PortfolioMinder launched.

PortfolioMinder was released on Friday!! It is very exciting. We called it our soft launch because we only support one financial institution, Schwab. It is exciting to be creating a whole new software product but I find that like a new baby it is consuming me. I wake up in the morning thinking about PortfolioMinder and I spend way to much time working. It is pushing a lot of other stuff out of my life. Like Blogging. I haven’t posted here in almost three weeks. 

I’m really trying to maintain a work life balance but it is hard. I am really enjoying helping to create the PortfolioMinder end to end experience.  We have a blog (which I haven’t posted to yet) We have a forum. We have formed a network of financial advisors and other people interested in financial planning who are supporting the product. All of us are learning a lot every day and there is so much yet to learn and do. Building a support team who live all over the U.S. an exciting challenge but I’ve got a group of really great people to support the product.

We’ll be doing our marketing launch in the next month or so and will be supporting more financial institutions. Ameritrade and TD Waterhouse will be the next ones we support. That will be our marketing launch.

It is great to finally be selling PortfolioMinder. It should be an interesting next few months.

 

 

Las Vegas

Duke and I just got back from a nice 3 day mini vacation to Las Vegas. We left Sunday morning and just got back. We played some Black Jack and won enough to pay our air fare. Winning is sure a lot more fun than losing. We hadn’t been to Las Vegas in about 8 years and there are a lot of new casinos. The Venetian and the new Wynn Las Vegas were my favorites. We stayed at The Mandalay Bay which was very nice. We got a pretty good deal. I would definitely stay there again. We saw the show Mamma Mia which I would recommend if you want some light entertainment. It was enjoyable. I’m back to work tomorrow and the countdown to the launch of PortfolioMinder. It is getting close so all the support processes and systems are in final testing.

Garlic and Saphires

Duke is much better at sleeping in than I am. I love to read in bed next to him on Sunday mornings. The sun shines in through our blinds and all is right with the world. What makes Sunday morning perfect is just the right book. I’ve said before that books have a big impact on my mood. So a Sunday morning reading in bed book needs to be a book I can connect with. It needs to be a book with the right attitude. The book I just finished was perfect.

Garlic and Sapphires is subtitled "The secret life of a critic in disguise". It is written by Ruth Reichel and tells about her experiences as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Reichel is a wonderful story teller. Her ability to capture the essence of an experience makes it very easy to like her and identify with her. Reading this book just made me feel good.

It is fascinating how the disguises she uses  change how she acts and how the alternative personalities start to seep into her personal life. I love how Reichel begins to realize how her life is being impacted and how she decides what to do about it.

I love how Reichel refuses to take herself seriously. She totally gets that it is her job that makes restaurants treat her like royalty. That is why her disguises are so great. The difference between how she is treated when she is the New York Times food critic and when she is one of her characters is not really surprising. It is just nice to see it acknowledged.

After being treated very poorly at  what is supposed to be one of New York’s finest restaurants Molly (Ruth in disguise) says to her dinner companion, an acting coach, "You, of all people, should understand the importance of theater. The food may be good, but the service has been so bad that the evening is destroyed…… I did not come here simply to eat, I came here for glamour. I am willing to pay for the privilege of feeling rich and important for a few small hours. Is that too much to ask?" She is so right!

Garlic and Sapphires is a wonderful book. I highly recommend it.

 

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.

Movies

We went to see  Duma today. It is set in south Africa and is the story of a boy who adopts a baby cheetah. I enjoyed the movie and the scenery was fantastic.

Last weekend we saw Pride and Prejudice. I was disappointed. I love the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice so much that I am afraid I am spoiled for any other version. I think I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t had such high hopes for it. Apparently the version they have been showing in the UK has a different ending than the US version, I wonder if British tastes are really that different.

The movie we saw before that was Match Point. The movie starts with a tennis ball hitting the top of the net and hesitating there for a second. The point of this is that luck plays a very big role in how our lives turn out. I found Match Point so nerve racking that I could hardly watch it but I would definitely recommend it.

I still haven’t seen the latest Harry Potter movie or Narnia. I love both books so I am looking forward to seeing them next.

Fart Proudly

Thanks to Digital Rules: The Blog by Rich Karlgaard, I was reminded that today is Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday. Franklin is absolutely my favorite historical figure.  If you want to read something fun and different I suggest Fart Proudly – Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School edited by Carl Japikse. At the end of his introduction Japikse points out that Franklin was not an "antiseptic, prudish man …. He was bawdy, roguish, and loved to play jokes on his friends. And when England grew oppressive, he was not afraid to rebel." Two of my favorite pieces in the book are "On Choosing A Mistress"  in which Franklin advises why "in all your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones." and "Who’s the Ass" about trying to please everyone at the same time.

On a different note… I am really enjoying Rich Karlgaard’s blog. Before I started reading his blog I always read and enjoyed his column in Forbes. It has the kind of voice that good blogs also have.  Not to mention the coincidence that Karlgaard went to the same elementary school as I did in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was two years behind me and in my sister Barbara’s class.

It is Hard to Make Something Easy

I think I have mentioned before that as we get ready to launch PortfolioMinder we are doing a lot of watching people use the product. I would say this ability to learn from how people use our product is a core competency of the people in my group and I suspect it is a core competency of Intuit. It has been fascinating and a bit awe inspiring to watch how the designers and user experience experts work.

This really hit me in a research session on Friday. There is a part of the basic PortfolioMinder data architecture that is key to the product. Over the past year no matter how the screens were laid out people just weren’t getting it. It was fascinating and frustrating to watch how they would fill in the wrong information on the screen and then find that the data didn’t make sense. The designers have been trying different things to make it easy for people to get it right since the beginning of the product design.

On Friday we were watching a pilot tester use our latest build and he Got It! He put the right data in the right place. What was weird and cool at the same time was that it was easy. It was obvious and it seemed like no big deal. He filled in the data and everything made sense. No one will ever comment on how well this screen works. It just seems obvious. But I am really impressed with how hard it was to make it easy.