We look in wonderment at one of ENO’s best productions yet of this classic modern masterpiece.

Alexander Soddy strides into the orchestra pit, waves and encourages his team, and then there is silence for a full five seconds. And then we are off! And its a strange, curious, beginning…

This is redolent of the performance of Wagner’s ”The Mastersingers” a few years earlier; the feeling somehow that this will be the epic performance – when everything goes right. That night, at the end of five hours, all the orchestra hugged each other at the finale. And so it was last night. From whatever opera or music background you come from, this is a performance you have to see.

The secret sauce of this production is the fluidity, sensibility, and sheer forcefulness and continuation of the orchestra – which allows the drama to experiment, to be funny, aggressive, romantic, and convey sincere emotion – without ever losing sight of the fact that essentially, this opera is a dream.

The whole stage is one giant bed. The production relies on the singers/actors/actresses hopping from bed to stage, from awake to asleep, from fantasy to reality. The melodic lines of the music never give away anything you can hum along to, no nice chord progressions and cadences; there is this sense of being suspended somewhere and indeed the third act is precisely that – the three beds suspended in mid air.

And then there is the humour which is less rather than more, – subtle at its best. My standout performance was Eleanor Dennis as Helena, very similar to Mary Bevan some years earlier, also a former Harewood Artist.

But this is to be picky; all of the singing, the characterisation, the direction, was spot on, an integrated whole. Sometimes, particularly at the end of the second act, the drama and clever direction took your breath away

The humour reached its peak at the finale. This was the nearest we got to traditional Shakespeare productions and slapstick humour. It reminded me of the last time I saw this, in Devon – just a couple of years ago.

The difference here – is that the music adds the extra dimension, at times searing, to force the drama.

And then Puck wraps it up… we are back to the original Shakespeare lines…

Was I dreaming? I have no idea. But I am still rubbing my eyes. I can’t believe it.

Conferences – do we need them?

We look at the need to get together and ask – does it work?

Conferences are big business. A casual search for any vertical mix of “meeting point”, be it by topic or geography, could keep you and I continually doing the rounds of expensive hotels and free lunches everyday except weekends, until midway thru 2019 – and we haven’t even got through January some twelve months earlier.

Either the common understanding is that; conferences work. Or we are simply creatures of habit, we go because we always did.

Except that, for many – conferences, and the mini exhibitions that accompany these – deliver very little. Particularly for vendors, who splash out large sums but frequently tell us its a lot of cost for what ultimately does not deliver. And similarly for delegates – why is it that Speakers who should know by now how to communicate their corporate benefits, are so frequently unprepared, whose presentations are just so dull? Is it – to put it another way, there are simply better ways of achieving your goal – be it sales prospecting, market info, meeting your peers – than by jumping on the cattle run.

Then again – judging by the highly competent lists of theoretically highly competent decision-makers that always herald every getting-together – these guys would not do it, if it didn’t work. The answer, is to pick and choose the meetings where a/ you want to be visible; and b/ where the delegates that surround you are actually worth meeting.

And sure, there are the classic industry standard get-togethers, that are like the perennial flowers in my front garden. its the same people, the same format, the same booths, the same visibility. If you are not there, then people “assume” you are not anywhere. I am not talking about these. You can put healthcare, and hospitality into those boxes. There are many more.

The trick is to identify conferences that are addressing an actual market need. Nowhere is this more obvious and important, than in the technology arena. And these conferences too are changing. If 2016/2017 were the years of Big Data, and then GDPR – we are now seeing the more discussion based formulae. These are the meetings that you need to go to, because they deliver original thinking.

It has long been recognised that the real hidden benefit of this level of conference – is the casual networking, the informal discussion. Best among the upcoming conferences is the Future of Finance 2018 Discussion, on Feb 19th in London. Organised by IQPC, this promises to be an innovative forum based event, that brings together the people that can shape the industry, and where you can play a part. Worth registering.




`Cebit 2018 and the Public Sector

If you work in the public sector, in particular local and regional government – here is why you need a quick day in Hannover this Spring.

We republish here the announcement just a few days ago, from Cebit Press Office – detailing their focus on German public authorities, and the need for Digital platforms.


Cebit is exhausting at best of times, but focussing on public need, is great if you are a vendor of Data Analysis and GDPR solutions;  and very helpful if you work in the public sector and wish to engage with like minds.



