Tuesday, September 18, 2012

User experience today

1. Change password for an exchange server account that's also configured on your phone.
Open email app on device.

On Android, WP7:
2. get prompted for new password when you try accessing email.
3. Read email.
4. Also synchs, calendar, tasks, notes, etc.
On device clicks = 1 to enter email app + n for n-character password = (n + 1)

On iOS:
2a. Get prompt saying password has changed with options "ok" and "settings"
2b. Click on settings, hope it takes you to the right place
2c. Click on password field in the settings menu.
2d. Enter new password
2e. Get prompted to select which ones you want to disable from calendar, tasks, notes, etc. Click OK without changing anything.
2f. You think you'd go back to email? Ha. Click or double click the single button

2g. Click on email app
3. Read email.
On device clicks:
1 for email app + 1 for selecting settings + 1 for selecting password field + n for char password + 1 for OK without change + 1 button to go to home  + 1 for email app = (n + 6  )

In solid numbers and the simplest terms for a 9 character password, there's 50% more clicks on the device.
The time between transitions and context switches hasn't even been considered in this micro-analysis.

Of course you need to provide more battery life when things are run as such in average. Is the battery life 50% better?

Folks that talk about excellence in experience - would you build your product this way?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Content is only half the story ...

Yes, content may be king, but as it isn't a dictatorial world we live in anymore, content without its adept partners is nothing.
The biggest partner of content I see today is context. Providing content without the knowledge and more importantly the understanding of context, is not only useless but can be severely detrimental to your product or service. On the other hand, providing content with a deep understanding of context can let you provide rich, experience-filled platforms and ecosystems that can not only add but in fact multiply the value of your product/service.

Here's an example. I have started relying a lot on my cell-phone to provide me turn by turn directions. Yes, my phone happens to be fancier than most and gives me directions right out of the box for free, but that apart, I still tend to view textual directions on the phone more than rely on my ears to catch the soft voice of the automated TTS "blasting" (pun-intended) in the car. The GPS in the phone provides an excellent contextual piece of data when I am in "directions" mode (see screen-clip below)

With one extra piece of information (when I have gone too far), it takes away all the hassles I have had with using Google maps on my iPhone or Android overshooting turns and then having to find my way back . Fantastic! ... and then I start thinking ...

All business schools will teach you about content, but none of them will formalize context. Why? My understanding is that because of the fast changing definition of context. What is context? Is it location, is it the content access form-factor (read mobile vs. laptop vs. tablet), is it surrounding social activity? What is it?
Academia has always struggled with defining fast moving targets, but eventually succeeds in getting it right and putting it in a much better way than any other body does. However, for now, once we look beyond the mires of educational difficulties, we do see concrete examples of how context exists along with content in the best products and services out there today and possibly tomorrow.

About a year back, I heard a pitch from the founders of the Where app. He explained how Where was planning to have last minute fire-sales on perishable items such as end-of-day restaurant deals to folks who were in the same area as the restaurant. By doing this, the restaurants could convert their certain losses on meat, fish and dairy products that they could not preserve through the night into small but reasonable profits, while gaining the social good from the community around. Reflecting back, I cannot stop linking this example to context. Location, time and social contexts have all come together to add value to a simple coupon based service - and not on those "I don't want it but I can't resist buying it" items on Groupon; but on real useful items that people need. Imaging having such fire sales in a city like Boston or New York even as late as 1 in the night. Students can get an inexpensive break from their busy nocturnal lives and do social good for your restaurant by "FaceTweeting" about the great meal they had in the dead of the night! You can give that Wendy's, Taco Bell and KFC around the corner a run for its money!

Another fabulous example that shows how context can be much more valuable than content comes from nobody else but the world's most hated Operating System manufacturer. Microsoft's productivity future video (below) is full of how contextual content enriches productivity and the value of the human life.

Take out context and the future will be a megadump of disorganized content that will take someone years and years to get their head around; driving many to insanity!

Unless we start looking at solutions to tomorrow's problems with "when, where and why" in mind, our method from today of solving them with "what" is not going to suffice; much in the same way that our method from yesterday of "how" alone did not suffice for today's problems.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From the horse's mouth ... Michael Porter on Creating Shared Value

I know I promised I'd blog about Day 2 at the Babson Ebyrepreneurship Forum 2011,but it's been three days since and when I think about it, there's really only Michael Porter's keynote that I think is worth writing about. You can find everything else on the Internet.

