Apple Music vs Spotify vs Google Music

To determine which service is the best we have to go back to the roots of all great music. Finding that track you could bump over and over again.

Remember Rasputins? Or tower records? Or your local record shop?

For my friends and I, it was always fun to walk in to a record shop and sort through CDs. For you it may have been crates of records or tapes. It was the thing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Usually when it was too hot to play basketball. The cool AC at the shop was just what we needed.

The enjoyment was always in the discovery. I got good at flipping through those CD cases fast. Running back and forth from the rap section to R&B then back wasn’t as annoying as it sounds.

When 2Pac’s “All Eyes On Me” came out we knew it was going to be good. Every single track was and still is a classic.

The challenge though was we didn’t have enough money or time to discover all the music. We could have dug through music and argued about west coast vs east coast hip-hop all day.

The Winner?

Fast forward to 2018 and all the hype is streaming music. Every service now touts 30 millions plus songs in their database. High quality streaming. Playlists. Every service is essentially the same. Except for one. Apple Music.

Apple Music figured out and emphasizes the one important thing about music. Discovery. It is at least half the enjoyment of listening to good music was the journey to find it. 

It brought me back to flipping through those CDs. Finding that rare B side track.

Today my music tastes have shifted from MC battles to EDM and Pop. I have to keep up with my daughter and stay cool as long as she will let me.

I was a long time Spotify user for ages. However, with Apple Music I find it easier to discover music and browse around.

The “For You” area is quite excellent at recommending new tracks. I recommend getting the family plan to avoid mixing in nursery rhymes with TJR and Steve Aoki. Although Apples’ algorithms do sn excellent job of presenting different genres and playlists. 

In the end, all the music services provide the same basic functionality. Extensive libraries and customizations.

Apple Music though does the best at focusing the UI and UX to the best part of music. Discovery.

Diversity will help your company make more money...seriously!

In this post, I’ll discuss why diversity is important to every business. In particular, how important diversity is to building great products.

Is diversity in the workplace just a cool statistic we talk about or a critical part of your company?

Let’s forget for a moment diversity in general is just the right thing to do as a society.

Let’s forget that no matter your race or gender, equality and inclusion should never be an issue.

Let’s say with all the recent events you’re still not on board with diversity.

Let’s forget for a moment diversity in an organization could be the most important strategic advantage your company could ever deploy.

Wait! Let’s not forget that one.

You are running a business and the business has been created to make profits.

“When it comes to building a product, diverse thinking helps organizations appeal to a larger customer set by incorporating different voices. After all you can’t sell to people whose perspectives you can’t understand.” - Hackernoon

Still don’t believe it?

Advancing Gender Inequality

California recently became the first state to require a woman on a corporate board. In a rare message included in the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown said, “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

Government agencies are forcing the issue of diversity because people are not getting the message. This is truly sad we have to resort to political force.

It is to our strategic advantage as a company to maximize shareholder value and diversity does just that.

The one reason to convince you diversity is important is the company will build better products with a more diverse workforce and diverse thinking.

 Lil Wayne Fat Joe Money

You will make more money!

This also includes diversity from different ethnic backgrounds and races.

McKinsey & Company reported that companies in the top quartile of racial diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than the national median in their industry.

Product Development and Diversity

Let’s focus on the product side for a moment.

In our podcast episode “Machine learning and data bias”, we discuss actually how unsettling a lack of diversity can be for a company. For example, many claimed Pokemon Go discriminates against predominantly minority neighborhoods. Whether this is true or not is one thing, the main issue here is we should be using technology to break down these barriers, not put more up.

IoT and Self-Driving cars

I am particularly interested in Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous cars. I have heard from friends some smart assistant devices have a hard time understanding women. Interesting. I am also curious who is building all this self-driving technology? Are they all males? Are these companies considering how different people drive and their product experience?

Without a proper understanding of the user base, the user experience could suffer. Resulting in lost revenue and a tarnished reputation. Afterall, over half the population are women. Probably a good idea to include different perspectives.

Don’t blame the algorithms either. Chris Stoll, software engineer at Skiplist wrote a fascinating piece on machine learning and data biases. In the article, he discusses that data isn’t just data. It is really the people who build these algorithms have their own intentional and unintentional biases baked in.

We must account for these biases and diversity is one way to address it.

However, an issue companies face is there are just not enough minorities and women in tech. The limited pipeline of good talent is already a challenge. Tech companies in particular are very competitive when it comes to software talent.

