Asian Technology

You don’t have to be a Net junkie to figure out where to go when you need to find a site on the World Wide Web: Google should be enough to satisfy most people’s searching needs. Search engines are conducting a search all their own. SEO companies Phoenix are working hard to grab competitive advantages by delivering to users the perfect query result. But what if you want to find something from the Guangzhou Daily or the fan club of Japanese teen idol Masahiro Nakai? A growing number of Asian-language search engines, mostly Japanese and Chinese, allow searches for sites that are hard to find with English only search engines.

(Displaying and working with Japanese or Chinese on your computer requires special software. Computer users who just want to surf can add Chinese or Japanese capabilities to most browsers through simple add-on programs downloaded from the Web.)

Yahoo! Japan, a joint venture between Yahoo! and Softbank, was officially launched in April. Though it models itself after the English-language Yahoo! in page design and subject categorization, the Japanese search engine has listings developed solely in Japan. The site is visited by an average of 1.6 million Internet surfers a day, says Makoto Arima, sales and marketing director of Yahoo! Japan.

There are more than a dozen Japan-based search engines, run mostly by large corporations such as Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, Sony, NEC and Fujitsu. Searches on these search engines can be done in either hiragana, a phonetic Japanese script, or kanji characters. A search for “sushi” in hiragana found seven matches on Yahoo! Japan, 13 on NTT’s InfoBee, 292 on NEC’s Net Plaza and 1,727 on Fujitsu’s InfoNavigator. The same search in kanji brought up 33 matches on Yahoo! Japan, 33 on InfoBee, 20 on Net Plaza and 929 on InfoNavigator.

WhatSite!, a Taiwan-based search engine set up in June, claims to have one of the most comprehensive databases of Chinese-related sites, in both Chinese and English, from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and non-Chinese-speaking countries. Calling itself “the 21st century Chinese Internet catalog,” WhatSite! accepts searches in English and Big5 Chinese characters (Big5 is the most popular method in Taiwan and Hong Kong of displaying and using Chinese characters on a computer).

Users without the software to display Big5 characters can browse WhatSite! using images containing Chinese characters and do searches by clicking on a specific subject displayed on the image.

Surfers using GB Chinese characters, the most popular format on the mainland, can point their Web browser to Richina Search Engine, run by software company Stone Rich Sight in Beijing. Searches can be done in Chinese in GB characters or in English.

In Hong Kong, search engines such as Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Index Server support searches in English, GB Chinese and Big5 Chinese. A search of the English word “revolution” on Index Server brought back 26 results while the same search on Richina yielded two results and WhatSite! scored three. And yes, politics does play a part. A search for “the Dalai Lama” found one entry on WhatSite!, three on Index Server and — not surprisingly -none on Richina.

WhatSite!, Richina and Index Server maintain separate directories for English entries and Chinese entries. When you type in a search statement in English, you only get English-language results in return. However, WhatSite! and Richina will give you English results along with Chinese results when you type in a search statement in Chinese.

Yahoo! Japan, possibly the most commercially aggressive of the Asian-language search engines, accepts so-called banner ads on its pages. Advertisers, now totaling 60, range from computer companies to auto makers to consumer-goods manufacturers.

Jacky Hung, staff engineer at WhatSite!, says his company is considering accepting advertising. Mr. Li says Stone Rich Sight is using Richina as an advertising tool for its own software products and doesn’t have any plans to solicit paid advertising.

Marketing services - always pushing, always slipping

I am one of several product managers at a software company. All of us use our in-house marketing services department. I have a lot of things that need to get done: press releases, ads, brochures and more. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get anything out of marketing services. I am judged by the success of my product, and I can’t market or sell my product without these materials. It’s driving me crazy. I have no authority over marketing services, so all I can do is beg or badger them, which doesn’t work. Meanwhile, my market window is closing. What do you suggest?

A: I agree with you; you don’t have time for your projects to get stalled. Markets are moving so quickly now that market segments, and sometimes entire industries, spring up and die in as little as six months.

Based on my experiences with other companies, you are not alone. Many other product managers have the same problem. Sometimes their situation is so bad it becomes a running inside joke.

Often product managers with this problem just give up because the marketing services manager is one of the CEO’s favorites, or the marketing services department is perpetually understaffed. And many marketing managers refuse to admit that there’s a problem.

