Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 12, 2017

We all face two fundamental challenges: two fundamental limitations in our thinking about risk and how to respond to it, and I am not sure which is more problematical:

• We can and all too often do, get so caught up in our standard routines, that we fail to pick up on and see what in retrospect were even clear warnings of new and emerging risks and threat vectors faced from routinely, automatically following them, and
• We can and all too often do overestimate both the range and reach of whatever security and risk management systems that we have in place now, and the range, reach and effectiveness of any newest and best add-on security solutions that we do institute.
• And that second presumption just starts with our tacitly assuming, for example, that if we have just uploaded the newest update patch to our anti-viral and anti-malware software in place, then our computers and networked systems must be essentially completely secure from those types of threat now, as if new and locally known but yet to be exploited zero-day vulnerabilities were now impossible. That second presumption can and all too often does find its way into all of our information systems security thinking, as an at-least starting point default that we have to continually watch out for and challenge.
• The two challenges noted in the first two of these bullet points in fact represent different sides to a single overall security risk phenomenon, and it is one that is much more wide-reaching than would just be encompassed in my simple if commonly familiar anti-virus/anti-malware example. And those two challenges comprise differing sides to that one larger source of risk that can and do interact with each other and build upon each other with an ongoing toxic synergy.

Let’s think past the walls and blinders that this synergy can and does create for us, and in more open-ended and general terms. What do we currently actually face? We might know, for example, of ongoing online problems such as social media troll behavior (see, for example Trolls and Other Antisocial, Disruptive and Divisive Social Networkers – Part 1 and its Part 2 continuation, and Cyber-Bullies, Cyber-Stalkers, Trolls and the Individual Social Networker.) And we might know of ongoing problems that we face societally such as how our online potentially-globally connecting community has been effectively shattered into separate epistemic bubble-limited groups and demographics, each with their own accepted “news” and opinion sharing sources and their own echo chamber validation of all that is known and presumed within them, and with no outside alternatives allowed in (see for example Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs .) And by now everyone should know about computer hacking and how sensitive and confidential information that is surreptitiously stolen from a targeted computer system can be publically posted online and through social media and related channels to cause explicit targeted damage, through resources such as Twitter and through sites such as WikiLeaks. But we do not necessarily connect the potentially connectable dots that emerging problems such as these create, to see how they and a constellation of other closely-related, weaponizable options could be used together to launch and carry out new far-reaching forms of unified cyber-attack, and against a business or organization, or even against an entire nation.

Note that when I wrote my above-cited 2010 cyber-trolling related postings, I explicitly did so in terms of individual online behavior, and in terms of what were for the most part still just lone individuals acting on their own initiative and in pursuit of their own personal agendas. That side to this challenge, of course still happens. But now the disruptive potential inherent in that once more localized and impact-limited form of antisocial behavior, has been weaponized as a key element for launching closely coordinated, targeted attacks too, with networks of trolls working together in a systematic centrally organized manner.

Think of this as scaling up the dark side to online social media for use in cyber-attacks, exactly as taking over veritable armies of individual, otherwise unrelated and geographically dispersed personal computers in assembling malware-controlled botnets can be used in launching attacks against even the largest organizational networked computer systems. And that quantitative shift on the trolling behavior side of this, makes troll behavior and related, a qualitatively new threat element too, just as coordinately suborning control over distant personal computers through assembly of organized botnets, made that a qualitatively new threat – and a qualitatively new weapon too.

And if new arises when the nature and scale of single specific potential cyber-vulnerabilities and cyber-threats such as these are scaled up individually, it also arises as at least initially, seemingly disparate and unrelated attack options and supportive circumstances for them (such as the ones noted above) are brought together and coordinately organized as new overall tools for new forms of potential cyber-warfare.

Let me add a third fundamental challenge, and limitation on our part to the above two that I began this posting with:

• Regardless of how many times we have stumbled for doing so, we all tend to prepare for the last battle faced and fought: the last war that we had to deal with and its learning curves, and not for the one that might be coming towards us.

I wrote a series to this blog beginning in September 2010 that focused on targeted malware, and with the stuxnet computer worm offered as an at least initial poster child example of that, that I built a more comprehensive discussion around. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and its postings 58 and loosely following for Parts 1-15 of that series, and particularly see its Part 3: Stuxnet and the Democratization of Warfare.) We are all still thinking and planning in large part in terms of malware and target-specific malware as exemplified by stuxnet as a then game changing example. And we all think in terms of big systems attacks, such as large-scale botnet-driven dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks on business and government network servers and server farms. Those are still ongoing concerns, as are a great many other older sources of vulnerability that we should be more effectively managing, and limiting for their effectiveness against our networked systems. But the next big cyber-attack faced, and certainly any next such attack that rises to a level of impact so as to qualify as an act of cyber-warfare, is going to be led by and even build around weaponized use of social media and the interactive online, and other new and related, still just emerging threat vectors.

I have written repeatedly in this blog about how we do not learn from threats already faced and certainly when they have only been carried out somewhere else and against someone else, when updating and safeguarding our own computers and networked systems. I recently addressed that issue here in the new and still just emerging context of our still embryonic and forming 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.

And this brings me to two areas of discussion that I have been leading up to in this posting:

• Russia’s recent forays into election interference through cyber-attack and both in the United States and in Europe, and
• A generally stated reframing of the overall cyber-security threat theatre faced and its dynamics, that would include within it an awareness of new and disruptive threat possibilities and influencers such as the ones I have just touched upon here.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into those issues, starting with Russia’s recent interference in the 2016 United States elections, and on Great Britain’s Brexit vote and in recent European elections.

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.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 4

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on April 30, 2017

This is my fourth installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

My goal for this posting is to explicitly discuss virtuous business development cycles and their vicious cycle counterparts, and I begin this by noting that I have already begun doing so, by way of two specific working examples:

• A more positive, proactively planned and carried out example as drawn from garment manufacturing, where more expensive metal zippers are replaced with less expensive plastic ones (see Part 2), and
• A reactively and at most shortest-term, short term planned negative example that I have come to refer to as the restaurant death spiral, as I explained when presenting this scenario in Part 3.

Let’s begin this by playing what-if in reconsidering those two working examples, starting with the one that I presented in its more positive light: the manufacturing decision to switch from using a more expensive metal zipper to a less expensive plastic one.

First of all, I note here that when manufacturers take steps like this, they often approach this possibility with a goal of effecting change throughout their materials selection and manufacturing process systems, and not for just one decision point such as selection of zippers to include in their finished products. And they start that analytical, decision making process at the points in their design and manufacturing systems where they can predictably affect the greatest savings, at the lowest quality control risk: maximizing the positives while minimizing any negatives there. So in the case study example examined in Part 2 and under reconsideration here, this manufacturer would have done their homework before investing in or entering into this type of specific change so they would know in advance, basic details such as:

• How well these newer plastic zippers work,
• How long they last,
• How easily they break and certainly in comparison to the metal ones that they have been offering,
• And if and how customers accept them,
• Where the answers to the sets of questions that the above points raise would vary depending on where these zippers would be sourced from.

That last point highlights what in most cases would be the ultimate due diligence decision making criterion, where at least one source would have to be able to provide acceptable answers to those questions for a potentially purchasing manufacturer to proceed here in making this materials-used change.

Some third party providers would offer better quality plastic zippers than others and some would offer lower priced ones, and the trade-offs between quality and cost would be crucially important in all of this. But this only reflects two of a larger set of important issues here, and certainly as framed by the first four points here. The answers to the questions raised by the above bullet points and to others that would have to be asked, would vary from source to source for these pre-manufactured parts. And deciding where to source these items, would involve making trade-off decisions for what might be directly competing considerations such as per-unit cost of purchase, versus durability. And with that noted, I turn back to more fully examine the fourth bullet point from above, and the customer’s perspective on this.

That means durability and how long these zippers last before breaking but it also means ease of use by a garment wearing customer. Do they jam too easily, and even if they come through any effort to jerk them open again or closed without breaking? A finding that the zippers might be cheap and durable, but that they tend to jam when used and with unacceptably high frequency would not be a positive here. Quality, ultimately, is determined by the end user customer and not just by the manufacturer as for example when considering issues such as ease and cost of putting these zippers into garments on their assembly lines.

Ultimately, if the customer is dissatisfied with the zipper on a new jacket they have just purchased, they are going to be dissatisfied with the garment as whole and probably with its manufacturer too as a whole. But if they are satisfied with this change they are unlikely to even really notice it at all. So there is a real asymmetry of impact here. Risk analysis and quality control evaluation and follow through would focus on the more impact expanding possibilities of, in this example new plastic zipper failure and on the overall potential costs that this could lead to. So here, and particularly when this is a manufacturer that seeks to offer quality: not just cheap knock-offs, higher quality and a more modest per-item savings in manufacturing might win out. And it probably should.

