Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Whole New Language ... Every Few Months

Language can sometimes be impenetrable. Take this, from today's FT:

... the sector has encountered stout resistance from the top of its weekly Ichimoku cloud at 1,462 ... and from its 21 month exponential moving average ... a horizontal level of 1,500 dating back to just before the 1987 crash presents a further barrier ...

Doubtless if you follow stock market geek speak, then that all makes sense. For me, it was complete doubletalk. There's plenty more of the Ichimoku stuff later in the article where, apparently, its threatening to smother significant further upward progress.

As we see successive iterations of mobile phone technology, examples of doubletalk become more regular. Not quite as involved as Ichimoku or as complex as when I first confronted German; but hard nonetheless.

When you receive a text that doesn't quite make sense, you have to make some assumptions about what kind of phone the sender is using.

Is it a Nokia? If so, then gone and home are interchangeable. So are if and of.

Is it an iPhone? Then fir and for and have and gave can be swapped. I've noticed that increasingly I am sending texts with "yea" rather than "yes" - not terrible, but hardly my style.

Typing without looking at the keyboard is routine now - and correcting errors as they occur is time consuming (even if you notice them). So why bother?

Pedants will worry, inevitably, about the loss of the apostrophe with its and it's being largely the same for most texters. My personal bete noire - which is equally prevalent in text and email is the apparent sameness, for vast numbers of people, of your and you're. I've given up explaining the difference.

Having to think about the physical device the other person might be using makes for some difficult mental gymnastics as you decipher some texts. And that's without the teen talk of 2, UR, RU, 8 and whatever else it is that they use.

Once I'd installed the new iPhone 3.0 operating system, I noticed that it had changed some of its typo correction. The first version - nearly 2 years old now - used to assume that if you typed fet, rather than get, you meant FET (perhaps showing how geek users had developed the dictionary?). Each iteration brings updated dictionaries now - and you have to be ready for them.

I don't miss T9. I don't miss a 10 digit keypad. And I don't miss a physical one either. This is just observation, not complaint. Apart from the your/you're thing. That I could complain about for ages.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Succeeding In Failure ... and how not to do that

A great friend and colleague, John Caswell who runs (owns/founded) Group Partners, shared with me this week some of the "howlers he's seen businesses make." I thought I'd post them here and then add over the coming days what he and his team have learnt can be done about them, what the necessary conditions for success are. This is great stuff, if I do say so myself. So this is the screw-ups he and the team have seen made in just the last few client interventions they've carried out:

  1. Create a new vision, without wide consultation, not looking at the broadest possible context for value - then keep the vision and strategy locked in the boardroom.
  2. Avoid the power of a clearly identified and stated intention, motivational outcomes, relevant measures, a powerful and inspirational vision and well articulated roadmap.
  3. Begin a large transformation, change or technology program by simple procurement and contract with one siloed part of the business and then be surprised by its failure.
  4. Expect wide engagement by the workforce in change – change that the employees don't understand, cannot see the rationale for nor feel any human relationship with.
  5. Outsource all of the thinking to external agencies who then fail to transfer the full control, reasoning or confidence in their plans back to the enterprise.
  6. Outsource all responsibility for the solution to external agencies who have no interest in the wider implications or success of the program other than their task.
  7. Ignore the incredible developments in technology, social community, service excellence and sustainable - values based thinking when it comes to operational transformation fit for the world we now live in.
  8. Remain removed from the new tools of behavioral change, cultural insights, social networks and real world/human engagement as they may be intangible or abstract within the strategic intention.
  9. Forget the power of telling the new story of intention in ways that compel, inspire or motivate the people in the enterprise. Ignore the catalyst of communication.

Monday, May 25, 2009

iPhone.gov

Who'd have thought ... open.gov migrated to iPhone

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Although the award for the first government portal migrated to the iPhone goes, inevitably I suspect, to the State of Utah

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Why inevitably? Ever since Phil Windley was CIO there, they just seem to be first at everything! Kudos.

Consider yourself challenged direct.gov - bring on the iPhone version. Your current web version seems to have lost the automatic mobile CSS that we built in, oh, 2002 or so but it does respond to a different URL - www.direct.gov.uk/mobile - how do you pick what goes on the homepage of that? I see swine flu, journey planner, jobs and local services?

Chequeing Out

APACS published the stats for how money was spent in 2008 in the UK. How as in by what method rather than how as in on what. I saw this linked to from Scott Loftesness' blog. His point was about the use of Google's Chart API (he's evidently the author of the piece); I wanted to wonder aloud whether the vast bulk of the 3% of payments made via cheque are made to the government. It turns out - check (cheque?) the original APACS source - that this data doesn't include payments to government. I'd like to speculate, though, that the percentage of payments made by cheque to government - whether local or central - is greater than 3% and that therein lies an opportunity to reduce costs (fees, handling and security) massively through incentivising payment by electronic means. Someone should build a central debit / credit card processing engine ...

