Toastmasters Project #1 – The Ice Breaker

I just had my first Toastmasters speech! I am so happy about it. The first project is called “The Ice Breaker” and the objectives are to give a 4-6 minutes speech where you talk about yourself. The name of my speech was “Fears and Believes” and here it is.

I used some freewriting to come up with the ideas that become the pillars of the talk. Then I wrote down the speech on a pages document, split it into Keynote slides. I used a PDF version of the presentation on my iPad to help me with the notes. I have to say that having a PDF document on the iPad with a large font and just having to swipe the pages through is amazing!

Anyways, I gotta say that the feedback I have from my first speech is unbelievable to me. Could it be that I don’t suck at public speaking? After each speech, all of the attendees to the meeting are asked to give you some feedback and this is what I got.

  • Bernardo: I loved the topic! Great for a first speech, it was universal and still gave you a chance to talk about yourself. You seemed comfortable and your speech was obviously well rehearsed. Good job!
  • Very good expression. Reflexed. Well delivered. Good vocabulary
  • Loved your speech. You displayed a lot of human throughout. I learnt a few things about you – where you are from and your sense of travel and adventure. You showed a great presence upfront and your voice projected well. You also had good eye contact. The speech could have been better structured. But that did not take away from your speech. Overall, well done.
  • Bernie: you have a lovely command of the english language, selecting word to describe so much. You started out with your hands in your pockets — nerves? But you quickly withdrew them and looked more comfortable. Well done!
  • Bernardo: Very engaging topics discussed. Good eye contact with users. Excellent job, if you were reading from your notes, I could not tell.
  • Good speech, with confidence. Good job!
  • BernardoBernie :) Good eye contact, friendly and comfortable delivery
  • Bernie: AWESOME!!! Love the demonstration of voice variation. Try to use that throughout your speech. Slow down. More is less. Amazing first speech. You are a natural.

Obviously I was a nerve wreck before I started speaking and also the fact that I was speaker #2 didn’t help, seeing someone else give a great speech, because it makes you think about comparisons, and if you are going to be able to step up to that level.

Overall, I feel just great, it is wonderful to start this journey with the right foot!

Spreadmarts…

Some time ago I read a report by TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute) where they talk about something that’s very common in most companies: Spreadmarts.

What are spreadmarts? Is usual to see in every kind of organization the wide use given to Excel Spreadsheets. Every manager, every employee saves his or her own data selfishly in spread sheets that they can edit, change and transform according to need. Is this mix between “spreadsheets” and data marts what originates one of the most extensive problems in small and medium sized companies: Excel fever.

Every company starts using this tool in early stages, where they think that “everything can be solved by just using Excel”. This later becomes in a “temporarily … for ever” situation, where growth creates a crisis that leads to change. Also, this wide use of spreadsheets has many consequences, like “information silos” (where every person or department manages its own data) and has terrible outcomes like decisions taken using outdated or even wrong data.

Excel gives users such ease and dynamism to manage their data, and that’s very hard to get using other tools. That’s why, when facing the idea of keep using spreadsheets, it’s so important to put in the hand of users (specially “owners” of this information islands on companies) new tools to let them use information more easily. In some cases, it might be useful to keep using spreadsheets, maybe they can be automatically generated by some system.

One of the most important things to understand is that there’s no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution for this, but just general guidelines, like aiming to information integration inside the company. You know that one of the most important capitals of your company is information, and special attention must be paid to its care, trying to avoid information silos as much as it can be. Another guideline I always have in mind is gradual tool changes and migrations. It’s natural that users might feel like they lost control, but it’s our duty to make them understand that collaborative work an integration lead to higher performance levels. Sometimes everybody has to cede a little bit of personal control for the greater good of the whole organization. And always, listen to the user. An imposed solution will never be well received and accepted, and sooner than later it will be misused or even worst, not used at all. And this might even reinforce the uses and practices one was trying to change.

