Simble CTO – Local Government Information Technology Conference 2018

Using technology to enable Smart City Projects – Martin Hannah presented the case for Local Government to leverage available know how and start the journey towards IoT as a organizational competency. ERP platforms not ideally suited IoT. An IoT ecoSystem platform is build from ground up to manage ingestion and re-purposing of IoT Big Data and apply it to the range of physical and computational outcomes common to IoT projects.

Simble smart IoT solutions turns data into insights and outcomes that help shape a sustainable world.



Customer Account Development with LEAN principles

Applying Lean Start-up to existing business units

For any entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs who have not read up on the subject, the LEAN revolution as it is often called, originate from the efforts of Taiichi Ohno the father of the Toyota Production System and W.E. Deming the father of Quality and evolving further through the efforts of Steve Blank in his books; The Four Steps to the Epiphany, The Startup Owners Manual.

The exciting aspect of this movement is it has forged new understanding of the principles behind selecting the best Product / Market mix choices. These choice has previously been the responsibility of the lead entrepreneur, but can now be taught and delegated to others.

The principles when distilled down to their raw components are geared to challenge and validate assumptions of what the customer really wants. The process involves selecting aspects of your product offering that are most contentious and testing them with real customers, in a manner that solicits buyer intention. These tests are amongst other things designed to confirm or disprove that the need and the asking price for the offering are realistic and attractive to the customer. Where possible the tests are conducted either face to face or with enough proximity to validate if there is genuine interest. Steve Blank (2012) in a video interview at the Commonwealth club entitled How to build a great company step by step, says “you haven’t validated your hypothesis until you’ve witnesses potential customer pupils dilating”

A new start up business can always obtain secondary data that it can use to analyse micro and macro economics of a new venue, endless hypothetical plans can analyse a proposed business model and surmise what could be. However, nothing can the proof gained by asking real clients to exchange real cash for your product or service, and building that product in the hope that customers will come has been shown to accomplish a less than 2% success for new ventures.

Firms with an established customer base have a significant advantage over start ups. Their customers have already purchased (and invested in) their products. As a consequence customers have a vested interest in helping the firm improve their product offering.

Whilst a start up will need to conjure innovative ways to solicit meaningful responses from free trial offers, landing pages and social media, firms with established customers have direct access to decision makers. These firms can also influence decision makers year on year budget provisions by up-selling new products and features incrementally over time, helping to fend off would be competitors, and adding more value to the customer / supplier relationship.

This provides us with a interesting example of the use of LEAN for account management

LEAN in account management

So I expect you’re asking, LEAN for account management, I thought that was for new product development?

If we are to take the stance of W.E. Deming who was an avid supporter of the notion that the customer should be the center of every decision, and that we should challenge the thinking behind any task we do that a customer would not consider important. Then perhaps the building of new products will be (and usually is) based on the emerging requirements and observations of existing customers.

But which ideas do we take on? Which will have the greatest impact on customer retention and new customer recruitment?

A LEAN Account Review – The LOW FAT alternative for a healthy organization

Oh yes, sorry, guilty as charged, pun definitely intentional.

Anyway, every organization knows account reviews are an essential part of sales management. But we often rely on the intuition and initiative of sales teams to pass on important information on the product or service managers that would subsequently be used when making development decisions. Of course the account review also provides many other benefits, but focusing on the customer for a moment, the information about what the customer thinks of our product and services, is the essential ingredient to selecting the most important product innovations. These choices are responsible for maintaining or improving the company’s position in the market.

Extracting and refining that knowledge should not be left to chance.

Account Segment Analysis (ASA) is a very simple tool used to examine customer account behavior over the year, and extract meaningful topics and assumptions to be examined with LEAN start-up principles.

Account Segment Analysis

The steps involved in this analysis are :

  • Populate Project Services Review
  • Identify opportunities and limitations
  • Use LEAN review principles to identify solutions
  • Compare product usage across each of the segments (Categories A,B,C below) and identify new markets or packaging

Project Services Review (PSR)

You can download Product Services Review template to analyses and track customer accounts by sales team.

