Mahajak A Model for Enterprise Innovation

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Before heading home to Australia from Bangkok in late December, I went to a pool side party in an apartment building. This party was for the management and the staff, hosted by a long term tenant to say thank you.

When in Bangkok I stay at Mahajak Apartments in the very livable and popular downtown area of Sukhumvit. We have had this apartment for many years, after finding hotels impersonal and transient. For our business we have had similar sets up in Singapore, Indonesia and London, but this one in Bangkok is quite special.

Although Bangkok is not my home, I feel like it is as I come and go. Our office at Central World is a few minutes away and our customers also see me as relaxed to continue to be around for them.

Regardless of traffic and the bustle of this very large city, when I arrive, it is a most pleasant experience. It never lets me down as I am greeted by a “Sawasdee”, with welcoming smiles and an attitude that nothing is ever too much trouble.

The building owners are a family, who also own and operate Mahajak Group. This is a significant well established group with a reputation for high quality. Built around automotive nuts and bolts, these days it clip_image004has diversity that also specializes in such things as quality air-conditioning, home automation, and audio and entertainment equipment and more. The families live in the building themselves during the week to run their operations in the building adjacent. So like me it is their second home, so it is important it works for them too.

The building is modern looking although it is about 20 years old. It has a welcoming feel when you walk into the reception but even before that the security staff make you welcome.

Despite being in one of the busiest and vibrant areas in Bangkok, the building itself is situated in a quiet and relaxing off street area which fits into the landscape that over looks the city. In-house staff are employed to manage maintenance , but they are unlike others who just take care of the infrastructure. At Mahajak Apartments they have a proactive and in touch approach to attending to tenants needs, no matter how big or how small.

Khun Angkana, who is one of the principals in the Mahajak family, takes an active part in the day to day operations. Being both a customer and provider of her business, she certainly understands first hand customer’s needs; she is also extremely well liked and highly respected by everyone. She is fluent in English and also in Japanese, which she studied at Chulalongkorn Universityimage.  She can be often seen working away at her desk as she translates some documents to or from Japanese as a sideline and hobby work for a former employer.

In this prominent sought after location in the Sukhumvit area with a large ex-pat business population her track record is unique, with so many long term residents. With her team, their attention to detail to make everyone feel at home is what makes the difference to keep the tenancy rate so high.

But during last year as things got tight with the downturn in business and tourist trade, I noticed a change. One day, with her staff, they were busily arranging short term accommodation for someone new. Later I asked her about her approach for handling the mix of long stay residents and short visitors. She told me how full service short stay people filled the gaps.

Short term guests were also happy to pay the better rate than hotels or a mainstream serviced apartment.  This approach, she said, was yielding well as people sought home style accommodation for periods from one to four weeks. And with such a good location she said she could also be selective to ensure long stay people were not impacted.

The initial approaches were from people needing family accommodation to visit the nearby world class Bumrungrad Hospital. Many come from all over the world for affordable treatment that is more out of reach in the home countries. Mahajak being so convenient is a bonus.

So now the Mahajak Apartment focus has shifted to also be good at providing this much needed accommodation service. The upside too is the atmosphere has more a light hearted feel as short term people engaged in neighborly exchanges with long-people like me.

On one occasion, Angkana’s husband confided to me that even though the percentage of short stay was low, it had made the difference and showed them that alternative markets were an option, even when facing adversity.

Even though property management is not really our core business”. he said, “this model and this experience has opened our minds for expansion as the market returns”.

If you are planning a short stay,

Check it out at Mahajak Apartments

Or just contact them by email for more information.

Quick Poll:

Managing change to make it stick.

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Getting people to do new work and change needs skill. In business and especially large enterprises change takes more than skill. It also needs good teaming with binding cross functional management dialog processes.

Getting objectives clear from the top can be tricky, but the hard job comes getting buy-in and finding a way to align people to change and keep them there. Both are critical steps.

Then as things proceeds you need a good leader to manage the roadblocks and keep it on track. Having a champion is vital too but even champions can falter as threats emerge and cloud the issues and as luddites undermine.

It is said that people change so organizations get the value or benefit. It is not the reverse as many think. So getting commitment is vital to ensure stakeholders can see a win. With nothing to gain or lose for the people effected, change projects will inevitably fail.

When change is needed, bad habits are the most difficult to break even when obvious to all. Operations people will always do operations work first and in the way that works for them even though they may appear supportive of change. The reality is, if they don’t have something at stake to get them involved when it comes to show time, they will be busy.

