Monday, November 27, 2006

Why being there makes the difference

Couple of great little lessons in the last week about the power of being there in front of an audience, and telling them stories about how you see your business unfolding.

1. I got invited by the Business Roundtable to talk to a class of 15 year olds about a month ago about what I do at Telecom, what's important to us and the future opportunities that might exist.Given most of them have been alive just barely longer than I've been working here I told a story of how technology has changed so much in the last 12 years I've been here and how I've been able to do my little bit to make a difference. I got this letter from one of the students.

There are so many lessons in here, especially when you think of the context of this

  • Megan is not an existing customer - but I reckon there is every chance she might be one day
  • As part of this chat I got asked a very direct question of when we're going to roll out broadband to more rural areas and gave a very clear 'not for a very long time!' as an answer
  • I gave this talk to 45 people (30 kids and associated parents and teachers) - it probably cost me 3 hours of time (2 hours of prep and 1 hour of delivery) which, if I was being generous, probably cost Telecom $600. That is about $7 per person in terms of marketing cost and I reckon I got better cut through from this than any of our ads. This includes any in-direct benefit I would have got from these people talking to their friends and family.
I'm not saying we should ditch the TV commercials - clearly they work - but any chance to get in front of your customers in person (current ex- and future) has to be the best way to give your business personality and let your customers know you have a vision for THEM (not for you) and how you can 'make things better for average New Zealanders' - if it's not about that, then why are you here?

2. As one of my final acts in my old role, I gave a presentation on Thursday to the TUANZ business internet conference. It was all about how we research Emerging Technologies - which of course is actually all about understanding what are the problems that people will face in the future and how we can use technology to solve them. The guys put together a great demo of this based on streamlining the order and payment process for the local cafe based on the use of RFID. Worked really well and stimulated alot of discussion. Must say that the thing that really blew me away was Ernie Newman saying, in introducing the next speaker, that he was genuinely impressed that Telecom had a team of people who were so focussed on the customer and their problems, and that he held high hope for Telecom to execute its transition to a more holistic player in the NZ market - Paul Stoddart, Neil Forster, and all of the team at the old ETS (the new R&V) take a bow - you are actively changing the perception of Telecom for the better. One small team can make a big difference...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Usability Testing

Spent all of Friday doing usability testing on Residential Gateways.

Our technical team have shortlisted a number of models for us to look at as part of our Next Generation product set. Out of the 3 models that we looked at, and the 3 people we tested on, only one of them was able to get one model successfully working. Not a good look. There were a heap of issues. This includes

1. Having instructions printed in 10 point font that outline the need to run the CD before connecting any kit up.

2. Lots of device conflicts - we are going to have to get into some software development to resolve this

3. Some terrible language used in setting up the devices - the best example was a critical setting choice which had two options (World or Any)

4. The need for the customer to know ADSL log-in names and VCI/VPI settings

5. A device with no way to set it up other than to know the local IP address. Great.

So we learned heaps! For a start

1. We picked the right people to test on - non-techo people who got really frustrated when it wasn't simple. These are our target market. This is really important as I managed to get the device to work the night before but underestimated the pain that some people would go through. The video we have captured of the process is pure gold...

2. We have learned which information customers know off the top of their head vs having to have prepared

3. We have some really good insights into the look of the device - I don't think there is a way to make this device look acceptable in a home environment so we might as well just hide it.

4. We also have a great strawman for a proposed install process - to get to this in a day is a great result. This is the speed we need to work at...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The last 2 out of 3 years I've been involved in a work fund-raiser to grow moustaches with the noble aim of raising money for Women's Refuge (all based on the loose premise that guys with mo's get a bad rep for violence towards women that's not justified).

This year I'm taking part in Movember - a fundraiser for men's health (focussed on Men's prostrate problems). It would be fair to say that a week in I'm feeling very rough around the edges and not having nearly as much fun as we did doing this as a more localised activity. I think the cause doesn't resonate with me that much (I mean - doesn't matter how much you advertise no fella is that excited about a protrate check) but I'm hanging in there.

Pic is a doctored view of how we're coming along - if you're up for a sponsorship, Please go to Movember , enter my Rego number which is 46881 and your credit card details. All donations over $5 are tax deductible.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming up for air...