While we can’t speak for other companies on fostering a more diverse workplace, especially in the software industry; we observe and learn. We work on projects that span a number of different industries, and because of this, we prioritize a diverse staff. It’s quite interesting to see the different perspectives from tech-leading companies to more traditional ones that are transitioning to more of an emphasis on tech. The value of a diverse staff and varying backgrounds and perspectives becomes quite obvious. We have the unique opportunity to see what works for different types of companies when it comes to diversity, and to witness the challenges.

This perspective allows for us at Skiplist to continue improving and growing, ourselves.  Without a doubt we see that more diverse teams tend to produce better results. Our own teams come from various non-traditional software backgrounds as Scott Stahl, software engineer at Skiplist discussed in his article, Does diversity matter for success?

We’ve also seen that diversity of thought matters to our team, and not just for software. Our marketing coordinator, Samantha Wolfe reviews and edits our content. As someone who previously worked in the public health and non-profit field,  her perspective is equally important to align what we say to the world, especially because she does not have a technical background.

We know that Skiplist has room to grow in terms of diversity and we look forward to that challenge. We can and we will continue to do better. And in that same arena, we will continue to seek out partnerships with like-minded companies that hold the same values.


Cheers,

Fahad Shoukat

The iPhone "Notch" a Brilliant Design Choice

So much has been written about the infamous "notch" on the iPhone X. Surprisingly many hate the notch. True to Apple fans they are passionate about whether a feature is right or not. 

I am an Apple design fan and I started to wonder whether the notch was a mistake. I personally like the notch. All the notch haters got me thinking, did Apple miss something?

Well, no. Lets get something straight, they are so far ahead in design concepts than any other company out there. So they know way more than you, me, and everyone else. They know what they are doing. 

Read More

What is blockchain?

The Dotcom boom and bust was a wild ride. From the rubble came a wave of new tech giants - namely Google, Facebook, and many others. Tremendous investments were made to build out the foundation of the internet.

Wireless communication and the growth of LTE, Wifi, and Bluetooth have completely changed our lives. Mobile communication and the upcoming launch of 5G is going to be really cool.

Read More

Where do you begin with blockchain?

proofofconcept.jpg

Start with a proof of concept with blockchain.

Most of what is written today about Blockchain technology is theoretical. What could potentially happen with blockchain and how disruptive it will be. 

There are articles after articles on how blockchain will disrupt X industry and change everything. Finance, supply chains, contracts, or venture capital, nothing is safe from blockchain's disruptive force. 

Let me know tell this is a lot of hype. Not to say it isn't true but hyped what too fast. This is the environment we live in now where something can go viral immediately. 

Hype is good thing when it comes to technology particularly. This is mainly how so much money gets poured into new projects and companies. The hype train brings in money so the infrastructure can be laid out today for a better tomorrow. 

Blockchain is not going anywhere. In the US we have a fairly good banking system and things generally work well. However, for many in the world their infrastructure is terrible. 

A basic thing such as keeping your money with you is not possible. Governments and banks hold all the cards. Extremely inflation in certain countries make the Bitcoin volatility look like a kids seesaw. 

Proof Of Concept

What most companies should be doing though is to start dipping their toes into blockchain. Start with a proof of concept (POC) and see what results you get from these tests. Maybe a smart contract can streamline the supply chain better and reduce costs by 15%. Then make bigger investments into a more wide spread architecture. 

There is not also a strong need to build out a full blockchain group internally. Use outside resources and freelance developers to build POCs. 

Test. Iterate. Test. Iterate. Look for areas to double down on. Then full steam ahead. 

Cheers,

Fahad

 

Design Review: ProtonMail

protonmail.jpg

Encrypted and based in Switzerland? Sounds interesting. 

On their homepage you'll find a bunch of cool features. At least cool to me. Swiss privacy. End-to-end encryption. Anonymous email. Open source. This is all good but ehhh. Intriguing for a nerd but the market doesn't really care. 

Wait a minute...then they list easy to use and modern inbox design. Ok now we are talking. "Security without the hassle" and "Security with productivity" is catchy. This the market does care about. 

Secure email will never get mass adoption without a great user experience. In the past, not many companies were able to solve this problem. When you think of security and encryption, I immediately think complicated. 

Protonmail makes it very simple. Just as simple as creating a Gmail account. This is really the most important factor. The underlying technology is an after thought when you just want to check email. 

The purpose of Protonmail and similar services is to keep your communications secure. Away from prying eyes. Corporate and government eyes. Even from hackers. You may think you have nothing to hide. That is true for most of us. I am mainly interested in security from hackers and general privacy when it comes to email. 

