Author Archives: Coleen Garcia

Building a Kingdom – Case Study of Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited

This article presents a case study of sustained entrepreneurial growth of Kingdom Financial Holdings. It is one of the entrepreneurial banks which survived the financial crisis that started in Zimbabwe in 2003. The bank was established in 1994 by four entrepreneurial young bankers. It has grown substantially over the years. The case examines the origins, growth and expansion of the bank. It concludes by summarizing lessons or principles that can be derived from this case that maybe applicable to entrepreneurs.

Profile of an Entrepreneur: Nigel Chanakira

Nigel Chanakira was raised in the Highfield suburb of Harare in an entrepreneurial family. His father and uncle operated a public transport company Modern Express and later diversified into retail shops. Nigel's father later exited the family business. He bought out one of the shops and expanded it. During school holidays young Nigel, as the first born, would work in the shops. His parents, particularly his mother, insisted that he acquire an education first.

On completion of high school, Nigel failed to enter dental or medical school, which were his first passions. In fact his grades could only qualify him for the Bachelor of Arts degree programme at the University of Zimbabwe. However, he "sweet-talked his way into a transfer" to the Bachelor in Economics degree programme. Academically he worked hard, exploiting his strong competitive character that was developed during his sporting days. Nigel rigorously applied himself to his academic pursuits and passed his studies with excellent grades, which opened the door to employment as an economist with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

During his stint with the Reserve Bank, his economic mindset indicated to him that wealth creation was happening in the banking sector therefore he determined to understand banking and financial markets. While employed at RBZ, he read for a Master's degree in Financial Economics and Financial Markets as preparation for his debut into banking. At the Reserve Bank under Dr Moyana, he was part of the research team that put together the policy framework for the liberalization of the financial services within the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme. Being at the right place at the right time, he became aware of the opportunities which were opening up. Nigel exploited his position to identify the most profitable banking institution to work for as preparation for his future. He headed to Bard Discount House and worked for five years under Charles Gurney.

A short while later the two black executives at Bard, Nick Vingirayi and Gibson Muringai, left to form Intermarket Discount House. Their departure inspired the young Nigel. If these two could establish a banking institution of their own so could he, given time. The departure also created an opportunity for him to rise to fill the vacancy. This gave the aspiring banker critical managerial experience. Subsequently he became a director for Bard Investment Services where he gained critical experience in portfolio management, client relationships and dealing within the dealing department. While there he met Franky Kufa, a young dealer who was making waves, who would later become a key co-entrepreneur with him.

Despite his professional business engagement his father enrolled Nigel in the Barclays Bank "Start Your Own Business" Programme. However what really made an impact on the young entrepreneur was the Empretec Entrepreneur Training programme (May 1994), to which he was introduced by Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa. The course demonstrated that he had the requisite entrepreneurial competences.

Nigel talked Charles Gurney into an attempted management buy-out of Bard from Anglo -American. This failed and the increasingly frustrated aspiring entrepreneur considered employment opportunities with Nick Vingirai's Intermarket and Never Mhlanga's National Discount House which was on the verge of being formed – hoping to join as a shareholder since he was acquainted with the promoters. He was denied this opportunity.

Being frustrated at Bard and having been denied entry into the club by pioneers, he resigned in October 1994 with the encouragement of Mrs Masiyiwa to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

The Dream

Inspired by the messages of his pastor, Rev. Tom Deuschle, and frustrated at his inability to participate in the church's massive building project, Nigel sought a way of generating huge financial resources. During a time of prayer he claims that he had a divine encounter where he obtained a mandate from God to start Kingdom Bank. He visited his pastor and told him of this encounter and the subsequent desire to start a bank. The godly pastor was amazed at the 26 year old with "big spectacles and wearing tennis shoes" who wanted to start a bank. The pastor prayed before counselling the young man. Having been convinced of the genuineness of Nigel's dream, the pastor did something unusual. He asked him to give a testimony to the congregation of how God was leading him to start a bank. Though timid, the young man complied. That experience was a powerful vote of confidence from the godly pastor. It demonstrates the power of mentors to build a protégé.

Nigel teamed up with young Franky Kufa. Nigel Chanakira left Bard at the position of Chief Economist. They would build their own entrepreneurial venture. Their idea was to identify players who had specific competences and would each be able to generate financial resources from his activity. Their vision was to create a one – stop financial institution offering a discount house, an asset management company and a merchant bank. Nigel used his Empretec model to develop a business plan for their venture. They headhunted Solomon Mugavazi, a stockbroker from Edwards and Company and BR Purohit, a corporate banker from Stanbic. Kufa would provide money market expertise while Nigel provided income from government bond dealings as well as overall supervision of the team.

Each of the budding partners brought in an equal portion of the Z $ 120,000 as start-up capital. Nigel talked to his wife and they sold their recently acquired Eastlea home and vehicles to raise the equivalent of US $ 17,000 as their initial capital. Nigel, his wife and three kids headed back to Highfield to live in with his parents. The partners established Garmony Investments which started trading as an unregistered financial institution. The entrepreneurs agreed not to draw a salary in their first year of operations as a bootstrapping strategy.

Mugavazi introduced and recommended Lysias Sibanda, a chartered accountant, to join the team. Nigel was initially reluctant as each person had to bring in an earning capacity and it was not clear how an accountant would generate revenue at start up in a financial institution. Nigel initially retained a 26% share which assured him a blocking vote as well as giving him the position of controlling shareholder.

Nigel credits the Success Motivation Institute (SMI) course "The Dynamics of Successful Management" as the lethal weapon that enabled him to acquire managerial competences. Initially he insisted that all his key executives undertake this training programme.

Birth of the Kingdom

Kingdom Securities P / L commenced operations in November 1994 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmony Investments (Pvt) Ltd. It traded as a broker on both money and stock markets.

On 24th February 1995 Kingdom Securities Holding was born with the following subsidiaries: Kingdom Securities Ltd, Kingdom Stockbrokers (Pvt) Ltd and Kingdom Asset Managers (Pvt) Ltd. The flagship Kingdom Securities Ltd was registered as a Discount House under Banking Act Chapter 188 on 25th July 1995. Kingdom Stockbrokers was registered with the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange under ZSE Chapter 195 on 1st August 1995. The pre-licensing trading had generated good revenue but they still had a 20% deficit of the required capital. Most institutional investors turned them down as they were a greenfield company promoted by people perceived to be "too young". At this stage National Merchant Bank, Intermarket and others were on the market raising equity and these were run by seasoned and mature promoters. However Rachel Kupara, then MD for Zimnat, believed in the young entrepreneurs and took up the first equity portion for Zimnat at 5%.

Norman Sachikonye, ​​then Financial Director and Investments Manager at First Mutual followed suit, taking up an equity share of 15%. These two institutional investors were inducted as shareholders of Kingdom Securities Holdings on 1st August 1995. Garmony Investments ceased operations and reversed itself into Kingdom Securities on 31st July 1995, thereby becoming an 80% shareholder.

The first year of operations was marked by intense competition as well as discrimination against new financial institutions by public organisations. All the other operating units performed well except for the corporate finance department with Kingdom Securities, led by Purohit. This monetary loss, differing spiritual and ethical values ​​led to the forced departure of Purohit as an executive director and shareholder on 31st December 1995. From then the Kingdom started to grow exponentially.

Structural Growth

Nigel and his team pursued an aggressive growth strategy with the intention of increasing market share, profitability, and geographic spread while developing a strong brand. The growth strategy was built around a business philosophy of simplifying financial services and making them easily accessible to the general public. An IT strategy that created a low cost delivery channel exploiting ATMs and POS while providing a platform that was ready for Internet and web-based applications, was espoused.

