Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Android-powered phone



Samsung Electronics on Apr. 27 unveiled its first smartphone using the Android operating system backed by Google. The South Korean electronics giant is the second company to roll out an Android-powered phone after Taiwan’s HTC, although Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG Electronics all have plans to make Android phones. Samsung’s first Android phone, the I7500, will be sold only in Europe from June, but the company is due to follow up with other Android handsets for the U.S. and Asia in the second half of this year.

The I7500, while offering users access to the full suite of Google services, including Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar and Google Talk, focuses more on multimedia functions. It sports a 3.2-in. full touch screen, 5-megapixel camera and a built-in memory of 8 gigabytes plus an external memory of up to 32 GB, but it won’t have physical QWERTY keypad. It is less than a half-in. thick, uses AMOLED technology for crispy display, instead of the more commonly used LCD technology, and offers a 3.5mm audio jack to allow users to plug in their favorite headphones for music and video playback.

The Samsung Android phone underlines the Korean company’s determination to become a major player in the smartphone market, now dominated by Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry. It is one of about 20 smartphones Samsung plans to roll out this year. Last week, Samsung said its telecom business earned $833 million on sales of $7.26 billion for a profit margin of 11.5% in the first quarter of this year, beating Nokia’s 8.9% margin.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are we in for Another Crisis - 1. Economic 2. Health

Can something like an unknown swine flu affect financial market? One need only ask Hong Kong, and the rest of Asia during the SARS outbreak. It nearly crippled the surrounding economies. AirAsia could weather oil prices above $100, but the SARS outbreak nearly drove the company to collapse. So, it is best to keep a close watch on the flu outbreak as it seems to be spreading beyond Mexico. 

The Obama administration declared a public-health emergency with 20 cases confirmed in the U.S., including eight in New York, and said that there are likely to be more illnesses. China and Russia made plans to quarantine anyone with symptoms of the virus. Asian airports used a device to test arriving passengers for fever.

Russia banned meat imports from Mexico and several U.S. states, although World Health Organization officials said there is no sign the flu spreads by contact with meat. A WHO panel will convene Tuesday to consider whether to raise its global pandemic alert. In Geneva, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan warned that the virus had the potential to cause a pandemic, but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it would erupt into a global outbreak.

Only one of the 20 U.S. patients has required hospitalization, none had antiviral treatment, and there have been no fatalities. In Mexico, officials have confirmed 20 deaths as due to the new flu and believe 61 more deaths probably were. New cases of the flu, which is taking its heaviest toll in young adults, were seen outside Mexico City, the city that's been hardest hit.

Exactly how the disease is spread remains a mystery, though it is known to be able to move from one human being to another. The virus is made up of genetic material from swine, bird and human viruses. Often, it triggers only mild symptoms.

Stockpiles of Australian developed antiviral drug Relenza are being prepared for use around the world by governments in the global effort to combat the outbreak of swine flu. The US government announced overnight that it would release a quarter of its stockpile of Relenza and the other anti-viral drug Tamiflu after 20 cases of the flu were confirmed there, while other countries are expected to follow if further cases are confirmed. The death toll in Mexico alone now stands at 103, Reuters reported.

Relenza was developed by Melbourne-based company Biota and has been licensed to global pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline, which produces the inhalant at sites including its plant at Boronia, in Melbourne's east. Shares in Biota, which collects a 7% royalty from sales, shot up 67 cents, or 77%, or 62, to $1.54 this morning.

Authorities around the world are getting ready to tap into their stockpiles of Relenza and the Roche-produced Tamiflu to combat the outbreak of the disease, which emerged from Mexico at the weekend.Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, and Relenza, or zanamivir, are both recommended drugs for seasonal flu and have been shown to work against viral samples of the new disease.

"Anti-viral drugs for seasonal influenza are available in some countries and effectively prevent and treat the illness,'' the World Health Organisation said in a statement over the weekend. The WHO said recent samples of swine flu were resistant to another class of anti-flu drug known as adamantanes, but were "sensitive to'' Tamiflu and Relenza.

Spanish health authorities are investigating seven cases of possible swine flu in people who returned from Mexico in recent days. New Zealand officials said that 10 students "likely" had been infected with the disease after a school trip to Mexico. Canada recorded four cases in Nova Scotia and two in British Columbia, in people with some link to recent travel to Mexico.

Mexican health authorities said the death toll from the new strain of A/H1N1 swine flu remains at 20, and they are continuing to investigate whether more than 1,000 others were infected with the mysterious bug, which attacked in three geographically diverse areas of the country and is taking its heaviest toll in young adults.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How Short Can Your Workout Be?

We all have this question troubling us, specially if you are not used to doing workout and always plan for doing it when the new year resolution bug hits you.. so here is something very scientific that I found while checking out Oprah website.. from her favorite Doc Dr.Oz and his website

Twenty…30…55. The numbers being tossed out right now about how many minutes you should work out sound more like an auction for the queen's underwear than organized goals. Just as you got used to hearing that you should get 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, along comes new evidence that you need 55 minutes most days of the week. And what, exactly, does "activity" mean? Well, keep your sneakers on: It's not as confusing as it sounds.

Why the different numbers? They're about different payoffs. The "30 minutes" guideline is the minimum that the Centers for Disease Control recommend for staving off chronic disease. The "55 minutes" number is from a new study in which people who did that much kept off 10 percent of their weight.

The fact is, staying at a healthy weight is part of staving off chronic disease. We think that workouts should do far more than one thing for you. They can fight aging, heart disease, osteoporosis, belly bulge, arthritis, memory loss, stress and more—so why not get them all? To keep your body from hitting its expiration date before you do, set these four goals. However, if you've been cozier with the couch than your walking shoes lately, do each one for 30 days before adding the next.

  1. Take two different types of steps.
    Work up to walking 10,000 steps a day, every day. Do 30 minutes' worth—about 3,000 to 5,000 steps—as brisk walking that gets your heart rate up perceptibly. This is not a stroll, but it's not as high as you'd get while doing a stamina workout such as the elliptical trainer at the gym. Your heart rate should be at least 10 beats per minute higher than when you're strolling. This is "moderate" activity. Pressed for time? Three 10-minute walks are just as good. Even these small amounts can lower your blood pressure, lousy (LDL) cholesterol and inflammation level and raise healthy (HDL) cholesterol.

    The other 5,000 to 7,000 steps are the casual ones you accumulate while walking through the grocery store, to the bus, around the office and with the dog. These steps burn calories and help keep your weight down, but they're not enough on their own.

    Where does housework fit in? If vacuuming gets your heart pumping and takes longer than 10 minutes (few household chores do, believe it or not), then chalk it up as moderate activity. But chances are it's an exception, so count these steps in your "casual" total.

  2. Heft some weights for 30 minutes a week.
    It only takes three 10-minute muscle workouts (time actually spent lifting the weights or using resistance bands) a week to get you strong enough to reverse some of the aging process. We're not talking about bench pressing monster truck tires. We mean using your body to push and pull against some kind of resistance, whether it's exercise bands, a weight machine, dumbbells or your own body weight (cheapest gym you'll ever join).

    Use proper form and never sacrifice form for weight (use the heaviest weight you can while maintaining perfect form). Developing flawless form usually involves instruction and periodic checks by a pro. This tiny amount of resistance training not only builds muscle but also helps keep bones strong and stokes your calorie-burning furnace—muscle burns more calories than fat. And it keeps your arteries young, your immune system fit, your risk of falls low and your body confidence high.

  3. Break a sweat for 20 minutes three times a week.
    We call these "stamina" workouts—they make you sweat in a cool room. You can bike, use the elliptical trainer, jog, swim, dance or even make vigorous love…if you can do it that long. Stamina workouts strengthen your heart (and maybe your blood vessels).

    If you want to get into the next Olympics or just run a 5K, you'll need to do more than 60 minutes a week. But if you want optimum health, it's all you need. Overachievers, take heed: Once you go over 60 minutes or so, there's no more benefit from a longevity standpoint. In fact, the extra wear and tear on your body could actually decrease your lifespan.

  4. Stretch for five minutes five times a week.
    Simple yoga combinations and plain-vanilla stretching increase your flexibility. Hold a position for a minute or longer and you'll also get a meditative component, which can have spiritual and physical bonuses.

When it comes right down to it, working out is pretty simple: If it hurts, stop. If you dread your workout, change it. The pursuit of health should be a joy and a pleasure. Go out and love it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Company Boilerplate

I came across this term very recently while I was working towards preparation for an event for my company. I realised that I am not new to what is being done but it is the terminology that I had not heard. So here it goes.

