Agile Development, Business Analysis, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Mobile, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

It’s with pride and happiness I wish to share with you that recently Team Texavi successfully hosted Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference. Held in two cities Hyderabad and Mumbai, during the last week of August, the events were a huge hit among the IT community.   The conference had a good participation from the practising and aspiring IT professionals who made it happen. Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of delegates and speakers, the conference in both cities had turned out as a big hit among the community. I salute the untiring efforts of  Team Texavi in putting together such fantastic events which many people hoped to be held every year . In this blogpost, I give a snapshot of the conference for the benefit of those who could not attend and also for those who participated. Hope this would help you all understand the magic behind this memorable event called Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 Conference.

What’s special with Texavi’s IMAGINEERING

If you ask me the formula for the successful hosting of Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 conference, it’s the PEOPLE that made it happen. Yes, right from the word go, Team Texavi had put in their brain power at work and ensured that the right topics were selected to ensure maximum interests among the audience. Next to contribute majorly were the speakers who are industry-leading thinkers and professionals. These are not just people who talk, but who are thought-leaders and those who actually put their ideas to work. Bringing this unique set of people who are hands-on lent practicality and workmanship to the focus areas. Through the talks, panel discussions, interactive Q & A sessions, these speakers brought out the best for the benefit of participants. And last but not the least, the prize also goes to participants from different organisations who made it to the event, despite it being a Friday. They all took an active part in the proceedings of the event and needless to say contributed to the success of the conference.

Texavi IMAGINEERING Conference_1 IMG_3803Dr.Rajeev_Srinivasa

What happened at IMAGINEERING 2013 Conference

The theme of the conference was very topical and relevant to the current times – “Technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the times of Digital. Mobile. Agile. Social“. The talks, special sessions, panel discussions and interactive sessions revolved around this topic with varied flavours. Ranging from the mundane Social media aspects to the raging hot theme of today’s technology world, Mobile platforms and applications, the conference had covered all the bases. The Keynote address by Dr. Rajeev Srinivasa rightly brought out the nuances and guidelines for embracing the good things around in Technology, highlighting the challenges involved. Dr. Srinivasa very eloquently touched upon the finer yet very practical aspects relevant for the IT community. A case in point is the importance of knowing the business aspects alongside the application of technology, for successfully delivering technology products and applications, today. Towards the end of the conference, everyone in the hall left with a firm belief that Technology and Business are two sides of the coin and that one can’t live without the other.

For all the action as it happened, you can watch the videos of the Conference, by clicking on the links below:

Interactive and engaging panel discussions

The keynote was followed by a very engaging panel discussion comprising some very competent and experienced professionals from the IT industry. The discussion for the panel was the topic “What’s the next BIG Thing”, which they ably covered sometimes hovering around, while other times diving deep into the key aspects. The panelists drew examples, business cases and insights from their own experiences to weigh in their points and delegates couldn’t have enough of the nectarine knowledge being shared with them. Sprinkled with generous doses of tips, tools, techniques and methodologies, the discussions threw light on important areas for the participants to take in all they could. The floor was opened for questions from the participants and it got so engaging that the session was brought to a halt by the time keepers. Texavi_IMAGINEERING_Panel_discussion_1 Audience participation at Texavi IMAGINEERING 2013

IMAGINEERING,2013 – A conference with a difference

Perhaps no other conference can boast of the unique feature that Texavi’s IMAGINEERING had – that of the focus on careers and professional development. Besides running as a deep undercurrent of all the items on the agenda, there were special sessions catered for the careers advancement and professional development of the IT community. Mukund Sathe’s engrossing talk on the IT industry’s trends and challenges struck the right chords with participants. Mukund’s talk was full of insights, ideas and recommended solutions and went beyond just highlighting the problems. Towards the end, participants with their questions and views made the talk even more insightful.  Not just that but also the careers talk from Texavi’s Niroop Racha was a huge hit among the audience. It started off as a solo talk but drawing audience’s participation, it slowly turned into a very engaging exercise. Delegates jumped in with their experiences, views and added the much needed “E flavour” to the conference. The E here stands for “Engagement” and “Entertainment” too, as it turned out that Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA, 2013 had no dearth of learning, sharing and fun.

Please check out the Presentations used during the Texavi’s IMAGINEERING, 2013 conference by clicking on the links below:

Hope you enjoyed reading the post. Please feel free to drop in with your valuable feedback as always. Till next time, have a nice time, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Events, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

Disrupt, hack, fail and lean…in case you are wondering what these are, they are the latest buzzwords in the technology industry today. No more terms with a negative tone or tinge, these once swear words are now the tech world’s definitive words to swear by. They have taken the world by storm, so no wonder businesses and individuals alike are encouraged to embrace them strongly. Rightly so, in an age of digital, mobile, agile and social times that we are living in, technology does have a profound impact on businesses and people. Change is the only constant thing, and entrepreneurship and innovation are sure ways for survival and success. In this blogpost, in a run-up to Texavi’s IMAGINEERING – INDIA,2013 conference, I will touch upon how embracing the mean and lean aspects like disruption,”fail-early-fail-often”, hacker way and being lean will separate the winners from players.

