The most important factor for start-ups @TED

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The most important factor in the success of a startup is TIMING, more important than the other 4 factors; idea, team, business model or funding.  Too early means too much educational marketing, but too late means there is too much competition.  On balance innovative companies are early rather than late.  Which is why our recent book IMPACT gives you critical insights into the purchasing approach of early stage customers and what to do about it.

Free download of abridged copy of IMPACT.

Below is Bill Gross’ assessment of 200 companies.

Motivation requires good role models #leadership #olympics

This image, posted on FB struck a chord with me. When a recent survey of school children in the UK revealed the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up” was “FAMOUS”, we know we have a serious problem.

There are so many good role models out there – successful business people, sportsmen, adventurers. But what sells newspapers and magazines like Hello is ‘celebrity watching”.  What is cheap and easy TV to make are “reality TV shows” making the sad, desperate lives of ordinary people into soap operas. In in the process, making those people somehow “famous”.

So the past week, and the coming week is a chance to get to know the GB Olympic Team – ordinary people who have made extraordinary sacrifices and worked extraordinarily hard to be successful. These are the real stars who should be the celebrities and that the media and our children should see as role models.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up #culture #funny #dresscode

Relaxed, yet professional

We at Nimbus are ‘relaxed, yet professional’ and that hasn’t really changed since being acquired by TIBCO. That’s what our staff tell us. That’s what our clients tell us. That’s the exact wording in our company values statement . In the office, from the CEO down we wear jeans, polo shirts and sneakers. Or whatever people want to wear.  But when we go to clients we wear what the client wears – suit and tie at Nestlé, smart shirt and chinos at Microsoft.

Smart Casual – how to avoid getting frocked up

But it is tricky when an invite to an event for a company that you don’t really understand their culture says Smart Casual. How smart? How casual? Maybe this video has a clue so you aren’t “frocking up” unnecessarily.

Does dress code drive culture, or culture drive dress code?

So our culture has driven our dress code. In fact our dress code has relaxed over the last 10 years. But we have a strong company culture. In a recent staff survey it was identified as one of the reasons people enjoy working for Nimbus.  It is one of the things that people will fight to protect. So it is one our 3 key priorities as we grow around the world – “Maintain our company culture”.

In our case at Nimbus, our culture has driven our dress code. But is the reverse true? Does a suit and tie dress code breed a stuffy, over-important culture or a very professional attitude.  By contrast is a t-shirt and jeans dress code, or even no dress code, symptomatic of a chaotic and slovenly business? I remember when I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department we had very large teams who were under-performing and came to work looking a mess.  But those same people would put on a smart shirt and tailored trousers as it was the entry requirement for the local nightclub.  So we imposed that as the minimum dress code.  Did it change the culture?  Slightly, but only slightly.

My view: Culture sets the dress code. Senior role models demonstrate both the culture and dress code. Dress code reinforces the culture, particularly for those new to the organisation.

What’s your experience?

Let’s toast the new world of work. Make mine a Martini.

In the 1970s and 80s the drinks company made famous the phrase

“Any time, any place, any where – it’s a wonderful drink you can share, Martini”

For the last 40 years the Martini stripes have been on motor racing winners, from Formula 1 to World Rallying.

They have now moved on and their marketing dollars are spent on George Clooney. He is very good as you can see from this ad, but it is not the same as a Lancia Stratos snorting through the Welsh woods on the RAC Rally. Yep, I’m a petrol head.

But that is not the point of this post.  Have you noticed that the term I am at work does not mean anything for a huge swathe of the workforce.  The self employed, the road warriers (sales and consultants) and senior executives with responsibilities  that span the globe.  At work used to mean a place, not an activity.  Any time, any place, any where.

Technology is making work more portable for lots of people. It is blurring the distinction between work and non-work.  Before work life balance was about leaving the office earlier. Now there is no office to leave. So work-life balance is even more important to get a grip on which is why this TED video is so insightful.

