Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

It is beyond doubt that the current times of digital, mobile and social age demand professionals who are versatile, agile, sociable and dynamic. Business Analysts and product specialists are no exception to this. Whether its due to the industry demands, peer pressure, market needs or pure evolutionary tactics, BAs today are far more leading-edge, competitive, assertive and visionary contributors to the products, processes and businesses, at large. From an also-ran team player role, new-age analysts have come a long way as the multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and multi-dimensional professionals. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets of the new-age Business Analyst and how they are adapting to the continual changes happening in the spheres of business, technology, professional and personal lives.

Emergence of the new-age BA/PO

As we discussed in the previous posts, there have been several factors that led to the emergence and evolution of the Business Analyst. The BA today moved on from just a requirements owner and a document expert and is now addressing several facets around products, processes, business and technology. Their focus still remains pretty much around the problem space, compared to the facilitation role in the solution space. The analysts identify problems, dependencies, needs and opportunities. However,  products, processes and business domains. The BAs today have been involved in scoping, release management, continuous engagement with customers and users, strategising, laying out roadmap, and working with multiple teams.  In a nutshell, the Business Analyst of the modern age is much like a leader, architect, soldier, team player…all rolled into one.

NBA_Leader.Architect.Soldier.Team Player_Texavi

Leader, architect, soldier, team player & more – the new-age BA

From being an analyst, the BA needs to transform into a leader, architect, soldier, team player and perhaps many more such roles, all rolled into one. Of course, they need not be all of these roles at the same time. The analyst today has to don one, few or all of these various roles based on the context, time, stage of implementation as befits the occasion. During the initial stages, the emphasis could be on being an architect, while during the scoping it could be that of a soldier. However, throughout the project, or initiative analysts have to keep their hat of leader and team player, no matter what stage the work is in. I touch upon the four primary facets of the new-age Business Analyst in the following paragraphs.

1. Sensible leader, not just an also-ran

You can’t talk enough about the all-imperative skill and art of analysts to work with people. They must have their hands firmly on the pulse of the different categories of people. These include the various stakeholders – direct and indirectly responsible for the product and process, from senior management all the way through to people working on the factory floor. As an able leader, the analysts must not only lead the way, but also set an example by following and working along with the team members. They should  listen actively, take steps pro-actively and be able to put in their efforts with sustainable passion, drive and commitment to achieve this shared vision and common goals.

2. Architect and a builder, not just another player

New-age business analysts must be able to look beyond the near term goals and benefits. They must have a really good and long term vision to not only lead themselves but also the team members and the organisation, at large. They must think far and beyond, using their rich experience, in-depth and specialised domain expertise. The added advantage is that these help the analysts with a “peripheral vision” around the markets, business domains, products, processes and technologies.  Besides, the new-age analyst adds great value by laying a robust roadmap that is flexible, scalable, high-performing.

3. A soldier, well-equipped and prepared

Like a soldier, who is well-equipped and well-prepared to face any kind of challenges, the new-age analyst must be prepared with all the right tools, methods and a positive attitude. The very nature and aptitude of business analysts help them to stay on the top of their game, be it at home or outside their turf. Their ability to adapt easily and quickly depending on the situation helps build on to the agility of the new-age analysts.  Analysts’ skills of being sensitive, scrupulous and open-minded, help them usable insights from ideas and actionable intelligence from information. In addition to these, the BAs try to keep ahead by addressing all possible scenarios, potential challenges and constraints, internal and external dependencies and assumptions – stated and implicit.

4. Team player, not just a one-person show

Business analysts over the ages had been looked at more as specialised consultants who come in, do their work and get out. The contribution of analysts is considered from the prism of a “support” role who comes in early in the project, find problems, specify scope and requirements and exits the scenario. However, with the advent of agile practices such as Scrum, user stories, XP, BDD and TDD being put in place, organisations are increasingly looking for analysts to be well-integrated into the development teams. The analysts today are very much an integral part of the teams and by being  participative, they contribute to the collective value delivered by the team. So, new-age analysts are equally adept at being followers and team members themselves as much as they excel at leading the teams.

