What Value is Intellectual Property?

As we morph more to a demand responsive services economy, products software and process fuse. This makes software ubiquitous and therefore of less Intrinsic value on its own.

As the market itself continues to change and reshape at a great rate this makes investment in ideas quickly redundant as it finds even smarter and more integrated ways to deliver product and services.

This post relates to a web discussion question, “What is the future of Intellectual Property rights in the New Economy?

With delivery and logistics capability now global and supply chains and services unrelenting in their goal to get flatter, the demand is for merged software innovation and knowledge products to be delivered as services.

As this occurs and products mature, brand sensitivity of the respective parts is diminishing with barriers to entry lowered. For example engines for web services are no longer visible and hence have a different value on their own with much more plug and play procurement choices. Open platform integration products and open source software projects to resolve business problems are also changing the value and positioning of intellectual property.

With services moving more into the mass market of business and consumer bases process itself, it cannot be protected by conventions, intellectual property rights patenting or related copy right laws.

And as knowledge products mature and become part of common practices relying on licensing and the law to guard them is less effective and less relevant. To protect its investments in innovation, business leaders, developers and inventors need to look to re-engineering other barriers.

Selling of Knowledge based products is now be seen to be moving akin to the way most omnipresent industry is. For example, the motor vehicle Industry now has shared reproduction, supplying to separately branded product. This in turn is delivered in an end to end service model replacing the “Acquire and Maintain” model. This shift sees much of the end product delivered as a cycle based operating product based on fully serviced rights of use rather than ownership. In large industries such transport and logistics it even goes a step further as these outsource service providers have and continue taking this to the next level.

In the end like market itself, which will continue to change at a great rate, natural mechanisms such as speed to market, process maturing and brand loyalty, comparative advantage and quickly achieving critical mass usage will become the only real mechanisms for protection of ideas.

My Plan to Live to 100

Many of my colleagues and associates agree with me that “business by seat of the pants and following conventional wisdom with many outdated misconceptions” is an unhealthy norm for many in business at all levels.

In a web article  “What do I want my Epitaph and Legacy to Be?” Gary Cokins, CPIM at Global Product Marketing Manager for Performance Management at SAS this month got my attention to read on. In it this extract he says:

“To really understand what is going on and what can happen, you have to go beyond traditional beliefs and complacent thinking. That means getting to the underlying causes that drive outcomes. Just as scientists build computer models to understand interactions, such as astronomers studying gravitational effects of heavenly bodies, organizations should escalate their application of analytics to model behavior. But alas, management science is more art than science. What is the problem with organizations?”

His article goes on to make challenging and compelling points so well with the quality assertion that “the impediments are all social, such as human nature resistance to change >>”,

Gary’s thought provoking challenges end with his obituary based goal to get the point made in all perpetuity.

My assertion of folly in continuing these sloppy business approaches as they are flawed as inherent margin for error is collapsing. Previous tactical recovery facilitated by inbuilt time lags for intuition testing are shorter and also breaking down further, as supply chain driven capability and consumer driven business change accelerates. Time is of the essence to have better capability for business performance control especially as markets tighten.

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Is Software a Solution or a Tool?

Most people believe simple is best practice . But I also believe we often get it wrong when we describe our product and services.

Software vendors by nature to survive must be leaders of best practice, but they often talk in riddles and high fluting assumptive terms about basic processes and activity. I was drawn to an article I read at Technology Evaluation.com by Sherry Fox This is good read about enigmatic terms used by the software vendors.  My contribution here adds my perspective to her opinions.

Like processes I believe simple is best to describe product and services.  A colleague once said to me, “I had looked your  web site and for the life of me, I could not figure out what that you guys do.”

I was thankful for the feedback but that bombshell sent me immediately to have it changed. And it was easy too, we just cut all the crap.

In her article Sherry Fox talks about software vendors who call their product “Solutions”. That drives me crazy too and I sell and recommend their software for them in my consulting practice. They really make their life hard and puts buyers and consultants offside as we  have to sort out for ourselves the confusing product names and acronyms, badly positioned sales mumbo jumbo and filter out the meaningless non-information, to try to see what they really have to offer. Of course it is all part of the game to look impressive while also keeping the competitor confused.