On 1st April 1997, Kingdom Financial Services was licensed as an accepting house focusing on trading and distributing foreign currency, treasury activities, corporate finance, investment banking and advisory services. It was formed under the leadership of Victor Chando with the intention of becoming the merchant banking arm of the Group. In 1998, Kingdom Merchant Bank (KMB) was licensed and it took over the assets and liabilities of Kingdom Securities Limited. Its main focus was treasury related products, off-balance sheet finance, foreign currency and trade finance. Kingdom Research Institute was established as a support service to the other units.

The entrepreneurial bankers, cognisant of their limitations, sought to achieve critical mass quickly by actively seeking capital injection from equity investors. The aim was to broaden ownership while lending strategic support in areas of mutual interest. An attempt at equity uptake from Global Emerging Markets from London failed. However in 1997 the efforts of the bankers were rewarded when the following organisations took up some equity, reducing the shareholding of executive directors as shown below: ïEUR Ipcorn 0.7%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund Mauritius P / L 1.1%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund P / L 0.7%. ïEUR Kingdom Employee Share Trust 5%, ïEUR Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund – 8% redeemable preference shares amounting to US $ 1,5m as the first investee company in Southern Africa from the US Fund initiated by US President Bill Clinton, ïEUR Weiland Investments, a company belonging to Mr Richard Muirimi, a long standing friend of Nigel and associate in the fund management business took up 1.7%, Garmony Investments 71.7% -executive directors. ïEUR After a rights issue Zimnat fell to 4.8% while FML went down to 14.3%.

In 1998, Kingdom launched four Unit Trusts which proved very popular with the market. Initially these products were focused at individual clients of the discount house as well as private portfolios of Kingdom Stockbroking. Aggressive marketing and awareness campaigns established the Kingdom Unit Trust as the most popular retail brand of the group. The Kingdom brand was thus born.

Acquisition of Discount Company of Zimbabwe (DCZ)

After a spurt of organic growth, the Kingdom entrepreneurs decided to hasten the growth rate synergistically. They set out to acquire the oldest discount house in the country and the world, The Discount Company of Zimbabwe, which was a listed entity. With this acquisition Kingdom would acquire critical competences as well as achieve the much coveted ZSE listing inexpensively through a reverse listing. Initial efforts at a negotiated merger with DCZ were rebuffed by its executives who could not countenance a forty year old institution being swallowed up by a four year old business. The entrepreneurs were not deterred. Nigel approached his friend Greg Brackenridge at Stanbic to finance and effect the acquisition of the sixty percent shares which were in the hands of about ten shareholders, on behalf of Kingdom Financial Holdings but to be placed in the ownership of Stanbic Nominees. This strategy masked the identity of the acquirer. Claud Chonzi, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) GM and a friend to Lysias Sibanda (a Kingdom executive director), agreed to act as a front in the negotiations with the DCZ shareholders. NSSA is a well known institutional investor and hence these shareholders may have believed that they were dealing with an institutional investor. Once Kingdom controlled 60% of DCZ, it took over the company and reverse listed itself onto the Stock Exchange as Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL). Because of the negative real interest rates, Kingdom successfully used debt finance to structure the acquisition. This acquisition and the subsequent listing gave the once despised young entrepreneurs confidence and credibility on the market.

Other Strategic Acquisitions

Within the same year Kingdom Merchant Bank acquired a strategic stake in CFX Bureau de Change owned by Sean Maloney as well as another stake in a greenfield microlending franchise, Pfihwa P / L. CFX was changed into KFX and used in most foreign currency trading activities. KFHL set as a strategic intention the acquisition of an additional 24.9% stake in CFX Holdings to safeguard the initial investment and ensure management control. This did not work out. Instead, Sean Maloney opted out and took over the failed Universal Merchant Bank licence to form CFX Merchant Bank. Although Kingdom executives contend that the alliance failed due to the abolition of bureau de change by government, it appears that Sean Maloney refused to give up control of the extra shareholding sought by Kingdom. It therefore would be reasonable that once Kingdom could not control KFX, a fall out ensued. The liquidation of this investment in 2002 resulted in a loss of Z $ 403 million on that investment. However this was manageable in light of the strong group profitability.

Pfihwa P / L financed the informal sector as a form of corporate social responsibility. However when the hyperinflationary environment and stringent regulatory environment encroached on the viability of the project, it was wound up in early 2004. Kingdom pursued its financing of the informal sector through MicroKing, which was established with international assistance. By 2002 MicroKing had eight branches located in the midst of, or near, micro-enterprise clusters.

In 2000, due to increased activity on the foreign currency front within the banking sector, Kingdom opened a private banking facility through the discount house to exploit revenue streams from this market. Following market trends, it engaged the insurance company AIG to enter the bancassurance market in 2003.

Meikles Strategic Alliance

In 1999 the entrepreneurial Chanakira on advice from his executives and the legendary corporate finance team from Barclays bank led by the affable Hugh Van Hoffen entered into a strategic alliance with Meikles Africa whereby it injected some Z $ 322 million into Kingdom for an equity shareholding of 25% . Interestingly, the deal nearly collapsed on pricing as Meikles only wanted to pay $ 250 million whilst KFHL valued themselves at Z $ 322 million which in real terms was the largest private sector deal done between an indigenous bank and a listed corporate. Nigel testifies that it was a walk through the incomplete Celebration Church site on the Saturday preceding the signing of the Meikles deal that led him to sign the deal which he saw as a means for him to sow a whopping seed into the church to boost the Building Fund. God was faithful! Kingdom's share price shot up dramatically from $ 2,15 at the time he made the commitment to the Pastor all the way to $ 112,00 by the following October!

In return Kingdom acquired a powerful cash-rich shareholder that allowed it entrance into retail banking through an innovative in-store banking strategy. Meikles Africa opened its retail branches, namely TM Supermarkets, Clicks, Barbours, Medix Pharmacies and Greatermans, as distribution channels for Kingdom commercial bank or as account holders providing deposits and requiring banking services. This was a cheaper way of entering retail banking. It proved useful during the 2003 cash crisis because Meikles with its massive cash resources within its business units assisted Kingdom Bank, thus cushioning it from a liquidity crisis. The alliance also raised the reputation and credibility of Kingdom Bank and created an opportunity for Kingdom to finance Meikles Africa's customers through the jointly owned Meikles Financial Services. Kingdom provided the funding for all lease and hire purchases from Meikles' subsidiaries, thus driving sales for Meikles while providing easy lending opportunities for Kingdom. Meikles managed the relationship with the client.

Meikles Africa as a strategic shareholder assured Kingdom of success when recapitalisation was required and has enhanced Kingdom's brand image. This strategic relationship has created powerful synergies for mutual benefit.

Commercial Banking

Exploiting the opportunities arising from the strategic relationship with Meikles Africa, Kingdom made its debut into retail banking in January 2001 with in-store branches at High Glen and Chitungwiza TM supermarkets. The target was principally the mass market. This rode on the strong brand Kingdom had created through the Unit Trusts. In-store banking offered low cost delivery channels with minimal investment in brick and mortar. By the end of 2001, thirteen branches were operational across the country. This followed a deliberate strategy for aggressive roll-out of the branches with two flagship branches ïEURïEUR one in Bulawayo and the other in Harare. There was a huge emphasis on an IT driven strategy with significant cross-selling between the commercial bank and other SBUs.