The new world of work is also blurring corporate boundaries. Outsourcing, shared services and sub-contracting arrangements are now possible –  work mash-ups – enabled by technology. Suppliers become a critical part of the supply chain. A point that UPS  makes clearly in their recent ad campaign We love logistics. But we need to make sure that these artificial boundaries are not visible to the customers, who themselves are becoming part of the supply chain. Just this week I was a grocery store check-out operator, a book retailer order entry clerk and an airline check in and baggage handler. All unpaid and untrained self-service.

Business leaders need to recognise these changes and think about how to redesign businesses to make the most of our most valuable resource; people.  But equally they need to consider how they measure them. They cannot be lazy and use the old metrics of ‘hours in the  office’. They need to really understand what they want people to do so that they can choose measures that motivate and reinforce the behaviours they need. And that again starts with a true end to end understanding of the process.

This sounds like change and change is hard. But the benefits of this new world of work are huge;

  • greener; Why travel to work when you don’t need to?
  • gives control back to people; Can work make your life work as parent, carer, part-time student?
  • happier  staff are more productive; Fact

We need to embrace the new world of work.  I’ll drink to that.

Social marketing = engagement Doh! #vw #stellaartois #fun #social

I remember when TV was worth watching.  But it was expensive to make “good-telly”.  Then came game shows which were cheap but lacked audience pull.  Then reality TV arrived which was the perfect answer;  cheap and more addictive than game shows. Some simply naff, some fun, some highbrow – Big Brother, So you think you can dance, Opera Star

The advertisers have latched onto social marketing. Some of the more switched on are realising that it is about engaging with the audience rather than just a cheaper form of direct email.  And it is FUN.

3 trends are changing the complexion of marketing; cloud, social and mobile.  Some brands are starting to embrace this and understand what it means.

One thing I am now seeing is reality advertising. Big brands are getting creative and engaging by running ‘competitions’.  Here are 2 examples:

TheFunTheory from VW in Sweden, which is both clever and put sometning back into society.  WELL worth a look at their ideas.  The Infinitely deep dustbin.  The Piano Stairs.  ….. And the winner  : Speed Cameras that pay you

Stella Artois who are looking to get people to send film clips and audition to be in a film, called Casting Call.  So get your phone out and start rehearsing.

Makes me think what clever, fun stuff we can do with Nimbus around the theme  “Making work esier, faster and more valuable for millions of people”.

SocialBPM software will not change behaviour #bpm #social #noss

At last some solid, researched advice Social Media: It’s About New Behaviors Not New Technologies [link for Gartner clients] from  Anthony J. Bradley at Gartner which is not social media / bubble hype.  For those of you who are not Gartner clients and cannot see the full report the summary is:

After examining over 200 cases of social media collaboration success, Gartner have identified a set of collective behaviors that underlie almost all successful efforts. They are collective intelligence, expertise location, emergent structures, interest cultivation, mass coordination, and relationship leverage. See a recent Gartner press release for descriptions of each.

However, it will probably take more that this to stop VC’s pouring money into social  media companies as the blog  Bubblicious shows.  Staggering amounts.

However there is a fascinating graph (oppostite) which shows how fast companies reached $1 bn of revenue. BTW Groupon started as a WordPress blog in 2008!!

On a more positive note, it is raising the importance of the collaborative capabilities of existing products which is something I blogged about in Social BPM – New and Improved and it is making all of us think about how the user interface should change to engage users.

So off to drive Nimbus to $1bn of revenue…..

technology has eliminated all my vacation #happy

When I worked for Andersen Consulting I used to get 6 weeks vacation, and take 4 weeks unpaid.  I needed 10 weeks to be able to go skiiing a couple of times and race sailboats in National and International competitions.  That was in the 1990’s  BC (before children)

Now in 2011 AC (After Children) I have zero vacation.  Technology did this.

So is this progress? I think so. Sounds mad, but hear me out.

