The auto industry is approaching Car Apps in an interesting way

I saw an article today on Ford and Toyota launching a Consortium to get developers to build on the Smart Device Link (SDL) platform. You can learn more about it on the SDL homepage.

The strange thing is, SDL appears to be a declarative way to express your application while still giving the auto manufacturer the control over how things actually lay out in the car. I am curious, don’t the brands building want to own the display for THEIR application?

The other thing that comes to mind is “what value do I get out of building for a car platform?” Does this make my users more sticky? Is it just the PR value for the announcements and ongoing press? (which does have some real value) Are companies able to not only build, but keep up with the platforms in the auto space as it gets more fragmented?

I was curious, I am sure there has to be a handful of key apps that motor companies want on their platform. If they think it is a differentiator, or something that partners of the Open Source SDL platform could benefit from, why not just build it for them?

Taking Ford as an example.

Assuming nobody was kicking in money but Ford, and they ate all of the costs, it is probably still worthwhile. (but they could spread the cost over each SDL partner and encourage other car manufacturers to sign up for the platform)

Ford made $7.2B in revenue in 2015. (with a gross revenue of $23M) That’s nothing to sneeze at for top line. Now, let’s say you wanted to ensure you got the top 20 applications on your platform. Things like weather, music, podcasting, traffic, etc. You could hand select a couple from each category and build the winners with no cost to them.

You can see that even at an estimated cost (wild ass guess) of $500k per application to build, getting the top 20 apps would be roughly 1/10th of a percent of Ford’s top line revenue.

Now, let’s say they could convince just 4 other companies to help share the cost. This becomes a much better value for them, and others; something each company could easily justify to expand from the top 20 apps, to the top 50 apps if it show real value as a differentiator.

There are probably arguments to be said about doing what SiriusXM did with building the cost of the services in to the cars, that would be a whole separate discussion.. but it is something interesting to think about.

 
EDIT:  I should have taken the extra step to calculate additional car sales against competition due to the advantage, and top line growth due to that number.. but I was running under the lazy assumption that Ford/Toyota did that work, and that’s why they are investing in the platform.  It wouldn’t take long though to make up  the revenue..roughly the Equivalent of 1 days sales or less.

Urgent vs. Important work

Urgent vs. Important work

We have been having this recurring discussion at work lately about the difference between Urgent work vs. Important work.  Understand how this fits in your decision making process is key in my view to being productive, yet understanding the proper interruption cycle when things are not going as planned.  I thought I’d share the matrix that is going around just because I find it valuable.

When you are getting ready to think about a piece of work, or more importantly engage with others.. where does the work fall in this matrix?  And is it the same for them as it is you?

 

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How I am using Evernote for Presentations now

How I am using Evernote for Presentations now

OK, when I say now..I mean from now on.   I think this is my new found time saver.   How may times are you taking notes and working in Evernote, just to turn around and format those notes in Keynote or Powerpoint just to show them to somebody else?

I know that sometimes it makes sense in the context of a full on business meeting, but when you are quickly capturing thoughts and need to get info to your team, and responses back.. this is SOOOO much better in my view.  Enough already, how do I do it you ask?

evernote-mac-presentation

I know you have heard that you can do presentation mode in Evernote.  This is not new.  (although recently updated)  I see a couple ways to use this.

One thing I like to keep in mind is to do an outline for a real presentation first.  This gets your mind thinking ahead of time about the story you are telling, the goals, and the supporting data.   If you can’t get this down simply in text first, you will struggle.  I also feel like too many people focus on existing slides they have, how to squeeze them into their story and the deck grows to 70+ slides.  This is never good.  Stop, tell a concise story and do it simply first.

Here is how I think about a presentation:

Presentation Goal: Demonstrate to COMPANY X how they should focus their BLAH to attract additional users of the Mobile Internet.

TIPS:

  • Titles should always read the key point. If you read only Titles, would you get the point of the deck?
  • Titles should always be framed in the affirmative
  • Data is supporting the key point in the Title


SLIDE 1:

Goal: Demonstrate that COMPANY X should look to other carriers to learn where they can get incremental Mobile Internet adoption
Title: Company X is lagging behind in Y that is causing a lack of mobile adoption
Data: A graph that shows % of X,Y,Z and compares

etc…

This is where Evernote shines.  Creating an outline is great for this.  It’s easy and quick, and when you are done you will have your simple presentation. So long as you don’t need to do a formal Keynote deck.. you should be able to get your point across to your organization quickly.

 

Presentation in Evernote using a Single Note

This to me is the quickest and dirtiest way to get some information captured and present it.  You can create your outline and go very quickly.  You don’t need tons of fancy graphics and animations.  You are just trying to sell something internally for buyoff, or get people informed of something.

I usually make my slide title all capital letters, and bold it.  This helps it stand out in presentation mode.  Then I provide any text, data, key bullets and images below, all in a very concise format.  Think about adding more “slides” vs longer ones with more data.

SLIDE TITLE
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed sodales libero sit amet urna aliquam, sagittis pulvinar enim condimentum. Etiam dui justo, tincidunt vel odio a, mattis egestas lectus. Duis sed congue nibh.
 * Key Point: Details of the point
 * Key Point: Details of the point
 * Key Point: Details of the point

Now, I’ve found if you keep this concise, you can use a horizontal rule after each “slide” to cause Evernote to separate them in presentation mode.  I’ve found it not to be perfect every time, but it’s darn close. Now, just add each section with your outline, and data.. Rules in between and you are done.  One note that also acts as a presentation.

If you want to see a sample deck with Horizontal Rules as separators, check out this note.  You can add it to your Evernote and try the presentation.

Multiple Notes to Create a Presentation

The other way to do this is to create a single note for each key point you want to make.  Then, once you are done you can select all the notes and select “create table of contents” as shown here:

Evernote_Premium

This will create a note with a table of contents that links to each separate note.  This makes it easy to reorder your “deck” and select items to present.  Re-title your note and you are ready to go.  This is also a great way to have an agenda slide and track where you are in the presentation.

Evernote_Premium 2

The great thing about this way is you can be a bit more modular and reuse portions of other presentations.  It also makes it easy to include documents, videos, notes from meetings, etc.

I am going to start using this internally from now on at my work.  I see this as a huge time saver when presenting for quick signoff internally.  Focus on the content, not the format.

I would love to hear how others are using this, and to what extent you are having luck.

 

 

 

 

Music and technology coming together in a big way for me

Music and technology coming together in a big way for me

Today was my last day at Microsoft.  One of many jobs that has shaped my career.

I’ve been in the tech space for quite some time now.   To be more precise, I have really been focused in mobile for the past 14 years.  My life in mobile started out in 1998 when I was working as a developer on the AT&T Pocket Net Service.. the first yellow pages on phones in the US.   Think back to 1998.. were you using data on your phone?   Most likely not (a reason that product never really took off I guess)   I am pretty sure my family and friends thought I was on crack for wanting to bring mobile sites to cell phones.

It was a long-fought journey to get to today… but for all the pain and lack of glory, I am thrilled with the accomplishments I have made to mobile.  The things users got to do based on work that was done by teams I worked with.  Strategy and planning that ultimately panned out.   As many of you know, mobile is a passion, not for the feint of heart.   If you don’t LOVE it.. and I mean TRULY love it, you will burn out.   It’s a pain.

For the first time in well over a decade I am going to be doing a new job that is not 100% focused in mobile.  Sure, there will be some mobile components to it, but it’s just a portion of what I am doing.   I am heading over to Rhapsody.   WOOT!   I have been a Rhapsody subscriber for nearly a decade.. love the product and I am thrilled to have a chance to work with the team.

I’ll get more details out on @torgerson on Twitter as things get rolling.  It is an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to start.   Bringing my passion and experience in the industry I know.. to learn a whole new business.   I am up for the challenge.  There is something to be said for doing what you love.

 

Don’t get religious on your stance for web design

Don’t get religious on your stance for web design

While responsive web design has been around for  a while, it really seems  like the past 6 months or so it’s bounced back into the spotlight.  I have seen a lot of articles talking about the pros and cons of using such approaches. Some of these articles are quite prescriptive on the approach.   For those who are less familiar with it, let me give a quick summary.

