Posts tagged ‘culture’

changing business systems

There’s something about the way that
You say the words that you’ve rehearsed, now
I think I should explain
Things aren’t going to change

At some point in your professional career, whether you are on the business or operational side of a media company, you will face a system changeover. It’s a tough process.

Media organizations, like any business, change their business systems for many reasons. However, the fundamental reason really is to provide a framework for either reducing costs or enhancing revenues. Given that the cost of introducing a new system is itself quite significant, let’s explore revenue enhancement.

After going ‘live’, systems & organizations progress through several stages. The course taken reflects:

  • Properties and operations of the old system
  • Expectations of new system deliverables
  • Dynamics associated with moving the organization through the conversion project
  • Ongoing developments

In my experience, three broad transition phases exist. The degree of overlap and time spent in each phase is also a function of the above factors. Each phase is discussed separately along with its attributes, implications and suggested organizational actions.

Phase 1 – Revenue Protection

This is typically called “Fine Tuning”, “Shakedown”, “Bedding In” etc.

It typically lasts for 2-4 weeks immediately after the live date. It may span across the live-date therefore last longer, depending upon the state of the old system, and if the client has desired a parallel run or pilot etc.

In this phase you need to pay particular attention to:

  • Refine processes & procedures
  • Ensure consistent message within company and with clients
  • Firm up Business Rules
  • Establish baseline measurements

Phase 2 – Inventory Control

This should really be considered as ”Taking Control of the Business” with the new system and it lasts for about 6-9 months after the system has settled down. This is a learning stage, one of the organization becoming ‘familiar’ with the new system and its operations. It can start during the regime of the old system but typically users will not accept the new workflow and operations until the comfort zone of the old system has disappeared.

To transition through this phase as quickly as possible, focus upon:

  • Education & PR campaign
  • Planning/budgeting – strategy for next sales/marketing period
  • Develop products, rates, packages etc.
  • Communicate the business rules, set client expectations, regain control of inventory

Phase 3 – Revenue Enhancement

The whole point of changing systems is to “Get Value from the System” you have just installed. This is an ongoing process, typically starting after about 6-9 months of operations. By this stage, the new system has become the ‘modus operandi’ of the organization and there is enough data to provide comparisons and historical perspectives. Users look for new ways to solve business problems and consult the system as a primary point of reference.

At this stage the business should be able to leverage the new system for:

  • Planning/budgeting – strategy for next sales/marketing period
  • Develop products, rates, packages etc.
  • Adjust rates, look to demand/yield management
  • Utilize information to create selling opportunities, tie to programming
  • Build ‘value’ for the customer

It is critical that clients pass through Phase –1 Revenue Protection as quickly as possible. Being stuck in this phase will impact client confidence and hence their willingness to realize the promise of the newly implemented system.

It is important to realize that these broad phases cannot be skipped. Whilst their distinction and characteristics will vary by site and business model, and transition from one phase to the next may not be concise, it is essential to recognize the actions required to make sure that the organization evolves to the last phase.

Ultimately, the business controls the length of  each phase. Some organizations never evolve into the final stage and may be quite content with ‘Inventory Control’. In all cases, it is the implementation team’s responsibility to recognize what is occurring and to evolve the organization’s operations to ensure the maximum return on investment.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

January 28, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

leadership qualities for innovation

How many questions did you ask today?
Do you believe what the media has to say?
Did your neighbor lose his job or home?
If the leaders tell him to do it alone…
do you believe he should rebuild on his own?
There’s no money left, sorry it’s gone
Where has all the money flown?

I just completed an innovation workshop for a management team in a large media company. One of the most important items in any innovative environment is communication and leadership at all levels. I thought these following leadership qualities were worthwhile sharing with you, for your day-to-day business activities.

  • Persuasion making a strong, valid argument for your various stances and freely sharing your reasons is crucial in gaining respect for them, instead of just compliance. That also implies taking in and valuing the views of others.
  • Patience don’t let your eagerness for achieving your goals translate into impatience at obstacles – whether human or process. Retaining a long-term view of your objectives will help enormously in keep small frustrations in perspective.
  • Gentleness wins hands down over toughness, especially when handling the finer feelings of followers.
  • Mentoring never assume, or appear to assume, that you know all of the answers. Always make it clear you are there to learn as well as to show how. Work to create a culture where diversity and different perspectives are valued above all else.
  • Acceptance be slow to judge. Give people every chance to prove themselves and give them the benefit of any doubt.
  • Kindness practice thoughtfulness in all of your dealings, especially with subordinates. Remember that the small details are often seen as the really important things.
  • Openness be open to all ideas and true information about the people with who you deal. Consider their own wishes, values and aspirations rather than only their apparent behavior.
  • Compassionate confrontation to create an environment where you can draw attention to mistakes and changes in direction without crushing people or discouraging risk-taking.
  • Consistency your style of leadership should not be seen as something that you ‘bring out’ when challenged or to deal with crisis. If you strive for consistency, it will be a reflection of your principles and an expression of your character.
  • Integrity let your words, true sentiments, thoughts and deeds line up with one another for all to see.

