Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a business for resilience 22 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 14

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 19, 2017

This is my 22nd installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-21.)

I began working my way through a set of to-address points in Part 20 and Part 21 that I repeat here with some minor rewording, for continuity of discussion purposes:

1. Thinking through a business’ own proprietary information and all else that it has to keep secure that it holds.
2. While reducing avoidable friction where there can be trade-offs between work performance efficiency, and due diligence and risk remediation requirements from how information access is managed. This, in anticipation of discussion to come, means consideration of both short-term and long-term value created and received, as well as short-term and long-term costs.
3. And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand.
4. What processes are this information legitimately used in, and who does that work? With the immediately preceding point in mind, what other, larger picture considerations have to be taken into account here too?
5. And who legitimately sees and uses the results of this information as it is processed and used and with what safeguards for the sensitive raw data and the sensitive processed knowledge that are involved, where different groups of people might have legitimate need to see different sets of this overall information pool?
6. Think in terms of business process cycles here, and of who does and does not enter into them.

I addressed Point 1 of that list in Parts 20 and 21, and went on from there to at least begin to address its Point 2, in Part 21 of this series as well. More specifically, and certainly for my Point 2 coverage up to here, I have addressed these issues in terms of a specific case study example: a business-to-business printing company that I refer to here as Alphatext Design.

• At the end of Part 21, I stated that I would continue on from there by more fully and systematically considering the issues of communications and information sharing per se in an organization,
• And how changes in the de facto patterns of what is communicated and by whom and to whom in this, might increase or ameliorate friction in these systems.
• And I added that after addressing those issues, I will turn to consider Point 3 of the to-address list as offered at the top of this posting.

My goal for this posting is to more fully address the first two of those three bullet points, and at least begin to address the third of them, and Point 3 of the main to-address list that I am working my way through here. And I begin with communications patterns in an organization, and by making a specific categorical distinction as to how they are organized and maintained:

Hard communications channels are formal business process and official communications pattern driven, and become rules defined for what information can be shared with whom and under what circumstances, and essentially whenever an information access due diligence or risk remediation system is put in place.
Soft communications channels arise as employees network with and share information with colleagues outside of the scope of any formally considered hard communications channels in place, in order to more effectively carry out their jobs. These communications channels can be thought of as representing work-arounds of convenience and even of necessity.

In a context of the type raised in my Alphatext Design example, consider the perceived need that can arise when Sales and Accounting staff members who are working with the same business clients, share information about them and even informally, and certainly where problems appear to be developing for those clients that would have wider significance for both Sales and Accounting, and for Alphatext as a whole. To take that out of the abstract, consider the need for both Accounting and Sales personnel at Alphatext to know if one of their regular clients is suddenly facing what might be a cash flow challenge and has had to ask for a change in the number of days receivable for billing, and how soon they have to pay for signs ordered and already delivered. If this is a really good, steady client that is simply hitting a short term difficulty, then giving them some timing help on their sales orders and payments due, might make them a strong and reliable client forever as their problems resolve and they can go back to their usual payments due schedules. And word of this to other potential Alphatext clients, that this is more than just a good printer: it is a good supply chain partner, might hold real value to this printing business too: viral marketing value can be all but invaluable here. But I posit this Sales and Accounting information and insight sharing as falling outside of those pre-considered and already planned for hard communications channels, and as taking place in a less formal and more flexible soft communications channel context – and even as the insight arrived at might require both Sales and Accounting input to bring it into focus.

• In this example, certainly, soft communications channel information sharing can reduce friction and misunderstanding and enable a smoother and in fact risk reducing response, and for both Alphatext and for their printing-requiring business customers.
• But soft communications channels, as more ad hoc and flexible information sharing routes are more risk-prone too and for their potential leakiness if for no other reason.

What does the emergence of soft communications channels say about a business? There are a number of possible answers to that question, but I pick up here on what is probably the most obvious: the more officially contrived and managed “hard-wired” channels in place in that business are not working all that effectively, and limit and thwart and even block real communications where they might in fact be essential and in at least specific, key areas of that business. So the employees and I add managers who hit those work performance and work completion barriers, created by a combination of their official information management and security systems in place, and their own information demanding problems, find other ways to communicate to get their jobs done.

How do these two communications systems arise? Let’s consider that from a new business’ day one, or at least from soon after that. Startups and early stage businesses, and smaller and more agile businesses in general often at least start out soft channel communicating, and generally as their basic approach. A more hard-channel approach would only arise if required in a specific overtly “need to know” context. And hard channel communications channels often only arise as a more generally followed approach when and as need for them becomes compelling obvious as the business in question goes through its learning curves and as it course corrects in response to them.

Larger and more structured businesses and I add businesses that are stringently outside-regulated for information security compliance, more generally follow hard communications channels approaches and certainly when their information flow significantly includes sensitive and confidential information such as personally identifiable client information or business trade secrets. But the rules based systems managing this can become hidebound and restricting and at least somewhat out of date too and certainly over time. So even rigidly enforcing hard communications channels-only businesses, can in practice find themselves functioning through at least some soft communications channels too, and certainly locally in their overall systems, in the manner of my Alphatext example.

And this brings me directly to Point 3, of above:

• And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand.

I have already begun addressing this here in this posting, in a hard and soft communications channel context. Hard channel access is at least formally regulated and most often by a combination of Information Technology as a department or service and a Risk Management office, or department. Soft here, can be seen as a synonym for “useful and even in-practice essential work-around,” or for startups and related “business as usual.”

I am going to further explore Point 3 in my next series installment, with these points of observation as a starting point. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Career planning 9: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 17, 2017

This is my 9th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-8.)

I focused on a range of interrelated issues in Part 8 that directly relate to career planning and its execution. I said at the end of that installment that I would continue from where I left off there, by addressing two related topics here:

• Networking with a real career development focus, and
• Job transition challenges, where I will specifically focus on an increasingly common and troubling one: non-compete agreements as they are increasingly becoming common hiring requirements and by more and more types of employers and for more and more types and levels of jobs and work positions. I note here in anticipation of this line of discussion to come that while these impediments to next step employment were once essentially entirely limited to protecting a current employer’s proprietary knowledge and methods, they are becoming commonplace and even for low level jobs that do not require or involve special or proprietary skills of any sort, or access to special or proprietary information of any type either.

And I will at least begin addressing these points here, but before I do so I want to more fully address the career planning and execution challenges that workplace automation creates. And I begin by citing a piece of essentially axiomatically presumed “truth” that very quickly went from presumed trenchant observation, to trite catch phrase, to simply assumed and unspoken, and over the course of just a few years: “developed world countries such as the United States no longer operate in a manufacturing-driven economy; the real economic drivers in countries such as the United States now, are service-oriented and we now live and increasingly so in a service-based economy.”

That sounds very nice, and it is true that a great deal of mass production has moved to countries with lower payroll and related costs and certainly for industries such as clothing manufacture, with a relative increase in the proportion of service-oriented jobs arising from this shift. But let’s consider this in the light of our own individual experience. Do you ever call businesses for customer support? If so, and many if not most of us do this at least occasionally, when was the last time that your call was initially answered by a human operator and not by an automated response system?

Call centers and the customer support and related activity that they handle, represent quintessential support service activities. But it has become all but universal that call center and related support have become highly automated. How can that happen? I have in fact already answered that question in earlier postings to this blog, in the context of writing about Information Technology help desks, as for example are provided by businesses for employee support.

In most businesses, some 90% of all IT help request calls received are encompassed in a top ten list of recurring problems. And most of these help request problems tend to be amenable to standardized resolutions. “I forgot my password to — X–” for example, essentially always leads to some variation on “here is what you have to do to reset your password.” This is a context where the Pareto’s principle fully applies and usually in a stronger form than the more traditional 80:20 proportions that this empirically grounded rule of thumb would suggest. And given the way that the vast majority of all requests fit a single recurringly relevant list and the way that resolving them essentially always means following some single remediative process, it should not be surprising that the first thing most callers hear when reaching out to these call centers, is automated. And they generally never actually find themselves talking with an actual living person unless their call is one of those rarer “none of the aboves” that do not fit on the 80% or even 90% or higher, standardized list.

The principles underlying that apply in general for essentially all customer support help line systems. And an increasing number of businesses have sought to increase their range of issues and questions that can be resolved through automated processes, reducing their number of “none of the aboves” to as near zero as possible. And an increasing number of such businesses are entirely eliminating any opportunity to speak with a person through these systems – ever.

Automation does not always make related human employment disappear. Automated teller machines (ATMs) have not for example, made the position of bank teller a job and career possibility of the past. It is just that tellers spend less of their time handling routine bank deposits and withdrawals now, and less time helping customers check account balances or making account to account transfers. But automation has very significantly cut down on the number of people employed in help desk and customer support systems – and with the positions remaining requiring more and more skills and experience and very different ones than were traditionally required.

The service sector as a whole is facing tremendous change from automation, and in exactly the same way that manufacturing is, and not just in answering questions and offering consumer and end-user support services. Retail stores, for example, and certainly larger ones such as supermarkets are increasingly offering self service sales checkout machines for making purchases and offering payments. Human employment, and jobs and careers will not disappear in these sectors but they will change and a wide swath of types of work in them will give way to automation and disappear. The jobs that remain, and that open up and become possible from this transition will require more and different training and experience, and with that including an ability to work effectively in a mixed, human employee and automation setting.

With that noted, I at least begin to address the issue of networking with a more effective career development focus. And with the challenges of automation and of outsourcing, and of ongoing change per se in mind, and in ways that can and will impact upon all of us, I offer an assertion that should be fairly obvious even if it does violate how many of see social networking: business and professionally oriented online social networking included.

• Closed and intentionally limited-reach networking is an open invitation to be run over by change and the unexpected.
• And we are living in and still just beginning to enter into a period of profound change and uncertainty and certainly in any realistic jobs and careers context, and for all of us.

I offered a basic taxonomy of online social networking approaches and strategies in this blog, not that long after I began writing to it at all with Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy. And I recently picked up on that topic area again in two newer postings: Topologically (Contrived Opportunistically) Connected Social Networks: rethinking a basic paradigm and its Part 2 continuation. And I offer a basic assessment that I had already arrived at in 2009 when writing and posting the first of these three postings, that I refrained from expressing then, and certainly with any forcefulness:

• People who network for work opportunities, as for example in job searches when currently unemployed, and who network with a goal of advancing their careers, but who do so with real a priori restrictions in who they would network with, do so with at least one hand tied behind their back.
• You cannot effectively network for new job or career opportunities if you only seek to connect with and communicate with the familiar and with those who are already your close acquaintances.
• Change in general and disruptively novel unpredictable change in particular, call for open networking and a willingness to step outside of your usual circle to learn and to join in wider reaching conversations, where you can make genuinely new acquaintances.
• And we are definitely living at a time of ongoing change and of disruptively novel, unpredictable change, and even when we see something of the change that is coming and have named it (e.g. automation and the advancement of artificial intelligence-driven systems in the workplace.)

If manufacturing and service sector jobs and career paths are being reshaped by this, so are every other areas of work and employment, with some all but disappearing, some in effect emerging as workplace possibilities and all fundamentally changing. You have to network actively and openly and with a wide reach and an open mind if you are to keep up with all of this.

I am certain to have more to add to this in a next series installment, but will end this posting and its discussion here. And after adding to my discussion of business networking in that next installment, I will turn to consider the employment and career barrier of non-compete agreements as noted at the top if this posting. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Topologically (contrived opportunistically) connected social networks: rethinking epistemic bubbles and their possible breaking 2

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 15, 2017

This is my second posting to a short series on the potential enabling roles that change and non-systematic encounters can play in effective social networking in general, and business-oriented social networking in particular (see Part 1.)

I begin this discussion with a brief outline of where this series comes from, as offering a proposed social networking counterpart to a higher level functional-organizational process that is observed in complex genetic systems: topologically associated domains, or TADs. My social networking counterpart to this phenomenon is termed here, topologically (or contrived opportunistically) connected social networking, and I loosely defined it in Part 1 as:

• Networking in an opportunistically arising context where people come together for perhaps transiently shared reasons and for perhaps transiently shared purpose.
• The important point here, in keeping with the basic organizing paradigm of the genetic systems TAD, is that this takes place in recurring contexts and even in readily predictably recurring ones, that would not fit the more usual predictable goals-oriented patterns that planned and intentional networking is usually carried out in, where many and even most participants come together in order to pursue specific types of networking and related activity. But the contexts that this form of networking take place in are recurring, as are the widened range of demographics that become involved.

I suggested in Part 1 that this represents a form of networking opportunity that is most open and available to open networkers, and particularly to those who look for opportunity from novel and unexpected directions, and who are willing to reach out to and network outside of their usual circles. Topological networking is not for the faint of heart, or the shy and uncertain. It is for the more extroverted and for those who are willing to take the risk of speaking with strangers and even continuing the conversations so started.

And this brings me to the points that I would add to this brief narrative in this second installment posting:

• When you limit your networking to the known and familiar, you are unlikely to find the disruptively new and novel, and either for insight or opportunity. You are more likely to just hear and see and learn of the already known and the at-most marginally new and different.
• People you know might occasionally share the completely unexpected, but even there this is most likely to only happen if they have connected outside of their usual circles – unless it is to share word with you of an event or development that you would learn of any way through the news or other more generally available channels.
• You are more likely to learn of the new and unexpected from people outside of your usual circle, where the same news and information tends to circle around. And this definitely holds true for new and unexpected that you would not, in effect automatically learn of anyway.

Topological, or contrived opportunistically connecting networking opportunity – coupled with a willingness to actually pursue such opportunity, can open doors and create functional, useful connections that would otherwise be invisible, and as such go untapped. And this brings me to the tag line title for this posting: “rethinking epistemic bubbles and their possible breaking.”

Last year, I wrote a brief posting to this blog on the basis of a talk that I had just given, about how we have come to speak past each other at closest, rather than with each other and certainly in our politics. See Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. That became a first installment to a series that I have been adding to in recent months, about politics in America leading up to and since the 2016 United States elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 244 and loosely following.) And I first began using the term epistemic in this type of missed and blocked communications context in Part 4 of that series.

In a fundamental sense, what I am doing here in this brief series is to offer with a perhaps too erudite sounding label, a possible way out of the impasse that is inherent to the epistemic barriers and epistemic bubbles of that series; I have been writing this series in terms of business networking but I have been writing it with wider ranging networking and communicating and information and perspective sharing context in mind, than would be included in business oriented networking alone.

Active, contrived opportunistically connected social networking means, or at least should mean intentionally reaching out beyond the usual and familiar and even in potentially uncomfortable directions, where you might hear and see perspectives that are contrary to your current beliefs and opinions – as that can be the only way to see beyond them, or see your own automatic assumptions in them. And it can be the only way to break through the epistemic bubble walls that you are in, and make contact with anyone on the other side.

I began this two posting series in a business context but with this larger context in mind and end it there, at least for now.

You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 9 – but often unevenly 6

This is my 9th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-8, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I focused in Part 8 of this, on the pace and scale of change and of innovation, considering two related but nevertheless categorically distinct arenas where innovation can take place:

1. Innovation within the business and in how it is structured and organized and in how it functions, operationally, and
2. Innovation in what that business brings to market as products and services offered.

My primary area of focus there was a continued discussion of the relative potential pace of change and of innovative change in particular and in both of these contexts. Then at the end of Part 8, I said that I would continue from it here, with explicit consideration of:

• Globalization and the scale of the marketplace, and its capacity to create and support progressively finer-scale niche markets even as it drives global conformity too, and
• The realities of the technology diffusion and acceptance curve, and of push-back pressures from the marketplace as they would serve to limit and shape the pace of accelerating innovation acceptance and of innovation occurrence as well, where technological factors alone might dictate faster and faster.

I begin this posting and its line of discussion with the first point and by acknowledging what should be obvious to essentially everyone, and everywhere now: a combination of ubiquitous, anywhere to anywhere communications and computer-supported connectivity and information sharing, has effectively limited the barriers that have traditionally divided us, and removed them entirely for many purposes.

• Since the advent of wireless telephony, and certainly since the advent of inexpensive, computationally powerful, readily available smart phones, globalization has meant all of us and everywhere at least significantly starting to come together as a single overall globally connected community.

China has its great firewall: its Golden Shield Project to try to limit and control the global conversation at least as far as it would include their own citizens. And at least some other nations actively seek to control their people, for their being able to join this conversation flow too. As an extreme case in point example of that, consider North Korea where all phone conversations are monitored, no average citizen has access to computers or the internet, and cell phones do not exist – except for a small and carefully monitored minority.

The more restricted the access to this globalization that the citizens of a country are, the more forcefully that country and its citizens are pushed into being de facto late and last adaptors to change taking place around them. The more openly connected a people are, the more visible and the more accessible the change taking place around them can be for them, and the more pressingly intrusive it can become too as new keeps rushing in to supplant current with next and with a still newer next after that. And this can serve to pressure people towards the faster adaptor end of the innovation acceptance diffusion curve.

I am going to return to that set of issues a bit later in this series. But let’s step back from it, at least for the moment to consider a key element to the first of the two topics bullet points offered above: scale in globalization. I wrote of two at least apparently conflicting drives in that bullet point that are emergent to globalization per se, and certainly in a ubiquitously connected context: its capacity to create and support progressively finer-scale niche markets and its drive to create global conformity too (as the dynamics behind the Pareto principle weed out perhaps many possible alternatives, leaving single “best” or at least most accepted alternatives predominating, and wherever change leads to possible diversity.)

When anyone and seemingly everyone who would potentially fit into and support a niche market can do so, it becomes possible to achieve a sufficient available consumer base for it, to make it feasible for businesses to produce and sell to it, in meeting its niche defined needs. And it becomes practical and feasible for businesses to actively pursue and meet the needs, and profitably so, for more finely, narrowly defined niche markets too. This in and of itself means support for diversity and for several and even many alternative product or service possibilities and all at once, each achieving real market success. But the forces behind that empirically observable diversity winnowing mechanism: the Pareto principle, keeps cutting back on at least widely available choice, at the same time with the emergence of market dominating winners too.

• Think of the balance of diversity and its supportive pressures, and of conformity in the form of Pareto principle winners,
• As representing the creative destruction dynamic, that is sometimes offered as a working definition of disruptive change per se. Old is swept away by change, and so are many and even most emerging change options too. And it is not always going to be apparent, and certainly not up-front, which particular new will thrive, or even which new possibilities will even survive as the flow of change advances.

And this brings me to the second of the above two topics bullet points, which I have in fact already begun to address when discussing and analyzing the issues of the first of them:

• The realities of the technology diffusion and acceptance curve, and the pressures of the marketplace that would limit and shape the pace of accelerating innovation acceptance and of innovation occurrence as well.

I am going to more fully discuss this and its implications in a next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 6: strategic thinking, planning and execution 3

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 11, 2017

This is my 6th installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. See Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 655 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

I began discussing a set of to-address points in Part 5 that I repeat here for continuity of discussion, with some minor rephrasing for this change in their context:

1. I will move on in this narrative to discuss the questions of identifying disconnects between strategy and tactics, and as early as possible when they do arise.
2. And I will consider and discuss startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here,
3. And the sometimes significant challenges that large and complex business organizations can create in aligning strategy and tactics, with effective disconnect identification and remediation implemented, as a core ongoing due diligence process.
4. And I will return again to my starting case study example for this series, to consider lessons learnable and remediative approaches that might be possible for that business – and at least some of the trade-offs that would have to be resolved in that too.
5. And that is where some very specific, crucial negotiations-related issues enter into this series’ narrative.

I began addressing Point 1 of this list in Part 5, and plan on focusing on Point 2 and the startup and early stage business context here. But before doing so, I will begin by reconsidering Point 1 as a point of context for the rest of the issues raised in that list, and with explicit consideration of one of the key words that I included in it: “early.” And I will address that in terms of “early what,” and of the consequential results that arise from disconnects between strategy and tactics.

I have written repeatedly here in this blog, about single points of failure and about what can become more catastrophically disruptive events, at least in local contexts within businesses. Think of that as representing a possible end point extreme consequence of disconnection between overall strategic goals and their planning, and more day-to-day tactical implementation. What is not allowed for and included in a business’ strategic planning and understanding: ad hoc tactical work-arounds included, is not generally going to be effectively supported and certainly not in any consistent or systematic manner. Think of the breakdowns that I write about in this series as points of inefficiency and of lack of resiliency in a business that arise from lack of consistent and systematic inclusion there, where process flows do not and cannot smoothly fit together when the unplanned-for and even the contrary to planned for are suddenly added in.

And this brings me to that key word from Point 1: “early.” The more quickly you can spot emerging consequences from these disconnects, the more rapidly and effectively you can move to limit negative repercussions. But at least as importantly and generally more so, the more rapidly you can spot where a disconnect is, the more clearly you can see precisely what it is and what would have to be changed operationally and even strategically, in order to at least close the gap that enabled it.

I have written in this blog about slowly emerging problems that are not always addressed and corrected at an operational, business process or practice level, at least until a tipping point has been reached and they seem to all but erupt forth as crises. And I have written about truly disruptive events, that can create sudden crises and essentially all at once and without any defining features that post hoc analysis could identify as overlooked early warning signs. And I have written in that context of operational process breakdowns too. Here, I step back from operational processes and flows of them per se, to consider how they do and do not actively operationalize the overall strategy that should be informing and shaping them.

I am going to pick up on this in my next series installment where I will consider established businesses, and large and complexly structured ones in particular, where drift in context, need and or opportunity faced can lead to strategy and tactics disconnects. But with this posting’s starting point discussion in place, I turn to consider the perhaps simpler and more baseline context of startups and newly formed businesses, and the above Point 2.

