Sunday, September 19, 2010

God's gift to customers?

“If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you are God’s gift to technology investing.” by John D. Gartner, a psychologist and author of “The Hypomanic Edge.” 

Well said. I think this reflects the attitude among quite many IT manufacturers, IT service providers and IT professionals. Every product or service is unic and one of the kind and there's no better, right? And customers should just be greatful for getting the product or service (without a doubt....)

I think it's the trap that we've put our selves into by expecting two digit growing numbers, living only quarter at a time, fiscal year max. We're easily categorizing customers with 80/20 rule, being concerned about the 20 and turning our backs to the 80. It's all about efficiensy and numbers. There's no time to serve every customer equally good. Does this sound familiar? I'm afraid that there might be quite many 'yes' answers among IT industry. Even though the information technology itself should help us and also give us the solutions where all customers can be served. Still this is not happening. Majority gets to call to automated call centers and are left choosing from the service menu 'if you want to order press 1, if 5. If 7..... if you wish to actually speak to someone press 9". The phrase I used was'IT should help us'. The idea is not to make everything into automated and cost efficient faceless services.

It seem's that the same 80/20 rule goes with the sold products and services as well. It's like only a fraction of sold produtcs are good quality and made ready and the rest is more or less average and not tested throughly, since it wouldn't be efficient, would it? It's better to develope products into the point where they can be sold to customers and then fix only those flaws that you will get feedback from 80% of customes (or from the biggest 20% group). Also there's no point of putting all the needed features into the product at once, is there? It would take longer to make and you get actually more money by upselling the add-ons and new versions. And who's first on the market, gets the cream, eh? So manufacturers and service providers have actually oursourced the testing to customers and at the same time they are charging them several times for the features and fixes that should've been there in the first place.

The scary part is that this way of roadmap thinking and leaving some of the testing to be done by customers has spread into other industries as well. I'm afraid that these successors of IT industry are now moved to serve other industries, so this way of thinking have spread into car manufacturing industry, house building industry, even into defence industry not to mention the healthcare industry. And since everything is more or less based on  somekind of IT system, the thought is actually quite horrific. Every plain, train and every weapon or safety system is actually based on systems that can't be tested 100% anymore. This is simply because of the huge number of lines of code and the number of parts, leaving just too many variations to test. And in the end because of the rush to the markets. The faults are called 'features' and the missing features are explained to be 'unnecessary'.

I wonder IF there would be a company who would make very high quality and ready made products or services and would serve it's customers with the humble attitude with personal touch, could it survive at all in todays markets? I think it could. It would differ from it's competitors and it would be very refreshing in todays hypomanic world.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It’s getting Cloudy, yes – but locally or globally? Three trends arising.

Trend one – Global Cloud services: Cloud Computing means very different things depending on who you’re talking with. Many of the big players are offering services based on clouds. Amazon, SalesForce, Microsoft, Symantec, just to mention few. These have been more or less ‘centralized’ clouds that are offering services ‘from the distance’, mostly US based services. Problem there is not only the bandwidth needed, but also privacy and regulations. Not all the information is granted to move abroad, sometimes by corporate policy but sometimes even by law. Also on individual level, you probably wouldn’t want your pictures, music and private info to be stored into place you don’t know in which country it resides, nor do you know about what the laws in that particular country say about privacy or who’s got access to your data and how they’re protected. I think those huge datacenters in various places globally will be suitable for some of the services when data that has been moved isn’t critical and under any laws or regulations and when the price compared to risks gets more weight on decision making. Compelling factor for those services will be price efficiency since even a smaller customer gets to share the benefits of large scale economics which wouldn’t be achievable for them otherwise.

 Trend two – Local Cloud Services: I think we’re not there yet and it’s not the only path we’re walking either.  I think we will see another trend rising aside. Local cloud services operating in same country as customer, offering localized services with faster bandwidth. Offering services on local language following local laws and regulations. Customers for these locally produced services will be government offices, healthcare, financial and military customers. Also some of the public companies as well. There is a business opportunity for local consumer services as well because of the local language and because of the ease of trusting the local company you know and you can even visit if needed. Something you can’t say about faceless multinational companies operating overseas. These services can be offered by local Telco who already have the datacenters and the connectivity. Since they’re not the best of creating the software and services, maybe this is where the brokering role suites better for them. On the other hand there are many small innovative players that are lacking the capacity to scale into the measures needed to wide scale service offering. There is also a need for third kind of partners needed in this puzzle which have the capability and skills to combine these to, the integrators. So this is the opportunity to bring these players together and create a local brokering business which beats the individual global cloud service providers. Global service providers fit into the picture if they allow the software and services to be ran and the data to be stored at least partly locally – and if they allow localization of their software and services.

Trend three – Cloud service brokering business:  This will be the combining of the global and local cloud services. As always, you won’t be finding everything you need from one service provider, no matter what they say in their advertisement. And in the end you would like to have one service from here and another service from there. But problem with that would be both managing the service contracts, SLAs but also how to use the different user interfaces and different technology needed for each and every service you buy separately. That’s why arising business area will be those who are able to combine these different 3rd party cloud services into the one user interface that scales based on where the user is and what is the device and connection used and what the user needs at that moment. This will create a new kind of service business offering. Just like malls are bringing different offering and shops into one place for consumer to walk in and choose what they need, these service portals will be sort of ‘DigiMalls’. The challenge is will there be a standard APIs that makes it possible to easily combine the present and the future offering. We will also need a payment technology that supports one-to-many micro payments to allow pay-as-you-use cloud service brokering business to arise and grow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Social media

In my business I need to get attention about the products my company sells. Also I need to get information from the customers what are their pain points so that we'd know what products and services to concentrate on. And how we could serve them better. In order to achieve that, I started to read about social media, reading books published in 2009 about Blogs, Twitter, Wiki and Branding. I've had this Blog from 2005, but back then it was more of sharing one interesting issue with others, not something ment to be supporting any business goals. Now it was time to go further and start to learn how to use these tools to get noticed and to be different from the competitors.

I created Twitter account @DimiDoukas and started to use it. I think it's like mini Facebook and mobile SMS combined. It's a good way to follow interesting people and companies. I haven't created any Twitter accounts for business yet. I'm more like testing the concept with personal account first to learn more how to use it and how to combine different social medias together, like Blogs and Twitter. It's surprising and almost overwhelming how many different tools you have nowdays that you can use for letting your customers know more about you and your company, and to get immediate feedback from them. To follow and update my Twitter with my Nokia E71 (S60) phone, I bought Gravity software, which is one of the most versatile tool I could find. It costed 10 EUR which is about 14 USD and can be found in or through Nokia OVI shop from your phone's web browser