Posts Tagged ‘Industry thoughts’

A recent blog post I wrote for Business Review Weekly “Social Media = Social Change”



[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]I recently sat through a movie which I hated – it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. It’s a familiarly painful experience. You spend the first half of the movie wanting to believe it could get better and the second half painfully accepting that you’ve sat through the first half so better see the rest through!

The experience is not too dissimilar to being asked to execute a poorly devised Digital Strategy. What could be worse than being stuck in the middle of a 5 year strategy which is conservative, stale, lacking in innovation and was only every going to achieve moderate success in the first place?

It’s a trend we’re seeing more of recently here ‘agency side’. It seems we’ve spent years convincing and educating clients on the need for Digital Strategy, whilst today we’re in a position of needing to challenge those very strategies we’ve been selling in!

You can see the effects all over the place. Facebook pages with 1000’s of fans but no real engagement models; Great new eCommerce web sites launching with no consideration for mobile commerce; Apps costing thousands of dollars, devoid of purpose or function; or perhaps more simply a failure to embrace new and relevant technologies or solutions.

Lacklustre digital initiatives are tell-tale signs of digital strategies which prescribe executional not strategic objectives. Like the moment you realise you won’t be enjoying a movie, you can sense a Digital Strategy is failing when you feel that the very people the strategy was devised to engage with are losing interest and it is here where innovation plays a key role.

Teams delivering Digital Strategy need to be guided by a strategy, but be given the space to interpret them too. They need timeframes and objectives, but they also need to be challenged along the way. There is no shortage of new innovation which can challenge today’s best Digital Strategy, whether it’s new payment methods on offer by the likes of Facebook or Dwolla; Location based services; Your customers ever increasing Klout or PROskore; or new ways to connect like Google+ business pages.

A good Digital Strategy should provide a clear framework for assessing why jump on bandwagons when they arise, instead of prescribing when or how to do so.

It’s not easy of course. Digital Strategy often gets sold in at the very highest levels and it’s at those levels where people find it difficult to accept that “this part of our strategy is being left open for interpretation”, but that’s exactly what needs to happen if a strategy is expected to deliver meaningful results from start to end.

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Dad, what are those 2 little doors?

Dad, what are those 2 little doors?

I remember waving goodbye to my parents through teary eyes when I was 13, as they drove off leaving me standing there, in my new and completely unfamiliar home to be – boarding school (no sympathy though please, it was more Eaton than Oliver Twist!).

As I walked through the long dormitory corridors for the first time (making sure to swallow that lump in my throat), it became clear to me that there were a few fundamentals to getting along in my new environment 1) new comers stood very little chance and 2) a ghetto blaster counts – the bigger the better (to wow the crowds and drowning out the competition). Yup, it was a strange world I had been left to fend for myself in.

So no surprise then when 20+ years later, I came across a pristine fully functioning ghetto blaster at my mothers house which she had been using as a radio (not to win friends I’m pleased to report), that I became somewhat nostalgic. Wanting to share the moment, I found myself struggling to conjure up a suitable comment to associate with the photo to share on my wall, that the poignancy of Paul Adams research ‘The Real Life Social Network’ on social networking (and how it clearly needs to adapt) hit home.

The premise of Pauls presentation (which I urge anybody in the industry to read) was that we’re just at the very beginning of a very long road in the evolution of social networking. His main point being that the single bucket ‘Friends’ solution is simply inadequate to truly reflect the way we interact and socialise in the real world.

Did I want all my contacts, which includes friends, colleagues, clients and yes, my mother to know about how I felt? The answer is no – if at the very least because I didn’t want to make my age sensitive even more sensitive thinking I was poking fun at her choice of radio publicly! But more so because it was only a small handful of friends that would have appreciated it’s relevance.

Looking back, I realise that the association between ghetto blasters and popularity is as deluded as the association between number of friends and social networking success (whether personally or for business).

All this alludes to the problems that have yet to be solved. Extended to the world of business, what good is a following of 10,000 users on Facebook if as a business you fail to understand the nature of the relationship you have/are forming with them? I think it’s a great question and without answers being offered (yet) from smart people like Paul Adams, it leaves the road ahead wide open and if anything, Google+’s plans for business (as stated by Christian Oestlien from the Google+ team) or Facebook 2.0 interesting things to lookout for.

