Wednesday, December 31. 2008
.....Perfection remains illusory.
This is the last day of another very interesting year of being part of Exetel and I have to say that I'm physically and mentally exhausted - way past the point where a few days off will 'recharge the batteries'. Notwithstanding that pathetic bit of moaning the last twelve months have been a 'watershed' year in which Exetel, finally (or perhaps just for the time being) changed from being a struggling start up operation facing continual threats of financial and operational oblivion to a maturing company that was beginning to benefit from the huge efforts of time and will and, although it sounds smug, relatively clever thinking and planning that have been put in to the company over a sustained period of time.
When we started Exetel our desire and ambition was to create and operate a "perfect" communications company based on our relatively long and varied experiences in working in and for much less than perfect communications companies over the previous 10 or so years. Clearly we have totally failed to achieve that ambition - at least in the first five years of Exetel's 'life' to date. So we have put five years of unremittingly hard work in to failing - a disappointing result in almost every way you look at it.
It would be 'normal' having written those words to continue with a "But - on the other hand......" Unfortunately when you set out to achieve one very clearly measurable objective and you fail to achieve that objective there can be no "buts' or "howevers".
All that a sensible person can do is to review the causes of the failure(s) and decide what to do next.
I'm not sure if I have another five years left available to me of being able to work as hard and as constantly as I have done over the past five years. Dispassionately - I'm pretty sure I haven't - too many single malts, straight up gin Martinis and rivers of fine wine coupled with increasingly less physical exercise will have made irreversible inroads into my physical being and quite probably my mental capacities as well. So whatever Exetel is to become (at least with my input) will have to be achieved over some lesser period than a Stalinesque 'five year plan' - three years would appear to be a maximum at this time.
One of the few pluses we have been able to put in place over the past five years has been a culture and actuality of efficiency via automation that has created the key 'platform' of the lowest possible cost of operation of any entity with which we currently 'compete' or may likely compete with in the future. That is a very real and quite massive ongoing advantage. The other very significant achievement in operating capability we have put in place has been the creation of the Sri Lankan company over the past almost three years that is set up and operated completely differently to the outsourced or quasi outsourced operations of any of the entities with whom we compete. This added to the operating and cost advantages of the automation we have ceaselessly invested in over the past five years, does put in place an ongoing, and increasing, operating cost advantage over every entity with whom we may compete over the coming three years.
This advantage is something we certainly didn't have five years ago.
So.......one more time for the people who never learn....I would like to be part of creating the 'perfect' communications company over the next three years and, hopefully having learned from the past five years of failures, we are in a better position today than we were in January 2004 to complete that objective successfully this time.
So tomorrow is the start of the new three year plan for Exetel in which we will aim to achieve a whole lot of things that we haven't managed to achieve so far. This time, and I've lost count of how many times I have started a new year with soaring ambitions that somehow never seem to get achieved, we will take a more 'graduated' approach to reaching, and then maintaining, 'perfection'. As always, I can see no reason why we can't put in place a series of benchmarks and then put in place the processes that will allow us to reach and continue to operate at those benchmark levels. At the end of the day it's only a question of planning and execution and, of course, people.
I have spent much of the last 5 - 6 weeks reducing the complexity of meanings and implications of the word "perfect" in relation to a communications company to a set of numbers which isn't quite as easy as it sounds. However, give or take several hundreds of adjustments along the way, I think that we can define "perfect" in ways that we can discretely implement and measure that will allow us to have a realistic chance of reaching that objective within the estimated three year period. Given the relative simplicity of what communications services actually entail in delivering and maintaining it isn't particularly difficult to determine what the measurements of "perfection" should be. The majority are blindingly obvious and are easy to determine and set the measurements for:
Up time under your control - 100%
Speed under your control - maximum
Voice quality - 1 for mobile, 2 for VoIP
Price - lowest of any provider
Service quality - no TIO complaints
Customer satisfaction - referrals equal number of users in any 'period'
Profit - enough to donate $A1 million per annum to key projects
Personnel - no unplanned losses/no hiring outside the company for key personnel
Anyone in their second year of business planning could list the requirements for "perfection" for any specific commercial entity pretty accurately so there is no difficulty in doing that - the only potential difficulty is in measuring them. Given the 5+ weeks I have spent on it then it is very easy not only to determine a very comprehensive list but to do the more interesting work of devising the detailed processes/steps to meet the "perfection" target for each nominated area of operation. The automated task and personnel management system we have developed over the past two years will be a major plus in the measurement of the levels of achievement and we couldn't embark on this new three year plan without it and, more to the point, what it will become.
Currently I can define "perfection" as completely meeting several hundred 'goals' each day or some lesser part of each day scaling down to fractions of a second. We don't have the ability, currently, to measure all of those elements of "perfection" but we could and will put the effort in to developing the code to do that over time as we have the base 'platform' in place to do that. Being able to measure "perfection" is of course very different to achieving "perfection". However it is the only thing that really interests me enough to keep working beyond the end of today.
Having said that I think the next three years aren't going to be very easy but i think they are going to be immensely rewarding in non-financial ways.
Tuesday, December 30. 2008
....and wonder what age group these sorts of people belong to.
By these sorts of people, in this instance, I mean the writers of this article and the 'audience' they wrote it for:
Unless I'm misreading it, and I may well be, it appears to be saying that it is wrong for a carrier (Optus in this case - also the carrier this particular 'magazine' never loses an opportunity of attacking every time it can) to try and ensure its services aren't used to give a free ride to third parties.
My understanding of the background of providing mobile services, Australia wide, is that it takes well in excess of $A5 billion in capital investment and a pay back period of greater than ten years - a pretty significant investment in an Australian context and one that only three, possibly four, companies have ponied up the money to do. My further understanding is that the mobile carriers devise their convoluted "capped" and "unlimited" plans as marketing devices to make people with less numeracy skills than they should have lock themselves in to paying a lot of money each month for 24 months or so.
The 'unlimited" and "capped" offerings are, of course, not "unlimited" or "capped" at all in any real sense being 'ameliorated' by more ts and cs and 'excepts' than any averagely intelligent person can get their mind around - however that is how mobile marketing in this, and other countries, has developed so few if any people either "read the fine print" or actually check on the 'excepts'.
One thing even the most mentally challenged person should be able to understand is that it isn't commercially possible to make a call from a mobile in Australia to another country at NO CHARGE. Surely even the dumbest of the dumb would understand that there is a cost for making ANY phone call and that cost has to be paid? All that the "free international call" companies listed in the article are doing is to try and exploit the service offered by a mobile/wire line carrier for their own profits and now one of the carriers they are trying to exploit has closed one of their loopholes by pointing out it breaches their published ts and cs. It really doesn't matter that any individual believes the specific restriction isn't "fair" or "reasonable" or any thing else - they agreed to it prior to signing up to use the service and it's contractually binding.
Whether or not Optus is in fact able to 'refuse' to provide interconnect to a third party (who almost certainly doesn't hold a carrier license) is not something I can comment on but I would be pretty sure that Optus' lawyers were sure before permitting the action to be taken so I'm not going to make any comments on "legality" based on my almost complete lack of knowledge of the Telecommunications Act and it would seem to me, personally, that anyone else without such detailed and specific knowledge should do the same.
Apparently the article's author and the article's audience aren't expected to be able to understand either basic commercial imperatives or contract law which is why the article's writer felt free to make the comments in the article.
The tricky issue for all mobile and wire line carriers for the past 3 - 4 years has been how to accommodate VoIP in terms of their then and current tariffs and how to deal with the fringe rip off entities that will try and exploit their services based on 'loop holes' that VoIP has 'exposed' in their services and processes put in place in a 'pre-VoIP era'. Doubtless other mobile and wire line carriers will consider how/if their own services are being misused and if they are they too will take whatever actions they deem appropriate to protect the "cost/price equations" they have based their own 'capped" and "unlimited" plans on.