This led me to Protonmail. Check out this video for more into. You got privacy?

Sending an email message is like sending a postcard, says scientist Andy Yen in this thought-provoking talk: Anyone can read it. Yet encryption, the technology that protects the privacy of email communication, does exist. It's just that until now it has been difficult to install and a hassle to use.

 I signed up for the free account to get 5MB to check out the service. I almost immediately signed up for the paid account. The setup was extremely easy and the user experience is great also. 

For example, out of the box swipe right is archive an email and swipe left is trash. Simple. Touch ID setup was easy. Everything you would expect was simple. 

They really thought about the user experience. Even using the ProtonBridge to setup encrypted email on your desktop was easy. The bridge also can setup your Apple mail for you. Brilliant. 

The web portal is very good. They even show you how to secure your domain. This may be for a more advanced user but wasn't too bad for me. 

Not perfect

There are some drawbacks. It can be confusing to understand which plan to buy. Some plans give you 20G of total space. Then some give you a different space per user. Then another one included VPN. 

Setting up different email addresses seems quirky also. 

The major drawback is contacts isn't integrated with iOS. Meaning I can't save Proton contacts on my iPhone to a iPhone contact directory. I understand they want to keep it secure. Problem is if someone emails me and I save their email into a contact, I won't be able to text them from iPhone. It doesn't transfer over. 

Another big big drawback is no calendar support. This is a big problem for me. They say its on the roadmap. Even if it does come out I don't we will get iOS support. 

This leaves me with still having to use Gmail. I'll live with it for now. At least I got one secure email account. Nice work Protonmail. 

Cheers,

Fahad

Tesla Model S is near perfect

Tesla Model S Review

 Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Design matters a great deal. There are a number of articles on how awesome the Model S is for EV car. Most notably the 0-60mph in just a few seconds gets all the press. 

Yes, it is quite safe. Looks cool. etc etc. However, there are many overlooked design features that make the Model S truly a work of art. 

To make a car where an overwhelming favorite for customers who "love" their Tesla means they did almost everything right. Most importantly they designed the user experience right. 

Tesla Model S Awesomeness

Let me count the ways. In no particular order. 

  1. They key fob looks like a mini-Tesla. Nice design touch. To open the trunk double click the trunk on the key fob. Front trunk do the same. Rather than fumbling around trying to remember which button is which, it matches the car shape. Simple.

  2. Each key fob is connected to a user profile. I walk up to the car with my key fob and everything adjusts to my settings as I am getting in. So driver seat automatically moves into my position. Only the rearview mirror doesn't move. Lame.

  3. Door handles hide away when not need and are presented when unlocked. This doesn't seem important but it changes the look of the car when parked. A nice aesthetic touch.

  4. Same goes for the side rearview mirror. They fold in when parked. This is an option also. You can turn this feature off along with auto-present handle. But why would you? It looks cool.

  5. The steering wheel rattles slightly if you change lanes without giving your turn signal. I'll admit this seemed like a bug but a technician told me this is a feature. Can't tell if he was bullshitting me or not. Regardless, it is a gentle reminder to use your turn signals.

  6. Over the air software updates. Seriously this is the best feature. New features are pushed to the Tesla fleets. You are constantly getting new features. You don't get that "I'm stuck with this same car" feeling.

  7. Cute things like turning your Tesla icon on the dashboard into Santa Claus. Kids loved that. In that mode, when you use the turn signals jiggle bells play out instead of usual sounds.

  8. All glass roof. This is different feature. Really cool at night. Gets a little hot on those hot summer days.

  9. The frunk. No engine so you get an extra space in the front. I use the frunk for things takeout food. I'm not smelling up my Tesla with pizza. It also provides added protection in an accident by giving a larger crumple zone. Safe.

  10. Virtually no maintenance. No oil change. No timing belt. No tire rotation. Thank god. Never liked going to the mechanic. They jacking people.

  11. Regenerative braking. This is an optional feature. My personal favorite. Normally when you let you foot off the gas the car keep rolling. In this mode, the motor actually reverses and provides a more braking feel. This means when I roll up into a stop light I often don't hit the brakes until I am almost completely stopped. Which means you use your brakes less. Which means you don't have to change them very often. Genius. Takes some getting use to but well worth it and safer.

Tesla Model S Issues

  1. USB ports are basically useless. Only the 12V can really power your phone with an adaptor. Not sure what the other ones are for.

