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Best way to keep your job

Business Strategy, Uncategorized

The best way to keep your job is not to hog onto the knowledge you have, but the other way around, i.e., sharing that information/ knowledge with others. People may think that the best way to survive layoffs or grow within an organization is to guard the knowledge they have  or to mystify the processes they perform on a day-to-day basis. This approach may be successful in large, bureaucratic organizations, but it has no place in a competitive, growing company. The reality is that management looks at individuals who keep information to themselves, and not share and provide visibility to others, as impediments to growth. In most cases, these people either get removed or have their roles curtailed.

The recipee to success is to be open about one’s knowledge and be willing to provide full visibility to others. It may seem that by adopting that approach, one could make themselves prime target for downsizing, but to the contrary. Individuals who are able to document and stream-line their daily activities are more likely to be successful. Management views them as elements of success and will shift greater responsibility towards these individuals. Getting the job done is most important, but allowing others to understand how it is done is priceless. It doesn’t rob one off earning the due credit; it only helps them climb up corporate ladders even faster.   

April 20, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

When rules start becoming handcuffs…

Business Strategy, Software Strategy, Uncategorized

Rules are meant to be handrails, not handcuffs. I have always found great wisdom from this saying which I first heard as a freshman in college from a colleague, who attributed it to his father, an honorable army man. 

I am a very strong proponent of having process and rules, as long as these do not begin to hinder progress. Time and again, I have come across many situations in corporations I have worked directly or indirectly for where process is to be blamed for their inability to execute. Typically it is IT department versus the business playing a tennis match in slow motion without making any headway. Of course, business thinks everything is highest priority and that somehow the IT department can conjure up resources to deliver on 120 requirements at an electrifying pace. The IT person pretty much is inundated with requests and is already over-worked. Their best course of defence is to make sure that only the ”plastic” balls are being dropped, while the “glass” ones continue to be juggled. This means that the IT person wants the business to follow the process and formally submit their requirements and wish lists that can be then prioritized with respect to other projects in the pipeline. There lies the trap. Processes can be stifling especially if one is trying to grow a mile a second. 

Any process that is not flexible is bound to fail, and therefore not a good process. Bad processes are not due to only one department’s fault.  It is often a result of setting incorrect priorities by management, shortage of resources or simply b/cthe organization is growing too fast. 

Each situation is unique, but generally the problem lies with trying to put a general work flow to all activities. Any company will have steady state and non-steady state activities, and obviously in a start up, the non-steady state activities should exceed as the organization takes off. Agile development, project and product management is required. It may be implemented through a parallel or auxiliary team. Incentives to foster prompt delivery are also good idea.


March 30, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

creativity through process

Software Strategy, Uncategorized, Web Development, Web Strategy

It almost seems an oxymoron to talk about creativity and process at the same time, as one typically negates the other. However, the truth is that often creativity is an iterative process.  How often have we seen writers tear up mulitple pages, before they really settle on writing, or how often does the artist start anew until they find that perfect start.  Some gifted creative professionals can go through the iterative proces in their heads without needing to ink or materialize their vision.

In the world of GUI and design, the ideal design is achieved through numerous renditions/ iterations which take time. It is unrealistic to expect a highly creative/ perfect GUI in a short period of time, specially if the vision keeps changing or is not clear. Factor in strong branding guidelines and the personal likes/ dislikes of the customer, coupled with the designer’s own creative take- this whole creative process could be very frustrating.

The best approach is to allow sufficient time for the design process, have lots of patience, and not make judgements about anything until the final product is delivered. In cases where there is very little flexibility with time, one has to compromise on quality.

March 15, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

Keep the ball moving…

Business Strategy, Entreprenuership

It is not uncommon for companies to lose momentum and even become paralysed for fear of making the wrong turn, or not having analyzed something completely. While it is important to be thorough in one’s assessment of opportunities, it is extremely important to continue to make progress and execute on the not-so-perfect plan.  “Moving the ball” not only helps garner momentum, it also allows for better and at times faster decision making, eventually aligning all parties involved towards the goal. Time is an important dimension, and it is easy to lose sight of it in our zeal to make the perfect plan or create the most comprehensive system.

