Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scrum Achilles' heel and ProdThink

What is Scrum?

I discovered this extremely well done video made by a young Scrum master and talented communicator, named  Hamid Shojaee. Hamid competes with movie stars, as his video has so har three quarter of a millions views. Wow.  I embedded the video here for easy reference



Naturally, every new product request starts with some features request. Supposedly each feature is associated with a benefit. How this is done? Customers, executives and perhaps some team members request those features. Each feature and benefit is collected as a User Story. 

Then all the user stories  are placed on a product backlog, a wish list. Someone, called the Product Owner looks at this wish list and decides which features to implement as minimum to reach product success.

At this moment the Scrum Master appears on the scene. Before he steps in to  take the lead, we had a feature selection process taking place outside the Scrum framework. The input provided from executives, customers, some engineers, may be somewhat hazy and eclectic.  Umair Haque had a tweet today, describing how things may work when trying to repair something.  In my opinion, Scrum's fogging feature decision process qualifies.
Scrum is a well designed methodology to deliver clean products in the shortest time. The human ability and intuition is key to give a credible input for the product destined to be a triumph. The Project Manager, or Scrum  Master estimates the effort, creates various sprints, burn down charts, velocity slope and keeping the project on track. This is great.

And the video of Hamid is a spark  of genius.

What is ProdThink?

This comes from another tweet today, after reading Laura Klein blog
The best way to explain what  ProdThink does, is to watch their home page video


ProdThink HomePage Video from ProdThink on Vimeo.

I quote an email I received today from ProdThink CEO Steven Cohen, with some  of ProdThink's key features:
  1. Recruit: Ask users to give feedback on specific features
  2. Survey: Dig deeper with customers and stakeholders with audience specific surveys
  3. Record: Share a URL with users and record their screens
  4. Roadmap: Share your Roadmap with stakeholders for them to vote on key features
  5. Analyze: Filter survey results to find features that match certain criteria
This is fantastic piece of technology, that took pains and hard work to develop. Now the web site is open for business.

The Obvious Take Away 

ProdThink is the solution to the Scrum's Achilles' heel  Both are tools. ProdThik is a tool for Product Managers. Scrum is a tool for Project Manager, aka Scrum masters. Tools don't replace people.

But by using in tandem Scrum + ProdThink  we have an elegant framework that minimizes risk to let the wrong features slip in,  and to create a beautiful product nobody wants to buy or adopt.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What it is like coaching entrepreneurs?


Since 2010, One Million by One Million (1M/1M) is a "global virtual incubator that aims to nurture a million entrepreneurs to reach a million dollars each in annual revenue and beyond, thereby creating a trillion dollars in global GDP and ten million jobs."

1M/1M is a brainchild of Sramana Mitra.. The global  self-styled "incubator" charges $1,000 per year for membership and organizes many roundtables.

I extracted these ten takeaway Mitra shares with her readers about her experience in working with entrepreneurs
  1. Tell, in a palatable way, http://bit.ly/1crvRDa not what they want to hear. This is an art.
  2. Entrepreneurs learn not only from pitching, but also from listening at the round tables.
  3. We promote bootstrapped, lean, capital efficient startups, with emphasis on the business model and monetization We don't speculate.
  4. No silver bullets. . We do well with those entrepreneurs who are willing to put in the work, and are realistic about what the outcomes can be.
  5. Confidentiality is not an excuse not to analyze thoroughly the business outcome. Strategy and execution are really what drive success.
  6. Some projects are not fundable, yet. Some never. But we have ideas  how to bootstrap  for a while or forever.
  7. Translating a poorly understood discipline  into a widely  understood discipline.
  8. Capital eco-systems are variable from geo to geo We teach entrepreneurs how not to work for investors, but for themselves.
  9. We fight to reduce infant entrepreneurial mortality, as much as possible.
  10. Entrepreneurs' ecosystem - mentors, advisors, incubators, media, all promise things they can't deliver. On the other hand entrepreneurs join my program with expectations that cannot be met. Intellectual honesty matters.
I wonder if anybody knows "what entrepreneurs need to hear" which is "different from what they want to hear".

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Docker, a new business star

This entry is a continuation of the In praise of Open - Proprietary hybrid software releases   It is a business case of the modern use of open source concept.