Surprisingly, when product managers mention their frustration to the CEO, they seldom communicate the severity of the situation because they don’t want to look like whiners or alarmists. And they don’t want to make the situation worse by getting on the bad side of the marketing person.

The secret to getting your materials produced is to identify the true source of the problem in marketing services. Armed with this information, you can either help the marketing services manager solve the problem directly or you can present your observations and specific suggestions to higher management. Whatever you do, be kind about it. Running marketing services is like being a waitress in a crowded restaurant; each patron only cares about his or her dinner, but the waitress has to serve all of the customers equally well.

We can’t guess what the real problem is in your marketing services department, but we can tell you what we usually find in other cases.

Problem 1: Poor processes

Many who are attracted to the email marketing services field are nice folks who want to help others. They are eager to please. They respond as best they can to the requests that come in, as they come in. But their pile gets bigger and bigger until they are completely overloaded.

They barely have time for a personal life, much less the time to change the way their department operates. All sorts of things are done inefficiently. For example, most companies advertise in a certain group of publications. Every time someone creates an ad for one of these publications, certain production specifications must be met. For some reason, no one ever thinks of storing the specifications, on paper or digitally, where everyone can access them. So each time an ad is created, someone has to go digging, or an incorrectly prepared ad has to be reworked, usually on deadline.

Process problems usually can be solved by setting up knowledge repositories, creating a scheduling and tracking system that works for everyone involved, organizing jobs as they flow through and setting up standard practices that are published and followed. Once the basic problems are addressed, you can begin to streamline the approval process, which can make a great difference in how swiftly a job moves through the organization.

Problem 2: Unclear communications

Product managers typically hand off a job by calling a meeting, describing what is needed, then giving the marketing services person a pile of background material. Relying on another person’s notes taken on your oral directions always results in miscommunication, especially as the job is handed from person to person during production. Take 15 extra minutes to write out what you want. Better yet, help create a standard form for all product managers that answers the important questions. Using this form will save you hours of work and days of delays.

Problem 3: Stalled in the CEO’s office

In some companies, jobs get hung up in the CEO’s office. If this is the case, you need to talk with your CEO. Perfection is becoming a dangerous luxury in today’s fast-moving markets. A picky or uncertain CEO has to understand that an ad that is “80% there” will pull a lot more than an unfinished ad that isn’t there at all.

Problem 4: Denial

People react a variety of ways when they are overwhelmed. Marketing people tend to go into denial. They do the best they can until they can’t take it anymore, and then they quit. Even a small amount of organization and prioritization can make things better.

None of this is easy, and you will surely step on a few toes as you find ways to help. But it’s better to step on a few toes than to have your product fail due to lack of marketing materials.

Web hosting services - many companies outsource the job to ISPs

Web hosting is essentially an outsourcing arrangement. Putting a high-visibility business tool into someone else’s hands means doing some serious advance work–there are literally thousands of Web-hosting companies, some of which have more experience handling large customers.
Regardless, there are some key factors to keep in mind. Find out right away whether the ISP has high-speed, redundant, secure Internet connections and server farms. Decide if the service meets the company’s bandwidth needs - if it doesn’t, look elsewhere. Examine performance guarantees: Some ISPs have them; those that don’t might be willing to negotiate. Finally, look into reporting capabilities - all ISPs deliver Web site usage statistics, but only a few hand out reports on network and server performance.
And it helps to remember that file hosting services aren’t for everyone. Organizations that have a stable of highly trained technicians ready to spring into action at any time probably don’t need an ISP. Those companies whose Web sites run complex, custom applications also might be better off staying in control.
Good deals and dedicated staffs may not be enough for net managers reluctant to relinquish control of the Web site. That wariness is justified, according to some observers, who believe Web data automatically becomes vulnerable when someone else is in charge of the server.
Others say the opposite is true, that moving the Web site to an ISP reduces the chance of hackers using it to worm their way into the corporate net. It’s usually more secure to bring your content to the Internet than to bring the Internet to your content.
When control is the issue, it’s better to use a dedicated server. Many corporate networkers want root access - or the ability to add, change, or delete files or directories. For some it’s simply a matter of wanting to operate the Web site efficiently; for others it’s all about peace of mind.
Another thing net managers should look into is whether the ISP makes a staging server available. For some companies, this could be a real advantage: The staging server is where changes, updates, and additions can be made to the Web site before trotting them out for public viewing. Once the changes are finalized, customers can instruct the server to transfer the file into production mode.
Staging servers also can be used by customers to store copies of old Web sites.

