Thursday, December 31, 2009
The end of the year and the end of this decade provide me with an excellent opportunity to offer heartfelt wishes to customers, partners, suppliers and friends along with sincere thanks for all the people who've trusted BusinessQuests over and over again this year as in all previous ones. I am particularly grateful to the people and companies who've given me opportunities to explore new spaces and to further expand my professional horizons.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The trailer of a new documentary on Art called "Lives of Artists" published by excellent and Restless Contagious Magazine provides an inspiration to share some thoughts about the importance of art for business and also to make a few predictions for 2010 and beyond, indulging the game of futurology as it sometimes occurs. Those predictions were shaped by the excellent content shared by the people I follow on Twitter and elsewhere; so I'm grateful to all of them for what they share and teach. Of course these are my predictions and therefore I'm solely responsible for any issues of rigor and overall quality.
"Lives of Artists" is supported by Coca-Cola and makes the case that Art should be disruptive, aggressive, intelligent, attract attention and push us out of our zone of comfort. The core message finds me in complete agreement, if only because no innovation and no evolution can happen unless we are projected into a different space from the one we are accustomed to. Being projected into the space of difference, change, imagination, dream, daydreaming, vision, possibility and openness is something that can happen either through internal forces of each one's psyche or through external factor and sometimes there are exceptional disciplines that create a link between inner and outer space. Most of the disciplines involved in Art are like that. It's an invitation to think, dream, dare, be-Start-Treky (blodly go where no one else has gone before), imagine, transcend current state, nudge yourself and others out of the comfort zone, flow, freeze, grow, disrupt... BE!
On a much more prosaic and practical level, the movie is supported by Coke and I think it shows the importance of content in capturing human attention and creating brand awareness and goodwill. It's among those signs that make me feel like indulging in the game of predictions:
- SEO will die on its feet because it's less and less relevant as content is increasingly structured and characterized during its production and publication to be easy for search engines to find and as search engines becomes increasingly smarter providing meaning on top of mere search, a trend stated in Fred Destin's remarkable post on investment and innovation trends
- the pendulum will swing back and content will once again be considered important and worth paying for. No longer will we hear so much excessive language about the commoditization of content and the age of abundance, even though access to and distribution of content have indeed dramatically changed
- user experience whether in the form of ergonomics or experience of service or immersive events (like Cirque du Soleil) will be paramount to actually attract attention in a commercially useful way
- advertising will disappear as a result of consumers developing resistance to mere "exposure" and "opportunity to see". Instead it will undergo a profound mutation to become a service to the desired audience...
- ... which means that the campaign logic must go away and budgets devoted to "time bound" initiative will have to be used differently on "contiuous / uniniterrupted activities" involving communities, tribes, high quality content, permanent education, true compassion for the customer...
- ... and that actually means that the relationship between media, advertisers, marketers, agencies and "operations enablers" (e.g. logistics companies) is going to be profoundly transformed once again in a veyr radical way that will recast completely e-commerce in the medium term
- business organization will evolve towards networks of businesses and ecosystems for which we are absolutely not prepared in terms of leagl frameworks, contractual relationships, labor relations, work tools, practices, methods and day to day organization. Actually I think that's the angle through which much of "enterprise 2.0" is likely to emerge
That's it for predictions and vision today. It's not a round number like 5, 10 or 20, that headlines are so fond of, but, hey it's a prime number :)
A very interesting post on @fredwilson's blog giving an account of the recent Blackberry failure in the US. Aside from the inconvenience caused by such events, there is a lesson: Fred Wilson's article shows at a micro level how dependent we've become professionally on the (near) permanent real-time connectivity.
It also shows how interactions between theoretically distinct services increases the vulnerability of a communications system, exposes users to consequences that go beyond the failure of one system and do damage to the brand reputation of other services.
This is a good proxy for what would happen if we were to experience more or less massive disruption of the Internet itself or of a dominant provider with a strategy to embrace all aspects and layers of connectivity. Perhaps more than antitrust legislation we now need anti-single-point-of-failure legislation mandating standards of service level, trouble containment measures and adequate fallback resources for all services that are critical to the economy.
