Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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 other two 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 other 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 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. 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, and even 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 only 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 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, would add to 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.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 34: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 24

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 12, 2019

This is my 34th installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been working my way through a to-address list of closely interrelated topic points since Part 28 that I repeat as a whole here, for smoother continuity of narrative and for greater clarity as to what, overall, I am addressing here:

1. Reserves as a cost because they represent assets and in fact liquid assets that cannot be turned to and used, except in what might be more emergency situations – and the need for larger reserves as risk increases: a situation that arises when facing real novelty, and unknowns and unexpecteds as would be found in true transitions.
2. Changes in goals and in scope of action, and in the level of detail of processes under consideration that have to be monitored, and how that overall form of course correction can be intentionally proactively sought out and developed, and how it can be reactively forced upon a business and its leadership.
3. And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: consider scope creep and scope expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals reduced …
4. With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
5. I added that I would discuss these issues at least in part in terms of goals and priorities collisions, where more strictly cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals can all come into conflict and even direct collision with each other. And my goal there is to at least begin to offer some approaches for both better understanding these scenarios and their dynamics, and better addressing and resolving them. And then after addressing all of that, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

I have already discussed the above-repeated Points 1-3 in a relatively significant level of detail And I have offered at least preliminary, orienting comments on Points 4 and 5 too, with that narrative thread leading up to a Point 4-oriented discussion of business models actually in place, as based on actual current business goals, priorities and practices followed – where all of these points of action and of assumption can come to differ from what was assumed and planned for in any original business plan, and even if that vision is still officially, at least supposedly being followed.

I developed that line of argument around a specific case study example: ClarkBuilt Inc., and how it came to change with time, and even as it most actively sought to remain true to its founders’ original shared vision. See Part 33 for that. There, and with that case study in mind, I note here that even proactive planning and preparation, as carried out in an at least relatively systematic manner, can lead to skewed results and even systematically skewed ones. And reactive, under those circumstances, that is not grounded as if by force in what might be faulty and conflicted long-held assumptions, might be better – from its focus on the immediate here-and-now and on what that business actually does in its ongoing day-to-day practice.

And this brings me directly to the above-repeated Point 5 and the issues of stakeholder goals, priorities and understandings as touched upon there, and on how they can differ and even fundamentally so, and even if they start out seemingly the same. And addressing that is my primary goal in this posting.

I will continue my ClarkBuilt narrative as a working example of the issues raised in that topics point, and of how they can arise and play out. And I will raise and at least briefly discuss some specific more general principles that this continued specific-case analysis would suggest, at least anecdotally, for their explanatory and predictive fit there, after this continuation of that example.

• I have written at least in brief orienting terms that ClarkBuilt Inc. was founded by two brothers, who together had developed an innovative new form of injection molding as a novel new parts manufacturing technology.
• Bob and Henry planned out and built this venture as coequals and both for their levels of equity held and for their voices in the building and running of this company. And then the changes that I made note of in Part 33 arose and took place. And this all happened over a period of years, as a succession of individually seemingly more minor adjustments and with all of that happening as a result of decisions made and actions taken within the business and as a response to outside-sourced changes and the pressures that they exerted (e.g. shifts in market needs and demands as expressed by their immediate business-to-business customers, and in what their competitors have been doing.)
• Bob still sees this company first and foremost as a product manufacturer, and he sees vindication of that view from how ClarkBuilt has adjusted and evolved, but with a goal of keeping its production lines busy and profitable and as technologically cutting edge as possible. His long-term focus is on their special technologies in place and on profitably making use of them, as a best way to continuing this.
• His brother Henry started out with more of a product design focus in his thinking about their business and what makes it successful. What is possible there, is a direct consequence of the injection molding technologies and techniques that he and his brother and their business have championed and developed. But his focus is and has always been on the end results of what those technologies and their application can do, and on what they can ship out the door that would set them apart from and ahead of their competitors and their offerings.
• Bob sees ClarkBuilt as remaining fundamentally true to their original business model and plan. And he sees that adherence to their company’s original vision as an all but axiomatic given.
• Henry, on the other hand has come to see a fundamental need for their business to change from that and particularly as newer competitors have entered the picture, that have already begun to actively take from their market share for their more low-end product types. He sees that marketplace erosion expanding, and particularly from the activities of competing businesses that can and will outsource their production to countries that can more drastically limit their personnel-related costs through lower wages and the imposition of reduced or even essentially nonexistent employee benefits. Henry sees a need to focus entirely on their more high-end products as a short-term and mid-range option. But ultimately, long-term he sees a likely need for them to switch from being a direct manufacturer themselves, to their becoming more of a design shop where their brand and its value would drive their business.

Let’s consider the above-repeated Point 5 in light of this example, and with one further detail explicitly made note of:

• Bob and Henry are brothers, and they and their immediate families are close. They socialize together, celebrating the major holidays as a combined larger overall family. And they like working together and have generally been able to make that work and very smoothly, day-to-day. And one consequence of this is that the sometimes very real differences that separate them at work, tend to be brushed aside: minimized or ignored or set aside until some unspecified future date.

And given their fundamental differences as to what this business actually is and where it is headed, and even just at a fundamental business model, and an active ongoing business plan level, that has meant their downplaying what with time, have become specific differences for all of the case-in-point functional areas and considerations that I noted in Point 5: cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals.

• Bob and Henry obviously see at least long-term risk and benefits issues differently as Bob sees their business basically staying as-is, as its best possible path forward, while Henry sees a growing need to embrace more fundamental change as a long term requirement. They mostly gloss this over by focusing on the more here-and-now and on short time frame issues and their resolution, which means that longer-term they are more reactive than strategic in their thinking and action.
• Their basic business plan assumptions and presumptions and their differences there, should be fairly clear, as this discussion with its case in point example has focused on that set of issues.
• And all of those differences have cash flow and finances implications. And with time these differences that I have just written of here, that have arisen between Bob and Henry in their thinking, are certain to lead to differences in how they, as leaders of this business would identify their priorities, and executed upon them.

Cognitive dissonance can bring single individuals to see, understand and champion differing and even conflicting views of the types of operational issues that I raise here, within the scope of their own reasoning. But difficulty in facing, and even acknowledging, let alone resolving such differences can lead to their becoming virtual walls between stakeholders too, and even the most powerfully placed of them and the most influentially connected of them in a business.

I have been raising and at least briefly discussing the challenges of Point 5 here. I will continue that discussion in a next installment where I will at least begin to address the question of how these types of differences might be resolved. In anticipation of that discussion to come, I add that I will return to reconsider and add to my ClarkBuilt case study example for that too. And then as promised above, I will shift from that case in point example to consider some of the more general lessons-learnable principles that it raises. Then after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

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.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 20

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 3, 2019

This is my 20th 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 1-19.)

I have been discussing the issues of what innovation is, and how a change would be identified as being cosmetic or more significant in nature, since Part 16 of this series. And as a core element of that narrative I have been discussing both acceptance of new and of innovation, and pushback and resistance to it, and certainly as members of differing readily definable demographics would make their own determinations here and take their own actions. On the resistance side of this, that has meant by discussing two fundamentally distinctive sources of 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 begin this continuation of that discussion thread by briefly repeating two points that I laid out and at least briefly began to develop in Part 19 that will prove of significance here too:

• The standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve and a given marketplace participant’s position on it tends to be more determined by how consumers and potential consumers see New and Different as impacting upon themselves and their immediate families, insofar as they look beyond themselves there to making their purchase and use decisions.
• But global flattening (here viewable as being analogous to pioneer and early acceptance in the above), and global wrinkling (that can be seen as a rough counterpart to late and last adaptors and their responses and actions), are more overall-community and societally based and certainly as buy-in or reject decisions are made.

