Category: Uncategorized

Google car

Almost ten years ago, my prediction was, in next ten years neuro dynamic programming language will receive more adoption and become a common computer programming language. Variance in my prediction and actual result is significant. Recent announcement of unmanned car from google is very encouraging that my predication will become a reality one day.

In simple words, in machine learning field, there are two types of learning. Supervised learning and un-supervised learning. Unsupervised learning is a type of learning which  makes a  system to learn in dynamically changing  environment.  Neuro dynamic programming language concept is based on unsupervised learning type.  Whereas, supervised learning are widely used in voice recognition (in your voice phone directory at office), face recognition and etc. Techniques like neural network, Bayesian learning are used in supervised learning.

Q-Learning, Dynamical programming are some of the techniques available in unsupervised learning. It is a method used by humans  to learn and the framework is very simple. In a dynamic environment, the sequence of events are random and an action for the random events is taken. A feedback (reward) for the action is received and based on the immediate and long time reward of the action taken for the random event, a weight is assigned to the action. Based on the exploration and exploitation strategy of the system, weight assigned to the action in the past for the random event, the action is repeated if the same or similar random event happens.

In the current computation paradigm, programming logic is deterministic. In the future, deterministic logic is not sufficient in computation.  A car that uses set of techniques to drive itself will be used to learn about that specific car. At any given time, for a given VIN, all the necessary details about the car will be available. It applies to all entities including humans.

Stand up for others by sitting down

I spent sometime this morning to figure out how these four kids form OGL. The back ground bus looked very familiar to me and realized the original of this school bus is in Henry Ford Museum,  Detroit, Michigan, USA.

Rosa Parks who sparked a historic civil rights movement was travelling in this bus. She proved that a person can stand up for others by sitting down.

My sincere thanks to google to make us  remember her today.

Big 3’s Product & Pricing Strategy for Cross over

Last Friday, I had a fatal accident. Miraculously no body was seriously injured. I was waiting (moving slowly 10-15 mph speed) in the traffic on the freeway and a pick truck  rear ended me at the speed of  75-80 mph.  This is the second time (first time, a deer came infront when I was on the freeway)  I had a serious accident and this time also He sent help along with the accident. Immediately (within less than 2 mins) after the accident, a medical doctor,a fire fighter and a moral supporter (he works for GM) were knocking my car’s door and made sure I was fine. They were travelling 2 -3 cars behind me and they noticed the accident live in their naked eye.  All of them were surprised I was alive after the accident.  My cross over and his pick up truck were totaled.  I thought none of our air bag went off. But, when I got the accident report from state police, his air bag went off.  I’m back in the market to buy a replacement car.

I utilized this opportunities to study the big 3‘s brand,product and  pricing  strategy. Generally, I try to reverse engineer a company’s strategy by observing and studying their product line, pricing, people, customer services and etc. I would say, my success in the reverse engineering the company’s strategy is Trader’s Joe.  If you are strategy person, you can easily paint their company’s strategy by looking into their unique product line, people in their store and their key differentiators.  I tried to reverse engineer the big 3 product and pricing strategy for the cross over product and compared it with other major automotive.

When I did this study, I had my consumer hat with strategist eye, architect’s view and  project manager’s approach.  My entire findings very well could become a  M.B.A (Corporate Strategy) capstone project. I summarize it in the blog a high level executive version.

Requirements:
Cross over – 6 or 7 seater with high safety rating, leather seat, dvd navigation, iPod integration, 40 gb Hard disk, Phone,  and decent mileage around 20 mpg in high way.

General Motors:

GM has following major division operated in North America:

and Luxurious product

(I’m ignoring their product line like Holden in Australia , Daewoo in South Korea, Opel in Europe, Vauxhall in UK)

Surprisingly all of their division except Hummer has a cross over product.  I made an assumption, that I decided to buy a GM cross over and explored how GM  product line is helping me (motivated and committed consumer)to make my choice. By going over their cross over product from buick, chevy, gmc product web site, I could find one major differences between all these products. Their product names are different. Other than that, I could not identify any other difference in their features offering. There is no differentiators among these products.  I was so confused. I wanted to compare their pricing

GM Cross Over Pricing:
All of these product pricing are in the same price range. A fully loaded Buick is same as Cadillac. Saab, Saturn price spill over to each other. There are too many choices to the buyer with no differentiators.

It is clear that each division within GM is competing with other divisions within GM. I don’t know when these strategy worked successfully. In this web 2.0 and 3G world, even the enemies in the battle field collaborate on common problems.  I don’t know competing internally really is a good strategy. Wasting their energy fighting internal. Instead focus that energy to fight your real external competition.