However, it was further discovered that there was a market for the upmarket clients and hence Crown banking outlets were established to diversify the target market. In 2004, after closing three in-store branches in a rationalization exercise, there were 16 in-store branches and 9 Crown banking outlets.

The entrance into commercial banking was probably held at the wrong time, considering the imminent changes in the banking industry. Commercial banking does provide cheap deposits, however at the price of huge staff costs and human resource management complications. Nigel concedes that, with hindsight, this could have been delayed or done at a slower pace. However, the need for increased market share in a fiercely competitive industry necessitated this. Another reason for persisting with the commercial banking project was that of prior agreements with Meikles Africa. It is possible that Meikles Africa had been sold on the equity take-up deal on the back of promises to engage in in-store banking, which would increase revenue for its subsidiaries.

Innovative Products and Services

KFHL continued its aggressive pursuit of product innovation. After the failure of the KFX project, CurrencyKing was established to continue the work. However this was abolished in November 2002 by government ministerial intervention when bureau de change were prohibited in an effort to stamp out parallel market foreign currency trading.

Sadly this governmental decision was misguided for not only did it fail to banish foreign currency parallel trading but it drove underground, made it more lucrative and subsequently the government lost all control of the management of the exchange rate.

In October 2002, KFHL established Kingdom Leasing after being granted a finance house licence. Its mandate was to exploit opportunities to trade in financial leases, lease hire and short term financial products.

Regional Expansion

Around 2000 it became evident that the domestic market was highly competitive, with limited prospects of future growth. A decision was made to diversify revenue streams and reduce country risk through penetration into the regional markets. This strategy would exploit the proven competences in securities trading, asset management and corporate advisory services from a small capital base. Therefore the entrance had low risk in terms of capital injection. Considering the foreign exchange control limitations and shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe, this was a prudent strategy but not without its downside, as will be seen in the Botswana venture.

In 2001, KFHL acquired a 25.1% stake in a greenfield banking enterprise in Malawi, First Discount House Ltd. To safeguard its investment and ensure managerial control, an executive director and dealer were seconded to the Malawi venture while Nigel Chanakira chaired the Board. This investment has continued to grow and yield positive returns. As of July 2006 Kingdom had finally managed to up its stake from 25,1% to 40% in this investment and may ultimately control it to the point of seeking a conversion of the license to a commercial bank.

KFHL also took up a 25% equity stake in Investrust Merchant Bank Zambia. Franky Kufa was seconded to it as an executive director while Nigel took a seat on the Board.

KFHL had been promised an option to gain a controlling stake. However when the bank stabilized, the Zambian shareholders entered into some questionable transactions and were not prepared to allow KFHL to up it's stake and so KFHL decided to pull out as relationships turned frosty. The Zambian Central Bank intervened with a promise to grant KFHL its own banking license. This did not materialize as the Zambian Central Bank exploited the banking crisis in Zimbabwe to deny KHFL a licence. A reasonable premium of Z $ 2.5 billion was obtained at disinvestment.

In Botswana, a subsidiary called Kingdom Bank Africa Ltd (KBAL) was established as an offshore bank in the International Finance Centre. KBAL was intended to spearhead and manage regional initiatives for Kingdom. It was headed by Mrs Irene Chamney, seconded by Lysias Sibanda with the concurrence of Nigel after managerial challenges in Zimbabwe. Two other senior executives were seconded there. She successfully set up the KBAL's banking infrastructure and had good relations with the Botswana authorities.

However, the business model chosen of an offshore bank ahead of a domestic Botswana merchant bank license turned out to be the Achilles heel of the bank more so when the Zimbabwe banking crisis set in between 2003 and 2005. There were fundamental differences in how Mrs Chamney and Chanakira saw the bank surviving and going forward.

Ultimately, it was deemed prudent for Mrs. Chamney to leave the bank in 2005. In 2001 KFHL acquired the mandate as the sole distributor of the American Express card in the whole of Africa except for RSA. This was handled through KBAL. Kingdom Private Bank was transferred from the discount house to become a subsidiary of KBAL due to the prevailing regulatory environment in Zimbabwe.

In 2004 KBAL was temporarily placed under curatorship due to undercapitalisation. At this stage the parent company had regulatory constraints that prevented foreign currency capital injection.

A solution was found in the sourcing of local partners and the transfer of US $ 1 million previously realised from the proceeds of the Investrust liquidation to Botswana. Nigel Chanakira took a more active management role in KBAL because of its huge strategic significance to the future of KFHL. Currently efforts are underway to acquire a local commercial bank licence in Botswana as well. Once this is acquired there are two possible scenarios, namely maintaining both licences or giving up the offshore licence.

The interviewees were divided in their opinion on this. However in my view, judging from the stakeholder power involved, KFHL is likely to give up the off shore banking licence and use the local Kingdom Bank Botswana (Pula Bank) licence for regional and domestic expansion.

Human Resources

The staff complement grew from the initial 23 in 1995 to more than 947 by 2003. The growth was consistent with the growing institution. It exploded, especially during the launch and expansion of the commercial bank. Kingdom from inception had a strong human resourcing strategy which entailed significant training both internally and externally. Before the foreign currency crisis, employees were sent for training in such countries as RSA, Sweden, India and the USA. In the person of Faith Ntabeni Bhebhe, Kingdom had an energetic HR driver who created powerful HR systems for the emerging behemoth.

As a sign of its commitment to building the human resource capability, in 1998 Kingdom Financial Services entered a management agreement with Holland based AMSCO for the provision of seasoned bankers. Through this strategic alliance Kingdom strengthened its skills base and increased opportunities for skills transfer to locals. This helped the entrepreneurial bankers create a solid managerial system for the bank while the seasoned bankers from Holland compensated for the youthfulness of the emerging bankers. What a foresight!

In-house self-paced interactive learning, team building exercises and mentoring were all part of the learning menu targeted at developing the human resource capacity of the group. Work and job profiling was introduced to best match employees to suitable posts. Career path and succession planning were embraced. Kingdom was the first entrepreneurial bank to have smooth unforced CEO transitions. The founding CEO passed on the baton to Lysias Sibanda in 1999 as he stepped into the role of Group CEO and board deputy chair. His role was now to pursue and spearhead global and regional niche financial markets. A few years later there was another change of the guard as

Franky Kufa stepped in as Group CEO to replace Sibanda, who resigned on medical grounds. One could argue that these smooth transitions were due to the fact that the baton was passing to founding directors.

With the explosive growth in staff complement due to the commercial bank project, culture issues emerged. Consequently, KFHL engaged in an enculturation programme resulting in a culture revolution dubbed "Team Kingdom". This culture had to be reinforced due to dilutions through significant mergers and acquisitions, significant staff turnover because of increased competition, emigration to greener pastures and the age profile of the staff increased the risk of high mobility and fraudulent activities in collusion with members of the public . Culture changes are difficult to effect and their effectiveness even harder to assess.

In 2004, with a high staff turnover of around 14%, a compensation strategy that ring fenced critical skills like IT and treasury was implemented. Due to the low margins and the financial stress experienced in 2004, KFHL lost more than 341 staff members due to retrenchment, natural attrition and emigration. This was acceptable as profitability fell while staff costs soared. At this stage, staff costs accounted for 58% of all expenses.

Despite the impressive growth, the financial performance when inflation adjusted was mediocre. Actually a loss position was reported in 2004. This growth was severely compromised by the hyperinflationary conditions and the restrictive regulatory environment.

