Monthly Archives: October 2010

Don’t Forget the Time Zone!

You’d think that this would be obvious in the year 2010, but it’s ridiculous the number of companies that advertise on-line events, for which they are obviously seeking a global audience, and don’t include the time zone. Not only does most of the world NOT run on your timezone, but most of them don’t have a clue what time zone you’re in. And don’t give me that B.S. that “your customers know where we are”, because, if you have multiple offices, I guarantee that at least some don’t. And if you are doing it at a partner or customer office that is not in your head-office time zone, how are they supposed to even have a clue?

And learn what daylight standard time means. It’s amazing how many events I see for 11:00 EDT in December (not possible!) or EST in July in New York (again, not possible!). And don’t take the timezone shortcut and just use ET, CT, or PT. Remember, not all provinces and states (like Saskatchewan and Arizona) use daylight savings time, and the usual assumption is that if an abbreviation is used, you mean xDT in summer and xST in winter.

And if there is any possibility of confusion (and with timezones there usually is), spell the timezone out. BST can mean British Summer Time, Burma Standard Time, or Bangladesh Standard Time.

Don’t be a Dummy! Use the fully qualified timezone.

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Cultural Intelligence VIII: Korea

This series is edited by Dick Locke, SI’s resident expert on International Trade, author of Global Supply Management — A Guide to International Procurement (which was the definitive guide for almost a decade), and President of the Global Procurement Group which regularly gives seminars on International Trade and working with International Cultures.

As highlighted in last year’s post on Overcoming Cultural Differences in International Trade with Korea, while the Republic of Korea has a lot of similarities with the Asian countries that surround it, it also has a lot of differences. Having built the third largest Asian economy in less than half a century, starting with low-cost high-quality export production and then a move into high-tech high-value-add in the 90s, Koreans tend to move at a rapid pace. Also, as (recent) history has taught them that compromise leads to defeat and second place spells disaster, they are extremely competitive. They are always looking for an advantage, quick profits, and a quick sale … which is generally more important to them than the development of solid, long-term, business relationships.

With respect to Locke‘s seven key cultural differences (first outlined as six in his classic text on Global Supply Management), power distance is moderately high as they have a vertical society that observes strict protocol, time is very monochronic and punctuality is expected, and your rank as a buyer is moderate. However, while they are quite high on uncertainty avoidance, unlike many Asian countries, they are willing to experiment and take risks if the reward is there. They are strongly influenced by hahn, which describes the build-up of pent-up energies, unrequited yearnings, and general frustrations, so while harmony is important, so is competition. However, kibun (hurting someone’s pride), is a very sensitive issue, and face is more important to them than it is to the Japanese. They are quite individualistic for an Asian country, though not as individualistic as North Americans, and very personal.

With respect to verbal communication, they are the most direct of the Asian countries, except where “no” is concerned, which must always be delivered indirectly or as a “maybe”. You should keep your volume moderate and avoid being boisterous (with the only exception being you are at a club and drunk, but then you must apologize for it immediately the next day).

With respect to non-verbal communication, as with the Japanese, body language conveys respect and you should learn when, and how, to bow. You need to avoid large gestures, bold facial expressions, and maintain a harmony in your emotions. While you need to be close enough to exchange business cards or pour drinks, you must not get too close and you must avoid touching them. With the exception of the handshake, physical contact is inappropriate unless the individuals are peers of the same sex or family. However, unlike some other Asian countries, eye contact is important and indicates sincerity and attentiveness.

Meetings are structured, and its important to provide information, including information on all attendees, in advance. Be sure to avoid writing anyone’s name in red (including your own). While negotiations can take place at the table, deliberations will be made in a group before a decision is made. As with other cultures, meals are common, with the etiquette similar. The major difference being that you should finish everything on your plate, but even if you are still hungry, you must refuse the first offer of seconds. Most Korean businessmen tend to believe that they will get to know a business partner, colleague, or customer better over a few drinks (which should be held with the right hand) and invitations after business hours will be common. Lean what gunbae means.

Finally, modesty is very important. If you are complemented, you should indicate that you are not worthy of such praise.

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Webinar Wackiness XIII: Webinars This Week from the #1 Supply Chain Resource Site

The Sourcing Innovation Resource Site, always immediately accessible from the link under the “Free Resources” section of the sidebar, continues to add new content on a weekly, and often daily, basis — and it will continue to do so.