1. What are you disrupting today

Look around you and you will find disruption as the mantra behind every successful business, product, service or individual. For instance, in the technology space, the Internet and web sites and applications came and disrupted the way we work, play and talk. Google came in and disrupted the way we deal with information changing the preferred navigation mode of millions of people from browsing to searching. Apple’s iPhone and other Touch-sensitive  technologies disrupted the way we interact with phones and devices. Plastic money a.k.a credit cards came in and changed the purchase behaviours of people, which some would argue, in a negative way. With the technology powering the businesses, brace yourself for more disruption to happen in the near future. From wearable technologies to 3D printing and alternative currency, disruption is the name of the game. Disruption is not only the key differentiating factor but also the secret weapon that separates the great ones from good.

bitcoin

It is equally important if not more important, for the large well-established organisations to be disruptive as much as the small, suave start-ups. Large organisations such as Google, Apple, 3M and McDonalds continuously strive at disrupting the professional and personal lives of their customers leaving a huge impact, through their new products, services and business models. Small start-ups too are doing their bit to help disrupt the existing behaviours of consumers. Take the case of Bitcoin which is a startup wanting to disrupt the way people use currencies, although some people consider it a cheeky option. Over the last 5 years or so, Bitcoin has emerged as a new alternative for payment online. Similarly, David Fishwick’s Burnley Savings and Loans Limited has been pitched as disrupting the models of the high street banks. Yes, disruption is the name of the game today and anyone who would like to make it big in business must have the answer to the question What are you disrupting today? In fact, this is the question every business and start-up must ask for themselves, not only to survive but also make a mark in this world of cut-throat competition.

 

2. Fail fast and fail often

Failure has never been more recognised and more encouraged than now. The importance of failure was best brought out by the famous saying of Thomas Alva Edison, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Failure is the stepping stone for success and nobody who has succeeded wouldn’t have done it without ever tasting a slice of failure earlier. Behind every successful entrepreneur, you can find a string of failed initiatives and this applies equally well in the case of the technology businesses and products too. I don’t mean in any way that we all must have failure as our goal, but what is important is to be prepared for failure, often to the extent of keeping it as option A. This would help ensure that you cover all the possible scenarios. Also, when you fail, you are bound to become battle-hardened because with failure, you know what works and more importantly what doesn’t work.

Fail fast, fail often_texavi

It may seem that I am all for hailing failing, but the important bit is to recognise the need to fail early. Failing early on helps us to correct the course quicker and better. It will also help us in preparing to prevent similar instances or occurrences in the future. Failing earlier is better than failing quite later down the line, as the impact would have been lesser as also the resources required to for corrective action. Failing often is also a key step in the journey of progression and success as that shows the continuous endeavour and effort for improvement.

3. Adopt the Hacker way

Times are gone when people want to do things in a linear, bureaucratic and often long-winding manner. From venture capitalists to employers and financial markets, everyone nowadays insists on street-smart, tech savvy and ingenious attitudes on display. In a world where the boundaries between work and play are being constantly erased, what one needs is the ability to make a killing with speed, accuracy and confidence. One word to describe all of these and more is HACKER. Yes, hackers, at least in the context of IT industry, are your new battle-ready warriors who are the new age ninjas to pump up the productivity, profits and products’s successes through their shrewd, speed and solid work.

Hacking - brilliant idea

Hacking is not evil anymore, well if done with the right intent and intentions. It used to be often associated with young, smart brains turned in the wrong direction a la snooping. In the context of this post, I am referring to hacking in a slightly different skill – that of “doing” rather than relying on lengthy debates and futile processes. When Facebook went for the IPO, we got to know one of the secrets for their sustained success, which is The Hacker Way. Hacking in this sense is not about snooping, but it is the ability to quickly conceptualise, design, develop and test a product or feature quickly  and iteratively. So, there is no two ways in embracing the hacker way to deliver and turn around successful products, services and concepts quicker and more effectively.

4. Lean is in, are you ready

Building huge monoliths of businesses had been the key focus in the last few decades where power and might took precedence over everything else. Excess drive was on to build up the industrial mega-revolution making things bigger, mightier and powerful without consideration for the effectiveness, efficiency and long-term sustainability. However, as technology led from the front in the last couple years, businesses realised that its not the size and strength that matters, but efficiency and productivity on a sustainable basis. So, lean is in and started to impact various industries from manufacturing to IT. Going agile and being lean is not in processes alone, but must be replicated in people and other resources too.

Be_nimble_and_lean_TEXAVI

I shall touch upon each of these topics in greater detail in the upcoming blogposts. Please drop in with your feedback for further improvements and yes, you can also share some ideas for new topics. Have a nice time and until the next post, ciao!

 

Agile Development, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Today our lives revolve around the mobile, agile and social aspects that have global appeal along with local flavours. Their impact factors  could be attributed to the surge in various platforms, channels and devices that we use for both professional and personal lives. The PCs of the 90s are now complemented with the handy Smart Phones, ubiquitous Tablets and numerous trendy gadgets. Post (Snail mail) is giving way to Email, which in turn is waning in popularity compared to chatting, texting and gaming. There has been a massive shift in the roles of technology, business, products and services. Nowadays, there is one thing on the top of mind for clients, product designers and developers. No prizes for guessing the answer…Responsive Design! How can we deliver similar, if not identical experiences to our customers and users, despite the varied number and nature of the things around us? In this post, I will touch upon Responsive Design, as I see it in the light of delivering consistent and unified experiences.

The case for Responsive Design

Let us try and look at this from a technology perspective, especially computing technology at that. Till the late 90’s we were all familiar with the PC as an alternative to the manual operations. Back then there were only 3 major types – Windows, Mac and the more Open Source flavour – Unix. Applications and programmes had to be written specifically for 2 major mainstream platforms – Windows and Mac. Since the execution of the programmes depended completely on the underlying Operating System (O.S.), these had to be written and deployed specifically for these two platforms separately and explicitly. However with the advent of Java programming language, came the paradigm shift – “Write once, run anywhere”. In the early years of 21st century, Microsoft aggressively pushed its Dot Net platform and associated languages such as C-sharp. Both these were successful in ensuring the universal delivery and adoption of programmes and applications that were platform-agnostic.

