The Australian Effect and other perceptive influencers

Aussie bikie gangs are causing trouble in Sydney. Hoons race around having accidents on public roads. The Wallabie’s are working on their game. Breakie is what you have to eat in the morning. … language …

F1 Practice (short video) The Formula 1 race yesterday delivered some interesting results and was a great event to attend in Melbourne. Jenson Button won the race after an amazing performance. Richard Branson’s luck in top form: he signed the Brawn team the day before, and they delivered the goods. Button earned more points in this race than all the races put together over the previous two years. There are over 500 groups on Facebook dedicated to F1 and related activity.

Check this word: Facebookemon
MARCH 23 2785 up, 4497 down
The term used for the collection of people, on your Facebook friends list, that you don’t actually talk to or know in real life. Related to popular tv program and game pokeamon, where the aim is to collect as many diffrent Pocket Monsters as possible.
Dave – “Hey, my friends collection is getting up to two hundred”
Steve – “How many do you really know? go admit it, most of them are Facebookemon”
John – “Gotta catch em all, gotta catch em all”
– from urbandictionary

All you can see are people on their notebooks catching up on their Facebook detail; what a sight. So, how many of those people in conversations are real? Do we care if all we need is to be connected and get feedback?

I had a great trip to Australia and am currently sitting in the Sydney airport after a strike was announced this morning. And, without any warning. There is no assistance in the airport and the ground staff don’t know what’s going on, so the flight is delayed for a while. I did see some “blue collar recruitment” people running around… Every now and then a voice comes over the microphone just saying “delays are to be expected” – and that’s it! Maybe someone on Facebook will know and I don’t care if I know them or not, does this make me a facebookemon?

The London Effect and other perceptive influencers

Fear is universal. Fear of the unknown is universal. Fear does not know boundaries. Fear alters the behavior of humans. Humans are fearful. Humans are even more fearful when crowded together. And, even more fearful when crowded in physical-world hot-houses and virtual-world real-time based information over exposure. The current crises is really visible when you bounce between Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, Tel-Aviv, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney in a few months are compare the emotional fear with the “real” numbers. I’ve been doing to much traveling lately.

This [era] is probably the trigger point for a new period in capitalism. The access to information in real-time is the platform that created the ability to innovate and adopt offerings and capabilities much faster than ever before. Our obsessive over-connectedness fuels a sense of being on top of things, that creates safety in trying to understand the unknown. Money (Check this by New Scientist) as a concept is now deeply imbedded in our social make-up and affects us emotionally more than ever.

Size and geographical security, as attributes of stability, are gone now. Having a “large” organization as an employer in some 1st world country does not guarantee anything (for those that believe that guarantees are worth anything). In actual fact it is more dangerous as the emotional stability that comes with believing that growth will continue indefinitely, is partially responsible for getting crowds to believe that there is safety in “numbers”.

In Capitalist World 1.0, the boss decided who got the bonus and what the amount needs to be based on financial performance. But, if your business received a “bailout” from the government and is now owned by the people, the boss has shifted to a new form of controlling body. Basically you do not decide anything, and if you do and it is not liked, the backlash will surely kill you. Look at AIG’s bonus payouts and the outcry it created globally.

Paradigms have shifted; and those who believe that they haven’t, wake up.

Feedback on the Product Line Practice Conference 2008 in Limerick, Ireland

Limerick is a great city that is filled with history and Irish pride and is the host to the 2008 SPLC Conference. I came here once before (to present a paper on product lines) for the ICSE 2000 conference at Limerick University and remember the place fondly. From Wikipedia: The city itself dates from at least the Viking settlement in 812. The Normans redesigned the city in the 12th century and added much of the most notable architecture, such as King John’s Castle and St Mary’s Cathedral. During the civil wars of the 17th century, the city played a pivotal role, besieged by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 and twice by the Williamites in the 1690s. Limerick grew rich through trade in the late 18th century, but the Act of Union in 1800, and the famine caused a crippling economic decline broken only by the so-called Celtic Tiger in the 1990s.

The SPLC 2008 (SystemicLogic is a Gold Sponsor!) had brought together 233 people from some 15 counties. I’m the only one from Africa and there are a few people from Australia. The content is great as usual and the focus is still primarily on electronics, automotive, military and complex manufacturing related activity. We (Martin and I) were the only people with a focus on financial services. Our presentation and paper attracted a lot of attention as the move towards Service Line Practice is not being considered by this community.