The last month has been pretty crazy - we've been taking a good hard look at the strategy work required to deliver our new business and how we use products and services to do this. That's driven a whole lot of design activity that we are right in the middle of. There are some really good things that we've done and some things that we've learned that will be critical for making a new business come to life. Here they are in no particular order

1. The importance of the design process

OK - This seems like a really obvious comment. Everyone these days is talking about design - as a bit of an apple fanboy (sad but true) I've been going on about how we need to design things better for customers so that they work together. By taking a good two months to design what we want from both a customer perspective and a business perspective we are having the hard conversations now as opposed to starting down a path we might not be able to get out of later. This is helping us get senior engagement early and I am certain will mean that the actual build process is shorter and tighter - we won't be holding many options open at that stage for sure.

2. External skills and diversity are critical when you are looking at a transformation project

After 3 days into this process we had an 'aha' moment. While the 4 of us were all really focussed on executing our strategy and turning ourselves into something very different to what we are at the moment (think lean, fast and delivering services that customers love and contrast to what you think of Telecom today) there is no doubt that you gradually drift back to what you are comfortable with and what you know - this is exacerbated by the fact that we're all male, middle-aged (shock!) and well above the average age. Hardly our target market. We've brought in a number of people to help us through this - some internal (mainly female and with varying backgrounds) and a Design coach from Optimal Usability - Michael Andrews. He's been superb - not only is he a very experienced design professional, he's brough a level of customer focus to what we are doing that has meant that we just don't talk about things relative to how we operate today - really refreshing!

3. Turning yourself into a design-led, customer-focussed organisation is hard

As someone who has talked about being customer focussed and got frustrated about that, I have been surprised at the extent of the change I've had to make to be able to design products, services and a business from a customer perspective. Thinking about every decision in a customer oriented way takes a level of change that our current organisation is probably not able to achieve.I say this based on the following evidence

  • I'm open to customer oriented thinking - but doing this on a decision by decision basis means putting aside your entire decision making framework based on business outcomes, technology etc. That is a massive change - I suggest you try it to see how different it is!
  • We are only just learning the way to ask questions from a customer perspective - Michael has been awesome in getting us to frame up the initial questions of how a customer would want to experience the service in language they would understand. This a new skill for us.
  • While we touch customers every day our actual interaction with them and experience of how they understand our products and services is really limited - we don't feel their pain enough. Tomorrow we're going to get some people to do some usability testing on existing products so we can see where we are starting from - I expect to take some grief...

4. Our new business model is the problem to solve - not the product set

We started off looking at this from the perspective of designing new products and services and the processes that sit around them. Seemed reasonably straight forward - the fact is the change is so big that you have to design what your new business looks like from top to bottom so you know what you're delivering to. This has been controversial - we're getting a lot of push-back on this along the lines of 'trust us - we have this under control'. The fact is - if we are finding it hard to turn ourselves into more customer oriented people and design that way in, how can we possibly trust people to design a business model who don't have that world view. Still employed this week so hoping that some of what we are saying is resonating...

5. This is not delegatable

Well - I certainly couldn't delegate it and I won't be. It's pretty easy to delegate stuff you know that's incremental or relatively low risk. This is complex, requires new skills to be learned and we're banking the business on it. Seems like something too big to be delegated 3 levels down but what do I know.

Huge month - and i reckon the next 2 will be even bigger - must do some daily updates for a change.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Job

It's been a while between posts - since then I've decided to take on a new role within Telecom heading up its Next Generation Product Management group. This role is part of the Consumer Business Unit and is primarily focussed on developing the product set that will be at the core of our next few decades. It will mean moving the entire residential set of products (and some wireless) onto new product platforms that are all IP based. This will transform the product set, and if done well, transform our business.

A few people have asked why I have decided to take on this role, which will be challenging (in the least!), as opposed to keeping on going with the role that I've had in researching customer behaviour and new technology.

For me, it's come down to a few things

1. Delivery - I really enjoy picking trends, but I found it very frustrating seeing these ideas incubate without getting to market. This role provides the opportunity to still use those skills and also combine them with getting stuff to market.