Innovation is a way of life. It allows you to cope with change and to develop new strategies for personal growth.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

Innovate something today.

January 21, 2010 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

what’s in a meme?

I’ve lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won’t happen to us
‘Cause it’s always been a matter of trust

Those of you trend-watchers that have been following CES and the tech landscape will have undoubtedly encountered 2010 as year of the e-reader. Equally, many of you will no doubt have stumbled across the many rumors swirling around the January 26th date – widely believed to be the launch date of the currently non-existent Apple tablet, or what has been dubbed the iSlate.

At CES we saw a wide range of electronic readers, from the palm sized Dell, to the Document sized Que, or the in between HP Slate as demoed by Steve Ballmer at the keynote.

Everybody is ‘slating’.

What I find most incredible about this, is that the rumors of the Apple Tablet have found substance in a diverse group of companies endorsing the ‘slate’ meme and investing R&D in delivering a tablet. Stumbling over themselves in order to beat Apple to the punch, assuming that Apple is indeed going to release a ‘slate’.

Are we seeing a whole segment being born out of a previously failed vision and accelerated into existence by an Apple dream?  I submit that, of all the major technology companies, Apple has earned the trust of consumers, investors and pundits alike. They are associated with disruptive innovation, and they are associated with game changing devices as exemplified by the iPod and iPhone. They were not the first MP3 player, and they were not the first smartphone, but they disrupted both segments. It is only reasonable to expect that a tablet launched by Apple will have the same, or similar, degree of success. Even if it doesn’t, Apple  will be forgiven, as any attempt will still likely be better than the unimaginative devices already shown (and largely forgotten) at CES.

If imitation be the most sincere form of flattery, then imitation of a mirage in advance of a possible product launch is indeed the greatest tribute the industry can pay to Apple. We are trusting this company to manifest our expectations and to surprise us.

Therefore, Apple’s greatest asset is it’s trust.

So, if we get an Apple tablet on the 26th, its success will be in no small part due to the low bar that has been set by Apple’s peers. Innovation and imagination is hard in itself – making it mainstream is extremely difficult. I hope Apple hits this out of the park – this is a form-factor that I’d appreciate, and I know that they’ll get the UI done right.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

BTW I am a proud owner of a still working, and oft used Newton MP2000 and I have forgiven Jobs for killing the Newton.

January 14, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

tomorrowland welcomes the curious traveler

Tomorrow’s just another day, another way to spend my day
All by myself
Staring at the TV screen, flipping through my magazine
Everything is unclear
I need you here, doodoodoo
And I wake up, put on my makeup
Pick up the phone, nobody’s home
I need to break out, get me some takeout
Stand inside a crowd, I want to scream out loud
That I’ll be okay
I’ll be okay

Every year I review my clutter of saved articles, and inevitably encounter a really interesting piece that resonates with the current times. So it was at the end of this decade. Here is a piece from Richard Neville, a radical luminary from Australia. He wrote this before the turn of the century, about the mid-late 90’s. So, ten years on, let’s see how this reads today:

“Tomorrowland Welcomes the Curious Traveller – Richard Neville

Ideas on the Rise – Community, everything is connected, a corporate conscience, the worth of the wild, work as a spiritual journey.

Ideas in Decline – Nation states, treating the world as a quarry, technology is neutral, growth is good, work as a commodity to be traded.

  • The growth of genetics will lead to programs that enhance the physical and mental abilities of … the rich.
  • It is predicted that some people alive today will still be alive in 400 years; that’s a lot of shopping.
  • Breakthroughs in genetics mean we are starting to redesign our own species, blurring the ancient boundaries of our coming to life and the leaving of it. More and more of us could become composite beings – part biological, part mechanical, part electronic.  We will adjust our own brains to boost IQ, filter pain and intensify pleasure.  As a super-elite of cyborgs, some of us could end up ruling the world, or be rounded up and dismantled.
  • The fastest growing branch of medicine is plastic surgery.
  • digitized voice replication will convey a faultless reproduction of how we sound.  It will shatter our sense of identity and further disrupt the meaning of “authentic”.  Elvis sightings are a portent.  The King will return to the charts with new material, appear on MTV and promote whisky.

Now that history and fantasy can be blended with seamless conviction, where does it leave the concept of reality?”

Our lusty fling with social media, crowdsourcing and the wisdom of the masses appears to be still ascendant. As for the decline, technology is far from neutral, it is still delivering magical gadgetry and work has become an even more outsourced and traded commodity, partly thanks to technology and communications.