My only interest in the article was to see if any "facts" were relevant to Exetel's current use of VoIP over the Optus mobile HSPA service. At first reading of the article they don't appear to be - but then an article in a magazine is not exactly legal advice on a specific contract. Exetel encourages it's HSPA users to use VoIP on their mobile hand set to reduce mobile call costs within Australia or internationally if they wish to do that. As they are using an Optus data service to make those calls (rather than dialing in to another entities service using an Optus mobile voice service) I can't see that there is any problem as the end user is paying for the data they are using and it is irrelevant that the packets are being used to carry 'voice' rather than 'data' to and from the user's handset - the tariff is the same as set by Optus to Exetel via the supply contract.
It seems to me that a growing percentage of mobile telephone users will use VoIP over the coming 12 - 24 months which is why Exetel has gone to a lot of trouble (and expense) to put in place our own VoIP switches and has taken so much time to ensure we can deliver a constantly reliable VoIP service over HSPA. How Optus, or any other mobile carrier, is going to come to grips with how such usage is going to effect their mobile tariffing in the future is not something I have to worry about. I'm currently assuming that it isn't something that would overly concern them ASSUMING they don't make the same errors in 'constructing' "free" and "capped" data plans that have just been exploited by the "loop hole abuser" fringe entities that will always be a part of any marketplace.
One more thing to worry about.
Monday, December 29. 2008
"Democracy is the worst form of government.."(Winston Churchill, speech, House of Commons, November 11, 1947).
While I believe I may have expressed the view, more than once I think, that the current 'federal government' is as inept a bunch of ill educated sub-mediocrity to ever pose as such an entity there is and remains the fact that they were, apparently, 'voted' by a majority of the Australian population in to those positions. That may only be a further condemnation of "democracy" as a form of government as also offered by WSC a little later when he said:
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter:
If you prefer a change of continent, Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying:
So, it's obvious that there are many shortcomings of living in a democracy, and I think that's particularly true at this particular moment in time in Australia, but the fact remains that more than 50% of Australian voters have consigned all Australians to the vagaries, grandstanding inanity and stupidities of the current 'government' for a period of around three years and that's it - you can't change your current 'government' or its stupidities until the next election (which apparently, according to the recent opinion polls, will result in the electorate giving the current fools a second period of three years)
These, I assume cynical, views were brought to mind when I read this:
So "censorship" and "removal of our freedoms" and all the other claptrap quoted in that NYT article are just plain juvenile and as equally stupid as the votes that put the idiots implementing the stupidity in a position to do it in the first place if those protestors think that somehow they've been hard done by. Australians have "made their bed and they must lie on it".
Get over it - move on.
I don't know when life, or at least 'life' for so many foolish people, got so trivial that so many column inches could be devoted to the non-event known as the "Internet filtering trials" but it seems that people who use the internet have a lower IQ than the people who vote in Australia (or perhaps there is a correlation between a Labor voter and low IQs or Labor voters and the inability to either learn from even recent history or to actually read the election 'manifestos' of the party they decide to vote for?).
People who use the internet should know, among many other obvious facts, that:
1) The democratically elected Australian government of the day has the confirmed by vote right and obligation to implement its 'mandate'.
2) Attempting to prevent access to any address on the internet is not possible for any internet user of even modest knowledge and 'skill'
3) Attempting to ban access to web sites that are related to child pornography (even if that is impossible) is not something that any sentient entity should even waste one word commenting about
4) The, democratically elected, government of the day in Australia will demonstrate (via opposition scrutiny and the Senate) that it's "ban lists" are created against agreed criteria as authorised by the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED representatives of all Australians (whether they give a damn or not about internet ban lists)
So any 'ban list' will be based on what each voter's repesentative agrees to in the democratically elected parliament of the Australian people.
The fact that any such ban list will be pointless, for the most part, in that anyone who has elementary skills will not be hindered by it in any case makes the current columnn inches even harder to understand.
So, all these 'protestors' must have a paucity of brain cells in that they can't grasp the two essentials involved in this process which, as I understand them are:
1) 50.0001% or more voters in Australia voted for a ban list and it's now past the time to 'protest' against 'the will of the people'.
2) No ban list can possibly work so, irrespective of what transpires, nothing will change.
If, and it remains very much an 'if', legislation is passed that requires ISPs to implement some sort of filtering then, because it is a law, then it will be put in place. If you don't like the law, or its end results then you can vote out the current government at the next election (assuming that a prospective alternative government promises to remove the legislation you object to) or you can emigrate. Alternatively you can either do without access to the 'banned sites' or simply log in to a forum/web site that tells you how to circumvent whatever filtering has been put in place.
Whatever happens no-one, and I mean absolutely no-one, will be negatively affected by anything that any government may or may not try to do in respect of eliminating access to the internet addresses that currently exist or will exist in the future.
PS: I doubt whether anyone will be able to guess where this description of democracy comes from:
"DEMOCRACY - A government
Sunday, December 28. 2008
.....so completely changing Exetel will make up for no "Christmas Break".
Our Christmas visitors left yesterday evening on their next leg of their Australian trip (the NT) and our house is once more the calm 'retreat' it has always been - at least since the children all grew up. It's surprising how, however welcome and charming guests may be, they seem to make living in your own home uncomfortable. Another sign of increasing old age I suppose.
So I was able to open my lap top for more than a few minutes at a time without incurring disapproving glances and began the final changes to the Exetel business plan for the first six months of 2009. One person I briefly chatted to on Boxing Day asked me what my views on salary increases in 2009 was going to be as he was under a great deal of pressure from his regional head office to significantly reduce his Australian and NZ company's personnel costs. I had no views on changing Exetel's salary review policies except, perhaps to be slightly less 'generous' in the scale of increases, but it seems that more than my friend is facing such issues according to this in today's UK Times:
One view I took from this article was that Australia is 'lagging behind' the EU and the US in terms of being affected by the ongoing financial problems afflicting almost all countries across the globe and that what is reported in the previously referenced article and here:
may be a pre-cursor of the conditions that Australia may well face.
I still see no 'downturn' or any other adverse affect on our order intakes or our new business enquiry levels with business this December running ahead, and in several products well ahead, of December last year which was itself a record December order intake. So, apart from the conservative measures we have already adopted, I can't see anything that is going to cause us the sort of problems that several of my acquaintances who manage the A/NZ 'arms' of US and EU multi-nationals are being pressured to deal with.
Perhaps it's the calm before the storm?
Right now my view is that every aspect of business and personal life will get tougher as 2009 progresses and for some people and for some businesses there will be very severe levels of 'distress'. I would think that there will be less impact in the communications industry than generally for all the well know reasons that as businesses cut travel (the first thing they do when tough times arrive) they increase telecommunications and as individuals tighten personal budgets they look for less costly options rather than reducing the volumes of their mobile minute usage or their data downloads. I have no 'statistics' to support those views but they make sense from what I've observed in the past.
So the current plan will remain - to actually almost double the number of personnel employed at Exetel over the next twelve months which would be far and away the largest personnel increase we have ever planned and quite 'dramatic' in terms of a change in our methods of operation. I'm not sure whether to regard this plan as brilliantly "counter cyclical" or just plain foolish but it seems to me that it can only succeed because any failure will be self correcting in that we won't continue to hire if early success is not achieved.
