Category: Customer Satisfaction

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that today marks our 7th anniversary.  I still remember writing that first post and wondering who would be interested in what we had to offer.

After more than 293,000 views, thousands of free downloads, and visitors from more than 120 countries, we can say that we’ve successfully helped more than a few people and companies get started with their OEE training and implementation.

We would like to thank all of our subscribers and visitors for your feedback, support, and many “thank you” notes over the years.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Don’t Panic – When Bad Things Happen

WordPress dashboard interface
WordPress dashboard interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t Panic

Although the situation I am about to describe was successfully resolved, I felt compelled to share this event with you. Times like this expose our vulnerabilities and reinforce the adage to “expect the unexpected”.

The Situation

Imagine the shock and surprise followed by the deep, sinking feeling that set in when an unexpected notice suddenly appeared on my screen stating that our site was suspended effective immediately for failing to comply with WordPress.com’s terms and conditions. An attempt to visit our site from another computer confirmed it.

While you may not have noticed, I’m quite certain many others were wondering what was going on – especially first time visitors or recent subscribers. As our site often appears at the top of most Google searches – depending on the search term used – I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those who were attempting to visit.

After contacting WordPress, we learned that our site was subject to a spam detection error and suspended by the “system” in error. The fact that you’re reading this means the problem was successfully resolved by the great people at WordPress – apologies for the inconvenience included.

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

While I am more than happy to have our site restored to full service, we needed more than just a simple backup of our data to preserve our blogging ecosystem. Our contingency plan included setting up a self hosted site and this event served as the trigger to make it a reality.

1617 A. SWETNAM School of Defence 56 He is a fool which will adventure all his goods in one ship.

Fortunately, WordPress.com provides several means for transferring or downloading a copy of your pages and posts. The suspension notice advised that the data for “your site” will only be available for a limited period of time.  Eventually all data will be completely removed from the system.

In other words, act quickly and methodically because the clock is ticking. Unless you’ve done this for yourself, there are a few items worth noting.

  • Although it’s possible to export the  entire site in a single XML file, the size of the file may exceed the import capacity of the new host.  Free XML import tools seem to have a limit of 1MB.   Our file exceeded this limitation.
  • The XML file does not include current subscribers or any of the data in your media gallery.
  • The current theme may not be available at the new host site and some of the functionality you may have expected has been lost.
  • Conversely, some themes offer more and better features than you may have expected.
  • Six (6) years of blogging creates a relatively large digital ecosystem with roots deeper than we first thought possible.

Corrective Actions

Setting up a self-hosted site may seem like an over-reaction to this situation, however, this event was very disturbing and quite unsettling, especially when we consider the number of visitors we receive over the course of a given day. Fortunately, this event occurred on a weekend when traffic volume is typically lower.

Since we already own several top-level domains, finding a hosting service was our next challenge.  We purchased our top-level domains from NameCheap.com and decided to pursue our hosting services through them as well.

We found two (2) excellent services that offer a variety of WordPress themes, set up our domains, and began the process of transferring a copy of our blog over to the new sites.  It is possible to upload themes directly and there a numerous themes to choose from.

Although we found a site that offers the same “Inove” theme we are using here, we noted that this theme has not been updated for the past two (2) years. We selected the Responsive theme for our new site as it offers new functionality and features that includes mobile platforms.

Lessons Learned

WordPress.com supports millions of bloggers and losing one – for whatever reason – is not going to have a significant impact on their continued and ever-growing success. This experience helped us to realize just how vulnerable we are when we trust our property, intellectual or otherwise, to an independent entity.  To circumvent the possibility of yet another catastrophic blogging event:

Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza...
Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.”—Sancho Panza—Don Quixote (Part I, Book III, Chapter 9) by Miguel de Cervantes [1547-1616].

In simpler terms:  “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”

  • Have a contingency plan that includes creating a second, self-hosted site.  Note that it is possible to transfer your blog to a number of venues.  We successfully uploaded our XML data to several different platforms.
  • Prepare and Execute your contingency plan to determine and mitigate any risks or other consequential losses.
  • If you are presently blogging on WordPress.com, be aware that a complete XML copy of your site data may exceed the import limits of the receiving host – at least for the tools that are offered free of charge.
  • To minimize the size of the XML file, Pages and Posts can be exported separately.  You can also specify a date based range of posts to export. As such, you can create several smaller files that will contain all of your posts for a given period of time.
  • Perform regular exports of recent posts for importing to your self-hosted site and to serve as a local back up.
  • Transferring your site is not that difficult, however, WordPress.com will transfer your site for you for a fee.
  • Don’t be too naive. You are the only one who really cares about YOUR property – intellectual or otherwise. Although your subscribers and followers will be devastated, chances are you won’t be missed by the WordPress.com team unless you’re as big as the Huffington Post or some other notable blog venue.
  • When forced to look for options, there are better, feature filled alternative WordPress themes and options to be found. As we’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution!”