Optical Data Archiving at the United Nations

You have come into possession of some of the world’s most important documents - 43,000 of them to be exact. Each one of them must be fully protected, their integrity guaranteed, and they must be 100 percent reliable against loss or destruction. Failure to shield even a single crucial document could cause worldwide havoc - even war. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a way to safeguard these documents, shield them from unauthorized alterations, yet make each one easily available to anyone requesting them.

Sound like a fantastic movie plot? Or perhaps the making of a great mystery novel? Well, it’s a real-world dilemma faced by the United Nations - custodian of all the world’s treaties. Dating back to 1947 when the organization was known as the League of Nations, the UN has stored more than a half-million pages of agreements between countries, divided into 1,600 volumes. These original papers are stored in its New York City headquarters. The paper documents, with the signing parties signatures affixed, each written in a number of languages, form the framework of accords among nations.

The UN embarked on an ambitious project to convert each page of every document into electronic media - making them available outside of the UN’s walls to Internet users and others who’d like to see them, without posing a risk to the documents.

Ron Van Note, an information systems consultant known for his work in the re-engineering workflow arena, oversees this undertaking at the UN. “After much reflection and many discussions, we decided to go with imaging and optical storage as the best alternatives for this enormous conversion task,” recalls Van Note. “With this combination of technology we can ensure the integrity of each document both during the electronic input process and afterward during the storage stage.”

Imaging vs. OCR

Van Note’s rational for selecting the imaging format over digital Optical Character Recognition was based on both cost and legal ramifications. Van Note explains that OCR, at best, is considered to be only 90- to 95-percent accurate. Because of the multiple languages used throughout the treaties, it would cost the world body millions to ensure the necessary 100-percent accuracy. During the conversion from paper to electronic media, the UN has to protect against adding something that is not there, or leaving anything out during translation.

Optical storage was chosen because of its immense capacities, permanency, and near-online storage capability. “A treaty is not a document that ever changes,” explains Van Note. “It will be stored forever. It can be modified by adding on to it, but the original is never touched. Optical’s permanency and large capacities are ideal for this type of data archiving. In the future, the UN will be putting the documents out over the Internet. It is essential to get the treaties into a form that can’t be damaged. Again, optical’s write-once feature meets our needs.

“The first phase of the UN’s conversion project has already been completed,” says Van Note. “It involved scanning all 1,600 existing volumes of treaties (about 600,000 pages) and storing them on the optical media. A Hewlett-Packard SureStore Optical 20XT jukebox with 16 five-and-a-quarter-inch disk platters were initially used. The jukebox is an magneto-optical device and WORM media was used to protect the documents against erasure or alteration.

New systems cut risk of accidents and bring fingertip control to drill floor

The popular image of a drill floor on rigs and platforms is undergoing a radical change with the introduction of computer technology.

Computer technology has cleared the modern drill floor of people, both on rigs and production platforms. Gone are those traditional scenes of rugged roughnecks, covered in mud and oil, manhandling drill pipes and heavy equipment.

While such scenes may have come to epitomise the nature of the oil industry to cinema and television audiences, the drill floor has come to be regarded as one of the most dangerous offshore worksites.

In Norway, there were nine fatal accidents and 1,725 lost time accidents on the drill floor between 1990 and 2005. In one year alone more than 50 dropped objects were reported from the drilling derrick.

Now everything can be finger-tip controlled by two men, the driller and assistant driller, seated in comfortable chairs in a clear-view multipurpose cabin, which has been described as looking like an advanced aircraft cockpit. This is the control and information centre for all drilling operations.

This brave new world involves updated iron roughnecks fitted with a variety of new functions for pipe handling and positioning, automatic drill tests, automatic tripping, programme logical controller (PLC), drilling machinery controls and anti-collision systems.

Behind this revolutionary change lies the integrated drilling system (IDS). This project, in which $9.5m has so far been invested, was initiated by Esso Norway and the Rogaland Research Centre in 2000, with cost savings and safety the main driving force. Drill systems designer Hitec and drilling contractor Smedvig joined shortly afterwards. A complete test rig has been established at Ullrigg.

The IDS concept is to interconnect all the equipment and services in the drilling operation and to utilise flexible screen-based operator stations for machinery and process control and presentation of information. This overcomes the disadvantages of the traditional systems, as all information will be available to all parties in the drilling operation.

