Sunday, November 25, 2012

Windows 8 and Office 2013

About 3 weeks ago I took the plunge to install Windows 8 and office 2013 on my 4 year old laptop that was crawling. It was a spur of the moment decision due to the frustration of my laptop just not responding to me. Now I don't regret that decision at all. My laptop has got a new lease of life. Its much faster and very responsive, the UI looks modern and sleek and all the software that I had on my Windows 7 OS works like a charm.

I did not do an upgrade, I did a complete rebuild of my laptop with Windows 8. So that kind of cleaned out 4 years of junk that I had accumulated and I started off with a clean machine. The whole transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 including backup and restore of my data and installing all the applications I needed took me less than half a day. This is my fastest OS build ever since I started using Windows since way back in 1992.

What do I like about Windows 8
1. As mentioned already its fast and responsive. All the applications open so much more faster and work so much more better.
2. Interface to the XBox 360 is nice. You open your video and then just do a share-to and choose the xbox console and it all works.
3. The live tiles on the desktop are nice to look at but I really don't find that much use to them as I rarely work from the desktop. But it really brings your desktop alive.

What I do not like about Windows 8
1. The removal of the start button from the desktop. Since the desktop is the traditional desktop on Windows they should have left the start button in there. There are applications you can install to get similar features. Click here to read more about them.
2. The skype program comes with the metro UI but many of the features that we love in skype are missing such as screen sharing and adding other participants to an existing call and it is really not that easy to have multiple conversations at the same time in the metro UI of skype. Also since it is a metro UI you do not have access to your desktop and if there are other conversations going on in other chat programs such as GTalk you get no notification that there is a chat message waiting for you. The metro UI is really not user friendly on a desktop where a lot of multi tasking goes on.
3. The Metro UI menu options takes a bit of getting used to. Finding things on the Metro UI that one is used to finding in a particular place takes some time and this can lead to a bit of frustration.  So Google becomes your best friend to find out where the option is.

My opinion is move to Windows 8. Its a fun interface that is fresh and its just so responsive when you do something on it.

Office 2013 comes with a very bland flat clean interface that feels odd when you first start it up having got used to the beveled buttons and the 3D interface of previous office products. I found it odd for a while to have the menu and the content area in the same white color thus not having the clear demarcation between the two. But again its fast, responsive and sleek so if you get a chance to move to it you should. In terms of feature set I have not used any of the features that are new in it like its integration into sky drive, syncing across devices (will try it out when I get my Windows phone), PDF Editing (Nice !!! - Didn't know it till I read this article).

In terms of feature set its not really a big upgrade from Office 2010 so you can move to it at your own pace.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Global Startup Battle - 2012

We finally managed to get the Global Startup Battle of Startup Weekend to Hyderabad in 2012. The Global Startup Battle is 138 Startup Weekends happening across the world on two consecutive weekends where the winner from each of the startup weekends gets to upload a video which is open to a global voting. The top 15 teams in the voting get into a semifinal and finally the winner gets a trip to Rio and the Google office in the US along with a lot of other goodies.

Since we were time constrained in organizing the event we had less than a month to plan for it and also it happened to be right in the middle of the holiday season and exam season in Hyderabad tickets were hard to sell. We finally managed to sell about 60 tickets with a lot of enthusiastic and excited participants making it down to the Progress office at Madhapur on Friday evening. The event started off with the surprise visit of the Hyderabad Angels who had an open Q and A session with the participants. After that we had short talks and again Q and A sessions by Santanu Paul from TalentSprint and Abhishek from GharPay.

With that over we started off the event with an exciting Pitch Fire session where participants pitched their ideas to the other participants in one minute. We had about 40 high quality pitches which was followed by dinner and networking. After dinner participants were asked to vote on 3 pitches that they like. On completion of the voting we picked 10 teams who got the top number of votes led by the person who pitched the idea. Over the next one hour teams were formed and they got working on their ideas.

On saturday we had mentors come in to help the teams consisting UX experts, Angels, CEOs and Entrepreneurs. Teams worked on their business plans, development of MVP and doing customer surveys and interactions and final presentations which were to be done in front of a panel of judges on sunday evening.

On sunday evening at 5 the final presentations were done where each team got 5 min to present and 2 min of Q and A with the judges after which the winner was announced and our entry into the Global Startup Battle was LEBTOP - Learn English By Talking on Phone. You can vote for this team by visiting this website.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Build your brand and assets

Right from the beginning it is important for every startup to think about how they are going to build up the brands and the assets of the organization. If the organization starts up doing software products then this is a lot easier, but if the organization starts up by doing software services then this might seem very hard but it is important that a framework is put in place to capture and grow every asset the company is building over time.

People come and go in an organization the only thing constant are the brands and the assets the company builds over time. The organization even if it is in the software services space should always think about how they are going to add to these assets because it is these assets that in the long run will build value for the organization.

