Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Hybrid Solutions Are Working Together

I can identify with these guys. This could be a promo for Hybrid solutions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Org Charting Is A Great Candidate For The Tablet

I was speaking a to a customer today and they mentioned that their executives used to print organizational charts and take those printouts with them to meetings to better understand the roles and responsibilities of people. Not any more. Now-a-days they use SuccessFactors Business Execution app to look up people, their managers and their team members. This is based on actual behavior.

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Interesting Conversation About SAP and SuccessFactors

Martin Gillet and Jarret Pazahanick on SAP HR and SuccessFactors solutions and what it means for SAP customers. I found the conversation balanced and fair.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

OnBoarding A Sales Team Using SuccessFactors Jam

SAP is hiring a many new Human Capital Management software sales people this year. David Ludlow, the head of solution management for HCM and my manager suggested that we practice what we preach and use SuccessFactors Jam for OnBoarding all the new sales colleagues.

SuccessFactors Jam is now available for all the 55,000 employees at SAP.
This means all SAP employees can now access Jam and participate in communities from their desktop, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android devices.

It is integrated with our organizational chart
This means that my sales colleagues can click on the name of any participant in the community and get an idea of who they are, who the work for, the content they have shared and so on.

Single SignOn is enabled.
This means that we can share a link of a document posted in Jam via email to a large audience and they can reach that document, or page with one click.

We can track content views and the people who viewed the content
We can track the number of views on the content we post. Not only that. Everyone can see who viewed the documents and even the version of the document they viewed. So we will be able to tell which sales colleague has seen which version of the document. We will be able to track the popularity of a piece of content and the consumption of any particular individual in the community. All this information is all transparent for everyone to see.

Using SuccessFactors Jam, we are going to significantly speed up the OnBoarding process of our sales colleagues. We are going to have detailed analytics on the content level and person level to focus on a piece of content that needs improvement or a person who needs attention.

Rapid rich media content creation
Our solution managers can not only share presentations, the can also create share videos of how they will present the content to customers using simple video content creation and sharing tools within Jam.

Conversations at a micro content level.
Our sales colleagues can ask questions to the product experts about specific pages in a presentation or specific segments in a video.

Support for multiple mobile devices
Support for iPad, iPhone, Android and Blackbeery devices means our sales colleagues can consume fresh content on their mobile devices when every they want from where ever they are.

I am sure we will learn a thing or two doing this. I'll keep you posted.

Building Architect Vs Landlord

Designers of OnPremise Enterprise software are a bit like building architects. They care a lot about how the product looks and functions on the day of release rather than think about how the product will meet the needs of people a year from the day of release. Like a building architect making a statement with the facade of his or her building, designers of OnPremise software try to demonstrate great features with every release. The designer of OnPremise software strives for more complex features with many spectacular moving parts that show off the latest and greatest technologies.

The OnPremise software designer is not rewarded for building software that is easy to maintain or has lower total cost of ownership. Like a building architect who is rewarded for making a statement with his building on opening day, the OnPremise software designer is rewarded for making a big bang release.

The designer of cloud software is like a landlord. He cares about how the building will function for years to come. The Landlord cares about how the building is going to meet the needs of his tenants because if it does not, they will move out. He cares about how much time he needs to devote for the upkeep of the building, because more time devoted to maintenance means less profit margins. He worries about how much money he need to spend to fix or modify things so that the building is usable by the tenant.

The landlord does not care about fancy features. He cares about features that work, break less often, meet the needs of his tenants today and modular enough to accommodate future needs and expansion.

I think an architect will have a hard time becoming a landlord and vice versa.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

iPad User Illustrations

I was looking for iPad user illustrations on the web and could not find any. So I created a few iPad user illustrations myself.

The above images are in bitmap format. You can grab them and use them in your stories and presentations. If you would like these images in vector format in a PowerPoint file you can buy it from Gumroad. You can manipulate vector images to suit your needs by changing the color, line thickness and size without losing image quality.

Selling Simple Things To People Who Care About What You Do

Last summer I created some android app prototypes and posted videos of them on my blog. I got a lot of requests for the project files from students in Europe to mobile enthusiastis in India. Some of them were even willing to pay. I did not want to spend a ton of time to charge them a few dollars. So I sent the file to them for free and sometimes ignored the requests, due to lack of time.

