Showing posts with label Simplicity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simplicity. Show all posts

September 1, 2020

Best Wardrobe

Love this choice of clothing!

You can choose a white shirt, a white shirt, or a white shirt. 

Decisions, Decisions!

Great thing is simplicity and that you can dress in the dark in the morning. 

Bad thing is you are a lifeless, colorless buffoon.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 31, 2017

VICE News Superior

So I have started watching VICE News and you should too. 

It is on HBO and is superior to the other big news outlets in so many ways. 

The intensity and clarity of their photography and videos is unbelievable!

My daughter said to me:
"This is clearer than REAL life!"

And she was right...I don't know how they do it. 


Also, they remove all the clutter from the news screen that CNN, MSNBC, and others use at the top and bottom of the screen--instead it's just clean, focused, and right to the news point. 

VICE puts the key messages in callouts right on the screen in large and easy to read boxes--the impact is you see the visual and the print message dramatically together and you get it and remember it!

They do this for their photos and videos.

Finally, with all the "talk is cheap" news these days, it is nice that VICE seems to focus more on reporting and less on subjective opinion. 

With all the failing, fake, and alternative news out there, it is nice to see that someone has invented a better news program.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Vice News)
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June 23, 2016

Bird In The Bush

Thought this was an absolutely amazing and spellbinding photo of a bird peeking out from a bush.

I've never actually seen anything like this captured up close like this. 

The bird seemed to cooperate.

It reminds me of a baby gestating in it's mother's womb, so content, so sheltered. 

Not quite ready to come out into the real world, but snug in place, yet observant.

Too soon to be contemplating next steps in the complex world outside its immediate cozy shelter. 

Perhaps, there is a part of us that craves that simplicity, innocence, and existence sheltered from all the bumps and bruises.

Oh, to have such peace of mind and spirit, absent heart-wrenching day-to-day dilemmas we face.

Like a bird nestled in a bush looking out with that simple wonder and purity of life itself. 

(Source Photo: The Highly Talented, Rebecca Blumenthal)

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July 10, 2014

OJ x 6

Okay, I like orange juice like everyone else, but this is ridiculous.

At least 6 types of Tropicana OJ in the refrigerated section of this small neighborhood deli.


Get this:

  • No Pulp
  • Some Pulp
  • Lots of Pulp
  • Calcium (Enriched)
  • Orange Peach Mango 
  • Orange Strawberry Banana
Good thing is the juice cartons are color-coded or you might just pick up the wrong one--and then what?

Ah, I'll just take the one made from oranges--the fresh ones from Florida!

Choice is a good thing, but consumers must be getting more picky.


Then again, maybe I am getting old, because I still remember when I only had to select between Tropicana and Minute Maid. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 1, 2014

Robot Man

Don't know exactly what it is about this little robot guy, but I really liked it. 

The simplicity of the body and limbs joined by the connector joints and the head as just a clear crown on the rest.


To me, it looked relatively realistic as how robots of the future might actually look.


Humanoid, but so sleek that they are us but in many ways a step up from our aging selves. 


Perhaps, someday the brains of humans and the bodies of machines will really come together in a better alternative to ourselves.


Living (indefinitely) longer and even pain free in bodies that carry mind and soul into the future. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 8, 2014

Solve That Problem Simply

I have always been intrigued by simple solutions to complex problems.

Bloomberg Businessweek has a great example of how a Fulbright Scholar studying in Beijing solved the smog problem for many people wanting to reduce the danger to themselves and their families.

Air Filters that purify the air can cost around $800, and often one is needed for each room. 

But Thomas Talhelm founder of Smart Air Filters found he could do the job with a simple HEPA filter, fan, and velcro strap to hold them together for just $33/kit. 

He tested the results and found that he could remove 90% of particles 2.5 microns and above in the room. 

Talhem's biggest problem now are copycat DIY air filters hitting the market. 

If only inventors could come up with a simple solution to protecting intellectual property in places where either there aren't rules or they aren't strictly enforced.

When innovations are so easily copycatted, there is less incentive to problem-solve and think out of the box, and that's a problem for society where the s___ really hits the fan. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 10, 2013

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Cell Phone?

Some people are averse to change and to technology--and then there is Gary Sernovitz. 

This guy in the Wall Street Journal today boasts how he is one of the last 9% of American society that goes without a cell phone (let alone a smartphone). 

