The 5 Most Popular Merchant Stand Posts of 2009

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

1. 4 Steps for Organizational Agility – Not to be confused with software development agile methods, this post looks at ways organizations can become more agile. If you are looking for ideas on how to get more work done in a quicker time frame then this post is for you.

2. Customer focused eCommerce: Volume testing techniques – A summary of how organizations can use performance testing, load testing, and stress testing to achieve better customer focus from their eCommerce portfolio.

3. 10 Questions with Mike Cottmeyer – An interview with agile development thought leader Mike Cottmeyer. The post explores Mike’s thoughts on the current state of agile development in the software industry.

4. Top 10 Reasons Why You Want Your Boss to Read Your Blog – A combination of humor and seriousness of why you want your boss to read your blog. I wrote this post after my boss quoted a blog entry to me during a phone conversation.

5. Social Media Awareness – My thoughts on how to promote social media awareness within your organization or with your friends.

93 posts are now in the Merchant Stand archives covering topics on Internet marketing, customer focus, eCommerce, organizational design, personal productivity, and business strategy. My goal is to write about business insights that will spark ideas for you to use in your business. I hope you find the content relevant and meaningful. Drop me a note if you have any topics that you’d like to discuss in 2010.

Passion and emotion leadership primer

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

Organizational leaders use the terms ‘passion’ and ’emotion’ in their communication to try to frame desired and undesired behavior. Passion is typically used in the positive context. You might hear things like “We want our people to be passionate about their jobs” or “We promote passionate employees in the workplace”. On the contrary emotion, is typically used in a negative context. We hear things like “Don’t be emotional” or “We are looking for employees to react without emotion”.

So what’s really the difference between these two nouns and what’s the leadership principal we should follow? Webster defines passion as a strong liking or desire for an activity or thing and Wikipedia defines passion as a type of emotion with compelling feelings, enthusiasm, or desire for something. So passion is defined as a positive type of feeling that drives people to action. Our underlying belief is that through passion you will be able to sustain and enhance the object of your actions. Strong leadership is built on this very principal; to get others to build, sustain, and enhance objects of focus.

Emotion is a more general term and covers a wider range of mental states.  Webster defines emotion as a mental reaction subjectively experienced and as a strong feeling which is directed at some object. In terms of leadership, I believe the key part of this definition is that emotion tends to be a ‘reaction’ instead of a well thought out course of action. So leaders see emotional reactions as negative because they don’t believe the reaction to be based on sound thought and logic.

I think the challenge for leaders in the workplace is to properly use and and interpret these two types elements of human behavior. It can be easy to confuse passion and emotion if the passionate acts by a person run contrary to existing thoughts, processes, or direction. In this case, the burden of proof lies with the passionate employee to show their actions are of true sound judgement and do in-fact support the vision and mission of the organization.

My Evernote wish list

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

Evernote LogoI have become a big fan of notebook applications such as Microsoft OneNote, Google Notebook, and Evernote. I used OneNote at work to manage all of my daily activities and I’ve been using Google Notebook at home to record lists of data and other topical notes. Recently I switched from Google Notebook to Evernote because I had read few good reviews on the product and it contained a few more customization options.

Now that I’ve used Evernote for a few months, I created a note to record my Evernote wish list for new features enhancements. I know, it’s free software, so I should be happy with what I get or use something else. But if the creators are looking for ways to enhance the value of the product (and I know they are) then it’s lists like this that give them input.

Bob’s Evernote wish list

  1. Twitter integration to unique default notebook – The new twitter integration with Evernote is nice. I can send a tween to @MyEN and it will be logged as a note for me. Right now it will place the note in the designated default folder. A simple enhancement would be to designate the folder for the note in the twitter setup for the account settings. This would enable a folder dedicated for tweets.
  2. Sections within notebooks – Right now each notebook within Evernote provides a single grouping or folder for notes. It would be useful to have sections or sub-notebooks to further subdivide the information.
  3. Note templates – All notes are currently created on a white background. I’d like to see the ability to add some colored backgrounds and predetermined line work layout to enhance the look and feel. Essentially, it’s a theme option for each notebook.
  4. Tables – I’d like to be able to add tables inside a note to allow for enhanced lists or comparisons within a list. I often create a note to list things that have multiple attributes or to compare a few features. Tables make this type of data listing easier to show.
  5. Linux Version – As of today, I only use the web based site and tool and not a local client. I run Linux on my home machine and there is not a Linux client. There is some traffic about this list on the message forum. Linux please!

Knowledge Workers vs Process Workers

I’ve worked in various management structures during my professional career which has the benefit of seeing some of the ins-and-outs of each style. Management structure in this context is not necessarily the management style of your direct supervisor. It’s more directed at the enterprise level management culture that is setup by organizational and executive management designs. Most often, writers talk about centralized versus decentralized organizations.

Process of simple parts but as a whole is a complicated system
Process of simple parts, but as a whole is a complicated system. How do we best manage the system?

At the highest level they are referring to where decisions are made. Are they made at the corporate office with C-Level executives and pushed down to each organizational unit? Or are they made closer to the point of sale with general managers of each division?

Within the centralized/decentralized framework lies the question of  employee empowerment and decision making authority. Organizations decide how much authority they give mid level managers to make decisions for the day-to-day operations of their area. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ve worked in both types of organizations and I’ve come to observe a few things about each. Which style is better is subjective and most definitely influenced by the position of the person forming the opinion. My own opinions are formed from the vantage point of a front line worker and mid level manager.

