Man App: The Marketing of a Relationship Preserver

Death and taxes are frequently cited as being the two great inevitabilities of life, but for a great many men frequent trips to the doghouse are equally hard to dodge. This enforced journey is often accompanied by a deep sense of confusion mixed in with a huge measure of mystification. (So I’ve heard.) By an odd coincidence, a great many of these unpleasant events seem to occur around birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and sometimes, rather peculiarly, around the middle of February. (I think that’s the right month.)

What all those occasions have in common is that they come around every year, so you would think, and certainly half the population seems to agree, that they would be easy to remember and plan for. But for the other half of the population, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

But help is at hand. Man App could just be the salvation of relationships across the globe.

Cillian Ó Mongáin first had the idea for it when he was on a surfing holiday with a friend of his who had recently been dumped by his girlfriend. “He didn’t know why. He just didn’t understand.” So he decided that, “We need an app to tell us what went wrong… what women are thinking. I need something to beep at me to tell me to do things.”

Unlike many other men presented with a similar challenge, he figured out very early on that if they wanted to find out what women wanted them to do then they ought to ask a few actual women. Very wise and sensible.

Cillian surveyed 43 women and the results produced a (surprisingly for some,) consistent consensus of opinions on various subjects. For instance, suitable gifts for the lady in your life.

(Please feel free to copy and paste to somewhere handy.)

Gifts that the women surveyed said they would most appreciate:

A trip away
A dinner
A home made gift or card
Flowers (NB: Carnations are a no-no.)
Voucher for beauty salon
Jewellery

Gift suggestions unlikely to engender a wholly positive response:

Fancy soap
Cute teddies
Candles

A link to instructions on how it can be gifted are at the bottom of the page.

Man App, as Cillian admits, is a novelty app but like any other product it has to be sold. Putting it on the shelf at the iTunes Store is simply not enough. People need to know about it to buy it and therefore a marketing plan is needed.

There are three clear steps in getting a product from a sketch on a napkin into a fully functioning product that a paying customer can use. They are like the three legs of a stool with quality of attention being the key ingredient at every stage.

  • Idea: Origination, research, and development of the original concept.
  • Construction: The building of the product.
  • Selling: The use of marketing strategies to get the product sold.

Working up ideas, designing and creating a product are challenges that most app developers and many small businesses are willing to take on. However, selling seems to be the part of the process that often suffers from gross under-investement both in time and money. This is particularly true of engineer-led companies where hard-to-quantify marketing processes run counter to preferred ways of working and so are avoided or ignored.

There a number of possible reasons for this:

Most developers and business owners by dint of where their focus and attention has been while developing the product have not allotted the necessary time and energy to marketing until the moment they have to market the product.

For logically-minded coders and the practically-minded doers, the lack of directly-measurable and quantifiable cause-and-effect of marketing initiatives is vague and off-putting. It is really hard to know what works as what is effective with one customer maybe a turn-off to another.

Lastly, there is the psychological issue of the avoidance of rejection. It is far, far easier to keep developing features and add bells and whistles than to take a functioning product to market only to find that nobody wants it. Rejection is hard. You are not supposed to like it. But its absolute value is to save you from wasting your time. You learn your lessons and move on as quickly as possible.

This all can lead to a default approach to marketing that has the character of being based on the idea that the supposedly self-evident virtues of the product will somehow enable it to sell itself. This is more magical thinking then a workable solution.

Cillian is based in Belmullet in County Mayo. Like many app developers all he needs is his office, his laptop, some software and broadband. His commute is one mile and if you’re unlucky, “There’ll be cows on the road.”

While having experience of working for and with marketers he finds, “That pushing my own product is completely different. I was surprised at the amount of noise out there and how I don’t get heard.”

Cillian has targeted the selling of his app during Christmas gift-giving season as the prime near-term objective. The subsequent marketing window being, of course, St. Valentine’s Day.

Unlike many app developers, Cillian has developed a marketing plan that takes advantage of the fact that the app can be downloaded pretty much anywhere in the world. At the moment he is creating press releases to make initial contact with publications in Ireland, the US and the UK. He is focusing on publications that have an audience similar to the possible purchasers of the app.

His initial target list consists of 300 media outlets that he hopes would either report upon his product or dedicate an article to it. Crafting the press releases is a challenge in its own right. Cillian is also aware that there will still be serious graft to be done in the follow-up calls and reminders. He has already accepted in advance that he will have to face up to and handle rejection by simply acknowledging that not everyone he approaches will be interested.

But he has ambitions that will help him weather the inevitable squalls and storms, “I want to do apps all the time. I’d love to be doing my own apps rather than commissions. This [marketing] is the last part of the puzzle. Without marketing it is just going to sit in the App Store and disappear. They don’t sell themselves. If you do nothing, you sell nothing. That’s what I’ve learned.”

Gifting apps on iTunes is straightforward. Just follow the instructions here or click on the Man App logo to the left.