In the meantime though, have a read of Paul’s thought provoking work…

The Google+ experience

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Usability

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Whilst the inevitable “Google+ fade away like a Wave or troop on like an Android?” debate gets under way and countless blogs start attempting to predict Google+’s fate, my attention gravitates to a slightly different area of the Google+ experience.

Take a look at the Google+ tutorial here Without getting too technical it’s a pure and simple showcase for how far non Flash based interfaces can be taken (in this case it’s a custom hack of the Google Maps API). Not that we needed a better showcase for what can be achieved without Flash following the fantastic but the Google+ team have pulled off some even greater things (as far as web based UI is concerned) within the Google+ interface itself.

With everything from seamless drag and drop features, animations and other nifty tricks (see video below) it’s not too difficult to see how the Google Chrome OS might evolve by looking at what has been achieved with the Google+ UI.


Wave on the iPhone

Wave on the iPhone

The interface enhancements extend to mobile too (curious that currently Google seems to have invested more in making the iPhone experience better than it’s own Android experience). Using the Google ‘suite’ on mobile is becoming ever more enjoyable. So on that front, it will be interesting to see uptake of Google+ on mobile.

As to whether Google+ will succeed or not!? Well a) that’s not for this blog post and b) who cares… one thing’s for sure, there will be benefits to be had by understanding it; and love it or loath it – we have to understand it if only for the sheer amount of Gmail users that will soon have immediate access to it’s features.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]There is nothing more disheartening when a client relationship takes a turn for the worse. It happens. Being the person who ends up taking ultimate responsibility for things, I do take it personally when these instances arise. Whether due to poor communications, over commitments, under delivery – mishaps are a reality that comes with agency life.

But, when things go right the feeling is ever so much the opposite! When you can look back and “WOW” yourself at what’s been achieved in partnership with a client,  you’re reminded why you work ‘agency side’. And that’s what this overdue blog post is all about (I’ll save the disaster stories for another time!!).

Our relationship with Thames Water started over 3 years ago, when we helped them launch their new corporate website. We won the competitive tender  off the back of our solid corporate experience; and since that launch the website has stood alone as Thames Water’ main digital asset.

Fast forward to today however and both our understanding and that of Thames Water’ for  how  digital strategy can serve to dramatically improve  their customer engagement, has without doubt developed greatly.

Thames Water - the new customer website

Thames Water - the new customer website delivers a far greater user centred experience

But the new customer website is just the start of it. Whilst  the new site delivers a far more user centric IA and task focussed design, the site now sits at the heart of what is far more widespread digital strategy, aimed at increasing direct engagement with their customers and winning advocacy as well increasing transparency and creating brand affinity. Take a look at just some of the results which the broader digital strategy has achieved and I’m sure you’ll agree – utility companies don’t need to be boring!


Interactive roadwork

Thames Water - Twitter page

Over 2,000 followers

Thames Water - mobile site and app

Soon to launch mob' site

Thames Water - Waterwisely


Thames Water - water saving calculator

Water saving calculator

Thames Water - facebook virals

Facebook viral

Thames Water - one safety hub

One safety hub

Thames Water - interactive maps

Interactive maps

Thames Water - digital guidelines

Digital guidelines

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Life has a funny way of letting you know you’ve been around the block. Part of the joys of growing up is defining and deciding where you stand in life, going through the process of self discovery. Deciding where you stand on key worldly issues, whether global politics, the envioronment or whatever, through debate, argument and heated emotions – that’s growing up.

But part of the fun of being grown up, is recognising that life has a funny way of repeating itself…

Having worked ‘agency-side’ for over a decade now, the cycles of repetition are starting to emerge here too. Whether it’s seeing clients swing from using outsourced to in-house models (and back again!) or agencies rushing to figure out how to turn the latest buzz-word into a service offering. I’m just saying that there are some key themes which tend to repeat and cause the same questions to be asked time and time again.

Will or should the agency model change, is one such question I am often asked, or forced to consider. As channels and consumer demands evolve and diversify will the agency of tomorrow be a different beast to the agency of today? It’s a question we’ve faced increasingly in these economic times too. Should we do it all in-house, or retain only key strategic roles in-house (consultancy) and outsource the design and development work? After all, design and development is now so commoditised. Just take a look at (the EBay of design work) to see what I mean.