I hope this post helped you understand the many dimensions, skills and demands of the new-age business analyst. We will cover more specific details on the tools, and methods for the business analyst/product owner in the upcoming posts, until then, ciao!

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Experience

Ever since the role of Business Analyst came into being, they have been associated with one specific area more than anything else. That is requirements and over the last four decades or so, the words analysts and analysis  have become synonymous with requirements.  In a traditional project or product development context,one of the frequently asked questions for a Business Analyst undoubtedly  is “Where are the requirements?”. However, in the recent times of agile methodologies and lean processes, like all other roles in technology and business, BAs too have had a significant makeover. In this post, I will touch upon this transition and look at the all powerful tool kit of the new age business analysts.

Texavi_NBA_Transformation

Business Analyst as the owner of requirements 

BAs traditionally had been responsible primarily for requirements in a product development or project execution scenario. Even though the role of business analyst involves right from the pre-sales stage all the way through to the project delivery, their focus area had always been scoping and requirements areas. BAs traditionally had their mainstay contribution to the product/project starting with requirements gathering, and then specifying and documenting requirements and communicating them to the stakeholders ranging from the management to the team members and from customers to the end-users.

Not just requirements in terms of the functionality, the influence and focus areas of the analyst could well be extended to some of the adjacent areas. Besides requirements, the reach of the BA would still be restricted to the peripheral aspects such as vision, scope and roadmap for the product, system, process or business in question. BAs have been made the masters and owners of requirements. This has been the case with the various roles, forms and names of the business analyst – be it a business consultant, product specialist, functional consultant or a domain expert.

Traditional meaning and scope of requirements

 So, what exactly do I mean by requirements in the traditional sense of the business analyst’s focus? Let me clarify this very important point with some examples. Requirements traditionally meant the long list of documents that ran into hundreds and thousands of pages. Some were called as Business Requirements Documents (BRD) while some others were referred to in the eighties and nineties as System Requirements Specifications (SRS) during the time of SSAD (Structured Systems Analysis and Design) times. As we moved slowly into the software analysis and development, the focus of the BAs slowly shifted into writing Functional Requirements Specification (FRS) and Software Requirements Specification (SRS) documents. You can notice that its just a change of the name, however the perspective, work and the output of the analysts still remained the same.

NBA_Texavi_Blog_31Jan2014

New age BA goes beyond documentation

In the age and times that we now live in, virtually everyone and everything  is going digital, mobile, agile and social. Like all other professions and roles which have undergone a huge shift, BAs too have had a significant change, after a really long time. The actual transformation in the role, responsibilities and contribution of the analysts came with the introduction of agile development methodologies like SCRUM, BDD (Behaviour Driven Development) and User Stories.  As we started implementing more and more agile and lean methodologies in the businesses, products and projects, the role of the business analysts has a far reaching impact on how the end products or processes shape up.

Texavi on the NBA requirements and communication

Today’s analysts need to move beyond the realms of requirements area and become more versatile and tech-savvy. All the way from interactions with key stakeholders through to the time the product or process has been delivered, the new age BA has to actually work with the team members. Analysts have to actively engage with various people involved in the project, product, process or business context and work alongside them analyse, design, develop, deliver and continually enhance the solution. This means that the analysts have to now create various artefacts such as the product backlog, user stories, wireframes, domain models, solutions models, prototypes and test cases, to name a few. I will discuss the details  of how the new age business analyst creates and works with these more effectively, in a separate post.

Hope you found the post useful – like always, please feel free to drop in with your valuable feedback. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

In an age of rapid changes in the business, technology and lifestyles, organisations and individuals alike have to be adaptive. Business Analysts are not an exception to this much alike the other professionals. What does it take to be a modern day business analyst. Is it just the logical thinking, sound communication skills, good domain knowledge? Yes, these are all necessary but not sufficient. The modern day business analysts have to be agile, suave and tech savvy. They need to be adaptive and quick to embrace change, not just to survive but to succeed. In this post, we will look at what it takes to be a successful business analyst in this new-age of digital, mobile, agile and social times.

