Dec 29, 2009

How many computer devices do you have?

We just returned from our holiday visit up North and I observed something very interesting... My mom and stepdad are both close to 70; between the two of them, they have 5 computers and my stepdad also has an iPhone. He's really into his GPS in his car and he also has his car wired for wifi access which came in very handy on our 8 hour drive to visit my brother. My brother and his wife have at least 4 Macs and they both have iPhones. At one point, I looked around the kitchen and there were 7 computers and 5 iPhones.

Is this normal? I'm just curious if other extended families have that many devices? I'm not including our DS, PSP, Wii, 360, etc...

In preparation for the tablet invasion that is allegedly coming next year, I can't help but wonder when our handhelds, laptops, desktops, & tablets will all merge into something that can be resized when necessary. Perhaps we just carry a chip around that can be small when we need to make a phone call, but can enlarge to laptop, desktop or even movie screen size when necessary.

Dec 12, 2009

Workflow Management at the Speed of Light

Having worked on the client side most of my career, I've always been aware of the swiftness with which folks expect to get things done. It's a constant tug of war -- the people at the top (who don't have to actually DO the work) always want the work to get done faster. Whereas the people who are doing the work always wish they had more time to produce the work.

Now that I oversee process on the agency side, I'm realizing that a client's lightning fast demands force agencies to move even faster than the client; particularly because the approval process on the client side eats up valuable time for all - so the agency must over accomodate or risk under delivering. And this forces the ultimate challenge for the agency -- deliver to your client's rapid-fire expectations and maintain or improve the quality of the work you are delivering. It always amazes me that more people don't understand the complexity related to cramming 43 steps into a 3 day period. "That doesn't sound impossible"; sure it doesn't (keep telling yourself that), if that's the only thing you and everyone involved in those 43 steps has to do in the 3 day span. Multiply that 1 request times 20, 30, or 40 other assignments, and it is entirely possible that there are 1720 tasks or activities happening at the same time for one client.

In my previous role overseeing Marketing Operations on the client side, I spent years implementing a robust 3rd party application to help the Marketing department manage all the work. The system was considered the best in the marketplace and yet, from my current vantage point I have been able to recognize many of the shortcomings in the system. I've evaluated many applications at this point (dare I say all of them), and I don't think any one of them is the "end all be all" that they claim to be. I actually believe that the best move may be to develop your own customized solution that meets your business needs and follow one rule, KEEP IT SIMPLE.

The biggest opportunity I see, and I've been watching Google Wave for this very reason - is real time workflow management. Bear with me for a second as I describe what I've envisioned as a potential to the future of project & workflow management. Picture the air traffic control room at O'Hare in Chicago. There are multiple activities happening all over that airport: people coming and going; people waiting for friends & relatives; flight attendants & pilots moving from one plane to the next; airport employees managing luggage, and seat assignments, and disgruntled passengers. Now imagine if the flight status board was a computer that you had to physically log on to, remember your flight information, search for it, and dive deep into the system to actually determine when your flight arrives or departs. Most of the 3rd party workflow apps do exactly that. They want people, who are already strapped for time, to stop what they are doing and dive into the belly of the beast to retrieve the information they are looking for.

These systems are touted as time savers. They actually suggest you'll be able to reduce your headcount after you install it. I call b.s. on that. People don't have enough time to dig; so most of these apps are only moderately useful and in many cases, they're a hinderance to productivity.

My vision revolves around the Twitter/Tweetdeck/Facebook concept, using Google's search result methodology to help the most important information appear at the top (cue eye roll). As a project moves into the rapid-fire process of final execution, a lot more activity is happening within that project. Tasks are occuring faster and faster - so if that's the case, wouldn't it be logical that this particular project is one that should be easier for someone to access because more people are touching it? Wouldn't it make sense that this project should be automatically bubble up to the top of the leader board?