The PSR has a number of unique purposes.

  1. Identify the initial project value or big ticket item sale value that was purchased when customer first converted to a new customer.
  2. Identify expected income by customer from each of the primary income streams and quantify the major revenue opportunities in the accounting period the customer is most likely to place the order
  3. Consolidate and qualify opinion across sales, consulting and service teams as to the level of interest a customer has for each opportunity and the amount quoted or discussed as if that was quotes or discussed as the ball park price
  4. Categorize the customer (e.g. As A, B or C in Figure 1) that indicates the probable year on year expenditure that customer could be encouraged to make provisions for, that would fund innovation, training and consulting (excluding maintenance). This amount will also be related to the size of the customer account with the larger accounts often making greater budget provision for innovation, training and professional services. For example a category A may be willing to reinvest 20% of original purchase price in further improvements, whereas a category C may only make 5% available on an ongoing basis.
    By examining past years sales, this pattern will be easier to recognise and from that point, account management can work along side product development to grow the rations by category. The pattern gives management a base line for services revenue target by account, and a basis for developers to justify the value of their contributions to account development.

Other benefits of the PSR

In addition to bring together a consensus on the value of new business available from each account, it provides sales teams with knowledge and comparisons to incentivise customers to keep up with accepted trends and make the best use of the relationship with your firm.

Adding further columns to compare spending by customer for training, data analytics, web, marketing or any other metrics helps customer understand the benchmarks behind recommendations.

Development Accounts with LEAN principles

Account business opportunities with low probability or where the opportunity keeps moving is an indication the customer may not of heard a compelling enough reason to proceed, and by examining these opportunities with LEAN principles often draws out new unforeseen opportunities and benefits.


In figure 1 there is a low possibility that for the customer ABFuller they will be ordering $4000 for upgrades. This opportunity has been postponed three times now and the interest is low. Using LEAN principles, the account manager orchestrates intervention by product teams to determine if the problem is with the quote or proposal. The product team arranges for the first step of the LEAN process, being to survey the customer’s intentions by crafting a series of questions. The team constructs this survey with a view to sending it to another select group of customers to compare results.

The team discovers that other customers have the same problem and are looking at ways to resolve it, but had not considered your firm could hold the answer. The other customers did however contribute new information that when you share with the first customer makes them realise other concerns, that you are now able to address for that first customer and also as an upgrade or additional service to other customers in your community. The LEAN process that follows is similar to that used for new product development. It finds the core issues, constructs tests, proposes and tests solutions, and pivots or persists as needed until the product is fit for purpose.

The outcome?

  • You now have new ideas in development, that your able to refine with a motivated customer using LEAN principles
  • You retain the first customer as the primary beneficiary and funder for development
  • You have new news for the company newsletter and social media channels
  • You can reward the first customer in newsletters and social as the “forward thinker” who came up with the idea.
  • Your customer earns respect of its customers as a forward thinker
  • Other prospective customers see your successes on social media convincing them to switch to your company as their main provider
  • Your customers become stickier, improving your company’s value and EBIT

Plus: Everyone feels good about themselves and your company has another new income stream.

Compare product usage across each of the segments

Now each of the accounts has been grouped by a category, examine each customer and identify customers who by way of their size, culture or turnover are in the wrong group. For example which large customers are only providing your with a small percentage of business when compared to other customers of similar size. This could be as a result of many factors for example; competitors are penetrating the account and distracting customers attention, product no longer fit for purpose and waiting for a new budget to switch suppliers.

This is your opportunity to reengage the Product development team and provide superior service. Orchestrate intervention by product teams, conduct face to face tests of product suitability and develop your slower moving accounts.

Reality checkpoint: Perhaps your thinking, we have been using this form of account management for years, why are we now calling it a LEAN process?