In our organizations we often find a popular fountain of knowledge where we can get all the answers. This is usually sees one or two people in so called indispensible jobs who are like gold in the business. But unfortunately when it comes to change if they are not managed well they may become dinosaurs and actually hold progress back. Identify them is important. Dinosaurs, friendly or not, become intent and divisive to survive. Taking them out of their operational job and placing them in a important roles as subject matter experts in a change project is often a good strategy. If they join the team and focus well you are likely to have a great outcomes all round.

At the organizational level to be successful you must find a way to engage and make change a continuous process. Selling is such a process that does that and works well when people buy. So when embarking on change we must consider selling and communications as a key ongoing part of projects.

Here is a useful perspective from change-management.com

Individual change management

Organizations don’t change, individuals do. No matter how large of a project you are taking on, the success of that project ultimately lies with each employee doing their work differently, multiplied across all of the employees impacted by the change. Effective change management requires an understanding for and appreciation of how one person makes a change successfully. Without an individual perspective, we are left with activities but no idea of the goal or outcome that we are trying to achieve.

Organizational change management

While change happens one person at a time, there are processes and tools that can be used to facilitate this change. Tools like communication and training are often the only activities when no structured approach is applied. When there is an organizational change management perspective, a process emerges for how to scale change management activities and how to use the complete set of tools available for project leaders and business managers.

This next graphic illustrates some linkages of organization process with individual behavioral aspects important for change .

imageSubstring activity aside, delivering or selling change to others and/or responding to change forced on us by market competitiveness is at the very heart of what management and markets are all about. Making it all work requires attention to all these areas and more.

What drives a change is often a need to be able to respond faster to market pressure or simply grow the sales to achieve a stated business ambition.  Hence aging core systems and processes may first need replacing to allow ongoing improvement. As stagnant systems fast reach their used by date, resistance to change is often the highest, as people hang on to their comfort zones.

Like selling, long cycles are not good and invariably fail. And to a salesman, getting and maintaining total commitment with no way back, is the first and last step to shore up against risk to ensure a success. In change projects it is the same so work is best competed in small stages so success can be declared and continuous improvement resumed quickly.

But its not done there. To make it stick you then need the added energy to exploit the value in the new state with the old state now completely gone.

 

~000~

Here is a video we did for internal discussion:

Are international language barriers gone?

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Do you think you could ever learn to speak in foreign language. Learning at school in Australia 1960’s gave me some limited choices. I chose French rather than Latin as I figured if ever I was in France or a French speaking country I could understand people.

Since I have lived, worked and travelled in many counties. Except for parts of Vietnam, and Canada plus of course France itself, knowing French has had quite limited value.

I do know my limited brain somehow interferes with my ability to learn more languages.  Hence English remains my dominate choice, even though work in Asia where Thai, Indonesian, Cantonese & Mandarin all dominate as the colloquial preferences that surround me.

Even so, believe it or not I can communicate in most and more without ever attend any classes or langauge  school.  And so can you!

For example  I am reading a new book called World Class ITnow that I would recommend. Here is a pr?cis of a book review I was sent recently that in turn I sent on to a Thai colleague.

IT gets boiled down to 5 core principles (Mitch Betts Dec 21, 2009)

There isn’t any flashy writing or trendy technology here. A new book World Class IT (Jossey-Bass, 2009), by consultant Peter A. High, provides solid — dare I say timeless — advice for CIOs trying to manage IT for business success.

The book takes the CIO’s complex world and boils it down to the following core principles (stated here verbatim):

  1. Recruit, train and retain world-class IT people.
  2. Build and maintain a robust IT infrastructure.
  3. Manage projects and portfolios effectively.
  4. Ensure partnerships within the IT department and with the business.
  5. Develop a collaborative relationship with external partners.

image Highsays new CIOs should tackle those issues in the order presented above, starting with people and then moving on to developing a reliable IT infrastructure. High says the journey from ordinary to world-class IT can take several years, and even then you can’t rest on your laurels.

 

To make it easy for my colleague I translated it to Thai by using Google translate.