Going Forward:

We recently celebrated six years of blogging on WordPress.com and plan to do so for many years to come.  While this experience has cast a shadow on our overall experience, we have learned yet again that we need to preserve and protect our own interests.

With over 218,000 page views from virtually every country around the world, we are doing something right. Our visitors and views continue to grow with each passing year. The top five countries that contributed to our Top Views this year are:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. Australia

On behalf of the Lean Execution Strategy Team, I appreciate and thank you for the privilege of serving you – our clients, subscribers, and visitors.  We wish each of you a happy holiday season and look forward to serving you in the new year with the best of successes in 2015.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Apple-opoly: It’s Not a Game

money
money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

Some people can hardly contain their excitement when a company like Apple is thriving with sky high profits in the midst of a dismal global economy. Yet, this same excitement is seldom shared when banks or oil companies report similar results. Wouldn’t we all prefer reduced fees or lower gas prices over excessive profits from the very companies that portend to serve our best interests?

This past week a colleague forwarded an article from cultofmac.com titled Apple’s Astonishing Profit in Context. My colleague’s opinion of Apple’s incredible performance is also echoed in the article itself. Of course, I would be hard pressed to disagree with them as I’ve written many times before that “The proof of wisdom is in the results.” The following quote from the article puts Apple’s “wisdom” in perspective:

From October 2011 to September 2012 Apple made more money than Microsoft, Ebay, Google, Yahoo! Facebook and Amazon combined. In that same period, Dell, Asus, Intel, Acer, IBM, Lenovo, and HP (basically the entire PC industry) only made $19.3 billion in profit, which is less than half of Apple’s profit.

Who can argue?

Apple has effectively advanced available technologies into unique devices that have dominated several market segments including: Computers (Mac), Smart Phones (iPhone), Tablets (iPad), and Media Players (iPod). Although Apple did not necessarily “invent” the core technologies that define their devices, they did find innovative ways to integrate them to provide an extremely user friendly experience.

Hardware is not Apple’s only source of revenue as the “App Store” is yet another venue that continues to feed Apple’s bottom line. If I understand the terms correctly, Apple receives at least 30% of every App Store purchase and as Apple is quick to mention more times than not, the number of available apps is in the hundreds of thousands and continues to grow every day. That in and of itself is an incredible feat.

I contend that the level of success enjoyed by Apple has peaked. This article, “Apple Losing Lustre On Wall Street: 3 Theories Why” is one of many that have surfaced recently as Apple’s stock has plummeted over the past few days. As stated in my recent post, Apple’s Best Kept Secrets … May Be Their Worst Enemy, Apple’s products are expensive and are subject to higher rates of planned obsolescence giving people cause to “wait” before buying.

Waking Up The Competition

Many would suggest that there is no competition when it comes to Apple’s products and, to some extent, there may be some truth to that. The question is, “What really sets Apple apart from it’s competitors?” I contend that a key component of Apple’s success is driven by their exclusive integration of the iOS operating system into virtually all of their devices. When compared to the number of competing companies selling electronic devices based on the Windows and Android operating systems, we quickly learn that Apple is the sole proprietor of it’s core hardware / software environment and the current court battles with Samsung strongly suggest that Apple wants to keep it that way.

In other words, while there are a number of competitors in any given segment, Apple has no direct competitors that manufacture computers using their operating system thus allowing them to command the price at which their devices are sold. In this context, Apple can determine it’s own price points, void of any threat from a competing manufacturer. From a financial perspective, Apple’s strategy to stay the course is a huge success – at least it was until now.

Image representing Windows as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

The wisdom of Apple’s strategy to integrate hardware and software is perhaps a lesson learned by Microsoft as they too have joined the tablet race with the introduction of the Surface RT and soon to be launched Surface Pro. There is, however, a very stark difference. Whether Microsoft intended to become a tablet manufacturer is open to debate but Microsoft did not exclude or attempt to prevent their competitors from developing devices based on the Windows operating system. Microsoft certainly intentioned to develop a hardware environment that will best reflect the capabilities and performance of the Windows 8 operating system.