At 40 and as a managing director of an investment firm, he says if he needs to make a call he uses one of the 30 working remaining payphones in Manhattan or borrows his wife or a strangers phone--so much for personal independence and self-sufficiency. Does this guy (and wife) live at home with his mommy too?

He calls himself a "technology holdout" and actually goes on to says that he is scared of getting a cell phone because he is afraid of losing himself.

While admittedly, many people do go overboard with technology, social media, and gaming to the point of addiction, I am not sure that getting a cell phone is alone a major risk factor.

Sernovtiz says he adheres to Henry David Thoreau's philosophy of simplicity--and that inventions "are but improved means to an unimproved end." 

Thoreau went to live in the woods to "live deliberately" and focus on "only the essential facts of life," perhaps like many ascetics and spiritual guides before him have. And as such, this is not a bad thing when done for the right reasons. 

But Sernovitz's one-sided message is a negative one, because technology as any tool is not bad in and of itself--it's how we exert control over the tool and ourselves, balancing productive use from misuse and abuse. 

If Sernovitz is so afraid of using technology, perhaps he should question himself as an investment manager and disavow use of money--which can be used for many evils from greed, hoarding, and selfishness to financing terrorism--and instead go back to bartering forest lumber and chicken eggs?

When I asked my 16-year old daughter what she thought of Sernovitz's article, she said he can't differentiate "simpler from easier."

Don't mind me if I pass on this guy's book, "The Contrarians." ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 31, 2013

Simple Sticks Showing Complex Feelings


I came across these funny YouTube videos (beware though a little racy) with millions of views.

They are done using stick figures (or the more provocative term the creators use).

The focus is on 2 friends--"Red" and "Blue" and their interactions with other varied colored figures.

I think the stick figures are a brilliant way to tell about them and their exploits, so that you focus on their inner characters and their message and not on their superficial body looks.

Also, the notion of "color" for the different people is one hand a easy way to differentiate them, but also seems to have implications for the varied cultures and colors of people throughout the world.

Apparently, there is a YouTube Channel with a whole series of these 2 minute + skits, and now I understand that this stick figure theme is being made into a full length movie.

What I like about these is the simplicity of using these colorful stick figure characters to show life's ups and downs, relationships, and feelings in a very direct straightforward (and also raw) way.

Sort of like seeing and experiencing the complexities of life boiled down in simple and unfiltered way.

While 2 minutes is entertaining, I think 2 hours of this "in your face" would have me wanting to throw these sticks in a great big bon fire, yep. ;-)
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April 6, 2013

Go Simple!

Two interesting recent articles discuss the importance of building in simplicity to product design to make things more useful to people.

Contrary to popular belief, simple is not easy. Mat Mohan in Wired Magazine (Feb. 2013) says that "simplicity is about subtraction," and "subtraction is the hardest math in product design."

Two of the best recent examples of simplicity through subtraction is what Apple was able to achieve with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes, and what Google did through its "sparse search page."

Unfortunately, too many companies think that "quality is associated with more," instead of less, and so they pack on options, menus, and buttons until their darn devices are virtually useless. 

Similarly, an article in the Wall Street Journal (29 March 2013) advocates that "simplicity is the solution," and rails against the delays, frustration, and confusion caused by complexity. 

How many gadgets can't we use, how many instructions can't we follow, and how many forms can't we decipher--because of complexity?

The WSJ gives examples of 800,000 apps in the Apple store, 240+ choices on the menu for the Cheesecake Factory (I'd like to try each and every one), and 135 mascaras, 437 lotions, and 1,992 fragrances at the Sephora website.

With all this complexity, it's no wonder then that so many people suffer from migraines and other ailments these days. 

I remember my father telling me that you should never give consumers too many choices, because people just won't know what to choose.  Instead, if you simply give them a few good choices, then you'll make the sale.

Unfortunately, too many technologists and engineers develop ridiculously complex products, and too many lawyers, legislators, and regulators insist on and prepare long and complex documents that people aren't able to read and cannot readily understand. 

For example, in 2010, the tax code was almost 72,000 pages long, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is about 2,700 pages, and the typical credit card contract now runs to 20,000 words.  

Even the brightest among us, and those with a lot of time on their hands, would be challenged to keep up with this. 

