Changes Coming

If I were to pick a theme song for the past 3 months it would have to be “Changes” by David Bowie. It’s been a wild ride. In August I parted ways with the company I had been working at for the past 6+ years. It was a difficult decision – but ultimately I believe it was the right thing to do. I still have a lot of friends at RL Solutions and I sincerely wish them well in the future. I am honoured and grateful to have had the chance to contribute to that company’s growth.

After my departure (and at the insistence of my wife and my friends), I took some time off. I didn’t check email for a few weeks, I tweeted only occasionally, we went on vacation out of town a couple of times as a family and I did a lot of work around the house that had been piling up over the years. I must admit I did feel a bit anxious during that whole time and I really felt guilty about not looking for a job. Looking back now it was probably the best thing for me. A rare chance to recharge my batteries without the pressure of work.

This past month, I joined a new company – Nightingale Informatix –  a provider of a cloud-based electronic medical record (EMR). I am in a role that I love – Marketing – with a team of really talented and dedicated people. I am really excited about where the company is going and what we will be able to do together. I feel blessed to be able to stay in healthcareIT (something I’m truly passionate about) and that I’m once again surrounded by good people.

This past month I also started a new blog and tweetchat with a friend of mine, Lisa Fields. It’s #HCLDR and it’s focused on the topic of healthcare leadership – something that we both believe we need more of. Our goal is to educate and discuss the role of leadership in healthcare – no matter if you are a leader in title or a leader in spirit. Both Lisa and I believe that the only way that healthcare is going to improve is when more leaders emerge. Hosting a weekly tweetchat has been fun and daunting. I have new respect for moderators – it’s a lot of hard work!

So a lot has been going on…but one thing that I have neglected is this blog. I’ve been really thinking hard about it over the last few months. As you can see from the archive list, I haven’t been able to post regularly and the topics are all over the map. I think that my inability to focus this blog on a particular topic has lead to the lack of posts. Whenever I tried to sit and write a post, I ended up staring at a blank page for 30min with too many topics swirling around in my head. I need to focus. So with the launch of #HCLDR (and thus an outlet for my healthcare related posts) and with my return to a role I enjoy, I’ve decided that I’m going to change the focus of this blog to something that’s near and dear to my heart – success through marketing.

In the coming weeks, I will begin posting about marketing strategies, tactics and experiences that small/mid-sized organizations can use to achieve greater success.


Fast Food Leadership Lessons


The CNE Midway at dusk

In Toronto something happens every August that signals the beginning of the end of summer – the opening of the Canadian National Exhibition (aka CNE, aka The Ex). The CNE opens in the middle of August, runs for 3 weeks and ends on the weekend before school starts in September. I’ve been going to the CNE every year since I was 8. Some of my fondest memories are from riding the rides and eating cotton candy there. When I was 16 I got the chance to actually work at the CNE and it was during that short stint that I got my first real lessons on leadership at work.

The famous Food Building at the CNE.

When I was 16, I got a job as a Taco Chef (…the official title was Taco Prepper) at the Mexicasa kiosk in the Food Building at the CNE. It was there that I had the privilege of working for a Head Manager named Tony. Tony was the kind of guy that anybody would want to work for. He was funny, patient, kind and completely down-to-earth. I didn’t realize it back then, but the way Tony ran the operation and the way he treated us as his team left a huge impression on me. In fact, a lot of how I lead today stems from what I experienced that summer.

Lesson 1: Always be professional.

The first day on the job was a disaster. We had no food, our oven didn’t work, half the lights wouldn’t turn on and we had only 1 cash register. Things were so disorganized that our line manager, Francois, blew a gasket and began throwing utensils and other kitchen objects out of the kiosk into the aisle. Throughout this tirade, Tony stayed calm. He waited until the tantrum ended and simply asked Francois “Are you feeling better?” After a moment of stunned silence, Tony thanked Francois for releasing his frustration: “Thank you Francois for helping all of us release our frustration. You acted out what we all feel inside – stressed and frustrated. I can’t promise you things will get better, but the team and I could really use your help in these next 3 weeks if you’re up for the challenge. If not, that’s okay too. Things are likely to be very frustrating for the next few days and that isn’t for everybody.”  Tony then took Francois aside and by the end of the conversation, they shook hands and Francois left – never to be seen again.

