Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Amazon Author Page

Just created my Amazon author page. Amazon has done a neat job with this. The twitter integration was smooth. Not sure how the blog integration will work. It might be nice if I can also add the books I have read and the books I want to read.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Natural Bridges State Park In Santa Cruz

I live about 40 minutes away from Santa Cruz and I go there sometimes on weekends to watch the sunset and have a burrito and Mexican soda at a small Mexican Place called Taqueria La Cabana. Here are some pictures from the Natural Bridges State Park.

I took the pictures with an iPhone and used filters from Instagram.

The Next 100 Years by George Friedman

I am reading a book called The Next 100 Years by George Friedman. He argues that North America, (not necessarily USA) is going to be the dominant power in the 21st Century. I find his arguments based on geography very interesting.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When You Provide A Platform, Customers Do Incredible Things

Many years back I worked at DigitalThink, a Software As A Service (SaaS) provider of E-Learning software. Several organizations including a few for-profit learning organizations used our platform to deliver learning content to their employees and customers. DigitalThink is where I learned the basics of the SaaS business model and operations.

At DigitalThink, I worked with and later managed a team of people who advised customers who wanted to build learning solutions. To make the process efficient, I designed an approach called solution blocks that helped us assemble solutions from pre-fabricated building blocks, much like how children build things from LEGO™ blocks. We created standard solution blueprints for every block so that we can assemble a solution for a customer within hours of understanding their needs.  This approach saved us a ton of money and increased our profit margins. My colleagues and I were very proud of that approach.

The only time this approach did not work smoothly was when customers wanted integration between our system and a system within their firewall. We had many such customers and we spent much more time than normal with such customers. Integrations always involved multi-skilled teams, several discussions and negotiations with multiple stakeholders.

Initially, I viewed such customer integrations as a burden on our efficiency and our profit margin. Over a period of time I started noticing something interesting. Customers who integrated their systems with us stayed with us longer than the usual three years a regular customer stayed with us.  Our profit-margin from customers with custom-integrations was higher, even though we spend more time building solutions for such customers. I found out that those customers spent more money with us and paid more per user compared to customers with no custom integrations.  I once asked such a customer why they were willing to pay more. What they said changed my opinion about custom integrations.

People do incredible things when you give them a platform. Image from 
They said that they see custom integrations as a way to build a competitive advantage over competitors, who might be using the same or similar solution. They see custom integrations as incredibly valuable and were willing to spend money on such integrations and technologies that enable such integration. They also said something eye opening. They said that they were not keen on using our services to build their integration. They wanted us to given them a platform so that they can build their own custom integrations. They wanted to build more not less custom integrations and they wanted control over such integrations.

Almost a decade later today, this sounds like common sense. Ask your software provider to provide the basic building blocks but innovate by connecting those standard blocks in unique ways to create a competitive advantage. I learned that a significant number of customers who use SAP and SuccessFactors products have built custom integrations to differentiate themselves from their competitors, who also might be using SAP and SuccessFactors products. A few such customers have built, to my surprise, hundreds of custom integrations. Customers are smart about their business and savvy with their money. They do what works for them and spend money on things that pay them back. After watching such behavior and listening, directly and indirectly, to a few customers who have built custom integrations,  I believe that investing in an integration platform and building custom integrations pays back. Since customers with custom integrations stay longer with a provider, the software provider also makes more money than normal.

My colleagues and I are applying these lessons learned while making important investment decisions about integration technology and identifying possible standard integrations. I wonder what you think. Please let me know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The End of Men And The Rise Of Women

I was researching the future of work and ran into some interesting statistics about the workforce in the US. In 2009, for the first time in American history, the percentage of women in the workforce tipped in favor of women. In 2011, women held 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs, up from 26.1 percent in 1980.  These statistics caught my attention and I decided to dig a bit deeper into it. That is when I ran into the projected male-female college graduate ratio in the US.

This made it even more interesting and I looked for a detailed study of this significant change that is approaching fast. That is when I discovered the book, The End Of Men and The Rise Of Women, by Hanna Rosin If you are in the human capital management business, I highly recommend this book.

After a couple of weeks of mulling over what this means for the human capital management business, and talking to a few female colleagues, I came to the conclusion that women are going to make up a majority of the white collar workforce by 2020. Technological advances and social changes have made women less dependent on a man. This is going to lead to several single mother households. At the same time fertility in the US in coming back. Parents are getting old and typically women act as care givers for parents and in-laws. This means that women are going to be running our businesses, taking care of children and caring for elders, all at the same time.

The least we in the enterprise software business can do is to make tools that help such women get their job done with as minimum fuss as possible, even when they are away from their desks, so that they can get on with more important things in life. Our business success might depend on it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SuccessFactors Named The Only Leader In Social Use in Integrated Talent Management

I learned that IDC has named SuccessFactors the only Leader in the "Social Technology In Integrated Talent Management" category. I believe there are other players who are doing some good work in the area. But IDC's report, based on their observations and feedback from customers, indicates that the SAP SuccessFactors approach of putting collaboration in context in talent management applications such as learning and recruiting is useful for customers. It is important to note that we have barely scratched the surface in this area. There is some good work being done. You will see SAP SuccessFactors emerge stronger in this area in the near future.

Click here to see the table of content of the report and buy it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Way You Speak Is Very Important

I recently went through the Executive Presence training program offered by my employer, SAP. I made a lot of friends and spend some time thinking about information delivery. The coach shared a video of Mark Jeffries. I find him remarkable. Here is a video where he talks about using your voice effectively.

Friday, September 07, 2012

SuccessFactors User Experience - A Taste Of Things To Come

The SuccessFactors home page design that went live recently. The modular nature of this design makes it timeless. We can add things as and when new software modules are designed. We can enhance the individual tiles or add new ones. I am pretty pleased with the direction.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Playing Video Inside Your AxureRP Prototypes

Many software products, mobiles apps and websites now-a-days have video embedded in them. So it is necessary to prototype features that show the experience of playing a video. Your prototypes will be far more realistic, if you can show video playing inside your prototype. You can do this in AxureRP.

Here is a video showing how to do it.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Simulating Predictive Search In AxureRP

Simulating the predictive search functionality found in many websites such as Simulating this functionality in the prototyping tool Axure RP, is pretty straight forward. Here is a video on how to do this.

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