Seventhman Blog

  1. Should You Adopt Social Enterprise Networks for Your Business?

    "social enterprise network"Recently, I’ve encountered a post from Small Business Trends about Google+ testing enterprise social networking features for their site.  This is great news for those who are already utilizing other Google products so everything’s in one place this time and there’s no need to jump platforms.  While the simplest definition for social enterprise networks is ‘Facebook for Business’ – it’s not entirely the case.  Take for example Yammer where you can view news feeds and updates of your group.  It may look like a rather exclusive version of the popular social networking site, but it differs from how your organization use it to make collaboration amongst your team a seamless experience.  Should your business invest its  efforts in adopting the social enterprise networking experience as well?

    Integration and Synergy from Within

    While not everyone can benefit from setting up an internal network within your organization, doing so helps keep everyone going on the right direction.  Some may say that networking is a distraction and a time drain, but on the contrary, the value to be had is bigger than what one can imagine, especially when these technologies are used to improve communication and collaboration across departments.  There are plenty of enterprise social networking tools to choose from and for this to work successfully, businesses must draft clear guidelines so that all employees can participate in the integration of the daily workflow process.  This means harnessing a culture of trust, information-sharing and open conversation.  Consequently, businesses are struggling with these.

    Enterprise Social Networks: Weighing the Pros and Cons

    When many employees choose the new way of working, we see a new breed of byod enthusiasts who are choosing project-based work where they can do tasks anytime, anywhere.  You may say it’s counter-intuitive, but recent studies may surprise you on how these social technologies are changing the world – from families, friends, businesses, and down to consumers.  There are still untapped potentials where social technologies are concerned and for your business to successfully utilize these, you have to create a culture of trust and motivate participation among your team.  While there have been a raucous lately on the trademark where the term ‘social enterprise‘ is concerned, you must dedicate your business in identifying the sole purpose of using these tools before you can implement the process.

    The Pros

    1.  More transparency when it comes to monitoring your team’s progress
    2.  Saves time wasted on sending emails, making phone calls and conducting meetings
    3.  Better communication when changes are needed to be done to meet tight deadlines
    4.  Faster feedback when you need insights from your team and other experts in your network
    5.  Boost engagement and idea generation activities among the team

    The Cons

    1.  If not properly run, people may get confused with project milestones
    2.  In line with item #1, there will be decrease in productivity
    3.  Adopting networking policies may be difficult especially when reinforcing the idea that it has both business and community functions
    4.  Culture clash and miscommunication can still happen
    5.  Some people in your team may find the system complex and consider it time-consuming ( not to mention the bugs they may encounter )

    At some point, you have to recognize when social enterprise is working for your business or not.  As the adage goes, ‘Keep It Simple!‘ These applications are not that perfect and it’s your task to weigh in the value of these tools for your business.

  2. Is Too Much Data Bad for Your Business?

    "data overload"While participating in another live #custserv chat on Twitter this 28th, I have been intrigued by this post from HBR blog that was shared by @ValaAfsharWhat Data Can’t Tell You About Customers.  How often do businesses really understand customers in a human level, and treat them not just some bunch of numbers?  There are vast amounts of information created these days that are supposed to help in business and customer intelligence.  Big data is fast becoming a household name where tech is concerned.  While these data can expose patterns in consumer behavior, the real issue is that it only shows you the tip of the iceberg.  There’s so much more to scratch beneath the surface.

    The Curse of Information Overload

    Our brains are equipped to handle just enough information before it reaches a breaking point.  Why does this even matter?  While new tools are created to aid in the gathering and analysis of consumer data where your product or service is concerned, studies suggest that you can only handle a few key details.  This means that too much information can lead you to making bad choices and decisions which will carry a detrimental effect to your business.  Though these data mined can be presented in some vanity metrics made to impress, that doesn’t mean what you see will be interpreted correctly.  You only have the what, where, when and how of things, but you are missing the most important link of them all – Why do your customers made those choices?

    Do You Really Know Your Customers that Well?