I like Sherry carpenter’s tool example of the hammer, to drive a nail. It is clearly a tool not a solution. In another spectrum to resolve a war conflict a government  can use the army and that is are not a solution either. It is a tool of war or defence. Equally to negotiate for the same end uses a diplomatic tool.

Software is software, no-more no-less, so why not just call it that. Of course we all agree it is not just technology but includes people with skills to set it up and train us how to use it. And to put it into a process requires consulting for implementation and change management, which can add to the effort. But in the end what we finish with is still just a software tool.

A spreadsheet is an office tool and no one calls it a solution. Operational, accounting, work-flow, client, project budgeting, collaboration, presentation, communication asset and human management reporting and so on you can go, they are all software tools to do a job. Analytical, mathematical, scientific, educational, etc in every walk of life and function of business you will find software. As I rattle them off I can see synergy to combine some or all into enterprise level tools that provide structure rules and a place of work for many elements of business and operational process.

Like any invention or idea software is invented and used to solve problems of many origins. But there is no way it can presume to be a solution. It is still just a tool. When enterprise software vendors talk about solutions I think of problems and I turn off. If I have something to do I use a tool to do it. If I have a problem I figure what to do to fix it. Then I use a tool.

Even the end game, the result, may depend on my approach. and the tool, the solution used or for the outcome I want to deliver the benefit I want may vary. (Sorry Ms Jane Ordinary, I still need the business case.)

And I don’t always just have a problem. I many just have something to do like a strategic change or tactical move for an opportunity. For that I plan an approach then we get the tools and resources I need, to get outcome I seek. In the process we look at choices and choose. This could have many solutions as we proceed.

So the real test of what software is shows up when I ask the question. “If I need to get a result would I asked the software company get it for me”. Of course not. I would ask an expert to look at the choices. Then set up a team to go and see if there is a software tool (not a solution) that can fit our culture and we can learn to use it to get what we seek.

What Software Vendors have is one piece of the process. So they confuse me too talking about all of these aspects in the same terms of as a “Solution”.

Like Ms Jane Ordinary I am just your average  Jo C who likes to use the best tools to get the best result. And assembling solutions is just a step in the process to get there.

By the way if my business colleagues, knew I was a Solutions Salesman they may figure I had an important job but would would be unlikely to call me. On the other hand if they knew I sold business performance management software they would know what I had to offer and may suggest it as a choice to their bosses to create a solution for a business problem.

My advice to Software Vendors is drop all the bull. As much as I say this to  my fellow software salesmen I am going to take it my own advice myself too to make it easy on everyone and just call a spade a spade.

Who needs a Chairman of the Board?

 

Reading this sentence caught my eye. “If the average annual return goes up a bit, and the average volatility goes up a lot, and you don’t desperately need that extra return to meet your needs, you need to stop and ask yourself what you are doing.“ Lowering the Bar by Suzanne McGee In this she talks about change of attitude of baby boomers and a need that they lower their expectations.

 

I also wonder too, in terms of business modifications to the Need not Greed approach she refers to, as we are now forced to shift gears to be more risk management alert for all ongoing investments be-it personal or business.

Being a baby boomer myself, some years ago my wife and I took the plunge to manage our own family investments. Some said it was folly to learn by mistakes and take risks, when professionals could do not that for us. However it was not so much about balancing greed or need that has saved our family nest egg as stock markets have all but halved in recent months. More the truth is a balanced approach with the rigor of team oversight that has ensured our caution on changing things that work to things we didn’t understand.

 

We learned that self-accountability was a big one to master and that it depends on having some checks and balances for objectivity and ongoing motivation. Previously we could leave it to the professionals but then even though the prizes were high, taking big chances on an asset like a nest egg, never seemed to have had a good feeling, when we considered long term. Assisting the process too. (albeit sometimes annoying) was the ever present regulatory and reporting control that also imposes risk limiting investing rules on certain compliing funds receiving tax breaks.

