Tuesday, July 16, 2019

My guest column on IT Strategy Best Practices

My guest column on IT Strategy Best Practices was published on the blog of Alan Weiss, one of the top management consultants in the world!


Friday, July 12, 2019

IT Strategy / Business Alignment

IT Strategy / Business Alignment: This is why most IT projects either fail, go over time/budget, or under-deliver. 1. At the beginning, there is not enough "Why" and "What" discussions before moving to the "How". 2. As the project advances, there's not enough iterative feedback and pushback from both the technology and the business.   Both sides end up focusing on what they want, but not on what they need. This distance between want and need is what consulting expert Alan Weiss calls "the value distance".

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Don't Blame Capitalism

People still don't realize that a lot of crises aren't because of unchecked capitalism, it's the opposite: checked capitalism. More precisely, checks on the wrong things. I'm not saying you should have no regulation of capitalism, but a lot of the bad effects of "capitalism" are from regulating one side of the coin and not the other. If both were deregulated, economics would cause them to check/balance each other. Examples: 1. In the San Francisco area, the homeless/housing crisis is because, as there had been growth from successful start-ups, there were barriers to building more housing. If housing growth was "unchecked" like capitalist start-ups, there would be a lot less homeless people. 2. The Great Recession is seen as caused by greed and capitalism (mortgage lending out of control, speculation driving up housing prices), but the root cause was the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply to ease the dot com bust to make Washington look good, rather than letting the 2000-2001 recession work itself out naturally. 3. The failure in deregulating energy, which lead to greed like Enron trading and California paying high utility prices was caused because only one side of the market was deregulated.

Friday, May 10, 2019

You Will Screw Up

 No matter how careful you are, no matter how much stress you place on yourself, no matter how many hours of practice, you will eventually screw up somewhere. You are imperfect, and will always be flawed. 

If you travel with a map, you will go off course from time to time. Your writings will contain typos. During speeches, you will stammer, hesitate, and mispronounce words. You will irritate and fight with your family.

Everyone else on the planet is the same way. Even Superman has his kryptonite issues.

Is this knowledge pessimistic, dark, and depressing? No - it is liberating! You are human! Do your best, then learn to live with the results and forgive yourself and others.

The Purpose Of An Elevator Pitch Should Be A Conversation, Not A Sale

An elevator pitch should be a pithy sentence that describes how your ideal customer is better off after working with you.  It should not be about your inputs or processes. You don't want to provide a lot of info in your pitch, because you aren't trying to sell.  You instead want:

1. If this person is your ideal client, then intrigue them enough to set a meeting for further conversation
2. The person can remember your pitch, so they can repeat it to someone they know who could use your help.

For example, a bad pitch is "I'm a great accountant with 20 years of experience who can help you."  A good pitch would be "I've collectively saved my clients $10 million in taxes."

How Long Should You Stay At A Job?

If you stay too long in one position, your skills and pay will stagnate, and you will start to feel bored and unchallenged.  

On the other hand, if you keep switching jobs every two years, it sends a red flag.  

In my own experience, before I started my own company, I stayed in one company for 14 years, which was a mistake—I should have left after six years.  

In my 20+ career, I have left other positions after an average of four years, I feel that is probably right for most people.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

JetBlue, Trans-Atlantic Routes, and Airline Strategy

This weekend's Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on JetBlue's new service to London from NYC and Boston.

Most discount airlines that try long (over 10 hour) flights end up losing money because their business model breaks down.  They need to use larger planes to make those flights but, since they fly point-to-point, they lack feeder traffic from a hub to fill the plane.  As a result, they can't fill all the seats and make the economics work.

On the other hand, JetBlue, with its London flights and other ones that it plans, is focusing on medium-haul routes.  They think this will be a sweet spot because flights between 3,500 and 4,000 miles will have peak profitability.

Why? Because JetBlue will use only a slightly larger aircraft (an Airbus A321 vs. the A320's that are used on short routes) that has less than 200 seats.  After JetBlue eliminates some of the economy seats to make room for its premium Mint class, it will have a seat count that it can fill without using the hub and spoke model.  The combination of economy and Mint seats will give them more profitability than they get from short-haul and would get from long-haul (where they would have to use larger aircraft with empty seats).