Conclusion:

  • GM’s individual brand strategy does not appear to be aligned to the over all GM’s corporate strategy
  • GM Cross over product strategy – Neither it is too cumbersome  to reverse engineer it nor there was no cross over product strategy from GM company stand point
  • GM Pricing Strategy – No differentiators among their products. Their pricing spill over between their products. 
  • Confuses the consumer who decided to buy a GM product.

Ford

After Ford’s recent sale of Jaguar and Landrover division to Tata motors, Ford product line is not as complicated as GM. It has the following division.

  • Ford
  • Mercury
  • Volvo

Luxurious product division:

  • Lincoln

Ford division itself has following cross overs.

  • Flex
  • Edge
  • Taurus X

Mercury & Volvo also have cross overs products.  Volvo is utilizing the web 2.0 for the product marketing. They use youtube, twitter, flicker, for their cross over product to create a user community and make them feel good that they own the volvo product and allow the owners to freely collaborate.  It provides insight to Ford/Volvo that what are the problems being faced by the current owners and can be taken into the future models. It also helps Volvo on the preemptive    by closely monitoring the problems faced by current Volvo owners. Great Concept.

Conclusion:

  • Ford’s brand strategy is better and it will become best if they could find a buyer for Volvo.
  • Ford’s Cross over product strategy – It is not straight forward to reverse engineer it. It appears they have cross over product strategy from Ford company stand point. There is a differentiators  in the style, product feature and appearance. There are lot of room for improvement. They still need to make tough choices to streamline the cross over product within the company. Over all in each product line, there should be only three products. Low end, middle ground and high end. They are not there but close.
  • Ford’s cross over product Pricing Strategy – All the cross over products in Ford is in the same price range.
    • Fully loaded Taurus X price is same as the low end Lincoln. There is a price spill over between products.

 

Chrysler

There are three brands under Chrysler.

Since Chrysler announced that they are stopping Pacifica, Durango and Aspen I’m not taking those products into consideration. It means, there is no cross over product Chrysler Brand within the Chrysler LLC company. Pacificais the piooner in the cross over product space and it is unfortunate it will not be continued. I believe the key reason for pacifica not be successful in the market is due to the initial pricing was too high and product/pricing strategist were targeting agains Lexus. It must be a tough decision for Chrysler to stop the great product. I, personally love Pacifica and when I drew it for couple of years in 2004/5 and I made my own sticker and had it at the back of the car. “Pacifica is great and we love it”

Dodge Journey is the only cross over product in the Chrysler product portfolio. Jeep, Grand Cherokee is close to a cross over but it is a SUV.  Fully loaded Dodge Journey comes around $35K.

Conclusion:

  • Chrysler’s cross over product strategy is the best among big 3.
  • Need differentiator (like fuel efficiency or unique style, uconnect is not enough to differentiate )
  • Chrysler’s cross over product Pricing Strategy needs re visitation.  The base price is in correct range.   The fully loaded Dodge Journey price is high.

When I compared the big3’s product,brand and pricing strategy with Honda’s strategy. It is easy to draw a conclusion. If I decide to buy Honda cross over product, as a consumer, I have three choices with clear differentiator. It has CRV, Pilot and Acura’s luxurious RDX & MDX.  There is slit spill over in the price range between Pilot and Acura. It is easy to pick a product from their line if someone decides to buy Honda.

Performing all this study, I bought the same vechicle I had before and this is the thrid time I’m leasing the same vechicle but this time it is clean diesel bluetec technology.

Career Advises

I mentioned it before in a previous blog posting that I grew up considering Bill Gates as my hero. I never met him. But sometime back, I wondered, what kind of advise he would have provided me, had I met him.

There could be lot more people wondering the same and he might have answered the question generally somewhere.

My exploration started and encountered a book called “100 Most popular Scientists for Yound Adults – Biographical sketches and professional paths” by Kendall Haven and Donna Clark. ISBN: 1-56308-674-3. It is a compilation of popular scientists short biography and their advices. William Gates was in that list and his advises are:

William Gates – Invented Disk Operating System (DOS) and Microsoft Windows computer operating systems. Founded Microsoft Corporation.

Bill Gates would advise you to pursue studies that include mechanical engineering, chemistry, and physics classes in addition to computer science and electrical engineering. Gates would also say that the computer field is driven by consumer needs. The best ideas are those that fill the most basic needs. Develop not just programming skills, but also the ability to recognize needs and create new ideas.

Erwin Schrodinger is not in the list and it is a disappointment for me. The book contains advices from my other heroes and here is the summary.

Steve Wozniak – Invented the Apple II computer and Co-founded Apple Computer Corporation.
If you are considering a career in computer technology, Steve Wozniak would advise you not to specialize too soon. Spread yourself over several disciplines. You must have a foundation in the basics – math, physics, material science, electrical engineering – but don’t be afraid to study anything else that interest you. Search for new ways to combine departments and disciplines to your advantage. And never think that it’s all been done already. People probably thought that way in Rome thousands of years ago. There will always be new inventions simply because there’s a need inside us to express our creativity and inventiveness.

