Today's interesting customer experience – the challenge is integrated experiences

I’m expecting a delivery today – it’s the delivery of a new mobile phone.

The delivery company has sent me an email to tell  me that they have sent me a text message stating the one hour slot when my new mobile phone will be delivered.

Unfortunately the mobile phone company have already processed the change and have disconnected my current SIM card.

The delivery company’s web site allows me to track the order, but does not tell me when they are planning on making the delivery.

Each of the components of this process have done what they were asked to do. Where this process has become broken is integration. It’s integration where most experiences break.

In technology we have a complexity problem. While the devices that we use may be getting simpler to use, we are using more of them and the integration between them is driving up the complexity. Some people think that the complexity is so severe that we are heading for a technology crash, maybe, I’m not sure. What do you think?

Top 40 Posts for 2015

The year isn’t yet concluded, but I’m planning a bit of a technology fast towards the end of the year and the few days that are remaining aren’t going to make a huge difference to the overall outcome of this year’s Top 40 Posts.

It’s interesting to note that many of this years top posts were written in earlier years. Number 1 was written 2010, number 2 in 2012 and number 3 in 2013.

Many of these posts were also at the top of last year’s list.

Not sure what that says about my current writing?

  1. A Lack Of Planning On Your Part Does Not Constitute An Emergency On Mine
  2. The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS)
  3. Axiom: People join companies, but leave managers
  4. BYOD and Productivity Statistics
  5. “One road leads home and a thousand roads lead into the…
  6. AWS Config now with ServiceNow Integration
  7. Rich Pictures
  8. The Productive Workplace: The Novel and Adaptive Thinking Space
  9. Microsoft – Productivity Future Vision (2015)
  10. “Vision is a picture of the future that produces…
  11. Windows 10: Long Term Servicing Branches
  12. Windows Live LifeCam
  13. “If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe…
  14. I love what I do – because – I’m good at what I do – because…
  15. My Tools: IFTTT – Automating Your Life
  16. Exchange 2016 Architecture Update – a few highlights from Ignite 2015
  17. “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake…
  18. “In 10 years, it’s predicted that 40% of Fortune 500 companie…
  19. How to Measure Knowledge Worker Output? Metrics?
  20. Office Speak: “Can you please go on mute” – “PLEASE GO ON MUTE”
  21. “Only three things happen naturally in organisations…
  22. Concept of the Day: Cultural Plasticity
  23. I’m being a bit less social
  24. How I Process Information (Normally)
  25. Office Speak: One Throat to Choke
  26. Rant Over
  27. Productive Workplace: Cognitive Load Management Spaces
  28. Because it’s Friday: Wonderful Geometric Animated GIFs
  29. On the train in 2015
  30. “The Rise of Dynamic Teams” – Alan Lepofsky and Bryan Goode

I'm a man in the middle

Robert Frost once said:

“The middle of the road is where the white line is-and that’s the worst place to drive.”

But that’s the reality of much of my life – I’m in the middle.

  • I’m middle-aged
  • I sit, as a member of Generation X, between the baby boomer generation and Generation Y or as they seem to have become the Millenials.
  • I work in middle management. There are people above and people below.
  • I’m in the middle of the grade structure at my employer.
  • I’m of average height.
  • Although I used to wear Regular (middle) length trousers at some time in history my trousers have become marked as Short though my legs are no shorter.
  • I used to wear tops with an M in them, they normally now have an L instead, probably because I am above average weight.
  • I have an average sized waist. Not sure I understand how I can be average height, have an average sized waist, but be above average weight?
  • I drive a medium-sized car.
  • I have a family that is as close to medium-sized as it’s possible to get without having part of a child.
  • I live very close to the geographic middle of the UK, and the geographic middle of Britain (yes they are different things).
  • Income is a tricky one, that’s above the median, but there are people earning a lot more than I am and a lot of people earning less. I need to remind myself sometimes that I’m not in the middle here.
  • I live in a city that is about as close to having a median (medium) population for the UK as it’s possible to get.
  • I think I’m middle class, but that’s difficult to be clear about that these days because, thankfully, the class system isn’t as definitive as it used to be.
  • The average tenure at most employers is between 9 and 10 years, my tenure has been significantly longer than that.
  • I have an average commute to work for my region.
  • I have the average number of connected device.
  • Looking on my utility providers web site we use an average amount of energy for our region.

