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Documentation can make or break a product!

Dilbert.com

Never ever I have realized the importance of proper documentation until I decided to try out Shibboleth, an open source web single sin-on solution.

Shibboleth is supposedly the best open source alternative to achieve web single sign-on across applications, against more established enterprise offerings such as IBM’s Tivoli (TIM and TAM). While I do not intend to talk about the purpose of such solutions, I want to emphasize the importance of documentation for any product like this. It has been over a week that I have been trying to set-up a simple end-to-end SSO in my local environment using Shibboleth. But in the absence of proper documentation, it has turned out to be a nightmare!

Before I decided to adopt Shibboleth, I had very scary reviews about its complications. Almost everyone who had tried it mentioned that it is quite a complicated nut to crack.  Also, in spite of being the best offering, the adoption rate of Shibboleth does not sound great (at least in my knowledge).

Now, when I have gone through the entire process and close to get it running (well almost done!), I realize the root cause of the perception. The product seems good, but the documentation is horrible! It can confuse the hell out of you. In the absence of proper documentation, you are left upon your own to research through and get it up.

I am thoroughly convinced that a product/solution’s documentation is as critical as its architecture or features, UI or whatever. An OK product with a good documentation is better than a good product with bad documentation. Documentation can make or break your product!

Although I am myself not too good at it (more so out of less interest), hats off to all those people who are involved in great documentation and enabling people realize the product’s true potential.

The BIG demo!

I usually do not post my work related stuff. However, this one deserves a post!

Over the last couple of weeks, I got an opportunity to be a part of a demo, whose scale dwarfs all the projects I’ve been so far associated with (barring one during the early stage of my career). And the client was none other than the Indian Air Force!

My role in the entire solution was quite limited, so I got an opportunity to observe and understand what goes behind the scenes in such high net worth, high risk bids. The proposed solution spanned across various aspects of operations where a software solution could fit in. It involved security, document management, learning and knowledge management, ERP, content management and what not. Of course it involved more than one vendor coming together and propose the solution. While it was a very tensed and hectic two weeks, it was a great learning experience for me. Before I share those, I’ve come up with an analogy to explain the sitution.

What I observed was the fact that people had built great rooms with all amenities one could think of, but the rooms were never put together to build the house.

What I mean is that all modules were impressive and functional standalone, but when integrated, resulted in an enterprise disaster. At times, no one had a clue what was going along.

Moving ahead, I noticed that the most impressive demonstrations were not where we were trying to showcase the product, but those where we demonstrated how would the software solve the problem. The reviewers were not interested in what the software could do, they were more interested in how it would reduce their burden and improve efficiency. Even a very basic product with minimal features could win over a complicated one if it addresses the problem effectively.

I’ve realized this earlier as well. Some big products in the market have become so established that they *drive* the clients adopt to their implementation. While most organizations wouldn’t mind doing so, there are some who would not spare!

Lastly, I would like to mention that after this demo, I’ve developed a great respect for the Indian Air Force. These guys know *exactly* what they require. You just couldn’t convince them to succumb to the product’s hi-fi features which was worthless to them. They had a very clear picture of the final outcome.

I met some very talented people during the course of presentations and learnt a lot of things in the power packed two weeks.

Looking forward for more such opportunities!

Google’s answer to Apple…

Google Voice Dialer (courtesy TechCrunch)
Google Voice Dialer (courtesy TechCrunch)

Google and Apple certainly fall on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the business philosophies.

Google is more of an open book while Apple is a closed one.

With ‘Google Voice‘ being released last year, Google had created an iphone app for the same. However, Apple hadrejected it citing direct business conflicts with iphone’s core voice and messaging features (it could have been more of an AT&T decision):

Apple Is Growing Rotten To The Core: Official Google Voice App Blocked From App Store

Now Google responds with this:

Google Voice Does An End Run Around Apple And Shows Up In The iPhone’s Browser

Google voice can now be accessed on iPhone’s native browser! It is an all new HTML-5 application.

Now that’s something from Google. What could Apple do to take this on?

Note that I’ve been Apple’s fan ever since I got an iPod touch a year ago. No one can match (or is even close) to the user experience one get’s on these Apple devices. Plus the entire ecosystem including the hardware, the app store, the iTunes client software just rocks!

I was wondering how a strong product line (and services of course) like the iPhone and the iTouch are good enough to  cover up for some  of the not-so-good decisions by a company.

Interesting times to be in. I am early waiting for tomorrow’s press conference where Apple is expected to release the tablet/iSlate or whatever.

Google Voice Inbox (courtesy TechCrunch)
Google Voice Inbox (courtesy TechCrunch)

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Read this and win a free Reebok wrist watch!

Free Reebok Watch
The Free Reebok Watch!

Yes you read it right! Read this post all along and I will give you a free Reebok watch worth Rs. 2499/ 2599/ 2999.

Almost every other company is offering a free Reebok watch with their products/ services. It has been over a year now, and this has shown no signs of abatement. Interestingly you can get this for free even if you are buying products/ services for as low as Rs. 500 or so.

What’s wrong? What are the companies trying to sell? Their products or are they using Reebok’s brand to push their products? And what’s wrong with Reebok? I would never walk into a Reebok showroom to buy a watch anymore for the simple fact that all of them would  be ‘marked up’ at least 10 times their original worth! Is Reebok sick of selling shoes that it is willing to lend its brand to every damn company which comes to it?

Whatever, it is quite irritating. My cellphone is flooded with such offers.

Not to forget, another one is the ‘United Colors of Benetton’ watch.

I think if I buy stuff carefully, I would easily be collecting a few of those watches every month.

If you’ve read it up to this here, let me know. I wouldn’t mind extending the offer to the readers of my (now sick) blog 😉

Update

hi everyone, thanks for your comments. This post was just meant to express how companies are attracting customers. I of course do not have these many watches to spare! I never expected so many people to comment !!!!!