Why people Fail

Last month something struck me, something I have been seeing folks do for the last 5 years. It resulted in this tweet:

Arrogance or Blindness by Ego
The very first is where entrepreneurs get so blinded by their ideas, that they don’t see the lack of traction or the lack of the need in the first place. Google never started with the mission to organize the world’s information, InMobi never planned to become the world’s largest independent Mobile Ad Network, they happen to see the right signs and kept moving forward. Never fail to see the signs of failure. People get so focused on the prospect of success that they don’t see these signs. They start dreaming of glory, the chance to “make a dent in the universe”, the chance to make it big in life and keep pushing their peers and company down an abyss of no return.
Ignorance or Blindness by Lack of interest
Then there are those who don’t see the growth and opportunity they have and instead err on the side of caution. Many independent App developers fall into this category. They build apps, get hundreds of thousands of downloads, yet consider their effort only a weekend project or a side project. They fail to see the opportunity that lies ahead.
Narrow Vision or Blindness by lack of insights
This one is hard to describe, many folks fail because they are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective, worse still, they don’t even understand the problem. This should be visible to anyone who ever has tried to look at any sort of Funnel Metrics. In a Funnel, if a phase is having a problem, it will most probably not be in the hands of the folks who manage that phase. If your sales team is not converting enough clients as before, it may be because they have gotten junk leads from the marketing team. In most cases, one team would be celebrating that they pushed their numbers up, but others will have more work. In most cases, folks will be looking to solve where the problem is noticed rather than looking upstream.
What are some of the cases of lack of learnings from failure you have seen?

The tale of two Googles

Google is a Goliath, it is one of the largest tech companies which has made an impact to practically everyone who has ever gotten on to the World Wide Web. In fact, it has also changed the internet itself. It Search algorithms decide the etiquette of websites, It brought the Ad-Driven model to every content creator out there, YouTube grew into the video destination of world and Android is bringing a computer to ever pocket.

Driven by the need to execute Moon shots, it has innovated at a breakneck pace and given the world technologies like the self-driving car, Google Fiber, Google Glass and is working on curing “aging” and age-related diseases. I would not even call them 1st world problems, these are problems some of us will have in the future.

Then there is the other Google, one that is working getting the internet to the world with project loon, one that folded a cardboard sheet to give us Google cardboard and a taste of VR & AR and is now working on Accelerated Mobile Pages to speed up the Mobile web, or as some like @jeffjarvis say, save the web.

It is very hard to imagine how a single company can work towards solving both the problems of the future and those created by the past. Some of us might fear it, not trust it or dislike it, but we can’t be not affected by all the Davids working under the Umbrella named Google.

Facebook is the new Cookie, and that is how Google will crumble

Facebook this week announced their new Ad Exchange, basically extending their Video Ad network which was powered by LiveRail to Display Ads too. In short, this means that marketers spending money on Facebook can now use Facebook’s targeting capabilities on other display networks, essentially converting some of the other Ad Networks to Dumb pipes and out-performing other exchanges. People hoped Mobile RTB was going to be as game-changing as it was on the Web, the biggest hurdle was the lack of an equivalent to the Cookie on Mobile, due to which Exchanges started heavily depending on Data Management Platforms (DMPs) which tired to function like Cookies by aggregating data from various 3rd parties. But Mobile RTB never really took off, on the other hand, Facebook started to outperform Google and others on Mobile because of better targeting.
How powerful Facebook is at targeting the right user was already shown in the capability to deliver the best performance for App Install Ads, information a bunch of developers have shared with me. Other signals of this are Facebook growing at a rapid pace, and according to some estimates, they will overtake Google (and have done the same in the US already). This when they have just started leveraging Instagram and have not even though of Whatsapp.
As Facebook goes strength to strength it just shows they are sitting on the proverbial “pot of gold” w.r.t the user data. As it surges ahead, more advertisers will start spending money on it, thus more publishers will start using the exchange, thus making Facebook cash rich. And where will they spend that money? Probably rolling new products and features to keep users hooked on to the Facebook family of Apps. If they do succeed here, they will probably have the most useful data for targeting the users.
While there would be various Ad networks and Exchanges effected by this, the biggest looser here could be Google, as users go to Facebook and sister apps to talk to friends, talk to businesses and read the news, people will do few searches, which will hit Google and it’s revenues.
Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

The “Do you want to Exit” Pattern must Die!

