How to start an inno project and build commitment your team?

You have a vision, you gathered a team and you even have a budget. And now, how do you get your team started? List your team’s expectations, build a common understanding, and let your team take on responsibility. You also have to come to terms with the fact that the project involves uncertainties.

We have the ambition to create a tool that provides micro-learning to train cognitive biaises. Today we have a prototype. Last spring, we had only a vision to lead us. As told in a previous post, one of my colleague detected a need in an industry and an opportunity for us to create a new tool. He gathered a small team and invited us for a kickoff meeting. We were all motivated. How could we proceed?

During the kickoff, we jolted ideas around, and used sticky notes to draw the project. It was important that we all had a common understanding of the tool we wanted to create. This kickoff meeting was also the moment when we created a team spirit and built personal commitment.

Ownership, responsibility and role

As motivated as I was to play my part, I needed to understand how I could contribute to the project and how much time it would involve. We started by writing down the outputs we expected from the meeting. The expectations were various.

Our expectations for the kickoff meeting

Kevin expected us to take ownership. The initial idea came to him and he wrote a paper about it. He expected us to work as a team and take ownership. This is what he means by ‘Co-sign Whitepaper’.

To me ownership meant responsibility. The moment I commit to a project means that I stop saying ‘Kevin’s idea’ or ‘Kevin decided’ or ‘Kevin meant’. I start saying ‘we think’, ‘we decided’. It also means that I committed myself to play my part, make time to work on the project.

I needed to understand, the role that I would play, in other words how, with my competences I would contribute to the project. This is expressed as ‘Where do I position myself?’ From the beginning we are a multidisciplinary team. We have learnt to contribute with our respective skills. Understanding my role leads to better planning. If I understand my tasks and how I relate to the other team members, I can organise my agenda and be available when I am needed.

During this meeting we also decided how we would communicate about the project to our stakeholders’, which at this point, were internal. We finally defined the next steps and decided the content of the next workshop.

Map the idea – understanding with drawing

We were sitting down, listening to Kevin. Sitting around a table is so limiting! Ideas cannot express themselves, they keep eluding and the energy slowly runs low. We couldn’t see what Kevin was explaining. After a moment of deep concentration, I tend to relax a bit, which means that I am not being this concentrated. At some point, we were all running low on energy. Thus we started drawing.

White walls are a blessing. Someone starts drawing and you can add up your idea, then everyone can see and add his/hers.
It started with a sketch, and step by step it became like a map. A map of the idea, where we could navigate, see the stakeholders, start apprehending who we needed to talk to, what we needed to understand, what remains unclear, what is our role, our strengths and weaknesses.

Let your team take ownership by drawing together the idea.

It very much looks like this: drawing, talking and gesturing. When you stand, the flow of ideas wraps you up and before you realize it, you are ‘in it’, you take ownership and you belong. You stand and draw together. It has nothing to do with sitting and looking at someone talking, you are part of it.

Drawing of our project

Our drawing got more complex while our understanding of the situation got clearer.

Be kind to your blue side and deal with uncertainties

Have you ever heard of the DISC assessment? That test attributes colors to people after a test. I never took it myself, but I often heard some friends refer jokingly to it. When they refer to the ‘blue colleague’, they talk about his preciseness, attention to detail and his capacity to be systematic. As I started this project, I realised that part of me, that I will call my ‘blue side’ backed off, because it was unconvinced. My blue part tends to refrain the overly enthusiastic and risky part (I don’t know the color of this side yet ;-)

In other words, during this meeting, my blue side realized that there is a huge part of unknown in this project. When you start an innovation project, you have to be aware of the fact that some uncertainty and risk will always be present. During my studies and work life, I have been trained to try to avoid mistakes and evaluate risk. I usually try to have a fairly good idea of the success I expect  from my actions before I perform them. Starting an innovation process is the contrary of this. It is jumping in the unknown and imagining something that does not exist… yet. You need to be open-minded and accept the risk and unknown.

To conclude: we mapped the project and I accepted the probability to fail

It was time for me to accept that mistakes are part of the game and to come to terms with the probability of failing. An innovation process is made of ups and downs, test, success, mistakes and iteration. The risk is part of the game.

