Closing the year....

It has been silent here for a while... It's not that there was nothing to write about, there was actually too much to write about. I've been traveling a bit... and that's always a moment to clear your mind from operations... and get new clear ideas... For those interested I was in California and photos are available in my Facebook profile... I'm currently aligning the new ideas and thoughts.. and you will get even more regular posts here, starting as of next year...This year still 2 more working days... but it's already preparation for 2008.

I wish all my readers a happy and good 2008 and beyond.... and don't forget.. have fun doing what you do... ;-)

B2B versus B2C

I make Business Software in a Business 2 Business environment, with an end user expecting excellent experiences, because consumer software gives this too. This has never been an issue, because you had work and you had private time. Now the world is changing, the emerge of Web 2.0, Social computing and Social networking are changing the boundaries between professional and private life. I notice this daily in my own behavior but also while making design decisions. It's a constant challenge and it will require a change of thinking... what unfortunately in most cases takes time.... I did however find comfort that I'm not the only one with this challenge. The linked slideshow was inspiring... Enjoy...

Inspired by

The Social Web... the Better Web... Constantly it's on my mind how businesses can also take advantage of the Social Networking and Communities. During several of my searches for the answer I was inspired by the slide shows below


Focus on the End User

A while back I asked the question: For who we build software?. I concluded that in many cases the end user isn't the target audience. Today I run into a AMR Research paper that one third of the CRM implementations fails. The main reason mentioned was lack of end user involvement.

Both points indicate that forgetting the end user is something that comes naturally. Unfortunately this conflicts with high customer satisfaction and reference customer success stories...

This leads to a paradox, sales and implementation focus on decision makers and implementation teams and forget the end user, while the end user is important for reference stories and customer satisfaction that are needed during the sales and implementation.

Why Enterprise Software Sucks

In my previous post 'For who do we design our software solutions?' I mentioned that we might be building the software for the decision maker. It interesting to read that Jason at 37 Signals thinks the same.... Those interested in user interfaces for business application also might want to check out the post Business application UIs matter…to users

For who do we design our software solutions?

Recently I compared my iPhone with the HTC Touch and concluded that the User Experience of the iPhone is in another league. It's Microsoft versus Apple in creating a User Experience, and for those that use Windows Vista, just have a look at what Mac OS 10.5 "Leopard." has to offer from next Friday. This made me think, why come excellent User Experiences with Apple naturally and is it very difficult for Microsoft? Since I work in the business software industry an answer is important, because it might help to deliver better products. It took some time, but I might have found the answer.

The title of this post already gives it away, who do we design the software for? Is it the end user that is using the software on a day to day basis or is it for the decision maker that decides to buy the software from you? For consumer goods, most Apple products, both are usually the same. Apple wants you to dribble over their latest products in the Apple shop and make and instant decision. In business software the process is different and the product development is often driven based on features requested from customers and prospects. Unfortunately these features are not requested by the actual end users, but by managers, control freaks or other decision makes. This is for me the most obvious explanation why business software is feature overloaded and difficult to use. It's just not build for giving an excellent user Experience. It's build to meet to tick the checkboxes during a sales process.

The result of this process is a happy sales person because the deal is done, a happy decision maker because he covered his ass with all the checkboxes ticked and a frustrated end user that is forced to use a solution that is not designed to give an excellent experience. We might think, it doesn't matter... but actually it does.. up until recently reference customers where represented by the above mentioned decision makers, but today with the emerge of social computing the word of mouth takes a different dimension. The actual end user has a voice, and with so many of them...even a very strong voice...

It's time to design business solution for the end user... design for maximum happiness... it will pay off over time...

Innovation & Business Cases

I work in a creative and inspirational environment that daily produces new innovative ideas. This is great, but also brings 2 challenges
  • Which ideas are worth investments in time and resources? This is usually determined based on gut feeling, combined with the long term company strategy, competitive analysis and end user benefits. This is not an exact science, it's often a risk, but as a 'Design thinker' I embrace the risk. The real risk is not failing, but it's not trying. The selected ideas now are materialized into concrete concepts and prototypes.
  • How to move ideas from innovation into production? This is a much harder task, because production is all about doing business as usual, avoiding risks and following well defined patterns. Return on the investment, described in a business case is often the source for making decisions. This is absolutely true for product improvements and extensions with a direct link to customer expectation and market demand, but it's different for innovative and possible disruptive ideas. Some people say: sell the idea to the business talking their language! I agree, but this very quickly this leads back to a business case designed to avoid risk. It's much more efficient if the 'Design thinkers' tell a story to convince the business owners to write and take ownership of the business case.

Inspirational additional reading

Microsoft ISV - Platform Strategy Review 2007

The last 2 days I spend a the Microsoft campus for a Platform Strategy Reviews specially designed for ISV's. It was an NDA event and I don't want to get into trouble ;-) but still a few observations:
  • The surface computer is very cool... especially if you see it live in action
  • MS does invest heavily in the cloud, but seems to have difficulties to make choices
  • 64bit is the only way forward.. many next gen. server products will be 64bit only.
  • Office Business Applications, the MS answer for corporate Mash ups, but more likely a way to protect the Office Client
  • Very inspiring presentation on different business models from license, advertisement to subscription and transactions based. It's good to see the MS is learning not to only focus on technology
  • MS on mobility... MS is a complex company, so are their Mobile solutions... see also: Apple iPhone versus HTC Touch

Apple iPhone versus HTC Touch

A few weeks ago I bought an Apple iPhone and right from the first second I was impressed. This is a new standard in phones. I always hated smart phones, because they just couldn't do what you really wanted. Now with full Safari on the iPhone this all changed. After I bought the phone that doesn't come with a real manual it took me about an hour to jailbreak and unlock it for my European SIM.

Yesterday I got an HTC Touch, Microsoft's pride for Windows Mobile 6. It's a nice little phone with a good form factor... but it does come with a CD size, 1cm thick manual... and I needed 2 hours to get it to work. The number of options and settings are just too much. Where Apple can fit everything on 1 screen I'm constantly lost on the HTC.

Shortly after these experiences I spoke to someone who also knows both phones... His take on it: Apple is just 3 years ahead... and well in 3 years they will again be 3 years ahead

GLC Malta 2007

I just returned tired but very motivated from Malta. It was 4 days with motivating, challenging en inspiring presentations and workshops. I also had the opportunity to add my 2 cents ;-). It was interesting to read that many of the issues we are dealing with are also on others agendas 'The Power of "we"'


More images

Next to the 'Official' program there was plenty of time to meet coworkers and have fun!
The event was excellent, compliments and thanks to the organization.

Global Leader Convention - Malta 2007

Today the GLC Malta officially starts. All company leaders worldwide come together to enjoy sessions on various parts of the business, network and of course have fun. The setting is excellent, nice hotel, some sunshine. I just enjoyed the pool... a last refreshment b4 we start..

Breaking down barriers

Next week I'm involved in an important internal conference and while preparing my presentation I run into some interesting slide shows. One was about increased productivity that the recent Web 2.0 tools can bring. I use them frequently and agree on the information transparency and ease of collaboration, but as a side effect..... there are also many people that prefer to see them as dangers.... when collaborating on the web you aren't working....

I realized that I need to be an example.. so I will start blogging about my job.. and progress when breaking down the barriers..... For your entertainment... the slide show....


SlideShare Link

Corporate culture changes

Most people in an organization are busy with 'today's business as usual', it's important because it's all about next quarters bottom line. Of course there is also people, like me, involved in longer term future initiatives. I've learned that it's not always easy to understand and communicate with eachother, alway believing that it was related to different priorities. Recently after reading 'Busyness vs. Bursty' I realized that it's also a cultural thing. It's necessary to spend more time on educating people on the upcoming changes..... of how we work...

We need to become Knowledge Workers 2.0... as show pretty well in the slide show below..


SlideShare Link

Some days you feel older than others

Today a coworker mentioned: your age on www.spock.com does look pretty intimidating...
Tonight almost 20 years ago Mervi and I saw our first movie together... Michelle Pfeiffer crawling over a piano in The Fabulous Baker Boys.... Tonight she sang again in Hairspray... Also makes your realize that some people age better than others...
Walking home from the movies Mervi said: soon we are longer together than we had single lives... but I don't regret a single day...

Media Center whoos

A while back I wrote that my media center could be a post topic... Well.. it's in operation and does it's job, but unfortunately it's not perfect... Media Center, also in Vista, is still an application, so the core operating system is exposed too much.. also the remote control and remote keyboards have there strange behaviors... but the worst of it all is that at random moments it wakes up from sleep and doesn't go back to sleep anymore.. I've tried everything that could be found in forums and blogs.. but nothing helps.. I'm even considering building a new one now.. all on mobile components and completely passively cooled that it can just run 24hours a day... ;-)

Blogging & Work

Today I created an internal document referring to the blog. The first official link between work and this blog... In a February post is wasn't to sure if I could do this.. ;-) Today I know I can, I work for a changing company ;-)

Microsoft DevDays

What did I learn today? Actually 2 things... 
  1. There are people that actually read what I write here. 2 independent persons that didn't know I was writing this refered to it today... very cool
  2. I must be a very good Microsoft customer! The ticket for the DevDays said: Aad 't Hart, Microsoft B.V.  For a change the spelling of my name was correct, but Microsoft B.V. was absolutely wrong... Please let nobody get the wrong ideas here

Development productivity

In my job there is a constant discussion about the most productive way to deliver a piece of software. Of course many books and articles are written about this, but I have my own theory.
After the initial preparation of requirements and concept solution I get impatient.
I like action and preferably NOW. So I use a collaborative approach, it's like pointing a shotgun and fire it. Get the team together, discuss the goal and all at the same time go for it... It's a team effort to realize the goal, each with their own responsibility to hit the same goal.
Others prefer to use a sniper approach, based on care full planning before the silver bullet gets fired to hit goal. They claim that my method is difficult to control... but I use for my defense that I use a double barrel shotgun... so I can fire a second shot in case I miss.
Software is like a moving target, nowadays requirements change on the spot, like a bird in the sky. A shotgun is still the most effective way to hit your bird. The sniper approach was probably fine in the 80's when requirements where stable and we had many years to aim for our goal.

Google developers day 2007

The Exact Software Silicon Valley innovation team at the Google developers day. The differences between developer events all over the world are small.. What I noticed at this event was, the high number of 'geeks' with MacBooks and a relative young audience. Clive and I were probably the oldest around.

The gaming PC/TV

For a while I have this thought that the television, PC and gaming console will all merge into one >40" screen device. There are several reasons why this is a very likely development:
  • Internet will be the future television medium. The youth today already looks at YouTube instead of television.
  • See the emerging 3D worlds as second life
  • The environment, fuel prices and feeling of un-safety will increase the number of remote workers. Why not working with your coworkers in a virtual 3D office?
  • ... and the economics, televisions are much more expensive per pixel as computer screens. This is not sustainable in the long future
Today I saw this blog post: Making business apps more like video games refering to an article in the New York Times. Good, I'm not the only one thinking like this, it's good to get some confirmation about my thoughts ;-)

Mircosoft Brainwash

Today I spend at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center and suddenly halfway the day I realized how quickly the Microsoft Brainwash catches on. I usually try have a critical and objective opinion on anything Microsoft has to tell, but I might have been the setting, the presentation skills or the 'Jet Lag', but I was suddenly believing everything. I woke up and managed to put everything back in perspective... but yes Microsoft really knows how to deliver a message and make you believe it.

My laptop is back

Sony today returned my laptop.. all working.. The experiment has come to an end. Since I didn't do any travel in the last 2 weeks, it was no problem to be without a laptop... Or even better there was more time in the day to play with my Playstation 3 ;-)

Who needs a laptop?

Well a few days in the experiment and it's going fine.... and yes Google knows everything. Shortly after my previous post Google announces there presentation solution (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/04/were-expecting.html).
What can I ask for next ?

Living without a laptop

Yesterday after my Sony laptop failed and needed repair I decided not to replace it during the repair period.
In the office, at home and in many other places there are computers available. For a while I was already busy storing all information in a web accessible place. This can be the Exact Software corporate information system (Exact e-Synergy), but also several publicly available Web 2.0 applications.
Now a day into the experiment it's going fine, email, calendar, RSS feeds, etc.. no problem... but I did run into a problem when someone asked me for a local stored PowerPoint presentation. So Google.. how far is Presently?

Back from Snowboarding

Plenty of snow, a break from the online world.. and time to catch up with some reading.. In all a good trip ;-) This kind of trips are actually very productive, because of the reading... so why do I actually read?
  • To learn something new. Reading some theory, what others are doing, etc. always gives me a million new ideas.
  • To confirm that I'm doing the right thing. Usually nothing is really new, so there are always others that in a way can confirm what you are doing is right... or at least right in their minds.
Writing this down... may be I need a vacation more often;

Snowboarding...

So no work for a week... or at least I'll try... still thinking weather I should bring a laptop or not ;-) At least one excuse for bringing a laptop... 'we can always use it for watching a DVD...' but not bringing it give more time to catch up on reading.... Anyway.. of on a week in the snow

Neverrest Experience

After an exciting working week... I just recovered from an excellent weekend with my Exact Software coworkers. A weekend postponed for a while, but well deserved.
First the complements for the organization (Marian, Jo-An, Edgar and Bart), they did an excellent job... The whole group was enthusiastic and not a single negative remark.
The weekend was about teams, groups and collaboration... this already started at the Friday night dinner... were some people had to help out others to get a feed... ;-) There was room for games, but also for the usual bar brawl. Saturday was about the Neverrest experience, great fun.. and explore for yourself. After a long day of, for many unusual, outdoor activity it was noticeable that not everybody can party for a whole weekend anymore ;-)
And even the Sunday morning was in style... forgotten passports, teamwork and an in style quick suitcase exchange at the airport completed the adventure..

The again for everyone who made this possible

Inpiration in Silicon Valley

Last week I spend for work in Silicon Valley CA. For everybody working in IT I would recommend to spend some time there. Every time when I'm there I can feel the IT buzz going around, it's very inspiring. It's probably the only place where it's cool to be an engineer ;-)
Although the large corporations are in competition with each other, they are also very open about what they are doing at lower levels in the organization. You can easily go a few times a week so some kind of seminar where someone tells about his/her work and achievements. It's seems to me that people are very proud to share their successes.
May be that's the inspirational part, trying to be there the next time and share my achievements ;-)

What to write?

For a while I've been thinking what should be the content of this blog so I can give it some structure, but it's not easy.
  1. If I write too much about my daily work and share too much about our innovation strategy I would definitely piss of my employer. I will not do that, I love my job, it's interesting and motivating.
  2. In an earlier post I wrote about a home 'Movie festival'! Yes, I like movies, but other do much better writing about them. I just enjoy them... and yes the movie festival was again a big success.
  3. One thing I didn't share with you is my Media Center. I'm intrigued by them, because it's the first step of what I believe is going to happen, the PC, TV and Gaming console will all merge into one device. I'm building one, and like so many others I spend hours on forums and review sites to select the components, made a selection, did quite some modding of the different components to get it exactly right.... oh.. well I'm not there yet. When I ever complete the project I will share some details.
  4. Travel, something else I like to do, both for my job as in private... but this shouldn't become a tourist guide to nowhere.
So I haven't figured it out yet... but it will be a mix between some 'public' work related topics as for instance my interest in Web 2.0 and how it will influence the corporations (Hint: I work for a company delivering business solutions software), my Media Center because based on my prediction, soon we all have a PC/TV/Gaming device in our offices.

Microsoft (Netherlands) - ISV innovation day

Today I visited a Microsoft information day for ISV's. I expected full focus on Vista and Office 2007, because the Vista consumer launch being so close. But I was pleasantly surprised that it was not about the Vista and Office features at all. In short there were just 3 key messages:
  • Search
    • Priority of the customers (Information workers spend 20-30% of their time searching for information).
    • Microsoft needs it (Enterprise Search) to get market share for SharePoint, what in return drives Office 2007 (due to the tight integration).
    • Will be pushed by creating awareness for search.
  • User Experience
    • Using the right optimized tool for the right job.
    • Features don't make the difference. It's emotion and efficient use.
    • AJAX was the center piece and surprisingly not Windows Presentation Foundation.
  • Office Business Applications
    • Of course with an ISV audience this has to be the center piece for Office 2007, because it helps Microsoft selling more Office 2007, and if possible also SharePoint.
    • There are of course some user experience improvements in Office 2007, but do they justify the migration?
    • Applications add value.. so they make it more likely for customers to upgrade..

An interesting day... but I missed the Vista excitement with the Microsoft employees... May be they are just happy it's 'over' now... ;-)

Nordic Film festival 2007

This time of the year my girlfriend and I always organize a small film festival for our friends. We show some Nordic films, because Scandinavia is what links us friends...

We always make a big deal about it... the living gets rebuild to a real cinema ;-) It's fun and today we made the invitations...

Best wishes for 2007

After the traditional new year dip in the see... 2007 has for me officially started. No new years resolutions, because they can't be kept... but this time of the year is always a good moment in time to think about the past and future... What was good, what went wrong.... and what can be done to make 2007 a better year... Writing here today might be a signal of what to come.
Lets together make 2007 a better year... !