Somehow Blackberry took down mobile web access on T-Mobile, ATT, and other networks. I guess that means that Blackberry has some kind of overlay network on these carrier's data networks. I am sure that is well known to mobile phone geeks and has been true for a long while. I just never wrapped my head around it.avc.com, A VC, Dec 2009
You should read the whole article.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
In my various projects with customers of such varied industries as music distribution, microelectronics, online and interactive marketing, new media, satellite radio, timber trading and banking, I've had many opportunities to discuss issues facing those organisations that required some form of transition to a next level of maturity. Whether that was for migrating to a completely new software platform, for changing established practices in marketing teams, for reworking the business model or for (re)inventing the product roadmap, we always ended up discussing people and leadership.
These are two fields in which one can hardly do a good job without having a very clear position and mine has always been that people should be treated as responsible adults and that leadership is just not about gorilla chest thumping or "alpha" dominance as is perhaps too widely believed. To me Gandhi has been much more of a leader than a cowboy president I will not name since he's now in the closets of History. That's because "one ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching", which also means that consistency between what someone thinks, says and does becomes an ever more important element of leadership. As do concepts that have historically been considered as disjoint or even at odds with what a leader should be: mindfullness, compassion and hope. It's what Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee call Resonant Leadership. Today I came across The Builders' Manifesto (via AgileMinds), a great piece on the next level of leadership, which finds me in complete agreement. Quick quote of something I particularly liked, but you should really read the full article:
The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will. The Builder depends on good.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. The Builder is inspired — by changing the world.
The boss says "I"; the leader says "we". The Builder says "all" — people, communities, and society.
The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.
The boss says, "Get there on time;" the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure "getting there" matters.
The boss knows how; the leader shows how. The Builder shows why.
The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes work a game. The Builder organizes love, not work.
The boss says, "Go;" the leader says, "Let's go." The Builder says: "come."
This is excellent stuff.
You've got to love the way Chambers has been managing Cisco for the past couple of decades and also how he took the lessons of the IBM story doing a hell of a lot to permanently sharpen strategic thinking and execution. He states very clearly why a company cannot afford to miss a major market transition, which means that a company cannot possibly afford not to monitor, analyze, measure, discuss and decide on changes in its environment, something far too many companies actually do *not* do. Better watch this sequence of his interview.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I found this excellent quote today via Fred Wilson's blog and I thought I'd immediately try the concept. It's like thinking of new practices and behaviors at a meta-level, which is right and good if you want to see trends and anticipate business opportunities that omit "blips", focus on meaningful information (real signal) and transcend individual instances of larger waves of innovation:
The really cool thing - because our following models follow a lot of the same principles, we’ve been able to take advantage of a ton of native features:
- Retweeting = Reblogging
- Replying = Reblogging w/ commentary
- Favoriting = Liking
- “@david” = ”http://david.tumblr.com/”
- Conversations = Reblogs
avc.com, A VC, Dec 2009
You should read the whole article.
When you've been watching the media space for the past few years you know the extraordinary challenges it is facing with its fundamentals, a business model that is broken, audiences that are fragmented, content that still costs a lot to produce even though its revenue generating ability has gone down the drain... Innovation is sought. Technology must be made an ally. Business will undergo massive transformation. This is definitely not about new media versus old media, but about a totally new media landscape opening opportunities to interact with audiences in novel manners and to activate multiple media formats no matter whether your initial expertise is in print, radio, television or the Internet. In that respect, Bonnier's recent roll out of a tablet that delivers the magazine to the audience is a most interesting innovation to watch. And I'm amazed with the buzz around it too.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Just read a piece about where Google might be in ten years and considering the success of Gmail between 2004 and now, the author might just be right even though his forecasts may seem wild at times (e.g. Android prevailing in the mobile OS wars). That gives me an opportunity to comment and discuss a bit further Google's amazing ability to execute beautifully a bold strategy of massive innovation to deliver on an audacious vision to organize the world's information.
