Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Playing hardball on strategy

This one's from Ivey Business Journal via MBA Depot. We are used to sporting and military terminology in business strategy and Hardball is no exception. In summary, go easy on your competitors and you will lose. Instead, play hardball - fair, legal, ethical but hard - by focusing on your strengths and their weaknessness and by exploiting both.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Business Transformations 101

On Transformations and what must have happen to make them work, John Kotter noninates 8 stages. I'm not personally fond of the 'institutionalising new approaches' wording as it suggests entrenchment... but overall you can't argue too hard against the 8 dot points. Kotter explains all in his book, Leading Change.

It's probably a good idea to practice sensible Change Management as well. It never ends - I think that's the secret.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Google Trends - a useful service

Don't forget to use Google's Trends service... or use it now if you've only just realised it's there! Trends allows search term comparisons, as in "alfa" vs "alfa romeo". It plots it graphically and by geography. If you need to know what search terms are hot and where, this is how you find out.

Oh yeah, it's also fun.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Google search share down?

Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know how they know - I imagine there's some proprietary rights over the real data, so it's probably a sample, but Forbes is reporting that Google's share of web searches has fallen. About time. Anyone remember when Altavista was king? Google has had a long and spectacular run, as has Yahoo!, but things do change. Interestingly noone is saying that Microsoft's share is growing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Old Media takes over the New Media?

I have a few bones to pick with this Forbes soapbox article. Firstly, why would it surprise anyone that cashed-up Old Media wouldn't see the light eventually (let's not forget they mostly nay-sayed to begin with) and then jump in buying up the new, hardier post-techwreck upstarts? Especially when the writing's now plainly on the wall? The upstart is here, banging on the door.

Whilst I accept the premise that "old media" will adapt, I disagree with the thrust of the article, that all previous forms of media remain intact and will continue to flourish in "a bigger pie". The pie may indeed be bigger - there are more consumers with more cash in hand now than 50 years ago, for starters - but the forms of media that were around 50 years ago - even 25 years ago - have certainly not 'flourished'. They may look healthy now but that's a veneer - what they are today exists only because of a painful and lengthy process of adaptation to previous change.

Anyway, Clem Chambers writes in part that it was said that "The invention of radio was going to kill newspapers; the advent of television was going to kill radio, cinema and newspapers. The older among us will remember that the computer was going to banish paper from the office and replace textbooks and so on. Yet in all instances, there has never been more apparently "obsolete media" around than today".

Not everyone believes - or has in the past stated - that a new invention "kills" prior art. Sometimes it does, or seems to, just as TV did overwhelm cinema. If you consider it to be otherwise, consider that there used to be cinemas in every suburb, in the tiniest communities - just as there were dance halls, community meeting rooms and public libraries everywhere. Radio and then TV steadily drove down patronage, before cinema fought back with multiplexes; and now cinema is adapting again to DVD and online entertainment options. Cinema may not have been "killed" but it's a very different - and far less dominant- beast from, say, the 1940s version.

Exactly the same applies to radio and newspapers. Radio was the centre of our lives for a while, the fastest way to obtain information and a new source for entertainment. It did impact newspapers hugely and still does. Indeed newspapers adapted and competed but they noticeably increased their op-ed content, decreased their frequency, merged and generally looked desperately around for new ways to survive. It was a major and very public reorganisation and regrouping from the 1960s to the 80s that led to what Clem sees as the flourishing "old media" we see now. But now radio, newspapers and TV itself are threatened by the Internet. Radio is already marginalised. Yes, it has adapted, just as TV is adapting, and they both have found ways to cut costs and cling to their niches. But radio certainly isn't the beast that it was and TV is now facing the same competitive pressures - and losing both viewers and revenue.

As for the myth of the 'paperless office', Clem is clearly not old enough to recall what offices were like before ubiquitous computing. Look at the finance industry for just one example. Bank books were indeed books with handwritten entries. Ledgers were on paper and balances had to be made available daily - on paper. Customer records were on paper. Paper forms for new accounts. Paper forms for every transaction, credit or debit. Offices were packed with paper files that represented the account details of every customer. Typewriters where everywhere. We used handwriting a lot more. We kept everything - on paper. It was a paper-based world.

If you replicated this paper-based information collection, storage and presentation stream to the scale and breadth of today's requirements - well it wouldn't work, would it? It may have been rash to declare the end of paper in the office, but like cinema, radio, TV and newspapers its use has changed profoundly and - relatively speaking - has declined enormously.

Which brings me to Clem's claim that the textbook is also flourishing in this modern digital age. Perhaps he means that the textbook has morphed into an online entity; because paper-based textbooks are on the nose. Children are increasingly required to have laptops in their schoolbags, not paper-based boat anchors.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

After 25 years is the PC dead?

Is the PC dead? After 25 years of development we are both nowhere and everywhere. Nowhere in the sense that I for example am doing exactly what I did on a computer in 1984... type. I work with words and numbers. I may do a few other things like video editing, which back then I did equivalently as 8mm film splicing, but 90% of what I do is the same. And by everywhere I mean I do just about everything on a PC of some sort and pretty much carry one of them around all the time. But what really has changed?

They are bigger, faster, lighter, smaller and more colourful - louder as well. They can replace audio systems, video and TV systems, even photograhic paper and film. But increasing so can other devices. What's the betting that one day your cell phone will do everything your PC does today? What will that mean for PC hardware and software businesses?

Interesting InfoWorld piece here on the PC's history and relevance.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Free stuff from McKinsey's

Highly recommended for anyone in business or involved in business studies: the McKinsey Quarterly. Some content is free upon registration. If you are doing an MBA these reports are great reference material.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Apple's Leopard about to pounce

OS wars, again and again

Does it really matter what Apple does? They only have about 2% of the global PC market, if that. However they do possess greater 'mind share'. Far more than 2% of us know about Apple as a brand. We may like 'em or loathe 'em but they do come out with some funky stuff. Here's a positive (perhaps overly positive) report on Leopard from SmartHouse. With Windows Vista somewhere in the wings it's Apple's (and Linux's) time to make up some ground. With Macs now powered by Intel the obvious is happening - Apple can now confidently assert that all apps are available on the one platform - the Apple platform. Whilst that's reassuring for the Mac users - to have access to Windows apps on their otherwise more limited (if impressive) architecture - will it drive PC fans into the arms of Apple dealers?

I suspect it will grab a bigger bite, but it won't shake the earth.
posted by gtveloce at 2:52 AM

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Strategic purchase by AMD

The ATI purchase by AMD is interesting. It's not just a simple play to grow a company by absorbing a related but smaller company. Sure, AMD is a chip maker, but it makes the grandest chips of all - the CPUs - so buying up a graphics specialist is (a) chicken feed and (b) not going to shake the Earth. Or will it?

By buying up such a reputable graphics card maker they have guaranteed that at least some of AMD's product will now be getting inside some of those Intel boxes, not just their own. Intel may now have to consider putting pressure on its customers to drop ATI - but it surely risks anti-competitive action in so doing. And some graphics and games buffs love ATI, so there will be resistance. It's thus another ploy by AMD to get the brand into Intel territory and to drive a wedge into the box makers. Do they stick with ATI and thus side with AMD, risking Intel's wrath, or do they side with Intel and drop ATI, accepting any collateral damage that may bring?

It's a canny move by AMD in any case. Read Infoworld's take here.