Friday, May 29, 2009

Impact of the Economy on Online Banking Systems Purchasing Decisions

By Mark Brousseau

Today’s economy has presented challenges for banks to invest in new technologies, such as online banking solutions. However, for those banks that can, now is the time to do so, says Joe Spatarella, vice president, sales & marketing, Online Banking Solutions (OBS).

"With minimal activity and deal flow, this is an opportune time to move forward and negotiate an ideal vendor partnership to take you well into the future," Spatarella says.

Below are best practices that Spatarella offers for acquiring and deploying online banking solutions in a challenging and transforming economic climate. "With little or no margin for error, the following could help you win a greater share of customer revenue with a contemporary solution when others are afraid to move," he says.

1. Set your goals: Identify a solution that can differentiate the financial institution in a crowded market. Focus on improved user experience: semantics, navigation and ability to customize at the user level without expensive vendor modifications.

2. Walk a different path to success: Find a vendor that is truly willing to partner and share project risks rather than the 800 pound gorilla who is less likely to negotiate favorable terms or who makes promises that cannot be met.

3. Go with a fixed cost model: Annual license fees and fixed per user pricing is much easier to manage than variable transaction pricing.

4. Purchase in the present, not the future: While product roadmaps are important, be sure the vendor can deliver the product version you purchased at the time you need to deploy it

5. Share in project success: A vendor will be more likely to share the risk and contribute specialized resources if there is also an opportunity to benefit from project success.

6. Watch the clock: Give yourself enough time to make a decision and give the vendor a reasonable timeframe to deliver. Don’t use so much of the project timeline on evaluation that the vendor is left with a highly compressed window for implementation.

7. Minimize the frequency: The solution must be sustainable and scalable so that in 3 to 5 years, you are not looking for another vendor and having to repeat the process with valuable time and resources. Plan for continued success, not failure.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Get What You Pay For -- Even With Remittance Solutions

By Mark Brousseau

When making a purchase, everyone like to "get the best deal." In these difficult economic times, with costs being carefully scrutinized, that is more true then ever.

So, when it comes to remittance solutions, what is the best deal, and what is the true cost?

"A neighbor and I replaced our roof shingles at about the same time last summer," recalls Wally Vogel, president of Purepay Receivables Automation ( "My neighbor proudly told me that he paid half the price to his roofer for the same job. 'The roofers are all the same,' he said. Right? When I heard this I felt that maybe I should have obtained more quotes (I did get two), or shopped around more. But this spring when my neighbor had water leaking into his house in three places, and was unable to track down the company that did his roof, I felt sorry for him. But I also felt better about the value I received for my money. The lowest price does not always represent the best value."

What's true for roofers is also true for remittance processing solution providers, Vogel cautions. "They are not all the same, and choosing the wrong one can be an expensive error," he says. "Saving some money upfront won't seem like such a good idea when your system is down, or you have errors and inefficiencies keeping your organization from making your deposit deadlines."

Vogel says users need to ensure that they are getting a solution that will truly meet their needs, before they consider the price. "Missing features could result in extra manual keying and sorting, which will reduce the time savings of the solution," Vogel explains. "A poor user interface could result in operator errors which are expensive to correct and can cause customer service issues. And a cheaper scanner could jam more, have poor image quality and a lower read rate, resulting in less throughput and more errors."

There are other hidden costs as well. Some of these may be obvious, such as higher costs for maintenance, Vogel says. Others may not come to light for a year or two, when it's time to change a step in the process. "This is when users discover that they need to pay more for custom changes that wouldn't be necessary with a more flexible remittance solution," he says.

Another hidden cost is the time and effort required by a biller's staff, and its IT department, to implement the solution. "Purchasing a less expensive system which takes twice as long to implement, or purchasing from a company which does not have efficient project management in coordinating the interfaces, testing, and training required will result in internal costs that could well exceed the savings when compared to a truly turnkey solution from an organization with a professional implementation and delivery model," Vogel says.

So, when seeking the best value in a remittance solution, Vogel recommends that billers look beyond the sticker price and consider:

... a full set of time saving features (e.g. no need to sort multis from singles, MICR match for check only, account number reading for consolidator checks, ICR roping of long lists)
... ease of use and user interface (e.g. one key zoom, color coding, easy to read fonts)
... quality of the scanner hardware
... maintenance costs
... costs for future changes and upgrades
... time to complete implementation
... quality of project management from vendor
... expectation of your IT involvement

"Taking these and other factors into consideration will help ensure that you truly obtain the best value and that you will be satisfied with your remittance solution in the long run," Vogel says. "Checking references, talking to others about their experience with the vendor, and visiting other client sites is a great way to assess what you can expect from a vendor and what type of value they will deliver over the long term."

"I have heard some say that remittance solutions are commodity items and that they just want the lowest price," Vogel concludes. "If anyone still believes that, I say let's talk. We can meet at my neighbor's house. But you might have to bring a bucket if it's a rainy day."

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Rethinking Consumer Remote Deposit Capture

Posted by Mark Brousseau

An interesting article by Diebold from the Self Service and Kiosk Association Web site:

Is consumer remote deposit capture right for every financial institution?

by Robert MacMahon
26 May 2009

Since the inception of Check 21 in October 2004, adoption of remote deposit capture has been steady among financial institutions that cater to business customers.

According to Celent, 75 percent of all U.S. FIs are expected to be remote capture-enabled by the end of 2008. With the rapid and widespread embrace of commercial RDC, many financial institutions are interested in exploring the new frontier of this capability: consumer remote deposit capture.

