Technology to Portfolio

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Kum & Go and NCR Corp. reached an agreement to bring the Duluth, Ga.-based supplier's Radiant convenience store technology into the locally based retailer's stores, which number over 400.

Kum & Go chose the Radiant solution to manage a wide range of its business operations from one system, including fuel island, foodservice and multichannel marketing initiatives. The full breadth of the solution includes point-of-sale software and hardware terminals, fuel controllers and electronic payment controllers. The integration of the solution will enable Kum & Go to deliver an exceptional customer experience, helping the company connect with consumers both inside and outside the store, according to NCR.

"We were looking for a technology solution that could easily scale with us and support future growth initiatives," stated Kum & Go CFO Craig Bergstrom. "NCR was able to meet our needs and provides a strong, feature-rich technology that decreases our overall technology costs."

NCR acquired Radiant Systems, a point-of-sale solution provider to convenience stores and other specialty retail markets, through a cash tender offer of $28 per Radiant Systems share this summer. The equity purchase price totaled $1.2 billion, as CSNews Online previously reported.

"As the leading technology provider for the c-store industry, NCR is focused on delivering innovative and reliable solutions that drive profitable growth and simplify c-store operations," said Jimmy Frangis, vice president, NCR Hospitality and Specialty Retail. "We value our new relationship with Kum & Go and are proud to work with a company that shares our vision of providing industry-leading customer service."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

KB14320-How to Maximize Battery Life and Free Memory on the BlackBerry smartphone

BlackBerry - Battery Power Saving Tips

Battery Power Saving Tips

Charge BlackBerry® smartphone as much as possible
Use wall chargers as the preferred charging method

Reduce volume
Use headphones
Load media using the BlackBerry® Desktop Manager (Avoids resizing)
Turn off equalizer settings (Media – Options)

Visit mobile sites where applicable
Turn Repeat Animations to a lower setting (Browser – Options – General Properties)
Close browser when finished using (close with ESC key, not red End key)

Reduce Backlight Timeout (Options – Screen/Keyboard)
Reduce Backlight Brightness (Options – Screen/Keyboard)
Holster smartphone (turns off LCD automatically)
Set Audible Roll to mute (Options – Screen/Keyboard)
Key Tone Off (Options – Screen/Keyboard)
Use a sleeve when storing the smartphone in a pocket

Network Connections
Turn off unused connections when not in use, i.e. GPS, Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth®
Use Auto On/Off
Use single mode only (1XEV, 2G only, 3G only)

Use shortcuts instead of activating Java® menus (Browser – Options – Browser Configuration)

Turn off flash (Camera – Options)
Set picture size to Small (Camera – Options)
Set Color Effect to Normal (Camera – Options)
Set Picture Quality to Normal (Camera – Options)

When exiting, be sure to close the app, not leave it running in the background (close with ESC key, not red End key)
Log out of third-party applications when they are not needed (Instant Messaging, etc.)

Set Audible notification to Off (Profiles)
Turn off coverage LED (Profiles)

Use the zoom out function to get the largest viewable area that you can still use usefully

To learn more about making the most of your BlackBerry smartphone, view an interactive demo.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mobile device management: More than just software

Tablets in the Enterprise

Mobile device management: More than just software

By Joshua Burke | December 19, 2011, 7:52 AM PST

Mobile device management (MDM) solutions for the enterprise are exploding into the market, and selecting an MDM solution has never been more difficult. The industry is far from mature, the client bases for most vendors are small, track records specifically around mobile are short, and costs are all over the board.

MDM generally enters organizations as a tactical need; there's some point of pain that must be resolved immediately. The important steps of planning, evaluation, trial runs, and functional requirement documents get swept aside or severely truncated. I've heard stories of organizations purchasing MDM solutions based on as little as one phone call to an existing vendor purporting to have a "mobile solution." Organizations are often disappointed with even the medium-term functionality of short-run solutions but are pressed to make it work for budgetary reasons.

Conscientious businesses take a more proactive approach to mobile device management and seek to mitigate the emergent tactical needs with solutions that will serve in the longer term. Discussions around mobility usually go through three stages:

In general terms, discussions surrounding mobility shouldn't be considered complete until the "people" stage is reached. This is an important distinction that differs from the standard IT decision matrix. Most IT decisions are based on features and service, and they answer the question, "Will hardware, software, or service X meet the following functional requirements?" After this, the discussion moves to price and service levels. IT likes it this way because it's easy to spot the winners and make logical, data-driven decisions.

Mobility doesn't quite fit this logical model. There are other factors involved that IT isn't used to handling. For example, take the fundamental decision around purchasing corporate-liable devices or allowing personally-owned devices. Is the company willing to pay for corporate-owned devices for staff and implement support structures around mobility? Can the help desk provide the additional support for a "foreign" mobile device platform?

If this sounds quasi-normal, let's upset the apple cart with a true people-focused question: Do staff want to carry around two devices? Is anyone outside of IT keen to wearing the "bat-belt" of high availability to home and office? It's questions like these that we get to grapple with around mobility. And these kinds of questions drive IT nuts.

Let's try a similar scenario around BYOD. If the company says no to corporate-liable devices, are they ready to reasonably relax controls and have some give and take with staff? Is the support desk ready to start taking a shot at fixing whatever walks through the door instead of having known device types? Now, here's the people question: How will staff respond to giving IT a relatively high level of control over their personal devices? These are just a few of the myriad challenges that surround mobile management that IT isn't used to looking at.

