Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week 12: Project Management

1. Explain the triple constraint and its importance in project management.

The triple constraint is the framework for evaluating the competing demands of cost, time and scope. The relationship between these variables is such that if any one of the three factors changes, at least one other factor is likely to be affected. For example, increasing the scope of a project may result in an increase in time and/or cost. It is important consideration of project management as all projects are limited in some way by these three interdependent constraints. A project manager must make intelligent trade-offs between time, cost and scope.


2. Describe the two primary diagrams most frequently used in project planning.

PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) chart is a graphical network model that depicts a project's tasks and the relationships between those tasks. PERT charts frequently display a project's critical path; the critical path is a path from the start to the finish that passes through all the tasks that are critical to completing the project in the shortest amount of time.


Gantt chart is a simple bar chart that depicts project tasks against a calendar, with tasks listed vertically and the project's time frame listed horizontally.


3. Identify the three primary areas a project manager must focus on managing to ensure success.

A project manager must focus on managing people, communications and change to ensure success.

4. Outline two reasons why projects fail and two reasons why projects succeed.

Two reasons why projects fail:
  • Scope creep: the projects grows beyond its intended size resulting in time delays and increased costs.
  • Poor planning: a failure to properly plan can be detrimental to the success of a project. Good planning uses tools such as a project plan (a formal document that manages and controls project execution), Gnatt charts and PERT charts.
Two reasons why projects succeed:
  • Change management: A project managers ability to anticipate and react appropriately to change will better position a project for success.
  • Communication: good communication is essential for the success of a project. A project manager should distribute timely, accurate and meaningful information regarding project objectives that involve time, cost and scope and quality, and the status of each.

Week 10: Customer Relationship Management and Business Intelligence

1. What is your understanding of CRM?

Customer Relationship Management has become an integral component of modern business, it involves the managing of all aspects of customer interactions with an organisation with the intention of increasing good customers and increasing profitability (it costs less to retain loyal customers than find new ones).

2. Compare operational and analytical customer relationship management.

Operational CRM is transactional, used day-to-day to record the types of things that directly happen with customers (e.g. call made, problem lodged). It is a short-term tool.

Analytical CRM is strategic, based on the concept of data mining in that it searches for patterns and trends. Supports back-office operations, and inlcudes all systems that do not deal directly with customers. It is a long-term tool.3. Describe and differentiate the CRM technologies used by marketing departments and sales departments.

The CRM technologies used by marketing departments are campaign management (which includes information such as costs, target audience, return on investment) and opportunity management.

The CRM technologies used by sales departments are used to coordinate the sales process, by helping salespeople organise their jobs, calendars, contacts, appointments, meetings and multimedia presentations. Essentially, it allows for the streamlining of the sales process.

4. How could a sales department use operational CRM technologies?

A sales department can use CRM technologies for a number of things:
  • List generators, e.g. to find information a particular customers in a particular demographic.
  • Campaign management.
  • To know when and what to up-sell and cross-sell.
5. Describe business intelligence and its value to business.

Business intelligence refers to technologies that provide access to data for strategic decision making. It is a long-term tool that supports decision making. It is valuable to a business as it allows managers to find patterns and trends, and better respond to change in the dynamic business environment.

6. Explain the problem associated with business intelligence. Describe the solution to this business problem.

The problem associated with business intelligence is that businesses are data rich but information poor. The solution to this problem is business intelligence, which allows for better decision making and reduces latency.

7. What are two possible outcomes a company could get from using data mining?

Two benefits a business could get from data mining are:
  • Better use of resources.
  • More sales through being able to better market products based on the intelligence gained by data mining.

Week 9: Operations Management and the Supply Chain

1. Define the term operations management.

Operations Management is the management of the processes that transform inputs into outputs (goods and services); processes are efficient and productive in producing outputs.

2. Explain operations management's role in business.

Operations management is responsible for managing the core processes used to manufacture goods and produce services. Its role is varied, typical activities include forecasting, capacity planning, scheduling, managing inventory, assuring quality, motivating and training employees and locating facilities.

3. Describe the correlation between operations management and information technology.

There is a strong correlation between operations management (OM) and information technology, so much so that modern OM's could not do their jobs without IT. OM information systems allow managers to work out what resources will be needed and in what amounts, when the resources will be required, where the work will be performed, how resources will be allocated and who will perform the work.

4. Explain supply chain management and its role in business.

Supply chain management involves the management of information flows between an among stages in a supply chain to maximise total supply chain effectiveness and profitability. Supply chain management is important to a business as it allows it to become more efficient in its production of goods and services (better at turning inputs into outputs).