This is so true in sports as well. Any coach will recommend to keep moving the ball around as that creates opportunities besides keeping everyone on the team on its toes and not flat-footed.

As an entreprenuer, one faces tremendous challenges daily; challenges that can cripple momentum. However, the most important thing is not to lose sight of the goal and continue to march towards that goal.

“We just have to keep the ball moving”, as one of my favorite customer always says…

March 13, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

and then the Donkey got smarter…

Business Strategy, Entreprenuership, Uncategorized

donkey evades the carrot 

If you’re a service provider/ seller, how often have you heard from your clients/ prospects about future bigger projects/ deals/ business that they would like to bring to you. But only if you do an unbelievable job on the current project at an extremely competitive price point. Or how often have you received a call from a buddy of yours who never seem to return your phone call, but calls now to offer you an amazing opportunity that is coming down the pike, but of course, only after you do a favor for them. Well, I too have been naive enough to chase these “perpetual” carrots. Even Donkeys catch on after a while, and so have I.

Here’s some advice- anyone who wants to help you, should help you unconditionally.  Once you receive the favor, you definitely should return it, but it should be something unsaid and not demanded by the person doing you the favor.  Do not bend over backwards for clients that promise you the sky afterwards.  It is always good to go the extra mile for your customers, but do not fool yourself into thinking that the customer would really bring you more business once they are done with the current one. That being said, every situation is unique. There may be cases where do you want to act the donkey, if the customer is a name brand customer that will help you improve your portfolio of clients, etc.

This is specially true in the world of BPO/outsourcing/ offshoring.  The whole idea of the Gain-Share or better put, Carrot and Stick model where the vendor gets a reward for meeting/ beating targets and penalized for missing them is the perfect example. Setting aspirational targets, that are not based on any median/mean/ historical calculations, is a recipee for disaster. The vendor will give up trying becoming disillusioned if it feels that the targets are unachievable.

This also applies in the case of direct employees.  If one does not incent employees appropriately, the good employees will move on. 

My advice to people dangling the carrots is to keep it real.  It serves no purpose when one makes false promises.  People are smart enough..

My advice to us donkeys :) is to not be a dumb ”donkey”; take some time to check if the carrot is for real or just a mirage…

March 11, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

Do customers really provide opportunities for their outsource partners to advise/recommend?

Business Strategy, Outsourcing

question on linked: We find that a large number of customers in the outsourcing industry have mentioned many a time that their offshore/outsource partners just do the task and expect to be spoon-fed. True that these companies can be more proactive in terms of understanding business domain, developing business & tech. requirements and coming up with new ideas. But, are customers really open to such ideas and suggestions? What has been your experience?

my answer: Your observations are true to some extent. The blame lies on both sides. Many clients treat their outsource partners as vendors and typically squeeze them so there is very little margin left for them. That’s when the vendor starts cutting corners (understandably), let alone go above and beyond the required task. Similarly, most outsource service providers do not understand the importance of providing positive/constructive feedback, and philosophically do not understand the importance of “continued performance optimization/improvements”. They do not know how to show value to the client, either because they do not know how to, or are afraid that their best practices/feedback may be picked up other competing vendors that the client may share best practices/feedback with.

Good outsource service providers differentiate themselves by showing the value add they provide not just through analytical reporting, but also through direct feedback from the front line agents/employees handling the customers of the client. They typically factor this in the overall cost as a separate line item and show the ROI back to the client in terms of improved service levels.

Customers need to be more open and proactive about soliciting feedback from clients and need to create an incentive structure for their outsource service providers to continue to provide feedback as part fo the continues performance management process.

Follow-up from the person asking the question: I really liked your response.  I agree with all your points.  Another point I would like to discuss with you about is  – High expectations of customers in the early stages of the relationship, resulting in disillusionment.  What are your comments here?  Have you faced such situation?  How did you overcome it?

my response: Thank you for your appreciation.  Yes, most clients think that they vendor/partner will hit the ground running and that the performance will be better or equal to their steady state centers.  Again, the vendor/partner has to be a better job of setting realistic expectation during ramp. It is equally important to lay out the responsibilities of the client back to them.  For example, without proper training/guidance, it is not possible to get off the ground smoothly. The client has to understand that there will be significant investments requirement both in project management and training. And hopefully, the client has agreed to pay for start-up training. 

