Hi, I am calling about the bill you sent me yesterday…

The reality of billing or why you just lost a customer.

Organizations that provide services send out bills. For the most part, people receive those bills and pay them. Some people do not pay bills, but this isn’t about people that willfully do things like that. This is about the bill you get in the mail.

First off, as someone that has been in the service industry for a long time, there are some things I know about customer service. I know, that when I am working with a customer, I always make sure they understand the concept of the bill that is coming. I always take the time to explain hours, charges and so on. Why? It is the right thing to do.

When you get a bill you are expecting, and the explanation is well, at best vague, and the bill is for a lot more than you were expecting what do you do? I know the first thought I have is that it is a mistake. So I call the company, doctor or organization that sent the bill.

That by the way usually doesn’t work. So I learned a valuable lesson. Send a letter. Letters force the company, doctor or agency to respond to you directly. You don’t get sent to a generic web site where you search for an hour looking for the codes. By the way, if, it wasn’t easy to send a user a specific address with accurate information I wouldn’t care. But it takes less time than answering my letter does. I can send you an email with a code. When you enter that code in the web site (after creating an account with a secure password) I can provide you with all the information you need. But nobody does that, they just blindly send out bills.

In the best sense of customer service, I find it funny that no one does that. I know for example that there are any number of reasons why not. The foremost is that no one has thought through the impact of the bill and the utter lack of information that bill contains.

Now all of this is so easily fixed it is sad.

1. I send you a code, specific to you.

2. You then are taken to a website and log in (securely) your bill is there. You can then click on the bill and the website will explain each part of the bill to you.

This isn’t the computational excess that the computers of NASA had to do in the 1960’s (based on the movie Hidden Figures, they did some amazing math by hand!). I get that bills haven’t changed in a long time. I truly understand the reality of bills. I work very hard to reduce the number of bills coming into my home each month. The more bills I get rid of, the less time I spend figuring bills out.

But, some responsibility lies with the organization sending the bill in the first place. The technology above really isn’t hard to send out, setup or even deliver. For those customer’s that don’t have computers, you can provide them with more detailed billing information. Frankly, the reality of billing is the lack of information forces me not to pay right away, look at the bill and evaluate if I am going to pay the full amount of some portion and send along a letter asking the billing organization what is going on.

Look I am someone that knows it isn’t that hard to set up an information system to help your customers through the billing process. I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the number of customer service people that could build such a system is enormous. I know that I have stopped going to various doctors over the years because of billing issues. You send me a bill that I can see is clearly wrong, or worse one that needs to be resubmitted to my insurance, and you don’t automatically do it? That means you just lost a customer. If you have the tech and you choose to not use it, shame on you!

How much is one customer worth?

.doc

Technologist!

Follow on to my diatribe against the IBM Indiegogo Partnership

A long time reader sent me an email question yesterday. He doesn’t post publically for a lot of reasons, and I won’t share his name or email directly. The question was about my post yesterday on the IBM and Indiegogo relationship. The details of the question were “are you concerned that it was IBM or are you concerned overall that the market will flatten because of this?”

Well yes to a degree IBM being the first out of the gate in this space makes me nervous. They often are first out of the technology gates, but seldom do they do more than a rabbit. The rabbit being the first runner that leaps into the lead and then fades to the middle of the pack by the end of the race.

But the real fear here is more the flattening of the market. When a market flattens, it becomes much broader than it was before. Today there are two large players Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Kickstarter has more users and greater volume, but Indiegogo isn’t far behind. I know as a serial backer that with IBM engaged on the backend of Indiegogo, I will think twice before backing an Indiegogo project. In fact, I probably will stop supporting their projects, because the creative and innovative idea projects are going to move away from Indiegogo quickly. No one wants to have their project become part of the collective.

You see the value that is Crowdfunding is that the collective can’t take over a project. Let’s talk a little bit about why. First off, yes I do use first off too much, going to work on that, there are much more failed projects on Indiegogo than on Kickstarter. I have backed more than 100 projects on both platforms (yes I am a SuperBacker on both). So far there are 15 projects on Indiegogo that never delivered, and slid quietly off into the night. There are five on Kickstarter that slipped quietly into that good evening. I’ve backed 24 more project son Kickstarter than on Indiegogo which makes the percentages even worse. Yes, the Sue Birds are out in force for all 20 of those projects, and I feel sorry for the people struggling to get their dream going.

