Therefore Strategic Technology Services

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Therefore BPMS Version 4 Changes

Every week we make between 10 and 20 small refinements to the Therefore BPM Suite. In a year that amounts to about 780 refinements. The Therefore BPMS has been under continual refinement for the last 13 years, which translates into some 10,140 refinements. What would you expect if you refined something 10,140 times? 

What follows is an overview of the core enhancements made during the course of the development of the 4th release of the Therefore BPMS application, which should give you an idea of the type of value that we are continually adding to the Therefore BPMS. 

Pending Notification notice
  • Introduce an option to display pending Notifications on the Classify / Allocate screen
  • Introduce an option to display pending Notifications on the close Acknowledge screen
  • Add the above options to the Review and Utility Screen Options screen
  • Revise Review and Utility Screen Options Instruction text
Duplicate check
  • Resolve Short Description duplicate check error
  • Resolve Document Number duplicate check error
Task Summary
  • Move Flag and Change Log buttons to the bottom of button listing
User Groups
  • Add a Security Group option to User Groups screen
  • Revise User Groups instructions given the above change
Change Log
  • Add Notification element to the Change Log
  • Revise Change Log instructions to dynamically address Notifications element
Public Pages Error Management
  • Public failure advice cleared on Sign in reattempt
  • Public failure advice cleared on Change password reattempt
  • Public failure advice cleared on Forgotten password reattempt
Spaces management
  • Space management on all data capture fields, i.e. trim and extra / all spaces, both create and update
  • Introduce variable space management on Short Description field (i.e. extra and all options)
  • Introduce variable space management on Short Text field (i.e. extra and all options)
Data input Styling
  • Restyle data input fields for authenticated pages
  • Restyle data input fields for public pages
  • Change the Rich Text Editor such that it is a fixed height
Reporting
  • Implement new Subordinate Report Personalisation Variables
  • Revise Manage Reporting instruction text
Notifications
  • Implement a set of Created by Notification variables
  • Correct Notifications sent on Reclassification error
  • Revise Data Layer so that Notification templates are held in memory
Priority Type / Thread Type Allocation Screen
  • Fix “alpha in weighting field” button disappearing error
  • Fix “alpha in Percentage of Resolution Target field” button disappearing error
  • Revise Priority / Thread Type Allocation instructions
Document Type / Thread Type Allocation Screen
  • Implement a Document / Thread Type allocation screen
  • Insert new screen into the Options menu structure
Options Menu Structure
  • Make various revisions with respect to “Classification & Thread Type Setup” menu items
Client table updating / population
  • Implement various ThreadBuilder configurative options to define Client table updating rules
  • Implement Client table record create on task closure
  • Implement Client table record update on task closure
  • Add disable dormant Client records script to the System Admin Scripts screen
Communication Cycle Emails
  • Correct contents of task closure email’s Review PDF attachment
  • Correct error whereby Reclassification email sometimes lists multiple reclassifications
  • Add an Option selected option to the Communication Types screen’s Task / Query Detail Object Options section.
Multiple Record Select to Edit Errors
  • Correct various User Groups select to edit errors
  • Correct various Security Groups select to edit errors
Smart Search
  • Revise Smart Search refresh to make it more intuitive
  • Revise stage Smart Search keyword to accommodate open / closed tasks logic
  • Resolve Smart Search Clear Search facility error
  • Strip out multiple spaces when doing a Smart Search
  • Implement a Touch keyword
  • Implement a Department keyword
  • Implement a Major keyword
  • Implement a Minor keyword
  • Revise Smart Search Welcome text / styling
  • Correct Enter Search Text heading text case
  • Revise styling of search box
Discontinued functionality
  • Discontinue Fax functionality
  • Discontinue advanced Reassign functionality
Error encountered screen
  • Revise text on Error encountered screen
  • Error encountered screen to automatically redirect to public landing page
Database Version Management
  • Implement various database version update scripts
Classification screen
  • Revise classification screen headings
    Code Version Number Management
    • Increment web / ThreadBuilder / service version number to 4 
    Contact List
    • Correct Enter Search Text heading text case
    • Revise styling of search box
    Quick Search
    • Revise styling of search box
    Show Disabled
    • Revise styling of Show Disabled dropdown
    Thread Type ID Visibility
    • Add Thread Type ID to various Thread Type listings
    • Add Thread Type ID to various Thread Type select dropdowns
    Miscellaneous
    • Various aesthetic refinements to the ThreadBuilder
    • Various miscellaneous web instructions refinements
    • Various resource file tidy ups

    Wednesday, 4 September 2019

    Using the 80 / 20 Rule to your advantage

    The Pareto principle, often referred to as the “80 / 20 Rule”, states that roughly 80% of your results will be the consequence of 20% of your efforts. Likewise, in business it’s pretty safe to assume that about 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your clients.

