Finding your why

Check out my Vlog post here about finding your why and describing why I decided to start a Vlog on youtube.

My First Vlog – Episode 1

 

Check out the first episode of my Vlog. My plan is to do this as a daily thing starting now!

Click on the link to start following me as I explore the world of publishing in Youtube on a daily basis!

 

5 tips to improving the value you bring

Value. This is a term that is bantered around all the time. You hear it in marketing books and sales guys can’t help but mention it all the time with terms like “value-based selling” and “value drivers”. But what is value and what does it mean to your world.

Value according to the dictionary definition is “a regard that something is held to deserve” or “the importance or preciousness of something”. This doesn’t really say a great deal except that value is something that we regard as important or precious. A common word that we hear associated with value is benefit ie. Value = Benefit.

In business, people hold perceptions about what value they attribute to certain individuals, items or organisations.  For example your potential value-add is the real contribution you make to your organization, team or customers. People also understand that value can have a cost and therefore “Value = Benefits – Costs” is often used as a way to measure value.

A good, albeit cynical way to look at it is when someone asks you how you are – what they are really asking is what can you do for me and what value will that bring.

Some of the key areas to consider in answering that question if you intend on adding value is:

1.     Are you truly solving a problem?

By someone typically we refer to internal or external customers. People that matter. This is about listening and understanding what their problem is for a start then solving this. It is not about listening then failing to help it is about truly helping and picking the battles that you can win. This is a key one for sales people as the premise behind this is to firstly understand your customer’s needs and there is lots of literature around discovering, actively listening and clarifying what you have heard to ensure you have truly understood. Covey puts it quite nicely in his 12 Habits of Highly effective people: “Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Often these problems are not visible and need to be discovered. This is where the following point is relevant.

2.     Are you credible and have you built trust?

A common problem why people do not add value is because they are unable to do so or are unaware of problems that they could potentially solve. A big part of this is because customers may not trust them enough to invite them to help them. This could be on account of the the fact that you have not done a good enough job to build trust. There are a number of ways to do this, such as being reliable, doing what you say you will do and doing it. Cancelling or failing to follow through can impact your trust worthiness. Never lie – people can sense it. Volunteering information will help to prove that you have nothing to hide. It is best not to omit important details in accounts as people will start to notice contradictions in your stories. There are a number of other ways to build trust and most are common sense.

 

3.     Are you setting expectations that you can easily exceed and is this enough?

Once you have understood what is required to add value you need to be able to ensure you deliver. Setting the right expectation with your customer is paramount to this. This is all about expectation setting. It is always better to set a lower expectation and exceed this than to over promise then under deliver. This is where you need to manage the customer’s perception and if this is unrealistic then you need to be able to substantiate this with real life examples. People set their expectation based on what they experience and they will benchmark the value you bring in line with this. There is also an interesting relationship with cost here. Often good service needs to come at a price. On the flip side if they are paying for a good service and you don’t provide it then you stand the risk of losing your customer to a competitor.

4.     Perception can be more important than reality

Everybody perceives value differently. That is because everybody’s version of good is different. We all like different things and that is what makes us human. This is why it is important to understand what is valuable to the person. An important consideration here is that the perception of value and ideally quantifiable value is that it is always directly attributed to personal experience.

For example customers will form an opinion of a product based on their experiences about that product. Rory Sutherland has an interesting view on this. He articulates that there is a difference between people’s perspective based on their circumstances. According to Rory Sutherland reframing the value in accordance with the context is the key to delivering value. An example of this would be that when a person is thirsty they are more likely to find this valuable than when they are not. Common sense right? The interesting thing is that the price of the water wouldn’t have changed but the value definitely has.