I was amazed at how calmly Tony handled the situation. He didn’t freak out, he didn’t reprimand Francois in front of the team , instead he stayed cool. In fact he managed to turn a negative situation into a positive one because the way he remained professional really inspired the rest of us. It was really comforting to know that our leader could handle a crisis like this in a calm and level-headed way.

Lesson 2: Be open to new ideas.

Be open to new ideas.

After the departure of Francois, we got to work preparing for the lunchtime opening. We borrowed utensils from neighboring kiosks, we negotiated with the GE dealer onsite and got a working convection oven to use until ours was fixed and with about an hour until opening, most of our condiments and other foodstuffs arrived.  With some serious teamwork we got the kiosk ready with 15min to spare…but there was one big problem – none of our taco meat had arrived. So here we were with everything to make tacos, except for the main ingredient.

Tony gathered us all in the back for a team meeting. “Folks, we’ve all worked really hard in the past 2hrs to get ourselves ready. You guys really worked hard as a team, but we have a problem, our taco meat isn’t going to arrive until well after lunch. If we don’t have anything to sell, we’re going to have to shut the kiosk down and unfortunately that’d mean you’d guys would have to go home with only 2hrs of paid time. Does anyone have any ideas?” Everyone was silent for a while until finally one of the cashiers (I think her name was Michelle) put forward two ideas: selling veggie tacos and selling a hot-dog taco with hot dogs purchased from another of our neighboring kiosks. Tony loved the idea and we made it happen.

As we were getting ready, my fellow Taco Prepper (Vi was his name) came up with the idea of selling the veggie tacos at ½ price since they didn’t have any meat. At the same time, I put forward the idea of putting up a sign to promote the fact that the “hot dog taco” was an exclusive offering for the opening day only. Tony gave us the go-ahead

That’s the way it went with Tony. He always listened to people’s ideas – no matter how outlandish or impractical. During the course of the 3 weeks we ended up implementing over a hundred small improvements that people had suggested: Roasting the taco shells in the oven before serving them, forgoing heat lamps in favor of made-to-order, races between Taco Preppers and adding sprite to the taco meat prior to heating it in the ovens to adds flavor and moisture (my idea!).

What Tony taught me was that good ideas can come from anyone at anytime…and that you never know which ideas are going to homeruns and which are duds. There were several ideas that we all thought were sure-fire hits that turned out to be flops. It was only years later that I realized that it didn’t really matter which ideas worked and which didn’t, it was more important that there was a constant flow of ideas. More ideas = more potential hits.

Lesson 3: Acknowledge and reward extra effort

Acknowledge and reward people.

Back in those days, our kiosk was one of the only places at the CNE where you could get Mexican food (most would argue that a taco isn’t real Mexican cuisine, but it was the closest thing J). Because of that, we often had long lines and large orders. It was really tough to keep on top of things. All us on the day shift team ended up doing a lot more than our original job descriptions. After the events of the first day, we really bonded as a team and we did a lot of things simply because we wanted to help each other out. We covered for each other when unexpected emergencies came up, we took turns cleaning the appliances, we all got there early so that opening would be smoother – anything and everything. Through every shift, Tony was right there alongside us. He helped out when it got busy and even when he was in the back office, he kept his eye on what was happening through his window.

We never asked for any sort of extra reward for the work we put in. We all got paid a fair wage and it was fun to come to work with new friends. Tony, however, made sure that he acknowledged anyone who went above and beyond. Sometimes it was a simple “thank you” in private, sometimes it was a “good job” in front of the team and if it was something truly special it was an extra 30min added to your timecard or a bit of overtime pay.

The positive effect of these small acknowledgements was amazing. Anybody who got recognized had a smile from ear to ear. I didn’t realize it at the time, but towards the end of the CNE I asked Tony how he decided what got recognized and what didn’t. He told me that what he looked for both the obvious and the not-so-obvious. It was important to recognize someone who cleaned up a spill caused by someone else, to acknowledge someone who covered for someone else who had an emergency come up or to say thank you to someone who decided to keep working rather than take their lunch break. This was just as important as recognizing the top cashier of the day. He also told me that he felt EVERYONE on the team deserved to be thanked and that he tried to ensure that each one of us got “thank yous” at least once every couple of days.

A Lasting Impression

I really enjoyed my work at the CNE and I learned so much just being part of that Mexicasa team. Tony and the crew really made an impression on me. I got so much more than a paycheck from that experience. The bottom line: good leaders and good examples of leadership are everywhere – even in a fast food kiosk.



