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Are the people working on your system Certified? March 10, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Training.
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Beetle 700 by 438

As a young chap I had a 50cc motorcycle and then upgraded to a VW beetle, both of which I serviced myself, using the manual, plus some hints from my Dad I was able to change the plugs, adjust the timing and replace all the filters etc.

However today if I look under the bonnet of a new car, I can hardly recognise anything, and am sure that if I had a go with some spanners, screwdrivers and other tools I would make a really big mess. I therefore assume that the technicians at the garage actually know how to interact with this new technology.

Software has now reached an interesting juncture, products such as Microsoft CRM are now exceptionally complex with many very deep layers of functionality and when it comes to ERP systems such Microsoft Dynamics NAV again there is a staggering amount of capability inherent in these systems.

The software manufacturers are doing a wonderful job of trying to make complex software easy to use and intuitive. Hiding menus seems to be one of the methods that are used, the experts however do know how to get in behind the scenes.

On a smaller scale, just take for example Microsoft Word, how many of you have actually clicked on every menu at the top and investigated every single functionality? The product is bristling with features that many are just unaware of, unless you have taken an advanced course, or like me curiosity has made you go looking at all of the menus.

This brings me onto the subject of certification, to really get the best out of your CRM or ERP software you really need to be dealing with people who are certified in the product. I also encourage the end users of these systems to undertake advanced user training themselves. It’s not quite the same certification needed by your local doctor and not really a matter of life and death. However as is the case with my high tech motor vehicle, I feel much better when I realise that a certified person is actually doing the work, especially when he is working on the brakes.



Rapid Growth Syndrome February 12, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Change Management, Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Training.
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Who moved my Cheese

Many of us have experienced this, working for a small innovative business where the sum of all the energy is transformed into great products or exceptional services. This requires the organisation to grow, hiring even more innovative and creative people and the cycle continues.

The business is growing, and then suddenly some of the processes seem to no longer work, and one solution is to throw people and resources at it, employ a HR person to handle all the interviews, Employ project managers to manage all the projects implement a CRM system etc. and before you know it the business is transforming from the small clique of initial staff members into a company structured organisation.

Very often this is happening in an industry where there are a number of other companies in the same market all facing the same issues and all growing simultaneously, (like the dotcom boom) so why do some succeed and other fail to gain the traction needed to progress?

One has to look at how well they managed the “Rapid Growth Syndrome” and there are a number of key aspects to evaluate.

Among other things this syndrome affects People, Process and Technology.


Are the management hires suitable, qualified and flexible enough to work within a rapidly changing environment?

One needs to ask the following hard questions if you are promoting one or some of the original staff members into these newly created management positions. Are they capable to hold these positions? Will this stifle their creativity? And more importantly do they have the experience and temperament to manage staff? Sometimes the really creative people just don’t want to do those roles, however as the business is growing they are compelled to take on these responsibilities rather than have an outsider come in and suddenly become their manager.


Suddenly with a large influx of staff, some at a junior level, will come the implementation of rules, where in the early days the core group might go out for long lunches or take some time out to be very creative now this process and activity is frowned upon and sometimes actively discouraged as it is setting an incorrect precedent for new staff.

Business processes need to be put in place and followed, some of the start-up entrepreneurs that I have known over the years are dreadfully poor at paperwork and are happy to admit this openly. They cannot be seen to flaunt the new processes which are being implemented generally to streamline and keep the business efficient, so they leave and create another startup.


With growth comes the realisation that data needs to be captured, processes need to be in place to use and manage systems. Therefore there is often a requirement for some new systems, be they CRM, ERP, Manufacturing, Time Keeping or whatever. The implementation of any system needs to be well thought out (even if delivered in an agile manner) and if the new system is going to be that important, it is vital that its implementation does not impose constraints on the business.