While rewriting and tax code is a welcome topic of discussion these days, it befuddles the mind why most of the time, we simply add on new laws, rules, regulations, amendments, and exclusions, rather than just fix it--plain and simple. 

But that's sort of the point, it's easier for organizations to just throw more stuff out there and put the onus on the end-users to figure it out--so what is it then that we pay these people for? 

The plain language movement has gotten traction in recent years to try and improve communications and make things simpler and easier to understand. 

Using Apple as an example again (yes, when it comes to design--they are that good), it is amazing how their products do not even come with operating instructions--unlike the big confusing manuals in minuscule print and numerous languages that used to accompany most electronic products.  And that's the point with Apple--you don't need instructions--the products are so simple and intuitive--just the way they are supposed to be, thank you Apple!

The journal offers three ways to make products simpler: 

- Empathy--have a genuine feel for other people's needs and expectations.

- Distill--reduce products to their essence, getting rid of the unneeded bells and whistles. 

- Clarify--make things easier to understand and use.

These are really the foundations for User-Centric Enterprise Architecture, which seeks to create useful and usable planning products and governance services--the point is to provide a simple and clear roadmap for the organization, not a Rorschach test for guessing the plan, model, and picture du-jour. 

Keeping it simple is hard work--because you just can't throw crap out there and expect people to make sense of it--but rather you have to roll up your sleeves and provide something that actually makes sense, is easy to use, and makes people's lives better and not a living product-design hell. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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January 13, 2013

At The Speed Of Innovation

Here are three perspectives on how we can speed up the innovation cycle and get great new ideas to market more quickly:

1) Coordinating R&D--While competition is a good thing in driving innovation, it can also be hinder progress when we are not sharing good ideas, findings, and methods in a timely manner--in a sense we are having to do the same things multiple times, by different entities, and in some more and other in less efficient ways wasting precious national resources. Forbes (10 February 2012) describes the staggering costs in pharmaceutical R&D such that despite about $800 billion invested in drug research between 2007-2011, only 139 new drugs came out the pipeline. Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 Nov 2012) notes that for "every 5,000 to 10,000 potential treatments discovered in the lab, only one makes it to market" and out of the pharmaceutical "valley of death." The medical research system is broken because "there ultimately no one in charge."  The result is that we are wasting time and money "funding disparate studies and waiting for researchers to publish results months or years later." If instead we work towards our goals collaboratively and share results immediately then we could potentially work together rather than at odds. The challenge in my mind is that you would need to devise a fair and profitable incentive model for both driving results and for sharing those with others--this is similar to a clear mandate of together we stand, divided we fall. 

2) "Rapid Fielding"--The military develops large and complex weapon systems and this can take too long for the warfighters who need to counter evolving daily threats on the battlefield. Federal Computer Week (19 July 2001) emphasizes this point when it states, "Faster acquisition methods are needed to counter an improvised explosive device that tends to evolve on a 30-day cycle or a seven-year process for replacing a Humvee." There according to the Wall Street Journal(11 December 2012) we need to move to a model that more quickly bring new innovative technologies to our forces.  The challenge is to do this with reliable solutions while at the same time fast tracking through the budgeting, acquisition, oversight, testing, and deployment phases. The question is can we apply agile development to military weapons systems and live with 70 to 80% solutions that we refine over time, rather than wait for perfection out of the gate.

3) Seeds and Standards--To get innovation out in the hands of consumers, there is a change management process that needs to occur. You are asking people to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (17 December 2012) on an article of how bar codes changed the world--it comes down to basics like simplicity and reliability of the product itself, but also seeding the market and creating standards for adoption to occur. Like with electric automobiles, you need to seed the market with tax incentives for making the initial purchases of hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles--to get things going as well as overset the initial development expense and get to mass development and cheaper production. Additionally, we need standards to ensure interoperability with existing infrastructure and other emerging technologies. In the case of the electric automobiles, charging stations need to be deployed across wide swathes of the country in convenient filling locations (near highways, shopping, and so on) and they need to be standards-based, so that the charger at any station can fit in any electronic vehicle, regardless of the make or model. 

Innovation is the lifeblood of our nation in keeping us safe, globally competitive, and employed.  Therefore, these three ideas for enhancing collaboration, developing and fielding incremental improvements through agile methodologies, and fostering change with market incentives and standards are important ideas to get us from pure exploration to colonization of the next great world idea. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 30, 2012

Dyson Vs. Dirt Devil

For those of you neat freaks out there, you probably have been sold on the King of Vacuum cleaners--the Dyson!