A Leader’s Prime Directive

The other day my son asked me what my job was. I puffed up and told him that I work with a team of talented people at a software company and that my job was to help lead the team. My son stared blankly at me and asked “What does a leader do?” I was about to start spouting tons of theories from Harvard Business Review (a must read magazine) but I caught myself. I was conflicted. My head was saying one thing and my heart was saying something else. I decided to go with my heart.

“A leader’s job is to help everyone on the team do their best. “

Satisfied with my answer, he ran off and I decided to capture my thoughts before I lost them.

To me a good leader is one who builds an environment where members of the team are performing at their best. This means ensuring the team has the right resources to succeed. It means providing opportunities for people to shine. It means pushing people to stretch their comfort zones to the point where it matches their potential. It means recognizing and rewarding collective wins as well as individual achievements. When people are working at their best it is highly likely they feel a sense of accomplishment and feel good about their contributions. This leads to positive feelings about the team. That positive energy fuels the others on the team and the organization as a whole.

Often helping people do their best means helping people become leaders themselves. This has always been my primary goal as a leader – my “prime directive” as it were. It is my personal mission to find, coach, support and finally push out as many future leaders as possible. Nothing makes me happier or prouder when I see former members of the team become leaders themselves within the same organization or at other ones.

I recognize that this isn’t the only form of leadership and that the role of leader is very complex, but for me the job is simple: help others do their best and build up as many future leaders as possible.


Usability Lessons Thru Parking

An automated ticket-on-dash parking meter

In the past couple of months I have traveled frequently. As a consequence of this travel, I’ve spent a lot of time in parking lots. I park at my home airport in Toronto, I park at the hotels I stay in, I park at our client sites and I park when I go to dinner. Like anyone who commutes or travels, I didn’t give much thought to the different types of parking lots and parking meters that I use. That is until one especially late night…

A few weeks ago I was up late working on a design for our next product release. At some point past midnight I got up out of the chair and walked over to the window to give my eyes a break. While staring outside I caught site of the parking meter. It got me thinking about how simple and intuitive parking a car is. It also got me thinking about the various approaches that you can take to run a parking lot.

Now I know you are probably wondering what parking lots have to do with software design/development.  Well, what I came to realize that night was that parking lots are an excellent way to illustrate three key IT concepts:

  1. How there are multiple intuitive ways to solve a problem
  2. How you need to keep all your stakeholders’ perspectives in mind when designing a solution
  3. How small design changes can dramatically impact the user’s experience

Multiple intuitive ways to solve a problem

The basic requirement for users of a parking lot is: Somewhere safe and clean to put my vehicle that is as close to my destination as possible. Some nice-to-haves include: a cheap price, large spaces, high ceilings (for SUV drivers), lots of exits, fast elevators and clear signage. How the parking lot is run (aka “administered” in software speak) doesn’t really factor into how I choose which lot to park in.

Here are five different approaches that parking lot owners have taken to addressing the parking needs of their users:

Old Skool approach to parking

  1. Old Skool. User parks their car, walks to the parking attendant (usually in a small booth), pays the fee and goes to their destination. To leave, user goes to their car and drives away (though sometimes additional fees need to be paid).
  2. Valet. User drives in, gives keys to valet, takes claim ticket and goes to their destination. To leave, user goes to valet station, pays the fee, waits for car to be retrieved and drives away.
  3. Automated Pre-pay with ticket-on-dash. User parks their car, walks to the ticket machine, pays the fee, takes the ticket issued, walks back to their car, places ticket on their dash and heads to their destination. To leave, user goes to their car and drives away.
  4. Automated Pre-pay no ticket. User parks their car, walks to the ticket machine, types in their space number, pays the fee and goes to their destination. To leave, user goes to their car and drives away.
  5. Automated pay-on-exit. User enters parking lot, gets a ticket from machine, parks their car, takes ticket and goes to their destination. To leave, user pays at a pay station prior to getting in their car, pays the fee, walks to their car and drives away.

…I’m sure that many of you have experienced one or more of these approaches. All of them are simple and intuitive, but take look at the same five from the perspective of the administrator (parking lot owner) and user (driver) and notice some of the differences.

User vs Admin perspectives on parking

Small changes have big impact

Consider the difference between the two automated pre-pay approaches. From the Admin perspective there is very little difference between the two. In both cases the system is inexpensive to operate and it is easy to tell which cars are over their allotted time (ticket-on-dash means the parking ticket person looks in each car window, no-ticket means the parking ticket person gets a list of expired spots from the central machine).

