What I am Learning

I’ve been at Intuit for three months now. There was an article in The Economist on August 25 that I thought caught some of the essence of how Intuit operates. The article was titled The King of Disrupting. Unfortunately you have to subscribe to the Economist to read the article but I thought I would talk some about the way Intuit operates as described in the article.

I’ve been reading The Innovator’s Solution by Clay Christensen of the Harvard Business School. The Economist article starts out by pointing out that Intuit has stayed on the list of companies that continue to be disruptors. Other companies like Sony were disruptors but aren’t any more. Sony pioneered the use of transistors in consumer electronics . Their products were major disruptors but Sony no longer releases disrupting products. Intuit on the other hand continues to create disruptive products.

There is no question that the concepts described in The Innovators Solution are a part of the fabric of how Intuit operates.  You can see the concepts reflected in a lot we do. The Innovator’s Solution says that "The Key to success with low end disruptions is to devise a business model that can earn attractive returns at the discount prices required to win business at the low end." Intuit did this with Turbotax, Quickbooks, and Medical Expense Manager.  When we  get it right we attract the non consumers and that leads to market disruption.  I see us following the disruptor model in a lot of areas. I know that in the product I am working on building a low cost model while still building  a product that customer’s want and need is key to what we are doing. It is certainly not an easy thing to do.

The Economist article also talks about Intuit’s passion for Customer Driven Innovation.  It is clear to me that this is part of Intuit’s DNA. We have been visiting our Beta testers to see what works and what doesn’t work in using our product. It makes releasing a product harder but I firmly believe that we will eventually get it right because we are not relying on what we think customers need  but instead on what they show us and tell us.

I highly encourage you to read The Innovators Solution. I am only half way through it and I haven’t read the Innovators Dilemma but certainly The Innovator’s Solution is a  fascinating and thought provoking book.

 

What I’ve been working on

This is what I have been working on at Intuit for the last 3 months. The week after next I am going to the Financial Planning Association convention in San Diego. I’ll be helping to demonstrate the product.  Right now we are in the middle of beta testing. It has been very interesting to watch planners start to use the product for the first time. If you are going to be at the FPA conference and would like to meet up let me know or just come by the Intuit booth.

Sun and Calendaring

I’ve been at Intuit 3 months now. Moving from the Sun Solaris, Java Desktop, SunRay environment to the Laptop Windows environment has been very interesting. There is a lot of stuff that just works better on SunRay and I know life is easier when you don’t have to be your own system administrator but there is one thing that is a big improvement at Intuit. Calendaring. People (especially admins) at Sun spend hours and hours setting up meetings mainly using email. When I occasionally used to go to an admin and ask him or her to set up a big meeting  the admin would usually cringe. The amount of back and forth to figure out when  people were available was daunting.

I know Outlook has enormous security issue but does it ever make calendaring and setting up meetings easy. At Intuit you just look at every ones  calendar in Outlook pick a meeting time and send the email. When someone accepts  a meeting the meeting automatically gets added to his or her calendar. You can propose alternate times and also build the meeting room scheduling and  conference call scheduling right into your meeting announcement.

I know that the IT group at Sun has plans to address calendaring in the future. Having worked at Sun for 18 years I didn’t know what I was missing.

Traveling

I haven’t been posting much lately but I’m going to turn that around starting now. I’ve been doing some traveling lately. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I made my first business trip to Tucson where Quicken Solutions Group  Customer Support is headquartered. I finally got to meet all my co-workers there. Intuit’s fiscal year starts in August so we were doing planning for the new fiscal year.

We also did a great video scavenger hunt as a team building exercise. I usually hate these kinds of things and I went in with a bit of a ‘let’s get this over with’ attitude. But it turned out to be a lot of fun and definitely was a team builder. The goal was to earn points by completing tasks off a list and video taping us completing our tasks. One task was to have a stranger do a celebrity impersonation. One of the women in our group has horses so we went out to  see her horses and one of them impersonated Seabiscuit and the other did a great  Mr Ed impersonation complete with "oh Wilburrrr!" Another requirement was to make a three minute movie using only lines from this list . I think our movie was definitely the best. We ended up at a great restaurant in Tucson, had dinner and watched all the  movies. I was totally impressed with what a wonderful group I work with, all they have accomplished this past year and what fun the scavenger hunt turned out to be.