Transformation of business analysis in the new-age

Business analysis today is less of writing requirements in long documents and more of working with the design and development team. Its about owning the product roadmap, business strategy and/or the organisational processes. Gone are the days of writing up functional specifications documents running into hundreds and thousands of pages, spending months and years. Its the time for them to be agile and lean, and move on from being traditional verbose document writers. So business analysts today have to write user stories, create wireframes and mockups, model problems and solutions, validate and test the functionality.  They must be open to change and pro-actively understand the impact of changes on business, technology, products and people.

NBA_platform_Definition_Framework

Business analysis is changing and how

From a traditional perspective,  BAs needed to be good with communication skills. They were positioned as domain experts and to some extent looked up as product specialists. Some analysts have been positioned as specialists in business process management. However, in the last few years, business analysts have moved on from mere requirements owners to product/process owners. With the extensive use of agile practices, business analysts too emerged as the change management experts. In this digital, mobile, agile and social age, the focus of business analyst has shifted to user stories, customers and users engagement, stakeholder management, modeling domain, problems and solutions. In short, the modern day business analyst is versatile, cross-disciplined, tech-savvy, agile  and a team-working professional.

NBA_platform_BusinessAnalysis_New_Age

The new-age Business Analyst’s toolset

I give below a diagrammatic representation of the toolset for the modern day business analysts. This provides a snapshot of the fundamental set of skills and knowledge that power the BAs today.

NBA_BA_Skills-and-knowledge_Toolset

Alongside the mainstream skills, the business analyst needs to be a master of communication and leadership skills. From interacting with the key stakeholders, engaging with customers and users, and working alongside the team members, business analysts must have excellent “people skills”.  Also, technology has been playing a key role in the design, development and delivery of products and services today. So, needless to say that the business analysts today have to be aware of the technologies, platforms and the application of these technologies to business context. I don’t however see that the business analysts have to be experts in technology but then they must be able to use technical applications, tools and methods to understand problems and help create solutions. Also, the new-age BAs have to be creative and be equally good with the right brain as much as they are comfortable with the data and analytics.

Hope you find this post useful – as always, please feel free to get back with your review comments and helpful feedback. On behalf of Team Texavi, I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year, 2014! May your personal and professional lives be filled with joy, prosperity and success! Until next post, ciao!

         

 

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Life, Social business, User Experience

It’s that time of the year again when we make resolutions for newer and better things. While some of us vouch to take the route of a healthier lifestyle, some others may opt to being more productive at work. New year resolutions are indeed a nice trigger for behaviour change. At an individual level, people themselves initiate changes in their behaviours, being driven by their own goals.  However, businesses also attempt to change the behaviours of their customers and users. In this post, let us look at what behaviour change really is and how to define correctly the target behaviours.

What is behaviour change

Behaviour change can be defined as acquiring new behavours, increasing or decreasing or stopping altogether the existing behaviours. It can result from the motivation to change and the simplicity in adopting the new or changed behaviours. Sometimes these behaviours, over a longer term, can result in the formation of new habits or cutting down on the current habits.

 

Habits and behaviours

Behaviour change can happen when you attempt one of the following:

  1. Do new
  2. Do different or do more of the existing
  3. Stop or do less of the existing

For instance, a change in the existing behaviour can be to wake up from bed 30 minutes earlier. Whereas a new behaviour can be to learn ice-skating, a decrease in existing behaviour can be a resolution to cut down on eating high-fat food every Thursday.

