• Practice Management

    by Published on 29th July 2013 09:00 AM
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    Five Obstacles to Intercultural Communication and Understanding:

    1. LANGUAGE – Vocabulary, syntax, idioms, slang and dialects all cause difficulty, but the person struggling with a different language is at least aware when he/she is in difficulty.* A more pronounced problem occurs when he/she thinks he/she understands.* The person clings to the meaning of a word or phrase in the new language, regardless of connotation or context.* The infinite variations are so impossible to cope with that they are brushed aside.
    2. NON-VERBAL – Every culture has a special “hum and buzz of implication.”* People from different cultures inhabit non-verbal sensory world.* An individual abstract what is seen, heard, felt or learned into the personal world of recognition and then interprets it through the frame of reference in terms of his or her own culture.* Some non-verbal signs and symbols such as gestures, postures and vocalizations can be learned once they are perceived in much the same way as a verbal language is acquired.* Other signs and symbols, such as time and spatial relations, or forms of respect, status and formality, however, are more difficult to grasp because they are further way from awareness.
    3. PRECONCEPTIONS AND STEREOTYPES – In most general terms, the function of culture is to lay out a predictable world in which an individual is firmly grounded and oriented.* Stereotypes are over-generalizations which help make sense of what goes on around us, but they often interfere with objectivity because they rely on selective perceptions and portions of information which correspond with already-existing beliefs. In this way, they concretize reality – often incorrectly – and rationalize cultural prejudice.
    4. TENDENCY TO EVALUATE – Each individual’s culture appears correct, proper and natural, so each individual tends to endorse or reject the statements or actions of others, rather than try to properly understand the thoughts and feelings expressed.* Communication is stymied by this kind of evaluation, but it is exacerbated by the presence of feelings and emotions as well.
    5. HIGH ANXIETY – Unlike the previous obstacles, anxiety is not distinct but underlies and compounds the others.* The presence of high anxiety or stress is common in cross-cultural experiences because of the uncertainties involved.* The native of one country may be uncomfortable when speaking with a person from another (foreign) country because he or she cannot maintain the normal flow of conversation and non-verbal interaction to sustain communication.* The other person may experience a similar discomfort, with the added tension of having to cope with the alien pace, climate and culture he or she in ensconced within.

    by Published on 29th July 2013 08:59 AM
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    Intercultural Negotiation
    As the world becomes increasingly connected, people both at home and in travels abroad, must consider the important issue of intercultural negotiation.* This post is a primer for use by readers in learning about this issue.

    The Intercultural Dimension:

    All cultures have their own preferred styles and strategies for dealing with and managing conflict.* Yet it is quite difficult to be culture-specific when discussion how to deal effectively with cross-cultural conflicts.* Nevertheless, there are some general skills involved in cross-cultural negotiation and conflict management that can be highlighted.
    A basic requirement for effective conflict management and negotiation is to know as much as possible about the other culture(s).* Although experiential knowledge is preferable, research of the culture, norms, values, history, society etc. can be very helpful.*The most significant feature of good cross-cultural relations, as most cross-cultural sources will indicate, involves avoiding stereotypes.* Although certain generalizations may be fairly assessed in regard to how certain cultures deal with conflict, individual differences should always be considered as paramount.* In fact, some cultural specialists suggest that all conflicts are intercultural to an extent, since each individual person has their own personal history and experience, their own set of beliefs, values and assumptions, and ultimately, their own set of “survival skills.”

    The Successful Intercultural Negotiator:
    Successful intercultural negotiators are always cognizant of the fact that people do, indeed, feel, think and behave differently, while at the same time, they are equally logical and rational.* Stated differently, competent intercultural negotiators recognize the differences between people while simultaneously appreciating the intrinsic rationality behind such divergent feelings thoughts and behaviors.* That is to say, individuals, groups, communities, organizations and even nation states possess diverse values, beliefs and assumptions that make sense from their own perspective.* Thus, effective intercultural negotiators are sensitive to the fact that each person perceives, discovers, and constructs reality — the internal and external world – in varied yet meaningful ways.* They understand that difference is not threatening; indeed, it is positive, so long as the differences are managed properly.
    Five Intercultural Negotiation Skills:

