Managing Proof of Concepts

By | Ideas For Your Business | No Comments

We can all agree with the saying “practice makes perfect,” whether it is learning your ABC’s at a very young age and turning your ‘jello-minto-p’ into ‘l – m – n – o – p’; or the young athlete practicing your free throws, backhands, bunts or putts for hours and hours in preparation to be the best in the heat of competition. Corrections and modifications bring us closer to achieving our goals and help us recognize failures. Similarly, a proof of concept (PoC) is a step in the process to achieving your business goal. Companies utilize this process for various reasons, such as gaining a competitive advantage or creating a better customer experience.

In my career I have found enterprise companies struggle in executing this step-by-step process. I have been tasked with managing and running PoCs for companies many times over and have gained key insights into how to achieve the stated goal.

What is a Proof of Concept

 Wikipedia defines Proof of Concept “PoC” as the realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory has the potential of being used. A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.

It is important not to blur the lines of PoC, demonstration (demo) and minimal viable product (MVP). A MVP is the minimal execution of a product that is released to customers. A demo or demonstration is just that, an example of a working process. No more, no less. A PoC is one step in the trial and error process that validates or invalidates a process for a given task.

A PoC troubled from the start

 This year one of my clients, a globally renowned brand, referred BlueFletch to an internal team to help them with a project. The project entailed helping them run a few PoCs. I was excited because the work was right in our wheelhouse. Below is brief dramatization of our one and only conversation.

  • CLIENT: Based on the requirements I sent over for the Green team, we are looking to obtain a better process capturing and reporting on important information. My goal is to define a process for running small, week long PoCs for internal teams for a strictly defined budget. Is this possible and how you would technically solve for this?
  • BlueFletch: I have reviewed the requirements as well. Has the Green team shared with you their top priority for this project? Have they defined any metrics that would help us prioritize the features defined in the requirements to obtain a better process?
  • CLIENT: BlueFletch, what is really important is understanding how I can define a repeatable process for running internal PoCs.
  • BlueFletch: Ok. So what does success mean to you?
  • CLIENT: Can we achieve my goal or not?
  • BlueFletch: I’m unclear of the goal. We can definitely work on a process for a week, but when you deliver the output of the PoC to the Green team how do you know if you were successful or not?
  • CLIENT: Because it will be delivered.
  • BlueFletch: What if we do not finish the process in a week?
  • CLIENT: Then we will give you more time. My goal is to deliver what we scoped in the requirements to the Green team.
  • BlueFletch: That is not a PoC. That is an MVP.
  • CLIENT: That is the process I am trying to execute here.
  • BlueFletch: (face palm)

The client wanted us to deliver an MVP for a PoC price and time frame. Even if the scope of the effort was large enough, the fact we could not agree on success from the start is a red flag that is commonly overlooked.

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Beginners Guide to Voice Services In the Age of Digital Assistants

By | Internet of Things, IoT | No Comments

Leveraging your voice to initiate a command, start a service or even change the channel has been around for years. I remember in my grade school days hearing the voice of my parents or grandparents to fetch them something from the other room, change the channel on the television or even just to be quiet. These days, kids have a lot of distractions, from tablets to noise canceling headphones, rendering those ‘old school’ personal assistants no longer available.

All jokes aside, digital assistants and voice driven interactions are becoming commonplace as voice services increasingly improve. BlueFletch has been fortunate enough to work with clients across an array of industry verticals to explore how voice services will impact their organizations. We’ve helped our clients leverage voice services for more impactful engagement with their customers, allowing them to engage customers in new ways and capturing metadata that would be lost during a normal human interaction. Other clients are increasing the efficiency of their workforce by adding voice services in order to allow a worker to be hands free, keeping attention on critical actions and creating a safer work environment.

A (Recent) History of Voice Services

In recent years, we are yelling less at kids and more at Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, Google and Siri. Every major tech company is working on its own digital assistant that is powered by a set of voice services.

