Splunk could make the vision of Cognitive Devices-as-a-Service come true!!

Splunk today helps organizations to streamline their operations and to provide a better end user experience via machine data management. It could be the enabler of the Cognitive Devices-as-a-Service future by its intelligent capture, indexing and analytics of machine data.

In a decade from now, in a world of connected devices, controlled by a variety of human inputs (voice / touch / gesture), Splunk could be the brain behind these connected machines providing an efficient, synchronous and seamless experience to the end user.

One of the things, Splunk owes its immense potential is to its singular focus on its mission to make machine data accessible, usable and valuable to everyone.  Let us deep dive into how does this amazing company create value, how does it capture value, it’s amazing growth story and most importantly what does the future hold in store for Splunk.


How does Splunk create value?

Before that let us first understand what is machine data and what makes its interesting to handle. For any interaction that occurs in running a business, there is data generated by the website / app / servers / sensors / devices involved. This “machine data” is inherently unstructured, huge in size and the format is unsuitable for analyzing or visualization. [1] And not to mention, the data format varies based on the type of machine generating the data. Splunk also provides use case specific machine learning capabilities for better predictive analytics, anomaly detection and business optimization. [2]

Let us look at customer examples from three different industries-

Myriad Genetics: It uses Splunk to get results for its patients faster. The content and the format of the data (the primary data here is biological) changes constantly. Myriad sees Splunk as a platform for operational intelligence. For them, being able to constantly react and readjust to the questions for drawing new conclusions without going back to the start of the development pipeline is very helpful (this is achieved since Splunk has the capability to modify the schema at search time). [3]

Intuit: It uses Splunk to collect, monitor and visualize the data that it generates from a variety of financial management solutions. By enabling Intuit’s employees to gain the right insights across the entirety of business, Splunk helps Intuit to get another level of understanding about its customers, thus helping Intuit serve customers better. [4]

City of Los Angeles: It uses Splunk to consolidate and analyze data from a variety of sources (firewall logs, threat intelligence feeds, switches and routers etc.) Using Splunk, the city has brought the activities of 40 different agencies under a single umbrella, helping it gain visibility into suspicious activities, assess citywide risks and prioritize and mitigate threats. Apart from being able to get real time threat intelligence the city has reduced its operational costs and has created a cohesive and singular city level cyber security strategy thus better protecting its digital assets. [5]

As we see Splunk is being used by organizations in very different industries to analyze data (varying in format, total size and rate of generation) from disparate sources to gain operational intelligence about their operations, make them more secure and provide better service. Splunk also has apps and add-ons which can run on top of the Splunk platform for various use cases – these have been created by Splunk or members of the Splunk community. [6]


How does Splunk capture value?

The core products of Splunk are offered in two ways: an on-premise enterprise offering and a cloud offering and the pricing is based on the amount (Gb) of data you index per day and the rate is per Gb indexed. The pricing for the Splunk Premium Solutions (for security, service intelligence and user behavior analytics) is decided on a case by case basis by interacting with the Splunk team.


Splunk Growth Story

Splunk, founded in 2003, today provides operational intelligence to 13,000 customers in over 110 countries enabling their digital transformation. Its revenue has grown by over 3 times in the last 3 years demonstrating its value in solving an acute pain point for organizations. [7]


What does the future hold in store?

The world is moving towards more powerful and connected devices in a variety of places. From our homes, to offices in high rise buildings, factory floors to vehicles on roads and ships in sea, the devices will become intelligent and much more integrated with each other.

Two key points to note for understanding the potential for Splunk in this world:

  1. Significant computing will happen at the edge (made possible by various technological advancements) at an individual device level and between devices, to bring about a great experience for the end user and we will see a shift from cloud to edge computing. [8] [9] For better understanding please watch this amazing talk by Peter Levine (a seasoned tech professional and currently a partner at a16z) goo.gl/QU7aPT. Edge computing would be necessitated by the real time criticality of the operations and the goal of optimum utilization of network bandwidth.
  2. Splunk today can access a variety of data types from disparate sources to help its users solve a myriad of problems. [10] A pictorial depiction of the same can be found here – goo.gl/uQmbcA.

