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    Entries in Technology (393)


    Experience Management

    I had my first and only hands-on iPad experience yesterday, and it was unquestioningly crappy.

    The scene - I was in the Delta departure area at JFK airport in New York City, with an hour or so to kill before my flight.  Near the gate was a small seating area with tables and benches, with mini-walls or partitions in which were embedded Apple iPads.  The idea being travelers could access information and services (check flight status, weather, news, order a club sandwich and a Toblerone, etc.) using the iPad screen.Better than an iPad?

    Really a neat idea, right?  Information and services a mere touch screen away, and using the hottest tech device to come on the scene in years.  

    So what happened when I tried my hand at this wondrous device (again, while I have seen and heard about the iPad ad nauseam, I had never actually tried one out).  

    It was an altogether unsatisfying experience. The device was exceedingly slow. Many of the apps did not respond at all.  The ones that did, (news, weather) seemed to hang endlessly waiting for the information to refresh. And quite honestly, flight status was readily available on the ‘normal’ airport monitors, and I could look outside to check out the weather.

    The one and only thing that I really wanted to do, check my email, lead me into a hard sell for some kind of recurring deal for Boingo internet access.  And one other thing, the sun was glaring in at such an angle that it made the iPad screens really tough to read, not that it really had much information anyway.

    No big deal really, the airport is just trying to offer a new service, generate some additional revenue, and mounting iPads in the waiting area is probably a good idea.  And on another day, without the technical issues, the sun, and my general crabbiness I might have left there and marched straight to the Apple store to buy myself the iPad.  

    But instead, I was left with a less than favorable experience. Who is at fault? Hard to know. But it feels like Apple, JFK, Delta, and Boingo all sort of conspired to deliver the suck. It is great for Apple to sell a bunch of iPads to Delta or whomever owns them, but I wonder if they care at all if their ‘coolest in the world device’ is being used to deliver such a lousy service message and experience.  

    I guess the question is once you ship a product, design a service, or otherwise offer your concepts and ideas to the market, how much do you need to care about how your work gets presented by third parties to the eventual consumers of your efforts?  I imagine it depends on what you are really selling, just a product,  or an entire experience that your product enables, and the extent to which you can and desire to manage those end user experiences.

    I am sure the iPad is a fantastically wonderful life-altering device, my mistake was expecting an airport to deliver the experience the way Apple designed it to be delivered.



    Drive Thru Technology

    No - it's not a post about the technical magic that happens from the time you give your order into the clown's mouth and you stuff your face with that McRib - it's a post to talk about the Drive Thru HR show on BlogTalkRadio.Want fries with that? Sir? Sir?

    This afternoon, (1:00 PM ET, 12 Noon Central, Mountain and Pacific figure it out on your own), I am a guest on the Drive Thru HR show on Blog Talk Radio.  Drive Thru HR is a daily (insanely hard to produce) talk show ably hosted by Bryan Wempen and William Tincup.  Two smart, interesting, and classy gentlemen.  It will be easy for you to tell me apart from them, I assure you. You can listen live on the show page here.

    I appreciate the invitation to appear, especially in light of the fact that with the HR Happy Hour show, this blog, and occasional contributions on Fistful of Talent that the listeners of Drive Thru HR have to be this close to becoming completely tired of me. Perhaps many are already.  But if you do listen, and I hope you will at least to hear Bryan and William, here are some of the ideas I plan to talk about on the show.

    Consumerization of Enterprise Technology

    This is not new, at least conceptually, since many enterprise web applications have made strides to design interfaces that are more user-friendly, more intuitive, and certainly easier to adopt by casual users in the enterprise.  But while interfaces and design have adapted to the expectations of the internet and Web 2.0 age, very little else in ‘big technology’ has. Lengthy deployment and upgrade cycles, little transparency in price and deployment costs, and an appalling lack of unbiased information on technology options for the small and mid-market customer.

    Finding, evaluating, purchasing, and deploying HR technology is about as painful a process as a root canal.  Think about the very best companies that you deal with as a consumer, I’m not talking about the UI on the web or their ‘quirky but approachable’ Twitter account, but the best ones in terms of the entire buying and owning experience.  Easy to find the initial information on my own, without handing over contact information or being badgered on the phone. Multiple ways to interact with the organization depending on my preference and style.  A simple, transparent, and clean sales process, that doesn’t require a Dream Team of lawyers to vet.  Works when you need it to, and when it doesn't obtaining support is fast, simple, and effective. Enterprise Tech doesn’t need to just look like the best consumer tech, it needs to act more like it too.

