Wednesday, December 15, 2021

For Cyber Security, Pay Attention To Your "Invisible" Software

Over the this past weekend,  companies and governments were left scrambling to prevent cyberattacks after a serious flaw was discovered in Log4j, an open software package that is used by applications and servers to log activity.

Log4j is a piece of software that is used everywhere, yet "invisible", because it's behind the scenes.

The lesson is that, for cybersecurity, companies must track, and keep patches up to date with, ALL software that they use—including unsexy, low-level packages such as Log4j. 

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Electric School Buses and Transformation

The new infrastructure bill provides money to school districts for purchasing electric school buses.

Targeting school buses to convert to EVs makes sense because:

1. Daily student ridership in the U.S. is four times the ridership of the NYC subway.
2. Kids are exposed to diesel exhaust every time the buses idle in traffic.
3. Buses drive short, fixed routes and spend plenty of time in bus lots where they can be charged.

This means that focusing on electrifying school buses is low-hanging fruit, compared to electrifying cars or trucks.

That provides a lesson for businesses on transformation and strategic project management.  Can you carve out similar low-hanging fruit (high benefit, low effort)?

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Waste and Inefficiency

My insurance company needed to let me know that my premium changed. They sent me an email AND mailed me THREE different letters. Their software needs to be more efficient.  

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Bankruptcy: Silicon Valley vs. Europe

How can Europe make itself more like Silicon Valley, with disruptive companies?

One way is to de-stigmatize bankruptcy.

As "The Economist" points out, in Silicon Valley someone with one or two failed start-ups is seen as an experienced entrepreneur.  In Europe, a single bankruptcy can derail you career.

Recently, France found that they could successfully increase entrepreneurism by no longer publicly listing the managers of bankrupt companies for three years.  Banks would use this list to deny them funding. 

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Rio Tinto: The Price of Mismanagement and Unhealthy Culture

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about how Mongolia commissioned a report to investigate why a copper mine being developed by global mining company Rio Tinto suffered delays and a $1.4 billion cost overrun.

Rio Tinto had blamed unfavorable rock conditions, but the report found that the rock quality was fine and the real culprit was an unhealthy culture and lack of coordination between teams: "People were working in silos with one group blaming the other for any failings."

While most failed projects and change initiatives don't suffer losses of this magnitude, unhealthy culture and silos are, unfortunately, all too common in business. They result in missed innovative opportunities and negatively impact performance and bottom-line results.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Lessons From Lake Michigan

In 2013, Lake Michigan was at a historically low level, and people talked about a "new normal".

In 2019, the Lake was 6 feet higher, at record highs, and people were worried and upset because beaches and piers are missing and getting destroyed.

Some lessons:
1. Things in life and nature are cyclical.
2. There's always someone complaining: too high or too low.
3. The scale of nature is awesome: The lake went up 6 feet. To put it in perspective, to raise Lake Michigan by 1 inch takes about 780 billion gallons of water.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Streaming 2020 Olympics: Confusion 1, NBC 0

Comcast's NBC Universal, which has been the exclusive broadcaster of the Olympic Games for years, has a ratings problem with the Tokyo Games.  

Here are the two reasons why I believe ratings are down:

1. NBC is not practicing Strategic Simplicity®.  The viewing choices are complex enough to cause people to experience paralysis by analysis.  There are too many options.  Some sports are streaming on Peacock, some are broadcast on NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, etc.

2. The games are in a very far time zone.  In the old days, you could not learn the results until you watched the rebroadcast during American prime time.  Today, results are available instantly on websites, news feeds and, in many cases, pushed to your devices.  It's hard to be interested in watching a sport when you already know the outcome, particularly if the team/athletes you are rooting for lost.

These problems are not going away, because multiple streaming/broadcast options and instant updates are now part of life.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Problems With AI

A recent Associated Press article I read in the Chicago Tribune called attention to the AI problems faced by the moderator of a New York gardening group on Facebook.

Facebook's algorithm sometimes flags the word "hoe" as "violating community standards."  

Another post had commenting automatically disabled because of "possible violence, incitement, or hate in multiple comments."  This was because one comment talked about killing Japanese beetles.