It seems to me to be a better idea to spend any profits we may continue to make on employing additional people to grow the overall business at a faster rate while the markets we operate in are in various states of uncertainty and therefore our 'competitors' are unlikely to be as 'aggressive' as they might normally be. I also think that more than one or two of our competitors may well be overstaffed with 'under performing' personnel and their pre-occupation over the coming twelve months will be to lock themselves in to the most harmful, unproductive and distressing activities of 'down sizing' which, from my observations over several decades only ever manages to get rid of the more useful and hardworking people in any commercial organisation while retaining the least productive (and higher paid) personnel. Too cynical? Perhaps - but too often true.
I will start the interviewing process tomorrow to build a 30 -40 person set of 'sales forces' and, depending on early results will continue that process throughout the first 6 - 9 months of 2009. Hopefully I haven't lost my abilities of selecting successful sales trainees - otherwise it's going to be an expensive and unhappy few months.
Saturday, December 27. 2008
.....in this new Australian society where the 'gummant' bails out reckless bankers and funds/forces other people to fund inadequately capitalised car dealers?........
......clearly not their husbands, 'significant others', their 'test tube' or their own family according to this:
I'm assuming that the current group of people posing as a federal "gummant" have quietly 'forgotten' about their wild election promises of long periods of paid maternity AND PATERNITY leave - at least for as long as unemployment keeps increasing but just imagine what would now be the case if those communist loonies had actually rushed through that policy before the "GFC" had manifested itself.
Never having lived under a Communist government, at least until quite recently, I'n not 100% aware of the 'breed babies for the future glory of the Fatherland and the perpetuation of the worker's paradise" arguments that are used to base State intervention in the conception and nurturing of babies/infants. I vaguely followed the previous government's death throw economic explanations that Australia needed more children to ensure future public servants could be paid for doing nothing and future politicians could fly round the world in Presidential Class as a reward for being a party drone or apparatchik (depending on party).
I therefore can't begin to grasp why any Government should involve itself in the results of the sexual habits of the female percentage of the population that is of breeding capability.
However, acknowledging that if voters in various countries, for reasons best known to the individuals concerned, decide to saddle themselves (and everyone else) with communist 'rule' then I expect to see the continual stream of addled thinking that produced such gems of human benefit such as:
50 years of "cold war"
Genocide in Cambodia
Economic and social destruction of a magnitude of the "Cultural Revolution"
Automobiles of the exemplary quality of the Lada and the Trabant
Couture based on the elegance of the Russian babushka
Paid maternity leave will increase the available soldiers for our glorious Fatherland mein Fuhrer.....or - Paid maternity leave will increase the number of workers for the glorious worker's paradise comrade President....take your pick of which lunatic delusions you wish to be part of - it certainly isn't democracy as we have previously known it in Australia.
OK - I've enjoyed my Audi and realise that now I'll have to replace it with a "gummant" subsidised Holden or Ford made in "Australia" as the sales taxes on "luxury imported vehicles" is increased to 300% as they try and force people to buy the rubbish coming out of Fisherman's Bend or wherever they make those pieces of junk which will now be Federal "gummant" funded pieces of junk.
But that's OK because I won't be able to afford any replacement courtesy of the new 'real politic' of Krudd's communist aspirations - Exetel won't exist and I am too old to find another job - and I won't be the only male facing that situation.
Paid maternity leave......now where in Heaven or Earth, or Hell for that matter, makes it a small business owner's responsibility for paying some female they're not related to for the output of her personal sexual activities? Exetel doesn't make enough money to pay an employee to 'go on holidays' for a year - or whatever version of some of the wild election promises may eventually make their way in to law.
If a female wants to have children, and I understand that because of the species' drive for self perpetuation that is sometimes not a choice in the truest of senses, then it remains a personal decision not involving anyone else other than the individual female and her sperm donor (of whatever status the individual mummy to be confers on him - or, I suppose, 'that' in these days of sperm banks and AI (ironical that the acronym for "Intelligence" and "Insemination" is the same when linked with "artificial").
I have been very "lucky" apparently that I have been the father of five children and have been able to financially 'contribute' enough to the mother of my children so that she could leave her position of employment when the time came and 'financially support' her while she bore, nurtured, comforted, educated in the basics of being a human being and all the myriad things that completely fill every mother's day (and much of the night in the early months) without her having to "go back to work" and earn the required money herself thus negating most of the value of being a mother and removing from the child something they have genetically been programed to expect (and need) - the constant presence of their mother during their early, helpless years.
I don't think I was lucky - it seemed quite obvious that every other woman and man in the society in which I then lived achieved the same result with or without the assistance of their wider 'families' and didn't receive one red cent of 'financial assistance' from the "gummant" or anyone else - except immediate members of the family on rare occasions ("let me pay for a baby sitter so you can have an evening out - I know you can't afford it yourselves").
I can't quite think of the term that applied - it was something like "taking responsibility for your own decisions, actions and desires".
So OK - Commisar Krudd has exhorted the women of Austrailia to breed away and the State will pay. Probably a truly stupid concept, perhaps even more stupid that all his other doctrinaire concepts - though maybe that's too close to call. For a man who can p*** away $A10.2 billion in a single day scattering money all over the landscape the $$$ needed to pay maternity and paternity leave would be easy enough to print.
But....Exetel doesn't have a bank note printing press and, as far as I know, nor does any other small Australian business. Neither we, nor any other small Australian business, can afford either the financial or operational costs of Krudd's cummunistic policies on maternity and paternity leave. Arbitrary 'floors' of number of people employed before the provisions apply are equally non-sensical - if you think about such concepts for more than a billionth of a second - as are all the other mealy mouthed ameliorations currently being touted by the party faithful.
If the State wants to pay women to breed for the Fatherland then that's just one more expense for the State to bear - of course it's you and I and every other tax payer who will actually be paying for yet more of Krudd's grandstanding lunacy.
If Krudd expects his personal "Cultural Revolution" to be paid for by Australia's businesses then there will be a lot less businesses in Australia (I can think of a large number of countries that don't have such requirements) and those that are here will employ a lot less females - as well as a lot less males.
I wonder who will then pay the taxes for Krudd's other lunatic nonsenses?
Friday, December 26. 2008
....perhaps only because Christmas day happiness spills over to a second day.
The promised sunny day hasn't got off to the best of starts and the promised brisk breeze is nowhere to be seen but maybe that will happen. We are taking my visiting sister on the harbour to see the start of the Sydney to Hobart and then lunch at the RSYS which is always an enjoyable way of showing Sydney at its most spectacular to visitors so I will, somewhat reluctantly, miss the start of the cricket - but sacrifices have to be made for rare visitors.
I was very pleased to see that our order intake on Christmas Day was 40% higher than last year (though the numbers are, of course, very low) and in these uncertain financial times you tend to look for as much good news as you can find. As another sign of the times it was interesting to see that now there is a Christmas Day support ability that a surprising number of people used telephone, email and forum services to help them resolve problems. More a sign that internet is becoming ever more deeply embedded in our day to day lives (VoIP and email becoming far more widely used for communicating than ever before) and, of course, if games playing becomes disrupted then a growing number of people's 'lives' cease to be worth living). For those people who have access to the MRTG reports it's still surprising, at least to me, that the overall use of the network only declined throughout Christmas Day by 25% from its absolute peak level on the highest day in 2008.
The other obvious trend, if you have access to the MRTG reports is to look at the annual chart for total external bandwidth and see the monthly average usage has almost exactly doubled over the past twelve months. I'd like to be able to say that our number of users had also doubled but that isn't the case - the number of users has increased by 'only' 35% over that time. It is one of the most obvious 'signals' that the average monthly downloads per customer have increased even more over the past 12 months than they did in the previous 12 months - and far exceeded the savings that were achieved by negotiating better buy pricing for IP bandwidth and customer connectivity bandwidth.
