Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Using mobile devices for efficiency, awareness, and adoption

I met several customers and partners who are exploring or implementing mobile delivery of enterprise software applications, recently. They are all focusing on efficiency of transactions at this time.

One of my colleagues added that the next step is to use mobile delivery of information to improve awareness and action within an organization.

The third area where mobile delivery of business applications help is with adoption. When a tool is always available and easy use, people use it more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forrester Wave Report about Collaboration Platforms

Gartner 2009-mq-social-software-in-workforce

2009 Social Software Providers Analysis

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Feedback Is The Best Design Technology On Earth

Conversation is the best learning technology on earth. Dialog is the best decision making technology available. Feedback is the best design technology on earth. Frequent, timely feedback can improve your design, reduce cost and increase the adoption rate of your products.

Collecting feedback is an art.

My design thinking mentor and friend @MChewD impressed upon me the need to show users that you are actively listening to them while they are giving you feedback on your story boards or prototypes. I do that by writing feverishly on Post It notes while they are giving their feedback and posting it on the storyboards on the wall. 

When they watch me take down notes, and read the notes I post on the wall, they get engaged in the process. The nature and quality of their feedback increases significantly. They give more objective feedback. They correct what I wrote down to ensure that I capture their thoughts accurately. They build on what I wrote down and give more elaborate feedback.

However, all these things are possible only if users are in the same room as you are. What would you do if you are sharing the prototype via a web conferencing tool? My friend @JeremiahStone solved this problem in his feedback sessions by showing his storyboards using a PowerPoint presentation and writing down the feedback in the same slide while sharing the slide via a web conferencing tool such as Adobe Connect. Viewers get to notice that their thoughts are being recorded. They get to see the thoughts written down in earlier sessions. He had great success with this approach.

I wondered how I can do the same thing with an HTML prototype. I also wanted to collect the feedback from multiple colleagues on the same page. I wanted to keep everyone informed about the feedback collected. I wanted to not duplicate my work by having to write down once and then copy and past the feedback in another Excel file. [For some reason my colleagues love Excel]. Most of all I wanted the process to be simple.

I recently tried out Protonotes to collect feedback on my web prototypes. I do not have significant usage information yet. But it is very promising. I like the simplicity of it. Looks like it will meet all my needs. It even has a feature to download the feedback in an Excel file to satisfy the Excel fans in my team.

Here is a video showing how to use it.

Using Prototypes, Not Pictures

Gavin Bell in his book "Building Social Web Applications" recommends that you use prototypes rather than pictures to communicate the design of your social web application.

Gavin says that in large companies normally designers hand over a set of Photoshop pages to the developers and let them bring the application to life. There are two things that can go wrong with this approach.

1. Designers, knowing or subconsciously, add unnecessary design elements hoping that some how the developers will figure things out.

2. Designers and product managers do not get to understand, verify, and get a second opinion on their own design before too much investment has been made.

We know that conversation with potential users and feedback is the best way to design products and improve them. A prototype is the best way to accomplish that.

Here is my recommendation. For all web applications, build a clickable prototype with a tool of your choice.  This approach makes sense to any web development project, even if it is not a social web application. I use Axure to create my prototypes and get feedback from users. Axure is very good for this purpose.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Building Social Web Applications

I am referring to the book "Building Social Web Applications a lot in the past few days.
Building Social Web Applications: Establishing Community at the Heart of Your Site
The book gives a good mental framework for designing social web applications. I have jotted down some key points that caught my eye.

Chapter 9
  • Every social application has a simple core. A profile, a social network and some form of group communication tool.
Chapter 12 : Talks about community structures.
  • There are 3 types of communities. Publisher led, interest led and product led. In an enterprise setting, I think there will be publisher led and interest led communities. Publisher led communities are people who gather around a published artifact. Interested led communities are people who gather around a topic.
    Chapter 13 : Organizing Your Site for Navigation, Search and Activity
    • Tags can be used as a filter. Tags can be used as a search term. For example, clicking on a tag can narrow the focus to topics tagged with a particular tag. Clicking on a tag can also broaden the conversation by pulling up all the people and artifacts tagged with a particular team. 
    • Tags Create Navigation: Tags create a people generated taxonomy without any over classification. Meaning emerges from the frequency of usage. People apply tags largely for their own benefit to allow them to retrieve content later. Tagging might look messy. But tags solve a lot of problems. They provide labels for content. They offer new means of navigation and search. They devolve the classification issue to the person best suited to do it - the person who created it or the person who is consuming it.
    • Connecting Content Through People: Profile pages can act as connectors to other content. Content can take a viewer to a person's profile page.
    • Search :Search by Person on your application should present an interface for activity based on the relationship between the searcher and the person returned in the search results. Show the relationship between people and offer a means to create a relationship.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Post American World by Fareed Zakaria

    Started listening to The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria.
    The Post-American World
    The Post American World is not a book about the fall of America. It is about the rise of the rest. An important book for managers of multi-national corporations. Today, that is almost every manager.

