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Archive for the ‘Product Development’ Category

Last year I got excited when I saw news telling that there will be new mobile service at the skiing resort we were planning to go. You know, while seeing all the hype exactly ten years ago, it’s about time for those services to emerge. Branded as Levi Digit the promise in the story was to give relevant special offers, table reservations, maps and all other information to your mobile.

Now six months later, while actually being at Levi, the skiing resort, it was time to test what they had to offer.

It starts all quite fine. There are ads for the mobile service in the resort magazine as well as in the ski bus. Cool. I enter mobi.levi.fi – a bit too long address for mobile use, but it’s doable (no, m.levi.fi does not work).

First thing I notice is that’s all in Finnish. No English version available. Oh no. Well luckily I happen to understand this language, but the tourists don’t.

The list of the sponsors looks promising. The mobile operator Sonera must have made sure the mobile service is really cool, and hey, Carlsberg could have some location-aware special offers for great skiers!

“Sää” is Weather in Finnish. Let’s see what’s the weather tomorrow.

Not too bad for skiing weather. But this does not tell me should I go to the slope in the morning while it’s still in good shape, and whether I can still cross-country ski in the afternoon.

All right… let’s not make too quick conclusions. I try the remaining pages for general information and slope information. Must say I’m quite disappointed.

Conclusions are clear. This “service” is clearly done by an “ad agency”. No doubt about that.

Hey, remember our Mobile Wizard? What would The Wizard do? Let’s assume our Mobile Wizard for Levi™ would already be ready.

When arriving to the Kittilä Airport, the Wizard greeted me with a welcome message and directed me to the Airport Bus, which I of course could reserve and pre-pay with my mobile.

Mobile Wizard for Levi™ is a multi-platform mobile application for those visiting Levi skiing resort. It’s primary purpose would be helping tourists to take everything out of a vacation here. And for local businesses it would be the most important marketing tool ever invented.

Mobile Wizard for Levi™ features

  • All services a ski-traveller needs, in a single easy-to-use application (in her own language)
  • Wallet Wizard, leave wallet at the cottage (so you don’t lose it) and pay with your mobile
  • Friend Wizard, know where your friends are right now (and hide yourself, if you got lucky)
  • Hot Spot Wizard, know where you should be if you like things hot
  • Weather Wizard, including relevant user-generated weather reports for Downhill Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowmobiling and Bar Hopping
  • Reservation Wizard for restaurants and other businesses, including Coupon Wizard to get special deals and discounts (or VIP treatment!)
  • General information concerning slope and ski route condition, including User Generated Feedback
  • Event Wizard, with special benefits for Wizard users
  • Local Business Wizard, with Coupon Wizard  – find any business or service you may need

Technical speaking Mobile Wizard for Levi™ is

  • An application for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia or even a for a browser
  • A multi-lingual for end-users
  • Manageable in each store with a single Apple iPad
  • Compatible with any skiing resort

So is this reality or a vision? If you run a Skiing Resort, or sponsor one, please contact us for to find out how to get this done before your competition does! It’s all about a transactional service, not “mobile marketing”.

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Launching with ‘good enough’ productization

Last week’s blog series ‘art of productization’ continues with more insights from Kati Riikonen, our guest writer in this week’s blog.

Yes, it’s true, ’good enough’ is not measured in the amount of features or the length of specification.  For productization, the key customer promise is a top priority it seldom requires all possible features to be showcased.

Often there is no need, nor it’s feasible, to do full productization journey before going out to market making mode.

The level of necessary productization is depending on many variables. Most importantly one should crystallize concrete goals for the post-launch actions. There are also big differences on targeted audience is B2B, B2C or C2C. In reality, the limiting factors for productization often tend to be time and money.

The following provides examples of productization check points for various types of launches.

Idea launch

  • Examples of next steps: Generate public discussion, idea exchange, testing the idea, scouting potential partners, gathering insights
  • Productization check list: None. Just go out and talk the way you do – all entrepreneurs should do idea launches every day!

Concept launch

  • Examples of next steps: Seeking for finance, crowd-sourcing for development or more insight, thought leadership, publicity, scouting for ecosystem partners
  • Productization check list: Initial customer promise, name and descriptor, differentiators, user experience and marketing assets.

Tip on naming: In B2C or C2C concept launch a legally protected name in early phase is a real asset. In B2B concept launch, it is more natural and often enough just to differentiate with customer promise and descriptors, rather than spend limited resources on the naming convention.

Tip on prioritization: In case of very limited resources, focus on the concept’s customer promise and end-user experience as top priorities regardless if it is B2B, B2C or C2C.

Commercial launch

  • Examples of next steps: Market and sell! Business development, marketing, scout, sign and train distribution channels, agents, personnel.
  • Productization check list: In case of B2C or C2C launch, the further the productization check list is completed, the more likely are scalable sales and operations to accelerate. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the fact is that agents and sales pros tend to sell what gives them the fastest and reasonable payback. Having all the productization assets at immediate disposal gives the team a head start.

Reminder: Productization process does not mean that it’s done in vacuum before going out to public. Direct end-user insight, dialogue and co-creation can – and often should – be part of the successful productization.

Feel free to post your comments & example cases!