@Chirag_Mehta mentioned a service called Gumroad to me. I tried it out and it is pretty cool. The designer of Gumroad gets it. If people are following you on Twitter, they already see value in what you share. So there is no need to market to them the traditional way. All Gumroad needs to provide is a simple friction-less transaction for sellers and buyers of small digital goods such as pieces of source code, a photograph, or a small piece of digital art.

If you have a piece of digital content that you think might be useful for others, go ahead and sell it. I will pay if I find it useful. So will others. The possibilities are endless. You may have a good PowerPoint template for presentations, an illustration that you created for a demo, an excel macro you put together to calculate something, an icon you created for an app, a photo you took, a research article you wrote about a topic, an industry or a company.

Here is an intro to Gumroad.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How Buildings Flow With Time

@JeremiahStone gave me the Book "How Buildings Learn" and told me about Stewart Brand. Mr. Brand's philosophy is that architects should think about how buildings flow with time rather than think of them as artifacts of today.

Bad building architects focus on the look of the building rather than focus on the function or the use of a building. I noticed that software product designers make the same mistakes as the designers of bad buildings. Most software product designers focus on the look of the software rather than the use of the software. They also design and produce the software as it was envisioned two years back, while the software will be used in the next ten years or so. Good buildings are timeless. I wonder if software can be timeless. Well. One can dream.
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built
This book was turned into a 6 part BBC series. The first one is about "Flow".

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Conversations Instead Of Workflows

Many people management products have work flows. Some are essential. Some overdo it for no additional value. Today @rutasraju and I were discussing the possibility of changing some of those work flows into conversations.

Many people I spoke to said that they hate work flows, because more often than not they are poorly designed. People try to avoid complex work flows. In the best case they call the other person and get the approval outside the system and then simply push the necessary buttons to complete the transaction. In worst case scenarios both parties lose track of who needs to do what to complete the transaction.

The work flow does not help a person make a decision or execute efficiently. I think there is a better way.

Instead of passing the control back and forth, it might be possible to turn every workflow into a small online conversation between two or more people.

Here is an example scenario.

1. Employee makes a travel request.
2. Manager has an option to Approve or Deny.

While Denying the request, manager can add a comment explaining what additional information is required before the travel request can be approved. Employee and manager can continue the conversation online in a free form manner instead of waiting for any work flow to kick in.

In some cases they might be able to invite one or more additional people to the conversation with a simple @notification. For example. "I have asked @John.Smith to be my back up while I am travelling". John is automatically notified that he is being mentioned and can join the conversation.

Not everyone will be comfortable with a free form conversation at first. It is worth trying. We are going to test the waters. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It Is A Lot Of Fun To Sample And Buy Things Where They Are Made

In the harbor in Monterey, California there are two stores that sell salt water taffy. One store is a clean showroom where all the candy is displayed well and neatly tagged. The other store is a slightly messy place. The owner put the salt water taffy making machines near the entrance by the window. The machine is noisy and hot when it runs and place smells of sugar. When you enter the store, the candy makers offer you free candy from the last batch. People drop the wrappers on the floor. People stop and watch the candy machine, blocking the doorway.

And yet, the messy store with sticky candy everywhere is always crowded and sells a lot more candy the other store.

I wondered why. It dawned on me that it is so much fun for people to see the things they buy being made. It is a lot more fun to sample something right after it is made. It is of course impossible not to buy once you taste the candy. If a particular candy is sold out the owner makes more of the same candy right there in front of you.

The owner of the first store is like the IT team that wants to maintain a clean intranet page where all the content is neatly organized, and tightly controlled even if no one finds the content interesting, useful or engaging.

The owner of the second store is like the online community manager who engages people, enables conversation, encourages content creation, manages a slightly messy and sometimes confusing front page but provides value for all the participants, while making it a ton of fun for the people involved.

Which one do you want to be? The clean but boring shop that sells less or the slightly messy but fun shop that sells more.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Start As A Factory And Add A Showroom

A few weeks back I did an interesting experiment with Jam. We had to create a lot of product demos showcasing SAP and SuccessFactors products to prepare for Sapphire, the annual SAP Customer conference.  We also had to roll it out to a large number of people within the company.

