It's a lot of little brushes that paints the big picture

Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category

Apple’s new ‘iWatch’ found on Kickstarter

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Fans of Apple will call it part of the company’s genius. Those that love to find things wrong with Apple will say nothing new comes out of Cupertino. Either way, the reality is that Apple watches what is available in the world, has their design group redo the look and feel, then connects it to everything else they produce. While there were smart phones prior to the iPhone, they didn’t have all the dots connected so they didn’t receive the emotional connection that people had with the iPhone. Now of course, there are many other options in the field, all of which where copy/redesigns of the smartphone before it. Apple learned their lesson after the Newton, people didn’t understand the PDA concept of a computer being part of a person’s life rather than hardware used to write, calculate and draw with. The device showed that introducing completely new takes a highly unlikely ah-ha moment of the public, it is better to work into the use by modifying a currently accepted device… the phone.

OK, jump to today and the future of the Apple iWatch on Kickstarter. Towards the end of 2010, a company called Minimal offered a Kickstarter project for a touch screen watch. The project, Tik Tok, was a watch band and two creative ways of holding a iPod Nano. It received pledges of close to 1 million dollars. The Nano at the time was a small square device that was all 240 pixel touch screen on the front, a couple buttons on the outer edges, headphone jack and a 30 pin connector. There was basic built-in apps on the iPod, with no way of adding more. Music can be loaded and played, as well pictures and it was set up from the factory to work with Nike running devices. There was no video playback, camera, or games. There was a couple different watch faces. The second year of the Nano came with more (17) watch faces from Apple.

After the Kickstarter project wrapped up, the Tik Tok was available online, many gadget stores and even Apple’s stores. There appeared to be a market for an Apple watch that could be used as a timepiece, a radio, a audio playback and view pictures. A lot of people complained about no audible alarms unless the headphones where plugged in and the need to connect via the 30 pin connector to a computer to put things on and remove content from the Nano. Even though the Nano had a large clip on the back, runners started reporting liking the watch band mounting over the clip as way to gather running data (Nike), timing their run and listening to music. Just about everything needing to be done to interact with the Nano watch is a tap or swipe across the screen.On a personal note, no one with knowledge of the subject told this to me, it was interesting to see the Nano go back to the rectangle shape and video play back like the hardware prior to the square device. Perhaps, it was to avoid the comparison when a ‘iWatch’ was introduced to the Nano watch option.

More recently is the Pebble Kickstarter Project. The team that put the project up for Crowd Funding actually stopped accepting more money after they passed 10 Million dollars. Their concern was how long it would take to fill that many orders on a new device being created by a very small group of talented folks.

The Pebble connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth. It receives text messages, mail (limited qty of characters), alerts, alarms and caller ID. The watch has multiple watch faces, loaded via the iPhone. It can also be used to control music being played on the iPhone. The hardware is nicely done. Not what anyone would call high-end, but it meets the need. Like the Nano, it is sealed hardware with a few buttons around the outer edge. The only connector is a specialized magnetic charging cable (7 days use per charge), which doesn’t have a positive connection so I always doubt myself that I have it connected properly.

Between the two, if Apple was to do a ‘smart’ watch, a person can back into what it will have. Of course, there will be surprises, but using Apple’s recent history of using available information they will use what is working.

Video playback and a camera would be nice, but not likely.

Both Tik Tok and Pebble has shown that the iPhone is the watch/clock that people use now. Unless a watch is a fashion statement or tied to data, watches are not being worn since a smartphone has everything.

Apple didn’t jump onto the cable less charging and wireless only content management on the iPhone, instead releasing a special plug so expect to see that continue on a watch. Though, Apple does seem to be heading in the direction of no more wires as the Cloud solutions mature. Bluetooth is assured but will Wifi appear to start backup and data movement though iCloud?

Touch screen, but the hardware buttons are in question. The buttons will need to be easier to access than the Nano and high quality than the Pebble. It is a good time to move volume control to the headphones only.

Pebble has shown that pushing information from the iPhone to the watch is very handy, as long as there is a vibrate notification. Otherwise, having to look at your wrist all of the time, particularly with long sleeve shirts/jackets, it’s easy to pull the iPhone out of the pocket to check.

