Tag Archives: Nokia

My Cheap Infrastructure Officer

In one of my very first posts, I wrote about the process of setting up this blog, and how I discovered new modern and cheap tools for getting things done. More specifically, I wrote:

Big corporations likely pay extra for so much of stupid stuff.  The tools available start to be so sophisticated that they go beyond our professional skills. I suspect in many cases much simpler and cheaper solutions would get the job done than what corporations buy out of habit.

Now, a few months later, I must say the feeling as strong as ever, as I’ve discovered some more good stuff.  For example, my usage of the following apps has skyrocketed:

  • SkypeOut: Duh. Of course, I’ve been a Skype user for, like, forever. Just one of those who never got around topping up the account, because I would mainly use my corporate phone for international calls to old skool phone numbers. After controlling costs in one consulting assignment caused me to put in some credit, I start to find the combination of price, call quality and the iOS UI quite irresistible, any time I have a call to make to an international mobile number.
  • Dropbox. It came into the portfolio as  “better flickr” as playing around with picture resolution versions became annoying. Then picture sharing to iPads. Then it started to serve as the file transfer workaround when either Mac and family PC got into disputes with the home network drive. And I must admit that the tupperware incentive of getting more free Dropbox space as friends join didn’t hurt either. And, suddenly, it is now my main destination folder for practical day-to-day files.
  • Whatsapp. I used it somewhat when I was on Nokia S40 phone. But little on any smartphone. Then they offered it free for iPhone, instead of the what-I-felt-as-show-stopping (?) EUR 0.89 charge. So I take it into active use, and I find it as the most approachable way to send pics to my wife who has a Nokia Lumia. I also manage to look cool in the eyes of my 13-year goddaughter (only Whatsapp and Kik in her circles). I also find it as the good way to organize rides for my daughter’s hobbies with broadcast message feature.
  • Google Drive. Out of habit, I started the season writing all my basketball coaching related stat sheets in Excel, like I had always had done. Until the guy I coach with asked to do it in Google Docs so we both can see them in real time. Then I notice how simple user interface Google had done (at least when compared to Mac version of Microsoft Office). So I decide to move all my blog writing to Google Docs as well, because I don’t need features much beyond the notepad.

Now, I didn’t write this list to tout my early adopter-ness. That would have been clueless. With tens or hundreds of Millions of users each, all these services are way way beyond being hidden gems. The interesting “business blog angle” is just which big mammoth company is going to acquire those still independent, and for how many Billions.

For me the interesting observation was my consumer behavior in what some people call ‘the war of ecosystems’. As a user, I switch over to a new habit that exposes me to a new habit that switches me over even more. And all this can happen quite fast, because at least I don’t “re-configure” my daily routines in a linear fashion, but in bunches, at certain points of lifestyle or equipment change.

Obviously, moving to free cloud comes with a risk. Of course, I could end up being taken on a ride any time later with changed pricing and switching costs (Dropbox, I am looking at you with some nervousness).

As for who is winning the war of ecosystems, I need to cut this entry a little short, because I need to go double-check that I don’t own any enterprise software sales and telecom subscription revenue dependent stock. Not because I would have some vendetta against the companies per se. Would I really care if WhatsApp was owned by a 100-year telco company, with a grey-hair CEO wearing a blue suit and a red tie, as long as the service worked the same way as it does now? Does it really matter if the great free cloud (home) office software is heir to the Luke Skywalker or the Darth Vader camp of software-making? No, on both counts. At the end, all these services are such scale-driven businesses that they will need to end up in the hands of some Big Corporation anyhow (or become Big Corporations themselves).

My point is really what these apps and services, being free or close to free, are doing to my willingness to pay for software. Especially, now that cheap offers do not automatically suck anymore. In fact, the cheap ones can actually be better than the bloated, legacy alternatives. And that’s a combo offer both me and my CIO, Cheap Infrastructure Officer, really like.