    1. EMPATHY – To be able to see the world as other people see it.* To understand the behavior of others from their perspectives.
    2. ABILITY TO DEMONSTRATE ADVANTAGES of what one proposes so that counterparts in the negotiation will be willing to change their positions.
    3. ABILITY TO MANAGE STRESS AND COPE WITH AMBIGUITY as well as unpredictable demands.
    4. ABILITY TO EXPRESS ONE’S OWN IDEAS in ways that the people with whom one negotiates will be able to objectively and fully understand the objectives and intentions at stake.
    5. SENSITIVITY to the cultural background of others along with an ability to adjust one’s objectives and intentions in accordance with existing constraints and limitations.

    by Published on 29th July 2013 08:57 AM
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    How to start off a successful outsource project

    1.0 Know what you want

    There must be clear scoping of the demand and what is being put to the market. The objectives for the outsourcing must be consistent and reasonable – cost reduction, as an aim together with increase service may be inconsistent. Sign off internally why you are doing this and agree what is driving the whole process – this is important from the vendors perspective as well. If the vendor knows that cost reduction or technology refresh are key objectives the response can be tailored to your precise needs. Furthermore, objectives can change over time and the original case for an Outsource can be undermined by events. Revisiting the rationale you agreed internally is an important task during the process – don’t be driven by the running train take a time out to check you still need to do this.

    2.0 Put in place a clear process.

    Decide whether you are asking for a sole source versus competitive bid from the market. Sole sourcing is usually suggested (particularly by the vendor) if there is a history with the supplier and there is a time constraint – but there are significant negatives. Loss of leverage, not being able to compare alternatives, less aggressive pricing to name but three – and a sole source could have high impacts such as the legitimacy of the deal. Last but not least, the process may actually take longer as there is no time pressure that comes from a competitive environment.

    In a competitive bid position cost savings have a better chance of being realised and new suppliers can come with more innovative proposals than the in-house incumbent – at least in principle. The process can actually be quicker as the client can drive the competitive process – by a strict time based approach to the process for example. But on the other hand competitive bidding is more resource intensive, for the supplier as well as the client, so make sure you resource well.

    Be precise, not prescriptive, comprehensive but concise in the layout – focus on key objectives. We need the ‘what’ not the how – avoid laying down all sorts of preconditions about how the service is to be delivered – that’s the suppliers job in the proposal. I have seen in several RFP’ s detailed specifications of what packages to use and how precisely the service is to be delivered – effectively closing off all innovative solutions that may have been available from the vendor. Also specific demands will drive up the cost – the vendor may be able to offer off-the-shelf solutions that will work just as well as your specific demands but at very favourable rates.

    A request for informartion (RFI) is a high-level document inviting a general response and can be used as a test for possible solutions and to pre-select candidates for the bid. Usually there is no bid price given by the suppliers – nor should we expect too much detail here. An request for proposal (RFP) invites a formal response and takes longer for the vendor and the customer to evaluate. In a large bid this cost can come to millions of dollars so make sure before you issue a RFP you really mean to go ahead. Ensure you are being realistic in your demands and take care that the quality and clarity in the RFP promotes conformance in the proposals received.

    3.0 Manage the Communication Channels

    In negotiation avoid shortcuts and set specific goals – and ensure they are delivered. Evaluate, clarify and frame negotiations to keep competition alive. Document all discussions and carry out frequent self-assessment. Use a term sheet as this helps drive and track the discussion and allows apples to apples comparison – over time the term sheet can evolve into a contract so it is well worth the effort to create one.

    Manage the up and down communication channels carefully. Make sure no seniors speak to vendors and control vendor access to senior management carefully. Some vendors are good at getting around the formal process to the senior management and exploiting this access to short-circuit the tender process. We all know of ‘golf course’ deals that cut through a bid process and enable vendors to return to the customer team informing them they ‘know’ the requirements of senior management. Most golf course deals end in disaster so should be avoided like the plague.

    Keep talking to vendors and meet frequently to discuss the proposals – the more open and interactive the better the eventual outcome will be.