Danese Cooper, ex Sun, aka the Open Source Diva is a follower of  Meher Baba, the Irani Indian spiritual teacher. She writes
"I believe that the Open Source Methodology of increased transparency in software development (and possibly also in hardware development) can only have a positive effect on the technology we deliver to customers. The marriage of Open Source to traditional software development has created some interesting hybrid (part Open part Proprietary) models which I believe hold up favorably against entirely traditional methods in both time to market and satisfaction of market demand."
Docker is a San Francisco based startup. illustrating Danese's  vision. They started as dotCloud Inc.  and changed name and business model in October 2013.

In dotCloud,  one builds an ideal application stack by combining powerful cloud services. Go live and only pay for what you need.

But Docker is an open source engine that packages any application as a lightweight, portable container that runs consistently virtually anywhere.

What this means? The best explanation I read in  TechCrunch
Originally designed as a platform as a service (PaaS), Docker showed promise for its flexible capabilities in providing developers with a service that supported multiple programming languages. But the competition from companies like Heroku and VMware’s Cloud Foundry made for a challenging market, further exacerbated by the lack of a widespread market acceptance for the benefits that PaaS providers offered.
But developers did need a way to move their code to cloud services in a lightweight way without the tax of heavy virtual machines that were difficult to move and required a degree of manual integration. The problem stemmed from the virtualization technology itself, which sits below the operating system. It virtualizes the server, not the app. And because of that, the operating system has to move in order to run the app wherever it might be transported. Once delivered, it has to be booted up and configured to run with the database and the rest of the stack that it depends on.
With Docker, the container sits on top of the operating system. The only thing that moves is the code. The developer does not have to boot and config. Instead, the container syncs with the cloud service.
Once an application is in a Docker container, it is "Dockerized". Note that Docker is a platform product and breakthrough product. See why here . It has the potential for a maximum valuation, can not compare with a derivative product company which limits itself in doing new versions of the same product year after year, just to keep the market or not have users run to competing services

Ethan Kurzweil, partner at Bessemer Venture partners wrote this month in his blog 
The democratization of technology resources will be a central driver of technology change this decade. While there are 18 million developers in the world, there are 400 million information workers. These information workers are increasingly accustomed to using online and mobile software in their personal lives — as the meteoric rise of social media and mobile apps has shown. ... However, these tech nativists cannot test or complete basic changes without the input of a developer, creating a massive bottleneck in the implementation of their ideas.
If one technology democratize technology resources and let the ideas fly, this is Docker.
This was the response:
[Docker] launched the open-source effort last spring and the acceptance has been almost unprecedented.
“I have never seen a technology take off as quickly as Docker and get the type of broad-based adoption that it is getting,” said Dan Scholnick of Trinity Ventures in a phone interview last week. “ If you look at the absolute numbers — the number of Docker containers downloaded, the number of docker containers created — they are off the charts. What is more interesting, the adoption is not just coming from startup or certain types of companies. The adoption is across companies of all sizes and industry verticals. It is a combination of high-growth and broad-based adoption that is really amazing.”
By going Open Source, what is the business model? Ben Golub, CEO of Docker, ex Gluster and ex-Sun says for 2014 the plans are
  • Managed services for Developers
  • Managed services for DevOps/Sys Admins
  • Providing Docker professional service, support, and training, through a network of certified providers backed by a Level III relationship with Docker, Inc.
In weeks after doCloud changed the business model to Docker,

The company has raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Greylock Partners, with minority participation from Insight Venture Partners and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Also participating is Yahoo! Co-Founder Jerry Yang,.

What you probably don't know is that Docker is on the list of 10 Startups you didn’t know were founded by French Entrepreneurs

Solomon Hykes. Docker co-founder
Co-founder Solomon Hykes, along with Marketing Director Julien Barbier, are part of in While42, a private network of French engineers around the world.  (Paris, San Francisco, Miami).

It also shows a 21st company continuous  iteration of product can lead to such revolutionary and lucrative discoveries.

The subject of migrating applications from one grid to another, from one cluster another was one of the most difficult. It mal-created a class of arrogant systems engineers w.ho were sending everyone to learn how to code, so they can win the Nobel prize.

Dockerizing is a great discoveries and I will be not surprised to see Solomon Hykes as the next French Zuckerberg.

