Thursday, November 20, 2014

the Happy App- my journey of developing intelligent internal apps

Developing new and valuable products and services is not an easy thing, and it always comes with some pressure. Especially when we talk about internal ones, that your peers will use. My colleagues are my users. The last thing I want is to waste my peers' time, decrease their productivity, confuse them or make them contribute less to IBM business. As an IBMer who has been honored to work in a team developing new, beautiful and intelligent apps for other IBMers, I feel that responsibility every second. There have been many nights that I spent asking myself: is this really helping my colleagues be more productive, perform better? is it fast enough? does it bring everything they need? is it helping them shape their behavior and preparing them for the future? if they will use it daily, will they be able to make more clients happy? and the list goes on...
As all companies are racing to become more mobile- from equipping their employees with smartphones or tablets to creating simple apps for their teams to work smarter (unless you consider buying some), I am very sure that someday you will come close enough to a situation where you will have to develop or deploy some. Although my journey continues, here are the learnings so far:
  1. THANK USERS- the same way you'd thank an external client for buying your new product, don't forget to thank your peers for trying your tool, providing feedback or sharing the app with another peer. Find ways to reward them and even publicly acknowledge their contribution. It doesn't cost anything to copy their manager on a note or post a nice message on their profile page. For great contributors think inviting them for lunch or bringing them over to meet your team. Happy users will spread the word to their teams, will be your ambassadors and won't hesitate providing feedback on new features when asked.
  2. DON'T FORGET UX - just because I am an IBMer, it doesn't mean I know how all IBMers think and would interact with the tool. I often hear people talking about "sellers" or "managers" when referring to my users, however users may have way less in common than we think. Especially when you talk different ages, cultures, men, women, small hands, big hands, good vision, poor vision, millenial or not, low or high performer, new or seasoned employee...Talking to as many as possible is key to understanding how they will use the apps and what they need.
  3. REPLY FAST-I often see how comments and questions lay abandoned in some obsolete forums. However if you have a community, email address or section in the app where people provide feedback, make sure that answers are being provided instantly or in max 24h. After all you don't want to look like you don't care.
  4. KEEP IT SIMPLE - again don't assume that because you have the same employer, both you and your users speak the same language, have the same understanding, vocabulary or preferences. Your app should be simple enough even for an external person or a new hire to understand it.
  5. GOOD SPEED and GOOD USABILITY- if you design an app then it means people will use it on their mobile devices. If so then be prepared to compete for their time and attention with Facebook, Linked.IN, other apps and tons of social games. Your app needs to be super fast and have good usability. Otherwise people will play with something else :)
  6. MIX TALENT Having members in your team coming from external agencies, IT, marketing, sales, designers, and other parts of the business will help increase the creativity and usability of your app. Don't think only IT people can build stuff for IT, or only that Finance knows what accountants need.
  7. BE COMPETITIVE Building stuff for your own company is not easy work- you need to manage conflicts, be ready to fight for accessing data or compete or collaborate with other apps that are being deployed at the same time.
  8. BE AGILE - My team works in agile. It helps us develop stuff together with our users, fail quickly and succeed faster. Whenever I tell users that in 2-3 weeks you may see this feature live, they are happy. I can't imagine how it would be to tell them that we will only fix this bug in 3 months....Agile is the best!
  9. PREPARE TO SCALE- internal doesn't mean just for one team or for a country. Plan and develop your tool keeping in mind that it will have to scale across geos, it will require translation, you'll need to find data sources and understand various privacy regulations. You'll also have to deploy it, build a communications network, equip them with training materials and so on. The sooner you prepare for it, the better!
  10. BE AN AMBASSADOR! There will never be someone more passionate about your work than yourself. You built this, you know the users, you know the ups and downs, you love every single feature. Use your networks, team calls, communities to promote your new baby!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wear Happy!

I like wearing things that remind me to be happy: my super favorite scarf, the ear rings I got from my grandma, a perfume my husband gave me....I know this may not be news, but when I found this "Happy" necklace in Hiroshima I realized that we kind of do that by chance. We should all plan and wear things that make us happy more often, every day :) So now it's on my list: favorite dress tomorrow and my happy bag on Friday! #happymaking

Friday, August 22, 2014

The three ways that good design makes us happy

A great #happymaking video that explains not only why being so happy helps me get so many things done but also made me realize that developing and making available an app for IBMers, that has some awesome design, will make them happy, will make them so much more productive. Happy to work on happy design :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#happymaking at work

A while ago I got featured on IBM's Social Biz Blog. They made a pretty neat graphic with some of my beliefs and favorite experiences. Hope you see the #happymaking is serious business, happening at the office every single day :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Flowers of happiness

Hello my friends! Can't believe it's been months since I have last posted something, and mostly as I couldn't recover my log in credentials due to some IT issues related to me being in Japan :) However I am back now (managed to log in from London). And happier than ever! Japan it is really amazing and there is not much note to love about it. Simple things done in a flawless manner and cultural discoveries are inspiring me every day. The attention paid to details, the harmony, the beauty...I must say I will have a really hard time going back to Europe at some point in my life.