A couple of comments on Google in 10 years
Interestingly Devinda Hardawar (@devindra on Twitter), the post's author, reminds us that Gmail was launched only in 2004. Few people can argue it's gaining traction in the segment of people who use predominantly email in SaaS mode and even making inroads into the segment of more traditional users who are stuck with legacy solutions like Outlook Express. Gmail grew 43% in 2008 and took #3 spot in August leaving AOL behind. It's gaining momentum and is probably a good indication of what Google can do in terms of winning market share with a patient approach that it can afford thanks to its advertising revenues.
Furthermore Devindra makes a couple of very powerful statements regarding Google Wave, stating his belief that it's much more important than it may seem on the surface and could well revolutionize the way knowledge work gets done. In keeping with a recent post on this blog, I very much agree with him and do intend to spend more time testing Wave, not dismiss it as Scoble has done, foolishly in my opinion.
Google's execution excellence
Google ability to consistently pursue specific targets is an amazing characteristic of the company. They've been able to roll out a number of major services over the past decade accomplishing key strategic targets with each of them:
- search, their bread and butter and the foundation for any endeavor having to do with managing information at an age of information mostly uncontrolled proliferation. With that they accomplished brand recognition and created necessary technological foundations.
- email in what was not called SaaS yet, thus increasing the touch points with the market and making a first move towards managing some of the world's information.
- advertising based on search and content: building on the previous and targeting and industry which was both very inefficient and well endowed. With that they achieved financial viability and independence as well as consideration by financial markets.
- analytics, building on the previous one to help make the process of marketing communications and ultimately marketing more efficient and rational. With that they earned a position as a trusted provider of quantitative information.
- office productivity suite, to increase the share of their direct contribution towards managing the world's information by accessing a new kind of content.
- e-commerce capabilities with Checkout, to start processing transactional information on behalf of merchants and buyers.
- Android, to extend the reach of their services to mobile contexts and facilitate seamlessness of user experience across networks and contexts.
- voice services, to go beyond text and enhance the experience of users across the full range of Google services with a view to serving more and better the business world.
- technology as a service, to provide infrastructure as a service, operating system as a a service, storage as a service, programming platform as a service... and leverage the web as a platform.
Arguably, there's more and there are other ways of viewing what Google is doing, but in every case you'll find great consistency and clarity of purpose in strategy execution.
Google acquisitions: a string of success stories
Looking at the string of their acquisitions over the past decade (another way to assess strategy execution), the consistency of purpose is obvious and their ability to integrate acquired companies and technologies is impressive. Some people tend to focus too much on plays that did not turn out to be successful and fail to see the bigger picture: Google successfully embeds 80% of its acquisitions in the Google system, when the market average is much much lower (I'd say 20% based on the business news I've followed for the past 20 years).
Significant and successful moves included:
Deja in 2001, which became Google Groups, now integrated in Google Apps and arguably a successful service with important synergies with targeted advertising, Google's current bread and butter
Outride in 2001 and Kaltix in 2003 which became iGoogle, personalized search and the search wiki.
Pyra Labs and Genius Labs in 2003, which is the foundation of Blogger... No comment.
Picasa in 2004... again not exactly a failure, especially considering the early success of Flickr
Baidu in 2004... and oh, China is a fairly big market they say...
ZipDash, Where2 and Keyhole in 2004, Endoxon in 2006 and Image America in 2007, which gave Google Maps
- Urchin in 2005, which became Google Analytics subsequently enhanced in 2007 with the licensing of GapMinder's great data visualization technologies (commercial entity was called Trendalyzer)
- Android in 2005... you have heard of the Droid success in the US I'm sure. In fact it's been estimated that 75% of all web resources visited with mobile phones in the US were either iPhone OS or Android... Nokia and Symbian are in the dust over there, so that's a decent accomplishment, no?
