A Big Competitive Advantage

A few weeks ago, I was at a Memphis Society of Entrepreneur’s luncheon at the Crescent Club. We were sitting around the table talking, passing around the “What do you do?” question.
One of the members of the Society–once he found out what we do–said, “I read recently that there are 8.2 applicants for every IT job in Memphis. You must be finding it easy to find people these days, right?”
Well, not really, I said. You see, every one at DGG has to have both technical skills and business skills. Our Senior Developer is finishing up a degree in Supply Chain Management. I’m a CPA.CITP (Certified Public Accountant and Certified Information Technology Professional). Our Project Leader spent 20 years in the accounting department of a multi-national Fortune-something company. All of us have business and IT experience.
“Wow,” he said, “That must be a real competitive advantage.”
“Yes,” I said, “The problem is communicating the benefit for our clients and future clients.”

Paperless? Do You Know Where Your Backups Are?

A member of the AICPA Group on LinkedIn posted a question about keeping paper records vs. the paperless office. In case you aren’t on the AICPA group on LinkedIn, here’s my reply:
I think the issue is not only that the offices are paperless, but that most small and mid-sized businesses don’t think about disaster recovery. With paper records, a fire can wipe them out, but fires are relatively infrequent. A computer–being a machine–will fail eventually.
I used to ask business owners, “Do you know where your backup from last night is?” Most got this panicked look in their eyes. A friend of mine called me to look at the IT situation at a largish insurance agency in town. I asked this question. The owner said, “Don’t know, let’s go see.” We walked down to the IT department (in the basement, one employee). I asked him where the backup was. He pointed to a tape sticking out of a tape drive. I asked him where the backup from the previous night was, he said, “Don’t have one. I know I’m supposed to change the tape, but I forget.”
As I walked out of the IT department, I said to the owner, “Did you see that stack of 10 or 12 tapes in shrink wrap sitting on top of the computer where the backup was?”
The owner answered, “Yes.”
I said, “They’re doing you a lot of good!”
He wasn’t happy.
Paperless is a disaster in cases like this. Backup. Disaster recovery. Often the last thought of business owners, but critically important.

Rethinking Your Efficiency

In many cases, clients ask us to provide “technical” services. Most of the time we understand the business purpose behind these requests. Sometimes we suspect it.
We’re most successful (as are our clients) when they tell us what they are trying to accomplish before they decide the specific technologies to use to accomplish it. That is, clients are most successful when they use us as advisors rather than technicians.
There are risks here for you–our clients–I know. The main risk is that we might recommend something that you really don’t need. Unfortunately, that’s kind of like the reputation used car dealers have. Not all used car dealers are dishonest. But enough are to give the industry a bad reputation.
In reality, though, most of us in the technology industry understand quite well that all software and all hardware isn’t for every business. We consider your individual needs–to the degree you allow us to–and recommend the best solution.
So what’s the problem?
Often, you may not know enough to ask the right questions. You may have an efficiency problem, but think it’s a personnel problem. A well-trained and informed technology firm will help you distinguish between these. They will advise you of the limitations of your personnel; note, though, that you do have to listen carefully.
I’ve tried for years to say tactfully to clients, “You know, you might want to consider some additional accounting training for John or Janie.” Another way to say this is, “Janie seems to be having a problem understanding how to reconcile the bank account. I was a bit surprised at that.” Both of these statements actually mean: “We’re having to do additional training on job functions that doesn’t have anything at all to do with the software or technology.”
My experience is that this kind of message just doesn’t get through.
Here’s a different way to think about it. Business is increasingly complex; the recession has forced almost all businesses to do more with fewer employees. As we come out of the recession, many clients want to remain lean. This means that existing employees will have to do more; thier jobs will be less specialized. Bluntly, they need more expertise and more ability to think to function. You may have to train existing employees more (or again). You may even find that some employees can’t operate in this environment.
‘Nuff said?

