Tag Archives: Business and Economy

switch

Keep it Simple … the Business of Cloud

switchA complicated business, this cloud thing, if you want it to be… of course you don't want it to be, nor do your customers, but it isn't "simple" any more than IT is simple: it is made to look that way, though, by people who know what they're doing.

The cloud message I hear most comes across as a variation of the POOF methodology: "quick, easy, click here, pay there, flick the switch and POOF! You're in the cloud!" This does set an expectation that things are (and will continue to be) simple, quick, and easy (oh, and don't forget, cheap: chances are that somewhere along the way that things like "low entry costs," "cost-effective," and "no CapEx," were translated to "cheap," "cheap," and "cheap.")

Seth Godin says that "You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple" to which I add a corollary that "you can't sell expensive to someone who came to you to buy cheap!" However you look at it, while things are (or can be) simpler and more cost-effective than they ever have been, simple to understand does not always equate to not complicated and cost-effective does not in any sense of the word guarantee inexpensive (and it is all relative: specifically to each specific set of customer requirements to which you are delivering).

In reality, you actually can do both, but you better do it well if you want it to stick (and remember, the easy-to-sign customer may end up being the one you wished you hadn't closed).

Broadly considering, no Cloud Provider, large or small, truly understand what the entire market wants or for that matter what an entire segment of customers want: part of what we are offering with today's computing and communications capability is the chance to do new things or old things better, stronger faster and cheaper. You are meant to work with them to exploit the cloud to do whatever it is they want to do, which of course starts with listening to what they want and then applying your knowledge, expertise and experience to work with them to translate those wants into needs… and how to deliver them.

I have a favourite trick in getting this process rolling at the start of a new hunt looking to start the build process of a strong, long-term relationship – you know, that space and time when you aren't yet certain of the drivers of those sitting across the table or the focus and appoach that they or their organisation takes to IT in the business, let alone their agendas!

Remember those coloured, layered plastic pages of the human body in the Encyclopedias of our youth? The first picture was of a person (which we'll liken to your cloud business answer for your customer's business problem); turn the top page to reveal first muscles below the skin, next the blood system, then the organs and finally the skeleton (which equates to what, who and how you deliver that business answer). Everything in between is, well, everything in between – but this allows you to start with the big picture if that turns out to be the right starting point – or the bones if that is what your audience needs on the day… while preparing you well for anything in-between.

Don't sell complicated as simple, because it isn't… and what you are about to do with your customers is game-changing, one way or the other and that seldom is simple.

The Business of Cloud homepage

Compete or Collaborate… or Both? … the Business of Cloud

Get used to the concept of co-existence

The progressive views about your marketing, your customers and your competition as espoused by Seth Godin are seldom things with which I find disagreement…. he walks a different path that started with his book Permission Marketing (summarised nicely here – and I highly recommend the book of the same name, not to mention all of the rest!).

Seth’s views on de-focusing from your competition – which to me only makes sense since you are unlikely to destroy them and so should get used to the concept of co-existence – and applying that attention instead on what you do, say and sell, (and who you do, say and sell it to) is spot-on… but I reckon it stops a little short. While he is far from incorrect I suggest that if you also extend your focus, wisely with research, planning and networking, you might find additional routes to explore.

In other words, pick which of your competitors merit your applying a different focus and perspective – and a different set of goals – to find and define opportunities to exploit for mutual benefit.

shark-and-mackerel shark
Positioning: Which “mackerel” would you rather be?

Now at this point it’s not unfair to think “mutual benefits, ok… which ones are mine, then?” when you are looking at splitting deals. Truth be told it is amazing how far a little quid pro quo can go and most change their views as this approach is applied. So, if you are open to such things (and don’t mind a few bullet points) then consider:

• Extended Propositions and aggregated references supporting the targeting of larger scale opportunities
• Agile delivery with access to a cross-organisation resource base (the ability to afford to win that big deal)
• Opportunities to share costs to engage and share world-class resources
• Scaled buying power reducing costs, increasing pre-sales support and accuracy
• Extended overall reach and raised profiles all ‘round

Now this isn’t a plug (unless of course you’d like to speak further on the subject, in which case feel free to consider it a plug) but I have use my own “Loop” business model which targets accelerated growth by a combination of co-operative competition and the right planning and preparation to “acquire to grow” or to be better positioned for acquisition… and it isn’t rocket science.

The origins of this type of model are simple and I don’t claim to have invented the approach: Top and middle tier Managed Service Providers continue to succeed and to grow largely by using “group credentials” of co-operative consortiums when going for those big opportunities. And, as markets tighten and opportunities diminish, recent trends are showing those big players extending their reach into the lower-margin and higher competition SME space in search of new business: and they can afford to invest in lower margin accounts especially in a space with an on-going need for cost reductions that makes MSP offerings worth another look.