Google is the next Microsoft

I’m totally amazed at how fast things go in the technology business this days! And I mean business and not technology development, that is a totally different lane.
Remember the days when everybody bashed Microsoft for being a “copycat” in lots of their products? Suddenly they started to expand in unimaginable ways: Internet portals (MSN), Instant Messenger (MSN Messenger, now Live Messenger), browsers (Internet Explorer), even TV (MSNBC channel).
Well, it seems that Google is now playing pretty much the same “me-too” strategy! First, we watched as a nice “competition” and it was nice to have more options to choose from. But now, it seems rather silly. Here’s the list:

– Gmail (vs Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail)
– Google Docs (vs Office)
– Picasa (vs Flickr)
– Talk (vs MSN Messenger and Skype)
– Buzz (vs Twitter)
– Chrome (vs Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari)
– Chrome OS (vs Windows, Linux, Mac OS)
– Android (vs iPhone)

And today they add a new item to the list. As if Orkut (their own social network) wasn’t enough, they now want to add something called “Google Me” that seems to be their response to Facebook. I understand that once you reached such status in the industry you have to start to protect yourself against possible new competitors, but is this the only way they can come up with?

I really love options, but do you think that just because of Google having its own social network everybody will start moving from Facebook to theirs? I think lots of people have invested a lot of time in building their Facebook profile (adding friends, posting thoughts, uploading photos, learning how to use it) and their not willing to do it again just because some other company has a product that does the same. I mean, it really REALLY has to be something so much better than Facebook to lure me into it. Like totally revolutionary, in the way that Apple revolutionized mobile with iPhone three years ago. Or the way Google itself revolutionized search more than a decade ago. Otherwise, just let me be happy with my Facebook profile. I will probably open an account, play a day or two, and then let it rust (as I think we all did with Google Wave).

So, remember again when everybody bashed Microsoft for this same behaviour, and think: Why isn’t everybody doing the same with Google now?

Business Intelligence Presentation – Data Mining (Part 2 of 2)

In the second part of this presentation I talk about Data Mining, what DM is and what are its possible business applications. Also there are a list of CRM specific data mining applications. Enjoy!

Business Intelligence Presentation (Part 1 of 2)

I wanted to post this for some days now, and finally now I had the time to do it. This is a presentation I created to one of our customers back in Buenos Aires about Business Intelligence. As the original presentation was in spanish and then I translated it to english, some words or phrases may sound weird or funny.

Their specific question was: “What is business intelligence and what can we do with it?”. So here is the answer in slideshow format!

This is just the first part, the second part (covering Data Mining) will be posted in a few days…

Microsoft’s Lost Decade

What happened to Microsoft? I used to love their products, know each release in their line-up, enjoy every innovation. But lately (more than lately, I could say like for more than ten years ago) it seems like the innovation front has moved from MicrosoftLand to some other fertile grounds. So I would like to share some ideas about what I think about them, taking a step back and looking at their last ten years.

For what I can recall, the last good operating system they released was Windows XP, and that was in 2001! Let’s forget about their whole Vista fiasco, and just face that Windows 7 is just Vista’s Service Pack 2. I remember when XP SP2 went out, they got a totally reliable system back then! Innovative is not an adjective you can put on any of those two releases: Windows still suffers the same security problems as always, it got more annoying and more difficult to manage than before, and it still does the same old things: filesystem management, presentation management, peripheral devices management. So many great things to do on so many fronts, so many lost opportunities! Let’s just take an example: Apple Mac OS’s Time Machine. Boy, I would really like some of that on my Windows. And there are so many great things to still make computers easier to use. But, no, they have this silly TV ads where they tell you that W7 is better just because you can arrange your windows by just dragging them to the borders of the desktop? C’mon, is that all that you could think of as an innovation?