5.     Prioritise quantifiable value over intangible value

Making sure that value is recognized in business is always much easier when it is tangible. By this we mean that the benefit can be attributed or calculated with some kind of metric. Metrics are a lot more credible than anecdotes so when deciding what value you can bring always prioritise activities that can be measured as they will be more specific and much easier to articulate later. Secondarily to that intangible or unquantifiable value can be demonstrated this is value that helps but in a more round about way. An example of quantifiable value would be that John invested $50,000 in the service improvement programme or Sally spent 2 days building a project plan for the implementation project.  This ensures that value is directly attributable to you and can be later measured.    “What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker. This quote is important as if you aren’t tracking yourself how can you measure the value you are adding and what you need to do to improve this.

 

 

8 Steps to Build your Personal Brand

When was the last time you thought about what people think of you? I mean really. The standard response that most people would answer with is “I don’t care about what people think of me”. But when you really think about it you probably do. Whether it is only the people that matter to you or whether it is the world at large, most people that have some vested interest in being accepted by their fellow human beings will to some or other degree care about the image they intend to portray, whether it is the “I don’t care” look or the “I take pride in the way I look” look. So what why does it matter? Well because just like many other things within our sphere of influence we have the ability to control the way that people perceive us and in fact whether we like it or not people will have a perception of you today. When we meet other humans we make judgment calls. We may be in denial about this but in fact when we meet other humans often we will decide whether these people are going to have something to offer us, whether they are a potential negative influence on us or whether perhaps we may have to help them.

This simple humanistic calculation happens every time we meet and whether subconsciously or intentionally this results in an outcome. This outcome is a judgement or perception of you and the potential value that you have to offer. So given that this is going on I ask you the same question, “What do people think about you?”. Are you perceived as someone that can add value? If you don’t know the answer to this then next time you meet someone ask them. It won’t hurt and might just help. If they answer that you do, which is hopefully the case ask them what was it that gave them that impression? Although you run the risk of sounding somewhat self-involved or at worst insecure the results might surprise you.

Personal Branding deals with the conscious process of managing the way that people perceive you and is very much focused on communicating the value that you add to the people in your life that truly matter to you. Value is a subjective term and an interesting definition I came across was “a regard that something or someone is held to deserve”. So are you someone that is held in high regard? Are you valuable to others?

The first step in consciously managing your personal brand is to understand yourself. It’s all about brand “you” and what it is that you want to represent. This is when you ask yourself questions such as what do I truly care about? What motivates me? What do I want to be known for? What do I want to be remembered for? What is the value that I want to contribute to my fellow man? These types of questions help you to understand your purpose in life. Don’t worry, it isn’t about beating yourself up about what you have or haven’t done it is simply about understanding who you are, what you represent and what is important to you. This will enable you to think about the most important question of all what is your purpose and how do you want people to help you get there. You will be surprised but when people understand what it is that you are trying to achieve they will often help you to get there and that is what Personal Branding is all about. You want people to buy your product except this time the product is you! You want them to buy into what you believe in and join you in the quest that you have set yourself.

The second step is to identify the one thing that you do better than anybody else. What is it that makes you completely and totally unique in the world. Due to a combination of nature and nurture we have been blessed with complete uniqueness. No matter what you heard in Fight Club you are a delicate and unique snow flake! Well maybe not that delicate, but definitely unique. This is what is called your Unique Selling Point or USP. This is the thing that differentiates you from all the other people out there in the world. This should also be something that you love to do, that you completely believe in and that you are an expert on.

The third step is defining what it is that is valuable about you. Truly think about it. What do you have to offer the world at large and how valuable is this perceived to be by others. Everybody has something to offer whether they know it or not. Sit down and write all the things that you are good at and that you love to do. Then write down who would benefit from them and how.

The fourth step is about coming up with your own slogan. This is a one sentence statement that embodies everything that you have just read. It should articulate your purpose, what you have to offer and why you are different. There are a number of great examples of slogans that people have used for instance: [insert slogan here]. The reason this is important is to easily communicate a simple objective that people can relate to that sums up what you are about and what value they can get from you.

