Thursday, August 7, 2014

Design Thinking and the blurring of Product Management and Marketing

An outstanding colleague of mine, +Scott Souder send me a link to a very fascinating article on design thinking:

As makers of technology we might also understand deeply that design is not just about how a product looks but how it works: components that enable people to use your product, and how it all fits together. All that cascades from your company’s strategy, values, and principles, and the scope of the problem you choose to tackle. All of that manifests itself in the design of the experiences you offer.

It's one of they design principles that is being used for a new IBM collaboration offering under development, one of the first from our new Design Thinking.

I've been thinking a lot more about design since IBM announced a major new initiative to re-infuse design thinking across the company. A company that had been known for outstanding design in the 60s (including in our real estate, just look at some of the gorgeous pictures of not just products but buildings on IBM's Instagram account) had sorta kinda de-emphasized some of those principles. It looks like we've happily rediscovered that.

I've been a fan of good design every since I saw an unbelievable retrospective of Japanese post-war consumer design in London way back in 1992. There are so many implications of design thinking it spins the mind. But one in particular that has surfaced for me personally is a very practical consideration.

With the rise of cloud, mobile and social computing, user expectations have been radically shifted by designs that favor lightweight, often single-purpose, apps that "play nicely with others" and "just work". That implies that the app is the experience, and the experience is the app. That further implies that the lines between product management (feature, function, traditional offering design) and marketing (communications to drive awareness, interest and consideration of the offering) are blurring -- very rapidly.

Product management has to take into account the entire purchase lifecycle because it's easier than ever to not just pick up a new app, but to drop it as well. On the marketing side, 70% of the purchase decision now happens outside of the brand's direct properties (its website, it's direct sellers). So the days of a clean, sharp handoff between the product experience (trial, purchase, use) and the marketing experience (learn, solve, compare) are, for all intents and purposes, gone.

The very relationship between product management and marketing is changing rapidly. I certainly don't have any answers yet as this is just starting to hit me, hard. But I'm very excited to see how the possibilities play out here.

How about you? If you're a marketer or product manager, is your experience similar? How are you dealing (or not dealing) with the shift?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Loss and reminders

It has been a very tumultuous few weeks. On the heels of the Apple + IBM Announcement (and the resulting post-announcement scramble), we're preparing for the major launches for the remainder of the rest of the year, with (of course) accelerated timetables and never quite as much money as one would like. The refrain of every corporate marketer, I'm sure.

Sadly, all of this was happening while a friend had a terrible meltdown, a harrowing relapse, and ultimately took his own life.  From the outside looking in, we all thought that while his situation was traumatic, it certainly didn't seem that bleak. But when you're looking at it from the inside the black hole, and can't see a way out, who knows what dark and dreadful place the mind goes. It was unexpected mainly because he was so full of life, or at least on the surface he seemed so.

This isn't a post about suicide, or recognizing its signs, or trying to understand it. It's more about in the midst of all the shenanigans we let modern life thrust upon us, the universe sends not so subtle reminders our way to stop, think, and remember that nothing is permanent. All our #firstworldproblems -- digital overload, self-indulgence to excess, minor annoyances writ large via social media -- pale when something like this happens. I'm old enough to know from repeated first-hand experience that you can NEVER say "thank you" and "I love you" and "how are you REALLY doing?". Ever. Never ever.

All the announcements and press releases and advertisements and social media posts and digital creative that we do. All the television shows and movies and videos we watch. All the status updates we read on our phones while we bump into things. Unless we're curing cancer, or finding better ways to feed the hungry, or deliver potable water to the approximately 2 BILLION people who don't have regular access to it, or finding ways to identify and treat mental illness, or any number of ways we can directly benefit people's most basic needs, then we ought to find every possible way to make every interaction we have the most meaningful, personal and pleasant engagement it can be, so at least we're doing SOMETHING for someone, not just ourselves. Even if we (especially because we)  aren't here for as long as we had hoped. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I don't care if the world knows my secrets

Hat tip to +Towleroad , a lovely new video from +Mary Lambert  of "Same Love" fame (another song I absolutely love).

As my mother used to say: "Don't do anything you could get blackmailed for.". To which I add my corollary, apparantly Mary's as well: "Unless you own it and go public with it."

