Monthly Archives: May 2012

10 tips to getting started in blogging

I was 8 years old, sat in classroom 2GC, petrified. I had writer’s block. The brief was simple: write a piece of creative writing on any topic and I couldn’t do it. The end of class bell sounded and I was terrified as Mrs Barton walked over and saw my blank sheet. She asked me to stay behind as the class filed out and I awaited the obligatory abuse.

Instead, she took me out the class room, over to the tuck shop and bought me a 10p Matchstick sweet. She told me to go back to the room and come back out once I had written my assignment. 2 minutes later I made the conscious decision to let go of my fear and 30 minutes later I produced copy.

Columnist Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. “Why, no,” dead-panned Red. “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

So please believe me, all writers struggle. Getting started is about the hardest thing and I thought I should share my personal tips. Remember though that writing is a deeply personal thing. What worked for me might not work for you. Do what feels right.

1) Just do it

There are many reasons to procrastinate and many more important things to do. But if I want to produce content I create a time box and I write – and stop writing when I’m finished. Sometimes for example I have a 40-minute commuter train which is a 40-minute time box.

Also don’t put barriers in your place like creating a site. I didn’t create this site until a year ago – 18 months into my writing. I used to write on SAP’s Community Network and my corporate blog and only later did I create my own blog. I set it up in 2 hours on a Sunday morning.

2) Write about what you know best

Writing about things you don’t know about requires research and I wouldn’t recommend this as a means to get into writing. Instead, write about what you’re deeply acquainted with: write about your specialism.

3) Write about what you’re passionate about

Again, you may not always have this luxury but it makes writing so much easier. You will likely find that the words flow off your fingers and onto the page.

4) Be experiential

If you look at my early material it is actually copies of my own personal notes on documentation on how to do technical stuff. Interestingly some of that is my most popular content because it was simple stuff that people appreciated knowing about.

This material will also naturally be SEO-optimised because it will contain the terms that people are searching for to find solutions to their problem.

5) Let go

You may be thinking that you could never write as well as Dave, as much as Julie. Or perhaps, you do not have the best experience in the market and there are better people. Trust me, those are all just excuses.

6) Keep writing

Your early work may suck but it doesn’t matter because the only way to get better at it is to practice, practice and practice. My early work sucks and I’m still embarrassed to read my own content.

7) Use your personal style

In combination with (6) don’t worry about any rules of blogging: that can come later. There are tons of blogs on what to do and how to write and it can be intimidating. My style for example is just to create a piece of content and move on.

Good friend Jon Reed creates structure and thought processes and then often pulls an all-nighter to get it out. Incidentally way that’s why his content is so well structured and his point so well made. For yourself, focus on what feels right.

8) A blog on the site is worth 10 in your mind

The world is strewn with partially completed blogs in people’s minds and draft boxes. Focus carefully on starting a piece of content that you will complete. And if you get part way through and don’t want to complete it any more, then make the conscious decision to trash it – and find a new subject material.

9) Focus on quality language

Use a spell checker – and quickly scan the document for organism vs orgasm. If your English is poor then use a friend to proof read it. On our corporate blog our marketing department will help with this.

But don’t think that your content has to be vetted by an expert. I often get blogs sent to me because people feel they should get my blessing. I scan through them and let them know if I believe they are crap, but other than that, the publish button is the best thing to do.

10) If you promise 10 tips and only think of 9, don’t worry

Just press the publish button. See what I did there?

People, Process and Technology – is IT the new HR?

I created People, Process and Technology as the title of this blog because I believe that all three are the cornerstone of business and society and most people have a home base. They return to that home base when pressured or threatened and this affects their behaviour.

For example my home base is technology. Our head of finance caused a problem on our core finance system on Friday at 6pm and my default reaction was – despite not having used that system in 6 months – to dive in and fix it. Rather than lever other people or some support process.

So I will fittingly start by discussing the technology dimension.

Technology

I was sat in a booth in Orlando at SAP’s business-focused conference last week, and the comments made by one my friends was really interesting. They were bemoaning the difficulties they were having, getting their management to implement SAP’s in-memory technology, SAP HANA.