Answer: The Account management discipline may or may not of been part of your routine in the past, but the institutionalization of the practice of real time intervention by product teams during account management review, and the senior management permission/endorsement of this practice as a means of improving both the product / market fit and customer relations, is not a common practice with corporations.

It is important for senior management to understand the important role account management can and should play in steering product innovation in a direction that retains product relevance in the market and ensures it continues to be fit for purpose.

In closing, I am sure W.E. Deming will be pleased to hear you have put the customers interest ahead of internal agenda’s, given the customer what they wanted, and made a little money along the way, job well done!


Salesforce acquires Quip – Personal Cloud even more important

While the Quip founders are undoubtedly enjoying a period of relief after securing their outcome in what will of been a tense period of negotiation, the rest of us that use the Quip service are wondering what this will mean to our digital assets stored in the Quip platform.


We place a significant amount of trust in the company’s behind these cloud services when we invest large portions of our our time and energy transforming and transferring our information into their platforms. Whenever a company is merged, we then must consider if, in a period of time, the platform will change its costs, storage limits, functionality or convenience factor, to the point where we may need to find an alternative.

Remember this ?

How can we forget the email from Microsoft that many of us received in June 2016, that opened with:


The question that emerges from this latest announcement is therefore what does this mean, will the merging of these two firms result in better service, will it change, will it’s cost benefit change?

I believe the answer is that we all need to start taking ownership of our digital world, leaving it purely in the hands of cloud service providers is naive.  Companies such as smikbox, Qnap, Synology have been providing NAS technology for some time that is becoming an essential addition to our lifestyles. The latest breed of Smart NAS (Network Access Storage Devices) are just as comfortable in your home as in a business. More importantly these devices can be used to synchronize, backup, replicate and provide remote access to your files and data, They can be used to download your information from the cloud service providers so its always available and backed up in your home.

If your cloud provider changes the pricing plans, makes changes to the service that no longer suit you, or simply goes out of business you have your information replicated in your Personal Cloud.

Therefore you should:

Go ahead, use all the best these Cloud services providers have to offer, just keep it synchronized in your Personal Cloud.

With this in place you have peace of mind that you will be able to adapt or change to suit the prevailing circumstances or technologies that are ahead, without having to frantically delete, move and or restructure information you have accumulated over your lifetime because your circumstances have changed.

QNAP, Western Digital , Synology provide DIY models through local distributors that you set up yourself or you can go to smikbox for their pre-configured NAS, which arrives fully set up ready to go with a lot of additional software installed for no extra cost.


Microsoft Windows runs Linux?

Windows running Linux, are we surprised ?

If your an observer of history, you wont be.

It had to happen one day, and today is apparently that day.

Most of us are not surprised by Microsoft’s recent change of heart announcing it “Loves Linux” as it announces a series of initiatives to incorporate Linux functionality into its kernel.

The latest new being the announcement of its intention to provide the Linux Bash command line interface to use Ubuntu binaries that sit on top of Windows 10.

Microsoft appears to be quite committed to this initiative, although it’s probable that for early versions of this technology using the Linux kernel to access the underlying machine platform through windows drivers, will be effected by the inherent performance, security, comparability and resource requirements issues facing any Windows platform. It is still good news for the business and development communities, in that there will be at some stage in the future a Windows platform that will bring some or all of the efficiency’s and technologies enjoyed by the open source communities into Windows environments.

The important point is that it is accomplishing this without using any kind of a Virtual machine. Linux is running as a native process on top of Windows. But for those of us contemplating the idea of the minimalist nature of Linux coming to Windows, don’t hold your breath. You still have the full Windows footprint on the underlying host machine, along with the start up times and administrative overhead. The good news is the Linux kernel and Windows run independently and share the file system and local host IP, which makes this a handy for Microsoft developers building systems with open source tools (Ruby , Git, Python and NIX tools).