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Product guy – understand your levers

Archimedes_lever_(Small)Every decision Product Guy makes is important. So is every precious minute spent on any chosen topic, out of the many worthy of “Urgent!!” email header. However, some decisions are more important than others because of the leverage (interestingly, a concept invented by another theory guy, Archimedes)

Levers behave differently in different businesses and market contexts. And can be a little counterintuitive. But recognising the meaningful ones makes a world of difference.

For example, I worked in the mass market mobile phone business of Nokia, which had a massive “volume lever”. Individual mobile phone product families designed could ship in tens, and sometimes in hundreds of Millions of units. Hence, for example, any cent, or sometimes fraction of a cent, unnecessary component cost eliminated would impact profitability way more than any impressive sounding one-time cost.

High price elasticity can also be a lever. The income pyramids in different countries are very different, and being able to move down a tier can multiply the size of the addressable market.

Sometimes the important lever has nothing to with the cost, but is about ‘being the best’ or ‘being the first’. People might remember that Buzz Aldrin was the second person to step on the moon, but that’s a rare exception for the runner-ups in the collective memory of the man-kind. We also know Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon were in Apollo 13 because it was the best almost-disaster. But very few remember who were in Apollo 12.

Speaking of “Houston, we have a problem” level of catch-phrases, “easy copy & pasteability” can also be a lever. Communications and marketing people hone their materials to reach the same level of virality. Consultants and lawyers try to template-ize their work up to only needing the change the company name.

Sometimes it is the ‘partner visibility lever’ that matters. For example, during the rise of Facebook or Angry Birds usage, any electronics product that was ahead of the curve providing those functionalities got free publicity, and something to build the product identity around. Until of course, every one had them

Sometimes certain leadership actions are perceived to have ‘symbolic lever’. Personally, I think today’s world is overly consumed by this myth of leadership. I get that Bill Pullman, as the U.S. President Whitmore, had to make a passionate speech in Independence Day. But did he really have to suit up and get in a jet to fight some aliens himself, even if he had been a fighter pilot pre-politics? Generally, handing CEO or EVP the keys to engine room is amongst the worst crisis management idea ever.

And so on and so forth. The list is endless when you really put your mind into it.

What I am saying is that the impact of leverage on different activities should be a key determining factor how Product Guy spends his/her time.

This understanding of contextual geometrics also separates the rookies from the veterans. Running after every idea or problem until exhaustion works only for the young and dumb who love the thrill of being in the middle of product making action. The more experienced ones remember that it takes a village to move a mountain.

The experienced ones also know that overly transactional behavior makes the world a cold and indifferent place. Sometimes you need to spend the time on what’s right, what’s interesting and what gets the energy up, even if the leverage was non-existent. And, at the end, it may make rational sense too. You never know who’s going to carry the big stick in the next project.


Happened in the previous episodes of Product Guy series:

Stay tuned for the next episode: Product guy – review the unknown


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Product guy – find your inner hipster

glasses shutterstock_124465828 500pxYin and yang. Fire and ice. Maverick and Iceman. Design and engineering. While it may be entertaining to watch the opposite forces go at it, making great products requires that those forces work together.

When that happens and the cross-functional team is on the high gear, all that friction turning into energy enables the team to go forward at an unbelievable pace. No day is the same. No one settles for the status quo, and everything moves like crazy, unfortunately including features, schedules and the confidence to any commitments given.

The best way for the product guy to fix the situation? Duh. Never let things go so far out of hand.

Not easy, but it can be done. The prevention starts with the product guy understanding the prevailing corporate culture. More specifically, how does the gravity work in the power balance between design (either UI design or industrial design) and engineering (either hardware or software). For example, I worked at Nokia where, in my opinion, the engineering had the upper hand, especially in software, though the gap did start to close as fast as the iPhone ate market share, including some periods of an excessive pendulum swing the other way.

