Archive for March, 2007

For 4 weeks each year, double-check your calendars – AND your business processes!

From the department of unintended consequences…

It's old news, now, that the US and Canada are shifting daylight savings time, for some  good reasons, such as reducing carbon emissions. However, we are also introducing uncertainty into many scheduled, measured, coordinated and logged events for 4 weeks per year for the next few years.

From Verizon Wireless's announcement…

With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the United States government has established changes to the duration of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Beginning in 2007, DST will now remain in effect each year between the second (2nd) Sunday of March until the first (1st) Sunday of November (e.g., March 11, 2007 through November 4, 2007).

While this change primarily impacts the United States and Canada, it also impacts any users who interact with or send calendar invitations or who are dependent upon date/time calculations with companies and persons within the United States or Canada.

What struck me about this change was the enormous potential for disrupt this presents for businesses who count on knowing what time it is, here and now, related to there. The old pattern of daylight savings time is embedded in millions of electronic devices. In adjusting to the change here, we considered our routers, servers, desktop computers and cellphones (some with TWO patches), GPS units, and any other devices where we count upon accurate logging of now (electronic transactions, phone calls, instant messages, network logs, security camera time stamps, etc.). I wonder at the potential for serious unintended consequences at hospitals, in manufacturing, in air transport, etc.

Also significant in Verizon Wireless's advisory was the fact that you must patch technology in a cascade sequence – from server to desktop to synchronized mobile device – or you risk introducing even more disrupt.

Yet we don't just have ourselves to worry about. We schedule with other businesses and individuals. They all must get their patches applied, and in the right order, so that our calendar and theirs, on servers, computers and phones, agree.

Three pieces of advice – two tactical and one strategic:

  1. When creating appointments in the “uncertainty zone”, (the two weeks following the second Sunday in March, and the two weeks prior to the first Sunday in November) type the agreed-upon time into the appointment title, and recommend the same for your staff and colleagues – especially those abroad with whom you work. Create an annual recurring reminder so you can remember to do this in October, and next year, as well. That way, if some person or device in the chain slips up, and the 10 am meeting suddenly shifts to 9 or 11 am, you'll have a way to know.
  2. If you don't already, confirm your appointments by phone the day before.
  3. Ask your operations, production, security, finance and IT leaders to double-check their processes to ensure that all mission-critical time-keeping hardware, software and firmware has been tested, and if necessary, upgraded or compensated for.

In the following weeks, the unintended short-term costs of this change will become apparent – time will tell.

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PhoneSpam and the awesome power of the Do Not Call Registry…

2LoudGuysSOMEONE must be profiting from these brute force attacks on our time, and our every communication channel – just don’t let it be your company.

Like you, we get E-mail Spam, Fax Spam, Snail-mail Spam, and, yes, Phone Spam. And like you, we tried to fight back – at first. Remember “unsubscribe links” that did??? (There’s one to tell your disbelieving grandchildren!)

Then came the fall from innocence: “So wait… when I click on ‘unsubscribe’, most of the time a spammer is overjoyed because they now know my e-mail is valid, and it will  (*sob*) INCREASE my volume of spam???”

Then there was the National Do Not Call Registry, with its promise of quiet phones. We registered in 2003, and for a while, it helped. Lately, though, we’ve been inundated by waves of pre-recorded, auto-dialing sales pitches thinly disguised as surveys or contests.  We have 4 lines here, and sometimes ALL of them will ring at once. It would follow that Phone Spammers now use the registry as a ready-made whom to call list.

It happened again today – all lines ringing – and I snapped.

I answered 2 of the lines (sure enough, from the same company), triggered their recorded messages, pushed the conference button on my phone connecting the two cyber-salesmen – and went for a coffee.

Once I calmed down, I went to the Do Not Call Registry and registered a complaint. I used the Caller ID number to report them, but since they, too, are faked all the time (I’m sorry, Virginia, but it is true…), I really have no idea if the perp will be brought to justice, or if a legitimate company has been framed by some offshore phone spammer.

The business moral of the story – one we practice, ourselves, and drum into all our clients – is to never, never contact a prospect who hasn’t explicitly invited marketing or sales contact. That goes double for any automated, mechanical means of contact. If you do, be prepared to become a lightning rod for all the pent-up frustration the spammed hold for their hidden antagonists.

A word to the wise…

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Tuesday, March 6th, 2007 Article Archive, Humor, Marketing, Technology No Comments

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