How to Succeed at Key Account Management

Harvard Business Review:

A very useful guide to get the KAM thinking and activities rolled out in an organisation!

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Key account management (KAM) is one of the most important changes in selling that has emerged during the past two decades. KAM is a radically different organizational process used by business-to-business suppliers to manage their relationships with strategically-important customers, and it produces measurable business benefits.

Not surprisingly, smart suppliers are keen to implement KAM. But, sadly, many KAM implementations fail and are abandoned. In other cases, suppliers find that they have to make big changes to the KAM programs to get them to function.

The good news is that many of these failures are unnecessary. KAM is a major change, but the chances of success can be dramatically increased by following the seven steps described here:

Step One: Recognize that KAM is an organizational change, not a sales technique. KAM implementations take years, not months. The companies which have implemented KAM most successfully have been those who thought of it…

View original 986 more words

Whatsapp – Email overload & Enterprise social networks!

The last few years I have been really getting acquainted with several companies in my line of a work as tech sales guy. I see several organizational problems that I see building up due to unfettered tech and its wrong usage.  I’d love to solve them and have a few suggestions and being who I am they are inevitably about the more adoption of technology! I mean hey Whatsapp just got bought for like $10 +billion and people have a huge opinion about it. But all it did there was just move text messaging from the voice on CDMA+GSM spectrum network to the Internet Protocol/data network on the GSM+CDMA spectrum and added a layer of take and share media and files, create private friends or family social networks and on the mobile!

Email overload at the workplace is the latest big thing now that I really want to handle – it is so current now that were you to type in that search word – damn there’d be an article an hour back like say this one when I started to type this out. The solution is not too tough really – all you have to do is move that traffic else where on other servers that can handle it and is not as crowded and with less noise.

Go Yammer  and the ESN way. ESN is something I think I coined if no one has used before: enterprise social networks. If you don’t want to use Yammer – you may as well use FB – create corporate FB Ids centrally etc. But the point is it is they are there and can be used. You could try moving to the sales force dot com platform and use that as your workflow and sales force automation systems also and create that process. People like it or not read their FB messages, twitter feeds, Whatsapp dialogues more than anything else. More than SMS perhaps! There is even bug report on mozilla asking to see if reddit can be used to replace yammer?

Also the medium makes it such that people are forced to stay on script; brevity is the soul of wit as said Polonious in Hamlet  – a Shakespearean play. People need to have to be brief by the urgency of the medium and the forced restriction of space. Occasionally it spawns it’s own language like BRB, IMO, IMHO; LOL; BTW! Plus it brings in the concept of presence ; you know who is logged in on a server somewhere on the internet and can send receive files etc!! There are also possible videoconferencing and tele calling available which makes ESN the best way to go to handle email overload. In a very Marshall Mac Luhanesque manner; the medium becomes the message! Also it is open source capable and can be mostly configured for free with admin levels rights requires payments but it gets the work done!

Digital Marketing, internet advertising and social media.

I have been drifting the last few months and my blog posts show! One of the things I drifted into was a small commission to manage a digital marketing effort at a startup social gaming/entertainment network based out and targeting south east asia pacific rim markets.

Digital Marketing today is a fairly evolved and complex set of activities in the visually connected and engaged space of the consumer’s mind. At one level it is simple Internet banner ads, networked digital signage but at another it is also complex socially networked media, people focus, crowd engagement, the collective user experience, blogospheres, sharing. At all levels it is pure and simple advertising, subtly or not you are trying to drive a message through and cause action; make people buy as it were. In the digital world – it is about increasing your “like” counts. Somehow like it or not – our lives and as are companies / organizations also – are being defined by the lingua franca of social networks like Facebook, Friendster, MySpace and many others before that.

A key point in the development of the digital advertising space was the design and implementation of search engine term monetization by Google – very simply put AdWords and the entire bidding related marketplace that it has spawned. Acquisition meant control over Doubleclick – a pioneer ad serving company in 2007 and before long the empire also had interest in mobile ad serving with Android and AdMob – another well-timed acquisition in 2009. For advertisers it meant a sort of implied granular control of their ad money spend. I insist “implied” because after one level – it all becomes blind and you really do not know what is going on. Some others have also opined against it and here is one.

