Monday, September 30, 2013

More than ever before, the life sciences industry is faced with heavy pressure to increase productivity and lower costs. As an efficiency measure, outsourcing has become a prominent alternative to handling everything in-house. This outsourcing may be for a myriad of services such as clinical trial and development, business process, and human resources. By its very etymology, out-source means to push something out of your control to an outside party or source. You are essentially relegating control over to that party, entrusting them to effectively manage the delegation and produce desired results. Often times, the entrustment creates ambivalence concerning your vested interest in the outsource function. How can you ensure that your investment is protected - or ensure that the outsourcing brings about the added value expected?

Identifying Stakeholders And Balancing Of Interests

The first part of the inquiry for protecting your investment is to identify the affected parties. This approach will be focusing on direct relational connections with intra-company stakeholders and the indirect relational connections with inter-company stakeholders. These stakeholders should be at the forefront of your decision process because protecting their vested interest is often times causally intertwined with that of the company.

Depending on the structure of the company, your intra-company relationships will include a combination of the following people: investors, shareholders, and/or employees. However, some decisions may present an advantage to the company in the short-term, obviating the needs of the intra-company stakeholders for stable, financial growth and development. Suppose that you made a decision to outsource the workforce responsible for contracting for clinical studies. When an outsourced staff, with less enthusiasm than typical of employees, alienate research universities from enrolling in a particular study - or pays prices above fair market value for procedures which causes your company to fall under governmental scrutiny - the short term reward of cost-saving is of no consequence.

Next, you must identify the inter-company stakeholders. This group includes two subsets of people: (1) the consumers made up of existing and prospective clients; and (2) the enforcers whose purpose is to protect the consumers. Depending on the type of outsourcing, the inter-company stakeholders may not always be involved. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of their relative interests. The consumers' interest is an important consideration in outsourcing because they are the ultimate object of your company's function. Their needs are the mandate that your company fulfill. Their best interest is always centered around gaining the benefit of your products. This is not always a price function, but a trust factor that you are making effective therapies or products accessible to them. When the decision to outsource could, for example, affect the reliability of the research of the small protein molecule or raise concerns that studies were conducted under less than ideal circumstances, the consumer's interest is in jeopardy. Their interest is closely tied to that of the enforcers, whose motivation is to police the bargain between the parties involved. They are the gatekeepers whose sole interest is to insure that your business decisions will not be the detriment of intra and inter- company stakeholders.

Communication Strategies

Once you know the affected parties, you will need to develop a communication strategy. This strategy will allow you to maintain communication lines to ensure that affectation of the outsourcing is well considered and that expectations are reasonable. The threshold point of communication is to set clear objectives of the outsourcing among the decision makers. This will require that you identify the goals and justifications for the outsourcing in context of the interests of relevant intra-company stakeholders. It is critical that you don't adopt a protectionism viewpoint that justifies excluding the intra-company stakeholders. These stakeholders should be kept in the loop, and not simply be the subject of notification for the outsourcing. Instead, consider including them as a part of the communiqué for the outsourcing. Provide them an opportunity to weigh on the decision that will affect their investment. They can bring value and insights to the decision process in many ways. For example, a small company who is considering outsourcing may benefit from existing relationships of investors to a reputed outsource vendor. A well-rounded dialogue of the outsourcing should include some of the following topics: (1) Function being outsourced; (2) Scope of outsourced work; (3) Functional knowledge transfer; (4) IT infrastructure and support required and (5) Costs reduction expectations.

Effective Risk Management

The final consideration is to create an effective strategy to manage the risks that the outsourcing will present. The challenge presented will vary depending on the nature, scope, and extent of the outsourcing being considered. Accordingly, the most effective strategy for managing the varying levels of risks must be a customized approach. This customized approach may include some elements or a combination of the considerations outlined below.

    1. Outsourcing Advisory Board: The most successful outsourcings include an effective risk management team. This team will be responsible for evaluating the existing and ongoing risks of an outsourcing. You may create an advisory board made up of the following key people: company executives, attorneys, intra and inter- company stakeholders.

    1. Outsourcing Plan Of Action: Develop an outsourcing plan with the objectives, scope of work, sustainability timelines, and applicable risks assessments. This plan should be reviewed and vetted by the outsourcing advisory board.

    1. Data Or Intellectual Protection: Ensure proprietary and competitive advantage of the company's intellectual property rights by setting expectations, developing strategies, documenting, and integrating procedures as applicable.

    1. Regulatory Oversight: Maintain transparency to ensure regulatory compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Delegating through outsourcing does not necessarily guarantee absolution of accountability to regulatory agencies and shareholders.

    1. Objectives And Risk Audits: Create a schedule for performance assessment of the outsourced function and risk audits. Perform periodic risk and compliance audits with documented results for transparency.

  1. Contingency Plan: Develop a contingency plan to ensure that you have an exit strategy in the event that your investment of intellectual property and the good-will valuation of the company are compromised.

Ultimately, protecting your investment will require a commitment of your internal resources to manage the outsourcing process. It may sound counterintuitive that you would need to manage the very function that you have outsourced. The countervailing truth is that the outsourcing itself is simply a catalyst for your company's needs for managerial development of sustainable relationships. That is the essence of outsourcing. Although costs have been identified as the driving force for outsourcing, the reality is more intrinsic. It is a matter of developing and maintaining relationship with a third-party vendor who provides services for your company, obviating the needs to utilize your internal resources.