      • Apple released Siri in 2011 and now Siri is apart of most of Apple’s operating systems (i.e. iOS, watchOS, macOS and tvOS)
      • Amazon Alexa was made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot. Fun fact, the name Alexa was chosen due to the fact that it has a hard consonant with the X and therefore could be recognized with higher precision.
      • Microsoft lifted its character from the Halo video game franchise to launch their intelligent personal assistant Cortana.
      • Google Assistant was unveiled just last year. Different from Google Now, the Google Assistant can engage in two-way conversations.

This year has been the year of the voice for BlueFletch. We have been a part of many workshops and brainstorming sessions where voice is the centerpiece of the User’s experience. For those new to the space, I wanted to talk about the three technologies that are key to bringing these voice experiences to life.

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Always On Home Security

By | Ideas For Your Business

With the impending arrival of Google Fiber in my neighborhood, I can’t contain how happy I am to finally have an alternative to Xfinity. I am not sure why I am forced to have a landline when I do not even own a phone, but that is a separate blog within itself. One service that Xfinity offers is their Xfinity Home service for security and remote home management features. Since a comparable service is not available with Google I see this as an opportunity to put together a solution leveraging a few technologies that I have been wanting to dive into.

  • Machine Learning
  • Big Data
  • Digital Fingerprinting / Identification

As most of you are aware by now, if I can tinker around and create something myself, I am going to try. While working on a couple of retail based POC’s for client projects at BlueFletch I got the idea for creating a home security system. The source of my inspiration were these two proof of concepts:

  1. Tracking and identifying customers in a retail location from the devices and/or applications they would have.
  2. A device that could manage other smaller beacons in a retail location.

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How to Test the Efficacy of Your Omni-Channel – BlueFletch Uses Support Analytics to Power Retail’s Buy Online, Pickup In-Store

By | Enterprise, Ideas For Your Business, Mobile In Retail | One Comment

The “Buy Online Pickup In Store” offering has become a popular addition to most retailer’s omni-channel strategy over the last few years. Flexible fulfillment programs that integrate all three sales channels – online, in-store and mobile apps – can reduce shipping costs for customers and increase overall sales by drawing more shoppers into the store. BOPIS improves customer satisfaction and allows traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to more effectively compete with major online stores.

In an age of Amazon Now/Echo, Alibaba, Mobile Payments and other disruptive retail technologies, customers are demanding and expecting more from brick-and-mortar retailers. Retailers must acknowledge these expectations or risk losing out to the competition. Today’s savvy and busy shoppers want to save two things: time and money. BOPIS as part of a bigger omni-channel strategy can deliver on both.

Strategic advantage of well implementing BOPIS include:

  • More unplanned purchases when shoppers visit the store (40% vs only 25%).
  • Faster delivery.
  • Connecting customer data from online to offline for insights down the road.
  • Larger basket sizes.
  • Higher conversion rates.
  • Sometimes it’s more convenient than waiting for the item to be delivered.
  • Save on shipping costs.
  • Shorter overall time to receipt of an order compared to ordering online.
  • Price matching now ensures the most competitive price.
               Source: Lineapple.com

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Bullseye

By | Ideas For Your Business | No Comments
I have been writing a series of blog posts trying to convey what makes an engagement with BlueFletch special and unique.
My first post highlighted the differences between the generalist and specialist approach. I wanted to explore the possibility of will any solution do? There is a time and place for an off-the-shelf solution and even a one-size-fits-all platform. At BlueFletch we pride ourselves on being the specialist. Our clients come to us when they have tough problems and want the right solution.
Next, I talked about where the road ends and why custom is important. I explored how some organizations are stuck with bloated solutions created by global organizations trying to solve the world’s problems with a single solution. When your organization is an industry leader, the best in the world and/or looking to support a trade secret (secret sauce) you need a partner you can trust and a partner that can bring innovation from a perspective of experience.
So to round out this series I want to talk to the why of BlueFletch. Our why starts with the origin of the name BlueFletch (/blo͞o,fleCH/) which comes from two things.

Where the road ends: Why is Custom Important

By | Enterprise, Ideas For Your Business
Identifying, solving and executing precise solutions for business problems can be a struggle for organizations of any size. This is especially challenging when solving problems that are counter to the culture or business norms of your organization.