Responsive web design is a technique that can leverage standard markup, CSS, and Javascript.  There is no magic or trickery..other than the actual know-how to get such a site designed and built properly.  By no means do I know a ton about Responsive Web Design, I am merely using this as a tool to help make my point.

Many groups recommend you actually start with the mobile view first.   The mobile first movement suggests you look at the key things your user will want to do in mobile (assuming the most simplified view) and then build up to the tablet or desktop view from there.

Progressive Web Design is another tactic that is leveraged in these common approaches outlined above.  The idea here is to use basic markup; then based on browser capabilities you can “enhance” the experience.  In simple terms start with a basic level 1 experience, then you test to see if your browser is advanced enough to get experience level 2 (or 3, or whatever you want to name it) and then if so, the code gets executed.

This seems like a great approach to solve my problem of building multiple websites!  Right?  Well, all good things come with a catch.   If you think about a news style site, like SmashingMagazine.com, it doesn’t matter if the user is on their desktop reading articles or on the bus viewing the site on their phone.  They are doing the same tasks, just optimized for a screen type.  If you have different scenarios for your mobile users that are unique, does this mean it’s broken?

This is where my frustration comes in on the articles I’ve seen.   Too many people are taking the view on one of two dimensions.  FIRST:  Responsive is the end all be all approach and really solves world hunger. (ok, maybe a touch over blown).   Yes, it does great things that appear magical, it helps me build to a single code base and it helps my SEO story with a single URL approach.    SECOND:  Responsive doesn’t help me because I need to optimize my business for mobile differently than I do on the desktop site.

By all means.. both views are important, and both have merit.   What you need to realize is this:  Getting religious on how people should build sites is a bit like.. well, getting religious about your religion vs. someone else’s religion.  Neither one of you may be wrong.. but you have your beliefs.

I’d say take what you need from each approach.  (back to the tech talk here, not religion).   There is no reason you can’t leverage the great flow layouts from a responsive web design and still have very mobile specific approaches to solve for specific scenarios that are different across device types.   These can be handled on the server side with some intelligent code at run-time.

Leverage Progressive for building up capabilities on the fly.  Be smart, be adaptive.  Leverage business intelligence at the server layer to make content choices, optimize images, custom deliver CSS and optimize where you can.   Finally.. go with Responsive for a single code base for rendering across devices.   PAR… this approach of Progressive, Adaptive and Responsive is a way to be smart while still leveraging what others have done without handcuffing you to a single approach.

The purist view of responsive means you do everything client side to determine what shows on devices and how it renders.   We just know that we have certain things we want to be smart about given ample opportunity. This is why with an adaptive approach you can:

  • Not send a single image and scale it via % widths from desktop to mobile.  Do try to optimize and load the right JPG based on device width
  • Use EM for fonts.
  • Using @media-query options is great at run time.. but could you save code on the download and optimize on the server side based on device width?  (rather than user-agent)
  • Be smart about content, not all content has to be sent back.   Send content ABC where it makes sense and mix/replace XYZ with proper events when triggered.

So.. this is just a suggestion, but don’t get overly critical about how people are approaching their site design and implementation.   Personally I have always found the thing that works best is to leverage the best of all approaches and make it work for me.  PAR just happens to be a good blend of capabilities as I see it.

 

 

The USPS is a business, run it as one

I am annoyed at all the press lately about the USPS and how upside down they are.   The government is doing it’s effort to try and turn things around, but in a big typical government fashion.   Don’t get me wrong, doing all the assessment of the full operations for the USPS is not my intent, but I wanted to show a couple of key things that irritate me.   Let’s take a look as if I were actually running a business in this space.

 

I didn’t have all the USPS data at hand online, I will update if I find more data.  

 

What I did pull was a comparison from the USPS Annual Report, Fed Ex and UPS data to compare.  I am a Product Manager by trade and have had to deal with the pressure of showing profitability on products or a plan to get there.   When you are investing and growing a business it is not uncommon to lose money for a period of time.  When you are a mature business, trend lines on projections should definitely be one of your bellweathers of things to come.

 

First.. if I am comparing myself against competition, how do I stack up as a business.  I have general mail (high volume/low price) delivery.  I have some specialized products that have more competition in the industry from the likes of Fed Ex and UPS.   I also have direct shipping which is exactly in the line of site for my main competitors.  Again, we are running a business here.   How does my top line revenue stack up against my competition?

APAC Mobile Tour Lesson: Don’t do Product Management from your office

I've been spending the past week traveling around meeting with a couple of our customers and a variety of content providers in the APAC region.  Keep in mind, I've been involved in the mobile space for over 12 years now..  but even after all the knowledge transfer from co-workers, reading of countless articles and a good solid effort to understand pre-paid markets, there was one thing that stood out for me.  Music and radio in India over the voice channel.  

The concept of someone dialing into a number to listen to songs on their phone was baffling to me.. but then again, it is a different market and even I should have known better than to be stunned.  Most of the users of this service have no other means for internet. So.. how do you listen to your radio station when you don't have a radio, don't have internet?  Just dial a number and burn some pre-paid credits with live radio.  It's a few seconds (ten-ish) delayed.. but very useful for those markets with a similar demographic.  

I've become immersed over the past week in many great conversations with smart people.  It goes back to the philosophy that you can't do Product Management from your office.  I try to practice this road trip education as often as I can.. no better people to learn from than the actual markets and customers.  

Continuing week two.. let's see the joy and fun this brings.  

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WindowsPhone Omnigraffle Templates

I am working on a project at work going through some product concepts on WindowsPhone, seeing what sort of interesting things I can build.  The problem I have had so far is doing mockups.  The PSD files Microsoft gives out are not so friendly.. and honestly, I prefer to use Omnigraffle for my mockups anyway.  Unfortunately there were no Omnigraffle WindowsPhone templates.

I went over to the Microsoft site here… http://goo.gl/8qpw  to grab a PDF they had on their design templates.  I am now trying to re-create these in Omnigraffle.. one by one.  It’s a little slow.. but will be helpful for me when done.

Eventually I plan on creating a Stencil..but for now I am just creating them as individual canvases.  If you are interested in using these. (the pics are just a few examples).. download the attached ZIP file.

Also.. jump over to Microsoft’s site and download their design template ZIP file. It has the font files you will need for this to work right.  They are using a font called SegoeWP. It is a clean metro style font.. and required for the templates to render correctly.

Get the files here:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/48848/WindowsPhone%20Templates%20V2.zip

Give me any feedback you have.. I will be posting updates as I go.
– jeff

Struggling with Google Buzz

Google-buzz-page-preview
OK, I’ve really tried to giv e Google Buzz a run and see how useful it can be.  My problem is two fold. First is the lack of integration into my GAFYD (Google Apps for Your Domain) email, the second is lack of integration into the linked sites.

GAFYD:  Lack of integration is a source of constant frustration with this tool.  I personally love the Email, Docs, Calendar.  Don’t want to give it up.  The problem is feeling like a second class citizen because GAFYD does not include things like Reader, Voice or now Buzz.  (sure it’s coming.. but..)  What is the purpose of that little checkbox on the dashboard to get new features if we REALLY don’t get things early?  or at all?

Without Buzz being integrated into my REAL email account, it forces me to go to yet another location for information.  I now have Google Reader, Twitter, Buzz, Email, Facebook.. hmm.. too many.  It isn’t really a solution to fix that problem and just caused a NEW location to look.  If it was part of my email, it might be ok.

LACK OF TIE IN TO LINKED SITE:  My second beef is the lack of tie in back to the social site.  If I am following someone on Buzz, they post something on Twitter.. then I have to either respond in Buzz, and people using Buzz can see it.  The problem is the loss of conversation on Twitter?  I have now moved conversation from the main site (where presumably MOST people follow) to Buzz, where it is a parasite, leaching the good value off to allow itself to live.  Had it not been for the host, Buzz wouldn’t exist.. hell, even parasites provide SOME value back to their host (like cleaning bacteria, etc).. Buzz is just migrating traffic from other sites to their own!  If you are building a nice following on Twitter, it is detrimental to your core group of followers.. unless they all use Buzz.

Here is how I keep track of things.  I’d be interested to know if others have found Buzz to be useful in a way to help consolidate my current sources of news.

Google Reader:  I use this for my blog reading and following.  This link is to my shared items.. but I keep track of around 40 blogs.  It is a lot per day.. I need to find a way to remove dupes… too many people post the same news.