And social networking can play a role in both, and both in framing how individuals would see and understand an innovation change that confronts them, and in how members of larger communities would see it where that perspective would hold defining sway.

I stated at the end of Part 19 that I would focus here, more on global flattening and wrinkling than on standard innovation diffusion curve dynamics and I will, though more fully addressing the first of those dynamics will of necessity require at least commenting on the second of them too. And with that in mind, and with a flattening versus wrinkling possibility in more specific focus here, I repeat one more organizing point that I will build from in this posting:

• Change and innovation per se, can be disruptive and for both the perceived positives and negatives that that can bring with it. And when a sufficiently high percentage of an overall population primarily see positive, or at worst neutral there, flattening is at least going to be more possible and certainly as a “natural” path forward. But if a tipping point level of overall negative impact-perceived response arises, then the acceptance or resistance pressures that arise will favor wrinkling and that will become a societally significant force and it will represent a significant part of the overall voice for those peoples too.

Unless it is imposed from above, as for example through government embargo and nationalism-based threat, global wrinkling is a product of social networking. And so is the perception of threat of New that it can engender, mainstream and even bring to de facto axiomatic stature across communities. And this brings me directly to the issues and questions of Who and of agendas, that I said at the end of Part 19, that I would at least begin to address here.

Let’s begin by considering the players, and possible players in this, starting with the networking strategies and networker types (as determined by what strategies they use there), that I initially offered in my posting: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.

I began that posting by classifying basic responses to networking opportunities as fitting into four categories:

• Active networkers – people who are seeking to expand their connections reach and really connect with their contacts to exchange value.
• Passive networkers – people who may or may not be looking to expand their networkers and who primarily wait for others to reach out to connect with them.
• Selective networkers – people who are resistant to networking online with anyone who they are not already actively connected with and networking with by other means.
• Inactive networks – people who may very well lean towards selective networking as defined above or tend to be passive networkers when working on their networks but who are not doing so, at least now.

For purposes of this discussion, I set aside the fourth of those groups: inactive networkers as people who are not likely to be strongly influenced by community sourced pressures towards either global flattening and buying into New, or global wrinkling and messages favoring resistance to New – and certainly if those messages come from strangers. Selective networkers who do in fact connect with and more actively communicate with people who they already know and respect, might be significantly influenced one way or the other if their current contacts bring them into this. And the same holds for passive networkers. And with all of this noted, I would argue that it is the active networkers in a community who drive change, and both for its acceptance or rejection.

Looking to those active networkers, I divided the more actively engaged among them into a further set of groups depending on their particular networking strategies followed:

• Hub networkers – people who are well known and connected at the hub of a specific community with its demographics and its ongoing voice and activities.
• Boundary networkers or demographic connectors – people who may or may not be hub networkers but who are actively involved in two or more distinct communities and who can help people connect across the boundaries to join new communities.
• Boundaryless networkers (sometimes called promiscuous networkers) – people who network far and wide, and without regard to community boundaries. These are the people who can seemingly always help you find and connect with someone who has unusual or unique skills, knowledge, experience or perspective and even on the most obscure issues and in the most arcane areas. And for purposes of this line of discussion, these are the people who can and do bring otherwise outliers into larger community discussions and in ways that can spread emerging shared opinions too.

The important point here, is that people have to widely connect to influence, and if not through one directional message broadcasting, then through more two and multi-directional conversation. That does not mean that any and every hub, boundary, or boundaryless networker is widely influential and opinion shaping: only that those who are more widely influential are also usually widely connected in one way or other too. And this is where agendas enter this narrative. Who is so connected? And what if anything are their agendas that would lead them to seek to shape public opinion, and certainly on matters of community response to change and its possibilities?

• Pushback and resistance and the global wrinkling that it would promote, more generally come from those who seek to preserve a status quo, or to restore what to them is a lost but not forgotten, perhaps idealized order.
• Open acceptance and the global flattening that it would promote, come from those who see greater promise in moving past the current and former realities that they see evidence of around themselves. And this is driven by a desire to join in and to move beyond the perhaps marginalizing impact of separation and even parochial isolation that wrinkling can lead to, and a desire to not be left behind as others advance into New and into new opportunities around them.

I offer this as a cartoonishly oversimplified stereotypical representation, but ultimate all join-and-engage moves towards global flattening and all reactive pushback to that, are driven by readily shared simplifications: all such movements become encapsulated in and bounded by slogans and related simplifying and even simplistic shorthand.

To add one more crucially important factor into this narrative here:

• Pushback and resistance to change and to New and certainly to foreign-sourced new, come for the most part from those who face pressures to change and adapt in the face of that New, where their judgments on this are driven by their fears of the foreign and of the different.
• But pressures towards global flattening can and generally do come from multiple directions, with the communities that face this New only serving as one source of that. Equally large and impactful pressures can come from the original sources of the New that is in play there, and that they might be very actively seeking new markets for. And the active networkers and the engaged broadcast format information sharing channels that they use in their promotion of open markets and global flattening can be very important here too.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, where I will more directly and fully discuss business stakeholders as just touched on there, as change accepting and even change embracing advocates. And I will discuss the roles of reputation and history in all of that. 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 – 44: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 24

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 10, 2019

This is my 44th 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 1-43.) 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.)

I initially focused on those business development models themselves, with a goal of fleshing them out with the types and levels of detail needed for purposes of this series and this portion of it. Then I continued discussing and analyzing them as working examples of how a business’ founders and managers would more likely address a specific set of business performance requirements that they would face when working to make their specific enterprises succeed:

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.

I have already at least touched upon all three of these functional processes and the goals they would be directed towards achieving, since Part 39 and leading up to this posting, focusing on Points A and B in those five series installments. My goal here is to continue this line of discussion by focusing in at least some detail on the above Point C, turning back to reconsider Points A and B in its context as needed. And in that:

• Think of Points A and B as addressing the issues of what a business does and how, and Point C as addressing how that business presents the fruits of that combined effort to the world.

And with that noted and my above-repeated business development models in mind, I begin to more formally address Point C and its issues by posing a set of three basic if essential 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?
• 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?

Interaction and two-way communications, of necessity, enter into all of these questions and into how they would be understood operationally, and addressed. And I begin considering the first of these questions with that in mind, by noting that the constituencies and potential constituencies that it cites, fit into at least two fundamentally important, distinct groups: at least potentially business and business model-supportive stakeholders, and outwardly-connected and response-connecting marketplace participants.

The first of those groups are effectively defined by the business development strategy that is being attempted if not already actively pursued, and certainly for purposes of this discussion with its topical focus. And to take that out of the abstract, let’s begin by considering my above-offered:

Development Scenario 1 (the would-be IPO business): Any business that would go IPO has to be prepared to secure the positive support and recommendation of a set of potential high level investors and investment influencers, as key early participants. And I begin discussing that by noting those influencers: stock market analysts and particularly those with real followings. They more generally do not any put any of their own personal financial skin in this game as they make their investment recommendations; they do not generally run out and buy shares in the companies that they positively recommend, as most respectable stock market analysts would see their own investment in a business that they have just recommended others to buy, as representing a conflict of interest challenge that they would rather do without. But they do offer more immediate business valuation and longer-term value-prospects analyses that others would and in fact do pay close attention to. And their analyses and reviews can go a long way in establishing the price per share that an IPO would at least initially go for, with the aggregate total valuation as determined from that for all shares offered, serving as a benchmark valuation of the business as a whole, at least for that day.

