My story begins with this series of pictures, taken 27 years ago.
At the time, this seemed like a cool idea for a Mother's Day gift, and maybe one that would begin a bit of a tradition.
Well, 27 of these little photo montages and 2 more kids and one daughter-in-law later, I'm still at it.
[Editor's note: One might ask why am I still at it 27 years later, and why this fabulous idea has not yet been turned over to one of my kids. THAT is a very good question.]
Over the years, the process to create these works of art has changed. The "Happy Mother's Day" changed to "We Love Mom" as the gang grew.
It used to be difficult to find mats and frames that suited my purpose. Something must have changed in the matting and framing space over the past 25 years, because this is now a piece of cake (usually at Target).
I used to take actual photos, and get actual film developed. To be on the safe side, I usually took at least 10 of each "we" and each "love" and each "mom" in order to make sure that at least one good one of each came out. All of the outakes exist in some box somewhere. I had to get started about a week or so in advance in order to save time to get the pictures developed.
A byproduct of all our technological progress - as well as the dispersion of kids to multiple geographies - is that creating this annual project gets later and later each year (It's Mother's Day again? It's in early May this year?). Well, this year took the cake, but in the process it also highlighted for me a great example of what it means to be a process revolutionary in the age of Social, Local, and Mobile (SoLoMo) technologies.
And my award as this year's Mother's Day Process Revolutionary - for really understanding how to adapt processes to the SoLoMo era - goes to Walgreen's (Founded in 1901). That's not a misprint.
This year, Mother's Day was at Duke University, where that little guy in the photo at the beginning of this article (Joey, now "Joe") was getting his MBA from the Fuqua School. Again, one would think with this going on, I would have prepared my Mother's Day montage months and months ago. Ha ha ha ha ha. My goodness, you do not know me very well.
[In my defense for all that follows, my wife DID say to all of us, "Don't worry about Mother's Day this year. It will be present enough just for all of us to be together."]
In my defense, I did have a frame.
I also had a photo from MBA boy and his wife in my email.
And that was it.
So Saturday, I got to work, put my iPad into use, and sneaked outside during brunch first with #2 son Will for the "love" photo shoot. Got it. Then I grabbed Erin (the "Mom" role) and dragged her out on the porch during a break in the action.
Confident that I had been extremely sneaky in order to preserve the "surprise," I put the project on standby until after the graduation ceremony (and turns out after a party afterwards).
Fast forward to 12:15 a.m., back at the hotel. Technically Mother's Day.
And as I lay in bed with my iPhone, I pondered a fundamental question of digital and analog technologies: How exactly am I going to get these daggone photos out of my iPhone and printed in order to stick them in the frame?
And then I fell asleep.
I woke up before everyone else at 7:48.
My first thought was, "There must be a Walmart or a Target around here somewhere," and hid out in the bathroom, armed with my iPhone, in order to find the answer. I used the store locator on each web site to find a few nearby stores, but there was no way to determine once I got there whether there would be a way to print from the iPhone and whether there was any way to get it done in an hour.
Then I heard a voice whispering, "Google the Problem, Grasshopper."
At first I resisted, and then the voice again, "Google the Problem, Grasshopper."
I entered "one hour photo" in my search bar and the first Walgreens SoLoMo smart move paid off.
And then Walgreens Win Number Two - someone noted that there was an available app, right in the ad, and provided a link to it. This was starting to get promising.
App downloaded and opened. And Walgreens Win Number Three - a specific and exactly clear statement of the value proposition of the app - "Print pictures right from your phone and pick them up in about an hour." Ha Ha! Life was getting better!
Walgreens Win Number Five. After uploading, a process flow to allow me to select the size of photo. This was important to me because I had a frame with 5x7 holes. If everything defaulted to 4x6, I was done for. Check, 5x7.
Then Walgreens Win Number Six. I should have perhaps thought of this before I started this process, but where was the nearest Walgreen's? Were they open on a Sunday? How would I get there? The app popped in, "Find Nearest Walgreen's?" I checked yes, it gave me 4 options, I chose the one 2.47 miles away, was told that my pictures would be ready at 9:18 am (in less than 30 minutes), and the app provided a map.
I clicked "Finish" and the app surprised me with Walgreens Win Number 7 - it required only the information that was needed at this stage of the process. No lengthy set of questions. No credit card. No "how did you find us?" No "set up your communications preferences." Just first name, last name, phone, and email. Bang. Zoom. Done.
I carefully opened the bathroom door. Ahhh....everyone still asleep.
I grabbed my keys and headed to Walgreen's.
This is the point at which many processes run into trouble - the crossover between all the digital, no people stuff and actual analog, people side stuff. Walgreens Win Number Eight. Waiting for me when I got to the store was Kyle Gray, waiting to hand me the pictures. I even had a few minutes to pick up a card and a cool red wrapping bag on the way out the door.
I ran out to the car, put the pictures in the frame, put the frame in the bag and headed back to the hotel, where folks were just getting up. And ready for Mother's Day breakfast. The finished product is below.
They reason I go through this is that none of this is particularly challenging or impressive from a technology perspective. What was impressive was how it was packaged and how it was delivered.
Becoming a Process Revolutionary and tapping the full value of Social, Mobile, and Local technologies means: 1) thinking through what each of these clusters of technology means for your customer; 2) thinking through how they can be applied to solving a particular business problem; and 3) taking the time to design an elegant solution. Not an acceptable solution, but an elegant one.
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