The problem of plenty

New Technologies, same old problems

When the PC domination was waning, the cross-platform problem only got aggravated in exponential proportions. Thanks to the explosive usage of laptops in the early part of the 21st century, computing has gone mobile and portable. But this didn’t create many problems to the application and technology product vendors. Largely it was only the foot-print or size of the application that got impacted due to the new addition to the PCs. Following some other innovations in the programming and scripting languages, developers had some respite from grappling with re-writing massive applications to suit for multiple platforms. But it didn’t solve the problem completely. It only took a new shape with the onset of different browsers and their versions, numerous sizes, resolutions and vendors.

Solution to “the problem of plenty”

The good old sayings – “Variety is the spice of life” and “More the merrier” are applicable to most business scenarios and our own lives. However, with the advent of Internet and adoption of Smart Phones and Tablets, customers and consumers today are faced with the “problem of plenty”. This can be witnessed in the exponentially increasing numbers, varieties and ranges of platforms, operating systems, channels and devices. These are all increasing at such an alarming rate that often customers are pushed to the brink of confusion, chaos and frustration. But don’t lose your heart yet, there is a good news – the effective solution for these problems is a comprehensive  methodology  that comprises the approach, tools, techniques and resources. You can now analyse, design,develop, deliver and support solutions, products, applications for multiple platforms, channels, devices and browsers. In the following sections, we will look at how we can approach Responsive Design through the Unified Experience framework.

What is Responsive Design really

Design, by definition needs to meet the needs of the user in the right place, right time and right manner, of course, for the right users. Essentially, it is about creating products, applications and services that work and look the same across all systems, platforms and devices. While there are lot of definitions for Responsive Design, I would define it simply as designing, developing and delivering “Unified Experience“. Whether it is a product or service, the objective for product vendors is to deliver consistent, panoramic and unified experiences to their customers and users. Irrespective of the platforms, devices, underlying operating systems, numerous channels.

Responsive Design is Unified Experience

What makes a Design, Responsive Design

In the context of technology and programming, there had been a perennial debate on graceful degradation versus progressive enhancement.  Despite the growing number of platforms, operating systems and devices, users want consistent experience. This consistent experience can be delivered only when you take care of the underlying navigation, content, presentation, functionality and interactions. Don’t forget that the customers and users are the same, their profiles and personas are not varying across the different platforms or devices. The first step in this approach is to identify, specify and communicate clearly the problems, opportunities and needs. Then the the conception, conceptualisation and implementation of suitable solution will follow through smoothly and in a structured manner.

How to create Responsive Design – Tips & tricks

I give below a few guidelines to get it right with minimal rework, redesign and repurposing. When implemented initially in the development cycle of any product or application, these would help achieve the responsive design and offer optimal experience to your users.

  • Think ahead, far and wide
  • Build eco-systems not just stand-alone products and tools
  • Consider all possible options – short term, medium term and long term
  • Go beyond technologies, assess real business needs and goals
  • Use minimally the platform-specific services and components

Hope you got some insights about Responsive Design that you can take away and implement practically. Love to hear from you on how we can improve the Blog. Until next time, ciao and yes, Happy Easter!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

When I talk to my clients about developing great products that offer fantastic User Experience, many of them ask me why, when and how to go about doing it. The most frequently asked question from customers is “what is that one thing that makes or breaks great user experience?”. My consistent response to them has always been one simple word that truly wields the real power. Yes, it is “Consistency”. That is the mantra for creating great products and services that stand the test of time, offering delightful experiences to customers and users! However, this by no means is a quick-fix, short-cut approach to creating successful products and services. In this post, I shall touch upon the important role consistency plays in offering compelling experiences to your customers and users.

Think different, but be consistent

In the constantly changing business and technology landscape that we are living in today, it is imperative that you have to stand out from the competitive me-too products and services in the crowded market place. There is a growing need for businesses and individuals to think and act different. This also works when you wish to develop a new product, concept or idea and especially with the start-ups. It is indeed the hallmark of good startups to be able to think differently from the others to cut the clutter and make their presence felt. However over a period of time, the product or service gets adopted and it gains sufficient market penetration and user acceptance. At that stage, having consistency in presentation and overall experience becomes critical for the long term success of the product.

Consistency – experience and expectations

What does consistency mean in a product development context? Does it mean repetition, cliche and mimicking the same, always and in all ways? No, on the contrary being consistent helps your users to focus on the right areas in your products so that they derive optimal usage experience. Consistency can be seen as an antidote to monotony and often the positives of being consistent far outweighs the negatives of being routine and repetitive. Do not restrict consistency to just one specific product of yours, but broad-basing it across the products in a product line would help your customers and users.  Consistency though largely is a broader concept, does vary to some extent based on the users’ culture and geography. The concept of “business” has remained the same all through the centuries. Customers and clients raise a PO (Purchase order) and vendors propose and offer their products /services and then raise an invoice/bill towards the products or services offered.  Customers then make payments to vendors against these invoices. This is a consistent way of engaging in business and doesn’t vary from country to country and also does not change with the times.

Sample this as a proof of why I think that consistency is of a great help to delivering great experience. People from across the different parts of the world have been driving cars over the last few decades. There have been a lot of  variants like petrol and diesel, differences in engine capacity and volumes.  Cars do come in different models, sizes and shapes  – sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks and so on. They also differ in the transmissions like manual and automatic. The steering wheel could be on the left or right side of the car, depending on which country you drive. However, no matter where you are driving, what type, model, size or shape of the car, the pedals for brake, clutch and accelerator (also called gas) are always in the same place and in the same order. From left to right, it will be clutch, brake and accelerator and its no doubt that this is what simplifies the driving experience for most of the car drivers in any part of the world. This is just one example of how being consistent helps the users to adopt the products quickly to their context, expectations and experiences formed.

