Software And High Tech Product Planning

There are many ways to skin a cat, so the saying goes. Planning high technology software and hardware products seems to fit in the same category.

While there are some models that you tend to see over and over again, there are a lot of ways that planning of products occurs in the technology industry.

DEVELOPER-DRIVEN PRODUCT PLANNING

One typical way is what I call “developer–driven”. That’s when an engineer, software programmer, or inventor comes up with a new way to apply an existing technology in a novel way to a different, unsolved problem. Or in some cases, the developer is a true visionary, and actually invents a new breakthrough technology, that blows away the existing way of doing things.

While this developer–driven model is very common, and when it works it can lead to blockbuster successes, this approach is rife with problems–I have repeatedly been brought in to clean up the results of this approach in my consulting practice. The reason for this is that companies using this approach usually have a technology or product–centric view of the world. And what’s missing in the view?

CUSTOMERS!

Now I don’t want to insult all the technologists out there who have taken the lead in developing products. Of course, technology professional understand the need for customers, and the importance of getting their feedback in the product development process. Some have a natural knack for product planning, and are highly effective. Yet the reality is that product developers aren’t trained to, nor do they generally derive any pleasure from–trying to extract product preferences, unsolved problems, and workflow issues from potential customers. Often customers don’t really know what they want, or have some other agenda which can lead a product planner in the wrong direction–unless the planner is experienced and savvy in uncovering the desired information. Let’s face it, developers are trained to design hardware and write software code. Many do pick up product planning skills–but in my experience, it’s far from the majority.

The end result of a developer–driven product is often one that is launched, gets a few customers, but then stalls long before gaining traction and critical mass in the marketplace. Precious cash has been burned through, and the typical lament is “it’s a great product, if we could only find someone to sell it”. What is frequently believed to be a customer–facing sales and marketing issue, is quite often a product that doesn’t meet customer needs–as a result of flaws in the product planning process.

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC PRODUCT PLANNING

Another common way that I’ve seen products planned is what I call the customer–centric approach. This method is characterized by using a few “model customers”, with a fanatical devotion to using their input to develop the product. Often you will see this in a company that has previously failed using the developer–centric model discussed above. Sometimes, it’s the same technologists on their second try. Now, you may be thinking, this is the way you do it! But while this approach is definitely an improvement in some ways over a purely technological approach–it too has some limitations.

The customer centric model works well if you are developing for a very limited, niche market–or at least one that is quite homogenous. The problems occur in two areas. First, if your target market is of a heterogeneous nature, it is easy to miss that part of the market that isn’t represented among your select few model customers. Secondly, this approach can sometimes stifle innovation. In high technology, customer input is very important–but customers shouldn’t be doing your product planning for you. Each has their own quirky agendas, unique to their individual companies. In addition, customers often can’t see far enough past their current problems and needs–to imagine how to apply technology to make a radical improvement in their workflow, 2–3 years down the line. So if you only build what they tell you to build, you will often end up with a mostly mundane product, and also one that contains a few features that the greater market will scratch their head over why they were included. Worst of all, the product may be nearly obsolete by the time it hits the streets, because you haven’t looked far enough ahead of the market, and built–in what’s possible and desired for the future. These products get stuck in the present of when they were planned–which in the tech world, is the distant past by the time they are introduced.

MARKET-CENTRIC PRODUCT PLANNING

Finally, let’s talk about the way product OUGHT to be built. I call this approach a market–centric model, although it includes elements of both the customer and technology–driven approaches.

The most basic requirement for success in this approach is to have a skilled, balanced product planning team. The core of this team consists of an experienced Product Manager with a marketing background, and an experience Engineering Manager or Technical Project Leader. I call this the “2–headed monster”.