  2. Streaming music leaves a lot to be desired. Wish they integrated Spotify or something else than TuneIn.

  3. Voice activation is a bit sketchy. Never can get it to understand anything. Maybe I can't speak clearly.

That's all I could think of for now. 

Cheers,

Fahad

My Thoughts on Blockchain Technology

What is blockchain?

blockchain.jpg

BLOCKCHAIN IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW

For me personally, I have always been fascinated by technology and finance. The Dotcom boom and bust was a wild ride. From the rubble came a wave of new tech companies. Namely Google, Facebook, and many others. Tremendous investments were made to build out the foundation of the internet. 

Wireless communication and the growth of LTE, Wifi, and Bluetooth have completely changed our lives. Mobile communication and the upcoming launch of 5G is going to be really cool. 

The financial crisis and housing crash was an interesting experiment that seems to be repeating itself. Banking is primed for a major technology overhaul. 

Every now and then we encounter seismic shifts in how technology will shape our future. Currently, that new technology is the Blockchain. You have probably heard of it by now. Bitcoin and Ethereum are examples of applications built on the blockchain. 

There is so much to digest. It can be difficult to filter through the noise as most conversations right now are very technical. This is generally a good thing as we need really smart people to build out the infrastructure of what will blockchain do for everyone. 

Although I have been following this technology for some time now. I am just recently focusing more attention to learn more about possible beneficial applications of the blockchain. 

Blockchain Summary

A blockchain is a digital ledger of records or transactions arranged in data blocks. Blocks are linked together through a cryptographic validation known as a hashing function. Follow the link if you want to nerd out for a bit or have trouble sleeping. 

Linking the blocks together forms a blockchain. 

What makes blockchain and this type of data structure so hot is applications can be decentralized. Records are not stored in any single location, are accessible by everyone, and are immutable. Meaning it is nearly impossible to hack. 

How does blockchain help us?

Let’s look at the most popular application of blockchain technology. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is built on the blockchain. There is no physical paper, like a US dollar. It is all digital. 

The challenge with making this purely digital is you could copy it for example. Also, how do I know your Bitcoin is legit and you didn’t counterfeit it. 

This is where blockchain technology enables us to use Bitcoins to buy and sell goods online with the confidence. 

Wait a minute. We can already buy and sell goods online. What’s wrong with PayPal and the current checkout system?

Well, for one thing, these transactions are controlled by just a few companies. We pay a ton in fees just to transfer money. Have you ever sent money overseas? It transfers from bank to bank adding fees upon fees and days to the process. 

There is no central company or person controlling Bitcoin. Bitcoin technology does not recognize a person or entity for validation. Completely decentralized. There are blockchain applications which are hybrids though. So it is not all or nothing. 

Blockchain hopes to make this more efficient by minimizing the middleman and enabling direct peer-to-peer transactions. 

A few more reasons to implement blockchain

  • No single authority in control

  • No center

  • No concentration of power

  • Secure (uses a push mechanism rather than pull). The network only sends what is needed where banks pull information from your account with credit cards for example.

  • Continuous innovation since it is an open network

  • Unchangeable

  • Unforgeable

  • Built-in privacy

  • No prior authorization needed to use the blockchain

  • Consumer protection allowing users direct control of their information

  • Predictable outcomes

My focus here is to summarize my thoughts around Blockchain and related applications. Specifically around how to apply this exponential technology to everyday businesses. The intention is not to be too technical because Ill get lost myself. 

How will blockchain effect banks?

How will blockchain effect supply chains?

How will blockchain be regulated?

How will blockchain affect my parents?

I hope to answer with future discussions. I cannot predict if Bitcoin will hit $20,000 or die out. However, one thing I know for sure is blockchain technology is not going away. 

Cheers,

Fahad

https://twitter.com/beatsblockchain

https://twitter.com/fahsho12

 

Good resources

http://amzn.to/2FRi2Pj

http://amzn.to/2DLAsQC

http://amzn.to/2DPHELO

https://decentralize.today/bitcoins-and-blockchains-for-mums-and-dads-part-1-the-basics-8694ba767440

The Blockchain Explained to Web Developers, Part 1: The Theory

Why Blockchain Matters More Than You Think!

Privacy on the blockchain – Hacker Noon

Blockchain Twitter Starter Pack

How can creative industries benefit from blockchain? - The World Economic Forum

Blockchain Revolution | Blockchain Companies | AI & Blockchain Revolutionize Industries

The Blockchain Explained to Web Developers, Part 1: The Theory

Why Blockchain Matters More Than You Think!