If we combine the two points, Splunk, by analyzing the data being received by one device from another device and providing intelligent responses, can enable a world of Cognitive Devices-as-a-Service (CDaaS).

A small illustrative example of how would this world operate, suppose 10 years from now just as your self-driving car is nearing a traffic signal, your car’s brakes fail and the car cannot stop abruptly to avoid serious injuries to you by shutting down the engine. The Splunk instance in your car recognizes that (based on data about your body and the current speed of the car) and via close area network the Splunk instance on the traffic signal also recognizes that your car cannot stop. This instance accordingly directs the lights so that your car can pass through and then shut down more gradually.

In this Cognitive Devices-as-a-Service world, devices would communicate within themselves to ensure that a human being gets an orchestrated, thoughtful, secure and delightful experience as depicted in the picture.

Splunk

Source of images: [11] to [20]

 

Please See: This post was written by me for the Digital Innovation and Transformation Course at Harvard Business School.

References

[1] https://www.edureka.co/blog/what-is-splunk/

[2] https://www.splunk.com/en_us/resources/machine-learning.html

[3] https://www.splunk.com/en_us/resources/video.c1bGw5ODE6rlFH2qWdzw6ewgrZ5UL5qQ.html

[4] https://www.splunk.com/en_us/newsroom/press-releases/2013/intuit-standardizes-on-splunk-software.html

[5] https://www.splunk.com/en_us/customers/success-stories/city-of-los-angeles.html

[6] https://splunkbase.splunk.com/

[7] http://csimarket.com/stocks/single_growth_rates.php?code=SPLK&rev

[8] http://www.businessinsider.com/edge-computing-is-the-next-multi-billion-tech-market-2016-12

[9] https://softwareengineeringdaily.com/2017/02/03/the-end-of-cloud-computing-with-peter-levine/

[10] https://www.splunk.com/en_us/resources/machine-data.html

[11] https://thecliparts.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/free-3d-clipart-1.jpg

[12] http://cdn.bgr.com/2012/11/mobile-icon.jpg?quality=98&strip=all

[13] https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2013/07/12/18/58/laptop-154091_960_720.png

[14] http://www.radio.net/inc/v2/images/landing/hero/devices/single/ipad.png

[15] https://www.technobuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Fitbit-Alta-HR_Front_Black_TimeForBed.jpg

[16] http://kingofwallpapers.com/vehicle/vehicle-005.jpg

[17] http://wavelengths.freewave.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Traffic-IoT-Blog-image.jpg

[18] https://richmedia.channeladvisor.com/ImageDelivery/imageService?profileId=12026540&id=743078&recipeId=728

[19] https://i.ytimg.com/vi/NhlS6WmN7T4/hqdefault.jpg

[20] https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-jDAdfD_0w-4/AAAAAAAAAAI/AAAAAAAAADo/U7AEYP4fBCM/s0-c-k-no-ns/photo.jpg

 

Salesforce IdeaExchange: CrowdSourcing Ideas from the Users!!

IdeaExchange was launched by Salesforce over 10 years back and has been instrumental in shaping the product roadmap of Salesforce since then. In its essence, it is a place where the users of Salesforce can post ideas which can then be voted on by other members conveying its importance. The Salesforce product team members in turn keep an eye on the ideas, pick up relevant ideas and reply in between on whether an idea has been picked up or is under development or why it is not being picked up – thus ensuring transparency in the community and fostering greater collaboration. This is a great example of using the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ for technology product development.

The below diagram is a snapshot of how the IdeaExchange platform looks like:

IdeaExchange look and feel
Source: a

The below diagram succinctly communicates the working of IdeaExchange:

Working of IdeaExchange
Source: b

The value creation is happening in the following ways:

1. Allows users to influence the product roadmap in a transparent and quantitative manner, democratizing idea generation for Salesforce
2. Allows Salesforce’s partners to build the ideas suggested on the IdeaExchange platform either by users or Salesforce team members.
For example: One Salesforce partner, Appirio developed integration capabilities between Google and Salesforce.com based on a post on the IdeaExchange platform because the Salesforce team did not have the time to develop the functionality. It was able to create the functionality within 6 weeks and it soon became the top app on Salesforce AppExchange. [Source: c]

The value capture is happening in several ways:

1. The ideas allow Salesforce to build better products (by gauging level of need of various ideas) and thus make them stickier.
2. By acting as a source of validated ideas for the partners, the partners are more incentivized to stay on the Salesforce platform and build better applications complimentary to core salesforce product offerings.
3. By providing a transparent and simple mechanism for users to make their voices heard, Salesforce not only creates engagement among its users but also makes them feel a part of the product development teams thus ensuring greater level of stickiness with Salesforce.