From time to time I read comments by various people (end users, media) complaining that the price of Internet doesn't "go down further". I am never able to understand such comments because, based on Exetel's own pricing over the five years we have been in business the price of an internet service has fallen by between 40% and 45% over the last 5 years based on downloads x speed - the people who complain about prices not falling seem to completely ignore those two factors when basing their complaint that they still pay their $40 or $50 (or whatever) per month for their ADSL service.
The other fact is that ADSL2 really is actually much lower cost than ADSL1 in terms of raw end customer cost per month with the 10 to 20 times faster speed 'thrown in' for nothing. The cost to Exetel of an ADSL2 port and a telephone line rental from Optus is actually lower than the cost of a 1500/256 ADSL port/no telephone line from Telstra (and as can be seen from other ISP's ADSL pricing that is a common situation). ADSL1 pricing, to Exetel, hasn't changed for over two years so we have no ability to reduce ADSL1 pricing (port or customer connection) over that time other than by the greater efficiencies we build in to our business and the price reductions we may achieve in other areas of the total cost of providing the service - but as I previously said the amount of data used by end customers has almost doubled over the past year which negates the savings we achieve from operational efficiencies or lower IP costs.
Looking at 2009 I can't see any immediate likelihood of end user ADSL1 prices falling unless we can increase our buy volumes to a point where we 'qualify' for volume discounts - but in 5 years of growing our volumes with Telstra that has never happened and I see no prospect of that happening now as we make greater efforts to 'encourage' our ADSL1 users to move to ADSL2. Similarly the exchange rate is going to make it more difficult for our 'traditional' suppliers of IP to provide better pricing though their own internal cost reductions via the four(?) fold increase in SX capacity will make that difficult for them to argue. Similarly if the Pipe capacity does become available in mid 2009 (or whenever it is now planned for) it will, presumably, exercise a restraining influence on any reluctance to reduce IP pricing, for volume, by an adequate amount.
All in all I think that Exetel's customers have been well served by the 'lower prices' we have provided year on year since February 2004 and we will continue to make the efforts necessary to attempt to reduce overall pricing further througout 2009 - given the intractable nature of one or two of the current obstacles to that happening. What exactly can be achieved over the coming months is just too uncertain for me to make any predictions and I could be completely wrong about what will happen.
My personal view is that a much higher percentag of people than currently will take up the PAYU plan options which will take a lot of 'estimation' out of plan structure pricing and make it easier for both parties to 'budget' their pricing more effectively. We will continue to work on improving the structure of the PAYU model as we get more data from actual customer usage.
Time to go.......
Thursday, December 25. 2008
The aromas of Turkey slowly cooking permeate the house and the first presents have been opened and, at least briefly, the sun has broken through the clouds - so all is well with this part of the world - Merry Christmas to anyone who for whatever strange reason is reading these words today.
I called the Sri Lankan office a little earlier and each of my three calls was answered within a few seconds and apart from my calls there had been only a slight fall in the number of 'early morning' calls received so it's been nice to meet the first objective of establishing a support centre of our own in Sri Lanka - 365/6 days a year telephone and email support. We are slowly adding personnel in Colombo and from early in 2009 we will add more of the functions currently carried out from North Sydney (provisioning, account and payment queries/resolution, programming and network monitoring).
It's been far from easy to establish the Sri Lankan operation and then make it 'productive' and, of course, there is a very long way to go to reach and then maintain the objectives we have set for it but it has come a long way in the now three years that have elapsed since we placed our first ad for 'work from home' engineering personnel in an on line (in Sri Lanka)recruiting web site after selecting "English" as the language we wanted our ad to appear in. It is quite satisfying, I was almost going to say 'rewarding' to come up with a "hare brained scheme" (according to some people) and to actually make it work - in some ways above any expectations that we had for it.
We have almost completed the 'program' of transferring the Australian based personnel from telephone support to other duties within the North Sydney office and will finally complete that process early in January 2009 - with the transfer of the last two young engineers to the new sales functions we are setting up. This will mean that our transfer of support functions from Australia to Sri Lanka will be accomplished without any 'redundancies' in Australia - an important aspect of the process consistent with Exetel's "no fire" policy.
As someone who 'came to sales' via programming and systems engineering (back in the days when programming was in machine language and systems engineering was based on detailed knowledge of the hardware) I have no qualms about asking engineers to broaden their skill sets by applying their technical knolwedge to various sales roles - I only see benefits to both the engineer and to any prospective customer. I will be surprised if this doesn't prove to be as successful this time as it has been every other time I have done it in the past.
In many ways I am looking forward to, "one more time" building a sales force from the ground up (my two reservations are that I haven't done it for a while and I'm not sure that I have the time required as I still have other responsibilities) and while I realise that it will be very difficult, as it always has been, I am excited about what effect can be achieved in terms of more rapidy growing Exetel's customer levels in the new areas we will aim at and how great a contribution that can make to reducing our buying costs, and therefore our sales prices to all of our current customers.
If it is only half as successful as our program to transfer back office functions to Sri Lanka has been then both Exetel and our current customers will benefit greatly.
Now - back to Christmas with the family.
May your own day be joyful and fulfilling.
Wednesday, December 24. 2008
I already use an Exetel HSPA service for my mobile phone - using VoIP/Fring to make all calls and Exetel's SMS over IP for all messaging. I bought myself (and yes I pay for my and my family's Exetel services) a second HSPA service for my note book as I will take the opportunity of 'the quiet period' to travel to some parts of Australia I've never seen. Like the mobile service the purely data service syncs at 7.2 mbps at my home (Sydney's lower North Shore) and delivers a very solid performance on my limited application needs. (Intranet/some browsing/email/YouTube testing). I used an HSPA service for 3 weeks in the UK earlier this year and was very impressed with the coverage in that country (those countries) and I'm really interested in seeing what happens when I use the Exetel/Optus service in some of the remoter areas of Australia.
Exetel has been offering HSPA for 3 months now, though we haven't promoted it in any way and have only recently released the full mobile service in terms of the full suite of additional mobile telephone services. We are getting close to 1,000 activated users which we expect to reach by early January and, in December to date, HSPA services account for around 15% of total broadband orders. This is a little lower than we had hoped for but the lack of the full mobile telephone feature set accounts for most of the shortfall. As I have referenced previously the ABS statistics show that 'wireless' broadband accounted for around 50% of new broadband connections over the last twelve months of their reporting period which is quite a startling statistic.
The other really interesting statistic is that over 85% of the HSPA customers to date are buying their first service from Exetel and the second interesting statistic is that almost 40% of HSPA buyers buy a second (or even a third) HSPA service within a month of buying the first service. A third really interesting 'statistic' is that, despite the best efforts of the 'Optus Haters' in the childish sections of the Australian media, there are virtually no user 'disappointment' stories either on our forums or on our support/ticket services. In fact quite the opposite - with an increasing number of people expressing their satisfaction that the service performs better/faster than they had expected - and since Optus began to upgrade to 7.2 mbps this level of satisfaction has further increased.
At least three Optus personnel have bought an HSPA service from Exetel and have confirmed that the speed on the Exetel/Optus HSPA service is still around double of that achieved on the Optus/Virgin or Optus Retail HSPA service but none of them, despite what they say is a 'thorough' internal investigation, have any explanation as to why that is still the case. We would prefer them to actually 'solve' whatever the problem is (as long as it doesn't involve 'throttling' the Exetel HSPA performance back to their own performance levels) to get rid of the criticisms that continue to appear about their HSPA services which obviously negatively affects our version of their HSPA service.
