Archive for May 2009

Ringtone Marketing Anybody?

Few months ago I was traveling on a bus and I was seated next to a teenage boy probably on his way back home from his tuition classes. This guy; who never looked to me like someone who's having a steady or permanent income source, was carrying a highly sophisticated mobile phone in his hand. Guess what!! He's playing a snow man game on it. (Is that the best you can do with a mobile phone?) Few minutes later his phone started ringing. It wasn't the standard Nokia or Sony Ericsson ring tone. It wasn't a tune of a trendy hip hop song either. Sounded to me more like a great masterpiece of music and the tone lingered in my mind for the rest of the day and for few more days. Few days later I was at a Cargills outlet. I heard the phone ringing in the pocket of a passing by shopper. Amazing! It was that same ring tone which registered in my mind so boldly. During the period of next few week, I can't remember the exact number of occasions I heard that marvelous work of music. But on a one sudden day I heard the same tone on radio! And on TV... What's this? It's a jingle of some new product to be launched; a teaser campaign. It didn't took me much longer time to know that it was actually the teaser campaign for Bharati Airtel's long awaited launch in Sri lanka. I Googled for the ring tone and learned that it was actually a true musical masterpiece by Oscar award winning musician A.R. Rahman.

Guess what this time? I downloaded the tone; and set as the default ringtone of my Dialog connection! I was so passionate of the music of that ringtone. I bluetoothed it to about 10 or 12 friends of mine, who were all on either Dialog or Mobitel networks. It was just free advertising for Airtel, on Dialog and Mobitel as the career! Isn't it such a simple package for a good marketing campaign?

What is the marketing lesson in this story? We always think Marketing is all about spending millions on advertising and brand building campaigns. Companies ignore innovative and truly effective ways of spreading their brands from one (may be potential) customer to another, and continue adding more clutter to already polluted advertising airtime on major TV channels. The above Airtel ringtone story is a great example of how a company can use a simple concept like a mobile phone ringtone to enhance the brand recalling ability of the potential customer. Every time I hear that ringtone, it reminds me of "Airtel". Every time someone ask me "what's that cool ringtone?", I answer them "It's Airtel's advertising jingle". You need not to be a mobile phone operator to experiment this. You might already have a great advertising jingle with a high brand recalling ability. How about converting it to a ring tone and set the virus free? There are millions of careers out there to spread your virus. Your jingle will be played across the country at bus halts, supermarket queues and even inside public lavatories.

Going a step further, you can create small funny video clips of about 20 seconds, with some association to your brand. These video clips jump from one phone to another via Bluetooth, MMS and GPRS, at absolutely no cost for you for a single impression. How much did you pay per impression for your last TVC?

In Sri Lanka, the rate of Internet penetration is still at very low levels. Estimated Internet penitration rate in Sri Lanka is about less than 6%. But, we have a higher penetration levels of GPRS (and 3G) enabled mobile phones in Sri Lanka, making it much more easier for our companies to do M-Marketing than E-marketing. There are few SMS and Mobile marketing companies emerging in Sri Lanka, but their business model is having not much of a different from a traditional advertising agency. In other words they all try to sell hard! Who wants to get interrupted by an annoying SMS ad while you are in the middle of some serious work? But in this era of sophisticated technologies and highly empowered individuals; it is not an easy task to push your boring advertisements down the throat of any victim you see as a prospective customer. Much emphasis is need to be made on creativity (not the traditional definition used by advertising agencies)and sustainability of such M-marketing campaigns.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams


We are analyzing this great HBR article published by Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson in 2007, to evaluate it’s applicability to Sri Lankan organizations, as a part of a group assignment in our MBA program.

The essence of the article is like this. In today’s highly dynamic business environment companies have to rely on large, diverse teams of highly skilled and educated specialists to get a major collaborative initiatives like and acquisition or an overhaul of IT systems. Members of such teams are often convened quickly to form into the team, and they quite regularly are expected to collaborate online, and often are not known to each other in person before the project in hand is assigned to them. This creates a major challenge for today’s business organizations to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to accomplish the objectives set in such major initiatives. In the research done prior to writing this article, the authors found an interesting paradox in the 15 multinational companies they focused on for their study. Although teams that are large, virtual, diverse and composed with highly educated specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done.

In their research, Gratton and Erickson noticed that, while large, virtual, diverse and highly educated teams performed well in a collaborative environment in a one organization; yet another set of teams with the same characteristics were failed to achieve high performance in similar environments. Their research found that team members collaborate more easily and naturally, if they perceive themselves to be alike. They further found, greater the proportion of experts a team had, the more likely it was to disintegrate into nonproductive conflict or stalemate. The findings of the research left with the question “how can executives strengthen an organization’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks to maximize the effectiveness of large, diverse teams, while minimizing the disadvantages posed by their structure and composition?”

