You may build you own IT applications, but ONLY if:
1) They support your business Core functions and
2) It adds substancial commercial advantage and
3) Time To Market is less than 6 months
“Daddy, daddy I stepped on this bug and now its not flying anymore…why daddy?”
I’m the father of four and so i’m used to all sorts of questions about all sorts of stuff. All of which i try to answer in the best way I can. I lead my kids and I try to answer their questions based on the life i have lived and the experience i have drawn. My whole authority is based on the fact that i know things and they don’t.
Being a Manager and leading people at work is something entirely different. Or is it?
You cant lead grown ups entirely out of experience, or no one could be a business leader before the age of 60. But still the expectations on you as a leader are the same as with you as a parent – you are supposed to know what to do in EVERY situation and always have a wise answer. And while you as a parent always can fall back on a life of own experience, this you can’t be sure of as a business leader. And while as a parent the young audience adores everything abot you and loves even your mistakes, you can be pretty damn sure that is NOT the case being a business leader. And still it can be so rewarding.
I have been a business leader for some 20 years now. Successful years. Big companies, global tasks and huge budgets. But still very local and personal, as leading people must be.
And like it or not -. 20 years makes me a Senior. And i have done things that worked and things that didn’t. I have made friends and enemies, there has been tears and laughters.
But still, im good at this. I know I am.
So what makes a great manager? A great leader?
Are there even great leaders, or is that only a illusion?
I am going to dig into this question from a strictly personal view in some future artichles. Tell you some things that I have learned, share some tears and share some laughter,
I use super safe passwords. We are talking extremely safe. Totally unbreakable.
For me that is. I always keep forgetting the tons of user id's and passwords needed to use computing and Internet. I was therefor greatly surprised when registering for Twitterfeed the other week- I didn't have to make up another internet identify but was allowed to reuse one I already had – like Facebook or Google. Without Twitterfeed being affiliated with Google or Facebook but enabled by something called Open ID. “Really cool” I thought!
Also very convenient is Instagram. Having snapped a picture with your smartphone you can choose to share it in other networks like Facebook, Twitter and all the other majors with a click. Not only cool because it's so easy to share but also because Instagram doesn't lock up the data (your picture) I'm their own network. That's having courage in your business model if you ask me!
Friends, it's pretty clear that Consumer IT won this one.
Since ALL TIMES Corporations and Corporate IT have been spearheading development and functionality. So we dragged Windows back to our homes and private lives and so we spent a fortune on MS Office, Photoshop and Tank-sized PCs.
Thank God SAP never released a Home-edition. That would have sent many good families to the street – broke and totally confused.
Now that have ALL changed. Very fast and in fact so fast not everyone noticed. Or to be correct, not many at all noticed. Yet. But if you are in the trade it is time to wake up and pay attention.
Swarms of applications, not officialy affiliated, sharing data and credentials are the future of corporate IT systems. It is the future of ALL IT. And this both within your company AND beyond. If you want to connect and do e-business with another company you just connect. Like placing a call, like sending a mail.
This is happening RIGHT NOW on a GLOBAL SCALE on the consumer side. But us on the corporate IT side are still stuck in Windows XP-dead-end-land. Afraid to admit we lost, if I'm kind – never realized that we did if I'm not!
So get over the pride! Get over that we lost the battle for development and start moving.
In the end only the dinosaurs will stay with the dinosaur systems. And we all know how THEIR carrieers ended.
Lovability is the future. Usability failes because it forgets our feelings. If people doesn’t love your stuff, you’re out.
But what brings love?
After my last post on the topic, many suggested the simplicity of Apps. Sure, Apps are pointing in the way of the future, they are simple to use (because they ARE simple), they dont ruin the performance of the hardware, they are more and more interconnected – sharing logins and data and they are fairly priced. And THAT is the future of IT. A swarm of services (services because local apps are just a workaround for bad connectivity) that interconnects, that shares data, functions and logins. Like Twitter share with Klout or Google share between its applications. This is all still quite simple, but will soon be getting more and more complex – and this is important – behind the scenes. The complexity will not clutter the user experience, rather enhance it. And that is spot on, because we dont want simple – we want simple to use. And there is a HUGE difference.
