Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 21

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 11, 2019

This is my 21st installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and the sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-20.)

I have been discussing the issues of innovation and what it is, and as it is perceived, identified and responded to since Part 16 of this series. And as a core element of that narrative, I have been discussing two fundamentally distinctive patterns of acceptance and pushback that can in fact arise and play out either independently and separately from each other or concurrently and for members of the same communities and the same at least potential markets:

• The standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve that runs from pioneer and early adaptors on to include eventual late and last adaptors, and
• Patterns of global flatting and its global wrinkling, pushback alternative.

And I concluded Part 20 of this narrative by stating that I would:

• Continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, where I will more directly and fully discuss stakeholders as just touched on there, as change accepting and even change embracing advocates (nota bene or as change challenging and change resistance advocates.) And I will discuss the roles of reputation and history in all of that.

Note: I offered and discussed a social networking taxonomy in Part 20 that categorically identified and discussed specific types of networking strategy-defined “stakeholders,” as more collectively cited in the above to-address bullet point, and recommend reviewing that posting to put what follows into a clearer perspective.

I will in fact address the points raised in the above topics bullet point here, but begin doing so by noting and challenging a basic assumption that I made in Part 20 and that I have in fact repeated again here in my above-offered series installment-connecting comments. I have been following a more usual pattern here of presuming a fairly clear-cut distinction between standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve acceptance or rejection of New and change, and global flatting and its global wrinkling alternative. But one of the consequences of always online and always connected, and as a largely interactive, social media driven phenomenon is that the boundaries between the two have become blurred. And I bring that point of observation into focus by citing a statement that I made in Part 20, now challenging it:

• “Unless it is imposed from above, as for example through government embargo and nationalism-based threat, global wrinkling is a product of social networking.”

Individuals use social media and both to connect and to influence. Businesses do too and so do other organizations and of all sorts. And governments are increasingly using these tools with the same basic goals too, but on a vastly larger and more impactful scale. For governments, social media has become a suite of tools for both creating and controlling societally-reaching and societally-impactful decisions and for controlling their citizenry as a whole. Social media has in fact become both an inwardly facing, within-country toolset, and a means of outwardly facing statecraft, and for an increasing number of nations.

For an earlier generation precursor example of this, and certainly as communications and information sharing can be used as tools of statecraft and diplomacy, the United States and their Western allies used radio as an internationally impactful route into Eastern Europe, when the nations of that larger region were still under Soviet Russian control as Warsaw Pact nations, during the old Cold War. And the Soviet Union in turn, actively sought to sway and even shape public opinion and certainly about that nation itself, essentially wherever it sought to gain a foothold of influence of not control. So think of current online social media and its use by national governments as a version 2.0 update to that.

How does this emerging version 2.0 reality blur the lines between standard innovation acceptance curve, and global flattening versus wrinkling dynamics? When a nation state such as the People’s Republic of China or Russia actively controls that news as a governmental resource and when they actively use social media to both shape and control the message available through it, blocking any and all competing voices there and as soon as they are identified as such, this controls how individuals would make their own decisions by limiting the options available to them there. And this information access contol makes all such decisions, community shaped and from the top down – provided that you accept that top-down, government determined represents the voice of the community.

So I effectively begin this posting by expanding my Part 20 social networking taxonomy with its corresponding categorical type by categorical type social media strategies, by adding state players as a new and increasingly important category there. And with that, I turn to my above (edited and …) repeated to-address topics point and its issues. And I begin doing so by noting and discussing a fundamental shift that is taking place in how influence arises and spreads, or is damped down in publically open online conversations and in online social media in general. And I begin this by citing a principle that I have invoked many times in this blog, and in just as wide a range of contexts for its overall significance: the Pareto principle.

According to that empirically grounded principle, a large majority of all effects (often stated as some 80% of them) arise from a much smaller percentage of the overall pool of possible causes (with that often found to be some 20%.) So this is often called the 80/20 rule. Online contexts tend to shift those numbers to a more extreme position with 90/10 and even more skewed prevailing, and both for online marketing and sales, and for social media reach and impact, and more. So for example, a small percentage of all online businesses can effectively capture a vast majority of an overall online sales activity, leaving just a tiny percentage of all of those sales transactions entered into, to all the rest. (Consider the impact and reach of a business such as there as a case in point example.) And a single opinion-creating voice can come to be an essential online forum for an entire politically motivated demographic and even a huge one numerically. (Consider the outsized role that Breitbart holds in shaping the conservative, and particularly the “ultraconservative” voice in the United States, and certainly as its role there is marketed by the leadership of the Republican Party, and certainly as of this writing.)

Governments, and I have to add other larger organizational voices can skew those numbers and in their favor for increasing their reach and impact, simply because of their scale and impact as projected across what can become essentially all public information sharing channels – and even without the proactive efforts to manage and control the conversational flow that is so actively pursued by countries such as China and Russia. And this brings me to the issues of reputation and history in all of this, with its many complications and with that including both individual evaluations and publically shared reviews. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least selectively discuss those issues. And in the course of doing so, I will also at least begin to discuss the social networking and social media issues that I have raised here, from a business and marketplace perspective and with regard to how they play out in those arenas.

As a source of cutting edge, bleeding edge influence where otherwise separate phenomena such as the standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve, and global flattening versus wrinkling can become blurred, this is where weaponized online social media through the deployment of troll and artificial agent participants, enter this narrative. So I will discuss that complex set of phenomena moving forward here too.

And in anticipation of all of that, I have been writing here of governments, but the basic principles that I have brought up in that context, apply at least as fully in a business context and certainly when considering multinationals that have valuations approaching or even exceeding a trillion dollars, as of this writing: businesses that have come to hold a reach and power normally associated with governments and not with the private sector. Though I will discuss smaller and more conventionally “larger” businesses too and how they fit into the online business and commerce world that those mega-corporations have done so much to create.

And with that, I outline what will become a progression of next postings to this series to come, and with a goal of starting to address its issues in the next such installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 45: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 25

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 18, 2019

This is my 45th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-44.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible early stage growth scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in recent installments to this series, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing them:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public through an initial public offering (IPO) and the sale of stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if following an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists. (See Part 35.)
3. And a new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. (See Part 36 through Part 39.)

And after offering more generally considered, basic-outline analyses of these three business development models, I began a process of discussing them for how businesses following them, might more normatively be expected to address a series of issues that would variously, but reliably arise for essentially any business and regardless of its precise business model. I have focused here on how these issues would arise and play out for businesses pursuing one or another of the above-repeated early development scenarios. And as part of that process, I began discussing those business development approaches and their predictably expected consequences as they would shape how these types of businesses would address three specific questions (see Part 44):

• What constituencies and potential constituencies would ventures following each of the above-repeated business development approaches need to effectively reach out to and connect with?
• What basic messages would they have to convincingly and even compellingly share with those audiences, to create value for themselves from their marketing efforts?
• And where and how would they best accomplish this?

More specifically, I have responded to the first of those questions in Part 44, there focusing entirely on the first of the three scenarios: the IPO-oriented business development scenario that I have been discussing here. And my goal moving forward from here is to offer a response to that same question as it would arise in a second scenario: a venture capital seeking business development attempt. And after that, I will turn to and consider the same question again, but from the perspective of a prospective or early-stage franchise system business. And underlying all of this, are three fundamental business performance issues that I keep referring back to:

A. Fine tuning their products and/or services offered,
B. Their business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and certainly in the context of that Point A and its issues, and
C. Their branding and how it would be both centrally defined and locally expressed through all of this.

And with all of that stated, I turn to the venture capital funds-seeking scenario and the basic Who question that I would explicitly address here.

I divided my response to that question so as to separately discuss two generally stated stakeholder categories in an IPO-facing context, when considering the external stakeholders and gatekeepers who the founders and owners of such a business, would have to work with:

• Potentially business and business model-supportive stakeholders, and
• Outwardly-connected and response-connecting marketplace participants.

And I will follow that same pattern here in the context of this business development scenario too, once again starting with stakeholders and potential stakeholders who would be approached, directly or indirectly for supporting a new business, and through provision of capital funding investments.

Who would belong there, at least as reasonable audiences that the founders and owners of a business might market their venture to, in hopes of gaining such support?