    Keeping Secrets

    So many technology decisions operate from a basic position of fear.  Fear ‘company secrets’ will get leaked, fear employees can’t be trusted to create passwords that aren’t hackable, fear that if anyone outside the organization had a glimpse of what really goes on around here that the company would lose the plot and ideas would be breached, great employees would flee, and dirty little secrets would no longer be secret.  So we hide behind firewalls, pretend our ideas and processes are sacred and special, and pretend not to notice the speed of change and progress being made by smaller, adaptable, and organizations that are simply not afraid of honesty, openness, collaboration, and co-creation.  I’ll bet 90% of what most companies sell is also sold, in almost exactly the same way, in the same package, using the same processes as their competitors. Just what in the heck needs to be ‘secret’ about any of that?


    What do people mean when they say - ‘It’s not about the technology’
    Why does it seem that vendors building bigger and more integrated HR Technology suites looks a lot like the old, massive, monolithic ERP suites everyone know hates?
    Why do so many great HR pros still appear to not give a hoot about technology?
    Are my eyes really brown?

    I think that’s it. Actually it is way too much content for a half-hour show.  Maybe if I don’t bomb Bryan and William can come on the HR Happy Hour to continue the conversation.




    Emotional Spell Check (we are all really dumb)

    In the world of office productivity software like the Microsoft Office suite of programs, (Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc.), the 'spell check' feature is so fundamental, so ingrained into our experience of using these tools that we probably can't imagine a word processing or other text-centric application lacking the capability.

    At this point could anyone craft a 400 word email or 5 page quarterly report without running spell check at least two or three times?  In fact, spell check is so core to the process of content creation that we take it for granted, and some might contend when the capability is introduced to children in grade school via the use of common office productivity solutions that their ability to actually spell becomes diminished, as they come to rely on the spell check device too heavily.  This likely occurs in adults as well, but we often cleverly convince ourselves we don't really have a spelling problem, we have a typing problem, and that most of the corrections made by spell check are to words we really do know how to spell.

    So if we can justify the heavy reliance on spell check as a mere productivity enhancer and not really a crutch, what possibly could we say about the newest 'check' solution launched recently, a product called ToneCheck, which is described as 'the emotional spell check'.  In the words of its creators:

    ToneCheck™ is an e-mail plug-in that flags sentences with words or phrases that may convey unintended emotion or tone, then helps you re-write them. Just like Spell Check… but for Tone.

    Does your first draft of that email message to your prospect read something like 'Come on already, quit wasting my time and jerking me around. Are you signing the contract or not?

    Here is a screen shot of the ToneCheck plug-in activated on a possibly 'emotional' message:

    A quick run of the ToneCheck plug-in can flag that passage as 'potentially angry' and suggest that you make some alterations to hit a more 'contented' tone. I suppose you probably knew the 'quit jerking me around' line did have the potential to seem angry.

    This functionality has similarities to common features in HR Technology solutions for performance management, namely the 'legal scan' that catches managers from noting things like, 'Sally is really too old to grasp the technical complexity of this project'; and 'managerial helper' kinds of tools that suggest descriptive sentences and paragraphs to accompany objective or competency based ratings.

    Having these kinds of helpers and filters and in the case of ToneCheck, a bit of a stop sign put up before you press 'Send' may be beneficial, but I can't help but wonder if these tools are really confirming something many folks often think. That is we really don't know what we are doing, we will quite likely get ourselves and our firms in big trouble if we are not monitored, and at the end of the day we really can't be trusted to spell, keep our emotions in check, and are in fact, really dumb.


    1.This post is about 500 words, I made 37 spelling mistakes that hopefully were all fixed by spell check.

    2. I do not have 'ToneCheck' turned on in the comments, so please feel free to tell me what you really think.


    Before you know you want it

    As the World Wide Web has developed and evolved the methods and strategies utilized for information discovery have also undergone tremendous growth and evolution.  In the late 1990s portal and categorization technology from Yahoo dominated. If you wanted to find something, chances are a walk down Yahoo's categorization hierarchy was your starting point.

    Over time as the web exploded in content and complexity and since human-curated categorization simply could not keep up with the growth, search took over as the primary tool for finding content. This market was led by Yahoo for a time, and eventually came to be dominated by Google.  More recently, social discovery has come to rival search as a primary and important mechanism for surfacing important and meaningful web content.  I know something is important, and quite likely worth my time and attention if a trusted friend or colleague has shared it on Twitter, or recommended it on Facebook.

