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Corporate communication is now social

WebCongress Barcelona logoDoes your company have a Corporate Social Network? If not, everything points to it having one within less than 5 years (in the worst of cases).  From my perspective as Executive Management at Zyncro and my expertise in this market, I anticipate that the majority of companies will create their own internal Social Networks during the next two years.

If you want to know how the social networks are going to touch all aspects of business relationships, tomorrow you have a good opportunity to hear me speak at the Web Congress Barcelona (Teatro Coliseum from 10:00am to 10:30am)

If you have not already done so, you can register here.

For more info, here is the morning programme:

How is good software designed?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

one-man bandThis could be another controversial article but let it be known that I write it with all the love of someone who started his career as a programmer.

The software industry looks more and more each day like that of architecture. Allow me to explain.

Nowadays success in the development of any kind of software is attributed neither to the actual programming of it, nor the number of functions but moreover to much more important factors like the ease of use and its design.

The most well known that intervene with the ease of use is that of usability. This determines if the product is easy to use, intuitive and whether or not it allows you to get to any function with the least amount of clicks.  The other and lesser known (usually forgotten) is the editorial or copy.  We can call it “legibility“.  The texts of many products are edited by the programmers themselves and the results are a disastrous: screens that cannot be understood, error messages with undecipherable code and help as complicated to follow the Da Vinci Code.

One of the most obvious examples of brutal failure due the fact that the engineers design the product is Nokia.  The up until recently, leader of mobile manufacturing did not know how to rapidly adapt itself to the smartphones market.  In my opinion, the hidden reason was the engineering team’s arrogance that thought they could do things faster and better.  Their competitors on the contrary to Nokia, prioritised the ease of use and the design alongside the number of functions.  Bear in mind that the iphone, “star” of the moment, is still an inferior telephone to that of Nokia on a technical level.

At the other extreme, we have Windows MobileMicrosoft served up the mobile version of the same unstable, non-robust software we are all used to, and that on mobile is unforgiveable.  How many of you abandoned Windows Mobile because it kept crashing?  And let us not forget, the marvellous Blackberry keypad.  Didac is a big fan…

There are many more examples of software.  The Open Source world has hundreds of them and they are the most popular amongst specialised technical profiles.  Open Source on the other hand, is still out of reach from the mainstream segment as it is too complicated to install and use.

A year within brackets on the subject.  Open Source as a business software model (for the creation of itself) does not exist. At soon as things begin to work economically, Open Source will cease.  In the majority of cases it has turned into what we call a Fremium/Premium model in which the Open Source version, correctly named (free) has limitations and the robust and functional one is to be purchased.

As I was saying, Open Source in general is very difficult to use for non technical users.  It is usually software full of configurable options that the majority of human beings do not understand.   And this said by a fan of various Open Source applications.

So, from my point of view, the new successful software industry is based on the following premise:

  • Ease of use
  • Attractive design
  • Easy to understand copy content
  • Killer Features ( = super attractive functionality for users that can only be found in some specific software, the keypad and management of Blackberry’s  e-mail push was the key to success a years back) vs. thousands of functions.

Now I go back to my original statement, how does the software industry compare to that of architecture?

Good architects’ projects do not only contain a strong technical component but they are also characterised by a differentiated creativity from a visual and conceptual point of view.   This is more applicable to software all the time.  We do not want “ugly” software anymore, we want it to be visually attractive.  Maybe we owe this to the great Jobs.

Usability is the key.  The same is applicable in the field of architecture.  Now in this field, designers, interiorists and even in some cases ergonomists intervene.

So then, for software we need: good designers, usability specialists and above all “writers”. Why don’t we incorporate philologists and journalists into software companies?

And last but not least, we have the programmers.  At the MWC, an important director of a well known American software company said to me, “programmers are the blue collar workers of the 21st century” (programmers are the equivalent of manufacturing line operators of the 21st century) .  If I was a programmer nowadays, I would interest myself in usability, the design and information security, faced with the risk of going down in the production line and being confined to a country where the price of my work is much less.

In summary, the new software industry is based on parameters of success that go far beyond programming and the number of functions.  The key is:

  • Visual attractiveness. Human beings make many decisions visually.
  • Intuitive usability.  Watch how a child learns to use an iphone.
  • Good functions and some absolutely killer ones.
  • Easy to integrate with other software that I like to use.

Most definitely, the term multidisciplinary collaboration within the software industry makes more sense each day and unless the programmer is capable of becoming a one man band, it will be better that he surrounds himself with a diverse team.  Is it because I work at Zyncro that I am always thinking about collaboration?

The Software as a Service (SaaS) Revolution: adapt to it or die

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I have been going over the editorial of this post for a long time.  The other day, during a dinner with diverse managing directors that are of the same opinion as myself, I got the push I needed to start writing.

This may be a controversial article… Because I truly believe that this great change will sweep away those professionals who do not know how to adapt themselves.