And I begin addressing that with consideration of the business plan that at least should be in place and that at least in principle should be followed:

• An effective business plan, at one level of understanding, lists and explores each of a relatively standard set of functional areas that a new business has to thoroughly prepare for and both in what it does and how, and in better understanding and in better being prepared for the context that it will face.
• As an in-house functional area example of what would be included there, I would cite the need for a good business plan to outline and present their basic financial plans and both for what liquid resources are available and for how they might be held in reserve or expended, and if so for what and with what, at least starting priorities. This portion of the overall business plan would include a day one starting point discussion of what would be brought to the table by the business’ founders and by any early funding-providing supporters (e.g. family and friends for the most part.) And it would develop from there, and generally with three business development scenarios, for how expenses might arise and for how and when revenue might begin to come in: a “best case:, a “worst case” and a “normative” scenario, and how they would be develop to accommodate at least predictable problems faced and to capitalize more effectively on any seeming windfall opportunity that might arise too. The idea here is to be systematically organized, and to be as prepared for the possibilities as possible, to improve the chances of your new business succeeding.
• As an outside context example, this would include a market analysis that would at least ideally, objectively consider what the best markets and the best consumer demographics are, to pursue in your marketing and sales initiatives, where members of the buying public would see value in what you would offer.
• And you would, of course include discussion of functional areas such as marketing and sales as in-house factors too, as well as a detailed analysis of the unique value proposition worth of what you would bring to market, or the at least unique enough value so that you could reasonably be able to expect to capture a significant market share from offering it.
• That, in brief and I add selectively stated format, is what enters into a well written business plan. And most of it and for topic areas noted here and for those that I have overlooked here, is operationally oriented and even as you also include at least some strategically oriented elements too.
• Here, I write of business plans from what might be considered a reversed, mirror image perspective, and with strategic planning and insight serving as the foundation point and with the above and similar more operationally framed and tactically driven elements added into that.
• Then, the goal is not to arrive at specific functional area approaches that look like they would work; it is to arrive at combinations of them that would work together and in specific alignment with the mission and vision that the business would be built around and in specific coordinated alignment with the overall business strategy that is being developed.
• I write here of an iterative, step by step process of business planning refinement, and with a goal of developing strategic and operational, and strategic and tactical together, to arrive at a best for you overall system that accommodates all of your strengths and all of your challenges, and in ways that flexibly allow for as much of the unexpected as possible as you strive to achieve your mission and vision goals.

Startups have no historical record and no ongoing body of experience to build from in recognizing where of-necessity ad hocs that might become operational and strategic practice and pattern, are at least contextually disconnected, and even for specific contexts that would reasonably be expected to arise. That certainly holds for these businesses themselves and their own experience base that their owners and members of their teams could plan and work from. And startups and early stage businesses that are still small and of necessity so, and their leadership do not always know when the operational and strategic patterns that they are building and setting in motion, are going to be cleanly scalable and to what point of growth, and where disconnects might begin to emerge from simple linear growth beyond that point. Any such a priori understanding is going to have to be brought in by the owners and founders, and by others who they bring in who they actually listen to on this. And that is where business plans and the effort in developing them and the ongoing effort of following them and of continually evaluating them for ongoing relevancy, enter into this narrative.

Think of Point 2 as addressing a starting point where awareness of the issues that I write of here, have to be built into a business, in the form of an ongoing awareness and recognition of the simple fact that the unexpected and the unplanned-for can and with time will emerge – and regardless of how thoroughly and carefully a new business is planned out from its start.

As noted above, I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, with the above stated Point 3:

• And the sometimes significant challenges that large and complex business organizations can create in aligning strategy and tactics, with effective disconnect identification and remediation implemented, as a core ongoing due diligence process.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 31 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 14

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 9, 2017

This is my 31st installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-30.)

I initially offered a four point to-address list of topics related to finding and securing the best, most innovative new hires, in Part 27 of this series and began addressing it there. Then I added two more topics points to that list in Part 30 and began discussing the first of them there. I begin this posting by repeating this now six point list, for purposes of continuity of discussion, and with a goal of addressing the last of the six, concluding discussion of this list and its issues in this posting, at least for purposes of this series:

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.
5. How can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change in hiring and in personnel policy and practice, as your and their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?
6. And how can you best enable a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level in your business as well as at a more strictly interpersonal one?

The last two, more recently included topics points to this list are in fact very closely related, and even if Point 5 is considered strictly on an individual employee and individual manager basis, and Point 6 is considered strictly from an overall organizational perspective. After all, you have to effectively enable and promote positive change at both levels at once, if it is to effectively take hold at either. So in practice, while I focused in Part 30 of this series on the above-repeated Point 5, I did in fact at least touch upon Point 6 and its issues there too. And I will have to at least briefly address Point 5 issues here, when focusing on Point 6 too.

I focused in Part 30 on the issues of bringing the right people into hiring process conversations from within your business, and with that including Marketing and Communications expertise related to online social media, in helping to identify and connect to the right new potential hires through those communications channels.

• Yes, by now it should be expected that essentially anyone working at a business has at least basic familiarity with online social media and that expectation is in fact validated in most businesses and for most all of their employees. People follow and post to social media and actively two-way communicate through them, just as they phone each other, and routinely.
• But no, not everyone in a business is going to be expertly familiar with the branding and the basic organizing message that their employer has developed, for officially representing their organization. And when hiring managers and Human Resources personnel reach out to and connect with potential new hires, they are representing their business and need to be in synch with that when doing so – and even when using resources such as instant messaging or Twitter. So general guidance at the very least from Marketing and Communications can be very helpful there, and with people available from that service to turn to, when and as specific questions arise that they could help resolve.

As a hiring manager, and particularly when seeking out non-standard employees with special skills and experience, you need to be able to reach out to your best candidates flexibly and creatively in drawing them in. But at the same time, you need to hire them into the business you work for, and in ways that do not violate basic policy or message in place, and certainly where ad hoc could create problems and both in that particular instance and when moving forward.

I addressed this from more of a What to do perspective in Part 30 and have just reconsidered it from more of a Why perspective here. And the basic reason for this division of this discussion here is simple: I focused on the job candidate search and hiring process from an individual instance perspective in Part 30, and am focusing here on this from an organizational and policy-level perspective. And with this point of distinction in mind, I turn to more formally consider that second side of hiring and of personnel. And I begin that by posing a simple and perhaps obvious question:

• How can you tell when a “creative a hoc” employed to secure the hire of a great employee search candidate was good and effective, and when it might have been problematical and even for the business as a whole, and even if it seemed to work that time?

Look out for special exception offers and agreements that would likely create resentment and consequent friction from those already working there, or that set a bad precedent moving forward and for future hirings or promotions, or both. This means thinking through what you would offer and how, to a highly sought after job candidate. And just as importantly, this is a question of how you would present what you offer to the business as a whole.

Let me step back from this line of discussion for a moment to dispel what was once a truth that has now become a somewhat quaint myth. It used to be true that terms of hiring and of employment could be and were held essentially completely confidential and for salary and other compensation offered and for essentially everything else offered to a new hire or to a current employee. And this held true for essentially every position along the table of organization from the lowest level positions on up, except perhaps for the President or Chief Executive Officer of a publically traded corporation, where public disclosure of salary and overall compensation has long been legally required. Now, a business has to assume that any and all such information can and will become visible, and transparently and very publically so, and for any and all positions and types of position in their organization, and for their competitors too. There are a great many resources such as GlassDoor that have come to serve as publically visible clearing houses for this type of information, and with data contributors from essentially all industries and types of business and from essentially all functional areas and work positions in them, adding to the array of insight available.

Personnel policy of the type that I write of here, has to be drafted and enacted and day-to-day followed and adhered to with this transparency in mind – and particularly now that everyone in a business is so social media connected.