    4.0 Cover the Details

    First of all vendors to this for a living – often the vendor sales team have been doing this for years and when this is done will move onto the next. The customer side on the other hand may have not done this before or at least the team carrying out the supplier proposal evaluation may be completely new compared to the last time the outsource process was done. Also some of the customer team will have a day job to contend with – don’t forget this (or holidays etc.) and plan capacities well. Plan well, resource well and set realistic time scales – time pressure can act in the vendor’s favour and allow skipping of important details.

    Never let issues that should be solved at negotiation drift into ‘we will solve this later’ discussions. They never are and these can be a source of major conflict later. A trade union official some time ago told me: ‘It is better for the negotiation to break down rather than the agreement’. All-important details must be cleared before signing a contract.

    Partnership rhetoric will appear at some stage in the discussions from the vendor side. Partnership usually means giving all the risks to the vendor from the customer side or closing out competition from the vendor side (sole sourcing). Partnership can be invoked to get over tricky points and put them off until later stages or to close out competition. Partnership should be based on performance and strict business principles not waffle. I know it is often said we can handle the things we forgot later in a change process – I have personally never found this to be free of major problems and cost – so beware of this.

    Final point maximum gain minimum vendor pain during the proposal stage – and remember to ask yourself what you are looking for from outsourcing until you know what it is!

    by Published on 29th July 2013 08:53 AM     Number of Views: 945 
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    Outsourcing is it creating or destroying jobs in the US?

    I was reading in the outsourcing trade press this week about the political debate in the US about job losses in the outsourcing market. The debate centres around one of the most vexing questions in the outsourcing market as to whether outsourcing, or more specifically off-shoring, creates or destroys jobs in the outsourcing home country. This furore is particularly felt in the US where a political backlash threatens to develop that may result in government measures to remove some or all of the advantages of outsourcing – such as denial of tax relief on expenses as one example.

    The problem is particularly acute if we consider off-shoring where the jobs in the home country are transferred to a receiving country such as India. And as a result the jobs disappear in the host country and those people in the US are let go. So what is the truth in all this and what factors are at play when we consider work restructuring due to outsourcing?

    There have been several attempts to justify job losses by recourse to ideas that outsourcing actually creates more jobs than are lost – ergo we threaten this process by any talk of protectionist actions. Although there is no evidence base for any of these ideas they are starting to gain traction as the industry fights back to try and extinguish any legislative activity that may restrict their current free rein.

    The arguments seem to boil down to three main points:

    The savings yielded by outsourcing leads to higher investment in the business and as a result further job opportunities are created.
    The inward investment in the offshore country increases their standard of living and the demand for American goods and services which leads to increases employment in the US.
    Any form of protectionism (or legal protection) acts to increase employment expenses and thus to reduce employment opportunities.

    Is there anything in these points?

    The main problem with the first one is the assumption that outsourcing yields value at anything like 50% as claimed by some writers that can be invested per se. As an example I attended a recent conference in London where it was revealed (from a large scale European survey) that although around 60% of outsourcing organisations claimed some financial savings of these only around a quarter had any idea how this was measured – the rest had no way of assessing success and had no clue where or if this was done in their organisation. This means only15% of organisations can state that they have achieved any savings with any surety. Other researchers and consultancies have also shown that getting any benefit from outsourcing is proving to be a surprising intractable nut to crack – so where’s the money coming from for this investment?

    Secondly all of the main offshore countries are notoriously closed as far as inward business is concerned – we have been hearing for years these potential advantages in the UK but we have yet to make any real impression in business terms in the very protected markets in Asia. In the UK we send unemployed princes on foreign trade missions that seem to yield very little of substance and just involve giving away our technology at knock down prices. American trade missions have had little more success and you don’t have princes with time on their hands! Furthermore, the idea that Indian sweat shop workers are queuing to buy American high tech goods is fanciful at least.

