A Road Warrior’s Dream

These days, I just thought about all that new technologies and gadgets and why I use some and some use others.

Smoke Signals for Communication
Smoke Signals for Communication

Working with a company, I was faced one day with the fact that they used Laptops for their management and sales people, but these laptops were not set up to work outside the company’s own cabled network. WLAN? A risk. UMTS? A risk. Internet? A risk. What they never considered was the fact that a road warrior, an employee meant to travel and not be in the office may need the laptop to access mail and files in the company’s environment. Instead to providing professional solutions, the company’s IT-manager shut down the network and opened Internet only with greatest reluctance. That was and is the one side of the issue.

In fact, being a road warrior, I am quite happy, to be once in a while “offline”. No mobile phone, no internet. Vacation, spend concentrating only on my company. Not the employer, but the two-legged walking, sitting next to and talking with me. Internet inflight? I know many road warriros hoping it will never truly work. It will, but it will also take of some relaxation out of the stressful enough business trip.

So sometimes, I dream of the good old days, when it was rather normal to reach the secretary, but there was no mobile phones and people were a little more patient about being called back 😉 And I hope that triggers quite some comments… 😀 Come on people, don’t you sometimes thing the same? 😉

Food For Thought

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The Threat of IT and the Internet

threemonkeysLately I had quite some discussions about IT security. Is it the right thing to cut yourself off the hostile Internet? Corporate data security, data integrity?

As I have mentioned in these posts before, there is a valid risk of corporate spying, data theft, etc. But… Trying to shut yourself out of the Internet is not a solution. Your consumers expects you as much to be on the Internet as they expected you 20 years ago to have a telephone or fax machine. Yes, the Internet is potentially hostile and it is not only reasonable, but also advisable to secure confidential data. But then I must refer to e-Mail encryption. There are other options, such as different file servers for internal data and external access to Internet and e-Mail, firewalled and secured.

A recommendation I lately read said to type off a URL when you get it by e-Mail. That is simply short sighted. Such an idea will simply be ignored by any user for convenience reason. If he does not understand the threat, he will not follow that requirement. If he understands, there is no need for such as the user will be aware and apply the necessary care. There is an impression in IT-support called PEBKAC – the “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair”. The user is the “problem”. There simply is no 100% security in this world. It is a constant risk and value evaluation. So instead of trying to hold back the development of your company, evaluate your risks, reduce them by technical means, as well as by properly training your IT-users.

trojanhorseIn 2004, I heard a presentation that questioned the normal user to be simply ignorant to viruses, trojan horses and the most basic other means of Internet security. To date, I get hoaxes forwarded with the best of intentions. What’s a hoax? A fake threat warning. The “best” one saying “There is a virus – to delete it do this and this” and if you do this, your Windows-PC is no longer operating.

Shall I use Internet Explorer? Why is it that even IT security experts keep that browser with known security problems as the standard company browser and not use alternatives like Firefox? There are sometimes good reasons, but that is the exception. Why is it that companies keep sending out Word- and Excel-documents and not PDF? If they’d use Open Office instead of Microsoft’s expensive commercial solution they’d not only save a lot in license fees, they could also immediately “export” into PDF (and with the free PDF import extension Open Office allows even to open and to some extend edit PDSs!). Why don’t companies incorporate S/MIME?

What truly frustrates, even agitates me is short-sighted if not even blind activism. Shut away the Internet, it is hostile. Yes. Don’t breathe, there’s all that dangerous pollution stuff in the air.

The solution is to be careful and increase user awareness. In a time of constant changes in IT, I run quite well when applying simple security measures. But it is part of our daily life and here to stay. Don’t restrict usage and application of new technologies, but emphasize your users to be careful and explain them the risks. But don’t try to shut out life, it won’t work…

Food for thought…

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Seven Weeks Without

7wochenohneIt is Easter Sunday. In the wake of my father’s death (the reason there was no Food For Thought last week) I think about god. Yulia does an Easter Lent. So I thought about the Easter Lent in Germany and learned only today about “Seven Weeks Without”, an Easter Lent initiative in the German churches. This year’s motto: “Decide! Seven Weeks Without Hesitation” (Sich entscheiden! Sieben Wochen ohne zaudern).