Our plans for 2009 are to sell a net 30,000 HSPA services in Australia with the majority of those sales coming from the business sectors of the Australian marketplaces. This is an ambitious target with the increasingly troubled financial conditions in this country making the setting of any growth targets something of a gamble. Based on sales to date we would have no hope of reaching even half that target but our sales to date of HSPA services have been limited by all the factors that are present in the 'launch' of any new service and in this case were severely hampered by the 3 month delay in getting the service to market at all - thus throwing our promotion strategies completely out of 'whack'. We will have to be very innovative and work very, very hard to achieve our ambitions for the HSPA service but, if we can get most of the strategies right, then we have some reasonable chance of making it.
One of the strategies that will have a major effect on us reaching the planned target is how sucessful we can be in 'persuading' our current 256 and 512 low usage ADSL1 customers to move to HSPA - particularly in regional areas of Australia.We have more than 20,000 of those sort of customers and, in theory, it shouldn't be that difficult for a large percentage of those cstomers to see the advantage of much higher speeds at much lower costs by moving from low speed ADSL to 4 - 8 times greater speed at around half their current monthly ADSL1 costs. However, it will need to be a very carefully orchestrated 'campaign.
The other strategy/marketing campaign we have to get right is to address non-Exetel users who use a competitor's ADSL1 services to make the move to HSPA and that will be much more difficult - but then the target marketplace is 50 to 100 times larger than simply addressing our own customer base and the cost differences will also be larger. Pitting HSPA against Telstra, and its minion's, ADSL2 services will be an interesting exercise.
It will be interesting to see what Telstra do in the new year and how quickly they upgrade their HSPA network in terms of speed and coverage. It will also be interesting to see how Vodafone and Three ramp up their HSPA offerings and how/if they change their current 'product positionings'.Of course, it will also be interesting to see how the rapid growth in HSPA usage affects the various network's capacities to deal with the volumes the armchair network experts say HSPA can't cope with.
I'm really looking forward to getting to grips with these challenges.....after spending so long getting a Layer 2 HSPA service in place.
Tuesday, December 23. 2008
.....or has he got away with so much 'Imperium' over the past year courtesy of the abject stupidity of the Australian electorate he believes he say anything he feels like saying at any time?
How can that self important, smirking piece of cr** think he can get away with this:
nonsensical piece of sheer madness?
Anyone notice the exact similarities?
A pointless and extraordinarily stupid 'promise' the result of which was:
"Mr Hawke's words returned to haunt him as his pledge was
Like Krudd's crazy distribution of $A10.2 billion of cash handouts last week he will almost certainly be forced to follow at some time in the future in Hawke's footsteps with his own admission that:
"Mr Hawke said his government gave more money to low-income
Just as uber-idiot Hawke sounded like either a lunatic or a moron in making such a ridiculous claim, Krudd sounds even more stupid.You can't 'fix' a problem such as "homelessness" by building low cost housing (even if you had the money) as the causes of homelessness are hugely varied and as for stating a number.......FGS .....who would know what that number will be in 11 years time and who will know what on Earth our society will look like even in 12 months time as the current tsunami of financial ruin that is beginning to engulf the world finally reaches as far as Australia.
A columnist, of some realistic credentials made the point in the London times yesterday that the insane Mugabe's printing of money causing the currency to become worthless and the shelves in every shop to be bare of any food or clothing goods has eerie echoes in the governments of the USA, the UK and the EU all printing currency to "solve the problems of too much debt". It didn't work for the Weimar Republic, it didn't work for Argentina and it's not working for Zimbabwe - why Krudd or any other head of government anywhere else in the world thinks it can work for them is bemusing.
Krudd actions and statements over the past three months show that he now thinks of himself as more somewhere between a president and a 'benign' dictator in his hijacking of all portfolios within the democratic government of Australia and is governing the country via a series of un-costed and clearly not even given much thought pronouncements on an ever widening range of "programs" that involve spending money that can only exist by printing it. I doubt whether even his 'minders' have an accurate count of what he has promised to spend.
And while I'm on the subject of 'Imperium', plagiarism and just plain dishonesty - in Krudd's meaningless "addresses to the troops in Afghanistan" how is he allowed to steal quotes from Hollywood movies without ascribing them - or does that just illustrate that he communicates in simplistic cliches as being the best method of dealing with the simpletons who voted for him. I'm referring to his solemn pronouncement:
"When things are tough, we Australians are at our very best"
Great words - pity they were taken straight from the end of the Hollywood Movie 'Starman' and spoken by the alien played by Jeff Bridges to the young SETI agent played by Charles Martin Smith who was trying to prevent him returning to his home:
"Shall I tell you what I admire most about your civilisation? ....You are at your very best when things are at their very worst".
Krudd has been scattering money and spending commitments around as if there was a never ending supply - and this is being done before ANYONE knows just how bad the situation in Australia will become next year and when and where it will manifest itself most drastically. Krudd is running through the surpluses and 'future funds' bequeathed to him by 11 years of responsible government in less than 15 months and then there will be nothing left to deal with whatever is the result of the current overseas events when they start to be felt in Australia by mid 2009. It's Whitlam all over again.
Probably like most Australians - I see very little evidence of the GFC affecting any part of my business or social life right now. It would be very foolish to think things will stay this way.
Krudd, meanwhile, continues with his Nero impression - he is burning (bankrupting) the current Australia to make way for his personal 'grand vision' of a 'new' Australia - unlike that megalomaniac of 2,000 years or so ago - he has no talent for playing a stringed instrument to make the analogy complete.
Monday, December 22. 2008
I can't remember the last Christmas time that so many people I only vaguely know in business have contacted me with 'best wishes' type excuses and 'hope to be in touch shortly' emails, invitations and Christmas cards. I'm pretty sure there never was any such time as I've never been very good at maintaining casual business relationships and despise "networking" and everything that word seems to entail in its mis-use in describing constantly attending events/meetings for the sole purpose of developing "useful contacts". Despite my best endeavours to eliminate any sort of continuing 'relationship' with people I have briefly done business with or had some sort of other business relationship over the time I have been involved in commercial aspects of Australian life they appear to have been unsuccessful.
While I always try to avoid rudeness in dealing with anyone, personal or business, I'm finding it very difficult over the past 2 - 3 months to avoid being more brusque than I would wish to be in not agreeing to "meetings" or "catch ups" and, quite frankly, I'm amazed at hearing from people I barely know who speak so enthusiastically about our past (almost completely forgotten, and in some cases completely forgotten, on my part) dealings and associations. I assume from the recent tidal rise in attempted contact that Exetel has some how appeared on these dimly remembered people's 'horizon' for reasons that are unclear and my name has been associated with Exetel's in such 'appearances'.
I'm also assuming that it's one further sign of many companies usual sources of business drying up and demanding a more frantic grasping at straws in terms of finding new sources of revenue - I can't imagine why else I or Exetel would be considered as reasonable 'prospects'. Over 80% of all of our monthly expenditures are with four major suppliers and the rest of our expenditures are split over a dozen or so minor suppliers and our business is such that it could never be anything else. While it's, definitely, not for me to begin to understand how other companies see their best interests in being served in conducting their 'sales' activities, I seem to detect traces of that tired and discredited sales mis-belief that you should always "sell at the top" in the stupidity of so many of the approaches I have received over the last 3 months and particularly in the last 2 - 3 weeks. (mind you, the "top" and "bottom" of Exetel are so close together as to indistinguishable).
