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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Definitely deleted: How to guarantee your data is truly gone before recycling old PCs and drives

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Definitely deleted: How to guarantee your data is truly gone before recycling old PCs and drivesThere are other things you need to do to make sure your deleted files are gone for good.

By Chris Hoffman

May 16, 2014 09:27 AM ET

PC World - Deleted files can often be recovered, and that's a problem when you're passing your PC or PC-related tech along to someone else. Whether it's sensitive financial data, business documents, or scandalous photos that could be used to blackmail you, you probably don't want people getting their hands on your private stuff.

Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your data, whether you're getting rid of a PC, external hard drive, or USB stick. Here's how! (And here's how to wipe mobile devices clean.)

Mechanical hard drives vs. internal solid-state drives vs. external drives

Deleted files can be recovered from some types of drives, but not others. Here's a quick summary of how different drives handle deleted files.

Mechanical hard drives: Old-school mechanical hard drives--the kind with a spinning magnetic platter--are still used in PCs. If your PC doesn't have an SSD, it has a mechanical hard drive. Files you delete from these drives can be recovered. When you delete a file from such a drive, the drive just marks the file's data as deleted. Until it's overwritten in the future, people can scan the drive and recover the marked-as-deleted data.

Internal solid-state drives: Solid-state drives use a feature called TRIM. When you delete a file from a solid-state drive, the operating system informs the drive that the file was deleted. The drive then erases the file's data from its memory cells. This is done to speed things up--it's faster to write to empty cells--but it has the benefit of ensuring files you delete from internal SSDs can't be recovered.

External solid-state drives and other removable media: TRIM is used onlyA for internal SSDs. In other words, if you have an external SSD in an enclosure and you connect it to your computer via USB, TRIM won't erase files you delete. This means deleted files can be recovered from that external SSD. Deleted files can also be recovered from USB flash drives, SD cards, and other types of removable media.

More background: SSDs vs. hard drives vs. hybrids: Which storage tech is right for you?

If you have a PC with a solid-state drive, you just need to reinstall your operating system to erase your data. If you have a PC with a mechanical drive, you'll need to ensure your drive is wiped beforereinstalling your OS. If you have an external drive, you'll need to wipe that, too.

Reset your PC With Windows 8

For many years, geeks had to use third-party tools to wipe their mechanical drives before disposing of them. Windows 8 added a feature that makes wiping deleted files and restoring your operating system much easier.

Business users bypass IT and go rogue to the cloud

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Business users bypass IT and go rogue to the cloudCorporate departments act on their own, contending IT is too slow in creating a path to cloud services

By Sharon Gaudin

May 27, 2014 06:36 AM ET

Computerworld - IT departments need to watch out for business units or even individual workers going rogue and bypassing IT to go straight to the cloud.

"There's a tug-of-war tension in the enterprise right now," said Gartner analyst Lydia Leong. "IT administrators very rarely voluntarily want to go with the public cloud. I call this the 'turkeys don't vote for thanksgiving' theory. The people who are pushing for these services are not IT operations people but business people."

When marketing, events or other corporate business units conclude that IT is dragging its feet on the way to the cloud, they contract for the services themselves. IT often doesn't discover the move until it shows up in the tech expenses papers.

"Right now business' strength lies in going around IT," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group.

"Enterprise IT often sees the cloud as a risk. If you go to a large IT meeting, they'll generally place the public cloud as one of their top three or four threats because their line organizations, like marketing or manufacturing, go around IT to set up their own cloud service deals. They can get something cheaper and faster than they could by going through IT but it's probably not compliant," he added.

Several analysts said they've talked with enterprise IT executives who are facing such issues. None of the execs, though, want anyone to know it's happening to them.

Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst, said the problem lies in the fact that these are still the early days of corporate cloud services use. Companies lack rules for the technology and users are more eager than IT to try it out.

"This is the wild, wild West where there are no rules," he added. "People are used to storing their own information on their own laptop. Storing it on the cloud doesn't seem to them all that different from what they've been doing. We're stepping into this cloud world bit by bit and every company has different challenges. This affects many of them."

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has contributed to the user push to the cloud, analysts say.

People have gotten comfortable with using their own smartphones and tablets at work. IT has had to adapt and learn to manage a network that they're not totally able to control.

Employees who don't want to wait for IT to catch up will contact companies like Google or Amazondirectly and simply start storing data in the cloud.

"It's also about departments using clouds to get around budget constraints and a lack of capacity in IT," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

"In a lot of ways, this reminds me of the '90s, when departments went wild with building their own data centers and IT capabilities. In a lot of cases, that resulted in higher costs, security vulnerabilities and poor integration," Olds said.

When IT is left out, its personnel has no idea how secure the clouds are or where the information is being stored. It also means IT can't negotiate the best deal -- one that could encompass many different departments or data stores.

"Best case, organizations might end up spending more on cloud services than they would if they mounted the service on systems the data center already owns," said Olds. "Worst case, the organization could find that critical data is now outside their firewall and perhaps could be accessed by folks who shouldn't be able to see it."

Since analysts doubt IT can stop businesses from bypassing them on a whole-scale level, they say the tech execs need to set up strong cloud governance policies.

"It's not really acceptable for IT to say no when someone wants to use the cloud," said Leong. "They need to set up service agreements with approved providers and set up controls for how secure information needs to be. How do they provide risk management? How do they make this work instead of just saying, 'You can't do this.'"

"Every time we take a step further into the information age, it's unprotected," said Kagan. "IT says they're swamped just keeping everyone connected. They don't' really have the time to proactively protect against future threats. They have to make the time."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips forComputerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address

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Friday, May 23, 2014

NetSuite slapped with fraud lawsuit over 'aggressive' salesman's claims

NetSuite slapped with fraud lawsuit over 'aggressive' salesman's claims

Chris Kanaracus | May 19, 2014 

NetSuite is facing a lawsuit from a skin care product retailer that alleges an overzealous salesman led them to buy a software system that utterly failed to meet its needs.

Gulf Coast Medical Group LLC, a Florida company that does business under the name of SkinMedix, had outgrown its website and shopping cart platform in September 2012 and began looking for a replacement that could manage both sales and back-office functions, according to a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Its existing system was managing an inventory of 3,000 products but SkinMedix needed something that could eventually handle a 20,000-item inventory.

After doing some research, SkinMedix president Aaron Kozol contacted NetSuite and subsequently "communicated extensively" in early 2013 with a salesman there, Donald Bizzaro, according to the complaint.

"Because of the high cost of NetSuites software solutions, Mr. Kozol specifically inquired about whether NetSuite could deliver a business solution that met all of SkinMedix's needs," the complaint states.

Bizzaro is "an aggressive salesperson" who told Kozol NetSuite's software would indeed satisfy SkinMedix's needs, it adds.

"In his overly zealous efforts to induce SkinMedix to purchase services from NetSuite, Mr. Bizarro made numerous false representations of fact," the complaint states.

Kozol had told Bizzaro that SkinMedix's Web store loaded pages slowly and inconsistently, and the company wanted a replacement that would deliver "ultra-high speed page loading and image rendering," according to the complaint.

Bizzaro told Kozol NetSuite could design and host a SkinMedix website that would provide "sub-second" page rendering. Kozol also stressed that NetSuite's software had to provide automatic currency conversions for people visiting the site from countries beside the U.S., as well as ARB (automatic recurring billing and reship), according to the complaint.

ARB "is an internet function where a customer can agree to have a seller automatically (a) send the customer a desired product on a recurring basis and (b) bill and charge the customer for the sale, eliminating the need for the customer to manually order the product each time the customer wants to purchase it," and was essential to SkinMedix's growth plans, the complaint states.