This brings me to the reality of what I see as a soon to be flattening market. You see the fun of crowdfunding is helping someone. Taking a dream, and effectively making that dream real. You can’t measure the ability of a large company to take small ideas and crush them.

Or can you?

You can, its why there is crowdfunding now. In the past, people would go and work for large companies R&D departments. They would do what they were told and the world on their dreams on the side. The resources of the company would help them get over the hump and deliver their dream.

But crowdfunding allows them to move away from the large corporation and develop their goal. While I see a way for Kickstarter and Indiegogo to engage big business, it isn’t as direct partners. There are many better ways to engage large corporations. The funny thing is, most people that head to crowdfunding are often frustrated with the life in a large business R&D lab, or they don’t want to have their dream sold as a part of Barbie’s Malibu Mansion. In other words, they don’t want to be part of a product currently shipping, now with Smart Watch capabilities.

Yes, I am deeply concerned with a flattening market. In part because the flatter that market gets the more dilute it will be. I am concerned that we will end up with a repeat of the corporate R&D departments of the past very quickly. I wish Indiegogo hadn’t signed a partnership with IBM. It makes me sad to know that what once was, is no more.

The other and probably worst side of a flattening market are the reality of more players. Today there are some crowdfunding sites, the majority of which are plagued by delivery issues. The more distributed the market becomes, the more we will rely on systems that don’t deliver today.

I wish Indiegogo had read my email of nearly a year ago.

.doc

soon to be former Indiegogo backer…

The recent announcement by IBM about their partnership with Indiegogo has me worried…

crowdfunding2So there are two things that I am curious about. The first is the concept of an HDMI hub. I know I am searching for the wrong things, but really? I just want a hub that is smart enough to take one HMI output and deliver it to two devices (for the Oculus Rift system in fact). I know it is possible but well, anyway I am just dreaming there I suspect short term.

The second thing that I am curious about right now is the reality of what IBM announced this week. Their upcoming relationship with Indiegogo and their (IBM’s) desire to increase the rate of IoT devices. First off we all know that they would like all devices to be served in BlueMix, their IoT cloud platform, which to date is pretty solid. But, their, IBM’s, the cloud hasn’t taken off the way I suspect they were planning on having it removed.

I worry that IBM doesn’t get the crowdfunding world. I am happy that they have gone and started the process, but I think they are missing the point of what is possible. Based on the reality of what is possible, I believe it is a swing and a miss for IBM.

In part because of the market change. In part because what is interesting about the world of crowdfunding is understanding the dream of the possible. It is not about moving things into reality; it is about seeing if they can be built. One of my favorite campaigns didn’t get funded last year. AguaDrone was a tri-use drone for people that are in or around water with their drones. A waterproof drone that can land on water, so they include a water proof camera so you can see above, and below the water. It didn’t get funded, and I do understand why.

It is, it was, it continues to be a NICHE market. I get that. I am happy to announce that even though they weren’t funded, they continued to build the product. If you are interested in an Aguadrone, you can pre-order one now at http://www.aguadrone.com . What I don’t think big companies get about crowdfunding and why I may stop funding projects on IndieGoGo is the checks and balances that aren’t in place. IBM has a particular market mentality; crowdfunding is the response to that corporate button down mentality. The two don’t mix, so you need a barrier. Someone with authority to boot IBM out of a campaign. Because the one thing I know IBM has is engineers. Devolving a product and releasing a new slightly different version of the same thing isn’t horribly hard to do.

ambitionI do truly understand the reality of corporate America. I have been working in or around corporate America for the past 25 years. I understand the difference between a great idea and a niche idea. Sometimes great ideas are niche ideas at first. But I do also understand the rise of Crowdfunding and why it is important as a safe Avenue for people to move out and create. My fear, my prediction is that in fact IBM will kill projects or worse, will fund them, and become exclusive. So I truly hope Indiegogo is paying attention. I don’t think they are. They are looking for the free advertising that deals with IBM creates. I don’t think they are looking towards the potential backlash of losing Superbackers, people that fun lots of projects, or worse, losing the projects themselves.