I'm going to boil the argument down to its most fundamental point. Tablets and smartphones are emotionally charged tools. Human beings get attached to these devices in a peculiar way that's not shared with other digital productivity tools, and mobile management strikes at the heart of this strange affection.

I point this out because mobile management isn't like any other IT initiative you've ever launched — it's far more personal in the eyes of your end users. Because of the strange relationship that people have with their smartphones and tablets, your mobility management solution needs to take this into account. Here's how one should begin.

Start your selection process as you normally would, look at the offerings, build your functional requirements and narrow your vendor list. You are likely to be surprised how widely the feature implementations vary as you evaluate solutions, no matter what the sales reps tell you about market parity.

Once that feature level discussion is over, it's time to talk devices. Some of your device options will be constrained by the solution provider. Most MDM solutions cover a wide variety of devices, but many are more specialized to a particular platform. The device discussion isn't so much about what devices are supported as it is about finding out whether the supported devices sufficiently meet the business needs.

Items to consider in the device discussion include the need for device level encryption and whether you require regulatory oversight of the device data for things like legal holds and e-discovery requests. Think about these things up front, because they are very uncomfortable when they sneak up from behind. When you're fairly confident that you've got the right mix of features and devices to meet the business needs, then it's time to move to the final stage.

The process above is where IT usually quits and moves into procurement and implementation. With mobile, this is not an adequate departure point — that is, not if you want anyone to use the provided solutions. In the words of Monty Python, "Now for something completely different." The conversation should begin to look something like this, "We have the following capabilities on these devices, but what's reasonable to expect of the staff?"

If you are provisioning corporate-owned devices, this can be a far shorter conversation — after all, the company is paying for the devices and the monthly service. There's an expectation that the organization can do what it wishes with a device it owns. However, the conversation still needs to happen.

For corporate-liable devices, the conversation revolves around getting the right mix of control and functionality so that end users aren't frustrated by the discrepancy in usable features between personal and business devices. If your company wants PIN codes, passwords enforced, or hardware encryption, then do it. But when discussions start postulating about restricting apps, denying access to web sites, and so forth, it's time to re-focus on the business need. The temptation with these tools is to do some things because you can without asking whether or not you should.

With mobile, it's a critical distinction. A small handful of draconian policies will ruin your mobility initiative and color it forevermore.

On the personal device end of the spectrum, focus your attention on defining the absolute minimum to meet requirements. Your end users will thank you, and your organization will reap the benefits in the form of reduced costs and more productive employees. In the personal device space, less is more.

Consider these questions surrounding your employee-owned devices: Is it necessary to enforce measures like PIN codes on personal devices? How would your client base respond to using a dedicated mail and calendar app for work? What would the acceptance level be of some "self-service" tools for mobility, like a web portal giving limited management capabilities over personal devices in the event that a device is lost or stolen? The answers to these questions should give you a good framework for the decision points around personal devices in the workplace.

The most important thing to remember about implementing MDM in your organization is that a mobile device is not another computer.

Tablets and phones become personal — we humans just can't help it. MDM can help your enterprise corral the flood of mobile madness, but it can also turn the perception of IT into the control-freak-nerd-herd if things don't roll out quite right. Do the work up front to make the policies and their enforcement something that everyone can live with, and your MDM implementation will be a success.

MDM isn't just a software solution. In the end, it's both an art and a science. The artistry of mobile device management comes when you are able to look through the lens of corporate requirements and see the person and their mobile devices on the other end, using the devices in a way that makes sense to them, not to you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

IT's winning (and losing) job titles

In the intense new battle for IT jobs, those with multiple skills and broad knowledge of technologies will prevail.

By Julia King

December 19, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Sure, there are still some Cobol systems on their last legs in the deep recesses of just about every large IT organization. But they are most assuredly on their way out -- as are the programmers who coded them.

Also due to disappear, CIOs say, are virtually all other single-purpose IT job titles. Unix administrators? Forget them. Today's trend toward services-based software, mobile apps, cloud and consumer technologies means it is the breadth, not the depth, of knowledge and experience that wins -- or keeps -- the IT job.

And the job itself most likely won't be based in an IT department, but embedded in another business function such as sales, marketing, manufacturing, or supply chain, with the employee working alongside tech-savvy business colleagues.

"It's very unusual for us to have folks who only have one skill," says Norm Fjeldheim, CIO at Qualcomm in San Diego. "There are folks who I was forced to let go because they only wanted to retain one skill set. It's very career-limiting for people to be so specialized that they can't work in multiple environments and multiple technologies."

Unlike the traditional IT environment, which consisted of a portfolio or inventory of discrete applications and technologies tended by in-house technical specialists, the emerging environment is a tightly-woven fabric of on-premises and off-premises services offered to an increasingly mobile workforce and customer base on an ever-widening range of consumer devices, like smartphones and iPads.

These services are designed, assembled and continually enhanced by professionals with a broad knowledge of what the technologies can do and how they fit together, plus a deeper, more specialized knowledge of how they can be applied to a particular set of steps or tasks in an overall business process, such as order to cash or procure to pay. The ultimate goal is to build and assemble a combination of technical capabilities and business services that enables a company to distinguish itself from its competitors in terms of price, customer service, operational efficiency and other key business metrics.

Enterprise Architects
At General Mills, a regular on Computerworld's Best Places to Work in IT list, CIO Mike Martiny says he has organized these various capabilities into centers of excellence where the mission is to "stitch a number of technologies together to create a solution or capability that didn't exist before."