I recommend using the Facebook template idea, where every project has the same shell format; and then you use a Twitter-like activity stream that manages the communication regarding each individual assignment that is aggregated in a Tweetdeck matrix so that all the activities are easy to access based on level of activity on the leader board. The information is actually available in a variety of matrix views - all clients, one client, teams (creative or copy), individuals within the team; everyone will have their most pertinent information available to them depending on what view they access.

Dec 10, 2009

The Power of Good Twitter Customer Service

We recently moved down to New Orleans from Arkansas and as a result had to open a new bank account because Bank of America has no bank branches in Louisiana. Since opening our new account at Chase, my husband and I have had a heck of a time closing our BofA account. We've made an effort to close all our automatic account charges to BofA, but frustratingly enough, a few of them would continue to show up and then our account would end up negative, we'd get an overdrawn charge, and have to move money from Chase to BofA to correct the issue.

We contacted BofA a while back when this was happening, and were told that we needed to get our account to a positive balance and then we could close the account. After doing that, we called BofA again to close the account and we were then instructed that the balance needed to be ZERO not positive, not negative, but zero. Our fear in doing that, was that the longer this goes on, the more likely another extraneous charge would show up and we'd end up with a negative balance again. Additionally, we had just been told 2 weeks prior, that we needed a positive balance, not a zero balance.

Here's where Twitter comes in. I posted my frustration on Monday of this week. Within 2 hours, I had received a tweet from @BofA_Help. We traded some tweets back and forth, I DM'ed them my phone number, and the next morning I received a call from the woman who had been tweeting with me, Kasey. Based on @BofA_Help's Twitter account, Bank of America appears to have 6 customer service reps in place to manage issues they find on Twitter. When I spoke with Kasey yesterday morning, the discussion took about 10 minutes; she had my account up prior to calling me so she knew who I was and likely saw the activity on my account. She assured me that she would close my account, refund our last overdraft fee, and FedEx me a check for the remaining balance, which I should receive today. She ended the conversation by saying they were sorry to see me go, but understood our reasoning considering there are no physical BofA's here and she said that she hopes we will consider their bank again in the event they do open branches in Louisiana, to which I said absolutely. In all honesty, we've never really had an issue with BofA since opening our account in California 8 years ago (BofA's online banking site is alot more user-friendly).

As for this experience, since this has happened, I've told everyone that I work with about it. All in all, I give BofA's customer service major kudos for empowering their customer service reps on Twitter the authority to act appropriately and swiftly to control the damage and rectify the situation. I'm willing to retract my original BofA post, and that's why I'm sharing this - much more positive experience.

Dec 5, 2009

Everything I need to know in business I learned from Howard Stern

I've been listening to Howard since I was 12 and I would drive to my dad's work with him. Every once in a while he'd listen to Howard after getting bored with NPR or some other AM station. My dad owned his own printing plant, so he definitely was a fairly savvy businessman and someone who I still to this day view as being on a pedestal that no other can touch. I would imagine even the mere mention of a female admiring Howard will turn a few folks off - some may even decide to stop 'following' me; and I'm OK with that. I suppose this is my coming out party.

I'm 40 now, so that means that Howard has been some sort of influence on me over the past 28 years. Wow. I've never really waivered from my loyalty ~ when he went through his divorce I think I had a little bit of trouble with him because I felt that he confirmed for me what I thought he wasn't. But he's brought himself back to superhero status in my eyes and here's why...

1. Howard is exceptionally loyal. He has had the same core folks with him for years upon years; Fred, Robin & Gary (some know him as bababooey) have been his trusted inner circle for well beyond my years. Even the folks who have only been with him for 20 or less years he stands behind, perhaps even to a fault - but I don't think so. It really is hard to find true leaders that are loyal to their subjects.

2. Howard is strategic & methodical. He could have easily jumped the shark (a John Hine reference) much earlier in his career opting for the quick payout. But he has taken his time - set his sites on the ultimate goal and been very calculating in his approach. I think of the Rolling Stones, who I love by the way, but who have so sold their soul to the merchandising devil they will never get it back. I will always love the Stones' music, but they're a different band to me now than they were before. Howard never sold his soul - if anything he demonstrates the opposite...