Technologies are now available that enable FIs to securely process checks sent via ordinary scanners, thus opening the doors to RDC for consumers and small business owners. On this front, Celent says that 7 percent of FIs report already having either a complete solution or a pilot program up and running; meanwhile, 15 percent report plans for a consumer RDC solution and 22 percent say they would consider such a solution.

For many FIs contemplating this offering, questions still abound. To determine whether a consumer RDC program is right for your institution, and to ensure a smooth execution, a few key steps should be followed.

Identify your customer base

To assess the potential for success with a consumer RDC program, it is important to first evaluate your existing customer base, as well as potential new customers. For customers acclimated to off-hour banking solutions such as online banking, or for those who live far from a branch, consumer RDC could be a welcome offering. Evaluating your customers can also help you analyze overall risk and define the ideal customer to target in your marketing efforts.

Qualify your customer base

Diligent "know your customer" policies are extremely important in consumer RDC programs. While advanced safeguards are incorporated in the software developed for these programs, mitigating risk lies largely in the hands of the FI. Take inventory of the risk management controls that are currently in place at your institution, and consider a risk strategy designed specifically for a consumer RDC program. First and foremost, you'll need to set criteria to determine a customer's eligibility for this offering. For example, prerequisites for access to a consumer RDC application could include good credit and a long and positive history with your institution.

Take inventory of your security and monitoring capabilities

As previously mentioned, consumer RDC software solutions should include security features that allow your FI to control the flow of remote deposits in real time and customize the security criteria. This ensures that any deposits submitted for processing that do not meet the set standards are flagged and held until cleared by an authorized employee.

The crucial element then becomes identifying designated and qualified staff to monitor and control the software. Smooth deployment depends on your employees' understanding of and adherence to all protocol related to your RDC program.

Deploy your consumer RDC program

The final element of a successful consumer RDC program is smooth integration of the application into your FI's existing system. The key to a seamless inclusion of a consumer RDC program is that the software is easily installed and integrated into other back-end processes. Furthermore, the application should be easy and straightforward for the end user to encourage adoption among your target customers.

As the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of the financial services industry, the potential is there for remote deposit capture to become a successful consumer application. As with any new technology, before considering a consumer RDC program for your institution, several factors must be taken into consideration. With a firm understanding of your institution's customer base, risk controls, employees and, last but certainly not least, the technologies and processes through which you plan to execute the program, a successful consumer RDC program launch is within reach.

Robert MacMahon is senior business development manager of payments and imaging solutions for Diebold ImageWay, the deposit automation and imaging division of Diebold Inc.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Buy or Not to Buy: That is the Question

By Mark Brousseau

Every executive knows the importance of investing in the future. Laurel Sanders of Optical Image Technology ( says that choosing the right investments at the right time is critical to competing effectively.

"In recent years, it’s become clearer to business executives that digital storage, access, and management provide tremendous gains, but they also require an initial outlay," Sanders says. "These days, tighter budgets, decreased revenue, and fewer staff resources make it harder to invest."

EDM and workflow purchases remain steady, but factors driving purchases have changed, Sanders notes. To win new clients, vendors must prove strong ROI and demonstrate how companies can do more with less.

In good economic times, Sanders says management watches the bottom line, but focuses on company ideals. Typical questions include:

How will EDM/workflow advance my business?
How can we gain a competitive advantage?
Will customer service and loyalty improve?
Will it boost our bottom line?

In tough economic times, Sanders says the focus changes:

What is the total cost of ownership?
Are there hidden costs?
Can we afford to maintain it?
How long will it take to achieve ROI?

EDM and workflow eliminate significant costs, letting companies handle more work without additional staff. They automate data collection, document file access, facilitate and expedite work distribution. As staff matriculate, work is absorbed easily by remaining employees.

"Integration with legacy systems, line-of-business applications, and telecommunications increases ROI, typically delivering results within a year—sometimes even months," Sanders notes. "Cost avoidance is considerable, boosting financial performance. Delaying EDM/workflow purchases makes it tougher to compete now, and positions a company poorly to handle growth cost-effectively as the economy rebounds."

EDM and workflow are a wise investment, Sanders concludes. They streamline HR expenses, re-use data cost-efficiently enterprise-wide, and reduce paper, postage, shipping, and storage. ROI is certain. "Moreover, when the economy recovers, the right tools will be in place to reach corporate goals," she says.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Web 2.0 Primer

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Twitter, MySpace and Facebook Demystified
by Ted Janusz

Q: I hear people talking about Websites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. All the kids seem to be using them. What are they? And, even more importantly, should I be using them to market my business?

Tools like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are components of something else you may have heard people talking about: Web 2.0, which is a popular term for Internet applications for which the users are actively engaged in creating and distributing Web content.

Web 1.0 probably consisted of the Web sites you saw back in the late 90s, which were nothing more than fancy electronic brochures. Web 1.5 would have been something like Amazon or eBay, sites on which you can buy, sell and leave reviews. What Web 3.0 will look like is anybody's guess!

Let's look specifically at the three applications that you mentioned.

Twitter - "Twitter is like text messaging, only you can also do it from the Web," says Dan Tynan, the author of the Tynan on Technology blog. "Instead of sending a message to just one person, you can send it to thousands of people at once. You can choose to follow anyone's update (called "tweets") simply by clicking the Follow button on their profile, or vice-versa. The only rule is that each tweet can be no longer than 140 characters."

This is fine, but what is the business application of Twitter?

In the past, companies would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing research to find out what consumers were saying about them. Now companies like Comcast, Dell, HR Block, Kodak, Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods can "follow" what real customers are saying about them in real time. And they can answer questions and resolve complaints from real customers immediately, if they so choose.