The abstract of our paper is (Martin Krsek, Dr. Jay van Zyl, Robert Redpath, Ben Clohesy): Product Line concepts are widely used and adopted across a number of industries. Whilst the software product line concepts are readily accessible to commercial software product companies, the application within corporate environments whose core business is not software has been less evident. What are the types of challenges that large corporate organisations need to overcome? This paper presents a number of hurdles which have been observed during the adoption of the concepts at two large financial services organisations. One particular hurdle relates to the difficulty that business divisions within those organisations have in perceiving a return on investment when a product line is established that crosses business unit boundaries. Furthermore a number of enabling mechanisms, related to funding, IT project and general management aspects are proposed which are showing positive results in facilitating the adoption of Product Line Practices in corporate financial service organisations.

Some of the conclusions from the paper are: From our observations it is a key issue that the Software Product Line approach is demonstrated to align with the organisation’s strategic business objectives, and is shown to provide business benefits with acceptable risk. Modeling techniques and tools are available for product line modeling and they should be used to aid this strategic alignment. The business silo project driven organisation design must be amended and complemented specifically with the creation of a product management function and governance mechanisms to ensure that products scoped into a product line are not withdrawn without due consideration of the implications, and specifically the implications for the product line business case.

– An economic model comprising the initial investment, charging model and return on investment by the product line over time must be designed and integrated into the internal costing mechanisms of the organisation. Financial service organisations that pursue the adoption of Software Product Lines by addressing these hurdles are positioning themselves to derive similar benefits, albeit on a smaller scale to those obtained by commercial software companies operating in the open market.

– Future work will undertake further empirical studies, at large financial institutions, of Software Product Line adoption to more closely identify the hurdles to adoption as well as refining the solutions and enablers to overcome them. Approaches to be employed will focus on identifying and formalising points of commonality and variability during requirements modeling and engineering.

– In addition, economic models and methods to motivate a view of software as an asset based on traditional valuation models, as used for physical assets that exhibit features of an upfront investment, compulsory charges for those making use of the asset, ongoing maintenance costs and depreciation over the life of the asset will be investigated. The presence of service oriented architectures must also be factored into approaches and a conception of Service Line Practices introduced with their attendant implications and shift in thinking.

SPLC 2008 KeynoteJust to re-iterate some of the business goals of using Product Line related principles and practices (as presented by Philips Healthcare by Luc Koch):
– Increase development efficiency (shared architecture, composable flexible systems)
– Increace similarity of products (user interface, shared software architecture)
– Improve quality and reliability
– Reduce time-to-market

In conclusion: After discussions with prominent researchers in the field we are convinced that further research in service line practice field (check out my previous post on Seperating service lines from product lines”) will benefit the product line community greatly. The use of product lines to deliver service lines:
– use service line to deliver service platform for many instances to execute on software platform (typically centrally executed systems for example Google)
– use product line to deliver product platform for one instance to execute on software platform (typically on embedded systems for example mp3 player, but also used for other software intensive systems)

Innotown: the best experience you’ll ever have!

I attended two Innotown Innovation conferences in Alesund, Norway. This year they moved the conference to Stavanger. It is by far the best innovation conference with great speakers, energetic intellectual spirit and a real innovative feel to the proceedings.

The best part of the conference is the networking. People from more than 20 countries interact and they are all there to listen and share their ideas. Diversity of cultural backgrounds and opinions about innovation makes this a must.

The influence of socio-spill on social networks

I just arrived in Liverpool, UK from Madrid, Spain – it is the ultimate in language and cultural difference. I’ m still surprised by the lack of English speaking people in business (mainstream retail) in Spain. It made a bit more sense after reading an article written by a teacher where he explains that schools teach English as if it is a dead language where Spanish is the only real world language. Where does this leave the younger generation in a region like that? Will it isolate them more as communities form that only interact in one language…

This is the interesting thing about globalization and spillover of design practices; the airport design, vehicle design, clothes, beverages, electronics, hotels, credit cards, to only mention a few areas. The world has largely standardized the models, processes and systems to deliver on key globalized designs. Is language the last frontier of defining uniqueness in this over standardized world (Europe even has the Euro currency as a standard)? Maybe some of the next items to standardize include; language as English, power plugs and adapters, world level identity system (the passport plays this role currently). This discussion is taking us into platforms; check my post on Platform Operating Models.