For me though, the more I hear this question being asked, the more I am assured it boils down to the type of work you want to produce if you’re an agency or have produced if you’re a client. And, if the answer you aspire to create the best work in the world that engages, communicates and convinces audiences, there is no doubt in my mind that a full service agency is the only way to go. Why…?

Well, it’s not far different to the supermarket’s vs local high street shops debate! In theory clinging on to the fine local shops might make sense (aka niche agencies offering the latest buzz-word as a service), but in practice? Well, let’s just say I know where I end up doing my shopping – irrespective of my ideals (it’s down at Tesco’s in case you’re wondering!).

To the outsourcing advocates I say, you might have an agency business model but how long will it be before you come back to recognise that the only way to produce industry leading work is by creating a rich, thriving environment, where the creative and technical passion oozes from every corner and innovation is part of the fabric. This, I maintain, can only be achieved by cramming as much expertise and talent as you can (find demand for and sell!) under one roof.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]I recently came across the interesting theory of Prediction Markets, which could have a profound effect on how we apply social networking initiatives in a business context.

Before I go on I’d like to state … that whilst I’d love to stake claim to the concept of Prediction Markets or suggestions for how to apply it, the best I’d be able to do is take claim for bringing this to your attention today! Prediction Market theory is long standing and the idea of applying it come from people far smarter than my humble self. The premise is simple however…

Prediction Markets are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions – where people who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction.

It’s when the theory of prediction markets is combined with Web 2.0 mechanisms of today, that  powerful outcomes for business could be unlocked. Indeed, many social initiatives today have allowed large groups to work to a common goal. In the public domain things like the Pepsi Refresh challenge have allowed the public to (together) decide what social initiatives Pepsi will sponsor. This is now nothing new with My Starbucks Idea, Dell Idea Storm, M&S ‘Plan A’ and many other similar initiatives already around for a while.

The quest is on for how these initiatives can evolve and produce better results yet. Introducing Prediction Markets to the above scenarios could create a whole new level of engagement and perhaps more importantly, enable the successful ideas to be predicated with far greater accuracy.

Practical applications are not too difficult to imagine. Consider then for example in a corporate context, if staff could ‘bet’ on the next years R&D spend. And if those ideas were to get selected and subsequently launched into products, that staff who backed the ideas would reap rewards of some sort. Imagine the interest this would evoke in that companies R&D strategy.

The key for this to work would be establishing a reward mechanism, so the people who back successful ideas get rewarded too. The more successful the idea becomes, the greater the reward. Likewise, backing the wrong ideas would result in perceived losses too. In this model, it is not only the original contributor of the idea that get’s rewarded (by having their ideas selected), but all those that ‘invested’ in the idea too.

Needless to say, the concept of introducing Prediction Markets into today’s social initiatives has it’s risks, ranging from accuracy, the ability for some to manipulate the system and perhaps even just the addictiveness of it and time consumed by it (especially in a corporate environment).

But, if the boffins are correct in their assertions that Prediction Markets result in greater accuracy of trend prediction, then businesses may have a good way to evolve their social networking initiatives into something of greater value than the ‘Like’ buttons of today.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Could there soon be a time when an individuals buying power will be influenced by ones social networking activity? Can social network value actually be calculated to then used by businesses to create brand ambassadors or a new level of customer segmentation?

What sparked this for me recently is a random act of generosity by Apple. For no apparent reason after telling us it would cost over £200 to fix, Apple decided to fix the smashed screen on my iPad for free (I dropped canned tomatoes on it). They made clear it’s a once off ‘gesture of good will’ and whilst I made clear I don’t plan on dropping any more cans of tomatoes on it – the question still remains – why would they do this? Especially seeing as I was never more willing to hand over £200!

The importance of securing business today cannot be underestimated and businesses are rapidly understanding the power of social networking in achieving this. Obviously it wasn’t long after I left the Apple store that I Facebook’ed about Apples generosity, immediately letting my whole social network know of the incident. So, was I subject to a random act of kindness or had Apple assumed my social network value (at greater than £200)?

It sounds a little big brother, maybe a bit Hollywood. I’ve not seen the movie The Joneses but I hear it isn’t too far off what I’m talking about.

Today I learnt that Starbucks, Mazda and Argos have recently signed up for Facebook deals, offering Facebook users who “check in” using the Facebook Places feature on their mobile app, access to special offers and other deals. Will it be long before this idea extends, so that only those with a social network value above a certain value, or of a certain type, will be able to trigger the reward?