The number one Web site in both the United States and the world is Yahoo. But in the U.S., the second most visited site is MySpace.

MySpace - Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe designed a Web site to provide a service at no charge to regular people looking for a way to connect with others having similar likes and dislikes. The site was initially popular with bands, who didn't want to go through the hassle of creating and maintaining a Web site, but sought a way to distribute their music, photographs, videos and other information to their fans and would-be fans. MySpace usage has since spread like wildfire to people of all interests and ages.

Yes, MySpace initially appealed to teenagers, but now half of the visitors to the site are age 35 or older as the site's demographic composition continues to shift.

What is the business application of MySpace?

Successful marketing using any of the Web 2.0 applications means an ad cannot look like an ad or else it will be rejected immediately by the social networking visitors.

To see how companies have successfully launched a presence on MySpace, check out Cartier International ( or Miss Helga, a spokesperson for Volkswagen (

While MySpace is the number two Website in the United States, Facebook is the number two Website in the rest of the world and is rapidly closing in on MySpace in the US.

Facebook was originally created by Mark Zuckerman, intended for use by his fellow students of Harvard University as "The Facebook." It was meant to be an online replacement of the book one receives as freshmen when entering college or university containing photos and other information about our new freshman classmates. Within 30 days, about half of the students of Harvard had a profile on the site. Facebook soon spread to other Boston area colleges. Presently, approximately 85 percent of all college students have a presence on Facebook.

Facebook has been able to overtake MySpace as the number one social networking site in the world because it no longer has the stigma that it is "just for high school or college students." Anyone may now join Facebook.

Sites like MySpace and Facebook are so popular because social networking allows so much more than e-mail or text messaging. In addition to writing on someone else's "wall" on Facebook, sharing photographs and videos. Facebook is the number one photo-sharing site on the Internet. At a glance, you can see what all of your "friends" are up to. And because you choose your friends on Facebook, you can virtually eliminate spam, spam composes up to 90% of all e-mail.

What is the business application of Facebook?

People have a "profile" on Facebook, whereas a business has a "page." You and I can have "friends" on Facebook, while a business has "fans." Businesses on Facebook can really benefit from on Facebook is: the trusted referrals of their friends, which is something missing from the monologue of advertising.

There is a danger for businesses to view the social networking sites as the new television, but a business can advertise on them for free.

"If you are going to go there, you had better go for the right reasons," says Seth Godin, author of the best-selling book on marketing, Purple Cow. "And if your reason is to sell more stuff, please don't bother. It's not going to work. People don't care about you. They just don't.

On the other hand, if you can use social networking sites as ways to connect to real people, just for that sake alone, not because you want to sell anything, then it's a great way to spend a half hour a day."

Godin concludes, "And what we are finding, as a by-product of that . . . yes, in fact, your business will do better, because you are a trusted member of the community. Not because you are trying to sell stuff."

Ted Janusz is a professional speaker, author and entrepreneur, who presents "Web 2.0 - How to Harness the Power of Social Networking to Promote Your Business." Janusz has been invited to appear on the Geraldo show on FOX News Network.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ameriprise Emphasizes Process Improvement

By Mark Brousseau

As the economic slowdown drags on, many operations are looking for ways to reduce expenses and improve productivity. Ameriprise Financial, Inc. is one such organization.

“We have had a long-term strategy of process improvement and innovation,” explained Juan Paz, director, Document and Payment Operations, Service Delivery New Business and Transaction Services, for Ameriprise Financial. “This has paid off big time for us during the economic slowdown. We have achieved new efficiencies, which have allowed us to decrease costs and significantly reduce staff through attrition.”

During the recession, Ameriprise has adjusted on-shore and off-shore staffing based on business volumes and process re-engineering, Paz noted, and it has instituted "heavy" cross-training to provide support across business units, and deploy staff on-demand.

Paz said that Ameriprise also has a strong performance management process with solid performance measurements. This has kept the organization’s productivity and quality high, and assisted in rewarding and retaining high performing staff members. “We have a strong value-based company with an ‘It begins with me’ attitude. We would not have been as successful without the commitment of our associates.”

Paz added that Ameriprise also makes a conscientious effort to invest in technology that will yield the highest payback for the investment. The organization typically looks for projects that will provide a six-month return on investment, he said. From a cultural standpoint, Ameriprise also places great emphasis on its employees having a customer service orientation.

“Together, these initiatives have made us very successful and allowed us to grow and mitigate risk, while keeping us profitable,” Paz said.

What is your organization doing to control operations expenses? Post your comments below.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's True: The Best Never Rest

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Why Are Tiger Woods, Oprah, and Bill Gates Uncomfortable?

They have fame. Power. Influence. And more money than most of us could ever imagine. So why wouldn’t they live lives of blissful ease and endless fun? The answer is simple, says best-selling author Jon Gordon: It’s because they are the best at what they do—and the best are never comfortable with where they are.

“The best have a burning desire to improve, and this naturally creates a healthy discomfort,” says Gordon, author of the new book Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else, and a speaker at last summer's TAWPI Forum & Expo. “Winners like Woods, Oprah, and Gates are always seeking new ways to learn and grow, and the process is rarely fun and easy.”

The same is true in all realms of business. Highly successful professionals in every industry display a relentless drive toward constant improvement. And according to Gordon, this is just one of the eleven key traits and habits that separate “the best” from “the rest.”

There is a formula for success, he insists, and it’s a process anyone can follow—that is, as long as they possess the focus, initiative, dedication, and positive energy required to do so.

