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Dogfooding software products

Here is the old story of Principia Mathematica written by Newton, when he was responding to a question by Halley about planetary orbits,  he only responded that he had calculated it mathematically and are always elliptical and had also lost the proof. But he promised to Halley he will reproduce the proof and goes into one of his famous 2 years retirement to write the entire Principia . It does not end there, like right now, Royal Society as publishers of books were in tough times, refused to publish Principia on financial grounds, and even when Halley was personally sponsoring the printing, the society itself was actually paying part for Halley’s employment with one of its previous unsuccessful commercial books called “History of Fishes“.

It was custom (as Bill Bryson puts it) that Newton never really got paid anything nor did he sponsor any money to get his book published, if someone else was interested, onus is theirs, in this case unfortunately Halley. And the society gave a raw deal by giving away copies of unsold books.

Payment in bad products

History of Fishes

Now the diametrically opposite context.

In a team built software product

1. there is no one single owner for idea / product

2. there is no individual revenue possibility or expense for the team

3. get paid anyways for whatever be the product or its quality or the purpose

That in my opinion is a bad recipe for quality. So here is the idea, “dogfood” the product i.e. every product team will need to find a market on its own for the developed product internal/external. And part of the revenue is directly shared. There are of course different model possibilities and I will go with the easiest and justifiable.

Elements of this model as I see it in my own warped way

1. Paying in product licenses

If the product that is being built is so good, can you please agree to take part of your regular salary as product license, and depending on everyone’s contribution, we will split the numbers only up to a certain limit, and then it will simply become a long tail % fixed, say after expiry of warranty on first release.

2. Order of license sale and revenues.

With a deep hierarchy in development, I believe the developers and architects’ license go first for sale, then the scrum masters or delivery managers, and then the higher levels of management later. Revenue sharing is truly from what was built for either direct effort or supervisory.

3. Expenses for such sale

This is a tricky area as most marketing functions are centralized and of course larger branding expenses at company level. So un-bundled marketing services should be costed accordingly, such as running an ad words campaign on Google, buying sponsored posts on linked in, or event/networking costs.

If it does not sell, then only the license part of your salary will get affected, and life goes on as developers find meaningful opportunities with real revenue possibilities to work on.

In a way a market gets created internally for projects/products to work on, and there is definitely a chance to design your career from inside by being open to trying and learning. I guess the same thing can also be done for a service, but a little more complicated.

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Evolution and speed measures for innovation

I keep hearing “becoming more nimble“, “quickly responding to customer needs with ideas”, “rapid prototyping” that inherently speak of a speed metaphor in innovation. But what if we were proceeding in the wrong direction but very fast. An independent speed measure without looking at the evolution direction is meaningless and risky from an investment perspective. Very similar to running a project that is on time, under budget but for the wrong requirements.

It would be useful to look at the evolution within a space as ideas get developed using different methods.

For speed of course the measures will have some form of time in the denominator like

  1. Ideas per month per area
  2. Prototypes completed per month per technology
  3. Investments per year per portfolio

These can be plotted easily for comparison of speed across a time frame.

But what about the direction, here I feel directly tying business alignment on longer term goals and strategy comes in. A simple evolution potential is a web plot touching multiple different evolution directions usually within a single portfolio or in some cases many portfolio. It is a relative figure that gets plotted across the dimensions comparing against the maximum possible limit or an ideality (usually a scientific limit, like speed of light,  mobile internet reach, maximum load etc or the Ideal Final result we talk in TRIZ). All the axes are equidistant and same scale as the values are normalized as below

Normalized plot value ={Actual value – minimum need} / {Maximum/Ideal value – minimum need}

For example dimensions of a CRM system evolution you may have

  1. Communication / engagement frequency
  2. Revenue per sales staff
  3. % sales from new technology / service
  4. customer service satisfaction index

each round of innovation around maximizing these dimensions will be tracked on a single plot like below, giving you a sense of progress from those ideas. (Try and imagine what your head of sales told in last quarter analyst meeting on any of the metrics)

EvolutionPotential (2)

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Sample Innovation Services

What I wrote last week is true of any service, not just innovation service. So I just re framed what I have encountered as innovation services as a list below. Obviously words like facilitation or workshops is missing, but I am sure you will get the drift.

· Idea Generation

o Large number of ideas to choose, merge and conceptualize

o Usable, realistic, futuristic concepts

o Simple situated methods for practice

· Rapid Prototyping

o Demonstrating ideas

o Cost estimates for concepts/ideas

· Consulting

o Process set up

o Leadership mentoring and coaching

· Probe

o Ongoing measurement of outcomes and action impact

o Survey design

· Intrapreneurship Program Management or may be managing internal venture funds

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So you are offering Innovation as a Service

What we talk of services, when we talk of services differs from person to person. When you talk of Innovation as a service here is what I am looking for

1. About your service and the service terms

2. Team that delivers this service, preferably with photos of real people and their profiles

3. Contact details of a non-sales support person and his role

4. Follow options from a mutually convenient place say Facebook, twitter, blogs if any

5. Best and Worst customer story so far

Let me also add, I am NOT looking for a brochure with platitudes around the concept of innovation and why it is important for my organization or about another innovation management tool or technique.

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Life of an Idea not Lifecycle

For reasons that are, probably historic lifecycle has become a word without life (a dead process), may be my earlier life in IBM did this to me, without my being aware of it.

For ideas we don’t need a system to support the innovation lifecycle or other point of no returns, we need warm bodies that will breathe life into ideas.

Life comes with indicators like ‘react and sustain’, ‘grow’, ‘respond to stimuli’, ‘reproduce’, and all the rest of life’s richness, not a status and a workflow.

Think twice if you are in innovation management before you get on a new assignment to consolidate idea platforms or building governance around innovation or making innovation social with your organization.

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