In any given day, the product guy should make the extra effort to be on the side of the weaker, or the misunderstood, party. This isn’t really because rooting for the underdog is a more interesting movie plot, or because product guys somehow are better people, but because of the mission ahead. Greatness often is the result of minds the meeting in the tough debate that stretches the boundaries (and the nerves) of everyone. Had Marty McFly had not the courage to coach George McFly stand up to the bullying of Biff, Michael J.Fox wouldn’t have gone to rule the box office (and, by the way, to help to create a foundation that supports medical research in beating Parkinson’s disease with about 50 MUSD yearly spend)

But how to relate to those trendy design folks? Is it a problem if the product guy can’t fit his kids and the he-ain’t-puppy-no-more -sized dog into a Mini Cooper, but has to opt for a Volkswagen Touran instead? Or that he prefers football shirts over turtlenecks? Or thinks that 5 euros for the coffee that is more milk than coffee, is just modern day highway robbery? The list of self-doubt goes on and on and on…

The solution is that the product guy must find her/his inner hipster.

Now, I don’t mean just suddenly starting to wear intellectual-looking wardrobe or to instagram every piece of lunch the Sodexho office campus cafeteria offers. Nobody wants to be as shallow as Justin Timberlake in Bad Teacher (who, as the Touran-driving product guy wants to note, ultimately was no match to the gym teacher in the quest for Cameron Diaz’s affection)

The point is to be interested in aesthetics, good taste, emotion and beauty. And, like the sometimes forgotten definition of hipster, do that by not taking yourself too seriously, always remembering the difference of actually being intellectual or artistic, and just playing the role. The more open the product guy’s mind, the more he will learn to respect the masters of the artistic universe. And the tens of thousands of hours of practice it takes to become great, often starting early. Mozart delivered his first opera at the age of 12 and Justin Bieber his first youtube hit at 13.

Through the journey of learning to respect the mastery of art, and learning to separate the real from the fake and the wanna-be, the product guy gets the answer to the most mission critical decision around design– who should I trust in the decision of aesthetics and good taste in this particular product.

With an open mind, you may find helpful talent in unexpected places. For example, during my Nokia years, I found many middle-aged, loafer-wearing engineers from places like Jyväskylä (Finland) or Ulm (Germany) to be highly aesthetically competent. And these places don’t have any Starbucks or much choice of a sushi place, so the nurturing of the contemporary art skills shouldn’t be possible. But those places have great outdoors, and, when you really think of it, the nature is one of the most beautiful things ever.

Nature is the answer also if the cross-functional friction turns into an all-out full office warfare. Take your running shoes, put your sportstracker on, and take a run into the woods. And when no one hears, scream your lungs out. It helps.


Happened in the previous episodes of Product Guy series:

Stay tuned for the next episode: Product guy – dream living other people’s lives

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Finland ICT strategy is out

globe shutterstock_74593108 300pxThe Finnish computer science and information technology (which Finns, for whatever reason, call ICT) task force  – headed by Pekka Ala-Pietilä of Nokia alumni – released its report yesterday with recommendations for the next 10 years (direct link here. Only in Finnish language to use our inherent cryptopgrahy advantage).

Finland technology sector is under major transformation. Since 2008, 40,000 jobs have been lost in the tech sector, Nokia alone losing 12,000. These are big numbers in a country of 5,4 Million people.

Yet I remain convinced of the bright future.  There are mobile companies coming to Finland tapping into the talent pool, but I think even bigger long-term potential is in other businesses. Simply, the things people in Finland have learned in the context of global mobile phone business are relevant in so many other businesses, being disrupted by digital, mobile and global markets.

Obviously 103 pages of words don’t make much difference in the transition, only people do. But a common roadmap and a first set of focused actions surely help.


Related posts under the topic Finland

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My Mayan predictions for the mobile industry

shutterstock_endofworld_lowresThose Mayans were lousy analysts. Why tie your end-of-the-world or apocalypse predictions to any date? There’s only limited upside, but big downside one day. At least, if one has to pick a date, one should do like a master politician of Vladimir Putin’s calibre, and play it safe.

Using the same playbook, I will make a few predictions about the end of the world as we know it -level events in the mobile world. Note that I am not saying these will happen in 2013. Unless they actually do.