Gordon says people have preconceived ideas about what it takes to get to the top—much like the aforementioned notion that being the best is “fun”—and buying into those myths can hold you back from achieving your own brand of success. For example:

MYTH #1: The best know a secret formula that others simply don’t.
REALITY: Nope. There’s no secret recipe, insists Gordon. The art is in putting the recipe’s ingredients together. The best take action every day and do the common things with uncommon focus, dedication, and a commitment to excellence. They know what they want and they want it more. The best are willing to pay the price that greatness requires.

“To offer an example, great salespeople do the same things mediocre salespeople do,” notes Gordon. “They just do so with more focus and consistency. The principle also holds true for entire companies.”

MYTH #2: The best are “born that way.” They are chosen.
REALITY: The best become the best through their own actions. Many, many people have “potential”…but only a tiny few ever bring it to fruition. They do it through hard work and “zoom focusing” on the (often little and ordinary and boring) fundamentals of their particular jobs until they master them.

“In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell discusses a study done in the ’90s at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music where they found what separated the best violinists from the good and average performers was not talent but rather the amount of time they practiced throughout their lives,” says Gordon. By the age of 20 the best performers had practiced for a total of 10,000 hours, compared to 8,000 hours for good performers and only 4,000 hours for average ones.

“Some people call this the 10,000-hour rule,” he adds. “Others call it the 10-year rule because it is believed that it takes a decade of practice to become great at something. It’s clear the best aren’t born that way. The best must commit to a lifetime of practice to be their best.”

MYTH #3: There is a huge gap between the best and the rest.
REALITY: Actually, the gap is very small. In baseball, consider the difference between a .250 batter and a .350 batter. If you calculate 162 games a year, 4 or 5 bats a game, the difference between a .250 batter and a .350 batter is only 1.7 hits a week. It’s the little things that separate the best from the rest. Believe it or not the best are not that much better than their competition. They are just a little bit better at the important things.

“Do you know what makes Walmart so successful?” asks Gordon. “It’s not just the low prices. It’s the fact that they do a hundred things 10 percent better than everyone else. That 10 percent may not seem like much, but it puts Walmart miles ahead of the competition.”

MYTH #4: The best don’t have any fear.
REALITY: Yes, the best do feel fear. They simply learn to overcome it. Too many people allow their fear of failure to define them and their actions. (Consider the potential entrepreneur, unhappy in her job, who says, “I would start the company I’ve always dreamed of, but this economy is just too scary…I’d better not risk it.”) But the best face their fears, overcome them, and don’t allow the possibility of failure to define them. As a result they are able to seize the moment and move beyond their fear.

“When all eyes are watching, [the best] know this is the moment they have been preparing and waiting for,” writes Gordon. “Rather than hiding from pressure, they rise to the occasion. As a result, the best define the moment rather than letting the moment define them. …Don’t run from fear; face it and embrace it. Don’t let fear rob you of your love and joy for life; let it push you into the moment and beyond yourself. Let it inspire you to live and work each day as though it was your last.”

MYTH #5: The best focus on winning. REALITY: The best don’t focus on the outcome at all. They focus on the process that gets them there. Ironically, says Gordon, to create success you must not focus on success but rather on the process that produces it.

“A great example is Organic Valley, a provider of organic dairy products, produce, meats, and other natural foods,” says Gordon. “Each year they continue to grow dramatically and yet they don’t have an ‘outcome’ goal in mind. Rather they focus on their purpose and process and this fuels their growth.”

MYTH #6: Success breeds success.
REALITY: Actually, success breeds complacency. Gordon says coaches and business leaders often dread success far more than they dread failure. “Too often a team will have a successful season or a player will have a great year and when they come back the following season they think all they have to do is show up and they’ll enjoy the same results, forgetting it was the hard work, focus, and process that helped them create their success,” Gordon says.

“Well, that happens in business, too,” he adds. “The moment you think you have arrived at the door of greatness is the moment it gets slammed in your face. The key is to always be innovating, offering new products and services, improving customer service, and staying one step ahead of your competition. The solution is to stay humble and hungry.”

“If you want to be the best at what you do, never allow yourself to rest on your laurels,” he adds. “I always have to come back to the first point I made—that being the best is uncomfortable. If you want to be the best—to continue to be the best—forget past glories. Focus on growing, improving, and innovating today. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Economy is Delaying -- Not Cancelling -- IT Projects

Posted by Mark Brousseau

The financial crisis has had a significant impact on the client computing industry in 2009, as witnessed in a survey by Gartner, Inc. that showed far more PC projects are postponed or scaled back this year rather than cancelled outright because of tighter IT budgets. Only 12 percent of those surveyed indicated they have outright cancelled a planned project since October 2008. The survey was conducted from late February through early March of 2009.

"Enterprise belt-tightening has had a tremendous impact on the client computing technology segment with 43 percent of respondents expecting a decrease in spending on client computing hardware in 2009 compared with 2008," said Andrew Johnson, managing vice president at Gartner.

Gartner forecasts overall IT spending to decline 3.7 percent in 2009. Spending on IT hardware, including client computing (PCs), servers, storage and printing systems will bear the brunt of budget cuts with spending expected to decline 14.9 percent. Gartner forecasts overall IT spending to rebound with 2.4 percent growth in 2010, although IT hardware spending will continue to lag next year, growing just 0.8 percent.

Despite the bleak outlook, Johnson said that there are some brighter spots for the segment with certain applications getting increased spending and some countries and industries reporting more-optimistic plans. He said that more client computing projects will be postponed or reduced in 2009 than will be eliminated, and technology and service providers should ensure that they are ready for the recovery, when and where it happens.

The survey pinpointed some important differences in how companies in different countries are maintaining, delaying, reducing or canceling many ongoing client computing projects. Although 48 percent of all respondents indicated some of their PC projects would be deployed as planned in 2009, respondents in China (85 percent) and India (64 percent) were more optimistic and expected most of their projects to be deployed as planned. In contrast, only 29 percent of U.S. and 18 percent of French companies planned to continue their client computing projects as originally planned.

Significant vertical market variations were also revealed by the survey which found that the industries most on track with their client computing plans were insurance, media and consumer business services. Companies involved with telecommunications, wholesale, and agriculture, mining and construction are most likely to be planning to reduce spending. Postponements are more likely in retail, utilities and wholesale companies, and project cancellations were above average in discrete manufacturing. Only one out of 45 respondents in the financial services industry indicated PC purchase plans were cancelled, and in this sector, reduced, postponed, and as-planned responses came in near the averages.

What's happening at your organization? Post your comments below.

Business Leaders Embrace Online Networking

Posted by Mark Brousseau

With the employment market feeling the effects of a global recession, recent research from ExecuNet, a professional network for business leaders, reveals executives from across all industries are turning to technology to improve their networks and career prospects - with mixed results.

According to a recent survey of 4,680 business leaders, executives are more likely to have updated their profile on a public networking site (71%) than updated their resume in the last three months (60%). However, when asked to identify the most effective activities for creating and identifying career opportunities, posting a resume in an online database and maintaining an online profile trailed networking by a wide margin.

Top Five Tactics For Finding Career Options

... Networking (70%)
... Responding to online job postings (14%)
... Posting resume in online database (5%)
... Maintaining an online profile (4%)
... Researching target companies/cold calling (3%)

“The growth of large social networking sites helps to underscore an increasing awareness of the value of networking,” says Lauryn Franzoni, Executive Director of ExecuNet. “However, relying solely on an online profile to build trust, a critical component in developing and maintaining an effective network, isn’t a productive strategy.”

To help executives strengthen their online networking strategies, ExecuNet offers the following advice:

Don’t Confuse Quantity With Quality - Networking is not a numbers game. While some large social networking sites provide a place to create a public profile page, anecdotal evidence suggests that they don’t always facilitate a meaningful level of interaction among members. When evaluating online networking resources, professionals should look for niche networks that foster the exchange of information and insight in a trusted environment. This level of interaction is critical to strengthening the quality of your contacts – online or off.

Avoid “Needworking” - A contact or friends list of thousands of people is useless if you only reach out to them when you’re in need. Striving to meet the needs of others on a consistent basis will not only help you earn the appreciation and respect of others, but your actions will often be quickly reciprocated.

Know Your Contacts – If you are looking for new opportunities, don’t blast generic emails out touting your skills and announcing your availability. Tailor your message to the needs of the recipient. Want to connect with a corporate property manager? Learn more about the company’s expansion plans and contact that individual offering an article or advice from your own personal experience. Share your knowledge – not your need.

Be Reputation-Vigilant – When networking, you can expect that new contacts will immediately “Google” your name. Be sure that you know what they will find when they do. For example, some 44% of recruiters tell us they have ruled out candidates based solely on what they found in online searches.

“Create a Google Alert for the most common forms of your name and be sure you can’t be confused with someone with a similar name. It is as important to be cyber-visible as it is to have a crisp online presence,” Franzoni said.

What strategies are working for you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Confusion Over ARRA Funding

Posted by Mark Brousseau

A Dell survey of 662 public-sector IT professionals indicates a need for clearer, more customized information related to the flow and impact of American Recovery and Re-Investment Act (ARRA) funds. The survey results also suggest mounting IT challenges among public-sector healthcare and government organizations. Among the findings of the survey:

... 79% of public-sector IT professionals indicated they don’t have enough visibility or are only somewhat aware of the impact and flow of ARRA funds on their organizations.

... 78% said ARRA-related information is non-existent, too generic or not understandable and that tailored tools are needed to better navigate the recovery package.

... Higher education IT professionals rank resources as largest IT-related impediment to modernizing America’s educational institutions.

... Federal, state and local government IT professionals said a lack of standards, budgets and resources for IT deployment and management each has a “high impact” on infrastructure modernization.

... Healthcare IT professionals indicated that budgets, interoperability and disparate networks are the “largest IT impediments” to modernizing America’s healthcare system.

Frank Muehleman, vice president and general manager, Dell North America Public Business Group, noted that Dell sees three consistent themes from customers who want to use the ARRA to invest in IT: they want cost and energy efficiency, they demand transparency, and they are focused on IT that is simple to deploy and manage.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

7 Steps to a Career Change

Posted by Mark Brousseau

It happened. Your worst recession nightmare came true. You strolled into work securely (if unenthusiastically) employed and stumbled out, pink slip in hand, jobless in an overcrowded market. Gripped by the fear of not being able to pay the bills and worried that opportunity won't knock twice in this down economy, you rush into the first job your quickly updated resume leads to. Sure, you might end up being just as unhappy as you were before, but at least the check coming every two weeks will keep you from becoming destitute. However, Robin Fisher Roffer stresses that even in these difficult times you shouldn't confuse activity with progress.

She says that whether you're newly laid off or simply desperate for a career change, if you change your focus from just keeping your head above water to becoming a fearless fish and going after the job you truly want, you'll be setting yourself up for a happier life in the long run.

You're probably thinking, But wait! Isn't this the worst possible time to pursue the new career I've dreamed about?

"Not at all," says Roffer, author of The Fearless Fish Out of Water: How to Succeed When You're the Only One Like You. "Actually, it's the perfect time to search your soul, muster your courage, and become a fearless (career changing) fish out of water. That may mean finding your dream job, entering a new industry, or even venturing out on your own as an entrepreneur."

