Sunday, December 18, 2011

Focus on the Customer


What does it take to have a first rate customer experience when there are more customers than sales representatives?  Yes, this means there is going to be some form of wait, a queue.  Here is my comparison of experience at the Apple Store to that of the restaurant, CheeseCake Factory which we went to right afterwards.

At the Apple store we were put on a wait list to see a representative (the greeter used a text description and my wife's name to put her on the list explaining that the next available person would find us, as we browsed).  I asked what the description was, and this is how my wife was described: "tall, with long hair, in a jean jacket with multi-colored scarf".  I suggested that they had the technology to just snap a picture and attached it.  She said there might be privacy concerns with that.


We browsed and found the item we needed (a Mini Display Port - HDMI adapter).  About the time we had found it an Apple person (wearing a red shirt for the holidays) walked up and asked for Tracy.  We handed her the item we found and she checked us out immediately.

At the restaurant we got on the wait list and received a pager.  We went to the bar to wait and have drinks for the 15 minute wait (got a separate bill for the drinks). When the pager beeped we went to the greeter desk and then had to wait there again for the line of people being seated (4 parties ahead of us).  After seating and a lovely lunch, we paid again (a separate bill for the meal).

Now which business has a smooth process that is customer focused?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Visualize Your Problem Domain

Do you innovate new ways to visualize your problem domain?

The health care field is constantly using technology to visualize their problem domain.  They teach with color coded pictures, pink muscles, red arteries, blue veins, yellow nerves, etc. Yet the actual patient doesn't arrive on the surgens table with this color coding - YET.  They can do quite miraculous tricks with imaging (x-Ray, CT Scans, MRI, etc) and some imaging techniques are in real time.  Here is a video of the latest technique I've seen.  To visualize the problem.



I love the history and context Ms Nguyen gives us in this video.  The reason for surgery theaters to be where their were in old buildings.  Now with electric lights they can be in the basements, many times they are because of the heavy equipment they contain.

Apply this to the domain of software development.  Yes, we also use color coding to visualize the field, we have IDEs that give unique color to constants for example.  Yet we can not yet tag a bug with a florescent and shine a light across 10,000 lines of code to see how many times it has been replicated.  Or can we - have you created a florescent bug tracker?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yes - You Need a Full Time Scrum Master


Many organizations adopting Scrum ask these questions.

  • Do we need a full time Scrum master for each team?
  • Why do we need a full time Scrum master, can't they do other roles also?

Now allow me to give you the answers: 
  • Yes, you need a full time Scrum Master.
  • Why - watch the video.
Let me explain:

Yes, you need a full time Scrum master, because they will be constantly watching for the actions of the team.  Making sure that the team member are working in flow as often as possible.  This is a full time job.

Why can the scrum master not do other roles on the team? Because of the human ability of selective attention.  First let me show you a video - a little test of your superior ability to follow instructions.  Perhaps you've seen this video - if so, just play along, maybe you will be surprised at how well you do on the test.

The Monkey Business Illusion

Now do you understand why we need a Scrum master watchhttp://www.infoq.com/articles/case-dedicated-scrum-mastering out for impediments all the time.  If they are tasked with doing something else, I'm sure they will miss the obvious impediments the subtle changes in the team members and the environment.

Here is Jeff Sutherland's reasoning (from Scrum Development Yahoo group):
"One of the leading Agile teams in software development asked me how to go hyperproductive. I was their coach as my venture group had invested in them. They had a fuzzy ScrumMaster definition and it was not clear who owned this role. I told them to get a ScrumMaster. The experienced team thought they were better than that and could never go hyperproductive. A new team was formed with a ScrumMaster which immediately went hyperproductive."

"So a lot of teams that think they don't need a ScrumMaster are a long way from 10 times the performance of a waterfall team. This was the design goal for Scrum and every team should be getting a 10% velocity increase sprint to sprint until they hit that number."

"Teams without ScrumMaster's don't do this. Usually they are flatlined and will never reach their full potential."

  --  Jeff Sutherland
Have you heard of the Fleas in the Jar Experiment - watch the video:

Where should Scrum Masters report? - Ryan Dorrell
An analytical approach to the same question:  Scrum Master Allocation: The Case for a Dedicated Scrum Master  by  Melinda Stelzer Jacobson on InfoQ
Can you use a Scrum Master by Bob Marshall the FlowchainSensei



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is Time-to-Market really a Key Differentiator?

Why do some product win in the market place and some lose?  Is being first to market the key distinction between winning and losing?

The Agile software development movement has this one aspect (time-to-market) as key differentiator.  Many surveys note this aspect as a reason to adopt Agile methods.  Business people resonate with this value proposition.  The Lean Startup movement has this within its core.  It appears just common sense.  But is it good practice - is it a true cause and effect relationship?  If one is first in the market place with a new product, will it capture market share and become the de-facto standard product in the market segment?

Take the case of the cookie - the Oreo Cookie (introduced in 1912) - have you heard the back story?  It was the perhaps a knock-off of the Hydrox cookie (introduced in 1908), the first in the market segment, yet always labeled "imitator" and never a strong competitor (Oreos to Hydrox: Resistance is Futile).

It certainly did not work for Apple Computer in 1985 when they introduced the world to a computer for the rest of us.  Their graphical user interface was new and created a key differentiator, perhaps the key innovation since they had created a new market segment with the introduction of the personal computer in 1977 (see Apple History Timeline).  Yet Apple consistently a first to market innovator, appears to always run in second place to Microsoft.  That is until very recently (the post PC era).

Why It Feels Like We're Falling Behind It can take years to notice a life-changing invention. - Motley Fool

The typical path of how people respond to life-changing inventions is something like this:
  • I've never heard of it.
  • I've heard of it but don't understand it.
  • I understand it, but I don't see how it's useful.
  • I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
  • I use it, but it's just a toy.
  • It's becoming more useful for me.
  • I use it all the time.
  • I could not imagine life without it.
  • Seriously, people lived without it?
This process can take years, or decades. It always looks like we haven't innovated in 10 or 20 years because it takes 10 or 20 years to notice an innovation.

  One aspect of the difference between first movers and the rest of the pack is not the timing of the introduction (being "first") but in having a better and more compelling story.  Much of the product story has to do with marketing, distribution, partnerships, and customer satisfaction and adoptions of the product story as their own personal story.  A case in point the Teddy Bear.

Steiff Billy Possum
A great story, the origin story of the Teddy Bear is in pod-cast audio on 99% Invisible.  It is told from the perspective of the second mover - the air-apparent to the thrown of the assumed temporary Teddy Bear toy - Billy Possum - the next big thing.  This toy was designed to succeed the outgoing president's (Roosevelt) plush toy with the incoming president's (Taft) product designed and marketing flop toy - a plush possum.

Which would you purchase for your child to play with - a teddy bear or a billy possum?

How's this for marketing - and the rest of the story is not for youngins.  While he would not shoot the bear - doesn't mean he wouldn't eat the bear.


See Also:  
51 Most Popular Tech Gadgets through the Years - Popular Mechanics

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Info-radiator; Better than Google Analytics

What is better than Google Analytics (web analytics made smarter, friendlier and free)?  How about web analytics made into an INFO-RADIATOR?

Better than Google Analytics
Info-radiator of desire.
What is an info-radiator?
“An Information radiator is a display posted in a place where people can see it as they work or walk by. It shows readers information they care about without having to ask anyone a question. This means more communication with fewer interruptions."
  -- Alistair Cockburn
See also:  Big Visible Chart, Informative Workspaces, Information Radiators.

Day 2
This concept is a mash-up of publishing information with information graphics and personal interactive engagement.


So here is my latest attempt to create one of these mash-ups.  It is an attempt to disseminate information about some Scrum videos and a survey on basic training evaluation (did the learner like and value the training).  One problem with this poster is that it may spark interest in the topic - yet there was a poor actionable behavior associated this reading the poster.  One could watch people stop in the hallway and read the poster, yet one couldn't measure any transfer of knowledge.  Did the learner actually go to the web site to watch the video advertised by the poster?  Sure we could put in some fancy web tracking analytics (if our back-end systems supported this feature - who knows what SharePoint can do - but I know it cannot be helpful in me acquiring knowledge of its capabilities - it doesn't like to share).

Day 3
So solving one problem - the issue of people need to remember the ridiculously long and complex URL (again SharePoint lack of capability) lead me to a great solution.  I shortened the SharePoint URL using Bit.ly then printed the shortened URL multiple times and created a tear-off and take-one sheet.  By posting this beside the poster I created the info-radiator.  Each day, I walk by and see the growing torn-off shortened URL tabs on the sheet.  This is an indication that the poster is working.  I think it may also create a virtuous cycle.  As others see the obvious interest, they see value in stopping to read the poster.  This may drive people to the Scrum videos and they may actually watch the video - then take the survey.


See Also:

Real-time Dashboards considered harmful
"Next time you think about making a real-time dashboard, ask a deeper question about the underlying problem instead. I guarantee you’ll find more value from that."
Related posts:


Another Info-Cooler bites the dust.
Why I use Flip Charts not PPT Slides
A Burndown chart that radiates progress