Mobile Payments – Key Lies in Identity

Although speculation at this point I believe that the reason Google has invested in NFC  for payments is specifically because they have a chance to the Identity providers for merchants in a mobile transaction.

Google will soon have the ability to specifically determine the location and contextual information of any user of its Android ecosystem. I am pretty sure the the amount of information google crawls about me : browsing history, location data, search data , photos, videos , they can build a profile about me.

While I am not a banking and finance expert, i believe that the future of mCash, or any mobile transaction leveraging NFC is dependent on the confirmation of the identity. Middle men such as Visa and Mastercard have built an multi billion dollar industry riding on the need for such identity management.

Merchant trusts Visa , as he is absolved of the need for validating the identity of the user transacting with him. In case of the card or plastic money holder , the onus of security of his/her identify has been left to the holder.

Enter providers such as Google, who have a key role in being the transaction channel and also the identity management channel for mobile payments.

In a futuristic scenario of a shopper enabled with a NFC device, Google has a central role in confirming the identity of the the device holder.

When the shopper uses his NFC wallet, Google can then provide the location information , verify the nature of the transaction { if the user purchases something out of the ordinary, google can send an alert via SMS } , broker the transaction between the merchant and the user by providing identity data to the merchant.

Thus at one go, the shopper has confirmation that he/she was present at the merchant location, provided confirmation of the transaction and feel absolved of the need for partnering with a Visa/Mastercard for enabling him to carry plastic money.

The transaction is now simplified by ensuring payment confirmation goes from Merchant to bank for Credit and user to Bank for debit. All the while google enjoys tracking transactions across billions of transactions by millions of users.

So I am not disappointed that google has spent research on NFC enabled mWallets or eWallets what ever one may want to call em.

Cheers

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Dropbox for Enterprises – Rehash

Dropbox has been in the news offlate for some wrong reasons but I must commend their business model of ‘Freemium’ to attract users. Our team uses dropbox for document collaboration and we often come to the event horizon of the size limit of the account. While we are currently evaluating the necessity of upgrading to ‘Dropbox for Teams’ our current method of usage has reached roadblocks.

I have recommended Dropbox to a large number of users and hence I did receive about eight gigabytes of storage space courtesy ‘referrals’ but other members of my team are grappling for storage as their accounts are still 2 gigabytes worth. Our current method involves one person sacrificing their account to be the common ‘folder account’. The user has then created a common folder that has been shared across the team.Now here comes the problem : Dropbox creates a folder of equal size in all the user accounts.Lets say folder ‘Fun’ has grown to 2.5 Gb then it will become the same in all the users who are sharing the folder.

At this juncture we did reach out to Dropbox for pricing on their ‘Dropbox for Teams’ and it was amounting to a staggering 1500 USD/yr for 30 users. Although competitively priced against other similar services but it was not an amount we were willing to spend on a external service. This is where I got thinking.

How can Dropbox make inroads into Enterprises who need this technology but have painfully limiting security concerns?

The answer lied in ‘Dropbox in a box’. Although a cheesy term for what I am proposing. It involves providing rack mounted single unit server connected to a storage device either SAN or NAS provided as a box that can be deployed internally behind Enterprise firewalls. This delivery method solves both the access and the security considerations that will creep up when they might pitch to large enterprises.

Although I might be naive in assuming that they would not have thought about it but still I am happy that years of working in Enterprises trying to justify development or acquisition of new technologies to security teams I have learnt the middle ground of approaching them.

tl;dr 

“Dropbox in a box”: a rack-mounted server unit with SAN/NAS storage deployed behind the enterprise firewall with the proprietary software and services installed

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Information Gluttons

We have come to  the pinnacle of the celebration of partial attention deficiency disorder : A trait much valued in the new web2.0 age.

But what amazes me is the creation of a new breed of people who I would call. “Information Gluttons” : People hyper addicted to gathering and storing knowledge in the mega terabyte human grey cells.

They are constantly on twitter following messages with wanton craze.They are people living in and  on facebook and  whose page refresh actions causes Facebook Inc to ever  increase server capacity .They are people following blogs and wikis with absolutely no regard for context or quality of content they read.They are people who celebrate their knowledge of almost everything and sometimes do fail to recognize the significance of 42.They are people who can watch the screen, type an sms and listen to music all at the same time.

These breed of people have previously been classified as “Web workers”  or ” Knowledge workers”

But are they really working? Can they continue this crazy notion of gathering all information on earth?  Can they survive the storage of all that information?

They can cause I am one of them .

