Analytics, Strategy, and Agriculture

Tag: technology

Digital Irrelevance

When thinking about how much stuff there is online, it’s unfortunate that there aren’t better systems out there to not only gain your own megaphone to the world but also filter and sift out what other megaphones to listen to. Even the thought of having to spend time sifting through all the noise to get the handful of signals you care about can be daunting.

More and more, you see networks that will show you what your friends are reading, but how often do you chose friends on the basis of how similar your interests are online? I’m curious then if you don’t find interests based on your friends, but rather seek to find friends based on your interests.

I find most social networks rely on you meeting the person first before making the connection, but with life being what it is and everything being tied to what it is you’re doing these days, that you can throw your interests out to the web and it could suggest “here’s people you could have a virtual cup of coffee with each week”.

I can imagine high school being so much better if someone could have pulled me aside and said “based on the things you’re interested in, and care about, we recommend hanging out with these following students” and not having to awkwardly stumble through having to both figure it out on my own, and prove I belonged all at the same time. I think closed off networks of selective groups, and the privacy settings that come with paranoid online activity has to give way to make room for people making more meaningful connections online in order to boost their level of activity.

At the same time, there are people that have an interest with nothing to contribute, or people that have alot of questions with little to say in return. Everyone wants to be with the cool kids, but only a handful fit the bill – I suppose that’s what makes them cool. With every exciting innovation or idea that comes out, you’ll have people that want to be a part of it and others building giant walls to create an invite only sign around it. Such is life though, and the difficulty of people in any kind of social or intellectual setting. Despite modern advances in technology, and society – there will always be greed, insecurity, and the need to belong.

Not everyone deserves to be lifted up and shared with the world, and the curators of online influence no doubt each have their own qualifiers for even acknowledging the person online through a like or bump, let along discuss that individual to others in their carefully built and maintained communities.

Though the age old hubris of exclusivity won’t be solved in a simple blog, I do think it’s worth noting that as a simple means of survival – individuals will need to find new ways to make friends, and gather the relevant information and data they need to maintain and grow their corner of the world. In the absence of any path, those with the tools to build roads and maps from roughly forged digital trails will drive the masses along whatever path they see fit, I only hope it’s sooner than later that those with the power to build pathways band together to help the hopelessly lost find their way online, and learn the rules of the road before they slip beneath the ever growing amount of content online, of which more and more of our lives are focused on.

Building businesses in no tech enviornments

I was recently driving down the road on the way to work, and was struck by just how few “high tech” businesses I crossed driving from Kirkland, WA to Redmond, WA (home of Microsoft). You’d think, given the amount of tech savy people in the area, that the streets would be lined with tech offices, all buzzing with new and innovative ways to leverage groundbreaking technology.

Yet, despite what most of what I read about the age of start-ups and the power they have over mankind, all I saw were dry cleaners and mom & pop’s restaurants with the occasional gas station.

It dawned on me then, that despite all the buzz that occurs in technology circles about entrepreneurship and the future of technology, most people are doing just fine without it. The latest apple product isn’t replacing my need to get a dry cleaner, and the newest Samsung tablet isn’t helping me get gas in my car. For most of the day, even though I work on a laptop, I must rely on fairly non-technical solutions to make it through the day. Whether it’s the $30 coffee maker I rely on to get me going in the morning, the relatively low-tech shoes I wear to walk from my car to the office, or the basic plastic water bottle I drink out of it once the coffee is gone, there’s little I do that’s “technical” outside of what I use my laptop and occasionally my phone for.

This led me to suspect that perhaps, just maybe, there’s innovative ways to change peoples lives and start businesses that perhaps don’t deal with gadgets or software. Perhaps the next hot thing is something much neglected, yet is something people need.

Often I go to start-up seminars and it’s full of solutions either using the web, a device, or a power source to function. Yet, if I could create a better solution that’s completely non-tech, how much competition would I run into? Depending on what it was I was trying to improve on, perhaps quite a bit – but as much effort as it would take to make a better shoe, how much more effort would it take to build a better smart phone.

It seems that most start-up minded people these days are bent on leveraging technology to push the ball forward, and make their mark on society. Perhaps though, society has room for more non-tech solutions than one thinks.