But let’s play what-if here. Let’s assume, and I will be a bit cynical here, that a third party provider sent a specially selected lot of zippers to this manufacturer for trial use when they knew that they were being evaluated for a possible large and long-term contract with them. And now that this manufacturer has signed this contract with them, they just ship them whatever comes off of their assembly line for the make, model and size zippers ordered – and with less quality control added in for any given batch: no pre-shipping extra-step screening for possible defects or other problems.

• Did this garment maker do their homework, checking to see what other garment makers have experienced when sourcing zippers from this company for use in their products? Or did they make their decisions to buy from this source essentially entirely on the basis of their own reviews of a sample lot shipped to them?
• And let’s consider that contractual agreement. How does it cover quality control issues and for terms of payment, requirement for replacement of items found to be problematical, and contract termination if quality control issues from this source reach a level of significance? That last detail is the one that will come back to haunt this garment manufacturer if anything does, and certainly if they have entered into an agreement to buy at least some minimum volume of zippers from this sourcing business to among other things cover their claimed costs of setting up a production line for that work.
• Who actually wrote the terms defining what would qualify as a contract breech defining loss of quality control here, and what does it say? Does it favor the zipper manufacturer here, or the garment manufacturer that would purchase these items from them, or both and if so in what way? Assume that it would be impossible to prove that the zipper manufacturer knowingly sent a highly unrepresentative sample of their product offerings for trial use, where that in and of itself would qualify as a deceptive business practice that would nullify most such contracts. Assume that any binding resolutions made would be based on the terms of this contract itself as if entered into in good faith by all involved parties.

Proactive only works here if the right details and considerations are in fact all proactively considered. And as soon as a significant one arises that was not addressed in advance of contract signing, everything becomes as reactive and after the fact for this scenario too, as was outlined in my more negative working example, restaurant death spiral case.

Now let’s reconsider that example too. And let’s start out with a detail that on the face of it sounds crazy, but that I have in fact seen done. A restaurant buys canned goods and even when local seasonally grown fresh produce alternatives are available, because no one there has the time or expertise to go to the wholesale markets or directly to the local growers to source that way. They start out as a modestly consistently profitable business doing this! And then they get into trouble and in this case the owner decides that they have to make the sweat equity and learning curve investment of cutting costs (and improving quality) by at least seasonally buying locally and using fresh where they can. This changes everything; their cost cutting is now being carried out at least in part with an intense awareness of ongoing quality and as a matter of reducing cash flow challenges to the business by accepting greater owner burdens – but ones that would in fact improve the restaurant. I have just reframed this away from being a death spiral scenario per se and certainly if this type of more positive change predominates in what is done overall and if this approach is expanded in a next redevelopment cycle.

I have reframed this example from simply representing a death spiral scenario and certainly if more positive changes predominate in their overall impact over more negative ones, and particularly in the eyes of their customers and potential customers in their reachable marketplace. And this brings me to a second foundationally important point that I would make here:

• If the difference between these two basic scenarios and approaches discussed here lies in thinking through and examining the right details and factors and proactively getting them right,
• It also plays out in considering all of these factors in the larger context and for how everything fits together – and in how this larger perspective impacts upon the customers who ultimately pay the bills and who would or world not contribute to keeping the business viable and successful.
• This is a point where the garment manufacturer and the restaurant, and essentially any product providing business face essentially the same challenges and issues.

And this is where virtuous and vicious cycles enter this narrative. Both take place as cycles: and with at least two and probably many more rounds of proactive where possible, and reactive where necessary action and reaction.

• Virtuous cycles positively build on successes achieved and on how they were arrived at, and
• Vicious cycles seek to endure where viable paths to positive business building do not seem to present themselves, at least at acceptable costs to the business owners.

To follow-up here on my second example from Part 3, if the owner of restaurant realizes and accepts that they are going to have to step way outside of their usual comfort zone to identify and reach out to local farmers in their area, to buy local produce from them and enter into supply chain agreements with them for continuity of supply, they are creating a foundation for what can become a very positive virtuous cycle. And if they couple this first change with a shift to a seasonal menu where they can always offer best-price, best quality and as locally as possible, they might find whole new types and levels of business success from that. But if they are never willing to take that first step – here let’s say with sourcing and buying local spring and summer produce, none of this potential good can happen.

• Ultimately, the difference between virtuous and vicious here is in the details, with larger positive or negative patterns emerging from the perhaps individually small decisions made, actions taken and commitments made, or not.
• And ultimately, a business owner can decide which of these two paths to take, simply by virtue of whether they are willing to step outside of their comfort zones and attempt what for them at least, would be their new and still at first unknown.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will more explicitly consider paths of change, and in both their gradual and disruptively intrusive forms. And in anticipation of that, this means building for agility and resiliency. In anticipation of that narrative, consider the potential consequences of weather-related crop failure for the virtuous cycle restaurant owner of above, who has sought to develop their newly reframed business in buy-local terms and with that as a defining feature of who they are now as a restaurant.

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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 32: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on April 20, 2017

This is my 32nd posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-31.)

I have been developing what amounts to a case study example in recent installments to this series, and I add in a concurrently running second series: Intentional Management (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following. And see in particular that series’ Part 30.) And this case study takes the form of a discussion and analysis of a new approach to business process flow analysis, and to business systems management that I offer here in this blog as a new source of value for improving business modeling and strategic planning, and that would be both hardware and software dependent for its implementation. The hardware called for would be largely off the shelf, but as primarily marketed and sold to very different, non-business market audiences. And much of the underlying software required would be off the shelf in nature too – reducing costs of development among other considerations – but at a cost of increasing resistance to earlier more mainstream use and to acceptance into business practices from its novelty of source too. I discussed by way of comparison, the historical case study example in Part 30, of how businesses were reluctant at best to adapt easier to use graphical user interface computers in their offices, and in large part because of a non-business image that they brought with them. In that, the advent of the graphical user interface approach, represents a case study example of a more general phenomenon that I would argue likely to arise here too, that also fits into our general understanding as to how new innovation and invention diffuse out into general acceptance and use.

I have been discussing the business modeling and imaging innovation case study example of this series, in terms of innovation and disruptive innovation per se and in terms of how the products of change diffuse into and with time throughout consumer, end user-oriented markets and from initial pioneer and early adaptor acceptance outward towards being generally and routinely accepted, and even by late and last adaptor market segments.

The business visualization innovation that I have been developing and presenting here, can in large part be viewed as a resource that would offer increased information availability to business planners and strategists, and for improving overall operational systems – and exception handling contingencies as well if effectively implemented. My focus in this installment is to step away from the specifics of that case study example to consider information flow and availability, and business systems friction in the organization in general, and to discuss the boundaries between and the distinctions between innovation per se and disruptive innovation per se – and from an information flow and accessibility perspective. And I begin by asserting a fundamentally important set of points:

1. Innovation and its realization are information and knowledge driven.
2. And the availability and effective use of raw information and of more processed knowledge developed from it, coupled with an ability to look beyond the usual blinders of how that information and knowledge would be more routinely viewed and understood, to see wider possibilities inherent in it,
3. Make innovation and its practical realization possible and actively drive them.

That much is obvious, and should not come across as being particularly new or innovative. But as a next, and I add crucial next step to that progression of thought, I add two more details here:

4. Information availability serves as an innovation driver, and business systems friction and the resistance to enabling and using available business intelligence that that creates, significantly set the boundaries that would distinguish between innovation per se and disruptively novel innovation as it would be perceived and understood
5. And in both the likelihood and opportunity for achieving the later, and for determining the likelihood of a true disruptive innovation being developed and refined to value creating fruition if one is attempted.

And it is the last two of these now five points that I will focus on here, building towards a fuller discussion of them in terms laid out in the first three.

Information and knowledge drive innovation, and set the boundaries between innovation per se and disruptive innovation, and certainly as value creating possibilities. And yes, this does mean that the boundary between “simple” innovation that might even just represent a more slow-paced next step of evolutionary change, and disruptive innovation, has a gray area between their more usually considered extremes. Understanding and thinking and developing in terms of that gray area can be leveraged as a capability for making a business, or any innovative effort more effectively innovative and less bound by small and even just cosmetic change.

This all begins with raw data and how it is organized and developed in producing what should be usable, actionable processed knowledge. And this all begins with the questions, issues and challenges of bringing what in fact would be the essential basic information that can be made available, together. And it begins with making this available to the people who would most need it and who could best use it. And that compelling need for more open sharing and for collaborative information value creation, has to take place within the constraints of necessary and even legally mandated information flow restriction and the barriers to free information flow that any real world business has to face, and function within. I have just outlined a few of the highlights of what in practice would become a more extensive process-driven system, and one requiring management and oversight and one that would require ongoing review and change. And I posit all of this as fitting reasonably into a single “and it begins with” as phrased above in this paragraph, as capacity to effectively innovate demands effective basic information access as one of its initial foundational requirements – and certainly if innovations that would be pursued are going to be oriented from the start towards more effectively supporting and enhancing the business that they would be developed in, and if those innovations are to be supportive of ongoing value creating, value center business activities.