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Measurement of tangible benefits of Social Km platform

Enterprises across the world are deploying  social km platforms in their quest for enabling ‘facebooks’ and ‘linkedins’ within their companies.While it has become simple to justify deployment of a km platform a common question raised by senior management is to determine ways to quantify benefits accrued by the deployment of a social km platform
Ganesh a colleague  has defined that measurement of success is not an offline activity but dependent on measurement of live engagement metrics that provides a constant view of KM effectiveness . For instance  some examples are
(a) Meantime between question and answer
(b) Net RoI of ideas implemented
(c) Average number of searchs per user to locate content
In addition to that I believe that certain offline parameters also aid determination of effectiveness of a social km platform. They are as given below
1. Connection density : Measure number of bidirectional connections across various level. For example i follow you, but only when you follow me can we consider there is additional value generated . We would need to understand whether km champions act only as mouthpieces or whether they are participating within the community. By splitting measurement of connection density across designations and levels we can determine the true extent of collaboration.
2.Trackbacks/Pingbacks/References : In a content aware platform like Knome how many reference links , trackbacks are generated. This measures  usefulness of the content
3.Content and Search relevance : Influx of data allows for relevant search results and suggestions. Many KM platforms also have “suggested content” feature that recommends similar content to a user. When the system reaches a critical mass then the search results and the suggested content are most relevant .This is very much like the search results offered by Google in 2007 to the results offered today.
There are certain other key sociological patterns that I will cover in subsequent posts
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Open Vs Closed Innovation

I had participated in a recent K Community Event at TCS , Chennai. There was an interesting change in the event calendar. A debate on “Closed vs.. Open Group Innovation” was included imho for the first in a K Community Meet. I was to defend Closed Innovation. Although I was filling in for another gentleman, my initial thoughts were to surrender to the winning side of the debate and prepare to be hammered on every point I could possible conjure to defend ‘Closed Innovation’.

Research into the topic brought out a lot of interesting points that I wish to share in this post. This post is divided into two parts, a description of my defense and the second a brief light on the innovation model , that I believe makes sense in the Web2.0 world.

Closed vs.. Open

Closed Innovation Model serves as a catalyst for innovation, considering that many of the greatest inventions either in the product or services space had its beginnings in the vertically integrated model of Closed Innovation.

The greatest example of a Closed Innovation Model is the company at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Working behind veils of secrecy and the occasional ‘strategic leak’ , Apple has delivered some of the greatest products in the the technology industry. The proponents of open innovation model do agree that Apple ‘s success lies in an innovation model that is ‘Closed’ yet conducive for openness. The single maniacal direction enforced by Steve Jobs and the radical internalization of all branches of product development had brought out coherent products.They have managed to avoid ‘featuritis’ plaguing many ‘Open’ products.

The focus of my argument is the problems within open innovation.The very concepts of Open Innovation can in certain situation be its Achilles heel.

Open Innovation is primarily one sided with large corporations feeding of smaller companies. The greatest proponents  of Open Innovation P&G,IBM are some of the examples of this nature of relationship.

Since Open Innovation is open coming in , it can also be open going out. This effect is offset by companies finally acquiring their partner companies. Spate of Googles acquisitions or the recent purchase of Siri by Apple goes to show how the status quo can be affected if the parent companies perceives a possible threat or augmentation.Somehow this actions make it seem Open Innovation primarily works with ‘suppliers’ .

Open Innovation can lead to many conflicts over IP , conflicts of monetization , direction of Innovation and also revenue share unless iron clad agreements are in place.Risk Sharing also become contentious. In a world of increased violations and decreased cost of litigations the very partner relationship can be the ‘reserve salient’ for Open Innovation models. In a partner ecosystem model that depends on increased cost of collaboration between the stakeholders , there is a greater element of management overhead and also perceivable loss of flexibility.

Another key characteristic of open innovation is that for the innovation process to be defined ‘open’, the research/researcher must have the ability to evaluate and integrate knowledge { both tacit and documented}. This leads to significant investment in the R&D stage while performing the integration activities.

In summary, the best possible Innovation Model, that is interestingly being defined as the ‘Hybrid Model’ , is for initial stages of Innovation to follow the Closed Model, wherein a core object can be delivered and before the development reaches a stage of glut, the model to be opened up. Taking a lesson from Eric S Raymonds ‘Cathedral and the Bazaar’ this Hybrid model brings in the best of both models.

As a side note it is interesting to note that the innovation model came to be classified as Open vis a vis Closed only after a seminal book by Henry Chesbrough . Prior to that it was plain ol R&D.

Open Innovation Model

The second part of this post is to bring out a model of Open Innovation which I believe sums up the nature of innovation successful companies in the Web2.0 world are able to leverage to deliver outstanding products/services. In my research on Closed vs.. Open Innovation models I had come across the definition of Open Innovation model summed up in the following diagram.

Image courtesy; http://www.business-strategy-innovation.com

While it sums up the concept of open innovation it does not account for the increasing amounts of Agile Development and Customer feedback that is being incorporated by companies such as Apple, Google. The ‘ Perpetual Beta’ model has not been captured  in the above definition of Open Innovation.

Companies like Apple are famous for not looking at the ‘Hype cycles’ or ‘ Market Analysis’ yet they have their ears on the ground listening to customers. Customer feedback loops are becoming a part of the Innovation Cycle.