• Individual venture capitalists and venture capital firms are obvious target audiences here, but simply noting that does not add much if anything to this line of discussion. The real question is one of precisely which such investors to approach and how. And that means the owners of a business doing their homework, and their reaching out to potential investors who have a track record for having already invested in their particular industry, or who have a focused specialization that prominently involves supporting businesses that would make significant use of the same core technologies that their new business does and will use, and as central to what they would do as competitive ventures. Venture capitalists tend to specialize in where they invest their funds, depending on what they themselves have particular hands-on and managerial expertise in. So from a Who perspective here, this means finding and reaching out to potential investors who would see what a new venture is doing and seeking to do, as comfortably familiar ground – and even when they also want to see sources of novelty in that, that would make a potential investment business stand out for its competitive strength potential.
• This all obviously involves addressing the issues of my above-repeated Points A, B and C. Marketing to the right investors here, for example, of necessity means marketing what this business can and will do and how, and marketing for what it will produce or offer as services, and to whom. That is all about branding and marketing, and both as that would be directed towards potential customers and clients, and as it would be directed towards potential investors and backers too.
• And this brings me to the issues and questions of how to identify and reach the right people, besides simply doing Google or similar online searches. LinkedIn and similar business and professional-oriented online social networking sites can be very important there, and both for finding who has turned to what venture capital funding sources for what, and with what success, and for reaching out to these investors more directly too. And there are also businesses that explicitly function as matchmakers, bringing venture capital, and I add angel investors, together with entrepreneurs seeking such funding support. (A Google search for “entrepreneur forum” can offer value here, as one of many possible relevant search queries.)

And with that offered, I turn to consider the marketplace and potential customers and their demographics.

• Obviously, consumers and at least potential repeat customers are important here. Predictively specifying possible and likely market reach and market penetration of a proposed new business and its offerings, is one of the core foundational elements of any effective business plan. And that document with its reasoned analysis of possible target markets and consumer demographics, is crucially important when seeking outside business development funding, and particularly where larger investments are sought out from professionals in that arena, such as venture capitalists.
• Critically reviewing and analyzing business plans and efforts to fact check and reality check them, are among the most important due diligence and risk management exercises that these investors carry out as they make their basic investment decisions and as they decide what they would require that an investment business’ owners do, in order to qualify for such supportive help.
• And the analysis offered there in this business plan, of what a new venture would offer, and to whom, and with what likelihood of success for its target markets is crucial for all of that.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to and consider my third business development scenario: the would-be franchise system business. And I will follow the same organizing pattern there, that I have followed in Part 44 and again here in Part 45: addressing the issues raised in the first of the above three questions:

• What constituencies and potential constituencies would ventures following each of the above-repeated business development approaches need to effectively reach out to and connect with?

Then I will continue on from there to analyze the three business model approaches that I have been discussing here, in terms raised by the remaining two of those questions. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 37 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 29

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 15, 2019

This is my 37th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-36.)

I began working my way through a brief, higher level to-address topics list in Part 32 of this series that all relate to information management and to follow-through based upon it (and see that installment for the complete list of them.) And I have been discussing the third item and its issues from that list since Part 35, which I repeat here as I continue addressing it:

• And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge.

To be more specific here, I concluded Part 36 by offering a set of more detail-specific discussion points that directly relate to that set of issues, that I stated I would at least begin to discuss in detail here (there offered as a bullet point list, and here as a numbered list for greater clarity of discussion):

1. It might be fairly obvious that a detailed table of organization and an in-house phone and email directory would belong on a sharable intranet-accessible data base, fitting into a data and knowledge context that would fairly perfectly fit a technology-driven solution as touched upon above (nota bene, in Part 36 and its line of discussion.)
2. And it might be fairly obvious that the types of character and personality and performance-related discussions that would arise in the context of my above cited Part 35 example, and my also-briefly sketched out examples from above (n.b. in Part 36), would not. It might be obvious that those briefly sketched scenario examples raise sensitive questions, and that any answers that would be shared in response to them would probably best be communicated in a more individualized case-by-case, business social networking context.
3. But not all business sourced or related information clearly fits into one or the other of those admittedly vaguely defined categorical groupings, as being best suited to a more entirely technology implementation or as calling for significant interpersonal interaction and private conversation. And even when a specific case in point example seems to best fit one of those paradigmatic approaches in principle, it might not in practice just fit there. So for example, data and knowledge that fits into and would be offered in an automated database system, might still need more experienced explanation when it is to be used in practice, and certainly if it does not fit a usual or expected pattern for the type of work it would be applied to. And even more strictly social networking-based information management and sharing can be facilitated by online social networking and other standardized intranet-based tools, and for finding the right people to reach out to if nothing else.
4. How would gray area data and knowledge for this be identified and how would it best be managed?
5. And how and when would hybrid solutions and approaches for managing them, best be developed and pursued here?

The first two of those now-numbered points provide connecting background that would serve to bring the following three into clearer focus. So my intention for this posting is to begin with the third of them and its issues. And I in fact at least start to do so by pointing out two salient, and even determinative issues here. And the first involves issues of confidentiality and privacy.

• Even when access to specific information resources that are provided through a business intranet are actively and tightly access-controlled, and certainly for anything included there that might be considered sensitive in nature, you always have to think of that type of shared resource as being open and public. And I have to add in this context, that you have to assume that any content screening that is carried out when determining who should be granted access to what, is going to be more categorically general in nature, then it is precisely specific for details offered, and when any access restriction policies are set or followed.

Such access is based for the most part on job titles and areas of responsibility, on the who side of this, and on a determination of the generally expected range of genuine need that a given body of raw data or processed information might carry with it. And it is unlikely that personal opinions that might be included there are going to fit into any of the more routinely conducted access control decisions that would be made. No one, for example, is going to sift through the mountains of information involved in any general, categorical access determination decision, looking for what A does or does not think about B and their capabilities to do task C, at least when working with D – and regardless of what A, B, D or anyone else would think of that.

You have to assume that at least with time, any information, more individualized judgment or opinion included, that is entered into a network-accessible database system, will become public and because it is at least eventually all but certain to be inadvertently leaked by someone if for no other reason. (Consider that a conservative risk management assumption that would inform the planning and preparation that would be made proactively, in anticipation of possible information access, security breaches.)

• Private exchanges of judgment and opinion that are shared as such between involved individuals, can at least in principle remain private and confidential – assuming of course that anyone seeking or offering such advice in confidence, shows good judgment in who they would trust for this.
• But judgment and opinions that are uploaded on an in-principle more publicly visible and accessible platform, and one that is access controlled by uninvolved third parties, cannot be assumed to remain private and confidential, and certainly long-term.

The second salient, and even determinative issue that I would raise here, is at least in principle, a lot easier to state, even as its details become more complex when it is taken out of the abstract in real world situations:

• All five of the here-numbered topics points that I have repeated above and that I am addressing now, are risk management issues.

Let me at least begin to explain that here, by way of a specific, real world consequential issue that my personal opinion and judgment examples raise. Negative opinions and judgments concerning specific coworkers, or subordinates on a table of organization are almost certain to create tensions, resentments and all of the problems that you would expect to see arise from them if they become more generally shared and known, and certainly if the people involved there have to be able to work together and even if just occasionally and on specific issues. But if any of that opinion-based commentary were to be uploaded to a company-wide intranet and made available from there, and to anyone beyond the individual who started that, then the company would own it. If that information was in any way formally signed off upon and approved for upload to the intranet, and even just as a small entry hidden away in a larger block of information that the approving agent did not know of, the company would own it and have to take responsibility for its being there. And an outraged and aggrieved employee who has been publically, negatively judged and even shamed in this way would most likely find that they have substantial grounds to sue.

But that only addresses these issues in general and when considering events and possibilities such as the perhaps extreme case scenarios offered in Parts 35 and 36, as referred to above. The real complexities that I would address here, arise when determining a fuller range of what can be at least semi-officially shared in a business in general, and how and through what channels; the real complexities, and I have to add the real risk potentials arise when you have to take gray area information sharing scenarios into account too. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will continue to focus on the issues and challenges raised by Points 3-5 as offered here in my more detail-specific list. And completing my discussion of those topics points will complete my discussion of the more basic and fundamental topics point that I repeated at the top of this posting: the third higher level topics point from my initial perspective topics list of Part 32.

Then after completing that, with further consideration of the five topics points that I raised as elaborations of it, I will return to consider the remaining higher level points from my Part 32 list:

4. In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details of that sort, to assemble a more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge base.
5. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the fruits of that effort to work for the business as a whole and for its employees, by making its essential details accessible and actively so for those who need them, and when they do.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 9: the New Deal and infrastructure development as recovery 3

This is my 10th installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon, or set aside for future consideration (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 46 and following for Parts 1-8 with its supplemental posting Part 4.5.)

I have, up to here, made note of and selectively analyzed a succession of large scale infrastructure development and redevelopment initiatives in this series, with a goal of distilling out of them, a set of guiding principles that might offer planning and execution value when moving forward on other such programs. And as a part of that and as a fifth such case study example, I have been discussing an historically defining progression of events and responses to them from American history:

• The Great Depression and US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts that he envisioned, argued for and led, in order to help bring his country out of that seemingly existential crisis.