2. The Everest effect - this is a huge challenge - delivering a product set that is so compelling that all our existing customers choose to take it over all other alternatives by 2010. And the future of the business rests of achieving this successfully. I love the scale of this challenge and the possibilities that it creates!

3. My career - self-centred I know.... But I need to lead something of this nature to take my career to the next stage. This will make or break me. Everyone needs a little adrenaline in their life - this is mine!

It took me a good week of soul-searching and talking with key people inside and outside Telecom for me to feel confident enough that enough of the environment is in place for this to have a chance of success. Not all the pieces are there though - in particular a really clear view of what needs to be done by when, and described in such a way as to make everyone excited and motivated about getting in behind this. But I guess I have to do some of the hard work, don't I?

So the tone of this blog (when I write it of course!) will change and be more about the how we start building a team, some vision and then start executing. Next posts will be about describing the problem a more and how we're going about building a team.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Get your head around Identity 2.0

Tom Glover has been doing a LOT of work on identity - including building some core identity infrastructure (purely for prototypes of course!) as we speak. On top of that Tom is presenting at the invitation of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner on a "Day in the (digital) life" on 21st September in Wellington. Post a comment and I'll get you the details to get along - it's private up until then :)

I have to admit that while I get the need and opportunity for Telecom in the Identity space, I've never been able to articulate it clearly. I found the following links which have pointed me in the right direction.

Firstly a 15 minute primer on identity by Dick Hardt (anyone who has a tagline "who's the dick on my site" is worth a look). Not only does it get you up to speed with identity, its a great presentation from a style perspective. It was found on a list of Top 10 presentations in a review by Guy Kawasaki.

Secondly - add this site to your RSS feed reader.

Between these two links there is all you need to know about Identity 2.0

So the next thought has to be - where could Telecom be in all of this ? The answer most certainly isn't 'in the middle of it'. That's the customer's place. But we have a role to play - we just have to make sure that we aim to participate as opposed to control. Otherwise we will end up like Microsoft's Passport - REJECTED!

Monday, August 28, 2006

A fine pickle we're in...

I've tried to stay away from political leanings but feel compelled to write a few words on this (I'll categorise it under 'Thoughts on Fatherhood' as it's critical to the world that Ella will live in if we are in NZ).

I had a very insightful experience a couple of weeks ago. i was invited to a 2 day symposium run by the NZ Business Roundtable on the importance of public policy to the future of NZ. The event was targetted at so-called Emerging Leaders. It killed a few myths for me and certainly got me thinking a bit.

Firstly the myths

1. I always thought the NZBR was a lobby group that is primarily aimed at lining the pockets of big business ( a few socialist traits coming through there..) - it's not. It's a think tank that focusses on the research and development of public policy with a particular focus on human flourishing. It's almost noble.

2. Relatively, we've come through the last few years unscathed - fact is we've been lucky and we haven't been investing for the future of NZ in key infrastructure (roads, hospitals - the important stuff). We're in trouble and we're falling further behind

3. MMP is a great leveller for governments and stops them getting out of control - it's the opposite : MMP drives GROWTH of government. More specifically in NZ, the core civil service has increased in by the same amount in the last 5 years as the previous 160 years. I knew we were getting bloated but that just stunned me.

This session also stimulated lots of thoughts - here are a few

1. We have to find a way to limit government. Peter Boetke put it best at this event. We are caught between the erring entrepreneur and the bumbling bureaucrat. The erring entrepreneur is at least likely to get weeded out by market realities. The bumbling bureaucrats hang around for ever until an electoral discontinuity occurs (eg Lange / Douglas in the 80's) and actively avoid reality.

2. Despite the notion of public policy being important, particularly businesses needing to take a long term view, there was only one group of people who were actively planning for a long term future - Maori. I have taken this view based on a presentation given by Tahu Potiki who is CEO of the Ngai Tahu trust. He was talking about how Ngai Tahu are planning to get returns on their settlement with the Crown that are focussed on sustainably improving the level of education of Ngai Tahu people. In order to do this they are taking a 30 year view - who does that in business? It means they will, in Tahu's words, skip a generation of benefits. That's a big call - but clearly the pay-off is there. Incidentally the panel with Tahu, MP Shane Jones and Rob McLeod convinced me that Maori Leadership could possibly be the key to NZ's future. They are dynamic, bright and very astute. Moreover their Maori background makes them grounded and more holistic in their approach.