Advertising the mainstream variety has always been inherently a “dark art”. A famous quote I recall was that “…half of my ad budget is wasted – I just don’t know which half…” You made a good ad, you bowed to creative urges and flashes and then you spend on media – a lot like shooting many arrows and hoping some of them stick. Internet advertising in the olden days was a lot like that – you had banner ads and you hoped some of them got seen. Then they did pop ups and pop unders and things got crazy for a while and standards got set up. A little bit of the relevance of this type of advertising sank with the development of ad blockers. Before long banner ads that ran java were also proving to be an effective malaware vector to infect using drive by downloads.

At a time like this search engine keyword/term advertising that Google brought in set the industry standard. Advertisers were intrigued and the prospect of granular payments for the number of clicks and clicks throughs set the mind of the marketer afire. Today about 20% of all advertising budget is thought to be going into internet advertising. and some estimates say that soon it will be 50% and one forecast has it that it will outstrip print advertising by 2015. Google’s system was imitated by the rest and anyone that has a search engine today monetizes it thus, including Bing – the other search engine. The system works pretty simply – you quote a price – a “bid” as it were for a set of keywords that best suit your product or service and that the average user would use to search for things related to your product and service. Every time that word, search term was used and your bid was not lower than everyone else’s your ad would be shown next to the search results. Google will help you with a keyword generator, a suggested bid that is an approximation of the bids and well you need a script that is ideally 100 odd characters. You can also use the search terms generated to advertise on internet banner ads on desktops and mobile devices inside apps, on the web through a browser. The advertiser gets charged every time some one clicks through one of the ads.

Like traditional advertising however – the guy with the most money is usually the one whose message gets out better and louder. The brands that are deemed the most social inevitably are also the brands that have the largest ad spends in the “offline”, traditional advertising space. Things get different when you realize that it is a self service “platform” – you log in to a web site which gives you a fairly complicated but tightly laid out options and mechanisms for your ad. There is telephonic support and you dial a toll free number to talk to someone who can guide you through the process and help you spend. There are of course agencies that will help you do this and increasingly they are traditional advertising agencies that develop a separate department or perhaps acquire some hot startup. But the beauty is the egalitarian nature, anyone with a credit card can advertise. This has specifically appealed to the small and medium business cluster and has unlocked advertising dollars that were not being spent.

This in a way is the early stage of internet advertising age, which itself cannot yet be called a long phenomenon. This is the stage before social came in to the picture and this is when one web site built an audience in the 100s of millions that soon become a billion. The good news was the audience gave the web site their personal details, location, preferences; you name it – a deep insight as it were into who the users were and well what they were doing. Facebook was suddenly the wonder child of the new internet generation with a young founder CEO and a dashing style built on openness and a Hollywood credo. When they finally rolled their advertising mechanisms out they offered unbelievably fine-tuned targeting of their user base without actually jeopardizing anonymity. On Google you advertised on Google’s and other people’s sites when you did banner ads or on Google’s or other people’s apps. The inventory of ad server space from the non Google Apps and Sites was more often than not sold between all the other ad server suppliers and there were quite a few there as even a survey and listing from 2010 will show here but on Facebook that inventory is all theirs. There are page posts, promoted posts, likes, installs, display on web site, on phone of android or iOS, everything they own, it is their ad inventory. It is also a bidding style self service engagement but there is a very deep level of granular segmentation possible that you can actually build a very strong motivated followers from the likes. Facebook also allows you a nice medium to show your wares through a Facebook Page – which is like a digital storefront at one level. The strength of the still new platform is that it can drive app installs at a well nigh unprecedented rate as has been seen.

Soumya:

The age of the social CRM is here – Radian 6 to get all Twitter feed to analyze for Salesforce!!

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

As enterprise companies like Salesforce and Oracle continue to sharpen their social media services for enterprises, Twitter is locking arms with one of them in a strategic alliance. Radian6, the social media monitoring service bought by Salesforce in March 2011 for $326 million, has announced that it has signed a strategic alliance with Twitter that gives Radian6 customers “complete access” to Twitter’s public tweet firehose of more than 400 million tweets per day.

