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Insight

Software has a cost, but it may not be as clear as you may think.  Yes, purchasing Excel may be straightforward, but what about CRM, Marketing Automation, a new financial system, or any other core database that requires collaboration across the organization?

In the olden days, it was relatively simple:  the application was usually custom-written, and the support fee was somewhere between 15-20% of the development cost.  Today, it is far more complex.  The cloud promises to eliminate your needs for internal support staff, maintenance, etc.  And cloud vendors entice you with selling propositions such as “Only $125/month”… but the hidden costs can be so much higher.  Consider the following cost elements:

  • Base application
  • “Apps” and plug-ins (usually a subscription)
  • Customization
  • Data cleansing
  • Data migration
  • Connection/integration with other software
  • Testing
  • Customized documentation
  • Training
  • License fees
  • Support fees

Then there are the internal costs that directly impact the value that will ultimately be delivered by the software:

  • Needs analysis
  • Process re-engineering
  • Change management
  • Project post-mortem

Finally, there are two hidden costs that are rarely considered:

  • Opportunity cost of the software not being a “perfect fit”
  • Opportunity cost of not using the software to drive your a unique competitive advantage

It is these last two costs that are connected to one of the most difficult choices an organization must make as it decides on a software platform:  custom development, packaged proprietary software, or flexible framework.

1) Custom-developed software:  This software is built exclusively for the organization by a developer, often because the needs are so unique that there is nothing “in the market” that can do the job.  The advantage is the perfect fit: the software can leverage the unique capabilities of the organization and precisely drive strategic goals.  Two key disadvantages of this approach are the cost, and the significant time that it takes to design, develop, and deploy a custom solution.  It is because of these disadvantages that proprietary  packaged software became so popular.

2) Proprietary packaged software:  Whether it is delivered using client-server technology or via the cloud, proprietary packaged software is relatively simple: there is a feature list in the base application, additional “modules” that might be purchased, and often the option to skin the software with an organization’s colors (and logo).

Advantages center around cost, but also in that many vendors tout that the software embeds functional “best practices”.  The key disadvantages of this approach are the opportunity costs: because the software does not have the flexibility to be customized, the organization will need to change to fit the software – no small endeavor.  Furthermore, because others are using the exact same software, the software itself cannot provide or support any of the organization’s inherent strategic advantages.  Even the assumption that the software truly does embed best practices is open to question: who says that the best practices for others are the best practices for you?  Finally, as the organization’s needs change over the years, there is no ability to have the software adapt to these changes.  It is because of these factors that a flexible framework approach has become so popular.

3) Flexible framework software: Using this approach, the base capability of the software is already developed, but it can be customized by a developer to be a perfect fit.  Examples of this include SharePoint or Salesforce: it is possible to use this software out of the box, but both have very robust development environments, as well as add-ins/apps that extend the functionality significantly.

The key advantage of a flexible framework is that core functionality has already been developed, speeding deployment – yet significant customization is not just possible, but expected; this reduces the opportunity cost, or sometimes removes it completely. The disadvantage of a flexible framework is that when comparing the “feature set” to the packaged software alternative, a flexible framework rarely wins.  And because flexible frameworks are so often delivered via the cloud, not every organization is ready to make this leap.

Back to the cost of software: When comparing each of these approaches, comparing costs means evaluating each of the 16 different cost dimensions identified earlier: they are very different depending on the approach.  At the core of the decision, however, is how you view the software itself: is it a necessary expense, or is it an investment that can drive the business?  Many organizations see an accounting system as an example of the former, and CRM and marketing automation as examples of the latter.

This week’s action plan:  How is your organization set up? Has it started to make the transition to flexible frameworks?  This week, take an inventory of the software that you use: is it custom-developed, proprietary packaged, or a flexible framework?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials

www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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Insight: Rebranding recipe

by Randall Craig on September 23, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Branding, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you wondered why an organization’s rebrand doesn’t seem particularly right?  That maybe they missed something along the way?  A bad rebrand can mean that at best, it doesn’t deliver the expected benefits, and at worst the brand is ridiculed in the market.