3. Making a stand for less government is the equivalent of political suicide - how do you convince the majority of the nation (who are in someway the beneficiaries of the government's largesse )that it is not in their best interests to get handouts and that we would all be better off with a simpler tax and incentive structure.

4. Governments are bad at designing incentives
A great story was told by Alan Gibbs about how he successfully ran a business that manufactured TV's in NZ. The rules at the time said he could not import them fully built up. He went to a Japanese manufacturer who had to de-construct already assembled TV's, send them to NZ where they would be re-assembled. Gibbs recieved an incentive for this new industry - consumers paid twice the global average price for TVs and a nonsense industry was created that would fail once the incentives were removed.

5. We have an amazing bunch of successful business people in NZ who are willing to share their experience and time with people like me - any chance you get to talk with people like Alan Gibbs, Ron Trotter, Gil Simpson amongst others is a real treat.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wiki's rock

We're just about to launch our internal wiki. Atlassian has introduced an Enterprise blog piece of software. Looks pretty cool and maybe a next step. Rod Drury points to an analysis that is right on the mark. There is a heap of power to be harnessed in tying wiki type technology alongside enterprise data - looking forward to this making a real difference in the speed at which we develop new concepts and ideas.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The world of duct tape

Gabor pointed me to this today - a site exclusively devoted to cool things you can do with duct tape. I personally liked the duct tape wallet.

It's so nerdy that its almost (note the use of the world almost) cool. Goes to show you a couple of things

1. You can do the same things with different materials and styles and get great results
2. Opening your eyes and being resourceful is a pretty rewarding experience - I like the way this guy publishes the instructions for free and its now being used by Youth programmes

Just don't make the Marvin the Martian outfit please...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

On my way to Internet millions!!!

or maybe not...

For those of you who noticed, there are google ads located on my blog. I did this merely out of interest to see how this model works.

It's quite fascinating to note that since I've put them on the pages, not one ad has been clicked. But as a result of page views, I've still generated some income. To be specific I've tripled last month's income of 1 cent (USD - mind you) to 3 cents USD. On a geometric basis that means at current course and speed I'll hit 7$ USD by January 2007 and $1.3 million by December 2007!

Of course on an arithmetic basis it probably means I'll have to stick to the day job...

The Perfect Age

I watched this show tonight 'The Perfect Age' . Admittedly it was out of self interest as I had been asked to appear as a guest 'technology expert' on the show.

It was pretty clear as I was watching that I wouldn't be appearing (first rule of telly - if you're not on before the first ad break, its happening without you) and I have to admit that when I saw that Peter Sheahan guy I was thinking 'WTF - they've replaced me with some made-up Australian with a hair product fetish!!!'. Due to the wonders of wireless communications I was able to see that the guy is real and he blogs at the same time as watching the show (my rant lasted about 30 seconds dammit). So I've come to terms with the fact that he is better TV talent than me, as we were pretty much saying the same thing with regards to the differences between younger and older people (Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers in this show) - younger people have been surrounded by technology longer and are much more agile when it comes to dealing with new problems and challenges that are technology related. My previous blog on Digital Natives was getting at the same point. And I have to say that he was much more succint in the way that he was making his point.

The other really interesting part about this show is how the Baby Boomers dealt with learning and memory. They were really really slow in picking up new ideas whether they were technology related or following driving directions. But when they got it, it stuck really hard - to the point they were able to drive a random map course in reverse five days after the fact!

I am using this to inform a piece of work we are doing on some technology for older people that allows for greater independence when older - can't wait to test it with some real Boomers!

Friday, August 04, 2006

No such thing as MY job

For those who hadn't noticed, Telecom is going through the biggest change to its structure and design in at least the 12 years I have been lucky enough to be here.

At this stage, almost all of Layer 4 (Direct report to GM) has been redesigned. It should result in an organisation that is more agile and better able to deliver to customers in a world where IT, telecommunications and media are colliding.