This is a good example of interesting, well-thought out business strategy.  This is the kind of strategic thinking I enjoy helping my clients with.

Can You Reject Your Pet Ideas?

In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, investment reporter Jason Zweig interviewed Warren Buffett's partner, 95 year old Charlie Munger.

When asked why he was so successful, he said that one of his keys was:

"I'm good at destroying my own best-loved ideas."

Mr. Munger said that he recognized the value of doing this early in life.  While most people would hate to do this, Munger now likes it because "I know how much power and wealth is in it..."

Can you discard ideas and philosophies that you love, if they prove to not be useful?  Can you then pivot to other ideas?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Scandinavian Minimalism at Viking Cruises

Forbes recently had a profile on Tor Hagen, the billionaire owner of Viking Cruises.  Viking started with its famous European river cruises, and then expanded to ocean cruises.

Viking targets the luxury market, and focuses on American couples over 55.

Yet, for a luxury cruise line, they don't pamper guests.  They eschew casinos, formal nights, mini-water parks, and butlers.

Instead, they focus on ease, simplicity, and comfort.

For example, Hagen showed the reporter how easy it was to open the shampoo and conditioner bottles.  As the Forbes article mentioned, he was once frustrated by "Hermes bath products at a luxe Monte Carlo hotel, which featured illegible gold lettering and were impossible to open without using your teeth."

He also showed the TV remote, which had just  9 jumbo buttons.  Hagen said, "This is my design. No teenager is required to operate it."

This is what I call user simplicity.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Build Rapport With Co-workers By Being Interested, Not Interesting

Talk less about yourself.  Get your co-workers to talk about themselves, then practice active listening. Summarize back to them what they just told you, and ask follow-up questions.  The trick here is to steer the conversation to where it is still about them, but also interesting to you, so that you become genuinely interested in what they are saying.

The Secrets to Networking are Selectivity and Follow-up

The biggest mistakes SMB owners make when networking are in approaching everyone and hoping to make a sale.  You do not sell at networking events, and you prioritize quality over quantity—it's better to make a few, good connections.  

When you approach someone at a networking event, you should strive to be interested, not interesting.  Talk less about yourself.  Get the other person to talk about themselves, and ask questions about them.  Also, summarize back to them what they just told you.  

Then, within 24 hours of the event, follow up with them.  Invite them out for coffee, or send them an interesting article.  At that point, you need to nurture them as any other lead, connection, or friend.

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Great Brand Purpose Reflects the Dreams and Aspirations of the Ideal Customer

 The purpose of a brand is to conceptualize, in a metaphor, what the ideal customer wants, and why.  

Car companies such as Mercedes ("luxury"), Chevy ("tough"), Jeep ("go anywhere"), and Volvo ("safety") do it well.

Never Use a To-Do List

Another productivity technique I learned from Alan Weiss is to never use a To Do list. Instead, schedule to-dos as appointments on your calendar (whether you use a physical planner like I recommend, or an electronic one). If it is a large project, then break it down into chunks that can be scheduled as separate appointments. Then, during evenings, if you keep finding yourself having not completed these tasks, and having to rescheduling the appointments, you know you are procrastinating.

Using A Physical Planner for Productivity

As a former executive, and now executive advisor, the best productivity "technology" is combining a physical At-A-Glance planner with the alarm app on your smart phone. I learned about the advantages of a physical planner from my mentor, famed consultant Alan Weiss. With a physical planner (paperclipped to the correct month), you can pull it out, click open your pen, and schedule an appointment faster than the other person can open their on-line organizer! Then, each evening, you set alarms (15-20 minutes ahead) in your alarm app corresponding to the entries in your planner. So, when your alarm rings, you check your planner and know what to do next.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Marketing Lesson From Conrad Hilton

"One hotel is like any other hotel. The difference is how you treat the guests. All we ask of you is to be nice to people so they will want to come back."  - Conrad Hilton, to his staff

Thursday, April 18, 2019

For Entrepreneurs, Questions Are The Key To Passive Income

If you are selling a product or service, keep track of the questions and problems submitted to your help desk.  This is the fastest key to passive income.  Recurring topics lead to supplemental guidebooks, FAQs, study guides, and courses.