For an explicitly investor example, I would cite larger institutional investors and aggregated publically traded funds managers, and particularly those who seek out new ventures to add to their funds’ portfolios. Early adaptors can be crucially important there, and word of mouth, viral marketing is important there too where large numbers of individually smaller investors can play a determinative role in how an IPO roll-out proceeds and for what comes of it as an initial public evaluation of a new business and its overall value.

I have only touched upon a few of the business development-oriented stakeholder categories here, that an IPO-facing new venture is going to have to successfully reach out to if its IPO is to really succeed for it. But this should suffice at least for here in this phase of this overall line of discussion. Bottom line, all of the stakeholders types that I have even just briefly made note of here, as well as others that I could have delved into, are going to be looking for secure places that they can invest portions of their available liquid capital in, and with at least reasonable prospects for gaining positive returns on investment from their buying into this new business. And this brings me directly to the market-facing side of my Who-oriented first due diligence question as offered above, and the importance of coordinately marketing to that group of stakeholders too: purchasing consumers and end users.

That last statement could very reasonably be seen as my opening a door to a more general discussion of marketing per se and at all levels. But for purposes of this narrative, I would focus on how early marketplace outreach from a new venture, and early market-sourced response back to it, can and does fundamentally shape how potential business development-oriented stakeholders as just discussed, respond to a new business investment opportunity, or even if they do so at all.

Investors and investment influencers look for new businesses that have a real potential for success in their markets. Let me stress that point by noting that I am not necessarily saying that they look for already-achieved marketplace success and certainly at the level of revenue flows already achieved and profits reaped. Google, famously all but took over the search engine side to the online experience and for huge widespread demographics of internet users, before they really determined how best to monetize this reach and influence as a realized flow of profits and overall fiscal strength. But their early success at becoming the leading search engine, and globally, brought them tremendous cash infusions and positive marketing spin from day one of their first day of trading as a new IPO.

• Market impact and marketplace success drive investor decision making.
• And certainly in an IPO context, where vast amounts of liquidity as capital investment funds are at stake, visible success in securing the backing of investors can only serve but to enhance and strengthen marketplace position too, and for what that can say about rapid growth potential if nothing else.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider my second, venture capital-backed business development scenario, from the perspective of this same Who question. Then after completing that, and continuing on to address the third above-repeated scenario as well in light of that same question, I will address the remaining two questions that this Who question came with, in a similar scenario-by-scenario manner.

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.

Which shapes which: a business or its tools?: a few thoughts on how businesses are run and on how to better evaluate that

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 8, 2019

There are a number of at least contextually relevant ways to view and understand businesses, and I have noted and at least briefly discussed a succession of them in the process of writing and assembling this blog. Much of that ongoing flow of discussion and analysis has centered at least loosely on what a business does in meeting the needs of larger communities that it enters into, and on how it would do this. I would at least loosely characterize those and similar representations as being externally framed and focused. And that general approach makes sense and offers value, and both for understanding businesses and how they have gotten to be the way they are, and for thinking through, how they plan and execute when moving forward from there.

Most businesses do, after all, succeed or fail in competitive contexts and in the contexts of the markets that they face, and that they would ultimately gain any income and profits from that they can realize. And when supply chain and other more collaborative business-to-business contexts are added in there, that only adds to the complexities of the externally framed representations that this basic approach would have to be able to address. And that wider inclusiveness and its descriptive and predictive value for business planning and execution further highlights the importance and relevance of taking an externally framed and focused approach here.

This briefly stated stakeholder defining description is still incomplete for the range of interactive, outwardly connecting relationships that it can include, for how it leaves out external stakeholders such as regulatory agencies, and the legal code that defines their activities, and the court decisions and other related interpretation-shaping agencies and forces that guide their functioning. And in an all but real-time interconnected online interactive context, this list is still far from complete. The full range of significantly involved participants and stakeholders here can come to seem all but open ended, and certainly in our increasingly interconnected businesses and markets world.

But my goal for this posting is to offer a thought piece that would be predicated on considering businesses from a different direction than that more usual one could provide. My goal here is to look at businesses, and at business models and their execution from a more entirely internal perspective, with a goal of focusing in on some specific types of issues, free of what at least initially for them might serve as masking clutter. And in anticipation of that discussion, I begin this posting and its narrative by explicitly stating a point that should seem obvious, and certainly when you look at how businesses are actually run, day-to-day and for essentially all routine contexts and situations – and I stress the word “routine” there. But at the same time, the point that I would raise here would also be downplayed or even denied if it were to be formally, directly stated.

• Yes, essentially every business: essentially every organization and regardless of type, has to connect with and function in larger contexts that it in fact exists in if it to function and certainly if it is to survive and thrive. It is those interactions that give it meaning and that sustain it if it is to continue on at all, and certainly long-term.
• But day-to-day and on a routine ongoing basis, a large share of all of the activity that takes place in any real world business, and even a vast majority of it, is carried out from an entirely in-house, within the business perspective and with a defining emphasis on how activities that are carried out there, fit together and support each other. I cite here, essentially all business activity that is explicitly organized around carrying out and completing tasks that begin for the people carrying them out, with input developed by colleagues there, and whose output from them would be handed on in a similar manner to still other in-house colleagues.
• And when that range of connecting vision with its strengths and its very real limitations too, comes to hold sway and for large amounts of the business as a whole and for the wrong areas of that business too, that can lead to that organization and its people working while in effect wearing what amount to sets of blinders, and even when just carrying out activities that would be considered more back-office and internal functioning in nature, for their direct performance.

Both basic perspectives: externally facing and connecting, and internally oriented and focused, are understandable. Externally oriented perspectives and thinking about businesses in such terms, can serve as a basis for analyzing and understanding businesses, and how they succeed or fail, and how and why, and both functional-area by functional-area, and as a whole. And this type of understanding can serve as a basis for both reactive and corrective measures and for proactive and forward facing next-step development too. But at the same time, most of the back-office and other internally facing work that is carried out, is both executed and performance benchmarked on short-term, quick turnaround time cycles and without any immediately visible, direct connections to outside stakeholders, except perhaps as arise in very specific types of highly structured transactions, that follow largely standardized patterns. And it can be easy to come to see all of this as from a strictly within-business perspective and certainly as its business process flows are shaped by within-house employees and their work.

• Think of that as representing an example of what might be called an inverted black box model and its application,
• Where all external context is reduced to more standardized and simplified ultimate input and output representations, with the details of where that input comes from are hidden, and the details of where that output goes to and for what, is similarly hidden.
• And all structural and functional analyses that are arrived, are developed in their detail from an entirely “inside the box” perspective, and with a focus on what happens there and how, and as carried out by whom.

Why do this? I write this brief note with a specific possible application for it, in mind. And I began writing this reason-framing part of this note, thinking back to a posting that I was surprised to realize, initially came out almost three years ago now:

When the Tool You Most Compelling Lack is a Hammer, Everything Can Begin to Look like Nails.

The driving force behind the new adage-like assertion that I based that posting on, and the driving force behind the older, more genuine adage that I developed it from as a point of contrast:

• That when the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like nails,

have at least one crucial point of detail in common. Both can and in most cases do come to hold true, when they do, in at least large part from a narrowing of vision and understanding of the possible and the necessary. And that situation often comes when it does in business settings, from a narrowing of the range and the scope and complexity of needs that are recognized and being responded to in that business, and from a narrowing of the range of stakeholders who are being taken into account for all of that, of those who actually enter into a business’ relevant ongoing activities there.