We find ourselves in a totally historic moment in information technology management. Nowadays SMEs all over the world have within their reach, as powerful information systems in SaaS mode as much larger companies.

SaaS does not only facilitate software implementation in a faster and less costly manner, it also allows the price quota to be adapted to the size of the company.

The facts:

Today a company can be set up on:

And all of this in a week.  Trust me.

The opposition:

Nonetheless, there are three great oppositions for these types of solution:

  • Large consultancies that see their profit margins reduced by much faster and less costly initiatives.
  • IT directors that defend their position of power maintaining inflexible, non-adaptable customized systems.
  • Software licensing manufacturers that feel adopting this format could ruin their account of results at not being able to charge for the software cost in advance rather than over a period of years.

I am not criticising anyone, each must defend their own business.

The arguments for and against:

  • Lack of security: in general, SaaS solutions have a much higher level of security than made to measure solutions.  How much made to measure software is programmed with security requirements or passes an audit?
  • The service level agreement SLA (also called availability, typically more than 99.nn% which is the service level of serious SaaS companies) is much higher than the majority of IT departments in many companies.  How many companies offer 24/7 support?  How many demand an SLA from their internal IT department?

The winners:

  • 2.0 IT directors, let us say those who truly consider themselves a department that should provide a service and improve competitiveness of the company.  Simply by verifying security, the SLA and overall the correct administration of this, they can add value to their company in record time.
  • IT departments within large companies that can implement IT systems in a short space of time without the usual IT resource restrictions and within their budget departments.
  • And overall, the SMEs that have the power of a (SaaS) System at reach with an infinite number of easy to install and use applications and tools.

In summary:

  • SaaS applicaitons can drastically improve company productivity.
  • They can be applied to companies of all sizes but are especially useful for SMEs and departments in large businesses as they can benefit from a fast implementation and the costs adapted to its size.

We face a revolution that will take a great proportion of the software we use (not all of it) to the cloud, opponents may create more or less barriers.  But the change has begun in small businesses and is starting in the large. In accordance with this new paradigm, Zyncro is a solution.

Zyncro stories: are you an e-mail addict?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A few days ago, I mentioned that Joe Zyncro was overloaded, he was receiving over 300 e-mails a day and however efficient he wanted to be, he just could not manage them all.  Even my partner was complaining that I was stuck to my Blackberry all day.  (Even then I was not able to answer everything…).

Joe made me reflect upon the following:

First let us carry out a self diagnosis:

1.  Be honest with yourself and ask yourself, are you really an e-mail addict? Some symptoms:

a) Do you constantly check your mobile to see if you have received a message? (Blackberry, inventor of the push email is much to blame for this).

b) Do you stop writing a document or presentation to check if you have received any new e-mails?

c) Do you reply to e-mails more than 10 times a day? (Count them).

d)  When you hear “ding”, do you run to check your phone and/or computer in order to see who has written to you?

If you answer “yes” to the three questions, you have serious e-mail addition symptoms.  This addiction could affect your personal relationship.  Has anyone ever said to you; “Could you please leave your phone alone and listen to me?”

2. “I receive hundreds of e-mail everyday!” Some key questions:

a) How many of them are actually about work?

b)  How many of them are a call for action? In other words, how many are requesting that you carry out a task?

c)  How many are exclusively aimed at you?

d)  How many do you delete without reading?

e)  How many are subscriptions?

Some advice for managing your e-mail and improving your productivity:

a) Break e-mail addiction.  You can answer when you decide, not when you receive it.  How is this done?  Setting aside planned time for answering e-mails every day.  This can be when you want and as many times as you want within reason.  But it must allow you time to concentrate on other tasks, meetings, writing documents, calls, your partner, your children… you can apply this to other activities, Jack Welch calls this working in compartmental blocks.

b) Do all collaborative activities require an e-mail?  The answer is NO.  Tools such as Zyncro allow you to reduce the number of e-mails you receive by between 20% and 40% and still be informed about topics because on a daily basis you will be able to read and answer about project XYZ on the microblogging. You will follow the project closely and read much more effectively by concentrating on just one topic.

c) Limit the amount of subscriptions (including those from Zyncro) or create automatic rules so that the bulletins and information do not go straight into your inbox.

d) I imagine you have an antispam system such as Spamina. If you do not, I strongly recommend one.

e)  Go back and review point c) once again.  How many Zyncro work groups have you subscribed to?  Reconsider them, there are probably some groups that are not necessary.  Also, what newsletters are you still receiving in your inbox?  That many?!  I am sure these could be reduced.

Applying these actions in a systematic manner, I have improved my daily productivity superbly.

Each day, more companies think about reducing the e-mail volumes they receive, below are some examples:

Atos Origin sets out its ambition to be a zero email company within three years

About information overload (Spanish)

How to Survive Information Overload

“Employees average 20 hours a week managing 350 emails. This costs an average business of 50,000 an estimated US $1 billion every year.” (Harvard 2008 Study)

Zyncro’s new office

We have a new office in Barcelona, a marvellous loft which we are sharing with Inspirit.  It used to be the office of a well known architect so the décor is cutting edge.  The patio walls include Mariscal frescoes.  The truth is that it is an inspiring place to come and work.

