Bizeo drives quality

One of the most important lessons I learnt over 20 years ago as a young businessperson was to focus on quality. My personal talent at the time was the ability to build large scale applications on the PC platform, something that was almost unheard of in the late 80s and early 90s. One of the key reasons for this was that the PC industry lacked the understanding of quality management that the minicomputer and mainframe markets at the time well understood.

I learnt that there were three key steps to producing a quality business that produces quality products and delivers quality service:

  1. Have quality control processes and procedures
  2. Design quality into your products and processes
  3. Develop a quality culture amongst your staff

These three points remain an integral part of my philosophy both in business and my personal life and of course they are at the heart of Bizeo. Not only are they used in developing Bizeo, they are the reason for Bizeo’s existence in the first place.

Bizeo provides a framework with which you can:

  1. Monitor and control all aspects of your business operations
  2. Place performance and failure monitoring at the centre of all business activities
  3. Provide a simple framework around which you can create a culture of focusing on quality amongst your staff.

It has amazed me as I watch how our little green dot can been used to change not just the operational aspects of a business but the culture within that business. Suddenly staff become focused on the metrics, and better manage faults and challenges. I personally have received a great amount of satisfaction of watching my quality philosophies extend beyond my own business into those of our Bizeo customers, and I hope you see it in your business as well.

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The Power of Simplicity

I have always been a fan of elegant designs. A beautifully crafted item can not only be more aesthetically pleasing, it often ends up being more functional as well. Perhaps the most powerful effect of elegant simplicity is that it makes an item accessible to a larger audience, often for the first time.

What do I mean by this?

Computers became accessible to many people in the mid-seventies but they used command driven textual interfaces. Your average user had no chance of deciphering the complex sets of commands necessary to make a computer usable. The advent of graphical user interfaces not only made these machines more functional, it made them accessible to a far greater audience.

The iPod is another great example. Granted it wasn’t the first or arguably the most functional portable digital music player available but prior to the iPod, users had to download music files on to their computer and copy those files manually to their music player. By combining the iPod with iTunes, Apple eliminated these steps and made the process simple, thereby tapping a far greater audience and making portable digital music accessible to most for the first time.

This principle is the same one that drives Bizeo’s design. We believe that there is value in not only providing business owners with the data and metrics they want but it must be done in a beautifully simple way.

Yes, some business owners will tell you proudly of the days when they had their first Apple II or were first amongst their friends to have an mp3 player but the majority of business owners aren’t as focused on technology. They just want simple, powerful tools that will help them make better decisions when running their business.

That is what Bizeo does.

Open Data

Last time I talked about Crowd sourced data, which is data produced by members of the community. While crowdsourcing is fantastic for some types of data collection, the reality is that most data sets are going to be developed by corporations, NGOs and government departments.

Of course the purpose of much of this data development is to provide a competitive edge, but there are exceptions. Many data sets developed are required for a particular purpose but are not core to a business’s operations.  These data sets may not be seen to offer any sort of additional advantage to the business but they might be of equal or even greater benefit to others.

Open data sets such as weather measurements and forecasts we are all familiar with.  They have profound impacts on our community and are easily accessible because they have been made to be so.  But what if you were sitting on a data set you had no particular need to keep private, and you felt others might also find it useful?  How do you publish that data quickly, easily and cheaply?

Open data sets offer great opportunities but there is often a barrier with getting open data out to the community in real time and in a usable format.

This is something the Bizeo team have been tackling for some time now.

There are already examples of this work like our Qld Government package which provides oceanographic and air quality data available to Bizeo users right now. Over the next few months, the Bizeo Open Data Initiative will be expanded.  We will be allowing any Bizeo user to make any data set they have in their own Bizeo account available to the community of Bizeo users.

With this initiative Bizeo wants to help organisations who are sitting on data sets get that data out into the community.  So whether you are a NGO wanting to keep supporters up to date with some vital statistics, a corporation wanting to make public their environmental performance data, or a council wanting to get tidal information out, our open data initiative will make it easier than ever.

To find out more contact the team at Bizeo and keep an eye on this blog.