In response, Bizzaro told Kozol NetSuite's technology could meet all of these demands and a completed site would be ready for testing by August 2013, a few months before the busy holiday shopping season, according to the complaint.

Based on Bizzaro's assertions, SkinMedix signed a three-year software license with NetSuite and hired it to build the website.

"Immediately before executing the contract with NetSuite, Mr. Kozol contacted Mr. Bizzaro to express his concern that there did not appear to be any reference to the ARB functionality in NetSuites proposed contract documents," the complaint states.

Bizzaro responded by saying ARB "is and will be a seamless component of your NetSuite experience," it adds.

Shortly after SkinMedix signed the contract, a marketing representative contacted Kozol "to interview him about his experience with NetSuite," the complaint states. Although the system hadn't been implemented, Kozol said positive things thanks to Bizzaro's pledges, it adds.

But it quickly became apparent that NetSuite's system was incapable of delivering what Bizzaro had promised it could, according to the complaint. Rather than sub-second page loads, the website "has demonstrated page loading times of greater than four seconds domestically and seven seconds internationally," it states.

Nor does the site display prices in other currencies, according to the complaint. "The website displays product prices in U.S. dollars only, regardless of which currency a customer selects and regardless of what the page footer states," it states. "This presents a tremendous potential liability for SkinMedix, as its website, as developed by NetSuite, effectively misrepresents product prices to global customers."

NetSuite also failed to meet the August 2013 deployment deadline, according to SkinMedix.

As a result of Bizzaro's claims, SkinMedix has spent more than US$250,000 on a "manifestly unusable" website, the complaint states.

Meanwhile, as Kozol engaged "in the futile process of identifying NetSuites failures and requesting that these failures be corrected," NetSuite published a blog article featuring SkinMedix that described how it "had found success by using NetSuite to support all of its business processes," the complaint states.

The blog also features a screen shot labeled as the site NetSuite built for SkinMedix, but in fact the image was of the company's existing system, it adds.

As of Friday, the blog post remained up on NetSuite's website.

Earlier this year, NetSuite assigned a practice director who was supposed to help fix the site's problems, but the individual was initially unresponsive and later referred SkinMedix "to the same NetSuite project managers who had previously failed to grasp and resolve the problems Mr. Kozol and SkinMedix indentified in 2013," the complaint states.

SkinMedix's suit asks the court to sever its contract with NetSuite, order the return of the money it paid to NetSuite and award compensatory and punitive damages.

Bizzaro, who isn't named as a defendant in the suit, couldn't be reached for comment on Friday.

"Here at NetSuite we strive to provide the best software and services to over 20,000 companies, organizations and subsidiaries worldwide," a NetSuite spokeswoman said in a statement. "We are aware that a complaint was recently filed by [SkinMedix] although we have not been formally served with a copy. We are reviewing the facts and intend to defend ourselves vigorously."

NetSuite has yet to tell its side of the story, but software buyers can take at least one important note away from the dispute.

"There are many references [in the complaint] to what Netsuite personnel represented to SkinMedix, but it is not clear whether any of these representations were ever made in writing," said analyst Frank Scavo, managing partner of IT consulting firm Strativa, via email. "There is a lesson learned here for software buyers: if it isn't in the contract, it doesn't exist."

Australian Federal Court fines Harvey Norman franchisees AU$234,000

Australian Federal Court fines Harvey Norman franchisees AU$234,000

Brian Karlovsky | May 20, 2014 

Nine Harvey Norman franchisees have fined AU$234,000 for misleading consumers.

The mounting fines are the result of a Federal Court action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against certain Harvey Norman franchisees.

The most recent judgements have led to three franchises being ordered to pay $60,000 in civil pecuniary penalties for making false or misleading representations regarding consumer guarantee rights.

The Federal Circuit Court has also ordered another Harvey Norman franchisee to pay a pecuniary penalty of $26,000.

The initial proceedings started against Gordon Superstore in November, 2012. They were followed by nine other Harvey Norman franchisees on 13 June 2013.

So far, Nine franchisees ordered to pay total penalties of $234,000.

The four most recent franchisees are Oxteha Pty Ltd, located in Oxley, Queensland ($26,000); Gordon Superstore Pty Ltd located in Gordon, New South Wales ($25,000); Mandurvit Pty Ltd located in Mandurah, Western Australia ($25,000); and Avitalb Pty Ltd located in Albury, Western Australia ($10,000).

In each case, the Court found that each franchisee had made false or misleading representations to consumers about their consumer guarantee rights.

ACCC deputy chair, Michale Schaper said the judgments imposing penalties were a clear message to all suppliers.

"No matter how big or small, that they must not mislead consumers about their rights under the Australian Consumer Law," ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

In addition to penalties, the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court also made orders including declarations and injunctions in relation to the four franchisees.

Oxteha Pty Ltd and Gordon Superstores Pty Ltd were also ordered to display in-store corrective notices and implement a consumer law compliance program. Mandurvit Pty Ltd and Avitalb Pty Ltd had both ceased trading in May 2013.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Apathy puts brakes on Malaysian mobile banking: BuzzCity interview

AvantiKumar | May 20, 2014 

According to global mobile advertising network BuzzCity latest quarterly mobile internet report, the adoption of mobile banking is hampered by indifference. Those surveyed simply do not feel that they 'need' mobile banking yet and the 'underbanked' now make up 12 percent of mobile users, BuzzCity's founder and chief executive officer Dr KF Lai told Computerworld Malaysia.

Indifference, more than anxiety, is now the bigger threat to the growth of mobile banking, said Dr Lai. Value added services helped mobile advertising in Malaysia to grow by 8 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

In conjunction with this, the adoption of mobile banking also increased as 27 percent of adults who use the mobile internet now find mobile banking 'easy and useful' compared to 21 percent last year.  There is, however, apathy amongst potential users, with almost a third of those surveyed (32 percent) simply not feeling that they 'need' mobile banking.

This, despite the suggestion that security fears seem to be reduced; 24 percent of those surveyed this quarter won't mobile bank because of security fears -  a significant improvement from 2013 when 29 percent felt concerned about security issues.

The BuzzCity mobile banking research was conducted in March 2014 amongst 6000 adults in 20 benchmark countries.

What would you say are the reasons behind this apparent apathy from banking customers in Malaysian and what can be done to educate them?

Electronic payment systems are not new but have gained popularity thanks to increased Internet shopping. Credit, debit and prepaid cards are the most common forms of electronic payments that consumers are likely to use.  With new technologies, the variety of devices used to transact electronically continues to increase.  Really, there are many means of electronic transactions that the consumer can choose from and payments via mobile are a new addition to a broad range of electronic tools. Today, for many credit cards are the 'fallback' to cash.

The financial services industry will need to think about other factors that affect responses to their campaigns as 14 percent feel that they need to "be offered" from their banks. Parallel with this is consumers confusion; 11 percent feel mobile banking is too complicated or unreliable (10 percent) and many aren't aware if their devices can even be used to activate the service.

Other stakeholders such as government agencies and security vendors also need to play a role of course as all parties have a responsibility to educate consumers.

But education itself is a continuous process and this takes time. Businesses, however, have an 'urgency' driven by their bottom lines to use alternate channels to reach more customers in a cost efficient way - this invariably means using mobiles as a key element in their business strategy.  

As mentioned, banks too are doing their part to some extent across Southeast Asia, are they are now running marketing campaigns across all channels to promote applications that support mobile banking.

But the real challenge of education is to understand the evolving experience of the user, particularly the urgencies that drive them to remain connected via mobiles. 

In Malaysia, there's a still lot to do as more than half believe their banks don't provide mobile banking or simply don't know if they do. 

Are these findings about local customers in common with other countries/parts of the world?

Across South East Asia, the user experience reflects global patterns. Nearly a third of adults find mobile banking easy but there a third of adults also feel that they don't need it. 