The reality is that we all live our lives in the middle of something, but is that really the worst place to drive?

How I process information (2015 update)

Back in February I wrote a post called How I process information (normally). This is an update to that post with a few tool changes and a few activity changes. I tinker around with my own personal productivity on a regular basis constantly seeking something that fits the demands being placed on me and my personal style, this is the latest iteration of that tinkering. Updates are in italics.


One part of my job is to stay current with the ever-changing technology and business landscapes. This means that I process hundreds (probably thousands) of items of information every day.

I don’t read all of them, but I try to process all of them on a normal day. It should be noted here that I try to have normal days as often as possible, but there are many days when that’s not possible. On those many days I do what I can to keep the framework working.

how-i-process-information-2015-update

The normal way that I process information focusses on mornings. I’m mostly a morning person so that’s the best time for me to be alert because processing lots of information you should do when half asleep.

The morning is also the best time, for me, to establish and work through a routine. My morning routine works in six phases:

  • Quiet Time – when I read something that is meaningful normally using an application on my iPhone. I’ll then journal about this into a moleskine notebook.
  • Walk Time – I try to start each day with at least 40 minutes walking. During this time I’ll listen to a podcast on my iPhone. I’ve moved from using the inbuilt podcast application to using overcast it has a few nice features that I like (specifically an easy skip forward capability), but also the inbuilt podcast application ran into a problem and I couldn’t get it working..
  • Scan Time – I will work my way through the overnight deluge of blogs via Feedly and all the interesting updates from Twitter. My focus on Twitter is a set of people I have in a list called Interesting, I am likely to scan through the first few tweets from the rest of the people who I follow but not always. In Feedly I’ll mark some items as Save for Later; in Twitter I’ll Favourite some tweets. Both the favourited tweets and the saved Feedly posts will get copied into Evernote via IFTTT. During scan time I’ll also add a few things to a Buffer queue to get posted on Twitter (and Facebook) during the day, or the next day. Buffer allows me to space out posts so that they don’t all get blurted out in the first hours of the day.
  • Email and Calendar Time – I try to limit the time I spend on work emails. The part that I do in the morning routine is to get to inbox-zero by moving items into one of two folders – Actioned or To ActionIn 2015 we have moved our email services over to Outlook based on Office 365. After more years than I care to mention on Lotus Notes I’ve found the change over to Outlook relatively painless, but I have used Outlook in other aspects of life and for some customer projects so it wasn’t completely alien.
  • Plan Time – I have a physical folder with pre-printed Productivity Schedules in it. I’ll fill one of these out for each day. This becomes my plan for the day, it isn’t a task list it’s more than that, I’ll write about it some time.

It’s worth noting that there is only one application in these phases that is provided by my employer; the rest are either free, or I pay for them, this is my personal productivity regime.

Having written this post I realise that I’m still a bit delinquent on posts for the My Tools series; time to do some catching up.

A number of colleagues have written something similar:

Icons by Garrett Knoll, Brian Gonzalez, Andrea Verzola and Agustin Amenabar Larrin from The Noun Project used under Creative Commons – Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

The fall and rise of Accidental Empires

I have been re-reading Accidental Empires by Robert X. Cringley which was written in 1992 and then updated in 1996.

(The full text is available online)

The book charts the changing technology landscape at a time when it was the PC that was rising to be the dominant computing platform much to the surprise of the established computing companies like IBM.