I began this line of discussion in Part 7 and Part 8, focusing there on what the Great Depression was, and with a focus on how it arose and took place in the United States. And my goal here is to at least begin to discuss what Roosevelt did and sought to do and how, in response to all of that turmoil and challenge. And I begin doing so by offering a background reference that I would argue holds significant relevance for better understanding the context and issues that I would focus upon here:

• Goodwin, D.K. (2018) Leadership in Turbulent Times. Simon & Schuster. (And see in particular, this book’s Chapter 11 for purposes of further clarifying the issues raised here.)

As already noted in the two preceding installments to this series, the Great Depression arguably began in late 1929 with an “official” starting date usually set for that as October 29 of that year: Black Tuesday when the US stock market completed an initial crash that had started the previous Thursday. But realistically it really began as a true depression and as the Great Depression on March 13, 1930 when the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act was first put into effect. And Herbert Hoover was president of the United States as the nation as a whole and much of the world around it, spiraled down into chaos.

There are those who revile Hoover for his failure to effectively deal with or even fully understand and acknowledge the challenges that the United States and American citizens and businesses faced during his administration, and certainly after his initial pre-depression honeymoon period in office. And there are those who exalt him and particularly from the more extreme right politically as they speak out against the New Deal – and even for how its programs helped to pull the country back from its fall. All of that, while interesting and even important, is irrelevant here for purposes of this discussion. The important point of note coming out of that is that unemployment was rampant, a great many American citizens had individually lost all of whatever life savings they had been able to accumulate prior to this, and seemingly endless numbers of business, banks and other basic organizational structures that helped form the American society were now unstable and at extreme risk of failure, or already gone. And the level of morale in the United States, and of public confidence in both public and private sector institutions was one of all but despair and for many. And that was the reality in the United States, and in fact in much of the world as a whole that Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced as he took his first oath of office as the 32nd president of the United States on March 4, 1933.

Roosevelt knew that if he was to succeed in any real way in addressing and remediating any of these challenges faced, he had to begin and act immediately. And he began laying out his approach to doing that, and he began following forward on that in his first inaugural address, where he declared war on the depression and where he uttered one of his most oft-remembered statements: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt did not wait until March 5th to begin acting on the promise of action that he made to the nation in that inaugural address. He immediately began reaching out to key members of the US Congress and to members of both political parties there to begin a collaborative effort that became known as the 100 Days Congress, for the wide ranging legislation that was drafted, refined, voted upon, passed and signed into law during that brief span of time (see First 100 Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency.) This ongoing flow of activity came to include passage of 15 major pieces of legislation that collectively reshaped the country, setting it on a path that led to an ultimate recovery from this depression. And that body of legislation formed the core of Roosevelt’s New Deal as he was able to bring it into effect.

• What did Roosevelt push for and get passed in this way, starting during those first 100 days?
• I would reframe that question in terms of immediate societal needs. What were the key areas that Roosevelt had to address and at least begin to resolve through legislative action, if he and his new presidential administration were to begin to effectively meet the challenge of this depression and as quickly as possible?

Rephrased in those terms, his first 100 days and their legislative push sought to grab public attention and support by simultaneously addressing a complex of what had seemed to be intractable challenges that included:

• Reassuring the public that their needs and their fears were understood and that they were being addressed,
• And building safeguards into the economy and into the business sector that drives it, to ensure their long-term viability and stability.
• Put simply, Roosevelt sought to create a new sense of public confidence, and put people back to work and with real full time jobs at long-term viable businesses.

Those basic goals were and I add still are all fundamentally interconnected. And to highlight that in an explicitly Great Depression context, I turn back to a source of challenge that I raised and at least briefly discussed in Part 8 of this series: banks and the banking system, to focus on their role in all of this.

• The public at large had lost any trust that they had had in banks and in their reliability, and with good reason given the number of them that had gone under in the months and first years immediately following the start of the Great Depression. And when those banks failed, all of the people and their families and all of the businesses that had money tied up in accounts with them, lost everything of that.
• So regulatory law was passed to prevent banks and financial institutions in general, from following a wide range of what had proven to be high-risk business practices that made them vulnerable to failure.
• And the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created to safeguard customer savings in the event that a bank were to fail anyway, among other consumer-facing and supporting measures passed.

The goal there was to both stabilize banks and make them sounder, safer and more reliable as financial institutions, while simultaneously reassuring the private sector and its participants: individuals and businesses alike, that it was now safe to put their money back into those banks again. And rebuilding the banking system as a viable and used resource would make monies available through them for loans again, and that would help to get the overall economy moving and recovering again.

• Banks and the banking system in general, can in a fundamental sense be seen as constituting the heart of an economy, and for any national economy that is grounded in the marketplace and its participants, and that is not simply mandated from above, politically and governmentally as a command economy. Bank loans and the liquidity reserves and cash flows that they create, drive growth and make all else possible, and for both businesses, large and small and for their employees and for consumers of all sorts.
• So banks and banking systems constitute a key facet of a nation’s overall critical infrastructure, and one that was badly broken by the Great Depression and that needed to be fixed for any real recovery from it.

This is a series about infrastructure, and the banking system of a nation is one of the most important and vital structural components of its overall infrastructure system, and for how banks collectively create vast pools of liquid funds from monies saved in them, that can be turned back to their communities and for such a wide range of personal and business uses if nothing else. But the overall plan put forth and enacted into law in the 100 Days Congress (which adjourned on June 16, 1933) went way beyond simply reinforcing and rebuilding as needed, banks and other behind the scenes elements of the overall American infrastructure. It went on to address rebuilding and expansion needs for more readily visible aspects of the overall infrastructure in place too, and for systems that essentially anyone would automatically see as national infrastructure such as dams and highways. Roosevelt’s New Deal impacted upon and even fundamentally reshaped virtually every aspect of the basic large-scale infrastructure that had existed in the United States. And to highlight a more general principle here that I will return to in subsequent installments to this series, all of this effort had at least one key point of detail in common;

• It was all organized according to an overarching pattern rather than simply arising ad hoc, piece by piece as predominantly happened before the Great Depression.
• Ultimately any large scale infrastructure development or redevelopment effort has to be organized and realized as a coherent whole, even if that means developing it as an evolving effort, if coherent and gap-free results are to be realized and with a minimum of unexpected complications.

That noted, what did the New Deal, and the fruits of Roosevelt’s efforts and the 100 Days Congress actually achieve? I noted above that this included passage of 15 major pieces of legislation and add here that this included enactment of such programs as:

• The Civilian Conservation Corps as a jobs creating program that brought many back into the productive workforce in the United States,
• The Tennessee Valley Authority – a key regional development effort that made it possible to spread the overall national electric power grid into a large unserved part of the country while creating new jobs there in the process,
• The Emergency Banking Act, that sought to stop the ongoing cascade of bank failures that was plaguing the country,
• The Farm Credit Act that sought to provide relief to family farms and help restore American agriculture,
• The Agricultural Adjustment Act, that was developed coordinately with that, and that also helped to stabilize and revitalize American agriculture,
• The National Industrial Recovery Act,
• The Public Works Administration, which focused on creating jobs through construction of water systems, power plants and hospitals among other societally important resources,
• The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as cited above, and
• The Glass Steagall Act – legislation designed to limit if not block high risk, institutional failure creating practices in banks and financial institutions in general.

Five of the New Deal agencies that were created in response to the Great Depression and that contributed to ending it, still exist today, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Social Security Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. And while subsequent partisan political efforts have eroded some of the key features of the Glass Steagall Act, much of that is still in effect today too.

And with that noted, I conclude this posting by highlighting what might in fact be the most important two points that I could make here:

• I wrote above, of the importance of having a single, more unified vision when mapping out and carrying out a large scale infrastructure program, and that is valid. But flexibility in the face of the unexpected and in achieving the doable is vital there too. And so is a willingness to experiment and simply try things out and certainly when faced with novel and unprecedented challenges that you cannot address by anything like tried-and-true methods. A willingness to experiment and try possible solutions out and a willingness to step back from them and try something new if they do not work, is vital there.
• And seeking out and achieving buy-in is essential if any of that is going to be possible. This meant reaching out to politicians and public officials, as Roosevelt did when he organized and led his New Deal efforts. But more importantly, this meant his reaching out very directly to the American public and right in their living rooms, through his radio broadcast fireside chats, with his first of them taking place soon after he was first sworn into office as president. (He was sworn into office on March 4 and he gave his first fireside chat of what would become an ongoing series of 30, eight days later on March 12.)
• Franklin Delano Roosevelt most definitely did not invent the radio. But he was the first politician and the first government leader who figured out how to effectively use that means of communication and connections building, to promote and advance his policies and his goals. He was the first to use this new tool in ways that would lead to the type and level of overall public support that would compel even his political opponents to seek out ways to work with and compromise with him, on the issues that were important to him. So I add to my second bullet point here, the imperative of reaching out as widely and effectively as possible when developing that buy-in, and through as wide and effective a span of possible communications channels and venues as possible.