How to Write a Company Description Boilerplate


Plan ahead. Know exactly what you want to tell customers. Your boilerplate should be short so you don't want to waste any words. Remember, the boilerplate tells the media and customers about your company. It is often used over and over again.
Use the heading "About Us" or your company name as the heading. Begin with a strong clear opening sentence. Include your slogan or mission statement in the introduction.
Describe your products and services clearly and concisely. List your strengths but don't get caught up in your greatness. No one will believe you if you go overboard especially if you can't prove your claim.
Offer proof of what you can do. Mention any awards you have received or any important business ranking your company has achieved. Describe what your company does and how they do it. You don't want to say how great your company is without saying why.
State how you can help the customer. Be honest and don't exaggerate. You don't want to say more than you can really do.
Pick your words carefully. Be smart with your word choices. For example, say your company is "one of the best" instead of saying it is "the best." The first choice is more believable.
Use clear language with short sentences and descriptive words. Do not use industry-specific words that potential customers will not understand. Write the boilerplate in a formal tone but remember to keep the customer in mind.
Know your market niche or your target population. Make sure your boilerplate is directed at the customer. Be specific so customers understand what you do. Mention what you do and what you sell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Choice of your words

The choice of your words determines the response you will get from the other party – whether it is your wife or your customer.

Here are 10 examples…..


1. Achieved

Good example: Achieved the target of implementing the software onsite for 200 users 15 days before the deadline.

Bad example: To implement the software onsite.

This sounds more like a responsibility. The customer is mainly interested in knowing about your output.

2. Built

Good Example: Built new premises to convert the study centre into a residential college accommodating 200 students.

Bad example: Building a new premise for the residential college.

3. Developed

Good example: Developed guidelines for 50 users to understand and use the new process for client handling.

Bad example: Developing guidelines to use the new process for client handling.

The customer will be amused with questions like: What guidelines? When? For whom?. The good example here answers these queries and shows your output rather than your responsibility.

4. Eliminated

Good example: Eliminated the use of thick brown tape for sealing the packages to reduce the cost by over 15 per cent.

Bad example: To eliminate wasteful of resources.

The customer will again have the questions like 'what type of resources?', 'how did your action help?'

5. Forecast

Good example: Forecast a downturn in the FMCG business because of economic slowdown. Suggested measures to combat it and achieve the quarterly target.

Bad example: To analyse and forecast the market.

6. Introduced

Good example: Introduced a new process to handle queries from potential customers to increase the conversion rate by 60 per cent.

Bad example: Introducing a new process to handle client queries.

7. Modernised

Good example: Modernised a chain of 15 retail outlets across three states to meet the taste of urban youth.

Bad example: To modernise the look of retail chain outlets.

8. Organised

Good example: Organised reseller conferences in three cities while maintaining a close co-ordination with three internal departments and four vendors.

Bad example: Organising events like exhibitions and retailer conferences.

9. Recommended

Good example: Recommended five new ways to ensure that the company is able to roll out the new version of its 'small car' before the launch of Nano [Images].

Bad example: Recommending ways for the company to roll out its new 'small car'

10. Secured

Good example: Secured first position in the university while pursuing MBA course and helped the college stand at the top of the list.

Bad example: University topper during MBA

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How does Pre-sales work?

Clients or companies that need software services and project implementations generally call for proposals from a pool of preferred vendors. Although it is hard to generalize on the nature of or the contents of such proposals, most documents follow a structured framework: detailing the project, asking vendors for suggestions or solutions or proposals along with cost estimates regarding the work to be done. RFP responses would generally involve two components: 