Change isn’t a bad thing. But having competed against the monolith that was IBM for 15 years, I can tell you three things. IBM is more like the Titanic than a speedboat. If there is an iceberg, it takes IBM a long time to change direction. A lot of things have to fall into place to make that change happen. With a speedboat, it is simply a flick of the wheel and iceberg avoided. If it is a really big iceberg, you may slow down because of a speedboat and speed up and slow down a lot faster than a cruise liner can. When talking about exploring, you don’t take the larger vessel into exploring. The risk of manage to the very thing you are exploring is greater. You take smaller more agile vessels in. I would hope Indiegogo realizes that. If they don’t, they are about to find out. If they need help building the wall that will be required, well my address is listed, reach out!.

.doc

Indiegogo SuperBacker, but for how much longer?

Cool Tech Wander Project issue 2

The smaller the processor, the more interesting right? I’ve played around with two different smaller systems in the past few weeks. A Raspberry PI 3 device and the Octel Pocket sized PC device. First off, both are extremely attractive.

In part because of the reality of small. In part because of the geek factor. In part because I am curious as to what we are heading towards. Someday, people will look back at this time and call it the time of technological transformation. Where we moved from tech reliance to tech enablement. The world where the technology itself becomes the path forward for everyone.

The Microsoft Hololens system is a computer, screen and audio system you can wear. The Oculus Rift system is a Virtual Reality system that connects to your computer and let’s you do more with less. Now the bad news, you can’t connect Oculus Rift to any computer, there are requirements, and they are pretty hard core overall.

It reminds me of a diatribe I was having four years ago, the Screen as a Service. I had started the concept for myself, to explain both the goals, but also the changes in screen technology. It is something that I find interesting. Today a lot of the concepts that I was thinking would come to pass, have stalled. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have all released screen share technology. As by the way, Samsung, LG and other Television manufacturers. But the concept was ubiquitous access to any monitor, that just hasn’t happened.

Instead, the screen has moved back to personal. Smart watches have modified the concept of the screen as a service making the screen the service for many things but adding the concept of a filter. I had talked four years ago about the concept of the filter. Send me data I can use on the screen I have, not all the data possible, overloading both my ability and the system I am using.

That brings me back to the smaller devices now shipping. The value of a PC you can put in your pocket is of course bound to what you intend to do with the PC in question. For me it is simply to have a device running a web browser that I can take with me, that can play video’s and surf the web quickly on any screen I have. The NexDock product is perfect for this. It gives me a device (screen) I can use with the Octel that includes Bluetooth keyboard and touchpad. It gives me the ability to setup a Nexdock in other locations that I frequent so that I can simply carry the smaller Octel between them.

I haven’t connected the Raspberry PI to the NexDock, but that is more that I am still learning the ins and outs of the OS.

Finally, on a side note, IBM announced their new alignment with Indiegogo going forward. That is something I have been talking about with some companies for a long time. IBM is doing it to get ahead in the IoT space. Personally, while that is important, it is just the start. The goal of everyone backing projects is to find something new and cool. The reality of a company doing that is less exciting, and I hope they have carefully considered what their overall goal is. Frankly, personally, I think the reality of trying to support and grow IoT won’t work with old line IBM. They don’t move fast and don’t have the overall organizational agility that crowdfunding would demand. Plus they are only connected with one platform, while I love Indiegogo, they are only one platform. So this new development is both existing, and I think scary.

The path to tomorrow probably doesn’t start anywhere near White Plains New York. This is why IBM is building this new practice in Europe. I just don’t think IBM, Microsoft or Amazon are the answer in this case.

There are better ways and a better path forward. It does make me wonder if I am going to stop backing Indiegogo projects.

.doc

wondering…

Cool Tech Wander Project :-)

Let’s start with the geeking process. As mentioned a few (maybe 100 or so times) I am a weather geek. In being a weather geek, I am always on the lookout for the next thing. I’ve posted links to several of my time-lapse weather videos. In fact, I have filled my YouTube channel with them for the past couple of weeks. One, because they are just cool and two, because the system that produces them is just cool!

The weather system in question is called Bloomsky, and it has two components. Sky2 and Storm, the two have different tasks and abilities. Sky2 does barometric readings and outdoor temperature readings. Nice to have, but wait there is so much more! You also get a solar powered weather station, which is pretty reasonable. You join, when you deploy your station, the Micro-Weather revolution and see weather from the eyes of many Skies, not just your Sky! Finally, you also get time-lapse video, day after day of what happened the day before.

The storm is the other component of the system. Storm tells you the current wind speed, wind direction and finally the amount of rain that has fallen (hour, overall and 24 hours). The systems work together, Sky2 is a self-contained a system that includes solar power. The storm has an Ethernet connected component, and it’s outdoor sensor unit that is also Solar Powered. Simply, a fantastic system!

