When "Good Enough" isn't

I'm in a state of constant turmoil about our product.  I have this vision of where we want to be and I have the need to ship useful product now.   Some people would stamp a product "good enough" and ship.   Why?  Because I've been in startups that just keep developing product to an ever elusive and changing end goal.  But never shipped, never had a customer.

But I'm not happy with good enough.  What you ship needs to be much better than anything out there.  So I figured out a way to get both done.   The key is to focus on core functions we absolutely know will delight our customers today.  The rest is "good enough" for now.  Why?  Because every time you release, and customers use the product you gain more knowledge and clarity on the next set of functions and features.  

This constant iteration and innovation drives the product closer to the vision.  So "good enough" doesn't cut it for the core features, but is o.k. for the fringe where no one really knows the right answer until they see it, touch it and use it.

Are you a somebody?

How many times have you been in a meeting and you hear "Somebody should do this"?  Of course they aren't a somebody.   I am fortunate that everyone I work with is a somebody.  They get things done.  

I'm convinced that in any meeting there are participants and pontificators.  Aa Pontificators are easy to spot.  They "we we" all over themselves about how wonderful they are and toss out lots of suggestions.  When you nail them down to perform something, they fail and make excuses, usually about how it's someone else's fault (because important folks like them never fail).  Unfortunately I've run into this three times in the last year.  When I figure out they are a pontificator, I part company quickly.

Excuses are excuses, execution is the only thing that matters.  Be a somebody.


University of Utah Clinics Raise Cost of Visit by 69%

Last month I needed my eyes examined.  Since I don't have vision insurance I asked how much it would be.  The answer "$76".   The next week I went in and got my exam, pulled out my check book and was told "$137".  Turns out the billing people decided to raise the rates 69% over the weekend. Aa

It took me a month to figure out what happened.  CPT 92004 "Comprehensive eye examination" was $95, but cash got you a 30% discount.  The following week CPT 92004 was now $161 and they charged for CPT 92015 "determination of refractive state" (e.g. what is your lens prescription) $35.    Why the change?   Because the bean counters determined that since insurance would pay up to that amount, they would charge that amount.   And since only 5% of their business doesn't have insurance, oh well, too bad.

So your insurance premiums go up and your employer pays more.  What's interesting is that Medicare will pay for CPT 92004 at $96.   So the U is charging people with private insurance 68% more than Medicare.  Ouch!

In fairness, the people at the clinic who actually deal with patients / customers are very upset at what the bean counters have done.  It's sad when a clinic is forced down the path of maximizing revenue over providing effecient and cost effective care.   And this just illustrates why the Affordable Care Act passed.  


AT&T Removes Chairs and Couches from Stores

A friend of mine went to get a new phone at AT&T.   He uses a cane.  Well his trip didn't last long because some genius figured out that if the customers were uncomfortable, they wouldn't stick around for long and therefore less staff was needed.  So they removed everything you could sit on.   Never mind that the staff has to stand all day too.

He went to a different store.

Good job!  If you can drive away all your customers, maybe you won't need any staff at all.  Think of all the money you will save.

Privatizing Medicare

Mike Leavitt couldn't get it done under Bush, so he's trying again.  Here's what he says:

"in which cost-conscious seniors choose among competing insurance and delivery system options. That's how the new drug benefit works"

Yes indeed.  The drug benefit increases the deficit by $1 trillion dollars with the increased profits flowing to pharma.  So I guess Mike wants us taxpayers to send even more money to private insurance companies, because they deliver good healthcare so much better than the government.  


American Express Pass Card: Read the Fine Print

Now that the credit card companies cannot practice predatory credit cards on the youth what can they do?  American Express has the answer: The Pass debit card.  Looks like a great concept, give your teen this card and load money on it.  Sounds pretty good. 

But nowhere on their brochure does it talk about fees.  Go to the website and try to find it.  Ah, in the FAQ section you can hunt and find the fees.  $1.50 per ATM transaction  and $3.95 / month or $48 / year which happens to be $2 less than getting a full blown American Express card.   

Suddenly that free $25 doesn't look like much of a deal.  Here's a better idea.  Go to your local community bank.  Get a joint / teenager free checking account with a free debit card.  Put money into the account.  Do not get overdraft protection.  Cost?  $0.

For $48 / year you can probably afford the gas to drive to the bank to deposit the money.

iPad Physical Design Flaw

The iPad is a nice looking device, unless you want to hold it, or carry it.   It is not a handheld device, it is a prop-able device.   Aa  With a focal length designed for Steve Jobs' eye sight propped on his folded leg.  You cannot use it flat because of the glare (and it skids) and you cannot hold it without fear of it slipping from your grasp. Steve should have dimpled the shell.

I predict that every iPad user will buy a case to compensate for this flaw which will ensure that the aesthetics will only be seen the first time you take it out of the box.  And kudos to the first person who tells me of a case with a hand strap on the back so I can hold it in landscape mode.

Sucking Your Own Exhaust: Over the top reaction to Health Care Bill

I'm watching with great amusement the meltdown going on over the passage of the health care bill.   While it is comfortable to only hang out with people who share your views, it can get ugly  quickly when reality sets in.  

I'm actually talking about companies here.

Yesterday I had a fun lunch with a bunch of people from Novell.  I used to work there 12 years ago.  Half the people hadn't changed their world views in 12 years.   At the end, it was just me and the sales people.  They knew what was going on and were up on everything.   Very refreshing.

Aa  If you are in marketing, you have to get very uncomfortable, get into the field and understand what is going on.   You need an Eeyore to keep you grounded.   So be enthusiastic about what you are doing, but always keep an eye open to reality.

Inuit TurboTax does not work with Intuit Quickbooks Mac

I manage our business on a Mac.  I bought the latest copy Quickbooks 2010 for Mac.   I knew it a little bit quirky because to send to the accountant running Windows, you need to export as Windows.  No biggie.

Aa   The corporate tax returns were due Monday.   But I wasn't worried.   The books were reconciled each month and up to date.   I installed TurboTax Business in my Windows virtual machine (Intuit hasn't gotten around to developing a Mac version yet, because they must believe real accountants don't use a Mac).   I exported the qb file to Windows.  And tried to import them into TurboTax.

TurboTax puked: "unsupported file format".

I ended up having to print out the P&L statement and keypunch every number into TurboTax.  And after doing some research, found out that Intuit TurboTax does not work.....ever....with Intuit Quickbooks Mac.   Now that's good product planning.  "Choose Easy"