Friday, July 27, 2012

The Social Economy - Why CEOs need to embrace social

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published its research on the importance of CEOs embracing "social" (emphasis mine):
MGI’s report, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, explores their potential economic impact by examining their current usage and evolving application in four commercial sectors: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services. These technologies, which create value by improving productivity across the value chain, could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four sectors.
Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.
To summarize, use social networks to drive engagement both inside and outside your organization.

Market segmentation 101

The creator of Bidsketch wrote this piece about how market research led to a new pricing model that doubled his monthly revenue:
What industry do they belong to?
How many users do they have?
How often do they use Bidsketch?
What features do they use the most?

The next step was to have phone calls with most of the founders/CEOs on the list.

Some key questions I asked in my phone calls:

How many employees do you have and how many people use Bidsketch?
How much time does Bidsketch save you on each proposal?
How important is feature X to you/your team?
Describe your typical/ideal proposal workflow.
In order of importance:
1. Know your users
2. Understand their needs
3. Determine the right customer segments - 3 is a good number of segments
4. Target each segment in your pricing model

Extra credit - Most users don't get the difference between Basic and Advanced. Ergo, they opt for Basic, because it is cheaper. Create segments that provide an association between users and their actual profession/status.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The computer for the rest of us...

John Siracusa opines at the end of his well-written review of Mac OS Mountain Lion:
The fact is, we are not the center of the market, and haven't been for a long time. Three decades ago, the personal computer industry was built on the backs of technology enthusiasts. Every product, every ad was created to please us. No longer. Technology must now work for everyone, not just "computing enthusiasts."

But let's not forget that this is actually a victory condition: the computer for the rest of us, now realized on a much larger scale. This new thing that the Mac is becoming, its outlines slowly coming into focus in Mountain Lion, is meant to allow people who were previously intimidated by the Mac to use it to accomplish more than they could with a touch-based platform like iOS, but with similar ease.
Every HN and Slashdot reader needs to understand this. The reason iOS is so successful is the same reason that Android Jelly Bean is going to be successful - the platform is designed to be used by *everyone*. It is not aimed at the technology geek that wants to tweak everything and install patched software on it for giggles. It is designed for your mom, my mom, and their ilk.

"The hardest thing to do is say NO."

Energy saving tips for all

tl;dr: Please unplug chargers when they are not actively charging your devices. About 75% of power consumed is by "orphaned" chargers.

Logging out of Yahoo! Mail takes me to the homepage. At first, I would just close the tab before the homepage loaded. Then one day, the page loaded, and I found the scrolling pictures (and related stories) to be a good distraction from my daily activities in tech-land.

Yahoo! has invested a lot of engineering into personalizing this page based on heuristics, region, your previous clicks, etc. Yes, I mentioned Yahoo! and Engineering in the same sentence. Got over it...

This morning, a story was presented to me that is close to my heart - Conserving Energy:
We live for gadgets. But even the smallest ones can consume an enormous amount of power. See some of the worst offenders.

Game Consoles
Plasma TVs
Battery chargers
Check the power saving tips at the end of the article, and please unplug your chargers when you are not using them.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sleep your way to efficiency

Great life advice over at HBR:
The lesson: Two behaviors we've devalued and sometimes even demonized — rest and renewal — have a profound impact on people's productivity at work and their satisfaction across their lives.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another nail in the Blackberry coffin

Reuters reports:
Qantas said it was replacing 1,300 company-issued Blackberrys with iPhones and the savings at the end of the program would be about A$1.4 million. IBM was also reported to be dropping RIM for iPhones for 500 employees in Australia.


"Savings will come from simplifying the infrastructure supporting the devices, from the devices themselves and from the data agreements reached with our providers."
Translation: We can't wait to get rid of the Blackberry.

It's about understanding "mobility", yaar!

Interesting analysis of the difference between mobile and mobility over on HBR:
And the same will happen in the rush to mobile if companies take a "channel" approach vs. a behavioral approach. In short, it's not about mobile as much as it is about understanding mobility.


Mobility means information, convenience, and social all served up on the go, across a variety of screen sizes and devices.