    Lastly employment law and protectionism are stated to be one of the core reasons preventing job creation. Any restriction on the ability of businesses to move employment from one place to another or to offer any protection as far as workplace rights or working practices is seen as an anathema and opposed by recourse to a ‘jobs being destroyed’ rhetoric. From this perspective outsourcing is seen as an efficiency mechanism acting on employment cost – and the target (of the outsource) depends entirely on where the cost advantages lies at a point in time whether in the US or not. Thus if used correctly outsourcing can allow cost advantage to be maintained over time by switching between suppliers. It is in affect a re-working of the investment idea where the removal of all restrictions on organisations to do what they want can facilitate job creation.

    My take on this is that job losses are inevitable in outsourcing but the problem is it is a particular type of loss that occurs and is felt differently across society. It is the entry level IT jobs, lower skilled activities, voice services or manual production tasks that are going offshore – and they are not being replaced like for like. What this means is that specific sectors of our society are being affected and their ability to make a living stopped by outsourcing – it is their jobs that are going offshore. Jobs that used to be for high school graduates or those less successful in education or could only work part-time are going and are not being replaced. So our fundamental question is are we happy with this – is it justice?

    It strikes me that the arguments for or against employment losses misses out on another fundamental aspect – the experience of outsourcing of those who go through it. Loss of identity, stress, and feelings of powerlessness occur all to frequently when we carry out an outsource badly. One of the key points about this type of employment structuring is it acts to move workers from the primary sector to the secondary sector. In the secondary service sector employment tends to be fragmented, short term with wages set by the market and overall is much less secure. All this acts to make the experience of work much more instrumental and tightly controlled and denies people any of the positive aspects of work.

    We must do better than this. People do want to do a good job, be loyal, and serve customers well – and be rewarded and treated fairly for doing so. Outsourcing is unstoppable but it is controllable for the better good of our society.

    by Published on 24th July 2013 09:05 AM  Number of Views: 551 
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    Eight Mistakes to Avoid in Intercultural Negotiation:

    1. Avoid looking at everything from your own definition of what is “rational,” “logical” and “scientific.”
    2. Avoid pressuring the other party with a point that he/she is not readily prepared to accept; wait for a more favorable time.
    3. Avoid looking at issues from the narrow perspective of self-interest.
    4. Avoid asking for concessions or compromised which are politically or culturally sensitive; you will not succeed with this kind of approach.
    5. Avoid adhering to your agenda if the other party appears to have a different set of priorities.
    6. Avoid speaking in jargon (i.e. using colloquialisms), which can confuse the other party and even create a feeling of mistrust.
    7. Avoid passing over levels of authority in manners that compromise the sensibilities of middle level officials.* The top tier of the hierarchy may have the power to commit the organization or governing entity, but implementation will require the support of people at intermediate and lower levels.
    8. Avoid asking for a decision when you know that the other party is not able to commit.

    by Published on 29th June 2013 08:53 AM
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    Developing the Business Case

    Some Notes on Business Cases and IT Strategy

    Strategic Justification
    This key deliverable, completed after final selection and confirmation of the IT Strategy, is the business case for the strategy as a whole, and an evaluation of its impact on the enterprise and its relevance to the enterprise's Major Business Programs & Directions.

    The key features are:
    • Risk,
    • Feasibility,
    • Levels of investment,
    • Tangible and intangible benefits,
    • Responsibility for the realization of both costs and benefits.

    Overall cost, benefit and resource plans are included. Policies for the future financial management of IT within the enterprise are also included.

    Benefits by Business Program

    This deliverable lists the tangible and intangible benefits that have already been identified as potential benefits in the Major Business Programs & Directions. They are quantified as far as possible and related to the achievement of business objectives in the major business programs. Benefit targets are defined and the responsibility for achieving them allocated. This will form the basis of allocating benefits to individual projects in the Cost/Benefit Analysis for each option being assessed.
    The deliverable includes:
    • Confirmed Opportunities
    • Benefits Related to Business Processes
    • Quantified Benefits Related to Business Programs
    • Benefit Targets and Responsibilities for Achievement
    Strategic Cost/Benefit Analysis
    This deliverable, developed for each of the options being evaluated, is a detailed statement of costs and benefits. It is a time phased investment and benefit/cash flow analysis. Costs are typically built up from the component level in the proposed IT strategy. Benefits are derived for each component as it relates to the achievement of business objectives in the Major Business Programs & Directions.
    It is supported by:
    • Cost Breakdown
    • Allocation of Benefits
    • Risk/Contingency Adjustments
    • Cash Flow Analysis
    • Sensitivity Analysis
    • Financial and Strategic Priorities

    by Published on 25th June 2013 09:57 AM
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    2. Practice,
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    4. Management

