News without the Paper

The Christian Science Monitor has announced that they are going web-only for daily news and will print a Sunday magazine: The Monitor Ends Daily Print Edition.

If you read the story, you’ll note they did this in order to cut costs while still retaining their foreign bureaus and reporters. This makes all sorts of sense to me. When I hear about newspapers slashing their reporting staff, I always shake my head. The asset that they leverage for revenue is news reporting. They need to find new ways to leverage that asset effectively rather than cutting it to the bone to preserve an old, declining, business model.

Peter Drucker wrote that the most innovative companies are those who are ruthless about killing off programs, products and services that are no longer producitve. Kudos to the CSM for going boldly to the forefront of their industry.

If you’ve never read it, CSM provides some of the best international coverage out there. I discovered it in college while pulling long graveyard shifts at the periodicals desk as a student employee of the library.

Are Your Processes Begging for Change?

Peter Drucker identified process need as one potential source of innovation in an organization. In his definition, he describes a process need as an improvement that is obvious to almost everyone involved yet no one has taken action to make it happen.

I offer the following as sample number one of a process need:

We Only Like Small Bills

If the methods of payment you accept generate enough comments that you feel compelled to post a sign to preempt the complaints, you have yourself a mighty fine process need innovation opportunity!

The solution here is obvious and a thoroughly solved business problem. However, the short-sightedness of a small business owner unwilling to pay credit card transactions fees leaves thier cashier on the cutting edge of 1970s technology.

For sample number 2, I give you the donut drive around:

Go Around for Your Donut!

A register upgrade at this Dunkin Donuts shop eliminated the ability to take or change an order at the window. Thus, this sign directing their valued customers to please circle the building and stop at the speaker/microphone this time!

These rather silly examples prove the point: what is screaming out for improvement in your organization that you no longer even see because it has become normal? What metaphorical (or actual!) signs have you put up for your customers so they will stop complaining about your broken processes?

Trading Value for Money Leads to Profits. Amazing!

Poking fun at the airlines is too easy these days but I think Southwest shows how you can actually make profits by giving value to your customers in exchange for money (crazy concept, I know!) in an otherwise troubled market.

According to the New York Times today, Southwest just posted a profit for their 69th straight quarter. A very big part of this has been do to their savvy fuel hedges limiting their exposure to the run up in oil. However, they have also revamped their pricing structure by not only raising fares, but offering a new class that gives advanced boarding, a free drink and an extra frequent flyer credit. The new class, Business Select, could generated about $100 million in new revenue.

Compare this to the other airlines who have not protected their fuel prices and are charging for previously ‘free’ services, such as baggage, without adding any additional value, terminally angering their customers.

Southwest, meanwhile, is advertising that ‘bags fly for free’ on their home page. I imagine that their executives must have to suppress giggles quite often as they dance around the rest of this sclerotic industry.

Are you offering value to your customers, visitors, clients or members? Taking captive markets for granted is risky in the long run: they have a habit of breaking out eventually.

Chief Program Killer

I had a conversation yesterday where one of Peter Drucker’s maxims on innovation was mentioned: sustained innovation can only happen in an organization if you are diligent about killing programs that do not provide sufficient value.

The reason for this is plain. It is impossible to make resources available for sustained innovation if all the resources of the organization are tied up in existing programs, products, services, etc.

Many organizations have put an executive in charge of fostering innovation but I imagine few of them consider putting the same person in charge of killing programs as well.

David Gammel's 2008 Summer Teleconference Series

I am conducting three teleconferences this summer on a variety of topics that have been in high demand with my consulting and speaking clients. I hope you’ll join us!

I will cover the following topics during the series:

  • Creating High-value Partnerships with Technology Providers
  • Using the Web for Customer-sourced Innovation
  • Global Web Site Strategy

The live calls are absolutely free to attend. You also have the option to purchase recordings of all the calls if you would prefer to listen to them at your own convenience. Anyone who purchases the recordings will also receive access to a bonus teleconference.