The worry for the moderator is that, if there are to many violations, the whole group could get shut down.

The question for businesses: Is your AI and automation helping your customers, or making their life difficult?

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Customer is Always Half Right

"The customer is always right about what they want. They are rarely right about what they ask you to do. Your job in the sales interview is to reverse engineer what they really want from what they initially asked you to do."

- Jonathan Stark

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Friday, April 16, 2021

Anita Roddick Quote On Success

"Be Bold. It's the only place left uncrowded."

- Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Friday, March 26, 2021

Age is Only A Number

Today's WSJ had three stories illustrating that you're never too old for success:

1. Angeline Boulley got the idea for a crime-fighting Native America "Nancy Drew" when she was 18.  She thought being a writer was impractical and went on to a career in civil service.  In her 40's, she started to write the book based on the earlier idea and 10 years later, at the age of 55, she found a publisher and signed a seven figure book deal.  Now, the book was chosen by Reese Witherspoon for her book club, and it's been option for a Netflix series.

2. William Shatner turns 90, but he said "this is the most creative period of my life" and he has a new movie, album, etc coming out.  He said "I can't die now, I've got too much work."

3. There was an article on Eddie Robinson, the oldest living MLB player at 100.  Last year, he misses attending baseball games for the first time since 1945 (when he served in the Navy). He got vaccinated and now he's attending spring training games.  He also hosts a podcast on baseball's golden years.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Success Advice From Chicago Actor Kevin Miles

Success advice from Chicago actor Kevin Miles:

"Before I decided to move to LA, it was so scary to think about leaving family and memories behind to start over. But I do remember telling myself, right before I bought a ticket: The quicker you jump into the pool, the quicker you can enjoy the water. You will adapt, even when things get hard and difficult. That was the phrase that I said to myself a lot and I still do, to this day. If anything, that’s the phrase I hope anyone that is having a difficult time with their dreams, especially in these times, uses."

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Hanlon's Razor

You've probably heard of Occam's Razor, but have you heard of Hanlon's Razor?

"never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" 

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Friday, March 19, 2021

Multimillion Dollar Citigroup Mistake Highlights Bad User Experience of Internal Business Software

Part of my Strategic Simplicity® framework is User Simplicity.  I've always stressed that user simplicity should also be about providing the same care about user experience to internal employees that you do with external customers.

Too often, however, I've seen companies provide their employees with clunky user interfaces and software that they would never dream of selling to their customers.

Yesterday, I read in the Wall Street Journal about how bad internal software caused $900 million worth of loan errors to Citigroup.  Citigroup is putting some of the blame on the financial software product, Flexcube, from Oracle.  According to the WSJ article, Citigroup even shared images of the user interface during litigation: "The screenshots showed a user interface with dense type, low contrast and small buttons and boxes."

While this example made news because of the large dollar value of the mistake, everyday even more money is collectively lost in corporations from inefficiencies and failure work related to bad user interfaces.

Your employees are internal customers who generate value for you beyond their salaries. As an executive, you need to insure that you provide them with the same user experiences as your best customers.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

The Best Survey

I stopped filling out surveys because I value my time. The best "survey" I've seen is in the bathroom at La Guardia. It's by the exit, one question: "Was the bathroom cleaned to your satisfaction?" and two buttons (one red, one green) to register your vote.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Monday, March 1, 2021

"Sell the innovation, Not the product"

"The best–maybe the only?–real, direct measure of 'innovation' is change in human behavior."

- Stewart Butterfield

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Life Isn't Pass or Fail

In school, we learn to pass or fail our courses. 

But, in real life, there is no pass or fail.  It's "pass or iterate".

You only fail if you give up.  If you don't succeed, then analyze, pivot and try again.

© 2021 Praveen Puri

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Minimum Wage

Regarding the minimum wage: Instead of fighting to change it every few years to an arbitrary amount, they should peg it to welfare. Have it automatically reset each year to something like "the rate where a single parent with 2 kids working 35 hours/week would not qualify for welfare." Because why should we subsidize companies where their workers have to collect welfare to make ends meet?

© 2021 Praveen Puri