- @Last software, in 2006, which gave Google Sketch still insufficiently acknowledged as a revolution in computer aided design and very used in engineering communities
- Upstartle and 2Web Technologies in 2006 and Zenter in 2007, which power Google Documents, a foundation for online office productivity applications and online form building
- JotSpot in 2006, which became Google Sites, an extremely powerful tool that some people like David Dossot (not exactly a tech nitwit) use to build websites and some other use to provide customized secure online workspaces for their customers (BusinessQuests humbly but proudly claims to be among them)
- Grand Central in 2007, which became Google Voice and is still insufficiently acknowledged as a major disruption in telecoms because it does enable a form of unified messaging & communications
- DoubleClick in 2007, which I believe holds a good share in all of its markets
Postini in 2007, which provides fantastic anti-spam protection for all Google Apps for email users, amongst which yours truly very humbly and happily so
- re-CAPTCHA this year, arguably a good security enhancement for Blogger
and last but not least YouTube in 2006, which I think was a fair success amply justifying its acquisition price of 1.7 billion USD
Google is recorded as having purchased 59 companies for a total amount that is hard to assess but likely stands in the region of 15-18 billion USD. The track record of acquisitions can in no way be considered as bad. In fact I know only of one company that is better: Cisco. Both Google and Cisco are hugely analytical players, with extra smart employees on board, giving huge attention to recruitment and equally huge attention to acquisitions.
Another thing worth mentioning is Google's creation of an arm dedicated to early stage investments, which is called Google Ventures, a fund that started this year with 100 million USD. Google Ventures has made a couple of very smart bets in clean-tech with smart grid technology (Silver Spring Networks) and biotechnology (Adimab)...
Saturday, December 12, 2009
In a recent post published on American Express' Open community, where you need to be registered as Amex customer to leave a comment (so much for"open"...), Guy Kawasaki identifies six types of Twitter users, which feel right if you've been on Twitter long enough and followed / unfollowed many people in an attempt to make the experience relevant to you.
Kawasaki's six types are:
Go to his post for explanations.
To me the distinction between the Smore (the social media whore... you've got to love this new word) and the Brand is not that clear in Kawasaki's definition and I don't see two profiles that are in fact part of the Twitter ecosystem:
- Hoarders, users who use Twitter primarily to monitor, capture information to gain insight. They're are a bit like Maven's but they don't necessarily seek to be recognized as experts or to be retweeted
- Quants, non-users who have developed applications that are useful or fun to users (e.g. URL shorteners, usr grading, Tweet analytics or tags of keywords) and which can be used to gain a fine principally quantitative understanding of the Twitter landscape.
Does that make sense?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Through a recent post of one of my contacts, I got to view for a second time a presentation Tim Berners-Lee gave at TED for the 20 years of the web. What had not struck me the first time I saw the presentation is the claim Berners-Lee makes that everything we have today of the web resulted from the idea of hyperlink / hypertext. A big bang of sorts.
It's almost a stereotype of the kind of claims brilliant conceptual types do, because they're so focused on discovery, innovation in its rawest form, beginnings and not necessarily finished forms... which is also one of the reasons why Tim Berners-Lee was not the many economic beneficiary of the discovery. Can you imagine the turn of events had he decided to patent the hyperlink idea and ask for a trillionth of a Euro for each hyperlink created? One of the reasons why I'm not a fan of extreme patenting and rigid copyright.
In this presentation Tim Berners-Lee calls from a new leap, which he thinks is as important as the hyperlink: open availability of raw data. Can you imagine what that means if he's right? I'm ready to bet he is and I'm ready to bet it's a matter that's far more important than data: it's a matter of civilization and a defining factor for civil liberties.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Daniel Pink makes once again a great case for non-conventional thinking on the topic of the drivers of motivation. He debunks a number of assumptions that most of us take for granted just because we grew up in a world driven by the fallacy of rationality of economic agents, "carrot and stick" or "reward - punishment" paradigm. Pink shows how reward schemes actually force people to narrow their thinking down to obvious paths and therefore are mostly counter productive when it comes to really challenging situations, which is where rewards would be completely justified...
Perhaps an additional proof, if there was need for one, that money does not buy motivation, talent and ability to apply knowledge. There has to be something else. Something the builders of cathedrals in Europe knew centuries back when they were not only looking for capable craftsmen, but also looking for craftsmen that had a personal win in the success of the project to build a cathedral. And in a way Pink rediscovers and refines that by identifying three key aspects to motivation:
Those who've been involved in neurolinguistic programming might say that these are key values and beliefs for reaching excellence of impeccability because they define aspects of the transpersonal level in Bateson's logical levels and they drive acquisition of skills (strategies), ways of doing (skills + behaviors) and ways of being (attitude, intention). There are some excellent examples here amongst which why Encarta lost to Wikipedia.