The fifth step is to be able to align your personal brand with what you would like to portray with the slogan you have come up with. Would people think of you by your appearance as the person the slogan represents? What can you do to better align with what you want to represent. They say that perception is everything and in order to achieve your objectives it is important that this aligns. Some of the factors that you want to consider are image or look (this includes appearance, dress, grooming etc). Be aware that it is all about looking at all of the little details as when these all add up they make a big difference. In marketing terms this would be all about Product marketing – Again it’s about product you!

The sixth step is to work on the branding itself. This is all about promotion in the marketing mix and is about building all of the relevant branding such as the logo defining the colours, understanding the look and feel of what will make up the representation of the brand. Tips here include having a brand strategy that extends across all of your social media and covers any piece of published material. Key factors include consistency across all of your media, ensuring that all of the material that is online is representing you in the same fashion and in the best possible light.

The seventh step is to understand what is out there about you already. This relates to your public relations or PR strategy. Every time you write something online it leaves a digital footprint, a record if you will. This does not go away and it is important to be able to firstly understand what has been published about you or by you already and whether that aligns with you favourably. If for some reason this does not align with what you are trying to achieve then you have several options. For example you can wipe it clean if you are able to have control of what has been published or secondly you can drown it out by publishing a lot more positive media to ensure that when people look you up, the results are always favorable.

The eighth step is about ensuring that your product ie you is being distributed properly. This is all about the placement of your brand. What you are hoping for is that every time thsat somebody that you are interested in targeting is able to track you down no matter where it is that they look. You want to be accessible to people and ensure that you have a “presence” in all of the key locations that people are going to be looking you up. For example you want to make sure that if they search your relevant niche area online that all they see is references to you. This is all about what search marketing people refer to as search engine optimization and makes sure that when people google you or more importantly anything related to the niche area that you are building brand recognition with that they are getting access to the core messages that are relevant and important.

The ninth most important step is to understand your price or better put your worth. By this I mean what is your potential hourly rate and how have you calculated this. This is important as it will help you to understand how your time is being used and to better align your time with the activities that most enable you to reach the objectives that you have set for yourself. Your time is your most valuable asset and understanding where you spend your time is critical to determining whether that is an efficient use of your most valuable asset. Ask yourself every day “did I do something today to enhance my personal brand?” what did I do and what was it that was of value to your customers. This kind of day to day tracking of your impact will help you to understand whether you are getting the desired impact.

These are 8 important considerations for building your personal brand.

If you are interested in finding out more about the above please email me or register for more great insights.

Before you reach for that spreadsheet….

The last few days have been very interesting. So many of the organisations I speak to have the challenge of management by spreadsheet.

Change is hard enough and so far spreadsheets seem to be for many of us the only answer to getting a handle on what is actually going on.

Let me explain……

The life of the spreadsheet begins as an idea or a desire:

1. to change

2. to make a plan

3. to understand

4. or to justify a theory

In their production we grow fond of them as the vehicle of our deliverance.

We spend hours crafting and colouring them and making them into truly magnificent pieces of operational beauty. Truly wondrous creations of cross-linking , formulas, tabs and tables. We take pride in the beautiful ones and shun the uglier ones irrespective of the data they hold!

 ….making them into truly magnificent pieces of operational beauty.

And as they are created so to they come to pass and with the dawning of new times, these creations inevitably lose their sheen. Becoming dull, lifeless and so often forgotten.

Until finally they become lost, buried amongst the clutter of folders of time long gone by. With only long forgotten presentations, email, word documents and the odd joke jpg as friends. Hoping against hope that their creator had the forethought to add the right key word into their title or file name so that once again they could be lifted out of obscurity and be useful once again!

Where was that supplier list again???

As creators and archivists we are faithful to our spreadsheets, trying our best to store and file them properly – just in case that budget from 2011 might help us somehow with our problems of today.

Look I get it…..

Nobody likes change and we all know how to make spreadsheets – well at least we think we do.

