True value in a job title

Over the years of my working career, I have had the opportunity and fortune to work my way and rise through the ranks at some of the most innovative and creative companies. I have held numerous role where my responsibilities are in line with the job title. There are also times where the job title does not match the work and responsibilities prescribed to me by my employers – it far exceeded the title given to me.

Therefore, it is strange when I observe a distinct trend recently in companies who give a fluffier title to their employees – making managers into head of a department with no staff reporting to or mass promoting staff with a brand new job title across the board where Head of a department is now Senior Director / Senior VP of the same department. What true value did these employees do to deserve the new title? Often times, they are merely doing the same work. However, it is a way for some companies to retain staff without providing an equitable value in monetary terms. It’s almost like a human resource version of a backdoor policy.

Many years back when I was hiring manager, I was amazed when an AVP from a well known bank applied for a senior executive post. I asked my HR team why would someone of this position be downgrading to a lesser job title? They told me blank faced that “every staff is an AVP in that bank. It’s their starting grade for all back end administrative staff”. Out of curiosity, I called that person to an interview and had my manager asked some really tough questions and true enough, while he had an AVP title at the bank, the work he had done was that of a senior executive and junior manager!

Therefore, it is not surprising to note that a Senior Manager in Apple would be required to lead a team of 12 or more with a preferred educational level of Masters is equivalent to a Director or more in most companies. Of course, in all fairness, the VPs in Apple are treated with near god-like status in the company.

Most importantly, these over inflated job title and promotions often damage the company and cause greater attrition rate as some departments that do not get this mass promotion treatment would be left bitter and upset, seeking other opportunities.

The true value in a job title is not what it says on the name card but what contributions the person behind the role brings to the company at the end of the day.

Winning the ecosystem war

Let’s face it. The word ‘ecosystem’ has always been a catchphrase in the world of technology. I find that particular apt now that the war for smartphones, tablet, phablet and pc seems to be heating up again as Apple appears to be losing ground with their sales figures.

Gone are the days where we use mobile phones to make ‘just’ a phone call. It is so much more a part of our lives. The ability to do so is functional features in an absolute perfect ecosystem that is seamless to the end user. You can  jam pack a mobile with the best features but if it fails to have a synergistic ecosystem that makes the end user feels effortless, it has failed.

What has been the shinning feature of Apple products beyond its design is the beautiful ecosystem powering the iphones and ipad. It has redefined smartphones and invented the tablet business for this generation. It’s simplistic design, revolutionary UI and perfect touch sensitivity has made smartphones a reality for day to day use. Prior to Apple, the other smartphones just failed in comparison. Competition find it hard to catch up as it was so out of box and so revolutionary that they had never thought of it much less compete against it.

Fast forward to a decade later, Apple is slowly perfecting its models and offerings (keyword being ‘slowly’) but allowing breathing room for companies like Google and Amazon to catch up. It has largely maintained its lead by innovating into the tablet market 3 years ago and for its first mover advantage. But that advantage is slowly eroding and more is needed.

The passing of Steve Jobs and management shakeup at Apple indicate a need for change and greater innovation to keep a healthy distance with its closest competitor Google and Amazon. To do so, it will need to perfect its mobile ecosystem. It is also the only company most likely to be able to do so, with a close second Amazon then Google. Strange you might think but I will explain.

Apple, unlike its competitors, has the most distinct advantage of an inclusive ecosystem relying on its own for hardware, software and service design. Some of the greatest mobile phone companies have been build on this model – think Nokia and Blackberry. It’s Hardware + iOS software + App store have been all geared towards providing a more seamless ecosystem that is transparent to the end user. That’s why it makes sense for its strategic move to end its partnership with Google and build the new Map software to keep the ecosystem inclusive. With that, it has the most advantage of providing the perfect mobile ecosystem as it slowly perfect all the pieces in its puzzle.