But my point of focus here in this posting is somewhat different than would be covered by this point of observation, as just stated. It is not the perception that is created and enabled by the tools that we do have at hand, or that we see ourselves as crucially lacking and that we critically need, that I would focus on here. It is not even on the cycles of need and of response that this type of awareness can create, where responses there include both actions taken and goals and priorities set, and ones set aside or overlooked. It is on thinking through and clearly seeing and understanding what is happening, and with a clear grounding in the essential details.

Specific tools and types of them that involved in this can have tremendously wide-ranging impact, so I have to stress that I am not discounting them in what I offer here. Business management tools that are brought in and used or not, to cite a crucially important categorical example there, can come to play a central role for planning and for managing business process execution, and certainly for their scope of impact and for how they affect a business as a whole. Those, very specifically, are the tools that enter into and act upon the business and its operations, and on its more one-off project oriented activities, and on distinguishing between them. They serve to define all of these business activities for their scopes and goals and they prioritize them and determine their legitimate acceptable and necessary budget limits. As such, they are the tools: the hammers if you will that have the most impact, and whether inappropriately overused and out of their effective contexts, or whether they are lacking and with inappropriate substitutes forced to fill in for them.

But even that does not really cover my intended topic here. My focus is in fact more on those externally, or alternatively those internally framed understandings of businesses as modeling and planning tools and as tools for tracking and evaluating performance too.

I briefly wrote about externally facing and connecting approaches to business planning and analysis towards the start of this note, and I turn here to consider their more entirely internally facing counterparts and by proposing what might seem a very contrarian perspective on them, and certainly given what I just wrote about hammers and their misuse. Much of what I have written here would suggest that I would actively discourage actually carrying out internal-only business reviews or evaluations. But I would cite here, at least one context where that type of analysis would offer real, genuinely positive value: when you and others on an executive team, or others who you work with there as a consultant, see evidence of the types of vision and understanding narrowings that I wrote of above.

• Under those circumstances, it can make sense to carry out precisely that type of evaluation as an exercise that would be matched to a more inclusive, externally connecting evaluation, to look for functionally significant consequential differences.

If you think that one or more key stakeholders, and particularly ones with real gatekeeper powers, have been taking too narrow a view of the business, carry out at least one form of both of these types of analyses to help identify the gaps in their data as gathered and their actionable evaluations, so you can more fully understand and evaluate their actions as based upon all of this: any actions that have led to new emerging problems, or the continuation of known and avoidable ones, definitely included. Use the fruits of such analyses as a road map, or at least as one critically important half of such a road map that you can reimagine and remediate from. And yes, look to see what tools and of all types are being used, appropriately or not and what tools are not available when and where needed, and even if otherwise sitting idle at the business – or being misused there. And look to see who is and isn’t involved in all of this. Start looking from within the business for all of this, and then expand your vision of what is going on to include wider ranges of external stakeholders and critically connected others too.

If I were to finish this type of note with any one, more general point, it would be the following, with the above offered discussion serving as a working example as to how it might be applied:

• Start with the requirements and the task performance goals that you would use your tools for, and with an at least first cut determination of what resources and other context factors you would need available for that.
• Then look for the right tools to do that work and as reliably, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible (taking the trade-offs of that complex of requirements into account as a significant exercise in its own right.)
• And do all of this with both a locally focused understanding of immediate contexts of where they would be directly used, and with a larger, overall awareness of the more total context too that this work would fit into too.

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.

Building a business for resilience 36 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 28

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 7, 2019

This is my 36th 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 1-35.)

I began working my way through a brief to-address topics list in Part 32 of this series that all related to information management and to follow-through based upon it, that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue discussing its points:

1. Even the most agile and responsive and effectively inclusive communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them, have to lead to active effectively prioritized action if they are to matter, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included.
2. Both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it, enter in there and need to be explicitly addressed in rounding out any meaningful response to the above Point 1.
3. 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.
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.

More specifically, I have addressed the first two points of that list, at least for purposes of this series and its overall discussion, in Part 32 through Part 35. And I began addressing Point 3 and its complex array of issues in Part 35 too, where I raised and began discussing a reality that is often overlooked, and certainly when the types of challenges that I raise with Point 3 are examined entirely through the lens of current and newly emerging information technology and its more actively engaging, currently popularized implementations. And I note here that that is a perspective that can become overwhelmingly compelling and certainly for businesses that find themselves in an ongoing race to stay as current and advanced in what they do and in how they do it as possible, so as to remain as competitively effective as possible in their business sectors and industries.

• What is this real but often overlooked challenge? It is the empirically compelling fact that no “one size fits all” approach or system can in fact address all information management and sharing needs, and certainly for a large and diverse organization, as a unifying best practices solution.

Let’s at least begin to address that by considering what for most readers would be the most obvious starting point here. Some business process problems can be most effectively addressed through best of breed technology solutions, as determined and pursued according to a carefully planned-out best for context, technology implementation approach. And computerized, networked information technology systems with their software and hardware resources are fundamentally designed to manage large scale informational content as an actively usable overall resource, so they and their implementation and use, do in many respects fit that pattern and for wide ranges of information management contexts. Such technology shaped and driven approaches can even prove themselves, if well selected and implemented, to be absolutely essential for to an organization. So it makes sense that a technology-forward approach be pursued as a primary default option here. And this type of approach can be and generally is the best to pursue for managing data and knowledge developed from it, that share the particular qualities of being:

• Objective and clearly defined (as for example with precisely measured and scaled production or sales data, or customer sourced data that can be clearly and fully covered through entry in specific sets of database fields),
• And that are more impersonal in judgment and not subject to meaning-drift or other forms of viewer-to-viewer or user-to-user differences in understanding, as can arise from divergence of perspective there.

This leaves in, as appropriate for organization and storage on shared database systems, and for access and use through networked computer technology, a broad range of business intelligence data and knowledge types, and certainly if access security is included in the resulting overall systems there, so as to manage sensitive and confidential information requirements as faced by the business.

But with that noted, and as an exception to this model of what would be included in business intelligence in an organization, I point to the workplace advice example that I cited in Part 35 when I initially began discussing Point 3 and its issues here, where the type of advice cited there might be essential for effectively carrying out important business tasks, but where the necessary information called for, for that would be both subjective and personally judgmental (see Part 35 and its last two paragraphs in particular for this very real-world information sharing example.)

Business communications and the overall information resource base that would be shared through them, as a necessary part of carrying out essential business activities and of all sorts, are largely grounded in the types of data and knowledge that can best be organized and stored and used through stable, controllably sharable computer and network systems and according to a by-now standard technology-driven paradigm as touched upon above here. But what types of information and communications systems and processes would be called for when the information access and communications needs in question would address situations such as these two?

• “I really need your advice. I have this critically important, time-sensitive task: X to carry out and complete, and I know that I will need supportive help from someone with specific skills and resource access to help me plan out the end-user interface side to it, that the stakeholders who need this will actually directly use. Who should I try turning to in that department and service for this type of help as a first choice?” “Work with A on this and not B if you have a choice, because …” or
• “I really need access to X (a limited, bottleneck availability equipment resource) to build and test a prototype for a key project that has been tossed in my lap, but no matter who I turn to, to try to get access to it on anything like a plannable schedule, I hit a wall with no one seemingly able or willing to commit to anything. Who should I ask?” “Try to secure the support of B as a (perhaps less than obvious, but nevertheless crucially involved) stakeholder if you need quick and timely access to X, and stress that you need it now in order to carry out one of your high priority tasks, so they understand your priorities there and don’t have to guess on that.”