In my solution consulting role I visit many organisations and therefore have first-hand experience of this syndrome at work. It’s a balancing act and there is no silver bullet. A deep understanding of change management is probably the most important element. Remember this is not new, this has been going on for years and there are plenty of case studies of organisations that experienced this, therefore is still amazes me to see organisations falling into these traps and making the same mistakes all over again.

See this very good article on how slack time can aid innovation https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-slack-time-so-important-innovation-phil-mckinney?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like )

But back to the central point, why do some succeed and others fail? I believe that adaptability is probably the major key along with the propensity to continually innovate, this still needs to be deeply inculcated into the culture of the business even as it grows.

In one organisation where I worked we provided all staff with a copy of the book “Who moved my cheese” by Spencer Johnson which is a really good business parable on change management and adaptability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Moved_My_Cheese%3F we were able to see a marked improvement in the acceptance of some of the changes we were implementing as the business grew.

And to quote Haw from the book, “If you do not change, you can become extinct”.


Training Distractions May 25, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2015, Training.
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In the last few weeks I have attended a training course and have also run a few small training courses. I am continually amazed by the capability of people to disengage and just start looking at their mobiles when someone is speaking, and for both the course I undertook and the courses I have given, individuals were also looking at personal items on their PC’s as well as business e-mails instead of listening to the lecturer and following the on screen activities.

I always ask participants to “please switch off your phones” however I am not in a position to order them to do so. The canny user switches it to vibrate, and then once they have received a message, tweet or other communication will surreptitiously have a look when they think I am not watching. There are some trainees that are worse than others and I just wonder how much they are actually comprehending from the training session. There are other offenders who just blatantly look at the device with no pretence about what they are doing.

Once they have read the e-mail, text message or social media posting, they cannot cognitively “Unsee” or “Unread” what they have read, and often the focus is gone. You can see it the eyes, they have disengaged.

We live in a world where people expect answers to e-mails and other messaging almost immediately, however that is what Out of Office was designed for, you can send a message stating that you are not available, if even for 3 or 4 hours. The same applies to the phone, it is very easy to change the voice mail, make it relevant for the day and inform the caller that you are not available.

As far as reading and monitoring social media pages. I can’t make any sensible suggestion other than to urge them to desist.

Some of the system training courses that I deliver involve the use of complex and sophisticated software and it is in the interest of the participant to try and understand as much as possible in the often abbreviated time that I am given to impart this knowledge due to budget constraints.

Many folk look at software in the same way that they look at Excel and Word, reasoning to themselves “This should be easy” and therefore are absorbing the very minimum of what they need to know in order to get by. But here is the gotcha; You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t listen on the course or read the manual or view the online training material you may not be fully conversant with the functionality that you really need to understand.

The downside of all of this is sometimes the person who has been trained actually feels short-changed when after the allotted time they do not actually have the full understanding that they thought that they would. Sometimes the trainer gets it wrong the course is at fault, however the participants really have to ask themselves the question “Did I give a full 100% effort and understanding to this training course?”

Bringing the data to life – Four important lessons February 10, 2014

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Business Intelligence, CRM 2013, Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Training.
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Bringing the data to life

We have a customer who has been using Microsoft Dynamics CRM for just over a year, they added ClickDimensions to the mix some months later and now have a real set of rich data with which to work.
The customer records are updated nightly through a process from a data warehouse and CRM is the mechanism for marketing and outbound communications.

Many companies talk about mining their data and have lofty ideas about what they want to do, these are often tabulated and postulated about before a new system is implemented where the reality of the data and the perceived marketing ideals do not really converge.
As I have found with my customer, learning about the data as the system evolves is the way that great marketing ideas come about and the requirements become more identifiable. I have watched this data come alive, I have seen how with filtering and intuitive understanding more and more effective marketing comes about.

The key lesson here is that during the analysis phase it should be generally understood that data mining and analysis are going to be important and the data model incorporated into CRM must be correctly designed, however presumptuous interpretations about what you perceive will be the results should be avoided. It is not a light switch and it is unlikely that on day one there will be this large data revelation.

