All posts by 4CTechnologies

Requirements Gathering and Selecting the Right Tool for the Job

Contributed by Technical Consultant, Matt Nicol

For most technology initiatives, there are many ways that a solution could be implemented. From a myriad of off-the-shelf products to a wide array of custom development solutions, there is no doubt that there is a way to successfully implement virtually any technology-based business application. In order for an initiative to be successful, however, many considerations must be made.

Above all, fully understanding the requirements of the business goal is key. Purchasing an off-the-shelf product or beginning development before the stakeholders have as detailed of an idea of how a system should operate as possible introduces unnecessary risks that can ultimately increase costs and reduce functionality. Gathering requirements is not always straightforward, however. Systems are typically used by many people, each with his or her own ideas for how to accomplish a given process.

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Before beginning to select a solution platform, it is often a good idea to organize the goals of a system into “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have” categories that are agreeable to stakeholders. To do this, it is also important to consider any broader business impacts the initiative may have. Answering questions like the following can help drive the best value that a system can provide: Will the system serve one specific need in isolation? Could any data, reports, or files produced by the system enhance or integrate any existing business process?

With a holistic idea of what an initiative should accomplish, it is now possible to begin considering how the system will be implemented. At this point, it is important for the parties driving the initiative to ascertain their own knowledge of the available solutions. Every person in an organization has his or her own areas of expertise, but those driving the initiative may not be subject matter experts on the inherent capabilities and limitations of various technology solutions. In such cases, the business and technological expertise offered by 4CTechnologies can be an invaluable resource for selecting and implementing an off-the-shelf or custom solution.

Best Places to Work: A Two Way Street

Contributed by Director of Strategic Planning & Development, Kathy Olek Donatelli

Co-workers have told me I know lots of people here in the ‘Burgh.

This is usually followed by some acknowledgement that I am pretty traditional.

Check that, they tell me I am old school.

OK, truth be told, I’m just old.

During my 30+ year career in marketing here in Pittsburgh, (yikes!) I have worked at large Fortune 500 companies with a marketing budget of hundreds of thousands.  I have worked out of my house with two young knee-biters playing at my feet.  I have worked for start up businesses, and for companies that are national, regional and locally based.  I have worked downtown as well as in the north, south, east and west sides of the city.  I have worked for great leaders with poor teams and poor leaders with great teams.  I also worked for nothing but a daily hug as a homemaker and a mom.

What makes a great place to work?  To me, work is just like home…it’s where your heart is!  You know the old saying, do what you love and you’ll always love what you do?  Sure, that’s part of it.  But in order to better understand the potential satisfaction associated with any given job, you first have to take salary, benefits and retirement plans out of the equation in order to more closely evaluate your position and how you truly feel about where you work…or where you are about to work.  Because let’s face it, money and medical coverage is extremely important from family perspective. But as I have learned through my years and years…and years of experience…money ain’t everything.

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When evaluating if your company, or a potential new company, is an ideal match for you and your personality, here are some base line questions you need to ask yourself.

  • Will you like the people you work with? Trust them, admire them?
  • Will your work environment help you grow in your career?
  • Can you make a viable contribution to the success of the company?
  • Will you fit in with the culture of the company?
  • Will you be challenged? Will you learn new things?
  • Does the company have vision?
  • Would you recommend your company to a close friend?
  • Will they give you 100% support in your role?

Don’t be blinded by the fancy stuff….a gym membership, chair massages, an in-house cafeteria and taking your dog to work may help sweeten the pot, but these perks are really just poor substitutes.  Take it from someone who has been around the block as far as jobs go, it’s the human element that make the most difference:  Recognition for a job well done, a feeling of accomplishment, unity, working through problem/solution scenarios, comradery, teamwork and belonging are also important factors in evaluating any work environment.

And oh, by the way, while we are busy evaluating what makes a good place to work, REMEMBER — your employer is also evaluating what makes a good employee.  And they also have their own list of wanna-haves that they most likely consult during the interview process.  And not surprisingly, this list seems strangely familiar:

  • Will I like this person? Trust them, admire them?
  • Are they willing to make a commitment to self-growth in their career?
  • Will they help me and my company succeed?
  • Will they help mold and contribute to the culture of the company?
  • Do they want to be challenged and learn new things?
  • Do they have vision?
  • Would you recommend this employee for another job with close friend?
  • Will they give 100% to the company?

From where I sit, a “good place to work” is a TWO WAY STREET.  To me, it depends equally as much on the employer as it does the employee in the amount of contribution and sacrifice they are both willing to make to be successful as a cohesive team.

At this writing, my company for the last ten years, 4CTechnologies, is in the running for Best Places to Work Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times in the small business category.  We won’t find out if we have won until the end of October.

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I am pulling for a win and as we wait for the verdict, I want to publically acknowledge that I love my job…mostly because of all of the wonderful people I get to see and work with every day.  They make the hours fly by and their support and knowledge have made me a better professional.  (Oh, and that mustached guy in the corner office is OK too!)  No question, it feels like home and I certainly hope that a win for 4CTechnologies is in the “cards.”  Fingers crossed!

Please… Stop “Cold Calling”

Contributed by Business Development Manager Paul O’Donnell

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If you are a business development professional and you are still prospecting the same way you did five to ten years ago, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news…

“Cold calling”, and prospecting in general, have developed such a negative connotation over the years that business development professionals avoid at all costs and this is due (in part) to the evolution of the modern decision maker. The modern decision maker doesn’t work the same way he/she did five to ten years ago. The modern decision maker is more educated on what they or their business actually need. The modern decision maker is also VERY skilled at dodging phone calls. I recently had a conversation with two peers in the business development world and they shared two recent roadblocks when trying to procure a meeting with a potential prospect.