This looks to be the first deal of this kind between Twitter and a third party Radian6 to allow full access for enterprise services. (But this is not the first enterprise deal for Twitter: for example, partnerships with DataSift and Gnip resell percentages of Twitter data, a Twitter spokesperson tells me. Crimson Hexagon and Mass Relevance also use Twitter’s firehose.) Twitter has had other firehose deals before, too, that have come and gone, such as this one…

View original 392 more words

Cognitive Bias in Software Testing

A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations, leading to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality. Implicit in the concept of a “pattern of deviation” is a standard of comparison with what is ‘normally’ expected; this may be the judgment of people outside those particular situations, or may be a set of independently verifiable facts. In well-run software development projects, the mission of the test team is not merely to perform testing, but to help minimize the risk of product failure. Testers look for manifest problems in the product, potential problems, and the absence of problems. They explore, assess, track, and report product quality, so that others in the project can make informed decisions about product development. It’s important to recognize that testers are not out to “break the code.” or to embarrass or complain, just to inform as meters of product quality. The definition of testing according to the ANSI/IEEE 1059 standard is that testing is the process of analyzing a software item to detect the differences between existing and required conditions (that is defects/errors/bugs) and to evaluate the features of the software item. The purpose of testing is verification, validation and error detection in order to find problems – and the purpose of finding those problems is to get them fixed.

In the traditional software development model – often called the waterfall – everything flows from a process and one step starts after the other. Testing is at the end of that process and is often looked at less than essential. In software development companies therefore the testing that happens in-house more often that not is seen more as a rigor than as a part of the project flow. It is billable and some developer organizations that are committed to systems and processes – try to do a good job of it in the name of QA and develop a defect free product in the first release. But it is the nature of the beast that there can never be only a version of a product. Things change and something change for the better, the operating system undergoes upgrades in the way that it works and the application needs be updated to ensure that the newer things are all built are now incorporated calling for new round of development and a layer of testing and the process often repeats itself.

But can people in the same organization who are organized in a construct towards getting the release out quickly and fairly defect free be the best judge of quality? In a seminal study on human computer interface called “Positive test bias in software testing among professionals: A review by Laura Marie Leventhal, Barbee M. Teasley, Diane S. Rohlman and Keith Instone at the Computer Sciences Department, Bowling Green State University Ohio, the researchers found a case for ample evidence that testers have positive test bias. This bias is manifest as a tendency to execute about four times as many positive tests, designed to show that “the program works,” as tests, which challenge the program. The researchers cited found that the expertise of the subjects, the completeness of the software specifications, and the presence/absence of program errors may reduce positive test bias. Skilled computer scientists invent specifications to test in the absence of actual specifications, but still exhibit positive test bias.

Another study  “Confirmation Bias in Software Development and Testing: An Analysis of the Effects of Company Size, Experience and Reasoning Skills” by Gul Calikli; Berna Arslan; Ayse Bener at the Department of Computer; Engineering, Software Research Laboratory, Bogazici University, Turkey Results showed that regardless of experience and company size, abilities such as logical reasoning and strategic hypotheses testing are differentiating factors in low confirmation bias levels. Education and/or training programs that emphasize mathematical reasoning techniques are useful towards production of high quality software. In order to investigate the relationship between code defect density and confirmation bias of software developers the researchers performed an experiment among developers who are involved with a software project in a large-scale telecommunications company and analyzed the effect of confirmation bias during software testing phase. Their results proved that there is a direct correlation between confirmation bias and defect proneness of the code. Their concluding summary shows that there is no significant relationship between software development or testing experience and hypothesis testing skills. Experience did not play a role even in familiar situations such as problems about software domain. The most striking difference was found between the group of graduate students and software developers and testers of the companies in terms of abstract reasoning skills. The fact that students scored better in software-domain questions although most of them had less software development and testing experience indicates that abstract reasoning plays an important role in solving everyday problems. It is highly probable that theoretical computer science courses have strengthened their reasoning skills and helped them to acquire an analytical and critical point of view.