Building skills in the people working in the organization does not work in the long run, one cannot stop them from leaving the organization and when they leave, the knowledge that they gained which is the asset the organization markets and sells leaves with them in turn making the organization poorer. Physical assets in the form of software products and well documented processes that are maintained never leave the organization. They can be picked up by others and carried forward.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beginners don’t have baggage

We have been hiring and time and time again I have come to realize that it is a lot easier to hire smart bright freshers and train them rather than hiring experienced developers. The problem with hiring freshers from databases such as Naukri and Monster is that there are a lot of profiles there that are put up by consultants who fill up the profile with fake projects and experience and it wastes a lot of your time filtering this out.

What are the advantages of hiring a fresher
1. They come with no preconceived thoughts of what they want to do. They have an open mind and are willing to take up any kind of tasks.
2. They are open to listening and adopting to the company culture. They fit into the way the company works and functions a lot easier and faster.
3. They enjoy and appreciate everything that is given to them. There are no comparisons made.
4. They stay much longer in the organization and they are much more loyal.
5. They are easier to hire as all you need to judge their technical thought process and their fitment with respect to the organization.
6. They come with no expectations other than to learn and work hard.

Yes it is hard work for a while as there needs to be a proper training and mentoring process in place. In a software services space clients expect experienced developers so it is a lot harder to convince and place freshers.

Experienced hires do bring a different dimension into the organization but a careful due diligence needs to be done to ensure that there is a good synergy going between the existing employees in the organization and the new hire. If this is carefully thought out and planned then hiring experienced staff can work wonders by giving more diversity to the culture of the organization.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

6 Challenges Techies have while selling

Techies love building products but then they find there are a lot of challenges in going out into the market and selling them. Being a techie myself and now playing a sales role I completely understand these challenges.
Challenge 1 : Anything can be built
When a sales call is made and the client states a requirement that is not present in the product, the sales person immediately puts on his techie hat trying to figure out how to build that rather than concentrating on selling the product. Very quickly the discussion changes from a sales discussion to a technical implementation discussion.
Challenge 2 : Lead evaluation
Techies find it hard to evaluate the lead. They find it hard to differentiate between a hot lead and a cold lead. For the techie they believe that every customer is a hot lead and they need to satisfy it because that gives them more work to do.
Challenge 3 : Does not accept that the sale is not going to happen
Since techies believe that everything is possible for them every sale is possible and they will keep pursuing it till it happens.
Challenge 4 : Evaluation the business viability of the customer request
Extending the above challenges the techie wants to satisfy every customer and so does not evaluate the request from the customer from a business stand point. For the techie everything should be built and they will go headlong into building it even if it is only for one customer in a SaaS based product.
Challenge 5 : Introvert
Most techies are introverted. They like to sit in a corner put on their headphones and churn out code. They dont like being interrupted and they dont like being tossed around doing different tasks. A sales job requires the person to be just the opposite - they should be extroverted, they should love to talk, they should be confident and they should be convincing.
Challenge 6 : Having intimate knowledge of the product does not make they sound convincing
Due to the fact that the techies have an intimate knowledge of the product sometimes they do not come across convincing in selling the product because they know at the back of their mind that there are some flaws in the feature set the customer is requesting. When the sales person has no knowledge of the underlying product then they just sound super confident about the product.

This does not mean that techies cant be excellent sales staff. There are many wonderful techies who I know that are in sales and they are brilliant at it and they understand these challenges and over come them.

Feel free to share any of your thoughts on challenges that you have faced while selling.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Power of intuition and experiential wisdom

In his autobiography Steve Jobs said "The people in the Indian countryside don't use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That's had a big impact on my work," Jobs later recalled to Walter Issacson, the biographer.

We see this in everyday life - the Indian intuition. If you observe how traffic moves on Indian roads it looks chaotic and crazy. It looks like everyone is going to crash into one another and we are going to have one big crazy pile up. But we defy reality - there is a method in the madness, there is an implicit understanding between the drivers and pedestrians of what each one is going to do next.

Before you drive on Indian roads you have this feeling that its impossible to drive and that you will probably kill a million people if you drive. Hence there is a deep reluctance to start driving. Once you start driving you develop this intuition and connection with everyone else on the road that the reality of killing a million people never happens. This intuition cannot be taught and passed on to others to give them the confidence that they can drive, it has to be gained by driving.

The sad reality is that our education system is killing this power of intuition. I am seeing more and more graduates who pass out are able to very nicely tell me every definition or theorem but they are not able to explain how they will use this knowledge in their work or be able to find holistic solutions that solve a problem using the knowledge they gained in their education. This comes from combining intuition with knowledge and developing a sense of confidence of doing things.

We need to encourage people to use their intuition and not be afraid to experiment. It is only through this will we be able to start solving problems holistically and start providing value which in turn will bring greater success than just outsourcing our intellect. Intellect does not provide all the answers and we have to rely on intuition to take us all the way.