Your users aren’t dumb.
User Experience is an interesting field, It can be something inherited by what came before your product (Motorola StarTAC) or can be forced onto you by the platform you are building on top of (Material Design by Google, The dialog boxes on Android & iOS). Once in a while, a popular design spreads its wings everywhere (Pull to Refresh)
If one were to refer to the Jesse James Garrett Model of User Experience and apply it to the Mobile ecosystem: between the first & second planes, i.e that Strategy & Scope planes, you would assume that the user:

  • Expects the App to behave in a certain way, expecting consistency in the experience of the App and that of the entire platform.
  • Knows how the platform behaves and he would be more than capable of navigating the platform.

If you look at the Android platform, Design patterns have come (ActionBar) and gone (QuickActions via Long Press). Some have been great, others not so much. But as such, why a pattern grew to be absorbed by Android or was thrown out, depending on how well that design pattern worked in the real world, and more importantly, did it make the user’s life simpler. Then someone somewhere decided to invent the “Press Back to exit pattern”. Which still lives today

These are top apps using the pattern, in an attempt to, well I guess, to make sure the user does quit the App “by mistake”.
Here is the problem

  • The user probably really wanted to quit your App. In which case, the additional back press is a pain.
  • You don’t really maintain a consistency experience, give than the user can just press the Home button and you can’t do anything about it.

This pattern does not really solve any purpose, especially one that can’t be measured.
If you are a Product Manager using this pattern I will judge you as you don’t know what you are doing, and are not depending on data. If you are a Business guy I will judge you for thinking your users are dumb. If you are a developer I will judge you because you don’t know your own Platform well.
Long story short, this pattern needs to die!!
Photo credit: orangeacid / Foter / CC BY

Going Downhill from “Let’s build it in house”

Are you ready to support something that is not your core product?
Engineers usually have an itch; An itch to build everything they have from the ground up because at first thought it feels like it will be cheaper. They go to the extent of building a product & open sourcing it or providing it for free (Which is what probably fuelled the free App Culture in Android).
It is due to this that many a times tech guys tend to look away from SAAS services when trying to solve a requirement. Yes, it might seem simple to dump data into a MySQL Database and then query it to say you have an Analytics solution. But do you really have a solution? What if someone from Marketing wants to build a funnel? What if your CEO wants to know each user’s LTV? What if the Sales VP wants to know which region is underperforming? Your Duct-tape solution may not have all the answers. It is even worse if you have to now build those features in, it is time you could spend building and polishing your product.
Here are some of the reasons you need to shy away from building a side feature in-house:

  • It’s Not your Core product feature: Let’s face it, we all have limited time in a day, time is best spent on your product’s core features.
  • You are probably not competent enough: I am not trying to be rude, but that is a fact. In one of my organizations while trying to digitize our Human Resources department, we thought we could just build it in-house, alas we knew nothing and decided against it, which in retrospect was a great decision.
  • Save Costs: This is trivial if you are using a SAAS service you don’t need to set up infrastructure or hire a team to maintain it. You also don’t need to hire a team to build the solution, which is a massive saving in cost.
  • Faster Integration: Since you don’t have to build it, you don’t need to hire a team or train a team. You probably just need to integrate an SDK and then never bother your tech team.
  • One Less Product to worry about: If you are using a SAAS provider you don’t need to worry about updating features, improving efficiency or reducing costs. The SAAS provider has that covered.

That being said if you really have a unique need, it might make sense building a solution in-house, but remember, products & features are like relationships, they need a lot of commitment from your side.