In my time in sales I have sold some fairly large ticket items and major contracts but I never believed, and therefore never encouraged in any way any sales personnel for whom I was responsible to believe, that they should attempt to waste their time (and the time of a prospective buyers top management) to contact the CEO or any other senior manager within a prospective buyer's organisation but ALWAYS aim first contacts at the IT/MIS manager level and ASK at that level who the appropriate contact would be should they wish to listen to what you have to offer. Maybe it's one more sign that I truly am totally out of touch with modern selling techniques - but I'm actually offended by the approaches I've received recently as being completely inappropriate - and I'm old enough to regard the casual use of my given name by people I hardly know (and in some cases never knew) as not only inappropriate but offensive.
As we consider using outbound sales I've paid more attention to this strange increase in direct telephone contact and, while I realise I'm not a good example, I have to say that it still does nothing for me and it still seems to be the wrong approach to selling anything - to call up an apparently senior executive within a 'target' prospective organisation and attempt to make a sales pitch. I thought that approach had died a thousand deaths back in the 1970s but apparently it has had a revival and at least some companies have reverted to the cold calling over the telephone time wasting regimes of the commercial stone age. I wouldn't have believed that was possible but it seems to be the case based on my experiences over the past few weeks.
I've raised this issue with some long term business acquaintances who have some knowledge of how their companies generate their sales revenues and none of them use 'cold calling by telephone' processes. Also none of them make attempts to contact very senior managers via sales personnel below Sales Director level - pretty much as I have always understood and operated. So where does this "start at the top" and do it by telephone 'cold' call come from that appears to be becoming pervasive? Desperation? I can't think of any other reason even contacting a small company like Exetel whose decision making, like many other small companies, is likely to be highly 'concentrated'.
Since I was a very, very, inexperienced sales rep I have never made a 'cold' telephone call to generate interest in the product or service I was selling - despite having some of the most incompetent and stupid sales managers who were ever mis-issued with that title. Even in my first sales job I could see how pointless such an approach would be and I've never changed my mind about the pointlessness and wastefulness involved in such an approach to selling. So I'm fascinated by what I now see is happening in some areas of the technology industries and am seriously wondering what has changed that could make companies that are involved in direct selling do telephone cold calling when every thing about that method seems obviously doomed to failure.
Does telephone cold calling actually produce a financially viable end sales result? I have never seen it work in several decades of selling. Easily the most effective 'lead generation' process I have ever come across has been direct mail and easily the most cost effective version of direct mail has been WINFAX which has built businesses for me consistently since I first used it in the UK in 2000 to build a business in that country but doing all the 'mailing' from Australia. At around 2 cents a 'mail shot' it is hard to beat for cost and the effectiveness seems to be as high today as it was almost ten years ago.
If Exetel goes ahead with setting up one or more sales operations I don't think, for a moment, that I would include telephone cold calling in the approaches to the different marketplaces. That's based on almost a business life time in selling both directly by myself and in managing sales teams, branches and country wide sales forces and achieving better results than anyone I've ever competed with. Of course - all that's in the past and today may very well be a different era with different 'interest creating' acceptable methodologies.
I would welcome any proof to the contrary.
Sunday, December 21. 2008
We came very close to buying a floor in a CBD building some ten days ago. When I say close - we confirmed with our bank that they would lend us the money, made an offer to the agent which was accepted and we provided the details of our lawyers who would handle the transaction. In financial terms, courtesy of the much lower interest rates the deal was a 'no brainer' as the loan repayment costs were around 30% less than our current rent for 30% more space. So we were surprised to get a call back from the agent saying that the seller would take $50,000 less than our already agreed offer but there was a "slight complication but that could easily be dealt with".
We walked away.
That re-opened the issue of what we will do when the one year extension on our current office space in North Sydney expires next July. We now, or more correctly at this exact point in time, actually don't need as much space as we have due to the move of our support processes to Sri Lanka - so, if everything remained the same we could reduce our current floor space rental by at least 30%.
However, depending on what we finally decide over the next few days we may, for the first time in Exetels 'life', put in place an outbound sales operation, or more correctly, several outbound sales operations to address new market sectors with new products and services in 2009. I currenty think that's highly likely so it will almost certainly turn out that we may need more rather than less floor space than we currently have which was another advantage of buying the particular CBD floor we made the offer on.
We have also been considering the NSW government's payroll tax which is an annoying expense that has only been kept 'in check' by the fact that almost half of Exetal Australia's personnel will work for the Sri Lankan company by mid 2009 but if we replace those support positions with NSW located sales personnel then the NSW payroll taxes are a quite real disincentive to employ people in this State and we have begun to consider how we could eliminate that double whammy of expensive floor space and an unnecessary additional employee cost by perhaps moving to another State for at least the sales functions.
It is really annoying, and increasingly financially irresponsible, to consider employing people in NSW if there is any viable way of doing it in another State or even in another country. However there are many other reasons why doing that very sensible thing would be highly disruptive to the ways we currently operate the business so, when everything is considered, we will almost certainly have to continue paying money to the NSW government for the privilege of operating in this State.
Depending on what we fianally decide we will move from having no outbound sales personnel to having 30 - 40 sales personnel some time in the second half of 2009. For five years we have survived and grown the Exetel business based on a web site and some 'electronic' promotions which have generated the positive (or d***head/negative) word of mouth recommendations that allow a business to grow without advertising, marketing or sales personnel. We could quite easily continue to do that and continue to grow the Exetel business at the 30% annual compound rate we have have achieved to date. We may decide to do that.
The only reason that we are considering changing that, to date, very successful 'model' is that we are really reaching the end of the efficiences we can build into the business by automation and web innovation and will now need to address our ability to buy better from our suppliers which, I believe, can now only be done by buying in larger quantities than our current growth estimates will generate.
If we buy in larger quantities we will get lower costs which, in our case, will be passed on to customers in lower prices for our various services. It is that simple.
To generate more business we will have to ADD to what we currently do and in my limited grasp of how to generate more revenue/buying power that involves doing additional things. We have never had an outbound sales operation which is something that, for much of my working life, I seemed to be able to do personally and guide other people in doing better than anyone I have ever come across or heard of. For the whole of Exetels existence to date I have been unable to use those abilities and skills with all of my time being spent on operational issues and web 'selling'.
I suppose as I've now grown so old and haven't involved myself in direct selling for so long I may well be kidding myself I can still build a sales force from the ground up as I have done for much of my commercial career - that may well prove to be true.
Our current thinking is that if we can now add 40 people to an outbound sales function of the same capabilities and success levels as we have added 40 different people to all of the other aspects of Exetel's business (who have outperformed and continue to outperform people in our competitors who hold similar positions) then we will be able to build the buying quantities we need to reduce the prices of the services we provide to our end user's by around a further 7% - 8%.
That's the current 'theory'.
So, if you know a bright young graduate who is looking for a career in sales (must be located in Sydney) and isn't afraid of very hard work then perhaps you could suggest they send me their resume?
Saturday, December 20. 2008
Business is winding down as it does at this time every year and the first of the Exetel personnel said their goodbyes yesterday afternoon as they left on their long or short vacations. We had our 'Australian' Exetel Christmas party last Friday and the Sri Lankan Christmas party was held last night though "Christmas' wasn't the theme in that largely Buddhist country.The traffic on Military Road is much thinner and most people you meet around North Sydney are visibly more relaxed - despite the very tough times affecting so many aspects of Australian life. Most of all I can tell it's coming towards the end of another year as both my body and my mind feel completely exhausted.
Yesterday was a very good business day for Exetel in terms of orders received - the highest December Friday in our 'life to date' and 30% higher than the equivalent day last year and high end business orders keep coming in well after they had well and truly dried up to a trickle in previous years. We will have a record December irrespective of what happens in the few remaining business days and also a record month so, at least so far, the toughening business conditions have not affected Exetel - at least as yet.