Despite the bad economy, Roffer stresses that opportunities do exist. That's why she says it's more important than ever to create a personal brand identity and to shine a light on those qualities that make you different and more desirable than the rest. Playing up what makes you special could be the very thing that gets you your next job and keeps you in business.

In her new book, Roffer teaches that—contrary to popular belief—standing out is a good thing. Being different gets you noticed and it's the first step to gaining influence.

"Your unique personality, outlook, appearance, or background—really, any attribute that sets you apart—is not a liability but an asset," says Roffer. "If you're looking for a new job or just want to make the career change you think will make you happier, there's never been a more important time to put your unique self out there."

Read on for Roffer's seven steps to being a fearless fish out of water and how they can help you get the job you've always wanted, even in a down economy:

STEP 1: Go Fishing for the Real You. No one knows what's special about you better than you do. So, don't squander it...focus on it! In today's economy, there's no room for generalists. We are in an era of specialization—where being different is good. As a free agent making a significant career change, you've got to put a flag in the ground and declare who you are and what you're good at. If you haven't done this, I promise that others have done it for you. But, they might have gotten you wrong. And, that's the danger.

"To write your next chapter, peel away all the layers you've built up playing the game for others and hone your skills to become an expert at something that's valuable right now," says Roffer. "Perhaps you've been in marketing at a big company and you want to break out and start your own firm. Think about what makes you special in the marketing arena and go with that. For example, maybe you can market any kind of product or service, but where you really excel is in multicultural marketing. If that's your vein of gold, and where you can drive revenue to your client's bottom line, then that's where you might want to place the focus of your new business."

STEP 2: Use Your Differences as a Lure. If you've gotten the pink slip and some severance pay, the natural tendency in extraordinary economic times like these might be to just hunker down, cut back on expenses, and try to hold on to the money. Newsflash! That's exactly the strategy that could hang you in the long run. Because if you're not standing up, standing out, and standing for something important right now, you will become irrelevant.

"Ask former colleagues, clients, customers, and friends what they think makes you positively different at work," says Roffer. "What qualities do you possess that attract people to you and the work you produce? Use the strengths of what makes you different to find your career destiny. Choose a path that feeds your passion and builds on who you are deep inside. Don't just do the logical thing or the expected thing. Do what resonates with your soul. When you do what you love, you'll get positive recognition and the money will come."

STEP 3: Find a Few Fish Like You. Next you'll need to build relationships and make connections. Finding people who have faith in you is like finding an anchor in rough seas. Now is the time to connect with others in your situation who believe in your dream and can cheerlead you on. Start attending luncheons, trade shows, or seminars in the industry you want to be in to find people who share your passion. Find out how you can help each other get ahead in these difficult times.

"Hire a business coach or find a mentor who can help you strategize your transition," says Roffer. "Reward cheerleaders in your personal and professional circles for their loyalty and support and let go of naysayers and time wasters whose negativity will only hold you back. This is the moment to deepen positive relationships to ensure your security and your future."

STEP 4: Swim in Their Ocean Your Way. One way to differentiate yourself from the pack and stay true to the core you is by the way you dress. Put on what's acceptable in your industry and then kick it up in unexpected ways to become unforgettable. Every great brand has packaging that reflects what's on the inside. Think in those terms the next time you go shopping. Does a dress say "school teacher" when it needs to say "business development"? Does your computer bag say "accountant" when it needs to say "web designer"? Are you wearing a golf shirt when a tie would speak volumes about your business acumen? Bottom line: Look the part you're playing and you'll play it better.

"Once you get inside your new company, adopt the culture without getting lost in it," says Roffer. "As a person in transition, who feels like a fish out of water, it can be deadly to get so entrenched in someone else's culture or demands that you can't find the real you. Instead look for what resonates with you and don't buy into what doesn't feel right. Stay true to your core values. If you don't, at the end of this recession, you may not recognize yourself."

STEP 5: Put Yourself Out on the Line. Fearless fish are perfectly positioned to make a difference in the world. Think of Oprah, Bono, and Bill Gates. It's not the wallflower who's going to help their customers go green, or the conformist who will invent the new business model. Getting behind a cause is good for business and makes you look like a hero. Volunteer, join a board, make a major donation.

"Each year a percentage of my company's revenue goes to The Aquarium of the Pacific to save our oceans and the animals that live there," says Roffer. "We put that fact right on our invoices. It makes our customers feel good about working with us. Figure out a way to give back as you transition to your new career. Or better yet, choose a career that is a cause! You may be paralyzed by fear and feel like every minute you need to push that rock up the hill. But shake it off. Give to others instead and watch what you receive in return."

STEP 6: Evolve by Casting a Wide Net. Conformity is not distinguishing. The way to live deeply is to keep reinventing yourself, changing with the times and with your customers. Holding onto the essential you while updating your style, your website, your advertising, and your thinking is the fastest way to the top. Step 6 of being a fearless fish asks that you use your place outside the circle to always be relevant to your company and industry.

"If you've been pigeonholed, now is the time to change perception by learning a new language, taking classes that will sharpen your skills, becoming an apprentice to someone you aspire to be like, and polishing your web presence so that you shine online," says Roffer. "Identify the next peak you want to climb and take the necessary steps to evolve who you are to get there. It's about staying true to the essence of who you are, and then recasting your image to feel brand new."

STEP 7: Reel in Your Unique Power. It's easy to succeed when things are going right. What determines real character is what you do when faced with adversity. To muster the strength to succeed, look back at other times in your life when you rose to the occasion. You'll realize how brave you really are!