Let’s consider this from an operational, rules based information access and use policy perspective and with the absolute basics and with a basic conundrum that actually developing and implementing this type of policy actually entails:

• Effective information access control is a necessary fact of life for any business or organization that gathers in, stores, or uses any information that it might be required to maintain as confidential, and for either internal to the business reasons or to meet outside legal or other regulatory requirements. And this means identifying and classifying both potential information sources and potential information recipients in risk management terms, as to what information they can categorically be allowed access to, and as to whom they could share this information with.
• Database and other storage systems, and channels of information sharing, and of information flow monitoring, and policies and practices for deleting information that should no longer be held: the functional, structural systems in place for carrying out the storage and transmission of this information flow, would all be developed so as to more effectively enable approved information management at the level of the above bullet point while at least ideally preventing unapproved, ad hoc information sharing, and I add local user storage of information that the rules based system in place and its underlying business model thinking would not approve.
• But, and this is where the conundrum of this narrative enters in, when barriers are created in the assembly, storage and sharing of information, that information becomes fragmented and in ways that limit the capability of any one potential user or any group of them as they would create actionable knowledge out of it. The more that the basic information available is partitioned and fragmented, and the more locally known-only, the actionable knowledge can be that is derived from it, the greater the business systems friction there is going to be that would hinder the development of new and less routine knowledge out of it.
• Information access partitioning leads to reduced risk management challenge and certainly in shorter time frames. But it can also actively hinder and even prevent innovative insight, by preventing that information and knowledge from being reconnected in new and potentially valuable unexpected ways. And this creates what can be seen as long-term risk management costs – but ones that can be impossible to see except reactively and even just way after the fact, as for example when a lost opportunity comes to light. Consider the all too common a reality of learning that another competing business has just marketed a breakthrough development, where all of the pieces necessary for it were there in-house in your own business – but disconnected from each other and from the people who could have used them, and never developed from as a result.

I have written repeatedly over the years of businesses that have arrived at even profoundly revolutionary innovation that has gone on to found entire new industries, but with those potentially first mover businesses left out of all of that, because they did not or could not organize and capitalize on what they had in-house and what they had paid to develop there. (See, for example, my series: Keeping Innovation Fresh, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2, as postings 241 and loosely following, and its Part 2 and Part 3 in particular.)

• And this, of course means people in these systems only having access to the precise information and information types that a simple linear business development, business as usual approach would identify as their legitimately needing. This leaves out the perhaps less expected, and the wildcard factor of how innovators reach out beyond their own day-to-day when arriving at new. Think of this as either a second face of the same conundrum as just noted about or as a second separate conundrum in and of itself; these two considerations do work together in toxic synergy, and either way.

I have primarily been addressing the first of the five initial numbered points offered towards the top of this posting here, as a foundation for discussing the next two. I will turn to them, and in terms raised here, in my next series installment. In anticipation of that, I will consider the issues raised here and those of points four and five, from a financials perspective as well as from a more explicitly risk management one. And as part of the overall discussion to follow, I will also discuss process systems complexity and the role of developing lean and agile systems as innovation enablers.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Rethinking vertical integration for the 21st century context 15

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on April 18, 2017

This is my 15th installment to a series on what goes into an effectively organized and run, lean and agile business, and how that is changing in the increasingly ubiquitously connected context that all businesses, and that all individuals operate in (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 577 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

I focused in Part 14 on symmetrical and asymmetrical relationships as they can and do arise in supply chain and similar business-to-business collaborations. And I couched that discussion for the most part in terms of shorter timeframes, and on how collaboration shaping and accommodating terms arise in a more immediate here-and-now. My goal for this posting is to step back from that to consider longer timeframes and the prospect of both slow evolutionary, and sudden disruptive change. In anticipation of discussion to follow, I will continue from there to more fully discuss the details of symmetrical and asymmetrical collaborative relationships and how they are structured and carried through upon, looking at that from due diligence and risk remediation perspectives and from both sides of the table. But for here and now, I focus on the longer-term as such, and I do so through an at least brief and selective consideration of a very specific case study example:

• The Eastman Kodak Company, as it was when it created and led the market, and globally for easy to use cameras and for amateur photography
• And as its position in this market, and the size and strength of this market as a whole changed out from under it.

Let’s start at the beginning of this narrative arc and with George Eastman’s breakthrough innovation that in effect created the entire industry that his company came to dominate. And in that, I add a telling detail as to their once global reach for home and amateur photography and for a great deal of professional photography too. French: the one true language of France as a nation is one of the most zealously preserved languages on Earth for maintaining purity to its linguistic and cultural roots. There is even an all but revered, at least by many, body of French cultural luminaries, the Académie Française that has as one of its defining roles, the identification of foreignisms and adapted words and their replacement with more allowably French language-grounded alternatives, that would become the only accepted way to speak or write them. I mention this because when Kodak cameras first came out and crossed the Atlantic to find and build markets in Europe, French men and women commonly took to referring to cameras in general as Kodaks; Kodak became their word of common usage for these new devices. And it took a great deal of convincing from the Académie and its supporters to bring their public to use a more acceptably French alternative. They did, but this indicated the hold that Kodak as a company achieved in its new and growing industry.

George Eastman did not invent the camera, any more than Henry Ford invented the car. Both took what had been niche market offerings that only the few could afford or use, and made them into easy to use and inexpensive to own and operate products for mass markets. This, in Eastman’s case was his innovation – or rather his progression of closely interconnected innovations. He and his new company had to design and build cameras that were small enough and compact enough and inexpensive enough for an average man or woman on the street to be able to purchase and use. He had to do this in a way that would eliminate the hands-on technically difficult tasks of loading film into one of those older, pre-Kodak cameras, expose them to create images, and remove and process the resulting exposed firm without loss of the image captured. And he did this at a time when film development still required special dark room facilities and a willingness and ability to work with toxic, and I add noxious smelling chemicals. Kodak cameras were designed and built to eliminate the need for photographers themselves to have to work with those chemicals or carry out any of those still obligatorily complex steps. And he did make those steps easier and more straightforward for the people who would do this. And that meant designing and developing new forms of photographic film, that would be housed in film cartridges that anyone could pop into a camera, use and then remove for development and for the production of finished prints – by someone else. And it meant developing and offering easier to use pre-mixed photographic development chemicals. And Eastman had to develop a system of partner businesses that would do this photographic development work and print out finished products, and with a great deal of that work carried out through local pharmacies, and certainly as points where camera enthusiasts would purchase new rolls of film, and bring them in for development and to pick up their finished photos.

• George Eastman invented the easy to use and inexpensive, mass market camera and made photography a basic activity that anyone could use to record the events and moments of their lives through.
• But at least as importantly and certainly if that more technical half of his endeavor was to succeed, he devised and built an entirely new form of business-to-business collaboration and supply chain system, to address this new area of business possibility.

And cameras – George Eastman’s Kodak cameras became a standard given and for many and globally, and with the French even adapting the name of that company as the categorical name of that device – at least until the Académie Française was finally able to replace that with what they deemed to be a more appropriately French alternative: “la caméra.”

Then time passed and new innovations arose. Kodak became a preeminent source of specialty film such as medical X-ray film. And they supplied the world with a great deal of standard photographic film, as well as well as offering better and better cameras themselves. But patents expired and new competitors came in that undercut them for cost: new competitors that marketed very aggressively and successfully for market share. The Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, often simply referred to as Fuji comes immediately to mind in this context though Kodak and I add Fuji faced stiff competition for film sales from other companies too. And many of these companies also began offering lower cost cameras too.

And then Polaroid came out with its Land camera with its instant development film, and Kodak and their older cameras and film offerings that required outside film development and the built in delays and extra expenses that this entailed, faced an entirely new disruptively innovative challenge.

The original Model 95 Polaroid Land camera that first went to market in November, 1948 was expensive and it primarily appealed to people who were more inclined to be pioneer and early technology adaptors. But as newer and less expensive models and versions of this basic camera design came to market, Polaroid cameras came to capture a large and increasing share of the home and personal camera and photography markets, and particularly for when the greater image resolution and zoom-in magnification available in more standard cameras was not needed. They were easy to use and you got your finished photos in about one minute and all you had to do was to wipe the finished image with a chemical sponge that was provided to stabilize it so it would not fade – at least for several years.

Kodak, and certainly in the 20/20 perspective of hindsight, was not as quick to pick up on this challenge as they could and probably should have been, resting on the laurels of knowing that their cameras and film offered much better and much more long-lasting photographic results. And when digital cameras first came out they fell into essentially that same trap, and certainly at first and when the public was initially coming to define these new cameras in their thinking, and when they first came to see which businesses dominated this new market as its first movers. And the irony in that, is that the first electronic camera ever built, was devised and constructed by an engineer at Kodak: Steven Sasson, in 1975, using charge coupled device technology that was developed and designed there for its specific design features. I wrote an earlier series to this blog that I cite here for its immediate relevance in this context: Keeping Innovation Fresh (which can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2, as postings 241 and loosely following for its 16 Parts. I specifically note its Part 2 and Part 3 in this series’ context, where I discuss something of the histories of Xerox PARC and Menlo Park as case study examples of how innovative businesses do and do not actually develop and capitalize on the innovations and inventions that their people and their facilities initially devise. Kodak can be seen as fitting into one of the two basic patterns that were discussed there and certainly for this innovation, where other businesses captured large areas of this new market and much more quickly than a more proactive Kodak would have made possible.