The language used was interesting: “my management do not get the benefit” was the essence of it. It was late so I responded slightly too bluntly: “is it because you have not articulated the benefits to them?”. I probably could have put it better but the semantics are there: technology is an enabler for making People’s lives easier through Process change. To invest in tech, we have to convince people of the benefits of this.

People

I also spent some time with Lars Daalgard, CEO of Success Factors and current head of SAP’s Cloud division. Lars is essentially a salesman and you can see this in the bromance between him and SAP’s charismatic co-CEO, Bill McDermott.

And a few weeks ago he commented that “everyone is in sales”. This caused some community backlash because technologists don’t like that idea, but I happen to agree with him. It is just a matter of how you explain this to people, and Lars did that poorly.

But however you look at it, there is some truth in it – see my example above. When you believe in something and want someone to send money, you need to explain the value to people and process. That – in Lars’ viewpoint – is sales.

Process

The third person I spent some time with lately is Kate Daly, who runs a Change Management consultancy and is advising one of my customers on their HR change programme. And I bring her up because she came up with a very interesting observation for which she deserves credit.

20 years ago, HR departments ran processes for companies. Well two processes, hiring and firing. They transformed over the last 20 years from process droids into strategic advisors. My head of HR, Cheryl, is one of my most trusted advisors and drives business change, currently on career development of our most senior consultants. And they want to be called Human Capital Management to signify this. Good for them!

The IT revolution

Currently, the IT department of most large organisations does what HR did 20 years ago. It runs a process, keeping business processes up and running. There is often a “IT and Business” or “us and them” divide.

We believe that those IT people who figure out how to bring strategic change to their organisations will be the kingmakers of the industry and will afford success. And I for one am focussing on building a team of IT consultants who are focused on challenging and changing I our customers’ businesses.

And yes, I do believe that everyone is in sales but you can’t sell that to them by saying that. From my conversation with Lars, I think he gets this nuance.

How British Airways broke this camel’s back

I’m not sure why but the straw has broken the camel’s back. I am currently crammed into a centre economy seat. To the left is a passenger with no concept of personal space and a serious case of halitosis. To my right is another passenger who has ordered the fish menu and has opened it up for me to enjoy the smell.

In front is someone I know that works for BA, who has been given an upgrade to business class. The plane is packed and somehow I feel jilted that BA look after their own employees rather than rewarding their frequent flyers.

I fly a lot with British Airways. Somewhere in the region of 250k miles a year. Mostly economy with a mix of premium economy, business and the occasional first class ticket, depending on who is paying.

By contrast I fly much less with US Airways, though enough to be a frequent flyer. And they treat me curiously well. For instance on a trip to Costa Rica some months back, both myself and my partner got complimentary first class tickets both ways – including a 6’6″ flat bed. In fact I’ve had some sort of upgrade on over half of the US Airways flights i have flown this year.

Because I fly a lot, I get some problems. This is more or less expected and these problems in the last year have included:

  • Destroyed luggage
  • Theft from my luggage
  • Items left in planes never returned to me
  • Crashed planes causing serious delays
  • Being downgraded
  • Flights booked on the wrong dates by agents who refused to change them

What shocks me, and continues to shock me is threefold:

First, I know that BA have a policy of trying to retain their top customers. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I am such a customer. However the behaviour that they display is in complete conflict with this.

Second, much of the time there are spare seats in a cabin ahead. What is the opportunity risk of upgrading your loyal customers to reward them for their loyalty? I buy the best cabin I can afford and by not upgrading me, BA will not make me contemplate paying more.

Lastly, when there is a problem, there is no worse resolver group than BA Customer Relations. I have contacted them multiple times, filled in surveys and complaints. And never, have they ever offered me compensation, good will, or anything else. They just ignore it.

By contrast I have had equivalent problems with US Airways and Qantas, and both airlines have been helpful and offered me something for my inconvenience.

So I have resolved to do something today. I am going to post this blog and then fill out one last customer survey. BA, you have one last opportunity to do something about it and I am expecting a big gesture. Otherwise, you have lost me, and everyone I have influence over, as a customer for life.

There it is, I have thrown down the gauntlet. On the 1st June, I will post an update, either way. We shall see if BA is capable of engaging its customers.