Why be consistent?

Consistency when used in the right manner has the power of giving freedom to your users. It ensures that your users put their focus on the goal rather than the medium. I like to draw an analogy for this with the cinema screen and the projected movie. Consistency in your products is akin to audience watching the movie and enjoying themselves without getting distracted and disillusioned looking at the screen beneath the movie. It makes the experience smooth and lends flow and fluency to what the users look, learn and do within the product.

Let us look at some of the benefits of consistency

  • Is shaped on the prior experiences of users
  • Helps direct users’ attention
  • Sets the expectations of users
  • Delivers stability and safety of users, in a few instances
  • Aids users in strong brand and product association

Consistency doesn’t kill creativity

Quite a few people think that consistency kills the creativity and new ideas. I would argue that consistency doesn’t affect the innovative or imaginative thinking. Innovative product companies like Apple, Google implement consistency across their entire set of offerings. You can use standards and design principles as the basis for your product. These are the foundation based on which you should architect, design and develop the product. These are often sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Next in the order of priority are guidelines which are like rules of thumb. They are not prescriptive, but provide direction to what should be incorporated and how. But compelling user experience doesn’t stop at this level. Only when you start referring to heuristics and patterns, can the product start delivering delightful and superlative experiences to users. I drew the diagram below to bring out the main points.

Balance consistency with creativity_Texavi

 

How to incorporate consistency

In the context of product development, consistency translates into the overall user experience and not just the superficial visual design. You need to look at all the various dimensions that contribute to the overall experience and delight of users. The following diagram sums up how you can lend your product a consistent experience…

What contribute to consistent UX_Texavi

 

Through the optimal use of consistency, user should be able to feel that he/she knows:

  • What I can do with this product
  • Where I am now, where I can go from here and how I can go
  • Why something works the way it does
  • What a particular element means when it is in of a certain colour, shape and size
  • How I can press, click, tap an element to get what I want it to do

 

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, please feel free to drop in your comments to help improve the quality and usability of my blog posts. Until next time, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Businesses, like individuals grow over time, adjusting themselves to the changes, situations, market demands and business drivers. Organisations mature in their processes, improving continually their products, services and operations. Often the maturity happens by doing, learning and unlearning from their own experiences. However, some other times, maturity could come in through vicarious learning i.e., looking and observing at others and their ways of working. This applies equally well to the social businesses which undergo different stages of progression. Social businesses join networks, identify their goals, create and innovate content and engage people. As they mature, the focus shifts from selling their products and services to building their brand. In this post, I will first touch upon the criteria for defining a successful social business and then discuss how you can drive your social efforts with the social business engine.

Maturity levels show progress towards goals_SBMM_Texavi

1. First define the goals and success criteria  

In order to become successful, the first step is to identify and define in clear terms, what success means. The definition of “done” and the success criteria have to be specified and agreed upon well in advance. These will help the organisation, team members and also the stakeholders to understand the progress. To be able to understand whether you have reached your goals, you must first define what the goals are. For social businesses, as I mentioned in my previous posts, the goal is to become a people-focused business. This goal translates into the organisation delivering experiences instead of products and services. Success also depends on how well businesses help change the behaviours of their customers and users.

I think social businesses must focus on the following areas, to become successful.

  • Brands, not just products and services
  • People, not just customers and users
  • Experiences, not just engagement and influence
  • Habits, not just one time actions
  • Insights, not just metrics and analytics

Goals for Social Business_SBMM_Texavi

2. Identify the key drivers – People, content and business

There is no doubt that the social business engine powers your social initiative providing the direction and fuel for your social efforts. I view this engine as comprising three main components- people, content and business. The social business hinges on these 3 key components, and they are inter-related among themselves. People contribute and create engaging content, and this content leads conversations to transactions. Yes, its true that social networks are about conversations. But merely engaging people with interactive content does not help businesses become successful at social business. So, a combination of people, content and business working in tandem would help build successful social businesses. No wonder most successful social businesses have got it right with these three components of the social business engine.

Power with Social Business Engine_SBMM_Texavi

3. Invest in people, the true asset to social business

The way organisations manage their relationships with people shift from one level to another, as they get matured in the social business. The maturity on this component of the social business engine varies from being a novice at identifying the right people within their networks to actively engaging them. In the initial levels, you put the efforts in finding and connecting with the right people in the target networks. You slowly start to follow them and their activities, interact with them in different ways to create some value in the process. But as you reach higher levels of maturity, you go beyond conversations and engage them with innovative content, and encouraging them to conduct commercial transactions. This happens as there is increased level of trust and also there is a sense of give-and-take between the people and you. At the highest level is the goal to influence and delight the people, coercing them to make or break habits, to the advantage of all involved.

Here are some top tips for getting it right with people-focus. Some of these are aligned with our Unified Experience Framework.

  • Look beyond customers. Focus on People {customers, users, stakeholders, followers}
  • Follow and be followed by the right people on your networks
  • Enable people to change their behaviours
  • Synchronise people’s online and offline behaviours
  • Deliver unified experiences across multiple platforms and channels
  • Cut out the noise and care for people’s voices and heartbeats

4. Create meaningful and engaging content 

Curating, creating and innovating content is critical for the success of any social business. Curation of the content can happen when there is a value-add done by means of sharing it to relevant people and making changes to it. Social businesses can succeed when they could enhance the content and also innovate. Innovation with content can be done in many ways, based on the industry, size and nature of business. Essentially, businesses innovate when they create different types of content altogether. For instance, Apple created iBooks and gave power to small time authors who want to publish their books, quickly, easily and in a cost-effective manner. Many companies who have been traditionally printing books, started with digital publications. The content is still the same, but these companies innovated with different way of delivering it.

