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Project Management Tactics to Run a Remote Team Smoothly

Project Management Tactics to Run a Remote Team Smoothly

Team members working remotely have its inherent benefits. There are paramount drawbacks however to this emerging trend. A few of the problems it presents are conflicts of schedule, priorities, and communications. How does project management really work?

The project manager should have effective delegating skills to prevent conflicts. He should be able to make all information clear for everyone to avoid confusion. We suggest these project management tactics to run a remote team smoothly and effectively:

  1. Use collaboration software instead of email. Each time innovative ideas come to mind, don’t be tempted to email your team members. Your message will likely be buried among the numerous emails they receive each day. Project management software like Asana, Basecamp, and Trello will help your team take immediate action on the most important and immediate tasks. Everyone will be rewarded with an organized inbox, less stress, and a systematic log of ideas and accomplishments.
  2. Establish routine. Most projects require tasks that are done on a regular basis. Keep a record of these tasks, how often they’re done, and the names of members assigned to act on them. There are tools that can help the project manager automate these tasks. Choose one that works well with your schedule’s flexibility like the Asana app.
  3. Group chats instead of conference calls. While scheduled video or voice calls have their advantages, using Skype group chats can also be helpful in managing offshore team members. Rather than losing sleep waiting for team members to go online, use group chats for less urgent matter. Those who are offline can read the messages left by other team members the next time they log on. Make sure that everyone will check Skype daily so the whole team is able to keep track of all the matters discussed on the thread.
  4. Document all work instructions. Developing a set of general instructions for the team will come handy once you need to bring in additional team members. Systematic work instructions helps in upholding quality work, completing each tasks

Remember that your human resource is your company’s biggest operating expense. Return on investments increases when you are able to manage your team effectively. Keep your team members engaged through smooth delegation and communication processes.

Fashion Retail in Dubai

Fashion Retail in Dubai

Dubai retail fashion industry has been experiencing a strong and steady growth. It is currently the second most influential global shopping destination. It held the position for four consecutive years.

Rising fashion consciousness in the region as well as the steady influx of international brands setting up shop in Dubai are just two of the reasons for this progress.

Dubai continues to attract major fashion brands as it is home to the world’s largest shopping mall. The growth of the industry will not stop any time soon, according to the Middle East Council of Shopping Centers. The city government aims to outshine London in the fashion retail industry. They plan to encourage tourism and local spending in order to encourage the growth of the retail business.

The strategy proves to be effective as more and more retail spaces have been cropping up. Existing businesses rose to the occasion as they expand and improve their storefronts. Some of these businesses creatively combined different concepts. One particular boutique features both an art gallery and a fashion retail store that carriers local and international designer brands.

As the number of social network users in the Middle East rise to more than 90%, business owners now have one more platform to market their products. Through this channel, brands are able to connect with customers, build their reputation, and encourage brand loyalty.

This development in technology does not only benefit businesses as this also help buyers build relationships with other buyers. Social media and business websites are now places to share tips and ideas with peers. The customers are now the most effective brand ambassadors of retail businesses.

There are also budding businesses in Dubai that start small from the homes of entrepreneurs. This may seem innocent but there are legal implications associated with these entrepreneurial activities. A business should not only focus on making profit but also to make sure that all government laws are followed. For this reason it is best for small entrepreneurs to seek the advice of skilled and experienced consultants. This is the surest way to start a fashion retail business in Dubai without experiencing adverse legal ramifications.

Do you want to extend your fashion retail brand online? Are you looking to have a fashion ecommerce site? Anything about Project Management or Network Security? Talk to us at Viable Business Systems and we can help you. Email us at info@vibisus.com.

The Only Digital Marketing Advice You Need to Follow in 2016

The Only Digital Marketing Advice You Need to Follow in 2016

Whether you are starting a small-scale online business or working as the marketing manager of a large multinational corporation, if you want your marketing efforts to reap unimaginable benefits, you need to take advantage of the various digital channels.  Even newspapers and other print media in the UAE have already turned to the web because of the decline of readership of its traditional medium. Digital media has become a big part of everyone’s life in the UAE where there are 8.81 million active internet users according to media insight. This is why it is safe to say that having a brilliant digital marketing campaign will get any business in the ranks of prominent and influential brands in the world. Here is how digital marketing should be done in 2016:

