Therefore Strategic Technology Services

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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 

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.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Therefore BPMS … Building Bridges, Supercharging Delivery

The Therefore BPMS application drives the efficient execution of tasks and resolution of queries. It does this by giving your team a common platform that allows them to work together to deliver value.

The most powerful metaphor that we could think of when developing the marketing content for the Therefore BPMS was that of the bridge.

Bridges link locations, reduce transit times, unlock opportunities for trade, and often allow for a greater degree of social interaction between communities. In essence, bridges are “enablers” that release value that would have otherwise remained unrealised. Similarly, the Therefore BPMS builds bridges between your staff with a view to optimising the ease with which they are able to perform tasks and resolve queries, the ultimate objective being to add customer value.

During the course of our research into the bridge metaphor, we came across some pretty remarkable bridges. This article has been written to share our journey with you.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, built between 1886 and 1894, is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London which crosses the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, from which it takes its name, and has become an iconic symbol of London.

The bridge consists of two towers tied together at the upper level by means of two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical component of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers.

The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge's present colour scheme dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a “steel through arch” bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney CBD and the North Shore. The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic image of both Sydney and Australia. The bridge is nicknamed "the coat hanger" because of its arch-based design.

The bridge was designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough and opened in 1932.

The bridge's design was influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City. It is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring some 134m (440ft) from its top to water level.

Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge, completed in 2003, is a bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was built to link the Braamfontein and Newtown business areas as well as to rejuvenate and modernise the Johannesburg inner city. The bridge was constructed over 42 railway lines, without disturbing railway traffic. It is 284m in length.

The bridge’s two pylons, North and South, are 42m and 27m high respectively. To reduce the weight of the bridge, it was built using a steel structure with a concrete composite deck. The bridge consists of two lanes and has pedestrian walk-ways on either side to accommodate foot traffic.

The bridge's lighting was upgraded for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The new LED lighting technology allows for the changing of the colour of the light, thereby creating a light show at night.

A bridge linking Braamfontein to the Newtown precinct was first mooted by Steve Thorne and Gordon Gibson in 1993 in their urban design study of the Johannesburg Inner City. Their study suggested that the bridge be called the Nelson Mandela Bridge in recognition of the role that he played in bridging the various peoples of South Africa and thereby uniting South African society.

Millau Viaduct Bridge

The Millau Viaduct Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France.

Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast's summit at 343m (1,125ft) above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270m (890ft) between the road deck and the ground below. The Millau Viaduct Bridge is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers and Montpellier. Construction cost was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004, and opened to traffic on 16 December. The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time. The bridge received the 2006 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Outstanding Structure Award.

Great Belt Bridge

The Great Belt Bridge runs between the Danish islands of Zealand (Copenhagen is partly on its eastern shore) and Funen (Odense is the main city). It consists of three structures: a road suspension bridge and a railway tunnel between Zealand and the small island Sprogø located in the middle of the Great Belt and a box girder bridge for both road and rail traffic between Sprogø and Funen. The "Great Belt Bridge" commonly refers to the suspension bridge, although it may also be used to mean the box-girder bridge or the link in its entirety. The suspension bridge, officially known as the East Bridge, has the world's third longest main span (1.6km), the longest outside of Asia. It was designed by the Danish engineering firm COWI.

The link replaced the ferry service that had been the primary means of crossing the Great Belt. After more than five decades of speculation and debate, the decision to construct the link was made in 1986; the original intent was to complete the railway link three years before opening the road connection, but the link opened to rail traffic in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. At an estimated cost of DKK 21.4 billion (1988 prices), the link is the largest construction project in Danish history.

The link has reduced travel times significantly; previously taking about an hour by ferry, the Great Belt can now be crossed in about ten minutes. The construction of the link and the Øresund Bridge has enabled driving from mainland Europe to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia through Denmark.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed bridge in the world". It opened in 1937 and was, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at 1,300m (4,200ft).

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge (built 1158 – 1172) that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city's Old Town and adjacent areas. This "solid-land" connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

The bridge is 621 m long and nearly 10 m wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed / suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. It has a main span of 486m (1,595ft) and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed. It was originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, but it was later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an icon of New York City. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.

Akashi Kaikyō Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge, links the city of Kobe on the mainland of Honshu to Iwaya on Awaji Island, in Japan. Completed in 1998, it crosses the busy Akashi Strait and carries part of the Honshu-Shikoku Highway.

The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world, at 1,991m (6,532ft).

It is one of the key links of the Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Project, which created three routes across the Inland Sea.

Storms River Bridge

The Paul Sauer Bridge, also known as the Storms River Bridge, is a concrete arch bridge over the Storms River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It carries road traffic for the N2 national highway. The Paul Sauer or Storms River Bridge was built between 1953 and 1956. It was designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi. The bridge spans 100m (328ft) and sits 120m (394ft) above the river.

The main arch structure was constructed in a unique fashion. The halves of the arch were built with climbing formworks in an essentially vertical position on opposite sides of the river canyon. They were then rotated and lowered into position to meet at the centre, thus forming the completed arch structure.

Located on the beautiful Garden Route N2, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (160km in length), it was initially the highest concrete arch in Africa. It lost this record in 1984 to the Bloukrans Bridge.

Revised: 15 November 2018