5. Social business goes beyond conversations

Engaging people on the networks with interesting content is key for social businesses, to start with. Also, encouraging people to be involved in meaningful conversations aligned to the business interests of the organisation is critical too. However, as the business matures, the focus needs to be to interactions leading to commercial transactions. Otherwise there is not much of a value-add for the business to be on the social networks. You should start to motivate people to do online transactions, review your products, recommend of their friends so that they become your customers too.

Hope you find the above points helpful in building your social business. As always, please feel free to drop in with your comments and suggestions. Until next post, ciao!

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

A few days ago, I was thinking about what separates the great organisations from the good ones.  I tried to connect a few successful companies with the secrets behind their success. Here is a small question for you to get thinking on this..what is common to Google, Apple and simple? Of course the letters LE, but the prize goes to the correct answer, “their commitment to make people happy”. Google and Apple have positioned themselves as people-focused firms, creating innovative products and services that not only work for people but also delight them. They have established a clear differentiation based on delighting their customers, stakeholders and followers with simple and easy to use products and services. In this post, let us learn how any organisation which aims to become a social business, needs to focus on ‘the people’ to be successful.

Focus on people – Make them happy

Businesses traditionally have been focusing on people  in one form or the other. Every organisation works hard to keep their customers happy as that would guarantee their existence. Some businesses focus on keeping their employees satisfied with good facilities, pay and perks.These companies think that happy employees lead to higher productivity and thereby better results. A few large organisations with deep pockets can afford to keep not only their customers and employees  happy, but also extend their reach to the stakeholders like shareholders and suppliers.  However, a social business needs to do all the above and a bit extra as well. Let us see in the next section what social businesses need to do to get it right.

Social Businesses focus on People

Social business – Internal and external people

Social businesses have to optimise their business strategies, operations and resources towards the ‘people’. The people here means those who are both ‘internal’ as well as ‘external’ to the organisation. Internal people are the employees and other key stakeholders such as the management, sponsors and the shareholders. They are critical to the success of any initiative as everything starts with them, from the business vision to strategy, from planning to execution and delivery. External people refers to the customers and suppliers. However, in the context of social business, the list doesn’t end here. These external people include the followers, friends and fans on social and professional networks. Social businesses succeed by putting the people’s interests first beyond anything. Their business objectives and bottom lines are all dependent on their people-focus. Social businesses have to ensure that both the internal and external people are happy.Here is how they can achieve this. :

  • Involve, encourage and empower the right teams
  • Find, connect and follow the right people
  • Educate, influence and engage your followers

In the following sections, let us see how the organisations can become effective following the above rules.

Involve, encourage and empower the right teams

Teams make or break your organisations initiatives and attempts for successful campaigns. Great teams often are one of the biggest success factors behind great social businesses. You need to involve the team members from the very beginning so that they none of the team members feel left out. Also, this would help build ownership in them and increases their responsibility. Encourage and motivate the team members to start delivering towards the goals of social business. Empower them to take decisions on their own, try new things and implement their ideas. No matter if the ideas are bad or good, let the team work on those ideas and realise the efficacy of these ideas, on their own. Empowering the teams enables the team to own up the social business initiative and deliver activities and succeed, all by themselves.

For successful social business, empower the team and allow them to:

  1. Estimate the efforts and timelines
  2. Come up with the plan
  3. Commit and agree upon the plans
  4. Deliver on the plans
  5. Bring out the problems, if any, during the execution

Find, Connect and follow the right people

Whereas the teams working on your social business are internal to your organisation, you also need to look outside of your business. These are customers, suppliers and others, speaking of traditional businesses. Often in the context of social business, this extends to those people in your social and professional networks. Follow these simple rules to follow the right people on your social and professional networks.
  1. Define the profiles of the people who fit your business requirements
  2. Create a persona with the demographics and psychographics
  3. Search, browse and look out for the people fitting in the persona
  4. Connect to these people and follow their activities on networks
  5. Interact with them by liking and favouriting their content
  6. Engage with the people by sharing their content across networks
FindConnectFollowandInteractWithTheRightPeople

Educate, engage and influence your followers

Following people on the social and professional networks, interacting with with them and sharing their content is one thing. It is quite another level to get people to follow you. Even harder is to engage people consistently with content that they are interested in. Of course, the most difficult step in the social engagement is to be able to influence your followers, friends and fans positively and increase their trust in you and your brand. The starting point for all of these accomplishments is to start sharing content which aligns with the interests of your followers. Make it worthy of their likes, and encourage them to comment upon and share it with others in their network. Influence your followers

Given below are some useful tips to help you with engaging your audience and influencing them.

  1. Identify the target audience from amongst your followers, friends and fans on networks
  2. Understand their interests and focus areas
  3. Align your campaigns and content to be aligned with their interests
  4. Interact with them, encourage people to like your content and share it
  5. Reach out to friends of friends (FoF) and widen your network reach
  6. Influence your followers to trust your brand and make them your ambassadors

Hope you find the above suggestions helpful in your social business efforts. As always, please let me know your views for improving this blog. Until next post, Ciao!