So, what about Office? I think Office is just a finished work of art, guys. We really don’t need anything else in our word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software. That’s why OpenOffice caught up with them and offers a totally free (meaning you don’t have to pay a penny) bundle of software that does pretty much the same that Microsoft Office does. And with browser’s and JavaScript getting its fair share in the development world, you also have Google Docs, now followed by Microsoft’s version… Office Web! Even Apple has some nice products on that field: Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Have you noticed Keynote lately? Is so easy to make such wonderful presentations on it, I wish Powerpoint got that same “designer” treatment (I know they’re doing better on that, but again, this change wasn’t lead by them).

In development tools, the last good product Microsoft released was .NET around 2001. I know this is not fair to say, they were many many advances in the .NET area, and it was planned to be this way. NET is a platform more than a product, and that’s how platforms go, they grow slowly and steadily over time. But those changes seem too much now. Remember the good old days when all you needed to know was just a little bit of Visual Basic (maybe VBScript) and you could come up with a nice Windows Application, or even a website in ASP? Well, now that is so much more complicated and fragmented now. You have to know WCF (Windows Communication Foundation), WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), WWF (Windows Workflow Foundation), Silverlight, ASP.NET is way more complicated than ASP (that’s why so many people couldn’t come up with it and jump the fences to easier PHP). And let’s just assume that you don’t want to know how to put .NET assemblies in your SQL Server, instead of just writing some simple stored procedures. And all of that just because of trying to keep up with the latest tendencies in programming!

So let’s talk about their product lineup. They used to have the Server products (Exchange, SQL Server, MOM and some other great stuff), the Operating System products (Windows in all of its variances), the Office products (with productivity tools like Project) and their Home line (all the software that you would buy for your kids, including the old Encarta). If you look at their product lineup now is a total mess, just the names of the products are confusing. It seems to me they need a house cleanup in that area!

Mobility is an area that I really used to love. Microsoft was THE player in mobility. Windows Mobile, based on the solid foundations of Windows CE, was the only serious smartphone that was around. You could develop applications for it using almost the same tools you used in your desktop applications: C#, SQL Server (with some quirks) but it was totally bearable. As soon as Apple released iPhone is like they totally froze up! And they’re coming up with an incomplete operating system in the next few months: no database support, no filesystem access. Really!? I knew that they had to ditch the original project they were working on and start all over again. Can they be so out of focus? Guys, this was THE opportunity, you were the ones that were calling all the shots, and now look at you, you’re just another player on the battlefield. I know you have all your big friends like HP, Dell and such, but is this really how you want to see yourselves, as another one on the list? Are you happy with just that?

Open source is another battle they’re losing. First, they tried to convince everybody that OSS is a bad word, you would get sued, the software is not as good as theirs, and lots of nonsense that time took care of proving they were wrong. Now, Linux is a pretty good alternative on the server front (specially for web servers where all you need is LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) and is becoming better on the desktop field too, thanks to the guys at Ubuntu. They came up with a “good enough” version of a computer operating system and set of productivity tools that you can use even if you’re not a NASA engineer (as it used to be when I ran RedHat Linux in the old days). They guys at the open source movement showed all us that you don’t have to be a multi-billonar company to write quality software. You just have to good programmers and good policies to get things going. And as Microsoft started to slow down, more people starting to notice that there were some other options, and that those options were not so bad as we had been told. So why not try them? They’re free, so it wouldn’t cost us a dime to just see what’s up with that. And that is a hard battle to fight. How do you compete with free?

So what happened? Well, my idea (and it seems I wasn’t the only one with that in mind, as I been reading some other people’s blogs) is that Microsoft has a serious management issue. And it might even have a name: Steve Ballmer. If you think when all the innovation stopped, and when was the last change of management, both things coincide. As soon as this man got the steer, the company’s star started to fade. Maybe it’s because Bill Gates is more of a technology guy (makes sense to have such a person running a technology company), maybe he is not so smart as it seems (just look for some videos of him on YouTube to find it out). But for me, those to things happening at the same time are not just coincidence.