  • Make use of the latest digital marketing tools. Marketing is a bustling scene therefore a smart marketer should be creative enough to be able to innovate. Being up-to-date with the latest industry tools will make creating viral content easy. Arm yourself with the best content management system (CMS) that perform numerous tasks like testing, analyzing, and optimizing content for your website.
  • Get into growth hacking. To quote Ryan Holiday, “The point is, you’ve got to find something new and exciting and channel that energy toward exploding on the market with your product.” If you want to learn more about how big brands like Gmail, Facebook, AirBnb, and Evernote successfully launched their companies, get your hands on Mr. Holiday’s Growth Hacker Marketing.
  • Be patient. Even the best, most creative marketing campaigns need a bit of time and money in order to work its magic. For example, while PPC or pay-per-click marketing will get you on top of search engines right away, you will still get best results with search engine optimization according to a recent study by Accenture. So this year, it is best to get acquainted with SEO tools like SEMrush and Wordstream.

Having a successful business does not end with crafting a good business model. A brilliant product or quality service will not get you anywhere if it does not reach the right customers. Design a marketing strategy that takes into account current consumer behavior. Contact us for more details.

Measuring Financial Benefits of IT Security Systems

Measuring Financial Benefits of IT Security Systems

In June of 2015, ITP.net reported that several banks in the UAE suffered from DDoS attacks linked to the cyber group Anonymous. This happened a couple of months after Kaspersky Lab launched Kaspersky Total Security amidst the worsening cybercrime issues affecting the Middle East. In the said conference, UAE was cited as the second most frequently attacked in the region and the 15th in the world. Immediately after the June 2015 attacks, governments in the region did what they could to improve their cyber security systems. However, the private sector remained unsafe from the hackers.

Private organizations in the GCC member countries should have already learned from their counterparts in Europe, Asia, and most especially the US where a bank was hacked despite having a $250 million-per-year cyber defense system. The reluctance of these organizations to increase the security system of their IT infrastructures could be blamed on the absence of the right methodology that will accurately measure the return on investment of cyber security systems.

In order to measure the benefits of a cybersecurity system these three factors should be determined:

  • Cost to fix – How much would it cost to repair the damage brought by a successful cyber attack? According to IBM, in a healthcare organization the average cost of data breach could amount to $363 dollars while in an educational institution it could cost as high as $300.
  • Opportunity cost – How much would the attack cost in terms of lost business? This includes lost revenue, customer turnover and damage to reputation among other things. According to Ponemon Institute’s study on last year’s Global Cost of Data Breach. Cyber attack notifications remain low costs brought by lost business steadily increased.
  • Equity loss – How much capital damages would a successful cyber attack cause? When sensitive information – such as patents and trade secrets – is lost, lawsuits, leadership turnover, and dispute with investors are highly likely.

The goal of having a sound IT security system is to defend the business organization’s sensitive data, software applications, networks, and hardware from catastrophic attacks. The organization’s Chief Information Security Officer should educate the board of directors of its benefits in order to acquire the right budget for an IT security system. A well-performed value chain analysis involving cost to fix, opportunity cost, and equity loss is a good way to start with.

How to Leverage UX to Build a Remarkable Brand

How to Leverage UX to Build a Remarkable Brand

Web users do not stay longer than 10-20 seconds in a website. They are not very patient when it comes to looking for what they want online. In his book “Don’t Make Me Think,” Steve Krug mentioned these three facts about how people actually use web pages:

  • We don’t read pages. We scan them.
  • We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.
  • We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.

Put simply, digital media users want speed and usability. Your design should then let users achieve their goal the easiest and fastest way possible. If your product lacks these two things, it won’t take long until it is forgotten. This is where a good UX strategy makes brands stand out from the competition.

So how do you achieve usability in UX design? Here are a few tips:

Make it simple

“Don’t make me think!” is Krug’s first law of usability. The users should be able to know which button does this and which button does that. Let us take for example the navigation menu of these two fictional spa websites in Dubai. Which do you think obviously points to the directions on how to get to the spa location?

Make it memorable

Design elements such as font, color scheme, and texture should be uniform all throughout your website. Consistency breeds recognition and dependability rather than confusion. Customers stick to brands that make them feel comfortable. Make sure that your visitors can easily master your navigation menu even after a long period of not visiting the site.