Conclusion

This article shows the determination of entrepreneurs to push through to the realisation of their dreams despite significant odds. In a subsequent article we will tackle the challenges faced by Nigel Chanakira in solidifying his investments.

Computer Aided Manufacturing Applications

Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) refers to an automation process, which accurately converts product design and drawing or the object into a code format, readable by the machine to manufacture the product. Computer aided manufacturing complements the computer aided design (CAD) systems to offer a wide range of applications in different manufacturing fields. CAM evolved from the technology utilized in the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines that were used in the early 1950s. CNC involved the use of coded instructions on a punched paper tape and could control single manufacturing functions. CAM controlled computer systems, however, can control a whole set of manufacturing functions simultaneously.

CAM allows work instructions and procedures to be communicated directly to the manufacturing machines. A CAM system controls manufacturing operations performed by robotic milling machines, lathes, welding machines and other industrial tools. It moves the raw material to different machines within the system by allowing systematic completion of each step. Finished products can also be moved within the system to complete other manufacturing operations such as packaging, synthesizing and making final checks and changes.

Some of the major applications of the CAM system are glass working, woodturning, metalworking and spinning, and graphical optimization of the entire manufacturing procedure. Production of the solids of rotation, plane surfaces, and screw threads is done by applying CAM systems.
A CAM system allows the manufacturing of three-dimensional solids, using ornamental lathes with greater intricacy and detail. Products such as candlestick holders, table legs, bowls, baseball bats, crankshafts, and camshafts can be manufactured using the CAM system. CAM system can also be applied to the process of diamond turning to manufacture diamond tipped cutting materials. Aspheric optical elements made from glass, crystals, and other metals can also be produced using CAM systems.

Computer aided manufacturing can be applied to the fields of mechanical, electrical, industrial and aerospace engineering. Applications such as thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, solid mechanics, and kinematics can be controlled using CAM systems. Other applications such as electromagnetism, ergonomics, aerodynamics, and propulsion and material science may also use computer aided manufacturing.

Why Electronics and Technology Are Important

People today live in a world that relies greatly on electronics and gadgets to make our everyday activities easier and faster. Most of us could not fathom what life we ​​be like without computers, cell phones, iPods, televisions, or electronic toys. Over the years, technology has continued to advance, improving the quality of life for people who use electronics and gadgets to make their lives more convenient.

When we wake up in the morning, we are often greeted by our alarm clocks. How many people would be late for work if they had to rely on their internal body clocks to wake them up at the same exact time every weekday morning? Once up and out of our bed some people may enjoy a cup of coffee or espresso from the convenience of their own kitchen coffee making appliance. Others may head to the bathroom to start getting ready for the day. This may include using a hair dryer or curlers to style their hair, or maybe an iron to de-wrinkle their clothes. All the while, people may be catching up on the day's news by watching their local news station on television. All this use of technology and electronics and they have not even left for work yet!

The list goes on and on. The advancement of technology has allowed us to enjoy our favorite music while we exercise via the use of an MP3 player, warm our food in seconds with the convenience of microwaves, and even read our emails from anywhere in the world with the use of smart phones and laptops. This is just the tip of the iceberg. While most people understand that electronics and gadgets are important, they do not take the time to really comprehend just how much we use this type of technology in all aspects of life. Certain electronics and equipment have made medical procedures easier, not to mention just plain possible. Life expectancies have increased with the advancement in technology and suffering has lessened due to the invention of medical equipment and technologies.

Whether it's the coolest new GPS gadget to help you located and get to your favorite vacation destination along with every restaurant, store, and gas station in the area, or the newest sonar machine that can allow a doctor to see any possible development issues with a mother's unborn baby, technology and electronics means more to us than we can realize. New products are developed every single day and the more people shop for fun gadgets and electronics, the easier and more fun life will become!

The Evolution of Leadership: An Academic Perspective – Nu Leadership Series

"Wealth in the new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization; that is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown."
Kevin Kelly

Let's focus closely on the modern development of leadership thought. According to Georgia Sorenson, author of An Intellectual History of Leadership Studies: The Role of James MacGregor Burns, the word "leader" first appeared in the 1300s and stemmed from the root leden, meaning "to travel" or "show the way." Leadership was defined five centuries later. Traditionally, managing both the technical and human components has posed problems for leaders for centuries.

Between 1945 and 1960, leadership scholars spent more of their effort on empirical research; however, from the 1970s onward, this research became theory driven. In developing strategies for this problem, researchers and practitioners have either adopted a "scientific" or "behavioral" approach. This fact is where the school of management thought evolved. The school of management provides a theoretical framework for studying leadership thought.

Over the decades, management gurus have tried to organize and classify this enormous information related to management, and this is how the schools of management thought started. We will discuss the following schools: (a) the classical school, (b) the behavioral school, (c) the quantitative or management science school, (d) the systems school, and (e) the contingency school. Let's examine these schools more closely.

ERA Snapshot:

The classical school concept began in the 1800s. During that time, over 90% of Americans lived rurally. Between 1870-1900s, rural areas doubled and urban areas tripled. With the transition from a rural to industrial society, leaders lacked a process to motivate the unskilled workforce.

Conversely, the Industrial Revolution brought new jobs, mostly filled by immigrants. Although the Mid-19th Century America was a land of opportunity, workers were living in awful conditions while the industrial elites benefited. This period, then, created a host of new advances and new problems for organizational leaders.

Classical School

The classical school, which is the oldest formal school of management thought, generally focused on ways to manage work and organizations more efficiently. It can be further grouped into three areas which are scientific management, administrative management, and bureaucratic management. We will briefly discuss these areas and the leading advocates.

Scientific Management began in the 1880s. Previously, management decisions were viewed as arbitrary, and workers operated at a slow pace. Scientific management was developed to create a systematic method to improve efficiency. The key proponents were Frederick W. Taylor, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and Henry Gantt.

Administrative Management began in the 1940s. Unlike scientific management, administrative management focused largely on jobs and work at the individual level of analysis. It provided a more general theory of management. The key proponent was Henri Fayol.

Bureaucratic Management began in the 1920s. Earlier organizations were personality- and relationship-driven. A proposed form of organization called bureaucratic management was characterized by division of labor, hierarchy, formalized rules, impersonality, and the selection and promotion of employees based on ability. The key proponent was Max Weber.

ERA Snapshot:

When the behavioral concept began in the 1930s, there was a global depression that brought an abrupt shift from the fun-loving lifestyles of the Roaring 20s. As Socialists proclaimed the death of capitalism, Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany.

Technology was still progressing as global communication increased. Roosevelt's New Deal brought enormous governmental intervention into societal problems. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of World War II in 1939.

Behavioral School

As a result of perceived weaknesses in the assumptions contained in the classical school, the behavioral school of management thought was created. Some felt that the classical school emphasized efficiency while disregarding the aspect of human behavior in organizations.

The behavioral school focused on trying to understand the factors that affect human behavior at work. The behavioral school was two subgroups, human relations and behavior science.

Human Relations can be traced to the Hawthorne Experiments in 1924 and concluded in the early 1930s. Two significant discoveries from the Hawthorne Experiments were found: a) workers' attitudes are associated with productivity and b) the workplace is a social system with informal group influences.

According to the human relation school, the manager should possess critical skills for diagnosing the causes of human behavior at work so that he could effectively lead employees. Some of the best-known contributors include Mary Parker Follett, Chester Barnard, Abraham Maslow, and Elton Mayo. Today, this school has influenced management theory and practice in such areas as applied psychology.

Behavior Science emerged in the 1950s and 1960s . Behavior science was a natural progression of the human relations school of thought. It focused primarily on applying conceptual and analytical methods to the problem of understanding and predicting human behavior in the workplace.

Some of the major contributors include Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg, and Ralph Stogdill. This school has contributed to the study of management by focusing on several areas such as personality, values, and leadership.

ERA Snapshot:

When the quantitative concept began, it was a decade dominated by World War II, which was widely viewed as the most destructive war in history. This decade marked the transition period between the radical 1930s and the conservative 1950s.

One the economic front, the Marshall Plan, implemented by the US, gave billions of dollars for reconstructing war-devastated economies. Technology was being designed for major destruction. The first nuclear bomb was created, which dramatically changed international relationships.

Quantitative School

This school emerged in the 1940s. The quantitative school objective was to increase the quality of managerial decision-making by applying mathematical and statistical approaches.

This school was derived from the scientific management. The quantitative school was in three subgroups: management science, production, and operations management.

Management Science developed during World War II as strategists tried to solve war related problems. Management Science utilizes mathematical and statistical approaches to solve management problems.

Management Information Systems and Management Science are interconnected. The key proponent was George Dantzig. Today, this approach is being used in industry. An example would be a decision support system.

Production and Operations Management

This school began in the 1940s. It focuses on operation and control of the production process. Its roots were similar to management science because it resulted from the war. Operational management targets productivity and quality of an organization.

The key proponent was W. Edward Deming. Some of the areas of study include computer integrated manufacturing and just-in-time inventory systems.

ERA Snapshot:

When the systems concept began in the 1950s, the decade echoed the return of conservative values
and the return to the 1920s-type consumer society. The 1950s marked a rapid rise in the conflict with the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union.

The Cold War generated the Arms Race, Space Race, McCarthyism, and the Korean War. It also marks
the return of the GIs and a baby boom. There was a high rate of unionization in industry and most of the technology supported the Cold War.

During this time, most of the earlier internal American problems such as women's rights and civil rights were now suppressed as Americans settled into suburban life; however, suppressing these social issues would have a significant impact on the 20th Century.

Systems School

This school began to have a strong impact in the 1950s. The system school focused on understanding the organization as an open system that transforms inputs into output.

Managing techniques that would allow managers to relate different specialties and parts of the company to one another as well as external factors were used. In the systems theory, an organization is defined as a system with objectives. The school is built on the works of Ludwid von Bertalanffy, a biologist.

ERA Snapshot:

When the contingency concept began in the 1960s, the decade was a time of great social changes in the country. Many of the changes were reflective of the demographic changes brought by the baby boom generation, height of the Cold War, and dissolution of the European colonial empires.

The Social revolution, civil rights movement, anti-War movements, human rights movement, and the Counterculture movement placed America in an unstable position. During this timeframe, protectionist, command, and mixed economies reached a peak.

Contingency School

This school began in 1960s. The contingency school focused on applying management principles and processes primarily dictated by each unique situation. In the contingency theory, a leader's ability to lead is contingent upon various situational factors. Its application has been on management issues such as organizational design, job design, motivation, and leadership style.

A few of the major contributors are Fred Fiedler, Joan Woodward, and Paul Lawrence. The Contingency Theory states that the leader's ability to lead is contingent upon various situational factors.

Obviously, these schools made a significant contribution to modern day management, and these early results provide a blueprint for the current leadership paradigms in organizations.

References:

Barnet, T. (nd). Management Thought. On February 15 Received, 2006 from Http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Log-Mar/Management-Thought.html .

Bass, B. (1999). Bass & Stogdill's Handbook of Leadership. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Krooss, H. & Gilbert, C. (1972). American business history. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Northouse, P. (2004). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

SEDL. (2006). History of leadership research. On February 10 Received, 2006 from Http://www.sedl.org/change/leadership/history.html .

Sorenson, G. (2002). An intellectual history of leadership studies: The role of james macGregor burns. American Political Science Association. 1-16.

Whitsett, D. & Yorks, L. (1995). From management theory to business sense. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Wikipedia. (2006). On February 16 Received, 2006 from Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page .
Wren, D. (2005). The Evolution of Management Thought. Hooboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Importance of a Digital Media Agency for Global Businesses

There are many businesses around the world, which are considering the importance of digital marketing domain as a vital way to promote their trades online and find potential customers around the world. Nowadays, many small to large level enterprises are moving online and adopting the benefits of digital media marketing. For this purpose, they are availing services of top-notch digital media agencies in the market. It helps them advertise their businesses over the web and increase clientele across the globe. Here, a digital agency plays can play a significant role to promote the client's business and take it to the next level of success easily.

Introduction to a Digital Media Agency

Digital media agency is a right step for global businesses, where they get the complete solution for the online branding of their trades. Also, a digital marketing agency helps businesses plan their online marketing campaigns and promote them successfully over the web. A modern digital agency is more effective for online advertisement of business rather traditional digital options like television and print media. Nowadays, every business needs the back of online digital agencies to give a quick growth of the trade over the web. Here, the digital firm can help businesses by fulfilling their digital marketing requirements like website development, designing, SEO activities, PPC, and much more. For managing all the tasks, digital agencies outsource the work to the experts in the market and manage the client's project smartly. Thus, a digital marketing firm takes the challenge seriously and delivers the optimum result for the businesses under the stipulated time frame.

Types of Digital Agencies

In the competitive digital media industry, you can find different types of digital agencies which can serve you the best digital services for online branding of your business.

Integrated Digital Marketing

It is the agency which keeps track of online branding results of the client's business. For this, they make the right use of client's data, analytics, and other online marketing platforms. Also, the agency plans right strategies to improve the client's website traffic online and track the clicks on it via different sources like mobile, email, and other organic searches of search engines.

Digital Campaign

This agency follows digital advertisement strategies for marketing of client's business and its products or services. Here, the agency makes the digital campaign so attractive that inspires the viewers to take an interest in it.

Digital Solutions

The modern concept of a digital media agency model is being adopted by businesses of all levels these days. This agency offers the avenues to provide a digital impression to the business model and plan an effective marketing campaign to promote it over the web through digital means.

Tips to find the best digital agency in the market:

  • Do verification of its market value and years of experience in the industry.
  • Explore the type of digital services provided by the agency for successful advertisement of client's business.
  • Check for reviews and feedback of the agency's clients.
  • Is there any team of digital media experts'?
  • Check for the qualification and digital media experience of the agency's personnel.

Thus, above are few necessary tips, which you should follow wisely before availing services of any digital media agency in the market.

The Importance of a Balance Sheet

An individual has two primary tools for managing personal finances. The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances.

Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets. They are the positive side of your Balance Sheet but the real picture of how much gold you have in your Fort Knox is your Net Worth. So just as important to your Balance sheet is your Liabilities. The total of your Liabilities is subtracted from the total of your Assets to give you your Net Worth.

You fill out your Balance Sheet and total up your Assets and Liabilities. You subtract the total of your Liabilities from your Assets. That number, your Net Worth will come out to either a negative amount, an amount of or near to zero, or it will be substantially positive. These are the only 3 scenarios possible.

• If your net worth is a minus number, you are not managing your financial resources properly. Your Balance sheet is your report card and you are failing. It is that simple. If you are managing your money to deal with life's challenges and planning your personal finances with your retirement in mind, your Net Worth should be positive and growing. If your Net Worth is positive, you can ride out financial storms like the current situation. At the time of your retirement, your Net Worth must be substantially positive so that you will be able to keep costs down and have investment income to replace your working income. During your working years, your Net Worth should be growing steadily because a retirement nest egg does not grow without years of nurturing.

• There are circumstances where it is acceptable to have a Net Worth of Zero or near Zero. The first is when you are just starting out. It just makes sense that it would be zero. You may have student loans but that is offset by some form of education that will allow you to make more money in the course of your lifetime. The key is that this is the best time to start building your net worth. It allows the principal of compounding value to work its magic on your assets for decades. That saves you a lot of work later in life. However, most of us are not that wise and we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s with little or no Net Worth. This means you have less time for compounding to work. So you have to work harder and especially manage your money smarter to prepare for the financial challenges you face going forward. The nice thing is that you have probably made some mistakes that have made you much wiser. You should be able to recover much faster than you would have in your undisciplined youth.

• If you have a positive net worth that means that you are building assets. Just as important is that you are controlling your debt. This is the key that has probably gotten you to this situation. The key to a positive Balance Sheet is that debt offsets the value of your assets when you look at your personal finances as a complete picture so your debt / equity ratio should be less than one and get smaller and smaller. Debt servicing saps cash flow on your budget that could be used to build assets that can be used to produce income in your retirement years. Clear title ownership of assets such as your home reduce cash draw and this is incredibly important as you approach retirement.

The financial crisis we are in now is described as a Balance Sheet crisis. We are in this crisis because nobody was paying attention to their Balance Sheets, not even at the towering heights of our financial infrastructure. The symptoms were everywhere. The while researching the I found That the top sites on the internet for Balance Sheet are On Those WHO COMPLETE want to sell you something so they 're That can gain access to any Assets on your balance sheet That Might be left after this disaster. Before the disaster, the only thing that had any importance was whether a potential buyer of anything could afford to make the payments on whatever he was buying assuming he made 120% of his stated income. The most outrageous symptom was that people would take appreciating home equity and borrow against it to buy depreciating assets and consumer goods. They overbooked their budgets and now they have gutted their balance sheet.

The resulting loss of home values ​​is the disaster we have now where people have either a zero or minus Net Worth. The other aspect is that we are now wiser. For the good of our society and our financial infrastructure we had better be. Going forward we must pay attention to our Balance Sheets and recognize that is where the gold is. You must save and protect your gold. Net Worth is where financial power is and that is the Importance of a Balance Sheet.

Electrical Control Systems – 3 Types That Could Transform Your Business

Electrical control systems apply control systems engineering to the ability to maintain system performance to known parameters. Simply put, systems that have the ability to monitor and control processes utilize the basic fundamentals of electrical control systems. These include: circulation pumps, air compressors, manufacturing systems, utility analysis and metering, refrigeration plants and motor control panels. Electrical control systems are doubly beneficial by saving money through modeling and controlling for predictive behaviors as well as reducing applicable output which include carbon emissions.

But let's look more closely at three specific types of electrical control systems or processes that could transform and change the way you do business:

1) Industrial Automation Systems: Regardless of the type of manufacturing business you operate: discrete parts, batch or continuous process, management, information flow and control are vital to your business' success. Automating important functions of your business could show you immediate and long term financial gains. Much of your manufacturing business could be automated increasing your productivity and ability to report immediately on various systems which are inefficient. Imagine your manufacturing business automating its inventory control systems, down time, production monitoring and reporting, database systems, routing optimization and more. Being able to quickly react to changes in your business via statistical analysis and automation is one of the more critical deciding factors in a business' profitability.

2) PLC Programming (Programmable Logic Controller Programming): Manufacturing automation would not exist without PLC programming. It's a digital computer used for electro-mechanical processes like machines on a factory line. Earlier automation systems used thousands of individual relays and timers. In most cases, a PLC allows all of the relays and timers within a factory to be replaced with a single controller. PLC Programming can be found in paper machines and pulping processes, conveyor systems, bottling lines, web handling lines, packaging operations, mixing, batching and blending and so much more.

3) Risk Assessment: Most plant engineers, maintenance supervisors, operators and managers will ask themselves at some point: "how safe is my machine". Although no machine is ever considered to be completely safe, the answer should be a truly unbiased assessment. A risk assessment consists of a comprehensive review of your machine which analyzes operating and maintenance procedures, identifiable risks (analyzed and categorized by established and accepted national / international standards), mitigations for these risks, and all the information you will need to make your system meet the applicable standards.

Electrical Control Systems are changing the way companies are doing business with critical automation from PLC programming, industrial automation systems and risk assessment. Effective manufacturing process control and information systems continue to make businesses not only more efficient, but profitable as well.

Transportation Management System – An Introduction

A Transportation Management System (TMS) is a software that is aimed at helping business and organizations to effectively manage its logistics supply chain, it helps organizing and tracking the movements of the products and materials. A Transportation Management System also helps in managing shipping units, outbound and inbound shipment scheduling, transportation mode selection, freight bill auditing, payment and processing of loss and damage claims etc.

Some of the basic functions and advantages of a transportation management system are shipment load planning and shipment routing optimization, routing guide, execution management and carrier communication, shipment tracking, freight bill audit & payment, business intelligence and reporting, claims management, returns management, Appointment scheduling etc.

The shipment load planning and routing optimization helps the shippers to plan the loading and then find a suitable and optimized routes as per their requirements. This helps to save a lot of money and time and as a results makes it easy for the shippers to manage.

The routing guide is another feature of a TMS which helps the vendors to get an idea about the inbound routing guides for better cost management. The execution management and carrier communication helps the shippers to find the tools needed to help them in selecting the right carriers along with shipping cost calculation. The TMS also helps you in getting an accurate freight bill audit and also in implementing the payment part. As with any other tools, a transportation management solution also offers business intelligence reporting, which helps you to get more idea about your business and ways to improve it.

A TMS or a logistics management system can also be used as an effective vehicle routing software which helps you in the effective utilization of vehicles used for your transportation purposes. It identifies areas where the vehicles can be utilized effectively without spending much time and money. Since the TMS identifies the shortest route, it will result in reduced fuel consumption and enhanced fleet management and utilization.

For small companies which have a remarkable small transport operations, the use of such a tool is not recommended, as they may not have any difficulty in managing all their transportation activities manually. But for a big company with a large number of vehicles and transportation activities, it is a better idea to avail the services of a transport management system, as it will ease their management activities and help them to save a lot money.

More and more companies have started using logistic management system and hence the demand and competition have increased considerably. So the number of companies providing customized transport management system or freight management systems has increased. Some of the software offered are not having the expected quality and one must be sure to select the right and the best transportation management system for their company. There are also many software having advanced options such as GPS vehicle tracking or GPS fleet tracking system. So while purchasing the transportation scheduling software, make sure that you have spend the money on the right tool.

Eleven Key Attributes of a Good Property Manager

Property Management is a career profession. The industry allows for employment growth, continual learning experiences, and the opportunity to work with diverse people and income groups. The Property Manager can work either directly for an owner of real estate properties, or for a property management company, contracted by an owner or legal entity to care for the real estate over a specific period of time.

The Property manager has a fiduciary relationship with the management company and property owner. A fiduciary relationship is one that is based on a mutual trust and complete confidence in one another.

The Property Manager is provided an owner's real estate portfolio to manage to its "highest and best use" in exchange for an employment contract or salary. Real estate assignments for the property manager includes apartment buildings, condominiums, hotels, storage facilities, shopping centers, office buildings, government subsidized properties, rooming houses, abandoned buildings and plots of vacant land, to name a few.

I have managed almost all of the above types of properties for over twenty years. I have managed public and private housing, for non-profit organizations, for the federal government, and for private developers and real estate investors. I also owned my own property management company for eight years. I now teach, speak, and write about property management standards and techniques. Here are some crucial skills, which I know from first hand experience, must be accepted as required attributes and learned skills in order to be a good property manager.

1. Must Know and Stay Current on Local Ordinances and State Laws

Managers are required to perform their work according to the laws of the land. The government (city, state, and federal) dictates how real estate is to be managed, from requiring a real estate license (depending on the state), to the use of the real estate (such as rent control laws). From proper trash removal to how and where we must keep security deposits, the manager has to keep abreast of the many legal requirements of managing real estate. If a mistake is made or a task is forgotten, it could cost the owner his or her property, and / or a management company's reputation, loss of the account, or even the loss of real estate licenses.

2. Must Be Highly Ethical and Honest

Property Managers work on the Honor Code when they handle other people's money. By collecting rent, security deposits, laundry machine money et al, the property manager holds a fiduciary relationship with the property owner and / or management company. The owner entrusts the property with thousands of dollars each month, plus the value of the real estate itself. The manager is hired to perform at his or her highest level of integrity. On a daily basis, the property manager's good judgment and sense of what is right and wrong is called into play.

3. Must be Detail Oriented and Organized

Managers collect the rent daily, and must ensure that each rent is paid and posted to the tenants' account as received. Financial records detailing each and every rent transaction are kept, either by rent cards, or on the computer. Lease expirations and renewals, rent increase letters, and rent invoices must be mailed on time. lines for court appearances must be kept, and clients must receive their written monthly report of operations. A skilled property manager is able to multi-task, keep site files organized, and prioritize repairs and assignments.

4. Must Have Good Communication Skills

Managers must be able to communicate with people from all walks of life, cultures, ethnicities, and personalities. Managers must be able to articulate their cases in front of judges, talk to the owner, negotiate with vendors as well as speak appropriately with tenants, who are often frustrated, upset, or angry. A good manager must be able to stay calm, and communicate in a professional manner. Familiarity speaking in other languages ​​is always a plus.

5. Must have Good Computer Skills

Computer competency is a technical skill, like driving, typing, etc. The use of email, mail merge, and faxing through the computer is at the heart of property management today. This is especially true if the property is on one part of the city or state, and the home office is a distance away from the site. If a manager does not have a solid command of the computer and its basic programs, such as Microsoft Word and the spreadsheet Excel, you may be hard pressed to find an administrative position in this field.

6. Should Like Working with the Public

If everyone paid the rent on time by the fifth day of each month, the manager would not have rent collection work to do. If a property never had problems, such as toilet overflows, lost keys, or defective smoke detectors, a property manager would have little to do. Therefore, it is important that a manager enjoy dealing with people with problems. A manager should at least like helping tenants with dignity, and in a responsible manager. If you do not like being interrupted several times a day with a dilemma to solve, this type of job may not be for you.

7. Must Be Patient and Have a Sense of Humor

There is some pressure involved working with the public. There are days when nothing seems to go right, and if you happen to have a headache that day, it could be a long 9 to 5. A calm personality or a good sense of humor will take you a long way in property management. If you tend to be high-strung, anxious, or become angry or impatient while working with tight deadlines or with people with problems, you may want to re-consider taking on this profession.

8. Must Like to Read and Conduct Research

There are many types of leases, agreements, forms, and other legal documents that must be signed between tenants, the manager, government agencies, the site attorney, and / or the owner. Real estate and governmental regulations change; the manager must be willing to read up on them and stay current. Documentation must be read and checked before submitted to tenants, agencies, the owner, etc. If you do not like to read in order to keep up with the latest trends, legal and industry changes and terminology used, you will not be able to properly do your job.

9. Must Have a Strong Sense of Duty and Commitment

Ensuring that the tenants under your control are treated with respect, have heat and hot water, are not subjected to or committing illegal activities or disruptive behavior of their neighbors, are some of the managers' duties. Tenants depend on the manager's sense of obligation to the property and the families or professionals who live in it. The manager may not always have the funds to do everything all the time, but what can and should be done, such as keeping the building clean, and having a sense of urgency to get work completed in a timely manner.

10. Should be Flexible-Minded

Property Management is a fluid profession, in that it follows economic, governmental, industry, and societal changes that impacts how a property is managed. Managers who still like the "good old days" of mistreating tenants and making rental applicants jump through unnecessary hoops to get an apartment (or the opposite, by not checking anything), will find him or herself out of touch, and maybe out of a job. The ability to accept changes of law, obey fair housing laws, have a positive, or at least a neutral, attitude about people who are different, and above all, to be open-minded, is a key element of a successful manager.

11. Must Be an Excellent Follow-Up Person

A manager can never assume that a repair or rent payment plan will happen on its own. Our mantra is: "Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!" This is one of the most critical skills of a good property manager. The ability to multi-task, keeping several balls in the air without dropping any of them is challenging, and difficult at times. The ability to successfully multi-task is often rewarded both financially and in promotion decisions.

Prince2 Configuration Management and Change Control

I remember, many years ago, attending my first training course on Quality. Management could not get enough people to attend, so they bribed them with a free scientific calculator (back then worth about $ 200) – so I attended.

To be honest, I found it a whole lot more compelling than I expected.
After lunch on the second day, they had an expert talk about Configuration Management.

Well, she certainly knew her stuff – but I came away thinking that CM was a bit 'academic'.

How Wrong Can I Be? Configuration Management is BUSINESS CRITICAL!
I'm serious. Would you buy another auto from your dealer if they were not set up with the right tools to service your car?

How about if they fitted the wrong replacement parts? Or if the Manual had errors in it?

There's a famous story about the Space Shuttle incurring huge extra costs because European suppliers used the metric system and the USA used Imperial measurements. Tolerance errors built up and parts did not fit together properly.

Change Configuration Management would have stopped that from happening, and it would have helped to spot any such problems much earlier on.

Let's talk about change control within Prince2

Changes usually come in three categories:

Request For Change (RFC). This is usually a request from the customer or users asking for a change from what was originally requested.

It may be a change to the requirements, specification, acceptance criteria, or scope – or all or any re-work – or accept some form of price reduction.

The final category is a general one. reserved for any general issues, observations or concerns (for example, my design engineer has resigned!).

All the above may be seen as just different categories of an Issue.

So what is Configuration Management? Well it's basically an
internal service group with resources, tools, procedures and systems to control multiple versions of the products (deliverables) of projects.

Each product is termed an "Asset". The name for the combined set of these assets is called a configuration.

And the configuration of a projects end product is the sum of its parts.

So why should we care about using CM?

Changes to your project WILL happen – so prepare for it. I was talking about Change Management, which by the way, should be under the wings of CM.

So when changes occur, your project will end up with multiple versions of a product.

If you do not have appropriate tracking and knowledge of these versions, what was changed, and why it was changed, then your project is going to end up in turmoil.

Suppose you are a design engineer, and a colleague asked you for a copy of the specification document as they are about to design something from it.

What if you had changed the document in some way since it was agreed – maybe because you could see it was an improvement?

Your colleague now designs against this different spec to the spec that others are using – and his product does not work or fit with other designs of the same system. Chaos Reigns.

How about this. A client rings up and says they're using an old version of one of your products (because it's compatible with the rest of their system), and can you build some more for them as a special custom order please?

You say 'no problem' – you go to your design shop only to find that they've lost the drawings – worse, the designer retired last year.

You'd have the same problem if customers said it had a design fault, and could you fix it, or if a customer wanted a modification based on an old design.

And the same problems could exist if you run a 'service' corporation.

Are your staff using the right tools, procedures and guidelines?

Are they trained to provide that service?

Let me ask – does senior management have a set of business plans based on a set of strategic directions? And do different parts of the corporation base their operational plans on these documents?

Sheesh! I sure hope they are all using the correct versions of these things …

Okay, let's get back to your project, and how CM will help.

I hope I've convinced you that CM should be a permanent fixture in your organisation and not just set up by and during, a project (because the end products have got to be sustained during their whole life).

The person who provides the CM service is called the Configuration Librarian. Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of dated – but do not let that put you off. This role can also be called the Configuration Administrator.

Here's how they can help your project:

1. CM has a completed library of all items that have ever been produced in your organisation (including anything that has been 'bought-in' from a third party).

In modern times, these records will probably be held on a database of some sort. In the past they would have been held in hard copy form in a traditional filing system.

2. Each of these records will have information stating who has got what, where it is held, and why.

These records will also hold details of any changes made.

3. The library will also hold master copies of multiple baseline versions of products.

If you work for a small organisation and run small simple projects, then you would expect the way that CM is carried out to be small and simple too. As long as you have control of all versions of all of your products and services.

Next, I want to explain what services the CM Library can give to your project.

It is the project managers' responsibility to ensure that CM is being properly used by the project.

To help ensure this happens a CM Plan can be created.

Note. For a small and simple project, the plan may just be a list of points to discuss and agree with CM.

The Plan may form part of any quality planning or be included within the Project Plan.

Do what is sensible – but here are the areas that should be covered:

A short narrative explaining what configuration method to be used (or a simple reference to the 'usual' system.

What corporate standards will be used (or why they will be varied in some way).

Linkages to any other configuration management systems (or any tools) that will be used. An example may be a third party who is contributing products to the project.

How and where the products will be stored. Are they just documents?

Or are they other physical items – in which case will they be installed on the customer site, or stored elsewhere, such as a bonded storehouse.

How will filing be carried out, and what is the process
for secure retrieval?

What form of version control be used – explain how they
will be identified.

Who within the project and external to it will be
responsible for implementing configuration management?

The Configuration Librarian will provide the FIVE
following services to any given project:

1. Planning. Working with the project manager, to establish what level of detail is required (this is dependent upon the complexity of the total end-product configuration).

2. Identification. Agreeing what products will be under configuration control (for example, the Project Plan may not be included, as long as the project manager has a simple 'off-line' system for keeping it under their own version control).

3. Control. Procedures to 'freeze' baselines of products and bring them under control of the CM library.

Freezing means no changes are allowed to the product without the right level of authority (for example the project sponsor).

There is another point to be brought out here.

Take the development of a new mountain bike.

One person is designing the wheels, another is developing the frame, yet another, the gearing system.

As each goes through the many design versions the others need to make sure the entire configuration of the bike remains 'harmonized'.

The CM database will recognise such linkages and alert the team (via reports as described later in this article); of the relationships each product has to each other.

4. Status Accounting. This is the CM database for the recording and reporting of all products.

This goes back into history to the first version, and all the way up to the current version. This data can be given to the project manager at key points, such as an end stage review as accurate proof of the true status on all the projects products.

5. Verification. CM provides reviews and audits to ensure that the project team are using the correct versions of documents and other products during the project (and that they match the 'master' copies of such that are held in the library).

This should be seen as a service – not as 'the management police'!

Finally, there are two important reports that the project manager will use from the CM Librarian:

1. The Configuration Record. This is a record of all the information required about each product's status, and includes; the latest version number, who is creating the product, where the product is to be kept / stored, and what its status is.

2. Product Status Account. This is a report (usually requested by the project manager at key review points), and provides information about the state of all products within some defined time frame (for example "give me a report of all products and their status that have been created during the current project stage "

The PSA will, for each product within that time frame, contain data such as when each product was baseline and when any changes were approved.

Here is a short synopsis of key points within a Prince2 project when Configuration Management is used:

Planning Quality.

The Configuration Management Plan is created, prior to the
development of the Project Plan. The Project Manager to liaise with Configuration Librarian to discuss how the project will use / work with their Configuration Management (CM) System.

Setting Up Project Files

Takes information from the Project Plan, and adds project filing structure to the Configuration Management Plan. CM system may already have these facilities.

Authorising Work Package (WP) / giving work to the team

Update the Configuration Item Record to "under development" Configuration Librarian will do this.

Ensure the WP contains information regarding how version control will work for the developer, obtaining copies of products or product descriptions, submission the Configuration Librarian, and passing product status information.

Assessing Project Progress.

Capturing "actuals" and updating the status of products Configuration Item Record (CIR). Configuration Librarian can provide a Product Status Account (PSA) if needed.

Capturing and Examining Project Issues / Changes

Configuration Librarian could receive / document all Changes / Issues as well as maintain the Change / Issue Log.

Taking Corrective Action.

When any changes are to be made, the Configuration Librarian to make any products or their copies available, add new copies given out to the CIR, and update CIR for any status changes.

Receiving Completed Work Package (when the team have completed each product / deliverable)

Configuration Librarian to update the CIR to a status of 'completed'.

Product is now baselined if not already done.

As products / deliverables are completed Specialist Team to advise Configuration Librarian to update
CIR status of each product.

Completing a Work Package.

Configuration Librarian to handle the return of completed products (if appropriate), and to assist Project Assurance in confirming customer / user acceptance of products.

Regular Management Reports

Configuration Librarian with assistance of Project Assurance to confirm the CIR is same as actual status of products by carrying out a Configuration Audit.

Also check that version numbers are correct / updated.

Replanning as a result of change.

Configuration Librarian will provide a Product Status Account of products to be replaced / incomplete.

New CIR's created if needed.

Closing down a Project.

CIR checked for completeness, and used as an input to
Product Status Account – confirmation from customers configuration management records that all products are approved.

Refer to the Configuration Management Plan for how the products are to be handed over to those with support / operational responsibilities.

Carry out a Configuration Audit to check that all products are approved and complies with their CIR's.

During Project Planning.

The Configuration Item Record is created with reference to the Configuration Management Plan.

A simple numbering system for each product could be structured as: project name / type of product / product name / source / status / version number

So for example, if a project exists to create a new notebook PC, and a unique numbering system as above is used for the hard drive bought in from a 3rd party:

New Notebook Project / hardware / hard drive / external / in development / vA.2

Here is a detailed guide of the information needed in the
documents referred to in this article:

Configuration Management Plan.

– CM method to be used

– Links to other CM systems or tools

– Where and how products are to be stored

– Security arrangements for filing and retrieval

– Identification and numbering for

products / versions

– Who is responsible for CM

Configuration Item Record.

– Unique Project identifier

– The type of product (web, hardware, etc)

– Product Name

– The Latest version number

– A full Description of the product

– Life Cycle steps for product (ie.draft,

approved, in-service, etc)

– Who owns the product (User? Ops Manager? Etc)

– Who created the product?

– The date allocated to them

– The library or location where it is kept

– Product source (internal, external)

– Links to related products (physical, electrical,

etc)

– Status (where in the life-cycle is it?

– Copy-holders and potential users

– References to issues (if any) that caused change

to this product

– Any relevant correspondence

Product Status Account

– Project name

– Product type

– Product identifier

– Version number

– Product description – baseline date

– Product – baseline date

– List of related products

– Date copy of product was issued for a change

– Planned date for next baseline

– Planed date for next release

– Relevant notes (change pending / under review, etc)