The report also looked at the most popular banks among mobile users. In Malaysia, Maybank is the most popular bank, followed by CIMB Bank, Public Bank and AM Bank in 4th place. Notable in the report is the emergence and rising popularity of 'mobile-based' banks (where accounts are linked to SIM cards) in developing markets. These new mobile banks, catering specifically to the mobile- only consumers have gained widespread adoption and a rapid market share in a relatively short time.

What are the top takeaways from this quarter? 
There are three takeaways from this latest study:

First, that the growth opportunity for mobile banking is significant but providers need to improve their reach and presence among the consumers.

Second, that mobile banking and payments will not become mainstream until more businesses are enabled for mobile payments - only then will consumers feel the need for mobile banking.

Finally, security will always be a concern but need not be a blocker to growth.

Never put everything in one database basket, even if it’s Hadoop

Never put everything in one database basket, even if it's Hadoop

James Kobielus | May 19, 2014 

Elephants never forget, they say, though I doubt pachyderms are the savants the proverb has led us to believe. I know a specific elephant — named Hadoop — who can't seem to remember the recent history of the EDW (enterprise data warehouse) market upon which it's encroaching. Specifically, some in the Hadoop arena seem to be repeating some aspects of the positioning overreach that long bedeviled that market.

I'm referring to the dubious notion that Hadoop can and should be the central consolidation hub for all your business' analytic data.

For years, before the big data era started in earnest, the EDW arena pushed this "all in one basket" notion. Though the notion of a single-version-of-the-truth repository for all analytical subject domains makes sense in the abstract, few customers saw any compelling need to spend the money, time, and resources to consolidate disparate analytic databases onto a single platform. Many companies have consolidated some core system-of-record data in EDWs, but it's still common everywhere to see enterprises dedicate tactical data warehouses, data marts, operational data stores, OLAP cubes, and other analytic databases for specific regions, lines of business, applications, and users.

Resistance to the concept of a single "enterprise data hub" will endure in the age of Hadoop. In fact, you can read that skepticism in the tone of Loraine Lawson's recent article on an equivalent dream — that of a Hadoop-centric "data lake." Lawson likens the concept to that of a "Big Rock Candy Mountain," a "data-centered architecture, where distributed computing comes trickling down the rock and they hung the jerk that invented data silos." Citing Edd Dumbill's "data lake" discussion, she says, "And to prove it's more than just a developer's dream, he points out that Google and Facebook developers 'live the dream fully.'"

I don't get the logic of Dumbill's statement. Doesn't pointing to developers confirm it is indeed just a developer's dream? And singling out developers at two firms that were among Hadoop's earliest developers and users, and whose companies have built their respective Web services on that platform, doesn't show that this dream lives outside Silicon Valley.

In fact, the zeitgeist among actual users in the big data era has begun to shift toward a "hybrid" deployment model that blends EDW, Hadoop, NoSQL, in-memory, and other data platforms within a heterogeneous, cloud-enabling infrastructure.

Within the context of a hybrid architecture, this "data lake" dream seems to be specific to one big data deployment role: an exploratory "sandbox" that is the data-consolidation and statistical-modeling hub for teams of data scientists who need to sift through petabytes of multi-structured data. Data scientists everywhere are flocking to Hadoop as their all-data "sandbox," as I previously discussed.

I have no quibbles with one aspect of this "data lake" vision: That Hadoop is becoming a key application-development and -execution platform for big data analytics. As I have stated, data scientists are the pivotal application developers in the age of big data, and, as I also have discussed, Hadoop is rapidly evolving into a general-purpose distributed job-execution layer capable of executing a wide range of jobs that were developed in other languages.

But that's not the same as claiming Hadoop will be the only such platform. In fact, every big data platform -- Hadoop, MPP EDWs, NoSQL, in-memory, and streaming, for example -- acts as an application development and  execution platform. The notion that any one of them will be the entire ocean for all analytic-centric application development is flat-out wrong.

People, Processes and Technology: The Perfect Combination for Successful Cloud Implementations

People, Processes and Technology: The Perfect Combination for Successful Cloud Implementations

Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, senior vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific, Red Hat | May 19, 2014 

From being a buzz word, Cloud Computing has transitioned to become a critical and strategic component for businesses across sectors. The next step for IT decision makers is to sort through the proliferation of information to make the right choices focusing on a holistic view of all aspects within the organization -beyond IT - that are impacted by the initiative, including people, process, and technology. Effectively defining and building a complete cloud implementation (whether private, public, or hybrid) can lead to a total business transformation marked by expedited product delivery and reduced IT costs.

Making the Right Move to the Cloud

Just like IT in general, cloud implementations are increasingly moving towards a more hybrid infrastructure. Furthermore, spanning heterogeneous infrastructures, supporting multi-vendor environments, and bridging existing business workflows to this hybrid cloud world requires open approaches such as open source-just as leading public clouds have done. But within this broad open and hybrid framework, there's also a need to take into account the specific needs of each individual business.

Using a cloud methodology that addresses unique business needs, aligns with regulatory constraints, and optimizes for individual performance, cost, and risk requirements, allows for improved speed-to-market, near-limitless scalability, cost savings, increased accessibility and reduced operating risks.

With the flexibility, efficiency, and scalability offered by cloud technologies also comes the challenge of building out an implementation that maximizes the business' potential. Organizations must carefully examine their businesses to determine where, and what type, cloud is most appropriate given existing IT, based on workload-specific requirements around cost, risk, and performance.

Finding the right balance: people, process, and technology

Transforming the current enterprise IT model to a hybrid cloud model is not just a technology transformation. Treating it as such will make the transformation harder and benefits harder to meet. To uncover the right approach and realize intended benefits-no matter what the size or goals of the organization - it becomes critical to ensure the right balance of people, process and technology.


Given the rapidly changing technology landscape and the necessity to use technology to drive business value, most businesses face a quandary when it comes to internal business and IT staff. One such issue is that many veteran employees don't always have the knowledge of new business process methodologies or of newer architecture, design, and implementation skills as they relate to the cloud.

The problem can be addressed through a compelling solution by engaging with customers with deliverables-based engagements.These engagements allow projects within newer business models and technologies to be implemented, while simultaneously using a proven, hands-on mentoring process to foster the development of internal staff. This will enable customers' staff to be operationally ready to work with the new cloud infrastructures built.


At the core of most enterprise IT organizations is a rigid, process-laden approach to platform delivery, which exacerbates enterprise architecture difficulties. With the introduction of cloud, which can greatly simplify an infrastructure, organizations must lay the foundation for proper governance and processes, or the web of infrastructure becomes even more complex and unmanageable.

To meet customer demands, a more agile, collaborative, and iterative process for systems management is necessary. However, many organizations employ a classic waterfall model to systems procurement, a methodology that has consistently been shown to be extremely inflexible to meet changing business needs and often lead to delays in product delivery. While stringent processes may be required, especially in regard to security, using a cloud model to automate platform delivery can greatly enhance an organization's capabilities to deliver both faster and more consistently. By focusing on optimizing process early in a cloud implementation, an organization can ensure that its cloud maximizes the organization's potential.


There are many technology options when it comes to cloud implementation. The right solution is dependent upon your goals and challenges. Ideally, organizations must use secure, open source products to build their cloud solution. Additionally, specific technologies allow organizations to manage a variety of hybrid cloud infrastructures. This in turn allows organizations to quickly mobilize and scale across multiple cloud deployments as business needs increase.

Shaping your cloud strategy and implementation

Moving to the cloud involves new technologies, new service and deployment models, and new IT skill-sets and processes.

Organizations that begin a journey towards adopting cloud, without a clear understanding of the destination, are typically left with disappointing results.