Dyson, a British company has built a vacuum cleaner (and fan and hand dryer) empire with 4,000 employees and $1.5 billion in sales. 


For a number of years now I have used Dyson including their super powerful (and expensive) "Animal" bagless cleaner--this thing actually ate up one of my phone cords and tore it to shreds.


I've also had other Dysons and my experience has been that while they look really nice in their bright yellows and grays, and sort of sleek for a vacuum, but they tend to break down--especially the motor for the brushes that work on the floor that I find accumulates hair and dirt around the spinner until it stops working. 


The other thing that I've found with the Dyson is they come with so many annoying attachments, many with no place to actually attach them all--I think it is overkill for most people's basic cleaning needs. 


After going through a number of Dysons, I finally got fed up with paying so much and getting so little, and we decided to stop "investing" in short-lived Dyson vacuum cleaners.


Instead we said let's get a simple, cheapo, Dirt Devil for like 50 bucks and run it into the ground. If it stopped working we could replace it 6-10 times for the cost of a single Dyson!


We purchased the Dirt Devil, and my expectations were very low--I actually considered it an experiment in purchasing this low-tech machine, and just seeing what we would get. 


Well, it's been about 3 months and I can't believe the amount of vacuum you can get for so little money with the Dirt Devil--it is bagless like the Dyson and without scientifically measuring the amount of dirt it picks up, I'd say it is almost equivalent in getting the dirty job done. 


Additionally, the Dirt Devil--doesn't come with all the useless attachments--a case where more is less--and it weighs only around 8 pounds, which is 1/3 of what the Dyson weighed--so it is much easier to use around the home. 


Similarly, when I look at the cool Dyson fans without blades, it seems almost magical how they actually work, but frankly who cares if it cost $300-$450 and doesn't work as well as a basic floor Vornado that sells for about $120. 


My opinion is that Dyson is generally overpriced and underperforms--but at least you'll have the image of innovation and performance, even if not the reality at the price point.


Anyway, If I had a vacuum cleaner dream, it would be to one day get one of those "commercial" vacuum cleaners that you see being used in the huge buildings--almost non-stop use--and they may cost a little more, but they actually give you more as well. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Molly DG)

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December 27, 2012

Brilliant Knife Set Design


I came across this brilliant knife set by French company, Deglon, called Meeting--I would assume it's called that because of how the knives meet up and fit together into a single stainless steel block.

I love the the simplicity and eloquence, and these won the European Cutlery Design Award.

There are four knives in this set for paring, utility, chef, and fillet. 
Deglon also has a steak knife set--similar concept in that the knives fit together, but they stack rather than fit inside each other, so it is cute, but has less of a wow-factor. 

My other concern with these knifes is their handle which doesn't have a cushioned or rubberized grib--so for lots of cooking and cutting, I am not sure how comfortable or slip-resistant these are to use.

Similarly, some of the knives may not be so quick and easy to pull them out and use, especially the ones that are tucked inside the others. 

Perhaps, these are an example of form versus function--where this contemporary knife set look very beautiful, but how practical are they for everyday use?

At $750, I am pretty sure these are better than anything I use regularly, but I am definitely no chef! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal screenshot at Deglon.com)

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December 29, 2011

Bathroom De/sign Winner

This is a winner to me when it comes to smartest bathroom signage.
From graphic designer, Aliza Dzik.
I like that the signage identifies the wo/men bathrooms very cleverly and simply (and without any obscene graphics).
Intelligence + Simplicity = User-centric
Love it!
(Source Photo: here)

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August 4, 2011

Google+ And A History of Social Media

Ten_commandments

Bloomberg Business (25-31 July 2011) tells in biblical terms the history of social media leading up to the recent release of Google+:

"In the beginning, there was Friendster; which captivated the web'ites before it was smitten by slow servers and exiled to the Far East. And then a man called Hoffman begat LinkedIn, saying "This name shall comfort professionals who want to post their resumes online," and Wall Street did idolize it. And then Myspace lived for two thousand and five hundred days and worshipped flashy ads and was subsumed by News Corp., which the L-rd hath cursed. And Facebook emerged from the land of Harvard and forsook the flashy ads for smaller ones and welcomes vast multitudes of the peoples of the world. And it was good."