One opportunity to not miss along the way is the small business distrust of Managed Services and even greater distrust of “big business” – so why not disrupt by aggregating, co-operatively, with your “competitors” (selected based on their capability and offerings; track record and size; attitude and goals; and in some cases geography).

Disrupt things with a Consortium model

Not only effective as a countermeasure, a consortium in this case is a natural disruptor which builds on existing structures and frameworks to deliver bigger and better. Collaboration – of resources, networks and partners / supply chain – will support your targeting larger scale opportunities within newly-aggregated current segments. And, as partners learn to trust and work together, it should enable reaching ‘up’ into the growth space to take back your market from those big players.

There is a Cloud Computing point to all of this: we know the Cloud computing playing field is complicated with platforms, delivery vehicles, orchestration, management and we know even better the complications in customer clarity of both requirements and everything they need to deliver to them. Wouldn’t a clever player crossing both of those complex spaces, in a constantly evolving environment (not to mention a rather challenging economic situation, overall) look to find and exploit opportunities from whatever angles might work (in just the same way as my colleagues, competitors, suppliers and customers worked to bring some joint clarity and awareness on this brilliant Tell me why I should use your Cloud? blog here at Compare the Cloud?)

While I often object to incorrect platitudes packaged as sage quotes, there are as always exceptions to the rule, so let me finish with Sun Tzu and "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious" or, as translated by Don Vito to Michael Corleone as “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.”

After all, isn’t that what networks are for? 

The Business of Cloud homepage

TCIO

Does the UK technology sector measure up?

Bdaily Business News

Does the UK technology sector measure up? (An opinion piece by me published at BDaily.co.uk Business News)

It's Technology Week on Bdaily. Daniel Steeves, a Canadian Partner at James Caan’s Mayfair firm HB Prime Advantage offers his opinion on how the climate could be improved for the tech businesses in the UK in comparison with other countries.

From commitments to infrastructure improvements, through to making available more visas for skilled workers, the UK Government has been backing some relatively successful efforts to attract new or added presence from some of the ‘big players’ to London but, in my opinion, a bit too focused an eastward view.

Regardless of the geography, supporting technology-focused or technology-enabled start-up businesses (a space currently supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in revenue across the UK) is a clever approach as both a short-term tactical and a longer view strategic position to work towards bolstering and growing our economy.

The problem is not only that an East London focus excludes the successful and growing technology industry we have in Cambridge and down the M4 Corridor to Oxford (the places in the UK where those billions are generated) but that, for the most part, the typical east London start-up is in the consumer-facing space rather than targeting the business to business environment (the companies in the UK who are generating those billions).

“Build it and they will come” does not apply to industry in general or the technology sector in particular, rather it is something that happens… and then grows. I grew up in the growing Silicon Valley (North) as Ottawa was sometimes called. Like its California namesake businesses started and grew in that geography partly in support of the Military and mostly because of what was under the ground… as the industry (and the local population) grew, so did the supporting ecosystem, from the service sector through to education to Government.

So, how to improve the climate for technology start-ups in general? I’d consider starting with the following three things:

  • Continued encouragement and support for business start-ups, but enhanced with education and awareness on what constitutes a sustainable business.
  • A little (or a lot) less hands-on involvement with the business of the sector, replaced with a greater focus on removing roadblocks related, for example, to taxes and visas
  • Just let it happen… from an external point of view the Government should support start-ups as though they were plates spinning on a stick: don’t touch the stick until you are certain that the plate is going to fall (and be ready and aware to be sure of which ones to be sure of catching!)

(please click here to read the original article)

big-data-graphic

Big Data, Big Deal

Big Data, Big Deal

My latest blog as posted at  at ComparetheCloud.net: it is your data, not big data, that matters (but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it)

It is easy to drown in big data articles, let alone the numbers that they quote: companies counting customer transactions in the millions (or more) per day, websites with literally billions of photos and videos, not to mention 3000 tweets per second! We are inundated with broad brush information but, like the data being written about, the relevance to you and your business is not so clear… it is your data, not big data, that matters but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it.

big-data-graphic
Data is of course aggregating at an amazing rate but this is nothing new… it’s clearly been happening for quite some time. What has changed is that, as that data piles up, awareness of the potential value within it is increasing. Combined with advances in technology and the delivery of that technology, storage and access costs are drastically reduced which creates opportunities to derive information, intelligence and insights from that data (in many cases, an asset you already own!)  .. Read the rest here

Einstein

Big Data – reduced to a buzz word |via @Data_Nerd

A good read: personally I think it isn’t as bad as cloud has been hyped but all along assumed that it would get there: according to @Data_Nerd, it already has  (my 2013 update: could be the hype is even worse!)

