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Archive for the ‘Partnering’ Category

So you’ve got this busy life as well? Probably have quite a few gadgets and electronic devices around you. Sometimes you feel it takes too much time to learn to use the full potential of those devices. Sometimes they just make life more complicated than it should be, let alone updating those devices to the latest software. Of course if you have a Mac (as I do) and a Nokia phone, you know that there is no need to update the software (as it’s only possible with Windows). If you are having difficulties with these issues, think about your mother, and how she’s doing all that (she’s not).

The question of the day is the following: Why is managing life so complicated even though you have all these gadgets (or maybe because of that) that should be helping you? How should they help you?

Play a game?

Let’s envision a day how things could go if you would have what I call “Life Wizard”.

Let’s start with your mobile phone. It already knows

  • who you are
  • who you know
  • where you are (and where you should and should NOT be)
  • where you are going to be
  • who you communicate with

You wake up in the morning. It’s 6:45. You walk to the kitchen and take a quick look of your phone to see if you have any messages (yes, some people really do that). Now the Life Wizard knows that you are awake. It can also detect the movements and audio around it.

You grab your iPad, along with the breakfast and read the personalized news. There are certain benefits reading news on a device like this. It’s more local, more up-to-date and more relevant just for you. If your wife reads the news on the same device, the news may look different. And oh yes, even ads are customized for you.

While reading the news, an alert window pops up and wants to confirm something.

Are you are ready to leave in half an hour to a meeting marked in your calendar?

There are no worries with the weather, the traffic on the freeway is normal (traffic jam, as normal) so you may want to activate the carpooling in order to use the carpool lanes and avoid the bridge toll. You say “yes” and keep reading. Now the Life Wizard knows where you are going, what time, how and which route.

Rest of your family is now joining you for the breakfast so you put away the gadget. Time to talk person to person ūüôā

Just before you leave the house, you remember that you don’t have a babysitter for the evening. No problem. You tap the screen of your iPad (you could really do it with your mobile or computer as well) and post an ad to Jobita. Outsourcing tasks to reliable people couldn’t be easier. The Wizard knows what you need, what time, where and what are the requirements for the candidates. Off you go!

You hit the road. Your navigator knows where you are going, and how to get the ride-sharing passenger onboard. Well, that’s because the Wizard told that, there is no need to enter the same information again.

The phone rings. It’s your Wizard calling. Well, using a mobile phone while driving is forbidden but hands-free audio is still ok. It’s about ¬†weather this time, there is heavy rain ahead. So your passenger is going to be wet.

(more…)

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I was recently listening to Mårten Mickos, in an event sponsored by SWOT Consulting.

M√•rten gave an excellent presentation with the idea of “How would I build a global software company right now”. He almost immediately pointed out that it does not make sense to say “Finnish Global Software Company” as that would already be against the definition. It can of course be that it is initiated by the Finns. As his success and experience from MySQL is well known, it makes sense to pay attention to what he says.

There are both challenges and opportunities (accessible with specific strengths) in this field.

He listed the following challenges anyone building a software company (in Finland) will face:

  1. Finland is too small and too expensive. This can be overcome by either focusing or going into volumes.
  2. Finland is good in utilizing software, not so good in producing it globally.
  3. We are slow.
  4. The Finns believe too much in institutions. More sales work, less filling in forms for subsidies and grants.
  5. There is room for improvement concerning the will to really fight (to become successful). In some respects, life is too easy for many. True winners are those who learn to fight for the success!
  6. We believe (still) that we are a leading edge country (“We come from Finland, country¬†of Nokia”). More humble approach would be good as well as partnering with foreign complementary people.

The Finns have many strengths, however, which could and should be utilized better:

  1. The working moral is good, better than in USA/Silicon Valley as is the management style.
  2. The quality of work is good, honestly. Even when nobody is watching!
  3. Well-functioning society, everything works. (Author’s comment: not without briberies some statistics show, it’s just different)
  4. Mad creativity in development, making Finns suitable for all kind of pioneer development.

Utilizing the strengths and becoming successful also requires:

  1. Being in the right time, in the right place. You also need luck!
  2. Going into one of the large markets (EU, USA or China) quickly.

Mårten also gave his view on the software market status as of now:

  • Consolidation is taking place. You have to either find a pioneer market or find a niche in the consolidating segments.
  • Convergence means there are no borders between web and mobile, one must be capable to operate in both.
  • Increasing complexity – select your target market with care.
  • Global growth – do your market research concerning the existing players with care.
  • Market domination game requires you to find weak point of the market leader and take advantage of that.
  • Utilize the Open Source opportunities.
  • Everything is in the Net, and so will you.

Mårten summarized all this by saying that one must be brave but humble, ready to conquer the world BUT aiming at carefully selected market segments and geographical locations with carefully selected go-to-market-plan.

