google supply management made easy

Sometimes I get asked if companies should have more than one technology supplier (to have discounts) or a bunch of them (to have choice). It’s indeed a matter of efficiency vs choice, but also cheap vs expensive. Lately I told a company that they first need to have less suppliers to achieve efficiency and reduce costs, in order to have in the future the opportunity to have more suppliers and then more choice. Also told them that they weren’t ready to have that many suppliers now because they weren’t managing the procurement process properly, which needed to be revised.

So, on the news, Google rumours that they’re sourcing HTC for their new Nexus tablet. If we look at it, Google has the choice to have their software in every device, but they choose just one to be their favourite supplier, each year. They’re not going with more than one official supplier at a time, but they have the chance to pick any manufacturer that already produces android phones.

And what’s tcapabilityhe difference then with Google and any other mortal company ? Well, first of all they defined a capability that they need to fulfil: make a phone to put their content on and gather data from consumers. Then they have a tender each year with different manufacturers, which is pretty much like a partner meeting, to align commercial, marketing and sales strategy. Technology aside, we all know that their system works, but announcing a new device is a great deal and a revenue stream for any manufacturer.

If Google can change suppliers every year for their phone, so can your company for the different capabilities that you have.

And how ? Well, Google does it with a common set of interfaces and standards around their platform (Android), so you can do it too with your own capabilities. Let’s pick one; your website. If you define that your content is provided by an API, that UX/UI should be using web standards and all the data gathered goes again to the API, then you can literally pick one different supplier each year to do your website.

With the Google approach you can have choice; it can be going with one supplier or with as many as you want, because you have your capability well defined, set with common interfaces, standards, rules and principles.

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when a dumb pipe controls your data access

dump pipeA few years ago, Telcos ruled the world. They controlled our calls, messages, games, apps, payments, address book, location and even music. Those services were all provided by them. They were THE media company of the 21st century. And it was a big walled garden for all of them.

… then smartphones appeared and they slowly lost everything they owned and controlled.

If we look at it right now, we do messaging outside SMS, we download games and apps from app stores, we don’t pay for services with our phone bill anymore, we use gps and maps for location, our address book and photos are in the cloud, music is free or pretty cheap. Even calls, we do it with apps (skype, foocall, voip) rather than just calling.

So a dump pipe is, as wikipedia explains:

“the term dumb pipe, or dumb network, refers to an operator’s network being used simply to transfer bytes between the customer’s device and the Internet. The use of the term “dumb” refers to the inability of the operator to restrict services and applications to its own portal and primarily just provide simple bandwidth and network speed”

Bottom line, what we actually really need from those big and old telcos is a data connection, because we even don’t do that much calls. Now the thing is that they’ve lost all those services they provided, ending up with just one, and that one is the pipe which against wikipedia definition, they have the ability to restrict or slow services and apps to their own network or – and now’s the beautiful part of it – to their own commercial agreements. Hence everyone shouting for net neutrality on the cable.

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you’re the product

jawbone graph This is a graph that Jawbone released from yesterday earthquake in Napa, Northern California.  Pretty cool, when you have access to data of thousands of users and you can correlate them with external factors. On the other side this is what everyone expects when you deal with customer data. You sell a thing to someone to help them doing something, but in return you get valuable data from them. It’s the Big Data of things, and you’re the product. For good and bad.

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everyone thinks they’re special

you're not specialWhen you work for the public sector, there’s this need to create your own walled garden and make yourself the guardian keeper of something. It might be some sort of technology, system or application. It’s a status that you need and create to keep yourself useful within the system. The more dependent people are of you or of your technology, the best for you, but it’s the worse thing that may happen to the entire organization.

Usually after being the guardian keeper of something, your next step is to create a long tail of people working for you, doing repetitive tasks, not creating value, but working to keep the garden away from other people or even not improving it. The more people the merrier. Your area is then a big blob, sipping resources out of the organization, just to do keep that walled garden alive.

This not only happens with the public sector, but also within the private sector, with some small subtle changes. There everyone thinks they’re special, that have special needs and therefore need special software or solutions.

Lets take invoicing as an example. Everyone needs to invoice customers. It’s a standard, pretty much commoditized function across the company. The department A might want to charge customers in pounds, and department B in dollars, but at the end it’s an invoice, with some changes between departments. Now because everyone’s thinks they’re special, every department picks their own invoicing system, because they have special needs (subtle needs at the end and straightforward customizable into the software).

After a while, you’re going to have two or more different invoice systems across the organization, doing pretty much the same thing, but because everyone’s special, these invoicing systems don’t talk to each other or even sync data. They were not chosen to do that, if they would, then someone will notice that after all it’s not that big deal what people think it’s special. Now you need different teams to support the software or have different suppliers for it. It’s your own walled garden and you’re going to get someone to be the gatekeeper of that thing that you think it makes you special.

But, news flash, you’re not special. Your need is shared across your organization and “your need” is just a custom field into some database. You don’t need different software to do a commoditized function. After a while, instead of doing invoicing for your customers, you’re going to be the invoice of your suppliers.

So, how to overcome this ? 
Well, first of all it’s a mentality thing. You need to explain to people that all commoditized needs should be shared across the organization and instead of asking how people are doing their own tasks, tell them that 90% of what they’re doing is shared and those 10% might be just a custom development, easily achieved with the current solution. Also, soon you’re going to realize that those 10%, might be some change into the process or procedure that you’re doing wrong across different departments.

Another thing that keeps everyone out of walled gardens is having a common set of rules and principles regarding choices. If someone uses a shared invoice system, then its from the organization budget, if they’re using their own, then it comes out of their own budget. Also, having the principle of sharing data across different systems and keeping them synced is usually a turn down to get new special tools. So if someone uses a different invoice system, then they will need to integrate with the shared across the organization, out of their own budget.

At the end is about having tools for capabilities, not capabilities for tools and having common principles and rules across the whole organization.

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knowing your fears

There’s a lot of talk today around startups and how nice it is to build something for people to use or consume. Some do it for themselves (which then can be useful for others), some do it for profit or just because they feel other people needs. To achieve that goal, startups and entrepreneurs have a bunch of options. From self funding, to investment or event participating in some accelerator program.

That’s nice and pretty much a picture of what startups can be or are. But to do so, every entrepreneur has to overcome their own fears.

The fear of failing, the fear of not getting there, not having money or even to fire people. The fear their families have if they don’t succeed and even the fear of losing relationships in between.

For me the worst fear, when I did my startup, was not getting to the point of what I dreamt of. And I failed. More than once. Which gave me the fair of failing, and I never moved to another idea since then.

So, when I saw today this Mutts cartoon, it hit me hard.

fears

Before you do a startup, make a list of your fears and try to figure out a solution for them, before doing anything. The better you know your fears, the easier it is to deal with them when they hit you – and believe me, they will!

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data is like water

data is like water- Clean data is like clean water. It’s expensive, scarce and we should save it for hard times.

– If data is like water, then it doesn’t matter how much we have, but how we bottle it.

Non structured data is like sparkling water, every time you drink it you have the need to burp to make it more clear.

– The difference between tap water and bottled water is pretty much the difference between selling ads or monetizing information.

– Clients will choose between the taste of data, the bottle or label and how it was advertized.

– The secret of monetizing data will be about the source you get your water, the production line and how you pack it.

– For us to sell data, we first need the plumbing in place.

– At the end, plumbers will be expensive to sort out the plumbing for your data.

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the genius behind Apple products

Jony IveJony Ive is known as the genius behind latest Apple products, such as the iphone, iMac, Macbook, iPod and even the new iOS. So I thought that this book from Leander Kahney, a true Apple Fanboy and author of The Cult of the Mac book and blog, was something to read for. Maybe with some true insights, interviews and tech details.

But, it was somewhat of a just “meh”. Not good enough to fully understand the genius behind Apple biggest success and a true industry visionaire, as Jonathan Ive is.

The book starts with a long story about his childhood, the Tangerine company and then Apple. His first problems, the ID department, how Steve liked him and their relationship right until the end, where he became an “untouchable” inside Apple. Shows some details about the design development process and here Jony Ive got a few ideas or the trips to China to build products, but it doesn’t feature any interviews, details of the imaginative mind or even Ive failures. As usual, it immortalizes Ive as the design god and that’s it.

Personally was expecting more details on the designs Ive built, on the process, on the mind and how those creations came to reality. Bottom line; it’s something to read but not worth to buy.

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Amazon Zocalo – hands on

ZocaloAmazon has given me the privilege to test their new service Zocalo, which is like a nice dropbox alike frontend for S3.  My first initial feeling is that the whole thing is really, really fast! The upload or download seems to be faster than dropbox or box. The user experience is pretty straightforward and simple, as it should be.

Currently there are only a small set of features; to share and review documents (and having that as Word comments), but I’m expecting in the near future more dropbox options to share folders with other people or more granular actions to documents. Maybe a google docs live collaboration system ?  The 200GB per user really do the difference in corporate or even personal environments. Also, they already have their sync tools available for desktop users.

Amazon Zocalo 01 Amazon Zocalo 02Amazon Zocalo Client

If we look at it, Dropbox is a nice interface for S3 and Box.com started as an interface to S3 as well, so there’s enough space for Amazon to move around and create something better.

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the strange case of Foocall

FooCall is one of those strange cases of an application with lots of potential, yet unleashed.

For those who never used it, Foocall is an application that allows you to make really cheap international phone calls. It basically calls a local number when you do an international call, at a very cheap rate. Since most of the current plans have inclusive minutes for local numbers and not international, calling abroad can be really expensive, so Foocall uses your inclusive minutes as a ‘gateway’ for international dialling plus their own – very low – rate.

They recently upgraded their iphone app 3 months ago and yesterday the android version. It looks really good and ‘stable’. They really needed to push the android version fast, since their last version really sucked and most of the times was a cpu hog.

zackphoneWhy is it then a strange case, for such an app that only does international phone calls ? Well, first because it works, it’s cheap, it already has your phone address book, but strangely it didn’t released any chat features, as lets say, Whatsapp is. Usually most apps start with text and messaging as a feature, because it’s easy to do and scale, then expanding to voice. Now Foocall does voice perfectly well, but never started doing messaging and if it did, I’m guessing that it could easily take Whatsapp or Telegram on this. Setting up and entire voice infrastructure is way more complicated than scaling a message queueing system.

The other thing that really surprises me is that even their website is so 90’s. Now imagine it on a hipster version, doing messaging and media sharing.

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captains log; mostly doing this

windows

Lately I’ve been using Windows. No, this isn’t a OS war again, but just a personal thing. Windows 7 was really good. Now with 2012 and the 8 thingie, is really, really awful. I always defended the right tool for the job, and sometimes it was Windows, I’m that pragmatic, but these latest versions are completely wrong, complicated, bloated on the UI. Even the Windows 2012, for a server version, looks like Vista, but worse. Thank god there’s PowerShell.

 

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