Myths in Risk Management - With Controls, Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Bad

Bruce McCuaig

Mobile devices are wonderful things. They’re light, easy to use and operate, accessible, and available — and they’ve revolutionized the way we manage our personal and business lives.

But for most of us, the mobile devices provided by our employers have very strict “controls”. Most are designed to turn off if they’re idle for just a few minutes. I can reset the timing on mine, but five minutes seems to be the maximum. During a typical conference call when I need to refer to my iPad, it’s common for me to have to sign in with a password four or five times. I suspect I sign into my mobile devices several dozen times a day. I don’t lock the door to my home that often.

Shouldn’t Mobile Devices Always Be “On”?

I watch my colleagues sign in time and time again during business meetings. No one complains or even seems to notice. This inconvenience appears to be accepted by everyone.

But what about usability? In my business life, my devices provide me with an “usually off” experience. But in my personal life, my devices are “usually on”. How many other “controls” like this exist in our business and personal lives? And how should they be set?

More Isn’t Always Better

I’ve spent much of my career as a control professional. I’m here to tell you we’ve gone too far. I’m not saying controls are bad. Controls are absolutely essential. But I am saying controls should be treated like medication. Automated controls that impact the way we work should be treated like prescription narcotics. They should be prescribed carefully and taken only as needed.

Each control should be designed to mitigate one or more specific risks, and everyone should understand what the risks are and manage the control accordingly. It might be a good idea to have a “sunset” clause on controls– just like the prescription that can’t be refilled without a periodic doctor visit, these controls’ existence would have to be justified on a periodic basis.

“Just Because We Can” Controls Are Harmful and Addictive

Now we add controls just because we can, not because we need them. Then we evaluate and test them just because they’re there. In many cases, where controls are automated, they can be added remotely by people we don’t see and don’t know, for reasons that we don’t understand.

Mobile devices should be easily accessible and available. That’s why we call them mobile. If they were handed out to us chained to bricks, with the requirement that we reattach them after every use, we would laugh and object. It wouldn’t make sense. I suggest that many controls we’ve learned to tolerate are equally silly and could be eliminated or, at least, be dramatically redesigned.

Controls are expensive and disruptive. Once in place, control “experts” and auditors become addicted to them. Their continued use is seldom questioned. They go on forever and the cumulative impact is huge in economic and human terms.

Analytics May Be the Answer

The good news is the power of analytics. My view is that analytic tools, especially predictive analytics, may be able to replace controls or vastly reduce the burden they impose. It should be possible for me, as a user, to assess the specific risks associated with my use of my company-provided mobile devices and adjust the controls accordingly. It also should be possible for the company to detect any inappropriate use of my device and shut it down quickly.

Let’s Drive Out Bad Controls

Technology should provide us with the tools we need to reduce our reliance on traditional controls. Controls aren’t inherently good just because technology has made it easy to add them. Some controls are harmful, addictive, and have serious adverse side effects. We can and should be smarter.

Control experts today should be judged on how many controls they can eliminate.

I’m interested in your views on controls. What controls in your business bug you the most? Are there controls that have unintended negative consequences? What process does your organization have for flagging bad controls?

This post is part of a series on Myths in Risk Management. Check out the others on: Exposing the Flaws of Risk Heat MapsCan Risks Be Registered?Can Risks Be Owned?, and You Don’t Need To Start with a Risk.


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Social Media Marketing: Big Brands Will Be Spending More In Your Small Business Neighborhood Soon!

Gerry Moran

Every day I hear consumers say that the Walmarts and Starbucks are just killing the small business owner! In fact, my significant other’s sister won’t shop at a small Walmart because of what is does, according to her, to the local businesses. I don’t completely agree. I think every small business owner has the tools at his or her fingertips to compete at an acceptable level. They just have to be smart about it or connect with a marketing coach to help with their strategy and execution … much like they would resource an accountant!

Next year 47.3 percent  of big businesses will be spending more on social media and digital marketing in local neighborhoods. Small businesses owners, take heed and figure something out!

There are a number of ways that small businesses can be the David to the big brand Goliath. I just recently posted 7 different ways a small business can use Foursquare to help with their social media strategy to get more people through their front door.

Whether it’s Foursquare or Yelp! or Facebook, small businesses can position themselves ahead of their competitors. It’s just takes a little strategy and execution!

For instance, Foursquare is one place where local businesses can really one-up big brands, for now. Bigger brands are not as nimble as locally owned stores. However that may change, given the spending predictions for next year! What bigger brands do have is marketing departments with smart people! I know, since I have been one of them at at my various positions at Kodak, Purina, HBO, IKEA, SAP and a few others.

The following offers I outlined show you how beatable the bigger brands are:

Newbie Special By Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

The Check-in Special By American Eagle

Loyalty Special By Modell’s

The Discount Special From Starbucks

Newbie Special from Elevation Burger

Each of these types of deals are likely deals that you offer now! And, there are a few Foursquare offers that big brands cannot touch, like the Mayor, Swarm and Friends specials that can help you one-up them! There are other ways to to counter the competition with Yelp!, Twitter and blogging! You have the equalizing tools at your finger tips!

If you have a question about how to implement your small business social media marketing strategy, please leave a comment on this MarketingThink blog post, reach out to me at @GerryMoran or

As you work through this holiday season and start to plan for 2013, remember that these larger brands will be spending more on social media, digital marketing and resources to help grow their market share. Think about how you are going to compete!

Gerry Moran


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Windows 8: A False Start In Companies?

SAP Guest

By Sebastian Nikoloff

Has Windows 8 got off to a false start among its corporate users? According to market researcher Forrester, fewer companies worldwide are planning to migrate to Windows 8 than was the case for Windows 7.

(Photo: Microsoft)

Photo: Microsoft

For Microsoft, a lot hinges on the success of the new Windows 8 operating system. In financial terms, Windows 8 is their second most important product after the Office package. But it’s not just the money that is at stake: Windows 8 is an attempt to prove that Microsoft is still relevant, still innovative, and can still offer slick products.

This makes the numbers reported by Forrester’s “Forrsights Data Survey” even more alarming should they prove to be true. They give a rather disappointing picture for major corporate customers.

Number of companies wanting to migrate down by half

According to Forrester’s survey of companies in North America, considerably fewer companies are planning to migrate to Windows 8, which was launched a few weeks ago, compared to its predecessor, Windows 7. In 2009, when Windows 7 launched, almost half of all the companies surveyed wanted to migrated to the new operating system. This time, the figure is only 24%.

In addition, fewer companies have definite plans to upgrade: Whereas in 2009 17% were planning to migrate, in 2012 the figure is 9%. Ten percent of companies are even intending to skip this Windows version altogether. A mere 1% gave this answer in 2009.

Experts and analysts are trying hard to figure out whether demand will really turn out to be weaker, and why that might be. Is Windows 8 worse than Windows 7? Was there a greater need to migrate from Vista? Or is it simply to do with the weak economy? One thing is clear though – we’ll only have reliable answers when Microsoft publishes its preliminary results.


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Who Is Your Undercover Investor?

Ted Coine

About this time last year I published a post on my previous blog that I’d like to share with you now: the title of the post was Undercover Investor.

The impetus in writing it was simple, really. A once and, I’m sure, future business owner myself, I look at every company the way an owner would.

“Why do they do it like this?” I ask. “Is that good business? Does it lead to either short- or long-term profitability, or is it counterproductive? If I were the owner and found my company being run this way, how would I react?”

Since publishing the post, I’ve had a number of interesting conversations, online and off. Several people have asked me if I was writing about myself; if I am right now acting as the undercover investor I wrote about. No, I’m not. There is nothing up my sleeve – I’d make a terrible spy; I can’t lie worth a damn. Am I always learning, no matter where I am? Absolutely. Is someone sponsoring me to do so? Hardly.

Another interesting discussion, which I can neither confirm nor deny, came from someone who said, “Good post. I’m actually doing that right now.” He claims the details vary, but not as much as you might think. If it’s true, more power to him. This seems like the kind of thing a lot of investors would be wise to do. If only one guy is doing this, at one company in the world…? Man, what a loss!

Finally, I have an ask of you: tell me what you think? Would you ever buy a book about such a thing? The show Undercover CEO is popular enough, and the book Undercover Economist sold well. Would Undercover Investor be worth your time and your $25? Even when I’m working on one project, I’m always thinking about the next. Please, tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Undercover Investor


Imagine you’re a pension fund manager. You’re responsible for investing hundreds of millions of dollars for your fund, so you’re always evaluating companies for their worthiness. Over the course of the next few months/year/several years, will a given company’s stock rise faster than the market as a whole? If you pick them right, your fund will beat the market and the other funds out there and you’ll be very well-paid indeed. If not? Well, if not, then you haven’t really justified your employment, have you?

In order to do your job just as masterfully as possible, you gather all the intelligence on a company that you can – industry analyst forecasts, macro-economic forecasts, evaluations of senior leadership. You sit in on quarterly investor calls with with the CEO and his team, you pour over the annual report, you hire white-shoe consulting firms to analyze the products, market, and senior leadership even further – you leave no stone unturned as you gather information that will help you evaluate whether any given company will be a sound investment or a disaster waiting to happen.

You’re pretty good at your job. Your peers admire you. Your competitors try to hire you. Your own firm gives you even more responsibility, and added perks as you advance in your career. Still, you’re always nervous. You never feel that you’re on top of things.

Despite your success, you’ve picked a number of dogs over the years, some lame and some downright terrible investments that still keep you up at night, wondering, “What if…? What else should I have done to know ahead of time that this stock was destined to tank? If only….”

And then there’s Enron. No, you didn’t have any money tied up with them. But your mentor did. He was the superstar of your firm, and then one day he was ruined, wiped out.

He lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Ohio now, down the street from his elderly mother. His wife left him, and he only sees his kids two weeks a year.

How could he have known? he asks you whenever you take his call out of pity. And while you’d like to tell yourself he should’ve seen it coming, that anyone could have seen under that firm’s shiny veneer to its rotten core, deep down inside you wonder: what if? Because you know that could have been you.

Then one evening you’re at a dinner party at a neighbor’s house, in the winter resort town where you have a weekend place so you can unwind occasionally and forget all about Wall Street for a day or two. You love these neighbors, a retired couple whose intimate parties always bring a fascinating collection of individuals.

You’re never sure if you’re going to sit next to a hot-shot billionaire or the pool guy, but you know whoever it is, they’ll be one of the most interesting people you’ve spoken to all season. This couple collects brilliant minds like some of your other neighbors collect Picassos.

This evening in particular, you meet an author and serial entrepreneur, not much younger than you. Like your hosts, he doesn’t pursue business ventures to make money; he dives into something when he finds it sufficiently interesting. Right now he’s between projects, so he’s helping to run a nonprofit that he founded with his wife to help local school kids from disadvantaged families.

You like how this guy thinks. There’s something about him: completely unassuming, almost self-mocking, yet entirely sure of himself, all at the same time. And something he says sticks with you the rest of the weekend. “There’s a sea change transforming business right now,” he says. “The Twentieth Century is over, and many of our current leaders won’t get that till it’s too late. The age of using people as commodities, and of short-term profit, is already past.” It isn’t just the message, but how certain he is as he shares it. And it gets you to thinking.

 When you get back to the city, you buy his first book. Interesting, so you check out his blog. Fresh. You keep asking yourself as you read, “Is this guy living in a dream world, or is he actually onto something?”

And you read in Bloomberg about another bank caught up in another ethics scandal. Ouch. You own a piece of that one, and your team has spent thousands of hours trying to decide how much more of their stock to buy. No one, including you, has seen this latest hit coming.

Then, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place one day as you’re fixing yourself a coffee and your friend Bob joins you for a little break. “Hey, did you see Undercover CEO last night?” he asks, shaking his head. “My friend Wally always shorts the stock of any company on that show. After the episode featuring a given company, the next day its stock takes a dive. He’s bought a boat from the proceeds.”

Bob chuckles and walks away, leaving your gears whirling faster than they have in a long time. ‘What if?’ you think to yourself. ‘What if instead of a company’s CEO putting on a disguise and serving customers at the counter of one of his stores, what if a fund manager sent someone to work at a company? Not just for a week, but how about a long-term assignment – maybe even a couple of years? Something like this: the manager tells the guy, “Get hired if you can – no help from inside.

The hiring process is important, after all. Then just… work. And learn. Observe the company from the inside-out. Where is it strong? Where is it weak? Are the CEO, his direct reports, the middle management, and the front line – all of them – are they doing it right? If we were to invest, should we replace anyone? Change any processes? Should we just walk away instead?”

‘This would require the right person for the job, of course. Someone with a fresh set of eyes. Someone whose insight I respect, whose outlook I admire. Also, someone who is between projects, and whose imagination would be captured by the assignment. This would have to be totally on the up-and-up, of course. No deceit to get in. No pay until the assignment is over – and certainly no reporting until the assignment is over, because I’m not about to do time for insider trading!

Most importantly, the person in question could have no incentive whatsoever to approve of or disapprove of the investment. The advice would have to be entirely unbiased by economic considerations. Same generous pay-out whether it’s thumbs-up or thumbs-down.’

Imagine if that fund manager knew just where he could find such an individual: his own spin on the reality show with the disguised CEO. His own Undercover Investor.

Yeah. Imagine that.

Cover art  and blog-inserted art by Guillermo PresteguiUndercover Spy art by Niels Hoyle-Dodson


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Instagram Marketing: How To Create A Picture-Perfect Contest

Gerry Moran

Picture this. You getting your picture taken in a gingerbread house in a supermarket and then having it sent to the Internet! Sound fun?

More and more businesses are hosting such contests. So, how do YOU create an Instagram contest that is both interesting and is built for success? Check out (pun intended) this Instagram contest that Whole Foods is presently running in its Plymouth Meeting, PA store.

The numbers speak about Instagram marketing adoption. Simply Measured reports that 54% of the top 100 brands are using Instagram in some way and even leveraging it cross-platform 60% of the pictures being tweeted (for now) and 90% being posted on Facebook. It’s THE hottest tactic, with 35% growth last quarter, beating Google+ and Pinterest!

With this fast-paced adoption brands and customers, it makes sense for all businesses to consider it to drive shopper and buyer awareness and engagement! Instagram is becoming a native social media behavior. And, with the use of trade shows, point of purchase and virtual purchase there is a use case for you to integrate Instagram!

Here are 5 things that make an Instagram contest for your business successful:

  • Insta-Goals. Before you start designing the cool parts to a contest that involves any social media, you need to set a goal. Wholefood’s goal was to drive followers and to enable engagement by in-store fans. A secondary goal could have been to drive store visits by follower’s followers, after they saw the photo post!
  • Descriptive Signage. All contests need to have an easy to understand user-experience. Whole Food’s homerun with this contest is the use of clear graphics, articulated instructions and a call-to-action
  • Easy-To-Find And Easy-to-Type Hashtag. To make your contest This is where so many brands on Instagam fall down. Make your contest hashtag, which is the identifier to help you and this is one more example! I think that I know what #wfgingerbread. I think it could have been improved by changing it to #WFGingerBread, or even#WholeFoodHoliday. I always like to see a hashtag that someone would search on
  • Easy To Find And Follow Handle. It’s always best to have easy to remember and easy to type in Instagram handles. For instance, mine is @GerryMoran . I recommend that you use a handle with the clear mention of your name, unless it is very clear what your abbreviations means like @wfm_plymouthmeeting!
  • Great Offer. Everyone loves free stuff! And, you need to create a great offer to get people to participate in your contest! Make it easy to understand what one needs to do

On the outside, this Whole Foods contest looks great! But is it really? Leave a comment to tell me what you think or ask me directly by contacting me through this blog or @GerryMoran.

How can you tell if this contest is working or makes sense for your business? Easy enough. Jump onto Instagram and type in #wfmgingerbread and check out what’s cooking at Whole Foods. And if you get an appetite for a picture-perfect contest, then try your own recipe for Instagram success!


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