Post Scriptum

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leaders eat last . Leadership as a Service - LaaS.

How comes that in a war leaders are prepared to sacrifice themselves to save others, and in corporations, leaders most often are prepared to sacrifice others, so they can survive? Isn't this the moral ground to do "reorganizations"?

This is the latest video from Simon Sinek,  after the Golden Circle  featured in an earlier post. Synek says : Employees are people too !

We all seek leadership as a service (maybe we should call it LaaS) that someone called a leader offers his followers. We all seek power to protect ourselves. Someone who makes our survival and our happiness easier to reach

They say the world of business is tough and ruthless. This is why we must create islands where we can survive. This why my favorite leader of all times is the Biblical Joseph

At that time, the usual way to become rich was to make wars, pillage and enslave other people. Joseph, "the explainer of dreams",  became the wealthiest person in the then known world.  He cared about other people and saved the entire nation from famine.


Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last from 99U on Vimeo.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Think Big. Eradicating the reorgs, Part 2

This is a continuation of the article Eradicating the cancer of "reorgs" and "rif

On January  10, 2014, US Bureau of Labor unemployment report said we still have 10.4 million unemployed people in US. But in addition to them, the number of persons employed part time was 7.8 million in December. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work. We gained 72,000 jobs in December, which is peanuts

Behind the numbers there a tragedy of those overqualified high tech workers out of the productive workforce. On Fox News satellite radio channel they added that the churn rate in 2013  is 25%. Most under-employed people are forced to take bitter tasting jobs, with no medical benefits, if they are lucky enough to find them. The people who look for work are not only the unemployed, but most employed people keep an eye waiting for an opportunity to change jobs and escape lack of creativity, boredom and insecurity.

In 2010, I started  petition on Change.org Revive the high-tech start up on Silicon Valley and US


The goal was to create alternative employment, creative, fulfilling, happy employment to absorb the all rifed highly trained professional population and the university graduates.

Sure startups can create new jobs, but most startups come from incubators. They are created by investors not interested to grow long term into  large companies. They create companies to flip them off to a buyer for shorter term profit.

On January 1, 2014 on this blog, in the article Focus on breakthrough products to heal Europe and US economies I quoted Dries Buytaert the co-founder and CTO of Acquia, a Drupal shop in Europe.

One of the things Dries said which struck me  as a phenomenal insight was to create BIG companies, 25 billions or more. Small starts up up to 1 billion dollars are not sufficient.

In Europe the job situation is disastrous. Half Of Spain's Young People Would Be Happy To Take Any Job and IKEA Spain received 100,000 applications for 400 jobs.

But how do we start a BIG company? This is easier said than done. It all started with Rashi Glazer my marketing teacher at UC Berkeley Haas Business School during the first ever executive program in Product Management.
Prof. Rashi Glazer
You MUST THINK BIG, he said. America is famous for thinking big. The highest rewards comes from taking the biggest risks. This is not everybody cup of tea. Many creative people have a low tolerance to risk and psychologically they can not stand the incertitude.

Amazon is looking at drones to make deliveries at home. The founder of Tesla car company is an ex PayPal founder.

So there is not only a question of having startups. Sure startups remain key to the economic growth.

Companies like Microsoft and Dell and HP and Oracle and IBM, how can they reinvent themselves to become even bigger than they are today?.

The Business Insider in 2012  says Facebook was worth at that time, 2x plus HP, 4x Dell, 100x New York Times, 3x Target, 10x Nokia  and so on. The article states
Not much of a surprise, though. Facebook is making a world-changing piece of technology, and it also happens to pay its engineers better than most other companies in Silicon Valley — so it attracts the best talent.
I read the news of the search of a  new CEO for Microsoft, as if one hired hand gifted and famous can change around a culture that stopped thinking big? They think are big enough.

If I were an outside consultant able to listen humbly, I would simply ask : How do you create desire for people to have Microsoft product X? Is there anyway to triple the market worth in 4 years?

Microsoft is too large and arrogant. No one will ask me or other small forward thinking consultants. They may deal with  the big boys, who all they do is covering the cracking and patching.

The unemployment numbers hint to unhappiness. The unemployed lost hope and the employed live in fear of becoming disposable. I don't mean "happiness" as complacency. I mean that uplifting moments when  we feel life is worth living and work is part of it.