How to use Social Media to Market Your Business

You can consume hours working through the many on line blogs, videos and resources available on line to help you make the most of Social media and if you have looked at enough of these you eventually come to the conclusion (as have I) that the very best strategies usually involve the creation of good content. So Blogs, social media posts must contain information that other people will get value from using.

If you have already tried your hand at writing “good content” you will of also realized that it takes time. Time that you must weigh up in value against time spent on “real work”. Talking to customers, colleagues and performing tasks is what pays the bills, so for most going through the time and effort needed to build and maintain a social media presence is prohibitive.

It was this truth that lured me in to watch a Video from Guy Kawasaki video where he explained the process he uses which considering he has a following of over 5 million people is obviously working (for him at least).

He also makes mention that this procedure consumes about 2-3 hours of his time daily (which most of us probably can’t justify), and he has the assistance 2 x full time equivalent people helping him.

However there are some elements that use mortals could use, and I have downloaded and tested some of the software programs he suggested to try the Guy Kawasaki technique for myself for a few months.

In the video he demonstrates the process he uses to repost suitable content that is appropriate for his brand and uses the process shown below.




Xero – Share price good value does MYOB need to rebound?

Found an interesting article from the Motley Fool blog on Xero growth prospects and documented a few personal observations for discussion.

March 2015
Cloud computing accounting software provider, XERO FPO NZ (ASX: XRO) (, today announced it has surpassed 200,000 Australian customers as it continues on its impressive growth trajectory.

Shares of the New Zealand-based company have been on a volatile ride since it listed on the ASX in late 2012. Its shares soared to almost $42 in early 2014, but have retreated to $23.60 today.

However, Xero’s operational growth has been impressive.

For example, here in Australia, the company has almost doubled its paying customer base since 31 March 2014, when it had **109,000 customers**.

Chris Ridd, Xero Australia’s Managing Director said, “We believe we are now truly in the “early majority phase of adoption.”

Which if we are to use accepted research principles could indicate an expected penetration in excess of 400,000 customers by the end of the Late Majority phase?

Image result for early adoption phase

“We expect to see significantly more small businesses upgrade from traditional accounting products in the coming months and years,” Mr Ridd said.

In another article published June 2014 in response to MYOB claims it has 250,000 customers Ridd (of Xero) is not convinced by MYOB’s numbers, stating that Xero is signing up 400 Australian customers / day where 40% are 1st time users and 60% are former MYOB customers.

That being the case, and assuming this happens 40 weeks of the year, would be a trend of 48,000 per year switching from MYOB to Xero, diminishing MYOB customer base which lets say for arguments sake is 200,000 of to a mere 28% of its former self in 3 years (slow death).

Image result for early adoption phase

Looking at the pattern we observed as Sales Force replaced Siebel as the “new kid on the block” for corporate CRM, Xero also has a degree of novelty fueling its penetration, coupled with a vision for “beautiful software”. Xero was the first to promote itself as being a platform for the businessmen and accountant to collaborate in managing finances. But Xero and MYOB UI will date, and both will need to remain nimble enough to innovate if the want to return to or sustain growth in multiples in the coming 5 years.

Xero is currently expanding across New Zealand, Australia, the USA and UK.

After a slow start in the huge U.S. market, Xero recently announced ( the appointment of experienced key management personnel and welcomed a US$100 million cash injection from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Accel Partners

It will be interesting to see how things play out with Xero attracting the next round of capital, it would appear some of that 100 million has already been put into brand development, and we would hope it would also be used for operational capability and innovation.

