Boardroom Report

Big Things Are Brewing, Stay Thirsty My Friends

By Carl Ford, Partner, Crossfire Media  |  November 13, 2014

This is one of those rare moments when I am under an embargo on a number of activities going on in the market. So without revealing what I know, let me tell you what you need to discuss in your own boardrooms.

We have several well-funded new entrants about to come on the scene. We also have a consolidation going on in the market.  In addition to these two trends, we have a statement made by a member of the community that he is now competing with large government systems integrators.

In other words, everyone is upgrading their game. 

Now assuming you are not involved in one of these three trends yet, let me share with you some questions you would be wise to consider. Let’s use more brilliant minds than mine to guide you.

“Businesses fail either because they leave their customers or because their customer leave them!”  ? Andrew S. Grove, “Only the Paranoid Survive”

This quote from Andy is like a Buddhist koan. On the one hand, you have to innovate; on the other, you have to keep your customer satisfied. What would change the game and bypass your solutions? Many companies in the market have alliances with sensor manufacturers. Is there some alliance that would make your solution more accessible? When was the last time you had a user group meeting or conducted market research? Are you the essential element in your customer’s thinking or a piece that is replaceable? Who else in the food chain of your solution could provide your portion of the solution? Should you acquire them?

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”  ? Jack Welch

The most educated man from the Renaissance has the equivalent of a fourth grader’s education today. Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to be a Renaissance man today. You are far better off bringing smart people in to gain from their perception as well as their experience. Is your team and product complacent? Are you keeping up with the changes? For me, I find that often the new terms have equivalent old terms and little has changed but the customer’s perception. How do you distinguish marketing hype from actual movement? Can your solution be outflanked simply by not being part of the latest trend? Is your channel capable of being bypassed? What made it so that Blockbuster, Tower Records, and Border book stores could not respond to the market change? How much of your customer interaction can you achieve virtually, and does that change the relationship?

“Details matter, it's worth waiting to get it right.”  ? Steve Jobs (News - Alert)

It’s amazing to me to look at the original iPod and see where it came from and where it went. However, fundamentally the design was tested and trusted. Too many times companies feel a need to respond to the market and put the quality assurance aspects of the solution into an impossibly short window. Even today with lean development, the opportunity exists for some of the features and workflow to turn into painful experiences for the customers. Are you willing and capable of reiterating until you get it right? Will your customer feel like a lab rat after looking at all the changes made and not seeing a direct connection to the product they are used to?

“I have had all the disadvantages required for success.”  ? Larry Ellison (News - Alert)

No one has enough resources to assure success, and likewise failure cannot be specifically blamed on the lack of resources. However, it may be time to ask yourself the most important question. Does it make sense to merge with others? We have some companies that are clearly going to be providing fully integrated services. Some companies expect to stay horizontal. But everyone is going to be expected to support full-blown vertical solutions one way or another. In some circumstances, that represents opportunity because the acquisition will make divesting opportunities a necessity. When your board gets together, will you be prepared to answer the questions?

If Andy Grove is right that only the paranoid survive, then you have my sympathies. However, I can tell you the announcements being made in the near future are going to be pretty astounding.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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