There are, in my humble opinion, many good points in his presentation. There’s is always something to learn!

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I was recently listening to Mårten Mickos, in an event sponsored by SWOT Consulting.

M√•rten gave an excellent presentation with the idea of “How would I build a global software company right now”. He almost immediately pointed out that it does not make sense to say “Finnish Global Software Company” as that would already be against the definition. It can of course be that it is initiated by the Finns. As his success and experience from MySQL is well known, it makes sense to pay attention to what he says.

There are both challenges and opportunities (accessible with specific strengths) in this field.

He listed the following challenges anyone building a software company (in Finland) will face:

  1. Finland is too small and too expensive. This can be overcome by either focusing or going into volumes.
  2. Finland is good in utilizing software, not so good in producing it globally.
  3. We are slow.
  4. The Finns believe too much in institutions. More sales work, less filling in forms for subsidies and grants.
  5. There is room for improvement concerning the will to really fight (to become successful). In some respects, life is too easy for many. True winners are those who learn to fight for the success!
  6. We believe (still) that we are a leading edge country (“We come from Finland, country¬†of Nokia”). More humble approach would be good as well as partnering with foreign complementary people.

The Finns have many strengths, however, which could and should be utilized better:

  1. The working moral is good, better than in USA/Silicon Valley as is the management style.
  2. The quality of work is good, honestly. Even when nobody is watching!
  3. Well-functioning society, everything works. (Author’s comment: not without briberies some statistics show, it’s just different)
  4. Mad creativity in development, making Finns suitable for all kind of pioneer development.

Utilizing the strengths and becoming successful also requires:

  1. Being in the right time, in the right place. You also need luck!
  2. Going into one of the large markets (EU, USA or China) quickly.

Mårten also gave his view on the software market status as of now:

  • Consolidation is taking place. You have to either find a pioneer market or find a niche in the consolidating segments.
  • Convergence means there are no borders between web and mobile, one must be capable to operate in both.
  • Increasing complexity – select your target market with care.
  • Global growth – do your market research concerning the existing players with care.
  • Market domination game requires you to find weak point of the market leader and take advantage of that.
  • Utilize the Open Source opportunities.
  • Everything is in the Net, and so will you.

Mårten summarized all this by saying that one must be brave but humble, ready to conquer the world BUT aiming at carefully selected market segments and geographical locations with carefully selected go-to-market-plan.

There are, in my humble opinion, many good points in his presentation. There’s is always something to learn!

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Build Your Own Dream Team

Build Your Own Dream Team

Last week I blogged about comparing the movie industry and the software industry. The feedback given in the comments and in real world quite rightly focused on the two actual problems (and areas to learn from): defining what the “production” should be and how to get a team to implement it.

The question last week was “So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry?”

First of all, it’s not that easy (of course not!). But as we have to start somewhere, let’s shoot this out.

  1. Lesson Number One is to implement processes and methods to ensure that the customer need is understood. Communication is the key, especially as it might be (as it is) that the customer does not know what she wants in the first place. And that changes anyway. The concept of “shared unified understanding” is quite important, as well as how to achieve and maintain it.
  2. Lesson¬†Number Two is that each project (“production”) may be different. So you may need different skills each time. No company can successfully employ all the possible skills on payroll and function effectively. The Dream Team is different each time. Would like to watch a war movie, a love movie and a documentary done with the same actors, same person acting as a war hero and the most lovable lady? Most likely not.
  3. Lesson Number Three is the Crew Commitment. Even if you have the best possible definition of the project, and the best doers available, you can fail if the team does not commit themselves to this production. You need all the help from each team member in order to find and manage all the issues that there will be. It is impossible to micro manage all this (even though it may have been possible in the factories last century). To a certain extent being afraid of failure would help to get better results. Social (group) pressure to get things done properly in order to avoid consequence (whatever they are) could help here?

So what can we (as software industry) learn from the movie industry…?

Beside the above mentioned issues, re-engineer your thinking. The future is not in the big software companies, it’s in the networked ecosystem of best doers of each field. There is certainly work to be done in the way we make sure “what you get is what you wanted” but also on the field of setting up the dream team for each production. And managing network of experts (maybe globally) calls for different kind of managing talents than the traditional models. You need to get the Crew Commitment in place. It’s just the question of time when this will be done by somebody!

But what about marketing? Is it any importance in the software industry (like it is in the movie industry)? Of course. It’s easy if you’ve got a customer who came to you and buys a custom project from you (even in that case it’s the question how they found you). But if you are a startup, what can you learn from movie marketing in this field. Comments, knowledge and best practices are welcome – we’ll discuss this next.