Our customer is still learning, they understand that. They know that they don’t know everything there is to know about their data. ClickDimensions adds a whole new perspective to the data analytics and with Web capturing which we recently added, even more interesting data stories are beginning to unfold. There is no long list of things that are wanted, it is now much more spontaneous and with each iteration and Advanced Find query saved, more and more understanding is added to the overall model. It’s a building learning iterative process.

In effect they are bringing the data to life little by little, and when I am asked to assist and I see what is starting to happen, I can see the beginnings of the data taking on a life of its own. Their marketing model is all about customer retention and regular interaction which lends itself to this type of analytical systems approach.

Four important lessons
1. Good data is probably the first and most important element:
The core transactional data coming from the business systems via the data warehouse feed in this instance keeps the integrity of the data on a very sound footing. The understanding of the relationships between certain elements of the data within the customer record becomes pivotal to the analytics.
2. Constantly review your data and campaigns:
The customer found that the subsequent marketing data related to outbound campaigns and the resultant activities and further incoming data based on these campaigns all correlated together make for a full picture about how a specific customer was affected by an individual marketing campaign. When aggregated, segmented and analysed it showed trends that they did not perceive would be possible when starting out.
3. Make use of visual data:
They have also been using CRM dashboards to visualise the data, this too has been an evolving process and certainly were not defined up front. Dynamic exports of views and pivot tables to Excel can also be very effective.
4. Have the right people doing this work:
I also believe that the people doing this type of work, need to be marketers, not pure data analysts, they need an affinity for the business, an understanding of their industry coupled with the intuition to bring this all together. This just screams out to me as people who are passionate about their industry. Once they have a good system we can teach them how to get the most from their data within the system, and from that point forward it is growing and learning experience.
And the key to success is?
Start small, be pedantic about the quality of your data, record results and try and understand what they mean. Build on each step and I am sure in time you too will also start seeing your data coming alive.

Asking Difficult Questions June 10, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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The Board Report (Asking those difficult questions).

Some years ago I was involved in a CRM project for a Financial Institution, where the Microsoft CRM system we were implementing was to replace an existing legacy system. One of the primary requirements of the new system was that the reporting should replace the manual reporting that was currently in place for the monthly board report.

What they were doing at the time was taking information fom the existing system, supplementing this with data from some other places and eventually charts and tables were created in Excel all of which were incorporated into a weighty tome, beautifully printed and bound and then delivered to the executives on a monthly basis. I was told that the new auto generated Board Report should look identical to the manually created one.

As we needed to create these charts with SQL Server Reporting Services, I was very surprised to find that a number of the charts were identical, in one version the X Axis and Y Axis would represent the data, and then in another chart the axis’s were switched around but it was exactly the same chart with the same data. This was repeated with the tables.

When I queried this I was told, that this is the way it has always been done (See my blog… http://wp.me/s1kkKG-129) and that the executives on the board would not take kindly to having the monthly board report changed. I was told “They won’t like it if you change it”. Not being one to shirk away from asking difficult questions, I made an appointment to speak with one of the recipients of the report, who quite cheerfully told me that this 50 page report that was supplied had very little information of real importance with the exception of the financial summaries on the final two pages, which was the main metric for the management of the business.

What is important here is a valuable lesson in business analysis. Sometimes junior staff will not question things when they involve very senior management and the assumption that you need not question the executives as part of the project is bit of a misnomer. Always ask the questions. In this case the information supplied in the board report was vital for management in terms of decision making, but only a little bit of information.

This is blog number 11 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

The Origins of CRM Part 1 – Call Reporting April 23, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training, Uncategorized.
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The Origins of CRM, Early Days, Part 1 Call Reporting

I am very fortunate to have been involved right in the beginning of the computer based CRM industry. I was working for Kalamazoo Business Systems PLC in the early 1980’s before the introduction of MS Dos and when the concept of the Personal Computer was really in its infancy. Most companies had large mainframe systems or what was termed mini computers, however no one was doing anything that looked like CRM on these computers at that time. Many companies still ran manual systems for Accounting, Payroll and Cash Book.

