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Businesses of all sizes embark on thousands of projects for new products and services every year. Unfortunately, most projects are doomed to fail outright, or at launch, because the original success criteria were not met. Some project failures lead to delays in product launches, such as the AirBus A380; others, like Boston’s Big Dig, incur huge cost overruns. These examples, as well as the results from survey after survey, show that American businesses have not been able to figure out how to consistently get products and services delivered on time, on budget and with the highest quality.

Why is that?

Businesses invest a great deal each year in people, consultants, processes and technology to improve project success rates, but to no avail. Don’t get me wrong, there are individual examples of excellence, and success rates have improved over the years, but there has not been the kind of dramatic increase that one would expect given the size of the investments businesses have made.

The bottom line is, businesses can talk a good game, but the majority are not ready or willing to make the “true” investments needed to achieve meaningful change—the type of change that will deliver on time, on budget, and with high quality near 100 percent of the time. There are eight steps that, if followed as a single unit and truly embraced by the entire organization, provide the roadmap to project management perfection.

1. Definition
It is critical to start with a solid foundation. The foundation must be built at the organizational level and not with individuals. It is imperative that, from the CEO down, there is understanding and buy-in when it comes to defining or redefining the following items:

* Roles and Responsibilities: This can be painstaking, but the effort will pay off when it’s time to execute. The exercise may outline the need to develop new organizational structures to better support efficiency and communication within the delivery teams.

* Standards: The creation of a project management methodology will allow for consistency in delivery and terminology. An added benefit can be bringing new employees on board who rapidly move up the learning curve and thereby provide immediate value.

* Policies: Having a set standard and a consistent methodology provides the platform to document and enforce policies. It’s difficult to document when things are moving quickly and always changing, but taking the time to do so will provide benefits such as improved control measures. Performing audits allows you to proactively identify risks and gives you the ability to mitigate them before they turn into a true problem.

2. Evaluation
It’s important to know where and when to make investments to achieve the goals of the business. Unfortunately, there are always more ideas than there are resources to execute them. Therefore, organizations need to formalize a process for evaluating which new projects should be approved. The process must define the decision-making criteria that will be used during the evaluation, and also take into consideration the firm’s capacity and capabilities to successfully deliver the projects.

3. Resources
Without people—or more importantly, the right people—the ability to succeed as a business is near impossible. Your resources were hired for specific reasons, such as unique skill sets or deep industry experience. Creating an environment for success is crucial to your business and to their careers. Taking the time to match the staffing needs for a new project with the skills you already have is critical.

4. Goals and Objectives
It happens way too often that team members don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing. They don’t know how important their project or task is to the success of the business. It is critical that goals are clearly defined for every project, from corporate initiatives down to one-off departmental projects. It is also important that they all tie together. Even the smallest project should support corporate goals in some way.

5. Control
One of the true single points of failure to the success of any project is the lack of control, specifically around scope and budget. Most people realize that for every action there is a reaction, but for some reason that logic goes out the window when it comes to a project. How many times have you heard, “My request is easy” or “This is just a small change.” Project stakeholders say these things without realizing the impact of their “small change” on the project plan or budget. In order to succeed, project stakeholders must understand that a change to the scope, timeline or budget for a project will produce a failed project if those variables aren’t subsequently adjusted to accommodate the change. As well, project managers need to define a strong change control process that is embraced from the highest levels down. This is not easy, but if accomplished, it will allow you to deliver your product and services on time and on budget.

6. Monitor
“Joe, how’s the project coming along? Well Frank, let me check the Magic Eight Ball.” I say that in jest, but it’s true that many businesses do not formally and concisely track the status of projects. It is critical that you and your team fully know and document a project’s progress, stakeholders’ commitments, results achieved, and the leading indicators of success as well as potential failure. The knowledge from the information gathered from your monitoring will determine the decisions that are made; the course of corrections that may be needed; and the comfort that your projects are being tracked. There needs to be transparency into and accountability to the plan, goals, budget and scope in order to achieve confidence that the information is accurate and actionable.

