April 5th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Why are most coffee shop design plans so poor?

Nearly every coffee shop I enter in the world has a few fundamental design flaws. Most coffee shops have figured out the comfortable chairs, free wifi, and tables. However, most still have not mastered the space efficient laptop work environment. I think the best coffee shop layout are the ones that cater to laptop users. When you’re designing a coffee shop you must consider the different users (personas) and then correlate the user type to potential revenue per user type. When I think about coffee shops, I think of the following user types and average revenue per visit (not empirically …

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April 5th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Buying into a Franchise

Franchises can be a an ready-made solution for many budding entrepreneurs. Buying into a franchise requires different levels of capital, but ultimately can lead to very healthy returns depending on the franchise type. Recently, the WSJ published a ranking of the most successful franchises in the US. The one that surprised me most was two men and a truck. The marketing behind this company makes it appear as though its just a few people and a truck, implying little loyalty and likely a fly-by-night organization. That’s my perception, at least. But, in reality, they have the highest customer satisfaction rating …

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April 1st, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Blue Ducks: Writing to be Read

Product managers are always asked to write everything down. Some documents are read (e.g., requirements, specifications, whitepapers, etc.), most are not (e.g., demo scripts, strategy documents, processes). Certain large organizations seem to thrive on documentation. One’s productivity equates to the number of documents created. The more you create, the more productive you appear and the happier your boss is. And, consequently, the less is ultimately read. As a result, it’s fairly difficult to discern what should be read, skimmed or ignored. Granted, people learn through different mediums. So, a combination of communication techniques is always required. But, often writing and …

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April 1st, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Twitter Verification – That’s Usability

This morning I finally got around to configuring my twitter account that I created way back when it launched. I tend to create accounts on everything in beta. And, play around with them for a few weeks, get bored and only eventually wander back (usually only if it becomes popular useful). I was quite impressed with the twitter mobile phone verification letter pattern. Instead of the typical engineering hash of crap, the engineers or product managers at twitter make the alpha-code to correspond with the first letter on a typical phone number pad. That is, they have a 6 letter …

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March 26th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

IDKs – Musing in Large Companies

In the land of acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations (AIA) one is often lost. This is especially true when you move from one company to another or change industries entirely. The language spoken is highly-developed and simplified. It’s the simplification and natural human laziness (desire for efficiency) that gives birth to the never ending barrage of three-to-six letter meanings. Granted, there are a few industries worse than IT (e.g., government), IT acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations are by far the worst. One of the three letter initialisms that drove me crazy was MOM — Microsoft Operations Manager. This was particular difficult at …

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March 19th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

People Routers

Many acquisitions result in being sucked into a large, relatively inefficient organization. I experienced this when Loudcloud’s MSP business was acquired by EDS. This was a revealing experience on how to quickly become effective in large organizations. After the initial culture shock, I began to recognize a phenomenon where highly-effective disposable people found value by facilitating introductions and forwarding emails to ‘the right‘ person. We began to call these people – People Routers. People routers are become your best friend when entering an organization. But, beware, people routers act like they know a lot more than they actually do. Big …

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March 17th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

MBAs and Categorization

People with MBAs are obsessed with sorting and categorizing. Every time you have a meeting with a person who has an MBA you should take note on how they try to group things. Now, I’m a big fan of set theory and often employ it. And, get somewhat frustrated when people conflate categories or sets. I come by this naturally. I’ve always thought in sets and categories. I’m just wired that way. Recently, I attended an ideation workshop with one of the best ideation groups around – IDEO. Overall, the session was very good; it’s always interesting to see how …

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March 17th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

User Interfaces that Work

User interface design is difficult. This is particular true with human-computer interface design. Yet, many front-end developers believe that they’re quite capable – and some expert – UI designers. Granted there are many great front-end developers who are good designers, but it’s often best to separate the roles as you will be able to create a better user experience. The primary reason for separating the roles is to ensure the implementation gets past functional to usable. Many front-end designers will become obstinate when it comes to adding a convenience or usability feature that surpasses the basic functional need. The difference …

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March 17th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Welcome to Systems@Work

Fundamentally, I’m a systems person. Systems in a interaction sense, not just an information technology sense. I like to observe systems in operation. A system could be any number of interactions involving people, processes and technology: Restaurants Social or People Group Dynamics IT Systems Products Libraries Large Events Organizations Marketing Campaigns Natural Ecosystems I enjoy understanding how and why systems operate the way they do. Each system has been created (or evolved) to solve a problem or set of problems. Restaurants to feed the hungry. Groups to socialize. IT systems to transform data. Products to add value. Libraries to house …

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