A Responsive Debate: Mobile, App or Web

“To be or not to be?” That was the question we ran into during our last executive update regarding the mobile experience for our social intranet. Actually, it wasn’t a question as much as it was a statement. “What would it take to create a responsive mobile design for our launch?” I don’t know the answer yet as IT is still scoping capabilities but I can assure you it isn’t as simple as it looks. And this led to another debate about when do you need a responsive mobile experience, a mobile app or the option for full web functionality. It all depends really on what you are trying to accomplish and is also dependent on the platform you are trying to make responsive. Websites aren’t as difficult as it is all flat HTML for the most part but what if you are trying to create a responsive design for a community which is dynamic and is constantly in motion.

I guess I would classify web mobile solutions as the following.

1.) Responsive – which is intelligent enough to respond to the device you are using to view the website and it will adjust the design (or respond) to the size of the screen resolution more or less. So, if you turn your phone or iPad it will respond and expand the design to show more.

2.) Mobile Optimized – Not as intelligent to know when you are changing resolution but created specific for mobile devices so it provides an optimized version vs. the full website version which is difficult to see or use at times on phones. What this includes similar to a responsive design is building templates that react and are surfaced depending on the device and screen resolution.

3.) Mobile App – I am not in favor of developing apps for websites. The above example are more simple to manage and maintain as your website or community for that matter continues to scale and evolve.

We have been building our social intranet on the Jive platform and mobile hasn’t exactly been a strong solution for Jive which they will readily admit. I was at a Jive user group in Boston last week and was the one thing I recommended to the team for an area that needs to be improved. However, Jive has done some nice things with a company called Mobify. They have been able to create a nice compromise  which is not a responsive design as much as what I would refer to as mobile optimized but is functional. They recently rolled this out for Starbucks and looks pretty good on your cell phone. However, this is a pretty simple site and not that difficult to create a mobile optimized solution. If you think about creating a social intranet where there is an extensive navigation of employee resources you can imagine the number of templates you may need to make this truly responsive.

It’s a tough decision and when everyone is focused on delivering an amazing user experience at what point are you willing to put things on hold until that optimal mobile experience is ready. I don’t know the answer to that but hoping to better understand our options, determine what we can release in sprints and get some clarity on a launch date soon.

Believe, Lead and Follow!

I have never found it too difficult to get people to believe in themselves or a cause. It usually just takes a little encouragement and telling them “why not you?”, “You can do this” and if that doesn’t work sometimes a kick in the pants is required. I recently realized a key to motivation for a team is believing. Believing in a cause, believing in themselves and believing in the team will always lead to success. If you don’t believe then you have doubt and if you have doubt then you trust those around you to support you when needed. And that is a recipe for failure. Belief and Trust is so powerful when it comes to teamwork and more importantly working together. You don’t always, actually you almost never, have the opportunity to remove a weak member of the team that doesn’t believe or continues to hold on to doubt. So, you have to work harder to make sure that member understands their importance and begins to believe in themselves. I am convinced that most obstacles thrown at a project are due to those who don’t believe in themselves and because of that they have fear. And that fear is what causes doubt and a desire to stop everything because there is a lack of understanding about the unknown. And that unknown is uncomfortable for most.

If you talk to any for the folks from Peak Teams  they may not agree as when hiking to the north pole sometimes you have to make a tough decisions and can’t help everyone. However, you can’t leave anyone behind either unless you have made appropriate arrangements.

It is frustrating at times dealing with opposing opinions and outside perspective from those who haven’t been involved. But you will learn quickly that  you can’t ignore them and hope they go away. You have to get them to believe as well and then you can get their help to lead and get others to follow. Managing a community has to be managed by a community. So, it takes everyone and lots of different opinions and if you can get everyone to come to consensus then the end result will ultimately be better. All of this is just common sense. If you are compassionate and can listen then you can get others to believe. And because of that you can get them to follow and then you can lead. But you can’t lead and no one will follow if you don’t first  believe.

“Get Shit Done!” Social Community Marketing

I have been thinking about writing a Social Community Marketing called Get Shit Done! I had planned to write about 60000 words but now I’m thinking less is better. The name was the unexpected result of a conversation I had with my team three years ago. I had just joined a new company and took over leading community strategy which hadn’t had much attention. It was pretty clear that the team was frustrated, wasn’t able to make any progress and couldn’t get consensus on where to start. As I listened to the discussions I said something rather innocent but would serve as the teams motivating rally cry.

I think it started with something like, “First life is to short not to enjoy what you do and we should be able to have fun doing it. What makes what we do fun is having a sense of accomplishment and seeing you are making progress. And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how big your team is, or how big your budget is or how important your project is the company. The only thing that matters is who get’s shit done! That’s it.”

After not being able to make any progress, our little three person team was able to scrap up $150K budget and proceeded to do more in the next 6 months than had been accomplished in the previous 4 years. That got some peoples attention not to mention that the team began to feel really good about what we were able to accomplish and were excited to start planning out the next program and roadmap of items to address. So the next year our little team got some assistance with an executive sponsor and were able to add headcount and increase our budget significantly. But be careful what you wish for that meant there were expectations to achieve and achieve rapidly.

Well we did that as well knocking out the quickest social community deployment in history of the company within 4 months from the time we signed the contract to go live. BAM!… That has led to many other fun projects but the rally cry is still at the heart of what we do. Get Shit Done!…

So, I thought it would be good to write all this down and actual share from someone who has actually done it. I don’t know about you but I am tired of these so called Guru’s who what to give you advice when they haven’t ever even managed a marketing program ever let alone had to launch a social initiative. Oh and for the record. If you refer to yourself as a Guro or a Social Media Expert, your resume immediately goes in the trash. Because no one is the master of anything and if you aren’t still learning then you aren’t trying.

