Friday, May 24, 2019

Great graphics support from 99designs

What a great experience for my first time using 99designs! I wrote a decent brief and tried to provide fast & honest feedback. I worked through 158 designs from dozens of designers, whether solo artists or companies. Impact Designers stood out through their attention to details in the brief; creative interpretation; spontaneous initiative in providing variations of the design; and showing mock-ups of the design if used in real life... They were fast and accurate in responding to feedback and initiated a call (from India to UK) to clarify their understanding. Nothing seemed too much trouble and I got exactly what I asked for. We deliver value hidden in the depths of data to make money and save money. The logo neatly captures our technical collaboration around data.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Experiencing a personality profile

They labelled me a “Directing Motivator” - Apparently that means I’m Results focused, decisive and assertive; combined with drive, enthusiasm and positive thinking.

We had about forty of us (Executive Leadership Team, regional directors, their reports and some “heads of” from business central operations) go through the Insights Discovery process. It’s probably the most accurate personality profiling tool I’ve yet experienced: almost uncannily accurate, not just for me but most of the others.

  • Mike is a good people manager because he has the ability to see what may lie ahead and then communicate his vision to others.
  • His natural intuition, fed by a drive to discover, brings with it the readiness to work long and hard in the pursuit of an ongoing dream. 
  • Mike is seen by others as pragmatic, dependable and able to get things done. 
  • He exhibits an infectious enthusiasm for living. 
  • Curious and alert, Mike prefers to understand rather than judge. 
  • He is alert to changing situations and will act quickly to get results, giving direction or instructions to others as he thinks is necessary.
The whole report comes to some 22 pages and it includes some great insights into my weaknesses (Becomes impatient with routine and repetition...Sometimes lacks attention to detail...Mike may feel pressured to make decisions too quickly...) as well as a portrait of the “opposite” personality types. I’ve already found a number of occasions when having that detailed revelation has helped me to communicate better with quite different colleagues.

As I hire and engage with new colleagues I’m thinking that I want to make the Insights Discovery profile part of the standard offer. I don’t think it should be mandatory in the environments in which I work, but I strongly commend it to colleagues for the value it brings and the way it offers opportunities for growth and personal development.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Startup, Turn around or Realignment

Frankly I was a bit shocked to realise that I hadn't been blogging since 2014. Of course, I knew it'd been a long time (mostly due to embargo from employers), but I've realised that there's value to publishing my content on a site that's mine and not, say, LinkedIn's.

My first reflection today is that I'm great at leading teams to solve problems and deliver results. I like building teams that make a difference and get things done, while having a lot of fun in the process.

But, secondly, I do this best when there's some element of challenge around starting things up, or turning things around, or maybe making changes to get things back on course. In other words, I don't do well in a routine or stable business-as-usual state.

Of course, I work best in teams. Some recent analysis has marked me out as a "Directing Motivator" and I'm looking forward to developing my strengths in the next venture.

I'll try to establish the blogging routine a bit more frequently once more, but for now I'm just glad to have broken the silence!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Leaking business value

It was frustrating to sit with the General Manager and the owner's representative at a business in the Middle East earlier this week. They're leaking tremendous value from the business and don't seem to realise it.

The General Manager was trying to drive down production costs, say by an extra 5% year on year. He'd already got piece costs down to 22 cents per item compared to European costs of more than 70 cents.

He was trying to argue that he couldn't invest in new stuff because his prices weren't as high as the Europeans'. Instead of holding prices and cutting costs to give him the margin for his investment, he was just cutting sales prices, while costs might well be rising...

I soon realised it wasn't worth pointing out he was comparing apples with oranges: I'd guess that factoring in the difference between regional wage, tax, property and utilities rates would bring the numbers more in line between the European and Middle Eastern regions.

Instead, I suggested that his strategy of 5% year on year cost reduction would fail because it's not possible to maintain quality while always reducing margin. And they weren't making any provision for capital equipment replacement. Eventually they'll be unable to maintain production, even it they haven't lost all their customers to a higher quality competitor before that happens!

A much better strategy would be to increase prices and justify the increase with additional services, quality differentials and more. For example, a quick tour of the factory floor showed a mass of workers but no controls! Most stages of the production process had no visible measurement and reporting tools in place; where tracking was in place, it was in the form of paper on clipboards, but no way to join up the observations, or to track during the production process. The best they might hope for would be to get some visibility after goods had left the factory and somebody had typed the paper into a spreadsheet.

With almost all the desks in the office clearly never occupied, and only a couple of the desks with a computer, I can't imagine they do they even that!

Trying to explain that data is the new currency; that they could be generating loads of it as a natural by-product of their production process; that they could be gaining insight into their own operations, and those of their customers; and that some of these insights could be turned into additional saleable products and services ... None of this made sense to them and I left with a mental image of a gush of their local currency pouring out of the factory and running, wasted, down the street and trickling away, into the sand of the desert...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Watch doesn't need Touch ID - killer feature

When Apple Watch was announced last week, like many I was surprised that it didn't include the Touch ID fingerprint security first revealed in the iPhone 5S. But it doesn't need it; and this could be key to awesome value from the Apple Watch. A killer feature.