From the user’s perspective, one challenge is that for an official response from Salesforce an idea should receive 2,500 points (i.e. 250 votes). Thus this requires one to not only post an idea but also to build support around the same using Success Community (Salesforce), Chatter (Salesforce) or other social media channels such as Salesforce, requiring extra effort. [f] However my personal take on that if one feels the acuteness (impact of the need), one will try and garner the votes – thus the effort invested is a measure of the acuteness of the need felt by the user. And if one is able to get more than 250 votes (both through one’s own efforts and organically) it also suggests how much is the need felt across the spectrum of users.

What has been the impact of IdeaExchange on Salesforce?

The impact on Salesforce has been huge. In the first 10 years of its existence it received over 1.1 million votes, out of which it delivered close to 30% of the product suggestions. These translate into several hundreds of product features over so many years. To name a few features such as Salesforce for outlook [Source: d] and the process builder feature [Source: b] are direct outcomes of the ideas posted on IdeaExchange.
Infact, in the just concluded spring release Salesforce launched 61 ideas from the IdeaExchange suggestions. A few of the top ideas in this release for Salesforce based on Idea Exchange were Search for Contacts by Account Name, Ability to Search on Archived Articles, Customize Columns on Step 1 of Merge Accounts etc [Source: e].

Salesforce for Outlook
Salesforce for outlook

The positive impact of IdeaExchange on Salesforce inspired Dell to launch IdeaStorm built on top of the Salesforce Ideas platform and similarly Starbucks launched MyStarbucksIdea.com [source: c]. Both these initiatives based on the intelligence of the crowd have become the innovation engines for their respective companies and are inspired from the IdeaExchange by Salesforce. Thus, IdeaExchange has not only fostered crowdsourced innovation for Salesforce but has acted as a torch bearer for other companies to follow.

========
References:

a: https://success.salesforce.com/ideaSearch

b: https://admin.salesforce.com/ideas-welcome-ideaexchange-turns-10

c: https://books.google.com/books?id=XX5QJ7hfDW8C&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=How+IdeaExchange+by+Salesforce+evolved&source=bl&ots=DZk8-aC9y2&sig=ACojH53Rg6YAEyS-5B-q8xW3GJU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi3joe9g-PSAhUT0IMKHUieBYAQ6AEIQzAH#v=onepage&q=How%20IdeaExchange%20by%20Salesforce%20evolved&f=false

d: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2012/10/introducing-the-salesforce-for-outlook-side-panel.html

e: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2017/01/ideaexchange-spring-17-features.html

f: https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=000205453&type=1

g: http://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2007/09/070917-02.jsp

PS: This blog was originally written by me for the Digital Innovation and Transformation course at HBS.

 

Uber: Revolutionizing transportation one ride at a time!!

My thoughts on Uber.

uber-1

No other company till date has been able to create a global operating system for a predominantly physical sector at the scale which Uber has done. AirBnB and WeWork have done the same for the real estate space but as of now Uber is more ubiquitous than either of them.

Uber is a digital operating layer over the transport and logistics industries. Let us see how has Uber arrived at the scale it is today (though it still can scale a lot in the transportation and logistics space) and what propels it.

Clear value proposition: Uber right from its inception has identified and served a job to be done for riders “a hassle free on demand car”. It has identified and diversified into various transportation modes such that as a rider, for going from my dorm to a friend’s place, it provides options which vary from $ 2.75 to $ 25 – thus, there is a car to fit almost everyone’s needs! In addition, it allows drivers (both professional and occasional) a hassle free experience of when they want to ride and whom they want to ride with, increasing their financial opportunities in the process. Uber has also helped cities become less congested and less polluted.

