Problem-Solving Tools Series: Appreciation

By , January 31, 2008 3:48 pm

Appreciation

Category: Creativity

How to use

Staring with a fact, ask the question “So what?”. Keep on asking until all possible inferences have been drawn.

Example

Fact: the scope expands and we are lacking a resource for the newly discovered functionalities.

  • So what? We might need overtime to meet deadline.
  • So what? We will be tired.
  • So what? Moral will be affected.
  • So what? More mistakes may be caused.
  • So what? Product quality will be affected.
  • So what? Less return from customer.
  • So what? Moral even deeply sinks.
  • So what? Attrition.
  • So what? Chaos
  • So what? To control this, shadow resources and resource backup must be planned.

Advantage

This tool helps extract maximum information from original facts. More information can be used to solve the problem.

Previous volumes of the series

  1. Introduction
  2. Reversal

Managing a Limitation of a system

By , January 31, 2008 3:33 pm

A limitation is not a defect

A defect is defined as non-conformance to requirements.

A limitation of a system is something a system does not accomplish, either due to technology not being supported, time constraint budget limit, or nature of business model.

Ideally, limitations should not exist in a system. However, in engineering discipline, certain limitations are accepted. This article seeks to explore ways to manage a limitation.

Scenario: a simplified example of a Customer Relationship Management System

Business domain level

Simplified Customer Relationship Management System

An Opportunity is created from a Contact when Sales representative has approached and make a proposal to that Contact. If an Opportunity encounters difficulty, it is converted to a Lead and requires more attention. If the Opportunity is done successfully, it becomes a Contract and Price is calculated. A Lead, if done successfully, can become an Opportunity when meeting certain criteria or become a Contract. If a Lead fails, it is dismissed.

System level

The object is a Transaction. A Transaction has 3 statuses: Opportunity, Lead, or Contract.

System allows changing status of Transactions.

An issue is raised: Does the system allow changing from Contract to Opportunity? Does the system allow changing from Contract to Lead?

The impact could be huge. The system must handle Price and Invoices. This concern is accurate.

Back to Business domain level

However, back to Business level, the situation may not affect the operation at all. In reality, when a Contract is signed, it does not have to be switched back to Opportunity or Lead. The customer may not even care for this scenario.

What do we (the project development team) do to address this gap?

Widely accepted principles of system development and project management

To address the issue, let’s get back to principles of project management

  • The system should be able to satisfy customer requirements.
  • The system should be able to handle exceptional cases.
  • The system should be within budget and time frame with given resources.
  • 80/20 rule applies. In certain cases, 80% efforts are spent for functions that users use only 20% the time.

How different roles view a limitation

A natural engineering approach of this gap is to restrict changing status of a Transaction from Contract to Opportunity.

However, when the proposal is put on the table, the chance maybe that it is not accepted. Firstly, the client doesn’t want a restriction in the system. Next, the client doesn’t want the development team to spend much efforts and time on a functionality that will not be used frequently.

This leaves a limitation in the system: it still allows converting Transaction status from Contract to Opportunity or Lead, but it won’t fix the Price and Invoice. This limitation leaves it to the hand of user to manage data themselves.

Manage a limitation from different perspectives

  • System Analyst: this limitation is put in Supplementary Information section in a document.
  • Technical Writer: this limitation is noted in User Manual.
  • Business Consultant: communicate with client on this issue.
  • If any issue arises, it is to be escalated to the Project Manager.

Inside-out Effectiveness from an English lesson

By , January 31, 2008 2:22 am

The Word form English lesson

English is not my native language, so I learn it my whole life.

From the lesson of word form, I learned that

  • Verb is the most effective form
  • Noun and noun phrase come next
  • Adjective is less direct

For example:

  • “The Beatles influenced many subsequent rock bands.” is more effective than
  • “The Beatles was an influence on many subsequent rock bands.” which in turn is more effective than
  • “The Beatles was influential on many subsequent rock bands.”

In a grammar test, the using of word form should be considered for effectiveness of the options given. Noun form, though commonly used, must give way to its verb counterpart in these test of standard.

How Verb is stronger

Maybe more than once you have heard a complaint about life. “My life has not been good lately…” and such. The fact is, these people may forget that they Live their Lives: they do their jobs, perform their roles, fulfill their missions. Their Lives are shaped by these actions. Reactive people accept the conditions placed upon them. Proactive ones, on the other hand, seize opportunities from challenges, and set things right.

The root is Live (verb). Life (the noun) is the product of the Action.

So if one takes the responsibility to Do and focuses more on Verb side, s/he is getting stronger toward achieving effectiveness.

Mapping to individuals

character, personality, interpersonal

From the core inside, it’s what we Do (Verb) that shape our character. We commit, we response, we empathize, we love.

Character is reflected on the surface as personality by Nouns. We have commitment, responsibility, empathy, love.