5. List and describe the five components of a typical supply chain.

The five components of a typical supply chain are:

  • Supplier: supplies the raw materials (inputs).
  • Manufacturer: turns raw materials into products (outputs).
  • Distributor: obtains the products form the manufacturer in bulk and sells to retailers.
  • Retailer: retailers sell the products to the customer.
  • Customer: the customer is the end party in the supply chain.
E-commerce may lead to dis-intermediation, which would remove components from the supply chain (e.g. the distributor and retailer).

6. Define the relationship between information technology and the supply chain.

Information technology plays a significant role in the supply chain; it is relied on to make accurate decision regarding each step of the supply chain. Without IT businesses would be overcasting or undercasting. IT facilitates JIT (Just In Time) stock management systems. IT allows managers to know where specific stock is in the supply chain and can predict how much will be needed int he future.

Week 8: Networks and Wireless

1. Explain the business benefits of using wireless technology.

The business benefits of using wireless technology is that less hardware is required (thus not as much IT infrastructure, reducing costs), universal access to many applications (web enabled applications allow for better access), 24/7 hour 365 day availability and mobility of employees.

2. Describe the business benefits associated with VoIP.

The business benefits of VoIP is that voice traffic can pass through existing internet lines, communication is free across the VPN for businesses with many sites, cost savings in not needing traditional phone infrastructure and can leverage existing network for free communication.

3. Compare LANs and WANs.

A LAN is a local area network, which is designed to connect group of computers in close proximity to each other such s in an office building, school or home. A WAN is a wide area network, which spans a large geographic area such as state, province or country. The two technologies can be compared and contrasted by the respective geographic scopes.

4. Describe RFID and how it can be used to help make a supply chain more effective.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) uses active or passive tags in the form of chips or smart labels that can store unique identifiers and relay this information to electronic readers. Examples include e-tags (e.g. the RTA tag used to pay road tolls) and smart cards (e.g. London's Oyster card for accessing public transport). RFID can be used to make a supply chian more effective by being attached to inventory, allowing businesses to keep track of their inventory as it passes through the various stages of the supply chain. It allows the supply chain to be more productive and efficient. Less buffer inventory is needed as estimated times of deliver known. Helps facilitate JIT (just-in-time) stock management.

5. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of deploying mobile technology.

The advantages of deploying mobile technology are a mobile workforce (e.g. a sales person can have access to a CRM system while on the go, being able to easily know real time data on sales, stocks, customer experiences etc). It allows for real time processing of information and faster delivery of that information. Business data and applications can be stored in the 'cloud' and thus accessed wherever and on whatever device.

The disadvantages are that it is not a very secure form of data if not set up right, privacy issues, security issues and unsecured devices are easier to get a virus.

Week 7: Databases and Data Warehouses

1. List, describe and provide an example of each of the five characteristics of high quality information.

  • Accuracy, is concerned with whether all the values are correct, e.g. is the name spelt correctly?
  • Completeness, is concerned with whether any values are missing, e.g. is the address complete with number, name and postcode?
  • Consistency, is concerned with whether aggregate or summary information is in agreement with detailed information, e.g. do all the total fields equal the true total of the individual fields?
  • Uniqueness, is concerned with whether each transaction, entity and event is represented only once in the information, e.g. are there any duplicate customers?
  • Timeliness, is concerned with whether the information is current with respect to business requirements, e.g. is information updated weekly, daily or hourly?
2. Define the relationship between a database and a database management system.

A database is the structured file consisting of tables, records and fields and a database management system is the system that manages that database, allowing the user to run queries, compile reports etc.

3. Describe the advantages an organisation can gain by using a database.

Using a database has become essential to modern business. The advantages of using a database are that it reduces redundant information (having to store and maintain multiple copies of the same information), increases flexibility, makes systems scalable and increases information integrity (reliable information and information security). A database makes a business more efficient and effective in its operations and provides analytical information discovering trends.

4. Define the fundamental concepts of the relational database model.

A relational database is one that stores information in the form of logically related two-dimensional tables, each consisting of rows and columns. It is the most commonly used database model today, and example of which is Access.

5. Describe the benefits of a data-driven website.

A data-driven database is one that back-ends to a database. The advantages of a data-driven website is that it allows a user to run a query by submitting a form, making it easier and mores simple to find information, the website more competitive and increases customer satisfaction.