Imagine a simple car. Steering wheel, three pedals and a stick. Thats it. Nothing more. Now imagine a luxury sedan, like a Mercedes or a Cadillac. Stuffed with electronics, luxury, safety details and you name it. But still it got the steering wheel, pedals and a stick (be it automatic). The basics are the same, and driving is all the same. None of the extras gets in the way of the driving. Its only there to help, to make the experience better or safer. If you want to drive, just go. You know how, in any car. And when we buy cars we dont chose “simple” but rather charming, sporty, practical or whatever makes us tick. But simple to use is a given. In all cars.
Compare that to the average corporate computersystem where you are looking at the controls of a Boeing 747. Buttons everywere, controils all over the place. No way can you find the few relevant knobs for the task at hand.
So go for Simple to use, but not Simple.
That is the future of IT-systems.
And that’s where love starts.
During education and with a youths confidence i was amazed and baffled at the well known business example with the Horse Carriage Makers who all failed to convert to Automobile manufacturers when that shift revolutionised transportation in late 19th century. I mean how could they miss? They had the whole product almost – they had the resellers and the customers. The knowledge of transportation. Just needed to add a little engine and get rid of a little horse. How could ALL fail to evolve their business modell? In every country?
I managed to explain it away with that they probably were not educated, not use to the pace of new things. Didn’t know what to look for. No Michael Porter to consult. No internet and no trend analyses. This was more than 100 years ago after all.
Yesterday i read an article on Mashable about Nikon maybe integrating Instagram into their cameras. OFF COURSE You are Nikon – what took you so long? Its more than hundred years later AND Michael E Porter is here. And still you (and Canon and all the others) are just on the verge of losing whole your horse carriage industry to the phone makers.
And talking about phone makers – how could cellphone giants like Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia be totally outmaneuvered by Apple’s and their iPhone overnight? How could those companies who spent year after year and billion after billion on phone development ALL drive up the same alley and the same dead end? Obliviously they were frantically developing something their customers didn’t actually want. Blinded by history and competitor moves.
Data wants to be free, internet for sure has taught us that. Why would anyone want their photos locked in inside a black camera housing? Naturally you want it at the computer for editing, at the publisher for publishing or at Facebook for mummy to see…anywhere but in the camera. So wake up Nikon and Canon – you have been tangled up chasing megapixles for so long you have missed your customers latest demand – connectivity. In three years there wont be a single camera sold that is not connected – and there is a powerful lesson to be learned here:
Do you chase ghosts or do you chase what your customer really wants?
And how do you really, really know that before its to late?
My summerhouse is a waterfront cottage built on the grounds of my grandfathers old farmland. Situated at the north shore of one of the big Swedish lakes, the last Ice Age left this particular shore scattered with rocks and stones. Boating on the lake is great, but you need to be a native to find your way. A newbie wont survive a minute without hitting a rock.
I grew up navigating those waters, I am a native and so i have no trouble finding my way. But even i have hit hard when i was young and even I need to stick to the known routes. Creativity in steering or spontaneous navigation lead to certain trouble and sinking boats.
SO why have all of this planets corporate IT-systems taken their inspiration from this particular piece of nature, this very beautiful but dangerous Swedish bay?
WHY are all of this planets corporate IT-systems impossible to navigate and impossible to figure out? If you dont happen to be a native?
Surely there is no Ice Age to blame for littering the code? Surely the engineers that build the systems wants them to be used – i mean we all think about usability, right?
I dont believe that engineers in general are lousy designers – but i do think that having worked 1000′s of hours with the code of a system you know it so well that you can navigate any front with ease. And with your screen off. You are a native, and as a native you easily gets blind for complexity. Things that seems natural and easy for you comes across as totally impossible to understand and use for your customers. SAP, anyone?