Crowdsourcing Data

The internet has changed so many facets of our lives.  Its ability to connect people, machines and devices virtually anywhere in the world together at relatively low costs have made real things that were only science fiction when I started by first business 26 years ago. In fact, much of what I can provide to my customers now would have not been possible even just a few years ago.

Even 20 years into the internet revolution, new and amazing ways are being found to utilize the internet. One of the latest is crowd sourcing.

The term “crowd sourcing” effectively means using members of the community to achieve what would be difficult, too expensive or even impossible to do using traditional means.

Crowd sourcing has become a popular way to fund new projects for example.  Over the last few years websites like Kickstarter have sprung up that are allowing entrepreneurs to go public with little more than an idea.  If they like it, individuals can pledge funds towards the idea and if the target is reached the entrepreneur gets the money they need to get started.

Crowd sourcing of data is a little different.  It involves members of the public producing data points on a particular metric which are then accumulated to produce a picture from thousands of locations which would have been too expensive to have been accumulated in any other way.

There are some great examples of crowd sourced data projects around the world. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are working on their own data incentives.

In the UK the Natural History Museum runs a number of crowd sourced data projects doing wildlife surveys. Sometimes these are with regards to specific species in specific localities and in other cases they are covering virtually every living organism across as much of the country as possible.

A project called the Air Quality Egg has been developed. This product is an inexpensive sensor that measures air quality, gas levels and environmental data. The idea is that if hundreds of citizens across a city purchase these eggs and connect them to a common platform the combined data will provide new insights into the quality of air we breath, and the factors that influence it. The data this platform produces can be analysed to determine such things as how the structure of the city is influencing micro-weather patterns and pollution levels; to give early warning to people with respiratory issues and more.

This approach provides more data points than is possible by normal measurement techniques, it is highly scalable and is able to be deployed globally at very low cost.

Google is using crowd sourcing to update its map data for Google maps and add real time traffic level, and in Finland they use crowd sourced data to determine which roads are iced over.

Closer to home projects exists similar to those above. One great example using both crowd sourcing of data and crowd source funding that has been in the news just recently is the Coal Dust Action Group in Newcastle that are studying the effects of particulates emitted by coal trains through their city.

In this case a crowd sourced funding project was used to purchase measurement equipment and professional advice in order to collect the data.  It’s a great example of these approaches being applied under what has been termed “Community Science Projects”.

Of course these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  Crowd sourced data projects elsewhere are being used to collect the cultural language and artistic history of declining cultures; measuring the impact of major development projects on the community and the environment and even to work out what the best surfing spots are.  The possibilities are endless.

But what about crowdsourcing of business data! There now exists the possibility of gathering statistics on business confidence, average debtors ages, commercial activity, overdraft interest rates, staff levels, churn rates and more.

If you know of other great crowd sourced projects or have ideas crowdsourcing data that you’d like to see, let us know on our Facebook page.

Pitching from a mobile platform

Pitching to a group

Several of our customers and Bizeo partners have asked us about the best way to present Bizeo. Our customers want to use Bizeo to pitch data to a board, while our Bizeo partners want to pitch Bizeo data to their customers or potential customers.

One of the great things about Bizeo is that it works well on virtually any platform or device—old desktop PC, the latest Windows 8 PCs, an iPhone or iPad, or an Android phone or tablet (and even a Linux workstation, Windows 8 mobile or new BlackBerry).

However, if you’re using Bizeo to present to a group, there are a few small things you can do to make it easier.

Apart from plugging a projector into a laptop, which is the most obvious thing to do, you have a few great options for using mobile phones or tablets to present on large screens. How you do it will depend mainly on the type of platform you’re using.

Using an Apple device

If you’re using an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad, you can either:

  • purchase a HDMI out adapter and plug into a large screen or projector that way
  • spend $129 on an Apple TV device to wirelessly connect your Apple device to a large screen. This is possibly the best option, as it looks and works fantastically sitting at your desk with your iPad displaying wirelessly on a large screen.

Here’s a short video showing you how to do that:

http://cnettv.cnet.com/connect-iphone-ipad-ipod-touch-your-tv/9742-1_53-50151019.html

Using an Android-based device

If you have an Android-based mobile phone or tablet, there are ways you can do much the same thing. First, you can get HDMI or Micro HDMI adapters for most Android devices and some have HDMI outlets built right in to them.