Gratton and Erickson carried out a study into 55 large teams and identified teams which demonstrated high levels of collaborative behavior, despite their complexity. They studied the factors behind the success of these collaborative teams, and out of about 100 factors they initially identified; they were able to isolate eight practices which were positively correlated with success of those teams. These eight factors were categorized into four general categories, namely; executive support, HR practices, strength of the team leader, and the structure of the team itself.

1. Investing in Signature Relationship Practices

Executives can encourage collaborative behaviour by making highly visible investments in facilities with open floor plans to foster communication; for example that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration.

2. Modeling Collaborative Behaviour

At companies, where the senor executives demonstrate highly collaborative behaviour themselves; teams collaborated well too. This is similar to leading by example. If the executives are expecting the teams to collaborate well; they first have to demonstrate it by collaborating well among the top executives.

3. Creating a Gift Culture

This involves mentoring and coaching, especially on an informal basis to help people build their networks they need to work across corporate boundaries.

4. Ensuring the Requisite Skills

Human resources departments that teach employees how to build relationships, communicate well, and resolve conflicts creatively can have a major impact on team collaboration.

5. Supporting a Strong Sense of Community


When people feel sense of community, they are more comfortable reaching out to others and more likely to share knowledge.

6. Assigning Team Leaders That are Both Task and Relationship Oriented

The debate has traditionally focused on whether a task or a relationship orientation creates a better group, but in fact both are key to successfully leading a team. Typically, leaning more heavily on a task orientation at the outset of a project and shifting toward a relationship orientation once the work is in full swing work best.

7. Building on Heritage Relationships

When too many team members are strangers, people may be reluctant to share knowledge. The best practice is to put at least a few people who know one another on the team.

8. Understanding Role Clarity and Task Ambiguity

Corporation increases when the roles of individual team members are sharply defined yet the team is given latitude on how to achieve the task.

We plan to evaluate the applicability of these 8 principles within a large and diverse team environment in one of the leading multi national companies in Sri Lanka. We will study, what of these factors are currently visible in this large team, and what factors are not properly visible. Then we will try to identify the reasons for not having those team characteristics, and see if the absence of such factors made an impact on the overall performance of the team.

How ever; what I’m most interested in this article is the comprehensiveness of these eight characteristics. If you think about these eight factors in deep; you will see how powerful these principles can be in enhancing a team’s performance. However a vast majority of the teams are formed without taking these factors into consideration. For example, gift culture and sense of community are the areas where it is overlooked most of the time. When a cross functional team is formed, first it need to be socialized into a community. The newly formed team’s members should have a sense that they are now not just a “proxy” of the larger department or division they belong to; rather they are a part of a community of with a common objective. The common objective might be to re-launch a product, revamp a website, or build a new MIS for the company. If this community feeling is lost; people will perceive their role in the team as just being a representation from their department or division. As a result, they will be driven by the narrower objectives of that particular department, where as from the organization point of view, the objective of the newly formed team is to be much broader than that.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Four Free Online Tools for Converting PDF Files into Word Documents

Few years ago, a friend of mine asked me if there’s a tool for converting PDF documents into Microsoft Word documents. I wasn’t aware of such a tool those days, and I Googled for a solution. Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with a single free service which allowed me to convert a PDF file into a Word document. There were lots of downloadable PDF converters available at that time, but they were all too expensive to afford. We want free stuff!

But the things have changed a lot today. Couple of days ago I found a PDF to Word Converter on a link I found on Stumbleupon. Then I Googled for the same keyword “Free PDF to Word Converter” and was surprised to see the amount of choices we are left with, in a matter of just one or two years.

I tested 4 of these tools and thought of documenting this on my blog.

PdftoWord.com

This is the site I first found on Stumbleupon. It’s completely a free service, which enables you to upload your PDF files and get it converted either to Word (doc) format or to RTF format. I tried both outputs, and realized Word format is much better in output quality than the RTF version. A key advantage in this tool is, you don’t have to wait until the entire file gets converted, to download it. You can upload a PDF file, select the output format you want it to be converted to, and give your email address. They will email you the converted document once the processing is finished. This will allow you to close your browser and work on something else, during the processing time for the document conversion. However the drawback is, you got to give your email; which might end up in getting more spam than you get at the moment!