There is also the abundance in IT – a button costs nothing to install. More colors? Cool – its also free! And so we start stuffing the programs with functions that MIGHT be useful, someday for someone. And until then only confusing for everyone.
This needs to stop right now and I hereby put a ban on bad design.
We need to design our systems from the users point of view. Only.
Dump Usability and introduce Lovability.
And do it today.
If people doesn’t love what you do, you have failed!
Way back the company where i worked was joined by a former Scandinavian Airlines Executive. After a few weeks on the job he came to me all agitated and said “Kenneth, i have never before been in a place where everyone are running like frantics, but getting nowhere.” After he left i realized i just learned a powerful lesson in management – the actual essence of management – to aim all the energy of an organisation in the same direction.
A few years and jobs later a new strong and very experienced Canadian was taking over as director for the division where i was a part. He blew us away – here was clearly a man with visions and understanding of our situation. He put up an impressive program of meetings, one to ones and even regular training sessions with some of us. He gave clear targets and a common goal to us all. And then he disappeared. Never to be seen again. Figure of speech.
What happened was that we had operational problems in Spain, big ones. He went there, only to get his left boot stuck in the muddy details of reality. Soon he was down to his chin and totally absorbed by the Spanish mud. And forever.
I realised after a while this a classic. Are there ANY manager out there who haven’t fallen into the mudpit of reality after making a grand entrance into a new job? I sure have.
So what have i learned? I’m just entering my new directors job at PostNord. Grand entrance done even if i have tried to play it down as much as I could. As a starter I think its essential to manage expectations. Just like companies outside your own tends to look scary, bigger, better and more solid than you own from afar – the same can be true for newcomers from external companies. So i need to get close fast.
And keep that speed right trough the whole program. Get everyone aboard the bus, drive like crazy, brake for no one and stick to the blacktop!
It is the year of tablets – but what are they for? Are they multimedia machines, bring-to-toilet-pc’s or can they be used in business?
I guess I am a veteran when it comes to tablets – i have been using HPs tablets in business for some 6 years already. Now, those oldtimers runs Windows XP (tablet version) and you need to use a stylus to write on the screen. They are basically a laptop with a possibility to draw and do handwriting and there is really only one useful app that supports the extras: Microsoft One Note.
But One Note on the other hand, is a killer app and probably one of the best Microsoft have ever launched. Back in 2001, Bill Gates with great enthusiasm presented the tablet as the next big thing – but it didn’t happen. Well, except that I bought one off course (hello Bill – did you also install One Note on yours?). 2010 Steve Jobs jumps the stage with the same product, and suddenly everyone have a tablet. Or at least dreams of one. How comes? Its simple – what we do with computers are rapidly changing and Apple dare to bet on that. In 2001 a PC was a standalone unit (the size of a minivan) mainly used as a typewriter that could do Bold and Italic. Nowadays its…part of life. To communicate (who place a call nowadays, except my mother?), navigate, read, listen, play…live! No typewriter anymore that is and then – who needs a keyboard? So, both Bill and Steve was right – a tablet is the future and if you dont have one already you soon will.
Samsung Galaxy vs Apple iPad
The question is two fold – its both hardware against hardware, Samsung against Apple, but even more software against software – Google against Apple.
Hardware vs. Hardware
When it comes to build quality and generic feel Samsung is great but Apple is better. It’s simply an Apple, and you just have to love it. The main difference is in the format, Apples 9,7 inch and Samsungs 7 inch. In reality that makes iPad about double the screen size as the Galaxy, and that makes for big differences in usability. Samsung is by default more portable and a device you can carry anywhere – it even fits in the inner pocket of most jackets. The Apple on the other hand, makes for much better reading – my favorite magazines is a joy to read on the iPad but pretty hopeless on the Samsung. The Samsung is also a phone, with SMS and call capacity which Apple is not.