The first call is Friday June 20. Register today!

Campaigns and Loyalists

Ever wondered what happens when your marketing campaign generates a loyal following? Case in point: Closing a Disney community from Church of the Customer Blog.

This new online world trips up marketers from the big to the little, the for- to the non-profit. A key lesson in this story: building community into a by-design time-limited campaign is counter productive. Established communities want to continue even if the budget for their platform has run out.

When Science Fiction Takes Over the Headlines

This story reads like beginning of a science fiction novel: Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More – New York Times.

I offer this to those of you who heard me speak about my experience getting stranded outside of the scientific facility where the Web was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Apparently, the world may end there as well. The possibilities include destruction by black hole or big dragons, take your pick.

Underestimate the work of CERN at your own peril.

(This is not an April Fools story by the way, if highly unlikely.)

New Year Resolutions for Web Executives

Below are a few ideas on new year’s resolutions for web executives:

Get Strategic
Meet with each of the senior executives in your organization or department and ask them about their primary goals for 2008. How will they know they have achieved them? How important are they to the company? What role should the Web have in supporting those goals?

Those few hours of meetings will help you, as the leader of the organization’s web team, develop a clear image of what the organization is trying to achieve this year and how you can align your team to provide the most value they can to those goals. You will also earn the respect and support of your senior team by proactively reaching out to them.

Get Innovative
Innovation is the simple act of doing something differently in order to create new value. This might include creating greater efficiency in your processes or developing new value for your web site visitors in the form of content and functionality.

Commit yourself this year to constantly assessing opportunities for innovation in your processes and ultimate product. What areas need to change in order to meet your goals for the year? Where can you be more efficient in your content publishing processes? Can you tweak an administrative interface to be easier for staff? Can you simplify the interfaces you present to your customers?

You get the idea. Innovation should be a daily activity for any web executive.

Challenge Your Team
Challenge your web team to achieve something this year they have never done before. Make sure the challenge is aligned with your overall goals but feel free to get creative otherwise.

For example: When I used to lead a large web team, we had an organizational goal of improving the accessibility of our web site. Since standards-based design practices get you most of the way to accessibility, I challenge the team to develop a new set of templates that had “code we could be proud of” when someone viewed the source of pages. That phrase resonated with two staffers, who I then tasked to lead the project. It was our rallying cry that year and helped to make sure we kept focused on that major change to the site.

By now you may have realized that you should be doing all three of the above ideas as part of being an effective web executive. Use the New Year as an opportunity to recommit yourself and your team to these activities.

Stop Blocking!

Shel Holtz has started a site that encourages corporations to not block their employees from large chunks of the Internet: Stop Blocking!. From the site:

Companies everywhere are blocking employee access to the Net, fueled by questionable research and irresponsible pronouncements of self-serving individuals and organizations. This site is designed to serve as a hub information resource for those who believe the benefits of providing access far outweigh the risks.

Shel was kind enough to post a link to my idea about making online holiday shopping a benefit rather than an infraction. Shel’s initiative is combating all the misguided rules put in place instead of actual good management practices. Bravo!

Not to mention the damage companies do their employee’s ability to engage online on their employer’s behalf. Plus the recruiting implications. Think the generation coming out of college now will take well to corporate nannyware?

A final aside. Discovering Shel’s Stop Blocking initiative only happened because I wrote an entry and someone commented on it pointing to Shel’s site. I love the serendipitous discoveries that blogging creates for me.

Why Innovation Matters

So why does innovation matter? What we did last year worked well enough. Why change?

The answer is that the world is constantly changing around you. Look back five years and consider any element of business, politics, society, even your own personal relationships. I challenge anyone to point to one that has not changed at least moderately.

Given that change is constant, doing what you have always done is not going to get you the same return. If you decide you want to actually raise the bar on what you are achieving, then innovation becomes even more important.

That is why innovation matters. It is required for the ongoing survival of your organization. It is paramount if you wish to improve on your current position today.