If the vendor is in a tight situation, and the client is price sensitive, then it may be worthwhile to lower your cost for the first 90 days.  Ideally, the client should be paying/investing more on the first 90 days.  The lowering of cost allows the client to tolerate lower performance during the first 90 days.

Another strategy that works is to agree to a base price and then a pay-for-performance bonus structure that kicks in for performance improvements.

If this is not a new program, you should be asking for past ramp performance of their internal/ other outsourced centers to compare your ramp with theirs.*4OFO%2Eabq_1_1204761102052_n_o_INT*4OFO

March 5, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab


Business Strategy, Search Engine Marketing, Web Development

SEO is Search Engine Optimization and SEM is Search Engine Marketing, often referred to as pay per click/ sponsored search advertising.  SEO is a process that enables websites to “come up” on the first few pages of search engines, such as Yahoo, MSN and Google, when a person searches for certain key phrases. SEM is the process by which a company/user may choose to pay a certain amount to have their site listed in a specific area of the search results.  SEO typically take more time, and one see results form 2 months to 12 months.  To find out more how SEO is accomplished, please visit

SEM is also an effective strategy, and can have a good ROI if one has a clean, nice looking website that will convert visitors into leads. No amount SEM can help a website that is unprofessionally developed as the visit/click generated by SEM will result in the visitor bouncing off and not taking the company seriously. 

In most cases, it is often a good idea for companies to invest in both SEM and SEO.  SEM generates excellent traffic immediately. That traffic could be leveraged to accomplish SEO as traffic plays a key role in optmizing the site. 

March 1, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

Build vs Buy

Business Intelligence, Business Strategy, Software Strategy


Needless to say that this is a classic debate when it comes to software. The pros and cons for each approach are obvious and well known, with the “Buy” strategy being the more expensive, yet quicker option, and the “Build” option being the more personalized and oft less expensive option. However, the real verdict depends on the requirements and business objective. It is not a good idea to purchase an off-the-shelf product when the functionality required is not as sophisticated, and less than 50% of the features provided by the product. Customizing pre-built applications could be a nuisance at times, and at times more cumbersome than custom building.  Often times, companies will purchase monolithic, comprehensive business intelligence applications to fullfil their departmental analytical needs only to find the implementation taking much longer than anticipated. There is of course then the recurring software licenses and maintenance costs. If the need is contained and specific, a custom solution is the best choice. There are many third party tools/ widgets available which makes rapid application development possible.

March 1, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab

No excuses for an unprofessional web presence anymore

Business Strategy, Uncategorized, Web Strategy

The web is the most economical channel that a business can have to market and/or sell their services/products. Not only is it available 24/7, it is also accessible by anyone from any place as long as they have internet access. Businesses who do not have a professional web presence are not only missing out on an opportunity to leverage this efficient sales and marketing channel, they are also arguably doing “disservice” to their own company. The Economist in an article a couple of years back stated that a less than professional website is worse than not having a website at all. There is no tolerance for a site that is difficult to load, or is not pleasing to the eyes. In some ways, it reflects the business’ attitude towards quality and service. Read on…

February 20, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab



If you’re an entrepreneur, there is a high probability that you will suffer early setbacks and may fail in your initial sales call, investor presentation, or employee recruitment. In fact, a break through may not come for some time, sapping your already spent energy. The easy thing to do is to hang the towel and call it a day. But if you have taken the plunge to be an entrepreneur, the right thing to do is get back on your feet, learn from your errors, and try again. Success may only be a few yards away. It is a commonly known fact that on average it takes approximately 13 interactions before the interaction turns into a transaction. Most salesman quit at interaction number 7, not understanding that most probably the reason why the prospect has not returned their phone call or email is because they are busy at work, and not because they want to play “hard to get”. Building a business from scratch is not easy, as it involves creating value out of nothing, which is surely a back breaking process. It is important to be consistent and not diverge from the path. Remember, you fail only when you quit!

February 20, 2008   |     Comments(0)   |   Posted by: Imran Aftab
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