Great Leaders Develop Their Team Members

When I was managing a team at a large bank, I was never afraid to give my teammates more responsibility and help them improve their skills.  I never thought about hoarding advanced assignments for myself for job security.  What I found was that, not only were my team members happier and engaged, but it reflected on me, and made me look better to my superiors.

My New Logo

If you are a frequent visitor to my website and blog, you'll notice that I commissioned a new logo for my business.  I used a designer, and now the logo is on my website, blog, twitter, and LinkedIn.

I previously used a motif of a jigsaw puzzle on my business cards because it is a metaphor for strategy.  But, as my mentor Alan Weiss pointed out when he saw my new logo, my designer made a subtle, elegant addition—when the last puzzle piece is snapped in place, you have an arrow pointing up (for progress).  I didn't catch this myself!

Why create a logo?

Building a brand is very important in today's world of Attention Scarcity.  My business is at a stage where it is growing, and I'm reaching ever-wider audiences. Businesses today need a brand which reflects their values and is aesthetically pleasing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Executive dashboard best practices

The Key to Executive Dashboards is Exclusion

Every entry on the dashboard competes for attention, but we are now in the Attention Scarcity Age.  Therefore, executives must be ruthless in deciding what should be included on their dashboards.  An indicator should only be present if it can signal a critical, urgent  issue which can't be flagged by any other.

The Future of Banking in Africa

The Transparency of Mobile Payments

The big advantage of African banking is that they are starting from a blank slate in the 21st century.  While Western companies have moved from cash to checks, and then credit cards, Africans are moving straight from cash to mobile web payments.  Africans are embracing mobile payments, and the continent is already starting to see changes in transparency and less corruption.  NGOs are now starting to distribute aid directly to individuals or small groups through mobile payments, rather than try to pass money in large blocks through government agencies—where corruption takes a large percentage. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Business Impact Analysis: Uncover All The Dependencies

A big problem with Business Impact Analysis is not uncovering all site dependencies—especially if the dependency is owned by another group in the organization. hashtagA client of mine, a large Fortune 500 bank, created a fail-over plan to switch their online banking from Chicago to back-up servers in NJ. When a fire broke out at their Chicago facility, they tried to fail over, but the computer that resolved internet addresses internally (which was owned by a group not part of the plan) was only in Chicago, and so they failed to make the switch within the target time frame.

How to know if your company is IPO ready?

As CEO, Can You Focus on Strategy While Ignoring the Pressure of Tactics?

Once your company does an IPO, investors will be focused on short term results, which are affected by tactics. However, as CEO / founder, your company's success has been driven by your focus on a long term, strategic plan.  

You are only IPO ready if you can tune out the short-term noise, and focus on guiding the company to reach your vision.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Is Your Job Vulnerable to Digital Transformation?

If you just focus your job on completing tasks, you will be vulnerable to losing your job in a digital transformation—because tasks can always be automated.  

However, if you focus on giving value (sometimes going beyond assigned tasks) and building relationships with superiors and co-workers, you will become indispensable, and are less likely to lose your job.

Tip for Communicating Better With Your Boss

Find out what the boss needs vs. what he/she says they need.  

Then, you can exceed the request.  

For example, if your boss asks you to compile a list of prospects, and you figure out that the list will be used for sales calls, you can make sure you include all possible phone numbers, and organize the list by both alphabetical order, and time zone.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Don't Let Your Most Valuable Workers Become Bottlenecks

As a management consultant who has worked with many companies to improve processes, I have found that some of the most respected people at work are employees who share their knowledge with their co-workers.

Over time, many long-term employees become subject matter experts in a certain area.  Everyone turns to them when there is an issue in their area, and they are considered valuable to the organization. 

Some of these employees hoard their knowledge under the mistaken impression that it creates job security. Since there are only so many hours in the day, they become a bottleneck in the organization.