    In the race to automate the data gathering and interpretation process, we often neglect connecting with customers on a deeper level.  Understanding people is something that’s still a hit-or-miss among many businesses.  Customers are not just a token of transaction; you have to build trust and strengthen relationship with them to inspire brand loyalty as well.  The real issue here is that when we do surveys about our customers, we over-analyze things and assume that some factors weigh more than the rest.  This is why we see certain images or words in abstract things because our minds are designed to fill in the gap.  We can get carried away with the research we do, where we tend to emphasize minor details and irrelevant data.  The more we do this, the more we push ourselves away from getting to know our customers and hitting our goals right.

    Data Don’t Lie.. But Perceptions Do

    A perfect example how data misinterpretation can happen is the unemployment rate.  Governments may boast of lowering down the statistics, but if you ask those who are out job hunting, you might get a sneer.  When Oracle shared its report, From Overload to Impact:  An Industry Scorecard on Big Data Business Challenges , it is quite alarming that executives are saying they’re unprepared to handle the increase in data they gather.  Is it a surprise that businesses are losing revenue because they are challenged when it comes to managing and analyzing these huge amounts of info?  The numbers can be right.. but the way we interpret these are influenced by our beliefs, culture and external factors.  It’s like trying to decipher planets from stars just by gazing at the clear, night sky with our naked eyes.

    How do you separate what really matters from all of that data noise?  Perhaps, it’s time to rewire your brain and start on a clean slate..

  3. How Can Entrepreneurs Build Better Business Relationships?

    "customer relationship"I have many times asked myself if entrepreneurship is a lonely road – where only the brave pursue visions at the cost of sacrificing traditional employment to make that passion a reality.  Maybe, I’m right all along that entrepreneurs are radical thinkers when it comes to engaging themselves in this self-involved mindset, where success is a gamble.  Along the way, these people will meet other like minds and the call to build relationships for business and personal success is growing stronger.  The problem is, many small business owners are struggling with deepening these relationships with fellow entrepreneurs.

    Where Relationship Meets Business

    When your business is growing, having business relationships is crucial if you’re looking for referrals along the way.  These relationships fuel your business, other than your customers.  Most often, we are caught up in selling our products and services that we overlook building stronger ties with long-term customers, vendors and potential business partners.  Like any other type of relationships, business relationships is all about mutuality, of give and take, of sharing and supporting.  Unfortunately, it is easier for us to automate the process that we approach everyone in our network like we were out hunting for a bargain.  The human factor that made the brick-and-mortar business survive this far amidst all the technological innovation is out.  We focus so much on transactions, on sales, on closing deals… and less on communication.  Are we really that busy?

    Keeping In Touch: Who, Where and How

    For those of you with online presence, keeping a balance between conversation and marketing may seem like a curse, especially when there’s too much noise to deal with.  Staying in touch with everyone in your network is a time-consuming activity.  Someone even call this phenomenon as ‘social media saturation’.  Come to think of it, it’s easier to accept anyone into your network with a touch of a button.  It’s harder to know who are for real and who are just hoping for your follow back.  While having a large number of following on your social account can be flattering, it’s not how many that matters – but who these people are.. and how often you talk to them.  Whether you keep in touch each week, every 15 days or once in a month – it’s all about continuity without bombarding that person with spammy, purely promotional type of monologue.  Starting with an open, honest relationship is all about listening more than you talk.  While it’s tough to say you don’t have answers to all the questions about your niche, you’ll be surprise how this admission will earn you more respect as an expert in your community.

    Entrepreneurship and Business Relationships:  Nurture, Conquer or Divide

    Anyone who is running their own business is so passionate about its goals that they can’t talk about anything else.  You’re not to blame if you picture yourself as one.  You just see a bigger world of opportunities, collaboration and risks that while you actively engage in climbing the ladders of success, you may feel alienated in the process.  You may even lose old friends who are not in tune with what you believe in or be called a mercenary in your quest to convert a friend into a customer.  But true business relationships is all about nurturing, of learning more about your connections so you can share values while complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Just how often do you get out of your office to meet new people is not really the issue here.  It’s more on a question of how willing are you to give more than you take, of how good are you in working with other people.

