iPad’s Little Brother

Apple Inc., one of the world’s largest innovators, has, once again, announced the launch of a new product: a smaller version of their best-selling iPad Tablet. Once again, early adopters and loyal customers flock to see the newest hype that the company has to offer.

After being under the scope of the public for their iPad, Apple Inc. has decided to take on the challenge of creating a product that can compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, Google’s Nexus 7, and others. Previously, many customers had complained that the iPad itself was very large and heavy compared to its competitors., as well as being very costly. Although Apple has not commented about any specific features about the product itself, many excited and loyal Apple customers have come up with their own list of potential features and rumors of production that Apple may consider when creating the mini iPad since the company is known to put customer satisfaction at the top of their priorities.

First, a “major Apple investor” has publicly claimed that the iPad mini will be unveiled on October 17th, 2012 and that the official launch date of product will be November 2nd, 2012, which gives customers plenty of time to obtain the new creation for the upcoming holiday season.

Second, rumor has it that the iPad mini will have a 7.85 inch liquid crystal display (LCD) with a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution, although the screen will not have the same retina display of the original sized iPad. This may be to simply keep the cost of the product lower and more affordable to the public.

Since the cost in the market is a major driving factor behind this new product, there has been some speculation that the cost and price was also very important to Apple. There were many concerns that the iPad was priced too high for many people, which is why Apple decided to come out with a newer, more cost effective alternative for those people who do not want to spend $399-$499 on the iPad. Instead, it is expected that the iPad mini will retail for about $249, which is slightly higher than the prices of its major competitors.

Along with the rumors of its features and displays, there have been some claims that people have obtained leaked photos of the final product. Some of the physical attributes that can be seen in the final product are:

  • Wi-Fi adaption
  • nano SIM tray for cellular connectivity (thought to be for a pricier model)
  • An 8-pin “Lightning” connector found
  • A microphone jack in the same upperleft corner as current iPads
  • Aluminum backing
  • volume buttons on the right side of the tablet with a switch
  • rear-facing camera
  • two speaker grilles at the bottom

The last major rumor about the iPad mini is the location of production. Although nothing has been confirmed by Apple, production has been thought to be in China and Brazil.


Potential leaked photo of the new iPad mini

More information about can be found at http://shopping.yahoo.com/blogs/digital-crave/ipad-mini-almost-know-162420535.html

It’s Not Just Any Other Travel Website

When searching for airplane tickets online, have you ever noticed the same exact flight having a different price on each travel site? Well, flight fox.com has come up with a way for travelers to get the absolute lowest airfare. Two men, Todd Sullivan and Lauren McLeod, founded this company in Mountain View, California. Todd Sullivan states that there are two types of airfare researchers, one being an “expert”. Members will need to apply in order to be experts. These applicants need to only show they are capable of finding low and good fares. Another type of researchers are “flight hackers”. These people “enjoy the sport of fare-hunting”.

To become apart of this traveler community, Flight fox requires the flyer to enter he or she’s destination and where they will be traveling from, as well as desired itinerary and preferences (connected flights, direct flight, where you would like to sit in the plane, etc.). If someone needs to travel with a pet or surfboard, there is an option for that. This results in a competition between the researchers (anyone apart of Flightfox) to find flights according to the specifications of the traveler.





Whoever ends up finding the cheapest fare that best complies with the traveler’s preferences will receive ” seventy-five percent of the finder’s fee that the traveler pays Flightfox when setting up the competition”. This allows for members to have an incentive and further motivation to look for these flights. In addition, it’s a new hobby people can start enjoying. Most people utilize a computer at least once a day, especially when there is down time. Now, you can earn a few bucks during that down time.

I believe this is a wonderful idea. There are many airplanes and websites that not everyone knows about and this site gives the opportunity to contribute such information and help others out, while at the same time having a possibility to win some money! One thing I am skeptical about is that prices of tickets can vary every day. One day, it can be the cheapest price you find and the next it can increase by sometimes a hundred dollars each way, so I wonder if the information given by the researcher is one hundred percent true or if the researcher needs to constantly update the information.

What are your opinions about this article? Would you consider using this site when it comes time to planning a trip, why or why not?

For the complete article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/technology/flightfox-lets-the-crowd-find-the-best-airfares.html?ref=technology.

What a store might know about YOU…

Many companies are using technological tools that change the way inventory management is conducted. In our fast paced, global market, companies cannot have idle assets and goods piling up. Inventory carrying costs can significantly impact the bottom line and congest cash flow operations. Accurately forecasting sales and demand is important in order to approximate the appropriate production volume to avoid these costs. How does a business deal with being too optimistic with its forecast and produce too much? It must find the most efficient ways to sell these extra units in the shortest amount of time. What type of technology is there that can solve the dilemma?


The Washington Post had an article covering one of the possible solutions. A law school graduate and entrepreneur, Fuentes, explored ideas on how to improve processes and sales within the retail store he worked for. He collaborated with his supervisor and executives regarding the problems he saw and how he can help them move products faster out of inventory.


Fuentes began experimenting with his new ideas with customers and said that he could possibly discount a particular item in two to three weeks and contact them if they were interested. He then tracked who wanted to be contacted and what item they were interested in buying at the discounted price. Before a product goes on clearance, it can be sold to some who is already interested. This system inspired Fuentes to create Lemur IMS. He describes it as, “An inventory management system for big-box retailers that connects local customers with local, slow-moving inventory.” He found this to be especially helpful to smaller stores that needed an edge to compete with larger stores in the community.


The Lemur IMS is effective because it increases revenue and more importantly, delivers personal attention and offers customers the products they want at a better price. This is fantastic because it decreases the amount of customers that turn to alternative competitors for lower prices or easier accessibility for the specific product they are interested in. If they like a product but do not want to pay that price, the store can offer to contact the person if the product is available at a lower price later.


A relevant trend and (obvious) concept that is providing customers with greater value is customization.  Lemur can be used on a tablet app, which is customized for each specific retailer. It can even go to the extent of tracking, “who is interesting in what product, at what time of the year and at what price.” Fuentes mentions that his tool for managing inventory is unique because, “It looks at all aspects of inventory information, not just velocity, cost, and revenue.” This deeper approach seems to be very effective. What other systems are available? What competitive advantages do they offer companies’ operations and inventory management?


Jobs Running Away

Jobs Running Away

Outsourcing is something that we are use in the United States because our labor is too expensive. In business, we find the most effective, efficient, and the cheapest way to go with our operating cost. Outsourcing is one way to cut labor cost in production and services and provide the same results.  There are many advantages of outsourcing not just cutting cost but also maintaining a competitive advantage than competitors with the same product. A company like Nike who outsources to China, Indonesia, and Vietnam are gaining an advantage for the price but many disadvantages as well. Outsourcing is an advantage for immediate but in the long run this decreases jobs domestically and creates many risks. Ricks contain ‘inappropriate planning and analysis’ because of corrupt or local government rules, managers that might not be capable, and employees only working because that’s the only earning they will receive. Outsourcing not only impacts domestic jobs but overseas because if the company were to decide to leave that would demolish their economy in some counties.

Indiana is planning to outsource their State Lottery operations, it is currently postponed but like many other operations, they want to pass it to larger vendors. They want to determine if this will be beneficial to them to gain more money or suppress their gain. They want to use outsourcing for their advantage in improving operating and service, and for outside technology and expertise which they believe will bring more people to play the lottery and help the state. Even though many other states have outsourced their lottery services with Indiana will become 95%.

Operations has much to do with maintaining and process where for the overall product or services can provide a better, shorter, and cheaper outcome for the business to grow. Outsourcing is one big operation in which product are shipped overseas for their cheap labor or technology and brought back to be sold domestically. Strategically they have to plan if this will help with the future growth because it is a large investment or they will have to spend even more backsourcing.

I believe a lot of strategic planning that goes into deciding whether a company should outsource. Even though I believe keeping is domestic, will have the local jobs and grow our economy. Even though many companies find it as an advantage to ship the labor I think ethically, paying the workers domestically will help with the current or future recession and avoid the risks and disadvantages that goes into outsourcing. Do you think ethically outsourcing is a good plan for any product or services?


Can America keep up with its competitive Manufacturers?


China this week has made a huge statement especially in their workforce and the growing unrest of the working conditions in many of their factories. Due to poor wages and conditions over 2000 employees at Foxxconn’s plant got into a fight last week with management, and of course this occurred right before Apple’s debut of the Iphone 5. After a decade of peaceful interactions with management the employees have appeared to have had enough.

Some of the U.S.’s largest companies, such as Apple and Caterpillar, use Foxxconn in the creation of many of their products. If the Foxxconn plant were to revolt and shut down due to the lack of workers, what would this mean for companies like Apple or Caterpillar?

Analysts are saying that the cost of production has increased 15-20% every year for the past 10 years. Even though the cost is still relatively cheap, if these suppliers fail to meet the demand for our companies, could we see production move closer to home? The statistic that was determined is that China will still be cheaper by 7% in 2015. If these employees in the factories push for better wages and conditions, the cost will obviously need to be factored into all of the orders put in by U.S. companies. If the cost gets increasingly closer to what it would cost for these manufacturers to produce these products on American soil, do you think the U.S. companies would consider it?

“If there’s going to be social unrest, either related to the conditions in factories, or if the government can’t enunciate clear policies and the domestic political uncertainty plays out in anti-Japanese unrest, businesses are going to be reluctant to make long-term commitments in China,”

As of right now the chinese factories seem to be back in operation, but if costs continue to increase we could see the production move closer to home. Continue reading “Can America keep up with its competitive Manufacturers?”

What does Finance know about project management?

       Being the Finance Manager for a company that does rollouts and installs of POS and Voice systems for major retailers, I really get to see the impact of project management on the companies’ bottom line, be it positive or negative.  We quote our projects between a 30 and 40 percent margin, but in 2011 we saw projects running anywhere between 65 and negative 25 percent.  Our CEO estimated that 80% of the variability was due to our own operational inefficiency, while only 20% was due to factors beyond our control.  While the wide range and inconsistencies of our project margins were troubling, the biggest issue was that overall the margins were down, with over 75% of our projects coming in under quote.  At the beginning of 2012, my boss and I were assigned to investigate what was causing the lower margins, and to come up with a plan to turn it around.  It may seem strange that Finance was assigned this task, but our CEO’s reasoning wass was that we are the ones who look at projects on a macro level and are responsible for explaining the margin variation, while every other department is only focused on their one piece (i.e Sales, Logistics, AR, etc.).

       After spending two months auditing our operations, talking with people in Sales Engineering (quoting), Sales, Operations, Logistics, and AR, we identified many problems contributing to the lower margins, but the overall problem that we identified was a lack of a clearly defined process for our projects.  While every project is different in terms of the scope of work at the site and the deliverables that the customer expects, if the administration of a project on our end is done consistently, many of the problems we run into could be eliminated. 

       Some examples of simple steps that have been skipped leading to a hit in our margins are: 1) final revisions to quotes not being authorized by the customer, 2) sales not reviewing the first invoices that are sent to the customer, 3) work orders not being created in time so that contracting has to rush to contract the labor and has to pay premium rates, 4) AR not putting job notes on the invoice, 5) Logistics shipping the wrong equipment to the site, and 6) work being approved without a customer PO.

       To control the problems and get all the departments on the same page when it comes to our project management, we developed a project checklist and worked with IT to implement this checklist into the current PM software we are using. With this checklist, every adminitration step has a due date, a responsibility assigned, and needs to be checked off before moving on. The benefits of this include increased organization, increased accountability, and better communication. Since we implemented this new checklist, we have seen an increase in our margins each month in the last 3 months, as well as increased cash flow by ensuring we are collecting the revenue quicker from our customers.  It’s amazing to see what an impact the simple step of creating a comprehensive checklist can make to the bottom line.

Here is an excel copy of out Project Accountability Checklist for anyone interested.

What do your companies do to keep projects organized on the back-end? Do you have any kind of defined project process or checklist?

Tracking employees? Is project management technology crossing the line?

I recently came across an article about Google’s newest product called “Maps Coordinate” which is an enhanced version of its regular Google Maps product; however, it can provide employers with the real-time record of worker locations.  Google presents the product as a tool to make companies more efficient by assigning work more effectively by location.  They will charge $15/month for the use of the map.  There are even features to monitor where employees are within an office setting.  The article shares a reaction from a gaming CEO who was horrified by the application.  He stated that companies should be more concerned about production levels and outcomes, rather than how employees are producing. However, while there are privacy settings that can make a person invisible after hours, it begs the question, would a technology like this really create more efficiency in project or operations management or does this technology cross the lines of privacy and ethical boundaries with employees?

My initial reaction is shock that a company would consider tracking their employees like this. Also, it makes me wonder how much technology is needed to be efficient versus technology becoming a distraction.  Additionally, what are the legal and ethical implications of a program that crosses the lines of privacy between employees’ personal (via mobile phone) and professional lives?  It appears to be a potential human resource concern. 

Technological advances will continue, but do we necessarily need all of them?  I can see a tracking tool like this to be useful for operations like a pizza delivery service or UPS service, where knowing the location of a person or product adds value to the customer and overall operational management; however, I think the issue of privacy and respect brings up ethical concerns as well.   According to a recent case I read regarding social media and human resource recruitment, there is evidence that people need some level of privacy in order to deal with stress and to maintain a level of control in their life, psychologically speaking.  When tracking employees through their phones, regardless of whether the company pays for them or not, I think it’s a violation of privacy and lack of respect.  There is the argument that people can turn their settings to “invisible,” but given how there is an increasing pressure to available at all times in our corporate culture, I can’t imagine that being “unavailable” will be accepted culturally.

Also, when working with people from different generations, it’s important to recognize the differences in how people prefer to work.  While the millennial workforce may not be concerned with their employer using a tracking tool, a baby boomer may be very uncomfortable and even allow it to adversely affect their level of productivity.  The lesson here may be that even though technological advances are available to use, there are times where project managers may need to reconsider if the tool will make them more efficient, or potentially hinder them from achieving their goals.

NY Times, “Google Maps Where Your Workers Are”
Link:  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/google-maps-the-worker-bees/

Kelley School of Business, Indiana Universary, “You’ve Been Tagged!”, Willaim P. Smith, Deborah Kidder

Tax Season

I had an internship with a Big 4 accounting firm. I was practicing international tax which focused on individuals who were expatriates and foreign nationals. Not only did I have to know how to do a domestic return and understand the tax code for domestic issues, but I also had to take into account international tax issues and situations. If you’ve ever worked at a firm who does taxes, the process during the winter is huge and complex. Our department has a structure and the managers/directors really take on the management role while the lower-level associates will do most of the leg work in preparing the tax returns. Without getting to technical, tax returns were just one of the many services we were doing during this past busy season. Nevertheless, the volume and complexity of our clients made it imperative that there was strong management controls in place for work-flow to be smooth and consistent. After learning some management concepts these last couple weeks, I realized how my managers actually integrated these strategic techniques to deliver timely and quality deliverables to our clients.

Without getting into too mch detail and depth, I wanted to explain some techniques that they utilized. First some background information. We have multi-national companies as clients but we do not do the companies taxes, we do the employees taxes. This amounts to thousands of tax returns that need to be done by April 15 (sometimes sooner). The tax returns will either be done at the local office (Chicago) or be sent to our India processing center. The amount of work and complexity of the tax issues is what decides how the tax return will be handled whether it would be done by the local office or India. These are usually judgement calls by management so that they can utilize their resources to provide the highest quality at the lowest cost. In addition, the tax return has a long multi-step process.

This multi-step process had to use a project network – similar to what we did in class. A tax return has these steps. 1. Taxpayer fills out questionnaire 2. Tax Analysis (find missing information) 3. Tax Analysis review 4. Frontloading (input information to do tax return 5. Frontload Review 6. Send to processing for data input 7. Processing review 8. Deliverable

Each step has a set estimated time of completion but some steps can be started while others are being worked on. A critical path would be set and slack time existed in this chart. It was managements daily responsibility to analyze work-flow and see where the projects (tax returns) are in the path.

At many companies, we as college students usually start off in positions take don’t require much management techniques or strategies that are to be personally implemented by us but as we progess, our jobs get much more focused and oriented on developing these skill sets.

Has anyone else worked at a tax firm that experienced something similar to what I have?

Service Productivity

This week we learned about Service Productivity. It reminded me of one of the Finance Retreats at my last internship with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The CHA provides a service to the residents of public housing and section 8 voucher holders. The retreats were led by the CFO, and designed as a way for finance staff members to leave the office building, meet at a central location for the purpose of doing team building exercises and brainstorming as a group on how to be more productive around the office. This productivity included saving the company money, how to work cross-departmental cohesively, and how to bring extra revenue into the company. One of the reasons it is so important to conserve money at the CHA, is because they are one of the few housing authorities across the country who are given money by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to use where they need it, for things such as resident programs. Other housing authorities are told by HUD where they must spend the money.


We came up with the following solutions:


Saving the CHA money

  • We had several unused industrial sized printers sitting in the hallway. We decided to sell them and use the money to purchase new ones.
  • Instead of each group within Finance (budget, financial reporting, treasury etc.) ordering their own supplies, one person would be responsible for ordering supplies. This would cut down on extra unused supplies and double ordering.


Working cross-departmental cohesively

  • We determined that employees in one area of finance may not be respecting due dates, which would cause another area to be late submitting reports, in turn lowering productivity. For example, financial reporting may depend on certain numbers from Accounts Payable (AP) within a given time frame. If they don’t receive those numbers, they cannot complete their reports.


Bringing in additional revenue

  • The CHA is one of the largest housing authorities (HA) in the country. We decided to use our staff as consultants to advise smaller housing authorities on various issues.


Productivity is defined as the ratio of outputs (in this case service) divided by the inputs (labor and capital). In these three cases, the CHA is using its employees as input and the output is the savings of money and employee time, as well as revenue generated which translates into money that can be used to further service the residents.


What are some ways you have improved service productivity at your company?

The Cursed Shop

“Beware of this haunted shop I heard there was a kid who once entered this shop and never came out. His poor mother lives in misery because of her loss” said Cousin Noah. I still remember that day while my cousin and I were walking passing by this shop located in Arad Town. It was before 20 years but I remember it like yesterday, this shop was called the cursed shop, or the haunted shop. Furthermore the title (cursed shop) came because whenever a restaurant opens in this same shop after a while the business shuts down. By time people started believing that this shop was really cursed, it’s funny how some people are naïve.



I kept in mind this shop and the different restaurants that opened there; I said to myself there must be a reason behind this. Further investigation in this case I found out the reason was simple; the restaurants did not have good forecasts for the demands of the customers. A restaurant would open to operate and they would order for example a large amount of Kebab given it’s a restaurant serving fresh food they would have many Kebab left unfortunately some were already grilled and been ready to serve, this is just one example. Of course the forecasting was not the only reason, given the place of the restaurant, prices, and demand of customers played a role.

I believe that this restaurant could have avoided the risk by using the forecast starting from Qualitative method (using surveys or even second hand information.)Also using the Quantitative methods to forecast the demand and base the price on the forecasts.

Friday (11th may) class was an eye opening class, I always wanted to know how restaurants were able to survive and know exactly how much portion of meat, salads , fish , or any type of food to prepare each day. From the class exercise I leaned that there are different types of forecasts that addresses different categorize like (Economic, Technological and Demand forecasts.)Furthermore each method is suitable for a different case or scenario. There are two approaches to this matter the Qualitative  including ( Delphi method , consumer market survey , sales force composite) , and the Quantitative method including  ( Naïve approach , moving averages , exponential smoothing , trend projection , linear regression. )Moreover the manager has to know what type of forecast to use because each approach will give an answer however only one answer is accurate and reflects reality.





Do you believe that Forecasting is vital for any restaurant?

  1. YES
  2.  NO
  3. I didn’t read the article I just want to comment for the 5%

What do you think is the best Quantitative method to use for the restaurant?



More on restaurants failure click here: