Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Management and strategy by prototype – 1: starting a new series

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 23, 2011

Effective strategy is first and foremost about identifying and managing effective change and in developing and articulating the goals that operational management should be taking you towards. In a rapidly changing and competitive marketplace this can mean continuously striving towards development of a unique value proposition as a continuously moving target. That is true in technology fields and in fields and marketplaces that are shaped by technology, and in that I could be writing about information technology, clean energy technology or any of a wide variety of society-transforming areas as working examples. Perhaps more to the point, this is in fact true for every marketplace and for members of every community and society as all are being shaped and reframed by the ongoing onslaught of our emerging ubiquitous computing and communications capabilities, and by the all pervasive impact of being globally connected all the time and everywhere.

Several points run through my mind as I write that.

• An obvious one is that market leadership and the capture of significant market share can never be taken for granted, and no business can simply rest on its laurels from past accomplishments or on its brand or reputation.
• Just as importantly online business capabilities with their ongoing reductions in the importance and value of physical plant and held physical resources, lowers barriers to competition where even the smallest business with a bright idea can compete with the biggest in creating and capturing market space and market share.
• Continuing on this second point, when bricks and mortar and ownership of physical facility and resources no longer carry special value, the fixed capital expenses they require act more as an impediment to ongoing success from the enforced inertia they create, rather than representing maintenance of forward momentum from the value of investments made.

This is all very nice as stated and could come from any of a growing chorus of sources and resources on the new enterprise and on new management. The trick is in translating these general principles of ongoing and rapid change into meaningful action, and on capitalizing on online and the cloud to create sustainable growth and market performance, and real excellence from this.

I would propose an approach to translating this general adage-level insight into workable knowledge and action and my goal in this posting it to at least start a discussion in that direction. And my larger goal here is to help translate an approach that works in software development to a business strategy and organization level: prototyping.

Setting aside the technical details of software prototyping in its various models and forms, I cite some key details here that can be applied to business strategy and the determination of and testing of goals and priorities.

Prototyping allows for low investment testing of novel options and opportunities, and of ways to develop value from them. Here, disruptive and novel always carry risks of failure and the more novel the greater the uncertainty and risk involved. So a capacity to test out a range of possibilities, each with lowered costs of failure can help increase your chances of finding products, services and business models with a substantial return on investment potential. These possibilities would then be moved from prototype testing to line production and ongoing operations.

I introduce this as a basic concept and will develop it in more detail in the next installment of a short series, all installments of which I will be posting in Business Strategy and Operations.

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