We understand the technology. Numbers in Columns and Rows right!?

We find spreadsheets easy to digest ……occasionally

…..well once they been explained to us

…..sometimes

…I think?!?!

We find spreadsheets easy to digest ……occasionally

Perhaps the reason why we like spreadsheets so much is that we can use them to show others our version of the truth. We are, after all, story tellers at heart.The fact that the data will reveal an, until now hidden reality, perhaps appeals to our ability to tell stories.

Yet so often this message gets lost in translation.

When it comes to change management in big organisations I always feel the use of spreadsheets can only be described as an exercise in futility. The analogy of trying to stop the tide comes to mind. Trying to describe the elephant when each person can only grasp the notion of a tail or a foot or a trunk. Each seeing their own view.

They tell a story that is already old

A bit like the observation theory. The minute you observe the event it has passed.

But just for a minute wouldn’t it be great if the stories we were telling came to life before our eyes? That we could play pause, rewind and even use the data to fast forward into the future. To understand the truly complex ecosystem that is our modern day working environment.

Wouldn’t it be great if the spreadsheet moved in real time – showing the  world what was really happening?

Even though our comfy old Ford Fiesta gets us from A to B doesn’t mean that it is the best option.

So what’s the alternative?

What would it take you to throw away your spreadsheet?:

Well the clear answer is good software: 

Take for instance workforce, resource or supplier management software – The argument for is:

  1. Improved Staff utilisation
  2. Reduced attrition
  3. Less risk with scenario planning
  4. Real-time (just in time) supplier management
  5. Reduction in supplier costs
  6. Improvements through process automation

 So what is stopping us?

Based on hearing this day in and day out we can determine that there are three common reasons for reluctance to relinquish our spreadsheets:

  1. Is it quicker to use excel than to use a productivity software solution?
  1. Is it too hard to access the data automatically?
  1. Is the software able to map to the organisation’s processes?

So what about if we removed all of these objections right now.

What about if we:

  1. Made the daily data entry go away through easy connection to what was already there
  2. Made the planning work as easy or even easier than excel with no training required
  3. Made the cost of implementation and hosting go away
  4. Made the software organic and flexible enough to adapt to the organisation

Would you consider throwing away your spread-sheets then?

Elements in the Situational Analysis

Here is an old article I wrote for about.com

Much of this is very relevant today and will help people to understand what needs to be looked at when planning any new project or undertaking….

Enjoy!

Elements in the Situational Analysis

File:About.com logo.svg

 

Elements in the Situational Analysis

From

Before developing any given marketing strategy it is important to conduct some form of analysis. This should form an essential part of any business or marketing plan and should be reviewed over time to ensure that it is kept current. Many of my clients often ask me what factors are important when doing this. The following is just a raw marketing 101 introduction to what to take into account when conducting an analysis and provides a checklist if you will of the most important factors to take into account.

The elements worth considering include:

  • Product Situation – What is my current product? You may want to break this definition up into parts such as the core product and any secondary or supporting services or products that also make up what you sell. It is important to observe this in terms of its different parts in order to be able to relate this back to core client needs. Feel free to also discuss here which of your client’s needs your product is meeting.
  • Competitive situation – Analyze your main competitors – who are they what are they up to – how do they compare – feature/ benefit analysis. What are their competitive advantages?
  • Distribution Situation – Review your distribution Situation – how are you getting your product to market? Do you need to go through distributors or other intermediaries?
  • Environmental factors – What external and internal environmental factors are there that need to be taken into account. This can include economic or sociological factors that impact on your performance.
  • Opportunity and issue analysis – Which requires a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats). Things to write down here are what current opportunities that are available in the market, the main threats that business is facing and may face in the future, the strengths that the business can rely on and any weaknesses that may effect the business performance.

I know for most of you marketing gurus this may be simple knowledge however it is important to realise that sometimes even the smartest forget the core fundamentals.

