Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Geoffrey Moore Came To the SAP Campus Today

Geoffrey Moore was at the SAP campus in Palo Alto to talk about his book Escape Velocity.  He had some interesting insight for SAP employees. Some things that I came away with.

1. Co-Innovation
SAP's marketing today is just talking about all the products SAP has in the hope that one of them might answer the customers questions. Instead listen to your customers and ask them what they want to solve. Co-innovate with them.

2. Current State of ERP
ERP is like the interstate highway system. Once it is put in place, it is not a big investment area anymore. Take risks to build the next big thing.

3. Innovation
SAP should try to do transformative innovation. Not disruptive innovation.
Innovation should be part of a company's DNA, even when the company wants to successfully acquire innovative companies. A company needs innovators to understand and appreciate and accommodate other innovators.

4. Serving Middle Managers
He said that middle managers are under served by all enterprise applications.

5. Search
He said that search is absolutely key for all applications in the enterprise going forward. No amount of canned reports or dashboards will meet the needs of managers seeking insight. So building a compelling search engine is key for all future applications.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Viewing a Web Site Inside an iPad Browser In Full-Screen Mode

An iPad prototype built using tools such as Axure can be placed on a web site and view directly inside a browser on an iPad. However, the Safari browser does not yet have a full screen mode. So you will always end up seeing the address bar and the tabs on the top. This makes it hard to simulate a prototype in the iPad web browser.

The Terra browser solves that problem. There is a full screen mode that hides the address bar and the tabs on the top. You'll notice that there is no address bar or tab bar on the top. The web page occupies the entire screen.

Now you can create an iPad prototype built using html, place it in a web site and show it inside a Terra browser to simulate the app.

The correct image size for the prototype is 1024 * 750. If you build an application with these dimensions, the prototype you create will display perfectly inside the Terra Browser while it is on full-screen mode.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

User Experience Testing Is Not The Same As Product Design Validation

I sometimes watch my colleagues in horror when they take a few screens, show it to a few end users, verify usability of a handful of screens representing few use cases and come back and tell me that the product is fine. I explain to them that user experience testing is not the same as product design validation. Product managers and product owners need to built something rough, show it to potential users and buyers and find out if the idea makes sense to them. This is the job of a product manager. It is not to be delegated to a user experience designer alone. The ideal situation is when the product manager or product owner tests this out on her own before turning this into a larger project. If the product manager needs help, then she needs to work with a user experience designer who can help her build things. Delegating product design to some one else is a sure recipe for failure.

There are two behaviors that stop such a good practice from being followed.
1. Product managers thinking that design is a creative activity for which they are not suited. Really? If you are not creative, why are you managing a product?
2. User experience designers considering design as a unique trait that only they can do and having this myopic view that experience design is product design.

Product managers who don't make things to test the waters are doomed to fail sooner or later. User experience designers who  do not recognize this and embrace it are are going to fail because they will end up designing products that may not sell well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Collaboration In Context Can Do Wonders To Your Life and Work

Texting is useful. In older model phones one always needs to set the context first. This is because older model phones do not present the message in context for the receiver. The message is simply presented in the order it was received and it was assumed that the receiver will know the context or figure out the context. This is inefficient and cumbersome.

Texting on the iPhone, on the other hand, is very simple, fast and fun. The iPhone makes people more efficient by organizing their messages as a conversation with a person rather than a series of random messages. In other words, the iPhone presents the context for both parties, so that simple text messages accomplish more than long conversations.

This is the case with any collaboration tool. When you provide collaboration tools in the context of a specific goal or activity, the tool makes collaboration not only efficient but also fun. This is what we have done with SAP Career OnDemand. We put the right collaboration tool at the hands of the right people in the context of their goals and activities.

Rather than present a blank collaboration space, where a person has to work hard to set the context, we present the context for all the right people so that a simple short conversation can accomplish much more that an elaborate process.

I explain this to every customer who asks me why they should use SAP Career OnDemand rather than a stand alone collaboration tool.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mobile Apps Enable Product Managers and IT Teams To Make Little Bets

In software, particularly in enterprise software that is released in quarterly or yearly cycles, it is hard to experiment. Executives in-charge of investment decisions expect clear projection of returns on every investment decision. It is hard to predict and prove the returns on every investment a product manager makes. Sometimes the product manager spends years collecting data or making up data to justify the investment. Senior executives have openly told me to make up the numbers so that the investment goes through. I find this ridiculous and always wondered if there might be a practical solution that might work.