Having two leaders to a project sounds like a prescription for design–by–committee, which usually satisfies no one. And there are definitely dangers to this approach. The most problematic (and frequently encountered) issue is when the Product Manager and Engineering Lead clash, or just don’t like each other. Then you have a real problem–and one that must be dealt with quickly. But that’s a topic for another article. The important thing here is that to make a truly GREAT high tech product, both the Product Manager and Technical Lead possess key expertise that needs to be brought to the table.

The Product Manager is the market expert, and customer proxy when necessary. He is the one who is trained, experienced and skilled at uncovering the true needs and latent desires from potential customers. He also has a market perspective, so he will ensure that all important segments of the market will be canvassed to ensure that the resulting offering is MARKET–driven–not shaped by love of a cool technology or requests from a few key individual customers.

The Technical Lead brings a couple of critical skills to the table. He keeps the discussion centered on what’s POSSIBLE, ensuring that you don’t plan a product that can’t meet the required timing and budgetary constraints–or worse yet, can’t be built at all! In addition, he or she can “see ahead” and inject the use of new technology to solve a problem, in a way that those less technical might not be able to envision.

I won’t pretend that this approach to planning products is easy to implement. In truth, it’s hard to pull off. The key ingredients to success for this model are an honest, open process and culture, where everyone is motivated by the success of the product and ultimately, the company. In companies with a high degree of politics, or rivalries between departments, the process tends to fall apart quickly, to no ones benefit or satisfaction. Mutual respect is critical. Anyone should be allowed an opinion on any aspect of the product.

An engineer can express an opinion on the customer base, or marketing approach. A marketer can have an opinion on what technological approach is most appropriate. This cross–fertilization of ideas is very valuable, and can lead to innovative approaches that just aren’t derived from orthodoxy. But at the end of the day, after all the discussion has taken place, there must be mutual respect and trust in the competency of each functional area. Marketing people must be trusted on marketing matters; developers must be trusted on engineering matters. If that trust isn’t there or is lost during the process, a successful product is unlikely.

BEST FOR SUCCESS

When done right, the Market–centric approach to product planning is optimal. It usually leads to solid singles and doubles, with the occasional home run. It reduces your risk of an outright flop, while increasing somewhat the normally long odds of creating a blockbuster, market–leading product. Once a company has evolved their product planning process in this manner, it’s poised to introduce a succession of market winners.

That’s my take on planning great high tech products. What’s yours? Post a comment on my site or drop me an email message if you’ve got an opinion.

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The Story Behind Escrow Software

In a software scenario there are normally two main parties involved; the software programmer or the software company, and the end-user or the company purchasing the software package. Escrow software is a means by which a third party is involved, called an escrow agent, with the responsibility of holding the software’s source code.

Software is made up of code. Programmers write code in ‘object’ format which then gets compiled by the computer into ‘source’ format. Ultimately this code is then translated to ‘machine’ format which can be read by the computer’s hardware, basically ones and zeros. Included with the software code, documentation is also normally present as part of the whole package.

The source code is the origin of the ultimate software application and has a substantial value in the sense that without it the application cannot be generated and therefore executed. This code is not normally delivered to the end-user (or client), but the part delivered would normally consist of the executable part only.

To many programmers and developers, supplying the source code is normally not a very desired option. By doing so, they are exposing their hard work to anyone in the field that can read the code. The client can easily supply the code to a third party which can then change the code or use it to develop something even more elaborate which will then compete, or worse, make obsolete the origin piece of work.

This is where escrow software agents come into play. These agents are responsible for handling and storing the source code. Their role is to protect both the rights of the end-users as well as the proprietary technology present in the programmer’s code.

In cases where software is very costly or is business-critical to the organization involved, software is placed into escrow. But what advantages do parties take from escrow software.

End-User
Having an escrow software service, the user is guaranteed that the source code used for his business application can be available if anything had to happen to the programming organization or software developers. Anything can happen, from company insolvency to bankruptcy, or closure of business. By having escrow, the end-user is immune from these problems and in the case they actually occur, the source code can be utilized and handed over to other professional software companies who can continue in supporting the end-user.

Programmer/Developer
Two advantages can be highlighted for programmers. First, since the source code is escrowed, they can guarantee to the client that their high-cost investment is protected and not liable to any change of business they may encounter. Secondly, by escrow software, developers are assured that their proprietary assets found in the code are well protected from being copied and/or manipulated.

Escrow Software Agent
Needless to say, the responsibility handled to an escrow agent is compensated by the high rates these agents charge. After all, escrow software is not the every day software found on store shelves but most probably is a very precious item both for the people who developed it and also for those who are benefiting from it by using it for their business requirements and every day operations.

Escrow software has become a must for specialized software. It is currently the best solution for piece of mind both for developing companies as well to end-users alike.

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The World Of Software

is the programs and procedure required to enable a computer to perform a specific task…’. The software industry is huge and an ever changing one. Software has been with us since the first computers. Without it, computers cannot operate. Various kinds of software exist in the market today. They can be classified into:

Operating Systems
The lowest level form of software which has direct contact with the computer hardware. It manages resources as well as other software programs sitting on top. The operating system takes care of all the low level functions a computer performs and is probably the most complex piece of software in circulation.

Applications Software
Software which can normally be bought from stores is called application software. These packages serve infinite purposes and can vary from office applications, like word processors, spreadsheets, payroll systems, account systems, anti-virus applications and database driven software, to games, communication and multimedia applications.

Tailor-Made Software
Same as application software, tailor made software is written specifically to perform a particular task and to meet the user’s specific requirements. This software fills the gap that application suites leave in the software industry. Certain performances needed by particular businesses and organizations cannot be performed by the standard application suite found on stores’ shelves. As a result, several software companies specialize in this area and create software applications designed to perform a specific task for specific sectors in our society.

The Process
Software is normally written by professional programmers working with small to medium companies as well as large corporations. They create standard packages that are then marketed and distributed worldwide. The purpose can vary from general use, like operating systems and office applications to specific use, like software written for hospitals and government departments. The process of writing tailor-made software can be totally different though. Before the programmers put their hands on the keyboard and start coding, a whole process is carried out by systems analyst, normally called feasibility study. This study serves to understand the business requirements of the specific organization to which the software is going to be written. A full documented systems design is then written explaining all these requirements, which will also server as the basis on which programmers write their code in order to produce the end product.

The Works
Software applications need to be loaded through a disk or through a network link from an office server or internet. It loads into the computer memory and normally gets installed on the local computer’s internal drive. Once resident there, every time the package is called from the user, it loads into the computer’s memory and execution starts. Some applications remain resident in the computer’s memory for as long as the computer is functioning. These are normally functions forming part of the operating system and other applications like network applications, anti-virus software and device drivers.

Everything one sees on a computer screen is made up of software. Without it, a computer cannot operate and is useless. Software applications have gone a long way and today many software applications can perform millions of tasks every second, supported by the evolution of computer hardware and the huge leaps forward of technology.

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FAQS About Criminal Court Outcomes

If you are currently facing criminal charges, it is likely that you are anxiously awaiting your trial hearing. And just like many others in your position, you have questions and concerns about the court process and the potential outcomes you face. To give you some peace of mind, continue reading to learn some answers to the most frequently asked questions about criminal court outcomes. This may relieve your anxiety while awaiting your court date.

What are the Possible Outcomes in Criminal Court?

Because there are so many different type of charges, the outcomes vary greatly. It all depends on a defendant’s charges, criminal history, the state, and many other factors. Some common outcomes include guilty verdict, not guilty verdict, charges dropped, charges dismissed, charges reduced, mistrials, and more.

What Will Happen if I Plead Guilty?

You should only plead guilty if it is recommended by your criminal lawyer for the purpose of a plea bargain with the state prosecutor. Pleading guilty means you admit to committing the crime, understand the charges and the guilty plea, and waive your right to trial jury. Upon pleading guilty, you can expect to have a sentencing hearing scheduled with a few weeks or months. During your sentencing hearing, the judge will hand down your sentence, penalties, and court orders.

