My life at work - the trials & tribulations!!
3:29 AM

Conversion of PDF Reports

Inorder to convert PDF reports to text and MS-Excel files using Adobe Acrobat version 5.0 use the following steps:

1. Start Adobe Acrobat (5.0)

2. Open the PDF report that needs to be converted.

3. From the Tool bar click on the more arrow with the Text Select Tool (this is a button with a T on it) more tools will be displayed. Choose the Table/Formatted Text Select Tool. The cursor changes to a cross hair.

4. Drag a rectangle to enclose the report that you want to convert and press the right mouse button.

5. From the menu that appears to convert to text format choose Text > Preserve Line Breaks, to convert to MS-Excel choose Table. From the same menu select "Save As" specify the destination details, choose the file type as "ANSI Text". Click on "Save". The file is saved in the specified format.

6. Use Notepad or MS-Excel (as applicable) to open and view the file.

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Family ties mean big business

3:29 AM
Look around and you will spot them everywhere.
From the very established to the nouveau riche.... most of the big businesses today (excepting maybe IT) are owned by families.

Contrary to the olden days when such organizations were unprofessional and had adhoc styles of management - times have changed for the better now.

They have a greater propensity to take risks , be ambitious, faster at their decisions and are more profit focussed....

That's just what I think!!!
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Starting anew!!!

9:03 AM
Change is the only constant.
I am seeking to control this constant.

I feel 21.
There's a strange feeling of starting out at the bottom - yet again!!
It's like I've given up all the houses that I'd built to go live in a cottage. There is however, the ever-bright hope that this cottage will become a palace.

It's not been an easy decision; but given my penchant for calculated risks and love for the family - it was a given at some point or the other.
Now I've done my bit at Hi-tech electronics, Consumer durables, e-learning - last stop : Medical Diagnostics.

I've joined today and spent the entire day languishing at a seat in the middle of the office. Family run businesses move differently I guess. Strategic uncertainities are handled differently because the fallout is unlike the world outside.

This is one challenge that I must learn to tackle. Luckily time is on my side.
Promises to keep....
Miles to go before I sleep.
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The Strategy Canvas

1:28 PM
This captures the current state of play in the known market-space.
I can think of a few parameters that would prove useful.
• Competitor moves,
• Industry factors, and
• Product offerings across the industry.

Plot these on the X axis against a set of numbers on the Y axis. These numbers could range from 1 to wherever you think necessary.
The resultant plot would denote a value curve.

What’s been observed on analyzing most industries is that the players have a “common” perception of what sells and what is valued by the customer. They are right in their perception and wrong too.

It’s important to move forward and challenge the existing model.
15 years ago – there were no cellular phones and getting a land line installed was problematic at the very least. Then companies launched cellular services way back in 1995. They challenged the existing line of thinking. The field remained communication – they just changed how it was done.

• Check out the factors that are taken for granted – which can be eliminated!!
• Which factors are overrated and need to be pegged down a bit?
• What’re the factors kept out of focus and need to have their bar raised?
• What are the factors to be created?

This way:
1. eliminate redundancies – cost control
2. lower the over-rated – cost control
3. improve the key areas – value add
4. develop differentiators – value add
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Getting started - entering the Blue Ocean

1:24 PM

Yes – I want to move into a blue ocean. I guess that’s where the story always must begin.

Now comes the part for which there are no proven strategies. All our business strategies are designed to fight on existing terrain against enemies from the same league. There’s limited terrain and you got to beat the bad guys here and now. So you play and make the value-cost tradeoff. It gets you a lil bigger piece of the pie – for awhile at least!!!
That’s the RED OCEAN we live in…

6 Principles
Formulation Principles

  • Reconstruct market boundaries – reduce the risk of searching for something new.
  • Focus on the big picture – not the numbers – reduce the risk on planning
  • Reach beyond existing demand – reduce the risk on scalability
  • Get the strategic sequence right – get your business model right

Execution Principles

  • Overcome key organizational hurdles – integrate the organization
  • Build execution into strategy – manage proactively

The key issue here is that while I want to do something new and bright and shiny – risks need to be minimized and mitigated rather than turned into contingencies

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Value Innovation

10:57 PM
This is a term that I have recently had to focus on. It’s not something new.
Yet we forget it quite easily in the humdrum existence that we lead.