With a global role at Nimbus it means that I need to be everywhere and nowhere.  But Nimbus is growing fast and never sleeps. And as we all know as an executive you never really get to take vacation.  What happens is you have a mad rush to get things done before you go, leaving you stressed as you start your vacation.  When you get back to a mountain of messages and emails and you work like a nutter to catch up.  Or you take calls and answer emails whilst on vacation.

Technology – wifi, cellphone (smartphone), laptop, webcams, skype, webex  means that I can be connected 100% of the time. Yes I need face to face meetings, but many meetings can be achieved more effectively via video conferencing. So selective use of a 747 means I travel less and do more.

I do not feel I can, or want to, step away from the business for 2 weeks and be completely out of contact.  And surrounded by this technology I don’t need to be.  However, I can be out of touch for 2-4 hours in any day. Which means I get far more flexibility about what I do with my time.

I still get calls where people say “Oh I didn’t realise you were in US. Sorry for calling you so early”.   My approach is “if my phone is on, then call me”.  I might be working late, up early due to jet lag,  or stupidly left the phone on whilst asleep.

All this means that I am never out of contact, so the concept of  “x days vacation allocation” is alien in 2011.  I will work to get the work done and work to get my work life balance right.   It is not for everyone. Some need to get away from work completely, or their role does not allow flexible working.

So what is your work life balance?  Does it mean no vacation and work flexibility, or 9-5 and 4 weeks  of vacation?

Watch this 10 min video on work-life balance and decide for yourself.

IT’s perfect storm? Cloud, social, mobile. Choppy water ahead

Technology is going through another shift.   We’ve had many shifts in the past, but most have really only affected the geeks in IT. Mainframe – > Client server -> web. But this latest shift is touching everyone. The problem is no-one is really sure what this means. But what is clear is that the web is evolving and quickly. And it is going to have a profound impact on how users use applications and therefore how applications look and feel, hence are delivered and therefore are developed.

The thoughts here are limited to users in a business context, although every business user is also a consumer so their expectations are shaped bytheir experiences at home.

More complex, not just different

The demographics of the business user community (users) now covers  3 generations  each of which has differing attitude, experience and expectation.  The 3 generations we need to worry about are

  • Boomers, born 1943-63,
  • Gen X, born 1964-81,
  • Gen Y  born 1982-2001.

What is driving the cloud, social, mobile (csm) is Gen Y.

Gen Y: They are less likely to turn up to things. They are constantly connected and communicate differently. They value open and honest communication. They are civic-minded. They have little interest in a person’s race, gender or sexual orientation. They are earnestly interested in values and corporate responsibility. They want flexible working and work-life balance.

educated, bored by routine, success-driven, lifestyle-centred, anti-commitment, service-minded, environmental, entrepreneurial, opinionated, diverse and goal-orientated

Technology backdrop (Cloud & Mobile)

The technology landscape is changing rapidly. Far faster than we can imagine. Think of the mobile phone in 2005 phone just 5 years ago.  Here is a link to the ‘best of 2005’.   So it is very difficult to predict what is coming.

Here is a compelling video made by Microsoft to start shaping people’s expectations.  Interestingly much of the technology demonstrated is available today.  But many of the concepts are probably a step too far for our users.

I was speaking at a recent CIONet event in Amsterdam about the Stealth Cloud. I was interviewed after the session and was asked for my prediction for the next 5 years. I declined to comment but pointed out that I got off the plane at Schipol, checked my calendar on my iPhone, clicked on the address in the event item which launched GoogleMaps. The iPhone knew my location and I asked for directions by public transport which were served up including the time of the next train and walking directions from the railway station, and one click enabled me to see a picture of the building I was aiming for. As little as 12 months ago that would have been sci-fi. So what can we achieve in 5 years – please!!!

However, the majority of clients will not be on the bleeding edge. Which means the technology landscape is getting more complex and more diverse, not easier. At one end clients pushing us to support the latest concepts, and at the other end teams struggling through Windows2000 upgrades. IT departments are longing for the easy life where they only had to worry about Y2K.


The biggest inhibitor to a migration to 100% cloud world is connectivity. Having sat through a very entertaining keynote at Dreamforce it is easy for Mar Benioff to make you believe that Cloud IS THE ONLY WAY. In many, if not most countries around the world users are not 100% connected whilst at work let alone on the move.  Let’s pause for a moment and consider what “at work” means for our users. Starting with MOST connected down to least:

–          In an office at a desk connected via cable

–          In an office at a desk connected wirelessly

–          At home connected via home internet connection

–          At home connected wirelessly to home internet connection

–          In a someone else’s office connected wirelessly via client network

–          Travelling with free wifi internet connection (eg airport, coffee shop)

–          No wifi so mobile/3G connection, stationary

–          No wifi so mobile/3G connection, but travelling (train, car, bus)

–          No connection


As devices become cheaper and therefore users own multiple devices as a consumer (tablet, phone, laptop) there will be a pressure for business to allow them to bring them to work – as I suggested in the IQPC article Why the CIO hates Christmas. The alternative is the users will own and probably carry around 2 of each; their own and the (inferior) company provided one. The rise in popularity of the Mac in consumer space based on the success of the iPhone and iPad is putting pressure on IT departments to support it.  I read on a blog, so it must be true, that 62% of CIOs have an iPad. The devices that need to be considered are:

–          Desktop (PC & Mac)

–          Laptop / netbook (PC and Mac)

–          Tablet (10” and 7”- iPad/iOS and Android)

–          Smartphone (iPhone/iOS, Android, Win7, Blackberry)


The articles and blogs I am writing about the Stealth Cloud are gathering real interest.  In summary “apps run/consumed by business users without the knowledge, permission or support of the CIO” .

These apps are often not enterprise ready, but they have innovative UIs which set an expectation for end users. The big enterprise players are trying to respond but as most have form-filling, data-entry style applications they are limited. has revised its UI. But we need to look further afield as “touch replaces clicks” for inspiration / guidance, such as and MS pptPlex which are rethinking Death by Powerpoint (same death, jst more entertaining) or MS Canvas for OneNote.


This is the greatest driver of change. A conversation is no longer face to face.  Collaboration is IN. It is new and exciting.  No it isn’t, Nimbus has had collaboration capabilities for years – Social BPM new and improved. It just dodn;t look like Twitter.

The key sites that are educating users how to collaborate are Facebook and Twitter, increasingly Chatter from and LinkedIn to a lesser extent.  MSLabs have created their version of Chatter called OfficeTalk and there was Google Buzz which flamed out.  These interfaces are simple, but are still evolving.  Social is at its most powerful when combined with mobile and location services. But critically it is changing the way people think about applications.


Google and Amazon WERE the web. The defined how people worked and operated.

No more. Facebook and Twitter are the new web.

Welcome to the new world.

A very disturbing Facebook trend #Geny #boomers

I am seeing a very disturbing trend. I am 50 years old, and my usage of Facebook is adjunct to my life, it is not my life. Want to get hold of me? Send me an email. Don’t post something on my Facebook wall and expect me to see it. I don’t check it every 2 minutes.  I already have too many places where people could (and do) leave messages. In a recent blog called  Too many ways to message me… (or am I just getting old)? I said that someone very clever (and probably still in puberty) will make millions providing a way to aggregate all  these messages back into a single stream.  Maybe it is the new RockMelt browser?

Just a Thought

But that is not my concern.  A short while ago in a blog called With the internet, our past is now written in pen not pencil I claimed that GenY didn’t understand the implications of the internet and what they post on Facebook. That they were posting photos that they will never be able to erase. That will come back to haunt them when they are trying to appear responsible, employable or electable.