  • Peer #1 (lets call him Steve) was referred to a prospect by that prospect’s wife. The wife of the prospect had passed Steve’s card along and asked that the prospect meet with Steve because Steve and his organization could show the prospect value moving forward. Steve was informed by the wife to leave the prospect a voicemail “because he never answers his phone, he gets cold called all day” and in his message be detailed about who he is and why he is calling because the prospect will quickly delete the message if it sounds like a cold call. The prospect will then call Steve back to set the meeting. So here we have a decision maker who refuses to even answer his phone for fear of being cold called.
  • Peer #2 (we’ll call him Jeff) was trying to get back in touch with a prospect he had previously met with. Jeff had left the prospect several voice mails with no return call. Jeff decided to send the prospect an email to try another avenue, but Jeff’s outbound emails kept bouncing back as ‘undeliverable’. Frustrated, Jeff went to his office’s IT professional and asked for assistance. The IT professional informed Jeff that it wasn’t Jeff’s email that was faulty, the prospect had contacted Jeff with a ‘No-Reply’ email address. So here we have a decision maker, so fearful of being prospected, that his email is not capable of receiving replies.

The two above examples were not even your standard “Cold Call”. These were referrals/warm calls that my peers struggled to get through to because these individuals were so terrified of being prospected all day every day. No matter what you are attempting to market to a potential prospect (a physical product or, like me, consulting services) this can pose a real problem. You can’t prove value to an individual or an organization without that initial meeting, and you can’t get meetings if you are unable to make contact.

So, what’s the answer? By no means am I telling anyone that they shouldn’t at least TRY making phone calls. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you call and call and leave message after message then perhaps you need to change things up. Change things up not only for your own business benefit, but because you risk getting to the point of becoming a pest, and no one wants to do business at any level with someone they find annoying. Here are a few things that I have tried as the face of prospecting has evolved (if anyone reading this has any other methods that have been successful, please share them in the comments):

  • Try a mix of calls and emails. Be forthright with the person on the other end that you are looking to speak to a particular person within the organization. If the contact you are reaching out to isn’t that person, ask if they can help point you in the right direction.
  • Reach out to the person you are trying to contact via LinkedIn (that’s why we are all here after all, to make professional connections).
  • Request an introduction either via LinkedIn or at an event from a mutual connection, its the modern day ‘warm lead’.
  • If you HAVE to leave a message or send an email as an initial contact, position yourself as a subject matter expert who can show value to that contact and you are more likely to garner a response.
  • STOP trying to sell on the phone. Approach “sales” as a true relationship where each party needs to provide value to the other party. Show value in the form of how you have helped similar organizations and ask if any of those issues are prevalent in theirs. If you approach your initial contact and just start into a sales pitch, you are going to fail.

I don’t care who you are calling or why; if you call and call and simply leave a message with your name and company with a request for a return call, you might as well send smoke signals. They’re more likely to be returned than that message.

Did Target Miss the Mark? Recent Closings Explained With Analytics

Mega-retailer Target recently announced that it would be closing the doors of eleven locations by February 1, 2015. The company’s press release stated, “The decision to close a Target store is only made after careful consideration of the long-term financial performance of a particular location.”[i] Target’s team of site selection experts have certainly been doing a great job considering their $72.6 BILLION in revenue for 2014. [ii] That being said, what were the root causes behind the closing of these particular stores?

Continue reading Did Target Miss the Mark? Recent Closings Explained With Analytics

Project Rescue

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PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS

Technology is constantly evolving. It’s an obvious statement, and the implication is clear: to keep up, your company has to evolve, too. But staying up-to-date with ever-changing technology can be overwhelming for many. All it takes is one piece of outdated technology to prevent your system from communicating efficiently.

Take WordPress for example. When WordPress came along, many hailed it as the “be-all and end-all” of open source technology. Yes, WordPress is easier to customize and maintain than older technologies—like websites built in Flash—but the pitfalls can be just as great. WordPress still needs updated and customized to work seamlessly with new and changing technologies. And with a turbulent workplace environment—new people constantly coming and going—“solutions” are all too often temporary fixes rather than solid foundations for future growth.

We’re all familiar with the Frankenstein approach. It’s ok to admit it—you might have experienced one or two in your time, or you might be dealing with one right now. The Frankenstein approach is easily recognizable: one piece done by this agency, another piece done in-house, another piece still left hanging, and none that can work together. Eventually you have to ask yourself: what good is a “pretty” website when it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with the rest of your business?

Symptoms can manifest in many different ways, but you may be dealing with a “Frankenstein project” if:

  • It’s impossible for you to make a simple change in your website’s CMS
  • You’ve added a new line of business, but can’t add it to your website
  • Customers can’t find you on Google because you’re on the 17th page of search results
  • Your website design is from 2004
  • You’re losing business because customers can’t access your website on mobile
  • You don’t know who your hosting provider is

BRING IN THE PROBLEM SOLVERS AT 4C

What could easily turn into a nightmare is where we excel. We are problem solvers, bridge-builders, and language interpreters. We are the fixers. We take disparate systems and make them communicate. And our rich roots in technology mean that behind everything we design is a well-oiled machine.

After all, we’re more than just a pretty face. That’s a given. Under every eye-catching interface, you’ll find a technology powerhouse.

Your “Frankenstein project” doesn’t have to lumber around draining resources with inefficiencies anymore. Bringing 4CDesignWorks in to rescue the job means that you’re left with a web application that works for you instead of against you. We’re here to help, with proven skills to take any wrong situation and make it right.