Dr. Scott Elliott
Scott Elliott is well known globally for his experience in high-tech and electronics design, manufacturing and supply chain management. With over 35 years of engineering, management and consulting experience, Scott brings unique, practical insight to all aspects of technology business, including business strategy alignment, supply chain management, world-class manufacturing and R&D management. He has the technical breadth and depth to understand any technology, and the business and management experience to make it a commercial success. Scott founded TechZecs LLC in 2001. learn more
Has your business growth flattened or even decayed in your market, and no amount of marketing or sales seems to be able to help it? What do you do? Develop new solutions for this market? Try to enter adjacent markets? Here is a process that we have seen used successfully in a number of different technology companies to recharge growth in revenue and profits.
Start with re-examining the Mission and Vision of your company. Why does your company exist, and what would it look like in 5 years if it was more successful in fulfilling that Mission? Don’t accept some generic statement like “to increase shareholder value.” Your Mission statement should be unique to your company, and not apply just the same to General Motors, Apple Computer, or Mrs. Fields Cookies. What will you NOT do?
The Mission and Vision statements give you the framework to take the next steps, illustrated below:
For technology companies, the growth and success of individuals (and the company) can be inhibited by poor communications – somewhat due to that fact that many of the key contributors are engineers or other technical professionals. These people (and I am one) were educated and steeped in “the scientific method” of discovery and analysis. This method, to state it simply, is:
- Pick a topic or problem
- Collect some data
- Form a hypothesis or model that is consistent with those data
- Conduct experiments or otherwise collect additional data
- Test to determine if the new data are consistent with the model. If not, change the model or get a new one.
- Repeat these steps for refinement
This method works extremely well for discovering phenomena of nature and inventing new gadgets and systems, but it is a terrible way to listen to people.
Many people are skilled at handling and filing paper. I have never been one of them. I tend to misfile important documents, lose them, stack them on an ever-expanding "inbox", spill coffee on them and - usually - not be able to find them when I need to. So, when it became possible to go paperless in the last decade or so - I jumped on it!
Now, when I receive anything written or typed on paper, I follow this simple process:
Is it something I need to save?
by Scott S Elliott, Principal and Founder
Online Social Networking is for teenagers and geeks - right? Not any more. Many professionals and executives are using social networking to increase their creativity and productivity, to meet peers and experts, to find and make deals, and to enhance their careers.
All executives spend most of their time networking. Networking is what happens in meetings, on teleconferences, at group lunches, visits with customers, doing email or just talking in the hallway. These forms of networking get work done and keep the company going, but they are generally restricted to a relatively small "molecule" of coworkers, suppliers and customers. This "closed" networking group can lead to a stagnation of ideas and behaviors that is not good for the company, or for the careers of individuals.
by Scott S.Elliott, Principal and Founder
How can postponing anything speed development and reduce time to market?
In Supply Chain design, there is a concept known as Postponement Manufacturing. In this concept, work-in-process is stored in a lower value (unfinished) state and as close as practical to the end customer or retailer, with only low-risk, fast processes remaining to complete fabrication and/or add custom touches. This strategy minimizes the cost and maximizes the speed of delivering products to the end user.
A good example is house paint. A few decades ago, paint was manufactured in many hundreds of colors, packaged in cans, and sold to retail shops as finished goods. To buy house paint, painters took their color samples to the paint store and tried to match them with the samples on the labels. This process was expensive because the paint store had to carry a huge inventory, much of which degraded before it could be sold (known as "rottage" in supply chain speak). It was also time consuming and frustrating for the buyer because it took a lot of time to find the appropriate color, and she could never be certain that the color, when dry, would be exactly right.
Now everything has changed. The retailers buy only white paint, plus a limited number of dyes in primary colors. A special scanner with computer software scans and analyzes the customer's color sample (which may be on any material), and reports the mixture of paint and dye quantities that will match the color exactly to satisfy the customer's need. A paint shop employee then adds the specified dyes to the paint and mixes it to the finished product. This process takes only a few minutes - thus it is very fast and very low risk. Storing just one color of (unfinished) paint, the retailer saves significant money in inventory carrying costs and sells everything before it degrades - passing those savings on to the consumer.
by Scott S.Elliott, Principal and Founder
Every business leader faces the "make or buy" decision many times. He or she must answer: "what are our core competencies to be kept in-house, and what should we purchase or outsource?" Most technology businesses have evolved from the "vertically integrated" concepts of the 1960s and 1970s - where supplies were only materials and commodities - to much more flexible and largely outsource-driven business models today. In the extreme, a few companies outsource almost everything, just taking orders and controlling the flow of finished goods from suppliers to customers.
by: Scott S. Elliott, Principal and Founder
In technology business, if you want to communicate clearly and collaborate fully, then you have to meet with your collaborators face-to-face, right? Well. . .maybe not anymore. Today's internet and telecom collaboration tools can be extremely effective in allowing technical and business collaboration - and even offer some advantages over face-to-face meetings.
