This post walks you through with an overview of Texavi, what we do, who we are and where we serve. You will also get to see the core services and offerings, practices and focus areas of Texavi. With this presentation, you will know how we can help you and the benefits for you, working with us.
‘You are the Controller‘ says Kinect, the new gaming experience from Microsoft. Kinect beats its nearest rivals Sony Playstation and Nintendo Wii on the concept of playing games with a handheld motion controller. While PS3 requires you to play games with its ‘Move’ and Wii with Wiimote (or Wii Remote), Kinect doesn’t require any external motion controllers.
Why am I so excited about Kinect that I have started this blog post with it? I am not so much of a gaming freak to compare and contrast the quality of the games, nor am I interested in analyzing the top three ‘players’ from a business view in this market segment. I am really excited by Kinect’s promise of giving the control to YOU, the user. Well, in this post, I wish to review a few of the successful products out there in the market, analyzing why and how they thrived in the world of me-too products and those offering not so pleasant usage experiences.
YOU are the focus
Not just Microsoft or Kinect, but nowadays there are quite a few companies and products which are trying to lure you. They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, industries and domains. In this post, I will touch upon a few of them that have made a mark and succeeded in keeping their products, services and brands You-focused.
They make YOU (the users) omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent
Vodafone repositioned itself by giving “Power to YOU“. With the advent of innovation in the Telecom industry, jumping from 2G to 3G to 3.5G has been a breeze. Faster downloads, better connectivity and more things to do such as streaming videos etc., offered by the advanced technologies such as 3G provide a fillip to the users’ experience. Now, you can work faster, easier and better accessing your mails on the go, watching Cricket and Football matches when and where you want, watching the previews of latest movie releases.
They make you super-hero
Sample this, Yahoo which struggled to get it right for the most part of the initial releases of its products, for once changed its positioning and perhaps along with it, a few of its products design too. Along comes an enhanced and delightful Yahoo mail and Yahoo’s portal. There was a sea change in the way users now interact with Yahoo’s products and no guessing why all this happened. Yes, Yahoo realized and believe strongly that “YOU are the new master of the digital universe.”
They make you happy
Canon, with its continual innovation in the imaging products has been “Delighting YOU always“. If you look at the innovation that happened in the cameras and phtotography areas over the last few decades, you will agree with Canon. There were the days when you had to go to a certain photographer to get yourselves shot and wait for days to see the output. When on the first glimpse of your photo you felt really happy and pleased. You were delighted then. And what are you doing now? Clicking away hundreds and thousands of photographs, all by yourself with that tiny camera fitting in the pocket of your jacket.
Who is YOU
You are the typical office goer, a home maker, a young student aspiring to be a champion, a tech-savvy banker,a professor, an engineer working an oil rig… in short, you are a user, consumer, customer, stakeholder. As a user/consumer, you use the product and enjoy the experience offered before, during and after the usage. As a customer, you buy the product and so are an easy target for the manufacturers and marketers, who have been striving to grab your attention. As a stakeholder in the product, you are either directly or indirectly influencing the customers or the consumers in using the product. So, its only logical for these product vendors to go after YOU.
Take the (Yo)U- Turn
As an organization which offers products and services, you need to note that this is the age of consumers and they dictate the ways companies operate, whether they are large, medium, small. From companies selling computers to schools teaching primary students, there had been a rise in the awareness of Global awareness and local impact. They realized that their true fortunes lie not just in knowing about their users, and understanding them, but in treating, pleading and pleasing them. Its not the features, nor the technology that would help them get to their objectives of surviving the dog-eat-dog markets and making profits. It is the experience and delight brought out by the organization, brand, product or service, that makes the maximum impact on your customers, users and stakeholders.
What should the organizations do
To be successful in your industry segment, follow the leaders in your own or other industries. Google, Apple and Facebook did hinged their entire product strategy on the User-experience factor. YouTube , for instance, changed the way people create, consume and share the video content online. With the ability to upload videos of any (pre-defined) format and length and sharing the content, YouTube gave a new definition to user-generated content. It gave the users an easy and quick way of viewing,uploading, downloading, sharing, embedding videos anywhere. YOU got the power to “Broadcast Yourself“!
As a product manufacturer and marketer or a service provider, you also need to re-orient the ways in which your products or services have been designed, developed and delivered. Think about the major focus areas which have been in your product strategy and re-define them to suit the need of the hour. Onida, a reputed Indian manufacturer and marketer of white-goods realized this earlier than others in their segment. Over the years, white goods (a.k.a. consumer durables) have become commodities and it had become extremely tough to maintain the market shares one enjoyed a few decades back. Onida re-positioned itself knowing fully well that consumers are the king and they should be the central focus of their product design. This had been evident in the recent launches of their products such as Microwave and Refrigerator which are easier-to-use and offer greater experience to the users. These products had been well received by the users because they were “Designed with YOU in mind“!