During this first meeting, we mapped the project and the stakeholders It gave us the necessary common grounds to start working together. To draw the project allowed us to clearly see the expertise we needed. We planned the next steps and organized the first workshop where we would invite other experts. The project had officially started.

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Houston: a mobile app to replace a radio communication system

Bring your company radio system to the 21st century using VoIP and mobile applications to improve communication quality while reducing costs.

With the project Houston, we took the challenge of replacing the old radio network of the Transports Publics Fribourgeois (TPF), a swiss public transportation company by a system using existing data network and running on mobile applications. This solution solved the problem of maintaining a dedicated radio network. It also improved both the global quality of the communication and the availability of the system.

Initial situation: communication based on radio system

Since decades, employees of the Transports Publics Fribourgeois (TPF) have been using standard radio to communicate between them. The radio system is meant to cover the needs of the users. It is spread over more than 200 busses, 30 team leaders and the operation center). There are three types of users, with specific needs:

  • The operators – working in the operation center – use the radio to speak to a specific bus driver, or to broadcast messages to all or part of the running busses.
  • The team leaders are dispatched at different locations. They use the radio to manage daily events – such as the replacement of a driver – or to inform many drivers of a change in the network – for example in case of an accident.
  • The bus drivers use the bus radio as the main means of communication while driving. They can call other busses, the team leaders or the operation center.

 

Logo TPF

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Compare and convert HEIF, JPEG and WebP images with rokka

TL;DR

Go to https://compare.rokka.io/_compare/ and compare the output of the HEIF, JPEG and WebP formats. Even upload your own pictures. All done with rokka.

Long version

Apple produced quite some hype with their support for the HEIF image format in the upcoming iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) is a new image file format, which supports many use cases and uses HEVC for the compression part, also known as H.265. Apple is using HEIF on their latest devices as a replacement for storing pictures and claims up to 50% saves on storage.

Even though no browser does support HEIF yet, also not Safari in the current betas, we nevertheless thought it would be cool to add HEIF support to rokka – our image storage and delivery service. And so we did.

Unfortunately there’s no out-of-the-box solution to create HEIF files currently. But Ben Gotow‘s site jpgtoheif.com inspired us. He published instructions how to create HEIF files with the help of ffmpeg, x265 and Nokia’s heif writerapp. But due to the uncommercial-only license of that Nokia code, we use GPAC to create the HEIF container, which is published under the LGPL license.

Looking at and comparing HEIF compressed images

What’s the fun, when almost no one can look at the result? So we built a little site, where you can compare the output of rokka’s HEIF, JPEG and WebP (the later is only supported on Chrome) and even upload your own pictures. Just head to

https://compare.rokka.io/_compare/

and enjoy it. The uploaded images will be deleted from time to time.

The site uses Nokia’s HEIF Reader JavaScript Implementation, which decodes a HEIF image in JavaScript to a canvas element. This way, everyone can look at HEIF images and compare them to JPEG and WebP output.

The site also allows you to play with different quality settings. All formats support a setting from 1 to 100. 1 is the lowest and 100 the highest (also means lossless for WebP). The different quality settings for the different formats don’t really correspondent to each other. Just play around with them and compare the sizes of the images with different settings.

We use pretty much the default settings of ffmpeg, maybe some stuff could be improved on that side. And we also don’t know what kind of encoder Apple is using for generating HEIF images. So don’t really compare the compression we produce for HEIF images with what maybe other encoders can do.

Also be aware, that we asynchronously compress JPEG images in the background with mozjpeg (see the rokka docs for details), so the first render output is not the maximized compression we can get for JPEG images. Just hit the render button 10 seconds later to get the final compression (the site will inform you, when it’s not done yet with that compression step).

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rokka got some new features

Rokka – our image storage and delivery service, got quite some new features lately, thanks also to feedback from our users. Here’s a list of the visible stuff we did.

Brandnew this week

  • autoformat. A new stack option. If set, rokka will return WebP, if the client supports it and a PNG or JPEG was requested, resulting in smaller images.
  • dpr. Device Pixel Ratio. Another new stack option. If set, returns higher resolution images, useful for <img srcset="" /> for example.
  • Width or height are finally optional in the resize operation.
  • The WordPress plugin got some improvements.
  • Work for a Drupal 8 module and a Kirby plugin are under way.
  • General improvements in performance, failover cases and small bugfixes.