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Movie Production

Movie Production

I recently had a very interesting discussion with Antti Sipil√§, a producer from Luoda Production Oy. As he is a professionally trained movie producer, and I’m myself coming from the software industry, we were comparing the similarities between these industries. The question was, can the software industry learn something from the way movies always have been produced?

The first question is why should we even discuss this matter, what’s wrong with the software industry anyway?

Not necessarily anything. There are few interesting issues here, however:

  1. Do we utilize a model where we can get the best possible resources for each production (software project) we do?
  2. Do we respect and motivate the individual talents needed for a production… a project, to achieve best possible results in the given timeline?
  3. Why doesn’t the software industry respect deadlines?

Let’s start by describing the way how the movie industry works.

The first group in our focus is called the scriptwriters. This profession is specializing in writing the scripts, the actual idea of the whole thing. Sometimes the script is based on a book, sometimes not. You can think about these guys as the ones who write Business Plans in the software industry, in a way. The scriptwriters themselves do not go after each script on their own, in order to produce a movie, but they sell it to somebody. There are specialized agents shopping for these scripts. The buyers typically pay few hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good script. The buyers then develop these scripts further, and it can take years before a script goes further, if at all. Sometimes the scripts are even combined in order to create one better script.

When a script is ready for the next step, it is sold to a Movie Studio. It’s the factory that will produce the movie. One team can produce about 20 movies per year, taking care of the production and marketing alike.

Producing the movie needs talents, many different kinds of talent. And the talent set required for a movie can be each time different. The studios do not actually keep all the possible talents on the payroll, nor utilize only the talents they have on their payroll. They hire the actors and all the other talents and skills (such as light expertise) on a per project basis. There are specialized Casting Companies who find and contract these talents. Many famous movie stars have their own agents who take care of this process on their behalf.

The movie production can start when

  1. The script is in the shape it can be turned into a movie
  2. There is a movie studio producing it
  3. There are all the actors needed to implement it
  4. The studio has arranged financing for the movie, which could be done also with crowdfunding model

Each movie production is (or should be) a master piece of project management. As each actor and other resources needed cost money all the time, all the steps are well planned and go in parallel, including marketing and distribution. If there are unexpected changes, as there always are (like rain for a scene meant to be sunny), changes are done on the fly to keep the train going. Deadlines are respected, this is built-in feature of the industry. If some person will not do her task in the deadline agreed, she will not be respected by the others. Actually, nobody really wants to be the one who caused the delay of the production, and that also motivates everybody. Being will prepared for one’s role is always part of the success, and people take this seriously. The Crew Commitment is important!

On the other hand, the timelines (often defined by the Assistant Director) must be realistic in the first place, which takes experience to master. We discussed this long time with Mr. Sipil√§ and it was obvious that the respect of the deadlines, intensity of team work and mutual trust and respect are the core values for any successful movie production.¬†Individual talents are, as we all know, respected highly and this is indicated for example by showing a long list of them at the end of movie. It’s like the Hall of Fame, and you want to be there.

As the movie industry is “hit driven”, the success or failure can often be measured for example by the sales of the first weekend. There is of course a long tail and other longer term revenues, but this first weekend often gives indication how it will go. The marketing and distribution actions are well planned and executed, nowadays utilizing many different media channels, like the Internet and mobile phones In order to control this the movie studios often own the delivery channels (like movie theaters and ticket offices) in many countries.

So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry? That will be covered next week, stay tuned!

… and comments are very welcome, thanks!

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It’s obvious that we should involve the customer or the user(s) in the process of developing a new service for the Internet. That should be for the whole life-cycle of the development process – from the beginning to the end. I started trying to figure this out some months ago and was surprised how little seems to be done in this arena right now.

That applies for both the B2B and B2C services. One might argue that it is already done, however. Aren’t the consultants of big IT companies spending hundreds (if not thousands) of hours talking to the customer (and billing for it) – making sure that the requirements are understood? Don’t we have the “beta” process for a web 2.0 sites where users can give feedback and influence the future development?

Yes. And no.

First of all, the B2B processes are in many cases extremely ineffective. Or at least expensive. Real life time constraints also affect this process heavily, budgets don’t always strecth to accomodate these ineffective processes and finally it cannot cope with changing requirements during the development phase.

Small companies also either cannot charge the customer for that or don’t have the resources to do it.

In B2C services the “beta” also, by definition, means that the design is so far already that in many cases fundamental changes cannot be done anymore (or they are at least expensive). The User Stories that might tell with users’ own words what a service should be done, is not easy to do as of now.

There are, of course, existing research in this are. For example “Participatory Design”¬†is an example of an approach applicable for the Internet service design as well. We lack however practical processes and implementation tools.

But wouldn’t it be nice that the users actually could be involved in a service design from the very early beginning? Would it mean that we might actually get better services for less cost?

What do you think? Do you know real-life example sof the problems or solutions concerning this problem?

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