To conclude, I suggest this is the time to know that YOU are the most powerful entity in the universe. Relish the lavish praises, attention and luxuries being offered to you to the extent that you can choose the type of bank account that suits your choice and requirements. You can decide the talk plan to fit your wallet, the holiday to suit your family, budget and lifestyle and even you can decide how you wish the end the climax of a movie! You are the guest, for which most of the companies are going beyond their briefing to offer their service. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the privileges. No wonder, Time Magazine fittingly named the Person of the year, 2006 as ‘YOU’. Rock on!
With great effort, you have got access to the key stakeholders of the product organisation. You also identified the specific persons, their roles and responsibilities in the organisation. What are you going to ask them? You would obviously focus on the software product’s features and functionality, because well, that is what you need to know before designing and developing any software application. How about a few questions on the Technology? Well, yes of course, because after all, you are developing the software product using a specific Technology. Let us discuss if these are good enough to get you a head start in the product development or do you need to focus on any other areas during your stakeholder interactions.
Technology or ‘Trick’nology
While nobody can deny the significant role played by Technology in our lives today, one needs to be wary in focusing only on Technology and ignoring the rest. Technology is verily what IT and Software development organisations like us thrive on and I am in no way suggesting to drift away from it. However, I support the view that Technology should be seen as an ‘enabler’ and a means but not the end. All products that have been invented or innovated so far, did not succeed merely based on the technologies used to build them. The underlying technologies in each of these products, if I may call so, helped achieve some business objectives to their users-from the Potter’s Wheel to Radio, from Mainframes to Laptops, from ERPs to Web Applications and from Java to the Multi-Touch Interface. The moment one focuses only on technology ignoring other aspects, that product is bound to fail.
Like ‘Marketing Myopia’, product companies might get into what I call ‘Technology Trap’ leading to the failure of their products. This happened with Borland when they focused on Delphi as only a technology platform and could not pursue advancements and evolve their platform like other competitors. Same was the case with Konica and Kodak were focusing on making better film roll technology, while others such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus moved on to the Digital image technology.
It takes a lot of courage for product companies to come out of this trap. We had seen a real life instance of this ‘technology trap’ in one of the projects to reengineer a university administration suite. This suite was originally developed in LISP, about 15 years back and the product owners thought it was high time they made it modern. So, we were entrusted with the responsibility of reengineering it to Microsoft.Net platform. In one of the screens of the proposed modern platform, we noticed that the development team gave a solution which used Acrobat PDF to preview the schedules and reports. Obviously, we were puzzled why this was done, because PDF is not a suitable solution to be used for WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. When we probed the team, we understood that they did not think of alternatives and tried to imitate the solution applicable to the previous technology. Similarly in another project involving an automated information system, when user logs in he/she had to land in a blank page with very few options. The older technology solution did not use database and used flat files instead. Due to this, they could not maintain the user details. However, even in the newer version of the product on modern technology platform, after user logs in, personalised welcome message and user-specific tasks could not be provided by the team. But, what stopped us from including personalisation in the modern technology solution?
On the other hand, a few people specifically those in the product management and business analysis areas tend to focus more on the features and functionality to the software product. They focus all their energies in adding new functionality and improving existing features. If this is backed by sound logic, business vision and user research, they are surely on the right track. However, this is done more as a pressure from the competitors and to keep up in the race. Focus on features is futile, because if you have created a product with 100 features, your next competitors will create another product with 200 features the very next day. Google, known for its innovation and user-focused products had been successful all along since Google Search, Gmail, and Android O.S. But even Google could not create the right ‘Buzz’ because I think they followed the lead of Facebook, and even Yahoo on this specific offering and could not pursue their core user-focused innovation. Just a day before Google announced the launch of Google Buzz, Yahoo had already implemented similar functionality, and Facebook did it two years back.
First, get on the BUS
So, you might ask what is to be done during the stakeholder interviews. While understanding the Technology and Functionality perspectives is necessary, it is not sufficient. We also need to understand the other perspectives, what I refer to as BUS, i.e., Business, User and System. I give below an indicative list of areas that could be part of each of these perspectives.
Business – Organisation’s vision, Business Strategy, Target markets, competitors
User – Customers, consumers, primary user groups, usage behaviours, and context of usage
System – Product roadmap, scope of features, Technology constraints
Why do we need to do BUS Analysis
As they say, for the success of any product, we need three aspects:
To this list, I add two other dimensions – ‘sound usability’ and ‘optimal quality’. To get sufficient responses to the above perspective, one needs to ask relevant questions to the respective stakeholders. This would help get a handle on the objectives, expectations and grounded logic, based on which we can provide solutions that are practical, feasible and well within the budget, time and other resources of the product owners.
What are the challenges involved in interviewing stakeholders?
Stakeholder interviewing is a scientific technique that involves expertise, experience, maturity and a bit of domain knowledge in the area of the product. It includes asking the correct questions to the correct persons (based on their role and background) to get the correct responses. Even more important than the interviews is the analysis of the data collected from the interviews. It typically takes about twice the time for analysing the interview data and creating a report. The key challenge is to define this very clearly in the plan and let the project stakeholders know about this activity, deliverables and the value created thereby.
After the stakeholder interviews and analysis, we are now poised to define the user profiles and related usage information. Let us discuss this in the next post with some examples from my real life product engineering cases. Until then, ciao!