Previous month:
July 2011
Next month:
September 2011

Ethics – Who Really Cares?

A couple of months ago, I blogged about the questionable tactics that Halogen Software used to elicit proprietary information from their nemesis—SuccessFactors.  With a court date scheduled and inflated rhetoric from both camps, an agreement surfaced, based an admission of deceit by Halogen, and it imposed penalties on the perpetrator of this fraud.  When it was all said and done, did anyone really care?

 

SuccessFactors obviously did care.  In the name of protecting their intellectual property, they extracted a one-time financial payment from Halogen, but will it cover the deals they lost to Halogen based on this confidential information.  Also, Halogen was forced to destroy the data they covertly obtained, but how can you erase those critical nuggets of information from the brains of those sales and marketing folks at Halogen?  Finally, Halogen will also need to provide all employees with ethics training.  SuccessFactors will probably crow about that with an air of superiority, but it will really matter in the long run?

 

More importantly, however, what does the market think?  Personally, I thought suppliers, customers and prospects would think twice about doing business with Halogen.  But, business seems to moving forward unabated.  A recent LinkedIn group discussion asked about HR software, and specifically Halogen and SuccessFactors.  Many weighed in with their opinions, but none mentioned the Halogen faux pas.  Furthermore, an IDC analyst in an online article claimed that this escapade is outweighed by the outstanding support that Halogen provides its customers.  It’s great they support the use of their product, but I think one has to realize that Halogen has shown their true colors through their actions.  Will you feel the same way when they overbill you, promise features they can’t or won’t deliver, or if they provide their customer list to partner organizations for their marketing efforts? 

 

Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)


Target.com dumps Amazon, loses customer orders thanks to SapientNitro

I unfortunately bought something from Target.com earlier this week.  They switched over from Amazon to their own website.   I had a problem with the order, even have the packing slip (which I showed them), and no one at the store or in customer service can find the order number or my order.

Now that's customer service.  SapientNitro did a bang up job on this project.

Press Release Here.


"Best Practices" is your starting point not your policy

Tom Peter's has a great video on best practices.  I know managers who find the best practice, make it a policy, done.  And they wonder why they are constantly behind.  The trick here is to take the best practice and improve upon it. Best practices are your baseline.

This is so true in health care.  Would you like a physician who uses 30 year old best practices?  Didn't think so.


Age Discrimination – What Was I Thinking?

Despite being in my 50’s now, I’ve refused, to this point, to surrender to the belief that I am getting old, despite my physical characteristics telling a different story.  Even a college classmate tried to enlighten me to the fact that our age was now working against us.  While discussing our next career moves, we lamented our lack of success to secure new positions, without even earning an interview.  As the eternal optimist, there had to be other reasons, I thought, why we weren’t getting ‘the call’—better candidates being my top choice.  Although I didn’t agree with him, a small seed was planted.

 

It was during a candid conversation with a recruiter that some of the market realities made an impression on me.  The recruiter indicated that firms, especially those in high tech, slanted their job searches towards younger candidates.  He went further to say that there is now a language used as part of job descriptions which surreptitiously lean towards a young candidate, as an example, job descriptions requiring a ‘high energy individual’.  In fact, one job posting I saw recently was titled “Red Bull Attitude Required!!”  This is simply anecdotal evidence which doesn’t pass legal rigor, however.

 

Trying to understand this bias made me think:  is enthusiasm and energy restricted to the young?  Can old dogs not learn new tricks?  Or, are firms looking for someone that will stay with them for twenty-five years and retire collecting their gold watch?   However, sometimes we find even young people lacking the get-up-and-go necessary for a position, or they may not possess the foundational skills and experience to learn the new trick.  Similarly, the probability of spending your entire career with one firm is almost laughable these days.  If there is discrimination based on age, it is not well founded.

 Head in sand

In spite of all the arguments I can make, affirming the value of an experienced worker, I need to dig my head out of the sand and face the new reality—firms prefer a younger workforce!  Rather than fighting the prevailing winds, experienced people, such as me, have to find a way to make ourselves more relevant in an ever-changing world, don’t you think?