There was a time when the saying was "if it's good for the company, it must be good for the society" - case in example how Ford uplifted  entire cities where they set shop. But somewhere along the way, we lost track and have come so far from it that the polar opposite is now true - "if it's good for the company, I better beware of what it may mean to me and society ad a whole. So the great business leaders started to improve their social facade by giving back in the form of charity. Although a good start, society quickly realized that this was nothing but a wad of cash thrown in front of it to keep it's mouth shut.

So the smart business folks (I am not isolating functions) went on to develop something called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Corporate Social Responsibility came at an opportune time and allowed organizations to build tremendous social value through giving-back programs like "employee volunteering". However, the failure comes about in the fact that a business is made for "shareholder profit maximization" and "giving-back" programs are ultimately an expense on the income statement.

So what next? Porter et al say the answer lies in defining the purpose of your enterprise with the greater good in mind. He calls this "Creating Shared Value" (CSV). When improving the pulse of the society also gets into the purpose of the enterprise, the enterprise automatically starts working towards societal good, without having to do things outside it's domain.

For companies, it means that social value can actually be more tangible and make it to the income statement as goodwill or another line item to contribute to the bottom line. It's only such thinking that can save organizations from the image of this great green monster that society has started viewing them as.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Babson Entrepreneurship Forum 2011: Day 1

This weekend I attended the 10th Babson Entrepreneurship Forum at Babson College, Wellesley, MA. As advertised on the website, it was full of amazing keynotes, panels, networking, contests and more!

So let me walk you through my learnings and experiences.

Saturday started with Dev Patnaik talking about Hybrid Thinking. Dev explained how in today's age to make it as an entrepreneur, technology isn't enough. Today's entrepreneur is made up of part humanist, who can understand the social problems of today, part technologist who can harness technology to solve problems and part capitalist who can make this one whole business. Hybrid thinkers who live incognito amongst us, every day, are moving beyond the shackles of being specialists and emerging as leaders of tomorrow. They are feeding their thirst for knowledge and doing the unimaginable. One such emerging leader is Ankur Jain, who was our second speaker of the day. Ankur is the founder of The Kairos Society and through bringing together different thoughts from different cultures, he has founded one of the most successful multi-national-innovation-feeding foundation. In Ankur's terms, this is bridging the gaps between disciplines, cultures and generations that stifle transformative innovation. The peak of the speech was when Ankur went on to explain how the Kairos Society has essentially privatized democracy!

As we winded down from keynotes and moved on to panels, my wife and I found ourselves in panels where serial entrepreneurs shared their experiences. We had serial entrepreneurs ranging from those who had started their first startup at the age of 9 to those who'd transitioned from traditional corporate jobs such as engineering to business roles on to start and nurture their own "startups". There was a lot to learn in these panels; and if you want to know it all, you should participate at the next Babson Entrepreneurship Forum ;-) ; but I will share the highlights of the learnings here:

  • Skills matter, but your relationships can open up avenues that may seem not to exist, so spend time in developing your networks.
  • Entrepreneurship is about working with fanatic discipline towards a strategic goal infused with task management for the short term.
  • Unlike established products and established companies, new product development does NOT need to be perfect. Do not wait too long to push things to customers.
  • One the same lines as above, launching something is more important than doing things right for too long.
  • If issues develop amongst you and your partners, do not wait for too long to discuss them; these are unpleasant conversations not hard conversations. A lot of times you will find out that both sides appreciate such discussions.
  • You have to go with effectual reasoning in a startup as opposed to causal reasoning that big companies use
  • Believe in the strength of people around you. Know when to let go and trust others to carry forward  the idea
  • Don't focus on your mistakes too much. Learn the difference between "good decision-bad outcome and bad decision-bad outcome. Both have things to teach.
  • Nurture your mentorship network. Have multiple mentors.
  • If you cannot sleep at night with the amount of risk involved in your startup, entrepreneurship is probably not for you.
  • When working on international ventures, show up in the country where you wish to bring up your venture. Go to the gemba!
  • Family life along with a highly intense entrepreneurial life takes its toll on the former. When you do spend time with your family, do it fully.

After lunch we were not just kept awake but on the edge of our seats by the finalists of The Big Idea Competition . It was wonderful and encouraging to see entrepreneurs working across countries, cultures, time zones and ages towards their passion!

The afternoon took me into an area I have never looked at before - Funding your Startup. After the pleasant surprise that I could understand most of the vocabulary in the room, I managed to listen to the panel and the discussions that went between them and the audience. Although it was a great panel, I don't think any of my learnings would be new for the seasoned. So let's move on; shall we?

