The Phantom of the Gaming World

The Phantom is credited as immensely revolutionary and one of the best gaming consoles … that was never actually released.

Phantom Gaming Console

Why was the Phantom revolutionary and considered potentially “game changing” in the gaming world?

  • The Phantom was set to have PC like performance, far more superior than any other gaming system. Why is this important? It made the potential ceiling for games in terms of speed and graphics that much higher than any other games in the market.
  • The Phantom would not offer games in physical form. Instead it would be built with an internal direct download service that would let users download games directly from an internet connection to their console (much like Playstation and Xbox now offer). Why is this feature important? Gamers no longer had to walk/drive to the store or wait for delivery of highly anticipated games.
  • The price of their games were set to be around $2.00 to $50.00, which would be in similar price range with other consoles in the market.

Why was it never released?

The company with the task of creating the system was a virtually unknown company named Infinium Labs, who was venture-capital-funded. Ultimately their costs simply ran too high when trying to make the console actually work. Infinium labs began to have problems securing funding and had to abandon operations.


What do you think was the biggest problem surrounding the release of the Phantom Gaming Console?

In terms of  cost, time, and performance, what advice would you give Infinium Labs if you were hired as a business consultant?


Big Box Retail Stores going the way of the dodo?

I remember when I was a few years younger about 18 at the time and needed money for whatever an 18 year old needs money for. I had a sales associate job with a company whose name I will not divulge for the privacy of the company. Although I can tell you that the name rhymes with ‘Best Buy’. The job was one of the less enjoyable ones that I have held, I always thought this was a problem because of bad management but now I realize that the problem was bigger than the store management. The problem with the company was how the operations were structured; the operations encouraged a high rate of turn over and a low level of employee morale. I was of course, an employee.


As a sales associate my job was to sell product for the store. Sales were tracked by the amount of units an associate sold, but this was not the most important statistic that was viewed. You see, computers are not very profitable for a store to sell. The store either breaks even or looses a few dollars when selling a unit. “Mario, then how does a store stay in business with such an unprofitable model?” Well I’m glad you asked! You see, the managers instill in the employees that every single computer should be sold with an extended warranty, geek squad recovery discs, or a home instillation by a geek squad member. Best Buy all of these services are basically pure profit for the store and are the statistics that the managers are interested in. This is all fine. A company needs to make a profit, which is the essence of capitalism.


However, where the company falters is how these goals are incentivized. Managers view the ‘attachment’ numbers of employees like gospel. Employees that can sell are given more hours and ones who do not are phased out. There is a very high rate of employee turn over. The employees make an hourly rate no matter how much they sell or don’t sell. The managers earn a bonus depending on how many attachments are sold with the computers and how profitable these attachments are.  As one can infer this would create a rather hostile working environment between employees who can care less if a customer does not want recovery discs with their laptop because it does not affect them directly. While at the same time managers can be seen swooning whenever a customer declines additional services. Ultimately harsh words are said to the employee and the day goes on. As expected morale and company loyalty are either deplorable or nonexistent.


So, what do my fellow students think about the operations structure of this company? Do you agree with the structure to work employees with no incentive, a bad environment and bad morale? Or do you have any suggestions on how a company can go about to remedy this issue.  Can this be fixed or do you foresee more companies going the way of the dodo and Circuit City?

Process Flow and the use of Project Management at AOL Advertising

AOL Advertising is a service-based organization offering various types of online advertising campaigns. Advertising campaigns offer clients customized audiences, brands and platforms that help advertisers reach their digital marketing goals. Whether the goal is to maximize brand exposure, increase online ROI or recruit a certain number of online registrations, AOL has a number of tools to help clients reach their online targets and goals.

