Managing expectations...

This week, I said good bye to an old friend. For years, I worked on a product called Connected Online Backup. (Connected was bought by Iron Mountain, then sold to Autonomy. Autonomy is being bought by HP.) I've been using this backup product for years, and have needed to recover files maybe twice. But given the change of ownership, and the fact that I was using a "friends and family" free service that was part of an employee benefit package from 2002, I thought maybe I should actually upgrade to a backup service that I, you know, paid for.

So I looked around, and liked what I saw from Carbonite. They recently went public, and raised a decent bit of money, and probably helped enrich the lives of a number of software professionals in and around Boston.

Their software was easy to download, easy to install, nice modern user interface. But what struck me about something they did was how well they managed user expectation. Backup technology hasn't really changed much since I worked at Connected, and all the problems that Carbonite must struggle with are the same problems we struggled with. One such problem was the duration of the first backup. (First backups are "full" backups, everything else will be block-level incrimenetals, which means that unless you download or create several GB of data a day, your second, third, and etc. backups will be quick, especially compared to the first one...)

We always fought against the sales objection of "the first backup takes too long." We put significant work into speeding that process up, invented block-level checksum analytics to backup "symbolic links" to common files, to reduce the size of the first backup. We sweated this problem, and made it better by small percentages over many long years.

Carbonite took a different approach. They put, front and center - in their Buy page, in their FAQ, in their EULA, in their application - text to the effect that THE FIRST BACKUP COULD TAKE DAYS, OR EVEN A WEEK. Mine took a day. I suspect most take a day. But this is just brilliant expectation management.

Product Development Moral: If something is likely to take a day or two, tell the user it may take up to a week. Then, when it only takes a day, instead of viewing the performance as a reason not to buy, they'll be happy!

I wish I'd thought of that - maybe Connected Corp. would have made a big splash with an IPO!


pretty pictures

apropos of nothing...

I picked this up off another blog I read, and thought it was a really interesting and beautiful slide show. It's a short series of photos from NYC and Bombay, showing the relatively striking similarities in daily life in the two big cities...

One Life Photos 2011

Click through, and enjoy...


It's a major award...

So, I acknowledge it as reprehensible and unforgivable that I haven't written in this blog since early June, 2010. My bad. I jumped into a leadership position in a small startup (building search and sourcing tools for the recruiting and RPO industry) and have been heads down making and shipping software for nearly a year.

But... silence seems to be a useful strategy for blogging.

Even with a dearth of new posts, I just won a major award.

(Props to you if you get the movie reference...)

I was recently named one of the top bloggers in the shared services and outsourcing industry, as selected by the fine folks at The Shared Services and Outsourcing Network. (I posted about them some time ago, here.)

That confirms what I hoped, which was that this pile of information that I wrote up when I was working on my (stalled and probably abandoned) book would be useful to people... Mission accomplished.

At any rate, Inside Outsource has been honored at one of the top 15 blogs in the industry. And, for your reading pleasure, there is now a great list containing a link back to me, as well as to 14 other great blogs (many with content written, you know, recently) here, at SSON. Read and enjoy.

Also, Major Award: