The ability to reach customers directly and collaborate with each one personally is the average marketer’s nemesis. Yet when presented with new and powerful digital media to do it, most shy away. Go figure!
Clues as to why business has been slow to adopt the explosion of social networking media might be found in a recent national survey that asked SA marketers why customer relationship management implementations had been less than successful in their organisations.
The three key culprits blamed in the study: limited leadership conviction, scarce time and limited specialist skills are most likely to be the cousins of the ones now holding business back from exploiting the strategic opportunities that new engagement media offers
Leadership conviction should be the easiest barrier to overcome. Evidence that low cost interactive networking tools gets results keeps piling in. The McKinsey Group, global leaders in business consulting, recently identified the internet-enabled ability to collaborate with customer communities as the biggest of eight key technology trends expected to impact businesses competitiveness from 2008 onwards. [See The McKinsey Group’s white paper: Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch published in December 2007.]
The time available to an organisation’s already overworked resources and the shortage of specialist skills with the expertise to engage with customers on-line are the more formidable obstacles that will prove to be the more challenging. But already, savvy organisations are restructuring roles and insourcing skills to manage the fast paced and fluid new media channels that can serve more customers more often, more effectively at a far lower cost than conventional ones. One thing seems certain though. Like it or not, the internet is enabling a frightening amount of business networking. Question is: If your customers aren’t networking with you… are they talking to someone else?
Times are tough and resellers are finding the pinch. How can they keep the revenues rolling in and ensure their company stays healthy?
The answer is: value.
Written for MyByte By: Brett Haggard
With the tough economic climate that’s developed in South Africa over the past year really starting to take its toll, technology resellers are pushing their staff harder than ever to increase revenues.
Unfortunately however, the ones responsible for companies’ revenue, i.e. sales people, tend to correlate increased revenues with harder work, more deals and more engagements with new customers.
What they really should be doing though is working smarter and looking for ways to add value to their current customers’ lives, essentially maximizing the value of each deal. If the sales team adopts the traditional route, they might well succeed in generating more revenues for their company. The problem is though, that they might well be leaving a great deal of potential revenue on the table.
Take the example of a reseller answering a request from a customer for the purchase of five new notebooks.
If the reseller simply supplies the customer with the five notebooks they’ve asked for and doesn’t attempt to go the extra mile by asking what environment those notebooks will be used in and possibly suggesting a solution that’s more appropriate; adding accessories that would fit well with those units; or even attempting to add annuity revenue streams like 3G cards and a monthly data bundle into the mix, they are almost certainly leaving revenue on the boardroom table.
The worst part however that resellers incapable of adding value to their customers’ business end up opening the door to competitors that are capable of servicing that customer in a far more processional and value-centric fashion.
If they do however succeed in adding value to their customer’s business, they will not have to justify the margin they make on the physical sale, providing of course that the intellectual property provided as part of the sale results correlates to a fair margin being charged.
Not striving to deliver value to one’s customers can cause a reseller’s entire business model to unravel. If resellers strive to add value at every turn however, they can begin developing a unique set of selling points that make them more relevant to their customers. It’s also something that can result in the reseller moving up the ranks to such an extent that they arrive at an enviable ‘trusted advisor’ status.
Technology vendors are making their solutions increasingly easy to deploy for customers. This creates a new challenge for partners, who must differentiate themselves on something other than just basic implementation.
Gone are the days where channel partners were able to simple deploy technology. There is nothing special about installing hardware and software components anymore and technology vendors are making it increasingly easy to deploy their products.
This leaves many customers asking the question: if I can install this myself, what do I need you for?
And the answer is simple: services. But it does require more effort from the partner than just installing technology. Or simply reselling, which is challenged by an overly competitive and flooded market that is dominated by a handful of large companies. You may be able to differentiate yourself in terms of pricing, but without a decent service offering customers don’t really care. And they’re willing to pay more for a solution that is better supported and customised to meet their needs.
Selling services outside of deployment is a new game for many partners, and not one they’re keen to get into given the complexities involved. But from a business perspective selling services makes good sense. For one, this alleviates some of the business pressure associated with reselling physical technology. Margins are very good with services too.
But it does mean having the skills in the company to provide the services, and accurately defining offerings that customers actually need. In this regard the ease of implementation of modern technology solutions is a good thing for partners, because it allows them to get the installation phase out of the way and start delivering services to the customer sooner, showing value more rapidly by doing so.
It is a given that technology will be up and running these days. What customers are more worried about is whether or not they are able to effectively use the infrastructure they buy, that they have made the right decision in buying it, and whether or not the business will extract maximum value from it.
As a provider of technology services surrounding support, training and maintenance, these are needs that partners are able to fulfil for customers. The role of the partner has evolved, and in evolution only the fittest survive.
Facebook and other social networking sites are generally seen as a distraction at work. Some companies even ban them. But what if in preventing the use of Facebook you’re blocking a potentially useful business tool?
It’s easy to be a control freak in the world of IT management. It’s fun to control what people are able to do at a technology level and it satisfies some primal need we have for authority and influence. But it can also be counter-productive. Social networking, for example, is perceived to be a waste of time in the workplace, and something that should be controlled, but technology analysts are suggesting that by stopping your users from accessing social networking tools you may be losing out on the possible benefits they might offer your business.
Of course, there is also a point to be made in the fact that lazy people are lazy people no matter what you allow them to do. And if it isn’t Facebook keeping them away from work then it will be office cricket, solitaire, flirting with their colleagues or talking about television series around the water cooler. People who waste time at work will probably be more inclined to continue their behaviour if you try to control them.
But the likes of Facebook can also be useful in a business context. At the 2008 Gartner Symposium held in Cape Town, Gartner analyst Jeffrey Mann conducted a presentation entitled ‘Bring Facebook, Wikipedia and Del.icio.us In-House: Better Insight With Enterprise Social Software’ in which he suggested that social software and services could be useful for collecting, analysing and understanding input for businesses’ most important decisions and processes.
In his talk Mann made the point that Facebook, for example, is also a useful communications platform, apart from offering businesses a mine for useful information.
This must also be seen in the context of evolving work ethics in which we are increasingly challenged to balance our social and work lives. Mobility means that you will often be checking your work email at home. Why can’t you check your home messages at work?
Business needs to wise up in terms of the tools and services its employees are using. Some might be all about fun, games and work avoidance. But others provide more than what initially meets the eye and should be utilised instead of avoided.
Ashley Ellington, MD, Softline Enterprise, says that Business Intelligence (BI) tools were previously the sole domain of large organisations. This was because they were able to support the upfront investment and deliver the IT skills needed to utilise the larger BI product sets. While these products provided the cross business information view required, they were not “user” products. They needed IT expertise to develop, maintain and use the complex logic required to make sense of the underlying data that users wanted to address. This situation has now changed.
“User-led products have been developed, allowing organisations to pull information from multiple databases into BI reports and user portals both cost-effectively and without requiring IT overheads. These products enable mid-market organisations to enjoy the same improved visibility of information as larger companies – without the large upfront investment. Software vendors who deploy BI tools with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications have additionally taken care of the complex logic in a preconfigured environment, adding to a lower investment yet providing information relevant to the user’s role in the business.”
So what’s driving BI adoption in South Africa? Ellington says that BI tools have changed the business landscape as we know it. By giving companies the means to use the data captured on a daily basis to analyse trends and develop a strategic roadmap, these applications have essentially provided an accessible, instantaneous business advisory service. By going beyond mere BI reporting capabilities, and really drilling down into the details and intricacies of the business, companies can create true competitive advantage.
“Although a BI investment appears significantly more beneficial than that of an ERP or Supply Chain Management (SCM) solution, I believe it is actually the combination of BI and ERP or SCM that generates the benefits. Many of the benefits in the ERP or SCM system often can’t be accessed without using BI tools. BI allows the ERP or SCM data to be analysed, bringing out the most important aspects of the collected information.”
With business insights and forecasting critically dependent on accurate and up-to-date reporting, BI self-service is fast becoming the answer report-averse managers have been waiting for. With the right BI self-service platform, not only can business users access the information they need from the company’s central database, but are also able to combine existing data elements into their very own custom reports.
“Your ideal BI self-service platform enables business users. It’s a service provided by an open BI platform that allows them to find the information they need on the system by themselves. In practical terms they are given access to a platform that is defined in business terms as opposed to complicated IT jargon. This means they can create new reports and combine existing data to customise reports – essentially equipping them with creative reporting tools that don’t require constant calls to IT support,” says Ellington.
In conclusion, he says that BI tools will continue to play an important role in encouraging enterprise maturity; creating and formulating strategies and frameworks that can be leveraged across the entire organisation. The ability of BI platforms to transform day-to-day operations, making them far more efficient and effective, will remain a key driver in bottom line growth.
Central and Southern Africa, IBM System Storage Platform Manager, Paul de Reuck
There are several fronts on which the storage market is growing; being driven by varying, and yet sometimes related, factors.
On the consumer side of the market, users are starting to store huge amounts of data on their home PCs, in the form of digital photos (often high res), video, and gaming content. Converged devices, such as the latest range of cellphones are increasingly starting to incorporate much larger internal storage than ever before.
The need to store and manage growing amounts of digital data has been an ongoing requirement since businesses first started relying on servers. Today, with the data-intensive realities required by the rapidly evolving online world, and with both industry – and government-imposed regulatory compliance initiatives requiring tighter control and longer retention of digital information, the need for explosive and responsive storage capacity is at an all-time high, and is only likely to keep increasing in demand.
This is particularly important for the large-enterprise space, which typically has the most pressing need for high-end data-storage capacity. The corporate market has had to deliver increasing amounts of this content, but it does not stop there. Some of the biggest drivers of storage growth are virtualisation, consolidation, energy efficiency and the advent of new architectures. It seems contradictory that virtualisation and consolidation are driving growth. Yet, seen in the context of energy efficient datacenters, it presents quite a saving in terms of total cost of ownership for a company to consolidate older, power hungry devices onto higher capacity, more efficient frames. With these new frames virtualised and thin-provisioned, you are able to have a much larger capacity footprint in a smaller physical footprint. Traditionally, storage performance was gained by having a larger number of spindles with smaller drive sizes.
Newer architectures that are grid based and use massively parallel architectures, such as the new XIV offering from IBM, allow for tremendous performance increases in a much smaller footprint using standard hardware. Compliance and regulatory laws are requiring that companies can prove that their data has been archived in an unchanged and unchangeable state. This is pushing the demand for WORM and Virtual Tape devices. In many environments, the same piece of data would need to be stored a number of times, i.e. production data, a test version, a development version and backups. This has the effect of multiplying the required storage over and above the amount of raw data.
Digital and online content is growing exponentially, and is borne out in the popularity of sites like YouTube and MySpace. Google Apps and Google Docs show a trend towards users keeping all their data online, accessible from anywhere. Digital video surveillance is growing exponentially as the old VHS format for storage is becoming less viable. The storage requirement is high as the quality needed to be admissible in court requires a sufficiently high resolution. This industry is poised for huge growth.
Solid state disk has been on the market for a while, but capacity, price and performance have kept it from being widely adopted in the mainstream storage market. There are, however, some laptops that have come onto the market with SSD drives. IBM has recently revealed details of Project Quicksilver, which has been focusing on developing high capacity, high performance SSD drives.
A sustained rate of over a million Input/ Output operations Per Second (IOPS), with a response time of under one millisecond (ms), is claimed to have been achieved. This gives Project Quicksilver an improvement in performance of 250 percent, with less than a fifth the response time of existing disk-based storage. For good measure it takes up one-fifth of the space of equivalent conventional drives and uses only 55 percent of the power and cooling.
Storage growth shows no sign slowing down in the short term, and has every indication of being the next IT goldrush.
According to KPMG, contrary to popular belief, the world is now actually facing up to a shortage of people with the ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) skills required by modern businesses, which is shaping up to be a major headache for businesses across the globe.
These are strange times for the IT sector. The ICT skills which its people boast are in constant demand. Vast IT workforces sit in regional skill centre hubs around the world. At the same time, the demand for skilled IT people ‘on the ground’ has seen huge recruitment surges in numerous countries. Behind all this though, there lurks the growing suspicion that a very real skills shortage may be starting to open up.
According to Edge Zarrella, Global Head of IT Advisory Services at KPMG, “Rapid globalisation has heightened the need for specialists who can work with, and connect, any number of different systems globally. The flow of mathematics, engineering and computer science graduates into the sector has started to slow down. And people who had left the sector are having to be tempted back into employment to work on the older systems which newer graduates are not being taught how to use.”
“Unless all relevant parties come together to address this looming skills shortage, I believe that the industry could have a significant problem on its hands over the next few years. This is no trifling HR issue; this is a very real Board level concern which should be acted on now.”
Frank Rizzo, managing partner of IT Advisory at KPMG South Africa agrees. “Locally I believe there is increasing concern around the diminished interest shown by prospective graduates entering the ICT market. We certainly hope that this sentiment will be curbed, especially if we consider the stated intent of the South African Government to invest in the local ICT sector as well as private sector demand for specialised skills, as over the next few years demand for the right skills set will increase.”
The reduction in the inflow of graduates into the industry is a worrying development. While the IT industry may have had its peak – in terms of career attractiveness - at the turn of the century when thousands of young graduates poured into the industry as the millennium bug and the dot com boom made ICT skills attractive – and profitable, several years on the industry may be paying for that peak as many of the ICT skills which it made popular now appear commoditised. Zarrella continues; “I’d suggest that many parents in mature economies may even be counseling their children against a career in the industry because the profession appears so commoditised; thousands of people with the same skills and with the constant threat of offshoring hanging over their heads.”
This is misleading. While the perception may be of a commoditised industry, the reality is far from it. While certainly the more straightforward, back office ICT skills are being outsourced and offshored on a regular basis, the front end, high value skills such as systems architecture are not. These are the skills which are increasingly in demand yet they are tarred with the same “commoditised” brush. The net result is a generation of graduates left unconvinced that ICT is for them; at a time when the industry is crying out for their abilities. Yet for those people able to offer high level, strategic advice and exhibit the combination of business and ICT skills now required, premium salaries are on offer – however, is this message getting through?
If the industry is worried about people coming in, then it is becoming just as concerned about the people leaving. The skill base which those people represent is not being replaced. However, the IT systems which they trained with remain in place – but with an ever dwindling pool of professionals able to work with them.
“Progress and technology wait for no man and I see a very real explosion in the new kinds of ICT skills required as businesses embrace yet more new technologies,” says Rizzo. “The lucky few who have those high-end skills may find themselves very much in demand locally and around the world. All relevant bodies – companies, trade associations, governments etc – to come together and address this skills issue. Together, they should be actively lobbying to get more young people into the industry. Otherwise, all IT users face a double whammy – having insufficient people with tomorrow’s ICT skills coming into the industry while other vital skills are lost as older employees leave the workforce.”
Boards which promptly take the initiative in this area may be able to benefit from an aggressive talent management program which adds real value to their business. “Whatever happens though, after several years of feeling like we were on ‘easy street’ with so many people desperate to come and work in the industry, it’s time for an urgent reassessment of where we stand,” concludes Zarrella.
These are turbulent times for marketers and their agencies. The information economy has shaken up the way we transact, blurred old boundaries, disrupted traditional relationships and turned the way we do business upside down.
Old methods are starting to show their age and novel digital communication channels are springing up everywhere to replace them. Conventional marketing techniques are less and less effective and marketers need a new ‘mix’ for the accelerated, fragmented world of modern digital media. While the turbulence isn’t new, there is little consensus on where these changes are leading us. Most marketers and agencies agree that the ‘marketing mix’ has to be adapted and that the esteemed ‘4Ps’ are no longer enough in themselves, but they still find themselves ‘buckling up’ and riding out their bumpy campaigns in search of the ever more elusive and increasingly sophisticated and well-informed consumer.
Our vision of the role that will be played by the PR agencies of the future is based on these observations and the increasingly interconnected nature of the modern economy. It strikes us that organisations no longer exist independently, but in the centre of a complex network of customers, suppliers and staff.
Made possible by technological advances, this intricate network is, essentially, a community and we believe that the role of PR agencies in the near future will be to manage the communication throughout this community. In other words, the way that PR agencies will stimulate credibility and trust in the future is by ensuring that a company is openly talking to and honestly engaging with its entire community all the time.
One of the companies we deal with, Virtual Works, has coined a phrase that aptly describes this adjustment to the marketing mix: ‘Community Relationship Management’; a term that also acknowledges how this approach represents an evolution of traditional CRM services and activities.
With the proliferation of colour printing in the South African market, combined with the higher cost of printing in colour, many customers are choosing non-original toner cartridge alternatives in an attempt to effect an overall reduction in the total cost of ownership of their print fleet.
While these non-original cartridges may well effect a cost reduction in the short term, Neil Rom, managing director of Printacom - sole local brand representative and importer of OKI Printing Solutions in South Africa says customers will almost certainly see an increase in their overall print costs in the long term.
“This increase will not be evident in the cost of the non-original cartridge, but will result from toner leaks, poor print quality and the risk of long-term damage to the printer unit. Since this also negates the warranty from all printer vendors, the customer will be left with costly repair bills,” he opines.
“Original manufacturer’s cartridges are more reliable, deliver better printed results and are less prone to failure, since they are expressly designed for use in the original manufacturer’s printer,” he says. “This has been proven repeatedly by research from independent analysts and market observers.”
“Take a real world example as testimony to this,” Rom continues. “Some of OKI’s units deliver 36 pages per minute in full colour. By definition, that implies the printed page will only be in contact with the printer’s fuser unit (the part that bonds the toner to the page) for less than 1.7 seconds.
“The technology to enable this exists predominantly in the toner and not in the printer’s componentry as many customers believe. If the paper is in the fuser for a very short period of time, it stands to reason that a special kind of toner needs to be used in this process.”
This, Rom says is referred to as a ‘polymerised spherical toner’, which essentially means that the size of each toner particle is identical to the next. “This is especially useful when doing large volumes of high speed printing, since the uniformity of the toner particles allows it to bond to pages at very high speed.
“When the right combination of toner and fuser is not present in a printer, customers start getting disastrous results. Toner can begin flaking or rubbing off pages,” he says.
“Besides the shocking printed results, this also damages the inside of the printer. When toner starts sticking to the fuser unit, it not only transfers to other pages causing smudging, but can cause irreparable damage to the fuser – resulting in an additional cost for the customer,” he explains.