Kodak certainly still exists as a business and it is still actively involved in a significant number of industry segments, offering quality products there. But its initial founding market and industry are now more niche and specialty than mainstream and particularly with an all but ubiquitous use of digital cameras for standard photography and with so many of those cameras coming from other companies and as globally sourced product offerings.

Let’s consider the arc of that narrative from the perspective of this series and this portion of it. Kodak, through the vision and drive if its founder, built itself into an industry defining and creating powerhouse, in large part by creating and I add managing what became a vast and with time globally reaching supply chain and business-to-business collaboration system, with Kodak providing cameras and film and all of the development chemicals that outside businesses would use in developing camera user photos and more, and with those outside film processing developers gaining profits from their participation in this endeavor. As a snapshot in time, this presents a very high point of success and one of asymmetrical business-to-business collaborative control. And Kodak as a company continued to both innovate and diversify in what it did and from those early days on.

Some of those ventures, and I cite what became the Eastman Chemical Company as a working example, began as in-house divisions or other holdings of the Kodak Corporation and were then spun off as separate business entities. Chemical production, to pursue that example, was initially developed as a division of Kodak that was tasked with producing the specific range of chemicals needed for processing and developing their film. But it was ultimately reorganized into a completely separate business from its parent company in 1994.

Maintaining this type of chemical production capability in-house was a natural direction for Kodak to pursue in its growth and development and certainly from early on, given its intensive need for photographic and related chemicals, and its capacity to innovate and develop from there. But with time it became more prudent to bring their overall Kodak business model back into focus and its finances back in line and in this case that meant selling off this venture – and particularly as the market demand for more strictly photographic industry chemicals began to shrink. Meanwhile, this division had actively diversified what it offered in order to keep itself relevant and profitable, with its product offerings coming to include a much wider range of specialty chemicals. So it broke off as a new and separate business with a strong start for success as such.

Some of Kodak’s expansion and diversification initiatives have not worked out as successfully as the now separate Eastman Chemical Company has. But I am writing here of a relatively long corporate history, beginning in August, 1880 in Rochester, New York if you choose to trace this back to George Eastman’s original Eastman Dry Plate Company where he produced his first amateur-usable cameras out of a third floor office and production facility that was located on State Street. Kodak itself was formally founded out of that business on September 4, 1888, also in Rochester and as an expanded continuation of it. And I have been writing in this narrative, of change and of slow and evolutionary change that has not always been recognized, and certainly early on for its potential and even likely impact. And I have been writing of disruptive and innovative change and both as it has arisen in this business under consideration here, and as it has impacted on this company from the outside – and even there without always being appreciated for its significance and certainly not quickly.

• When a new and even groundbreaking disruptive innovation first arises and begins to go to market, its initial buying audience – its original realized marketplace is in many cases going to be small from it primarily attracting a positive response from the smaller number of pioneer and early technology adaptors who would take the risk of investing in and using it.
• It is easy to confuse such a starter market as simply representing a niche market – that might fade away or might remain stably strong – but only for a niche consumer audience.
• I end this posting by posing an unfair and essentially impossible to always consistently avoid conundrum: that of discerning early on enough when a new innovation is only starting small and with an initial pioneer and early adaptor market that it will grow beyond, and when it is in fact more destined to start as and remain a more narrowly defined niche market offering that will never really grow all that much in the business opportunity that it offers.

Kodak, like many and even most long lasting and storied businesses, has seen and chosen wisely in this, on a number of occasions and certainly during its founding. And from the vantage of 20/20 hindsight, it has seen and understood the meaning of new and innovative in ways that subsequent history would show to have been correct, and often enough to survive and even thrive, but while missing on that on significant occasions too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment as indicated above towards the top of this one where I stated that I will “discuss the details of symmetrical and asymmetrical collaborative relationships and how they are structured and carried through upon, looking at that from due diligence and risk remediation perspectives and from both sides of the table.” 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Rethinking online security in an age of the internet of things: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on March 23, 2017

I have written on a number of occasions in this blog about computer systems and online security, and add that they have been areas of attention in my consulting business, and in pro bono work that I have done concerning critical national infrastructure and related areas of interest. I have not addressed this complex of issues, and certainly not systematically, for a while now in this blog. But I find myself returning to this general topic area here, in response to a growing and increasingly important disruptive change in what constitutes prevalent and emerging system vulnerabilities: risk vectors that are becoming increasingly important for both individual businesses and organizations and when considering the security of overall national infrastructures. And I begin this return to this topic area by noting what in this context might best be considered an unfortunate truth: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a global leader in developing and openly sharing free and open source software security management and improvement resources. It is a world-wide not-for-profit enterprise that seeks to create and offer a meaningful part of the overall solution for combating and blocking malicious hacking as is carried out on and through the web sites and other legitimate online presence of businesses and organizations everywhere. And theirs must at times seem to be a losing battle, and even as they keep updating the tools and resources that they develop and offer, and even as they actively reach out to educate and inform.

One of OWASP’s key resources is their Top 10 List of most pressingly important, commonly encountered vulnerabilities that are exploited in attacks, which they recurringly update to reflect at least close to current primary risks and vulnerabilities faced. And if you look at their newest completed version of this list, available online as of this writing, side by side with their 2010 list (with both available as a free: PDF download here) you see essentially everything on the newer list is still there from the older. Six of the ten entries listed are unchanged and others in the more updated version are more reorganized from the old than anything else. To clarify that last point, looking at one of their reorganizational changes in what is now included, and of particular note here in this posting, was the creation of a new more broadly identified top 10 risk category of “using known vulnerable components” as one of the changes and updates actually made.

That is perhaps as good a general label for most all of their list as any, and particularly when such hauntingly familiar villains such as SQL injection vulnerabilities to data-driven applications (such as online forms) have both remained on their list and at its top for a long, long time now, as a separate risk vector entry in and of itself. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and many of the most recent Top 10 entries that we see there now in fact trace back in their basic forms to the first version of this list that was originally released.

And that brings me to the new and to change, and from there right back to the “stays the same” of all of this. The excitingly, disruptively new that I would cite here is our much fan-faired growing new internet of things. The underlying dream and goal of this is to leverage an increasingly open ended range of objects, tools, devises and items with smart technologies and with online connectivity so their capabilities can be expanded and both individually and synergistically. This can mean smart online connected thermostats that a home or business owner can set and reset from anywhere at any time, or an appliance that can tell you if it is developing a problem that might need repair or maintenance. It, on a vast numerical scale that definitely offers synergistic value, can mean smart tagged packages in transit that can in effect track their own current positions themselves, and with all of that data feeding into smart, artificial intelligence enabled big data systems – that can be used both to monitor individual deliveries, and monitor and optimize entire delivery systems for trucking and other transport resource use. These systems and the raw data and processed knowledge that can come from it, can enable development of more effective storage facilities used in transit and for better evolving shipping and transport systems overall, to meet changing customer and systems needs.

I have not even scratched the surface here, of the potential positive side to developing and implementing a wide-ranging and even pervasive internet of things. Public health and safety, and an increasing range of other basic areas of involvement here could also be cited. Of course this means the overall scale of the internet for the number of nodes connected and connectable into it, growing from the few billions that it has become, pre-internet of things, into the trillions. In that, a goal would be the creation of an intelligently connected and intercommunicating world, and that could be considered a major benchmark accomplishment of the 21st century and certainly as it is currently developing. That is the change and the new and the positive side of that. Now what about the “more of the same”, and in this case the realizable negative more of the same in that?

Let me begin addressing that question by offering a brief and highly selective historical note as a starting point. There are, of course a number of potential villains in this narrative that I could cite here, but I select one out of that larger and more diverse cohort for consideration because a clear record of involvement and activity was developed from early on in this story concerning them. I begin with the fall of the old Soviet Union and the break-up and reorganization of its old state security apparatus, and of the old Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (KGB) in particular.

When the Soviet Union formally and officially ended on December 26, 1991, their old KGB began a reorganization under a new name, becoming the new Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii (FSB): their Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. True, a significant number of now former KGB employees were pensioned off or otherwise let go, and life after the fall of communism there was not always easy for them. But a real effort was made to retain the skilled and experienced people who had worked for the old service as many had capabilities that would, or at least might be needed again.

The old Warsaw Pact collapsed two years earlier in 1989, and Russia’s Eastern European nation buffer block, protectively separating them from the West of Europe, broke away. The peoples of these nations overthrew and ended their Russian-led communist governments in efforts at democratic reform. And perhaps most importantly to this narrative, matters did not go as smoothly as they would in Russia itself, for the now former employees of those nations’ counterparts to the Russian KGB. The new nations that were now being founded out of the rubble of their communist pasts were all at least relatively impoverished, and “their” old national security agencies, long viewed as Russian weapons aimed at their own people, were not for the most part reorganized and certainly not as Russia attempted with theirs – at least in part after witnessing the consequences of this in the now former Warsaw Pact buffer states. There were mass lay-offs from their now defunct KGB’s, and many of these professionals with their more specialized covert experience and training could not simply start looking for more open civilian work – and even when it might be available.