3. Howard has integrity. I'm sure this one will provoke the most angst for some. How could I possibly say that Howard has integrity. The joke is actually on those who don't know this. Howard stands for what he believes is right - no matter what. So, when he has a member of the KKK on; he does it because he believes unequivocally in freedom of speech and far be it from him to NOT allow a KKK member to speak because Howard disagrees with their viewpoint (and I know that he does indeed disagree). I believe that it's hard to be certain your position is the correct one if you don't actually hear the other sides point of view. I would imagine there are very few opposing points of view, if any, that Howard wouldn't at least listen to.

4. Howard is shrewd. He is a shrewd businessman. Who else would role the dice on their own career and leave a pretty lucrative gig for some unknown "satellite radio" idea? Howard bet his brand on that idea and I think it paid off. Sirius may not be the cash cow that Howard envisioned (what is nowadays); but it has offered him the freedom to be exactly who he truly is. I'm sure the persona he represents on the air is very different from his normal life. He's married; he has 3 daughters; and he's self conscious to the point of being recluse - all very different from who he is on the air.

Howard has always inspired me to aim for the stars but even more so, to identify what it is I stand for and never waiver. That approach has always served me well and for that I'm very thankful. Knowing him, he'll see this at some point and I sincerely hope he knows that I mean everything I say. Thank you, Howard. No matter what people say, there are so many of us who have been influenced by you in a truly profound way.

Nov 14, 2009

Conversation Friday - aka Empowering Friday

Yesterday, Michael Calienes came by the agency to speak with around 10 of us from within the agency and a few influential folks from the social media scene to discuss topics. Michael conducts what he calls Conversation Friday more frequently in Tallahassee, where he lives, but he was in town for the weekend and suggested that we gather for a chat.

What I found so interesting, was how powerful I felt, as a consumer and citizen in controlling my destiny in the future. Our discussion began around product placement - and how we felt about the Cisco product placement on 30Rock. We all discussed how product placement is acceptable provided it is natural. I mentioned the Project Runway where they went the LA Times and made clothing out of paper - I felt that episode went too far and Project Runway actually lost credibility with me. And what a sad sight to see that folks are no longer reading the newspaper but are now being forced to wear it... The points that were made were around how you can actually blog & tweet this point of view and get enough traction to actually make a difference.

This case in point was reinforced with our discussion around brands, products, and ideas that do or do not get it. If you're not paying close attention to what folks are saying on Twitter and beyond, then you don't get it. One person's frustration around a product can quickly spread to the masses particularly if their frustration isn't an isolated incident.

When the discussion turned to politics in New Orleans - a very hot issue in this town - we talked about the mayoral candidate pool. Is it possible for someone to actually win an election through social media (yes, we do recognize how influential the web was for Obama - and vice versa)? My point of view is that it's 100% possible if you have a fucking strategy. Just announcing you're the social media candidate and then flailing about on the internet is not going to win you an election via Twitter - if anything, it can do damage if you proclaim you're something that you clearly demonstrate you are not. We had some incredibly influential folks in the social media space at this discussion - Champ Superstar, Liz Money, Austin Lavin. They have alot of influence on the NOLA Twittersphere and with greater influence comes great responsibility. Could they choose a candidate they support and drive that candidate toward a successful election - I believe absolutely. Even down to the $$ drive, which we pointed out can now come from well beyond New Orleans.

It all supports the power that we all have for good or for not so good. The challenge, and this is where strategy comes in, is to put a plan together and to know what you will and won't do with your brand, your product, your election. I think it's really exciting that individuals have finally been given some power back - in the wake of our financial crisis compounded with the misdirection of our federal government, citizens will now be paying much closer attention to who is or isn't acting appropriately. And 'they' don't - they'll certainly be called on the carpet.

My thanks go to Michael for starting the conversation, Addie King for organizing the conversation, and everyone that attended for participating - I loved the dialog and feel pretty empowered. Here's hoping we do it again AND perhaps extend it to 2 hours.