Agile Development, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Stories

Gone are the days when you had professionals relying on the accumulation of knowledge alone. In this day and age of continual changes in technology, business, career and life styles,  there is an increasing emphasis not just on acquiring knowledge, but also on applying the experience and rich expertise. The focus has shifted from knowing to doing and sharing, from information gathering to using the right tools and methods and from just quantitative measures to insightful analytics. Like all other professions, this paradigm shift is quite apparent to a large extent in business analysis and product management areas too. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets that make up the emerging avatar of the new-age business analyst/product owner.

Many facets of the modern BA/ProductOwner

The traditional business analyst’s focus pretty much hovered on the requirements, documentation, functionality of the product. Also, the key lookout for the traditional BA has been one centred around the problem space, whether it has to do with the product, process, domain or business. The new-age business analyst’s core competencies are still based on the problem space and functional areas, their scope of influence has expanded further and beyond. This is thanks partly due to the continual changes in business, technology, ways of work and life. It could also be attributed to the “survival-of-the-fittest” theory and that the business analysts have to consistently re-invent themselves to keep them relevant to the changing and demanding times. New age_BUSINESS_ANALYSIS_Texavi_NBA

Realm and reach of the new-age BA

So what makes the new-age business analyst different from that of the traditional role? Interestingly, one school of thought identifies the BA as just another team player, there is quite another emergent thinking that is pitching the BA as a more responsible, leadership-oriented professional. From a mere documentation specialist, the realm and reach of the Business Analyst of today scaled up to that of the product owner and/or product manager. While functionality and features, problems and opportunities remain relevant and current to the new-age BA, the additional roles of release management, process improvement, increased customer and user engagement added a new dimension.

What make up a new-age BA/PO

Now let us try and assess the factors that make up a class act new-age Business Analyst. On the one hand, you need to be on the top of the product, process, business or domain, on the other hand you must also be able to connect well with “people”. A new age business analyst works her way very well through not just the product or process team members, but also key stakeholders, customers and users. Yes, it is true that the BA must be versatile and equipped with generic skills, it is beyond doubt that specialism and in-depth expertise add to the winning factors. In a nut shell, the new-age Business Analyst/Product Owner is versatile, agile, tech-savvy, responsive, responsible, and a leading-edge visionary.

In the next posts, we will look in detail the approach, tools and methods that shape up the new-age Business Analyst. Hope this post gives you enough food for thought till then. Until next, ciao!

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

Innovation, as you all know, is a very powerful concept and tool. It could be used to understand the problems and create improvements in the existing products. Innovation also helps us to create completely new solution(s) to solve the otherwise unimaginable problems. Innovation is not just restricted to the products space, but is equally effective in the improvement of services, processes or solutions.  Just a week ago, I participated in a very interesting workshop on collaboration through Innovation Games. This workshop is based on the concepts and exercises proposed by Luke Hohmann and also the GameStorming techniques by Dave Gray et al. In this post, I will touch upon the key takeaways and useful tips from the workshop. Also in this post, I will make a business case for Innovation Games and how they could be used to boost the productivity and bring about value to businesses and individuals alike.

Let’s talk innovation

Innovation would never lose the sheen and shine, despite the numerous changes in work, education, lifestyles and thinking over the last few decades.  This could be partly due to the very construct and meaning of the word, innovation intended to find out “newer, different, better” ways. But then innovation by itself is not just one tool or technique, but a collective application of a whole suite of theories, schools of thought, approaches, tools and techniques. How would you then decide which one of them. That’s where Innovation Games come in and help you choose the right technique, and bring about the right value in a quick, fun, cost-effective way.

Innovation Games_Texavi_Workshop_Items Innovation Games - at play

Innovation is collaborative product development

First off, you would need interested and motivated people who are motivated to pave way for innovation. Also important is a conducive environment to help boost the free thinking and to let the creative juices flowing. Innovation games, as the name suggests, are a fun, interactive and engaging way of bringing out the innovation and creativity among teams. These are serious games played to bring out the hidden problems, create fresh ideas and arrive at plausible solutions. Innovation games are cost-effective, quick-win tools that can be organised with very less effort and minimal preparation and planning. There is no doubt that Innovation Games provide a perfect setting for aiding innovation with supporting collaboration tools and techniques.