We look at changing demands within the UK NHS

I am going to start this all back-to-front. My suggestion is; simply giving the NHS “more money” – is cementing out of date working practices. The problem is – there are things called “patients”. There are more of them, and they are being quite unreasonable by living a lot longer than they should. This is redolent of my Data discussions about relational databases; they are just to clunky to handle the volume of patient data we have (so goes the argument). If Hospitals are going to continue to be relevant, then they need to start with a blank piece of paper, adopt radical new ways of doing things, and that includes how they pay for stuff. Putting in place new practices is inextricably linked to finding innovative ways of paying for them.

The problem is – people don’t like change. Nobody likes change. Our comfort zone is precisely that; why not keep things the same? The common unspoken argument goes something like – It’s all worked more or less, up to now.

Except that it doesn’t any longer. As indicated above – there are just too many people wanting healthcare. And if you believe the guys at CIFS in Denmark, “hospitals” are no longer in the driving seat anyway; it is the patient – or “consumer” – that is increasingly driving us to adopt new facilities and services for which we have no plan and no budget.

But maybe we don’t need a budget. Maybe we should just” do”. One way around this obstacle, is the following:

My colleague, who is a Head of Finance at a major UK Trust – sips his coffee and says; “you know , Richard, – apart from essential capital costs – we have stopped making big budget procurements. We now pay as we go. Suppliers enter into flexible monthly contracts, and we pay for what we use.”

Companies in the UK such as System C, are already looking at these sort of innovative practices; similarly in Scandinavia, the EVRY company now offers iPad based versions of its solutions for smaller clinics, based on a mobile SIM tariff. This is the tip of a very large iceberg

And it is seismic; it brings to an end the five-year contract, the large software acquisition. It means that suppliers can no longer promise to deliver but never deliver (we have seen this several times) – or supply goods and never train their hospitals (and we have seen this too). It also means that as hospital flexible demands change, – so can their supplier, and in real-time.

There are two win/wins here. The first is that hospitals can now engage in new technology Pilots, to prove clinical concepts and prove commercial viability, without fear of long term commitment. It means there need no longer be a “budget hiatus” every year, around now, that delay the introduction of new services that clinicians are desperately calling for.

A direct result of the mobile world we live in, is that increasingly, suppliers are linking their offer to commercial or clinical results in some way. This is important, because it allows much better monitoring; the introduction of new services can be far better and much more simply controlled – with the minimisation of implicit greater risk.

But it also means that hospital management needs to throw out the hostility that routinely surfaces towards the very organisations that are able to help. For this quiet revolution to happen, there needs to be what I will call a “Scandinavian Partnership” model, of engagement. It is an ironic description; Scandinavian procurements and “upphandlings” are some of the most heavily legally monitored in the world – but that in itself misses the point.

In a world where you and I are now able to tell our Doctor and Hospital what they need for us – who needs a procurement process anyway? Just go and do it.


New Human Relationships in Customer Contact

We look at the upcoming  CCW Conference in Glasgow in March, and ask – has this Conference really changed things  This is what they say about themselves:

”Delivering world class services has never been more critical as today’s businesses continue to be disrupted with new technologies and competition. Multi channel is the new norm, contact centres face more complex queries, operating models urgently need to be reorganized and super agents need to be created!

Partnering with business to deliver insights and world class service is a major step for customer contact to become more strategic in customer centric transformation. In the age of digital, providing that human touch to both your customers and employees will be the winning recipe. We invite you to join us at Customer Contact Week 2018 where key strategies are shared and the future is shaped.

CCW Europe will see 60+ executive speakers, 25 industry and challenge focused IDGs, 9 plenary sessions and dedicated streams and discussions tackling how to deliver world class service through intelligent customer contact without losing the human touch. You cannot afford to miss out! “

There is no doubt that a more human response in the automated call centres that have populated our life, will deliver.

But the question is – has the market already moved on?  Most people – particularly in the areas of financial services, banking, utilities, would much prefer their vendors and suppliers to go the whole hog, bring back the human face, bring back the local branch. At a time when there is a growing focus on the “Community” – so there is now a need, and a market, for the back to basics of human engagement, – rather than the image of human engagement. It is still faster to buy a train ticket by rolling up at a local train station than trying to buy said ticket on line, and you get the happy start of someone actually face to face being nice to you. Pay it Forward actually works.

Plus, there are added side benefits of this back to normality approach, the obvious one is in retail, the avoidance of plastic packaging and delivery services is becoming a major factor in saving the planet both from the ocean and emissions points of view.

And then again – maybe the answer is a mix, and it comes down to service. A key speaker at the above Conference is from the MOO Organisation – where we ourselves have now migrated to buying all of our cards and print (in stead of our local print shop down the road).