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EA Games Technical Support: Powered by Galway

Electronic Arts (EA), the world’s third-largest gaming company, currently employs 400 people at its European Customer Experience Centre of Excellence in Galway, Ireland to deal with about 3 million support requests each year. It recently announced a further 300 jobs at this facility. We met with Peter Moore, Chief Operating Officer of EA yesterday in Galway, where he spoke about the reasons for this expansion and why the future is bright for EA in Galway.

The methods by which we are getting our video games are changing. Since it was founded over thirty years ago, EA has primarily distributed its games through cartridges and discs sold via retailers. But now, games are more commonly being distributed digitally to our devices – our PCs, tablets and phones – and EA is adapting its broader strategy to include a focus on “direct-to-consumer” with systems like Origin.

EA opened its Galway facility in 2011, primarily to support Bioware’s game “Star Wars: The Old Republic” (SWTOR). This game is one of the main ones distributed via EA’s Origin platform; in fact, 40% of all SWTOR sales were made via Origin. The Galway facility has expanded to support a range of games, including sports titles like FIFA. EA’s sports games are continuing to grow, and Galway is a hub for FIFA consumers around the world.

When talking about the centre in Galway, Peter Moore cited Galway’s incredible talent base and the tremendous cooperation received from IDA Ireland, the government body responsible for attracting inward foreign direct investment. As a key support hub for FIFA, one of Ireland’s advantages is in being a country that really understands the video game as well as the actual game of soccer, so support staff here can help maximise the consumer’s game experience when they ring with some game issues. There are ten contact centres around the world: Galway and Austin are the largest ones staffed by EA employees, and smaller centres are run by external partners for capacity issues.

Typical problems experienced by consumers would be broken games, being unable to progress further (requiring some handholding), forgotten passwords, or issues downloading and getting on to games. The support staff not only fix problems and make the game experience better, but they also upsell, finding out what consumers are looking for and helping them find it by suggesting what games they should play. Most support is through phone or live chat sessions with agents, with asynchronous support via email being queued to deal with later. Timely support is hugely important, as Moore says: “In today’s world, if you’re not picking up the phone in 5 minutes or answering a chat in 2 minutes you are losing.”

While the primary focus in Galway is on Europe, to facilitate real-time problem solving in a nearby time zone, the centre is a 24-hour location dealing with consumers all over the world, with regular hand-offs to other locations. As well as calls, live chat and emails, EA are building tools that allow communities of gamers to solve problems themselves. The new Answer HQ platform was set up to allow users to create forum threads about what is happening to them, facilitating DIY-problem solving amongst a community of gamers that typically loves to work collaboratively. This platform is almost like a game in itself, where gamers can get points, rewards and incentives. EA’s Head of Social & Community, Chris Collins, is also based in Galway.

Galway also houses some more key functions for EA, including their global training organisation for learning and development, policy functions, and central project management offices. There’s also some technical development of systems that can matchmake consumers to support staff. EA worldwide deals with about 20 million support contacts per year: the Galway facility caters for about 15% of that, or 3 million support requests, and this is growing exponentially with social media support requests. The type of people that EA are looking for in Galway are typically those with strong customer skills – good at dealing with people and solving problems – and who already have or can develop knowledge of the game – because those who don’t understand the game are more likely to be ‘called out’ during support requests. Moore also made particular reference to Galway’s strong connection to the university system, with NUI Galway and GMIT providing a source of skilled graduates to EA. It’s easy to attract people to Galway, and EA itself is an attractive place to work due to the energy and excitement around the gaming universe and being in the entertainment business.

Employees get training in the various support platforms and the games, and there are a number of labs dotted around the Galway facility where they can refresh their gaming knowledge. Crucially, employees need strong technical skills to be able to deal with the multitude of systems and tasks required: whether it be working with Salesforce, EA’s Nucleus network (allowing staff to see historical records of what a consumer is playing), or multitasking amongst the various problems currently assigned. Staff get three weeks of training before they are ‘let loose’ on one game, but they can get certification on other games that they may like or want to support. Some support staff go on to developer roles, and others end up in management. Current EA Labels President Frank Gibeau started off testing games and doing customer support for EA in 1991.

Moore says that EA delivers entertainment, but in many respects they are no different to Apple, Google or other large corporations that have hundreds of millions of users to serve. It’s not all plain sailing, because there can be a fairly high turnover rate for customer support staff who don’t have a thick skin, especially when receiving abusive emails from gamers frustrated with a problem. And that’s what they have to focus on, the problem, while understanding the customer and the dynamic involved. It can be very rewarding, and a tremendous launching pad for a career in games (as evidenced by Gibeau and others) if done right. Moore can see those who are natural leaders just from wandering around the facility, stating that it is easy to see those people who are ambitious and have the requisite skills. As part of a “hero academy”, executives from EA often come to the Galway facility to be part of a support team and experience customer support for real.