Well, a picture is worth more than a thousand words so we have put them into photos;

Launch Didac Lee & Luis Font:

The building:

The stairwell, including Javier Mariscal mural:

The ‘Loft’:

The meeting room:

Joe Zyncro, the new Zyncro recruit

Meet Joe Zyncro, the new member of the team.  Joe is a multicultural person, very international, let us explain…

Born in San Jose, the epicenter of California’s Silicon Valley, Italian father, North American mother of German descent.  Joe has travelled extensively since he was young.  His father was an ambassador and his mother, a well known artist whose name we shall not mention (she has works of art even at the MOMA).  He has grown up in a cosmopolitan and creative environment, in modern cities such as Tokyo, Paris and Buenos Aires.

Since he was a child, he was always passionate about technology so he decided to study IT at Stanford.  But his true vocation is people, in which he chose to specialize by obtaining a Masters in Organisational Psychology at Complutense in Madrid.

Despite a childhood full or travel and glamour, Joe is a well-natured and friendly person.  His parents knew how to teach him values such as simplicity, honesty and effort in his work.

Joe’s speciality is to identify new collaboration formulas among people inside and outside organisations.  As the brand’s ambassador, Joe will be in charge of portraying how Zyncro can help companies work in a more cooperative and integrated manner.

Joe knows that having good technology is not enough.  We human beings need training, motivation, entertainment and overall, inspiration to change the work habits we have gained in order to improve on a personal and professional basis day by day.

Having one way of working is not altogether bad.  What is more, now outdated methods were at the time, the most productive way of working.  What would have happened in the 60’s without the typewriter when personal computers and text editors did not exist?  Nowadays the same thing is happening but at a much faster pace.  At the speed at which technology is advancing and good working practice can become obsolete relatively easily.  Zyncro wants to be an upto date and dynamic solution for the needs of corporate communication.  Joe will be the ambassador of the revolution which means Zyncro for your company’s 2.0 communications.  He will help us from the technical point of view as well as overall, the human point of view.

 

Zyncro tales: The Lone Ranger, that colleague we all know

Estimated Reading time: 4 minutes

We all have a colleague at work who never contributes anything; his steps around the office are silent, discreet and more often verging on the anti-social.  In the case of technical skillsets, we often find ourselves with subtle variants called Asperger Syndrome, but when the work that needs doing is sales or customer service related and the colleague has no trouble communicating, we find ourselves facing a true genuine “Lone Ranger”.

Here is a case:

I usually have a good relationship with everybody in the office, including those that do not talk much.  I also refrain from making negative or sarcastic comments to anybody.  For this reason, that morning when I saw Juan with an awful look on his face I dared to ask.

— Excuse me Juan, are you feeling all right?  You usually look quite well and today, frankly you don’t look too good.

— I have been up for almost 48 hours in order to finish a report for a client, I’ve spent hours putting together information from the Internet, annual reports and all the databases I could possibly access.  But I finally did it, the market research is done.

— What market research? The one about the 5 cities?

— Yes

I raise my eyebrow, surprised.

— Didn’t you hear that a client asked for a report practically the same a couple of weeks ago, a team in Bilbao, Madrid, Seville, Gijon and Barcelona were working on it together?  The report they did is great, they even did a case study because the information on the usual channels was not up to date.   Everyone followed it and contributed a great deal, information from Valencia and Vigo was also added, it is all available on Zyncro.

There is a look of horror on Juan’s face as he takes his hands to his head.

— It cannot possibly be better than mine, I am the best at that, that’s why I don’t  share my work, everybody else always wants to copy me.  I’ve been the best consultant in the company for years and I’m not going to give my knowledge to everyone else, it is my most valuable asset.

— I’m sure you’re the best but lately the recent technologies are taking over from you, just look at the Zyncro documentation and let’s discuss it,

Half an hour later, Juan turned up at me desk looking sorry for himself.

— F***, you’re right, the report was definitely better, even the graphics were more attractive than mine.

— Well, you can still be in time to include what’s on Zyncro in your report.

— Yes but even with all those people working on it, there are still things in my analysis that are better!

— OK, so why don’t you share with everyone on Zyncro?

—  And what do I gain by that?

— You’ll be the person to convert a great job into something absolutely sensational, you’re the kind of person the company needs, and with your contribution we’ll be able to commercialize the study to hundreds of clients all over Spain.  It will be the best study the sector has done to date.

— This time you’ve convinced me about this Zyncro and the story about sharing.  But you aren’t turning me into a convert, I’ll use it if I think it will be useful.

After updating the report, Juan did not only receive congratulations from the client, but also from the CEO of the company as well as many colleagues who saw what he had done via Zyncro.  Since then, we have seen Juan being a lot more collaborative and active, above all on Zyncro where he can see recognition for his “guru” status within the company.