"Uncertainty makes everyone question their personal value and the value of their skills," says Roffer. "However, the fearless among us overcome these doubts by practicing their ABCs—action, belief, and courage."

"It's time to stop wringing your hands and start raising the bar on who you can be and where you can go," says Roffer. "The way you see yourself can either propel you forward or hold you back. When you start going after jobs, remember, the story that you tell about yourself is what others will believe. Use your unique power to make them believe that you are indispensable and that is exactly what you will be!"

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

e-Health Records Incentives

Posted by Mark Brousseau

An interesting article from the Associated Press.

Stimulus gives incentives for e-health records

Tom Breen, Associated Press Writer
On Wednesday May 6, 2009, 6:06 pm EDT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Health care providers across the country are moving to replace their old paper records with sleek new electronic systems, a process the Obama administration wants to speed along with over $17 billion in stimulus dollars.

That's a tall order for doctors and hospitals, because an estimated 90 percent of health care offices still stack their records in floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with manila folders.

The administration's goal is to implement systems that allow doctors and nurses instant access to patient records and to avoid harmful errors in prescriptions and medical charts. But some worry the software isn't yet ready to replace the ease of use of paper records, and say the cost of the systems may be too steep.

Dr. Theodore Hole, a family physician in Ventura, Calif., said when he sees patients who have electronic records from other physicians, they're often a collection of checked boxes and fill-in blanks that are meaningless to doctors outside of the group using the system.

"I'm afraid of the way the technology is being forced on physicians before it's really ready," he said, adding that family physicians have a hard time with the prospect of spending tens of thousands of dollars to install the systems.

Health care providers such as doctors and hospitals would be reimbursed by higher Medicare and Medicaid payments if they put the systems in place by 2011. Doctors can receive up to $60,000 and hospitals up to $11 million. If they don't switch, they could see their Medicare and Medicaid dollars decline.

The health care industry has been moving toward electronic records for years, but the rate of adoption has been slow. Some providers are intimidated by startup costs, which can range anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars for a doctor's office to $100 million for a large hospital.

"It's not going to be enough to pay for it; it's going to be enough to make you want to engage with it," Sentara Healthcare Chief Information Officer Bert Reese said of the stimulus incentives.

The southeastern Virginia network of seven hospitals and hundreds of doctors is in the midst of a decade-long, $237 million conversion project, with all hospitals scheduled to be on board next year. The stimulus plan could mean as much as $40 million to the network, he said.

Though the systems vary, advocates say computerized records are safer and more efficient.

There are fewer mistakes that come from trying to read handwriting, and anyone in a medical system can access the information. When a patient comes into the hospital complaining of chest pains, for example, emergency room staffers don't have to hunt down past medical records for allergies, medications and other information because it's immediately available on a computer screen.

The idea is also to shorten the time involved in basic procedures. Under a paper system, Sentara's Reese said, a doctor entering a medication order for a hospital patient can expect to wait up to an hour before the first dose is administered. With electronic records zapping the order directly from the doctor to the hospital pharmacy, Reese said, it can take about five minutes.

The Obama administration believes converting to electronic medical records will improve patient safety and overall health as well as bring down costs across the spectrum from public to private care, according to the DHHS.

"It's an excellent use of the stimulus money," said Dr. Margaret Staggers, a Fayetteville physician who, as a member of West Virginia's House of Delegates, will help determine how the plan shapes the state budget. All seven of West Virginia's state-owned hospitals have the system in place. "Doctors are interested in getting these systems, but there's so much upfront cost."

Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth, N.J., estimates it can get $11 million in stimulus funds for its $30 million electronic health records system, according to Ken Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents about 300 hospitals in the Northeast.

"It's not a bad down payment, but it gives you an idea of the proportion that comes from the stimulus package as opposed to the money they need to invest," he said.

Still, conversion could be slow. An April article in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded there are no reliable estimates on how many hospitals have electronic records, mainly because providers have implemented systems with a piecemeal approach. But it estimates roughly 7.6 percent have at least a "basic" system. For physician practices, the figure is probably around 4 percent.

There are also questions about ease of use, maintenance, compatibility with other systems and keeping all that data secure. Perhaps most urgently, no one yet knows what systems will qualify for reimbursements and keep providers from seeing reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Because of the uncertainty, it's too soon to tell whether the stimulus plan is getting more providers to make the switch, said John Morrissey, spokesman for the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

"With so many unanswered questions, it's kind of ludicrous to go too far into it," said Joe Letnaunchyn, president of the West Virginia Hospital Association. "You run the risk of spending money inappropriately."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Check 21 Standards and Practices

Posted by Mark Brousseau

To prepare for the industry adoption of new Check 21 standards and practices, the Federal Reserve will be making changes to its pre-production (test) environment. These changes will not impact the production environment which processes Check 21 file deposits.

While these changes are being implemented, the Federal Reserve recommends customers delay or minimize testing between May 11 and May 18 until the changes are fully implemented and validated.

Beginning May 11, 2009, the Federal Reserve Banks’ test environment will be updated to include an expanded set of file validations on Image Cash Letter Deposits. Validation will be performed on a broader spectrum of fields and records, including TIFF image analysis. The expanded file validation will align Federal Reserve Check 21 deposit requirements with practices outlined in the Universal Companion Document (UCD) developed by the CheckImage Collaborative ( The TIFF validation will align Federal Reserve Check 21 deposit requirements with ASC X9.100-181-2007, the Specification for TIFF Image Format for Image Exchange (

With the May 11 implementation date, customers submitting test files will receive new and expanded file validation results. Test customers may notice an increase in the number of errors displayed by the File Acknowledgement Accept/Reject Notices. The validation results may require participants to make customer based parameter changes to their image or item processing software. Some may even require vendor contact or technical assistance. Any TIFF validation errors will be shared separately by Federal Reserve Bank implementation managers.