Reality is indeed becoming more virtual. So much so, that meeting someone for coffee, or calling them has been all but replaced with video-conferencing, Facebook, twitter and maybe soon ‘Wave’ing. Ad-dollars are following audiences online and chilling the spines of traditional, more tangible news sources. The noisy, slow, erratic, and wired dial-up internet has all but disappeared. Our Britannica, Compton’s, Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias have been shelved for Wikipedia. CDs, DVDs (and probably soon Blue-rays) are being replaced by digital downloads, one title at a time. Phone land-lines are being unplugged along with the modem as family plans give household members their own mobility. Film and film cameras have all but disappeared as digital SLRs, pocket-sized digital cameras and even phones are capturing memories instantly and cheaply. Yellow Pages and address books are being recycled while technology ”lets your fingers do the walking” from the printed page to the keyboard. Printed store catalogs morph to the spam of the past, as they move from your mailbox to your inbox. Fax machines are now a feature on multi-function printers and who’s business card still sports a fax number?  Cabling and wires fade from the edge of the network as wireless internet, wireless downloads, wireless charging, wireless headphones become the norm. Writing on paper has been replaced with e-messaging of all types – including this blog.

Perhaps Richard saw something we have missed in this last decade?

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

January 7, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

newspaper apocalypse

Monday morning’s paper told me the world is gonna end
I don’t need time to gather up my friends cause I haven’t any
Things I read the things I hear, it all seems so incredible
You’d think by now I’d learn my lesson

If you read the press, online or print, you already believe that newspaper and print publishing is all but dead. Is this industry self-fulfilling itself into oblivion?

According to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in its annual world press trends update, at no time in the foreseeable future will digital advertising revenues replace those lost to print, making the search for new business models, including paid-for online access for news, a pressing concern for the news publishing industry.

So where is the money, that was originally spent on print, now going?

The circulation drop in Europe, for example, is less than 3% over five years. In fact, according to Timothy Balding, co-CEO of WAN-IFRA, “The survey showed that newspaper circulation grew, on a global scale, by 1.3% in 2008, the last full year for which data exists, and almost 9% over five years. The data shows consistent newspaper growth in Africa, Asia and South America, a long-term slowdown in the US and European markets. Over five years, according to our survey, newspaper circulation increased in 100 of the 182 nations for which we have reliable data.” And, “…newspaper companies in the ‘old’ markets have embraced digital platforms and new forms of print publishing and, in doing so, have actually grown their audience reach and revenues, even while their print circulations have come under pressure,” Mr Balding observed.

So where is the money, that was originally spent on print, now going?

Some of the highlights from the update:

  • Globally, 1.9 billion people choose to read a newspaper every day, or 34% of the world population, while 24% use the internet.
  • The biggest newspaper market in the world is India, with 107 million daily sales. India, China and Japan account for more than 60% of the world’s newspaper sales, with the USA taking 14%.
  • In terms of sales per 1,000 adult population, Japan leads the world with 612, followed by Norway with 576, and Finland with 482. In terms of reach, 91% of Japanese continue to read a newspaper daily, remarkable in such a technologically advanced and wired society.
  • Advertising revenues fell an estimated 20% in North America, 19% in eastern Europe, 16% in western Europe, and 11% in the Asia-Pacific in 2009, according to PwC.
  • The US market has been hardest hit, with advertising revenues in the third quarter of 2009 falling nearly 29% in print and nearly 17% on digital platforms over the same quarter in 2008. But revenue declines mirror declines in other industries. Take a look at this map which charts US press layoffs in 2009.

So where is the money, that was originally spent on print, now going?

Why has the US been hardest hit? Why the difference? Have we over-embraced digital gadgetry while the rest of the world still believes that newspaper is the best medium for wrapping physical content? Or, is it simply that internationally, content is not re-purposed to the degree that it is in these newer economies?

I think it is the latter. One of the promises of digital content was the dream of re-purposing. Of re-using and re-monetizing already created content, about making more money. If I have a selection of news feeds, then do I need as many journalists? But if those news feeds are also aggregated by other sources, websites and search engines, then how competitive is my print version? If news generation is trustworthy, sourced and verified, and adds value to a reader’s daily experience of life, then it has value, and it will be compensated. If that information is ‘commonplace’ and can be sourced anywhere, then why would a reader pay?

I think that’s what the US newspaper industry has forgotten. They have come under the spell of economic rationalists, and have handed their golden goose over to the bean counters who obey only the Golden Rule*. And those bean counters are now trying their hand at growing the beans instead of counting them…

Find your readers, listen to them, create relevant content and remember that not everybody has e-ink yet.