ConvertPdftoWord.net

One of the serious problems I encountered with PdftoWord.com was the loss of color information during the conversion process. I converted two files, and in both occasions the colors was either missing after the conversion, or converted into a different color. This was bit disappointing to see, but ConvertPdftoWord.net worked just fine with the color information. I converted the same files as I converted with PdftoWord.com, and both files were converted with proper color information. As usual, every advantage comes with some trade-offs! The file size is too larger with ConvertPdftoWord.net, compared to the files being converted through PdftoWord.com. I converted a 900KB PDF on PdftoWord.com, to create a Word doc of 1.6MB. When the same PDF was converted with ConvertPdftoWord.net, the file size raised up to 2.4MB. Other than the file size issue, the output quality of ConvertPdftoWord.net was seemingly better than what it was produced by PdftoWord.com.


FreePdfConvert.com

This tool gives you the same service as the above two services, and the added advantage here is; you are able to convert PDF files hosted on web URL’s, directly into Word documents, without having to download them to your machine. Further added advantages are; it allows you to convert the file into Excel rich text format also. You can also extract the images in a PDF document, into JPEG, or PNG format. In other words, this performs as a PDF to Excel converter, as well as PDF image extractor software as well.


PdfOnline.com

This works exactly the same way as ConvertPdftoWord.net. You can upload the file and get the PDF converted into a Word document, and download it directly to your machine, without having to disclose your email address to an unknown party.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

SlideServe.com – A New Tool for Sharing Powerpoint Shows on the Internet

About an year ago I posted a small write up here on this blog, on the topic “Sharing Powerpoint Shows on the Internet”, and for my delight (and for surprise!) the post has been ranked number one on Google for a search on that phrase as a keyword. Last week, I was contacted by a new company called SlideServe.com, who are also in the business of facilitating sharing Powerpoint shows on the Internet. I registered myself on SlideServe, to test their service for myself and thought of writing a dedicated post about them.

SlideServe is still in Beta, and I found few basic issues that they really need to fix soon. First; I signed up and activated the account through the email link. SlideServe wanted me to login again, as soon as I activated the account. I logged in and uploaded a profile image, and then tried uploading a presentation to my account. Upload process went smoothly, and I got up to a point where it said "Your Presentation is currently being processed and will be available to view in a few minutes". However, as soon the file uploading is completed I realized that my session has timed out, and I've been logged out automatically from the session. I logged in again, and went to "My Presentations" and shhhhh!. It's all gone!

I uploaded the file again, and went to "My Presentations" to see the file. This time it was there, but the strange thing is the first file I uploaded was appearing in the "Latest Presentations" section under a user name "guest1249" Hmmm... Something seems to be is very spooky there.

We can expect such teething issues as SlideServe still is in Beta. As per their domain Whois data, the domain was first registered only in April 2008; one month later I've posted the above mentioned blog post about Sharing Powerpoint shows on the internet. As per my estimation, there are about 465 members signed up with their service at the moment (as at 15th May 2009). That means they are still new in business, and have a long way to go.

SlideServe requires us to add the basic information about the file before it's uploaded to their servers. It would have been better if the user is allowed to browse the file and upload it, as soon as they click on "Upload" link. While the file is being uploaded to the server, the user should be able to add more information about the file, add tags, select channels and save it. This is the procedure that it takes on Youtube video sharing, and I thought that is very much more user friendly.

Another drawback I noticed is; SlideServe doesn't allow multiple file uploads. You can only upload one presentation at a time. Multiple upload is very crucial for someone who need to upload a series of presentations on a similar topic.

On the positive side; I see the site navigation and layouts are pretty cool. Apart from the small drawback during the upload process mentioned above; the rest of the site is easily navigable. Color theme is easy on eyes and it resembles a lot like Facebook and Wordpress, which is a good strategy to build the credibility of a website. (Make your look & feel similar to an already trusted site among your audiance; not necasarily a competitor). Altogether, the site looks much organized than it's main competitor SlideShare.net. I find it very difficult to navigate on SlideShare most of the time, because there are too much of information being stuffed into each and every page of the site. Comparatively, SlideServe has a pretty simple and easy on eyes layout with relatively less stuffed with excess information.

Below is the official "About us" details sent to me by a representative from SlideServe.com. Personally, I do not have any intention of shifting from SlideShare where I still feel pretty comfortable. However, we always like more options! Who knows; may be SlideServe will outplay SlideShare in couple of years, just like Google did to Yahoo, or like Facebook did to MySpace. No one ever thought that "we need a substitute for Yahho or MySpace". Good luck SlideServe!

