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Do Something Differently – Spend less for better results

JP Rangaswami offers typically sound advice for businesses looking at how to cope with hard times in his October 19th post Invented Here. He says when times are hard, a firm has four choices:

  • Stop Doing Something Completely
  • Continue to Do Something, Just Less of It
  • Start Doing Something New
  • Do Something Differently
JP notes that to stop doing something completely is hard for firms with values, relationships, habits, people and culture built around their specific products, services territories and markets. As a result “… instead of Stopping Doing Something, many firms go for the Continue to Do Something, Just Less of It option. Because Doing Less of Something is Easy. Targets are handed out, ‘haircuts’ are cascaded down, and Death by a Thousand Cuts becomes the norm.”
Doing Something New is also hard, particularly in big firms where starting something new means you first have to stop doing something old – and depend on good execution by very nervous defenders of the status quo. Machiavelli had some wise words on this.
That leaves Do Something Differently. It’s not too hard to consider incremental changes that both save money and promise to deliver better results (with a reasonable degree of certainty).
So – how about cutting direct travel costs and downtime for meetings while building stronger internal and customer facing relationships?
I like Cisco’s Save More Travel Less TV commercials featuring road warriors acting out air safety briefings with more panache than Southwest airline’s Halloween flight attendants.
But I don’t agree that the solution is to load up on multi-million dollar telepresence systems – particularly when you need to connect with customers, suppliers, consultants, lawyers and other stakeholders who aren’t supported by your IT budget (thank heaven for small blessings).
The incremental cost of adding one named account to a Traction TeamPage server is $120 or less for a perpetual license ($60 or less per year for a subscription). This is much less than the direct cost of one face to face meeting. But unlike a face to face meeting, a TeamPage account makes it possible to maintain closer, stronger relationships connecting external stakeholders and internal product development, marketing, engineering, executive and sales teams.
With Traction’s new Live Blog technology (a standard feature – no extra cost) you can even keep a secure Twitter like channel open to link selected customer, partner and internal groups over Traction TeamPage’s widely praised Enterprise 2.0 collaboration platform.
I don’t think Enterprise 2.0 technology connecting internal or external groups will ever replace face-to-face meetings for valuable long term relationships. Events like Traction User Group meetings (TUG 2008 October photo below) connect customers and employees in a way that social software – or a telepresence system – will never replace.
But when you add the continuing day-to-day connections and shared awareness that Enterprise 2.0 technology makes possible to relationships established in person or remotely, you cut the frequency of face to face meetings and travel time while doing a better job at developing and maintaining valuable relationships.
Professor Andrew McAfee takes the position that that Enterprise 2.0 can become a strategic differentiator, since the skills and capabilities the people in an organization are rare, valuable and difficult for competitors to imitate. The internal and external relationships that your organization has or develops can be equally rare, valuable and difficult for competitors to imitate. Now is a very good time to find ways to spend less for better results – and I believe that’s a very conservative statement of the value of Enterprise 2.0 practices.
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