Simple in design. Functional in use. Cheap to produce and meets the users requirements.
My experience with IT projects over the years is that they generally lack these basic requirements. We could learn a lot from pegs.
People who have grown up with Apple computers think they are intuitive, easy to use and everything makes sense. People who have grown up with Windows computers think the same.
Intuitive is a word that describes learned actions. It is really hard for something that someone has never used to be intuitive.
My Macbook, as a Windows user is counter-intuitive. It does some cool things in really difficult ways, that take all of the fun out of them.
Windows = Alt-Print Screen
Mac OSX = Control-Command-Shift-4
The Windows version is easier to remember. The Mac version is harder to use not intuitive at all, but is way cooler.
A reminder that when we create processes or web or tools, we need to make them both cool and intuitive.
One of the things I love about the Internet is the opinion it offers. If you have a problem with just about anything, someone somewhere has experienced the same problem.
Today I pulled by DVD/HDD recorder to bits again. It’s a Phillips and it’s had 2 or 3 things go wrong with it since the warranty ended. Now it is not recording correctly and I tried replacing the hard drive with a newer larger hard drive. It didn’t work so I put the old one back in.
I searched the internet last night again, and have some other things to try today.
I would say also, that one of the things I dislike about the Internet is the opinion it offers. So often the “solutions” are not solutions at all and are advertising gimmicks to lead you to a certain website.
It takes a while to troll through them all to find real knowledge. But I have access to knowledge that I wouldn’t have just 5 – 10 years ago.
[150 | 365 – ‘DYI Technology’ – Inside an unreliable, practically useless Phillips DVDR3455H DVD/HDD recorder – I wont buy Phillips again]
Playing around with a few tech toys recently and a couple of them are very cool.
I used to use google notebook (which was in beta and they are no longer developing). Evernote is tool you can use for making notes about anything. You can be on a website and send a part of the text to evernote. You can email notes to it. I can take a photo from my phone of something I want to remember and it uploads. Or you can type a new note directly.
Whats more, there is a desktop version that syncs to the web version which syncs to my windows mobile (phone). Its free and very functional, or you can pay $45 US per year to have additional features and secure syncing.
Old technology, but have just set it up. I have been getting annoyed with the amount of paper I print out, just so I can compare to something else on the screen. This solves it and allows for much more.
Sure this looks really geeky, but it is awesome and don't know why I didn't do this a long time ago.
One small problem, I stole the second monitor off someone elses desk, will need to sort that first thing Monday.
Watched my first video postcast on my Nano. Had it for a year and only listen ever listened to music, audiobooks and audio podcasts.
The quality was very cool and watched a podcast from TED. It was Jacqueline Novogratz from Acuman Fund talking about a third way to think about aid. Cool to see the images and the quality was remarkably good.
This is quite handy. Either had to provide your email addy to a website to register software or download a document. If you are like me and are keen to avoid spam you will really reluctant to do this.
Pookmail.com is the answer.
Go to the website. Use an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org and your email will be displayed (to all who enter this address) for 24 hrs.
Just enough time to click the confirmation link or whatever. After 24 hours the address is deleted.
Costs nothing. Give it ago.
There are a lot more issues for supply chain companies that are looking at implementing RFID into their process than just the cost of the tag.
They need to consider investment in technology, current system integration, and the bandwidth to handle huge volumes of tags in one spot (like a truck driving through a entrance, and a reader capturing all tags)
Back in 2003 the Auto ID Centre in the US did some predictions on the price of RFID tags into the market place.
It is interesting to look at the chart produced by the Centre almost 5 years ago. They envisaged two scenarios: (1) By 2008, EPC tags have come close to reaching the mythical "5-cent" tag, and there would be "fast adoption"; (2) tag prices stay higher, and there is "moderate adoption.”
Clearly the adoption of RFID has been slower than expected and at best is their second prediction. We are a while away before we really see RFID become a significant force in the tracking of products.
NB: RFID means Radio-frequency identification (see wiki) and are small tags that generate a genreally unique radiowave, which can be read by devices without having to scan bar code etc. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.
This is a must watch. Jim dreams of this stuff!
Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google as a research project while studying at Standford University. From there they have grow Google into a worldwide household name and one of the largest companies (by market value, not revenue or employees) in the world.
The Google story follows the incredible rise of the company, its culture of innovation and its “Don’t be evil” philosophy. The growth in the Google business is mind blowing, for me at least. Founded in 1998 here is their revenue growth
Revenue (US$ in millions)
Google is an only in America story. You simply couldn’t have build a company like this in New Zealand for 3 very clear reasons:
- Our IT network simply wouldn’t be able to handle the volume and you would have to move off shore in your 1st or 2nd year.
- We simply would have enough IT people available to be employed to build the system.
- In the 2nd year they raised $25million (about NZ$48million at the time) in Venture Capital. You would not raise that sort of money in NZ.
All that said, it is a remarkable story and has some key lessons:
- Keep your project teams to 3 – 5 people. Anything more slows down innovation.
- They have a 20% rule to drive innovation. Their engineers spend 1 day a week working on any project or idea they like. If it is good enough it may get funded and launched as a product.