Thinking mobile first for enterprise software might help address this situation. It is possible to think about features and functionality for mobile personal devices such as iPads and smart phones first, test them out with a few users, prove the need and build such functionality on a larger scale and on the web later.

For a example a custom application for a particular role or audience can be built with an investment of a $ 100,000, assuming the basic objects necessary to build the mobile app are already available. The feedback from such a mobile app can then be used to justify and thus prioritize the development of the web version of the product.

In many cases nimble partners might be able to share the risk with product managers to experiment, if they see long term benefit. Such an approach makes innovation and experimentation possible even in large enterprise software companies or installations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Illustrations Of People Using Their iPads At Work

I created these tonight. Sharing the wealth with my valued readers. Use it and have fun. Remember! All enterprise apps can be as cool as a consumer app on the iPad. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or lazy.

Look at that form factor, It looks natural for quick consumption, or conversation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SAP's OnPremise Software Team Is Moving to A Quarterly Release Cycle

I learned from David Ludlow, the head of HCM Solution Management, today that the HCM OnPremise development team is moving to a quarterly software release cycle. Our partners liked the news very much. I guess we got a nudge from other providers. This is great. These are interesting times at SAP.

SAP's Mobile Apps in the iTunes App Store

I had a chance to spend some time listening to the current status and future plans of SAP's Mobility from Nathan Henderson. It is the best presentation on SAP Mobility I have seen so far.

He mentioned that there are more than 200 apps created by partners and SAP in a relatively short period of time. I had a chance to see the SAP Mobile Apps application in iTunes in action. I noticed that 7 partners have provided apps for the store. Since SAP and its partners have so much domain expertise and content, I believe that a ton of apps will be created in a reasonable amount of time and these apps will become a huge differentiator  for SAP. I am seeing agility in development and a sense of urgency like never before.

This is the app that you can download from the apple app store.

iPhone Screenshot 1iPhone Screenshot 2

Monday, November 14, 2011

Use The Grid lines Feature While Prototyping

You may not be a trained visual designer. However, creating a good looking, convincing prototype will require using the grid lines feature to create a prototype with a neat layout. Your audience may not understand why a prototype looks appealing. But if you have poor layout, they will notice it.

Pick a prototyping tool that provides this feature and use it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Big Short By Michael Lewis

The Big Short By Michael Lewis is a great read. I became a fan after reading the book, Boomerang and watching the movie Money Ball. I thought people in the software business are clueless. Wall Street is worse.

Little Bets By Peter Sims

I checked out the book, The Little Bets by Peter Sims from the library. I heard about the incremental approach the author suggests. I believe in it. No one can predict the future. But one can experiment without losing it all.

iPad Design Guidelines I Keep In Mind While Designing Career OnDemand Apps

Design for touch: Don’t try to replicate web UI design paradigms in your iOS app. Instead, get familiar with the UI elements and patterns of iOS and use them to showcase your content. Web elements you’ll need to re-examine include menus, interactions initiated by hovering, and links.

Let people scroll: Most websites take care to display the most important information in the top half of the page where it is seen first (“above the fold”), because people sometimes leave a page when they don’t find what they’re looking for near the top. But on iOS-based devices, scrolling is an easy, expected part of the experience. If you reduce font size or squeeze controls to fit your content into the space of a single device screen, you’re likely to end up with unreadable content and an unusable layout.

Focus your app: Websites often greet visitors with a large number of tasks and options from which they can choose, but this type of experience does not translate well to iOS apps. iOS users expect an app to do what it advertises, and they want to see useful content immediately.  The above guidelines are from the iOS Human Interface Guide.