What are behaviours

It is important to understand what target behaviours are and how we can make use of them to our advantage. First, let us look at the common misconceptions and myths about behaviours. Please note that behaviours are not

  • About tasks or processes alone
  • Those that effect people in a short term
  • Always linked to the attitudes and personalities

BehaviourChange_Texavi

This brings us to the question as to what behaviours actually are. I would like to highlight the key aspects of a behaviour in the following points:

  • Can be about actions and their outcomes – personal, professional or both
  • Spread over a longer period, potentially leading to habits
  • Involve creating new ones, changing or stopping the existing ways
  • Are purely about the actions or behaviours

Defining the target behaviours – the right way!

Before you attempt to change the behaviours, an important step is defining the target behaviours and defining them correctly. When defining the behaviours ask the following questions:

  • Am I defining a behaviour, in the first place?
  • How crisp is the behaviour definition?
  • Can I make it any crispier?
  • Who are the target people for this behaviour?

An example of a good behaviour definition that I recently came across is the “Get London Reading” campaign. Launched by the Evening Standard newspaper, this campaign is aimed at increasing the literacy levels in schools. With a crisp definition of the objective, this campaign  is an example of defining the target behaviours well.

Here is how to define behaviours

After defining target behaviours, let us look at what makes a good behaviour definition. I give below a few simple rules that you might want to keep as a reference checklist:

  • Start the behavior definition with an action word/verb
  • Use simple words and terms. Eg., get, make, do etc.
  • Be brief and specific. Verbose statements don’t help anybody
  • Focus only on behaviour – leave out attitude and personality
  • Ignore the process or implementation. Aim at the end result

As they say, “Well begun is half done”, by now you have completed the most important thing in behaviour change.  After this step, we need to identify the ways and means of how we are going to achieve the target behaviours. Let us look at this topic in the upcoming post. Hope the new year 2013 brings in joy, peace and success to all of you.

Behavior Modeling & Design, Conference, Events, Information Technology, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

“Social media is not an option for businesses, any more!” and “Markets are conversations” – these phrases pretty much reverberated among the speakers, visitors and organisations participating in the Social Media World Forum-2012, London. Held over 2-days at Olympia, London from 27-28 March, the conference reiterated the importance and urgency of socialisation of business, marketing and media. Great ambience, pleasant crowds, nice talks on current topics, insightful panel discussions and 1000’s of tweets buzzing the twitterwall….the #SMWF ( as it is popularly referred to) was a great place to be for businesses and professionals alike! Texavi took an active part this year, exhibiting at the event, by setting up a booth and demonstrating our capabilities. During the 2 days, Texavi’s stand received good visitors and the feedback during and after the event had been very encouraging. For photos and more updates on the #SMWF, visit Texavi’s web site and our Facebook Page.

SMWF London 2012 - Texavi exhibits at Social Media World Forum     Texavi exhibits at #SMWF 2012, London

Active participation from businesses and individuals

SMWF 2012 was well attended by businesses and people from all around Europe and a few from parts of Asia as well. Focusing on the core theme of social media, the conference catered to five streams — Social business, social TV, social shopping, mobile marketing and of course, social media. Besides the well-decorated and themed booths spread across the entire hall, there were workshops, talks, and panel discussions on the five streams. The topics for these workshops and talks were carefully chosen, ranging from the ubiquitous Facebook-focused marketing to the semantic analysis, and the more strategic aspects of brand management and social business enablement. For more information on the event, you can visit the official site.

Talk at SMWF  Interesting presentation at SMWF  Conversations at SMWF

Texavi @SMWF,2012

Texavi is proud and happy to have been associated with the SMWF this year. We set up a booth and exhibited our offerings to the visitors who showed keen interest. The visitors to Texavi’s stand no.10 were both excited and impressed by what we had got on the show. Participating in SMWF proved to be a good decision for Texavi as we got to meet some really nice people and had interesting inquiries. Texavi’s offerings stood out among the exhibiting lot, because of our unique, simple yet powerful frameworks. Out of the very few organisations focusing on the most important aspects for social business enablement, Texavi’s   unified and convergent experience framework and behaviour change and persuasion framework struck the right chords among the enthusiastic participants. For the brochures that we gave away at the booth, you can visit Texavi’s Downloads page. 