However, the really respected co-workers take the time to document and share their knowledge with their more junior co-workers.  The result is a win-win for everyone.  The organization develops redundancy, can get tasks done in a timely matter, the junior associates build their knowledge / skills, and the experienced co-worker benefits too.

By sharing information, they enhance their expert reputation, and they are still the first ones to be approached when there are challenging problems in their areas.  At the same time, they are relieved of having to deal with more routine tasks.  The result is that the expert also grows in his job by shedding mastered tasks, and gets to work on interesting new problems.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Scott Adams on Simplicity

"Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing."
- Scott Adams

How to Improve Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

As an expert on user and operational simplicity, I have worked with industries, including the medical and pharmaceutical fields, where workers need to interact with electronic user interfaces.  The biggest reason that doctors hate EHRs is because of the forced complexity.  EHRs, as currently implemented, lack the flexibility needed to make doctor's lives easier, and allow them to spend more time with their patients.   

Currently, doctors have to fill out many fields which do not apply to every situation, and they must select and enter precise codes and descriptions.

An improved EHR would be organized into sections that can be skipped or selected as needed, and would allow more freeform entries, rather than codes.  The reality is that medical records are shared between human professionals—not machines.  Allow doctors to enter information in a freeform manner, and let them evolve best practices for describing the information. 

Best and Worst Times to Check Your Phone

The best times to check your phone are:

1. First thing in the morning
2. After you have completed a task, and before you start a new one
3. At the end of the day

The worst times to check your phone are:

1. When you are in the middle of tasks
2. During conference calls
3. During face to face meetings, business meals

Friday, March 29, 2019

E2C vs. E2E

You've probably heard terms like B2B, B2C, and B2G.

Have you heard of E2C and E2E?

E2C  =  Employees who service customers

E2E  = Employees who service other employees (internal customers)

I coined these terms because, in my experience, especially at large companies, internal customers are not treated with the respect given to external customers.

Internal customers have to jump through more hoops, suffer from more lousy service and delays, and often have to put up with sub-par user interfaces and computer systems.

This ultimately harms the entire business.

That is why, in my Strategic Simplicity® Framework, user simplicity and operational simplicity are related.  Even though user simplicity is often regarded as "making the (external) customer's life easier", my definition of operational simplicity includes "applying user simplicity to internal customers".

Take the Strategic Simplicity® Diagnostic

Strategic Simplicity® Diagnostic:  Rank yourself and your products/services in each of these areas on a scale from 1-10:

They will help you identify the key changes that result in dramatic improvement.

1. Market Simplicity - What one big idea or theme do you want your product known for? Even if you can do more, what one thing do you want to focus your marketing on?

2. Decision Simplicity - How easy is it for prospects to decide and evaluate among your offerings? Is it easy for them to see the value of your products compared to those of competitors? Does your product portfolio overlap and cause confusion?

3. User Simplicity - Once a prospect decides to become a customer, how easy is it for them to buy, use your product, and take advantage of sales and servicing?

4. Operational Simplicity - How simple and streamlined are your internal processes? Consider your employees to be (internal) customers: do you provide them with user simplicity to do their jobs?

Scoring:  You want to be at least an 8 in each area.  Ideally, you can always improve in each area—even if you are a 10.  Improvement in any of these areas can dramatically increase success!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Longevity: Broccoli vs. Hot Cocoa

This weekend's Wall Street Journal had the obituary of the scientist who proclaimed broccoli a super-food, with cancer-fighting properties.  He lived to be 95, which is impressive.

But, next to that, they had the obituary of the guy who invented Swiss Miss Cocoa.  He lived to be 101!

When Politics Affect Business Projects

I recently read that the court battles over whether to include a citizenship question in the upcoming census are threatening to reduce the profitability of the contract to print the census—which was awarded to Chicago-based printer R.R. Donnelley.

Donnelly has a strict deadline in which it has to deliver the census forms but, because of the on-going litigation in Washington D.C., they can't start printing until it is sorted out.

Meeting the deadline will thus increase their expenses (cutting into their profits) because they will have to use extra presses and possibly pay over-time.