6. Describe the roles and purposes of data warehouses and data marts in an organisation.

A data warehouse is a logical collection of information, gathered from many different operational databases, that supports business analysis activities and decision making tasks. A data mart contains a subset of data warehouse information. Data warehouses have a more organisational focus whilst data marts focus on information subsets particular to the needs of a given business unit such as finance.


Week 6: Enterprise Architectures

1. What is information architecture and what is information infrastructure and how do they differ and how do they relate to each other?

Information architecture identifies where and how important information, such as customer records, is maintained and secured. It is the overall strategy of how an organisation is going to structure its resources.

Information infrastructure includes the hardware, software and telecommunications equipment that, when combined, provides the underlying foundation to support the organisation's goals. It is the actual implementation of an effective information system.

The two concepts are related in that architecture plans what infrastructure is to be used by an organisation. They differ in that architecture is about planning, whilst infrastructure is about implementation.

2. Describe how an organisation can implement a solid information architecture.

An organisation can implement a solid information architecture via effectivley implemtning strong backup and recovery, disaster recovery and information security.

3. List and describe the five requisite characteristics of infrastructure architecture?

  • Flexibility: infrastructure architecture must be flexible enough to adapt to changes in the business environment, that must be able to grow and change with the business.
  • Scalability: it must be able to adapt to increased demands; must be able to scale to more products, customers, records and systems.
  • Reliability: ensures all systems are functioning correctly and providing accurate information (99.999% uptime).
  • Availability: systems must be widely accessible, inside and outside the business.
  • Performance: measures how quickly a system performs certain processes or transactions; should be faster and easier to use.
4. Describe the business value in deploying a service orientated architecture?

The value in deploying a service orientated architecture is the reuse of technology, being able to quickly and easily adapt to new situations. Allows for better information flows between systems. E.g. interoperability between Myspace and Facebook would mean a user only has enter their information once.

5. What is an event?

An event is something that tells the system something has happened, e.g. a new employee entered into the system. An event triggers a service. An event is the 'eyes and ears' of an organisation, alerting it to certain happenings.

6. What is a service?

A service is a series of commands that complete a task, eg. a credit check.

7. What emerging technologies can companies use to increase performance and utilise their infrastructure more effectively?

Virtualisation, which allows multiple computer systems to run on the same hardware, e.g. a computer being able to run both Windows 7 and Mac OS X.
Grid computing, which allows unused resources on remote computers to be used.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How business networking really works

There are some people you meet who seem to 'get' networking instinctively. People seem to gravitate to them with a regular stream of opportunities for them and their business. They don't engage in the face to face equivalent of cold calling They spend most of their time with a regular close group of associates and advocates and a lesser amount of time making new contacts. They are active as participants, leaders and advocates of their networking groups.

They know that success from networking is about building relationships. Strengthening their existing ones and building appropriate new ones. They know that the best route to people they don't yet know is through an introduction or recommendation from someone they do.

It can be tempting to think that networking is about finding places and people you don't know. We can learn that is not from those who are successful through networking. As is often the case it's the counter intuitive approach that works. Network with the people you know to get to the ones you don't.

As Andy Lopata posted on Twitter yesterday "networking put simply is working with others to achieve more than we could achieve on our own.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is the right approach in business networking?

It can be tempting to only 'network' with others who do completely different things to you. People who provide different services or products and those from different professions. In fact some groups only allow for one member from each.

In reality it is often those that are more complementary to you that lead to more and quicker opportunities. The similarities mean you get to establish relationships more quickly and it is much easier to find referrals for each other without going out of your way. Even those groups that exclude members in the same line of business recommend joining other more open groups as part of your overall networking strategy.

In the UK a couple of days ago the new Government took their places in Parliament. For the first time in 70 years in the UK there is a coalition government. Whether it will be a success remains to be seen, but it would be refreshing to see a new politics. One that sees politicians working together for the good of the country rather than constantly doing each other down. If the two parties had looked to their differences it is very likely that we would be in a different situation now. By focusing on similarities they have made progress and have the potential to really change the way things work.

The lesson for us in networking is the many more possibilities that open up with an open and collaborative approach.

Are you looking for the common ground with your network?

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Are you networking with the right people?

In 'The circles (no more strangers)' Seth Godin writes "It's so tempting to seek out more strangers." He makes the point that trying to reach strangers is expensive and you may very well upset your true fans. He uses an excellent graphic (shown to the right here) to illustrate his point that delighting and overwhelming your true fans is a better strategy than chasing after strangers.