I am going to step back in my next installment to this series, from the now five case-in-point examples that I have been exploring in it up to here. And I will offer an at least first draft of the more general principles that I would develop out of all of this, as a basis for making actionable proposals as to how future infrastructure development projects might be carried out. And in anticipation of what is to follow here, I write all of this with the future, and the near-future and already emerging challenges of global warming in mind as a source of infrastructure development and redevelopment imperatives. Then after offering that first draft note, I am going to return to my initial plans for how I would further develop this series, as outlined in Part 6 of this series, and discuss infrastructure development as envisioned by and carried out the Communist Party of China and the government of the People’s Republic of China. And as part of that I will also discuss Russian, and particularly Soviet Union era, Russian infrastructure and its drivers. And my intention for now, as I think forward about this is that after completing those two case study example discussion, I will offer a second draft-refined update to the first draft version of that, that I will offer as a Part 10 here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 46 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 13

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 6, 2019

This is my 46th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-45.)

And this series is about people and enabling them in a workplace, and to the benefit of both the businesses that they work for and the benefit of those hands-on and managerial employees too. But a great deal of what I have been writing of and addressing here, has focused on what these people do and how, and as viewed from due diligence and risk remediation and management perspectives. And as part of that ongoing narrative I have been discussing two specific topics points, since Part 44, so far primarily focusing on the first of them:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how that type of system of analytical processes (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

More specifically, I began discussing the first of those points in at least some detail in Part 44, then digressed from my initially planned, more abstractly framed line of discussion of them to develop and begin to consider a more specific case study-oriented example of how the issues that I would raise here would play out. And developing that for subsequent use is what I primarily focused upon in Part 45, where I briefly outlined a business software development process as might take place within an organization for its own use, and with specific low, medium and high-risk scenarios offered as possible elaborations to it, all based on how this basic development process might be followed – or short circuited in the case of my more fully high-risk scenario.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 1, bringing that more out of the abstract by considering how its issues take shape in the type of real-world contexts that I raise with my software development example. And after that I will continue on to specifically address Point 2 and its issues as well.

I began addressing the issues of Point 1 in Part 44, by focusing on how risk is in fact determined on a potential-event by potential-event basis. And as part of that, I briefly outlined how risk management assessments can be made for known unknown possible events: adverse event types that are understood in principle and that are even statistically predicable for their likelihood of occurring, through application of an actuarial process, but that are unknown in detail and in advance of when they would occur. And I went beyond that to at least note the impact on risk management systems and their actionable implementation, by considering unknown unknowns too: here, adverse events that would arise as disruptively novel so it would be unlikely that anyone facing them could predict their likelihood of occurrence even if they do think that they know at least a minimal level of impact that they would have, if they were to occur.

• In simplest form at least, known unknown event risk calculations would be arrived at on an event-type by event-type basis, as a mathematical product of the probability of an adverse occurrence actually happening, and the level of adverse impact that would arise if it did. So for example, if a specific adverse event might have a 5% likelihood of occurring in the course of ten years of business operations, and it could be expected to cost the business a net amount of $100,000 per occurrence if it did, minimum, then its risk assessed cost (as would be added into an overall risk assessment model) would be at least $2,500 per business quarter and with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising. (Note that to simplify this, I assume binary occurrence possibilities with an event type either happening once and just once, or not at all. Real world calculations would be more complex, allowing for a variety of deviations from that and other simplified assumptions that I make here.)
• And realistically, given an inevitable lack of complete knowledge, both of those measures: event likelihood and cost of occurring, would be calculated as range values, or as minimum ones and with that alternative offering a specific minimum risk per event type calculation that could then be used in planning and in business development and execution.
• Unknown unknown adverse events serve as true wild cards in this as it is impossible to calculate the actuarial table requiring, mathematical products that a more a priori knowable risk assessment of the type just discussed here, would require in its known unknown setting.

My abstract discussion goal for this posting is to expand upon and discuss a point of detail that I just added to this narrative in the above explanatory bullet points: “… with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising” – where overall determination of the level of funds to be held in such reserves, and decisions reached as related business-wide decisions would be based on the coordinate determination and evaluation of suites of possible events that might arise: positive, negative and mixed in value there, as their risk and benefits implications are considered.

Yes, there are definitely circumstances where individual event types need to be separately considered and evaluated, as for example when their apparent likelihood of happening or their likely outcome if they do happen, appear to be changing. And these changes can visibly arise for any of a wide number of reasons. A need to make individual event type evaluations can also arise if a once assuredly known unknown suddenly starts to look more disruptively unexpected, or if a previously disruptive possibility as discussed here, has become more predictably familiar. But ultimately risk management looks at larger contexts and at overall risk and opportunity assessments, and at how different event and outcome types can and do interact and even fundamentally shape each other. And it is in the context of this very abstractly stated risk management understanding that I finally turn to consider my software development example.

Think of my Part 44 discussion as expanded upon here, as laying a foundation for more fully considering the above Point 1 by outlining, at least for purposes of this series discussion, what “risk” actually means there. And my continuation of that here, at least briefly scales up this set of issues to “business size” and the consideration of what at least ideally would be relatively comprehensive suites of potential risks faced and certainly for the more predictable among them. Now I would at least briefly and selectively set out to apply all of that in a specific case-in-point example setting. And for that, I turn back to Part 45 and to the low, medium and high risk scenario examples that I explicitly raised there. (I recommend that you at least briefly review that posting and those case in point example scenarios as I will refer to them here in what follows without repeating what would amount to a significant portion of that posting.)

First of all, as a matter of overall comment on the four scenarios offered there, all of them hinge for their significance on the use or potential use of personally identifiable customer data as would be provided to a business as it carries out sales and related transactions.

• For my low-risk example scenario, this means customer data-like information: fake customer data that is not based on the information provided by any specific real people, that would not and could not compromise anyone as an individual if it were to be more publically released. And my higher risk scenarios all involve access to, and use of real customer data.
• Such data is explicitly legally protected with specific regulatory guidelines as to how this information should be safeguarded, at least as far as specifying minimally required information security outcomes for it. And this in-detail overall framework and the correspondingly specified set of publically visible legal consequences for allowing breaches to this mandated information security, make collecting, processing, storing, accessing and using this data a source of definitively known unknown risks as I use that term here.
• In principle then, it should be possible to risk manage this type of event, and the types of business activities that might lead to such a breach as I have been discussing this set of issues here, and certainly for known unknowns. But specific real-world examples always add caveats and unexpecteds to any in-principle, abstractly stated considerations. And this example and source of them is no exception there.
• To illustrate that point of observation, and in a way that historic records can only serve to verify, one of the most important sources of hacking risk that businesses face and certainly large ones with large employee headcounts, comes from data misdirection and even outright data theft from the inside. This can mean intentional, malicious theft of and use of confidential information as for example when a disgruntled employee seeks to take and sell it. But exactly as impactfully and certainly on an incident by incident basis this can mean loss of control over such information, where for example an employee who has even large amounts of sensitive information on their work laptop computer – that they probably have been told not to keep there, takes this computer off-site and looses it. And this type of unintentional breach can happen entirely in-house in a business too, if an employee who has legitimate access to such data, shares it with others who do not.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will explicitly consider the four example scenarios themselves from Part 45, as the issues that I have just raised here would apply to them. Then, as promised above, I will continue on to discuss the above repeated topics Point 2. And after completing that, at least for purposes of this series, I will tie this back to the basic issues of information access and its more open and its more restrictive imperatives, as arise in a general business context, and in an innovative business context.

In anticipation of discussion to come, I will at least briefly discuss risk sharing and the role of insurance and third party indemnification there, and the impact of ripple effects in all of this, where for example hiring policy, employee benefits and corporate culture as it impacts upon and shapes the employee experience can significantly shape information security risk.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 17

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2019

This is my 17th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing gorilla and viral marketing in more general terms in this series, laying a foundation for more detailed analysis as to their reach and effectiveness, and for even knowing how well they are performing for your business –if that is, they are at all. So for example, I explicitly if briefly discussed the issues of outside-shaping control in any genuinely viral marketing campaign, where “viral” in that context ultimately means “coming from members of the consumer community and marketplace” and where publically visible messaging contributions offered from there, might or might not be legitimately grounded and as either false-flag negative, trolling efforts or as equally false-flag positive messages. And even more genuine viral sourced messaging might or might not have real impact potential depending on a variety of factors too, many of the more important of which might be predictively understood.