New job titles to emerge in the centers of excellence range from solutions developer to enterprise architect.
"Expertise in a technical area is an entry in the door," Martiny says. After that, General Mills will focus on building skills in four key domains: security, mobility, integrated digital marketing, and enterprise data and governance. "These are four areas that have a broad reach," he notes.

Jeff Stachowski
Information architect, user experience lead (consultant)
Current assignment: American Airlines, Dallas

As an information architect, Jeff Stachowski describes himself as both a translator and an ambassador.
"It's up to the information architect to work with the business or project manager and understand all of their requirements, then communicate to developers how to build what they want," he says.

In his current assignment as a user experience lead on a Web development project at American Airlines, Stachowski says, "Communication is my No. 1 strongest point."

Stachowski built his first Web page on a lark back in 1996. He and a graphic designer friend bought a modem, started checking out early Web pages built in straight HTML and were hooked. "It was the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life," he says.
Over the past 15 years, Stachowski, who is largely self-taught, has worked as a Web developer, information architect and user experience expert, on both a permanent and contract basis. He keeps his knowledge current by attending seminars, reading blogs and gaining on-the-job experience.

In the course of a day, Stachowski says, he works with programmers, business managers, art directors, designers and clients. "The information architect is like a real-life architect who figures out where to put the restrooms in a building or how much parking is needed and where it will go," he says. "You have to understand everything that is going on and organize the information in a logical manner," he explains. That includes figuring out where to place various buttons, tabs and the logical progression of links to other information.

"In my job, I don't need to know every trick in Photoshop, but I need to be able to communicate visually an idea. You also need an understanding of a browser's capabilities and how to store information in a database. I don't know how to do all of those things, but I must know if it's possible and what the requirements are," he says.

Because technology is changing constantly, Stachowski says anyone considering a job like his "has to be fluid and willing and able to change."
"With HTML3, everything is in tables, then HTML4 has Cascading Style Sheets, and now there is HTML5. It's not like it was with mainframe programmers who had a specialty. We don't have that luxury anymore. Systems change every four to five years and you either learn or you're always going to have that college kid coming out of school who knows all the new stuff," he says.

The payoff is steady work, even in a stumbling economy.
"There is absolutely a demand for my skills," he says, noting that he typically receives three to four calls and three to four emails a day from recruiters with jobs paying between $80,000 and $90,000 per year.
"I turned off my resume on Dice and Monster," he says, referring to the popular job sites. But he also cautions that demand for his skills is cyclical.
"When the Internet bubble burst, guys like me were the first to go," he says, again adding, "You have to be fluid and willing and able to change."
— Julia King

Martiny says the company hires people to pursue careers, not to do a job or assume a specific title. "We always have specific technology roles open," he says, "but we're looking for very specific skill sets for a period of time" -- not forever. "That's why we look for people with continuous curiosity and a demonstrated history of continuous learning."

At Qualcomm, Fjeldheim considers the role of the enterprise architect to be among the most difficult to fill, especially by newcomers. That's why he is "cherry-picking" the best and brightest from his existing IT staff to transition into the role of enterprise architect. "IT still has architecture responsibility, but we're also charged with creating and deploying some of the new and innovative technologies coming in. That's not an easy role to fill from outside, partly because the role needs to understand the business and what the business is trying to accomplish," he says.

BI Analysts
A second key trend driving a shift in IT jobs is the proliferation of so-called big data -- the massive volumes of bits and bytes collected by hundreds of thousands of transaction-based systems, sensors and RFID systems and, increasingly, social networks.

"IT's main role since the 1970s was to reduce inefficiencies in manual processes and create productivity gains through automation," notes Tim Sarvis, manager of IT plant operations and services at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn. "The next big thing is trying to gain insight from all of this data -- terabytes and terabytes of data. [We need] a way to model the data and put it in the hands of knowledge workers and decision-makers to make better, faster decisions," he says.

At Eastman, "we're structuring our talent pool around this mega-trend," adds Sarvis. "Data modelers, scrum masters, data architects, corporate architects are all titles that we'll be focusing on to beef up business intelligence."

Guy Peri, director of business intelligence at Procter & Gamble, says the consumer goods giant regards BI analysts as "trusted advisers" to the business. The company is investing heavily in both BI tools and BI analysts; Peri estimates that BI will account for as much as 20% of the company's IT organization and budget.

What's more, P&G is setting up BI universities to train its supply chain partners in the company's processes and analytics. "We want to drive continual BI at the operational level, right down to consumers," Peri says. P&G is also tracking "chatter" on various social networks, incorporating the customer feedback it gathers into its overall analytics-based business decisions.

Mobile App Developers
Another huge trend driving the current demand for very specific skills is the ever-increasing mobility of workers, customers, suppliers and partners, experts say. Simply stated, mobile applications have exploded. In 2010, sales of Apple iOS apps totaled nearly $1.8 billion. This year, global mobile app sales are projected to hit $4 billion, according to market researcher IHS.

But as Woodson Martin, senior vice president of employee success at, sees it, mobility can't be separated from cloud computing and social networking. "When I think of IT today and in the future, social, mobile and cloud are the three words that matter, whether you're in the consumer or enterprise space or a small or large business," Martin says.

"Customers want mobile applications that have a social networking component and that run in the cloud. So what I need are people who can embrace all of these things, and not in little pockets, either," he emphasizes. "I need everybody on my team to be oriented around all of these technologies."

Specifically, Martin says, "skill sets like HTML5, Ruby and Java allow us to design applications in a run-anywhere world, so they can be social, mobile and cloud," he says. As for titles, Martin says he's seeing fewer technology-specific titles and more titles like "technical staff member."