The other observation I have is (I personally felt) that the first MYOB applications looked and operated as if it was a rushed attempt to “create something that works in the cloud”. At that time the MYOB website seemed to offer Cloud, and on-premise solutions as if they were comparable options. This is of concern because unlike MYOB, Xero is apologetically a cloud only solution, and this is in part a successful strategy as it indicates company “focus”. Now Xero was first to add innovation that made it simple to use gateways to financial institutions (i.e. bank reconciliation), improved software for reporting and bank reconciliation, and the UI is generally well designed from a heuristic and cognitive stand point. Whereas the MYOB I reviewed was clunky and appeared incomplete. Sitting in a restaurant in Sutherland I could not help but overhear two businessmen discussing the differences. One man was frustrated by the way MYOB handled BAS, the other encouraging him to switch to Xero and explaining how Xero handles this.

The other difference is the Xero API appears to of attracted third party developers to create their own applications that work with Xero. MYOB also provide this but again I found the Xero API easy to follow. Sales Force successfully used this technique to build initial channel, but I have troubling reports from a few CEO’s I met, who built add on applications to partner with Sales force. The impression left on me by these reports was that Sales Force still have lessons to learn about “playing nice” with their friends, putting adoption ahead of quarterly returns would be a good start.

Putting all this together one could summarize by saying that Xero already has operational capabilities and competitive advantage that MYOB does not have and may not even be aware that it needs yet (as far as could be perceived from their website).

One thing is certain that as our world moves out of its fascination and attraction to the novelty of cloud computing, and begins to face the stark reality of making profit with it or from it, all cloud technology companies will be presented with the challenge of making the customers perception of value central to business strategy, and history will repeat itself making operations capability central to business strategy and competitive advantage.

For my money I have divested myself of Xero in all portfolios for the short term, but I agree with Owen Raszkiewicz if they can sustain momentum make profit and/or MYOB drop the ball they are worth having a look at again.

PMO team training – Sessions from PMXPO 2015 (Marketing, eXtreme, PPM process)

A number of the sessions from the 2015 PMXPO conference are beneficial for training, directing and / or introducing new team members to the company or projects.

The following resources are both an indication and a distillation of the areas getting attention in the PMI community at present, and serve as a reminder of how the tried and tested PM principles are merging with new technologies and progressive thinking.

Recorded Sessions

Video name Comments
Marketing Projects Elizabeth Harron explains how to use regular communications within a project to enlist the stakeholder community for greater effectiveness
PPM the Process owner PPM Process management and the role of the PPM process owner
eXtreme projects Do or Die Leadership practices for Todays eXtreme projects

 Related Downloads

Agile and Lean Convergence in software and creative development practices

Looking under the covers of the popular principles of Lean and Agile it’s very obvious why these principles are so very important to progressive organizations, but these two principles also seem to be on a path of convergence into a new and more widely accepted set of principles and methodologies.

In larger scale projects the more significant advances in performance outcomes in recent years seem to be coming from the principles of Lean manufacturing which aims to eliminate waste and by using more reactive demand based communications between the start and finish of an operation “pulls” through the supply of inputs (i.e. information, software components, functionality, content) as required by the next stage of a given operational function.

On the other hand no one can dispute that software development has benefited greatly by it’s departure from Waterfall principles to the widespread the use of Agile. The problem with waterfall is that whilst there is considerable care and effort placed in gathering and documenting requirements these requirements are ultimately; incomplete, insufficient or ill-conceived by the time they reach the development stages. Agile has the ability to make corrections on the fly, encourages mid stream corrections, customer intervention and tests outcomes at the end of short intervals. With agile you build the smallest possible components, and progressively assemble an MVP from the inside out.

Agile is of particular benefit in creative operations such as software, digital media and design, but it still has its drawbacks especially its inability to facilitate working with exact budgets or time frames. As a result experienced agile practitioners are adopting principles that seem more Lean than Agile in origin. Some Agile projects must also allow deviation from core principles where smaller items of development are impossible to test until combined with other components to form a sub assembly or MVP which could be interpreted as the Lean principle of converging streams.

In Agile there is the principle of rapid feedback between the users providing the “information” which in Lean manufacturing is the raw materials, to the transformation process (expert that transforms this into a product in some form), and instead of there being requirements (inventory in manufacturing terminology) there are story boards (orders for a finished product or desired outcome).