Then I ended Part 16 by offering the following four point tool set of basic issues for consideration when thinking about, developing, reviewing and refining a gorilla marketing campaign per se:

• If you want gorilla marketing to work effectively for your business, as a generally developed creative ongoing effort, you need to know the market that you would reach out to and connect with, from your business’ side of the conversations that you seek to develop there.
• And you need to know that market and the people who comprise its defining demographics, as its actively involved participants at the very least, help co-create this marketing reach with you from their feedback and reviews. And I stress that collaborative “with” here as their individual and collective voices are crucially important to all of this.
• And you need to know this, your market as well as you would know your own Marketing and Communications staff, and the guidelines that they work under in a more traditional, business-centric orienting marketing campaign.
• And the urgency of these points of observation doubles, at the very least in a genuine viral marketing context, as does the degree of challenge in helping to make this type of marketing campaign work, and reliably and effectively so.

I offered this checklist of value determining, question-raising issues: this analytical tool set if you will, in Part 16, in the context of having just reconsidered one of the early tools that was used in attempts at determining the effectiveness of online marketing and sales, and commercial web design and development per se for that matter and certainly as they would support online marketing and sales success: eyeball counts. And I began addressing that earlier analytical approach by stating that no one knew how to develop actionable value out of the data that they were accumulating from this. No one knew how or when simply viewing online content translated into action and ultimately into successful sales transactions – even as online marketers and web developers touted the overall eyeball count numbers that their clients achieved through their web site and related development efforts.

• No one really knew and certainly at first, when or how to best determine when page views and eyeball counts actually meant anything.
• That meant they did not know how to develop an online presence and design it in detail so as to improve the numbers of consumers who would do more than just look, increasing their conversion rates: the rate at which those page and content viewers actually entered into a sales transaction from this experience, and completed it.

More is known now, of course, as to what those numbers mean and most of that insight comes from developing more nuanced understanding as to what a site visitor and viewer is actually doing, with that including an understanding of metrics such as:

• Where they clicked from to reach a page that is being page view-count tracked,
• What links if any on that page they click to when leaving,
• And where they in fact leave to.

There is a lot more to this, of course, but the basic idea offered there should be fairly clear. Eyeball counts, in and of themselves offer very little real marketing analysis value; it is the context that those views arise in that tells everything. And I offered that perspective there, and briefly recapitulate it here because a very similar set of underlying principles applies in the context of the later generation marketing, and marketing analysis demanding approaches that I have been discussing here: viral and gorilla marketing and their more effective use.

• Context and contextual understanding and the accumulation of data that can support that type and level of understanding is everything here, and exactly as proved necessary in an earlier, simpler eyeball count measured, central broadcasting model online marketing world.

The primary difference here, in fact is that when interactive supplants central broadcasting, and two-way and multi-direction communications and information sharing supplants a simpler one-way information flow model, the level and diversity of detail needed in that contextual data increases by orders of magnitude if any effectiveness at all is to be achieved. And the forces of competition for market share that have continued on and continued growing, and from way before the advent of internet and from the earliest marketplaces, simply make the scale of this data required now, essentially open-ended – and certainly as that imperative might be argued for by market analysts and by the data providing businesses that service their needs. And with this noted, I turn to consider the role of and the limitations of big data in this still rapidly evolving business and marketplace context.

• Eyeball counts and the demand for progressively more complex and comprehensive contextual data that would make it possible to derive meaningful, actionable insight from its numbers, have come to include and even fundamentally require the accumulation of progressively more and more complex data sets, that only began with the three basic metrics that I just listed above here.
• Big data as a business enabler began there, and certainly as online became critically important to business success and for more and more businesses and business types.
• Modern online marketing with its newer gorilla and viral marketing manifestations: forms that can explicitly take advantage of the interactive internet, have made big data a business survival essential, and certainly where a business seeks to do better than simply get by.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider a basic conundrum that this dynamic has built into it:

• I have been writing here of the need for more and more data, with more and more variable types to fill their database fields. And I add here a corresponding need for all of this data to be more and more accurate and more and more real-time up to date too.
• And augmenting the number of such variables (and the data accuracy for what populates their database fields) does in principle mean an increased and improved capability to analytically study a consumer and potential consumer base in finer and finer detail, parsing it into progressively more refined demographics and sub-demographics and in ways that would lead to more effective business decisions and of all types.
• But the more data types that would be called upon and used in any given such analysis or set of them: the more variables that would have to be coordinately analyzed in making use of this data, the larger the numbers of consumers that data would have to come from, in order to achieve sufficient data set sizes so as to make the requisite statistical tests that would be used, even just mathematically valid.

My goal for the next installment to this series is to begin with an orienting discussion of these points, and how they arise as valid sources of concern. And then I will discuss data evaluation at the trade-off levels of knowing what of a set of possible information held, holds the most value and would offer the most actionable insight in a given situation: in the course of developing, running and evaluating the outcomes of specific marketing campaigns. And I will also discuss how this opens doors for third party data providers to enter this narrative and very profitably for themselves.

And as already noted at the end of Part 16, I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite big data’s use here as holding potential for creating both business systems-positive and societally-negative impact, depending on how it is done and on how it is regulated.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 20

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 30, 2019

This is my 20th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

I have been discussing a specific business model here, and in detail since Part 15 that specifically seeks to realize the types of goals that this series addresses: businesses that would offer research and its findings as marketable, value creating offerings in a business-to-business context and marketplace. And as a part of that narrative, I have been addressing the issues raised in two due diligence oriented questions that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. What specifically are the work process systems that define this enterprise as a research-as-product enterprise?
2. And what resources: specialized skills personnel definitely included, would be needed to carry this out with whatever necessary levels of what might at times be resource over-capacity allowed for, in order to accommodate at least more readily predictable fluctuations in resource requirement levels needed?

I have, to bring this background note up to date, offered an at least initial draft response to the above Question 1, and my goal for this posting is to continue on from there to offer a corresponding response to Question 2 as well, that I will develop here in terms of the issues raised when considering Question 1. In anticipation of what is to come, that will definitely include consideration of agility and of cost effectiveness. And that will of necessity mean my further discussing the significance of building for New and the disruptively New, and both within the organization, and as a source of marketable product that a business like this would develop and offer. And any realistic consideration of these issues and certainly as they coordinately arise, calls for an explicit analysis of the role of and impact of friction, with its information developing and sharing challenges, in the business systems that are developed and executed upon here.

If you think of that as a preview note as to the plot and action of a theatrical performance, consider it a list of its cast of characters. My goal here, as least as expressed in those terms, is to offer a brief synopsis of that performance itself. And with that noted, I begin with a set of fundamentals of a type that I have turned to many times in this blog, beginning with the business and its intended purpose and goals as a whole:

• What precisely does this type of business seek to achieve as a business model and a business plan defined goal? (Note: This is a detail-demanding question as offered here and not just a “big picture,” overall perspective one.)
• And how stably and reliably effective can that effort become when this type of business is effectively organized and run, given the nature of a research as product business, where any such enterprise is going to face rapidly changing production assignment shifts, and corresponding resource requirement shifts as it addresses a succession of new research and development challenges, each with their own unique features and requirements as well as more commonly shared ones?

I would begin to explore and at least selectively elaborate on the issues raised in those two questions by dividing the resources that would be involved there into three general categories, which I will examine in more detail for their significance here. And the first of those categories is one of rivalrous goods. And I begin outlining what would go into this bucket by noting routinely required material goods and equipment, where that would include:

• Larger, higher priced equipment that can even merge into the category of more major capital expenditure-funded resources,
• Recurringly required disposable supplies that would be needed for carrying out essentially any assignment that this business takes on, and that are inexpensive for the most part, at least individually,
• And all that would fall in-between those extremes but that would still be recurringly needed and on a more predictably recurring basis for stock replenishment and equipment replacement costs due.

This category would also include more specialized goods: equipment and disposable supplies included, that might only occasionally be called for and that might in fact only be needed for carrying out single, not to be repeated for type, research assignments.

• Low to mid-range cost supplies and equipment that might be required for just-occasional or rarely performed types of work done there, and one-off assignment requiring specialty disposables and small equipment would belong here.
• But I perhaps somewhat arbitrarily assume that this would not generally include investment in anything like a major expense or capital development equipment purchase here, unless this business was planning to shift to more routinely carrying out research projects that would now call for this type of resource and on an ongoing and even standardized basis. (The only real exception that I can imagine here to that, where this type of expenditure might make sense on a cost and returns basis, would be if a hiring company saw it as so important that this particular research-providing business carry out a more unique project for them, that they would cover the expenses for the acquisition of even big ticket equipment just for that, and even if that equipment would collect dust after this project was completed – a possibility but not a more commonly expectable one.)