I created a Jam group for the people who were designing and producing the demos. It started off as a list of demos to do and all the content, resources and conversation associated with the demo. When a person entered the Jam group it resembled a factory, where things are getting done. There was a lot of chaos initially. Over a period of time things settled down and a list of demos emerged. My colleagues started sharing updates, adding their latest content and inviting other colleagues. It became a useful list of all the demos that are being created for SAP and SuccessFactors products.

Some colleagues started inviting not only other demo producers but also consumers of demos. Marketing colleagues asked if we can turn this group into a showroom for the demos that are being created. So we tidied up the from page and grouped the demos together in a meaningful way for consumers of the demos. We also added an introduction explaining what the group was all about.

Meanwhile the group continued to be a place for demo producers to exchange content, files and have a conversation. The only difference was that the conversations and updates were moved to the background.

I think it is a nice pattern for any community to evolve. Start a place for building things and then morph into a place where things are organized and showcased. Let initial participants invite others. A strong community will emerge.

Why Use Social Software Instead Of a Regular Intranet

I wrote this memo to my colleagues about the need to use social software. I thought I will share the wealth,

1. The world is moving beyond portals to communities. Creating content and posting in a portal is useful. Communities enabled tools such as SuccessFactors Jam are better. Communities enable the right people to share the right information at the right time, without any overheads or red tape.

2. Content is increasingly being shared via short videos and timely short blog posts or one line updates rather than long boring presentations or press releases.

3. Delivery mechanisms are moving from Push to Pull. We could create and share content on the topics that people are curious about rather than focus only on what we think people need. Let our audience tell us what to write about.

4. Learning by conversation. Not just by Presentation : The reason why conferences are popular is because the audience knows that they can have a conversation with the experts and connect with them. We could replicate this in the online Jam group focused on one topic. The experts on a topic  can be available in the group for content sharing and conversation.

5. Content consumption is increasingly done from smartphones and tablets : We need a community tool that can be accessed from all popular mobile devices. Jam works well on most popular smartphones and tablets.

6. Innovation cycles are getting shorter : The traditional elaborate approach worked when we had one innovation cycle every year. That won’t be enough when our innovation cycles become every quarter or even more frequent.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Experiencing OnDemand and OnPremise Apps On A Unified Mobile App

The product design team at SAP lead by @MChewD put together an iPad app showing the possible mobile experience of SAP OnPremise and SuccessFactors OnDemand applications. Lars Dalgaard showed it at Sapphire 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

How EMC Explains Social Media To Its Employees

A great video from EMC to employees introducing social media, social media tools and policy. I have read social media policy documents from the US Military and IBM. What I like about EMC is that they chose to create a video and made it easy to share by putting it on YouTube. Great leadership from the EMC team.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Demos That Show Hybrid OnDemand and OnPremise Experience

There are thousands of customers who run SAP HR solutions OnPremise. We have created several demos that show how these customers can start using SuccessFactors talent management and collaboration applications without disrupting the user experience of their employees and managers. There demos are available in the SAP HCM Campus at Sapphire 2012 in Orlando. If you are there, please ask for the demos and check our the possible experience of  managers and employees who use SAP OnPremise HR tools and SuccessFactors OnDemand talent management and collaboration tools.

Simulating Page Flick In Your @AxureRP iPad Prototype

I use AxureRP , the prototyping tool to turn my design ideas and mental models into onscreen prototypes that customers and colleagues can see and comment on. Recently the Axure team released Axure RP 6.5. This version has some very neat features to simulate an iPad experience. The Page flick is one of them. I posted a video on how to do this in Axure.

Click here to see all the new featues in Axure RP 6.5

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Space Where Ideas Can Mingle And Get Better

Most organizations, especially in the developed world, need to be innovative to survival. Their survival depends not on how efficiently they can do what they already do. But on how they can combine ideas in their people's heads to come up with new ways of doing things. In the olden days only physical spaces, such as coffee houses, were considered idea exchange places. Not any more. There are virtual collaboration spaces where ideas can mingle and can get better. Steven Johnson's video explains it best.

Axure 6.5 New Features Include Mobile Prototyping Support

I use Axure for prototyping my products and share it with customers. I am pretty excited about the new mobile prototyping features in Axure 6.5

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SAP's Mobile Strategy

I attended a coffee corner session with Sanjay Poonen, where he outlined SAP's mobile strategy. He said that there are four pillars in the Strategy. They are Device Management, Platform, Applications and Messaging. Here is a video where he speaks about the strategy.
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