IT ????????????? 5 ??????????? Mitch Betts 21 ??????? 2009 06:00 ET ???????????????????????????????????????????????. ??????? World Class ???? IT (Jossey-???, 2009) ???????????? Peter A. ?????????? - ???????????????????????? - ????????????? CIOs ???????????????????????????????????????????. ??????????????????? CIO ??? boils ?????????????????? core (?????????????????????): ?????????????????????????????? IT. ?????????????????????????????????????????????. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????. ?????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????????????. ???????? CIOs ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? laurels ??????.

This literally took seconds using the free Google translate tool, which has most written Languages. To do this I just copied and pasted the text to a html page and Google did the rest. image

The practical implications of this are that language in business is no longer a barrier as we can communicate with literally anyone. Yes it is that simple and these days even my french has improved.

From my stats I know readers of our my blog come from many non English speaking counties. So I am quite sure they already know well about translation tools. But for most English based countries readers there, I would ventured to say, would not see the value of subscribing to and translating to, say a Russian website.

I do and  I am often pleasantly surprised by some of the high quality and leadership information I get when I translate some of these sites.

Give it a try and perhaps see if you can find new opportunities to link up and grow.

Projects To Manage The Future

sherthaiteam In my work I recently presented some ideas on the maturing state of business intelligence and performance management applications for business.

But choosing the right software to add value is only part of the game. For such change it also needs a plan and commitment.

Making sure your project is well defined, well resourced and well sponsored is the art a PM project success.

The bottom line for making a change to add value to a business is to make sure everyone with a stake in the outcome is involved, is accountable and can win.

In this presentation I was able to share some ideas and from our real life experiences. In the detail I have included some boiler plate steps for success in managing projects.

Here are the slides to look through or download.

Sherwood Group Consulting: PM Executive Presentation

 

The recorded sound on the day was not good. I will redo it and update the slides for you when I have some spare time. Please let me know if you want me to make that a priority?

Intelligent frames replace fridge door!

imageCan you imagine the now indispensable fridge magnet that is so much a part of our lives, with your notes, kids pictures, shopping lists and other important odd and ends. being relegated to the rubbish to be replaced by a screen? 

Well, that is what the giant European supermarket chain, Tesco, have in mind for us with their Extending Ecommerce strategy.

The idea that digital photo frames, with integrated magnets would be attached to your fridge, not long ago seemed farfetched. But now the internet will be there soon too so your shopping choices can be made right at the fridge as you look to see what’s missing.

Nick Lansley, is Head of R&D at Tesco In this video he talks how about this and how Tesco recently released their  API to the developer market.

Like the IPhone where developers develop smart phone applications for the phone users, having access to Tesco’s backend product information will allow markets to develop demand based applications for households and more. Providing on tap such things as  product diet options availability and cost with such access to influence buyers choices in their home as it further extend to enhance the consumer buying experience.

With this type of wide reach, real time access to core business information means we will soon see the evolving value of business intelligence extended directly to the end consumer for practical use in their daily lives .

Be Disclosed or be closed

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On December 1 2009. tough new internet disclosure compliance was mandated by the new US Fair Trade regulations that came law there.

Earlier this week I had posted a you-tube video to talk about the implications. While I was researching others opinions on this I found most informative seminar circulating the web, entitled Easy FTC Compliance Seminar – What You Need to Do, Step-by-Step. It is lead by Robert Skrob.

Sanitizing testimonials and endorsements is no longer a moral obligation. The bottom line is there is now no option, when it comes to disclosing of interests.

If you think this only applies to the US think again. Counties around the world are watching closely as the largest economy takes on these far reaching consumer protection laws aimed squarely at internet marketers.

Precedents will quickly kick in very everywhere else as US litigation explodes punitively against defaulters who hold out to be third party endorsers.  With the new laws taking root and being tested in the commercial world,  your sales practices may need to change to ensure you comply.

Suddenly all this more important than ever. Some of the areas to look at include:

  • How documentation is organized for testimonials you use in your marketing.
  • The content in your sales pages and presentations.
  • the relationships you have with people who make third party endorsements
  • The words you can use in seminars to comply with endorsement rules.
  • Liability you now have from affiliate’s actions.

Countries like Australia and across Europe have similar discloser laws in place or in the making. And in places like Asia they are not far behind. Asia is also largely a self regulated market so we will will quickly see consumer protection repose kick in as they move to compete.

At the practical level as buyers get more savvy to hoodwinking lawbreakers, or even ignorant ones who actually believe their own unqualified sales bull,, they will be mistrusted more and more. And anyone who makes unqualified outcome statements or does to not have their interests stated up front will get a nastily surprise. Like avoiding taxes it is just not an option.