The next category that I would address here consists of non-rivalrous goods, and of specialized information in particular:

• A research as product business would be expected to accumulate large bodies of raw data and processed information, including both sensitive and confidential, and proprietary knowledge and both as developed in-house and as acquired from its clients and other outside sources. Any business can and should be expected to do this and particularly as information has become such an essential business success asset.
• But there are costs associated with the gathering, processing, storage, accessing and use of this resource base and its contents, and even when specific data or more processed knowledge does not explicitly have to be purchased and for-fee.

Think of information here as a basic ongoing expense as well as a basic ongoing source of positive value, and with an overall positive net value realized here at least when all of this is effectively planned out and managed. And the planning and management included in that, and the operational execution that information management requires here, of necessity has to take into account a wide range of specific at least potential cost point issues, including at least anticipatable in-house process and work flow expenses, personnel costs for the paid time that employees would more specifically expend on these information management responsibilities, and supportive equipment and related expenses.

This also means tracking, understanding and where possible proactively planning for and budgeting for hardware level infrastructure – and regardless of how the costs side of that might be limited by use of vetted third party cloud storage and related options to limit, in this case a need for server farm capabilities as part of a more extensive Information Technology Department physical infrastructure.

• Think of this overall combined human resources and activities, plus specialized equipment resource base, as an ongoing if ever-expanding capability and both for what it offers to the business and for what it costs too.

This point of observation becomes relatively self-evident and for both sides of that as ripple effect issues are added into the costs versus returns-on-investment calculations that this type of analysis would call for. Consider, as a case in point example there, the time, effort and expense of monitoring and validating ongoing information security reliability as due diligence would call for, when a business parks its most sensitive and valuable information in an outside, third party provided and maintained cloud storage service. Yes, those businesses have and carry out their own risk management and risk reduction processes and systems of them, but their clients need to stay on top of these issues too, and particularly given the ongoing occurrences of successful hacker attacks on businesses with the data thefts that they have led to.

And this brings me to the third basic resource category of the tripartite model that I have been developing here, and the category that I explicitly noted when initially posing my two above-repeated due diligence questions: personnel as resources. And I focus here on people with advanced and specialized knowledge and experience in the hands-on and managerial areas of work that would specifically be called for in a research-as-product business setting, or even just in an advanced research lab per se.

• While it is true that there are basic skill and experience sets that would be called for in essentially any research project context that a research as product business might enter into, every project is going to have its own particular, specialized skills and experience needs too. And this is particularly true when genuinely New and different are considered.
• Learning curve efforts that would bring current research and related personnel up to speed on the intricacies of a novel new project and its requirements can help here, but client timeline pressures can limit the feasibility of simply relying on that, so a business like this is also going to have to continuously keep looking for new people with new skills too.
• Effectively managing and running this type of business, or I have to add any business with similarly fluctuating personnel needs for that matter, always calls for explicit effort to develop and maintain stable, reliable work forces, and particularly for more skilled positions where experienced people would be difficult to replace and where the business has made perhaps very large individual investments in their best people there.

I offer this set of three bullet points as a collective basic underlying axiomatic assumption for what is to follow here. And any real effort to achieve the goals implicit in it, and both when determining the types of employees to keep on staff according to their particular areas of expertise, and the numbers of them to so retain, is of necessity going to impact upon the business plan actually in place. And that dynamic is going to take form in particular, as a matter of what types and ranges of research project the business would agree to take on for fee in the first place, that their overall resource base could actually support.

• The wider the range of project types taken on, the wider the range of specialized employee knowledge and hands-on skills are likely to be needed at any given time, and the larger the basic built-in expanse base this business would have to be able cover before any possible profits might be realized,
• … and the more likely it would become that at least some fraction of that specialized workforce be effectively underutilized at any given time because the business is not working on “their” particular types of project at any one time, and certainly not in ways that would derive anything like a more fully effective return on investment for what they could do. (There, keeping employees busy and even productively so is very different than really effectively utilizing the fuller range of their actual skills and experience held.)

There are two possible ways to address this here-offered challenge. The first might be to look for, hire and retain specialist generalists, who can delve into the skills-requiring details and do the necessary work there, quickly and efficiently, for a very wide range of skills set requirements – and simply accept the fact that many of these people could do other productively valuable things too. And the second would be to rely on specialist consultants and other outsourced professionals and simply hope that the people needed will be available when needed.

The specialist generalists who I just cited are going to be among the most widely skilled and experienced people out there, and both within the pool of potential new hires who are looking for new jobs, and in the overall professional community as a whole, where hiring them would mean hiring them away from a current employer.

• A research as product business that would seek to cost-effectively carry out a wide range of types of client-facing research, is going to have to be correspondingly large so as to make that realistically possible for them.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address issues of both economies and flexibility of scale. Then after delving into those and some related issues, completing my discussion of the two above here-repeated questions that I have been working on in recent installments to this series, I will turn back to the to-address topics list that I initially offered in Part 17, to delve into the issues that I made note of there, that I have not already sufficiently covered since then.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Protecting individuality in the face of pressures toward corporate conformity

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 28, 2019

I have written about standardization in businesses in this blog, for about as long as I have addressed any set of issues here. And as a part of that ongoing narrative, I have taken a pro and con approach to it, and in a variety of contexts, including:

• Discussion of corporate cultures and how they arise and what they do, and
• Accommodating change and the unexpected while maintaining stable, predictable business systems that people can work within, in a coordinated manner, and more.

Simply stated, such standardization can both resolve problems and create them, depending on how it is conceived and carried through upon. And it can have such complex and at times mixed impact, at all levels of a table of organization from that of individual hand-on employees on up to the executive suite.

I find myself writing about this complex and varied set of issues again here too, as I think back to my own workplace experience, where I have seen how conformity in approach and outlook and even in non-work related behavior can become imposed from more immediate peer pressure, or from above on the table of organization, or from some combination of such forces.

I just began this note, discussing what might legitimately be considered work performance issues, and certainly with my above-offered bullet pointed examples. And I did so with a focus on what is done that defines what a business is as a separate and distinct entity, and that shapes what it does and both tactically and on a day to day basis, and strategically and long-term. And then I conflated that in what followed, with what can become a submergence of individuality on the part of the people involved in all of this. And I really begin this discussion with that dichotomy acknowledged, by noting that none of what I would or could write of here, can be considered as a simple good versus bad, binary choice matter per se.

Let’s consider the issues that I would focus on here in less abstract terms, by considering a fairly common type of workplace example. How we dress as individuals is in large part a matter of individual taste and I have to add individual needs. A woman might, for example prefer to wear a head covering indoors for religious or other cultural reasons and a man might insist on wearing garb that would cover a condition such as psoriasis. Or they might just individually prefer to dress in a certain way. But a corporate-defined and peer pressure enforced dress code can in fact become an important part of a business and its public face and image, and certainly when brought to bear on employees who meet with customers and clients, supply chain partner employees, or other outside stakeholders and as a core aspect of their basic job responsibilities. Dress code as a standardized norm can become part of a business’ basic image and brand and whether that means wearing company uniforms with standardized logos, or wearing a specific type of suit when meeting with clients.

• But such conformity can slip into gray areas and even into areas of an affected employee’s life that are not actually job-related at all.

And I find myself thinking about how “work-related” and what that even means in this type of context is shifting too, as I offer this note, and certainly as we increasingly live in an always-connected world and as “at work” and not, continue to blur.

And with that noted, I complicate matters by citing a source of fundamental disruptive change where the nature and meaning of “employee” is shifting – in this case and as discussed here by the increasing ubiquity of at least specialized artificial intelligence agents. And to put a face on that, I would cite businesses such as Amazon that have, in that case in point example, been at the forefront of automating warehouse and related supply and logistics work. I cite businesses that are increasingly challenging an equivalency that has always traditionally been presumed, of human and employee.

But to be clear here, I am not writing about robotic employees here; I am writing about businesses that see cost-savings and other values in enforcing what amounts to robotic behavior on their biologically human employees too.

Some of the largest businesses of today are already in effect pushing their hands-on employees towards what amounts to drone-like high speed work performance uniformity – and of an essentially robot-like nature. And I cite this looking forward, as I see a real potential for more businesses and types of businesses to pursue a same course of decision and action, and particularly as it becomes more and more possible and less and less costly (at least monetarily) for a business to track its employee’s every move, knowing precisely where they are at all times, what they are doing and how long that takes. Think of this as an at least potential dystopian version 2.0 variation, on the at least occasional egregious earlier generation misuse of time and motion studies as a means of improving factory efficiencies on their production floors, as carried out by some of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s early followers, where employees of today can be tracked to the second in time and the square foot in space on everything, including how long they take for bathroom breaks.