 

 

Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies

Are you still relying only on the static web site that was updated 5 years ago, a few printed marketing materials like flyers, and an external agency that handles your email marketing? These alone may not work anymore for the benefit of your business. No matter how large or small, old or new your organisation is, social business has proved to be the order of the day. The good old ways of marketing using the traditional media planning and advertising in conventional channels and the emerging newer ways of using social media are not the same. In the same way, optimising your content and applications for the customary search engines is not enough, as increasingly they need to be optimised for social media as well. However, being a social business does not refer to tweeting a few times per week and collecting Likes on your Facebook page, though these are good starting points. In this post, we will look at what it takes for a business to become a successful social business.

1. Go beyond a single web presence

Having a web presence with a web site, which rarely gets updated  is not a great step towards becoming a social business. You must increase your channels and distribute the effort, time and cost. Large organisations today have dedicated departments catering to social media and managing the campaigns around these networks. Increasingly these companies have people with the titles such as ‘Community Manager’, and ‘Social Scientist’. However, it might be an overkill for some smaller organisations to spend their resources on the social media marketing, at the cost of their core business. Bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works the same way for all businesses in the same way. To decide what you should have in your arsenal, you need to think about the following:

  • What is your core business?
  • What is the size of your organisation?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • Where do you operate?
  • What resources do you have?
UXF_Social Business Focus_Texavi

2. Conversations could be positive or negative

The focal point of the social and professional networks is enabling people to connect  and indulge in conversations. Often these conversations could be negative as well, which is quite expected considering that people do have different experiences with brands. Although, the motive behind these interactions could be not just the  brands, but also people’s encounters with products, services, solutions or most importantly other people representing any of these . Don’t expect people to always talk positively about you or your brand. Often they are influenced by their previous experiences with the which were not-so positive. Natural Language Programming and Sentiment analysis are a few of the tools that you can use to unravel the moods from among numerous conversations.

3. Conversion is the holy grail

Make no mistake, all that matters to a business in any industry of any size large or small, local or global, is conversion. Businesses since ages have been focusing on converting a prorspect to a customer and a customer to a loyal customer and then to a lifetime customer. The web came in and  along with helping businesses achieve the above aspiration, also added another dimension. That of converting visitors to registered users and then to the customers. With the advent of Social media, the fundamentals and business models did not change. These social networks enabled visitors who follow your organisation or brand, to become friends and fans. The conversion from visitors to friends and then to customers has become an easier and quicker process, though the numbers are low.

Conversion_Social Business Enablement_Texavi

4. Cut out your noise, care for people’s voice

Companies have been promoting their products and services vociferously as a ‘push mechanism’, using advertisements and branding campaigns. For these, they were using the traditional media such as Newspapers, Television, Radio and other print media. However, increasingly people are getting frustrated with the  noise generated by these brands. The trust on these companies and brands and customers’ belief in what they say is dwindling. One of the key factors why social media have become popular is this decreasing trust in brands and increased confidence in what other people say and do. This is what I call the ‘Pull mechanism’. In order to make your social initiative a success, the pull has to be given an equal, if not more, importance than the push channels. Focus on listening to the voices of the customers and those people who matter to your business. Observe, respond and resolve the complaints, problems and service requests from the people on these social media. large organisations like British Gas, AT & T and Apple already are actively using social media like Twitter and Facebook to listen, respond and resolve customer complaints and issues.

 

5. Deliver congruent “experiences” consistently

The key to success for any business is to deliver delightful experiences to their customers. Whether you have products or services, instead of focusing too much on features and functionality, focus on the experience offered by them to your customers and users. These experiences too have to be consistent and unified across different channels, media, platforms and devices that you use to reach your customers.  Inconsistent experiences lead to customers feeling dissonance and they are left confused with too may messages in too many forms. To offer this unified experience to your customers, you must balance the various channels such as traditional, digital,online, mobile and social media. Read this post on how you could achieve this integrated, congruent experience across multiple channels and platforms.

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, do drop in with your feedback, suggestions and critiques to help improve the quality of our blogposts. Until next post, Ciao!

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Information Technology, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

In 2006,  Apple and Nike joined hands to develop Nike+iPod, that changed not only the way people listen to music on the move, but also the way they manage their fitness and in effect, their health and lifestyle. Just about the same time, Nintendo launched Wii, that changed the way people play games from being passive to an active, out-of-your-couch experience .  A decade ago, Google changed the way people navigated by shifting their focus from browsing to searching and now Facebook has changed the way people stay connected. All these products, beyond doubt, set out to change the behaviors of people who are motivated (I am not quite there yet:-) and are capable, if they are provided with the right resources.

           

You can change people’s behaviors

All the companies and products I mentioned above, proved that it is possible to use behavior modeling and design to effectively persuade people to do something positive. In this post and a few upcoming posts, I will touch upon how these companies and others have been successful in using the power of persuasion and behavior design. They have been effective not just in creating great products and services, but also in persuading and changing the behaviors of millions of customers and users, worldwide.  Let  us analyze and understand how they could do it and what really is the secret behind their success.  In doing this, I draw my insights from Prof. B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model (a.k.a FBM) to explain the relationship among behavior, motivation, ability and triggers.  But first, let us understand persuasion and behaviors, in detail, in this post.

Persuasion as an art and science

Persuasion has been an art we have all been familiar with and it definitely is not new to us, human beings . Right from the time we are born and as we grow up into being professionals, we have been using different persuasive techniques to deal with family, friends, colleagues and customers. Marketers and advertisers,  through the ages, have been  successful in persuading us to look at, buy and use products and services. Its only recently that product companies have been looking at using persuasion and changing  customers’ behaviors through structured and proven methodologies. More recently product companies like Fit Bit and DailyFeats-Jawbone launched wearable devices that help track your movements and proactively suggest ways to improve your fitness and health. Both these devices have been designed to persuade people to change their behavior, from a passive to a more active lifestyle. The key here is they have been successful in implementing the Persuasion and design and develop products to help change behaviors in a pragmatic manner.