  • Windows Phone 9 or 10 introduces a massive break to the previous version.  The phone didn’t really need it. The break was just strategically unavoidable to stay in sync with the (mother PC) Windows re-design after the vistaesque misread of consumer wants, called Windows 8
  • So flawed is the software licensing –based business model that a vote is held at Wikipedia and twitter about dropping the word ‘original’ from the abbreviation of OEM. From now on, the people who do only hardware are called EM:s
  • Following (add letter here)-Series, Ovi and Lumia, Nokia introduces another brand name for its high-end devices. The brand promise is two amazing everydays for the price of one
  • Samsung will move all its money from the support of the Galaxy brand to drive a new Tizen-based product family name. Various gift shops start selling small green robot gear at -30% discount
  • For the umpteenth year, analysts will predict Google will do a low-end profile of Android to capture the rest of the feature phone market. The memo doesn’t get past the skeptical Google Search & Ad Monetization Department, but people in China read it with great interest. Ironically, with the help of Google Translate.
  • Huawei keeps on quietly gaining market share in smartphones. Consumers don’t really love it, but choosing a smartphone starts to be about as non-eventful as choosing, say, a refrigerator.  As one consumer put it in the focus group: “I like the value-for-money I get from Korean brands. I used to have a Samsung and I like my Hyundai car. I really need to save up some money for that Apple stuff”
  • Apple volumes keep on growing like there is no tomorrow. At the same, the devices start to have so many bugs and outdated user interfaces that stand-up comedians will recycle the old jokes about Windows and Symbian and just replace the company name. The 90’s joke “Bill Gates & GM: If cars would run Windows” gets a new confusing spin because all cars run Android anyhow
  • iPad Mini is so whoppingly popular that Apple realizes that big screen iPhones are pointless. Because they already have them. Consequently, iPhone product line is re-directed to go small, almost like an accessory. iPhone 6 is introduced with 3-inch display size and with the feature phone resembling physical size. And with an unheard-of price enabled by the cheaper component base. Using its operational machine, Apple takes over all cost conscious emerging markets in less than six months.  Those who’ve predicted the end of Nokia Series 40 for like ten years get to be finally right
  • RIM is acquired by an enterprise company. The deal team can pull the coup off only because the board of the acquiring company is full of old guys and gals who still use Blackberries and believe others do too. Including their kids who definitively talked highly of BBM at some Xmas dinner – was it two years ago? Or the one before? Gosh, those kids grow up so fast
  • Disgruntled by supposedly clueless executives, Canadian ex-RIM employees launch a small Linux company that targets Indonesia trade customers. Like with similar attempts before, the business impact is limited, but the press is huge. More lasting, however, is the new “Mobile Operating System Veterans For Truth” association they form together with the WebOS folks in the Valley, the ex-SonyEricsson folks around the world, and the Jolla team in Tampere

Did I miss anything obvious?

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All smartphones are great and terrible

It’s Little Xmas and glögg time here in Finland. Which means we hav…sorry….get to do more small talk in a few hours than during the rest of the year combined. Once the weather topic is out of the way, the discussion turns into what smartphone to buy.

I get asked that a lot, especially now that people think I don’t need to accommodate the Nokia party line in my answer.

Here’s what I say: “They actually are all pretty good. iPhone5, Lumia 920 or Galaxy S3 are all great products and it’s hard to go wrong choosing between them. It is almost a matter of taste”

That’s how it is for anyone who hasn’t changed their phone in the last 1,5-2 years. The industry as a whole has done such an impressive job lately that picking up any of the three will feel like a big step forward.

At the same time, each statement comes with a big BUT.

  • iPhone is the best and the most polished Internet phone there is…..but the increasing amount of bugs and outdated UI conventions will make you wonder this ‘it just works’ statement -– if you are even close to an individualist
  • Lumia is refreshingly easy to use and a well thought out package…..but the amount of important functionality (not just apps) totally missing will come to haunt you – if you are even close to a hard core user
  • Galaxy has it all and some more for a great price….but the lack of attention to detail will disappoint you, if you are even close to a hipster.