With the "genesis" of Google+, there is now a new contender in virtual land with a way to share posts, pictures, videos, etc. with limited groups--or circles of friends--and an advance in privacy features has been made.

According to the article, even Mark Zuckerberg and some 60 other Facebook employees have signed up for Google+.

With all this confusion brewing in social media land, one wonders exactly why Randi Zuckerberg (Mark's sister) recently headed for the exits--a better offer from Google? :-)

Google+ has many nice features, especially in terms of integration with everything else Google. On one hand, this is a plus in terms of potential simplicity and user-centricity, but on the other hand it can be more than a little obtrusive and scary as it can \link and share everything from from your profile, contacts, pictures (Picasa), videos (YouTube), voice calls (Google Voice), geolocation (Google Maps), Internet searches, and more.

Google owns a lot of Internet properties and this enables them to bundle solutions for the end-user. The question to me is will something as basic as Circles for grouping friends really help keep what's private, private.

It seems like we are putting a lot of information eggs in the Google basket, and while they seem to have been a force for good so far, we need to ensure that remains the case and that our privacy is held sacred.

(Source Photo, With All Due Respect To G-d: here)

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June 26, 2011

How Leaders Can Imitate Art

Mental Floss (July-August 2011) has an article on the awesome art of "Christo and Jeanne-Claude." Their pieces are large, imposing, and environmentally-based. Some examples are:

1) The Umbrella (1991)--Installed 3,100 umbrellas across a 12-mile stretch in California and an 18-mile stretch in Japan."

2) The Gates (2005)--Erected "7,503 steel gates, each with a giant rectangle of orange fabric flowing from it."

3) Surrounded Islands (1983)--"Surrounded 11 uninhabited islands in Biscayne Bay with 700,000 square yards of pink fabric."

4) Wrapped Reichstag (1995)--Wrapped the German parliament in "119,600 square yards of shimmering silver fabric."

What I like about their art is the duality of on one hand, magnitude of the projects--they are huge!--and on the other hand, the utter simplicity of it--such as using a single color fabric to just line up along, spread over, or surround something.

Further, I really like their use of contrasts whether it is the colors of the blue water and green islands with the pink ribbon or the lush green valley with the blue umbrellas--it is in every case dynamic and spell-binding.

Each work even in a microcosm would be beautiful, but when done on a massive scale like with the entire German Parliament building or on multiple continents simultaneously, it takes on an air of magic, almost like Houdini.

Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, but together she and Christo created "20 gargantuan works of art, and Christo carries on the "couples's 45 years of collaboration" with new works today.

To me, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are incredibly inspirational:

1) They were highly productive and developed a multitude of magnificent works of art.

2) They defined a sense of beauty in both urban and rural settings that combined the natural surroundings and augmented it with human interventions to complete the creative process.

3) They took on monumental tasks, "funded all the projects themselves," and would obsessively plan all the details to get it right.

4) The were truly collaborative--Christo was the artist and Jeanne-Claude his encouragement and manager, yet they considered each other "equal partners in the creative process."

Their work reminds me of floating in virtual reality like in Second Life, but in this case, it's the real thing. And it's incredibly important because it teaches us that we are partners in the creative process and can do enormously great things in simple and beautiful ways. Similarly, true leadership is about being one with our surroundings, at peace, and yet envisioning how to improve on it and make the good things, spectacular.

(Source Photos of Umbrella and Gates: Wikipedia, and of Islands and Reichstag: here)


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December 18, 2010

The Triple I Factors



Recently, I was watching the new ABC News broadcast called “Be The Change: Save A Life.” And in this one episode, a group of Stanford University students solved a critical life and death problem afflicting the world in which 4 million premature and malnourished babies die every year due to hypothermia and another 16 million that survive suffer life-long illness such as diabetes and heart disease because their internal organs do not form right.

The challenge in the developing world is access to incubators, which typically cost $20,000 and are not available in rural areas. In turn, some Stanford students formed a team and developed the Embrace infant warmer, a low-cost, local solution. It is a $25 waterproof baby sleeping bag with a pouch for a reheatable wax-like substance that is boiled in water and maintains its temperature for 4 to 6 hours at a time. It is hoped that this product will save 1 million babies within the first five years in India alone!

