People I know were on TV!

One of the best things about working at Intuit was the Quality Assurance people that I worked with. They were all professional, hard working and smart. One of them, Anders Mortinson, showed just how smart he is last Friday when he was on Jeopardy. You may have heard that  for the first time ever Jeopardy had a three way tie on Friday. As a result there was even a story about him  in our local paper. He also got to come back to compete again on Monday. A friend told me that at Intuit on Friday they had a pizza party and over
50 people ate pizza and watched the show. Scott Cook even attended.

Last Monday  my daughter Allison was on national TV too! She and her friends were visiting New York and could be seen in the crowd outside the Today Show on NBC. They also got to shake hands with Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, and Al Roker.  Allison is the one with an octopus on her head 🙂

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The Big Day!

I think it rather ironic that I left Sun after 18 years at least partly because of the possibility of being laid off. Sun does so many lay offs that they can say that lay offs are a core competency.Today I was laid off by a profitable company that is rated one of the very top companies to work for in the country. Of course this isn’t the whole story. Had I looked I might have found another job and then I would still be employed. Instead I quite happily chose to retire.

So today is probably the end of my work life. I say probably because I haven’t ruled out taking on another job or consulting assignment that really excites me. But for now I have reached that very exciting major milestone, Retirement! I am still sad to see the project I put all my energy into for the last 17 months die and I am sad to be leaving a lot of new friends but mostly I am very  excited about all the possibilities in front of me.

A few updates on activities this week…. My non fiction book club met Wednesday night. we read Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox. In this biography Maddox does a masterful job of describing complex science and of telling Franklin’s story. It is a compelling book and I highly recommend it.

Last night we went to Yoshi’s and saw Earl Klugh perform. I always enjoy live music at Yoshi’s and although I wasn’t familiar with Klugh’s music I really enjoyed the show.

Building the team

My to do list is getting longer and longer as we approach the launch of PortfolioMinder. I’m torn between developing processes, building my technical expertise, creating an awesome team and helping move us towards product launch. I think the highest priority has got to be building the support team. The first group of agents are on board. they are really doing great. I think having people who are financial planners themselves provide support is going to work very well. I’ve got a lot of names and resumes lined up for when we are ready to bring on more agents too.

I think having the agents work from wherever they are located is going to work well. My experience with Sun’s iWork program (marketed exteranlly as Sun’s Open Work Practice) is proving to be a big help to me in creating the PortfolioMinder support program. Creating a sense of team work and community within the distributed team is high on  my priority list. I don’t think it can be rushed though. Real teamwork is something that develops over time not something that you can force. The team members are really helping each other and sharing their experiences. I’d say we are really off on the right foot. It will be interesting to see where we are a year from now.

Some Intuit Links

Some updates on what is happening in the group I am in at Intuit, The Quicken Solutions Group (QSG).

The product I am working on, PortfolioMinder, was favorably  highlighted by Joel Bruckenstein in his  year end wrap up of financial planning industry software. We will be launching PortfolioMinder soon so I have started bringing on Customer Care agents. It is going to be a great team.

There is an article about Intuit in the latest issue of FORTUNE  – "CEO – Intuit’s Scott Cook on How to Be a Great Leader. In the copy of the magazine that I saw the article included a picture of the PortfolioMinder team room. I spend a lot of my time in that room. I  tried to find the magazine on the new stand but the article and picture weren’t in the copy of the magazine that I found. I guess they were just in the copy of the magazine that people get in the mail.

Zipingo is another product that comes out of QSG. They have made a lot of improvements to the site since it went into beta last summer, especially in the ability to search for businesses. The number of companies rated is growing too. Check Zipingo out. It is a cool site.

Six months at Intuit

I’ve been working at Intuit for six months now. It seems like a good time to step back and think about my impressions of my first six months. Keep in mind that my impressions are  parochial. I have a view of my little corner of the company and the project I am working on. Your mileage may vary. But I don’t think my experiences are necessarily atypical.

My view of Intuit is also colored by the fact that this is the first individual contributor job I  have had in a long time. I’m managing the customer care organization for PortfolioMinder. But right now it is just me. This is by design and absolutely the right strategy and what I signed up for. Up until now If things were going to get done to build the customer care organization I’m pretty much the one who did them. I’m starting to bring customer care agents on but these first six months have been very much about doing instead of managing. I have enjoyed it. I certainly had stints at Sun when I wasn’t managing but I was always getting things done through people.

I have to smile a bit because I think I am getting payback for all the meetings I scheduled as a manager. I thought my meetings were really important and I think I discounted people’s complaints about too many meetings. Now I am feeling the reality that when you are in a meeting you aren’t getting tangible things done. I always knew that intellectually, but now I am really feeling the pain of having to work extra hours to get things done around the meetings.

On the other hand the meetings are also a sign of one of the many things that are right about Intuit. I truly feel that my opinions count and that I am making a very real contribution to my group and to PortfolioMinder.  My group makes a very big effort to keep every one informed and I think we are a much more effective team because of  it. I really appreciate the attitude towards employees at Intuit. We are encouraged to have a balanced life and not work 16 hours a day.

Intuit has a very strong culture of being customer focused. From what I have seen they don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk. Intuit is known for its emphasis on the user experience. From what I have experienced it is part of the DNA of the company. We have had more contextual interviews, end to end user experience discussions, and reviews of the user interface than anywhere I have ever worked. It would be very easy as we push to deliver our product to say we’ll worry about the user later. But we really are researching what works and making changes as a result of it. Even though at times it is frustrating I know that at the end it will be better product.

I heard an interesting story in an all hands meeting the other day. Apparently Steve Bennett was talking to some people and they asked him if Intuit hires anthropologists. He answered "Why would I hire one anthropologist when I have 7000?" There is no doubt that we pride ourselves on listening to consumers and knowing what they want. I would agree that it is a very real part of the Intuit DNA.

All of our goals are structured around Intuit’s three stakeholders; customer, stockholders and employees. I not only see the emphasis on employees and customers that I described above, but I definitely see a focus on shareholders. There is a strongly articulated understanding of and commitment to the need to fuel the growth of the company and to do it for the long haul not just for the next quarter.

So what are my impressions? I just took my first annual employee survey. I like working here. I like the company vision, strategy and focus and I would recommend Intuit to others. I think we have a bright future.

Andy Gluck Reviews PortfolioMinder

I have talked to a lot of financial advisors lately and many of them say that product reviews influence their decision making process when they are shopping for software. The names of one or two reviewers  come up consistently when I ask advisors to whom they pay attention. Andy Gluck Is a  name that I hear mentioned consistently.

Recently Gluck wrote  a column for the Investment Advisor magazine and website about Intuit and PortfolioMinder. The column was mainly about Intuit and what it means for Intuit to be entering the financial planning software market. Gluck said  Intuit’s entry into this market could be "a pivotal development in the evolution of the independent advisor segment of the financial services industry". I would definitely agree with that assessment. I only have four months of experience at Intuit, all of it working on PortfolioMinder, but I am convinced that Intuit is in this for the long haul.

I am still reading the book The Innovator’s Solution by Christensen and Raynor.  By reading it one can really see how the PortfolioMinder product fits into Intuit’s strategy for  disruptive innovation and  customer driven innovation. This is where Gluck gets it wrong about PortfolioMinder. He said that his panel of  "advisors who attended the Web demo—mostly sophisticated advisors who
have attended demos of several other PMS applications with me in the
past—reacted. It is stunning to see how simplistic the system is "

If you read The Innovators Solution or listen to what Intuit says about PortfolioMinder you will see that Intuit is not making the mistake of trying to compete with the high cost end full featured, expensive solutions that alredy exist. PortfolioMinder instead is designed as a relatively low priced entry level  solution that is targetted at customers who don’t want or can’t afford the complex expensive solutions that are available today. PortfolioMinder essentially competes against non consumption not against existing well entrenched products.

We have a ways to go before PortfolioMinder is ready for release but I’ve talked to a lot of advisors in the past few weeks and I believe we will find a ready market among the advisors who don’t have a solution today. Gluck missed the point when he picked his panel of reviewers for PortfolioMInder but he got it rightr when he said that "If Intuit— ….. —can fulfill its mission in this little corner of the
world, independent advisors will be better off." I also believe that PortfoliomInder will help Intuit’s Quicken group become a growth engine for the compnay. I am excited to be a part of it.

Demonstrating PortfolioMinder

I got back last Sunday from the Financial Planning Association Conference in San Diego. We previewed PortfolioMinder
at the conference. It was a huge success! I am going to be the Customer Care Manager for  PortfolioMinder which is new software from Intuit for independent financial advisers. There was a phenomenal amount
of interest for PortfolioMinder at the show. I’ve never done so many demos in all my life. There were 5
of us demonstrating PortfolioMinder for three days and we were busy almost all the
time.

Here is a picture of the booth and the team doing demos.
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It really is fun to work on the launch of a new product. There is so much to do. This week in addition to lots of other stuff I helped set up and run three research sessions. In each one we talked to an adviser about his or her software purchase process. We used WebEx to virtually watch over the adviser’s shoulder while he or she used our marketing web site. It is interesting how some people just look at the screen shots and hardly read any of the text and others read all the text especially the FAQs.

We also have done research sessions with advisers who are using PortfolioMinder to see what works and what doesn’t work for them when they use the product.  I haven’t been able to attend one of the product research sessions yet but I’m looking forward to attending some soon. Intuit is well Known for its follow me home method of studying the user experience. I can really see how easy it would be to not do user experience research because there just doesn’t seem to be time in the middle of developing and  launching a product, but I  can also see why having done the research will make a big difference in the end product we release.