Friday, December 30, 2022

Southwest's Christmas Disaster: It was the Software, Not the Weather!

Even though most of the U.S. received a major winter storm just before Christmas, all the other airlines recovered relatively quickly, but Southwest was a nightmare.  

They had to cancel the majority of their flights for almost a week to get back on schedule.

The problem is Southwest's software systems.  They are out of date, and designed for a much smaller airline.  As Southwest grew, they failed to scale up their tools and systems.  As a result, their planes and customers where stuck at the airports, while their crews were stuck waiting for assignments.

They had a matching / assignment problem.

Back in the middle 90's, I consulted with United Airlines on their software system that determined which flights to cancel, in order to minimize disruption.  It was complex software that had been specially built for them.  Southwest, I've read, used some generic, off the shelf package that they customized.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Process Improvement Vicious Cycle

When it comes to workplace effectiveness, there is a vicious circle:

  1. Fires are continually flaring up, and employees are struggling to keep up with work as usual.
  2. They have no time to spend improving processes.
  3. It gets harder to complete day-to-day activities.

The way out of this trap is to take an #agile approach, and focus on analog vs digital thinking. This means that, instead of taking an all-or nothing approach (formal improvement program or bust), be willing to ease in.  

Use bottom up #iteration and trial-and-error to slowly improve individual bottlenecks.  As you start improving bits and pieces of processes, you'll free up more time, and can tackle more improvement.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Friday, October 28, 2022

Hybrid Work and Timeshares

I recently read that some companies with hybrid work schedules are starting to rent space on a timeshare model.  For example, one company has the space Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Another company has the same space on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This model works especially well for start-ups, who tend to only need laptops and cloud access.  It probably isn't appropriate for companies that store a lot of confidential materials on site.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Silicon Valley Hiring phD Economists

A new trend: phD economists are now in demand in Silicon Valley.

According to a recent Economist article, in 2020, one in seven new phD grads went to work at tech companies (up from less than 1 in 20 in 2018).

  • This year, Meta awarded its coveted research fellowship to a grad student in economics.  Previously, it went to computer scientists, engineers, physicists, and statisticians.
  • Amazon now has 400 full time economists on staff.
  • Last year, Uber hired a fifth of Harvard's graduating economics phD class.
Tech companies are hiring them to work on business problems such as pricing, product development, and strategy.  They also value their skills in working with data and stats.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Saturday, September 3, 2022

We Don't Talk About Inequality...

"When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I'm rich and I complain about inequality they say I'm a hypocrite. I'm beginning to think they just don't want to talk about inequality.”-Russell Brand

© 2022 Praveen Puri

But They Were Rude to the Waiter...

"I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position." - Muhammad Ali

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Aesop, Thieves, and Politics

"We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office."

- Aesop

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Friday, August 19, 2022

Cloud and Big Data: Unexpected Expenses

As more systems move into the cloud, and companies rely on ever increasing amounts of data, operating costs can increase in unexpected ways.

Especially when companies use more than one vendor, with different pricing structures, it becomes a full time job just to track costs and optimize systems and infrastructure to keep costs down.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Knowledge Silos Hinder Software Developers

According to Stack Overflow's 2022 Developer Survey, 2/3 of developers run up against "knowledge silos" that slow them down.  When needed data is stored in other, inaccessible systems, it compromises the effectiveness of your organization.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Great Resignation Also Affects Institutional Knowledge

Especially at tech companies, when workers quit, you not only have a loss of expertise, but you also suffer a loss of institutional knowledge.

What's the difference? If you lose a python developer, for example, you've lost the expertise of python development (which you can recover by hiring a new developer). But, if that developer knew the quirks of the accounting software that your company sells, and can quickly resolve bugs, then that is institutional knowledge that will take time and experience for someone to learn.

To guard against this, you need to encourage employees to document their knowledge of your applications and work processes.  The worst way to do this is through requiring them to create complex, formal documents.  Your workers are already busy, and this will get put off.

The best way is to encourage them to informally record what they learned as they solve issues. Blogs and wikis are ideal formats.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Tech Investments Wasted by poor/slow end-user adoption

60% of IT leaders feel that Digital project ROIs are threatened because end-users aren't adopting new tech quickly enough.

This is why my Strategic Simplicity® framework, with its 4 components (change simplicity, market simplicity, decision simplicity, user simplicity), is so important.  

Change can't be "dumped" onto end-users.  Their needs have to be incoporated in new products.  Tech needs to serve the business. Users should not have to adopt sub-optimal processes to adjust to technology.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Do low / no code tools mean the the demise of developers?

No. I think that low / no code tools will mostly be used at the front-end, by power end-users, for tasks such as creating custom reports and configuring menus.  The applications and back-end infrastructure will still depend on modern programming languages and experienced developers, because low/no code tools will not be fast enough and robust enough to scale and handle security.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Thursday, August 11, 2022

$1000 Photo By Any Other Name...

Today's Wall Street Journal had an article about how some professionals pay $1,000+ for professional headshots for bios and linkedIn.

It quoted one photographer who charges $1500: "I'm not a photographer per se. I consider myself a facial-conveyance strategist."

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Book Marketing Lessons from TikTok #BookTok

According to the NY Times, TikTok 's #BookTok has become a driving force for bestsellers, especially in the adult fiction category.

Here's the interesting part of the article:

"The most popular videos don’t generally offer information about the book’s author, the writing or even the plot, the way a traditional review does. Instead, readers speak plainly about the emotional journey a book will offer."

I think this is one of the key, general principles for marketing in today's Attention Scarcity Age.  It transcends the specificity of books and TikTok, and can be applied to any product/service, or platform.

People are overwhelmed and don't need more facts or information.  They want an emotional connection, and want to know the payoff from the book. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Bias in AI?

AI itself isn't biased, since it doesn't really have consciousness and judgement. It just uses data. 

It goes without saying that we need to avoid feeding it biased data but, even accurate data can lead to conclusions we don't want. For example, if there aren't a lot of minority or women candidates in a certain tech field, the AI might conclude that it's an undesirable trait.

To counter that, we might actually have to add bias into the system. For example, pre-add weight for underrepresented groups in tech. I guess, sort of how bookmakers set odds so that all bets don't just go to the favored sports team.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Arming Teachers?

I'm not saying it's the best way but, if a local government insists on arming teachers, I think they shouldn't do it haphazardly:

1. Choose a body, such as the state police, to design and run the program.

2. A small group of volunteers from teachers/staff are vetted and receive special training.

3. The state police are responsible for maintaining the guns, which are secured in certain locations of the school, along with a bright ID vest which identifies them to students and responding police.

4. At any time, some of the volunteers are "on call" and have keys.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Monday, June 13, 2022

Unnecessary Tech: Digital License Plates

Example of an unnecessary tech product looking for a market:  Michigan has become the latest state to approve Reviver digital car plates.  

Today, you have simple metal plates. You pay a yearly fee and you get a yearly sticker to put on. Simple.

With this, you get a digital display that has toxic substances, uses power, you need to also pay a monthly subscription to the company, they can display messages, and you can be tracked. Not to mention, what if it gets hacked?

So, for an investment of time and money, you get an environmentally unfriendly, more complicated, security risk that duplicates the low tech you currently have. That's not Strategic Simplicity® .

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Bumble Bees are fish!

I saw an article in today's WSJ that, in CA, farmers sued to block bumble bees from being added to the state's endangered species list because it just covers "bird, mammal, fish, amphibia, or reptile."  

Well, the fish and game commission appealed and a state appeals court ruled that bumble bees qualify as "fish" under the CA legislation's legal definition of fish, which is very vague (basically, no backbone).  

You can't make this stuff up!

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Exploding Seatbelts!

Hyundai is recalling 240,000 cars because the seatbelts might explode! 

They have a technology called "pretensioners" to automatically tighten seatbelts in case of an accident. It relies on "small explosive devices".

Get this: "...pretensioners supplied for the seatbelt retractor mechanisms may not perform the way Hyundai's safety engineers intended, and an uncontrolled explosion may release shrapnel into the cabin."  


Definitely not technical Strategic Simplicity®!

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Today's Inflation is Another Reason to Practice Strategic Simplicity®

With today's inflation increasing their supply chain costs, companies are either eating the difference, raising prices, or reducing the amount supplied.

There is another option, rooted in Decision Simplicity, which is part of my Strategic Simplicity® framework.  By reducing the options and choices you offer customers, you can buy larger quantities from fewer suppliers, thus increasing your leverage for negotiating costs.

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Why Do I Need A Data Lake?

This webinar from my colleague Douglas Squirrel is a great strategic introduction to Data Lakes:

They have great strategic value because they allow you to store data that you don't currently use, but may need to analyze in the future, in a raw state (structured enough so that you can retrieve it).

Keeping the data in a data lake can be better than the alternatives: discard it, or store it in a processed state in a data base / data warehouse (where it's silo'ed, slows down performance, and has lost raw info during the formatting/cleanup process).

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Simplicity is Key

"We tend to make everything far too complex and complicated, as if that’s our value. I don’t know about you, but my value is in making things clear and simple. Right?" - Alan Weiss

© 2022 Praveen Puri

Friday, January 7, 2022

"Great Resignation"

Sign of the times: ZipRecuiter is advertising on the back of fortunes from fortune cookies.  

© 2022 Praveen Puri