Kalamazoo also had a manual Sales Reporting System which had remained unchanged from the mid 1960’s and I was given the task of giving this product a total overhaul as the precursor for the computer based sales management system we were planning. Principally this manual system had a number of quite interesting components, with the main selling objectives being:

  • A system to aid in the retention of customers.
  • The capability of monitoring of salespeople and their activities.
  • Something that was easy to use, and thus no extra work for the sales staff
  • Giving management some basic control and visibility of information over what the external sales teams were doing.

Sounds a little like modern CRM doesn’t it?

The way it worked was as follows: Each sales person was given a ring binder with a set of customer cards, just imagine an A5 card divided into two sections, the top section had all of the customer static information, name, address phone number etc. and the bottom section had a set of ruled horizontal lines each denoting an individual appointment or call made on the customer.

The sales person was also given a special clipboard onto which a daily call report was placed. This board had a series of pegs on the left hand side. This A4 form had the same ruled lines that were found on the customer card.

The sales person would make the call, and then remove the customer card from the binder, place it on the clipboard and update one of those single lines for the appointment. This card used carbonised paper, and therefore whatever was written on the customer record appeared on the call report. The sales person could then go onto the next call and by just lining the next card up on the next blank line on the report was able to do his work and the by product was a call report that was handed in. (see the link below)

Some of the changes that I introduced through the judicious use of form design meant it was possible to create a manual report that would give considerable management information and by ticking boxes on the customer record card, and selecting options from a key, it was possible from a single A4 report with 22 calls on it to determine many metrics just by looking at the form.

For example (See attached Image of a Call Report from 1984 from which the following can be derived).

  1. Brief Call Report. Only pertinent facts, no long stories (these can be transferred to the Action Request if necessary).

2. Time Utilisation. See how the salesperson used his time when there was a broken appointment.

3. New Business. After a broken appointment see if the salesperson was prospecting.

4. Action Request. Via the action request which is a short memo form, other departments can be notified as to actions that they must undertake. The salesperson keeps a copy and files with customer record card.

5. – 10  Call Analysis.

  • Is the salespersons activity above or below the national average, how does he compare?
  • What is the call to order ratio?
  • How many broken appointments?
  • No activity on product F, why?
  • Were there enough new prospect calls?
  • Which competition did I run into the most?
  • What is the discussion to order ratio?
  • Is the spread of market sector calls proportionate to orders?
  • How many action requests and queries?
  • How many quotes to orders?

11. Order Value. This is only for orders picked up by the salesperson, how does this compare to the phoned in orders?

12. Follow up Dates. These dates make for pre-planned calls. Transferred immediately to the new call report sheet to act as a diary. New staff would have a ready-made list of calls to be made, maintaining continuity.

13. Monitoring Opposition. For example in 22 calls, ran into opposition number 2 six times, and others only once or twice. Is there a trend here?

14. Detailed Product Analysis. Can indicate good and bad lines. Are sales people not discussing any particular products?

See Call Report here.


When this data was entered into the VisiCalc Spreadsheet that I designed, management were able to get a consolidation of this information by sales person, team and office. This was ultimate Business Intelligence for sales people in 1983. Although it is possible to get exactly all of this from a new Microsoft CRM Sales Implementation, I don’t believe that many sales organisations actually go this far in 2013. Remember folks that this was 30 years ago. The key lesson here is that if you are able to capture information you will be able to use it, sales people are often the eyes and ears of the organisation, and as in the example above, if the sales person runs into competitor number 2 that many times, it would only become apparent if the information was recorded with the correct context.

It should be remembered that conceptually a CRM system in those days would not have involved the sales and marketing teams entering data themselves, this would be captured on manual reports and forms and entered into the system by a data capture clerk.