What Will Happen if I am Found Not Guilty?

You will have it on your record that you were charged with the crime, but never convicted. However, you may be able to have the charged expunged from your criminal record. Upon being found not guilty, you will be released from custody and court supervision, and you cannot be convicted of the same crime later on.

What Will Happen if I Plead No Contest?

Pleading no contest is not allowed in all states. When defendants enter a no contest plea, or nolo contender, it means they are not admitting guilt to the crime in question, but they surrender to the courts punishment. Although the defendant does not admit guilt, they are still sentenced as if they are guilty.

What Will Happen if I Miss My Court Date?

Missing your court date is a serious offense. Not only does it impede your current case, it adds on a separate criminal charge that comes with additional penalties. In rare cases, a criminal lawyer can waive the penalties for a missed court date if there is sufficient evidence that the client had no choice (i.e. emergency hospital stay, serious accident, etc.) A death in the family, work, and other similar life occurrences are not acceptable excuses to the court.

What Happens After a Mistrial?

Both the criminal lawyer and prosecutor can motion the court for a mistral for several reasons, including juror misconduct, inability to reach a verdict, law enforcement errors, and more. If granted, prosecution can sometimes retry the case. But most often, it puts defendants in a double-jeopardy situation, so it is not retried.

What Happens if All Charges are Dropped?

If your charges are dropped, you will not go to trial. The prosecutor drops charges for several reasons, including inadmissible evidence, lack of evidence, uncooperative victims, and more. Although your criminal record won’t show an actual conviction, it will show that you were once charged with the crime. In this case, you may qualify to have it expunged from your record.

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The Horse Hair Wig and the Law

It’s a peculiar sight to see when judges enter courts in their robes and horse hair wigs while barristers are similarly dressed. In the Supreme Court under British rule they line up like Santa Clauses in red robes and wigs to administer the law. The question is who are speaking for and what is the meaning behind their garb? One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to secure the answers.

The term ‘horse’ is from ‘or-s’, which in ancient times meant sun-light. ‘O-r’ is interpreted as ‘circle of power’ where [r] or [ra] means power and ‘ray’ for a beam of light is from this source. The circle of power is the sun and it was this body that was worshipped and called the Mother God. She passed down the law through the high priests who interpreted it.

To demonstrate their allegiance to ‘her’ they dressed in the skins of horses and wore the mane on their heads. This was the start of the horse hair wig.

The sun-horse was called the ‘Magi’ or ‘mother god’s eye’, which is the sun. From this came ‘majesty’ for the king who interpreted her will as her ‘sun’ on earth. The terms ‘son’ and ‘sun’ are the same. This created the notion of ‘sun-kings’ and ‘Sons of God’.

‘Magi’ is also in ‘magistrate’ for the administer of the law. The colour red is symbolic of the skin after exposure to the sun and is also the colour of blood. In the city of Babylon that start of crucifixion of god-men saw men voluntarily die on crosses at dawn to ride the ‘ors’ or sun-beam upwards with the rising sun into heaven.

My research followed memory of reincarnation and knowledge that heaven and hell are myths. Tracing the progress of the law from the first concept of the Sun-God was an easy task as the story is locked in language, the law, and the general behaviour of humanity.

People bow to the majesty and the magistrate to acknowledge their god-like status and that they have the authority to speak for and on behalf of the sun.

‘Magi’ is a term for ‘horse’ and from it comes the term ‘magic’, which pervades all religions and forms of worship. The idea that words can change the status of people and elevate some to the position of a god, as in the canonisation of saints, is as much a product of man’s dreams as the notion that heaven is a place of eternal bliss or hell of eternal punishment.

Norma’s research went back to Babylon to unearth the roots of religion and the identity of 666. It proves conclusively that heaven and hell are tricks designed to manipulate people into believing in his Islamic religion.

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