Ultimately, businesses do need a measure of standardization and yes, of conformity too. This certainly holds true when it comes to using and adhering to standardized business processes so that any work that involves more than just single employees can proceed smoothly and through all task completion dependencies, resource sharing hand-offs and other interpersonal interaction requirements. And businesses do need to be efficient in their use of resources: their employee’s time and effort definitely included in that. And a “we’re on the same team” quality of corporate cultures can offer positive value too, and certainly as a motivator of shared, coordinated effort and as a motivator of buy-in too. But at the same time, we are all individual people. And I stress the word “individual” here as holding very significant importance.

Wirelessly real-time connected, and its all but inevitable consequence of wireless real-time tracked, can at least in principle create real positive value. And as a perhaps cartoonishly idealized goal there, consider the role that this can at least potentially hold in creating a leaner and more agile business that is freer from the communications and information sharing challenges of business systems friction than could ever be realized without this technology-based boost. I am not trying to argue a case that a genuinely, fully frictionless business can ever be achieved, but modern and still-advancing technologies are making to possible to approach that goal more closely than has ever been possible before. But even as I acknowledge that possibility, I have to step back to consider possible misuses of this too, and their consequences.

Factories have offered significant amounts of what is essentially mindlessly repetitive, rote work, for essentially as long as there have been factories at all. So the robotization of workers is nothing new. And to emphasize that, I point out that the word robot itself comes from a Czech word, robota, that means forced labor. And the precise word robot itself, comes from Karel Čapek‘s play R.U.R. (which stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti), or Rossum’s Universal Robots in English. That places the origin of this word to 1920 and even then, Čapek was picking up on and expressing an already commonly understood source of concern and for many.

I conclude this note by posing a comment and question that this narrative has been leading to:

• We live and work at a time of fundamental, disruptive change and both in what can be done and in what would normatively be expected as being doable. And in many respects we are still at a beginning for fundamental change to come, and to change that will come in the next decades. And that means this is when we as a society can collectively decide how these fundamentally new and disruptive technologies will be developed, and how they will be used.
• What do we value and how can be preserve, advance or create that as needed, as we move forward in all of this?

You can find this and related material in several places in this blog. I include this posting in my Business Strategy and Operations directory (see its Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4 and Page 5.) And you can also find related material in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 17

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 21, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I began working my way through a briefly stated to-address topics list in Part 12 that I repeat here for its last two entries for smoother continuity of narrative, as I continue addressing their issues, and those of the second of them in particular:

2. Begin that (nota bene: a discussion of basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation) with a focus on the human-to-human communications and information sharing context (see Part 14 and Part 15.)
3. Then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges that we will all come to face as artificial agents develop into the gray area of artificial intelligence capability that I made note of earlier in this series (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility here, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I began to explicitly discuss the issues and challenges raised by the above Point 3 in Part 16, there focusing on acceptance of the Different, and on pushback against that as it arises too. And in the course of raising that complex of issues, I posed a series of open questions that I left to the reader to mull over – as we will all have to and certainly as the gray area artificial intelligence agents that I have been writing of here, become realities that we cannot ignore for their commonality or their impact. And we will see and have to deal with and have to live with: coexist with gray area artificial intelligence agents before we have to deal with artificial intelligence agents that so palpably demonstrate true artificial general intelligence that we cannot ignore their claims to personhood without falling into the self-defeating trap of overt bigotry. So I focus on them, as it is in our dealings with the gray area agents where we will have to rethink and even redefine what words like “person” even mean. It is our experience with them that will shape our learning curves for this, and compel us to pursue them.

I wrote at the end of Part 16 of what might be considered pure Point 2, human-to-human scenarios, and pure Point 3 human-to-artificial intelligence agent scenarios. And I also raised the possibility of gray areas developing between them too, with the development of artificial replacement parts that would be connected into human brains to correct for damage or loss or for augmentative purposes. We are still so early in this, that no one yet can even begin to imagine the range of possibilities that can and will be pursued and realized there. But I am going to step back from that more speculative area of consideration, at least for now, to bring this discussion back to our current here-and-now. And I do so by raising the issues of how our current generation artificial intelligence agents are being responded to now, and how their presence is coming to reshape our human-to-human, Point 2 realities as well.

Let’s start this line of discussion by considering the so widely used talking and connecting agents that have become basic and even seemingly essential elements to our day-to-day lives and for an ever-increasing proportion of humanity: our increasingly ubiquitous virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. And my area of focus here, when considering them is not in what they can do – it is in how we change our behavior and reshape our expectations when using them, to bypass or mask their limitations as we seek to communicate with them as if they were more generally intelligent than they actually are.

I have held up the possibility of open-ended natural conversation as a quintessential artificial general intelligence agent goal in this blog and have discussed that challenge in a certain amount of detail and in several series of postings here. Current virtual assistants do not come close to meeting that type of benchmark goal. So people: human people who make use of these agents quickly learn to speak in the very particularly stilted and limited way that such agent can “understand” now, fitting into their expert systems database-stored conversational patterns that they can act upon as they receive questions or requests.

• Current virtual assistants are at best just still relatively low-end gray area artificial intelligence agents insofar as no one would realistically consider them as displaying anything like general intelligence and even just of a low intelligence quota (IQ) form.
• But those same people go to great lengths to in effect reshape themselves to confirm to the limitations of these systems, so they can pretend(?) they are smarter and more generally so than they actually are.
• I used the word plus caveat “pretend(?)” there with reservations as I am not sure what phrasing would be best for describing this phenomenon. I simply add here that that is only one wording possibility of many that are probably all at least somewhat valid and certainly situationally. Think of that as at least anecdotally supporting evidence of at least my acknowledgment of the nuanced uncertainties with which people, myself included, face when confronting and dealing with the not-this, not-that of the artificial intelligence agents that we see around us now.

Setting that aside and focusing on how the behavior and the limitations of these agents shape our behavior, I explicitly state the obvious:

• We change ourselves in our effort to help our current more limited artificial intelligence agents to function for us as if smarter, and certainly if they attempt to converse with us.

Now let’s consider this reshaping from a different direction. And for that I turn to consider efforts to improve and optimize the industrial shop floor and certainly where manual and repetitive labor are concerned, by requiring that people working there behave more like machines – more like artificial specialized intelligence agents that have been or could be developed to carry out those same specific tasks.

Amazon has come under particular fire for this, and with news stories coming out seemingly globally about their emerging business practices there. See, for example:

I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots and
Inside an Amazon Warehouse, Robots’ Ways Rub Off on Humans.

But Amazon does not hold a monopoly on this. See, for example:

As Workers Are Increasingly Treated Like Robots Where Will The Breaking Point Be?

And this leads me back to the issues of pushback that I raised as a point of consideration and concern in Part 16, and certainly when coupled with the way that more and more low skill and repetitive tasks that can be encompassed in a set algorithm are being turned over to robotic agents and taken out of human employee hands and both locally within single businesses and globally across entire industries.

• Think of the robotization of low skill and repetitive labor human employees, as an unstable, unsustainable first step towards the robotization of those jobs with their being turned over to artificial specialized intelligence agents and the robotic machinery they run.

And with that, I complete a process of presenting this narrative from a perspective that is more likely to lead to lose-lose results than any other that I can think of – from positing all of this as it would actually play out in zero-sum, complete win or complete lose terms, to phrase this in game theory terms, where either humans in effect dehumanize themselves at least in part so as to be able to accommodate the limitations of their emerging artificial intelligence tools, or they find themselves in a winner take all contest with an opponent who can evolve and adapt so quickly and so fully, and certainly when compared to the pace of biological evolution and more normative cultural change, so as to ensure an eventual human loss.

I developed Part 16 of this series, around a morally and ethically grounded principle, that might in the long run also qualify as a best path forward, survival and success strategy too, and for all involved:

• An inclusively democratic principle of presumed value and significance in all people, and with an openness to accepting Different from others as a realization of that principle, is a fundamental goal that humans and human societies can and too often do find difficult to achieve, and even when significant effort is made to do so.
• And it is going to be necessary to both rethink and expand upon all of the assumptions and decisions that we could or would make in achieving that principle, as the emergence of new forms of intelligence and of personhood arise.
• That emergence will, of necessity mean revisiting issues and even basic understandings where this principle has already been realized in practice, as those understandings have to be stretched and reframed in new, larger contexts.
• And to at least selectively expand upon that point, from what I offered in it in Part 16, this more expansive reconsideration and reframing will of necessity have to include a more expansive revision of the first of these bullet points too, that is not just drafted in anthropocentric terms. As soon as artificial intelligence agents begin to gain cognitive capabilities that even just significantly begin to approach general intelligence, they will face the same issues, uncertainties and challenges that are expressed in that point too and both as they have to coexist and live with each other and as they have to do so with human people.