Some other guidelines I follow are

Use Content for navigation : Downplay application UI so that the focus is on content; present content in beautiful ways. Let's users touch the content and interact with it. I'll add more in the coming days and weeks... 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

iPad User Interface Guidelines

I read about the iPad user inerface guidelines in Luke W's web site.  Some of these guidelines need explanation. I wonder if anyone has elaborated on this somewhere. I plan to poke around. The iPad user experience guidelines are © 2010 Apple Inc.
  • Support All Orientations
  • Enhance Interactivity (Don’t Just Add Features)
  • Flatten Your Information Hierarchy
  • Reduce Full-Screen Transitions
  • Enable Collaboration and Connectedness
  • Add Physicality and Heightened Realism
  • Delight People with Stunning Graphics
  • De-emphasize User Interface Controls
    • This means less buttons on the screen. Content is the interface
  • Minimize Modality
  • Rethink Your Lists
    • I wonder what this means. Some examples might help.
  • Consider Multifinger Gestures
  • Consider Popovers for Some Modal Tasks
  • Restrict Complexity in Modal Tasks
  • Downplay File-Handling Operations
  • Ask People to Save Only When Necessary
  • Start Instantly
  • Always Be Prepared to Stop

Friday, November 11, 2011

Simulating a Scroll In an iPad App Built using @AxureRP

Almost all iPad apps have a  panel with content that you can scroll up and down. You can simulate that functionality very well using the Axure prototyping tool. The video below explains how. Special thanks to @enricgili who taught me how to do this.

Building panels with scroll functionality can help you covey the user experience in a much more meaningful way to your customers, colleagues, partners and analysts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Mobile Delivery Platform Is Like An Irrigation System

I recently got some irrigation work done in my back yard. When I first got the quote, I was shocked. I wondered why I need to invest more money in an irrigation system than what I am spending on plants. The landscape contractor explained to me that timely watering of plants is critical for the health of all plants in the garden and not investing in an irrigation system will kill the plants. He pointed out that the trees, shade plants, potted plants and full-sun plants all need a separate watering schedule and I won't be able to keep track of everything all the time. I got his point. I have enough dead plants in the garden to support his argument.

Image from ajslandscapingsupplies.com
I started thinking that this is probably how our customers feel when we tell them that they need to invest in a  mobile platform, even before they can deliver mobile apps.  The truth is, you do not need a big mobile platform to delivery a few mobile apps to a few users. That is kind of like managing a few plants. You can water them manually and if you don't water them regularly a few plants might die. But imagine managing a few hundred plants of multiple types requiring different types of attention. Soon the situation becomes unmanageable and you will need a system to water all the plants.

When you delivery tens of mobile apps to hundreds of users on multiple devices, the situation can and will soon get out of hand. Delivering the apps, administering them, remotely securing the device or securing the data on a lost device - all necessary functions - require a mobile platform. It is like the irrigation system in the garden. Expensive. Invisible to the end user. But essential and even critical for the success of your mobility initiative.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Simulating Swiping in an iPad Prototype Built Using @AxureRP

When we design iPad applications for people management software, we build realistic iPad prototypes to get the reaction of colleagues, end users and partners. Since we mock things up using a prototyping tool, we are able to test our ideas within days. This approach has reduced the associated risk significantly for us.

There are many things you can do to simulate the user experience of an iPad. The Swipe gesture if one of them. You can build fairly sophisticated iPad prototypes which support the "swipe" gesture, using @AxureRP.

Here is a demonstration of swiping a panel and dropping it in an area to initiate some events. Thanks to the AxureRP support team for giving me some sample code.

Mobile Devices and Apps Are Inherently People Centric

Yesterday a colleague and I were chatting about mobile devices and how these have changed her work life. This colleague has two children and was very concerned about work creeping into her time with her children and family. She started using a smart phone a few months back after gentle nudging from all her colleagues. I asked her how the smart phone is working out for her.

To my surprise, she said that the smart phone has made her family life a lot richer. She said she does not open her laptop at home anymore. She is able to access things in her smart phone and get stuff done without waiting for her laptop to boot up. Contrary to her fear, she is now able to spend more time taking care of her children and family when she is not in the office.

I came away wondering why we don't built most of the tools we use on mobile devices which are inherently personal and people-centric. We owe it to working moms who are incredibly busy and have rigid schedules around children's school and healthcare appointments.

Simulating Simultaneous Movement Of Independent Panels In An iPad Prototype Built Using @AxureRP

While prototyping for an iPad app using @AxureRP you may need to move multiple independent panels simultaneously. This is a video showing you how you can do it.