One of the sister agencies of particular note here in this regard is the old and I have to add much despised Romanian Departamentul Securității Statului (Department of State Security) or Securitate: the old Romanian KGB as it was sometimes referred to in the West. East Germany, Poland and all of the other Eastern European vassal state members of the Warsaw Pact had their own counterparts to this organization and like it they were led to a very significant degree by Russian KGB “advisors.” The Romanian KGB: the Securitate as it was most commonly called in Romania played a very special role in this overall system.

The Securitate was used for carrying out tasks and assignments that the Russian KGB itself would not want to be associated with. They were used as a tool of plausible deniability in the face of news reporting and of possible foreign government disclosures, and for both carrying out acts of extreme violence and extreme coercion. And many of those people were simply let go when the old communist government of Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown, forcing him to leave their capital, Bucharest on December 22, 1989. The fall of the old communist regime there, was by far the bloodiest and most violent in the downfall of any of the old communist Eastern Bloc countries. And many if not most Romanians came to see that as coming from now suddenly former members of the old Securitate, shooting civilians as snipers, among other last-stand efforts to retain some measure of control. Soldiers of the Romanian Army finally had to move in to stop them. Former Romanian KGB: former members of the Securitate were for the most part tossed out in the streets, and with little if any future in any emerging private sector business world or economy that might emerge; they were pariahs. This definitely included people who were skilled in what are euphemistically referred to as social engineering skills and related and a fairly significant fraction of those people moved into crime as their one available next career path possibility.

When the internet opened up and particularly with the advent of the World Wide Web, these now experienced criminals began exploiting their skills in this new arena too – and they created what became an entire Russian and Eastern European industry, with a great deal of that home based in Romania itself.

The first botnet that has been definitely identified and dated was created by a student at Cornell named Robert Morris (see How the First Botnet Changed the Internet Forever.) Morris did not build or launch this computer worm with malicious intent. He has always contended that he was only trying to find a way to gauge the size of the internet and that he did not expect it to do anything that could in any way disrupt the information traffic flow there. But it did and one of the early groups to pick up on the potential of this were those now very former (by job title) old Romanian Securitate agents. And they began assembling their own botnets by conning people (using their social engineering skills) into loading malware into larger and progressively larger numbers of home and business computers, that were not adequately safeguarded with anti-malware protection (virus, worm, and related blocker capabilities – and even for what was then all but freely available protective software.) They used their seeming myriad copies of those unwittingly installed malware programs to surreptitiously use the individually contributions of all of the computers they had hijacked through them, together. And they used them to launch targeted denial of service attacks (DoS attacks) against specific individual businesses and organizations. Then they asked for and received ransom to stop, as well as payment from third parties that wanted to disrupt their competition and their enemies. This took on political aspects too, as those third party payers and sometimes the hackers themselves chose to use these weapons for more than just simple commercial purposes.

I do not know when the first genuinely criminal DoS attack took place and I suspect that no one actually does. One of the reasons why the same old vulnerabilities keep showing up and keep being exploited and all too often in the same way, as exemplified by their persistence on the OWASP Top 10 List, is that victims of cyber attacks have historically, all too often remained silent about what happened. They have not even wanted to admit that anything did happen if they could prevent that from getting out. The why of this is very simple. A loss of trust on the part of their customers and of others in their communities (e.g. their suppliers and others) was and still often is seen as holding greater potential for loss than any such attack itself, and with that cost simply added onto the costs and losses already faced from an attack itself. But it is certain that the people I write of here, began carrying out their own DoS attacks using botnets they had assembled – or that they rented at least in part from colleagues, and early on in their new post- Securitate careers.

The DoS attack as a means of exploiting computer systems and network vulnerabilities, is at least as old as essentially any of the Top 10 entries on the OWASP list. And computer systems: server farms and their supportive networking systems, have become more and more robust in being able to block and where necessary out-bandwidth at least most such attacks, or at least recover from them relatively quickly. This is of course an arms race, driven in large part by the fact that so many regular desktop and laptop and tablet computers do not have anything like adequate up to date malware blocking software on them and even now – and with smart phones entering that picture too. But it has been a race. And this, finally, brings me directly to the exploding in scale, internet of things – where virtually all of these new nodes and types of nodes that are now going online seem to be vulnerable to exploitation from their unwitting inclusion in botnets. That certainly is the fear that many in internet security face in all of this.

I have, of course, only cited one group of black hat hacker participants in this narrative, and with both wider private sector criminal and even direct government agency involvement coming to participate in this too – and certainly at the proof of principle and systems capability level for governments, as a source of offensive capability in their cyber-defense systems if nothing else. Expand this story as offered here in your thinking in multiple directions and globally and you have an idea of what this new variation on “the more things change, the more they stay the same” actually means.

I end this posting by taking the here and now of it out of the abstract, with three references to news pieces on real-world DoS attack capabilities that have already appeared in the wild – outside of any software security research lab, that specifically target the internet of things and its ever-increasing range of potential botnet nodes:

Double-dip Internet-of-Things Botnet Attack Felt Across the Internet,
Internet of Things Believed to Be Targeted in Massive DDoS Attacks and
DDoS Attack Shows Dangers of IoT ‘Running Rampant’.

We are currently just witnessing the dawn of this cycle of change, with its variations of new and stays the same. And I offer this posting as a cautionary note as to the importance of leveraging what we have learned from our more familiar computer and smart (human used) device internet, to better and more proactively safeguard our emerging internet of things too – and with the development and wider-spread dissemination and use of new safeguard tools and approaches too, as need for them arise in this emerging cyber security context.

I am certain to return to this topic in future postings. Meanwhile, you can find it and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 3

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 27, 2017

This is my third installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Parts 1 and 2, on a case study example drawn from garment manufacturing in which I explored a set of issues that arise as consumers and product end users see change and innovation differently – and what constitutes significant change or innovation at all. And in that case I focused on a change that for many consumers would not even rise to the level of notable enough visibility to qualify as a meaningful cosmetic change – but that would have innovative change levels of consequences for manufacturers and certainly in their supply chain and parts sourcing, and in how they run their manufacturing lines. I chose a change that manufacturers would want to enter into and embrace because it would lower their production costs and help them remain profitable in an industry that is very competitive for being able to offer the same quality of goods at the lowest possible price points. But at the same time those manufacturers would want this change in what they put into their garments and in what that costs them, to be essentially inconsequential to and even invisible to the consumer and user: their ultimate customer.

I raised the issue of quality control for this change, and the issue of finding and vetting sources of these less expensive- to-manufacturing parts, in Part 2. And in that context, I noted and expanded on the fact that the specific change that I wrote of there, would in most cases only visibly come to the consumer’s attention of it failed to work, or if it broke down and came to so fail too quickly and too easily. The novel, lower cost per unit item change I focused on there was the switch from metal to plastic zippers – not for all garment manufacturers but for a significant segment of them. And in that case, robustness and reliability meant essential invisibility to the consumer – and as a, if not the desired goal for the manufacturer in this, where they could simply pocket their per-garment produced savings and focus their attention and efforts towards new challenges and opportunities.

I turn here, as noted at the end of Part 2, to consider a very different change scenario, intentionally entered into by a business: and it is one that I have come to think of as the “restaurant death spiral” scenario. This scenario in fact has its direct counterparts in other industries, but I first became explicitly aware of it in this context so the restaurant-oriented name for it has stick in my mind for it, as the poster child example of how it can arise. And I address it here in that context.

I will as just stated delve into this scenario here, but to set the stage for it, I offer a further thought on my first, garment industry example first:

• A switch in manufacturing of the type exemplified by my metal zipper to plastic zipper example is one that would be taken very strategically and with long-term thought out plans as to how this would enhance the business and its financial strength, and its competitive position. This is a proactive change and one that would be taken with all of the pre-planning and follow through evaluations that that implies and entails.
• My restaurant example, as I will address it here, is essentially entirely reactive and when a business pursues this type of path, they do so from a short-term, survive-now perspective – and without longer-term strategic consideration of possible or even likely longer term consequences.

What is the restaurant death spiral? It is a phenomenon that I have seen play out quite a few times now and particularly for restaurants that have succeeded, at least modestly but over a period of time. And then the neighborhood changes or they find themselves facing new competition that is drawing away at least a significant fraction of what used to be their repeat-business trade. There are other reasons that can set a business up for this, but the bottom line consequence of all of them is that a restaurant that used to be steadily if perhaps just modestly successful and profit generating, finds itself falling into the red – at least modestly and certainly for what have become its “slow” months – and with prospects of that shift continuing and becoming worse.