Make it relevant

Establishing brand loyalty requires that you give your users what they want. This is only possible if you regularly test and analyze user behavior. Fortunately, there are platforms designed specifically for this purpose. On top of the list are Sitecore and Hybris.

The user experience that your brand provides its users directly influences your business’ vitality. Although there are equally important aspects of the business that you should not forget, you need to spend time and effort in creating good user experience. Failing at it will adversely affect your brand’s image.

 

How Viable is the Design Consultancy Industry?

How Viable is the Design Consultancy Industry?

The answer in my view really depends on how strategically focused the industry really is?

I say strategically focused because the company in question will need to (a) understand its strategic intent and (b) formulate/implement a clear road map that will take it to the intent.

It is not uncommon to hear strategies relating to market penetration, market development, key account management, increased revenues and gross margins etc. this is easier said than done!

It is uncommon however to obtain real clarity on the direction needed to enable the company to achieve and sustain its intent.

It is this gap, the distance and journey time between where we are today and the strategic intent that needs to be addressed. This is the strategic focus that is missing.

Why is distance and journey time a bigger challenge in the design consultancy industry? I will attempt to answer this question in my next post.

Food for Thought - When should risk money be used on a project?

Food for Thought – When should risk money be used on a project?

In a design environment, more and more risk money is set aside/ “tapped” into, to deal with “risks”, but are we using this money for a good cause or are we merely fueling project complacency?

Risks do need to be identified and mitigated before they materialize and become issues.

The question I guess here is, would you really want to cost and set aside risk monies for all identified risks, including project performance related risks?

Or would you only capture risk money for risks that are outside of the control of projects?

Risks do need to be identified and mitigated for all risks including for those that are performance related. I just wouldn’t keep risk money in my risk pot for funding performance related risks.

In funding performance related risks you are merely camouflaging/ distorting the true underlying performance of a project.

Transparency is key for early warnings and to steering the project back to targets.

© 2015, Majed Bushnaq

Food For Thought - Reason for Bad Leadership

Food For Thought – Reason for Bad Leadership

The reason there are bad leaders in my opinion boils down to all the connotations relating to personal greed/selfishness, empire building, competency issues, inabilities to think strategically, holistically and comprehensively, resistance to change, where the focus is purely on managing the “status quo”…and the list goes on.

Bad leaders may exhibit one or all or a combination of the above attributes of bad leadership.

The impact of bad leadership can be measured based on the weight of these attributes and how they ultimately and collectively effect the business as a whole.

Think of this as a sailing boat, place too many “bad attributes” of significant weights and the boat or business will eventually sink.

Good leadership is about creating a win win situation for both the business and its key assets, it’s people.

© 2014, Majed Bushnaq

The Viable Business Model

The Viable Business Model

The Viable Business Model needed not only to sustain the business into the future but also to allow it to compete effectively with competitive advantage

Introduction

In my earlier blogs, I questioned the viability of the design consultancy industry and their ability to sustain themselves into the future.

I looked at why strategic focus was a bigger challenge in the design consultancy industry and asked what was needed to deal with the challenge.

In this blog, I will attempt to discuss the viable systems/business model needed not only to sustain the business into the future but also to allow it to compete effectively.

A viable business must be strategic in its outlook, encompassing in its reach, comprehensive in its depth and holistic in its approach. A viable business must be designed from the outset with viability in mind to ensure sustained competitive advantage and business growth. All its business components must work together in tandem with strategic outlook, be able to encompass the needs/dependencies of one another, strive for comprehensive, insightful excellence and be driven by a holistic business ideology.

So what does a viable business really look like?

Can you tell if a business is viable by looking at its organization chart? Is the organization chart the right place to start building a viable business?

Commencing with the organization chart is in my view a recipe for walking in the dark leading to inefficiencies, complacency and possible ultimate demise of the business.

What is needed is a clear understanding of the business model, it’s structure and the implementation of five key management functions namely policy, intelligence, control, coordination and operations. Let’s dwell in this in a bit more detail taking the following business scenario as an example:

Business Scenario

Let’s consider a global engineering firm that provides design engineering services to a number of sectors. Typically in such a model, the business will be located in different regions, countries and offices.

How do you design a viable business?

