A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: Five Business Book Recommendations for 2015

The holidays are a time I like to use to catch up on the backlog of business books that are on my bookshelf. Maybe you have one of these bookshelves too…it’s full of books that you keep meaning to read but simply can’t find the time to do so.

I managed to catch up on my reading a bit during some recent business travel and over the holidays, including a few technology and business books that I found extremely insightful and valuable.

So, if you have a New Year’s resolution to read more and stay abreast of technology and business trends in 2015, here are five books that I’d recommend.

Three were published recently and two are classics, but I believe all are relevant for today’s business environment. Happy reading!

network always winsThe Network Always Wins by Peter Hinssen

Hinssen explores the age of networks and how organizations can make the most of opportunities in this new era of business and respond to the ever-changing environment with agility.

critical knowledgeCritical Knowledge Transfer by Dorothy Leonard, Walter Swap & Gavin Barton

When highly skilled employees retire or leave their organizations, they often take years of valuable experience and knowledge with them.

This book includes tools and techniques for how to transfer and retain this ‘deep smart’ knowledge.

glass cageThe Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr

Carr looks at history, science and research studies to explore the impact of pervasive technology and automation from a personal and economic perspective.

world is flatThe World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

As business becomes more global and the world becomes more connected, this classic book continues to be relevant and insightful, Friedman outlines the challenges and opportunities arising from globalization and how governments, societies and businesses must adapt.

5 disfunctionsThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Through a fictional business scenario, Lencioni’s bestseller on teambuilding identifies five common traits that cause teams to struggle and how to overcome them. The book highlights characteristics of high-performing teams and actionable steps to build cohesive, effective teams.

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Best Holiday Technology Memories from Avnet’s IT Team

A few years ago I asked the Avnet IT team to share their tech gift memories for my holiday blog post. Since I got such great responses I decided to do it again.

These stories brought great nostalgia and made me realize how technologies from decades ago were the precursors to the amazing innovations that impact every aspect of our lives today.

While some technologies of the past are being updated for the latest generation, others are coming back in retro style including video game classics such as Sega Genesis, Intellivision and Atari, which is on my Christmas list this year.

Here are a few of the submissions we received:

THE ORIGINAL SMARTWATCH

Manuel Dornbusch, Help Desk Specialist | Poing, Germany

Smartwatches are on many holiday wish lists this year. Although today’s smartwatches can perform a myriad of impressive functions, we’ve had watches with capabilities beyond time telling for some time now.

I got a Timex Data Link in the mid-90s, long before USB cables and Bluetooth. How did this smartwatch get data? It had a little photo sensor synced with software on the PC that began flashing barcodes of white lines on a black monitor (worked only with CRT).

Hold the watch facing the monitor and you had a month’s worth of dates and notes. Not that I had many calendar entries as a high school student, but the thinking that went into getting data from a PC into a tiny watch fascinated me.

I synced my contacts, my school time table and my homework notes with my watch. Most likely not the use case envisioned by Timex in ’94, but I do not get impatient these days waiting for an hour-long video to take five minutes to download, remembering that I sat motionless in front of the PC each morning in the second half of the 90s.

FUN WITH MATH

Nathan Vaughn, Senior Project Manager | Phoenix, Arizona

When I was very young my uncle was one of the head engineers for NASA. Having such a position seemed to afford him the opportunity to get his hands on new technology before the rest of us.

One Christmas, my uncle presented my dad with a prototype of one of the first pocket calculators. It was the first we had ever seen and had four functions (add, subtract, multiply and divide).

My father was a math teacher, which meant my brother and I excelled in math. We began testing the calculator to see if it was accurate.

We started off with times tables, but then my father had us work out increasingly difficult calculations on paper while he did the same calculations on the calculator.

He seemed to take great (and slightly sadistic) pleasure in watching us work to come up with the same answers he was able to derive in a few seconds.

THE EARLY DAYS OF VIDEO GAMES

Rusty Murdaugh, Vice President – Financial Planning and Analysis | Phoenix, Arizona

Growing up I was intrigued with video games. Like most kids, I thought the technology was exciting and enjoyed the challenge of getting the high score.

My first computer/game console was the Commodore 64. My siblings and I played games on this machine every day after school.

We were the talk of the neighborhood having this new technology in our home. Looking back, playing games on the Commodore was how we learned to type and basic programming.

Our next video gaming device was Atari 2600, where we played Asteroids, one of my all-time favorites.