Loading apps will not be supported since it would mean a new version of all non-Apple developed apps. I can see the Apple OSX apps like Reminders being viewable on the watch, syncing with the desktop. Since there will be no way to enter data, beyond viewing desktop/iPhone created data, there is only the need to control music, app selection (Nike will continue to be built in), images viewing and watch/alarms.

Unless Apple is doing the face/head and band as a single unit, the Pebble has a nice option of being a standard band size so it can be replace by a user without factory help.

All of the ‘concept drawings’ floating around the Internet are fun to see. But, remember the Apple history over the last 10 years. Tweak and making better without being so radical that the finished product requires people to be told how the device will integrate into their lives. Clean, nice looking, easy to use and well connected… all lessons learned from the Apple’s iWatch predecessors available through Kickstarter.

Prepare a deck covering the Problem, Impact, Solution and Timeline

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Originally, I wrote this post from the side of testing, releasing and follow up. But, as the paragraphs got long, I realized what the real message was. Know that something will go wrong, no matter how well you thought your team planned. Then, take the time to think the issues through, clearly report what happened and the path forward. For me, this has meant some very long nights working through an issue then on a plane to present to Sr Management a few days later. While I agree that issues are problems with systems or processes, neither of these happen without a human being involved so a human has to stand up and plan to not have the issue occur again.

The message and timing of the presentation is important. People come to the meetings really pumped up, with some wanting to pound on the table and have a head on the block. Stay calm, breath, smile but appreciate that this is serious business and be prepared!

The deck covers*:

  • What the was the Problem
  • What was the Impact to the business, customers and income. This must be real numbers since many times a ‘huge’ issue is actually a low impact that was explosive only due to internal panic.
  • What is the Solution – this could be how the issue was fixed during the outage, it is more effective if it is the long term solution.
  • What is the Timeline for the long term solution implementation.

I say long term ‘solution’ since presenting short term patches to legacy will generally mean I would be back presenting the same issue in the future. It was better to explore a full solution. It may not be chosen as the path forward, but it should be shown as an option. A sure career limiting move is to present a quick fix that results in momentary happiness then a panic and another presentation when a similar issue appears. There are few companies that will continuously reward for solving problems over creating an environment where there is little or no problems. The better companies see low noise as success and promote individuals to problem areas for help in stabilization. Commonly know as, ‘work yourself out of a job’ and they will find you more work.

There are a couple lessons learned around presenting the above deck you may find useful:

Some attendees require the deck be given to them in advance. The likelihood they will pre-read it is low, but possible. Generally it is so they can print a copy to jump ahead during the meeting. Prepare to have folks ask questions several slides ahead of where you are. Slides need to have information but too much is clutter and drives to a person wanting to talk a single small item instead of understanding the full message.

Know that there may be unusual outcomes from the first day of a two day meeting which could mean the first night will be a complete re-write of the path foreword slides. Always think beyond the issue – a data issue can be the ability to enter data incorrectly, fixing the one entry point is just getting you to the next open entry point being found. Would it be better to rethink how people use the data rather than toying with the tool?

Beware of Red text in the first couple slides. The presentation falls apart quickly when red text leads off the meeting. No one can get past that and the rhythm will stall.

Be sure that the small group presenting understands that they are part of a very big team, even if it is a team of two. No one gets ahead singling out an individual for fault. Own the systems, be proud of the systems, but understand that systems are only bits and bytes and there is always an opportunity to be made better.

And, finally, system changes require process changes. Do not forget to cover how a person’s work will change with a change to a system. This is because process change can take time to think through, people can be resistant to changing the way they do things. Also, if changes to processes are not pointed out, someone will think of it in the meeting and the assumption is there will be pushback due to the unknown for the users.

Sooner or later there will be an issue, plan now how you can assemble the facts when that happens so you can be presenting a positive path forward. I don’t like problems but they are just opportunities to improve.

 

*We love acronyms, completely stumbling on the presentation to Sr Management when something went wrong as being: Problem, Impact, Solution, Timeline.

The missing Location feature for both iOS and Android

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I was doing a walk through post about the iPhone app, Orderly. It is a ‘task’ manager app that allows for whole lists of ToDo items have their priority change easily. I recognized the app as a way to switch quickly between work and personal task lists depending on when and where I was.