What is a behavior

We keep hearing about goals, needs, tasks and activities, being used in our professional and personal spheres.  Now you  might  be wondering how behaviors are different from these. Behaviors are perhaps more fundamentally ‘human’ and ingrained in us as human beings, than say, tasks or  activities. No wonder then that behaviors could be separated from the other superficial aspects, such as activities and tasks . This is how I look at behaviors and I am not taking this from any specific source or resource.  The personality of an individual can be dependent on both her attitude and behaviors. There are numerous theories suggesting ways to bring about attitude change. But as Prof. B.J.Fogg suggests, behaviors are better separated from attitudes for a clear definition and  a focused approach to behavior change. So, I will follow the same approach and focus merely on defining target behaviors and bringing about the desired changes in behaviors of people.

Creating habits, not just products

Behaviors can come in different shapes and sizes. You might want to classify behaviors into different types based on the longevity or  duration of their  occurrence.

  1. Get people engaged in a one-time behavior  Eg., Replace all bulbs in house with eco-friendly energy-saving ones
  1. Do it over  some  duration or  for a defined period. Eg., Take bus/train to go to office, 3 days in a week
  1. Do it continuously over a long term, almost as a habit. Eg., Use hand-sanitizers to keep hands safe from viruses

It is in the last category, lies the interest of most organizations and products. Which company wouldn’t like to have   customers using their product on a continual basis? Or better still getting habituated to using the product to the extent of  forming an addiction.  Recent examples for this have been Google, Facebook and Twitter…all of them did implement this long term behavior change in a smart way by creating habits  in people, successfully. Google created searching as a habit by replacing it with the browsing navigation.  Facebook created the habit of  checking out what your friends are up to and sharing with your friends your recent escapades. Twitter provided a way for people to express and update their activities in a short sentence.  If you want to be successful in your business, then start looking beyond your product’s features and users’ needs. It is time, you looked at making positive behavioral changes to your users in different contexts.

      

Behaviors and their flavors

Behaviors can also be looked at from the perspective of what you like to do to them. Some times, you  may want to induce new behaviors, while in other instances, you want to change the existing behaviors – increase, decrease, or altogether  stop them.

  • New behaviors  can be imparted to people. Eg., flossing teeth is new, compared to brushing
  • Increase existing behaviors. Eg., Brush teeth twice a day, instead of once
  • Decrease existing behaviors. Eg. Take less quantity of fatty food during dinner
  • Stop existing behaviors. Eg., Stop  smoking (hmm…this is tricky:-)
Now that we have covered the basics of behaviors, we are now geared to get into the details. In the next posts, I shall explain, taking help from Prof.B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model, how you can be more persuasive in designing and developing your products. Until then, ciao!
Behavior Modeling & Design, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Behavior change it is, if you are wondering what’s hot in the consumer space. I see this as a game changer , with organizations now looking beyond satisfying the explicit needs of users. Simply put, as a product or a services company, you have the power  to change the behavior of your users. Apple, Google and Facebook  are great examples of  how well they understood the behavior modeling and persuasive design and successfully applied it in their products.  Numerous products such as FitBit and DailyFeats-Jawbone UP  use similar concepts to make people fit and healthy, bringing about a change in their long term habits, resulting in better health and lifestyles. We will talk about these products in the coming posts, in detail, but in this post I focus on the ‘persuasion and behavior design’ boot camp that I attended recently.

      

 Persuasion and Behavior Design Boot Camp by Prof. B.J.Fogg

Last week I participated in the 2-day Persuasion Boot Camp held at San Francisco, USA. The workshop was conducted by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. It was a great experience, learning directly from Prof.Fogg, who is an eminent thought-leader on this subject. In this post, I will briefly touch upon the next 2 paragraphs with my views and then give a few snippets and key takeaways from the workshop. I wish to share with you the learning from this workshop and also my experience applying it. Watch this space for interesting stuff to come in the future posts. For complete set of photos from this workshop, please visit www.facebook.com/texavi

Essence of Boot Camp in few words

I give below a few points briefly on how the workshop was conducted, why I think its different from others and the important takeaways from the boot camp. To start with, the following one-liners summarize the learning.

  • Its all about users’ behaviors, not just product’s features
  • Solutions, not just problems
  • Focus on creating solutions quickly
  • Ideate, initiate & Iterate
  • This model aligns with the agile development and lean startup
   

Myths and misconceptions, shattered

The workshop helped address a few myths that we have about product design, development, human psychology and behavior design. I mention below a few misconceptions prevalent in the industry that we should be wary of .

  • Blind trust in excessive academic research
  • Focus on features  is important for products
  • Attempts to motivating people on a continuous basis without simplifying the tasks
  • Focusing on attitudes, instead of behaviors.
  • Everything big is good – big ideas and big initiatives are always successful
  • Its difficult to make people adopt to new behaviors

Great content and context

The workshop was refreshingly different not only in the content but also in the context and delivery.  Open-house discussions and interactive brain-storming replaced the more traditional ways of presentations. I can say that the highlight of the boot camp was that there was little or almost no usage of computers and Powerpoint presentations. Going by its apt title, the boot camp did its job aiming to make the participants experts in the specific areas. Prof. Fogg chose the topics very carefully and was even more meticulous in their delivery. He ensured that the core concepts are registered in the minds of boot campers using intensive hands-on sessions and role-plays rather than relying on typical pedagogic methodology.

