Positive Yarn

February 4, 2009

Tuesday musings

It’s been a busy week already, and it’s only Tuesday! I just wanted to publicly thank Mike Hartnett over at Creative Leisure News for publishing my musings about using social media in the craft and needle arts industries. He turned it into two separate technology columns in the January 19 and February 2 editions. When I first retired from my job as managing editor of a business-to-business magazine, I wanted to jump right into doing writing, editing and marketing for things that I loved, like scrapbooking and the fiber arts. Mike’s bi-weekly e-newsletter was one of the first things I signed up for, to educate myself about the business side of the craft and hobby field. Mike himself has always lent a listening ear and a bit of advice along the way, and for that I’m truly grateful!

I still drop everything when I see CLN hit my in-box.

On another note, I just saw the weather forecast here in Northeast Ohio, and tomorrow is bringing more snow. I just can’t believe I look forward to this stuff when I’m sweltering hot in July. I guess I have a short memory.

I’ll leave you with this shot of a “tagged” tree outside Studio Knit in Medina, OH. (By the way, Owner Anita Byrd sent her latest e-newsletter today, which touts that the shop is going green with logoed canvas bags. As an incentive to buy one for $5, she’s offering 5% off future purchases when you use the bag. Kudos, Anita!)

Now this is the kind of snow I like all year long:

snowman

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January 10, 2009

New president, new outlook

Filed under: Business marketing,Technology — heathergooch @ 6:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,

On Jan. 20, Barack Obama becomes our nation’s 44th president. One of the things that’s particularly striking about the inaguration event in particular is how much of it will be celebrated through technology. The National Post has recently blogged about this here, including the fact that the Obama camp has even set up a Twitter account just for the event.

About 1 million Obama supporters first learned of the president-elect’s choice of Joe Biden as a running mate via text message, for example, and the so-called “mobile campaigning” served Obama well throughout the election seasion. And because this technology is moving from teen-agers and techies to mainstream consumers, so should you consider incorporating social media into your marketing plans this year.

Should you text a million people about your next big sale? Probably not. But you can set up text reminders of class sign-ups, create a Facebook account that lets you network with your colleagues and customers, and tweet about how the cool new fibers you just got in.

2009 has been promised to be a year of change and hope, and new technologies have brought people together to work toward those goals in numerous ways. Make it your resolution to explore some of these techniques as ways to build customer loyalty and take your business to new heights.

January 5, 2009

10 tips to smooth IT implementation

Filed under: Technology — heathergooch @ 5:00 am

While it’s a safe bet that most of us don’t think government when we think “shining beacons of efficiency,” the U.S. Department of Justice has published a very useful fact sheet for ensuring success when installing or upgrading an information technology (IT) system. If 2009 is ringing in new software and/or hardware for your business, here are some of the DOJ’s suggestions. They’re based on research the department did in conjunction with SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, and in my humble opinion can apply to businesses in any industry, large or small:

  1. Create a chain of command for the project. Recommended structure would include a project sponsor, who is responsible for the “big picture” aspect of the project; a small steering committee of executive stakeholders: a project manager, who is the point person for all the project details; and as needed, experts on specific technologies for training.
  2. Incorporate staff that will encounter the technology in their day-to-day work. Rather than learn from trial and error, the DOJ suggests, provide training guidance from the start. After all, employees who are comfortable with new technology early on tend to have better buy-in than those who suddenly find their workday disrupted by a new system that no longer recognizes their passwords, etc.
  3. Avoid “Scope Creep.” This fairly common phenomenon is defined by the DOJ as “an uncontrolled shift in defined project objectives, causing the boundaries of a project’s vision to expand beyond the project’s budget and resources.” This should be headed off early on by the project sponsor, who must consistently make decisions with budget and return on investment (both short- and long-term) in mind.
  4. Forecast realistic timelines. To try to rush implementation is a recipe for disaster, but at the other end of the spectrum, so is spinning your wheels with partial implementation. Make sure your budget and labor forecasts are on target so that you can stay on schedule.
  5. Develop accurate project budgets. As mentioned above, staying within budget is crucial to success. The DOJ advises that the project should incorporate a budget based upon both one-time and recurring costs.
  6. Conduct a comprehensive procurement. When putting the project out to bid, the DOJ suggests having vendors to compete not only on price, but also functionality and willingness to negotiate a favorable contract.
  7. Employ quality control measures. Don’t rely on your vendor’s response to how the implementation is going. Get feedback from employees who are using the technology day to day.
  8. Develop a communications plan. The DOJ offers as an effective method “the development and maintenance of a dedicated project website that includes discussion forums, related project documents, schedules and resources.”
  9. Manage risk. Chances are good that something in the project implementation process will not go according to plan. The more prepared you can be with a “Plan B” when things go off-track, whether it’s cost overruns, delays, system failures, etc., the sooner you can get past the hurdle and back on task.
  10. Monitor integration with existing systems. Your new software program might be capable of running every task you can think of, but if it throws another one of your systems off-kilter or can’t be accessed properly without a major hardware upgrade, what good does it really do you? The DOJ suggests working with your vendor at the onset with an eye on how any new components will interface with the systems you have already in place.

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