- An awesome employee culture meant they employed people for less and stole people from other huge companies in their formative years. Without it they probably wouldn't have made it.
The Google Story
David A Vise
Genres Google, Business
Readability 4 (1 = Easy, 5 = Hard)
Enjoyment 4 (1 = Never Read, 5 = Remarkable)
Finally, now that I have read the Google Story it makes me think it would be almost impossible to take on Google in their core brand (not that I was thinking about it). I still think some of the lessons of my previous post apply, but it fails to acknowledge just how intelligent the founders of Google are.
A few weeks ago I posted on Technology in the Courier industry. It is fair to say, from the verbal feedback I received, that it was one of the more provocative posts I have written.
Shortly after wards I saw that the NZ Herald was interviewing Dean Bracewell, MD of Freightways, so I thought I would post a question. Below is my question and his response:
A question from a Herald reader. They are interested to know how technology fits into the future of Freightways. They say that Freightways seems to have lagged behind their largest competitor – CourierPost – in this area, but they have maintained market share and profitability. Do you see any major disadvantages in not having had the technology?
Not at all, but that question's probably got three or four parts to it.
Just stepping through them, technology is a part obviously of running a transport business such as Freightways and it always has been a key part of what we're about.
We've actually three quarters of the way through a $10 million upgrade to our IT system, so there's a fair bit of money and investment attached with IT
It's played a pivotal role in the business for 20 plus years and the information systems that we have are geared around delivering scalability because our business has grown very strongly so you've got to have information systems that can cope with that significant growth.
It's a very robust system but it has also got to be flexible to meet the varying customer needs. So we've got a very powerful, core information management system.
The part about lagging a competitor and still maintaining market share, well I think we've actually done more than that. We've grown our market share and we've grown our profitability over a number of years, so it's not just about maintaining it.
I think we've done this by keeping in touch with our customer needs and developing our services to suit those needs rather than getting caught up in a side-game that technology can distract from what you're really here to do.
We think it's most important not to lag customer demand rather than try and keep up with a competitor whose strategies we might disagree with.
Are we disadvantaged by not having some of the technology? Well, we made a decision to roll out in-van data capture technology this year and that's as a result of our customer demand but a time when we've assessed the network that transmits that data as being ready for us and the scanners that will go into our courier vans as being ready for us.
So, a few things have needed to come together but we believe the time is right.
And whilst we've been lining up to make that decision about the technology in the vans we've been focussing very heavily on ensuring we deliver our core service, which is getting packages to the right place at the right time.
What we believe we now have is a very compelling customer offer – premium service, competitive price and the latest technology to over-lay it all.
You talked about the scanners – how are the trials for those going?
They're going fine. We're rolling them out into the Auckland marketplace which is the most rigorous, high volume market to test the scanners and we'll get any glitches that are involved with new technology out of the way in this market prior to rolling them out around the rest of the country.
What developments – technology or otherwise – can we expect to see from Freightways in 2007?
I think you're going to see more of the same and whilst that might sound a bit ho hum, it's kind of what our customers like.
They want consistency, they want reliability, they want innovation when they're ready to innovate and when there is demand for it.
So what you're going to see from us is really more of the same and hopefully that will continue to deliver the sort of performance to all our stakeholders – our people, our employees, our contractors, our customers and our shareholders.
The article serves as a timely reminder, well to me at least, that technology matters very little if you are not delivering your core service. In NZC's case that is providing consistency and reliability,
You can read the full Herald article [here].
Freightways Group announced their six monthly result yesterday and had 11% growth, reaching $144.3 million in trading revenue. It would seem that the growth of their core express/couriers business is neutral at best, which is what a few of us suspected.
One of the comments in the NZ Herald article was "A key initiative had been the initial implementation of a data service providing customers with access to real time service information." Only in the last 12 months have Freightways started to truly provide this technology. Express Couriers, who own CourierPost, have had Track & Trace since 1991.
Track & Trace was always going to be the key to CourierPost's success. It was to be their competitive advantage and reduce their costs to make them more profitable. For 15 years they held this advantage. 15 years is a long time for any competitor in any market to be behind in IT, let alone a time sensitive market. The interesting thing is it never really seemed to make a dent in Freightways.
An insiders view
So, as an ex-insider to both groups, here is I think the key. In the initial years CourierPost focused all of it's energy on building customer facing systems, track & trace, real time scanners etc. All the while they had really poor back end systems, couldn't drive profitability (and therefore ownership) to branch level, had bad stock systems and worst of all couldn't manage their customer inquiries well.
Freightways on the other hand, had very established back office systems, albeit very archaic. But the up side is they have always had profitability to branch level, great stock management, and manual but effective processes for customer inquiries.
Freightways were clearly the market leader 15 years ago and Express Couriers have grown to be the largest, but they never took out Freightways, rather they absorbed many of the smaller players.
So, was CourierPost's 15 years of technology and millions upon millions of dollars worth it?
At the time I was passionate about the advantage that scanners would bring to CourierPost. But given time to reflect I would take strong robust back office systems, any day, over a customer facing system.
Back office systems allow you to manage the business easily and free up people to focus on providing real human service to customers. It also gives you a better platform to build customer facing systems.
I want (& need) both. I now know back office is the most important!