So work to do for everyone.

And as a bonus, we the Finns are safe for a good small talk topic for some more holiday seasons to come.

Related posts:

Picture credits: flickr user Blue Moon in her eyes. Licensed under Creative Commons

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My takeaways of #2030fi ICT forum

In the field of computer science and information technology (which Finns, for whatever reason, call ICT) “the Nokia cluster” (loosely speaking) created a lot of globally competitive capability and wealth to Finland. And, importantly, along came the jobs as the way to share that wealth.

What a nice ride. But then what? Was that a one-timer? Or can the country renew itself like Silicon Valley has time after time as new technology waves emerge. That’s the question that is burning in the heads of private and public leaders right now.

In April, the Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, set up a task force to make recommendations on the topic and asked the well-known Nokia alumni, ex-Nokia President Pekka Ala-Pietilä to head the work.

In the past few weeks or so, I have been working in a related subproject. So I got an invitation to join a “progress review” event – Kitkaton Suomi, ICT Tulevaisuusfoorumi – yesterday. In the spirit of transparency, the whole 3,5 event is available as a webcast here, in case you are interested. You can also check tweets using #2030fi tag. Or read the editorial of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper (available also online, in case your paper guy didn’t make it in the snowstorm)

In short, my learnings were:

  • It is easy to be cynical about “think tanks”. Like people can be about corporate strategy workshops (me? Never). I try now not to be. The future of technology business in Finland is too important. Or may be it is easy for me to be open-minded because the public-private club (it did feel like a club) is all so new to me. Doesn’t matter. As always, much about getting stuff done is about the attitude
  • Academic folks can teach us simplification. The keynote speaker in the event was a Santa Fe University Professor called Brian Arthur talking about the impact of digitalization. It’s not like he revealed something I hadn’t known, but once again, I was in awe of the skill of reduction and simplification academic folks possess. It is really hard and something Finland needs to be able to do to tell its story. Like Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long letter”. You see his speech in the webcast, but it is also available as a six-page, one column note in McKinsey Quarterly.
  • Prime Minister Katainen “gets it”. Or listens to the right people. Or can memorize song sheets effectively. Any which way, you pick the political tonality that suits you. My point is a rather hopeful one that people in charge understand that – like re-orgs in big companies – big structural changes (for example, merging municipialities) is the golden opportunity to fix some of the fundamentals for enabling new things.
  • There is more progressive thinking that one might expect. Some of the talk, for example, about “Public ICT Beta Labs” was very encouraging. Governmental services could be the first paying customer that helps small companies to perfect their product. And importantly, there are practical ways to do it in a way that is faster and yet more flexible than public procurement process, but yet fair.
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Jolla – the Finnish homebrew

Like many mobile gadget enthusiasts, I did watch the Jolla Sailfish OS webcast (note!  I am still suffering from the conference-itis that I got during the Nokia years so I didn’t even attempt to get near the Cable Factory venue).

The presentation had a quite inward-looking and homemade feel to it, and I am not sure how well it got the job done, outside the fanbois. Note that I am so much rooting for Jolla to succeed that this is the nicest I can put it. So please don’t troll me that I don’t get that it’s a movement, not a product or a OS. I do.

But still I guess we can agree that it definitively was not the kind of step-by-step-rehearsed dog & pony propaganda show we’ve all been spoiled with lately. Not sure if it fares well even in comparison with time. I tried to remember the first product intro I ever attended. My calendar trail doesn’t go that far, but I guessed it must have been some Nokia mobile phone launch in CeBIT 1997.  Even though back then Nokia was just an up-and-coming company, the rules of Marketing 101 were in full use. Even if the power of the presentations revolved around the different ways Anssi Vanjoki could use superlatives.

But what was to be expected? The Planet Earth, especially the Asia corner of it, has a lot of mobile phone companies, and most of them are really small. It is already a marketing achievement in itself for a company of Jolla’s size and market share and to cleverly use the Rocky Balboa & Ivan Drago drama around Nokia strategy to cut through to be even mentioned.

