Presents for the avid cyclist

One of my regular reads, Jason, recently posted on geek electronic gift suggestions. This got me thinking about cycling related gifts.

For the non-cyclist, buying a present for a keen cyclist is difficult. Given the extreme geekiness of the sport, it is impenetrable to almost everyone other than another keen cyclist. Even then, the Shimano vs Campagnolo religion makes it trying for all but the most perseverant present buyer. Even a simple stocking filler such as a water bottle is fraught with sizing, political and weight options.

Pro-team clothing also tricky, as unless you follow the ups and downs of the teams very closely, you may end up buying the signed limited edition shirt of a recently disgraced champion. The odds of doing this are quite high. I’ve got a lovely Ivan Basso Giro Magna Rossa outfit from 2006 that I can’t really wear anymore, given that Basso is in disgrace for being a drugs cheat. Actually, T-mobile kit is probably going really cheap now…

 

So, here are some recommendations.

1. Retro gear. Several firms have been selling remakes of classic jerseys.

I’ve had one of these about 8 years. The merino wool works brilliantly on the bike in the winter, and it is also ideal post event wear. Molteni sponsored Eddie Merckx back in the 1970s.  You can buy one here.  I crashed quite spectacularly in mine while checking voicemail while riding, but I was able to get it repaired. I am told that retro cycling gear is trendy in nightclubs, but this would require independent verification before I’d risk it.

But, cool though the retro stuff is, this firm in the UK is making the best cycling clothing I’ve seen.

 

 

Rapha. Yes, it is expensive, but the products are rather special. The website is sweet too. Check out the Rapha Continental section of the site for some fabulous photos and tales of long distance cycling.

 

The problem with the site is you spend time surfing it when you should be on the bike. The Rouleur magazine from Rapha is simply stunning.

(been there,done that…..Ha!)

Another worthwhile gift would be the cyclo-core-zen series. Graeme Street has put together a great set of on and off the bike workouts and training programmes. I’ve been using them for about 2 years, and I they will be a big part of the post festive season recovery plan. I’ve watched Graeme’s business grow over the last few years. I suppose this is a perfect example of a longtail business.  He combines passion for cycling, lots of knowledge, personal stories and web and email channels.

Also check out CTS, Chris Carmichael’s company. This guy was Lance Armstrong’s fitness guru. The audio workouts are goodness.

If your cycling person is book fan, I’d suggest Matt Seaton’s the Escape Artist. Read it yourself too. It will explain a lot about why they want to ride. Matt’s book list is damn good too. For humour, you can’t beat the Warrington Cycle Campaign’s Crap Cycle lanes book. (buy it here)

 

I couldn’t resist another example.

 

Of course, the best gift for a cyclist is a bit of road, good company and preferably some sunshine. Hurry up spring.

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Africa and the birth of computing

Like most of us, I guess, I have a very western perception of innovation and science. Think of Africa and computing, and OLPC jumps to mind.

Throughout my education I’d been taught a western-centric view of science and maths. Yes, the Chinese did fireworks, Chess came from India  and the Arabs did some cool early work with numbers, but maths and science invention are a European (and more recently US) thing. Computing owes its existence to maths, so the industry in which I work owes its existence to the pioneering work of European mathematicians.

This 18 minute video challenges that perception

 

I’ll  also add Ron’s book to the holiday reading. 

The rest of the Africa series on TED is well worth a look too.

 

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Complexity syndrome and Rumplestilskin 2.0

Goodness me. I logged on for the first time in a couple of days to see that enterprisey corner of the blogosphere has been in a frenzy. Robert Scoble began it all by wondering what the Enterprise Irregulars thought about the lack of sexiness in enterprise software.

I’m a tad late to the party.

Michael Krigsman, Nick Carr, Jason Wood, Dennis HowlettEd Hermann, George Ou, Ross Mayfield, Susan Scrupski, Ian Joyce, Anshu Sharma, Craig Cmehil, Sadagopan, Vinnie MirchandaniStowe Boyd and Alan Patrick all chime in, and the there is a lot more I’ve not seen yet. (see Techmeme for more)

As an aside, I do find the blogosphere convention of starting posts with  “I’ve met you and gee, you are really a nice, super, kind and smart guy, but now, having said that, I’m going to tell you why you are an idiot.” really odd.

