Software updates or software interruption

I’ve been trying in last few months to reduce the level of interruption I get while working. When I really get focused on doing things, I can achieve level a of productivity that sometimes is difficult to get.

Somethings I’ve done include turning off Outlook email notifications, not entering twitter and avoiding as much as possible using Instant Messaging while totally focused. The findings have been great. It turns out not all email needs to be answered immediately (it’s even better if you wait as you can think of a better response). Also twitter can wait, I can answer messages using the same system as with email.

Although I’ve diminish to the most these kind of interruptions, there are some that have been impossible for me to achieve, or even block, and those are software updates.

It’s unbelievable the amount of popups I get asking to install updates for this and updates for that. For example:

  1. Windows: Every week there’s something new that needs to be updated. Some security patch or software update or component. The great thing about these updates is that the computer needs to be restarted. There’s no single or small update that doesn’t. Since I start hearing the hard drive screaming and I notice the update icon on the clock bar, I start sweating right way. I start planning to stop what I’m doing, or what  if I get up to take a glass a water and find Windows has already restarted the computer for me (thank you) when I comeback and I’ve lost whatever I was doing.
  2. Adobe Reader: Really? Adobe Reader needs that much updating? Last week I had it and went to their site to check what was being updated. Like 70% of the list is made of security updates. Yes, security updates. Is Adobe Reader that hackable?
  3. Apple: Yes, I have to generalize here. This little Apple window opens up every time one of their products needs an update. I’ve manage myself to meeting some of the Apple product line up by this update window. I have installed some Apple products I didn’t even know of, and yes, all of them requires me to restart my computer.
  4. McAfee antivirus: I know, this needs to be updated to refresh the virus list, but the core software? In the last couple of months I received like 3 major updates to the core and if I don’t restart the computer it starts pooping out messages that I might be at risk. I turned off the whole thing and still keeps popping out messages of risks and restarting. Come on!

In conclusion, keep in mind when developing software to:

  • Be gentle when asking to upgrade.
  • Try to make it at least once a month (if possible once every quarter).
  • Avoid restarting the machine once updates are installed. This is an architecture issue, it’s possible to do it.
  • If a restart is needed, just ask me once. I know how to read.

PS. Windows updates have asked me thee times to restart the thing while writing this post. So long, I have to restart.

What software update annoys you the most?

Are you asking your customers to like you or follow you?

What ever happen to getting to know each other? Those early conversations about what you do, what are your plans and helping me out with one thing or another?

It seems all that is gone by now. Yesterday I received an email from a vendor which we bought a software product about two years ago. The subject said something about their social media sites. When I read the email, they were simply sending a link of their twitter and Facebook site asking me to click on the link and follow them or to just like them. I just though, what? Just like that? I though about running into a high school friend that I haven’t seen for a few years and all of the sudden telling me: hi Jose, how are you? hey there’s something I wanted to tell you…do you like me? eehhh, mmmm, what was your name again?

So, this is email isn’t far from that story. I sometimes complain about some vendors, specially in the tech sector, that once you buy their product, you don’t hear about them never again. This was one of those cases. I haven’t heard from them since two years and now I receive this email asking me to like them.

Sincerely. Not cool software company, not cool.

Try always to have some kind of conversation. These are somethings you could do:

  1. Send valuable things about you, your industry or about the product. How about that feature long hidden in the product?
  2. What other customers are doing for the product.
  3. Tips about what other things i can do with the product.

The point is to establish some kind of conversation, but don’t start sending me emails asking me to like you. It’s just too soon for me.

What are you doing to get your customers to like you?

Monetizing an online web site

As you’ve already know from my last post, we’ve launched a new site that gives an overview of the Santo Domingo public transportation system. It’s the first time we launch a service like this and we’re excited on watching the results. We’re aiming at least in covering the hosting costs.

