Monday, September 28, 2009

Are you using Google Sidewiki with Twitter. 3 ways it could help?

I downloaded Google's Sidewiki plugin last week and have spent a little time playing with their latest tool in the toolbox.  This afternoon I got thinking that maybe if you couple Sidewiki with Twitter it could help with a few things.

Go to your twitter account profile page and click the Sidewiki button to provide additional content / details including:
  1. Provide additional bio information about yourself
  2. Possibly hyperlink to your email address, LinkedIn profiles, etc. so people could easily reach you vs. having to type in the associated link
  3. Use to highlight people that are spammers and help others with who not to follow
  4. Others?
 There are probably many other ways it could be useful, of course it could also turn into a mess because I don't know how you could remove offensive content, user's feedback.  Certainly you could 'Report Abuse' and go through the Google 'Report a policy violation' process, but who knows if they'll remove the offending comment from your sidewiki page.

Do you think it will help, hurt, is useless?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thoughts on book - What got you here won't get you there

I just finished reading the book "What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful".  I have to admit the early beginnings of this book had me wondering if I was going to get any value out of the book.  By the end I was thinking of ways I could use concepts from the book to improve my style both professionally and personally.  One of the biggest areas I see in the people I work with on a daily basis is listening...and talking less.  This is a strong and recurring theme in the book that is a problem with most people.  So, I would say to improve take to heart the concepts the book describes and learn about how you can improve your relationships, style.  People should obtain candid and honest feedback from peers, subordinates, and leaders, then listen attentively to what they are telling you. 

My final take on the book is 3.5 stars out of 5.  My feedback is I wish the authors could have been a little less about their own self-promotion of their business, and wins...and highlighted more of the success of their clients and how they improved.  I would recommend reading the book as most people don't think they have anything to improve.  Goldsmith and Reiter help highlight for everyone we can improve and the areas we should focus on in our professional and personal lives.

Did you read the book?  If so I would love to hear your thoughts / feedback.


Bryan Karp

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Should the US have a national healthcare reform plan

First let me quote an article from the WSJ last Friday (September 4th) - How to insure every American
"Americans nationwide have voiced their desire for greater control over their care and for reform in digestible pieces." - JOHN SHADEGG AND PETE HOEKSTRA 1
There are two very important aspects within that quote.  The first is Americans do want change in healthcare and recognize the need for some reform.  The second aspect is the change must be digestible implemented over time, and needs to come from a cross-party, intelligent team.  Ideally the plan for our healthcare reform would come from a round-table of industry experts who know the details of the problem, and have identified ways to improve in the past.  I do not admit to understand all the issues, but I do know this...we should treat this the same as we would a new business startup.  In fact if these companies knew what was best they would start to evaluate their businesses and evaluate their pricing policies to help consumers.  The ones who wait until the last minute or change after the new solution will be looked upon very poorly.  Imagine it is 2013 and your policy is adjusted down by are you going to feel, and are you going to ask why they didn't do that sooner.  Now the next day you talk with your neighbor and they said...oh yeh, back in 2009/2010 my company adjusted my policy down because they realized they could drive efficiencies within the process.  Imagine the goodwill the second company will have received vs. the first company who will probably experience a mass-exodus.  Of course the day after people are going to start going after them just like they are today after the bankers like BearStearns, and probably rightfully so.  Now given my statements above...I want to make it clear I'm not trying to propagate fear7,8,13, rather I'm trying to suggest that the companies evaluate their policies and re-consider pricing.  Just remember mandates from the Government are NOT the answer...we need a jointly agreed upon solution.

First and foremost we need to properly identify the entire problem before we begin implementing solutions.  Now, I don't mean we just say that we have a problem, but drill into each and everyone of the issues creating a detailed fishbone diagram and/or process map analysis to identify exactly where we are having the problems and attach weights to each point.  This should allow the "expert round table" to focus on the most costly areas to drive quick improvement, later focusing on areas that don't have a high / costly impact.  One of the main components this needs to address is the fact 1/5th of the American economy is spent on health care...or $2,500,000,000,000 (2.5 trillion)4. That said I am still confused about how countries outside of the US which have a government sponsored (universal health) are spending less per capita than the US, yet the talk is of expectations of an additional $1,000,000,000,000 (1.0 trillion)4,12 of additional spending if the US moves to a universal health care program.

