Archives for category: Technology

This post continues the series on scaling a business, this time defining the exponential organisation. An exponential organisation is a company that scales rather than grows. In other words it grows at an exponential rate – d’oh!

Jacob Morgan covers how to create an exponential organisation and why you would want to in this excellent piece. He leans heavily on the work of the innovator Samil Ismail, one of those lucky souls who can find his first name in his last name…

Ismail’s research into exponential organisations leads him to identify ten commonalities in companies successfully hitting the stratosphere.  Five factors are external, and five are internal.

The five external factors equal the word SCALE:

  • S, staff on demand
  • C, community and crowd
  • A, algorithms
  • L, leased assets
  • E, engagement

The five internal factors spell the word IDEAS:

  • I, interfaces
  • D, dashboard
  • E, experimentation
  • A, autonomy
  • S, social

To find out more about each factor, and what combination of them would suit your ambitions, have a deeper look at the article.

 

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In this second in the series of posts exploring scaling the business, let’s look the differences between growing the business versus scaling the business. What better source of authoritative information than this piece from the Growth Institute.

There are some fantastic insights in this piece. Here are just three of them:

  • Companies that scale successfully don’t set out to grow their business, they build it for scale from the outset
  • A scaling company grows at twice the industry average but its expenses are roughly the same
  • When I was at business school, a company’s growth was a series of steps, where you go through a plateau period before you slingshot up the next level. Nowadays the scaling curve is a series of ‘valleys of death’ through which each company must pass in order to dominate its industry

The Growth Institute identifies four scaling stages:

The percentages of companies that make it through each of these stages are horrifically small, so if you’ve got scale-up ambitions it’s important to go in eyes wide open, and also read the Growth Institute piece, and the ‘how to navigate’ guide, in more detail.

Recently I wrote a short post about scale-ups and scaling a business. Now I’m going to start a short series that continues the theme of scaling.

If the trend watchers are to be believed, the start-up and dot com has had its day. Maybe that term is a little out of date these days, since the emerging start-ups of today all seem to be dot ai anyway. Apparently it’s all about becoming a larger sustained company now, while also avoiding being copied, outdone or annihilated by the likes of GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.

But if you want to catch the wave and forge something that lasts, what technology bandwagon should you be hitching a ride on? This piece from PWC explores in detail what they see as the eight essential emerging technologies.

The eight technologies are:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Blockchains
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things
  • Robotics
  • Virtual reality
  • 3-D printing

The thing that makes this tricky for start-ups is that you need boat loads of cash to dominate them. They’re not a niche that you can easily protect.

The PWC article groups these eight technologies into five converging themes:

  • Embodied AI
  • Intelligent automation
  • Automating trust
  • Conversational interfaces
  • Extended reality

For information on which technology or theme you can embrace to harness your scale-up company ambitions, see the article.

A former boss and mentor of mine recently referred me to an article on self-publishing. It was written by someone who had been published before, using the traditional publishing routes and methods, and now was publishing his own books. The full post is here. It’s a fascinating read, especially so if you are thinking off putting stuff out there.

This post, however, is not so much an advert for self-publishing as it is a comment or two on how technology has changed how we write, and how we consume what’s been written.

Books are changing. They’re not books any more, much of the time at least. Sometimes they’re ebooks, existing on screen but not existing physically. Sometimes they’re printed on demand, one at a time, Sometimes they’re very short, like a pamphlet. Sometimes they’re simply a blog post, like this one.

Publishing something used to be this mammoth, self-contained, one-off project that ending up with something spitting out off the presses. Now we can publish something very short, very quickly, even charge for it too, and get almost instant feedback on what readers thought of it. Web 2.0 baby, what a wonderful thing.

This same technology has also changed the way we read, our reading behaviours. We have an unending wealth of information and diversion at our fingertips. We now skim read, and have a shorter attention span, so unless what we’re reading is a compelling page turner – digitally or physically – shorter is better.

So maybe this is a misleading post title. Maybe books have already changed.

 

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

Down for maintenance

The other day I was in a hurry to check the status of a flight I was taking later that week. I needed to know if I could fit in an appointment before leaving for the airport. When I went onto the website this is what I got.

For a company of this stature, and for a company that transacts online at this kind of scale, I find this flabbergasting. Such a website shouldn’t ever be down, certainly not at peak hours. This was 17:00 on a week day.