    When was the last time you took the time to say ‘thank you’.. or sent out a hand-written note of appreciation to folks who have helped you out?

  4. How to Keep Agile in a World of Traditional Contracts

    "agile contract"In the race to meet the demand for something cheaper, faster and better – many organizations find it challenging that their agile practices are in major conflict with existing project management standards.  While consultants, service providers and software developers from various countries utilize the agile framework, you just wonder how things will work out, especially when adopting this lean concept to your outsourced project.  The fact is that there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all-solution where this agile practice is concerned.  The issue is not really about the nature of an agile project but rather, how everyone will transition to make the contract effective as they work for a common goal.  How do you really do it.. or, can you really do it?

    Finding the Right Answer with the Right Question

    Keep in mind that the concept of agile is an ever-evolving one and there’s no common definition for it.  You may read a manifesto about the topic, but it’s more of how you will all work as a team to deliver business value that matters.  In this case, it is important for you to have the same idea of what agile will be before you even sign that contract with your client.  The last thing you want is a mismatch in perceptions that will lead to frustrations and distrust.  You also have to be upfront on how you will get paid by agreeing on the scope of work or the ‘iteration’, and the price for that.  You will have to calculate compensation for extra work as well and make sure that the fee schedule is fair for both parties.  You also have to include project review in the process, like how will you get paid when bugs happen?  What’s the feedback timeframe?  Therefore, in order to achieve quality deliverable, you have to work on constant and consistent communication using technology accessible to everyone.. and make sure that transparency rules from start to finish.

    Resistance to Change vs. Responding to Change

    While contracts are legal reflections of people’s wants and fears, keep in mind that they don’t give birth to successful projects.  It is collaboration and trust that build the bond between a client and a service provider.  The trouble is, once a contract is signed and the development phase rolls, everyone is mixed up on what the real scope is and what constitutes a revision in the contract.  Is it the request for changes that leads to arguments where Agile is concerned?  Perhaps, it’s more likely about a lack of change.  Not everyone can follow these changes too and when new requirements emerge, old ones are overlooked and misinterpretations may arise.  Think of it as a beautiful piece of architecture – aesthetically pleasing from the outside, but dysfunctional on the inside.  Is it much safer to draft a contract the traditional way then?

    Agile Development and the Unconventional Contract

    When we speak of contracts, we often think about fixed price models which may not necessarily apply to work done by cross-functional teams.  Other than disputes, changing the contract structure can have legal implications and this approach is definitely not for everyone.  Sometimes, the simplest way to make sure that the process is least disruptive is to keep the plan from your customers, unless they ask.  Or, if your customers don’t like what you came up with, then, they don’t have to pay for it.  It can work if you have deep pockets though.  You may also have a rolling contract where your clients pay regularly in response to project delivery… the options are plenty and so are the risks.  The real question is how ready are you to make your clients sign that contract without having to define the project’s scope.. and still, giving them the assurance that they’ll get what they pay for?

  5. Empowering Your Mobile Workers Without Sacrificing Data Security

    "empower mobile workers"Just where do you draw the line between your worker’s right to choose and your business security?  In more than two decades of working with mobile teams across the globe, I have experienced firsthand how the global workforce is quickly shaping this new generation of mobile and motivated workers who are willing to work anywhere on computing devices of their choice.  Whether they use personal or corporate supplied tools to meet the company’s expectations, these workers still need to access your organization’s network and applications.  Now, this freedom comes with the risk of getting access to untrustworthy content online, other than losing visibility and control over what your team is working on.  How can you support this need for mobility and easy access to your business resources without sacrificing security of your data then?

    The Great Mobile Mindset Shifts

    Those who are doing business traditionally are still locked in old school ways where IT is concerned.  They may even be tied with the usual cycles of software development.  While you can engage your workers with questions to make sure they are the right fit for you, especially when you’re outsourcing, you will have to find that balance still.  These BYOD ( bring your own device ) workers are more diverse than you think and by developing a new set of policies that allow them to mix freedom with responsibility, you may just secure the agile business that you seek for – in the need to adapt to these consumerization of mobile devices and change as a whole.