Competition inspires innovation as manufacturers attempt to earn a bigger share of the market with more differentiating features and ultimately lower prices. As a result, margins are strained on Windows 8 devices and competing products using Google’s Linux based Android operating system among others. Unlike the exclusive Apple-opoly market, consumers continue to reap the greater benefit of an open competitive market in the “non-Apple” world.

There is indeed a price to be paid to sustain a company that attempts to maintain an exclusive monopoly in the market place. I contend that Apple has more to lose and very little to gain as competitors continue to define and differentiate themselves in their applicable market segments.

The “App” Store – Remember Your Roots

Chart showing downloads and available apps on ...
Chart showing downloads and available apps on the app store over time, since the App Store was opened in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Apple’s devices are the cash cow, then the App Store is the cash calf. As mentioned above, Apple’s take is 30% of every App Store purchase. For a developer, losing 30% for the opportunity to sell an “app may be a great deal but … to a company like Microsoft, nothing could be further from the truth. Presently, Microsoft is subject to the same “App Store” rules of engagement as any other developer and this has now become a major point of contention between the two companies.

When it comes to Microsoft, Apple’s memory seems to be lapsing. In 1997 Apple (very much like RIM) was struggling to stay afloat and Microsoft’s Bill Gates stepped in to bail them out. It seems this gesture of goodwill has waned as Apple has subsequently grown to become a monopoly of it’s own making. In the world of Windows, Microsoft’s Office suite is unparalleled and I suggest the same can only be true in the world of Apple.

It appears that relationships between people still matter in the world of business and we can only wonder if Steve Jobs would feel differently about giving Microsoft a break in the App Store. Clearly, Apple would be a different company – or not exist at all – without the injection of Microsoft’s support as announced on August 6, 1997 at Mac World Boston. As Steve Jobs himself said during the conference:

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs encouraged the audience in this video to “think differently”. Perhaps those who have succeeded Steve Jobs have forgotten (or never had the opportunity to remember) what it was like all those years ago when they were struggling to just to stay afloat. If there was ever a move to burn bridges with a once “rival turned ally”, the app store’s rules of engagement is one of them.

The Extremes

Remember RIM and the BlackBerry? They too have an exclusive operating system and hardware platform that at one time lead the smart phone segment by storm. The BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) service between BlackBerry devices is second to none and now includes BBM voice calls. Apple’s iPhone was a major disruption to both hardware and software as we knew it, offering users a substantially improved experience with available technologies. RIM’s market share and stock prices decreased dramatically for failing to introduce fresh, innovative technologies in a timely manner. Whether RIM’s OS10 can reignite the passion for their products and the profits in kind remains to be seen.

So hopefully what you’ve seen here today are some beginning steps that give you some confidence that we too are going to think differently and serve the people that have been buying our products since the beginning. Because a lot of times people think their crazy, but in that craziness we see genius and those are the people we’re making tools for. – Steve Jobs

Today, RIM is in a place where Apple once stood. Unfortunately for RIM, there is no rival stepping up to bail them out. In today’s world, rivals simply wait for their competitors to fold or file for bankruptcy before swooping in to reap what’s left behind. It is unfortunate, but as time will tell, consumers who are left with empty pockets will soon part ways with companies that choose to monopolize a market that serves the best interests of their shareholders and the bottom line.

Lessons Learned

Value is Not Market Share – In the delicate ecosystem of finance and business, the underlying theme is the perception of “value” for the consumer, the company, and it’s shareholders. I commend and praise Apple for the design and quality of their hardware with few exceptions although I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the frequency at which these devices change. As for their software offerings, I am also somewhat underwhelmed, at least from a business perspective. As for connectivity, Apple provides a seamless bridge between devices with unparalleled ease.

However, knowing that up to 40% of the purchase price is gross margin, the question for Apple devices still remains, “Does the price reflect the true market value?” Fundamental economics would suggest that the value of a product or service is determined by the price the consumer is willing to pay. I contend that in a society based on capitalism, competition will yield a price that better approximates the true value of a product or service.

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” — Andrew Grove, co-founder Intel

Competition = Innovation – The Windows 8 and Android operating systems give us a greater appreciation for how real competition can lead to innovative hardware and software technologies at lower prices that benefit consumers versus those that ultimately aim to benefit shareholders. RIM’s new BlackBerry 10 reaffirms the inertia that exists within a company where only two options exist – to survive or die. With that inertia, we now see momentum building for the unveiling and launch of another new and innovative solution in hand held devices from BlackBerry.