As I reflected on this amazing feat of technology, I marveled at how this group of young adults was able to overcome such a big world problem and solve it so simply. And while I understand that they focused on the end-users and the root cause of the problems, it is still a remarkable story.

After listening to the team members describe their project and approach, I believe there are three critical factors that show through and that can be the tipping point in not only their, but also our technology projects’ success. These three factors, which I call the Triple I Factors are as follows:

Idealism—the students had a shared idealism for a better world. Seeing people’s pain and suffering drove their vision. And in turn, they committed themselves to finding a cure for it. Embrace is now a non-profit organization seeking to save lives versus just making a profit.

Imagination—the product team was able to imagine an unconventional alternative to the status quo. They were able to project a vision for a low cost and mobile infant warmer into concrete solutions that were user-centric for the people in need.

Innovation—the ultimate product design was truly innovative. It marries a high technology phase-change wax substance for maintaining body temperature with a simple baby sleeping bag. Moreover, the innovation is not just in the materials of the product, but in the usability, so for example, this product requires no electricity, something that is not always available in rural India.

While, there are certainly many factors that go into successful technology product launches, including strong leadership, sound project management, and the technical competence of the team, I think that the Triple I factors—idealism, imagination, and innovation—albeit soft factors are ones that should not be underestimated in their ability to propel meaningful technology solutions.

As IT leaders, we need to create a healthy balance and diverse competencies in the organization between the hard factors and the soft factors, so that we can tackle everything from children dying from malnutrition and hypothermia to cures for cancer, and of course, ongoing IT breakthroughs in knowledge management, social engineering, and human productivity await.

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June 11, 2010

Simplifying IT Performance Measures

There is the old adage that you can only manage what you measure.

The problem is that most IT organizations either aren’t measuring much, aren’t measuring meaningful indicators, or aren’t measuring in a way that is aligned to the business.

Hence, we have organizations that can’t articulate, get their arms around, or seem to improve their IT performance—because they don’t really even know what their performance is—can anyone even spell p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e? While other organizations, turn out 32 page weekly performance reports in 10 point font that brings no true sense of “are we hitting or missing the mark” to anyone.

There is an interesting article in InformationWeek on a simple method for doing performance metrics for IT called “A Simple Scoring System for Complex Times.”

Obviously nothing is so simple, but the basic premise is that the IT organizations uses a scoring system of -1, 0, and +1 to capture the following:

- Screw-ups(-1)—This includes systems or network that goes down, projects that go bad, etc. While we want to minimize these, we don’t necessarily want to drive this category to nothing, since the cost for eliminating every possible error likely outweighs the benefits.

- Doing the expected(0)—This means keeping operations running or delivery projects on time and within budget. While this does not usually win the IT department lots of kudos, this category of operations is critical because it is about “keeping everything working smoothly.”

- The wins (+1)—This is where we innovate for the organization and encompasses adding new functionality and enhancements that create tangible business improvement. “+1 are what it’s all about. They’re why most of us got into this profession in the first place.” Clearly, not everything we do can be +1’s, since we have to maintain basic IT operational functions and not just add the new proverbial “cool stuff”, and also practically speaking because, the organization “can’t absorb the pace of change.”

So to some extent there is a healthy balance between making some mistakes from which we learn and grow (-1), creating an environment of operational excellence (0), and driving innovation for true business impact (+1).

In addition to measuring the indicators that IT organizations set out in their IT strategic and operational plans, this high-level scoring method could add a summary perspective for a straightforward CIO dashboard.


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April 9, 2010

Apple’s Self-Sufficiency Model

Apple has an amazing self-sufficiency model, where they have only 6 desktop support analysts for 34,000 worldwide employees, 36 helpline agents for 52,000 computers, only 38% of their IT budget is for baseline operations and 62% for innovation, and their IT spend is just .6 of 1%. These are numbers that most CIOs dream of. And of course, that’s only the beginning of the Apple story…

There is no doubt about it Apple is firing on all cylinders. Apple has become a $50 billion a year company building and selling technology products that consumers are salivating for—whether it’s a MacBook, iPhone, or the new iPad—everyone wants one, and I mean one of each!

Apple’s slogan of “Think Different” is certainly true to form. It’s reflected in their incredibly designed products, innovation in everything they do, and the keen ability to view the world from their user’s perspective.