    Management consultant Joseph Juran suggested the principle and named it after an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto had noticed the principle in play when he discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

    The Pareto principle has been found to be a useful tool in a broad range of disciplines such as economics, computing, sport and business.

    My interest in the Pareto principle is perhaps a little less academic and a little more practical than that of Joseph Juran. Over the course of my career, I have noticed that I achieve the vast bulk of my results (the 80%) from a relatively small portion of my efforts (the 20%) and I have learned to use the principle to my advantage.

    Using the 80 / 20 principle to your advantage is actually surprisingly simple. Here’s how I do it, presented on a step by step basis! The starting point for my methodology is the humble paper-based “to do list”. Everything that I need to do, irrespective of how trivial, gets recorded on my to do list. You can download a to do list template at the footer of this article.

    My 80 / 20 recipe follows:
    1. Every morning I redraft my to do list, omitting the items that I closed the day before. 
    2. After having redrafted my to do list, I skip through with a green highlighter and mark the items that I believe will get me 80% of my results. It stands to reason that, given that we are following the 80 / 20 Rule, in the region of 20% of your tasks should be highlighted green. By way of example, if you have 20 items on your to do list, you would expect that approximately 4 of them would have been highlighted green.
    3. Next, I step through my to do list looking for “zero value” items. During the course of popping things onto my to do list, I often find items that “seemed like a good idea at the time” but actually hold no value when I look at them later. In short, if you find an item on your list that on further evaluation doesn’t add value, and hasn’t been promised to a colleague or a client, it may be a good idea to close them off as “no longer required”.
    4. I then use a blue highlighter to mark trivial items that I can close out quickly, to de-clutter my list.
    5. I then skip through my to do list and mark the items that I can pass along to colleagues. Once an item has been handed off, I make sure to jot down the initials of the colleague to whom I have allocated the task. The items that I have retained for my personal attention get marked with a “Me!” As a general rule, I hand off highlighted items as a first priority.
    6. During the course of the day, I tackle the highlighted items as a matter of first priority. Obviously, new items get added to your to do list on an ongoing basis and you may want to highlight some of the new items as you go along. Should I have handled all of my highlighted items prior to close of day, I bring out my trusty highlighters and select the next set of green and blue tasks.
    7. At close of day, I do a roundup with my colleagues to see how they have been fairing with the tasks that I handed off to them, and update my to do list where items have been closed.
    8. The start of the following day sees me start the process from the top.
    The above “to do list” process will probably take you 20 or 30 minutes a day, but it is guaranteed to pay dividends. Give it a try … and let me know how it goes. 

    [Download To Do List]


    Tuesday, 4 December 2018

    The Value Gap

    I recently attended the launch of a book that had been written by an old high school friend of mine, Gavin Moffat. Gavin’s book, “Swimming with Sharks”, is well written, easy to read and packed with thought provoking content. In short, I would recommend that you get hold of a copy. The launch event for “Swimming with Sharks” took the format of a conversation between the author and a compère, Richard Mulholland. It was during this conversation that I got to thinking about corporate values.

    Let’s back up for a moment. Conventionally, corporate values are defined as the operating philosophies or principles that guide an organization's internal conduct as well as its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders.


    Common corporate values are listed below:

    1. Integrity (Ethics, Honesty) 
    2. Respect (Trust, Dignity) 
    3. Excellence (Quality, Performance) 
    4. Responsibility (Accountability, Commitment) 
    5. Teamwork (Collaboration, Cooperation) 
    6. Innovation (Creativity, Ingenuity) 
    7. Achievement (Results, Success) 
    8. Fairness (Diversity, Inclusive) 
    9. Care (Service, Compassion) 
    10. Passion (Enthusiasm, Fun) 
    11. Leadership (Influence, Competitive Advantage) 
    12. Learning (Continuous Improvement, Knowledge) 
    13. Customers (Customer Satisfaction) 
    14. People (Employee Engagement) 
    15. Safety (Health) 
    16. Community (Corporate Citizenship)
    Selecting the values that fit with an organisation would typically be seen as one of the outcomes of a strategy planning exercise. Let’s assume that Acme Inc’s Management has recently held a strategy planning session and have selected the following values as being core:
    1. Caring
    2. Loyalty
    3. Integrity
    4. Knowledge
    5. Commitment
    6. Innovation
    If you look at it carefully, the above values effectively define Acme’s “corporate personality”.

    Staff would relate to Acme Inc on the basis of its values, or alternatively, to give Acme a human face, its “personality” would be informed by the values that drive its day to day behaviour. 