• So the owner takes a look at their menu and at what they offer, and at what it actually costs to produce what of that. And they look for places where they can save money from spoilage by for example preparing in advance and freezing meal portions – but without necessarily bringing in the equipment needed to seal those packages airtight, and without necessarily setting up freezer space to limit up and down swings in temperature for food stored there, when their staff has to go in and out of their freezer storage unit all day long.
• And setting aside the issues of freezing servings to reduce spoilage waste and the like, let’s consider some of the other types of decisions that an owner might make under these circumstances. And obvious one is to drop menu items that bring lower profit margins. And another is to “simplify” – simplify and cheapen the list of ingredients that go into menu items offered and sold. Portion sizes can be reduced. And increased emphasis can be placed on building up the areas of the business that do in fact bring in larger profit margins per serving – where a restaurant bar can be their biggest profit center – and certainly on a per sale basis. So they try to sell more beer, wine and hard liquor (assuming of course they have a full product line liquor license when I include all of that here.)
• And they find that their patrons come into their restaurant dining room primarily for the food offered – even if they order from the bar while doing so. Very few go into a restaurant, as opposed to a bar-first establishment that also sells bar food, for the drinks. They order meals and then order drinks accordingly.
• This is a spiral I am referring to, so to continue this narrative. The first month, let’s say, that the business does this, they see basically the same levels of business – and they save a bit from their cost cutting. This adds to their bottom line. But at least a few of those customers leave after having their meal a bit dissatisfied, and it doesn’t matter if this is because a dish they have always liked is not being offered now, or the dish they get doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be, or because it is notably smaller or what. The change might be in headcount reduction in the kitchen or serving staff too – with that edge of dissatisfaction coming from slower or lower quality service too – and with challenges like meals arriving at the customer table over-cooked from having spent too much time under a heat lamp waiting to be served. The only important point here is that regardless of what change stands out to the customer, they leave feeling they did not get their money’s worth. And this reduces the chances that they will go back there, and certainly as often. And they might tell friends about this change too.
• Basically, the second loop around this spiral is a repetition of the first – but at a lower level down for restaurant performance and with a next cost-savings step taken. I noted a number of possible “savings” approaches that might be taken, at the top of this set of bullet points. Only small such changes and probably just single such changes are taken in any given cycle downward – and certainly at first. I mentioned layoffs in the immediately preceding bullet point; that is likely to be a last-step move unless someone who would probably be let go anyway and with cause, was led to the exit a bit earlier because of profitability problems forcing a hand there.
• Can a restaurant find a way out of this type of downward spiral? Yes, but the key to that is in their owners having a difficult conversation and with themselves if with no one else – where they have to step back from their here and now, admit that their restaurant is in real and deepening trouble – and that it may have to be re-envisioned and reborn,
• And with a new menu – not just a cheapened, corner cutting one,
• Or with a new look,
• Or with a better trained and incentivized staff,
• Or some combination thereof.
• And yes, this can mean rebuilding in ways that capitalize on their ability to cash in on the potential of profit centers like their bar – but once again, if they are first and foremost a restaurant, they need to lead with that, unless of course their business rebirth would mean their turning their venture into a bar or tavern that sells drinks, and that incidentally sells food too. Yes, this scenario is one where a turn around and recover most likely would need at least some change management guidance, and with that starting with a reconsideration of the basic underlying business model too. But my focus here is on the specific scenario touched upon here – and on its restaurants manifestations.

And with that more general framework point raised, my second example here is reactive and with all planning short-term oriented. And the only way out calls for finding a way back to being proactive again and longer-term oriented in thinking and execution.

Think of my garment manufacturing example as an attempt to follow a virtuous cycle pattern in a very competitive industry and marketplace. And think of my restaurant example as one in which a business can fall into a vicious cycle – and one that it is unlikely to survive through long-term if it cannot break out of it. I am going to step back from the specifics of these two scenarios in a next series installment where I will specifically delve into the issues of virtuous and vicious cycles, and knowing what you might be in or entering one of them.

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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 31: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on February 3, 2017

This is my 31st posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-30.)

I recently wrote and posted a thought piece note to this blog, titled When the Tool You Most Compelling Lack is a Hammer, Everything Can Begin to Look Like Nails. I wrote that as a matter of addressing an alternative view of the challenge raised in a better known adage: “when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like nails.” However the thoughts there are raised and expressed, both of these adages address the issues of the familiar and expected, and of the assumptions that they all but automatically bring with them. That is also centrally important to this series’ flow of discussion, and certainly to this phase of it.

I have recently been discussing a new approach to visually depicting and analyzing business models as they are actually carried out in flows of operational processes and their causal relationships (in this series and also in a concurrently running second series: Intentional Management, and see in particular its Part 30.) And I concluded my discussion of this, at least as pursued up to here in this series, in its Part 30, by raising the issues of new technology acceptance and use.

I step back from the specific example of that new technology adaptation here, and from market-facing innovation per se, to consider business process innovation:

• First, I explicitly acknowledge that I have written fairly extensively about this arena of adaptive change in this blog – primarily as it arises and is developed and implemented and used in-house as a business evolves and adapts to remain as effectively competitive as it can be.
• But the business process-oriented innovation that I have been addressing up to here in recent postings to this series, is one that calls for new-to-the-business hardware, for it to be to implemented. And it is a type of strategy shaping operational change that most businesses would acquire as new and novel to them, from the outside and from explicit business-to-business markets and providers. So this business process modeling and shaping tool set, represents an explicit exception to the basic, more evolutionary path to business process innovation that I have addressed up to here.

Partly, this difference arises from the way that this new approach is hardware dependent, and explicitly novel-hardware dependent at that. But I would argue that the disruptive nature of this proposed innovation is a factor too, and particularly as it is a type of disruptive innovation that a developing business could market and offer, without in effect competing against itself in the process. Here, I refer to business consulting firms that bring such tools to their clients, as case in point examples.

• Many businesses that see this approach walking in through their front doors in the hands of a business management-oriented consultant, or consultant team, would see it as a specialized tool set that they would not need to develop and maintain in-house – when it might be more cost-effective for them to bring in the “outside experts” when and as needed, for carrying out this type of in-depth business process analysis, and when initially planning out its follow-through.
• Some, and particularly businesses that are led by earlier adaptor oriented managers, might want to bring this in-house so they could carry out at least select aspects of such a business modeling exercise on their own, and at their own schedule, and with fuller control over their own confidentiality due diligence as they do this – without having outsiders involved.
• And with time and as more businesses used this approach and saw it applied to their systems, this type of tool and its adaptation would expand out to include later and later adapting businesses, led by and managed by people who were more aversive to accepting early-stage change per se – and who need to see longer performance records for what they do adapt and bring in-house first.
• And pace and timing in adaptation of new here, would largely correlate with the overall pace of change and innovation – and market demand for it, in the businesses and their industries in question. Businesses that are always looking for that next innovative edge in what they bring to market and how, would be among the first to adapt anything significantly new and novel of the type that I have been discussing here – provided only that a case can be made that this would in fact give them a more competitive edge in maintaining and even expanding their overall market share. And established businesses in fully mature (and even relatively moribund) industries that look first to the traditional and tried and true, would be the last to adapt anything like this – and then, only after it has effectively lost its new and novel luster and become commonplace and standard.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will explicitly tie this line of discussion back to one of the core foci of discussion of this blog, when I deal with the question of information availability as an innovation driver – and as that helps to set the boundaries between innovation per se and disruptive innovation. And as part of that, I will discuss process systems complexity and the role of developing lean and agile systems as innovation enablers.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Rethinking vertical integration for the 21st century context 14

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 30, 2017

This is my 14th installment to a series on what goes into an effectively organized and run, lean and agile business, and how that is changing in the increasingly ubiquitously connected context that all businesses, and that all individuals operate in (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 577 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I focused in Part 13 of this series, on business-to-business collaborations and on how those relationships can become mutually beneficial, and on how they can achieve long-term stability from that. And in keeping with the progression of postings that that series installment and this one belong to, I did so in more abstract and general terms at first. And then I took that discussion at least somewhat out of the abstract through further elaboration of a specific case in point, case study that I have been developing here in this series, and from its earliest installments: Apple, Inc, and how it has sought to achieve dominance in its industry and markets.

One of the key areas of discussion offered in Part 13 was an at least introduction of the issues of how Apple has sought to become the decision making gatekeeper, for other businesses in supportive industries that they work with. I began that thread of this overall discussion, by way of comparison, by noting how Microsoft gained an at least near-monopolistic power over both computer software and hardware producers, this way. Then I briefly discussed how Apple has sought to play a similar role in developing a controlling relationship with businesses that would produce and offer products or services through their proprietary platforms to their customers. There, proprietary platforms include their iphones, ipads, laptops, wirelessly connected smart watches and more, as they have sought to expand out and dominate the range and variety of ubiquitously connectable nodes that people use every day, and everywhere and anywhere.

That line of discussion has led me to the set of issues that I would explicitly consider here, in this posting:

• Symmetrical and asymmetrical business collaborations, and the question of who makes the decisions in them, that in effect set the terms of value gained for all involved participants and how that value is realized.