Hence, we can conclude that confirmation bias is most probably affected by continuous usage of abstract reasoning and critical thinking. Company size was not a differentiating factor in abstract reasoning, but differences in hypotheses testing behavior was observed between two groups of companies grouped according to their sizes. The large company performed better in the interactive test, but it has been shown that the group of students outperformed this group in terms of both tests.

This has led to the conclusion that hypotheses testing skills were better in the group of students. There is a relationship between confirmation bias and continuous usage of and training in logical reasoning and critical thinking. The relevance of this in current day trends like crowd sourced testing are structured attempts at making this happen in real time over larger and wider deployments.

There are several kinds of biases that the average humans are exposed to and commits but in the business of software development testing each on poses its own challenges and the astute tester must guard watch for it and compensate for it into the test design. The importance of making testing therefore an independent area and outsourced differently from application development is therefore strategically very important. A brief listing of some of the biases are listed as below with reviews from some of the experienced independent software testing community thought leaders are listed.

(1.) Observational Bias happens when one only look where they think they will find positive results, or where it is easy to record observations and a little like looking for something lost only under the streetlight! Darren McMillan, an independent software testing consultant from Glasgow in his Requirements Analysis & Testing Traps rightly points out the dangers of having visual references (wireframes) at a very early stage in the project lifecycle that could take your attention away from something more fundamental within the text of the requirements themselves.

(2.) Reporting Bias – a tendency to under-report unexpected or undesirable experimental results, attributing the results to sampling or measurement error, while being more trusting of expected or desirable results, though these may be subject to the same sources of error. Over time, reporting bias can lead to a status quo where multiple investigators discover and discard the same results, and later experimenters justify their own reporting bias by observing that previous experimenters reported different results. A valuable piece of information can be skewed to make a problem seem less severe (e.g. <1% of our customer base use *that* browser so can’t do XYZ).

(3.) Survivorship Bias a type of selection bias the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that “survived” some process and inadvertently overlooking those that didn’t because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. The survivors may literally be people, as in a medical study, or could be companies or research subjects or applicants for a job, or anything that must make it past some selection process to be considered further. Survivor ship bias can lead to overly optimistic beliefs because failures are ignored, such as when companies that no longer exist are excluded from analyses of financial performance. It can also lead to the false belief that the successes in a group have some special property, rather than being just lucky. For example, if the three of the five students with the best college grades went to the same high school, that can lead one to believe that the high school must offer an excellent education.

(4.) Confirmation Bias is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses and display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization and the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations. This particular bias is the big daddy if all biases since it has so many variations. Michael Bolton an independent software testing consultant and Principal, DevelopSense and Co-author (with James Bach) of Rapid Software Testing from Toronto, Canada   provides some really useful tips for escaping confirmation bias in his book.

(5.) Anchoring Bias or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance. Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value. Michael D. Kelly a testing veteran from Indiana in the US talks about simply sketching out a schematic of sorts and talk through his ideas (not necessarily solutions). It just could be a  “Talk it through with your mates” heuristic?

(6.) Congruence Bias occurs due to people’s over reliance on direct testing of a given hypothesis, and a neglect of indirect testing. It is a kind of Confirmation Bias as mentioned earlier. Pete Houghton, Peter Houghton a Contract Tester at the Financial Times, London opines on the Arrogance of Regression Testing “We stop looking for problems that we don’t think are caused by the new changes.” claims Pete.  And there are, many others such as Automation Bias, Assimilation Bias etc… there’s quite a lot of cognitive biases out there, and you may wonder how testers even get out of the starting blocks with so many possible ways for their judgment and work to be skewed.

Steve Would Have Been 57

Every year this day the 25th of February I watch the movie  – Pirates of Silicon Valley – a movie about the silicon valley revolution led by Steve & Bill. This is the day that Steve was born and he would have been 57. There are a few who ridicule me my worship of this man, I have only this to say it is not just I; there are many more and you can’t really belittle me my faith! For what he hath wrought cannot be by man alone be done, it has never been done and it will probably be a long time before it is done again. But yes there are always and are now worthy contenders for where he was. I only hope some of them even take the mantle and become the CEO of Apple!