One of the things that I have been thinking about is cable management, as in, I need to figure out how to better manage the cables in my office. A simple fix is not to install the wire’s for everything, but to only use the common cables. The issue with that is that I have Apple devices (lightening) and both Micro and Mini USB devices. Plus one device that uses the Micro-extended USB connector. Based on that reality there are way too many cables in my office.

In the past, I used the channel locks, but they have to be mounted, and I don’t want to put adhesive on wood. I do have some beautiful wood furniture in my office. One item that was my mother in law’s and the other was my father’s.

Today I am going to devote conference call time to listening to the call and cleaning more of my office. It has gotten a little out of hand recently. Plus I need to clean up the game room outside my office. I have been stacking stuff in there, and I need to get it back in shape!

I’ve probably posted and said that 25 times, let’s see if it sticks this time!

Over the course of the past two weeks, I have finally setup a new backup system for computers in the house. Most of the backups are using various online systems. Carbonite remains my personal favorite, and I have two PC’s connected to that system currently. I am also using another service on my network that is part of the Western Digital cloud drive system for the Mac and Windows Server in my office. I am down to only four computers in my office, which is a personal best. Each of them has a particular function that I need now, so I probably won’t fall much below that number.

One of the things I’ve been questioning lately is the number of printers. We went from a high of 8 printers (specialty and one for each user). We are down from that high, but we still have some specialty printers. The Zink printers are interesting we have two of those that were crowdfunded projects. I suspect over the next year, or so that market will shake out a bit, but for now it is a pretty interesting market. We do have one Canon photo printer; I use that on occasion to print pictures. Then we have the two laser printers. All printers other than the Zink’s are Canon now. It is funny how printers and printing have changed. There was a time when printers were expensive and directly connected to a single computer. Now we have them connected to the wireless network. I will say, if you do have a color laser, watch what happens when you print a photo to the color laser. Your system will drop for a little bit, as the information sent to the printer is bigger than you think.

I guess today was a technology wander project day. Cool tech, technology wander project should be the name I use for these!

.doc

Cool Tech wanderer

Building your organizations GovOps© Tree

From calling this the information age, to trumpeting the arrival of cloud and hybrid cloud solutions the analysts are out in full force now. But I still see an issue. Rather I see something missing in most of what people are considering, critical information. Not that organizations don’t know what they are doing. I see things like cloud transition frameworks and hybrid cloud frameworks. Some of them are really good and create a solid foundation for an organization to move to cloud computing.

But that isn’t the problem that I see. I worry that the impact of cloud isn’t or hasn’t been what it could be yet. I worry that as we move through the hybrid age of computing, that we are still missing the one piece that I think is critical.

I have talked about the process of getting to the cloud in my book Operating Beyond your Borders (now available as a paperback as well). One of the things in the book is an adaptation of a process that was created many years ago. To look, evaluate and consider the options within your organization as far as the applications you have.

I’ve called the new iteration of the process (expanded now) the GovOps© Tree. The GovOps© tree is composed of two distinct components Operations and Governance as a framework to move to the cloud or cloud computing solutions.

From this, we get the buckets. The buckets are determined by the organization as they consider their migration. The funny thing is, the buckets haven’t changed. Go back to the beginning of IT, as organizations considered deploying client-server solutions rather than Mainframe solutions and you will find that the buckets are the same.

· Migrate as is

· Modify slightly

· Modify moderately

· Modify significantly

· Consolidate with existing applications or new applications and move data

· Consolidate functionality with current or new applications and discard the data

· Discard the data but keep the functionality

· Discard the functionality but keep the data.

OK so if you’ve read my process from many years ago, you, in fact, see that there are new categories. The concepts are pretty much the same. The reality is that we now add some components to the overall process that we didn’t have before. This would include creating some newer modified buckets that didn’t exist before.

The value of application sis the cost of the application upgrade and operations minus the organizational support the application provides. The old joke I’ve used now for nearly 20 years is this. If the top sales person in the company, Alice, only uses Outlook and Excel and NOTHING ELSE, then the two business critical applications are Outlook and Excel. Except that Alice only represents the sales department. So then you have to look at the production side of the organization and see what they are using. But you get the idea. Look at how people get their jobs done. The 23 deployed PDF printing packages you have aren’t getting anything done. I promise that!