7. Measure
Goals have been set, plans have been created, and commitments have been made. After all that work, it would be a shame to not know if project objectives were quantifiably met. Being able to define, capture and track the metrics surrounding each project and the entire portfolio of projects is a must have for any executive and management team. There are many methodologies, such as Six Sigma, that place a great deal of importance in the ability to capture and quantify success or failure. There is a lot of power in black and white data. You set the bar and there is only one answer—yes or no—at the end when asked if it was a success. The data and the history that is captured will pay benefits when making initial decisions during the evaluation step. You can baseline the proposed project against those in the past and determine what changes may be needed in order to give a new proposal the best chance to succeed and not repeat past problems. You can only learn from your past if the past has been documented for reference.

8. Improve
Even in the most successful projects there is always something that could have been done better. Being able to capture those lessons will enable an organization improve its project delivery capability and deliver more complex and challenging projects in less time, for less cost.

I highlight the following three areas for improvement:

* Invest in people: Improve the skill sets of your people with training and by giving them challenging project assignments.

* Continual improvement: Formalize a process to capture the lessons learned for each project. That process should also outline how recommendations for change are prioritized, approved and implemented. As with other items, measure the progress of each step and each approved recommendation to determine if its goals were met.

* Project technology: Be on the lookout for how technology can help increase the efficiency and quality of your project delivery.

These eight steps, if individually implemented, can improve your ability to get your products and services to market on time and on budget. But if you implement these eight steps collectively as a single unit, your business will gain a greater competitive edge, increase quality, enhance its agility, and most importantly, improve client satisfaction. Your clients will sing your praises if they are able to get their products and services delivered when promised and on budget. So don’t wait! Take action now and implement your eight step program today.

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107 smartphone.jpgAnyone hoping to make an internet start-up work should go for the mobile platform first, then do a standard website after, said technocrat and founder of the Geek Squad, Robert Stephens in an interesting interview with sustainablejournalism.org. Mobile is where it’s at according to Stephens.

“If I were to advise a company on what to build going forward: don’t build a website” he said. “Build a mobile app or interface first, and then build for the larger screens.”

Geek Squad is a successful company founded in 94, that fix computers in person, or through 24hr phone and online services: but if he were starting up these days, Stephens said he’d do it differently: “I tell people now if I started the Geek Squad today I wouldn’t start a computer repair company. I’d really develop a mobile development company.” Stephens reckoned his advice was good for start-ups of any flavour, journalists for example.

The launch of the iPad had given the mobile computer market a huge boost and shown that that format size is not just about making phone calls.

“I don’t know how much longer they’ll be called phones but that’s really the central device. Because most of us are moving and mobile, on the go. So our mobile device will be the one we interact with the most.”

And the fact that its only got 3 inches of screen space can actually be a good thing…
“The last thing is that the constraint of the mobile screen is actually really liberating in that when you only have a small set of real estate to design your interface for, you can only put so many buttons. Just think of the Google start page, versus the AOL, the Yahoo startpage. Much cleaner.”

Read the full interview on sustainablejournalism.org

I have lots of friends, followers and connections on various Social Networking sites. Too many? Well, I’ll let the Social Media gurus tell me that. I like keeping up with people. Seeing where they have been, what they done, seen, etc. I like hearing what people have learned, tried and failed at. To me, Social Media is a way to extend a group of friends/acquaintances far beyond my town, business or vacation trip locations, etc. I value my Twitter, Facebook and other peeps, except for “those people”. #fb

“Which people?” you ask.

Oh, you know, “those people”. The people that post that one topic, over and over again. It may be a great topic, like their business, political or religious beliefs, famous quotes from famous people, etc. One topic, posted by “those people,” over and over again.

We’ve all met “those people,” in real life, too. The person who only talks about 1 topic the entire time. You try to change the subject, but somehow, they find a way to bend the subject change back to the topic they were on, and it continues, for all time. Being passionate about something is great. It drives us to better ourselves, our families, and sometimes our planet. However, there is balance.

Balance. Not too far “this way,” or too far “that way”. Balance.