Further, I’ve seen very close how massive efforts the stevejobsian & stephenelopian grade of product intros are. Humongous. Just humongous.  So Jolla investing their scarce resources to flying cameras, smoke machines or bringing Jessica Alba’s sister to the stage would have been worrying.

Jolla is coming from the right angle. Like I wrote in my state-of-the-mobile-phone-market megapost, Android can be dethroned by taking their openness game even further. But Jolla has chosen a big mountain to climb (for quite a matter-of-fact analysis, read Richard Windsor’s post). So it will require a mind-bogglingly great implementation even to get to the start line.

And some luck too. Especially in China where the Android success is intertwined with the economic agenda of having a mass market open platform for Chinese innovation.

But what’s the worst that can happen? Time spent with another failed OS. A lot of people have survived that (see e.g. this, this and this). So I can see why talented people are trying. And I wish them all the best.

Ed.Note! Despite having worked closely and proudly with Maemo, I have no involvement with Jolla whatsoever. I am not an investor, advisor, advocate or employee. I am just a fan who’ll do his share by promising to buy the product, if it’s as great and polished as e.g. N9 was, even if I didn’t really need another smartphone.

Picture credit. Flickr user hansenit. Under Creative Commons.


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Viva la Vida and the Office

One of my all-time favorite bands is Coldplay (yes, I know).  It is not only their unique sound and stadium-hugging presence that I find appealing, but also the lyrics that have depth and meaning.

Yesterday I wrote about the executive changes at Apple, only to wake up this morning to read that also Steve Sinofsky, the Windows Chief, is going out. Add to the equation all the executive suite drama of Nokia and Motorola in the past five years, and it does seem Google and Samsung are the stable ones, despite their reputation of autonomous groups, fast pace and hard turns.

It seems there is a common ending to the saga of people responsible for delivering products. But why is that? Maybe Chris Martin of Coldplay has the answers in the lyrics of Viva La Vida

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

That’s probably how the departing execs feel. One bearded dude can perhaps part the seas, but it takes masters of technology to make them rise.

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

The engineering ranks are always sad to see their ferocious leader go. For about a minute. Or slightly less if one has already signed in to LinkedIn. Then it’s time to figure out how to get stuff done under the new leaders.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

The chief responsible for the product delivery has access everywhere and the world revolves around his/her calendar. Until the product is out. Then the empire gets way smaller.

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

Truth to be told, I never got the meaning of this paragraph. I presume every song needs a catchy chorus. Hereby this slot is for the marketing department.

For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

The product kings are surrounded with other noble people in the transparent, fact-based debate about the future of the mission. Only later on might one find that some people were pawns or jokers.

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Who cares if there were some mistreated souls, bad blood and collateral damage in the mission of getting the stuff out, right? Well, many people do. And their time to speak is after the delivery date.

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

Yes, why indeed. With so many nice and easy posts available for capable people, why take the one in the front line with most bullets coming from the front and knives from the back.

Because of the thrill.

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iPhone retention rate compared against Nokia five years ago

Tweetosphere has freaked out since Strategy Analytics published a report (Oct 30, 2012) that said

…only 75 percent of iPhone owners in Western Europe say they are likely to buy their next phone from Apple, down from 88 percent in 2011. US repeat purchase intentions have also seen a slight decline, down from 93 percent in 2011 to 88 percent in 2012.

Just for historical comparison, here’s the copy & paste of a WSJ article about Nokia from December 4, 2007

(CEO Kallasvuo) would also like to see Nokia improve its retention rate, now at 53%, to about 60%. Although Nokia’s retention rate is the best in the industry, carmaker Toyota is the model, with 64% retention

Three competing conclusions can be drawn:

  • Apocalypse is upon Apple
  • Nokia’s number is high for a true mass-market company
  • One shouldn’t compare cults with mere mortals

You pick the one that suits you. Just saying.

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