Michael Lawder, EA’s Vice President of World Wide Customer Experience was asked about the infrastructure and culture in Galway, and how it impacted on EA’s decision to locate there. He spoke of the strong creative and technical nature of Galway’s population, and how EA were very happy with the infrastructure in a facility that was purpose built for being a contact centre. There’s also a good talent pool, with lots of people who want to work for EA. Within four hours of the jobs announcement in September, EA had received 200 CVs. They have since received 1500 resumes that they are currently sifting through for quality talent so that they can interview for the technical attributes and soft skills required in candidates. The high attrition rate can be avoided by a specific recruiting strategy to make sure they have the right people: those who can defuse a situation to solve a problem, to turn an abusive email into an email of thanks. Language is also very important; while the Galway centre mainly deals with English, French and German, around 17 to 18 languages are supported by EA.

Having already made the commitment for 300 extra jobs in Galway, Peter Moore sees digital-to-consumer continuing to expand as EA titles like Battlefield 3 and 4 grow bigger. Next generation platforms from Sony and Microsoft will also be handled in Galway, and “phase two” is currently examining how to grow and expand the facility in Galway. He also complemented the calm atmosphere and “pleasant vibe” in the facility, and we were shown breakout spaces and recreation rooms for employees to play video games and traditional games. EA recently changed the facility from consisting of segmented sections with high walls to a more-open plan layout, which has improved the dynamic of “one big team, all in this together”. Teams are organised in horizontal sets according to games, which also adds to the sports feel. A motto on the facility wall says “Connect, Resolve, Exceed”, and that’s all about getting the right people with a love for the game to help consumers get through those difficult scenarios.

Moore left us with a few thoughts on the future of EA, while referring to his delight with the outcomes of the Galway facility and an investment he claimed no other competitor could compare with. We are currently at the tip of the sphere in terms of how the gaming industry is changing. We grew up with the likes of Sega and Nintendo, and an industry based on taking a cartridge away from a shop. The transformational turmoil produced by the Internet is both an opportunity and a challenge, with direct-to-consumer necessitating investments in a new distribution channel whereby the retailer is no longer the normal route to a consumer. Knowing what the next generation of gaming holds will help, especially the move towards digital and downloading full games in this way, as the focus moves from retailers as the games supplier to EA themselves. Physical media will still be important, but we are seeing a significant increase in direct-to-consumer purchases, not just the games themselves, but in-game ads, new maps, and other content available over a subscription period. This changes the entire focus of what the gaming industry is about.

Serving the Future, Not the Marketing Department

Looking through various forums I see the, now common, complaint about current Apple products which distills down to some version of, “Steve Jobs wouldn’t have allowed it.” Most of the time this sort of criticism is just griping and has little use or validity.

However, I think in the following case they may have a point. Last week I purchased a book on Apple’s iBook service not fully realizing the implication of not being able to read the book on my laptop. Not the greatest disaster in the world but I found it indicative of what happens when marketing is becomes the name of the game rather than bringing the future to life.

Currently books purchased through iBooks are only capable of being read on iOS devices. It is a transparently cynical marketing decision to encourage people to purchase iOS devices to avail themselves of services, like the Kindle, so they can read their books or in a mobile format. (Kindle has an app that works on all the Mac and iOS platforms – ahem.)

Years ago, back in the late nineties, when the world was young, Apple decided to rid its devices of floppy discs. They could see, (maybe only Steve could, maybe he had to persuaded,) that as a form of data storage they would be succeeded by other technologies in the near future.

From the user standpoint – as in the normal user who just wants things to work and doesn’t much care about the technical details – it was if Steve had personally snatched Linus’s security blanket from his chubby-fingered grasp. Not only was the move disruptive it was cruel. A whole generation across the globe had ridden the first widespread wave of PC adoption using floppy discs and now they were suddenly deemed irrelevant.

It seemed a crazy decision. Observers (those who actually knew something about technology) were skeptical that such a daring move wouldn’t be counter-productive. As for the marketing department. Well, at that point there was no market for personal computers without floppy discs.

Nobody cared that devices could be redesigned once the space for the drive had gone. Customers just wanted what they knew. Apple naysayers accused the company of scoring a massive own goal. But the customers and the critics were wrong on two counts.

Firstly, the timing was right. Floppy discs had had their day. The customers didn’t know it but working better and more efficiently would mean moving on to better, bigger, more efficient storage solutions at the next purchasing cycle. 

Secondly, the motivation was right. Apple was putting itself at the service of technological progress. It could see that the overwhelming benefits to the customer would outweigh short-term resistance and inconvenience.

The primary goal of the switch away from floppy discs was not some crass marketing exercise to isolate the customer base as is the case with the iBooks iOS scenario only provision but to serve the future.

That is really what having a vision is about. It is not about initiatives to grab market share with no obvious benefit to the consumer. It is about seeing the future and placing all your resources at making it a reality. All else comes after.

Images from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk

The Lost City of Clonmacnoise Now Found on an App

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ozymandias – Percy Byshe Shelley

While the Lost City of Clonmacnoise has not been altogether lost to the sands of time, a new app by RealSIM, the makers of Virtual 3D Galway, has, through a combination of modern technologies, recreated a virtual version of the city to be interacted with on mobile devices. The app gives a visually enhanced, spatially accurate rendering of what it would have looked like at some point in its heyday in the early 12th Century. The Clonmacnoise app can be used either as an on-site guide should you pay a visit or you can take a remote tour regardless of your location.

First, a little history: Clonmacnoise was founded about 1500 years ago on the banks of the River Shannon on the main east-west road that ran through the low-lying bogs of the Irish midlands. By the 9th century it was a thriving city but its ascendancy was only to last another couple of hundred years before the world moved on leaving behind what has come to be the ruins that inhabit present site and an incomplete set of annals that serve to remind us of what once was.

Clonmacnoise is now a major tourist destination and there are a considerable number of things to see in a relatively small area. There are churches, temples, towers, important Celtic crosses and a even a cathedral.

All these structures stand testament to the craftsmanship of old and the good use of the rough, rugged, long-lasting stone. But as redoubtable as these materials are they can only ever tell a partial story of what life was like in Clonmacnoise. We know where people worshipped but where did they live? What did they do? How did they get by? What sort of people were they?

Our available knowledge of societies in the so-called Dark Ages combined with the archaeological record and the events described in the annals does provide us with enough information enough to deduce and infer what life may have been like then with what we believe to be some degree of accuracy.

However, it still remains hard to visualise how life was lived in the mundane, quotidian sense. Away from the monks, priests and High Kings, the minutiae of every day living still had to be handled. How do we begin to compare our daily lives with the daily lives of those who lived back then? Even more interestingly wouldn’t it be fascinating to see the city of Clonmacnoise on something like the scale that it originally had – in three dimensions?

With the Clonmacnoise app Gavin Duffy has just done that. He and his team have combined 3D content with GPS and mobile technology to provide an interactive guide whether the user is on the site or not.

According to Gavin, “Most of the geo-located apps are 2D augmented reality — images super-imposed on the camera view. This is the first app that I am aware of that you can navigate an app which is a full 3D environment just like a game but using your own movement through the real-world scene.”

As the user walks around the iPad (soon to be other devices) uses GPS to locate their position. Because it is connected to the compass as well as the user turns the 12th century version of the scene shown on the device turns with them. The net effect is of the user moving through the 3D environment while simultaneously moving through the location. The image they see on the screen is what they would have seen if they had been standing in the exact same spot more than a thousand years ago.

“The big advantage over traditional 2D augmented reality.” According to Gavin, “Is that you don’t have to be here on site to appreciate it. You can be in Dublin or San Francisco. You can use simple touch-screen movements to look around the environment just as you would in a regular game.”

While Gavin’s background as a geo-physicist went a long way to help him in developing the app there were still a number of major challenges to overcome. “It’s relatively easy to map what exists, photographing and modeling in 3D. It is more challenging to map what does not exist. There are no maps from a thousand years ago so we had to create those maps ourselves with reference to literary information from various annals that survive and archaeological evidence from other sites of the same period.

“From that we were able to establish that there was a blacksmithing industry and a thriving market place, people came from all around. This was a university town — Ireland was one of the bastions of learning. Students came from all over Europe. At the time Europe was in the dark ages and this is a prime example of why Ireland became known as the Land of Saints and Scholars.”

While we can never know what life was really like, especially for the ‘ordinary’ people that have inhabited our history the more we endeavour to seek an understanding of their lives, the more we can, perhaps, gain vital insights into our own.

As Gavin says, “We are all very interested in where we come from. There is a natural, innate, curiosity as to what has made us what we are. What is the fabric of our history makes us who we are today.”

Also, by taking advantage of the technology available to us to render a better of understanding of our own very temporary place in the scheme of things.

“Clonmacnoise is a classic example of things that are great today do and will fall, change and evolve. It’s good to keep in mind that humanity and our values are continually changing. It is an important lesson to communicate that great empires and great cities fall.”

What has gone has gone and there is no likelihood of any app bringing the past to life again. But with carefully applied use of the mobile, mapping and rendering technologies we have at present we can make a decent attempt of envisioning the past.

The Clonmacnoise app is now available for iPhone and iPad. Do have a look at the following video to see how the Clonmacnoise app works in greater detail.

Another Talented 38: More of Ireland’s Top Technology and Startup Leaders

Sean Blanchfield and Dylan Collins recently created a list of people driving the technology and startup scene in Ireland. In the interests of equality, here are our additions to the list.

Amy Neale

NDRC

LinkedIn | @amisnealis | TechVo

Amy Neale is Programme Manager at NDRC, the National Digital Research Centre. She previously worked in various UK universities and has a PhD in Linguistics. She is frequently involved in organising startup and technology events such as the Dublin Startup Weekend.

Andrea Magnorsky

BatCat Games

LinkedIn | @silverspoon | AngelList

Andrea Magnorsky is a games developer and co-founder of BatCat Games. She has lectured on game programming at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and also worked in a variety of software development roles. Andrea is very active in the Irish games development community, and also set up Dublin ALT.NET.

Ann-Marie Holmes

Intel

Ann-Marie Holmes is Factory Manager for Fab 24 at Intel Ireland. She has worked at Intel for over 20 years, and is a recognised expert in wafer fabrication. Within the company, she was the originator of a “women in technology” pipeline to enable female Intel employees to participate in leadership and management development.

Barbara Murphy

Equilume / UCD

LinkedIn

As well as being Head of Equine Science at UCD, Barbara Murphy is the developer of the Equilume light mask which provides low-level light to a horse’s eye to advance the breeding season. She has a PhD from the University of Kentucky, and has worked with leading equine organisations in the US and Ireland.

Catherina Blewitt

IDA

LinkedIn | @blewittca

Catherina Blewitt is West Regional Manager for the IDA, promoting FDI in the west of Ireland. She has a Masters in Regional Planning from UCD. After a recent EA Games jobs announcement in the region, Catherina cited the mix of “technology infrastructure, recruitment opportunities and the pro-business environment and Galway’s lifestyle” as a factor.

Catherine Morris

Hubb.it

LinkedIn | @cittiecait | AngelList

Catherine Morris is founder of the Derry-based Hubb.it, an online community aimed at attendees of events. She has taught and studied in the areas of film, television and media studies. Catherine and Hubb.it co-founder Breda Doherty were driven to create their event attendance planning system after frustrations encountered while attending SXSW two years ago.

Claire McHugh

Axonista

LinkedIn | @clairemchugh

Claire McHugh is co-founder and CEO of Axonista, a developer of TV-related apps. She was previously a Programme Manager for Setanta. Claire has spoken about the possibilities of real-time interactions: “Producers and presenters can interact with their audience during the show, respond to their questions, ask how they are feeling and serve up entertaining coverage that’s tapping into the zeitgeist.”

Clare Dillon

Microsoft

LinkedIn | @claredillon

Clare Dillon currently heads up Microsoft Ireland’s Developer and Platform Group. She was previously a product manager with Havok and with Iona Technologies. Clare is a long-time supporter of Irish technology events as a speaker and through Microsoft Ireland, and is well known for being a great communicator and team motivator.

Cliodhna McGuirk

Saadian

LinkedIn | @mcguirkc

Cliodhna McGuirk is CEO of Saadian, a provider of market-leading mobile solutions and specialist prison intelligence systems to UK police services. She previously worked with Nua and Allied Irish Bank in development and technical roles. In 2009, Cliodhna was nominated for the Young Businesswoman of the Year Award.

Cornelia Connolly

LearnOpt

LinkedIn | @connie_connolly | TechVo

Cornelia Connolly is Operations Manager with LearnOpt, and also lectures at Dundalk Institute of Technology. She has a degree in Computer Engineering, a PhD in education, and previously worked as a consultant with Accenture. Speaking about LearnOpt for professional learning, Cornelia said: “It is an all-inclusive product that would serve any professional body very well.”

Cristina Luminea

ThoughtBox

LinkedIn | @cristinaluminea

Cristina Luminea is the founder and Managing Director of ThoughtBox, an education software provider based on ‘gameful learning’. She previously worked with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and has degrees in marketing and software development as well as a Masters in the area of energy consumption. She frequently encourages young women to consider a career in technology.

Deirdre MacCormack

Mcor Technologies

LinkedIn | @deemac01 | TechVo

Deirdre MacCormack is Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Mcor Technologies, creators of a revolutionary 3D printer that uses ordinary paper instead of plastic extrusions. She studied at DIT and Dundalk IT. Deirdre and the Mcor team wanted to create an affordable and eco-friendly 3D printer that uses a water-based adhesive to glue layers of paper into 3D models.

Ellen Dudley

CrowdScanner

LinkedIn | @meetforeal | AngelList | TechVo

Dividing time between New York and Ireland, Ellen Dudley is co-founder of the CrowdScanner platform on which PeopleHunt and GuessMyPersona are built. She previously co-founded two other systems, Pass and Poll, and Meetforeal, and also worked as a market development engineer for Proxy Biomedical. A passionate presenter, Ellen’s slidesets range from electronics as social objects to the art of socialisation.

Emma Creighton

National College of Art and Design

LinkedIn | @legolady | TechVo

Emma Creighton is a PhD candidate at the National College of Art and Design, and also carries out research and consultation for South Dublin County Council. She previously created jogo, an Arduino-powered explorative design that uses sound and light to encourage children to play. Emma is currently working with the team behind YAM.ie (Your Arts Map), a service to promote events for young people.

Georgina Bowes

Glanbia

LinkedIn | @ginabo

Gina Bowes is Social Stategist with Glanbia, where she works on digital strategies and monitoring tools for their consumer brands. She previously worked as Head of Social Media in the eircom Group, including eMobile and Meteor. She has presented about social media strategies at Measurement.ie and the dot conf.