Booth at SMWF 2012  Visitors at Texavi's stand No.10 in SMWF

What’s special at SMWF2012

The main attraction of the event had been a specially built Twitterwall right in the centre of the venue, with a continual stream of the tweets about and around the topics of the event. This worked almost like a live heartbeat of the buzz going around in the event. Even though it was early Spring, the sunny weather outside did make people hang out at the bar lounge right in the centre which kept the conversations going. There was a special gaming zone where people could get their hands dirty with the latest and the most entertaining games. The workshops and talks were held at the specially set-up theatres in the corners to streamline the participants. Add to that the special attraction at SMWF was the messaging facility, for those tired after going around the stands and attending the workshops.

Lounge at SMWF  Gaming zone at SMWF Tweet board at SMWF

Key takeaways from #SMWF

As you would have guessed by now, SMWF helped participants with the right information, insights and networking opportunities. Though there are many a takeaway from the conference, I am attempting to do the impossible task of summarising the key points, below.

  • Social media and social marketing are not an option anymore for businesses
  • Social media is not just the responsibility of marketing /PR departments
  • Markets are conversations
  • Brands can reach out to their customers and leverage their reputation, thanks to social media
  • Gibson Guitars, Lego bricks are cases in point to show how big brands can be more effective when they get social

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to click through the links I provided all through, for more interesting photos, updates and information. Also, do drop in your feedback for making Texavi blog better. Until next post, ciao!

 

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

There is one news item that I have been following very keenly in the evening newspaper , going back home from work, daily. It caught my attention a week ago and ever since, it has been on my radar. The news is not  related to the bad state of economy, nor  connected with  sports , movies or  music. It is the ‘Get London Reading’  news story  published on the front page of  London Evening Standard newspaper.  This caught my attention because of the very title of the campaign and the positive vibes being generated and the potential impact and change it would create. The very title of this initiative is a great example of a behavior  definition, nevertheless if it is a tad bit broad and ambitious, if not ambiguous.

Behavior change is possible

In my last post, we looked at what behaviors are and the main types of behaviors. Some people actually asked me the difference between a behavior, goal and task. When I have seen the ‘Get London Reading’  campaign, it instantly occurred to me as an example to help clarify this. A quick look at the campaign page hosted online will give you an indication why I refer to this as an exemplary behavior change programme.  Well, in this post , let us take the next step and understand the Behavior Model touching upon the relationship between motivation, ability and triggers.  I wish to draw some insights from Fogg Behavior Model (aka FBM)  proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, using my examples.

The Poppy Appeal – Persuasion success story

A couple weeks ago, people in the UK observed Remembrance Sunday paying tributes to the armed forces personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of  service.  People from all walks of life came forward to commemorate the bravery of  soldiers  in various ways. There were  donations collected in different forms , the most visible of them being the Web site making the ‘poppy appeal’  and of  course, the sale of poppies on the roads. You would have seen  many people in London and other cities wearing and flaunting these poppies proudly, to show their support to the Royal British Legion. The poppy appeal  program is a massive hit, garnering generous amounts of funds, besides all the attention. I wish to take the poppy appeal case as a success s story to elaborate my case about persuasion and behavior change.

    

Will do -> Want to do + can do

Let us consider a case when somebody comes and asks you to donate funds for the cause of soldiers. How many people will  donate  the money? Notice that some people do want  to donate, because it is serving the noble  cause  of  helping the defence services personnel, albeit  in a small way. But not always do you find that all these motivated people can actually give.  So, it is not enough to want to give funds, but  most importantly, people should also have the ability to donate amounts. Great, so you found some people who want to and also who can donate. Is the job done? Not exactly. They need to be asked, reminded and provided with ways to  donate . These are all the various triggers  used to facilitate these motivated and able people to take the step and donate the amounts. Then and only then, would the motivated and able people come forward to donate.