    Likewise, Acme Inc’s customers would relate to Acme on the basis of its “personality”, which would be informed by what Acme’s customers perceive its values to be. The “personality” or “value set” that the customer ascribes to Acme would be the consequence of Acme’s marketing and communication activity, as well as the moments of reality that occur each time that a customer interacts with them. 


    So far, so good. Now let’s inject a dose of reality. 


    There’s no doubt that an organisation’s value set needs to be led from the top. If top management actively live Acme’s values, you can bet your bottom dollar that pretty soon the employees will do likewise. 


    Remember that, thus far, top management have only identified Acme’s values as the consequence of a “paper” based exercise. There’s no guarantee that there is any similarity between Acme’s “actual” and “stated” values. For the sake of conversation, we are going to call the gap between an organisation’s “actual” and “stated” values, the “value gap”.


    Let’s have a hypothetical look at Acme Inc’s top management.


    Perhaps Acme’s top management don’t encourage their staff to take chances and are as a consequence not forgiving when it comes to staff making “mistakes”. Hardly the stuff that talks to “Innovation” as a value.


    Further, let’s assume that a lot of Acme’s senior management have politicked and schemed their way to the top at the expense of their colleagues. Not the sort of behaviour that speaks to the values of “Integrity” and “Caring”. 


    Perhaps Acme regularly shed staff when there is even the slightest hint of an economic downturn and hire fresh staff when things look rosy again. Wouldn’t this make it difficult for staff to buy into Acme’s “Loyalty” and “Commitment” values? 


    Finally, the relentless focus on profits means that Acme never actually utilise their training budgets for training. Training budgets remain unspent, because it simply makes the bottom line look better. As a consequence, Acme has “Knowledge” as a value, but never trains staff. Doesn’t gel, does it?


    I guess that you get the point.


    Acme’s “actual” values are in reality probably closer to the average value set held by its senior management.


    One can expect that the “actual” values of a “one-man band” start-up will be those of the entrepreneur. The organisation’s “actual” values tend to shift as the entrepreneur starts employing staff. Logically, one should always employ staff whose personal values are in harmony with the organisation’s “stated” values.


    Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. A great culture is in part the consequence of an organisation’s ability to really live its values, coupled with a singularity of focus that derives from a strong shared purpose.


    All organizations have some degree of “value gap”. It’s the size of the gap that counts. The smaller the gap the better! Great management teams are continually striving to minimise the gap. On the other hand, poor management teams will often be the primary reason for the gap’s existence. 


    For values to take root within an organisation, they need to be lived by top management. Always remember that corporate values aren’t a “wish list” or a “future intention”. As soon as you have a big gap between your “stated” values and your “actual” values, you’ve got trouble!


    Authenticity is important to all of us, but it’s particularly important to the increasingly pivotal Millennial generation. Your staff, especially your Millennial staff, will pick up on “value gaps” in a heartbeat. If they find a material value gap, they will see the company as being inauthentic, which is the last thing that you need. Customers likewise see value gaps as being a tell-tale sign of inauthenticity and it will undoubtedly reflect on the bottom line.


    To explain by way of an anecdotal story, many years ago I worked for a company that had “Recognise and Reward” as a value. Their intentions were no doubt good, “recognise” exemplary performance and “reward” it. 


    In reality, they did almost the exact opposite. On closer inspection, you could see that they were actually an “old boys club”. There was no “Recognise and Reward”, unless you were in the club!


    Their “Recognise and Reward” value never got beyond “wish list” status. The value gap was more a chasm than it was a gap. I am afraid I saw them, and still see them, as being inauthentic as a result.


    Now for another anecdotal story, but this time a consumer centred one. 


    Health and insurance group Momentum recently landed itself in hot water when it refused to pay out on a life insurance policy for a customer, Nathan Ganas. Sadly, Ganas died from gunshot wounds as a consequence of attempting to protect his wife who was being hijacked in their driveway. 


    Momentum declined to honour the policy because they discovered that Ganas had historically been found to have had abnormally high blood sugar levels, which he had not reported when he took the policy out. They claim that, had they been aware of these elevated blood sugar levels, they would not have offered Ganas cover. To place Momentum’s perspective in context, Ganas was never on chronic medication for high blood sugar and his wife strongly denies that he ever suffered from diabetes. Besides, Ganas died as a consequence of a gunshot wound, not raised blood sugar levels.


    The traditional media picked up on the story and generated enough coverage that Momentum could have used it to wallpaper a medium sized meeting room at their head office in Centurion. Social Media exploded!  All hell broke loose. Momentum had a public relations nightmare on its hands, and they didn’t handle it well.


    In the court of public opinion, Momentum was found to be guilty of “looking for any excuse not to pay out”, irrespective of how frivolous it was. Momentum’s own press release put it this way:



    “It is clear from market reaction over the last two days that under certain circumstances, current industry practice creates the impression that insurers are looking for reasons not to pay a claim.”