In the event that your internal resources are not best suited for managing the relationship with the outsource vendor, you need to balance the relevant interests and decide whether some additional support may be needed through relationship management service providers. These providers offer myriad of services geared towards management of the outsourcing process. Management of the relationship with the outsource vendor is critical to ensuring that the expected value is added while at the same ensuring that it does not compromising the existing value. Whether conducted internally or through service providers, the most effective approach is to develop a plan for managing the outsource vendor relationship, and balance all relevant interests for a unified purpose of protecting your valued investment.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Videoconferencing has become part of daily life within the enterprise and most large organisations have a good strategy for room to room video conferencing and as a result they have been reaping the benefits of improved communication and travel reductions.

The problem comes when you need to join a meeting and you are not in the office, maybe working from home in the evening, at a customers office, at a hotel or you simply need to meet with another customer.

Traditionally in these instances people turn to audio conferencing or a mixture of video conferencing with audio participants. Audio conferencing is clearly not ideal and if you are the lone person on audio whilst everyone else is on video then you become at an immediate disadvantage as you are represented by a conference phone on the table often with no access to the presented material and certainly no way of gauging how a meeting is going from all of the visual cues.

To effectively participate in a meeting everyone has to be on an equal plane.

The implementation of a desktop video conferencing integrated into room systems is time consuming, complex and very costly not only that there is the added challenge of integrating different types of equipment, platforms and networks.

Managed Video as a Service seeks to change this paradigm. The enterprise can use a managed gateway to provide interoperability between video conferencing room systems, desktops and mobile devices.

When considering extending your video conferencing to remote users there are several key questions you need to ask of your vendor:

  • Are the hosting data centres top tier at the heart of the internet?

  • Is the solution intuitive and easy for users to use? o Is the solution secure?

  • Is end to end encryption provided?

  • Is H.323, SIP, SVC, iPad, Android, Telepresence, Mac, PC & Lync environments included?

  • Can I join the meeting via legacy ISDN or Audio?

  • Can I share and receive content?

  • No need to make firewall changes and can the desktop software install without requiring admin rights?

  • Is there an option to schedule meetings via outlook plugin?

  • Does the solution integrate with existing voice and audio dial plans?

  • Is end user training included in the price? o No capex or commitment just a simple pay as you go model?

  • Call over flow and disaster recovery for your existing environment?

  • Can calls be recorded?

  • Are monthly service reports and cost centre billing reports provided monthly?

  • Am I able to generate my own stats on demand?

  • Is a complete service provided from consultation, training and ongoing 24x7 live support?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Most of the developing countries measure their economy by the GDP and an internationally accepted currency is the United States Dollar. US Dollars are not necessarily the currency of normal use in a lot of the countries. All countries of the world need oil and coal for producing energy and thus to ensure faster development. The development is achieved through industrialization, industries run primarily on electricity. The electricity is produced in power stations which use either coal or gas or petroleum for driving the turbines which produce electricity. To purchase oil from the countries that produce oil, United States Dollar is the currency used. Thus all countries of the world need to have certain reserves of foreign exchange namely US Dollars, to ensure sustenance. Thus the countries carry out its international businesses in US Dollars. Thus every export order that is completed earns revenue for the country in US Dollars. The wealth of a country is also determined by the amount of the foreign exchange reserves that it has.

The exchange rate of US Dollar is determined by the gold reserves and the forex reserves the country has. The forex trading is categorized in different levels such as inter-bank market, this includes the dealers in securities and the commercial banks. Here the trading happens with the bid and ask prices of the currencies being traded. This also determines the exchange rate of the currency against other currencies. The inter-bank Forex Trading transactions account for almost 53% of the total transactions. The next level of players are those such as Pension Funds, Mutual Funds, etc. Central Banks of the countries also get involved in the Forex Trading. They do this inorder to control the money supply into the country also thus influencing the inflation and the bank interest rates. These national central banks also use the forex money to help stabilize the internal and international markets.

Most of the foreign exchange trading is speculative in nature. The speculative nature of this trading is kindled by the hedge funds operations that various multi-national organizations undertake. There are individuals who also get involved in this trading and they are called retail brokers. The Foreign exchange was greatly affected due to the introduction in the automated dealing systems, matching systems and the Internet trading. The dealing systems were mainly based on on-line computer systems in which the banks are linked to one-to-one basis. The matching systems are based on electronic brokers. These are very fast and very reliable too.

Friday, September 20, 2013

This essay has been written out of three fears: We are experiencing an economic crisis rather than a financial crisis in that the underlying problem is resource depletion; the crisis is world-wide rather than just an European one; And the crisis is much more serious than is generally admitted.

The ups and downs of economic activity have been a concern for a couple of centuries if not for several millennia This essay will try to use the formula from the quantity theory of money to evaluate where the economy is currently at, and then look at how money is created and propose an alternative way of creating money to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. This proposal is to extend local exchange trading systems into a national exchange trading system. It is also suggested we should move our economic structure closer to the perfect competition model.

The quantity theory of money suggests money supply has a direct, proportional relationship with the price level. I prefer to think of it as the connectivity formula because it connects the real economy and the financial economy. The connectivity formula states


...where M is the quantity of money in circulation, V is the velocity or rate at which money circulates, P is the price level and Q is the quantity of goods and services produced and exchanged. I think it is important to note there are four variables and one should look at the factors which cause all four of them to move.

Generally we want P to remain stable. Inflation or deflation cause undesirable upsets in our lives and prices need to remain stable so that we can have faith in our money.. Changes in individual prices should be signals to change the mixture or quantities of goods and services we produce.

When I took my first economics course I remember the professor talking about scarce resources. However, since then many people appear to assume that the resource base is unlimited and that our economy will be able to continue to grow forever or at least the foreseeable future. I have not noticed much interest in the Q part of this formula.