We have to find ways to reframe all of the issues that we face and that we will come to face in this, in win-win terms, and in ways that would benefit all involved parties: our emerging artificial intelligence agents included, and certainly as they develop levels of information processing capability and reasoning power, as to qualify as having genuine intelligence (and even just deep-end gray area intelligence there.) And we certainly need to at least substantially start developing this new vision and approach by the time that genuine fully capable artificial general intelligent agents start arriving on the scene.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment. And then after more fully exploring the of-necessity changing issues of what personhood and intelligence mean, and how we should approach all of this societally, I will turn to apply that understanding to a business setting and to communications and information sharing contexts as arise in that context.

And with that offered in anticipation of discussion to come in this series, I close this posting by at least briefly turning back to the add-on text that I have appended to the end of the above-repeated topics Point 3, and every time I have offered it.

• Businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate.

A complex of pressures arising from many directions will force this on businesses and from early on, and with those pressures coming from as diverse a range of sources as legal mandates to protect sensitive personally identifiable customer information, and civil rights concerns. I will of necessity delve into this complex of issues too, in the course of developing that line of discussion.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 31

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 15, 2019

This is my 31st posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, Page 4 and their Page 5 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-30.)

I have been discussing a set of three closely interrelated topics points since Part 19, beginning with a brief and selective discussion of two specific businesses and their business models, that I have offered as sources of specific application here (and with my initial discussion of them going back to Part 17.)

My goal for offering them here, and certainly since Part 19 has been to take my discussion of the last two of those topic points under consideration here, at least somewhat out of the abstract. See Part 17 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses. And with their descriptions and at-least preliminary analyses noted, the last two topics points under consideration from Part 19 on to here, address the issues and questions of:

2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here in this series as a whole, would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature (see Part 22 through Part 27.)
3. And how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how (see Part 28 and Part 29.)

I am in fact going to discuss the above-repeated Point 3 and its issues in greater detail here, continuing my more general line of discussion as I have been offering it. But I will do so in more specific terms too, starting with a reconsideration of the two businesses that I began this overall discussion thread with, each with their own particular business models and business plans in place as anchoring points for their development, and for their ongoing business execution if nothing else. And with that noted, I reintroduce:

• Alpha Hardware: A hardware store that went through a more fundamental transitional change as it came to outgrow its original single storefront and its space restrictions there, to become a two storefront business with a more specialized Alpha Hardware and an Alpha Home Goods, and
• The e-Maverick Group: A cutting edge technology offering, business-to-business oriented software development company.

I have written on a number of occasions here in this blog, about franchise systems, with new same-branded outlets developed and run by franchise rights-buying entrepreneurs, and with all such outlets built and maintained according to a within-overall business, standardized, templated pattern. Think of Alpha Hardware are representing an example of what is essentially a diametrically opposed vision to that, as an overall business model example. Franchise systems expand out by same-pattern replication, and with an at least idealized goal of offering so similar an experience for their customers who walk in through their doors, that as far as they are concerned, they could be walking into any of that system’s outlets. Alpha has chosen to expand in overall business scale and in market reach through specialization, where its outlet storefronts each offer definitively unique customer experiences, and where each of those storefronts addresses and meets very different sets of consumer needs and interests.

Let’s consider these two basic business approaches first. Then after offering an at least initial reconsideration of them, side by side, I will add a corresponding reconsideration of the e-Maverick Group to this mix too, in order to parse my analysis of business communications and execution issues as raised here, in a different way: in a fundamentally distinct but nevertheless complementary second direction. And I will focus in all of this, at least as a starting point for how I develop this set of business analyses, on a continuation of the more explicitly business-to-business, supply chain oriented approach that I offered here in Part 30.

Let’s start with consideration of what might be considered a stereotypic franchise system, as a baseline for thinking about and understanding what Alpha Hardware is doing and why. And let’s start that by considering what business-to-business means in this context, as that term in fact means at least two very distinct, but simultaneously similar things.

• Brand owning, franchise system parent companies sometimes keep individual outlets in their systems, in-house and under more direct management by full time managers who are, and who remain members of their own in-house staff. But the basic pattern here has these businesses selling rights to the use of their brands and their support systems, to entrepreneurs who are and who remain more self-employed than employee. And when those managers reach out to and deal with the parent company that they have bought franchise rights from here, they are entering into what can only be considered a business-to-business relationship with them, and for essentially all transactions involved.
• What I write of here is in fact an example of a very special type of business-to-business relationship given the relationships in place between franchise-owning company and individual franchise outlet, and between the decision making leadership of those parent companies and the individual franchise holders who enter into contractual agreements with them. And this only begins with the power asymmetries and the decision making asymmetries that are fundamental to such systems and to the business-to-business relationships that take place with them.
• In this regard, the relationship between a satellite specialist business outlet in an Alpha Hardware type of business, with its own evolved business model, would be much more in-house in nature and would in most cases be that much less business-to-business per se, and certainly as that term is more conventionally used. But even there, a more hands-off overall business leadership that gives its local outlet managers more autonomy, and their executive level leadership approach towards working with these managers, might lead to what amounts to the same thing: de facto business-to-business relationships and transactions, even if at least potentially under terms that a franchise holder might see as being more flexible and accommodating than they themselves experience. The nature of individualized outlet specialization, after all, would change and even fundamentally reduce adherence to at least a comprehensively consistent overall business branding, as a case in point example of where flexibility could enter this narrative, with that allowing room for local-oriented individualization in specialized store branding within a set overall “big picture” standardized framework.
• Think of those as “internal” or “internal-like” business-to-business relationships. But all of these ventures, and all of these perhaps geographically dispersed outlets in them, would also have to enter into and participate in more externally connecting, standard business-to-business relationships too, and with suppliers and third party service providers if nothing else.
• Who would be involved there? Consider a fast food franchise as a working example, though the same principles that I will raise and at least briefly discuss here, in terms of this example, would apply more widely and to other types of business too. Setting aside the issue of what of this would be managed and decided upon by the parent company and what of it would be so determined by the local franchise holder, if a storefront makes and sells sandwiches, it is going to have to have access to supplies of all of the ingredients that would go into them, from fresh meat, fish or poultry if it uses them, to fresh produce, to the bread, wraps or rolls it uses. And it will need correspondingly reliable sources of supply for condiments and other longer-shelf-life ingredients, and for napkins and dining utensils (disposable forks, spoons, knives, etc.) And this up to here primarily just considers their sandwich offerings themselves, and not the beverages they would serve with them. And I could continue expanding out this list to include issues such as the supplies that they would need in order to maintain their storefront and keep it neat and clean, and in compliance with local and more regional health code laws among other requirements. And this is still only a partial list here of what would actually be needed.
• For services and service providers here, consider their water and electric utilities and internet access and more. My point here is that most businesses enter into wide ranging sets of outside-connecting business-to-business collaborations, and in order to function at all, let alone function profitably.

Let’s consider this from the perspective of the two types of business-to-business relationships that I have been addressing here: “internal” or at least internal-like, and more traditionally considered externally connecting. And I begin that by proposing a rule of thumb, as opposed to a more widely applicable axiomatic assumption:

• The total number of, and financial-impact scale of business-to-business transactional activities that any outlet, and of either a franchise system type or of an Alpha Hardware type is going have to enter into and recurringly so, is going to be essentially fixed at any given time. Standardized needs and their purchased fulfillment are going to be set. True, this overall level of resource securing transactional business might shift seasonally or according to other patterns, but at any given time it is going to be determinable and subject to explicit and in most cases reliable planning.
• And one way of looking at franchise outlets and at more in-house ones as exemplified by the Alpha Hardware storefronts, is in where the balance is, for who manages and effectively owns these business-to-business relationships and who gets to both select and contractually shape them, from their side of the negotiating table.

I have already at least partly addressed this set of issues from how I outlined the basic franchise system outlet versus Alpha Hardware outlet example that I have touched upon here. That noted, the balance that I write of there, in this conservation law-like emulation, depends on more than just the nominal independence or lack thereof, of at least pro forma authority that might be envisioned within these two business types. I am going to raise and at least briefly address some of the complexities that arise there, in the next installment to this series, where I will discuss conformity and autonomy, and pushback and pressures to limit or at least control it. And I will add discussion of the e-Maverick Group to that line of discussion too, where I will add in a discussion of some of the complexities of change in the business-to-business relationships that I write of here, and how that would affect all of this.

Then and with that in place, I will more systematically reconsider and expand upon the issues that I have touched upon in the contexts of the above-repeated Points 2 and 3 and with a particular emphasis there on Point 3. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

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