Some obvious gap it still needs to improve is its Maps but beyond that, its cloud backup system and new product offering to complement its existing product. Hence the rumor of Apple building an iwatch sounds plausible as it extends its footprint into our daily lives.

Now why do I consider Amazon a close 2nd and not Google to Apple? Amazon with its kindle is on the right mind set to provide an inclusive ecosystem. The hardware is an extension of its store and a delivery system to push entertainment services to its users while extending all other features applicable to a computer. It would be interesting to see how Amazon intend to push this to the mobile frontier.

Google, on the other hand with Android, is suffering from an identity crisis.It does not design its hardware, relying on companies like Samsung and LG to do so. Often, this cause a gap to the hardware – software synergy. In addition, it do not have a good way to deliver its mobile software in a systematic method causing multiple versions of Android with varying hardware specs in the market. Worst still is Google’s ability to integrate all its services with Android making it a waste. Think of the synergistic effect of a Google phone with the feature of iphone? It’s already 50% there. Google email vs Apple ID, Google Maps versus Apple Maps, Google Drive versus Apple Cloud and more… It is doing it via apps but it needs to integrate it more smoothly into Android that is as seamless as a button tap in Android. To do so, it must first find a wholistic method to unify its products and offerings thus leading back to the ecosystem of  providing product, software and service in a seamless way.

In conclusion, if Apple find an innovative way to dominate the mobile ecosystem and perfect it, we will be hard pressed to find a competitor that will come close to providing the impact it will achieve.

2012: A Look Back

As I look back at 2012, I came across a most interesting article by Business Insider which looks that the 13 things that went obsolete in 2012.

On the top of that  list screamed the headline “small-screened smartphones”. Like most people, I was in holiday mood and along came shopping desire of things I would like to get in the new year. I quipped to my partner that I think we should get a matching set of iphones and android phones. That way, we get to stay connected to both technology whichever way they swing (given how much time we both spend on our iPad for work and entertainment).

For me, the iPad mini is not going to work. It is an awdward size for my asian hands. It is too big for a mobile and too small for a tablet. Hence, the conclusion is to get a Galaxy Note 2, which I think is perfect for a mobile and quasi-road notepad.

Some other interesting obsevations from the article which I think are spot on:

Netbooks are finally dead (did it ever live? I have had a Netbook for 1.5 year and it is a nightmare to use. Slow and clunky. I am glad to get rid of it).

Buying individual songs or albums (okay, I live in Asia now and I have not bought a CD / paid for music in >8years. Wait, that includes the time I am living in the west! Okay, so it is a personal choice and not a matter of obsolency.)

Alarm Clocks (How true, I never quite thought about it but indeed, the last alarm clock I bought is 4 years old now – that was the number of years I had been sleeping with my mobile phone next to me.)

I am sure that if you and I start looking around our house, we will probably find more things that had gone obselete in our lives.

P.S On a more sombre tone, Newsweek decide that printed magazines are obsolete and have issued their last print issue on Dec. 31, 2012.

Apple Evolution

Apple has been in the news lately. Apart from announcing the latest series of iproducts (iphone 5 and ipod in September and then ipad and imac series in October), it has announced its first management shakeup after Steve Jobs.

As the world consumers await in awe of the latest iproducts quarter after quarter, the magnitude of world’s most valued company continue to surpass imagination.

What surprise many today is the swift action Tim Cook makes to his executive team, displacing Scott Forstall, head of iOS and John Browett, head of retail (who is leaving after just 6 short months). Both men have had their mis-steps of late which are hard to ignore by close watchers of Apple.

From a consumer perspective, I am eager to see what changes Apple’s new exec shuffle will make to its product innovation.

I am not particularly impressed by Apple’s over-priced iPad-mini or the new (sold out) iphone 5. To me, the product launches of Apple felt too much like an update of their products year after year instead of being truly revolutionary or innovative.