"The work done by members on these teams changes based on what the organization needs," he says. "They may be working on Web architecture one day and a mobile architecture the next day. What we're seeing are the traditional silos melting away as everyone is racing to produce social, mobile and cloud [applications]."

The need for individuals with knowledge of and experience using a wide range of technologies, coupled with a thorough understanding of how a business operates, is profoundly shifting IT's overall role in the enterprise, according to several veteran CIOs and industry watchers.

Rather than acting as implementers of technologies that can make the business run cheaper and faster, IT staffers are moving into leadership and innovation roles, informing and advising executive management about how technology can, for example, help set prices and mix product offerings to improve profits or market share.

"IT is leading the business, especially from an enterprise perspective," says Doug Beebe, who recently moved from an executive role in enterprise IT to a financial strategy and technology executive position at Toyota Motor Sales.

"Most business divisions are very much siloed. They've got a set of things they need to do on a daily basis and they aren't afforded the opportunity to look across the organization," Beebe notes. "When IT understands the [business] vision, it can recommend things that technology can do to fulfill that vision."

At Chicago-based Kraft Foods, the IT function is centralized, but CIO Mark Dajani has purposely embedded his staffers into business units so they can thoroughly understand the company's mission and drive results.

"I don't want IT to influence, but to lead the business," Dajani says. "IT is about driving business results and ownership of business results."

Yin Nawady
Director of analytics and process management
Diamond Resorts International, North Las Vegas

Here's how Yin Nawady, a Harvard graduate with a degree in government and politics, describes what she does for a living: "I look at a lot of numbers and data all day long, and I draw conclusions and help the business to make their decisions using that information." She believes her career outlook is exceptionally bright.
"It's a self-serving statement, I know, but I think there is no limit to the opportunities," she says. "Companies need people who can connect the dots between data, technology and the business, and communicate those relationships."

Nawady began her career as a financial analyst, planning and managing budgets. "That's where I started to understand the guts of business," she says. From there, "I started applying analysis to forward thinking, which established the link between analytics and business."
Nawady moved through various management positions at online companies where she was continually embedded in technical teams. "Between the financial analysis experience and my experience in the online sector, I had the technical foundation I need for BI and analytics," she says.

Her current work focuses on constructing a 360-degree view of Diamond Resorts' customers; this involves analyzing both structured and unstructured data from social media, various online sites and customer information. But the biggest part of her job is communication, she says. "I spend a lot of time on external communication with stakeholders, with our chairman, CEO, our president and our CFO. A lot of that communication is to make sure that what we're doing is directly tied to the strategic direction of the company," she explains.

Skills needed for Nawady's role include "excellent analytical and critical thinking skills," she says. "A financial, marketing or strategic analyst role could be the foundation as long as it's digital. That's the new frontier."

Other required skills include a solid grasp of social media, Google analytics and online metrics, Nawady says. "You must also be familiar with data mining and databases. You don't need to be a SQL coder or developer. On the other hand, there are many technical concepts with regard to data mining that are incredibly helpful."

Whereas more technical IT professionals focus inward and drill down into data, Nawady equates her role to "looking at an inverted triangle where you're constantly looking upward and outward to all the different disciplines," and adds, "It's all about critical thinking."
— Julia King

Saturday, December 17, 2011

RIM's CEO tandem: Portrait of pathetic

RIM's CEO tandem: Portrait of pathetic
By Larry Dignan | December 16, 2011, 3:46am PST
Research in Motion's two CEOs have to go. The company has lost investor—and increasingly customer—confidence over the last year, its latest greatest savior OS is behind schedule, the PlayBook is a disaster and RIM could be circling the porcelain rim if it isn't careful.

Worth every penny

Nevertheless, RIM carries on with its current management. Co-CEOs James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are taking $1 in salary a year. This token gesture inspires instant cynicism. The two may only be worth $1 a year at this point. You get what you pay for.

RIM's earnings conference call after a disappointing fourth quarter outlook was another romp through bizarro world. In this world, RIM is always on the cusp of a massive transformation and a product home run. If you've been paying attention you already know the punchline. RIM strikes out more than the Phillies' Ryan Howard in a playoff series.

Also: RIM's Q4 outlook: BlackBerry shipment projections tank | RIM expected to cut BlackBerry sales targets | RIM CEOs respond about poor U.S. sales, BlackBerry 10 delay | CNET: Want a BlackBerry 10 phone? Don't hold your breath

But why listen to me. Let's have RIM's dynamic duo tell the story in their own words.


The last few quarters have been some of the most trying in the recent history of this Company. As you know, we are in the process of completing the largest platform and organizational transition in the Company's history, and while we have remained a solidly profitable — remain solidly profitable and delivered significant unit volume during this transition, we recognize that our shareholders may feel we have fallen short, in terms of product execution, market share, and financial performance. That being said, we continue to believe that our transition will better position us to deliver enhanced value to shareholders, and enhance our leading position in the mobile communication space. It is important for you to know that Mike and I, as two of RIM's largest shareholders, understand investor sentiment, and we are more committed than ever, to addressing the issues at hand.

To further demonstrate our passion, alignment and commitment to RIM's long-term success, both Mike and I have asked the compensation committee to make a change to our cash compensation, such that our salaries will be reduced to $1.00 per year, effective immediately.

Translation: Hopefully this weak board of ours will keep us around. Here's a token salary cut for keeping us around.

