Is this Future Shock?

musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Archive for May 2008

Fast food outlets & professional communities

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Quincy Market

Why can’t we have a chip shop?

Having come back from a lovely holiday in Boston & Iceland, I wondered if I had any inspiration for a blog post. I do, a little.

In Boston, I stayed near to Quincy Market, an old market hall, now jammed full of fast food outlets. There must be over 50, serving pizza, teriyaki, clams, lobster rolls, steak sandwiches, moussaka, sorbet, hot dogs, burritos, caramels, ice cream and way more stuff.

At home, in the little Highland village I live in, we have no fast food outlet. A couple of pubs will let you get food to take out, and the wood-fired pizza restaurant will give you pizza to go.

Why so many in one hall in Boston, and none in an entire village?

Well, there could be all sorts of reasons – yes, there will be more customers, as Boston is a busier place. But why in that one hall?

  • It’s a good place to buy fast food – so customers will come from some distance.
  • It’s a good place to sell fast food – so suppliers will come from all over
  • There’s a wide range of things to buy – so a customer can meet their needs there
  • If you can’t sell a meal there, you could still sell a dessert, a drink, coffee – as there are so many suppliers and customers together. If there’s a lot of demand for something, you betcha there will be people starting to provide it. [Like, clam chowder. *Lots* of places sell that in Boston!]

We don’t have the outlets crowded together, pulling the customers way into the Highlands – so we don’t even get a chippy!

Quality through Competition

I’m sure the outlets in Quincy Market vary in quality. The worst I saw was Good, as you wouldn’t survive in the maelstrom of competition there, if your food wasn’t acceptable. Most of the the experience was Very Good, and the teriyaki experience was Outstanding for fast food.

So?

Trying to rank those outlets from 1-5, say, when looking at my worldwide catering experiences [which include British roadside cafes] would result in everything in Quincy’s market being 3-5 (more probably 4-5, but work with me on this).

Why are they better – because they learn from each other, all the time. If one offers free samples – so will another. If you can get your chowder in a bread bowl in one… another will offer something similar or better.

If you did rank them them from 1-5… the lowest (1 ranked) place would be a 3 against most British outlets – and that makes it a little hard to use a global ranking…

Professional Communities

I won’t apologise for riding my hobby horse again; I think professional communities have a lot to offer – and are one of the best ways you can lift performance, professionalism, accreditation and interest amongst a group.

Lots of professionals

You want a project manager? Good place to find one might be your putative “Programme & Project Management” Community. There’ll be a lot there, and they *should* be supporting each other and helping the level of certification and experience. They’ll learn hints and tips from each other.

Hey, maybe your project/bid manager needs a service wrap? Natch, there’ll be a service designer there who should be able to assist the team.

Lots of demand

As you have all these customers walking up to take services from your communities, you should get a damn fine idea of what these customers want. If you *don’t* have the Ruby on Rails guy, maybe there’s some other service you can provide the customer… while you think “Hmm, might need to get some RoR guys available”.

Explaining ranking

In a community of professionals, you generally have a self selecting group of achievers. There will be folk that are Good; some Very Good; and even a few Outstanding. Generally, if you aren’t at least Good – you won’t have had the wherewithal to make it into a community.

Now, if you force rank the individuals in the community… sure, you can do it. Take the people who’re in external terms good, and mark some of them as, say Generally Satisfactory or (kiss of death) Needs Improvement.

This is Vitality Curve behaviour – particularly if there’s a mechanistic approach to invoking HR involvement in bureacratic Performance Improvement Plans. Which there is, in large swathes of corporate Britain.

Vitality Curve damages Communities?

I’ve alluded previously to my concerns about this sort of approach.

I *need* to look better than you. Rather than spending time sharing my knowledge, or increasing my skills, it might pay me better to game the system.

So, rather than sharing my knowledge with people, I have to consider how I can look best at showing how much more I know than everyone else, and the most public way I can show how I’m sharing this knowledge.

Otherwise, I might not get marked Good, won’t recieve a bonus, and likely won’t get a pay rise.

Even better, if I get the opportunity to use a modified COTS “Performance management” system, and produce reams of impenetrable evidence, I’ll be able to show *what* I’ve done – even if it uses time I should spend on work…

On the other hand…

If you want Professional Communities… maybe let them manage themselves. Professionally. Not with advice from Neutron Jack.

Picture Credit Me!

Written by SteveEllwood

May 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

What’s the web changing, and are we helping?ll

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threads on a loom

The internet changes marketing

I’ve recently read with interest Brian’s post on how university marketing departments just don’t get it. Briefly, some have produced promotional videos; an enterprising firm has hosted and promoted copies of these. Rather than being glad about the publicity, there have been take down notices issued. It made me wonder if there are other pockets of resistance to change.

The web – and Webside(TM) working – changes corporate access

I like many ex or soi-disant road warriors have a corporate laptop. I was used to carrying lan cables, phone cables & adapters, mini-switches, I have a locked down laptop which I use over a VPN to access corporate services. We have an IT support organisation that can look after this. My employer is moving to webside working; I still need to chuck up a VPN, but I can do that from my home PC; from an internet cafe – from my little eee PC. I understand some of the senior guys, and some of the software simians (@kerryb ‘s periphrasis of codemonkeys – as he honestly points out via Scott Adams) actually use Macs… This complicates support, because it means that you can no longer rely on folk having standard kit. This means you need better self diagnosis tools, and savvier staff to handle the calls that can’t self clear. It also means we need strong commitment to track down root cause, as it’s no longer (if it ever was) acceptable to say “You shouldn’t be using that software”. It also means that we have to stop some of the nonsense measures. Time to close an incident is irrelevant, if there hasn’t been a clear. But then, we get to targets…

User experience changes perceptions of official software

JP’s talked before about how people are used to using their favourite tools, and how it will ring them into the Enterprise. He’s pushing that… @san1t1 has discussed elsewhere how bizarre it is to have training to use a purchasing system, pointing out he must have missed the training to use Amazon etc.

People are used to intuitive systems, be they from GetSatisfaction.com or 37 Signals. Arcane comands on COTS stuff won’t cut it.

What should we do?

Well, I’m tempted to suggest like Richard Dennison “Proceed until apprehended”. You’re meant to push the envelopes; if you’re not taking risks – and sure, making mistakes, you’re not learning anything.

And…?
If things are causing you a problem and pain – shout long and loud so people can see the pain points – and address them.

Picture Credit Daniel F. Pigatto

Written by SteveEllwood

May 20, 2008 at 10:27 am

Posted in Web 2.0

Managing the stream of data

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threads on a loom

How do you read all that stuff?

I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues how I keep track of all the different sorts of things I’m interested in online.

In the past, good bookmarks, aided by social bookmarking like del.icio.us or ma.gnolia were useful to find places… but how to get through all of the content.

Drinking from the firehose

There’s so much good content on the internet that trying to consume all of it is impossible. You can take a sip or two as the river passes by, but how do you get the good bits? There are all sorts of ways to identify them – which will be meat for *another* post – but the key issue is how to get them in front of you.

The best way I have found is using RSS – an initialism which stands for a range of thing – let’s go with Really Simple Syndication.

At its simplest, it’s a way of a site pushing its latest content out in a format that can be captured by an RSS Reader; there are loads of them about.

Lee LeFever has a wonderful explanation of RSS shown here…

What other sort of feeds are there?

I use RSS to track the results of searches – I use summize.com to search twitter – where I am @steveellwood – and the feed (http://summize.com/search.atom?q=%40steveellwood) will produce any mention of me – so I can see if I’ve missed any replies…

I use RSS to track news, blogs, and twitter – you can see some of the things that interest me below… in Sharing Your Reading

RSS Readers

One client I use at work is FeedReader which lets me pick up information about corporate news and activity within my Professional Community. It’s straightforward to use, and if there are private feeds – that can’t be seen outside your corporate network – it’s ideal.

Usually though as I move between a variety of PCs – my home desktop, my work laptop, and my lovely eee PC, I prefer an online reader.

There’s a variety of these, too including NewsGator products, Google Reader and my favourite, NetVibes.

Sharing your reading…

These online readers have the additional benefit that you can share what you think other people might be interested in – for example my public NetVibes universe, or my Google Reader shared items.

Those are my somewhat idiosyncratic choices, but the irrepressible Guy Kawasaki produced the wonderful alltop.com which claims to have “all the top stories covered, all of the time”. You can get updated feeds about just about anything you want there. Sadly, I’m *not* one of the Twitterati – but I do follow some of them!

There’s even RSSmeme which allows you to search shared RSS feeds…

Will you sell RSS?

If you know people that don’t use RSS, do you tell them about it?
Are you an RSS user – and if you are, what do you read with?

Picture Credit janettowbin

Written by SteveEllwood

May 7, 2008 at 11:09 am

Posted in blogging, Twitter

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