Getting back to my Social Networking connections. I can give people a few infractions of “Buy my stuff!” “Listen to my show!” or “Never sit with your back to the door. Abraham Lincoln”. I use Social Networking sites to promote my projects, as well as my friend’s projects, so I know I toe and cross the line at times, but I try to keep it balanced. Be yourself first, then express your passion, second.

I love to catch up with friends. They tell me how they are doing; their job, family, pets, almost winning the lottery, etc, etc, then they mention a new venture they are involved in. That’s great. A full picture approach. I’m always interested in the person. Sometimes mundane information about the child that put raisins up their nose, the dog that barks the Love Boat theme, the long overtime hours someone is working. I like it. That helps me connect with the person. I know them better now. A person sharing their life (even mundane) information, helps me connect on an emotional level. I care at that point. When I care, I let my guard down to listen completely to more. That “more” is their passion.

When someone walks up and asks you for money, you normally pull back. “I don’t know this person,” “What will they do with the money,” etc, are the things that cause us to be wary. Becoming emotionally connected (even reconnecting) makes us more interested in someone’s passion. When we emotionally connect, we now trust, then we listen and care, too.

I have blocked some Social Networking folks for the business posts, over and over again. Perhaps they don’t feel that their life (even the small segment they feel comfortable sharing with the Social Networking group) isn’t interesting. I have news for them – it is.

Your life matters, and is important and is interesting to me and others.

You, are not just your beliefs, business, or political thoughts. You are the day to day events in your life. The grumbling at traffic. The wandering to find where your car was parked. The dinner you created from “what’s in the cupboard”. The laughing so hard it hurt, after you realized that singing the songs from the commercials with your children might bother the neighbors. The good, the bad, and the ordinary, because what’s ordinary to you, may be a dream for someone else.

Blog You. Post You. Tweet You. You will see people start to connect with you on deeper levels that aren’t just about your business or beliefs, but about you.

Once they know you, they will gladly hear what else you have to say.

I’ve been discouraged in recent months to find that in the wider business world there is still an enormous resistance to embracing newer communications tools such as blogs, microblogs and social networks as part of a fully-integrated marketing strategy. I watch as public relations and marketing departments all but ignore the social media marketing vendors they bring in. I see print ads still going into newspapers failing to mention that the company or organization are now on Facebook or Twitter. I hear PSAs and radio ads failing to mention these new consumer touch points in addition to a web site.

If social media tools can enhance our various forms of more traditional marketing — including traditional web sites and email marketing — why do the social media presences we build get ignored and are rarely integrated into other forms of marketing communications?

There is only so much a social media marketing consultant who has been hired as an outside vendor can do to remind and encourage clients to mention and leverage social media tools. To have a better impact on marketing best practices, we need to first identify why there is so much resistance to a set of tools and a fresh, more interactive and engaging way of communicating with consumers.

Here are some thoughts as to why social media marketing is hard for some to understand and embrace: Continue Reading »

Social media normally refers to a category of websites where content is created by the participation of the users of that website for the remaining community. In short, we can say that social media websites are basically tools to share the information among their users. It gives its users a chance to interact with other users.

Human beings are social animals and they always love to interact with others discussing their hobbies, interests and personal lives. These tendencies gave birth to lot of social media websites like Digg, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc. and produced new channels of traffic which webmasters can use easily to drive some good traffic to their websites and generate some leads. Due to huge advantages of social media it’s become an important part of a successful SEO campaign. You can’t do good SEO without including social media in to it.

How Social Media Websites can help you:

  • The biggest advantage of using Social media is that it helps you to create various bridges.
  • New traffic can reach your website easily and reduce dependency on search engines to an extent (if run successfully).
  • This one is not a secret… Social bookmarking websites help in getting backlinks for your website. It can help you in your SEO Campaigns.
  • It helps you to interact with your target audience easily. You can find your target audience quickly on social media websites and can see what about they are talking about, their needs, happenings in your industry, etc .
  • It helps in establishing yourself as a brand and can help you in reputation management.
  • As popular social media sites are getting good rankings in search engines you can use them to promote your website. It’s very effective if you have a new website with no links then try to create a page on social media website. It’s much easier to get it ranked as compared to a new website.

