Tuesday 22 November 2011

Simplify your product offering

I just read an article on the Dutch iCreateMagazine Apple site (http://bit.ly/uR6MlX).

All credits goes to the author Daan Jeuken but I found it so applicable in my job as EA that I translated parts of the content in English for you.
... Apple's $ 30 billion worth, but they only have 30 products. If companies have too many different products, none of them will be great. The secret behind this focus is not to say "yes" to every good product, but to say "no" to hundreds of good ideas."
..."Many people think that simplicity is the secret to keeping products simple and close to their original base. That's not true. If something begins to develop, it quickly becomes complex. That is where most people stop; the point is to make something complex into something simple again."
Over the years, Apple has quite a brutal decisions. So it was a rebel from the floppy disk to be written off and now it seems to do the same with the CD. Do not hold onto ideas from the past, even if they are successful for you. And don't develop those products because others have. "
Apple's commitment is closely related to its focus: "If you are not the best you can in a, don't enter that market."
(read full article on http://www.icreatemagazine.nl/nieuws/rondom-apple/apple%E2%80%99s-4-sleutels-tot-succes/ )
If you offer too many products too your customer, you need to support them all. This means that all your energy will be spread out amongst them. I'm referring to spending resources from all departments, sales, marketing, operations, IT ... Divide et impera?

Financially, companies are afraid to simplify their product offering because these products generate revenue. However, due to the lack of a detailed cost picture, very few companies are able to make a valid business case. And without a business case you can't really tell if the products are profitable. 

So, focus, rationalize and keep that portfolio small. Your customers will love it if they actually understand what you are trying to sell them.

Edit: Just read that Google removed 7 products to simplify it's offering: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/more-spring-cleaning-out-of-season.html. Even the much announced Wave is discontinued. If the profitability is not their, get rid of it as your customers will only be confused and they'll look at you as a company without focus and vision.

Sunday 20 November 2011

How can IT improve business agility

Just noticed this new info graphic about how students look at their future job environments. Again we see that they want to work wherever using their tools of choice. More and more I believe that a company can get much more effectiveness if the right culture is shaped where employees (or contractors for that matter) need to get empowered to help solve the variable parts of the organization. People should be able to sort out 20% of their tools & processes themselves, without any enforcement from the company pushed through the IT department gates.

I see lots of great ideas when talking with people on the coffee machine, but we find ourselves most of the time closing these talks with "...yeah, nice dreams". Underlying are a number of factors that prohibits us to change:

  • company culture; people are insufficient encouraged to change and contribute. Motivation is something that needs to come from the area around you.
  • stop thinking short term processes, think about your company capabilities. Of course you need to support people in their job which is similar to supporting their processes, however, don't design your entire IT landscape to it. Figure out what your company capabilities are and cater for that. 
  • tools; are you still stuck with those dreadful big fat ERP implementations that require 10 governance bodies to keep it workable for everyone. Suppose that a person from sales has a great idea to get new leads on a way you never thought of. Are you able to get this job done rapidly, even if it is only a temporary activity? "business agility" anyone? 

As usual it's a combination of people, processes and tools. I believe that IT departments can play a big role in this game by:

  • Improve your ability to integrate. Forget about the big single ERP that does it all. They do, for the current people and current processes. If you want to be agile you need to be able to swiftly get new parts in and out, the only way to do this efficiently is to improve your integration capability.
  • Try to get into a continuous business process improvement routine. Don't just improve the tools, but improve the processes, weed out unused elements and plant new seeds. 
  • Review your operations strategy from closed controlled to open and supportive. If someone comes in with a new device for example that they want to use in the organization they want to be able to use it everywhere to access corporate functionalities. Don't smack them with the "not allowed" hammer, work with them, design for consumerization and encourage their empowerment