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A Dedicated Team of Problem Solvers Can Help Big Companies Act Like Lean Startups

Most companies try to avoid problems. Experian actually goes looking for them. In fact, it has set up a specific unit – Experian DataLabs — to actively seek out unresolved problems its customers are having and use them as a launchpad to seek out new opportunities and create new products. In doing so, it has been able to act more like a startup than a global data giant. Conventional wisdom says that you need to run a big company differently than a startup and there’s a lot of truth to that. But for large enterprises seeking to grow by exploring new lines of business, thinking more like a startup makes a lot of sense. Steve Blank, who pioneered the concept of the “lean startup,” has often written that “no business plan survives first contact with the customer.” That’s why he urges startu....
More People Work in Large Companies than Ever Before

Cost-cutting isn’t curbing bureaucracy.
How Leaders Can Help Others Influence Them

Recently, I was talking with a senior leader from a world-class global learning and development company. We were discussing his firm’s approach to teaching leadership. He was talking about how to help leaders influence others. I asked him, “Do you also teach leaders how to be influenced by others?” He thought for a moment and replied, “No, we really don’t.” This is a fundamental gap in leadership approaches. Over the years, we’ve shifted from thinking of the leader as hero, to thinking of the leader as visionary, strategist, creator of culture, and team builder. Yet, as our images of leaders have shifted and evolved, we still seem frozen in the mindset of Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How to Win Friends and Influence People. We still believe that the essence of leadership is about influencing o....
Too Many Executives Are Missing the Most Important Part of CRM

For all the emphasis placed on customer relationships these days, very few large organizations really understand how to manage them. Whether you’re a corporation, a nonprofit or a government agency, chances are that your approach to customer relationships at a system-wide level begins and ends with CRM (customer relationship management) software — yet its implementation rarely does much to foster real relationships. As a consultant, I’ve seen dozens of CRM implementations in a wide range of organizations, and consistently find that they fail more than they succeed. This isn’t the fault of the technology or the CTO, who usually manages it. It’s a result of misguided strategy. The problem is that CRM’s purported goals are vastly different from the way it usually functions in real life. For most organizat....
Superbosses Aren’t Afraid to Delegate Their Biggest Decisions

The answer to excessive micromanaging, we’re often told, is to learn to trust our reports, empowering them to make decisions for themselves. Yet that sounds far easier than it actually is. In practice, many bosses fail to delegate because they haven’t cultivated a set of underlying mindsets and practices. Over the past decade, I’ve studied the world’s greatest bosses, extraordinarily successful leaders who have also unleashed vast pipelines of talent. These “superbosses,” as I called them, spanned dozens of industries and included legendary figures such as fast casual restaurant magnate Norman Brinker, packaged foods titan Michael Miles, tech mogul Larry Ellison, hedge fund pioneer Julian Robertson, media icon Oprah Winfrey, and a host of others. Analyzing these leaders’ careers and business prac....
When Corporate Philanthropy Makes the Recipient Look Bad

A year ago, the Royal Opera House in London staged a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in several locations thanks to the sponsoring of British Petroleum. Corporate support enabled the Royal Opera to dramatically increase its reach and presence. But the day before the curtain was lifted on the show, 75 top classical musicians in the United Kingdom wrote an open a letter urging the Royal Opera to cut its ties with BP, the company that they described as “buy[ing] social legitimacy that it does not deserve.” Several renowned artists decided to cut their ties with the institution. The boycott was a blow to the Royal Opera’s reputation in the art world. And yet for cultural organizations such as the Royal Opera and for most NGOs or foundations, having access to and receiving corporate financial support is often a ble....
Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field?

Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM. It may perhaps be the most male-dominated profession in the U.S., with women making up only 13% of the engineering workforce. For decades, to attract more women to the field, engineering educators have focused on curriculum reform (e.g., by promoting girls’ interest in math and science). While these efforts have brought in more women to study engineering, the problem is that many quit during and after school. Focusing solely on education doesn’t address the fact that women tend to leave the profession at a higher rate than men. Women make up 20% of engineering graduates, but it’s been estimated that nearly 40% of women who earn engineering degrees either quit or never enter the profession. Clearly, some elementary and high school reforms are working, but those at the....
How One Company Used Data to Rethink the Customer Journey

Just how personal do customers want their experience to be with a company when making a purchase? A few years ago, customers might have said that a company’s attempts to offer a unique and personalized experience felt too much like stalking. Now, with so much time spent online, those expectations have changed. Customers know that the companies they purchase from have access to their interests and behaviors. As the consumers, they must be willing to share their information if they expect a seamless, intelligent, and relevant experience across every channel and interaction. In return, they should expect personalized offers, advance notice, targeted suggestions, and a high level of customer service. Customers must be fully aware that they are generating a rich digital footprint with every transaction, click, and movement that generate....
Putting a Price on People Problems at Work

In our work as business school professors and consultants, we’ve met countless managers who fail to achieve their goals. They come up against problems that refuse to budge no matter how hard they push. Indeed, such problems may even get worse the harder they try to solve them. At the heart of most of these apparently intractable issues at work, we usually find people problems: interpersonal conflict, miscommunication, poor decision-making, and more. Managers typically waste massive amounts of money, time, energy, and resources in order to fix these issues. And while these problems can seem tedious or frustrating, the true costs of this class of problems is much more troubling. We asked eighty-three executives (70 percent male; 87 percent with more than ten years of work experience, with 45 percent having ten years or more senior ma....
Does Your Company Have a Data Science Strategy? - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM GOOGLE ANALYTICS 360 SUITE

The impulse is always to want more. But when it comes to customer data, is more a good thing? Maybe not. After all, the data an organization has on customers and prospects is only as good as the insights that can be extracted from it and acted upon. More data, if it leads to fewer insights, is no good. A recent study from Accenture concluded that one of the biggest challenges for marketing leaders today is not finding or hiring analytic talent, but rather it is finding the right ways to move the mountains of data into insights and then into action. The study concluded that marketing organizations need analytics professionals who understand data and the technologies that collect, house, and integrate it. That’s a given. But beyond that, experts say, executives need to place more emphasis on data science than on data scientists. Put....
The Talk About Racial Bias Companies Should Be Having

On his deathbed, my father made a perplexing comment to me. He was an 82-year old, African-American U.S. Air Force veteran, dying of emphysema and Alzheimer’s disease after too many years of smoking and work-related stress. He was weak, and ready to go, but still thoughtful. “I don’t know how you did it.” Not quite understanding, I asked him, “Did what, Dad?” Looking deep into my eyes, he said “I mean, you got over. You made it with the white man.” Like many men of his generation, my father offered few emotional comments. This was his way of saying that he was proud of my accomplishments in the corporate world — my career was as a VP-level executive with leading high-technology companies. Much has been written recently about “The Talk” the majority of black families give t....
What Not to Say to a Stressed-Out Colleague

I was recently stressed out and sleepless because I had to tell a difficult senior colleague something he was not going to want to hear — and I always dreaded his angry, high-volume pushback when it was directed at me. An acquaintance listened to me, nodded quietly, and said, “People have yelled at me for far less.” His manner and his words shifted my perspective by normalizing the conversation that lay ahead. Instead of seeing the upcoming difficult conversation as a black hole sucking in all my wellbeing — which is how stress made it appear to me — I realized that these things happen, that yes, they are unpleasant, but the world continues to turn. I have never known a stressed-out person who was helped by the suggestion: “You shouldn’t stress out.” Helping someone think differently about ....
How Low-Paying Retailers Can Adapt to Higher Minimum Wages

Fifteen states have increased their minimum wage this year, with more on the way. In Seattle, for example, large employers will have to pay a $15 minimum wage by January 2017. These increases will seriously affect low-wage employers such as retailers and restaurants, which means investors should be asking some tough questions to see which low-wage employers in their portfolios will benefit from the wage hikes and which will lose: How are you increasing your labor productivity? If a company raises wages, it needs to increase labor productivity or either raise prices or lose profits. Simply cutting employee hours is not a viable solution. Companies that rely on understaffing to squeeze more profit out of fewer people will never get to the land of high productivity and great service that creates customer loyalty. The operational problems ca....
7 Charts Show How Political Affiliation Shapes U.S. Boards