While we considered strategy together my wife did very well on day to day operational decisions of buy and sell. On the control side, which was my job, we had some issues. A spreadsheet did an okay job for a while, but we found it inadequate to track and analyze the entire dimensions we needed to see everything operationally. We then moved to some all singing all dancing online software tool with an attached advisory service and subscribed to several high priced newsletters. But that all got too much too when we saw our expensive subscriber system and its advisors go out of business.

 

We then set up an analytical database service for managing our equities tracking, and linked it to a to an on-line information service feed (mostly free). From there it was easy for dally tracking and to sit down quarterly to review our positions and plan our next moves.

 

One thing we are thankful for is we set up the meetings formally outside out daily ebb and flow of activity and used performance reporting tools to bring it to focus. An hour or so of strucured discussion each quarter was all that was needed to ensure we stayed on track; followed by a night out for dinner together, which made for a good recipe to ensure we maintained our pledge. It proved so productive in spite of our mistakes. The simple act of just stopping to review our experience routinely gave us high vigilance and alerting ability for all our funds and asset performance. And using only simple analytical formats this kept us abreast of long term and total value growth as well as daily detail to give us confidence that we have each risk perspective was under control. And even though, like everyone investing, we could not avoid taking a beating on equities, in our case we have mostly blue chip, so the long term will likely come back. And for our business ventures as part of our family investments, our objective is to ensure we are running them this way too.

 

In essence our portfolio management is no different to business. We work as a team to plan and review all parts together; operationally we have separate responsibility for executing the day to day sharp end decisions with support and control jobs being independent. Being able to factor in forward plans with some confidence in the predictability of our forecast outcomes is our bonus; now with our equities and like business without it like many we’d be panicking and making more mistakes too.  

 

But in businesses, as opposed to personal investment, tactics and the associated risk attitudes seem different. Or are they? In fact the governance process is quite similar. In a bull run with its ever upward sales and product demand being all forgiving, taking some risks seems less of an issue. Conversely it can be quite fatal to learn by mistakes in a downturn especially for those highly geared financially. So the need now, more than ever, is a review process on exposed weaknesses with balance and objectivity to keep us from getting right out of our depth.

 

Even a husband and wife business team needs transparent and objective review of various aspects of risk across the spectrum of their business and respective roles that manage it. For most small business for good control a simple hierarchy of management and a feedback system can do the job. And despite the shortcomings even just a simple web shared spreadsheet with plans, critical success and operational measures on it, can work as you progress from there. Regardless of size more than ever a Board of Directors model, even for the two man shows, will take seriously shared views of the same position.  This model is no less relevant to Small or Non Profit organisations, as it is to large enterprise or multinational corporations. And if you cant invent one that works perhaps engage your Accountant.

With the right tools, shared resolve and someone to hold you accountable it makes it more fun. I wonder how many have a built in Chairman of the Board process, to routinely stop us and ask “What are you doing and does it fit the plan?”  

 

 

Compression of time

This is a thought provoking article about how people manage time, literally. It is reproduced in its entity from a network time systems provider http://www.symmetricom.com .

In the past 50 years, time compression has driven many of the changes people make to their lifestyles. Instead of planning things ahead of time, we often wait until the last minute to send an e-mail, ship an overnight package or eat dinner – simply because we know these things can be done faster than ever before.

Compression of time has constantly evolved in the last century with the help of technologies that accelerate how fast we do things and eliminate the barriers of distance between people. This includes communication technologies such as telephones, cell phones, fax machines, wireless devices and the Internet as well as transportation technologies such as cars and jet airplanes. And let’s not forget how much faster we can eat and drink thanks to microwave ovens, fast-food restaurants and coffee shops that seem to be on every city corner.

Economics is an area in which compression of time has perhaps had the most significant recent impact. Computers now closely watch stocks to ensure investors can buy or sell the moment a critical price level is reached. Investors react to financial and world news so fast that the stock market can take multiple wide swings within a single day. Trades involving millions of dollars now occur within milliseconds, and if your broker’s computer system can’t compress time as fast as the competition you might not get the best price on a major stock transaction.