    Momentum’s PR spin sought to “externalise” their behaviour. They didn’t say “our practices create the impression”, they said “current industry practice creates the impression”. It’s interesting to note that “Accountability” is one of Momentum’s values. Momentum provides the following detail for their “Accountability” value:



    “We show accountability in our willingness to take ownership for our roles, responsibility for our actions and outcomes, and by honouring our obligations to all stakeholders.” 

    Rather than taking ownership of their behaviour, Momentum tried to side step their accountability by calling on “current industry practice” to take the fall.


    To be fair on Momentum, it must be said that the Insurance Ombud has twice ruled in their favour on the Ganas issue. 


    Calls to talk radio shows questioned why it was that Momentum had been happy to take monthly payments from Ganas for many years and only bothered to go through his medical records with a fine-tooth comb when they were called upon to make good on the policy. I have no doubt that there wouldn’t have been a public outcry if Ganas had succumbed to a blood sugar related disease. Unfortunately for Momentum, the public felt that Ganas’ unreported high blood sugar levels weren’t in any way connected to the reason for his passing. Momentum were perceived as using the “non-disclosure of high sugar levels” card as a convenient excuse to wriggle out of their obligation to honour the policy.


    The consumer doesn’t always know what your values are. They tend to infer what they perceive your values should be. When they feel that a company is behaving inconsistently with these perceived values, the backlash can be severe.


    Momentum’s products are essentially intangible. Their customers aren’t really buying a policy, they’re buying “peace of mind”. Ganas was buying “peace of mind” that his family would be looked after should he pass away when he entered into his relationship with Momentum. Interestingly, Momentum also repudiated an education policy that Ganas had taken out. Perhaps part of the reason that there was such a large public outcry was because people no longer felt that the “peace of mind” that they perceived to flow from a policy could be relied upon.  


    Due to enormous public pressure, Momentum were eventually forced to make a payment to Ganas’ widow. Momentum have, however, been careful to state that they “do not admit contractual liability for the payment of this death claim based on the material non-disclosure at application stage.” They ascribe the payment to a newly introduced “solution that will pay an amount equal to the death benefit (limited to a maximum of R3 million) in the case of violent crime, regardless of previous medical history.”


    Momentum behaved in a manner that was inconsistent with what the consumer perceived as being a reasonable value set. The resultant “value gap” has caused Momentum brand damage that will take many years to recover from.


    A quick Google search showed me that Momentum’s values are as listed below:

    1. Accountability
    2. Diversity
    3. Excellence
    4. Innovation
    5. Integrity
    6. Teamwork
    We have already touched on Momentum’s “Accountability” value. The verbiage associated with their “Integrity” value states that, “We uphold integrity in living up to what we say, doing the right thing, being honest and treating all people with respect.” 

    In the court of public opinion, Momentum were seen to have failed to behave consistently with their “Integrity” value. Joe Public certainly didn’t believe that they had done the “right thing”, let alone “treated people with respect” or acted in an “honest” fashion.


    This article has centred on the “value gap” and the importance of making sure that it is as narrow as possible. Of course, there is more at stake than simply minimising the value gap … you also need to have selected the correct value set. In a subsequent article I will discuss how one sets about selecting the correct set of values.


    In closing, it must be said that I dealt with Momentum’s press office fairly extensively while writing this article. I was impressed with their openness, honesty and willingness to help. Momentum have stated that the contents of this article are factually correct. They have, however, pointed out that the Momentum / Ganas issue is a complex and multifaceted one, which is a perspective with which I agree. There is no doubt that they are working hard to come to terms with the experience. I wish them well.

    For more information on “Swimming with Sharks” by Gavin Moffat, visit www.swimmingwithsharks.co.za

    Tuesday, 6 November 2018

    Today’s staff, tomorrow’s customers

    According to the McDonald's Corporation website, McDonald's is present in 101 countries, has in excess of 36,000 restaurants and serves some 69 million people daily (January 2018).

    What is of even more interest is the fact that the fast-food chain has at one point or another employed 1 in 8 Americans (roughly 13%), according to an estimate in the book "Fast Food Nation." The list of Americans that have been on a McDonald’s payroll includes the likes of Jeff Bezos, Rachel McAdams, Macy Gray, Carl Lewis, Jay Leno and Pink.


    Think about this. If 13% of Americans have worked at McDonalds during the course of their working career, McDonald’s America can expect that roughly 13% of their clientele have at some point in time worked on the other side of the counter. 


    The implications of this are huge. I don’t know about you, but if I had previously worked for a company and the experience had been a negative one, I would be less inclined to do business with them in the future. I am pretty sure that I am not alone on this view point. For this reason, McDonald’s need to treat their staff as both employees and as future consumers, which is no doubt a significant human resources challenge.