A “buzz word”, that is what data has been reduced too. “Big Data” is now a common phrase used to describe numerous counts of different types of data, social media data, point of sale data, financial data, digital and visual data…. Arg, make it stop. But what is it “really” and what makes it useful versus noise?

via Big Data – reduced to a buzz word | Analytical-Solution.com.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups

You might say you could have done this too. But the fact is that Tuizzi did it first and got the second place at the Startup Games in London, last weekend.

Tuizzi is simply the booking.com of outdoor advertising. Either you are a small business owner, a brand manager or an advertising agency, this platform will help you find and buy the local advertisements you are looking for. And if you are the proud owner of a few billboards, you can put them for sale there and even manage your business for a fee.

I met today Afonso Santos, co-founder of this Porto based startup and asked him if it was really “too easy”. The answer: “It was fun and at the end we got the best prize I could ask, a new mentor I trust will help us put the next step in place”. Afonso also mentioned the team (three co-founders and one employee) is looking to take the next step. After all, there’s ten man-years of experience gathered, adding up the team member’s commitment to the project. “We are making some money in Portugal and we think we are more than ready to take a global approach, we just feel we need to take an additional step before scaling up”, reveals Afonso.

Tuizzi was the recent winner of the Switch Conference in Lisbon and defeated 120 startups at London Startup “Olympics”, all but UK-based Versarien, a high technology company specializing in materials development that “took the gold medal”. You can read more here and here.

Now it’s back to business. Just for reference, when Afonso told me about an interested Portuguese group in the same sector, it took me one attempt to guess which one was. But the company is looking for other markets and “a big investor might be in the horizon”, so are the effects of the Startup Games second place. I know some calls and mails are being exchanged and that a deal might come in the next weeks. Afonso confirms “this will be a Series A round, we mostly funded the project ourselves up to now”. We look forward to hear from that development. My guess: given the size of the market they are, that may well be the deal of the year in Portugal.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups.

Digital Sizzle

Digital Sizzle 4 – an audience with Tech City

An excellent evening: food, company, conversations, beer… a true tech evening!

(btw the Google Campus in east London is v. nice!!)

LIVE: Digital Sizzle 4 – an audience with Tech City.

Here's a Storify recap of Digital Sizzle 4 on Twitter, comments & pics

The video!! (this could get scary!)

pics from Paul Clark

TCIO Impact Report

Kernel Review of TCIO Report

The Troika, from the Kernel

In response to a recent article on Forbes.com

A recent Forbes.com article Startup Success: Throw Away Your Business Books was, in my opinion, delivering counter-intuitive information.

My response follows:

I won’t argue that applying traditional tools to a non-traditional business model is not the approach… but I will argue that knowing enough to understand what is or isn’t traditional is a prerequisite to success and is predicated by learning (particularly when it comes time to pitch to someone who thinks and maybe has seen and heard it all before!)

The *right* books are a fundamental, inexpensive and fast-track approach to that knowledge which, like a methodology, recipe or your SatNav directions from point A to point B: what they are doing is:
– telling you what is the ‘straight and narrow’
– what were and are the lessons learned from the very old and the not so old ways of doing things (new books are being written rather regularly, after all)

My point is that unless I have a clue as to what has been done before and what has been thought of before I will be unable to know that what I am doing is ‘outside of the box’ or ‘not playing by the rules’ – and that I am better informed, every single step of the way, by the lessons of those who have failed and succeeded before me

Following an Ask James Caan question on LinkedIn

Following an Ask James Caan question on LinkedIn regarding difficulties moving from contracting into permanent roles:

Good advice, all around, particularly the points about working your network (including especially here on LinkedIn) and creating a portfolio (which you might want to consider also delivering online, in a ‘socialised’ manner, perhaps using a web site such as Pinterest.com).

I’d like to add one more thought, based on my ‘past lives’ as an independent contractor and as one who has hired contractors into permanent roles.

Since there is a strong likelihood that it will be asked, I find that it helps to provide a brief answer to the question: “what is your motive for returning to a permanent role” in advance, in your covering letter. Given the chance, you can later support or reinforce your answer in person during the interview process.

Your answer must be understood from two sides of the table: that of the screening process of the Recruitment agency and that of the employer. Your answer of course needs to be ‘your’ answer, but a couple of convincing building blocks for that answer might include:
– you have always kept an eye open for the ‘right opportunity, at the right level, to join and grow the right organisation’ (and that this appears to be just that)
– you have extended your depth or breadth as an independent (ideally supported by specific examples from your portfolio which have direct relevance to the position description and the keywords in the job advert)
– you have added a layer of complementary skills which enable you to operate across industry sectors / scale of business or deal (again with an eye to providing obvious but honest matches between your skills and the words used in the advert)
– your independent experience may have required you to add skills with a focus on the commercial, financial or other aspects (any of which may contribute to their perception of your matching the requirement, if they are mentioned in the advert)

These or similar approaches sometime not only serve to answer the question in advance but can also work as a handy bit of self-promotion (which can do wonders towards moving your CV to the recruiter’s ‘good’ stack)

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