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Greg Nilsen Posts

How Is Secondary

evPmdi1471311822Having been a software developer for the first 7 years of my career, the natural approach to work was to receive a task (a new feature, bug or performance issue) and asking “How do I make this happen?”.  And, honestly, how was the fun part.  It was applying all the algorithms and best practices I had learned throughout getting my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science, mixing it with the capabilities of the servers I had access to, and making something new that helped solve a problem.

However, as I grew more senior in my profession, had more exposure to the business problems at hand, and began interacting with the people that had to use my solutions, that approach evolved.  Sure, I had made applications that were usable, but not always very intuitive.  As I grew into a Developer/Quasi-Product Manager role, I did start interacting with a handful of key contacts with our customers, and the seed of thoughts around “What is the user trying to accomplish?” had been planted.

I then attempted a transition into Project Management for the next step of my career.  I quickly transitioned from coding with occasional customer interaction to a role that was fully customer-facing.  It was a bit of a shock to the system for a natural introvert like myself, but even more of a shock was no longer having accountability for the answers.  Focused on software implementations, life as a project manager was about “How do we get new customers using our system?”.  And when customers asked for functionality that our application didn’t have, my job wasn’t about addressing that, but figuring out “How can we work around that problem for now?”.

Admittedly, it was difficult, mostly because my job was more about solving our company’s problems than it was about solving our customer’s problems.  That “What?” seed had been planted and continued to grow, and it was anguish to not have any control over addressing those problems.  I knew that I needed to get back to Product Management.

Now back in a Product Management role, I’m back to that “What?”-first mindset, and continually refining it to identify the many levels of “What?” within our customers organization:

  • What are users trying to accomplish?
  • What do users need to do their jobs more effectively?
  • What does management need from our software to see the big picture?
  • What are the key values that purchasers see in our software?
  • What can we do to improve the ROI for our customers?

After we can paint a clear picture of what our customers need, only then can we effectively begin asking “How do we help our customers?”, start putting those plans into action, and then completing UX testing to make sure we haven’t missed the mark.

And it’s not just a one-time exploration.  We must continually repeat this process as our markets change, customers evolve, roles change, and new needs and capabilities arise.  But even in that iteration, the order remains the same: We must first understand what our customers problems are before we can provide effective answers on how to address them.

Baseball Fan Score Survey

Trying out a bit of a social experiment here.  While we’ve seen maps of what baseball teams are the most popular in each area across the country, I was curious about the average baseball fans opinion was of every team.  I’m going to try and base it on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric to try and determine how fans across the globe view each team.

If you could complete the survey below (or at this link), I’d appreciate your input.  All responses are anonymous, and if you’d like to share the survey on social media, that would also help me to get a better picture of the current state of this ever-changing landscape.  Thanks!

Whose Data Is It Anyway?

In a world coming to terms with the ideas of “Big Data”, one of the really interesting discussions in the area is around data possession.

Most people think that the data collected about them intrinsically belongs to them.  This is especially the case when it comes to health and biometrics data, like those collected by Fitbit, Garmin, Withings, or any number of step/heart rate/weight/activity trackers.  After all, it’s data about you and your body, right?  So we tend to believe that they are like our medical records, and we should be able to take them with us from one provider to another.

However, we don’t necessarily feel this way about other data gathering and tracking practices.  I mean, if you wanted to review if you’ve been eating better, you probably wouldn’t ask your local grocer to pull you a report of the shopping habits associated with your loyalty card.  That’s information they’ve tracked about you to bolster their offerings and they wouldn’t want it shared with another grocery chain.  Yet, we’d probably expect Fitbit to give us our data so we could transfer it over to Garmin if we changed devices.

You might think I’m comparing apples and oranges, so lets go with a more direct example involving biometrics.  Let’s say you got screened for TSA Pre-Check recently and had your fingerprints scanned.  Then you volunteered to chaperone an upcoming field trip at your kid’s elementary school, but need to complete a background check.  If you called up the TSA, would you expect them send your fingerprints over for the background?  Likely not, and fingerprints are one of the most unique personal identifiers we know of today.

It’s a fine line that many of these businesses and agencies end up walking, but it’s important to realize that much of the data that is tracked about us that we consider “ours” probably isn’t.  Much of that data likely wouldn’t be captured without the devices we use, and we voluntarily provide it to them, so we shouldn’t presume ownership.

And as devices start collecting more and more data about us, the water is going to get much murkier, and it will be interesting to see how the law progresses alongside those changes.

Taking Stock

When I started this blog back in 2006 (I just now realized this site has been around for more than a decade…wow), it was as an outlet for me to comment on the things that interested me.  Over time, it’s evolved and devolved, changed platforms, changed focus, and lost focus, but mostly just existed.