One thing people love most about Japan is also the beauty of its nature, the mountains and the beaches, the colored trees and the cherry blossoms. Which are nice but not all that Japan has to offer in terms of natural beauty. And I find this a bit unfair, especially as a person who loves flowers :) Japan is not just about cherry blossoms. There are tens of flower viewings (hanami- which btw started around plum trees blossoms and only later on changed to cherry trees).  Wisteria (called Fuji in Japanese, like the mountain :), my absolute favorite place is Ashikaga ), azalea, hydrangea, shibazakura (translates to cherry blossoms on the ground), irises, roses, lavender and many more are enchanting use month after month, season after season.

I am posting a couple of pics below, hopefully some of you will get inspired and visit Japan around the time when some of these beauties are in bloom- see calendar here.  (remember they kind of bloom from south to north).

Wisteria (Fuji)
Azalea at Nezu shrine

Plum Trees (UME)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All ends well, when #happymaking in Japan

It's been a while, a very long while since I have posted here. Partially because the evil Blogger platform didn't want to accept my yahoo account credentials for a while (which means, at any time, this can be the end :) ), partially because I have been pretty busy moving to Tokyo and starting in my new role in Japan.

But I am back now!!!! Right in time to wish you a Happymaking 2014!

This blog won't turn into a travel diary, not about an expat's life in Japan, since all my happy updates go on Facebook. However I do feel many of the coming #happymaking topics will be about my Japanese experiences.

Like the cute video below, in which I got to be part of during my first week @ IBM Japan :)
AKB48 is a very popular girls band and they have this song that became pretty popular. Lots of groups, companies and even government agencies did their own version of it. Below you can see IBM's, with our football cheerleaders, employees, executives and even clients :)  Try and spot me!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Let's Speakeasy in New York!

Hello from NY, half way through my six weeks assignment in the big city, I must admit I am enjoying it more than I was expecting to. It is still not my favorite city in the world, nor the place where I can see myself growing old, BUT it has some really interesting facettes. And since I am such a foodie person, one of the best things is being able to find food from all around the world. I love starting my day with bottled coconut water and fresh papaya, as it reminds me of tropical Sri Lanka :) And then have cultural touchpoints with India, Japan, China or ...Cuba for lunch and dinner.

I know, you'll say that you can have very multiculti food experiences in plenty of places around the world. So I won't argue with that.

But here is something you won't find anywhere else, or at least I didn't find so far: the SPEAKEASY!

During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), it was illegal to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages in the US, so manufacturers and merchandisers had to find alternatives :) They came up with secret places, that were looking like shops or restaurants, while behind the back doors they were hiding small bars. And they were called so because of the practice of speaking very quietly about the existance of such places in that no police or neighbours could find out about them! Of course speakeasies have largely disappeared after 1933, but nowadays they came back to life, hiding glamorous retro style bars.

I don't really drink, so I have never been a fan of bars, but the detective/treasure hunter in me loves finding these places :) Pure HAPPYMAKING!

There are still about two I need to check- the Apotheke (I know, I wonder if it looks like a German pharmacy:) ) and the Bathtub Gin- but let me share some of my favorites so far :)

  • Angel's Share (looks like a Japanese restaurant, but in the back there is a nice bar, with good food and a view on the street) - 8 Stuyvesant St, East Village
  • Decibel ( looks like a ...Chinese kitchen in a basement?! but inside it is a Japanese sake bar). Dark and pretty underground but you will enjoy it! It is close by to Angel's Share so u can do both in one trip :)
  • Beauty & Essex   is in the Lower East Side and it looks like a shop. You may see lots of people going in, but find the shop remains empty :) In the back there is a pretty glamorous bar where they even serve champagne in the ladies' room!
  • The Tippler- we have only checked this one during the day and you can find it in the Meatpacking District. It is pretty huge so I am sure it gets very animated during the night.
  • The Backroom or previously called the Lansky Lounge is also in Lower East Side and unless you know the right address you will completely miss it. As there is no sign in from of that basement entrance...although you will find a big guy that may give you a hint. Then you walk through a tunnel and voila: nice bar with cocktails served in coffee cups (again to trick the police!). It is worth mentioning that this place has a speakeasy in a speakeasy - there is a secret door behind the library...however not for all guests. So invite a celebrity to join you, maybe you will get it :)
  • Please don't tell again in the East Village. Now this place looks like a small restaurant where they sell hot dogs. Which btw I have heard they are really good! Once you enter the restaurant there is a phone booth :) Go in, pick up the phone and dial 1. A nice lady will answer and let you know if you can come in or there is a waiting list.
This should be enough for now :) Enjoy your little, happymaking detective work and let me know which one was your favorite!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fake Happiness

Back from China with a very interesting first impression. First of all I was impressed with world's largest city and the fact that Shanghai was clean, traffic pretty ok, good infrastructure and many green spaces. Lots of things to love about the Chinese culture, the arts, the attention for details and even the food :)

However not what I want to write about today. One thing that has really amused me is that China where you can find EVERYTHING- how can you tell what is REAL or FAKE?