My second trip was this past weekend. Duke left Wednesday to  take his twin daughters to college in LA.  I flew down to join him Thursday night.  I got to see my daughter Shannon and see Duke’s girls dorm and campus. Then Duke and I took the rest of the weekend to drive back up the coast. On the way home we visited the Reagan Presidential library, strolled through downtown Santa Barbara, played a little blackjack and poker at the Chumash casino, and tasted wine at San Marcos Creek Vineyard.

One of my goals is to visit all of the presidential libraries. I’ve been to the Kennedy library,  the Johnson library, and now the Reagan library. I’d like to do research at each library but so far have not even started that. If you could research one thing in Reagan’s papers what would it be?

So now we are empty nesters!

English Passengers

About a year ago one of my bosses at Sun recommended the novel English Passengers by Matthew Kneale. I just finished reading it and highly recommend it.  It is about a crew of smugglers from the Isle of Man who charter their boat to an expedition searching for the Garden of Eden. The group is headed by a clergyman who believe he will find the Garden of Eden in Tasmania. The back of the book describes the book as and "epic romp across the high seas and cultures of the nineteenth century." and I would agree. There are very few books that make you laugh out loud but this one does. It has some very serious themes too. One of the expedition members is developing a malevolent thesis about the superiority of races.. The book is also intertwined with what is happening to the aborigines of Tasmania. Bottom line it is a great story. Usually I can anticipate how a book will end but this one had me guessing until the end.

After recently reading
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by
Mark Haddon
I am conscious of how perspective is used in a novel. English Passengers is told from the perspectives of  at least 20 different people. You might think this would be confusing or  heavy handed but the book flows beautifully.

English Passengers was a Whitbread Book of the Year and was a finalist for the Booker Prize. Interestingly enough
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time also won the Whitbread prize. I just looked up the Whitbread Prize and the site says "The criteria are to select well-written, enjoyable books that they would strongly recommend anyone to read." Based on this I think I’m going to have to read some other Whitbread winning books.

Zipingo traffic

Since I wrote a short blog entry about Zipingo a few weeks ago almost half the referrers to my blog have been  because of Zipingo Google searches. Rather surprisingly my blog entry is the number one result of a Zipingo Google search. I understand  a little bit about how Google works  but I don’t really understand why the Zipingo site itself is not the top result of a search on the word Zipingo.  In case you didn’t read my other posting, Zipingo.com is Intuit’s new beta site for rating  businesses you use. To quote the site Zipingo is "the fastest way to find the best local businesses based on community feedback."

There are over 55,000 ratings on Zipingo.com so far. Of those 53 are mine. I am having fun rating everything I do. I know a couple of people who have got a lot of satisfaction rating a business after a bad experience. I’ve heard skepticism about whether rating local businesses on Zipingo will take off. When Scott Cook introduced Zipingo inside Intuit he mentioned that he was very skeptical when Amazon decided to implement reader ratings of books.  He says he even took Jeff Bezos aside and told him that it would never work. Cook said he quetioned why anyone would care about book reviews from people they don’t even know.  Just like Amazon book reviews took off I’m optimistic that Zipingo will be similarly successful.

It has been interesting for me to think about what Intuit might do  to create passionate Zipingo users. I always enjoy reading  Kathy Sierra’s blog, Creating Passionate Users. Her  posting back in March about  how  products create passionate wakes has had me thinking lately about how this might be applied to Zipingo. I haven’t got any great ideas yet but it has been fun to think about. The potential for Zipingo seems boundless..

Trio

Friday night Duke and I went to a concert at the The Mountain Winery in Saratoga. The Mountain Winery is my favorite place for a concert. It has a relatively small seating area and beautiful setting under the stars with the winery in the background. Whenever we go to a concert there we always have a picnic first in the parking lot overlooking the Santa Clara Valley. If you haven’t experienced a concert at the Mountain Winery you should definitely make a point of going there when you are in the San Francisco Bay area.
We saw  Stanley ClarkeBela FleckJean-Luc Ponty. who are doing a summer concert tour called Trio. All three musicians were exceptional.  Bassist Stanley Clarke makes the bass into a solo instrument.   Jazz
violinist Jean-Luc Ponty made the violin sound like about three or four instruments playing at one time and  banjo player Bela Fleck made the banjo seem like an instrument made for Jazz. When they played together the strength and power of the music took your breath away. This was one of the best concerts I have been to in a long time.