business cards

Time for a change

It seems that we have a ten years rhythm for big changes.
We founded our consulting company in 1997 in Germany and its been ten years we established cocoate in France.

When we started, the internet was still something for freaks or very early adopters and not at all mainstream.
Explaining the web and its possibilities to companies and organisations was one of our major business field in the late 90ies. Very soon, we set up training programs for IT based topics and delivered them in German-speaking countries. Hagen wrote 28 books, edited a few more, recorded video trainings, mainly about open source content management systems but also about other software applications.
There was a time when Facebook, Twitter and Instagram did not exist and we developed a kind of similar online networks for different use cases and clients.
E-Learning was another hype at the end of the 90ies, beginning 2000 and thus we got involved in it. We consulted about the integration of e-learning into business processes and that activity opened the doors to the European program for adult education. As a result, we created, managed, evaluated and monitored 13 projects for developing adult education in Europe.
We built up a huge repository of skills and knowledge, having experienced very different business settings in organisations throughout the world.

And now its time for a change again. In March, we closed our company here in France and relocated cocoate in Switzerland. We want to be closer to our main clients and also reduce our average tax wedge (which is one of the highest in France among the OECD countries) to be able to save most of our earnings for our retirement.
This administrative change does not influence our work. We still love to do strategic business consulting and coaching, despite having discovered our love for restoring old houses and art ūüėČ

Faces

Auftragsklärung und Kundenzufriedenheit

Wenn ich Beratungen zur persönlichen Entwicklung annehme, habe ich zuvor eine detaillierte Auftragsklärung gemacht. Klärung im Sinne des Wortes: etwas klar stellen, sichtbar machen.
Ich kläre den Gegenstand der gemeinsamen Arbeit, das Ziel, Sinn und Nutzen und wie wir beide, der Kunde und ich, dieses Ziel erreichen wollen.
Der Vorteil eines solchen Vorgehens sind

  • die Teilung der Verantwortung als Voraussetzung f√ľr eine gleichwertige Beziehung
  • die Vermeidung unrealistischer Erwartungen
  • Bewusstheit √ľber W√ľnsche, Ziele, Spielr√§ume und Grenzen
  • die Vereinbarung eines konkreten Ziels

Erst dann kann ich, auf der Basis meiner Kompetenzen, den Auftrag annehmen oder ablehnen.Das klingt simpel und selbstverständlich, ist es aber nicht.
Im ‚Äúnormalen‚ÄĚ Gesch√§ftsalltag scheint die Auftragskl√§rung ein eher schwieriges Unterfangen zu sein. Oftmals liegt der Fokus auf den technischen Details eines Auftrags/Angebots und die Gestaltung der Kundenbeziehung wird als ein sich automatisch entwickelnder Proze√ü angesehen. Da kann es schon passieren, dass man aneinander vorbei handelt und die gew√ľnschten Ziele auf beiden Seiten nicht erreicht werden.
Sie, als auch ihr Kunde, wollen verf√ľgbare Ressourcen und M√∂glichkeiten optimal nutzen bzw. weiterentwickeln um ihre jeweiligen Marktpositionen zu sichern und zu verbessern.

You need to create value for your customers in order to generate revenue.

Es ist also notwendig vorab zu kl√§ren, wie Sie, als Anbieter Kundenzufriedenheit definieren. Die Beantwortung dieser Fragen kann dabei hilfreich sein, letztlich haben diese Fragen aber auch damit zu tun, wie Sie Ihr Unternehmen sehen, wof√ľr es steht (Mission & Vision):

  • Welche Vorteile hat die Zusammenarbeit mit ihrem Unternehmen?
  • Was ist notwendig, um diese Vorteile wirksam werden zu lassen, in ihrem Unternehmen, beim Kunden?
  • Wie definieren sie Erfolg f√ľr ihr Unternehmen, f√ľr ihre Kunden?

Wie erreicht man Kundenzufriedenheit?

Der Auftrag ist gut erledigt, wenn der Kunde akzeptiert was er bekommt.
Der Auftrag ist gut erledigt wenn der Kunde bekommt was er sich gew√ľnscht hat.

