One of the moments I dread on a press trip is when the PR rounds up an aggrievance of hacks (I believe that’s a collective noun) and makes us sit around a big circular table with their client in the middle. Then we’re asked to say ‘a little bit’ about ourselves and who we write for. (A little bit, mind.)
This exercise in self-promotion soon becomes more hideous than anything Simon Cowell could think up. The first hack, in a desperate bid to make an impression, will reel off an impressively large list of every publication he’s ever had a piece published in. Not to be outdone, the next hack up will invent as many newspapers, blogs, webzines and fan sites as he can possibly imagine. The competition gets more intense with each hack trying to do a better self-publicity campaign. Soon we’re on to people listing their documentary film making for TV stations, lecture tours and charity foundations. I know we’re all supposed to promote ourselves in life, but I find this Hax-Factor game buttock-clenchingly awful. I always say I write for anyone who’s stupid enough to pay me, which goes down like a lead balloon.
We all know people who talk a good game. Usually, their account of themselves bears no resemblance to events in the previous 90 minutes. But in work, these self-deluded buffoons frequently get away with it. Nowhere is that more true than in the IT industry, which always moves so fast nobody really knows what’s going on. Any environment that is constantly in flux provides the perfect conditions for psychopaths to flourish, according to research documenting how the traits of psychos (such as lying without guilt) help them to do well in many businesses.
Well hopefully no more. Because two next inventions have hit the market that will help people see exactly what is going on in their business, who is doing the work and who is swinging the lead.
The Performance Reality Matrix from C-View Technologies (CVT) sounds promising.
It uses cold, hard statistical data rather than subjective analyst assumptions. Far too much in business is based on assumption. As they say in the army “assumption is the mother of all cock-ups”. It’s the reason why there are so many fatal loose ends in outsourcing and cloud computing contracts.
CVT, the vendor says, gives you the naked truth on how a particular vendor will perform over time relative to the rest of the market, in any chosen product category.
Vendors agreeing to take part will have various members of staff complete psychometric tests specially designed by CVT to elicit the key data points on a chosen product category, which are then used to generate the firm’s position on a Boston matrix-style grid.
You can customise it, so that factors such as “completeness of proposition” and “roles and responsibilities” to “partner collaboration” and “partner segmentation” are quantified.
The result, they promise, is a clearer, more understandable picture of a vendor’s performance. Any reseller with a lot of clients can have a much more realistic idea about how their supplier is performing.
I like the sound of Autotask too. This invention tackles the problem that many of us face, whether we’re resellers, marketing agencies or even freelance writers. Which clients are the ones should we concentrate our efforts on?
It’s quite possible for firms to devote too much time to particular clients, in the deluded hope that it’s a profitable relationship. But often it’s not, because the client is a time wasting pain in the arse. But this isn’t immediately obvious in many instances, because much of the work that goes on is undocumented.
When a corporate lawyer, for example, spends 15 minutes shopping on Amazon, they have to find a way to bill that time to one of their lucky clients. Oh, stick it on that public sector client’s bill, the tax payer won’t notice!
But unlike the legal sector, many resellers and service providers don’t have such a granulated account of all their efforts. Which is a pity, because the multitude of jobs a service provider has to carry out is probably far more complex. They just put their heads down and do the work. So there’s no real evidence of which clients are getting the most attention. It’s often the case that they’re not the most profitable. It can be that the client and its account manager are old pals, so for sentimental reasons they are allowed to get away with it.
Autotask is a cloud service that, once installed on everyone’s laptop, iPad and mobile phone, forces them to log into a page dedicated to the client before they can do anything. So no hardware is rebooted, or marketing material dispatched, or changes to a web site are ordered, without the transaction being documented.
Aggregating all this information about how your most precious asset – your time – is being spent usually gives surprising results. Often, the emptiest vessels are the ones making the most noise.
Who would have thought it?
This was first published in May 2013