Category Archives: Misc Technobabble

10 rules for how businesses need to ready themselves for the Matrix

#include <std_disclaimer.h>

We are in the matrix!

The digital world is now becoming more important than the real world.
We have become internet obsessed and the ubiquity that connected smartphones gives to mobile and social apps has made them ever-present in our lives.

Speaking of ubiquity, Pew Internet reports that 79% of adults between 18-29 now have a smartphone and 67% between 30-49. We are spending more time online at the expense of other activities.

Our time, both personal and professional, is shared between Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, youtube moreso than interacting with real people. And children who were born in 2000 and later will never know a world without instant digital gratification.

Apple, Microsoft and Google were ranked #1, #3 and #4 in terms of largest market capitalizations at the end of 2013. Snapchat was just acquired by Facebook for $19B. That’s the most ever for a venture backed company. Shocked? Don’t be, they are the engines behind the digital experiences of the future.

Here’s that scene from the Matrix where Neo chooses the red pill for reality and the truth…

But there is no “red pill” for businesses. No way back to the old realities. To succeed and flourish you must change.

How do businesses need to ready themselves for the Matrix?

  1. The business needs to take ownership of the customer experience. The old bureaucracy is dead. Business can no longer afford to have bad outcomes and finger pointing. “It was ITs fault” or “We didn’t have clear requirements.” The business must be driving the ship and project managers and developers must be part of supporting the business goals.
  2. Take an integrated look at the people who are your users. Understand them and their needs. What do you need to do to keep them happy and loyal.
  3. Change the focus to outside-in. Now that you understand them better, think like the people who are your users. Construct and manage the user experience in a unified way across all the customer touch points. This means spending more time on usability.
  4. Learn to be a story teller. Traditional marketing content and tactics are becoming less and less effective. Tell a story that answers the question of “why.” Why will this help me or my company or my family or…well you get the idea :)
  5. Help your users tell your story. Send a follow up email asking them to return the product if they are not 100% happy and ask for a brief product review if they are.
  6. Be Agile. And by that I mean two things. Build the bare minimum at first. Don’t let committee scope creep thwart bringing new products to market. Try new things and be willing to fail…quickly. If the results don’t turn out as expected move on to the next thing to try.
  7. Consider gamification. Make using your product rewarding for the people who do it. Give them rankings or free credit or access to something exclusive.
  8. Use everything you know to help. I’m really avoiding big data here because I still think a terabyte is big since I built my first data warehouse with 2G fujitsu disks. But you know a lot about your users. What they purchase and what they don’t. What parts of your website they use and which parts they avoid. Probably a number of different demographics as well. Leverage all of that to help deliver the best experience possible.
  9. Start thinking about what you need to do in the future to ready yourself for when everyone walks around like a Cylon (am I allowed to make a Battlestar Galactica reference in the same post as the Matrix?) with their Google glass on and has digital assistants helping to find the products and services they want before they even think about it.
  10. Lastly, move faster. You must learn to run and operate your business in the new real-time reality of business.

What an exciting time this is to transform your business!

Hope you are starting the journey.

Ken

My Short Affair with Microsoft Surface Pro and the Retail User Experience

I couldn’t resist picking up one of those Surface Pro’s when they went on sale a few weeks back for $499. It is such a novel and interesting little device. A complete and powerful computer all neatly packed into a little tablet with a gorgeous 10.6 in. 1920 x 1080 hd touch screen. And of course I needed the accompanying Type 2 cover and keyboard.

I really wanted to love the Surface Pro but in the end I returned it to the Microsoft Store.

After two weeks I learned I couldn’t really find a way for it to work for me in a productive way. It still remained interesting, but it just felt like a device sitting next to me in the den while I used my recently rehabilitated 5 year old Macbook Pro.

Windows 8.1 was actually quite nice to use. After installing Classicshell.net I had a complete Windows 7 desktop environment as well as Microsoft’s device oriented Modern UI. The touch interface was nice in modern UI and I’ve caught myself smudging the Macbook’s glass swiping at it a time or two :). The Windows 8 snapping applications thing was pretty cool too. Not that you can’t do that in any windowing operating system just without the swipe and snap.

I did install Classicshell.net right after the Windows 8.1 updates which gave me the best of both worlds. A full Windows 7 desktop environment as well as Microsoft’s device oriented Modern UI. And I can completely see how for the mobile professional the Surface Pro could represent a solution that would let you have a complete professional computing environment both at the office, at the home office, and on the go.

But…it’s just not usable as a laptop and there’s the rub.

As much as I wanted to cherish this enticing device I could not be productive with it the way I compute most of the time. The kickstand was wonky when not at a desk. The type 2 cover keys had a really nice feel but a terrible mouse-touchpad thing. Even with the type 2 cover’s bit of rigidity the Surface was still too top-heavy to use effectively when not at a desk. It also got a little too warm as a tablet compared to…well…my iPad.

I was hoping the Surface Pro would cure my desire for a new 13 in. retina Macbook Pro. Instead, it was a short affair.

What Microsoft really needs to learn from this blog post has nothing to do with their hardware or software but rather their business systems and their understanding of how to interact with consumers. Because the $499. sale for last years Surface Pro was only over a weekend I ordered from the Microsoftstore.com online rather than risk not getting one at the retail store nearby in Boca Raton.

When I called Microsoft to let them know I wanted to make a return they said I “could” return it to the retail store but it sounded like that would be awkward. I just preferred to bring it back to return it to the store and close the case so to speak. When I went to the store the employees were very nice but couldn’t figure out how to use the case number I was given by the online Microsoftstore.com personnel. It took an incredibly long time for them to be able to process the return and 3 team members were involved to help get it to conclusion. The whole affair seemed painful to everyone and their systems. At one point someone mentioned that the online Microsoftstore.com and the retail store locations use different systems – really, really?

I will complement Microsoft’s employees who were very nice and made sure that I did everything required to have a successful return. In fact, it seemed like one or two went above and beyond to try and minimize the lack of cooperation from the systems. Honestly though, it was two 30+ minute calls to Microsoftstore.com support and 45 minutes at the Microsoft Store in Boca.

Microsoft, please take examine the retail user experience delivered by Apple. Seamless, swift, and never an unstated non-smile if you want to return something you decided against (as long as it’s in brand new condition).

Finally, and perhaps a contributor to my decision to return the Surface Pro, the recent browser usage statistics from New Relic show that IE is down to a paltry 14.8% share across more than 2 million application instances. If that’s not a signal that Microsoft’s role as THE predominant client is beyond repair I don’t know what is.

Maybe Microsoft should stick to what they have grown to be very good at – helping enterprises build and deliver corporate IT and applications and cede the consumer client space. The consumer client space will be dominated by those that focus on experiences and I’m just not feeling that competitiveness from this latest encounter.

Ken