The publications that came along with the motto say we make the mistake to play it safe. Don’t we all know (what we call) the “egg-dance” of politicians, trying to avoid any decisions? I have too much of those to my liking lately.

Then I received a post by my dear friend Sapphire, called Orphan. About the missing link to god. I do not believe much in church. But in the wake of my father’s death, I also learned the truth of the saying “You can remove a boy from the bible belt, but you cannot remove the bible belt from the boy” (the bible belt is a very religious region in the U.S. midwest). I was raised Lutheran (a Christian variant). I believe in god. And as Yulia just said to me yesterday: It is the believe in god that unites us.

But this Food For Thought is a business blog, so why do I address something like god, the lent or Orphan here? Because of the lent motto. Decide! We cannot always play it safe. This is another recurring topic, in this case on LinkedIn Q&A: What makes a good manager. A good manager decided, stands to his decision (doesn’t blame others on failure) and reverses it quickly if needed. Not like a politician without an own opinion. First it is the decision. And no, not the decision not to decide 😉

Especially in the crisis, the decision makers are likely to survive. They move.

Or to quote Barrack Obama: Change! Yes – We CAN !!!

Food For Thought. Thanks for sharing yours!

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The Power of Bureaucrats

The past weeks have been quite a dramtatic change to me. Taking over the marketing at Erfurt Airport was the right decision. It calls for a fire fighter. And the first weeks produced a lot of bureaucratic overkill that made my life more miserable than it hat to be – challenging and fun as these weeks were.

bureaucracyWhat I discussed with family and friends is actually the thought, why bureaucrats are that way. Why is it, that they require reports and statistics on obviously clear things? Why do they knowingly destroy instead of create? I will never truly understand it, but we are all facing them, so the bureaucrats are somewhat a part of life we got to live with.

Some discussions on LinkedIn address the same topic. What makes a “leader”? My first ever boss told me some basic rules:

  1. Keep your supplier in mind. Only if you pay decently he will produce good work and only then he will remain your supplier. And suppliers are a small family always – they know each other. So once you go the cheap route, you will have trouble getting decent quality.
  2. A leader decides. Get as much data at as short time as possible and decide. Sometimes you have no data. Trust your experience. Some call it “intuition”. It’s as good a guide than any made-up figures. Future holds no guarantees.

Thinking about the last sentence: We all learned that lesson well last year, did we not? But one sentence is also true and may make the bureaucrats happy. We do need the bean counters. They shall question us. We better have a good idea, what we are doing. But we are here to do something. Not to count the beans.

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Fresh Breeze at Erfurt Airport

ERFMany of you have heard or seen that I became responsible Head of Marketing at Erfurt Airport. It was a very busy first week, we all face ITB next week and sure it is a lot of new faces and there is also a lot to do. This airport is an excellently located international airport in the heart of Germany. As you can see on the image, it is rather modern and supports CAT IIIb Instrument Landing. Air freight facilities as well as the four large car rental firms and a General Aviation Terminal complete the excellent impression.

Addressing the necessity to give the airport a positive reputation and position it in its due place on the map of international aviaiton, the airport has received a new management in the past months: Matthias Köhn has been managing the Kiel Airport before, after a six months transition period he is now the General Manager at Erfurt Airport. The second key position, the Manager Operations (Verkehrsleitung) is taken over by Susann Hörl, before having been General Manager at Jena’s Air Field. With Marketing now in my hands, we have an excellent and competent team to properly address the necessary changes to position Erfurt locally, nationally and internationally as a reliable and valuable partner to airlines, travel managers, travel agencies and all other partners. As this is a long-term, full-time commitment, please see my address changes reflected on the website already and coming up. Pending jobs at Barthel.eu Consulting are taken over by excellent partners I have worked with for many years and who are competent in the required jobs. And I am sure that more news will be addressed before the end of the month.

I appologize to the readers, I have no real “Food For Thought” this week. If you have topics you think I shall address, please let me know!

So yes. Food For Thought: What do you wish me to address?

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The Power of Regional Airports

ERFThere was quite some buzz the last weeks as I decided to take over my new job at a regional airport (more details I assume to be allowed to release next Sunday). Aren’t they doomed, especially in today’s crisis?

