Christmas has Landed – Zurich Airport Catchline!

What a lovely Christmas catchline, this! I doubt airports can get any better than this precise tag.

Well done, Zurich Airport!

– G Joslin Vethakumar

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Anand Back to Winning Ways

Five-time world champion Vishwanathan Anand was back to winning ways yesterday by taking the title, beating Nakamura, at the Tata Steel Chess blitz event, flinging aside the disappointing show at the rapid event.

On his way to the blitz title, Anand took in his scalp all the other fellow countrymen, including a revenge win against SS Ganguly.

Playing 18 rounds in a day can be exhausting even for the most mentally agile, but Anand is a solid blitz player, having finished third in the world blitz championship last December. He is also the reigning world rapid chess champion, having won that title in December 2017 – which is why the fiasco earlier this week in Kolkata was a surprise.

Anand incidentally had beaten world champion Carlsen before taking home the world rapid title then.

Blitz standings

Congratulations, Anand!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Weak Defence, Not Diplomacy

If it was just am emotional, spur-of-the-moment outburst, Kohli will have apologised, deleted the comment and moved on. Did he?

Anand is a disappointment on and off the board of late – his aggression has been blunted and his defence weakening. He cannot even be considered number 1 in India now, he lost to Ganguly who finished last at the Tata Steel, struggled for a draw against a 14-year-old and ended the tournament without a single win.

He is no match for Carlson, Caruana and many others. My all-time favourite is Fischer.

Maybe Virat Kohli got emotional, but that’s fine: Viswanathan Anand

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Ganguly has Easy Win over Anand

Yesteryear world champion Viswanathan Anand has of late not just been struggling against chess newbies but loses even to players past their prime as it happened today at the Tata Steel Chess event today.

He was easily outsmarted by one of his former seconds S S Ganguly in a tournament he wrapped up without a win. Anand had eight draws and a loss at the event.

Wins are elusive for him for the simple reason he does not play for one any longer, supremely content with draws even against those ranked much lower.

If it was a forgettable tournament for Anand, it was a memorable one for Harikrishna who scored over Aronian today.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Blowing Away Billions – Is IBM Paying Too Much?

Deal Underlines Growing Might of Cloud!

On the one hand, IBM’s US$34-billion, full-cash acquisition of open source Linux pioneer Red Hat brings up the question if Big Blue is paying too much for a software company. On the other, it underlines the growing clout of the cloud.

Given that Facebook paid $$22 billion for WhatsApp and Microsoft $26 billion for LinkedIn, this is not a bad deal for IBM as Red Hat is a profitable, strong revenue-generating cloud player.

After I had accepted an offer from Cisco in 2005 there was talk that they could end up acquiring Nokia (or some such large company). That did make me apprehensive as two large companies in a business embrace could lead to staff rationalisation through big cuts.

However, on joining the Cisco workforce, it emerged that Cisco was not in the habit of buying large companies, only smaller ones complementing their portfolio. That was prudent use of its hefty cash balance.

While IBM’s purchase does appear to be at a hefty price, it has the potential to enhance its Cloud focus and strength.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Double Whammy – Losing a Bid and Learning No Lessons!

Win or lose, a debrief can arm sales and pursuit teams with best practices that could be leveraged for future opportunities and with knowledge of landmines to be overcome moving forward. Without a process or drive for continuous improvement, businesses will remain trapped in a trough with no lessons learnt, continually reinventing the wheel and getting caught in a never-ending cyclical swirl.

A lack of willingness to learn lessons from losses can be perilous for any company in a milieu where new players are emerging rapidly with disruptive offers that can shake leaders off their pedestals.

Celebrate Wins, Learn Lessons from Losses

Lessons Learned sessions are designed to capture the full gamut of the pursuit process spanning preplanning activities, bid strategy, execution, risk mitigation and, importantly, stakeholder management. They are just as imperative as celebrating morale-boosting wins.

Without these, areas that need improvement will be brushed under the carpet. Errors made will escape scrutiny without a chance to keep them at bay in subsequent opportunities. It will be a lost opportunity for discovering and resolving missteps that make wins slip away.