    Closer to home, I have often seen staff leave the employ of a company after having received a raw deal, only to turn up a number of years later as a senior employee at a material customer. Well, you can guess what happens next. I have seen some anchor clients leave service providers as a consequence. I recall an event of this nature that resulted in a service provider shedding some 20% of their turnover. As they say in the classics, “be careful of which butt you kick today, as you may have to kiss it tomorrow.”


    McDonald’s is acutely aware of the “today’s staff are tomorrow’s customers” phenomenon and their staff relations policies reflect this principle very clearly.


    The “today’s staff are tomorrow’s customers” principle is further exacerbated by the impact of word of mouth communication. Negative word of mouth can mean that a single disgruntled ex-employee can do significant damage to a brand. In short, you stand at risk of losing the custom of both your ex-employee and those with whom he has shared is story. Word of mouth that emanates from an ex-employee tends to be seen as highly credible, given that the ex-employee is presumed to have “inside knowledge”, which makes it all the more damaging.


    Let’s put the “today’s staff are tomorrow’s customers” principle aside for a moment and focus simply on the labour market brand damage that an ex-employee with an “axe to grind” can have. 


    Companies that have a reputation for being “bad employers” will naturally battle to attract skilled staff. The converse also applies. Those that are seen as “good employers” will find it far easier to attract top skills. This is compounded by the fact that people tend to offer their services into a particular industry as they develop industry specific skills and contacts over the course of their careers. I have no doubt that you have heard people say, “This industry is so small!” at conferences and the like. Well there you go, if you are seen as a “bad employer”, word will travel within your industry faster than you can say, “employer of choice”.


    A quick word of warning, if you are going to tell your staff that you are the industry’s “employer of choice”, make sure that its true and not an intention or a wish. Nobody detects employer insincerity faster that an employee. 


    The long and short of it is that being a good employer makes business sense, so when you look at your staff, think of them as a microcosm of your market and treat them with as much respect and care as you would like them to treat your customers … or, in the words of Richard Branson, “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”

    Thursday, 31 May 2018

    Great strategy execution quotations

    Execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality, align people with goals and achieve the promised results. ~ Larry Bossidy

    In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell. ~ Jack Welch

    Execute! Get your people to execute! ~ Sam Geist

    Execution IS strategy. ~ Fred Malek

    Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won't win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling. ~ Naveen Jain

    Strategy Execution is the responsibility that makes or breaks executives. ~ Alan Branche & Sam Bodley-Scott

    Friday, 17 April 2015

    The Art and Science of an Elevator Pitch

    An elevator pitch is a short / precise overview of your business and its products and / or services, typically prepared as a sales tool. It’s imperative that you have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch ready for when opportunity strikes. An elevator pitch can be one of most powerful weapons in your sales arsenal and it costs you virtually nothing to prepare one.

    An elevator pitch is meant to be short. As the name implies, it should be possible to deliver your elevator pitch in the time it takes to complete your average elevator ride. Let’s paint the scenario. You step into an elevator and are, serendipitously, joined by the prospect of your dreams. Your luck continues unabated, and you get chatting. Mr Ultimate Prospect asks what you do for a living and you know that you have the opportunity of a lifetime in play. There are a thousand things that you want to say … but which of them are the ones that will get you the deal? Where do you start? How do you draw “next steps” into your pitch? What are your next steps? If you don’t have a clear and concise response to an opportunity of this nature, one thing is for certain … you have a more than even chance of blowing it. I am sure that you get the picture.

    The lengths of elevator pitches vary, but you typically want to be able to present it at a leisurely pace in less than two minutes, with one minute being the ideal position. Your goal length should be somewhere between 150 - 250 words, with a “straight forward” business being closer to the 150 word mark and more complex business’ pitch being at the 250 word end of the spectrum. 

    Tips and tricks for drafting a great pitch

    When drafting your elevator pitch, there are a few things worth keeping in mind. Give them a walk through before you start.

    1. Keep it short and sweet

    It's called an elevator pitch for a reason. You have a limited time frame in which to make a great first impression. The golden rule … The shorter the pitch, the better.

    2. Edit ruthlessly

    Draft your elevator pitch, and then set about reviewing and editing it until it’s perfect. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Draft your elevator pitch and then set time aside every morning for the next week to review and refine it. Each revision is bound to be an improvement. Quite literally, sleep on it!

    Ask your colleagues, friends and family to critique your elevator pitch and accommodate their feedback as far as possible.

    3. Evolve it

    An elevator pitch is a living document! As you get more and more experience in delivering it, you will find there are things that are missing, things that work well and things that don’t. Make a mental note of the questions that your prospects ask when you deliver your elevator pitch. Do these questions point to refinements that need to be made to your pitch? Do your prospects understand your pitch? Is it clear? Could it be simplified? Could it be shorter? Is there any irrelevant content?

