An approach to Building, buying, or deploying … anything

A significant part of my career I spent building companies, or ensuring that market needs and requirements were addressed by products and services. This lead me to engage in real life situations – and people of all backgrounds and professions – where products and services were used or consumed. I had to have discussions with developers about how to implement a solution and sales people on how to efficiently pitch and close profitable business. It taught me how value is created and how value has to be delivered and to be built into an organizations way of delivery. I am pointing at the value that customers are willing to pay for. Values that are not easily replicated and are if not sustainable at least creating a strategic advantage in the market relative to competition. These values also contribute to prolonging the life-cycle of a product or service. It is to a large degree a matter of thinking, leadership, organization, and attitude.
I early learned that the key parameter are time and how you use the time to your advantage. Time advantage is in most cases not equal to speed or being the fastest. It is a matter of timing and moderating the use of time to build value – plant the seeds – and earn the profits – to harvest. Time means very different things and is perceived very differently in different cultures. That means time needs to be cared for differently in different markets and the value creation “process” is vastly different in different markets.

Developing a new product or service, entering a new market or meeting new customer or consumer group, is always a strategic move and an investment. For the buyer it may initiate an evaluation process, a process of reevaluating existing options, ways of doing things, running his business or life.

The way to act depends typically on the type of need/demand to be addressed but also on the value classification of what is to be achieved. The higher the price/cost, the more strategically important the project is and the higher the value – the more important the process is and also the impact and management of time invested. Low-cost, low value-added, big volume, and available from many sources – price, specification, and assured consistent quality become the focus of the buyer – and the provider. Something that is of high strategic importance and therefore carry a high value might – or even will – shift over time to become a commodity. That has to be taken into account when a product and/or service is designed, launched and progressed through its life-cycle.

Do not get locked in! Ability to evolve over time is always of imperative importance. The situation and the demands will change over time and is typically hard to foresee. An open and adoptable architecture is always preferred to a closed. Still get the best – the state of the art. Compare the Defense industry with the phases that the IT and Construction has gone through over time.

Designing a product and service is ideally done based on a vision of a different and better way of doing something. An understanding of the underlying driving forces. That will create an advantage. But if the insight is correct competition will soon gather around the honey-pot and similar products / services will be created and offered – typically at a lower price and eventually with additional features and higher specifications than the original innovation. The early entrant has an advantage in time but competition will quickly learn and leverage user experience and look for ways to improve. They will spend the research and development investment in time and money to gain time and add features and functions – and most importantly evolve the value proposition as customer perception do.

The more technology driven an industry is, the more the competition focus on state-of-the-art and performance oriented specifications and price / performance comparisons. The more consumer orientation the more design, usability, touch & feel and short release cycle orientation you will find. The more of a capital investment type of product the more professional use factors like upgradability, maintainability, cost to operation and life cycle cost aspects will be part of the evaluation. In both cases there is a need to strategically differentiate the offering – to find a sustainable factor of differentiation.

So, how do you approach the challenge of meeting your customers and users current requirements with a value proposition? And how do you make it possible to evolve the value content over time and in shorter and shorter cycles? As always there are no magic solutions here. Know-how, experience, professionalism, hard work, creativity and multi-disciplinary involvement with a structured approach is key to success!

The most common mistake is that a product is developed as a product meeting all specifications. Making it so complicated and tightly integrated so that it is almost impossible to modify, extend, scale and evolve. It’s built to the highest imaginable specification but not taking the factor of time into account.

If an approach focusing on a functional Open Architecture, where the interfaces are defined and optimized functional block are “networked together” a higher flexibility is achieved. Each functional or physical block can evolve and adopt as more powerful technology become available and requirements evolve. The product architecture needs to be defined and the drivers for each module understood and taken into the design work. This way it is also possible – and easier – to make the product / system a part of a larger context, deploy on multiple platforms, more scalable and modular. It will make you stronger and more sustainable as a supplier and if you are the customer and user it will make you more flexible and provide you with a solution that will live longer and deliver better value.

It is like a network with optimized nodes that seamlessly operate together – internet of things, fighter jets operating in coordination with drones, the matrix modular design of VW, trucks from Saab Scania, the iPhone, buildings… The approach is not new, but still not always used, by too few…

So, when you sell and compete in the market – or fight a war – what strategical benefits will a well architected system or infrastructure bring on board? It will make you a winner!


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