Centralized Management and Process Workers

The centralized operating structure tends to create what I call “process workers”. Process workers are put in place to follow a set of rules, procedures and guidelines. They are expected to follow instructions from upper management which are aligned to the core business objectives of the organization. For most workers in this type of environment the work is just a job as they are not rewarded for thinking too much outside of their assigned area. Now don’t hear me saying that I think following process is a bad thing. Standardized process within an organization has its reasons and business value to produce consistent and repeatable results. What I am saying is that a centralized management style tends to create a culture of process followers which minimizes organizational risk.

Decentralized Management and Knowledge Workers

The decentralized operating structure tends to create “knowledge workers”. Employees are given authority to make decisions within their work unit as long it fits within the objectives and strategy of the corporation. Workers in this environment often become experts in their general area because they encouraged and rewarded to think creatively about process improvement and customer focus. It’s more common to find passionate employees who see their work as more than a job with this management structure. The job in this sense becomes an extension of the person, an identity.

The centralized approach has its challenges in that you must make sure the employees can handle the level of responsibility and that the mission of the organization is fulfilled. If the output of the group needs to be consistent, efficient, and methodical, then a centralized approach may be better suited at the ground level. The best approach may be a combination of the two methods which utilizes the advantages of each based on the particular functional group and its mission.

My personal work preference is for a decentralized organization because I think it has the ability to draw more out of its people. I find knowledge workers add more business value and deliver better results than simple process workers.  My feelings agree with the principals of Jim Collins as written in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
“The good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.”
What are your observations? Do you feel a mix of the two styles is appropriate in your environment? Does one style deliver better results than the other?

Photo Credit:

Defining an eCommerce Operation – Demand Management

UPDATE 10/27/10 – I posted a mind map of my eCommerce Operation on mindmeister that replaces the original map at the bottom of this post. This includes the latest updates to my organizational thoughts on an eCommerce team.

It’s been a few months since I wrote about the building blocks of an eCommerce operation. Previously I wrote about the areas of solution ownership, content management, and product management. In this post I’ll list some of the key elements from the demand management area. I have three more areas on my master eCommerce operation plan, so you this is post 4 of 7 on this topic.

As with any type of product or service there is a need within the marketing area to create awareness. This fits into the area of demand management. It’s composed of activities that promote and create awareness about your product or service in such a way that it creates “demand”. An eCommerce site, especially one that represents a brand that is not well known, will need a good deal of work in the demand management area.

Search

Search demand is broken into two areas: natural and paid. These two types of search management are the source of many books, reviews, and blogs and really there is an entire industry around Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the context of building an eCommerce operation what’s important to know is that at a minimum you should have a focus on natural search results. Natural search results are those shown in the center content area of search engine results. You don’t pay to be listed in these results, but how you structure your pages will determine your ranking in these results. Search is dominated by Google right now and with the growing popularity of mobile devices to augment the capabilities of computers, the Yellow Pages is quickly fading into a tool of the past. So if you’re not tuning your site for natural search results, you should sooner than later.

The paid search results are usually on the top or down the right side of the search results page. You’ll pay to be listed in these results based on keywords in the search query. This requires a bit of focused discipline in your eCommerce organization as well, because someone needs to manage the keywords you buy and monitor them for success or failure in attracting traffic.

eMail

eMail is a large component of the demand management strategy for eCommerce organizations today. You’ll want to have someone knowledgeable about all of the eMail regulations and guidelines such as opting-in/out, spam, and list management. Additionally, the copy or content in each email plays a role in how successful it is in achieving the desired action from the recipient.

Online Advertising

Another option for eCommerce demand management is online advertising. Techniques used in this space are sponsored banner ads and pop-ups that users see when they visit a site. Depending upon your audience and product, online advertising may be a good component to add to your overall advertising plan.

Print Media

eCommerce team members should not forget about traditional media. They can use print to create awareness through many vehicles such as newspaper, magazines, billboards, etc. In some cases you may want to print reorder directives on printed materials the customer receives.

Offers

Many eCommerce sites offer coupons or promotions to encourage sales. So your eCommerce team needs to organizationally matrix to those who create the promotions and offers as incentives. The offer that works in a brick and mortar storefront may not be the same one that works best for eCommerce. Test and then test again.

Social Media

eCommerce teams must now consider their involvement role in social media. Consumers have the ability to create online content today in the form of product/service reviews, status updates, blog postings, etc. The wrong approach is to ignore the conversation or pretend its not there. Instead, designate someone to be involved in the conversation. Use the opportunity to add value to your customers and prospects. Become and established voice in your industry.

Partnerships and Portals

The final area of demand management that I’ll discuss is through partnerships and portals. You may be in a situation where you can introduce your product to to new markets based on the established framework set by someone else. Two examples are the Amazon Associates program and integrations with Ariba. With Amazon Associates, you can merchandise product from another retailer and receive a commission based on it. This creates the possibility to expand your product offering because the partner site offers a broader scope of product. In the Ariba example, Ariba serves as a partner aggregator for spend management from subscribing companies. If you integrate with the aggregator in this type of arrangement then they can offer your products to their subscribers . This could open the doors for new buyers of product that already have established a relationship with the procurement enabler.

I added these elements of the eCommerce organization to my concept diagram. Select the diagram to expand it.

eCommerce Operation as discussed to-date, more areas pending
eCommerce Operation (areas 4 of 7)