Saturday, August 29, 2009

Taking the PMP exam

I completed the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam yesterday. It was 2:40 long, and I worked pretty quickly. It was a lot of work to prepare for it, and I'm happy to say I passed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marketing: focusing on the stuff that matters

I would have loved to be in the meeting when the decision was made to photo-swap one man's head with that of another in this advertisment (You have to click on the image to see a link). I'm also surprised that someone caught the deception -- I usually ignore advertisments this bland and uninformative. Microsoft looks a little silly on this one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Carrboro Creative Coworking

Do you have an entrepreneurial idea but don't need the hassle of finding/renting/building the office space right away? Want or need interaction with other, like-minded entrepreneurs? Check out Carrboro Creative Coworking, a place where you can find energizing office space at a small cost without the administrative headache. I love this concept. The owners are offering incubator-ish space at a reasonable rate, and also using social networks to build community.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digression: Remembering Kim Dae-Jung

I was sad to see the news of the passing of Kim Dae-Jung, former president of South Korea. I admired him for his role in building democracy in South Korea, and his efforts to reconcile with North Korea.

I saw him speak at a political rally during the election campaign in 1987. I was an exchange student in Japan, and decided to travel to Pusan, South Korea to sightsee. Kim and his supporters were part of the opposition to the government candidate, Roh Tae Woo. I discovered that Kim was having a political rally, so went to see him speak. A student I met there translated for me. Kim talked about the need to restore relations with North Korea, saying that they weren't enemies, but friends and family. At the time this was a radical thing for a South Korean politician to say. I estimated that there were about 50,000 at the rally.

Kim lost the election that year as the opposition candidates split the reform vote, but he won the presidency 10 years later. His life reminds us that one person can make a difference for the better.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Remarks on Managing with Power

Managing with Power (1992) is a classic text by Jeffrey Pfeffer at Stanford University. This is another one I wish I had read when it was first published. Pfeffer gives the reader a way to diagnose the sources of power in organizations and government. Great ideas don't move themselves through organizations, but require power and influence to see them implemented. He provides numerous case studies of companies where powerful decision makers either helped or hurt their organizations.

Great read, highly recommended. I'll read it again when I have a chance.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Google Voice

I signed up for Google Voice a few days ago. Based on what I've seen so far, it has potential. You get a free phone number and a few services that you might find handy. Call routing to other phones based on incoming number ID, spam filtering on unwanted numbers, and speech to text that sends voice mails to email. I assume they're not using CSRs in call centers to provide the transcription. There's a free SMS feature but I haven't tried it yet. Pretty nice.

Even if you only use the free phone number, it's nice to have. You have complete phone number portability, since you can forward all calls to whichever phone you'd like. Don't care for your current mobile provider? Get a new one, and forward your calls there. Customers' switching costs are essentially zero now, as long as they don't abandon their current provider before the end of their contract.

Google has real plans for voice. This is another market they're going to fight over with Microsoft.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Service research: crossing the Valley of Death

I was talking to an acquaintance recently about the research he was doing on service delivery. The company he was doing the work for had invested heavily in research on services. Part of his job was to apply the research to the way new services were developed within his company's own business units. This turned out to be very difficult, more so than he had expected.

"All the business units want are just some software tool, not the process behind the tool. Not a new approach to service." His team would deliver a software tool, then were placed in the position of having to support it -- not the place you want to be if you're trying to do leading edge research in a new field.

The scenario is familiar to scientists who perform basic research on products. The new service research was falling into the Valley of Death, the space between great ideas generated by research and the development and commercialization of the idea. A lot of what is written about the Valley of Death focuses on lack of funding to commercialize ideas, but there's more to it than that. There's a great deal of skill needed to take a genuinely new idea or prototype and guide it through an organization to a point where it is ready to be commercialized and marketed. That skill is rare.

Service researchers, being new to the commercialization game, are learning what the product R&D folks have experienced already: that great ideas for new services don't sell themselves. Someone needs to guide the prototype service through the Valley of Death. This idea is so new that you won't find much written about the commercialization of new service research.

That's where I'd like to be, generating new ideas for services out of a research framework for delivering service, and then helping to commercialize the idea. But no one out there is hiring those sorts of people, since there's no recognition that a role like that should exist.