In addition, the Russian regional airports project develops well, Russia is very well aware of the need of regional airports.

So no. I do not agree. I do see regional airports to prosper. Not with point to point traffic, but feeding into the international hubs. Time remains a necessity. Four hours ground travel time are about the maximum business allows before air travel becomes a business case. Some will find their niche, even maybe a major one as I suggested to the Saratov PTBs as part of my side study on their situation. Which is a good example for other communities and their airports.

I also got the new figures of airport developments this month and I find quite interesting examples where and how airports position themselves. Globalization is here and air travel is vital to many businesses for sheer survival – may it be scheduled, charter or freight!

My example in the past years: Compare sizes of cities in the world with the existing of an airport and air travel. It’s a mutual development. But only cities with an airport having good flight connections nearby prosper. And I started in the business booking VIP passengers from the U.S. on the precedessors of Eurowings and other small airlines – flying little Cessna’s in scheduled service between Frankfurt and Paderborn, Dortmund and other such cities.

Food For Thought…

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The Impact of Government Safety Funds

There were two interesting reports on German Television lately. A short summary:

MoneyMarketBubbleThe Money Market

Currently the Money Market is a soap bubble. Anything is dealed, put into mass, dealed again and again and again. For any winner, there is a looser though, but no-one tells about the loosers.

Industry

You can only sell products. Money in itself is no product. Neither is “service” in itself. But did you know that Porsche made about five times more money on “financial market” than on building and selling cars?

Governmennt Funding

They are a very short-sighted remedy! Experts expect inflation to explode to 10% and more quite shortly, as all that money does not provide any additional value!

Food For Thought:

Inflation will result in increased prices. So we will see another explosion in crude-oil price within the year, with a drastic impact on aviation and other industries dependent on crude oil! And we better all understand that the “financial crisis” is not over, until the markets value industry and industry products again and cut down on “services” to a healthy level.

Virtual Reality meet Real World. You got to produce (and value your producers) to be able to spend on secondary services. Cut that down to the old businesses: Farming, industry. I am educated in “whole-sale” and we learned that whole-sale is just the distribution of goods, but the goods is what it’s all about! It does not help to have streets or rails if you have no goods to ship!

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eMail Encryption

seal_wotsxc900568-email-encryptI was asked to address this in the blog as well. Since 2001 I use a digital e-Mail-signature provided in a cost-free web-of-trust organized by Thawte, one of the leading providers of digital server signatures for websites.

I also voluntarily confirm the idendity for the user(s) with 35 points. 50 points are needed to have a personalized digital signature (with your name), having 100 points you become a “Thawte Notary” yourself able to provide such points to others.

Using such a signature with S/MIME is rather easy to use with common e-Mail-programs like Thunderbird, Outlook or Notes. Once both sides have such a signature, it is very easy to encrypt mail – Good Bye Big Brother…

Similar signatures or “qualified” signatures are commercially available (for money). If you want to know the difference, want to know more or are simply interested, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

sxc833767_sneak_a_peek_1A new project in Germany is DE-Mail, said to enable “secure communication” with administration, implying “security” that simply is not there. First of all, the servers are to be maintained by German Telekom T-Systems. Second the encryption is not controlled by the user, but this is just a “secure e-Mail-address”.
What my own Internetserver requires for years is SSL-encryption, the same used by banks and said to be very secure. This is all such service can provide, except it allows “trusted partners” to have secure server-to-server communication. Such partners sure pay for such service. And big mama government sure has access to it – as have tons of T-Systems people. And don’t we have enough examples of data theft?

Sure: Food For Thought…
And please share yours…

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The Need For Consultancy

I lately got involved in discussions about the need for consultancies and how that market suffers the first from the financial crisis.

Roland Berger
Roland Berger

German top-consultant Roland Berger was quoted saying “You cannot push-start a car from the inside”. Which I found valuable. But it reminds me of a major shortcoming of todays managements: I have not needed to push-start a car for decades. The view is rather rare on the streets. But I need to confirm: The job of a consultant in most cases is to have an unbiased look at the company, speak to the people, listen to their advise, organize it and present it to the company. At that level, some creative suggestions on how to solve the identified shortcomings helps to make you a good consultant.

sxc439663Another cause is the discouraging of creativity by the bean counters. “Do your job, don’t think” is very common in larger companies with strict hierarchies. Mostly these companies are “managed” by bean counters, thinking of staff only as a little wheely in the machine – a “human resource”. Exchangeable, not valuable. In such cases I either can make these managers understand the value of a reevaluation of their values and the advantages of motivation of creativity, but more often I can only help them by voicing what they overheard for too long from their own people.

