Digital Innovation and the Bear Experience

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Everyone is talking about innovation and digital. The words are getting washed up completely and it’s fair to ask if this is a hype that will pass. I’d argue that it won’t. I’d argue that this is the new norm and it will be commoditized just like having a “home page” or an “app” have.

The driver behind this is our expectation of experiences. We do not want to exchange money for things anymore, we expect that for what we pay, companies should give us an experience.

Build a Bear

Build a bear is a prime example where a simple product becomes an experience. They have turned the cuddly bear from a toy you buy and play with to a toy and a service.

As a customer you start by going to their store and build your bear. You go through the experience of selecting body, head and accessories. You pay more for fancy stuff of course.

Image from careers.buildabear.com

What is unique is that the bear then get’s a virtual persona where you can play with your bear online, send it to the north pole and you will receive post cards from it’s trip.

Build a bear has been innovative around the cuddly bear. They’ve turned a toy product into a service they can charge a premium for.

Moving from products and services to experiences.

We expect experiences with what we buy. No matter if it is a product or a service. This can range from your café experience to buying a car.

A business that wants to stay relevant and not get into a price war needs to start building these experiences for their customers. They need to shift from product innovation to service innovation.

Build a bear does this beautifully. They are not throwing themselves into a price war where the only increase in margin can come from lowering their cost of manufacturing. They create experiences that are unique. Experiences they can charge a premium for. By adding more services to the experience they make it hard for a competitor to copy their service chain without a huge investment up front.

At Avanade we see this shift in most of our consumer goods clients. They are all trying to figure out how add to the experience and turn their products into services. In our services clients we see a push to chaining services together to make their unique experience hard to copy. Banks are investing heavily in this now. Moving deeper into your household economy with apps and online services.

This is only logical. We as consumers, or buyers, are lazy. We want our experiences to be easy. If my travel agency takes care of everything for me, I’ll pay for that service. If my coffee machine maker calls me when I need to cleanse my machine, I’ll pay a premium for the machine. If my phone gives me all the services I need. I’ll never switch.

Same old, same old?

We have of course always loved it when the customer service is great. We gladly tip our waiter if we had good service. In that sense, turning products into services and chaining them together is nothing new. What is new is that companies that aren’t pure service companies are investing into this. They are switching from gaining value in the exchange of goods to gaining value in creating experiences.

There is an opportunity for you here.

One of the most important enablers of this is technology. As developers, architects and technology leaders we play a huge role in creating these services. Build a bear wouldn’t be successful without the technology component, nor would the banks.

The shift from product dominance to service dominance is a huge opportunity for us as technologists to truly disrupt and create unique values. Most businesses do not understand technology as well as you and have a hard time to turn technical advancements into innovation for their market.

There is a huge amount of cool work to be done. Go fetch.

Read more:
Service Dominant Logic (wikipedia)
Service Innovation – A Service – Dominant Logic Perspective (research paper)
Competing in a service economy (eBook)
From Software as product to Software as a Service (blog post)

New role, new focus – CTIO Patrik Löwendahl

Fotolia_71219196_Subscription_Monthly_M I joined Avanade March 2011 with a challenge presented to me; head Avanade’s collaboration business. It was my first step from being pure technical into a business role. Three years down the road and here we are.

In June I was asked to step into the Swedish leadership team as our Swedish Chief Technology and Innovation Officer – a role that started in Avanade with my old colleague Florin Rotar moving to Seattle stepping into the global CTIO role.

Satya Nadella had a profound quote in his first speech as CEO:

“Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.”

With this in mind a role like this in a company like Avanade with it’s ties to Microsoft makes a lot of sense. I gladly accepted.

This of course changes things for me.  This is a new journey. A journey I decided to share on the blog. The blog will re-focus on digital, bleeding edge technology and innovation. Less code, more ideas.

If you want to join me on this journey you can subscribe to the RSS feed, join me on Twitter or add me on LinkedIn.

Looking forward to seeing you around.

Platform migrations – not really like a flock of sparrows.

Migrations. Moving from one place to another. For birds in the Nordics it is as simple as flying south for the winter. For the client I am currently flying to, the trip will be a little more complicated.

In about an hour I will be landing in Brussels to share experiences, thoughts and ideas on migrating away from a global and distributed IBM Lotus Notes/Domino solution to a new platform.

There are quite a few things to think about, no matter if the migration is from one platform to another or even to a newer version.