Are corporate boards as polarized politically as the general population? That’s one of the questions we asked ourselves as we conducted a survey of directors of public and private companies headquartered in the United States. We and our research partners found that Republicans are more highly represented on boards than in the general population: they were 50% Republicans, 24% Democrats, and 26% Independents, while the American public, according to Gallup, is 28% Republicans, 31% Democrats, and 39% Independents. But affiliation doesn’t guarantee enthusiasm, as this sample of survey comments reveals: “On sabbatical from the Democratic party”; “Republican, unless they keep acting like goofballs”; and “Independent (especially this year!).”   As with the general public, we found diffe....
To Reduce Complexity in Your Company, Start with Pen and Paper

Companies that grow face a predictable problem: over time, the business becomes way too complex for its own good. I see this a lot in companies that have moved heavily into what I call the “exploitation” phase of a competitive advantage, or the phase that comes after the initial launch and successful ramp-up. Chris Zook and James Allen have also recently tackled this issue their recent HBR article “Reigniting Growth.” With the warm glow of steady and more-or-less predictable profits to depend on, more and more policies are introduced, more new ways of extracting profits are developed, the company loses touch with its customers, fewer activities are directly related to what Geoffrey Moore famously called the “core” and instead have to do with context, and the company seems to lo....
Bogus Audited Statements Are Holding Africa Back

The Great Recession revealed one of the weakest links in Africa’s quest to build strong capital markets — bogus audited statements. After the fall of Lehman Brothers, the cascading dominoes spread around the world crippling markets and decimating companies. Despite the Wall Street-engineered financial avalanche, investors lost money in African equities largely because some audited statements were revealed to be patently deceptive. As investigations exposed all the myriad contributions to the market collapse, the asymmetries between the audited statements and what was happening in companies were mind-blowing. Regulators failed markets, as some public companies and auditing firms orchestrated monumental misdeeds, which continue to haunt the region. Yet since those epic letdowns, few bold regulatory reforms have been enacted in ....
The Connection Between Pride and Persistence

Most managers know that praising employees when they perform well is important, but many still withhold praise. They seem wedded to the outdated belief that pride can sap motivation among workers and even make them a bit lazy. This take on pride isn’t correct, not even in the least. In fact, pride is one of a select group of emotions that engenders perseverance and success at work. As emerging research shows, pride gives people grit; it doesn’t diminish it. One of the best predictors of success across all areas of life is the ability to delay gratification. As psychologist Walter Mischel showed in his now famous “Marshmallow Test,” children who were able to resist the urge for immediate pleasure prospered later in life academically, professionally, and socially compared to their more impulsive peers. In a similar ....
A Refresher on Marketing Myopia

Paul Garbett for HBR Every year, a large majority of product launches fail. There’s debate about exactly what percentage—some say it is 75%, others claim it’s closer to 95%. Regardless of which number is right, there is no doubt that a lot of time and energy go into marketing products that will no longer exist in a year. Why is this? Some of the failure is likely attributable to the fact that many company leaders, including executives, have what’s called marketing myopia—a nearsighted focus on selling products and services, rather than seeing the “big picture” of what consumers really want. I talked with John Deighton, a professor at Harvard Business School and an authority on consumer behavior and marketing, to better understand this classic concept, its origins, and its relevance to organi....
Companies Fare Worse When the Press Exposes Their Problems Before They Do

When organizations first become aware of a major problem with a product or service, one with important consequences for consumers or the environment, they face a dilemma. Should they self-disclose the issue? Or should they let sleeping dogs lie? Ethically, the choice is simple. If management is aware of a problem, its moral duty is to communicate openly and honestly to all stakeholders involved. In practice, however, organizations are reluctant to communicate as long as an issue is internal in nature and the extent of the crisis seems limited. Take 2010, when BP was confronted with one of the biggest oil spills in history. It appeared that the organization waited to reveal all the facts until they knew that the spill had become unstoppable. Or 2015, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board unco....
The Organizational Reasons Police Departments Don’t Change

In early July 2016, police officers killed black men in two separate, high-profile incidents. First, Alton Sterling was shot at point blank range in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And in Minnesota, during a minor traffic stop, a police officer shot Philando Castile as he reached for his license. Within two weeks, two black gunmen had ambushed and shot dead eight police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, Texas. Police-involved shootings in the United States have resulted in 591 deaths so far in 2016.  Approximately 25% of these victims were black, and over half were minorities. In the same period, 37 police officers were killed in firearms-related incidents, a 67% rise from last year. Alarmingly, 14 of the shooting deaths this year have been ambush-style, retaliatory attacks on unsuspecting officers, compare....
Marketing Analytics Can Improve the Customer Experience - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM GOOGLE ANALYTICS 360 SUITE

Almost every organization today is putting customer experience (CX) at the core of its strategy, aiming to provide products and services that meet customers at every touch point. In a crowded, multichannel marketplace, companies realize that a great customer experience—consistently delivering what customers want, when they want it—can be a powerful differentiator. But many companies fail to deliver, according to recent research by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR-AS). Although half of surveyed business leaders say CX is a top-two differentiator for their business, just half of them said they perform well in it. The problem isn’t access to data; most businesses said they collect mountains of information on their customers. The real obstacle to better customer experience, the research has found, is built int....
Calculating the ROI of Customer Engagement

Juan Díaz-Faes for HBR We know that customer engagement matters. Yet much of our thinking about engagement remains simplistic. Most current definitions of engagement are bimodal – someone is either engaged or they’re not. But this is a limited view that hampers our ability to manage engagement in meaningful ways. A more sophisticated understanding of engagement allows community managers to effectively influence and change it, and even to calculate an ROI for engagement. Insight Center Measuring Marketing Insights Sponsored by Google Analytics 360 Suite Turning data into action. Community management is the discipline of building technical and social environments in such a way that individuals can easily organize and collaborate to achieve an objective. And what good communit....
What Great Office Design Actually Looks Like

Identify what works for your specific needs.
How to Make Feedback Feel Normal

Laura Schneider for HBR I’ve spent much of my career teaching people how to have “crucial conversations.” In the work place, most crucial conversations are about feedback – the process of helping others improve by pointing out deficiencies in their behavior or work. I’ve realized lately that a lot of my work could have been avoided if leaders had understood one simple thing: The primary reason people struggle with giving and receiving feedback is not a lack of proficiency but of frequency. I learned this in a surprising way. Over the past year I’ve watched a group of 50 criminals, hard core drug addicts and homeless people start three highly successful companies. The first was a moving company — called The Other Side Movers. All 50 are part of a 2-year program called The Other Side Academy &....
Antagonistic Mediators Can Make Resolving Disputes Easier

In the business world, difficult conflicts often end up in the hands of mediators — third parties who are hired to help disputants resolve conflicts. When we imagine the typical mediator, we tend to think of a person who is nice and shows empathy to those in conflict. Indeed, manuals and books on mediation commonly indicate that a mediator should listen attentively to all participants and express empathy with their viewpoints, taking care not to appear to favor some people’s ideas over those of others. Gaining trust by establishing rapport and understanding between the mediator and negotiators is a commonly espoused best practice for facilitating resolution of a dispute. Yet new research that I conducted with Ting Zhang of Columbia Business School and Mike Norton of Harvard Business School suggests this conventional wisd....

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
The OM Factor received the prestigious honor of the Bronze Medal from The Axiom Business Book Awards as one of the best business books of 2016.
  

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnectortm unveils in hard copy and online its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publicatin. The heroines included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the stem jobs pipline.
           
Mclean, VA - Technalink, Inc. is excited to announce that Alka Dhillon, Founder & Chief Executive Officer has been selected as a winner for the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award Presented by SmartCEO.
    
Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean,VA) Recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the Washington, DC, area, Ms. Dhillon is known for her irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community.

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