There is a risk to all this of course. Something outlined by Seth Godin recently, “Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. What the Internet has allowed is an enormous amount of fake networking to take place, and it’s so easy to be seduced by it… and it’s nonsense.”

Where things get scary is where social network value could become a factor not only of the number of contacts one has, but what the combined value of ones network is. Introduce into this credit ratings, demographic data and anything else which is being collected about us today and you have a pretty frightening scenario to contemplate.

Intranetzzzz zzzzz zzzz

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Intranet

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Who would have thought that intranets can be exciting!? That governance, content strategy, stakeholder engagement and rollout strategy can be things to get excited by? With a reputation damaged by a lack of ownership and focus, intranets certainly don’t have a good name for themselves.

At View our take on creating a successful intranet has always been a simple one – treat it as a journey. As with every journey there is a clear start and end point (and at times, an onward destination!). At the start, just one simple question why would people use an intranet? At the end, something usable, effective and engaging that users want to use.

Intranets designed by View

Intranets designed by View - never losing sight of the end user experience.

Granted, writing about the journey in a short blog post is not so easy. Every organisation has different challenges and different solutions are needed to get there.

But all too often though the starting and ending points are forgotten about and when this happens it’s no surprise that getting there is made all the more complicated. Perhaps most importantly, it’s when these are forgotten that the passion is lost from what should ultimately be an exciting and inclusive challenge for any organisation to address. Hell – I know we’re having fun working on our intranets!!

The costly risk of ignoring Wapps…

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Mobile

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]A problem is looming of the scale of the Betamax vs VHS HDDVD vs Blueray days. With the mobile app market growing at an astonishing rate, the number of app platforms (iPhone, Android etc) to consider is increasing in complexity and Wapps (Web apps) might just prove to be the solution.

The problem
There is no denying the iPhone app market evolved much faster than anybody predicted. With over 250,000 apps on the iTunes app store today, their popularity is undeniable. The iPad has been another string to the app store success and ensures Apple will remain king of the hill for a while longer.

However, as time goes on and other mobile manufacturers refine their smartphone capabilities,  other app stores (Android Market,  Samsung Apps, Nokia Ovi Store and Blackberry Appworld for example) are gaining popularity and distorting the app  landscape. Smartphones are not the only devices distorting the landscape, as new tablets like the Blackberry Playbook and Samsung Tab emerge, ensuring that the confusion over ‘what platform to develop my app for?’ deepens – making the choice(s) potentially very costly.

To add to this, you have the big mobile operators (AT&T, Vodaphone, Orange, NTT DoCoMo, Verizon to name a few) joining forces trying to cash in on the mix by forming the Wholesale Applications Community [] aiming  to ‘provide greater choice for users by enabling portability of applications across devices, operating systems and network operators’.

The end result is an ever more complex landscape for deciding what mobile platform to develop for. Whilst this is lucrative great news for app developers, it makes the creation of mobile content (increasingly so) more costly.

Will Wapps be the answer?
Wapps – or Web apps – are nothing new, but they are the ‘not so spoken about’ alternative to developing apps. Wapps can provide the same user experience provided by apps but require nothing more than just pointing your mobile web browser at a URL (as opposed to actually downloading an app). Unlike device specific apps, Wapps are practically device independent and provide a very similar user experience to that of an app.

Apple for example has the (shhhh) Web apps store. Google does too – their whole Google experience (search, maps, gmail, iGoogle and more) is available as Wapps.

iPhone homescreen Google mail on iPhone screenshot

From a launch icons on the desktop through to a smooth browser based interface - Wapps provide a platform independent 'app experience' via a browser.

In summary
I am not saying that Wapps will not eradicate the need for apps  – they do have certain limitations such as they cannot (yet) cache local data – so would not be useful for apps that require offline availability for example.

But, I would argue that many apps installed on your phone today could have been developed as Wapps. This would not only make them immediately accessible  on most smartphones but from a cost point of view provides huge savings by eliminating the need to create an app per mobile platform.

As the number of mobile platforms increase and the better developers get at developing Wapps, the question won’t so much be “what platforms should I create my apps for” …but will more likely be “could my content be delivered as a Wapp instead”.

Not considering this could prove to be a very costly mistake.