    Make it a personal discipline to periodically revise your elevator pitch to take learnings into account, and to make sure that it remains “fresh” in your mind.

    4. What about your team?

    It’s imperative that your colleagues participate in the drafting of your elevator pitch. After all, the more input received, the better the elevator pitch is likely to be. Even more important is that your colleagues should also have an elevator pitch handy so that they too are well armed when opportunity strikes. Selling is everyone’s accountability … not just yours.

    5. Sharing is caring!

    Nothing puts a prospect off faster than getting inconsistent messages from a prospective supplier. For this reason, it is imperative that you and your team share the same elevator pitch. Your colleagues may want to make small changes to the pitch to make it more comfortable for them to deliver, but the basic structure and key points should be consistent.

    6. Keep it straight and simple

    Keep the language that you use simple, plain and jargon free.

    Assume your audience has no understanding of your industry, products and / or services. You want to be able to use your elevator pitch in front of anyone and know that they will understand what you do by the time you're finished.

    7. The bigger picture

    Hopefully, your elevator pitch goes well and you now have the opportunity to meet with your prospect on a subsequent occasion and continue the sales process at a more leisurely pace. What now?

    As previously mentioned, nothing puts a prospect off faster than the scent of inconsistency. Make sure that your full sales presentation is consistent with the contents of your elevator pitch. All that should change is the degree of detail. Logically, the same holds for your social media, the advert that you put in the local “rag mag”, your radio spot, your press releases or even that billboard that you have in mind.

    8. Say it in front of a mirror

    An elevator pitch on a sheet of paper is a very different animal to the one delivered live to a prospect. Read your elevator pitch in your head, read it out loud and then recite it in front of a mirror. Make sure that it flows and sounds conversational. Do dummy runs for your colleagues, friends and family.

    The bottom line … when you deliver your elevator pitch, it must be delivered with enough confidence that it sounds conversational. Your prospects don’t want to hear you deliver what sounds like a scripted message.

    9. Memorise and practise it

    You won't have the benefit of a cheat sheet when you are delivering your elevator pitch in the real world. You will need to memorise your elevator pitch. Your challenge is to memorise your elevator pitch without losing the ability to deliver it in a conversational manner. One thing is for certain, the more you practise delivering your elevator pitch, the easier it will be to make it sound conversational and relaxed.

    10. Show your passion

    The best elevator pitches are those that are memorable, unique, engaging and lead to further conversation. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by showing the passion that you have for its contents.

    11. Multiple flavours

    If you follow the step-by-step elevator pitch formula provided by this article, it's easy to refine your pitch to fit any audience. Once you're comfortable editing, rearranging and substituting, you can create a few different versions ahead of time.

    12. Tweaking on the fly

    The chances are more than even that there will be some degree of “on the fly tweaking” required when you deliver your elevator pitch. The reality is that there no two prospects that are the same and the context in which you deliver your elevator pitches will always differ, hence the need for customisation.
     

    It’s on the fly tweaking that will keep your pitch conversational and fresh for the recipient. Once again, “on the fly tweaking” will become easier if you are fluent with your “base elevator pitch” and have had lots of “tweaking on the fly” practice.

    13. Next steps

    Just as you do with all of your other marketing activities, include a call to action at the end of your elevator pitch.

    Outline what you want to happen next, whether it's giving the other person a chance to ask you questions, introducing you to a colleague, or scheduling time for a more detailed conversation.

    14. Taking turns

    You've put a lot of time into your elevator pitch, so it will be a big relief to have successfully delivered it. However, it is imperative that you don't forget about the person who has been on the receiving end of your pitch. The best way to transition from a great elevator pitch to a successful conversation is by giving the other person a chance to wow you with his or her own elevator pitch.

    15. Size doesn’t matter after all

    Whether you are one man band or the CEO of a multinational corporate, you still need an elevator pitch. There is a common misconception that only “small business” needs an elevator pitch … which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    16. Benefits, not features

    Remember, people don't buy features ... they buy benefits. Make sure that your product and service descriptions are benefit centric ... not feature centric.


    Drafting that winning elevator pitch

    Here is a step-by-step process that will help you create that winning elevator pitch.

    Step 1: Define who you are

    Write one sentence about who you are.

    Example:
    We specialise in developing and implementing Business Process Management (BPM) solutions.

    Step 2: Describe what you do.

    Use your mission statement and product / service listing as a guide, and write a few sentences about what you do every day in your business. Remember to keep your content benefit centric.