The Federal Reserve says it has been working closely with the Check 21 vendor community on this initiative. The Federal Reserve's plan is to monitor customer test results and industry adoption to ensure all participants are prepared for live implementation. All Federal Reserve customers will be provided notice of the production implementation date well in advance. Federal Reserve Bank implementation managers are available to work with customers who may need assistance in adopting the new validation practices and test changes to achieve compliance.

Document Management in a Recession

Posted by Mark Brousseau

In order to stay competitive during the economic downturn, 51 percent of executives involved in document management say their company plans to reduce operating expenses while 20 percent say their organization will try to improve cash flow. Executives agree that effectively managing document processes can help meet these objectives, particularly with respect to reducing expenses.

These are a few of the findings highlighted in a survey from Oce Business Services

When it comes to outsourcing, a high number of respondents (74%) indicate that their company is taking this approach with at least one of the five document activities. The top three document activities that companies are outsourcing include mail and shipping, print/copy center, and document imaging. The top overall business benefits that the respondents report gaining from these outsourced document activities include lowering costs, improving operational performance and enabling a greater focus on core business.

Outsourcing activity may increase somewhat in the next 12 to 24 months as a number of companies (33%) are planning to outsource additional document processing functions, particularly document imaging. The top business goals driving their outsourcing plans are cost reduction, the desire to concentrate more on their core business, and the desire to improve operational performance.

In another key finding, a majority of survey participants (55%) indicate that their companies are measuring document process performance. These companies are measuring such performance elements as user activity and document processing timeliness and accuracy. A significant number of respondents (67%) specify that their organization's metrics for document performance are aligned with business objectives (such as increasing customer satisfaction).

"Whether managing document activities on an internal or outsourced basis, one thing is clear," said Joseph R. Marciano, president and CEO, Oce Business Services. "Enterprises are realizing the potential for document management best practices to yield benefits such as lower operating expenses, which can help them survive and thrive in the days ahead."

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Where's the Beef?!?!

Posted by Mark Brousseau

On Friday, April 24, US regulators revealed the methods and criteria used for stress testing the nation's largest banks to determine their financial health. TowerGroup, a leading financial services research and advisory services firm, believes that current stress-testing methodology is "a bun without the beef," observing that the current process only touches the surface and lacks the substance needed to accurately measure the depth of banks' resiliency.

From an international perspective, TowerGroup believes the latest revelations from the US will do little to reengender confidence in the international banking system. Instead, stress testing will confirm suspicions about the underlying differences among various nations' regulatory approaches to addressing bank stability and recapitalization.

"The stress testing of banking institutions is a major undertaking that turns traditional testing by means of "what if" scenarios on its head with its far-reaching assumptions. However, the assumptions made in the documentation of the stress testing methodology still fall short of capturing the dynamics of the industry going forward," said Rodney Nelsestuen, Senior Research Director in the TowerGroup Financial Strategies and IT Investments Cross Industry research service. "The US government is trying to get an accurate reading of an institution's ability to survive more bad economic news. The approach being used can answer only the questions it asks, leaving many potential outcomes unknown and untested."

TowerGroup notes several misguided views the public may infer from the documents released by the Fed last Friday and explains the reality that is counter to each view:

Myth 1: The option to convert TARP to common stock should provide comfort to stakeholders.Reality: One of the most worrisome motives behind stress testing is the intended conversion of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds into common stock. Given the continuing deterioration in credit portfolios and faltering business performance, it is irrational to think that financial service institutions (FSIs) are safe because their capital is adequate due to government assistance when the assistance also increases government control and hampers the performance of independent banks.

Myth 2: Common stock is mainly a cushion to absorb losses. Reality: Investors buy common stock hoping to earn dividends and benefit from share appreciation over time. The government document on stress testing ignores the fact that millions of people in the United States are also shareholders through mutual funds and 401(k) programs. Thus, to say that common stock exists to absorb losses mischaracterizes the overall role of common equity in any publicly held company.

Myth 3: The regulatory actions are not shortsighted. Reality: The current stress test is a single exercise tied to a specific point in time, which is then applied to forward-looking economic criteria such as unemployment, growth of the US gross domestic product (GDP), delinquencies, and counterparty risk. TowerGroup observes that a major risk exists if people come to see the current stress-testing exercise as the final word on bank safety. Banks will need to assume the responsibility for their own stress tests and be accountable to stakeholders, of which the government is but one. Consistent internal testing will alert banks to potential systemic risks, allowing them to react before such events reach crisis proportions.

Myth 4: The absence of reverse stress testing is immaterial.Reality: Nowhere in the current stress-testing methodology document is reference made to reverse stress testing. Under the current approach, assumptions are changed to see what impact they have on bank viability. Reverse stress testing encourages more creative thinking to determine what events could have occurred to bring about the current economic downfall. Reverse stress testing would force the government and institutional leaders to think more broadly about cause and effect.

Myth 5: Stress testing is the final arbiter of financial strength.Reality: Verbiage in the stress-testing methodology document calls into question the stress-testing process used and any results to be derived from it. The cautionary statement is needed. Public anticipation of the stress-test results to be released on May 7 continues to be heightened, and the government is not doing enough to reduce that overreliance on the pending results. In addition, regulators have left themselves an out and can either justify or discount the outcome. The current testing is not a means to an end, but merely the beginning of efforts to rebuild the banking industry. The pending May 7 news should not be considered gospel in determining a bank's future success or demise. It is an attempt at identifying means for greater transparency and modernization.