Decentralized vs Centralized vs Distributed

Peer-to-peer networking and cloud technologies are fascinating when you start to think about how information is moved. 

Particularly with financial institutions that are prone to aggressive and constant cyber attacks. 

A key aspect about blockchain is it is a decentralized network. There is no central control. This is important for security to not have a central point for attackers to focus on.

 Illustration from “On Distributed Communication Networks”, showing three types of networks.

Illustration from “On Distributed Communication Networks”, showing three types of networks.

This is different from a distributed network. Even though Amazon may have various cloud services with servers distributed across the globe, it is still controlled by Amazon. An issue arises with Amazon and your data could be in danger. 

I am personally not so concerned that Amazon controls the servers. It seems to be working well and thousands of businesses are built on AWS. They must be doing something right. 

However, the future with blockchain technology promises a decentralized environment where no one company holds all the data.

Cheers,

Fahad

The Three Guarantees in Life

clouds.jpeg

A few years ago I am four floors underground walking to catch a train in Seoul I hear a loud “pop”! The 60 pound case I was wheeling around a foreign country decided it was time to break a hinge holding the wheel. The case now felt like dragging a house.

It was a crowded subway. I stopped right in the middle like a rock protruding in a stream. The stream of people kept going around me without any hesitation.

I managed to drag the case out of the way to the side. I notice the train is a few minutes away. After letting out a few expletives I think, “What I am going to do”?

We all have these moments where we are faced with a decision. Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are two guarantees in life, death and taxes”. It makes sense. These are two strong driving forces in our lives. However, for me something was missing.

I kicked and kicked the wheel hinge until I jammed it back in place. I tried to Macgyver a brace that would hold until my meeting was over. Now all I had to do was survive for a few more days while also dragging the case back to the Bay Area. How did I do on that trip? Did pretty good. I think.

“Seemingly simple but what you choose and why you choose it makes all the difference. ”

What motivated me to man up that day in the train station was bigger than death and taxes.

I believe there is a third guarantee in life. More subtle. Invisible. Nuanced. The third guarantee is “higher expectations”.

There is always more expected.

Ask any sales person. What have you done for me lately? Every year our quota goes up. Bank on it. Every year more revenue is expected. Cost of living keeps rising. Better products required. More features. Faster. Cheaper. Push the boundaries.

It is human nature to expect more. Venti mocha two-pump triple shot light ice frappuccino with whip, please.

What got me going that day was thinking about my family. They expect more from me. I expect to do more for them. I am constantly pushing myself to keep going.

Started from the bottom…

There is no amount of money or fame to pick you up from the bottom. You have to have to turn to something bigger. For me it was family. For you, it may be someone else or an important cause.

abyss elon.jpeg

As an entrepreneur, seriously think about your business. Build up a good network of friends, family you can turn to, advisors, and mentors. I truly believe there has to be a human element in what we do to make it more meaningful. Our personal connections are what drives us to do better. You’ll be more successful in every way.

Eating healthy and exercising may help prolong death. Educating yourself on money may lower your taxes. Higher expectations are a guarantee.

Finding something bigger than yourself will help you better handle the higher expectations. You will need it to pull you through the abyss of entrepreneurship and sales.

Cheers,

Fahad

What Is Thoughtful Software?

 Photo by  Headway  on  Unsplash

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Thoughtful, exceptional software begins with the end.

It takes clear definition of goals, understanding of business objectives, and alignment between software developers, clients, and users.

In this brief article, you’ll learn:

  • What is thoughtful software?
  • Why is thoughtful software important for every organization?
  • How to build software for a successful outcome?
  • Why an iterative, phased approach yields the best results?
  • Why personal values are important to build great software?
  • And why the creation and maintenance of quality software leads to long term success?

Work with partners who are genuine in understanding your goals.

WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL?

“Thoughtful software is better for the environment”
- Fahad Shoukat

Currently, it is estimated that over $3 trillion is wasted on software projects that never come to fruition. This translates to a staggering amount of value lost for both businesses and consumers. And it’s not just the private sector that struggles; for example, the Air Force spent $1 billion on a software project and had nothing to show for it.

Looking back on failed projects can help determine why the project failed. Unfortunately, the success or failure of a project is determined by a number of factors. Recent statistics show the most common reasons for project failure are:

project failure.png

The figures shown above only provide a small glimpse into the complexity of software projects and factors involved that ultimately determine success or failure. Additional studies demonstrate that software projects tend to run 66% over budget and 33% over time.