If we take one step backwards and ask some fundamental business questions, then the answers should give us a clue of the kind of business structure we will need to adopt.

Step 1 – Begin by defining the business key success factors?

  1. Design/Engineering success factors – clear scope/requirements identification, efficient/effective technical delivery, quality/consistency, standardization (minimal duplication) ownership and responsibility
  2. Organizational success factors – learning, competitive, entrepreneurial, incentivized performance etc
  3. Financial transparency and accuracy – forecast costs, fees, revenues, multipliers, gross margins, WIP, utilization levels, resource demand profiles, cost variances, schedule variances etc all need to accurately represent underlying performance of projects. These KPI’s provide transparency and early warnings on the project’s health at any given time.
  4. Project management success factors – consistency in how we manage projects, report/manage projects underlying performance, early warning, risks, issues, changes etc. manage cost variances, schedule variances, estimates at completions
  5. Business Development – reputation, integrity, quality of service, client relationship, marketing, bidding, competitive pricing and work winning strategies etc.

A closer examination of the business critical success factors would actually aid in conceptualizing/validating the overall business model needed to achieve these success factors

Figure 1- The Viable Business Structure

Step 2 – Design a winning/relevant business structure that can help achieve the required critical success factors

As the key critical success factors are centered around organizational factors, technical delivery/quality, project management and business development, I have designed my global business structure with these four driving elements in mind.

Basically what I am stipulating here is that if you succeed in each of these elements then you will achieve all of the defined critical success factors. And if you fail in anyone of these elements then the success of the other elements can also become affected.

All of these four elements, organization, technical delivery/quality, project management and business development are interlinked/interrelated in some way or form i.e.: bad project management can lead to technical delivery/quality issues which can in turn result in client relationship problems that can affect future business development.

So the focus is to continuously strive towards achieving excellence on each of the four drivers highlighted in this business scenario. Achieving excellence means meeting all evolving (existing and future) business critical success factors and this in turn should lead to a viable and sustainable business.

Business Structure for Critical Success Factor 1 – Technical Delivery and Quality

The business structure I have designed in figure 1, looks not only at the vertical structures from each of the different levels i.e. global, regional and country level but also attempts to define the horizontal interfaces/links between each of these levels. So technical delivery as a main strategic success factor involves the creation of:

(a) A global technical (and not business sector) lead for each of the business sectors – example, infrastructure, properties, utilities sector etc.

(b) A global technical discipline leads for each discipline within each of the sectors – i.e. highways. Traffic, clean water, geotechnical etc.

(c) A regional technical (and not business sector) sector lead for each of the business sectors

(d) A regional technical discipline lead for each of the disciplines within each of the sectors – i.e. highways, traffic, clean water, geotechnical etc.

(e) Country technical discipline engineers

Reporting Levels & Responsibilities

(a) Country technical discipline engineers report to their related regional technical discipline leads

(b) Regional technical discipline leads report to the regional technical sector leads and global technical discipline leads. Regional technical sector leads ensure proper integration of disciplinary design processes (purely technical role). The global technical discipline leads capture lessons learned, ensure design consistency and develop standardization wherever possible.

(c) Regional technical sector leads report to global technical sector leads – global technical sector leads responsible for driving efficient and effective global integrated design processes (purely technical role)

(d) Global technical discipline leads report to global technical sector leads – global technical sector leads responsible for driving efficient and effective global integrated design processes (purely technical role)

Business Structure for Critical Success Factor 2 – Project Management

The following is required:

(a) Global project management lead – responsible for Global P&L of live projects and in driving project management consistency and financial transparency (highly skilled project manager with emphasis on project management system/solutions development)

(b) Regional Project Management Lead – responsible for Regional P&L of live projects and in driving project management consistency and financial transparency (same skill level as the global project management lead) – reports to Global project management lead.

(c) Regional sector project management lead – responsible for the P&L of each of their designated sectors. They report to the regional project management lead

(d) Country project managers – these project managers report to the regional sector project management lead and are responsible for their projects P&L.

Business Structure for Critical Success Factor 3 – Business Development

Here, business development is responsible for converting corporate policies/strategies on revenues into tangible results at a global, regional, country and sector levels. The structure should be designed to include:

(a) Global business development lead for each of the sectors and

(b) Regional business development leads for each of the sectors

Step 3 – Design The Management Functions

Now that we have conceptualized the business structure required to achieve the business critical success factors, we are now in a position to turn this structure into a viable business proposition.