    Awareness - Conversation - Contacts - Career Development

    I spoke to a net generation professional today and asked him what he does to advance his career. In about 10 minutes, he gave me a very clear response.

    He summed it up in four words: Awareness, Conversation, Contacts and Career. Awareness leads to meaningful conversation with people you meet. Meaningful conversation leads to valuable contacts. Valuable contacts are almost alway the best way to move your career forward.

    He said that awareness is the most important thing. He strives to be aware of what is going on around him and what is happening in the world. He does this by attending a couple of industry conferences each year and visiting social media sites including Twitter and Facebook multiple times as week. He treats social media visits as micro-conferences. Such awareness leads to meaningful conversations both online and offline. He applies what he learns in routine jobs that he does every day. In other words, he does small experiments and innovates on the job.

    He said that conferences are places where you can learn things that did now know that you need to know. Conferences are places where you run into people you did not know you need to meet. Meaningful conversations, both in-person and online, lead to valuable contacts.

    Valuable contacts are important for tactical work that he does every day. Contacts are also important for strategic decisions and actions that he needs to take in the long term.

    1. Tactical contacts : He said that he tags these contacts in his head with specific terms. For example, he tags certain contacts as go to people for solving technical issues. Certain people help him solve procedural issues and certain others help him solve policy issues. He could tell me 10 such tactical contacts and how they help him at work. All tactical contacts were in the same location or in the same time zone. He said that tactical contacts help him do his work efficiently.
    2. Strategic contacts are people outside his organization who can give him a clear, unbiased opinion about decisions and actions. He relies on strategic contacts for guidance on his career and development. He has 3 strategic contacts.
    Career Development
    Good contacts are the best way to move your career forward he said. He also said that when a trusted contact recommends a job for you, you know it is time to move.

    One more thing. He said that he is always nice to people. The most important career and development strategy.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Tools and Services I use in 2010 for Product Research, Design and Development

    Axure $ 500 $Company Provided
    For HTML Prototyping. For design, communication and making to think

    Vimeo $Free $60 per year for professional use such as password protection
    What for? For making videos of demos for sharing with colleagues and training sales colleagues.
    Why? Video spreads virally. People like to watch.

    ZnetIndia $10 for domain $3 per month for hosting
    What for? For domains and hosting microsites.
    Why? I use this for effortless sharing and viral campaigning of ideas.

    Atlassian Confluence $Company Provided
    What for? For writing use cases and stories.
    Why: There are only two buttons. Save and Edit. Not many can over-engineer it. Version Control.

    SAPStreamwork $9 per month $Company provided
    What for? For collaborative scrap booking. I put everything in Streamwork Automatic updates
    Why? My colleagues automatically know the quality, timing and quantity of my work.

    PBWiki $Free
    What for? For hosting my eating places wiki and writing my book collaboratively.
    Why? Collaborative content creation. Automatic Updates.

    BlackBerry Camera $Company Provided
    What for? For taking pictures of white-board drawing and sharing immediately with others.
    Why? I always have my BlackBerry with me. Easy to document than writing it down. Easy to share. Rich rapid communication.

    Sony Harddisk Video camera $750
    For HD Videos. I bought it in 2007. You can get good ones for $350 now
    Why? Videos are rich and viral

    What for? For showing web and mobile prototypes
    Why? You can show a prototype while sitting on a couch or coffee shop without making it look like work You can also show touch interaction, which is a good test of usability.

    Saturday, July 03, 2010

    Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

    I am almost done reading Cognitive Surplus
    Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky.

    In the book Clay Shirky says that people have a lot of free time. He also says that technology influences how they spend that free time. Although the book is about society in general, a lot of what he says will apply to workplace culture, behavior and change.

    If you are involved in designing or deploying social media tools, this book will help you develop a good understanding of why things turn out that way they do in social media projects.

    I tweeted about some things that caught my attention.
    Communal Value Vs Civic Value : Communal value is what the participants get out of collaborative work. Civic value is what society gets out of the collaborative work of certain people.

    Designing to utilize cognitive surplus : There are a trillion hours a month of cognitive surplus is available for use. Today we have the technologies to take advantage of this cognitive surplus for civic value.

    Here is Clay Shirky talking about Cognitive Surplus and how it is changing the world.

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