We know that the Apple Watch will need to be unlocked, authenticated, once each day. But that it'll remain unlocked as long as it's on your wrist. However we don't know how it gets unlocked. Tapping in a passcode on the watch screen would be a step backwards after Touch ID.

Here's a better plan: we know the Watch needs an iPhone. Place it on your wrist for the first time that day and let the watch communicate with your nearby iPhone for you to confirm your identity, ideally with Touch ID rather than a passcode. Then let the iPhone confirm who you are back to the Watch and it can remain unlocked so long as you keep it on your wrist. Great.

But it gets better: once the Watch knows it's securely on your wrist the authentication can go the other way: the Watch can unlock each of your Apple devices (and selected other smart objects, like door locks or cars...) Imagine your iPad or Mac or iPhone just being ready to use without any login. Each device would stay that way, so long as you and your Watch are within Bluetooth range. Step away from your device and it'll automatically lock. Options in the setup would let you choose to get an alert from the Watch if you walked away from your iPhone or iPad. Another option would allow for your devices to lock when you're out of range and automatically unlock as soon as you return.

Combine this ease of use with Keychain Access that supplies unique, complex passwords and other info for websites and suddenly Apple has solved the problem of re-use of insecure username and password combinations. It'd be a massive leap in usability. A true killer feature that would make owning an Apple Watch almost a no-brainer. And, as Tim Cook said of Apple Pay, it's "something only Apple can do!"

All the pieces are in place, just as soon as Apple Watch becomes available. The only other thing is to write the software to enable this. But we know that the security infrastructure is in place with Touch ID on the iPhone; combined with the secure communication between Apple devices using Bluetooth Low Energy and other protocols...
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Monday, September 8, 2014

“Squeaky clean since 1918!”

“Squeaky clean since 1918” is the tag line for the Paragon laundry group, a family-owned business with >600 staff and an impressive slice of the UK commercial laundry market; along with some interests in the Middle East and elsewhere…

From Monday 8th September I’m thrilled to be appointed as head of NewGen International, the group’s software subsidiary. It’s an interesting time with some pioneering “Internet of Things” work, including embedding RFID tags in laundry items to add value in a number of innovative ways.

And I’m excited that the group MD’s have spotted some great opportunities with the Red Starfish software. I’m delighted that I’m retaining my interests in Starfish CI alongside this new role. 
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Could an '#iWatch' kill passwords? (speculation)

I've been enjoying the new iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite betas and look forward to the imminent public release as early as next week. I've also been dreaming about the fabled iWatch idea and wondering about just how smart Apple can be with the technology ecosystem that's unfolding. For example

  • What's the betting that an iWatch includes the same Touch ID fingerprint authentication that the iPhone 5S has? Once the device is strapped to my wrist and I've authenticated with my fingerprint, there'd be no need to check my identity again, unless I take off the watch - when it would lock again automatically, requiring a new fingerprint check to unlock. Brilliant!
  • Wouldn't it be great if the watch could then wirelessly authenticate me to my nearby iOS and OS X device(s)? That's something that could easily be accomplished using the Bluetooth Low Energy or WiFi communications capability that iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are using for the 'continuity' and 'handover' features; along with the secure design of Keychain Access...

  • I guess the feature should be optional; but I think many of us would value the convenience of not having to enter a passcode into a phone, or type a password to unlock a computer. And it'd be secure: remember, the 'iWatch' has me authenticated with my fingerprint, and I remain authenticated unless/until I take the watch off. At that point, my watch and all my nearby devices get locked; and my devices get locked (with the passcode/password login enabled) as soon as my watch moves out of 'nearby' wireless range. 
  • Once I'm logged in to my iOS and OS X device(s) then Keychain Access saves me having to remember endless complex username and password combinations for my web and other services. And I trust it, along with iTunes, with some of my payment card details, too. All that is at risk, though, if someone's able to bypass my 4-digit passcode on the phone, or the password to my Macbook. The iWatch + Touch ID could add a really secure front end to my private information, making it much, much harder for my password and card details to fall into the wrong hands.
  • We already have a feel for how good the 'continuity' and 'handover' features of the iOS 8 + OS X Yosemite combination can be: it's great to start an email on the iPhone and finish it up on the iPad; or get map directions on the Macbook and transfer them to the phone; or carry on reading in iBooks, picking up where I left off from one device to another... It seems a natural extension of this usefulness to move beyond the cumbersome and 'broken' passcode/password system. And this 'simple' combination of technology that Apple already has available, when introduced to the hoped-for 'iWatch', means that Apple's really well poised to introduce the kind of usability innovation and elegance that they're renowned for. And save us endless hours of typing in passwords.
I, for one, am hoping for this: it's one sure-fire way to help me to justify the expense of a new device to replace my perfectly functional choice of existing watches.


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