Figure 2 – Viable Business Model – Global Level

Viability in this context means (a) looking at the business structure from a management functions perspective and (b) designing/continuously optimizing each of these functions to achieve excellence in the business overall time, cost and quality parameters

Figure 2 illustrates the business viable model from a global level perspective, it must be emphasized however that for the business to be viable, the business at a global level cannot be considered in isolation of the regional business level (figure 3) which in turn needs to be viewed in conjunction with the country level business model (figure 4).

Figure 3&4 Viable Business Models – Regional and Country Levels

The management functions referred to in this model refers to operations, coordination, control, intelligence and policy.

(1) Operations function– these are the processes associated with for example (a) the global lead railways, rail structures and signaling (b)regional lead – traffic and (c) traffic disciplines at a country level

These operations and their processes link both vertically within each of the business levels and horizontally across all the three levels ie global, regional and country.

(2) Coordination function– this function is required to (a) remind of the important role managers have i.e. traffic discipline manager has of not only managing his processes to achieve excellence in time, cost and quality but also of the interfaces with other managers responsible for some of the other disciplines and (b) coordinate resources requirements across all the various divisions etc

(3) Control function – this function is required to ensure (a) that all business defined/approved processes are actually adhered to and (b) control any conflict

(4) Intelligence function – needed to report on the threats and opportunities and dealing with these via the control function.

(5) Policy – is used to turn vision and strategies into tangible policies that can be picked up by the intelligent and control functions and implemented all the way down and across the various business levels.

All management functions need to be in touch with the environment for any threats or opportunities.

In my next blog I will zoom in on the viable business model’s project management function.

Meanwhile, would love to hear from anyone out there with any comments.

© 2014, Majed Bushnaq

Why is Strategic Focus a Bigger Challenge in the Design Consultancy Industry & What is Needed to Deal with the Challenge?

Why is Strategic Focus a Bigger Challenge in the Design Consultancy Industry & What is Needed to Deal with the Challenge?

In my earlier blog posted on 22/10/2014, I looked at the viability of the design consultancy industry and asked why the strategic focus was a bigger challenge to achieve then in other industries. I drew a straight line, a direct correlation between the strategic focus and achieving/sustaining the intent hence industry viability.

In this blog I will attempt to answer some of these industry challenges (and solutions) that are resulting in this gap, the gap in distance and journey time between where we are today and the strategic intent.

Let’s consider distance first.

When I talk about distance I am literally referring to how far away the industry is from achieving its full potential.

The strategic intent set by a business defines where the business wants to be in five to ten years from today.

The strategic focus is the tool needed to achieve the full potential that will lead to this intent. This full potential must be capable of dealing with the most challenging of intents. The strategic intents themselves must not be unrealistic but dictated to a certain extent by the full capability potential of the business, and I stress full and not current potential. A word of caution here, the full potential is not static state but dynamic.

The benefits associated with a business that strategically focuses on achieving its full potential is a combination of organic and non-organic growth, sustainability and viability.

So to answer the question on why the strategic focus is more of a challenge in the design consulting industry, I would say it basically boils down to:

  1. Organizational/business design
  2. Culture & excessive resistance to change
  3. Tactical non holistic views of the business strategic intent
  4. Greater emphasis on engineering/design works at the expense of focusing on the road map leading to the strategic intent

What is needed to close this gap in distance?

The industry needs in my view to look at implementing four key areas:

  1. A viable systems/business model
  2. Encourage and not destroy both entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship at all levels of the business. If you are wondering about the difference the former is external related and the latter is internal.
  3. A culture that competes for the future by continuously challenging the assumptions and is prepared to forget the past.
  4. Performance related incentives to create a win -win situation for all business and staff alike.

The journey time for closing this gap will ultimately depend on the level of commitment from the very top of the organization. The extent of commitment from the top, CEO, COO level etc will mean the difference between a relatively short journey time and a very long one. The focus in hand must be to narrow the journey time as leaving it for too long may lead to the business demise.

In my next post I will discuss the viable systems/business model, meanwhile I would be happy to answer/debate any questions any of you may have on my initial two blogs.

Author of Blog: Majed Bushnaq