Nintendo (which I still have in the house today) followed shortly thereafter, then PlayStation—I loved Donkey Kong—Nintendo Wii, and now our son enjoys his Xbox360.

STILL TRAKING AFTER 30 YEARS

Chris Helm, Senior Network and Voice Engineer | Haslingden, UK

Big Trak (see header image above) was the first programmable electric toy tank.

I had hours of fun, programming it to go around the living room tables and chairs, and working out how far to go forward, backward, left and right.

It even had a trailer which you could tip to drop off items.

More than 30 years later, this classic toy has been modified with a USB camera, gun turret, and integration into games consoles and mobile devices.

Thanks to our contributors for sharing their stories, and thanks to all of you for reading Behind the Firewall this year.

Happy holidays to all, and I look forward to catching up with you again in the New Year.

Steve

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VIDEO: Top IT Trends for 2015

[http://avnet.me/58920]

 

Want to know what technology trends are at the top of my list for 2015? Click the link or screenshot above to find out.   

In this short video, I outline the four IT technology trends I’ll be focused this coming year, along with how we plan to address them here at Avnet.

We’ll be discussing these four in greater detail in my Tech Trends video series and here on this blog throughout 2015, so be sure to click HERE to have the latest posts sent directly to your inbox or RSS reader.

- Steve

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IT Best Practices: Commission and Rebate Automation

IT best practices: commission rebate incentive automation

Sales commissions and back-end rebates for hitting performance targets are critical components of any distribution channel sales program.

We’ve had some recent success automating this highly manual activity at Avnet, so I’ve asked Ger Purcell, senior vice president of IT for Avnet’s Technology Solutions business and a member of my Impact Team, to contribute a guest post on the subject.

Performance-based incentives (commissions and rebates) are quite common in the technology channel, based on their ability to align the efforts of the Avnet sales teams with the manufacturer’s own sales goals.

NAVIGATING THE INCENTIVES MAZE

Ger Purcell, Avnet, Inc.

Ger Purcell | senior vice president of IT Avnet Technology Solutions

However, managing the incentives process—actually identifying, promoting, documenting and ultimately collecting and distributing the incentives—required a massive, highly manual effort on the manufacturer’s side as well as Avnet’s.

In our Technology Solutions Americas business alone, this included:

  • A commissions program in involved 800 employees on 26 different payment plans that changed at least monthly.
  • 200 rebates programs that change frequently according to complex rules delivered through a number of manufacturer-specific tools.

IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT PLATFORM

To help us automate this process, we partnered with Vistex to provide the incentives platform that would support the administration, financial, and settlement processing aspects of the process.

Vistex also had the ability to connect directly to Avnet’s ERP system where much of our incentives data was held.

72,000 BUSINESS RULES

Integrating the platform was a critical aspect of the project, but establishing the rules engine was a much larger piece of the puzzle.

The IT team sat down with the Americas business representatives to identify, document and code all the various incentive conditions the tool needed to track…more than 72,000 rules in all.

FOUR KEY BENEFITS

After more than 6,000 hours of coding and 1,000 hours of testing to ensure every dime was tracked and accounted for, the system was rolled out to all Americas employees. Since then:

  1. The sales teams have moved from quarterly to monthly goals, due to the enhanced speed and visibility.
  2. The number of commission plans has been reduced from 26 to five, based on the increased accuracy of the system.
  3. The business is able to track hundreds of millions of available rebate dollars in real time. This in turn gives us the ability to alert our reseller customers about potential rebates they might otherwise overlook.
  4. Avnet is able to provide more accurate demand forecasting to manufacturers and suppliers, increasing the unique value we can offer them from our position at the center of the technology supply chain.

While the commitment to a project of this size was great, the return has been far greater.

Not only is Avnet able to deliver value to customers and suppliers that wasn’t possible under the previous system, but countless hours of bureaucracy have been eliminated in the process.

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VIDEO: How to Sell to the CIO

[http://avnet.me/16675]

Click to learn how to sell to the CIO

A lot has been written and said about the “secrets of selling to CIOs” but it’s often from the salesperson’s perspective. So I thought I’d share my own views on how (and how not) to sell to IT executives effectively.

Here are nine tips—five Do’s and four Dont’s—that can help anyone get, and keep, the attention of a busy IT executive.

CLICK HERE or on the screenshot above to view this brief 4:00 video.

- Steve

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