From the User’s perspective, however, one approach is definitely more convenient. With the ticket-on-dash approach, the user must walk back to their car in order to place the ticket in their window. This extra trip back to their car is an inconvenience – especially if they are far from the machine. With the no-ticket approach, the user can park, go to the machine and pay for their spot. No return trip and no messy receipts in the car.

Such a small change in approach and yet the impact on the User’s experience is profound.

Best approach depends on operating context

So which is the best solution? All of the approaches are easy-to-use and intuitive. Valet parking is certainly convenient for Users, but the most expensive (and highest liability) for Admins. Automated pre-pay with ticket on dash has the greatest revenue potential (people leave before their time is up, next user comes in and pays anew) and has the lowest operating costs, but it is not an ideal experience.

There is, of course, no clear answer. “The best” approach depends on the goals of the parking lot operator and the context the parking lot operates. Is it near an upscale venue? Are there competing lots nearby? Is it attached to a place where long-term stays are common (ie: an airport)? What is the local cost of labor?

What has this got to do with software?

Designing software is like choosing the right approach to operating a parking lot:

  • There are always multiple ways to solve the problem
  • It is not always clear which approach is best
  • Small changes in software design can have a profound effect on the user experience
  • The needs of both the software owner and the user must be balanced (ie: you cannot create a solution that is awesome for users, but requires the software owner to spend a ton of time, money and resources from the software owner to operate)

Unexpected Benefits

As a final note. I am continually amazed at the ingenious ways people use software. They always find ways to use a feature to solve a problem that the designers/developers never realized. It’s fantastic. Rather than ignore (or worse yet suppress) these use cases, pay attention – these are a great source of product differentiation and could be the seed for new product offerings. Pretend you are a parking lot owner and look at the “Unexpected User Benefit” column. Now imagine how much more business you could you get if you advertised those benefits?

Who knew you could learn so much from parking a car?


Build vs Buy vs Partner

Should a HealthcareIT company build, buy or partner to add functionality to their products? Not an easy answer.

Over the years I’ve had numerous debates with developers, product strategists and company executives on a particularly sticky subject: should we build our own functional component, should we buy one made by a third party or should we partner to gain access to the functionality? In my experience these debates are heated and involve many irrational emotional statements (I’m guilty of this). The end result is often an impasse – solved only when the CTO or Development Director makes a gut decision.

If you are the person that has to make the call, try to remove the emotion from the equation. Keep your head and answer the following questions before deciding:

  1. What is your product’s central purpose?
  2. Why do your clients buy your product today?
  3. How much does the functionality you are thinking about building/buying contribute to #1 or #2?
  4. Will your organization continue to invest resources (people or $$$) in this functionality beyond this next version?
  5. Will this function continue to be a differentiator or will it become commodity in the next 18-36 months?
  6. What features are clients looking for now and what will they expect in the future? Does your product team have the capacity to build those features?
  7. Is there a possibility that a competitor could acquire the company that makes the component you are considering? What would that do to your own product and company?

Question #6 is the hardest to answer. It requires that you frankly assess the skills and knowledge to build the features that your clients want. Everything looks easy at the conceptual design stage. You have to really take a good hard look at your team. There’s always a willingness to build, but do you, your team and your company have the stomach to see a build project through the next 18-36months. Building something the first time is fun. Maintaining it when the deluge of enhancement requests hits and other project pressures pull your key resources is a very different kind of “fun”.

Question #7 is one that many people overlook. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are or the builder of the component is, there is always a chance that a competitor could scoop them up.

Back in 2007, Hyperion Solutions was a stand-alone company that built enterprise class reporting and financial management tools that were adopted by thousands of companies across all industries. Hyperion was partnered with Oracle, IBM and SAP. None of these three giants had an equivalent product, but all had long standing relationships with Hyperion. In 2007, Oracle purchased Hyperion. IBM and SAP were immediately sent scrambling. Imagine being either of these two companies and seeing years of partnership suddenly get tossed out the windown. Imagine the anxiety over suddenly having your clients pay money to a competitor – who also suddenly had access to your clients directly. Yikes! Could that happen with you and the company you are considering buying the functionality from? Footnote: SAP acquired Business Objects and IBM purchased Cognos (both Hyperion competitors) later that same year.