Therefore, one needs to take into consideration various factors while defining a clear cloud strategy. This includes the expected impact of cloud on the business, applications that could be moved to cloud, how to maintain security and policy compliance in the cloud and choosing the best suited cloud deployment model. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Definition of Leadership

Leadership is defined as a process of influencing others to accomplish the mission, inspiring their commitment, and improving the organisation.

The above definition of leadership says three important things about the meaning of leadership in the SAF:

"A process..." Leadership refers to the verb "to influence others" rather than the noun, i.e., the category of leaders in the organization. This emphasizes that a person can be appointed as a leader, hold the rank and authority of a leader, and yet have poor leadership ability (i.e., is unable to influence people effectively)

"of influencing others..." "Influencing" is a general term deliberately chosen to include various methods of influence e.g.: inspirational, emotional or values-based influence, ideas, thoughts, or knowledge-based influence, exemplary or idealized influence, individualized consideration, exchange or transition-based influence. It emphasizes that while leadership always involves influence of other persons, and it is not specific to any particular style - "Inspirational leadership" is but one style of influencing task accomplishment. Such a definition allows us to train SAF leaders use a wide range of leadership styles depending on the nature of the situation.

"to accomplish the mission, inspiring their commitment, and improving the organization". These refer to the three major desired outcomes of leadership in the SAF that together present a balanced view of leadership that Is not only mission or task-focused, but also concerned with the commitment of the followers, and the improvement of the organization, i.e., organizational change and learning. Such a definition emphasizes that leaders must not only focus on immediate task performance, but also long-term commitment and change.

An excerpt from Leadership Quotes
by Mac Anderson

"People are like sticks of dynamite … the power is on the inside, but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit."
—Mac Anderson

"Here is a simple but powerful rule—always give people more than what they expect to get."
—Nelson Boswell 

"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."
—James Baldwin 

"You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within."
—Bob Nelson

"You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things."
—Mother Teresa

"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends."
—Walt Disney

"Leadership is action, not position."
—Donald H. McGannon

"Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?"

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little 'extra.'"
—Jimmy Johnson

"We cannot get what we've never had, unless we're willing to do what we've never done."
—Brian Tracy

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Act like a "BIg Kid": The Importance of Being Clueless

Sahar Hashemi

Entrepreneur (Coffee Republic & Skinny Candy) Bestselling author (ANYONE CAN DO IT & Switched on)

Act like a "BIg Kid": The Importance of Being Clueless

May 15, 2014 

My brother and I started a business we were completely clueless about. It was a coffee business—the UK's first coffee bar chain, an answer to Starbucks before it hit our shores. Our idea was good, but it wasn't a market we really knew. I had been a lawyer all my working life and my brother a banker. We knew zero about coffee, about retail, about catering. It didn't run in our family either. We were complete outsiders.

It was then, and remains now, very much against the grain of standard business advice to start a business in a field you have absolutely no clue about. People normally spin off in areas where they have experience. Let me explain why the usual business advice is wrong, and why cluelessness is not a hindrance but a must-have, whether you're a founder, a manager at a large company or an employee hoping to be both happier and more innovative at work.

The Case for Cluelessness

When we started Coffee Republic we thought of our inexperience as a disadvantage, and made up for it by immersing ourselves totally in the world of coffee and coffee bars, drinking as many lattes as was physically possible. We almost killed ourselves overdosing on coffee—we had 26 espressos in a morning training class that a big coffee company offered (we went as it was free) learning about the difference between Colombian and Sumatran blends. We were like sponges, starting every morning in an old-style coffee bar, absorbing every little detail, learning with the curiosity of children and without any presuppositions. We didn't know much about anything. We just had a vision of how we wanted things to be done

I remember when we went to see seasoned players in the field. They all had a million and one reasons why coffee bars wouldn't work. They had been in the UK coffee business for generations, knew it inside out and categorically believed our coffee bar idea would fail.

It would be misleading to say that after hearing the so-called experts telling us our idea was a no go, we still felt confident. We didn't. No one with an idea has 100% self-belief in it, but there is something unexplainable which kept us going. What was that unexplainable thing? Our naivety, I suppose, this picture we had in our minds of the end goal, a coffee bar just like the ones we had seen in New York. The huge bit between where we were then, which was absolutely nowhere, and our end vision, was the part we were clueless about.

Little did I know that would turn out to be our biggest advantage. Our cluelessness kept us pushing forward and allowed us to ignore the naysayers. It gave us a fresh outlook on coffee bars, which had been around for centuries, so we were able to offer customers something new and exciting, not just a variation on the same old, same old.

The Dangers of Experience

Which is why in both my books I have a chapter entitled "The Importance of Being Clueless." As we accumulate experience and knowledge, our thoughts get shackled to an extent. We get used to failures and imperfections, and become numb to the possibilities of anything new. We repeat ourselves. We don't see the really annoying things around us—the gaps and headaches begging to be solved. We lose our curiosity.

Losing our curiosity is big because without it, we lose the capacity to question, to tinker, to ask "why not?", to dream. We become complacent. I saw that happen at Coffee Republic. Instead of the blissful naivety of the beginning, soon there were systems, processes, products, sales. There was success. There was a status quo, tried and tested ways of doing things, something to fall back on, whereas as a young upstart we had nothing to go back to, nothing to lose so we kept trying new things.

But it's not just young start ups that suffer when they "grow up." Big companies also need to retain a youthful spirit. After all, even the largest multinational was once a startup -- with a capacity for cluelessness.

Getting back to a bit of cluelessness is the key to increasing innovation in large organizations. Built-up expertise and preconceptions are the enemy of experimentation and new ideas. They often come disguised in all too familiar phrases like:

This is how we do things.It's industry practice.We tried it already.Yes, but..

Phrases like these sap our curiosity. We were all born to create, to be curious. By shutting off this drive, these demotivating phrases separate our life force—our joie de vivre—from our work. Instead of asking the crucial life-affirming question, "why?" we start to ask, "why bother?" People shut down. They settle into a sort of hubris and wait for the weekend when they can get out of the drudgery of routine, exercise their innate curiosity and get a bit of zing back into their life.

Large organizations can't strive to be completely naive – expertise can be valuable – but from my experience working with executives at big companies, most would benefit from consciously working to embrace a bit more cluelessness. This is often simply a matter of being aware of the phrases I mentioned above, to avoid the trap of expertise and un-learn slightly. Giving people permission to look around with fresh eyes like those of a novice, rather than the jaded perspective of the expert

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

This isn't just about professional performance but personal outlook as well (the two are intimately tied together, after all). Some in the entrepreneurship community have said that starting businesses is a game for the young. I disagree. Starting a business is for the young in spirit, and that's an option for anyone, no matter when they were born.

As I get older, in my mid-forties, I'm conscious of jadedness creeping in. My mind is becoming contaminated with memories of the past—good and bad—and along with them preconceptions about how things should or inevitably will be done. It's surprisingly easy to lose the naivety, lose the hunger, but I look around and am inspired by people—not the ones who "know a lot," but those who, at whatever age, remain childlike. The "big kids." They apply themselves with curiosity and a freshness to everything around them.

Which is why I love this quote above my desk:

Anyone who stops learning is old whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young."

It applies to companies as well as people and it always reminds me of the final words of Steve Job's commencement speech: "Stay hungry, stay foolish." It's so easy to settle into a status quo, into your comfort zone, but keeping your cluelessness and being a bit of a "big kid" is worth the effort, whether you are the founder of a growing startup, an executive at a huge organization, or simply a professional looking to retain your passion for life as you hit the cushy comforts of middle age.

Follow me on twitter @saharhas

Header: screenshot from Clueless courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Photo: Author's original sketches


Add a comment32 comments

LinkedIn MemberSahar Hashemi, so very true. It seems to me that one of the biggest coffee chains you mentioned here in the article, has become too complacent and is no longer fresh. We see a steady decline in the amount of shops opening here in the South, being taken over by Costa especially as well as Café Nero. Why? For starters, because none of their shops local have great staff, great atmosphere and remind me more of a soulless dark and dingy train station than a warm welcoming coffee shop. A place, where people want to hang out, regardless of their age or income. As one of their biggest supporters and lovers of their coffees, my daughter and I now very rarely stay in, but take our coffees out. Mind, first of all, you have to be lucky to be served within 5 minutes. Most of the time it can take anything up to 20 minutes! Their product range is tired, uninspiring, expensive and does not offer enough if at all for anybody with allergies such as nut, gluten etc. In a day and age, where so many suffer, it is unbelievable they actually removed gluten free products from their range. Maybe it still works in big cities or the US, where people seem to care so little about others or what they eat and drink. Out here in the country we very much do! We still greet each other, smile at each other and share the odd conversation at the check out in the supermarket on a Saturday morning. So watch the space, I would say!

Like(3)Reply(1)4 hours ago

Iain Ashby

Project Manager (PRINCE 2)

As someone that works in Canary Wharf I can certainly see how the coffee shop boom has become the norm in the UK. The amount of Costas and Prets around here is crazy, there's even a Costa on the floor that I work on! In terms of cluelessness I agree that this is a good quality to have even when you're experienced although I suppose it just becomes curiosity then. I allways pride myself on being able to ask the 'stupid' question that everyone else assumes to have the answer. Most of the time there's a good reason why its not done or not a posibility but you only have to hit a solution every now and again for it to be worthwhile.

Like(1)Reply4 hours ago

DeeDee Doke

Recruitment and workplace issues journalist & event strategist

Yes yes yes! It's particularly meaningful that Ms Hashemi is linking hunger with curiosity and commitment to learning -- there's a lot of hunger out there, but so little curiosity.

Like(1)Reply(1)4 hours ago

Tony Copeman

Director at Atman Strategy

The power of being counterintuitive is something so many people struggle with, what a fantastic demonstration of it's value!!

Like(1)Reply4 hours ago

Alan Cruden CMgr

Senior Project Manager, getting stuff done

Interesting concept Cluelessness as an attribute of, to success! Always willing to learn especially after watching a video of Jack Ma ex-CEO of

Like(1)Reply4 hours ago

Joachim Stenberg


BGreat! Stay foolish do your thing, and run over The no sayers

Like(1)Reply4 hours ago

Chris Payne

Executive Director of Communications at Tulsa Public Schools

"The more we know, the more we DON'T know." If we close ourselves off to new ideas, we become stagnant and innovation dies. The best advice . . . close our mouths and listen deeply, imagine and rediscover our inquisitive inner child.

Like(1)Reply45 minutes ago

JJ Persaud

Senior Client Technical Professional at IBM

Yep, the day you stop learning is the day is the day you become obsolete.

Like(1)Reply1 hour ago

Nikolai Kopelev

Interesting article. Although I agree with the main messages, I do not understand the reasons for experienced people not to be innovative, creative, entrepreneurial, ready for a change, etc, IMHO, experience is the sum of what we have leaned in life, whereas creativity, et al are the character traits. Open-minded people have an advantage of being experts in many areas, as they continuously looking for new opportunities wherever they go, regardless of his formal education, age, profession, etc.

Like(1)Reply2 hours ago

Albert Last

Consultant bij Care4skills van Alonsa BV

Innovation is tough work. To realize a dream, you need to be awake. It's important to stick to the image of the dream.

Like(1)Reply(1)4 hours ago

Anton Krylov

Managing Director at Mechel Service UK Ltd.

Harris + Hoole in Amersham is my favourite, next one for coffee is the news stand on the Londonbound platform at Amersham train station, otherwise and elsewhere I would go to Cafe Nero.

LikeReply4 hours ago

John Roman Rock

Digital Business Integration Consultant at EE

I prefer this quote: We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

LikeReply4 hours ago

Ricky Rampersad

Branch Manager at Guardian Life of the Caribbean Limited

I agree, I've been in the insurance industry for the last 22 years. When I started, unknown and following the basic metrics, I was doing more activities that was required. The results was massive success. My point is, had I followed the basics, I may not have done as well as I did. This is a very good article and thanks for sharing.

LikeReply4 hours ago

Eliud Koome

Founder at Metroneur

.Sahar Hashemi: Built-up expertise and preconceptions are the enemy of experimentation and new ideas. To be agile, firms need to have a dogged infancy mentality, always on the discovery mode.

LikeReply4 hours ago

Mahesh Patil

Google-Glass/Android/iOS/SEO/WEB | We craft your ideas and IT dreams into the best of IT Solutions.

if we would follow traditions we can innovate ..I hate when people call it's not the right way ..i follow only one way best we can do something...irrespectie of it's old or new ..

LikeReply4 hours ago

Ken Francis

Art Director/Map Designer

One of my design heroes, Paula Scher, likes to tackle work that is new to her. She says not knowing what she shouldn't do is freeing and let's her take the work to places she couldn't if she were limited by the rules.

LikeReply3 hours ago

Julian Illman

Co-owner of Brilliant Living HQ at

I love this concept of continuing to view the world and your business through the curiosity of a child's eyes. I'm interested that you use the term 'cluelessness' as opposed to 'curiosity' and might add 'present to the situation' into the mix. Nice article and I agree with Jillian S S's comments on atmosphere in many a chain coffee shop. The independents are still alive and well where I am, though both Costa and Neros have edged in to the town.

LikeReply(1)4 hours ago

Gail K. Smith, P.M.P.

Writing & Communication; Project & Meeting Planning/Management; Process Redesign

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish." I love it. Great article and great concept!

LikeReply3 hours ago

Caroline Godden

Business Person, Postgrad Student

Great post Sahar, clueless is the only way to go = beginner's mind.

LikeReply3 hours ago

Max Conner

Owner "Helena Handbasket"

Great article! I think if people looked at their past performance, they would see a direct link between their successes and this way of thinking. AND a direct link between unsuccessful ventures and the lack of this thought process. I know I do.

LikeReply3 hours ago

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Voices of Leaders interviews Ms. Leanne Ooi, CEO of Rentwise Sdn Bhd

Published on Dec 15, 2013

Ms. Leanne Ooi, Chief Executive
Officer of Rentwise Sdn Bhd gives an overview of the company and its
milestones. She explains the competitive advantages of the "Rentwise
Model" and comments on the investment opportunities and potential

Wearnes Automotive rolls out real-time customer feedback system across Asia Pacific

T.C. Seow | May 9, 2014 

Wearnes Automotive, a major car distributor and dealer in Asia Pacific, has rolled out a real-time customer feedback system across seven countries. This system includes an application called Wearnes Customer Online Response & Engagement (Wearnes CORE), which sends instant alerts to service managers and senior management whenever there is a service lapse.

According to Andre Roy, CEO of Wearnes Automotive, Wearnes CORE aims to resolve any issues or dissatisfaction that a customer has experienced before he or she leaves the service centre. A proprietary iPad program and application have been specially developed for this system.

Said Roy: "This new system complements our monthly customer feedback survey and allows us to act immediately. We have noticed that a lot of times, customer dissatisfaction stems from misunderstandings that can be easily resolved on the spot. This system alerts us to this so that any service lapse is addressed before customers leave the service centres."

Wearnes began piloting the app in Wearnes' Volvo Car service centre in Singapore. The rollout across all workshops in the region is almost complete, with the system already in place in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, with Vietnam in progress.