Product: Uber has invested a lot in the product. Both from UI and UX perspective it is neat and seamless. Uber’s continuous investment in technology is evident in geo location techniques to match riders to the nearby cabs, features to improve safety, optimizing routes, surge pricing schemes to balance supply and demand.To top it all it continues to invest in technologies which will make the experience more seamless and integrated – setting up of the AI lab in Dec 2016 is one of the many examples to prove the same.  Uber does a lot of structured product experiments to see what works and what not.

A slightly detailed analysis of the Uber product:

For the riders:
a) The UI is very neat and intuitive with clear call to action of where to
b) The UX provides easy to understand car options, effortless placement of frequented destinations (what destinations show up at the bottom of the app are shown based on intelligent data analytics), painless transactions and multi modal transactions (both cashless and cash – a very nice read into the experiment and learn approach taken by Uber to come up with cash payments: goo.gl/abQvnC )
c) The time estimate and fare estimate helps the rider in better planning
d) As a rider, I am concerned about whether the car I am riding in is safe or not – by enabling features such as driver selfie check before they go online, safety related reminders to drivers on the driver app (related to speed and importance of breaks) and daily reports to drivers about their driving assures me of the steps taken by Uber for safety.

For the driver:
a) By showcasing high demand areas on the driver app, Uber allows drivers an opportunity to figure out where can they earn more (due to surge pricing) and in the process alleviate the low supply concern for drivers.
b) Uber’s focus on accessibility by optimizing their driver app for deaf / hard of hearing folks (use of flashing light to notify drivers when a trip is requested or notifying riders that the driver is hard of hearing or barring the call feature on the rider app for the trips with deaf/hard of hearing drivers) is touching. (A video showcasing the brief experience of a deaf driver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqxAmqkZWFA)
c) Ability to rate riders leading to a truly accountable market place.
d) Features such as Fuel Finder (to help driver locate the nearest and most economical gas station) or Driver Destinations (so that twice a day, when starting or ending work, drivers only get request from riders who have to go on the same path) provide a better driving experience to the driver.

People: Uber has a reputation of hiring driven people, who desire to create an impact on the world and are some of the smartest people in the various geographies it operates in. Uber is very selective and gives its teams a lot of autonomy. The surge pricing which is built on supply and demand economics was built by the Boston city team to check if more drivers were on the roads in the chilly winter nights because of higher payouts. It worked and rest as they say is history!

Value Capture: Uber takes a cut out of every ride that is taken by the riders. This is it’s primary revenue source.

These elements are captured in this diagram below

uber-business-model

Today Uber servers in over half a thousand cities across the world. Being the operating layer between drivers and riders, it has reached this scale by relying on indirect network effects.

Initially, Uber took time in rolling out to new geographies and with time its ability to launch a new city became a lot better. Being a two sided market place, in its first market SF, Uber relied on a combination of clear value proposition, great product, free rides and word of mouth publicity to attract riders to its platform. Simultaneously it attracted drivers. It followed a similar playbook in subsequent cities, with its brand value getting added to the list of reasons. The diagram below does a great job of explaining the Uber launch playbook.

engine_graphic

Source: GrowthHackers.com

Uber relied not only on indirect network effects to get more drivers but also had schemes such as low interest car loans for drivers. This not only allowed it to attract drivers but also enabled it to get the drivers stick to its platform thus further strengthening its network.

What does the future have in store?

Although these network effects are local and several players are trying to take market share away from Uber (in the on demand cab service industry) by employing different business models, I would bet that Uber will triumph.

Concerns of multi-homing are valid but if one looks at the history, Uber is becoming more entrenched in the transportation fabric of today’s world not only through its simple on demand car app, but by diversifying into UberEATS, Uber for Business, Uber Freight, its ambitious investments into AI for making the dream of driverless cars come true and by attempting on demand air transportation via Uber Elevate – these would allow it to always stay leaps ahead of competition.