The worrying trend is that I now see more and more of my friends ‘getting Facebook’ and piling in. A slew of Friend Requests as they discover long lost mates or current contacts on Facebook.  Facebook is become the defacto address book.  And that is brilliant.

The big concern is that all these boomers have not grown up with Facebook. We haven’t grown up around FB and learnt how  it ‘works’;

  • what is acceptable for  Friend Request- who is a ‘friend’; a business colleague, a mate from school or friend of a friend. Is unfriending or ignoring a request rude? For a great explanation of FB friends here is a very funny video from Some Grey Bloke
  • how much to read into a posting – drunken post, sarcasm, genuine love . My 42 year old divorced sister-in-law recently announced she was proposed to by her new boyfriend on FB. She announced it and we all laughed assuming it was a joke.
  • privacy settings – should they let everyone in, or no-one in…  or maybe they can’t even find the privacy settings because they are not very PC literate
  • posting photos – we never had “No FB photo parties” and it is easy to scan paper photos and post them in FB

So now we have got to the nub of the problem.  My ‘Friends’ starting to post photos from my past and they are now committed to the internet FOR EVER.

So if you want to see what I looked like with hair, upside down between the walls in a hall (a party trick) or {fill in blank} it is all on the internet.

Too many ways to message me… (or am I just getting old)?

Social Media is great, and I am sure we can all cite examples where it has benefitted us, but there now seems to be too many ways that someone can communicate with me (apart from letter, postcard, phone call or in person).  So rather than “communicate” – maybe I should say “message me”.  Actually, the problem is not sending the message out.  You can make sure any message hits multiple channels.  The problem is neatly summarised by Just a Thought below:

from Just a Thought

So is there a business opportunity to create an application which will aggregate all the messages, spot the duplicates sent through different channels automatically, and then sift out the once that are really important?  Maybe it already exists.

Answers on a postcard….

Brace yourself: Gen Y are entering the world of work

New generations of end users are emerging from schools and colleges.

Image by dalechumbley via Flickr

They have grown up around technology that is now ubiquitous. It has driven a very different lifestyle and expectation, and many of the technologies have emerged since the year 2000. They are in for a big shock. They don’t need to go the London Science Museum to see technology through the ages. They simply need to look around the company they have just joined!!!

So what is shaping their expectations?

•    Everyone has a mobile phone from the age of 10.  Advances in processing power, battery life, screen resolution, available systems and low cost talk plans have made it possible to use it as the universal communicator  (voice, email, Instant Messaging), a media center (music, video stored or streamed), a games machine, and a micro-computer running systems.

•    Internet access is available in most homes so consumers have become accustomed to a very rich internet experience (Web 2.0). This has set an expectation for business systems.

•    Social networking sites and MMP (massively multi-player) computer games have changed the way they interact, communicate and play with their peers. Their confidence and trust of the internet and the way they evaluate others they meet on the internet is very different from the traditional face to face meeting. They bare their souls, quirks, passions and fetishes on social networking sites, but they would never reveal them in a job interview.

•    Internet search (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), Wikipedia and a plethora of website, blogs, podcasts and video sharing sites means that information is a couple of clicks away: ‘how to do something’, ‘where to go’, ‘cheapest place to buy’.  It has also changed the way that they learn.

•    Every one of them seems to have little white earphones permanently inserted in their ears; even when they are working, when they need to concentrate, if they are on the phone or out in a group of friends.

Thought: Technology is only technology if it was invented after you were born

An interesting insight comes from the research from Don Tapscott’s book, grown up digital.  If you grew up with a service then it is not new technology to “learn”. For Generation X the TV, phone or electricity are not technology. They just use them. So, for the iPod Generation, Generation Y, the internet and mobile social networking are not technology. The iPod generation is growing up expecting to use these services, not ‘learn or understand how they work’.

Language is a great way of seeing the change.