The types of information needed to effectively resolve these and other experience-based decision making issues can also be considered crucially important, and a part of that business’ overall knowledge base. But the raw data and process knowledge involved there, is not likely to be entered into any sharable online database system, and in any business or organization. It is going to reside in the knowledge and experience of individuals and it is going to be accessed through business-oriented social networking, if at all.

And together, the example types that I have raised and made note of here, confirm the basic point that I would discuss this entire complex of issues from:

• The overall pool of critically important information that could beneficially be included in an overall, comprehensive Point 3 context for most any large business of any significant duration, calls for different types of collection, storage and shared usage processes than would make sense including in any one single more unified information management system, whether technology driven and shaped or interpersonal and social networking shaped, or some combination-thereof in nature.

I conclude this posting by noting that many if not most of us who seek best of breed solutions to the challenges of business intelligence availability and of corporate learning, start out thinking in terms of technically driven solutions such as version 2.0 interactive intranets with in-house and carefully vetted and managed third party-included business oriented social media and related platforms built into them. I have in fact written of this approach here in this blog and for years now. See for example:

Connecting an Organization Together, version 2.0 (from September, 2009) and
Boundaries and Internal Organization Structure as Safe-Haven and Safety Net (from August, 2011.)

Concurrently with that, I have written about more direct person-to-person business oriented social networking per se, as considered independently of what types of channels it would be carried out through. And in this context, I specifically note the value and importance of long-term employees, and I add widely connected ones who can come to be de facto repositories of history and of directly currently applicable knowledge and insight about the business in which they work and of what has been done and of who does and does not do what there.

This, up to here, more fully outlines the general nature of the basic problem that I have raised here, and at least points in the direction to possible approaches for managing it in practice. But this still leaves me with some crucially important gray area questions if nothing else:

• It might be fairly obvious that a detailed table of organization and 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.
• 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, 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 networking context.
• 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 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.
• How would gray area data and knowledge for this be identified and how would it best be managed?
• And how and when would hybrid solutions and approaches for managing them, best be developed and pursued here?

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin to address this set of issues. And then, as noted above, I will turn to and address the above Points 4 and 5. 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 8: the New Deal and infrastructure development as recovery 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on August 4, 2019

This is my 9th 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 1-7 with its supplemental posting Part 4.5.)

I have, up to here, successively addressed and discussed each of a set of four 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 core foundational element to this narrative, I began discussing a fifth such case study example in Part 7, that I will continue elaborating upon in at least selective detail here:

• US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts to help bring his country out of a then actively unfolding Great Depression.

I focused in Part 7 on some of the underlying causes of the Great Depression, and both for clarifying for purposes of this discussion as to how that historically transformative event arose, and for more clearly stating how and why Roosevelt was challenged as he sought to orchestrate a real recovery from it. And at the end of that posting, and in anticipation of this one to come, I said that I would turn here to quantify the bank failures and their timeline to more fully present the economic challenges faced, as a completion at least for here and now of an underlying cause-oriented discussion as to what motivated a need for the types of infrastructure and related changes that consequentially took place. And I said that I would then discuss Roosevelt’s New Deal as a massive recovery effort, and one that had within it a massive infrastructure redevelopment effort too.

I will in fact delve into those issues as outlined there, continuing my discussion of relevant overall economic background issues in the process, as part of that. But before doing so and to put what follows into clearer perspective, I am going to step back from the specifics of this particular case study to make note of a fundamental aspect of large scale infrastructure development projects and their underlying driving needs in general, that this case study in fact can be seen as highlighting, for its core importance:

• Most people: with a significant proportion included there of the people who would plan out, approve and fund, and carry out large scale infrastructure projects, focus on what is physically built from scratch or replaced with new, and on the visible end-results of infrastructure development per se. This makes sense insofar as these are the aspects of essentially any such large scale initiative that are lastingly visible and that are going to be directly used and long-term.
• But just as importantly, and certainly during early planning and support building stages for realizing such accomplishments, and for when this work is being carried out, are the behind the scenes economic and financing-based considerations and all of the rest of the politically driven decision making processes that are required to make any such development project happen. They shape the What and the When and the How and the By Whom of what in fact can be done, and consideration of them must be included too, in any inventory of what is included in such work, and in any understanding of what is accomplished from it.
• So, for example, in my Great Depression example, I could cite Roosevelt era initiatives such as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) with its explicit physical infrastructure building efforts, and I will in fact do so as I proceed with this case study. That is important here in this case study narrative. But the context and context-building effort that made programs such as the CCC possible, and that made even attempting it challenging, have to be considered and included here too.

In anticipation of my more general comments to come here in this series, regarding infrastructure development as a whole and in general, and with the above points in mind, I offer the following at least preliminary overarching comments:

Infrastructure development, and certainly large scale development and redevelopment projects that would fit into such a rubric, are – or at least should be driven by what can at least categorically be divided into two sometimes competing, sometimes aligned considerations:

• Human needs and meeting them more fully than would be possible absent some given infrastructure effort, and
• Economic and other wherewithal and sustainability factors and how they would be worked within, or adjusted to accommodate new needs and priorities.

The issues that I raised in Part 7 as leading up to and causing the Great Depression, and that made it a true depression and not just a recession, all fit into the second of those bullet pointed considerations. And actually carrying out the programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal and related initiatives, as he conceived them and strove to achieve them as his response to that challenge, was intended to address significant widespread unmet human needs as the Great Depression brought them about.

And with that noted, I turn back to my largely-economics oriented outline of how the Great Depression arose and as a depression: not just as yet another recession, and with a goal of laying a more complete foundation in preparation for a discussion of the “what would be done” side of this, by more fully outlining the societal context that would make that a realistically considered possibility.

I made explicit note of three dates in Part 7 that I would cite again here, as benchmarks for what is to follow. The stock market as tracked on the New York Stock Exchange was seriously challenged on Thursday, October 24, 1929 when it faced what became a catastrophic collapse in value and in underlying investor confidence. And it fell into what amounted to freefall the following Tuesday, October 29: Black Tuesday. And when the US Congress reacted to this and to what immediately followed it from public response, they did so as a reactionary pulling back with the enactment of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act on March 13, 1930 – setting off a trade barrier erecting conflict that ultimately largely shut down international trade and not just for the United States.

And to complete this timeline-based set of benchmarks, I add two more dates that should at least be kept in mind for what follows in this posting, including them here to put what I will say in what follows into fuller perspective. And I will make explicit reference to them and to the reality they benchmark, in my next installment to this too. The dates themselves are March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933: the dates when Herbert Hoover served as the 31st president of the United States. And to round out this dual benchmark entry and at least briefly explain the relevance of it for this narrative, Hoover was elected at a time when most everyone, and both among the general public and among the nation’s leading economists, tacitly assumed that prosperity was there to stay, as an essentially immutable, reliable reality. Then half a year later the United States economy and in fact much of the overall world economy began to collapse. Hoover tried course correcting from this through presidential policy, and he tried leading a recovery from it, in an effort that lasted until late winter, 1933 when Roosevelt was sworn into office and this became his problem.

What, in at least selective numerical detail, was the challenge that Hoover faced and that Roosevelt inherited? Let’s start addressing that question with consideration of the banking system in the United States and on what happened there. Starting from the two October 1929 benchmark dates just cited, and looking out through the first ten months of 1930, a total of 744 US banks failed in the United States: 10 times as many as did in the corresponding 1928-29 period as a closest point of pre-depression comparison. And when trade barrier walls really began to spread, as more and more erstwhile national trading partners took retaliation against the new tariffs that they suddenly faced, by imposing tariffs of their own, this pace accelerated. In all, 9,000 US banks failed during the decade of the 1930’s, and close to 4,000 of them did so in one year alone: 1933. By the start of 1933, depositors had already seen approximately $140 billion of their invested wealth: their life savings disappear through bank failures, independently of any loss faced through failures of the stock market, or from lost income as more and more businesses that they had worked for, scaled back and let employees go, or failed outright themselves.