Stay tuned for more… I am researching self publishing even though I have a few contacts but will start releasing chapters here as I feel the are ready for reading.

Dear Mr. Kraft – NFL Tax Exemption, China Apparel.. Really?

Dear Mr. Kraft and entire New England Patriots Organization,

All my wife wanted for Christmas was a Kevin Faulk Jersey. She taught Mr. Faulks children while he was a New England Patriot and was sad to see them move back to Louisiana and I thought this would make a great gift. So, I went to the New England Patriots Proshop to purchase the jersey but because Kevin wasn’t an active player the jerseys weren’t available. With a little help from Google I found what appeared to be an NFL New England Patriots sponsored apparel website http://www.patriotsfansgear.com/.

They had the jersey and with in a few simple clicks the $104.35 was deducted from my bank account and received a email notice for 1 Youth Nike New England Patriots 33 Kevin Faulk Game Jersey White. At the time I didn’t pay much attention who was listed in the to the Pay To: http://www.zhouxi-store.com but quickly become apparent.

Pay To:           www.zhouxi-store.com
Date / Time:   2013-12-08 21:58:36
Amount:          103.98 USD
Card Number: ****************
TxnID:             **********************149

Then the next day I received an email that the Kevin Faulk Jersey was not in stock and did I want a #12 or #87 but this time the email wasn’t from http://www.zhouxi-store.com it was service@imbinger.com and that they confirmed they would cancel the order on Dec 9th, 2013 and issue a credit. What happened to http://www.patriotsfangear.com that I thought I was doing business with?

So, in order to try to get a Kevin Faulk Jersey by Christmas I found another well branded NFL and New England Patriots apparel site named “The Official Patriots Authentic Pro Store” and once again placed my order. This company didn’t charge my credit card immediately like the other online store but did inform me that it would need 7-9 days to customize the Jersey and it would ship as soon as possible. This contact came from c.yeekr.com and I wondered again what happened to “The Official Patriots Authentic Pro Store” I thought I was doing business with. That was December 10th, 2013.

In January they finally said it shipped and provided a tracking number. After about 3 weeks I looked at the tracking status and it said that it had made it to Shanghai Customs. And that was as far as it got. Helen at “The Official Patriots Authentic Pro Store” or c.yeeker.com said that they could ship another if I like. And all of this made me wonder exactly why is the NFL tax exempt again?

I knew congress was debating the current NFL tax exempt status “Sweeping Tax Reform Proposal Would End Tax-Exempt Status Of Pro Sports” and can’t see why NFL deserves any exemption while your fans struggle with deceptively NFL branded apparel websites. After this experience I felt the need to share this story and point out to my local congressional representatives so they could see how the NFL tax exemption is being used. It certainly doesn’t appear you are using it to create jobs here in the United States.

This isn’t a topic I normally write about but is something I thought a little exposure and social media might help me resolve. I love the New England Patriots and the organization as much as my wife loved teaching Kevin Faulks children but this entire experience has been shameful and an embarrassment to the brand you have built.

I would appreciate any help you could provide, however, I fully expect to  to work with the China apparel support folks to get these issues resolved and either get credit for the jersey that was never delivered or at least get the Kevin Faulk Jersey I ordered. One thing I can say for sure is I will NEVER order another NFL product online ever and hope this at least with help others from making the same mistake I did.

As you can guess Christmas wasn’t as special this year. There is a big difference of opening a present that contains the jersey of your favorite player and the reality of opening a box with an IOU in it. And the other reality of the situation is that I will likely never get a credit refund or the Jersey for my wife.


Define Clear Goals and Get Consensus First

When ever you are part or leading a team on any initiative it will save you hours of headaches if you define and get consensus on the goals and objectives. This should be the first step of any team as it can be referenced through out as others want ton introduce or change scope that may have not been part of the original team.

When I was asked to lead and pull together a team for our Social Intranet deployment this was the first exercise we went through. It can be painful at first because as part of the process you need to let everyone speak, define what they believe the project should be but ultimately you fill find common ground that you can all agree with. For our team we kept it simple and focused on a few items that were deemed critical to success.

First, we wanted to keep all the features that were currently available that users expected.

Second, we wanted to upgrade the platform to deliver a modern social experience

Third, we compiled a list of new features or integrations we wanted to add.

The first two items are easy to scope and reference during any part of the project but the third item needed a second step of prioritization. From of the list of features we thought would deliver an amazing user experience, as a team we prioritized on what our top 5, 10, 15 and 20 items were. Having this in place and agreed upon up front not only helps resolve potential conflicts but also will make you the super star of your IT team. IT never gets a prioritized list of items and will be very appreciative if the business can provide that so they have a clearly defined starting point and never have to worry about what success or failure may be as long as they stick to that itemized list.

Now, what this process doesn’t account for is course correction. Inherently things change. Your wish list can’t be delivered without funds, integrations or dependencies that are an unacceptable impact to your timeline. That’s when you will need to present the data to your executive sponsors and let them provide the direction. This takes you or any individual from making an unpopular decision and allows everyone to provide recommendations for consideration. If you present the pros and cons of the scope, impact to timeline and more importantly the impact to user experience then it will be pretty easy to decide which direction to take. There is a line that is drawn between acceptable sacrifice and unusable experience that is pretty easy to tell. Identifying this line with facts will allow the executive team to decide critical items for an R1 release date and anything that falls out of that bucket goes into your backlog and is burned down via iterative spinets so there is consistent progress toward the ultimate user experience.

This week will be our 7th or 8th exec review and we are at this critical juncture now where we are ready to present the data, get direction, course correct and reset expectations so we can continue or march forward to an amazing new experience.


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