Albert Einstein – Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, 1921
Practice and develop your mental powers: dream, imagine, and wonder. Take the time to let your mind wander through a problem. Einstein believed that learning is the servant of imagination, and that curiosity and inquiry are the foundation of learning. He also would advise you to get used to teaching yourself. Investigate, read, probe through the areas that stir your passions. University classes are valuable but can never be custom designed for your specific needs as can you own studies.

Richard P. Feynman – Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, 1965
A cornerstone of Richard Feynman’s belief was that each scientist was responsible to question and challenge theory. No field can develop without rigorous, constant challenge to its hypotheses and assumptions. Above all else, he would advise students to first ground themselves in math and logic. Master all forms of math and their orderly application because mathematics is the language of science. Also learn the skills of reasoning, logic, and analysis. They will guide your questioning. Begin serious studies with physics, thermodynamics, and chemistry before advancing to particle physics and nuclear physics. Finally, open your mind to unexpected sources and ideas. All the world is a science textbook and the ideas you need could be lurking around any street corner, not just in textbooks, science journals, and labs.

Dennis Gabor – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1971 and invented holography.
If you are considering a career in physics, Dennis Gabor would advise you to consider adding mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering classes to your physics curriculum. Engineering approaches offer practical perspectives to the complex and theoretical problems of physics.  Engineering courses also create a problem-solving orientation that is invaluable in the world of physics.

Max Planck – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1918
Max Planck’s primary advice to anyone planning a physics career is to master mathematics. Math is the language of science. If math is not your servant and ally, it will always to your enemy. During undergraduate studies gain a basic understanding of all fields of physics and related fields such as thermodynamics. Specialize in graduate school and commit yourself to staying with that field. It may take decades of struggle to arrive at a point where you can know what questions to ask, recognize the answers once you find them, or begin to understand the answers. Understanding math and being persistent now will produce understanding and advancement later.

Werner Heisenberg – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics – 1932
Werner Heisenberg believed that any study of physics should start with mathematics. Math is the language of science and any scientist should be completely familiar with the concepts and techniques of this language. Heisenberg often advised students to seek out and study under the masters in their particular field. Masters are those who have created the last step in the path of scientific progress. The next step will be taken by those who learned from those taking the current step. Finally, study, study, study. It takes considerable work to reach the forefront of any scientific field. Yet that effort is mandatory for those who expect to achieve.

Niels Bohr – Awarded Nobel Price for Physics, 1922
His Advice: Start by gaining a solid understanding of math and classical physics methods. Then seek out the researchers at the forefront of the specialties that interest you most. Apply to those schools and find ways to study under the current leaders of your field, the ones breaking new and revolutionary ground. Volunteer if you must, but work with the leaders. Sign for their classes. Attend all their lectures. Work with them until your own ideas and questions are begging to be investigated.

Max Born – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1954
Every successful science career must begin with a full mastery of math. That foundation will allow you to understand and decipher the implications and relationship of all other fields. Born said during several speeches late in his life, “I always consider my knowledge of mathematics to be one of my greatest assets.” Max Born advised to resist the urge to specialize during their undergraduate studies. Instead, generalize. Study all the fields you can. Questions and studies will often lead your across field boundaries.

Paul Dirac – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics ,1933 (shared with Schrodinger)
Paul Dirac was a shy loner and reticent to advise others. Still, he consistently acknowledged the value of his study in engineering, both electrical and mechanical, before he turned to the study of hard sciences. Engineering trained him to be practical and pragmatic and to approach complex problems in a straightforward, step-by-step manner.

Wolfgang Pauli – Awarded Nobel Prize for Physics, 1945
Wolfgang Pauli tried to never offer advice to others, believing that each person and career was unique. However, he advocated several principles that he would advice any student to incorporate into his or her early studies and careers. Demand precision and exactness in your won work and in that of others. These are habits that you must teach yourself early in a science career. Study mathematics carefully and learn from its precision and rigor. The value of your science and your science reputation will be measured by the care with which you perform both analyzes and computations.

Good attitude is required to learn and grow in any organization.

If you have a good attitude, you will never have a bad day and if you have a bad attitude, you will never have a good day. Good and bad days depends on you and your attitude. Generally speaking, there is abundant opportunities available in any organization in any market condition and it is all up to the individual how effectively use it and thrive in the organization.

No matter what, there are whiners in any organization. No matter who their bosses are, no matter how their organization perform, no matter how their external environments are, they whine, they are stress full people and whining is their stress releasing technique. Generally, there is a small percentage of whiners in any organization. Please STAY AWAY from them. As stated in the matrix movie, if you stay close to any system, you will become part of the system. You do not want to be whiners and stay away from them.