Twitter:  I have found this to be a great source of news.  I use Twitter to keep up with things.. not typically to reach out or communicate.  I’m a consumer, not a producer.

ReadTwit:  I use Readtwit to pull links from Twitter into my RSS feeds.  This helps me while on the bus and using Google Reader on my iPhone.  It finds links in the posts of people I follow on Twitter, pulls in the content and makes an RSS feed for me.  Nicely integrated.

Any additional news consumption is through random surfing, reading or links emailed to me.  My open question then is this.  How does Buzz help?  I would like to benefit from a tool.. I just don’t find this one useful.

 

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Managing your group for success

This is going to be a fairly short little post, but after a couple discussions recently with some other people, it is still amazing to me how many managers don’t know how to manage a team properly.  The experiences I have been hearing about all resonated with me based on my own past.

First off, let me say that as professionals in our fields, we all recognize the times where it is crunch time.. go time.. the time to put your head down, focus on your work to completion.. no matter what it takes.  Those are the make or break opportunities in our own fields, the ones that get us the big deals.. the ones that impress big clients.. the ones that meet a critical deadline.  As a manager, you hope to have team members who recognize these times and do the right thing without you having to ask.  That is what helps create a great team.. and one that truly will gel over time with these experiences.  Now.. as a manager, don’t confuse this with always expecting your team to work long hours, weekends and holidays.. on a regular basis.  If your team is ALWAYS overworked, working long hours, weekends or constantly taking on random tasks…there is a systemic problem in your organization.  You will succeed in the short term with some wins.. but fail in the long-term.  You will fail to deliver long-term sustainable results.  You will fail to retain quality employees.  You will fail to recruit new good candidates as word spreads.  You, as a manager.. will have failed.  You failed yourself, your team and your company.

As a manager you also need to manage the tasks coming in to your team appropriately.  Being the manager that never says no to upper management does not make you successful.  If it is putting your teams ability to succeed at risk, you are failing.  There are two areas I see this happen.  The first is in sheer volume.  (see first rant above)  If you are taking on more work than your team can handle, and expecting them to “suck it up”, you will fail.  The second way this occurs is with managers who don’t know what the capabilities of their team really are.  Some managers take on ANY task and expect good people to just make it work.

If you truly give someone a task that is out of their skill set, hoping they will grow with the task, you may have just set them up to fail.  If you can provide proper education, training or assistance, it could be for the better.  If you don’t enable their success, you just asked them to fail.  The problem is, many managers will have good people who they just expect to succeed.  Nobody can do EVERYTHING well.  There are limits.  Take a solid project manager and try to make them do customer account management across multiple large customers with big projects.  While at surface level.. it is someone tracking and delivering goods on a timeline.. they are two different disciplines.

Lastly, if you are hiring a manager for a group from outside the company into an organization, have a transition plan for the newly hired manager.  Please take the time to think about how this person will succeed or fail.  What is your plan to ramp up this individual on your products?  Do they come in as an individual contributor before taking on a management role?  How do you expect this to impact the team?  Was there someone on the team that may have felt they should have received a promotion and that management slot?  If so, have you talked to the team to let them know why you went the path you did?  Have you clearly laid out a career path for your employees that will help them meet their goals and not feel slighted by this new hire?  How do you plan on educating the rest of the organization on the new hire’s role in the organization.  Educate the current team on the reasons you hired the new person.. what is their background, skill set, etc.  By all means, if you can make them part of the interview loop.. do so.

Anyway.. just a quick little rant. I’ve had too many discussion with people lately who are bringing up similar stories.  Lucky for me these are really not part of my current organization.. but clearly I have had these things happen to me in the past through direct contact or close ties and the great stories that inevitably follow.

Work should and can be fun,  you just need to be set up to succeed.  If your manager is not helping to enable your success, you should be concerned.

One final tip for managers: You will go MUCH farther and do MUCH better by setting your team up to succeed with flying colors time and time again… vs. the manager that is trying to make him/her self look good to upper management.  Do the right thing for YOUR employees;  Their success will drive long-term sustainable wins for your customers, your company and your employees.   Your management team will surely recognize the solid team you have built and maintained. That is what will drive YOUR success.