Component level activity refers to the individual that uses various socially enabled methods and technologies to either enhance or restrict social integration. (cognitive event that motivates a person to want to connect; social pressures felt if person does not participate)

System level activity is the first level of interactions of human, machine and other integrated humans. This is where social networks start to make an impact as connections increase. (Disparate use of E-mail, SMS, IM, Phone, …individual use of Facebook, etc)

Eco-system level activity is the activity that describes interactions as they occur between social movements (Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Friendster, Blogger, WordPress). Check this service to subscribe to this blog.

Eco-structure level activity occurs when an entire generation is affected by the adoption of the human-tech-social integration and where this socio-adopted attitude now also spills over onto other generations.

So, there is a generation that is active in creating content on social networks, where an entirely different generation reads and absorbs the content with (currently) completely unknown results. Politics are affected as much as business by younger people as is expressed by Wired in this article. Where is this taking us if highly opinionated youngsters rule a large portion of the socio-integrated opinion space?

Do the informal rules that apply to these networks restrict the freedom of expression amongst socio-integrated groups? Look at this comment from an author discussing Nietsche, Hagel, etc on the reasoning of freedom – “Rather, the connection is understood to be an accidental relation obtaining between mutually independent existences. Plainly put, a thing is unfree, or subject to necessity, when it is bound to something that is external to itself and thus irrelevant to making it what it is. Such an external bond prevents the thing from being self-determining, and so from being free.”

Look at this line of reasoning – One of Hegel’s examples is the planets: “all are connected in a system of orbits, but at the same time this connection does not make them what they are; each planet is the planet that it is, all by itself, and its participation in a system with other planets is an additional feature, external to that which makes it what it is.9 Mars would still be Mars, in other words, even if Venus did not exist, and thus the bond between their orbits involves the two in a relationship of necessity and external determination that restricts the independence of both.” The earth relies on the stability of the traits of moon and sun, etc for its sustained existence. What are the stabilization factors in social networks?

Heritage products and the link to innovation

Heritage products are everywhere and we can’t live without them. We become even more dependent when our taste buds or emotions are influenced. Take products for example chocolates, beer, soft drinks, deodorants, toothpaste, etc all have an element of stickiness and brand loyalty that span across generations. The challenge of launching a new product with a different taste is quite a risky affair, let alone messing with its branding.

In contrast look at electronic products. There is some degree of loyalty, but most people will defect if another great design comes along that is more feature rich or cool. Does this mean that there is no heritage component? I visited a number of interesting companies in the last two weeks (part of my project portfolio) all with different products, services, and all operating from different geographies. Well, I’m writing this from a train traveling from Zurich to Baar in Switzerland – arrived from London a few hours ago where I visited some clients.

Spending time with a global software company based in Durban, South Africa opened my eyes once again as to the level of expertise available in the region. Innovation is driven architecturally and strategically in cycles that need to coincide with trends and shifts in the ways your product will be used. Software businesses that execute their products on the Internet actually don’t sell products. They provide access to participants in the platforms they produce. Software businesses often see “heritage and legacy” in a negative light; or see it as a constrain in moving into a next era.

When you operate in a mature industry, innovation takes on a different shape than the fast paced digital, telecommunications, media, etc industries. Are there different models of innovation for fast paced versus slow paced industries (making the assumption you can use as one of the definitions of “pace” as rate of product introduction). What is relationship between heritage product and the maturity of the industry? Are the lessons learnt in high tech industries applicable to more traditional industries? Look at Jack Daniels for example, the entire company and product positioning story is about heritage. You buy the product because it has not changed in the last 100 years – would you accept this from Microsoft or Apple?.

The specificity of the implementation of the “model of innovation” is always under debate. Which generic models can be transported between industries? Look at the “innovation funnel concept”, a model that has been used since the 80’s. I would reason that service industries have very different needs when ideas need to be ranked and rated. The concept of the funnel needs to change quite considerably seeing that ideas develop differently when the dependency of heritage is strong?

