Tag Archives: recession

Out-sourcing – how to be good at it!

In the present climate the pressure to seek value for money through out-sourcing is stronger than ever.

Yes, you can save money but getting the full value from your outsourced service and making sure that it supports your business in the way you intended is complicated.

The financial benefits alone are often not properly understood.  The results of research by Warwick Business School working with IT group Cognizant showed that less than half (43 per cent) of all CIOs and CFOs have attempted to calculate the financial impact of outsourcing to their bottom line let alone determined the real value to their organisations. They don’t know the real value and it is doubtful that they are getting the outcomes they expected!

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you achieve real value from your out-sourcing activity.

1. Know why you are doing it

Don’t out-source just because the competition does it!

What do you expect from the service and what resource will be available to support it?

Can you specify what you need and will you be able to measure and monitor it when it is delivered?

Have you got experience of managing outsourced services or can you afford to buy that expertise?

How essential is this service to your business operations?

Can you afford to take the risk?

2. Be systematic but keep it simple

Work out a strategy for out-sourcing that your organisation can cope with!

If you are new to out-sourcing don’t go for a complicated strategy that involves many suppliers.

If you go for a complex supply chain, you will need to know how to manage it

If you go for multiple suppliers, you will need to know how to coordinate them

Start with a single and relatively simple business function and a single supplier and build from there.

Gain experience as you develop the approach

3. Know how you are going to measure and monitor

Many companies rely on service level agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are crucial to outsourcing arrangements but you will need more than a traditional SLA if you are interested in business improvement!

Measuring against an SLA will tell you about delivering the status quo

Most SLAs will not tell you if the service is really delivering benefits and the right outcomes to your operation!

You need to focus on business improvement rather than just service improvement processes!

Determine what evidence of success and the right outcomes really looks like and use it!

Use industry benchmarks IF they are useful to your business

4. Invest in the relationship for long-term value

Demands and expectations change over time!

This can lead to disagreements with your supplier which can erode the relationship

Agree at the start how you will recognize and respond to changes together

Share information honestly between you

6. Be an intelligent client

Don’t hand all your talent across to the supplier with the service

Keep enough expertise available so you can talk intelligently to your supplier about performance

Keep enough expertise to cope with changing your contractor if necessary in response to supplier failure or market changes

Keep enough expertise available to cope with business innovation.

Be honest with your supplier about your expectations and your customer base

But be prepared to learn from your supplier

You can find this as a slide presentation on LinkedIn at the following link  http://slidesha.re/hc0HyK

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Outwitting the lovely Ondine, or making the right choices in hard times!

I watched a piece on breakfast television about a small child with something that sounded sinister, Ondine’s Curse.  This is a respiratory disorder that is fatal if untreated as sufferers stop breathing during sleep. It is very rare and the name is a reference to the myth of Ondine, a water nymph who had an unfaithful mortal lover. He swore to her that his every waking breath would be a testimony of his love. He was unfaithful so she cursed him; if he should fall asleep, he would forget to breathe. Eventually, he fell asleep and his breathing stopped. Anyway the story this morning was really about the child being able to be at home for Christmas because someone had invented a ventilator that was small enough for a child’s room!

Ventilators are usually large, cumbersome and difficult to accommodate! So this invention, not only adds to the happiness of a small child and her family, it also reduces the cost of her care to the NHS. No longer will she need expensive hospital resources, even with back up at home from community nursing staff, there will be a saving!

What struck me most was the need to take a long view when reducing costs. Inventing new equipment to reduce costs (and hopefully improve quality) long-term takes time and investment. Also, it requires creativity and teamwork! None of these qualities thrive in hard and uncaring environments. To achieve a climate that can deliver long-term ‘efficiency’ improvements while maintaining (or even improving) quality takes great leadership.

Exam question for December 2010 – do you think your leadership abilities would be up to the challenge? How are you going to maintain/improve them next year?

I would like to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and a very creative New Year in this time of challenge! I hope you will come back because there will be lots more here next year to help you manage the changes you face!

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Alice down the rabbit hole – or customer service and schizophrenia in the downturn!

I’m reading ‘Surviving Change – A Manager’s Guide’ from Harvard Business Press. It advises on managing in the downturn and opens with a discussion of different survival strategies – hard and soft!  In fact, most change is a mixture of the two and the strategy chosen usually reflects the underlying culture of the organisation!   How the mix works is critical because if it is not well managed it can become fraught with conflict and demoralising for people in the organisation; it can lead to a schizophrenic approach to customers.

The ‘hard’ approach to change is usually short-term and about economics  – cut costs and increase cash flow! If a unit, or an employee, cannot demonstrate how they add financial value, out they go with very little ceremony or concern for personal well-being. The change is usually hard driven from the top with little wider engagement.  Often consultants advise the magic inner circle and HR consultants deal with casualties that might cost the organisation.

Soft change focuses on developing the organisation to meet new conditions with high engagement across the piece from the leaders. Employees trust in the informal contract they have with the organisation and work towards its well being.

Sadly experience shows that neither soft or hard approaches work in isolation.  The hard approach works in the short term but with that alone you are usually left with a demoralised and disloyal workforce – your best employees probably left at a rate of knots when you started the change.  The soft approach can take years to embed and the market doesn’t stand still!

Most successful change is a combination of hard (rationalisation well managed) and soft (employee engagement and encouragement to learn new skills).  But if change is a reflection of underlying culture and that has conflicts within it, a change can put the whole organisation out of kilter.  What I’m thinking of here is an organisation that pays lip service to soft but is really hard.  I believe in the downturn this is likely to be an increasing problem, particularly in the service sector.

Clients of service companies, particularly in the UK public sector, like to hear how well the company manages its employees.  A tender panel may take great interest in training and development approaches but, of course, the final decision is usually made on the keenest price.  In the present climate the client is likely to continue to seek cost reductions, which mean lots of change to be managed.  This can lead a company into a kind of schizophrenia.  It flags up all the good things its HR team would like to do but finds itself increasingly having to make hard, and very short-term, decisions.  As a consequence, its own employees and its middle managers in particular, become confused and a little cynical!  In turn this impacts on the service delivered to the client – so the client pushes harder!

What is the answer.? Well maybe it starts with a little more honesty on both sides!   Perhaps clients should start being more realistic about how they expect their service companies to manage for the price they are prepared to pay.  Perhaps the companies should be a little more honest with clients, and  with themselves, about the real costs of delivering ‘cuts’  At the end of the day, a client gets what they pay for and it they want to see services well managed with employees committed to the services they deliver, they need to recognise there will always be a cost even in the downturn!

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SO THE PROJECT AND THE CONTRACT HAS COME TO AN END! 10 WAYS TO FIND A NEW ROLE

All good programmes and projects come to an end! And so, of course, do the bad ones,  but with less happy results.    Good or bad, in due course, you will want to look for a new role!  It is imperative to pick yourself up and dust yourself off  and start all over again – or at least start looking for a new project.   Here are some tips to help you deal with the situation and to help you find an amazing new assignment.

1. Assess the Situation –  How did the project run and how did it end?  What can you learn and take with you into the future. Take a look at the big picture. Look for the good things and new possibilities that this experience might bring you and what new contacts have you made? Keep a positive attitude.   Whatever happened remember the old adage…….. it’s time to turn lemons into lemonade.

2. Consider your Finances –  Start with the practical – take stock of your finances !   This will help you to evaluate just how selective you can be in searching for a new project and help you to plan a budget for these leaner financial times.  If you see that your saving habits have not been what they should be, consider stepping up your savings once you move on to the next assignment – it is unlikely the financial climate will suddenly have improved.

3. Update Your Resume or CV – Most of us do not stay on top of keeping our resumes current, so now is the time to add new skills and experience information from your most recent work. You are likely be surprised at all of the skills and knowledge you will have acquired!  Have you worked in a new sector or run things in a new way?   If necessary,  hire a professional resume writer to help  you sell yourself more effectively  – there are plenty of people out there willing to help and it could give you the edge you need!

4. Now is the time to invest in training –  If time and funding permits, take advantage of your downtime between roles to update your skills – techniques are constantly changing in the world of change management,  project and programme management.  Awareness of new techniques and confidence in discussing them could give you the edge with a potential client, as well as helping you to deliver better!

5. Let The World Know You Are Available!  – network , network, network, with all your professional acquaintances and agencies as well as  friends and  family who just may know of the perfect position for you.  Now is the time to make use of your professional memberships – go to events and involve yourself.  Remember, often companies have project and programme roles that may not be heavily advertised and all it takes is a word from the inside to be considered. Make sure you talk to everyone you know and let them know that you are actively seeking a new role.  If you have had a recent success then talk about it!

6. Treat Assignment Hunting As A Job – Sitting around waiting for your dream programme to fall into your lap doesn’t work!  Spend what is your usual working day doing something that will help you in your new assignment!  Whether you are training, reading sector magazines and books in your field ,  searching the Internet for possible roles or managing your contacts, keep your hours filled with productive and focussed tasks.

7. Gather Positive References – If you left your role with a positive success then asking for a reference is easy – but please do it!  If things were less than perfect or at least good, you may not want to use your former client when looking for new assignment. Compile a list of people who can vouch for you as a project or programme manager and let them know that they may be called upon as a reference.  .

8. Make Your Move – If you have been considering a move to a new location, this might be the perfect opportunity to relocate. As you will be searching for a new role anyway, you won’t have the same strings attached that you would if you were in a role. Changing cities or even countries can open up a whole new world of opportunities to you. But be sure it still leaves you with good options in terms of the ability to use your contacts

9. Don’t Give Up – No matter how hard the search might seem right now, keep looking and don’t be discouraged. There is certainly a project out there for you but it may take a bit of hunting down!  This opportunity will be what you make it, so be positive and productive

10. Good Luck – make your own – follow 1 to 9 above!  And I would love to hear how you get on!

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MANAGING CHANGE – MAINTAINING A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS

When your organisation is going through change and specially in a time of financial stringency, a good relationship with your suppliers becomes much more important. Here is a Checklist from G&W Consulting which should help you to achieve the firm relationship you need!

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GET THAT JOB – 15 INTERVIEW TIPS FOR JOB HUNTERS

Its more important than ever right now to do well at interviews.  Don’t lose your vital opportunity because you have not done your home work!

  1. Research as much as you can about the company – products, services, markets, competitors, trends, current activities, priorities.
  2. Prepare your answers for the type of questions you’ll be asked, especially, be able to say why you want the job, what your strengths are, how you’d do the job, what your best achievements are.
  3. Prepare good questions to ask at the interview - see the section below.
  4. Related to the above, request a copy of the company’s employment terms and conditions or employee handbook before the interview, in order to save time covering routine matters during the interview.
  5. Assemble hard evidence (make sure it’s clear and concise) of how what you’ve achieved in the past – proof will put you ahead of those who merely talk about it.
  6. Have at least one other interview lined up, or have a recent job offer, or the possibility of receiving one from a recent job interview, and make sure you mention it to the interviewer.
  7. Make sure your resume/cv is up to date, looking very good and even if already supplied to the interviewer take three with you (one for the interviewer, one for you and a spare in case the interviewer brings a colleague in to the meeting).
  8. Get hold of the following material and read it, and remember the relevant issues, and ask questions about the areas that relate to the organisation and the role. Obtain and research: the company’s sales brochures and literature, a trade magazine covering the company’s market sector, and a serious newspaper for the few days before the interview so you’re informed about world and national news. Also worth getting hold of: company ‘in-house’ magazines or newsletters, competitor leaflets, local or national newspaper articles featuring the company.
  9. Review your personal goals and be able to speak openly and honestly about them and how you plan to achieve them.
  10. Ensure you have two or three really good reputable and relevant references, and check they’d each be happy to be contacted.
  11. Adopt an enthusiastic, alert, positive mind-set.  Follow the link.
  12. Particularly think about how to deal positively with any negative aspects – especially from the perspective of telling the truth, instead of evading or distorting facts, which rarely succeeds.
  13. Try to get some experience of personality tests. Discover your personality strengths and weaknesses that would be indicated by a test, and be able to answer questions positively about the results. (Do not be intimidated by personality testing – expose yourself to it and learn about yourself)  More at link
  14. Think about what to wear.  Do you know the company dress code? When in doubt wear a smart business suit!
  15. Some jobs invite or offer opportunity to re-define or develop the role itself. It might be a existing role or a new position. If so prepare for this. Most jobs in fact offer this potential, but sometimes it is a stated requirement.

Asking Questions to Impress the Interviewer

A key to asking great questions at your interview is to ask questions that impress the interviewer. Most candidates just ask about routine details that they think they ought to know, or which they think of on the spur of the moment, but which will probably be provided in due course anyway in documentation about terms and conditions. This is meaningless   and should be avoided.

Instead focus on the job priorities and scope, on the organisation and ways to make a difference or an improvement. Try to think strategically like a manager, and for very senior positions, like the CEO. Try to adopt the mind-set of a helpful advisor who needs to ask helpful facilitative questions. Focus on the organisation not on your own needs.

Try to prepare and ask questions that make the interviewer think to themselves, “Wow, that’s a good question – this candidate has really thought about the role, and understands the sort of issues we need them to handle/the sort of responsibilities/initiatives we want them to take..”

Aim to ask questions that make the interviewer think, (depending on what the organisation and role requires), “Wow, that’s an unusual question – this candidate is special – they are demonstrating to me that they understand people/understand about communications/have great integrity/a strong value system/great humanity/maturity/a good strategic mind/etc, etc.”

Think before the interview about what the successful candidate will be like – ask yourself beforehand, what great questions would the successful candidate ask? And then be that person.

When you research the job look into the sort of challenges the organisation is facing, and think how this affects the vacant role. What does the employer need from the successful applicant? How might the role be extended to contribute more to the organisation if the job were performed by a suitably positive and capable person ? (That’s you incidentally.) The job advert or job specification might give you some clues. Do your research so that you understand as much as possible about the priorities of the job position, and the organisation and its situation, and then think about the ways that the role could be extended to provide greater support towards achieving organisational challenges.

This sort of background thinking will help you to prepare questions that will seriously impress any interviewer, whatever the role. It is possible also to think of good positive impressive questions just by using what you know of the role and the sort of issues that face modern employers. The point is, you need to think about it and prepare beforehand.

The use of this material is free provided copyright (see below) is acknowledged and reference or link is made to the www.businessballs.com website. This material may not be sold, or published in any form. Disclaimer: Reliance on information, material, advice, or other linked or recommended resources, received from Alan Chapman, shall be at your sole risk, and Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors, omissions, or damages arising. Users of this website are encouraged to confirm information received with other sources, and to seek local qualified advice if embarking on any actions that could carry personal or organisational liabilities. Managing people and relationships are sensitive activities; the free material and advice available via this website do not provide all necessary safeguards and checks. Please retain this notice on all copies.

© alan chapman 1995-2009

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FIVE TIPS FOR YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY FOR HARD TIMES

We are all going through change all the time.  But at the moment many of us are going through changes we would not have chosen as a result of the poor state of the Economy.

All change requires some form of communications/media management.  It’s vital that you have a strategy in place especially if you’re hoping that social media will play a role in your career advancement or your business survival business.

Here are 5 tip for your social media strategy

1. Integrate Online and Offline
Your communication’s strategy needs to cover both your off line and and online activities (see our recent post about managing your brand)  – you want to maximise both forms of interactions.  You are going to make every effort, campaign, and initiative count.

2. Start with a plan
Before you jump in, make sure you have a plan – think about who you are trying to influence.  Who has an interest in you or your business and what you want to provide.  List them and then decide – how important they are  – how much influence they have over your future – you can score them out of five under each heading!  Those with the highest score are the people to concentrate on. For social media you are usually looking at communities – what communities are you going to engage in?  Now what will  engagement will look like? What is the message and where are you going to communicate it – blogs, social network sites, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook etc.?  How much time have you got and how many resources do you have available?  Now we are going to concentrate on social media

3. Engage in Conversations
When you use social media, it’s important to engage in conversations and get to know people just like in the off-line world.  Don’t just get in there and start pitching – it will just put people off!  Don’t be anxious to promote yourself or business at first,!  Add value and expertise and win respect in your conversations.  When you have done that opportunities will open up to talk about you and your business.  You need to win the right to pitch!

4. Monitor your Brand
Use tools like Google Alerts, Scoutlab, and Radian6 to monitor what’s being said about you, your company, your competitors and the market you are targeting. Knowing what’s being said about you and/or your brand can make you aware of your brand evangelists as well as your brand assassins. Knowing what’s being said about your competitors and the market can also make you more competitive. Simply putting your name and the name of your company into a search engine regularly will tell you a lot about your web presence!

5. Focus and Ignore the Noise
There are so many conversations taking place and so much interesting content that it easy to be distracted.  This is where your plan comes in – remind yourself what you are trying to say and the communities you want to address.  Stick to the plan – but review it at regular intervals as you get to understand more about social media.  You can streamline your plan to better target individuals and the communities that you need to be a part of. It also saves time – social media is so enjoyable to use it can be the greatest time waster in the world!

Above all remember –  “If content is king, then conversationion is queen.” – John Munsell, CEO of Bizzuka

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