Many business people and professionals give in to this temptation and concentrate their marketing efforts on strangers. Building word of mouth from the people they already know can be neglected and their behaviour in networking can be similar. Their networking is all about finding and connecting directly with the people they don't know.

The key to successful networking is to take the opposite view. Instead of looking for strangers it is about building strong relationships where you get to know, like, rate and trust each other. Instead of spending time with people you don't know try investing quality time in building the right relationships. I think it is worth repeating what I wrote last week in 'How Networking Really Works. A small number of people you get to know really really well can give you access to all the new people you want to meet.

Effective networking is about support and sharing knowledge and finding advocates who recommend and refer you. Good networking groups provide the environment for you to strengthen existing relationships & build new ones. It is much easier and more enjoyable to develop your business in an environment like that.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to identify the key people for your network

If you know your target market (or markets) precisely you can work out where you need to network. Some people think that this means finding people in the target market to 'network' with. This is not networking, but direct selling. In fact it is often the face to face equivalent of cold calling.

The important aspect of this in the networking context is you can then identify the key people for you who have access and influence in your target market. This is important in both finding the networking groups to join and who you should be inviting to join you in your groups.

As I wrote yesterday in 'How networking really works' you need to be building relationships with these key people. These people have access to many opportunities for you in your target market so are likely to be operating in the same market as you. They may well provide services that are complementary to yours.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How networking really works

I sometimes meet people who run around frantically to as many events as possible. They meet as many different people as they can and deliver their 'elevator pitch' as often as possible. In my book that is not networking. It is the face to face equivalent of cold calling. It is difficult and time consuming.

The key to successful networking is building strong relationships where you get to know, like, rate and trust each other. As I have written before:

"You don't build profitable business relationships by hardly getting to know lots of different people!"

A small number of people you get to know really really well can give you access to all the new people you want to meet. Effective networking is about support and sharing knowledge and finding advocates who recommend and refer you. Good networking groups provide the environment for you to strengthen existing relationships & build new ones. It is much easier and more enjoyable to develop your business in an environment like that.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Friday, May 7, 2010

Did you build your network in the good times?

There may be trouble ahead...

Internet Psychologist Graham Jones wrote on his Ecademy Blog yesterday about the tough economic times ahead whoever wins the UK General Election. Everyone knows there will be some serious belt tightening whoever wins, but as he says "It's not all doom and gloom. You have your friends... It will be tough in the coming few years, that's true. But if you have friends; if you have trusted contacts; if you have people who like you, then you will survive thanks to their support."

This is when you find out that networking really isn't selling. It is about developing your route to market through trusted relationships, but it's much more than that. It is also about support and building friendships in business. That happens when you get to know, like, rate and trust others and they do the same for you.

As Graham said the economic situation we now have to face could well prove that it's never what you know that matters - it's who you know!

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is this the most important thing in marketing?

In a discussion on following up in the NRG-networks Linkedin Group yesterday Helen Dowling of 'Exceptional Thinking' shared that she thought that following up is "the most important marketing technique you can do".

She certainly has a point about the importance of following up. My experience of marketing in general and networking in particular is that following up is the activity that really makes the difference. There is very little point in attending lots of events, delivering your pitch, chatting briefly with many different people and collecting boxes full of business cards you do nothing with.

You don't build profitable business relationships by hardly getting to know lots of different people!

You build those relationships by finding the real points of connection and then following up with different interactions over time. That includes regular participation in your networking group, follow up emails, follow up phone calls, follow up on Social Networks and most importantly of all, follow up 121 meetings.

In other words take the lead and become one of the proactive few. It is after all the first habit of highly effective people.*

*Read more on Stephen Covey's 7 habits in my article - Applying the 7 habits to your business networking.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What comes first in business networking?

The first habit of highly effective people is being proactive* according to the best selling book by by Stephen R. Covey. I was reminded of this when reviewing the video interview in my recent post, 'Just how important is a network in business?'.The last question I was asked in that interview was what key piece of advice I would give to someone new in business.

I was pleased to find my answer in line with some great advice from Robert Craven in his article, 'The Shortest Book on Business?'. According to Robert success is down to some very simple basics - clarity, focus, confidence and activity. And as he says in regard to activity, "Take Massive Action".

It's great advice for networking your business. You do need to be clear about what you do and who for. Some people, however, spend huge amounts of time and energy on honing their service offerings before undertaking any business development activity.

The important thing is not to put off the activity itself. Go out confidently and build your network first and they will help you refine your messages and offerings.

*For more go to my article - Applying the 7 habits to your business networking.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke