Open Letter to Mr Steve Jobs at Apple

Mr. Steve Jobs,

First I sincerely want to wish you all the best with your health, because no matter how many great electronic gadgets we have, someones health is still the most precious thing in life. You should absolutely take all the time necessary to get fit and make it your first priority. I'm absolutely sure that you build a great team at Apple that can continue to provide the world with more amazing products.

I write you this letter on advice of a former staff member at Exact,

Lili Sukirman who thought, since I'm in between jobs, I would be a valuable asset for the Apple company. I'm open minded, have an excellent eye for detail and perfection and I don't mind swimming against the stream to challenge existing patterns and thoughts. Lili is right concerning those qualifications and I'm absolutely more than happy and would be excited to share them with people within Apple.

However reality is different, you and your company need the best and most talented people in the world to continue to deliver fantastic and fabulous products. I wouldn't flatter myself being into that category, even thought I would love to be part of your team. Lili Sukirman on the other hand is one of those extremely talented people. She graduated in Architecture and Industrial design, her life is still young and still she already gained an enormous amount of business experience in many areas and she has more energy that I can imagine. So if you really want to get the best people on board, Lili is someone you absolutely should get in touch with. She comes with my highest recommendation, for what it's worth, and I'm absolutely convinced she would become a thriving force in the Apple team.

Best regards and my sincere get well wishes

What have I been up to?

Driving Dilemma:  What Do You Do When The Light Turns Red AND Green?It's about three months ago that I quit my job and during this period I've received quite a few questions on what I'm doing at the moment. I've kept myself busy with other stuff than work.
  • First there was a two week vacation in Japan. It was a great start for a new phase in my life. Japan is very different from any western or Asian country I've visited before. It was a rich and wonderful experience, especially it was since a very long time that I didn't have to bother about emails, work and the lot. It was how a vacation should be, really time to relax and recharge.
  • I've a long list of chores in and around the house that I'm working on. Until now I've cleaned out and throw away a lot of junk. I'm always surprised how easy it is to collect a lot of stuff, it's now slowly getting less. The list plus some more need to be done before going back to work again.
  • I'm spending more time on my blogging, what was necessary because I had been neglecting it a bit. Now I've more time it's also more fun and rewarding to do. Especially my 'funny' letter to Mr Stephen Elop and my Apple - Google lifestyle articles did very well. I've updated the comment system to make it easier for you to let me know if there is something you would like me to write about.
  • Quitting my job was also decision towards change, a healthier lifestyle is part of that. Instead of a quick bite I go to the shop regularly and try to make food from fresh ingredients. The highlight must have been my home made 'snert'.
Somewhere in the future I need to make some money again, but first I need to have a very clear idea on what I want to do. I'm not going to do a similar job as before, because then there wouldn't have been a reason to leave. I'm reinventing myself to determine what I want.
  • I'm having regular meetings with people in my network. These are interesting and valuable, because being unattached give them a new perspective. They help me a new direction and I'm pretty sure something good will come out of them.
  • I'm in the process to start my own business, so I can start doing some freelance or interim work. I created a presentation on how I can possibly help you. Feel free to spread the word and contact me to explore further.
  • I've some great ideas for a web startups and even have a working first prototype and I'm currently working on a business plan to evaluate if and how I can bring this to market. I'm pitching it with people I trust to see if there is any chance it could succeed. If this works out positive I will depending on the required investments create a plan towards launch. In the meantime I can use help on interaction and graphical design, python coding, how to documents and videos and mobile app development. I can't pay you, but it will look good on your CV and I will share future success. Let me know if your interested and subscribe to make sure you keep updated on the progress.
What have I learned until now?
  • Everybody should regularly take some time off! I'm aware this is not feasible for everyone, but you can plan and choose to do so. 
  • The freedom, the time to dream, the lack of a schedule all increased my creativity and helps me to think even further away from the box.
  • There are many other things to do than work.
What is next? Vacation for two weeks to South Africa, because now I got the time to stock up on some travels. Feel free to follow the trip to South Africa at my favorite travel blogging solution

Image credit: Jackie

Another Microsoft Bob Gone

Last week I got asked about on my view on Bob Muglia leaving Microsoft and even in more general on Microsoft strategy. Let me first tell that I've been privileged to have seen Bob Muglia speak and ask questions during the years I worked with Exact a valued Microsoft Partner. Bob always struck me as a very genuine person with a clear vision and strategy. He was operating in a very difficult situation and basically got stuck between a rock and a hard place, like so many software companies today. I'm sure he understood that too and worked out a successful strategy to deal with the challenge, proven by the growth results he realized in recent years and Bob deserves our respect for that.

The challenge many software companies, especially those with a longer history, are having is the disruptive move towards the cloud. Many of the companies make their money with in general conservative customers that expect continuous improvements and updates to further leverage investments made in the past. At the same time these companies do realize that this revenue stream will slowly start to show a decline and newer generations software and business models are emerging. Investments in these newer generations are necessary to compensate the revenue decline of the traditional software products. Someone once told me: not to throw away your old shoes before you bought new ones. The key question is how to keep your current customers happy while investing into a cloudy future?

Microsoft was doing this by moving their large back end server product portfolio into the cloud and transition from selling software licenses to selling managed services. The difference in business model and related revenue streams makes this difficult, because it will eventually cannibalise existing products and could on the short term result in a dip in revenue as a result of the difference in business model. The large upfront license fees are being replace by recurring monthly/yearly payments. This part of the Microsoft strategy makes good sense to me, although I would like to debate the positioning of the hosted services. The current strategy is based on a one size fits all and that is one of the weak points, because various markets have different needs and cloud adoption time lines. It would be good if Microsoft makes a strong differentiation for different markets and tried to address them one by one. I addressed this same issue with some tips for Mr. Steve Ballmer a few months back. It could be that there has been some discussion on the priorities for various markets and the speed in which to move forward. I agree with Mr. Steve Ballmer that new leadership is required to move Microsoft forward and Bob could have become an unfortunate casualty in this discussion. I hope new leadership will come from outside and gets a chance to make some disruptive and innovative changes.

I'm looking forward to the new direction Microsoft will take.

Blue Monday - Staring out of the Window

Today it's Blue Monday, the most depressive day of the year. What else could I do as staring out of the window. Enjoy the movie below, in case it doesn't show read the full article.

Note: This was at the same spot as Johannes Vermeer painted his: View of Delft

You are Invited, Happy Commenting

Discussions and conversations are the basis for creativity, innovation and collaboration. In this blog I aim to inspire, challenge and stimulate people to think differently. However my articles can only be a start, a real conversation can only take place with your participation.

I also received feedback and learned that commenting here is too cumbersome. It's difficult, often doesn't work properly and misses modern features like threaded comments and likes. As I already mentioned in my top 7 reasons to love Blogger I considered alternatives and choose to implement Disqus, a specialized add-on for blog and community comments.

A couple of things you need to know:
  1. None of your valuable comments have gone missing. Everything is still where it always was.
  2. You still create anonymous comments.

  3. I do however recommend you to create a Disqus profile and use the email address you use for comments.

  4. The disqus profile becomes an anchor point for all your comments created on supported systems. You can see mine.

  5. If you want to collect all your comments in one place but don't want to show your real name, you can just leave your real name empty in your profile.
The new comment system allows your to:
  1. Reply to a comments and have a proper conversation with someone else in the community.
  2. Like a comment if you want to support somebodies efforts.
  3. Use your Twitter or Facebook account to leave comment.
  4. Share your comment on Twitter or Facebook.
  5. Subscribe by email or RSS to comments. 

For more information on 'How to comment' read the Disqus help

Join the conversation

  • Be the first to comment in the new system
  • Let me know if you like it or not
  • Ask me a question
  • Propose topics to write
  • Request from writing a guest post
  • ... you will figure out something

User versus Software vendor

DO NOT PUSHIn a previous article I expressed my dislike for Silverlight from a pure user perspective, features and functions were just not relevant because my user experience just was bad. The article got challenged by Eddy who came forward with some valid arguments pro Silverlight. He is one of the founders of Qics a vendor of great feature rich enterprise software products. I've a background at  Exact, another company that creates great enterprise (or at least business) software products and I can fully understand his arguments. However there is a lot more going on.

The user versus the software vender is a hate love relationship. 

Enterprise software usually does not sell to the end user, so why would it be designed for the user? Feature requests are the main influencers of product roadmaps, the user experience becomes often an after thought. The reason of this is that a feature can be put on a price list, are sellable and you can easily create a positive business plan with a good return on the investment. The overall user experience is for people who are no active voice during the sales process, so why would you do this.

Stuff enterprise software considered normal
  1. The only supported browser is Internet Explorer. 
  2. You need to enable your popup blocker for this site, otherwise it doesn't work. 
  3. The famous yellow bars in IE with some kind of ActiveX control being installed.
  4. There are x updates for your system, you need to restart
As a user I
  1. Want freedom of choice for my favorite browser, or even better I want freedom to choose a device I like. 
  2. What is a popup blocker? And if I happen to know what it is, I surely don't know how to turn it off.
  3. Don't bother me with the installation questions, I don't know what to do with it anyway. Do what you want as long as I don't notice it. Just don't interrupt my work process.
  4. Ok, I understand updates are necessary, but not now while I'm busy. You are disturbing me.
I'm happy I do see a change and there is definitely improvement on it's way. Users, with the help of social media, have become more verbal and enterprise software vendors start to realize the importance of creating excellent experiences. 

The social web and e-commerce is leading the pack with business software vendors still lacking behind. It's time to shift the top priority on the roadmap to the user and add features only when excellent experience can be maintained. In the debate user versus technology I will always take the position of the user, because too few people do so. I will challenge the engineers to do better, because I know they can do better than we have seen until now. 

Are you struggling to deliver better user experiences? Contact me and I might be able to help you.

My Dislike for Silverlight

Last week in a moment of Microsoft frustration I tweeted out my dislike of Silverlight and this week it didn't get much better.

I'm living the Apple and Google lifestyle and during my normal Internet consumption I don't run into many sites that use Silverlight. Actually, it looks like each time I visit a site using Silverlight I need to update, I'm not sure why this is, does Microsoft deploy very regular updates or do I need to install for each browser I'm using? Anyway I run too often into the 'There is a newer version of Silverlight to install', breaking my fluid browsing experience.

The frustration came from a very simple task that would take me a few minutes to complete into something that suddenly required me to download, prompting me with incompatibilities, install Silverlight and restarting browsers. All I wanted to do was to give Bing a few thumbs up and register this blog with the Bing webmaster tools. This is what happened: I started Firefox and went to the Bing webmaster tools where I got prompted to install Silverlight (As far as I knew it was installed already). I pressed the download and install button and Chrome (my default browser) was launched and messages about incompatibility issues were given.

I ignored the messages, downloaded, installed, restarted Firefox and I navigated to Bing webmaster tools. What I saw shocked me, a simple site that could easily be done with HTML, there was no rich media, no complex interaction, only a simple web site. However it didn't feel like the web and in frustration I just left thinking Google is good enough for me. Today I tried again and with an even bigger surprise I learned that the site doesn't even work, I can select the site but the tabs on top just don't react. Ok, forget it: I hate Silverlight.

This week it again became pretty clear to me why Microsoft needs to abandon Silverlight as soon as possible. In the last few days I consumed a lot of news from CES in Las Vegas. I'm in Europe so a lot of news reaches me in the morning when I'm having a coffee in one hand and my iPad in the other. While zipping my coffee and having some breakfast I scan my RSS feeds. A lot of CES reporting is done with video and even with the lack of Flash support on the iPad the YouTube embedded videos showed up perfectly, this in contrast with the 'Install Silverlight' button. Why can't everybody and especially the Windows blog just use YouTube for publishing videos and have the biggest reach for their content.

To the Silverlight people: Do you really think I'm going to interrupt breakfast, walk over to another computer and finally watch the 2 min Silverlight movie? You just missed a great opportunity to engage with me.

Is there still a place for Silverlight? Yes but not on the web! Put it on phones, Xboxes and may be even on other specific hardware (e.g. point of Sales systems). Just don't interrupt my browsing experience!

My Top 7 Reasons for using Blogger

This blog is hosted on Blogger and for some good reasons. I love Blogger, learn why:
  1. Reliable, the last thing you want to happen is your readers to have a poor experience due to unavailability or poor performance of your blog. Blogger is a very safe bet to make sure you offer the best services possible as the Royal Pingdom recently tested.
  2. Scalable, the Google infrastructure guarantees your site to stay available when you experience a sudden peak of visitors, as I myself experienced when the blog was mentioned as a Blogger blogs of note
  3. Simple, it just does what it needs to do and for me that is enough (Blogger versus Wordpress).
  4. Mobile optimized templates straight out of the box, probably the best new feature of 2010. This enables the continuously growing number of people on the go consuming to consume your work with a mobile optimized experience.
  5. Maximum convenience with superb integration with other Google services. With a single sign-on  Google account, host your blog on Blogger, embed pictures from Picasa, syndicate your feed with Feedburner, get statistics with Google Analytics and monazite with Adsense. No confusion, switching platforms or forgotten usernames and passwords, just very convenient.
  6. Nice customizable default templates
  7. Options for hardcore HTML and CSS customizations. A long way back when Twitter buttons weren't that common yet I already hacked them into blogger.
Beside these great features there are also some areas for improvement:
  1. Favorite icons that show everywhere. It's possible to define, with a bit of template hacking, your own favorite icon, however it doesn't show up in all places. For instance Google Reader will still show the default Blogger favorite icon.
  2. The comment system has recently seen some good improvments, but it's still not good enough. I'm currently evaluating Disqus for the redesign of this blog.

Innovating Ahead of Time

Predictor stickThis morning I ran into Four Innovation Predictions for 2011 on one of my favorite innovation blogs:  Blogging Innovation and make sure to follow them, if you are working on better ways to innovate.

Their four predictions are:
  1. Ideas come from everywhere – “open” innovation is ubiquitous
  2. Experience is more important than product – the outcomes change from new products to new experiences
  3. Time frames shorten – while organizations are getting better at generating ideas, the time frame from idea to commercialization hasn’t changed.
  4. Creativity re-enters the workforce.
I absolutely agree with all the points mentioned and while reading I was actually surprised how well my 2010 activities at Exact, my employer up until a few months ago, fitted the predictions. The things I was working on were:
  1. A community around the complete eco-system of customers, partners, accountants etc. to increase the contact moments and relation between members of the community. Product and services ideas and improvements would be part of that as well. It was in a concept and idea phase and never it materialized, but instead the product blogging community of Exact is sharing more upcoming stuff and listening better to product and services feedback. Wasn't yet a form of true open innovation, but it did recognize the value, knowledge and experience of the complete eco-system.
  2. During 2010 I build a complete User Experience team, from almost nothing to a reasonable sized team. I shared some of the experiences on getting it done in: User Experience - The Series (with some Bonus material too). The team also let to increased focus on the overall experience of the products and services. It didn't really deliver a lot in 2010, but I'm convinced the visible output and customer value will be significant in 2011.
  3. Agile was the magic word in the product organization. The different teams in one way or another moved to agile product development methods. I let the team that was the first to adopt, visualized in a nice Scrum at Exact video. The agility in product and service development was the necessary first step towards a shorter time to market. I'm not at Exact, I've no insights in to product road maps and release plans, but I wouldn't be surprised that the 2010 investments also in this area will pay off.
  4. When I hired several professional User Experience Designers a lot of creativity entered the work force, the environment changed from a paperless clean IT organization to a paper driven design organization. Suddenly the were sketches, diagrams, etc. all over the walls. People stopped to have a look, it at first felt strange in an IT organization, but quickly it transformed the overall atmosphere. The creativity was breading and worked as a catalyst on more and better ideas. Don't forget to read some of the User Experience - The Series for images and impressions.
It felt good to read the article, because it just to me confirmed I was doing the right things. If you are seeking ways to follow up on the prediction, don't hesitate to contact me. I have time and I might be able to help.

Disclaimer: This article is not endorsed or reviewed by Exact, it all my personal opinion.

Image: For Inspiration Only

Tablets the Next Corporate IT Disruption

DisruptionCES is about to start and is for a large part about tablets, besides the Apple with the iPad many more hardware vendors are introducing tablets in various formats, specification running and a number of operating systems. The IT landscape will become more divers, creating new challenges for CIO's and IT managers.

In many organizations the IT domain is for a large part running Microsoft software and it's doing a fine job. The personal productivity tools like Office, Outlook and Exchange have become the de-facto standard in many organizations, people know how to use and manage them and thus reduces learning and help costs. Recently they have also been extended with communication and collaboration solutions such as Lync and SharePoint, making the Microsoft stack pretty complete. Microsoft is adopting the cloud and over time, everybody on their own pace, many will move their personal productivity to the cloud. The wide spread nature of the Microsoft solutions has some good advantages, expertise and qualified staff is widely spread and available. It's a lot harder to find expertise on a rare product.

Many organization are still in the process to deploy or extend the above Microsoft solutions to increase their return on investments. This keeps IT usually pretty busy and they, for efficiency, like to standardize on a limited number of hardware organizations and software versions and vendors. All very understandable from a traditional way of thinking, however they are going to be disturbed...

In my 2011 dreams I already talked about the disruptive force of cloud computing and mobility is having in organizations. If you are at a point to renew or reinvest it's great, because you have much more options to consider creating the best value for your company. If you are in the middle of deployment it's a bit harder, your budgets are set, you are busy and first need to create some return on investment.

After CES we will see more tablets surfacing and also demand for corporate support will increase, especially because many managers want to show off their hot devices during the many meetings they attend. These will be devices running Android, WebOS, iOS and probably some Windows too. The nice uniform corporate IT landscape is gone and will probably be gone forever. Yet another serious challenge for CIO's and IT management. They will not be able to fulfill all demand and have to make choices and disappoint people. However, people will find their way to use and show off their devices.

Corporate IT is getting challenged from all directions, with tighter budgets, increased demand for social computing technology and technology developments going faster than they can deploy. They are kind of stuck, how would you solve this challenge? Leave your comments below.

Image: Lachlan Hardy

Is 2011 the Year My Cloud Dreams Become Reality?

Rain clouds seen from MärketFor a long time I've been an evangelist for, what we call today, cloud computing. In my words it more about moving computing and especially information away from personal devices into a secure central location. This central location contains the single source of the truth, is always up to date and runs the latest version of the software. It's a managed service providing me with maximum convenience.

When talking about this with others, especially corporate business people, I always get many reasons why this wouldn't be possible or at least would take a long time to happen. There are connectivity challenges (how to work on a plane?), security concerns, doubts on feasibility (How can I edit HD video in the cloud?) and many political reasons going from job to business model protection. I hear, I listen and sometimes challenge: Imagine it would all be possible, what would be the benefits?

The move towards the cloud is going to be very disruptive, that is why so many people still hold on to the current, but it will happen anyway. I see it as very likely that 2011 is the year that marks a clear shift to the cloud, the key reasons are:
  1. For every on premise solution there is a viable on demand web based alternative. The web based solutions are as good, but just lack reputation and customer references. However it doesn't require many early adopters with a respected name to change the reputation of the web based solutions.
  2. Computing has become social and businesses need to integrate social into their business processes if they don't want to be left behind and perceived as old. Social solutions require reach and ease of access, the cloud is perfect. Integration between systems is still very high on the nightmare agenda of many CIO's and they like to avoid more system integrations. Many cloud based solutions have already adopted social aspects making them a more viable alternative.
  3. Mobility creates a huge demand for cloud based solutions. The central location of information makes it a lot easier to give mobile access. The rapid growth of smart phones in combination with new ways of working put mobile solutions high on the requirement list for businesses.
The disruption of cloud computing is still in the beginning, with two groups fighting for dominance:
  1. The existing enterprise software vendors trying to leverage their on premise installed base with cloud based solutions. These solutions are often an evolution of the current and very often repackaging or redeployment of the existing solutions in the cloud. 
  2. A new generation of software vendors that embraced the cloud from the beginning and build different more innovative solutions.
In 2011 it will be interesting to watch what is going to happen, are businesses going to:
  1. avoid risk and choose a path to slow cloud adoption with their existing vendors?
  2. embrace risk of moving to the cloud and leverage the risk against newer and more innovative solutions.
I'm gonna put my money on the last, because after the slowdown as a result of the financial crisis companies are ready for a change. What do you think?