What are and what aren’t Innovation Games

A word of caution here…Innovation Games are not the same as gamification or the Game design that you might have come across. So, what exactly are these Innovation Games? Product in a Box, Prune the Product Tree, Speedboat, Show-and-Tell are a few popular ones. While some of these help you in convergence (idea generation), some help in shaping (structuring) and  a few others help support for divergence (prioritising and pruning). You can get more information about Innovation Games and collaborative exercises from the leading thinkers and authors in the innovation, collaboration and product development arenas. A few sources for some great inspiration are “Innovation Games : Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play” by Luke Hohmann and “Gamestorming” by Dave Gray et al.

Innovation Games_Consultants and agile coaches

Business case for collaboration through Innovation Games

Now that you are aware that there is a great tool set for you to help in collaborative product development, let us look at the business case for using Innovation Games. In the context of an agile product development, Innovation Games certainly help bring various stakeholders, team members and customers in the same room. They do help in setting common goals and also provide a fun and interactive environment to promote innovation among teams. Another important aspect of using Innovation Games is their adeptness to not only generating ideas, but also prioritising the features and decision-making.

Innovation Games_Collaboration_Benefits

 

When and where to use Innovation Games

You might be wondering in what scenarios you can use Innovation Games and how they can help you and your teams. Well, they can be put to use when you or your business is in need of generating ideas, pruning them, prioritising the features, and understanding the problems and needs of your customers. This means that Innovation Games are a great tool in the context of product development, process improvement, creation of a solution or a service. The collaborative tool is extremely handy not only in the creation of new products, services, solutions or processes, but also in enhancing or re-engineering the existing products, processes or solutions. In short, Innovation Games are of great relevance when you want to bring together people, and create a collaborative environment to help foster innovation and creativity through focus, group dynamics, interaction and yes, most importantly a bit of fun.

Hope this post helped you in getting a grasp of Innovation Games and collaborative product development. In the future posts, I will get into further depth and discuss the details on this topic. As always, drop in with your valuable feedback and advice. Until next, ciao!

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Interaction Design, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User Studies, User-centered Design

“There is no Average Joe Bloggs” – reads the copy on the billboard advertisement of an insurance company. I couldn’t agree more with this, especially in the context of designing and developing new products for end users. No matter how much I like Statistics, we just cannot apply it to all things in our personal and professional lives. While its good to be number-savvy, we need to balance the quantitative with qualitative aspects, to get it right. More so in the case of product design and development, the “law of averages” doesn’t quite contribute to the successful product development. We are all familiar with the concept of user profiles and personas used in the design and development of products. These help a great deal in understanding the real needs and goals of your target audience. In this post, I will dwell on why designing for average users is a misconception and how we can make use of user profiles and personas in developing successful products.

All customers are not users

This is the biggest notion among my clients that customers are well, users of the products. Not always true! The good thing is that both customers and users are both people, the similarities end there.  I think that “Customers” is a favourite term for Marketers whereas Designers and User Experience professionals connect better with the term “Users”. Customers are the people who purchase your products and services, while consumers or users use these. In some cases or well, most cases customers and consumers are the same. As in the case of some daily use products, white goods, FMCG, customers and users are the same i.e., people who buy your products use them as well. But in the case of high-end products, enterprise applications and productivity solutions, buyers could be different from consumers. For instance, office supplies, financial services, technology products like computers etc., the people who pay are different from those who suggest. These in turn are different from the people who decide and yes, the people who actually use the products or services could be completely different from the above groups.

First, know your Users

Knowing your users is the most important step in the approach to developing great products. By knowing your users, I mean to say that you must understand the goals and needs of the users. This understanding will help you in shaping your product or service, make it more suitable and appealing for the users. You can’t just create a product in thin air and then retro-fit it to the benefit of some people. As they say, the most important question in any business is asking “whose needs is the idea/concept/product going to solve?” . Texavi’s Unified Experience Framework has a whole phase dedicated to help you get to this. The “Know the Needs of your Users” phase has all the tools, techniques and technologies to ensure that we understand the real needs of the users. These are often unwritten, untold, unexpressed and even unknown to the very users. So, its a big challenge to get to the real needs of the users.