There will be more blogs to come on some of the other manual systems that were used and the computer based CRM system “Sales Generator” that we launched in 1985.


More information on why CRM projects fail April 7, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office, Sales Management, Training, XRM.
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I read an interesting blog today on Why CRM Project Fail by Mark Smith the nzCRMguy


And although in principle I agree with the four main reasons Mark outlined, I think that not to offend modern sensibilities and rock the management boat, has meant that one of the other real main reasons for pure CRM sales project failures, Weak or Poor Management is often not tabled as a reason or not even talked about.

(Generally I am not talking about complex XRM implementations, but CRM as it is used to support sales and service organisations which also have a high failure rate).

I have been implementing CRM systems since 1985, I have seen all kinds of failures, and over time have seen one common thread. A little bit of the tail wagging the dog.

A sales persons’ job is to go out get orders, process the orders, handle customer queries etc. and these are things that you would expect your sales team to do in order for them to keep their jobs and keep on getting paid. It probably also means that you would not tolerate them writing offensive e-mails to customers, looking at porn on the company network and generally not doing what they are asked to do.

Using systems is and should be part of the job, end of story. Most employees use Outlook or a mail program and are expected to use Word if they need to create letters and documents. If a sales person does not hand in an order for a product, or issue a quote to a customer, there are generally consequences.

So how come we get into the situation where the sales person does not bother to enter a Lead, or complete an Opportunity or starts getting stroppy and starts complaining that the new CRM system is different, too difficult to use and they don’t like it, and so won’t use it? And the project fails!

The only reason is: They are allowed to get away with it, and that unfortunately points to weak or ineffectual management. Certainly we want user involvement, all working together with the project team, making sure that adequate training is given, and the fundamentals of change management are considered during the process, however if at an individual level, a staff member just elects not to use the system, they are and probably should be in violation of their employment agreement. And action should be taken.

In one of my previous blogs I talked about the management at a large bank where I implemented CRM. We issued a mantra, “If it is not in CRM it did not happen”. Staff who forgot to enter sales calls that they actually had made, ended up not getting bonuses as they had not met their KPI. Which was, everything you do you enter in CRM.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is easy to use, and with the Outlook Client, it does not take extensive training. The system can be an exceptional tool for a motivated and energetic sales person, and will give management tremendous business intelligence information, and really should be embraced.

A little bit of management leading by example also can be quite helpful.

If I was spending money on a system, there would have to be much more of a reason than “The staff don’t like change” for me to allow my management team to just bend over and give up.

User Acceptance Testing for an XRM Solution v Out of the Box Solution March 16, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Polaris, Training, User Acceptance Testing, XRM.
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User Acceptance Testing for an XRM Solution v Out of the Box Solution

 Recently I have been involved in the UAT process with a customer on a highly customised Microsoft CRM / XRM solution with the customer creating detailed test scripts to handle end to end processes, all of which is pretty standard fare when faced with a big system. However this got me thinking about the crossover that we often see between an XRM component and standard out of the box functionality, and how this should be tested and what should be reported as bugs and what should drive changes in functionality.

Consider for example that during configuration and build you have added an XRM component to facilitate bulk capture of appointments from Users, Contacts and a custom entity using a Silverlight control, leaving the remaining functionality of Marketing Lists, Campaigns and Campaign distribution etc. untouched.

If your customer has not used Microsoft Dynamics CRM before, during testing he will not be able to distinguish what is custom and what is out of the box in the creation and distribution of appointments as a campaign activity. Obviously from the customers perspective the whole solution needs to be functionally tested and operate the way it was outlined during the analysis and design phase, and if you got this right you will get sign off and everything will be perfect.

In reality I often see really strange requests coming out of the UAT, and sometimes some really bizarre decisions are made and items marked as bugs and changes requested. I have seen users requesting the removal of ribbon buttons that are greyed out, the changing of fonts or colours within the system, a window to view the SQL database table within the CRM record plus a large number of other items requesting changes to out of the box components, some of which would not be supported, supportable or would be just plain costly to implement for little or no tangible benefit.