To put those numbers and bank and business failures in perspective, and to add an impact indicating scale to that, consider the following (with data drawn from U.S. GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and Events:

Year Reported Nominal GDP
GDP ($trillions) GDP Growth Rate % Benchmark Events
1929 0.105 1.109 NA Depression began
1930 0.092 1.015 -8.5 Smoot-Hawley
1931 0.077 0.950 -6.4 Dust Bowl began
1932 0.060 0.828 -12.9 Hoover tax hikes
1933 0.057 0.817 -1.2 New Deal
1934 0.067 0.906 10.8 U.S. debt rose
1935 0.074 0.986 8.9 Social Security started
1936 0.085 1.113 12.9 FDR tax hikes
1937 0.093 1.170 5.1 Depression returned
1938 0.087 1.132 -3.3 Depression ended
1939 0.093 1.222 8.0 WWII began; Dust Bowl ended

Notes, clarifying the events listed in this table for their meaning and relevance here (focusing on entries not already at least briefly discussed:

• The Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster brought about by prolonged drought in the heart of one of the primary agricultural regions in the United States, at a time when the banking system in place was so stressed and limited that it could not offer financial support to farmers, and at a time when the US federal government was unable, unwilling or both, to provide any significant relief. This was all exacerbated by, and in several respects even caused by widespread use of farming practices that did not and could not sustainably work, and certainly under the ongoing drought conditions faced.
• President Herbert Hoover attempted to help pull the United States out of a recession, turned Great Depression, by imposing with Congressional support, a tax increase bill that if anything worsened matters.
• President Roosevelt, pushing back against the concern and even fear of raising taxes and of even attempting tax reform during the Great Depression, and certainly given the outcomes of Hoover’s 1932 effort, decided to reframe and reattempt this basic economy-impacting, government financing approach with his own tax reform: his Revenue Act of 1936.

To put those numbers and their impact into more individually human terms, during the Great Depression the United States as a whole was hit with extremely high unemployment rates. By 1933, the overall national unemployment rate had climbed from 3% (as measured just prior to the October 1929 stock market collapse), up to to 25%. By 1932, over 13 million Americans had lost their jobs. And between late 1929 and late 1932, average incomes were reduced by 40% (see The Great Depression Facts, Timeline, Causes, Pictures.)

And Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn into office as the 32nd president of the United States on March 4, 1933. And one of his first acts in office was to formally start a 100 day collaboration with the US Congress that has become known as the 100 Days Congress, for the amount of and far reaching variety of legislation that was debated, voted upon and passed during that fast start to Roosevelt’s first term in office (see First 100 Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency.) And that is where the “what was done” in his response to the Great Depression really began. And I will continue this narrative in a next series installment with an at least selective discussion of that.

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.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 2

I offered a thought piece on better management practices just over a month ago, as a Part 1 to what I expect to develop into a short series. And my goal there was to at least briefly broach and start to outline a discussion of a basic challenge that essentially any manager can fall into: knowing when to step-back and allow for learning curve inefficiencies and related performance issues on the part of people who report to them, and when to step-in and even if that means actively intervening and seeming to at least situationally take over.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer to this type of question, and understanding the possibilities and the possible consequences there, and on a specific context by specific context basis is a core lesson that goes into becoming an effective, experienced manager and leader.

I tried to keep my initial Part 1 discussion of this in clearer focus, by building some basic assumptions into the range of contexts that I made note of, where the types of step-in or step-back decisions that I write of here, would be made. And my goal here in this continuation posting is to expand that initial line of discussion for its range of acknowledged applicability by adding in some basic complications to its narrative. More specifically, I start ou there by acknowledging that:

• Sometimes hands-on employees and lower level managers who a more senior supervisor manages, can perform certain types of tasks but not others, at least with sufficient speed and effectiveness to meet ongoing business needs. And this is not always something that more training or more learning curve time can correct. What should a supervising manager do in this type of situation? If the tasks and potential tasks involved are central to that person’s job description and their expected areas of responsibilities there, that is very different than would be the case if these performance issues just involve new work that would expand the job and job description of an employee in question. And even then, are the performance problems that are now observed, problems in addressing work responsibilities that of necessity have to become part of that employee’s job description as the business and its needs change and evolve, or has this arisen essentially entirely in the context of add-on tasks that it would be nice if this employee could fulfill, but where those tasks are still separate from what this person would more routinely be expected to do?
• But what of training and offering opportunity to learn new skills? I just dismissed that as a possible solution to this problem in the above bullet point, but sometimes offering training opportunities, or time and opportunity to pursue them to an employee can make all the difference and to the good for all involved. Does this business allow for employee training or related improvement as an employee benefit, or support employees who would seek out such opportunities and who actively strive to become better, more valuable employees there? Does it support and encourage employees who would be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve that?
• But this brings me back to problem employees who cannot in fact sufficiently carry out their assigned and expected work assignments, and on time and correctly, for them to be seen as fully doing their jobs. Any step-in or step-back question always carries within it, a retain-as-is, or reassign or let go question too.

Context and effective communications are crucial here; the questions and issues that I raise here, in fact cut to the heart of what it means to be a manager and supervisor, and a leader in general. And with that noted, I take this line of discussion out of the abstract by offering and at least briefly considering a specific case in point example of how this works. And in anticipation of offering it, I add that my above-offered three point list of alternative context details, was drafted with this example in mind.

You are a mid-level or senior executive at a business that is actively striving to get out from under a history and reputation of being legacy-only, and for what traditionally has been its brand-defining, key production and product line for the business as a whole. And that area of the business is in fact your area of responsibility there now. Some of the people who have been doing this work, and both hands-on and as production line managers are approaching retirement and are deeply set in their ways, and would be good candidates for early retirement with incentives offered to leave now. Pursuing this approach for dealing with them would show a very positive message to all who remain and to any new hires that might be brought in, that this is a great place to work, where employees and their loyalty are rewarded. And it would create openings for bringing in new people with new skills and workplace experience too. But some of the people who have in effect become pigeonholed for the type of legacy work that you have to move the business beyond now, are younger and a lot earlier in their careers, and would in fact like to start working on more current and even cutting edge products and their development and manufacture too. They are not legacy-only, like their more senior peers. And it is these employees who I write of here, and the issues of dealing with them where they cannot simply move into New as a matter of course and immediately be up to speed on their now-expected tasks.

I assume here that it would be better long-term to retain and support these people, instead of simply taking a “simplest resolution” downsizing approach for anyone and everyone who has worked in this key and even defining area of the business, and in effect starting over as if from scratch there.

People who work in legacy areas of a business are all too often automatically typecast as only being able to do that, and essentially as an axiomatic assumption. But I am writing here of employees who in fact do not fit that stereotype and who could in fact move on to become valuable assets for an employer that seeks to retain and benefit from its people, and that can see real potential from achieving that.

How should a manager address this possibility, so as to retain and develop and not discourage and thwart and either by being too hands-on or too hands-off? How should a more senior manager or mid-level executive work with more junior line managers who work under their supervision who actively, day-to-day manage and supervise these people? Once again, simply laying them off, or alternatively frustrating them so much that they look elsewhere and leave, would create a shared message that everyone working there has to be expected to hear of. And downsizings are never exactly supportive of good morale, to put it mildly.