For congress to gain the support of their constituents they need to keep people informed, distill the facts into simple but factual presentations / documents / blogs, continue to refine the improvements and not bicker back and forth.  It will not do anyone good for either side to point the finger back and forth at the other one.  If we ran our business like the government nothing would ever get done because one faction would constantly blame the other, and we wouldn't make any progress for years!  I also think that Congress needs some severe motivation to solve this problem (again with a round table of experts)...and maybe they should announce they will pay for their own insurance or another radical idea to help them become motivated to reach a mutually agreeable and acceptable solution for the American people. Above goes back to reference 6. Now everyone must remember we don't want mandates, we want CHOICES.

As readily admitted in the article government helped create this problem so, why do we expect they will solve this problem by themselves.
"Government has caused the problems we face in health care." - JOHN SHADEGG AND PETE HOEKSTRA1
Today I see ads for everything related to insurance and I even have the opportunity to buy insurance myself if I were a contractor.  But companies don't have a real opportunity to buy across state lines, so there is no real competition within the insurance industry.  As noted in the reference 1 car and life insurance companies can sell across state lines thereby increasing competition, decreasing costs to the consumers and naturally driving efficiencies into the process.  None of the aforementioned exists within health care because there is no real competition...and we haven't even really started with the drug companies, but we will probably leave that out of this post :-).  Most companies within the past year or so have taken to reducing costs, most of which have been salary reductions, but the next cost they may consider is health care benefits if the costs continue to rise. 

On the topic of pre-existing conditions...there isn't much really to say.  There is always some company that will cover a driver that has numerous auto-accidents, and while it is different than a pre-existing condition why don't we do the same for pre-existing conditions?  I do not recall if it was an urban legend or reality but I have heard some insurance companies treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.  Now I have two children and I would never say that my wife had a condition when she was pregnant and parenthood is anything but a condition.  I understand that everything comes down to money, but I think we should demand the health insurance companies really show us their books.  I don't know I'm convinced it really costs them serious money to cover someone with a serious illness that is pre-existing.  There are plenty of individuals who are health their entire life, without knowing the facts my guess is all the premiums they collect from those individuals overtime balance out against the costs and premiums they collect from those who get sick or have a pre-existing condition.

The last discussion point the article talks about Un-Insured Americans.  What a laughable topic...not laughable in the fact we have far too many people that don't have insurance.  Instead we have countless people who take advantage of our existing system by coming across the border for better health care and in effect getting free health care for which we pay out of our pockets later.  We also have numerous people going across the border OUTSIDE the US for dental care, and other procedures because the costs are cheaper in places such as Canada and Mexico.

From another post2 Americans may generate a bit more of the problem themselves because...we don't eat and exercise like we should.  Having traveled just a little :-) within the past few years I have to agree.  I myself can even resemble the statement as I spend more time behind a desk and less and less time on a treadmill, elliptical, etc. In this case I think it was Safeway that had the right idea from the company perspective9.  They incent their employees to exercise, eat right and not smoke.  Again it might have been a different company, but my recollection from the TV interview was they covered more of the health benefits for the employees who ate right, etc...and they penalized employees who ate the wrong foods, smoked, etc.  Now they recognized that people can and do in fact change when properly motivated so, if someone was making progress they modified the benefits package accordingly to reflect the change in their behavior.

I guess my summary is...we must have a round table of experts within the industry, coupled with experts outside of the industry that know how to cut costs, while maintaining quality.  We need to have change, it needs to make sense, politicians need to work together (yeh right...when does that happen), and for a change they'll need to read the entire bill before they vote.  I am hopeful my children don't have to worry about this topic the same way my parents generation and I spend time thinking about social security11.

I hope this post continues the debate and brings civility and discussion.