With that in mind, let’s reconsider the above set of five points as a whole:

• You and your business are looking for creative, innovative people who would thrive in a business that actively seeks to be creative and innovative as a whole, now too.
• So look for people with both hands-on innovation and management skills, as a starting nucleus to build your business around, as a place of innovative excellence.
• This is only one possible scenario here, but it is one that makes sense for businesses that seek to become innovators, where they have not been living up to that dream, at least recently and in their current and ongoing practices. But this can also be an effective approach for launching a business that could become a magnet for the innovative too, as it starts out and takes off.
• Be willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk in this; don’t just market your business as being innovative – be willing to build new teams around the right managers as you find them and bring them in. And really be innovative and supportive of that in your own words and actions.
• And look and listen as well as speak and show there.
• Mine resources such as LinkedIn for profiles of the type of people who you would most want – who are hands on innovators or who are still lower level or middle-level managers and who say the right things in their profiles – and who have recommendations and endorsements to verify that the things they claim to have done, are seen as true by others who have worked with them.
• These people might be so positively supported by current employers, that you could never bring them to move on to new employment opportunities – with you. But see if you can meet with them, and reach out online to contact them and ask them. And look for the truly innovative who are frustrated where they are now for not being allowed to be as creative as they could be too.
• Tell these people about what you seek to do, and how you would offer the right hires opportunity to build creative teams and systems that you would actively support.
• Beyond this, look to see who these known innovators recommend and endorse, and who else their sources of recommendations and endorsers really like too. Throw a wide net and seek out the best possible catches.
• Tap into and mine the conversation, and enter into it to start the conversation thread that you need here.
• And keep the issues of Points 5 and 6, above in mind here so you do not leave others already in your business behind, as you build or rebuild to support more active innovation too.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to reconsider the innovative potential already in place in your own business, and the possibility that you and your personnel and management processes, might be leaving at least some of your potentially most creative employees frustrated, as touched upon in the above set of bullet points. Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that truly innovative new hires leave as they move on to new opportunity, and even with one of your direct competitors? Are you setting up your own business for becoming the one that at least some of your potentially most creative employees would want to leave, and in that way?

After exploring that set of issues, I am going to turn to consider the issues of automation in a human employment context, focusing there on the shifts that can be expected in the overall pattern of employee profiles that most businesses will routinely hire for and seek to retain. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 2

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 7, 2017

This is my second posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing-oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Part 1.)

I began this series with a general orienting line of discussion that ended with brief single bullet point descriptions of two specific case study examples that I would delve into, to take the issues raised in Part 1 out of the abstract:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

I begin here with the first of these examples and with the challenge of a new and still essentially embryonically small business, as it seeks to develop so as to successfully compete with larger well established enterprises. And in the course of developing that narrative, I of necessity will consider the second case study example as well, as an important element of the context that a startup would have to develop in (at least initially considering larger established businesses in general here.) But starting here with the first of those case studies and with that small newly forming startup:

• What do they have to offer that would make them competitive, and what can such a startup offer in an immediately practical sense that can enable it to launch and to grow to a point where it can successfully compete as a profitable venture?

A large corporation might be able to compete with a significant level of overall effectiveness across a wider range of business and market-facing activity and it might be able to cost-effectively offer a wider range of products and services than its smaller competitive counterparts can. And this definitely includes startups and early stage businesses. And this definitely includes smaller businesses in general too and certainly in an online marketing and sales context where local proximity to a customer base might not in and of itself make a real difference for a smaller, locally oriented business. But these smaller ventures can succeed and even thrive in this type of competitive environment, in their own particular niche areas: if they can offer something unique that would appeal to spending consumers, and if they specialize effectively and focus on their niche specialization in doing so.

Gorilla marketing and the use of novel and distinctive marketing approaches, geared and designed to appeal to their own particular niche market audiences, enter into this discussion here, as does viral marketing where members of a customer base and potential marketplace that a business would target, can be brought in to help them with their marketing through online social media and other word of mouth, or word of tweet and so on sharing.

Disintermediation strategies that are operationalized in ways that actively make members of the target market community into marketing allies there, can in fact serve as “great equalizers,” giving even small and new businesses a competitive chance when facing off with their bigger and more established rivals. And that particularly holds true when big per se, in an established market-facing business is coupled with “set in their ways” and even hidebound and rigid in what they do and in how they do it.

I often write in this blog about the need to be lean and agile and adaptable, and in my experience as a consultant it is often the larger and more established businesses that are in the greatest need of hearing that lesson. They are the ones that need to find ways to become resilient in the face of new and emerging competitive patterns and processes that other businesses are confronting them with: new and creative upstarts included.

So want can a larger, Goliath of a business do to effectively compete against smaller Davids, and particularly in rapidly changing markets and industries where they are constantly facing new and perhaps creatively novel niche challenges? A large and diverse corporation that offers a wide range of perhaps only somewhat overall-connected products and services, can find itself facing several and even many such niche competitor challenges at once, each at least somewhat impinging on a different area of its overall business activity. But the leaders and strategists of such a corporation do not in most cases have any way to know a priori which of these new and emerging niche opportunities will emerge as significant and as significantly competing in their marketplaces and in their customer bases, even if they know as a matter of basic principle that at least some of them hold real promise and offer real threat too. And I add that lack of prescient foresight usually holds true even when larger and established businesses could at least potentially develop their own best futures from selectively pursuing the right-for-them new and emerging early stage niche opportunities too. Remember, every great new industry as a whole begins as a new and disruptively creative startup, or as a niche sideline or extension of an older and more established business that it in some way sprang out of, and even as it was seen as of secondary value when starting out for the small pioneer and early adaptor market it first attracts.

Goliath Inc. might be large now, and it might have good name brand recognition and solid sales and reserves to support it. But its ability to compete long-term and certainly under these circumstances, means its being able to capture and develop the right niche markets too, and in the face of those nimble specialty startups that seek to build into them.

As a perhaps extreme alternative to that, I cite the expression “death by a thousand small cuts.” And with that, I explicitly note that I chose a title to this posting that sounds more oriented toward the little guy business and startup, and I am writing about them too. But I am also very definitely writing about larger and more established businesses that can become sidelined by failure to develop into new and emerging niche opportunities, that might begin small and even appear to be insignificant when measures against current cash flow metrics for business lines already established, but that might also represent that larger organization’s best possible next step forward future that it should be developing into.

How can a solidly entrenched business such as Goliath Inc. remain agile and effective in the face of change and its ongoing challenges, where it might not be apparent where new and next is simply new and fad, and when it is new and their best possible future too? How can they know when to simply ignore what might only be marginally competing startups and small niche companies and their markets and opportunities, and focus elsewhere and on their own established core strengths? And how can they best know when they should move into a new emerging innovative niche opportunity too?

• Essentially as a matter of definition, new in the sense under discussion here means outside of the core competency and the core business model arenas of already established businesses. So I am not writing here about circumstances where an established business would automatically be expected to know what to develop and expand into and what to leave for others as falling outside of their area of strength and need.
• I am writing of future developments and not of any particular business’ now and current – and even for the smaller enterprises that dream of capturing new markets out of emerging and still forming niches.

How can and do larger established businesses respond to this challenge when they do see need to act? The obvious and I add first recourse answer to that is acquisition. Established businesses buy out newer, younger, agile and creative businesses that have arrived at and developed new products and the technologies that underlie them, and that have at least proof of principle tested them in real marketplaces. And this does reduce both development costs and risks from attempting to maintain what might otherwise have to be significant research and development programs in-house, while affording them opportunity to obtain exclusive ownership of new that would meet their specific needs.