Software vs. Software
I favor Google Androids openness, there is always a free app available for the task at hand – but Android Froyo is built to be used in a phone while Apples software is designed for the pad. Hence iPad makes slightly better use of the space, and downloading the wrong apps can make for a choppy experience on the Galaxy. The browser is one example where the built in browser is choppy and full of delays – while Opera Mini works great and performs like an Apple. All in all, the user experience is better with Apple (its damn fantastic) but the freedom of Android (no need for freaking Itunes) gives some of the honour back to Google. But then Samsung has done something stupid- in order to transfer files to and from a PC you seem to be forced to use a real crappy piece of Samsung sync software – its looks and feels is from the 90′s and it crashes and gets unresponsive more often than an old Windows Mobile device. That really complicates getting files onboard the Samsung, where for example HTC (using the same Android) allows for straight connection with Windows as an external disc. Come on Samsung – fire that guy on the software departement that coded the piece of crap and while you are at it, let go of the strategist that came up with this bad idea.
Tablets in Business
The real benefit of a tablet is its instant-on capacity. Like with a smartphone you have everything at hand when needed, but unlike a smartphone you can actually read mails, presentations and excel reports in a casual way. Having worked with the PC-based tablet for many years, i do miss the pen. The ability to do precision writing and drawing is great in business (comments on presentation, teamwork on a big screens) and then i miss Microsoft One Note. Right now i lean towards the format of the Samsung Galaxy when it comes to business use – combined with the pen and software just mentioned it would be a killer business machine. And one more thing – ability to connect a projector. How on earth can i work if i can’t show off my 220-page .ppt’s to the joy of my team and the rest of man kind? With those things added i would be ready to leave my PC back home, but already now i bring it less and less. Tablets are not ready for business yet, but i wonder who will carry a conventional lap top in 3 years? Not me, anyway! Kenneth Verlage
Back home, the family uses Apple computers. Not long ago i was sitting and thinking what made Apple so attractive to modern users.
I came to the conclution that it was the beauty of simplicity. Not only is it easy to buy an Apple computer, you just choose size and you are done. If you want a PC there are more choices to make and decisions to take than ants in a stack. You need to be a Professor to understand the specs and a nuclear scientist to understand the sum of the parts. The simplicity coninues after delivery, too. Apple have already choosen the programs for you and the varieties are limited – but real good. If you want to surf you go Safari. End of discussion.
This brought my thoughts to the world of the web – and i realized that the chaos out there might not last forever, i felt that i was longing for something else, some guidance, some quality and some order. If i need to do a CAD drawing, i first need to spend days on finding the right tool. And the tool that i eventually find is likely to be so complicated that i end up drawing with pen and paper instead.
Then, last week i read an article by Chris Anderson (the author of books like “The Long Tail” and “Free”) in my favourite magazine Wired, named “The Web is Dead“.
Chris Anderson might be the smartest guy out there when it comes to internet trends, so when he speaks it is wise to listen.
He basically says that Google have taken over the web, and no other company can any longer earn money out there as Google dominates search and advertising.
So what companies does to live online is to move away from the web, into locked spaces like Facebook where Googles search spiders can not crawl or (back) into applications, nowadays called “apps”, still using Internet as the medium – but not the Web.
Important to realise those two are not the same, they are often confused.
And as it turns out, we as consumer LOVE apps! Because they makes things simple, and does the job without hazzle we have become willing to pay for what on the web is free.
Which brings us back to the experience of buying an Apple. We are coming to the stage where we are willing to pay more to get less (but in better order and with better quality and pre selected for us).
Looks like we have matured to the point where we now wants to use information technology to support our daily life, instead of putting our daily life into experimenting with IT.
This means something for us as CIO’s, too – for our future developments of customer facing systems. It might even open up for some great innovations if we are quick.
And if we can figure out how to ride the wave.
You are smart lads, think about it. Give me your feedback!