For a late afternoon session, the panel on mass-customization was a great one. The panelists were again young, budding entrepreneurs who had established businesses in mass-customization. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur looking for an area with low barriers to entry, mass customization may be for you! 

We winded down on day one with a keynote featuring Mark Albion, Charlie Baker and Rick Aubry on the need for social focus in business; followed by drinks and non-pizza from Stone Hearth Pizza.

The day was finally over and we were ready for Day 2!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

70% right brained

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 5(5)
Right Brain Dominance: 11(11)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Microsoft Build conference, Sept. 2011

Highlights from the Microsoft Build conference KeyNote delivered on Sept 13 2011:

  1. Less memory than Win7 (281 MB vs 403 MB); dropped 3 processes
  2. New WinRT – Windows Runtimes
    • Graphics, transitions, effects built-in
    • Supports multiple languages on top
    • Visual Studio 11 – really smart!
  3. Cloud
    • Integration built-in
    • E.g. no need to download a photo from web-services and store it locally before uploading it to another web-service
    • New Windows App Store
    • Can publish apps to store directly from Visual Studio 11
  4. UI
    • “Fast and Fluid” vision and execution
    • Hardware accelerated graphics
  5. Hardware:
    • Fast boot!
    • Signature-checking on boot
    • Can boot from a 256 TB drive (in comparison Win7 can boot from upto a 2 TB drive)
    • Lots of work on supercool devices like sensors, 3G cards, etc. including protocols (e.g. USSD support)
  6. Experience measurement, remote desktop
    • New task manager
    • Windows Assessment Console that runs benchmark tests
    • Metro style remote desktop
  7. Virtualization
    • New Hyper-V integrated into Windows 8
    • Mount ISO’s, mount VHD’s!
  8. Desktop
    • New tile-based start screen
    • Ribbon-based UI
    • Quick access toolbar (if you use Office 2010 you’ll know what this is)
    • New multi-monitor support
    • Search built-in start screen – just start typing and go
  9. IE10
    • Hardware acceleration support
  10. Social integration (context)
    • LiveID login – can connect a PC to Live
    • People application (from Windows Phone 7)
    • Photos application (local HD, Skydrive, FB, Flickr)
    • Other applications open from same context as social apps (e.g. mail app from photos app when you share via e-mail)
  11. Live API’s for SkyDrive
    • Sync across PCs and phones
    • Can create your own SkyDrive store - this looks like a killer proposition along with cloud integration and linking capabilities!
Some cool things demoed:
• Wrote a photo-doodle app that grabs pics from a content store and allows doodling on it with “58 lines of code”
• A demo system started up faster than my TV!!!
• USB 3 support built-in – showed a speed comparison between USB2 and USB3
• Tap to share through NFC!
• Samsung developer preview PC

Saturday, April 09, 2011

How to survive the GMAT in 3 weeks!

This is definitely not the best way to do it, but if you are stuck in a similar situation that I was with loads of lethargy floating around and no willpower to get going, these may help you:

1. Get some help
The best thing that can help you is someone who can push you. Someone who can look you in the face and tell you that it's high time to start now. A thousand books and people will tell you that this person is you, but they lie! What's stopped you from getting it started is you in the first place and unless you want to spend the remaining 3 weeks in introspection and then postpone your exam, you should find that someone. Fortunately for me, it was my wife. She gave me a verbal ass-kicking that got me started.

2. Self-realization is not the end but the start
The best way to learn something is to fall face-first into it. First day of my 3 weeks, I attempted a full test. I failed miserably , was ashamed of the score I got; kicked myself a few times in addition to the previous butt-kicking; got scared; contemplated postponing the exam but when I finally sat with that sore ass and looked back, I realized my weak points. I will leave you to find yours.

3. Work towards your weaknesses
The earlier you start to work on your weaknesses, the better. Each person has a different style and I cannot undermine anybody's choice of method, but if you are about to go to war the day after, a study of artillery is not going to help you. So what do you do to learn? Practice. Fail and fail over until you see a glimmer of hope and finally maybe success. I did not see tremendous success in my weak points, but working on them helped me gain some confidence that helped me on the final day.

4. Do not forget your strengths
Plain simple, you do not give up your means of making your bread and butter. Do not stress on your strengths, but do not ignore them. If you are strong at math, but know that you take some time at word problems, solve a few more of them.

5. Use the prep material and exams provided by GMAC
Use other material to study if you have to, but avoid taking exams from other providers than GMAC. As you approach your exam, you want confidence and exams other than the GMAC provided ones rarely provide that.

Hope this helps.