    Being Proactive is the First Step

    Empowering your new breed of mobile workers means approaching your business in a new light.  You don’t have to risk information security in the need to innovate either.  Having a comprehensive policy will allow your team to work securely anywhere, even on virtual desktops.  While it’s your job to secure your business data and applications, you can also support your worker-owned smartphones, tablets, laptops, hybrids and netbooks.  You have to define how your mobile worker will provision for the tools and how they will use these devices for work.  Although most outsourced providers are equipped with their own, if you’re starting to open this option to your employees, you can offer some stipend to encourage buy-in or offer affordable plans that will encourage them to buy these tools of the trade with the service plans of their choice.  By having this shared ownership, you have to let your mobile workers know that there are certain limits where access to data is concerned, including passwords and encryption.

    Dealing with Consumerization and Innovation

    While consumerization and usage of these mobile devices can foster new relationships between your team and your business, know that an empowered worker can drive innovation to your cause.  They know that these gadgets are good and they want to use its fullest potential to help you succeed.  It might even surprise you that by supporting the BYOD concept, you may just stop your top talent from leaving.  It may sound simple, but it all takes careful planning as you:

    1. Secure enterprise services that allow your workers to connect from any device.  This means strong authentication where applications, VPN and Wi-Fi, are concerned. You have to make sure that your workers can utilize any platform to access data – securely.

    2. Draft a comprehensive plan that effectively ensures your mobile workers will comply, even over various geographic locations.

    3. Keep a backup of important data in case someone accidentally modifies or changes the one you share online with everyone.

    4. Train your workers on how to use data and applications safely as learning is the key to reducing risks.

    In short, keep the balance between human and technical so you can empower a flexible team to be at their most productive.  Are you ready to trust your mobile team?

  6. Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Great CEO?

    "great leadership"I’m just catching up with the news around this year’s Olympics in London and thought that I would blog about inspiration you can get from the game that applies to an entrepreneur’s world.  Problem is that many are doing that already.  Come to think of it, business is a lot like sports.. where you engage in the game of solving your customer’s pain, offer them something unique, sell, build relationships, lead and try to gain your sanity by aiming for a work-life balance.  Sometimes, it makes you think that radical thinking is the only real thing that separates a good business from a great one.  While many of the benefits far outweigh the challenges every business owner face, it makes me wonder why only a small percentage of companies are truly great.  What is great..?

    What Makes a Great Startup CEO

    Being CEO has more than a touch of glamour printed on your business card.  It’s more than that drive to innovate that moves the usual CEO to becoming a great one.  S/he is a keeper of the vision that’s larger for everyone to understand and I’m talking long term here.  Just take a look at how giants like Apple, Facebook and Google all started as startups.. and the great leaders that pushed everyone to put the pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle together in building something larger than life.  Have they known that they will become a phenomenal success?  Of course, not!  Only movies got spoilers for that and for the rest of us who work hard to make this vision a reality, it takes passion, determination and extremely low levels of tolerance for stress that makes you wonder if we’re some sort of a sadomasochistic herd ( no pun intended ).  Yes, everyone wants to have our job because we are insanely successful, we can take off whenever we want, got lots of time to party around and so on.  I hate to break the bad news to you.. but the real scenario is far from the myths that surround an entrepreneur’s life.  I can work 18 hours or more in a day or two just to keep things working for my clients.  I may not be building the next breakthrough in the name of tech, but the harder I work, the more results I see.  Great CEOs are always excited to control their own destiny.

    Do You Have What It Takes to Build a Great Business?

    Most of us online are already well connected.  You got the expertise and the contacts.  What should you do next?  In my years of competing in the consulting business, I have learned that there is a fine line between being unique and being useful.  What differentiates you from the rest doesn’t necessarily mean that it is something of value to your customers, and focusing on benefits alone can turn your business into a boring brand, something that looks like everyone else.  Where do you draw the line?  While you may disagree with me on this very opinionated post that you should not focus on revenues, your sensitivity through active listening will just help you pinpoint the real root cause of the problem.  In a world where the fast beats the big, time is quintessential.  As Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  Consequently, it is of no coincidence that the world’s greatest leaders ( even the infamous ones ) are great communicators.  Truth is, your clients won’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care about their problem.  Creating this culture of caring into your business will pave the road to greatness.

    Managing Your Mind: The Great Barrier to Your Success Reef

    The biggest challenge that you will face before you become a great CEO is facing the doppelganger of your restless mind.  How many times have you doubted your performance?  You think you’re doing a great job and yet, you feel bad.  What’s wrong in this picture?  The only way for you to become a great leader is to be one.  No amount of management training can really prepare you for the job of running a company.  And even if you think you know what you are doing in an era where everyone is involved in the new way of doing business, things can go awfully wrong.  When it does, you may add more injury to the pain by taking everything too personally or not personally enough.  Where do you really step in?  Is being great a lonely job, after all?  I’d say that there will be plenty of times when you feel like quitting and if you succumb, you wouldn’t know that you’re only a step away towards success.  Fear is irrational and it’s all inside your head.

    Can you keep your focus on your roadmap?  That’s something for you to ponder on this summer..

  7. 5 Questions to Ask Before Adopting Open Source Software for Your Project

    "open source"Businesses have been adopting open source software solutions rapidly and you start to wonder if you should do the same.  Is it really a safer, better option for your organization?  If you’re working with designing and developing websites, and web-based applications, you may have at one point  consider going open source for your project.  Though many may have thought that open means free – it is not entirely so, but it costs lesser than commercially-licensed solutions out there.  Surely, there are benefits to be had if you clearly understand just how ‘open’ these technologies are and if you ask these vendors the right questions.  The last thing you want is getting pitched for something disappointing.  More likely, it’s what people call as open washing.  Think of it this way: just because you bought your favorite snack with “natural” claims doesn’t really mean it’s healthy for you.  So, how do you sort out the confusion when it comes to dealing with your vendor?

    Questions You Should Be Asking Before Adopting Open Source Technologies

    1. Who are Using It Right Now?

    The easiest way for you to know if the product is of top-notch quality is to evaluate testimonials and reviews of people or businesses who are using it right now.  Are they raving about it? No one may want to be the first to try out something new, so if many are committed to working with this open source software, it’s a surefire sign that it’s out to stay for the long haul.

    2.  Will the Software Meet My Needs?

    You need to assess the compatibility of this open source software with your current OS.  Do you need to install applications to make it all work?  Does the solution meet your pressing needs?  Have you tried testing the application first before you go on a full scale roll out?  Can your hardware meet the specifications of these new technologies?

    3.  Are People Talking About This Software?

    It’s easy to check the Web when it comes to searching for online conversations about a certain open source software.  You can even type in the name on Google Search box and click on discussions to see what people have been talking about.  Normally, creators of these open-source software run their own forums and having lots of active users is a good sign that these developers are committed to helping their community of users.

    4.  Who is Funding the Project?

    A lot of open source technologies are on beta mode and it gives you some peace of mind knowing that the developers have financial resources to ensure that they won’t run out of business anytime soon.  There are open source applications that are backed and used by big companies, and this means that they are committed in the success of this project.

    5.  How Involved are Users with Developing the Process?

    When people want to contribute to make a positive code change to the project, or when they are promoting by word-of-mouth – it’s something worth watching.  We know that passion is the key ingredient to success and the same thing applies with the creation and maintenance of open source software.  It’s a work of love and people share this love.

    Because you buy only what you need, you’re not held hostage by complex software bundles that can run your business dry.  And when you do choose running this option for your project, make sure that you can try before you buy, that you can look into the code and that you can apply changes on the code.

    In short, make sure that you get what you paid for.

    *** Here’s more on the topic:  Debunking the Open-Source Myth