P.S. This is NOT a paid review

About SlideServe


SlideServe.com is the easiest way to upload and share your PowerPoint presentations publicly or privately with the world. You can embed/email the presentations to social networking sites, blogs and friends.

SlideServe gives you a place to share your PowerPoint presentations with the world. Through SlideServe your presentations reach a worldwide audience. It is free and you can share PowerPoint presentations and slideshows that include animations, transitions, audio, video and Flash. You can find lots of presentations with class, style and elegance in this presentation sharing community. There is an option to insert them into your blog or web sites and for viewing presentations in full screen mode without reducing the quality of presentations. In SlideServe, user can Write comments, Rate presentations, Add them to favorites and also Add presentation to your social bookmarks like Google, Delicious, Digg, Furl, Facebook Share, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Technorati, Live, Yahoo, Twitter, Ask and many more. All PowerFlashPoint users can upload and share their presentations directly to SlideServe. Maximum size of file is limited to 30MB and there is no file size restriction while uploading through PowerFlashPoint software. SlideServe currently supports .ppt, .pptx, .pps and .ppsx formats (PowerPoint XP, 2003 and 2007). Unlike some of the similar services, when you register with SlideServe you will get a free software client - a powerpoint add-in based on the powerful PowerFlashPoint (converter from http://www.digitalofficepro.com) engine, which allows users to seamlessly convert PowerPoint to Flash from within PowerPoint.

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Blog 2.0

It has been a while since I last posted something “worthwhile reading” on this blog. Few people who accidentally Googled or stumbled upon this site left me with some feedback saying “dude you should be writing a bit too often”. I am humbly pleased to see that some of the posts I’ve made in the past on the topics such as, Procrastination, IPL, Googling yourself, and mental paradigms have reached some ranking on Google search engine, and as a result I’m getting some positive feedback asking to “blog a bit more often”. Problem is; I find it real tough to dedicate myself an hour or two per week to punch in the 1000 + 1 ideas that are burning inside my head, into a comprehensive blog post. I’m not a natural writer, so it takes me at least two minutes to put up a proper sentence, and you might see what a pain I must go through to write a single post of about 100 lines.

However, I finally decided to break the silence and get involved in this blogging business, a bit more often and serious. The MBA is coming to an end in another few months time, and I must line up some new things to engage with for burning out the excess capacity! Specially when you finish with an MBA which requires you above average effort and commitment; the vacuum is going to be wider. What am I actually going to do with this extra time? I thought it will be a good idea to give life to this blog once again, with the hope of keeping myself engaged in knowledge centered activities, even after the MBA. Remember; person who stops learning after the day of his graduation is uneducated the day after.

Now my first challenge is to find an appropriate title for my new blog. Ami’s Space was a random title came to my mind, and I’m not very much happy about it as a brand. Sounds too bland! I wanted something which reflects my desires, and my universe. What do I stand for? Surprise! I really don’t know!! May be now is the time for me to answer this question, and find out my personal “stand”.

I wanted a title for this blog with something related to Social Media. Not that I’m going to challenge Dawn Foster or Chris Brogan with this blog. But, Social Media and Web 2.0 is something that really fascinated me within last 2 or 3 years. But again; I don’t want to make this a “Social Media Guru Blog”. Rather, I wanted to have a title which represents me as a Social Media Enthusiast. But the title should not limit the scope of this blog, only to Social Media. I want to randomly rant about the IPL and Cricket, or sometimes have few thoughts assembled about a movie I loved or a TV show I never miss. But in all topics, I want to touch the “business side of it”. Like in my post about IPL and Cricket in Olympics.

The first idea came to my mind as a title for this blog was “Life 2.0”. The word “Life” covers a wide scope, and 2.0 will denote my love for Web 2.0. More than anything else, I thought “Life 2.0” would represent me very well; because the year 2009 is definitely going to be a transformational year for me. The last two years of my life was totally dedicated for the MBA, and “Life 2.0” would be a great title to resemble my “life after graduation!”. At the same time, 2009 marked the 30th milestone in my life journey, and it was amazingly a wonderful feeling to look back down the memory lanes. If anyone of you followed my Facebook updates during last January, you would have sensed that feeling!

However, branding is an annoying business. Specially if you find that the brand idea you come up with, (after thinking and thinking and thinking for hours); is already taken by someone else!

I’ve not still finalized a title for my re-launch. If in any case that I couldn’t find a better title for this blog; I will move alone with the “Life 2.0” title. I hope that Todd Dowling will not raise any copyright violation cases against me :-)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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