This reminds me of a consulting project I did for Ameritech (a baby Bell) back in the mid-to-late '90's.  Then, the issue is that Ameritech wanted to get into the long distance market but, in return, the FCC required them to open the local phone market to competition.

This meant that competitors, such as AT&T or MCI, would "buy" local service at cost from Ameritech and re-sell it to the public.  So, customers could have their phone service with MCI, but in actuality they would be installed and supported by Ameritech

We were designing a strategic solution to allow this.  It basically meant setting up a software application that competitors could use to set up customers for installations, service, etc. which would then be sent into Ameritech's existing service system.

However, we kept having to make changes as the lawyers for both sides hashed out requirements in court.  Each new court decision brought changes, which resulted in re-work and delays.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Who should a CSO/CISO (Chief Security Officer / Chief Information Security Officer) Report to?

I have been a CEO, interim CIO, and now am a management consultant. I recommend to my clients that the CSO/CISO role be set up as a peer of the CIO. They should, therefore, have the same reporting structure as the CIO (CEO or board). The reason that the CISO should not report to the CIO is because the CIO has competing responsibilities (pressure to reduce costs, keep up with technological change, deliver business as usual, and work with the CMO / business units to deliver innovation). In today's environment, security and information privacy can not be part of a trade-off. A company needs a CISO who can push back and make sure that up-to-date security and data protection are implemented, regardless of competing priorities. The CISO needs his own team of security architects / auditors who can examine new and existing applications, give them regular checkups, and offer prescriptions for security best practices.

Password Best Practices

1. Don't be afraid to create long passwords.  It's better to write down secure passwords than try to memorize short ones.  Keep passwords written by hand on paper which you can keep secure in your home office.  Don't save unencrypted passwords on your computer or online.

2. Passwords should always contain uppercase, lowercase letters and numbers.  If allowed, also consider using symbols such as ! or %.  

3. A good way to generate long passwords are to select 2 or more unrelated words, connect them with numbers, randomly capitalize some letters and, finally, adding a special character.  Example: We can combine giraffe and tennis into giRaffe43tEnnis24!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sherlock Holmes: Master of Deduction? or Abduction?

In Conan-Doyle's stories, Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective, was a "master of deductive reasoning".

But, actually, he was an expert at abductive reasoning, because Holmes combined observations with known facts.

The 3 forms of logic reasoning:

1. Deductive:  Using facts to go from the general to the specific.  Example: Oceans have salt water, the Pacific has salt water.  Therefore, the Pacific is an ocean.

2. Inductive: Using facts to go from the specific to the general. Example: The Pacific is an ocean.  The Pacific has salt water.  Therefore, all oceans have salt water.

3. Abductive: Combining an observation with a known fact, to draw a probable conclusion. Example: I see a body of water where the water is salty.  Oceans have salt.  Therefore, this body of water is an ocean.

The difference between Deduction and Abduction is that the former involves only using known facts, while  involves observations and facts.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"I'm a Website Developer for Left-handed, Blue-eyed Texas Dentists Who Walk With A Limp" - The Epidemic of Over-Niching

The internet is full of "marketing experts" telling business owners to niche down! niche down!

You can become a big fish who owns a little pond.

Well, this is good if you want to provide a commodity service.  But, if you want to Think Big, and be a real, innovative thought leader who provides expert advice to the leaders in your industry, then you need a different model.

If a left-handed, blue-eyed dentist (with a limp) was my client, was serious about success, and wanted to hire the above web designer for anything than basic commodity work, I'd tell him to run away fast!

That specialist is a one-trick pony.  He won't be able to provide you with innovative, cutting-edge strategy, because he or she has no exposure.

You don't want to be a content expert, and now more and more about less and less.  You want to have wider exposure, so you can bring insights from one field to another.

This doesn't mean you become a jack-of-all-trades either.

This means that you need to specialize in a process, not content.  My mentor, Alan Weiss, has a mantra: "generalize and thrive", and recommends specializing in a set of general results—not specialized methodology.