 

Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)


PATENT WARS CONTINUE – GOOGLE ACQUIRES MOTOROLA

Today’s announcement by Google to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion should surprise no one.  Although the messaging in the press release focused on bolstering and further developing the Android ecosystem, let’s call this what it really is:  Google strengthening their defensive position through the acquisition of almost 21,000 patents (including those 7,000 that are presently pending).

 

The technology landscape is filled with patent infringement initiatives from almost all of the major players—Apple, HTC, Samsung, Oracle, Nokia and many others.  Despite claims of vigorously defending their intellectual property, the main thrust of these is much more competitive in nature, specifically to slow down the growth and adoption of a competitor’s solution.  In the Google case, Android is squarely in the bulls-eye.

 

The acquisition of the Motorola patent portfolio provides Google with some heavy artillery to combat competitive claims.  Without a trove of patents to leverage, Google has not been in a position to nullify competitive threats by claiming patent infringement against the originating complainant, and ultimately settling on a cross-licensing arrangement.  The Motorola Mobility acquisition changes all of that.

 

Patents have transformed into formidable competitive weapons, with their value growing exponentially, as clearly evidenced by the $4.5 billion purchase of the Nortel patent suite.  With firms continuing to investigate ways to not only better defend their market positions, but to also launch strategic attacks on competitors, a number of firms who have valuable patent portfolios will come into play.  InterDigital, whose stock has significantly appreciated over the past few months, and Kodak are prime targets, as well as smaller firms such as Wi-LAN and Mosaid.

 

It will now be interesting to see which firm makes the next move in this war.

 

Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)


PATENTS – A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

The European Union’s (EU) recent announcement supporting Apple in its patent dispute with Samsung certainly shocked many.  The heart of the issue focuses on a patent award for the design of the iPad.   To many, me included, this seems absolutely ridiculous, and is tantamount to awarding a patent to someone who manufactures four-legged chairs.  Despite any resemblance the Samsung Galaxy may have to Apple’s iPad, the technology that both are built on is substantially different, as well as their corporate branding.  The favourable decision for Apple is a broadside hit to Samsung as it will certainly cripple European sales for the Galaxy. 

 

Originally patents acted as a barrier to competitive entry, making those who contemplated the cloning or mimicking of a product, think twice.  There was a certain respect that patents evoked.  But as competition has intensified over the years, many firms now leverage their intellectual properties to not only fend off competitors, but to aggressively target them.  The patents, on their own, no longer garner the respect of other firms, so companies resort to legal action to protect their intellectual property, but to also impede competitors, if not stop them outright.

 

The critical issue in this war is that no one firm has cornered the market for patents, putting them in a secure position to market their products without the fear of having a patent claim obstruct their sales and marketing efforts.  Many firms, Apple and RIM included, have experienced this and have agreed to licensing deals, Apple’s most recent with Nokia.  The key point is:  be careful where you throw a legal spear, one that protects your interests, as that target may be the owner of a patent that could undermine your ability to market a key product.

 

Apple’s ability to have the marketing of the Galaxy blocked in the EU certainly protects their interests, but it also signals that the gloves are off.  Other competitors, if given the chance, may not be willing to settle on a licensing arrangement with Apple.  Instead they may feel more comfortable continuing to hold their foot on Apple’s throat, choking the life out of them.  As the adage states, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.  Apple, beware!

 

Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)


The Tale of the Coffee Shop

A friend of mine has a coffee shop for many years.  Business had been good and she was making a good income from it.  But having other interests a few years ago she hired Frank to run the shop. 

Aa
A year into running the shop Frank noticed his coffee prices kept climbing.  But since the suppliers has consolidated he only had two to choose from and since the pricier supplier had a good image (but not as good coffee) he picked the expensive blends.  But since more money was coming in than going out, Frank didn't worry too much about it.

Frank decided to get more customers, so he cut his prices by 20%.  But to no avail.  The same customers kept coming, but now he was just making money.   A new rail station opened up the road with a lot of new businesses popping up but Frank did not want to take a loan to set up a stand there.  Then the customers dropped off at the store.  Now Frank was losing money.

So Frank decided to cut the hours the store was open and fire employees.  Meanwhile coffee prices continued to climb, and sales started to drop and the store was losing a lot of money.   Frank's solution?   Cut the store hours again and fire more employees.

Is Frank doing the right thing to get back to profitability?  What would you do?