“OKI puts a great deal of effort into getting the pigmentation of its cyan, magenta, yellow and black cartridges to an exacting standard. That’s what graphics professionals need in order to achieve life-like representations of the visual images they are creating.
“Currently, no compatible, refilled or remanufactured cartridge delivers the same results,” he states, “Therefore, they are doing themselves a disservice by using the wrong consumables.”
In conclusion, Rom says customers must think twice before buying non-original consumables. “They need to ask themselves whether the bad results and potential risks of damaging their printers are worth the small cost saving. Since colour printing is all about achieving greater impact in documents, they will most likely find that the cost savings do not justify the risks.”
Logitech V550 Nano and MX1100 mice, Logitech Illuminated Keyboard, Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus Honored with Product Design Awards FREMONT, Calif. — Oct. 7, 2008 —Logitech (SIX: LOGN) (NASDAQ: LOGI) today announced that four of its products received the prestigious Good Design Awards 2008, sponsored by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization. The Logitech® V550 Nano cordless laser mouse for notebooks, the Logitech® MX™1100 cordless laser mouse, the Logitech® Illuminated Keyboard and the Logitech® Pure-Fi Express Plus omnidirectional speaker for iPod® or iPhone® were all named winners in the product design category. Logitech has now won 20 Good Design awards in the last six years The Good Design Awards is one of the world’s most prestigious honors, and we are honored to be recognized,” said Junien Labrousse, executive vice president of products for Logitech. “Logitech’s success reflects our continuing focus on design, at the heart of which is our passion for creating products that make it easy for our customers to dive into what they want to do.” Each Logitech product received a G Mark, the symbol of the Good Design Awards 2008. Logitech V550 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks Many people prefer a mouse to a touchpad but often leave the mouse behind when moving from room to room. Logitech changed all that with the introduction of the Logitech V550 Nano cordless laser mouse for notebooks. Featuring the easy-to-attach, easy-to-remove Clip-and-Go dock, the V550 Nano can be clipped to your laptop – giving you more freedom when you move around at home or at work. For added convenience, the V550 Nano also offers 18 months of battery life and the Plug-and-Forget Nano-receiver. Because you often work in busy wireless environments, Logitech’s advanced 2.4 GHz wireless technology provides a powerful, reliable connection that effectively eliminates delays and dropouts. Logitech MX1100 Cordless Laser Mouse The Logitech MX1100 cordless laser mouse is designed to support the naturally curved shape of your hand. The elegantly contoured, full-size shape fits your hand for maximum comfort, providing exceptional palm support. The MX1100 mouse offers eight programmable buttons, enabling you to get to the information, the Web pages, the files and the applications you want – fast. With software installed, a stealth thumb button makes applications switching easy. Zoom controls allow for zooming in and out of a document with the push of a button. The mouse features an adjustable-dpi laser engine (up to 1600 dpi), which provides two smooth-tracking modes for customizable precision. The MX1100 mouse also employs Logitech’s advanced 2.4 GHz wireless for a powerful, reliable connection. Logitech Illuminated Keyboard The Logitech Illuminated Keyboard makes typing easy – even in the dark. To optimize existing backlight technology, Logitech combined microlens reflectors, a multilayer painting process and laser etching – creating an experience that is brighter, sharper and easier to read. Whether you’re typing an e-mail or chatting with a friend, the adjustable backlight gives you just the right amount of light. With its transparent frame, the ultra-thin Illuminated Keyboard (.37 inches or 9.3 mm from base to frame) adds an elegant touch to any desk. Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus iPod/iPhone Omnidirectional Speaker A first for iPod or iPhone speaker docks, the Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus speaker offers omnidirectional acoustics. An innovative speaker technology previously found only in expensive home-theater systems, omnidirectional acoustics transmit sound evenly in all directions. If you love to dock, charge and listen to your iPod or iPhone when you’re at home, at work, or even in your backyard, now you can enjoy rich, articulate sound and minimal distortion – from every corner of your room. About the Good Design Awards (G Mark) The Good Design Awards (G Mark) is the successor to the Good Design Selection System, which was established by the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1957. Since 1998, the Award has been sponsored by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization, as Japan´s only system for assessing and promoting overall design. The Good Design Awards is presented for designs that clearly demonstrate merit in the following assessment categories: designs that meet or exceed a certain standard, superior designs and future-oriented designs. The Award is intended to contribute to “a more abundant lifestyle” and “good business,” in order to create new forms of culture and lifestyle for a new era. The symbol of the Award is the G Mark, which has become widely recognized among the general public. About Logitech Logitech is a world leader in personal peripherals, driving innovation in PC navigation, Internet communications, digital music, home-entertainment control, gaming and wireless devices. Founded in 1981, Logitech International is a Swiss public company listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (LOGN) and on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (LOGI).