    Moving non-core activities performed in-house to specialists outside the company helping the* business to focus on core competencies and improve performance standards is the main premis of outsourcing. The growth and rewards of this practice can be quite high but the downsides are daunting.

    So what are the pros and cons of outsourcing?

    The potential from outsourcing and BPO related activities:

    • Savings in terms of cost from labour arbitrage
    • Productivity improvements from access to experienced and up-to-date skills
    • The potential to focus on the core business without the distractions of a difficult function in-house
    • Enhanced access to expertise (but at a cost)
    • Operational cost control as the cost becomes very transparent and controlled
    • Improved accountabilityas you know who is responsible for what service
    • Flexibility to reallocate resources and meet company goals
    • Improved Human Relations management in terms of career development potential for peripheral functions.

    As for the downside of outsourcing* the list would include the creation of a dependency mentality coupled with a* lack of innovation and integration with the core business – along with a loss of competitive edge. Outsourcing can garner these ill-effects mainly when used as a short term technique to reduce costs.* To avoid this Outsourcing has to be planned carefully going beyond mere cost control and with carefully thought-out strategies and logistics in place to ensure success. A productive nurturing culture is imperative, especially in the beginning, to set the backdrop for a successful relationship.

    How to make the most of outsourcing

    Apart from reducing the development time and the cost for example new services* an outsourcing relationship can free up resources and orient them towards innovation that can really add value to the core business. It is this potential for the sources of innovation to be focused on the core business competitive needs that is at the heart of the aphorism ‘to focus on core competences’ – In fact it means to build the core. There must also be good communications and systematic tracking and measures in place to help understand how the service is evolving and how improvements can be made. This goes well beyond simplistic SLA types of measures and is in fact an example of proactive innovation.* An outsourcing provider who is willing to learn and understand the business drivers of the client organisation and who can provide the right kind of expertise to a client at the right place can be a company sttrategic asset. The type of proactive innovation can make all the difference to an outsourcing partnership.

    Tips for the Outsourcer

    • Treat outsourcing as a strategic investment, clearly defining goals, strategies, objectives and time lines.
    • Choose a firm that has goals you can identify with and a track record that you can use productively in your industry.
    • Set up control processes to manage the interface between the two organisations – treat them as part of the business which is in fact what they become.
    • Once you have outsourced a service* trust the service provider to do the job – heavy handed control or excessive monitoring can get in the way of good service and can only add to costs.
    • Build a contract that has concrete objectives performance measurement strategies and incentives in place – this will clarify things for the provider and provide sustained motivation.

    Tips for the provider

    • As with the outsourcer outsourcing is a strategic investment – define goals, strategies and objectives.
    • Build a contract with the client that spells out performance measurements on the basis of concrete objectives – use it to streamline processes
    • Develop an open rapport with the client build a relation that aligns the interests of the outsourcer, the vendor and customers.
    • Build a measurement system to montitor progress and make sure robust management processes. are in place – use it to negotiate changes and upgrade performance responsibilities.

    The paranoia surrounding outsourcing is slowly waning and being replaced by a grudging acceptance and recognition of how both sides can benefit. Reports are coming in that well crafted outsource deals restate the value of outsourcing – and add to the stability of the concept. According to a Global Insight study sponsored by the ITAA (Information Technology Association of America), the benefits of offshore IT outsourcing added $33.6 billion to real gross domestic product in the United States in 2003. During 2008, real GDP was expected to be $124.2 billion higher than it would be in an environment without IT software and services offshore outsourcing.

    There is value to be achieved by Outsourcing what is needed is a well crafted management strategy to deliver the promise that Outsourcing offers.


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