This of course is not without its share of stress - when your current role has changed and you have to apply for a new one (or what you think is your curernt role) then a bit of stress is understandable. However it does need some perspective...

The most common thing I have heard is over this time is 'They can't do this to me / you - that's my / your job!!!' I have news for anyone who thinks that way - the job you have is NOT your job. You don't own it - the best you can do is to see yourself as a steward in that role - to leave it in better shape than you found it for the next person. And a really important part of stewardship is to realise that the time you have to perform that role is set by someone else - you don't always get decide when you're done.

I've had a lot of people say to me 'I've heard so and so is interested in your job' - well I'm all for that. In fact I encourage it - if we are going to grow up as an organisation then we have to very quickly get used to a world where roles change much faster than they have in the past. That starts with working out what is best for the customer as opposed to your job description.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

2 updates

1 minor , 1 major one

Minor 1

After the trials of last week, my faith in Apple somewhat restored once i did a full reload to factory software of the nano - it works. Still feel somewhat cheated in that I had to do this...

Major 1

Team went down 3-1 in a titanic struggle to top of the table team on Saturday and won on Sunday. Saturday's game was possibly the most frustrating ever - they had 3 chances (a fantastic individual effort and a disputed penalty included) and scored all 3. We had at least 6 attempts on goal that in any other game would have been put past the keeper. More to the point if the keeper had kept out one of them he would have to be pleased - to have kept out 6 was miracle territory. His best 2 efforts were
a. appearing out of nowhere to palm away a header that had goal written all over it
b. Reaching behind himself one handed to palm away a shot from outside the area from yours truly which not only was swerving and dipping, but would have to be the most cleanly hit shot in 25 years of kicking around a ball that I have produced.

To say I was gutted by the result was an understatement - as Bill Shankly famously said

" Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that". Felt like that all weekend....

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fingers crossed...

Capital Soccer :: Senior

It's been 6 weeks since we played a game of football and I'm going quietly mad. No cancellations or rain yet this week - We're 4th in Division 7 at the moment and need to pretty much win remaining games and have a couple of results go our way if we get to 4 titles on the trot.

Luckily we have the top team to play twice so 2 wins there and we're in with a shout.

All it takes is one bad Apple to ruin the lot

I admit I've been a bit of an advocate of Apple of late (at least the last 2 years) in that I just *love* the way they implement new technology but I'm dark on them at the moment. The main cause of this is the iPod nano which I have been holding off opening. Decided last night to load it up as I'll be getting some Nike + iPod kit early next week (thanks to Philip Ivanier for the rapid sourcing job) and wanted to get myself all sorted. What should have been a 30 min exercise ended up being a 2 hour exercise in frustration usually reserved for Microsoft products.

I followed the instructions to the letter (my first mistake?), installed the software,restarted the PC and then connected the iPod. From here the following sequence has occured

1. iTunes recognised the iPod but wouldn't sync claiming nano didn't have enough capacity - supposed to recognise that nano is smaller and to autofill based on this. No such luck..

2. Found that there is a software update for the nano so downloaded that.

3. Installed software and restarted again.

4. Software noted nano connected and 'upgraded'

5. Subsequently restarted again (*yawn*)

6. On restart, PC recognises nano but iTunes sees nothing. On every end of connection, nano restarts

7. Can't force disconnect the hardware - apparently its in use but i'll be damned if I can see what's using it

Given PC has worked reliably with other iPod devices I am thinking I have a dud. Trying on a mac tonight - but it would be fair to say that I am less than excited about the pending arrival of a MacBook Pro (new home laptop) as all of sudden Apple is down to the same level as other technology providers. Especially after reading this. Worse case scenario is that I have ordered a nice looking machine which is more expensive that similar PC devices - ouch...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Interesting Folks

Really interesting day yesterday - 3 lots of people from diverse areas who are thinking about how we might use the talents around us to drive great customer experiences

1. A conversation with the Telecom graduate group (well, some of them at least) about how we can use them to test our thinking for new technologies and services. Apart from the conversation varying from being a bit geeky (err - sorry..) and paradoxical (one participant who said what we were doing wasn't exciting yet couldn't explain what would be exciting - I'm all up for critiquiing but have some substance please) I think we have a great set of young people who are fairly representative of the emerging market we offer services to. Can't wait to use them more. Know someone who wants to be part of this next year? Grad programme and cadetship details are here

2. Steve Rush from CSB came to have a chat about Unlimited Potential - I went to one of their sessions a couple of weeks ago. Great bunch of people with great diversity - everything from Gaming to Home Automation to nanotechnology - wicked. A really rich network to be a part of - we're looking at a sponsorship deal with them currently. Need to get some more Telecom folks along to this in future.

