OK, so here’s my venture altruist idea for today, a community recipe site where people upvote or downvote their changes to the recipe, one ingredient at a time. Think Wikipedia for recipes!
One of the Venture Altruist ideas in Accelerando by Charles Stross is a Reputation Sharemarket. This is a great idea, and something I’d like to see in place. Imagine all the people around you having a reputation share value, or score. The higher the reputation, the more likely this person is a good person to deal with. And because this information is public, there’s an automatic feedback mechanism for people to increase their reputation, by doing good deeds. Eventually, it will be difficult to deal with people with poor reputations, giving those people an incentive to become more reputable.
So Virgin Australia and a lot of other low cost airlines allow you to rent an entertainment device for your flight. This is in contrast to say Air New Zealand which has in seat entertainment. This opens up low cost airlines to competition from a company at an airport that would rent iPads or other entertainment devices for a nominal fee, and then have them returned at the other airport, say the Auckland to Sydney route.
This is a business opportunity for someone interested in loading an iPad full of fun games and content, charging people a nominal fee to rent it, say $20 NZD for three hours. You could get $60NZD a day, or $21,900 a year (365 days a year). Break even would be @ 40 flights, or two weeks.
I want to be a Venture Altruist. If you don’t know what they are, it’s someone who goes around providing improvements to people, companies, organisations, making everyone else rich, for no fee. In return, I build social capital, which I can then spend on helping more people become rich for free.
Why? Because I’m an ideas guy, not an implementation guy. Other people can implement, they can have the riches of their success. But I love to look at a problem, and show people how to fix that.
I’m going to add blog post every now and then with good ideas about a forced topic, and today it’s conference rooms.
First I’ve noticed is making sure that the projector screen is sufficiently dark. Maybe lights could be closer to people in terms of where there heads are so light doesn’t spill out and affect the projector.
I think when something is projected onto a screen, the area of attention is minor, and a lot on the screen is just wasted real estate on context. So if we focus on just the interesting part of the screen and zoom in on that, then people with poor eyesight can see what’s happening.
I think presentations that go over an hour should be broken up. No one can concentrate for that long. Maybe 25 minutes and then a five minute break, enforced by a health and safety policy. I wonder whether it would be more productive.
I’ve been thinking a bit about good methods to help the business (referred to as anyone that’s not IT) drive IT projects.
So far the method I’ve observed goes along the lines of:
1. Define the problem. Sounds like an obvious step, but in IT we’re all too keen to jump to solutions. A problem isn’t that we need an ERP or a CRM system, any more than not having a hamburger is a problem. The real problem is you’re hungry. Or for the first two examples, you want to manage the resources of an organisation efficiently, or you want to track all your interactions with your customers across multiple communication channels and plan marketing campaigns.
With the problem defined we can move on to…
2. Goals. Goals are visionary statements that frame any potential solution. Think of them as solution boundaries, where the solution must sit inside. A solution scope I guess. One could be more concise information for managers. These goals are intangible and immeasurable in the sense that it’s difficult to know if you’ve achieved them, but without them your solution might not fit into the strategic direction of the enterprise. No point coming up with a mobile solution if there’s no need for it.
3. Business objectives. These are finite measurable objectives that sum up how we know the problem has been solved in concrete terms. 100% of senior management reports come from the data warehouse. Customers will be able to purchase items from mobile devices. All absolutely measurable. No ambiguity, not for the business who can say that these objectives if met will meet the current needs of the business, nor for IT and the vendors who have no wriggle room in terms of what they’re delivering at the other side. As you can see, scope at this point if already defined, and while things could change within the boundary, if work doesn’t directly support the solving of the objective then it shouldn’t be in the project.
4. Functional use cases. The creation of these further tighten your scope and clarify exactly how people, process, and technology will change to meet the business objectives. Simple use case diagrams are great for communicating with the business the functions and processes within the solution, and we haven’t even talked any technology yet. After all, the solution could be solved by just a process change. Once all the functional use cases required to meet the business objective have been agreed to by the business, the scope is effectively defined. Then these use cases in the diagram can each be turned into fully dressed use cases with the standard process, exceptions, inputs and outputs, and all information a good use case should have. An example could be Load Information or Create Campaign.
5. Business requirements. With our functionality defined and processes sorted, we can think about what technological requirements are required to achieve the use cases. Creating a campaign will require software that has the ability to create a campaign. But we’re not focusing on a specific technology, and so the business requirements must be technology agnostic, and not just written as a laundry list of features of a particular software suite you have in mind. Because that would still be jumping to a solution ahead of time.
6. Solutions architecture. This really defines the non functional requirements of the solution, and is likely to start formulating a solution to meet the objectives. This would include aspects of solution analysis and design, and takes in the input of business requirements and comes up with a solution design. Sure some of the implementation gaps may not be filed, but by this point in time a solution had now been defined and can be traced all the way back to the problem.
From here there’s the normal software implementation life cycle, including change and release management procedures. By following this process we can ensure that we’re solving business problems in a clearly defined traceable manner that the business can understand and accept.
We’ve all seem glimpses of Japanese culture, such as t-shirts with obscure Japanese characters, or visited the couple of Japanese shops in Auckland. But did you know that you can find heaps of unique Japanese items available to buy online? Let’s check out a few.
Paper napkins. We’ve all seen them, we go through them, and then we buy some more. Well how about cloth napkins? That’s right, they’re reusable cloth napkins, good for about five year’s worth of use. And it’s not the same as just any old cloth, it’s got funky patterns, and then special absorbing material on the inside. And sure, while they’re nearly $32 NZD, that’s less than ten packs of the paper napkins, which is less than a year’s use. So if you’re big on saving the environment, these are the thing.
Or, what about Eucalyptus towels. OK, a bit weird, only really heard of cotton being used to make towels. But if you think about it, it makes sense, Eucalyptus is made of fibre, just like cotton, and you could process that fibre into a fabric that you use. Why you’d want to is a bit the same as why you’d want to eat Manuka Honey or use Bamboo Chopping Boards – the reduction of bad things getting near your body. In this case, the towels reduce the amount of bacteria that can hang out on the towel. Pretty good idea, and only $25 NZD.
And where would you be without a Japanese-style face mask. Probably outside of Japan to be honest. Everyone in Japan wears these masks, and not just to stop the infectious air of other people, but also as a courtesy to others to say “hey, I’m feeling a little under the weather, and I’d much rather you not catch this”. Not super stylish to be honest, but could be good if you deal with food or the like. 50 of them for $20 NZD isn’t bad at all.
Or if you’re a fan of spending money on quality goods, how about a $4200 NZD fountain pen? I think one of those items that are wholly unique and really only appreciated by a few. But I mean until now you’d have to go to Japan to get these goods, and now they’re all available online, one click, and done. So do check these items out, at the moment a bit of a deal is going on with cheap shipping at Rakuten to New Zealand.