By: Lesley Stones, Business DayForums are beginning to influence the way that companies communicate with their customers.Social media such as blogs, online communities and forums are beginning to influence the way that the financial services firms communicate with their customers, and how investors interact with each other.A small but significant 15 percent of financial services companies including brokers, banks, credit card issuers and mutual fund companies have added social media features to their websites this year. Of those organizations 70 percent have developed fully fledged online communities.The figures come from research by consulting firm Corporate Insight, which studied the evolving use of social media among almost 70 US-based financial institutions.â€œTwo years ago, very few financial services companies offered social media features,â€ says vice president James McGovern.â€œThat was before social media really exploded in popularity. Now sites like Facebook and YouTube are some of the most recognized destinations on the web. Financial institutions are beginning to understand that customers want the ability to share knowledge with fellow customers, especially given the challenges posed by todayâ€™s investing landscape.â€The study found that companies are using online communities for a variety of reasons, such as collecting customer feedback and marketing themselves to clients and prospective customers.Many brokerage firms are using online communities to engage clients and provide a platform for investors to communicate with each other. Six of the 20 brokerage firms that were quizzed have YouTube channels. Five features investing ideas and tools on YouTube, while one simply reruns its TV commercials.Two brokers run open membership communities with full participation for individuals whether or not they have an account. One offers a sentiment tracking tools on its website that lets clients vote on a stockâ€™s daily performance and see how other traders are voting.Of the 20 banking and credit card firms it surveyed. Eight have YouTube channels.Bank of America and Citizens Bank feature content from their viral marketing campaigns, while American Express devotes its channel to its philanthropic MemberProject initiative.Wells Fargo was one of the earliest adopters of social media, participating in the virtual world Second Life before branching out with its own Stagecoach Island community targeting Generation Y customers. American Express, Bank of America and Capital One also have online communities to serve small business owners. Visa has its own Facebook application targeting small business owners, making it a one-of-a-kind in the industry.While mutual fund company executives expressed a strong desire to incorporate social media into their business models, none had concrete plans and most were being held back by their compliance departments.Corporate Insightâ€™s findings show that while financial services companies are embracing social media as part of their business model, most are still experimenting with best practices.Source: http://mybroadband.co.za/news/Internet/5815.html
Pure-Fi Express Plus Offers Omnidirectional Acoustics, Pure-Fi Anytime Makes the Perfect Nightstand Companion FREMONT, Calif. – Sept. 16, 2008 — Whether you dock your iPod®, or your iPhone™, in the bedroom or crank up your favorite playlist in the living room, Logitech (SWX: LOGN) (NASDAQ: LOGI) has a speaker dock for you. The Logitech® Pure-Fi Express Plus omnidirectional speaker for iPod or iPhone delivers great sound throughout your room, while the Logitech® Pure-Fi Anytime™ premium alarm clock for iPod or iPhone is the perfect nightstand companion. Both speakers are compatible with the first generation iPhone as well as the new 3G iPhone. “Our research revealed that as digital music players, and especially the iPod, become more integral to our lives, we look for accessories to optimize the experience,” said Mark Schneider, vice president and general manager of Logitech’s audio business unit. “Our latest iPod speaker docks are designed to suit each person according to their individual needs, whether what’s wanted is enhanced audio and portability or an alarm clock with innovative features such as motion sensing.” Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus Featuring Omnidirectional Acoustics A first for iPod or iPhone speaker docks, Pure-Fi Express Plus offers omnidirectional acoustics. An innovative speaker technology previously found only in expensive home-theater systems, omnidirectional acoustics transmit sound evenly in all directions. If you love to dock, charge and listen to your iPod or iPhone when you’re at home, at work, or even in your backyard, now you can enjoy rich, articulate sound and minimal distortion – from every corner of your room. Pure-Fi Express Plus provides more than just great sound. For added portability, Pure-Fi Express Plus can run on AC or battery power and includes an integrated handle, making it easy to take your music from room to room. The new Logitech dock also features a wireless remote. With a range of up to 30 feet (10 meters), the remote lets you instantly adjust volume, play, pause, fast forward, rewind, as well as offering Shuffle and Repeat buttons – all from the comfort of your couch or favorite chair. Logitech Pure-Fi Anytime: The Perfect Nightstand Companion If you commonly dock your iPod or iPhone in the bedroom, Pure-Fi Anytime offers a full set of features, such as advanced motion-sending technology, that make it perfect for your bedside table – and ensure that you’ll have a fully charged iPod or iPhone when you wake in the morning. To avoid the inconvenience of waking a sleeping partner, the motion-sensing backlight makes it easy to set your alarm without having to turn on the lights. The alarm clock’s controls light up when you wave your hand over the speakers and the buttons automatically dim when you’re done using it. And when you want to get a few minutes of extra sleep when your alarm goes off in the morning, you can simply wave your hand over the speakers and the motion-sensing technology will activate Snooze. Pure-Fi Anytime also features an easy-to-read display that is clearly visible during the day and night. A recessed dock helps prevent you from accidentally knocking over your iPod or iPhone. Plus, Pure-Fi Anytime offers a digital AM/FM radio for those times when you want to give your iPod a break and enjoy live music, news and sports. Pricing and Availability The Logitech® Pure-Fi Express Plus omnidirectional speaker for iPod or iPhone is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe in October for a suggested retail price of $99.99 (U.S.). The Logitech® Pure-Fi Anytime™ premium alarm clock for iPod or iPhone is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe beginning in October for a suggested retail price of $99.99 (U.S.). About Logitech Logitech is a world leader in personal peripherals, driving innovation in PC navigation, Internet communications, digital music, home-entertainment control, gaming and wireless devices. Founded in 1981, Logitech International is a Swiss public company listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange (LOGN) and on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (LOGI).