Will we be going?  Yes of course.  But let’s get serious;  online customer contact will never be as good for most situations, as the real thing. And Glasgow is a great place to go visit.

It’s Time to Think About Christmas…

We look at those Christmas Parties that actually make sense…

Actually – frankly speaking – there aren’t many. I would like to say that Christmas for all and everyone is a spirit of goodwill to all men, a time of renewal and friendship. And I would be wrong. For most companies, the annual “Christmas Party” is the minefield of alcohol bad taste, political scheming that rivals Machiavelli in his prime, and moments of deep despair that hit those who awake the next morning, and wonder – “did I really say that to Sophie in Accounts”?

No wonder that so many Trade Associations in Paris prefer to have their annual “Soirée”, in the middle of June. At least when you wake up the next day, you can disappear on vacation down to Chatelaillon. Hopefully it will all be forgotten by the time you get back for the Rentree.

And then there is COSSIOM – whose annual “Get-together” is the model of what business events should be, and where aspiration of actually enjoying oneself – is merged with business networking, for people who know about business networking.

How so?

Because COSSIOM understands that the driver of its flagship event – is business, not hospitality. That people in the Data world that it brings together, – as much as one always likes a glass of champagne – rarely have time to enjoy said glass of champagne. Life is already too stressed. COSSIOM is a soirée for people that value the individual minutes of their day enough to know that the chance discussion, the accidental meeting, that the COSSIOM event delivers, are as valuable as the specific meeting of old and goods friends and clients that have been fostered over the past year.
For that reason, COSSIOM every November has no need to market itself itself as a “business event”. Their website and invitation just says; “Hey guys, just come along!” The people who do “come along”, already know the rules of the game.

Which means that COSSIOM can reach out from the large corporate environment that is its core – to use its Soirée to benefit charity. It is a time of practical giving-back, as well as a random evening of receiving.
As I mentioned somewhere earlier – this is about Goodwill to All Men. What’s there not to love?

Happy Christmas!

Is Brexit a Total Con? And can we Rise Up and be a Nation of Small Shopkeepers Again?

If so, we better get a move on… before we have no shops left that ordinary people can afford to shop in..

Apparently, Napoleon never said his ill-fated and probably correct remark above. The phrase was first used in an offensive sense by the French revolutionary Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac on June 11, 1794 in a speech to the National Convention.

But it’s true nonetheless. The secret sauce of the commercial success of England – is down to to the innate work ethic of ordinary British people, building their little businesses, into larger businesses.

And yet, if you believe the analysis on last night’s UK TV – the Brexit vote to Leave will not deliver, and has never been designed to deliver – the protection and job security for the masses. It will create precisely the opposite, where the very rich become even richer – at the expense of the middle class, who will become lower class, and (as seen on this programme) – Local Councils will no longer be able to afford to house their poorer residents, the single mums, the people who have fallen on hard times, the homeless. The non-availability of affordable housing for our sons and daughters, is a key plank of strategy for enticing very rich non Dom residents not the UK, with the now proven fallacy that their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us.

Because the fact is – no it won’t, and no it doesn’t. In reality it is the opposite. Unless you are very lucky, and happen to work in the key financial and legal sectors, our hard work for the larger corporations or the coffee shops and public services, – simply serves to enlarge the financial gap.

This is due to the fact that non Doms are placing their money into property, at ever increasing prices, – because it is a sound investment – but it takes that property and available pricing, away from the middle class on which Britain depends. Similarly, the low or negligible tax regime, only benefits those who can afford to exploit it. The rest of us don’t have the money to do so.

So why Brexit?

Because the Leave campaign of Brexit is financed by the very high net worth individuals we have discussed above. Leaving the EU will remove us from the social protection that is Europe. In fostering a climate of low taxation, we are deliberately supporting the very people whose interests is theirs, but not those of the UK.

In short, the lower and middle classes who voted to leave – far from voting to protect their jobs, have voted to ensure their own demise.

A key and well referenced Article by Anna Williams, explains this in a nutshell;


This has gone way beyond simple envy or jealousy. This is now about the key attributes of our valued psyche, the reason that ordinary people still love to come here. The day that only the very rich people can afford to shop in our West End playgrounds of boutique labels, will be too late for our next generation, on whose income we depend for our pensions and other social costs.

The question is – as we walk by the streets of empty shops in all of our local High Streets – is how long will it take us, to understand this Con. Or are we the victims of Fake News indeed!