Jeep.com almost misses the mark

As I have talked in the past about the importance of web sites working, it was sad to see that Jeep.com failed a simple test.

Today I went out and typed in various parameters for the build of a new Jeep. Just in case Jeep.com is reading this article I will be specific in what I chose:

  • 2014 Wrangle Unlimited Rubicon
  • Bright White clear coat
  • Max Tow Package
  • Automatic with 4.10 axle ratio
  • Premium Black Sunrider soft top
  • Interior – default

So where does it fail.

Initially there are no exact matches with 25 miles of my Zip code of 30301.

I bump the search area up to 200 miles and now I am getting told of an exact match.

However when I click the link to view the vehicles via a popup page and then click on vehicle details such as powertrain they do not match – it gave me manual transmission after I had selected automatic – it seems from a quick scan that the details just shows the standard vehicle information before the changes I applied.

Jeep.com saves itself via one link on this vehicle details popup page – When I go to print off the “Window Sticker” it shows how Jeep.com was able to claim the exact match. All the details of the vehicle I am looking for is listed in that “Window Sticker”

My recommendation to Jeep.com – make “View Vehicle”  details actually represent the details of the vehicle being shown or ditch those details from the page as they cause user confusion. If it was not for the window sticker, the web site would have truly missed the mark.

It is important that features of a web site or application actually present the information a user expects.

 

Lessons in Lawnmower maintenance and product design

I wanted to use the analogy of a lawnmower to describe the impact of complexity on your product design.

Having had the joy of fixing lawnmowers over the years, let me describe the different experience two small walk behind machines gave me.

In both of the machines, they had a belt that drove a set of wheels on the lawnmower to make it easier to mow the grass.

One machine however was more deluxe:

  • Electric Start
  • Rear Drive – less slippage on wet grass

So which machine gave me the most problem? The more deluxe machine was the killer.

In terms of ownership costs the features of the deluxe machine made it a throw away device as parts started to fail. Compared to the simpler machine with less features.

The battery failed on the Electric Start – vibration caused the battery terminals to literally fall off. When the drive belt failed, it was an expensive job to replace. Numerous parts had to be removed (including the useless battery) to get at the belt and additionally the complex rear wheel drive gears were stripped adding to the cost of repair. In contrast the simpler front wheel drive motor just required some plastic shielding removed and the belts swapped out.

From a product perspective which is the whole point of this post, additional non critical features add cost. The product will cost more up front and cost more to maintain. Ask yourself what it is that your customer is looking for.

However there is one caveat to all this. If the features are required to sell your product, whether from the point of your user base being motivated into using it or from customers actually buying it, then there may be justification for going beyond non critical features.

Review your brand identity to work out what features do your customers expect. If I had bought the deluxe lawnmower from a reliability perspective I would have been turned off of the brand from my experience. However if I had bought it for the features with the knowledge that it was a throw away piece of equipment, then it was a great piece of work.

Why Microsoft Windows 8.1 will create more Apple Customers

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News 

Microsoft has jumped on the App bandwagon with Windows 8 but at the same time successfully drives users up the wall.

If you are yet to try adding applications to a Windows 8 device but are familiar with the Apple process all I can say is stick with Apple. Microsoft application store “Sucks” with a capital S and the stability of Windows 8 post logoff after trying to add applications is back to the days of Windows ME.
Just do a search on “Please Wait” or “Pending download” and you will see what I mean.

Unlike Apple which asks you to enter your userid/pwd to get your applications, Microsoft has tried hard to get the user to login to both their computer and to the store at the same time creating a terminal always between you and Microsoft. They do this by forcing you to replace your local ID with a Microsoft store ID.

Never have I seen Microsoft miss the mark as badly as they have done this time. This truly is the Crap from Hell when it comes to productivity. There is nothing redeeming to justify this nuclear wasteland of failure.

In my recent attempts to add applications to my windows 8.1 laptop via the Microsoft App Store I have had the joy of seeing the computer spend more time doing nothing with a nice “Please Wait” or a “Pending” download than actually doing work.
The Blue screen of death has basically been replaced by a “Blue Screen Please Wait”. Worse still is that it can actually prevent you from being able to log back into the machine making for an expensive doorstop.