This doesn't seem to be the case for several communications companies who operate in similar markets to Exetel. I seldom/never listen to the constant stream of 'vicious gossip' that permeates the communications industry but I do try and make sense of what I read in the media and see happening on the various other 'views' in to this industry. Of course much of what is written in the comunications media, as with the media generally, is rubbish dreamed up with no or flawed research by 'reporters' with little or no experience or knowledge and less ethics - so I seldom take too much notice of things that are written without solid references and ascriptions.
I do detect just a scintilla of panic in several of the actions recently taken by several ISPs which, added to by some statements made by a major credit card company (admittedly towards the end of a highly 'convivial' event) and two suppliers (in the cold, hard early morning with no trace of conviviality), indicate that things for those companies are not going as well as they had anticipated. I could of course be quite wrong in drawing any conclusions from such ephemera and I certainly wouldn't go any further than to say that it apears to me to be very unlikely that at least three ISPs who, based on ther own assertions, are among the largest in Australia are not enjoying the same strong order intakes that Exetel has benefitted from over the past few weeks (in comparison to their previous months).
Whle it is largely irrelevant to Exetel how other companies are progressing, or not progressing, in the short term - I always try and look ahead to what may be occurring in the communications marketplaces generally to try and understand what changes we may need to make to any aspect of what we are doing and how we price and present our different services to the different market sectors we address. I think we have been correct in increasing our prices and reducing our capital expenditures and I'm also delighted, and more than a little bewildered, that the price rises only had a very short 'dampening' effect on order intake - and it is this strange phenomena that has caused me to take more notice of the 'whiff of panic' I alluded to.
Although we are a very small company our volumes are almost sufficient to give some sort of indication of how the 'ADSL market' is developing. We have only a tiny market share - something over 1%. However, if the ABS sourced figures are correct then over the past 12 month reporting period we accounted for around 3% of net new ADSL wire line services - more than double what we theoretically accounted for in the previous reporting period - a very unusual and quite inexplicable change; especially in a period where we significantly increased our prices. I realise the base figures provided by the ABS are 'rubbery' but they are relevant in terms of trend if not in exact quantum.
Maybe it's just the demise of PeopleTelecom quickly followed by the 'punch in the nose' to Telstra by their exclusion (permanent or temporary) from the NBN 'tender' and the deluge of "we're all right" "press releases" from so many different communications companies plus the stream of underlying comment from people who might well know what they are talking about that is giving these indications? It seems that one ISP will struggle to meet its December payroll and at least one other will have very unpleasant discussions with its 'financiers'.
Well it is the "silly season" and there are probably rational, and opposite, explanations of what I think I'm detecting. Then again, though I am often wrong, I have been known to be right on more than one occasion over the past decades.
Friday, December 19. 2008
I suppose if you thought long enough and hard enough you could come up with a position in an IT/Communications company that could benefit from having an 'annual performance review' held between an employee and his/her immediate manager but I've never been able to find one in my association with managing within the IT/Communications industry. You might even be able to come up with a first line manager that might be able to make such an annual meeting achieve some sort of value but in over 30 years of involvement and observation of hundreds of such situations I have never come across one. However, I understand from several acquaintances who hold senior positions in very large Australian and multi-national companies that there are still annual reviews embedded in the processes of many people's lives in this and other countries.
How very quaint - sort of like driving in to a remote country town in outback Queensland and seeing a blacksmith's forge in full operation.
When we started Exetel one of our main objectives was to automate as many of our procedures and processes as we could. We realised that this would turn out to be an 'endless' process and that it would encounter huge and sometimes apparently insurmountable 'barriers' along the way. After almost five years we are still writing new automated processes and we continue to refine the processes already written.The list of automation to be done is still as long as when we had no automated processes and we are still using MySQL as the company's key information engine.
One of the major processes that was on that initial 'wish list' was the complete automation of setting and reviewing job goals on an annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and second by second basis. We are now coming up to the second 'anniversary' of the commencement of that project and, for the first time, we will get the quarterly personnel job performance assessments from the system we labeled with the development acronym of GURUs. It has taken us two years to reach this stage and, of course, it is really only equivalent to a beta version of any 'final' system but it now does almost all of the things we set out to achieve.
Before we started the development I wrote a 'white paper' that documented what I saw as the limitations and outright failures of all of the different personnel task setting/evaluation/measurement systems I had ever encountered, developed myself and/or used or managed the use of throughout my career. I provided this 'paper' as the base document of what any system we developed must eliminate as well as what it must produce. That base explanation can be found here:
Exetel now has 41 employees (13 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24 in North Sydney and 1 each in Perth, Mosman, Canberra and the NSW Central Coast) all but one of whom now has a set of agreed 'tasks' and achievement dates and other criteria that are measured by the GURUs system. The performance of the company, each 'department' and each individual is measured (some tasks on, literally, a second by second basis) against a simple rating system by task, aggregated to individual, aggregated to department and finally aggregated to 'company' on a measurement system of:
1 = far exceeds all requirements
2 = exceeds all requirements
3 = exceeds some requirements, meets the rest
4 = meets all requirements
5 = doesn't meet all requirements
(these were the original 'ratings' used by IBM in the 1970s and I've never found a better set of 'ratings')
There are over 300 tasks/individuals at this stage of development and they have been changed and refined over the last six months as the more complicated and difficult 'data fetchers' required to provide the data to be measured have been written and adapted and often re-adapted. The data required comes from many different sources that include third party hardware and software, our VOIP telephone systems and our data base:
MRTG, NAGIOS, Cerberus, Mytel, Cisco, Asterisk, MySQL and dozens of pieces of our own control and monitoring code.
The system provides the directors of the company with an 'on screen' health rotation that cycles through the overall company rating followed by the ten operating departments followed by the ten lowest rating tasks followed by the ten lowest rating employees (in terms of the agreed tasks/measurements of the tasks). Any director or manager can select any task or individual to look at in terms of why any task is showing as not being achieved and can 'custom' design on screen 'reports' to suit his or her own needs of seeing what is happening with his/her responsibilities and the people they are responsible for managing.
Alternatively the manager can elect to be advised by email of any task/person that is not meeting any level of performance he/she has set.
At the end of each month the system will provide reports for each individual on their performance for the month (and YTD), the quarter, the half year and, if required, any greater span of time - including the dreaded 'annual performance'.
We have had to write some 'challenging' "data fetchers" to provide real time evaluation of many different aspects of our operations and we will undoubtedly have to write many more - as well as making continual changes to the ones we have already developed. However, right now, the GURUs system will produce a monthly and YTD report for every Exetel person as well as providing minute by minute department and personnel performance evaluation available to each department manager via their own customised reporting and to each member of their department via wall mounted plasma screens that list each person in each department by ranking every minute of the day.
I feel very comforted seeing an almost constant "2" whenever I look at the system now.
Thursday, December 18. 2008
....that did not bark at regional ADSL2 pricing. (apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Silver Blaze).
Or should that be the ISP that laid down without a whimper because, mixing the metaphors, it was "all out of aces"??
I don't know why this image came into my mind when I read this:
yesterday but it seemed to illustrate the curious slavishness that permeates every aspect of the Australian communications industry where the concept of "innovation" appears to be totally absent. It seems to me that absolutely nothing of interest happens in the Australian communications industry and every company that provides services is almost unbelievably obsessed with simply offering exactly what everyone else offers at the same prices and the same 'content' and in the same places at the same time. Either that or getting Federa/State government funding to build them a regional 'monopoly' of some sort so they can just make money with no risk.