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The exciting day I started an innovation process for a learning tool

We currently address the need for a modular framework for bite size learning, and we are now investing to create the next level micro-learning system. Innovation ‘for real’ is nothing like you might expect. It does not happen like an apple falling off a tree: good ideas do not fall from nowhere. You have to be open to challenges, to be motivated to work with the team and in a ‘safe’ place, an environnement where trying is allowed.

How to be open to innovation?

You have to be open to new challenges, which is difficult even close to impossible if you are stressed out or under tight deadlines for example. During my first year at Liip (2016), I undertook many projects that had started before I had arrived. As a result, I had little time for planning or strategies, I undertook what was already started. During this first year, everything was new, I was in the turmoil of an event, or in a middle of a project, my whole energy was focused on current tasks.
Before Christmas 2016, my knowledge of the enterprise and the field had exponentially expanded. It allowed me to grasp the necessary bigger picture of my enterprise’s needs and challenges. Simultaneously, many projects came to an end, as a result, I was not under tight deadlines. In other words, I was open to new challenges and ideas. I had cognitive capacity to take on new challenges. When Kevin, a colleague I barely knew, approached me, I welcomed his project with an open mind.

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Native or Hybrid Mobile Application, Which One Should I Choose?

It is complex for non-geeks to understand the mobile application ecosystem. We often hear jargon such as mobile apps, hybrid apps, native apps, single-codebase-cross-platforms apps, etc.

Some clarification is needed.

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5 lessons learnt about the new SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS

The SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS was released in March and we were very excited to try it out. This toolkit allows companies to let developers build, extend, and run iOS apps based on SAP back-end data. Thus, business’ employees can access live data at any time from their iOS mobile app, and enjoy the standard SAP Fiori design language they are used to.

We booked a one-day hands-on with Noé in our ThinkSpace war room with the objective to have a demo app up and running and plugged to the SAP Cloud Platform (formerly known as SAP Hana). This may sound like an easy goal but honestly, knowing SAP, we thought that it was already ambitious.

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Do I Need a Mobile Application or a Mobile Website?

In our digital era where people’s attention is scattered between apps and websites, it’s not easy to know whether you need a mobile application, or if a responsive website (that can be accessed via your web browser) would meet your needs.

I have this discussion every week with new clients, and I thought it was time to share our reasoning here at Liip in order to give you a clear answer if you still hesitate.

Do You Want To Reach Your Users, or Bring Rich Features to Them?

When clients come with a mobile app request, I explain them that most of the time, a web application is more efficient in terms of investment, as well as in term of reach.

The second question I get after this answer is: “When would I need a mobile app, then?”
In my point of view, mobile apps are useful when they are crafted to be rich — vs. the reach that web applications can provide. Rich in terms of features that are only available on mobile devices, and that can’t be achieved via web technologies.

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Drupal 8 – Multilanguage Improvements

As a Swiss-based Drupal Agency, we have to create a lot of multilingual sites. Since Switzerland has three official languages (German, French, Italian) and even one more national language (Rumantsch), we are used to this requirement and we found our way with Drupal to make this an easy task (usually). We mainly used node translations in Drupal 7 for maximum flexibility. We used to separate languages from each other using the various i18n modules, language specific menus, blocks, URL-patterns, terms and so on.

With Drupal 8, things changed.
I struggled a little doing multilingual sites in Drupal 8 the same way I was used to in Drupal 7 because node translation is not available anymore (which is good) so I had to find another way to achieve the same easy to handle translations system. For us and for our clients. Let me explain, what I have learned.

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Using an After Effects animation in your iOS, Android or React Native app

Animations greatly improve overall user experience! This tutorial explains how to export and use an Adobe After Effects animation in your iOS, Android or React Native project, with Bodymovin and Lottie.

Animating your logo with After Effects

The first part is creating the animation with Adobe After Effects. After Effects is a powerful tool that is used to create digital visual effects and motion graphics. Starting with After Effect is fairly easy. Animating a logo for example will take you a few hours. Read my last blog post and go for it: Adobe After Effects: how to get started?

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