Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Idea #5: Fail Early, Fail Fast


A few weeks ago, Apple released its Maps App with the new iOS 6 upgrade. Within hours, the internet was awash with scathing criticism of Apple Maps. It was branded a dismal failure, the L’Enfant terrible of iOS 6 upgrade portfolio. FB news feeds flooded with lamentations about awful maps after upgrading to iOS 6.

Tech bloggers lashed out at Apple, calling it a company which had become arrogant in its greatness. Doomsday predictors began asking – is this the end of Apple’s commitment to perfection and its meteoric rise?

All this brouhaha really irked me. For all those going berserk over the Map App fiasco, wouldn’t it be nicer if we could cut Apple some slack and appreciate the benefits of failing early??

I am not an Apple fanboy, but personally I felt the new Maps app was awesome. It brought in radical features like vector-based maps and breathtaking flyover 3D views (my first reaction on seeing the App was “Wow!”). Yeah, the awesome 3D feature resulted in the most terrible goof ups too. But then, online Maps are complex and you cannot perfect it unless you have millions of people sharing it and reporting back to you. Does anyone remember Google Maps when it was first launched?

The point is, with technology cycles moving so quickly, could Apple have afforded to keep the critical Map app under the hood till the next iPhone release? Absolutely not.

The fact is – if anything can go wrong, it will. And the sooner that happens, the better it is for you and your product. And the most valuable company of our times has sent the message – the future is about failing early, failing fast. And if you do make mistakes, admit them quickly and move on.

Well.. Google does it all the time! (remember Google Buzz, Froogle and Google Answers?)

Getting a minimum viable product out into the world is the best way to kick start your idea, whether it is a new book, a business venture, or a project at work. It helps you overcome the fear of failure, test your assumptions and identify constraints in your solution. So go ahead with your new creation. Get it read, experienced and used.

Because usage is like oxygen for ideas. “You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”

So fail early. Learn fast!.

And if you are an unflappable cool dude who hates to admit your mistakes or let the world know about your failures – Just fail early..   And then destroy all evidence that you tried!.. 🙂

Posted in My World View, Technology Talk

The Great Indian IT tamasha



Not very long ago, I was working on something in office that needed some simple decision making. We had to choose between Plan A and Plan B.

And, the decision wasn’t something very earth shattering like – “Should our company invest in Antarctica?” or “Is it the right time to join the post war reconstruction in Iraq?”
If you think of it – it should have taken hardly 5 minutes. Someone just had to put her foot down and say – OK, Plan B. Period.

But then, oh Boy; you should have seen the number of mails shuttling around to arrive at a decision!. Dense communications with FYIs and FYRs floating upstream, downstream, left, right, in circles, small loops, big loops. No one wanted to kick the bucket on their own, so multiple stakeholders were invited. It was a whole round-we-go-the-mulberry-bush thing!

If you’ve worked in an Indian IT services company, you can probably identify with me when I say this. The task of “decision making” here is as convoluted as the process of finding an eligible groom in the Indian arranged marriage. It is a long drawn process, with loops and hoops, coupled with mountainous processes. Too many opinions and recommendations, too much sharing of responsibilities for the decisions made.

Ok, I don’t want to criticize and say that we should make snap judgments throwing caution to the winds. But focusing too much on insignificant details just adds to the flab.
Is it that we have too much time to spend on too less stuff – “Idle brains exaggerate matters” ??

Fine. A lot of emotional rambling here – let’s cut to the chase.
Here’s what I think is wrong with the Indian IT Industry.

We don’t take risks – Isn’t that the biggest risk of all?

We think too much – Paralysis of Analysis Baby!

We care too much of what others think – Log kya kahenge??!!!

We do not want to leave our comfort zone – I’m a C++ guy, how can I talk about JAVA??

We are afraid to try out anything new – The classical its-not-done-here Syndrome

We skimp like Scrooges – And call it our “Competitive Advantage”!

Take out any book on Entrepreneurship or Creativity, and the problems I listed above would top the list of Innovation killers. Isn’t this a huge cause for concern?
Now is a time when everyone is talking about Innovation. Hailed as a game changer, innovation is destined to transform the world. Shouldn’t it be on top of our priority list?