Project Management is incredibly important to the bottom line of how all departments function at AOL. The digital online environment requires employees to manage multiple simultaneous processes that must all work together to create the end result: an online advertising campaign. Every advertising campaign experiences an assembly line of departments start to finish. First, a Sales representative pitches or responds to a request for proposal (RFP). Then an Account Manager plans the business with internal AOL systems, determining if there is enough inventory at the right price to meet a customer’s needs. From there it moves to the Launch & Traffic Department to begin the implementation phase. Launch & Traffic members receive an advertiser’s physical ad and sets up the campaign parameters (how and where it will run) through AOL’s back end data systems. After the Launch & Traffic team sets the campaign live, the post-launch process begins. Post-launch the campaign is reviewed by the Business Analyst team, who monitor the campaign’s performance to ensure that the campaign is running and performing as intended. Then Account Management works with the Billing department to bill for and finalize the campaign. Overall, each piece of the process has a number of key operational procedures that together allow AOL to successfully pitch, sell and execute multiple online ad campaigns simultaneously.

All of the departments listed above (Sales, Account Management, Launch & Trafficking, Business Analysts and Billing) engage in project management techniques and procedures on a daily basis. How does your organization execute project management through its operational processes and procedures?


Non-Productive Team Members


As we all are aware, the success of a project is dependent on the team members who each have a contribution to the various milestones. Every team member has their own expertise that will help with the execution of a project, and every team member wants a project to succeed. However, there are times where a team member will fall behind in his/her tasks which may undoubtedly cause the project timelines to slip. There are several things that the project manager can do to help in this type of situation.

According to a blog posting by Barry Otterholt, if a project team member is falling behind in his tasks, the project manager needs to step in and help correct the situation before the project slips too far behind schedule and project team morale slips. The project manager should speak with the member in a tone that isn’t accusatory or from a manager to a subordinate, but from a colleague to a colleague and in an open manner. It may be that the employee is simply overloaded with additional work (which is common in these economic times). If this is the case, the issue is relatively easy to resolve, and the project manager can provide coaching or additional resources to help get the employee’s job done. While an additional resource (even a temporary resource) may be expensive, the cost of that employee may be less than the cost of the project not being completed on time.

Other issues, like personal problems or incorrect prioritization could also be the cause of a task to fall behind schedule for a team member. However, if all else fails, he/she needs to escalate appropriately. In another posting by Brad Egeland, if all attempts to “work it out” fails, the supervisor of that team member needs to be notified and he/she needs to be taken off of the project and a new resource needs to be assigned. As stated above, waiting too long can be detrimental to the project chemistry as well as the morale of other project team members.

Finally, Otterholt finishes his posting with a few quick tips about dealing with this type of a situation. First, ensure the team member takes responsibility for the task that is falling behind. Next, the project manager needs to show a willingness to help. Third, the project manager should be resourceful in finding a solution. Finally, if all else fails, the project manager should cut ties with that resource.

My question to everyone is how would/have you dealt with a problematic project team member in any project you participated in? If you were the project manager in a project where a team member is consistently missing deadlines, how would you handle the situation?


Technology in the Workforce and the Rise of the Nontraditional Work Environment

Technology is changing the way people do business. With applications that create faster overall processes and improved communication, the key to success is often accomplished through the use of the right technology. Managers must be aware of what these changes are and how technology is facilitating them. There are a number of growing trends that demonstrate how the workforce is shifting towards nontraditional work environments and which technologies are being used to support these environments. Remote employees working in virtual work environments are becoming more commonplace in today’s workforce, whether it is through outsourcing work to other countries or US employees based in different geographic locations than their teams/managers. No matter which type of nontraditional work environment, it is clear that technology is a crucial key to success.

There are a number of different tools that a remote or virtual employee can use. Working in teams with people located in different geographic locations requires extra attention on communication. Managers must make sure that remote employees feel included and equal to their non-remote peers. In order to do so, there are a number of technologies that help bridge the geographic gap. Video conferencing allows individuals who are in different physical locations to interact as if they were all in the same place. Having a round-table meeting over video conference allows individuals to express themselves through gestures and expressions. It also creates a sense of familiarity amongst employees since it is a social environment. Another tool is web conferencing, which allows people on different computers to simultaneously view one person’s screen. This allows individuals to host a meeting where they can present to a large group and not have to send out loose documents. Another online tool that allows people in different locations to communicate is Instant Messenger. AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Gchat (Google Chat) and Facebook Chat all allow you to communicate in real time via text with many other individuals simultaneously.