What Makes an Innovator?

Part of the work I’ve been doing this year is gathering up the last several conversations I’ve had over the course of doing several mobile strategy engagements at various Fortune 500 companies around the US. It’s been on the forefront of companies’ agendas as emerging technology that’ll transform the way business is done, so it’s not uncommon for the forward looking people at a company to be involved in the conversations I have while I’m there.

Typically the person put in charge of mobile is someone that’s been there a while, though it’s also been brand new employees who are just getting up to speed. Regardless, the people that typically champion mobile are A) an executive that knows it’s important and has a deep understanding of the IT culture who has also gained some level of tenure and favor with the CIO to move this initiative forward and B) someone that reports to that individual who has the passion & drive to learn it inside and out, then help promote it throughout the enterprise.

Both individuals typically know it’ll be difficult to maneuver through the foray of enterprise politics, approvals, and individuals and has to be someone that knows mobile inside and out on day 1 who also has the ability to build relationships and help with the user adoption from the get go. There isn’t a “ramp” time on the knowledge, because confidence has to be built for others to follow the direction vs feeling like they’re just as much of an expert and decide down a different path entirely.

I’m brought in as a consultant, because I can do both of those things, and helps augment the staff at the company assigned to make it happen. However, whether I’m there or not, it’s not easy seeding a new technology along with all the best practices and governance elements that come with it to make sure it’s rolled out efficiently and responsibly. People often have their own perspectives on how things should go, there’s conflicting budget request, it’s never a good budget cycle to do this, and technology typically gets adopted slowly. These are just some of the barriers that an organization will face, when trying to push a new technology out into the business.

Yet, over time, the technology does become seeded and eventually does get adopted. It’ll happen at some companies faster than others, but it’ll happen because in the back of everyone’s mind, change has to occur for the business to stay competitive. Consultants like myself help speed up things, because we’ve done it numerous times elsewhere and much like installing carpet – you could learn to do it yourself, but it’s not cost feasible if you’re only going to install carpet once every 5-10 years vs. someone that does it day in and day out.

Those people I met though, that champion the technology, are true innovators. Innovation is difficult, it’s painful, and it’s not fun to shake things up and help people believe that they are in worse shape if they don’t listen to you. Each of these people are innovators in their own right, because they know the current climate and understand what it takes to make change happen along with knowing what needs to change and the benefits therein. More importantly though, they have the gusto and motivation to push that change forward regardless of the obstacles. Too often, the term “innovator” is given to people that invent new ways of doing things or help shape / design a new type of product or service. Though that may be a type of innovator, they will leave at the end of the day and who’s left in the company is now tasked with the other kind of innovation – getting these brainstorms and blueprints implemented and adapted. This requires years of relationship building, execution and trust, selfless service, and a red hot passion for helping their company be better. Innovation means in its simplest form “A new method, idea, product, etc.” and represents newness. It varies from invention though, in that this is translating an idea or invention into a good service or product that creates value for which someone will pay money.

An innovation doesn’t have to create something from scratch, but rather take what’s been created and find a way to apply it. The conception of the idea is the fun part, but it’s the implementation of that idea that’s so tricky. Inventors are all over the place, everywhere you look, and one doesn’t have to go far to see someone that has a patent or credited with inventing something new. To see the innovators though, is trickier, because they’re lodged deep inside organizations or governments or corporations taking those inspirational ideas and creations, and finding a way to apply it to their environment. More importantly, they’re spending the time and effort to grease the wheels and make sure there’s a compatible and acceptable environment for that invention to thrive.

A number of people have written books the last several years on innovation, and the words “disruptive innovation” are mentioned 4.2 million times on Google. Yet, we’re in a worldwide recession with serious issues in every area of our lives, from childhood obesity to guns in schools in the forefront of our minds. There’s no lack of thinking around disruptive innovation, and no shortage of best practices and formulas for being a more innovative you.

I believe the real disconnect though, because the theories and the problems, is the doers in the middle that connect the dots and take a small amount of thinking and do something with it. It’s not easy to be a doer, it’s not easy to connect dots (especially when it’s just a side job). There’s so many things that can get in the way, yet the unsung heroes in every enterprise get up and make it happen each and every day. The real question is, how does one reduce the drag & complexity towards making innovation something the corporations can stomach, support, and streamline?