“Keeping the ground solid while continuing to grow” is used by Toyota to show the ability in keeping heritage and traditional product brands alive (Corolla) while experimentation with new technologies and brands (Scion) push the company ahead. By using an innovation portfolio concept you can allocate project/initiative priorities based on the current context. This can be done in contrast to what needs to be done in the future to keep the business growing.

The Zimbabwe Effect and other perceptive influencers

Map2I’ve been planning a trip to Zimbabwe (for Gordon Institute of Business Science or GIBS) for the last two months. Well, there wasn’t much planning involved other than the many discussions before the trip actually happened. For those that are not informed about Zimbabwe; it is a country lead by a dictatorial leader that’s been in power for the last 26+ years. The last elections, about two weeks go, did not go without the usual irregularities as seen in countries run by dictators. The result is that all my business colleagues, friends and family were warning me that it is not a good time to go.

Map1So, the way I figured this blog needs to be written, while sitting in airport waiting to depart for Harare, is to give you a view on my thinking and then on my return to provide some feedback. I’m the eternal optimist; but I also get affected by constant bombardment of negative messages in mass market media (The Zimbabwe Effect). CNN, Sky, CNBC, etc all have provided a pretty gloomy picture of Zim and its current practices and situation. Is there something else happening in this country that we don’t know about?

My day tomorrow is with twelve bankers from a bank in Zimbabwe (with people from the region), and the topic is Innovation and Creativity in Banking. Africa is filled with people needing access to credit and other financial products, and yet the uptake of the unbanked is still pretty low. Social banking models “invented” in the first world have been in practice in this market for a long time. The concept of stokvel and community lending models have kept communities functioning. Much has been written about Grameen bank and their ability to capture the “bottom of the pyramid”.

Arriving at Harare Airport at 9pm on the 14th got me thinking about the dangers… Yet, I felt safer than arriving at O.R. Tambo (Johannesburg International Airport). The people are friendly and helpful and very chatty about the Zimbabwe situation. My driver was very informative as he explained that the people are disappointed about the current affairs and especially about Mbeki’s (south Africa’s president) comments about “What crisis?” – although I could understand why he would say that seeing that things are calm and orderly on the surface with police marching everywhere. Driving through the streets of Harare, clean and deserted, reminded me of what towns (in South Africa) looked like as a kid. I think that these well preserved 60-70’s style architectures have worked well for Africa.

Zim1Breakfast was paid for with Zim$351,000,000.00 or about US$5.00. The picture does not show the last three 0’s as there is no space… The quality of the picture is also not up to scratch – I used my cell phone’s camera. Journalists have been removed and jailed before for taking pictures.

I had a wonderful day with senior people from the bank and enjoyed their views and questions about the topic of innovation in banking and other industries. The morning kicked off with the CEO addressing his executives about their business and its future. Without giving away any secrets of this Afro centric executive leader;

I wrote this while listening to an inspiring monologue (as my thoughts went wondering):
I am inspired and embarrassed
I am inspired and proud to be allowed in Africa during these exciting times…
I am embarrassed that I have allowed people to influence my thinking about the possibilities for this continent, Africa…
I am inspired by the possibilities of innovation in the region…
I am embarrassed that I’ve not done more to facilitate this process…

Throughout the day we unpacked the issues of what innovation could mean to this part of the world. Africa can become the learning ground for trying to understand some of these critical questions:
– what are the innovations needed to reinvent the basics of human living standards
– what are the emergent social structures as regions go through change
– what are the beliefs and dogma that we need to reexamine to compete in this region
– what is the impact of a world obsessed with automation and efficiency

Zim2Throughout the day we heard fighter jets pass by and at one point heard some people making a noise in the streets below. The presence of police calmed things down and Harare was back to business as normal. Today was also a stay-away strike day in protest to the elections results not being communicated, so it was a particularly quiet day. There were not many cars on the roads and you saw people on foot working their way home as no public transport was operational.

I was reminded that the country had people that are calm… Zimbabwean’s know that the “old man” (a term used by many Zim people when talking about Robert Mugabe) needs to move onto retirement. He needs to hand over his reign to someone that will affect change and focus on economic reconstruction.