    Example:
    We have developed, and continue to refine, our own BPM application which we use to assist our Clients to optimally manage tasks and queries.
    We have developed a number of flavours of our product to allow us to rapidly deploy BPM solutions. For example, the Therefore Quantum™ flavour is typically used by Call Centres to manage tasks and queries. Therefore StratIQ™ has been developed to optimise the management of strategy execution. Our technology is easily configured, which allows us to create BPM solutions for virtually any process need that a Client may have.

    Step 3: Identify your ideal clients/customers.

    Use your target audience description as a guide, and write a few sentences about who your ideal clients are.

    Example:
    Our ideal Clients are medium to large enterprises; operate in a business to business environment and process large volumes of Customer initiated tasks and queries. Our typical Client often has a large Customer base with whom they do a large number of low ticket value transactions and can therefore benefit by reducing the cost of Customer ownership.

    Step 4: Explain what's unique and different about you and your business.

    Use your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as a guide, and write a few sentences about what sets you apart from every other business owner who does what you do.

    Example:
    We are in a unique position to assist our Clients to more effectively manage Customer initiated Tasks and Queries without having to make an extensive up-front investment in technology.
    We offer a full outsource solution, which allows Clients to benefit from our offering without having to set aside capacity / resource to perform hosting and administration.
    We are in a position to rapidly deploy our BPM solutions.

    Step 5: State what you want to happen next.

    Write a few sentences that identify what you want your audience to do next.

    Example:
    It would be great to schedule some time to walk you and your team through our service offering and explore how we can unlock value for your business.

    Step 6: Create an attention-getting hook.

    Write a few sentences that pulls in your audience and gets them engaged in what you're about to say.

    Example:
    Does it ever feel like your ability to resolve Customer tasks and queries within a reasonable time frame is a weak point when viewed from a Customer service standpoint?
    Does your Customer Care function feel like it’s out of control and not delivering the sort of value that you expect, given what you spend on it?

    Step 7: Put it all together.

    Combine the statements you drafted in the previous steps, putting Step 6 first.

    Example:

    Does it ever feel like your ability to resolve Customer tasks and queries within a reasonable time frame is a weak point when viewed from a Customer service standpoint?
    Does your Customer Care function feel like it’s out of control and not delivering the sort of value that you expect, given what you spend on it? 
    We specialise in developing and implementing Business Process Management (BPM) solutions. 

    We have developed, and continue to refine, our own BPM application which we use to assist our Clients to optimally manage tasks and queries. 

    We have developed a number of flavours of our product to allow us to rapidly deploy BPM solutions. For example, the Therefore Quantum™ flavour is typically used by Call Centres to manage tasks and queries. Therefore StratIQ™ has been developed to optimise the management of strategy execution. Our technology is easily configured, which allows us to create BPM solutions for virtually any process need that a Client may have. 

    Our ideal Clients are medium to large enterprises; operate in a business to business environment and process large volumes of Customer initiated tasks and queries. Our typical Client often has a large Customer base with whom they do a large number of low ticket value transactions and can therefore benefit by reducing the cost of Customer ownership. 

    We are in a unique position to assist our Clients to more effectively manage Customer initiated Tasks and Queries without having to make an extensive up-front investment in technology. 

    We offer a full outsource solution, which allows Clients to benefit from our offering without having to set aside capacity / resource to perform hosting and administration. 

    We are in a position to rapidly deploy our BPM solutions.

    It would be great to schedule some time to walk you and your team through our service offering and explore how we can unlock value for your business.
    Step 8: Transitions, edit and flow

    As invariably happens, the word count of the text pulled together in “Step 7” above (312 words in the case of the example provided) exceeds the targeted word count of between 150 and 250 words, so it is going to be necessary to perform some degree of summarisation.

    When editing, you need to pay attention to adding transitions, reducing the word count, removing duplications, keeping sentences short, ensuring that the text flows conversationally and ensuring that your pitch contains all the necessary key information.

    Example:
    For many businesses, managing Customer tasks and queries is a weak service delivery point. Customer Care Departments often exist in a continual state of chaos and are unable to break out of a “poor service” cycle, irrespective of the amount of resource committed.
    Therefore specialises in developing and implementing Business Process Management solutions. We have developed our own BPM technology, which we use to assist Clients to optimally manage tasks and queries.

    We have a number of product flavours which allows us to rapidly deploy solutions. Therefore Quantum™, for example, deals with tasks and queries. Therefore StratIQ™ drives strategy execution. Our technology is easily configured, which allows us to rapidly create Client centric solutions.


    Our ideal Clients are medium to large B2B enterprises with high volumes of Customer initiated tasks and queries. Our Clients often have big Customer bases, are concerned about the high cost of customer ownership and want to improve service levels.


