Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Putting change in perspective 2 – taking a 360 degree view 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 26, 2013

This is my second installment in a series on recognizing change and on evaluating its potential significance as it develops, so as to enable a more rapid and effective, and even a more proactive response (see Part 1: thresholds of change and disruption.)

I wrote in Part 1 about change in a business and its context from the more purely fiscal, cash flow and reserves perspective, and on the impact of random fluctuations in a business and its performance on the challenge of identifying more significant change as it arises. More specifically, I focused there on identifying significant levels and types of change as it emerges out of the more random, business-as-usual fluctuations that are always occurring in any business’ financials. I widen that discussion with this series installment, taking a more 360 degree perspective on where to look for significant change, and both for identifying standard and ongoing practices and their evolutionary shifts, and for spotting and characterizing more significant change as it emerges from that – and ideally when it is still just starting to emerge, and not just as a delayed, reactive response.

Ultimately any significant change to a business and to its marketplace and competitive position there, is going to emerge as a fundamental, nonrandom shift in its financials. But before that can happen, there are frequently a wide range of nonmonetary measures and indices and perspectives that can be used to identify that such change is coming. My goal for this posting is to at least begin a discussion of some of them. And once again, as with Part 1 of this series, I am not concerned here about the positive or negative value of a change and its prospective impact on a business. I am not focusing here on the valence of change, positive or negative for its overall impact on the business. I am only writing here about identifying significant change per se. I will turn to consider valence issues and their complexities later, and strategically and operationally developing to manage both the scale and valence of a change’s impact.

I write this in the early 21st century as social media and social networking take on increasingly central prominence and in both our professional and private lives. So I will begin discussing this set of issues in terms of the conversational flow and identifying harbingers of change out of it, and in ways that can lead to earlier reactive, and even proactive action.

To put this in perspective, when you wait until you see visibly significant impact on your business’ financials before you acknowledge change, you take the most delayed reactive approach possible and the best you can do is to try to play catch-up with your competition. When you actively seek to identify forerunner indicators of change to come in the social media conversation and through online research, you at least open yourself up to the possibility of creating as proactive and anticipatory a response as possible, marking off an opposite endpoint to a timing spectrum. This is where opportunity can be found for becoming a market and industry leader, and a creatively inventive competitor that sets the pace of change for an industry.

There are two sides to social media and the online conversation that come into play here:

• Tapping into and entering the outside conversation of the marketplace, and researching and understanding your competition and what they are offering now and what they are showing as to their developing plans, and
• Tapping into and joining in on the more internal conversation within your own business organization – where a key to enabling that can be created through offering web 2.0 enabled social media and related capabilities as a part of an intranet, as well as following what is being shared through more face to face and traditional in-house business communications channels (see Connecting an Organization Together, Version 2.0.)

I begin this discussion on the outside and in knowing and following your marketplace and its community members, and your competition and what they are telling you. Even just basic, fundamental marketing research is designed to help you identify who your current customer base is, and the nature of the market demographics that would be most inclined to buy from you. This same marketing data would indicate both current and likely consumer demands for the types of products and services that you offer, and that your direct competition offers. And this represents a here-and-now baseline and the market context that would drive the functionally steady state of your ongoing background business level and performance fluctuations that I started writing about in Part 1.

• Take your marketing research to a next level and seek out information on what your customers would like to see offered that you do not provide, but that your competition does. And look at the price point that they offer this at. Can you offer the same or better, and if so at what competing price point? Focus on the features and details that your customers, and that members of your larger target demographics would see as offering them value, and at a sufficient level to prompt them to buy and at a competitive price point that you can offer.
• Now seek out information on what your customers would like to see offered that you do not provide, and that your competition doesn’t offer either – but that you could. Knowing precisely what your customers and prospective customers would want in the way of details and features, and for usability and user design is key to making this work. And look for novel value added features that you can add in to your current offerings as well as considering entirely new products or services. I note in this context that ease and directness of use and a customer-friendly user interface, and long-term product reliability can be more valuable to the customer than simply adding in more and more features – that can collectively turn into unreliable clutter. This is where you can focus on the essentials and keep your own expenses down while doing so, so that you can offer the new products or product updates and services that your customers will really want and at a more competitive price.
• If you effectively enter into this outside conversation, and listen as well as market and speak, your customers will give you the road map information that you need for all of this.
• And I add at this point of this discussion that I have been writing up to here and certainly with these bullet points, about evolutionary change and the gradual emergence of new and improved features at more competitive prices.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will begin adding disruptive change to this discussion – and in that case, “disruptive” shapes both the level of overall impact realizable and the timing and pace at which change creates a significant impact. I will then turn to consider the internal-to-the-organization conversation, and the role of that in identifying emerging change potential. And after that, I will discuss change as it can be tracked and identified through a business’ ongoing operational processes – which I position in the middle of the timing spectrum that reactive financial metrics and the proactive social conversation bookend.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and at the first page to that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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