Here are three of the things I will be sharing today:

Business case

Building a business case on mere cost cuts for licenses and hardware will most probably not motivate a migration. The return of investment in pure financials after a migration project will take years to realize. The business case only starts making sense when you add qualitative values onto of quantitative. Things like:

  • User experience, will it be faster to find documents? Less time to spent to perform tasks?
  • Platform alignment and integrations.
  • Ease of finding competence

One-to-one migrations

There is no such thing as a one-to-one migration on a feature level. The new solution will be different, take advantage of that. Don’t try to bend it over backwards based on what is in the old.

Use the strengths in the new to deliver more value then is currently there. Focus should be on delivering the same capability, adapted and improved.

The big bang theory

Don’t do big bangs. Do a phased migration. It will let you learn from experience and adjust as you go. Plan for, and expect, co-existence. Find the key usage scenarios and migrate one or two of them. Adapt, improve, move on.

Don’t be fooled by the straight forward advices; there are more than one devil in the details here.

My experience is that any migration will be a bumpy ride. However, following these three advices will give less bumps for the business and more tools to parry them in the project.

Happy migrations!

Attending a conference – how to mingle

Geeks are not known for their social skills. Which becomes very clear when a lot of them attend the same conference. I am currently attending the SharePoint 2012 Conference in Las Vegas and thought this would be suitable for all the geeks going to parties and mingles this week.

It is a list of 10 very concrete tips from a rhetorical and mingle expert. Very good tips, any geek following this will be successful (oh and yes, it works for picking up both men and woman as well 😉

Don’t miss this:

Rhetorical success is all about how to mingle, in the most efficient way. Mingle in reality. Mingle online. Mingle during parties and mingle in the office. It does not matter. You prepare your mingle in the same way as you – of course – prepare a text for publication. Ok?

 

Go to the ten tips here: Rhetorical success: How to mingle.

Enterprise Social: Technology is not the answer. This is the answer.

– “We need an internal Facebook”

This is a very common statement in any organization today. They want to replicate the success of social collaboration giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is massive. Having people in an organization engaged in communication as they are on those services is very compelling from a business perspective.

The next question after that is usually:

– “Can technology X give me Facebook”?

“Technology X” is commonly SharePoint 2013, Yammer, NewsGator or Lotus Connections. There are several organizations interested in investing into these applications to get “Facebook”, “Twitter” or “YouTube” to their organizations.

But why? Are they asking the right questions?

Social collaboration is after all not a technology. It is soft values such as communication, engagement and people. To realize those values, technology is not the answer – it is just one of the tools. As such, there are others that are much more important to get right.

Communication Strategy
All features of a social collaboration platform or product is there to enable communication in some form. From micro blogging to video archives, they are built to let people engage in communication with each other. So ensure that these communications are engaging and valuable for you as a business, the features you enable and create need to have a strategy behind them. A strategy to align them. A strategy to ensure you invest in the right communication tool for your organization.

Useful, Usable, Beautiful
The above title is the catch line for the Avanade design studios. It is the catch line because these three together makes up the best user experience for any application. For social collaboration projects is is one of the key components. If you want to engage your people to communicate, the tool need to be bring them immediate value, be easy to use and be visual appealing. Anything less and the threshold of using the tool will be to high and you will fail to engage your people.

Changing behavior
It does not matter if you have the most useful, most useable, most beautiful tool to enable your communication strategy if nobody is using it. Change does not come easy. Change is not automatic. Change will be initiated from a “what’s in it for me” perspective. So you need to plan for change; What training will you have (videos), what incentives will there be (gamification), what activities will you drive to ensure adoption (collaboration champions)?

When Facebook and YouTube first started up, they did not have any of these in place. But yet they succeeded in building the largest social collaboration sites in the world. There are several reasons they did. The “what’s in it for me”-incentives are very compelling, the early adopters where already champions of internets various services and the value where apparent for them. To replicate the same success, you need to replicate the same setting.

Social collaboration is really valuable for any organization. But value is not objective, it is subjective. Any tool you want people to use need to be valuable for them and should under no circumstances create pain or frustration. To successfully instigate change in your organization, you really need to plan for it. Ensure you get all three right in your social collaboration project, and it will be as successful as Facebook has been.

Sometimes it is business that needs to understand development

There is always that guy. The business oriented guy, the guy who can’t understand why a few lines of code can take a whole day to produce. The guy who believes that pair-programming is the equivalents to “get one pay for two”. This is a story about that guy and how I made him understand.

A few years back I was involved in in a project that had the attention of a vice president in a huge enterprise. The project had haltered and the VP’s response was to micro-manage developers tasks. One of the meetings I was asked to prepare was to explain why a switch in data access technology had to be done. A gruesome task: Explaining technology limitations to someone with absolutely no technology background. In the end it succeeded. Turning technology limitations into pure numbers: Bugs/LoC, Cost of a Bug, hours spent on performance tweaking, etc., etc.