Nat√ľrlich entwickeln und liefern Sie was der Kunde will.
Aber, was verkaufen sie ihrem Kunden? Was Sie glauben was er will/und möchte oder was er braucht?
Das ist ein feiner, aber sehr bedeutsamer Unterschied ūüėČ

Im Bereich Webdienstleistungen und Softwareentwicklung erlebe ich oft, dass beinahe alles widerspruchslos realisiert wird, was der Kunde verlangt bzw. dass der Kunde akzeptieren muß, was ihm angeboten wird. Das ist einerseits verständlich, hat man doch Angst den Kunden zu enttäuschen und/oder zu verlieren. Meistens jedoch kommt eine wirkliche Auftragsklärung, die sowohl Beratung als auch Orientierung bietet, zu kurz.
Die Komplexit√§t solcher Produkte und Services √ľberfordert nicht immer nur den Kunden, sondern oft auch den Anbieter.
Fehlende Kenntnisse (beim Kunden, bei Verk√§ufern, Projektmanagern und Entwicklern), mangelnde M√∂glichkeiten der Weiterbildung und Zeitknappheit sind die Hauptgr√ľnde f√ľr das Scheitern solcher Projekte.

 

Wenn Sie nun die W√ľnsche ihrer Kunden kennen, dann ist es an der Zeit zu schauen, inwieweit sie √ľber die zur Erf√ľllung dieser W√ľnsche notwendigen Ressourcen verf√ľgen und wie es um ihr Leistungsverm√∂gen steht. Dabei ist es wichtig auch die Entwicklungen des Marktes (Trends, Wettbewerber) zu beachten.
Nur dann ist es möglich, eine, ausgeglichene Kundenbeziehung und eine nachhaltige Wertschöpfungsstrategie zu entwickeln:

  • Wie sinnvoll ist das zu entwickelnde Produkt/Service f√ľr die Realisierung der Ziele des Kunden?
    • Was wird damit optimiert, neu entwickelt? Welche Konsequenzen hat der Einsatz des Produkts f√ľr den Kunden?
  • Welchen Wert mi√üt der Kunde dem Produkt/Service bei?
    • Welches sind seine Anforderungen an Qualit√§t, Effizienz, Sicherheit und Zuverl√§ssigkeit?
  • Wie ist das Preis-Leistungsverh√§ltnis des Produkts/Services f√ľr den Kunden?
    • Was bekommt der Kunde f√ľr sein Geld, seine Zeit, seine Aufwendungen?
  • Welchen Einflu√ü hat Ihr Verh√§ltnis zum Kunden auf dessen Zufriedenheit (w√§hrend der Auftragsabwicklung und danach)?
    • Wie beziehen Sie die Kreativit√§t des Kunden in den Entwicklungsprozess ein?
    • Wie gestalten Sie Support, after sales services, updates/upgrades?

Eine detaillierte Auftragsklärung und die Ermittlung der Wertvorstellungen des Kunden helfen bei der Evaluation Ihres Leistungsvermögens und bei der Gestaltung problemloser und langfristiger Kundenbeziehungen.
Als Anbieter sparen Sie somit Zeit und Geld, welches f√ľr die kontinuierliche Weiterbildung ihrer Mitarbeiter und f√ľr die Entwicklung neuer Produkte/Services verwendet werden kann.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sustainable Business Development

 

The transition to a resource-saving and sustainable economy is one of the largest challenges of our century. The preservation and augmentation of capital is a self-evident tasks for companies, but sustainability in managing ecological and social resources is still relatively new. Economics was often conceived as a set of rules, based on abstract models, for the development of businesses and economies, which seemed to have no relation to social and ecological contexts. Even today, we still use mathematical models from the 19./20. century to predict, understand and analyse economical processes.

In the past, entrepreneurial sustainability meant achieving economic advantages over competitors. Economic factors such as shareholder value, revenue, profit, and market shares were the main focus of businesses.

As Milton Friedman said: ¬ęThe business of business is business¬Ľ

Social and ecological problems were, according to this understanding, the responsibility of the state. That has changed in the last 20, 30 years. Sustainability has now become an integral part of management in many, at least globally active, companies. Businesses have improved their operations so that they consume fewer resources and produce less waste. In short, they have become more efficient and have increased their profits and the shareholder value of their company.

But this is not enough in terms of a sustainable business development‚Ä®. The equation of a more efficient use of existing resources with sustainability is a way too short thought. Such an approach encourages the widespread belief that, with the help of technologies, we are able to make better and longer use of existing resources and do not have to change our consumption behaviour.

Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

The so-called triple bottom line ( people, planet and profit) is a framework to evaluate business performance in a broader perspective to create greater business value.‚Ä® This framework has led to legal changes around the world and resulted in the creation of new types of enterprises. It also influenced the way businesses do business:
Stages of business development

  1. Economical development and increasing shareholder value
  2. Developing and increasing of Shareholder-Value and managing (re-active) economical, ecological and social challenges related to it by reducing the negative impact of the business on society
  3. Integration of environmental, social and governance issues in business processes by developing a positive impact of the business on society (pro-active)

I guess the majority of businesses is still at stage 1 and/or 2, only a few companies are focusing on positive contribution to resolve societies’ sustainability problems.
 Even though many companies claim that they are acting sustainable, but still are not involved or supportive in solving social and global challenges. Most of the companies are still following a reactive approach on those challenges to comply with regulations (CO2 / NOx РEmissions, safety regulations, ISO 14001, etc.).