If you can remove the emotion and the egos from the discussion then you are well on the path to making a sound decision. Answering the above questions really help to frame the reality of your situation. Once you have those answers you can make an educated gut call.


White space dominates HIMSS12

The main entrance to HIMSS12

Last week I had the privilege of attending the annual HIMSS conference in Las Vegas, NV. This conference is aimed squarely at those in healthcare that are interested or involved with technology – be it information technology (IT) or clinical technology. Over 35,000 people attended.

This was my 5th conference in a row…and I would have to say that this was by far the best experience I’ve ever had. I managed to attend some amazing sessions, I met dozens of clients at the RL Solutions booth and I met a whole bunch of people that I follow/admire from Twitter. Overall the conference was fantastic.

What I’ve always found fascinating is how much you can learn by listening to the idle chatter at lunch, on the exhibit floor and moving between sessions. This year 3 key topics seemed to be on the minds of many senior healthcare technology leaders:

  1. The delay in ICD-10
  2. When Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that her department intended to delay the ICD-10 implementation she polarized the healthcare IT community. On one side are organizations who were well on their way to achieving compliance by October 2013 and on the other are those that are not (typically smaller providers). From the chatter, it definitely appears that more HIMSS attendees fall into the former camp. There was a lot of disappointment expressed over the delay and there were a lot of comments about how the delay would potentially affect funding for IT projects in 2012 as well as 2013. There were even several comments made about how this decision would undermine the influence of IT (presumably because extra funds/resources were requested in order to deal with the impending deadline which has now been moved). Overall the sentiment towards the delay was negative. Personally I liked when my university professors gave us extra time to finish an assignment…but then again I’ve always been a procrastinator. I can see how those that finish their work early might feel a little put-out by deadline extensions. Information Week has a great summary of the situation and some excellent comments from HIMSS CEO Stephen Lieber about how the extension may only apply to a certain subset of healthcare providers.

  3. Stage 2 Meaningful Use
  4. There was much anticipation at the start of HIMSS12 about the imminent arrival of the Stage 2 proposed rules on the Meaningful Use of electronic health records (EHRs). The level of excitement (perhaps it was anxiety) was palpable in the HIMSS hallways. Many were expecting the rules to be released on either the first or the second day of HIMSS – which would allow for meaningful (excuse the pun) discussions over the remaining days of the conference. Day 1 – nothing. Day 2 – nothing. Some people started to joke about getting the local odds-makers to get an over/under started on when it would be released. Day 3 – nothing. It wasn’t until 4:15pm on Friday February 24 (at the very end of HIMSS12) that the rules were released. A golden opportunity to generate buzz, excitement and in-person dialog was missed.

    You can download the pre-release copy of the Stage 2 rules here. For a nice pre-release summary check out this blog post by Larry Wolf. Personally I’d recommend keeping an eye on Keith Boone’s blog for a synopsis of the 1000+ page rules. Keith also has an excellent suggestion for hashtags to use for the online discussion of the rules here.

  5. The lack of anything new
  6. Whenever I had the chance to speak to someone at HIMSS, I asked them how they were enjoying the conference. More than half of the people I spoke to commented on how they felt that there wasn’t anything new at HIMSS12. Nothing really new from the speakers, nothing exciting from the exhibit hall and nothing buzz worthy in the hallway conversations. “Just more of the same” was one attendee’s lament. I thought IBM’s Watson presentation seemed to rise above the rest (I was at a different session) and generated a flurry of excited tweets, but Watson wasn’t on anyone’s lips the next day. Sad really. Arguably the biggest stage for Healthcare IT and nothing except the lack of regulations emerged as big news.

For me HIMSS12 marks the first time social media was truly embraced by the healthcare IT community. It started with the opening keynote by Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter (video here and great summary by Fred Trotter on O’Reilly Radar here ). It continued with the flood of truly useful tweets from healthcare IT heavyweights (@motorcycle_guy, @ahier, @ePatientDave, @2Healthguru, @ehrandhit, @larrylin, @janicemccallum, @Cascadia and @MatthewBrowning). Even the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina Benjamin talked about how important social media had become as a medium for disseminating important healthcare information. She talked about how her recent #HeartChat tweetchat in February that reached over 10 million people in just 1hr and how “this wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago”. Her tweet handle is @SGRegina by the way. But the key sign for me was the turn out to the various tweetups and live chats that were held at the social media center at HIMSS. The level of passion and enthusiasm that everyone had for social media just blew me away. Everyone talked about how their own companies and organizations were finally “waking up” and taking them seriously. It was awesome.