Much of the way in which time has been compressed has generated positive outcomes, but time compression has also moved beyond our business lives so as to impact our personal lives – and not always for the better. Laptop computers, high-speed cable connections and wireless Internet compel us to work around the clock no matter where we are. We can be contacted by anyone at any time via our cell phone, pager or e-mail address. And even if we don’t personally yield to the technology, we get caught in the rush of other people that operate at a frenetic pace using the technology. They simply drag us along – sometimes to the point where, sadly, we work even during vacations.

Future lifestyles will likely continue to emphasize time and convenience, and the compression of time via new technologies will not slow down. It’s up to us to create breathing space within our own business and personal lives. The key is to not only practice time management but to also make time for yourself. It’s not important to be busy all the time, even though it can be an obsession that many of us feel compelled to follow.

To battle this trend, find some time each day for quiet time – even it’s for just 10 minutes. It helps recharge the batteries and clear the mind so you can deal with the external pressures that inevitably come from the compression of time in our day and age. It’s also gives you time to think, prioritize what matters most and put first things first. By taking this approach, in a sense you can actually decompress time, which might be the key to a long, healthy life.

Can you overcome resistance to buy?

As many wrestle to make the numbers, we need to be sure our selling message is clear and we understand our buyers. That fact will never change. In selling it is also easy, in the quest to get the solution, to forget what we came for: to get an order. As the salesperson deals with tasks that surround his objective; education, positioning, proving, competitors, objections handing and so on, how many times, as a buyer, have you been ready and the salesman did not come back?

Need is the mother of invention … as is selling. So the task of selling is never simple or easy.  Like motherhood the selling rewards can be good, especially when you use all your skills to bring it all together. Understanding buyer resistance and what’s missing will make practical selling easier and close more deals.

When the business buyer signal is red, invariably one of three things is missing.  A prospect will never be qualified or ready until they have:

1.        identified a compelling dissatisfaction with how things are,

2.        a clear vision of what the improved state would look like &

3.        a workable plan to get it with at least the first steps clear.

The buy option goes green when all three are clear and then the need for change is an  imperative.

It is very easy to get off the track and lose focus when clarifying points of process or technical impact issues.  However selling is social not technical, so we must not miss the point that a salesperson’s job is to bring in the deal. It is not your technical advisor.

As a salesperson, once you are certain your proposal is sound in these terms, you should have no concern to move to the closing question, "Is there any reason that we would not to expect your order? 

As a practical first step to better sales, try doing a survey with your clients. Simply ask people what they need fixed?  As you ask about their problems and listen well to see if you can help, you can move to next steps.

People with the number 1 issue, "dissatisfaction," will always be happy to talk to you and will let you know what they need changed.  Once you know this you are well underway.

Merit and Bonus time of year!

The past couple of month a lot of political movements happened in Thailand, now as things are back to normal, one would shortly notice it’s that time of the year for merit and bonus evaluation. That’s what everyone’s looking forward to throughout the year. Guess who’s in the management office, besides perhaps a brown-nose colleague who seeks advantage to influence overlooking a mediocre performance, one of them you wouldn’t guess are HR people.

That’s right, one of the functions that HR Compensation and Benefits personnel has to do is to compile a form base on a snapshot of employees within the evaluating month with all related information to performance evaluation such as days of leave, salary, start date, penalties or awards given, last year’s performance record etc.

This is only for one section, imagine when applying this to different sections, departments, group of companies – each wanting it in their format, what do you get??.. and don’t forget, this has to be done by only one HR Compensation and Benefits personnel.

Imagine all this hastle of preparing the form itself, not to worry about consolidating, altering, re-classing from top management adjustment to suite corporate financial balance.

I just had a chance to work with one company that has around half a thousand employee, even though having deployed SAP, still top management wants to fill in and monitor the forms in excel format. Preparing the forms alone takes around 3 hour and errors in formulas and data retrieving are randomly found.

All I could say to a client that I was helping through that exercise recently was,

“You MUST get a PM system with a good scorecard system. Those who have one find this job easy with systems that have a clear message that says “NO MORE EXCUSES – Don’t even expect your bonuses to come out on December’s paycheck if you don’t perform!!.”

Those that haven’t can easily have a good PM system now as they are more affordable for all business.