Furthermore Pink's points are highly compatible with the attributes of Resonant Leadership as discussed by Boyatzis & McKee.
Just watch a fascinating presentation:
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Just saw Google's video on real-time search and there was a comment saying something like "As usual with Google: just a useless BS video , and not a tiny bit of information about how you are actually supposed to use this".
I must disagree with that because the video provides a fairly immersive experience and a good feel for what they mean by real-time search. My comment would be that there is so much Twitter in the video that one gets to wonder when will Google acquire Twitter...
Monday, December 7, 2009
The launch of Google Wave has generated various reviews and left many with a feeling of perplexity or outright rejection because what they saw seemed so little compared to what had been promised (a lesson for every marketer out there IMO). In fact people who've accessed the platform reported several important issues summarized here.
However GoogleWave is indeed completely revolutionary and could well transform the way we deal with information, interactions, collaboration and value creation... perhaps even transactions some day.
This wiki (kindly provided on Wave by my friend David Dossot) is proof of the revolutionary aspect of Wave as it deals with bots, each of which has a special function within the Wave ecosystem allowing it to connect and interact with other formats, platforms, logical spaces, communities and online properties. What's still very much unclear in what I've read so far (not nearly enough) is the security model and the degree to which bots can be configured with standard behaviors but if secure and with extensive ability to configure and string together (with some of these objects providing flexibility analogous to Yahoo Pipes), then Wave could well be the equivalent of the "one ring to rule them all" and probably also "an offer we can't refuse" as the Godfather would say.
On the even more interesting side of things, once adopted Wave becomes a real Complex Adaptive System with a greater potential for structure emergence than the open web because of the existence of rules and constraints that are neither too many (as in collaborative systems like blueKiwi or SharePoint) nor too few (as in the open web). The concept of wave being so open and so flexible provides for an ideal combination of rules and flexibility, which is necessary for CAS dynamics to really operate.
Now this is a first impression and I have not tested this stuff a lot, but if it is what I understand it to be and if it becomes what I imagine it can become, then this thing is not simply big, it's huge.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Just read a piece (see link at the end of this post) claiming that the CRM is dead and that with the advent of the "social customer" there would be a new way of seeing marketing through 5 Ps, the most important of which would be people. The article titled "CRM is dead: Do You Know the Five Ps of Marketing?"claims that CRM is for the dustbins of history. I respectfully disagree with that.
In fact CRM is more alive than ever with ZohoCRM, Salesforce and Siebel powering an increasing number of commercial groups in established companies as well as start-ups worldwide. From sales force automation to marketing campaigns to cross company project teams and integrated marketing analytics, these platforms are providing the means to an end: building rapport with customers who are increasingly social.
(1) you need a clear objective in terms of quality, reach, intensity, frequency and intimacy in customer relationships,
(2) you have more than just customers and prospects to deal with especially if you embrace a vision of influencer marketing
(3) you need the technical means to achieve the above and these technical means are CRM systems
Bottom line: today's marketing and sales main challenge is to distinguish between means and ends, using the former to achieve the latter. Increasingly social customers create new requirements in terms of goals and imply the use of older as well as emergent tools and practices. No point in being too categoric about the dustbins of history: the new never fully eradicates the old but rather amalgamate to create something stronger than either of the initial components. That's Darwinian in its truest form and it applies to technology as well.
That's quite big as a move! Google is increasingly a dominant provider of network based resources: infrastructure as a service, processing as a service, storage as a service, software as a service, messaging, instant messaging, VoIP telephony, unified messaging... But they're smart enough to see that network based must have local relays, which is why there's Gears, Chrome OS, Android...etc. One has to admire their strategy and crucially its execution.