There is nothing desirable enough about Windows 8.1 that justifies the user torture that this software brings to the masses.

Save your soul and stick with Apple or change over to Apple. After all money can’t buy time and Windows 8.1 is a death beetle when it comes to the time it can suck out of you.

Let us all hope that Windows 9 will save the PC market.

DollarPhotoClub.com why the grocery store image purchase approach works for me

May 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News, UX / UI 

If you write for a living eventually you will need to get pictures to post with your content.

For several years know I have created the images I used but due to change in circumstances I needed to locate a supplier that could provide me with royalty free images. If you have ever looked into this, you will understand how complicated it can be:

1 – Images having different licensing restrictions.

2 – Cost variation between images.

3 – User interface to get images over complex.

www.DollarPhotoClub.com rose to the top of my choices and here are the reasons why:

1 – Business model is simple to understand. Each photo costs a dollar to use and follows the same license agreement with certain provisions on how the image is used.

2 – User interface is simple and straight forward. I paid my annual fee, searched for the images required and then downloaded those I could use.

3 – Decent selection of images for my needs and I could verify that before I even paid for membership.

 

What are the cons then of this service?

1 – Minimum membership is either $10 a month or $99 a year at time of writing. For a person only needing a couple of images, that is an expensive option.

2 – I can save image choice to a gallery that I create on the web site but I cannot save an image choice to another gallery for cross reference. This becomes a problem if you are trying to categorize images across two different definitions.

3 – The image search is decent but dependent on user supplied image tags. I don’t see the tags at this time as being computer generated meaning if a Tag is not added, then the image may not be found by your search.

On the whole, the service works for me and I look forward to working with their images over the next 12 months of my membership.

 

Wagile – Pronounced “Waa Gee Lee” – Blended Agile and Waterfall

We all hear a lot about Agile being the new and Waterfall being the old approach to software development.

So tongue firmly in cheek I am going to talk about those Agile projects that don’t quite cut off the ties with the old Waterfall.

What is known in the industry as Wagile.

Looking at Agile, we should have user stories for all the functionality required by the business. However sometimes it is just ends up with focus on one part of the functionality being done in  Agile mode while run of the mill ancillary items are handled in a more waterfall model.

I am not going to try and guess all the possible items that could somehow fall out of Agile into Waterfall but I am sure that you can think of a few. Most likely low risk candidates for Wagile is reporting – assuming that someone somewhere has identified all the fields that need to be captured and made available to the reports as part of the initial Agile development portion of the project.

So why does Wagile come about? Not everything can make it in the sprints so to keep the client happy, items are basically snuck in outside of the sprints using the Waterfall approach sometime under the support budget rather than the development budget.

Is this the wrong approach? No approach is wrong if it keeps the customer happy but don’t try to pass off your shop as 100% Agile if your are doing Wagile.

 

Business Analyst Salary – United States

What is the Business Analyst Salary? Anytime you are considering a career it is good to know what the salary expectations that go with it are.

This post is based on what I have seen (not necessarily earned) in the Business Analyst field in terms of salary and usually what goes along with the higher salaries.

Numbers presented in this post are in US dollars along with the assumption that at the high to very high end, the person would be working as a consultant rather than a permanent employee of a company and the company is US based.

The salary range for Business Analysts is large but not vast – you don’t get into the millions doing this. At your lower end, the starting pay can be in the low 30’s per year. In the middle you might expect anywhere from 50-80k. Once you get into the Senior Business Analyst role you might expect anywhere from 80- 130k. At the very high end, you might be able to bring in as much as 140k – 200k but those opportunities are few and far between, usually involve travel, being located in an expensive part of the country and specialized knowledge.

One thing I have to mention is that not all Business Analyst roles are the same and depending on what the Business Analyst is working on / responsible for can have a great impact of their dollar value to a company. At the same time not all Business Analysts are cut out to work in the high dollar roles because of the specialized knowledge and people interaction skills required. Eventually I will put together a questionnaire to enable BA’s to sense what direction they are being called in.