It’s all about management of expectations for a new system, managing the UAT is part of this expectations management and being able to decisively say to your customers, “That is how it is supposed to work”. and “If you change this there is an implication that when Microsoft introduces additional functionality to this process, your changes may not allow you to benefit from this new functionality and leverage on your investment”.

I am sure that some organisations with a highly customised Lead and Opportunity process in CRM 4.0 or 2011 will have to review, and possibly make some large and in some cases costly changes if they really want to reap the benefits of the new Polaris release.  It may well be that these customisations were the result of UAT where out of the box functionality was illogically changed.

This is blog number 10 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

When is a requirement not a requirement? March 11, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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When is a requirement not a requirement?

I was involved with a company in the medical field who had patients allocated to them by the Ministry of Health, it was their responsibility thereafter to look after the patients and handle the medical care and on-going treatment.

When we undertook the analysis for a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM system which was to be used to manage the patients journey through the organisation the subject of a “Waiting List” came up in the workshops.

From the time that the referral was received until the patient was first seen and processed could sometimes be a few days to a week or two, and during this time effectively the patient was on a waiting list. The organisation vehemently opposed this concept and did not want any reference of this in the new system. It had negative connotations and they really did not want to face up to the reality that it was what it was. The existing process had the prospective patients randomly placed on personal Excel Worksheets that had no management visibility until they were ready to be entered into the old system.

We were not going to continue down this Excel path, therefore in the new system required a solution to this issue, we ended up with the Lead entity in Microsoft CRM being rebranded as Referrals with a status of Not Processed and In Progress with dates for each status.

Management then used a view of all Referrals where the status was Not Processed and used this as a method of managing the time it was taking to deal with patients. So as much as they tried to hide the requirement the data showed that there was in fact a requirement and the only sticking point was in effect the terminology used. When we upgraded to 2011, Management had a dashboard graph of this view and therefore actually had a Waiting List after all.

This is blog number 9 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

We have always done things that way around here March 8, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office, Training.
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We have always done things that way around here.

In 1984 the CEO of a large tubing company asked me to conduct an audit of all of the business forms used within the company. I presented my findings by surrounding the boardroom walls with over 70 printed forms, many of them multi part sets, where the estimated print costs ran into the then tens of thousands every year. Copies of some multi part forms were filed, one by date order, one by customer order and one by numerical order! This was the way things had been done for years.

What he had correctly assumed was that the business, and the processes in the background had generated a life of their own and he had effectively lost control of something that he could not effectively see.

You may well ask, what has this got to do with today? Quite a lot I would suggest, in order to control things, people put in place systems, processes and controls, and as mentioned in an earlier blog, Excel can form part of those processes and controls. I think it goes deeper than that, management can often not see deep into the organisation and really understand everything that is going on and without effective Business Intelligence will continue to be in the dark.

As was the case with the tubing company, debtors did not know that despatch department made a photocopy of all customer invoices and filed them in a range of new filing cabinets that rivalled those found in accounting. It was noted that these copies were seldom if ever referenced once they had been filed away.

I am regularly amazed in my CRM consulting when I am told “We have always done it this way” and where there is little scope, interest or stomach to change or look differently at certain things. I have been undertaking analysis for over 30 years, my few grey hairs coupled with my experience of big business always alerts me to dodgy practices, and it pains me to say, some of the things I see today are just as bad as when I was starting out doing process analysis in 1983.

Sometimes it is a good idea to stand back from the business and take a long hard look at what you are doing. Maybe ask an independent person to assist. Another pair of eyes may see things that you just cannot see and perhaps some things may need to be changed. It may well be time to challenge those who continue to cling to the notion that “Things have always been done this way around here”.

This is blog number 8 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

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