Through most of the recorded history with which we are familiar there has been a long-term trend for Q to go up. This does not mean that it will continue or that the increase has been steady. It is quite likely there has been a fractal pattern to this trend and that these ups and downs have impacted the economy and our lives.

There are a number of things which could and probably have impacted on Q. Through the ages the most important has been improvements in agricultural productivity which has supported a larger population and released people for work in other fields. Technology has also played a major part in increasing Q through the years.

It is likely the discovery of resources and commodities and their depletion have also been fractal over short and long terms. This too would have impacted the formula.

Wars may also have had an impact. The demand for war materials would cause Q to go up during a war and may cause it to go down afterward as economies recover. Another possibility is a pent-up demand as was the case in North America following the second world war. While the Americans put a lot into the war, they still had tremendous commodity resources at the end of it. They also had the desire and developed the technology to exploit these resources.

Another possibility is changing values such as the work ethic.

Turmoil and volatility in the other side of the equation could cause production to decline. Ian Morris in his book Why the West Rules - for Now (McClelland & Stewart, 2010) identifies what he calls the five horsemen of the apocalypse - famine, epidemic, uncontrolled migration, state failure and climate change which "can turn into disastrous, centuries-long collapses and dark ages." (p 29) Any of these would also show up as declines of the Q in the formula.

All this is further complicated by the existence of seven billion people on this planet most of whom want a modern standard of living, good health care and families.

So what is currently happening to Q?

Too many of the headlines one sees on news articles are compatible with the fear that Q is on a major downturn. Here are three other major pieces of evidence.

Angus Maddison in his book Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 (Oxford University Press, 2007) identifies five phases of growth since 1820 (Page 69) of which the years 1950 to 1973 he labels the golden age of prosperity. The years from 1973 until the time of publication (2007) were the second most prosperous of that time period. One would have to guess the down trend has continued since 2007.

The second piece of evidence comes from the World Wildlife fund which published the Living Planet Report late in 2010. The report claims we are using resources at a rate 150 percent of that which would be sustainable for the planet. If this is correct then there has to be economic turmoil. Even if the figure is exaggerated we should be taking it seriously. In the last year I have seen no discussion of the possible economic consequences.

The third piece of evidence is a United Nations report published in December, 2011 which claims 25 percent of the world's land is "highly degraded" and 44 percent is "moderately degraded," while only 10 percent was classified as "improving".

Even if these figures are an exaggeration we should treat this report with concern. No matter how many technical gadgets we have and no matter how much of our economy is based on services, if we can not produce enough food for everyone there will be serious economic and social problems. The less we consider this report and how to deal with its implications the more human suffering there will be.

Considering the number of factors which can influence the quantity of goods and services being produced both up and down, to maintain price stability it is important that the money supply can easily be varied.

These points along with most of the headlines I read every day lead me to think the world economy is into a major downturn. The horsemen of the Apocalypse are possibly riding again. Problems in the physical side of the economy are showing up as a financial crisis. This presents us with a policy dilemma. Austerity as is proposed by some people will inflict uneven suffering on too many people and stimulus as proposed by other people will consume even more resources and bring forward a major crash. If a chunk of the money supply should be lost as a result of a financial crisis, then the downturn will be even worse.

Now lets look at the financial side of the formula.

The study of anthropology shows humans do not need money in order to exchange goods and services and that relationships are important in exchanges where there is no money.. Money allows us to exchange with strangers and on a much larger scale. Therefore we should look upon money as a tool, or maybe even a lubricant, which makes it easier to exchange goods and services.. We probably should not be treating it as a commodity.

I want to look at three ways in which money can be created - the gold standard, fractional reserve money and LETS (local exchange trading system).

Through the years many commodities have been used to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. Being rare, beautiful and mostly useless gold has been a favorite. The metal itself can be used or receipts representing gold in storage can be used. The use of gold (or some other commodity) was probably an early step in the transition from an economy based on relationships.

The advantages of money based on gold are that it is easy to establish and it is easy for people to believe in it and have faith that they will continue to have something of value although even gold can change its value relative to things it can be used to purchase.

But gold has some serious disadvantages as money..The biggest is that the amount of gold is limited by what can be dug up or imported or stolen. Thus if there is too much gold in circulation there will be inflation which happened after the Spaniards started importing gold (and silver) from South America. On the other hand if there is not enough gold there will be deflation as happened when the Americans went back onto the gold standard following their civil war.

To some extent the quantity limitation of gold can be overcome by the use of fractional reserve money on top of gold base. The total money supply can be varied with changes in reserve requirements or in what else besides gold can be accepted as high-powered money. But on the gold standard people tend to be emotionally attached to the idea their money is backed by gold.

If there is anything that deserves to be called funny money, it is fractional reserve money. A couple of times I have asked loans officers how it feels to be able to create money, and they cannot believe that they are doing that. Money creation in our economy is just a little complex and it takes a little effort to understand how it works.

Money is created when banks make loans and uncreated when the loan is repaid.

Here is the classic explanation. Suppose $1,000 of money from outside is deposited in a bank in a closed economy of three or four banks where all transactions are by cheque (or these days bank card). This bank is required to hold reserves of 10 per cent (to make the arithmetic easy) and the bank manager now has $900 to loan to his customers. The customers spend the money and it ends up in another bank in this community. The second bank manager can now make a loan of $810. By the time the $1,000 of new money has worked through the system there has been $10,000 added to the money supply of this community. Isn't that incredible? No wonder loans officers won't believe they are creating money.

I've been trying to think up some advantages to creating money this way and the only thing I can think of is that it is what we are used to. Money is such an emotional thing that to suggest something else is seen as treasonous. Change can be threatening.

However, there are at least three disadvantages to fractional reserve money.

The first is that it gives tremendous power to bankers who get to determine which projects go ahead and by whom. They also have opportunities to take cuts for themselves and they get to charge interest on the money they have created. It is no wonder that the economic frustrations of people through the years have surfaced as protests against bankers.

The second problem is that the above model does not take into account that interest is charged on all those loans. Suppose the loans were all for a one year term at 10 per cent interest. On the one year anniversary the $10,000 of new money must be repaid with $11,000 even though no additional new money has been created. In the real world through most of the years fractional reserve money has been used the economy, the high-powered money and the money supply have all been growing so that interest has not been seen as a problem. This is beginning to sound like a variation on a Ponzi scheme.

A third problem is that this model does not look at what happens if something happens to the high-powered money upon which the $10,000 is based. The original $1,000 could be suddenly withdrawn or one of the banks could have to write off $1,000. Either way for the banks to maintain their 10 per cent reserve requirements they are going to have to reduce their loans by $10,000 and that will be $10,000 less money to facilitate the exchange of goods and services in the community. Unless the velocity of the remaining money can be increased either prices will come down or the economy will be forced into a recession as Q drops. The writing off of large amounts of debt and a reduction in high-powered money may be a part of what happened during the financial crisis of 2008. The current Euro crisis could be even worse.

Another problem with fractional reserve money is that the total money supply cannot easily be varied especially downward and deflation is probably more of a problem than inflation.

Through the years, as we saw earlier, there have been ups and downs in the quantity of goods and services the economy can produce. On top of that there are instabilities from the way in which we create money. There's a saying that complex systems fail in complex ways. If we really are going into an extended period of economic decline these financial instabilities and complexities are likely to make things much worse.

Sometimes the promoters of local exchange trading systems (LETS) try to sell it as a form of barter. However, I believe they are just using another form of money.

Rather than talking about creating money it might be more appropriate to talk about assigning credits and debits. Maybe this will help us get used to the idea that money should be considered a tool or lubricant rather than a commodity.

A group of people in a local area agree to trade among themselves. When two parties have agreed to a transaction they record the transaction with the organization. The seller gets a credit and the buyer gets a debit. They then go on to make further deals with others in the organization and over time everything works out. The exchange part of this is really not much different from using bank accounts to facilitate exchanges.

But doing it this way the problems with fractional reserve banking become positives. No interest is charged or received; therefore there is no need for the money supply to be continually increasing and there should be no inflation or deflation.

As money is assigned with each exchange the total amount varies automatically. If the members increase their economic activity the assigned money supply goes up and if some problems force a decline in their exchanges the assigned money supply automatically goes down without impacting prices.

A third advantage is that the velocity of money is variable. Once some money is assigned it can sit in the account until the owner is ready to use it. As money is a tool it can be used when needed. As there is no interest to be earned there is no pressure to do something with it.

There are two disadvantages to a LETS.

The first is that every transaction is recorded. On a national scale this would make social control much easier. One the other hand most of us have embraced debit cards with enthusiasm and give little thought that each transaction is recorded.

The second problem with LETS is that its usefulness is somewhat limited because people have to join and it is local. Most of us want to exchange goods and services on a much larger and wider scale.

Therefore I propose we expand the concept into a national exchange trading system (NETS).

Such a radical change in the way of assigning money would require a radical revision of our whole economic organization. It would also go against a lot of vested interests.

Here are some guidelines for establishing a new economic order.

First, I suggest the goal would be to get as close as possible to the perfect competition or market model.

Because many economists are close to big business or seen as being close a lot of people won't listen to anything from economics. Some of these people go on to propose an economy based on small business. What a shame they don't listen as the first requirement for perfect competition is that no participant in a market is so large as to be able to influence prices through purchasing or selling decisions. A lot of thought has gone into the economics of small business but it appears some people want to reinvent the wheel.

What I like most about the perfect competition model is its equality feature. As the competition is perfect there can be no profits other than wages, a return on investment and maybe something to compensate for risk. The challenge of the future is to organize our economy so that most people will be able to share the available resources. The closer we are to perfect competition the closer we will be to meeting this challenge. However, one has to recognize that not everyone is committed to equality.

As growth is not a part of this model, it is ideal for a steady or declining economy.

As it is important for economic efficiency that prices reflect the true costs of production, subsidies should be given to consumers rather than producers and there should be no protection from international trade. A country making this change should declare unilateral free trade. If other countries want to subsidize our living standards that is up to them.

We should try to limit political influence on economic issues as politicians tend to have goals that interfere with an efficient economy.

A second guiding principle should be that the money supply must be variable. However, we must also ensure there is neither too much or too little. We must take care that no individual or group allows the money supply to increase for their own profit. Prices in general need to remain stable although allowing individual prices to change will provide signals for changes in production activity. Probably the way to deal with controlling moneys supply would be to tie it to a general price index. If the index goes up then the money supply should go down and if the index goes down then money supply should go up.

For some time most of our money has been entries in the books or computers of the banking system. However many people still think of money as having its own value as in gold and it should therefore earn interest. To adopt a NETS system we are going to have to complete the psychological transition to thinking of money as a tool or lubricant that gets its usefulness from facilitating the exchange of goods and services.

NETS money would be based on debits and credits created when people exchange goods and services. Its backing would be the goods and services produced. As no interest is charged on this money velocity should be more variable and this should balance small fluctuations in the value of Q..

There would probably be a need for some currency for small transactions to preserve privacy and to keep police employed. (If there were no currency a lot of crime would be difficult or easily tracked.)

Currently a lot of money goes through government coffers in the form of transfer payments to individuals and subsidies to producers. I believe subsidies should go to consumers rather than producers therefore I propose that these be combined into some sort of universal income scheme to ensure that everyone has a minimum standard of living. This would involve making payments directly into the accounts of individuals probably on a monthly basis. It may be necessary to have some taxation to keep the money circulating.

A major effect of giving out universal subsistence payments would be to transfer power to individuals who would vote with what they chose to do with their money. The power to assign money would be with individuals rather than bankers.

Universal subsistence payments will be needed for the same reasons pensions, unemployment insurance and social assistance are needed - to help people get through those times in their lives when they are not capable of earning a living wage. It would also allow people to choose what they wanted to do with their time and their lives as current technology does not require everyone to work their whole lives. And when there is a probability of an economic downturn this program would ease the suffering from economic turmoil.

Most of the money supply would be assigned in the day-to-day transactions. However, some person or group of people would have to determine the amount of the universal subsistence payments. This amount should be determined so as to keep a price index steady. It would probably be best to keep politicians out of it although I can see giving presidents and prime ministers the right to make a limited special payment on the day before elections. We won't be able to stop this type of bribery so we might as well keep it controlled.

In trying to implement such radical changes it would probably be wise to reevaluate all government functions especially those related to economics.

Currently governments use their powers to pass legislation that restricts the operation of the market so that some people can make profits they would not make if full competition were allowed. This includes patent and copyright, licensing, trade restrictions and regulations. I would like to see governments reverse this role and support the basics of perfect competition. One thing they should definitely be doing is to require the publication of all knowledge relevant to the production and pricing of all goods and services. Producers need to have the knowledge to easily get into an industry and customers should have access to all the information they need to make decisions according to their values.

Another function of government should be to evaluate and publicize what is happening to the Q in the formula - the quantity of goods and services being produced.

Governments should also ensure the production of infrastructure, justice (rather than the rule of law) and education. Please note the word ensure. Governments could ensure the education of all children via a voucher system rather than through public schools.

People in government appear to enjoy spending money. Under NETS there are several ways in which government could be financed. The person or group responsible for managing the money supply could allocate funds to governments in the same way they would give out a universal subsistence allowance. Governments could impose taxes as they do now. Or there could some combination of the two. The more governments have to get money directly from their people the more accountability there will be. Governments should not be allowed to borrow.

The important thing is that the money supply be kept in balance with the other functions in the formula.

There would still be a need for financial inter-mediation to raise sums of capital for projects. In our economy this has been sold as savings and investment with a certain return. As returns have proven to be somewhat less than certain it might be more honest to encourage the industry to focus on risk equity.

As we are trying to focus on the perfect competition model firms would be allowed to fail. Their employees would be protected by the universal subsistence payments.

Foreign exchange would continue to happen as countries exchange goods and services with each other. Capital transfers should match physical transfers of goods and services for projects. Exchange rates would probably be closer to purchasing power parity.

Changes in exchange rates would reflect changes within individual economies and structural changes.

I believe economies are examples of fractals in that their graphs show a series of up and down trends and that within each trend there are trends within trends of ups and downs. One can calculate fractal dimension (2 - the Hurst exponent) and sometime the result can be used to identify turning points. But the ups and downs are so complex nothing can be certain.

Looking at the world economy we cannot be certain but there is a lot of evidence we have been through a major turning point and the major trend is likely to be down for some time to come. The return to growth which would be our salvation may be a long way off. To minimize human suffering we need to make some radical changes. In this essay we have looked at the connectivity formula from the quantity theory of money and noted the current economic crisis is probably a reflection of our unsustainable use of resources. We have also identified some problems with the way in which we create money and proposed extending the local exchange trading system into a national exchange trading system.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mobile app development has come a long way since the first applications delighted users with simple game platforms. Now that mobile phones are a must-have for people worldwide, applications continue to offer a sophisticated means of gaming and information. Consider mobile app development for business purposes; when carefully created to match the personalized needs of an organization, mobile apps can make a big impression. This isn't just a public relations ploy. Some of the capabilities of mobile apps used for business purposes include:

- Customized messaging - Use a mobile app to store custom email lists and streamline the messaging process. This will ensure that no time is wasted when announcements need to be made. Ideal for a company with many varied departments, the tool sends people only information that they alone need to see, making communication more effective. Customized messaging also fosters inter-department camaraderie by giving people within the department a forum for sharing thoughts and kudos.

- Audience listings - A good company knows their ideal customer demographics extremely well. Besides helping an organization focus their advertising strategy, knowing your customers means that you can always ask yourself "Would he/she buy this?" "What would he/she want to change?" For an organization that hopes to deal with different demographic segments even further, it is a good idea to use a mobile app to appeal to even more specificities. Lists can be made based on location, age, feet size, etc. Get creative with the way you set different parts of your audience apart from each other, and you'll find that you are better able to send out messages that directly appeal to each.

- Internal communication - More accessible even than a company Intranet, an application that keeps employees up-to-date with news and contests is a way to foster a cohesive workforce. Use the platform as an opportunity to offer wellness advice to workers or to share integral announcements that can't wait for Monday morning. Be creative by often offering users premiums for literally being at the company's beck and call.

- Involvement with users - Brainstorm an application idea that gets customers or potential customers actively involved, and you've got a constant reminder of your business in their back pocket or purse (or wherever users keep their phones). Think of how often you see the icons for the applications that are the highlight of your smart phone, and it's readily apparent that somehow getting your company as one of those icons is a smart move. Consider a personalized application that offers periodic special prices for users, and by all means, use it as an educational portal to let customers know how your business is on the cutting edge of its market segment. If you do choose to develop an application like this, it is a good idea to partner with an application development firm. The app must be user-friendly and helpful above all else, or you'll find customers pressing the 'delete' button and distancing themselves from you and your organization.