Social Media websites are very important for a successful SEO campaign, therefore you should not ignore its importance. It’s a subject worth consideration and if planned wisely and implemented successfully, it can show you wonderful results.

Social media has become somewhat of a buzzword nowadays.  From corporate marketing strategies to presidential election, the awesomeness of social media power seems to have spread to every corner of our society.   However, there is one thing that most social media users might have neglected, which is to use social media to do social good.  Here I will list seven tips of how I use social media for the purpose of social good.

1. Tweeting/blogging for news.

Twitter is the new breed of social media which exists as a micro-blogging tool. Twitter has the potential to broadcast news fast, on time, and in a mass scale.  One recent example was related to the Iranian election.  Twitter users are even faster than CNN journalists to deliver timely news.  The hashtag #CNNfail has been adopted by Twitter users to indicate a lack of news coverage from the mainstream news media.

Another example is the 7.8 earthquake in China back in May, 2008.  Twitter was very fast in delivering the news.  If you had tried to search for the word “Earthquake” in Twitter Search, you could literally see hundreds of updates within minutes.

In addition, some bloggers have been actively blogging about the earthquake and therefore raised tons of awareness.  According to a post from ReadWriteWeb, Forrester Analyst Jeremiah Owyang used his blog as a platform to inspire people to donate money to the Red Cross.  He took a trip to China personally, and then posted all the photos he took about the earthquake in China on his blogs.  This has allowed his audience to see how badly some people were affected by the earthquake.  His initiative through social media has significantly made a difference.

2. Building tribes.

Seth Godin’s book “Tribes” illustrates how important it is to leverage modern technology, namely social media and Internet, to build your own followers. It has come to my realization that this type of network not only can provide religious, social, and spiritual supports for the “tribe” members, it will also become the fundamental bonding power for our entire society.

For example, if you had a Facebook group or a fan page that attracts environmental fans, it would be easy to assemble a global army of like-minded people in this particular field, without concerns of geographical barriers.  The bigger the group gets, the more advocates there are, and the more it will benefit the society.  In essence, this “tribe” mentality now has spread to every corner of the society.  Instead of resisting and fighting it, we ought to all embrace this hugely powerful tool to do social good.

3. Empowering others.

Personally, I like to transform my inner beliefs into quotes and then distribute them in my community.  Besides being able to influence and inspire others, this kind of behavior reinforces my own faith by simply sharing something I deem as valuable and useful.  After all, social media is all about “Sharing.”  Instead of saying something trivial that others don’t even care, why not transform your beliefs into something tangible that others can benefit from?

Now granted, not everyone will understand your initial attempt and appreciate your good deeds.  This happens in almost every situation of life.  But it’s important to stay consistent in what you do so you can influence those who do want to be helped.  So be patient.  One post at a time.  Eventually, consistency and commitment will make a difference.  I like to call this “Personal Development Training Made Easier.”

4.  Facebook “Cause” Application

As I am writing this post, the Facebook “Cause” application has about 24 ½ million monthly active users. Causes is one of the most popular Facebook apps.  The official definition, according to Facebook, goes like this – Causes empowers anyone with a good idea or passion for change to impact the world. Using our platform, individuals mobilize their network of friends to grow lasting social and political movements. It includes categories such as Animals, Education, Environment, and more.

This app allows Facebook users to create a cause and link it to a registered non-profit organization in the US or Canada.  In general, this app has been a very useful fundraising tool for a lot of charities.  It also has drastically raised people’s awareness about some pressing issues in the world.

5.  Blogging for a Cause

This summer (6/1 through 8/28), Mashable launched the first large scale online charitable campaign called “Summer of Social Good.”  The goal was to raise funds strictly online through the power of Social Media and the Internet.  Throughout the previous weeks, this program had made some major progress by featuring inspiring tales from real people, encouraging people to participate in this program by offering incentives.  Mashable also listed examples on how some charities use social media to raise money.