These points are all valid but let’s consider some of the perhaps hidden costs in that. And I begin with timing costs. The more rapidly changing an industry and market, the shorter the value-offering shelf life of any given outside acquired acquisition, and both because it will be superseded by a next generation alternative and because other businesses, including new agile young startups are building for those niches too.

There is a reason why large businesses that follow an acquisition route here, often end up as serial small business acquirers and with many of the largest corporations taking on as many as hundreds of such smaller businesses over the years.

And now they have to somehow integrate all of this into their overall systems. Do they risk the loss of what has individually made these acquisitions special and valuable to them in the first place, by forcing them in what might be the wrong ways to fit their standard corporate processes and practices in place, maintaining overall consistency throughout their overall organization? Or do they let a potentially vast assemblage of such acquisitions simply continue to operate as is, and as if separate businesses? How and where do they step in and standardize and how and when should they stand back and leave what might be sources of defining value alone to proceed as is?

If a large acquiring business simply takes this hands-off approach as its one and only, default option what happens to its operational and event its strategic systems as organizing frameworks, and certainly as guiding sources of principle for their overall organization? And can they still be said to even have a single coherent business culture or even a single coherent operational and strategic system under these perhaps extremely stated circumstances?

I have just made some business model assumptions here that I am going to explore in a next series installment, where I will consider tightly and loosely organized businesses and what in their looser forms can become value chain business assemblages – with a blurring of the lines between large and small businesses per se. In anticipation of that, I will consider what might be called clearing house corporate models. And I will tie this line of discussion back to the questions of what is offered to a business’ targeted markets and how it markets to them, and with gorilla and viral marketing options definitely included there. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Career planning 8: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 5, 2017

This is my 8th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-7.)

I focused in Part 7 on addressing a point first raised in Part 1 of this series, in an anticipatory outline of discussion to come in it:

• Career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis, and of thinking and planning beyond the limitations and givens of where you are now, and in terms of next possible steps that you might take as you seek to succeed in any current job that you hold and as you advance and prepare to advance along a career path.

I began addressing this from a very specific jobs and careers perspective: that of working in a highly competitive industry and job market, where change in what businesses offer and in what their markets demand, and in what they require of their employees are always occuring and at a rapid ongoing pace. And more specifically, I wrote Part 7 in large part in terms of employees and would-be employees who seek to actively advance, and both in their skills and workplace experience so as to reach their best possible work positions, and so they can advance up their employers’ tables of organization. Note that I intentionally made “employer” a plural there, as advancement to higher level positions can require moving on to a new job with another business that has the right type of vacancy, and either because of a loss of a prior office holder, or because a new position was being created to meet changing needs.

I specifically proposed at least one alternative to this career path vision in Part 7, without delving into its details or its longer-term ramifications: “the sometimes all too comfortable trap of “established and settled” jobs and job descriptions, as they can lead people into the traps of obsolescence and the human employment dead end of automation.” And I begin this posting’s discussion by stating that this is an increasingly important point of long-term jobs and careers consideration, or at least that it should be, and for anyone working in any job that can be captured in algorithm form and automated.

• Established and settled jobs that require carrying out and completing standardized work processes, in set and consistent ways to reach standardized established goals and in standardized timeframes, can be and will be automated, and removed entirely from human work and career path contexts. That shift in what employability even means is already happening, and at a very rapid rate in some industries. And the coming decades are going to see a tremendous increase in both the range of job types that can be automated and the range of them that are.

That stated, jobs and job types that are at risk of disappearing into automation do not all fit into the current workforce patterns of staid established industries or settled businesses in them that do not constantly seek to innovate. Such risk considerations can and do arise in high-tech and similar businesses too, that do overall seek to innovate and bring in and offer New and on an ongoing basis, and for at least some of the types of jobs currently hired for and kept on payroll there. And not all jobs in more settled and even seemingly staid businesses are at significant risk of disappearing into automation either, at least I stress in any short term timeframe.

• So it is important not to assume that any job or any possible career path of any type that happens to currently exist in some rapidly changing industry and its businesses, is always automatically going to persist as a job or career opportunity. Venue here does not automatically eliminate or even just significantly reduce the risk of work pursued becoming automated out of the employment market – and once again, wherever a position can be captured by an algorithm and carried out by a machine.
• And seeking out work in a more established technology and product line business, does not always automatically create higher risk or threat to employment from automation either – depending on among other factors, precisely what you would do there and how much creativity and task flexibility is called for in performing that job.

Consider the above notes here as a housecleaning effort, clearing out a set of issues at least implicit in Part 7’s discussion but that I simply left hanging there. And I continue that same approach here by picking up on a second such implied but not discussed point where I set up a seeming catch 22 situation of having to expend the time and effort and resources on acquiring and developing new skills that are (then currently still) in low demand, so as to be ready for when they become high-demand, and where the right people with them can in effect write their own tickets in securing their best-for-them, next jobs and next career advancement opportunities for having them.

There, in my Part 7 discussion, those new skills were cutting edge and in ways that would at least initially only appeal to pioneer and early adaptor hiring managers and their business, when those gatekeepers are considered and identified in terms of a standard new innovation diffusion and acceptance curve. And job markets for those skills and for people who hold those skills would only be expected to really open up and reach peak demand as later, more middle stage-acceptance managers and their businesses decide they needed this too – with the few people with significant levels of early stage experience in them now in peak demand.

This applies to people, here in very technical fields, who seek to advance as far and as fast as they can as a basic career path choice. And to round out this description, I add that these are also the people who would be more likely to take the risk of seeking out new job opportunities elsewhere while already stably employed – because that would allow them opportunity to advance in their careers in ways not as possible where they are now, from lack of appropriate job openings for them to try for there.

Let’s consider the alternatives to this pattern now, that collectively encompass the majority of members of the workforce and of those who seek entry or reentry into it:

• Preparing for future opportunity by in effect gambling with your work life on what will take off and become mainstreamed in an innovation diffusion, and acceptance and adaptation sense can yield higher payoffs, and certainly for career advancement and promotion,
• And so does, I add a willingness to change employers and take that leap into uncertainly and even recurringly as a path forward. Think of the opportunity there in that career strategy as a matter of playing the numbers. The more at least reasonable fit potential employers you consider working for and seeking employment with, the more good and desired-fit next job opportunities are likely going to be visible to you, and for the same level of due diligence-based jobs and careers search. Nonprofits, as a special and extreme case, limit headcount in order to limit personnel and related costs to the business, and as a requirement if they are to devote as much of their incoming revenue as is required, to their missions and visions to still quality as nonprofits for tax exemption purposes among other things. So moving up a table of organization in a nonprofit world can and usually does mean seeking out employment at another nonprofit where the right type of position might be possible, and where it is very unlikely that similar advancement would be possible where you are now.
• These approaches to work and career development are risk accepting and they are exceptions, and even in business sectors such as nonprofits. Most people seek to develop and perfect skills that would be more widely accepted now, and even if that means their remaining non-managerial employees, or lower or mid-level managers and with that a highest likely possible job advancement step for them over the course of a complete work life. And this more settled and secure approach is the right one for most people.
• Just remember, in this still emerging 21st century, you also have to calculate in the risks of possible automation of what you do, and of what you can do. And you need to keep an eye on your skills and experience sets with this in mind. And outsourcing is still an ongoing issue and not just in developed-world nations. There are jobs that were moved from the United States to China for example, as manufacturers sought out lower labor costs, just to see then move from China to Malaysia or Viet Nam and for the same reasons. India and Bangladesh have captured job opportunities and increased employment for their citizens from outsourced jobs in this way, just to see at least some of those types of career opportunities start to move away from them too.
• The point that I raise there, by way of this posting’s brief notes on automation and outsourcing highlight the need to reconsider and to more fully consider where both opportunity and risk are, in deciding your career path. And that means really understanding where you are now and how stable that workplace context is for you as a long-term source of job and career opportunity. And that means always thinking of what you can and should do next if you are to shape and in some measure control your own workplace destiny: your own career path and where that would take you.