That’s for the next blog – What supports the Innovator?

What’s New is Old

There’s a phrase that history repeats itself, dating back thousands of years to the phrase “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” and the phrase is pretty spot on when you consider events like trying to attack Russia in the winter (Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Hitler) or fighting a foreign army in their own country for control of the government, with an ocean in between you and them (American Revolutionary War, Vietnam, Afghanistan both times).

Often times in technology, it seems that people talk about the next great thing and how technology has changed mankind forever. If that were the case though, things should be getting better as the technology improves, because technology is a tool and people have more tools at their disposal. People though, take a lot longer to change, and when left up to their own devices – People can do some pretty rotten things. Much like Porn is often the great early adopter of new technologies (Phonograph, VHS, DVD, Internet, etc), criminals are often the most hard working when it comes to bending new technologies to their will, and often have the means to stay one step ahead of ruling bodies, because there’s people on both sides and people love money & power, regardless of what side they’re fighting for.

At any point in history, when we look at new technology, people used it at some point shortly after it was created to get their way – whether it’s medieval kings conquering nations with military advancements, or governments using drones to monitor & assassinate foreign terrorist leaders. However, there are times in history when real leaders stand up and stand for something which galvanized the will of man to do good – even if it was only one group, and only for a short period of time.

Even with technological superiority, evil can’t always trump that human will – because people in that time rediscover their own humanity, and help push the needle back the other way. Repression turns to rebellion, plutocracy turns into protest, and the corrupt forces that work to turn mankind towards a self-seeking purpose fall by the wayside because no one likes being forced to work for someone else. This is the great failsafe often build into technology, it’s only as good as the system is maintained, and a system can only be maintained as long as there are people willing to keep it running.

With the threat of big brother government stepping in, those that feel the world is being forcibly controlled by the rich don’t realize how frail our systems are, and how futile money is if ever people decided not to buy things from the people selling. The rich stay rich, because people don’t think it’s a big enough priority to change what they’re doing to dismantle the 1%. All the 99% would have to do is open small businesses, pay the taxes they have to pay, and only buy from locally owned & operated companies long enough for shareholder-controlled enterprises to completely panic and change the way they do business, not to mention the politicians that wouldn’t get elected because they listened to lobbyists instead of their own electorate.

I’m all for government, and I’m not for any kind of forcible conflict or change through warfare/rioting – This can be done 100% legally and peacefully – What I am for, is people taking responsibility for the situation we’ve found ourselves in. Children are overweight because they’re eating the wrong food, people are not making money because they’re doing the wrong kind of work, and America is is debt because it keeps borrowing money. The sad thing is, things aren’t bad enough yet that people are willing to make the changes necessary to reverse the course, because we’re being fed enough bread and watching enough circuses that Rome can burn around us and we’re cool with that. The thing about history repeating itself though, is that a new way of doing things will arise from the ashes of Rome, and we’ll be another chapter in the history books of great nations that fell asleep at the wheel because we were the frog slowly cooking in the pot, because those in power are awfully good at keeping the followers just alive enough to not put up a fight.

People tell me they don’t like either candidate running for office, but it turns out it’s not too late for a third candidate to run for office and get elected – there’s no winner by default in the US Presidential election, so if people really care about change then just don’t vote for either candidate , because good enough isn’t good enough – don’t settle for someone applies to presidents like it does for spouses. You’re wanting change, a country that does good, and a nation that repairs roads and fixes obesity then elect people that honestly are going to do that – Where there’s smoke there is fire, and I keep hearing from people that the scent is overwhelming this year.

You want change – Vote for a candidate you really believe will make a difference, or write in “Someone else” in your presidential ballot this year, and tell other people to do the same – You have more technology to spread the word at your fingertips than any other generation in history and can make a difference more powerful than Ghandi, Alexander the Great, or Aristotle. All you have to do is decide, like they did, to do something different and decide to bring others along with you.

Change happens the same way it always does, people decided they want a change then they get others rallied up to do the same, and change happens. If you don’t see change, be the change you want to see happen and don’t let another election go by without standing up for the life you’re telling everyone you wish you had. History only goes one way – backwards – and we have alot to draw on, regarding people that didn’t care enough to change before change was forced on them. Let’s be a milestone & not a caution for generations to come, because it’s not too late – It just takes a vote.

What is Mobile? A Definition for Today’s Business World

When meeting with executives in Fortune 500 companies, I’m always presented with the question “I know you’re here to talk about Mobile, but what exactly does that mean?”.

Here is the answer I most often give, to help clarify how you can define “Mobile” as well as the world it fits within.

Production – This is the ability to create new content, publish papers or Power points, and build new digital media for others to consume. Traditional production devices are screens, mice, and keyboards all working with components like hard drives and processors, assembled in both desktop & laptop form. Can you turn an iPad into a production device? Sure, add a keyboard and turn your iPad into a screen – though you have the ability to produce content on tablets, without a physical keyboard, that’s not what it’s ideally built for, which is…..

Consumption – This the ability to view content, movies, power points, etc which is what Tablets were primarily designed to do. Can you write e-mails on it? Sure you can, but it’s typically not a doctoral thesis. Tablets, and devices with just a screen are primarily geared around viewing – reading – watching. What, then, is a mobile device for?

Interaction – This is the ability to interact with content, people, data, etc and is done best on a small pocket-sized device you carry around with you. Blackberry made e-mail an interactive medium, and enhanced it with blackberry messenger, Apple followed with iMessage, and text messaging even before that – and to this day – remains the #1 way in which people worldwide interact with each other without talking. Outside of communication though, we are starting to see people interacting in new ways – mobile payments, RFID, accelerometer-enabled data transactions for information like contact information. Yet, this world is not nearly as well explored as production and consumption, so where does the future belong to? Smart homes give us a small preview into this world, where you use your phone to interact with everything around you – but where do businesses take this? We’re already seeing an example of this at Starbucks, where people are paying with their phones and interacting with the cash register using a bar code generated through Starbuck’s loyalty card program. This I think, is just the beginning, with close to 10% of the world now using smartphones ( we will see companies using these personality-rich devices driving more of the end user experience, and using the data to get smarter on how consumers think.

Though technology will continue to evolve, and devices continue to proliferate – we will see production, consumption, and interaction becoming more advanced (and complimentary) with new interaction methods, like Siri, driving the experience to become more seamless and mature as technology becomes less of an aid and more of a companion. What’s to come is anyone’s guess, but it’s evident that technology is going to continue to surprise – and hopefully enhance – the way we look at mobile.

Mobile Usability Framework

With millions of mobile apps being built and deployed, it’s hard to get an understanding of where the usefulness of most of these apps are. Developers today are stuck building for a function or a particular type of app, but it seems as if there’s a greater context missing on both the operating system side, as well as the development methodology.

The operating systems for mobile devices, for the most part, are a blank slate with set interaction paradigms and patterns, but leave a great deal of the interactivity framework up to the developer, outside of the handful of folders and menus one interacts with to get to the program as well as interacting with the “out of the box” functions / apps / etc that come with the phone (clock, PIM manager, etc).

I propose then, the following method to consider how apps can be organized, in terms of a user interaction framework. By thinking about things in terms of roles, tasks, and situations, it’s easier to understand the exact set of circumstances in which someone might be interacting with their mobile device as well as all the considerations that would go into maximizing the level of usefulness within those circumstances.


Mobile Technology & Retail Environments


It’s long been known that the more information the customer has on your product line, the more likely they are to keep coming back. A well informed customer knows what tools can do what, what sales go on when, and who to ask what questions to, then they’ll be fully armed to take advantage of everything your store has to offer. This is why tools such as a website have revolutionized brick & mortar commerce, and helped to not only make products more available to the consumer, but also help to better educate and inform them on the full line of products available to them. Mobile technology however, has advanced to where this is now possible.

Not simply as a way to browse product information online while browsing the products themselves, but the means to better draw the customer into what products can do (ex: combining mobile grocery list app with your product line to show what tools could prepare what foods they’re making for dinner), but also better entice customers with store-only ad-hoc promotional campaigns or help to answer why someone would chose a more expensive blender over the discount store special they saw earlier that day.