OpenInnovation

This new model incorporates the feedback from  users/customers in the beta development mode.The feedback described in this is what is gathered from the customers/users after they experience the  prototype/concept. This feedback loop ensures that the development process is kept in check with relevant controls in place.

Thus hybrid model ensures that companies can be agile in the increasing open globalized world.

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Effort Estimation

This is going to be a very short one . Primarily a LOTD [ Link of the Day] post.

Do take   a look at this link http://makingitbigcareers.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/avoding-software-project-overruns-watch-the-ratio/ for a simple guide for estimating software development effort.

For those not willing to brave another mouse click. The following is a summary of it

Coding Estimate = Ask your developer to give his best estimate for pure coding effort

Design and spec = 2 x coding estimate

Function and integration test = 1.5 x coding estimate

System test = 1.5 x coding estimate


Its interesting i stumbled on this link, because the previous day was spent trying to get effort estimation for a project from a team, who previously had not interacted with me.

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Incentives and Motivations Part 2

Incentivization is a surprisingly touchy subject. End of every fiscal gets employees grumbling on the topic of salary, raise and motivation. I must confess  I  am not oblivious of the resounding impact of necessities driving work and passion.Companies generally resort to ostentatious rewards mechanisms to motivate employees. The power of a bonus is not lost on anyone. But these rewards , imho, generally force the employee to limp from bonus to bonus to motivate him/herself.

Researching on this topic , albeit its a pretty old one that I had touched upon couple of years back,  I have come across a general acceptance in thought leaders and the blogosphere,that measurable rewards and incentives  are generally failing. Some articles can be found here, herehere and here .

Do take a look at this video http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html .A Universitity of  Florida IFAS Extension has go so far as to categorize the various motivators at workplace for various generations [ Small write up can be seen at this location ]. Classifying motivators and incentives under requirements for “Baby Boomers”, “Gen X”, and “Gen Y” and the new “Smart Mob-Digital Native” generation has been an interesting readup, the details of which I will share seperately.

Fundamental nature of deploying a rewards mechanisms is different for different audiences. A common strategy cannot be used for motivating “Internal Customers” and “External Customers”. Needs of an “Internal Customer” largely differ vis-a-vis an “External Customer”. Shifts in the work culture of people are forcing employers to radically alter the way they reward and motivate employees. Impact of technology , the internet , telepresence and cloud computing have fundamentally shifted the way people work. Access to information , that previously a privy of  “Knowledge Silos” , has changed the nature of work. Today the ability to  understand business, function in teams, lead a process change, co-ordinate knowledge sharing is also being measured along with the ability to churn code or solve problems.

Whereas enough has been said and done to understand how rewards and motivation can affect so called “white collar” employees I am yet to discover an study on alternative rewards/incentive plans for “blue collar” work. A direct translation of work to money is important for work in those categories. Bonuses, gifts, banners and titles seem to the most successful way of motivation in that work category.

I wish to understand the impact of different Incentive plans for blue collar employees on a case study. The example taken was something driven out of experience and in no way does represent the general nature of the work.

I have visited a  a location in Chennai two times for some random events.Its pretty far from where I stay . Lets take the name of the place as X. At a strategic location at X is a franchise of a popular chain of restaurants. The restaurant H offers free parking to all its customers. To continue with my work at X ,I  generally park at H and travel on Foot. Whilst I agree its generally unprofessional to do so , I am guilty and try not to do that often, I am yet to encounter any resistance against my actions and the security has a general  nonchalant attitude to Bike Parking.

I definitely perceive a loss of business for hotel H , lack of parking directly translates to loss of a customer at least in Chennai. I was wondering if the following incentive mechanisms will help them tide this menace.

Method 1 : Charge a flat parking rate collectible from all entering the hotel parking.

Pros : Increased Revenue to Hotel , Increased salaries to the Security to enforce this extra burden

Cons : General aggravation of Customers who would have to shell out parking charges in addition to food, The non customers would be happy shelling out a parking fee to avoid burden.

Method 2 : Charge a High Fee for Parking , and waive on production of a bill . A flavour of this is already in place of stores with surplus parking. The difference is that a portion of the default payments would be given to the security .

Pros : Prevention of NonCustomers parking in the premises, High return rate on parking.

Cons: Extra effort of the Security in co ordinating this effort. overheads and admin costs.

Method 3 :Incentivize the Security to discover fraudulent parking .

Pros : This method gives direct benefit to the Security Staff

Cons : The ambiguous nature of discovering fraud would lead to inconvenience to customers who would be exposed to “bright ideas” of the Security Staff in discovering fraud.

So what would be the best way forward for the Establishment

While the case study is not directly related to my research on motivation for Blue collar work , the solutions and view points offered will help analyse the right direction to progress

Looking forward for an engaging discussion in the comments

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