Here are some amazing stats on Apple (heard at the Apple Federal CIO Summit, 8 April 2010):

  • Apple as the highest gross revenue per square foot in retail at $6250.
  • Apple’s online store is the most visited PC store and is a top 10 retail website
  • iTunes has over 125 million user accounts and does 20,000 downloads a minute
  • The iPhone 3GS is ranked the #1 smartphone in customer satisfaction by JD Power Associates and has over 150,000 apps
  • Apple processes over 1.9 million credit card transactions per day
  • Apple’s MobileMe has over a million subscribers
  • Apple is ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports, 10 years in a row.
  • Apple is ranked the most innovative company by both Fortune Magazine and Business Week.

Here are some of Apple’s self-proclaimed keys to success:

  • Steve Jobs—A leader who makes it all happen
  • Innovation—Rethink things; “If nothing existed, what would it make sense to do?”
  • Consumerism—Focus on the entire customer experience and make it excellent
  • Avoiding complexity—Simplify everything so that it completely intuitive to the users and be good at deciding what you are not going to do.
  • Attention to detail—This involves creating an immersive experience for the consumer that permeates the design process.
  • “The concept of 1”—Build consistency across products; standardize, simplify, and architect around commonalities.
  • Learnability—Users should be able to quickly learn their technology by watching others or by exploring
  • People—Smart, motivated employees and a special emphasis on their intern program

While the key factors to Apple’s success are not a recipe that can simply copied, they do offer great insight into their incredible accomplishments.

Next stop for Apple seems to be taking their success in the consumer market and making it work in the enterprise. This will go a long way to addressing users concerns about their technology at home being better than what they use at work.


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December 31, 2009

Lifesaving Technology is User-centric

There is no better technology than one that saves lives. That is its very essence.

Lifesaving technologies take many forms, from medical imaging to hurricane prediction, from biotechnology to food safety technology, from lifecycle energy management to emergency alerting and countless others.

I read with great interest in the Wall Street Journal (31 Dec. 2009) about another new life saving technology in the area of transportation safety. It is a simple iPhone app created for $8,000 called R-U-Buzzed? This free application download helps people determine whether it is unsafe for them to drive because they are drunk.

Individuals simply enter information such as “weight, gender, hours drinking, and a tally of beer, wine, and liquor consumed.” The application then spews our their blood-alcohol content and a color-coded safety message, as follows:

· Gray—“No hangover expected.”

· Yellow—“You’re buzzed.”

· Red—“Don’t even think about it...designate a sober driver.”

In some cities (just in the state of Colorado for now), there is even a GPS feature that helps users call a local cab to get them home safely.

While the use of the application isn’t foolproof, and some caution that users shouldn’t depend on it alone for judging their intoxication level, using social computing to appeal to young people who are drinking is a significant potential lifesaver because so many young adults are involved in fatal crashes. In fact, federal statistics show that more than two out of three (65%) of drunk drivers who died in a fatal crash last year were between the ages of 21-34. Another 17% were under 21.

One user of the application raved that it “felt very solid and mathematical and trustworthy, and nonjudgmental.” Hence, the application may be more acceptable to users than hearing from their friends that perhaps they shouldn’t drive.

Applications such as this one are truly user-centric, and because of this I believe they hold even more potential for saving people’s lives than technologies that are difficult to understand and use. As technology leaders and architects, we need to ensure that everything we create is friendly to the user, remembering that we are solving problems for people—not machines—and that often, lives are very much at stake.

As we celebrate the arrival of 2010 with family and friends tonight, let’s make a special toast for the people whose technology needs we’ve supported in 2009, and look forward to many more years of solving business problems and enhancing and saving even more lives.


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November 7, 2009

A Vision of User-centric Communication Design

[Authored by Andy Blumenthal and published in Architecture and Governance Magazine November 2009]

As technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last 30 years, so has the number of information devices—from phones to faxes, pagers to PDAs, desktops to Netbooks—and it goes on and on.

Some devices, despite having outlived their useful lives, have been slow to disappear from the scene completely. For example, fax machines are still in our offices and homes, although now often combined with other de- vices such as the “all-in-one” copier, printer, scanner, and fax. However, why with the ability to scan and e-mail with attachments, do we even need to fax at all anymore?