That will be a double whammy – a lost bid and no lessons learnt. Even best practices will remain with the pursuit team without the opportunity to document and share them with other internal sales teams.

Lessons Learned graphic

Key Questions for Customer Debrief

When a bidder ends up at the losing end, it is crucial to request a customer debrief for a grip on such questions as:

  1. What were the decisive factors that clinched the deal for the winning vendor?
  2. Where did we fall short? What are technical gaps that weighed us down?
  3. Did our compliance responses meet your expectations?
  4. What are the strengths that gave us a good score?
  5. Did we miss addressing any of your core business drivers in our proposal?
  6. What could we have done better both during early engagement and post-submission?
  7. Did our proposal adhere to your instructions? Was it clear and did it facilitate easy navigation?
  8. How would you rate our post-submission deliverables — solution demonstration, clarifications to questions on our proposal, etc.

The book, Powerful Proposals that I find a compelling benchmark (along with the Shipley Guide), authors David Pugh and Terry Bacon suggest asking the evaluators / decision-makers the extent to which the following influenced their decision:

  • Pre-proposal activities
  • The Proposal
  • The offering
  • Post-proposal activities
  • Individual or organisational behaviour

I will assume the winning bidder will already have a good grasp of factors that helped them close the deal. If not, the above can be applied to them as well.

Internal Review

Once the customer debrief has been completed and answers for the above questions gathered, an internal review must be organised to validate the feedback for meaningful learning. That will give teams a third-party and authoritative perspective on why we lost, so any technical gaps can be relayed to the product team, so they can keep any key missing functionality in the roadmap.

While the bid manager will drive the internal lessons learnt session, participation from the sales leadership is key. Each of the contributing members of the pursuit team must share their perceptions on what worked well and what did not, offering suggestions to fix any gaps.

All documented lessons and best practices must then be reviewed, approved and uploaded to a central database for sales teams to tap for their upcoming opportunities.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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A Complex Web of Authority, Ambition and Abuse!

Will MeToo Make Workplaces Cleaner and Safer for Women?

As #MeToo revelations have become the new normal the outcomes the campaigners seek appear to remain elusive.

Notwithstanding all-round protests, Kavenaugh and President Trump have clinched what they were after. Cristiano Ronaldo remains in the reckoning for the Ballon d’Or 2018 award despite serious rape charges against him. An alleged victim of his misdemeanour has revived a gag settlement reached between the two several years ago. If he had paid a few hundred thousand pounds back then to silence her, his claims of innocence seem hollow.

MeToo Graphic

Likes of Weinstein and Cosby Everywhere

India is hogging all current hot news in the #MeToo stakes – as if its rape infamy is not enough! The floodgates are open and no man in any position of influence appears to be above blame. The likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are everywhere, not just in the lecherous higher echelons of society – West or East!

Even a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government, MJ Akbar, is on the mat with allegations of sexual harassment from several women during his journalistic days. His party has no dearth of scandalous leaders – some of them even took out rallies in support of party sympathisers charged with the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child in Kashmir earlier this year.

The BJP Government has been keeping silent for the last few days and at the time of writing this Mr Akbar remains a minister. Some of the party leaders have even resorted to victim shaming, a demeaning recourse to escape flak for any male transgressions.

Harassment of women is endemic across all fields – Politics, Cinema, Media, Sports and, worse, Religion. The corporate world is not immune to it either.

Yet, it will be removed from reality if the blame is put entirely on just the offending male breed.

Authority (abuse of position), ambition (the drive to succeed as seen through flirtations), masculine power and feminine charms (deployed for striking business deals or for personal glory) all play up in the libido game.

Trading Charms for Growth

The political incorrectness notwithstanding, it is not hard to find compliant, consensual women ready to trade their charms for career growth. It is they who give smutty male leaders a sense of false entitlement, making them target even the unwilling.

The world knows all corporate talk of business ethics is often an exercise in convenient deception. The real victims are those who keep clear of devious means, sacrificing professional gains for moral fulfilment.

It is refreshing to see victims of male debauchery come out in the open to take on the high and mighty unmindful of the stigma they will be slapped with. This has the potential to lead to a cleaner work environment free of vulgar corporate machinations and predatory elements.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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