The system can be retrofitted to existing rigs, or installed on newbuilds or new platforms. It is in modular form built up by well proven standard components and is easy to expand from the simplest form to the most sophisticated.

Smedvig’s most modern rig, West Epsilon, has used a forerunner of the IDS system for two years and has achieved only one lost-time accident during that period. The system is not yet fully integrated.

Ole Melberg, chief executive officer of Smedvig, says: “With limited investments in hardware and by using the newly developed software, the best combination of drilling parameters can automatically be monitored and applied. This results in improved penetration rates, reduced costs per metre and better operational safety.

“An investment in the system is further encouraged by today’s regime of incentive-type drilling contracts whereby the drilling contractor’s compensation and reward are closely linked to continuous improvements in its performance”.

The West Epsilon is now drilling Statoil’s Sleipner West production wells under a four-and-a-half year contract. It was able to reduce the time for setting the 24 conductors from 31 to 23 hours and is now drilling the first well.

After the first two wells, Smedvig hopes to have set parameters and will then see the remaining elements of the fully-integrated system brought into practical operation.

Thor Jensen, senior operation adviser at Smedvig, says the object of the system is not to take over the driller’s role but to enable him to concentrate on the construction of the hole rather than running the machinery. “To date we have achieved remote operations but the ultimate aim is to have fully automatic operations,” he claimed.

This, of course, has necessitated a complete change of attitude among drilling personnel. “Before the rig went on its first contract we ran a four-week training programme with Varco, Procon, ABB and Hitec. This covered rig automation, the automatic pipe handling system, the drilling instrumentation system, mud chemical dosing system and the deck crane system.

“Young people were quick to realise the benefits. But I’ve seen traditional drillers scared stiff when they walked into the control cabin and thought that they had to run the rig from it.

“Old rig hands didn’t believe in computers because they didn’t understand them. We had to teach them that they are a tool that will help them. It is just as much a mental as a physical thing, but within two days they accepted it.”

Traditional job specifications have also changed. The roughneck has now become a drilling technician with a technical background and long experience from traditional roughneck work.

A new member of the crew is the data technician, with knowledge of instruments, automation and computers. “We would be lost without them,” said Mr Jensen.

The new generation drilling control and data acquisition (DCDA) systems have been installed on Shell’s Troll gas platform and the Hibernia development, offshore Newfoundland.

While crew numbers have not been reduced on the partially-automated West Epsilon, on Troll, where drilling is being carried out by Transocean, the drilling module can be operated by five people instead of the usual fifteen.

Computers have been used for some time in some drilling operations with the analog systems. But DCDA provides remote control and monitoring of drilling equipment, blending and delivery of mud and cement and the HVAC systems.

Hitec says that, apart from maximising safety and greatly improving the working environment, the benefits include information from all drilling processes being passed on to all operators.

The Troll packaged drilling rig, developed by Hitec Dreco, is the first installation with a complete new AC drilling system as opposed to the traditional DC electric motors for top drive, draw-works and mud pumps.

But the system to be installed on Phillips’ new 2/4-X platform on the Ekofisk redevelopment is another big step forward, as it will incorporate Cyberbase.

Ole Barman, Hitec’s business development manager in the UK, says: “The Troll cabin was designed around the processes, while Cyberbase is designed around the man.”

The overall design basis for the unit was to get the best working environment for the operators in the control room and to reduce overall cost for it.

The system consists of: a chair with numerical and functional keypads on armrests; joysticks for the drilling machinery and cursor on screen: a PLC to control keypads and joystick; and a UNIX server with two high resolution colour schemes.

All traditional panel instruments have been replaced by two large monitors. The unit has been ergonomically designed to suit long periods of use.

Mr Barman points out: “Drilling often requires the same operation to be carried out many times. When done manually in the traditional manner it will not be done exactly the same each time. By utilising PLCs and sensors and activators you achieve precisely the same operation every time”.

At the beginning of this year an automatic tripping phase two project was started. The object is to achieve a reliable automatic tripping sequence of Drill Pipe, where the trip time needed should not exceed 90 seconds, with 60 seconds as the ultimate goal.

Hitec says it has already developed the machinery control system for floating production, storage and offloading vessels and is bidding on a number of contracts. The next stage in the development of integrated computer-systems is for automatic control of both drilling and production.