My petition got 51 signatures four years ago. All I can do is to preach as a consultant and hope that other will follow soon.


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Hadoop for people? Watch Xplenty



If this is true, this is magic. In the article Hadoop 101 co-authored with Kuldip Pabla we could explain the benefits of  MapReduce, but we knew that for lay people in IT this is too much to implement.

Watch this interview with Yaniv Mor from Xplenty And see how to set up Hadoop without writing a single line of code. See here how it works
Craft your data-flow by choosing a data source and selecting components such as sort, join, filter, aggregate, and anything else you need to transform your data. Add a destination and your package is ready to process your structured, semi structured, and unstructured data. 
This is all done without writing any map/reduce code, Hive queries, or Pig scripts, just to name a few.

Eradicating the cancer of "reorgs" and "rifs" from our society

Updated March 11, 2016

The explosion in technology.

The industrialization of ICT, the IoT, 5G connection speeds, the idolatry of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the self driven cars, the list goes on and on: how will we benefit as humans, who have families, fearing  that our jobs today may be gone tomorrow?

Airbnb reservation app and a Uber taxi service disrupted our lives Now we are all contractors. The great majority of people have not the personality, the desire and the stamina to be entrepreneurs.

Even love is a serious business.  "Nearly 6% of the web’s users currently use a dating app, according to the research firm GlobalWebIndex, and that’s amounted to a roughly $2.2 billion worldwide market."

A typical press release (I look at random  from PRwire Vormetic) talks about their growth in revenues and use financial data with some  minimal marketing info to prove success. There are no data supplied on social and business benefits of Vormetic customers. I do not know Vormetic, I just use their PR at random, to illustrate the way almost all companies in high tech and outside high tech. report achievement.

A question that needs answers: how many people benefit from  Vormetic? In what way? Where  they live? How many families will be happier and why? 

The fear

Quoting Forbes article of January 15, 2016, 
  • Oxford researchers suggest that nearly half of the occupations in the U.S. will be computerized over the next 20 years
  • Gartner predicts that one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots, and smart machines within a decade.
  • McKinsey & Co. analysis finds that “as many as 45% of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”
 Isaac Asimov wrote in 1964:
"The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders...mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom... This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences,
Fortunately never human predictions are right. The reason we pray to God, is because He is the only one who knows the future. Depending on the "Futurist du Jour"  these new technologies appear to steal jobs and will enslave us to machines.

I don't believe this is true. But I do believe each new technology must be validated by the potential of creating new jobs, not loosing them. We need to study the profits of the buyers, not only the sellers. We need to measure the social improvement and the quality of life of our admirable technologies.

The current US primaries elections in states like Michigan, show the voters will embrace whatever credible candidate, demagogue or not, who promises jobs. These Ford and GM companies used to be the stalwarts of family stability, In the 50's no one looked over his shoulder to suspect who is next on the layoff lists.

Today Ford established  a Palo Alto subsidiary to build and invest in car mobility: GM acquired Cruise Automation in San Francisco for a rumored one billion dollars.

What does it mean for the people making the actual cars in Michigan?

The unbearable lightness of beings 

This can be avoided: Nokia reorganization 2008. Photo taken by an employee who just lost his job
Why in every large company reorganizations and "reductions in force" (rifs) are periodic and unavoidable? Because they have "a plethora of departments, and boatloads of talented people, but communication has broken down."

Our top schools of business, our star management gurus, have not yet come with a solution'

Here is a short video from Harvard Business Review (HBR), titled How Not to Fire Someone.  In this video, Karen Dillon, contributing editor to the HBR says clear communication is the key to rescuing under performing employees. What she means, she tells an employee she clearly doesn't like to see her go, The employee has not idea why she is fired. She is given some weeks to stay on the job, and at the end, she asks Karen again, why is she fired? The supposed take away from the video is that Karen should have told the affected employee bluntly why she is laid-off.