Outermost is the interpersonal level, where we are usually described by others as committed, responsible, empathetic, lovable.

In conclusion, the root of all is what we take the responsibility to act upon.

Problem-Solving Tools Series: Reversal

By , January 29, 2008 1:47 pm

Reverse

Reversal Questions

Category: Improve, Creativity

How to use

As the opposite of the question we want to ask.

Example

You want to improve the readership of your blog.

You would ask: “What drives readers away from your blog?”

Possible answers may include:

  • Use language that is hard to read
  • Less SEO
  • Hard navigation
  • Confusing headlines
  • etc.

After asking and answering such question, you have an action plan to fix and prevent failures.

Previous volumes of the series

  1. Introduction

Problem-Solving Tools Series: Introduction

By , January 29, 2008 12:30 pm

Introduction

In this series I will introduce different tools that can be used in problem solving situations.

They belong to different categories such as: creativity, understanding complex situations, decision making, planning and self-management.

I also plan to discuss how sufficient these tools are in managing tasks (products) and people (organization).

36 Reasons why people Word-of-Mouth

By , January 26, 2008 11:26 am

GUI Design for Enterprise Systems

By , January 23, 2008 8:04 pm

The Dilemma

When designing screens for enterprise systems, I frequently face an issue. There are too many fields to present for a user to complete an action (i.e. manage an order transaction). In terms of cohesion, since these fields serve one purpose, they should be put in one screen. But again, too many!

Too many of them clustering in one screen makes it look like a mess with texts, numbers and boxes. Not nice at all!

New design trends pushes this even further

The new design standard introduces alternating colored grids, text boxes with strong borders. All of these increase to size of elements, thus will make the screen narrower.

So we face a dilemma: should we put all relating fields in one screen, or break an action into multiple screens?

All in one screen or break down to multiple screens?

Put all in one screen
or
Break the information into multiple screens?

What’s your Focus?

There are a couple of things you can do:

  • Review GUI Design Guidelines
  • Review a high level document (i.e. Vision) to determine what the system is for and what it should look like in general
  • Create different prototypes and propose them to the customers

The most important factors

Some factors to look into when composing your own solutions:

Number of clicks

Because user’s interaction with system is done chiefly through mouse motions, number of clicks is considered one of the most important factor of GUI design.

Most of the cases, my experience is that with a little twist in design, number of clicks can be reduced from 3 to 2. Not so frequently it can be cut down dramatically. 1 click seems trivial. However, a user may perform that action a thousand times per day, thus makes it worth the effort.

Efforts users have to spend to learn how to use the system

If a screen has too many fields, it would be confusing for first-time users to know how to locate information.

If it takes quite some screens to accomplish a task, it would be confusing for first-time users.

In the long run, the first solution would prove to be better when user has memorized the location of information sections.

Information R/evolution

By , December 22, 2007 1:50 am

[gv data=”http://www.youtube.com/v/5nN-U0sDZNc”][/gv]

Content-centric Social Networking

By , December 19, 2007 8:26 pm

Content-centric Social Networking

Social Networking is definitely fun, but some players are feeling lost

Haven’t even experienced Social Networking fatigue…

It is predicted that Social Networking will reach its peak in around 2009 before experiencing gradual decline.

2 years is too far away, at least to an average user. Why not have all the fun today?

The truth is, I am really enjoying Facebook and all it’s got: relationship-centric network, mature core functionalities, rich applications, nice gifts, intuitive design…

Mini-feed is also a great idea! Whale done, Mark! With it I can explore what my friends have just been doing and so can they. A great way to know more about other people.

…but I just realized one important piece is missing

You can explore what your friends do daily on Facebook. Very good already…

Consider it more deeply, have you identified what are missing here?

You don’t know what your friends do in real life. Furthermore, you don’t know what they THINK!

Knowing one’s activities on one platform is great, but would it sometimes drive you to the assumption that you know what others are doing and thus spend less time interacting with them via more traditional but human way or reading what they have to write?

How do people express their ideas? Via what they have to write down (Blog!), or take photos on (Photoblog!), or produce video clip for (Vidlog!). Less likely via sets of pre-designed virtual gifts 🙂

No, I don’t mean that gifts don’t represent the hearts. I still treasure each and every gift my friends have been giving me, but I’d appreciate it more if they simply write in their own words or post their own design.

Because we’ve been bringing content to Social Networks…

I have emphasized many times that Social Networking is totally different from Blogging. However, due to the two facts that they are born so close to each other and that several sites offer both simultaneously such as Live Spaces or Yahoo! 360, the two are often mistaken to have to be together.

Let’s, for now, consider them cousins anyway. Who should follow whom?

