Gray? Okay.

Instructions from your boss, the idea to build a new website, the new business model you have been gnawing at, that new product you wish to create – all have one thing in common. Gray.

You don’t know everything – rather, let me rephrase – you can’t know everything ab initio. There will be information black-holes as you set out on your endeavor. People develop different tolerance thresholds to tackle this phenomenon. They mentally set their GAB (Gray Acceptance Bar) as they navigate through the initiative and have made a-priori decisions of when to plunge and how much to commit. They will not break out of the inertia until their GAB levels are breached. This is natural.

It is useful to remember that ideas that spawn activities are rapidly reducing their gestation periods (the community website I am planning for different stakeholders in software product development has possibly germinated in another hundred minds as you read this). He who gets off the blocks sooner has a higher probability of learning-on-the-go and hence succeed.

Most people set their GABs rather high (different reasons – intertia is often not directly penalized, fear of failure, inability to make assumptions for critical yet missing information and the likes). My advice to Product Managers, Architects and entrpreneurs in general is to keep a low GAB and get ahead in the race.

Easier said.

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The Redesign Conundrum

Microsoft is launching a new product called Web Office. It liberates the user from being slaved to his desktop for using MS’ blockbuster productivity suite – the one and only MS Office. Microsoft hasn’t yet designed the user interface for the web version and is inviting suggestions for it. How wouold you go about designing for this challenge (you perhaps know that MS is not planning any such thing, but just stay with me on this hypothesis for a while)?

Option A

Design the interface exactly replicating the rich client (the one you install in your PC/Mac and fire up whenever you need to use). Look, the dude using the web version of Excel will be really pissed off if it required him to learn new tricks to do the same stuff that he does in the desktop version, right? Right. So if you are looking to extend the accessibility of a rich client product by developing a web equivalent, stick with the same design. Phew, that was easy.

Option B

Take the opportunity and create a different interface. Does this option even hold water after everyone voted aye for Option A? It actually does, but perhaps not in the example I thought up. The opportunity to redesign an existing application for its web existence may be taken when the customer segments for the web and rich client application are different. Take for example an accounting software that caters to large enterprises (very close to being an ERP system). Its complexity, need for scale, security et al precludes the possibility of putting it up on the web. However, the same vendor may choose to offer a scaled down version of the product for the small-and-medium-enterprise sub-segment (perhaps on a SaaS model) and hence develop a thin equivalent. Non overlapping segments – freedom to redesign.

What do you think?

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