Do you say “phone” or “mobile phone”? “Camera” or “digital camera”? In both cases the first word is redundant for Gen Y. Why would be a phone be anything than mobile or a camera be anything but digital?  Do you tape or video a TV program? Do you send an email or send someone a message (FB, LinkedIn, Skype, IM, txt…)? Interestingly that word has come full circle. What is a conversation? A heated discussion over dinner, face to face!!, suggested that txting or IM between people constituted a conversation.

Dr Paul Redmond of Liverpool University in the UK has been researching generational differences and is a fascinating and entertaining speaker. I was lucky enough to be speaking alongside him in Amsterdam at the CIONet Summit. He is compiling some sound clips with the BBC which capture each of the 4 key generations (Boomers born 1943-63, Gen X, born 1964-81, Gen Y  born 1982-2001, and Millenials born 2002 onwards).

Some of his research into Gen Y in the UK is very consistent with Don Tapscott’s findings. ‘They are less likely to turn up to things; they are constantly connected and communicate differently. They value open and honest communication.’ He goes on to describe a group that is civic-minded, has little interest in a person’s race, gender or sexual orientation, is earnestly interested in values and corporate responsibility, as well as flexible working and work-life balance.

The other characteristics listed in the research by Deloitte, are ‘educated, bored by routine, success-driven, lifestyle-centred, anti-commitment, service-minded, environmental, entrepreneurial, opinionated, diverse and goal-orientated’.

But there are other changes which mean this work force is very different from their parents when they joined the world of work.

–          The entrepreneurial opportunities due to technology and highly visible role models mean that they could already have tasted commercial success well before they leave school.

–          They have a variety of working modes available.  Full time employed with a number of different and very distinct careers over their working lifetime. A part-time portfolio lifestyle combining periods of travel, vocational activities or further education. Setting up and running a business – either with an aim to fund their lifestyle or make it big and get rich. This has profound implications for employers in terms of managing staff turnover and continuing training.

So the challenge of business leaders is to develop a company where Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y can happily co-exist and thrive. Hiring, motivating, learning from and connecting with each generation is critical whether you are a teacher, Director, business owner or manager.

For some time I’ve had a book idea about how to manage and motivate Gen Y written from a Boomers perspective. The growth of Nimbus has put it on the  back burner. Maybe it is time to dust off the manuscript before GenY are so established that they are writing books about how to manage Boomers like me out of the business!!

With the internet, our past is now written in pen not pencil

My raucous (and sometimes embarrassing)  student life  is captured on some photos that are probably lying curled up in some shoebox in an attic, not stored and backup on hard disks around the world. Not so for the current generation whose lives are on full display.

So has privacy disappeared?  Gartner thinks so.

“According to a recent blog from Gartner, social media could be the end of our privacy as we know it.  This is very true, but let’s be honest; our privacy was endangered when social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook were launched over 5 years ago.  Back in 2005 the social networking sites tapped into a hidden human desire to share close/personal information with friends or strangers.  Now we’ve recently had the launch of Twitter and foursqaure, criminal gangs are beginning to target people who use these sites to piece together a detailed picture of someone’s route to work or even their work/life balance in order to ascertain when their houses will be lying empty.  I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to social networking sites; however we must remember that when you register with a social networking site you are literally leaving your privacy at the door”. Richard Cookson – Analyst Relations, Metia

So what should corporates make of this new world? Perhaps individuals, particularly Gen Y are comfortable with the unwritten rules – ‘No fb photo parties’ – but are corporates?  Is it acceptable for HR departments to look at a candidates Facebook pages, Linked In and Twitter tweets as part of the sifting and reference checking process?  HR may say “Yes”, but isn’t that the same as turning up at a candidates house on a Saturday night and peering through their sitting room window or following them to the pub on Sunday lunchtime?  Hmmm.  Tricky.

Companies have lot of growing up as they start to understand this new world.   And so do some of the people who are my ‘friends’ on Facebook judging by the photos of  last weekend’s party.