Fogg Behavior Model (FBM)

So, from the above example, let us try and generalize this  using the Behavior Model proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. You would have understood that people will do a task, not only when they  are motivated but also when they have the  ability.  In other words, the first step in the process of behavior change is to identify those people who have high motivation.  The next step is to simplify the task or  process, or to increase their ability to do the task.

However, it does not always happen that these people actually do the tasks, until they are triggered with the right call to action. These triggers have to be placed on the journeys or paths of these people,  at the right time, in the right place and with the right visibility. That’s the secret  behind many successful products and services, which have been able to bring about a behavior change  in their users.

Change is in the air – Lean & agile

You  would have seen that this persuasion and behavior modeling is all about change, but change of a different kind.  Organizations and products have been trying to induce the behavior change in the people.  The beauty of this model is that it perfectly aligns with the spirit of other successful contemporary models for change management . These include  but not limited to Agile product development and lean startup. All these models and schools of thought have an almost similar ideology. Agile product development is about identifying and responding and managing changes with the right people, tools and techniques. Lean startup embraces the philosophy of doing something in a small way leading up to a gradual and sustainable growth model.  The behavior model encompassing behavior  modeling, behavior change and persuasive design combines the best practices from psychology, change management, design and product  engineering areas.

Mantras for changing behaviors

FBM is a powerful model which is applicable across different industries, product lines and market segments. It is very apt in the scenarios where you wish to make a long term behavior change, with an aim to make a positive habit among your customers and users. Here are some tips and guidelines, given by Prof. Fogg, based on the points discussed in this post.

  • Behavior depends on how motivated users are, their  ability and response to the right triggers for action
  • People’s behaviors can be changed by motivating them, making it simple and/or  inciting them to act
  • Place triggers on the paths of motivated people who are able to do the behaviors
  • Habits can be formed in people through behavior change
  • Focus on increasing ability by making tasks easier for users
  • Help people  do what  they already want to do

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and it is as helpful to you as the previous ones. 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!
Agile Development, Information Technology, Life, Product Development

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”.  When I pondered over this popular quote of Charles Darwin, the other day, it occurred to me that ‘change’ is a profound phenomenon that impacts the way we live, work and do virtually every task. Change affects to a large extent, every human being in every phase and walk of life…young and old, rich and poor. Not only people, but organizations too have ‘change’ staring in their face and they have a greater responsibility to manage it and use it to their advantage. In this post, I will touch upon the key aspects of managing change and how organizations need to respond effectively.

The writing is on the wall

When they say that change is the only constant in this world, they meant it to the letter and spirit. Understand that everything is bound to change one day or the other in one way or the other. Don’t think that change is a negative thing and that we need to avoid it, evade it or confront it, to the least. On the contrary, change is for the benefit of all of us and take it as a positive factor that drives us in our lives and careers. Change is inevitable, be prepared for it and embrace it with all the preparation you can.

“Change, for your good
Change to take the lead
Change to be the best!”
 
Ride on the waves of change

In the context of product development and management too, change does play its role to a large extent and leaves its rather heavy imprints. Here, it does touch and signify its presence across all the strata starting from stakeholders, to customers and from partners to the development team. And to manage this change at various levels, organizations need to rely not just on their traditional abilities such as reputation, market capitalization, production capacities etc. To stay ahead in this game of managing change and lead the pack, organizations need to be nimble-footed, flexible and embrace change and act swiftly. Don’t fight change, you may not win the battle and it is not worth the effort. Instead try and ride on the waves of change and you will potentially have a joy ride.

Factoring for change – external and internal

The most important reason for success is to aspire for and be prepared for it. I like the Scouts movement started by Robert Baden Powell and the motto with which the cadets are trained. Every Scout lives by the motto “Be Prepared” and is ready to face, come what may. The Scouts go through a series of training sessions, equipped with the right tools and techniques to be prepared all the time. Similarly, organizations and especially product managers have to follow a few things to do as a precursor and warm up to the game of managing change effectively.

