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The future of the company is in a global market? February 7, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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When outsourcing, and particularly offshore outsourcing, became popular business strategies only a few academics stopped to ask how this might change the very nature of the company as we know it. Now online resource marketplaces are becoming common, things are going even further.

These marketplaces are very simple. If you need something done, you post the job online. Across the world, millions of individual contractors and small companies watch these job postings and bid for the work, creating a reverse auction, based on price and their track record of delivery.

Tools like oDesk.com, Elance, and guru.com are all offering this service – usually for about 10% of the contract value as an agency fee. I have heard more and more people recently in large established companies talking about getting some copywriting or marketing or blogging done by going to these marketplaces – it appears to be replacing the old concept of local freelancers.

Cost has always been the main driver for those seeking to outsource work across the globe, but the availability of talent and the ability to scale were never far behind. What has changed is that many more international locations now have the infrastructure, the people, and the stability of democratic governments. There are many places in the world where IT and IT-enabled services can be delivered and entire continents, such as Africa, are waking up to this fact.

And these markets are not only allowing access to the lowest possible cost, but they have also allowed contractors to earn far more than they could locally because they are pitching their prices higher than the local market. Think for a moment, if a company from New York needs a website prepared and a local firm will charge them $1000, but a developer in Bangladesh might expect $100 in his local market, the contractor in Bangladesh is likely to pitch $400 for the job.

Until recently, I heard this week from a contractor who writes blogs in Bangladesh. He was moaning that people from the Philippines – who can undercut everyone – are flooding the online marketplaces.

It seems price is still important, but more importantly, these networks look ready to stay and to become an integral part of the modern company – hiring and firing and creating virtual global teams at will.

oDesk t-shirts: all about the bling, G.
  Photo by Dave McClure licensed under Creative Commons

Does regular data protection apply to location-aware ads? January 25, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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In 2010 I wrote on this blog about some of the difficulties associated with facial recognition and privacy. Although biometric scanning is becoming more important, it’s still not really the method of choice for advertisers who want to recognise a consumer in a particular location.

That solution is far more mundane, the good old Smartphone.

In the past couple of years, location based services such as foursquare and Facebook Places have made it easy for users to check-in and let their friends know where they are located, based on location-aware mobile devices.

What’s interesting though is that there seem to be few issues of privacy for advertisers to worry about, if some basic rules are followed.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario. You are a ‘fan’ of Starbucks cafes on Facebook. You go to one of their branches and check-in on Facebook Places. You notice that the café chain has pasted a voucher on your Facebook wall that can only be used within the next one hour at a specific location…

To some this might seem an abuse of information. The café chain knows where you are and the exact time so they can make a time-bound offer to a specific branch, but think for a moment… the consumer has already clicked ‘like’ on the Starbucks fan page to indicate that they like the brand, and they volunteered their own location information to Facebook Places.

If the consumer has volunteered all this information, then surely they are going to be delighted when the chain rewards them – rather than having any concern about being stalked by a coffee company – Starbucks or anyone else.

Though social media is involved, all the standard principles of data protection still apply even in this case. Soon advertising may be not just directed to an audience of one, but to one person in a specific place at a specific time too.

Starbucks' Christmas Bokeh
Photo by Piero Fissore licensed under Creative Commons

Changing face of retail January 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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Everyone knows the retail environment is changing. Those of us who can remember the heady days of the 1990s will recall that clicks were supposed to entirely replace bricks at one point – Amazon was predicted to spell the end of the traditional bookstore.

And though many retailers are struggling today, it has more to do with the economy in general than the Internet stealing their business forever. But the smartest retailers are finding ways to combine the best of the online experience with the service that can only be delivered on the high street.

Sometimes you want to see and touch a product before buying it. Perhaps it is a big investment, so you want to try it out first. This is why camera chains like Jessops have always prided themselves on having staff that know about the products they sell – you get a bit of free consulting every time you go into a branch to ask a few questions.

But these days many customers are coming in to look and feel a product before going away to think about the purchase, only to go online scouring the web using price comparison sites. High-priced items such as electronics can almost always be found cheaper from discount retailers.

Retailers like Argos and John Lewis are trying to combine the best of the web with a real in-store or added value experience that combines old-fashioned retail with the bulk discounts available from buying and distributing centrally.

I personally would be prepared to pay more for a product from John Lewis, knowing I have the backup of a reputable brand, and the ability to buy online, but be treated as a customer in-store too. The question is, how much more… the odd per cent here and there maybe, but what if the difference was 25 per cent?

That’s a tough decision, but I’m sure the major retailers are already thinking about this. They had better be.

貪吃danbo

Photo by Sindy licensed under Creative Commons