The site basically shows a Google Map with the principal Santo Domingo buses routes in the city in combination of the Santo Domingo metro (subway). For now, the subway only has one line (the red line in the map). This forms the official Santo Domingo Transportation system of the city and is a great resource for tourist but also to local users.

For the moment, the only income we can get from the site is the AdSense ads from Google, although we are brainstorming some other ideas.

For marketing, we are using SEO techniques and placing some special keywords that get us in front of search engines. We’ve create a Facebook fan page where users can joined if they liked the service.

It’s really a different service, but we’re excited in trying these new things and we’ll be updating ahead how everything evolves.

Santo Domingo Transit Map

I really like experimenting with maps and playing with streets and avenues and trains. So, if you are planning to visit Santo Domingo when you get your latest vacation in Punta Cana, Bavaro or Samana, then take a visit to Santo Domingo Transit Map. You will find all the official bus routes in the city and also incorporated the recently created first subway line.

Leave any comments on the same site’s contact section.

You need to increase the productivity

Productivity has been key factor of growth of companies now days. When
organizations can’t reduce more costs and you have others rising, in which you
cannot have a direct influence, the only way to increase profits is getting into

When people ask me to define productivity, I respond a four word sentence: do
more with less. That’s it. Process more insurance claims without increasing
personnel, find company documents and information more easily without wasting
time, automate processes and relocate employees to perform value added
activities in the business, handle more loans without increasing officials, find
new channels of delivering your product without investing lots of money.

Technology has been playing a huge role in productivity, especially
information technology. Today organizations have a portfolio of software
products available online that can automate almost any part of your company.
Identify your needs, look for manual routines that employees do and think how
you can improve that part of the business and which software can help you
achieve your objectives. A small increase in productivity can yield into high
profit values.

Start measuring your process

How can you really know how your company is doing if are not measuring
processes? Do you know how many support requests are you getting from users per
month? From what area are they coming?

If you go to the customer service representative, do you know how much time
is lasting for giving the customer a definitive answer on their problem? There
is no way we can improve these type of services if you are not taking measures
of the process. By doing so, then we can think about augmenting our customer
satisfaction index or reducing the amount of errors that a product has when
going out to the streets.

In this

by Seth Godin, he makes a call to people to stop being afraid of
taking care of processes. Yes, we know this is a routinary thing, but it is a
strategic value to our business against competitors. If I’m more efficient
internally, I can handle more jobs and customers with less the cost of similar
organizations in the industry.

So, stop for while envisioning what your company will be in the next three
years and take care of those processes that customers and employees are
complaining right now.

Using roles in business processes

When creating a workflow, one of most common activities in them are tasks.
These tasks must be approved or completed during the execution of the process.
Someone in the organization is in charge of completing the task.

For this to happen, tasks must be assign to users or employees inside the
organization. They must then complete it according to their criteria. For
example, in a bank application for creating a new account, the officer will
generally have a task for checking if the person opening the account is already
a customer of the bank, maybe using their social security number (going one step
further this can be automated using a web service that makes a query to the
backend system and returning true if the person is a customer). After the
officer has completed the check, then he can complete the task.

Assigning a task to a person can be made directly or indirectly. In
Procx, you can do it
any way you want. Directly means assigning a task to an employee, a user. For
example, the task described in the previous example can be assign to Jack, an
officer in our Timbuktu branch. You can even get the user from a variable (for
example a user selected in a list on a form). The disadvantage of using this way
is that if Jack is transferred to the Honolulu branch, then you must edit the
process and change the assignment to the new user.

Assigning a task indirectly means not attaching a task to a user, but instead
to a role. A role belongs to an organizational chart and is occupied by a user.
In the previous example, instead of assigning the task to Jack, you can assign
it to the loan officer located in the organizational chart of the Timbuktu
branch. When Jack gets the sad notice that he’s been transferred to Honolulu,
then the only thing to be done is change the user assigned to the loan officer
role in the organizational chart. No other changes are needed in the process and
everything continues to run smoothly.