It is about how the organization makes money or meets their mission. That, by the way, fits nicely in the organizational governance plan. Supporting the mission (or financial) benefit of the organization by having a system that manages and monitors the organization. That helps include the operations team. It is a modification of the current DevOps craze. Adding Governance and keeping development engaged gives the team a stronger path to both clouds, but also to enabling and empowering their workforce. The concept is simple, (outlined in the book in much greater depth.).

You can succeed in this new age of IoT (CPS), Cloud and DevOps. It is all about planning! It is all about making sure that what you build (governance) and how you build it (Development) maps nicely to what you need to do to keep it running (Operations) as your organization makes your GovOps© Tree.

.doc

creator of the GovOps© Tree process.

Why cloud migrations fail…

The divide increases and we don’t even see it. First off, enterprises are blithely moving towards cloud computing, directed by those on the mountain already, pointing over the mountain to the valley that lies there. Cloud computing saves the day the newspaper trumpets.

It, cloud migrations, are moving slowly. The pundits now over the mountain looking back wondering why is cloud moving so slow? Well, sadly all those cloud computing images of Icebergs were wrong. Cloud isn’t an Iceberg showing only a small portion of capabilities with the vast majority hidden by the cold dark waters of the ocean the iceberg floats in (funny image of an iceberg in a small farm pond comes to mind).

People use the iceberg metaphor all the time. Forgetting that cloud isn’t an iceberg and change isn’t merely switching the direction of a switch. There is so much more to moving. The thing that worries me the most, is do companies understand the reality of what they are doing. Yes, they are passing some level of control to another organization, and that is problematic. How much of your governance and IT operations is embedded in that system you run today. I call that process GovOps. In the reality of what GovOps means for the organization it is only making sure your migration plan doesn’t move you from bad to worse (or to borrow from The Hobbit, out of the frying pan and into the fire).

Cloud migrations aren’t moving from internal IT to an Iceberg. They are taking everything you have today and moving it one foot to the left. Easy right? I mean today we are managing, patching and operating everything. So having someone else take over some of the patching and some of the operations means we will save 20, 30 or even 40 % of what we do without even doing anything other than move, right?

No, it sadly doesn’t work that way. IT as we call it, or informational technology, is the technology arm that most companies, agencies, and groups have. They tend to be seen as a cost basis organization, so they often are forced, or have to contribute to the business by cutting costs. Cloud computing is often sold as a cost-cutting system.

It isn’t.

Sadly you won’t save money moving your applications to the cloud. In fact, you simply push the problems you have today off to tomorrow. The reality of cloud computing is that you are destined to fail either in the migration or in saving money.

It is a fact of cloud that I talk about in my book Operating Beyond your Borders. That first off if you don’t understand what you are in flight with, you won’t save the money you are planning to on the back end. Certainly, there is money to be saved. There is value to be gotten from improving the what, and how of your IT infrastructure. In fact with, or without, cloud computing there is money to be found in your IT department. The problem with finding money in IT, is it won’t hit your organization today, probably won’t hit you tomorrow, but it will hit you.

The new reality of IT is the birth of IoT. Cyber Physical Systems as defined by NIST, calling it more than IoT because we suddenly have devices connected to the internet, to the organization, and the user. Users are the driver and the change. What was your organizational boundary, isn’t anymore.

What we didn’t do in the process of moving from the reality of where IT was, to this new paradigm is clean out the closet (literally in many cases an IT closet). How many companies have help desks that are derided and poked? We have the tech, but our helpdesk is awful. How many companies can sit at a table and tell you ant is on every PC, phone and tablet inside their walls? How about all of the devices that connect to their networks? Can they? Should they?

Cloud migrations aren’t moving from the vast plains of grass to an Iceberg. They aren’t moving to a system with a closed end (Cloud service provider), an SLA and a dream. They are moving to a glacier. Yes, the glacier can take down a mighty hill, and form a huge lake but it doesn’t happen today. It doesn’t happen tomorrow, and by all means, it isn’t a great way to solve the problem of IT. The GovOps tree talks about the concept of what and why migrations fail. Most importantly it helps the organization map the overall structure of the tree itself. Healthy trees don’t fall in wind storms. They have good root systems (the enterprise application structure), good trunks (the traditional IT components of the network) that deliver to users regardless of where they are (leaves).

Good luck with your migration. Just remember it isn’t an iceberg you are in the process of migrating your IT infrastructure.

.doc

Operating beyond your borders