Almost 2 years ago, I introduced the Midweek Music Break series that, in all honesty, I started as a motivation to blog more regularly.  It was supposed to be the intermission between more regular postings on my random topics.  However, that portion never materialized, and the Midweek Music Break took over as the central focus of my blogging, with me setting myself a weekly reminder to stay on top of it.

While I always enjoy sharing my broad musical interests, that’s not what I want to focus of my blog to be.  It should be a sidenote, but there wasn’t a main article.  In fact, I hadn’t much considered what I wanted the main focus of this blog to be, and thus, it never had a focus.  Sure, there were technical discussions, I was able to share some of my baking and cooking interests, and I was able to talk about my development as a runner, but most of the time I just never felt I had expertise worth sharing…or at least not interesting enough for others to read.

Over the last year, I’ve come back around to realize that I do have a story to tell, and I believe it’s a matter of putting pen to paper (or at least “fingers to keys”, but that sounds weird).  So, I’ll probably still have posts about running, baking and other current events.  However, I also want to make more of an effort to share insight from my career in Product Management.  I’m in a very exciting position at Thomson Reuters, and want to help develop the profession through discussion.

So, I’ll be working to find the central story to this blog, and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey.  Hopefully we’ll all learn something along the way as well!

Midweek Music Break: Sugar Ray – Every Morning

Sugar Ray is one of those funny bands from the 90s.  They started out as a punk metal band, and then manage to turn out a series of alternative pop hits into the early 2000s.  While “Fly” is their iconic hit, and “Falls Apart” is probably my favorite from the band, “Every Morning” falls squarely in the middle, combining catchy with more complex lyrics.

As they temperature rises, this is quintessential summer music for me.  Relaxed, fun and generally upbeat.  When it comes on, I just want to cruise along in the car with the windows down and take in a beautiful sunny day.

And sometimes, just those snapshots of nostalgia are worth the listen…

Midweek Music Break: Gorillaz – Rhinestone Eyes

I just realized that the Midweek Music Break, took 80 posts to feature one of my favorite bands: Gorillaz.  Beyond their great music, there’s this whole intricate alternate world with Gorillaz, and each of their songs and albums tells a part of a larger story.  “Rhinestone Eyes” is a song/story that didn’t get the full animation treatment, but is a great song nonetheless…

With their trademark catchy and unique beats, combined with intricate lyrics that are delivered very plainly, it’s basically the antithesis of a pop song.  Yet, it’s beautiful and mesmerizing.  This is what Gorillaz is all about.  Yes, it’s a great song that stands on it’s own, in their style but distinct from the collection, but is part of something bigger.

When I first started listening to Gorillaz, I thought the whole animated personas was a bit of a gimmick, but fun and unique.  However, as the albums progressed, the world grew, the stories evolved, and it was clear that the characters were a storytelling platform.  It lets the band grow, change and evolve over time.  And while it looked like the journey had come to an end several years ago, it looks like there may yet be another chapter


Midweek Music Break: Seeed – Augenbling

Apparently, every once in a while the YouTube suggested videos are actually useful, since that’s how I came across this 2012 song from German band Seeed.

Now, I’ve been known to enjoy a number of foreign-language songs (at least to this native English-speaker), even though I don’t always know what the song is about.  In fact, there’s often a freedom in enjoying the music and the vocals without the need to know what it’s about.

In this case, it’s a smooth beat combined with catchy vocals (and an entertaining video) that make for a great listen where I don’t even car what the song is about (but I will admit I looked them up, just to make sure it wasn’t objectionable).  And that’s a great thing to have happen when you end up stumbling across a song.

Midweek Music Break: Justin Timberlake – SexyBack

So, for some reason it took be about a decade to actually come around and like this song…

I mean, after rising with a meh boy band and not making too many good songs himself, while still having women go gaga over him, I took him for a vapid self-indulged talent-less tool.

However, The Lonely Island and Jimmy Fallon made me rethink everything.  So, after many years I’ve come around…at least to this song.  Besides, the beat’s by Timbaland, who’s just about the best in the business.

So, put on a smile and get down with your bad self…this one’s just for fun!

Midweek Music Break: Silversun Pickups – The Wild Kind

I’ve been a fan of the Silversun Pickups for a while now, and their 2015 album, Better Nature, is another great collection of songs.  My favorite so far has been “The Wild Kind”:

This is the last song on the album, and it has that feel.  It takes it’s time, starts out slow, builds up, and then chills out again.  And somehow, it manages to maintain an ethereal feel to it across the song.  It’s also a slight departure from some of the band’s darker and cynical songs, which might also be part of the draw.  I always enjoy when a band tackles something out of their safe zone, and then does it well.  It’s almost as satisfying as when they manage to hit the bar on a follow-up song we as listeners tend to set for them when we like a song.

If you haven’t checked out Better Nature yet, I’d advise checking it out.  It’s even available streaming for free on Prime Music.