 

Sitting here at Starship Enterprisey, you’d bet Oracle’s maintenance revenue stream that I’d jump and take up my cudgels to defend enterpriseydom,  But I’m not.  

Something James Governor said a while ago about IBM nails it for me- The false distinction between consumer and enterprise.

RedMonk has long called for IBM to abandon the somewhat false distinction between “consumer” and “enterprise”. What’s the main difference? Who pays the bill at the end of the month.

I’ve argued before about the dangers of using the “enterprise” as an excuse for complexity, and in the summer I said.

Labelling things enterprise, business or even professional enables a defence of complexity that shouldn’t be tolerated without a challenge.

Full post here.

One of the things that makes me mad is the “enterprise is complex syndrome”. Complexity, not Oracle, is SAP’s biggest competitor.  We enterprisey types need some Bauhaus.  We can learn a lot from the often brutal simplicity of consumer applications. A focus on simplicity is imperative.

In this sense, Nick Carr is right.

By perpetuating a false dichotomy between the friendliness of consumer apps and the seriousness of business apps, all that Krigsman is doing is giving enterprise vendors cover for continuing to produce software that’s difficult and unpleasant to use. Give Scoble credit. He’s asking the right question, in his own strange way.

Rumplestilskin 2.0

At the same time, anytime a consumer software expert craps on the enterprise gang for not being more like the consumer stuff, I’d  politely ask them to do the Rumplestilskin 2.0 Test.

Flickr  from YTaP

Apologies to my loyal readers –  I have used this before, but for those of you new to this blog: 

We provide a room with perfect lighting, beanbags with fairtrade beans, the social media tools of your choice, lattes and other beverages of your choice on tap,  eco-friendly pizza and Macbook pros all round, but we only let you out when you have a working polish payroll that offers a compelling user experience. And maintain it. At a profit.

Oh, and It seems we have short memories, or perhaps this is a yuletide thing.  Last year Bill Thompson’s Tyranny of the UI post sparked a similar blogosphere spat.  I’m now self linking beyond the pale of politeness, but the UI is not the application.

Come to think of it, having a UI at all means a failure to automate.  I guess the sexiest UI is no UI at all.  This would enable you to leave the computer alone for a while and get on with the real thing.business time. 

0.5.

At the risk of turning this into a SAP infomercial, I received an interesting email today   about a joint development (co-innovation in enterprisespeak) With SAP and Wincor Nixdorf.

The challenge here  is not bringing 2.0, to the enterprise,  but rather 0.5.

How can you bring  dramatic process and time savings to lengthly, costly administrative processes on the factory shopfloor without slowing up production lines?  How can you provide systems access in a way that makes it easy and fast for factory workers to enter timesheets, access schedules, book holiday, check payslips and the like when they have oil on their hands.  I’m not going to call it sexy, but it is damn cool.  check out this video (sorry wmv only – note to SAP marketing, stick it on youtube, please)

 

the power of AND

Ed Hermann, both a builder and victim of enterprise software writes of the tyranny of OR, he is so spot on. He also places this in an SAP context

It’s an internal struggle between the old school German engineering mentality vs. the new school Silicon Valley start up attitude. Only time will tell if they will find balance and harmony of both by embracing the “Genius of the AND”.

We enterprisey types need a big dose of AND.

Steve Mann, commenting over on Vinnie’s post, said,

Vinnie, from my vantage point, there is significant change under foot. Granted it has a long way to go but if you look at the influx of ethnographers and user-centric design teams in the larger enterprise software firms, the Voice of the Customer aspect of interface design is becoming more prevalent. Again, I grant you that companies that have been delivering software for many years without customer input at the front end of the process face significant cultural and process hurdles to get there. I have my doubts that all will succeed. Whether enterprise software can become more customer centric is dependent on the underlying culture of the company trying to deliver it.

Nick, things are changing in Enterprise land. The user is getting a whole lot more respect.

Oh and, flipping it , watching Facebook over the last month, I reckon they could do with a dose of enterprisey.

I’ll leave you with Jason Wood’s take.

Make users lives easier. Sounds simple, but it’s really not

Appraisals, oh dear.

Time to return to a familiar HR theme.

One of the funniest scenes in the UK version of the Office is the performance appraisal.

(This is probably the most watched DVD I own)

 Recent UK research points to a serious problem with performance appraisals.