Bryan Karp

References and Related posts that drove my thoughts:

  1. - How to Insure Every American
    We don't need radical change. Subsidies and high risk pools can get the job done.
  2. Salon - The questions our healthcare debate ignores
  3. Salon - Bill Moyers on the health care debate, Democrats, and Afghanistan
  4. NYTimes - Following the Money in the Health Care Debate  
  5. LATimes - Obama's big gamble on healthcare debate
  6. National Health Care Debate and Poll. Would you be willing to pay for National Health Care Plan?
  7. - In Health Care Debate, Fear Trumps Logic 
  8. - Rumors influencing health care debate
  9. - Big employers dip into health care debate
  10. YouTube - Debate: Health Care - from 2008 democratic primary
  11. Newsweek - Health Care as a Civil Right
  12. WashingtonPost - States Assert Place in Health-Care Debate Health-Care Reform 2009
  13. Jerusalem Post - The US health care debate - read during my business trip to Israel in August

Saturday, September 5, 2009

G20 meets on bankers pay. What about provisions when politicians fail?

I just finished skimming through some of the WSJ articles.  One that caught my attention G-20 Agree to Boost Banks' Capital Requirements, Set Rules on Bonuses which makes me think...what about those that make these rules / decisions?

Given everything that happened within the past few years I can't say I don't agree with the G20 on this subject.  I also can't say I agree with them either...I'm very torn on this subject.  On one hand bankers probably do need to feel some pain if they receive a bonus for which we later discover was not warranted.  On the other hand doesn't this mean greater government involvement...meaning they could do the same for other industries?  If that is so, when will we get the ability to enact clawbacks on government officials?  What can we do if/when we learn they use government funds inappropriately?  How about if they leave office and hence us with a significant debt on our heads?

I'm all for regulation when it makes sense, but in this case I want to start seeing politicians doing what they say....not telling companies how to act...and doing something else!

In B2B what is better paid pilot or free trials

While reading some recent blog posts I ran across this post from Adam Blitzer's blog B2B Marketing ROI "Are Paid Pilots or Free Trials better for B2B?".

As someone who works in the B2B space and constantly looking for B2B tools to help our team, this is a good relevant post.  Additionally I think it applies to the B2C market where I will sign-up for a number of free trials, but stop them or not continue because I just don't have the time, or they haven't shown me any value.

I am in agreement that 'Free trials' are rarely worth their time and effort in a B2B environment as companies tend to walk away, or the product is too complex for anyone to use without significant training.  The 'free trial' tends to work better in a B2C environment IF the consumer can see value immediately.  For B2B sales rarely is the 'free trial' ever always require some time from the user trying the solution, and in some cases requires paid professional services to make it it is never FREE.  That said one good example of a 'free trial' is the Sample books you can get for the Amazon Kindle, and free 14 day trials you can get for magazines, newspapers, but I would love to see what their conversation rates are from free samples.

On the point of 'Paid Pilots'...Adam's points all make sense and are right on with getting a customer to convert.  The issue I have seen with paid pilots is they do not always have a definitive 'ENDING' and a definitive 'CONVERSION'.  Both of these points lead to the Pilot which neither the customer nor the vendor consummate the deal.  If you have to make a decision always do Paid Pilots unless of course you can go straight to a full deal.  If you do decide to go with a Paid Pilot, or have to because of the complexity of the product, or size of the customer make sure you...
  1. Have a clear measure of success that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely)
  2. Define a clear ending point for the Pilot within the agreement
  3. Insert a trigger point within the agreement at which the Pilot rolls to a full deployment
  4. Plan for a case study / way to prove the value up front; don't design it into the process after-the-fact
  5. A point I can't emphasize enough....KEEP the executive sponsor(s) engaged and informed throughout the pilot
I'm sure there are other major points, maybe you'd care to share your thoughts, but these were at the top of my mind before I headed off to the pool and dinner.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My quick take on Groundswell

If you are interested in improving your companies SMO efforts and brand awareness I recommend reading "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies".   Groundswell lays out several case studies on how people / companies reached out to their customer base.  While most companies live in FEAR of the Groundswell you need to help create the plan to break the FEAR and help Sr. management and Marketing realize that they don't own 100% of the brand anymore because our customers own a major percentage and are constantly talking about your brand.  My only suggestion for future editions is to provide a bit more detail on what technologies people were using to drive the groundswell.