Jason Dea's Pages

Monday, June 27, 2011

RIM Ramblings...


I remember when I got my first blackberry. It was one of the early colour screen versions with a scroll wheel on the side for navigation. I thought it was an amazing product. That blackberry gave me a sense of workplace mobility that up until then I had not experienced. In fact, I often referred to that device as my mobile office. Sure, I had a laptop computer, but having access to all my email in a device that fit into my pocket really gave me the feeling of being untethered from the office.

I wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. The Blackberry was a disruptive device that allowed professionals with jobs that were communication heavy unheard of flexibility. Email from the office? No problem. Email at home? Sure, but that’s not new. What about sending and receiving email from the train, or the airport, or even the bathroom? You mean I can do that? Wow!

What happened?

The definition of the office itself changed. Today, the tools that people use for productivity and the ways that they communicate with each other have changed. In the early days of the Blackberry, access to email was the only piece of the working experience customers needed, on the go, to be productive. After all this is what untethered them from their desks.

The tools people use in the office today, and how they communicate has changed. As the 24h workday replaces the 8h shift of the past, the line between home and office continues to blur. Email and the ubiquitous phone are still important. More and more, social has become a critical channel to collaborate and communicate. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and use of media sharing services such as Youtube and Instragram are the new ways people share thoughts and ideas. Workers today need access to other things as well. The World Wide Web is a necessity for both research and leisure. People need access to cloud based storage services like Dropbox to be able to access, author and edit files as well. Plus with all of the newfound stress of a 24h workday a little leisure can’t hurt either. Angry Birds anyone?

Much like how the American car companies were caught off guard with a rapidly changing car market from rising gas prices, RIM seems to have been caught off guard by the changing nature of the office it helped to change. RIM today finds itself trying to sell efficient messaging devices in a world where work is defined by so much more. Blackberries are essentially technology SUVs caught up in a world demanding the fuel efficiency and innovation of a hybrid engine.

What’s the lesson here?

Maintaining a pulse on your market around you and the customers you have and hope to get is critical. Even if it is a market you almost single handedly created, market needs can change quickly, after all, your own success is a testament to that.

As a proud Canadian, I believe RIM still can emerge from this a bigger better company. The kids today might just be changing what the office of tomorrow looks like again. The only problem is they may not have the patience to wait for you to catch up to them…

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Look what I've got up my sleeve...

I probably spent about 82% of my teenage years playing the guitar; most of that time was practice, some of it playing gigs, and some of it jamming with whoever I could find to jam with.  At one point I actually got pretty good at it.  But that didn’t happen until I learned an important lesson about what being a good guitar player actually meant.

Early on my dad taught me how to play some basic chords and scales, then I bought myself few song books and I was off to the races.  Once I had some finger strength I proceeded to spend about a year and a half learning how to play every song off of Metallica – Kill Em All, and Eruption by Eddie Van Halen.

At that point I was quite proud of myself, and I thought I was pretty good.  I could play accurately, and I could play really fast – really fast.  Then one day I was jamming with some folks in the area and an older guy who was a one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with told me something quite profound.  “All those things that you do, the pinch harmonics, the finger tapping, all the effects, forget about them, those are just tricks… focus on the notes you’re playing and how they feel”. 

He was right, I was hiding the music with all the tricks I learned early on, and since I was so skilled at scattering my music with those tricks they were both obscuring the notes, and they were holding me back from really becoming a good guitarist.  So from that point on I tried to focus on how the notes felt, instead of how many I could play at a time.

Today I see a similar thing happening with social media.  Everyone seems to be creating Twitter scavenger hunts, or a social media raffles that send users on some web based goose chases.  In today’s marketing’s quest to turn every campaign viral, and get the type of groundswell buzz that folks like JJ Abrams often get they are repeating the mistake that I made as a young guitarist.  They are letting all these tricks obscure the value of the social channel.

Social at its core allows customers an unprecedented level and speed of communication with vendors.  In short social media channels such as Twitter, allow you to have a direct conversation without the gatekeepers that usually exist in a customer/vendor relationship.  Plus in the case of Twitter, the message limitations actually force both parties to get to the point much faster. 

So for the time being, why don’t we all set aside the social media tricks for a minute (unless of course you actually ARE JJ Abrams) and focus on the conversation…

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to put me to sleep in 3 easy steps

Sleeping like a baby

Over the course of the past few weeks I have had to sit through several presentations for one reason or another. Some live, some via webcast, but all about "enterprise IT management". Sounds exciting I know <note sarcasm>. Ultimately I didn't really learn all that much about enterprise IT management, but I did learn a lot about how to structure an incredibly boring presentation.

Here is the typical presentation I saw:

  • The first 1/3 dedicated to about us content. You know slides where people talk about how long they've been in business, how many employees they have, where they are headquartered and other such trivia. Personally I am not a fan of about us slides and frankly never use them. As far as I'm concerned if someone is going to take the time to watch me speak, I'll assume they've at least done a first level Google search to find that information out beforehand.
  • The next 1/3 of these presentations was clearly supposed to be the meat, and it was also the turning point of where these presenters typically lost me. This was the architecture section. This is the part where people seem to feel the need to include 'build' animations, or Visio diagrams. This is also where you'll often hear the dreaded phrase "I'm sorry this slide is a bit of an eye chart"… Sigh… A whole lot of talking, but they still never manage to tell me anything about the problem they solve.
  • Finally the last 1/3 is where they talk about the product details. And boy do people ever love to get in to details. Apparently enterprise IT is all about a race to have the most features. Sadly after sitting through these presentations I still had no idea what the point was for any of these things. I definitely did not feel very educational nor was I compelled to buy anything or research further.
I have a bit of a different view of presentations. I fully admit that Steve Jobs I am not. But I've been told that people enjoy my presentation style and for me that makes me feel as though I'm winning, if not yet bi-winning.

I have two motivators whenever I present. First and foremost I value my audience's time, and secondly I have a deep seeded fear of not sounding like a used car salesman.

So I focus my presentations around education rather than simply a traditional sales pitch.

The time allocation I try to follow is

  • 1/3 discussion of the high level problem (i.e. how does this issue affect your business as a whole)
  • 1/3 why current solutions may be lacking (i.e. how this problem affects YOU, the user or person I'm trying to relate to)
  • Finally 1/3 a better way to solve the problem, again as objectively as possible, what new approaches, or technologies allow new solutions today, and my conclusion is (check out my company we understand the depth of this problem and are one of the new solution options you have)
I also try to frame each section of my presentation with a story as well. As my father used to tell me growing up, "you should always be grounded in reality". So what better way to engage my audience than with real world stories? Customer stories, stories from my life, and stories from my own experience either dealing with these problesm or helping other people like the audience understand these problems.

No about us, no build animations, no eye charts, and hopefully a few laughs and some education.

Bring up the problems up front, try to relate on a personal level, and hopefully no tired eyes by the end of my sessions. That's my goal.