This is a typical example of the structural anomalies in a large corporation. Quoting Aaron Dignan
Looking at the organization honestly, you can see the problem. Your people simply aren't working together! You have a plethora of departments, and boatloads of talented people, but communication has broken down. Customer Insights won't talk to Innovation, and the Technology group isn’t even in the same building as the Design team. How can a company with 2,000 developers take six months to update a web page?!
You know what you have to do. It’s time to reorganize. But how to get it right this time? You could change the people in leadership roles. Perhaps if the groups had better leadership, they'd get their act together. Or you could break your departments up into smaller and more focused versions of themselves — one for each line of business. Hell, you could even divide the business by customer, creating consumer and B2B organizations that mirror each other.
But something tells you none of that is right. A voice in the back of your head whispers, “You’ll be re-organizing again in three years…”
Both Karen and the rif-ed employee are victims of a system that must be changed. If our society eradicated polio outbreaks in most countries of the world, why not uproot this cancer of our economy, called  "reorganization"?

It erodes people's self esteem, it kills the creativity. And who says we riff the right person? Is Karen an absolute decider of people's abilities? How do we know Karen did not fire a hippy looking future Steve Jobs ?
Walter Isaacson: Although I’m tempted to skip over these factoids, I’ll add that Jobs
was also a huge fan of LSD psychedelic acid, claiming
 it was “one of the best things I’ve done in my life" 

More transparency in corporate  decision taking

Professor Baba Shiv from Stanford says in an interview
In corporate hierarchies there is a tendency to give greater weight to the opinions of leaders rather than their subordinates. However, those opinions are usually based on instinct rather than information. The one thing that can trump a higher-up’s opinion is data, and repeated experimentation and failure lead to a lot of it
This upsets the company culture, but a company like IBM accommodates trendsetter opinions from outside the company. Ulrika Bergström  quotes a high level IBM executive:
"We bring in influencers to influence our development. We build relation and focus on implication and reach of content." Basically, IBM don't just hope to get influential people to speak for them, but IBM actively work with people they have identified as potentially important influencers to enable them to engage with the IBM brand and make an impact. They give their influencers access to IBM and to IBM resources, give them the credit they deserve and treat their influencers with respect. My respect to IBM! 

A new  consulting service

Ahrono Associates joined forces with Robert Cohen.  He is a fellow at the Economic Strategy  Institute, a Washington-based think tank. He is a respected name in the field of economics of grid and cloud computing

Robert is quoted in  Forbes article  of January 15, 2016.  He not only sees the glass as half full; he sees it brimming over.
  •  First, more and more companies, including many old-line manufacturers, are moving to offer services — sometimes pushed there by upstart rivals.
  • Second, there is a need for new networks to handle sensor data from  driverless cars and wearable devices
  • Third, the increasingly rapid development and deployment of software and  applications is feeding a surge of data analytics.
With this in mind, Cohen says, “cloud computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things will employ millions of people in new types of jobs.”

We can answer questions for a client like:
  • Are we growing profit margins from new customers?
  • How the clients of the client save and make money?
  • How engaged are our employees?
  • Do we generate fear? To what extent the teams trust each other?
  • What kind of jobs we will need in the futures, that don't exist today?
  • Which pockets in the company are more agile than others?
  • How do we communicate the strategy internally?
  • How we facilitate innovation in our culture?
This list is a sample. The client selects the right questions. We call these Key Performance Questions.

It is our goal to facilitate enlightened decision making, based on both people satisfaction and business achievements

Learn more

We can be reached at http://www.ahrono.com/contact-us/

Sunday, January 05, 2014

More about Going Backwards in product development

Working Backwards in Product Management blog entry from March 20, 2012 is further described in article from Shmula.com - a leading customer experience website -  Start with the Customer, and Work Backwards
Amazon follows a process called “Working Backwards”, which means that the first deliverables created are the documents at  launch, then work backwards towards the items closer to the implementation.  Defining a product this way adds clarity and simplicity — you know at the front-end what the customer can expect, and working backwards allows the team to build it.  Here are the general steps followed in this process:
  •  Start by writing the Press Release.  Nail it. The press release describes in a simple way what the product does and why it exists – what are the features and benefits. It needs to be very clear and to the point. Writing a press release up front clarifies how the world will see the product – not just how we think about it internally.
  •  Write a Frequently Asked Questions document. Here’s where we add meat to the skeleton provided by the press release. It includes questions that came up when we wrote the press release. You would include questions that other folks asked when you shared the press release and you include questions that define what the product is good for. You put yourself in the shoes of someone using the product and consider all the questions you would have. 
  • Define the customer experience. Describe in precise detail the customer experience for the different things a customer might do with the product. For products with a user interface, we would build mock ups of each screen that the customer uses. For web services, we write use cases, including code snippets, which describe ways you can imagine people using the product. The goal here is to tell stories of how a customer is solving their problems using the product. 
  • Write the User Manual. The user manual is what a customer will use to really find out about what the product is and how they will use it. The user manual typically has three sections, concepts, how-to, and reference, which between them tell the customer everything they need to know to use the product. For products with more than one kind of user, we write more than one user manual.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Why Big Data is not for everyone