This is a situation where training and even the development of a business updating-oriented training program, probably organized and run by a third party service provider with relevant experience, can offer real value. And the issues of stepping-back or stepping-in and of knowing best when and how to do this, become crucially important during the transition period that attempting this type of change is certain to create for this business.

I end this posting by noting two further details that I will delve into in my next installment to this series:

• You have to expect that any decision you make here will have repercussions and ripple effects that run throughout the business, and that everyone there will come to know about. And if they only hear about this second hand and as rumor, they will only hear versions of it that are negative and worse.
• And with both that and my above example in mind, a key part of actually addressing this type of management challenge is one of understanding, conveying and managing expectations.

You can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 45 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 12

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 29, 2019

This is my 45th 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 1-44.)

I began explicitly discussing the first of two topics points in Part 44 of this series, after developing a foundation for that starting with Part 39. And with this orienting background material noted, I begin this posting’s line of discussion by repeating both of those points here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing 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.

My initial goal moving forward here, was to continue and for purposes of this series, and complete my above-repeated Point 1 discussion and then at least begin to delve into Point 2 and its issues too, in this posting. And as noted at the end of Part 44, completing my Point 1 discussion as intended here, means that I will specifically turn to consider information sharing and the innovative context, as considered from the perspective of an organizing model of risk determination that I developed in Part 44 as an eight point, bullet pointed list of factual and observational detail (as can be found towards the end of that installment.) And as a key part of that, I said that I will more fully explain and clarify the last bullet point of that list regarding mid-level risk events and their possibility too (doing so in an information sharing context):

• Lowest and highest risk possibilities are in most cases going to remain the same whether or not known unknowns are added to the mix, given the low likelihood of their creating unpredictably disruptive new risk increases. But when you add the possibility or even a significantly concerning likelihood of unknown unknowns into this, they add a level of impact to any overall risk determination, and a maximized level of overall risk increase for any possible events that would fit into a mid-range risk category in particular. And they specifically add whole new layers of uncertainty as to what is likely to arise as an adverse event or outcome of that categorical level too.

And to further complicate matters here, I have also planned on continuing and completing my Point 1 discussion here, in terms of a real-world at-least categorical-level example, to take this narrative at least somewhat out of the abstract. But with the added complexities that involves, addressing all of this would mean my continuing consideration of Point 1 alone, beyond the end of this installment and into a next, and before I can even begin to consider Point 2 and its issues. So I change my posting development schedule here, as tentatively offered at the end of Part 44, accordingly.

All of this noted, and to begin this posting’s main line of discussion, let’s consider some real-world information sharing situations, as can and do arise when a new piece of in-house developed software is being developed, tested and refined for use in business systems that would make use of customer data. And I cite this as being realistic because I have been directly involved in this type of in-house information technology project and as lead for its quality assurance testing, where risk management as well as functionality challenges would emerge and have to be addressed.

First some briefly stated background as to how this type of work is devised and organized, and carried out:

• New software, and particularly new impactful software that would be used for managing important tasks, and that might impact with other business systems, is never added into the active, live, working information technology system at a business unless and until it has been developed and tested and refined to a point where it can be considered reliably safe for inclusion there, as a risk management consideration. Development work of this type is essentially always carried out on separate server computers, even if virtual servers as set up on hardware that is also – and very separately used for more routine business use, with virtual drive partitioning set up to ensure necessary isolation.
• And the first step here, as used for initial software development and as a proof of principle and a first software coding and testing stage, is usually carried out on what is fairly commonly called a sandbox server. These are often stand-alone devices and if they are “network connected” beyond a minimum number of software developers as might be required depending on the precise nature of the project and its intended productive goal, that is going to mean firewall limited connections to specific tester computers and their users only.
• Software that has reached a stage of development that would call for more advanced and realistic testing, gets moved to an alpha server. And this is where at least somewhat larger numbers of testers try to use (and try to break) this new software. And the “try to break” half of that can be more important than the try to use half, as real-world users do not always use the software on their computers at work, as expected by the programmers who developed it, and real-world usage software has to be robust enough to keep running even if unexpected commands are attempted in it. The goal of alpha testing, as is done on this type of server-based system, is to identify and fix any and all places where actual expected user-entered commands would break something and make the program crash. And on top of that, its goal is to identify places where users might, or overtly and reliably would try doing things differently than the programmers had intended, so they can be accommodated too (and once again in ways that do not lead to the program crashing.) I note in this regard that “software written by programmers and for programmers (only)” is something of a pejorative, as it refers to software that is so fragile and limited that if anything is attempted outside of the programmer’s initial intent and understanding, the program will go down and fail – and even if that initial intent and understanding was grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding as to what this software would actually be used for, by real-world end-user stakeholders.
• This is also carried out on separate servers but with larger networks and wider ranging tester access required, and with that including participation of at least some select real-world users from the functional areas of the business that would actually use this new tool and even day-to-day once it is ready for that.
• Beta testing comes next, and that is where progressively less likely problems are searched out and addressed. And beta testing in fact should continue, at least as a system for reporting problems to the Information Technology help desk, on an ongoing basis and even after this software has gone into general use.
• Rarer event problems can only be expected to emerge when and as more and more people spend more and more time using that software. So really rare ones for likelihood of showing, are most probably only going to emerge after everyone at the business who would use it, is using it.
• And this is where software patches and other updates enter this narrative, as emergingly uncovered problems are reported and addressed, and as new features are added and older ones are made easier to use and both individually and in combination.
• There is obviously more to this, in real-world practice than is covered here. Larger, more functionally wide-ranging software is, for example, usually at least early beta tested on a functionally coherent section by section basis, with everything coming together as those larger pieces are found ready for that. And early beta test software can be brought back to the sandbox server if wider, though presumably still early testing proves that necessary, with a return to the blackboard to try another approach. This is an incomplete and glossed-over account of a more complex and nuanced process and system of them, but it should suffice for what is to follow here.

For my low risk example, where that would be determined according to the simple risk management scale system of the above Point 1, consider sandbox and alpha test stage customer relations management software (CRM) tool that is being developed and tested using completely made-up, imaginary customer data at those early develop and test stages. Here, it would in most cases not matter if this data were to become public knowledge, except perhaps insofar as it might be problematical to a business for it to reveal more openly that it is in fact developing its own new in-house CRM system, or at least some functionally significant part to such an overall system at all. And some of this made-up data testing might take place in at least early beta testing too, with this data taken from what amounts to a dedicated sandbox database and its server.

For my mid-level risk example, consider at least somewhat later beta testing than would take place in my low risk example, where real testing is called for using real data. Eventually that has to happen, and real-world testing starts in beta testing and often relatively early on in it and before this new software is deemed fully ready for general use. This represents a more mid-level risk because everyone carrying out this testing is going to be drawn from a pool of hands-on professionals for this type of tool and this type of data usage, who are already vetted as being reliable for using the here-CRM software already in place, and on actual ongoing business-to-consumer transactions, and with data drawn from essentially the same pool of customers.

For a higher risk example, even if hopefully only a somewhat higher risk one than just offered, (and certainly if properly managed), consider a CRM-including software package as a development goal, and one that connects into and supports a wider range of business functionalities and needs than more usual standard, third party provided CRM solutions could, and in ways that specifically fit into and support the developing business’ operations and strategies and its particular business model (which might very well be why this is being developed in-house in the first place.) This now means bringing new stakeholder groups into this software development and testing effort with new categories of software testers and potential users involved, and with many of them only seeing specific customer data there for a first time. That means a potentially much wider data exposure, and that increases overall risk to the business as a whole and for possibility of an adverse event occurrence even if without changing the adverse-consequence impact if such a data breech were to occur. And this is an example of how the disruptively new and novel and addressing its needs can increase risk faced over what might be expected from a more routine evolutionary change, in a here-more routine CRM software package or significant functional component there-of, context.

