Information and Intelligence

What Intelligence do you need as a company? Here are some ways of looking at intelligence you need to gather to stay competitive.

Market/Industry Intelligence

You need an idea of your marketplace, players in the space. You need to identify potential  competition and  partners. While you gather information about your marketplace, you may also want to keep an eye on the broader industry.  For example, if you are building mobile enterprise applications, you may want to keep an eye on the broader trends and dynamics in the mobile application space.

Emerging Technology Intelligence

Technology has the potential of disrupting many existing businesses. A good example is what Apple’s iPod did to music industry. Other examples include what Cloud computing may do to traditional software products or how tablet like devices may impact laptops. Having a good knowledge of the potential applications of emerging technologies is essential for business of any size. You may  want to watch emerging technologies that may render your products/services obsolete.

Tracking emerging technology trends and figuring out how you can use them to disrupt your own products, may be a good exercise. Watching how some of your competitors are using technology, is another. For example, is your competition using social media to promote their products? What is their Twitter influence and reach? Where do they make new product announcements? Do they advertise on Facebook or other social networks? Do they have a discussion forums on LinkedIn? Do they answer questions in various social networks?

You may also want to track how your industry is leveraging emerging technology. If they are not, is there an opportunity to lead and gain more visibility?

Competitor/Customer Intelligence

Every company has competition of some sort.  In some cases two entirely different products/services may compete. This may not be obvious by just looking at the product category. An example is a search engine like Google and a social network like Facebook. Competition includes direct and indirect competition.

What is Customer Intelligence? If some one is selling to your customer category, they may be either a potential partner or a competitor. In fact, a lot of competitive intelligence may come from  customer interactions and request for proposals(RFPs). If you competition got to your customer before you did, you may find some of their features in the RFP. RFPs are incidentally, a great way to mine customer requirements in a particular market place.

If you agree that you need these different types of intelligence, how do you go about obtaining it? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the sources of information?
  2. How can you identify the most relevant sources and how do you constantly discover new ones?
  3. What kinds of tools are available to automate the information gathering process?
  4. How do you filter out the noise and find what is relevant to your product or service?
  5. How will you gather information and extract what you need?
  6. How do you analyze information to get actionable intelligence about markets, customers, competitors, technology?
  7. How can you leverage information to identify potential customers(generate leads), partners/channels and competitors?

There are about five stages in this process. This is a spiral model where you continuously enhance/refine every step based on what you learn from other steps.

  1. Discovery – Discovering Relevant sources of Information
  2. Tracking – Continuously monitoring these sources and discovering more in the process.
  3. Filtering – Filtering the noise and gaining the information most relevant to your business
  4. Extracting – Transforming information from free form into some kind of useful structure to distribute internally.
  5. Sharing – Sharing information at different levels of granularity, refining it and deriving actionable intelligence.

What is Your Wishlist for a Tablet?

What is your wish list for a table? (we have an iPad but I would like the following)

  1. A stylus for sketching and writing (my primary thinking tools)
  2. A book like design where I can open it up and read both sides or turn one side into a keyboard
  3. Half the size of current iPad
  4. A system where I can run any browser and any browser based app (Firefox with all its plugins would be ideal)
  5. USB support

This post was triggered by this article from Wired magazine – Customers Are Tablet-Hungry, and Not Just for the iPad

Internet Time Line Infographics And Memories

I started using email in 1986. But I was blissfully unaware of Internet till the first browsers appeared. I think we even bought an “Internet in a Box” in mid 90s.  But starting 95 when we sold our company and 1997  when we moved to Silicon Valley (from Forest Hills NY), I can relate to every event and almost remember what I was doing at each point in this time line.

This time line Infographic brings back lots of memories.

MBA Online
Via: MBA Online

Potential Disruptions Are Easier To Spot Today?

I was reading this fascinating post on Why do we miss disruptive innovations?

… experts can’t be relied upon to pick the significance of breakthrough ideas and technologies. We become experts through extensive training in how to see the world in a particular way.

A consequence of this is that real breakthroughs are often unheralded because they don’t conform to the ways that experts think they should work.

Let us say you come up with a potential disruption? How do you spread the idea? Before the widespread use of internet, it used to be through columnists. During 90s, I met a lot of columnists in the tech industry. I can hardly recall three of them getting the core of  some of our ideas. I consider ourselves lucky to stumble upon some of them.

Think about Twitter. How many people really got it, at first? Or Facebook or even Google Search’s true potential? Hopefully those days are past. I think it is easier today to spread the knowledge of potential disruptions. Do you agree? If you do why do you think it is? If not, why not?

Twifficiency and Business Model for Twitter Apps?

Here is a Twitter app I came across recently – Twifficiency. I tried it and here is what I got. Pretty neat.

I was happy with my score and even read the little blurb.  Then I suddenly noticed a Google Ad on top right. That is kind of cool. So is this one way to make money out of Twitter apps? Worth trying, I thought. And then, of course, I had to share it with all of you to see what you think. Have you seen other business models for Twitter Apps?