Innovation, I agree, is not easy. Not for the faint hearted, it’s only for the risk takers who are willing to dare. Innovation, my non-vegeterian friends would say is like mutton curry. Delectable, enticing and yummy to look at; but incredibly difficult to digest!. 😉

When every company ensures to have innovation somewhere in its tagline, or have innovation splashed all over its website. My question as an insider; where is this so called innovation in Indian IT companies?

Our IT service culture breeds Innovation killers amongst us. We are afraid to stand out of the herd, we want to be innovative, but in a very non risky conventional way (what was that? ).
With Process.. Process.. Process hammered into our heads, we are genetically programmed to work like risk averse automatons the moment we enter this industry.

When the US debt is downgraded, we begin tottering like a pile of dominoes.

When will we learn to stand on our own feet?..

When will we have something new to offer to the world?..

When will we become action oriented and stop working like machines and morons?

Are we even destined to come out of this rut?

Only the Narayan Murthys, Azim Premjis and Vineet Nayars of the world can say.

Mortals like me can only pray.
Amen.

Posted in My World View, Technology Talk

Shopping “Experiences”!!



You have walked into your favorite music store across the street. Just as you pick up a Justin Bieber album off the shelf, digital trackers embedded in the walls identify the album with its RFID tag. A Plasma panel at the store begins to play the latest video of the pop star. As you walk towards the screen to watch this video, sensors in the store track your movements, and a high definition Prosilica camera captures your picture, feeding it to complex algorithms that morph these images. Within seconds, you are pleasantly surprised to see yourself inside the TV screen in the video, gyrating right beside the teen pop star!

Delighted with the experience, you begin to explore the rest of the store. As you move down the aisles, biometric iris recognition software detects your digital identity, and instantly downloads your past purchase and publicly available social networking history into the store’s central database. Eye motion sensors identify which shelf you are looking at, and LCD panels display the message – You “liked” Enrique’s Insomniac on Facebook, would you like to check out his new album “Euphoria” ? Your friend Maria has already bought it, and 59 buddies flashed it on Twitter!!

Well, if you thought all this was a page out of a science fiction book, then think again. This is not a futuristic wish anymore, and sophisticated technologies like these are already being deployed in retail stores right now. With the advent of Web 2.0 and advanced digital electronics, consumer retail has morphed dramatically. Leapfrogging into the future, innovation in IT is now making the customer the center of this “Digital Universe”.

The new age consumer with deep pockets and short attention spans is now more individualistic and much harder to please. With razor thin margins and a consuming need for differentiation, retailers are increasingly pushed towards cutting-edge innovation. Retailing giants like Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco have already boarded the bandwagon, and the others have no choice but to follow. The key is to involve consumers at an emotional and sensory level, and shoppers are now spoilt for choice.

Retailers are now leveraging IT to enhance the end user experience, reduce costs, manage growth and capture multicultural markets. IT innovation is being used to have a consumer centric view to solve problems, achieve creative differentiation and provide complete solutions to task oriented shoppers. In this era of Do-It-for-me marketing, consumers demand retailers to speed up their transactions, driving changes in store concepts, and providing faster and convenient transaction processing and payment.

“Ethnography is the new core competence” remarked Andrew Jones in his book “Innovation acid test”. This has never been more true than now! . Working closely with market research, “knowledge activists” now explore the innovative aspects of any business proposition by cognizing customer intelligence. Corporations compete to identify and “Catch a wave”, creating opportunities to generate growth and fantastic financial performance. Digital immersive technologies like Augmented Reality are being used to integrate branding and entertainment with customer experiences, offering services that resonates with the target customer.

When you look for avenues of innovation in retail, the opportunities are endless. Starting from the use of RFID to measure inventory, warehousing, distribution operations and the supply chain, to providing an enhanced shopping experience for product and brand differentiation, IT can be used as an enabler at every step. All that we need is an imagination to sell the dream!

Augmented technology can be used in storefronts to entice shoppers. Interactive Ads will allow shoppers to “try out” something even before they walk into the store. Large screen kiosks installed at store entrances will empower shoppers to search or quickly browse through the product selection. Digital signage can be used to deliver personalized messages to shoppers, using RFID tags to identify which items they are carrying through the store. Brands stocked in that store can advertise in these digital signs, creating new revenue streams. Mobile coupons are already being used by Starbucks and Target to enhance repeat business. Customers are sent personalized messages alerting them of offers at the store. These services can be customized with location based services, and serve as key drivers of store traffic.

Indeed, IT will now allow us to peer into the living rooms of our customers, data mining their inner desires, and making it available on the supermarket shelves. The IT revolution captures the social entrepreneurship and individualistic spirit of these times. Bill Bryson, a best-selling American author has aptly captured the essence of this era – “We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls”!!

Posted in My World View, Technology Talk

Technology: Breaking barriers and changing lives!


 

The distinguished science fiction author, inventor and futurist Arthur C. Clarke once remarked – “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Indeed, we live in a world of scientific wizardry where technology has drastically shrunk differences and diffused boundaries. Never before in history had innovation offered so much to us, transforming our attitudes, lifestyles, relationships and in the process – taking complete control over our lives!.

Technology has transcended the precincts of labs, and pervaded our households, becoming an inseparable part of our existence. It has altered economic and political equations across countries, and rapidly expanded frontiers for growth and development.. The Google phenomenon brought a whole universe of knowledge to our fingertips, giving rise to a new information empowered generation and creating a new paradigm for both formal and informal Global collaborations.

In today’s world, individuals can express themselves and publish their thoughts through blog sites like BlogSpot, WordPress or Typepad. They can share their imaginations and ideas, form forums and build professional relationships using online communities like Facebook, Orkut and LinkedIn. In fact, a lot of NGOs and social service organizations operate by connecting with volunteers online, and build awareness about their cause using these benefits of technology.

The quick and efficient dissemination of information through the Internet has given birth to a new era of truly global partnerships. The perfect integration of hardware and software evolved a unique blend of self managed teams seamlessly encompassed within the entire organization as a whole. Teleconference and Telepresence technologies by companies like Cisco have brought an exclusive human touch to long distance communication, giving rise to efficient global partnerships. Desktop sharing applications like Netmeeting and WebEx now assist communication across all barriers and time zones. There is a greater scope for innovation as more and more people can be efficiently involved, giving rise to greater creativity and productivity. Also, there is lesser dependency on localized resources as the concepts of geographical distances now become completely redundant.

For any partnership to be successful, it is very essential for it to be scalable and flexible. The new generation of Cloud Computing now gives businesses the flexibility to run operations from any part of the world. The concept of “Build somewhere, use anywhere” is the new buzz in computing, where technologies like SaaS (Software as a service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) allow organizations to employ software and hardware on a pay-per-use basis, leveraged by the power of high speed Internet. So, there are no huge capital costs when companies get into new partnerships, setting the stage for a truly global culture. And then, of course are data mining, predictive analysis, virtualization and SOA that make the business equivalent of a “Crystal Ball”, and can be instrumental for any company in predicting its growth linked with that of its partner collaborations.

Summing it up – our growth has been phenomenal with endless opportunities and the role of technology in building this Global culture has been nothing short of magic!

Posted in Technology Talk

The Outsourcing storm ..


obama oscar pic

Last week, there was a furore in India over the US President Barack Obama’s perceived anti-Bangalore-outsourcing statements at a meeting to discuss  US tax policies in the White House. The President was speaking about International Tax Reform, and mentioned flaws in US tax policies that favour companies outsourcing jobs over those that don’t.

Reactions to his statements and tremors were felt everywhere –at home, on TV, in the front page of the daily newspaper and in coffee time chats in office. There was outrage in various sections of the media, with everyone proclaiming “Obama is at it again!”, and criticism of the US president’s anti outsourcing  Obama-isms. The NASSCOM issued a statement that the Indian IT industry is doing quite good, and there is no danger from the newly proposed tax policies of the US.  All this brouhaha piqued my curiosity, and I was inspired to a bit of research on my own.

Agreed, these are competitive times, and everyone wants to be at the top of the pyramid. Yet, we have to acknowledge that Obama has an axe to grind against the outsourcing industry, especially when US is in the midst of the recession. Americans are losing jobs in millions, to be exact – their economy lost another 539,000 jobs in the month of April. So, he is just doing his job. Also, the tirade is not against Bangalore, but an expression of frustration towards a phenomena which has cost thousands of Americans their jobs and livelihoods.

In the last fifty years, there has been a radical shift from the old “Manufacturing Based” economy, to a new “Information Based” economy. The major force of a company is now intangible assets like knowledge, intellect, creativity and brain power.. “…In an information-based economy, it is this human capital and knowledge that creates worth for the firm.”  There is a relentless pursuit to hire and sustain employees which are of high technical value and a level of completion which the industry has never seen before. Under these circumstances, off shoring jobs to skilled personnel in foreign nations seemed to be the obvious choice for many of them. It is all the more relevant at a time when companies are scuttling to aggressively cut costs and boost profits.

However, off shoring is not the crux of all White house economic woes. And coming back to Obama’s original statement about Bangalore, we have a lot to infer from it. I read the text of his statement, and he is talking about the flaws in the tax policies of his country –“… it’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.” The mention of “Bangalore”  here is not just alliteration, but is symbolic of India’s coming of age in the global economy, and how it is beginning to be perceived as a threat to a Global superpower – both in terms of human resource and technology. We have indeed come a long way – though we still have a long way to go!

Life is like that, and someone’s loss is someone else’s gain. However, we have precious lessons to learn from this. If the world is flat, then it is flat for everyone. So its very easy for fortunes to change – if the opportunities are there for you, there they are there for everyone else too!.. You have to be competitive or critical, differentiate or die – and this is what will give us the edge in the future. We might be competitive under the current circumstances, but we need to move towards becoming critical in terms of ideas, technology, competency and resources.  And the pace at which things are moving, we need to evolve fast!  We need to breed our own Yahoo!s and Googles – because in this laissez-faire and unforgiving economy, the only exclusive competitive advantage you can have  is a brilliant and original idea!!

A link to the President’s address is here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-The-President-On-International-Tax-Policy-Reform/

Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Globalization 2.0 ?


IPL_logo

This is the IPL season, and cricket is in the air!

So, even though I’m no huge fan of cricket, I ended up watching this hugely successful Indian Premier League match in South Africa – a fiercely contested match between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals in Durban, SA. Amidst the huge frenzy in a jam packed stadium full of enthusiastic cricket fans, every four or wicket attracted roaring applause… There was drama, suspense, enthusiasm and trepidation in the air. As the camera zoomed over the cheering spectators cheering for Rajasthan, something struck my mind. Most of the faces cheering for the Rajasthan Royals was that of foreigners, who would’nt even have seen a map of Rajasthan! Come, think of it – a West Indies skipper Chris Gayle representing an Indian city Kolkata is batting against Shane Warne, an Australian bowler representing Rajasthan in a match which is being cheered by South Africans, and the live stream beamed all over India. Indeed, this is symbolic of India’s coming of age in this era of globalization. This is Globalization 2.0!!

Compare and contrast this with Globalization 1.0.

Traditionally, India witnessed huge growth due to globalization and open markets during the last two decades. Basically, the leap was spurred due to the service based industries flourishing from business generated in Europe and the Americas. The booming BPO and the IT industry benefited from jobs being Bangalored, specifically due to the growth of the Internet and the subsequent “flattening” of the world. But essentially, we grew as service providers and not business generators. The IPL has just changed that!!

It has transformed the way the world looks at India, and generated millions in spending and revenue, even in the middle of a recession.It is indeed heartening to see that an idea conceptualized in India has metamorphosed the face of cricket forever. Generating a huge business not only in India but also in South Africa, the IPL has ignited enthusiasm even in the US, a country that traditionally never played cricket.

It is a huge branding exercise, with innovation and a fresh approach to the way sports is marketed. A heady concoction of Bollywood, Business, Cricket and Glamour has all been pre-packaged into an irresistible package called the Indian Premier League. Capturing the imagination of millions of spectators throughout the world, the IPL is a show of corporate power, with thorough professionalism and determination in the face of all odds. The T20 format has been exploited so efficiently, ensuring that every match is the edge-of-the-seat thriller with a nail biting finish!
The Indian in “IPL” is what makes it most special, making it a defining event in the history of Indian Business. Kudos to the revolution – Hail IPL!! 😀