Iâ€™ve just gotten out of a Ustream.tv chat hosted by Hot Dog Media.The chat was refreshing and the conversation flowed onto the subject of brands using social media (So.Me), and how and why.At some point the ugly notion (in my humble opinion) was raised that social media is about personalities, in that if company x employs a community manager they should drive their communication from a personality stance.WRONGWhat brands need in this tribal infested Web 2.0 play-ground are in fact â€œmoderatorsâ€œ, or â€œfacilitatorsâ€ of dialogue, operating much in the same way a good anchor man/woman on a television news programme would, or a Chair at a convention board.The fact is that people (social media) will amplify your brandâ€™s negative or positive aspects quicker than you can get your wages paid. Clearly this mean you need two vital things.1. a good product - if you have a crap product people will talk about it being so2. conversation moderators - to promote the positive conversation aspects, and to address the negative aspects, with promises of change (disaster management) To give you a very clear example of why the BRAND should be the talking point and not the personality. It is a first hand experience, a concrete example, of how I moderated (I am Audiocourses), and facilitated the positive aspects of the BRAND. I wasnâ€™t asking to be loved, the conversation was zero to do with my personality, I was moderating the conversation with objectivity, because I knew full well the BRAND was solid and more importantly that customers thought so too.What would I have done if the BRAND was not good, or if I didnâ€™t have happy customers? Then I would have facilitated conversation which put forward processes for change.. â€œyes, we have looked at this, and we are very aware of it, we are organising a steering committee to address this issueâ€ - you get the point.Think brand, not personalities. Source: http://socialmediamafia.com
Google has announced the launch of Google Flu Trends which will allow users to track outbreaks of influenza around the country. The development of Flu Trends came about when Google Engineers began to notice correlations between searches on flu related topics by region at the same time that influenza was strongly appearing in the local area. Developing on this has allowed Google to produce accurate estimates of the level of flu occurring within each state at very close to real time. Google has compared last seasons findings with actual Center for Disease Control (CDC) flu data and found the correlation to be very strong.The Google Flu Trends tool is provided by Google.org, Googleâ€™s non-profit branch. For more information on Flu Trends and the upcoming influenza season visit www.google.org/flutrends.
Operators are getting funding to increase broadband penetration
The rollout of telecommunication infrastructure in Africa is gaining momentum, with huge investments in places like Kenya, Nigeria and Angola, says Robert Wuestenenk, senior manager for broadband networks at Ericsson.
Operators are getting funding from multinational banking groups that have committed billions of dollars to increase broadband penetration in underserviced areas. Much of this activity is driven by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
He says about 30 operators are providing 3G services in major cities throughout Africa to extend coverage to other areas eventually.
"In Kenya, mobile operators are rolling out fibre cable in the towns and in Nigeria small operators are even laying fibre to the home."
There is a similar drive for broadband connectivity in Tanzania, where mobile operators are providing 3G/HSDPA and ADSL services to customers.
The cost of phones is still high in most countries in Africa.
"But for true broadband connectivity users still need a PC," says Wuestenenk. For this reason internet cafes are proliferating across the continent, largely running on cellular connectivity, and some are owned by network operators.
He says Ericsson is involved in an initiative to provide remote African villages with mobile phone and internet connectivity with satellite links to service the provider’s network.
"We have installed solar stations for recharging the base station and the local people’s cellphones."
The company is also involved in laying an undersea fibre cable along the Angolan coastline with fifteen landing points that will provide almost unlimited global bandwidth at speeds of 40 gigabits per second.
Operators and service providers will be able to connect to the cable by fibre cable, wireless or 3G/HSDPA. Initially the Angolan coastal cable will connect to the SAT/3/SAFE undersea cable, that links the West Coast of Africa to SA and the rest of the world.