    We are in a unique position to assist our Clients to more effectively manage Tasks and Queries without having to make an extensive investment in technology, given that we bill on a rental basis. Further, we can offer Clients a fully outsourced solution, allowing them to stick with what they do best. Our technology has been developed to allow for rapid deployment, which means that we add value sooner.


    It would be great to schedule some time to walk you and your team through our service offering and explore how we can unlock value for your business.
    If the above elevator pitch is of interest to you, give Peter Lever a call on +27 83 447 4883 or email him on peter@therefore.co.za. 

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Avoiding the bloatware trap

    Bloatware is a phrase used to describe software that has lots of superfluous features and, as a consequence, requires a considerable amount of disk space and RAM to install and run. As the cost of RAM and disk storage decreased, there has been a growing trend among software developers to disregard application size, which tends to result in the development of bloated software.

    Some people refer to this trend as “creeping featurism”. Creeping featurism is a term used to describe a tendency for systems to become more complex over time as more features are added. In software development, these added features often come at the expense of simplicity of use. Superfluous functionality increases the complexity of the user interface … and simply put, it makes off the shelf software applications less intuitive and more difficult to use and learn.

    One sure way to develop bloatware is to leave product design decisions up to the developers of the software. If left unchecked, developers have a natural tendency to add in functionality that they think is neat, without asking the product’s user base. Best practice is to develop new functionality only where market feedback indicates that it adds value.

    As a cautionary note, be aware that no two Clients have the same needs. Functionality that is an “absolute non-negotiable” for Client A could well be a “rather not have” for Client B … and it’s entirely conceivable that the reverse scenario exists too. It is for this reason that companies that develop off the shelf software often declare that their Clients should carry a part of the accountability for their application having become bloated.

    Sidestepping the bloatware problem

    So, how does one side step the risk of inadvertently developing a bloatware application? Some principles that we have followed when developing the Therefore BPMS, which forms the basis for the Therefore StratIQ™ and Therefore Quantum™ products, are detailed below.

    Stick with your knitting

    If your application is a Task Management application and your Client is looking for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application, stick with your knitting. Do you really want to develop CRM capabilities within your Task Management application? If you did, would it take your eye off the ball? Would it see your hereto contained Task Management application becoming bloatware? Wouldn’t it be better to recommend an existing CRM application to your Client and stick with doing what you do best?

    It is imperative that you remain clear on the niche that your software is designed to service. Entertain any move outside of your core area of strength only after having given it some very careful thought.

    Simply put, you need to accept that you can’t be everything to everyone. Trying to please everyone is a slippery slope that often leads to pleasing no one … and the eventual development of bloatware.

    Always ask the market

    New functionality should be the consequence of market feedback. Continually speak to your Clients / prospects, show them your software and take note of their questions and suggestions. When it becomes clear that their questions and suggestions are pointing to functionality that your system is missing … go to it!

    When you do decide to develop new functionality, remember to run your wire-frames, and eventually prototypes, past your Clients. Asking your Clients what they want invariably unlocks huge value.

    Keep an eye on usability

    As you increase the number of features available within an application it becomes increasingly important to make sure that your application’s usability does not suffer.

    Money spent on improving the usability of an application is always well spent. Again … there is no substitute for taking steer from actual users of the application when it comes to driving usability enhancements.

    Benefits Vs Features

    You don’t take a product to market because of its “features” … it’s actually the “benefits” that sell a product. Developers often have a feature centric view on the world, whereas Clients are typically looking to the benefits associated with using your application.

    Make sure that all of the features that you add into your application play either a direct or indirect supporting role for a product benefit. If your proposed feature does not add direct or indirect value to a benefit, the chances are that you should probably not be going there.

    Functionality on demand

    As already mentioned, no two Clients have the same set of needs, given that they are generally operating in different markets with their own / unique contexts and working towards achieving different strategies. Naturally, this introduces the potential for some degree of application bloat.

    Off the shelf software should be developed in such a way that features can be turned on or off, as dictated by the needs of the Client. We call this design principle “Functionality on Demand”. The Functionality on Demand design methodology allows your Clients to turn off functionality that they believe doesn’t add value, given their context. Simply put, it allows them to turn off the “bloat”.

    We always encourage our Clients to turn off as much as possible, because the less superfluous functionality, the less cluttered the user interface and ultimately the better the application’s usability. Besides, your Client can always turn on previously deactivated functionality as their needs change or their experience in using your application deepens.

    It’s more than just a software problem

    The bloatware pheromone is more than just a software problem.

    There are many examples or products and services that have become bloated by superfluous features and / or options. In the product and service space, bloat tends to unnecessarily increase your costs and work against your levels of customer satisfaction.

    Should you be in the game of selling products or services, you will probably find that the above bloatware avoidance tips still add some degree of value in your environment. You may also find that a previously written blog article that talks to implementing Strategic Flexibility would be of interest to you.