I have only addressed some of the core issues in this posting that I said I would delve into next, at the end of Part 7. That leaves me to still address:

• Networking with a real career development focus, and
• Job transition challenges, where I will specifically focus on an increasingly common and troubling one: non-compete agreements as they are increasingly becoming common hiring requirements and by more and more types of employers and for more and more types and levels of jobs and work positions. I note here in anticipation of this line of discussion to come that while these impediments to next step employment were once essentially entirely limited to protecting a current employer’s proprietary knowledge and methods, they are becoming commonplace and even for low level jobs that do not require or involve special or proprietary skills of any sort, or access to special or proprietary information of any type either.

Then after addressing that, I will turn back to Part 1 and its to-address outline and continue fleshing out what I initially made brief note of there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

As a final thought here, I stated and discussed a piece of advice that I have shared with others and followed myself:

• Where do you see yourself five years from now in your career and in your life? (Note: five years is arbitrary, so pick a closer but still somewhat distant time point if that would work best for you. But I would generally recommend you’re not pushing your next-step of consideration time point any further out than five years for purposes of this exercise.)
• And what can you do today that might at least incrementally help you to move towards that goal?

I argued a case in that installment for not projecting out farther than five years in this, and return to that point of observation here too. The farther out you project and predict in this, the more likely that your ideas and preconceptions of today will collide with overriding change, and in both its cumulative evolutionary forms and in its more disruptively unpredictable ones. A lot of what I have been addressing in this posting has involved this emerging and ongoing flood of change and the challenges of building a career in the face of it. So I turn back here at this end point to Part 8 in this series, to at least briefly make note of the starting point and its premises for Part 7, and to reiterate how closely these two lines of discussion fit together here.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 5

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 3, 2017

This is my 5th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research, as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I focused in Part 4 on businesses that seek to operate and succeed long-term and on the issues of identifying and quantifying cost and profit centers in them, in the face of change and uncertainty, and as they fit into larger systems in the organization.

And after addressing this set of issues in more general terms, I turned to apply my overall flow of discussion in this series up to there in terms of in-house research and product development as a special area of consideration. And simply following the standard and even basic assumptions that have primarily led to ongoing research to become a recognized domain for large corporations as would be determined by basic economic and business cash flow considerations, I stated that:

• A larger stable business that can more readily maintain supportive reserves for among other things bankrolling its future through research, and a business that can more reliably long-term predict and manage its revenue flows is going to be in a stronger position to take the risks of maintaining longer-term potential areas that might create profitability at some future date but only then: such as longer-term research. Smaller and less fiscally protected enterprises would be less secure in attempting this. And with that, I have just restated the basic conceptual model underlying the default vision of only large and established corporations being able to develop and sustain real research and certainly anything like pure research in-house.

I added at the end of Part 4 that I would:

• Examine the assumptions made there in justifying a big business only approach to research, and in this series up to here as a whole,
• And at least briefly consider and sketch out a smaller, lean and agile research-focused business model alternative – and how this briefly sketched description of it need not automatically be seen as being built on a contradiction in terms.

I begin addressing those two points with the second of them, to take this discussion out of the abstract. And I begin that with the fundamentals and with consideration of what makes a good business model:

• Business model and I add business plan effectiveness are context dependent. What might be effective and even tremendously so in an appropriate, good-fit context might be all but doomed if attempted in the wrong one.

I in effect, addressed that point of observation on a specific case in point basis when I outlined how essentially the same business model and plan was only marginally successful for Apple, Inc. the first time it tried it when initially developing and offering their early generation graphical user interface computers, but was tremendously effective their second time with their iPhones and iPads and more (see my series: Rethinking Vertical Integration for the 21st Century Context, at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 577 and loosely following.)

• Presumably a developed business plan is going to be based on a realistic analysis of and understanding of the competition that a new business would face, and of the markets that it would serve, and of consumer and end-user needs and preferences that it would seek to meet.
• And a well planned new business would be aware of the issues faced where it would require skilled personnel as their key employees, and particularly when they would require employees with special skills and experience using them. A new business’ founders should check out the job market and the available labor pool as part of their basic due diligence.
• You can also include detailed consideration of and review of possible suppliers for raw materials and preassembled parts for new manufacturers, and of supplies of all types that a new business would critically need and regardless of industry or business type. And this side to an overall assessment and analysis of essential context for a new business, would also probably include identification and due diligence review of possible supply chain partners, and certainly where specific types of such business-to-business collaboration would play a significant role is creating new business success.

The points of outside context connection and support that I make note of in these bullet points are important and for any startup or early stage business – and for ongoing business ventures too and certainly if one of these areas of contextual connectedness and support were to adversely change. But even collectively, they are crucially incomplete. And the gap in them includes consideration of a “none of the above” issue that many startup founders do not consider in depth, and certainly when they would build a new venture that primarily calls for basic, standard management skills and experience, and a basic foundation of experience in the industry and business type that they would build toward.

• An explicit and detailed consideration of the skills and experience of the members of a founding team, and of their professional reputations in that as they would directly validate and support their new business venture as it launches.

This is crucially important for any business venture that would carry out and market itself for offering special services such as product development-oriented research capabilities. And in this example context, it is vital that the founders have impeccable research and development credentials and with that including track records of success, in carrying out and managing research that leads to profitable success, or at least respected success in innovative development that has been brought to market by others.

My goal here is to outline an at least initially small scale enterprise oriented, research-focused business model, that in fact offers research capability as a marketable product and service. And I begin outlining this business-to-business oriented enterprise with some orienting notes:

• If you seek to plan out and launch this type of business, begin planning and developing its business model with the credibility and the reputation of the people who would found the business in mind and included as a core resource that can be built from.
• And plan this with an awareness of the professional reputations of the people who would be brought in as employees and as managers in fleshing out the organizational team and both as an organizing goal and in making hiring decisions too.
• Build this new research organization venture with a specific industry and a specific technology starting point focus, that meshes with the positive credibility and reputation strengths that those founders and their developing team bring to the table, that they would launch their venture around.
• And focus in this on the industry and the businesses operating in it, that you would turn to and market yourself to as your most likely customers, that need the fruits of research and development to be and remain as competitive as possible but that would chose not to carry this out in-house and on their own.

That last point specifically addresses the marketable needs side to the business model that I would offer here. Look for businesses that need innovation, but that do not see it as cost-effective for them to support the necessary research for this in-house.

I am going to focus in my next installment on how addressing that need would be carried out and marketed. And I will also address issues of how specific research would be organized and packaged by a research as marketable product and service business, and on how that would be commoditized and sold.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 1, 2017

This is my second installment to a new series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Part 1.)