From there, Balsillie talks about launching new devices and tablets as evaluating products, operations and manufacturing. In other words, hang on folks RIM will get this right sometime.

Balsillie continues:

We are leaving no stone unturned, and are evaluating a number of areas including product management and the number of SKUs offered, supplychain and bill of material cost efficiency, marketing and advertising, partnership and licensing opportunities, organizational and management structure, opportunities to leverage the BlackBerry infrastructure. While the proposed transformation may take some time, we believe that the steps we are taking will improve our performance, and better enable us to deliver on what we expect of ourselves, what our stakeholders want us to achieve, and what the 75 million loyal and passionate BlackBerry subscribers expect from us.

Translation: Yes folks, we think we still have a lot of times.

And there's more. Balsillie continues:

RIM's US business is particularly weak, and the positive trends we are seeing in several markets around the world including the UK, France, South Africa, Mexico and Argentina are being offset by high churn, and decreasing subscriber base in the United States.We are not satisfied with the performance of the business in the United States. In order to drive increasing demand for BlackBerry products and services in this key market, we are planning to undertake a comprehensive advertising and promotional program in 2012.This is expected to have an impact on earnings, as we invest to maintain and grow the BlackBerry brand and awareness in the high-performance BlackBerry 7 product family.

Translation: We have to cut prices because the U.S. isn't sold on our products. We'll market our way out of this mess. Yeah, that sounds good right Mikey?

After a thousand more words of babble, Balsillie hands the mike to his other half. Lazaridis is just as delusional but from an engineering perspective.

Lazaridis says:

We are committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook, and it's an important aspect of our longer term smartphone and mobile computing strategy. While we would have preferred the initial launch to have been smoother, I firmly believe that the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet remains the most secure and most advanced tablet platform on the market today, with true, real-time multi-tasking, flash-enabled browsing, uncompromised video streaming for both HTML 5 and flash video, which constitutes the majority of premium video content on the internet today, as well as a flexible platform based on open standards. These attributes will be further enhanced by the PlayBook 2.0 software when it becomes available.

The competitive dynamics of the tablet market are shifting rapidly, with a number of new entrants and pricing moves in the industry. As we await the launch of PlayBook 2.0, we expect to continue to run promotions to stimulate the market for PlayBook, both in the enterprise and consumer segments. While all PlayBook users will benefit from the new PlayBook 2.0 features such as native e-mail, contacts and calendar integration and the Android player, enterprise customers will benefit even further. New enterprise-focused features include enhanced device manageability, enterprise application deployment, and BlackBerry Balance.

Translation: We're going to lose money on every PlayBook we sell. You could argue I should be committed for being committed to that turd tablet. And yes we expect RIM customers to wait indefinitely until we figure out this native email thing.

Lazaridis then talks about why the latest superphones on BlackBerry 10 will be delayed.

We need a highly integrated dual core LTE platform.The processor we selected offers industry-leading power and efficiency, and also allows us to deliver the industrial design, that we believe is critical to the success in this market segment.This chipset will not be available until mid 2012. And as a result of this and certain other factors, we now expect our first BlackBerry 10 smartphones to reach markets in the latter part of calendar 2012. In the meantime, we believe that our strong BlackBerry 7 portfolio will continue to drive adoption of BlackBerry around the world.

Translation: The superphone is right around the corner. Really it is.

After a series of semi-painful questions Lazaridis says:

This is absolutely, not business as usual at RIM. We are going to do what it takes to get the value for shareholders and the Company, and we are totally redoubling our efforts on execution here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How To Build A Beautiful Company

How to Build a Beautiful Company
Employing open-book management and leadership by consensus, the Sky Factory's Bill Witherspoon has set out to create the perfect business.

As Told to Leigh Buchanan |  Jun 8, 2010
Andy Ryan

Blue-Sky Thinking Bill Witherspoon's company manufactures high-tech illusions. Its virtual windows and skylights use backlit images and high-definition LCDs to replicate clouds drifting across perfect skies.

In the early 1970s, Bill Witherspoon lived for months in a school bus parked in the Oregon desert. A hundred miles from the nearest town, he spent day after day painting the sky and the clouds. He later sold his work for tidy sums. Witherspoon would spend the rest of his life alternating between painting and launching companies. His first company experimented with new methods of agricultural management. In 1982, he co-founded Westbridge Research Group, a developer of ecologically friendly agricultural products that boasted Jonas Salk as a board member. In 1990 came a brush with notoriety when Witherspoon carved the Hindu symbol for the forces of nature into a dry lakebed in the desert. The design spanned a square quarter-mile. Aerial photos from a National Guard reconnaissance plane sparked a panic over aliens.

During one of his peckish artistic periods, Witherspoon offered to tear out the ceiling in an orthodontist's office and replace it with a skyscape made from painted tiles in exchange for braces for his children. That act of creative barter provided the idea for The Sky Factory, a $3.9 million, 34-employee company in Fairfield, Iowa. The business makes backlit images of sea and sky that are installed on ceilings and walls. Its products are popular in hotels, spas, restaurants, and hospitals.

When Witherspoon, then 60, launched The Sky Factory in 2002, he wondered, Was it possible to create a company as beautiful as a work of art? A beautiful company, in Witherspoon's mind, starts with the elimination of hierarchies that impede and repress the expression of people's natural curiosity and creativity. The Sky Factory's organizational structure is as flat as its creator's beloved desert. There are no employees, just owners, and everyone cares deeply about doing what is best for the group.