I stated that I would continue Part 13’s discussion here in this next series installment, with an at least brief analysis of the set of issues inherent to that bullet point. And I will do so here, discussing Apple and FedEx as working examples for that, the way I cited Apple and Microsoft in Part 13. And taking the same organizing approach here that I followed in that posting, I will discuss FedEx in this context first.

• FedEx is one of the largest, most wide-ranging parcel delivery services in the United States, and more generally in the world. But they have a great deal of competition in that arena, from businesses such as the United Parcel Service (UPS) and a variety of other enterprises (see, for example this Wikipedia entry: Package Delivery.) And that very explicitly includes competition from nation state owned and regulated, and protected postal delivery systems.
• So FedEx has sought to set itself apart from its more strictly delivery service competition, private and public, by developing and marketing itself as a logistics service partner and provider, and as a backbone element for assembling stable, reliable, value creating supply chains too (see for example, for information on how they offer and carry out these services in the United States and for US based businesses.)
• And FedEx is in a strong position to leverage their overall corporate and marketplace reach from their more traditional delivery and related business lines, to make themselves a real powerhouse for this too – and an effective, wide-reaching competitor for any other businesses that would seek to take on the roles that they do in shipping and warehousing and tracking and documentation and all of the other logistics management services that they systematically and cost-effectively provide, in enhancement of their core delivery service business.

FedEx’s scale and its efficiency of scale give it a competitive advantage when offering its logistics and supply chain partnership resources, and for businesses in essentially any industry where delivery of material goods in and out of their doors are critically important for their ongoing operations. And their capability for offering cost-effective, robust, reliable supply chain value to prospective partner businesses, creates incentive for those businesses to shape and prioritize their operations in ways that would make them an effective fit for working with FedEx and its systems too – and particularly where they would use FedEx’s wider range of supply chain and logistics management services.

Apple Inc. has been actively pursuing a similar course here, in how it works with content providers and of many types, including music and audio, video and book and related downloadable text and static image content. And their scale of operations, and the market reach that this makes possible for content providers that work with them, actively encourages those partner businesses to offer their content products in Apple format and even preferentially, and for some businesses even exclusively – at least for early release, new product offering periods. Think newly online-released video and related content there, and new game apps where offering exclusivity through a single source such as an online Apple store, can contractually mean higher per-download fees for them.

I have been addressing the issues of asymmetrical business collaborations in these examples. And I note here to balance the above points made, that the control that businesses like Apple and FedEx can achieve in determining how supply chain systems that they enter into work, depends on the leveraging power that they can exert because of their disproportionate strength in these relationships and because of the asymmetry this creates. And I am writing here of how scale of operations and market recognition and acceptance, and even strong market following in that, can lead to greater control and authority in the business-to-business transaction processes that constitute supply chain activity, and even when larger and more powerfully positioned businesses and their supply chain participation and leadership do not in and of themselves lead to any fundamental changes in the material goods for FedEx, or informational goods for Apple, being moved or managed through those supply chains.

• Symmetrical business-to-business relationships would lead to both of a pair of collaborating businesses, or for larger systems all participating members having equal say in determining how connecting supply chain processes and activities are carried out and performance reviewed and evaluated, and in how resulting value created from that would be distributed.

I am going to step back from the specific asymmetrical business collaboration case study examples cited here, and the shorter timeframe considerations that I have been addressing in this posting, in my next series installment where I will consider how even a very successful in-house vertically integrated business venture can lose its edge and break down over time. And the working example that I will look into there is going to be the Eastman Kodak Company, as it was when it led the market, and globally for easy to use cameras and amateur photography. In anticipation of that, I note here that I would be couching that discussion at least in part in terms of change, and both evolutionary and more disruptively sudden, and how businesses do and do not actively effectively change in response to it. 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 4, 2017

This is my second installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Part 1.)

I began this series by invoking a simplistically presented baseline business model example, and by listing a series of issues that I would at least begin to address in this series after making note of it. And my goal here is to more fully set the stage for that more extensive narrative by more fully exploring that baseline example for use as a point of comparison, when considering more complex business and marketplace situations.

Let me begin at the beginning here, and with the fundamentals. I began Part 1 with a brief discussion-framing description of a business that makes light weight summer clothing and swimwear, stating that while they face cosmetic change requirements in their product development and production, they do represent a business that would belong to a very significantly settled, mature industry.

• I chose the apparel industry as a source for my baseline example, at least in part because I wanted to use a realistic working example that any reader would be familiar with, at least in basic outline. Most people routinely buy and wear clothing and we all see others wearing clothing, and in the diversity of styles, and of sizes and seasonal variations that are at least common in our cultures and in our communities. And we know the basic experience of wearing clothing to be all but universal for people, with exceptions to that distinguishable for being deviations from the norm (e.g. nudism.)
• And at the same time, clothing manufacturing has seen and will continue to see significant change, and in the materials used and in general fashions developed, marketed and sold, and worn – and certainly when considered long-term.
• But I return again to the issue of this industry’s basic maturity. Clothing is manufactured in large part from fabric that is cut according to specific patterns and to specific sizes, depending on the precise item design being manufactured to and the precise garment size being produced in the moment. And these pattern-specified cuts are then sewn together and with buttons, zippers and other details added as required, to make finished products. Yes, I have left out a number of significant steps here, but the fact that fabrics often have patterns, even if simple ones such as stripes is not centrally important here. And the same goes for lining up and orienting the fabrics that enter into this production, so patterns in their fabric align correctly across sewn seams. And to cite one further area of possible detail here, I have left out post-manufacturing processing such as ironing and the adding of sizing materials to the finished product in preparation for its being packaged for shipment, display and sale. These, I add, are all well established clothing manufacturing steps too. So the important point here is that clothing manufacturing involves sets of processes that have held consistently steady and certainly in basic outline for many of their basic details, for many years and even from generation to generation.
• Men’s pants, as a case in point have looked basically the same for centuries in the United States and in most countries – even if detail changes such as shifts from suspenders to belts for holding them up have taken place – as has the introduction of style differences such as cargo pockets for some designs. But aside from that and the fact that the founding fathers of the United States lived before the zipper was invented, pants that they wore were not all that different from pants worn today, and certainly dress pants that men wear today, as of this writing. And their grandfathers wore essentially similar pants too, for the most part.
• Women’s fashions change a great deal more than do those that men routinely wear. But even so, the basic inventory of types of apparel items worn by women has remained basically settled and for a long time now, too.
• And the flow of seasons has not fundamentally changed, with hotter summer weather and colder winter weather and in-between spring and autumn weather, and certainly in temperate and northerly climates. And clothing styles and types change seasonally to meet those predictably changing needs. In essence, what I am writing here is that the human body has not changed all that much as to form or function over the last many centuries, and neither have the basic types of weather that we wear clothing to protect ourselves from, so clothing that would go on us that had already been fairly optimized to meet need generations ago, has in many respects remained fairly constant at least at that level.
• So I wrote in Part 1 of the basic underlying stability that clothing manufacturers face, as they plan for and produce, market and sell seasonally appropriate items of apparel and with a range of styles and fashions, and with an ongoing flow of cosmetic changes that the market will like – as clothing design goes beyond simply addressing functional need while still (in general) seeking to address that too.

Now let me question and even fundamentally challenge some of the basic assumptions that I just built into that bullet pointed line of discussion.

• I briefly noted buttons and zippers in the immediately preceding points and I add hook closures and Velcro here too as yet other closure options. I also briefly noted the progressive introduction of new fabrics in my above-stated narrative. Every new innovation that is introduced into a product or product line, carries with it matching need for manufacturing innovation and adaptation as new approaches and new equipment and new skills are needed to use it.
• To take that out of the abstract, it takes different equipment and skills to add zippers to clothing, and in large volume and at high speed, than it does to shape and position button holes and add buttons, so they line up correctly on the finished product while it is being worn.
• And this brings me to a fundamental dichotomy that strikes to the core of what I am addressing in this short series of postings. And I begin addressing it from a consumer and marketplace perspective and with a very specific case in point example: zippers and how they have changed since first introduced.
• Consumers might see a change in their clothing, such as the shift from metal zippers to plastic ones as representing so small a change (for them) as to barely reach a minor cosmetic change level of significance – at least if both work and reliably so, and both meet their needs. And this perspective is important as it is the consumer and their purchasing decisions and actions that generate the incoming revenue for businesses that determines their success. So when clothing manufacturers made the switch from metal to plastic there, this was not much of a change from the consumer perspective – at least, to repeat a key detail here, when they both worked correctly and did not jam or break too quickly.
• And I note here that from a business competitiveness and a business profitability perspective, that consumers do in fact determine what is and is not actually innovative in what they are offered. I have noted this point in other postings and series here.
• But at the same the clothing manufacturers who had to make this change, had to innovate and more significantly change how they produce their products and with what equipment and with what skilled labor if they are to capture the savings of using less expensive to them zippers in their products. From an in-house, manufacturing process perspective this was a learning curve requiring change and it represented much more of a true innovation change and for them as well, and for their industry.
• To pick up on a detail that I noted from the consumer side of this dichotomy, I noted that this change did not reach even a level of significant visibility as a meaningful cosmetic change if the two types of zipper: older metal and newer plastic “both worked correctly and did not jam or break too quickly.” The first garments that came out with plastic zippers did show problems in quality control for what in retrospect were an unacceptably large number of cases. Businesses that bought these new and less expensive zippers for inclusion in their products had to learn what to look for to insure they were putting the quality into their finished apparel that they wanted there, representing their brand names. And they had to learn which third party parts providers would offer them the quality that they required for this and consistently so. That means their having to develop new supply chain relationships too.