This is why assigning tasks to roles is the preferred practice when building
workflows generally and one that is totally supported in Procx.

Polite software should be fudgable

When manual tasks and processes are automated, most of the time something is
lost in the middle. The most simple thing that is lost is flexibility. When
humans interact with a process, they can always adjusts things to their own way.
When handling an expense request, the account payables department may want to
approve it faster if the request is coming from that project in China that is
behind schedule, so the priorities in the process change. When we automate the
expense reimbursement request with software, these flexibilities are gone making
the software not likable for users.

That is how Alan Cooper describes fudgable software in his extraordinary book
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum : Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity (2nd Edition): “I call this ability to take actions
out of sequence or before prerequisites are satisfied fudgability

For solving the problem, Alan describes in his book that software should be
flexible enough to handle this out of sequence tasks in the process allowing
persons to interact with it in a more human way. It’s like letting the users
decide which is the best way to handle a request.

This flexibility in software maybe one of the most complicated task to
accomplish during construction. Generally products are locked in the way a
workflow should execute, closing any other variables and exceptions that the
final user may want to use, as Alan explains in his book. But, if we achieved
this kind of malleability in software, we are making software that acts more
like a human allowing interaction to be kindly.

This kind of flexibility in software can be achieved using
business process
management software
like Procx. The process per se can be changed and
configured according to organizational needs. Exceptions can be taken in and out
of the process as management wants. A request for a purchase order can no longer
be locked in an specific workflow forever. Process analysts can draw their
processes in the workflow
and decide under which rules it will execute.

So, the interaction of the user with the process is not embedded in the
software, it would be built in Procx allowing the process to be as flexible as
the organization and management wants. It’s a new way of automating processes.
What do you think?

BPM is an ongoing journey

Organizations are composed of processes. Not only organizations, but anything
that surround us, that has some type of function, can be described as a series
of steps followed to achieve some desired goal. For me, I think the perfect
machine, with perfect processes, is the human body. Every function is delimited,
has a series of steps, and evolution has made of these processes an art, making
them perfect. Every single one of them.

The same thing happens in our businesses. There’s a workflow to be followed
for almost any function. The only difference, with our bodies for example, is
that they are not perfect. In the majority of businesses we don’t event know the
steps of processes because they are not documented, making it more difficult to
correct errors.

When you want to make processes in an organization better, you need to
correct errors, eliminate steps, maybe automate others, etc. But there’s always
some tweaking to do until you reach an acceptable level of performance. That’s
why business process management is an every day task. It’s not a project that
finished today.


this article
: “Both BPM and SOA could be thought of as a way of thinking
about how the business and governance model should be designed and a way of
delivering the technology and applications to support that design,” Miers says.
“Both concepts involve a journey, not a destination. At their core, both employ
an iterative approach to business performance improvement.

New processes appear every day. They come from new campaigns, new product or
services offering and also from changing directions of companies. Also actual
workflows change due to market needs.
BPM and workflow
will give the flexibility businesses needs for adjusting and
creating these processes allowing them to face competition and increase their
performance in an ongoing basis.

Insurance Request and Software

Taking a new request for a life insurance is a very complicated process. One
of the most interesting things I find is how they ask these strange questions to
determine the probability of you killing yourself. But, even if it matters or
not, the whole insurance industry is built in probabilities. Nobody though
possible the catastrophe that happened in 2005 with the hurricanes for example.

An interesting thing I also find is the length of these forms. They always
have multiple pages and have a huge amount of fields. The majority of the time
the forms have to be filled in an office or desk or a table. Is almost
impossible to do it standing. But with the technology like Tablet PCs these
forms can be made electronic and be filled remotely (in the field). This is an
area, the insurance industry, that greatly
benefit from
BPM solutions
. That’s why we have made a movie that represents a life
insurance form been automated with Procx.
A simple process was put in place for approving the form in which if the initial
insurance amount is greater than 50,000 then needs to be routed to a credit
analyst. Hope you like it.

See the movie