Wearnes CORE solicits quick feedback from customers who have taken their cars to Wearnes Automotive for servicing. Customers can grade their overall experience as 'Impressive', 'Good' or 'Could Be Better' on an iPad presented to them upon completion of a job.

if a customer selects 'Could Be Better', an SMS and email alert is sent to the brand's service manager. This allows Wearnes Automotive to respond to the situation quickly. In the majority of cases, the service manager is able to speak to the customer before they leave the service centre and resolve any issues or concerns.

To further improve customer service, all Wearnes showrooms across all car marques in the entire network will house a specially designed monitor to show the level of customer satisfaction in the region for the month.

"The system allows us to be as transparent as possible so that our customers can be confident about our service levels," said Roy.

The rise of Subscription Economy: Zuora

Nurdianah Md Nur | May 12, 2014 

As evident from the success of Netflix and Spotify, consumers today prefer subscribing to services to buying products. Tien Tzuo, the CEO and founder of Zuora -a subscription billing and ecommerce provider - explains why businesses should move towards a subscription-based revenue business model, and provides advice on how to overcome the challenges of transiting to such a model.   

What is a Subscription Economy and what are its benefits?
If you stop for a moment, you may observe that more and more of your life is being run on services, not products.  For example, you subscribe to streaming music and movies instead of buying CDs or DVDs. You also work through online applications from Salesforce or Google as opposed to working through software products that your company had to install and maintain.  

This is what we call the Subscription Economy.

Already estimated at US$500 billion, the Subscription Economy is set to grow exponentially as the global market shifts to services and innovative delivery models. A 2013 Economist Intelligence Unit Survey found that four out of every five (80 percent) businesses are currently seeing changes in the way customers prefer to access services. As a result, over half (51 percent) of them have integrated new pricing and delivery models such as subscriptions, sharing and rental goods and services.

The benefits of the Subscription Economy? Well the great thing is that it's a win for both consumers and businesses. Customers love the convenience, cost and accessibility of subscribing to services rather than buying them. For businesses, instead of guessing their revenue based on an unpredictable forecast of number of units sold, they can look forward to predictable revenue from subscriptions for a whole year. In fact, the Subscription Economy encourages companies to focus on their customer and build relationships that last.

Is Subscription Economy any different from software-as-as-service (SaaS)?
SaaS is a great example of how the Subscription Economy has transformed the software sector. From the founding of to Adobe's recent declaration that it is going 100 percent subscriptions, the SaaS model has emerged as the preferred way to both deliver and consume software applications.

That same trend is now permeating all industries - from cloud storage to streaming digital media, membership services and electronic health records - for any kind of product or service that can be subscribed to (including toothbrushes and razors). In fact, the Subscription Economy is fuelling massive changes across multiple multi-billion dollar industries, including communications, media, technology, consumer services, and even traditional manufacturing as devices tethered to the Internet are fueling what people call the "Internet of Things."

Are enterprises in Asia currently using the subscription model? Which industries are more enthusiastic about adopting it and why?
The Subscription Economy is a global phenomenon, including across Asia. Why? Because the Internet is a global phenomenon!

For example, video streaming subscriptions such as Youku have taken off in a big way in Asia, especially in China where online video has already supplanted broadcast and pay TV. A new online movie streaming platform, Hollywood HD, was launched in Thailand. There are also similar services in Japan, Indonesia and Philippines. Car sharing through services like WhizzCar are another growing trend in Asia with the congestion in the cities here. This shift is primarily driven by customer demands: they want the convenience and easy access to these products and services. A big enabling factor to this shift is the improving technology that allows companies to provide these services - from broadband internet access to the proliferation of smartphones.

From Zuora's perspective, we see a lot of growth in the market in regions like Asia. Over 25 percent of our business now comes from outside the US and we have increased our employee count outside of the US by 40 percent in the last year. We have seen a rise in demand for our services in the region with some early adopters in Singapore like Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), ViewQwest and PropertyGuru.

What are the challenges that enterprises will face when they switch to a subscription model? How should businesses overcome them?
Business models in the Subscription Economy are inherently different, which can create challenges for companies looking to thrive in this new world. Success is no longer gauged by counting the number of units of your product you have sold. Rather, success is measuring how many customers are using your service on a recurring basis and how successful you are at monetising those recurring relationships. New pricing and delivery models are required, such as subscriptions, sharing and rental goods and services. These bring new challenges and complexities for enterprises. For example, instead of tracking how many USB flash drives you ship, you can provide cloud storage space through a variety of pricing plans such as usage based, pay-as-you-go or a fixed subscription. You will need a billing solution that would enable you to automate your metering, pricing and billing for different bundles and configurations quickly and accurately.

Designing a new business model built around recurring relationships is easier for companies that are starting with a blank sheet of paper; for those who aren't constrained by a legacy of product-centric business processes, mindset and legacy IT systems. For large, global enterprises that have a traditional product based business model, the transition can be a significant challenge. Large, monolithic ERP systems which sit at the core of enterprises today make it difficult for them to swiftly and easily embrace alternative business models like subscriptions. While they are great as a backend 'system of record", they are too rigid, slow and unsuitable for new subscription based order-to-cash processes.  

Instead, enterprises need a platform that enables continuous business model innovation centered around the recurring customer relationship. A new breed of systems is needed to augment ERP and remove roadblocks to innovation. These systems should easily integrate into existing IT infrastructures, seamlessly manage the subscription order-to-cash processes, meet security and audit standards demanded by large enterprises, and support rapid innovation without requiring massive investment.

Businesses also have to relook at their financial metrics. In a traditional product business, you look at an income statement, which is a backward looking financial statement that looks at how much revenue you did, and what it cost for you to deliver that business. In the subscription economy it is a forward looking annual recurring revenue based financial statement.

These are the metrics that matter:

Retention Rate:How much of your average rate of return (ARR) are you keeping every year?Recurring Profit Margin:It is your annual recurring revenue less churn minus the cost to run a deliver that service, andGrowth Efficiency:How much does it cost you to acquire a new dollar business?

 Zuora snagged a US$50 million round of venture capital last year, and has Dell, IBM, Tata and Salesforce among its customers.What's next for Zuora?
Asia is our new frontier and we are expanding our presence in the region with a new office opening in Singapore anytime now. This is part of our international expansion strategy to solidify our global leadership position.

We recently raised a further US$50 million in additional capital to expand our operations to help transform the quickly growing number of companies that are embracing the Subscription Economy.

We want to maintain our momentum and expand into new vertical markets and geographies. We will continue to in core research and development that will broaden and deepen our product line at an unparalleled pace.

Business Continuity Redefined

Business Continuity Redefined

Charles Clarke, Technical Director for Veeam Asia Pacific | May 12, 2014 

PriceWaterhouseCooper listed Singapore as the leading global business hub in Asia Pacific in its recent study as the best cities for doing business. Ranked 9th globally, the country harbours developed infrastructure, economic clout, technology readiness, open business policies and respected intellectual property rights.

With a reputation to live up to, Singapore as a thriving hub for business activities have to be 'always-on' and cannot afford to miss a beat or take a breath. The Always-On business demands zero downtime ensuring services are available to consumers and end-users all day, every day. The always-on business also needs these services to be delivered in a timely, high-performing fashion.

Despite advancements in infrastructure robustness, many businesses still face database, hardware and software downtime. Downtime can vary from a few hours to shutting down the business for days.

As a result, businesses suffer a grave loss in revenue and double the hard work in getting back on track. Downtime for businesses no doubt has dramatic ramifications, and therefore needs to be understood and if possible, prevented.

Veeam's independent Virtualisation Data Protection Report (survey of 500 CIOs) revealed that each hour of downtime costs an enterprise $324,793. Which means that downtime is, on average, costing organisations at least $1.6 million per incident in lost productivity and lost revenue. Technologies find that a lot of IT downtime is still plaguing end users; worse yet, if businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan in place.