It is about creating a leap in value for the buyers. This serves two purposes.
1. It makes the competition irrelevant – as the focus changes from competition to alternatives
2. It opens up new and uncontested market space.

The organization has to focus on both – value and innovation.
It is not about being the “first entrants” n the market or using “cutting edge” technology. History is witness to Technology pioneers opening the doors for others to trample over them.

It is generally believed that high customer value is synonymous with high cost. That’s not true.
It is essential to pursue “differentiation” and “low cost” simultaneously.

Hence it is important to integrate the functional and operational activities in an organization. The entire system has to be oriented to the LEAP!!!

That’s why Value innovation is the cornerstone to a Blue Ocean strategy (BOS).
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The deep blue!!

8:07 AM
Technically speaking, blue ocean strategy challenges companies to break out of the red ocean of bloody competition by creating uncontested market space that makes the competition irrelevant.

Instead of dividing up existing - and often shrinking - demand and benchmarking competitors, blue ocean strategy is about growing demand and breaking away from the competition.
The current corporate strategies have their roots mired in the military.
To focus on the red ocean is therefore to accept the key constraining factors of war- limited terrain and the need to beat an enemy to succeed. It also involves a denial of the distinctive strength of the business world: the capacity to create new market space that is uncontested.

Lots more coming in on this topic....
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The Pearson Team

1:03 AM
That's a pic of the team out for lunch at Not Just parathas on 11th Aug '06.
This outing was kinda overdue... glad we finally got going someplace.
(L-R) Susharan, Vishal, Daljit,Amit,Shan,Johann,Arjun,Binita, Amandeep & Ila.
We're missing BIG BOSS in this pic... she'll be in the next one.
Now the BIG BOSS - Vandana is also in....she's the one with the "6 finger" halo behind her!!!
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Always on call...

12:47 PM
Yep - we're somewhat like doctors - just a call away.
The only issue is that we save our own lives rather than others.
Project Managers ROCKKKK!!!
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Bravery and fear

12:43 PM
Yes -it's a war that we fight.
I read this one liner about how the aim of war was not to die for your country, but make the other bastard die for his. These words are credited to General Patton of the US army, but the feeling is quite ancient in nature. Self preservation is in the heart of every soldier.
In battle, fear drives us - fear of losing. It is as they rightly say, mix a little hot blood with the knowledge that is is more dangerous to lose than to win. Ask a Russian soldier who fought in the great war of39-45. He would say very confidently that it was easier to move forward againt impossible German odds, than turn back - and be shot by the Comissars of the Red army.
The point I'm trying to make is that bravery is nothing but a channelization of fear. When faced with a cliff on one end and the advancing horde on the other, retreat is not an option. The spirit of man takes over then - fear gets lost somewhere internally after the catalysis.
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From Good to Great

1:06 PM
There’s a big difference in being good at something & being great at it. That’s what, in my opinion separates the men from the boys.
I always strive to be great at everything I do – in my life – personal & professional. But I must confess I’m not great.

Yes, there are those brief flashes in the pan, when I know I can beat Godzilla at his game. But for most of the situations that come along – I’m good. A wise man (the one inside my head) reiterates that one line – don’t be in a rush. Greatness will come with time & experience. Did I really expect to be the best project manager without burning my fingers now & then. The learning must be collated, analyzed and acted upon.

If I were to fill up a Project management scorecard at this point of time – well, I wouldn’t like the results. I would ascribe that to an overload of work. But then that overload was my choice. It was definitely not imposed on me at that point of time.

My point here is not to get into a finger pointing exercise. That can be done post-facto when the remains of the day dictate the necessity for the same. I express the desire to understand the difference between good & great, between planned, projected and actual data. My thoughts are on bridging the gap between real-time performance and the individual potential.
Clicked at Dhanaulti-15th Apr 06I see the sky through the break in the trees. This perfect view comes at a cost. I must lie on my back. Lie down in the grass, getting my clothes dirty. I wish I was there – as high as can be. That’ll happen when I get understand my job like I should. I have made a start there.
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Marketing.. the way it should be taught!!