This reminded me of a OS level feature that keeps coming up when talking with my friends/coworkers. Why can’t we change the way our mobile device responds to us depending on time and location? Google recently showed that they know when it is time for me to head home with a Card that pops up in the Search area telling me the path I should take and how long it will take to travel home. That is interesting, at first creepy, but ultimately useful information.

When using a mobile device, the interaction with the device and it’s apps are different when at work versus being at home. There are apps that are used more often in one location than another, many will cross over though. So, today we are challenged to arrange apps on Launcher screens so that the most often used apps are easiest to get to. Then, lesser used are on follow up Launcher screens. Attempting to find a workable arrangement so when at work and at home, it doesn’t take a lot of work to get to the app we need to use.

Mobile OS providers recommend putting Work and Personal app icons on separate Launcher pages. Then just have that one the front most when in those areas. This works great as long as you never use an app at work and at home. Before the iPhone and Android mobile phones, we had Palm OS devices which allowed for skinning of the Launcher. Many of those skins where working with aliases of the actual app icon so you could have the same icon across multiple launcher tabs. Back then, there wasn’t much in the area of Location awareness so the switching was manual. Both of the major mobile OS platforms offer ToDo apps that know when we are moving around to shuffle tasks differently per location information. Why not let us have the same power for the Launchers through location based profiles?

When I leave the office, shuffle my social apps to the front, tasks from the cookie jar list, move the meeting note taking apps to the second screen, photo editing apps should move near the top of the list, and the Business presentation tools way back away from the front page.

Every employee should know the 10 and 30 second elevator pitch

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Only 50% of marketing works… no one knows which 50%.

It’s an idea, that many believe isn’t true now that there is the ability to track visitors and where they came from… on the Internet. What is still not sure of is exactly what caused the person to seek the services a company offers. It might be the reason that hot new ad campaign is working so well is because a movie had a similar item used by the star, usually the person reaching out to a business doesn’t really know. They may think they do which will cause a new ad campaign with a similar message to go out. New movie goers will jump on board or something else might trigger them, but very doubtful the ad did all the work.

Now, lets jump back to the company when it was just starting out. What was important was getting the message of the business out to would be ‘investors’ and ‘buyers’ of the service. Most often, the message had to be delivered very quickly… standing in line at the store, between meetings… or on the elevator. If your new to starting a business, there are two versions of your quick message needed. One that is 10 seconds long that you can deliver to the question “what are you up to these days?” or “crazy weather we are having”. If there person is at all interested, meaning they didn’t turn and run, you need to be able to roll into a 30 second message. If it is good, the person won’t get off the elevator on their floor to hear what you have to say. If you can’t get a person’s interest in 30 seconds, you have a bad message or you are talking to the wrong person.

Back to the ‘what marketing works’. You can’t be everywhere, all of the time. So, empower your employees to say the message. If they believe in the business, they will have no problem saying the 10 second bit with enough energy to make it an effective marketing moment. If someone asks them what they are doing these days, they shouldn’t have to think about it and say “Oh, the same thing as before, selling kitchen stuff”. The ‘better’ answer would be “Changing the world one dinner at a time… I’m working for XYZ helping people see that a really great spoon makes meals more enjoyable”.

If you have a business with sales or tech support, every person should know the 10 second elevator pitch for something you offer. They should practice and see the success of a simple mention that represents excitement rather than a pitch they are reading off of a card. This is not a suggestive sale, you don’t want everyone to say “do you want fries with that?”, you NEED them to put a different view on what a person may have seen a million times before but missed.

The sale might not happen at that moment, don’t let the employee feel they need to close the sale. You may not even get the future sale when you run your next ads, but later your customer won’t be able to put their finger on it but they will seek you out. Usually we don’t remember the elevator ride but we feel good about the energy around that spoon company’s product when at the store… “must be because of that magazine ad they ran”… they don’t know why and you won’t be able to pin your success to one employee chatting in the grocery store line, but everyone will win in the end.

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Years ago, I saw a magazine article where a person with the company I was working with had mentioned they had very successful workouts on the way to their job with XYZ. When I mentioned it to the c0worker, he let me know that the company’s lawyers let him know that in the future he needs to get permission to mention the company’s name. In the positive light of the article, they would have been better suited giving the employee tips on how to talk about the company and if they can help him get into other related articles.