Apart from taking me back to a time when I was relatively new in the business I was reading the book for contrasts and parallels to today’s changing market. The IT market was going through a turbulent time with organisations making strategic moves to grow their businesses and others having a terrible time trying to defend their dominance in another part of the market, sound familiar? Dell has just purchased EMC for $67B; is this a strategic attack or defensive move? Time will tell.

What is clear from re-reading Accidental Empires is that things have changed a lot. I thought I would look up the Fortune 500 list for 1992 and have a look through the IT companies then, and the IT companies in the current Fortune 500 list. There is no perfect list for such things, so I’ll also comment on current Market Cap for some of the organisation.

IBM

Back in 1992 the largest IT company on the Fortune 500 was IBM coming in at Number 4 with a revenue of over $65B but already showing challenges in a loss of over $2.8B. IBM were the biggest IT company on the planet, I say were, because today they come in at #24 with a significant cohort of organisation ahead of them. IBM’s place in the Fortune 500 could also be regarded as flattering when you consider the current Market Cap which would put them behind an even broader cohort including Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Oracle, Intel and Cisco.

Other Strugglers

Other organisations have struggled also:

  • Eastman Kodak were at #18 and is now at #966. Revenue of $19.6B down to $2.1B.
  • Xerox were at #22 and is now at #143
  • Motorola were at #39 and is now #363

Kodak has long been regarded as the primary example of missed opportunity, they had everything they needed to dominate the digital photo business but failed to make strategic moves at the right time.

The Departed

There’s also a set of organisation from the 1992 list that no longer exist:

The Risers

There’s also a group of organisations on the current list that didn’t exist in 1992. Many of them are renowned for their use of technology, but technology isn’t necessarily the business they are in:

  • #29 – Amazon
  • #40 – Google
  • #172 – ebay
  • #242 – Facebook
  • #458 – Expedia
  • #474 – Netflix
  • #483 – saleforce.com

Not only did these organisations not exist in 1992, their type didn’t either. Amazon, Google, ebay, Facebook wouldn’t exist without technology, but they’re not really a technology organisation they are selling experiences that happen to use technology.

There are also some thoroughbred technology companies on the current list that weren’t there in 1992:

  • #60 – Cisco
  • #81 – Oracle
  • #121 – EMC
  • #405 – Symantec
  • #408 – SanDisk
  • #428 – NetApp

It’s worth noting that this list was compiled before Symantec split into two organisations and EMC was engulfed by Dell. The winds of change are blowing around these organisations.

The Others

Apple and Microsoft, who both existed, weren’t on the Fortune 500 list in 1992, today they are #5 and #31 respectively.

Dell was on the 1992 list at #490, but isn’t on the current list because it’s now a privately owned organisation and doesn’t declare it’s revenue or profit numbers.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are unusual because they are on both lists. Intel has progressed from #106 in 1992 to #52 currently, AMD has moved from #295 down to #473.

HP appears on both list: #26 in 1992 – #19 now; this was before their split into two organisations.

The Rest of the World and China

I wanted to use the Global 500 for this post, but I couldn’t find an archive of that from 1992; I don’t even know whether it existed. The Fortune 500 only focusses on US listed organisations and that’s only a part of the story.

Looking at the current Global 500 shows us that whilst Silicon Valley has been the dominant innovation engine for the IT industry since before 1992 it no longer has it all its own way.

Some observations from the Global 500:

  • #13 – Samsung Electronics (Apple is at #15)
  • #31 – Hon Hai Precisions Industries – owner of Foxconn Technology (#32 is Allianz which is Europe’s largest insurer).
  • #55 – China Mobile Communications (#56 is BMW)
  • #160 – China Telecommunications (Intel is at #182)
  • #231 – Lenovo (#232 is Coca-Cola)

Alibaba Holding isn’t on the Global 500, but currently has a Market Capitalisation higher than Oracle, Intel and Cisco.

What I’ve Overlooked

I haven’t reflected much in this post on the massive change in telecommunication organisation, primarily because it’s not my field and it would need a whole post in its own right.

I’ve also chosen to overlook the increasing use of technology by companies such as Boeing, General Electric, JCB, Rolls Royce, Walmart and United Technologies. Technology is no longer a peripheral on the side of most organisation, it’s core to how they do what they do.

Concluding

It’s been great to look back and see what has changed.

I’ve not got much foresight to give other than the observation that things are continuing to change, making the right moves at the right time will define whether an organisation becomes Silicon Graphics, Xerox, Intel or Alibaba.

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.

Bill Gates

Blessing #204 – Clearing Out

As I look out into our back garden now covered with Autumn leaves I see all sorts  colours. From the brightest reds, to the deepest browns, there are evergreen and moss greens it’s an array of flora that has recently exploded into colour and is now spread across the garden. It will need clearing up, but there’s no rush, it has only been a couple of weeks since we spent time picking and sweeping. There’s a neighbour out in their front garden with a leaf blower he’s there most weekends, their garden is much neater than mine.

Beyond my garden there is a high hawthorn hedge which belongs to a bungalow. In the garden of the bungalow there are all sorts of left-over building materials and enough building equipment to stock a hardware store. I pass the front of the bungalow on my morning walk sometimes. In the driveway there are at least four vehicles which are full of more building materials, each vehicle is surrounded by more building material and I wouldn’t be surprised of there are more vehicles hidden under the other material. At the entrance to the driveway there are two more vehicles which are themselves full of building material and other detritus, they stay at the entrance because they can’t get in the drive. I’ve never met the person who lives in the house but it doesn’t look like a happy place to live.

A couple of months ago I had some time available on a Saturday to start to clear out the garage which had got a bit messy with things being delivered, stored and restored. It was becoming frustrating clambering over things all the time trying to find the thing I was looking for. Unfortunately the clearing out had only got to that point where it didn’t really look much better than when I had started before I had to finish. I wanted to get the tidying finished so that I could store the garden furniture for the rapidly approaching autumn and winter. A couple of weeks ago I again had some time available to finish the job. After sorting, sweeping and a few trips to the local tip it felt so rewarding to put everything in its place and to see how much free space there was in there and how easily the garden furniture fitted.

There are parts of my life that like each one of these places, a bit messy like the garden, in need of serious clearing out like the bungalow and nicely tidy (for now) like the garage. There’s something very rewarding about clearing these places out but some of them look like a big job and that’s when we need help. Thankfully Jesus doesn’t expect us to have a cleared out life, he just wants to help us with the tidying and to get to know us in the process. Thankfully he’s not comparing our level of cleanliness to our neighbours, he knows us and wants to meet us where we are. From my experience Jesus is more interested in getting to know us that getting everything right in our lives.

Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs

The other evening I was out for a walk while Sue was visiting a friend.

I’ve had some kind of portable music device since I was a teenager and I’ve always liked listening to music as I walk. First it was cassette tapes then CD’s and latterly some kind of MP3 player.

On this particular evening I was listening to a playlist of songs that iTunes had automatically created based on one of my favourite songs.  Most of the songs on this playlist date back to my cassette tape days and it got me thinking about how many miles some of these songs have travelled with me. Miles walking, miles driving and even miles flying.

The playlist continued and then I heard a few cords and these words:

Sing this with me, this is “40”

I must have heard those words hundreds of times, before they had even been spoke I knew what was  coming next:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

These words were being recorded in 1983, over 30 years ago and they’ve meant a lot to me through the years. This has been one of my signpost song with signpost words.

Words that have been there as a signpost through exams at school, college and university.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

Words that have been there as a signpost through engagement, marriage and children.

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and hear

Words that have been there at work and at play.

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

Words that have been there from rental to buying smaller onto buying bigger.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

How long to sing this song? I don’t know but for a long while yet I hope. I like new songs, but I also love high-mileage songs, songs that have formed signposts in my life.

The song is call “40” because it’s based on Psalm 40. That makes them words that are thousands of years old and signpost words for generations.

Those signposts are important markers of where we have come from.

(The picture is of the sunset that night taken on the beach in Southport)

My Stories: Concussion

All memories are manipulated by the passage of time, I’m aware that for this one I’m particularly conscious of that.

The other evening I was talking to my parents about an event that happened when I was a teenager. In those days I played rugby at least once a weekend, but more often twice. This involved playing for both a local rugby club and for my secondary school. My Dad’s recollection is that in this particular game I was playing for the school team, against the school teachers, that’s not something I remember so I’m not sure whether this is true or not. The game was certainly being played on one of the pitches at school.

At some point during the game I received a boot to the chin. My recollection is that this was received whilst trying to dive in front of  a ball that a member of the opposition was kicking further up the field.  Clearly I mistimed my dive and got a bit too close.

The rest of the game is a mystery as is the journey home.

The next thing I have is a dim memory of falling down the stairs – while I was trying to go to the toilet. This isn’t as odd as it sounds, at my parent’s house the door to the toilet is next to the top of the stairs, but it does mean that I missed the toilet door by at least a metre.

My next dim memory is of my mum talking to me in the car (on the way to the hospital). Apparently, I was steadily drifting off and the only voice that I would respond to was my Mum’s.

Time continued it’s merry journey, but my participation in it was limited. I have a memory of lying on a bed with people trying to get me to do things, but that’s about all. My Mum’s memory is of walking into the Casualty unit at the hospital and being waved through by the receptionist; I clearly looked unwell.

The following morning I awoke and looked around to find myself in a hospital ward. The bed opposite was occupied by a man who had a shaved head and stitches that started just above one of his eyes and reached all the way over his head beyond where I could see. He smiled at me and said “morning!” The man in the bed to the right had a similar cut but this time from ear to ear. My first response was to run my hands over my head to see where the damage was. Eventually I found a graze on my chin which was developing a nice bruise beneath it; it was a relief.

Later on that morning there was a ward round. The person leading the round (a Consultant I assume) was not impressed. In my notes there were a lot of x-rays of my head, the Consultant looked through each one slowly.

“Why did we take so many x-rays?” he asked.

“Because he wouldn’t stay still.” was the answer from one of the juniors.

“Wasn’t it obvious what was wrong with him?” the Consultant responded.

There was no response to this question.

“This young man has a mark on his chin and he’s been playing rugby. Surely concussion is the obvious diagnosis!”

That was all that was said, no one spoke to me, I was just the patient. What needed to be said had been said and it was time to move on. Later on that day it was my time to move on.

My Stories: Top 6 for 2014

In 2014 I started writing a few reminiscences under the title of My Stories, I’ve only written six of them, there popularity has been in this order:

  1. My Stories: Mr Smith
  2. My Stories: £9 or £10
  3. My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles
  4. My Stories: Sitting in the Corner
  5. My Stories: Two Allotments
  6. My Stories: Hornsea Waves

Blessings: Top 20 for 2014

I’m always a bit intrigued by which of the Blessing posts gets visitors. Most of them are the most recent ones, but some of them go a long way back. Number 20 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few goes all the way back to 2005:

  1. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  2. Blessings #197 – Laughing Anyway
  3. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  4. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  5. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  6. Blessings #199 – My Stories, Our Stories
  7. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  8. Blessings #201 – Seen, Heard and Known
  9. Blessings #202 – Home
  10. Blessings #200 – The Buzzard Feather
  11. Blessings #194 – Chronos
  12. Blessings #195 – Photography Books
  13. Count Your Blessings #90 – The Alarm Call of the Blackbird at Dusk
  14. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  15. Count Your Blessings #54 – Sky Watching
  16. Blessings #160 – Sun’s Rays
  17. Blessings #193 – The Smell of Summer Rain
  18. Blessings #189 – Travelling a New Path
  19. Count Your Blessings #91 – Decorating Christmas Trees
  20. Count Your Blessings #37 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few