If you aren’t on Twitter already, I encourage you to follow both the #HITsm#hcsm and #hcsmca hashtags. There you’ll find some of the best and brightest thinkers in healthcare IT today.

Viva Las Vegas! And see y’all next year in Nawlins!


How to ruin an IT interview in 5 minutes

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Ruin a Technical Interview in the First 5 Minutes

The past 6 months at RL Solutions have been extremely hectic. We’re working on dozens of new projects with our clients and we’ve started working on our next product release. We’ve also been doing a ton of interviews for the many open positions on our technical teams.

Overall the interviews have been positive, but the entire process got me thinking about how easy it is to ruin an interview. So after 50+ meetings, here is my list of the top 5 ways to ruin an IT interview within the first 5 minutes:

  1. Show up late. Nothing says “I don’t want the job” better than showing up late to an interview. Bonus points for not calling ahead to warn the interviewers that you might be late.
  2. Show up disheveled. Wrinkled shirts, unkempt hair, strange odors and food in your teeth send just the right message. Clearly you work so hard that you don’t have any time for personal hygiene. Clearly.
  3. Don’t read up on the company. It’s really just a waste of time to learn about the company and what they build. Just wing it. It doesn’t really matter what language they use to build their products. Besides, guessing at what the company uses and what products they build helps to liven up the interview.
  4. Talk about how terrible your current employer is. Negative comments about former employers are sure to win people over. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear about all the things wrong with their products and how they go about coding them. Who doesn’t like to hear bad things from someone they just met?
  5. Don’t make eye contact. Look at the artwork. Look at the pretty lights. Look at the nice carpet. Just don’t make eye contact with the person you’re talking to – that would imply you are trying to make a connection. How horrible!

First impressions are important, avoid these 5 things and you’ll get your interview started on the right foot. Be prepared. Be friendly. Be yourself.


Easy to use isn’t enough in Healthcare IT

There have been a few articles recently talking about the importance of ease-of-use in Electronic Health Records (EHRs). InformationWeek ran a story about how EHRs encourage “automatic behavior rather than careful research and analysis” thus making them prone to error. HealthcareIT News had an article “5 ways to make your EMR more user-friendly” by Michelle McNickle. Both articles stressed the importance of proper user interface design and gave warnings about what can happen to patients if the design is sloppy.

It is definitely important to have screens that are easy to use (outlined nicely by McNickle), but I don’t believe that goes far enough. I believe that HealthcareIT applications need to combine screen-level ease-of-use with something called context-of-use. Done right, this combination leads to a truly great user experience – the holy grail of software design.

To get the right context-of-use, you need to think through the task that the user is trying to achieve. If you focus only on the ease-of-use aspects of each screen in the application then you may end up with a good-looking highly functional screen which leaves the user confused. Consider this example (pre-smartphone era):


Although this application is dated, the screen itself is functional and full of easy-to-use features like drop-down boxes, check boxes and the spreadsheet-like interface on the bottom half of the screen. But if you look at this screen as a user, is it obvious what you are supposed to do?

Instinctively you may want to start typing a new examination in the spreadsheet area, but then again, maybe you have to click one of the buttons at the top right first. The New button is highlighted so maybe you’re supposed to click it first…but then again when you click the button, will it create a new patient or a new transaction?

The above is an example of a screen that passes the easy-to-use t

Easy to use, yet confusing for users

est but fails with context-of-use. The lack of context confuses the user rather than guide them to the actions they want to make.

If, for example, the main goal of the screen is to allow a user to enter/manage examinations the following changes might help:

  1. Get rid of all the buttons on the top right.
  2. Place a New button right on top of the spreadsheet area (left justified)
  3. Place an Edit and Delete button next to the New button, but make them smaller (this encourages t he user to click New)
  4. Place a Save and a Cancel button at the bottom right of the screen

Building a great user experience takes time and effort, but it is a very worthwhile investment. There are many well written resources available that help guide through the process – like this one from Everett McKay and this one from Mark Hurst (a blogger well worth following).


2012 – The End?

Goodbye 2011. Hello 2012

2012 is finally here. The year it all ends.