You don’t need to be too envious of your Apple-fan brethren either. Many Android devices, such as my Samsung Galaxy S3, support a feature called AllShare Casting. Like the Apple devices, you need to purchase an external system that supports it. In my case, I purchased a Samsung Blu-ray player that incorporates ScreenCast support for just over $100. Many new TVs have this facility built in and the process is similar to that required for Apple devices.

Bizeo works amazingly well on the small screens of mobile platforms. No other system makes it easier to track exactly what’s going on in your business, and even retrieve and view graphs of KPI data on a small screen. But sometimes you need to share and that’s where a big screen comes in handy.

Do you have other Bizeo tips and tricks that you can share with the community? Let me know at mike@bizeo.com.au

At the movies

This week something a little different—a movie review. The movie is the 2011 drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt.

This movie is based on a true story. It’s the story of Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, a small major league baseball team with the third-lowest budget in the league.

Billy was tasked with winning the World Series against teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, which had many times this team’s budget.

Billy was smart enough to realise that competing against these vastly better-resourced teams on their own terms was never going to work. He needed a game changer. Literally.

When he met Peter Brand, an outspoken economist who believed that baseball could be played with a scientific methodology rather than the traditional ‘experience and gut feeling’ methodology, he took a chance—and won.

Here’s a short clip from early in the movie where these two men have just met:

http://youtu.be/qd1aZb4ORmw

And here’s another towards the end of the movie:

http://youtu.be/L-ZHLfhU4vA

Ok, so why am I doing a movie review on a business blog?

I love this movie because it highlights the shortcomings of an approach that many business owners are still using to run their businesses. And, as Peter Brand puts it, these business owners are ‘asking the wrong questions’.

Never before has the business world undergone so much change in such a short period of time. We’re now seeing entire industries being routed or transformed, and others emerging in the blink of an eye.

The game has changed. While experience is still important, knowledge and understanding of the past is not always the best preparation for the future.

If you own or run a business, go and watch Moneyball and then reflect on how you play your chosen game.

Strategy without metrics is no strategy at all

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that using KPIs to drive real improvements in business outcomes is a passion of mine. Metrics have always been important to me.

However, in the last few years in particular, I’ve been investigating how various organisations use KPIs (and when they don’t). I’ve also studied the behaviours and cultures around KPI usage, and strategies for their implementation. And I’ve seen some ineffective strategies around.

Looking at the entire sales chain

Quite often, I’ve seen businesses use metrics to measure targets, such as profitability, stock return rates and staff retention, without considering the metrics that might drive those outcomes.

To me, this shows a lack of understanding about how to develop effective business strategies—strategies that have structure and forethought likely to produce the intended income as opposed to just a measure of the result.

For example, the process of measuring sales outcomes is quite well defined. Yes, everybody looks at sales revenue and net profit. However, we analyse the entire sales chain.

Savvy managers also look at metrics such as the number of leads generated, conversion rates, time to close etc. By using this well-defined business process, professionals have learned to measure the metrics that drive the outcome, not just the outcome itself.

Unfortunately, I don’t always see this type of methodology used elsewhere.

How metrics drive your stock returns

Let’s look at another example—stock returns. Anyone who sells merchandise knows there’s a high cost associated with returned stock. In some industries, a single returned item might cost the organisation the equivalent margin of 10 or more sales!

So let’s think about the types of metrics that might drive a particular stock return level.

Perhaps:

  • the wrong products are being shipped
  • the addresses are incorrect
  • the products have a higher-than-expected failure rate
  • the products aren’t meeting the customer’s expectations.

Depending on the product, dozens of factors could be driving a high or low return rate. Yet many organisations don’t monitor these metrics effectively enough to determine the core causes or, just as importantly, help them drive change.

Another example is staff retention rates. However, I’ve saved this one for next week’s article, so keep an eye out for it.

What’s your strategy?

If you want to improve your organisation’s performance, you need to start developing a strategy to improve it and, of course, measure it. Because any strategy without metrics is usually ineffective.

Just a few things for you to think about…

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