Most businesses are able to handle the additional costs in time and money; however, reports show that 17% of projects are so poorly executed that they threaten the very existence of the company.

BUILD THOUGHTFUL SOFTWARE

Prevent your projects from becoming part of these abysmal statistics.

Imagine and create thoughtful software.

Be committed to building, delivering, and maintaining software that is thoughtful, usable, and valuable.

Strive to build products that enhance user experience, provide value, and emphasize quality. But how do we define thoughtful software?

Thoughtful software is usable, unobtrusive, and is enjoyable to use.

It prioritizes the needs of users; rather than the needs of developers and designers. And for our clients, the creation of incredible, thoughtful software products leads to added value and tremendous opportunities for growth and sustainability.

Here we present how Skiplist builds software and what you should consider when building software and choosing a software development partner.

1. ASK WHY

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge”
- Thomas Berger

Ask why and understand the journey that creates that pain point. Experts recognize always starting with WHY and completing a successful software project are inextricably linked.

This does not mean starting slow. However, an initial meeting or call should be to understand the problem we are trying to solve. Seems simple, right?

Often developers are so quick to take on a project, they forget to ask about business outcomes. These are important to establishing the engagement and vision of the project.

  • Is this feasible?
  • Why are we building something?
  • Who is the intended user?
  • Timing to complete the project?
  • What are the goals for you and your team?

Ultimately, these questions are not very helpful if not rooted by strong personal values of the people working together. After all it is people working together with people.

Alignment in values is important.

2. WE ARE DEFINED BY OUR CONVICTIONS

“A people that values its privileges above its principles, soon loses both.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Skiplist is a collection of talented individuals who came together to build thoughtful software.

We wanted to create a different experience for ourselves and our clients.

The software industry is full of bloat. Starting a project can be painful. Getting a master services agreement (MSA) signed? Forget about it.

Many projects never take flight due to legal teams going back and forth for months. Your project may be outdated by the time the MSA is finally signed.

Clients and vendors labor over writing a detailed scope of work (SOW) when in reality building great software happens outside the SOW. Through good communication and flexibility to make changes.

Corralling the relevant resources and managing a team in a rigid environment can be painfully challenging.

Relationships are more important than ever. Software is an iterative process.

There is a better way.

For that better experience, we stick to our 10 core values. We believe these should help you as well.

  1. Simple over complex
  2. Caring over apathy
  3. Long term over short term
  4. Candor over cowardice
  5. Change over stagnation
  6. Team over individual
  7. Transparency over obfuscation
  8. Relationships over money
  9. Iterate over perfect
  10. Learning over ignorance

In the end, our journey and experiences together are what matters. Let’s make them good ones.

3. DOING GREAT WORK REQUIRES GREAT TEAMS AND ALIGNMENT

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
- Andrew Carnegie

We are all one team. Let’s do this!

When you have a team that is founded on 10 core values and a mission to build thoughtful software, quite a bit of good can happen.

Combined with enterprises who hold similar values, the possibilities are limitless.

One core aspect of great teams is specialization. To achieve the best outcomes, bring in talented people who excel in certain areas. For example, a user experience (UX) designer can be the difference between a successful or failed product.

Don’t just build an app for the sake of it. Carefully plan it out with experienced architects and designers who can help support the vision. Five star ratings correlate to a better brand image and increased revenue.

Leveraging data can be a competitive advantage if implemented properly. Data science isn’t just a buzzword and data scientists are very expensive.

It is more impactful to start with a proof of concept (POC) to test the idea. Then develop a roadmap to increase the probability of success.

Teamwork:

  • 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.
  • 86% of employees and executive cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
  • About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”.
  Figure: The New Organization: A Network of Teams (Deloitte, 2016)

Figure: The New Organization: A Network of Teams (Deloitte, 2016)

We understand the need for dynamic, flexible, and dependable teams to complete our projects and form lasting relationships with our clients.

Listening and executing on software projects quickly and within budget is crucial to success.

4. SOFTWARE IS AN ITERATIVE PROCESS

“Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering.”
- Bill Gates

We firmly believe that software development is an iterative process that requires a phased approach.

A phased approach is necessary and important because it allows for our developers and our clients to provide continuous feedback, make improvements, and manage changes to the project without disruption.