It happens all the time that Blogging has to follow Social Networking, mainly because:

  • The number of people ready to send pre-defined gifts outcrowds the number of those willing to write about what they think
  • The inertia to connect with quick messages outdoes the urge to share well-thought ideas
  • Social Networking activities are less time-consuming and less effort-consuming so they are done more frequently within the day. On the contrary, Writing takes time and efforts and Reading is usually done for once. In comparison, users visit Social Networking sites much more often than they do Blogs. “More times of visits” makes the impression of “being bigger”. Smaller ones always have to follow bigger ones don’t they?
  • More times of visits per day means more ads generated and higher click-through rates. Subsequently, more revenues for site owners and more investments are expected.

User-generated contents, if applicable, may be integrated into Social Networking profiles via RSS and/or addons. Correct me if I’m wrong, though it takes much more time and efforts to write posts, the section containing these posts is not the center of the majority of Social Networking profiles, and is often depressed by the higher density of other quicker and painless activities.

…but why not the other way around?

After following me down here, is there any reason you can think of to do the other way around, which means to bring Social Networking functionalities to Blogs?

Shaking head?

What’s the point?

Any profits doing so?

Large Self in Community

I’m answering this question: Yes! There are.

Those serious about publishing their own content will not be hindered by limitations. The will to write will push the authors to overcome the (possible) difficulties.

How the world floats

We’ll see how people do the hard job of bringing Social Networking to Blogs.

MyBlogLog: more than merely $222 per blog

MyBlogLog builds communities around blogs and provides bloggers the ability to be updated of activities of their connections. Activities here are content-centric: read and comment.

The recent $10 million acquisition by Yahoo! has raised interests in MyBlogLog. MyBlogLog reports 45,000 registered blogs. A simple math gives us the price of each: $222. An innocent question comes following: will Yahoo!’s ads cover this cost?

Come on! Don’t pretend to be that naive. An acquisition doesn’t necessarily offer tangible benefits today or even next year, but the truth is that the concept and foundation of the seller then becomes more powerful in the strong hand of the buyer.

Acquiring MyBlogLog belongs to a grand strategy of Yahoo!. “MyBlogLog – a Yahoo! service” will not generate handsome profits alone, but will do so greatly when the platform is integrated with other legacy Yahoo! services such as Flickr, del.icio.us, Mash, Yahoo! Blog platform.

I am bringing networks to my blog with MyBlogLog.

DiSo: what should always have been

Distributed Social Networking is the next ambition of Open Web community. It brings

Distributed Social Networks centered taitran.com

Visualize this:

  • All things are done on your site without having to push your content to a small box in your Social Networking profiles
  • You can add other bloggers as friends instead of simply putting them in your blogroll
  • You can offer people your RSS feeds
  • You can see your connections’ updates such as: Tai reads ‘Kafka on the shore Review’ on Lisa’s blog in 19/12/2007
  • You have your status on your blog
  • You see and can choose to pose list of recent readers of your blog
  • You can send friend requests to other bloggers
  • All things are done on your site. No tight boxes in other places

What does this mean? It means your content is the center of your site. What takes the most of your time and efforts deserves meritorious position.

How does it sound?
How do you feel about its future?

I know you care, so please just share…

yUp.vn launches Alpha

By , December 12, 2007 10:52 am

yUp! logo

Business

Going vertical in venues & events, yUp.vn is the on-going product of a startup of foreign-trained IT professionals.

***

In my previous post on Vietnamese web service providers, I emphasized that a harmonious combination of Global Trends and Local Values is what would win my loyalty.

yUp! is the third Vietnamese website (apart form CyVee and diadiem) that attracts me, as it offers both of what I’m looking for.

Local Values

Local Values are obvious: local entertainment options, local venues, local services, local events, Vietnamese tourism etc.

Global Trends

What are hottest trends going on globally today?

  1. Web 2.0
  2. Social Networking
  3. Personalization
  4. ******

How yUp! catches up with these Trends

Web 2.0 Design

A moderate use of glossy design makes it neat, tidy and surprisingly mature.

Additionally, usage of Ajax is also moderate thus better serves slow Internet connection as in some areas.

Social Networking

Although the alpha version hasn’t fully supported social networking, yUp! looks like it’s preparing to build communities around the website. The most significant hint is yUpper!

Personalization

My yUp! allows personalization. More than just an online profile like that of other forums, it offers journals (Bài viết), bookmarks (Ưa thích) and connection (Bạn bè).

The Ace

The Ace of yUp! is not hinted on the website alone. However, a short interview with CEO of the company reveals that they’re aiming at a same-old-brand-new type of service through yUp!

I promise I’ll write about it when yUp! goes Beta.

Suggestions for Development

  • Provide channels to export information out of yUp!, i.e RSS
  • Upgrading journals function to a real blogging platform

Trivium

Y-U-P can be deduced as “Why Unified Process?!”. Indeed, the team is Agile doing pair programming – with one pair, by the way. This is not their intention, but my random observation.

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