  

Nice ambiance and a perfect setting

Far from the maddening buzz of the urban landscape, the workshop was conducted in serene ambience.  Held in a beautiful guest house located by the riverside, the place was the best fit for learning and sharing . Also Healdsburg is a place surrounded with fertile land and so there is no dearth of natural vegetation. Every household here grows vegetables and fruits and no wonder you get the best quality natural products, direct from nature. This place also boasts of some fine vineyards and wineries around. All of these provide a great backdrop and a wonderful setting for the workshop.

  

And to wrap it up…

  • Good use of different rooms and sometimes outdoors kept the workshop alive and participants active
  • Outdoor activities and exercises were nice, thanks to the pleasant weather
  • Perfect blend of individual and group exercises made the sessions insightful and interactive, as well
  • Assignments right after discussions ensured that we applied the concepts to understand better
  • Interactions with alumni and previous bootcampers helped understand the value of the boot camp
  • Last but not the least, nice food and to top it all, a grand dinner  arranged by the local wine trader
In the next few posts, I shall write more on the behavior model and how you can use the behavior design to create persuasive products and services. Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Until next one, ciao!
Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience

As you all know, during the recently held “Lets talk iPhone” event, Apple officially announced the launch of  iPhone4S, iOS5 and iCloud. While it was a disappointment to some people who were expecting the big upgrade to iPhone4, that’s beside the point I want to make in this post. Rewind to April2010, when Apple first launched iPad, as the first ever consumer Tablet in the market. There was a knee-jerk reaction from lot of people, who rejected Apple’s new Tablet concept. There were more naysayers who expressed that they didn’t find any use for it and that the iPad was just a “glorified and bigger iPhone which can’t be used for calls”.  Its everybody’s knowledge how that perception and reactions changed drastically over a period of time. Apple created the undisputed benchmark and a leader in the Tablets market, with many more companies bucking the trend and releasing their me-too versions. In this post, let us look at what it takes to create great products by managing users’ reactions and how you can better define the product.

Great products vs. good products

Some times, you would have come across products that not only have features and functionality to help you do the mundane tasks, but also fit in very well into your life and work. Discerning readers like you are very well aware that there is a difference between great products and good products. Great products differ in that they offer rich context, enable users to realize their goals and enchant them satisfying their implicit and unmet needs. These often go beyond the briefing and provide more than just nice features. Its true that not all products are created with this intent and that they gain users’ acceptance slowly over time.

iPhone and iPad

How users relate and adopt to new products

I have seen an almost pattern-like behavior from users on how they react to products launched as groundbreaking new concepts which go on to become a huge success. I call this the 5A model of User reactions to new products. It starts with an almost hatred like feeling towards the new product. This is because users develop habits with the existing products and are happy using them the way they are. They perceive the new product as a change and a potential threat to their comfort. This could be because of the innate behavior of aversion to change and anything new. Then over time, due to various factors, both external and internal, customers tend to develop an acquired taste for the product.

The 5A model for product adoption

The perceptions and reactions of users to new products almost always follows a gradual progression of steps leading to great adoration for the products. I am not sure if anybody has patented this model already, but these terms came to my mind 3 months ago, when I was working on a new concept product for one of my clients.

  1. Aversion
  2. Acceptance
  3. Admiration
  4. Aspiration
  5. Adoration

I observed this model applicable to many successful products, tracing back to the times of their launch, how they changed with marketing, alignment to business and better product definition.  One of the most successful product companies, Apple and its successful creation, the iPad are not an exception to this model, as we discussed above.

Ask what you are creating

The trickiest thing in developing new products is in understanding, defining and communicating what your product is and what it can do. Most products fail, not because they are designed badly or implemented in a technically incorrect way. They fail because the product vendors could not communicate the purpose and benefits of the product clearly to the customers and users. Or worse still, products are hit the hardest, when the product owners themselves are not clear about the vision and definition of their product.

How to define your new product

Innovation and thinking differently often help you in defining your product, which is a first step in paving the way for its success. The standing example for a successful application of innovation with thinking big is Metamorphosi which changed the way lamps and lighting are created.

Lighting Solution, not just a lamp  Metamorfosi_lighting_solution

While every other player in this market thinks of creating better and attractive table lamps, Artemide realized that they are not merely creating lamps, but helping keep people in better mood through their lighting. So, they decided their product definition as not just as a lamp, but a ‘lighting solution’! Small wonder that Artemide and Metamorfosi are equated to innovation in the home decor segment that triggered many admirers, followers and copy cats too, all around the world.

New product development checklist

The critical success factor in the product development is having a clear vision, direction and purpose for the product or application, that you are creating. You need to define the scope, intent and content of your product, which help in translating the vision into the product design, development and delivery. It is often necessary to go beyond the immediate form and name of the product under description. Do not get attached to, nor be limited by the physical aspects of your product. I always do a check with the following parameters to decide how well we are doing and whether we are on the right path. I use these as a definitive check list to assess the potential success of your product or concept.

  • Business viability
  • Technical feasibility
  • Product usability
  • Resource availability
  • Consistent Quality

The above factors play a decisive and definitive role in the assessment of your product’s potential and performance. Do not underestimate the potential of validating your product against this check list. This would give you a very good measure of how your product is faring and in what direction it is heading to. You can then take necessary course correction and take preventive steps to steer your product back on track. We can talk in detail about applying each of these in the context of your new product, in a separate blog post.

Hope you found this post informative and usable. Happy Diwali to all my Indian friends and followers. Until next post, ciao!