  • The technical solution: A typical response to an RFP or proposal will include a substantial technical component. People responding to RFPs at service firms generally follow a well-defined operating process involving plugging the response documents with common templates about the company and its capabilities. The customization process kicks in when it comes to project and client specific responses; and here is where someone with a technical background is really valuable. Technical subject matter experts are needed to analyze the client's problem, think through a framework to create a solution based upon their knowledge and experience. Such skills can be especially useful while preparing a proof of concept or technical demo. The focus areas include:
    • Demonstrate to the client that you Get their problem and showcase how you will approach the solution. During Pre-sales phase, technical solutions could include a mockup of the end-state technical view, reference architecture (a.ka. Marchitecture), approach or framework to solve the client's specific problem.
    • Demonstrating organizational capabilities. Organizations typically demonstrate their capabilities by referencing past successes (Case studies, whitepapers etc), and may also develop proof-of-concept (POC), demonstrations or mockups.
  • Commercials and administrative aspects: Commercial and administrative aspects include a whole gamut of activities involved in responding to clients with specific reference to the processes involved in executing the engagement / project. Cost is definitely a key criteria organizations use while evaluating a proposal though depending on the nature of problem being sourced, the credentials of the vendor and the solution may take a higher priority. The administrative aspects include a high-level estimate of the effort involved in terms of duration (time), effort (people/resources) and additional resources including infrastructure etc required to successfully provide the required solution. Estimating the level-of-work involved may include formal estimation techniques based on expertise from past projects or could be a very heuristic process, especially for newer technologies without adequate benchmarks. The focus areas may include:
  • Cost, budget and financials: What is the total cost to the client, how often will they be invoiced and the mode of payment etc? This may include defining the billing model: Time and Material (T&M), Fixed Price (FP) or other blended models.
  • Staffing plan, resource management: Responses to proposals typically include staffing plans (how many people, skills they bring to the table, roles etc) and may also include other resources needed including specific systems, hardware, software etc.
  • Credentials, testimonials and references from past clients. There are instances where clients may ask for specific testimonials from existing/past clients of service firms. Staff engaged in pre-sales activities should be able to arrange for such references.

Question: I have been asked to support pre-sales activities in my firm. Is this a good move for me?

The answer would be highly subjective and depend on various factors. Among the key factors to be reflecting include:

  • Your career aspirations: Do you wish to learn more about the business of software services? Do you see yourself managing your business? If the answer is Yes, a stint in pre-sales support, supporting sales activities and getting an understanding of how/what 'sells' in the marketplace will be an invaluable learning experience
  • The Phase/Stage of your career: A stint in Pre-sales roles may be especially valuable for those who have spent at least a few years doing hands-on work Let's assume you wish to remain a Techie, say wish to move towards being an Architect or Consultant. Even in such a case, exposure to your business (the business of software services) is a skill that is certainly going to help.

Bottomline: Plan and reflect on your specific takeaway from a stint in Pre Sales. You should essentially be asking: what is my takeaway from my stint Pre Sales activities

Question: I am a new management graduate and don't have any background in software development. Can I try my hand at Pre-Sales jobs?

Answer: This is a question I get asked very often. Fact is that organizations don't always advertise presales jobs directly since 'pre sales support' may be associated with other job functions too (however, some do advertise, as the example here shows). As this advertisement illustrates, the firm is looking for those with an engineering degree to support pre sales.

In other instances, those from a management background, say with an MBA or even Tech-Writers may be able to find a niche in pre-sales role in software service firms without being expected to get too technical.

Bottomline: You should keep in mind that organizations may or may not always advertise 'pre sales' as a job title, but while reading job adverts you may get a feel for the fact that the role predominantly involves pre-sales activities. Position yourself accordingly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Finally subscribed to Robin Sharma

My brother introduced me to Robin Sharma.. well not in person but over the internet by letting me know about his website and his works. Parag, my brother has also been doing quite a bit of reading and has recently finished with the "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" authored by Robin Sharma.

Sharma Leadership International Inc. (SLI) is a global training firm with a single focus: to help people in organizations Lead Without a Title. We passionately believe that you don't need a title to show leadership. Their clients include many of the best-known companies on the planet including Microsoft, Nike, FedEx, IBM, BP, KPMG and GE. SLI does business in over 55 countries and has a proven record for delivering winning results for clients for nearly 15 years.

Founded by Robin Sharma, who in an independent 2007 survey of over 22,000 businesspeople was named the #2 leadership guru in the world (source: along with Jack Welch and Tom Peters, SLI is dedicated to helping build leaders. Pure and simple.

Robin Sharma is one of the most widely read authors in the world with his blockbusters such as The Greatness Guide (HarperCollins) and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (HarperCollins) not only topping bestseller lists but being translated into nearly 50 languages. He is also a trusted advisor to the media on leadership issues and has appeared on CNN, CNBC and NBC.

I had briefly checked out the website & had planned for subscribing to his newsletters bu hadn't done that till day before. So finally I started getting the newsletter coming into my inbox.

This is the excerpt of the Newsletter.. Rest can be found on the website or one can subscibe to it:

#1. Protect Your Thinking. 
#2. Take the long view. 
#3. Outwork your competition.