Grainne Barron

Foxframe

LinkedIn | @grabar

Grainne Barron is CEO of corporate video production company Foxframe, creators of a content-as-a-service video production and distribution system. She previously worked for NBC, Animo, and Windmill Lane Studios. She won a prize for Best Investment Proposal at the PwC Docklands Innovation Park Enterprise Awards in 2011.

Gráinne Barry

Another Friend

LinkedIn | @grainnebbarry

Gráinne Barry is Managing Director of anotherfriend.com, a popular online dating service in Ireland that has been online since 2000. She previously worked at BDO Simpson Xavier and Golden Vale, and has a science degree from Queen’s University Belfast. anotherfriend.com has over 60% of the Irish online dating market, and over 660,000 members.

Heather James

Acquia

LinkedIn | @hjames

Previously based in Sligo and now in Belfast, Heather James is Manager of Training with Acquia, providers of support and training for the popular Drupal content management system. She previously taught at IT Sligo, and worked in the learning technologies space for some years. She is a frequent speaker at tech events and Drupal Camps around the world.

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh

Sugru

LinkedIn | @janeonbike | TechVo

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is the developer of Sugru, a multi-purpose self-curing silicon rubber that has been featured in Wired, TIME, Fast Company and Technology Review. She is based in London, and developed the idea for Sugru while studying at the National College of Art there. She regularly takes part in maker and creative events in Ireland and elsewhere.

Jennifer Cullen

StatCounter

LinkedIn | TechVo

Jennifer Cullen is Chief Financial Officer with StatCounter, a web traffic analysis tool that is one of the top 200 websites worldwide. She has a degree from UCD, and has been working with husband Aodhan at the company he founded in 2006. She was also advocate for their Global Stats service, a free web research tool that allowed the public to monitor internet market share battles.

Joan Mulvihill

Irish Internet Association

LinkedIn | @JoanMulvihill | AngelList

Since 2009, Joan Mulvihill has been CEO of the Irish Internet Association, a professional body for those conducting business via the internet from Ireland. She has degrees from NUI Galway and the University of Oxford, and has held a variety of consulting and management roles. Joan says her IIA role is “essentially a daily obsession with promoting internet technologies within businesses and to consumers for growth”.

Judith Browne

Dell

LinkedIn

Judith Browne is Product Data Director of Dell Europe, Middle East and Africa. Judith joined Dell 13 years ago, and has worked with over 350 managers in the area of business process improvements. She was also the overall winner of the Microsoft-sponsored WMB Woman in Technology Award in 2011.

Juliana Gomez

Microsoft

LinkedIn

Juliana Gomez is Director of Quality with Microsoft, based in Dublin. She has worked with Microsoft since 2006, previously was with GE Healthcare, and studied at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Juliana has three tips for women to achieve success in the corporate world: “Don’t be afraid to set audacious goals. Find a male mentor and a female role model. Deliver results.”

Karlin Lillington

Irish Times

LinkedIn | @klillington

Karlin Lillington is a weekly technology writer for the Irish Times. She has previously written for a range of publications including the Guardian, San Jose Mercury News, Wired and New Scientist. She frequently covers the Irish startup scene with some thought-provoking articles on the future of the Irish technology sector.

Lavinia Morris

Friends First

LinkedIn

Lavinia Morris is Senior IT Manager for Friends First Group, where she is responsible for aligning and driving the group’s IT strategy. She has also worked for Fujitsu and AIB, and has a degree in electronic engineering from NUI Galway. She is currently chair of the Irish Internet Association’s Working Group on Cloud Computing, and was shortlisted for the WMB Women in Technology Award 2012.

Linda O’Sullivan

Footbridge Interactive

LinkedIn | @osullind | TechVo

Linda O’Sullivan is founder and Managing Director of Footbridge Interactive, a producer of story-driven computer games for children with various educational needs. She worked for over ten years in the development and writing of children’s television and animation. Observing learning exercises being taken by her son who is dyslexic, Linda felt that these would be ideally suited to a game-based environment driven by an animated story, and Footbridge was born.

Lisa Domican

Grace App

LinkedIn | @lisamareedom | TechVo

Lisa Domican is co-creator of the Grace App picture exchange system to help non-verbal people. With support from O2 Telefonica, Lisa developed the Grace App system and prototype for her autistic daughter Grace, with technical development by Steve Troughton-Smith. She is winner of various awards including the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Programme Award in 2011, the WMB Big Idea Award in 2011, and the UN World Summit Award for Excellence in m-Learning and Education in 2010.

Lyra McKee

Mediagazer

LinkedIn | @LyraMcKee | TechVo

Lyra McKee is the Editor of Mediagazer, an automated media news aggregator and sister site to Techmeme, and is based in Belfast. She previously founded NewsRupt, a news technology startup, and TechFluff, a PR firm for startups. A former Sky News Young Journalist of the Year, Lyra has freelanced with Private Eye Magazine, Channel 4 and the BBC.

Martha Rotter

Woopie / Idea Magazine

LinkedIn | @martharotter | AngelList

Martha Rotter is co-founder of Woopie, a digital publication platform, and of Idea, an Irish tech community magazine. She was previously a developer evangelist with Microsoft Ireland, and worked with Microsoft for nearly ten years. Martha is an excellent communicator of technical ideas, but also an experienced creator of technical products that work well and look really good.

Mary Forde

User Story

LinkedIn | @User_Story

Mary Forde is founder of User Story, providing expertise in online user testing, online A/B testing, and site / app reviews. She has a background in technical writing and communications. User Story was selected as one of 17 companies to participate in the DIT Hothouse enterprise incubation programme in 2010.

Nicola Byrne

11890 / Stenics Media

LinkedIn | @nicbyr

Nicola Byrne is founder of 11890, a third player in the directory enquiries market in Ireland. Previously she has worked with Jacobs, Bank of Ireland and AC Nielsen. Nicola is pushing for various innovative technology features in the 11890 service including sending a map corresponding to the phone number being searched for to a user’s mobile phone. Nicola says that “when you ask, you get what you want”.

Orla Cox

Symantec

LinkedIn | @orlacox

Orla Cox is Senior Manager for Security Intelligence Delivery at Symantec. She studied at Dublin City University. Her team looks at the motivations and security risks of cyber attack systems like Flame, and also studies the epidimiology of computer viruses such as Stuxnet.

Orla Sheridan

Microsoft

LinkedIn

Orla Sheridan is Consumer Channels Group Director for Microsoft Ireland. She began her career in Galway, worked in Germany and Switzerland, and was with Gateway before joining Microsoft. Orla is responsible for Microsoft’s entertainment and consumer devices in Ireland, including flagship products such as Xbox 360, Office and Windows 7.

Regina Moran

Fujitsu

LinkedIn

Regina Moran is CEO of Fujitsu Ireland Ltd., and the chair of IBEC’s ICT Ireland group. She started working with Fujitsu in 2006, and was appointed CEO of their Irish division in 2009. Regina is an inspiration to many for succeeding without an undergraduate degree; she is quoted as saying “I didn’t have an undergraduate degree, but I’m living proof that this need not prevent you from being a success in business.”

Sarah Doyle

Kinesense

LinkedIn

Sarah Doyle is the CTO of Kinesense, developer of CCTV video search, analysis and reporting solutions for law enforcement and security. She previously worked with Amideon Systems, and has degrees in science and management. Kinesense uses video content analytics (VCA) for the automatic detection of events in CCTV video, reducing the time taken to go through hours of video looking for certain events.

Siobhan King-Hughes

Sensormind

LinkedIn | @siobhankhughes | TechVo

Siobhan King-Hughes is founder and CEO of Sensormind, an ambient assisted living solution for elderly people. She has previously worked as Head of International Products with AOL, and with Oracle, Lotus, Frame and Microsoft in a variety of management and engineering roles. Siobhan recently appeared on Dragon’s Den Ireland, and has been a finalist in the Docklands Innovation Park Awards 2010 and WMB Awards 2011.

Sonia Flynn

Facebook

LinkedIn | @soniaflynn

Sonia Flynn is Director of Online Operations EMEA for Facebook, is also Facebook Ireland’s Head of Office. She was previously Director of User Operations EMEA for Google, and has also worked for Taxback.com and ModusLink. Sonia has degrees in languages and literature from the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast respectively.

Stephanie Francis

X-Communications

LinkedIn | @cloudsteph

Stephanie Francis is Interaction Designer at X-Communications, where she develops interfaces for websites and web apps. She has lectured on CSS3 at Trinity College Dublin, and previously worked at Xwerk Media and Intuition Publishing. She is been very active in 24 The Web, an event to create websites for various charities, and is co-founder of the Crafthouse Dublin meetup series for web designers.

John Phillips, SVP PepsiCo: Megatrends in the Future Value Chain (Part 1)

Irish Executives is a network of over 16,000 business people within Ireland and around the world. The network is dedicated to sharing the ideas, insights, expertise, solutions and know-how which exists among the Irish Diaspora at home and abroad. You can join the network at linkd.in/irishexecutives.

John Phillips is a senior vice president with PepsiCo, one of the largest drink and food companies in the world that counts Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Gatorade and Tropicana amongst its top brands. He spoke about future strategies for the supply chain at the second Irish Executives summit, held in Galway last Thursday. In particular, John focussed on the outcomes of the 2020 Future Value Chain report recently commissioned by Capgemini. We’ve previously covered Pepsi’s innovative approach to social media. In the first of this series, we will examine John Phillips’ take on three emerging megatrends for the value chain, and how they relate to PepsiCo.

It’s worth considering how shopping and product supply has progressed in the past forty years. In 1967, Philco-Ford Corporation commissioned a short film called “Year 1999 AD” that tried to imagine the home of the future by studying information and trends of the time. The film depicts a house that is completely functional in terms of advanced technology.

‘Fingertip shopping’ is carried out through a video monitor. The same monitor is used to maintain watch on critical areas of the house. A central bank computer debits purchases from a family account, while informing their home computer at the same time. The family computer can produce a print out of their budget, taxes, payments left on the car, etc. A ‘home post office’ system enables electronic correspondence. The child attends formal school just two days a week: for the rest, they have an education and games centre in the home.

This film eerily predicts our ‘noughties’ world of email, online banking, online learning and gaming, video monitoring, and home shopping. But even in the past three or four years, there has been a rapid evolution in the consumer value chain through new smartphone-, web- and game-enabled systems.

  • The smartphone: The first UPC scanner was introduced in 1974, but now customers with smartphones can do their own scanning using apps like RedLaser (there have been over 15 million downloads of the RedLaser smartphone app). 50% of US mobile phone users own smartphones, and Apple is the most valuable company ever. Two years ago, Amazon announced that sales via mobile phones had exceeded $1 billion per year.
  • The web: Over a half a million businesses are using foursquare. Groupon was one of the fastest growing companies in history. A billion tweets are sent every three days, and it has been estimated that at least 20% of tweets mention a brand or product.
  • The game: A typical supermarket in the US carries over 38,700 items, and gaming technologies can now be used to recreate a typical store layout. ‘Players’ can wander around a virtual store, pick up product packs, turn around and inspect the labeling on these packs, pop them into their baskets and go to a checkout to make their purchases for later (real-world) delivery. In a world where we make 444 million food shopping trips, such a virtual store could be revolutionary.

The 45-page 2020 Future Value Chain report was researched and put together through the global Consumer Goods Forum. It’s effectively a ten-year outlook with a view to how retailers and suppliers can collaborate to make a difference to the consumer value chain. Through a series of hands-on workshops around the world, 200 senior-level executives with varying functions in the supply chain (marketing, finance, purchasing, etc.) converged on a set of 12 megatrends in this global space. From John Phillips’ perspective, he was interested in taking each trend and looking at the associated research data to see what were the potential implications for PepsiCo.

Megatrend 1: Increased Urbanisation

The traditional American dream of finding the house with a white picket fence out in the country or suburbs to settle down in is no more. The demographic data shows that this trend is reversing itself. In 1995, there were about 23 cities with over 8 million people. In 2015, that will be closer to 40. There are now 27 megacities of over 10 million people; 12 of these have over 20 million. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be urban.

As a result, we will start to see more pressure towards having smaller footprint stores due to higher premiums. This will have a series of knock-on logistical and supply challenges that we don’t understand fully yet. We’ve already started to see retailers opening new store formats rather than trying to find the next biggest ‘box’. Walmart Express is offering a full-line grocery store with a pharmacy in an area the size of an old pharmacy. These have been an unbelievable success, but the challenge is that they need to be replenished multiple times per day because of the velocity at which goods exit these smaller-sized stores. This format is also working extremely well for stores that focus on foods that must always be fresh.

Megatrend 2: Aging Population

Baby boomers – those born between the years 1946 and 1964 – are a generation whose longevity is shifting the age demographic of old. Baby boomers have also become the majority voting block in nearly every developing country. The significant purchasing power of this block is having an effect on the value chain. In parallel, we’ve seen a change in purchasing behaviours: buying necessities as opposed to luxury items, letting go of that second house or boat as Europe and the US try to get their balance sheets back in order through various austerity and / or stimulus packages. The changes in demographics and spending priorities are having a significant impact: structural changes are required in everything from how a retail store is operated to the labels being put on packages.

For example, supermarket aisles are constantly shrinking. There’s a drive to improve variety, but then you still have to make it easy for people to find their chosen product amongst an ever-increasing multitude. Also, with the aging population, there is bigger need for assisted-mobility systems, and when it becomes so that 40% of your shopping audience is in that age group, you might need a fleet of these. Labeling needs to change too: it becomes harder to read that 8 point font if you are older. Labels have to be bigger and there is also a move towards more detailed information on packs, both of which will drive labels towards the front of packaging for easier accessibility.

Megatrend 3: Increasing Spread of Wealth

In 2000, 56% of our global middle class was to be found in developing countries (mainly the BRIC countries). In 2030, this will shift to 93% of the global middle class located in developing countries. With this unbelievable growth comes an increased purchasing power that previously wasn’t there. This leads to a variety of challenges around price and raw materials. We are starting to see a protectionist attitude from countries to help their own first.

Many Western corporations are figuring out how to break into the BRIC market. Sometimes their offerings are very similar to Western models, but often they have to adapt their product portfolio. In India, their version of Walmart doesn’t look much different from an organised trade store in Europe or the US, yet you can go 45 minutes away from that store and be in a third-world country. When McDonald’s – the world’s largest burger company – went to India, they had a serious challenge in that the population didn’t eat beef for religious reasons. They had to reconceptualise the menu so that it wouldn’t have one beef item on it. They came up with the McAloo Tikki, a variation on the traditional potato and spice snack. It was redesigned so you could eat it just like a burger, and was tailored based on research of the demographics in India. The lesson: even a global burger company may have to go into a country and not sell burgers!

Part 2 of this series will begin by looking at the next megatrend: the explosion in our use of consumer technology.