In a  recent article in Readme, we learn that Hadoop finally will bring data mainstream
The dirty little secret of Hadoop has been just how dull many of its tasks have been. By far the biggest use for Hadoop to date has been as a "poor person's ETL"—that is, a form of data integration, at the risk of oversimplifying—rather than all the big, sexy data science we see constantly hyped.
The Big Data "hyped" is not trivial

In a webinar published in skytree.net site, Machine Learning: How to Make it Work in Your Organization, Bradley Voytek, a UCSD Neuroscience Professor and Uber Data Evangelist is one of the speakers. He taught me a vivid lesson that common people are not able by themselves to make sense on big data.
  • It is foolish to believe that my data have a better understanding of the world than  I do
  • It is arrogant to believe that the person who best knows what to do with my data is me. 
Professor Bradley Voytech, Ph.D and family
  • The more advanced the statistical method used, the fewer critics are available to be properly skeptical
  • The more advanced the statistical method used, the more likely the data analysts will be to use math as a shield
  • Any sufficiently advanced statistics, can trick people into believing the results reflect truth
To illustrate, Bradley shows his calculations on how many people were born in British Empire  between September 4, 1752 and September 13, 1752. He extracted world's data births for that period, extrapolated and then applied a % proportional to the British Empire share of the then known world population

However it was impossible for any citizen of the British Empire to be born between September 4, 1752 and September 13, 1752.  From Wikipedia
Year 1752 (MDCCLII) was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar. In the British Empire, it was the only year with 355 days, as September 3 through September 13 were skipped.
 Sometimes the great algorithms we have can fail, if we have no knowledge of the real world. It is important to know when our models work, but it is equally important to know when our models break.

By the way Hadoop does not do any predictive analytics. It just collects the data ready to be analyzed.

Skytree's CTO, Alexander Gray says there is not one ML (Machine Learning) algorithm universally valid. Is your analysis parametric or non-parametric? Frequentist or Bayesian ? If you rush to look up the definitions on these terms, you proved Bradley Voytek right.

Alexander Gray, Ph. D, Skytree CTO
How many people viewed this youtube webinar? I see only  194. Such a fascinating subject, with only 194 viewers, it shows we are talking of an a new elite,

They are the big data scientists elite. able to use R open source predictive analysis in clusters, or hiring Revolution Analytics (who actually use R open source to deliver more solid and easier to use predictive analytics).  Or maybe using Skytree Server  - The Machine Learning Server  which according to the web site
The Hadoop ready enterprise Machine Learning platform. Delivering high performance Advanced Analytics for critical business issues, such as: churn prediction, fraud detection, lead scoring, customer segmentation, recommendations and more.
This product embodies the popular perception that we can press buttons to discover money making opportunities from Machine Learning . Perhaps for a reduced set of capabilities, this could be a solution that eliminates the need to consult the data science elite for some more day to day tasks

Woody Allen says one of the secrets of success is just showing up. So in spite of the rumored difficulties . Skytree at least showed up with a product that works for mere mortals and not just elites

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Focus on breakthrough products to heal Europe and US economies

In a memorable lucid and prophetic  blog, titled Entrepreneurs, not the government, will save Europe’s economy, Dries Buytaert the co-founder and CTO of Acquia, a Drupal shop in Europe writes:
If Steve Jobs was adopted by a Belgian family rather than an American family, it’s extremely possible he may have ended up working in a bank instead of co-founding Apple.
Why? Because starting a company and growing it is hard no matter where you are, but the difficulty is magnified in Europe, where people are divided by geography, regulation, language and cultural prejudice.
What Europe should do?