Oracle Believes ERP Market is Recovering

The title of the article below seems a bit misleading to me. It’s not clear to me that there is evidence of SAP’s unravelling, unless the reference is to SAP losing market share. Furthermore, I don’t think at this point that this can be identified as a permanent trend, perhaps the market segments that SAP targets are more affected by the global recession than Oracle’s market segments.
It is, however, encouraging to see one more voice added to the chorus of voices in support of a recovery.
Oracle Says Market’s Recovering But SAP’s Unraveling – Global CIO Blog – InformationWeek

Do People Bother To Read Email Before Hitting Reply?

I sent a simple email to a customer service rep the other day. Here’s a link you should look at, I said. It was a link to a site of a company using a logo (their logo). They had just told me they didn’t give permission to use (I asked before using it).
Was I asking, “Then why is this site using it?” Yes, partially. Was I questioning whether I had the right answer, or just the convenient one? Yes, partially.
The answer I got back? “We are not giving permission to use our logo now.” Right. I understood that. Did you read my email?
Obviously not.

SEO on Google About to Change Dramatically!

Google is changing the way it’s search engine works in major ways after the first of the year. Most believe this is to avoid a hit to many of the Internet retailers who rely heavily on Google optimization to bring the traffic that makes their cash registers ring.
Little more than the concept has been discussed thus far. Suffice it to say that if your SEO company hasn’t mentioned it to you, you need another SEO company. Here’s a brief article about the change:

Mrs. Crawford Was Right!

Mrs. Crawford said that everyone has their favorite pet peeves about the English language; if you break these rules, they’ll zap you.
She was right.
Your == belonging to you NOT the contraction YOU ARE.
So “That’s your luggage” is right.
“Your not supposed to do that” is WRONG.
Bugs the crud out of me.
To[o] bad! Maybe I’m getting to be an old fuddy-duddy!

Fear of Bad Ideas / Posted Link

I like Seth Godin. I devoured his early books, and applied his concepts. This post is not about Seth Godin, even though the link below is a link to Seth’s blog.
This entry is about the practice of posting “shortened” links to Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
I regularly read these posts. In fact, I’ve learned something from many of them. It’s a good way to see what others I respect value in the news.
Some of my “friends” and some people I “follow” seem more intent on making sure I see their post every day, so they post links to articles by other people. It’s a game, see. Will he click or won’t he? Will he waste his time on a generic link, or won’t he?
Here’s my advice: if you’re going to post a link, make it relevant to what you do. Don’t post a link to Seth Godin if you’re in the Social Media marketing business, or the SEO business UNLESS Seth says something relevant to that business.
Better yet, post some (brief, well written, words-spelled-correctly) comment that tells me why the Seth Godin post is important. Anything else doesn’t tell me anything about your expertise at all. It mostly tells me that you read a few websites and blogs. I do too!
By the way, here’s a post from Godin that is along the lines, “The only people who do not fail are those who do nothing.” Seth writes more, but that’s the essential essence. Read it if you want to. It has nothing to do with my business, which is defined by a simple question, “When was the last time your computer software company gave you a suggestion that improved your business?”
Seth’s Blog: Fear of bad ideas

When was the last time your computer software company gave you a suggestion that improved your business?

I’ve been asking businesspeople I know this question lately. I seem to be getting a lot of blank stares. Too bad.
See, I thought computers were just tools. They did things that businesses needed doing. So it’s sad to me that many businesses don’t think about their computer software (and computer systems, for that matter) as business tools.
We live (still) in a break / fix world. Where even managed services and outsourced service providers tout their ability to prevent problems. “We keep clients from having to worry about maintaining their own systems.” “We provide the technical experts.” “We do the backups.” etc.
No one that I’m hearing says, “We improve client businesses.”
That’s what Data Guidance Group was started to do. That’s what we do every day.
Haven’t gotten a good suggestion lately? Contact me.