Know the Needs of the Users - Texavi Unified Experience Framework

 

User profiling holds the key

It doesn’t make sense to design and develop your products for all the people in the whole world. There is a danger of missing out on most people, as they think it doesn’t suit their specific needs and goals. Also, on the extreme end, it doesn’t make sense to design your products for one or two users. This argument lends weight for some people to think the middle path and rely on the law of averages. So, they think that the best path is to design and develop for average user. But hold on, what is an average user? How can you get to that person and define the characteristics of average user? The answer to this question lies in the user profiles and personas. User profiles are essentially the characteristic grouping of users based on various properties, traits and behaviours. This doesn’t mean that you are defining an average user. Instead, you are trying to understand the essential aspects of your users.  Using the profiles and personas helps the team to have a common language of understanding. This not only helps them in having a good picture of the end users, but also gives them a great affinity to the users, because of the name, form and physical characteristics.

UserProfiles_Personas_Design

Personas – archetypes not stereotypes

You might have heard of the term “persona” used in the context of marketing, research and product design. A persona is a representative user from amongst the group, but does not point to one user from within the group. It is a powerful design tool that helps the design and development teams and client relate to the target audience. Persona is not a stereotype of the users, but rather an archetype from the user group. In a persona, you give a form, a name and a picture to the representative users, so that all the team members and concerned people can relate to that person more effectively and easily.

Persona - Texavi example

 

Benefits of user profiles and personas

While there are many benefits of using the user profiles and personas in the product development life cycle, I list below a few of them that really stand out.

  • Understand the real users who you should target from amongst the many people in the population
  • Help prioritise the target segments within the groups of people
  • Know the real needs and goals of the target audience
  • Support in connecting and relating to the real needs of the users
  • Design, develop the products in a more practical and pragmatic manner
  • Evaluate and test the products, keeping the real users in mind
  • Minimise the effort, time and cost of development and rework

Hope you agree with me now that the average user is a myth and acknowledge the power of profiles and personas. Please keep writing in with your suggestions and comments. Till 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, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

For the nth time, I am mentioning this, at the risk of sounding cliched, “User Experience is not the same as Marketing”. This is more true in the context of referring to customer and user research. While some terms and activities such as profiles, personas and interviews do happen to be common to both User Experience, that does not give us a blanket permission to assume that they both are one and the same. The very use of the words “Customers” and “Users” says it all – marketing is all about customers and prospects, whereas User Experience is well, about “users”. The importance of this topic came into the fore once again, thanks to a recent conversation with one of my clients. In this post, I wish to draw the main differences between User Experience and Marketing/Sales. Hope what you read and see below, will help shatter a few myths and misconceptions out there in most people’s minds.

Marketing helps build brands

I am not Philip Kotler to define what Marketing is. However, to my mind, Marketing is about the planning, activities and the outcomes related to understanding the needs of customers. The function of marketing helps organisations to create products, services and offerings to meet the needs of the existing and potential customers. And yes, marketing is about the brand that encompasses Marketing is a function of the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. And of course a fifth P was later added, which stands for Positioning. But I would say why stop at 5Ps? The sixth P that I would add for Marketing is “People”.

MarketingMix_Focus on Customers_Texavi

User Experience helps create Products

Like Marketing, User Experience is also about people and understanding their needs. However, as the words have it all it is about “users” and usage experience and not customers or prospects. However the focus for UX is on the consumers of the products and services more than anything else. It tries to look at the various elements of the experience such as satisfaction speed of performing the tasks. The 5E model of User Experience focuses on Ease of use, Easy to learn, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Error-free nature of the products and services. Over the years, UX has been catering to products more than services.

User Experience_5E_Focus on Users_Texavi

Similarities between Marketing and User Experience

While most of the other disciplines help provide the perspectives internal to the organisation. These range from operations, administration, finance and other support processes etc. Whereas Marketing, Sales and User Experience offer an external perspective on the organisation, brand, products and services. Both Marketing and User Experience are cost centres. Both of these rely extensively on quantitative and qualitative data. They use similar tools and techniques such as interviews, discussions, tests, among others. Both can be used to test the concepts, ideas and new products in their early stages.  In marketing, you call it as Market Testing or test marketing, whereas in User Experience, we refer to it as User Testing.

Smiley_face_User Experience_Marketing

 

Differences in Marketing/Sales and User Experience

I give below a table with the differences between Marketing and User Experience, for your quick reference. After all, its important for me to market my User experience skills :)

Marketing vs. UserExperience - By Texavi's Unified Experience Framework

 

Hope this post is helpful to you. As always, I welcome your feedback for the improvement of the blog content and coverage.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 2013! Happy Holidays :-)

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

A recent report on social media by ACSI, American Customer Satisfaction Index puts Facebook behind other social networks such as Google+ and Pinterest on user satisfaction. Yes, going social is not enough anymore, nor is creating a Facebook page for your business, tweeting on a regular basis or having a LinkedIn profile. Successful businesses are no longer just about being active on social media, and collecting analytics on engagement and influence. Time has come to move beyond the fads and integrate your brand and reputation management activities to deliver congruent and unified experiences to customers and users. In this post, we will have a look at the various channels available for businesses and how these can be leveraged to successfully manage reputation in an increasingly competitive market.