Looking at the numbers above, you may consider that being a Business Analyst is a great opportunity, however if your motivation is making money there are more lucrative careers out there in sales, marketing, investing. Eventually you will hit a plateau with the Business Analyst salary and may even see the salary shrink from time to time as companies merge or outsource opportunities. Most people that have been doing the Business Analyst role for more than 10 years have all reached a point where the salary raises have hit a wall. This means that sometimes the next role for these people can be a bit of a cut from the previous or involve taking time off while waiting for the right role to come along.

Some similar  types of roles that pay more than the Business Analyst salary:

  • Trainer for a specialized training company as long as companies are hiring training companies. When times get hard, training is usually cut back. I have known people to make in excess of 250k in those roles but it does involve travel.
  • Project Manager / Program Manager – I have seen these salaries get into the 200+k bracket
  • Product Manager – These roles offer more growth than the BA which leads to larger salaries.

To get into the higher Business Analyst salary bracket it usually requires:

  • Years of experience. Once you break the 5 years you are well on your way to being a Senior Business Analyst and generally anybody with 10 years is considered senior by default.
  • Specific software application skills. Knowledge of certain SAP software modules or Personnel software such as PeopleSoft goes along way here to raising your value. There are other software packages out there, so the best way to find out what is in demand is to search the job sites. Note that with the larger software packages such as SAP, salary is dependent on specific modules not just knowing any SAP module. Additionally the experience needs to be current to get the best dollar offer.
  • Data warehousing / business intelligence. This area is growing rapidly and Business Analysts with the skills to define data, access (write SQL) and report on it, are in big demand which has raised the salaries accordingly.
  • Specialized knowledge in a business process can take you into higher amounts of money, in some cases in excess of 200k. I have seen from my own experience that specific business knowledge makes you more desirable in the market place. However it boils down to supply and demand combined with a willingness to travel to the location where the demand is. Some samples of in demand business skills – Basel Compliance, Capital Markets (The various desks / trading products), ecommerce. This is only a small sample, the job sites can show you more. The demand can also be very temporary as corporations wish to respond rapidly to business change and then once it is over they have no desire to maintain the relationship with the Business Analyst because of the cost.
  • Specialized Certifications. I am not talking here about a Business Analyst certification but rather certifications that go along with specialized business knowledge. Examples would be a Business Analyst that at some point has held or still holds brokerage certifications. These certifications guarantee the Business Analyst understands the trading floor and states they can talk the same language.
  • Having a MBA helps open doors. It is however not a necessary requirement as companies will value relevant experience over a MBA.

I left Business Analyst certification off of the above list because it has only been around for a few years. This has most value for two types of people in the Business Analyst role. Trainers use it to prove their credentials to train. BA’s with only a limited amount of experience use it to get in the door on their next role as it supposedly states to the employer that they know how to be a Business Analyst.

Lead Business Analyst – what do they do?

For your next role as a Business Analyst, you may be approached to be the Lead BA . This post is about some of the skills you may have to use in the role.

1 – Project estimates of BA involvement – Identifying how much time and resources it would take to complete a project. I have had to estimate the hours, the duration and how many BA’s I would require to complete a project.

2 – Interviewing of BA candidates – presumably you will have lots of experience in this from the interviews you have been at yourself.

3 – Peer review of work – You should be familiar with this from your time of service as a Senior BA.

4 – Mentoring of junior BA’s – I have sat in on junior BA’s requirement gathering sessions, reviewed their work and provided constructive criticism where needed.

5 – Delegation of work – As the lead you will be expected to monitor the work load of your team and adjust the assignments accordingly to best meet the need of the overall group. This could mean taking work away from one BA to free them up for a project they are more suited too.

6 – Client relationships – Part of the role will be to check that the client is happy with the work of the BA’s assigned to them. If problems are encountered, then the Lead BA will be expected to propose a solution.

7 – Handling of problems – In general if something is going wrong, the Lead BA is expected to help resolve it. This is where your negotiation skills come to play.

 

How long will the Tablet / Smartphone craze last

January 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, General News 

For the oldies that have been around the block a few times, this craziness in demand for skills that involve Mobile development will strike a familiar chord. Before you jump on the train to get these skills understand that they will only last you for a few years – my guess is 7 more – before the next trend really hits and makes the skills of the last trend out of date.