The moment you think the organization style & growth does not meet your pace, style, acceleration, aspiration, that is the time you need to seriously think to prepare your resume. No matter what the market condition is, there is always high demand for highly talented individual in any field. If you do not make your self available in the market then you will become part of the existing system. You will lose acceleration, aspiration, ambition, pace, motivation and interest and will become part of the system and start doing what is required to fit into the system.

Abundant opportunities exists in any organization and it is up to an individual to use it and thrive in the organization. Behavior and attitude matters every day to thrive in the organization. If you have a good positive attitude you will never have a bad day and if you have a bad attitude you will never have a good day.

Attitude is what required to learn and grow in any organization.

How to hire the best enterprise architect & IT strategiest?

The best managers always take their time to hire the best candidate for a job. There are opinions about the traits of good hiring manager. Finding a best fit allows to have a win-win scenario for both employees and employers. It is relatively straight forward to find a best fit for a technology role or in general, when the roles and responsibilities are clear and globally understood in the organization.

The role of an enterprise architect should be crystal clear to the enterprise architecture teams (if not, it is bigger problem and hiring the best enterprise architect is not relevant). In larger organizations, the over all understanding of an enterprise architect role is not clear. When I asked few managers, senior managers, directors, vice presidents in different areas(IT application, Business infrastructure, shared service area) about their understanding of enterprise architect role, most of them had different understanding and way off from the reality. That is one of the challenge for an enterprise architect to navigate the organization to ensure their value proposition and demonstrate it to the key stakeholders.

I look for these top 10 skills from an enterprise architect:

  1. Abstract thinking
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Executive level communication (ability to communicate to the senior executives effectively)
  4. Analytical (structure a given problem, garner factual data, perform quantitative analysis and present a solution for a given problem)
  5. Vertical thinking
  6. Diplomatic (humbly assertive)
  7. EA & Strategy concepts
  8. Turning vision/strategic objectives into working plans
  9. Attitude (team player, more I’s used the less qualified EA)
  10. Correlation skills (connecting the dots of multiple disjoint events)

To me, mastered EA frameworks, using the right buzz words (like SOA, BPM, web 2.0 etc), worked in big 4 in the enterprise architecture area does not necessarily qualify to become a successful EA in a team which believes EA has a ROI. I believe my vision of EA team will work on requests like provide various scenarios to reduce the over all IT G&A budget by 10% without affecting the quality, quantity of services and head count. EA will present the various existing scenarios (scenario planning) in the organization to achieve this goal withing the given parameters and over coming the constrains. Knowledge can be always be learned and acquired.

For the above EA/IT Strategist role and to generate this level of value to an organization, how to hire the best candidate?

Hiring process consists of structure, clarity on the requirement, assessment of candidate skills and intuition. I had great success, ok success with fine tuning after the hire and utterly wrong in the judgment.

How to hire the best EA/IT Strategist?

  1. Filter the resumes
  2. Screen the filtered resumes over phone (look for communication, passion, knowledge, thrive, drive, openness, listening)
  3. Bring the screened candidate for a group interview
  4. Start with personal stuff like hobbies, drive time, why they want to join, their current understanding of the requirement, articulation of the employers requirements etc
  5. During the interview, look for the following
  • Smarter than me (EA Manager). Drive the right conclusion faster.
  • Ask them to analyze an incremental problem and focus on the approach and not on the solution. Incremental problem: provide a simple problem and keep increasing the constraints
  • Seek for the correlation skills (how they are connecting the dots)
  • How much patience they show in understanding the grass root of the problem

The above procedure helped to get great EA/IT Strategiest candidates and worked 83.33% of time.

My Retirement Plan

I don’t know why retirement plan often comes to my mind frequently. Either I feel I’m close to retirement (mentally feeling old, but quantitatively I have to wait another 20 years easy for my retirement) or since I have been doing strategy work extensively, my sub conscience want to work on a plan for my life after 20-25 years in case if I continue to live that far. If I continue to live for some years after 25 years from now, this is what I’m planning to do (as of today) after retirement..

  • Part time lecturer in near by college to teach engineering physics (quantum mechanics in specific)
  • Maintain a farm (may be of size 25 acres) in my village (mostly with coconut trees)
  • Write a book on
    • South Indian farmer’s natural strategic thinking/thought process ( Some prestigious business school study on strategic planning and I believe the farmers who has 3-5th grade education in the villages thinking almost same or even in some cases better than the prestigious business school educated scholars)
    • How to live after you die?
  • Self discovery (who am I??)
  • Wicket keeping coach (or free wicket keeping training center)


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