Thursday, January 29, 2015

More Implications of Agility

How will agile development affect your calendar?

In the second and third installments of "what Agile means to the rest of us" posted originally on LinkedIn Tom and I discuss new behaviors you should expect to notice when working with an Agile team.

A new set of questions will emerge and they focus on the business value that a project delivers. The discussion is all about outcomes, not how things are accomplished. This is done to set the right priorities. Gone are the days where available resources defined priorities -- "we can't do that because we don't have {fill in here}, but we can do this because we have {fill in here}."

The only way in business to hit a target is to course adjust - frequently. Agile projects are dynamic and the team adapts as we figure things out. So, clear your calendar and expect to meet frequently.

The new normal

Search Trends, Football and Campaign Measurement

What does football tell us about how to measure campaigns?

A recent installment of Think with Google had a topical piece on football.  In it is the following chart showing the trends in "American Football" broken out by the terms that the search contained: What, Who, When, Where, and Why.

The annual spike is the playoff season.
American Football Searches: What, Who, When, Where and Why

Besides the obvious point that people look more for facts than explanations there appears to be something else.

Episodic events create step changes and the pattern is cumulative.

The latter is somewhat related to the network effect, but with Internet penetration probably close to saturation or at least hitting the second flat slope of growth one might not expect the same growth for the next five years.

What I do find interesting is that the level doesn't go back to status quo ante kickoff, there appear to be slight residual effects.

The marketing implication is two-fold. First, if you want 'superbowl' like results you need to create momentum thru repeated episodes. Second, the window of time in which you measure the success of a campaign should be broken into at least three parts: Pre-Campaign, In-Campaign and Post-Campaign.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Agile for the Rest of Us

What does it mean to be agile?

A friend of mine who has a lot of experience delivering software products based on Agile Development recently asked me about the training course he's developed. I thought it was a perfect setting to explain what the implications of Agile are to the rest of the organization.  If IT is doing things totally different, then we probably should be changing our expectations as well.

The first of several posts appeared on LinkedIN earlier.  The meat of the matter are five behaviors and their impact.
  1. Business Value Focus - we need to focus on the what, not the how
  2. Dynamic and Adaptive - we won't have a Gantt Chart on the wall, we'll be moving things around
  3. Collaboration and Feedback - we can't just attend the kickoff meeting; we're embedded resources
  4. Transparency - that wall in #2 is public for all to see
  5. Continuous Improvement - we're not shooting for the moon in one step, but taking small steps to learn from
Each or subsequent posts will expand on the five changes above.
If you're interested, Tom Abshire can be found over on LinkedIn or on the AgileFluent site.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Step 1 in Generating Insights: Grab a Marshmallow

How should we approach developing insights?

The typical path to insights is lined with roadblocks of making sure the anticipated results are scaleable, generalizable and solid enough to base a business on. We typically don't go looking until we're sure that what we find is usable and workable. To be honest, we're handcuffing ourselves; maybe there is another path.

In The Marshmallow Challenge kindergartners routinely trounce MBA's at building the tallest structure possible out of spaghetti, tape and string because they do rather than plan.

From: source
Because they aren't riddled with fear of failure, they just try lots of approaches. In 18 minutes they cycle through ideas, learning along the way. In the meantime MBA students, and executives, are planning, allocating resources, and probably doing a bit of posturing to be seen as successful. By the time 'the experts' finally get to the objective, they've run out of time and have to bet the ranch on one tact. The results are predictable.

The rapid iteration of 'test and learn' needs to be applied more often in insights development..this can be in terms of thought exercises "How might it be different?" or allocating budget to learn rather than sell.

Insights are things you don't know you need to know, so how can they be judged a priori?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Touch Points and the Illusionary Path-to-Purchase

How do consumers end up where they do?

We try to understand the path-to-purchase by stitching together data from various touch points and appending them to an artificial identifier meant to represent a consumer.