The following is a not-so-short selection of over 12 webinars THIS WEEK that might interest you:

Date & Time Webcast

11:00 GMT-07:00/MST/PDT

Proving Real Value-Closing the Performance Perception Gap Between Finance and Procurement

Sponsor: ICG Commerce


11:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Transportation Cost Management for the Pulp and Paper Industry

Sponsor: Enterprise Performance Solutions


15:00 GMT/WET

Overview of Biznet’s PerforMIS v5.3 Solution

Sponsor: Biznet Solutions


10:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Finance, Operations, Sales, and Customer Service – Sharing Critical Data with Interaction

Sponsor: Sherwood Systems


11:00 GMT/WET

Building an efficient and affordable IT infrastructure

Sponsor: CIO Connect


11:00 GMT-07:00/MST/PDT

Proving Real Value-Closing the Performance Perception Gap Between Finance and Procurement

Sponsor: Sourcing Interests Group


10:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Distribution Strategies: Integrated Web thru Ecommerce

Sponsor: Integrated Systems Solutions


14:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Picture Perfect Integration: Go-live on-time, under-budget, and maximize ROI

Sponsor: Emergys


10:00 GMT-07:00/MST/PDT

Getting More Spend Under Management Faster with CombineNet ASAP 4.4

Sponsor: CombineNet


14:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Preparing for Growth: How, Why and Where Manufacturers are Investing as Markets Re-Emerge

Sponsor: Infor


14:15 GMT/WET

Operation Excellence and Sustainability Strategies for Manufacturing and Product Development

Sponsor: PepsiCo


11:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Achieve Organizational Alignment on Contract Management Your Bottom Line Will Thank You

Sponsor: Ariba


12:00 GMT-04:00/AST/EDT

Leveraging Africa & Middle East

Sponsor: Global Services Media

They are all readily searchable from the comprehensive Site-Search page.

Analytics III: The Data Expert and His Warehouse

Today’s post is by Eric Strovink of BIQ.

Nothing is potentially more dangerous to an enterprise than the “data expert” and his data warehouse. In the data expert’s opinion, every question can be answered with an SQL query; any custom report can be written easily; and any change to the database schema can be accomplished as necessary. Everything of interest can be added to the warehouse; the warehouse will become the source of all knowledge and wisdom for the company; life will be good.

How many times have we heard this, and how many times has this approach failed to live up to expectations? Problem is, business managers usually feel that they don’t have the background or experience to challenge IT claims. There’s an easy way to tell if you’re being led down the rose-petaled path by a data analysis initiative, and it’s this: if your “gut feel” tells you that the initiative’s claims are impossibly optimistic, or if common sense tells you that what you’re hearing can’t possibly be true (because, for example, if it’s that easy, then why isn’t everyone else doing it), then go with your gut.

Sometimes the reflexive response of management to an IT claim is to say, “OK, prove it“. Unfortunately, challenging a data expert to perform a particular analysis is pointless, because any problem can be solved with sufficient effort and time. I recall an incident at a large financial institution, where an analyst (working for an outsourcer who shall remain nameless) made the claim that he could produce a particular complex analysis using (let’s be charitable and not mention this name, either) the XYZ data warehouse. So, sure enough, he went away for a week and came back triumphantly waving the report.

Fortunately for the enterprise, the business manager who issued the challenge was prepared for that outcome. He immediately said, “OK, now give me the same analysis by …“, and he outlined a number of complex criteria. The analyst admitted that he’d need to go away for another week for each variant, and so he was sent packing.

It’s not really the data expert’s fault. Most computer science curricula include “Introduction to Database Systems” or some analog thereof; and in this class, the wonders and joys of relational database technology are employed to tackle one or more example problems. Everything works as advertised; joins between tables are lickety-split; and the new graduate sallies forth into the job market full of confidence that the answer to every data analysis problem is a database system.

In so many applications this is exactly the wrong answer. The lickety-split join on the sample database that worked so well during “Introduction to Database Systems,” in the real world turns into a multi-hour operation that can bring a massive server to its knees. The report that “only” takes “a few minutes” may turn out to need many pages of output, each one a variant of the original; so the “few minutes” turns into hours.

Consider the humble cash register at your local restaurant. Is it storing transactions in a database, and then running a report on those transactions to figure out how to cash out the servers? No, of course it isn’t. Because if it did, the servers would be standing in line at the end of the night, waiting for the report to be generated. A minute or two per report — not an unreasonable delay for a database system chewing through transactional data on a slow processor — means an unacceptable wait. That’s why that humble restaurant cash register is employing some pretty advanced technology: carefully “bucketizing” totals by server, on the fly, so that it can spit out the report at the end of the night in zero time.

We’ll talk about “bucketizing” — otherwise known as “OLAP” — in part IV.

Previous: Analytics II: What is Analysis?

Next: Analytics IV: OLAP: The Imperfect Answer

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