As more businesses expand their reliance on IT, it's surprising to see so much tolerance for IT downtime, especially in an era of virtualisation that can minimise IT downtime, if not make it unnecessary altogether.

The cost of downtime is often calculated as:
'Cost of downtime = Outage hours * (Lost productivity + Lost revenue)'. Though simplistic, this formula is effective as it does capture the essence of downtime. However, it may not be entirely representative as it does miss things like ancillary costs. For example, a lack of staff morale and more importantly, the lack of confidence in the marketplace.

The true effects of downtime might often be underestimated, such as in the case of M1, a telecommunications provider in Singapore. The company suffered three days of downtime in January 2013, and all it took was a similar amount of time for the news to explode on social media channels such as blogs and Facebook.

The ease of information sharing soon led to widespread awareness, and ultimately culminated in a reduced confidence in the brand.  The question is how would this event affect the decision-making processes of potential M1 customers or those who are renewing their contracts in the coming weeks, months and years - after all, the Internet never forgets.

It is more critical now than ever as we move closer to the goals of the IN2015 and shape Singapore into becoming the world's leading-edge information and communications economy. Other economies in the region are following suit, with Malaysia being a notable example through their significantly increased investment in data centres, as well as their characteristics of having land as a resource and being free from natural disasters.

A key driving force behind data centre investment and regional adoption of 'cloud-methodology' is virtualisation. Confidence in existing disaster recovery techniques is falling in the Asia Pacific countries that are highly reliant on virtualisation, such as Australia and New Zealand which have a server virtualisation rate of around 73 percent. Essentially, the general belief is that recovery becomes less effective as data grows and virtual environments sprawl.

Contrary to the logic that virtualisation naturally lends itself to easier management and improved business continuity, virtualisation does deliver special benefits such as, good management to ensure that business continuity can be assured as environments grow.

With the rise of virtualisation and the strength of infrastructure investment in key parts of Asia, the potential to reduce downtime costs through well-managed, multi-tiered data recovery has never been bigger.

Improvements in storage capacity and performance, computer-layer performance and the ability to extend disaster recovery to the cloud have allowed us to unlock business continuity techniques that were either physically impossible or prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

Now is the time for Asian organisations to rethink business continuity, and reverse the trend of increasing complexity and costs in their data protection strategy.

Focusing on your core business: Harnessing synergy through Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

Focusing on your core business: Harnessing synergy through Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

Michael Sak, Vice-president of Regional Business Imaging Solutions Product Group, Canon Singapore |May 12, 2014 

A Challenging Business Environment

The business environment for the present-day enterprise has grown increasingly challenging. According to the Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Q1 Business Sentiment Survey for 2014[1], uncertainty over the global economy and rising costs are chief concerns among many businesses. In addition, competitive pressures are placed on businesses to keep pace with efficiency and productivity via the procurement of new technology. Along with these new technologies, enterprises are now expected to possess unprecedented levels of business responsiveness.

In the face of these pressures, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) offers itself as a means for enterprises to overcome these obstacles. BPO, as the name suggests, involves the contracting of operations and responsibilities of specific business functions to a third party service provider. Services may range anything from accounting and finance, printing, data processing to customer related services.

BPO is a highly sought-after service globally, a testament to the substantial benefits enterprises enjoy. According to a study by IDC, the worldwide BPO market is forecast to increase at a 5.7% compound annual growth rate, reaching $209.4 billion by 2017[2].

How BPO Helps Enterprises Manage Pressures and Get Ahead

Many enterprises often find themselves incurring excessive cost through self-managing an entire host of business processes; these costs go beyond the fixed investments of technology and equipment, and also entail the long-term costs of maintenance and in-house labour. Additionally, companies may not possess the necessary expertise to optimize business processes in a cost-efficient manner.

This can bog down businesses when disproportionate amounts of time and resources are spent navigating issues and problems, which then adversely affect efficiency, productivity and in turn, bottom line profit. Few resources would then be left available for the enterprise to innovate or focus on their core business functions.

When optimally deployed, BPO can help enterprises achieve the following, among numerous other possible benefits:

Improved responsiveness to environmental changesIncreased efficiency of business processesFlexibility in the management of resourcesMaintaining levels of agility enjoyed by small and medium enterprises when encountering growth

Most importantly, BPO helps enterprises free up precious resources spent on navigating non-core business tasks, which can then be channelled into realising the business' strategic goals.

Solutions to Fit Any Enterprise 

BPO is not a one-size-fits-all solution for enterprises - deciding what business functions to outsource depends on the unique needs of enterprise in the given context in the given industry. A smart deployment of BPO into any of these three aspects will aid the enterprise in not just enhancing business efficiency and productivity, but also generates significant cost savings.

Many businesses across industries choose to outsource non-core document handling functions so that they can focus on their future business.  For example, legal and financial institutions commonly outsource document intensive processes such as mail and transactional print, allowing them to enjoy cost efficiency, increased productivity and compliance. Institutions involved in managing a high volume of documents may also outsource their print activities to enjoy maximum cost savings to ensure printing demands are met on time and of high quality.

Finally, BPO isn't just for large enterprises, but it is also beneficial to small and growing enterprises. For instance, large, risky and long-term capital expenditure incurred through acquiring equipment and labour that may not guarantee long-term benefits can be avoided through BPO.

Looking Ahead

The global economy and marketplace is highly competitive, with pressure on enterprises to not only be efficient and productive, but to also be innovative. Market volatility also demands that enterprises be agile and adaptive in order to survive.  These can become lofty aspirations when businesses get caught up with micromanaging and navigating back-end, non-core business tasks. A flexible and informed deployment of BPO empowers enterprises to be light on their feet and more importantly, allows them to focus on developing their core business.

Are managed services the 'Holy Grail' for app outsourcing?

Are managed services the 'Holy Grail' for app outsourcing?

Stephanie Overby | May 12, 2014 

Once upon a time, application development and maintenance (ADM) outsourcing was done via the staff augmentation or time and materials model. It was the proverbial lose-lose. Customers could end up paying more than they should and providers could wind up with slim margins.

Over the years, the preferred model for ADM outsourcing matured became the fixed-fee contract, whereby clients pay a set amount of money for specific amount of work. Clients liked fixed-fee deals because they feel they were more likely to get what they paid for and suppliers appreciated them because they could appropriately staff their deals and increase their margins a bit.

However, in recent years attention has shifted to the managed service model. Managed service pricing is seen as the "holy grail" of ADM pricing models, says Steven Kirz, principal with outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon.

"Managed service deals focus on meeting the client's exact requirements regardless of how a supplier chooses to staff and service it," Harmon says. The client establishes the outcomes and service levels and the supplier delivers based on their own methodologies, processes, tools and locations. In theory, it's a win-win arrangement. The client gets requirements met more economically than with the other previous models. (Kirz says he's seen clients cut their costs in half over the course of a five-year management service deal.) The supplier gets increased flexibility and margin opportunity in exchange for taking on more risk.

But if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. talked to Kirz about the challenges of the managed service approach to ADM outsourcing and how to overcome them, why an effective outcome-based relationship requires more than new pricing, and what a successful managed service deal looks like. How difficult is it to apply outcome-based pricing to ADM deals?

Steven Kirz: It doesn't have to be difficult if the client fully understands their requirements and how to effectively measure outcomes for both application development and maintenance. Truth be told, however, the art of translating requirements into a plan that can be aligned with realistic pricing requires expertise and deep marketplace knowledge.

For outcome-based pricing in application development deals, you're paying to create an application that performs to particular specifications. Whether you're paying a fixed-fee or viewing it as outcome-based, the end result is the same. In good ADM deals, the client only pays if the application is delivered and works based on requirements.