#4. Stay Strong. No point in letting the stress and challenge of these interesting days ruin your health-or break your spirit. Tough times make great leaders. Maintain the champion's mindset by reading uplifting books, associating with excellent people and making time each day to renew your self. Oh, and take good care of your health. Please. Now isn't the time to neglect daily exercise. And those who don't make time for fitness must eventually make time for illness.

I personally liked the 4th point and I would try to follow the regime as suggested..

Look forward to the next newsletter. Till then...keep leading.. or reading....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Learning from Recession, the Japanese Way



I found this article interesting to share, since it gives a different perspective on how every country strives to do things differently based on their culture & markets & experiences that can sometimes be adopted with changes in your own country or company or line of business. I am just summarising some things from the article & looking to grasp the ideas for my own use.


Even before the rough economic times started, the Japanese consumer market was viewed as one of the world's most advanced. Driven by sophisticated and demanding consumers, Japanese companies are highly evolved as innovators in the areas of product, packaging, channels, and services. And they've been dealing with downturns since Japan's financial crisis began in the early 1990s. The combination of demanding consumers and prolonged economic hard times has taught Japanese companies how to adapt, and some are emerging as perennial winners. In other words, they ferreted out opportunities presented by a downturn and emerged as even stronger competitors.

Who's still buying what in Japan? The country is one place where older shoppers have the greatest buying power. Our analysis of data between 2000 and 2006 finds that the nation's most influential consumers are families whose heads of households are over 50 years old. They account for 80% of consumers' financial assets and income, and that segment has continued to grow as Japan is one of the most rapidly aging countries.


Increasingly, Japanese consumers are spending money on purchases that once might have been viewed as indulgent but now are rationalized as purchases that reinforce a lifestyle or image. In 2000, when the Nomura Research Institute asked consumers about the factors governing their purchasing decisions, 23% cited promoting their lifestyle as a factor. In 2006 that figure rose to 32%. Meanwhile, price consciousness actually appears to be dropping: 50% of consumers polled in 2000 cited price as the major deciding factor, but in 2006 that number dropped to 45%.

Dr.Ci:Labo, the maker of high-end skin-care products, is one company that has learned how to generate consumer insights to lead to new products that increase sales. Traditionally, companies invest in call centers with the aim of reducing costs for customer service or up-selling. But Dr.Ci:Labo wanted to make the most of its investment by finding another purpose. Instead of urging its call-center employees to resolve customer issues quickly or sell products, it encouraged them to use the interaction as an opportunity to learn more about the people who use its products, particularly those who would purchase the higher-end goods that deliver Dr.Ci:Labo the highest margins. By giving customer-service representatives time for long conversations with targeted customers, the company tuned into customer needs, boosted loyalty, and successfully promoted its more expensive skin-care products. Dr.Ci:Labo's call-center strategy helped deliver steady sales growth and wider margins. Sales grew 14% annually (compounded) between 2004 and 2008, with margins ranging from 15% to 20%.

We've identified four major ways companies like Dr.Ci:Labo are able to spur growth—despite the downturn.


In January alone, Japanese department-store sales plunged 9% year-on-year, the biggest drop in monthly sales since record keeping began in 1965, and following a steady 11-month decline. Downturn leaders reduce their dependence on such traditional channels and create new outlets. Uniqlo, the casual-wear maker and retailer, has improved sales by opening shops in railroad stations with a customized product lineup. For example, the Tokyo station targets business travelers with a "one-day pack," complete with underwear and socks.

These midsize shops outperform Uniqlo's larger stores, with four times more in average sales. In fact the outlet in Shinjuku station now ranks sixth in sales among all 770 Uniqlo stores.

Aigle, the French apparel maker, has had profit growth since 2004 by following shoppers to popular Japanese discount outlet malls. These days, families head to malls in search of both good deals and an inexpensive form of entertainment—as an alternative to hot springs or Disneyland. Aigle has capitalized on this trend, pricing some products specifically for outlet stores. The result: While other apparel makers' profits have vaporized, Aigle has seen its margins rise by as much as 11% since 2004.


Megane Top upended the optical industry when it introduced Japan to a new way of buying glasses. Instead of taking nearly a week to deliver a new pair, Megane pledged to turn around orders in just 25 minutes. And instead of a wide range of prices for frames and lenses, customers can choose among 1,200 frames and 20 lenses for a flat fee of 18,900 yen ($194). As customers embraced the concept, Megane's sales soared, growing from $287 million in 2006, when the new business model was introduced, to $368 million in fiscal 2007.