7:50 PM
Professor at IIM was explaining Marketing concepts:

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, "I'm very rich. Marry me!" That's Direct Marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, "He's very rich. Marry him." That's Advertising.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm very rich. Marry me." That's Telemarketing.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. You get up and straighten your tie; you walk up to her and pour her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride, and then say, "By the way, I'm very rich. Will you marry me?" That's Public Relations.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. She walks up to you and says, "You are very rich.." That's Brand Recognition.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, "I'm very rich. Marry me" She gives you a nice hard slap on your face. That's Customer Feedback !!!!!

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say, "Im very rich. Marry me!" And she introduces you to her husband. That's Demand and supply gap.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and before you say, "I'm very rich. Marry me!" She turns her face towards you ------------ she is your wife!
That's competition eating into your market share.
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The Marketing Mouth

1:13 AM
A new approach to Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing.
(actually the same old wine in the same old bottle)

The basic principles of WOM apply to both consumer and B2B challenges. We’ll focus on B2B here, since that’s the industry I’m currently servicing. These are the tenets, not to be forgotten.
  • A happy customer is the greatest endorsement (All’s well if they’re well)
  • Give the customers a voice (They will not be well – if you cannot diagnose their problems correctly. And guess what – you gotta let them tell you about it)
  • Listen to the consumers (and you have to listen to them)
  • Engage the community (Build a bond. They have to trust you to be able to tell you)

WOM transmissions occur in several ways. Here are a few:

  • A conversation concerning a referral
  • A comment on a message board
  • A letter to the editor
  • A product or book review
  • An email A post on a blog (again – lets focus on this one – the Blogsphere has arrived. It’s time we accepted that and gave them their time in the sun – I’ll put up a post on this sometime in the near future)

When you are designing programs, be honest and authentic. I do believe that full disclosure actually aids in the success of a WOM marketing program.

1. Sleaze sells short term. Values start slow – pick up momentum, and persist. We must understand that lying, and spam in any fashion all smell like dead fish and will only harm our efforts in the long run.
2. Research: Listen, observe, monitor and mine your data.
3. Customer relationships matter. Manage them: Provide consumers with tools to talk back, respond in a timely manner and personalize.
4. Grassroots: Reach out and inform.
5. Create evangelists: Find the influencers and build affiliate and direct marketing relationships.
6. Paid and earned media: Mix up your media, buy it, and deserve earning it.
7. Change the approach from "at you" to "with you". Campaigns that are generated by both the consumer and marketer will have much stronger legs.
8. Businesses need to be interesting to get customers interested.
9. WOM programs need to be integrated into many aspects of a company's operations, not just marketing -- product development, marketing, customer support. The more integrated the programs, the more successful they will be.
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The Written word (Part2)

2:52 AM

It is nothing more than a clear style of writing. People apply mathematical formulae to the length of sentences, the use of abstract words and such. But those are merely guidelines. Writing was not meant to be inflexible...

It is vital to keep in mind a few principles for the written piece.

· Reader’s level
It is common sense that one does not use flowery language in business communication and jargon in poetic construction.

· Sentence construction
Good things come in small packages. It is quite true that long, rambling sentences wear out the reader. At this point he sent me off to search for my Wren & Martin high school grammar book. He was pleasantly surprised that I had preserved a copy of it 13 years after school.

· Paragraph construction
Use a topic sentence and focus on a single idea for a paragraph. If the idea is a big one (as some of them are), split it into subtopics rather than 10 pages of continuous unbroken type.

· Familiarity of words
It doesn’t really matter if you constructed the sentences well, if you give a medical journal to a business manager. The same would hold true in reverse. Use of jargon is good when this shop-talk reduces the time spent in explaining ideas to like minded individuals. My usage of Project management jargon to all aspects of communication (written and verbal) needs to be curtailed. Every-time she says I don’t understand her – I state that the requirements document was not signed off and hence these extra rounds of review.

· Reader direction
Where are you leading the reader? The lack of paragraph framing coupled with ineffective transitions between paragraphs can befuddle the reader. He talked about sub-conclusions to be used towards paragraph endings. I didn’t quite agree with him on that. This would be painful for readers if they had to revise ideas at the end of every paragraph. That was the instructor in him talking – I guess!

· Focus
The purpose of the communication needs to be clear. It’s like he said, “Arjun, I’m trying to teach you to write effectively”
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The Written word.

2:08 AM
The ability to communicate is one of the aspects that make life interesting. This relates to all aspects of life – whether at home or in the work place. In fact, this is one of the prime requisites of a promotable executive.