 

Getting to grips with Data Liquidity

Data is more liquid than we realise. Just for the purposes of a fun analogy lets compare data to water. Water is important to the substance of life just as data is important to effective decision-making and organisational execution.

Data like water needs to be shared across the organisation. It needs to be protected and nurtured from potential dangers and if squandered could fall into the wrong hands. Data needs to get to the right organisational audience at the right time and the data needs to all be consistent, pure and up to date. Not stagnant or polluted.

Carrying on with the data to water analogy and to highlight the importance of managing water here are some world stats here on water that should server to frame the conversation:

  • There have been over 1,831 significant water related human events in the last 50 years where often conflict has arisen.
  • More than 200 international treaties have been negotiated since the 1960s.

When compared to a typical organisation’s need for data what could we observe similar trends.

For example how many times have different departments needed to share data?

What organisational conflict has arisen over data access or the interpretation of data?

How often has data influenced an important strategic decision that has resulting large scale organisational restructuring or even significant loss of employment for parts of an organisation’s employees?

So what is stopping us sharing?

Why the conflict.

Like water this resource should be shared in an organisation. Like water, without this valuable resource whole organisational departments could very easily wither and die on the vines as the may be executing on completely the wrong activities.

Abundance of Data

One fact that we need to understand is that data is becoming more and more abundant. As of 2012, about 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day, and that number is doubling every 40 months or so. More data is created across the internet every second than were stored in the entire internet just 20 years ago. So that’s encouraging, we know there is lots of data out there and seemingly we are collecting more and more of it!

“Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink!”

So lets take a look at the current situation in the organisation:

Data fragmentation

Often we see data as fragmented. Information resources are often the most important assets an enterprise holds. Information can make or break an organisations;’ ability to align teams and deliver on its core functions—from sales and operations to the marketing and delivery of products or services through to strategy objective setting. The enterprise must be able to access and gather, understand and analyse and successfully leverage information in the best way as possible.

Unfortunately, as enterprises change and grow, data is increasingly becoming more difficult to pin down. Parts of the end to end transaction become locked in disparate systems with complicated access requirements including access control, complex apis and application constraints. Corporate acquisitions and mergers, new technologies, and changing business strategies only make this situation more difficult.

Therefore we live in s constant state of data segregation, in which pockets of information become trapped in lower level functional parts of the organization. One could argue that this situation exists to require knowledge workers to operate, manage and control this data, which in turn improves quality. However the risk of letting this situation perpetuate means that the activities of each function are then only observed in part and not within the context of the wider process, service delivery or organization.

Rise of Liquid Data and SOA

So how is data managed relevant to modern day application architecture? Enter SOA. Service-Oriented Architecture arose as a prevalent architecture for IT environments through a need to become more agile and flexible when it came to managing constant changes to services. The idea was to make web services more modular and self-describing as components that can be used in a platform-independent way.

Traditionally, applications were built as large monolithic units. They dictate the way services need to be run in line with platform dependencies on users and are not easily adaptable to new types of interactions. Web services break these applications into multiple reusable components that can interact with other independent components and services in meaningful ways. For example, instead of having a single financial application, an organization may deploy one or more services that expose the business activities of the application as self-contained, callable processes. That way other systems (such as Human Resource services or applications) can easily leverage financial computing resources. Thus, SOA breaks down barriers between applications. With SOA the IT infrastructure operates in an integrated, organic fashion like a virtual application that spans the organization.

Viewed as a whole, a data service deployment constitutes a data abstraction layer between data users and sources. It normalizes diverse data and exposes a uniform, well-defined interface that data consumers can use to access data. Client developers do not have to know how to connect to a data source, what its native format is, or even where it comes from, whether from one or many underlying sources. The application can simply call a public function of a data service.

SOA is considered a loosely coupled—not completely decoupled—architecture because, while the service provider has no knowledge of the interfaces or business concerns of its consumers, the consumers do include explicit references to the service provider interface, in the form of service calls.