How could Megane afford to offer fast, inexpensive glasses? For starters, the company carries a lens inventory at each store, but it hedges the inventory risk to the lens manufacturer by paying a premium above the wholesale price. Megane also developed and installed in-store machines that insert the lenses in frames. While each store offers a wide variety of frame designs, the lenses themselves are standard. That eliminates the complexity of individually cutting lenses at the store. By unbundling functions that were previously handled by lens or frame manufacturers, by relying on lower-cost store employees to perform those functions, and by using standard-size lenses, the company is able to sell its eyeglasses at an affordable price, speed the delivery process—and still maintain its margins.


Market leaders carefully track consumer behavior and respond. With budget-conscious consumers spending more time at home and eating out less, Sanyo (6764.T), the electronics maker, tapped into a desire for tastier home-cooked meals. Sales of high-quality rice steamers were so strong that Sanyo needed to increase production of its top-of-the-line steamer by 30% in its domestic plant to satisfy increased demand. McDonald's Japan (MCD) achieved record revenues and profits last year by offering its 100-yen menu: The company traded some margin for volume, and it worked.

For its part, Uniqlo has developed products specifically to meet the needs of customers looking for value. It spent more than three years working with suppliers to develop long underwear—which competitors sold on average for around 3,000 yen ($30)—that could be priced at around 1,000 yen ($10).


Winning companies know how to change the rules of the game when an old business model no longer works for today's consumers.

Confectioner Morinaga & Co. spotted the trend of harried consumers forgoing traditional sit-down meals. It introduced a convenient and nutritional substitute: gel in an aluminum foil packet that's touted as a "meal in 10 seconds." Sales of the product, Weider in Jelly, have grown at an annual compounded rate of 21% since its introduction in 1995.

And women's lingerie maker Wacoal gave underwear a whole new meaning when it broke into the men's market in March 2008. It introduced a stretchy, stomach-flattening underwear garment that's billed as capable of reducing body fat simply by wearing and walking in it. The product is targeted to middle-aged Japanese men who worry about health risks associated with being overweight. In the first 10 months the company sold 820,000 pairs.

If Japanese consumer-product companies have learned anything from almost two decades of nonstop economic turbulence, it's that they can find a way to win if they change with their customers, develop new channels for selling, price their products right—even passing along cost declines to consumers—and redefine the basis for competition. Their lesson to the rest of the world: Waiting for a turnaround isn't an option.

Hiroshi Makioka and Jean-Philippe Biragnet are partners in Bain & Co.'s Tokyo office and members of the firm's Consumer Products & Retail practice. Mike Booker, a partner based in Singapore, leads Bain's Asia-Pacific Consumer Products & Retail practice.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Viewpoints on Pre Sales, Sales support at Software Service Firms

Why Pre Sales?

Information Technology (IT) is a backbone for successful functioning of most modern enterprise. Add to this the fact that most western enterprise and businesses continually have more IT projects and initiatives than their firms' employees can take on. They either hire contractors or source such projects to vendors. The process of sourcing work to vendors (or even hiring contractors from contracting firms) involves a complex set of activities and negotiations on several fronts including pricing, definition of scope of work and drawing formal contracts. For service firms, responding to such requests from clients and formulating responses also involves complex activities, for which they dedicate teams of specialists.

Most technologists, programmers, analysts and engineers who work for consulting or software services companies end up working for clients. Consulting firms utilize people on bench (between client engagements) and also dedicate some employees to work on pre-sales support activities. Many technocrats, however, dislike performing such pre-sales activities for a few reasons:

  • Perception of repetitive/mundane work: Some techies think sales support or pre-sales activities are repetitive work and feel that responses to RFPs involve "cut and paste" from seed documents and various sources. Obviously, this is not true since responses to clients are meant to be specific to their problem/needs. Of course, to avoid reinventing the wheel, pre-sales teams may resort to utilizing templates and pre-existing material.
  • Lack of instant gratification: Pre-sales cycles are generally long, and it takes weeks (or months) before the results of a proposal can be known. This is the reason pre-sales people work on multiple proposals at any given time. Techies, on the other hand, come from a background where they can "see" the results of their code or work almost instantly. For instance, writing a Java program, compiling it and running it may give an instant gratification to some.
  • Fear of getting into a 'management' career track: Some technocrats like to remain technically focused and fear that by being involved in pre-sales, they might be expected to move towards the management track.

