Action based framework for Better, Faster & Cheaper features

Posted in Decision Making, Ideas, Technology

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.

Better_cheaper_faster Model

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!

Will eMail become a better channel for promotion & commerce?

Posted in Ideas, Marketing & SoMe, Technology

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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Overlay maps for superior visulaization

Posted in Data visualization, Ideas

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.

Future of Information Consumption

Posted in Hot, Ideas, Leadership

I recently had long meetings involving several hours of technology and market research. Needless to say those meetings were tiring. There is so much of information that is available that it is almost impossible to comprehend every bit of it. All I wanted was an easy way to collect and digest information faster and in a less tiring way.

This is when my I jokingly started discussing about if there is a way we can inject all relevant information directly into our brain – perhaps by taking an “information” injection!

Information Consumption

I see many folks, smart people that I meet suffering from this problem of “information-overload”. There are times when as many as 25-50 browser windows are open on the folks’ machine. I always ask, “When do you have time to read all of this”. And most of them admit that when the browser windows crash, they rarely open that link again. Opening several windows only build pressure – pressure of reading rather than understanding and building knowledge.

But this has to change in future. Today, we are physically limited by our senses (eyes, ear) to consume more information. It is like the current system is built on USB 1.0 data transfer speed and while we need USB 3.0 or beyond speeds.

Interestingly, I just watched a TED video from Nicholas Negroponte talking about a pill that we can take in future to ingest information. I can’t agree more having discussed about the same idea when faced with the challenge of consuming information rapidly. I feel more and more people are running into this issue and someone somewhere will take up this as an opportunity to find a solution.

How are you solving the challenge of information overload today?

3 Ways Engineers can think like Product Managers

Posted in Decision Making, Ideas

In product companies, the business teams highly solicit good ideas coming from the engineers. While engineers often come up with many bright ideas, they lack a proper structure that can guide them through the idea development phase and prioritize top ideas. Once you have an idea, use the following three classifications to evaluate your idea, rate it or present to others.

1. Customer Value

A simple way to check customer value of your idea is to measure in terms of better, cheaper or faster? Is the new feature or idea better than whatever else that already exist, perhaps in a competing product?

If you use a 1-5 scale where 5 denotes highest customer value, call the highest value of 5 as customer delight. So, instead of a numeric scale, really think of a scale where high value indicates customer delight and low value indicates hygiene.


So, the question to answer is – “Will the idea provide delight to the customer or be seen as hygiene?”

2. Business Impact

How will this idea impact the business of your product? Measuring business impact is already a very challenging task for product managers and can be daunting for engineers. A simple way is to think if your idea will feature prominently in the decision making of your customers. For example, a feature that improves performance of the system can have high business impact.

Typically you would expect high customer value to be associated with high business impact. This is not true in cases where the user of the product is different from the decision maker. For example, you may have an enhancement request related to changing the user interface workflow with maximum user votes. This request has high customer value but not high business impact. Simplifying licensing can have high business impact but low customer value.

3. Engineering Effort

This effort analysis should not be difficult for engineers. You have to decide if building this idea is a low effort or high effort initiative. If it is high effort, can it be done in phases? Low hanging fruits with medium customer value or medium business impact often find their way into the next product releases.

Overall Priority Calculation

Many a times these ideas are targeted towards existing Go To Market (GTM) – and hence some of the aspects around target customer, size, opportunity, channels and how to reach target segment need not bother engineers. If you have multiple ideas, or  if you are managing multiple ideas as a lead, mentor or manager, you can tabulate and sort your top ideas as shown below.


And you now have enough scope to apply mathematics as you feel like to decide priority.

Education 2.0 – case for mass customization

Posted in Education, Ideas, Technology

I had a great lunch conversation with a friend and colleague on how schools kill creativity. A little bit of Google search points to several articles where people  have spoken about this topic. I found two interesting links on this subject.

A TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson where he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. The Paradox of Creativity in Education says in an era of accountability and measurement, it’s more difficult to imagine advocating subjects that can’t be easily measured. And creativity is difficult to measure.

Mass Production Approach

If you have watched your younger ones grow, you will notice it is around grade 3 or so when they start to lose creativity because of “mass production” effect. Current education system makes you do what you are told, over and over, and over again. This mass production approach allows to serve education to large homogeneous market with consistent quality and standardization. It is also an efficient approach.


Building a case for Mass Customization

Henry Ford famously said for his cars – “You can have any colour as long as it is black“. However, the need for today is one that serves specific needs of students. My daughter’s needs are different from other 30 students in her class. The question is how do we move to an approach that is based on customization — where customers can tailor a product’s appearance, features or content to their own specifications?

The paradigm shift to mass customization is mainly driven by three forces:

1) Market demand – There is an ever growing frustration with the current education setup from both parents and educators. Many industry expert believes in the disruption of business models established in the 20th century impacting education.

2) Market competition – I have not done extensive research about the competitive landscape but from what I know education is extremely fragmented with many players in a huge market. A different model may allow an existing player or a new entrant to dominate the market.

3) Technological revolutions – This is an area with most potential but perhaps undeserved. There are companies like making customized dolls or providing customized recipes and differentiating themselves. And technology can play a big role bringing customization with new innovations. There are opportunities to co-innovate, co-configure and co-produce with the customers, namely parents and educators. And in some cases with the students themselves.

This is what will bring an era of Education 2.0 – private & personal classes for students that are delivered at a massive scale of efficiency. And may we remember famous song Another Brick in the Wall from Pink Floyd just for the music!