    But despite the obvious improvements in the underlying technology and usability exhibited by the evolution of discovery tools and methods, there still seems an element of inefficiency and imperfection in the strategies and actions that many of us leverage to find interesting information.  Keeping informed of news and developments in our areas of interest, and perhaps most importantly, surfacing content and expertise in adjacent or complimentary spaces, the kinds of resources that are most likely to expose us to new thinking, ideas, and challenge our conception of the status quo, is increasingly seen as an endless, and hopeless struggle.

    It is only logical that there is something next, something better and more effective than the combination of search and social curation and discovery that most of us have come to rely upon in an attempt to learn, adapt, and stay informed.  What if the next development is a kind of new technology that not only presents you with a collection of relevant resources and links based on your active preferences and the content shared by your trusted networks, but is intelligent enough to predict what you will be interested in next, and offers information and insights based on a more informed prediction about not just what you may have liked in the past, but what is most relevant to you today, and quite likely tomorrow.

    That is the basic premise behind an interesting startup from Finland called Futureful.  Futureful is in the process of developing what they call a 'Predictive Discovery Engine'.  What exactly is 'predictive discovery?' From the Futureful 'about' page:

    Futureful’s predictive discovery engine analyzes relevant information flows to open up the potential future around you. We use a combination of personal, social and contextual filters to understand interests, influences and intentions, and provide you with inspiring seeds to play with. Then its up to you to pick and choose, discover and share. 

    I have to admit that while a little unsure about the specific ability of Futureful to build and successfully deploy the self-described predictive discovery engine, I do think that in time, and perhaps sooner than later a better, and more precise method and technology for information discovery and presentation will have to emerge.  The current, seemingly unsustainable cycle of adding feeds to Google Reader, adding friends on the various social networks, and the development of new and improved mobile devices that provide constant access to all the noise, with only a passing ability to discover the signal will eventually have to change.

    If you are like me, you might feel like you are reading every possible blog, news source, and mass media site you can find.  You may have developed a large, diverse, and valuable set of networks across numerous social platforms.  You are constantly reading, updating, reviewing, and sharing.  But despite all this activity, you never shake the feeling that you are missing something. So you add 'more'. Another feed, another friend, an so on.

    Perhaps we don't need more, we need more precise.

    Perhaps we need a way to see the future before it arrives.

    How about you - what do you do to try and manage the balance between information overload and the sense you are missing something?




    Does Technology Change Everything?

    Over the weekend I watched the archive of a presentation given by Allen Delattre, Global Market Managing Director for Technology for Executive Search firm Korn/Ferry at last week's GigaOm Net:Work conference in San Francisco.

    In the presentation Delattre makes some interesting predictions about the increasing impact of the major technological shifts that enable (or perhaps require) organizations to grow more global, collaborative, and virtual, while acknowledging that 'virtualization' and 'collaborative' have become so overused as terms that they have lost some of their punch. But despite this, the very real effect and impact on new technology from social, to mobile, to collaborative has had on organizations, augmented by the growing influence of the Gen Y and Milennial cohorts, have created such a new environment and set of challenges that the fundamental human resources issues of leadership development, identification of high potentials, and succession management all need to adapt to this new, technology-based reality. 

    Delattre sees the ability to understand and successfully implement these new technologies as not only critical to organizational growth and survival, but that the most successful leaders of the future will be the ones that are best able to assess, adapt, synthesize, and implement new technologies to support business strategy and to unleash the best performance from employees.  And since the technology landscape continues to evolve and change so rapidly, Delattre theorizes that traditional organizational succession planning approaches that often emphasize 'coming up through the ranks' and often taking rotational assignments in different parts of the organization will no longer be the best way to find and groom future leaders. His remark that successors for big-time CIO positions used to count on 'surviving that SAP project and bringing in it only at double the original budget' is both sad and amusing.

    This is a simple and really direct argument that the technology itself, is a primary driver and leader of the massive changes in organizational structures and that it presents significant impact on the nature of leadership and talent management.  When these kind of 'technology changes everything' speeches come from hot tech companies, or from systems integrators that stand to benefit greatly from the consulting and advisory fees they stand to earn from helping clients navigate the myriad choices on offer, you would be forgiven for taking the remarks with a grain of salt.  But when a Managing Director of a leading executive search firm makes the case that technology leadership is a fundamental and an imperative for tomorrow's leaders, then perhaps a second listen is warranted.

    You can take a look at Delattre's presentation at NET:Work below, be warned, the first few minutes are a series of 'Did You Know?' style statistics about globalization, economic, and demographics.  I think by now we all get the idea the world is changing pretty rapidly. Delattre's remarks start at about 4:10. 

    What do you think?  Do these new technologies present not just better ways of getting things done but rather a core and enduring change in what tomorrow's leaders must understand and master?