Covering the exceptions…

The lorry and the remains of my train line.

RER B : un camion tombe sur les voies et s’embrase

I take the train on the RER B every day to get to the office. Overall it’s a good service, mainly because of get to the office before the morning rush, and leave after the evening one.

Wednesday afternoon this week that all fell apart. A lorry fell off a bridge onto the tracks and burst into flames damaging the infrastructure in both directions. The driver was seriously injured and I hope that he recovers soon.

However, what interested me was the response and the information supplied to me as a traveller, and where it failed.

The RER B is a major line linking the two Paris airports and travelling under the centre of the city via two of the largest stations in Europe (Gard du Nord and Châtelet – Les Halles). Being a major line, there is a web site, a twitter feed, a blog, an app (in fact two) but still a lot of it was guess work.

Back to the incident, Thursday morning a delay to the overnight works meant that the line wasn’t open before 8h30. There was information about a replacement bus service etc. but I set off as usual at 7h30 because there was no information stating that if I’d waited an hour things might improve.

So thousands of passengers ended up waiting for a temporary bus, almost all of us looking at our phones. Phones with no up to date information.

The missing bit of the jigsaw is coping with the temporary, the exceptional, basically the unplanned. And this is exactly where mobile is at it’s best. Where is the app for that?


The media gap…

“FOR the past week, France has felt like a country on the verge of civic insurrection.”

Violent strikes against labour reforms are causing chaos in France | The Economist

Brilliant way to start an article, only issue is, that isn’t what France has felt like. There are strikes and awful incidents but the vast majority of life goes on.

The issue is now I can’t read any other article in The Economist this week and believe that it’s true. Probably not next week either…

And so it goes on.


Modern Management…

“From that point onwards, he started sending the players individual emails detailing their faults and submitting video clips to highlight his dissatisfaction. Except by that stage a lot of the players were so disillusioned many ignored the emails or redirected them straight to their trash. Van Gaal suspected as much and had a tracker fitted so he could check if the emails were opened and for how long.”

Louis van Gaal tactics left Manchester United players close to mutiny | Daniel Taylor | Football | The Guardian

A step change in services…

Or “the importance of operations…”

Both ATP and the Talk Show spent a long time this week discussing how Apple has managed to make a step change in app review times in less than a week. Review times have dropped overnight from about a week to less than a day. Everyone is busy guessing how and why?

First, the original state of the service was odd. For the last five years reviews have taken about a week. This has been stable; summer and winter, year after year. There is no obvious reason why. There must be some change in the number of requests for review but the output has been constant. My guess is that this is an example of Parkinson’s Law, there is some service level set at about a week and the team has managed to that level.

So how did they break the performance levels of the last five years in less than a week?

Changes of this magnitude are normally made by changing one of three things:

  • Process
  • Policy
  • People

In both podcasts they concentrated on Process, especially the possibility that there has been added automation. Some new tool that has suddenly made a step change. However…

Normally to get the best out of new tools and automation, there also has to be a change to policy. Policy needs to be simplified so that the machine can make a difference. Negotiating the policy change in a massive organisation the size of Apple must be a nightmare.

Finally, People. This is where I think the timing is important. Tim Cook is in India this week, wandering around opening centers and talking about the importance of India to Apple. I’d love to know if in all of this some part of the App Review process has been moved to India. There is an army of people doing these operations and India is the place where services are now done on this scale.

I’m willing to bet that Apple has made changes on all three axis to pull this off and sadly we’ll never know the details.

The two phone problem…

Or put another way. Where Microsoft went wrong with Nokia.

Like millions of people I have two phones. One for “work” and one for “home”. The “home” phone has my diary, contacts, music, email, RSS reader, YouTube and a million other things. I rarely use it to make a call.

Now here’s the interesting thing. What do I want from my work phone? Well I want to make calls and I want access to my Outlook contacts. Nothing more. That’s it. I’d pay a premium for a “clunker” that accessed my contacts and had a battery that lasted a week. If one exists, I’ve not found it.

I also have a third phone. It’s an old iPhone 4 that I use in the pool so that I can swim with podcasts. I’d pay for a simple waterproof phone that did the basics of music and health monitoring and nothing else. I’ve not found it, so I use an old iPhone in a waterproof case.

This was Nokia’s market. The second and third phones. Instead they went for the iPhone market. Homerun or bust. Sadly it was a bust.

Nokia was Microsofts way into the IoT. From the third phone they could have gone to connected objects, home monitoring, and back to SmartPhones later.

Interestingly Nokia seems to have understood better than Microsoft and have now bought Withings. I step on my Withings scales every morning. One of the best products that I own. I’m hopeful that at the third attempt they may get this right.

Tech Tree for the modern corporation…

A standard part of game design is the Tech Tree; or the skill tree. Of course, the tech tree is more or less complex depending on the game, the one below is from Civilisation, which as the name suggests is all about getting your team up the tree as quickly as possible.


So how does this help the modern corporation? Well, consider that most companies need to decide where they’re going to put their R&D dollars, can partner themselves into complete branches of the tech tree and more importantly have little idea of the technologies that they need.

Google understood this early with the legendary map of google future…


Of course, having access to a technology is also only part of the problem. The organization also needs to be able to exploit, produce and benefit from it. That’s a matter of training, tools and investment.

So apart from Google, where are the technology maps. What does it look like for an insurance company, or a pizza resturant?

I may spend a few hours translating the Gartner hyper curve into a Tech Tree!!!





Random thoughts…