I stated at the end of Part 1 that I would turn here in its follow-up to at least briefly consider how Russia used cyber-weapons to influence and even disrupt the 2016 elections in the United States including the presidential election there. And I will do that here, widening my perspective on the issues raised by that one event to also consider, for example, Russian meddling in the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and recent European elections too, as well as other internationally impactful cyber-attack incidents.

I begin this posting and its narrative by citing some recent news stories concerning at least some of these cyber offensives, as specifically orchestrated by and led by agencies of the Russian government:

UK Officials Now Think Russia May Have Interfered with the Brexit Vote.
Russian Meddling and Europe’s Elections.
FPI Conference Call: Russian Interference in Foreign Elections.

And I also cite this Wikipedia piece:

Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Elections.

and this public release version of an official US government intelligence community assessment report on the 2016 hacking of United States elections by the Russian government and by groups organized and led by them in that:

Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution.

Officially, nation states only develop cyber-warfare capabilities for defensive purposes, and as a deterrent from others using this type of weapon offensively against them. If they admit to having cyber elements in their militaries at all, it is always for strictly defensive purposes and never with intent to proactively, offensively use them.

North Korea and China have deployed cyber-weapons in pursuit of their national interests and so have the United States and others and in a variety of arguably non-defense roles. All three, and other nations as well, have actively used these capabilities in order to clandestinely gather in secret and sensitive information from national governments. And for China and North Korea this has also actively included gathering sensitive and confidential information from private businesses too. And a variety of countries have at least occasionally used these capabilities in more overt manners too, besides just seeking to surreptitiously gather information through cyber-espionage.

As a specific and well known example of that, the North Korean government very specifically cyber-attacked Sony Pictures and their computer network in retaliation for their producing and releasing a movie: The Interview, in which a buffoon representing Kim Jong-Un was targeted for assassination. See:

U.S. Said to Find North Korea Ordered Cyberattack on Sony and
N.S.A. Breached North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say.

And North Korea under Kim Jong-Un has become particularly active in using cyber-weapon capabilities offensively. They have used their cyber-capability to attack banks and private businesses in South Korea, and to attack the South Korean government itself. And as a very recent, as of this writing, example of this policy and practice, consider their use of ransomware as a means of bringing in foreign currency “income” and from multiple sources globally, to help prop up their economy.

North Korea’s economy has always been weak at best but it has spiraled downward from weak to worse under sanctions imposed because of their recent nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests. See:

• This Wikipedia piece on North Korea’s far-reaching WannaCry Ransomware Attack and this news story about it:
More Evidence Points to North Korea in Ransomware Attack.)

I have to add that even countries that have largely limited their development and deployment of cyber-warfare capability to defensive use have found themselves at least occasionally resorting to them in offensive initiatives. I cite the use of the Stuxnet computer worm as an example of that type of cyber-offensive approach as the United States and Israel specifically sought to impede Iran’s effort to develop and produce nuclear weapons as a particular limited, targeted use of this type of capability.

I have to add that offensive and defensive are in the eye of the beholder. I think it safe to state that the United States government would claim that it carries out cyber-surveillance on the computer networks and systems of countries such as North Korea (as noted above) for strictly defensive purposes. And the same could be said of their alleged use of cyber-weapons to impede North Korean ballistic missile tests “left of launch” – on the ground and before those missiles can take off. They would claim that these are all defensive measures taken to deter the grave risk that an always unstable at best North Korean leadership might have nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that they could deliver them with in a devastating attack. The North Koreans, and I add others might see this type of action differently and as representing something other than defense-only.

And of course Russia has recently gone on the cyber-offensive and very actively, and globally in attacking and seeking to suborn elections and referendum votes in multiple nations that they see as being at least potential adversaries, as noted in the above references on that. And they have cyber-attacked neighboring countries in a variety of ways over the years too (e.g. in preparation for their physical incursion into the Ukraine.) And I add that they have prominently deployed social media and related resources as weapons in much of this, as touched upon in more abstract terms in Part 1 of this series and as noted, by way of example, in the news pieces pointed to in the above-offered links.

New technologies and new ways to use already established ones create both new positive-side possibilities and new, negative-side vulnerabilities. And the more disruptively significant a New is, the greater both the positive and negative side to it can be for impact achieved. This holds for social media and the emerging internet of things, and it applies to cloud storage and cloud-based application programs and related distantly located and managed functional capabilities. This applies to essentially every new and every next-step technology that emerges, and certainly online where an attack can be launched and sent out at close to the speed of light and with largely effective masking as to where an attack actually came from.

• These new and emerging technologies are usage neutral in this regard, in and of themselves. Their societally positive and negative values arise in how they are used and in what ends they are used to achieve.
• And information systems security: an increasingly vital face to national security and on all levels and for all nations, is increasingly a matter of thinking outside of the box of past and even current practices, and beyond the scope of past and even current possibilities, to imagine what a potential adversary: local and individual, or national and more comprehensively scaled might do or try to do next. (See Stuxnet and the Democratization of Warfare for a brief orienting discussion of the roles that even single individuals can play in this.)
• Then the next step in this risk assessment and remediation conceptualization arises and it is the most difficult one of all to actually design for use and to put into effect – getting people and organizations: both businesses and governments included there, to actually prepare for what might come, by installing and using protective systems that are developed in light of realistic threat assessments, and that include in them proactive protective elements.

I keep finding myself thinking back as I write this, to a fundamental challenge that is implicit in the ongoing real-world information security experience publically shared by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) in their Top 10 threat assessment and identification project. Many of the most serious and prevalent risk vulnerabilities that this widely known and respected organization has published about, have been included in their recurringly updated Top 10 risks list for years now, and even from the beginning of that organization and from the first edition of this list. Widely accessible ways are available for both identifying where these vulnerabilities are in systems that exhibit them and for remediating them, patching and removing them. But so many businesses and even government agencies do not effectively address even long-known vulnerabilities, let alone new and emerging ones.

When I wrote of the emerging cyber-security risks inherent in the internet of things, in Rethinking Online Security in an Age of the Internet of Things: the more things change, the more they stay the same, I did so with this human usage and management vulnerability in mind. And with that noted, I return in this discussion to the Russian hacking of the United States Democratic Party server computers, leading up to the 2016 elections there, and how they used confidential emails and other documents illegally obtained from them, out of context at the very least to interfere with those American elections. I have been writing of these events and about the vulnerabilities that they represent here, in terms of technology. But in a fundamental sense they are human user challenges too, and fit as threat vectors into the social engineering paradigm, and even when channels such as social media are not involved.

Ultimately, the only way that the Russians could hack those Democratic Party computer servers was by coaxing humans with legitimate access to those systems to take actions that would install malware on them, primarily by coaxing them to click to links in emails that would prompt the downloading of malware onto their secure network connected email server computers. And this brings me to three basic categorical corrective responses, for at least limiting the possibility of a next similar attack from working. And here I write in terms of cyber-defense and security in general:

• Better computer and network user training,
• Better, more up to date and capable automated systems,
• And usage options channeling systems that reinforce good practices and discourage or even actively prevent bad, risk-creating ones.

Technology fixes are always going to be important and necessary in this, but increasingly the biggest vulnerabilities faced come from human users, and particularly ones who are trusted and who have access permissions, to critically important systems.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, with that set of possibilities and that observation. And I will offer at least a brief set of thoughts as to how the above bullet pointed information systems security approaches might be implemented in a rapidly, disruptively changing computer and information technology context. And as part of that, I will at least briefly discuss some of the positive tools and capabilities that have emerged in the last few years, as of this writing, and how they can be exploited, turning them into sources of security vulnerability too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

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