Obviously, the basis of such fear is unfounded. Fact of the matter is that pre-sales support is necessary for service firms to survive and thrive, and they will rope in talented individuals in the organizations to participate. Larger companies, especially the 'big five,' and large offshoring software service companies -- including Infosys, TCS, Wipro, Satyam -- weave incentive plans, bonuses and career growth around such "corporate activities," typically expecting consultants to log 15 to 20 percent extra time on such initiatives. Using intranets, VPNs, remote logins, and sophisticated workflow tools, companies are able to track the activities of consultants to reward and motivate them. Many organizations have built large knowledge management systems and repository of frequently asked questions, how-to's, past projects, case studies, standardized response templates, etc that enable their pre-sales staff. Such systems also thwart an element of repetitiveness from creeping into pre-sales activities. The 'fear' of getting into a 'management' career track may just be unfounded. Seasoned technologists recognize the insights and understanding of the business and processes that a stint in pre-sales support can bring to their work.

What is Pre Sales?

Pre Sales includes the entire gamut of activities involved in preparing to engage with prospects, clients and others and includes specific responses to client requests. Clients or companies that need software services and project implementations generally call for proposals or expect responses from their vendors and service providers. Although it is hard to generalize on the nature of or the contents of such proposals, most documents follow a structured framework: detailing the project, asking vendors for suggestions or solutions or proposals along with cost estimates regarding the work to be done. Typical Pre-sales support activities include:

  • Responding to client requests: Responses to clients could include informal responses, pointers to publications, colleterals or other references or take more specific forms like responses to proposals including: Request for Proposal (RFPs), Request for Information (RFI) and specific Statement of Work (SoW) or Work Orders
  • Supporting client visits: In some cases, clients or prospective clients may make a trip to offshore vendor's offices for a personal visit prior to engaging with them. This could include offshore client visits targeted at offshoring
  • Visiting clients and/or making presentations: Engaging clients for larger, complex deals involves a number of activities, including making presentations, meeting with clients to discuss specific aspects of their (client's) initiatives, to get a better understanding of the context in order to make specific recommendations in proposals. This may also include preparing proof-of-concept demonstrations and solution mockups.
  • Competitor Analysis and market scanning: This is a crucial aspect of pre-sales since many clients evaluate responses from multiple vendors, and responses should address such competitive scan. The analysis could include using online tools, subscribing and analyzing research reports, analyst studies, market research data etc.
  • Sales Support: Such activities may include supporting sales and account teams in responding to general client queries about solutions and capabilities. This could include partnering with onsite/client facing Sales or Business Development Managers to identify and convert prospects into customers.
  • Interfacing with other internal groups (within the organization) while responding to client requests. This is especially true of larger software service firms where Pre-sales people from one group/division may have to rope in Subject Matter Experts from other groups while responding to a client request or proposal
  • Marketing support: Large service firms work hard at differentiating themselves from others by formulating marketing messages and evolving Go-to-market solutions or customized offerings. This may also take a form of alliances with other software product development firms or niche vendors. Pre-sales activities may include leveraging such alliances to showcase extended capabilities to clients. 
I will continue with some more information on Pre Sales & concepts in the next blog in a few days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 50 Most Innovative Companies


With the sudden reversal of the global economy, businesses are struggling not only with shrinking income and budgets, but also with seismic shifts that are upending entire industries, from autos and retail to banking and entertainment. These same forces are apparent in our latest ranking of the Most Innovative Companies. While the 2009 list includes some stalwarts in their usual top positions—namely Apple and Google—15 newcomers have joined the lineup, the biggest change since BusinessWeek and Boston Consulting Group first partnered on this proprietary survey in 2005. These include more companies headquartered outside the U.S. than in the past, such as Volkswagen, Infosys, and Telefónica. See a full explanation of our methodology as well as the footnotes at the bottom of the table.