We've seen outcome-based pricing work well for application development deals. Outcome-based pricing can work well for application maintenance deals as well. For example, if a company needs to maintain a suite of ten applications but two aren't profitable, then a supplier may be contracted to retire the two underperforming applications and then receive part of the savings generated by the company not having to maintain them anymore. How should a managed service model for ADM work?

Kirz:In a managed service model, a client looking to maintain a suite of applications needs to ensure that the supplier knows the good, the bad, and the ugly about the comprehensive application environment. Giving the supplier complete visibility into interfaces, incidents and outages, how data moves within the applications, and the infrastructure they sit on is required so they can gain a realistic understanding of the level of effort and expertise needed to maintain the apps.

The supplier applies this knowledge in determining ways to more efficiently manage the applications using their methodologies, tools, and locations worldwide. The client and supplier can then prepare a three- to five-year deal that includes SLAs to be met during the first year for a certain price, with pricing reducing in a graduated approach for each year thereafter to reflect the efficiencies generated by the supplier. We've seen many companies experience a 50 percent cost reduction over the course of five-year application maintenance deals.

Using a managed service model for application development requires a different approach as it is project-based rather than a consistent body of work. The same high level of visibility (as with application maintenance) should be given to suppliers regarding what needs to be developed and a fixed bid should be established with flexibility to build in ad-hoc projects. Milestones should be outlined and enforced for each development project. The biggest challenge for managed service models in application development deals is that business and IT stakeholders frequently have trouble agreeing on requirements as a first step. What else has to change beyond the pricing model itself for this kind of approach to work?

Kirz:Pricing is the starting point for aligning objectives between clients and suppliers, but there is much more to establishing a successful ADM deal. When clients go out to bid for a project, full transparency must be given to suppliers regarding requirements, existing applications, and their issues. Clients must also be clear on contract terms, including key SLAs and personnel requirements, upfront. Additionally, there should be no commitments required aside from a specific managed service level of effort that aligns with an agreed-upon fixed monthly rate.

To build in flexibility for future projects, it's wise to ensure the contract is structured to include staff augmentation, time and materials, and managed service pricing models so both the client and suppliers understand all options. This includes gathering rate cards, resource certifications, and so forth.

Another key piece is that both application development and maintenance should be included in all contracts for statements of work in order to enable any supplier that bids on application maintenance to also bid on application development work at any time through a statement of work rather than entering into a major contract negotiation.

In this model, the client will ultimately choose one application maintenance supplier with the expectation of reducing costs by 50 percent over a five-year period. For application development, it is more beneficial to choose multiple suppliers to create a competitive environment for follow-on deals. How receptive are vendors to the managed service approach for ADM?

Kirz:In our experience, suppliers have largely welcomed this approach as they can yield a much higher margin than with the commodity-based pricing of the time and materials or staff augmentation models. They also appreciate the increased visibility into the nuts and bolts of any given project, as well as contracts and requirements. Many suppliers realize this approach is more about building a long-term partnership than trying to reduce margin. You note the importance of clients providing full transparency about all the issues associated with their application work to their vendors. Once customers have made their requirements clear, should they demand that their vendors provide visibility into their proposed pricing, plans, tools, and resources for meeting those demands?

Yes, this piece is central to the model's success. Clients must retain the ability to compare apples to apples across deals with multiple suppliers. While traditional negotiations involve redlining contracts, we've found that it consistently saves months of time and produces more predictable results when clients establish their needs and stick to them. If they give full visibility to suppliers regarding their exact needs, then it should just be a matter of what price the supplier will charge for those services. Once the price has been established, clients can then focus on how to differentiate among suppliers by comparing resource quality, methodologies and approaches, and transition plans. What are the biggest benefits you've seen from the managed service approach to ADM?

Kirz:Well, one company's team that had been negotiating the same ADM deal for more than a year was able to close four ADM deals in four days each by using this model. But it's about more than the speed of closing the deal. Companies are more likely to secure the requirements outlined by business and IT stakeholders without having to compromise on key elements.

They can maintain a competitive supplier environment as well as land market-leading project pricing with a stable of development suppliers meeting identical contract terms. They get guaranteed application maintenance pricing for three to five years with the flexibility to shift work to qualified alternate ADM suppliers if performance doesn't hold up to standards.

They secure access to new thinking, resources, and tools among multiple suppliers that are aware of the competition and are trying to rise to the top. Finally, governance is easier with a standardized contract that multiple suppliers must adhere to. It levels the playing field.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Qualities of Great Leaders

Quick! Think of a leader. Who comes to mind? A boss at work, a president, a coach you had in high school, a parent or sibling; leadership emerges in all areas of our lives. 

The leadership you experience throughout your life often shapes you. The leadership qualities we admire in others are the same qualities we try to portray and build on in our own lives. No one is born a leader; it takes work. And good leaders are always working to improve themselves. 

But what qualities make someone a great leader? We thought about some of the great leaders we know, and here are some qualities that they all have in common:

Great Leaders Show Passion"To love what you do and feel that it matters…how could anything be more fun?" —Katherine Graham

Passion is a very important part of leadership, and passion isn't something we can fake. When you love what you do, it shows through your actions, which helps inspire those around you. Plus it's always more rewarding (and more fun!) to do something that matters to you. If you're having fun and feel like you're making a difference, other people in your life will be inspired to follow in your footsteps. Great leaders know this—whether it's volunteering once a week at a soup kitchen or leading a country through the Great Depression, passion always inspires others to act.

Great Leaders Stay Focused on Priorities

Great leaders help others stay focused on their goals in part by staying focused themselves. In all areas of life, it's easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out by all the little things and lose sight of the big picture. Great leaders know how to keep everyone focused by keeping priorities top of mind and adjusting as new things pop up. If we always focused on every small issue, we wouldn't have enough time to spend on the important things. Great leaders know when to let the little things go to focus on the bigger issues.

Great Leaders Stay Optimistic and Always Persevere

Life isn't perfect. There's always going to be something that gets in the way or throws you off course. But great leaders know how to stay positive and keep everyone on track, even when problems arise. Great leaders don't give up, and they don't let others give up either.

Great Leaders Build Trust and Trust Others

Trust is one of the most important qualities in life and leadership. Without trust, leaders can't inspire others to follow them or to learn from them. Trust doesn't happen overnight, and great leaders know how to prove their trustworthiness.

Another important part of trust is being able to trust others. Great leaders surround themselves with people they can count on. We can't do everything ourselves, so we need to trust others to take care of things. At work, that might be trusting a co-worker to meet their deadlines on a project. At home, it might be trusting your family to have your back when you try something new. 

Building trust and learning to trust others shows that you're on the same team and are all working for the same goal. Without trust, there are no followers, and without followers, there are no leaders.

A lot of different things make up great leaders, and these are just some qualities that we've noticed in leaders we know. Think about the great leaders you know. Do they have these traits? What other leadership qualities do they have that we all should have in our lives? Share your ideas on what makes a great leader.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Three Ways to Build Trust

When people think of leaders, they often think of their boss or the president. But at Simple Truths, we know that everyone is a leader.

Whether you're the leader of a country or the leader of your family, if you are inspiring others, then you're a leader. And trust is one of the most important things in leadership. Without trust, you won't be able to inspire others to follow you and learn from you.

Three Ways to Build Trust
from The Little Book with 50 Big Ideas on Leadership
by Glenn Furuya

The Three "RITY"
Three words that end in the letters "rity" form the basis for trust.

People will trust you when they "feel" your selfless, giving ways. With charity, they trust your "heart."

People trust leaders who provide a clear vision, relevant instruction and good information. With clarity, they trust your "head."

People trust leaders who walk their talk, live their beliefs and keep their promises. With integrity, they trust your "character" and your "word."

Which "RITY" do you need to work on?
Building trust is just one part of leadership.