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Check list for software and digital service productization

Recently I had an inspiring discussion with Kati Riikonen, a doer, who has been working with several companies from mobility, web and software development domains. We were exploring the needs, pros and cons of the productization of software and digital services. With Kati’s permission, I am sharing some experiences on the topic.

Fully productized service should roughly cover the following:

Pitch check list

  • Clearly differentiate from companies and competitor’s other existing services
  • Name with trademarks and legal protection
  • Short and clear customer promise
  • The elevator speech, a short and crisp 1-2 sentences description of the product or services

User experience check list

  • User experience design drivers and design blueprint
  • Product definition: detailed description of the functionality. This element can be a demo, specification, description or any other format

Assets check list

  • Marketing assets that can be distributed physically or digitally
  • Detailed sales guide, that can be distributed physically or digitally
  • Organized documentation of the service and its operations

Sell check list

  • Price, which can be told immediately and clearly
  • Distribution channel and sales people need to be able to sell the product within feasible investment of time & effort
  • Company’s own personnel and agents need to be able to tell with is being sold with few sentences
  • A client, who is about to buy the service or product, needs to be able to tell with few sentence what he/she is about to buy

Naturally one does not need to take the steps in the right order – we entrepreneurs seldom do! The above should be treated more as a reference.

Shortcuts work very well – often for a period of time. However, significant shortcuts can cause unnecessary resource needs later on. Here is an example:

The project had user experience elements well designed, but did shortcuts in most of the other areas.  User experience assets showcased the concept so well that the company was able to start sales mode immediately. It did not matter that the service did not even have a name – and it still does not have legally protected name.  It might sound an easy way to reduce the pain of productization, but now the company is facing an increasing amount of challenges with press and industry discussion. They are now spending a lot of effort and ‘air time’ to correct the misleading names and messages instead of focusing on their own pitch.

The next question is what level of productization is ‘good enough’ for public launches?

While waiting for the Part 2, post your experiences, questions & comments – thanks!

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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 🙂

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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Three days to go. As the year is about to end, it’s time to look back and learn from this year.

Jobita – Market Place for Jobs

Year 2009 was the launch year of Jobita, formerly known as Tikitagi. Late March we launched the prototype of the service. Jobita is an Internet tool for local service professionals (and those who want to become those) as well any individual to market their skills and manage the assignments. For consumers Jobita is the easiest way to find qualified doer for any task at hand, either at home, at the office or for example on the boat.

It was a great learning experience, later also leading to concept called “gasellizer” – more efficient way of producing software with outsourced resources.

Already in January I wrote about using True Identity instead of pseudonyms. We are proud to announce that Jobita.fi is the first of its kind to truly support True Identities. Jobita is working together with NorthId on this. It’s called “Nettihenkkarit” in Finnish, loosely translated as “Online Identity Card”.

End of October we launched the totally rewritten version of Jobita, initially only in Finnish language. During the first two months of existence, the number of members and posts increased rapidly.

Creating Software as it always Should Have Been Done

Software Industry is relatively new as industry. Therefore it is no surprise that it is still facing many fundamental challenges, such as understanding the customer problem and turning that into a successful business. Together with few other people from the industry we worked on a concept called “Gasellizer”. One of the observations was that managing the specification process is still a major headache for most of the developers, and no, Agile methodology as such is not an answer for this. It’s more question of “User Defined Features” or uDef’s as we call them. Simply put, there is a need for recording, and managing as the needs evolve throughout the process, the users’ need with their own words.

One way of approaching the problem is learning from the movie industry’s way of operation.

And it is always great to learn from those who have already done it in real life (lessons learned from Mårten Mickos, ex-CEO of MySQL).

Entrepreneur is the Most Critical Resource

This discussion is going on all the time: “there is not enough money for the start-ups”. That is absolutely true. In order learn a bit more about the actual problem, I tweeted and blogged about a simple question “Which one of the following is the most critical and the least supplied resource: ideas, entrepreneurs or money?”.

As was to be expected, there was a lot of support for the answer of “money is the missing link”. However, the poll made revealed that the majority of the people thought actually that we do not have (good/experience/etc) entrepreneurs to implement those ideas. Nobody claimed that we would not have enough ideas. I am 100% of the same opinion, we don’t have enough entrepreneurs. As many of the supporting organizations and tools fail to understand this most fundamental question, also many of the solutions (no matter how well-meaning) do not touch and help the actual problem.

Simply put: as long as we do not have enough those entrepreneurs who will use the money available to build succesful and brave enough success stories, we will not have successful software companies. Period.

Crowdfunding is the Modern Way of Raising Funding

Okay, in the previous chapter I claimed that the most critical missing resource is the “entrepreneur”. It does not mean that getting funding would be easy, not at all.

Raising money for an idea or early stage start-up never has been, nor will be, very easy.

There is, however, always the possibility of looking for new solutions for the problem. One of the hottest ideas right now is “crowdfunding“. I wrote a small article about that in August. According to the polls made, this kind of funding is well received by both entrepreneurs and investors.

There is a new exciting company working on the concept of crowdfunding, GrowthOS. If you are member of LinkedIn, you can apply for GrowthOS group. Check out also an interesting opportunity to get a really high quality video pitches for your company.

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

Mårten 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!

Read Full Post »

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

Mårten 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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