Most people, CEO’s; leaders, great men if they manage usually leave an imprint on one aspect of life. It is not often you have a Ford that made cars, created hospitals, drove the Hollywood industry, changed and create a new marketplace etc etc… Steven P. Jobs – did it, he changed music, as we know it, he created something that combined and then fought with and won against a massive Hollywood studio – Disney who finally bought him off. His understanding and development of retail distribution probably will never be equaled ever again. His company makes more money per square feet of retail space than anyone in the world and this includes some of the best like Walmart, Asda, Harrod’s and you name it!!

Dr. Dre – Andre Rommel – an American R&B musician and producer said it like it is – Steve really got music and the way it should be! Today what he started in music has become the de facto distribution standard for software as well as music. As Samsung fights Apple in humorous ads aimed at poking fun at the people that stand in lie for an Apple launch – it must remember that Samsung owes a large part of its existence to the fact that Apple took its DRAMs and LCD screens and made something out of it. So yeah they make some Android phones and they only can because Apple made them from their commodity products in the first place and showed the world that physical keyboards are not needed; batteries do not need to be removed, an app market can be secure and have policies.

 

The patent litigation that has been at the back and front of the news and has made doing business now a cat and mouse game is of course very sad. It is interesting to note that Apple begun it’s life with trademark suits from none other than the Beatles that owned Apple records. It was amiably resolved when I guess the Beatles realized who they were up against. Cisco a very large big daddy networking company owned and used the trademark IOS for several years. As a network gear sales man in the late 1990’s I know I have made out quotes that included the part number for an IOS. When Steven P. Jobs decided that he wanted it – he just took it, Cisco rolled over like a dead cat; knowing perhaps in whose presence they were I assume. Now if that is not being god – tell me what is and every day I shed tears in my heart he had to leave us so early and I never got a chance to at least see him in person even once.

 

 

The Tim Cook Signature

It was a sad day for anyone that had anything in terms of time, money and passion committed to Apple when the founder – Steve Jobs (my personal god and peace be on him that takes his name) died last year. But then he set up Tim Cook to follow him and be his torch bear or whatever these things are. Tim Cook the supply chain maestro will take ahead Steve Jobs’ legacy. He has walked in – to me it seems his first ever crisis – something that he may have had a role in developing as a person that would have had necessarily paid a huge role in getting on board Foxcon the embattled supplier

The matter is still developing but Mr. Cook has shown a very relenting side to the entire affair and has gone out on a limb and put a supplier responsibility audit in the public domain. I think personally that is Steve had chosen and trained very well for the long job at hand and Mr. Cook has also shown his own individuality and ability to take action and move ahead at the same time. From the several profiles that I have read of him he is a maniac energy bar guy, walks a lot and gets a lot of exercise to be as slim as he is. He does not bear fools lightly either – a trait that most humans in power possess and can be quite cutting in his manner if you come across as one.

Creative people and Apple approach products have caused a few run ins in the past notably their film editing and creating software. Apple has been a mix of hard and soft in their positions here. But I could never found out why they do it and impose terms that are so obviously wrong that they cause a user rebellion. The latest iBooks Writer fiasco was one of these and Mr. Cook I think took a bold decision and did a quick U turn and reversed the licensing soon enough for it to be not so much of a bone for contention.

I think this will be the new Apple signature or the Tim Cook one if you call it that. A more sensible, sensitive, caring, nicer, responsible, adult organization which has managed to institutionalize the founder’s imperious culture, dreams and visions, creativity and has grown to become a formidable corporation. An article in Fortune on how Steve Jobs ran Apple; spoke of an exercise that was afoot at Apple where management scholars from nearby universities (and there are a quite a few good one close to Cupertino) were tasked with the job of studying Apple, make case studies and have everyone adopt the process that goes into the Apple way of decision making etc. That is something that will Tim Cook help maintain Apple in the position that it is at today.