Identify all the potential factors that could affect your organization and products. Categorize them into external and internal factors for easy listing. Some of the external factors that are possibly candidates for change are the market forces, competition,  out-of-control factors related to demand and supply dynamics, Government policies etc. The internal factors could be the capabilities of your own development teams, their skill sets, organizational set up, company policies and politics, to name a few. Of course, these factors could vary from industry to industry and also depends on the nature, size and type of the product you are developing or managing.

To be and to do 

The most important thing is to know what you want to be and what you need to do to reach that stage.

  • Identify the strategic vision of the organization
  • Put together the long term, medium term and short terms goals for the business
  • Identify the key stakeholders who directly influence or influenced by these goals
  • Get all stakeholders aligned and seek their commitment

After you are done with listing the ‘to be’ goals, map them with the internal and external change factors that you identified earlier. The next immediate step is the creation of a ‘to do’ list which is derived from the mapping of ‘to be’ and the internal and external change factors. Often this list of action items is all you need to kick start a movement in your organization. I can’t prescribe the ‘to be’ points as they vary to a great extent based on the industry, domains, your own organization goals, products, people and processes. When you have this list by you, your product can be said to be put on the track. Once on the track, it is entirely up to you as a product manager to drive it in a way to meet the ‘to be’ goals.

Making elephants dance

What among the two items do you think makes it to breaking news- a dancing hyena or a dancing elephant? You are right, its the dancing elephant that makes it to the rolling marquee. It might be for various reasons, but sticking to the subject of the post, I wish to focus on the abilities of a dancing elephant such as its size, presence, and respect that make it a head-turner along with its newly acquired talent of dancing. The combination of agility with the abilities such as market presence, strong brand, talented workforce etc., would work wonders for your organizations and products. It is this healthy blend of the critical success factors and better change management tactics that make successful companies and products.

When I was doing my MBA, a few years ago, I read a book written by Louis Gerstner “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? – Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround”. I loved the way that a company of the size and presence of IBM could be successful despite its size. IBM today is a 100 year-old organization which has seen itself grow from a company making ‘adding machines’ to a pure-play services company that it is today.

   

Everyone would have been surprised when IBM (I guess in 2005) announced that it was selling their PC business to Lenovo. I still remember some people questioning the decision to move out of the business which the company had grown out of as bread and butter for almost 50 years. Even Mr.Gerstner would not have imagined that IBM would rewrite its own History in such a bold way. But, IBM stood by its decision, after reading the writing on the wall, assessing their own strengths and heading up the path of action. A classic case in managing change, using the agility as the key over abilities as the key differentiation.

Agility is the key 

Think of something that could work. Try it for sometime and check if it  is working or not. Adapt it to suit your goals and continue the process. This is the only way to manage the ever-changing landscape of products market. To be able to manage change on a continuous basis, it is not enough if you do the above things once and leave them there.

Here are my tips for making agility as your all-weather friend!

  • Take a few tasks and stick to them religiously. Discipline is paramount for success
  • Be always on the lookout – learn, apply and share the learning
  • Look, observe, listen and understand what is happening around you
  • Revisit your change factors, to be and to do items continually
  • Assess where you are, where you need to go and re-plan how you can reach there
  • Restructure your teams to suit the ever changing demands
  • Try new and different ways of doing things
  • Don’t be too rigid with products, processes and people

Hope you have some useful takeaways from this post. Try the tips I gave here and see if it works for you. Let me know your views and ideas. Till the next post, ciao!

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience

Apple, Google, Facebook, Toyota, Coca Cola, Nike, Microsoft, BMW… what is common to all of these. Yes, they are all leaders in their respective industries and markets.  But the one thing that ties them all is their sustained commitment to their vision and the values they stand for.  However, I think the real secret behind their success is an aspect of their leadership and that is what I call ‘the pursuit of  innovation’. This is indeed the true differentiating factor that separates the leaders from followers and distinguishes the champions from the players.

