My excitement has no limit seeing this in my latest VM!
While working on a recent project, I prepared a list of following questions that helped me identify tasks that can lead to features with better, cheaper and faster characteristics.
– Repeatable tasks that can be minimized
– Mundane tasks that can be automated
– Challenging tasks that can be simplified
– Unnecessary tasks that can be removed or hidden
Once these tasks are identified, the next steps was to decide on what actions can be taken to minimize or simplify them. The table below summarizes a simple framework where tasks can be listed with appropriate action to solve them.
The framework allows you to create new categories of task by adding a new row, or defining new actions by adding extra value in the Action column. Finally, you can define the characteristic of each solution (Better/ Cheaper/ Faster) that you have identified for a given problem. Since this framework focuses on finding problem tasks, there is greater flexibility in defining, modifying and reaching a cheaper, better or faster solution.
For example, a common task that many of us do is to interact with phone while walking. Now if this is a problem that you want to solve, you can define a new category called “Hazardous task” by adding a row for it. An action that can “Minimize” the hazardous nature will be to build a proximity sensor in the phone. And you can classify this solution to be “better” than what is already available on phones or what user do today to avoid bumping into someone!
One of the key facets of personal leadership is the ability to adapt and learn. It allows one to stay ahead of upcoming challenges, help the team and engage in proactive leadership. I just started working on a new project to design highly scalable architecture and here is what is helping me to build learning in this space –
1. Hands on building SaaS based application
I started designing and building a SaaS based application as part of my weekend project. I did few long coding sessions and the time spent was well worth it. Most of the mistakes were done when I succumbed to the temptation of just making it work. The exercise provided me deep insight into issues and challenges of building a SaaS based application.
2. Meeting startups
Many startups are formed as a proof-of-concept product and cannot really afford to over engineer the product till they see traction in traffic. Once they see traction and funding, they make leap and bound progress in their architecture and are very aware of cutting edge work. Hearing their technology journey and how they are identifying and resolving initial design flaws was a great learning experience.
3. Meeting technology advisers at venture capital firms
I met senior technologist from couple of top venture capital firms. Their perspective on building scalable SaaS products was invaluable – how to bring scalable practical thinking in the design process, how some of the successful companies are implementing scalable strategies and how some of them have avoided redesigning their system by staying ahead of potential problems and issues.
4. Online resources
There are several online resources but these two are my favourite presentations on this subject – 7 Stages of Scaling Web Applications provides a very good overview and Scalable Web Architectures: Common Patterns and Approaches provides a very comprehensive coverage on scalability. And you can never run short on interesting reading at All Time Favorites at highscalability site.
5. Leveraging past training
After moving past design philosophy, I also started looking into some of the past trainings that I attended on building blocks for highly concurrent design and other from an application programming perspective. Many of the concepts started to make sense.
I recently bought a copy of Scalability Rules: 50 Principles for Scaling Web Sites. It is a reading in progress. I may buy another book or two to keep as a reference. Having written a book myself I know how challenging it is for a book to keep pace with rapidly evolving technologies. Suggestions are welcome on any good books available on this topic.
7. Brainstorming with smart people
White board discussion with smart people around you help you make great progress in learning and validating your learning!
One of my tasks last year was to setup support engineering team for one of our products. Once we identified a lead who can potentially run day-to-day operations the next big task was to complete the hiring. If the hiring gets delayed, we run the risk of facing more challenges – delays in resolving customer issues, lowering of customer satisfaction scores, overworking existing team and losing customers. In worst case, there was a chance of losing the openings themselves.
I was not ready to lose the openings neither ready to compromise on my law of hiring. So for some of the candidates, I started trying few different things.
I asked candidates to play support representatives and I played an irate customer. We used a familiar product and started shooting my questions. I also had the lead watch our conversation and share notes. The role play helped me assess customer handling capabilities as well as maturity of the candidates in a tough situation.
Take Home Assignment
Since candidates are coming from many backgrounds, it was becoming very difficult to assess their technical and learning abilities in the context of our product. And the solution was easy. I started giving them take home assignment (time bound) to install the product, prepare an overview and learn two areas where we get maximum queries from new users.
It was a very interesting experience. Any candidate who gave unreasonable excuses after agreeing to finish the assignment by certain time was a no hire. Those who did come back and we successfully hired showed their ability to learn quickly, research about the product and present a good overview and common challenges that users face. These are all highly required qualities for a support role. What I also found out that some candidates wanted this job badly and their performance in the assignment showed their interest.
We were able to hire good folks who were already trained on the product and can start contributing from day 1.
The holiday season has officially begun. I will be using the holiday season to reflect on many things around personal, professional, societal and polity front.
And the process has already started. I started this blog in May 2013 and I am very happy to complete a full calendar year in 2014 of active blog posting. Here are top 5 bog entries out of 33 from 2014 archives.
1. Snapshot of Wearable Device Market
2. What makes us feel good about our work?
3. How Happy Birthday is said on greeting channels today
4. Entrepreneurship is #1 career aspiration today
5. How to destroy an expensive marketing campaign – Cadbury story
Here wishing all of you happy holidays and a great year ahead.
Google has already made some great progress with Gmail. The recent changes with Inbox further provides easy categorization of mails automatically.
Even before Google announced Inbox, Gmail started categorizing promotion mails under “Promotion” folder. Many thought that will make such mails redundant. But maybe not.
With Google experimenting Grid view for promotion mails, they can actually find more people looking at the promotion – people who are really interested in exploring . Plus these folks need not click a mail, a painful process, to see the details.
They have so far not made this feature available to all, so there is not much data available.
Another interesting possibility is to actually allow marketers to provide specific product promotion and buy button within the mail itself. If the offer is too good, why not let eager shoppers shop immediately?
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Assume you have two website designs – A & B on your eCommerce website, and you end up with 45 conversions out of 100 visitors for design A and 50 conversions out of 100 visitors for design B.
What’s the chance that design B is better than design A?
10%? No, that’s wrong. Design B is actually 76% better than design A and to make the switch, this probability has to be > 90%. Part-2 above also provides a shortcut formula to make this calculation.
The below three part series provide very good English and Math explanation on how to evaluate results from split testing on two designs.
I was researching digital marketing and social media concepts on my birthday. And I could not stop myself doing some analysis on all the greetings that I received. I plotted 200+ greetings that I got via various channels on “Personalization” and “Convenience” axis.
“Personalization” reflects how much personalization is possible via a given channel. It is not about you but about the ability and common usage of a given channel.
“Convenience” reflects convenience of people to use a given channel to send greetings. I received a large number of greetings on Facebook and hence the convenience factor is high for this channel. It is clear that new social media channels provides high degree of convenience and allow us to use special occasions to be in frequent touch.
I should clarify – it is the channel that does not allow personalization. And not the people. Over a phone, you will talk more. Over a facebook greeting, you will be short. This is how I do. I write short messages on Facebook or whatsapp for greetings and find it very convenient to wish my friends.
To all my friends, once again thank you for your wonderful wishes.
Overlaying custom information or crowd sourced information where a location based decision has to be made is very interesting. I recently did an entry on eRealtor market in India and I feel the real estate websites can make use of such maps in different ways. The possibilities are many and can help provide differentiation.
Where else such a map can be used? What other location based searches that you do? Can this be used for hotel bookings and travel planning websites where customers can share their experiences? Imagine a map where you can clearly identify which is a good location to stay and which is not. Now zoom out at state or country level and you know which is a good place to make travel plans etc.