I don’t intend to rain on anyone’s parade, that’s truly not my intention. As I told, I used to love Microsoft, and I still have a pretty amount of respect for them. They make one of the best software products in the world. So this post is just a summary of ideas I have on my mind right now. I would really like to help you guys regain the leadership position you used to have. But it looks like there’s a long way to go, and as far as I’m looking, no one is acknowledging this inside the company.

Are really PCs (and Macs) going to disappear?

Not soon, I guess! But it is true that in the last couple of years, the innovation field on technology has moved from PCs (Personal Computers, Macs, x86, Linux, etc) to the mobile world. And it is logical… in the end, how many computers a household can have? In many cases we share computers at our homes. But what about cellphones? It seems that we need to have at least one mobile cellphone per person. And, besides the need, cellphones are even more “personal” than computers, a gadget you need to have turned on with you all the time, everywhere you go.
So yes, maybe the focus is changing a little bit from computers to mobile computing. I have an iPad a I won’t deny it, is the device I’ve been dreaming for several years now. Something portable, light, easy to carry around, that can take charge of all of your computing needs while on the go. You can argue with me about how the cellphone/smartphone was to occupy that place, but for me, small screens are not good enough. Although I have to concede Apple they have made a tremendous work on Mobile Safari, and the browsing experience is superb, the screen size it’s still a barrier for serious content consumption.
Imagine yourself reading an ebook on your cellphone. Even though Apple is releasing their iBooks app for the iPhone I don’t see it as viable (as much as Kindle or Kobo on the same platform).
But the iPad is just another thing! A touch interface really created from the ground up, not just an adaptation of a current platform (as Windows for Tablet PCs). This makes total sense, and makes the world of difference when you really understand what is the niche for this products/platform.
Would it be nice to have USB? Yes. Would it be nice to have a front-face camera? Wait ’til next year. Would it be nice to have more storage? Would you really need it?
Seriously, this is designed to address a different set of needs, and it’s just beginning! Remember the iPhone at the beginning? Just 10 apps? And everybody loved it at the time!
This kinds of evolution in technology take years. It is real that cycles are getting shorter now, more than ever, but notebooks have been on the market for more than 20 years now, and it wasn’t until three or four years ago than everybody switched to that. Smartphones are now in the market for over ten years (I remember the first Kyocera PalmPhone!) and people are just still catching up.
Apple is smart, focusing on things that are just starting… but things aren’t going to happen so soon. We will all see the change gradually, as always! So rest asured that your PC or Mac is safe for the years to come. You will need it to browse the web and buy that next gadget that will replace it.

Success and failure with CRM – Resistance to the new

When implementing a CRM strategy is fundamental to review how your organization is working. The main subject to focus on will always be the customer. We will want to check each sector and think how do customers relate to it, what do they bring and what do the organization give in return, how to improve this, and so on.

I’m sure most of this analysis will bring suggestions and new ideas to do changes in your processes and how do you work (how do you record meetings, phone calls, emails) and even in the way we communicate with customers (implementation of quality service surveys, additional personal information records). It is only logical that most of this changes will be faced with resistance from many of your organization team members.

This is why is very fundamental to always consider the major human factor always present in any project. One of the success factor in any CRM project will be tied to our skills to put teams on our side. If we are successful in including them with the attention they deserve, making them part of the project, always making training tools available to them, we will be able to mitigate this risk and shrink it to the point where it is manageable.

Resistance to change, the new (and fear) are feelings deeply tied to the fact of being human that we will not be able to completely eliminate. But when you consider this as challenges part of the project we will be able to have much more probabilities to end up with a successful CRM project implementation.