It will also be able to connect to the new undersea Seacom cable, which will run up the West Coast and is expected to be operational in the second half of next year, says Wuestenenk.
In Nigeria, the second national operator, Globacom, is also building an undersea cable, Glo-1, to connect West Africa to the UK, in competition to Seacom.
He says over the next two years cellular network operators globally will start moving from 3G to 4G delivery through a new technology standard known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) that will push throughput speeds up to 100 megabits per second.
The telecoms landscape in South Africa is changing radically.
The telecoms landscape in South Africa is changing radically. And our online worlds are being transformed dramatically. Our Internet experience is on the brink of a new era of broadband connectivity.
Recently, the telecoms industry has been in a state of unprecedented flux. The Financial Mail called it a game of “high- stakes poker”, an apt description because it’s almost impossible to say what the permutations will be, except that the increased competition can only be good, for business and consumers alike.
The big news in 2009 will be the mid-year launch of the second undersea cable, which will link southern and eastern Africa with India and Europe. Called Seacom, it’s the first real competition to the existing Sat-3 cable that is part-owned and mostly controlled by Telkom.
To remain competitive, Telkom will have to lower its wholesale prices significantly, and the cost of broadband should drop to the levels seen in developed countries, where always-on, superfast, unlimited broadband makes so many of the disruptive technologies and web-based services truly worthwhile.
Telecoms companies tend to drop their prices just before competition arrives, in a bid to hold onto customers. From March 2009 I think we’ll see a radical decrease in Telkom’s prices, creating a ripple effect across the broadband industry.
The months of our roads being carved up to lay high-capacity fibre-optic cables in metropolitan areas should also be over. In those orange plastic tubes will now run superfast Internet access from Telkom, Neotel, Vodacom and MTN around the major cities in the country.
With these vastly faster speeds, the broadband services that have been rocking the rest of the world will take off in South Africa.
Telephone calls over your broadband line, called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), using services such as Skype may be the first threat to Telkom’s voice business. But it’s more the existing Web 2.0 services that hold promise.
Suddenly, we’ll have real access to photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr or Picasa, social networking through Facebook or MySpace, music and movie downloads through iTunes, or watching streaming video from sites such as Joost.
Superfast Internet access might be even more beneficial to small businesses. Most of the services and software packages you could in the past buy only to run on a Windows-based computer are now free online, and you don’t have to run Windows, or even own a computer.
These web-based services are part of a burgeoning trend begun a few years ago by IBM, which pioneered the concept of service-on-demand.
If you want data processing or customer-relationship marketing software, why buy a package when you can “rent” only the time and services you need. Companies such as Salesforce.com, the poster-child of this trend, have made it possible for small businesses to use the same types of marketing processes as big firms, but at a fraction of the cost.
In the current economic climate business is under pressure to remain profitable amidst diminishing margins and turnover. This is perhaps truer for the technology industry than any other, where specific verticals have traditionally thin margins. In the services market where contracts are agreed upon with guaranteed and controlled annual increases, for example, economic instability reeks havoc with (financial viability)bottom lines.
Says Neil Rom, managing director of Printacom, “I look at service providers in the printer industry and here things are particularly tight. Providers have annual escalation fees and these are implemented on anniversary of contract with their clients – say a ten percent increase in machine charges and a similar increase for the services portion. Ten and fifteen percent are numbers we commonly see for these increases.”
“But then we see swings of up to 20 percent a day on the exchange rate at the moment,” he continues. “Printer services providers need to use things like printer cartridges, drums and other consumables in the maintenance process and these items depend on the exchange rate for pricing. Margins are traditionally tight on these items and so severe increases in prices have the potential to heavily impact on contract viability. In many cases the provider actually loses money.”
While the varying prices could be accommodated by a higher annual increase the next year, these increases are agreed upon ahead of time.
“What we see some of the bigger guys doing is approaching their clients on a one-by-one basis and explaining the situation to them – outlining the problem and requesting a revision of service charges ahead of the annual increases,” explains Rom. “That is an option, and many clients will understand that margins are low on service items prompting a contract renegotiation,” he opines. “But it is not always possible, especially in the likes of retail environments where the impact would be massive.” Rom suggests that contracts will have to change in their structure going forward.
“Contract terms should perhaps be shorter than a year – like six months, or maybe even quarterly,” he says. “And because it isn’t feasible in the long run to renegotiate contracts every time there is a severe exchange rate fluctuation or economic crisis.” And, of course, clauses can be added to contracts that accommodate flexible increases.
The service contract is being forced to evolve in these uncertain times and service providers have to rethink their business models to weather the storm. But the positive swing is that this might prompt some changes that will make for better business in sunnier times.