Similarly, at one time, pagers were all the rave to reach someone 911. Then cell phones and PDAs took over the scene. Nevertheless, paging never fully went away; instead, it was replaced by “press 1 to send this per- son a page.” However, why do we need to page them at all anymore, if we can just leave them a voice mail or instant message?

It seems as if legacy technology often just doesn’t want to die, and instead of sun-setting it, we just keep packaging it into the next device, like the phone that comes with e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and more. How many ways do we need to say hello, how are you, and what time will you be home for dinner?

When is technology enough and when is it too much?

Of course, we want and love choice—heck, we’re consumers to the core. Technology choice is like having the perfect outfit for every occasion; we like to have the “right” technology to reach out to others in a myriad of different ways for every occasion.

Should I send you an e-mail on Facebook or should I “poke” you or perhaps we should just chat? Or maybe I should just send you a Tweet or a “direct message” on Twitter? No, better yet, why don’t I send you a message on LinkedIn? Anyway, I could go on for about another three paragraphs at least on how I should/could contact you. Maybe I’ll hit you up on all of them at the same time and drive you a little nuts, or maybe I’ll vary the communications to appear oh so technically versatile and fashionable.

Yes, technology choice is a wonderful thing. But it comes at a price. First, all the communication mediums

start to become costly after a while. I can tell you from my cell phone bill that the cost of all these options— e-mail, texting, Internet, and so on—definitely starts to add up. And don’t forget all the devices that we have to schlep around on our belts (I have one cell phone on each side—it’s so cool, like a gunslinger from the Wild West), pockets, and bags—where did I leave that de- vice? Let’s not forget the energy consumption and eco- unfriendliness of all these gadgets and all the messy wires.

Additionally, from a time-is-precious perspective, consider the time sinkhole we have dug for ourselves by trying to maintain a presence on all of these devices and social networking sites. How many hours have we spent trying to keep up and check them all (I’m not sure I can fully remember all my e-mail accounts anymore)? And if you don’t have single sign-on, then all the more hassle— by the way, where did I hide my list of passwords?

Next out of the gate is unified communications. Let’s interoperate all those voice mail accounts, e-mail ac- counts, IM, presence, and social media communications. Not only will your phone numbers ring to one master, but also your phone will transcribe your voice mails— i.e., you can read your voice mail. Conversely, you can listen to your e-mail with text-to-speech capability. We can run voice-over-IP to cut the traditional phone bill and speed up communications, and we can share nonreal-time communications such as e-mail and voice mail with real-time communication systems like our phone.

So, we continue to integrate different communication mediums, but still are not coalescing around a basic device. I believe the “communicator” on Star-Trek was a single device to get to someone on the Enterprise or on the planet surface with just the tap of a finger. Perhaps, our reality will some day be simpler and more efficient, too. When we tire of playing with our oodles of technology “toys” and signing up for myriad user accounts, we will choose eloquence and simplicity over disjointed—or even unified—communications.

As the founder of User-centric Enterprise Architecture, my vision is to have one communicator (“1C”) device, period. 1C is an intelligent device. “Contact John,” okay—no phone number to dial and no e-mail to address. 1C knows who John is, how to reach him, the best way to contact him, and if he is available (“present”) at the moment or not. 1C can take a message, leave a message, or communicate in any way (voice, text, video, virtual) that an individual prefers and that is appropriate for each portion of a particular communication to ensure that the communication intended is the communication received. 1C is not limited to a one-on-one communications, but is open to conferencing—as needed. Mention the need for Cindy to be in on the communication and instantaneously, Cindy is on and then off again. 1C is ubiquitous in time and space—I can send you a communication to arrive now or next week, when you’re here or there, when you’re in country or out, in a car, on a flight, on a ship, or underwater—it doesn’t matter. Like telepathy, the communication reaches you effortlessly. And, of course, 1C translates languages, dialects, acronyms, or concepts, as needed—truly it’s a “universal communicator.”

The closest we’ve come so far is probably the Apple iPhone, but with some 50,000 apps and counting, it is again too focused on the application or technology to be used, rather than on the user and the need.

In the end, it’s not how many devices or how many accounts or how many mediums we have to communicate with, but it is the communication itself that must be the focus. The 1C of the future is an enabler for the communication—anytime, anywhere, the right information to the right people. The how shouldn’t be a concern for the user, only the what.


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