Friday, September 13, 2013

How many people have heard of the Internet Marketer Sara Young? Not many I am sure. She has stayed relatively under-the-radar until recently when she released the Internet Marketing course Easy Paycheck Formula.

Did you know that she is now an Internet Marketing guru? That means that she has not only carved out a decent income for herself online, since 1994 in fact, but that she is teaching others to do the same thing.Many of her students have made their first dollar online using the techniques that she provides in her course, and many have gone on to make a full-time income.

Did you know that Sara Young is a stay-at-home Mom of six kids? Think about how much time she would have had to dedicate to her online business and you can start to get some idea of what she has accomplished. And now you can do the same by simply following the instructions that she provides for you in her course Easy Paycheck Formula.

What Makes This Course Different From Everything Else?

The techniques that she teaches you in the 12 over-the-shoulder videos, and the eBook that comes with the course, and techniques that Sara uses everyday. So you know they work.

In just one hour you can have your own money making campaign up and running, and then it is just a matter of rinse and repeat. Should you have any problems creating your campaign Sara is available to assist you, and provide suggestions to help you out. How many gurus do you know that will do that?

Easy Paycheck Formula is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is a work program that has generated great results for both the course creator and her students. The videos are easy to follow as they are only about 10 minutes in length. You don't need to have any technical knowledge. Just be willing to give it a try.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The fundamentals that apply to aesthetics in web design are essentially that which apply to. The pointers about to be discussed would guide you to the most efficient way to combine the different design rudiments to come up with a site that's easy on the eyes as well as visitor-friendly. The fact that needs to be understood here is that effective web design is not just about throwing random HTML tags, CSS script and images into the mix; rather, it involves applying the basics of visual aesthetics to website designing and presenting an attractive vision to visitors.

It all ultimately boils down to the following:

Balance in Web Design

It is the identical allotment of the heavy and light elements on a single page. In pure web design terms, this means that you have to tweak your page layout to achieve the desired level. This balance has to be maintained consistently on all pages of a given sight, as varying balance patterns cause your message to be somewhat distorted and the blur the visitors' association of otherwise connected pages.

There are three types of balance that can be achieved when designing a page.

1. Symmetrical: This is the simplest fashion in which you may achieve symmetry: one heavy element on the right of the layout to match another heavy element on the right, and vice versa. It is not very popular, however, as the end results looks too plain more often than not.

2. Asymmetrical: This is achieved by varying color, lighting, textures and image dimensions (and positioning) in order to achieve a balance in contrast. Ultimately, the aim is to arrive at a pleasant looking page.

3. Discordant: Contrary to what this word suggest, there may be times that one may deliberately choose, perhaps even advisably so if it suits the content matter and objective of the website. By some function of nature, discordant designs put a viewer in an uneasy state of mind and get the brain working. Hence, if your website is intended to confront people with an unpleasant truth-child labor, African blood diamonds, corrupt governance, rapidly rising crime; take your pick-and deliver a call to action to act upon that truth, you should go in for a discordant design.

Web design Contrast

There's so much more to contrast then mere colors and shades: shapes, sizes and even textures can be optimally contrasted for wonderful results. Too little of it makes your website look dull; too much would make it loud. Be careful, optimize well, and you'd have a good looking website.

Design Emphasis

One of the main purposes of design is to subtly draw attention to that which you, the designer, want to be seen. Oversimplified uniformity in any design would make for a homogeneity that would ultimately defeat the purpose of design: everything would be either too understated, or the whole design would look too busy for comfort.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

After all the stress that usually comes with working up until the New Year and Christmas break, it's great having the time off to unwind and cool down. If you're managing an office or a small company, getting everyone back into it again after the break is over can be a bit of a challenge.

That slightly daunting feeling of having to go back to work and starting it all again begins to grow just days into a vacation - especially as a new year begins. Help ease your employees into it and get the year off to a great start by doing something a little bit different.

Start 2012 the Right Way

Most companies like to get the year started by hosting a meeting or conference with a focus on plans and corporate direction. Instead of using the break room or a local hall, why not set the tone by booking a conference package in Rotorua?

A Fresh and Exciting New Year

Sometimes a little change of pace and scenery is all you need to breathe new energy into your team. With gorgeous views and plenty of experienced venues to support the tourism industry in the city, there isn't anywhere better to kick things off with a bang than in the North Island town of Rotorua.

Book a conference room with one of the hotels in Rotorua and let them take care of everything from lunch catering to seating and all the basics that you need for presentations. They'll be able to sort out your accommodation and some even offer full packages that include team building activities around the town for a bit of out-of-the-office fun while you're there. There are many great local attractions to visit such as: Agroventures, the Arikikapakapa Golf Course and the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park. You can find a full list of local tour operators at the Rotorua Tourism Centre on Fenton Street.

Grow Your Team

Make use of time away with your team to grow a little closer to them and develop new relationships. Companies like Action NZ and Team Building New Zealand work to organise and tailor the right team activities for any group. With its focus on the outdoors, Rotorua is a great place to tackle some of these challenges.

Whether you're after something relaxed like a group treasure hunt or orienteering challenge or a challenge a little more intense like raft building or a run through a basic military training course, you'll find what you're after. Talk to your accommodation option about the packages they offer or for some ideas on where to go.