How to develop a business sustainably?

As described above, increasing profits and shareholder value alone is not sufficient for sustainable business development.‚Ä® Probably, the way how the business is done and the business culture itself needs to undergo a change. Quite often, business models are very old-fashioned just as are their working processes and technical infrastructure. Technology is often rather seen as a threat to the business (decreasing customer loyalty through constant availability of internet access ) than a benefit.

A continuous, regular reassessment of resources, processes, prices, benefits and customer values will soon show under-performing segments of your business.  Do you know the cost Рincome rate for each of your services/products?
By simplifying processes and the use of scalable, (open source) technical infrastructure, costs can be cut to make money available for necessary investments in new product/service/professional education development.
When it comes to process optimisation, companies are quick in reducing costs by reducing the number of employees or decreasing payment instead of thinking and testing new working (and payment) models like e.g. remote work. Remote work  might not work for all professions, but for a lot of people working in administration, marketing, IT.
 The incapability of handling such an organisational change and the fear on both sides, on employers and employees, to either lose control or to get fired, is a big hurdle .
In this context, transparency is as big challenge and can be powerful accelerator in balancing interests of shareholders/owners, employees and the society, ending up redefining the company culture. It’s not done by just changing the public relation strategy but focusing on customer values and giving space for creativity when it comes to further professional development helps to drive customer oriented development and creates openness to change.

Critical Thinking

For the CITCOM project, Isabell Schulz and me wrote a tutorial about critical thinking. It’s part of a series of workshops for this project and worth to share, we think.

Introduction

To a certain extent we all know what critical thinking means – in short, good thinking, almost the opposite of irrational, illogical thinking.
Our societies are increasingly faced with multi-complex interconnected problems, which we are not able to recognise or solve with a reductionist approach. The ability to do so is much higher by emphasizing contextual understanding and critical thinking to then successfully tackle them.
Applying critical thinking techniques is a pre-requisite for being able to think complex scenarios, discuss them with open outcomes collaboratively.
According to Kant: Critical Thinking is the way out of self-imposed immaturity. Continue reading “Critical Thinking”

How to give a presentation

presentationI saw a lot of presentations during the last weeks and I thought it’s time to publish a small guide I prepared for some workshops few years ago.
It’s not an all-embracing guide but it summarized the most important points.

It all starts with finding the right topic for the audience you are going to present to, a topic which involves you, your listeners, and a which you can handle. This seems to be a not very difficult, but you might changed it when you define the purpose of your presentation. Either you want to inform, to persuade or just to celebrate something, you need to improve your purpose statement regarding focus, triviality, technical overload, relevance to the current situation and the time limit set for the presentation.
Once you clarified the overall purpose you then summarize in a single sentence the main message of your presentation.

Now you start collecting your materials. Have in mind the special interest of your audience and include your personal knowledge and experiences. Naturally, you need to evaluate all materials regarding accuracy, objectivity and licenses:

  • create an overview,
  • prepare a bibliography,
  • check if informations are up-to-date,
  • focus on local applications

For structuring your content, use on of these three methods:

  1. Comparison: point out similarities: unfamiliar or controversial
  2. Contrast: emphasize the differences between or among things
  3. Analogy: combine comparisons and contrasts: remote or abstract ideas

Balance your content in following a consistent, logical pattern in three parts: introduction, body, conclusion:Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.20.03

Structuring your content is the most crucial part of preparing a presentation. Many presenters succumb to the temptation to pack too much content into their speech and thus set themselves under pressure to talk about everything. It goes often along with a non-logical structure of a speech. To avoid that, it might help to structure your content as follows:

  1. Arouse attention
  2. Demonstrate a need
  3. Show, how the need might be satisfied
  4. Visualize the results
  5. Call for action.

Define the main points and sub points: short, direct and clear. Arrange the content appropriately according to their similarities, proximity and finish a story by offering a solution or a call for action.
Structuring your content, you can choose between a

  • categorical design by dividing topics into areas of interest
  • cause-effect design that pictures a topic either as the cause of an effect or as the effect of a cause.
  • narrative design by telling a story which moves from scene to scene.
    However, you need to ensure to have an effective introduction and conclusion. Above all: KISS – keep it short and simple!

Techniques for structuring each section of your presentation can be found in the attached presentation which I use for guiding a two days workshop. Here, I just want to refer to some points for the supportive visualization of your presentation.

There different types of presentation aids, such as people, objects, models, animals, graphics, pictures, etc. And there are much more presentation aids than powerpoint!, e.g. flipcharts, posters, handouts, transparencies, videos, audios, etc.
Visualization has advantages and disadvantages and you need to think of your overall purpose when planning the types and tools to include into your speech.

Advantages:

  • Enhance understanding
  • Memorize the message
  • Establish authenticity
  • Improve your credibility
  • Improve delivery
  • Add variety and interest

Disadvantages:

  • Distract speaker
  • Distract audience
  • Reduce eye-contact
  • Demage credibility if sloppy
  • Take time to prepare
  • Depend on equipment

However, most presenters use slide presentation programs. It’s eye-catching and funny to have a colorful presentation but you should try to avoid a total mess and mix of colors, fonts, images.
color schemeKeep it simple:

  • 6×6: No more than 6 bullets per slide. No more than 6 words per bullet.
  • Choose plain fonts
  • Color choice: light on dark, dark on light
  • Run a spell checker
  • Font sizes (min): Title 48, Subtitle 32, Text 28
  • First slide: Title, subtitle
  • Last slide: contact details (URL, name, phone, twitter, FB, etc.)
  • your logo in header or footer
  • in footer: your URL, number of slides, date

There are also some points you should avoid under all circumstances:

  • Never let a slide presentation be a substitute for your speech.
  • Never read the slides to your audience.
  • Don’t use complex graphics, simplify them!
  • Don’t use moving text or graphics
  • Don’t play sounds

Regardless which type of visualization aids you choose, you should always rehearse your speech and test to presenting area about technical possibilities and restrictions.

Workshop Presentation & Public Speaking (PDF)

Save

Projet UE Citcom

citcom logo hands webLe projet CITCOM avec des partenaires en Europe est désormais bien dans sa deuxième
année. Le projet est sur la facilitation et les groupes et les communautés qui doivent
réapprendre utilisant leurs voix à être des citoyens actifs.
Le projet encourage et soutient les populations rurales qui veulent une voix claire dans les
politiques affectant les zones rurales et les résidents concernés souhaitent la production
d’√©nergie verte et durable. Il facilite villages qui essaient de cr√©er de nouvelles √©conomies,
tout en tenant à ce qui est mieux sur leurs lieux et villages, créer une future pertinentes pour
leurs jeunes. Les processus de changement personnel et communautaire sont promus tout
en explorant ce que la différence entre la citoyenneté statique et citoyenneté active signifie
dans la vie réelle.
Ateliers, tables rondes et des r√©unions ont √©t√© organis√©es dans toutes les r√©gions, ainsi qu’√†
l’√©tranger, pour construire la communaut√© les comp√©tences et les comp√©tences des gens.
Deux autres r√©unions internationales restent o√Ļ nous comment explorer la gestion
collaboratrice et de la cr√©ativit√© et de l’innovation pour r√©aliser les visions communautaires.
Un guide d’apprentissage, y compris une matrice de m√©thodes, de mat√©riel de l’atelier et de la
recherche de fond, sera disponible gratuitement sur le projet site web ( www.citcom.eu). Dans
le prolongement de ce travail, l’√©quipe d√©veloppe un programme de formation d‚Äôintense visant √†
les activistes communautaires, les travailleurs rémunérés et des bénévoles pour être livrés en
2016.
Financ√© au titre du programme Grundtvig multilat√©ral, les partenaires sont l’Universit√© de
Bangor, au Pays de Galles; Université de technologie de Kaunas, Lituanie; Club écologique
de la Transylvanie, en Roumanie; ALVIT Innovation et de l’√©ducation, de la R√©publique
tch√®que; Training2000 de l’Italie et cocoate.com, France.

Pour plus d’informations contactez nous.

Save

Save

How do I keep my budget balanced?

Planning for Joomla! Roadshow 2013 in IranPreparing the next European meeting of the Happy Home Wallet project I did discuss with some people of different ages and social backgrounds the above question.
The ways to handle money are different and it often causes stress for a lot of people but all agreed on these two main principles:

  1. Money itself can’t be an end goal but a resource used to accomplish other goals and fulfill obligations.
  2. Spend less than you earn for a long time and you will be financially successful.

However, we also noticed two main trends towards money: Continue reading “How do I keep my budget balanced?”

Time to change something

We are permanently changing something, adapt ourselves to external and internal conditions but from time to time, changes are more visible to our audience.

cocoate.com was started in February 2007 as the successor of a German consultancy, established in 1997. The main fields of our activities were quite the same, our project activities, cooperation and the geographical area changed with our move to France.

We continued with adult education projects on a European level, software trainings, management and organizational consulting, but I reduced very much my coaching activities. That was attributable to the distance to Germany, even though I tried some online coaching sessions, it’s not the same. We increased our other activities and found ourselves very soon under the same time pressure as we have been in Germany. There was/is never enough time to realize all our ideas ūüėČThe infographic summarizes the main achievements of our seven years period.

infographic cocoate

Now, the time has come to re-think our activities and decide how much time we want to spend on it.

cocoate website

We try to find some time to re-design it, keeping the publication section and the project list as there are some good materials available to inspire you ūüėČ

However, very soon we will close our blog. As written above, we need to re-schedule our available time resources and writing regularly is one of the things we decided to skip.

Hagen started writing about web server infrastructure at NOVATREND, follow him there.

European projects for adult education

We will finish our current projects during the next year and won’t develop new one’s. We started working in that area in 2004 and it has been an amazing experience! We learned so much about education methodologies, got to know many regions in Europe we never heard before and we made a lot of friends.

These projects also affected our “normal” business and we really changed our training and consultancy methods.

The fight for improving formal, non-formal and informal education methods seems to be endless and we got a bit tired of that.

Consultancy

We are still working in that field and we still love it. It’s very motivational for us to consult about IT infrastructure, e-commerce solutions and the development of communication strategies. The size and status of the client doesn’t matter, every client gets his specific advice and guidance.

Our work also contains prototyping and of course, building websites.

Trainings

We won’t miss that as we always learn a lot from our participants.

For sure, we will continue with in-house trainings, tailored according to the needs of the client. There will be a day when we create again our own trainings as we did many times before for bringing open source software closer to the mind of people.

New stuff

You might have noticed that we love to restore old houses. This covers a lot of our time but we really enjoy transforming old, often abandoned houses into livable beauties. We got encouraged by the feedback of people who are following our restoration work and decided to give that activity more space in our life. Of course, there will be a website where we write about it.

We hope we can still inspire you with things we make ūüėČ

Save

Principes de Communication

Notre communication est influencée par les processus inconscients qui sont décisifs pour le succès ou l’échec du schéma de nos relations.  Même sans parler, nous transmettons beaucoup d’information pendant nos échanges avec les autres et donc, influençons leur comportement.

A l’occasion de la r√©union international de projet CITCOM, Isabell et j’ai donn√© un atelier sur les principes de la communication.
La premi√®re partie a √©t√© livr√©e par moi-m√™me et est entr√© dans les bases de notre communication, dans la deuxi√®me partie Isabell a introduit un cadre pour l’√©laboration d’une strat√©gie de communication et la fa√ßon de l’ex√©cuter avec succ√®s.

Les commentaires que nous avons re√ßu a montr√© deux tendances: la plupart d’entre nous ne sont pas conscients de leurs modes de communication et ne veulent pas vraiment √† d√©couvrir la source de ces influenceurs inconscients. Deuxi√®mement, les gens veulent avoir des r√©ponses simples √† des questions complexes, exprim√©es par la demande sur les strat√©gies de communication pr√™ts √† l’emploi: un site, un peu de Facebook, des emails, etc
Comprendre les processus de communication et de d√©velopper une bonne strat√©gie de communication est plus complexe et un travail pour les professionnels – vous pouvez nous embaucher ūüėČ
Bonne lecture! Continue reading “Principes de Communication”

Principles of Communication

Our communication is influenced by unconscious processes which are decisive for success or failure for the scheme of our relations. Even non-verbally, we always transmit plenty of information when talking to or with others and thus influence their behaviour.

On the occasion of the international project meeting for the CITCOM project, Isabell and I gave a workshop about the principles of communication.
The first part was delivered by myself and went into the basics of our communication, in the second part Isabell introduced a framework for devising a communication strategy and how to execute it successfully.

The feedback we received showed two tendencies: most of us aren’t aware of their communication patterns and don’t really want to discover the source of these unconscious influencers. Secondly, people want to have easy answers to complex questions, expressed by the demand on ready-made communication strategies: a website, a bit of Facebook, some emails, etc.
Understanding communication processes and developing a good communication strategy is more complex and a job for professionals – you can hire us ūüėČ
Enjoy reading it! Continue reading “Principles of Communication”