But that is not what this post is about. This post is about how I got him to understand that developers are not glorified copy writers with the task of writing as many letters/day as possible:

– “I don’t understand? How can you only produce 100 lines of code in a full day? And that’s with two developers at the same keyboard!”

– “You write business plans right?

– “Yes.”

– “And how long is that document, about 30 pages?”

– “Yes?!”

-“I can write 30 pages of text in Word in a day, maybe half a day. How come it takes you weeks to produce the business plan?”

-“Isn’t that obvious? We need to figure out what the business plan is about, the text is just a documentation of our thinking.”

-“Exactly”.

From that point on there were no more discussions on lines of code, technical details or design/architectural decisions. From that point on it was only about features and velocity, process and predictability, and the most important feature of them all: delivery.

EU Commissioner states he will ignore the democratic process for ACTA–Open letter to Karel

EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht just stated that he will ignore what the democratic elected parliament vote on the ACTA treaty,

If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice

Source: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120625/12333619468/eu-commissioner-reveals-he-will-simply-ignore-any-rejection-acta-european-parliament-next-week.shtml

It seems that Karel need to be reminded who put him in office and who pays his salary, I just sent this to him and I suggest you send something similar:

His email address is: karel.de-gucht@ec.europa.eu

Dear Karel,

I understand that you are very keen on pushing through the ACTA
treaty, even if the parliament says no. It seems that you are
really passionate about the copy right laws and infringements upon
them and I appreciate all the work you have put into the treaty.

I just want to remind you that the parliament is the voice of the
citizens of EU and not all of us share your undisputable conviction of
the democratic value of the ACTA treaty in its current form. We do, after all, live in
a democracy and as such you are employed at your current position at
the discretion of us, the people.

Not listening to the parliament is an act of dictatorship and not
in the spirit of democracy so I would ask you to reconsider.

Thanks for your service to us, the citizens of EU.


Patrik Löwendahl, Stockholm, Sweden

Microsoft buying Yammer – A smart move or a move away from being smart?

In the wake of Facebook’s plummeting stock introduction Microsoft just announced that they are buying the Enterprise equaliant to Facebook, Yammer, for $1.2 Billion. Putting social networks still in the billion dollar industry segments. Is it relevant though? Is this a smart move by Microsoft?

I have yet to meet a communication strategist or HR representative at a large enterprise that isn’t talking about getting an “internal Facebook” for their employees. The reasoning behind this is a long discussion of its own and one could argue if they really need an “internal Facebook” or if it something else.

But the key point is that influential decision makers see strengths in social media for internal communications. There is a strong market and Microsoft just grew stronger in the possibility to meet that market.

Combining the Enterprise products already from Microsoft, Lync and SharePoint, with Yammer (that already integrate with SharePoint) is a very compelling combination. Think of the possibility to have a really good network and with the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with your peers at your fingertips (Literally using smartphone clients). I know that my workdays are much easier with those tools.

Social collaboration is having a lot of traction with Twitter starting to have the prospect of big earnings from advertisement, new services like Pinterest and smartphones really extending the social networks to everywhere, anytime; all this makes social networking a commodity. Social is getting in everywhere, even into enterprise processes. Yammer is strong here. It is very strong even.

Social Media could be a hype, Facebook’s introduction to the stock market hasn’t been flawless. And yet there are several big projects running that show real Return of Investement. So even if social networking for consumers seems to struggle, social networking for the enterprise isn’t.

Is this a smart move for Microsoft? I believe so. I know that combining Yammer and SharePoint already today gives my clients some of the functionality they are asking for. Buying Yammer and bring it closer to their other products, can only make Microsoft stronger on the Enterprise market.

The annoncement

Yammer Inc

Swedish Commentary

Microsoft follows up the Surface sucker punch with a Windows Phone right hook

There is an old saying that Microsoft needs three versions to get it right and ahead. I am not sure if Windows Phone 8 can count as version three, but it should, they have now gotten it right and are ahead.

I am not really sure Apple and Google have recovered from the sucker punch that was Surface before Microsoft landed a right hook revealing the near future of Windows Phone. With Surface they showed their true innovation potential and got to explain the full Windows 8 vision. With what they showed today, they clearly stated that the smartphone fight will last the full 12 rounds.

Windows Phone 8 Hardware support– “So you think you will be ahead in the hardware game? Let me show the full potential of a shared core and driver model between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8”, Microsoft started stepping into the ring dodging left and right.