Reduce uncertainty.

phased+approach.png

A phased approach consists of 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 — Discovery
  • Phase 2 — POC / MVP
  • Phase 3 — Expansion

PHASE 1 — DISCOVERY

The requirements gathering or discovery phase is an essential part of any project. Though often it is overlooked as we rush to save time and start the project.

Experienced project managers will agree if requirements are identified early on, the probability of a successful outcome dramatically increases.

In this phase we want to establish a few important aspects.

  • Purpose of your project
  • Domain you operate in
  • Your unique operation complexities
  • Produce alignment between teams

If you are working with experienced professionals, this process moves fairly quickly.

PHASE 2 — POC / MVP

In the proof of concept phase demonstrates that certain concepts or theories may have potential for real-world applications.

A prototype is a very useful tool to determine the feasibility of a product without the high cost and going too far into a project.

A POC may involve extensive research. It allows time to examine and test assumptions. Often wireframes and mockup designs are created to visualize what may be possible.

In this phase, we can also get a better idea of the estimated total cost of the project. Budget overruns are usually a result of poor upfront planning. Stuff happens and projects do get derailed. We understand.

However, we can make a conscious effort early to minimize these effects down the line.

The next step can be a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP takes the POC a step further to build a functional beta product where users can actually use and play with something real.

This provides invaluable feedback of how users interact with a product. The next steps are to learn from our findings, iterate, and build a better product for a full launch.

  • Alignment and understanding are achieved
  • Identify and build
  • Learn and iterate
  • Prepare for launch

PHASE 3 — EXPANSION

The term “production ready” is often misunderstood. It depends on who you are talking to.

A programmer would say a “production ready” software is:

  • It runs
  • It meets the product requirements as defined in the discovery phase
  • Its design was well thought out in the POC phase
  • It is stable
  • It can be maintained
  • It can be scalable
  • It is documented

Management would say a “production ready” software is:

  • It runs
  • It turns a profit

This all depends on the purpose of the product which we define by asking questions at the beginning of the project. For example, some research projects may not need to be a scalable solution.

However, if there is a bigger vision for a particular project it would make sense to plan ahead. Designing the architecture upfront to allow for scalability should not be overlooked.

Additionally, during this phase new features may be introduced and implemented. Feedback from the POC phase is important to refining a “production ready” product.

  • Production ready
  • New features
  • Exponential success

5. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
- Paul J. Meyer

Planning ahead will save time and money. The challenge is always balancing being prepared with moving quickly to meet demand.

Experienced developers, designers, and architects know it is always better to understand the end goal. We may not always know how the end may look but we can guide the process with a vision of what we want to build.

When are you working with experienced professionals at Skiplist, we are able to move swiftly by following the steps outlined in this paper. We are also able to adapt and make changes to keep the project on schedule.

When we all have the vision in mind and are aligned in values. The future can be more predictable.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Now that you know what thoughtful software is, how there are different software partners in this noisy world, and what it takes to not be another statistic.

The question remains, will you be responsible for initiating an amazing, thriving software project?

Download the pdf version here. PDF version

Contributors: Andrew Wolfe, Samantha Wolfe, and Fahad Shoukat.

Why You Need A Sales Strategy

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Imagine you are given a product to sell. Where do you start? Maybe marketing has put together a competitive landscape. Your job is not to only to sell but sell the shit out of it. You are left as the salesperson to figure out how to sell the product. Good luck. Anyone see a problem with this?

The problem is as a company you are hoping the sales people know what to do. That’s why you hired them anyway, right? By not taking a deeper look at the nuances of selling, you are leaving money on the table. You are not maximizing the potential. You are leaving yourself vulnerable to being “out sold.” Vulnerable to competitors. That is why a sales strategy is so critical to reaching higher without wasting money.

Frontline Sales Strategy?

I hesitate to call this a sales strategy. A sales strategy means something different to different people. It could mean deciding whether to go with direct sales people or a distribution channel. Or possibly how a specific territory may be split up. Who gets the big anchor accounts? Who goes after a geography? It’s too general.

That is the not the sales strategy I am talking about. The most critical component of any company strategy should be incorporating a well thought out and adaptable frontline sales strategy. Frontline are the sales people in the field. The grinders. The callers. The ballers. The road warriors. The hustlers who get up everyday and hit the pavement looking for the next sale. They are the frontline. What we go through on a day to day basis is rough. Exhausting at times. Yet at the same time hectic. A good hectic. By adding frontline my intention is to emphasize the importance of focusing on the sales people in the field. Not a corporate sales strategy.

All too often the battle being fought in the trenches goes unnoticed. There are too many companies relying on hope. As you know hope is not a strategy.