There are no shortage of these flubs – here are two:

  • The American SciFi cable channel renamed itself SyFy, presumably to appeal more widely.  Syfy is British street slang for syphilis, which definitely does not have much appeal.
  • When Houston Oil and Internorth merged, they chose the name Enteron.  This name was quickly discarded, as it was discovered to be the anatomical name for  intestines.  They then shortened it to Enron, which of course went bankrupt after the discovery of accounting irregularities. (Maybe they should have kept the name Enteron?)

So what does a successful rebranding recipe look like? Here is our approach, boiled down to ten practical steps:

  1. Rebranding scope:  Is it to change the name?  Change the logo and visual identity? “Refresh” the logo and visual identity?  Completely change the brand positioning?  Change the underlying attitudes and organizational culture?  Depending on the initial scope – and the scope might change after the discovery audit and competitive analysis – the investment and the time required can vary significantly.
  2. Discovery audit:  To determine where you want to go, a realistic assessment of your current brand is critical. Using surveys, focus groups, and interviews, ask three key questions:
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of future target prospects/clients/members?
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of staff and leadership?
    • What (future) brand attributes are important, by key audience?
  3. Competitive analysis:  What brand attributes are critical in the market, and how are competitors positioned?  For example, assume that the critical dimensions are price, expertise, and trust; imagine a 3D graph with each on an axis.  Where is each competitor in this space?  Where are you?  And is there a spot that is unoccupied?
  4. Positioning statement, Brand Promise, and Personas:  These define the core attributes of the brand, and the key aspirational messages for each persona. (Personas are representative descriptions of each key audience.)  Looking at the brand through the eyes of each persona puts meat on the brand skeleton, and allows an exploration of how the brand might be executed.
  5. Validation:  This means testing the positioning statement and brand promise, both internally and externally.  It can be as robust as national market research by persona, or as simple as an informal discussion with key audiences.
  6. Name discovery and research: If a name change is involved in the rebranding, this is the process that converts the positioning statement and brand promise into potential name candidates.
  7. Validation:  The names must be tested for meaning in different languages, cultures, and geographies.  There also needs be checks for existing domain names, trademarks/copyrights – and Google.  When there are several name options, ask focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  8. Logo and Visual Identity:  This begins the process of transforming the brand from words into its visual representation.
  9. Validation:  Often times, there are several visual identity and/or logo alternatives.  Use focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  10. Collateral production:  This includes the production of business cards, stationery, signage, powerpoint and word templates, website, social media, etc.

A rebranding process is only half-done if it stops at the production of the collateral – the brand must be launched.  The rebranding opportunity must also be used to lock in other changes, both in attitude and in behavior. This can be accomplished in many ways:

  • A launch event
  • A PR campaign
  • An advertising campaign
  • Employee training
  • New perks or policy changes
  • Internal town halls
  • Management shuffle
  • New management metrics
  • Improved internal communications
  • New business processes

Does a rebranding effort need to have all ten of these steps?  No – the effort accordions up or down, based on a number of factors, including business criticality, timeline and deadlines, budget, and management priorities.   Recognize however, that your risk increases dramatically as less effort is spent.  (Syfy, anyone?)

This week’s action plan:  Strong brands get stronger because they approach branding strategically, not opportunistically.  This week, use the rebranding process as a checklist: which activity (Discovery audit, Competitive analysis, New collateral, etc) can best strengthen your existing brand?

Marketing insight #1:  Of the ten rebranding steps, notice that a full half of them are external validation?  This ensures the brand’s market relevance and impact.  And of the ten launch activities, seven of them are internal?  Only if your brand is strong on the inside, will it be strong on the outside.