There is a place for incisive relevant analysis… I believe. Or, perhaps as a society gets more affluent it necessarily evolves into a faster paced era of 30s news bites, headlines and tweets. Perhaps understanding detail is too much work, work which affluence abhors. Maybe we’re just glimpsing humanity’s new gestalt and this trend is simply reflecting emerging cultural expectations and communications patterns.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

*The Golden Rule in accounting speak is “He who controls the gold, makes the rules”.

December 17, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

information density

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Back in generational differences I wrote

“Even though I am not a fan of monkeying around with food, it did on average increase life expectancies from the baseline of old. So it is with information. Let us just hope that we’ll be smart enough to not allow information to become too fast, over processed and too preserved. Imagine suffering information obesity in the coming days!”

I was discussing early American History with a colleague and good friend of mine and we fast forwarded to the present-day political landscape. What struck us both was the parallel between fast food and availability of information. Perhaps its a glib and tenuous connection, but maybe there is something to this on a few different levels.

Nutritional Density in the context of information intersects quite readily with the current trend toward huge data-centers, their efficiency and management. If we were to parallel the increasing density of information that can be stored and processed in these facilities, there is an obvious parallel to the amount of nutrition produced per parcel of land and mono-cultures in general.  But are we talking nutritionally dense data, or energy dense data? As we look across the broad expanse of processing, it is easy to see that digital media, especially video, consumes vast amounts of storage. It is  visually rich to a consumer, but is the content itself valuable? In other words, we know it is energy dense, but is it nutritionally dense? Is the information we store and process in these data-centers useful for anything else other than to generate media revenues? How much actually feeds positively useful information for our society with factually relevant information? Or has it been processed, and subsequently prepared and packaged by a franchise for quick consumption? Has information really become a fast-food, ready for snacking with twitter or an on-the-go handheld? Has information crossed into entertainment along with the likes of toy laden packaged happy meals? Clearly discussions such as these counter the concept of a free-market information economy and tread dangerously closely to subjective evaluations and censorship. I am not advocating either. However, I do miss the days of relevant insightful journalism, slower yes, but based upon fact. The day that the newsroom became a profit center and not a cost center, was the day that media organizations started their downward spirals into irrelevancy and created opportunities for new technologies to fragment audiences and break the current business models. ‘Slow food’, what about a ‘slow information’ movement?

Information Overload, a term coined by Alvin Toffler refers to an excess amount of information being provided, which makes processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information. Consider this in the same context as willingly going to the buffet we call the internet, and loading ourselves with the excess calories of knowledge because it is available on an all you can consume basis. Have we willingly become gluttons of information? Just as food without exercise, have we stopped turning information into useful actionable knowledge?

Perhaps it was all best summarized in the following “As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes.” –Denis Diderot, “Encyclopédie” (1755)

The paradox of choice provides a good counterweight to the freedom of choice. As technology makes media more accessible, we have a responsibility to ensure that our energy and resources are not wasted on junk. Food or information alike. Working out how will be our greatest challenge.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

December 3, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

who killed the radio star?

So, Radio, Radio
Tell me what i wanna know, wanna know
I’ve been wide awake, staying up all night
Waiting for a song that will make me feel alright.

According to a Nielsen analysis of a media study conducted by the Council for Research Excellence, 77% of adults are reached by broadcast radio on a daily basis, second only to television at 95%. The study found that Web/Internet (excluding email) reached 64%, newspaper 35%, and magazines 27%.

And, in a deeper analysis of audio media titled “How U.S. Adults Use Radio and Other Forms of Audio,” Nielsen found that:

  • 90% of consumers listen to some form of audio media per day
  • The 77% who listen to broadcast radio surpass the 37% who listen to CDs and tapes and the 12% who listen to portable audio devices.
  • Almost 80% of those aged 18 to 34 listening to broadcast radio in an average day.

In an earlier post, technology creates media businesses, I made the point that new technologies create new businesses. And they do. It does not mean that they always create them at the expense of other businesses. Although they eventually do. What it does mean, is that the money within an industry gets redistributed. And that is the current problem with media.

The iPod has not seemingly killed radio, but it has impact even in this demographic. As I have intimated in generational differences and graphed in technology creates media businesses there are probably more significant changes yet to occur. These differences cannot be measured (or readily considered) by surveys, such as those that introduced this blog.

We are seeing less money per listener in radio. Just as we are seeing less money per subscriber in newspapers. These were early forms of mass media. Is this because the nature of society is changing? That the mediums are becoming more efficient? That new forms of media are competing for the same dollar? Or, all of the above?

I say it is all of the above. Media is evolving. The problem is that we don’t know the end-state. If we did, we’d know what business model to develop. Until we do, enjoy the book and stop trying to flip to the last page. There is no last page. Never has been in media, and likely never will be.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

November 12, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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