You could duplicate the Internode "announcement" with the virtually identical announcements from Telstra, PeopleTelecom, Westnet and Pacific Internet:
Perhaps its simply that Telstra's wholesale pricing to ISPs other than its own BigPond is simply sky high, and more strangely, 'uniform' but what is the point of several different companies selling the same service in the same locations at sky high pricing? Compared to ADSL2 pricing from the same ISPs when they either use their own ADSL2 DSLAMs or buy ADSL2 services from Optus or AAPT these announced prices are ridiculously high. There is something terribly sad about these almost identical plans and pricings.
These same ISPs, when they offer ADSL1 services which they also have to buy at very high prices from Telstra, manage to differentiate a little more than they seem able to do when they offer ADSL2 based on Telstra's network - so why is this the case? Probably more pertinently why would any of them do this? I have no idea.
What I do find interesting is the setting of such sky high prices for ADSL2 in 'regional areas' of Australia. $69.95 for 2 gb of downloads??????
Didn't these ISPs notice something about Telstra's HSPA CURRENT pricing that's already available in all of those regional areas plus a lot more? Obviously not - at least you'd have to assume that.
Of course, Telstra's current HSPA speeds aren't as fast as the average ADSL2 speeds that will probably be achieved from an ADSL2 regional location - at least at this precise moment in time. But what about in three month's time? I seem to recall Telstra promising 14 mbps and faster progressively through 2009? Do these ISPs recall what Telstra currently charges for HSPA with 2 gb or 5 gb of downloads? Today? Did they estimate what Telstra might be charging for HSPA 21 mbps services with 2, 5 and 10 gb downloads by April 2009? Maybe they did - you would have to think so - but..........
So it seems that Telstra is pursuing a plan to 'lock in' "independent ISPs" into promoting very high priced 'fast broadband' in regional Australia (in places it has already heavily marketed it's BigPond identical product to for over twelve months and signed up all it could on 2 and 3 year contracts) while it proceeds to offer ever more attractive HSPA based 'fast broadband' HSPA deals thus proving that Telstra is the 'good guy' when it comes not only to providing 'fast broadband' in regional and, gasp, rural Australia but that ALL other ISPs can't do that either now or in the future and prove that point by the pricing they offer which is higher than Telstra's HSPA which will become both faster and lower cost?
Or have I mis-read the intellectual capabilities and commercial knowledge of these 'independent' ISPs?
Yes - I know - "HSPA will NEVER compete with wire/fibre broadband".
I wonder why, if that is true, that Telstra is making such a big deal, in advertising and in 'promotion' that HSPA is already the solution for 'fast broadband' in regional and rural Australia?
I also wonder why, if that is true, that 50% of all new 'broadband services' over the past year were wireless/HSPA and that in the coming 12 months that percentage is predicted to approach 75% of all new broadband connections?
Even at the current pricing Exetel pays for HSPA we can offer a 3 gb (downloads) service for less than $50.00 a month and the speeds obtained will pass 5 mbps in the not too distant future - Goodness knows what Telstra's "special" offers, and speeds, will be by April 2009.
Exetel can also offer VoIP over HSPA at prices that NO Telstra reseller will get within cooee of (sorry - staying on a country theme) and a brave rural user doesn't even have to rent a telephone line.
So an HSPA service in these regional areas will cost less per gb, have super cheap VoIP calls and could be run without a $30.00 telephone line rental.
I struggle, ignoring the horrendous cost of wholesaling Telstra's ADSL2, to find a single reason why ANY ISP would embarrass themselves by not only putting up those ADSL2 plans on their web sites but then attempting to suggest that they represent something 'new' and of value to an end user?
Times must be tougher in Australia than I thought they were.
PS: If anyone catches up with Whine over the Christmas break would you explain to him that you can't have "An education revolution - over time". That would be an "an education evolution", Whine - maybe you could get a dictionary for Christmas?
Wednesday, December 17. 2008
We had our best 'sales' day yesterday since we increased our prices as part of the 'defence measures' we put in place to deal with the difficulties we anticipated in terms of worsening financial conditions beginning to affect Australia. So with only a few working days left in this calendar year we still see no negative effects on our small business with all indicators showing that we will complete the first six months of the current financial year around 8% ahead of the quite demanding revenue targets we set back in May before there were any indications of the GFC that became evident over the past few months.
We had our last board meeting yesterday marking the end of the first five years that Exetel has been in business. Although we are a very small company with a few shareholders all of whom are also intimately involved in the day to day business we have held formal board meetings each month we have been in business with one exception (when Annette and I were in Europe for the whole of one month). We 'congratulated' ourselves on keeping the company not only in business but in presiding over five years of continual growth and 'declared' a modest dividend based on the strong results for the first six months of FY2009 and opened a bottle of very nice champagne.
Self congratulation duly over we turned back to the realities of the coming months.
Our principal concern is what the latest nonsensical turn in Labor's NBN 'tender' process may mean to small communications companies like Exetel and just how Telstra's ongoing war on the Australian population will now be intensified. Personally I don't find the current iteration of the NBN farce very helpful or defensible even within the context of Stupid Stephen's Alice in Wonderland approach to commercial reality.
While it's pointless to speculate on Telstra's likely new attacks on the democratically elected government of a sovereign nation it seems likely that rejecting Telstra's "bid" for the "NBN" so bluntly is both the wrong thing to have done and the one thing that is likely to ensure the longest possible time frame for any "NBN" to actually be built (for all the reasons that are advanced and argued in the deluge of media reporting on this situation). Exetel doesn't care one way or another as we have always seen the whole "NBN" concept as being totally irrelevant to anything our small company may or may not do over the next three years (other than not to build our own ADSL2 DSLAMs).
What concerns us far more is the likely reactions of Trujillo and McGauchie to this affront to their egos and what those two enemies of the Australian people will now do in terms of their playground bully boy petulance. The punishment the shareholders meted out to Trujillo/McGauchie over the past two days in wiping out around $A12 billion off Telstra's share value will almost certainly continue towards more very real concern about how that duo has not only built shareholder value (the sacred cow they ascribe to all of their attacks on the Australian government and the wider Australian population) their pointless aggression and bullying has now destroyed any value they claimed to have added and then a whole lot more.
So before they are forced out (they clearly haven't "added" shareholder value) what is it they will now do to 'punish' the Federal government for its intransigence and how will that punishment affect Telstra's wholesale customers - and indeed their retail customers?
Sure they may take some sort of legal action on the tender exclusion (remember OPEL?) but the Federal AG and SG would already have provided the required advice and agreed the wording of the rejection - so that will go nowhere and will hold up nothing.
Sure - in the event the "NBN" tender is awarded to someone then Telstra will ensure it takes 'forever' to build with constant further legal action and other tactics.
What will Telstra do in terms of damaging its current 'competition' - particularly the "parasites" who are it's wholesale customers?
I have no idea and no ability to make an intelligent guess but, based on Telstra's actions since Trujillo's/McGaughie's appointment, I doubt that there will be anything positive occurring over the coming 12 months.
We have begun the 'migration' of those ADSL1 customers away from Telstra with the first 300 or so users being 'cut over' today and then another 600 - 1,000 a week each week until the end of January. Assuming that program continues with no operational difficulties we will then increase the transfer rate until all ADSL1 customers who do have an Exetel ADSL2 alternative are moved away from Telstra which will halve the number of ADSL1 customers we currently have.
Assuming that we make some progress with our HSPA negotiations with Optus or some other carrier and the carriers themselves continue to improve the speed and capacities of their HSPA networks we would hope that the vast majority of our ADSL1 customers who don't have access to ADSL2 will have a true HSPA alternative in the not too distant future.
In any event our 'ambition' (it is not yet in any way a formal plan) is to reduce our 'dependence' on Telstra to as close to zero as possible before the end of 2009.
Hopefully we will be able to protect ourselves, and our customers, from any future negative actions by 'commercial predators' - whoever they may turn out to be.
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