InfoStreams Python Alerts Aug 18th 2010

Here are alerts from tracking Python on InfoStreams (took out two entries for job alerts)

There are 17 results for your Alert titled: Python

  1. lettuce 0.1.11lettuce 0.1.11 Behaviour Driven Development for python
  2. pyenchant 1.6.3pyenchant 1.6.3 Python bindings for the Enchant spellchecking system
  3. A multithreaded, concurrent version of map() (Python)A multithreaded, concurrent version of map() (Python) Python recipe 577360 by Wai Yip Tung (concurrency, multithreading, threads). map() applies a function to a list of data sequentially. This is a variation to map that execute each function call concurrently in a thread. Wai Yip Tung
  4. pgmagick 0.0.3pgmagick 0.0.3 Yet Another Python wrapper for GraphicsMagick++
  5. broadwick 1.2.0broadwick 1.2.0 A Python Application Environment.
  6. mahotas 0.4mahotas 0.4 Mahotas: Python Image Processing Library
  7. python-cloudservers 1.2python-cloudservers 1.2 Client library for Rackspace’s Cloud Servers API
  8. pyremote 0.1pyremote 0.1 Provides a Python-compatible interface for the Apple Remote
  9. fixture 1.4fixture 1.4 fixture is a python module for loading and referencing test data
  10. abl.util 0.1.1abl.util 0.1.1 A package that contains various helpful classes and functions used widely in the Ableton Python code base.
  11. LEPL 4.3.2LEPL 4.3.2 A Parser Library for Python 2.6+/3+: Recursive Descent; Full Backtracking
  12. Algorithmic Music Composition With Linux – athenaCL (Linux Journal)Algorithmic Music Composition With Linux – athenaCL (Linux Journal) Dave Phillips takes a look at athenaCL in the conclusion to his survey of algorithmic music composition systems for Linux. “In many ways athenaCL is the most comprehensive system that I’ve used for algorithmic composition. Its feature set is rich in …
  13. lupa 0.12lupa 0.12 Python wrapper around LuaJIT
  14. broadwick 1.1.2broadwick 1.1.2 A Python Application Environment.
  15. zopyx.convert2 2.2.3zopyx.convert2 2.2.3 A Python interface for the conversion of HTML to PDF, RTF, DOCX, WML and ODT) – belongs to zopyx.smartprintng.core

Your Top 5 Apps?

Once in a while I try to look at what I am doing. A lot of what I am doing depends on the Top 5 Apps I use. Here are my current top 5. Here is how I spend my online time. In my offline I try to keep my meetings to no more than 2 a day on an average.

  1. Firefox – I know that is too generic. I use it for Mail, browsing, blogging, reading blogposts, reading books (from Safari books online) and ebooks. 70%
  2. Skype/Gtalk – Most of my synchronous communication needs are met by these two. Project discussions, development discussions and most of the conversations I have with students take place here. 20%
  3. Tweetdeck – My main source of consuming and producing tweets – 5%
  4. Facebook – Interaction with groups and social media -3%
  5. LinkedIn – 2%

What are your top 5 tools? Where do you spend most of the time.

Why I Blog?

Here is a  recent tweet of mine.

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on why blogging matters to any professional. via @ducttape

Here are some reasons I blog:

  • It is a magnificent thinking tool. I think it has something to do with sitting down and writing. Sometimes, I just pick a link, a video or a tweet and think aloud.
  • It is an excellent way to start conversations. You find something interesting (to you) in a blog, and you can add your point of view.
    It is also a way to invite others to teach you. Sometimes I get more out of the comments of my blog than the act of writing it. People are generous with sharing ideas and information.
  • If you blog enough, your blogs will tell the world who you are,  which areas you have ideas to contribute. They say that you can judge a person by their friends. You can certainly learn a lot about a person by their blogs.
  • Reading a set of company blogs, you can get a sense of what the company is all about. When a product manager blogs, you get a peek at what is going on behind the scenes. I am amazed at how much you can understand about a person from their blogs. Blogging is one of the best branding tools.
  • Blogging is a delightful way to build an informal community.

To me, the act of blogging is therapeutic.

Enhanced E-books

I don’t really want my fictional characters to sing and dance while I am reading a novel. Having said that, I would love some animations in Science Fiction books.

I would love to see some animations in technical books. Imagine that you are reading a chapter on a four stroke engine. Won’t it be nice, if I can click on the image of the engine and an animation of it appears, right there in the spot? Won’t it be cool if the parts of the in the text start connecting with the 3D image of the engine? Further won’t it be nice if I can draw a line across the engine and it splits open (still working)?

What will this kind of interaction and animation do to children’s books?  The content is there. The computing power is there.  What will some thing like these enhancements  do to various Science and Engineering texts? Or for that matter, History or Geography?

While I have been thinking about this for a while I was triggered by this article and had the urge to tweet:

Enhanced e-book: Will include footage and content, including original video behind-the-scenes footage and songs #trends

Where are the tools?  What will this do to comprehension? Will it be too distracting (we should be able to turn off and reduce it to a normal book, if we want)? Your thoughts?

Building an Innovation Culture

A few thoughts.

  1. Educate people on innovation – what it is and what it is not. This education should include the difference between discovery, invention, ideas and innovation
  2. If you position innovation as exploration or experimentation, people will feel more comfortable trying a few.
  3. Provide some time for each person in the company to try it in any area they like, some times even outside the space the company operates in. Pick a few social innovation causes if needed.
  4. Show some examples of simple, incremental innovations. If you can show case what happened in your own company or in the context of your business/industry, people can relate better.
  5. Encourage ideas and recognize them in some way. While ideas are not innovation, they are a good starting point.
  6. Spread the stories of innovation and how it changed something for the better – not always in terms of gains or profits but even life style improvements, less stress etc.
  7. Building an innovation mindset takes time. Having an informal social network inside the company to share stories may act as a catalyst.