And this brings me to a crucially important point. When everything works well here, it does not matter if the consumer barely notices a change in materials used. And that in fact can be a desired outcome where those consumers primarily or even entirely see these clothing lines (in the example that I am pursuing here) as continuing to offer the same high quality and good value for the prices paid for them, and when they are not looking for change in what they purchase.

So from one perspective, I am writing about what can be seen as genuine product innovation that is nevertheless invisible to the consumer, at least as an ideal. But perhaps more validly, what I am writing of here is innovation to the business itself and to its processes as it seeks to be more cost-effectively competitive in its industry – here, by reducing its production costs, at least long-term and with amortization of change costs in its systems accounted for, from adapting less expensive per-item materials.

• Here, what a consumer might see primarily as a cosmetic change – and a minor one as zippers are not usually prominent to a clothing item’s design appeal,
• Might be seen as a significant innovative improvement to the manufacturer.

I have noted a number of times in this blog that innovation is in the eye of the beholder. I note here, that this visibility aligns with where a beholder: a customer and consumer, or a business owner or manager, would see value and opportunity and need for improving them.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will switch case study examples, and consider how restaurants that are under pressure, all too often respond to that as they seek to manage expenses while still maintaining incoming revenue. To put that narrative to come into context with this one, I have been writing here of a business change that can bring benefit to both consumers and businesses. I will turn in my next installment to consider the sometimes clashes between short term and longer term needs, and outcomes. 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 30: innovative development at the business-to-marketplace collaboration level 8

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on December 27, 2016

This is my 30th posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-29.)

I have been discussing a new approach to visualizing a business and its process flows in this series, and how complex organizational maps of that type require three dimensional mapping (see Part 28 and Part 29.) And in the course of that, I have been at least briefly discussing tools and resources that would be necessary, in order to make this approach economically feasible enough and user-friendly enough to surpass threshold resistance to trying and adapting it in the marketplace and by business professionals.

I have raised the issues of software and hardware support for this type of visualization tool, and particularly in Part 29 of this series. And I at least briefly turn here to more fully consider hardware requirements. I have written in this series and in my concurrently running series: Intentional Management (see its Part 30) of how virtual reality headsets could be adapted to this use, and at essentially standard product prices as competitively reached for a more general consumer market. This detail is very important here; the types of tools that I propose here do not need any new specially designed or manufactured hardware beyond what is already being developed, manufactured, marketed and sold for gaming visualization, and for immersive 3-D movies and other multimedia content.

• This means a wider range of hardware options to choose from as competing manufacturers seek to gain greater shares of this emerging market.
• It also means built-in capability for supporting multiple participant use – where several or even many might be viewing the same business systems model at the same time and with some just observing, and some actively editing and changing what is being shared but with all at least actively involved in the ongoing discussion. And this capability – already at least significantly developed for multi-player games and similar usage contexts, could be transferred over to this new context too and at reduced software development costs from being able to use pre-developed image management algorithms and more too.
• I take this one step further here, and suggest that the best solution for this type of application might be reality augmentation hardware and software, rather than fully immersive hardware and software systems – where a user can see and directly interact with other same-system users who are physically present with them, while collaboratively using these systems.
• I will add that totally immersive systems can be disorienting too, as users see one thing for example and seem to be experiencing one context for it – while their inner ears are experiencing something very different. Reality augmentation systems where your actual physical reality is still visibly there as a guiding framework, are much easier to adapt to and have much easier learning curves. And products such as Google Glass are already available on the market and with all of their basic underlying operating system and basic app support already available off the shelf.

(I add in two reality-check points to the above here, regarding the current state of the art for both virtual reality and augmented reality hardware. First of all, unlike roller coaster simulations, viewing and rotating and otherwise moving, and parsing and sectioning a business model representation of the type proposed here, would not likely create much opportunity for eye/inner ear confusion or conflict, so this is a context were even fully visually immersive virtual reality should work comfortably for most people. And second, current and early generation Google Glass devises are primarily oriented towards presenting flat, two-dimensional images as they show them to one eye. But it is essentially certain that Apple and others will actively move into true 3-D augmented reality imaging too, so resorting to a still primitive for that, Google Glass need only be seen as an early development phase for what will soon be possible – and for what is already heading to market as I write this.)

And with this added here as a starting point for this posting, I turn to the end note that I added to Part 29 of this series where I said that I would:

• Turn to consider new and novel tools and approaches in general – and successfully developing the disruptively new and bringing it to market. In anticipation of that, I will discuss how novel new approaches qualify for that disruptive label, and how they can become adapted and with time more widely used in spite of their initial barriers for that.
• And in the case of this posting’s particular new analytical approach and the software and hardware that it would call for, that means beginning with the right target audience, that would be more inclined to be pioneer and early adaptors for it. I refer there to business management consultants and their (mostly larger-scale) change management and business reorganization requiring clients.

I begin this with the first of these two bullet points, and by noting that my start to this posting was centered around making this new business tool approach, and its realized implementation, less novel and less disruptive in general, and as much less so as possible. I propose doing so by building this type of resource as specific product offerings, using as close to an off the shelf, consumer technology as possible. That means making this less customized and less expensive. It means being able to tap into all of the learning curve value that has already become available from developing and producing and selling this type of technology for consumer market audiences and uses. And it also at least potentially holds out a possibility of reducing the resistance threshold to adapting new technologies for those who do not comfortably see themselves as pioneer or early adaptors – business purchasing agents, and performance-pressed managers included.

And this is where I continue this discussion into bullet point two, from above. And I begin that by questioning the basic assumptions that the just addressed first of these bullet points raises – doing so at least initially by taking a still recent-history digression: consideration of the early adaptation curves and their consequences for graphical user interface computers when they first reached market in Apple’s early desktop computers.

I have been discussing Apple, Inc. as an ongoing case study example in a concurrently running series: Rethinking Vertical Integration for the 21st Century Context (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 328 and following.) And to briefly summarize a few details here, that I more fully explore there, Apple in particular offered a new computer user interface that is so much easier to use, and so much more user friendly for people who are not computer programmers, than was the old command line interface that predominated, that businesses should have felt compelled to bring it into their offices and workshops and as quickly as possible. They should have seen it as more cost effective and more productivity enhancing and for more of their staff and managers than old command line systems could ever be. But the people who made purchasing decisions for businesses in general, saw this new technology opportunity as more game-like and as something that serious business professionals would not need or use.

That eventually changed with time, and there are only a few contexts where older legacy system command line interface systems are still in use. But that specific shift as graphical user interface acceptance diffused out to include later adaptors, did not change the existence of or the dynamics of the early adaptor to late adaptor diffusion curve or the pace in general, that disruptively new becomes more widely accepted.

I couched the second bullet point that I am discussing here, in terms of pioneer and early adaptors who favor buying in early. And I couched it in terms of purchasing decision makers and end user managers who see compelling need to accept change where any realistic alternative to that would be more costly and onerous. From a marketing standpoint,

• The story of opportunity lost in business effectiveness and competitiveness, from a failure to adapt easier graphical user interface computers earlier
• Might be made convincing to businesses that need a competitive edge that more effective business modeling and strategy could provide – based on a deeper and more accurate understanding of what their business actually does functionally and not just on what it is supposed to be doing from earlier planning and simplistic modeling.

As a final thought here for this posting, I wrote in Part 29 of bringing in real-world business professionals who would fit into the target demographics for buying and using this type of system, to help identify the features and to help specify the user interfaces that would best meet their needs. One way to jumpstart sales and acceptance here would be to offer discounted prices for early adaptors who would provide post-sales feedback for further product refinement – and who would allow word of their experience with this system to be highlighted in advertising for it. Business consulting firms might see value to themselves in this in particular, where they in turn could use this increased visibility to help market themselves for their cutting edge effectiveness. I offer this suggestion as a case in point example of marketing this type of innovation through social media and by feedback-driven interactive means in general.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to at least begin to consider business process innovation and its buy-in – and how this is shaped by the business analysis and management tools available. I have been addressing a specific case in point example of the issues that I will be addressing there in recent installments to this series, and will step back to consider more generally applicable issues relevant to this, next.

Then, looking ahead I will explicitly tie this line of discussion back to the core focus of discussion of this series, when I deal with the question of information availability as an innovation driver – and as that helps to set the boundaries between innovation per se and disruptive innovation. And as part of that, I will discuss process systems complexity and the role of developing lean and agile systems as innovation enablers. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

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