Break Out of the Mould

While other companies start the year just like any other week, your team will be talking about their first 2012 conference for months. Escaping the office and doing something a little different is sometimes all you need to get staff excited and ready to take on new challenges.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Japanese corporate culture during the mid-twentieth century was substantially different from that of the West. This has been a long-standing phenomenon and it is important for those who are looking to do business with Japan to understand the historical and socioeconomic significance of such a culture. Japanese firms are among the most successful in the world and stand as a model for other firms throughout the world. Ideas that will be explored in more detail in this article include those of lifelong employment, a practice that still exists in some form in Japan today. Also, the idea of long-range corporate planning will be discussed, which contrasts in many ways to the more short-sighted planning of Western companies (i.e. quarterly and annual planning vs. a five- or ten-year plan). The Ringi system, which is used to involve mid-level management in corporate affairs in Japanese corporations, is covered at some length.

Zaibatsu and Keiretsu

Zaibatsu refers to conglomerates with product diversification, family ownership and nationwide recognition. Their influence and control allowed them to command significant dominance over the pre-WWII Japanese economy. Three organizations that were among the "Big Four" zaibatsu were Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui Bank and Sumitomo Bank. This organizational structure was dissolved following the Japanese defeat in WWII. The Allies viewed these zaibatsu as a driving force behind the war. Following the war, consolidation of old constituent firms led to inter-market keiretsu.

A keiretsu is a cluster of interlinked Japanese firms, centered on a bank, which lends money to member companies and holds an equity stake in these companies. By combining forces, these companies are able to reduce costs and risk, better facilitate communication, ensure trust and reliability and provide insulation from outside competition.

There are two types of keiretsu, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal, inter-market keiretsu are diversified networks of large companies. These included the three aforementioned descendents of the pre-WWII zaibatsu. Vertical manufacturing and distribution keiretsu are asymmetric networks where small-firm sectors are dominated by large sectors. The Toyota Group is considered to be the largest of the vertically-integrated keiretsu groups. The United States and most Western countries looked unfavorably upon the keiretsu because they interpreted such a business scheme to be that of an outlawed monopoly or cartel.

Japan's Smaller Firms and Unionization

When one is asked to describe Japanese firms in the mid-1900s, one would more than likely discuss the zaibatsu and keiretsu systems. However, there was a sizable portion of the workforce employed at smaller firms, thought of as those with fewer than 100 employees. The owners and management team of these organizations were not represented by any regional association and, for the most part, workers were not unionized. Management, however, often did belong to organizations such as the local chamber of commerce and the Japanese Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, an organization which makes representation to the Office for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses and other governmental entities.

One of the benefits of belonging to such organizations is protection from "unfair" competition. For instance, in the 1960s and 1970s, small retailers obtained legislative protection from large-scale high-volume chains. Such chains naturally had smaller margins and more competitive prices and could easily drive the smaller competitors out of the market. By the 1980s, this legal protection was gradually lifted and retailers were put under serious competitive pressure from larger competitors.

Unions, which were generally not a manifestation of smaller Japanese firms, grew in significance following WWII. At this time, the unionization rate surpassed fifty percent. In general, over the twenty years prior to 1975, the unionization rate was thirty-five percent. Immediately following the end of the war, a movement organized around the development of strong industrial unions. These unions were led by socialist-inspired leaders. The main idea was to rebuild Japan's economy while simultaneously empowering the individual worker. There were power shifts between labor and management, which led to a relatively permanent shift in power in the mid-1970s. At that point, unionization rates began to steadily decline.

Japanese Human Resources

Japan is a geographically isolated nation. Among its population, there is a sense of homogeneity and harmony. Also, the people work hard to survive and maintain a relatively high standard of living. Japanese corporations are known to support corporate paternalism, which is support of the ideas of lifelong employment, seniority-based wage systems and a company union to protect workers. Entrepreneurship is generally not encouraged and, instead, many workers go straight from high school or college into big business, such as Sony Corporation, the Toyota Group, Nissan Corporation or Mitsubishi Corporation.

It was, and to a certain extent still is, expected that a Japanese worker will spend his or her whole career at one firm. This idea of lifelong employment greatly contrasts that of the West, in which workers are known to hold seven or more jobs throughout their career. Japanese workers and their family were socially ranked based on the reputation of the company, his or her position, and that individual's future prospects with the firm. Lifelong employment tends to instill in the worker a sense of pride and belonging to the firm. There is also intense pressure to conform. Japanese corporate culture emphasizes the importance of collectivism, in which the company is put first above one's personal needs or affairs. An example of this is the fact that a worker can be permanently transferred to remote parts of the country without prior consultation. Amazingly, many Japanese workers comply with such demands without question.

Entry into elite corporate positions in Japan had been reserved for male graduates from Japan's best universities, as well as a select few high schools and technical institutes. Competition for superior jobs begins in middle school. Such intense pressure to succeed is placed upon the student by his or her family due to the level of social status that can be achieved through gainful employment at a prestigious firm.

In order to help instill the firm's ideals into the worker, there are company policies and assignments that are meant to build teamwork and emphasize the collective interest of the group over the individual's interest. Furthermore, there are often company-sponsored cultural, athletic and recreational events and activities. Loyalty is instilled through cultural events such as calisthenics, singing the company song and company-sponsored vacations.

Hiring in Japan is a formalized process revolving around koshinjo. Koshinjo is the Japanese use of investigative agencies to obtain detailed information on the job applicant. The reason for koshinjo is that in Japan there is a general distrust toward resumes and a review from a former supervisor. Japanese hiring managers believe these can both be easily manipulated and do not relay accurate information. Another reason for the scrutiny is because of the idea of lifelong employment and the need to fill the position with a loyal and competent individual.

Beginning around the 1960s, women began moving away from family-run businesses and into enterprises. Women workers usually occupied part-time positions as a means of supplementing the family income. Interestingly enough, the working conditions for women were better for those working part-time than for those working full-time. There was a fifty percent labor force participation rate among women of this era. Japan's reliance on outside labor had been negligible and even Vietnamese refugees had a difficult time assimilating into Japanese workplaces. Most additions to the Japanese labor force came from within. Japan had a very low unemployment rate for a very long time. With this, though, came the compulsion on the part of Japanese workers to work and also with it came the associated stress of living such a lifestyle.

Japanese workers were seen as generalists rather than specialists. Upon entering an organization, the worker is cross-trained on various tasks and rotated into different jobs and assignments. They are expected to master as many jobs and specialties as possible. In doing so, the worker also becomes increasingly knowledgeable about the company and valuable to the company.

Teamwork is another important aspect of the Japanese corporate culture. This is consistent with the Japanese idea of collectivism, which has its roots based on the ideas of Buddhism, Confucianism, the feudal period and village life. In contrast, Koreans and Chinese are known to be much more individualistic than the Japanese-which can also be said for that of the West.

Office and workplace arrangements are also designed to promote teamwork and revolve around the idea of group space. Following the idea of group space, employees congregate in areas that are within close proximity of each other. There is little use of walls, doors or partitions. The results of group space include instantaneous relaying of messages, buzzing of voices and a rapid fire flow of information. Factory workers also use group space and line workers are usually arranged on U-shaped lines, where everyone can see each other.

One method used to involve mid-level managers in important strategic planning of an organization is to follow the Ringi system. The Ringi system is a system in which middle managers propose certain decisions. A series of printed proposals are developed and affixed by a hanko, or personal seal. These ideas are circulated throughout the organization for approval, before being reviewed and signed off on by top management. The idea of the Ringi system is that it is designed to create a consensus and also complements paternalistic leadership.

Long-term employment allows Japanese companies to truly excel in conducting long-range planning. This idea came about in the 1960s by Keizai Doyukai, or the Japanese Committee of Economic Development. The purpose of this private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is to improve the Japanese economy and make a positive impact on Japanese society.

Back to Lifetime Employment

There were many benefits to the concept of lifetime employment among workers and their corporation. For instance, the Japanese corporate culture cultivated an idea of collectivism. There was collective decision-making and collective responsibility. This made employees engage in their work and work productively for the better of the team. Furthermore, it made the employee body act as a family. However, there were some subtleties that made it an ineffective and inequitable means of employment. First, the tradition of lifetime employment meant that the evaluation and promotion process was slow. This did not bother many people, however, because companies in Japan were especially known for their focus on the long run. Due to the prominence of keiretsu in post-WWII Japan, only those employees that worked in core firm sectors benefited. Those who were forced to work at small firms suffered from low wages, limited career mobility and job instability.

Personal lives suffered for Japanese workers in the post-WWII era as workers worked extremely hard to maintain an average standard of living. Fatigue was a common problem and many visitors to Japanese urban areas noticed the peculiar scene of numerous Japanese commuters sleeping on the trains and buses. Families are raised fatherless as he is all but never around or is possibly reassigned to a different part of the country. Kaigai fu-ninshu is the phenomenon in which a parent is given a work assignment requiring him or her to live apart from their family for an extended period of time in order to have a career in the corporate world. Such sacrifices are usually made only at larger firms, are made by men, and result in higher wages and social status. Nonetheless, it is a severe strain on one's family and personal life.

Japanese workers seemed complacent in maintaining an average standard of living, most likely due to the ideals of collectivism. The rewards system in Japan varied from that in the West in that rewards were granted less because of job performance and productivity, but rather due to such criterion as potential, attitude and character. Hyotei is the evaluation of employees which management in many Japanese firms uses to decide on promotions and other decisions affecting each employee's earning potential with the firm. This rewards system keeps workers constantly on their best behavior, resulting in excessive self-discipline. It also leads to workers' concealing their shortcomings from colleagues. Lastly, it produces stress and competition among workmates.

Changing employment in Japan was highly discouraged and resulted in at least three major risks. First, it usually resulted in a drop in pay. Employee pay is based on seniority and starting over with a new employer usually is not a financially sound decision. Secondly, it is difficult for that worker to formulate new human relationships. The collectivist attitude of Japanese corporate culture instills strong teamwork and leaving one's post means initiating new human relationships. Thirdly, the worker faces a loss of skills acquired with his or her former employer.

The Japanese worker was also known to work long hours, which the West saw as an enviable level of commitment that workers had toward the companies in which they were employed. These workers worked such excessively long hours that in an average year a Japanese worker worked 2,500 hours. This contracts with an average work-year of 2,000 hours in Western societies. The Japanese also do not subscribe to the idea of a two-day weekend. Instead, work is overlapped into Saturday and Sunday. As one would expect, this extraordinary work ethic had a negative impact on personal lives, which suffered as post-WWII workers worked extremely hard to maintain an average standard of living.

Closing Thoughts

Japan is a country that is often looked at by outsiders as a model country to emulate in terms of corporate structuring and behavior. The Japanese economy in the late 1960s and early 1970s emerged unscathed at a time that many companies in North America and Europe were dealing with worker revolts, such as absenteeism, drugs and distraction of affluence, which undermined the productivity of firms; not to mention the oil shocks, stagflation and high unemployment that plagued the macro-economy. In fact, many spoke of the "Japanese miracle": huge balance-of-payment surpluses, exceptionally low unemployment (until the 1990s) and unrivaled productive capacity.

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