Mobile technology has the power to connect the product to the customer, in a way they know and trust, and allows your product line to become a part of their life, even before they’ve made the purchase. It’s the ultimate sales and branding tool, because the relationship no longer has to be between your brand and their persona – but rather, the brand connects with their specific device, to which they’ve already customized and personalized. The relationship is almost instantaneous, from the moment they walk into the store.

Web Today, Gone Tomorrow

Mobility Shaping the Customer’s Decision Making

Today, information you place on your website is largely isolated to the desktop consumer, and hasn’t translated into significant benefit for people going into stores (except for the occasional “print, grab, and go” customer). You have a tremendous amount of information you’ve made available, and rendered in such a way to give anyone a pleasant experience while learning more about your products, and placing orders via the ecommerce portal. However, other than branding & positioning, very little of that experience translates into the B&M customer as they’re walking through your stores. Some of this is due to channel conflict, not wanting people to become solely reliant on the web or the store, so the customer ultimately uses both in conjunction with each other. However, there’s no clear way to bring both the web & the store experience into the same location at the same time – meaning the investment in one customer avenue vs. the other is largely a separate effort and expense.

Mobile technology however, is largely becoming the driving force for accessing website content. It’s reported that, by 2013, people will browse more web content on their phones than their desktops1. Not only will mobile devices continue to dominate the web, but the computing power in any given mobile device will continue to become more powerful and more capable, rivaling PC’s that were state of the art 5-8 years ago, with the gap closing day by day. With this amount of computing power entering your stores each day, it’s never been more important to develop capabilities that your customers can utilize, to connect their devices as well as themselves with your product line.

The key sales principle for years is the more a customer trusts the brand, the less resistance they’ll put up against making a purchase. If I know and trust something, I’m more likely to come back and buy more, or even pay more; because it’s something I know and trust. It costs more to make new customers largely because of the hurdle of establishing the initial relationship, and translate that trust into an ongoing relationship between your brand and their purchasing decisions. Mobile devices can help, because it’s already a device customer’s use and trust – much like the trust they have sitting in front of their computer at their home.

The difference is, you have the combined power of your B&M presence on top of utilizing the trust relationship the individual has while browsing information on their device. The typical consumer knows that a salesperson has an agenda, and is most likely dealing with a commission. Even in a store, or elsewhere, the typical persona is one of hesitance. However, when accessing mobile applications with the whole purpose to simply inform and educate, then the consumer is less likely to throw up emotional barriers and allow the information in. Furthermore, utilizing deals and incentives can help to ease the concerns of even the most frugal customer.

These are all technics that mobile devices can take full advantage of, and have largely gone unexplored.What the web was yesterday is no more – people want to interact with their environments, and use their technology to help them – web sites have to connect through social networks, through forums, and through blogs & posts. A brand that will thrive in the years to come, is a brand that knows how to engage the customer – how to draw them in and make them feel like a part of the company and the product lines. Mobile devices are shaping this new direction, and it’s in linking your stores and online content that will make or break your business going forward.

Store to Phone – Phone to Consumer – Consumer to Sale

A Hypothetical Story on utilizing Mobile Connectivity

Jan, a 28 year old house wife, is in the market for a new blender. She lives in the Shoreline neighborhood, in the greater Seattle area, where there are a number of stores and locations nearby from which she could chose to purchase her ideal blender from. Being an internet savvy consumer, she hops on the web, heads over to Google, and types in “blender reviews”. is the first link to pop up, so she heads over, and the website’s professional look and feel help her to gain a sense of trust right away. She clicks on the first blender she sees, the one branded “Best” and is instantly taken to a product description place, along with a number of online retailers that sell the product (Amazon, eBay, etc.)However, she knows from past purchases, that kitchen accessories need to be felt and experienced before being bought, because the process to ship back and refund is a hassle, plus she is making dinner for in-laws tomorrow night and doesn’t want to pay for overnight shipping. So she makes a list of a handful of the “top rated” blenders on her iPhone’s note pad, listed on, then begins a search for nearby blender retailers. Wal-Mart, and Target are the first two on her list, but figures since she’ll be in the Alderwood Mall area, will stop in there to explore some of the kitchen stores as well, because she’s always been someone more concerned with quality than cost, when push comes to shove.

She also adds the food she needs to get from the grocery store, to her iPhone’s shopping list app, to make some juices and soups to try out with her new purchase. She heads out, and hits target first, she zaps each of the barcodes for the blenders with her barcode scanning application, to quickly price compare to other nearby retailers, to make sure she’s getting the right price. She checks her list with the products at target, avoiding the frequent offers for a salesman to answer any questions, and finds a couple she likes based which were on her blender hit list.She then proceeds to head to a handful of other stores, before arriving at Alderwood Mall. Walking down the aisle, her phone begins to vibrate. She takes it out of her purse and a notification pops up that there’s a deal going on today at Williams-Sonoma, which was triggered by being in proximity to a Williams-Sonoma store, and the receipt app she’d downloaded last week having set notifications for sales when the device is within 1000 feet of the store.

The sale was for food processors, but she thought she’d stop by anyways, and see what the store had for blenders. After walking into the store, the phone once again vibrated, asking Jan if she’d like to pair the phone via Bluetooth with the store for information & sales on products. She clicks yes, and is then asked to download the Williams-Sonoma application for 10% off all products within the store. Once again, she clicks yes, and downloads the store application. After quickly downloading the application, the app launches and asks what she’s interested in – she hits blenders – and the application directs her to the blenders in the store. Once she’s standing in front of the blenders, the Bluetooth triggers product specific information to appear along with device comparisons and promotional deals in the store and on the web.

She looks around at the models in front of her, flipping the app to her list of products, but just then the phone once again vibrates and asks her if she wants to know what blenders will make what foods on her shopping list. She clicks yes, and the grocery list she prepared is displayed in a handful of receipts with the blenders & food processors on her list displayed by what device can make what foods.After looking through the application, she finds out that all the foods on her list can’t be made with a blender, in fact for soups, she’s much better off with a higher end food processor. She then clicks on the model in question, and is directed to that product in the store. She is a bit taken by the price, but looks down at her iPhone, and the actual price of the product minus the in-store sale & 10% off for the application is displayed, as well as price comparisons to local retailers as well as the online price, along with product reviews, etc.

She quickly accesses the product comparison tab on the Williams-Sonoma application, to make sure she’s getting the best food processor, and a quick matrix pops up with features and information on what the difference in models are.After looking at the product check-marks in the comparison, she’s confident that this is the best model for her. She then takes the product up to the register, where her phone once again vibrates, and asks if she’d like to securely transmit billing information for the purchase, and if she’d like to join the mailing list. She didn’t want to fumble through her purse, so clicks to accept the secure transaction, with the receipt for the food processor being e-mailed to her. Furthermore, she joins the mailing list for further deals on accessories for the food processor she just purchased. The individual behind the register bags the food processor, and asks how Jan’s experience was.

She declares “Well, I came here for a $79 blender, and left with a $200 food processor – how did that happen!” The cashier behind the register chuckles, having been told similar comments on being up-sold several times that day.Jan leaves, excited to head to the QFC grocery store near her house, and using the Williams-Sonoma iPhone application to help determine what foods she can make with her new purchase, as well as get new receipts from the product-specific lists. Later the next week, she gets notified by the iPhone app that the pasta making accessory is on sale, along with a handful of pasta-specific ideas for dinner. Once again, Jan hops in the car, and heads to Alderwood Mall….


Though situations like transmitting purchasing data in real time as someone approaches the register may be a bit far out there, the story highlights ways in how a retail store can help influence decisions without ever taking the person away from their mobile device. The goal is making the customer feel comfortable with their purchase, and the mobile device can help to make sure the individual thinks it was their idea to purchase more, than when they initially set up on their trip, for example.

It’ll also help to keep them well connected beyond their visit, and help provide a useful function (ex: receipts for the kitchen tools they own) making the relationship between food preparation and your product line that much more of a reality.The mobile device is a conduit to the things that the consumer knows and cares about, and the more closely aligned your products can be, with that information, the more successful you’ll be in not only selling more but selling more efficiently, helping to drive up the ROI on Bluetooth proximity systems and store-only discounts.

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