A good example would be an expert French chef, Italian chef, and Chinese chef.  They each run world-renown restaurants, and all offer chicken dishes.  Now, suppose that you knew how to locate, select, and buy the best chicken in any market.  You could consult with all of them and improve their business—even though they know more about their content than you.

You can't teach them French, Italian, or Chinese cooking, but you can improve the quality of their chicken.  That is the power of a process expert.

Cabs vs. Uber: Can Legacy Companies Strike Back At Data-Driven Disrupters?

As a strategy consultant, I've worked with many clients on using data to drive innovation/disruption.

What I have found is that it is very hard for companies to disrupt their own basic underlying business model—they are just too habituated with certain assumptions about business as usual.

However, existing companies are capable of using data to disrupt portions of their operating model, and are willing to do so—especially in the customer-focused parts of their business.  However, this is usually done defensively, after the real disrupter has entered the market.

Thus, in general, existing market participants are capable of enough disruption to survive longer than companies that stick to the status quo, but ultimately they won't be the front-line leaders in the future because it is almost always a new entrant that causes true strategic disruption—someone who can mentally start fresh, with minimal assumptions about business as usual.

For example, Uber disrupted the whole model of the taxi industry, by creating a market place of matching independent drivers and riders.  Uber's model is that they don't have a central dispatching organization, or a large capital investment in taxi medallions or vehicles.

Since then, a taxi company in the Chicago area that I've worked with has competed by using data to disrupt parts of their business.  For example, they now have an app which lets you hail a cab easily, matches a car, sends you the car info, and lets you pay and rate the driver. They also ask if you have TSA Pre-check, and drop you at the closest door. This company, however, could never have disrupted the entire model like Uber did.  They are still dedicated to employing drivers, owning cabs, and having dispatchers.

Cloud Alphabet Soup: SAAS vs. PAAS vs. IAAS

There are three main types of cloud services:

SAAS (Software As A Service) - This is an application that is completely developed and users simply log in and use it.  For example, Netflix or Saleforce.com

PAAS (Platform As A Service) - This is when you need a certain platform, such as a database.  You want to program the database, but not manage the underlying operating system, memory, etc.

IAAS (Infrastructure As A Service) - This is when you want to develop your own applications, but don't want to own your own servers, network, memory, etc.  This is the most powerful and flexible for developers, because it gives them full control to create their cloud applications.

IAAS benefits companies because they don't have to invest large amounts of time and money to set up their own computing environment.  This is especially valuable when a company is first launching a new application.  They can develop the app, upload it to their cloud provider, and then only pay as customers use their app.

IAAS has the potential to be more secure than a company's own computing environment, because cloud vendors specialize in security, upgrades, and computing best practices.  This is their central business, while companies that try to set up their own network are usually more focused on their actual business (i.e. accounting or banking).

However, IAAS vendors provide a lot of security options to their customers, and it is up to the companies to make sure that they choose the most secure option, not the easiest to set-up.

Future Trends
IAAS trends for the near future include dramatically increasing their storage capacities, and providing support for more non-computer consumer and industrial devices (the Internet of Things).

Monday, March 18, 2019

Guest Post By Gloria Martinez: 3 Things Only Women Business Owners Understand

While the number of women business owners is on the rise (as reported by the National Association of Women Business Owners, or NAWBO, women now own more than 9 million US firms), they continue to face unique challenges. From limited access to funding to facing glass ceilings, women business owners must clear hurdles that don’t impede male business owners. We consider three of these challenges and offer some tips for overcoming them.

1. Limited Access to Funding

While not all women business owners need investors or extra capital to get their businesses up and running, those who do often struggle to make it past the pitch. One of the reasons for this limited access to funding may be that venture capitalists invest in startups run by people from their own circles. Venture capital firms that have female partners are much more likely than those with all male partners to invest in startups run by women. 

However, all hope is not lost for women business owners who are looking for funding. Boards of directors that have just one woman make different decisions; the effect, known as the panel effect, is true for US appellate courts and diverse boardrooms alike. 