I'm not sure if it is a love relationship or a hate relationship with technology, but marketers use a variety of data-related tools to connect with consumers and figure out how they came to buy. According to recent Winterberry research on "Marketing Data Technology" (registration required) firms use 12+ different tools on average in the course of marketing. And with that many tools attempting to measure the influence of marketing on behavior something is likely to be amiss.

At a recent conference on data and analytics John Pestana of ObservePoint illustrated the complexity of all this by listing the tags or the scripts on a single web sites that log consumer behavior.

This major media/news site had:
  • 18 applications
  • 29 tags
  • 124 variables
His question: What are the odds that something is broken? Like finding correlations in Big Data, it is pretty much guaranteed. Breaks or discontinuities in data capture mean we have to guess about what happens in between what we can observe. It is worse if different definitions are used for the same event. We've all been in meetings where the sole purpose was to agree on who had the right numbers, when we should be talking about how to help consumers choose our products and services.

The biggest issue is not the quality of the data we do collect, but rather the fact that we're missing all manner of influences and behaviors. Integrating our touch points does not come close to providing a 360-degree view of the consumer.

Maybe we should ask a different question: What if we captured the path first?

Since we're likely to sleep with smartphones no reason we can't imagine passively capturing our path and then overlay marketing on that. Sure there are challenges - permission, revolving MAC address, proximity, etc. But nothing a panel couldn't solve.

I'd rather have gaps in marketing than blind spots on the path.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Great Combination of Brand, Positioning and Packaging

What happens when it all comes together?

Some times you just smile.

The Millennial Skills Gap

Why don't the best and brightest work here?

This story is based on conversations around a panel discussion at the Utah State of Data, an event discussing the impact of data on education, finance, employment, government, and technology. While localized to Salt Lake City there are some general ideas about positioning and differentiation of a specific market.

Salt Lake City's biggest differentiator is the outdoors. "Life Elevated" is often aligned to what one can do within 20 minutes of downtown. We also have infrastructure - the NSA data center is here so the pipes got to be big, a hospital system that services 10 states and thus unique service delivery needs, and a work force with a decent ethos of helping rather than competing.

But it appears we cannot attract and retain the best and brightest young technologists. The logic woven from several conversations goes like this:
  • A career is nothing more than a series of interesting projects and changing jobs to do something new different is common in strong tech markets (a year at Facebook, two at Twitter, a startup and then a new product launch and sabbatical at Google). Interns brought here don't convert because there aren't enough big cool things going on like the Bay, Seattle, Boston, Austin, etc.
  • Job hopping creates a rapid rise in salaries for high-demand skills, and not only in technology, as companies compete for scarce resources with great credentials. Within a market it is business-as-normal, but across cities it makes "market-competitive compensation" surveys from your HR team irrelevant. If I'm willing to move, then the market is the country not your locale.
  • SLC is not a "Friends" city where millennials conduct life 24*7 in coffee shops and other urban venues. We'll be lucky if we get to 18*6.  So, even if we get the best there isn't a lifestyle typically associated with high energy folks.
  • We are good for families so we can attract and retain those wanting to settle down a bit, i.e., those in their 30's or 40's. They have experience.
  • At that stage of our lives job hopping isn't viewed as a means of defining oneself. And without movement, salaries don't rise based on intense competition.
  • If salaries aren't competitive we can't attract the talent we desire.  
And the circle begins again.

It would seem we're caught between our aspirations "Silicon Slopes is next Silicon Valley" - but based on deal flow funding so can Saint Louis, Munich, Seoul and Cincinnati (Beijing tops the list in terms of number of deals.)

So what kinds of companies should we create when the workforce is a) experienced and b) content? Rather than core game changing technologies, are there other classes of things we should focus on rather than the "next Google" (and good luck with that anywhere.) 
  • Can we rent company founders and focus on later stages of the evolution requiring experienced management?
  • Can we blend technology, the willingness to help and experience to solve human needs?
  • Can we take what is unique and different and position ourselves better?