Makes me think about Marketing in an increasingly transparent world. Instead of puffery and near unambiguous emphasis on the positive, what if we marketed our products warts and all?

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't share my own secret first. I use food as an emotional blanket, even though I know it really doesn't work. So tell me, what are YOUR secrets?

Monday, July 14, 2014

A company without email? (a followup: the death of 'the death of email')

A followup to my earlier post about what is hopefully the death of "the death of email". Two new analyst reports have come out recently that bolster my viewpoint that we're entering an time of quantum evolution of email. Instead of incremental improvements, we're seeing the rise of a complete rethinking of email in this new social, mobile, cloud world.

One recent report by Osterman Research, Evolving towards the next phase of email (free registration required), talks about the specific environment email needs to change into:

The conventional wisdom is that email is being replaced by social media and other, next generation communication and collaboration tools. The reality, however, is that email use continues to grow...Email will remain the dominant communications tool in the workplace, but it will evolve in a variety of ways toward completely transparent accessibility across all delivery modes and platforms, an embedded application experience that will enable users to work with applications in the context of the email experience, and greater integration of social capabilities within email.

Another report by Forrester, When mobile becomes the new face of social, may at first blush seem unrelated, as it is about social messaging apps for smartphones. But messaging is very similar to short-burst email (think Facebook Messages or Linkedin InMail), and their intersection with mobile, cloud, and social platform is very much related to the thesis that email itself is entering a next stage of evolution:

Messaging apps have the potential either to become digital platforms or to significantly enhance the power of current platforms because they so clearly deliver the three things that determine digital platform power: frequent interactions, emotional connection, and convenience. 
You can learn more how IBM is looking at addressing this quantum evolution with IBM Mail Next, at our July 23 webcast.

What do you think? Where do YOU see email headed?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A company without email? Hardly.

Its days like this when I love my work: the intersection of marketing and collaboration technology sometimes just hits all cylinders. Like today. An old story was brought back to life with a new story.

The old story: ever since the dawn of social networks -- whether consumer or commercial -- and more recently with the Enterprise 2.0 trend (one of those terms that seems to have disappeared from the lexicon, and replaced with Social Business or other terms), the death of email has been trumpeted over and over again.

That's the inevitable trend of things in this world of 24-hour, instantaneous news cycles:

  1. new thing hits the market
  2. revolution is in the air
  3. _____________ is dead! Long live _____________!
  4. New thing turns out to be not quite the solution everyone thought it would be
  5. New thing actually has real use cases completely different than what it was supposed to kill
  6. Old thing still quite alive and kicking, but not sexy anymore
  7. new thing hits the market / rinse / lather / repeat
The e-mail is dead meme resurfaced a couple of years ago with high profile instances like Atos' CEO making a bold claim to completely eliminate email from his workplace (how did that work out?).

I've been saying for quite some time that the stats don't bear this narrative out. The new story is that people are recognizing this again.

Mail is still by far the #1 used collaboration tool in business. It's use is actually GROWING, not shrinking. And now comes this timely little article in the Wall Street Journal (hardly the paragon of the cutting edge, and therefore a good barometer of the mass market). What's fascinating about the Wall Street Journal article is the description of what startups are actually doing. It's less about eliminating email and more about fast experiments on rethinking it for a more social, mobile, cloud-based world. They're just scratching the surface of how to rethink email.

Rethinking email is something IBM has been doing since introducing version 8.5 of it's venerable Notes and Domino franchise. 8.5 introduced deeper integration of social network profiles, microblogging and filesharing through its integrated sidebar applications. Version 9 took that concept a step further with in-mail embedded integration of pretty much any OpenSocial enabled content - status update streams, file and video previews, forms, heck, pretty much anything you could put an OpenSocial wrapper on.