While these technologies have many benefits, a word to the wise is to be aware of everything that comes along with the use of technology in the workforce. On the positive side, technologies like video conferencing and web conferencing allow many different people to get together in one virtual location. Being able to type at the rate of a normal conversation (through an instant messenger program like AIM) also allows people from far distances to communicate. However, both of these positive benefits have the potential to be negative as well. Video and web conferencing can sometimes be difficult to set up and if the Internet is down you often lose access to many of those tools. Typing a conversation can also lead to things taken out of context because you lose tone and expression. Overall, technology can be used successfully as long as individuals are mindful of the potential roadblocks.

Have you seen nontraditional roles emerging in your work environment? What technologies does your company use (or have you personally used) to help you stay connected to your peers?

Tesla: Creating a revolution in the luxury car industry

If you are somewhat familiar even a little bit about stocks and have an interest in investing, you probably have heard about the recent boom of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) stock. Recently, the stock went as high as $110 a share; this was a 103% increase over a one month period and a 247% increase over a 3 month period.Source: AutoBlog

So you may be thinking, what caused this sudden increase and growth? Tesla stock first jumped 31% on May 8th when it announced its First Quarter sales to be $562 Million and recorded  first quarterly profit in its 10-year history of $15 million.  In a letter to shareholders, CEO Elon Musk mentioned that Tesla delivered 4,900 electric vehicles as well as other important figures. One of them being that their gross margin doubled from 2012 to 17 percent. This was made possible due to better use of raw materials, smarter inventory management, and a reduction in the hours required to build each car by 40 percent over the quarter.

In the first quarter of the year, Tesla delivered more than 4,750 Model S vehicles in the US which when compared to the more traditional luxury car brands such as BMW 7-series and Mercedes S Class, is much higher. BMW sold 2,338 7-Series models in the first quarter while Mercedes sold 3,077 S-Class models. The demand for their most popular model, Model S, is projected to be around 20,000 units per year in North America and in Europe, the current order rate is 200 per week. In order to meet these demands, they have added some changes to their manufacturing process which should drive margins higher.

Some of these changes include:

(1) a reduction in temp workers since the beginning of the      year

(2) increased efficiencies and reduced scrappage both at supplier and in-house production sites

(3) a streamlining of operations leading to a further reduction in full time employee man-hours from 60-70hrs/week previously to 40-50 hrs/week currently

(4) a significant improvement in logistics costs.


Currently their body assembly and finished assembly are still running on a 2 shift basis so the main goal of the production team right now is to get production levels of 20,000 on a single shift across most processes.

With the Tesla Model S being a luxury car and priced at $62,400, I feel that its affordable and much better then other cars. Do you see Tesla continuing to be as successful as they are now and do you think their stock price will continue to go up as it is now? As I mentioned earlier, they out sold Mercedes and BMW luxury models, do you think that will continue to happen in the future as well? What would you rather have, Tesla or other traditional luxury car models?

Don’t Lose Your Project Inside Your Backpack

What comes to mind when you think about project management?  Planning, organizing, budgets, constraints, deadlines, etc. are all typically taken into consideration to complete a project.  Technology vendors such as Microsoft all seem to have the latest and greatest software to coordinate project management activities, but is there a simpler way?

Kevin Purdy wrote an article on Lifehacker, a website providing software and personal productivity recommendations, and discussed how the “good old” whiteboard helped him successfully plan a major conference.  Purdy references that he unintentionally set himself up as the only person that really knew every task that had to be completed to put on the conference.  The conference was rapidly approaching, and he had “110 nervous thoughts” that needed to be acted upon to make the conference a successful reality.

Purdy decided to gather the appropriate members that were helping to plan the conference, and they marched off to a room with nothing more than some desks and a whiteboard.  He states that they accomplished more in that room than they had in their last 6 to 8 meetings combined, and he credits it all to the whiteboard.  He indicated that the whiteboard reduced time in the overall decision making process.  Purdy says in his article, “You write something, add a question mark, and people in the room can decide on it right then, instead of across days in an email thread.”

So how else can a whiteboard solve a project management dilemma?  First and foremost, writing things down is always helpful, and whiteboards are big enough for everyone on the project management team to see.  Whiteboards tend to make it feel less like you’re committing to something and more like you’re throwing out an idea for consideration.  Whiteboards also inspire you to fill all of the space, and therefore expand and branch out your thoughts.

As Purdy also references, “Whiteboards are nearly impossible to lose inside your backpack.”  This seems like somewhat of a sarcastic comment at first, but think about it some more.  It actually makes perfect sense.  It becomes very difficult to lose sight of your goals and objectives when they are as big as life on a board right in front of you. By putting everything on a whiteboard you can motivate others to complete tasks and you can really start to control your resources. The whiteboard becomes the project management plan.

Not every project is overseen by someone with a project management background either.  For those people that aren’t very good at explaining what tasks need to be completed, the whiteboard may just be your savior.   Software, risk analysis, implementation plans and other project management tools might be needed for more complex and sophisticated projects; however, the next time you’re stuck on a project, consider the simple, cheap whiteboard as an alternative.


Click the link below to view the article.

Changing the Gaming Landscape


Recently Microsoft announced their newest version of its Xbox series, the Xbox One. The Xbox has been one of the most profitable products for the Microsoft in the last decade and with Xbox One Microsoft hopes to continue that tradition. When Xbox 360 was last released around eight years ago there were no iPads; we still had smart phones with keyboards and the smart phone app stores were still in there initial phase. But a lot has changed in the last eight years; today games can be played from virtually anywhere and on any device with everyone online.

Because of the rise in the mobile gaming and its low prices, gaming systems like Xbox, Play-Stations, Nintendo has started seeing decline in their sales.  According to a report released by a leading technology research firm IDC, they concluded that paying for games on smart-phones and tablets would outpace paid gaming on portable video game hand-held devices by the end of the year. According to Nick Wingfield’s article in the New York Times U.S retail sales of game hardware and software fell by 25 percent to $495.2 million in April from $657.3 million earlier last year. This means that more and more people prefer mobile gaming rather then the old traditional gaming methods. This also proves that the life cycle for these gaming consoles will be cut short drastically unless they innovate their products for more use then just gaming.

So to keep up in the race, companies like Microsoft has started innovating their gaming consoles into more useful ways. Microsoft noted saying that they want to see their Xbox product as a more useful tool in peoples living room then just for gaming purposes. So to achieve this they want the Microsoft’s technology to take the center stage of a home entertainment system, which would end up giving people access to online videos. Apart from that Microsoft is also planning to develop its own original live-action television series that would be accessible through the Xbox. To stay ahead of the competition and to stay in the market they are also working with National Football League to develop an app for Xbox that would let players interact with their fantasy football teams while watching the live game.

From all this innovation that Microsoft is bringing in to the new Xbox, it is clearly evident that they are trying to do more with their consoles then just using them for gaming purposes.

Surely technology has come way forward then it was then Microsoft’s earlier product was launched eight years ago but do you think that will this affect the products life cycle? Will the mobile industry have drastic effect to gaming hardware systems like the Xbox, Nintendo, or PlayStation? Will innovation in their product similarly to what Microsoft has done will help them stay survive for a long time as it previous products?



Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)


Preventive Vs. Corrective

pillsWhile flipping through Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine at work, I found an article about what pharmaceutical companies are doing in order to improve quality. The author, Doug Bartholomew, gives reasons why he believes pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are resistant to making changes in the article, “Proactive Compliance: Putting the “P” in CAPA”. CAPA is short for corrective and preventive action, the different processes and systems that are used in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in order to ensure quality by providing basic guidelines on identifying, fixing, and preventing the problem in the future..

A lot of the topics that are covered in the article are related to what we have gone over in class. Continuous improvement is difficult for pharma manufacturing companies because of the regulations that are to assure quality. Just like it is time consuming and expensive to be certified, or registered, to meet one of the quality systems we have learned about in class, the same applies to the different quality standards that are set up in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Pharma manufactures shy away from making changed to their processes because every little change that is made has to be re-certified.

Over the past decades, pharma manufacturing companies have started to realize the importance of continuous improvement. Bartholomew quotes K.R. Karu, who is the industry solutions director at the quality management and CAPA system distributer, Sparta Systems; on what the manufacturing companies need to do to ensure high quality levels. One of Karu’s suggestions was to consider Juran’s quality thinking of having quality already built in to the process. Since quality is already built into the process, companies only need to monitor the process. Through inspection manufacturers should be able to find or come up with possible problems, and make changes to prevent them from ever happening.

The definition on CAPA is not completely understood the some throughout the industry. Every company interprets the guidelines differently. Preventative measures would be easier to accomplish if there were more guidelines were more descriptive. In the article it says that the problem is the “preventative” measures have all come about because of a “corrective” actions.  A pure example of a preventative measure that is given is the installation of  “state of the art” production line equipment so the number of errors can be reduced. A corrective action would be to update, and/or repair, older equipment after a problem arises, in order to reduce the number of manufacturing errors.  They are working on coming up with preventative measures that are truly preventative, making sure something that is unforeseen does not go wrong.


What are some ideas that you have that could improve the confusion between “corrective” verses “preventing” for CAPA?

Sears’ CEO Plan For Turnaround


6a00d83451db4269e20120a540599f970b-800wiIn February, Edward Lampert became the Chief Executive of Sears Holdings Corporation. Prior to taking this position, he was their longtime chairman and the founder of the large hedge fund, which is the largest investor in the company itself. Over the recent years, the department store, Sears, is one of the many retail stores who have been experiencing a decrease in profits. When Lampert took the position, he mentioned his plans to increase sales and customer visits. He plans included changing the company by accommodating to “hyper-connected shoppers with tablets and mobile phones.”


The first change included giving iPads to the employees. The company is in the process of developing an app that would allow their customers to ask the employees questions directly through the text or instant messages. The second service added include allowing third parties to sell their products on their online website, otherwise known as Marketplace, which is similar to Amazon. They also reduced the shipping times for online and ship-to-store orders. Lastly, Sears created their “Shop Your Way,” program where they are able to track how their customers’ shopping patterns.

Even with these added services, Sears, unfortunately, still reported a loss of $279 million dollars in the last quarter. This caused their shares to decrease by 14%. Some of the reasons that may relate to this loss include:

  1. In 2012, Sears’s investments in upgrading the company are far less than other retail stores.
  2. Sears is “behind in terms of their technology.”
  3. Sears is unsure of what they can use their available space for.
  4. Lack of interest from consumers.

The article mentioned Warren Tracy, CEO of Almost There! Inc. and his experience with Sears’ technology. He said that it took him about five months trying to become a third party seller on their website. During this process, he faced many complications and delays. Technology is an important part of Operations Management as it impacts performance directly. More importantly, technology is needed and used in all stages of management. Poor technology will lead to poor management, which will lead to poor performance. Therefore, the company will suffer as a whole.

Overall, it seems like Sears’ plan of creating a shopping experience that accommodates hyper-connected shoppers didn’t work out like planned. Even Mr. Lampert said that the company’s results for the first fiscal quarter were unacceptable. On the brighter side, I look forward to the new app Sears is developing in hopes of making my shopping experience faster and easier.

Do you think that Sears is heading in the right direction to repair their lack of sales? What changes will you implement if you were able to decide? Have you shopped at Sears recently? If so, did you notice these changes? If not, did these changes capture your interest and convince you to shop there more often?



The Wall Street Journal

“At Sears, CEO’s Tech Focus Hasn’t Led to a Turnaround”

Kapner, Suzanne. Wall Street Journal (Online) [New York, N.Y] 28 May 2013