AUDITORS IN THE EUROPEAN SINGLE MARKET

The European Commission’s Green Paper on auditing represents an important opportunity to enhance the role of the statutory auditor.

Stimulate Telecom Audit Services in Europe towards the highest quality and best standards in the world. European auditors have always pursued this aim of excellence, and will continue to do so in the future. FEE has affirmed this to the Commission on behalf of its 34 member institutes in 22 European countries; it has therefore welcomed the Commission’s initiative and will work with the Commission to help it succeed.

The Commission’s task is to complete the single market. It wants an efficient market, effective allocation of capital and European companies able to compete strongly in world trade. It sees transparent financial reporting and sound control by directors as powerful tools for this purpose. It sees that statutory audit provides pressure to use these tools well, so it wants the conduct and reporting of audits in Europe to converge and auditors to have the freedom to practise within Europe. The focus of the initiative is to remove barriers to the single market, leaving only restrictions that are needed to protect the public interest in audit. But, of course, convergence is not enough. The single market looks for the highest quality at a fair, competitive price. Quality must be maintained and enhanced. The mutuality of interest in quality between government, companies and auditors is clear.

The Commission therefore commissioned a study to identify barriers to auditing services in Europe. By doing so, it attracted submissions from others, including FEE. These inputs enabled the Commission to issue its Green Paper.

FEE has now submitted its response to the Commission. In doing so, it was speaking with the authority of the European accounting profession - it has worked with a core team from major institutes, supported by working parties of over 50 national representatives, for the last 18 months to bring together our profession’s view.

The team concludes that the public interest will be best served if the profession continues to manage its affairs within a general legal framework.

The law should require statutory audits, but leave the detail of how audits should be accomplished to the professionals. A remarkably high convergence of audit methodology, reporting and quality control has already been achieved.

Generally, national requirements reflect those in place elsewhere in Europe and the world. Going forward, adapting to rapidly changing business conditions and meeting the reasonable expectations of knowledgeable people requires flexibility exercised by a responsible profession accountable for its actions.

Two examples show how this has worked up until now. Twenty years ago, Europe’s auditors recognized that auditing and ethical standards agreed internationally were needed. Their representatives therefore took a large part in developing International Standards on Auditing. Since they helped to draft them, it was easy for FEE members to agree to apply these standards nationally. One of the Commission’s important concerns is for audit reports in each country to say and mean the same thing. This is covered by ISA 700 and progress in implementing it in Europe has gone a long way to meeting the concern. FEE believes that the course charted two decades ago continues to be the best route to today’s single market objectives.

Having standards is one thing. Enforcing them and demonstrating to the public that they are enforced is another. Corporate financial failures have focused the mind. Even if the causes of failure have nothing to do with the audit, the public is justified in wishing to know that audit safeguards are properly in place. Most European countries have therefore established quality control structures in recent years. The inter-relationship of the profession and public authority varies according to each country and its juridical background, but it remains the profession’s task to make the structures work and be seen to work. Giving confidence in quality control requires unceasing vigilance, and FEE’s members are considering how this might be raised to the Europe-wide level, with due regard to ’subsidiarity’.

These comments imply that the work of the Commission and of FEE and others so far has revealed few barriers and few impediments to the quality of audit likely to require legislation at the European level. FEE thinks this is so. European intervention may be needed to give group auditors access to information held abroad by affiliated entities, but this was the only clear example. Obviously, there is work to be done by both the legislator and the profession to achieve proper convergence at the national level. But this may best be achieved by encouragement. ‘Stimulate’ is the right word. By examining the auditor’s role and suggesting that legislative pressure could possibly follow, the Commission has succeeded in provoking reflection and action. We may hope that the action will be common action.

At the national level there is much to be done. The legislator has to define what each person engaged in business is required to do, and the reporting or other conditions under which he or she should do it. Legislation is needed mainly to clarify responsibilities and to undo inappropriate legislation in the past. From the auditors’ viewpoint, this relates mainly to putting them into a position where they can meet the public’s proper expectations, either by setting out the area of expectation - for example reporting on fraud or going concern - or by making progress on auditors’ exposure to liability.

This becomes more and more important as auditors’ new responsibilities move further from historic fact towards judgmental or future-based information.

Once the question of ‘what to do’ has been clarified by the legislator, the task of the profession - not the public authority - should be to decide ‘how to’ accomplish the task and demonstrate that it has been completed.