Agile is essential in creative environments as it gives the skilled expert the opportunity to use their knowledge and intuition to balance “what is technically possible” with “what the customer really wants”.

Hall et al “Harvard Business Review” (2009, Vol 87) reminds us ‘creative activities are often described as “judgment-based” work,” “craft work,” or “professional work.” The common thread in such work is variability in the process, its inputs, and its outputs.’ and in this “Highly variable environment: where attempting to use structured process management to blindly reduce variability. Not only does that reduce accountability, but it often causes workers to switch to autopilot instead of trying to understand the specifics of each job.” we must remember that the “variations of output is what the customer sees as value”
“creative processes can and should reliably produce innovative products and services that many structured [Waterfall style] processes cannot mimic.”

In large teams Agile has to give way to Lean principles ability to coordinate the work of different teams (streams) working either sequentially or in parallel. The Kanban (a lean principle) is widely used for managing Agile iterations.
Since some iterations are completed faster than others, in larger projects there still needs to be multiple points of consolidation or synchronization.

Many larger technology based cloud service providers are adopting Devops practices (a convergence of agile system administration with agile operations)  to reduce time to production increments for new capabilities, where agile has been adapted to deliver finished goods in smaller increments directly to the production systems accessed by customers. This in itself is giving rise to new operational capabilities best described as Lean principles. The Lean continuous improvement practice of Kaizen in conjunction with Agile and Devops teaches the teams to seek out improvements to both the product and the process used to produce the product.

AICD – New Website usability Workshop

Great idea to invite website visitors to test usability, I have used the AICD website in the past and found navigation a little challenging, which as a website visitor I accepted in the past given there was a lot of information to convey.

The testing was using Optimal Workshop software to go through a the possible menu structures AICD is considering.

Whilst completing the test I used a video to record keystrokes, as a test subject I guess I was ideal as its late in the day (9pm) already had dinner and a glass of wine, and the biggest issue was the number of menu items at the first level because the sample navigation didn’t give me a way to remember where menu items were and to then be able to compare them for relevance, I found myself opening, closing and reopening main menu items trying compare sub menus for relevance to the question asked.

The user is doing this comparison for two reasons:

  1. To try to match the selected menu closely to the question at the top
  2. To find the most suitable match

NOTE: As a tester I was trying to make the match as close as possible as I was trying to provide as accurate result as possible, whereas in a real scenario the user would have in mind what they are after and just click around till they found what best matched.

The second problem is there is to many options on the menu, so the user is sliding up/down and returning to parent menu tree trying to make the best choice, whereas in real life the user would just click on a few items and see how suitable they were. Perhaps a navigational Ux facility that allowed the user to see and compare menu options is needed. ALSO: If this was my site I would also be concerned how this many menu items would translate to mobile devices.

Here are the videos, so you can see the indecision of the user for yourself.

Hope this helps with navigational selections.

Clever Ux Design Practices in your Web Projects

Today web applications and website designers must allow for a wider variety of devices and a wider variety of people access and using Web based applications from an ever increasing number of mobile and desk top devices. Added to this the user has less patience and higher expectations of what your website will provide them in the small space of time you have before they loose interest and click away.
Successful business operators understand the importance of clever web design in the building of their overall digital strategy and will attribute the success or failure of internet based services within their companies operations strategy to the effective use user-centric Ux Design.

Its no longer sufficient just to have appealing colors, fonts, images, user interfaces must be designed to serve the user needs, and companies need to have an ongoing digital strategy that builds and retains the digital assets as an institutionalized capability that the company can use for competitive advantage now and into the future.

Please feel free to open a Sample copy of a presentation on the Institutionalization of Usability practices.

Most companies are still on the journey to finding a preferred level of investment in the preservation of this as an “inhouse” capability, but its an important topic that is getting a lot of attention.