As part of this post,  I touch upon a few aspects of how we can seek innovation by leveraging our strengths and managing change. I also give a  few real life organizations and their products to understand the practical aspects of seeking innovation for greater value creation. We can draw lessons from these as to how one needs to pursue innovation and leverage it for continual success and leadership. This is not an exhaustive list though and there are a lot of different ways and perspectives to look at innovation and imbibe it in our own organizations and work spheres.

Focus on value-creation, not technology

When we talk about innovation, invariably technology gets highlighted more often and in some cases innovation is equated with better technology. Yes, technology is perhaps the best medium to deliver innovation and it is undoubtedly the most-successful factor in transitioning your vision into reality. If you are a technology company and your core offering itself is technology, then of course, you can safely lean on it and claim that you are have innovated and created better technology. However, in most cases, bear in mind that technology is merely a vehicle and the real driver is business. And the key is the value delivered to your stakeholders, customers and users.

Turn threats into opportunities

Take any industry, any segment and any product line, we already have hundreds and thousands of companies, brands and products. Globalization would have brought about huge benefits but along with the opportunities, it also brought about threats for companies. They have new competition now and not just new but this competition comes in different sizes, shapes and formats. With the advent of Internet there is another aspect of  ‘opportunity-threat’ that manifested itself to organizations, worldwide.

The Web, they claim is the largest communication device ever invented by man. It changed the way we work, live, and communicate. It also brings with it another aspect and this time in the form of intense competition. Your biggest competitor is just a click away and within a few seconds an impression could be created and a deal is made or lost. But then all is not lost yet and you can turn this to your advantage. The real secret of success with Web lies in how well you embrace it for your advantage.

Not a destination, but a journey

Innovation is not a one-time activity which an organization or individual does once to achieve success. To succeed and lead the pack, we need to innovate continually and our  products and services should be a reflection of this. There is no place for contentment in this dynamic world where the cliched saying ‘Change is the only constant’ is true to its letter and spirit.  Continual improvement in products and services and consistent delivery of value is what separates the leaders from the followers.

For instance, Apple never moves away from their mantra of delivering superior experiences to their users and this philosophy is pretty much reflected very strongly in all their products ranging from Macintosh to  iPod and from iPhone to iPad. It is Apple’s constant endeavor to keep their users on top, and make them happy with every new product line, product, and release that they create.

Leverage your strengths

One way to pursue innovation is by identifying your strengths and leveraging them for your competitive advantage. Every organization needs to pursue the case of innovation and champion the cause of their users’ delight. No matter how big or small the organization is, how large or small the market is, how specialized or generic the offering is…every organization has to strive to strike the right chord with their users. Only this would help these organizations to be successful with their offering, whether its a product or a service.

A case in point is Bose audio systems which prides themselves with the tagline ‘Better sound through research’ . Amar Bose, who started off the company as an extension of his research project at M.I.T., came out with his offering of better sound supported through an innovative approach. Bose, with their Wave technology and its application, broke the myth that ‘bigger the speaker, better was the sound’. Focusing on delivering better user experiences, Bose took over the market and continued to churn out products that offer greater value and experience to users.

Make a difference – create ‘the change’

The only way to survive in this competitive world is to cut the clutter and make a difference. I came across this interesting quote about change – ‘People who change after change survive. People who change with the change, succeed. People  who cause the change, lead’. How true and relevant in the ‘melting pot’ world that we are living in, nowadays!

Dyson is renowned the world over for their hand dryers. Dyson’s hand dryers are known for their efficient, hygienic and energy-saving capabilities. Dyson did not stop at delivering great drying experience to their users and value for their customers.  They leveraged their command over the air flow technology and created an alternative approach to a ubiquitous product  that we all know and use, a fan. Yes, Dyson invented  the blade-less circular fans which are efficient, easy to maintain and comfortable to use. Again, a case of making a difference despite the size of the organization, product, or market, thereby offering unmatched innovation through delightful user experience.