Both painting and company building start with a blank canvas. In a painting you create beauty with the addition of each brush stroke. In a company you create it with the addition of each talented, engaged person and with each thoughtful act. I thought about how satisfying it would be to build a beautiful company, and how much better for the people who work there.

I am an optimist and an idealist. In shaping The Sky Factory, I started with the assumption that people are naturally curious and creative. I wanted to craft an environment in which they would act like entrepreneurs, not like robots. My first decision was to give people the opportunity to purchase discounted ownership, and 100 percent of employees have participated. The responsibility for revenue and profit belongs to everyone. From that foundation, I derived five principles.

1. Share information

As a company of owners, everyone who works here is naturally motivated to participate in important decisions. To do so, people have to know everything. All information about The Sky Factory is right out on the table -- with the exception of HR issues and salaries. And not to reveal compensation was the decision of the group.

On Fridays, we have a two-hour meeting. For the first 30 minutes, we go over all the metrics. In addition to the critical numbers, people will raise questions about how many problems we've had that week or how many architects our marketers visited. We track all of that and maintain a historical record of the data that anyone can see at any time. Everyone is trained in financial literacy so he or she can make the best use of the information.

Secrets corrupt cultures. Secrets cause backstabbing and power plays. They signify disrespect. Secrets can't survive in an environment of total openness. It cuts off their air.

2. Give everyone equal footing

Leadership should arise innately from the drive to do well for the company, exercise creativity, and serve others. It should not be vested in titles and cascading organizational charts. There is no hierarchy at The Sky Factory -- no managers or supervisors. Leaders are those who, in a given situation, lead. We use facilitators for the sake of coordination, and those roles rotate every week. Every week, a different person runs our general meeting -- we go alphabetically. People who see a job do the job, because they don't feel constrained by their perceived place in the company.

I believe great ideas come from everyone, and a flat organization ensures that all ideas are heard and given equal consideration. By the end of last year, we had accumulated a substantial amount of cash, and we discussed how to make the best use of it. We decided to pay off the mortgage on our new factory -- the idea of our newest and youngest employee, who is primarily responsible for data entry and international shipping.

Where there is no authority, there is no fear, and people rise to what is required of them.

3. Make decisions as a group

Most people believe the quest for consensus inevitably ends in frustration. That's true in an organization in which upper management, middle management, and the workers have different agendas and access to information. In a company in which there are no levels and everybody knows everything, most people are already on the same page. When an issue arises, someone presents the new information and gives people a few moments to digest it. That's followed by some back and forth, and we usually come to agreement in record time. No decisions are made behind closed doors. Everyone is part of the process. Everyone's intelligence is brought to bear. And by definition, at the end, everybody buys in.

When we don't achieve consensus, we don't go forward. We let it die. Maybe it will come up later, when circumstances are different or we have new information. At a meeting in November, I brought up the notion of establishing a Sky Factory in Europe. The others did not like that. I argued my case for 15 minutes and then said, "Clearly we don't have consensus, so we'll forget about it." And we have. One codicil: This works only if the person objecting offers an alternative solution or reasoned point of view. You are always welcome to say no. But you cannot just say no.

4. Serve each other

I think of our factory as a community, and service is the core of community. There are two kinds of service. One is: I do this for you, and I expect a return. For example, I provide good customer service, and I expect loyalty. The other kind of service is selfless. I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it. That second kind of service is powerful. When someone has a moment of free time, how wonderful if she automatically thinks, Now, what can I do to help someone else? At the start of our Friday meetings, the leader for that week tells an appreciative story about someone at the company and presents the person with $25. Often, the story involves an unselfish, unsolicited offer of help.

This leads to one of my more idealistic notions: that everyone in the company should not only know everything, but everyone should also be able to do everything. At most companies, people take courses because new skills make them more valuable, so they can get ahead. At this company, we value people learning new skills so they can help others. So if someone gets sick or goes on vacation or falls behind, no problem. Another person can step in. For example, our accounting guy is great on the lamination machine, which is a very expensive, sensitive piece of equipment. The idea is that the more I can do, the more people I can help.

5. Share the rewards

We reward based on performance -- of the individual, of the group, and of the business. Every month, we distribute 50 percent of net profit to everyone, providing there have been no late shipments since the last bonus, cash does not drop below six months' operating expenses, and we have experienced positive cash flow for the previous 12 weeks. The formula for the bonuses is salary divided by total salaries. Needless to say, those criteria were arrived at by consensus.

The Sky Factory is an experiment and an admittedly imperfect one. In the quest for collaboration and lacking lines of authority, we can sometimes be inefficient. It takes time to hear and consider so many ideas. Not everyone is equally comfortable with the lack of constraints and the emphasis on stretching outside one's accustomed terrain. I want this business to actualize every need that people have, and that is not possible.

Most Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, we turn off the phones and do an hour of training on subjects as diverse as photography, ecology, and business grammar. Recently, we devoted a number of weeks to a course I prepared in partnership with an art historian called "What Is Fine Art: Building a Beautiful Company." We all viewed hundreds of images and discussed how every brush stroke, every chisel mark, every pixel is linked to every other -- nothing stands in isolation. Then we talked about how at our company the rotation of leadership and familiarity with one another's jobs give everyone a deeper understanding of the product, the ability to see it as more than the sum of its parts.

That appreciation of what we are doing is what keeps great people here, and great people will ensure that The Sky Factory endures. After all, that's what great art does. Endures.

7 Spiritual Perspectives on Personal Leadership

7 Spiritual Perspectives on Personal Leadership

--by Swami Chidananda and Prasad Kaipa

Life is like a game of cards.
The hand that is dealt you is determinism;
The way you play it is free will.
– Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, 1st Prime Minister of India (1889-1964)
How do you deal with change? How comfortable are you with what is on your plate? Are you creating or are you resisting? The quality of your leadership depends on how you deal with the cards that you draw and how you succeed using what you got! In this brief article, we present an approach to increase your personal mastery and leadership effectiveness drawing from ancient spiritual wisdom from around the world.
Integrity: Integrity, at its best, is alignment between thought, word and deed. When we have integrity, the fragrance we enjoy is the state of no inner conflict. Others around us also sense certain strength about us. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. And our actions are not at variance with our words. When there are gaps between our words, thought/felts, deeds and our state of being, those gaps impact our credibility, commitment and courage. When we walk the talk, demonstrate our commitment to what we have taken on through our actions and have courage to listen to our inner voice, we demonstrate integrity and that builds our character and confidence.
Confidence: When we feel good about our own capacity and the position we have taken in particular situations, we exude a great sense of well-being and the vibrations that emanate from us make others feel our positive state of mind. They, then, are more likely to extend their cooperation and play their roles in complementary ways. This is also related to our faith in what our company stands for. The feeling then is: My organization is doing something great, and I am indeed in a position to contribute significantly towards the fulfillment of the organization's goals. When we have self-confidence, our ability to resist temptations goes up and our self-restraint leads to further increase in our self-confidence.
Restraint: Our life would be happier if we handle difficult situations with thoughtful reflection and identify noble (win-win) responses wherever possible. When we cannot, at least, we should keep under check negative emotions. Expressing displeasure is one thing but giving vent to our anger in destructive ways is quite another. It is important to become conscious and hold back inappropriate thoughts and words – in public and in private. They
harm us even if we indulge in them in secrecy because our attitude gets picked up by others no matter what we do and don't do. It is as important to restrain our tongue as much as our actions – if not more – because in the name of 'telling the truth' and in the name of advice – we lose our self-restraint and that results in loss of energy and enthusiasm in both parties.
Energy: It is important to find ways to keep our energy – physical and emotional – high on important occasions. A diabetic friend once confessed that she would eat some sweets, knowing well it would cause early fatigue to her, and would then feel low in energy, leading to a lot of procrastination. 200-300 minutes a week of physical exercise, experts say, is needed typically for us to stay fit and energetic. In addition to physical and emotional, intellectual and spiritual energy would help us translate our creativity into innovative offerings and engage regularly in reflective and meditative practices. In these days of complexity and uncertainty, managing energy is as important as managing time. When we are aware and alert about opportunities to contribute our energy and time to what is important, we become effective leaders.
Alertness: This is again a state of mind where we rise above our mechanical ways and conditioned mind. When we shake off old conclusions and look at things with a fresh, open mind, we ignite new ideas and see new patterns and learn something fresh. We need to take note that everyday new opportunities emerge and if we have our eyes open, we could seize those opportunities. People change their mindsets and behaviors and when those changes are noticed and appreciated, they will continue to move in the same direction and that requires alertness on our part as a leader. In a similar vein, yesterday's enemy could extend a hand of help to us today; the friend of yesterday could betray us today. Alertness and trust in right information and right experts in addition to our own intuition would help us become better leaders in the long run.
Trust in Self and in Right Experts: As a leader, we have to know when to trust our intuition; and when to trust external data and information. In doing so, we have to consult right experts. For example, Google has become a valuable source of information and many of us make the mistake of trusting whatever we find online more than we should. We need to validate the source of advice and information whether it is coming from experts or from other sources. We need to actively seek out experts whom we trust -- people who can give timely and valuable advice. We have to learn, over a period of time, to balance advice received externally and intuition developed internally. Second part of trust is about timing. It is absolutely important to consult experts at the right time, well in time. One right input coming to us at the right time can help us execute our projects effectively and successfully.
Execution Effectiveness: Every time we do something that we had promised to somebody, our credibility/reputation/trust grows. When we procrastinate, our image in others' eyes suffers, even if we give the best explanation or justification. Effective execution means we have to pay attention to four things: completion/time, resources (people/ finances etc.), quality (excellence) and satisfaction (customer and self). Efficiency allows us to complete the project on time but effectiveness means working with our team with emotional intelligence and that increases quality of work that they bring to the project resulting in higher customer satisfaction.
The seven principles (start with the letters I CREATE) listed above help us increase our personal mastery and lead wisely in turbulent times.
Swami Chidananda is the director of Raj Ghat Education Center, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi and can be reached at chidananda9 (at)
Dr. Prasad Kaipa is a CEO Coach and Adviser with the Kaipa Group and a senior fellow at the Indian School of Business's CLIC . He is integrating business, science/technology and spirituality and is writing a book on wisdom leadership with Navi Radjou. He can be reached at Prasad (at)

What is ERP?

ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning

Short for enterprise resource planning, ERP is business management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business. ERP software integrates all facets of an operation, including development, manufacturing, sales and marketing.

ERP Modules
ERP software consists of many enterprise software modules that an enterprise would purchase, based on what best meets its specific needs and technical capabilities. Each ERP module is focused on one area of business processes, such as product development or marketing. Some of the more common ERP modules include those for product planning, material purchasing, inventory control, distribution, accounting, marketing, finance and HR.

As the ERP methodology has become more popular, software applications have emerged to help business managers implement ERP in other business activities and may also incorporate modules such as CRM and business intelligence and present them as a single unified package.