Perhaps Nick Bilton says it best in his article“consumer electronics has started to share one characteristic, no matter who makes the products: They are all rectangles. Now, companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google need to persuade consumers to buy new rectangles once a year.”

Lost and found

It takes someone to have lost something truly precious to understand the happiness of something found.

Today, I miraculously recover something precious that was lost to me more than 9 months back. The joy of having found what I had thought was lost to me forever is truly significant. It certainly felt surreal and unbelievable to me. So to those who have lost and found, realize that while in losing, the joy of having found is equally significant.

My mobile evolution

Time is a very cynic critic.

The pace at which technology has changed our lives and how mobile phones have invaded our lives is a powerful transition in our history.

I remember the year 1994 where I was a freshmen in my university. I was exposed to the World Wide Web and my first mobile device – a motorola pager. How wonderous it was for me then.

Flashback 18 years later. That felt ancient.

I recall the first uber expensive mobile phone I bought. A stylus input first generation smartphone with contacts and calender from Motorola costing a whopping $1,200!

I remember my loyalty towards all Nokia phones, which was indispensible as mobile became mainstream.

I still love my blackberry, a handy helper until it is deem an embarrassment for many by New York Times just this past week.

I love my iPad but dread the idea of an iphone. Screen keypad seem frightening for my stubby fingers.

I know I will eventually move on to an Android or iOS phone but time will always be the wiser of me before I find myself horribly out of trend again in my mobile evolution.

Social Credentials

In July 2012, I wrote an article entitled Managing your social profiles is more important than you think and not long after, the social catastrophe of Amy Cheong erupted.

The incident showcase how managing one’s social profile is no longer the responsibility of companies and their social marketing staffs. Your personal social profile is a reflection of your social credentials.

As such, I recap my original article here.

I am often amazed how little care some people have towards building their own social profiles. With a profession in safe guarding and promoting corporate brands at work. I experienced first hand the importance of managing your social profiles in this social media day and age. In speaking with a young CEO over the weekend, here are my advice to her on managing her social profiles:

1. Review all social profiles, protect/delete those meant for family and friends (you have other ways to contact them and vice versa)

2. Build your social profiles based on your current and aspirational job role. Tweet relevantly and connect relevantly on Linkedin.

3. If you need Facebook, make it a Facebook page instead.

4. Keep your social profiles checked (avoid duplicate or multiple accounts). It leads to confusion for everyone out there wondering which is the real you.

5. Post responsibly. The Google Spider will index everything and they will be searchable (for years to come).

Being Social

The social business is no longer social.

Gone are the days where  Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin open their doors to developers and their independent API. Platforms, in the wake of chasing their own revenue and users participation have chosen to close their doors.

In the midst of all this is disturbing story of Facebook’s M&A strategy which calls to question the way social business now behave. Many inherently felt betrayed and shut out when their service depend on the platform they partner with. Worst still is when the dominant service starts copying or behaving like their competitors [hint. Twitter and Flipboard] .

So, in the midst of change strategy, these business no longer behave anyway close to their business core – being social.

Get Unstuck

Idle Acheiver

That’s me according to Unstuck – a personal advisor masquerading as an ipad app. Apparantly, 25% of all Unstuck users fall into this category. That puts me right in the same stuck moment as Simon Cowell and Mark Twain once had.

I enjoy Unstuck. It is one of the most beautifully designed app that I have used and truly functional. If you are have been feeling stuck at the moment, this might be the perfect tool to help you analyze your situation.

The heart of it all

“The heart of it all” is a term I am using to explain the failure of all things.

Why do we say that a company has changed when someone leaves? You feel this because people in the company are its heart. People with plenty of heart add intrinsic value to the company and drive passion for the business. When great people with plenty of heart leave the company, they take their heart and soul with them…thus causing the change you feel. When the company loses heart – morale, spirit and the devotion of the staff falters. The heart falters. This applies not just to companies but relationships, the state of the society and even the family.

Look into the heart of it all and you will find the answer.