For a (preferably avoidable but nevertheless very real) high risk example, consider the impact of impatience on this software development and testing process flow, where pressures to move this new and even disruptively new software from initial development into live, real-world use as fast as possible are great – and even if that means moving this along faster than the people who are hands-on managing this project would see as being prudent.

• In the real-world, complex and wide-ranging software and certainly such software where it accesses and uses confidential or sensitive data, carries information systems security risks with it. I cited human usage and risk of their inappropriately sharing data and by intent or accident (from for example, how they store data used on their own work computers and as they are networked in.) Here, I add more strictly information technology level risks too, with wider access meaning wider vulnerability to malware and other challenges too.

And with that, I conclude the now extended background preparation that I have decided to add in here, as necessary foundation material for actually addressing the topics and issues that I initially intended to delve into here. My now one posting displaced goal for the next installment to this series is to address the above repeated Point 1 and its issues, as outlined for discussion towards the start of this posting, and centering that narrative around the software development example and its low to high risk scenarios as offered here. Then, I will turn to and consider Point 2 and its issues, as a real-world elaboration of and continuation of my Point 1 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. 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 16

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 26, 2019

This is my 16th 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, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 11, that would apply to the analysis and planning efforts of a still resource-lean startup, as an important at least categorical business type here. And I have been addressing the first of those points since then, leading up to an initial discussion of a Marketing and Communications oriented, working example that in practice has become important for a great many ventures and certainly as they seek to connect with their markets online and through social media: gorilla marketing, and the sometimes closely related phenomenon of viral marketing. And I repeat that list here, for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative as I continue and complete my discussion of the following Point 2, as begun there:

1. What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context the issues of baseline, and of what would be changed from become crucially important, and even for startups where that means building new with an awareness of past experience elsewhere.
2. Focusing on the business planning and development side to that, and more specifically on high priority, first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying out, and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
3. Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.

The core of my gorilla and viral marketing example and its analysis for how these approaches work, or fail to work in practice, as begun in Part 15, was on the uncertainties that arise when measuring performance, or of even knowing how best to try to develop and gather data for the right performance metrics there.

I made note of the novelty of these marketing approaches and how that can contribute to uncertainties here, but I also and primarily raised the issues of how their real activity, and certainly for genuine viral marketing, takes place and takes shape outside of the business that is at least presumptively at its center with its marketable, consumer-facing products or services. And in the course of that, I both raised and challenged a “standard business process or business systems example,” based on gathering in and reviewing and analyzing sales and related data for marketplace insight, in order to set an initial starting point benchmark to measure the success of such a campaign from. And to complete the cycle, this insight would serve as feedback for shaping and refining next step products and how they would be marketed and sold too, and with any refinements added to customer service or support that this insight would suggest as needed, included there too.

I added at the end of Part 15 that I would continue that series-relevant example here, by at least offering some thoughts on how to make the measures and metrics used for this type of marketing analysis more rigorous and more definitively useful as a result. And I begin discussing that by explicitly acknowledging an admittedly largely reputed early online marketing data collection and analysis approach that I of necessity at least touched upon in that posting, but that I intentionally refrained from naming there for the baggage that that label carries with it: marketing for a maximum number of eyeballs reached and with that sought after as a performance goal in its own right.

Ultimately, marketing is all about message – and how many people receive it and how they respond to it, and it is about shaping that message to both maximize reach: that number of eyeballs here, and its effectiveness as a call to action. So the number of eyeballs reached here is vitally important. The problem with the earlier eyeball capture metric of online marketing’s birth and neonatal phases, was in how those numbers became essentially everything, and precisely because no one knew how to translate them into a more complete, realistically actionable understanding of the market and its participants, or of how to more effectively respond to that type of number.

I reprise this already ancient online marketing history, to highlight a challenge that the newer and still emerging opportunities of gorilla and viral marketing of today carry with them, that in fact has roots that go back to the early successes and failures of online marketing in the age of maximizing eyeballs reached, as a goal in and of itself.

Do some businesses already carry out successful gorilla and viral marketing campaigns now? Yes, definitely, and the same could be said for early online marketing, when way too many businesses were being misled by eyeball counts, but some thrived anyway. Success happens. But lost opportunities and failures do to, and businesses that seek to create effective gorilla marketing campaigns and that seek to create effective online contexts that would draw in and involve positive market participation, might benefit from the learning curve lessons from the “eyeball age” of their profession, too.

• What can you accurately measure? And by extension if nothing else, what types of at least potential metrics would more likely give you squishy, equivocal numbers that you would find difficult to pin down for their actual meaningful values?
• How much measurement precision do you in fact need, and from what types of data and for what types of analytical use?
• And what actionable insight can you directly gain or consistently and reliably develop out of the data gathered there, as per the first of these three bullet points, that would acceptably meet the accuracy limitation requirements of the second of them?

Eyeballs were easy to count, and simply by tracking the number of times in a period that a given page or other content unit was clicked to online by a site visitor. But few really knew how to effectively go beyond simply gathering data according to that first step metric, to develop actual market insight that a business could use, going forward.

• Should you track how long a site visitor stays on a page?
• Should you track where they arrive at that page from, or where they click to when leaving that page?
• Obviously, a click from, into a sales process on that site and initiating a transaction process there, conveys a different message and holds different marketing outcomes value, than clicking from a marketing-oriented page on a business’ web site to return to an outside search engine.
• There are, very clearly, a great many coordinate types of data that can be gathered in and collectively analyzed, in developing real and even profound insight from online marketing, and certainly from the more standard and established forms of it that we have all come to know. And most businesses now know how to develop real value from eyeball counts – when gathered in combination with suites of other data types that collectively can tell a very meaningful story with that.
• But the novelty of gorilla marketing with its more free-wheeling structures, and its dependence on outside and largely market-driven and market-shaped participation, creates new gaps in what needs to be measured and in what even some of our by-now standard metrics mean. And viral marketing with its fundamental grounding in the uncertainties and vagaries of the marketplace, simply confounds that challenge, and particularly when trolls, on the negative messaging side, and their equally false-flag positive message counterparts, enter this narrative.

And even if you discount what are essentially fake negative and positive messages and their impact on a viral marketing campaign, including where “honest broker” marketplace participants can and do pass along less reliable messages in good faith, you still face the metrics uncertainties that I raised in Part 15, and other challenges too.

I said in a Point 2 context that I would address the issues of better metrics. And up to here, I have primarily just focused on clarifying an understanding that this is in fact something that is still needed, and that we still face real knowledge and understanding gaps from the limitations of some of the marketing data that we gather, at least through more standard Marketing and Communications means. This brings me to the issues and challenges of big data, and to a point of assumption, or presumption if you will that I see as holding a key to doing better here. And that at-least piece to this puzzle that I would raise here, has both business effectiveness and overall societally challenging aspects, for how it is grounded in the open-ended data collection that drives it.

I begin this phase of this developing narrative by offering what might be considered more of a point of conclusion that I will work my way towards reaching in what is to follow, as organized into four bullet points:

• 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 same market as its actively involved participants at the very least, help co-create this marketing reach with you from their feedback and reviews,
• 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 am going to continue this narrative in the next installment to this series, where I will at least begin to offer an analysis of how big data enters into this line of discussion and why. I will at least briefly explain how and why I see this as an essential piece of this problem’s solution. And I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite its 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.

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