1. ORM is not just managing ‘Online’ reputation

There are many different ways in which you can reach out to your customers and users. The evolution of the various channels and media can be considered as a continuum over the past decades or even centuries. From the times businesses have been used to traditional channels like print and word of mouth to today’s social media, communication and reputation/brand management channels championed the cause of businesses. Texavi created a framework that traces the various channels and also maps how easy or hard it is to implement each of these channels. The infographic given below provide a perspective on various channels such as traditional, digital, web, mobile and social platforms that contribute to the organisation’s reputation.

Texavi's ORM model - evolution and ease of implementation

 

2. All channels are not the same

All channels don’t have the same flavour and they don’t behave in the same way. They vary in the way they are created, maintained and delivered through. For instance the traditional channels such as the print media might require initial installation and setup. On the other hand, the social channels such as social media networks like Facebook, Twitter accounts etc., need to be created, connected and integrated. These media differ on various aspects, each having its own set of characteristics and behaving in its own way. However, the real trick lies in how well you identify the right channels for your business and use them smartly. The following sections will help you in selecting this so that you will succeed at managing your organisation’s reputation.

3. Mix and match the channels for balance

Relying only on one channel at the expense of the other will only give negative results. That is why businesses need to focus on choosing the right mix of the channels and resources to manage their brand and reputation in a holistic manner. The above infographic also charts the evolution of these various channels/media and the ease of their implementation. Success in managing reputation in today’s world lies in identifying and using all the possible channels, based on the organisation’s expectations and experience. Also, note from the above infographic that the ease or difficulty in implementation could vary depending on industry, product, market dynamics and the specific organisation which is implementing it.

4. Get to know the critical factors

While some channels say, the print media could take longer time to implement whereas its comparatively quicker to create some others like web sites. Besides, other factors such as cost, resources required etc., could vary from one channel to another. You need to compare and contrast these various factors across the channels. I give below a list of some key factors that must be considered before you take any decision:

  • Cost of implementation
  • Speed of implementation
  • Manpower required
  • Materials and physical resources
The following framework provides maps the various channels on the cost vs. speed of implementation. You can see that there is a tradeoff and it is wise to choose the right channel(s) suitable for your industry, products and customers.

Cost vs. Speed of implementation - Texavi's ORM 4Q model

 5. Don’t go by fads and trends

Just because everyone has a Facebook page, you don’t have to create one, unless your business really need one. Following latest fads will only leads you into frustration and confusion, as you don’t see the expected results coming out of them. Before adopting and implementing a programme, it is important that you carefully consider the past experiences, resources available and the expectations of your organisation. Also, keep in mind the critical factors like cost and time for the implementation of the selected channels. For an integrated, well-oiled reputation management initiative, I suggest that you should aim for a perfect balance by choosing the best among the available channels and media and using them in a unified manner.

Hope these tips help you in getting it right with your ORM initiatives. Please drop in your feedback and inputs for making our blog better. Until the next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, User Experience

For any business in this world, these words hold true
Yes, your customers look for fresh and new
All you need is to give them a small cue
To find the best solution among their preferred few!

Realise that your customers look very much like ‘you’
When they get products/services that give value
And those that delight them in whatever they do
I promise, they will stick to your brand for life, like glue :)

Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies

“The old computing was about what computers could do…the new computing is about what people can do“, Ben Shneiderman’s saying is as much relevant today as it ever was.  The impact of social business and social technologies on our professional and personal lives is so profound that businesses now are re-thinking their strategies in the light of ‘social’ context. The social web offers a lot of opportunities by harnessing the tremendous potential offered by multiple disciplines ranging from marketing, consumer behaviour, information technology, design, data analytics, gamification and customer experience and cognitive psychology, to name a few. The nice thing with the social strategy is that virtually anybody or any company can get on the board, however it does not guarantee success to all players in the game. The definition of ‘success’ in this context is debatable and fairly open, so I shall consider effectiveness over success. In this post, I wish to highlight the key pitfalls you must avoid, which would help you to get it right with your social strategy.