2. Gender Discrimination and Stereotyping

Gender discrimination and stereotyping are present in nearly every aspect of life. Practically from birth, people are subjected to them: pink blankets and bows for infant girls, sports balls and trucks for toddler boys, and more time and attention in math and science for boys and more attention for girls in language arts in school. Gender bias begins early in life and follows men and women through college and into the business world. Young women are encouraged to pursue traditionally-female careers such as teaching and nursing, while young men are encouraged to become entrepreneurs and doctors. 

Even while women earn more degrees than men, not to mention higher grades and more honors, they continue to start businesses unrelated to their college degree at a higher rate than male entrepreneurs. The reason may be that women are dissuaded from pursuing certain careers and do not chase their dreams until later in life when they realize they can. Another reason may be that society continues to send messages that women are suited only to particular professions.

Overcoming gender discrimination and stereotyping means presenting girls with the same educational opportunities and encouragement as boys from a young age. Parents and teachers can combat the stereotypes by ensuring students understand that anyone can be anything. Similarly, the corporate world can help fight gender discrimination by hiring and promoting more women, using diverse hiring teams, critically evaluating work assignments, and closing the gender pay gap.

3. Achieving a Work/Life Balance is Difficult

Unfortunately, some gender discrimination and stereotypes spill from the business world into the family world. Women business owners struggle to find a balance between work and home because they run their homes and families in addition to their companies. While society continues to expect dads to miss sporting events and music recitals because they have to work late at the office, there is a level of shame placed upon women who put their business before their family. Mothers also feel guilt and stress when they feel caught between work and home. 

One way to combat the work/life balance problem is for women business owners to give themselves permission to be imperfect. They have choices to make and should decide to be happy with their choices rather than dwell on them. Sometimes, business will come first; other times, your family will. Setting priorities and boundaries will help you achieve this balance and empower you to feel better about the decisions you make. 

A good way to help alleviate stress when you’re busy is to outsource housework. For example, if you need someone to help out with your dog during the days you’re working late, a dog walker could come in handy (a midday one-time walking will cost you around $22, depending on your location). Another way is to hire a cleaning service to give your house some attention when you’re super busy. Keep in mind, however, that people in Aurora, Illinois, spend on average between $85 and $175 on maid services.

Another way to balance work and home is to set a daily schedule. A key characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is being regimented — they set a daily, weekly, and monthly work routine, and they stick to it. Applying this same logic to create a healthier work/life balance is extremely beneficial to female business owners. Most likely, the schedule will look different each day, but you can align it to your priorities and stick to it to help you be present when it is work time and avoid work distractions when it is family time. For example, don’t take a work phone call in the middle of family dinner time or family game night.

Women business owners do face unique challenges. But, more diverse boardrooms can help pave the way for women business owners. Society also can combat gender bias and stereotypes by placing an emphasis on gender neutrality. Finally, women can take charge of their work/life balance and allow themselves to split their time in a way that makes them more productive with fewer feelings of guilt.

Image via Pixabayby Jo_Johnston

Monday, March 11, 2019

Why some health system mergers fail, while others succeed

Healthcare mergers are focused on three keys: cost efficiencies, culture compatibility, and systems integration.  A failure in any one of these areas can doom the merger.

A successful merger will reduce operating costs and improve margins.  This is very good for stakeholders.  For patients and the community, it depends on the circumstances.  If the hospitals were relatively healthy and now, through reduced competition, keep prices high and don't pass any of the cost savings on to patients, it can impact the community negatively.

On the other hand, if one or both hospitals are weak financially, and in danger of cutting back service, then a merger to create a more financially healthy hospital will benefit patients and the community.

What's the single best way to simplify interoperability in healthcare IT?

The single best way to simplify interoperability in healthcare IT is to create the medical record equivalent of the pdf format, which is the standard for documents.  

Once there is a single format that has the flexibility to store any medical record, without loss of information, users of healthcare IT systems will demand that their vendors add the ability to import and export these files.  

Then we will have simple interoperability—the same way that we do with documents through pdf files.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

What's in a Name? Beyond The Yottabyte

Here's a lesson from science that can apply to your business:

This weekend's Wall Street Journal had an article about how a leader at the UK's National Physical Laboratory wanted the international standards committee to work on new suffixes for large quantities.