About the iPad (and why I love it)

Today I got my iPad. I’m really excited about it. I know this launch has received a lot of coverage on the media, but for me this is not just about a product. This is about a platform.
Many of you would think that “the iPad is just a large iPod Touch”, that’s nothing revolutionary about it. But when you think about the device and the platform as a whole new thing, you will see it all differently.
It is true that touch interfaces aren’t new: the iPod exists now for almost four years in the market. But one thing is a touch interface in a mobile phone, and something totally different is when you think about a mobile computing device. The things that you can do with this are tremendous! Think about just some applications to come: sales force automation, mobile technical support, e-learning, business intelligence. All are just like brand new in the light of a touch interface. All of those applications that are just normal on a PC are totally transformed by the touch interface.
Maybe it is because the “surprise” about touch interfaces was spoiled a few years ago with the iPhone, but I do think that this is completely new, and is going to change things in a lot of ways yet to imagine. So here I am, starting to compile my first projects on the iPad and trying to see how things work on it.
Is not that I enjoy products from a company (let this be Microsoft or Apple or whatever), I enjoy technology itself, and for the things that enables me to do. Just thinking about the years to come makes me so excited, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Uh oh, Apple released new MacBook Pros!

Following the story about my new notebook, that I bought just five days ago, it seems I should have waited! Apple just released new specs for all MacBook Pros, and they’re upgrading pretty much everything!

The processor is faster (2.4 GHz compared to 2.26 GHz), they have more RAM (4 GB compared to 2 GB, that’s twice the memory!), the hard drive is larger (250 GB compared to 160 GB) and the video chip is better (NVidia GeForce 320M compared to the NVidia GeForce 9400M). It seems to me this is the machine it should get!

Now, Apple has a 14-day return policy, but they have this little nasty thing they called “return fee”, if you opened the box, you get like 120 dollars less when returning the hardware. I guess that help them cover the cost of testing the machine and maybe repacking it to be sold as refurbished. The thing is, if I would have know that they were to release new machines, I wouldn’t have opened it! But having just called to the Apple Store, they told me (and I remember I read something about it somewhere…) that being the case that they made the change in their hardware specs, they won’t charge me with the return fee, and that I will get a new machine, no cost!

This is why I like Apple so much: they really have reasonable policies when dealing with this kind of incidents. So I have to keep calling the Apple Store to see when they will have the new models in stock, and get it exchanged.

If you have the case of being trapped in such a situation sometime (having just bought a new machine, and knowing about a new release two or three weeks after your purchase) don’t hesitate to call or visit your Apple Store and talk to them so you can get your new hardware

New MacBook: Pro it is!

I finally got my new notebook, is a MacBook Pro. It’s a 13.3 inch display, 2.26 GHz Core2Duo, with 2 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard drive. It doesn’t seem too much of an upgrade from my previous notebook, but I feel it more responsive, maybe not using it in an external display makes the difference. The older one had a Nvidia video board, and this has GeForce 9400M and also WiFi is ‘n’ (which means it can go faster than 802.11g).

One of the first things I want to do is buy a larger hard drive. I absolutely know for sure that 160GB is not enough. Although I have an external 500GB MyBook hard drive, is not the same as having all of your stuff inside your notebook, and not having to carry around more gadgets, cables and power adaptors. Everybody would want to avoid that!

So I’m off to BestBuy to get a 500GB internal hard drive and make the switch. I should probably get an external case for the 160GB that I would be left with, so I can use it as an external HD. I hope they have those at BestBuy too.

New MacBook: Pro or not?

I’m looking for a new notebook, and it has to be a Mac notebook. I had a MacBook Pro for almost three years now, but I sold it to a friend in Buenos Aires before coming to Canada. I had a 2.16 Core2Duo (64bit) with 4GB of RAM and a 120GB HD, but I’m looking for the new model of the MBP. The thing is, I’m still not decided if the MacBook would be enough or if I should get the Pro.
Both are pretty much the same (if you’re considering the lower MBP, as I am) but there’s still a difference: not just in cost but in performance. One of the worst experiences I had with my old MBP was with its video board. I used it with a 30 inch Dell monitor, and although it had enough power to run trivial tasks on such big monitor (lots of pixels to drive!) when you wanted to see HD video, there were some performance problems.
I guess one of the things I like more about the MacBook is its simple look. But when you think about the difference in price and features you get with the Pro… I’m gonna give it a few more days thought and tell you about my decission.