Wait! Before you go running away thinking I’m one of those that believe in the Mayan doomsday predictions  (I’m not), let me clarify by saying that this post is about my 2012 resolutions – which are all  about ending some of my bad habits. Cheesy, I know, but this year I’ve decided to join the ranks of people who are posting their new year’s resolutions online. By going public I hope that I’ll be able to actually live up them :)

So here goes. In 2012 I resolve:

  • To bring a healthy lunch from home at least twice/week when I’m in the office. For the past 10yrs I’ve been going out and buying my lunch every day. It’s a fun and tasty break in my day, but not only is this killing my pocketbook but it’s also affecting my waistline…and speaking of my waistline…
  • To lose at least 15lbs and keep it off. Through a combination of better diet, more regular exercise and professional help I plan to get back to the weight I was 5 years ago.
  • To sleep more – at least 6hrs a night (I average 4 right now). I have a nasty habit of staying up to 3am or 4am while I’m on business trips and until 1am while at home. There’s always one more article to read, one more document to edit, one more thing to do…but this is slowly turning me into a curmudgeon. Sleep is good.
  • To be more of a leader/coach than contributor. The company I work for (RL Solutions) went through a transformation in 2011. My role & area of responsibility changed a lot. By the end of 2012, I need to be a better manager and less of a “doer”. I work with a fantastic team of people. Time to help them shine.
  • To arrive promptly for meetings. I’m often 5-10min late. It’s disrespectful to people’s time and it’s a really annoying habit I’ve developed. Gotta end this.
  • To post at least twice/month. I keep finding excuses not to write a post. No more procrastinating.

The behavioural experts say that resolutions need to be measurable and reasonable in order have any chance at sticking. Other experts say that it can take as long as 8 weeks to form a new habit. Week 1 – so far, so good.


Twitter Lessons from a Late Arrival

Late Arrival

Exactly one year ago, I began my journey into the world of social media. It has been exciting, wonderful, weird and stressful all at the same time. Above all it has been an amazing learning experience.

On October 31st 2010 I dipped my toe into the Twitter lagoon. In my estimation I was about 4 years late to the Twitter party. In all honesty I was a bit embarrassed to ask people about Twitter. I felt like “that guy” at a dinner party who arrives late, sees a half-eaten cake and realizes he doesn’t have a clue what the occasion is. Do you ask and have people look at you funny? Or do you pretend to know and just fake it? I chose to ask and I’m glad I did.

I had read about Twitter and had heard about it on the news (okay maybe I heard it from the talk shows too), but I hadn’t yet taken the plunge. I asked a few of the people around the office who I knew to be active Tweeters and all of them told me how much fun and how cool it was to be able to connect into a diverse online community. I asked some personal friends and some of my nieces about it and the story was the same – Twitter was a great online community where ideas and thoughts are shared freely.

I lurked on Twitter for the entire month of September trying to figure out the lingo. It took me two weeks to figure out hashtags and another two weeks to figure out all the shrt frms that ppl use while twt’n.

I started out slowly, tweeting about once a day. After a month that was up to 3 a day. I was mostly retweeting interesting stories that I had read about from other Tweeters. After another month I was hooked and much to the chagrin of my friends (who followed me early on), I began tweeting about 10-15 times a day. It’s been a blast ever since.

Here are the top 6 lessons I’ve learned as a late arrival to the Twitter party:

  1. It’s never too late to start on Twitter. Almost everyone is welcoming and understanding of newcomers.
  2. It takes time to develop your Twitter voice. Before I started, I read many blog posts from social media “gurus” that talked about the importance of being yourself and finding your unique online persona. It took me about 3 months before I “found” my own voice.
  3. Find and follow the opinion leaders. Every Twitter community has a few thought leaders – people who get retweeted a lot. Find and follow as many of those as you can. They in turn will lead you to others in that community.
  4. Participate in tweet-chats. There is no better way to gain followers and meet other people who share your interests than participating in a tweet chat. Plus your eyes will get an awesome workout. I personally love the #hcsm, #hcsmca and #HITsm tweetchats.
  5. If you go to conferences or tradeshows, there’s nothing better than live-tweeting a keynote or break-out session. Forcing myself to summarize the speaker’s comments into 140 character chunks helps me better retain what they were trying to say. Just be prepared for nasty stares (see my July 26 blog post on this topic).
  6. Do what you feel comfortable with. There’s a lot of advice out there on how to best use Twitter. Some of it is helpful, most of it is just common sense. Just do whatever you feel comfortable with and you won’t go wrong.

…now if I could only be as consistent with my blogging as I with tweeting…

Older posts «