When I worked in the cyber-security business, the standard service level agreement for a cloud-based service was what they call ‘five nines’, or 99.999% availability. In some quarters, four nines wasn’t seen as sufficient for an enterprise’s mission-critical systems. To put this in perspective, five nines availability allows for total unscheduled downtime – assuming uptime is calculated on a 24/7/365 basis – of just six minutes, for the entire year, if my calculations are correct.

Which leads me to conclude either that this is one of those moments of unforeseen torture for a company that sets itself the highest standards of transactional availability, or that the company is in fact a bit sloppy or laissez faire with its customers’ goodwill.

In the time it’s taken me to write this post, I checked back on the site and it was back up, so perhaps we can give Ryanair the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

Barcodes are amazing things, aren’t they? They’re the kind of things I’ll never take for granted.

Barcodes have been around for a long time, ever since we’ve had the technology to point a device at a code – or point the code-bearing item at a device – and have it translated into a specific inventory record in a company’s supply chain or retail computer system.

The fact that all the billions of things out there can each have their own unique sequence of numbers and bars makes business flow at the pace it does. You can have a code for one item, another code for a box of them, another for a case of boxes, and for all I know another code for an entire pallet of thousands of them. They enable the entire supply chain and retailer to keep a electronic record of the physical movement of an item, from creation to distribution, to consumption.

Owning the code conventions and selling the codes is, of course, big business. But they’re worth every penny or cent, in my view.

Working in, or for, a small business is fun. How much fun, I never knew until I was much older.

With a small business, if you’re involved in a non-technical role – in other words you’re on the business side, including sales and marketing – you get to do lots of different things. The variety is great, at least it is for me. You also get to do these lots of things relatively well, rather than spectacularly well in one niche area. You can be part-finder, part-minder and part-grinder if you want.

As your small business becomes more successful and grows, you find yourself doing fewer things, and you need to do those fewer things better. It becomes a medium-sized business.

When I did my Master’s degree in Business Administration a hundred years ago, there were courses on offer in running a small business. I had never worked in a small business, nor had anyone in my immediately family. We weren’t particularly entrepreneurial, we had worked for large organisations. Consequently I had little or no interest in finding out about how a small business worked.

It’s ironic how over time I’ve migrated from working for large companies to working for, with and running small companies.

As a consumer, you want to be able to consume conveniently, easily, quickly and painlessly. This applies in both the offline and online world.

The other day I was planning to take a punt on the Euromillions, since the jackpot had done that thing it does every few months where it gets up to a ridiculous amount and draws in punters like moths to a flame. It was the middle of the day so I told myself I’d do it later. After all, there was an invitation to play in my webmail inbox.

I got tied up with work for the rest of the day and was glancing through my webmail after work when I saw the lottery email. It was about 27 minutes past 7pm, and the cutoff for the draw was 7:30pm the same day.

I went onto the lottery.ie site, and selected Euromillions. There was 2 minutes and 15 seconds left in which to play for that evening’s draw. I logged in, picked a line of random numbers, confirmed it and paid. The transaction took 30 seconds. I could have waited another minute and 45 seconds and still would have beaten the deadline.

Now that’s slick, in my book. Mind you, with millions of euros coming in every hour through the site on busy days, you would have expected them to get the process perfect. And it is, in my view.

Sadly, my numbers weren’t perfect. Not even close to perfect.

2 x 2 segmentation matrix

I ran a series of marketing workshops a few months ago, covering a pretty wide range of topics in a relatively short space of time. It was quick-fire, perhaps 30 minutes on a topic and then an exercise to put into practice what we’d discussed.

The one area that people struggled with the most was segmentation, and the task of segmenting your market. It’s easy to see why. It’s a really important part of the marketing process. How you segment your market determines who you will sell to, and also who you will compete against. Segmentation can be basic, such as by country, region, or company size, or it can be more sophisticated, covering groupings around values, or buying criteria.

Generally, you see people pick two axes against which to judge their segments or groups. For example, one axis might be how easy it is for us to sell to each group, and the other might be how attractive is this group to us. Then you plot each group against these two axes – low, medium or high – to decide which quadrant or group is worth targeting.

The trouble is, how you group your companies, and which axes you choose to judge them against – and there could be many possible axes – is critical. Bad decisions here can lead to you targeting bad companies, bad for you that is. Also, you could end up competing against the wrong competitors. As this post reminds us, if you know your market, define it, and segment it better than anyone else, you may find yourself to be the only competitor.