FEE sees the Commission’s audit initiative as an important opportunity to clarify and enhance the statutory auditor’s role. The public interest - that is to say the whole array of mutual interests involved in developing a single market in which everybody is an economic winner - makes the task immensely worthwhile. FEE and its members have every intention of working together to make the initiative a success. The shoulder is already to the wheel.

Market and Economic Value Added for Business

Despite numerous tools available to investors to assess company performance, few can tell them what they really want to know - whether their investment will grow in value.

And not many ratios reveal how much wealth a company is creating, or destroying.

But a model designed by New York.-based financial consulting firm Stern Stewart & Co. not only shows how much wealth a company has created for its shareholders, but gives management the tools they need to increase it.

And in this era of executive pay disclosure, it offers a benchmark for executive performance.

While increasing shareholder wealth is one of the first tenets of management, it all too often put on the back burner. And even when it is a company’s top priority, it can be difficult to measure.

“For years now, there has been a question of how to motivate management to make decisions that are truly effective, in that they use resources efficiently so that they satisfy customers, and in the end, enhance the wealth formula of shareholders,” says Bennett Stewart senior partner at Stern Stewart.

Market Value Added (MVA) measures the most basic principle of business management that any investment of a company’s capital in a new project, equipment, or employee should give investors a value that is at least equal to the cost of the investment. MVA measures that value and is explained by present value of a firm’s economic value added, or EVA.

EVA is after-tax operating profit minus the cost of capital.

Since EVA is a measure of ongoing and current value in a business, it is the measure that can be used to bring about change in the way an organization is run.

Based on figures from the Financial Post DataGroup, the accompanying tables rate 300 Canadian-based companies by the MVA and EVA yardstick. The figures are based on fiscal year-end 2005, with subsidiaries listed separately to avoid their being counted twice (once with the parent company and once alone). Financial institutions, utilities, rael estate companies, and financial management companies are excluded from the ranking because of the difficulty of comparing their operating income with that of non-financial companies.

Investors can use MVA to learn surprising, and sometimes disquieting, information about companies.

Transportation and environmental services, communications and media and consumer products all created more wealth than the overall MVA average, while oil and gas, industrial products, merchandising and paper and forest companies, although generating wealth and shareholder value, created less than average.

It should be noted that the paper and forest products industry is the only one of the 10 subindexes to show a positive average EVA.

The relationship between EVA and MVA is significant, since it can highlight discord between actual (shown in the EVA) and expected (shown in the MVA) performance.

Arriving at the total Market Value Added (MVA) figure for a company involves adding all of the capital the company has amassed over its life span, through equity and debt issues, bank loans, and retained earnings.

Further adjustments are made, specific to each company, that account for such things as capitalized research and development costs as an investment in future earnings that is then amortized over an appropriate period.

Subtract the current value of equity and debt from that adjusted capital figure. That is MVA.

The difference between total market value, or the amount readily available to investors (for instance, by selling their shares), and the amount they have invested over the years, is MVA.

A positive MVA number means wealth has been created, while a negative number means capital has been lost.

Economic Value Added (EVA) is after-tax net operating profit, minus the cost of capital for that period.

Not just the cost of debt, but the cost of equity capital as well.

Investors should know that, contrary to commonly held belief, equity capital can cost a great deal more than debt.

The accompanying tables do not capture all of those extraordinary items and may deviate from actual EVA values by 5%-30%.

Phone Rates Reduced to Encourage More Overseas Calls

Chinese telecommunications operators are charging more for domestic calls beginning this month, but they cut the rates for international calls.

They hope to improve communications between China and the rest of the world.

In addition to raising domestic phone charges, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has hiked domestic mail prices about 150%.

The rate hikes apparently aren’t high enough to elicit public complaints.

Li Yahui, a public telephone booth owner in Beijing, said her clients responded “in silent compliance, as if they are used to such changes.” The MPT and State Planning Commission (SPC), announced the increases in a circular. It says citywide calls should increase 20% from the present level. Postage will jump to 0.5 yuan ($0.06) for the domestic mail of letters.

The MPT and SPC say the increases are in line with a series of government measures keeping the country’s inflation at bay.

In April, the year-on-year retail price growth was 4.7%, and consumer prices, which include service rates, registered a 7% growth, according to the State Statistics Bureau.