I believe Uber’s primary reason for triumph would not just be a better app but because a few years down the line we would not remember Uber as an on demand car app but we will recognize it as an intelligent platform simplifying transportation and logistics at unimaginable scale.

PS: A major portion of the post, was written by me for the Digital Innovation and Transformation Course at HBS.

Sources:

[a] https://qz.com/603600/ubers-former-head-of-growth-on-the-early-days-surge-pricing-and-on-demand-ice-cream/

[b] https://newsroom.uber.com/securityselfies/

[c] http://www.inc.com/nicole-carter-and-tim-rice/how-uber-grows-internationally-city-by-city.html

[d] https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/uber

[e] https://newsroom.uber.com/

[f] http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-to-launch-uberfreight-for-long-haul-trucking-2016-10

Stripe: Revolutionizing the online payments space!

stripe-logo-1

With the mission to increase the internet’s GDP, Stripe is revolutionizing the online payments space. Since its launch in 2011, it has grown tremendously and is currently operational in over 25 countries. With continuously increasing adoption of Stripe, it’s no wonder that it is a darling of the venture capitalists who recently funded it at a $9.2 bn valuation.  Although being a private company, there is a lack of data but this widely public picture tweeted by Paul Graham in 2013 shows the kind of growth that Stripe started seeing back then and it still continues to grow at a fast pace as validated from the employee/valuation/geographical spread growth.

bzhld7scqaarcha

But let us see, what enabled this phenomenal success story.

Stripe created value by

  • Focusing on a fundamental problem: For merchants looking to go online, setting up and being able to start accepting payments involved several manual interventions (phone audits, paper applications etc) and the process took significant time. The companies providing these payment solutions lacked modern code bases, APIs, client libraries and documentation was missing in most cases.
  • Being focused on the creators i.e. the developers: Post problem identification, Stripe set out to build a payments platform that could be setup instantly and scale to any size with the developer at the central focus of it. Developers who earlier had to deal with legacy systems were thrilled with Stripe which incessantly strives to create value for them. Some of the ways in which Stripe has created value for the developers are:
    a) A clean and easy to use payments API with robust documentation which has essentially forced other online payment solution providers to up their API game.
    b) Stripe provides a testing environment for developers with robust testing documentation. It provides a complete testing instance with every account so that the developer can test any functionality that he / she desires to test before deploying it to production. The fact that the deployment experience is designed to be a single click experience shows the care that Stripe has for the developers.
    c) Stripe has created and supports libraries for most popular programming languages. This helps the developers by saving them time in writing code to integrate the API into their code bases.
    d) Stripe has created very elegant user interfaces for the front end checkout experience (incase companies do not want to create their own front end experience), asking for only as much details as required in a simplified manner. A depiction of the neat frontend UI is below
    blog-post-hero
    e) Stripe supports data portability i.e. if a developer decides to leave Stripe, they will help in migrating the sensitive card data in a secure and PCI compliant manner. This is valuable to the developers when they are making a decision about the platform to go with as it shows that Stripe respects them and does want to lock them in.
    f) Stripe also helps developers follow good security practices by ensuring that card data never hits the servers of the developers.

Stripe has been able to create this significant value for the developers because of a few key factors:

  • Team: Stripe has been able to create a great product and been able to serve so many clients as a result of its exceptional team. They have created a great technology product handling complex financial interactions on the backend for several billions of dollars, have been able to provide extremely knowledgeable and responsive customer service and have been able to partner with high profile businesses such as Apple, Alipay and Twitter.
  • Leveraging Network Effects and the Social Element: As more and more developers signed up and started using Stripe, it helped Stripe to create a better and more robust product. In addition, the developer community is close knit and once a product earns their respect they spread it to other developers. Alongwith building a great product, by facilitating hackathons and developer events, Stripe was able to strengthen the community and ensure that developers keep on spreading good words about it.
  • Platform play: Stripe is not just a payment product but rather a platform facilitating other companies to build on top of it and extend their service which they are currently not able to provide.

Stripe captures value via a very simple pricing scheme – a pay as you go model, based on a percentage cut per transaction, with most of the product offerings included.

Stripe envisions itself as being the operating layer for global online commerce and has started offering products such as Atlas which help one setup an online business with full legal and tax advice. With e-commerce still in its infancy and more and more businesses looking to take the online route, the future looks very bright for Stripe as it strives to build products that help businesses run online more efficiently. With only 2% of commerce being online there is a lot of room for growth. Having worked for four years in a wonderful ecommerce company, Flipkart and witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact of ecommerce I am confident that a large number of entrepreneurs will take their operations online in the coming decades. As the co-founder of Stripe, Patrick Collision (the other co-founder is his brother – John Collision) echoing this sentiment, said, “our biggest customer has not been born yet.” This future growth of ecommerce will not only enable API based businesses such as Stripe to grow significantly but also enable us to witness more creativity as startup founders won’t have to worry about the underlying wiring of the digital economy.

Please let me know what are your thoughts about Stripe and the writeup.

Please See: I myself have not used the Stripe API yet, but have read several articles some of which are listed below and these views are a result of that.

= = = = = = = =

References:

https://stripe.com/about

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-stripe-funding-idUSKBN13O03B

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BZhld7SCQAArcHa.png:large

https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/how-stripe-marketed-to-developers-so-effectively

https://stripe.com/img/blog/posts/checkout-new-features/blog-post-hero.png

WhatsApp: an exceptional product!

My thoughts on WhatsApp.

whatsapp

WhatsApp stands out for me as I look back at all the products launched in the last decade. It has simplified communications for me in a way that it is difficult for me to comprehend communications without it.

WhatsApp is a phone number based, cross platform, instant communication mobile application. I am using the word ‘instant communication’ rather than ‘instant messaging’ because it allows for various modes of communication rather than just messaging. I love WhatsApp because it has made communication seamless for me with my family, friends and colleagues, individually and in a group.

There are certain aspects about WhatsApp which standout for me:

UI:

  • The interface is intuitive and the absence of advertisements right from its inception till date, adds to the appeal.
  • The interface supports text in italics, bold and strike through format: for italics use _ before and after the text to be italicized, for bold use * before and after the text to be bold and for strike through use ~ before and after the text to be struck.

User Experience:

  • It works for several modes: text messaging/voice calling/video calling and sharing of media files and documents.
  • It has a desktop application so that one does not have to keep getting back to one’s cell phone to send new messages or respond to messages.
  • One can also have a look at the media files and search for documents and links shared between oneself and friends making it easier to track in case you want to resurface a particular content later.
  • One can use @functionality in a group to address someone and can choose a specific message to reply
  • One can star messages in a conversation and search them later
  • It recently has added the ability to add notes, drawings and smileys on pictures before sending adding to the emotional appeal of the product
  • It provides ability to stream a part of the video, before downloading it completely
  • It directly adds contacts from the contact book, thus offering an ease in adding contacts
  • In a group it allows one to determine who has received and who has read one’s message. For checking, one has to long press the desired message and click on the i symbol above and it opens up the message with delivered to and read by details as explained in the picture below
    screenshot_20170130-083227

Security and Privacy:

  • It does not store data and the data flow is encrypted end to end assuring security.
  • It also facilitates account portability when one changes their phone number.
  • The read receipts functionality can be enabled providing user the provision to let his friends know that the message has been read and disabled to ensure privacy.

Requirements:

  • It works extremely fine in low data connectivity regions
  • One can backup their messages to the drive, thus ensuring low disk space usage on phone


There are certain areas wherein I would expect WhatsApp to improve as a product

Long Term:

WhatsApp events: WhatsApp should provide the functionality of creating events and gauging the interest of a group for the same.

Why is this essential:

  • Currently in a group it is very difficult to keep track of who all are coming.
  • It is cumbersome to count the +1s or yes’s to get a sense of how many people are coming.
  • The communications closer to the event timing between people who are going is agonizing for anyone in the group not going
  • Although not a primary reason, but GroupMe has a similar feature to help groups plan their events seamlessly

User experience:
As a group member, one can send an event invite with the name, place and time details. As soon as one does this a separate group gets created as an event group to this parent group. When someone in the parent group clicks on yes on the invite they get added to the event group. All communications related to the event happen in the event group. The event group gets deleted after 7 days of the event.

Edge case:
An edge case is what happens if one has first said yes, then wants to say no and then again say yes. The event can be said no to by exiting from the event group. In case one wants to go again, the events can be accessed from the parent group as one currently accesses media/document and links.

Communicating with businesses/service providers: WhatsApp is a communication app and the go to app for almost all kinds of personal communication. However, its usage for communicating with businesses is limited. I would have a feature where there would be a chat window “talk to businesses”. To start off this this can be used to communicate with bigger businesses but as the world becomes more digital in the long run, this can also be used to communicate with local service providers such as booking an appointment at the salon or booking an appointment with the local medical clinic etc.

Why is this essential:
This is essential so that WhatsApp can become the go to app for all the communication needs of a person.

User Experience:
The way it will be structured is that within the chat window “talk to business” one can search for preapproved partners or ask WhatsApp “WhatsApp can I speak to @Uber/Expedia/AirBnB etc”. Then the user can communicate with those preapproved partners like one does with a bot (or with Skills on Alexa) and in this way WhatsApp can facilitate the conversion.

Short Term:

Real time picture modification ie picture filters: WhatsApp should allow me to edit an image in the app (either while attaching an existing image or taking a snap and sending it across):

Why is this essential:
This is essential because users want to modify the images: either playing around with brightness etc or changing the tinge such as grayscale or sepia before sending it. Currently a user has to get out of the app, add the effects and then send it – this is a sub-optimal user experience and requires greater number of clicks.

User experience:
This can be solved by having an edit feature in the app which allows you to add these effects or modify the parameters while sending the image via an edit button.
This would look something like in the below gif which has been prepared on a slightly earlier version of WhatsApp.

whatsapp_pic_effects-3


Switching between video and audio call:
 One should have the ability to switch from video call mode to audio call mode without dropping off the call

Priority notification: If a phone/WhatsApp is in complete silent mode say at night, even then a selected few people should have access to us (their ping or calls on WhatsApp should be hearable or vibrate) but only for those people.

Why is this essential:
A lot of folks use their mobile phones as their alarm clock during sleep and keep it by their side. However, during sleep they do not want to get disturbed by everyone apart from a few folks. Currently either they have to silent every app notification / call to have a sound sleep. This feature will allow them at a blanket level to apply a priority notification feature for a few hours only for a few select users whom they want to be able to get in touch with them at any point of the time in the day (even while you are asleep). The rest of the users for that period will automatically follow the phone’s setting. This does not get solved by putting the phone in silent mode and doing custom access for some people individually because the custom accesses need to be defined for each person and you cannot specify a time for the custom access today (and hence you need to disable the custom access everytime you want to stop it since you do not want everyone to have access to you always).

User experience:
In settings, as a user, one should be able to select a Priority notification feature which should provide me the optionality of selecting users whom one wants this function to get applied to and also let me define the time for which this function should be valid.

What does the future hold in store?

If one looks at the various chat applications across the world, not only are chat applications seeing phenomenal growth in their respective geographies but in the future would evolve into platforms rather than just remaining standalone products. The future for instant messaging applications looks exciting: Facebook messenger has gone over a billion users, WeChat has become the go to app for almost anything in China, SnapChat has seen phenomenal growth and in 2016 Google launched Allo. These applications will form a new computing interface, influencing how we interact with each other, with our connected environment and with various businesses.

WhatsApp needs to realize that there are various jobs to be done for users in different geographies and it needs to create a platform facilitating those jobs at a geography level. WhatsApp is the most widely used chat app prevalent across geographies and the way of doing things differs by geography. Unlike other chat applications such as WeChat which have evolved into a platform by serving to an audience predominantly in China. WhatsApp does not have that kind of luxury while thinking about its platform play. However, this is an opportunity for WhatsApp to create an international platform over the mobile network (kind of an operating layer) on which people across geographies can not only communicate but also use it for other experiences such as commerce, communicating with businesses, intra enterprise communication, integration with offline world, payments, VR/AR integration and instant translation. Once WhatsApp is able to transform itself into such a global operating layer, not only would it become more engaging but would literally become indispensable for billions of users across the world.