I went to a FAKE market during my first day- shopping for some Jimmy Choo, Chanel and other souvenirs :) I was impressed on how well organized the fake industry is: there were different types of fake quality, bargaining was incredibly fun (you start at 10-20% of what they are asking and end up with 25 or 30), there were secret doors and passages to get access to items from the latest collections. A pretty fun experience. Must admit-I bought most of the stuff for the pleasure I had when negotiating and discovering the sellers' behaviors.

I have no idea what this banner says. I saw it on the way from the airport to my hotel during my first day and thought it would be a fun addition to my #happymaking collection. So please accept my excuses in case there is something wrong with it :)  I thought about it like "Call  5223666 and get some Happiness" - which seems very reasonable to me, especially since I learned one can get anything in China. Which for me, who I was imagining them being a true communist country, was a total surprise. You see in Romania, when we were little and during Communism, there were no Ferraris on the streets, no Coca Cola, H&M, expensive brands and private companies. No endless groups of foreign tourists, no public transportation til late in the night, not even as much milk as my parents wanted to buy for us. We knew all these are available in China but still for someone coming from an ex-Communist country this was a bit of a shock.

But you wander, is this a fake democracy? And if you dig deeper will you find the same challenges we had to go through years ago- do people still feel fear? Do Chinese people feel free, do they own their future, their education, their development? Or is this optimism...fake?

You think of fake bags, fake democracy and during a late night taxi ride back to the hotel, someone concludes "Damn, we have absolutely no clue what is fake and real in this world !". And everyone gets quiet, thinking that we all ended up in China, wondering how much of what we see around us or at home is real, how much us as humans and Marketers are contributing to the fake world we are creating for ourselves.

It makes me want to continuously repeat it to myself:
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.
I want to keep HAPPINESS authentic.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Anatomy of Sadness

Not a very happymaking title, or? However I tend to compare being a Happymaker to being a surgeon: we cannot understand and fix something until we know our problem inside out. And to me personally, surgeons are those people who know our bodies inside out, still they continue to discover new things, continue to reinvent their techniques, are always hit with diseases and situations they have not seen before. Similar to making people happy if you ask me, although theoretically there is some recipe that should work (health, money, friends, travels, inner peace,  you name it!) you always end up discovering that more is needed, or that nothing can make some people happier. But before trying to find alternatives and discovering new techniques, the happymaker needs to know about some basic "diseases". Let's start with what I like to call the cancer of happiness: the SADNESS.

As my friend Sherlock Holmes would have said, for a complete immersion into our investigation, life has pushed me to experiment this myself a couple of times. Actually this time last year, my dad was passing away, my happymaker was leaving me and the worlds were about to collide- so no better time to write about sadness than today! And because I'm a happy soul and didn't want to write a weepy post, I'll keep my report in the sciences area :)

So how does sadness work? 5 observations:
  • It strikes more powerful or pretty subtle and we accept it because we consider crying for days, not eating, trying to hurt ourselves or whatever as being NORMAL. Mistake number one, don't fool yourself that being sad is normal, otherwise you'll end up spending more time sad than happy.
  • Just like cancer, it spreads, and before you notice, the consequences of being sad start reflecting on your body - thyroids, liver, brain..all can be seriously affected.
  • It affects others- your family, friends, people you work with will see the same face but never hear the same old happy you again. After some time you will success to push them away.
  • It always comes back. Memories are a great gift God has given us, but regrets and bringing back sad moments in our lives are pure poison. I can quote another friend here, Mr Robbie Williams "no regrets, they don't work, no regrets, they only hurt". 
  • It changes us, which is normal, everything we go thorough in this life leaves a footprint on us. However we can still control HOW we choose to be changed, if challenges teach us something and make us stronger or if we will never stand up again. So it's ok, accept you're a bit different now. We all are!
Hopefully now you see being sad is serious business and won't go back to that dark place in your mind too often. Especially since not all of us are great poets and writers to make some stories that sell out of exploring our feelings and emotions :)

Remember to smile,
it's FRIDAY!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Videoscribing Christmas Happiness

I am a BIG fan of animation and today I've been told Sparkol has 7 days free trials for their videoscribe here we go, my first story :)

Not sure if Santa will manage, but hopefully next year I will get a PRO account!