A common activity when we work with start-up companies is to help them discover what business they are in. It may sound surprising to people who are not entrepreneurs themselves or who have not worked closely with management of young companies that this should be needed. Surely why you are in business should be pretty obvious?
“We like to think that we hire mostly above-average people with above-average skills and motivation. We know that our future as a company depends on our ability to continuously innovate and stay one step ahead of the competition. How can we best encourage creativity and risk-taking within our organization and how can we be much more effective at initiating and executing changes initiatives?”
Sometimes the shortest route is a long one. I am still a little dubious about some of the social networking sites out there, but one thing I find absolutely fascinating is the insights they can give into how human networks and relationships really work.
I have seen the future of business process outsourcing (BPO) to India and other large, low-cost areas, and it is very different from what the current promoters would like you to believe. The future is not to get a consultancy to run your business for you, in your country or abroad, but to get a business like yours to run some of your operations from a lower cost base in a partnership model that also give you access to the foreign markets. The ICICI Prudential partnership in India is an example of how to do this.
The last thing IBM needs now is a vision.
Lou Gerstner, CEO IBM, August 1993
When Lou Gerstner joined IBM as its new CEO, he famously quipped that "the last thing IBM needs now is a vision". Four or five years later, the company announced a new vision symbolized by the letter “e” and backed by a huge advertising campaign. Four or five years after that we were told, again through a massive advertising campaign that is still with us, that the company's vision was expressed in the “On Demand” tag line.
Business Process Management (BPM), Web Services and Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), Utility or Grid Computing and many other “hot topics” in today’s IT environment all have something in common. They support the new business environment driven by the commodities economy.
I must admit I never did get speech recognition as a disruptive technology. Isn’t it just another dial-pad digit-entry IVR application? Sure, it is much more sophisticated and user-friendly, promising to finally deliver the economic benefits of automation without alienating your customers, and for sure the technology is finally starting to really develop. But is it disruptive in the sense that is disrupts and fundamentally changes the markets for companies products and services? I’m beginning to think that maybe it is.
A recent paper by David Kempe et al. provides practical answers to the problem of viral marketing:
if we can try to convince a subset of individuals to adopt a new product or innovation, and the goal is to trigger a large cascade of further adoptions, which set of individuals should we target?
In many ways similar to LinkedIn (and therefore to the original Six Degrees) in scope and intent, Spoke Software tackles the problem of maintaining the software’s representation of your relationships by providing a download that integrates with your e-mail client. The software the automatically identifies your relationships and their strength based on your e-mail traffic.
I have been a fan of the DataDistilleries technology for a long time and we have worked closely with with them in one of the companies I have founded. Their core products are an analytical tool and a real-time recommendation engine; the latter typically used to provide cross-sell and up-sell offers on inbound customer contacts through the call center, retail stores, web site and so on. My opinion has always been that the real-time engine was the jewel in the crown, and that seems to be the main reason for SPSS (who are of course strong in the offline analytical market already) buying the company.