Mobility is radically different from the stationary desktop experience. In some cases, mobility is a "lean back" experience like sitting on a commuter train watching a video. In other cases it can be "lean forward" — like shopping for a gift while you take your lunch break at the park. And in many cases, it's "lean free" when your body is in motion, or you're standing in line scanning news headlines or photos from friends while you wait for your turn to be called.

Mobility trumps mobile. The difference between mobility and mobile is like the difference between hardware and software. Mobile is linked to devices — it is always one thing, wherever it is. But mobility changes with context: cultures incorporate mobile technologies differently.
I will extend that cultural metaphor further. Not only do cultures incorporate mobile technologies differently, people in the same culture use mobile technologies in unpredictably different ways.

The keys to success with mobile technologies are:
1. Weave mobility into your corporate culture. Mobility should not be an after-thought; it should be defined along with the other delivery strategies.
2. Recognize that maintaining a mobile experience will take effort.
3. Ensure that the mobile interface to your services add value for the customer.

Friday, July 06, 2012

User Interface Design and Firefox

There is an interesting article on rapid releases in Firefox over on hackernews. I posted my thoughts on the UI changes in Firefox since the 4.0 release as a comment on that story. Here is the text of the comment:
Very few user interfaces have withstood the test of time. There are notable exceptions, of course - the iOS UI, uTorrent, and the Chrome browser immediately come to mind. Other applications and operating systems have continued to evolve their user interface over 18-24 months. In some cases, the evolution is necessary for the sake of usability. Take Android for instance: The UI update in ICS dramatically enhanced usability.
In my experience, the designers of unchanged interfaces put a lot of thought into almost every interaction a user could have with their application/operating system. Armed with the use-cases, the designers invested time and effort in creating the core UI "right", and determined a seamless way to make incremental updates. Chrome and iOS are, again, perfect examples of this concept in action. Firefox, Windows (minus Metro), and earlier releases of Android - not so much.

Firefox's UI changed radically in version 4. A good number of users revolted and there was uproar about the theme refresh, but most of the users that stuck around got used to the changes. That they are changing the UI again, only 24 months after the fact, does not reflect very well on the design philosophy behind the 4.0 refresh. Lots of questions come to mind - Did the designers not do adequate research during 4.0? Was the development time-frame too short? Was 4.0 just an interim solution to what they perceived a bigger problem? Are curved tabs really better than rectangular ones? Do I get back a lot of screen real estate? Is this a case of Not-Designed-By-Me syndrome?...

I continue to use Firefox today, partially because I know my way around the application so well but mostly because I trust that Mozilla values my privacy. I do think that they go half the distance sometimes with their privacy measures - "Do Not Track" is unchecked by default, and Firefox accepts and keeps "Third Party Cookies" until they expire. In these specific cases, I understand that these are measures taken to ensure they can keep the lights on at their headquarters. With the impending changes to the UI, I will be using the app only on the basis of my trust in Mozilla. And we all know that trust is a tenuous thing to hang by...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Higg's Boson for dummies

An amazing introduction to the Higg's Boson, and why the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) is important: The Higg's Boson explained

Monday, July 02, 2012

A tale of two acquisition strategies - Google vs Microsoft

Update: Vanity Fair published a piercing story on Microsoft's lost decade today.

I tweeted a realization about Microsoft and Google's acquisitions over the last few years:

Here is a comparative list in some of the key areas of competition between the two companies:

Genre: Advertising
Applied Semantics, DoubleClick, AdMeld, AdMob; Google; Status: Heavily monetized; Successful
aQuantive; Microsoft; Status: Written off; Epic Failure

Genre: Social Platforms
Pyra Labs; Google; Status: Monetized as; Successful
Groove Software; Microsoft; Status: Unclear; Mild Failure

Genre: Mobile Platforms
Android; Google; Status: Number 1 Smartphone OS in the World; Successful
Danger; Microsoft; Status: Decommissioned; Epic Failure

Genre: VoIP
Marratech, Gizmo5Google;; Status: Used in Google Talk and Google Hangout; Successful
Skype Software; Microsoft; Status: Monetization unclear; TBD

Bottom-line is my Microsoft investment is never going to reap rewards! Now had I put that money in Google or Apple, I would have retired already.

[1] List of acquisitions by Google
[2] List of acquisitions by Microsoft