Another example involves a site called “Make The Difference Network”  founded by Actress Jessica Biel and her family.  As social media continues to evolve, more and more websites and blogs will feature this type of content.

6.  Social Bookmarking for Better Efficiency

Social bookmarking sites allow Internet users to organize and manage bookmarks of web pages by tags.  Sites like DiggStumbleUpon, and Delicious have become more and more popular because it allows better user efficiency.  Take Digg for example, the Digg voting system allows people to vote for submitted stories.  The functions are called digging and burying .

With social bookmarking websites, I could simply browse through the category I am interested in, and sort stories by popularity.  Now, I am not saying that those popular stories are exactly the ones you are looking for.  But social bookmarking sites do provide a viable reference point.  In general, this type of service can save tremendous amount of time for its users.  Therefore, it fulfills our “social good” purpose.

7.  The revolution continues….

Social media is taking on a major role of leading the trend of our society. Facebook was launched by Mark Zuckerberg in his college dorm on February 4th, 2004.  Then there is Twitter, which was publicly launched into a full version in July 2006.  What’s next?

For every trend, there are early adopters, the majority and the laggards.  Luckily, social media has the awesome power to lead our thinking as human beings.  This, in a large scale, is good for our society, because the society is jumping curves.  Instead of evolving on the same curve, the society revolutionizes with the most popular social media trends.   Eventually, this phenomenon can lead to frequent update of newer technology that allows for better effectiveness/efficiency and change the world.

So how do you use social media for social good in your daily life?  You can let us know by commenting this post.

295 fb use.jpgUsing Facebook at work could actually improve the performance of employees, says an article in Advertising Age.

Approximately 54% of American companies have banned Facebook and other social networks in offices, according to figures compiled by USA Today. That’s because employers are worried about lower productivity or their company getting bad press.

Well they shouldn’t be, says this article: letting people on social networks in the office could actually have a positive effect. Facebook agrees – they posted the article up on their fan page.

Being a magazine for people in the ad industry, one main advantage they point out applies most to people working in communications or PR: “Marketers are at a clear disadvantage when they don’t have first-hand usage, insight and experience with social-media channels.”

The need to understand social-media wouldn’t apply to road-workers or neurosurgeons in the same way. But Advertising Age claims there are five basic benefits to any employer who lets their workers social network from the office:

1. Team-building and camaraderie
Screw paint-balling and expensive picnics, social-networking will help your team bond free of cost, and improve colleague relationships.

2. Productivity benefits from brain breaks
Advertising Age quotes research from MIT confirming that taking breaks helps us learn and be more productive: “A 2006 study observed rats pausing after exploring an unfamiliar maze. The neuroscientists theorized the rats were using the break to re-trace their steps in the maze for memory purposes — thus leading to better productivity during the next maze run. Well if it works for rats… Mind breaks lead to employee satisfaction and better productivity. This results in increased morale, reduced employee stress, low absenteeism and more engaged, healthier employees.

3. On-the-job training
Social media can serve as a virtual think tank. Advice, focus groups and mentoring can all be found through Twitter or professional groups on sites like Linked In.

4. Trust and transparency
Advertisting age says: “Banning employees from this widespread communication tool is akin to telling your employees they can’t use the phone for personal calls or e-mail friends and family. It’s a signal your company is oppressive and in the Dark Ages.”

Abuses of trust can be dealt with any the way any other performance problem is.

5. Listening/monitoring
Complaints could hurt the corporate brand but allows the employer a chance to address complaints or dissatisfaction.

6. Brand evangelists
Happy employees write positive happy things. Ad Age says that’s a huge recruiting benefit.

Do you social network at work? Convinced by these benefits?

Some general reactions:

One commenter says:
“I think Facebook has a case of megalomania and is starting to believe it can be useful in any situation, marketing, at work, maybe saving a life, who knows. Facebook could be the answer to any problem.”

Another one points out the obvious..:
“I’m pretty sure that people goofed off at work long before Facebook and the Internet. Taking away social media will just lead to more creative goof-off tactics AND will also disarm employees from staying on top of current technologies and communications.”

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