1. Giving only lip service to ‘people power’

All along, we have been hearing companies and people claiming “we are in the people business“, or “I am a people person“. In the context of Social web, these phrases are now acquiring new meaning and perhaps ‘the correct’ meaning. Now more than ever, opportunities are opening up, which will enable you to really do what you mean and put people in the rightful place they belong to and given the attention they deserve. Whether its the customers who bought your products, users who are facing problems using them or those people, who you think, know you by your name or brand are becoming your potential target audience. The nets are widening to reach out to the larger audience and in the broadest of contexts. The social channels are helping organisations reach out, listen to customers’ heartbeats and not just their voices, and providing support to the needy in real time. I have seen instances on Twitter when British Gas attempted to respond, advise and resolve the issues of their customers, on Twitter.

Put the people focus back into your business

 2. Getting aboard all the social trains

Resist the temptation to get on to every social and professional network available. As the old saying goes, “tell me your company and I shall tell you who you are”, the same holds true with the social channels and networks. Carefully consider who your target users are and identify those networks where your presence adds value to your brand, offerings and customers. For instance, just because everybody is creating a Facebook page, you don’t have to create one, when your product is targeted to the older generation users or high-security defence-component manufacturers. Look out for the maximum buzz and check if it suits you to have your presence there. Also, sometimes it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality. For example, Facebook and Twitter might have millions of users, but just focusing on them may not work well, if you are a large brand with global presence and rich legacy. To better leverage your interests and aspirations, a different network, say Pinterest could be a better bet, considering that it is the fastest-growing social network specially for the big brands out there.

Answering the following questions will help you choose the networks, wisely!

  • Who are my target audience?
  • What is my real offering and how does it help the users?
  • Where (which online networks) can I find my target audience, the most?
  • What is the nature of my business offering – social/professional?
  • Which networks should I consider for my presence?

3. Thinking “Social is the flavour of the season”

From businesses, news corporations, traditional media houses, celebrities and common people, everybody is getting active on the social networks. Don’t just focus on the social aspects at the cost of losing the advantage with traditional media. You need to ensure that there is harmony and congruence in your offline and online presence. Yes, it is true that to host a campaign on Facebook or run a series of hashtag tweets on Twitter it might be a lot cheaper or perhaps costs nothing. Add to that it could be the easiest thing to create, track and manage campaigns on these online networks. However, without careful consideration and calculation of cost-benefit analysis, don’t ditch the traditional marketing channels and rely solely on the social channels. With all the positive vibes going around with the social media, there is also another side that needs to be looked at. These social media can make or mar the reputation of your brand in no time with as much ease and speed you had in creating the campaign. For instance, McDonalds ran a campaign on Twitter with the hashtags  #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers, but the campaign backfired thanks to the comments by some ‘enthusiastic’ users and their sarcastic tweets on McDonalds and their products.

4. Excessive focus on your products and services

Gone are those days when only your customers and users were talking about the products and services that they bought and used.  You were happy interacting with the people you know – whether  its your preferred partners, loyal customers or willing prospects. Now the context is changing  rapidly and the landscape has been extending further to prospective customers, friends of users. The World is indeed becoming one global village with inter-connected networks and individuals, intersecting each other in a criss-cross fashion. The interactions that you encourage among the various stakeholders, customers, users and followers need to be focused on the brand and not necessarily the products or services alone. Newer measures and metrics such as awareness, engagement, influence, reach, buzz and total customer value are complementing the good old measures like sales per product line, customer satisfaction index.

Unified Experience goes beyond products and services

5. Quitting before you start seeing the benefits

Let us accept it, just because you have hopped on to the social strategy earlier does not make you a leader in your industry. Getting social has become a sanity factor and more of a tick on your checklist, than a well-thought strategic directive. Often it takes more effort, time and perhaps other resources such as people, money too, to take off to a proper shape. Don’t give up just yet. Here are a few tips that will help you get better at the game of social media.

  • Set realistic goals which need to be tracked on a continual basis
  • Be persistent with your efforts
  • Learn from the leaders and follow the paths which worked right for them
  • Monitor the impact of social operations on your core business
  • Track and analyse the key measures and metrics to assess how you are performing
Hope you find the above tips helpful with your social initiatives. Don’t hesitate to mix and match different things that could work wonders for you. Do share your feedback. We shall discuss more interesting stuff in the upcoming posts. Till then, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Last week, Cadbury UK launched its new product Bubbly through their Google+ brand pages.  I think this is a brave new attempt that augurs well for the social networks and the businesses, in general. Social media are fast becoming the mainstay digital platform and are eagerly waiting to get alongside the traditional marketing channels. Not just the consumers and media, but technologies and businesses too are drifting towards the ‘social’ side, thanks to success and reach of Facebook, Twitter and Google. No wonder that we have social networks, social technologies, social business…everything has a ‘social’ touch today. But what are the effects of this socialification (I don’t want to use the word socialization, for obvious reasons) on your products and services? How can you leverage these social trends to your advantage and bring about the positive changes in the way you operate & deliver? In this post, I give you some tips addressing these questions and also touch upon some key aspects of our Social Experience Framework.

1.Get social – The emergence of ‘social’ everything

There is little doubt that the buzz word today is social and the whole world is now geared towards a ‘social revolution’ of sorts. From the revolution in Egypt to the ‘Occupy…’ movements, social platforms are aiding the way people connect, unite and demonstrate for a cause. The revolution is not just restricted to mass protests and demonstrations. It is expanding its reach and making inroads into our lives and work. Just a few days ago, Google began including the content from their social platform, Google+, when searching and showing the search results. This is yet another example of how ‘social’ content and interactions are  getting into the mainstream content. There are more people now who, before buying a product, read the reviews of “other people”.  Before saying anything good or bad about anything, some people “google it” or when in doubt, check it out on the “Wikipedia”. The growing emphasis on the relevance of big data and open source technologies and tools, is only adding more ammunition to this social revolution.

2. Focus on people and their social interactions

Yes, they are all people. You once used to call them  customers, users, partners and vendors. Your sphere of influence was restricted only to these stakeholders and perhaps extended to prospective customers. But now with social media and technologies, the reach has increased and the scope is broadened to cover more number of people. This includes not only prospective customers and product reviewers but also potentially  friends and family members as well. Now is the time to make your business, and technology, products and services more people-centric, for real and reap the rewards. Listen, observe and understand the various ways people interact online and offline too. Make these interactions more meaningful by providing context-sensitive information which they can use readily and easily. Simplify their interactions and enrich them by offering value-add through seamless channels and platforms.

3.Make it work on multiple platforms, devices & channels

The developers and testers among you will agree with me that its a real nightmare to design, develop and test applications on the ever-increasing number of channels, platforms and devices. However, this is great news for all the customers and users as they have a plethora of options (often to the extent of getting spoilt for choice). With newer technologies coming into the fore to help you, it might not be as complicated as it might sound. HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, XML and other technologies, accompanied by the all-powerful bowsers, offer great ways to develop and deliver rich, interactive applications to your users.

4.Deliver social experience, not just user experience

As you have seen in the recent past, there has been a  proliferation of computers, laptops, mobile phones and Tablets. Also, there has been a significant raise in the Internet usage for education, work and entertainment. All along you have been focusing on delivering great customer and user experiences through your products, services and solutions. With the advancement of social context, it is just not enough if you try and look only at your customers and users only. The experiences have to be broad based, reaching out to friends, prospects, family members and ‘people’. I call it the ‘social experience’, covering all these. Our SoX Framework is an integrated experience delivered via multiple channels, devices, platforms and media. SoX is a pervasive, personalized and persuasive experience, delivered in context-rich, yet simple way.

5. Not just quantitative, but qualitative

There is a plethora of online analytics services that measure the social media usage. From Klout to PeerIndex and recently PeekAnalytics, these have been serving up measures and metrics on the engagement, influence and network reach based on the activities you do online and especially on the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. All of these provide the scores, ranks and numbers. While analytics are good, they can only be useful, if applied to the right cause. As business leaders and product owners, one needs to balance the quantitative measures with the qualitative aspects. How do you get to the qualitative information? Be open and actively participate in the social networks and reach out to the audiences. For instance, Dell appointed CLO (Chief Listening Officer) whose role is to follow and listen to the noise and voice of customers on the social networks. British Gas resolves customer issues on Twitter, using it as a platform for understanding, tracking and closing people’s complaints.

To summarize, social businesses, technologies are already in and we are left with no choice, but to embrace them and use them to our advantage. Delivering social experiences require today’s businesses to broadbase  their focus to ‘people’, listen to them constantly and help them instantly. Let me know if you have a suggestion, question or comment. Until next post, 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!