3. And lastly another guy from CSB, Joe Raeburn. Had a great conversation about self-service, and how that could tie into a common identity framework. Would mean that we could communicate with our cusotmers over the channel and with the context that makes sense for them (as opposed to what makes sense for us). Turned into a conversation about how you could use Virtual Reality contact lenses at a VJ Rave so the VJ could project different scenes onto the specially provided T-shirts worn by the ravers. Wonder what that would do for the drug scene?

Stoked to be able to get inside these people's heads - really reinforces what an exciting industry we're in.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Customer focussed music service

OK - this post is probably a bit self-serving (more than the rest, I hear you ask?)

Yesterday we launched a fantastic extension to the Telecom Mobile Music service. Now any song that you download on your mobile, you can also download a copy to your PC. PC file is WMA so will play on a variety of Plays for Sure devices. The usual industry rules apply (Up to 3 PCs, 3 Offline devices and 5 CDs)

Here's why I like this...

1. A customer only has to make a single purchase to be able to listen to a track pretty much anywhere - online or offline. No other music store in NZ comes close to this

2. It's a really powerful step towards 'listen to your music where you want'

3. It ensures that the files are optimised for the best listening experience on whatever device you're listening on (ie Mobile file is compressed for rapid delivery, PC and Media Player files are 128k industry standard)

4. Even though we've had to go with industry standards on numbers of PCs, devices, CDs etc, as long as you maintain your mobile number (and keep a copy of the song) you will ALWAYS have the right to play that song. Can't think of many other systems with that power.

I'm sure we'll get lots of questions about why it won't play on an ipod. Would love to be able to deliver this - pity Apple aren't up for that.

Congratulations to the team involved in delivering this enhancement - it's taken a lot of persistence but they've made it!

Of less direct customer interest, but of significant future value, is the fact that you can now access these services online using a customer ID based on your mobile number (ie don't need an xtra account). You'll see more services coming out like this. CallerTunes was re-launched with this capability which means you can now search for Tunes on your PC, order them, have them set-up and then charged to your mobile. That to me is convergence - making stuff easy for customers.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Digital Natives Part II: Rules

So on yesterday's ramble about Digital Natives I referenced a piece about Natives being taught by Digital Immigrants which indicated that it's not really going to work that well.

AS part of the NetSafe Symposium today there was a lively debate about how we need to make the Net safe for our kids and control access. This is a classic case of Immigrants thinking they know better and trying to set rules for Natives who can...

a. bypass the rules really easily
b. have probably already worked out what the risks are and put in their own levels of trust and protection (in their own inimitable style)

It's also a case of people trying to see the new world in context of the old - they're just too different and you can't control it.
The sooner that the rule-makers talk to the Natives about what they are doing, the happier we'll all be.

Malcolm McLaren said as much on Campbell Live tonight - pretty much hit it on the button

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Digital Natives and corporates

I've been writing a presentation I'm giving on Mobile Futures for the Netsafe Security Symposium in Wellington this week.

As part of it I'm going over some themes which I think will shape the services of the future and come up (again) on the general theme of Digital Natives (or Digiborigines) . To be honest I had heard the term before and hadn't equated it with my own belief that there is another generation of people coming behind us who have grown up around digital technology, who intuitively pick up new services or devices faster and see possibilities (and rubbish) faster than we do.

The wiki definition does it some justice but the original piece of thinking about it is much more insightful for me. Mark Prensky does a great job of distinguishing between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants (those who have immigrated to the new world). His thoughts on accent and education are really compelling and explain a lot. How could a teen who lives on the Net possibly take anything seriously from a teacher who doesn't have a PC at home, teaches from books and is completely linear in his thinking ? It's much more than a generation gap at work here.