This move to provide DNS service is a very important one because it's about Google taking a key position in one of the core infrastructures of the web. A position from which they can become indispensable and from which they can effectively influence the future of core technologies powering the Internet. The next step will be for Google to offer different levels of service one of which could be completely secure high availability DNS service for business critical applications, something that would make sense as the network is more and more the computer. Sun was way too early with their vision so someone else gets to do something good with it. There are more casualties in first movers than unfair advantage achieved by being a first mover.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Excellent piece on how to hire a co-founder at start-up phase; received via @lkratz. The article highlights some of the least common criteria to be considered when hiring at a start-up including dilution, investor relations and effectiveness of governance.
Experimentation is perhaps the most important attitude for understanding the ever changing landscape of a world constantly reshaped by infotech. From continuous experimentation hopefully comes some experience which can be used for execution of plans; we've got the 3Es of success and the cycle goes on and on.
In this post I'd like to share some thoughts about an experiment that started like all of BusinessQuests' experiments: with a weird question. Today's weird question: is there a way to find out how much carbon dioxide the "2.0" crowd of thinkers and star players is generating just by traveling the world to attend conferences, make speeches, shake hands and send those lovely "tweets" about the weather in Paris or the taste of vodka in Moscow?
Purpose of the experiment
The purpose of the experiment was therefore to find out how close I could get to assessing the carbon dioxide emissions of people like Robert Scoble, Peter Kim, Gerd Leonhard, Bradley Horowitz, Joi Ito, Lawrence Lessig... using only public information that I gathered from the "social web". So this is about using "2.0" tools on the thought leaders and stars of the "2.0" crowd, all of whom are very connected and tend to travel a lot to speak and meet in real life during conferences, not all of them interesting it must be said.
Why does it matter?
There's more to this attempt to assess carbon emissions of prominent figures of today's web than the results per se. It goes deeper to the question of what uses can actually be made of public information that we publish very willingly as part of our being part of the global networked community of what Richard Florida dubbed the "creative class", what some call the community of the über-connected, the "2.0" bunch.
Whether the results are accurate to the gram of CO2 or not is not that relevant; the fact that the emissions can be estimated with published user data is much more relevant though because it means there is probably a way for people running private intelligence services or marketing organizations (sometimes a nuance without a difference) to do pretty accurate estimates of other dimensions in the lives of the connected crowd from revenues to groups supported to books bought to relationships and addresses... It's food for thought and that's not only for those of use who are active participants to social media and social platforms' permanent beta.
So here are the results (spreadsheets here), using just Google Docs and an amazing gadget called Panorama Analytics for creating pivot tables on Google Sheets. The chart gives average emissions of carbon dioxide for prominent "2.0" figures who were kind enough to allow open access to their travel information on social travel site Dopplr.
For convenience, given that the load time of the Panorama gadget may be long, there's an Excel version of the chart below:
How was this done?
The total distance traveled by each of the people listed here was
broken down into plane, train and car travel making three sets of
assumptions (called scenario 1, scenario 2 and scenario 3) about the
relative importance of each transportation means in the traveler's
total travel distance. The traveler's date of activation of the Dopplr
account was used to calculate the number of months over which the total
distance was traveled and the free carbon footprint calculator provided
by the website www.carbonify.com was used toestimate the carbon impact of each traveler for each of the three scenarios.
From people to industries to institutions, the ubiquitous network and network based applications are profoundly transforming the way things get done. For all the generous talk about the openness, creativity and sharing enabled by social media, the central issue of what public information says about each one of us is getting hotter and hotter even as people from different background converge to bring solutions to address "digital identity", "e-reputation", "brand protection", "buzz", "intelligence", "monitoring"...
Since the very availability of such information and the thought of how it could be used undoubtedly sends shivers down many spines, it follows very logically that the kind of information we processed in this experiment is also information that has real marketing value because it makes sense. It has meaning. Something that is not necessarily true of all the detailed metrics and analysis we get from sophisticated tools that measure visits, bounces, clics, actions, hits, views or deliveries. At the end of the day less may very well be more if that "less" goes more to the heart of behavior tying back to real life of real people with real dreams, hopes, fears, joys and aspirations. That is the real core challenge for marketers today.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Definitely worth reading. This has important implications on the future of marketing.