Marketing insight #2:  While brand standards are critical for consistency, locked-in-stone branding can become brittle and break.  The best brands have some built-in flex.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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Insight: Building High Performance Boards

by Randall Craig September 2, 2016

Have you ever considered why some boards (or senior management teams) are more effective than others? While the usual reasons may include individual skills and knowledge, attitude, strong staff support, and infrastructure, one of the most powerful drivers of board performance – and also one of the most overlooked – is the onboarding process. Consider: […]

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Insight: Building a Thinking Organization

by Randall Craig April 8, 2016

In just about every organization, the focus is on action.  The connotations of words such as goals, objectives, action plans, and status updates are all positive, and are viewed as necessary for organizational, professional, and personal success.   (Even these Tipsheets, some 600 of them, each end with This Week’s Action Plan).  Yet is the […]

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Insight: Becoming web invisible

by Randall Craig September 4, 2015

With so much discussion about work-life balance, privacy, confidentiality, and government snooping, is it any wonder that some people have decided to move off the grid, and become web-invisible?  Or for others to more closely monitor their web profiles, and either partially or completely remove themselves?  Finally, there are others who choose to remove themselves […]

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Insight: Unpacking the Relationship Curve

by Randall Craig July 3, 2015

Have you ever felt that you were being “sold” to?  Perhaps an over-the-top marketing campaign, or perhaps a slightly-too-pushy salesperson?  If so, then you’re not alone; the question, however, is why.  And why do organizations so often encourage such off-putting activities? Some of the obvious reasons: The momentum of the past (“we’ve always done it […]

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Insight: How not to sell

by Randall Craig June 5, 2015

Marketing and sales are at the core of almost every organization. Whether it is writing a proposal for a prospect, encouraging a person to join your organization, or selling an internal team on a concept, the act of gaining alignment and commitment is critical. More evidence of the importance of sales can be found by […]

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Marketing Insight: Big Data and Lead Scores

by Randall Craig May 15, 2015

Often times, the greatest insights happen at the intersection of two areas, and this is certainly true of the intersection between marketing and business development. Typically, what lives here are leads. Marketers develop initiatives that build leads. Then sales “works” the leads, hopefully converting them into clients. This is true, in one form or another, […]

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Insight: 34 Social Media Risks

by Randall Craig May 8, 2015

Most leaders are not aware of the range of risks that lurk behind the shiny pull of many Social Media sites and activities.  Many can be mitigated if identified in the planning stages, through training, policy, or through changes of internal process. Monitoring can catch others; early detection can lessen their impact. Finally, some risks […]

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Insight: Improving Social ROI – the power of empowerment

by Randall Craig April 17, 2015

Too often, organizations see an arithmetic connection between the resources allocated to a task, and the return on investment from it. Chasing the holy grail of social media, engagement, is no different.  Here is the logic:  Twice as many likes, comments, and shares will yield twice as much engagement.  And to generate this twice as […]

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Insight: Should AIDA be replaced?

by Randall Craig October 24, 2014

In 1903, Elias St. Elmo Lewis coined one of the most important marketing frameworks: AIDA. It has stood the test of time, and has helped many marketers more strategically plan their campaigns. AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. But is AIDA intrinsically flawed, or perhaps no longer relevant for today’s more […]

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Insight: Objectivity or the Information Bubble

by Randall Craig August 1, 2014

In the 1930s, there were two primary news sources:  radio and the newspaper.  They sent their correspondents around the world to gather news.  These journalists would see and hear, verify and corroborate, investigate, and then expertly and objectively file their reports. The reader (or listener) would know that an editor provided oversight, and the publication […]

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Avoiding costly web development corner cutting (Part II: 15 ways developers cut corners)

by Randall Craig March 28, 2014

Have you ever received proposals from several vendors for the same web project, only to see a significant difference in their fees?  While a tightly specified RFP is supposed to guard against this, when it happens, there should be no real surprise. Here’s why:  Every respondent will go (or should go through) a detailed costing […]

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Avoiding costly web development corner cutting (Part I: Four key reasons developers cut corners)

by Randall Craig March 21, 2014

Have you ever purchased a new house, only to later discover that the contractor cut some corners?  And that buck or two savings for the contractor now translates into thousands of dollars of extra cost for you?  Unfortunately, many website developers have taken a page from the building trade, and are cutting corners as well.  […]

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Insight: Marketing Beyond Commitment with the Relationship Chain

by Randall Craig January 10, 2014

The Relationship Curve is one of the most important Marketing 2.0 concepts around.  It states that as relationships improve over time, the target person (prospective client, prospective member, prospective employee, etc) moves through the stages of awareness, preference, trial, and commitment. The job of marketing is to put together initiatives that help that target person […]

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