Hansei / Reflection – Success can be both a blessing and a curse. Too few companies take the time to reflect on their history to appreciate their current state of affairs. Very few companies like Apple can claim to have risen from the ashes to become a self sufficient world renowned icon. However, in their wake, Apple’s success has also led to a certain “ego” or culture of arrogance that suggests “nothing can stop us now.” As we consider the current court battles with both rivals and allies, it’s difficult to discern which is which.

Collaboration = Mutual Successes – Success is seldom the result of one person’s effort and typically the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

We can choose to fight for the current state to preserve “what is now” or we can – in the words of Steve Jobs – “think differently”.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Transparency – Is There An App For That?

New Marketing Strategy
New Marketing Strategy (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Trust lies on the threshold of transparency. As leaders we are cognizant of the perceptions created by our words and actions beginning with the very vision that inspires them. We continually aspire to earn the trust and respect of those who choose to pursue the vision with us. We also recognize that we may quickly undermine those efforts and lose the support of our team when our intentions are not aligned in kind.

Organizations struggling to embrace and integrate change into the fabric of their culture may also find themselves lacking transparency, integrity, and ultimately trust. The world is not as it is but how it is perceived and the same is true for leadership. It is now common place in many companies to use 360 degree reviews as part of the performance appraisal process to better understand how we are perceived by our leaders, our peers, and those reporting to us.

In a parallel context, we as customers rely on the integrity of the companies that serve our needs in the form of products and services they provide. We expect, with a certain naiveté, that the company’s best intentions are to ensure that we are satisfied with our purchases. We want to trust that our needs, not those of the company, are first and foremost when we part with our hard-earned cash to pay for the solutions they have to offer.

Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!

– Walter Scott, Marmion (1808), Canto VI. Stanza 17

Perhaps I’m being a bit petty but I have a pet peeve when it comes to the marketing strategy for some apps in the App Store. It’s the typical and annoying marketing strategy replete with hook, line, and sinker to push sales and up-sell consumers. Here’s just one recent example and the thinking that follows:

Hook: Editor’s Choice, 2012 App of the Year, (Productivity). A product doesn’t just become an editor’s choice. Clearly, there must be some value in the app to be considered for such an honour considering the incredible number of apps in the App Store. One would also expect that the “editor’s choice” would be echoed by the community of people who have used the app as well.

Line: It’s FREE. What could be better than a free app? Especially the very one that happens to be the “Editor’s Choice” and the “2012 App of the Year.”

Sinker: Of course, we quickly learn that nothing in life is free. This is especially true in this case where the app’s “Essentials” will cost you $6.99. Yes, they can be purchased at our discretion, however, they almost become immediately necessary for the app to be truly useful.

I am sensitive to the fact that many people will question whether something is really free and have often considered charging a nominal fee for the free OEE templates that we offer from our downloads page and the sidebar “box” widget. Copies of our offering are downloaded every day, around the world, free of charge – no strings attached and no obligations. Many have asked me why and I simply relate to them the story of the difficulties we endured when we tried to take OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) to the next level. While our solution is simple, our intentions are to impart the knowledge we gained to allow others to educate and make informed decisions for themselves.

App Reviews

I didn’t mention the specific name of the app referenced above or the name of its developer but, if you’re a frequent visitor to Apple’s App Store, you’ll be able to figure it out fairly quickly. Does the app function as advertised? The short answer is yes but, in my opinion the free version hardly qualifies for the endorsement it received. Evernote and DropBox seem to bring more to the table, especially where cross-platform functionality is becoming a more predominant feature of today’s core apps.

Some of the reviews state that the price of the upgrades are a concern and the cash value of the app is of greater benefit for the developer than the product is for the user. Fortunately, the price and necessity for these apps is discovered in a relatively short period of time. There is likely to be a tipping point where the time vested in a project would increase the need or desire to purchase the upgrades. Of course, not everyone takes the time to submit a review and I’m quite certain that enough negative reviews will prompt an upgrade to wipe the slate clean.

Tell It Like It Is

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not opposed to companies making money, however, I don’t have much time for those with a “hidden” agenda. If the benefits outweigh the price, then clearly state the cost structure of your product or service. The process of discovering otherwise is somewhat underhanded and perceived as deceitful.

The bottom line: People who discover and realize they are being taken for a ride to the greater benefit of the owners and the leadership are less likely to buckle up and join you on the journey.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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