If you'd like to read some delightful stories in keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season, I think you'll enjoy visitinghttp://wilsonweb.com/archive/xmas/
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In this issue:
In trying to fulfill co-editor responsibilities for the Technology Applications section of the Journal of Management Consulting and coordinating the Technology Center for the two annual national meetings of the Institute of Management Consultants, I'm looking for your opinions.
If you were to draw up a "wish list" of topics you'd like to hear discussed, products demonstrated, or articles written relating to the use of technology to enhance your productivity, reduce costs, improve sales and marketing, or better serve your clients/customers, what might they be?
You can "copy and paste" this section of this newsletter into a new e-mail message with your responses and e-mail back to me at:email@example.com
Please type X or any comments you wish to make next to each choice. Take as much space as you need. I'll be in contact with you for further information if you place an X in this box ...... [ ]
(1) Free/almost free Internet fax, other tech tools
[NOTE: see example of article below]
(2) Strategic use of E-mail as a customer-focused service
[NOTE: see Issue 5 of this newsletter, archived at http://www.techmanage.com/newsletter/
(3) Time-saving word processing tips
(4) ROI and other business tracking by spreadsheet
(5) Serving clients through a simple intranet/extranet
(6) Color proposals, multi-media sales presentations: superfluous bells and whistles or real value
(7) Search engine tips and tricks
(8) Market access through Internet discussion groups
(9) To Web or not to Web yourself - pros and cons
(Others - take as much space as you like)
(1) Wireless Internet access
(2) Digital and cell phones
(3) Digital cameras and scanners
(4) Photocopiers and document processing equipment
(5) Modems, ISDN and T1 lines
(6) PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants)
(7) Presentation equipment
(8) Contact management software
(9) Business databases
(Others - take as much space as you like)
"KID BROTHER!!!!!!??!!?? I'll bet you didn't think I read that whole thing. Pretty good."
This from Stan Gucwa, my forty-something younger sibling, referring to our last newsletter, Issue 5. You're right, bro, especially with two kids of your own. How about chronologically-challenged kinsman? ;-)
I have always viewed Regis McKenna with both amusement and admiration. Amusement at the seeming arrogance of his first book's title: The Regis Touch: Million Dollar Advice from America's Top Marketing Consultant (1986). And admiration of his obvious success. I still pull "Regis Touch" down from the shelf behind me from time to time, referring to a particularly useful table or graphic.
A caution to speed readers accustomed to standard left- and right-justified text: take a seasickness pill before diving in. The many pages with hourglass-shaped and concave text just might upset your equilibrium. While the graceful curves do nicely set off written "sound-bytes" of insight and are a visually attractive way to begin new chapters, they drove me nuts. My feeble brain and CRT-glazed eyes kept saying "No."
McKenna waxes philosophical at times, addressing some fairly heavy-duty concepts, including the change in our perception of self-image, of who we really are. Cyber technology allows us to transcend time and space. And size is no longer the major factor it has always been. Power now belongs to the individual. "We don't yet know how to live in this world."
Some of McKenna's iconoclastic commentary won't sit well with strategists: long range planning is OUT, "now" is IN. "Good enough" is in, extensive quality assurance and testing is out.
..."conventional forecasting has become increasingly pointless in an environment of accelerated, multi-directional, unending metamorphosis...in which...has been introducing new versions of its...software every four months..."
If this is indeed true, is it any wonder that many people refuse to purchase version 1.0 of any software? Toward the end of the book, McKenna writes "Many (people) are using...prototypes riddled with bugs ñ having come to the correct conclusion that...a polished, bug-free software product is likely to be a polished, bug-free obsolete software product." Oh? Are customers REALLY asking for updates every four months? Last time I checked, there are still millions of Windows 3.1.1. users around the globe.
McKenna presents a new marketing model to fit the new consumer ñ another variation on one-to-one marketing. Cybernation (as opposed to merely automation)...the instant, round-the-clock access to information. And, the more transparent the better. This is not just customer service, it's dynamic customer service. "Constant interaction and dialogue based on real time information systems."
Some of the cases McKenna presents are brand new, well beyond the warhorse success stories such as Levi's personalized jeans. For example, I liked his description of the "condition management" software that allows diabetic patients to upload their glucose levels from digital monitoring devices securely over the Internet and then receive instant feedback from clinic staff on appropriate actions to take. This is called "patient empowerment" by the chief of the Endocrine Metabolic Medical Centre (EMMC): www.diabeteswell.com
McKenna provides web addresses (with the familiar underlines) throughout the book. At his Web site, you can find new case studies & applications discussed in the book. Go to www.mckenna-group.com
Where I think McKenna really shines is in his description of real-time corporate information sharing between historically-antagonistic departments, such as engineering and production, or marketing and production. Intranets allow managers to review design specifications, materials and work-in-process inventories, purchasing, receivables and other important internal information routinely and in real time. This access to information across departmental boundaries produces subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes in human behavior and even adaptation of each others' lingo.