The research found a quarter of respondents thought managers simply regarded the reviews as a “tick-box” exercise while one in five accused their bosses of not even thinking about the appraisal until they were in the room.

Almost half (44 percent) did not think their boss was honest during the process, 29 percent thought they were pointless, and a fifth felt they had had an unfair appraisal, according to the YouGov poll of just under 3,000 workers.

Only a fifth believed their manager would always act on what came up during the review and 20 percent said their boss never bothered to follow up any concerns raised.

However four out of 10 thought appraisals were a useful guide to an individual’s progress and just under a third thought they were helpful.

Over the last two years or so I’ve seen a really rapid growth in online Performance Appraisal, both as part of an ERP platform and with a new wave of niche players. It would be interesting to contrast the response of employees and managers to online vs paper based appraisals and see if there is a difference. Technology improves the process, but  manager behaviour is the crucial component.  All the technology in the world won’t help if managers think it is a waste of time.

Getting the performance appraisal process right should be central to HR strategy and investment. So much flows from this process. My litmus test for the state of HR in a company would be to look at this process. If it is good shape, then probably the rest of HR is too.

Sadly, the research above seems to show that in so many companies the process is still more David Brent than HR would care to admit.

Something to discuss with the Human Capitalist tonight over dinner, once we have finished talking about his rather impressive golf.

 

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Stockholm, SAP, design, and the millenials

I began this post on the plane on the way back from a dark and damp Stockholm.

For the last 2 days  Design Services Team  and my team have been running a workshop with 17 customers. We applied the DLI to try and figure out what makes Millenials tick, and what impact this might have on HR policies, practices and systems.  With all the talk about this new generation, all the assumptions about Facebook, social networking and so on, we felt it vital to do some deeper analysis in the HR context.

Where better than Stockholm, home to some of the world’s most online people?

The workshop was kindly hosted by TeliaSonera, in their awesome Vision Center. (This deserves its own post)  An ideal setting, and my deepest thanks to the TeliaSonera HR folks for their support.

On day one the team described the DLI process, and we explored the market research we have done at SAP and elsewhere on Millenials. We then headed out to spend several hours with students from the ultra cool Hyper Island Design and Business School. It was the most impressive learning space I’d ever seen. (This magazine will give you an idea of what they get up to. Thanks to the management for letting us wreck your classes)

We took turns to interview students, with the other two team members taking lots of notes. We explored four key themes. The team I was in looked at the physical workspace requirements.

The next day we interviewed a second set of students, this time from another campus – Uppsula. The students were studying engineering and economics,. This was to act as a counterpoint to the designer  übercoolers we’d met the night before, but the results were remarkably similar. Thanks to all the students, they were really helpful and patient with us oldies.

Then we moved the notes onto post its, with one post it per point. Then we clustered  and synthesised the points by themes. Then we developed light weight persona, storylines, brainstormed and prototyped some high level solutions. It was hard work and rushed, but it was great to see things move from nebulous concept via 100’s of post its into a fairly coherent prototype. We then presented the findings back to the groups. 

  

 

This workshop was powerful for a number of reasons.

1. I believe we gave the participants access to a methodology that they could use to explore solutions back in the office.

2. We also gave them some exposure to how the development process at SAP is changing for the better.

3. The Design team received some direct feedback on current customer experience, which they videoed.

4. We realised that we had a whole lot of theoretical assumptions about Millenials that didn’t always stand up to examination of real world users.

What surprised me the most was Facebook, or lack thereof. Far from being the centre of the universe that I’d heard  and expected it to be, almost all the students said it wasn’t a big deal, and they were unlikely to use it professionally. Several were very negative about it, one student even said he’d ban it.  Many said it was a fad, and that they only looked once a week or so to check for parties. There was a richer awareness of privacy issues than I’d expected. 

Social networking clearly has its place with the millenials, but the message we got from the student we interviewed was relatively clear, Facebook isn’t it.  Instant Messaging was much more important, and nothing beats a face to face meeting over a coffee.

So as we think about building systems and processes for this new generation, let’s not forget the role of a good espresso in building a strong business and a great network.

More to follow on this in the next few days.

BTW: The next HR Best Practice meeting will be in Milan, January 30-31. We are focusing on HR analytics, KPIs etc.. Agenda should be out shortly, but if you’d like to know more drop me a note.

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