HQ Country
HQ Continent
Stock Returns 2005-08 *
(in %)
Revenue Growth 2005-08 **
(in %)
Margin Growth 2005-08 ***
(in %)
Known for its Most Innovative
(% who think so)
11APPLE U.S.North America5.9 30.4 15.8 Product (47%)
22GOOGLE U.S.North America-9.5 52.6 -8.2 Customer Experience (26%)
33TOYOTA MOTOR JapanAsia-20.7 4.2 -35.9 Process (35%)
45MICROSOFT U.S.North America-8.0 13.5 -1.3 Process (26%)
57NINTENDO JapanAsia36.7 61.1 20.6 Product (48%)
612IBM U.S.North America2.3 4.4 14.3 Process (31%)
715HEWLETT-PACKARD U.S.North America9.1 10.9 31.6 Process (39%)
813RESEARCH IN MOTION CanadaNorth America24.6 74.1 11.2 Product (53%)
910NOKIA FinlandEurope-8.3 14.0 -10.3 Product (38%)
1023WAL-MART STORES U.S.North America8.0 9.1 -2.1 Process (49%)
1111AMAZON.COM U.S.North America2.8 31.2 -4.8 Customer Experience (41%)
128PROCTER & GAMBLE U.S.North America4.5 11.7 2.4 Process (27%)
136TATA GROUP IndiaAsiaPrivatePrivatePrivateProduct (44%)
149SONY JapanAsia-25.8 3.1 -41.1 Product (40%)
1519RELIANCE INDUSTRIES IndiaAsia22.6 28.5 11.9 Business Model (35%)
1626SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS South KoreaAsia-10.8 10.5 -1.5 Product (41%)
174GENERAL ELECTRIC U.S.North America-19.7 10.1 -12.2 Process (36%)
18NRVOLKSWAGEN GermanyEurope-14.4 7.1 33.6 Customer Experience (38%)
1930MCDONALDS U.S.North America25.8 7.2 9.5 Customer Experience (55%)
2014BMW GermanyEurope-14.8 6.9 -14.6 Customer Experience (37%)
2117WALT DISNEY U.S.North America-0.2 6.4 17.2 Customer Experience (68%)
2216HONDA MOTOR JapanAsia-15.4 4.8 -14.6 Product (47%)
2327AT&T U.S.North America9.9 41.5 9.7 Product (33%)
24NRCOCA-COLA U.S.North America6.8 11.4 0.1 Customer Experience (38%)
2547VODAFONE BritainEurope8.6 10.2 N/AProduct (25%)
26NRINFOSYS IndiaAsia-8.1 32.4 2.0 Process (40%)
27NRLG ELECTRONICS South KoreaAsia-5.0 9.6 17.0 Product (46%)
28NRTELEFÓNICA SpainEurope12.2 17.0 -2.0 Business Model (40%)
2931DAIMLER GermanyEurope-11.9 1.5 39.0 Product (40%)
3034VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS U.S.North America10.4 11.9 -1.0 Customer Experience (38%)
31NRFORD MOTOR U.S.North America-32.6 -3.3 N/AProduct (36%)
3235CISCO SYSTEMS U.S.North America-1.6 14.3 -8.0 Process (27%)
3348INTEL U.S.North America-14.3 -1.1 -8.0 Process (35%)
3428VIRGIN GROUP BritainEuropePrivatePrivatePrivateCustomer Experience (45%)
35NRARCELORMITTAL LuxembourgEurope-6.7 64.4 -18.0 Business Model (63%)
3640HSBC HOLDINGS BritainEurope-6.1 20.3 -18.0 Process (32%)
3742EXXONMOBIL U.S.North America14.5 8.8 2.0 Process (47%)
38NRNESTLÉ SwitzerlandEurope4.3 6.5 -14.0 Product (47%)
39NRIBERDROLA SpainEurope7.5 54.0 -14.0 Customer Experience (40%)
4025FACEBOOK U.S.North AmericaPrivatePrivatePrivateCustomer Experience (51%)
41223M U.S.North America-7.2 6.1 -3.0 Product (44%)
42NRBANCO SANTANDER SpainEurope-9.3 11.8 2.0 Business Model (37%)
4345NIKE U.S.North America7.1 11.5 -4.0 Customer Experience and Product (36% each)
44NRJOHNSON & JOHNSON U.S.North America2.4 8.1 1.0 Customer Experience (42%)
4549SOUTHWEST AIRLINES U.S.North America-19.2 13.3 -25.0 Customer Experience (45%)
46NRLENOVO ChinaAsia-14.2 6.6 4.0 Business Model (35%)
47NRJPMORGAN CHASE U.S.North America-4.4 -2.6 N/AProcess (62%)
48NRFIAT ItalyEurope-13.5 8.5 2.0 Product (30%)
4924TARGET U.S.North America-13.5 8.1 2.0 Customer Experience (60%)
50NRROYAL DUTCH SHELL NetherlandsEurope4.7 14.3 -8.0 Process (45%)