While designing SAP Career OnDemand applications, I use prototypes similar to the one above to test the waters of a concept or a story with potential users. Since I can built these things myself, the turn around time to built, test iterate is literally days rather than weeks. This approach helps me talk to customers, partners, development colleagues and analysts with real data and confidence.

If you are wondering why enterprise applications cannot have user experiences like the one you see above, you have a point. They can and they will start looking like this in the near future. It is an idea whose time has come.

Prof. Robert Sutton

I had the privilege of meeting Prof. Robert Sutton at Stanford University. He is a profound thinker and prolific writer on the topic of work. I showed Career OnDemand to him to get his thoughts and verify if our thinking is right. He gave us some great input. Here is a short video of Prof. Sutton talking about creativity.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Simulating Multiple Panel Movements in an @AxureRP Prototype For iPad

This one is for the AxureRP prototyping geeks. If you want to simulate the dragging of multiple panels in AxureRP, there is a simple way to do that. The video below explains it.

The Axure Interaction logic is posted here.

Friday, November 04, 2011

How About Mobile Only HCM Apps For Managers And Employees

I had a chance to chat with an SAP HCM specialist this week. He shared an interesting insight with me. One of our customers is planning to build mobile and tablet apps for all employee and manager services and completely remove portal access for these audiences. That is very interesting. I am going to keep an eye on that project.

Allowance For Error

I have seen two interesting types of behaviors with my colleagues. One set of people anticipate that things might not always work as predicted; people may not show up on time for meetings, the projector may not always work, customers may cancel meetings at the last minute and so on. It is not that they always have a contingency plan. But they don't expect everything to work perfectly all the time.

There is a second set of colleagues who expect the world to function as expected. They expect people to always show up on time, their windows 7 machines to boot up under a minute, their GPS to show the right directions all the time and so on. These are not unreasonable expectations. But when such expectations are not met, this second set of colleagues get all upset and stressed out about it.

Who do you think is more productive at work? I have noticed that the ones who understand and accept that things don't always work the way they should are more productive and less stressed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Companies That Are Open To Innovation

As part of my research for Career OnDemand I works with tens of companies. In the beginning, like many of my colleagues, I assumed that human resource teams from technology companies with a younger workforce might be early adopters of new people management concepts. Over the last two years I realized that I was wrong and my assumption is not always true. Utilities, chemical companies, oil companies, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics companies are equally open, if not more open, to innovation and risk taking. Ironically, human resource managers in technology companies with a younger demographic came across as more risk averse and skeptical about new ideas. I find this odd. I wonder why. Am I missing something?

Connecting Everyday Work With Performance Goals

Every people manager will agree that connecting day to day work with performance and development goals is very important. Almost every customer that spoke to in the past few years told me that they want their employees to know why they are going what they are doing. Connecting day-to-day work with goals is a hard thing to do. Just think about how many times last year you went to your company's goals management system to see if your daily work aligns with what your goals are. Even if you go there it is probably useless because, in most cases, your goals become obsolete the moment they are written down.

We are attempting to address this in Career OnDemand. Any employee will be able to send email messages and calendar appointments to Career OnDemand and later attach them to his or her goal in Career OnDemand. An employee can forward an email or appointment from any email system, even from a smart phone or a tablet. An employee can do this without having to install a plug-in or downloading an app.

The moment an email or appointment is attached to a goal, the employee's manager becomes aware of the work and the context of the work. This leads to a meaningful conversation the next time they meet and probably will lead to a discussion about the next steps or course corrections. If the daily work is not aligned with the goals in the systems, the manager can point that out to the employee. If the employee is doing meaningful work that is not aligned with the goals in the system, perhaps it is time to have another look at the goals and modify them.

If you were at the HR Technology Conference last month, you may have seen David Ludlow present these concepts and talk about them at great length.

We are working hard to simplify things and make complex concepts work with current technologies that people already use. Almost of of these ideas and suggestions came from customers who co-innovated with us. If you are interested in co-innovating with the Career OnDemand team, please reach out to @esdediego. We would love to show a preview of Career OnDemand months before general availability and listen to your thoughts.

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