  1. Focus on creating large companies. Between 1975 to today, Europe which has double the population of US, produced 2 companies in the top 500 worldwide, while US has produced 26 such companies. This means creating EUR 25 billions companies, not only EUR 1 billion companies, the predominant maximum in Europe
  2. Level the playing field. Compared to US, the entire Europe is Balkanized
    "European work regulations can shackle the growth of startups. Taxes are high, it’s hard to acquire a European company, severance packages can be outrageous and it’s extremely difficult to fire someone... It only gets worse when you attempt to operate in multiple European countries
  3. Change our  (european) culture.
    "A small business can be started anywhere in the world, but it takes a different level of ambition to aspire to become the next Apple. The biggest thing entrepreneurs need is the belief that it can be done, that it’s worth taking the risk and putting in the hard work. Having the right culture unlocks the passion and dedication necessary to succeed."
What can an entrepreneur do to adress the challenges  for each bullet? I can see bullet #1 is something one can address. Bullet #2, the Balkanization, there is little to be done now.

Probably the bullet #3 can be adressed today. Making Europeans think big in terms of business, not only art. The solution is in my Product Management Manifesto,   See the long quote below


Go for breakthrough, high risk, highest possible reward products

The product portfolio definitions are

  • Breakthrough products. High risk extremely hard rewards. Think Google, Android, Windows
  • Platform products. Medium risk medium reward. Think me-too office apps
  • Derivative products. Low risk and low reward. New version releases of the same product 

Do NOT do this:
Fig, 1 What  most established organizations or aging startups do
This is what we shall do:

Fig 2: Portfolio for forward looking organization, ahead of the game


Or  even better:
Fig 3: Portfolio of the new startup with nothing to loose  and who plans to be a billion dollar company
The charts  above summarize what I learned in UC Berkeley seven years ago. Berkeley is always at least ten years ahead of other people time.  We have to liberate ourselves from the chains of numerical Return on Investment (ROI) and forecasts. Financial numerical decision makers do not work in Breakthroughs, Companies should change the culture and invest more in breakthroughs than in the past. Their reliance on what you see in Fig. 1 will not lead to real competitiveness, real differentiation, particularly when engineers are available not only in US  but in Lithuania, Czech Republic, and the entire Asia, just to pick some countries from hundreds who learned how to code impeccably

You may ask   how the hell to get approval without financial goals approved in large companies. My feeling is this: guys you do your beans accounting and get ideas, but do NOT become the slaves of those things. Make abstraction of their existence, think, and then later, when you know better do again for orientations some financial analysis.

Come to live in Silicon Valley at least for one year

If your company is from Skopje Illinois, or South Dakota, Romania etc.,  bring your executives and families to live in Silicon Valley vicinity for one year at least.
The message above is good not for Europe, but also for most parts of US. Silicon Valley is on the West Coast  and the same spirit is on the  East Coast. But in the mid-west America many engineering academics never read Steve Jobs biography  never went to see The Social Network movie about Facebook creation.

Why is important reading Steve Jobs life, because
Skeptic after skeptic made the mistake of underrating Steve Jobs, and Mr. Isaacson records the howlers who misjudged an unrivaled career. “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work,” Business Week wrote in a 2001 headline. “The iPod will likely become a niche product,” a Harvard Business School professor said. “High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product,” Mr. Sculley said in 1987.
Mr. Jobs got the last laugh every time.

The way to change Europe and the America midwest is to make breakthrough products. It starts witha new breed of Product Manager, who could be the CEO of the company, because we need a Product Manager with power to decide. She can go all way through with the idea, no matter what outrages uninformed bosses, the ones with the power to stop things, never to start things by themselves.

And this company to be great, must a new breed of company where the profit and hapiness of all employees are both goals. 

Dries Buytaert ideas are valid not only in Europe, but in US as well. 

Ahrono Associates is dedicated to help create this new breed of companies as described in How to create non cliché visionary businesses in 2014 . I keep knocking to people's doors, I know I am right, just looking for the right people with the right chemistry to make it all happen.

I feel like Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC. He went door to door offering a secret recipee to make fried chicken. "He got 1009 no’s before he got his first yes. With that one success Colonel Hartland Sanders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken."

miha dot ahronovitz at ahrono dot com

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AI and ML for Conversational Economy