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Transforming Government

Roughly on this day, 5 years ago, I gave this presentation to a small audience at Shakespeare's Globe theatre on the South Bank. 'Twas verily a handy location for me as I lived across the street at the time. I was looking for an old image to reuse today and came across this deck while I was looking. Still relevant, 5 years on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Don't Sweat The Shuffle

I thought the new iPod shuffle sounded good. But if you want to go out running with it, Think Again! It doesn't like sweat and after an hour or so, seemingly no matter where you clip it (mine was on the back pocket of my shorts), it will go crazy - skipping tracks, telling you over and over again the name of the track you're listening to - and, after a little while longer, it just stops completely. You'd imagine that this would have come out in testing. There's no word on this from Apple though (in the 20 years I've been using Apple gear, they've never been the best communicators).

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

What does the customer want?

Here, via slideshare, is a presentation I delivered near the end of 2006 to an audience of Sun employees and customers.

Enterprise Architecture on Scribd

I've posted my enterprise architecture document on Scribd ... you can find it by following this link.

From Open to Online to Direct

In honour of direct.gov.uk breaking 10 million visits a month I've trawled through some old presentation slides to find images of its predecessors: the original much loved and much mourned (by some) open.gov.uk, some iterations of ukonline.gov.uk and finally the first image of direct.gov.uk

Apologies for the image quality on some of these - they're swiped from small images on powerpoint slides for which the source images are long since lost.

1) Open.gov.uk (From February 2000 although this existed in at least 1997 and probably before) ... this is the departmental index page. I took this from the way back machine which doesn't seem to store images (or, if it does, I couldn't get them to show)

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2) The original ukonline.gov.uk (from February 2001 when BT developed it)

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3) An update ukonline.gov.uk - from October 2001 - when we'd figured out that search really was important and shouldn't be hidden one page down and had also introduced registration


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4) A fully refreshed design, developed by Sapient, and put live in early 2002


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5) The direct.gov.uk homepage shortly after launch, in mid-2004

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6) The direct.gov homepage from January 2007

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7) And, finally, direct.gov.uk today, mid-May 2009

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Transforming government - 15 million times per month

One of the most surprising news from the Transformational Government report this month was the news that direct.gov.uk now sees nearly 15 million monthly visits, up from an average of around 9 million throughout 2008. Well done to the team at DG - you've come a long way.

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There are some notes to this graph that could, for the conspiracy theorists, perhaps explain the leap at the end of 2008 and into 2009 - jobcentreplus visits are counted as are those for tax discs for cars and any and all sub-domains - but those are likely constant assumptions throughout the series of data shown rather than a change at the end of the period.

What Happens Next?

Seen on a whiteboard last week ... what's the punchline?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Domain Renewal Group Scam?

Just had a nicely worded letter from a company called "Domain Renewal Group" noting that my domain name is about to expire (it is) and that I can "take advantage" of best savings by switching to them.

So not really a scam - if you read the text properly they leave an ample trail that I'll actually be switching domain registrars if I use them. On the assumption that they'd continue to manage the domain - and the web stories on this are unclear so perhaps they will, perhaps they won't - then the only question is whether this is cost effective. It isn't - there're more than twice the price that I pay currently.

Beware ... always read the fine print. Domain Renewal Group may not be all they appear to be. And they certainly charge more than you need to pay.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Search Engine Optimisation - Teaching Adidas?

In the run up to the marathon, lots of people were very keen to find out how to track runners via text. Plainly they'd heard about the service through some channel or another. The trouble was that Adidas hadn't made the service easy to find on the web. I'm pleased that hundreds of people were able to find it via links from this site as evidenced by the top few searches in the week before the marathon. There were many dozens more searches with lower volume counts:

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It seems to me that, next year, Adidas could go a long way to making the service much easier to find. My services as an SEO lightweight could be made available at very good rates.

Enterprise Architecture in Government

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More than a few people are starting to get active again around shared services, enterprise architectures, shared data centres (and all of the SaaS, HaaS and maybe just plain old aaS that could bring). A while ago I wrote a document that I hoped would lead to a debate on delivering some or all of those things into UK government. The document largely languished on my hard drive gathering virtual dust like so many reports about what government should do to make things better. It never quite got finished although, looking through it now some 6 years after it was written, it still seems to hang together pretty well.

With the recent stirring, I thought I'd air my thoughts again and so have published the document online for any and all to look at. Maybe it will help move the debate on, maybe it will help stop some of the old problems being revisited with the same results occurring. I hope that it is, at least, useful for someone - whether in the UK or elsewhere. If you make use of it, I'd appreciate a credit back to this post or a note in the comments section that points me to where you've used it so that I can see what I missed, or what you have done to extend the thinking.

Kicking off any programmes that involve departments, agencies, federal or local bodies in sharing, re-using and piggy-backing off each others' work is challenging. Those that take it on now deserve all of the support that they need.

The slide that accompanies this post certainly qualifies as one of the ugliest I've ever produced (definitely not the ugliest, but I'll save that one for another day). The Enterprise Architecture document can be found on Box.net by following this link which will open in a new window.