So the job of a truly good consultant (but they are rare) is to listen. To gain the trust from the people. To qualify, summarize their needs, consider solutions and present the findings to the management. The best ideas on the job are usually not mine. My experience only helps me to qualify them and put them into a structure and present them to management in a way they understand. Being the moderator…

Food For Thought.

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Crumbling Facades

What is money all about?

Crumbling FacadesFirst the financial market in the United States failed. Constructs where a single person is responsible for the loss of 50 Billion US$ are just the top of an iceberg. That ice berg turned and we all feel it’s repercussions.

But it was not the U.S. that caused the problem, but the greed of financial managers and the corruptibility of the politicians that made it possible. German’s federal state banks had to be sold, only to learn the buying banks from the other states are simply in similar troubles.

Deutsche Bank manager Ackermann and Deutsch Bahn boss Medorn keep up the facade of the reasoning for the indecent salaries they and their buddies in other corporations pay themselves, blaming others in their companies for the problems their companies face. Isn’t it the CEO who is ultimately responsible? If he has his company not in check, he may not be worth his salary. If his company looses money, they make a bonus? When they fire people, they make another bonus? “No risk, just fun” the yellow press recently titled…

Companies asking for help, often “suddenly” coming up with hidden “treasures” and financing leaks often as high as the losses so far admitted. Oops. If I have a management that has no up to date information about their financial situation, I can imagine this in a start up or small company – but we talk “global players” here! My advise: Fire them! Sue them! You got to, they got to learn the basics of business before they are allowed any management job again!

Politicians having been informed as early as August about the financial troubles of German Hypo Real Estate but now claim their innocense?

In Russia, Oligarch Boris Abramovich lost first the control on AirUnion, which meanwhile “somewhat” restarted as Rossavia as a state airline, now looses Malev as well. His buddy Lebedev is out of a deal to take over German Öger Tours, he’s short on money – weren’t these the people anyone worldwide envied for their incredible wealth?

And wasn’t “U.S. President” a synonym for integrity? Thank you Mr. Bush… What a legacy for Barrack Obama.

So with all these crumbling facades, it is not the time for blame. But it’s time to roll up your sleeves and work to get us out of the mud hole these irresponsible and greedy idiots drove us all into. I am daily facing cases, where good people loose their jobs to managers, still thinking to cut heads is the solution. Or airline managers believing that it’s important to increase revenue at all cost. Flights take off fully booked but causing the airline to loose money?! That has nothing to do with bad sales, but with a bad, price-only-focussed strategy of short-sighted managers. Good service needs good people. But our industries miss to show their own strategy. What makes an airline commercially successful? More aircraft with less people? A drop in service? A university graduade being sent to the key account having no idea what a cross ticket is or what makes a travel reseller select one airline vs. another? Pay for coffee inflight? The next business for airports and catering companies is logically to have vending machines offering snacks and drinks at the gate (or on the aisle infront of the waiting room) at cost below that offered inflight…

BethuneQuote

But what keeps my mind busy is the question, why the facades visibly crumble, why we work in an industry where everyone tells me no one in his right mind would invest in? I did question the human “resource”-thinking. I hear from Lufthansa that the “Lufthanseat” (the employee news) is off reality. American Airlines staff tells me they have never heard of the company update video I remember from the 80s.

BransonEmployeesOur industry is like the opposite to the car industry, but not any better: Where they focus to build the big cars for big money and ignored the growing demand for low-consuming cars, our managers seek quick revenue at any cost…? Load factors and market share at the cost of yield and income.

We can learn from the current U.S. president. Airlines got to learn again that the manager is head of the family. That means (s)he also has to look after the family income and budget. But they got to get out of their glass domes, listen to staff and customers alike and finally start face reality!!! And come to grips and learn to make money!

Food For Thought – your thoughts about this sure are welcome…

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