“Price changes are so important that they are expected to prevent the MPT’s 500,000-member staff and phone companies from continuously losing billions of yuan annually,” MPT officials said.

Additionally, the MPT cut the international phone rates by 30%. Previously, the cost of a call from Beijing to the United States was 26.25 yuan ($3.16) per minute. It’s now 18.37 yuan ($2.21).

International phone rates have been high since the founding of New China, but they jumped 50% in 1994 because of changes in the country’s exchange rates against US dollars and other foreign currency.

In recent years, the high rates resulted in a marked drop in overseas calls from China. In contrast, international calls to China have increased because of comparatively lower costs in foreign countries.

The MPT said the decrease eventually would increase its revenue because more people would be making international calls from China.

Long Distance Phone Rates will not change, while local calls made in rural areas will drop, the MPT said.

Until late May, calls from rural areas were considered longdistance. Person-to-person calls in rural regions had to be linked through urban telephone exchange facilities.

Because China has developed its telephone networks, the MPT said it could recoup those costs from other sectors.

Meanwhile, installation costs for new urban subscribers decreased.

Customer relationship management for your company

To reach customers, companies have to move from a focus on making and selling products to a customer focus driven by understanding and responsiveness. Successful customer relationship management now encompasses everything from order taking and production through billing and post-sales support.

Having a well integrated information infrastructure focused on the customer is a critical success factor in today’s business environment. Undoubtedly, the role of CIOs will be defined by the need to reflect this business priority by mapping technology against newly reengineered processes. And for company, the support and partnership provided by its channel, and business partners is essential to being able to help customers better serve their customers.

These are certainly interesting and exciting times we share with our partners and customers. We are experiencing a quantum shift in the way business is conducted that affects every industry, every aspect of society - even our personal lives.

Driving this shift is technology. Companies must understand their particular industry’s technology dynamics - or risk losing out to competition if they try to deny change. Winners will be those companies that use crm consultants and new technologies to develop or preserve a unique relationship with their customers.

Technology developments like data mining, which is key to this focus on the customer as a “segment of one” which defies traditional market segmentation. Data mining uses sophisticated algorithms that, combined with the high-performance computing power of new parallel processor mainframes, can shift through millions of customer records in search of new trends and behaviors that may be missed by traditional market analysis.

Mobile applications also play a role. This has saved overhead costs and increased the amount of time spent with customers. This mobility and flexibility will be improved further by the emerging capability of wireless technology so that people can communicate from anywhere to anywhere without the constraints of telecommunications infrastructures.

Voice recognition and multimedia will play important roles in improving the ease of use and user friendliness of computers critical to good customer interaction. Multimedia kiosks, for example, enable organizations to reach out to customers in unexpected locations.

Companies becomes more proficient with information technology to support their customers, it will be critical for them to have the latest technology and outstanding support at their fingertips.

You Can Improve Air Conditioning: Suggestions to Boost Efficiency

If you haven’t thought about your air conditioning system by now, the real heat of summer should remind you pretty soon. There are a few things you can do to make your air conditioning system run more efficiently.

If you haven’t cleaned the filters in a while, now is a perfect time. Generally, filters need to be cleaned usually with a mild detergent or replaced every 3 to 6 months. If you’re like me, and have furry household pets, it’s important to replace or clean filters more frequently.

Other things you can do to make your system run more efficiently include:

* Keep your windows and doors closed when the system is in operation.

* Close coverings on windows that face the sun.

* Caulk and weatherstrip all doors and windows to prevent cold air from escaping.

* Follow the manufacturer’s preventive maintenance guide.

* Wash or dry clothes in early morning or evening to avoid producing more heat during the warmest parts of the day, when the air conditioner already is taxed.

* Use your exhaust fan to vent heat when cooking.

Most residential air conditioning systems last about 10 to 15 years. If your system breaks down during that time, it’s probably best to replace components. When your system begins to go, however, major components such as a motor or compressor will fail first. Get an estimate from at least three companies on replacing components and on replacing the system. Also, get estimates from other companies on only replacing the system. A company might want to sell you a new unit more than it wants to fix the existing system. Weigh the costs of repair and replacement carefully.

Consider, too, that in the past few years, the technology of air conditioning systems has advanced significantly, increasing efficiency. Compare the cost of repairing and running your old system with the cost of a installing and operating a new system over the next few years. You might be in for some surprises.