He reports on research on groups of both high- and low-ranking employees making decisions by electronic mail and face to face. The result? "(O)pinions of higher-status people carried less clout and were paid less attention when the medium of communication was electronic mail." YES!
More research findings: people "openly admit their ignorance to perhaps hundreds or even thousands of people. The repliers respond to requests for help from people they do not know with no expectations of any direct benefit to themselves." YES again! The researchers call this "electronic altruism."
"...e-mail...will soon seem the most prosaic medium for corporate communication." I submit that it will soon seem the most prosaic medium for ALL communication, personal as well as business..
McKenna identifies five kinds of discontinuities (shades of Megatrends) that he believes are essential to business success in Real Time:
You'll have to read "Real Time" to discover which of McKenna's nuggets make sense for you and which contribute to the confusing and often destructive (in my humble opinion) chaos that reigns in frenetic releases of new software and other cyberproducts.
Read on for a link to a counterpoint to McKenna's "release early, release often, for tomorrow it's obsolete anyway" philosophy.
What does an intelligent, customer-savvy manager do, throw vision, mission and long-term investment strategy out the window? What about consultants? Do we earn the pejorative "flavor-of-the-month advisor" moniker that's often hurled our way when we advocate "real time" customer engagement operations? Let me boldly suggest that we not throw out the baby with the bath water. "A computer on every desktop" was visionary. "Intel inside" was brilliant. For a well-articulated discussion to bring McKenna's (and others') Real Time approach into harmony with Real Life business planning, check out what Randy Rollinson has to say in BEACON Strategic Management Process" at our Website, at www.techmanage.com/articles/beacon.htm
Next time we'll give strategy equal opportunity by reviewing Kaplan and Norton's "The Balanced Scorecard."
Faxing and fax machines have become ubiquitous. You can use the fax to order lunch from the deli, or deliver a contract to a customer in Zanzibar, in less time than it takes to read this article. Cost-wise, for a one page letter in the U.S., at least, faxing is cheaper than first class business mail.
If you have an email account, your faxes can travel over the Net. And the Net, once you have bought your computer, modem and email account, is all paid for. Folks have figured out how to make email look like faxes, and faxes look like email.
Fax to Computer
Suppose, for instance, you have a computer, modem and email account but no fax machine. If you have fax software on the computer, sometimes you can set the computer up to receive faxes. OK, but you may not like the idea of keeping the computer on all the time.
How about a system that allows your correspondents to send you faxes via your email account, for you to pick up at your convenience? There are several services of this kind. One of the better known, JFAX, works this way. For $12.50 a month, and the first 100 pages free, you get a phone number, in any of several major urban areas in the U.S. and Europe (back to that in a minute). Faxes that come to that number are converted into email attachments, then routed to your email server, where you download them like ordinary messages, and decode them using free software. You can then generate a hard copy at your printer, just as with any other type of document.
Now, the fact that there is no JFAX server in Des Moines, or whatever odd corner of the world you find yourself in, is no problem, because from the JFAX server to your local email account the fax goes over the Internet. This means that you could establish "fax addresses" in New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, London -- or even have an 800 number to which your correspondents could fax for free. Clearly this "fax mailbox" would be accessible on the road, via the laptop or on a borrowed computer. So you wouldn't have to wait till you got back to the office, or home, to get your faxes. And, incidentally, you have picked up a second phone line for a very reasonable $12.50 a month.
Email to Fax
JFAX, Faxaway and others, also offer an email-to-fax service. Here is how that works. You create an email message, with an address containing a fax number. For instance, an email addressed,
would travel over the Net to Faxaway's server (which happens to be in Seattle), where in turn a faxed image of the email (and a wide range of possible attachments) is transmitted over the phone line, to the fax machine located at (234) 567-8900. Any fax machine, anywhere in the world, can be accessed this way just as if you were sending the fax from your own machine.
Most providers of such services have you prepay on your credit card, in a convenient amount, say $10-20. Then every time they send a fax for you, they deduct the amount of the call from your account, charging you in advance another $10-20 once your account is exhausted. Their own phone rates, by the way, should be at least as low as the ones you would pay if you sent the fax on your own -- so there is no "extra charge" for the service. Providers publish their rates to all countries served. For most U.S. destinations, it is about a dime a page, in other words, about what you would pay sending a fax in the usual way.
For U.S. customers, this means that there is no appreciable cost advantage. But for other countries, where phone rates are much higher than the U.S., these services are an excellent deal. For instance, from many countries an international call to the U.S. costs $1.00 a minute, or more. But sending a fax over the Net to a U.S. server, then onwards at a dime a page, is a real bargain. Even faxing "within" a high-tariff country, via a U.S. server, can be a big saving.
Even for U.S. customers, there may be advantages in email to fax, including the ability to generate faxes while on line, to fax to an email "mailing list" containing both email and fax addresses. Some of the services also provide "bulk faxing" capabilities, along with the ability to transmit images scanned at your computer. In general, every time you use the service, the provider sends you an email telling you whether or not the fax was successful, what the cost was, and how much money is left in your account.
Faxing for Free
The day has arrived, in many cases, where a fax can be sent at no cost by connecting to a toll free local server through your email. Here is the concept. If you are on line now, you know that to connect to your ISP, to AOL or whoever you either have to make a toll call, or a local call. Now suppose that there is a server in your area, one which can connect to your phone (or fax machine!) toll-free. Then, if you could somehow direct an email over the Net, to that particular server, and if that server in turn could and would connect to your correspondent's fax machine, it could deliver a fax without paying for a toll call, and whether or not your friend were a subscriber.
This system requires two things. First of all, the intelligence to translate an area or country code and a phone number into the address of a local server; AND a local server willing to participate in the program by handling the traffic without compensation.
It's the second requirement that limits coverage. In the U.S., there are participating servers covering greater New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities; abroad, the whole of the UK, Germany, and some or all of many other countries; but, sadly, not nearly everywhere.
How do you know if free service is available to where you want to send a fax? The information is available at the home page of The Phone Company (TPC)'s Remote Printing Service, along with most everything else you need to know.
There are several ways to access the system. One of the simplest is to address an email message as follows:
The local, participating server, if there is one, will translate the address into a routing for a fax to USER at FAXNUMBER. The server will also send you a message indicating whether or not the transmission was successful; and perhaps some additional information on their participation in the service. For example, in the greater Chicago area the provider limits the number of free messages an individual may send, per day, week and month.
Plain-vanilla email is limited, however, to the ASCII character set, about as flexible as the old telex and telegram systems. What about fancy fax transmission sheets, letterheads, other graphics? The answer is yes. TPC provides information on PC and Mac software which will convert print files (bit-map images) into faxes.
For More Info
In summary, for the majority of us who like to save a buck where we can, or who are simply interested in keeping up with the changing technology, there is a lot here to think about. Here is where to find out more:
JFAX - Fax to email, and email to fax; also voice mail over the Net
FAXAWAY - Email to fax, worldwide
The Phone Company - Free faxing via local Internet connection
Additional links to these, and other providers, along with other interesting information:
"Dilemmas" is designed to stimulate conversation between and among fellow consultants, our clients and prospects, and others who wish to leap in.
Consultants, let's discuss what you would have done. You may post your comments and observations at our Web site by linking from http://www.techmanage.com/dilemmas or send me an e-mail, letting me know if you'd like it posted if you can't get to our site.
Many years ago a potential overseas client asked me to create a proposal for analyzing a particular industry. It was so long ago that I don't even remember the industry. What reminded me of this prospect was an experience a younger consulting associate of ours has had recently. The details are similar, except that the prospect's request came via Internet rather than by fax or mail.
Basically the issue is this. An unsolicited request for proposal, complete with referrals and other details to be included, arrives via e-mail. The work to be done fits your background and expertise exactly. You acknowledge the request by return e-mail and follow up the lead before the end of the day with a brief courtesy phone call. The person you called is glad you took the initiative to call, gives you additional background information and asks you several qualifying questions. All very professional.
Your associate gets to work, outlining a course of action (in general terms, of course) and otherwise presents a decent proposal package, all by e-mail. A response comes back the next day, a good sign. Questions about certain aspects of the work. Another good sign. All very professional.
Your associate makes another long-distance call, because e-mail's interactivity can carry you only so far. Another half-hour discussion. Request for more information. All very professional. (You do know where I'm going, don't you?)
You guessed it. Except it's not that they're going to do the work themselves (that's the road I traveled ëway back when). It's that they were looking for a commissioned sales rep. No work for hire here. At all.
I don't know about you, but we get our fair share of seemingly-serious inquiries via our Web site Guest Book, some from very large companies and organizations you would all know. We dutifully and courteously respond via e-mail in "Real Time" as McKenna suggests (book reviewed above). Sometimes we even follow up with a phone call. Over the past six months, however, the number (and percentage) of complete non-responses from the people who made the original inquiry has increased significantly.
Now, this is not a complaint. We've been blessed with a great deal of work that had originally arrived over the (electronic) transom. We're delighted that our Web site is attracting attention from the very organizations we'd like to serve. And we're not about to tattle on those whose behavior reflects badly on their high-profile organizations...although it's certainly been tempting.
A couple of questions: are YOU seeing an increase in idle inquiries? If so, what do suppose are some of the causes? Regarding our associate, he now knows about asking qualifying questions. Sadder, wiser, and fortunately a pretty inexpensive lesson compared with preparing a fancy, leather-bound proposal.
Please visit our Web site to reply or send an e-mail to the editor, with "Once Burned?" in the subject line. By interacting with each other on issues we all encounter, we'll all learn. Looking forward to your responses!
I hope you found something of value here that you can put to use directly or that might have stimulated some new ideas. Our Web site's always open, the fax machine (and coffee) is always on, and we check our e-mail frequently, even overseas. Of course your phone calls, snail mail and visits are welcome as well. We'd be delighted to hear from you...anytime.
Technology Management Associates, Inc.
(312) 984-5050 firstname.lastname@example.org
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