This may sound harsh but let me know if you have encountered the following:

  • “That’s how we have always done it…”
  • “Leadership wants it this way…”
  • “We are tied to this solution for another X years…”
  • “We don’t have any more budget this year/Or budget for that project went to another team…”
I am a huge fan of design thinking and giving myself the time and space to solve problems to the best of my abilities. There are projects that require us to will a solution to success due to uncontrollable constraints. The most challenging projects are the ones that I relish most. It’s what keeps me involved and growing personally and professionally.
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Need a mobile solution? If so, will any solution do?

By | Business Analysis, Ideas For Your Business
What do I wear? What’s for lunch? Should I buy a new car or a used car?

Making decisions is a normal process. We do it instinctively, day in and day out. And yet, some decisions are more important than others. For the enterprise, the build-versus-buy decision can be a challenging one. Determining whether to invest in long term efforts or chose a more conservative (i.e. less expensive and short term) approach is not to be taken lightly.

buildvbuyLONG

When deciding to implement a mobile strategy, will anything do?

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A Money Making Innovation for Transportation & Logistics

By | Ideas For Your Business | No Comments

Years ago when I worked at Accenture, I participated in a innovation contest sponsored by the United States Postal Service (USPS) account that I was on. The goal was to cultivate innovative ideas that USPS could leverage (or Accenture could use to sell additional work).

Looking back at that competition and thinking about my idea, it is still pretty valid. With the advancements in wireless, mobile and IoT, I would like to revisit and update my pitch.

Background

After graduating from Morehouse College, I started a transportation company. It would be considered a Mom & Pop operation. The data at the time had some eye popping numbers.

In Transportation & Logistics:

  • 90%+ of the companies are 30 trucks or less (Mom & Pop)
  • that would be approximately 500k+ companies
  • most of the technology that supports that industry is expensive and usually is targeted towards larger enterprises.
  • at that time there were a lot of copying, faxing and using excel spreadsheets to provide analytics

logistics

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2016 Presidential Race to Mobile Technology

By | Ideas For Your Business | No Comments

The 2016 presidential campaign is well under way now that Hillary Clinton and Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have all announced their candidacy. Even though there’s 500+ days until the election, news coverage is already a bit ridiculous (cue Hillary Clinton at Chipotle news cycle).

We are still pretty early in the election cycle so exact details on each of the candidates’ platforms are still minimal – especially since it’s  expected that about 20 more candidates will jump into the race. This includes your Donald Trumps and Waka Flocka Flames. Jokes aside, I am a co-founder in a mobile consulting firm, so I’m naturally curious to see which candidates are going to leverage mobile technology in their run for our highest office.

It seems like each election brings  another innovation or piece of technology that candidates can use to reach the American people. We’ve gone from radio, to television, to internet and most recently social media. These have been platforms that candidates have leveraged to set themselves apart. Now that Grandma is on Instagram, being clever on social media or having a “social media” strategy is par for the course.

Considering that  presidential campaigns raise (and spend) more than a billion dollars in less than two years, they seem more like Silicon Valley start-ups. Given the amount of resources and visibility that candidates have, I wonder if there is more in mobile that campaigns could be doing to gain that slim advantage.

Let’s first take inventory of what the current candidates are up t0:

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Windows Phone – Private Enterprise Certificates

By | Ideas For Your Business | No Comments

I recently needed to purchase an enterprise code signing certificate for a new product we are building: Support Analytics. This certificate would enable Support Analytics agents that run on Windows Phones to be deployed privately (outside of the AppStore) and into enterprises.

Purchasing the code signing certificate from Symantec was pretty straightforward. However, actually adding the certificate to our Visual Studio solution was really, really, really painful. Despite my haze, I want to document this process, and hopefully save someone from such a painful experience.

So, ideally, you already have the certificate (along with the private key) installed and it is in your personal certificate store. Make sure that you select the option to make the private key exportable (if said option is available) when you import the certificate. Read More