The basic goal is provide one central repository for all information that is shared by all the various ERP facets in order to smooth the flow of data across the organization.

ERP Vendors
Depending on your organization's size and needs there are a number of ERP software vendors to choose from.

Large Enterprise ERP (ERP Tier I): The ERP market for large enterprises is dominated by three companies: SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. (Source: EnterpriseAppsToday; Enterprise ERP Buyer's Guide: SAP, Oracle and Microsoft; Drew Robb)

Midmarket ERP (ERP Tier II): For the midmarket vendors include Infor, QAD, Lawson, Epicor, Sage and IFS. (Source: EnterpriseAppsToday; Midmarket ERP
Buyer's Guide; Drew Robb)

Small Business ERP (ERP Tier III): Exact Globe, Syspro, NetSuite, Visibility, Consona, CDC Software and Activant Solutions round out the ERP vendors for small businesses. (Source: EnterpriseAppsToday; ERP Buyer's Guide for Small Businesses; Drew Robb)

More trouble in store for RIM in 2012

Published on Computerworld Hong Kong (
More trouble in store for RIM in 2012

By Al Sacco | Dec 16, 2011

The year 2012 promises to be an interesting one for BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) [4]. The Canadian company has come upon some tough times lately. And despite a number of key product releases and enhancements, things will only get worse before they get better for RIM...if they do at all. Here's why.
I'll start by saying that RIM's not going anywhere in the coming year. Just because it is struggling right now, with market share and customer loyalty dwindling and its foothold in the enterprise losing strength every day, RIM is still a major player in the handheld space and it's not just going to fall off the face of the earth, taking its BlackBerry handhelds and tablets along for the ride. RIM's still hanging on, in other words.
But that also doesn't mean the BlackBerry manufacturer will be able to pull itself out of its ongoing tailspin.
RIM should release a number of exciting new products and services in 2012, which will help keep the company afloat in the increasingly competitive mobile space, but I don't expect RIM to gain significant market share, at least not in the United States; RIM market share will likely remain steady throughout the new year, right around 10 percent of the US market.
Pros and cons of BlackBerry 10
In early 2012, RIM should release the first smartphones running its brand new OS, BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry 10, formerly referred to as BBX, will have a strong focus on touch and touch navigation. And it is designed to grab the attention of users who may be eyeing new iPhones or Android devices.
That's a good thing, but I worry that RIM is losing sight of a key element in its early success: The "physical," button-based keyboard. I wrote a blog post recently asking whether readers wanted touch screen devices or QWERTY BlackBerrys, and more than 80 percent of the roughly 200 respondents said they would rather RIM focus on devices with button-based hardware keyboards.
At least a few of the new BlackBerry handhelds [5] running the BlackBerry 10 OS will be 4G/LTE devices, and that's sure to motivate wireless carriers to put more marketing hutzpah into pushing these new BlackBerrys to customers. And consumers may be more attracted to these 4G BlackBerrys than RIM's current smartphone lineup--though I'm not sure the average smartphone owner really cares all that much about 4G. (A recent poll found 40 percent of respondents in no rush to upgrade to 4G devices.)
So while RIM may gain new users thanks to BlackBerry 10 and its upcoming push to 4G, the company could also drop some loyal customers due to that fact that many of its upcoming handhelds will be much more focused on touch screen navigation, something RIM has not exactly done well over the past few years.

BlackBerry PlayBook enhancements: Too little, too late
RIM will also release a new, updated version of its PlayBook OS, v 2.0, with native PIM applications and an Android Player that will let PlayBook users run certain Android apps.
But I can't help feeling somewhat underwhelmed, maybe even a bit resentful, because RIM promised all of these features and functionality months ago and hasn't yet delivered. Nor has it shipped a cellular version of the PlayBook--the current version is Wi-Fi only--even though it said such a tablet would become available in summer 2011. I bet I'm not the only PlayBook owner who feels disappointed. These new PlayBook features and enhancements will likely prove to be too little, too late for many tablet users.
Then there's RIM's stock price, which just this week hit a 52-week low. All of these things do not bode well for RIM in 2012.
Hanging on in the enterprise and outside North America
I do think that RIM will maintain and even possibly strengthen its foothold in areas outside of North America. (It's clear RIM is still quite popular in many locales outside of the United States and Canada, just look what happened when RIM recently decided to launch and discount a brand new BlackBerry at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia. Pure chaos.) But RIM is facing a serious challenge in regaining consumer confidence in North America, a key market, and I'm not sure BlackBerry 10 or the new PlayBook OS will prove to be the solution to this problem.
On the enterprise side, RIM still has a solid grip on the business smartphone and mobile infrastructure market, but it is rapidly losing strength. That's due to the influx of non-BlackBerry devices that users are bringing into the enterprise and asking IT to support. Supporting only BlackBerry devices is really no longer an option for most IT shops; iOS ( [6]) and Android are entering the enterprise, like it or not.
RIM has announced a new enterprise mobility offering, called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which will allow IT to use RIM software to manage not just BlackBerrys, but also iOS and Android devices. But this could have an unintended effect on RIM: With users choosing iPhone and Android devices over BlackBerrys, and so many companies now rushing to iOS and Android security and management products to market--including RIM--why should IT purchase any more BlackBerry handhelds?
In summary, 2012 to be another difficult year for RIM and BlackBerry, and if the company isn't able to at least turn things around a bit in the coming year, I could very well be sounding the death knoll for BlackBerry right around this time next year.