How LinkedIn is reinventing itself

Posted in Analytics, Hot, Ideas, Marketing & SoMe

Linkedin used to be a quiet place where professionals would go to update their profile, make new connections or know about what their friends and peers do from a professional point of view.

What’s new

This is all changing. These days I do notice lot more activities from Linkedin. LinkedIn is sending three types of mails to me on a regular basis.

1. Linkedin message on who viewed your profile.

2. LinkedIn pulse on new articles recommendation on

3. Linkedin updates on job changes and work anniversaries of your connections. This allows you to stay up-to-date on your connections and “say congrats” much like “say happy birthday” feature of Facebook.

These changes are very interesting and my visits to Linkedin have somewhat increased. I never considered it to be a place to post my new blog articles but Linkedin is now 3rd topmost traffic driver to my website. Instead of a burst in traffic, it provides a steady traffic flow to my blog.


What is driving these changes?

So, the real question is what is driving these changes at Linkedin? Let us try to look at some important statistics.

– Linkedin has around 60 million users
– 85% use the free account
– 50% spend 0-2 hours/week

It is clear that Linkedin needs to make people spend more time with them if they want to be able to monetize a huge 85% of their user base. The question then is what should they do? Let us look at some more statistics.

– The 3 most helpful Linkedin features, based on recent statistics are – “who’s viewed your profile (70%)”, “people you may know (65%)” and groups (60%)
– Consider trends in social media. According to Pew Research, 78% of Facebook users mostly see news when on Facebook when they have logged into Facebook for other reasons. They are consuming news against their original intention. This is significant. It reflects human ability to pay more attention to news when it is coming from a known/trusted source.

Connecting data to Linkedin strategy

With this information, it is easy to see that Linkedin needs to do something that will help drive traffic to Providing regular mail updates on who’s viewed your profile makes sense. This is what their users have found most useful.

Using the latest trend in the way people consume news on social channels is an excellent way of reinventing itself. LinkedIn is focusing a lot on providing stories and news articles. This will allow them to move to monetization via sponsored stories.

The third piece of the puzzle is to engage users by making them do something when they visit This leads to higher page time and can be translated into various monetization and growth strategies. Endorsing your connection and “say congrats” is a good start.

However, this is also an area where much is left to be done. And I think Linkedin needs some sort of user experience refresh to allow them to take this engagement to a higher level.

How to effectively convert product pitch into user interface

Posted in Ideas

Do you find yourself spending and wasting lot of time in designing that perfect user interface for your startup idea? Well, here is an idea that can help shorten the process.

1. Practice your story

Yes. The better you become telling your story the better you will be able to create user experience for your initial set of customers. Trying to design user interfaces too soon before you are comfortable with the pitch and able to explain the pitch easily to your customers will most likely result in a wasted effort.

2. Explore several themes

Instead of trying to design the user interface from scratch, try to look at several themes that are already available. You can look at some of the bootstrap themes to explore how well you can create workflow and conversations with your customers. And do not lose sight on first time user experiences because being a startup you are not dealing with many upgrade customers but many first time customers. There will be time for designing user interface for expert users only after you have your initial set. is a good resource to help you know good and bad experiences.

Customers of multiple products – a disjoint problem

Posted in Ideas

As companies expand their product and services, it is not uncommon to have customers owning and using multiple product and services from the same company. However, lack of customer understanding and knowing which product and services customers own and how they use them, is hurting many companies to provide higher customer satisfaction. I have one such story to share and what companies can do to improve.

About Airtel
Airtel is the largest provider of mobile telephony and second largest provider of fixed telephony in India, and is also a provider of broadband and subscription television services. It does $7 billion in revenue and employs more that 21,000 people.

I have bought three products from them. A post paid mobile connection, a pre-paid mobile connection and a land-line/broadband. I recently had the need to call customer care for all three products. Guess what, they do not understand me as a customer of broadband if I call from a mobile connection. Similarly, if I call from my Airtel land-line, they cannot help me for a query on my mobile connection issue. I have to call from each of the specific connection to get support for the specific connection.

Now, some of you would say this is how the process and teams within companies are organized. But I disagree. This needs to change.


Missing Opportunities

If companies see customers as disjointed, they are missing out on significant opportunities.

1. Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is higher if customers can use a single channel to communicate back to the company and the company value them for all the products that they have bought. A customer should be platinum based on the total business value to the company and not product-wise Simple.

2. Product Innovation 

It is very expensive to build new products for new customer segments because the cost of new customer acquisition is very high. Very few companies are successful with this. When customers use multiple products, it is easy for companies to build and promote newer product and services that addresses multiple needs and build a better ecosystem.

3. Customer lifetime value optimization

One of the things that we do at Adobe is to consider integrating other Adobe products with our own. It not only creates a better workflow for customers but also creates more opportunities to cross-sell other Adobe products. This ultimately results in higher customer lifetime value.

Are you treating customers as customer of your company or of a specific product?

Can you create a song on “How Bangalore inspires you” using crowdsource?

Posted in Ideas, Technology

I was hearing the “Empire state of mind” version of “New York” song by Alicia Keys & Jay Z. It is a good sound track and gives some glimpse of the famous city. If you have been there, and I have been there recently, it is a crazy city. Check the YouTube video with lyrics here.

As someone with a Bangalore connection, if you have to make a song on Bangalore that talks about how the city inspires you, or your experiences and encounters with it, how would you pen it?

To get started, fill in the line below – “In Bangalore … ” or share whatever lines come to your mind. It will be cool to be able to create a crowdsourced song on Bangalore.


And yes, there are problems with every city and I request you to stay positive!

Let’s hear for Bangalore!