The written word – the most powerful communication prior to the advent of visual communication has lost some of its sheen – but not the importance. It stays on record and cannot be undone.

I post regularly on my web-log. That’s what you are reading right now. I assumed I wrote well. That is, till somebody told me otherwise. It’s not an easy pill to digest. But I was luck because that somebody explained what was wrong.

What could be wrong?
· my spelling sucks
· I can’t punctuate for nuts
· the flow goes off on tangents and the structure is abysmal
· my grammar is disastrous
· The writing style is tactless and boorish.
These and many more trains of thought crossed my mind.

Then he told me that effective writing was about 4 things.
1. Readability
2. Correctness
3. Appropriateness
4. Thought
At an overview level – I thought I’d covered all these. He showed me an inventory of these attributes detailing the parameters against which I should be mapping my writing. This is good stuff.
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Changing Perspectives

9:02 PM
Every assignment brings a fresh set of challenges to the fore. It is very important to maintain a positive attitude to adapt to the situation on hand. It is vital to be able to un-learn and re-learn new tricks. This is one circus that doesn’t permit laxity.

I’m writing this piece to highlight the differences I’ve observed over the last couple of months between 2 organizations. I’ve had the pleasure of being in Lionbridge (LB) for over a year and at NIIT for a period of 3 months.

This is my personal opinion and you are welcome to debate it.
Both the organizations are in the E-Learning business for sometime now. NIIT has been around for about a decade ahead of LB. They both serve US & European clients. The parameters for effective project management remain time, cost and quality for both these behemoths.
One difference you’ll observe at the very outset is the concept of bread and butter. E-Learning is BREAD at NIIT & it’s only BUTTER for the folks at LB. Their bread is Localization. Hence the perspectives vary. There is a perceptible difference in Project Management maturity between the 2 organizations. Things that are taken for granted at NIIT are still in their infancy as far as implementation goes at LB.
Here’s a list:
  • MS Project – Enterprise edition – SAP implementation completed at NIIT. This is still in the conceptualization stage at LB.
  • Centralized budgeting – with inputs available from all PMs – completed at NIIT. The PMs at LB are less than adequately coached on the nuances of project management. Hence their exposure to budget sheets is the Revenue recognition sheet which they fill up dutifully every 28th of the month. I’m not saying that NIIT systems are perfect – but at least they’re getting there.
  • Manpower management – centralized pooling of resources allows the PM to assign members online and manage their time. This is not used effectively because the attitude towards using the system correctly hasn’t been developed. The folks at LB may not be able to manage the leveling of resources for want of a system. The PMs at NIIT wantonly avoid the basic use of the system and leave it at that. So, they end up having resources assigned 500% tasks on any given day. Only adds to the frustration.
  • The folks at LB use the MPP effectively – at least to the extent that it is regularly updated and can be presented at any point of time. The systems at NIIT are not optimally used and so, while, a project plan exists, the people are not versed with MS-Project and it is rarely updated.
  • Risk sheets are vital to Project monitoring – we all know that. It’s just that either they’ll be created and forgotten or exist in the users’ heads. Both ways it’s a waste of human intellect. Even worse is the apathy that management has towards a risk sheet.
    Processes are very well defined at NIIT. We were still developing them at LB. The attitude of people towards process conformance is definitely higher at NIIT. Yes – there were folks at LB – who were highly process conforming. But they were few and far between. This again, is a Management intiative.
  • It is great to have a Standardized process – but every project, like humans - has an individuality of its own. This needs to be recognized and catered to. Processes & metrics are good – but they need to be open to discussion – as and when necessary.
  • Quality Audits were as rare as a Blue moon at LB. I’ve been here 3 months – starting up on a few projects – and have already undergone a Quality Planning and Audit session.
    Trainings – the measure of organizational maturity. I must have spent a good amount of time at NIIT getting my trainings done. It is part of my KRAs as well. We never thought of “training” at LB – unless there was a FIRE on some project and the relevant team members needed something special. We thought of Trainings before project kickoffs – but invariably – no FIRE – so NO training!!!
  • SME management – tried and flunked out at LB – we’ve got a decent system going at NIIT – it’s called the VENDOME – that’s SAP to the rescue!!!
  • Infrastructure – stuff that you could take for granted while executing a project. This is an area where LB has made the maximum changes in the year gone by – that’s a positive sign.