– “So you want a voice controlled Phone? Cool. But we’ll just make it available to all applications not just one”, that jab they throw out landed hard.

– “So you want to constrain your developers on their business models? We’ll just allow in app purchases for more options”, Microsoft said while throwing a right hook.

Punch after punch, the key note at Windows Phone Developer Summit either put the Windows Phone 8 platform at par with the competitors or ahead. Sometimes far ahead.

Agreeable they should’ve probably had a strategy to upgrade all old phones, sales of Windows Phone 7.5 will probably drop a little bit now. But it is worth it. No doubt.

As an app developer I really like the shared browser experience across devices / form factors. This means that responsive design will be THE skill to pick up for web designers. I like that the features they add are really not apps, or in the case they are they are extensible, like the Wallet where you can add your own payment methods, or the maps API and NOKIA map data that is accessible, that voice commands is an API and not an app (even though I am still skeptical about its viability).

As a consumer I really like the VoIP integration that makes any VoIP call appear and function as any other call, another nail in the current business model of the operators coffin. I like that I get really good NFC support, I am not super psyched about the new home page but getting updates over the air and the background location feature will make me like my phone more.

As an enterprise user and enterprise mobility implementer, I love the fact that the enterprise app store and operations are not an app, but templates and frameworks to customize your experience. I applaud that we, finally, get encryption on the phones. Along with Microsoft Rights Management this will make the phone really secure.

Windows Phone 8 Enterprise Feauters

Overall, this has been a good week for Microsoft. They’ve really shown that they haven’t given up. That they aren’t knocked out. That there is fight left in them and that they can throw a mean right. Google and Apple better look out.

Further reading

Windows Phone 8 Wallet hub beats Apple’s iOS 6 Passbook

Windows Phone 8 Unveiled

Microsoft Windows Phone 8: There is good news and bad news

Microsoft Windows Phone 8 finally get’s a “real” Windows Core

Windows Phone 8 get’s dual core, 720p and microSD

MS teases Windows Phone 8 enterprise features: Company Hub, encryption, secure boot, IT management

Microsoft Outlines Windows Phone 7 To Windows Phone 8 Upgrade Calls It Windows Phone 7.8

Windows 8 just got more context – Surface for Windows the blend between tablet and pc

So, the big mystery announcement event is over. The rumors before the event was really spot on, it was a tablet. But not any tablet. They have really gone all out in trying to re-invent what a tablet is. My first impression, without actually touching a device yet, is that they have succeeded. By bringing in Steven Bathiche from Microsoft research, one of the engineers behind the original Surface table, they put one of their brightest minds to work and re-invented the cover. Blending the tablet with the PC, exactly what they have been aiming for with their software in Windows 8. So the next version of Windows got some more context.

For me this announcement really was about that, taking the tablet one step closer to a full fledge PC. Using the cover as a keyboard is a brilliant idea and the heavy investment in the kickstand to go along with it. Add to that some small design details like making sure it had the feeling of a book and the investment in making digital ink feeling natural. They’ve really tried to push the boundaries a little bit further on the market totally dominated by IPad.

 

I like it. I’m enough of a geek to want one and play around with, just about NOW. I want to feel the keyboard, play around with the accelerometer they built into it (the keyboard knows where it is in relevance to the tablet), want to see if it is as light and thin as it looks.

But the market is bigger than us geeks. Just last week I was in a meeting with the head of a large Swedish enterprise that said something in the lines of “If I just had a keyboard and access to my windows apps, I wouldn’t need a laptop. Actually most of my employees wouldn’t need one, I could really do with a tablet”. So that’s at least one customer that will be happy to hear about this piece of technology and I’ve already emailed him the link to the official Surface website.

Still no pricing and no availability though, but time frame for windows 8 seems to be Octoberish according to the news blogs so it would be safe to assume that the tablets will arrive at the same time. What markets and what SKU’s are impossible to say. Yes there will be two SKU’s, one based on ARM and one based on Intel iCore 5 Ivy Bridge (the cooling was really cool as well).

The tech will be solid and the innovation is good, but what about the principles? Microsoft building their own tablets while Nokia, their premiere device partner, is rumored to build their own? Acer and Asus is pushing Ultra books really really hard?

They’ve really succeeded with XBOX and Kinect but failed with the Zune player, is it wise to get this big and risky push into hardware as a software company?

I think it is.

 

Surface Commercial on Youtube

Some links:

Richard Hay’s observations

Youtube video of the cover

Official press release

Engadget on the two hardware specs

Offical Surface website

Netflix running on WIndows 8 Surface

Some information about the cameras