And IBM continues that with an even bolder step coming later this year, IBM Mail Next. If you think of Notes 8.5 and 9 as variations on an existing theme, think of Mail Next as an entirely new movement. Hints of the email of old morph and merge in ways that Millenials in particular would appreciate and understand more:

  • not folders, but sets and fast and faceted search (like your favorite e-commerce site or search engine)
  • not first-in/first-out, but what's important to me right now
  • not an overfilled inbox-as-todo-list, but conversation threads that bob and weave with my workload and workday
  • not dumb, preset rules (can you really call those "smart folders"???) but rather built-in intelligence that learns from my own behavior to help me prioritize what I owe someone and what they owe me.
It's interesting as a marketer to be in a space where the new and the old are coming together in such a fascinating way. It's going to be a fun rest of 2014.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Living the No Assholes Rule at work and play

Coming out of a recent, great management class I took a few weeks ago at IBM, one of the many interesting tidbits was a recommendation to read The No Assholes Rule. Beyond the eye-catching title, the content is actually a short, witty yet data-filled analysis of why persistent jerks are so detrimental to workplace dynamics.

I have to say I'm pretty lucky. I haven't had to deal with a LOT of these folks in my career, though of course you can't help but run into them. I'm lucky as well that, even though most workplaces these days aren't ideal in a lot of ways, IBM is pretty asshole-free (at least in my space). And those that do exist are generally sidelined to a degree by their own douche-y behavior.

As I've been reading through it, I've also seen how the principles and data apply to pretty much any group dynamic. It (perhaps not) surprisingly validates the rules my dear friend John and I put together as some of the founding principles of Pacific Sound San Diego, our local a capella singing group. Who wants to spend any significant amount of time with a jerk, especially when you're not being paid to?

Life's too short to put up with assholes, especially putting up with it in yourself. How do you deal with those soul suckers in your work and play?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Leading an open worklife in the sharing economy

As I've written about earlier this week, the continued impact of mobile, social and cloud technologies on all areas of work are leading us to lead increasingly more open and positive work styles. A few recent experiences have reinforced how important this combined style is, and why it's an ongoing process of personal reinvention.

Last Christmas I had quite the argument with my family at the holiday dinner table. A willfully (reprehensibly?) obstructionist Republican party in the US Congress, a dictatorial Prime Minister in Canada and a retrograde, chauvenistic Premier (at the time) in Quebec, combined with clownish opposition in all three cases, led to cynical resignation.

Something clicked and I spoke out in anger. I argued that it's easy to use "politicians are corrupt and weak" as an excuse for inaction (complaining is not an action). We have to be active participants in our democracies and be the change we want to see, no matter how small our direct or indirect influence may be.

Part of the reason I was argumentative was exhaustion from my new ascension to the role of Marketing Programs Manager for IBM collaboration software and SaaS 9 earlier that fall.

Since then, it's been an even more challenging time for me, my team, my business unit, and even IBM as a whole. Those challenges, combined with my less-than-stellar ability to properly manage and prioritize those challenges, left me feeling tired, burned out, perhaps a little cynical. And, it turns out, perhaps a little hypocritical as well. For while I was excoriating my family at Christmas. I was slowly, but most assuredly, letting myself become cynical at work, complaining about the limits imposed on me rather than focusing on what I could do, either directly or through my considerable influence.

That lack of self-awareness clicked when I was in a new managers' class last week. I am responsible for my own choices, and that my words matter, and my attitude even more, and that I do have a span of not just control, but an even larger span of influence. All this is especially important now that I'm responsible for 11 fantastic, talented, hard-working people. I can become the manager I've always wanted to work for, but it would mean a lot less time spent doing and complaining, and a lot more time coaching and leading.

Also last week, I reconnected with a dear colleague of mine, Luis Suarez. We worked together when he was one of the top internet IBM advocates for a social approach to business. After 17 years at IBM (coincidentally how much time I've almost been here), he just left IBM to pursue his own path. (And so has Susan Emerick, I just found out, another colleague I've admired.) We just had a fantastic discussion over the phone yesterday, and hearing his recent change of life has given me hope that the open and positive workstyle is not just an ideal, but an increasingly viable way to succeed in this changing maketplace of ideas.

Being open and positive isn't easy. It's going to require a significant shift in our mindset. It's going to require us getting a lot more comfortable with uncertainty. But the benefits are going to be legendary, whether in creating true engagement in the mass market of the workforce (and not just in the rare employee or entrepreneur). The potential to me seems limitless.

What about you? How are social and mobile and cloud technologies changing how you are working today?