With Internet based trends to leverage affiliate programs and endorsements to entice buyers. the  US Lead will be significant for everyone across the globe. If you make money via blogs and social media such as twitter face book and so on you must be aware of the rules.

To quote from a Peter Hoppenfeld one of the layers participating in Easy FTC Compliance Seminar – What You Need to Do, Step-by-Step lead by Robert Skrob.

It reminds me of the expression “Do you want to pay now or pay later?”

Robert Skrob is a business blogger who’s stated his mission is “Help More People, Earn More Money”.  He leads his recorded a seminar to alert marketers about theses new of US Fair Trade Commission rules, He discusses them with his guests, Peter Hoppenfeld and Michael E. Young who are both experienced lawyers in internet marketing and related fields.

Practical discussion on rules that now apply to disclosure by affiliates and other third party endorsement are of great value not only for buyers but also as an extremely informative call for experienced marketers  You can listen to his seminar by visiting his site. It is free to download so I added it here too:  [Audio:IMA-FTCComplianceCall-0912.mp3]

His site is also an excellent resource that  I also recommend you subscribe to:

Robert Skrob

“Help More People, Earn More Money”

http://robertskrob.com/

 

Disclaimer

In making this recommendation I may now be obliged to make a disclaimer such as:

Views expressed in this post are my personal opinion and should not be relied on without corroboration with an authoritative source. I am in no away associated with Robert Skrob or not do I get any financial or other compensation by endorsing or recommending his website, his views, services or his credentials or those of any of his associates. I further disclaim any obligation or responsibility or benefit of an action people may take from any advice they get from this or any related post referred to here.

Are You Doing Best Practice Online

image A company with online best practice will likely be leveraging Web 2.0 tools and processes to create an engaging online community of customers and partners including collaborative capabilities.

This will include discussion forums, wikis with high customer participation and designated community experts tasked with moderation and administration.

To quote from the PWC benchmarking page on their web site under Global Best Practices?:

Best practices are simply the best way to perform activities within a business process.

They are the means by which leading companies achieve excellence in cost, quality, and time and provide goals for other companies to achieve.

Best practices are not, however, the definitive answer to a business problem.

Instead, they are a source of creative insight–a proven way to improve performance, which you can adapt to meet the specific needs of your business.

According to TSIA awards criteria, a company with online community programs such as mufti US 2009 services and best practice Star awards Winner: Cisco Systems, Inc., will have demonstrated quality programs in the following areas:

Online discussion boards.

  • Enables customers to post questions & answers to an online discussion board or forum.
  • Online discussion boards fit into our overall web self-service strategy, and use cases for the forums (peer to peer support, customization questions, beta trials, etc.).

Collaborative content creation.

  • Involve customers in the content creation process, by collecting input on documentation and product best practices via emails and enhancement requests,
  • Leverage a Web 2.0 Wiki. Allowing transparency of examples of how customers contribute to or make suggestions about existing knowledgebase for others to link to this as self-service content.

Reputation model.

  • The reputation model must be in place for the community, including the various levels (for example ‘Novice,’ ‘Intermediate,’ ‘Expert’), And have a scoring methodology for moving from level to level,
  • A high percentage of the community members should get to Expert level within a year.

Usage and effectiveness metrics.

  • Information is readily available on the size and activity level of the community It will be in pace such as number of page views, posts or other activity on a daily or weekly basis, average length of time for questions to be answered.
  • In the discussion forum blog readership, etc will be measured.

Customer moderation.

  • Customers have part the moderation responsibilities of the community, specifically the discussion forums. Internal supplement this to moderate as resolution resources are required Customer experts recruited, recognized and rewarded with reciprocal consulting services.

Launch/promotion.

  • Training and self help web based campaigns familiarize customers with the online community and what activities were executed to encourage adoption.
  • Community launches are timed to be lead in conjunction with sales and/or marketing?

Customer Impacts.

  • Customer Satisfaction data is collated to illustrates customer experience with the online community.
  • Indicators on overall customer satisfaction and/or loyalty are acknowledged to increases links to encourage the introduction of customer community programs.

Business Impacts.

  • Actual business impacts of all cases are documented, including metrics illustrating actual cost savings or efficiency gains such as incident deflection, or call/incident avoidance.
  • Other financial impacts, such as savings due to customer authored content or online collaboration are maintained and shared with customers to plan improvement plans.

How do you measure up?