If you take this a step further and apply it to corporate structures in technology companies it means a few things(what the hell, I'll use Telecom as an example)

1. The people who run strategy teams come from classic backgrounds (ie linear thinking) and while they are incredibly intelligent, probably think when they see kids communicating online 'they're just playing with stuff - we'll never make money out of that'. None of the work on services that a Native would use gets past strategy unless it pays back in a classical sense.

2. If you're lucky, the exec team members have kids who are the pre-teen and teen level who are starting to live their life online and see the trends but think 'well, these are kids of people who are earning several hundred thousands per year, so that can't be normal'. They get the fact that things are changing but can't translate it into actions.

3. There is a real need, in at least the next 3-5 years for 'translators' to sit at senior decision making levels who can see what is happening with the Digital Natives and ensure that investment and product development is happening in the right areas. This is a massive responsibility for the new GMs at this layer - and will fundamentally decide if Telecom is ready for what will happen in 5 years time when the Natives are not only our customers but also the people running the company at this level. If those people don't have these skills, they will need to recognise it quickly and put in place people around them who do have them. Get it wrong, and there will be no market for what we are selling.

The danger of where we are at presently in NZ is that there a lot of people who think they can translate between the Immigrants and the Natives but actually can't. I'll take the example of speaking another language - I can speak French ok, I learned it at school for 5 years and have had lots of practice speaking with other French speakers here and in France. Putting aside the fact that it takes me at least a glass of red wine for my accent to sound right, and I get really tired after about an hour of full on speaking, there are some key questions that need to be answered.

Does being able to speak French make me French, with all the cultural differences between being kiwi and French? Nope.
Does that mean I can see deep insights into what would resonate with a Francophile ? At a push - if I see the nuances correctly - and it requires all my other skills in reading people and behaviour to make that happen. And don't forget it's only ever a snapshot because I don't live in that world and see it evolving.

It's why I think one of the smartest things Wayne Boyd is doing at the moment (and watch the video on who he is looking for) is looking for new Board members with very specific skills in FMCG and Media. We need to know how to speak these languages (as a minimum) and translate (as an optimum) to make sure we keep pace with the competition.

Taking this to its extreme, possibly the smartest thing that Fairfax have done in buying trademe has not been keeping the marauders from the gate of their advertising revenues for a few more years - they've got someone in Sam Morgan who at least understands Digital Natives and, if they could keep him interested without the corporate rubbish, have someone who could (and should) shape their direction so they are well placed when the Natives get out of school and start spending large like we all do...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DRM futures

Ever since I first encountered DRM I've always thought that there is an opportunity for a DRM aggregator. In this ideal world, there would still be DRM protection that would protect the rights of the content holder AND would enable the customer to be able to purchase media from the store and use it on as many devices as possible.

The following is an example of how I am currently restricted by DRM (which of course could happen to anyone) and I'll use the example of music...

I have a number of music playing devices in and around my home
- 60Gb ipod
- Windows media centre PC
- Roku soundbridge wireless streaming music player
- Sanyo 9000 Mobile Phone with 1 Gb memory

Here's how DRM (and the licensing issues around technology conspire) against me, the customer...

Ipod plays AAC and protected AAC format songs. Protected AAC songs are purchased from the Itunes Music Store.
Media PC plays WMA via Windows Media Player and AAC files via itunes
Roku plays AAC streamed from a service called Firefly 'cos its not licensed to connect directly with itunes. Won't play protected AAC. Apparently will play protected WMA.
Sanyo 9000 plays unprotected AAC but only protected songs purchased from Telecom's mobile store in a special format. Apparently this will extend to downloads of protected WMA

What all this means is that I have to THINK everytime I want to play a certain song in a certain place. eg if i want to play a song in my living room that happens to be a purchased song from itunes I can't do it using my Roku, I can only do this by physically connecting my ipod to my stereo (stink!) If i buy a song on my mobile, I won't be able to sync it to my ipod. I recently bought an ipod nano and because of all of this carrying on, I haven't taken it out of the box (thinking may sell on trademe) as i am starting to wonder whether i need to have a player that's protected WMA capable just in case someone brings out a subscription music service that supports this a la URGE.

That's why I'm interested in this article from Wired.

I don't want to think about this DRM stuff - I just want the music that I have bought a license for to work on the variety of players that I have. (Not I didn't say MY music). I get the fact he labels need to protect their music I just don't see why I need to buy the license for a song twice to play on two different devices when it is essentially the same format. The team at Navio seem to share this view by effectively allowing the customer to by a multi-format piece of content.

If I can get this puppy to work, maybe I'll open the nano after all...

Thursday, June 22, 2006


For those in Corporate Life, the end of year review can be a bit of a mixed bag. You have to be realistic ( how many of us have really exceeded?) and still put your best foot forward on an absolute basis. Telecom NZ has run a combination of a normal distribution of staff and a peer review system for the last few years which you could only describe as imperfect (no-one has come up with a better system, mind you) for all involved. There have been some significant improvements in the last two years (the best being that there is no forced distribution for the bottom category - most of the non-performers have been systematically weeded out).

we had a mock peer review today in preparation for end of year - all I can say is that that the Management Team I am part of did an incredibly mature job of a dificult conversation. When you are working to a forced distribution to some extent there are people who are relatively worst performers than their peers yet have exceeded expectations on an absolute basis. Sometimes you have to take a hit for the team - I couldn't help but reflect that of the 8 people in the room at least 2 of those are going to be having end of year conversations that are going to be along the lines of 'You met your targets, yet I'm going to have to say that relative to your peers, you didn't do as well. Your bonus it going to take a hit'. I don't expect any sympathy (far from it - this is what we get paid for) but for those who end up having that conversation with your boss - we don't take those decisions lightly and there's no fair way to do it. Ouch.

On a positive note I have to say that spending a good couple of hours reflecting on my own performance has led me to a couple of conclusions...

1. I am really proud of the capability that we are developing in understanding and researching new technology and customer behaviour at Telecom and think this will be fundamental in creating competitive advantage in the longterm. Our work on IPTV and some of the things we are bringing to the organisation (our own wiki - work in progress) will make a big difference in how quickly we share information around the organisation.

2. I could have done a much better job in leading my own team over the last 8 months - sorry guys. Better effort on cards for next year.

3. The work that a number of people pulled together in an incredibly short period of time to launch Telecom's Mobile Music store last year was nothing short of phenomenal. 5 week build period and we can bill it too! A pleasure to lead...

Croatia - Australia Prediction

So I usually can't stand picking Australian sports teams for victory but feel the need to make an excpetion for tomorrow's game vs Croatia. Maybe its my Dad's xenophobic tendancies (Hungarians are great - small country that has come second in both World Wars, full of people who think that they should be fundamentally influencing European culture. Hate every country that surround them as they have lost land to them as a result of position in WWI and WWII) coming through but it would be great to see the Australians get through to the second round.

I'm picking a 2-1 victory to Australia with a sending off for Mark Viduka (ok - I still struggle with Australian victory)

Fab Tees

So why not start my blog entries with a post on something completely random? Was talking to Karen from Ferrit today and she pointed me to this great site for T-shirts . My personal favourite is the first Hong Kong Phooey T . Nice work by the people at Ferrit for getting some local stores on board who aren't the big guys - can't wait until the shopping cart feature is put in place.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


So why have i started a blog?

It's not like the world is short on 35 year old males who have recently become a Dad, play a bit of social football (that's soccer for the uneducated) on the weekends and have a great job in a world where IT, telecommunications and media are colliding together in something that resembles a train wreck that has been project managed by dropouts from the PMI.

Nope - the reason for this launch into publishing my thoughts is that I truly believe that we need to refocus on people - in how we live our lives and how we develop new technology. I'm a firm believer that you can develop fantastic technology that can improve people's lives and not attack the fabric of society (ie people and community). I believe you can lead people to deliver on this vision without being a hard-ass. And I believe you can balance this together with loving your family and booting a soccer ball around at the weekend with a bunch of top blokes.

On top of all that, David Awatere told me he'd been waiting too long. This is a hint for him to update his page :)