We have all been victims of the "normal" group teleconference meeting. It goes like this: One group gathers in a conference room with a speaker phone and perhaps a PC projector. Another group assembles in a second, distant conference room - also with a speaker phone. Several members call in from their home offices or a hotel or an airport. At least one person is calling from a mobile phone while driving.
These meetings leave much to be desired. The people that are not in the primary conference room are second-class citizens. They cannot hear very well - especially those people with low voices away from the microphone - they cannot see the body language, the slides, what is being written on white boards, or who is doing his email or sleeping. How can we expect to get their brightest thoughts and ideas? These experiences are what make people feel that they have to travel to meet face-to-face to get real work done.
PCs and personal internet tools now make it possible to have a much better and richer experience, from one-on-one to many-on-many meetings and collaborations. Here is how:
to her satisfaction, then try to sync-up the program with other engineers at the review points.
Here are some best practices I have seen that can really speed up projects and lead to true collaborative innovation:
First: Develop a culture of frequent technical group workshops. Train and use workshop facilitators who organize and manage the agenda and draw out all of the contributors, no matter how shy. Try to get to the point where something like half the technical work is done in workshops and the other half at individual workstations.
Next: Encourage people to take risks and make suggestions on the project, technical or otherwise. Make it safe to put forth any idea, no matter how silly, as long as it relates to the project goals. Don't allow personal attacks, ridicule or any kind of bullying.
Recognize and even reward people for their contributions in these meetings. You know that people will behave in ways that correspond to how they are measured, so you should have remarks and metrics in their project plans and performance evaluations to encourage real-time, continuous collaboration.
After applying to a posted job, here are the typical responses seen by most applicants, in approximate order of frequency:
1. No response whatsoever (by far the most common case).
Translation to applicant: Your credentials are laughable and we will not dignify your pathetic effort even with a simple acknowledgement of receipt.
2. (Autoresponse) Thank you for your application. We will review it and get back to you if we see a fit.
Translation to applicant: Your resume just went into a pile on the recruiters desk. It will probably not be looked at, but the pile itself justifies the recruiters job.
.3. (Autoresponse) Thanks for your application. Due to the high volume of applicants, we can only respond to you if we find that you are a good match for the job.
Translation to applicant: Don't call us, and we certainly will not call you. We are understaffed and swamped by so many insignificant resumes.
By Scott S. Elliott, Principal and Founder, TechZecs LLC
The economy is slow and maybe your sales are flat. There is much uncertainty in your market and in the world economy. What strategic steps should you take to protect your market share and brand? Here is our advice:
1. Manage cash flow carefully.
2. Get flexible.
3. Plan some scenarios.
4. Retool for the next upcycle.
5. Look for opportunities.
1. Manage cash flow carefully. In this economy, cash is king and should be used wisely. We are not saying to stop spending, just minimize spending on unnecessary items. For example, you can minimize employee travel and instead use videoconferencing and internet communication tools such as GoToMeeting and Webex. When used properly, these tools can be nearly as effective as face-to-face communications and avoid the high cost, time consumption and stress of travel. There also may be opportunities to defer spending on construction of new facilities, postpone buying capital equipment that is not absolutely necessary, etc. Do whatever is necessary to keep a positive cash flow position.
2. Get flexible. If you have attrition or need new workers, think about hiring contract workers, outsourcing or partnering with other companies. A good rule of thumb during a recession or stagnant economy is 50-50; half employees and half temps or partners. Permanent employees are needed to keep your company culture and intellectual property fresh and growing, and to maintain your core competencies. But much of the work does not involve a core competency and can be done by non-employees. Contractors and consultants may seem to cost more per hour, but generally they net-out to about the same cost when you factor in overhead expenses such as employee support costs, benefits and paid vacations. Having a "stable" of good contract workers and partners and knowing how to manage them wisely puts you in a great position to thrive through a roller-coaster economic situation.