Lets look at some trends since the 80’s and I am sure I have missed some obvious ones but just wanted to communicate that nothing is hot for long when it comes to skills.

1 – Color Dumb Terminal – In those days designers took delight in using the color to highlight different fields on the screen and error messages.

Next

2 – Up loadable applications that run on a stand alone PC with graphics chip GUI – the joy of developing software that had to be individually installed on each machine (hmm – sound familiar)

Next

3 – Networked GUI client server applications – does anyone remember OS2? And what about all the discussions on Thin versus Fat clients.

Next

4 – The Internet- Dawn of a future age and the ability to easily offshore work. The rush for people skilled in Web page design.

Next

5 – Web 2.0 the growth of applications that are GUI that run on a network using a thin client on a PC. Back to point number 3.

Next

6 – Downloadable thin or fat applications that run on a stand alone Tablet or Smartphone (Small PC – see #2)

Next (future)

7 – Mobile 2.0 – growth of MUI (Multi User Interface) applications that run on a network using a thin client on a Tablet or Smartphone.

As you can see from the above list, trends change and repeat themselves every few years. Unfortunately employers don’t see how skills from the past translate into the future. This means that to stay employable you need to catch the new trend close the beginning and stay away from yesterday’s trend.

Don’t become the Wang engineer in a PC world.

Cheap Monitor Stand

December 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General News 

Slightly off topic from BA stuff but wanted to mention a solution I came up with on how to handle my extra monitors in my home office.

I looked into buying a monitor stand when I came across an expandable steel shelf sold by Lowes DIY store for $11.99.

It is just the right height that it raises the monitors above the screen of my Laptop.

This provided me with the exact space I needed to setup my 2 additional monitors which is great when I am working on the computer.

Because it is a shelf I was able to use it for my desk light and stapler as well providing me additional room on my small office desk.

100_3443

Resume Keywords – help you find work

Previously I had talked about the need to be specific about the projects you have worked on in your resumes.

Today I would like to get on the subject of Keywords, their importance and how to find them.

With most agents and HR people using search engines to locate suitable candidates for their open roles it is important that your resume rises to the top. To achieve this, your resume has to include the Keywords these people are searching on.

Examples would be: Ecommerce, Data Warehousing etc..

Ok. So some of you might say you were already aware of this and have been active in making sure you have the common keywords in your resume so what is the problem?

Having been in the Business Analyst / IT consulting world for over twenty years I started to see a trend a few years ago where effectively keywords were changing on a regular basis especially when it came to job titles. To put it in simple terms Apples were becoming Oranges, then Oranges were becoming Bananas and then Bananas were becoming Pineapples. Confused?

Let me explain. Information Technology follows trends and with each trend comes a set of keywords. Years ago being a “Screen Designer” was a hot set of words to have on your resume. The people that designed screens were important to the company as they dealt with the User Interface. I just did a search on Monster.com and came up with 98 jobs in the whole country that referred to that set of keywords. Now I repeated the search using “UI” and “UX” and the results are in excess of a 1000. Hopefully that example makes it a little clearer. Note: I did the search using 2 characters “UI” for User Interface, so remember that words are not the only thing you need in your resume.

Picture the recently laid off “Screen Designer” who searches for work using the job title he has held for 10 years. His success in finding work will be limited by his use of out of date keywords.

Now that you understand the problem, you need a solution.

Here is what I do every 6 months or so. I take an evening or a weekend and just read through IT jobs listed on one of the job search engines such as Monster.com or Indeed.com for a particular city that I want to work in but without any other keyword search parameters. Remember the importance here is to find out what they are calling the job / skills now that you are qualified to do. When I see a job that looks of interest to me and matches my skill set I make notes on the words that appear in the job description such as Job Title, Skills, Experience etc. After a while I end up with a long list of Keywords. I may further expand my search by using words from that list to find other jobs in other cities to see if there are any additional words that I need to capture.

With my list of Keywords I am then able to update my resume to match the current trend in employee search and hopefully make my resume rise to the top of the lists that HR and the people at the agencies are creating.

Good luck with your Keyword building : )

 

« Previous PageNext Page »