The Difference

A frontline sales strategy is important and very critical to excelling sales without much added cost. I always ask “What is the difference between your product and the competition?” I strongly believe, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! People will spew off better specs, faster, easier to use, etc. Those things are important, however the main different is…..YOU. The sales person is the most important factor in the sale.

Another one of my strong beliefs is there is no such thing as B2B. I really don’t like that term. There is no such thing as business to business selling. Intel doesn’t sell to Apple. Slack doesn’t sell to a startup. The deals are negotiated by people. Person to person or P2P is much more appropriate. A sales strategy is far more effective with a micro view rather than a high level macro view. I caution though micro doesn’t mean micro-management. That is the last thing you want to do to your top sales people is kill their freedom.

Example

A simple example is looking that differences between an iPhone and Android. Not really much difference but asking the question of how a person uses the phone leads to a different conversation. On an iPhone you can’t attach an excel file to an email for example. For work, you might find that important.

Frontline Sales Strategy Suggestions

  • Tactics — A method is working better than others. An example could be to bundle products together. Gives customer a complete solution.
  • Tips — Feedback from sales on a particular improvement.
  • Gotchas — How to handle objections? Or how to handle product flaws. Delivery issues.
  • How to convey a confidential roadmap

If you agree P2P is important, then the next question is why isn’t there more emphasis on developing better frontline sales strategies? Most likely people don’t know this problem exists. Maybe. Or because it’s hard to do. It requires continuous attention and refinement. Good collaboration is necessary for it be effective. Management to marketing to engineering to sales need to be on the same page.

This isn’t about tricking customers or manipulating the conversation. This is about understanding the customer requirements and constantly aligning your products and strategy around those requirements. Ultimately improving the sales process and securing more business. Make it rain!

Cheers,

Fahad

Just for fun…enjoy.

Ritz Carlton Truckee / Lake Tahoe

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Took the family up to the Ritz in Truckee. I am always looking to eat mainly vegan when going out. You never know what to expect. 

Now though with vegan going main stream you can find plenty of good options. I was pleasantly surprised by the food here. 

We grabbed this meal in the main lobby area. Lounged by the fireplace. 

Great presentation. 

Giant pretzel, hummus, avocado dip. 

Cheers,

Fahad

Same Ol’ G

drop the mic.gif

I was dreaming about winning the lottery yesterday. If I ever do, I’m not sure I would even quit my job. I just wouldn’t show up. Drop the mic on all the bullshit. See how long it takes for people to notice. Good thing for me I try to be quite productive at work, so I think people would notice. I hope.

If I do win the jackpot, it would be glorious. What would I do with all that money? That part is easy. Probably the first week I would spend it on something really ridiculous just to get it out of my system. I have some time to think about what that might be.

Time Management

What really got me thinking is what would I do with all that time? Would all that money and time change me drastically? Would I still be the same ol’ G? Maybe. I would like to spend more time working with charities. Try to help my family more. But what is stopping me from spending the extra time now? Nothing really. Just have to make that effort with or without the jackpot.

A Unicorn Comes Tumbling Down

I recently read the story of how a once Silicon Valley unicorn came crashing down to earth. Stories of excess partying at work, sex in stairways, shots for closing deals, extravagant trips. Maybe you are thinking, “what a great place to work!” You would think I was describing The Wolf of Wall Street. This is story is unfortunately about Zenefits. Read the details and you’ll be shocked it got that out of hand.

LIES, BOOZE, AND BILLIONS

They won the Silicon Valley jackpot. Great idea, well-funded, and seemingly good team. Then they lost their way. The success, money, and fame got them. Lying to customers. Trying to skirt the law. How could this happen? How could anyone believe they can build a lasting business this way.

What’s the point?

Whether you win the jackpot or not, you have to stay true to who you are and how you got there. Especially when building your business. Focus on building the best user experience throughout the company life cycle. Rooted in simplicity.

Companies change as they are raising a seed round or Series A. Adding more people makes it tough to keep a certain culture. Ten employees are easier to manage than thousands. However, the truth is establishing a strong value set and culture based on authenticity goes a long way.

I help startups keep that focus and maintain a genuine approach. A good VC pitch deck should tell a simple story of the problem you want to solve. Most often the message that does not get enough attention is why do you want to solve the problem in the first place? What is your mission? Your values? Why should I invest in you? Don’t lose your mission as the business grows. Be authentic. Solve interesting problems and do good things.

Cheers,

Fahad