Currently, after megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes come petabytes–followed by the suffixes exa, zetta, and yotta. He thinks that, in 10-15 years, the amount of worldwide computer data will exceed 1 yottabyte.

The manager is afraid that the public will invent their own terms, and that the danger is that some of these catch on and become de fact names.

This is the lesson for your business.  Do you name/brand all your services, intellectual property and techniques?  If you don't, your customers and prospects might invent their own terms and you lose control.

Friday, March 8, 2019

2 Tips on developing the mindset of an Entrepreneur

Get Bored Easily
As a management consultant, I have found that my most entrepreneurial clients get bored quickly, and seek to continually reinvent themselves. They test out new products / services, and drop old ones when they get bored.

Turn Problems into Opportunities
The best example of this tip is the famous 1930's jazz pianist Art Tatum. When he would travel for performances, he would often find that the piano at the night club or venue would have broken keys, or be out of tune. Rather than get upset however, Tatum would get excited! He would spend the day incorporating the flaws into his music, and would end up giving an improvised, one of a kind performance. This is a must-have skill for entrepreneurs! Problems are always occurring. Intead of simply fixing them, and getting back to the status quo, the best entrepreneurs recognize an opportunity for innovation, and improve the product or service beyond the old normal.

Is AI 'really really stupid?

As a consultant who advises companies on strategy—including technology and AI startups, I can tell you that AI is very good at mining data for insights, but it is "dumb" by human standards because it's incapable of making intuitive leaps or insights.

For example, there was a case where a technology company used an AI tool to sort through resumes.  Most of the resumes were from men.  A human leader would see this, and think "how can we attract more women into technology?".  The AI, instead, started automatically rejecting resumes from women.  When the company found out, they had to stop using the AI.

Lessons for Recent College Grads

Two things I did right:

1. In my senior year, I chose to work on a project for Engineering Open House. This one extracurricular activity was critical, because it attracted the attention of a very small, very technical start-up company with only 6 employees. After college, they hired me as employee 7.

2. Choosing to work for this very small company rather than a Fortune 500 company. At very small companies (less than 20 employees), new graduates get exposed to much more responsibility, and a breadth of functions, than at a large company.

Pros and Cons of a multi-cloud strategy

Instead of sticking to one cloud vendor (such as microsoft or amazon), there is now the option for multi-cloud. 

These are layers of software, such as containers and micro-services, which can sit on top of different cloud provider's APIs, so that developers can write their applications once, with a uniform interface, and deploy them on multiple clouds without having to make and support vendor-dependent modifications.  

The advantage is flexibility—you aren't tied to one cloud vendor. A major con is that, since multi-cloud tech is evolving so fast, you can be left with a skills gap if you can't retain talent.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Don't Let Your Business Become a Victim of it's Own Success

Here is the link to my article:

Is freeium technology a good business model for tech companies?

I am a strategy consultant who has worked with technology companies considering the freemium model.

While there have been some notable successes with the freemium model, most companies that implement it do not succeed because only a very small percentage of users ever become paid customers, and the gap between free and paid customers become too great.  When this gap occurs, the company can't recoup its recurring expenses.

There are 3 better alternatives:

1. The best is the free trial model, where the company offers a free trial of their complete version and, after a certain amount of time, the user must leave or convert to a paid customer.  

2. The application is free, but there are one-time purchases.  This model works very well for mobile games.  This model is different than freemium because it does not depend on a small subset of users becoming ongoing subscribers.  Instead, because purchases are one-off, a higher percentage of customers will buy on occasion.

3. The application is free, but consulting / services are offered for a fee.  In this case, since consulting / services command a higher fee than subscription charges, companies that elect this model have a much better chance to cover expenses, and generate a profit.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

KISSed in the Face

Most designs and strategies start off as simple and elegant.  

But then the KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) qualities of the plan get lost during implementation.  

As Mike Tyson put it, "Everyone has a plan—until they get punched in the mouth."  

The challenge is maintaining Strategic Simplicity®.