Apple has just had what is called a blowout quarter – making more money in profits than is the turnover of some newer mega companies like Google. The stock is expected to trade at $600 a pop and expected to beat Google’s prices. All this happened as Mr. Cook took the helm and even though he has been thought of as “not a product guy” Apple has come out with some new innovative products – even if they are textbooks! I think that is what the Tim Cook signature is – a little nerdy – which is not such a bad thing for a company that makes some real cool nerdy products!

Soumya:

This ideally follows from something I mentioned earlier – well maybe it doesn’t but I totally believe in Mr. Manjoo’s foresight!

Originally posted on PandoDaily:

For much of 2011, it looked like Android was crushing it. Google had brilliantly pushed its free mobile OS to every corner of the earth—you could pick up an Android phone from every manufacturer on every carrier at every price point, most often just as a consolation prize for signing a contract. Looking back, I’d peg Android’s high-water mark at around April Fool’s Day, when Fred Wilson declared Google’s OS to be the preeminent marketplace for mobile developers. Not only was Android nearing a majority share of the smartphone market, its rate of growth eclipsed that of every other platform. Meanwhile Apple’s growth appeared to have stalled; February 2011’s comScore data showed that even despite launching on Verizon, the iPhone was just barely holding on to its 25 percent market share.

The picture was clear: Android was running away with the mobile market. Google was unstoppable.

It’s funny to think…

View original 976 more words

Soumya:

A dangerous new Facebook hack made that comes about by an account verification process and accepting friend requests from people you do not know!

Originally posted on Flauk:

Speaking with some “not so nice” hackers tonight brought to light a scary vulnerability associated with Facebook accounts. We’ve all received friend requests from people we didn’t know, whether it’s a super model, a famous athlete or just a random person, we’ve all seen them before. Well these requests may not be as benign as they appear to be, and here’s a serious question for you: Have you ever received a friend request from someone who only had an unknown friend in common? If so, then this REALLY applies to you. Facebook “troll” accounts are very common and they can easily rack up hundreds, even thousands of friends by just uploading some random profile pictures found through Google Image searches and spamming people with friend requests. These accounts can look very real but sometimes their intent is an entirely malicious social engineering tactic.

Facebook released a new security option a few…

View original 296 more words

App dev challenges:

I had just opined a few months back when I thought Android had no future and I was presented with the unique challenge where I had to work with a software development that required apps to be built and the easiest one that could be built and deployed was in fact Android! It wasn’t long though before the realities sank in and the challenges of being multi platform presented themselves. At one level it was a capital investment decision and we need to invest in the future – or so we thought. Then came the challenging reality of making a product for the domestic market where the present was overwhelmingly in favor of the past. It would be wrong to blame the domestic market entirely though as globally the platform of choice – in terms of most number of users – was something called Symbian – a platform whose makers were trying to kill them. In India the challenge was even more sizeable in that only 6 – 10% of the total market (which could be 750 – 900 million users) were smartphone users and even there – specifically for apps from the experience of the other app based service delivery companies (scrappy start ups like Zomato & Mojo Street) the platform with the most usage is Blackberry !!!

I say BB with exclamation marks because everywhere else (except perhaps Qatar and the ME, Indonesia etc) they are dead or dying fast and in India the largest users are there. It was a strategic killer as in the BB OS additionally has several layer of problems – not the least of which was the fact that it would at some time or the other be shutdown because of the company’s decision to stake the future on QNX – a more robust OS that if nothing at all was able to have an email ID (BB PIN) on more than one device! There were more problems in that several versions of the OS existed – 4; 5; 6 & 7 each with its own limitations and the highest version being as expected the technically better one – but not often the one with the most number of users (which by the way was version 6 as per a BB contact that we made) which would be driven by price more than anything else.

If you need to develop then an app for any kind of customer engagement at India – you need to essentially stake a lot of money on technologies that have no future or which their parents have abandoned. The easier options like Android are the ones that everyone is developing for and even there the problems of fragmentation of the platform abound.  There are other means like J2ME and HTML applications but that is not delivering an app in the true sense of the term – one that you download and get to use and feel kind of connected with.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.