The benefits of loose coupling include simplified data access, reusability, and adaptability. The effect of changes to the data source are localized, requiring only relatively few changes in the data services layer rather than in every application that uses the data source. New services can be exposed and used without requiring extensive changes to existing applications. The result is a data integration layer that is highly adaptive and change tolerant.

So this sounds great so what’s the problem? Often SOA can’t work effectively if not extended into the data realm. Enter the need for Liquid Data which therefore extends SOA. With Liquid Data, you can then expose information as data services. A data services represents a self contained business entity—such as a customer, product, or order—that is reusable across the organization.

Now the problem is that more data and suddenly SOA applications need to be redesigned to manage the processing weight of all of this data.

The limitation of the schema and rise of no sql

An aside to having to manage load legacy applications are also not generally geared up for ingesting new data types primarly because they are based on Relational technology. Relational technology has been the dominant approach to working with data for decades. Typically accessed using Structured Query Language (SQL), relational databases are incredibly useful. And as their popularity suggests, they can be applied in many different situations.

But relational technology isn’t always the best approach. Suppose you need to work with very large amounts of data, for example, too much to store on a single machine. Scaling relational technology to work effectively across many servers (physical or virtual) can be challenging. Or suppose your application works with data that’s not a natural fit for relational systems, such as JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) documents. Shoehorning the data into relational tables is possible, but a storage technology expressly designed to work with this kind of information might be simpler.

NoSQL technologies have been created to address problems like these. As the name suggests, the label encompasses a variety of storage technologies that don’t use the familiar relational model. Yet because they can provide greater scalability, alternative data formats, and other advantages, NoSQL options can sometimes be the right choice. Relational databases have a good future, and they’re still the best choice in many situations. But NoSQL databases get more important every day.

The truth will set us free

So what’s the big deal about bringing all of this data together into one view? Here is an story from Kenneth Cukier that I like to describe the current situation: where he asks us what is America’s favourite pie – the answer of course is Apple. But how did he know this? Because of data? Well I guess it would be by looking at supermarket sales. It is possible to look at supermarket sales of 10 centimeter pies that are frozen, and apple wins, no contest. The majority of the sales are apple. But then supermarkets started selling smaller, 3-4 centimeter pies, and suddenly, apple fell to fourth or fifth place. Why? What happened?

When you buy a 10 centimeter pie, the whole family has to agree, and apple is everyone’s second favourite. But when you buy an individual 3 centimeter pie, you can buy the one that you want. You can get your first choice. You have more data. You can see something that you couldn’t see when you only had smaller amounts of it. Now, the point here is that more data doesn’t just let us see more, more of the same thing we were looking at. More data allows us to see new things. It allows us to see better. It allows us to see different. In this case, it allows us to see what America’s favourite pie is not apple.

So what does the future for big data hold?

Gartner highlight a number of future trends around Bigdata for the next few years:

Number One: By 2020 data will be used to completely reinvent 80% of business models and processes

Number Two: By 2017, more than 30% of data will be accessed through information brokerage services who will act as intermediaries

Number Three: By 2017, more than 20% of customer-facing analytic deployments will provide product tracking information leveraging the IoT.

What can we be doing now to get ahead?

So sounds like big data is hear to stay so how can we start getting ahead of this trend. Well first of all we need to work towards understanding the truth of things and ensure that we get access to the “big picture” as quickly as possible. There is no hiding from strong data conclusions when this data has been delivered from credibly sources. Secondly we need to understand the personal impact of data on our everyday lives. Becoming aware of what digital finger print we are leaving behind is of extreme importance if we value our privacy and understand the impact of data on our every day lives as more and more data is gathered from us. Those that control the data and are custodians of the results will always win so work hard to become that person in your organisation, department or function will become more and more important. Make sure you understand what the data is saying and ensure you are making a positive impact as much as possible!