    This is as much a critique of my actions as those around me. A few tried to do the right thing, but their efforts never got anywhere near success. It’s not intended to point fingers , just a catharsis of what I’d loved to have at LB and things that I will do at my end at NIIT.
    It’s a start!!
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10:53 PM
First - we steal the chocolates..!!! That's Karan... and he did not leave any for Ankur.

The Victim is not impressed. Ranit goes into varied hues and shades.
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My Learning at NIIT

3:53 AM
As requested - by the Management at NIIT!!!
Here goes....

It has been a little over two months since I entered the portals of this organization. This may not be sufficient time to learn everything, but I cannot deny the value addition.
I will put down a few points to summarize the experiential learning (as it happens) and paradigm shift in my functional area.

Project Management (The Paradigm Shift)
Real paradigms are not about technologies or products. Maybe it's just the way we perceive things. Project Management is a daily function as much as it is a system of thoughts.
It is customary to measure Project success as a Satisfied customer who got what he/she wanted. We also did the Project at half the cost in 75% of the time allocated.

Now, I have started understanding the aim of the project and its vision, the reliability of task completions, negotiating the learning curve and examining how people grow in their roles. The big question is whether the customer is getting more value than expected.
I am learning the value of variables, not just outcomes.

We undergo trainings on a regular basis. It is a part of our ‘exposure to systems’ and Self Development plan. I am now learning to take them seriously. I am learning the value of applied thought and people dynamics.

This is not the slow process of evolution - either you "get it" or you "don’t". The change is similar to the light bulb - getting switched on – instantaneous!
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Learning anew!!

9:31 AM
Think you know it all - think again!!!
So I did.

The last 3 days(2nd-4th Feb) have been tremendous value add to me. Kinda like re-learning things. We spent the last 3 days - unlearning, learning and re-learing some of the things that are critical to effective Project management.
That's SEED - the NIIT training centre nestled within the cosy confines of Sainik Farms in South Delhi.

Click on the pic to get a detailed view.

It is a good place to learn - enhanced by better company to mingles in - and of course - a great faculty who was motivated enough to keep us alive and kicking - no sleepers there!!!

I'll be talking more abuot my learnings, for now - the experience.
It was great!!!

(I can already see my team members smirking - cos' they know I had a good holiday. Yes people - I know - monday morning is coming up pretty fast)

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Life @ NIIT

7:51 AM
It's been a Month and 25 days - Kinda qualifies as 2 months - I guess!!!

The life has been interesting and fast.
I'm onto something new here. A new creature, so to say - something new that makes life interesting for students. It makes their learning experience better!!

I have a great team - some of the best people & they're an absolute pleasure to work with.

A small discussion on some of them would be of inertest here. They make life at work worthwhile.
Let me start with Ranit. He's a gem of a guy - an asset to every team - a peoples person. 45 days of working with him - and I can't find a single issue with this guy - he sits right beside me and is the my biggest help on the project.

Ranit(L) and Karan(R).

Then there's Rajiv. Very practical - knows all the ground realities. He is a knowledge bank like no other. Keeps me aware of all that is going around. He is so soft spoken - you'd never know he exists - unless - he speaks !;-)

That's Rajiv & Vandana

Then there's Roop - a total Balancer. She never lets me fly - keeps my feet firmly on the ground. A very intelligent young lady - that she is.

No discussion would be complete without Karan. Ancient indian mythology refers to Karan & Arjun as being siblings. Only this time I'm older. He has a great sense of humour and his desire to learn is infectious. Quite a harwirking fellow there. Pleasure to work and be with!!

Karan - again!!!

More on the others later!!!

All in all - I'm startng to like my life at NIIT.

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HR Lingo at work

4:42 AM
We remain competitive by paying less than our competitors.

We have no time to train you.

We don't pay enough to expect that you'll dress up.

You'll be six months behind schedule on your first day.

Some time each night and some time each weekend.

Anyone in the office can boss you around.

We have no quality control.

Female Applicants must be childless (and remain that way).

If you're old, fat or ugly you'll be told the position has been filled.

We've filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.

You'll need it to replace three people who just left.

You're walking into a company in perpetual chaos.

You'll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect.

Management communicates, you listen, figure out what they want and do it
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traveling life's quaint paths and making my own destiny...